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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 6, Number 6 June 2007 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Power Brain Kids
Ilchi Lee
Healing Society
6560 Hwy. 179, Suite 114, Sedona, AZ 86351
1932843191, $18.95

The founder of 'The International Brain Education Association' and president of the Korean Institute of Brain Science, Ilchi Lee created the 'Brain Function' system designed to enhance the functioning of the human mind through a variety of training methods. In "Power Brain Kids: 12 Easy Lessons To Ignite Your Child's Potential", Lee lays out a basic three month program for children ages 6 to 12. The separate chapters offer specific exercises related to a particular aspect of brain ability that includes focus, creativity, and mind-body communication. the step-by-step instructions for each exercise are fully illustrated with color photography enabling parents to assist their children to develop better concentration, improve memory skills, gain the intellectual tools necessary for emotional self-control, activate creativity and imagination, establish connection between the mind and the body, cultivate confidence and enhance self-discipline. The 'reader friendly' text is nicely embellished with colorful and illustrative drawings. "Power Brain Kids" is particularly and especially recommended for concerned and dedicated parents wanting to prepare their children to take maximum advantage of their schooling, the social relationships, and their intellectual capacities.

Fast Track
John DeDakis
ArcheBooks Publishing
9101 West Sahara Avenue, Suite 105-112, Las Vegas, NV 89117
1595071024, $14.95

Set in Southern Wisconsin, "Fast Track" is the story of 25-year-old and strong-willed, strong-minded Lark Chadwick solving a mystery surrounding the car/train collision that had orphaned her as an infant. Beginning with her traumatic discovering of her Aunt Annie (who raised her after the death of her parents) dead from carbon monoxide poisoning, Lark's search for answers takes her to Pine Bluff and the scene of her parent's fatal car crash. Lark convinces the local newspaper editor Lionel Stone to allow her to write a follow-up story to that accident. In her research for that article she discovers lies, scandals, and something for which she is being targeted for murder. Superbly written and entertaining from beginning to end, "Fast Track" by John DeDakis is a full-length, highly recommended, unabridged mystery/suspense novel presented in ArcheBooks Publishing's magazine-style format called 'ArcheBookZine' and laid out in a two column format that transforms what would otherwise be a 300-page hardcover book into a 96-page magazine.

Women Know Everything
Karen Weekes, editor
Quirk Books
215 Church Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
1594741697, $16.95

Women Know Everything: 3,241 Quips, Quotes, & Brilliant Remarks is an anthology of thousands of wise and witty women's words. Contributors include Oprah Winfrey, Cher, Margaret Cho, Madonna, Erma Bombeck, and many more. The quotes are grouped by topic, and the topics are in turn organized alphabetically from Ability, Apathy, and Appearance to Work, Writing, and Youth. A simple author index for easy quick lookup rounds out this eclectic and inspirational giftbook ideal for birthdays, holiday gifts, and just plan sharing between gal pals. "Although there are many trial marriages... there is no such thing as a trial child." -Gail Sheehy, American Social Critic

Discover Wellness
Dr. Bob Hoffman & Dr. Jason A. Deitch
Center Path Publishing
3459 Washington Drive, Suite 202, Eagan, MN 55122
CPR Strategic Marketing Communications (publicity)
475 Market Street, 2nd floor, Elmwood Park, New Jersey 07407
1933889276, $24.95

Written by Dr. Bob Hoffman and Dr. Jason A. Deitch, Discover Wellness: How Staying Healthy Can Make You Rich is a guide to not only improving one's health and quality of life, but also foster pocketbook savings in the process. Chapters are filled with simple, time-tested methods for fostering improved health, from consciously applying better posture to promote spinal health to simple stretches ideal for engendering flexibility to guidelines for proper nutrition and exercise, the value of eating organic foods, and much more. Discover Wellness is simply a no-nonsense guide to help more people become less sick through inexpensive and easy-to-follow guidelines, and while not a substitute for a doctor's care, is decidedly invaluable for its practical preventative measures. Highly recommended.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

Dirty Poker
Richard Marcus
Under Cover Publishing
c/o Perseus Distribution
193 Edwards Drive, Jackson, TN 38301-7716
0955169704, $17.95 1-800-343-4499

Over the past few years the game of poker (especially the forms known as Texas Hold'em) has become more popular and widespread than ever. Now almost every casino in the country has its Poker Rooms, and every week television viewers can watch poker tournaments -- which further inspires them to play in home games, online games, and aspire to make the 'final table' at gaming casinos. But as with any other game of skill and chance where money is wagered, won, and lost, there are those who cheat their fellow players. The many ways of cheating at poker range from the subtle to the obvious, and include collusion, slight-of-hand, marked cards, and chip dumping. Now poker expert Richard Marcus has provided aspiring poker players with an exhaustive manual focused on the phenomena of cheating at poker, how to insure any game they enter is an honest one, and how to spot cheating when it occurs whether it is a local game among friends, on the part of strangers in a regulated card room, or even in such massive and televised tournaments as the World Series of Poker that takes place annual in Las Vegas. Informed, informative, and thoroughly 'reader friendly, Richard Marcus practical and definitive study "Dirty Poker" should be considered 'must' reading for anyone who enjoys the game, and most especially for those who aspire to become professional poker players themselves.

Outdoor Follies
Peter F. Crowley
B&J Press
65464 Lake Park Road, Ashland, WI 54806
0979163501, $15.00

U.S. Navy veteran Peter F. Crowley presents Outdoor Follies: Humor and Adventures in the Outdoors, a compilation of chuckle-inducing fictional outdoor stories and three true outdoor adventure stories. Many of the tales revolve around hunting, though fishing, outdoor cooking, camping, and even canoeing are among the activities that make for memorable settings. A fine "outing" of wit, wisdom, and folksy charm; most of the tales are sufficiently brief to be suitable for reading aloud in a tent or around the campfire.

D. J. Solomon
Avar Press
PO Box 1993, Whiteville, NC 28472
0976066009, $13.95

Xen: A Novel from the Future is an intriguing science fiction tale about a scientist, Pawkey Seneschal, who loathes humanity's evils so much that he unveils a means to forever rid all humanity of its hate, prejudice, and xenophobia. The secret lies within the "Ten Books of Xen", which are intertwined in a mythical tale about the repeated rebirth of Mankind - N + 1 times. Partly a puzzle for the reader to solve, partly a vision of an utopian future just within humanity's grasp, and partly a reexamination of all that is familiar in ordinary life, Xen is a triumph expressing a crucial message counter-culture and would-be world-transformers of all walks of life, from humanitarians and pacifists to feminists and libertarians.

Scarface: Scarred For Life
John Layman, et al.
IDW Publishing
4411 Morena Boulevard, Suite 106, San Diego, CA 92117
Elure Marketing: Andrea Larson (publicity)
$3.99 each

A premier publisher of comics and graphic novels, IDW Publishing has release "Scarface; Scarred For Life", a five part series of comics that takes up the story of Tony Montana, a character made famous by the Oliver Stone 'Scarface' movie starring Al Pacino as a small time Cuban gangster deported to the United States when Fidel Castro emptied his jails and prisons and exiled career criminals along with an exodus of law-abiding Cubans. This outstanding comic book series written by John Layman, penciled and inked by Dave Crosland, colored by Len O'Grady, lettered by Robbie Robbins, and edited by Chris Ryall takes up the story where the film left off. We find Tony Montana in the custody of the feds and recovering from a near assassination that wiped out his gang, trashed his mansion, and destroyed his drug business in Miami, Florida. But you can't keep a bad man down as Tony starts once again carving out a new empire while getting even with the man who tried to kill him, and the various other low-lifes (including two corrupt feds) that get in the way of Tony Montana. We are reintroduced to the love of his live, Elvira, who is now the trophy wife of Tony's nemesis, the Bolivian drug lord Sosa. Soon to be collected into a graphic novel format, the six individual issues of the "Scarface: Scarred For Life" miniseries present a vividly illustrated, original, and enthusiastically recommended story that fairly careens along from cliffhanger to plot twist, ultimately resulting in an satisfying and consistent conclusion that will leave the readers looking eagerly toward the next Scarface miniseries scheduled for publication by IDW Publishing -- "Devil In Disguise".

Michael Dunford

Kaveny's Bookshelf

Leaning on My Own Horn

I have promised myself that for this month’s Kaveny’s Bookshelf I will not be tooting my own horn-- so to speak. Horn tooting is an immodest and inappropriate activity for a literary critic, public sphere intellectual, television producer, playwright, creative writer, journalist chess champion, and 1984 city of Madison Table Tennis intermediate class runner up. Yes, in the last two years I have won over fifty international chess tournaments on the internet, and I have been promoted to the class rank right below international master. If you check on my office trophy shelf you will see I even have the ping pong trophy to prove it. So no more tooting my horn for Philip Kaveny. From now on I am going to loudly lean on my horn in shameless self promotion. One of the reasons I have been inspired to do this is the success of the number of really no talent zeros who have been doing this same thing for years while I have modestly kept my light under a barrel for three decades.

Something came me over right before my wife and I left for this year’s Kalamazoo International Medieval Congress which for the last forty years has been hosted by Western Michigan University. My wife Dr. Janice Bogstad and I have attended and participated in this conference since 1996. My wife has always participated as a presenter and I have acted mostly as a bookseller, and sometime session chair. This time I decided to actually tell people what I had accomplished last year rather than keep my mouth shut. I also promised myself that I would worry less about selling books and concentrate on having a good time-- which of course meant I sold lots more books.

The best thing about The Kalamazoo International Medieval Congress is the people. It is the largest medieval conference in the world drawing over thirty two hundred participants from all over the world, many of whom are our friends and colleagues. Since we have not seen most of them since last year, the first question that usually comes up sounds something like this. “What have you been up to?” This time instead saying the usual, “nothing much,” “how about you?”, I decided to actually tell people some of the things I had accomplished in the last year, and at least a couple of my failures. However in print I think I will keep my failures to myself.

So what do I mean by success and how did it happen? It all started rather strangely with me trying to coach The University of Wisconsin Eau Claire Chess Club and meeting three young men, all whom I am proud to know. They are Joe Gapko, Theo Howard, and later Aaron Brewster, the man who was to become my editor for the fourteen articles short stories and poems of mine that were published in the alternative, biweekly, student publication called The Flipside.

Since the Flipside was founded here at UW Eau Claire four years ago it has produced fourteen issues a years, and never missed an issue. Here is the URL if you want to check it out and read some of my stuff. Also you should at least go to this URL and check out the staff The Flipside has a print run of about two thousand which compares quite favorably with nearly all the science fiction and fantasy magazines-- and it’s free.

It all started about a year ago. I was coming into work at UW Eau Claire with my wife Jan who has an appointment there as a full professor, is head of library collections teaches courses in Women’s Studies, and is head of Library Collection Development. The reason I go into so much detail with this is to underscore that my wife is a pretty busy woman. On the other hand, I am retired and in the process of getting a second B.A. in Religious Studies. Therefore she gets a bit impatient with my position of being a misunderstood genius who has been snubbed by the world. Of course we each have our take on this, but we both agree that I am a genius. However she might add some other adjectives to that description which I would not quite so flattering!

In any case, as we came into the Davies Student Center at UW Eau Claire there were Joe Gapko, a music, and economics student. Joe is a life long Muscular Dystrophy sufferer and was waiting in his motorized wheelchair to take prospective students on tours of the Davies Center.

My wife knowing that I had recently had about a dozen copies of my 1980 play The Munitions Factory printed out and bound suggested I give a Joe a Copy to read, and them asked him if he would like one. My play is set in Imperial Germany during World War I during the winter of 1917-1918 in a time which was known as the “Turnip Winter”. The play is really about the philosophical impulses to act and make real during wartime when barrier to human relations are broken down. What happens to the ladies when all the fine young men die on the Western Front? It also contests the logic of terrorism which in a sense makes it more horrible than what it opposes. But like any real art my play has a life of its own which is out of control.

I found this out when I ran into Joe’s mother Andrea Gapko, who was the Director and Mathematics Coordinator for the Academic Skills Center at UW Eau Claire. I ran into her while I was taking my morning break at the Davies Center. Of course the thing is that because I am retired on mornings or afternoons when I don’t have classes my breaks can last all morning or afternoon, as I take breaks with successive waves of people who are actually working. But in any case Andrea told me that her son Joe was nearly half way through the play and that he liked it and hoped everybody didn’t get killed. I remember thinking, “wow” somebody got it. If I have one reader gets I there must be others. Later his mother said that she really liked it, and Joe’s father Laurie stopped and told me in best Prairie Home Companion style, that I had written a pretty good play.

With that in mind next time I sat down to play a game of chess with Theo Howard, a large (since I am over six feet tall and over three hundred and fifty pounds when I say large I mean large), handsome and very charming fellow named Aaron Brewster sat down and asked if he could play the winner I said sure, certain at least at UW Eau Claire Chess Club I would always be the winner. Well since I love to lecture about chess principles as I trounce my opponents, I tend to get distracted and lose as I did with both players. I remember asking Aaron Brewster,( who has since become just Brewster to me) if he would like to play the lead in my play The Munitions Factory.

Later I heard on the night right before my wife and I left for Europe that Joe Gapko wanted to get together with me at a local watering hole with a few other people and talk about the production of my play which he was certain would never make any money, but he wanted to direct. We talked and planned until it was almost time for Joe’s father to pick him up, but I had to tell him one more story. I wanted it to be absolutely clear that chess was important to me not because of how I played the game, but because of the people I met through it, and that I wanted to thank and his family for all the effort the had put into organizing chess.

I went on to add that every single woman I had ever dated I met because I was a chess player, even my wife. Joe said, “Even your wife? Is this a long or a short story? I said it is a long story which would take longer to tell than we would have before the time his father Laurie had set to pick him up. So that story would have to wait till we got together when my wife and I returned from Europe. Sadly I never got to tell Joe Gapko that story because he passed away from unexpectedly of complications associated with Muscular Dystrophy while we in London.

Joe Gapko (1983-2006) was a very talented young man and many things to many people. Joe was also music major at with a beautiful voice who gave a numbers of my friend’s voice lessons. I know he was talented because I have just finished listening to his voice on the memorial CD that was produced of his songs. Though I am by no means music critic, I can say that Joe Gapko sang with a beautiful clarity and the CD is available for purchase though his family, and other sources I will mention next month.

My play The Munitions Factory was performed with the support of The University of Wisconsin Eau Claire English, and Religious Studies and English Departments last fall, and two maybe three things surprised me.

First it is a play with actors and so it performs better than it reads, because its gestures are more emphatic than one would have on the printed page.

Second even though written nearly thirty years ago, about events that took place ninety years ago the student audience said it was about today.

I found that young people seem to like my work, but professors not necessarily, they seem to want everything completely for them for them, where students seem to be more willing to fill in the blanks themselves .

But the last thing I learned is that my play had a much stronger romance element in it than I realized . After the play my wife said about a separation scene in (which my forty three year hold three a hundred and fifty pound factory worker with a wooden leg protagonist finds that though the beautiful and revolutionary young college student who has come to love him, she loves the revolution more), in which he explodes with rage. Her response is only “You hurt very much, don’t you”, forcing him to face his humanity. My wife’s only response was “Philip you wrote that, I mean Philip you wrote that.”

I need to wrap things up for this month but I want make a cautionary note to any of you who are considering become involved in science writer’s workshops. It is my experience especially with the science fiction convention workshops, particularly with the Feminist Science Fiction Convention Wiscon, that participants are being encouraged by organizers to be “junk yard dog mean to each other.” That is one of the reason why though I have am one of the founders of Wiscon and have with my wife attended twenty nine out of the last thirty one Wiscons,we canceled our appearance this weekend. My dealing with Wiscon Organizers caused me to give up on the Genre of Science Fiction and Fantasy --at least as a fiction writer.

Next week I will be attending a Romance Writer’s Convention in Green Bay Wisconsin where I will actually pitching a project to two editors and an agent, as will my wife. Several of our friends have sold novels in the Romance, which has turned into a really big tent with 45% off all fiction published in it. Several of our friends have sold novels, so we like to try our hand at it.

Klausner's Bookshelf

Wearing the Spider
Susan Schaab
Galavant Press
PO Box 636, New Cannan, Ct. 06840
1934291056 $26.95

Evie Sullivan is a senior lawyer in the law firm of Howard, Rolland and Stewart and is on the fast track to make partner. She devotes most of the hours in the day to her clients, which leaves little time for a social life. Before her world starts to fall apart, she meets lawyer Joe Baton on a plane ad the two instantly click.

When she returns to her office she is informed her name is on a file but Evie never had dealings with the case or the client. She also finds that on a trip to Chicago she was billed for a hotel room she never stayed at and though it lists her as making calls to Brazil she knows nobody there. She discovers that she is an attorney of record for a client that she knows nothing about and there is something in the wording of the file that seems to be illegal. An attempt is made on Evie's life and she begins to believe one of the partners Alan is stalking her because she once violently rejected his advances. With the help of Joe, she tries to find a way to restore her good name.

The romance between Joe and Evie is quick but believable as he becomes an intricate part of the plot as he works double time to extract Evie from Alan's machinations. Alan is the best kind of villain, one readers love to hate. There are a lot of action scenes in this fast paced thriller but it is the heroine who makes WEARING THE SPIDER special. She refuses to succumb even when it looks like all things Alan did to destroy her will ruin her.

Veil of Fire
Marlo Schalesky
River Oak
c/o Cook Communications Ministries
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
1589190777 $9.99

In 1894 in Hinckley, Minnesota, the fire came out of nowhere turning the town and a few nearby towns into a raging inferno.

Dressmaker Nola Hanson and her twelve years old daughter Ellie Jean are trying to escape by riding a horse towards a train that they hear. Nola passes her daughter through the window of a car into the hands of Arla Anderson before being engulfed by the flames. Arla has her own guilt knowing she had locked up her daughter Rakel, but failed to free her in time when the flames engulfed her house.

Josef Strom watches his beloved wife Maggie die in the blaze. He manages to reach a gravel pit filled with water while holding on to his baby Emma. The preacher's wife tells him to keep soaking himself and his daughter as he ponders why God would allow a cow to live and a mother to die. The preacher's wife tells them they are the remnant who must go on.

When the inferno ends, no one is the same. Ellie Jean mourns her mom while Arla mourns her daughter. Josef mourns his wife while caring for his child. However, rumors spread of a monster living in the shadows. Could that essence be a ghost or the mythical fire-starter or someone hurt by the deadly blaze mentally unable to come home? None of the remnant's life will ever be the same?

This is an exhilarating inspirational historical saga based on a real event. Readers will feel the heat of the fire when Nola tries to save the lives of her daughter and self, the immediate impact on Josef and Arla, the mystery of the "monster", and the loss of faith by some while others are strengthened by just being alive. Readers will appreciate this deep look at the remnant struggling with why.

Living Shadows
John Shirley
080955786X $14.95

The introduction to this fine collection, "The Author Gnaws his Knuckles: A Brief Foreword" describes the essence of this anthology quite succinctly. There are two sections with the first "A Few Blocks Down, Around the Corner" filled with suspense but contain no fantasy elements; the second "Through a Laser Scanner Darkly" crosses the paranormal or surreal realm. The twelve tales that make up section one are filled with suspense mostly psychological with a wide range of subjects including love hurts and Mr. Shirley's version of War and Peace (don't panic this is a short story collection). The contributions range from the 1980s to new releases. These are all solid suspense filled thrillers that start off seemingly as normal life that spins into walks on the darkest of mean streets. The second segment of eight tales also range from 1980s to new releases, but have a supernatural twist to them. This reader especially enjoyed "Blind Eye" (though I read it recently in the Poe's Lighthouse anthology) co-authored with Edgar Allen Poe. Fans of John Shirley will surely know how good he has been and still is with this twenty short stories collection.

28 Days Later: The Aftermath
Steve Niles with Dennis Calero, Diego Olmos & Nat Jones
Fox Atomic Comics
0061236764 $17.95

The two Cambridge, England scientists Clive and Warren work on an inhibitor to prevent human rage. Whereas the more violent prone Clive worries they are going too far, Warren wants to test on humans. Their first attempt on an abusive criminal goes awry. However, Warren thinks he has the elixir after testing with a monkey and plans to use an airborne virulent of Ebola to deliver it.

In Cherry Hinton Hall Park in Cambridge, Roger and his three children celebrate the birthday of his wife their mom. The youngest child sees a monkey in a tree that attacks the kid. He is rushed to the hospital as all hell has broken loose because Warren's concept mutated making the Rage Virus the norm.

This is the first "stage" and a half of a five stage graphic comic doomsday thriller. The art is gripping with its overall darkness enhancing the feeling of overall doom. The cast is solid as family battles to survive the aftermath of science out of control. Fans of the format especially those who enjoyed the movie 28 Days Later will want to read this terrific horror thriller.

13 Days
L.P. Starks
Brown Books Publishing Group
16200 N. Dallas Parkway, Suite 170 , Dallas, Texas 75248
1933285451 $15.95

Tri Coast Energy Executive Vice President of Oil Refineries Lynn Dayton convinced her boss to buy out Centennial by betting her job that she could have the newest acquisition's refineries on the Houston Ship Channel working within three months. With only a few weeks to go to make good on her wager, there remains problems. The worst is an accident that leaves four people dead when the refinery leaked poisonous gas H2S caused by a malfunctioning valve.

After examining the site and interviewing the lone survivor, Lynn begins to believe the accident was sabotage. Threats are made to her by phone and someone tries to assault her while she is running. The trouble is not limited to Tricentennial Refineries or others on the Ship Channel. Serious "accidents" occur that lead to US gas shortages. Lynn believes there is a conspiracy involving people who want the oil refineries shut down although she has no idea who. Her inquiries lead to someone wanting her dead before she can obtain the truth.

There is a lot of technical and scientific data interwoven in the story line dealing with how an oil refinery works that add too much complexity for the average layman to understand. Still that adds to the realism that the exciting 13 DAYS is a plausible business espionage thriller. Readers will enjoy the courage and risk taking of the female protagonist as she is a combo of vulnerability and strength.

The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Rolling
Neta Jackson
Thomas Nelson, Inc
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
1591453623 $13.99

It was the fire that made the Yada Yada Prayer group sisterhood realizes they had become complacent in their worship, with their families, and in their community. Each knows they must reaffirm their belief in the Lord, as God always brings a renewal of life and spirit out of the ashes of destruction.

The Yada sisters must grow and embrace the change of merging the Uptown Community with the New Morning Christian Church that potentially can make both stronger as neither would remain homogenous; however not heeding God's message could lead to intolerance and racism. The sisters especially understand they must pray and welcome newcomers into their prayer group if they are to remain true to the Lord. Jodi and Denny set the example by reaching out to those at a nearby juvenile detention center following the pair's understanding that listening to the Holy Spirit saying their past was good, but now the challenge is to reach beyond your safe group to others outside your net.

With this dramatic spin that widens the scope of the prayer group from its five previous tales; Neta Jackson inspires her audience to be all that God expects you to be. The ensemble cast expands with the blending of the two groups so that new problems emerge. Racism, HIV and other health issues, criminals and juvenile delinquents challenge the Yada Yada Prayer Group members to pray for guidance, listen to that guidance, and apply that guidance to one and all. Fans of the series will roll along with the Yadas as God wants them to try new things starting with expanding their sphere as everyone is welcomed in God's tent.

Moon White: Color Me Enchanted
Melody Carlson
PO Box 35001, Colorado Springs, Co.80935
1576839516 $12.99

Sixteen years old Heather Sinclair struggles with so many radical changes in her life. Just last summer her dad married Augustine. At the Echelon Dance Studio, newcomer Elizabeth "Liz" Sinclair competes with Heather for the lead in an upcoming ballet and makes a move on her boyfriend. However, the most powerful is the reaction of her best friend Lucy, who pontificates that witchcraft is evil so fearing for Heather's soul pleads with her to quit studying Wicca or she will end their friendship.

Still upset with the changes going on in her life, Elizabeth, assuming all spirituality is good for the soul, explores Wicca. She regains much of her lost confidence, but the price is alienating her best friends including Lucy, who cannot abide her becoming a witch. Soon strange things occur that frighten Heather when she cannot explain the phenomena in logical terms and is unaware that the path she chose if she continues will cost Elizabeth her soul.

MOON WHITE is an interesting "Color Me" character study that stars a troubled teen choosing a path that leads to spiritual and mundane danger for her. Some readers will be upset with the lack of tolerance towards Wicca as God's is inclusive; whiles others will applaud Melody Carlson for condemning the religion since the bible strongly opposes witchcraft. Regardless of perspective Heather is a fascinating protagonist as she glides down a path that could have been a Christian cult as easily as Wiccan, but most critical proves destructive for her.

The Return
Austin Boyd
PO Box 35001, Colorado Springs, CO.80935
157683946X $14.99

It has been six years since Admiral John Wells has been on a manned mission to Mars but this time he is in charge and lands on the red planet. He and his crew find evidence of the "aliens" that appeared on Mars (which led to the first mars landing) and Earth. In his hands are proof that so called aliens were mechanical devices made on earth. The proof from the first mission was destroyed in a space accident.

John and his crew are shocked to learn that there is a small colony on Mars that NASA has no idea about. There are women and a young man in this colony with all the necessities and a few luxuries who belong to and believe in John Raines' "Father Race religion" based on the alien appearances. John thought his wife and children were killed six years ago when someone destroyed the helicopter they were in; they are being held in Father Raines compound in Slovenia desperate to get a message out. Man and wife separated by space and both prisoners in different ways have friends trying to find a way to extract John's family as well as 321 innocent clones, which were part of Raines' master plan for the human race. They have a deadline because Raines plans to move forward on the new race in a matter of days.

There are two separate parallel plotlines that don't intersect at any point even though the heroine of one is wife to the hero of the other. This is not a fault as reader get two stories for the price of one. John is a typical NASA astronaut, brave, innovative, and courageous enough to make the difficult decisions. His wife has never given up hope of rescue and even aided in letting the right people know where she was located. Austin Boyd is a creative storyteller that will keep readers mesmerized with his innovative storyline.

Tosca Lee
PO Box 35001, Colorado Springs, Co.80935
1600061230 $12.99

When Clay's books did not sell well, he gave up writing to become a book editor. He had no children with his wife Aubrey, who had an affair. When Clay found out about her extracurricular activities they divorced Aubrey. His life feels vapid so when Lucian comes into his vacuous sphere, Clay believes he is capable of dealing with him once he accepts that his new acquaintance is a demon, not just any, but the DEMON who began the FALL.

Lucian wants to "hire" Clay because he wants his side of the story told. Clay writes down what the demon tells him and soon believes this will become a publishable book. Because Elohim cherishes humanity, Lucian hates humans calling them "mud people". He explains the Creation, the Fall, the Resurrection, and the spreading of the Holy Spirit. Lucian also tells Clay that demon-kind is angry, acrimonious, and jealous as Elohim never gave them a chance to repent or gibe them the gift of a second chance at salvation. As Clay writes the Gospel According to Lucian, he becomes excited as he expects fame and fortune. He is unable to step past his own needs to question why he is the demon's chosen one.

The bible and urban fantasy combine to create an intelligent and thought provoking multilayered tale. In his euphoria, the protagonist fails to recall what his client's mission is as he can only see the glory and money he will make when he finishes the "memoir". Surprisingly, in spite of knowing Lucian is a sly trickster, readers will sympathize with his plight (think Milton) even as he uses his genuine feelings to corral another fallen one; the audience will also feel sympathy towards the vulnerable victim, a rather complex protagonist whose emotions mirror that of Lucien except that Clay fails to comprehend the ultimate truth. Tosca Lee provides a powerful discerning tale that will have fans pondering their own deals with the demons.

Wearing the Spider
Susan Schaab
Galavant Press
PO Box 636, New Cannan, Ct. 06840
1934291056 $26.95

Evie Sullivan is a senior lawyer in the law firm of Howard, Rolland and Stewart and is on the fast track to make partner. She devotes most of the hours in the day to her clients, which leaves little time for a social life. Before her world starts to fall apart, she meets lawyer Joe Baton on a plane ad the two instantly click.

When she returns to her office she is informed her name is on a file but Evie never had dealings with the case or the client. She also finds that on a trip to Chicago she was billed for a hotel room she never stayed at and though it lists her as making calls to Brazil she knows nobody there. She discovers that she is an attorney of record for a client that she knows nothing about and there is something in the wording of the file that seems to be illegal. An attempt is made on Evie's life and she begins to believe one of the partners Alan is stalking her because she once violently rejected his advances. With the help of Joe, she tries to find a way to restore her good name.

The romance between Joe and Evie is quick but believable as he becomes an intricate part of the plot as he works double time to extract Evie from Alan's machinations. Alan is the best kind of villain, one readers love to hate. There are a lot of action scenes in this fast paced thriller but it is the heroine who makes WEARING THE SPIDER special. She refuses to succumb even when it looks like all things Alan did to destroy her will ruin her.

Veil of Fire
Marlo Schalesky
River Oak
c/o Cook Communications Ministries
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
1589190777 $9.99

In 1894 in Hinckley, Minnesota, the fire came out of nowhere turning the town and a few nearby towns into a raging inferno.

Dressmaker Nola Hanson and her twelve years old daughter Ellie Jean are trying to escape by riding a horse towards a train that they hear. Nola passes her daughter through the window of a car into the hands of Arla Anderson before being engulfed by the flames. Arla has her own guilt knowing she had locked up her daughter Rakel, but failed to free her in time when the flames engulfed her house.

Josef Strom watches his beloved wife Maggie die in the blaze. He manages to reach a gravel pit filled with water while holding on to his baby Emma. The preacher's wife tells him to keep soaking himself and his daughter as he ponders why God would allow a cow to live and a mother to die. The preacher's wife tells them they are the remnant who must go on.

When the inferno ends, no one is the same. Ellie Jean mourns her mom while Arla mourns her daughter. Josef mourns his wife while caring for his child. However, rumors spread of a monster living in the shadows. Could that essence be a ghost or the mythical fire-starter or someone hurt by the deadly blaze mentally unable to come home? None of the remnant's life will ever be the same?

This is an exhilarating inspirational historical saga based on a real event. Readers will feel the heat of the fire when Nola tries to save the lives of her daughter and self, the immediate impact on Josef and Arla, the mystery of the "monster", and the loss of faith by some while others are strengthened by just being alive. Readers will appreciate this deep look at the remnant struggling with why.

Tosca Lee
PO Box 35001, Colorado Springs, Co.80935
1600061230 $12.99

When Clay's books did not sell well, he gave up writing to become a book editor. He had no children with his wife Aubrey, who had an affair. When Clay found out about her extracurricular activities they divorced Aubrey. His life feels vapid so when Lucian comes into his vacuous sphere, Clay believes he is capable of dealing with him once he accepts that his new acquaintance is a demon, not just any, but the DEMON who began the FALL.

Lucian wants to "hire" Clay because he wants his side of the story told. Clay writes down what the demon tells him and soon believes this will become a publishable book. Because Elohim cherishes humanity, Lucian hates humans calling them "mud people". He explains the Creation, the Fall, the Resurrection, and the spreading of the Holy Spirit. Lucian also tells Clay that demon-kind is angry, acrimonious, and jealous as Elohim never gave them a chance to repent or gibe them the gift of a second chance at salvation. As Clay writes the Gospel According to Lucian, he becomes excited as he expects fame and fortune. He is unable to step past his own needs to question why he is the demon's chosen one.

The bible and urban fantasy combine to create an intelligent and thought provoking multilayered tale. In his euphoria, the protagonist fails to recall what his client's mission is as he can only see the glory and money he will make when he finishes the "memoir". Surprisingly, in spite of knowing Lucian is a sly trickster, readers will sympathize with his plight (think Milton) even as he uses his genuine feelings to corral another fallen one; the audience will also feel sympathy towards the vulnerable victim, a rather complex protagonist whose emotions mirror that of Lucien except that Clay fails to comprehend the ultimate truth. Tosca Lee provides a powerful discerning tale that will have fans pondering their own deals with the demons.

The Restorer
Sharon Hinck
PO Box 35001, Colorado Springs, Co.80935
1600061311 May 2007

Susan Mitchell is feeling overwhelmed by the demands of her children and those she makes on herself. Her husband Mark built a getaway for Susan in their attic, but the first time she enters she hears voices before being pulled through a portal into another world. She sees a knight kill a person and realizes she isn't in Kansas anymore. Although the knight is mistrustful of her, he takes her under his wing and brings her to his clan in Braide Wood.

She learns she is in the realm of the Children of the Verses, a group of twelve tribes which believe in the one. They are under attack from many fronts, as Hezon wants to expand and assimilate the Children of the Verses into their own empire and they give the people an ultimatum that they can't possible meet. They can get weapons but they can't use them have because on the records and in the songs the voice the One says his people can only do battle with swords and the Verses. Cameron the head councilman of the tribes wants to use the sync beam even though it is forbidden and he has allowed the Rhusicans to enter the tribal lands. They invade people's minds and poison them in some way so they turn from the One. Susan discovers she is the new Restorer sent by the One with enhanced powers to save his people. She hopes when the time comes she will have the courage to do so.

The world that Susan enters is full of high tech superior to earth's but it's people have the same feelings, needs and hopes as they do in our own world. The people are waiting for their Deliverer while in our own world the Savior is believed by many to have come. There are plenty of surprises in this inspiring novel. The heroine is courageous and vulnerable at the same time in this new world where she has a connection with the One. Fantasy fans will thoroughly enjoy this exciting and character driven high fantasy tale.

The Wayward Muse
Elizabeth Hickey
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0743273141 $24.00

Jane Burden knows she is ugly having heard that from her mother as well as family, friends, and neighbors. She is too tall, with a freakishly long neck, arms and legs that belong on someone even taller, which leads to clumsiness and dresses that just never fit right. Adding to her being considered the ugliest female in the Oxford slums is that at seventeen she has no breasts. She expects to wed physically abusive Tom Barnstable as her mother reminds her that he is the best she will ever have.

Everything abruptly changes when noted artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti sees Jane and thinks she is a rare beauty he must paint as his Guinevere in a mural. Her mother agrees to allow her to pose because of the fee Rossetti provides. Jane enjoys her short time each week with the painter and his colleagues. She soon realizes she loves Rosetti, but is heartbroken when he weds his ailing fiancee Lizzie. Jane accepts wealthy William Morris' proposal mostly because he as Rossetti's friend and protege will enable her to remain near her true love. Over the next few years Jane gives birth to two children, but when Lizzie dies, Rossetti makes it clear how he feels about his Guinevere, which upsets her spouse William, who has always known he was a second choice.

The key to this terrific historical biographical tale is the ability of Elizabeth Hickey to bring to life four real people from the latter half of the nineteenth century. The story line is driven mostly by the heroine who thanks to the artist turns from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan considered the ideal of pre-Raphaelite beauty and the muse for her spouse and the artist. Fans of period pieces will enjoy this deep rich Victorian Era tale starring real persona.

Witch Hunt
Shirley Damsgaard
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0061147117 $6.99

It is a small quiet town where murder rarely happens, but at least twice Ophelia Jensen has been in the middle of homicide investigations. This isn't as crazy as it sounds because she is a psychic and both times her power led her to the killer. She lives with her foster daughter Tink, a thirteen years old medium and she is very close to her grandmother Abby the witch. After years of denial Ophelia admits she has powers and she lets her grandmother teach her folklore magick.

The serenity of the town is disturbed when El Serpiente, a bad motorcycle gang noted for extortion, running drugs, and murder, come to town. Her best friend Dori and Ophelia as well as Dori's cousin Beatrice go to the bar where the gang hangs out and Beatrice disappears with one of the gang leaders. When Dori and Ophelia go to Dori's place, they find Beatrice with a knife in her hands and blood on her. Adder is dead and the police arrest Beatrice but Ophelia is sure she is not guilty. She quietly investigates and gets help; if one can call it that, from Adder's spirit.

Each mystery that Shirley Damsgaard writes is better than the last. Her characters grow as they deal with what life hands them. Ophelia finally accepts she is a psychic who can do magic and her grandmother eases up on the pressure. Ophelia no longer denies that Abby was a practicing witch. Both grandmother and granddaughter have a beautiful relationship based on equality. The mystery in WITCH HUNT is well plotted and the villains hide in plain sight.

One Night with a Goddess
Judi McCoy
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060774606 $5.99

Even to his offspring when Zeus makes a threat in terms of a promise, he will carry it out. So he gives three of his demigoddess offspring (Zoe, Kyra and Chloe) a choice that none of them desire. Chloe Degodessa, the Muse of Happiness, knows she better prove she is doing her job in a superior manner or next year she joins the mortal unemployment lines or mucks stables in paradise.

In freezing Chicago she obtains employment at Castleberry Hall working for Miss Belle and finds she loves the job of arranging happy receptions. However, the clock is ticking and she has only one month left to continue to prove her worth. At the same, Belle's grandson Dr. Matt Castleberry, a Doctors Without Borders physician has come home to emotionally recover from the atrocities he has seen humanity do to one another. He is so despondent he considers never practicing medicine again. Chloe finds herself attracted to Matt, which could anger her father and cost her access to Mount Olympus.

The second Goddess romantic fantasy (see ALMOST A GODDESS starring Kyra) combines an overall lighthearted whimsical romance with some powerful insight into western doctors struggling with providing help in third world nations. The story line is fast-paced and very breezy (it is Chicago) yet at times the anguish of Dr. Matt suffering from a form of battle fatigue syndrome brings reality to the mix. Readers will enjoy Chloe's breaking of the first commandment of thou shall not fall in love with a mortal, especially an emotionally troubled mortal.

Wild Sweet Love
Beverly Jenkins
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0061161306 $5.99

In 1895 incarcerated bank and train robber Teresa July receives a pardon for coming to the aid of a prison matron with the stipulations that she stay out of trouble and out of the west especially the Arizona Territory for a year. Philadelphia high society maven and charity representative Miss Molly Nance takes in the famous Black Seminole outlaw, who figures how hard can it be to stay out of trouble while living amidst affluence.

However, Teresa readjusts her original contention that keeping out of trouble will prove easy when she meets Molly's son, Madison, a womanizing retired cardsharp turned banker. He decides Teresa would make a fine notch on his belt, but instead of falling into bed with the hunk, she rips his skin that is when she is not defeating him in some sort of contest. As they begin to fall in love over horseshoes, her previous lifestyle surfaces leaving both and his mother in peril.

Using the sister of the hero of SOMETHING LIKE LOVE and a support role gambler from A CHANCE AT LOVE, Beverly Jenkins provides readers with a great historical romance that also includes a terrific look at black history. The lead couple each shows they can handle star billing as Teresa and Madison is a wonderful pairing who fuss, fight, compete, and love. No one shines a light on nineteenth century African-America than the incomparable Ms. Jenkins consistently does; which is why this reviewer is also a fan.

Janet Dailey, Fern Michaels, Dinah McCall and Deborah Bedford
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0061085081 $7.99

"Heading Home" by Janet Dailey. In New Mexico, Trooper the K9 and his two associates know immediately the assignment once their human pet rancher Josh Reynolds meets his neighbor Kate Summers. However, Kate has been burned by love once before and Josh is wary of that emotion so Trooper has his work cut out to bring these neighboring ranchers together.

"The Journey" by Fern Michaels. Twelve years ago Matt Starr jilted Maggie Osborne Harper to make a fortune. He succeeded in making billions, but knows he made the mistake of a lifetime when he dumped his beloved. Now he wants a second chance, but once burned.

"The Return of Walker Lee" by Dinah McCall. Ten years ago, Carrie Wainright was too afraid to take chance on love especially when her father intervened. She dropped Walker. Now she wants a second chance, but once burned.

"Rockabye Inn" by Deborah Bedford. Following a bad car accident that left her unconscious, Anna Burden awakens to realize she suffers from amnesia. Her neighbor and apparent friend Richard Reese provides her with tender warm support while she heals. However, Anna feels he is hiding something from her even as she realizes she loves him. Unaware at this time that what she wants is actually a second chance, but once burned

This is a reprint of a late 1990s second chance at love anthology that fans of any of the authors will enjoy. The novellas contain lead females burned once by love refusing to touch the heat a second time although the hunks try to coax them to do likewise.

The Devil's Temptation
Kimberly Logan
0061239194 $5.99

In 1818 London, Lady Maura Daventry attends a ball that many would say orgy is more descriptive as the most scandalous sex offenders of the Ton party without regard. Maura knows she does not belong here as this is no place for an innocent unless they are selling their virginity to the highest bidder, but she needs to be here to uncover the truth about the man who murdered her reprehensible mother five years ago.

However, the one person she wants to avoid is Hawksley, a womanizer who could bed any woman he wants including Maura if she is honest with herself; the attraction to him frightens her as she knows he is the most talked about rake in town. Making it even more critical to stay as far from him as possible, is that she seeks the threatening letter his father sent to her mother; she assumes he killed her mother although she recently has found evidence that points to a different lover. Hawksley not only finds her, but like a bird of prey he comes onto her with a seductive look and an offer to help her learn the truth. Although he starts off wanting to divert her from her quest, he soon wants much more.

The second Daventry sister Regency romance is a wonderful tale due to the changing relationship between the lead couple. Their linked heritage warns both to stay away from one other, but like moths to a flame they cannot. Although ostensibly an investigative tale, Kimberly Logan shows her skill as THE DEVIL'S TEMPTATION is more of a cat and mouse encounter between two people in love and less the amateur sleuth inquiry of older sister Jilly (see SINS OF MIDNIGHT). Readers will gain immense pleasure with this strong one sitting historical.

The Duke's Indiscretion
Adele Ashworth
0061128570 $6.99

In 1861 Duke Colin Ramsey realizes that his infatuation for Royal Italian Opera House opera singer Lottie English has grown into an obsession. He will do anything except betray the crown to spend one night in heaven with her.

Lady Charlotte Hughes lives a quiet demure life under the martinet domination of her brother Lord Brixham. At least that is the image she provides her sibling; for at night she is Lottie English. Her fantasy is a grand tour of the continent although she admits to herself making love with admirer Colin might prove better. She decides if she can persuade Colin to marry her, she can have both and be free of Brixham. Colin learns of her double life from kisses and offers her a real marriage with a grand tour once he completes his investigation. However, he soon has a more urgent need than making love to her, as someone wants her dead so he or she can claim something valuable.

