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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 6 June 2008 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Lisa Saffron
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434354921, $17.90,

The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict is not simply a battle between two opposing countries – it's a conflict between two groups of people who are close enough- and are – neighbors. "Checkpoint" is a novel of growing relationships – and how those relationships can tear a family apart. The Shapiros are split by loyalties of friendship on both sides of the cause, and must figure out a way to remain a family all while staying loyal to their friends in this deftly written look at the conflict from the fictional perspective of a family torn asunder - "Checkpoint" is highly recommended to community library collections dedicated to world fiction and fiction focusing on current events.

The Testari Scrolls
LC Laird
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington IN 47403
9781434356123, $18.99,

2012 – less than four years away, and some claim it's the day of the Apocalypse for all of Earth. Why? "The Testari Scrolls" is a fictional look at the coming of the end times. Following a girl as she tries to do everything she can to save her own life despite the oncoming end of the world, "The Testari Scrolls" is a deftly written novel focusing on something all people fear and the fact that it seems so close. Highly recommended for community library fictions collections looking for fiction with a metaphysical twist.

K.C. Manns
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434344731, $20.49,

The Power of Healing – to save life from the brink of death, should be an absolute good, no? "Silverwolf: Book One" tells of Tell, a man who discovers the power to heal within himself, and soon finds that his blessing is not without its curses. He must face so much and rise up the ranks to face those who would want to abuse his power in this deftly written and crafted fantasy, highly recommended for fans of the genre and community library collections catering to them.

My Mother's House
Alexa Wolf
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741435209, $22.95,

The Health Care system in America is described as one of the worst in the industrialized world - "My Mother's House" is a memoir of author Alexa Wolf's views of watching her mother struggle with her health over those years and her pain of having to care for her aging mother. A dark look at the grim state of our health care system from someone who had to watch their closest relative feel its pain and turmoil, "My Mother's House" is highly recommended for community library memoir collections with a nod to social issues collections as well.

Intentional Living
Linda Abbott Trapp
Book Surge
7290 B. Investment Drive, Charleston, South Carolina
9781419686177, $15.99,

One of the biggest teachers one can learn from is life itself - "Intentional Living: Lessons from the Tree of Life" is a compilation of these lessons. Focusing on dealing with one's emotions and staying true to one's roots, it offers invaluable wisdom from cover to cover, sure to help one appreciate the simple and finer things in life while improving oneself. "Intentional Living: Lessons from the Tree of Life" is a grade-A pick for those seeking a little extra wisdom in their lives and for community library self-help collections.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158096, $8.95,

A gem, in this definition is an every day one liner that is insightful. "Gems" is a anthology of these one liners ranging on countless topics from religion to sex to sports, to everything that one encounters in life daily. Deftly compiled, witty, wise, and insightful, these one liners are sure to brighten the day of anyone who would read it. "Gems" is a top pick for community library humor collections and a great gift for any.

Dennis Dufour
Trafford Publishing
2657 Wilfert Road, Victoria, BC V9B 5Z3
1425132499, $13.00,

It's never a good sign when the crime scene is riddled with blood and remains – and the body is missing. "Deadworld" follows PI Gabriel Boudreau as he attempts to find the missing bodies from his crime scene but finds that his victims have become killers themselves. As the country spirals out of control, Gabriel must figure it all out or join the masses himself. "Deadworld" is a deftly crafted horror novel, a top pick for community library collections collecting them.

Silver Cord
Erik Stevens
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
1933290129, $16.95,

One man must lead earth against the hordes of evil or else it shall be destroyed - "Silver Cord: Cimmerian Dawn" is Kent McVay's story of his car accident and proceeding Coma that allows him to interact with the spirit realm – which gives him the chance to stop the demons that are starting to overpower his home world. With his family faith in him and God as the only thing protecting him personally, he has to protect them or all will be lost in this gripping Christian Science fiction novel. "Silver Cord: Cimmerian Dawn" is a must for Christian fans of the genre, and highly recommended for community library science fiction collections.

Sinister Among Us
William B. Bradshaw
Tate Publishing & Enterprising
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, Oklahoma, 73064
9781598867404, $22.99,

A college over run with demons – and he only thought he had to deal with a financial crisis. "Sinister Among Us", written by the only man in the United States to hold a Doctorate in Demonology, is the story of Brad Green, returning from retirement to serve a small Midwestern college. In order to get the college back on the right path, he must face off against the hordes of Satan in order to purge the school from the evil that has accumulated over the years. Highly recommended for anyone who likes their fiction with a Christian message, "Sinister Among Us" is a must for community library fiction collections catering to Christians.

The Best of Gowanus II
Thomas J. Hubschman, editor
Gowanus Books
c/o Savvy Press
473 17th St. #6 Brooklyn, NY 11215-6226
0966987772, $24.95,

A compilation of writing from a place that most of the world sadly ignores – the developing world. "The Best of Gowanus II: More New Writing from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean" picks the brains of the intellectuals who call countries that could not yet be called industrialized home. With nearly thirty stories from all over the world, it's sure to give readers a wide taste of what is out there from the world, containing both fiction and non-fiction. "The Best of Gowanus II: More New Writing from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean" is highly recommended to any collection collecting writings from around the world.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Beijing Games
Pat DePaolo
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434340887, $25.95,

A plot to destroy America's economy and lifestyle so others may benefit – the terrifying plot put forth in "The Beijing Games", a political thriller. Spurned corporate victim Justin Gatt must stand against massive world wide plots to save the country he calls home and the lifestyle he has learned to enjoy – and for his troubles, the Chinese government goes out of their way to eliminate him and his growing influence in America. Gatt faces the odds, with very few friends by his side to maintain the economic freedom of the world. "The Beijing Games" is a fast paced thriller from first page to last, a must for community library collections catering to the genre.

Able Greenspan

Klausner's Bookshelf

Secrets of Surrender
Madeline Hunter
Dell Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440243953, $6.99, 1-800-726-0600

Lord Norbury has no conscience as Roselyn Longworth has learned the hard way as his mistress; she ranks him below her wastrel brother Timothy who ruined their family and drove her into being a courtesan in order for her to save her sibling's life. However, even she is unprepared for his latest odious audacity, when he hosts an auction with her as the prize to the highest bidder while her efforts to save Timothy appear futile.

Although he should not get involved, architect Kyle Bradwell has been attracted to the proud but vulnerable Roselyn since he first seen her at the theater two years ago. He competes against the vulgar and though the price is steep he wins her. His kindness is a shocker to Rose and soon she falls in love with her rescuer. He assumes her feelings are constructed on a foundation of hero worship for saving her. However, when she learns his darkest secret, Rose wonders if her beloved is as contemptible as her former paramour is.

SECRETS OF SURRENDER is a terrific historical romance starring a likable lead male even if his dark secret drops him off the pedestal and a fascinating woman who has no reason to trust men. The story line is driven by this couple and the repulsive Norbury who is so sordid his behavior is over the top even for wastrel aristocrats. Fans will appreciate this fine tale as love and the Queensbury Rules take charge.

Danger's Kiss
Sarah McKerrigan
Warner Forever
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
044661887X, $6.99, 1-800-759-0190

In 1250 the Kent shire-reeve Nicholas Grimshaw enforces the law but also insures justice occurs even for prisoners facing the gallows. He oversees the executions of criminals, but insures no one suffers needlessly.

When a convicted killer Hubert Kabyn asks Nicholas to become guardian to his ward his grandchild Desiree; he wants to say no, but agrees so the man can meet his maker with one less concern. Professionally tutored thief Desiree is stunned that the law enforcer has been named her guardian, but if she can persuade him to help her she might learn who framed her teacher for murder. Nicholas is shocked by his attraction to his ward, but more stunned that his finicky feline loves her from the first time they meet each other. A con who uses her lure to trick men into doing her bidding, Desiree finds she feels different towards the enforcer; as the use of her allure to entice him would be degrading her desire. As she turns honest and he a bit con, someone wants her dead. Nicholas will do what it takes even break the law to keep his beloved safe.

DANGER'S KISS is an exciting medieval romantic suspense starring two opposites in love. Whereas she is all con artist and he is all law enforcer, their romance makes for strange bedfellows yet each realistically compromises their "values" for the other. Fans will appreciate Sarah McKerrigan's fine thirteenth century tale as Desiree takes over Nicholas' home, cat, and heart.

Death by Bikini
Linda Gerber
Penguin Books
c/o The Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780142411179, $7.99, 1-800-847-5515

With her father, Aphra Behn Connolly lives on a tropical island where they manage a resort. Her mom chose not to go with them because she felt a need to find herself. Aphra helps her dad run the resort and the Connolly duo has become very close. That is until the Smiths arrive. The father says something in private to Aphra's dad who places them in a villa that needs renovations and fails to register them as guests.

Frank makes it clear to his daughter that he does not want her to have anything to do with the Smiths' son Seth, but not why. Aphra is curious about the newcomers and finally goes into the office to read the Smith file, if there is one. She finds cards that her mother sent her that her father kept from her. Upset she runs out of the office as two people on the island show interest in the Smiths. Aphra's father becomes ill and the only person who can help him is Mr. Smith, but for him to save his host, their offspring must keep the killers away from their dads.

Readers know from the onset that the "Smiths" are on the run from someone who wants them dead while Aphra has to work on finding out who they are; her sleuthing is fun to follow. Readers will empathize with the members of the two families, as each has problems to deal with. Linda Gerber provides an entertaining young adult mystery suspense thriller.

Murder Aboard the Choctaw Gambler
Sharon Ervin
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594146985, $25.95, 1-800-223-1244

Arizona State Bureau of Investigation Agent Jim Wills investigates the murder of Larry Potter, a croupier on the Choctaw Gambler riverboat casino. He allows Bishop Clarian reporter Jancy Dewhurst to join him as he makes inquiries. He soon concludes that Larry was in the wrong place at wrong time and looked especially in the dark like the owner Jesse Chase. The sniper must have thought he was killing Jesse.

At the same time, the rival Dominion News Editor Tyrone asks Jancy to investigate rumors that volatile G.C. Gideon has bankrupted his elderly father Tyrone's vast ranching empire to pay his gambling debts. As she looks into that, G.C. remains the prime suspect in the Potter murder as he had a fight with Chase over gambling debts. After Jancy interrogates Tyrone, an outraged G.C. brutally beats up his father and sends his henchman Bubba Valentine to kill the meddling reporter. Jim who is attracted to Jancy tries to keep the curious journalist safe even as he fears he will lose her to her ambition.

Although I have doubts that an agent of the ASBI would allow a reporter easy access to an official inquiry (especially without complaints from rival journalists), readers will enjoy the fast-paced police procedural romance. The whodunit is fun, but it is the relationship between J & J that adds a tasty spice to the story as MURDER ABOARD THE CHOCTAW GAMBLER is an entertaining romantic investigative tale.

Paul Bates
Five Star Books
9781594146428, $25.95

The government controls everything in the lives of their citizens. They will not allow dissension and harshly eliminate opposition. However, in spite of the government's seemingly total severe control, a rebellious underground exists whose goal is to throw out the current leadership and replace it with their leaders starting with top gun Carpathia Coyle. This opposition has proven at times as ruthless as the government is.

Walter Vellum is rising rapidly up the ladder of the rebels. At the same time of his meteoric assent, his girlfriend and employee at his bar, Jennie Height is beginning to understand her precognitive skills. Her visions are the only thing that keeps the rebels alive as the government crushes their opponents at every turn.

This is an interesting combination of science fiction and fantasy in a dystopian society. The story line can become a bit bewildering to follow but for the most part is an intriguing tale of rebellion in which the critical players for each side are clairvoyants. Well written and exciting, readers initially will root for the rebels, but soon realize they offer more of the same ruthless oligopoly control as the government does.

Fans of psychic thrillers in a futuristic dystopian world in which the adversaries are two sides of the same coin will appreciate Paul Bates' fine thriller DREAMERS.

Death of a Lovable Geek
Maria Hudgins
Five Star Books
9781594146411, $25.95

In the Scottish Highlands, Virginia medieval history professor Dotsy Lamb, accompanied by her best friend Lettie Osgood, is excited to be at an archeological dig led by renowned Dr. John Sinclair whose brother William owns the site. However, her enjoyment especially when she finds an ancient gold coin that could revise what is known about the eleventh century and earlier ends when the murdered corpse of mushroom expert Dylan "Froggy" Quale is found by Christine, a teen who works in the nearby Castle Dunlaggan kitchen.

Chief Inspector Duncan Coates suspects Froggy's site roommate American media expert Van Nguyen, but Dotsy believes that is not likely. When John dies soon afterward, Dotsy thinks mushroom poisoning killed him, which she wonders might be tied to Froggy's homicide as the young man was the expert on fungi. With the help of Lettie and her knowledge of the real King Macbeth (not that Shakespeare imposter), Lettie investigates at the same time that Coates makes his inquiries.

DEATH OF A LOVABLE GEEK is an enjoyable amateur sleuth tale with a police procedural in the background. The story line contains two fascinating twists that will surprise the audience. The cast is strong especially the medieval scholar and her best friend while the look at how castle proprietorship has changed adds depth to a fun cozy.

Marc Paoletti
Five Star Books
9781594146572, $25.95

Former Navy SEAL David Cole is excited about being the pyrotechnics expert on the filming of Bringing Them Back because his adult son Ronny works with him on the set and he is attracted to the movie's director Jennifer Shragee. However, when Ned Brandenburg and Levar Watkins almost cause an explosion due to carelessness, he fires them knowing that the former is the nephew of Loki Studio head Gary Stanford. Ned and Levar vow to get even with Cole while Gary is upset because he needs the film finished or face bankruptcy and mob muscle; Cole is holding up the filming due to safety concerns.

Gary hires psychopath Frank Ruger to take out Cole. To the horror of Ned and Levar, Frank kills Ronny before igniting a horrific explosion that should have left David dead. However David survives though badly hurt and begins his quest for revenge against Gary, Frank, Ned, and Levar even as Police Lieutenant Scott Whittaker names him as the suspect in his son's murder.

Fast-paced, fans who aprpeciate 200 proof action in their thrillers will relish Marc paoletti's full octane tale. However, those who want a psychological side to the prime players will find that lacking as the action supersedes character development. Still SCORCH is an exciting cat and mouse tale of twisted revenge.

River Ghosts
B.D. Robb
Five Star Books
9781594146541, $25.95

In Red River Falls, terrified racially mixed eight year old Richard Hill hides under his family's kitchen table as he sees teenage Henry Clayton rape and kill the child's white mother. The preadolescent knows he will be haunted forever with the swastika tattoo that Richard proudly displayed. Henry is convicted of the rape-murder while Richard's black father tries to help his son move past the hate crime.

Sixteen years later newly discovered DNA evidence exonerates Henry. The Illinois governor pardons him and he is released from prison. Now a Red River Falls police officer, Richard believes the so-called new proof is a fake as he witnessed Henry rape and kill his mom. When an elderly gay man is murdered, the circumstantial evidence points towards a white supremacist friend of Henry as the killer. Richard and his squad car partner believe Henry is involved, but have to find concrete evidence to validate their theory in court.

The adversarial relationship between Henry and Richard make for an exhilarating character driven thriller. The same event has turned both men into obsessive individuals although Henry already had a cause before the rape murder of Richard's mom. Readers will appreciate this strong look at two foes; one a homegrown terrorist using race as his cause while the other became a cop in homage to his mom as he needs to ensure victims see justice occur starting with himself.

Leave No Stone Unturned
Jeanne Glidewell
Five Star Books
9781594146497, $25.95

In Shawnee, Kansas, forty-eight year old volunteer librarian assistant widow Lexie Starr is helping a teenage use microfiche to find the winner of the 2001 Boston marathon when she notices an article on the late wife of police academy student Clayton Pitt. She realizes that Clayton is most likely her son-in-law whom she dislikes and whose first spouse Eliza was pregnant when she was murdered in DeKalb, New York.

While seeking replacement charms from a bracelet her daughter Wendy lost, Lexie comes into contact with Carolina jeweler Stone Van Patten. Using him as an alibi to divert Wendy, she heads to Schenectady, where Clayton lived to learn if he could be a spouse killer and whether her pregnant daughter is in jeopardy from him.

Although she knows she is over the top, Lexie LEAVES NO STONE UNTURNED as she goes the extra 1250 plus miles to insure the safety of her beloved daughter to learn whether her son-in-law killed his first wife. The support cast in Upstate New York adds eccentric color especially at the Camelot B&B where foul mouthed Sinbad the parrot and Harriet Sparks rule the roost. Detective Glick finds her amusing and irritation while Stone, whom she never met, joins her in New York. With a fine but improbable whodunit combined with a middle age romance, Jeanne Glidewell writes an engaging amateur sleuth.

Honorable Intentions
Donna MacQuigg
Five Star Books
978159416961, $25.95

In 1881 Territory of New Mexico, young Josh Barnes shoots visiting Mexico rancher Don Miguel Estrada as he recognized the man as a wanted outlaw Antonio Garcia. The sheriff has Lydia Randolph treat the wound. Two days later the sheriff apologizes as Miguel's father sends a telegram insisting his son was in town to purchase horses.

Lydia, who is the heir to a duchy, is out riding when she sees vultures in the air; she knows from her new brother-in-law Sayer that means their prey still lives but is near death. She goes to help only to be caught by Raul Martinez and his gang who just robbed Wells Fargo. When Miguel learns about her captivity he poses as Antonio the gang leader in a desperate quest to save Lydia's life.

Although mistaken identity has been used often in literature, Donna MacQuigg provides a fresh look as the hero employs it to try to save the heroine. Miguel is wonderful as he masquerades as Antonio, but struggles with the part because he is a caring kind person and the role calls for a nasty abusive thug. Adding to his difficulty in keeping in character is his attraction to Lydia. Readers will enjoy his efforts to rescue the woman he loves in this fine western romance and seek the tale of Lydia's sister (see THE DOCTOR'S DAUGHTER).

The Red Necklace
Sally Gardner
Dial Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780739356487, $16.99, 1-800-726-0600

In 1789 Paris, Tetu the dwarf has raised fourteen years old full blooded Roma orphan Yann as they both assist egomaniac magician Topolain. His arrogance leads to his death at the hands of evil Count Kalliovski who wants the automaton the mage used while performing. At about the same time, Yann meets reticent affluent aristocrat Sidonie; a lonely young girl who has no friends and never tasted love even from family members. Her cold distant father loathes her so much he has sold her to the vicious Count as his wife.

The murder of Topolain leads Tetu to smuggle his ward out of France to the safety of London. However, when the Revolution begins to take over the French capital, Yann returns hoping to take the two people he cares about, Tetu and Sidonie, to London; knowing her father and her fiance will attempt to kill him for trying.

A Tale of Two Cities with an Oliver Twist spin, a serial killer leaving garnet necklaces on the victims, and an intimation of Gypsy magic make for an entertaining young adult suspense historical fantasy. The contrast between Paris and London is startling, but both cities have blood flowing in the streets; only the former is more in the open. Yann and Sidonie is a wonderful courageous couple while Tetu is heroic in his loyalty to his ward. Whereas the villains are a bit exaggerated, fans will appreciate this strong French Revolution thriller.

Killing Bridezilla
Laura Levine
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780758220431, $22.00, 1-800-345-2665

Freelance writer Jaine Austen has not had much success in her chosen career. Her biggest coup was writing an slogan for plumbers which on an award. when Patti Devane, the uber-bitch from the in-crowd back in high school, calls Jaine offering three thousand to write her wedding vows, the financially scrapped writer agrees to ignore her loathing, as she needs to pay her bills; rationalizing that necessity is the mother of bill paying.

Patti met her fiance at a high school reunion and stole him from his wife. Jaine realizes her client has not changed much from her high school days as a cruel selfish individual; who treats servants like dirt and considers Jaine a servant. The caterer detests spoiled Bridezilla; her former bridesmaid loathes obnoxious Bridezilla, and the ex-wife threatens to kill despicable Bridezilla. Even Jaine begins to consider bankruptcy a better option. When Patti dies in a murder made to look like an accident, Jaime's snooping gene activates and she starts nosing around to uncover who killed the bride from hell.

Laura Levine provides a humorous amateur sleuth tale starring a heroine who continually lands in ridiculous situations. Although the ex is the obvious prime suspect (except to sub-genre fans who know how that plays out), there are plenty of other people, almost the entire wedding party and those working the event, praying for Patti to die. Even the audience will cheer re her demise as fans will laugh at this riotous pick me up crime caper.

Hot and Bothered
Dianne Castell
Kensington Brava
9780758223593, $14.00

In Savannah, Charlotte Deshawn and Griffin Parish III have known each other for years as both come from Old South family and money. They have been attracted to one another for a long time, but neither has acted on their most inner feelings beyond harmless teasing. Their circles have somewhat changed as he is a hotel magnate while she is a private investigator.

Griff hires Charlotte to find Jaden Caldwell. Twenty-five years ago, then five years old Jaden's parents were murdered and she vanished. He and Jaden recently inherited Magnolia House. As they work the case, the kudzu grapevine spreads the word they are an entry because the attraction is thicker than Georgia pine pollen. Although threatened by an unknown adversary, Charlotte begins to uncover the identity of the lost child.

This engaging romantic investigative tale with some paranormal elements stars strong lead and support characters including Savannah as Dianne Castell catches the essence of the city. Charlotte's inquiry is terrific as clues surface from various sources including eccentric ghosts while the resolution has fabulous final twist and a set up for a sequel. Readers will enjoy the well written kudzu private investigative romance.

Exposing Casey
Deanna Lee
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758214874, $12.95

"Watching Casey". Casey Andrews is stunned to realize a stalker has videoed her trysts with Connor Grant, head of security at the Holman Gallery. Besides outrage she is frightened as the taping has occurred in her bedroom, which means the creep was in her room to install his equipment. Her new neighbor detective Shawn Tranner plans to keep her safe while insuring no filming of his sexual encounters with Casey occurs.

"Seducing Lisa". The Boston based Holman Gallery owner James Brooks plans to seduce artist Lisa, the hillbilly porn artist, but knows he will need to create a masterpiece of a plan to get through her defenses. Although his sophisticated ex wife Cecilia Banks seems to always be in the unwelcome way, James continues his pursuit of his favorite artist.

These two erotic romantic novellas are entertaining tales that connect to the Holman Gallery as does Deanna Lee's well written previous books UNDRESSING MERCY and BARENAKED JANE. Each tale is fun to read, but leaves too much unanswered dangling at the climax; definitely not that male organ. Still fans will appreciate both entries while wondering if two novels might have made them 10s.

Black Silk
Sharon Page
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758214713, $12.95

In London Maryanne Hamilton found the season quite tedious so she decides to attend the infamous party at Mrs. Master's salon. However, she also is editing the memoirs of aging prostitutes so they can earn a retirement income from their published works. Maryanne is especially excited by the exploits of Lord Dashiel Blackmore, who lives up to his name as every prostitute insists he adds dash to the boudoir.

When Dash meets Maryanne in a house of ill repute that no lady would enter, he assumes she is a courtesan; not the innocent she is. He wants her and lets her know he plans to take her. She wants to flee yet cannot resist his lure.

This is a superb erotic Regency romance in which the audience will agree with the prostitutes that Dash adds that and more to a fine mix. Maryanne is a wonderful counter to Dash as he assumes she is a courtesan and she does not fully correct him. This is a delightful page-turner that will have sub-genre fans seeking the author's other works (see SIN) as Sharon Page heats up the era.

Sins of the Night
Devyn Quinn
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758220189, $12.95

A century ago Adrien Roth was proud to be a Shadow Stalker who destroyed the Kynn. However, he failed at his task when he was captured by his enemy. They tortured him and he became one of them, a vampire who used sex with mortals as sustenance.

Loathing himself he plans to destroy Kynn chieftain Devon Carnavorn and the vampire's new wife Rachel in what the former Shadow Stalker knows is probably a suicide mission. However, as he begins his quest, Adrien meets human Cassie Wilson, who somehow reinvigorates the soul he thought the Kynn killed when they brutalized and changed him. As they fall in love, he wants to come out of her shadows into the light of her warmth, but obstinately refuses to give up his quest for vengeance as he targets the Mystique Goth nightclub in Warren, California.

This exciting fantasy thriller returns the lead characters of SINS OF THE DEVIL, but this time they are the objectives of the lead male who sees them as his revenge and redemption. The story line is character driven as Adrien, already feeling somewhat schizoid between his former occupation and his current status, struggles with the thirst for bloody vengeance and love. Although some of the erotic scenes will turn off some readers especially when violent force is applied to a disinclined individual who says no. Devyn Quinn provides an interesting erotic vampire romantic suspense as fans will wonder whether Devon chooses Cassie or suicide.

She's On Top
Susan Lyons
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758217035, $12.95

Vancouver Clarinetist Rina Goldberg wants to get married to her soulmate, but has not found anyone to replace her first lover classical pianist Giancarlo Mancini, whom she has not seen in a decade; anyone who believes out of sight out of mind is a fool to Rina When she learns that Giancarlo in town, encouraged by her best friends (see CHAMPAGNE RULES and TOUCH ME), she decides to see if he is as interested in her as she is in him and to determine if the memory is as good as the real thing.

Now a music video director, Giancarlo has never forgotten the lovely Rina. When she calls him, he is ecstatic as he wonders if reality will match his fantasies. Both will soon know whether they belong together as each still dreams of what they had but let go due to career choices ten years ago.

The third Canadian Awesome Foursome tale is a fun entry like its predecessors can stand alone; though the first two stories are entertaining. Rina is fabulous as she is encouraged by the magic of love that has touched her pals Suzanne and Anne so she hopes to make music with the one she never forgot. Giancarlo is her equal when it comes to passion, intensity, intelligence, talent, and love. However will they be able make their relationship permanent or wait another decade as each has issues to overcome. Susan Lyons provides an awesome British Columbia second chance at love romance.

Hotter After Midnight
Cynthia Eden
Kensington Brava
9780758226020, $14.00

Therapist to the paranormal Emily Drake's client list includes vampires with a psychotic reaction to blood and legendary Others with phobias. Because of her abnormal caseload, Dr. Drake has been asked to provide profiling skills to the police investigating the Night Butcher murder. She will work with Detective Colin Gyth, who makes her lust for him, but the psychiatrist to the Monster species knows never trust a shifter with your heart, soul or body.

Soon more creatures are killed even and they begin to meet powerful demons, out of control shifters, and an apparent human with special powers. As they get closer to solving the serial killing case, alpha Colin lets the beast out that he has controlled as much as possible to keep his soulmate safe from the Night Butcher who looks forward to tasting Emily's terror. However, in spite of her impudent rejections that she does not want anything to do with his only natural shape shifting organ, his desire for her has taken charge of him.

This dark yet amusing police procedural romantic fantasy is fast-paced and filled with non stop action. However it is the cast that makes this a superb thriller as nasty demons, disreputable shapeshifters, and other paranormal species prove anything is possible under the sun, and a fabulous abnormal psychiatrist who keeps the whodunit and romance focused. HOTTER AFTER MIDNIGHT is fantastic heat anytime of the day.

Wild, Wild Women of the West II
Layla Chase, Delilah Devlin and Myla Jackson
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758223869, $12.95

"Once Upon a Legend" by Delilah Devlin. In1883 Serendipity, Montana, when writer Prudence Vogel meets model of the lead protagonist of her books Jake White Eagle, she realizes he is even more a hunk.

"Second Wind" by Myla Jackson. In 1884 Thunderstruck, Kansas, when naked balloonist Dolly Sherman falls from the sky, she knocks Seth Turner off his horse and into each others arms.

"Cinnamon and Sparks" by Layla Chase. In 1876 Colorado Territory, when newcomer Oriana Donato Ignacio finds herself in danger, Sheriff Kent Wyman vows to keep her safe.

The second W to the 4th power contains three superb erotic wild west romances starring women who know what they want and go after their respective him.

Only With a Cowboy
P.J. Mellor, Vonna Harper and Melissa MacNeal
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758220271, $13.95

"Hard in the Saddle" by P.J. Mellor. Cowboy Sam Austin wants to tame city slick she-cat Madison St. Claire, but has to use a ruse and his body to keep her in town.

"Breeding Season" by Vonna Harper. High school sweethearts Wendi Rennert broke up after Mike Wagner left town, but now he is back and she plans to complete unfinished business with him or at least his body.

"Getting Lucky" by Melissa MacNeal. Following a modeling career Luke McGrew has returned home wanting to save his mother's Wyoming ranch, but bank president Jane Cook rejects his loan request but not his body.

Although there is a bit too much bull from the lead characters, these three heated contemporary erotic romances affirm that cowboys know how to ride hard, fast and slow.

R. Moreen Clarke
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758216816, $13.95

Connie Jefferson is a nice woman who never acts out except once with affluent realtor Marshall James before scurrying back to the safety of her boyfriend Steady Victor. Her old high school rival Deandra Morgan loves being a bad girl as she relishes big especially in her men and no one comes juicier or bigger than Marshall James.

Marshall enjoys the uninhibited anything goes show me the money Deandra, but has not forgotten the best sex of his life; that one night with sweet Connie when he got her to let her hair and much more down. When he and Connie meet for the first time since that explosive evening, he thinks he better make up his mind as Connie has his heart and upper head, but Deandra owns his lower head; or does she?

This engaging erotic triangle with a nod to the Lovin' Spoonful's "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind" is an entertaining contemporary romance. The story line is fast-paced and few male leads come across as fully developed as the confused Marshall does. Although the females are stereotypical polar opposites, fans will enjoy wondering who Marshall will leave behind between uninhibited sex and a complete person in love with him.

Dark Master
Tawney Taylor
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758226778, $12.95

Totally broke, Regan Roslund makes a living selling BDSM paraphernalia from the bondage shop she inherited form her late aunt. She finds her inventory boring until passing time she puts a leather choker around her neck and dreams of its previous user, who in her fantasy leaves her in need of more.