This is a fascinating Victorian romantic suspense that focuses on the relationship between the opera singer and the investigating duke. The mystery elements take a back seat to the attraction between Colin and Charlotte as the whodunit enhances their need for one another. Historical romance fans will want to read Adele Ashworth's well written thriller.

Not Quite a Lady
Loretta Chase
0061231231 $6.99

In 1812 she was a child having a child due to the seduction of wicked Geordie Blaine while her governess failed to act. Only seventeen, Lady Charlotte Hayward is forced to give up her son. Unable to emotionally recover from the treachery of her lover and from not even holding her offspring once, Charlotte remains an enigma to the Ton, as she chose to rusticate and never marry, rejecting all suitors as she vows to be a perfect lady even if she is NOT QUITE A LADY anymore.

A decade later, Lord Hargate worries about the scholarly pursuits of his youngest son Darius, who studies animal mating behavior so that he can use what he learns to seduce women. Everyone agrees he is a heartless rake who insists love does not exist and does not care one iota what his behavior causes. His father, tired of the vulgarity of his most rakish son, exiles him to a property in Yorkshire with the hope the lad will have no oats to sow. However, next door is the challenge of a lifetime as Charlotte refuses to have anything to due with him. As the immovable meets the irresistible sparks fly eventually into a loving inferno with Darius knowing that the way to her heart is finding her son.

This entertaining intelligent historical romance contains a strong lead couple and a fully developed support cast. The deep story line is driven by the two-step between the immovable Charlotte and the irresistible Darius. Fans will enjoy Loretta Chase's poignant look at Regency society through the loving relationship between the fallen woman and the troublemaking mating scientist.

Sins of a Duke
Suzanne Enoch
0060843071 $6.99

By 1813 in London, Duke Sebastian Griffin has raised his younger siblings setting an example of proper behavior with not even a remote hint of scandal attached to him. He is very proud of his brothers and sisters as each has made what he considers an ideal match.

Beautiful Josefina Katarina Embry claims that she is a princess in some far-off nebulous land that no one has heard of. The Ton finds her charming and fascinating. Only Sebastian thinks otherwise as he believes she is up to no good although he is not sure what that is. He plans to expose her as a royal fraud except whenever they are together he cannot resist kissing this siren.

Fans of the "sin" Regency romance series (see AN INVITATION TO SIN and Something Sinful) will appreciate Sebastian's turn in the hopper. The normally aloof dispassionate hero suddenly is filled with ardor and a damn the torpedoes attitude yet Suzanne Enoch still keeps his demeanor and personality consistent with his previous big brother appearances. Josefina is more difficult to like as readers will agree with the Duke's initial assessment that she is up to no good. Their battling relationship takes off when they debate his "amateurish" kiss and never looks back as fans will enjoy their rousing gender war.

Unfinished Business
Karyn Langhorne
0060847891 $6.99

Washington DC African-American schoolteacher Erica Johnson believes in social and political activism. When her fourth grade students find causes for her to support, she literally wears their concerns with her "Books Not Bombs" t-shirt as she interrupts a Congressional hearing. Erica confronts conservative senator Mark Newman with her efforts to obtain the funding her children need.

He being a gorgeous war hero, Erica assumes Mark is candy material with political ambition. She is surprised when he proves intelligent and caring even as he still suffers from his combat related injuries and grieves his wife's death. He remains accessible as they debate the issues, but she admits to herself Mark is a real compassionate conservative while he acknowledges she is a loving liberal. As they fall in love, his more devious opponents plan to use their interracial relationship to destroy his political career while some of his supporters send her hate mail warning her to stay away from their hero.

Karyn Langhorne has written an exciting character driven political romance that focuses deeply on the guns vs. butter redistribution issue. The lead couple is a great pairing of two intelligent individuals who believes that their position is best for most of the country; each eloquently defends their side of the debate without "Cheneyizing" the other as demons. The interracial aspects of their respect and love bring out the worst in political activists yet the best in these beloved enemies. UNFINISHED BUSINESS is a winner with its mantra that all blood flows red.

The Viscount in Her Bedroom
Gayle Callen
006078413X $6.99

Lord Wade is the toast of society until a riding accident blinds him. Unable to listen to the sounds of so called sympathy and "seeing" the pity in their eyes, Simon becomes a recluse, living a quiet life with his shy sister and grandmother.

In 1845, Simon's grandmother hires a companion Louisa Shelby without consulting him. Louisa and her sisters saw their world end when their father committed suicide; with her siblings settled in happy marriages, she looks forward to the single life as elderly Lady Wade's companion. To her amazement, Louise is attracted to Simon and him to her as she brings him back to life with her elan and enthusiasm helping his sister in turning more comfortable with men as well; but he assumes it is pity on her part not a passionate love like he feels so he ends their relationship abruptly. He is already hearing nasty rumors about her.

The third and final tale in the Sisters of Willow Pond miniseries (see the other Shelby siblings' tales, THE LORD NEXT DOOR and The Duke in Disguise) is an incredibly deep Victorian romance that focuses on the impact of blindness on more than just the individual as each member of his family feels the effect immensely especially since he was their leader. Readers will feel for Simon as he comes out of his self imposed shell due to Louisa although he ahs doubts about his beloved's motives. This is a fitting climax to a strong trilogy with a powerful cast that makes for a terrific historical.

The Templar's Seduction
Mary Reed McCall
0061170445 $5.99

In 1309 for his attempts to sell sacred artifacts, disgraced former Templar Knight Sir Alexander de Ashby is sentenced to death. However, he is given a pardon of sorts if he agrees to pretend to being the recently deceased Scottish earl of Marston, who died in prison. Realizing his choice is between a brutal hanging and masquerading as some earl who he apparently resembles; Alex accepts the Scottish "sentencing. In his assessment, he figures he not only stays alive but lives like an aristocrat and might find something worth selling. Besides which his best friend remains hostage to his successfully completing the assignment.

Alex is warned that the toughest person to persuade that he is real thing is Marston's forceful spouse, Lady Elizabeth. He figures he could fool any female until he meets her. For the first time in his life he wants someone with his soul. However, his passion exposes him, as she knows this fake is a much better lover than Rob ever was. Soon the pretender concocts a plan to keep his beloved safe and free his friend, while restoring his name or dying with honor.

The relationship (between the reforming roguish Alex and the reforming shrewish Elizabeth) makes for a great medieval romance. The final Templar tale (see SINFUL PLEASURES and BEYOND TEMPTATION) is fast-paced once Alex meets Elizabeth and never slows down as he continually goes over his options, which seem to be saving friend vs. his love. Readers will want to know if he chose the lady or the pal; either way he assumes he loses although he underestimates his soulmate.

A Dangerous Beauty
Sophia Nash
0061231363 $5.99

Following her inappropriate behavior with Lord Sumner ending with her refusal to marry him in spite of their indiscretion on the beach and her father's ire, she settled for a loveless match with a squire. Having barely survived the scandal that shamed her beloved father, Lady Rosamunde Baird vows to avoid any impropriety. When she became a widow, the Dowager Duchess of Helston and her female minion allow her to join their flock for the season; Rosamunde assumes this is easy cover to steer clear of discrediting her family name although her indiscretion eight years ago was with the Helstons.

However, to her chagrin, her dowager hostess has a hunk of a grandson Luc "Lord Fire and Ice" St. Aubyn. His nickname comes from heating the passion of women until he cools them down by leaving them behind. He on the other hand initially assumes she is another of his grandmother's vapid friends until he goes riding with her. As they fall in love, scandal seems on the horizon with the exposure of him as the author of a sarcastic dictionary written under an alias.

The roguish Luc turns this delightful Regency romance into a fast-paced tale as he takes up the challenge of Rosamunde, who goes out of her way to avoid scandal. Once they go riding, he is hooked as she is the best rider regardless of gender he has ever seen. Fans will enjoy his antics as he lives up to the first half of his nickname heating a despairing Rosamunde but finds he does not want to cool their ardor. With Bierce's Devil's Dictionary leading each chapter with fun asides, Sophia Nash provides a lighthearted entertaining historical romance starring two opposites when it comes to scandalous behavior. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this gender war.

Alex Barclay
Delacorte Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0385338791 $23.00 1-800-726-0600

As part of official policy following the shooting of a weapon, NYPD police officer Joe Lucchesi goes on leave after he shot and killed kidnapper Donald Riggs, but not before the culprit murdered his victim and her mother. Needing to get away from the city, one year later he takes his wife and their son Shaun to Waterford, Ireland.

However, Shaun's girlfriend vanishes for no apparent reason. Joe assumes Riggs' best friend Duke Rawlins is deeply involved as he believes Katie Lawson was abducted. He explains his theory to the local Garda, but they treat him as if he is a paranoid loose cannon rather than a peer. When they do nothing, Joe begins an investigation that angers the Garda who warn him that he cease and desist or he will be sent home.

This is an interesting relationship drama that includes deep discerning looks at families and at blood pacts that will stun and delight the audience. The story line focuses on how people act with one another as readers see first hand how the Lucchesi family get on with one another and why Rawlins reacts like he does with the death of his best friend Donnie. Fans of character driven cat and mouse thrillers that allow the suspense to simmer will want to read DARKHOUSE.

Still Life with Chickens: Starting Over in a House by the Sea
Catherine Goldhammer
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
0452288487 $12.00

In her fifties and beginning to think of what she will do during her golden years, Catherine Goldhammer instead finds herself obtaining a divorce albeit an amiable one from her husband. The immediate impact is being economically poorer and raising their twelve years old daughter by herself. She relocates from affluent suburbia with her offspring to a fixer upper New England cottage that came with six two-day old chicks. Catherine bought the house and the chicks with the former for her and the latter to occupy her daughter. This terrific insightful memoir reflects the year she adjusted all cylinders of her life starting with raising the chickens and renovating a dump that the two female Goldhammers loosely called home. In the process she also repaired a broken psyche. Her fears especially for her daughter, her joy over minuscule successes, and her euphoria that the hard work starting with the bribery chickens that saved her soul make for inspired reading.

A Tale of Two Sisters
Anna Maxted
0452288517 $14.00

In London the Jewish sisters Lizbet and Cassie Montgomery seem to live reasonably contented lives. The attractive but a bit chubby Lizbet works as a columnist at Ladz Mag and lives with a nice boyfriend, product designer Tim. Glamorous beauty Cassie is a barrister married to BBC production assistant George Hershlag. Both seem contented and have a tight but also tense relationship between them because they always have competed with one another.

Lizbet raises the bar of the sibling rivalry when she informs their parents and her sister that she is pregnant. Whereas Vivica and Dad are euphoric with the thought of a grandchild, Cassie is angry as she has tried futilely for a year; she secretly prays for the worst. Her payers are answered when Lizbet miscarries. While Lizbet is despondent and depressed, Cassie feels guilty so trying to assuage her conscience she tries to be there for her sister.

This is a discerning look at assimilated "Anglicized" Jews with the viewpoint rotated between the two sisters. Both come alive in different ways yet share in common a deep love for one another and at times a deeper sibling rivalry. Lizbet's emotional trauma is much more devastatingly than the series of woes that strike Cassie; her subplot comes across that much stronger too. Chick lit in design, A TALE OF TWO SISTERS is compelling, sad yet amusing look at sisters, rivals hitherto teammates always their for each other.

Lee Singer
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
1594145970 $25.95 1-800-223-1244

The year is 2066 and the earth is barely populated as a consequence of the biological and viral plagues as well as nukes nearly destroyed the planet. Terrorism got completely out of control and nations tried to throw out the undesirables of a jihad that was answered in kind by the western powers. The United States is desolate with shell points of civilization interspersed with fiefdoms, bandits, and despots.

Rica Marin is a mercenary because she and her grandmother need the money for vaccinations and boosters, so they don't catch a fatal disease lingering from the poison years. Right now her assignment is the country of Sierra; hired by Chief Graybie to investigate the Coleman's owners of the blackjack casino in Tahoe. She finds that the Colemans are better than most people she has had to investigate. They want to consolidate and make their power base larger in a peaceful manner. So people can feel safe and technology will grow in a controlled manner. The problem is Rica is working for the wrong side; the Colemans' enemies are the Scorsia who are mafia types and use mob methods to get what they want. Rica has the alloy the Colemans want but are suspicious of her and deal with the Scorsia patriarch so he doesn't get a chance to succeed in his grab for power.

This is quite a different apocalyptical thriller because it leaves the readers with hope. The human race wasn't totally destroyed and they have the numbers to build a base that is anchored in equally and justice for all instead fear instead of prejudice. Rica is a strong willed woman willing to do more work as long as they fall within her moral compass. The Colemans are benevolent rulers with high ideals who want to protect their country by assimilating smaller weaker neighbors. Lee Singer has written a fascinating and enthralling work that focuses on the characters to deliver a cautionary message.

Remember Me
Sandra L. Tatara
Five Star
1594145822 $26.95

She is only forty years old but Dani Monroe feels life has passed her by. Her husband Brian was in an automobile accident that left home paralyzed and impotent unable to be the kind of husband he once was for her. He withdrew from her and others and although he stays at home, he takes very little part in family life. Their son Trace is going to college and though she is happy for him, she knows her life will become even more sterile.

She buys a horse and gets a new enthusiasm for life. Ray Crawley, a sixty-two old man enters her life and gives her the love and attention she desperately needs. She feels he is her soulmate and with Brian's permission begin a glorious love affair even though she is wracked by guilt because she is caught between two different lives. When Ray disappears due a misunderstanding, Dani falls into a depression that takes months to recover from but then Brian is lost to her forcing her to strengthen her fortitude to go on living and enjoying life once again.

Some novels make an indelible mark on the heart because they are soul rendering poignant; REMEMBER ME is one such book. Readers' hearts will go out to Dani who tries so hard with Brian only to be met with disinterest and avoidance. Her love for Ray and his for her is something that only comes along once in a lifetime and despite the twenty-two year age difference they make a beautiful couple. Readers will run the gamut of emotions from total happiness to intense sorrow as they see deep inside Dani knowing just how she feels.

The Doctor's Daughter
Donna MacQuigg
Five Star
1594145962 $26.95

In 1880 England following the funeral of her daughter, Duchess Katherine Strong informs her obstinate granddaughter Rebeccah Randolph that her mom made one last request before dying. She wanted her two offspring to travel to the New Mexico territory to meet with their father, who deserted them sixteen years ago. Rebeccah's sister Lydia left six months ago to honor her mom's wishes, but she is to leave tomorrow; if she fails to go to America she will be left penniless.

Meanwhile in the New Mexico Territory, veteran Indian fighter Colonel Sayer MacLaren moves his squad into Fort Marcy to quell renegade attacks. He meets the siblings and is attracted to Rebeccah. Her meeting with her father goes reasonably okay until he assigns her to teach the children of Rancho de Gutierrez. As Sayer keeps visiting her and her true love in England fails to reply to her letters, she falls in real love with the Colonel, who begins to believe the Indian raids are not being performed by Indians.

Returning to nineteenth century New Mexico (though a generation later, see THE PRICE OF PRIDE), Donna MacQuigg provides a delightfully entertaining western romance. The lead duet is a terrific pairing as the career soldier and the English lady fall in love although neither initially believes the other is right for them. The colonel's investigation into the attacks is a cleverly designed subplot that augments the prime romantic story line. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this fine historical with its strong blending of romance with a "whodunit".

1634: The Baltic War
Eric Flint and David Weber
PO Box 1403
Riverdale, NY 10471
141652102X $26.00 1-800-223-2336

The Baltic War, which exploded the continent into two hostile armed camps, last year (see 1633) remains hot. The United States of Europe, allied with the Grantville, West Virginia's transplanted Americans, prepares a counterattack on the League of Ostend allied monarchies (France, Spain, England, and Denmark). The League's rulers fear the democratic wave brought forth by the time traveling Americans, as that would end their privilege and status of power.

Meanwhile Grantville's Admiral Simpson continues to develop ironclad ships to break the naval blockade that the League of Ostend has imposed on the Baltic. Grantville's Mike Stearns begins a rescue of diplomats incarcerated by Charles I in the Tower of London. Rebecca Stearns negotiates with the Prince of Orange and the Spanish Cardinal-Infante to join their side of the conflict. Finally in Copenhagen, POW USE naval officer Eddie Cantrell tries to convince the Danish monarch to pull out of the Ostend alliance even while he flirts with one of the king's offspring. As fronts open seemingly everywhere, Europe remains tied up in the first continent wide war to end all wars.

This is an excellent entry in the Ring of Fire chronicles that specifically follows up on 1633 by the same authors; thus to fully savor the brilliance of Eric Flint and David Weber in this tale, it behooves the audience to read (or re-read) the previous collaboration first. The fast-paced storyline contains several fronts in which the advanced twenty-first technology plays key roles in the war, but it is a psychological and philosophical battle for the minds and hearts of the people that is perhaps more critical to the cause of freedom and democracy. Obviously relevant, with its emphasis to transform Europe from dictatorial monarchies/oligopolies to democratic societies, 1634: BALTIC WAR is one of the best entries in one of the best ever alternate history sagas.

Lucy's Blade
John Lambshead
1416521216 $24.00

Though they know the consequences of their actions, Court Magician Dr. John Dee, observed by chief spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham and his secretary Simon Tunstall, begins the ritual to summon a demon into the Royal palace while Queen Elizabeth I is in residence. If anything goes wrong they will lose their souls. The plan is to bring forth Lilith using the Necronomicon with a dog to serve as his host on this plane while they interrogate the honest but shrewd demon to learn the identity of who threatens the Queen. The dog will have died once they are finished with and return Lilith back to his plane.

So far so good as Lilith is trapped inside the dying canine until Sir Francis' teenage niece Lucy Dennys rushes into the room to save her dog; Lilith switches hosts. Dee grabs his dagger as he understand what just happened and heads towards Lucy to kill her immediately before it is too late to stop the demon and Lilith takes control of Lucy's body. However, unable to kill her or let anyone else kill her, Sir Francis stops Dee from murdering Lucy although the magic practitioner insists she is no longer is his beloved niece. Centuries into the future London University Professor Alice Harding looks back to the escapades of Lucy the evil slayer.

LUCY'S BLADE is a lighthearted satirical fantasy that contains two rotating story lines from Lucy's adventures under the reign of Elizabeth I to Dr. Alice Harding looking back from her academic perch during the reign of Elizabeth II to Lucy in the sixteenth century. The historical period piece is the more entertaining as Lucy hosting Lilith makes absurd anachronistic sidebars about the present (sixteenth century that is) from the perspective of someone living in the future (our present) looking back. Readers will enjoy the adventures of Lucy the evil slayer but she also affirms the belief that there is still only one Buffy.

Lethally Blond
Kate White
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017-0010
0446195561 $24.99 1-800-759-0190

In New York City, Buzz weekly celebrity gossip magazine crime reporter Bailey Weggins has become proficient at investigating incidents mostly public temper tantrums by the rich and famous. Recently she has found celebrity crime turning deadly (see OVER HER DEAD BODY and IF LOOKS COULD KILL). Having moved on after being pinked by Gloss magazine, Bailey also moved forward accepting that her heated fling with TV star in Miami Chris Wickersham is long over.

However, when Chris calls saying he is filming in Manhattan, she immediately assumes he wants to reignite the fire. Instead he asks for her help. His friend and fellow actor on TV's hit show The Morgue, Tom Fain, has been missing for about a week and half just when his big break finally occurred; Chris feels Tom would never vanish at this moment although most of the Hollywood crowd and the cops think he bolted. Bailey agrees to investigate the disappearance, not realizing how lethal tailing Tom's trail can turn.

Though lighthearted, the fifth Weggins crime caper is a fine mystery tale starring a likable heroine who is a sort of adult Nancy Drew with hunks in her life. The story line is fun although why Chris would hire a gossip reporter whose job is to write up what she learns about celebrities instead of a professional sleuth is a bit of a mystery although it does enable a romantic subplot to happen. Fans of the series and anyone who appreciates a humorous investigative cozy will want to read Kate White's fast-paced mystery.

The Sisters Mortland
Sally Beauman
0446696013 $13.99

In 1967 in England, Widow Stella hires artist Lucas Feld to paint a portrait of her daughters the Mortland sisters. His work captures not only their beauty, but the unique personalities of each of the trio. Lucas shows twenty-something Julia the oldest as the haughty ruler of the others; twentyish Finn who is the middle sibling depicted as deeply focused and a bookworm; finally the eccentricity of the youngest thirteen years old Maisie, who hears voices as she can talk with the dead.

Almost three decades later in 1991 Lucas is having a showing of his work with his first masterpiece THE SISTERS MORTLAND as the star attraction. This leads long time family friend Daniel Nunn to need to look into the tragedy associated with the portrait. He knows that THE SISTERS MORTLAND never were the same following that summer when he, his friend Nick Marlow, Lucas and the two older females had a brush with love. He needs to know why the tragedy occurred because he does not comprehend that he is the one that is not the same remaining after all these years obsessed with the siblings and the events of the summer of 67.

This is an interesting English suspense thriller as the audience is hooked wondering just what the tragedy was that destroyed the summer of love. The story line is broken into three narrations. Maisie as the "watcher" of the other five relates what she sees especially when she talks with dead nuns or her late dad. Daniel takes charge in 1991 as he is fixated with a need to know what happened in 1967. Finally Julia provides a coda wrapping up the thriller. Throughout the audience will obsess just like Daniel to know what really occurred. Sally Beauman provides a well written character driven suspense mystery.

Matt Richtel
Twelve (Warner)
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
0446580082 $24.95 1-800-759-0190

In a San Francisco Internet cafe, a woman leaves a folded note on the table of writer Nat Idle, who picks it up along with the book he was reading and follows her outside. As she drives away, he opens her note that reads "Get out of the cafe – Now!". A nanosecond later an explosion rocks the cafe.

While everyone in the Marina District think terrorism, Nat thinks Annie as the handwriting is hers. Although she died four years ago when she was swept to sea from her sailboat, he recognizes his late girlfriend's handwriting on the note. HOOKED, as he never moved past Annie's death, Nat begins questioning those who lived. Meanwhile the house of one of those who survived, aspiring author Simon Anderson, catches fire, which increase Nat's theory of a conspiracy but the motive eludes him. He decides to visit Annie's family starting at their questionable business Strawberry Labs where they do a lucrative drug trade that he always wondered if it was legal. Like a bulldog he cannot let go even when attempts on his life occur.

Though the flashbacks to the relationship between Nat and Annie add depth of understanding to his personality, they intrude on a fascinating personal thriller of a man needing to know how his allegedly dead first love leaves him a note that saves his life. The story line is action-packed but owned by Nat's run as he seeks the truth that no one seems to want to let him have. Fans will appreciate Matt Richtel's exciting amateur sleuth thriller starring a seemingly everyman HOOKED with an obsession that propels him to continue in spite of the odds overwhelmingly that at worst he will die while at best he will know nothing.

Volk's Game
Brent Ghelfi
Henry Holt
175 - 5th Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
0805082549 $23.00 1-888-330-8477

Alekei "Volk" Volkovoy lost a leg during the Chechnya hostilities. Still in spite of his combat injuries, the Russian works two jobs with lethal efficiency. He is a formidable criminal not to mess with who makes large sums of money in all of the major illegal activities; he is also a covert military operative comfortable with assassination.

In St. Petersburg's renowned Hermitage Museum, Volk's two vocations merge when he learns of an unknown Da Vinci masterpiece hidden underneath the work of some minor leaguer, Pierre Mignard. He recruits the beautiful cold blooded killer Valya to help him steal the Leda and the Swan. Together they begin the quest to purloin the Da Vinci even as another team member makes the mistake of double crossing these two effective killers.

VOLK'S GAME is a delightful over the top antihero thriller that satirizes the James Bond tales using stereotypes to lampoon 007 and other super agents of a like ilk. The story line starts at hyperspeed and keeps accelerating until the final bloody confrontation. Volk is a fascinating lead character who is not admirable yet readers will enjoy his escapades especially when he goes on an avenging rampage. Not for everyone, fans who enjoy the antics of a kick butt macho rogue, perhaps thug might better describe him, will want to tour Russia's underbelly with Volk as a guide to the seamier side of life.

Havana Blue
Leonardo Padura
Bitter Lemon
1904738222 $14.95

Havana police lieutenant Mario Conde enjoyed the New Year's Eve celebration but he drank too much as he expected the day off to recover. Instead in spite of a four poster headache, his superior calls to tell him that Ministry for Industry official and party VIP Rafael Morin Rodriguez vanished.

Mario knew Rafael and the man's wife Tamara when the trio attended high school together and the cop was in unrequited puppy love for her. Hangover aside, Mario interviews Tamara, who offers nothing about what happened or why; instead she insists her loving spouse is an honest civil servant working for the benefit of the people. Although he prefers otherwise, Mario assumes either Rafael is dead or fled before a scandal destroyed him; either way the case has political ramifications that he knows he must gingerly walk carefully. However, the biggest issue in Mario's mind is not those looking at his every step in the investigation, but that the prime suspect is Tamara, who he still wants.

The third colorful Havana police procedural (see HAVANA BLACK and HAVANA RED) is a terrific whodunit starring a likable dedicated cop trying to investigate a maybe crime in a totalitarian society where he can easily follow a clue across a forbidden zone. Mario's investigation is top rate as he struggles with his feelings for the prime suspect and has even more trouble dealing with officialdom as the potential victim is a highly ranked bureaucrat. Readers will appreciate Leonardo Padura's tense Cuban mystery starring a great detective in a superior tale.

Love Me If You Must
Nicole Young
0800731573 $13.99

Patricia "Tish" Amble fixes up dilapidated old houses to sell. Her latest "Bring it back to life" project is a rundown Victorian in Rawlings, Michigan that she feels would make a perfect setting for Halloween. She figures this one will take a year or two, but once done should make a nice profit so she buys the house and moves in to begin renovating the fixer-upper.

However, this particular house seems different than those she has fixed and sold. Her neighbor David Ramsey jokingly warns her of ghosts residing in her new abode. Soon after David leaves she meets police officer Brad Walters, another neighbor. However, instead of spirits Tish finds proof that a crime occurred there but soon begins hearing whispers with no one nearby. When a corpse shows up, Tish is the prime suspect mostly because of her dark past and opportunity so she investigates not understanding that someone has a reason to keep the truth hidden.

The first Tish Amble whodunit is a fun suspenseful amateur sleuth tale in which the heroine insists there is no such thing as a ghost even as evidence affirms the opposite theory. The story line is fast-paced with the mystery and two men vying for Tish's attention. Although Nicole Young waits to long to explain what Tish's dark secret is as that is why she is in trouble, fans will enjoy this fine investigative thriller starring a fixer-upper extraordinaire needing to fix a murder mystery before she finds prison as her next home.

Thom Lemmons
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity, 1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
1400071747 $12.99 1-800-726-0600

Dean of the colleges Arts and Humanities, divorced Dr. Alexis Hartnett is a take charge person who never shows emotion. Divorced Professor Joseph Barnes is a highly regarded teacher in spite of his cynical outlook. This pair could never find an attraction at least on the surface, but they do. Meanwhile Alexis office assistant Lucy Conn is upset with her boss for neglecting her duties while pining over Joe; Lucy is a minority of one who loathes Joe.

Lucy concludes that Joe has dark secrets that he prefers hidden, but she will learn them and expose him. Meanwhile Joe works on a Hawthorne paper that parallels his precarious position at the school. He is falling in love with his superior, but knows nothing will come of it as he would have to reveal his sordid past to her. Alexis reciprocates in every way including fear of testing love as she has ghosts too that she hides, but mostly worries that the new professor, after a great start, is beginning to fail at the job.

The cautious relationship between the two middle age educators is cleverly developed so that the audience understands why each hesitates when it comes to love. The contemporary tale links to biblical Job and more so Hawthorne is brilliantly interwoven into the solid inspirational story line as Joe especially learns losing all is not necessarily the end because starting fresh might lead to something better and more meaningful. Although the key element leading to exposing Joe is Lucy detests him; yet her obsessive need to investigate the object of her hatred never comes across as plausible since readers never learn why she is so fixated on destroying him. Inspirational readers will enjoy Thom Lemmons insightful tale.

Like Always
Robert Elmer
1400071658 $12.99

The Sullivan family is elated because twenty years old Airman First Class Michael is coming home from being stationed in Iraq. His parents Will and Merit have prayed every day for his safe return and that of his unit too. His younger sisters Olivia and Abby are just as euphoric as their parents. However, the reunion is somewhat marred by Michael's girlfriend not showing up as she Dear John dumped him.

Meanwhile Will and Merit decide to follow a dream by relocating from California to Idaho where they buy a run down lake resort that they know they will have to put in a lot of work to restore. To their shock, fear and joy, forty-four years old Merit is pregnant. However, soon the family will face the greatest threat to their belief in God as Merit has an extremely difficult choice to make.

The five Sullivans come across as full blooded different individuals with varying desires and needs. However, the tale is owned by Merit who faces a terrible dilemma that shakes to the core her belief in God's ways and even more so that of her husband and three offspring. Readers will appreciate Robert Elmer's deep inspirational family drama starring an interesting individual whose decision displays the core of her faith.

These Boots Weren't Made for Walking
Melody Carlson
1400073138 $13.99

Thirty-one years old Cassidy Cantrell believes this is the week she visited hell without leaving her hometown of Seattle. After just after spending a fortune on designer boots at exclusive Martolli's to enhance her image at work and insure she receives the promotion she expects, her boss informs her that they are downsizing her and a few others; in other words she is fired. Eric, her boyfriend of three years, whom she blames for a recent weight gain as she frets he will never commit to her, abruptly dumps her.

Despondent and broke, Cassidy breaks the two commandants of single swingers: thou shall not eat junk food and thou shall not move back in her mother's home in Black Bear. However, mom is very different than when Cassidy left. Back then she was devastated by her husband tossing her aside for a younger chick breaking the first commandment of single swingers; now she has done a complete makeover; she looks great not just as a fifty-five year old as she dates men Cassidy's age. Cassidy can take a page out of mom's new book or continue to follow mom's previous tale of woe.

This is an interesting character study of a young woman who goes from all glitter to depressed slob to a full caring well-rounded person. This Christian chick lit story line is fun to follow due to Cassidy who serves as an inspiration for the audience once she gets past her doldrums and begins to reassert herself; her faith is not in your face so that her beliefs enhance the plot. Although the plot has been used countless times since Methuselah was a kid, readers will enjoy Cassidy's reusing of her glamour boots not meant for walking.

Leaper: The Misadventures of a Not-Necessarily-Super Hero
Geoffrey Wood
140007343X $13.99

Thirtyish recently divorced James is undergoing acupuncture when he thinks of his ex-wife's latest demand of him. Meg wants him to return her cutting board to her. He suddenly realizes where it is: in her garage. In a blink or a leap he finds himself naked except for acupuncture pins and a towel inside the family garage now owned by Meg. He lives in affluent poverty except for caffeine as he is a barista at Starbucks.

When he leaps again, he begins to wonder about the source of his sudden skills especially whether it is divine or devilish; he knows what Meg would say. He grew up on comic books wearing superhero costumes so he ponders how he would look in tights and a cape. However, leaping without notice causes problems as soon he is fired for disappearing on the job, kicked out of his apartment for disturbing the neighbors with his abrupt comings and goings at all hours, and loses his potential girlfriend Monica Oates who thinks he is crazier than her family. All James wants is to go back to his normal caffeine impoverished existence before anymore misadventures at inopportune moments occur.

This is a terrific inspirational tale that satirizes superheroes with amusing odd sidebars that leave James embarrassed and wondering why God picked him to have this power (Jonah of the whale fame). The story line is lighthearted leaps of action in which the superhero ends up in several humiliating situations as he leaps in and out of trouble. Geoffrey Wood has a refreshing unique style that proves there is plenty of room for creativity inside the Christian thriller tent.

The Serpent Bride
Sara Douglass
c/o Morrow & Company
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022
0060882131 $26.95 1-800-242-7737

The land is being torn apart by men and their penchant for war; that need is further fostered by evil Kanubai or Chaos as he was called in an earlier epoch. Imprisoned deep within the earth, Kanubai begins his way to the surface abetted by the Dark Glass Mountain, who may be more malevolent than Chaos ever was. His enemies, Light and Waterr have taken the form of mortal men; Light of Lister sometimes appears as a frog while Water prefers the mortal form of Isaiah, but also appears as as a serpent to his followers. In their way, they prepare for the upcoming war.

Lady Ishbel Brunelle the archpriestess of the Coil is visited by the Serpent God and told she must marry King Maximilian Persimius of Escator. Although she detests the order, she acquiesces to his decree unlike Maximillan, who is euphoric that Ishbel is his bride. However, someone influenced by Kanubai's thoughts kidnaps Ishbel because Chaos needs her and her unborn child to return to earth. Maximillan vows to find her, but begins to understand that though he is a monarch and she a high priestess, they are pawns in the upcoming war of the gods.

This is book one of the Darkglass Mountain saga, but takes place five years after the sinking of the Tencender and the near extinction of the Icaii race. The SunSoar, Axis and his father StarDrifter, are alive and destined to play major roles in world events. As always in a Sara Douglass fantasy, there is a cast of hundreds with multiple simultaneous plot lines that interweave; however, the star though she is the courageous victim Ishbel, plaything of the gods. THE SERPENT BRIDE is high epic fantasy that will fascinate fans of Ms. Douglass' Wayfarer Redemption Tales as new escapades have begun.

The Margarets
Sheri S. Tepper
0061170658 $26.00

Margaret Bain lived on Phobos where she was the only child. As lonely children do she created imaginary playmates including a warrior, a healer, a telepath, a linguist, a queen and a spy who had different names and lived on different worlds. At the age of nine one of her imaginary selves split off; Wilvia meets her future husband Prince Jozire. At twelve, she is on earth and is granted a water ration while another one of her imaginary splits off is not granted a water ration. She becomes the foster daughter of the being known as the Gardener on another planet.

At twenty-two another split occurs and on Margaret is a bond slave. Another Margaret marries the man who loves her and goes to the colony world Bright. One Margaret is a shaman while the lone male of the split becomes a warrior. Yet anther Margaret becomes a shaman and two Margarets become bond slaves on different worlds. Different ages and different life experiences go into the making of the Margarets who are the only chance of saving human life from those who openly and covertly try to destroy it. If they fail in their mission it means the withdrawal of help from the races who want humanity to have a chance and the race trying to restore a barren earth. Water is in very short supply so one races sells the people of Earth water in exchange for getting humans as bond slaves.

Sherri S. Tepper has written a fantastic science fiction novel filled with various races inhabiting various orbs in the universe connected by wormholes. These races and places are detailed so that the reader feels like they actually see the worlds and meets these races. The various Margarets have some things in common like bravery, fortitude and the ability to survive in less than ideal conditions. Mesmerizing and enthralling, THE MARGARETS are a sci fi mystery that the readers will want to solve.

The New Space Opera
Gardner Dozois (editor) and Jonathan Strahan (editor)
0060846755 $15.95

In the Introduction to this anthology consisting of eighteen original contributions, the definition of the space opera subplot is discussed with various sources like the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, the New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (Jack Williamson contribution), and Locus (Paul McAuley article) defining it. Each has similarities yet differences, but this strong anthology summarizes space operas as "romantic adventure set in space and told on a grand scale". Thus there is plenty of room for a myriad of tales with the vastness of space and the subjective definition of grand. This is exactly what the audience receives in this superb compilation as the authors using their own personal definition of space opera to provide excellent tales differing in locale, scope, and supporting scientific theory. Even the tones are dissimilar as some are life and death struggles to survive a dying system ("Verthandi's Ring" by Ian McDonald) or a war (Greg Egan's "Glory") vs. an amusing Poe play on Mars ("Maelstrom" by Kage Baker). The role of earthlings also varies from the conquered to the conqueror. The bottom line is editors Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan and their eighteen authors provide the grand tour of space with strong characterizations starring in short stories written on a grand scale.

Carol Higgins Clark
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
New York, NY 10020
0743289439 $24.00 1-800-223-2336

Just married private investigator Regan and NYPD Major Case Squad Chief Detective Jack Reilly leave the Big Apple to honeymoon in Ireland with their prime stay at romantic Hennessey Castle. Near their honeymoon lodgings, they spot an old cemetery and stop to look around; the first gravestone they see is marked REILLY. The pair writes it off as an odd coincidence especially since he has family all over the Emerald Isle. They learn that lace-maker May Reilly died in 1822 with one of her delicate lovely items, a tablecloth used for special occasions at the castle. Locals insist May Reilly haunts Hennessey because she never was paid for that beautiful masterpiece.

Not long afterward, Regan swears she seen a woman on the grounds of the castle, who vanished into thin air in a nanosecond. Almost immediately afterward a fire breaks out followed by the Reilly tablecloth apparently stolen by Jane and John Doe, who ridicule Jack for not recognizing them as jewel thieves he has been after for quite a while. With Regan at his side and his Irish Reilly relatives assisting him, Jack gives chase although he knows he is an ocean away from his jurisdiction.

Readers will enjoy the often amusing honeymoon of Regan and Jack as they engage in a couple of lighthearted mysteries both laced to the tablecloth. The story line is a fast-paced Irish cozy (even if the stars are New Yorkers) as the heroes give chase trying to catch a couple of clever thieves. Fans of the Regan Reilly series will appreciate her mysterious honeymoon as she begins her HITCHED life with Reilly.

A Fall from Grace
Robert Barnard
074327220X $24.00

Inspector Charlie Peace and his pregnant wife Felicity leave London for nearby Slepton Edge so that their children can be raised in a safe harmonies atmosphere. To Felicity's chagrin, her narcissistic romance writer Rupert Coggenhoe joins them allegedly to be near his future grandchild; though his daughter doubts his seemingly pure motive. She and her spouse soon learn the truth why Rupert chose to rusticate in suburbia as rumors abound of an illicit relationship from his hedonistic past that is about to explode back in London.

Though wary of her dad, Felicity believes he would never harm her, her unborn or her husband; his sin is that of a selfish egomaniac. Rupert needs diversion and finds it with sexy, scheming teenage Anne Michaels, who enjoys blackmail and aggravating outsiders of her drama club of teen felons. Murder shakes up the new and old townsfolk; Charlie unofficially investigates since his father-in-law who teamed up with his "Lolita" is a prime suspect.

In his eighth police procedural (though FALL FROM GRACE is not an official police procedural, Charlie seeks peace at home as his wife struggles with her father moving into suburbia with them. The story line is fast-paced with a fascinating look at the not so innocence of children who can prove quite destructive. Although the key bus scene puts somewhat a brake on this fine thriller Charlie's investigation into uncovering a killer while he learns more (probably than he wants) about his wife and father-in-law and that makes for a delightful caper.

Diana Abu-Jaber
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10110
0393064557 $23.95 1-800-233-4830

In Syracuse, New York grieving mother Erin Cogan somehow got past the Wardell Center for Forensic Sciences guards to reach crime lab technician fingerprint examiner Lena Dawson. The obviously upset intruder pleads with Erin to look into her baby's death; officially from sudden infant death syndrome. The distraught mom swears her six month old child Matthew did not die from SIDS. While police officer Ed Welmore escorts Lena from the building, Erin looks at the Dawson file, which reads classic SIDS.

Lena prefers cases involving loss, hurt or damaged children, which is probably associated with her own murky orphaned early childhood. However, although a loner, Lena follows her intuition, which leads her to take a glance at recent SIDS cases; that in turn sends alarms in her stunned mind when she sees how much an outlier Syracuse has recently become compared to the national average and the city's trends. She begins to wonder if perhaps the near hysterical mother might be right that there is something more humanly sinister than SIDS at work here; something tied back to her own miraculous infant survival when the odds of her living was zero.

Lena makes the tale as she has a ton of psychosis yet needs to know the truth about herself and the sudden spike in SIDS cases. The story line has plenty of action, but is fully driven by Lena, who refuses to quit on either of her quests although mentally she knows her precarious hold on sanity is slipping. Her tentative romance with a detective and her former' spouses need to keep her safe enhance the look at this unlikely heroine. Besides a deep look at SIDS and somewhat other causes of infant mortalities (shockingly America ranks 42nd in the world when it comes to infant mortality rate; a worse placement than Cuba), ORIGIN is a strong well written police investigative thriller.

The Marriage Game
Fern Michaels
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
0743477456 $25.00 1-800-223-2336

Samantha Rainford enjoyed her three week honeymoon with the man she thought she loved Douglas Rainford. However, when she came home one day she found divorce papers. His lawyer the wormy Mr. Pritzi of Pritzi, Pritzi, Pritzi and Pritzi offers her a $5,000 check as stipulated in the prenup. She tells him to tell Douglas where he can place his money even as she learns she is at least wife number four.

Sam after consulting with her best friend Slick joins the FBI, but eight months later flunks out of their academy. Instead of whining she decides it is time to get back at that rat Douglas so she and Slick attend a privately sponsored training center where she meets former CIA covert operative turned civilian instructor Kollar "Pappy" Havapopulas. They want one another but first she must complete her mission to make Rainford pay. She successfully finds the other members of the Rainford ex-wives club and recruits them in a scheme to bring heartbreak and financial ruin to Rainford.

This is a fun lighthearted comedic contemporary romance that takes a humorous page from the movie The First Wives' Club although the outcome is as unrealistic. The story line is driven by Sam as she trains for her quest and goes about trying to achieve her goal while also falling in love with Pappy. Though the architect, the plumber, and the cartoon artist are more caricatures adding eccentric humor than development unlike the fourth wife, readers will enjoy Fern Michaels' amusing take on THE MARRIAGE GAME.

One for Sorrow, Two for Joy
Elise Juska
1416516921 $14.00

Former etymology graduate student Claire tells her spouse Bob, an entomology professor that she is leaving him. Ever logical he asks her where she will go if she leaves their New Hampshire home. Married two years she leaves her ring behind as she tells him she does not know yet but will inform him once she does.