The King of the Undead Degenen, Quinby "Shadow" Sorenson needs to marry in order to come to full power and prevent attacks on his throne. When he meets Regan, he decides she is perfect and they quickly marry undead style. However, someone wants to prevent Shadow from becoming all he can be due to sexual intensity so he goes after his Achilles' heal, Regan.

This enjoyable paranormal erotic romance is fun to follow, but has abrupt scene changes that can prove a bit jarring. Regan is an interesting protagonist as she wonders how she ended up making a living peddling sex gizmos until the Shadow shows her the fun in testing the BDSM merchandise. Fans will appreciate Regan's DARK MASTER as he teaches his beloved new spouse, sex with a bite. Even as his opponents need her dead to prevent him from gaining the exponential increase in power that sex with the woman you love engorges his species with power.

Baddest Bad Boys
Shannon McKenna, E.C. Sheedy and Cate Noble
Kensington Brava
9780758208521, $14.00

"Anytime, Anywhere" by Shannon McKenna. Robin MacNamara has decided her brother's friend Jon Amendola is the man to make her a woman. She goes to his lake house to lose her virginity to him, but he has enemies from his current case as a cop who want him dead and collateral damage is not problem to them.

"After the Lovin'" by E.C. Sheedy. Mac Fleming is assigned to protect Tommi Smith from a nasty adversary. They were attracted before, but now their respective hearts have totally taken charge of their heads.

"Deal With the Devil" by Cate Noble. Max "Devil" DeLuca wants to keep Ellie DeLuca safe from a stalker so he offers her a week of sex at a private island retreat. The sex part of the scheme works perfectly, but the outcome fails when Ellie learns some information and flees from him into danger.

Though the well written heated interludes with danger nearby is hard to grab, these three passionate romantic suspense novellas are fun to read as the BADDEST BAD BOYS shield the women they cherish from deadly adversaries, but no one protects their hearts from each other.

The One I Want
Nancy Warren
Kensington Brava
9780758210456, $14.00

London party girl Chloe Flynt is the grandmaster of dumping fiances and boyfriends leaving them with their pride in tact. However, she realizes she has no skills except partying and her experiences are limited to ending three engagements. She needs a new start, but knows it must be far from London where she has quite a reputation.

She moves to Austin and opens up a personal service business as a professional break-up artist. Business is booming and she soon hires help, but her attraction to her next door neighbor Matthew Tanner goes nowhere because he has a girlfriend Brittany whose "Let's talk it out" motto is totally wrong for him; Chloe believes let's sex it out. However to persuade him that she is right for him will take a Texas size maneuver while she is an expatriate London swinger.

THE ONE I WANT is a terrific amusing contemporary romance that showcases the true meaning of globalization as the ultimate London party girl takes Austin for quite a swing. Matthew is a wonderful hunk of beef but it is Chloe's antics as she ropes in her man that makes Nancy Warren's tale enjoyable.

A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World
Tony Horowitz
Henry Holt & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
9780805076035, $27.50, 1-888-330-8477

Upon a visit to Massachusetts, Tony Horowitz is awed when he sees Plymouth Rock; not out of it being grand sort of an American Gibraltar, but to realize it is not much more than a pebble. As one child points out, the Pilgrims must have had small feet to land on that rock. Tony reflects on what he knows about American history only to draw major blanks for over a century and half; from Columbus until Jamestown. What frightens Tony is that he graduated with a history degree. Thus he vows to track the story of the European explorers who traveled American even before Columbus. Starting with the Vikings and following with the French and Spanish, Tony tracks those who came before Jamestown.

With a nod to Mr. Wuhl's HBO special Assume The Position, Tony Horowitz goes on a reverent journey tracing the paths traveled by European explorers between 1492 and 1607. On his trek, Mr. Horowitz meets many people with a differing interpretation of events like the Spanish (St. Augustine was founded forty-two years earlier than the Plymouth Rock landing) came before the Pilgrims so America should celebrate Thanksgiving with Chili. This is a fun travelogue as Mr. Horowitz' enthusiasm and energy add to the enjoyment; quoting Mr. Wuhl: "I shit you not".

Dark Summit
Nick Heil
9780805083101, $16.00

In 2006, eleven climbers died trying to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. The most famous fatality was David Sharp who was left near the top still alive while forty other people continued their ascent. One week later, Lincoln Hall was left to die at the same spot that Sharp died; he survived that night without shelter leading to speculation re Sharp.

Nick Heil investigates the true story of what went wrong on the Everest climb in the deadliest year since 1996. He makes the case that some ruthless commercial operators are making increasing access available but at the cost of dramatic increase in risk. Readers will be hooked by Mr. Heil's passion for mountain climbing while horrified by the avarice of some to take advantage of the obsession of many advocates to claim they reached the top of the world. The author points out rescue is usually impossible and can endanger others; while he also defends operator Brice who was accused of abandoning Sharp to die on the mountain's Death Zone. However, Mr. Heil also rips less conscientious operators like the guide who failed to assist a confused Thomas Weber, who other climbers felt could be rescued. This is chilling yet fascinating as Mr. Heil provides a lucid account of the deaths on the DARK SUMMIT.

The Snow Queen
Mercedes Lackey
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373802654, $24.95

As the Snow Queen of the Palace of Ever-Winter, Godmother Aleksia insures magic is handled safely. However the Godmother Elena through their mirror communication system informs her that someone pretending to be the Snow Queen is killing people. Aleksia is angry and disturbed, but plans to put an end to this odious affront.

At the same time that Aleksia learns of the deception, the Snow Queen abducts Veikko. His mother the Wise Woman Annukka and his fiancee Kaari vow to save him from the evil one. When these two courageous women meet Aleksia, neither trusts the other until the trio realizes an adversary to all of them is using powerful magic to cause havoc across the land.

The latest Tale of the Five Hundred Kingdoms (see THE FAIRY GODMOTHER, ONE GOOD KNIGHT, and FORTUNE'S FOOL) is a wonderful adult fairy tale starring three heroines facing danger with courage, wit, and humor. The story line is action-packed from the moment the mirror hot line activates and never slows down until the "Queens" confront each other. Readers will appreciate the enchanting SNOW QUEEN as Mercedes Lackey casts a reading in one sitting spell on her audience.

Legend of the Treasure
J. Michael Squatrito, Jr.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
0595390080, $22.95,

Over a millennium ago, the Overlords simply vanished. Throughout the lands of Gammoria, Arcadia, and Ontarian Territory as well as disputed area, smaller semi independent states and unclaimed deserted patches, this powerful civilization left behind metal plates allegedly with clues to a hidden bounty that over the centuries has become known more as the legend of the TREASURE OF THE LAND concealed in the Seven Rooms.

In Aegeus, Arcadia off the Serpent Sea, Harrison Cross persuades some of his friends that they can find the mythical treasure and bring it home so their town can prosper. Even as they follow the clues of the plates along the way, the trek proves dangerous as the Scynthian race wants all humans dead so they attack them without mercy. At the same time the ruthless Governor of neighboring Concur Lord Nigel Hammer and his malevolent horde want the treasure for selfish reasons and killing a few rivals is no problem for them.

This engaging quest fantasy reads like a cross between the game Dungeons & Dragons and the cult movie Fillard Millmore. Findings from a dead ancient civilization are marveled over as if they were once magical and still are if you can figure out how to use them; sort of like a caveman seeing electricity. Although the villains are two dimensional either as ruthless and or Lady Macbeth ambitious, readers will fully enjoy traveling with heroic fully developed Harrison and his companions as they face danger every step of the way, but courageously continue on their mission in a land vividly described by J. Michael Squatrito, Jr. so it seems real.

House Rules
Mike Lawson
Atlantic Monthly
c/o Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003-4793
9780871139832, $22.00, 1-800-788-3122

Muslim terrorists attack the Washington, D.C. area by air, by car and by suicide bomber. Although all three attacks failed, the country panics as everyone assumes a new 9/11 will reoccur soonest as anyone with a competent thought knows you cannot negotiate with people willing to die for their cause especially if they fully believe God awaits to hug them.

Amidst the fervor of patriotism and fear, House Speaker John Mahoney, having learned from Oklahoma City and the extremes exploited by our leaders after 9/11, calmly looks at the known facts. He has some doubts about the majority wisdom of the pundits that Middle Easterners are behind the assault and assigns his operative Joe DeMarco to investigate the incidents. Joe wonders if the attacks are tied to anti-Islamic legislation championed in a patriotic with me or terrorist supporter against me fervor of Virginia Senator William Davis Broderick who constantly reminds everyone of the failed attempt to blow up the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel on Labor Day.

This exciting post 9/11 Continental United States thriller is fast-paced, but what makes it a strong read is Joe who "escorts" readers through DC political power in which ambition, manipulation, and conspiracy is the norm. Fans will enjoy the hero's effort to learn the truth behind the attacks, but each step he takes seems to be murkier and fraught with "J'accuse" danger as the shadowy opponents seem in control of the media; recent NYT revelations on military experts on the TV news affirms Mike Lawson's theory that Pogo is right that we met the enemy and they are us. (see THE SECOND PERIMETER and THE INSIDE RING).

Forbidden The Revolution
Samantha Sommersby
Linden Bay
9781602020917, $12.99

Dominie Byron Renfield asks his preternatural Special Forces detective son Dell to learn whether police officer Alexandra Sanchez is the lost Chosen one stolen twenty-five years ago. He needs DNA to learn the truth and his offspring, still marveling how his dad arranged the transfer from Chicago to Los Angeles, promises he will obtain and send a sample.

Dell and Alex are attracted to one another, which should make it easier to go undercover in Las Vegas as a couple to prove that casino owner Raif is laundering drug money. In Vegas they obtain work at Raif's casino, but Dell is stunned that the man is a vampire and holding Rita a sexual prisoner Rita who is a friend of his father. As the couple falls in love, she explains she remains a virgin because of a protective spell that does not allow anyone to mount her.

FORBIDDEN THE REVOLUTION is an exciting erotic paranormal romantic suspense in which the story can stand alone though newcomers like this reviewer will seek the previous entry FORBIDDEN THE AWAKENING. After a great foreplay buildup, the Vegas escapade is blown away too easily ending without much of a climax except in the boudoir (even with the spell these are clever touches by Samantha Sommersby who keeps the heat on) and no closure to the drug ring. The return home is thrilling and complemented with a couple of terrific spins as the past comes home to roost. Sub-genre fans will appreciate Samantha Sommersby strong entry as a vampire who has never drank blood from a human jugular and the probable chosen one who remains a virgin due to a succubus' protection spell fall in love.

Dawn of Desire
Phoebe Conn
Love Spell
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843960105, $6.99, 1-800-481-9191

Egan, the heir to chieftain of the Dai Cais, brings home the prophetess Oriana so she can predict the future for his clan from their sacred stones. However, upon arrival at his home he learns of the tragedy that has befallen his family and his people; someone assassinated his father.

Egan needs Oriana's help to uncover the identity of the killer. He asks her to pretend to be his mistress; attracted to him, she agrees. However, her mystical skill fails her whenever Egan is nearby because her need for him supersedes her ability to foretell. As they fall in love, they must fight enemies from within and without to protect the Dai Cais people.

This entertaining tale is more a medieval romance than a historical paranormal romance because the love between the lead couple voids the heroine's prophesies skills. The story line is fun to follow as Egan struggles to uncover the conspiracy while also wanting the prophetess by his side forever; more interesting is Oriana who must choose between love and being a seer, as she cannot have both. DAWN OF DESIRE is an engaging Celtic historical romance with a touch of the extrasensory.

These Boots Were Made for Strutting
Lisa Cach, Gemma Halliday and Melanie Jackson
Love Spell
9780505527585, $7.99

Another lighthearted whimsical shopping trip to cyber-magical (see THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR STOMPING) requires readers to suspend belief; but it is worth doing for these three enchanting tales.

"A Rose by Any Other Name" by Lisa Cach. Eccentric Kelsey seeks someone screwier than her, but her new shoes leads her to conclude she don't know Jack about what she wants.

"So I Dated an Axe Murderer" by Gemma Halliday. Kya wants to become a supermodel until her new shoes lead her into the down side.

"And They Danced" by Melanie Jackson. With new shoes and a new hunk next door, Faith asks him to enter a dance contest as her partner

Fiance at Her Fingertips
Kathleen Bacus
Love Spell
9780505527349, $6.99

State's Crime Victims Assistance Bureau Counselor Debra Daniels is starting to believe she needs to move to another continent if she is to have any respite from her matchmaking mom, who has set her up with blind dates from hell; her friends and her co-workers who are not much better. They think being married is nirvana and staying single is a curse. Bone marrow wary she wants everyone to stop setting her up.

At a gift shop seeking a birthday present for her best friend Suzi, Debra finds an interestingly titled do-it-yourself kit titled: "Fiance at Your Fingertips" that contains everything she needs to get the well meaning horde off her butt by persuading one and all that she has met Mr. Right, "Lawyer Logan" Alexander, a make believe boyfriend. Over the next couple of weeks, Debra receives sham phone calls at work and deserves an Oscar pretending she is in love. However while at her parents' house, "Lawyer Logan" arrives for dinner. He insists they have been seeing one another while she swears he came in a box like a Crackerjack's prize. However, as he continues his campaign to win the heart of his beloved, she begins to wonder does it matter since she loves her novelty lawyer.

Even sans Calamity Jane, this is an amusing whimsical contemporary romance starring a beleaguered heroine still reeling from a decade of bozos and losers culminating with her trooper recently announcing he is going to be a father of someone else's child. Under siege especially from mom, Debra makes up a fiance only to have him show up for dinner. Fans will appreciate this humorous engaging tale while waiting for the sequel between Debra's two best friends, enemy combatants.

Don't Hex with Texas
Shanna Swendson
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345492937, $14.00, 1-800-726-0600

She left Manhattan and her position at Magic, Spells & Illusion, Inc. because Katie Chandler fell in love with her boss Owen Palmer, who apparently does not reciprocate her regard and besides she fears for his safety due to her hex appeal. She goes home to the family farm in Cobb, Texas where she knows no major magical lines exists and ergo assumes there is a slim to none chance of an enemy arriving.

As she works at the family owned Chandler Agricultural Supply store, Katie finds her hometown boring after living an enchanting life in New York. Everything changes when her mom tells her she witnessed some eerie happenings that no one else apparently noticed. Katie wonders if a rogue mage has come to town but that seems ridiculous as the lack of a power source makes it impossible. Still she informs her other former boss Merlin who sends Sam the gargoyle to investigate. Meanwhile Katie notices a magical advertisement in a local magazine in which Phelan Idris offers an online course to those who can read his ads. Owen comes to Texas to help out, but his arrival only tells Katie she still love him. Her mom realizes he is the one and insists he stay at the farm while Idris assigns his horde of amateur wizards to destroy Owen.

The fourth Chandler-Palmer romantic suspense fantasy (see ENCHANTED, INC, ONCE UPON STILETTOS and DAMSEL UNDER STRESS) is a terrific entry in an entertaining series. The story line is fresh as readers meet the parents while the magical battle takes place in Texas. Still as with the previous three enchantments, it is the odd fascinating relationship between the lead couple that makes this a fine entry as the villains learn what most people in the Lone Star State already know: DON'T HEX WITH TEXAS unless you want a mess of trouble.

Women In Hats
Judy Sheehan
9780345480088, $14.00

Bridie Hart is a show business legend as America's most beloved TV mom even if her show has been off the air for fifteen years. Everyone adores except her adult daughter Leigh Majors, theatre director, who wants as little to do with her famous mom as possible. She hides her connection to her late famous father and older sister. Leigh is irate with her spouse playwright Michael, who agrees that his mother-in-law would be perfect for a role in a play he wrote.

Bridie being Bridie tries to take over the production because she fears her offspring is incapable of performing the production and so does not want her to fail. Leigh is attracted to the stage manager, James and considers acting on her desire. Instead she confesses to Michael why he hurt her when he accepted Bridie for a part and her thoughts towards a fling, but she agrees that her mom deserves one more time in the spotlight.

This warm family drama focuses on the dysfunctional relationship between mother and daughter. The story line is filled with poignancy as Bridie tries to take over out of fear for her offspring while Leigh needs to succeed or fail on her own. Mindful of the song "Teach Your Children" by Sills, Crosby, Nash and Young, WOMEN IN HATS is an enjoyable contemporary tale.

The Lost Army Of Cambyses
Paul Sussman
Grove Press
c/o Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003-4793
9780802143785, $14.00, 1-800-788-3122

English zoologist Tara Mullray visits her renowned Egyptologist father Michael at a dig only to find her dad dead. At approximately the same time, a black market antiquities seller is also found dead with his mutilated corpse lying by the Nile covered with cigar burns. Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor Police Department is assigned to investigate both homicides.

Because of the nature of their respective professions, two sides of the same coin, Yuseuf seeks a link between the murders. He quickly learns of a third facet when an elderly Cairo antiquities dealer is killed (with cigar burns on the body) in his shop, but nothing is stolen. Yuseuf interviews Tara who informs him that the excavation site where her father died contained the odor of cigar smoke. Soon the Egyptian and British politico take an interest in how much Yuseuf knows because terrorist Sayf al-Tha'r lingers in the background.

THE LOST ARMY OF CAMBYSES is a strong police procedural that interweaves archeological elements into the plot, but though engaging and educational never slows down the pace of the story line. The tale is at its luxurious best when Yuseuf investigates. The novel remains powerful even when the British embassy and the Egyptian Antiquities Bureau interfere with the inquiry due to a fear of Islamic Fundamentalist involvement. When the plot twists more into a thriller, it retains its excitement, but veers away from its prime theme of murder investigations at the Pyramids. Still this is a tremendous first dig into the mystery world by renowned archeologist Paul Sussman and hopefully he will provide more exciting tales for his faithful students.

Fatal Deduction
Gayle Roper
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601420138, $12.99, 1-800-929-0910

In Philadelphia great aunt Stella left her estate with specific instructions if her nieces, twin sisters, Libby (accompanied by her teenage daughter Chloe) and Tori Burton are to inherit. To obtain her house, the siblings must both reside there for six months. If either leaves early neither inherits.

They move in, but Libby is stunned when she trips over a corpse on the front porch and finds valuables stolen. With the dead body is a crossword puzzle. Libby believes she must solve the puzzle to solve the murder and insure neither she, Tori or Chloe become the next victims. She would like to depend on the neighbor Drew Canfield whom she is attracted to, but he does not trust women his age and besides Jenna comes first.

This is an entertaining inspirational amateur sleuth that uses crossword puzzles to add to the overall fun. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Libby and Chloe arrive at the Colonial Era house and never slows down until the final confrontation. In between there is plenty of family disputes especially between the twins. Fans will enjoy Gayle Roper's strong whodunit as real life issues surface that even with the belief that God is in your corner remain difficult to deal with.

Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione
Chuck Black
Multnomah Books
9781601421241, $8.99

Lucius the first Silent Warrior and a horde of his men sought to overthrow the King and Prince, but were defeated in battle. They retreated to the realm of Arrethtrae to spread their rebellion among the citizens, but hope blossomed when the Prince arrived. The people killed him, but the Father resurrected him and he gave the people the message that he would return. In the meantime, they should tell all the inhabitants of the realm about the Prince and wage war against Lucius and his Silent Warriors.

Rumors spread that a new kind of knight has arisen; men with evil in their hearts and souls withered to nothingness. Their liege allegedly a shadow warrior demands they spread discord across the land. Sir Kendrick and a young knight Sir Duncan he is mentoring learn that a Shadow Warrior is causing unrest at Bel Lione. A former Shadow Knight of Ra who defected helps Kendrick sneak into the castle to seek Sir Duncan, chained and tortured in the dungeon. There are other prisoners there also; Kendrick vows to return to liberate them, but first he must contend with the Shadow Warrior; believing in his Prince he expects to vanquish his foe.

In a feudal world the battle for the souls between the King and the Prince and the Shadow Warriors (obvious metaphors) takes place. The prince has just left Arrethtrae while his loyal followers spread his word. Teenagers will enjoy this inspirational parable that entertains without preaching.

Beyond the Night
Marlo Schalesky
Multnomah Books
9781601420169, $12.99

In college Madison Foster and Paul Tilden were best friends who fell in love with one another. Over the years since they first met, both have hidden their deepest feelings but are always there for one another. As Maddie begins to go blind, she does not want pity from anyone especially her husband Paul or their daughter Mandy; he tries to just be there like he always has.

When a car crash leaves Madison unconscious in a hospital, he knows he was not at fault even if he drove their car; still he feels guilt that she instead of he lies in the hospital bed. Paul is there for her as always pleading with her to come to him for this time he needs her to be there for him. He prays for his Maddie to come back to him so he can tell her how much he loves her

This is a deep inspirational romance with an incredible final twist that will stun readers. The story line uses flashbacks to tell the back story of the lead couple as they learn God's plan is too complex to comprehend, even aspects of it, especially when something bad happens to someone good who is also a true believer. Readers will appreciate this toughing warm tale of two soulmates who have embraced the Lord but are learning to trust God too

Sisterchicks Go Brit
Robin Jones Gunn
Multnomah Books
9781590527559, $12.99

Though in their early fifties, best friends Kellie and Liz have dreams since they were teens they hope to one day fulfill. Kellie still wishes to start an interior design business with Liz as her partner; Liz wants to visit London, a dream she has had since she was a teen.

Elderly neighbor Opal is going home to England to see her sister. Liz and Kellie decide to join her. As the Sisterchicks swing through England, they run into trouble, fog, and a good time while meeting nice people (for the most part), but also begin to understand that God knows their inner wishes whether the Lord grants them or not.

Fans of the series will want to accompany the Sisterchicks on their tour of Britain, which instead of the Romanism of Bronte starts as traffic like can be found in New York. The story line is actually more a series of anecdotal tales rather than a novel, but fans of the adventures will enjoy the SISTERCHICKS GO BRIT.

With Endless Sight
Allison Pittman
Multnomah Books
9781601420121, $12.99

In 1861, fourteen years old Belinda and her family leave Illinois with high hopes of starting anew in the Oregon Territory as her father wants them all to grow without having something handed to them like the ironworks shop he inherited. However, the journey, which started somewhat luxurious, proves dangerous in the Rockies.

Belinda is hurt, but survives although she knows she will never be the same as her faith in God has been battered almost as much as her body and mind when she becomes a prisoner of Laurent the killer. She shows her belief in the Lord when she forgives him. As her spirit and beliefs return stronger than ever, eventually she makes it to a brothel in South Pass City, Wyoming Territory; where her faith in God is totally restored as these peddlers of the flesh renew her soul.

The third Crossroads of Grace Americana tale (see TEN THOUSAND CHARMS and SPEAK THROUGH THE WIND) is an exhilarating inspirational thriller in which the heroine for a short time is a nineteenth century female Job as everything goes wrong ; though that occurs almost halfway into the plot. Readers will enjoy one year in the life of Belinda who WITH ENDLESS SIGHT seems much more mature in her dealing with men (except for her daddy) like her estrangement with her older brother Chester, her attraction to Del, forgiving the killer Laurent, and Buck who she hoped would make her feel like a woman.

Peter David
Del Rey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345501592, $22.00, 1-800-726-0600

He is a home boy; Paul Dear is. His father tells him stories about magical creatures that his mother does not believe in, but accepts the tales as part of her overall happy life. In his dreams, Paul visits Anywhere located on the third star on the right and straight on to morning. The Boy, who is part of Anywhere, meets with him in Paul's mirror teaching him things like talking to the animals.

Trouble strikes the Dern household causing the father to leave and the mother to mire in a deep depression. While shopping, Paul finds an interesting curio that turns out to be the Fiddlefix the boy's pixie. . Brought back to life and Paul as Paul seeks something in Anywhere that will bring his family back together. The Boy abandons Gwenny and two of his Boys to go pirating with the Bully Boys. Everyone learns what caused the Boy to transform from a flitter gibbet to a cowardly pirate; his friends do their best to bring him back to his former frolicsome self. A battle between the Boys and the Pirates is coming with Paul, who wants to go home caught in the middle. Fiddlefix intends to kill her true enemy and Gwenny wants her old friend back.

Peter David pays homage to Barrie's Peter Pan. The Boy is a Pan type hoping to not grow up and eager to have exciting adventures, but his escapades place him in harm's way and turn him into a villain. His friends prove their love for him by trying to turn him back. Although part children's fairy tale and part adult treatise on growing up, TIGERHEART is an engaging fantasy that is a magical retelling of the classic, but never quite settles on a prime audience.

Death's Head: Maximum Offense
David Gunn
Del Rey
9780345500014, $25.00

In the far distant future, humanity has spread across space as over time earth has become part of mankind's original being mythos. Three rival human groups compete for superiority at a time when Emperor Octo V claims to rule the ten thousand systems yet seeks expansion. His Octavians and the Enlightened users of the Uplift Virus are at war with one another. The third group United Free pretends to seek universal peace while manipulating their two competitors so they run the universe their way.

The United Free assigns Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg and his squad the Aux to find a missing U/F observer sent to planet Hekati, but before landing an explosion on board cripples the vessel; he rescues his squad. However, they soon realize this is not Hekati as the U/F leadership sent them on a beta test before sending them to the right planet where society's sociopaths and government exiles reside. Danger prevails as Sven courageously leads his unit, but soon he and his team learn the real mission.

DEATH'S HEAD starts off as a dark humorous grim outer space tale, but once on Hekati turns even darker and grimmer without the humor as David Gunn argues that war is not a precision dance to the stars but chaotic hell. Sven is terrific as he is tough and loyal, but also caring as he prefers to avoid unnecessary collateral damage; others couldn't care less if planets are destroyed to achieve the mission. Readers will appreciate this bleak look at mankind in outer space still fighting one another.

Welcome to the Real World
Carole Matthews
Red Dress Ink
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373895724, $21.95

Fern Kendal thinks her life would make a terrific real world docudrama as the angst level surrounding her is stratospheric; she assumes personalized troubles are the molecular cell structure. Her parents' relationship is a swinging door with their latest separation; both yank on Fern wanting her unequivocally in their respective corner as they battle for the Kendal championship. Her brother is a wacko and her nephew is ill. Finally her singing partner Carl must somehow via an airborne infection captured some Kendal genes as he pushes her into a deeper personal relationship. Fern just wants everyone to mellow out.

Needing to supplement her income as her vocation as a singing barmaid at a nearby pub is not bringing in much money, Fern becomes a temporary personal assistant to internationally famous opera super star Evan David. His angst makes her parents look like fun seekers as he snobbishly avoids anything especially enjoyment that might damage his voice, which in his mind is the real world; however, Fern brings life and passion into his dead existence. When she gets a gig on the reality TV show Fame Game, he is put to the test as a judge.

There are several major subplots going on, but all in some manner focus on Fern who brings life to everyone in her circle. The fast-paced story line coaxes readers to take a chance on your dreams, but if they do not turn out quite like you want, don't quit on life; try again or if the goal is no longer a dream reset to what is your dream. Fans will enjoy the warm WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD of Fern Kendal, a terrific protagonist who carries this deep contemporary tale from start to finish.

The Dark Ones
Anthony Izzo
Pinnacle Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780786018765, $6.99, 1-800-345-2665

An abandoned brewery in Buffalo is planned for demolition, but Charles Pennington goes to extraordinary lengths to prevent that from happening. Charles is a Guardian battling the forces of darkness with his ability to shine light on those who can only live in the dark. Sixteen years ago Charles defeated Satan's demon Engle and buried him in the brewery with the Everlight that keeps this evil from rising.

However, the machine operators dig up Engle separating him from the Everlight. Sara, who just learned that her mother Laura Pennington, Charles' granddaughter, is alive is heading to Buffalo while the father of her heart follows her because he loves her; he fears Engel being on the loose will come after her. She is the most powerful Guardian walking the earth today and knows she is the only one who can stop Engel if she can recover the Everlight. Failure means hell on earth.

Initially no one believes demons exist except for the Guardians, but hideous clues pile up that prove the DARK ONES walk the earth continuing an eternal war as Engel sends his evil horde out to spread death. The story line is creepy yet an excitng horror thriller filled with plenty of gory action scenes that are critical to the characterization of how malevolent the Dark Ones are. Told from the viewpoint of multiple characters, the audience feels for those brave souls risking more than just their lives knowing some will die battling the Dark Ones.

The Broken Window
Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416549970, $26.95, 1-800-223-2336

Wheelchair bound Lincoln Rhyme prefers to have nothing to do with his estranged cousin Arthur Rhyme, due to a long standing feud dating back to their adolescence. However Art has been accused of murder by the State of New York and like most caught criminals swears he is innocent; Lincoln assumes otherwise, but bowing to family pressure starting with a visit from Art's wife Judy, who he has not seen since two years before the accident, the former NYPD crime expert agrees to investigate.

Lincoln and his legs partner detective Amelia Sachs begin digging into the background to Arthur's case. They soon find anomalies as they dig below the surface. The pair also notice a seemingly tangential link to a data mining firm that collects and analyzes consumer data with customers unaware of it. That leads the pair to begin to hypothesize that someone is using the information to serially kill people and set up innocent people like Arthur to take the fall; but how to prove their theory and uncover who seems impossible when all the hardcore evidence convicts Arthur beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The case is fascinating with an implied warning that if one IT guru can do what the culprit did with data imagine what a government agency filled with such experts can do with data. Adding to the fun of the read, is the look into his extended family and the incident that caused a schism. Readers will appreciate this strong Rhyme entry as the investigation is top rate and the insight into his broken family ties superb while bundled around a cautionary Big Brother is here caveat

Boy A
Jonathan Trigell
Serpent's Tail
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 West 108th Street, Suite 901, New York, NY 10025
9781846686627, $14.95,

In Luton, England Boy A and Boy B were convicted of murdering a young girl Angela Milton. Being teens there names were suppressed and their sentence relatively short for the heinous crime they committed.