She reflects back to when they met when both were in graduate school. She saw him "talking" to a caterpillar. They began to date and when he was offered a teaching position in New Hampshire, she stopped writing her PH.D in linguistics to marry and join him. Since she stopped going to school Claire has felt useless and does not fit in with the other spouses of professors.

Claire calls her younger sister Noelle in Ireland informing her she left Paul. Noelle says she is surprised that Claire showed the guts and invites her to spend time with her and her boyfriend. Claire reflects on how the two sisters have seen each other twice in two years, at her wedding to Bob and at their mom's funeral. Claire accepts the invitation and leaves Bob a message. Now the two sisters try to reconcile the split caused by mom favoring Noelle and dad defending Claire.

The key to this fine family drama is the changing relationship between the two sisters. The lead protagonist struggles with finding her place in life. This is handled deftly through present incidents and flashbacks although why Claire stopped working on her dissertation is unclear as school was her life before Bob. The dysfunctional family that the siblings were raised in allied each to a differing parent, which adds depth to the heroine's present day problems. Fans of a deep character study starring an adult coming of age protagonist will enjoy Elise Juska's fine look at Claire seeking something of substance even if it means sleeping alone.

Midnight Brunch
Marta Acosta
1416520392 $14.00

In California wannabe writer Milagro de los Santos has moved into the ranch house of her beloved plastic surgeon Dr. Oswald Grant in spite of his family's delicate condition; Oswald and the rest of the Grants suffer from "genetic autosomal recessive disorder" also called vampirism. Besides Oswald, Milagro and his grandmother seem to get along so she feels more like a princess.

However word of a purebred human living and loving their son has staked horror into the hearts of Oswald's concerned parents. They arrive for a clan naming ceremony as well as to drive out the evil human. They exclude Milagro from attending a family rite involving a midnight blood curdling ceremony for his cousin's newborn. When Oswald leaves on a medical mission, two other vampires Willem Dunlop and Silas, decide they need a human sacrifice to launch the Project for a New Vampire Century; Milagro as a vampire lover is perfect.

The sequel to HAPPY HOUR AT CASA DRACULA is a delightful satire that lampoons the vampire romance sub-genre. Milagro is wonderful with her hot saucy observations on life and death amidst the vampire horde. Fans will enjoy her latest zany escapades as she tries to stay one bite away from the screaming mob.

If You Desire
Kresley Cole
1416503609 $6.99

After a decade on the job by 1856 Hugh MacCarrick is considered by his superior Lord Weyland as the perfect assassin; dangerous situations do not faze him because he has been cursed; his affliction is compounded because he loves Jane, the daughter of his boss unattainable to a MacCarrick, who are cursed "to walk with death or walk alone". Thus he expects something bad to eventually happen to him anyway so he takes risks that no one else would contemplate.

However, daring Hugh is not prepared for his latest assignment. Lord Weyland asks Hugh to come home from the continent to keep his daughter Jane safe as he believes a former agent turned rogue Davis Grey plans to kill her. Although he has always loved her, Hugh knows she and the other Weyland eight are women he can never have especially now that he is a hardened killer. Once the threat is neutralized, he will leave. However, Jane will not let him go this time; her plan is to seduce her beloved so that he will never leave her again as she believes together they can prevent the curse from happening.

The second MacCarrick Victorian romantic suspense (see IF YOU DARE) is a fabulous thriller that grips readers from the onset as the hero lives life over the edge because he expects the ancient curse to destroy him; he believes. Jane is a terrific counterpart to Hugh because she refuses to back down when she must choose between transferring the curse to her and giving up on her beloved. Without love, she feels she has nothing at all (hopefully Tom Jones the singer will not mind my paraphrasing).

The Perils of Pursuing the Prince
Julia London
1416516166 $6.99

In 1820, London aristocrat Greer Fairchild learns of an inheritance that might not exist at all in Llanmair, Wales so since she desperately needs the money and wants to avoid selling out to the highest bidder in unholy matrimony, she leaves town to collect what she prays is legally hers. On her trek into the wilderness, another passenger Owen Percy tells her horrifying tales about the murderous Lord Rhodrick "Prince of Prowys" Glendower, who apparently controls her maybe inheritance.

Upon arrive at the Welsh Earl's estate Radnor, Greer finds much of what Owen told her seems true as the rude Rhodrick not only demands proof from her, he incarcerates her while she sends back to her solicitor in London for the corroboration of her story. Worried for his traveling companion Owen tries to get help. However, in the meantime, as she gets to know her host better and he his guest, Rhodrick and Greer in between battles fall in love. However, a new mystery occupies her thoughts as much as he does; she needs to know about the portrait of her mother in his castle while he needs to uncover the identity of the true killer who ravaged his reputation.

The second Desperate Debutante Regency romance (see HAZARDS OF HUNTING A DUKE) is a refreshing tale due to the location, an amateur sleuth murder investigation, and a ghost with two missions. Although the lead couple comes out of the sub-genre handbook with he being arrogant and she being obstinately courageous, readers will take immense delight with the gender war between the daring deb and the pugnacious prince.

Are You Scared Yet?
Hunter Morgan
0821779451 $6.99

In southern Delaware, the small town of Stephen Kill is usually a quiet place and very little crime occurs there. It is mostly from domestics or drunk and disorderly conducts. There was a serial killer who worked her trade in the town last year but she was found in large part due to detective Delilah Swift. She comes from the south and has a relationship with Chief Snowden Calloway although there are two problems working against it: his biracial background that he family would condemn and he is her superior which is against the rules.

When a young man disappears, his parents are frantic because he is a good person who would never do anything to worry them. His car with the cell phone and wallet on the seat is found; a few days later his body is found in the same pond where last year's serial killer drowned. Several other women disappear. Their cars and bodies found in the same way. Snowden and Delilah know they have another serial killing on their hands. The culprit believes in providing a service to people by killing these sinners and hopes one day to obtain Delilah's approval.

Hunter Morgan has written another exciting thriller that sends chills up and down the readers' spines because almost anyone could be kidnapped and killed. The heroine is a multi-dimensional character who deals with several problems at once and like normal people, not all of them she handles successfully. Though the probability of two serial killers working Stephen Kill seems overwhelmingly unlikely, readers will believe in the validity of these murders. ARE YOU SCARED YET is a must read for reader who love romantic suspense police procedurals with the accent on the investigation.

Highland Savage
Hannah Howell
0821779990 $6.99

In 1481 Scotland Lucas Murray knows he is fortunate to be alive as the beating and subsequent fall off the cliff should have killed him. As he slowly mends his body, his mind remains focused on one thing: killing Katerina of Dunlochan, who he believes arranged to have him dead.

After months of physically recovering, Lucas is ready to destroy Kat. However, he is stunned to learn she is dead until he learns she died from falling off the same cliff that nearly took his life. He knows something is amiss so he searches for Kat who saw him die. When he finds her in exile, she explains that her half-sister Agnes and her lover Ranald control Dunlochan. They are devastating everything and everyone and plan to finish it off by murdering Kat and Lucas.

The latest Murray historical romantic suspense (see Lucas' twin in HIGHLAND BARBARIAN) is an exhilarating thriller that grips the audience once Lucas and Kat realize the reported death of the other was a Twain exaggeration. The story line is action-packed as Kat and Lucas plot to defeat their adversaries while also falling in love with one another although the romance seems a bit intrusive on the prime theme of the heroes defeating the stereotypical odious nasty usurpers. Still fifteenth century Scottish romance fans will enjoy Hannah Howell's Highland historical.

Gideon: The Nightwalkers
Jacquelyn Frank
0821780662 $6.99

Most humans are unaware that the Nightwalker races co-exist. One of these species is Demons, but they are not minions of Satan; instead they are beautiful people who live for ages. The only times they are transformed into looking like the demons described by humans are when Necromancers, practitioners of dark magic, Summon them into a magical pentagon to bind and use them at will.

The demons are currently worried about the necromancers because for the first time in over a century a successful Summoning occurred. The Demon King's sister Magdalena is staying with the half druid half human Bella, who is about to give birth to a demon child with Jacob whom she recently saved. Lena has her romantic notions targeting the millennium old healer Gideon as she wants the same relationship that Belle and Jacob have. Someone tries to kill Bella and her unborn. The Demons with some allies fight to the death to save the half-druid who was kidnapped.

What Anne Rice has done for vampires, Jacquelyn Frank is doing for demons as she combines plenty of supernatural action with steamy supernatural sex scenes. Romantic fantasy readers will enjoy Gideon, a demon in denial about his feelings. However, the key to this tale and the demon saga is the structural society with customs and rules that enable the audience to frankly believe Demons exist as envisioned by the author. With a strong secondary cast enhancing the exciting plot that focuses on Gideon and Magdalena, fans will root for the latter to gain her heart's desire.

Wolf River
Jill Gregory
Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0440243041 $6.99 1-800-726-0600

When she was eighteen Erinn Winters fled her home to escape her abusive father. She became a renowned children's author, but the fame cannot erase the guilt of leaving her younger half sister Devon behind in that monster's household. When she learns her dad is dead, Erinn leaves New York City to begin a quest to reconnect with Devon.

She hires Wayne Cordovan of Cordovan-Smith Securities and Investigations. He succeeds in locating her sibling in Wolf River, Montana. Erinn goes west to see her younger sibling, but Devon rejects her older sister's offer to care for her in New York; having not forgiven her for leaving her behind with their brutal father. However, Erinn refuses to walk away this time as she sees the fear in her sister's eyes that she remembers from when she lived at home. She worries that Devon has moved into an abusive relationship with Hank Wheeler so she rents a cabin from rancher Jace Fortune. Although he vowed never to marry again after a horrendous marriage, Jace is falling in love with his renter and her with him. However, someone is trying to destroy the Fortune Ranch and is willing to commit murder to succeed; Erinn believes it is Hank and his older brother Mick who both work at another ranch although she admits to herself she may be accusing the duo out of her fears for Devon.

WOLF RIVER is an enjoyable Big Sky ranch romantic suspense that sub-genre fans will appreciate. The story line is driven by a strong cast especially Erinn who desperately wants to do the right thing for his sister that she could not have done in the past. Although her paranormal visions add depth, they feel somewhat out of place inside a fabulous family drama starring two strong lead characters and full blooded secondary players adding depth to the tale.

BSI Starside: Death Sentence
Roger MacBride Allen
0553587277 $6.99

The Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI) located on the planet Center has just recovered their spaceship The Adler and the body of their missing twenty-five year old agent Trevor Wilcox after having been missing for six months. Wilcox died of old age and nobody has an explanation for that. He was on a courier mission to Metran to collect a document to bring back to the BSI diplomatic office.

The powers that be have found the file but it is encrypted and they don't know where Trevor hid the key to decrypt it. The document is designated Won-Starter which means something catastrophic could happen to humans or another race. Agents Jamie Mendez and Hannah Wolfson are sent to Metran to search for the key, but the planet is on the verge of revolution. It has one of the shortest lived species in the universe but one of its citizens had found a way to extend their life span. The file, which is only the one in existence, tells how to do it but the leaders fear change and the general population has started rioting to make the research available so their lives could be extended. The two agents also have to deal with a psychotic member of the Xenoatrics, the Unseen Race who is working against the Metran race and the humans to protect their planetary side Enclave, which means killing anyone who can decrypt the file.

BSI STARSIDE: DEATH SENTENCE is space opera at its finest especially the futuristic space chases where it looks like the human agents and their ship will be destroyed. Readers will empathize with the Metran people who want to live longer than their forty years but their leaders fear change so much that they will risk a collapse of their civilization rather than help the agents find the key. Jamie and Hannah get a deep look at the Metran culture when they are on the planet and so does the reader.

White Corridor
Christopher Fowler
0553804502 $24.00

Although Raymond Lind is technically the head of the British Peculiar Crime Unit, Arthur Bryant and John May, creators of the PCU actually run it. After decades of always being open for business, Raymond partially closes the unit down for a few days while Bryant and May head to a spiritualist's convention only to be trapped by a snowstorm in Dartmoor.

Also on the same snowbound road are Madeline Gilby and her son, who are running from Johann Bellocq traveling the same route; she met Johann in France and they made love, but afterward he confessed that he killed his mother. Madeline believes he has killed others too and stolen their identities. He also informed her that he murdered the man whose house they were in when they made love. Madeline meets the detectives who pledge to keep her and her son safe. At the same the two stranded sleuths try to assist the PCU by cell phone with a murder case. A pathologist in a locked autopsy room surrounded only by the dead was killed; only four PCU staffers had the key. If not resolved immediately, PCU could be in trouble as a VIP is coming on an inspection visit.

This is an entertaining, twisting and exciting police procedural that occurs during a terrible blizzard that has paralyzed much of England. The heroic detectives are past the age of retirement so they depend even more so on their mental acumen and experience rather than brawn as some of their younger peers might. The two cases are tied together by the stranded pair as they seek to keep a mother and child safe from a diabolical killer while also trying to solve from a distant remote site a wonderfully executed locked room case. As always rules are meant for others when Bryant and May are on the job.

Face of Death
Cody McFadyen
0553804669 $24.00

In Canoga Park, California, sixteen year old Sarah Kingsley has blood all over herself. Inside her home is a massacre with three dead naked people lying in a bed in the master room. The distraught teen sits amongst them holding a gun to her head and insisting she will only speak to FBI Special Agent Smoky Barrett, chief of the four person violent crimes unit in Los Angeles; Sarah read that Smoky lost everything she cherishes so would understand her. If her demand is not met, she will kill herself.

Sarah tells Smoky that "The Stranger", killed her adoptive family, as he has done with anyone she has gotten close to throughout her life. With the girl sounding sincere especially in her diary and after the Jack, Jr. Ripper case (see SHADOW MAN) Smoky believes Sarah is telling the truth as she thinks the Stranger exists and is trying to manipulate Sarah into something but the cop is not sure what. As she and her team investigate, she thinks of her late child and her newly adopted daughter as the impetus to stop the Stranger from further murders.

From the moment Smoky "negotiates" with Sarah to the final confrontation five days later, this exciting thriller grips the audience who at times wonder if the Stranger exists. The action-packed story line is fast-paced, but belongs to the key trio. Smoky contemplates a job offer at Quantico that will allow her she thinks to run from her demons while everyone ponders if she lost it as the evidence of a Stranger is based solely on Sarah's belief. Sarah is a fascinating teen who has seen so much horror in her life, she knows nothing else. Finally, the Stranger takes on mythical proportions as readers see him through Sarah's frightened eyes. Though the motives for the homicides are over the top, FBI crime thriller fans will enjoy Smoky and the killing bandit.

Outrageous Fortune
Tim Scott
0553384406 $12.00

Custom made dream designer Jonny X67 comes home from work only to find his house gone and a business card in its place. The thief apparently left him a sympathetic note: "Don't you hate it when this happens" and a phone number. The empathic cop informs Mr. X that since he had not seen a psychiatrist lately, he will wear an Odysseus Hat to insure health and safety; X knows that cannot include him as part of health and safety.

The dream architect figures nothing could get worse, but a motorcycle gang try to kill him as a test run of their strategic objective to kill God. More assaults occur with the worst being Caroline E61, a tenacious angel, using a helicopter to come from heaven demanding he buy her encyclopedia. Feeling like Job from biblical fame, X wonders why him and soon begins to postulate that his work on the Dream Virus Project to link dreams to DNA is the answer, but he needs to know how to extract himself with Big Brother watching him and the forces of good and evil ganging up on him but that remains just outside his scope.

OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE paints a zany future as Tim Scott brings humor and more darkness to Orwell's bleak future. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Mr. X deals with the bureaucracy following the theft of his house. The tale never slows down until the final delightful somewhat rushed twist. Fans of wild witty satires will appreciate this amusing futuristic spin.

The Wedding Officer
Anthony Capella
1585479896 $31.95

In 1944, the British army occupies Naples. However, the brass back in London is not concerned with a counterattack by Mussolini's fascists or the German Nazis as the enemy is reeling from the allied thrusts. Instead the biggest concern is fraternization between the young British soldiers and the Italian beauties whose men are at war or dead. Assigned as the critical person in city-occupier relations is twenty-two years old Captain James Gould who came to Naples to serve as THE WEDDING OFFICER preventing relationships especially marital ones between the soldiers and the city belles.

James does a great job although many of the young resent his eagerness to obey orders. However, he has a problem when he meets the officer chef widow Livia Pertini. Besides loving her cooking as he has not tasted anything close to the heavenly dishes she makes; he wants her with a passion that rivals her fervor for life. Struggling to control his desire for Livia as orders are orders, James falls in love. However he realizes the hypocrisy as he is THE WEDDING OFFICER expected to prevent such goings on as he desires while also investigating marriages and claimed fatherhood between Italians and Brits.

This is a terrific vivid WW II tale starring a likable protagonist trying to accomplish his assigned mission while his heart tells him to disobey the order. The story line provides a deep look at Naples as the British army that occupies the city; that enables the audience to infer what the war has done to the local populace and somewhat less the foreign army. Besides the irony of sending single twentyish male for this job, the delicious repasts and the impact of the eruption of Vesuvius, Anthony Capella provides a wonderful romance, but it is the historical tidbits interwoven into the plot that makes 1944 flow so alive.

The Hindi-Bindi Club
Monica Pradhan
055338452X $12.00

Thirty-two years old family doctor Kiran Deshpande recently has had doubts about her American dream as a second generation from India. She divorced her non-Indian musician and returned to her parents' home in Potomac, Maryland wondering if her mother's way of meeting a spouse through an arrangement is better as they remain together while she who had choices is single.

In the DC suburb Kiran sees her childhood friends Preity Chawla Lindstrom and Rani McGuiness Tomashot; they form a freindship similar to that of their mothers, the original members of THE HINDI-BINDI CLUB, who emigrated from India in the 1960s to eventually live in this Maryland town. The younger trio begins sharing confidences while Kiran begins her plan for a traditional Indian arranged marriage. By becoming closer to each other, they actually get closer to their respective mothers as none of the threesome any longer scorns the first generation with their old country ideas.

This interesting story line uses stereotypes (including the mothers and daughters) to tell the tale of dramatic change that occurs between the immigrant generation and the first American with a dash generation. The story line focuses on the changes in outlook of the younger trio as they turn from scorn to respect for their elders who struggled with racism. Readers who appreciate a deep spotlight on generational America will enjoy this look at Indian-Americans whose difference can be summed over the dash.

Tony Ballantyne
055358930X $6.99

Two centuries of rule by the seemingly all seeing Watcher has kept earth somewhat peaceful; however by 2242 one of the AI creators of the Watcher Chris decides that the AI is going too far with its plan to selectively alter the species into what it believes humanity's image must be as the alteration to evolution would make mankind no longer human. Chris anticipated losing the battles, but has an ace in the hole, Dark Seeds nurtured at the edge of the galaxy.

A decade later, Judy is a passenger on a space trading ship when a catastrophe occurs. However, miraculously machines from DIANA Corporation rescue the humans and transport them to safety. Everyone that is except Judy, whose DNA is shockingly non-human. The DIANA "agents" insist the company owns this "Dark Seed" and must take her back to their headquarters on earth as her purpose for living is killing the Watcher though she remains unaware that she is the chosen one.

Like REPERCUSSION and CAPACITY, DIVERGENCE occurs in the same dark and bleak future galaxy in which AIs control human destiny and the god-like Watcher controls the AIs. The story line is a fast-paced mystery science fiction with Judy, who believed she was human is now learning who she is and why she was created. Though to better understand motives especially with how earth got to this forlorn mid twenty-third century, it pays to read the previous two thrillers although DIVERGENCE can stand alone.

Cut to the Bone
Shane Gericke
0786018143 $6.99

In Naperville Illinois, detective commander in the sheriff's office Martin Benedetti and local police detective Emily Thompson brought down a serial killer. In a very short time Corey Trent was convicted of killing a woman, tearing her unborn from her uterus and killing it too. He is scheduled to die in the electric chair. On site will be Governor Wayne Covington who in the 1960's on the day the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty was at the execution of the man who killed his beloved younger brother, innocent bystanders and some men in blue. He intends to be there for Corey's execution as well.

The police are busy with a series of killings, one of which took place in Naperville. Marty and Emily investigate the homicide including extracting information from the national crime database; at least nine other comes up with the same modus operendi. Also the victims were the grandchildren of Naperville residents. As the killer makes his way back to Naperville and the execution, Martin and Emily race the clock to prevent another murder and see justice done.

Serial killer thrillers are glutting the market but CUT TO THE BONE is no ordinary work. It is as much a police procedural as it is a thriller and there are two shocking twists when taken in total context make perfect sense. The one thing is for sure is that fans won't get bored while reading this novel with its non-stop action, red herrings and romance between Marty and Emily. Their relationship feels genuine, takes up a significant part of the book and brings a little needed light in the dark world that the knights in blue explore.

Spare Change
Robert B. Parker
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0399154256 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

Twenty years ago Boston police detective Phil Randall was head of the task force that was committed to apprehending The Spare Change Killer, who killed without regard to stereotype but always left three coins by the victim's body. He kept on writing to Phil, trying to engage him in a dialog until abruptly killings stopped. Now, two decades later, somebody with the same MO is killing again.

Phil is hired by the Boston police force as a consultant and he brings along his daughter Sunny, a private detective who was as good a cop as he ever was. During the third homicide, the police seal off the scene and people within the perimeter are held for questioning. At police headquarters, one of the suspects seems to be getting off on being questioned. Sunny goes in and within minutes she tells the investigators they have the killer. Most of the officers believe her but they have no evidence or cause to search his premises. Sunny is determined to take him down and has ways of doing it that the police are unable to use because they are illegal.

Robert B. Parker has written another exciting police procedural with well defined well liked characters who are full of snappy dialogue especially when events are at their most serious. Sunny works the case as a way of avoiding personal issues such as her inability to live with or marry a man even one she loves who has just separated from his wife for her. Sunny is a more complex character than Spencer and just as likeable.

The Shadowmancer Returns: The Curse of Salamander Street
G.P. Taylor
0399243461 $17.99

In 1752 England Obadiah Demurral continues his quest to conquer heaven in order to rule on earth. Three children (Raphah, Thomas and Kate) with the help of the angel Raphael thwart his last efforts, but he is not finished. The three children travel to London aboard pirate Jacob Crane's ship, who has become a believer. He is taking his previous cargo to Salamander Street, supposedly a place of safety from Demurral.

Raphah gets separated from the others when he falls overboard. When Beadle, Demurral former slave happens upon a beach he sees a whale and out of his mouth comes Raphah. They head to London together. Meanwhile Crane, Kate, and Thomas reach London but officials board the ship and confiscate his cargo and inform him that Demurral sent word ahead that Crane kidnapped the children and stole something precious from him. When they reach the inn on Salamander Street Galphus takes Thomas to his factory and forces him to sign indenture papers. Later Kate is taken to Galphus's factory as a prisoner. Crane eventually is captured as well. They are waiting for Demurral to reach them as Galphus is his minion as good and evil clash for the souls of the children and their allies.

This dark fantasy grips readers with its good vs. evil war on earth in which Demurral seems more powerful than even the angel Raphael. The story line is action-packed never slowing down in its epic battle on the streets of eighteenth century London, yet the key players are fully developed so that the audience understands motives (some altruistic to save the world; others ambitious to rule the world). G.P. Taylor provides a wonderful fantasy with a religious theme that readers of all ages will appreciate.

Double Take
Catherine Coulter
0399154248 $25.95

It has been six months of being the "black widow" feeding frenzy for the media, but now Julia Ransom can whistle for the first time since her renowned husband the medium Dr. August Ransom was brutally murdered. In San Francisco she looks forward to dinner with her late spouse's friend Wallace Tammerlaine but now leisurely walks on Pier 39 to the rail looking out at the Bay when a man punches her in the jaw and takes out a knife. Another person shouts FBI so the tosses her into the Bay. Special Agent Cheney Stone saves her life. He calls his pal SFPD Captain Frank Paulette to take charge of a professional hit attempt probably connected to August's unsolved homicide.

At about the same time as the Julia assault across the country, though three years have passed, Maestro, Virginia, father of two boys Sheriff Dixon Noble has begun to move past his grief for his wife Christie who disappeared three years ago, thanks in part to meeting Ruth. However, he learns of Charlotte Pallack, who is a dead ringer of his spouse. He travels to San Francisco to see first hand this Charlotte though he has no hope she is his beloved Christie who he assumes is dead. Soon these seemingly divergent cases connect bringing agents Savich and Sherlock joining with Dix, and Cheney as they investigate the murky otherworld of psychics while an apparent serial killer is sending the mediums to join their spirit compatriots on the other side.

DOUBLE TAKE is a terrific S&S FBI thriller refreshed by the appearances of Cheney and Dix (who appeared in the previous tale POINT BLANK). The story line is fast-paced and ties up a major loose end from POINT BLANK (what happened to Christie?). The psychic connection adds a bit of fun and mysticism to the mysteries. Though the motives will prove too standard, fans will enjoy Catherine Coulter's latest suspense thriller.

The Sleeping Beauty Proposal
Sarah Strohmeyer
c/o Penguin Putnam
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
0525950184 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

Thirty-six, Genie Michaels is stunned when her boyfriend proposes on national TV. The proposal would be enough of a shocker as Hugh has permanent commitment issues, but the real disappointment is that she is not the woman he asked to marry. Her best friend Patty tells Genie she is a moron on a level of that "idiot Sleeping Beauty" waiting for Prince Charming to rescue her as if you trust a man.

Genie agrees with Patty's harsh assessment and decides to no longer sleep through life. Genie fails to correct the assumption made by everyone who knows her and Hugh are an entry; that she is not his fiancee; let him correct that misconception. She even goes the diamond route. Her parents are ecstatic and book a hall; her friends are ecstatic and send her gifts. However although she feels guilty about her fabrication by omission, Genie is caught in her web of deceit when Prince Charming arrives, but this is one Sleeping Beauty who is wide awake and ready to do the rescuing.

This is a fabulously humorous satirical character study of a woman who believed she is incomplete without a man until she is indirectly dumped and forced to reassess her relationship theory. Genie is a delightful protagonist as her reactions to Hugh proposing to someone else is priceless. In some ways peppermint Patty steals the show with her Sleeping Beauty analogy. As she did to Cinderella (see CINDERELLA PACT) Sarah Strohmeyer provides a modern day jocular fractured fairy tale spin that wards off the curse of bubbly (even sleeping ones are bubble-headed) females waiting for that dumb hunk to finally arrive only not cognizant of his role.

Fear of Landing
David Waltner-Toews
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
1590583493 $24.95 1-800-421-3976

Canadian Mennonite Abner "Ab" Dueck is in Indonesia working on a project to import cows from North America to Java. He is a veterinarian stationed there for two years keeping the cattle healthy and training his local successor to take over once he leaves.

However something is amiss when the cattle begin dying at Gandringan in Boyclali and from anthrax at Susu Senang. Ab learns that were poisoned so that the butchers can get the meat for free when they die and serve it at the Festival of Eid al Fitr. No one has a clue as to whom the culprit is where the anthrax is. Ab's childhood friend and boss George is not concerned with the cattle problems. He is only interested in the Kris dagger he found. He visits Ab's assistant Soesanto to find out whether it is a genuine artifact or a cheap souvenir. The same day Ab finds Soesanto's bludgeoned corpse sliced by a dagger he fnds George's murdered body near the cattle. Officials tell Ab to leave the country within a week. George's coffin reaches Canada where inside is stones. Despite the danger Ab investigates the two homicides.

This tale takes place in the 1980s when President Suharto backed by the US government ruled Indonesia with an iron fist as millions vanished and or were murdered. Readers obtain a deep look at what it was like to live under a strict dictatorship where a person must be careful with what they say and to whom they say it. Ab is not the heroic type yet he seeks the truth knowing full well the danger he risks by stubbornly doing so. Feeling like a historical though only two plus decades have past, the exotic locale, the interesting cast, and the double murders turn David Waltner-Toews novel into an exciting read.

Heir Apparent
Twist Phelan
Poisoned Pen
1590584333 $14.95

In Arizona, Atticus Barclay of Barclay, Harrington & Merchant was driving on the Beeline Highway when his car explodes into flames leaving him roasted inside the "car-be-cue". A week later at the law firm's office in Pinnacle Peak, new associate attorney Joe McGuiness expects to be downsized as a result of the murder of one of the senior partners.

Joe drives out to a ranch owned by wealthy client Mrs. Barrett to give her some important legal papers. Due to car trouble he misses her by ten minutes, but meets her personal assistant Mia Ortiz and gets her to go out on a date with him just as he is breaking off with his girlfriend Amber Sulvane. When he takes Mia back to the ranch after their first date, they are stunned by the murder scene that they find; someone killed Mrs. Cordelia Barrett and her somewhat estranged son Busch Car racing driver Sonny. The police believe Mia killed them so she is arrested for the crimes as the motive involves the recently changed will that cuts off the obvious HEIR APPARENT. Joe believes otherwise that a murder suicide occurred and sets out to prove it even as his law firm superiors warn him to back off.

HEIR APPARENT is apparently somewhat of a rewriting of the first Joe McGuiness tale, but how much this reviewer does not know as this is my first read. The story line as with the other McGuiness thrillers contains two fine whodunits that eventually merge, but it is the eccentric secondary cast that makes the tale fun to read. The law firm, the rodeo, the former girl friend are all delightful unconventional protagonists who bring out the best and worst in the hero. Though the legal aspects are downplayed except for the office setting, fans of the series or anyone who appreciates a fun Arizonian investigative tale will want to join Joe as he tries to prove Mia is innocent.

Justice for the Damned
Priscilla Royal
Poisoned Pen
1590583302 24.95

In the winter of 1271 Prioress Eleanor was ill and almost died by the spring. She returns to Amesbury Priory where she took her vows. Deep dark gloomy thoughts drown her and it is hoped that a change of scenery will bring her back to life. Accompanying her is Brother Thomas but he is on a secret mission from his spy master.

Thomas's job is go find the manuscript thief who would steal the priceless Psalter. Both become involved in the lives of the people who depend on the abbey for their livelihood. On her way to visit a widow, Eleanor comes across the headless body of Eulfalow. It is said the abbey and the surrounding area is haunted by the ghost of Queen Elfrida who died at the abbey in the tenth century or the ghost of Eda, a woman who drowned in the river and was buried in unconsecrated ground because the verdict of her death was suicide. A monk guarding the Psalter is killed by the supposed "ghost". These new deaths are linked and it is up to Thomas and Eleanor to find and discover who and why.

Priscilla Royal writes some of the best medieval mysteries on the market today. Readers of Judith Tarr and Sharon Kay Penman will enjoy this medieval mystery that brings to life a bygone era when the church was all powerful and denizens from hell are believed to be walking the earth. The audience gets a glimpse as well of the merchant class and how the leaders of the abbeys live. However, as vivid as all that is, the investigation by Thomas and Eleanor make for exciting thirteenth century whodunit worthy of an Agatha Award nomination.

Earthly Delights
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen
1590583930 24.95

In Flinders Lane in Melbourne Australia, there is an architecturally, interesting building based on the roman design named Insular. It is home to Corinna Chapman, a Junoesque woman who owns a bakery Earthly Delights on the ground level. Each apartment has a roman name and their inhabitants are an eclectic quirky bunch that includes techno geeks, a dominatrix and a female witch. It is a peaceful place until the flyers start coming to the tenants claiming it is home to a temptress, whore or witch. The person goes from sending flyers to painting graffiti to attempted arson.

While Corinna is very concerned about this, she is dealing with other troubles. She saved the life of a heroin addict who almost died near her door. She meets Daniel, a man of mystery, who is concerned that people are dying from heroin because they are given it in its purest form. She meets Jason, a recovering addict who attaches herself to her, helps her with her baking and is the key to finding the clue that will let them discover who is behind the junkie's deaths. Corinna also is thrilled to realize that the handsome Daniel is in love with her even though she is not a size five.

The Corinna Chapman mysteries are nothing like the Phryne Fisher tales because the women are different as the latter is comfortable in all settings while the former struggles when somewhat outside her norm. The heroine of EARTHLY DELIGHTS is a determined woman who chooses her own path and takes risks on people that most individuals will avoid. Although there is very little action, this tale is a pleasurable interesting reading experience with mysteries great and small.

The Big Girls
Susanna Moore
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
1400041902 $24.00 1-800-726-0600

Six months of serving time at Sloatsburg Correctional Institution in upstate New York chief psychiatrist Dr. Louise Forrest still has not adjusted to the harsh conditions. The federal women's prison is as bleak a place as one can imagine with it being understaffed, which in turn means dangerous. Inmates like suicidal children's killer Helen Nash and corrections officer Captain Henry "Ike" Bradshaw wonder why Louise stay at this foreboding dump when she can go anywhere.

Unbeknownst to those two and others, Louise has come here to hide from her own psychological baggage; her solo joy in her grim lonely life is her son Ransom. However, Louise finds fascination in the case of Helen, who swears she was protecting her offspring from the voices of the "Messengers" that drive her actions. Helen believes that actress Angie Mills, the current girlfriend of Rafael, Louise's ex-husband, is her sister. Helen begins writing letters to Angie, Ike and Louise fall into to bed together only to be caught by Ransom, who tells his father the guard molested him. The six person pile-up has begun.

This character driven tale from the opening description of the prison setting grips the audience with a foreboding that disaster is imminent; readers never let go of that dark gloomy feeling even after the tale is finished. The male characters seem more caricature than full blooded while the three prime females appear genuine with each having major issues including the actress who needs to believe that Helen is a sibling. Condemning the way America warehouses the mentally impaired especially the criminal subgroup, readers will appreciate this well written ominous drama.

Right Before Your Eyes
Ellen Shanman
Delta Trade Paperbacks
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0385340516 $12.00 1-800-726-0600

Wannabe playwright Liza Weiler hopes to see her work performed in New York. However, so far she is a starving young artist with nothing on her resume; for that matter her personal life is just as vapid.

Ironically a sprained ankle leaving the River Town Lounge gives her a big break though she also starred at the St. Vincent emergency room. However, she meets two hunks because of the incident; George of Wall St. M&A fame who knows ankles from Yale Rugby and Dr. Tim of ER (the hospital not the old show). As her personal life comes alive, director Will Atherton selects her play as his next show on the Applause Channel. Floating on cloud nine, will success spoil Liza Weiler?

Readers who appreciate a deep character study of a wannabe artist will enjoy the discerning look at the successes and failures of Liza Weiler. The story line has a chick lit feel that enables the audience to see inside the heroine's mind; but that also slows the pacing down a bit. Still fans will flock to the enthusiastic Liza as she hopes to become the next great American playwright.

In Pale Battalions
Robert Goddard
0385339208 $12.00

Six months ago Leonora Galloway's husband died in their Somerset cottage. Now adjusting to the single life of a septuagenarian widow, Leonora crosses the Channel to visit Paris with her single daughter Penelope, who is half her age. Her son Ronald is married with responsibilities so he remains in England.

The mother and daughter travel to Thiepval Memorial to the dead and missing of the Battle of the Somme. There Leonora seeks one name amidst the 73,412 men without a grave. Her father "Hallows, Captain the Hon. John …" allegedly died in this battle. However, to her shock, the commemoration of Leonora's father states he died on the 30th April, 1916, but she was born on 14th March 1917. Whereas Penelope assumes her grandmother had a wartime indiscretion, Leonora knows otherwise. She begins to explain to her daughter the deceitful murderous side of the aristocratic family that she kept secret from her spouse and two children all these years.

This is a reprint of a terrific Robert Goddard tale that is, as always, filled with surprising suspense laden twists with a final spin that will leave the audience breathless and stunned. The story line traverses several decades as Leonora explains her past to Penelope. Although at times sugary nostalgia slows down the overall exhilarating plot, fans of Mr. Goddard will appreciate his fine intriguing family thriller.

Service Wash
Rupert Smith
Serpent's Tail
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 West 108th Street, Suite 901, New York, NY 10025
1852429283 $14.95

In England Paul Mackrell wants to be considered a serious writer, but his addiction to cyber sex induced serial masturbation leaves no blood for his other head to write with; in other words even when he is not beating the meat he suffers from writer's block.

To his shock Six Books publishing offers him a chance to ghostwrite the autobiography of renowned soap opera superstar Eileen Weathers, who has played Maggie Parrott, manager of the Clean Queen Launderette for three decades, but the show is beginning to tank and needs a best seller to save it. Paul accepts the ludicrous amount of money, but admits to himself he is intrigued by the rumors that Eileen is a transsexual; besides which how hard can it be to transpose her manuscript into a book. Much more difficult than he thought as Eileen gives him one long partial paragraph so he will be researching and writing the entirety of her life's story. At her mansion, he meets Eileen's Maltese valet, Danny and becomes his plaything even as his writing seems to be worse than when he was unable to write.

This is an interesting lampooning of celebrity chasing from TV to tabloids to blogs to biographies and autobiographies (of course written by ghosts). The characters are somewhat more caricature than full blooded even Paul, but that is part of the mocking of an industry that can be quite hypocritical. Though the ending seems lamer than Paul's head (take your pick which one) and some of the satirical elements seem just as shallow as the celebs that Rupert Smith's SERVICE WASH; for instance the use of racial insults detract from the abusing amusing sexual diatribes that ironically make the trash story line fun to read.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Mohsin Hamid
Harcourt Books
15 East 26th Street, 15th floor
New York, NY 10010
0151013047 $22.00 1-800-543-1918

In a cafe in Lahore, Pakistan, local resident Changez notices the man seemingly seeking something or someone and realizes by his bearing that he is an American. He offers his assistance stating he spent four and a half years in the States. Changez explains he went to Princeton on a scholarship and that led to his position at Manhattan's prestigious Underwood Samson as a process improvement business consultant. He tells the visitor about his romance with wealthy classmate Erica when they visited Greece together, but nothing came of it because she remained haunted by her late boyfriend. Their relationship totally died on 9/11, which killed more than just 3000 plus people as it also murdered the tolerance of the melting pot because anyone who seemed like a foreigner to the self-righteous patriotic Americans became labeled a terrorist. When he realized he was now an outsider at work and throughout Manhattan as if he took down the Towers, Changez gave up on the American dream he embraced. Soon in a Pygmalion Effect way, as his boss expected him to now fail, he did and was fired. Thus fully bearded instead of clean shaven as he was at school and at work, he came home another victim of the Towers.

This fascinating cautionary tale warns readers that America's five plus years of outraged indignation and intolerance since 9/11 has alienated many Moslems who wanted to share the dream. Changez is the key to the story line as he comes across as THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST who still cares about people like Erica. Through his protagonist, Mohsin Hamid makes the case that the Bush legacy will be the burning of the Constitution in the name of security with us and them mob attitudes in which them is being deleted from us. Not an easy book to read, this is a strong suspense filled warning of what we have wrought by closing the inclusive tent.

Coral Moon
Brandilyn Collins
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
0310252245 $12.99 1-800-727-1309

Kanner Lake reporter Leslie Brymes heads towards her car in the driveway as she does every work day; however, this morning is different as someone with a green towel on their head sits inside her vehicle. She looks closer to find a murdered female whose battered face she recognizes with a note pinned to her shirt.

Leslie's roommate Paige Williams calls Kanner Lake Police Chief Vince Edwards to inform him of the corpse in the car. He leads the official investigation into the homicide of septuagenarian Vesta Johnson, a nice elderly person with no known enemies and a fixture at the New Community Church. Vince wonders why the killer connected Vesta to Leslie, but all clues lead to a dead person; soon others in the small Idaho town are murdered too. Maybe it is her journalist blood or the taunting of receiving the first body, but Leslie also begins making inquiries seeking a connecting motive.

The second Kanner Lake (see VIOLET DAWN) mystery is a delightful small town whodunit with seemingly paranormal elements. The murders stand out in contrast to the pastoral serene environment of Kanner Lake where townsfolk know one another and can leave doors unlocked. The reactions starting with Leslie, Paige and Vince and ultimately the townsfolk make for a fine thriller as each asks the Lord the same question: why me even as that person still lives. Cozy readers will appreciate this horrifying week in a small Idaho town.

Virginia Henley
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
0451221052 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

Brianna de Beauchamp is betrothed to Lincoln Robert de Warenne so feels somewhat ashamed when she meets father and son Roger and Wolf Mortimer because she finds the young Wolf quite attractive. Still in spite of her urge, Brianna refuses to act on her feelings. However, Wolf desires her and rejects the concept that she belongs to Lincoln. He uses his special paranormal skill to seduce Brianna in her dreams.

Meanwhile as part of the larger scale of conflict between Edward II and his estranged wife Queen Isabelle, her paramour Roger is interned inside the Tower. While Brianna and Wolf fall in love, he fears that his blood association as the son of the imprisoned Roger threatens his beloved at a time that alienating the de Warenne brood can prove deadly.

Nobody consistently combines history and romance into an entertaining mix better than Virginia Henley does. Her latest tale brings to life England during the rule of Edward II through the relationship between Brianna and Wolf. The story line is fast-paced and stars a likable lead couple, whose hero's paranormal courting method is a unique way to win a lady. Meanwhile the intriguing triangle at court consisting of the king, his estranged queen and his male lover adds a sense of presence to a wonderful historical romance that some might insist is a romantic historical thriller.

Dancing Shoes and Honky Tonk Blues
LuAnn McLane
0451221036 $6.99

Reality TV arrives in rural Misty Creek, Kentucky when a ballroom dancing contest is planned. However, most of the contestants signing on take the contest seriously, but the show's sponsors are lampooning the locals as redneck hillbillies who would not know what a ballroom looked like let alone be able to perform one the dances.

Local waitress Abby Harper was going to pass as she had no doubt that she and any other "yokel" was meant to be ridiculed. However, when she learns $50,000 is the winner's prize, she signs on although her natural reticence and two left feet make her feel more like performing clown than a dancer. Her partner is Mexico City ballroom dancing champion Rio Martin. As they rehearse, an attraction ignites even as both are irate that the hosts plan this as a big joke. Led by Rio and Abby, every dancer vows to prove that the hicks can dance with the best city slickers.