A decade later Boy A is freed and uses Jack Burridge as his new name; a fight in the bar gives him the nickname "Bruiser". His probation officer Uncle Terry arranges a place to live for Jack and finds the young man a job as a map reader. As Boy A, Jack learned how to survive brutal incarceration by fitting in and being amiable with everyone. He is doing well until he begins an affair with a woman at work at the same time the media announces Boy A is free to kill again.

Although the alphabetizing of each subsequent chapter is gimmicky, it works as it accentuates the dilemma of society dealing with violent youths committing crimes. Jack is a fascinating character as he knows he will be insecure for the rest of his life looking back at who will point the finger at Boy A. Readers will see how he got to the situation he is in as Jonathan Trigell takes the audience back through the lead character's life that led to his joining Boy B to commit a homicide. Jack knows first hand that society pretends to rehab convicts, but expects revenge any moment. Fans will appreciate this strong character study of a young man who has no future, lives to barely survive the present, and cannot forget the past as no one (including himself) will ever let that occur.

Shadow of Light
James E. Cherry
Serpent's Tail
9781852424923, $14.95

Forrest looks like a typical small Southern town; however, below the surface in the Tennessee town, racial tension waits for the incident to explode. One night after planning and casing a house where a respected black woman lives, white males burst in to rob it. They expected the elderly female "Big Mama" to be at church as she always is, but instead she was home. The leader of the invaders Ronny rapes her before shooting her.

Miraculously she lives and her livid grandson police detective Walter Robinson wants to know how close his peers are to catching the culprits. All local blacks decry the crime, but Walter's nephew neighborhood druglord Cebo wants white blood to flow especially those who committed the obscenity. He informs the police that if the SOBs are not in custody within forty-eight hours a cop will die; another will die every forty-eight hours afterward until there are no police or the perps are caught. The town is a powder keg with only Walter able to keep the fuse from igniting, but he sympathizes with his nephew as this is his beloved grandma.

It does not take a lot of words to describe the town where blacks see no way out of poverty that engulfs communities. In some way James E. Cherry's vivid description of a town without pity feels somewhat 1960s yet the author makes the case that poverty is the modern day de facto racism. Walter is a good person and cop as he tries to glide above the racial divide even as he understands how many whites look down at blacks; he vents his frustration on his wife. However this time he cannot ignore the incident nor does he truly want too. How he acts will determine whether this town burns down in a Forrest fire or not as James E. Cherry provides a strong thriller that plays out on two levels: town-wide and character poignancy.

Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander
Ann Herendeen
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061451362, $14.95, 1-800-242-7737

In 1812 London, as a future earl Andrew Carrington knows he must begat the heir and the spare; thus he must find an appropriate wife who will not be upset with his dalliances as his sexual preference is males. He thinks he found the perfect spousal breeder in impoverished romance author Phyllida Lewis, who he admires and believes he might love. Andrew deems life is good when on top of meeting and marrying the understanding Phyllida, he makes the acquaintance of baronet heir Matthew Thornby.

Andrew's perfect world splinters when a blackmailer tries to extort money from him. Worse someone molests his charming Phyllida, but forces her silence with the threat of exposing her husband. Though she hides the truth, Andrew learns what happened to her. Feeling like a loser, Andrew wonders what he can do to protect his beloved wife and his cherished lover from harm.

This fabulous erotic Regency romance stars three likable fully developed individuals with diverse personalities who bring a different look at the usual locales and suspects that frequent sub-genre novels. The story line is fast-paced as the audience knows from the title that Andrew is atypical of the normal historical romantic novel hero. His relationships with Phyllida and Matthew are beautifully portrayed and his feelings of inadequacy are caused because he cherishes and loves both of them. Humorous and satirical as Ann Herendeen skewers the ethics of the Ton (and by implication modern day American hypocritical claims of morality) PHYLLIDA AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF PHILANDER is a superbly written "bisexual regency romance".

The Outcast
Sadie Jones
9780061374036, $24.95

In England the war is over and many veterans are coming home to their loved ones. Ten year old Lewis Aldridge struggles with having an adult male in the household with the return of his father Gilbert and the change in routines to a more stifling environment. However as both males adjust, the lad still enjoys picnics in the woods with his mom Elizabeth until the day she fails to return home with him having drowned.

While Gilbert remains outraged in his grief over the next year, his remote father remarries Alice, who has no idea how to reach her stepson. A few years later, Lewis goes to prison for arson, having burned down a church. In 1957 now nineteen years old Lewis is free and returns home. Sixteen years old Kit Carmichael, daughter of the most influential family, is attracted to Lewis and wants to help him while her older sister twenty one years old Tamsin teases and flirts with him, which he assumes means she is attracted to him. Their abusive father, who is his dad's boss, simply wants to destroy him.

This deep historical tale may take place in the Happy Days of the 1950s in England, but has incredibly deep relevance today as the family dynamics is explored. First the issue of returning veteran being away for extended war duty shows how complex life can be whether it is fifteen months deployment to Iraq or fighting for several years on the continent. Second there is the parental abuse of the father hitting his wife and Kitty as if he had the divine right to do so, which leaves an angry Lewis feel helpless. Finally there is the alcoholism of Gilbert and Alice that isolates Lewis even further. With THE OUTCAST ironically as the center to all these social issues, Sadie Jones provides a powerful look at the dark side of families circa 1957 but still germane in 2008.

The Dark of Day
Barbara Parker
Vanguard Press
387 Park Avenue South 12th Floor New York, NY 10016
978159315461, $25.95

Using a fake ID, high school aged teen Kylie Ann Willis attends a party at the affluent South Beach, Florida estate of Billy Medina. Drunk and unable to find her ride, model Alana Martin is accosted by two men. However, a man claiming to be security rescues her and takes her to her Miami apartment.

Architect Milo Cahill asks celebrity attorney CJ Dunn to defend Rick Slater, the chauffeur to Congressman Paul Shelby accused of driving off with the since missing Alana from Medina's party although Billy is her boyfriend CJ accepts the case. As she and her private investigator Judy Mazzio work the defense that is now a capital case since Alana's corpse came to shore, CJ realizes that her friend's adopted daughter Kylie Ann is Rick's alibi. However, the teen is missing and her client refuses to mention his witness while the lawyer wonders why the Congressman has hired her to represent an employee who has worked for him for only a few months.

Filled with twists on both a personal and professional level, THE DARK OF DAY is an exciting suspense thriller more than a legal tale in spite of the lead couple's initial professional relationship. Although the romance feels more obligatory, the story line is action-packed from the onset as the spins and revelations keep on coming making Barbara Parker's tale an engaging read.

Mind the Gap
Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
Bantam Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780553384697, $12.00, 1-800-726-0600

Coming home Jazz felt something was wrong in the house where she lived with her mother. Her parent taught her to be alert and always look over her shoulder to see if anyone was coming after her. Heeding her niggling feelings, she sneaks into her home and sees the Uncles there looking like they were waiting for her to arrive. She enters her mom's room finding her dead with her neck slashed; her mom's final words to her written in her blood: Jazz hide forever".

Fleeing her Uncles, Jazz enters an Underground tunnel beneath London where the homeless, the disenfranchised, and the mentally ill reside. She joins forces with the United Kingdom; consisting of young people led by Harold "Harry" Pilkington Fowler. They take her into their home and she becomes a thief in the world above. The Uncles' have thugs searching for her and he finds her. He kills one of her new friends and injures Harry. The United Kingdom kills one of them because these amoral hooligans do not care one iota about collateral damage in their quest to capture Jazz. Above ground she meets burglar Terrance, who is similar to Harry. Vowing revenge for her mom and the dead boy, Jazz plans to take the battle to the Uncles.

The London Underground is a city underneath the metropolis that topsiders are unaware exists; it has its rules, cultures and beliefs like any society have. It is also a place where Jazz sees scenes of magic of London in bygone eras. Jazz is the glue that holds the story line together; she is strong and obstinate as she refuses to cower any longer determined to take the fight to her enemy. Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon provide an engaging fast-paced yet eerie teen thriller as the revelations keep on coming but the action never decelerates.

Odd Hours
Dean Koontz
Bantam Books
9780553807059, $27.00

Odd sees the dead, has prophetic visions and dreams, and has saved many lives because he chose to do good deeds with his gift. After leaving the monastery, his plan was to go home to Pico Mundo to return to his former job as a short order cook. His plan is put on hold when he has visions of turbulent events and a woman floating over a red ocean. Odd somehow knows something dangerous is happening near the seaside town of Magic Beach where he goes.

He gets a job as a cook for a noted retired actor and children's book author. He meets Annamarie who was the woman in his vision who talks in cryptic words, but has no information to give to him. When the local sheriff picks him up assuming Odd is an indigent, they shake hands and in both their minds they see the Red Tide. The sheriff thinks Odd knows more than he is telling. If he passes a lie detector test he will free him and pay him to keep quiet about what he supposedly knows. Odd escapes and learns what his visions mean; he will do anything to prevent this calamity from happening; failure or inaction means America will cease to exist.

Dean Koontz has created a character who wins the hearts of mostly everyone including readers who adore his innocence and courage. His innocence combined with his ability to challenge evil make him a special and aptly named person. In this tale he knows he cannot go to the authorities with his knowledge as a small cabal inside the sheriff's office and the harbor patrol are part of what is coming. ODD HOURS is a special supernatural thriller because besides the save America plot, the hero who travels and lives off the land his way has a ghost dog named Boo for a pet and the shade of Frank Sinatra who appears to Odd. The hero wants to help him move on.

The Mirrored Heavens
David J. Williams
Bantam Books
9780553385410, $12.00

In 2105 the Treaty of Zurich is co-signed by the representatives of the leaders of the United States and the Eurasian Coalition. The two contracting powers agree to reduce the tensions of the protracted second cold war with some cooperation although neither side trusts the other as the environment has failed "Quickening" the potential end of the planet.

The prime symbol of their cooperation is the construction of the Phoenix Space Elevator which will near full operations by 2110 in Belem-Macapa to enable humanity to expedite journeys off world. Central Intelligence Command counter cyber terrorism agent Claire Haskell is tracking the elevator networks as regional freedom fighters Jaguar's Swords have reportedly hacked inside. However, a series of explosions soon rock the elevator and devastates much of the city. The enigmatic Operator sends "mechanic" Jason Marlowe to rescue Claire as he has plans for the pair in a complex counter operation against Autumn Rain who has taken credit for the destruction; while the superpowers blame each other as the cold war turns close to heating up on earth and on the moon. The Operator counts on his subordinate razor Claire and her mechanic Jason remembering fondly their love for one another a decade ago; however, as the pair works together to prevent another Rain tsunami, each wonders if their love is real or an imprint by their razor the Operator.

THE MIRRORED HEAVENS is an exhilarating action-packed futuristic counter intelligence espionage science fiction thriller with Brave New World twists and spins that will have the lead field agents and the audience wonders what revelation is next and just who road kill is. Reality is blurred by constructs to expedite a mechanic's assignment so Claire and Jason only know that she is his razor and he is her mechanic on the stop the Rain project. Readers will appreciate this fast-paced grim look at earth twenty-second century.

The Sugar Queen
Sarah Addison Allen
Bantam Books
9780553805499, $22.00

Affluent semi southern belle Josey Cirrini has one big problem. She is THE SUGAR QUEEN of the south; unable to resist candy and cakes. Since her mom the great dictator demands she must stop eating sugar, twenty-seven year old Josey feels like a kid as she hides her stash in a secret compartment inside her closet.

Battered Eat and Run greasy spoon waitress Della Lee Baker takes refuge in Josey's hideaway. Worried about her uninvited guest, Josey tries to make the haven a bit more comfortable for her soaking wet unwanted guest who explains she took a dip in the nearby cold river. Meanwhile Josey relooks her lifestyle starting with her philandering father Marco, developer of Bald Slope Ski Resort, and her secret attraction for the mailman Adam Boswell while Della Lee becomes her streets wise fairy godmother helping Josey with her insecurities starting with the best grilled cheese sandwich in town and ending she hopes with Adam.

This whimsical charming romantic fairy tale is an engaging tale as tough Della Lee harangues, bullies, and coaxes Josey to go out and get him in spite of her mom's objection to a working class son-in-law. The story line is driven by the relationship between Josey and Della Lee though the other key players are complete especially how they connect to and from the titled character. On top of all that is the mystery of Della Lee. Readers will appreciate this engaging tale and seek and want to read Sarah Addison Allen's magical previous novel (see GARDEN SPELLS).

The Twisted Citadel
Sara Douglass
Eos Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780060882150, $25.95, 1-800-242-7737

Escator King Maximilian and his former Queen Ishbel battle their strong feelings for one another. However, both have doubts about reheating their romance as the first time it ended sadly and though they care for one another they both fear it will end badly again.

At the same time the rulers debate the merits of their on and off relationship, Escator's military chieftain Isaiah and the Icarii enchanter Axis SunSoar plot strategy to fight the powerful evil demonic god Kanubai. Since DarkGlass Mountain has absorbed Kanubai, the demon has become even more dangerous to the country and this malevolence is growing stronger. Both Isaiah and Axis know they must act promptly before it is too late; their fear is that it is already too late.

Although not as strong as the Axis Trilogy or the first DarkGlass Mountain entry (see THE SERPENT BRIDE), THE TWISTED CITADEL is predominantly a middle book quest fantasy. Still bone weary and mentally exhausted Maximilian makes the tale with his tired muses that being a hero and champion is not fun; he just wants to stay home for a change and ignore his responsibility of battling evil. The cast is solid regardless of species especially the human and Icarii team up and the story line is fast-paced, but progress in spite of some vividly described encounters is limited as this second act mostly sets up the grand finish.

Garth Nix
Eos Books
9780061474347, $9.99

In the Old Kingdom, the daughters of Clayr all have the gift; all except one. Lirael is "Sightless" while all the other women have the "Sight". Already feeling like an outsider as her mother deserted her years ago, her difference leaves her even lonelier as she believes everyone seems to look down on her since she failed to move on two years ago like they all did.

Now fourteen years old, Lirael releases a Stilken (female human crustacean from a glass- coffin). That kindness leads Lirael to meet her great-great-grandmother, a renowned healer. The elderly woman encourages her descendent to befriend the insolent "Disreputable Dog". She and her disrespectful companion meet tense Prince Sameth, son of Sabriel (title star of the first book; not yet read by me). This trio of alienated outcasts soon uncovers a plot to destroy the Old Kingdom.

This is an intriguing reprint of a young adult quest fantasy that grips readers from the moment Lirael meets her ancestor and never slows down; in fact nothing critical is resolved by the end leaving the audience disappointed yet anxious for ABHORSEN. The lead trio is solid fully developed characters with the two humans having anxiety issues and the dog remaining an unresolved enigma. Newcomers and those who read the first tale will feel spellbound by the Old Kingdom's magical realm in which the paranormal seems normal.

Garth Nix
Eos Books
9780061474330, $9.99

The Dead Chlorr of the Mask has captured by enchantment Lirael an Abhorsen-in-Waiting, her nephew Prince Sameth, her companion the enigmatic Disreputable Dog and the mysterious white cat Mogget. They need to escape but the spell makes it difficult as their evil host has the support of the powerful malevolent necromancer Hedge.

The quartet escapes anyway and manages to rescue Sameth's friend, Nicholas Sayre, but seemingly too late to prevent him from exhuming the remains of Orannis, the Destroyer. Hedge's plan seems on the verge of fruition, as the hemispheres begin to converge; if they merge, evil will win and all life destroyed. The heroic quartet must first find a way to destroy the Destroyer if Hedge's Death scheme is to be stopped.

This sequel to SABRIEL and LIRAEL is a terrific young adult fantasy that begins to answer questions from the previous tales such as what is the Disreputable Dog while also providing the audience with a wonderful good vs. bad thriller. The contrast between dismal wretched realm of Death and those necromancers who want to bring it to the moral plane vs. the optimism of the band of champions enhances the tension as the good dudes seem too innocent to hold their own against their malevolent adversaries. It behooves newcomers to read the first two books to see how the opponents got to this point although Garth Nix provides an interwoven backdrop. Fans will appreciate this superb entry as all bets are on Hedge and Destroyer.

Fiona McIntosh
Eos Books
9780060899073, $14.95

Religious fanatic Aranfanz holds captive in his desert fortress pregnant Zaradine Ana because he believes Percheron's leader Zar Boaz is the father of the unborn. Aranfanz plans to use the heir as a pawn.

Ana wonders if her beloved Prince Lucien of Galinsea, known in Percheron as Spur Lazar, is the father. However, her biggest concern is for her child wheile she remains incarcerated by the desert warriors. Meanwhile her spouse Zar and her beloved obtain the help of shapeshifting demigod Iridor in their quest to find and free Ana at a time when their two nations turn to war and Maliz the demon in human guise as the grand vizier tries to prevent their success.

The final Percheron tale (see ODALISQUE and EMISSARY) is an interesting ending to a strong trilogy though this entry is not quite as engaging as the previous pair is as it takes too long to move into confrontational mode. The key cast remains solid characters as Zar obsesses over Ana to the point that he leaves his country at risk from the sea to mount a desert rescue of her. Although newcomers must read the previous books to comprehend what is going on in GODDESS, Fiona McIntosh closes her saga on a fine note.

D.M. Cornish
c/o The Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780142409138, $8.99, 1-800-847-5515

In spite of his first name, Rossamund Bookchild is a young male orphan living at Madam Opera's Estimable Marine Society for Foundling Boys and Girls. Rossamund, like all the children at this orphanage, is being trained to serve either in the Boschenberg Navy or some other government agency.

A stranger with strange eyes hires Rossamund as a "lamplighter" for the Emperor watching out for rogue men and monsters (see the 102 page Explicarium glossary for more details involving the role of a lamplighter). However, Rossamund fails to reach his destination when he is tricked into boarding the wrong vessel. This ship of doom leaves the lad in a strange realm where blood feuding is the norm as monsters and human are in constant mortal combat. Rossamund soon learns that when a human kills a monster, a "monster-blood tattoo" is made from the deceased's blood and placed on the victor (see Explicarium for more details). However, the lost lamplighter knows survival on this strange Half Continent is all that matters until he can find passage back to his assignment; that is if he still hasq the job.

The young adult story line is excellent enhanced by wonderful drawings, but it is the appendices with the incredible glossary, the maps and the detailed pictures that make this opening fantasy thriller unique and extraordinary. Rossamund is a wonderful lead protagonist who the audience will admire as he struggles to survive the Half-Continent. Much of his escapades enable the reader to meet the locals, which in turn anchors the place. Readers of all ages will appreciate this superb refreshing tale and look forward to Rossamund's next Monster Blood Tattoo adventure (see LAMPLIGHTER).

Erin McCarthy
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780515144628, $7.99, 1-800-847-5515

In 1849 New Orleans Anne Donovan loves John Thiroux and would do anything for him even die. John is actually the fallen angel Gabriel St. John sent to earth to help humans, but failed to cope with mortal suffering and turned to absinthe to drown his woes. When Anne violently dies, Gabriel is unsure whether he killed her as he was intoxicated at the time. He pledged to his heavenly boss to remain sober even as he is acquitted by a jury of his not peers of the homicide.

In present day New Orleans, true-crime author Gabriel is stunned by the parallels between the murder of Jessie Michaels and that of his Annie. Once again the accused Dr. Rafe Marino in this case is exonerated after a trial. Jesse's daughter Sara Michaels has left Florida to uncover the truth about her mother's murder; Gabriel plans to write a book on the subject. These two wounded souls collaborate seeking peace from closure, but neither knows how connected the mid nineteenth century murder and the recent one are to one another.

This is an engaging murder mystery investigative fantasy starring two angst laden individuals seeking solace by bringing rest to their beloved dead. The story line is fast-paced as the duo follow clues in trying to solve two homicides. Although the climax seems to have fallen from nowhere, fans will enjoy Erin McCarthy's fine tale.

Beverly Jenkins
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061161353, $5.99,

In 1881 Grayson Grove, Michigan Eli Grayson hopes to persuade an interested potential backer G.W. Hicks to help finance the reopening of his newspaper the Gazette. His only concern is his notoriety as a womanizer though that is ancient history; Eli fears his benefactor will not trust him to avoid being the scandalous news. Though he knows ethically this is wrong, desperately he asks Jewel Crowley to pretend to be his wife for the night that Hicks is in town; Jewel is attracted to the handsome rogue and thinking this might be fun without her testosterone guards watching over her like a bird in a gilded cage she agree .

However, Eli made one miscalculation; by morning everyone in Grayson Grove especially the six male Crowley's learn that he and Jewel are married. By that night to save her rep and his newspaper they are married. Both soon find passion and love until his past arrives in town.

The latest Grayson Grove African-American historical romance (see EDGE OF MIDNIGHT and EDGE OF DAWN) is a superb late nineteenth century tale that enables the audience to obtain a deep look at a bygone Americana era in which the history texts mostly ignore. The story line is the usual Beverly Jenkins' mix of emotional yet amusing wit inside a romance filled with deep insight into blacks living and running a town in late nineteenth century Michigan. The Grayson gang saga is a great series.

One Foot in the Grave
Jeaniene Frost
Avon Books
9780061245091, $5.99

In Manhasset, Virginia, FBI Special Agent Catrina "Red Reaper" Arthur puts a knife into the heart of vampire Liam Flannery; one twist and he will be gone forever. However she recognizes him as Ian a friend of Bones, who she still loves. For Bones, she lets him go and thinks back to her hometown in Ohio where she and her lover Bones the vampire killed the governor for selling girls to vampires; her grandparents died in the slaughter and she was considered a mass murderer. Don her current boss knew she was a half breed and placed her on his special top secret team to eliminate vampires. She left Bones a goodbye note.

Don informs the team of a graphic murder in the Ohio house that belonged to Cat's grandparents; a note left behind states: "Here Kitty Kitty". Someone knows of Cat. She and her team travel to Licking Falls to look at the crime scene. One corpse contains limestone from a nearby cave, which leads Cat to believe Bones is involved. She enters the cave alone. Seven vampires greet her with one explaining the bounty on the Red Reaper. They bring her beloved to her, but it is not Bones. Instead it is a creep she dated once as a teen. She kills the vampires, but not before a member of her team dies.

At her friend's wedding Cat and Bones meet for the first time since she disappeared four years ago. She explains why she left and he tells her Ian wants her, but will not attack her; he will go after her loved ones. He promises to help her as he still loves her.

This is an action packed second chance at love romantic fantasy stars a solid lead couple and a strong support cast especially her team. The key though somewhat comic book in nature is that the government agency seems genuine. Although the good guys win each encounter too easily, readers will enjoy this exciting sequel to HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE.

No One Left to Tell
Jordon Dane
Avon Books
9780061253751, $6.99

Chicago homicide detectives Raven Mackenzie and Tony Rodriguez investigate the brutal murder of Dunhill Corporation security agent Mickey Blair near downtown's St. Sebastian's Chapel. The firm's chief Fiona Dunhill demands the cops work with the head of security, Christian Delacorte, if they want her cooperation. Having no choice although far from pleased with taking on a civilian "rookie" the detectives acquiesce, but Delacorte objects also though he too ultimately agrees.

She does not trust him since there is a link between a message left at the murder scene and the slaughter of his family two decades ago; while he thinks cops are failures after watching them bungle the investigation into his family's murders. When her partner is nearly killed, Raven and Christian think Fiona, who raised him, knows how the modern day homicides link to his past, but she is not telling even as a killer plans for NO ONE LEFT TO TELL.

This second No One Left To tale is a superb Chicago mean streets investigative thriller with a solid supporting romantic subplot. Filled with twists from the grave as much as from the chapel, the story line is fast-paced as secrets surface. Fans who appreciate a dark crime thriller starring a likable couple falling in love while on the case will appreciate Jordan Dane's entertaining walk on the side of Chicago Ferris Bueller avoided.

One Night Stand
Cindy Kirk
Avon Books
9780060847913, $6.99

At the wedding of her best friend in Chicago, Marcee Robbins looks forward to a one night stand with a guest-stranger. Due to a crying little boy, she meets widower Sam McKelvey. The widower police detective Sam and the unmarried CPA Marcee discuss his daughter and living in a small town. Later they go to her room for a night of sex

Several months later, Marcee returns to her hometown of Ellwood, a place she vowed to never go back, to care for her younger step-brother Cam. She stops at the bakery run by her high school best friend Iris, who is glad to see her. Not long afterward town sheriff Sam enters. Both are stunned to see one another and Marcee looks at her bracelet "Reach High" to remind her she is here for one year and wants no trouble. She tells Sam to tell no one about their one night stand.

Marcee goes to her family home only to have another stepbrother Cam's guardian Tom leave before he introduces her to Cam, who is asleep. Sam grabs Marcee frightening her before kissing her. He mentions his daughter Fern is out with a punk named Cam. She tells him Cam is her brother and she knows Fern as the friend of the daughter of her best friend. As Marcee falls in love with Sam, she also finds she cares deeply for Cam, but soon must choose between the two men in her life as her lover thinks her brother is not good enough for his daughter.

The prime support cast is solid and adds depth to the story line especially the lead female's brother. However, it is the romance between the lead couple that makes this a fun contemporary as he stereotypes her brother while she feels she must choose between her sibling and her soulmate. Although too much coincidence enables the plot to move forward, fans will enjoy this fine small town romance.

A Notorious Proposition
Adele Ashworth
Avon Books
9780061128585, $6.99

In 1850 at Winter Garden Garrett Burke was investigating for the Crown the theft of the Martello Diamonds when he met and fell in love with Lady Ivy Wentworth. She reciprocated his feelings. However, after making love with her and planning to ask her to marry him, he went out on his assignment that ended badly; he blamed Ivy, whom he believed betrayed him.

Two years later Garrett and Ivy are together at Winter Garden seeking to uncover secrets long buried there. As they begin to find clues of a treasure in the mansion's secret corridors, their love surfaces as neither stopped wanting the other. However, he does not trust her and she knows how he feels making her angry that her love was not strong enough to persuade him otherwise.

This is an engaging Victorian romantic mystery starring two likable protagonists whose short history together includes making love, falling in love, and distrusting love. Readers will enjoy this amusing suspense tale that takes place in WINTER GARDEN (previous book written in 2000; not read by me) as Adele Ashworth writes another engaging historical as few authors consistently bring to life the 1850s-1860s as consistently vivid as this writer does.

Three Nights of Sin
Anne Mallory
Avon Books
9780061242410, $5.99

In 1825, the aristocracy shows its fickleness when they shut out Marietta Winters following the arrest of her brother Kenny for the Middlesex Murder. Impoverished with no place to go, Marietta learns that mysterious Gabriel Noble might be able to help her, but she cannot pay his fee whatever that is as her other brother spendthrift Mark has bankrupted them.

Still desperate to save her brother from hanging, Marietta visits Gabriel. He demands she provide him with three favors in remittance for his help. Her reputation ruined by her sibling's scandal anyway and with a need to save his life, she agrees to THREE NIGHTS OF SIN. Initially he just has her assist him on his investigation. Soon she falls in love with Gabriel, but fears once the case is solved he will dump her.

The premise of paying her debt in sex has been used before, but Marietta and Gabriel refreshes it with their teaming on the homicide investigation although their falling in love is deftly handled. Gabriel feels the son of a butler and a governess is not good enough for an aristocrat so though he has changed from THREE NIGHTS OF SIN to needing forever, he plans to let his beloved go; Marietta thinks otherwise as she has found her love. The murder mystery is well done, but it is the relationship that makes Ann Mallory's Regency tale into a terrific romantic whodunit.

The Best Day of Someone Else's Life
Kerry Reichs
Avon Books
9780061438578, $13.95

Kevin "Vi" Connolly may be the gender bedding equivalent to A Boy Named Sue, but she is a die hard romantic who expects one day her Prince Charming will sweep her off her feet. She has felt that way since she was six years old and carried a basket of flower petals at a wedding. However two decades plus later she remains single and a bit wary of being a bridesmaid instead of the star attraction.

She knows part of her problem is not settling like some of her friends have. Vi insists on finding her soul mate. As she closets one dress after another, not to be used again, she begins to wonder if she will ever find her beloved.

Although THE BEST DAY OF SOMEONE ELSE'S LIFE is thin on sustenance, readers will commiserate with the beleaguered heroine who has gone down the aisle eleven times to hear someone else say "I do". Vi laments about the materialism waste of buying expensive dresses for one time use as symbols of failure. Although the story line lacks substance, chick lit fans will appreciate Vi's on target analysis of the honor of being in the wedding party, but the defeat of not being the star attraction.

The Touch of Twilight
Vicki Petterson
Avon Books
9780060898939, $6.99

Light and Shadow are constantly are war with one another. In Las Vegas, Zodiac Troop 75 keeps the Shadows in check; protecting mortals from adversaries who would harm, kill, or convert them to evil. One of the newest members of the unit is Joanna Archer, who now looks physically like her dead sister Olivia. No longer mortal, she cannot have a relationship with the love of her life Ben, but she refuses to let her evil Shadow counterpart Regan lure him into something malevolent.

A doppelganger is being formed in an alternate reality, but is investigating Joanna before coming to our realm by tearing holes in reality and if not stopped the world will cease to exist. Her father, the evil Tulpa, meets the doppelganger and knows Joanna who is part light and part shadow can stop it. He wants them work together to destroy it. The troop leader wants Joanna to let him change Ben's memories forgetting Joanna from the time she changed into a superheroine. The moves Joanna makes will determine who rules. She must find the strength to let Ben forget her, but doesn't know if she can.

Part urban fantasy, part mystery and part pulp add up to a tale that is impossible to down as the audience will want to know how the problems are resolved. Vicki Petterson keeps readers' attention with several red herrings and unexpected twists. Fans will feel for the heroine who has so much on her plate topped off with what to do with the man she loves.

Something Reckless
Jess Michaels
Avon Books
9780061283970, $13.95

In 1819 the "Upper Ten Thousand" male aristocracy members are irate that the Widow Penelope Norman has challenged them for their sensual excesses; she was sick of her late spouse's philandering and assumes other women detest their husbands' unfaithfulness. The Upper Ten Thousand choose a duke wastrel Jeremy Vaughn to end Penelope's campaign.

Although he prefers to stay out of the mess, the challenge to his pride is too great from friends he has known seemingly forever; so Jeremy agrees to end the reign of terror. He figures the easiest means to achieve success is seduce and blackmail Penelope into silence. In daylight Jeremy becomes a friend of Penelope; at night he sneaks into her bedroom wearing a mask. He accomplishes his mission, but feels like he lost the war as he has fallen in love with passionate prude.

The changing relationship between Jeremy and Penelope make for an entertaining Regency romance in which EVERYTHING FORBIDDEN becomes SOMETHING RECKLESS but worth pursuing. The lead couple makes this a fine read as he starts as a cad and she as a crusading prude; over time respect and ultimately love flourishes. However, she loathes the overindulgences of the Upper Ten Thousand at the cost of women and children while he is a card carrying member. Fans will enjoy this fine tale of just who seduced whom.

Personal Demons
Stacia Kane
Juno Books
c/o Wildside Press
9710 Traville Gateway Drive, #234, Rockville, MD 20850
9780809572557, $6.99,

Dr. Megan Chase hosts the popular radio call in show Personal Demons. She counsels her listeners by pledging to help them to "slay their personal demons". Her loyal followers fully believe in her abilities to do exactly what she says; so do others who are not exactly fans of Dr. Megan.

Megan is a unique human; perhaps the only Homo Sapiens without a demon. That and her growing notoriety make her a threat to the demon-kind and an adversary from her past the Accuser wants her dead. While the demons compete for her allegiance or her death, Megan and her overly protective lover fire demon Greyson Dante become involved in the seemingly inane but potentially dangerous Fearbusters meetings while a reporter trying to make a name digs into Megan's involvement in a murder fifteen years ago.

This engaging paranormal thriller will have readers believing in psychic powers and personal demons while wondering when we take a shower do we have a peeping demon and would sex mean a menage a quatre? Readers will enjoy this lighthearted entertaining urban fantasy as Dr. Megan radio counselor finds out the hard way that there are some creatures out there who literally interpret her motto as a direct threat to their well being.

Clockwork Heart
Dru Pagliassotti
Juno Books
9780809572564, $6.99

The immense powerful city of Ondirium depends on its incredible Great Engine to run everything from the ground lowest caste corridors to the exalted peaks of the elite privileged sectors serving as a precise CLOCKWORK HEART of the metropolis. Taya the metal winged Icarus courier, who due to her position, can journey anywhere in the city from exalted Primus to middle caste Secundus to run down Tertius. One day while soaring across the city she notices a wireferry carriage failing; though she rescues the passengers including exalted Viera and her son Ariq, Taya had never seen machine failure before.

Viera introduces her savior to the highest elite where Taya has never been until now. These wealthy lofty individuals run the city. Taya is especially attracted to Decatur leader Alister Forlore and admires the dedication to the poor of his more forbidding somewhat estranged brother Cristof. However, a terrorist attack precisely engineered by the anti- Great Engine Torn Cards kills Alister and Viera's husband Caster. Taya and Cristof grieve yet feel strongly a need to investigate to learn why Caster and Alister were the targets although officially they are not sanctioned to do so. They will soon find more than they were seeking in the corridors of the city.

With a nod to hi tech (punch cards?) science fiction, the heart of CLOCKWORK HEART is a wonderful amateur sleuth fantasy. The story line is fast-paced especially the investigation while the multitude cast makes the caste system seem real. Fully developed are the heroine, two of her Icarus peers, the dour hero, his late brother, and other exalted; the support cast is solid coming from all over the city. However it is Ondirium that stars as the exalted heart of an enjoyable tale of three "cities".

The Host
Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316068048, $25.95, 1-800-759-0190

They came from outer space without any fanfare. These parasites inserted themselves inside the human brain taking over the host. Disease and war are long gone, but some no infected humans insist this is not Eden as security for freedom is to high a price; the space "Souls" control the body while the human brain activity ebbs. Seekers search for those still independent to turn them over for conversion by the centipedes from space. No place is safe.

In Chicago, one of these human insurgents twentyish Melanie Stryder wants these "Souls" to leave her alone. When the Seekers capture her, a "Soul" is placed inside her brain. She learns the creature surprisingly has a name, Wanderer. Obstinate Melanie refuses to fade into the background. She as the Host persuades Wanderer to find her brother Jamie and her boyfriend Jared missing in the Arizona desert as long as they find the parasite's significant other too. When the coupling meets up with her loved ones in a secret rebel hideaway led by her uncle, the purebreds suspect both of them sharing her body, but soon Wanda as they start calling the parasite begins to win over the insurgents just like this Soul did her host.

Although first impressions is THE HOST is a futuristic Invasion of the Body Snatchers; in fact Stephanie Meyer's tale is a much more complex character driven thriller. Relationships are the key to this superb tale that focuses on Wanda-Melanie and those the Host cherishes like her brother and her boyfriend. Jared's thoughts bring perspective when he kisses Melanie he wonders if he is kissing her, Wanda, or both; geometrically adding to the complications is Ian. Fans who want invasion action and its consequences need to go elsewhere like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers; but those who appreciate a deep look at a personal level will enjoy this fine thriller.

Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown
9780316160209, $19.99

Washington State feels like a place under siege as a rash of strange homicides has frightened everyone. Meanwhile Isabella "Bella" Swan, relatively new to the town of Fork where her father is chief of police has two boys interested in her. She likes both of them, but loves Edward the vampire, who fears his family's blood lust could harm her; she also has befriended Jake the werewolf whose natural enemy is a vampire. Their love for Bella makes them even more bitter rivals than their species already are. She fears picking one over the other might ignite a local species war.

A previous incident involving Bella has come home to roost leaving her in danger. When Jake and Edward realize the threat, they reluctantly team up as Bella's safety supersedes their animosity though each wants to be the hero left standing with the woman they love.

Though similar in story line to the first two Bella in peril paranormal thrillers (see NEW MOON and TWILIGHT) the paranormal species seem genuine as the three teens struggle with adult issues that none want to deal with; treat us like adults except hold us accountable like a child. Stephenie Meyers continues to pay homage to the energy and vigor of first love as ECLIPSE is a strong young adult romantic suspense fantasy, but the triangle only glacially moves closer to resolution. Still fans will appreciate this fun and entertaining thriller.

New Moon
Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown
9780316160193, $19.99

In Forks, Washington, after having recovered from a vampire assault (see TWILIGHT), Isabella "Bella" Swan celebrates her eighteenth birthday with her boyfriend and rescuer Edward Cullen and his family of vampires that are "vegans"; never drinking human blood. However when Bella cuts her arm, Edward and his kin struggle to control their desire as the trickling red liquid is like catnip to them. They do not harm her, but he realizes they can never be together and ends their relationship breaking her heart.

Bella is depressed until she meets Ford High School sophomore Jacob, a sophomore from her school who belongs to a motorcycle pack. She begins to come out of her funk though she misses Edward. However, she soon learns what the pack truly is and what Jacob will become; a natural enemy of Edward; not just because they like the same girl.

The second Bella tale is a terrific paranormal young adult thriller as the heroine is sort of like Marshall Teller of Eerie, Indiana landing in one bizarre situation after another. This time the vampires show up towards the end of the tale as Bella learns there is a lot more species under the sun (make that the moon) than humans. Although Jacob behaves towards Bella identically the same as did Edward in TWILIGHT even considering the first person filtering of the heroine in peril, fans will enjoy watching what happens on the NEW MOON on the Olympic Peninsular.

Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown
9780316105844, $10.99

Seventeen year old Isabella Swan leaves her newly married mother in Phoenix to live with her father Charlie, the police chief of Forks, Washington on the Olympic Peninsular; a four hour flight to a place she has never visited, but life starts anew for her. Her first day at Forks High School leaves her nervous as there were three hundred and fifty seven students yesterday who know each other. Today there is one more pupil who nobody knows; Bella knows no one.

On that first day in potential purgatory, Bella meets the enigmatic Edward Cullen. She is very attracted to him, but he acts schizoid towards her. One moment he seems to want her; the next he loathes her. She also acts out of character as she spit out her life to this stranger. However, she begins to unravel the mystery of the teen she desires who at times acts as obsessed with her as she is with him. Although she does not fully believe what she has found out, Bella realizes Edward and his adoptive family are vampires whose sustenance comes from animals. Other vampiric clans are not as regimented as they feel vampire superior should dine on inferior beasts including humans; Bella is fair game.

This is an exciting young adult romantic fantasy starring two teens besotted with one another in a taboo love. The story line is driven by the lead couple as their attraction causes problems for each of them and their families especially when outsiders intervene. Although the climax is rushed and too much of what occurred is passively explained instead of actively happening, readers will enjoy forbidden teen love between a purebred human and a purebred vampire.

The Dirty Secrets Club
Meg Gardiner
c/o Penguin Putnam
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780525950660, $24.95, 1-800-847-5515

A string of celebrity murders-suicides has shaken San Francisco; none make sense as the victims and culprits are not just rich and famous they seem mentally stable. The final straw for the beleaguered police department is when highly regarded prosecutor Callie Harding drove her BMW off a bridge onto a minivan below. Desperate the SFPD hire forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jo Beckett as a consultant. Considering herself to be an expert "deadshrinker", Jo performs psychological autopsies.

Though still grieving the death of her husband, Jo teams up with SFPD Lieutenant Amy Tang. The pair soon finds a link between the recent deaths and a nebulous group, the Dirty Secrets Club, whose members are some of the city's most famous and affluent. Jo begins to theorize that a debunked former associate may be causing members like the 49er football star to commit suicide.

This is an exciting police procedural starring a fascinating forensic expert and a tough minded cop. The investigation is superb as the two intrepid females make inquires that take them deeper inside THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB whose members prefer death to exposure. Readers will enjoy Meg Gardiner's excellent whodunit as the streets of San Francisco have rarely been more appealing.

Unholy Domain
Dan Ronco
c/o Independent Publishers Group
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781601640215, $24.95

In 2012, the PeaceMaker virus destroyed the Internet; causing pandemic catastrophes as so much of the world was tied to cyber space with millions dead as a consequence. Over the next decade since this debacle destroyed the global economy, the government has banned the development of new technology outside of what the Feds create. The Technos strongly object to the taboo while the Church of Natural Humans want all technology outlawed.

The Domain has developed new illegal technology with the intention of a coup d'etat to take control of the government; the Church wants to expand its hold on the government. These two groups are ready to take their cold war hot. At the same time David Brown, the son of software guru Ray Brown, the person universally blamed for unleashing PeaceMaker, wants to prove his dad is innocent of these charges. He does not care one iota about the power struggle.

The second PeaceMaker tale (see THE PEACEMAKER) is an exciting follow-up warning to the premise that the destruction of the Internet will lead to many direct deaths and a global collapse exponentially worse than that of the Great Depression. The story line is fast-paced, filled with plenty of action as David (apropos first name) is a human sharing space with two five hundred pound battling gorillas. Although the rampart sexism seems unnecessarily comical and ergo out of place UNHOLY DOMAIN is an entertaining futuristic cautionary thriller.

Not in the Flesh
Ruth Rendell
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, #B1, New York, NY 10019-4305
9780307406811, $25.95, 1-800-726-0600

Digging for truffles Jim Belbury and his late brother's Jack Russell Honey find something they were unprepared to come across. Instead of truffles they find a corpse buried on a vacant lot. He calls Information who get him connected to the Kingsmarkham police station. Chief Inspector Wexford leads the investigation in which he does not need forensics experts to tell him the body was interred a long time ago. Inside the basement of the abandoned building on this same property the police team finds a second murder victim; also dead for quite a long time.

There is little useful evidence at either crime scene so the team begins to slowly and methodically interview the neighbors who offer little help, but most act somewhat suspciously as if they are hiding something pertinent or another crime. Resolving the double homicides seems to be going nowhere, but Wexford keeps digging uncovering clues that begin to shape the case.

There is a second investigation involving genital mutilation of Somali immigrants that add to this strong Wexford police procedural. Wexford calmly interrogates eccentrics while opining to the readers that civilization is dying due to modernization; his proof is the people he interviews. NOT IN THE FLESH is an engaging investigative tale as the case unfolds slowly one clue at a time.

Imagine Me and You
Billy Mernit
Shaye Areheart
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, #B1, New York, NY 10019-4305
0307395375, $23.00, 1-800-726-0600

In Los Angeles screenwriter and instructor Jordan is upset that his wife Isabella left him, but not worried about her returning to him as he has developed the perfect plan. His scheme is simply to build on his spouse's jealousies, which will have her running home ASAP.

Since Jordon knows he cannot actually cheat, he must create a girlfriend; as a screenwriter he figures on writing a character for the script. He models his imaginative girlfriend after a former student Naomi. After he begins placing evidence of a lover, Naomi shows-up. There is one problem with her; no one besides Jordan sees or hears her. Confused by Naomi pushing Jordan to come clean with what he really wants and struggling with keeping his web of lies from imploding, Jordan assumes nothing can get worse; however this is not a Hollywood script as his wife and the real Naomi come to town.

Although the story line gets overwhelmed at times by the overkill of advanced screenwriting 401, IMAGINE ME AND YOU is an amusing tale that lampoons Hollywood stereotypes especially the romantic comedy images. Jordan is a fascinating lead character as he struggles between make believe and reality leading to the three women (the two Naomi's and Isabella) in and out and maybe in or out of his life. He simply lives life as the star of a romantic comedy in which Cary Grant plays him and Katherine Hepburn plays Isabella with him getting the girl at the end. Overall fun to read in spite of too much insider screenwriting slowing down the plot, Billy Mernit satirizes the romantic comedy.

River of Heaven
Lee Martin
Shaye Areheart
9780307381248, $24.00

In Michigan Arthur Pope is stunned when his "first mate" Bess dies leaving him alone. Still gregarious, Arthur crashes into the life of his sexagenarian gay neighbor, reclusive Sammy Brady who lives quietly with Stump, his basset hound. Arthur persuades Sammy that they need to build a special doghouse for Stump. He designs the canine abode to look like a ship as would be expected by a former navy officer.

When the Daily Mail learns of the odd shaped doghouse, they send human interest reporter Duncan Hines to interview Sammy, Stump and Arthur. However, Duncan is related to Dewey Finn, Sammy's childhood friend from Rat Town, who inexplicably died on a railroad track five decades ago near Mt. Gilead, Illinois; Sammy knows what happened but kept it secret. Sammy's estranged brother Cal arrives to hide an antique from a vicious collector as does Arthur's granddaughter Maddie at a time the local militia has an interest in both men.

RIVER OF HEAVEN is an engaging thriller that starts off innocent enough as two elderly men build a special doghouse for Seaman Stump, but begins a series of complicated twists starting with the arrival of Duncan. The spins add suspense and tension, but with so many it can be difficult to keep track as fifty years come full circle. Still fans will enjoy this rich tale in which Sammy never recovered from the secret of what did occur back in 1955 that he promised Cal he would maintain forever.

The Actress
Elizabeth Sims
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312377274, $24.95, 1-888-330-8477

After meeting his latest semi-notorious client Eileen Tenaway, L.A. celebrity attorney Gary Kwan realizes even he cannot stand the unsympathetic woman; a jury will hang her without needing any evidence to the charge she allegedly killed her baby. Desperate he hires starving wannabe actress Rita Farmer at one thousand dollars a day to train Eileen to appear a lot more sympathetic and likable in court especially when she takes the stand. Needing the money as she fears her rat of an ex will make an attempt to gain custody of their son Petey, Rita accepts the assignment.

Rita finds teaching Eileen nearly impossible as the woman is sociopathically, uncaringly numb. However, not long afterward, the case twists when insurance investigator Mr. Rowe informs Rita of a pay out to Eileen and her husband's business partner over the death of her spouse in Brazil. Soon Rita ponders whether the husband is dead and not long after that is resolved, his business partner, a lot of money and jewels vanish. When someone murders Gary and kidnaps Rita's son, the actress and her friend Daniel desperately search for her offspring even while knowing an unknown adversary wants Eileen hung.

Readers will root for Rita who turns from gentle kitty to ferocious lioness when her cub is threatened although some of her early investigative actions seem out of character as it places her and ultimately Petey in danger. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Gary hires Rita and never slows down. The key to this exhilarating amateur sleuth legal thriller is Eileen. She is so unsympathetic fans will convict her without any need of evidence. Elizabeth Sims provides a fascinating tale especially when the plot focuses on Eileen.

Nick of Time
Ted Bell
St. Martin's Press
9780312380687, $17.95

As Europe flares up with the latest continental war this time between the allies and the Fascists, twelve years old Nick McIver and his younger sister Kate live with their father in a lighthouse on Graybeard Island, one of the Channel islands. The Nazi U-boats surround their island while their father tries to get important information to the War Office in London. Meanwhile Nick finds a chest containing an odd plea from a long dead ancestor. Apparently Royal Naval Captain Nicholas McIver is in trouble, but has critical information that Lord Admiral Nelson needs. The message accompanies a handy time machine that enables Nick to go back to 1805 to help his antecedent.

As Nick goes back to the Napoleonic Era, Kate joins Lord Hawke and Commander Hobbes as they try to steal an experimental Nazi submarine. At the same relative time in both eras, pirate Billy Blood uses his portable time machine to abduct the children of wealthy parents from various periods that he takes to his French warship; he demands exorbitant ransom if they want their brats back. In 1805 he is about to kill Nick's relative; in 1939, he considers kidnapping Nick's sister.

Ted bell's fine young adult thriller is an engaging preadolescent time travel fantasy in which readers will root for the McIver pair to be in THE NICK OF TIME to save England at sea TWICE a century and half apart. The sea battles are incredibly descriptive in both periods so much so that the audience can compare the navies. Although the non-stop action twists reasoning in order to keep the escapades going, no one will care as readers will cheer on the fully developed young champions while hissing that diabolically bloody pirate.

The Triumph of Caesar
Steven Saylor
St. Martin's Press
9780312359836, $24.95

He conquered Gaul, settled the civil war in Egypt by placing Cleopatra on the throne, and won decisive battles in all over Europe, Asia and Africa. For the first time in many years Caesar has come home where he is the Dictator for life.

Gordianus the Finder has recently returned from Egypt and looks forward to settling into retirement. However his rest is brief because Caesar's wife Calpurnicus has a job for him. An Etruscan soothsayer who she has complete confidence in says her spouse's life is in danger; she orders Gordianus to find the potential killer. There are four Triumphs (festivals) coming shortly, and those are the most likely moment for someone to strike as Caesar is an easy target during them. The person she had looking for Caesar's enemy before Gordianus was Hieronymus, a friend of Gordianus, making this assignment personal.

Two of Steven Saylor's greatest strengths as an author are his ability to make character seem genuine including real historical persona and to give his audience a sense of time and place; readers will feel they are in first century BC Rome. Gordianus enables readers to see through his eyes the jubilation that exists in Rome now that the civil war is over. With a strong who will do it investigative story line, fans will relish the triumph of Saylor.

Madman on a Drum
David Housewright
St. Martin's Press
9780312370817, $24.95

In St. Paul, Minnesota sixth grader Victoria and fourth grader Katie Dunston were walking home from St. Mark's Elementary School when a man in white coveralls and a black ski mask abducts the older sister. Their father Bobby, the city's homicide chief, asks his long time friend former cop Rushmore McKenzie to help rescue his daughter although the detective knows his buddy lacks a sleuthing license.

The kidnapper demands Mac deliver the ransom, which he is willing to do. Mac begins racing through St. Paul following tips while someone places a, $50,000 bounty on him. Soon Mac and Bobby begin to realize who the abductor is and why this snatch is personal. The knowledge brings fear to both men not for themselves, but for what their former childhood buddy might be capable of doing to this preadolescent girl out of an obsession to avenge what he believes was a betrayal of their friendship.

This is an exciting Twin City Noir that never slows down from the opening abduction to the final confrontation. Part of the fascination with this strong series (see DEAD BOYFRIENDS).is Mac makes mistakes that can prove costly as he does in MADMAN ON A DRUM. Although action-packed, the tale also focuses on loyalty between friends as Bobby was doing his job when the betrayal occurred (though not quite as potentially dangerous and it was a law enforcement matter, but think in terms of the heroic parents who turned in their son recently because they feared a Columbine). This is a strong entry in a powerful series.

Peter Leonard
St. Martin's Press
9780312379025, $24.95

In Detroit former racing car champion Owen McCall and his teenage son Luke go hunting together. Luke shoots an arrow at a deer that somehow goes through the animal and his father, killing Owen.

The sixteen years old boy is filled with guilt and depression, his mom Kate struggles with her own despondency. However, the Widow is not allowed any time to grief or be there for her devastated offspring. Her former Peace Corps lover Jack Curran arrives allegedly to console the widow who he reminds that he once saved her life. However, Jack has a hidden agenda and fails to inform Kate that he did time and that his current friends have criminal plans for the surviving McCalls.

Although an entertaining crime caper, QUIVER is too much a good guys vs. the bad guys thriller rather than a deep look at a grieving son filled with self loathing guilt over killing his dad even though Luke knows logically it was an accident. Instead the tale focuses on what Jack and associates do to Kate and Luke with a full circle high noon confrontation at Owen's hunting lodge while the audience expects insight into Luke's mental state. Still Peter Leonard provides an exciting suspense thriller.

Duke Most Wanted
Celeste Bradley
St. Martin's Press
9780312939700, $6.99

In 1815 only one of the three cousins remain single with a chance to inherit the Pickering fortune, but bookworm too tall and clumsy twenty-seven year old Sophie is uninterested in their late grandfather's fortune nor in marriage as she assumes she is on the shelf for life that is if she does not inelegantly fall off. Instead she is having the time of her life especially with her friendship with Graham, the youngest son of a duke with four older brothers.

However, when his father and a brother die, Graham reconsiders his carefree lifestyle and decides he needs a bride. He wants intelligent witty Sophie as his wife. However, Sophie who has always considered herself plain cannot believe her buddy desires her even with fashion tips turning her into a beauty.

The final Heiress Brides tale (see DESPERATELY SEEKING A DUKE and THE DUKE NEXT DOOR) is a delightful Regency romance. The key threads from the previous books are completed and a fabulous twist involving a crooked lethal lawyer (no oxymoron joke intended) adds depth as Phoebe and Deirdre return to help their cousin get her man. Celeste Bradley spins a winner as even the ugly duckling turning into a beautiful swan due to an early nineteenth century makeover seems right.

Death Will Get You Sober
Elizabeth Zelvin
St. Martin's Press
9780312375898, $23.95

On Christmas Day, Bruce Kohler awakens in a Bowery detox cell. He is greeted by "God", fellow alcoholic Godfrey Brandon Kettleworth III. Not long after the pair meets and forms a friendship, God is dead.

Bruce's best friend and former drinking companion, AA crusader Jimmy and Jimmy's girlfriend crusading detox counselor Barbara suggest he investigate the murder of God. They hope a bit of harmless sleuthing will keep Bruce away from alcohol as all three of them know he is a drunk and needs something to occupy his mind. As other alcoholics are murdered the risk-free inquiry they make proves dangerous to the three amateur sleuths by a serial killer at the top of their murdering game.

This is an enjoyable tale unless you're a lower Manhattan AA participant or detox temp. However, the underlying rationale to investigate takes a plausibility stretch longer than the ferry ride to Staten Island especially with Barbara being a professional. Bruce almighty saves the tale as he is a likable shlump who knows he has no sleuthing skills, but finds DEATH WILL GET YOU SOBER quite exhilarating as he and his companions remain detached from the victims by seeing their inquires as a sort of video game. Although inane in terms of the reason Bruce turns detective, readers will enjoy this detracted unemotional look into homicide as a means of sobriety.

The Prodigal Nun
Aimee and David Thurlo
St. Martin's Press
9780312367312, $24.95

Extern nun Sister Agatha is able to communicate with the outside world unlike her sisters who are cloistered and never become involved in worldly affairs. In another lifetime, Sister Agatha was a good reporter and those investigative skills have led her to solving many homicide cases.

When the local priest is conducting Mass, Sister Agatha hears a pop in the parking lot. She does not think anything of the noise until she learns someone shot parishioner Jane Sanchez who wanted to talk to her to talk to her about something that was troubling her.

With the permission of the local sheriff, Sister Agatha starts sleuthing and learns that Jane was feuding with her daughter and was trying to get her to leave he husband, a police office who she hated. Someone seems to be targeting Sister Agatha and Sister Jo almost succeeding in killing them. Using her sources Sister Agatha tries to find out who has it in for them and why; yet the clues point to a person who the sleuthing nun believes is innocent.

The latest Sister Agatha mystery is the best to date in this exciting series because this time the nuns and the monastery are under direct attack. The Archbishop, other religious leaders, and the mayor are concerned, but mostly to prevent collateral damage to their political careers. The heroine has no time for the foolishness of politicians whether they wear suits or religious garb as she has a murderer to catch. As she risks her life, fans will appreciate the Thurlos' absorbing whodunit.

Keep Your Mouth Shut and Wear Beige
Kathleen Gilles Seidel
St. Martin's Press
9780312367749, $22.95

In Virginia ICU nurse Darcy Van Aiken and her ex spouse Mike get along reasonably well just as they did in their two decades of marriage and not just for the sake of their three kids; especially since two have left the nest. However the family dynamics are changing as their oldest son Jeremy is getting married soon to clothing designer Claudia Postlewaite.

Darcy was a bit apprehensive in meeting her future in-laws as they are wealthy and she and Mike are middle class, but she and Claudia's mom seem to get on quite well. However, Darcy is upset that her future daughter-in-law sees her nuptials as advertising to further her professional reputation and to insure she stays amongst the social upper crust. Darcy wants what is best for Jeremy, but resents paying an exorbitant emotional price.

Amusing with a light tone yet populated with fully developed characters, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT AND WEAR BEIGE is actually a very deep look at the dynamics of relationships when external forces changes the internal energies. Darcy and Claudia are adversaries with Mike caught in the middle; the rest of the cast are pulled in one direction or another by the battling amazons. Kathleen Gilles Seidel uses hyperbole and humor to tell a poignant tale of how the adult child inadvertently nukes the expectations of the parent.

Vodka Neat
Anna Blundy
St. Martin's Press
9780312368630, $24.95

Sixteen years ago as a nineteen years old newlywed Russian Faith Zanetti emigrated from her home country to England to start over after the horrific scandal that destroyed her marriage though she has come home for short visits since she left town. She obtained work as a war correspondent for the London based Chronicle, but now her life has gone full circle. Her foreign editor Tamsin assigns the vodka guzzling cigarette smoker to be their new Moscow correspondent.

However, she is stunned upon her arrival to learn her former spouse Dimitri Sakhnov who confessed to a murder in 1989 insists he never killed anyone; he said he took the blame for his then wife Faith; she is the killer. Faith visits Dimitri at the psycho ward only he is not there. Instead American Adrian Smith is being held. Adrian tells her Dimitri is dead and soon afterward so is he. Faith believes Dimitri lives and orchestrates events; with help of her boyfriend she plans to find and confront the rogue she was once married to.

Faith is a great protagonist who holds together this strong Russian investigative thriller as her personal issues are as powerful as her need to bring Dimitri to justice, preferably without the Moscow police involved. The story line is fast-paced, but driven by Faith and the support characters especially the Muscovites as readers will be hooked by her seemingly solo (with her American boyfriend) belief that her ex is alive.

The Ex-Debutante
Linda Francis Lee
St. Martin's Press
9780312354961, $23.95

Two prime reasons propelled Carlisle Wainwright Cushing to leave Willow Creek, Texas three years ago. First the lawyer could not deal with her family's lofty social position especially her mother's marriage of the moment; worse she needed to leave behind Jack Blair, the man she has loved for fifteen years going back to high school.

She returns home when her mom asks her to represent her in her umpteenth divorce after divorce lawyer number four botched the proceedings so that ex hubby four has a line on the family accounting sheet. Her mom's spouse hires Jack. To her chagrin although engaged to Boston Brahmin attorney Phillip, she still wants Jack; he feels the same way. As she gets roped into planning the annual debutante gala hosted forever by her family but on the verge of collapse, Jack makes a move on her to regain the woman he let get away.

This is an amusing contemporary romance starring two likable lead characters, a horde of eccentric protagonists especially the families and the debutantes and an out of place Bostonian fiance. The story line is humorous as Carlisle with her chick lit asides understands how Michael Corleone felt about being dragged home into the family business. Readers will laugh with the vulnerable heroine who wonders whether she can escape her DNA in time to keep her brain from frying while also pondering about her and Jack especially after the men's room incident.

In the Heat
Ian Vasquez
St. Martin's Press
9780312378097, $23.95

In Belize, thirty five years old Miles Young has seen better days as a top middleweight contender, but based on losing to a journey level Mexican recently, he knows his big pay days especially in the States are over. Still he needs to find work to support his preadolescent daughter Lani; her mother deserted them a couple of years ago.

His local promoter Manny Marchand introduces Miles to wealthy Isabel Gilmore. She offers him, $3000 to search for her seventeen year old daughter Rian who ran away with Joel Tablada, son of the former corrupt police chief Marlin . If he finds her before she turns eighteen and legally becomes an adult, a few days away, she will give him 3K more. To sweeten the pot, Manny offers 30K, after negotiations, to fight former champ Hakeen Wahen on the comeback trail. Miles accepts, but his trainer's lawyer warns him to be careful when dealing with Isabel who uses Marlin's firm for security; she has an agenda of sorts and it does not involve retrieving her runaway daughter.