This is a fun small town drama starring a delightful seemingly opposites lead couple and an eccentric but likable support cast. The romance flows mostly on the dance floor as Rio is determined to turn Abby into the darling of the cha-cha crowd. Fans will enjoy dancing step by step with this pair and the other contestants especially since the ballroom dance is the most developed "character" with the cast being predominantly two-step deep.

Night Lost
Lynn Viehl
0451221028 $6.99

For two years the Brethan tortured Ancient Darkyn Gabriel. Most people would be dead from the brutality of these religious maniacs. However, Gabriel has survived because he dreams that one day he will be free with the woman he loves.

Nicola "Nick" Jefferson searches for Golden Madonna stolen from her parents. She believes by finding the icon she will also locate those fanatics who killed her parents; she plans to murder each one of those SOBs. In a devastated church, instead of finding the Madonna, Nick meets and rescues Gabriel. Finally liberated, Nick means to demand his Darkyn leader Richard explains why he was left behind; if he does not like the explanation, which is what he expects, he will kill his former friend. Richard abducted Alexandra Keller, the soul mate of the American vampire leader Michael Cyprien, as his last prayer that she can cure the mutation destroying him before a Darkyn civil war occurs.

The previous Darkyn tales (see DARK NEED) have been some of the best romantic fantasy on the somewhat glutted market in recent years. The fourth thriller NIGHT LOST is the most complex to date as two delightful prime subplots take readers down separate paths until they merge in a terrific climax. The Nick-Gabriel arc provides a delightful romance with vengeance a key theme while the cleverly designed Richard-Alex abduction focuses on a potential war as much as the illness. Fans of the series will agree that Lynn Viehl is at the top of her and newcomers will seek out previous novels.

Scene of the Grime
Suzanne Price
0451221095 $6.99

After she lost her husband to cancer, Sky Taylor left the big city to return home to Pigeon Cove, Massachusetts where she writes a cleaning lips column for the Cape Ann newspaper. She applies those same tips to clean homes, offices and bungalows in the area; because she is such a perfectionist she is in demand. In the time she has lived there she has made friends with Abel Monahan who also has a residence in Florida.

While she is cleaning the hallway outside Abe's room, Sky sees a hand print on the wall she hears his cat screaming. She opens the door and sees his dead body on the floor, blood still dripping from the blow to his head. She doesn't understand why anyone would kill such a dear old man who also cared about her nor does she know why two men staying in Abe's room are giving her the creeps especially or why they are following her around town. The newspaper reporter who has shown interest in her thinks he has answers if she believes him, but believing him will mean she never really knew Abe at all.

Readers will thoroughly enjoy SCENES OF THE GRIME (use the title is humorous), a rich focus on a heroine who compulsively cleans until everything shines. She is a special person and other characters as well as readers sense she is genuine. This is a delightful sassy tale filled with eccentric interesting characters that add to the whodunit. Told from Sky's perspective, readers learn a lot of cleaning tips that are not supposed to be used at a murder scene like she does. Suzanne Price provides a delightful grime cleaning (make that crime cleaning) amateur sleuth.

Spirited Away
Cindy Miles
0451221451 $6.99

In 1292 Tristan de Barre and his men were betrayed, murdered and cursed to haunt Dreadmoor Castle in Northern England by his foster father De Sabre who blames the "Dragonhawk" for the death of his son. Hundreds of years go by as Dragonhawk and his ghostly men observe, but cannot do anything about their cursed status although he recently rescued a teenage female (Andi Monroe) who snuck into the castle.

When a storm uproots a centuries old oak tree, the skeletal remains of Tristan and his squad are revealed; their weapons are also uncovered. The spirits of these men have hopes for the first time since the medieval betrayal that they finally might move on. The castle's caretaker Jameson arranges with Kirk Grey for an archeological dig led by his protege forensic archaeologist Andi Monroe. As she methodically begins the excavation, Andi is taken aback by talking ghosts especially falling in love with their leader.

SPIRITED AWAY is an energetic amusing ghostly romance starring a likable intelligent mortal and a somewhat frustrated ghost. The paranormal story line grips readers once Tristan and Andi begin talking although she fears she is losing her mind. Sub-genre fans will appreciate Cindy Miles first castle haunting novel.

Love and War in California
Oakley M. Hall
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312357621 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

On December 7, 1941, Payton Daltry attends San Diego State University. When Pearl Harbor is bombed, Payton's friends and older brother Richie join the military. On December 8, 1941, a junior at the college, Payton decides to complete his degree and make it with wealthy Barbara "Bonny" Bonington, whom he jus met, and is inconveniently pregnant by her boyfriend Johnny Pierce.

Payton courts Bonny and helps her meet an abortionist. However, her family rejects him as his ambition to write goes against the belief that Bonington males are doctors and Bonington females are doctors' wives. They split up as her parents are too influential and eventually he goes to war. Years later they will meet once again tied in a way that neither could have predicted when they first met in the "caff" at SDU the day after the day of infamy.

In many ways Payton is a poor selection to serve as the prime focus of a novel yet it is just because he is a pitiable choice, he makes this predominantly war years' story line work. The story line focuses on Payton as he makes decisions that differ from just about everyone around him as they sacrifice their way of life and perhaps ultimately their lives while he chooses to continue his current path with the only major change being his courting of Bonny. Well written LOVE AND WAR IN CALIFORNIA emphasizes the need for sacrifice by everyone including giving up at least temporarily love when the disruptiveness of war occurs; Oakley M. Hall contrasts WWII in which almost all Americans were engaged in the war cause in some way to President Bush's failure to demand Americans outside of the soldiers and their families sacrifice butter for guns make that protective armor.

Final Payment
Steven F. Havill
0312354150 $23.95

In Posadas County, New Mexico, everyone excitedly awaits the first annual Posadas 100, a cross bicycle race; everyone that is except first responders like cops and ER personnel as they expect incidents and injuries. However, Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman has other concerns as she looks closely at the three Hispanic corpses, who were executed. However, just one look at their relatively expensive garb and affirmed by their soft hands tell Estelle these are not unfortunate illegal immigrants caught sneaking across the border and murdered by a vigilante group.

At about the same time, pilot Jerry Turner reports that someone apparently flew his Cessna 206 away from and back to the Posadas Airport; everyone including Estelle assumes it is drug traffickers, but no lingering evidence is found. At home, Estelle's seven-year-old son refuses to inform her, his music teacher or anyone what he plans to perform at his first piano recital. As much as she worries about him, more murders and a Mexican exchange art student's watercolor lead Estelle to believe she knows who is the next victim and why, but to stop this brilliant killer means risking her life.

This is a terrific New Mexico police procedural that will have the audience finishing it in one delightful read. The story line is fast-paced on both the official and personnel fronts as Estelle deals with a clever murderer and her even slyer son. Newcomers as well as Reyes-Guzman's fans will appreciate the heroine's balancing act of trying to stop a killer and remain alive so she can solve the deeper mystery of what piece her son will play.

The Water Lily Cross
Anthony Eglin
0312365462 $23.95

When Stewart Halliday disappears, his wife asks his friend and former peer, retired London botanist Lawrence Kingston, to investigate. Kingston goes through Halliday's notes to seek clues to his whereabouts. In his colleague's date book he finds a coded message that he breaks down only to find another cryptic puzzler.

Kingston soon concludes that Halliday found a cheap effective way to desalinate ocean water using a salt eating water lily. The benefits to mankind are obvious, but also apparent are the huge profits to be made. Kingston concludes avarice has led to the abduction of Halliday. As he continues his inquiries, someone tries to kill Kingston and succeeds in murdering a wealth patron. Each step to rescue his buddy proves more dangerous than the previous ones, but the scientist refuses to quit even when the Russian mafia seems the prime cause of the tsunami that threatens his life.

The third English Garden cozy (see THE BLUE ROSE and LOST GARDENS) is an enjoyable mystery that centers on what many scientists believe is a global crisis: the lack of enough fresh water. Kingston's deciphering of puzzles and other horticultural clues is cleverly designed so though he is an amateur sleuth his line of investigating comes out of his professional background. Readers will appreciate his efforts to rescue his colleague even during those times when he soars towards a caricature of a superhero.

Starting Out Sideways
Mary E. Mitchell
0312368216 $23.95

Roseanna Plow knows her life has fallen apart. Her husband Teddy has left her after admitting to an affair with her best friend Inga; they live together. Her vocation as a social worker focusing on career counseling is difficult yet rewarding when she places one of her developmentally challenged clients; however, now one of her successes Milton Beyer seems to be stalking her as he is everywhere. Her dad has prostrate cancer and now her mom the steamroller, who informs everyone with mirth that her daughter came down the birth canal sideways, has moved in temporarily to give her maternal support, TKO style.

The only positive note is Milton's boss at the SaveWay Mickey "Ham" Hamilton seems nice. However, before she can decide whether to forget cheating Teddy and move on perhaps with Ham, she learns a dark family secret. Soon she and her mom are going toe to toe over what she now knows.

This is a well written poignant family drama starring a likable heroine who believes she must be the female reincarnation of Job as everything suddenly has gone wrong. Roseanna is a wonderful character who holds the deep tale together although the support cast is fully developed and enhances the plot. Contemporary readers will enjoy Mary E. Mitchell's amusing yet discerning character study.

The Fall of Rome
Michael Curtis Ford
0312333625 $24.95

In A.D. 453 the great Hun Attila dies drunk in his own blood on his latest wedding night. His death and Pope Leo's actions bring new hope for the Roman Empire as their vicious adversaries squabble amongst one another for control. Assassination of rivals becomes the norm giving Rome a chance to recover after the Hun brought the empire to its knees. Germanic mercenary General Orestes and his men leave camp just after Attila's death. The Hun's top advisor General Deco goes to the council, but is assassinated in front of his two adult sons, Odoacer and Onulf, who flee for their lives.

Forced to separate, Odoacer journeys to Noricum, the home of his deceased mother, where he expects sanctuary, but also learns he is the king's grandson. Odoacer takes charge of the military and defeats the Huns, but a few years later loses to the Romans. He survives by fleeing to Italy where Onulf is an officer in the Roman army. They unite preparing to avenge their father's death when they encounter his killer, a VIP in the still collapsing Roman Empire.

Though it is worth first reading the prequel, THE SWORD OF ATTILA, THE FALL OF ROME stands on its own; as the tale starts when the previous one ended with the death of Attila. The story line is action-packed as the two heroic siblings leap from one battle to another, which reflects closely the warring collapse of the Roman Empire. Although much of the key cast members outside the brothers seem one dimensional, fans of historical fiction will want to read Michael Curtis Ford's terrific thriller as Pax Roma has become bloody Roma.

Shooting Star
Cynthia Riggs
031237027X $23.95

On Martha's Vineyard, nonagenarian poet Victoria Trumbull is excited as she is the playwright of Island Players, a local amateur group's summer stock adaptation of Frankenstein that is truer to the Shelley novel than Hollywood's poetic license. Many of her friends have parts in the production and all seems to be going fine at first until maniacal martinet director Dearborn Hall begins spinning the production closer to Hollywood than Shelley's condemnation of the horrors of the Industrial Revolution. Still Victoria feels good about her work as the theatre prepares for opening night.

However, disaster strikes when eight-year-old performer Teddy Vanderhoop, performing the role of Victor's five years old younger brother vanishes. At about the same time he disappears, someone kills Peg Storm, the actress performing the part of the Frankenstein housekeeper. Frightened by the tragedies as everyone assumes Teddy's dead, cast members quit before they are killed too. Dearborn refuses to close the production down as the show must go on even while the police search for the child and the killer as does the ninety-two years old first time playwright.

The seventh Martha's Vineyard mystery thriller is a fun lighthearted tale that fans of the series will fully enjoy. Besides insight into the original Frankenstein, the whodunit is shrewdly set up from almost the onset keeping readers wondering who and why. SHOOTING STAR is a wonderful amateur sleuth tale (although the feisty heroine has become certified as a graduate of the Tisbury Citizen Police Academy) that will have the audience applauding for encore performances.

The Book of Lies
James Moloney
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0060578424 $16.99 1-800-242-7737

At Mrs. Timmins's Home for Orphans and Foundlings, the young lad awakens to realize he remembers nothing not even his name although he claims to be Robert. He learns from one of his new peers, Bea in the shadows that he is Marcel and he must find THE BOOK OF LIES if he is to regain his past.

Two other orphans Fergus and Nicola join Marcel on his quest to find himself. They meet Starkey, who tells Marcel that an evil wizard partnering with an ambitious king took his memory and much more from him and the people. To regain paradise lost he must find THE BOOK OF LIES so that he can learn truth from lies but must also prepare for a battle against an invincible evil team.

Targeting the middle school students who will join the three orphans on Marcel's quest, THE BOOK OF LIES is a fun young adult fantasy. The book is the intriguing element that freshens up the saga as a key twist related to the tome adds to the entertainment of the tale. The three children are fully developed unique individuals who the pre-teen crowd will root for in their myriad of escapades. Readers will enjoy James Moloney's fabulous youthful quest fantasy.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union
Michael Chabon
0007149824 $26.95

In 1948 with the collapse of Israel, the question of a Jewish State is temporarily resolved when Alaska becomes the homeland for the Diaspora Jews. However, the agreement is that this is not the Promised Land as the Alaskan Settlement Act authorized a sixty year lease. In two months, the Reversion occurs raising the question what to do about two million Alaskan Jews.

Sitka police detective Meyer Landsman relies on alcohol to keep him from going over the edge. His marriage died alongside the abortion of their birth defected fetus while his sister died in a plane crash. His sleuthing skills no longer are keen as he does not care whether he solves a case or not.

Shocking even himself, a murder in his dumpy Hotel Zamenhof awakens the once dedicated cop inside of Landsman as he goes for one last piece of glory knowing he will be unemployed once the reversion is implemented. The victim Emanuel Lasker was a harmless heroin addict who played chess; no apparent motive surfaces as to why he was executed. Even more surprising is his former wife and suddenly current boss have reentered his life and he has been promoted the police chief for the final sixty days. Still Landsman allows nothing to intervene in his uncovering the identity of the culprit; that is nothing except some hazy rumor that his sister was murdered instead of dying in an accident.

This interesting alternate history police procedural frozen Noir provides a fascinating spin to the twentieth century issue of the Jewish homeland. The kvetching levels are stratospheric as fears of being abandoned again lead to the historical chosen mantra "It's a strange time to be a Jew." Landsman is an interesting character who finds redemption in the murder investigation. Though a conspiracy takes away from the prime theme of what if the Jews were placed elsewhere, readers will appreciate this innovative thriller.

Living with Strangers
James Grippando
006113838X $24.95

The head pediatric physician at Boston's Children's Hospital Dr. Peyton Shields and her lawyer husband Kevin Stokes appear to live the American dream to the fullest as they love their respective work and each other. However underneath their seemingly perfect life together, neither trusts the other to remain faithful as he believes she has quite a choice of medical personal and she thinks likewise re the legal profession. Both assume the other cheats. On top of that Kevin resents the move to New England to foster her career and the time she spends at the hospital.

On a drive home during a snowstorm, Peyton is in a near fatal accident that everyone blames on the weather except her; she believes the other driver tried to kill her by forcing her vehicle into icy Jamaica Pond. Kevin especially scorns what he insists is her delusions before turning to a former lover; but soon after they begin their tryst, she is killed. BPD arrests the married couple who are on trial while in the background waits a stalker who believes he receives messages to kill from sexy professionals like Peyton.

Although some of the twists seem implausible, the author lives up to the first syllable of his surname as LIVING WITH STRANGERS grips readers from the moment Rudy the stalker surfaces and never slows down until the final life and death altercation. The fast-paced story line is fun to follow as the soap opera quartet (the married couple, the other woman and the stalker) merge into a fun thriller. Even without Jack Swyteck, readers know that Mr. Grippando writes a fine stand alone family drama crime caper.

Philip Hawley, Jr.
0060887443 $7.99

At the University Children's Hospital in California, a Guatemalan Mayan child dies in the emergency room in spite of pediatric Dr. Luke McKenna's efforts to save the boy. Luke is confused as the child's illness is unknown to him. However, he is stunned when Guatemalan officials abetted by hospital administrators take the young corpse away before he can perform the required postmortem exam.

However, the former SEAL is not one to ignore a mystery so he continues to ask questions, which leads to killers needing to silence him. They do that by cleverly framing him for the murders of a former girlfriend and a football player, which energizes Luke further to exonerate himself while learning the entire truth. On the lam, he realizes he must go to Guatemala to find out what killed the child, not realizing the horror that awaits him if he can stay alive with thugs trying to kill him and elude the law as cops want him arrested for the two homicides.

This action-packed medical thriller grips the audience from the onset and never slows down until the final confrontation. The fast-paced story line is fun to follow as the hero uses his military training to endure his ordeal although the strain on his mind is enormous as horrible memories from those days in uniform engulf and albeit endanger him. Though the climax seems weak, readers will want to run along side McKenna as he struggles to survive and uncover the truth.

Matters of the Blood
Maria Lima
0809557908 $12.95

Few know the dead like Keira Kelly does; the dead know Keira Kelly perhaps better than the living. Keira is part of a clan of paranormal people although she prefers to live outside amongst the normals. Currently she lives in Rio Seco, Texas if one can call residing there as living. She watches over her cousin Marty Nelson, who not only failed to inherit the family gift making him a pathetic purebred human outcast, but works as he puts it -in a dead-end job as a mortician.

As Keira begins to learn what her powers are, someone is beheading and draining the blood of animals at The Wild Moon resort. Keira believes the culprit is inhuman. However, though she does some tremulous investigation, she is not committed until Marty is murdered with all his blood emptied from his corpse. As her former boyfriend Sheriff Carlton Larson investigates and makes it clear he wants her back, Keira visits Wild Moon only to find Adam Walker, someone she once desired, owns the place. Keira wonders could he have killed Marty because the mortician was learning the truth about the new resort not filled with many guests.

The cast makes this horror mystery into a one sitting read as fans will anticipate every chilling bump that sends the heroine into frighten mode. The story line is fast-paced with no one quite like they initially seem as most of the townsfolk are not purebred human. Readers will appreciate this superb paranormal whodunit with a touch of romance with plenty of interwoven subplots that will elate fans of various sub-genres, but the center holding this superb tale together is the likable Keira who makes the abnormal seem so normal.

The Demon You Know
Christine Warren
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312347774 $6.99 1-888-330-8477

TV researcher Abby Baker preferred to remain in the background as the girl most likely forgotten. Her success as the wallflower centerfold was perfect until her friend Terry Freeman persuaded her to accompany him as he worked a story in Manhattan. His wheedling has made her the center of a paranormal war that deserves time on the Sci Fi or Fearnet channels.

As she barely understands this; apparently Uzkiel the evil seeks a spell to destroy the mortal realm. Arulnagel "Rule" the demon Watcher is out to stop him. The adversaries seek Louamides the fiend who possesses the spell. Almost caught by Uzkiel, Lou "leaped" into Abby's body to hide from the deadly demon. No one cannot get him released from her. As the paranormal Others have been outed following their battle in Times Square, Rule needs to free Lou so that Abby can be safe from Uzkiel while wondering if he can keep his day job and this human woman he now loves.

THE DEMON YOU KNOW is a delightful tongue in cheek romantic fantasy that hooks the audience from the moment the king of three-card Monte Terry gets Abby involved and never slows down until the final confrontation between the Watcher, the crazed supernatural killer, and the human with the demon inside her. Romance has not been this chaperoned since Innerspace as the courageous Abby proves quite a formidable human who falls in love with the demon she knows.

Raven Black
Ann Cleeves
St. Martin's
0312359667 $24.95

In Scotland's Shetland Islands, an unknown perp strangled teenage Catherine Ross; her corpse was found half buried by the snow. The locals including the police believe Magnus Tait killed her as circumstantial evidence is very convincing. He is a strange individual who was the last person known to have seen Catherine alive; besides which Magnus has a history when eight years ago he was the prime suspect in a girl's disappearance, but most locals feel he got away with murder.

The only person seemingly to have major doubts that the eccentric Magnus is the killer is Police Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez, who leads the investigation into the homicide. Not willing to rule out anyone as the culprit including Magnus, Jimmy begins to look closely at those who knew the victim as a family member, a friend, or intimately. The DI begins to uncover dark secrets that make the Shetlands seem even colder, but one of them has the darkest secret of all: being a killer hidden by a facade of lies., Perez (and readers) wonders which one?

Readers will quickly understand why Ann Cleeves won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award as she provides a strong Scottish police procedural that keeps the audience guessing until the climax of this enthralling whodunit. The entertaining story line provides a strong sense of place and season especially through the secondary cast. However, the novel is owned by the likable dedicated DI, who methodically battles the cold wintry weather and the increasingly colder suspects seeking to solve the murder mystery to the delight of the fans.

Shoe Addicts Anonymous
Beth Harbison
St. Martin's
0312364687 $21.95

In Bethesda, Maryland, Lorna Rafferty loves buying new good shoes, which when she tries one on is better than an orgasm. However, when her lights go out she finds out she failed to pay the electric bill. Her credit is to the maximum due to her shoe fetish.

Helene Zaharis has hidden from her spouse Jim that she still uses birth control pills to prevent the pregnancy he wants. Jim thinks an offspring will further his chances of becoming the next president while his wife prefers not to have a child in which the father chose politics over the kid every time. At Ormond's, she goes to pay for her new shoes only to find her credit cards cancelled. She calls Jim who tells her he knows about the pills. Upset she tries to steal the shoes, but is caught shoplifting.

Sandra Vanderslice has not left her apartment in three months as she suffers from agoraphobia; she even speaks to her psychiatrist by phone. She pays her bills by making money as a sex phone operator. Her only joy is shoes, but she only buys over the net.

Depressed Lorna puts an ad on the net for Shoe Addicts Anonymous. Sandra shockingly gets out of the house, and meets Helene and Lorna. Not long afterward disrespected nanny Jocelyn Bowen joins the group although she has no shoe issues. As the friends help one another they begin to regain their self respect.

Readers will root for the four females are unique likable characters finding themselves when they find one another for support. The addiction to good shoes is cleverly designed so that the audience is entertained yet understands how addiction even one seemingly harmless like this one appears to be, can cause problems. Readers obtain a fascinating character study that looks into the impact of addiction but uses a light endearing touch to provide the cautionary message.

Before I Wake
Robert J. Wiersema
St. Martin's
0312363184 $21.95

The truck slammed the car containing Karen Barrett and her three years old daughter Sherry Barrett; the driver failed to stay at the scene of the accident. Karen's injuries are minor, but Sherry suffers a head injury that leaves her comatose and surviving on life support. To the amazement of the medical community, a despondent Karen legalizes pulling the plug but the brain dead child lives on her own. Karen's spouse Simon deserts his wife and child moving in with another woman.

Nightmares even when awake haunt the hit and run truck driver Henry. He is so depressed over what he caused and compounded by fleeing he considers suicide. Unable to cope he leaps off a cliff, but instead of dying in the abyss, some force holds him safely back on the ledge. He joins the legion of ghostly immortals led by Tim.

Karen and the arthritic wracked nurse Ruth cares for the child. A miracle occurs when the nurse's arthritis is cured; soon her sister dying from lung cancer visits Sherry and her disease goes into remission. News spread of the miracle worker leading to those seeking a cure from the holy child and those led by Father Peter wanting to kill the blasphemous devil's offspring.

There are three prime subplots driven by key characters that merge into a great supernatural thriller. Readers will feel the despair that debilitates Karen and the suicidal despondency that haunts Henry even as the tense family drama spins into a miracle worker plot. Robert .J Wiersema provides a deep thriller that will keep his audience wondering until the revelatory final confrontation what is happening with Sherry and Henry and who is Tim and Father Peter?

The Cruel Stars Of The Night
Kjell Eriksson
St. Martin's
0312366671 23.95

In Sweden, the Uppsala Violent Crime Division police department struggles with cases that does not make sense as they cannot find a connection though the crimes are similar. Two elderly men are murdered with a third missing. The local police hope to rescue the missing man, retired professor Hindersten although they expect foul play has already occurred.

While officers Ann Lindell, Ola Haver, Sammy Nilsson, and Allan Fredricksson struggle with making progress, the daughter of the missing man, Laura Hindersten begins to crack under this new crisis. Desperate, the cops lean towards a real life chess game with the taking out of Sweden's Queen Silvia being checkmate. However lone wolf Lindell disagrees and tries a different path that could lead to the death of the cop.

The exciting story line rotates between two strong subplots; that of an ensemble police procedural and a psychological thriller. They share in common frustration as the police struggle with a serial killer in which the dots fail to connect while Laura is losing control. As with THE PRINCESS OF BURUNDI, Ann sticks out amongst the police as she goes down a different path than her peers. Kjell Eriksson provides a one sitting clever whodunit.

Sanctuary Hill
Kathryn R. Wall
St. Martin's
0312362099 $23.95

An unexpected storm socks the South Carolina Lowcountry coast stranding private investigator Bay Tanner at the home of her ailing father. Stepping outside the luxurious antebellum mansion, Bay grabs a floating cooler. When she opens it expecting inside food or drink, she is stunned to find the corpse of a newborn.

She informs Sheriff's sergeant Redmond "Red" Tanner, who also happens to be the brother of Bay's deceased husband; her in-law tells her not to investigate as he knows how her curiosity keeps the cat in trouble. She ignores his warning rant because she believes the key to identifying the mother and perhaps the killer is the strange charm the victim had around her neck. At about the same time realtor Dumars hires Bay to look for his missing wife. When the spouse is found dead her client is the prime suspect. Though she thinks he is innocent, she detests what she believes is his disrespect for the dead as he sleeps with another woman while his wife lies in the morgue. She considers dropping him as a client rationalizing that her contractual consideration was achieved when the corpse was found.

The realistic portrayals of the characters especially Bay and Red make for a strong entertaining regional mystery. Bay has several dilemmas to consider making her seem human as she suddenly has two men wanting her and a moral quandary re Dumars. Fans of the series will appreciate this superb whodunit that brings Beaufort County alive through a fully developed cast involved in two homicides.

Dead Boyfriends
David Housewright
St. Martin's
0312348304 $23.95

Former Twin Cities cop millionaire Rushmore McKenzie hears the cries of Merodie Davies who bemoans the death of her boyfriend. Rushmore realizes the woman acts stoned, but more stunning is the dead boyfriend; his corpse is so rotted he had to have died at least two weeks ago. The police arrive and try to rough Merodie into confessing that she hit her boyfriend in the head with a softball bat that lies near the body. When Rushmore intercedes on her behalf, he is arrested for impeding a crime scene investigation. While in jail his girlfriend Nina Truhler dumps Rushmore for not showing up as promised as her escort to a fancy dinner dance.

After he is released from jail, Merodie's attorney hires Rushmore to investigate in order to find a way to get the charges dropped. Bing unlicensed is not a problem for the former cop so he begins making inquiries only to find Merodie has had a zillion boyfriends, all dead except one, a dangerous drug dealer, who makes a more acceptable suspect than she is.

Though entertaining because the knight in shining armor is still a likable individual this is a weak Rushmore entry as the story line leans towards a humorous widow-maker, but the support cast including Merodie seems as weird two dimensional stiffs who fail to pull off the caper. Still the hero saves more than the damsel in distress as he comes to the rescue of his story line with the collapse of his personal life and the investigation into a woman in which everyone inside her sphere has something to hide. Overall this is a solid whodunit, but does not attain the level of Mount Rushmore's previous entries (see TIN CITY and PRETTY GIRL GONE).

Cat O' Nine Tales and Other Stories
Jeffrey Archer
St. Martin's
0312362641 $27.95

These excellent tales will be on everyone short list for crime caper anthology of the year. Jeffrey Archer says that nine of the original stories were based on contributions from cell mates while the other three came after the author's release from prison. All twelve tales are strong entries especially since the reader does not know until finishing the story whether crime pays in ill gotten gains or with prison time. Ronald Searle's drawings enhance the stories, but it is clearly the writing "Maestro" who makes this a winning short story collection with several especially the fascinating "It Can't Be October Already" deserving consideration for Nebulas.

The Takedown
Patrick Quinlan
St. Martin's
0312349823 $21.95

Dick Miller spent five years in a California prison on a marijuana charge. Now freed, he returns to his hometown of New York City vowing to stay out of trouble by finding a job as a professional typist, the only skill outside of survival that he learned during his stay as a guest of the state. However, good intentions and fresh start resolutions do not bring in food or pay the rent; Dick learns a new life lesson that convicts do not easily obtain legal work so he takes up an offer of a pal from his high school days to work at a chop shop.

Dick goes to a bar to relax and gets drunk. Later he finds the corpse of his realtor girlfriend Dot Racine buried inside the trunk of his car. Frightened he wonders if he killed her as he has a foggy at best memory of his binge except for the headache. Still Dick wants to believe he did not kill Dot, but unsure of what to do with her and fearing arrest, he leaves her interred in the trunk for the next few days while he fumbles and bumbles around town trying to determine who wanted her dead as he realizes it is not him and if not him why was he set up.

The eccentric New York cast starting with Miller and including the dead Dot make for a wild entertaining crime caper. The story line is fast-paced from the onset but especially goes into hyperspeed when Miller becomes the ultimate amateur sleuth figuring out the murder one misstep at a time while aggravating everyone he comes into contact with including a killer ready to up the count by one more. Readers will enjoy Dick Miller's return to the Big Apple.

The Lark's Lament
Alan Gordon
St. Martin's
0312354266 $24.95

In 1204 the Fool's Guild leadership is very concerned that Pope Inncentius (Innocent III) is outraged by their secular interference in what he deems church business. To reduce the papal hostility, Theophilos the Fool and his wife Claudia, also of the Fool's Guild, travel to Le Thoronet Abbey to see former member Cistercian Abbot Folc, who performed as the legendary Folquet. He welcomes his friends, but is hesitant to get caught between his former and present life as that has no future.

That night, someone slashes the throat of a monk leaving a note on the wall written in the dead man's blood addressed to the abbot when he was a troubadour: "FOLQUET: COLD IS THE HAND THAT CRUSHES THE LARK". Upset Folc offers his visitors a deal; his intervention with the papal enemies in exchange for Theo and Claudia uncovering the identity of the killer threatening him. The married Fools agree and look into Folc's past as Folquet for clues. They visit his wife and learn that the abbot was a womanizer and that the bloody message comes from a song. As they travel to France, a killer seems one step ahead of them leaving corpses for them to find and only being talented Fools have the married duet stayed alive so far.

More history than mystery although the whodunit is clever and used as the device that enables the lead couple to escort readers on a tour of the early thirteenth century Fool's Guild and the Church in France. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the appeal of the Fool's Family (Theo, Claudia, and to a degree their children Portia and Helga) that make the tale fun to follow as their performances provide insight and comedic relief. Readers who appreciate a fine medieval tale with a mystery enhancing the period piece will enjoy the sixth performance of Alan Gordon's fabulous Fool's Guild.

The Companion
Ann Granger
St. Martin's
0312363370 $23.95

In 1864,with the death of her dad the doctor, country lass Elizabeth "Lizzie" Martin accepts a position in London as a companion to Mrs. Parry, the wife of her late godfather. Apparently her predecessor Madeline Hexham ran off with an unsuitable unscrupulous young man.

Scotland Yard inspector Benjamin Ross investigates the brutal murder of a young woman. He traces the victim's last employment to Mrs. Parry as a companion to the widow. During the inquiry, Mrs. Parry blames the girl for being stupid enough to get killed. On a happier note, he is elated to see his childhood friend from home Lizzie, but wished it was it was better circumstances for their reunion. Meanwhile Lizzie is appalled by Mrs. Parry's assertion that her predecessor deserved to die and begins an inquiry of her own.

Though no Mitchell and Markby, THE COMPANION is an interesting Victorian whodunit that brings to life the plight of a single female with no protection. The story line rotates viewpoint between that of Ben and Lizzie so that the audience sees the same event from differing perspectives. Although the ending is too abrupt and simple, historical mystery fans will appreciate the competition between the professional cop and the amateur sleuth.

City of Fire
Robert Ellis
St. Martin's
0312366132 $24.95

LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division rookie detective Lena Gamble and her senior partner Hank Novak, are assigned to investigate the brutal rape and murder of Nikki Brant. Due to musical and handwriting notes left at the scene that reminds her of the horrific gangland style murder of her brother David Gamble, Lena quickly realizes that the victim is not random but instead another depressing statistic of a serial killer apparently with a motive not yet known to the cops.

While most of the first responders including much of LAPD prepare for the Santa Ana winds bringing an inferno towards the city, Lena and Hank begin to piece together the clues of a serial killer who methodically is executing those he believes hurt him and made his life wretched; he seeks revenge. Lena realizes her initial reaction to the Brant crime scene begins to look valid as her sibling executed in Hollywood five years ago may have been the opening salvo of a killer seeking vengeance.

This is an exciting police procedural serial killer thriller that brings alive the underbelly of Los Angeles as Lena and Hank investigate the murders that soon have a personal ring to them. The story line is action-packed gripping the audience from the opening call from Hank to Lena to meet him at a crime scene and never slowing down until the final confrontation. Fans of serial killer investigations will want to join the two LAPD detectives as they search for a deadly executioner bringing a personalized brand of justice to those he believes destroyed his existence.

Chasing Eden
S.L. Linnea
St. Martin's
0312949618 $6.99

In April 2003, Chaplain (Major) Jaime Richards is assigned to the 57th Corps Support Group that supports the V Corps units. Her unit is deployed to Iraq as the Commander in Chief President Bush has ordered the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While on Route Tornado in South Iraq, the humvee she rides in runs over hidden barbed wire.

As she waits for rescue, unknown adversaries try to kidnap her, but fail. However, the chaplain runs into her friend, dying Adara Dunbar, who gives her a silver pendant and a strange message for Jaime to "Bring home the lost sword. Where the fourth sister points". Jaime follows the clues that Adara left her, which takes her to the biblical city of Ur where she meets Adara's brother searching for the Garden of Eden before evil ones reach the original paradise lost.

CHASING EDEN is an interesting war tale with the fresh twist of using a biblical quest as the prime story line of this enjoyable thriller. The story line is action-packed and Jaime is a terrific dedicated heroine. Though some implausible spins occur, readers will not care as S.L. Linnea creates an exhilarating tale that uses the early days of the second Iraq war as cover for a unique good vs. evil battle.

The Heart of Valor
Tanya Huff
DAW Books, Inc.
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
0756404355 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

In the very far distant future, the Confederation consisted of the elder races whconvinced other species to join them in the fight with the Others by making them space-faring species. The military consisted of various races who coexisted in harmony with one another. The heroine of the hour is Guunnery sergeant Torin Kerr, who single-handedly brought in the Silviss, a fighting sentient race into the Confederation, defeated an alien space ship and brought her squad home safely.

Tired of the scrutiny, Torin agrees to go to Crucible where the newly enlisted marines will have their last stop in their training. Accompanying Torin is Major Svension recently released from the regeneration vat and his doctor to see if he has returned to his full fighting capacity. From the time they land nothing goes right as Torin's unit comes under attack from the Others. They destroy the Operations Unit and hacked into the computers that simulate the marines fighting the others. Torin has to use all her units and all the experiences that she gained to get them out of what looks like a hopeless predicament.

Tanya Huff uses a different voice when she writes pure fantasy than when she writes urban fantasy and military science fiction. Readers who like the Honor Harrington series will thoroughly enjoy the Confederation novels. The protagonist is a strong and peaceful commander easily able to relate to men and women of different species because they know if the chips are down she will be for them. There is plenty of battle scenes and some shocking surprises in this fantastic military science fiction thriller.

Army of the Fantastic
John Marco (Editor) and John Helfers (Editor)
0756404134 $7.99

These thirteen tales combine fantasy elements with alternate military history. The well written contributions effortlessly enable the audience to believe that the paranormal mythological creatures are part of a war scene. For instance the superb opening gamut "Focke-Drache" by Jean Rabe includes a five ton German dragon as a weapon of mass destruction during WW II or the efforts of a battlefield reporter using a centaur to get to and from the front (see "Dispatches from the front: Number Sixty-One" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch). Sprites in Reichert's Iowan field of dreams; Russell Davis' animagic flies reanimating the dead during desert warfare, and demons, gryphons, and sea serpents and other fantastic creatures make for a unique war scene. With each author a highly regarded talent insuring that their fantasy military feels genuine, sub-genre fans will appreciate this strong short story collection.

A Dog About Town
J.F. Englert
Dell Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0440243637 $6.99 1-800-726-0600

Harry comes home from a seance to his dog Randolph and tells him that Lyell Overton has died while sitting in the bathroom. What Harry doesn't know is that Randolph is no ordinary dog. He is a sentient being as smart as or more brilliant than his master. Both Randolph and Harry are drifting through life because two years ago, Imogen walked out of their apartment.

The death gives both beings an outside interest as they become obsessed with the murder (yes the man was murdered) and finding out who the killer is. While visiting Harry's friend Jack, Randolph learns from his pet, a Guatemalan tree sloth that Jackson was in the apartment where Overton was killed and he held a woman against the wall. They get permission from the owner of the apartment to see the place and Randolph smells something burnt in the bathroom even though there is nothing in the bathroom to show how he died. What follows is Randolph giving Harry a clue to follow that he hopes will eventually lead them to the killer without getting murdered themselves.

Although some might say that using a sentient dog as a sleuth is a gimmick but that is simply not true. Randolph is fantastic as he uses his canine senses and his intelligence to find a killer. Harry, even when he has proof of Randolph's brains puts his intelligence down to a spirit guiding them. Readers learn what it is like to be a dog in a man's world as J.F. Englert has written a two role mystery starring one of the most unique heroes in the genre.

Kiss of Crimson
Lara Adrian
0553589385 $6.99

A millennium ago eight aliens crash landed on Earth and the only nutrient that could sustain their life is human blood. Some native females were able to mate with them and thus the male only vampire was born. The Breeds don't ever indulge in massive blood taking because it is highly addictive and they can go Rogue, a mindless monster straight out of Bram Stoker. The warrior Order finds and kills the Rogues and while Dante is out looking for them he is injured and ends up at Tess Culver's veterinary practice.

He takes blood from her before seeing the mark that proves she is a Breedmate, able to have vampire children and live eternally as long as she drinks blood from her mate. He erases her memories and tries to forget her but fails to do so. However, the warrior breeds have a new problem to deal with: the drug Crimson. When vampires take the drug, instead of getting high, it turns them into berserkers; Tess is connected to the maker and distributor of it. Dante revisits Tess who has the gift of healing and falls in love with her. When he is fatally injured she miraculously heals him and when she almost dies at the hands of a rogue, he feeds her his blood cementing their bond until she realizes the truth about her beloved; she runs hysterically into danger and away from the man she thought loved her.

For background information and another exciting vampire thriller, the audience should read the prequel KISS OF MIDNIGHT. Lara Adrian is an excellent worldbuilder creating a vampire society living among but hidden from humans. The romance between the two protagonists is not steamy and so as they both discover what it means to live without fear. The thriller part in which breeds turn into terrorists from a drug that is supposed to give them a pleasant high is exciting and entertaining. Lara Adrian is the newest star writing vampire romantic tales.

Brian M. Wiprud
0440243149 $6.99

Garth Carson decides that being a CROOKED collector is to dangerous for a PIPSQUEAK like him; so to avoid being STUFFED and SLEEP WITH FISHES, he accepts a job as an insurance appraiser for Wilberforce/Peete looking at taxidermy collections across the country while his able gnomish Russian goofball assistant Otto runs the Jersey store Carson's Critters.

However, although he insists his danger days are over as the American economy runs on lawsuits and insurance, only Garth starting in Chicago could find his company's clients murdered after a visit from him. The FBI assumes he is a taxidermist serial killer. The Feds and the real murderer chase Garth across the country with the law wanting to arrest him for the murders; while the killer wanting to add him to the collection. Garth accompanied by his girlfriend Angie, who knew not let him out on his own, and Otto begin a quest to prove the PIPSQUEAK is innocent even as his enemies and new foes like the archeologist claiming Carson's mother turned him into a werewolf and another government agency TAILED him. Alas all is right in the life of Garth Carson with an arrest imminent if he should live so long.

The previous Carson capers were wild amusing rides, but TAILED is the zaniest yet as everything that could happen to Garth seems to have occurred since he began his new career. The story line is humorous and somewhat out of control as Carson bounces from one incident to another with each new event adding to his troubles. Fans of the series will appreciate this jocular on the lam tale (is there any other type when it comes to this antihero?) while newcomers who appreciate funny somewhat slapstick adventures will join the fray; if your preference is serious thrillers this is a pass.

The Art of Love
Chilufiya Safaa
Kensington Dafina.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
0758219733 $6.99 1-800-345-2665

In Virginia, when afro-centric art gallery owner Afiya Terrell meets sophisticated art broker Ibra Diop, the attraction between them is magnetic pleasing both of them. Whenever they can, the pair tries to get together as they are falling in love.

However, Afiya who has a gift of presentiment feels her beloved is in danger. Unable to ignore her intuitive premonition, Afiya begins to investigate what and who endangers Ibra. Soon she finds herself caught in the midst of international jewel thieves, who use murder to cover their felonious activities. As she believes in her heart that Ibra is innocent, the overwhelming evidence points towards her true love being not only part of the dangerous gang, but also its leader.

The latest of the four Terrell sisters' international thriller (see PASSIONATE ENCOUNTERS) is a delightful amateur sleuth romantic suspense. The lead couple is an interesting pairing as the heroine believes based on her intuitive skills that her beloved is innocent so goes out to prove it, which places her in danger from thieves willing to kill without blinking. Readers will enjoy this fine tale that goes back and forth from America to overseas locales like Senegal.

Boy Shopping
Nia Stephens
Kensington Dafina
0758219296 $9.95

Wentworth High School student and rock band drummer Kiki Kelvin wants a boyfriend to call her own. Instead the only female in the band, she gets male groupies whom she knows can salivate all they want, but as the lyrics she wrote in "Satisfy Me", they will never do. The guys at Wentworth seem to think she is hot, but none step forward to ask her out; perhaps because of her local fame intimidating them. The band members are hunks, but they have female groupies and besides she fears the trouble of mixing work and pleasure. Kiki decides to try shopping online for a boyfriend. However neither she nor Nia Stephens choose who she will see; readers select her dates and much more.

This is a fun interactive young teenage female contemporary fiction tale in which the audience chooses the directions Kiki goes by picking what she will do or who she will see. Young adult fans will have a great time helping Kiki solve her problems in finding a boyfriend. Ms. Stephens provides an enjoyable teen tale that will have her fans clamoring to GET MORE boy shopping interactive novels.

Sex Lounge
Rachelle Chase
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758216505 $12.95

To her client Derek Mitchell, San Francisco talent agency manager Nichole Simms is the calmest person he ever met; nothing seems to effect this seemingly always in control professional. Derek ponders if she is frozen in bed or hiding a hot passion with this icy practiced exterior. One thing he knows is that he would love to heat the sheet with his agent.

When he accidentally finds her notebook, he knows he should not take a look inside. However, he cannot help himself so he takes a curious peek although he assumes all he will find are business notes. To his shock he has found her fantasy diary of hot sexual desires; even more stunning is to realize he is her make believe co-star. Although Nichole is extremely embarrassed by his discovery, Derek eases her mind and then her body when he informs her she is his dream lover too and suggests they play out each act in her script.

Though obviously a contemporary erotic romance, the key to this well written tale is the non boudoir subplots such as Nicole at work and lawsuits jeopardizing Derek's successful business as that brings fullness to their characters and subsequently to the story line. Rachelle Chase heats up the sheets with this terrific tale.

Barenaked Jane
Deanna Lee
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758214863 $12.95

Jane Tilwell seems so calm at all times; however, she hides behind her cool exterior the fact that security specialist Mathias Montgomery makes her heart beat leap off the charts. She knows it will not be easy, but she needs to avoid the hunk, future brother-in-law to her boss at the art gallery she works.

Caught unaware that a break-in exercise is occurring, Mathias pins Jane to the floor. He does not want to get up nor does she want him too. However, reluctantly Mathias being the consummate professional returns to the security task at hand, but not before promising her that this is just the beginning. He arrives at her place begging her for a weekend of sex like neither she has ever had before.

BARENAKED JANE is a fascinating erotic romance starring two strong obstinate protagonists (some might insist antagonists) who demand to be on top at all times. The story line is an entertaining battle of the sexes filled with heat that scorches the pages and your fingers. Reader sill enjoy the torrid relationship war to determine just who is in charge with battle scenes in the boudoir, on the floor, the table, and just about any place imaginable as Jane and Mathias share one equatorial weekend leading to much more.

Sexually Satisfied
Melissa Randall
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758215894 $13.95

New York actress Gillian feels sort of like Dorian gray; as her professional life succeeds towards stardom her personal life totally tanks. Steve dumped her claiming she did nothing for him, especially not satisfying his itch. David pretends to desire Gillian, but she can see past his veneer that he just wants to use and lose her. Finally Justin is a lousy lover at least in her mind as he never brings her to orgasmic fantasy.

Of course she muses that part of the reason her sex life leaves her with nothing is Greg. Their one time together was heaven and no male can match her poster-boy. However, he has a girlfriend and Gillian is not one for sloppy seconds as she wants a gourmet delight with her lover. Greg has not forgotten the greatest sexual encounter in his life and plans for more rendezvous with Gillian.

Although the sex scenes happen faster than premature ejaculation, this is a fine character study due to the antics of spirited Gillian, who keeps getting knocked down by the men in her life, but gets up hoping to find the life on that one man. Told by from her perspective she will keep the audience's attention except for her nano trysts. Readers will enjoy this erotic chick lit tale starring a likable heroine worth rooting for her to have slow sex with Greg; that is if he is free; if not there is always toys.

Quench My Thirst
R. Moreen Clarke
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758216807 $13.95

In Chicago, day and night Trevor Calhoun and Damian Adams are salesmen; however, their daytime product is a bit different than the personal service they provide during the evening. At night they sell themselves to females needing their fantasies turned into realities especially women in positions of power who willingly pay to spend bedroom time with either of the two African-American hunks.

However, their idyll world of upper class male hookers collapses when the Chicago police arrest Trevor for the murder of a client. He asks the one woman he always has loved his childhood Olivia Cane to make bail for him. By asking her he knows he must tell her the truth about his vocation. Trevor feels embarrassed about how he makes a living; a feeling he never felt before since he started servicing women for a fee. However, what he does not know is that by bringing his beloved Olivia into his mess, he has made her a target of the real culprit; if he did know Trevor would have preferred remaining behind bars because he never wanted to hurt Olivia, which his profession does anyway.

Though meeting too many of the clients in their sex scenes that seem unnecessary to the investigative erotic romantic suspense prime story line, fans will enjoy watching the bond between Trevor and Olivia as they go about admitting their love while trying to prove his innocence (of the homicide that is). When the plot focuses on Trevor's current troubles, QUENCH MY THIRST is a strong tale; when it goes sidebar to enough ladies to fill up Wrigley Stadium or his muses over his past even with his beloved, the novel slows down. Still overall this is a torrid romantic suspense starring a hero who knows the heat is on.

Flesh and the Devil
Devyn Quinn
Kensington Aphrodisia
075821653X $12.95

Vice Squad detective Brendan Wallace is working undercover trying to bust up the Exotic Jewels' prostitute ring. He calls the company and they send him sexy Liadan Niamh, as his lady of the night. However, instead of busting her, she somehow outs him as a cop before leaving him in knots. Recently divorced Brendan cannot forget the sultry siren and tries to set up a second tryst with her.

He soon learns how Liadan got the better of him when he realizes she truly is a lady of the night. She is a vampire. However, in spite of her attraction to the cop, she knows for his safety she needs to forget him; but she cannot and he will not let her; besides his desire for her there are dead females all over town with all the clues pointing towards Liadan. Concentrating on his love for her while thinking how his sister for years insisted there is magic in their blood; Brendan tries to help free his beloved from malevolent Auguste, who he believes is the serial killer.

This erotic supernatural police procedural romance hooks the sub-genre audience from the opening scene when Liadan leaves Brendan tied to a chair with the message to see her on his time not cop time and never unties the bonds of the reader until the climax. That opening encounter sets the relationship between two likable full blooded (even when she has not dined) protagonists falling into a taboo love for one another. The elements from the police procedural, romance and fantasy blend nicely together so that fans will appreciate the ties between the FLESH AND THE DEVIL.

Sexy Beast II
Kate Douglas, Noelle Mack, & Kathleen Dante
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758214901 $12.95

"Chanku Fallen" by Kate Douglas. In New Mexico, shape-shifting Chanku wolves A.J. and Mik rescue gang-raped Tala. The trio soon shares a heated menage de trois enhanced by a fervent sensuous telepathic link.

"Fantasie" by Noelle Mack. In France, Tanya enters a mysterious castle where she meets Jean Claude and a seemingly feral lion. She wanders the castle where she observes lovers enjoying each other. Jean Claude seems to be one of them each time. Tanya wants to be his co-star in every room, but wonders if he is showing her reality from his past as a time traveler and perhaps their future or is he providing her with a master deception to bed her in the present?

"Call of the Wild" by Kathleen Dante. Wolf-shifter deputy sheriff Graeme Luger rescues Deanna Lycan, who makes him hot just looking at her as he believes his mate has arrived. She is unaware of the wolf blood that flows inside her, but he plans to heat that blood with passionate lovemaking bestial style.

These three fun erotic romantic fantasies will provide plenty of pleasure to the audience. Although the sexual encounters differ, each contains full blooded hot hunks and the sirens who send them beyond boiling.

Sasha White
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758215487 $13.95

"The Principles of Lust". Teal Jamison is opening up Lust, an erotic art gallery, but with all the hot work and the sensual artists, she craves carpenter Zachary Dillon. He feels the same way, but he plans to be on top of this take charge female masterpiece in the boudoir.

"Passion Play". Erotic jewelry designer Mia Jones and singles columnist wannabe novelist Dominick Jamison enjoy their sexual trysts, but both fear permanence even as their bodies crave more.

"Sexual Healing". Massage therapist Caitlyn Ellis "reads" the battered aura of hurting photojournalist Jack Lowell. She decides to show him the healing power of sex between two caring attracted adults. She did not expect to find his heat would mend her heart too.

These three erotic contemporary romances star likable protagonists learning how much greater sex is with the right partner. Although the BDSM scenes seem forced (no pun intended) appetizers, readers will enjoy these fine torrid novellas

Hot Summer Nights
Joan Elizabeth Lloyd
0758212763 $15.00

Leslie Morgan enjoys working at Manhattan's Club Fantasy even though many would condemn her as a high priced call girl. However, as much as she enjoys her position, she feels a desperate need for time away from the club and the customers. She rents a cottage in Sound End, Connecticut for the summer.

At South End, Leslie meets vacationing New York police officer, Brad DeVane. They are attracted to one another from the start. As their relationship grows, they fall in love, but for the first time in her life Leslie is afraid, perhaps even a bit ashamed, to tell her beloved what she does for a living for fear he will condemn and scorn her before leaving her.

This is a well written contemporary romance starring two beguiling lead characters whose steamy relationship makes for loving HOT SUMMER NIGHTS once they leave behind the overwhelming spoonfuls of support characters stuck in the summer in the city. The intriguing element to this fine tale is Leslie's secret that she conceals from her beloved because she believes once he learns what she does for a living he will dump her. Still she plans to make the most of her fantasy summer with the hunk that turns her on as much as she turns him on for she knows this is the greatest summer of her life even expecting that soon she will fall off his elongated pointed pedestal.

Getting Married
Theresa Alan
0758209967 $12.95

In Denver thirty-one years old management consultant Eva Lockhart meets Will online. They hit if off and soon he moves in to her place although the paranoid Eva fears he will not stay long because she will not satisfy his needs and operate her business.

However, she feels euphoric when Will proposes and she accepts. Now she is planning her wedding, but the paranoia returns en masse that she cannot satisfy his needs, get the wedding plans accomplished, and continue her work. Instead of Will she turns to drugs to balance her overwhelming missions and control her fears of failure, but soon Speed is controlling her.

The key element is the addiction, though symbolic of deeper problems, will prove difficult to accept by readers for someone even as paranoid as Eva appears. Still she is an interesting lead character as her neurosis borders on the psychotic caused by a fear of failure makes her a unique chick lit protagonist; her asides and insight into her fears feels genuine, which also in turn leads to the audience feeling sympathetic yet not like her. Theresa Alan provides a deep look at a woman whose emotional issues have limited her relationships and seems heading like a self generated torpedo to destroy that she has with Will. Not an easy book to read, this is a discerning glimpse from the inside of a woman in trouble.

The Supplicant
Lucinda Betts
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758214685 $12.95

In the Kingdom Marotiri, the sudden rise of the second sun denotes a Supplicant has arisen too. For King Kalief this is welcome great news, as he believes that this unknown female is the key to defeating the barbarian horde at the gates. The monarch must find the woman and train her to surrender her body and soul to him if Marotiri is to be saved. Others plan to be her lover as they know the man who controls the Supplicant controls incredible power as every orgasm makes her stronger.

Sureya the nanny with her blood red hair and milk white skin meets the criteria and is assumed by vying males to be the one. Men fight to the death to dominate and own the Supplicant. However, it is King Kalief whom Sureya is attracted to that she turns towards. They climax together in love and hope that they will have enough power to defeat the evil from within and the barbarians from without who share in common abducting and using the Supplicant.

THE SUPPLICANT is a terrific innovative erotic romantic fantasy that spins a tale of love being the ultimate magical weapon. Marotiri is a fascinating world in which everyone knows what the rising of a second sun means and seemingly every male dreams of controlling the savior, the Supplicant. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as the monarch initially seeks the Supplicant to save his people, but once he meets Sureya he needs to protect her. With no clear good and bad boundaries for the most part as everyone including the hero wants to use her, Sureya is more than just the title character, she is the star that motivates the others though some in the audience will be upset with how easily she is seduced (albeit she is the Supplicant). As with MOON SHADOW, sub-genre readers will know this author is a sure Betts to provide a fine thriller.

Julia's Chocolates
Cathy Lamb
0758214626 $14.00

Julia Bennett decides to flee her abusive fiance Robert before he seriously harms her physically, which he has already done mentally. She decides the best place to reflect on her life safely is her Aunt Lydia's farm near rural Golden, Oregon where making chocolate has always been a relaxant for her. She knows an "inconvenienced" Robert eventually will come for her once he obtains Aunt Lydia's address from her mom hidden in Minnesota with her zillionth boyfriend, but Lydia will not go with him.

Lydia welcomes her beloved niece and offers sanctuary while Julia tries to recoup her lost optimism. Lydia's warm friends also greet Julia as one of them. She and her circle of friends welcome Julia into their lives. As Julia begins to feel better about herself and her future, she makes friends and chocolate.

From the opening line of leaving her wedding dress on a tree in North Dakota to the climax, JULIA'S CHOCOLATES is a strong character study looking deep at a woman trying desperately to regain the hope she once had about life. The supporting females like Aunt Lydia and her friends add depth to the audience comprehending the demons eroding Julia's dreams. Contemporary fiction fans will appreciate this fine portrayal just go easy on the chocolates.

The Memories We Keep
Walter Zacharius
0758217714 $14.00

In 1975 Mia Levy lives the simple life of a kibbutz farmer near the increasingly hostile Lebanese border having fled her homeland and a radically different life over three decades ago. However, now her past has caught up to her as clarinet player Vinnie Sforza sends her a letter stating he saw her in a Pathe newsreel working in the Israeli fields and by the time she reads his note, he will be airborne to see her so that they can remember the good but short time together in Brooklyn or perhaps be kicked out by her.

Mia looks back to fleeing Poland where in 1939 she went from a talented teenage pianist to being "that Jew" forced to play Hitler's Wagner instead of her beloved Chopin. Her father sold diamonds to get the family passage to the allies, but they were betrayed and placed on a train to Treblinka. As far as she knows only she escaped by fleeing to America where she met Vinnie. Unsure whether she can truly love someone again, Mia, obsessed with her family probably dead in the death camp, leaves Vinnie for Paris as an undercover operative helping the allies by becoming a dominatrix servicing Nazi customers. Now Vinnie is coming to see his true love.

The description of life in Poland in the late 1930s and early 1940s is incredibly detailed, vivid and harrowing as readers will wonder how people can do this to other people in the name of God and Hitler. Just having Chopin replaced by Wagner symbolizes how much the Nazis cleansed impure races especially the Jews. The small segue in New York is also deep as the impact of the horrors on Mia's soul overwhelm her love of music and of Vinnie. Though the Paris take turns too raunchy, historical readers will appreciate this powerful reminder that any form of human cleansing is an abomination. Note this is a reprint of SONGBIRD.

Death By Pantyhose
Laura Levine
0758207859 $22.00

Freelance writer Jaine Austen is going through a dry spell and desperately needs a job. When stand up comic Dorcas in answer to Jaine's ad in the newspaper calls her up to see if she would write material for her, the near bankrupt author reluctantly agrees. The comic's trade signature is that she throws pantyhose into the audience at the end of her show.

At their first meeting Jaine sees Vic, a comic who is really funny, heckling Dorcas from his seat at the deli where they all meet. He doesn't ease his harassment when Jaine goes to the Laff Palace to see Dorcas perform. Dorcas bombs but Vic is really funny thanks to his writer Hank. At the end of his act, Vic announces that he signed a network pilot deal with his new agent Reagan Dixon who he intends to marry. In that moment, there are three people who are furious with him including his agent who was with him from the very beginning, the woman he lives with, and the female he is having an affair with. Dorcas goes berserk and starts strangling him. She stops before she kills him but the next day Jaine sees in the news paper that Dorcas was arrested for killing Vic with a pair of her pantyhose and the police caught her standing over to body. Jaine doesn't believe Dorcas is the killer so she investigates starting with the three suspects who had reason to hate the victim.

Laura Levine pens a humorous amateur sleuth mystery that is enjoyable and entertaining, the perfect beach read. The heroine endears herself to her audience with her conversations with her cat Prozac, her e-mails from her parents and her asides to the readers. Though her reasons for sleuthing seems like ripped nylons, this fast paced tale with colorful and eccentric characters, including the heroine and an abundance of suspects with viable motives come together to make DEATH BY PANTY HOSE a wonderful reading experience.

Satisfaction Guaranteed
Lucy Monroe
Kensington Brava
0758211783 $14.00

Ethan Crane is the best operative the ultra top secret The Goddard Project has. When the going gets tough and the tough retreat, Ethan gets the job done. That is why desk jock Beth Whitney, daughter of the agency chief, avoids him like the plague though she is attracted to the hunk. She had one relationship too many with a macho agent Alan Hyatt, who is now working in the same office as her.

However, the Prescott case needs a female to supplement Ethan's cover and Beth is selected. As she tries to keep their relationship platonically professional, he wants her. His kisses melt her, but it is the phone sex that makes her crave him. As they bond while on assignment, Beth begins to reconsider her rule not to date field agents as Ethan owns her soul but she also remembers Alan stood her up at the alter for a case; unbeknownst to Beth, she owns his heart and other body parts too.

This is a fun espionage romance starring a fascinating female who trusts her life with field agent Ethan, but not her heart as she believes that to operatives the mission always comes first. Ethan is a wonderful hero as he has the image especially with the ladies of James Bond so he knows his toughest case is to persuade Beth he needs her (his bulging pants apparently is circumstantial and not hard core evidence to her). Though similar in tone to the miniseries READY, WILLING, AND ABLE Lucy Monroe provides a tense romantic suspense.

The Object of Love
Sharon Cullars
Kensington Brava
0758213719 $14.00

Calvin Burnham dies in a car crash, but his transgressions when he lived fill him with guilt and thus he is unable to cross over. Adding to his feelings of failure and keeping anchored in a self made purgatory is watching his mother Lacey mourn his death.

Also grieving Calvin's sudden demise is his former best friend Sean Logan. Lacey allows Sean to stay with her for now as she used to when he and Calvin were teenage buddies. However, that innocent arrangement takes a spin as desire and love grow between them although Sean feels guilty for hiding a nasty truth about him from her. Outraged that his friend and his mother are falling in love and filled with jealous resentment including the fact they live, Calvin vows to stop this "unnatural" at least in mind pairing by destroying Sean.

This is a terrific paranormal romantic suspense thriller starring three strong characters in a weird triangle relationship. The story line is fast-paced right out of the chute and never slows down as Sean's past comes back to haunt him and his beloved. Ghost romance readers will gain immense pleasure from Sharon Cullers' strong tale.

Straits of Fortune
Anthony Gagliano
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0060878096 $23.95 1-800-242-7737

He left the Big Apple as a loser when he disgraced the blue inform he wore. Now former New York cop Jack Vaughn lives in Miami where he earns a living as a personal trainer.

Pellucid Labs Colonel (Retired) Andrew Patterson used to be Jack's client before his daughter Vivian dumped his exercise trainer for pornographer Randy Matson. Andrew wants to hire Jack to perform a special service. In exchange for $100K, Jack is to sink a yacht moored just beyond the former military officer's posh beach house. Inside the boat is the dead Randy. Jack initially refuses, but he reconsiders as he can use the easy money. However, by accepting the deal, Jack will find himself in trouble from a variety of sources while Jack believes Andrew set him up to take the fall.

This exciting urban noir paints quite a dark gritty Miami through the eyes of a disgraced former cop. The story line is action-packed, but driven by the two male leads as Patterson and Vaughn play a sort of cat and mouse game with one another although the former hired the latter to take care of a problem. Readers who appreciate a gritty crime thriller will want to read Anthony Gagliano's pulse thumping stark story, a one sitting read.

The Department of Lost and Found
Allison Winn Scotch
0061161411 $23.95

Thirty years old senior aid to Senator Dupris of NY, Natalie Miller learns she has breast cancer. Not long after the horrifying diagnosis, her unassuming boyfriend Ned dumps her when she most needs him to comfort her. Worse the workaholic has to take a leave of absence from her high powered job six weeks before the election as the chemotherapy she begins requires plenty of rest with no stress.

In her diary she begins to keep she writes mostly gloom and doom entries as only the Price is Right cheers her up although she admits to herself under other circumstances she would not mind seeing her kindhearted gynecologist Zach; when Nat deeply muses re Zach she knows she would never have met him under any other circumstance. As she struggles with chemotherapy and ultimately a mastectomy, a former lover rock musician Jake returns into her life to help her, but she wants Zach though she fears he will see that as gratitude even if she believes he desires her too. As Nat heals, Sally her friend and a reporter uncovers a monster scandal that will hurt Dupris just when Natalie must decide whether to return to her and politics.

This fascinating character study contains one full blooded protagonist and a bunch of cardboard cutouts whose existence only relates to the lead character. When the insightful story line focuses on Natalie's bout with cancer the plot cuts deep into her heart and soul so that the audience understands her fears of dying young and her feelings that she accomplished nothing so far in her life (reminiscent of Margaret Edson's classic WIT). When she looks back (impassive diary form) to the loves of her life, she realizes the common theme of why they always ended was due to her ambition superseding her love. Fans of powerful poignant drama (except for the "required" ending) will enjoy this often humorous discerning look at a cancer survivor.

When Day Breaks
Mary Jane Clark
0061286079 $24.95

Constance Young, the hostess of Key to America, is leaving for a better position at a rival network and almost everyone is glad to see her go. She has alienated everyone at work with her demands and petulant behavior and is worse to those in her personal life. Her sister resents her as the multimillionaire Constance refuses to help pay for the care of their mother rationalizing that mom lives in Faith's house instead of a nursing home. Her lover millionaire Stuart Whitaker stole an artifact from the Cloisters museum for her and when he asks for it back she refuses to give it to him.

When she arrives at her Westchester home, Constance goes swimming not realizing someone rigged her pool to electrocute her when a toaster is thrown into the water. The killer perfected this technique by practicing on a dog gotten from the pound. An arrest is made when the artifact which she was wearing on the day of the murder is found in her assistant Boyd's coat pocket; planted there by the clever killer. The man who gave the dog that was electrocuted to the killer is also murdered as is Constance's housekeeper who saw the killer. Eliza Blake, the anchor of Key's headline news, investigates the story and finds she is next on the murder's row.

Even though the victim comes across as a person with many enemies who had reasons to want her dead, the author makes it clear that nobody has the right to be judge, jury and executioner. She gets that point across through the actions and verbal asides of her characters. Mary Jane Clark provides an excellent gripping mystery that leaves readers wondering throughout who killed the odious Constance as suspects are everywhere.

Envious Moon
Thomas Christopher Greene
0061153877 $24.95

In Galilee, Rhode Island, seventeen-year-old Anthony Lopes lives with his widowed mother. He plans to work at sea like his deceased father, a fisherman, did. However, he and his best friend Victor decide to break into the affluent home of a recently deceased woman where they will rob anything of value.

However, during the theft, Anthony notices a shadow of a female at the top of nearby steps. He feels frozen in place, as all he can manage is staring at the female shadow. Meanwhile her father jumps Anthony. In the scuffle, the older man falls down the steps to his death. Anthony is stunned as he never meant to harm anyone. Filled with guilt, he desperately needs the female silhouette to pardon his sin. He stalks this Hannah Forbes with his obsession for her to give him total absolution so that he can then declare his love for her. However, he maneuvers meeting Hannah and they share deep feelings although he hides what he caused from her until the police arrest him for murdering her father.

ENVIOUS MOON is a deep character driven suspense thriller that focuses on the destructiveness of obsessions. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plausible twists including a stunner at the end. Anthony is a fascinating intelligent individual who believes his love for the silhouette can overcome anything. Readers will appreciate Thomas Christopher Greene's taut tale as the lead protagonist goes about proving his basic assertion regardless of the cost to others.

A Poisoned Season
Tasha Alexander
0061174149 $23.95

Widow Lady Emily Ashton comes to London to enjoy the social season. However, as always amidst the Ton, rumors abound as almost everyone enjoys titillating scandal as long as it is not their own. This season the gossipers focus on rude Charles Berry, who insists he is related to the late French King and Queen Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette and should be sitting on the French throne. In fact his often boorish behavior supports his contention that he has royal blood.

At about the same time that haughty Berry is looking down at the English aristocracy, someone breaks into several of the homes of the wealthy and pseudo-wealthy; the thief steals only items once owned by Marie-Antoinette; in fact leaving behind much more valuable items than those purloined. A bit on the eccentric side, Lady Ashton is curious about the thefts but goes into overdrive when she begins receiving Greek love poems and a valuable pink diamond owned by Marie-Antoinette, but not from her lover Colin Hargreave, who wistfully tells her he wished he gave them to her, but alas did not. Wanting to know who her suitor is she begins to investigate only her inquiry changes when friend David Francis is poisoned to death allegedly by the thief.

This is a delightful Victorian amateur sleuth tale with a nice touch of romance adding depth to the blend. Emily is a delightful eccentric, but it is Berry who steals the show with his mysterious airs that will keep the audience wondering if he is a con artist, a thief, or the real thing. Tasha Alexander's strong investigative tale has a solid deep late nineteenth century anchor so that fans of historical fiction and whodunits will want to traverse London with Lady Emily Ashton (also see AND ONLY TO DECEIVE).

The Lisbon Crossing
Tom Gabbay
0061188433 $24.95

By June of 1940 France has fallen to the Nazi blitzkrieg, which makes much of the continent unsafe as people flee the German war machine. Former Berlin resident turned Hollywood superstar actress Lili Sterne asks stuntman Jack Teller to accompany her on a voyage to Lisbon as she feels he might keep her safe, but more important to her he might be able to learn the whereabouts of her missing childhood friend Eva Lange, who she fears is in trouble with the Nazis; Eva was last reported seen on the Iberian Peninsular. He agrees to this act of kindness as he eludes the hit man hired by studio chief Charlie Wexler for making love with the man's wife.

Lili previously hired private investigator Eddie Grimes, who was making steady progress in brining the two friends together, but he suddenly died in what Lili believes is a murder. Jack quickly concludes that Grimes was shot before he and his car was dumped into the Atlantic; however, he also speculates that a missing military officer thought to have gone AWOL, was shot and placed in Grimes' car. The link between the two homicides besides the vehicle watery grave is Eva seen with both just before they died. As he digs deeper, Jack begins to believe that Eva is a card carrying Nazi working a plot involving the abdicated Duke of Windsor that will hand England over to Hitler.

The second Teller historical thriller (see THE BERLIN CONSPIRACY which occurs in 1963) is an exhilarating action-packed WWII tale that pumps up the adrenaline to stratospheric levels from start to finish. Teller assumes his mission is a simple missing person's case, but soon finds himself saving England from Nazi sympathetic conspirators while also dodging a killer. Though the nonstop action fails to bring out a sense of place as Portugal during WWII just is never developed, fans of action to the nth degree will enjoy Tom Gabbay thrilling tale.

The Color Of Blood
Declan Hughes
0060825499 $24.95

After spending twenty years in Los Angeles, private investigator Ed Loy returned to his hometown of Dublin to bury his mother (see THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD). He has stayed in the Irish capital although he finds it quite different from the seedy neighborhood he grew up in as the city has given way to an affluent gentrification.

Dentist Shane Howard of the highly regarded medical family hires Ed to find his missing teenage daughter, Emily. The only apparent clues are a series of photos starring Emily in various sexual positions that to the sleuth are not poses.

Ed barely blinks as he quickly locates the nineteen years old runaway. She is enjoying a tryst with her cousin. However, the case takes a bizarre lethal spin as someone bludgeons to death Emily's mother and her former boyfriend. Someone wants to insure the family reputation remains intact even if homicides are the only way to keep scandals interred. Unable to accept that the case is done, Loy investigates who the killer is.

The sequel to THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD is a gritty dark look at the new money that has brought a revival to Dublin through the eyes of a former resident who only recently retuned to the city. The whodunit is cleverly designed to enable Ed to peel back the outer layer of the veneer of the Howards to the rotting core in the center. Though the climax is too simple of a clean sweep, THE COLOR OF BLOOD is a terrific Irish noir.

Love, Lies & a Double Shot of Deception
Lois Winston
Love Spell
0505527197 $6.99

Wealthy West Coast developer Logan Crawford is interested in a project in Philadelphia when he meets widow Emma "Princess of the Hill" Wadsworth in the city of Brotherly Love though he does not have sibling thoughts about her. Whereas she gives him the brush-off in spite of knowing who the handsome billionaire is; he finds he wants to know her.

His strategy is based on his belief that Emma is reticent. As he gets to know her he notices odd seemingly frightened reactions to his gentle teasing and touching. He wonders about her first marriage to Phillip while , which allegedly was perfect. Logan begins to believe her ideal husband was not a paragon as reported, but instead an abusive ogre. Although attracted to the apparently kindhearted Logan, Emma has doubts about seeing him even as someone plots to destroy her.

LOVE, LIES & A DOUBLE SHOT OF DECEPTION is a fun romantic suspense thriller starring a likable hero struggling with making it with a woman who seems to want him yet rejects him. Fans will enjoy observing Logan in action as the revelation hits him that his beloved is not bashful and reserved, but actually frightened and timid as if she was intimidated by her paragon of a late husband. The suspense subplot is cleverly designed to enhance the intelligent relationship between the developer and the socialite as Lois Winston provides an enjoyable tale.

Castle of the Wolf
Sandra Schwab
Love Spell
0505527200 $6.99

With the death of her father and the subsequent overly-garnished funeral arranged by her shrew of an in-law that dishonored his memory, Celia feels she has no choice except to claim her inheritance as living with her brother and his mean-spirited wife is not an option. However, to gain ownership of Castle Wolfenbach in the Great Duchy of Baden, she must meet the legal stipulation that she marry the present master of the castle, Fenris von Wolfenbach.

Believing this won't be difficult, Celia decides to take her chances on the allegedly deformed recluse so she journeys to the Black Forest. However, she finds an angry and acrimonious Napoleonic war veteran, left crippled during the fight. He demands she leave for he fears the sunshine she brings into his dark world as he assumes Celia will be like everyone else and choose his perfect brother. Instead Celia continues to reach out to the heart of the beast as she has fallen in love with Fen although he keeps rejecting her.

CASTLE OF THE WOLF is a fun gothic romance with a delightful supernatural spin to freshen up the story line. Celia is an obstinate heroine refusing to give up on her beloved beast even when his tortured soul makes her wonder if he is also performing evil deeds. Although for the most part Sandra Schwab employs the rudiments of the classic gothic thriller, the gargoyles add enough of a spin so that sub-genre fans will appreciate the tale and root for Celia to find happiness and contentment.

Lifemate Connections: Eryn
Keri Arthur
Imajinn Books
PO Box545,Canon City, Co.81215
1933417234 $14.00

To stop the population boom, world governments limited families to one child, but in several generations of a population decline man outnumbered women ten to one and society changed. Promiscuity was encouraged and places like Lifemate Connections were built to give women a safe place to have sex and meet men who could possibly be mates. This is definitely needed as the population is still in trouble. However, the safe haven of Lifemate Connections is shattered when five women who went there died..

The police are using beagle shifter Eryn James as bait because her blood nose will identify the killer. They buy her admittance to the club where she meets Grey another shifter and the two are immediately attracted to one another. They have mind blowing sex and a connection is formed between them. Even though he is on the police's radar as a possible suspect, she knows he didn't kill those five women just like she knows he is lying to her about something else. Grey wants her to stop but she is determined to find the killer or die trying.

The concept of this story is fantastic; a world where women are in such short supply that they have quality lives. Morality changes dramatically when humanity fears extinction as the need to increase the population comes into play. This is a hot erotic paranormal romance with well defined and believable characters. Keri Arthur writes a marvelous urban fantasy in which the villain is someone nobody could imagine ever existed in a world of otherworldly.

Half Past Hell
Jaye Roycraft
1933417315 $14.00

The humans called it Operation Storm; the vampires dubbed it Hell. It was a war between two different species began by two vampire slayers brothers who found a vampire nest in Chicago and destroyed it. They formed the organization Brothers of the Sun and went on a rampage murdering in cold blood the Sucklings, vampires under a hundred years old. It was a virtual massacre. Eventually a peace was brokered with vampires granted almost the same rights as humans event though they had to register and obey human laws. Sucklings either drink synthetic blood or take blood from a willing human.

In ChiNo Wisconsin, Wulf Duvall a master vampire who has lived for three centuries, partners with mortal police officer Kilpatrick who calls the night walkers squids. They are investigating a series of suckling deaths when the ones affected seem to be on fire internally. It turns out that someone wants Hell to start again and has found an ingenious method for making that happen. Duval and Kilpatrick have to stop the head of the plan be it human or vampire before war breaks out all over again.

HALF PAST HELL is a refreshing original, exciting, action packed vampire police procedural that is bloody terrific. Jaye Roycraft has written an innovative fangtastic vampire novel in which vampires are second class citizens and humans are the ones in power. The relationship between the two partners is delightful to watch as it turns from mistrust, with acerbic barbs thrown at each other, to a real partnership. Combining elements from horror, urban fantasy and mystery, HALF PAST HELL is special heavenly read.

Sword Upon Fire
J. A. Ferguson
193341796X $14.00

After reigning for fifty generations, the emperor knows his time has come to pass on to the next life. His only regret is that the One To Follow is not with him so he can transmit his legacy. The sky has stopped moving and neither the moon nor the sun changes position. Aymara Keeper, who runs the village inn, knows time is running out because the food supply is shrinking. When winged creatures attack the village, they take all the children except her son Hakken.

Aymara thinks he may be the One To Follow because he has wings like the emperor had and he dreams true. She plans to take him to the Celestial Palace on the Winged Palace at Nadux to find out if her hunch is correct. Accompanying them are several villagers including Trellor Forge, who loves Aymara. Their trek is difficult as obstacles are everywhere preventing them from reaching their destination.

J. A. Ferguson provides an enthralling epic fantasy starring a strong-willed courageous heroine who readers will like and admire. The relationship between her and Trellor adds a nice touch of romance to the tale. SWORD UPON FIRE is a delightful treat for fans that enjoy a quest fantasy. The characters are interesting including a talking large cat and a yellow blob.

David Anthony Durham
Doubleday & Company
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0385506066 $26.95 1-800-726-0600

The Acacian Empire conquered the "Known World" by brute force. The losers were enslaved and exiled. However, of all the people subjugated to the tyrannical rule the Mein, 22 generations after being vanquished never forgot and still loathe their conquerors.

Hanish Mein begins his plot to not just overcome the Acacians, but to subject the proud empire under his rule as he believes King Leodan is weak for wanting to bring reform to Acacia especially wanting to end the selling of children into slavery and eventually all slavery. Hanish begins his revolt with assassination followed by his brutal army using biological weapons of mass destruction while invading Acacia and winning.

Having feared his king will end the drugging of the oppressed practice which he believes will lead to rebellion and ultimately the end of the empire, Leodan's treasonous chancellor Thaddeus Clegg knows his error did what he hoped to avoid. Now he helps the monarch's four children escape. However, to his chagrin and everlasting regret, Thaddeus realizes the Mein regime is more oppressive than that of Leodan especially towards the Acacians. Trying to make up for what he helped cause, Thaddeus turns to the four offspring; the former heir to the throne Aliver, the elder daughter Corinn, the youngest female sister Mena, and the other brother Dariel in hope they will unite to free Acacia.

This is terrific epic which contains a touch of fantasy, but reads more like an alternate historical thriller. Readers will believe that the Acacia Empire once existed and was overthrown by duplicity and biological warfare led by one of the oppressed people. The story line is action-packed and key players seem genuine, but the reason the audience will want to visit David Anthony Durham's world is Acacia and to a lesser degree its neighbors like Mein as these realms are so vividly described inside a superb political military thriller.

Only the Cat Knows
Marian Babson
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312332386 $22.95 1-888-330-8477

Affluent business mogul Everett Oversall lives the Hugh Heffner dream as he surrounded by beautiful females who work for him. However, his idyllic life changes when his gorgeous personal assistant Vanessa takes a nasty fall; she ends up in a coma in what Everett insists was a tragic accident; he vows to cover her medical expenses.

Vanessa's twin brother Vance thinks otherwise as he believes someone tried to kill his sibling. A professional female impersonator, Vance decides to dress up as his sister Vanessa albeit suffering from amnesia so he does not have to know about life inside the Oversall castle. His goal as a she is to uncover who wants his sister dead. To his shock instead of one obvious meanie, he finds a houseful of nasty felines with motives to kill anyone in the way of their ambitious plans; Vanessa in her job was clearly in the way of someone. Vance trusts no one except Vanessa's cat Gloriana.

This is a fun amateur sleuth tale entirely because of Vance who sort of reminds the audience of Dustin Hoffman's two roles in Tootsie. Vance as Vanessa is the only fully developed character as the rest of the cast is more stereotyped with Everett being the sultan of his harem and his one dimensional females difficult to distinguish between each one of them or whether their respective IQs are greater than their bra size. Still fans who enjoy something different in their mysteries will appreciate Vance's undercover effort impersonating his sister.

Karen Kingsbury
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
0842387471 $13.99 1-800-323-9400

In Bloomington, Indiana, Katy Hart and renowned actor Dayne Matthews are planning their upcoming marriage as she knows she will soon move out of her apartment above the garage on the Flanigan estate overlooking Lake Monroe. They have plenty to do but his biological family the Baxters are their to support him so he believes anything can occur; even keeping the overly zealous paparazzi (an oxymoron) away as he does not want another incident when they caused his near fatal accident (see FOREVER) Katy struggles to balance the nuptials with a possible acting career and the fate of the Christian children's theater that she has fully supported.

Clear Creek HS football coach Jim and his wife Jenny Flanagan are at the hospital praying for Cody Coleman, whom they brought into their home to help the teen, but he has become an alcoholic; he passed out from too much liquor for his body to metabolize. To Jim's dismay, his three team captains Tanner Williams, Jack Spencer, and Todd Carson also like the booze; as does much of the rest of the players. Will everyone learn from this potentially deadly lesson caused by overindulgence and driving under the influence or will it take another tragedy like the third stringer who committed suicide three years ago too late for counseling and intervention?

SUNRISE is a transition novel as the focus begins to spin from the Baxters being the hub to the Flanagans becoming the center. Thus the audience sees Katy and Dayne happily preparing for their wedding while Jim and Jenny cope with teen drinking problems. The story line smoothly switches the spotlight as readers will see first hand the excessiveness of alcohol on the body and the impact of DUI on the lives of more than just the alcoholic. This is a terrific tale as the aptly named book begins a new Hoosier SUNRISE.

Andrea Portes
Unbridled Books
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195, Lakewood, CO 80214
1932961321 $14.95 1-888-732-3822

In Palmyra, Nebraska, thirteen years old Luli McMullen observes the usual "That's Life" scenario that she observes between her parents. She has seen the replay so often she can give a drink by drink description of what will happen next. It always ends with her dad Nicholas and her mom Tammy drunk and arguing over who will take her home with the heroic bartender Ray stepping in and driving her home.

This time something different occurs to her. Instead of taking her directly home, twenty-eight years old Ray kisses her as if she is a beautiful woman before dropping her off. That kiss emboldens Luli who decides her only escape from her parents is to find a sugar daddy in Vegas. Thus she begins hitching her way to Nevada using her newly found sexual prowess as a ticket starting with Eddie "gimp" Kreezer. However it is when Glenda the con artist takes her under her wings that Luli learns to fly amidst a myriad of rootless Americans.

HICK is not an easy novel to read as Luli is forced to grow up to soon. Her understanding that her only ticket to exit her purgatorial version of the movie Groundhog's Day is her body; this gloomy thought of a thirteen years old ready to use sex to make it adds to the darkness that engulfs her surroundings. Yet somehow in spite of her background, she has a deep belief in herself that she will make it even if that means being promiscuous to do so. Not for everyone, readers will appreciate this coming of age saga amidst the American nomadic populace.

Devils in the Sugar Shop
Timothy Schaffert
Unbridled Books
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195, Lakewood, CO 80214
193296133X $14.95 1-888-732-3822

In Omaha's Old Market, Ashley Allyson teaches an erotic writing workshop while her husband Troy edits an alternative weekly newspaper The Omaha Street. Ashley believes her relationship with Troy is one of trust and bliss as they raise their teenage son Lee. However she is ignorant of the fact that he is having an affair with one of her students, twentyish Peach, who manages along with her twin the bookstore, Mermaids Singing. Her sister Plum is attracted to l photographer Tucker the dwarf. Ashley's friend Deedee Millwood runs the Sweet Shop where she sells sexy items and provides sexual advice to her customers. Her teenage daughter Naomi is attracted to Lee although he is gay. Finally someone stalks African-American artist Vivian Dailey.

Life in the Old Market never changes until email between Peach and Troy is sent to the wrong person. Now all these neighbors will meet as their bohemian lifestyles seem suddenly hypocritical when immoral acts are exposed, yet sex orgies remain the only party in town.

Timothy Schaffert cleverly satires the bohemian lifestyle on the Plains with his deep look at the residents of Old Market. The story line is energetic due to the strong ensemble cast of which each of the prime nine players are fully developed and unique. Though the stalker seems an unnecessary intruder to a fine plot, readers will appreciate the gathering of the artsy DEVILS IN THE SUGAR SHOP.

The Immaculate Complexion
Edie Bloom
0843958561 $6.99

LeVigne Cosmetics employee Marnie Mann is sick of the advice that her peers and customers provide her. She does not want laser treatment to remove her freckles that she swears she always had; her compatriots insist they are ugly age spots that need removal nor for that matter any Botox injections anywhere else. She uses just a touch of make-up to the chagrin of her constant critics. However, the worst to her working compatriots is her shoes that are practical and comfortable instead of glamorous and painful. Outside of repair job suggestions, Marnie likes working the high end beauty treatment.

She especially looks forward to the launch of a product. That turns ugly when someone tampered with the samples that Marnie has distributed. When a user dies from the tainted make-up, the police look towards Marnie, who was the only known person with access to the products. Marnie realizes she must clean up this mess in which the pedigree pedicure princesses accuse her.