This is an enjoyable amateur sleuth tale that focuses on a world class athlete after the skills have begun to deteriorate. Miles is terrific whether he is taking care of his child, preparing for a fight, unsure of his feelings towards his girlfriend, and untrusting of his client not just because the lawyer warned him; but her logic for hiring a non-pro seems false. Belize serves as a nice backdrop though more emphasis on the country would make IN THE HEAT a heavyweight champ. Still this is a strong character driven mystery in which the audience will be engaged for fifteen action-packed rounds.

Rules, Regs and Rotten Eggs
H.R.F. Keating
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312375331, $23.95, 1-888-330-8477

Greater Birchester Police Detective Superintendent Harriet Martens has not been the tough iron cop ever since her police constables son Graham died in a terrorist bombing and her other child Malcolm was severely injured (see ONE MAN AND HIS BOMB) However, the new Assistant Chief Constable (Crime) of CID believes Martens is finished as an effective investigator and Harriet knows it; she is considering resigning.

She attends a speech provided by pro-hunting enthusiast Robert Roughouse to a crowd of animal activists. Suddenly a purple egg lands near Robert and explodes knocking him unconscious. Harriet takes charge of the crime scene, but it is octogenarian Percival Pigeon who persuades her that the anti-hunting crowd did not send the grenade by showing her the throwing device left behind in the nearby chapel by the assailant in his haste to leave. The ACC agrees with Harriet to investigate who wanted Roughhouse dead. When three of his Zeal School friends remove him from quality St. Oswald Hospital to the Masterson Clinic, she cannot fathom why. Harriet focuses on the trio although a motive is not imminent and the victim's girlfriend Keyan expatriate Olympic caliber marathon runner Charity Nyambura has surfaced.

This is an excellent police procedural with a strong case, but totally owned by Harriet, whose confidence in her skills is shaken as she remains reeling from Graham's death (she still uses his cell phone). The mystery is superbly drawn as Harriet works the clues while also beginning to better understand the resentment of the cop assigned to work with her "Bolshy Bill" who has learned to not go beyond the specificity of the assignment by superiors who prefer no creativity by inferiors. Fans of the Martens series will fully appreciate H.R.F. Keating's excellent entry while newcomers will marvel at this author's talent to bring out fully flushed characters in a fabulous whodunit.

The Demon of Dakar
Kjell Eriksson
9780312366698, $24.95

Uppsala, Sweden Police Detective Ann Lindell works a difficult homicide case as she struggles to identify the victim found floating in a river. The corpse is eventually identified as Armas, a co-owner of the upscale restaurant Dakar. Ann visits the other partner, Slobodan Andersson who also owns Alhambra and has questionable financing connections and plenty of enemies.

However the suspect list remains long besides Slobodan and his adversaries. Ann considers recently hired waitress Eva Willman and her two teen boys, chef Johnny Kvarnheden, homeless Konrad Rosenberg and Mexican peasant Manuel Alavez seeking to free his incarcerated brother.

The fascination with this superior third Swedish police procedural (see THE CRUEL STARS OF THE NIGHT and THE PRINCESS OF BURUNDI) is the cast as perspective is told from various participants so that the same incident is seen differently and their political viewpoints especially anti Bush runs strong. The investigation led by Ann is wonderful to follow as she, like the readers, meet the restaurant's players who all have motive to kill the victim. A slight adjustment is needed to Swedish nomenclature as delineating the names of people and places require full concentration, but THE DEMON OF DAKAR is worth the time.

On Account of Conspicuous Women
Dawn Shamp
9780312379971, $23.95

In 1920 following her beloved dropping dead, Widow Ina Fitzhugh moves from Virginia to teach school in Roxboro in Person County, North Carolina. Three natives worry that the out of towner will disparage their community. Guerine Loftis, Doodle Shuford and Bertie Daye hope to sell Ina on the merits of living in Roxboro.

During her first year in town, Ina often thinks about how much she left behind to live in this backwater town. Still she makes tentative friends with the three women. However each has their own goals that they pursue, which has the four females still somewhat friendly but drifting apart.

This tale starts off a bit slow as the audience meets the four females, but picks up some speed once the fearsome foursome get together. The story line is a historical period piece that provides a deep look at a by gone era in the rural south when sophisticates from Virginia were considered foreigners and suffragettes like Bertie at a minimum eccentric. Readers who enjoy a leisurely character driven tale will appreciate this engaging glimpse at four women in the post WWI North Carolina summed up by the opening quote: "Well-behaved women seldom make history" by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.

America the Beautiful
Laura Hayden
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414319391, $13.99, 1-800-323-9400

Kate Rosen and Emily Benton met in high school. They became friends while Kate believed Emily was going to go very far. Years later, now the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Emily runs for president with Kate, her closest friend, as her campaign manager and her ethical conscience magnet.

Kate is a religious person who finds the dirty tricks of running for high office depressing. She fears her morals are being corrupted, but wants to be there for Emily. When Kate has a chance to go negative, she hesitates, but the race is ruthless and she must choose between her friend and country vs. her beliefs in God.

This is a fascinating political thriller that stars two fully developed characters who have come a long way baby. Back in high school, super K and the Big E were idealists out to change the world; but neither realized how much compromise of a person's ideals occurs to be successful. The bottom line in this insightful tale is does Kate have the stomach to destroy the opposition (think Swift Boat) with half truths, innuendoes and one humongous expose; all this contrary to her deep belief in God and what is right for her country may not be good for her best friend's run. Is there room for a true believer in the politics of America the Beautiful?

Summer Snow
Nicole Baart
Tyndale House Publishers
9781414316239, $12.99

After seeing life as half empty for a decade since her mother walked out on her, Julia DeSmit drops out of college coming home pregnant. She vows to change her negative attitude for the sake of her baby thinking in terms of slicing off the top of the cup so that her cup is filled.

Julia lives with her beloved grandma who gave her a home when her mom abandoned her. She also works at the grocery store. However, Julia's new found positivism collapses when her mother Janice comes home expecting a warm welcome on a chilly March evening. Her daughter's anger and acrimony explodes as Julia wants Janice to just leave as she wants nothing to do with her mother although she sees herself somewhat in the same predicament that Janice faced.

This is a terrific character study of three generations of women struggling with the return of the sandwiched one who had previously abandoned her mom and daughter. The trio is fully developed so that the audience will feel they know why each behaves the way they do especially with one another. Fans will appreciate Julia's lament as she begins to understand what her mother faced and what it means to forgive. However, being human and not divine she cannot forget and thus has doubts she can ever accept Janice as her blood relative especially since Grandma is more her mom than her biological mother ever was. This is a strong contemporary look at three related females trying to reconnect even as the fourth generation is coming.

Chernobyl Murders
Michael Beres
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
9781933836294, $25.95,

In 1985 in Western Ukraine, Chernobyl engineer Mihaly Horvath is upset at what is going on at the nuclear plant. He believes safety is being ignored and unnecessary risks taken. His brother Lazlo, a Kiev detective, investigates the unclear facility, which angers his bosses, brings him and his family to the attention of the KGB and the CIA. However, the biggest stunner for Lazlo is to learn his family man sibling is having an affair with Chernobyl technician Juli Popovics.

When the Chernobyl plant explodes, Mihaly is among the dead. Lazlo wonders if his sibling was murdered to conceal incompetence and corruption. Juli informs him that she is pregnant carrying his brother's child. Meanwhile KGB major Grigor Komarov insures nothing but radiation leaks out of the Ukraine; he executes those who know the truth with an eye on the prize replacing Gorbachev as the Soviet Union teeters. Falling in love Lazlo and Juli flee for their lives from this incessant maniac who needs these witnesses dead before they reach the west.

Although there is an exciting Cold War murder mystery with an exhilarating chase, the star of this explosive thriller is the Chernobyl tragedy whose face will always be Nadia. The story line is fast-paced as the events leading to the nuclear explosion unfolds through the brothers, but it is the aftermath that grips the audience without the plot turning overly melodramatic. The Soviet control of media leakage (think what You Tube could have done in the 1980s with Nadia the Olympics Gold innocent and the Nadia the radioactive victim) and killing anyone who would pose a threat, but unable to control radioactive leakage that makes this a sensational thriller.

Paint it Black
Michelle Perry
Medallion Press
9781933836003, $7.95

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Necie Bramhall joined the department as a means to achieving her life goal. She feels the DEA will enable her to destroy her father, a notorious drug lord father, who deserted her and her mother years ago. To her euphoric surprise Necie succeeds in capturing her father; his incarceration makes her wonder now what though she hopes to move on with her life.

However, Necie is unaware that revenge breeds more vengeance as her unknown half sister Maria Barnes hates her. She has spent her lifetime hearing from their father how wonderful his other daughter is. She plans to prove to her dad that she is the chip off the old block who would never betray him by ruthlessly destroying Necie's family staring with the abduction of her niece. Necie's only hope to save her daughter from her half sister lies with the man who sired her, the man she placed behind bars; her daughter's paternal grandfather.

This is an exciting suspense thriller starring a dysfunctional family. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Necie captures her dad while Maria captures her niece. Although a bit over the top, fans will not care as the action keeps on coming with twists and spins everywhere while readers anticipate one wild family gathering in which ironically it started on Thanksgiving.

Catherine Coulter
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399155031, $25.95, 1-800-847-5515

She woke up to find her hands tied to her chest and her legs locked in weights just before being thrown into a lake. An expert swimmer, Rachel Abbott, illegitimate daughter of a powerful senator, gets free and goes on the run. She believes her father's two siblings want her dead to prevent her from revealing something that could have destroyed her dad's career; though before he died he was planning to go public. In Kentucky Appalachia on her way to a safe house to rest and think, she sees a plane make an emergency crash landing; the pilot and the passenger manage to escape just before the plane exploded.

The pilot is FBI Agent Jackson Crowne who was flying his friend psychiatrist Dr Timothy MacLean to Washington, D.C. in order for the agency to protect him from an unknown adversary. Dr. Maclean suffers from frontal lobe dementia, which has led him to break confidentiality about three patients. Even at the hospital there are attempts on the psychiatrist's life just as there are on Rachel's. Happily married Savich and Sherlock are sent to learn what happened to Maclean and then hearing her story, take Racheal under their wing. Soon they too are in danger from killers wanting Timothy and Rachel silenced.

Catherine Coulter is one of the best authors of exciting thrillers writing today. The several subplots running throughout her novels that eventually tie together is a work of art. In the case of TAILSPIN, Savich and Sherlock heat up the pages while a romance between Rachel and Jack blossoms. Readers already care about SS, but will also like JR. and his evolving romance with Rachael. Fans of the series will relish the protagonists and their cronies as they struggle to stay alive against cunning professional killers.

The Lost
Roberta Kray
Soho Press
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781569475065, $24.95,

Reporter Len Curzon interviews a criminal in a local prison in what the journalist realizes is a waste of his time; he thinks of having a few drinks instead until he notices disgraced former politician Paul Deacon, convicted for the murder of Tony Keppel, son of a crime boss, with a beautiful woman who could not be more than thirty years old. Curious and sensing a story, he wonders if the female visitor who uses the name Ellen Shaw might be Grace Harper, who vanished two decades ago when she was eight years old.

At the Whistle, Curzon talks to former cop turned private investigator Harry Lind about his hunch. Harry is on his own paying case; nightclub owner Ray Stagg hired him to find his missing his brother-in-law Al because the man's wife, his sister Denise, out of worry has nagged him to death. When Curzon is murdered, his journalist peer Jessica Vaughn convinces Lind that the cops got it wrong re Curzon's death; it was premeditated not random.

This interesting crime caper takes readers on a fascinating look at the London criminal world through a large number of support players that bring depth and chaos to the engaging story line. Lind is a terrific protagonist who has his own issues, but with Jessica making him feel guilty and not just over Curzon's death, he ignores his personal warning sirens and gets involved. With a strong cast, Roberta Kray sheds a deep spotlight on London's "lost" population although that can slow down the action.

The Rough Collier
Pat McIntosh
Soho Press
9781569475072, $24.95

In 1493 in the peat bogs of Belstane Parish in Central Lanarkshire, a corpse has been uncovered. No one knows how long the body laid in the ooze, but many assume murder because of the severe injury to the skull and slash across the throat.

The Beltane Parish chaplain to Sir James, David Fleming accuses the local herbalist and healer "Beattie" Lithgo of committing the crime; his evidence is based on his belief she practices witchcraft and the body is that of a missing person Thomas Murray. The Archbishop of nearby Glasgow sends his Quaestor Gil Cunningham to investigate. Gil is accompanied by his new wife Alys; they quickly conclude the victim was killed quite a long time ago and is not Thomas. As the case spins into a matriarchal family while more corpses are found, the constable and his spouse feel they are stuck in the bog.

Although extremely well written and exciting, this medieval police procedural takes serious time and place so is filled with Scottish colloquiums that can make it a bit difficult to follow dialogue. Once the reader adjusts to the discussions, fans will find a terrific whodunit as the married detectives struggle with prejudice and fear inside of a strong fifteenth century mystery

The Secret Hangman
Peter Lovesey
Soho Press
9781569474884, $13.00

Bath Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond still grieves the death of his wife even as he feels some guilt over her being murdered. He currently pretends to not be excited over a secret admirer sending him notes, but inside he is thrilled and albeit a shade more guilt.

On the job, Diamond investigates the public park hanging death murder of waitress Delia Williamson, a mother of two young girls. He quickly finds three prime suspects: her former spouse, her current significant other, and a traveling salesman witnessed as having dined with her just before she died. When they find the ex Danny dead hanging in a cave, Diamond believes two murders occurred while his boss Assistant Chief Constable Georgina Dallymore insists it was a murder-suicide. As he digs deeper to prove his theory, Diamond uncovers a shocker of similar double murders by a serial killer on the loose.

THE SECRET HANGMAN is an exciting Diamond English police procedural. The serial killer case is cleverly dawn so that Diamond and Dallymore can argue over the deaths of Delia and Danny; whereas all these Ds mean delightful to fans as the crusty widower soon seeks a diabolical brilliant serial killer who hides his or her work in the guise of murder-suicide. This is a wonderful entry in a strong crime series.

Zoo Station
David Downing
Soho Press
9781569474952, $14.00

In 1939 Berlin, Englishman John Russell earns a meager living as a reporter in Germany where he has lived for a decade and half. Although he fears what is going on inside his adopted country, John does not want to leave because he loves his young son Paul and the lad's mother his girlfriend Effi Koenen; and wants to remain with them.

A Soviet operative hires Russell to write several articles to be published in Pravda lauding the Nazi accomplishments, but ignoring their atrocities in order to sell the nonaggression pact to the people. Although he detests extolling the virtues of this criminal regime, John accepts the assignment that will pay a lot. He agrees not because of the money, but he thinks he can help his home country with information. However, the British no longer trust John and the Nazis watch his every move threatening his two loved ones.

As in Russell's previous appearance (see SILESIAN STATION), he is an everyday guy caught up in world events; thus once again even with plenty of suspense and intrigue, ZOO STATION is more a historical tale than a Nazi Era espionage thriller. David Downing writes how everyman finds the inner vigor and intensity to become a superhero when the motive, opportunity and means enable the person to step up to the plate. In harrowing times, John swings the bat.

A Deadly Paradise
Grace Brophy
Soho Press
9781569474914, $24.00

In Paradiso, Italy, Inspector Alessandro Cenni investigates the murder of Jarvinia Baudler. However, the dedicated detective finds the case irritatingly difficult and complicated by the victim's lover German Dieter Reimann, a diplomat with all that interfering immunity. Dieter has interests in the victim beyond the murder of a lover or his own role as a prime suspect; the late Jarvinia has papers of his that he must regain or face some dire consequences and no dumb Italian cop is going to get in his way of retrieving them.

Cenni soon realizes that Baudler was bisexual and took advantage of Reimann's stupidity. She used her connection to him to create fake passports and live wealthy on credit. The inspector also learns someone was sending the deceased threatening letters. However, the inquiry takes a Venice spin when cold case murders from three decades ago tie back to Baudler, the diplomat and his wife.

The latest Cenni Italian police procedural (see THE LAST ENEMY) is an engaging case with an incredible setup. Cenni is at his best as he struggles with diplomatic immunity intruding on the crime scene. Although the ending is reasonable, it feels less than equal to Cenni's investigation into the fatal triangle. Still sub-genre fans will appreciate Grace Brophy's entertaining whodunit.

Silesian Station
David Downing
Soho Press
9781569474945, $24.00

In 1939, British journalist John Russell hopes to remain in Berlin if war breaks out between his homeland and the Nazis. However, the Gestapo arrests his girlfriend, actress Effi Koenen, accusing her of spying. They use her as a pawn to get Russell to work for them passing misinformation to the Russians. He already has a deal with the Americans to spy for them in exchange for a passport and offers a deal with the Soviet if they help him flee the Nazis if he needs to escape suddenly.

While he is wheeling and dealing, the parents of Jewish Miriam Rosenfeld worry about the safety of their daughter in Silesia. They send her to live with her Uncle Thomas in Berlin where many more Jews reside; safety in numbers being their theory. When she fails to arrive, Thomas visits his former brother-in-law, Russell asking him to find her as the police refuse to look for a Jew. John agrees.

Though well written and exciting, SILESIAN STATION is more a historical tale rather than a suspense thriller. The espionage segues serve more to bring out life in Nazi Germany's police state whereas the search for Miriam is the exhilarating suspenseful subplot. Fans will enjoy the return of Russell (see ZOO STATION) as he navigates life as a journalist covering the Third Reich.

The Glass Devil
Helene Tursten
Soho Press
9781569474891, $13.00

His cousin Georg, the principal of a high school, calls worried about dedicated teacher Jacob Schyttelius not coming to work or calling in. Though vague, Goteborg Criminal Superintendent Sven Andersson drafts Detective Inspector Irene Huss to accompany him when he drives out to the man's isolated cottage. Huss who has worked with Anderson for fifteen years is shocked that he has a relative. However, she more stunned at the cottage where they find a dead Jacob shot in the head by a rifle. His computer monitor is loaded with upside down pentagrams.

After insuring control of the crime scene, the two cops visit Jacob's elderly parents, Pastor Sten Schyttelius and his wife Elsa only to find both shot in the eyes; once again their monitor displays upside down pentagrams. Neither computer contains information as a pro deleted everything. Huss turns to Jacob's anguished sister, Rebecka, who lives in London, but she is clueless. With no leads, Huss chooses to follow Sten's activities first because he was investigating a Satanist cult, which may tie to the upside down pentagrams.

The third translated Huss Swedish police procedural (see DETECTIVE INSPECTOR HUSS and THE TORSO) is an excellent tale from the opening phone call until the final climax. Huss is terrific as she investigates the triple murders, but makes little progress until she makes inquiries into the Pastor's investigation. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this superb tale hat brings a taste of Sweden to the reader as well as a strong police investigation.

Moon Flowers
James P. Hogan
Baen Books
PO Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781416555346, $23.00, 1-800-223-2336

In the middle of the twenty-first century the mega-conglomerate Interworld Restructuring Corporation controls much of earth and other planets through its questionable ethics enforced by its even less scrupulous military contractor, Milicorp Transnational. The Bill of Rights does not exist as those amendments were protection from government not corporations and was affirmed by Supreme Court judges.

Quantum physicist Marc Shearer has plenty of offers to join the weapons of mass destruction wing of MT, but prefers basic and applied research rather than experimental design so is on the outside not looking in. At the same time Marc studies physical reality, anthropologist Jerri Perlok is whimsically comparing the preening of the affluent elite to that of peacocks in heat.

People are vanishing on the recently found Cyrene while those still in contact seem to not care about anything; if it was just a civilian lost no one would care, but officials of IRC and officers of MT are some of the missing. Hard ass Myles "the Facilitator" Callen leads an expedition from earth to Cyrene to learn the truth. Marc was given no choice but to join the crew as his scientific mentor Dr. Evan Wade vanished while Jerri is also drafted due to her unique social anthropology skills of studying bizarre cultures like the rich and almost-famous.

This is a fascinating encounter between humans and a sentient species that thinks radically different. Whereas mankind is avaricious in its one for one belief that the individual matters regardless; the selfless Cyreneans feel everyone counts as no one is left behind. What makes James P. Hogan's latest sci fi look at human avarice and the extrapolation of the Bush corpocracy is the reaction of the Cyreneans who understand revering teachers and doctors, but not social flits. This comparison of the two human species make for a strong social anthropological thriller as the greedy invoke the wrath of the God of Economics to save Wall St while the altruistic wonder why waste energy negatively when Main St needs help.

Dark Obsession
Allison Chase
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451223876, $6.99, 1-800-847-5515

In 1830 London, a nervous but ecstatic Nora Thorngoode looks forward to the showing of her Portrait of a Southward Madam at the Marshall Street Art Gallery. However, she and her outraged parents see a scandalous painting instead. Nora's mentor artist Signore Alessio di Paolo tells her this is proof of his love for her and informs her parents they must marry. He father says she will be a wife and widow in seconds.

Grayson Lowell needs money for his dilapidated estate on Blackheath Grange. Though he loathes wedding the Paramour Painting model, he accepts her father's terms. Nora has no say in the matter while wondering if her fiance killed his brother as rumored. They wed in a marriage of convenience, but Nora is attracted to her kindhearted spouse. That is until he takes her to his foreboding home on the Moors. There he becomes distant making her wonder if he did murder his sibling. However, she hears the whispers and sees the ghosts that only tickled his senses. She believes her beloved Gray is innocent and that the ghosts are begging her to prove he is and to uncover the real culprit.

This engaging late Regency gothic paranormal romance with a touch of amateur sleuth suspense will hook sub-genre fans once the newlyweds leave London; as Gray becomes a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Nora is fabulous as the innocent heroine who comes to live in the foreboding home with her dark beloved. DARK OBSESSION is an enjoyable historical.

Colette Gale
9780451224125, $14.00

His name no longer mattered as he became Prisoner # 34. He spoke to no one during his ordeal and only the memory of Mercedes kept him alive. Ten years after he was betrayed he escaped from the prison his enemies sent him too, now in 1822 he takes on the persona of the Count of Monte Cristo; as Edmond Dantes he plans to destroy those who destroyed him.

His first target is the woman he loved Mercedes who betrayed him by marrying his most loathed foe. Edmond pretends to be Sinbad the sailor; in that masquerade he kidnaps Mercedes and seduces her. When she meets him as the Count, she begins to realize this is her beloved Edmond, whose acrimoniousness hurts her. She wants him happy, but also wants him as she never stopped loving him whether he is Sinbad, the Count or just her Edmond.

As she did with the Phantom of the Opera (see UNMASQUED), Colette Gale heats up the exciting Dumas' classic The Adventures of the Count of Monte Cristo by adding sexual themes such as bondage, domination, menage and voyeurism. Edmond is much more sinister than in the novel or the movies as he holds Mercedes culpable for betraying him and enacts vengeance by dominating her. However, he will soon learn the error of his ways as his captive knows who he is from the kisses even though he is different, filled with more animal rage than her tender Edmond. Regency exotic romance fans will appreciate this much darker version of the tale, but those who cherish the original will take umbrage with Ms. Gale's liberties.

Because Your Vampire Said So
Michelle Bardsley
978045122869, $6.99

In Broken Heart, Oklahoma, beautician Patsy Donahue struggles with being a single mom raising a teenage boy while also being recently converted to the undead life of a vampire. Her son Wilson is hard enough to cope with as he is at the age in which he fails to heed the basic advice of DON'T TALK BACK TO YOUR VAMPIRE even if she is your mom and finding blood more tasteful than chocolate is kind of difficult and strange, but not aging past forty works and her shop is loaded with repeat customers as the Lycan crowd have a lot of split hairs. However, Patsy and her paranormal peers are more anxious over the horde of ancients who have arrived in Broken Heart to prevent a prophecy from occurring; at least that is what they claim.

Gabriel the Lycan saves Patsy from a demon assault. He insists she is the one who will bring supernatural enemies, vampires and lycans together to battle the demons. She assumes he is handing her a male line, but likes his claim they are soul mates. Still fighting is not good for one's nails yet Patsy turns lioness when her Wilson becomes a target.

The latest Broken Heart paranormal romantic fantasy is an extremely amusing chick lit tale as Patsy's outlook on her parlor, the undead and other such ilk especially lycans and demons, and her loved ones make for a wonderful tale. Dripping not so much with blood but with passion and love, BECAUSE YOUR VAMPIRE SAID SO explores the trepidations of being a single parent with an offspring whose brain is fried by raging hormones at the same her hormones are raging wildly while she also has to ho hum save the town. Readers will appreciate her sarcastic asides and seek Michelle Bardsley's previous single mom vampires soonest (see I'M THE VAMPIRE THAT'S WHY).

Playing With Fire
Kate MacAlister
9780451223784, $7.99

While spellbound to the demon lord Magoth, naiad Cyrene created her doppelganger twin May Northcott to take some of the demands off her. Due to her connection to Cyrene, May is also obligated to Magoth. The demon uses her to steal valuable magical objects.

While on a mission for her liege, she is caught in spite of her skills to hide in shadows. Gabriel Tauhou of the Silver Dragons learns she is his soulmate when she survives his fire. However, although she desires the hunk, who somehow always sees her; she has other horribles besides her heart to contend with. Her twin worries that May is in menopause since she is no longer fun to be with; a powerful outraged mage has invoked the Otherworld law and set a price on her head for her head; a black dragon demands fiery satisfaction from an affront he accuses her of doing; and finally Magoth owns her.

HOLY SMOKES this Aisling Grey sidebar romantic fantasy will have readers rooting for the heroine who lands in more fiery situations than a fire spirit. The story line is fast-paced as May proves she can play lead instead of third fiddle. Fans of the series will enjoy the first feature length Silver Dragons tale as Kate MacAlister proves her skill as a magician when PLAYING WITH FIRE, she places Aisling in a secondary role yet enchants her audience.

Under Darkness
Savannah Russe
9780451223852, $6.99

Daphne Urban knows after four centuries that "a vampire is as a vampire does", but with her keen insight and allergy to garlic, she has a job with the Feds; Daphne Urban, American spy works for Top Secret Darkwings, a vampire operatives cell.

On a voyage from Pier Eighty-six in Manhattan to Norfolk for repairs, the WWII Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum vanishes. Daphne and her partner (in and out of bed) Julian St. Maurice investigate the vanishing, which her superiors assume is part of a terrorist plot; Daphne knows that the government leadership blames everything even acne on their offspring on terrorists especially in election season when code orange and red are the norm. However, while team Darkwings work that case, the city is flooded with a seemingly invasion of obsessive vampire slayers. With them is their former MVP Darius della Chiesa, now a vampire who Daphne knows is Mr. Wrong for her except he is BENEATH THE SKIN and IN THE BLOOD.

Although too many BEYOND THE PALE chick lit asides interrupt the flow of the latest Darkwing Chronicles thriller, fans of the series will enjoy the latest escapades as the vampire unit investigates the missing vessel while dodging persistent fundamentalist slayers. The story line is filled with sex, action, and sex inside a well drawn mystery.

Broken Angel
Sigmund Brouwer
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400070329, $19.99, 1-800-726-0600

Fundamentalists run Appalachia with a strict interpretation of the Words. Reading is prohibited and anyone caught breaking this deadly sin is sent to hard labor at the factories or if blessed stoned to death. To those in charge, truth does not matter; confession whether by torture or drugs count. Few dare try to flee to "Outside", as being caught is worse than surviving.

Caitlyn has an unacceptable growth on her back that marks her. When she was six, Jordon her Papa had it secretly removed by an Outsider surgeon who happened to be working at the clinic; however, as that doctor warned Papa, it grew back. Now a young adult, Caitlyn is afraid as the Elders are coming for her and her beloved Papa because she is different and somehow they have found out about her. Papa orders Caitlyn to flee for the Outside; she weeps, but obeys knowing she will never see him in this life again. The Elders and others chase after the disfigured female; some want her dead while some see her as something else. With help from two traveling companions she met and an underground railroad, Caitlyn continues to elude her adversaries, but the enemies are growing in number and strength leaving her to wonder if Outside is safe.

The cast makes this a superb Christian suspense thriller as Caitlyn is a terrific lead player and the secondary and tertiary characters are fully drawn with many containing secret agendas. Fans will root for Caitlyn's run to freedom to be successful as Sigmund Brouwer makes a strong case that extremism especially religious is dangerous and anti-Christian; there is plenty of room for all people inside God's tent. Genre readers will place BROKEN ANGEL on their short list for best Christian suspense thriller of the year.

Ruby Among Us
Tina Ann Forkner
9781400073580, $9.99

Her mother Ruby died when Lucy DiCamillo was eight years old. Her maternal grandmother Kitty raised Lucy with love. Now an adult, Lucy wants to know more about her late mom than mostly the memories shared by her beloved grandmother, but fears any inquiries she makes might hurt Kitty.

Lucy slowly learns why Ruby was a single mom raising her. She also begins to gain other pieces of her mom's life before Lucy was born and over the eight years they lived together. As she begins uncover secrets that enable her to start to know her mom beyond just her grandmother's memories of her daughter, Lucy also understands much more what makes Kitty tick and she realizes her granny will always love and cherish her.

This is a superb character study of a young adult needing her own personal connection to her late mom who died when she was a child. As Lucy investigates her maternal family tree, she tries to do so without hurting her grandma; yet begins to have a nagging feeling that everyone else knows secrets they keep from her. Fans will accompany Lucy on her personal quest as she needs to feel Ruby amongst her.

The Last Wish
Andrzej Sapkowsi
Orbit Books
0316029181, $6.99,

Geralt de Rivia enters Vizima where after a barroom brawl in which he leaves three dead, he meets the king's castellan Velerad, whose monarch King Foltest needs his help. Seven years ago, recently crowned as the ruler, Foltest impregnated his sister. She and their offspring died during childbirth. Now his daughter has awakened as a striga mass killing anyone in her way. Foltest say he will kill Geralt if he harms his daughter, who if she fails to return to her coffin within three rooster crows she will become human. However, if she remains a striga he is to kill her with his silver sword that slays magical beings.

THE LAST WISH is actually a compilation of six "Voice of Reason" short novellas ("The Witcher", "A Grain of Truth", "The Lesser Evil", "A Question of Price", "The Edge of the World", and "The Last Wish") that served as the base to the Witcher video game. The above paragraph is the opening gamut to the adventures of Geralt de Rivia the Witcher with each subsequent tale building from previous escapades. Geralt is consistent throughout as a cold blooded killing sorcerer whose adventures are fun to follow due to his strange code of ethics while hunting monsters many of whom hide as beatific humans afflicting his plane with their evil.

Brian Ruckley
Orbit Books
9780316067706, $14.99

Orisian has become the Thane of the Lannis Blood at a critical time with his people reeling from recent events (WINTERBIRTH); he is unsure of what to do to turn things around on their frozen land, but thirsts to save his people.

At the same time his friend Haig Prince Aewul leads a tremendous military force, but avarice and the thirst for glory could prove their undoing if not checked by rational thinking.

Their adversary Aeglyss seeks magical revenge on his enemies even as his thirst enables him to rise towards the top of the dangerous Black Road; he plans to bring the fight to Haig and Aewul before dispatching Orison.

The second Godless World epic fantasy is bloody grim as Brian Ruckley continues to vividly paint an extremely dark realm. The story line is fast-paced and filled with non- stop action that traverses much of the Godless World. Yet the key to this excellent fantasy is the cast as the three leaders play a deadly game of chess in which checkmate does not necessarily mean victory or defeat because cunning can change the rules of engagement. Orisian is especially fascinating as he understands war means death, destruction, and chaos with no true victors yet cannot prevent it from coming. Readers who enjoy a powerful enthralling fantasy thriller will appreciate Brian Ruckley's aptly named BLOODHEIR.

Midnight Never Come
Marie Brennan
Orbit Books
9780316020299, $14.99

Three decades have past since Elizabeth became Queen of England, ushering in an age of Gloriana. However underneath in the bowels of the catacombs, ruthless Invidiana rules the fae with an iron hand.

Working as a courier under the tutelage of his mentor spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham, Michael Deven meets bewitching Lady Lune, an undercover fae wearing a mortal disguise. Lune fears her dark Queen Invidiana so in order to avoid her rage and worse, she infiltrates Walsingham's network. She plans to use and discard Michael who obviously wants her. However, to Lune's trepidation and dread she is as attracted to the bewitching human as she thinks he is to her. However, she knows he could not survive in her realm while she cannot remain in his as her Queen would never allow her or him to live.

MIDNIGHT NEVER COME is an intriguing Elizabethan romantic fantasy in which Marie Brennan makes her two realms seem real by using historical events via flashbacks to anchor the Tudor reign and enabling the darkness to grow stronger in the shadows. Fans will enjoy the star-crossed love between the Fae and the mortal as honor and loyalty war with ambition for power in a Faustian age of deceit.

August Moon
Jess Lourey
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738713250, $14.95, 1-800-843-6666

Battle Lake, Minnesota has a population just over nine hundred residents. On the surface, it is a quiet quaint samll town in which everyone knows their neighbors and strangers are always noticed. Mira James has a radically different opinion on the town that she believes is the murder capital as she has recently been involved in several homicide investigations.

When Johnny Leeson stands her up, Mira decides to leave Battle Lake. She finds a replacement librarian and gives notice to her boss and at the paper where she writes a column. She is glad to be leaving since Pastor Meale and his wife opened up the New Millennium Bible Camp. The Meales want to dictate what books the library can circulate and what must be banned because they go against God's commandments. A cheerleader who works part-time at the library is assassinated by a bullet stunning everyone. Mia Googles the Meales for their prior connections and engagements and learns other girls were killed who looked like the late cheerleader. The Pastor declares that a local festival is devilish and those who partake pagans. When a teen is kidnapped, Mia thinks she knows who is behind the crimes, but her guess proves false, leaving her life in danger.

AUGUST MOON is a fabulously entertaining amateur sleuth tale in which the audience like the heroine will not identify the killer, but also will be shocked when the culprit reveals their identity. Jess Lourey is a fabulous story teller who uses everyday people as the back drop to her fine whodunit. Mia is an interesting lead character who is torn between what she wants and what she needs; however when it comes to murder she is confident in what she must do. Readers will empathize and admire this caring woman who holds this regional tale together.

Shadow of Power
Steve Martini
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061230882, $26.95, 1-800-242-7737

San Diego, California legal partners Paul Madriani and Harry Hinds reluctantly agree to represent Carl Arnsberg on a first degree murder charge that if convicted would most likely result in capital punishment. Arnsberg, a known racist, is accused of using a hammer to murder nonfiction author Terry Scarborough, whose bestseller Perpetual Slaves led to rioting.

Scarborough exposed the section of the Constitution written by the revered Founding Fathers that still remains part of the land of the law having never been repealed in spite of the Bill of Rights and the Civil War Amendments. The document claims that Negroes be counted as three-fifths human. His publisher says that Scarborough's next expose would be based on a letter written by one of the Holy Fathers Thomas Jefferson that would make his first book look like a kindergarten primer. The letter considered key to the defense by the legal team vanished when the author was killed.

Although the twists and the underlying foundation require the reader to ignore probability, fans will appreciate the latest Madriani legal thriller due to the compelling courtroom trial that affirms the theory that the American judicial system is a contact sport. Madriani is at his best as he defends a client he dislikes against evidence that could fill up Death Valley. Plausibilty may be doubtful, but entertainment is definite.

Barbara Delinsky
9780066214580, $18.95

In Tucker, Vermont, pediatrician Mara O'Neill died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Her best friend and practice partner thirty-nine years old Dr. Paige Pfeiffer is stunned by the news. However, even more shocking to the pediatrician is when the autopsy reveals Valium in Mara's blood, the police rule most likely suicide. Paige refuses to believe that is true as her friend was euphoric over the adoption of a child from India.

Pediatric practice partner Angie Bigelow feels Mara's death is the end of her once happy marriage to Peter Grace, who was having an affair with the deceased. Paige is in denial that her friend since college is dead. However, she honors Mara by caring for the Asian infant that the late doctor was adopting at the same time struggling with her desires for Noah Perrine, acting head of the private school where she coaches the Mount Court Academy's Girls Cross Country team.

This is a reprint of an early 1990s character study. Ironically, Barbara Delinsky provides readers a deep look at Paige and to a lesser degree Angie; but through them Mara. The story line makes a case that it takes a well rounded person to do a good job raising a child. Although the independent women SUDDENLY seem too dependent on men, fans will appreciate the deep look at each of the females as Mara's death cuts through them like a surgical knife in this entertaining fiction.

The Murder Notebook
Jonathan Santlofer
9780060882044, $24.95

NYPD forensic artist Nate Rodriguez is in demand. Bronx Lieutenant Bill Guthrie wants him to do a facial reconstruction of a skull with bullet holes that was also burned in a fire. Chief of Deportment Perry Denton wants his help on the case of a murdered student who turned his back on the ghetto and won a scholarship at City University.

Nate interviews the dead student's girlfriend who describes a man who picked a fight with her boyfriend for no apparent reason. The sketch evidently leads the police to the killer who ends up committing suicide. That should have proven the end of the case, but soon afterward another murder-suicide occurs with echoes of the most important elements of the first incident. Guthrie tells Rodriguez to drop the case of the skull, but the artist works on it anyway because he feels compelled to finish the job. More murder-suicide crimes occurred and Nate convinces his peers they are linked, but no one knows how; besides the FBI takes charge. Nate risks his career with the help of police officer Terri Russo to solve the case, but soon realizes its their lives on the line from a DARPA conspiracy to conceal the truth.

The link the cases have in common is horrific and chilling because it is believable. THE MURDER NOTEBOOK is an extraordinary police procedural as the protagonist on a quest for justice and follows the clues one step at a time with his keen artistic eye which is how they finally saw the links. It is a struggle for the police (not Nate) as clues are not linear and it takes intuition to skip the logical sequence. Jonathan Santlofer provides an enjoyable investigative tale.

A Fatal Waltz
Tasha Alexander
9780061174223, $23.95

At the request of her friend Ivy Brandon, Lady Emily Ashton attends a party at the country manor of odious advisor to the Queen Lord Basil Fortescue, a toad Emily loathes. Making what would be an evening of torturous boredom worse is Austrian Countess Kristiana von Lange who is also attending. She allegedly has had her moments with Emily's fiance, royal investigator of potential embarrassing situations Colin Hargreaves.

However, ennui is the last thing that occurs that night as someone kills the host. Ivy's spouse Robert is the prime suspect as he had motive, means and opportunity being the repulsive Basil's political follower. For Ivy's sake and believing Robert is innocent though an aristocratic traditionalist throwback, Emily investigates the homicide. Her only potential clue is a letter describing an assassination in Austria. Emily leaves London for Vienna, where Colin is stationed. In Vienna, Emily and Colin enjoy their reunion, but she places both of them in danger as spies and anarchists without conscience are everywhere and eliminating a nosy English lady is fine as far as all these agents are concerned.

This is an exciting late Victorian amateur sleuth tale that uses famous Austrians like Klim to anchor time and place. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of twists especially since double agents abound; one spin in particular is wonderful as Emily teams up with her rival the Countess. Although thoroughly modern Emily seems more twenty first century than late nienteenth, fans will enjoy her spunk and courage as she investigates in Austria, an English country murder (see AND ONLY TO DECEIVE and THE POISONED SEASON for her previous sleuthing).

Peter Abrahams
9780061137990, $24.95

Two decades ago in a courtroom, Nell Jarreau dramatically testified that Alvin "Pirate" DuPree murdered her boyfriend, Johnny Blanton wile she watched in horror. Pregnant with Johnny's offspring Nell married Clay, the chief detective on the homicide case, while Alvin went to prison.

Twenty years later, due to the devastation of Hurricane Bernadine swamping Belle Ville, FEMA accidentally found tape evidence with a time code on it that affirms Alvin's alibi that he was at Nappy's Liquor Store. Nell is stunned as she is positive Alvin killed Johnny yet the evidence is otherwise conclusive. Clay, now the Belle Ville chief of police, cautions his wife to move on, but she is disturbed by her identifying an innocent man. The press has a field day as they dig into the Pirate's wrongful conviction case while Nell's daughter Norah seems even more negatively affected by the case than her. Guilt laden, Nell needs closure again so she decides to investigate.

This is an entertaining crime thriller as readers wonder who killed Blanton if not Alvin. DuPree is a perfect "victim" as he is a nasty odious person who many in the audience will believe should remain incarcerated even if he did not commit the homicide as he probably did others anyway. Nell is the prime player, but she fails to come across as an amateur sleuth on an emotional quest to solve a cold case murder she witnessed. Still this is an enjoyable tale.

Blue Smoke and Murder
Elizabeth Lowell
9780060829858, $24.95

Jill Breck is a Colorado River guide whose current clients are father and son Joe and Lane Faroe. Jill knows the river like the back of her hand so when Lane goes overboard, she jumps in and saves him from a sure death in the rapids. His grateful father gives a card from St. Kilda's Consulting to her, a top of the line private security firm, and tells her if she ever needs any help call the number.

When her Great Aunt Modesty dies in what the local sheriff claims was an unfortunate accident, Jill goes to Northern Arizona to settle the estate. Everything burned down except the cabin Jill lived in as a child and a note from Modesty directing her to the hiding place only her late aunt, her mom and Jill knew. Inside are twenty paintings and a letter saying she sent one out to be appraised but the response was it was worthless, misplaced, and how about, $2000 to make up for the neglect. Jill sends Jpeg pictures of the paintings to various dealers and galleries only to receive a death threat.

Jill calls St Kilda who sends operative Zach Balfour to find out and eliminate the problem. Someone who sees the Jpegs believes they are pictures of originals though unsigned Dunstans. The buzz in the art world reaches an investor who does not want Dunstans on the market or even authenticated. This adversary hires a goon to kill Jill or burn the paintings whichever proves more expeditious. Zach vows no one will harm the woman he loves.

BLUE SMOKE AND MURDER is Elizabeth Lowell at her best as she guides her readers into the dark side of the art world where some players will to do anything to obtain famous works or even destroy masterpieces to keep values high. The heroine is tough but wise enough to know she needs a pro on her side; she is also brave, willing to be the bait to trap a killer. Ms. Lowell provides fans with a strong romantic suspense thriller starring a wonderful heroine and the operative who loves her.

Nothing to Lose
Lee Child
Delacorte Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385340564, $27.00, 1-800-726-0600

Jack Reacher decides to diagonally see the country so he leaves Maine heading for San Diego using whatever transportation he can find. When Jack enters Colorado, he notices on his map a road from Hope to Despair, which fascinates him and he takes it. However, in town, the waitress at the only restaurant ignores him when he enters. Soon four big men tell him to leave; he breaks the nose of one of them and demands coffee, which is served. After locking him up for a few hours, the judge orders him removed from Despair. Jack decides if they put him on the road west he will keep going but if they point him towards Hope he will return; Jack never retreats.

At the edge of Hope, police officer Vaughn picks him up and tells him to forget Despair, a company town that is run by the enigmatic owner of the state's largest metal recycling plant. Jack tells Vaughn he will return to Despair and does so by sneaking around until he trips over a dehydrated corpse. Back in Hope, Vaughn tells him a college age girl wants to see him at the restaurant. Her boyfriend is missing since they entered Despair. Jack talks to her and vows to himself that he will find her husband as she explains she married her boyfriend and what is going on next door; not anticipating that evil in Despair is killing American soldiers overseas.

NOTHING TO LOSE seems over the top of the Rockies but no one will care as Reacher being who he is refuses to back down from a confrontation; sort of like Rambo starring in A Bad Day At Black Rock (instead of Spencer Tracy's Macreedy). The story line is action-packed from the moment Jack decides to get a bite at the company town's restaurant and the four deputies prove they don't know Jack when they confront him. Fans of the series will appreciate his latest quarrel that soon leads to repercussions half way around the world.

Blackman's Coffin
Mark De Castrique
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Avenue, #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590585177, $24.95, 1-800-421-3976

Former US Army Criminal Investigation Detachment Chief Warrant officer Sam Blackman lost his leg in Iraq. However that is not what has outraged him; instead his medical treatment in the states has been shabby and he has said no more. More to keep him out of the DC limelight, the VA transfer Sam to the Veteran's Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina.

At the VA Sam meets fellow amputee former marine Tikima Robertson who offers the despondent ex-soldier an opportunity to use his CID skills if he can stop the self-pity crap. However, before he can respond, someone murders Tikima; her body left floating in a nearby river. Tikima's sister, Nakayla asks Sam to find her sibling's killer. She gives him a 1919 journal that Tikima found that contains the musing of twelve-year-old white child Henderson Youngblood whose father was a funeral director; his dad Travis was assisting Negro Elijah Robertson transport a corpse for burial in a family plot in Georgia. In 2008 Elijah's body was found in the French Broad River near the same place where his great-great granddaughter Tikima's corpse was found.

The 1919 diary entries that appear throughout the super story line seem a bit mature for a preadolescent even for a child whose dad works with death and grief, but still well written in terms of an exciting look at Asheville in the early twentieth century. The two murder mysteries are fun to follow with both tied to post war people and racially terse overtones. Throw in some Thomas Wolfe to the mix as well as a bitter angry vet as the lead and whodunit fans will enjoy Sam's efforts to solve a modern day and nine decade old murders.

Heavenly Pleasures
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
9781596584262, $24.95

After quitting her job as a high powered accountant Corinna Chapman now runs a bakery Earthly Delights in Melbourne. She is very happy with her sexy ex- Islamic soldier Daniel, who loves her svelte figure. She is kind hearted to fifteen years old Jason, a former heroine addict who she makes delicious muffins. Jason hopes to own a shop one day if he can stay clean and Corinna is determined he will.

Corinna bites in a candy bought from Heavenly Pleasures and is shocked to find the filling is not raspberry but a chili sauce. The owners admit this happened several times in the past week and they have no clues who is sabotaging their business, how or why. Corinna promises to find the culprit, but she also has another problem to solve. A new tenant moves into the building and he keeps to himself. A bomb threat evacuates the building and when the tenants can return, they find the new tenant's apartment ransacked. Corinna's police friend tells her Mr. Recluse is hiding out until he can testify at an upcoming trial. An explosion in his apartment tells Corinna that whoever is after him is dead serious. She and the other tenants fix up his apartment, but many of the residents find themselves at the mercy of thugs seeking Mr. Recluse.

Kerry Greenwood, author of the bestselling Phryne Fisher historical mysteries, has another hit series on her hands as affirmed by her second Corinna Chapman tale Heavenly Delights. Corinna and Phryne are polar opposites physically and emotionally, but both are contended with their lives. Readers will enjoy HEAVENLY PLEASURES with its off beat characters especially the plus size heroine as she works two mysteries.

Buried Too Deep
Jane Finnis
Poisoned Pen Press
9781590583999, $24.95

In 98 AD Britannia, twins Aurelia and Lucius Marcella own and operate the Oak Tree Mansio nicely situated on the road that links the coast and Ebvracvm (York). With hostilities abated, business at the inn is booming as travelers make the trek.

A wagon arrives carrying a farmer severely injured by a sword; he needs immediate medical attention or he will die; he tells the Marcellas that sea raiders attacked him while they plundered the cargo of a shipwreck. By the time the Greek physician arrived, the man is dead. Feeling obligated, the siblings take the deceased back to his family near the coast. They also investigate the shipwreck and soon learn the locals are in revolt as outsiders mostly from Gaul have settled on the best land claiming the natives deserve nothing for plotting against Rome.

The third novel Marcella historical mystery (see BITTER CHILL circa 95 AD and GET OUT OR DIE circa 91 AD) is a terrific entry in an exciting series. Aurelia thinks she committed a kunahaura when she realizes things are looking good as business is booming until she states just that before the farmer dies. She and Lucius quickly realize when they reach the Gabreantovicium Sinvs (the coastal bay to their east) that the locals and the Gaul settlers use terrorist tactics to drive each other out; outsiders are not welcome in their civil war. Jane Finnis provides a great Ancient world whodunit as the twins begin to uncover an even more insidious brilliant plot.

The Duke Of Shadows
Meredith Duran
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416567035, $6.99, 1-800-223-2336

In 1857 her parents died in the shipwreck that Emmaline Martin was fortunate to survive. Although grieving she continues the journey to Delhi, India to meet up with her fiance Marcus. He not only proves arrogant and snooty, he betrays her as the sepoy native soldiers revolt against the British. Half native and English heir Julian Sinclair saves her life bringing her to safety in the independent desert city Sheened, but they are separated when he follows his duty back to Delhi to negotiate a peace between the warring parties. When he returns to Sheened, she is gone; he can not find her so he sadly assumes she died. Shortly afterward Julian goes to England as a duke.

In 1861, paintings of India become the rage of London. Julian is ecstatic to find the artist is Emma as he never forgot her from their brief moments together. As they finish what they had no time to peruse in India, falling in love, someone tries to kill his Emma. Julian risks his life to keep her safe as he will not allow anyone ever again to split them apart.

Though somewhat typical of the Victorian romance, fans of the sub-genre will appreciate THE DUKE OF SHADOWS as two honorable individuals, outcasts in many ways, fall in love. Especially refreshing is the India sequence as readers observe the Anglo-native interactions. Emma and Julian turn Meredith Duran's historical into an entertaining read.

Dark Needs at Night's Edge
Kresley Cole
Pocket Books
9781416547075, $6.99

In 1927 in New Orleans Neomi Laress was a highly regarded ballerina when she was murdered by her former fiance Louis Robicheaux. However, she never moved on; instead she has haunted her newly restored estate Elancourt, for the eight decades since he killed her.

Vampire Conrad Wroth hates himself for his inability to control his need for blood. Worried about him, his brothers take him to Elancourt to keep him away from people while hoping he will regain his sanity. However, when he meets the shadowy phantom haunting the estate, he wants to help her, but has no idea how as he cannot even touch her. As they fall in love, Conrad notices his rage and torment has abated andhe prays for a miracle; he turns to paranormal expert Mariketa the Witch to provide the means to achieve his objective.

The Cole mythos (See Immortals After Dark tales such as NO REST FOR WICKED and A HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER) continues to be one of the best romantic fantasy environs for sub-genre fans. The latest is a terrific star-crossed romantic fantasy between a vampire and a ghost; they share in common love and a lust for life though both are not mortally alive. His caring brother and Mariketa add depth to a wonderful tale of a ghost who learns love is so much better on the soul than revenge and an angry vampire who learns love is so much better for the soul than uncontrollable rage. This is another winner from an author who keeps writing super romantic fantasy.

Scions: Insurrection
Patrice Michelle
Silhouette Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373617876, $5.25

NYPD police officer Kaitlyn McKinney responds to a call about a fire in a Morningside Park. As she looks at the strange burned body, private investigator Landon Rourke arrives on the scene. He refuses to acknowledge her belief there is something odd about the corpse although she sees the obvious.

Landon hides from Kaitlyn that he is an exiled werewolf kicked out of his pack. He vows to keep the cop safe but hides his desire for her from her as he has since they first met. When two vampires attack her, Landon saves her life. As he continues to protect her, already half in love with one another before his diligence began, the pair fall totally in love. However since they are caught in the middle of a cold war turning hot between werewolves and vampires, safety and preventing a calamity comes before their desires.

The sequel to SCIONS: RESURRECTION is an exhilarating contemporary romantic fantasy police procedural. The key to this engaging work is the paranormals seem genuine as the audience will believe that a lone werewolf and a human can fall in love while vampires try to take a bite out of the Big Apple.

Last Wolf Watching
Rhyannon Byrd
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617869, $5.25

In Bayou country paranormal boutique owner Michaela Doucet cannot stand her lack of privacy ever since a rogue werewolf attacked her friend Torrance; she understands why half human–half Lycan Bloodrunner Brody Carter is assigned to protect her and her brother Max. However, even more frustrating is her attraction to the scarred acrimonious Brody as he refuses to allow her to even befriend him let alone love him.

Brody wants the beautiful Cajun like nothing he ever desired before. However, he will not even hint at his need because someone as lovely as Michaela would not be seen dead with an oaf like him. Besides if he is not diligent she literally could be dead.

The third Bayou paranormal romantic suspense Bloodlines thriller (see LAST WOLF STANDING and LAST WOLF HUNTING is a fast-paced tale that like its predecessors enables readers to believe in the fantasy elements especially the otherworldly species. The story line is action-packed from the onset but driven by the lead couple as she wants him and he reciprocates but ignores his and her desires until she takes the half wolf in hand. Sub-genre readers will enjoy Rhyannon Byrd's Bayou Bloodlines thriller that stands alone, but definitely is enhanced by the previous tales as characters from those novels return.

Beneath the Surface
Meredith Fletcher
Silhouette Athena Force
9780373389810, $5.50

In DC freelance information specialist Vincent Drago tells television news reporter Shannon Connor that he will kill her for exposing his stealth ninja operation to the Feds. Although frightened she is stunned when he mentions the government as she is having a difficult time accepting the Feds are cyber feeding her negative information on the Athena Academy that expelled her.

Athena graduate Allison Gracelyn assigned Rafe Santorini to watch Shannon, who appears to have a grudge for her wrongful expelling; evidence points to Shannon aligned with Arachne. He prevents Vincent from further harming her but is upset that he wants her because he fears she works for the enemy. However as they fall in love she persuades him of her innocence and they team up to try to expose who in Arachne's crowd is using the reporter and find out why although they think they know the answer to both questions.

Shannon refreshes the latest Athena story as she is the one female kicked out of the academy and since she believes unfairly has a motive for revenge. Rafe knows all this while falling in love with her; he struggles to remain open-minded, but fears his heart is hiding the truth about his beloved. That black mark from her salad days stands between them and with clever manipulation could lead to an Arachne success while definitely leading to a great entry for fans of the series.

Her Mr. Right?
Karen Rose Smith
Silhouette Special Edition
9780373248971, $4.99

Massachusetts Attorney General's Office investigator Neil Kane is looking into allegations of insurance fraud at Walnut River Hospital. He interviews social worker Isobel Suarez who seems hostile towards him, but he thinks she is telling him truth although he admits to himself his attraction to her may be prejudicing his beliefs. Isobel struggles with her desire for Neil while also fearing a successful hostile takeover by bottom line only Northeastern HealthCare.

As Isobel helps him work through the bureaucratic maze, they begin to fall in love. When she is accused of the fraud, he must report the accusation although that rips at his heart. However, he throws away the book for the first time in his career in order to prove his beloved is innocent.

The latest Wilder Family tale (previous books written by other authors) is an entertaining contemporary romance starring two dedicated people who fall in love in spite of her being the prime suspect in his insurance fraud investigation. Neil believes in his heart that Isobel is innocent but his brain insists he is thinking with the wrong organ. Karen Rose Smith consistently provides sub-genre fans with enjoyable character driven tales and there is no question that HER MR. RIGHT? affirms her talent.

Cecilia Holland
c/o Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765305589, $24.95, 1-888-330-8477

Late in the tenth century, cousins Conn and Raef Corbansson know they are fortunate to be alive as their side lost the battle of Hjorunga Bay. They escape by a fur trading ship, but end up frozen in place in Novgorod. The city ruler Lord Dobryana aware of the Corbansson exploits offers the "free warriors" a chance to escape the icy winter by joining the crusade to raid the Byzantine Empire northern port city of Chersonese on the Greek Sea.

Getting there takes forever and arriving there proves difficult as Chersonese is not an easy city to take. Worse Conn and Raef soon realize their new comrades in arms are ruthless backstabbers who live for treachery.

The superb fourth Dark Ages Viking saga (see THE SERPENT DREAMER, THE SOUL THIEF and THE WITCHES' KITCHEN) is an exhilarating historical thriller that continues the adventures of the second generation. The locale, for the most part, is different than the three previous novels; as such it adds freshness with the Vikings raiding the Byzantine Empire. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action, but it is the vivid window into the era that makes Varanger a fabulous insightful tale.

Loren D. Estleman
9780765315755, $23.95

Calling himself the "Film Detective" Valentino earns a living as film archivist at UCLA. He considers buying the Oracle, a dilapidated theatre that back in the 1920s was a showcase. However, as he inspects the crumbling edifice, he finds several reels of Erich von Stroheim's classic epic, Greed; though long lost to the ravages of time, stupidity, and avarice.

However, his discovery takes a setback when Valentino also uncovers a skeleton. He would prefer to ignore the old bones and run off with the film, but his conscience will not allow Valentino to do so. He calls the cops informing them of the human remains, but remains silent re the reels out of fear the evidence takers will damage the valuable work, which would put his conscience in suicide mode.

This is an entertaining Hollywood mystery as the lead character hides evidence from the police rationalizing why he did it. The cold case investigation is fun to follow as the Film Detective tracks cinematic clues one frame at a time; while also rationalizing again why he is making inquiries. Apparently Valentino has appeared in short stories, but in his novel debut he seems complete and able to hold together an enjoyable somewhat movie fun fluffy whodunit.

The Seven Sins: The Tyrant Ascending
Jon Land
9780765315342, $24.95

In 1975 in Caltagirone, Sicily his farm family was murdered when Michael "The Tyrant" Tiranno was seven years old, but he survived taking his father's gold medallion with him when he saw them assassinated and took a bullet too. He survived and a Sicilian Mafia Don raised the lad and instilled certain values in the child. As an adult Michael becomes a super real estate king, whose showcase is the Las Vegas casino Seven Sins that accommodates the fantasies of their customers.

However, suicide bombers explode their cars at four Vegas casinos including the Seven Sins. The media, Homeland Security, and most Americans assume Islamic radicals brought their form of terrorism to the sin capital for its symbolism. However, Michael postulates that the other casino hits were to conceal their target inside a Jihad terrorist cloak to throw off the scent. He thinks he was the target. With help from his lawyer Naomi Burns, Michael investigates his theory knowing some of his other properties are at risk by a brilliant diabolical adversary who accepts without any remorse collateral damage of the innocent. However he is unprepared to learn his late father's antique gold medallion that fascinated him as a young child might be at the epicenter of the attacks.

This 368 page thriller is a one sitting action-packed tale that grips the audience from even before the Vegas attacks and never slows down for an iota until the final confrontation. In between readers are escorted on a whirlwind tour all over the place as they accompany Michael and Naomi on their quest to stop an enemy from more destruction. Over the top story line and characters somewhat comic book, but no one is going to care; readers are not landing until the book is finished as few novels are as exciting as the SEVEN SINS is.

Cold Plague
Daniel Kalla
9780765318336, $24.95

Dr. Claude Fontaine and his team develop a method to bring to the surface fresh water from a gigantic lake two miles under the Antarctic ice. Claude sees the economic possibilities as his pristine pool will contain no modern day toxins. He plan is to sell bottles containing this natural water at exorbitant prices.

The World Health Organization sends its investigative infectious disease specialist Dr. Noah Haldane (see PANDEMIC) accompanied by Duncan McLeod to France where horrific human deaths from the human equivalent to mad cow disease have been reported. The European Union's Agricultural Commission sends agent Elise Renard to join them the WHO representatives. However, as the evidence mounts, Noah believes these deaths are something similar but not quite the same as mad cow; the speed is much more rapid and the effect much more intense. He soon links the deaths to the Antarctic water that is being pushed by the bottom liners as a health elixir for the wealthy.

This exciting medical thriller pits economic interests against health interests and unlike the American federal government science matters so that Noah and company have a reasonable chance to stop mass production if they can stay alive long enough to make their point heard; the opponents own the media. The story line is fast-paced, but takes a bit too long to get to the bottom line confrontation between money and health. Readers will enjoy this fine tale, but wonder if this occurred in the USA instead of France what the outcome would have been.