THE IMMACULATE COMPLEXION is an amusing satire that ridicules the American obsession with youthful looks at all cost. Marnie being such an outsider enables Edie Bloom to cleverly compare the in-crowd to her as the war over eating sets the table for this wonderful parody; Marnie wants to participate when she dines while her LaVigne associates consider food as part of a still life painting. The homicide adds suspense to the mix and a caution of buy only sealed as the plot shows how easy it is to tamper with cosmetic products, but also takes away from the prime lampooning of a fish out of water learning the puke makes up the products we put on ourselves to look forever young.

Gates of Hades
Gregg Loomis
0843958944 $7.99

When Jason Peters' beloved wife died in the pentagon on 9/11, the Delta Force operative swore vengeance on all terrorists. He left the service to work for Narcom, an independent firm whose main client is the U.S. government. Narcom gives the government plausible deniability in a mission impossible scenario. His latest assignment is to kidnap arms dealer Aziz Saud Alazar and turn him over to the U.S. Navy who will rendition him to a country where torture is part of the interrogation process.

The target dies but Jason gets his computer and hands it over to the CIA. A month later he is called to Washington to meet his boss in person but before he leaves his caribean island, thugs come to kill him; he survives but his house is blown up. In Washington he learns that information taken from Aziz's machine indicates he sold a new kind of weapon to Ecco, called the Breath of Earth run by environment fanatic and criminal Boris Eglov, who lost his family in the Chernobyl meltdown. With the help of volcanologist Dr. Maria Bergenghetti, Jason travels all over Italy to find out what the bio weapon is and what the terrorists plan to do with it and falling in love with his reluctant companion while dodging enemy agents and the Italian authorities.

Readers who love to ride a roller coaster work of suspense will thoroughly enjoy GATES OF HADES. Borrowing elements from an action adrenaline thriller, history and archeology, Gregg Loomis creates a work that is so exciting and filled with enough twists and turns to keep the reader off balance and totally immersed in the upbeat plot. Unlike most thriller writers, Mr. Loomis fully develops his characters so that readers feel connected to them and want to know what happens to them.

The Brat
Lynsay Sands
0843955015 $6.99

By 1351, everyone from the help to the closest advisors and family members of Edward III know that wealthy heiress Lady Murie is the most spoiled brat in the monarchy. Thus when Lord Gaynor decides he needs a rich spouse, he considers Murie, but his best friends plead with Sir Balan to reconsider.

King Edward spoils his goddaughter further when he allows her to select her husband. She chooses Sir Balan because she knows he is a kind and caring person. They marry immediately under the banner of a royal blessing. Murie plans to prove there is more substance to her than being the notorious brat. She knows his people suffered severely from the plague so she insures that everyone receives sustenance. Murie proves her worth and her love when she risks her life to prevent a killer from assassinating her beloved spouse.

This is an amusing medieval romance with a late suspense that seems apropos with the changing personalities and relationship between the lead couple. The story line focuses on the Brat trying to demonstrate to her new husband that there is much more substance to her than just being a spoiled royal ward. Lynsay Sands is in top form with this humorous fourteenth century taming of the shrew's husband.

Lord of the Nile
Constance O'Banyon
0843958219 $6.99

In 47 BC having suffered severe injuries at the Pharsalus Battlefield in Greece, General Tausret knows he is finally going home to Egypt where he is known as Lord Ramtat. Meanwhile in Egypt, a dying Lord Mycerinus informs his beloved daughter Lady Danae that he is not her biological father although he loves her as if she was his blood. He also warns her that he no longer will be able to protect her from his heir her cousin Harique, who will want her as his personal slave to abuse.

Saying goodbye to her father, she flees by sea to obtain the protection of the Egyptian king, but a Roman soldier Ramtat boards her vessel. When the king fails her, she flees again, but this time a sheik captures her. Ramtat feels enslaved by his "prisoner" as all he wants to is kiss her senseless. However, he first must uncover the insidious thugs planning to assassinate Queen Cleopatra who are planning to frame his beloved Danae.

This terrific Ancient Egypt romantic suspense tale will please sub-genre fans as the Cleopatra era comes alive with factoids and tidbits interwoven into the fine historical intrigue. Ramtat is the more interesting character as he comes home from war a hard cold veteran who understands by participating in the horrors of battle as an officer sending young men to die. He transforms into a warm person due to his love for and by Danae. Readers who appreciate a realistic lead protagonist will want to read Constance O'Banyon's insightful exciting first century BC thriller.

Megan Hart
0373605153 $13.95

Every month over the past year, psychologist Sadie Danning and mediator Joe Wilder meet for lunch on a public bench where he tells her his latest sexual escapades. Sadie misses what Joe has as her spouse Adam, whom she met in college, has since become a quadriplegic due to an accident. Adam hides his feelings from Sadie. Although he teaches online literature classes at Penn State, he stopped writing poetry. However she remains faithful to him physically, but in her dreams she is Joe's flavor of the month. Thus she lives precariously fantasizing that she is the star of Joe's tales of sexual conquest. This month she is Mary of quite contrary fame.

She does not need to be a shrink to know she craves the real thing as memories of her love life with her husband and hearing Joe's encounters only help so far. She also realizes how attracted she is to Joe, but hides even from herself how deep inside her heart he truly is. Fantasy and reality suddenly merge as desire supersedes all else between Sadie and Joe, but what happens afterward if they succumb to the heated spice they both covet.

This is a deep character study that takes the readers inside the heads of the lead triangle. Fans will ironically know more of what Sadie and Adam feel than each does of the other as both hides their concerns and fears. The audience also learns why Joe has different women each month as the female he loves is a martyr out of reach though he shares his exploits with her every month. Megan Hart provides a powerful contemporary tale that although the climax is too convenient, fans will feel immense empathy with the trio.

Kingdom's Reign
Chuck Black
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
1590526821 $8.99 1-800-929-0910

The Knights of the Prince have spread his ways all across the realm. Now it is time for the believers to be taken to the Kingdom Across the Sea where the King lives while the rest of the world of unbelievers undergoes many tribulations. When the boats land in their new home the Knights of the Prince are admitted to a beautiful new world where peace and harmony reign. Some years later, the ruler of Chessington prepares to make a last stand against Lucius and his Shadow Warriors.

It is time for the Prince and his Knights to return and fight the Dark Lord.. Their victory sends Lucius and his Shadow Warrior to the Wasteland prison and the Knights sets about to create a government where the Prince is the ruler. The new world is a place of peace and prosperity until all is threatened when Lucius and his minions escape their prison and go to war against the Prince.

Readers will get a glimpse of what paradise might look like in KINGDOM'S REIGN. There is a lot of action in this novel told from the perspective of Cedric, a warrior in the Knights of the Prince who becomes a politician when the Prince wins the first battle against Lucius. Based on biblical prophecies couched in a fantasy like setting, readers will find themselves absorbed with this enthralling allegory.

Island Inferno
Chuck Holton
1590525035 $12.99

In Panama City, Panama, twenty –three years old graduate student Fernanda Gracioli Viera joins three other students (Zack, Carlos and Hedi) on an expedition led by renowned Professor Alex Quintero to remote former prison Isle Coiba. The professor seeks undiscovered moths and butterflies in a rare pristine natural habitant hardly touched by humans with the long term hope of discovering a cure for a disease like AIDS.

At the same time as the professor and the students sans Hedi who became ill and left behind head to the isle, pirates led by Chombon attack a cargo ship carrying mostly lumber but also a dangerous liquid explosive ITEB. CIA Agent Mary "Phoenix" Walker and the military's Task Force Valor unit arrive in Panama seeking the ITEB before it gets into the hands of terrorists. Chombon and his thugs come to Isle Coiba where they capture the two male students. Not long afterward, the Task Force Valor soldiers parachute onto Coiba seeking the ITEB; staff sergeant Euripedes "Rip" Rubio actually lands on Fernanda. The Americans must be careful because their adversaries have the explosives to destroy the island; yet hope to rescue Zack and Carlos while recovering the ITEB. At the same time Rip and Fernanda are attracted to one another, but first the mission than a date.

The second Task Force Valor inspirational thriller (see ALLAH'S FIRE) is an exciting action-packed tale once the team reaches Panama. The opening chapters especially in the States introduce the Task Force Valor team members especially Rip, whose thirteen year old sister Gabi in L.A. hangs with gangs, but also delays the prime action that occurs on Coiba. The inspirational segues are for most part apropos to the plot as "there are no atheists in fox holes". Sub-genre readers will enjoy the escapades of the team as they struggle with pirates, a hermit, a beleaguered research team, and mostly a bureaucrat to prevent ITEB from reaching terrorists.

Kingdom's Call
Chuck Black
159052750X $8.99

In the kingdom Arrethtrae in the city of Chessington, the Noble Knights are tasked with protecting every citizen in its borders because they are the King's chosen people and Kifus is the leader but Gavin is the most reverently devoted to the King. One day a stranger stops Kifus from cutting off the hand of a child who stole. He then defeated Kifus in a sword fight which angered Kifus and Gavin who watched as the imposter proclaims he is the Son of the King. The people are intrigued by him and some become his followers.

The Noble Knights feel threatened and has the imposter hung from a tree but that didn't stop his followers from believing in him or spreading his Word. Gavin, now known as the Butcher of Chessington, kills as many of the imposter's followers as he can find. One day in the woods he is attacked by Lord Lucius' shadow lords and left to die. The followers who now call the imposter the Prince take Gavin to heal. His feelings about the Noble Knights begin to change and he is both fearful and excited when he learns that the prince has an interest in him.

Gavin lived by the harsh Code and he believes he is better than the ordinary citizen and the out-dwellers. His hatred towards the Prince makes the people call him the "Butcher of Chessington" yet when he sees how the followers of the Prince are given to their enemies he begins to doubt his own beliefs. He undergoes a crisis of faith that changes him forever. Chuck Black has written a fantastic fantasy that uses biblical prophecies as the basis of his tense plot.

Kingdom's Quest
Chuck Black
1590527496 $8.99

Sir Gavin now called Sir Gavinaugh belongs heart and soul to the Son of the King. The Prince wants him to travel the world to tell those he meets about the Son of the King. Gavinaugh goes to a land where the leader is held hostage to the Shadow Warriors and the Knight defeats them winning more soldiers for the Knights of the Prince. As a non-believer he let a peasant be taken by the shadow Warriors to be sold as a slave but in a country that earns it's wealth from the slave trade he meets that young girl and frees her.

She follows him as he tells peasants, lords and rulers about the prince and in the realm of Thercia he fights in a tournament and with the Prince's help becomes the champion. He preaches to the people of the prince's love and how he wants their love because he wants them all to come into the King's Kingdom. Keanna, the slave girl he now loves is once again caught by the Shadow Warriors and Gavinaugh rides to free her risking his life.

This is a quest fantasy of a man who unknowingly served the Dark Lord until he understood his evil and the goodness of the Prince. Gavinaugh's accomplishments in the Prince's name and the fervor he brings to his mission will draw the reader into the storyline. Chick Black is a fantastic storyteller who knows how to get his message across in an exhilarating tale without preaching.

The Alpine Scandal
Mary Daheim
Ballantine Trade Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345468163 $23.95 1-800-726-0600

In Alpine, Washington, former ad manager Ed Bronsky demands that The Alpine Advocate owner editor Emma Lord rehire him in the job he quit because his family needs the money after several bad investments. Emma says no as Ed's replacement, though cursed with being a Californian, is doing a great job. Ed's visit turns out to be the positive moment of the day for Emma.

In today's mail is an obit announcing the death on 6 Jan of Alpiner Elmer Nystrom; the envelope is dated 4 Jan. Emma and her House & Home editor Vida Runkel assume this is a bad joke or a stupid error, but rush off to Elmer's home. In his barn the popular Alpiner is found murdered. Unable to resist especially with Sheriff Dodge in the hospital, Emma and Vida investigate the homicide starting with Elmer's wife Polly and son especially the latter as Carter, an orthodontist just returned to town to set up his practice. The two female amateur sleuth journalists follow clues all over the foothills of the Cascades from Elmer's henhouse eggs to braces to Elvis to bad investments.

Lighthearted fun, the latest Alpine whodunit stars the two female detectives back on a murder case. The murder mystery is cleverly devised so that impressions about the victim change over the course of the inquiries. However, as always in this fine long running series, it is the weekly newspaper cast who bring wit, intelligence, and eccentricity to the plot which turns this tale (and its predecessors) into delightful cozies.

Damsel Under Stress
Shanna Swendson
0345492927 $12.95

This is the magical moment that mundane Katie Chandler has been waiting for; wizard Owen Palmer not only likes her, he has under the mistletoe at the Magic, Spells and Illusions Inc. annual Christmas gala mistletoe. Any nanosecond she expects sparks to ignite as she anticipates her charming "prince" kissing her. However, like a monster ogre or a traitorous fairy Katie's fairy godmother Ethelinda decides to visit her after an extended absence; as always she gets in the way.

Katie learns that Ari the fairy traitor escaped incarceration and along with another fired MSI employee Idris the evil duo plot to take over the world by exposing their former company's secrets to the paparazzi. Katie and Owen team up to stop the enemy from succeeding while Ethelinda proves the importance of media spin as the reputation for fairy godmothers being the leaders of matchmaking proves au contraire in the real world.

The latest amusing save the world (that is the Swendson orb) Katie Chandler adventure is a fun chick lit fantasy. Katie is a humorous charmer as her asides will have readers laughing with her frustrations re Owen wondering why there is no time to lock lips while saving the world and her wonderment about PR able to make a seven course gourmet dinner out of chicken sh*t as Ethelinda is a handicap not an enhancer when it comes to matchmaking. Readers will enjoy the latest ENCHANTED, INC tale starring a heroine fighting evil while wearing ONCE UPON STILETTOS.

Brian W. Aldiss
Del Rey
c/o Ballantine Books
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036

034549671X $21.95 1-800-726-0600

In the not too distant future, the civil rights of a person are suspended if they are suspected of being a terrorist or have anything to do with them. Paul, a Muslim who is a second generation British citizen who has been arrested by HARM (Hostile Activities Research Ministry) and is addressed as Prisoner B. He was incarcerated for writing a book satirical in nature and in it there was a page about the prime minister getting assassinated. He is tortured, not allowed to make a phone call, not have a lawyer, and contact with the outside world is forbidden.

To escape the pain and fear, he crosses in his mind a planet called Stygia. His hallucination is very intricately detailed; an example being that the colonists have had their DNA and brain functions inserted in life process reservoirs and they are back put together on the desert planet. His illusion is better than his present reality as he swings between both worlds between of torture. Afraid he will never leave his prison, Paul falls deeper and deeper in his mind constructed delusion.

Readers of Fahrenheit 411, 1984 and A Brave New World will find HARM just as thought provoking and emotionally disturbing because it touches a nerve that people will rather ignore at a time when rendition is okay and habeas corpus is not. Following 9/11 the west has looked at the Muslim community with disdain, fear and hostility although the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists. Brian W. Aldiss writes a stunning indictment against President Bush's "war on terror" and the extremes to which he has taken it including abolishing some of the freedoms we have taken for granted.

Death's Head
David Gunn
Del Rey
0345498275 $24.95

On a remote dangerous desert planet, the brass whips Sergeant Sven Tveskoeg within an inch of his life before booting him out of the military for insubordination. As he struggles with his critical wounds, he finds he can telepathically communicate with the strange sentient native life form the ferox. This skill saves his life when the ferocious ferox attack the military encampment leaving no one else alive except the 98.2 % human.

As Sven recovers, the Emperor OctoV orders Death's Head General Jaxx to locate him and test his loyalty to the empire, his ability to follow orders and his will to live. If Sven fails the exam, OctoV explains Jaxx will pay the consequences. When Jaxx finds Sven he also learns he deserted so he incarcerates him on the frozen prison planet Paradise. Sven shows leadership skills when he leads a successful revolt against the guards. Jaxx enlists Sven in Death's Head and sends him in charge of a squad facing suicide as they battler the emperor's enemy, the Enlightened, former humans changed into invincible cyborgs.

This is a lighthearted mocking of the military science fiction in outer space sub-genre where greater than life superheroes save the day against unbelievable odds. Ironically, Jaxx is an antihero whose escapades are over the top of Olympus Mons with lampooning being the prime directive. Readers who take pleasure in intense satirical science fiction will want to join Jaxx on his misadventures in the Gunn galaxy.

Love Kills
Edna Buchanan
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
0743294769 $25.00 1-800-223-2336

Miami reporter Britt Montero is on a Caribbean island with no thoughts of ever coming back when her best friend Lottie a photographer at the same paper shows up. Lottie convinces her to go back to work so she doesn't have time to brood over the death of her fiancee. Before they leave they find a disposal camera on the beach with three photos left to be taken. When they get it developed, the pictures are of a couple enjoying their honeymoon

When the coast guard sends a release that a boat went down in the Caribbean, Britt recognizes the photo of the missing couple as the same ones in the pictures she found. The groom Marsh Holt is found alive but his wife is dead, trapped inside when the boat sunk during a sudden squall. Britt feels sorry for the man but her reporter gene goes on red alert when he disappears after the funeral. His wife was insured for a million dollars and further research shows Holt had married several times with each of his new wives dying in accidents on their honeymoon. Britt decides to pursue the case especially when she fears he is getting married again and finds herself in a race to stop the wedding before he takes his wife on a deadly honeymoon.

Edna Buchanan has written a chilling thriller about a serial killer who is under no suspicion from the authorities because he cleverly plans each move he makes. In a twist, Britt ends up in jail for "stalking" him. When readers first meet the antagonist they feel sorry for him for his loss, but when they learn the truth about him, like Brett, they hope this "black widower" is caught and punished. LOVE KILLS is an appropriate title for this dark and deadly story, a trademark of the author's style.

The Lost Diary Of Don Juan
Douglas Abrams
Simon & Schuster
1416532501 $25.00

In Seville, he was named Juan Tenorio, but his mother abandons him near a monastery. Nuns secretly raise and torture the child even as they train him to cherish and worship women. He eventually runs away from the nasty environs to become an outlaw. Eventually he meets the Marquis de la Mota, who teaches him to be a master spy, a master swordsman, and a master lover. He is so adept at the latter; some consider him to be a demon. Hearing word of the legend of lovemaking, the inquisitor general investigates Don, who refuses to wed even at the coaxing of his mentor as a means of saving his life. That is until he encounters the fiery warrior woman Dona Ana.

Using the device of finding Don Juan's diary to tell his story works brilliantly in Douglas Abrams' superior historical fictional memoir of the renowned lover from his perspective. By writing the saga through the journal, Don Juan becomes more than a one head joke as the audience sees a full blooded person with wants and desires that are not only in the boudoir. Interestingly when Don Juan describes a conquest (and not just with women), he waxes poetic like a romance writer. Readers will enjoy this fast-paced account of the world's greatest lover as he plunges into one escapade (and woman) after another.

Jesus Out to Sea
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster
1416548564 $14.00

These eleven tales have been published before, but never together. The collection provides the audience with a deep sense of place as the Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf plays a vivid role in each entry. The themes are similar with the duality of war (man-made like Viet Nam or nature-created like Katrina) and violent atrocities, as combat against a human enemy or Mother Nature brings out the best and worst in humans. The compilation is one of the strongest anthologies of the year so far whether it occurs in "The Village" during the Viet Nam war or in the Gulf during Katrina while "Jesus Was Out to Sea" and the government fiddled. In all cases, James Lee Burke provides deep insight into the psyche of the survivor. These superb short stories are thought provoking and enjoyable.

The Divine Appointment
Jerome Teel
Howard (Simon & Shuster)
1416543384 $13.00

The most liberal Supreme Court justice has died and the president, a right wing pro-life politician, nominates Dunbar Shelton to replace her. He is considered right of the mainstream conservatives and the democrat senate won't let his nomination out of committee. Politics makes for strange bedfellows when the president's chief of staff agrees not to support republican's candidates, thus causing a democratic majority in the next election, with the Senate majority leader.

Stella Hanover, leader of the National Federation for Abortion Rrights, a powerful and heavily funded lobby group, uses every dirty trick in the book and breaks some laws to increase the heat on the leader of the senate, Senator Proctor to withdraw his support of the candidate. In Tennessee, a young lawyer is killed in her apartment and. Tag a skilled physician is arrested for her murder. He is represented by Eli Faulkner and Jill Baker who connect his case to the events happening in Washington. Jill flies to Washington to team up with Holland Fletcher who has part of the story; between the two of them they come up with answers that could get them killed.

Whether one agrees with the president's stand on abortion or not, nobody could doubt the convictions of his feelings on the issue. He stands up to what he believes is morally right which makes the audience admire if not like him. The sad part of THE DIVINE APPOINTMENT IS that the audience will believe the events in this tale could happen. Jerome Teel writes a totally awesome and exciting political thriller that shows how low and dirty politics and its players can get.

Stalin's Ghost
Martin Cruz Smith
Simon & Schuster
0743276728 $26.95

Moscow Police Department Senior Investigator Arkady Renko is horrified by the path that the clues of his current investigation take him as he looks into an apparent murder for the "firm". The evidence stacks up that the killers have employed two former Black Beret Chechnya War heroes turned police detectives, Nikolai Isakov and Marat Urman.

That murderer for hire case is bothersome because of the apparent killers being his peers. However, the second case is more bewildering as Renko investigates accounts by seemingly reputable witnesses who claim they have seen STALIN'S GHOST in the subways. Finally he also inquires into the sudden deaths of Black Berets who served with Isakov. As he works his three cases, Arkady sees the tie between them is Isakov, who is an untouchable as he runs for public office. Still Renko, in spite of threats warning him to back off or join the growing morgue population, seeks proof that will hang even the powerful Isakov.

This is an excellent Russian police procedural that will provide acclaim to Martin Cruz Smith as he excels with this deep look at the forces manipulating contemporary Moscow. The story line is classic sleuthing as Arkady methodically works one clue at a time on his three cases. His efforts serve as the focus keeping the investigations moving forward and coherent. Readers will enjoy his sixth outing as STALIN'S GHOST will be considered one of the sub-genre's top tales of 2007.

The Sleeping Doll
Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster
0743260945 $26.95

California Bureau of Investigation Agent Kathryn Dance leads the investigation into capturing deadly psychopathic prison escapee Daniel "Son of Manson" Pell. Kathryn concentrates on recapturing this cold blooded killer, who with his "family" of runaways murdered the Croytons and two of their children. The only survivor of the massacre is nine-year-old Theresa "the Sleeping Doll".

Pell may be insane, but he proves to be brilliant as he eludes his adversary leading her on a not so merry dance. The CBI Investigator knows she is closing in on her dangerous enemy, but seems always one step too late. Still as she uses her knowledge of kinesics (body language) to ascertain veracity of potential clues from those she interviews especially amidst the "family". She continues her hunt for this madman who she fears is bringing in a new flock into his fold for his next murderous spree.

Having been a support player in the Lincoln Rhyme led THE COLD MOON; Dance proves she can be the star attraction as her approach using kinesis clues that will fascinate the audience. Pell is a good opponent as he and Dance tango in a cat and mouse caper. Fans will appreciate the heroine especially her refreshing and unique investigative methodology and the usual Jeffery Deaver twists and turns as he provides a new hero for his fans to cherish.

Bright of the Sky
Kay Kenyon
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
1591025419 $25.00 1-800-421-0351

During a simple interstellar space trip like the zillion he has done before, pilot Titus Quinn, his wife Johanna Arlis and their nine-year-old daughter Sydney run into trouble in which the trio lands in a different parallel universe, the Entire. Titus returns to the earth he knows, but his two beloved females remain behind in the Entire. Though no one can explain how much he has seemed to have aged, nobody believes his tale filled with memory lapses as everyone assumes his women are dead. Titus vows to return to the Entire to rescue his wife and daughter.

With the help of the not altruistic Corporation, who seeks new space travel technology. They can afford the price of a defrocked pilot and a ship soTitus returns to the Entire on his quest to find and rescue Johanna and Sydney. On this parallel plain, the Tarig, who rule the realm anticipate his heroic efforts though a decade has passed since he crashed here. With the help of Anzi of the Chalin people, Titus begins in earnest his mission starting with an effort to liberate an enslaved Sydney even as he knows he will have to serendipitously infiltrate the Ascendancy where the Tarig power and he believes his family's salvation reside. He remains ignorant for now but soon will know the dilemma of choosing between loved ones and universes that await him. His choices of ten years ago come home to roost.

This is an exhilarating action-packed science fiction thriller that through mostly the actions of the desperate hero enables the audience to believe in the parallel universe that sort of runs through ours. The story line never slows down yet is filled with twists and turns that will shock readers yet seem plausible. Fans of tense sci fi thrillers with moral considerations will appreciate this deep tale of redemption but at a high cost.

Ian McDonald
1591025435 $25.00

In 2006 Brazil, TV "Lady of Production Values" Marcelina Hoffman sets up scenes so her viewers can see genuine reality. She has recently learned that soccer goalie Barbosa, whose failure to block a shot at the 1950 World Cup gave the victory to Uruguay, still lives; her plan is to place this loser on trial for causing one of the bleakest moments in the country's heritage. Instead her reseach investigation leads to some weird unexplained happenings as her doppelganger seems to want her dead.

In 2032, Edson de Freitas runs a talent agency for losers, but earns a better living as a thief in a world where surveillance rules. Edson falls in love with Fia Kishida, an expert on security coding and computational physics in a multiversal continuum. His investigation into his beloved leads to some weird unexplained happenings as a doppelganger of Fia seems to have committed murder.

In 1732 Father Luis Quinn and French scientist Robert Falcon arrive in Brazil on a quest to find Father Diego Goncalves, who has allegedley created an empire in his image of Christianity deep in the flood-forest. Their investigation leads to weird unexplained happenings as a doppelganger of "Our Lady of the Flood Forest" seems to have committed genocide.

BRASYL is not an easy book to read yet worth the time for those in the audience who prefer a complex cerebral science fiction thriller that makes a strong case that quantum physics relativity of reality is a multiplier of a universal computer program. The story line uses Brazilian historical events and elements from the mysery genre to tell three tales of a multiverse in which time is relative to the individual, but within a group becomes collective. Multifaceted and incredibly intricate, as eras are rotated until they converge into "Our Lady of All Worlds", readers will appreciate this discerning look at an alternate way to interpret "I think there for I am".

Veil of Darkness
Greg Park
Bladestar Publishing
1499 North 950 West, Orem, UT 84057
0978793188 $26.95

The demon god Maeon feels the time is right for his annexation of humanity into his devilish realm as the veil between life and death has thinned. The malevolent deity senses that the Earthsoul spirit is diminishing rapidly with no Gifted champion to reverse its deathly trend.

However, Maeon ignores warning signs of the meek shall inherit the earth so his earthly agents the Hand of the Dark initially fails to detect young Jase Farimor living on a farm with his mother near the tiny town of Kindel's Grove. At the same time that the lad begins to believe he is Gifted with Ta'shaen magic, Dreadlord Throy Shadan has crossed the veil with an army of the dead Darklings enhanced by the living Shizu warriors. Jase mentored by mage Gideon Dymas is the last hope to save Earthsoul, but must defeat the invincible Dreadlord as the first impossible cleansing step; however to do so he must use the Blood Orb that could take him to the dark side.

This coming of age opening epic fantasy is a terrific tale that fans will enjoy. The Park universe is filled with a wonderful assortment of interesting characters, dead and living and good and bad. This make for a wild time as Jase must defeat the undefeatable if he is to save his world. Jase is the key to the first act of the Earthsoul Prophecies as he learns to employ magic on the job as time has run out. Readers will enjoy this Tolkien like saga and look forward to the next escapade on an orb still counting down the end.

Hot Desert Nights
Lucy Monroe, Louise Allen, Kim Lawrence
Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373837216 $5.99

"Mistress to a Sheikh" by Lucy Monroe. Jade loves Sheikh Khalil, but concludes he does not share her passion beyond a one night stand. Refusing to give up on love, Jade plans to get her wish anyway she can one hot desert night at a time.

"Desert Rake" by Louise Allen. To the chagrin of her late husband's in-laws, Lady Morvall decides she needs time away so chooses a trip to the Middle East. Her plan to go sightseeing changes when she meets womanizing Andrew Fenton. Both expected a night or two of lovemaking, but soon each dreams of thousands of nights.

"Blackmailed by the Sheikh" by Kim Lawrence. Karim, is the heir to the throne of Zafsid, believes English teacher Prue Smith caused his sister's vanishing act. He decides to kidnap Prue, bring her to his land where he is the law, and force her to reveal where his sibling hides; his choice of torture is kisses every night until she succumbs.

Though somewhat too simplistic, these three tales live up to the title as dominant males meet seductive sultry sirens heating up the already HOT DESERT NIGHTS.

It Takes Two
Joanne Michael
Harlequin SuperRomance
0373714211 $5.50

Research scientist Dr. Abby Miller accompanied only by her dog Figgy Piggy arrives by ferry in Tadoussac, Quebec to study the behavior of beluga whales. She realizes how unwelcome she is when she meets widower boat owner Marc Doucette and his eight years old daughter Sylvie. Initially Marc is very friendly to the visitor as he even interceded on Figgy's behalf on the ferry, but as soon as he learns of her mission he turns nasty. He blames the death of his father from a heart attack on scientists like Abby obtaining a Canadian law protecting the whales by just about preventing fishermen from earning a living here.

Marc admits that Abby and Figgy have been good for Sylvie and Gram as they seem to have gotten the young girl out of her depression and brought a smile to the older woman. He also knows that he is attracted to her although his feelings also make him think he is betraying his late dad. Abby and Figgy know they love father, daughter, and gram, but she believes they have no future together as her research stands in their way.

IT TAKES TWO in an entertaining contemporary romance that contains a strong cast especially the lead couple, his relatives, and Figgy. Fans will enjoy the relationship between Figgy and Sylvie as the canine brings joy into the previously sad life of the child. Although more insight into how Canada deals with the complex conflict between protection of natural habitats vs. economic interests would have enhanced the prime issue keeping the fisherman and the scientist apart, fans will enjoy Joanne Michel's fine Quebec amour tale.

Her Sister's Child
Cynthia Thomason
Harlequin SuperRomance
037371419X $5.50

Ten years ago in North Carolina, student Julia Sommerville fell in love with her handsome professor Cameron Birch, but he never really noticed her beyond the professional relationship and being the younger sister of a woman he was dating. She graduated, moved on and became a reporter. He continued to teach at college.

When her sister Tina commits suicide, Julia is stunned not remotely aware of how despondent her sibling must have been. She takes a leave of absence from her job to go home not only to provide comfort to her shocked family, but especially to help her grieving mom care for her eight years old niece Katie, dumped by Tina's mate Wayne though Julia knows this time he did the right thing by her niece.

During a car accident, Julia saves Cameron's life. This time he finds his heroine as an attractive, caring and courageous woman so different than the puppy love student he once knew. Julia knows she loves her professor still, but also loves her niece; who unbeknownst to him happens to be Cameron's offspring.

Fans of poignant family dramas will want to read HER SISTER'S CHILD as Katie steals the show with her reactions especially stoic towards the pathetic pair Julia's mom and Wayne who are unable to provide any support to her. Julia and Cameron are likable lead protagonists; while her dilemma having to choose between loves adds complexity to a fine contemporary romance.

Safe in His Arms
Kay David
Harlequin SuperRomance
0373714173 $5.50

Houston homicide detective Daniel Bishop is assigned as lead investigator into the shooting death of attorney Kenneth Borden. His prime suspect is the deceased's wife Anise, who was hugging the victim when he was shot especially since the Bordens were divorcing. Upon meeting Anise to interview her, to his shock, Daniel is attracted to the most likely culprit though he tries to hide his desire beyond a facade of professionalism.

Daniel's early inquiries begin to build strong case that Anise killed her husband though his heart wishes otherwise. He knows he should withdraw from the case due to a conflict of interest as his attraction for her grows making it difficult to focus properly; but he also needs to be the one to arrest her if she is the killer. When a second murder occurs, Daniel wonders if he could have fallen in love with a potential serial killer as once again evidence points towards Anise.

This is an exhilarating police procedural romance in which the hero struggles between his personal feelings for the prime suspect and the distinct possibility that she is a serial killer. Although Daniel knows he needs to beg off the case because of a conflict of interest and fears he is using his wrong head, he keeps digging as he is also fixated on being the one to prove she is or is not the killer. The sub-genre audience will appreciate this strong character driven romantic suspense thriller.

Last Night at the Halfmoon
Kate Austin
Harlequin Next
0373881339 $5.50

North of Vancouver on the Sunshine Coast, Aimee King thinks her life is perfect. Her eleven years old son Hayden is a nice adjusted boy. Her parents are terrific always there for her and Hayden. In fact being the sandwich generation is quite nice. Her business is booming and finally, even her ex husband Brad Mackey has been good about supporting her and Hayden though he has always been the wanderer.

However, she is a bit sad by the news that the Halfmoon Drive-In is closing as many of her major events in her life occurred there. Along with her favorite spot shutting down, her son starts to misbehave, her father acts strange as if he is hiding something from her, and now Brad, whom she still loves, says he is coming to the Sunshine Coast to spend the summer allegedly with Hayden. How could a perfect life fall part so quickly she laments because she knows she still loves the three men in her life?

This is a fascinating ingenious character study that uses the Halfmoon Drive-In as a focal point of the highlight films of Aimee's life. The references to movies she seen there that she relates to events is fun to follow (and will have readers do similar analogies) while also reminiscent of Albert Brooks movie "Defending Your Life". LAST NIGHT AT THE HALFMOON is an intelligent well written family drama that will have the audience clamoring for a happy Hollywood ending for the lead protagonist and for her favorite movie spot.

Like Mother, Like Daughter (But in a Good Way)
Jennifer Greene, Nancy Robards and Peggy Webb
Harlequin Next
0373881347 $5.50

"Born in My Heart" by Jennifer Greene. In Michigan Ann is hurt when her adopted teenage daughter Lisa locates and wants to meet her birth mother; she is despondent when Lisa afterward wants to continue to see her birth mom.

"Becoming My Mother, and Other Things I Learned from Jane Austen" by Nancy Robards. Her mom was always a rebel without a cause embarrassing Esmeralda. In turn Esmeralda holds her feelings inside in a sort of reaction formation to her mom's live life to the fullest out in the open. In Paris, mom surprises Esmeralda on her birthday with a plan to loosen her straight-laced daughter up so that can both enjoy the city.

"The Long Distance Mother" by Peggy Webb. Sara's mom suffers from Alzheimer's and needs personal care. Sara, whose mom was never home when she was growing up, begins to learn just who her mother is and was as they share what they did not when she was the child.

This mother-daughter relationship anthology contains one longer novella (Jennifer Greene), a medium size novella (Nancy Robards) and a short novella (Peggy Webb), which impacts the character development. The hurt and betrayal felt by Ann is fully developed from scrambled eggs to a heart pendant while the other two contributions contains well written tales, the females are not as fully developed as Anna and Lisa are. Still fans will enjoy this fine overall salute to Mother's Day.

The Man Tamer
Cindi Myers
Harlequin Blaze
0373793278 $4.75

Rachel Westover is the queen of makeovers as her popular column the Man Tamer in Belinda magazine affirms. She is so confident in her skills she believes she can turn any male loser into a desirable hunk. However, she wants the vacant afternoon TV spot on KTXK, whose owner Denton "Mr. Money" Morrison offers her an opportunity to get her own show; all she has to do is turn upside down Australia, lacrosse star Garret" The Wild Man" Kelly into a caring well dressed man about town.

Rachel begins her campaign to change the athletic slob whom she assumes would be a reject amidst the Kangaroo high society. However, she runs up against a roadblock of major proportions; her hormones explode every time she sees Garret. Adding to her chagrin every step forward is two giant steps backward as he seems to regress with the only carrot to modify his behavior is sharing his bed; the only thing in her mind (and body) better than chocolate strawberries.

THE MAN TAMER is a delightful contemporary romance starring a rugged what you see is what you get hunk and a woman who believes in making them over in the image you want of them. Their gender war is amusing as each time she feels she makes progress; he kisses away that gain until she reconsiders her objective. Readers will enjoy this fun tale.

Double Dare
Tawny Weber
Harlequin Blaze
0373793286 $4.75

Her friends insist that Audra Walker no longer qualifies as a "Wicked Chick" as she has become all work designing lingerie and no play. They dare her to prove she is still one of them. All she has to do is pick up the next hunk to come through the door of the Wild Thing bar. Unable to resist a "do-me" dare, Audra accepts the challenge.

Cyber crime cop Jesse Martinez is the lucky person to enter the bar where he is undercover investigating a hacker. When the beautiful woman tries to seduce him, Jesse wants to comply, but his gut tells him to be careful as he wonders if she is part of the crime he investigates. Instead he decides to learn why she chose him by going under the covers with Audra without sleeping with her.

DOUBLE DARE is a fast-paced police procedural romance starring an ethical undercover cop struggling not to go under cover with the woman he desires as he knows that is wrong. However, Audra trying to regain her Wicked Woman wings has other plans for the hot hunk. Fans will appreciate their interesting relationship as Jesse wonders if the not so innocent Audra is innocent of cyber crimes.

The Texas Ranger
Jan Hudson
Harlequin American
0373751664 $4.99

At a party Cold Case Texas Ranger Sam Bass Outlaw sees Skye Walker for the first time and knows he must meet this blonde beauty. He introduces himself as the brother of Belle, publisher of the Wimberley Star. She says she is the sister of his friend and Belle's beau Gabe Burrell.

Sam is in love, but having time alone with Skye proves futile as she is protected better than the president is starting with Gus the German shepherd. Still he makes efforts to see her, but to his shock he learns why the seemingly overkill protection of Skye. His latest cold case involves her; which leads to doubts on his part. Not doubts that he loves her and believes she reciprocates; doubts about pursuing the investigation as that means Skye must explain her past; something she detests talking about.

This is a terrific police procedural romance as readers will understand Sam's dilemma hesitating between hurting his love and completing his duty. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the cast that makes the tale so much fun to read and not just the lead couple; from his family to hers including no nonsense (or roast beef) Gus interfere and matchmake simultaneously. THE TEXAS RANGER is a delightful contemporary.

Daddy Protector
Jacqueline Diamond
Harlequin American
0373751672 $4.99

Connie Simmons can see that Hale Crandall is a hunk, but also realizes he is just like her former spouse Joel as two best friends who never grew up except when working as both are cops at the Villazon, California Police Department.

However, their cold war relationship abruptly ends when Hale rescues her adopted son six years old Skip from a fire. Connie knows she must forgive his trampling of her flowers and all the other minor misdeeds because he proved a man when it counts. As he heals from his burns, Hale sees an opportunity to connect with the neighbor he loves beyond being the "friendly officer" next door. He hopes the thaw turns to much more except for lingering doubts about becoming an instant father.

The lead characters make for a delightful contemporary romance as their two connections before the fire are her ex-husband and their antagonistic non-neighborly relationship. The change between them is actually Connie reconsidering what is important in life when Hale risks his and suffers hospitalization level injuries to save Skip. Although Hale's doubts about permanency seem inane, fans will appreciate this first cut diamond of a novel as the heroine learns what truly matters.

Speed Bumps
Ken Casper
Harlequin NASCAR
0373217749 $5.99

In the NASCAR Nextel Cup, Gabby O'Farrell has proven competitive although she has not yet won her first race at that level. She has won one time on the NASCAR Busch series, but never at the superbowl level, which is her dream and her socially prominent mother's nightmare.

However, ignoring her mother to compete against the best is one thing even though some think she got the opportunity because her dad, CEO of O'Farrell Industries. However ignoring her feelings for bit boss Vaughn Steiner is much more difficult. She wants him in the worst way and even loves his daughter Stephanie. Unbeknownst to her Vaughn knows how much he cares every time she is on the track as his heart collapses whenever a car is near, which means throughout a race. Winning may prove not enough for this duo to succeed as a couple.

This fun NASCAR romance stars a lead couple who readers will like as they try to remain professional in spite of a deep attraction between them. The racing sequences directly add to the romance as incidents occur on the track that sends Vaughn into male protective mode for the woman he loves. Though her mom and Stephanie's grandmother are nasty characters with no redeeming traits, readers will enjoy Ken Casper's fine spin around the track.

Back on Track
Abby Gaines
Harlequin NASCAR
0373217757 $5.99

The two rivals for the NASCAR championship are Danny Cruise and Trent Matheson with most people picking the latter. However, on a national TV show sports psychologist Kelly Greenwood believes Danny will win the Charlotte race this weekend as Trent is inconstant and just won; his pattern is to lose following a victory because of the off-track distractions.

When her prediction proves true almost to the letter, Trent's brother Chad hires Kelly to help his sibling concentrate better, but leaves it to her to convince her new "patient" he needs help and she can provide it. As they become better acquainted and begin to fall in love, he escorts her to her brother's wedding where he is shocked by her feelings of failure amidst her successful jock relatives. Though he tries to help her esteem, he has his own issues of whether he wants a permanent personal relationship with the shrink.

BACK ON TRACK is more a character study than a NASCAR romance although the racing circuit and the driver play important support roles. Instead the prime story line focuses closely on Kelly's psychological profile. Fans who appreciate a strong look at an individual will want to read this fine contemporary tale; NASCAR romance readers might reconsider as that plays a minor role.

Raintree: Haunted
Linda Winstead Jones
Silhouette Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
037361764X $5.25

The Raintree Clan has magical and psychic powers that they use to help each other and mankind. The Raintree gene is dominant so that when a human marries a Raintree; their children will have magical powers. Sanctuary is their home and they harness the power it contains.

Gideon goes home from time to time but he lives in Delaware where he is a police officer who has almost a hundred percent success in solving cases. The reason he is such a successful police officer is that he talks to the ghosts of the victims and they tell him who killed them. Gideon ordered world flies apart when he acquires a new partner Detective Hope Mallory. They are trying to catch a serial killer named Tabby, a blonde woman who kills with a special knife (a ghost told Gideon this). Gideon doesn't realize Tabby has been ordered to kill him and his cousin Echo before the summer solstice. They fall in love but the pragmatic Hope does not believe in magic while Gideon is afraid of love which means that their relationship is doomed unless they each have a change of heart.