The Betrayal
Kathleen O'Neal Geer and W. Michael Geer
9780765315465, $24.95

The Ecumenical Council of Nicea met in 325 AD to decide what texts go into the New Testament codifying the Scriptures of Christianity. The Council was convened under the auspices of the Emperor Constantine who demanded a definitive version of Jesus' life that will in turn solidify his rule. He orders people who know the truth including members of the church killed and heretics defined as such by him burned.

At the Monastery of St. Stephen the Martyr in Egypt, Romans order the monks to burn the texts. They poison the food killing almost a hundred monks, but three survive because they were overlooked having been in an obscure section of the church. Barnabas the scholar grabs as many books as he and the others can carry. He escapes with the help of former Roman aide to Constantine Cyrus and the newest monk Zarathan and the beautiful Kalay. The Romans pursue the trio wanting to capture Cyrus and kill the others. Barnabas takes them to the secret cave of his mentor who provides the fleeing trio with a map that leads to the greatest treasure of all.

This captivating biographical fictional account about the life of Jesus does not fit the official Church doctrine as the Geers draw a different conclusion than the Nicea Council did. The authors make a case for a radically dissimilar interpretation of the events and the personality of Jesus; insisting that three plus centuries later the victors rewrote the history. Those who objected to the True Church tenet were declared heretics and subject to torture to gain confessions and ultimately burned at the stake (still relevant today). THE BETRAYAL is a terrific thought provoking historiographic action thriller that delves into the life of Jesus by focusing on those who wrote the doctrine in the fourth century.

Mrs. Jeffries Holds the Trump
Emily Brightwell
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425222089, $6.99, 1-800-847-5515

Inspector Weatherspoon is considered the shining superstar of the Metropolitan Police Department of Scotland Yard, but few people know he gets help in solving tough cases. Led by his housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries, his household staff uses their under the stairs contacts to gather information that is serendipitously fed to the Inspector.

When mortician Dr. Bodworth sees the body of Michael Prescott on his table, he is shocked that the police assume an accident occurred. He visits Mrs. Jeffries to ask her to investigate; she and the staff gladly agree; while Prescott's attorney and housekeeper go to the police to argue he was murdered. They say Michael was investigating the disappearance of a friend who was publican and a bookie when he died. Inspector Weatherspoon gets the case and learns Prescott was writing to the police begging them to look into his friend's vanishing. No on in the Yard will admit to reading the letters and every clue leads to a wider puzzle, leaving the Inspector and his housekeeper to wonder if this is the one that got away.

Very few writers can consistently provide an entertaining historical cozy as Emily Brightwell does with her Mrs. Jeffries tales. The current Victorian era case is interesting catching the reader's attention due in part to recurring characters, but also because the police are under suspicion by the physician and team Jeffries. Readers will appreciate this latter half ninetieth century whodunit as Ms. J, her staff and her employer provide the audience with a strong investigation and a deep look at Victorian England.

The Guy Next Door
Carol Culver
9780425221365, $5.99

Since her parents are divorcing, Maggie and her mother leave the McMansion and move into a small rental house. Maggie's mom is in such a deep depression, she cannot look for a job; Maggie's dad, a venture capitalist, is also going through hard financial times. He has cut back on expenses including perks Maggie has taken for granted, but he still pays her fees to attend exclusive Manderley Prep.

Also attending Manderley is Eric, her former next door neighbor in exclusive Monte Vista; they used to play together as kids. Now he barely notices her, but she thinks he is a hunk and is hung up on him. Her father is going to chaperone the school dance and wants his daughter to date his girlfriend's geeky son. She aggress on the condition he buys her invisible braces. Maggie wins a scholarship to go to Hawaii for a chorus competition and her friend makes her sexy clothing. Eric notices her, but they both might get in trouble when drugs are found in Maggie's purse; he wants to be her hero by coming to her rescue.

This breezy fun filled young adult BFF tale demonstrates that being a teen is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Teenagers constantly face moral dilemmas while observing people in authority abuse their power and break the rules; role models at their best. (not) Maggie grows through the course of the action-packed story line as she learns to be honest to herself with the decisions she makes. Carol Culver has written a dynamite BFF book.

Wild for Him
Janelle Denison
9780425221976, $7.99

Christy Delacroix's seemingly ethical father Nathan is running for governor on a values first ticket. However, someone tries to force him to drop out by threatening to harm his daughter. Though he loves his daughter, Nathan refuses to be bullied out of the race. Instead he hires former marine cum bodyguard Ben Cabrera to keep Christy safe.

Christy and Ben know each other and were already sharing an attraction before her father hired him. However, Christy is recovering from a horrific relationship and still escaping her mother's need for total control while Ben knows she is not a one night stand or even a two week stand. She plans to have fun with Big Ben, but only for a short time. Ben, on the other hand, wants things to remain professional although he cannot resist her lure as he tries to uncover who the threat is and keeping her ex away from her as well as the middle age lothario who wants her. Her plan is for him to pose as her boyfriend; something he wishes was real but he knows she is upper crust while he is a working class stiff.

The bodyguard love story has been used numerous times (for instance the Costner-Houston movie and The First Daughter), but the lead couple makes this an entertaining fresh tale. The story line is fast-paced although the mystery behind the threat is used totally to supplement the romance. In some ways Ben steals the show with his un-Roving approach to election politics. Readers who appreciate a wonderful contemporary between two likable protagonists with some suspense to expedite the prime plot will enjoy WILD FOR HIM.

Freezer Burn
D.H. Dublin
9780425221945, $7.99

It has been a strange week in Philadelphia if you ask the CSU investigative team. While much of the unit works an arson that took six lives, investigator Tommy Parker and rookie technician Madison Cross work a carved up corpse found in several trash bags by the garbage collectors; the detective in charge "Cold Case" Fenton assumes a neighbor with a record of violence killed the victim, but Madison thinks otherwise. From that case they work the mummy whose organs were frozen. Then there is the twenty two year old wannabe gangbanger Luis Castillo tossed from a speeding car.

Evidence point to the Castillo case and another gang member execution are tied to a shootout in rural Lawson; so Detective Ted Johnson and Cross go there to meet with Police Chief Boone. Though a bit irritated with Boone's initial reaction to a technician not an investigator, Madison and the chief are attracted to one another, but first must come the investigation as well as the garbage case she quietly works as Fenton lives up to his nickname using his connection to his cousin the commissioner to avoid field investigation.

Nepotism seems the norm as Cold Case Fenton has an uncle for the commissioner and CSU Cross works for her uncle who along with her aunt raised her. Putting family trees aside, this is an exhilarating police procedural that focuses on the work of a CSU team having a busy week with several odd corpses requiring investigation. The story line focuses on Madison, but provides enough support from the support players such as Parker mentoring her to make for a fine rounded crime tale. Fans of the CSI shows will appreciate FREEZER BURN as Madison and the CSU professionals along with Philadelphia's finest investigate several questionable deaths.

Ghost Moon
Rebecca York
9780425222454, $7.99

For the sixth time Quinn comes through the portal from her parallel universe to land in a Maryland wooded area far from Baltimore but not enough to escape auto fumes. She has met a werewolf clan her that has welcomed her so much so she has sat in a moving car with them. She is taking pregnant Zarah to this isolated woodland so she can give birth in a safe environs.

However, on this trip, Quinn meets the ghost of werewolf Caleb Marshall, who was murdered by his cousin over a woman in 1933. To Caleb this is a miracle caused by his instant attraction to her, as for the first time in the seven plus decades since his demise someone living knows he exists. When a human is murdered nearby Caleb's restless spirit takes over the corpse. He realizes through fleeting flickers of the deceased man's memories a terrorist attack is forthcoming. With Quinn's help he hopes to prevent an imminent tragedy even as they begin to fall in love.

Rebecca York's latest "Moon" romantic fantasy is an entertaining suspense thriller that stars a courageous female with a fascinating unique male. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action as the heroic duo try to prevent a terrorist attack. Although Caleb adjusts too easily to his return to the living, fans will appreciate GHOST MOON as the action never quits yet the romance that crosses barriers is fully developed.

Warrior Rising
P.C. Cast
9780425221372, $14.00

Hera, Venus and Athena are tired of masculinity stupidity as the Trojan War is over thirteen years old. The three goddesses conclude that the fighting is all about male penises, the prime organ in man's superego. Worse the female trio is sick to hear these dumb braggarts claim the goddesses or Helen started the combat and that they fight in their honor. The poster boy for inane masculine pretentiousness is Achilles. So the goddesses decide the only way to end the war is to get Achilles to stop fighting; the only way to get him to stop fighting is occupy his penis with a woman who will keep the blood rage from turning him into a berserker warrior.

Venus visits modern day Tulsa to see if she can obtain the services of a specialist sex siren. When their car crashes, psychologist Dr. Kat and her best friend trauma nurse die. Venus brings the pair back to the Trojan War to entice those brutes Achilles and Patroclus with a lifetime of making love not war.

Only this author could cast a modern day romance in an ancient Greek mythos and make it seem real and fun. With a nod to the Trojan Horse tale and Lysistrata, P.C. Cast provides a strong Goddess tale starring spirited intelligent twenty-first century women battling the invincible Achilles (whose heel proves not to be his vulnerable body part) and his best buddy in a gender war that supersedes the Trojan War.

Gone With the Witch
Annette Blair
9780425221211, $6.99

At her sister Harmony's wedding bridesmaid Storm Cartwright tells best man Aiden McCloud that he must help her find the baby that she hears in her head whenever she is near him. He tells her to leave him alone as he has two weeks off and does not plan to follow the nutty voice. The clairvoyant thinks otherwise as she and her allies plan to have her and him search for who Storm believes is his child. Their attraction only encourages her.

Since he refuses to cooperate, Storm seductively abducts Aiden. Adding insult she uses his RV. As she heeds the crying voice, Aiden reluctantly agrees to follow her lead. He falls in love with his magical companion while she remains in denial though leaving him frightens her. Still there is the crying baby that must be found first as Storm's psychic skill in finding kids impresses her cynical dragon mate.

The second Cartwright romantic fantasy (see SEX AND THE PSYCHIC WITCH) is a delightful charmer due to the changing relationship between the lead couple. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Storm handcuffs Aiden and never slows down until the climax. Fans will appreciate this lighthearted warm road tale and look forward to the final triplet's saga NEVER BEEN WITCHED starring Morgan's Destiny.

The Courtesan's Secret
Claudia Dain
9780425221365, $14.00

In 1800 during her first season, Lady Louisa Kirkland fell in love with the Marquess of Dutton; but two years later he shows no indication of returning her feelings. Desperate to seduce Dutton, Louisa asks retired courtesan Lady Sophia Dalby for help as the woman proved a wizard when she manipulated her daughter's love match (see THE COURTESAN'S DAUGHTER).

Somewhat amused that her Machiavellian matchmaking skills are admired; the Countess agrees to help Louisa wins her heart's desire. However, she knows that Dutton would not look twice at Louisa, but Lord Henry Blakesly would look eternally at her though he tries to hide his regard behind a cynical demeanor. Although Louisa sees Henry as a friend, Sophia persuades her to kiss him in order allegedly to make Dutton jealous.

Humor abounds in this engaging Regency romance as the former courtesan steals the show from the lead couple. Louisa is a fascinating protagonist as her desperation takes her to her new hero, Sophia whose exploits with Caro and Ash are Regency legend. Henry is also an interesting character who hides his deep feelings for Louisa behind a mask of sarcasm, but Sophia sees through to the heart of the matter. Fans will enjoy the return of the matchmaking courtesan.

Romancing the Dead
Tate Holloway
9780425221334, $14.00

Witch Garnet Lacey, who has the Goddess Lilith living inside her, wants to buy the Mercury Crossing Occult Bookstore that she manages. Her vampiric fiance Sebastian von Straum encourages her to do so. The pair also hopes to create a new coven to replace those who sadly died from a Vatican anti-vampire assault team. At the first new coven meeting, Garnet mentions Lilith to the group and Sebastian claims he is a vampire; most have some doubts with what each says.

Garnet goes to the university to attend a lecture given by Sebastian on herbs. He is late, which is a shocker as he is always punctual. His son Matyas, who sent the Vatican assassins after them, arrives. Garnet and Matyas do not like each other as she knows he sent the Vatican after them and he believes she is just Sebastian's favorite chew toy. When Sebastian fails to arrive at all, Matyas assumes he is feeding from one of his ghouls while Garnet thinks he is in trouble.

Though enemies they go to Sebastian's farmhouse, but he is not there. Garnet traces Sebastian's path on the astral plane, but to her shock it splinters into many threads; something she has never seen before. She also sees a wolf with human eyes so she flees back to the farmhouse. They find Sebastian's black book listing his sustenance ghouls. They know he is in trouble, but begin a quest to save him starting with an interview of his ghouls.

As always in a Tate Hallaway fantasy, the various types of paranormal species seem genuine and Madison, Wisconsin is a perfect setting for this the action thriller that never slows down for a moment. Readers will thoroughly appreciate this stand alone tale that also refers back to incidents in the previous two novels (see tall sexy and tall, dark & dead). Although ROMANCING THE DEAD lacks the humor that the audience expects from this talented author, this superb tale affirms the theory that "life's a witch" worth reading about.

Kathleen Dante
Berkley Heat
9780425219638, $14.00

Shapeshifter Aurora "Rory" diScipio uses her lamia skills to effortlessly steal valuable items from seemingly impenetrable sources. Government assassin Damon Venizelos is an incubus dreamwalker trained-killer who murders assigned victims while they are sleeping.

His current mission is to locate and retrieve a missing nuclear bomb before terrorists obtain it. To assist him the Feds try to enlist master thief Rory as she is stealing a Monet. He admires her spunk and expertise; and she his skill as a "ghost" haunting her thoughts. To both their amazement, the pair are attracted to one another even before they meet. However, once they meet the heat is on with finding the nuke even as Rory and Damon fail to control their desire and passion though they try until mission accomplished.

DREAMWALKER is a terrific erotic fantasy thriller starring two likable protagonists who understand the importance of the assignment while struggling with the heat each emits. The story line is fast-paced from the first encounter between the lead pair and never slows down as Rory's shapeshifting skills makes life in bed quite fascinating as she can get into the role literally while Damon's ability of getting into your head and your body adds to the sexual encounters. Readers will enjoy Kathleen Dante's action-packed creative prevent terrorism in between trysts tale.

Highland Rogue
Tess Mallory
9780425220429, $6.99

In Austin, Texas, Maggie Graham loves everything about historical Scotland; Liam Neeson of Rob Roy fame is her hero. Thus she is euphoric when she receives the letter from Dr. Alexander that she has been accepted to join an archaeological dig near Drymen in the Scottish Highlands.

At the site, Maggie finds a parchment that sends her back in time to 1711 at an importune moment. She drops into the midst of a battle between the forces of Quinn McIntyre and those of the Duke of Montrose. Quinn saves her life taking her to his friend, Ian McGregor for safekeeping. However, when Montrose captures McGregor, Quinn vows to free his friend; Maggie wants to help. Their efforts fail leaving Quinn mortally wounded and McGregor slated for execution. Maggie takes her beloved back to the future where he can get medical treatment that will save his life; she knows they will go back because McGregor still needs rescuing.

This back and forth entertaining time travel romance is a fun tale starring a courageous heroine who has romanticized the Scottish legendary heroes so much so that Quinn wonders if he can measure up to her ideal. Fast-paced fans will enjoy the romance between the modern day starry eyed Texan and her HIGHLAND ROGUE.

Taking the Heat
Kathryn Shay
9780425222003, $7.99

Three years ago Liam O'Neil's wife Kitty died leaving him to raise their young sons by himself; though he gets help from his caring beloved family. In New York he meets firefighter Sophie Tyler at his family owned Bailey's Irish Pub, and to his amazement and shock he is attracted to the beautiful strawberry blonde, Sophie reciprocates his allure.

However, with 9/11 still fresh after another anniversary, Liam fears dating Sophie because he rationalizes his sons could not cope with her dangerous occupation if something tragic should happen to her. Sophie has her own 9/11 memory that interferes with her seeing any man. Yet they begin seeing each other until a deadly serial arsonist sets booby-trapped fires to kill firefighters; Liam and Sophie begin to reconsider their relationship.

This is an enjoyable second chance at love romantic suspense thriller. The story line is action-packed in terms of the arsonist subplot and filled with angst re the relationship between Liam and Sophie. Although TAKING THE HEAT stands alone, with the O'Neil family playing major roles, reading the previous tales (see CLOSE TO YOU and SOMEONE TO BELIEVE) enhances the experience. Once again Kathryn Shay pays homage to the brave firefighters.

Captain Wentworth's Diary
Amanda Grange
9780425223529, $14.00

In 1806, naval officer Frederick Wentworth is on leave as he knows he must return to duty with the Napoleonic Wars ravaging the continent and threatening England. In Somerset to visit his brother, Frederick meets and falls in love with Anne Elliot. She feels as strongly as he does. They become engaged, but heeding the advice of her godmother Lady Russell, she persuades Anne to break off with Frederick the next day. Stunned and outraged the now acrimonious sailor returns to sea no longer innocent in affairs of the heart.

Eight years later, affluent Captain Wentworth has come home to find a bride who shows the slightest deference to the navy; any female except Anne. However, when he sees Anne for the first time since she informed him she changed her mind, Wentworth knows he still loves her. He does not want to pursue her, but cannot help but chase after her. Anne regrets her error as she never stopped loving Frederick, but fears it is too late for them.

Her second dairy historical romance (see MR. KNIGHTLY'S DIARY) is an engaging second chance regency romance told mostly by Captain Wentworth in a log like manner. The story line breaks into two periods in which the audience sees the young unsure Anne and the gentle Frederick fall in love but split and the more mature couple still in love. Readers will appreciate Amanda Grange's fine tale.

High Marks for Murder
Rebecca Kent
9780425222041, $6.99

In 1965 in the remote English village of Grickling Green in the Cotswolds, the suffragette movement has caught the interest of the ladies enrolled in Bellehaven Finishing School. The Headmistress Meredith Llewellyn is in St. Edmunds' church when she sees an evanescent image that coalesces into a female ghost. She becomes worried because home management teacher Kathleen Duncan is not attending the services and she never misses them.

When she leaves the church, Tom the gardener is visibly upset and takes Meredith and the other instructors to the body of Kathleen. Besides the corpse is a broken branch that was sawed off. It has blood on it so Meredith knows that her friend was murdered. As Kathleen keeps appearing Meredith vows to find her killer, but she does not understand the clues the ghost is presenting to her. Unless she can interpret what Kathleen is communicating to her when the ghost points at flowers, the killer will remain free.

This is a very atmospheric paranormal amateur sleuth historical mystery. The school building, the storms, and the darkness surrounding Bellehaven contribute a gothic feel to Rebecca Kent's fine tale. Meredith is a strong willed person who in some ways a futuristic anachronism as she ignores the rules of society that insist she find a wealthy husband. She is the only one who sees the apparition so her staff insists she is overwrought and imagining things. Readers will give high marks to Ms. Kent for an interesting creative whodunit.

Dyer Consequences
Maggie Sefton
9780425219331, $21.95

In Fort Connor, Colorado, CPA Kelly Flynn is concerned as she has been harassed by vandals. Her tires were slashed, her windshield cracked, and red paint tossed on her house. She is also worried about fixing up the Bellevue Canyon Ranch she recently purchased although her boyfriend Steve Townsend promises to help her.

At a class on dyeing fibers hosted by House of Lambspun owner Mimi Schaefer, Kelly and the other members meet college chemistry major Tracy Putnam who appreciates being allowed to attend on a "scholarship". A few days later, someone trashed Pete's cafe and vandalized the House of Lambspun; killing Tracy in a vat of hot dye. Kelly believes her friends were targeted by an unknown adversary harassing her. Although she is not sure why they killed Tracy as a burglary gone wrong does not fit the scene; nor does any other threads explain the DYER CONSEQUENCES. Although Police Lieutenant Morrison warns her to not sleuth as she has done before (see A KILLER STITCH and NEEDLED TO DEATH), Kelly begins investigating anyway; unaware she places herself in jeopardy by someone she trusts, a deadly predator in sheep make that alpaca clothing.

Although the final twist explaining why Tracy and Kelly had to die seems a stretch, fans of the series will enjoy this fine DEADLY YARN. The cast is solid as the knitters come together to help one another. Fans of amateur sleuth whodunits will appreciate Kelly's inquiries into who is vandalizing her and her friends and most likely killed an enthusiastic coed.

The Julius House
Charlaine Harris
9780425222034, $7.99

In Lawrenceton, Georgia wealthy businessman Martin Bartell, the manager of the Pan Am Agra Plant, fell in love with Aurora "Roe" Teagarden from the moment they first met. Older and more sophisticated than her, they set a wedding date within weeks of their first meeting. As a wedding present Martin gives his fiancee the deed to the Julius House.

The house has a mysterious history because one night six years ago the family vanished without a reason or a trace; leaving everything behind. When Roe finds something illegal that her new spouse is involved in, she tries to ignore her qualms by investigating what happened to the Julius family. Her inquiries almost kill her; and it is only thanks to her tenant Angel that she survived the harrowing situation. When she finds the bodies of the family members, a new mystery surfaces that takes Roe and Angel into danger in New Orleans where people want them dead.

Charlaine Harris is one of the best writers of regional cozies. Her amateur sleuth tales are filled with colorful characters, red herrings, plenty of suspects, and clues that ask more questions than they answer. The protagonist is a classical southern steel magnolia; beautiful to look at with a strong metallic spine as she is not afraid to face danger and confront horrors even involving the man she loves.

Cool Cache
Patricia Smiley
Obsidian Mystery
c/o The Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451223019, $23.95, 1-800-847-5515

Los Angeles based business consultant Tucker Sinclair shares a suite with private detective Charley Tate. Her latest client is Nectar, an upscale chocolate shop who needs Tucker's skills so the owner Helen Taggart can sell candies at a profit. One day Tucker arrives to find the Nectar door surprisingly open and knowing the fastidious Helen she becomes worried even before she enters the store..

Her fears prove right when she finds the corpse of Helen's clerk Lupe Ortiz; nothing appears stolen, but next to the body is the feather of a Quetzal bird native to Guatemala and the symbol of a local gang. The police arrest Lupe's son, a meth addict; but Tucker's assistant Eugene believes he is innocent. He goes undercover following clues that he feels will lead to the real killer. Tucker follows his clues to prevent him from becoming the next victim.

COOL CACHE is a charming cozy that is much more than cotton candy as the story line deals with societal issues like gangs and antiquity thefts. The heroine is a delightful intrepid individual as she refuses to give up on insuring Eugene is safe; a neat gender reversal as the woman comes to the rescue of the man in peril. Patricia Smiley entertains the sub-genre with a likable cast inside a solid dual amateur sleuth investigative tale.

China Lake
Meg Gardiner
Obsidian Mystery
9780340822494, $24.95

In Santa Barbara, California Pastor Peter Wyoming and his Remnant supporters heckle at the AIDS funeral of Claudine Gerard. Close friend novelist Evan Delaney is outraged by these religious nuts and tells them so. However, Peter gets the last word when he implies his cartoonist is Evan's runaway sister-in-law Tabitha, who deserted her Navy fighter pilot husband Brian and their now six-year-old son Luke two years ago. Brian's sister Evan has raised Luke who is going to join his father shortly at the China Lake Naval Air Warfare Center. Evan fears that Tabitha brainwashed by Pastor Pete and his Remnant will try to abduct Luke.

When the Remnant use cops to take Luke, Evan does what she can to stall them until Brian arrives. Soon afterward a Remnant member is murdered; the cops suspect Brian. Evan believes she must prove her sibling's innocence. However, she fears leaving Luke with anyone else even her lawyer somewhat wheelchair bound boyfriend Jesse Blackburn. She also cannot bring the lad to some of the dives she will visit like Tabitha's home, Pastor Pete's church and compound, and the desert bars where her sci fi is a cult favorite.

This is an exciting thriller in which the courageous though stupid (for some of the moves she makes John Wayne would avoid) heroine challenges a dangerous fanatical sect who wants her nephew as a pawn for something insidious. The Remnant is a fascinating in a macabre way sect whose leadership plans to move forward the day of reckoning. Although the cops seem more Keystone than professional especially when they fail to arrest any Remnant member involved in snatching Luke (with their assistance) once they know the truth, fans will enjoy the exciting adventures of Evan Delaney, protective lioness keeping her cub safe from a jungle filled with lunatics.

The Unkindest Cut
Honor Hartman
Obsidian Mystery
9780451224361, $6.99

After her husband died in a car accident, Emma Diamond needed a year to recover, but now she is beginning to get her act back together as she meets with her best friends and neighbors Marylou Lockridge and Sophie Parker. All three are avid bridge players and look forward to a retreat in Texas Hill Country. Marylou's friend Paula was with the threesome when they decided to go on the bridge retreat; she has a hidden agenda for joining the as she wants to divorce her suspicious husband Avery Trowbridge to remarry her first spouse Basil Dumont.

Avery's room at the retreat is next door to that of the three pals. When Emma passes by his room she notices the door open; she glances inside as walks by and sees a guy sitting in a chair holding a card with a knife in his chest. Avery is dead. Many people disliked Avery including his first wife, the son he ignores, his former agent he fired, the receptionist at the retreat who loves him and especially Paula who Emma and her two buddies heard screaming she wanted him dead. Emma starts snooping hoping to eliminate suspects until one is left standing while wondering what his holding the queen of hearts means.

Bridge players and amateur sleuth fans will find the UNKINDEST CUT a riveting mystery. The protagonist has come a long way in the six months since her performance ON THE SLAM as she still grieves and has difficult coping moments when she misses her beloved spouse, but it is her knowledge that her husband would expect her to move on that enables her to do so. The support cast is quirky with bridge being nirvana while the whodunit is fun to follow although Emma has no reason to sleuth (the amateur sleuth bane). Still Honor Hartman writes an engaging amusing mystery as Emma tries to trump a killer.

The Dawn Patrol
Don Winslow
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307266200, $23.95, 1-800-726-0600

Once Boone Daniels was a police officer for the SDPD, but when a young girl disappeared he refused to let his partner torture the suspect to learn if she still lived. His fellow officers turned their backs on him eventually forcing him to resign. Now he lives to ride the next wave while working as a private investigator to earn money to surf. He looks forward to the big waves expected to shortly arrive due to a storm, but lawyer Petra Hall needs him to work a paying case.

She hires him to find stripper Tammy Roddick who works for Dan Silver who torched one of his establishments. She gave a deposition before vanishing. Boone discovers she was staying in a hotel with another stripper who was thrown off the terrace to her death. There is no sign of Tammy, but Boone notices a child's toothbrush in the hotel room. Boone and Petra track her down and bring her to his apartment where she asks permission to make a phone call. Boone has a bad feeling that there is more than just an insurance scam and a dead stripper involved in this case and soon his life is on the line affirming his hypothesis.

This is a great thriller filled with eccentric characters who make up the DAWN PATROL, a group of fanatical surfers riding the waves before work. It is hard to determine who the villains are as they hide their transgressions behind nice personalities. There is also a lot of historical information pertaining to San Diego interwoven into the plot while the surfing scenes are vivid so mush readers will think there are at the Pacific. Still the bottom line is Don Winslow writes an engaging mystery that focuses on depravity.

Scream For Me
Karen Rose
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446509206, $16.99, 1-800-759-0190

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Daniel Vartanian remains in shock and grief as he still reels from discovering his late brother Simon was a serial killer who before his demise murdered their parents, whom the cop just buried (see DIE FOR ME). Still though some at GBI thinks Daniel should take leave, he feels he would be better off working a case instead of brooding.

His superior assigns him to investigate a recent murder that copy cats the unsolved cold case homicide of Alicia Tremaine thirteen years ago. Daniel meets Alice's twin sister Alex Fallon, who left their hometown of Dutton just after the murder of her sibling. She is home because her stepsister Bailey Creighton vanished leaving her four year old daughter Hope behind and distressed over mommy. As more people are murdered with the same M.O. of thirteen years ago, Daniel wonders who the serial killer is ultimately targeting as he also fears completion of the circle with Alex as the victim; he vows to keep the woman he is falling in love with safe, but from whom.

This exhilarating serial killer thriller grips readers from the onset and never slows down; whether the events occurred thirteen years ago or in the present. Even the well written supportive romance enhances the tale by personalizing the murders in the mind of the hero who is reminded that he "failed" to protect his parents; guilt even if it is unwarranted can rip out one's gut. Karen Rose proves her publisher was right going hardcover with what is sure to be another bestseller.

Kushiel's Mercy
Jacqueline Carey
Grand Central Publishing
9780446500043, $26.99

Prince Imriel de la Courcel struggles with the deaths of his wife and their unborn son although he loves Princess Sidonie, heir to the Terre D'Ange throne. Still with her help he begins to move on and hopes to marry his beloved soon. However, Sidonie's mother Queen Ysandre places a stipulation on their marrying; she orders Imriel to bring his evil seditious mother Melisande Shahrizai to justice or he will never obtain permission to marry her daughter.

As the royal prepares for his quest, a spell is cast that convinces everyone in the capital including Imriel that his beloved Sidonie loves the visiting prince of Carthage; she obviously believes it too as she sails to Carthage to wed him. Imriel seems to be the only one to recall that he and Sidonie have been in love, but when no one believes him he realizes great magic is afoot. As he prepares to rescue his beloved, he also struggles to prevent a crippling war from occurring.

The finish to the second trilogy (see KUSHIEL'S SCION and KUSHIEL'S JUSTICE) is a superb entry due to the excellent characterizations even with sexual themes less active than in previous books. Imriel and Sidonie are a wonderful pairing trying to overcome her mom's opposition and a devious enchantment that challenges the power of love. Fans will appreciate KUSHIEL'S MERCY as Imriel is trapped between his deep loyalty to his people on the brink of a deadly war and his ensorcelled beloved on the brink of a deadly marriage.