The second Raintree novel is just as magical and enchanting as RAINTREE: INFERNO. The characters are well developed and the work the lovers have to do to avoid getting serious is quite amusing. Tabby is a great antagonist, a woman readers will love to hate. The police procedural aspects of this novel feel realistic and the storyline is fast paced and full of action. Linda Winstead Jones has written a superb paranormal romantic mystery.

Lori Devoti
Silhouette Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373617658 $5.25

Risk is a hellhound, a being who can change from dog to human at will. His kind was used on the Wild Hunt when the gods made them hunt for souls. Although Wild Hunts are no more, there are still some hellhounds left in the world and the witch Lusse uses them. Risk has been her slave for over five hundred years hunting witches so she could drain them of their powers. His latest assignment is to bring him Kara, a powerful witch who doesn't know about her own powers.

He meets her while she is searching for her identical twin sister Kelly who has disappeared. Risk has not given in to the dark side of his nature although his owner has constantly used torture on her slave to make him obey. When he sees Kara, he knows he can't give her to Lusse but he is bound to the witch and when she calls he must come to her. He tells her Kara has a twin. She tasks him with finding and bring them both to her. However, someone has put a bounty on witches and Risk needs Lusse to gain entrance to the portal where the witches are being held. Risk decides to risk his own life to free his beloved Kara and her sister.

Based on Scandinavian legends, UNBOUND is an exciting romantic fantasy. Lori Devoti is terrific at creating characters that readers will empathize with especially Risk, a being in bondage who has to endure all forms of tortures and obey a power hungry malevolent being. The witch is evil personified and more wicked than the "wicked witch of the west"; she insures readers will enjoy hating her. The audience will demand a sequel starring Risk's son.

Back on Blossom Street
Debbie Macomber
Mira Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778324516 $24.95

On Blossom Street in Seattle Lydia Goetz and her sister Margaret own A Good Yarn where they sell knitting paraphernalia and provide class instructions. Renting the apartment above the store is thirty-one years old grieving widow Colette Blake, who has signed up to attend the prayer shawl knitting class and is confused by her desire for her employer Christian Dempsey. Family friend baker Alix Townsend feels overwhelmed by her upcoming out of control marriage to Reverend Jordan Turner because she fears her reprobate DNA is not suited for the life of a pastor's wife. Margaret's daughter is a carjacking victim. Finally, Lydia feels incomplete as a woman as cancer has pretty much wiped out her chance to ever give birth. Over knitting, these friends and family find comfort one stitch at a time.

Fans of the Seattle series will appreciate the latest traumas, tragedies, and joys as the knitting clan come together to help one another overcome adversity and share in rejoicing. The story line is more a series of vignettes as focus rotates between the well developed ensemble cast. Debbie Macomber shows her skill with each key player being unique. Although similar in tone to the previous A GOOD YARN tales and that of the Cedar Cove saga (does anyone bring alive the picturesque northwest better than Ms. Macomber does?), readers will enjoy the ups, downs, and ups of this knitting crew.

Rachel Vincent
0778324214 $6.99

Faythe Sanders is a graduate student attending the University of North Texas when a stray "cat" attacks her. Faythe knows the culprit is a rogue belonging to no pack as she fights back defeating her foe. One moment after her triumph, Marc Ramos comes out of the shadows to tell her that her father, the werewolf Pride Alpha demands she come home to the safety of their family compound as another feline werecat Sara has been abducted. Reluctantly she does.

Back at home, Faythe feels like a prisoner as her father and his second in command Marc make demands on her just like they did five years ago when she fled her home to escape them just prior to her wedding to Marc. However when another female werecat is kidnapped; the Sanders Pride concludes that strays are performing the dastardly deeds, but someone is organizing them although their ultimate purpose is unknown. While Faythe and Marc squabble like two tabby cats in love, she knows that she is no fraidy cat so she plans to cat fight the enemy to get out of family incarceration.

There are too many sidebars take away from a fine romantic fantasy yet they also firm up the werecat elements that lead to the audience believing in the Vincent mythos. Faythe is a chip of the alpha block as she fights strays, other rogues, and her love for Marc. He is her equal in many ways although his jealousy of her human boyfriend at college Andrew is overdone. Fans of werewolf sagas will enjoy this war between the cats.

Jennifer Oko
0778324427 $21.95

New York based morning news TV producer Annabelle Kapner is proud of her recent human-interest story re the beauty industry job creation plan for Middle East female refugees. In fact the piece is so good she receives the rare combo kudos from the suits who manage the station, peers, viewers, and critics though she also receives threats for her expose.

Her personal life is also going great as she likes and may even loves her nice boyfriend, Washington speechwriter Mark Thurber. However, when Annabelle becomes the news by landing her in jail, she reconsiders her opinion of her top story only to conclude she did the right thing the first time and with her foiled follow-up. As she becomes the media and people favorite, Annabelle knows how high up the DC power structure the glossing over a potential nasty scandal is.

Though using humor to lighten the tone, GLOSS is a deep cautionary tale warning readers to beware of the government industrial complex that prefers to ignore or delay regulatory protection of consumers (NPR just provided stunning comparison of OSHA under Bush 43 vs. previous administrations). The story line uses hyperbole to make a point with exaggeration of some characters and the overall plot, but that mechanism adds to the buyer beware. Fans of deep conspiratorial thrillers will want to read Jennifer Oko's strong condemnation of the partnership between politics and big business leading to the outcome of ignoring health issues.

Alex Kava
0778324400 $24.95

In Florida, research scientist Sabrina Galloway feels excited about working for EcoEnergy as the firm converts waste material into oil and bids on a $140 million military contract. However her euphoria about helping the environment ends when her supervisor Dr. Dwight Lansik vanishes. Although concerned she continues her work until she uncovers a "shut down" reactor is processing something that has nothing to do with making fuel out of garbage and could convert Florida and beyond into a wasteland.

Frightened because she fears Dwight was murdered, Sabrina flees with octogenarian Miss Sadie in the latter's car bought just after WW II. Seeking help while the police think she killed Dwight and the real culprit wants her silenced, she realizes that terrorists plan for a big bang for at an energy conference with the seeming "WHITEWASH" cooperation of a senator and EcoEnergy.

Leaving Maggie O'Dell, a much needed breather from serial killing profiling, Alex Kava provides a wonderful thriller that grips the audience once the heroine realizes she is a scientist in distress. The plausible story line is fast-paced and loaded with non-stop action, but what makes the cat and mouse chase fresh and entertaining is the support cast who bring humor to the overall serious tone. Ms. Kava is at her best with this one sitting Studebaker escape.

Carla Neggers
0778324559 $7.99

The knife slasher surprised rookie Deputy U.S. Marshal Mackenzie Stewart when he lunged at her. She is fortunate to have survived. However, she believes the intended target is her close friend, federal Judge Bernadette Peacham. She vows to keep Bernadette safe while catching the escaped "pale-eyes" killer.

Mackenzie is assigned to work with FBI Agent Andrew Rook, the last person she wants to be teamed up with. They had a hot three week fling until Rook checkmated her by abruptly dumping her. Still this is no time to stand on ceremony as Mackenzie knows the first object is keeping Bernadette safe though she berates herself for still wanting the rat who abandoned ship just when it looked like they might have something passionately perfect.

This exciting police procedural romantic suspense takes about a little more than a third of the novel before the story line accelerates into the cat and mouse war between the two Feds and Pale-Eyes, but once it does, readers will not ABANDON the tale until the book is finished. Mac is a terrific protagonist while Rook has some commitment issues, but is there once his beloved is under attack. She has doubts that he will remain there as he lacks staying power. Though starting slowly and not the author's best work, fans will still enjoy Carla Neggers' fine thriller.

The Tunnels
Michelle Gagnon
077832446X $6.99

Two coed students, both children of foreign wealth, are mutilated in what appears to be ritual murders in the tunnels beneath the New England University. The FBI sends Special Agent Kelly Stone, alumni of the school, to lead the investigation that has international ramifications; assisting her is Agent Roger Morrow. However, forcing his way onto the investigation is former agent Jake Riley, who heads security for wealthy and powerful Christou, the father of one of the victims.

Soon other corpses surface that leads to the obvious: a ritual serial killer is on the loose. When another victim is abducted, the two Feds and the private sleuth try everything to prevent another murder. None know that Kelly has been brought into the crosshairs of a diabolical psychopath.

The interrelationships between the three investigators including keeping a romance simmering on the back burner (attraction seems insignificant when dealing with mutilation and other mayhem) make for a fun police procedural. The story line is fast-paced as the actions especially of the realistic portrayed Kelly, Roger and Jake make the tale. Although the killer with his twin motive seems more out of ritual serial killer handbook 101, thriller fans will appreciate Michelle Gagnon's fine cat and mouse story inside the TUNNELS.

Whispering Rock
Robyn Carr
0778324494 $6.99

After being injured on the job, womanizer and twice divorced LAPD officer Mike Valenzuela recuperates in the Redwoods town Virgin River, where his Marine buddies Jack Sheridan (see VIRGIN RIVER) and Marine John "Preacher" Middleton (see SHELTER MOUNTAIN) own a bar and grill. His plan is simple, heal and return to work. However, everything changes with one phone call from Jack; his district attorney sister Brie was brutally raped by Jerome Powell, who she tried to recently prosecute for violent crimes, but lost.

Though frightened Brie physically heals but emotionally is off her game. However, she knows that and vows to see that Powell goes to prison as she refuses to take crap from this a-hole. Meanwhile Mike seems to always be there for her. As Mike becomes the Virgin River police, he and Brie fall in love in spite of their marital failures.

The third and final Virgin River tale is a wonderful compassionate romantic suspense with the focus being on Brie, recovering from the rape. As with the previous thrillers, the story line intelligently handles a traumatic social issue that becomes very personal when it happens to you. Robyn Carr provides a great final to one of the best insightful character driven sagas of the year as these real people struggle with harrowing personal problems caused by brutes intruding, in this case physically leading to mentally, into their lives.

Yasmine Galenorn
0425216292 $6.99

The three half breed Otherworld Intelligence Agency operatives, the human–Faerie D'Artigo sisters know even more so with their opening triumph over the malevolent demon Shadow Wing that one battle does not mean the war is won (see WITCHLING). Instead it has just begun for Camille the witch, Menolly the vampire, and Delilah the shapeshifter, who remain on earth as protectors of the paranormal.

Werepuma Zachary Lyonesse asks the siblings to investigate the serial murders of his Rainier Puma Pride. Delilah, who turns into a purring cat, and her sisters smell demon, but the trail leads to another rival were pack. However, the trio believes a werespider demon tied to their adversary the demonic Shadow Wing is the killer so Delilah turns to the Immortal Autumn Lord for help although she fears the price he will charge might be her priceless half-blood.

CHANGELING is a powerful supernatural urban fantasy with a touch of a whodunit that works because the cast especially the sisterly trio and the were world seem genuine. The action never slows down as the witch, the vampiress, and the "kitten" battle evil knowing the risks they must take. Sub-genre fans will want to join the siblings on their daring escapades to keep the earth realm safe from demonic possession.

Goddess of Love
P.C. Cast
The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425215288 $14.00 1-800-847-5515

Venus muses that being the Goddess of Love should have perks instead she finds herself alone with ennui as her companion because her family and friends are preoccupied. Needing to shake herself out of the doldrums, Venus figures a trip to earth is always entertaining although it seems like a lifetime in Goddess years has passed since her last trek to the mortal plane. She wants to go to some place new so she decides to visit modern day Tulsa.

Venus has a good time in Tulsa, but really gets energized when she detects a human desperately needing a dramatic change on lifestyle as no one could be more pathetic with men than Pea Chamberlain is. Venus works on Pea's self esteem while revealing who she is and her unhappiness with her platonic marriage to the God of Fire Vulcan. Neither female is aware that Vulcan is watching them from afar; which leads to his falling in love with the human. Venus is also falling in love with a mortal, firefighter Griffith who sets her soul ablaze.

Only P.C. Cast could come up with the romantic entanglement of this fab four. As always with Ms. Cast's Goddess sagas, the blending of mythology and the modern world feels smooth and effortless. The story line is fast-paced and filled with entanglements as is the norm whenever humans and Gods meet. Fans of romantic fantasy will want to read this delightful tale (and the previous legends) starring a fabulous Cast of characters who make for a wonderful reading experience.

Red Hawk's Woman
Karen Kay
0425216039 $7.99

The Lost Clan tribal bands are cursed to live in the ephemeral realm between life and death because their ancestors killed four of Thunderer's children. Two days a year the Chosen One will live on the mortal plane as he is the tribe's only hope for them to escape the curse, but the crosser must perform a heroic sacrificial deed by the time he is thirty or the tribe remains locked in the shadows.

In 1848 during one of his trips onto the mortal plane the least likely Chosen One Red Hawk meets and is attracted to Effie Rutledge, but though time runs out on these two youngsters, neither forgot the other. Effie, a daughter of an archeologist, has made it her life's work to find four artifacts that she believes will free the Lost Clan and bring back Red Hawk to her. In 1866 Effie and Red Hawk meet again though she does not recognize the adult him as the star of her dreams. He panics as his time for being a hero is almost gone, which means never again seeing his beloved Effie. Together they search for a way for Red Hawk to complete his quest on time even as the gods try to prevent him from achieving his goal.

Moving on into the second half of the nineteenth century, Karen Kay keeps fresh her delightful Indian romantic fantasy even as the premise remains the same as the previous stories in her saga (see THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF and THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR). Red Hawk is a strong protagonist tasting failure as his clock is running out yet also feels optimistic due to Effie although he also knows he may have give up love to save his Lost Clan. His desperation Hail Mary with his beloved assisting and keeping him safe from the wrath of Thunderer makes for an entertaining tale.

The Harlequin
Laurell K. Hamilton
0425217248 $25.95

Vampire executioner Anita Blake never thought she would see the day that Malcolm, head of the vampire Church of Eternal Life, would come to see her for help. When he does, she thinks he wants to get her lover Jean-Claude, Master of St. Louis, to withdraw his order to have his congregation perform the blood oath. Instead he tells her that something powerful that he fears is watching him but that he can only dimly sense it though he won't reveal any details to her.

When she tells Jean-Claude he mentally raises his shields so she can't read his mind and tells her if she is lucky she will never have to know what Malcolm is talking about. That hope is shattered when someone gives Anita a white mask. When she tells Jean-Claude about the gift he is scared and tells her to meet him in his office at the club. While there someone mentally manipulates Anita, and some vampires and shifters that are in Jean-Claude's office using amplified anger to start fights. Jean-Claude who has also received a white mask tells Anita that The Harlequin, the policing agent of the Vampire Council, are in town. They and their human servants and their animals to call are endowed with special powers from their creator. Jean-Claude thinks they are in town to observe Malcolm's vampires but then they are attacked by these creatures that are breaking their own rules of only observe. An unforeseen betrayal leaves Anita, Jean-Claude and the werewolves vulnerable to attack but an unexpected ally joins the fray giving them the strength to battle their unbeatable foe.

Laurell K. Hamilton has written an exciting and action driven urban fantasy that has much less sex then her previous Blake novels. This means that the talented Ms. Hamilton has many more plotlines she fully develops that crisscross the main plot of the HARLEQUIN and add depth to the storyline. Anita is portrayed as a person more at peace with herself. She realizes there is nothing wrong with having several lovers and is overjoyed that she is gaining control of her powers. Though the Harlequin is a caricature of the evil vampire, readers will thoroughly enjoy this creative, spellbinding and provocative work.

The Silver Moon Elm
MaryJanice Davidson, Anthony Alongi
0425215261 $9.99

High school student Jennifer Scales knows how tough a mixed racial heritage can be on a teen. On her maternal side, Jennifer descends from powerful beaststalkers; on her paternal side, she comes from powerful were-dragons. That blending would prove difficult for anyone in spite of the obvious love between her parents, but beaststalkers have always hunted were-dragons and were-dragons have always attacked beaststalkers.

Jennifer wishes everyone would learn to get along. With that in mind she visits her father's clan only to have Xavier Longtail the elder dragon informs her that she is crazy going against the natural order of life and death. Her former boyfriend Skip the were-arachnid gives her a necklace and takes her to a movie where she dozes. Afterward, she finds her family vanished with no record of their existence as the were-arachnid mages cast an eradication spell; she lives because the necklace caused the spell to skip her. Jennifer needs to restore the old order before the new order finds her.

This terrific dark teen fantasy scales stratospheric heights with an exciting story line that takes a deep look at mixed racial couples and their biracial offspring. Unlike Jennifer Scales and the Messenger of Light in which the heroine plays Nancy Drew in fantasyland, THE SILVER MOON ELM is a pure fantasy quest as Jennifer is at her best risking her life to bring back her non-existent loved ones.

Demon Moon
Meljean Brooks
0425215768 $7.99

Although he knows cross species romances are usually doomed, vampire Colin Ames-Beaumont is attracted to human Savitri Murray from the first moment he saw her. Even though he knows there are rare times that forbidden relationship works due to the courage of the participants, he realizes that can not be for him because even vampires believe his unblood is tainted with the curse of Chaos.

When she swallows nosferatu blood, she becomes ill with a nasty life threatening fever, but remarkably recovers. The blood of the undead has left Savi with incredible physical anilities unheard of for a mortal. Colin decides he can at least share a friendship with his beloved until she finds her mate. However, Savi has doubts any male human can keep up with her enhanced physical skills nor would they want too; besides she wants Colin, but fears telling him will end their friendship. When a demon from Chaos threatens both of them, they team up in love to battle their powerful adversary.

Savi brings a unique freshness to the romantic fantasy realm especially the star-crossed romance between vampire and mortal. The story line is action-packed from the onset, but fully driven by the relationship between the lead couple who bond when the demonic peril assaults them. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this creative return to Brook's world (see DEMON ANGEL).

Undead and Unloved
MaryJanice Davidson
0425213765 $23.95

As the countdown to the wedding of the millennium continues, Betsy Taylor, Queen of the Vampires, is unhappy; for a change it has nothing to do with shoes. Her house is jammed with visitors some permanent from all walks of life including some dead like a ghost, a werewolf, and a Fiend.

Meanwhile her fiance Vampire King Eric Sinclair seems to vanish at the first hint of a wedding ceremony. His vanishing act with his bloodsucking buddies angers Betsy who is tired of taking care of the wedding. Now a werewolf pack is camped nearby just as Betsy begins to investigate what happened to King Eric as his disappearance seems more than just cold feet.

The latest "Undead" romantic fantasy is like its predecessors an irreverent amusing tale as the Big Day nears. Betsy feels overwhelmed with guests and unwanted crashers arriving while her stud pulls a Houdini and vanishes. She gets angrier because she still needs to find the right shoes instead of saving her hunk of a fiance. Fans of the series will enjoy this lighthearted entry wondering whether the royal couple will make it to the altar on time.

Master of Dragons
Angela Knight
0425214249 $7.99

To keep her safe from the malevolent Sidhe King Ansgar, Fairy Princess Nineva lives with humans. However, Nineva does not like what her destiny is. She is expected to rescue the goddess Semira incarcerated within a sword while expecting a dragon to burn her alive as her reward.

Kel the Blue Dragon commiserates with Semira having spent centuries trapped inside a sword. Freed, Kel knows he must find the avatar Nineva to help her liberate Semira. Failure means the end of the Mageverse and probably Earth too; but to his shock she rejects working with a dragon out of fear he, who she is to attracted too, is the one destined to burn her alive.

The latest Master's romantic fantasy affirms that Angela Knight is a sub-genre grandmaster with what is the best novel in a great saga. Nineva and Kel make a fascinating pairing as they want one another yet he still has lingering problems from his imprisonment in a sword and she believes he is the one who will set her afire. Of course besides their personal issues hindering their relationship, there are two universes in jeopardy as good and evil clash in Angela Knight's tremendous thriller.

Hell on Heels
Julie Kenner, Dee Davis, Kathleen O'Reilly
042521527X $14.00

Disappointed with his sons for choosing love over ruling in hell (see HELL WITH THE LADIES); Lucifer turns to his female offspring to decide who will replace him.

"Lucia's Story" by Julie Kenner. Lucia suffers from battle fatigue syndrome having spent eternity as her father's top assassin. Lucifer informs her that if she does one more hit, he will free her. The target is Jacques, but Lucia is falling in love with her hit's son, Dante.

"Jezebel's Story by Dee Davis. Lucifer assigns his daughter Jezebel to locate the Protector of Armageddon. She reluctantly agrees only to find her long lost eternal love David.

"Lola's Story by Kathleen O'Reilly. Lola is Lucifer's favorite siren as she steals souls while having sex with her victims. If she stops sucking away male souls, she will lose her beauty and die. Her father demands she takes the soul of the compassionate hunk, who in her heart already owns her soul.

These three superb paranormal romances like their male prequel (see HEEL WITH THE LADIES) prove that love is stronger than even Lucifer; nephews and nieces next?

Witch Fire
Anya Bast
0425216144 $7.99

Orphan Mira Hoskins is a waitress at Mike's Diner unaware that she is a witch whose power is elemental air. Instead she believes she is just a human female living a normal but dull life until now when the hunk reading the paper in the diner changes her life.

That patron elemental fire witch Jack McAllister has abducted Mira and tied her to a bed. He hides from her how much he wants her especially sensing the fiery passion inside her that he covets releasing as much as freeing the magick she is unaware that she possesses. However, first he must complete his mission as the Coven assigned him to keep her safe from rogue warlocks who drain witches of their power and consequently their essence as they did her parents; a tragedy he witnessed. He also knows she is off limits as the cousin of his superior; still fire and air area volatile mix especially when love enters the relationship.

This is a terrific romantic fantasy starring two volatile lead characters as fire and air mix into an uncontrollable inferno. The story line is fast-paced from the abduction to the final alteration, but it is the relationship between fire and air that makes the tale a blast to read. Though more of what happened to her parents especially Jack's involvement that has him carrying tons of guilt, fans will enjoy this delightful mixing of elementals.

How To Be Cool
Johanna Edwards
0425213846 $21.95

Nearly thirty years old, Kylie Chase feels she has come a long way since high school in Chicago. In her teens, she was reticent and obese. Now she dropped a ton of weight and kept it off, and provides in her seminar helping those like she was "How to Be Cool." However, when Kylie inadvertently overhears some high school peers deride her, she realizes her self esteem remains in negative numbers just like it was over a decade ago.

Reporter Ty Benedict thinks otherwise as he sees her as a great success; he is doing a story on her butterfly metamorphosis. He asks to escort her to her high school reunion, which she agrees because she is attracted to the handsome journalist. However, how will she react when she learns he is not quite the altruistic reporter he pretends to be?

As with the insightful THE NEXT BIG THING, HOW TO BE COOL is a superb look at a plus size person, who in this case is no longer a plus size, but her psyche is imprinted with the belief that she still remains too big in spite of the statistical evidence (waistline and weight, etc) and anecdotal proof (male second looks) to the contrary. The character driven tale focuses on the likable Kyle who though successful still struggles to convince herself that she is cool inside. Her uncool words of wisdom aside, this is delightful tale of the importance of believing in oneself especially when your history is otherwise.

Just Sex
Susan Kay Law
0425215237 $14.00

Ellen Markham's husband Tom insists that he loves her and that his serial affairs are simply "JUST SEX". Rather then give up on the hot action he craves, he attempts to persuade Ellen to try it; she refuses as all she wants is a monogamous relationship with as faithful of a partner as she is to him. Instead after two decades of marriage Ellen leaves her spouse taking their teens with her.

Needing some time by herself and encouraged by her best friend Jill, Ellen heads to the Tropics where she plans to heed Tom's "sage advice and find a lover. Still as she seeks a hunk to help her find her groove, she knows she just wants her Tom, but without his womanizing.

Susan Kay law provides an interesting family drama starring strong characters. Tom is fascinating as he rationalizes his sexual encounters outside of the marriage as just safe sex to spice up his life; Ellen sees him as just cheating. When she decides to "test" his hypothesis using a free "get out of jail" card handed to her by Tom, readers will root for her to find more than just a fling; instead readers will sympathize with the heroine and hope she obtains a new faithful love.

Karma Girl
Jennifer Estep
0425215113 $14.00

After two years of exclusively seeing one another Expose investigative reporter Carmen Cole and construction worker Matt Marion are ready to marry today at the Forever Inn in Beginnings, Tennessee although she worries that her beloved seems distracted. However, at their room, Carmen finds Matt straddled by her best friend since fourth grade Karen Crush. As painful is that betrayal is she is horrified to learn he is superhero Machinator and she is his archenemy uber-villain Crusher. Irate by the betrayals, Carmen vows to expose the secret identities of all the superheroes and supervillains.

On an obsessed quest, she travels home to Bigtime, N.Y. to begin her odyssey starting with Travis "Tornado" Teague of the Fearless Five; after being outed he commits suicide. The Terrible Triad wants her to expose the rest of the Fearless Five make that Four so hey kidnap her giving her a choice to uncover the secret identities of Striker and the Fearless Five or being the subject of a horrific experiment. Carmen accepts the terms of exposing Striker, but agrees only to buy time. She tracks Striker and though vowing no more super orgasms in her life, she is falling in love, but first she must expose the Terrible Triad once she gets past her demotion to the society pages.

This is a wild comic book romance starring a delightful heroine who finds vengeance quite sour tasting. The fast-paced story line never slows down as superheroes and supervillains make for a Bigtime of fun for readers who appreciate a zany over the top fantasy. What does one expect with super orgasms.

The Notorious Mrs. Winston
Mary Mackey
0425215121 $14.00

In February 1861, the Civil War is two months away when Claire still on her honeymoon with much older portrait photographer Henry Winston sees the "angel" for the first time. She cannot believe how wanton she must be to desire Henry's nephew John Taylor when she just married. She does not love her spouse having said I do for financial security during troubled times.

Besides hiding her reaction the first time ever she saw John's face from him and his uncle, Claire also joins the abolitionist cause without telling her husband. When John, a true believer in the Confederate cause, goes off to battle as a member of Morgan's Raiders, she follows disguised as a young soldier. This enables her to see both sides of the fight especially after Morgan enlists her to his side.

THE NOTORIOUS MRS. WINSTON is a deep look at the Civil War from the viewpoint of a feisty independent female masquerading as a male. Readers see up close what happened at battles and other events through mostly Claire's perspective. Though there is a romantic subplot, Mary Mackey uses that in a support catalyst role as this is a strong engaging historical fiction starring a wonderful protagonist.

Serena Robar
0425215148 $9.99

Colby was bitten by a rogue vampire while walking home one night and become a half-vampire, one of the Undead who didn't have a license. Half-vampires are killed by full blood because the prophecy states that a half-blood will bring about the end of the vampire world. Colby, a tenacious fighter, convinced the full bloods to let her live and she emancipated the undead half-bloods who now live in the psi phi sanctuary house with Colby as their Protector.

One day while in a shopping mall garage with her friend Piper, Colby comes under attack. This is a normal occurrence for her because full bloods believe in the prophecy, but these are demon possessed zombie vampires. Hunter, a demon slayer, witnesses the attack and thinks Piper is the Protector. When she straightens him out, she learns she is a demon slayer as well and an Avarice Demon is trying to come to our plane with his minions. Colby learns this because he halfway possesses her lover Thomas and talks to the Protector. Hunter, Piper and Colby have to come up with a plan of destroying Barnaby without killing Thomas.

Serena Robar has written an exciting action adventure romance that is targeted for teens but will also be appreciated by adults. Colby is a kick butt person who lives up to her image of a protector because she takes care of matters that could hurt her friend. Piper comes into her own and she learns who she is and despite being frightened, becomes a slayer in deed as well as in name.

Edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois
0425215180 $25.00

Gandalf the Grey fans will want to read this nineteenth story fantasy collection that star wizards in fresh tales not printed before. The authors are a who's who of the genre with no pretenders and none providing a clinker though the better tales seem to involve coming of age. Especially enthralling is Neil Gaiman's "The Witch's Headstone" starring Bod, a lad being raised by a dead witch amongst other deceased adult supervision. Even the biblical prophet Elijah shows up as a wizard in Jane Yolen's contribution. Notables like Garth Nix, Mary Rosenblum, Kage Baker, Eoin Coffer, Tad Williams, Patricia McKillip, Elizabeth Hand, Andy Duncan, Peter Beagle, Nancy Kress, Jeffrey Ford, Tanith Lee, Terry Bisson, Terry Dowling, Gene Wolf and Orson Scott Card contribute tales that will prove to the targeted young adult audience that a wizard by any other name is still a wizard.

Dead Sexy
Tate Hallaway
0425215083 $14.00

Mercury Crossing bookstore manager and witch Garnet Lacey muses about how many dead essences live in Madison, Wisconsin. However, she also ponders fate that by being late she missed a sure date with death as a Vatican paramilitary assassination squad killed the other eleven members of her coven (see TALL, DARK & DEADLY). Of course conjuring up Lilith to dispatch the Vatican killers helped.

Garnet and her boyfriend at that time, Parrish the vampire disposed of the bodies and other related evidence. Meanwhile to her chagrin, a zombie student paid for a copy of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Voodoo" with counterfeit money. That is followed up by FBI Special Agent Gabriel Domingues investigating the homicides of six priests whose corpses have returned with all evidence pointing towards Garnet. She informs her current boyfriend, Sebastian the vampire that she needs Parrish's help. Sebastian is outraged by this while the zombie populace is growing geometrically with some of them not even students at U of W. Garnet and the new Voodoo queen have a high noon showdown as this college city is only big enough for one practitioner.

The second Garnet gem is a delightful whodunit fantasy starring a likable protagonist who keeps the tale together as she relates what is going on, mostly wrong, in her life in a sort of offbeat chick lit style. The story line is fast-paced and can stand alone though references to the previous novel abound. The supernatural species like vampires, zombies, and FBI agents seem genuine even though the plot is tongue in cheek. Tate Hallaway combines romance, paranormal and mystery into a fun read.

Wild, Wicked, and Wanton
Jaci Burton
0425213838 $14.00

"Wild". At the Silverwood Veterinary Hospital in Oklahoma Abby Lawson lacks confidence in her seductive skills thanks to her former husband cheating Chad of hanging out fame. However, two vets Mike Nottingham and Seth Jacobs prove first hand otherwise in a wild menage de trois.

"Wicked". Blair Newcastle avoids Silverwood Sheriff Rand McKay because she knows one a taste of him will make any other man seem insipid. However, Rand strip searches her making her sweat for more. To her shock she, an extrovert dominant, is actually a closet submissive who the lawman wants to handcuff in his bed.

"Wanton". Executive Jack Fellows looks forward to coffee everyday at Cassie Jameson's shop because she is the object of his fantasy. She wants him too but he is country club while she is trailer trash. He is a workaholic pragmatist she is a romantic. However, though different they share the same sexual fantasy.

These three interrelated erotic romances are fun novellas as the heroines bet one another re who will have their sexual fantasy come true. Sub-genre readers will enjoy the escapades as the stars are full blooded (ironically more so the females) as Jaci Burton provides a torrid W (winner) collection for her fans.

Wicked Fantasy
Nina Bangs
0425209954 $7.99

Feuding Conall O'Rourke kills Sean Kavanagh, which should have elated the warrior. However, he learns the price of slaying someone cherished by Irish deity Morrigan, Conall. She curses him with the worst punishment he could imagine; to protect the descendants of his despised enemy Sean.

Eight centuries later, Conall remains diligently at his task, but sees an ending coming soon. There remains one Kavanagh left and once this one dies, Conall will be free. At the Castle of Dark Dreams, fate plays havoc with his dream when he realizes that Gerry Kavanagh is a female, when all her protected were stupid guys, but also she is an immortal vampire. Although a rookie bloodsucker having changed less than two years ago, Gerry, she is also a Paranormal Undercover Field Force Agent who is trying to stop an otherworldly serial killer who looks more serpentine than human. Conall reluctantly must assist her to keep her safe even as he finds he is attracted to her; a feeling that has eluded him since Morrigan visited him.

As always the return of Sparkle is a delight, but the tale belongs to Conall and the last Kavanagh, an immortal he must protect. The lead couple is an inspiring teammate as the hero falls in love with his enemy (her surname to Conall is like the Abbot and Costello routine Niagara Falls) while the courageous vampiress finds the hunk irresistible although she cannot understand why he seems upset over her DNA. Readers will enjoy the irony of this fabulously wicked contemporary romantic fantasy with its tongue in cheek (and elsewhere) story line.

Kiss of Death
Linda Palmer
0425215822 $7.99

Having received a surprised inheritance, Love of My Life soap opera writer Morgan Tyler realizes she can afford to fund her dream. When she was six years old, a local sheriff found Morgan by herself in an abandoned van near Downsville, West Virginia twenty-four years ago. A search to locate her parents failed and no one reported a little girl missing. Now she can hire a private investigator to find out who she is and why she was left by herself.

After warning Morgan that these types of cases rarely turn out happy, Bobby Novello agrees to investigate. He starts off with that local sheriff Masefield who initially found a young Morgan and arranged with a judge for her to have birth certificate. However, though he expects the worst, even a cynic like Bobby is unprepared for the twist of the arrest of Morgan's best friend Nancy Cummings, accused of murder; which means Morgan sleuthing to prove otherwise.

This entertaining investigative tale is actually at its best when the plot focuses on the back room of a soap opera although Bobby' inquires are fascinating as readers almost as much as Morgan will want to know what happened back then. Morgan is a terrific protagonist who has gone through a lot in her thirty years of life as on top of what happened as a child her spouse died in Africa; yet she remains an optimist. The forth Daytime Mystery (see Love You Madly) is a wonderful combo amateur sleuth private investigative tale.

Wild Thing
Maggie Shayne, Marjorie M. Liu, Alyssa Day & Meljean Brooks
0425215164 $14.00

"Animal Magnetism" by Maggie Shayne. Veterinarian Macy McNamara can talk with the animals. When Detective Jay Harris brings in Cassie the dog, Macy acts like a pit bull towards the cop, but is gentle and caring towards the canine. As she works on the wounded animal, she learns from the dog's mouth that Cassie was an eye witness to a rape and was shot by the assailant when she tried to intervene. Macy is not sure what to tell Jay, but she finds herself attracted to him.

"Paradise" by Meljean Brooks. In the Northwest United States vampire Lucas Marsden meets Angelic Guardian Selah with each attracted to one another though their species would never condone a relationship between them. However, attraction aside, this unlikely pair team up to battle demons threatening humans.

"Hunter Kiss" by Marjorie M. Liu. While on a quest, demon "zombie" hunter Maxine Kiss meets former priest Grant Cooperon when his human aura stands out amidst their dark aura; she saves his life but takes two bullets doing so yet does not die. They team up as the demons are increasingly coming across the divide.

"Wild Hearts in Atlantis" by Alyssa Day. In Atlantis as part of forging alliances in the war against the vampires, Poseidon's warrior Bastien is sent to negotiate a treaty with the shapeshifters as the big man once saved the life of one of them Kat. He can remember how she shook his world and still does.

These are four excellent paranormal romances starring strong lead couples in realms that seem real in spite of the paranormal environs and the novella format.

Magic Lost, Trouble Found
Lisa Shearin
Ace Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0441015050 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

The City of Mermeia is divided into districts; each one is home to a different race including elves, goblins, dwarves, humans and sorcerers. Mage practitioners are common; Raine Benares, an elf, is a mid-level practitioner who earns her living by seeking lost objects and sometimes people for her clients. Her life changes dramatically when she watches over her friend when he breaks into the house of a powerful necromancer to steal an artifact.

Two sets of goblin warriors, one loyal to the king and a group loyal to the exiled prince want the artifact Raine took. Raine creates a diversion and they escape. Raine puts the artifact around her neck and finds she can't take it off or it will kill her. It has powerful magic that enhances her own power and gives her new ones but the price is too high. The goblin king, his sadistic advisor Sarad Nupana and Prince Chigau want the one who wears the artifact because it will lead them to Saghred a weapon of mass destruction. Raine has to find a way to keep it out of evil's hands, find a way to remove the artifact and give it to somebody without getting killed.

This is wonderful fantasy tale full of different races and myths and legends who are drawn so perfectly, readers will believe they actually exist. Raine is a strong female, a leader who wants to do the right thing even when she isn't sure what that is. She has an elf and a human interested in her and it is fun watching them compete trying to get her interested in them in between near death escapades. Lisa Shearin has the magic touch (keyboard) when it comes to writing good fantasy.

Key to Conflict
Talia Gryphon
0441015034 $7.99

Marine Corps Special Ops Captain Gillian Key is also a Paramortal psychologist who uses her black ops training and experience when called upon by her superiors. Currently, she is in Romania at the request of the Master Vampire Count Aleksei Rachlav, who needs her help with depression and fangxiety. She is also working with a six century old ghost who haunts a bed and breakfast scaring away customers. Finally Gillian is on a solo military mission.

It seems that Dracula has returned and is making his presence felt as he believes unlike the vampire lines of Osiris and Dionysius that humans are meals or slaves. The Count has gathered a powerful army of vampires and other paranormal species wanting the current order overturned. He intends to use his minions to initially destroy his enemies amidst his peers like Aleksei before conquering humanity. Gillian, caught in the middle of the upcoming war finds herself caring for Aleksei who is falling in love with the ops shrink. Both intend to be warriors in the fight to kill Dracula and keep the Paramortal-human treaty alive.

Urban fantasy readers will welcome Talia Gryphon whose thriller will appeal to fans of Charlaine Harris and Kelly Armstrong. The heroine at first glance seems like a weak human to her kind and to ancient immortals, but she is a petite dynamo who proves she is mentally and physically strong leading to the audience admiring her pluck, skills, and courage. She fears love and keeps her relationships on a distant plateau although Aleksei may prove to be her match as he keeps creeping closer to her heart. Four centuries of life has taught the hero that the KEY TO CONFLICT or for that matter living is adapting old world customs to female equality.

Phaedra Weldon
0441014976 $14.00

By no stretch of the imagination does Zoe Martinique have a normal life. Her mom has mysterious powers she refuses to talk about; her home is inhabited by two ghostly gay lovers who died there; and her mother's co-worker is a computer geek expert on the occult. Zoe is an astral Traveler who offers her fservices on EBay for a fee. Since she can see and hear on the astral plane, but not be seen or heard by others, her information is astute and accurate so her clients willingly pay for her services via Paypal.

Zoe's life turns strange and dangerous when she sees another Traveler, whom she calls Trench Coat kill a man. She didn't think it was possible because Travelers are not corporal on the astral plane. When Trench Coat threatens and touches her, Zoe turns corporal on the astral plane. It turns out that Tench Coat is a Symbiont created by a Phantasm on the Abysmal plane for an unknown purpose. His touch turns Zoe into a wraith that can be corporal on all planes, but is also a harbinger of death. She becomes involved with an evil televangelist and a Japanese businessman who use otherworldly creatures to obtain what they want including the deaths of rivals. Zoe is incensed as a young child's life is at stake and so she will do whatever to turn the tables on the malevolent humans and their paranormal minions.

Phaedra Weldon is the newest star in the supernatural fantasy realm if WRAITHS is any indication of her talent as a storyteller. The storyline is original with strange interesting creatures that make the other planes seem normal while Zoe is a one of a kind heroine. Strong willed and courageous, she works in a world of multiple grays using her beliefs as a moral compass to anchor her even when her activities require a dark solution she always thinks of the outcome to benefit others.

Natsume Soseki
Kodansha International
4770030487 $12.00

In Japan Botchan grew up knowing his father thought he was a worthless wastrel; his mother, who died when he was young, expected him to be a failure; his effeminate older brother only hated him. He expected to be disinherited so nothing stood in his way to dare to defy the restrictive demands of the social order except perhaps the housekeeper Kiyo who loves him like the way a mother does by cherishing their offspring.

However shocking all the nay-sayers, Botchan actually graduates from the university although his dad was dead before he could see this unlikely miracle occur. He accepts a job teaching math somewhere in remote Shikoku; a monster geographical change for an urban dweller like him. Botchan quickly assumes these rubes are beneath his intelligence especially because of his big city lifestyle where he learned true survival skills. He treats students, peers, superiors, parents, and other locals as inferior beings giving each a derogatory nickname and making it doubtful that the cause of this class warfare will survive a year of rustification.

This Japanese version will remind readers of The Catcher in the Rye (perhaps a better way to look at this is The Catcher in the Rye is an Americanized version of Botchan as the Japanese classic was written over four decades earlier than Salinger's novel). This insightful classic provides a deep look at Japanese society circa 1906. The story line is a one sitting fast read as the lead character mocks everyone causing universal disdain. Readers enjoy this superb amusing translation that provides a powerful glimpse at Japanese customs through the actions of and reactions towards an arrogant antagonist.

Secrets in the Shadows
Jenna Black
Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
076535716X $6.99 1-888-330-8477

As a Guardian vampire Jules Gerard does not kill humans whom he protects from rogues of his species. Whenever he finds a rogue he kills it. However, Jules obsesses over one vampire, his former best friend Ian Squires, who not only betrayed him, he turned him. When he learns where Ian is, Jules plans to go after him; his superior Eli tells him not to go, but for the first time he ignores an order heading to Baltimore to kill Ian.

The Guardians hire human Private investigator Hannah Moore to protect Jules. Though the vampire anticipates Ian waiting for him, he is clueless when it comes to the other participants as Eli has played a role that he prefers remain hidden from Jules. However, as the former friends prepare for their cat and mouse encounter, Hannah realizes someone else is manipulating the two vampires; now to get the obsessed Jules to understand that the price of his fixation may be her life.

The second Guardians of the Night saga (see WATCHERS IN THE NIGHT) is a superb paranormal romantic suspense that grips readers from the moment Jules learns that Ian lives and goes after him. The story line is action-packed with rogue and guardian vampires and one female human sleuth making the Black universe seem genuine. Although it is Eli's secrets that propels the thriller, Hannah tries to keep her "client" from harming himself even it feels like trucks roll over her and Jules knows he willingly would die permanently to keep his Hannah safe. Vampire romance fans will cherish biting into this fun tale.

Freedom & Necessity
Steven Brust & Emma Bull
Tor Orb
0765316803 $15.95

In 1849 his family assumes that Chartism revolutionary James Cobham died in a boating accident. Two months after his alleged death, James finds himself at a Portsmouth, England inn with no idea how he got there or where he has been for the last few weeks. His body is wracked with relatively fresh scars and he still has some injuries that have not completely healed.

He writes to his cousin Richard informing him that he lives, but not sure what happened. His affluent feisty cousin Susan Voight decides to investigate. Her premise is that James was not in an accident, but instead someone wanted him dead most likely for his political and social reforms. Even more mysterious is why hold him prisoner and eventually release him with the possibility he will recall all that happened. She begins to unravel a convoluted plot to destroy James and his fervent revolutionaries through the arcane and the mundane.

The extremely complex plot is not an easy read as the story line is told through an exchange of letters and journal entries. Adding to the difficulty is that the tale has a distinct Victorian feel to it as the Dickensian style of using a zillion players to provide a social period piece is employed. Still this is a fascinating historical thriller that brings to life Europe reacting to the previous year's major revolutionary activity. Susan steals the show from the bewildered James and others with her amateur sleuthing. Though there are some fantasy elements with the occult involved, FREEDOM & NECESSITY is a Victorian mystery thriller that will need plenty of time to complete.

The Gladiator
Harry Turtledove
076531486X $23.95

Over a century ago the Iron Curtain came down as the Soviet Union won the Cold War. As a result of the communist triumph over western capitalism, society is extremely controlled with surveillance everywhere. Though security is tight, as long as one avoids counterrevolutionary activity, a person was safe and secure as most violent crimes have been eliminated. That is except those perpetrated by the state against individuals and since it is government doing the act, it is not a crime.

Whereas the elderly embrace the secure environs just secretly praying to live one more day, the young students are bored having a passion for life. In Milan, Stalinist Italian People's Republic seventeen years old Annarita Crosetti and sixteen years old Gianfranco Mazzilli attend Enver Hoxha Polytechnic. Gianfranco is a terrible student going nowhere while Annarita is a superb pupil with a future as the daughter of a party hack and a member of the Young Socialists' League. They find the Gladiator game shop where they play a complex game Rails Across Europe with enthusiasm. However, shops like the Gladiator are always betrayed from within leading to the security police shutting it down for the capital punishment crime of teaching capitalism although the owner Eduardo escapes. Having been exposed, he has no place to go, but tells his two teen customers that he is a marooned Trader from a crosstime line in which capitalism defeated communism.

The fifth Crosstime Traffic saga (see IN HIGH PLACES) may be the best in a strong futuristic alternate history series. The vivid landscape comes alive through the escapades and capers of the lead teenagers. The story line is fast-paced as Harry Turtledove paints a deep tale of living in the middle to late twenty-first century in a Soviet Republic beyond the Cole War's Iron Curtain. Targeting young adults, older sub-genre fans will want to read this intelligent superb thriller.

Tobias S. Buckell
0765315076 $24.95

The Benevolent technologically super-advanced Satrap controlled galaxy consist of forty-eight inhabited planets containing a variety of different sentient species interconnected by thousands of wormholes. The lesser races have lots of freedom and thrive under the benevolent but firm oligarchy. The only to rules are behave yourself and don't develop technology outside of the Satrap allowance; if a species does they will suffer pandemic punishment by being cut off from wormhole use. These isolated "islands" lag behind the more cooperative orbs.

Earth is one of the isolated planets as humans tend to break rules. Thus earthlings must choose between abject poverty on their home planet, being pets to other superior races in order to be pampered or rebels with a cause. The Ragamuffin crowd chose freedom fighting; the Satrap labels it piracy by insurgents. Recently they have decided to end the Raga ragtag revolt, which means ethnic cleansing of the human race. However, they did not count on the resistance and persistence of a few Raga; especially Nashara "Nash" who may be more machine than human except for her heart and soul. Inside her she carries a weapon of mass destruction that the Satrapy fears so they send their preprogrammed Hongguo human militia to destroy her and her two cohorts.

This is an exhilarating outer space opera that never slows down especially during the latter quarter of the action-packed story line. That climax is one of the longest most exciting cat and mouse chase scenes in recent years. Nash is a superb heroine, part comic book superhero (and part futuristic humanoid. The Satrap are actually the more fascinating species with their "White Man's Burden" syndrome that what they do to lesser species is for the other race's good and much better than what that less significant group can do for themselves. Readers who appreciate a testosterone (even though Nash is a woman) science fiction thriller starring a super female heroine will want to join the Raga in space as "Davidette" battles Goliath.

The Sam Gunn Omnibus
Ben Bova
076531617X $29.95

If you have to ask who Sam Gunn is, then you probably need to pass on the exploits of this space faring hero (antihero to bureaucrats and business moguls) who vanished like an Alice down a black hole during one of his Grand Tours. His omnibus brings together all the Gunn tales that showcase a courageous, dedicated NASA drop-out who is always making a buck or a woman that is when he was not taking a time out defending the underdog. Fans of the Gunn galaxy will appreciate this compilation of the exciting exploits and escapades of a space cowboy; however reading them together in one massive tome (50 stories varying in size and 704 pages) is a revelation to the brilliance of Ben Bova as the link to the Grand tour novels (see TITAN and SATURN) suddenly seems obvious. Readers who enjoy a Napoleonic Hans Solo like protagonist (antagonist to the power abusers) will want to travel the galaxy with this man from NASA (not) and spend time with his Selene City moon-based anchor Jane "call me Jade" Avril Inconnu.

The Execution Channel
Ken MacLeod
0765313324 $24.95

9/11 and the Iraq war are history. That was followed by the Iran conflict, a biblical proportional flu pandemic that made 1918 look like a minor statistic, and a geometric increase in terrorist attacks. The Neo-Cons proved right that is dead right even if they forced their prophecy to be fulfilled. In spite of the incredible advances in communication, misinformation and disinformation especially from officials have become the norm. In other words, humanity is in jeopardy of extinction as a now battered paranoid West is considering the nuke option and not just towards its long term enemies; former friends threaten one another with no nation trusting any other.

Scottish software engineer James Travis blames much of the global insensitivities and atrocities on the United States. He and his daughter, Roisin, recently witnessed the nuclear bombing of a Scottish airbase. Immediately the spin doctors go to work to spread the gospel of lies and twisted truths by accusing terrorists or claiming an internal accident occurred as the government insists no nukes were fired stunning father and daughter who saw otherwise first hand.. Perhaps the only place a person can learn what really occurred is the rogue EXECUTION CHANNEL where alleged clips of sanctioned murders and executions are shown all day every day, but then again could the group behind that outlet be spinning too for the Bush 43 legacy is the end always justifies the mean.

THE EXECUTION CHANNEL is an exhilarating thought provoking science fiction thriller that paints a dismal near future filled with paranoia and atrocities in which the media is used by those in power to tell the "truth" defined as whatever spin they need. The story line is action-packed as the audience will be stunned as much as the Travis duo with what the pair saw vs. the official news accounts. Ken McLeod, extrapolating from real events and technology provides a tense dark pessimistic future legacy.

Foul Play
Tori Carrington
Forge Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765317435 $23.95 1-888-330-8477

Sophie Metropolis is a private detective in her uncle's agency who lives and works in Astoria, Queens. She is close to her family and is trying to figure out how to make her ex-fiance Thomas stop from pressing charges against Grandfather Kosmos. He assaulted him after learning that the diamond he gave him for Sophie's engagement ring was switched with a cubic zirconium. Sophie's friend, the owner of a restaurant is under threat of being sued because a customer eating there found an ear in her soup.

The agency is getting a lot of missing pet cases and the manager thinks Sophie should investigate because the numbers are suspicious. The case that interests Sophie is the one involving Mets pitcher Reni Venezuela. His wife wants Sophie to follow him because he his had a dramatic change in his personality in the past two weeks. After following him quite a few times she is caught by his security detail and has to keep borrowing cases from friends if she wants to stay on the case. A reporter who is working on a story concerning Reni ends up beaten and taken to the hospital and Sophie is almost killed.

Readers who love Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels will thoroughly enjoy Sophie's escapades as the heroine is an adorable and unique person who deals better with her professional life than she does with her personal one. She even rejects an Adonis looking Greek god who adores her because she is afraid of getting hurt. Tori Carrington captures the ambiance of a Queens' neighborhood to perfection while the mystery is well plotted with a surprise twist that readers won't see coming.

Majestic Descending
Mitchell Graham
0765318121 $24.95

Atlanta lawyer Katherine Adams needs some down time so she and her best friend Beth Doliver are going on a cruise aboard the Majestic, a ship that is like a small city with all of the luxuries. Also on board is Dr. Ellis Stephens who is celebrating his scientific breakthrough of growing stem cells in a dish. The rewards from the research means that any organ can be grown form the stem cell. A research company sends a representative to see if Dr. Stephens intends to sell his work, which he is not.

Unknown to the passengers, three terrorists are on the ship and they are planting explosives in strategic locations so that when they detonate it, the Majestic will sink. When the alarm sounds, Katherine sees Ellis' body with bullets in it. When they are rescued, the authorities want to question her but someone tries to kill her. Katherine figures the murder of the scientist and the sinking of the ship is linked but until she discovers how and who is behind the operation, her life remains in danger because she refuses to give up investigating. She is helped by ex-cop turned lawyer John Delaney who are instantly attracted to one another.

Over nine hundred deaths of men, women and children and the sinking of a billion dollar luxury liner paint a scenario of greed run amok. The readers feel they are in the middle of the catastrophe because the detailed action scenes bring the audience into the plot. The heroine is a strong and likable person who is persistent in her inquiries regarding the murder and the sinking of the ship. She doesn't let fear paralyze her which is one of the reasons the audience adores her. Mitchell Graham has written a powerful, enthralling and believable (unfortunately) thriller that should land on the bestseller lists.

To Love and Die in Dallas
Mary Elizabeth Coleman
0765309343 $24.95

Lindsey and Annie met in ninth grade at Gaston JHS in Dallas and became best friends. Lindsey could have any boy in the high school, but when she started dating Tommy Lee she often brought Annie with them. On the down side, a White Rock Lake neighbor of Annie, David always was irritating her even more than her overly protective mother.

Decades later Annie calls David pleading with him to help her. David's wife is unhappy that Annie has returned into his life because it reminds her that she will always be second fiddle. Annie needs David to recover an incriminating diary that another of their high school friends Butter took. The diary implies that Annie was involved in the shocking recent murder of Lindsey, wife of a US Senator. Unable to say no, he meets her at an old hangout, Frances' restaurant the Cellar. David is hooked, but he does not know yet in what. Everything he learns points towards Annie as either a killer or a conspirator in Lindsey's death while at the same time that Dallas County Homicide Detective Malone begins to unravel the bizarre knots and twists of the movers and shakers who know how TO LOVE AND DIE IN DALLAS.

This is an interesting police procedural with a fascinating climax that will shock the audience. The story line uses extracts from the diary to tell the teen years of mostly Annie and Lindsey through the perspective of the former. That provides insight into their personalities, but also slows down the prime plot of did Annie murder Lindsey although other suspects surface. Still this is a well crafted whodunit with a strong fully developed cast. Once the reader starts TO LOVE AND DIE IN DALLAS, it will prove difficult to stop as Mary Elizabeth Coleman hooks fans with the need to know if Annie killed her best friend and why.

Whistling in the Dark
Lesley Kagen
New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
0451221230 $13.95 1-800-847-5515

In 1959 in Milwaukee ten years old Sally O'Malley believes that a child killer is coming for her and her younger sister Troo. She believes she has no one to keep her or Troo safe as their dad is dead, their mom is in the hospital, their stepfather is an alcoholic, and their older sister Nell is too involved with her boyfriend. Sally also feels that their neighbor police officer David Rasmussen killed Junie Piaskowski and Sara Heinemann because he has a picture of the former on his wall.

As she had vowed to her daddy on his deathbed, she will protect Troo at all costs. If that means dying the frightened courageous Sally knows a promise is a promise. She and Troo begin their own brand of preadolescent investigation with the objective to prevent David from killing them. Sally will learn the truth, but it is a bigger shocker than if the cop was a homicidal pedophile.

This investigative historical thriller is more a cautionary coming of age tale than an amateur sleuth pedophile serial killer chiller as the mystery is at best loose and used more to enable readers to better understand what Sally and Troo are thinking. Sally makes the story line work as an every child in any time period vulnerable to predators. She needs to keep her deathbed vow to her daddy even if it means her death. Readers will obtain a feel for Milwaukee when the baseball Braves still played there, but it is the cleverly developed warning that children think differently that makes Lesley Kagen's tale a fine read.

Lacey Alexander
NAL Heat
0451221192 $14.00

In Seattle since her last relationship with David ended, twenty-nine year old mystery author Laura Watkins suffers from writer's block, which makes no sense to her because her former lover was all business even in bed and never motivated her creative juices. Her best friend Monica says she just needs is some heated sex to get the brain functioning, but as Laura stares at the blinking cursor, she thinks getting away from the northwest for now should suffice; she can always try Monica's recommendation if escape fails.

Laura arranges to use a house in Colorado where corporate raider Braden Stone set up a VOYEUR web cam to observe his guest. Laura finds it quite refreshing and intriguing that some man she cannot see gets turned on by her masturbating sexual frenzy. Braden has never been hotter, but assumes direct participation instead of spectator sport enthusiasm will supersede that as he desires to make love with the real Laura not the virtual reality he sees in cyber space.

This is an ultra torrid erotic romance in which masturbation, voyeurism, menage a trois and all types of heterosexual encounters drive a fast-paced story line. When the action is sex the novel is top rate especially for a DOP (dirty old person – politically correct) like me. However Laura's whodunit subplot seems distracting rather than enhancing the prime story line of mercurial heat between the Voyeur and his desire as Braden proves there is a solid perpetual motion machine at least in the deep reams of this fiery novel.

Nebula Awards Showcase 2007
Edited by Mike Resnick
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
0451461347 $15.95 1-800-847-5515

The annual Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America selection of the best of the year's stories is always a fun book and the 2007 edition is no exception. The format does not change from year to year, but what is included of course is kept current. Several novellas and novelettes including the winners from each category ("Magic for Beginners" and the "Faery handbag" both by Kelly Link) are provided. An extract from the first place novel Camouflage by Joe Haldeman is also included. Other categories are Short Story (the selections are provided), Script, and the Andre Norton Award. All are fine entries, but this reviewer's favorite inclusion is the essays on the state of science fiction and fantasy. This year's commentary included a fascinating round table discussion on short fiction with famous editors of magazines/anthologies participating and an article on cover art by John Picacio. All in all as always a fine anthology that reminds fans what the authors considered the best of 2006.

The Man with the Golden Torc
Simon R. Green
0451461452 $23.95

When he's not on assignment the world knows him as Shaman Bond. He is not a spy but is Eddie Drood of the powerful Drood family. They are the ones who keep the world safe from the supernatural and human elements that are evil. Eddie wears a gold torc around his neck and when he says the magic words it turns into a gold costume covering him from head to toe and rendering him invisible from almost everyone. It also gives him special powers that allow him to fight demons, aliens and other bad things.

His grandmother, the Matriarch calls him home for the first time in ten years. She has a special assignment for him. She wants him to take the Soul of Albion to its resting place in Stonehenge. On his way there, he is attacked by the Men in Black, Elves with poison arrows, CARnivores (sentient cars that eat humans) the phantom fleet and flying saucers. After he defeats everyone, he finds out that his grandmother's replaced the Soul of Albion for something worthless. She then declares him rogue, a traitor to the family which makes every one wanting to kill him. He teams up with Molly the witch, meets some of his former enemies to find out why he was branded traitor and learn the truth behind his family's power. Now he has to figure out what he wants to do about it and how to achieve it.

Readers who enjoyed Simon R. Green's the Nightside series will also love THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TORC; in some ways it is a fantasy James Bond with its magical and scientific gadgets, its action and the feel that the hero reports to Miss Penny Drood. There is a lot of dry wit, romantic humor and colorful villains to keep readers turning the pages until the book is finished. Mr. Green has another hit series.

Scott Mackay
0451461584 $6.99

Angry as they failed to gain special status including expediting of immigration to earth, the Tarsalans decide honey does not work; they turn to vinegar to force the recalcitrant earthlings to agree to their terms. They do this by constructing a phytosphere curtain around the planet that keeps sunlight from reaching earth.

On the Moon, alcoholic scientist Gerry Thorndike feverishly works on a means to eliminate the phytosphere that is destroying the planet and subsequently his family as his wife Glenda, struggles to put food on the table and protect their children from marauders willing to kill for a meal on a world in which the lack of sunlight is turning Earth into a wasteland.

This is a refreshing alien invasion tale that also provides a warning on a curtain (pollution) blocking the sun. The story line rotates between two fault lines that are quite different in design. On the one hand, the fascinating debates between the two brothers is quite interesting as the science seems pertinent, but in fairness also takes away from the dying earth doomsday countdown as time has run out. The other segue focuses on Glenda's survival track as she battles with odious officials demanding handouts or else, now nasty neighbors turned into deadly enemies and the foreboding Tarsalans. PHYTOSPHERE is an innovative well written apocalyptic science fiction thriller.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Poems By Verena
Verena Raye
Galing Publications
3435 Mill Road, Hatboro PA 19040
No ISBN $3.00

Verena Raye is a gifted artist and photographer who lives and works in Oregon. She has taken her eye for color and beauty one step further and transformed what she sees into poetry. This chapbook is a gift from an admiring poet, a tribute to Verena's skills.

This excerpt from "Pebble" shows readers what the artist and poet sees as she holds a small blue pebble in her hand and contemplates its journey:

…touched by silver rain
as it falls upon the seas
colored aquamarine
casting its cobalt sheen

"The Coming Snow" is visually pleasing and another poem created through the eyes of an artist. I chose one small excerpt in example of this fine poem:

…trees naked with Autumn
shake their silhouetted limbs
as cold brewed winds
glide across December days…

Ms. Raye memorializes the ocean in all its colors and moods in "Jewels of the Sea." I chose one favorite verse in excerpt:

By evening light, waves cradle the moon and rock it to its silent nightly sleep as stars shine upon blackest seas touching the water with silver gems I feel the earth sing to me its lullabye

Verena Raye shares eloquently her love of nature and alludes to a difficult past that strengthened her. Today, she lives in the present without forgetting the past that enhanced her gifts: "I stand straight/ in my armor of indignation." My thanks to Galing Publications for sharing her gifts with the world.

The New Gullivers: Shaping the Mindscapes, Soulscapes, And Landscapes of a New World
Stephen Banick
Gulliver Publishing
9504 East Sunnyside Dr., Scottsdale AZ 85260
9780977715107 15.95

Three centuries ago, when Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver's Travels, he could not have imagined our world today. Yet, in many ways, his classic tale translates metaphorically for travelers today. Lemuel Gulliver was unworldly, gullible, and clumsy in his dealings with the diverse cultures he met. Today's travelers and explorers cannot afford to demonstrate such weaknesses. Today, the ropes we dance on and the hoops we jump through in our dealings with other cultures are more complicated than they were in Lemuel's day.

Stephen Banick is a New Gulliver, a different sort of explorer in the age of Globalization. He believes modern Gullivers seek personal growth and empowerment and that they must experience other cultures with open minds, hearts, ears and eyes, without preconceived prejudices. To him, on-the-job training means exploring life and understanding other cultures and people in a time when homing pigeons have become satellites and scribes have become PDAs.

Our modern world, like Lemuel Gulliver's, is full of enigmas and answers. New Gullivers are cautious and respectful in their explorations. Technology allows us to explore every corner of the world through television, email and the internet from the safety of our homes. Learning new languages has never been more accessible to the masses. Airplanes transport us swiftly to every country and continent. We know today that the earth is not flat and that dragons, at least real dragons, do not live at the edges of our maps. But Modern Gullivers still face the metaphorical dragons of prejudice, misunderstanding, and fear. By reshaping flawed perceptions, New Gullivers can overcome those fears and prejudices. Stephen Banick tells readers how to become New Gullivers in simple but fascinating ways in this book.

Whether readers can financially afford to travel and explore or not, Banick provides options for every personality and pocketbook. We can all explore, meet new cultures, introduce ourselves in positive ways and establish connections with the Mindscapes, Soulscapes, and Landscapes of people everywhere around the globe. This book on the New Gullivers in the age of globalization is fascinating and highly recommended for youth and adults.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

The Schumann Proof
Peter Schaffter
Napoleon Publishing/RendezVous Press,
178 Willowdale Avenue, Ste. 201, Toronto, ONT, CAN M2N 4Y8
1894917065 $12.95

Peter Schaffter is a multi-talented genius. He studied at the Royal Conservatory; received the BMI Scholarship for excellence in composition and The Percy Faith Award after studying at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Music. As if this wasn't enough, he also studied German and received a minor in cinema studies. He supported himself as a lounge pianist at Toronto's upscale McGill Club.

Vikkan Lantry is recovering from the suicide of his lover. After fleeing Toronto, he returns to find that many people love him and want to help him. He connects with one of his old but revered teachers, Elly Gardiner, whose quiet but insistent demands lead to an accompanying job with a famous soprano making a comeback. This performance leads to a master class with an octogenarian pianist, who recognizes Vikkan's talent. Dieter Mann is looking for the perfect soprano and accompanist for a performance of an apparent Schumann Liederkreis, or love song, and finds it in Vikkan as accompanist and another student with a pure soprano voice named Laura Erskine:

"I doubt that had I been in Laura's place–sight-reading a recently discovered masterpiece in front of a world-renowned teacher–I could have sung with so much confidence. An accompanist can, if necessary, hide nerves and apprehension behind the main performer. Laura didn't have that option, but if anything, her singing sounded more assured, her voice more vibrantly electrifying, than I'd ever heard before. A couple of times, it raised the hair on the back of my neck."

Schaffter's writing is astonishing. This is a first novel, and it is more polished than many authors achieve after a lifetime of writing. Of course he is writing of things in which he has proprietary achievements. But the sensitivity that he brings to his writing draws the reader into his story of the world of music in a way that is understandable to the uninitiated. His plot is first-rate; his characters so true to the world of music that the reader feels thoroughly educated by the end of the book. The murders are true whodunits, and the reader is pulling for Vikkan throughout, only pausing to try to turn the pages fast enough to keep up with Schaffter's intellect. Ambition is the matrix by which Schaffter unveils the world of classical music. Wow!

Bottom Bracket
Vivian Meyer
Sumach Press
1415 Bathurst St., #202, Toronto, ON Canada M5R 3H8
1894549589 $15.95

Vivian Meyer writes from experience. Her life work is in an alternative school in downtown Toronto, where she sees some of the poorest youth in the city. BOTTOM BRACKET is her first mystery. Kensington Market as depicted in the novel is her own home neighborhood.

Abby Faria is a college graduate with an upscale mom. But she is living in Kensington Market in inner-city Toronto. She works as a bike courier, and bikes are her passion. She dates a lawyer, but their differing viewpoints make the relationship shallow at best. Still, Abby is fond of her guy and loves their great meals. But a murder that occurs almost on her doorstep and a frightened female illegal working as a hooker (with the accompanying heroin addiction) lands in Abby's lap. Abby gamely takes in Anita, finds help for her at a detox center, and seeks out an old family friend to help out. But what Abby doesn't know is that in the midst of the good people she knows in the neighborhood lurk crooked cops; lawyers on the take; and danger:

"I hadn't paid any attention to the car parked face forward further up the lane. Savvy marketers often use that spot as a free parking space. I leaned my bike against my body and looked for my keys. When I heard the squeal of tires, I looked up disbelievingly as the car barrelled toward me. How could anyone drive so fast in the confines of the Market? With a lurch of the heart, I realized the car wasn't going to slow down."

BOTTOM BRACKET is a compelling first novel, written with sensitivity and a matter-of-fact vision about the nature of poverty and the drug world. Abby Faria is a delightful heroine who stands still for no one and has a heart of gold. She is an obvious favorite within the confines of her world, and even her mother can't be angry at her. She is intelligent and hip, and her world quickly becomes the reader's as Meyer carefully leads us through Kensington Market's inhabitants, who form a funky co-op in watching out for one another.

Plot and action co-exist with Abby's thoughts as she races her way through her obligations and the realization that she is acting mostly alone. Abby steals our hearts as she solves the murder; helps her friends; and even befriends of the villains. An excellent first effort!

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

10 Curses That Block the Blessing
Larry Huch
Whitaker House
1030 Hunt Valley Circle, New Kenisgton, PA 15068
0883682079 $12.95

In my life and ministry hearing about curses that block our blessings is not something new; however it is always a joy to read a book with another's perspective on the subject. Mr. Huch's work is packed full of Spiritual insight on the many causes that are hindering our full blessings from the Lord. His writing is clear, simple and easy to understand; showing you what some of the major blocks may be and how to rid yourself of them in your life. He backs his work with Scripture and also shares his own struggles to be free and blessed. You will be amazed at how even your words are causing you and others pain and suffering. A revelation I have known for a long time, but certainly was glad to have a reminder. I truly believe this work will help all Christians in their walk with the Lord and will also be of interest to others. Very good book and much needed in the Body of Christ.

Courage The Monkey
Mark Jordan
Decere Publishing
5590 Bunky Way, Atlanta, GA 30338
0971701377 $10.95

If first impressions make a difference than this book takes ten giant steps forward; the cover is spectacular. Our eyes immediately see Jonathan, an 11 year old spider monkey, who is about as cute as can be. Inside we continue to have a feast for our eyes as each page illustrations brightly and colorfully set the mode and story mood for the words we are reading. Absolutely outstanding illustrations.

We read the tale of young Jonathan who lives on top of the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Kenomy. Jonathan is about to have his 11th birthday and on this day he must do a special task, but one that causes him great fear. Sadly, all the other monkey's mocked him, but Jonathan's brother never loses faith in Jonathan and because of this, Jonathan will find the courage that was always inside of him, and will become the one who saves the day.

Courage The Monkey is a wonderful book teaching children that there may be times when they are not able to accomplish something, but that does not mean in the future they won't. It also teaches them that having faith in each other's ability, and being an encouragement can mean the difference between victory or defeat. A great learning story with top-of-the-notch illustrations. Definitely recommended.

High Performance Health
James M. Rippe, M.D.
Thomas Nelson
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9780849901829 $24.99

It isn't often that you find a book that truly touches you in a special way; this was the case with "High Performance Health." Written by a man who is not only an M.D., but has had much experience in keeping fit you immediately feel comfortable with what you are being told. This isn't your norm of a 'get-fit', book; you know the type, just listings, patting you on the back, and sending you on your way. No, our author puts real heart into this work and it can be felt within the read.

In this book, Dr. Rippe gives us 10 solutions to redefine our health such as, The Dos and Don't of healthy weight management, Power foods that provide high energy nutrition, and The top five barriers to achieving high performance health and how to overcome them, all packed full of intense learning information. These were very well written and definitely easy to incorporate in any life style. However, I absolutely love how he incorporates the spirit man into the overall importance of our health with such topics as, How to remove toxic people and avoid toxic situations so you can build a positive health performance team and environment around you, or How to improve your health by improving the quality of your relationships. I am very impressed that our spirit side was recognized in our overall health. Great job! It was wonderful to read some of the stories of those who took responsibility for areas of their lives that were hindering their healing and achieved better health through these steps.

I found this book to be trustworthy, easy to read, interesting and definitely a great incentive to overcoming my own problems in taking control of my health and helping to improve it. I truly recommend this book and thank Dr. Rippe for sharing the valuable information that is contained inside. I feel this work will be life changing for many.

Helping Guys Become Men, Husbands, and Fathers
Dr. John King
Destiny Image
P.O.Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
1007684-23716 $14.99

I certainly am not be a guy and of course I'm not a dad or husband but I have to say I truly enjoyed and learned from this outstanding book by Dr. John King. Packed inside of this gem of a work is heartfelt, life learned advise for any man who truly wants to be the husband and father every wife and child deserves to have.

Dr. King takes the reader through some inside checks, touching their outlook as a dad, how their past can effect their dad-self and he begins to give some great insight into turning things around, what is important, why, and how to implement changes that will make a difference. He also gives some short but meaningful story examples that many will relate to.

I loved just about everything this book had to offer. The cover is great, the outlay is fun, the advise useful and simply to understand and actually quite simple to put into practice in your life. All in all this is a great book that I am truly proud to give my recommendation to. Men - you need to pick this one up; in my humble opinion if you read this with an open heart, ready to make a few adjustments, the advise in this book will give you a wealth of good seeds that will produce a bountiful harvest in your life and the life of your wife and children. Excellent job Dr. King!

Queen of The Underworld
Gail Godwin
The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345483195 $14.95

In this novel by author Gail Godwin, we meet young Emma Gant as she is about to embark on her first job with the Miami Star after graduating college. We see her leaving behind a brow-beaten mother and a sexual and physical abusive step-father. She doesn't however travel to Miami as a fresh flower, for there to meet her is a married lover who has a strong hand in introducing her to a totally different life than she emerged from.

At her new home, Emma learns to co-exist with Cubans who have escaped Castro's clutches and meet some very colorful characters who have a great impact on her life, including the Queen of the Underworld, an ex-Madam, her boyfriends wife; a Jewish Mafioso and some Cuban exiles who are exporting dental equipment, or are they? Our young lady seems to have mingled with some not so favorable people.

I feel the entire concept of the story was showing how different cultures and people influence lives and the choices we make, for better or worse.

It is the story of a young girl who I feel felt the excitement and drawing of the different people she met, the city and the job she was now part of, almost like someone tasting life for the first time. However, you do wonder if she is naive or just very smart as she lives among these very oddball characters, winding herself in and out of their lives. Are they part of her determent or does she use them to her advantage?

I felt this was a different story, at times a little hard to follow, but nevertheless still full of characters that were both mysterious, charming, repulsive, and interesting enough to keep you reading. It's the story of a young girl experiencing life with different cultures, moral standings and customs than her own, as she makes her way in a time when perhaps the world wasn't ready to make room for her.

A More Excellent Way
Henry W. Wright
Pleasant Valley Publishers
4178 Crest Highway, Thomaston, GA 30286
0967805929 $24.95

As a Christian believing the Word of God is what its all about and that includes being healed in body and mind.

Often there is a struggle achieving this goal, frustration sets in and many simply give-up. Take heart, perhaps this work by Henry W. Wright will give you some insight into reasons why you have not achieved the health you know the Bible promises you.

Pastor Wright looks at disease from a spiritual perspective. What does that mean? He searches out the basis roots of disease and why it has been allowed to attack our bodies. He explains Generational curses and how we can break the authority they have over us. Even doctors ask what your parents, grandparents and so on died from.

He has us take a close look at ourselves, our attitudes and explains how they can effect our health. Attitudes such as unforgiveness, self-hatred and fear. I found this book to be very informative, both spiritually and in the natural realm. You will be surprised to see how our spirit-man and our spiritual condition effects our physical well-being.

This is one great book and one that I certainly recommend for anyone suffering with disease or just wants to maintain good health in their body. Packed full of 'why's' of sickness; packed full of 'how to correct,' and packed full of encouragement for hurting souls. A real eye-opener!

And The Angels Were Silent
Max Lucado
Multnomah Press
Post Office Box 1720,Sisters, OR 97759
9781576735992 $14.95

In this world there are some who it appears the Lord places His hand upon and gives them insight into events that are the very foundation of our Christian beliefs. Their words become more than words on paper; they become life within you. You will bath in this experience in this wonderful book by author Max Lucado, "And the Angels Were Silent." Taking us through the final week of Jesus we are given insight into the pure love of our Savior. He brings to light the struggle in the garden that Jesus faced and when you are finished reading this you know even Jesus had a choice, but He chose to give His life for me and for you. I believe one of the most profound phrases in this book is the following and I quote page 155, "For it was in the garden that He made his decision. He would rather go to hell for you than go to Heaven without you. What a reality His sacrifice of love becomes. Who could understand such a love? This one statement will be inscribed on my heart forever.

In my eyes this book is wonderful for anyone who truly loves Jesus and wants a better understanding of his final days and His heart for mankind. If you ever doubted His love for you once you read this book you will never doubt it again. A true book of passion, touching, absorbing and absolutely a must read for every one who calls Jesus their Savior and Lord. Highly recommended!

Glory Invasion
David Herzog
Destiny Image
P.O. Box 310, Shippenburg, PA 17257
9780768424348 $12.95

I am totally amazed at the revelation that God is pouring out on mankind in these last days. It is as if God has heard the cry of mankind and is answering it and using anointed authors to share it with us. Some of the books that I have been privileged to read and review have caused me to grow with leaps and bounds in my Spiritual walk, and I am thankful. This new book by author David Herzog , Glory Invasion, joins the ranks in my opinion, as one of the most encouraging, exciting, and spirit-charged books that I have read. The revelation that he brings to the table I can only call life-changing. There have been several times lately, in certain books that I have read, where I actually feel the excitement of the Spirit of God inside of me as I digest the revelation that I am receiving, this was one of those times. I found myself reading several pages and actually putting the book down so I could meditate on the wonder of the words that I had just read. As a Christian, nothing is more important than following where God is leading, and being in the depths of the flowing waters of His Spirit; David shares where God is going and how to follow and be one with Him and His Glory. Outstanding!

In this work you will understand how creative miracles happen, how to receive supernatural provision and help in awakening your prophetic destiny from its sleep. You will realize God has something wonderful for you to do and through the words of this book, your spirit will have the encouragement to run to complete the race set before you, and you will see and understand that indeed there is more, much more, awaiting you as a Christian. And you will deeply understand, we do serve a 'Mighty God,' who is indeed more than enough to defeat lack, sickness and all the other obstacles that have darkened your door. How exciting is that?

It's time to rejoice, and fill your mind and spirit with words that will make a difference and change your life. You will find those words in this anointed book; I would never attempt to try and explain in such a short review the deep revelation you will receive, but believe me, they are there. I highly recommend Glory Invasion to you. It's time to go to the next level of His Glory and this book will help you make the climb. Thank you David for sharing this revelation with us; God's hand is truly upon you.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Shakespeare Code
Virginia M. Fellows
Snow Mountain Press
c/o Summit University Press
PO Box 5000, Gardiner, MT 59030-5000
Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (publicity)
10730 Escobar Drive, San Diego, CA 92124
1932890025, $19.95

Scholar of mysticism Virginia M. Fellows presents The Shakespeare Code, a one-of-a-kind revelation of hidden codes concealed in the works of Shakespeare and other writers of his time. Exposing amazing and scandalous stories, such as the hidden marriage of Elizabeth the "Virgin Queen", tales of murder and scandal, corruption, and the true-life story of code-devisor Francis Bacon, The Shakespeare Code is at once both shocking and intriguing. An amazing compendium of ciphers and methodologies applied to classic literature, from bi-formed alphabets to Dr. Owen's cipher to Ignatius Donnelly's cipher and more; regardless of whether one agrees with all the author's conclusions, one has to admire the persistence and minute attention to detail.

Soul On Fire
Peter Calhoun
PageFree Publishing Inc.
109 South Farmer Street, Otsego, MI 49078-1119
Hay House, Inc. (distributor)
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
Cate Cummings Publicity & Promotion Group (publicity)
7601 East 93rd Street, Kansas City, MO 64138-4206
1589614178, $16.95 1-800-654-5126

"Soul On Fire: A Transformational Journey From Priest To Shaman" is the personal story of Peter Calhoun who as an Episcopal priest underwent a spiritual wakening that developed into healing and intuitive abilities. The process he experienced included a series of disturbing visions of the possible futures of the Earth. This lead to Peter Calhoun's deep concern for our world and the disconnection from the environment that is a ubiquitous condition of contemporary western life in the industrialized nations. Leaving the restrictions of a priestly mind set, Calhoun took on the attitudes of a shaman. This personal saga is related in the pages of "Soul On Fire" through a collection of stories describing a personal awakening to spiritual powers that is accessible to the readers who, like Calhoun, is discovering that the old modalities are not sufficient to deal with the truths confronting them in our contemporary world. "Soul On Fire" is a fascinating read as a personal biography, and is especially recommended reading for anyone seeking a spiritual or metaphysical awakening of their own.

The Hypnotic Use of Waking Dreams
Paul W. Schenk, PsyD
Crown House Publishing Limited
6 Trowbridge Drive, Suite 5, Bethel, CT 06801
1845900308, $29.95 1-877-925-1213

Written by clinical psychologist and approved consultant of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis Dr. Paul W. Schenk, The Hypnotic Use of Waking Dreams: Exploring Near-Death Experiences Without the Flatlines is a guide to experiencing the perspective-transforming miracle of a near-death experience without risking one's life, but rather through the process of a hypnotic waking dream. Chapters further explore the other benefits that hypnotic waking dreams can bring, such as connecting one with past lives or spirit guides, and offer several individual testimonies at length. "If, then, our entire lives can be seen as an ongoing work in progress, negotiating that process can be easier with the help of a seasoned coach or mentor. When faced with an unfamiliar or difficult situation, it is nice to have someone to turn to for advice and support. As a therapist, I enjoy the opportunity to service in this capacity for my clients. Yet even more than this, I enjoy helping my clients develop (or strengthen) a conscious connection with their own spirit guides." A straightforward introduction to the dimensions and life-changing benefits of certain metaphysical practices.

Tracking The Soul
Joe Landwehr
Ancient Tower Press
230 West 1st Street, #119, Mountain View, MO 65548
9780974762616, $24.95

Joe Landwehr draws upon his more than 36 years of experience and expertise as an astrologer in "Tracking The Soul With An Astrology Of Consciousness" to provide interested members of the astrological community with an astropoetic approach to astrology with respect to the subjective interplay between astrological symbolism and the consciousness exercised in relation to it. Readers will be introduced to a comprehensive system of spiritual psychology, provided with detailed astrological case studies for each chakra, and be provided with practical suggestions for working with the system in an open-ended way. Of special note are the anecdotes drawn from Landwehr's personal experiences as an astrologer and student of Yogi Bhajan and Swami Muktananda. "Tracking The Soul" is a welcome and confidently recommended addition to personal and professional Metaphysical Studies, Astrology, and Spiritual Psychology reference collections and supplemental reading lists. Also very highly recommended reading is Joe Landwehr's previous work in the field of metaphysics: "The Seven Gates of Soul".

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

The Maverick Millionaire
Jordan Wirsz
Palari Publishing
1113 West Main Street, Richmond, VA 23220
1928662080, $23.95 1-866-570-6724

At the age of 24, owner of Diamond Bay Investments (a multi-million-dollar trust deed investment company) Jordan Wirsz shares his experience, advice, insights, commentary, and hard-earned lessons on how to become wealthy through starting and operating a successful business enterprise in "The Maverick Millionaire: Wealth Advice From One Of America's Youngest Self-Made Millionaires". An articulate, superbly organized and deftly written 216-page compendium of very practical information focused on fiscal responsibility and what is required to achieve financial success. The basic bottom-line message of this 'maverick millionaire' is that it is fiscal responsibility that leads to financial success so long as those who aspire to wealth do so with the right tools and some expert guidance along the way. For those who so aspire, "The Maverick Millionaire" is an excellent example of that fundamentally necessary expert guidance.

The Permission Seeker's Guide Through the Legal Jungle
Joy R. Butler
Sashay Communications, LLC
2200 Wilson Boulevard, #102-329, Arlington, VA 22201
0967294010, $19.95

Entertainment attorney Joy R. Butler presents The Permission Seeker's Guide Through the Legal Jungle: Clearing Copyrights, Trademarks and Other Rights for Entertainment and Media Productions, a no-nonsense "how-to" guide for anyone seeking to efficiently gain the rights to use protected materials ranging from quotes to people's names and faces, brand names, life stories, and other protected concepts. Chapters cover the basics of copyright and trademark; clearance issues specific to publishers, writers, visual artists, musicians, film or TV producers, website producers, and businesses; the process for seeking permission; practical methods for minimizing risk; and more. "Insurance companies may have a duty to indemnify you, a duty to defend you, or both... If the policy offers a duty to indemnify without a duty to defend, you may be responsible for paying your own legal costs for responding to the lawsuit." Extensive appendices of resources and forms as well as an index round out this "must-have" legal primer for anyone with a media career. While absolutely not a substitute for the professional counsel of an attorney, The Permission Seeker's Guide Through the Legal Jungle should be read cover-to-cover before one steps into the office of an attorney who charges hefty fees by the hour.

Things Will Never Be the Same
Howard Waldrop
Old Earth books
PO Box 19951, Baltimore, MD 21211
1882968360, $25.00

Things Will Never Be the Same: Selected Short Fiction 1980-2005 is the first career-retrospective anthology of Howard Waldrop's short stories, including the Nebula and World Fantasy Award-winning tale "The Ugly Chickens" and the Hugo-nominated "The King of Where-I-Go". Sometimes mundane, sometimes dazzling, always peering into an ever-so-slightly askew "Waldropian" universe, these tales are crafted not only to entertain the reader, but also to expand the reader's worldview. Distinguishing this retrospective are brief afterwords to each tale, written by Waldrop himself, offering insights into the genesis of the story and comments on what affected its creative process. Enthusiastically recommended for science fiction and fantasy buffs everywhere.

Where Witch Birds Fly
Eugene Harkins
Clarity Press
4377 Roswell Road, NE, Atlanta, GA 30305
Gulotta Communications, Inc. (publicity)
341 Lexington Street, Newton, MA 02466
0932863493, $14.95

Written by lawyer Eugene Harkins, Where Witch Birds Fly is a heartrending novel grounded in modern historical tragedy and criminality. In the wake of the Cold War, the African nation of Sierra Leone is dominated by a complicity of Big Oil business, Big Diamond business, foreign mercenaries, and the Lebanese Christian trading community, all determined to plunder the natural resources of the African population, leaving them to suffer so greatly that rebellion breaks out. An amoral African-American international lawyer, come to represent Lebanese interests in the largely crooked diamond trade, becomes immersed in the relentless tide of violence and war, kidnapped and held for ransom by revolutionaries. What he sees, experiences, and comes to understand will transform him forever, as will his growing understanding of the roots of his own heritage. A powerfully written novel of struggle, pain, and self-examination balanced against the desperate need to survive.

Paul T. Vogel

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

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