The Whole Truth
David Baldacci
Grand Central Publishing
9780446195973, $26.99

CEO of Ares Corporation, a major Defense Department contractor, Nicholas Creel wants to drum up business so he needs a new crisis as Iraq only goes so far, but is nothing like the glory days of Reagan's Cold War. He hires "perception management" guru Dick Pender to create a Cold War. Soon false news stories and supporting disinformation surface on the Internet with news bloggers and hounds having a feeding frenzy over "documented" Russian atrocities. Nicholas is ecstatic.

However, when the London based think tank, the Phoenix Group, is allegedly slaughtered by Russians, Nicholas hopes Pender can connect the murders to a Beijing government sponsored hit; hoping that leads to the immense profits to be made from a Russian- Chinese war. However, undercover operative Shaw is outraged as his fiancee died in the Phoenix Group mass murder and with the help of a defrocked reporter begins to uncover THE WHOLE TRUTH behind the perception management driven crisis.

This is an exciting thriller due more to the PM concept than to the Ares vs. Shaw contest. The PM crowd makes up truths using the Internet and other mass communication techniques to tell a Big Lie and not as David Baldacci says afterward "spin the facts". In fact some in Congress claim this technique was used by the Administration leading to the Iraq invasion. Although the prime plot is entertaining, it is the perception management big lie that makes the difference of what otherwise would be another well written thriller.

To Taste Temptation
Elizabeth Hoyt
Grand Central Publishing
9780446406918, $6.99

In 1764 successful Boston businessman Samuel Hartley comes to London ostensibly to see his younger sister Rebecca enjoy a Season. However, the wealthy colonial has a hidden agenda as well. He believes someone in England betrayed his Regiment; they were slaughtered at the battle of Spinner's Falls by the Wyandot tribe who seemed to know the militia was there; the former soldier was fortunate to survive, but widow Lady Emeline Gordon's brother was not. Hiding his connection to her late sibling he persuades Emeline to help train Rebecca for the season.

As Rebecca and Emeline spend time together, the English aristocrat and Samuel begin to fall in love. However, she is engaged to Lord Vale who suits her well and should be a paragon for her eight year old son Daniel to emulate while Samuel must not lose sight of his mission to uncover the traitor.

The first Legend of the Four Soldiers historical romance is a strong tale that starts with the man who went east. Their saga, which opens each chapter, provides a deep look into the demons pushing Samuel. Secondary characters like her friends and family (especially her tante) and his sister play major roles in his inquiry and their romance. However, the lead couple, who know they will not suit, make for a fine Georgian romance.

Child 44
Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central Publishing
9780446402385, $24.99

Following the great victory over the Nazis, war hero Leo Stepanovich Demidov becomes a member of the state security MGB that insures there is no crime for citizens to be frightened of; ironically it is the MGB that frightens citizens. In 1953, his meteoric rise continues though he knows any political enemy could do him in.

In Moscow, he is removed from a high profile case to investigate the death of a child. Outraged by the affront and feeling belittled, Leo assumes this is a waste of time even after the parents the Andreevs insist their son Arkady was murdered; making the case more embarrassing to pursue is the father of the late child works for Leo. Rejecting their claim of homicide as murder does not exist in the Soviet Union, Leo assumes suicide is accurate. He plans to end the investigation, but is side tracked when his wife Raisa is accused of being a western sympathizer, ergo an enemy of the state. Guilt by association and rumor, Leo is demoted and exiled from the city. However, he soon uncovers evidence that shakes his belief system as there is a serial killer loose who is not legally an enemy of the state and therefore not a criminal.

This is an excellent historical police procedural in which the audience will feel they fell through the rabbit hole into Stalin land. Leo is terrific as his belief in the state is right and murder cannot happen in Stalin's Soviet Russia is frightening. When he finally accepts the facts that he could not believe until they became overwhelming, he concludes murder is not a state crime. Fans will appreciate this strong tense and original thriller.

A Steal of a Deal
Ginny Aiken
c/o Baker Publishing Group
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
9780800732288, $12.99,

Her Louisville Christians Fellowship church asks master gemologist and TV gem show host Andrea Adams to organize a missionary trip to impoverish Kashmir. Andrea looks forward to the visit to the Asian nation especially helping poor families.

However, when she mentions the trip to Miss Mona her boss at Shop Til U Drop (STUD) home shopping network, her supervisor arranges for STUD to go on location, which means California pretty surfer boy Max with the IQ shorter than his board is part of the crew. In Kashmir, everything is going perfect until someone murders one of their guides; followed by the killing of another guide. Even returning home, Andrea finds trouble follows her san unknown adversary has committed arson and attempted murder.

The second Shop-Til-U-Drop tale (see PRICED TO MOVE, not read by me) is a wild chick lit amateur sleuth filled with eccentric characters and an entertaining whodunit. The story line is fast-paced on both sides of the Pacific while the heroine's amusing asides especially about her blond surfer co-host add to the fun of the mystery. A STEAL OF A DEAL lives up to its title.

Kill Me If You Can
Nicole Young
9780800731588, $13.99

Patricia "Tish" Amble fixes up dilapidated old houses to sell. Her last "Bring it back to life" project was a rundown Victorian in Rawlings, Michigan that she felt would make a perfect setting for Halloween, but proved more frightening when she almost was murdered (see LOVE ME IF YOU MUST). Needing a respite, she goes to her family summer cabin in Northern Michigan where she spent many joyous childhood summers; she figures she will fix the place up while there.

However, Tish is stunned to find a torn photo of her late mother with the words "Don't ask why" written across her face. Deciding the time to bring ghosts to rest is now. Tish is determined to investigate the murder of her mother over two decades ago. As she makes inquiries in the nearby town and amongst her strange relatives, Tish places herself in danger from someone who wants the past kept secret.

The second Patricia Amble mystery is an enjoyable amateur sleuth family drama in which each clue that Tish uncovers about her mom's murder leads to several questions about her family. Tish is a terrific lead protagonist who holds the plot together yet each time she (and readers) think they know what happened; the clue implodes into a plausible entertaining twist. Fans will appreciate Tish's investigation into her mother's murder that leads her in dealing with her estrange family and their friends.

Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him
Danielle Ganek
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452289543, $14.00, 1-800-847-5515

In Manhattan's Chelsea section Mia McMurray works as a gallery receptionist assisting patrons at Simon Pryce Art Gallery by looking snooty and pretty. However, Mia sees the job as temporary as she dislikes her peers whose self-importance seems ridiculous to her as all they do is act like candy to customers; Mia plans to cross the barrier and have her work hanging at a gallery; albeit a nice one rather than the dump she works in.

When talented artist Jeffrey Finelli is killed by a taxi on his opening night gala, Mia watches the entire accident in slow mo. She also observes the fascinating holy war over his paintings as a battle royal between collectors and his estate explodes. His death leads to a feeding frenzy as everyone wants to own an original Finelli especially his masterpiece "Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him". However, the painting's model, Finelli's niece, Lulu claims ownership.

Lulu and Mia become friends; encouraging each other. The former quits Wall St to paint and takes a chance on love with an artist; while the latter begins to date art dealer Zach Roberts while quitting her candy girl role to become a writer.

In many ways this chick lit tale is a coming of age story as Mia finds her groove when she stops watching and begins doing. The story line is amusing as Finelli stars in the art of death with his posthumous season being like uneaten asparagus quickly over though his masterpiece keeps reselling. This is a fun look at the art world as Lulu and Mia take no prisoners.

A Hollywood Ending
Robyn Sisman
9780452286139, $14.00

Fearing her career is diving into made for TV movies older women roles; Oscar winner Paige Carson needs a major success. She made a poor choice when she agreed to star in a horrific remake of Cleopatra. Paige is also losing juicy parts to younger actresses.

However, Paige is euphoric when she is selected to star with superstar Jackson Rolfe in what looks like may be the box office hit of the year. However, her inane co-star makes Paige reconsider her career as he is as unprofessional of an actor she has had the misfortune to meet. When London stage calls her to perform Shakespeare, Paige leaves behind Hollywood dirt and the latest tabloid lies and shenanigans especially her rock star superstar father. In London she finds herself attracted to her snooty landlord, Ed Hawkstead, a documentary filmmaker struggling to break out; he to his chagrin reciprocates as he does not want to want this Hollywood fluff dubbed by the press as Princess Paige.

This enjoyable contemporary romance stars two likable opposites whose initial stereotype of the other makes each detest their feelings, but this is more Paige's tale since the first part focuses on her woes and Ed does not enter the stage until act two (about halfway into the novel). Still as Paige and Ed become acquainted they realize their preconceptions were false and allow their hearts to lead them. Readers will enjoy the romance between this fine couple.

The House at Riverton
Kate Morton
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416550518, $24.95,

In 1999 Ursula Ryan plans to make a film about the events at The House at Riverton in 1924. She meets with the only known person still alive, ninety-eight years old nursing home resident Grace Reeves to confirm the facts.

Grace was fourteen years old when, like her mother, she obtained work as a servant to the aristocratic Hartford family at Riverton House. She especially enjoyed "invisibly" watching Lord Asbury's two nieces and nephews when they visited. Her favorite target was Hannah, who was her age. In 1924, sisters Hannah and Emmeline were allegedly the only witnesses to poet R.S. Hunter committing suicide at Riverton. However, Grace also saw what happened on that fatal day as Hannah's selfish plans and Emmeline's jealousy surface while the maid observes first hand the death of the poet.

This is an engaging haunting love story that brings to life a bygone era of the English aristocracy in decline following WWI. The four prime characters seem genuine though filtered by the nonagenarian memory of seventy five years ago. Kate Morton provides a strong character driven tale of hate, deceit, and love with the more powerful element triumphing.

The Reapers
John Connolly
Atria Books
9781416569527, $26.00

Assassins Louis and Angel kill a Russian trafficker who peddled young children to pedophiles. Bliss kills a predator in a bar's bathroom. A wealthy dying recluse murders a man who was involved in the death of his son. All these crimes are linked in a surprising way. Gabriel and his lover Angel will learn that crimes from their past have come back to haunt them in the present.

In 1983 Louis was assigned to kill Luther Berger, but what he didn't know was that his victim was really Jon Leahagen, son of Arthur. Mr. Hoyle, is helping the duo with people coming after them. Arthur is dying, but before he passes on he wants to take with him to the grave everyone who was involved in the homicide of his offspring. Hoyle wants Arthur dead because he killed his daughter. He hires Louis and Angel to kill Arthur and his son; they agree not because of the money, but instead want Leahagen to stop trying to kill them. When they get to Leahagen's estate, they realize they walked into a trap, but Charlie Parker is on the way to assist them.

The REAPERS is a great thriller as the readers get a deep look at the workings of Louis and Angel. When he was young Louis a black man watched whites lynch his father and set fire to kill him. Angel was sold repeatedly to pedophiles by his father to pay for his booze. Surprisingly they have traces of humanity left inside them although for the most part their human flame is barely flickering. They receive reader empathy in spite of being condemned for their actions, as John Connolly provides a strong crime caper fueled by these two outsiders.

Jude Deveraux
Atria Books
9780743437189, $25.95

As a twelve years old child Cassie Madden fell in love with kindhearted Jefferson Ames. Although she moaned being born too late, as he is older than her, she still wanted to be near him as often as possible.

Years later at college Cassie knows that in spite of being engaged to someone else, she still loves Jefferson, who is a widower raising his daughter five years old Elsbeth. She ends her engagement and travels to Williamsburg, Virginia where her Jeff lives with his offspring. She becomes Elsbeth's nanny. Meanwhile Jefferson, his friends and his father enjoy the antics of elderly eccentric movie-actress Althea Fairmont who lives nearby. Althea arranges a special performance of a real unsolved murder mystery with Cassie and Jeff starring in the lead roles; her goal is to see if anyone can uncover the truth while Jeff begins to fall in love with Cassie; who never stopped living him

The romance is well written as the lead characters are a fine pairing once Jeff no longer considers Cassie as a younger sister. However, the tale belongs to the mystery as seemingly everyone conceals SECRETS; with every revelation the plot twists and keeps twisting. Readers will enjoy this engaging romantic whodunit as the support cast will keep the audience wondering what secret Jude Deveraux will reveal next.

The Darkest Night
Gena Showalter
Harlequin HQN
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373772469, $6.99

In their Budapest fortress, Maddox of the Immortal Warriors, as part of his punishment by the Greek Gods, dies every night at the hand of his friends, Lucien and Reyes; Lucien then takes him to Hell to complete his punishment. Every morning Maddox wakes up chained to his bed and healing. He thinks back over the millennium when out of anger and jealousy they defied the Gods and attacked Pandora. The box broke that she guarded and demons freed. The Gods intervened by placing a demon inside each of the warriors. Maddox knows that he shares his body with Violence.

Torin shows Maddox on their surveillance monitor a female intruder is coming their way; he calls her Bait based on a time long ago when a woman betrayed them leading to one of them dying and his demon freed. Maddox goes out to kill Bait and the four hunters following her.

World Institute of Parapsychology audiologist Ashlyn Darrow hears voices in her head. She hopes these angels or demons in the fortress can give her a respite. Maddox kills the hunters, but leaves Ashlyn alive. She is stunned as she has blessed silence. Ashlyn clings to Maddox who calls her Bait even as he wonders why she seems tormented and his demon wants her tortured and dead. At the keep he tells Lucien to keep Ashlyn safe as she belongs to him. He and she find needed respite as they fall in love, but a betrayal and reconciliation leaves both wondering about the future.

The fantasy species especially the band of brothers with their internal demons and the obsessed hunters seem genuine. The lead couple is a terrific pairing while the support immortal Lords of the Underworlds warriors have distinct personalities helping to establish the paranormal earth. Although the lead couple has sex too soon after she nearly died (even with a rationalization provided for her incredible miraculous recovery), fans will appreciate Gena Showalter excellent opening act in what looks like will be a great romantic fantasy saga.

The Way He Moves
Marcia King-Gamble
Harlequin Mediterranean
9780373389711, $5.50

Argentinean publisher Serena d'Andrea decides a Rhythm Dancers' cruise is just the ticket for her to forget her former lover, diplomat Marc LeClair. However, on board the Alexandra's Dream, Serena meets Gilles Anderson, who could be Marc's identical twin; he insists he is not when she confronts him.

Serena finds a moon pendant that allegedly brings one's true love to the person wearing it. However, she thinks her charm brings nothing but bad luck as someone threatens Serena's life; fearing for the woman he loves, Gilles wonders if there is a connection between the threats to Serena and those he endured at his last post as Marc LeClair in Argentina.

Although there is too much distracting going on even for a cruise ship, THE WAY HE MOVES is an entertaining romantic suspense that makes for a fine finish to an entertaining mostly at sea contemporary miniseries. The story line is fun to follow as Marc struggles with his lies to the woman he loves while Serena knows the way Gilles kisses intimately. Fans will enjoy the last stop of the Alexandra's Dream as Marcia King-Gamble provides a delightful wrap up.

Have Mercy
Jo Leigh
Harlequin Blaze
9780373794027, $4.99

Businessman Will Desmond brings his faithful canine Buster with him while staying at Manhattan's exclusive Hush Hotel. The hotel's pet concierge Mercy Jones assumes pampering pets is ridiculous, but does her job as a professional hiding her inner disdain from the owners. Will is attracted to Buster's temporary handler, but has plans that he believes Mercy is key for his achieving them; although the walks in Central park with her and Buster as chaperone has him reconsidering his objective.

At the same time bitter Drina Dalakis checks into the hotel. The angry Romanian Gypsy seeks vengeance on those whose actions led to the arrest and death of her husband. Her target is at the Hush Hotel where an expensive dog collar will begin her scheme.

Romantic suspense fans will fully appreciate this action-packed story line that never slows down for even a bark once Buster introduces Will to Mercy even after she learns the truth as to who he really is. With a fabulous twist to spice up the tale of the dog collar, fans will enjoy this fine tale as Will finds out love cannot supersede his lies because trust is more important in a relationship and his beloved believes he can lie faster than a blink.

Up Close and Personal
Joanne Rock
Harlequin Blaze
9780373793990, $4.99

Her parents were never there for Jessica Winslow so she learned to fend for herself and not trust personal relationships. Instead she buries herself in her work.

Jessica is hosting a sex retreat in which she plans to open up the weekend by showing hands on how to do an erotic massage. Her attendees select waiter Rocco Easton. However as she works her magic on him, he wants to come clean that he is undercover investigating her; he thought she scammed his dad, but now believes someone stole her identity just like she stole his heart.

Using identity theft as a catalyst, Joanne Rock provides her fans with a delightful UP CLOSE AND Personal contemporary romance. Rocco is fabulous as he feels like a traitor for falling in love with the enemy, but rationalizes his feelings by insisting to himself he could never love a thief. However, he hesitates to tell her the truth out of fear of losing her; even before he learns she distrusts relationships. Fans will enjoy this fine contemporary romance with some suspense as Rocco has his work cut out for him.

Stargazer's Woman
Aimee Thurlo
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373693313, $4.99

Former US Marine Intelligence office Kris Reynolds saw violence during her military time overseas, but it was the murder of her sister Police Officer Tina that has shaken her the most. Tina's partner Max Notoni visits Kris at her place of business the Smiling Cactus Nursery knowing she wanted to see him. Kris explains that she refuses to sit quietly while the Farmington cops, the Navaho Tribal police, and who knows who else investigate with she and her late sibling the prime suspects in a rumored theft of a half million dollars and some valuable Indian jewelry.

Max agrees to work with her as he explains he conducts investigations for the Tribal leadership. He thinks she can help him find stolen platinum and he will help her prove Tina's innocence as he agrees with Kris' assertion regarding her sibling. As they work together, their initial attraction at their first head banging meeting turns hotter than the southwest climate. Still each knows danger mounts with each step they take.

This Brotherhood of Warriors tale is a terrific investigative romantic suspense. The story line is action-packed as Kris and Max make inquiries they fall in love. He is a fascinating protagonist as he is the tribe's mystical Stargazer with mystical powers, but prefers to use his police training on the investigation. Kris is a nice combination of tough independence yet as Max notices sweet and prickly. Fans will enjoy Aimee Thurlo's strong Navajo thriller.

What Happens in Vegas
Jodi Lynn Copeland, Anya Bast, Lauren Dane and Kit Tunstall
Harlequin Spice
9780373605248, $13.95

"Hot for You" by Jodi Lynn Copeland. Cocktail waitress Carinna wants an all nighter with no morning after strings with Jack the firefighter; he wants much more.

"Stripped" by Lauren Dane. Exotic dancer Dahlia ignores the casino's wealthy patrons, but businessman Nash manages to get her in his bed.

"Red-Handed" by Kit Tunstall. When the casino security caught Amy helping her cousin cheat at roulette, the owner Roan gives her a choice of jail or six weeks as his sex slave.

"The Deal" by Anya Bast. Casino shill Cassidy has vowed to never fall in love, but needs sex so she chooses her friend James as her partner.

These are four semi-heated entertaining contemporary romances starring likable protagonists.

The Sorceress of Belmair
Bertrice Small
Harlequin HQN
9780373772957, $14.95

Being the offspring of two extremely powerful parents especially his mother Lara, the Domina of Hetar, Dillon is not surprisingly a very potent magic practitioner. He also understands his duty when the dragon of Belmair directs him to marry headstrong but beautiful mage Princess Cinnia; after that he is to rule Belmair.

Dillon and Cinnia prove much attuned to one another especially in the bedroom and even when they work royal dealings. Dillon uncovers a strange but powerful connection between Belmair and Hetar that concerns him, but not as much as the sudden serial disappearance of young women. The newlyweds diligently investigate in order to prevent any more vanishings, hopefully rescue the ladies, and stop the unknown culprit before further harm comes to the kingdom.

The latest World of Hetar tale (see THE DISTANT LORD, A DISTANT TOMORROW and LARA) is a fantastic romantic fantasy mystery as Bertrice Small shows her skills by effortlessly combining the genres. The amateur sleuth investigation into a world filled with magic strengthens the already robust passionate ties between the lead couple. Fans of the series will especially appreciate this excellent entry as murder, love, and magic mix perfectly together by master sorceress Ms. Small.

Dial M for Mischief
Kasey Michaels
Harlequin HQN
9780373772919, $6.99

Former Philadelphia cop turned private investigator Teddy Sunshine is found dead stunning his three adult children, Jolie, Jade and Jessica. However, even more shocking the police say he killed himself and murdered the wife of mayoral candidate Joshua Brainard. None of the three Sunshine sisters believe their father would commit suicide or a homicide; they agree to solve his cases because they feel one of them led to two murders.

Actress Jolie has put her rising career on hold as she grieves her loss and begins to investigate her portion of the caseload. Her former lover Sam is there for her in terms of comforting her and working with her on her cases.

The first Sunshine Girls Romantic Caper is a terrific tale that introduces the readers to the sisters inside a strong amateur sleuth. Jolie is the prime star of the aptly titled DIAL M FOR MISCHIEF, as the actress works some of her father's open cases though her efforts lead to mistakes and trouble, but amusement and fun for the audience. Fans will look forward to the escapades of the other Js after following "Jolly Green Jolie's adventures in mischief making sleuthing.

The Loner
Geralyn Dawson
Harlequin HQN
9780373772933, $6.99

In 1899 Caroline Kirkpatrick is worried about her missing foster father Ben. She needs help to find him and an alleged hidden Bad Luck Treasure. She decides her best bet is mercenary range detective Logan "Lucky" Grey so she heads to Austin to obtain the services of "The luckiest man in Texas", whom she married fifteen years ago.

He believes his luck is all bad and so warns women to avoid him. However he is unaware that the one female he wants, Caroline is his legal wife. When they exchanged "I do", he thought it was a fake and forget about it as he moved on. He also is unaware until now that she gave birth to his son Will. When Logan learns the truth about his marital status he is dumbfounded but will do what it takes to insure his wife is safe; Caroline is just as determined to persuade her beloved that he brings her all good luck.

Following up the Bad Luck Brides with the first of the Good Luck Grooms, Geralyn Dawson provides an amusing western romance starring two fascinating protagonists. Caroline the Valkyrie starts things off right when she knocks out a dangerous outlaw; the adventures keep on coming for her and THE LONER she loves. Throw in the McBride gang to add to the chaos and that leads to delightful spins inside this wonderful historical romance.

Carol Higgins Clark
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416562153, $24.00, 1-800-223-2336

After spending a delightful weekend at the Cape, NYPD Major Case Squad Chief Detective Jack Reilly and his wife private investigator Regan return to Manhattan. Jack stops for some Chinese take-out while Regan enters their partially renovated apartment where she finds a stun gun on the floor. Obviously someone broke and entered leaving behind evidence. However, a blackout engulfs the city leaving Reilly in the dark. Lorraine Lily is cursing her estrange husband for selling the pad to the Reillys without informing her while she was performing in London. She had a safe built that she needs to open before the Reillys find it or watch her career die.

Not too long afterward Jack is in Soho investigating a theft of valuable sculptures from an art gallery. Meanwhile their friend Kit calls frantically as she says she was with deranged Georgina at a comedy club when the woman vanished just as the blackout occurred; they know Georgina hates and hurts blond men.. Regan gathers a group to find them before her date is branded. Ironically the person who broke into her apartment and left the stun gun behind helps on the search

The chance meter is stratospheric as a series of coincidences especially the final spin stacks the deck. However, fans will not care as Regan works the B&E, Jack the art theft, and together the Georgina branding in a fast-paced suspense crime thriller in which Manhattanites think nothing of a blackout in July as this is somewhat the norm.

The Angel
Carla Neggers
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9781426816116, $24.95

In Boston elderly Patsy McCarthy entertains folklorist Keira Sullivan with his lyrical tales of a stone angel in Eire. Unable to resist the magical lure and ignoring the warning of antiques collector Victor Sarakis not to meddle, Keira travels to the Emerald Isle to learn more about the Celtic legend. Before crossing the pond, Keira meets FBI agent Simon Cahill who is working a serial murder case.

In Ireland, Keira follows clues to an ancient ruin where she thinks she glimpsed the stone angel only to have the place cave in on her. Simon who followed her after the murder of Patsy and Victor finds her. Whereas she thinks someone tried to kill her, he has doubts. Neither is cynical about their feelings for one another, but when the angel reappears allegedly in the United States, Simon and Keira wonder if a psychopath is at work or something more supernaturally capricious.

This strong romantic suspense grips readers from the moment Patsy tells about the legend to an engrossed Keira and never slows down on the Irish coast as the audience and the lead couple wonder if the culprit is human or paranormal. The romance feels right as the mystery is the center behind this fabulous thriller in which Carla Neggers keeps her fans guessing what the killer is.

Lover's Bite
Maggie Shayne
9780778325185, $7.99

With a respite from the Gregor hunt and while her teammates are occupied elsewhere, royal vampiress Tanya "Topaz" DuFrane decides the opportunity to learn more about her roots is now. She knows her mom was movie star Mirabella DuFrane, who was murdered in an unsolved case and that four men claim fatherhood. Ironically she thinks none stepped forward when she was an infant with no mother. Topaz plans to bring her brand of justice to the unknown killer.

Vampire Jack Heart insists on assisting Topaz who wants nothing to do with the rogue as he broke her heart and absconded with a half million dollars of her money the last time he helped her. She distrusts him and cannot afford the fee for his services especially in the bedroom, but figures she is safer to keep your known enemy close when you are at war. As they investigate the cold case, she fears deja vu is happening all over again as he steals her heart and who knows what else from her.

Few writers can combine humor, romance, and the paranormal in action-packed yet character driven thrillers like Maggie Shayne consistently achieves (see her Twilight tales). Her latest winner is a terrific romantic suspense vampire investigative thriller that never slows down from start to finish as Topaz needs to know and act once she knows. She quickly learns she don't know Jack who is a loving rogue with a deep need to keep her safe while also trying to con a few zillion bucks out of his princess. Fans will enjoy this excellent tale as Topaz fears her LOVER'S BITE comes with a high price that to her chagrin she wants to pay.

Angel of Mercy
Toni Andrews
9780778325475, $6.99

In the Balboa Peninsular of California, hypnotherapist Mercy Hollings with the help of her best friend Sukey operates a clinic that helps people overcome their problems using her special skill "presses" to make suggestions to stop smoking. Only Sukey and Mercy's boyfriend Sam knows of her ability, but neither of them understand how much she fears this gift that comes from a dark source. Mercy errs on the side of caution when she manipulates people for what she assumes is better for them because she is frightened of going too far and obtaining amoral control while even a slight nudge could turn tragic. However her biggest phobia re her skill is losing her temper although that is rare as she can turn mentally ill.

When Mercy meets battered spouse Tiffany, she has two deep feelings; first she needs to get the woman to a shelter and second she needs to control her gut urge to hurt the abusive husband. At Haven House women's shelter, Mercy also wants to assist these sad victims; especially getting inside her soul are Anna Green and her daughter, Grace. Grace's preadolescent pleas to keep the children safe touches Mercy, but she finds the Green females are involved with something that not only is beyond the hypnotherapist's press control, but sends her into a dark shadowy realm that few if any ever escape.

This latest Mercy thriller (see BEG FOR MERCY) is an exhilarating paranormal tale with a deep look at victims hiding at a shelter. Thus there are two types of villains in this strong novel; first abusive spouses and second those essences that frequent the dark places of the soul. Toni Andrews provides a gripping story as readers get inside Mercy's head due to her first hand viewpoint.

Twenty Wishes
Debbie Macomber
9780778325505, $24.95

In Seattle thirty-eight years old Blossom Street Books owner Anne Marie Roche grieves the loss of her husband Robert who recently died. They had no children together though he left behind two adult offspring from his first marriage. Ironically they were separated seven months at the time of his demise, but Anne Marie cannot move past her loss; blaming herself in some ways.

Anne Marie and her friends celebrate Valentine's Day together when she thinks about creating a list of things she wants to do but never has. Her friends do likewise as does eight year old Ellen Falk, her "Lunch Buddy", a Woodrow Wilson Elementary School child she mentors like a Big Sister. Instead of performing her list, Anne Marie decides to make Ellen's TWENTY WISHES come true.

It takes a village to raise a child as Debbie Macomber affirms with this heart felt thought provoking return to Blossom Street. The relationship between the Lunch Buddies is fabulously developed so that the adult gets as much or more from it than the child. Fans of character driven tales will want Ellen's TWENTY WISHES especially one in particular to come true.

Blind Instinct
Fiona Brand
9780778325819, $6.99

Librarian Sara Fischer is cleaning out her late father Ben's home in Shreveport following his recent death when she comes across a WWII Nazi codebook. That in of itself would be strange, but looking at it makes Sara have a sense of deja vu; the codebook enigmatically reminds Sara of terrifying nightmares she suffered from as a child.

Sara asks her long time friend Marc Bayard for his help. The Assistant Director of Special projects at National Intelligence visits Sara, but his presence seems to have brought a nasty side effect, the dreams of her youth return. For some uncanny reason that she cannot grasp, thirty something Sara believes she and Marc worked together in 1943 as part of the French Resistance. However, neither she nor her protector realizes the value of the codebook to an unknown adversary whose price for ownership is to kill Marc and Sara as secrets must remain concealed.

The latest romantic suspense thriller by this author (see DOUBLE VISION and KILLER FOCUS) has the usual brand of non-stop action expected from this writer, but also contains a major unique element involving reincarnation. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Sara finds the codebook and never slows down as an unknown enemy will kill her and marc to possess the book. Although Marc is skeptical about Sara's theory (as will many readers), everyone will agree that Fiona Brand provides her audience with a strong exciting thriller as what happened in 1943 France seems to be repeating itself in 2008 United States.

The Diplomat's Wife
Pam Jenoff
9780778325123, $13.95

During WWII Marta Nederman was an active member of the Polish resistance until she was caught by the Nazis. They sent her to Dachau to be tortured by the Gestapo in case she had useful information on her comrades and ultimately to die. She offered nothing that would threaten her brothers and sisters in arms.

When the ally armies capture the concentration camp, they are stunned by the horrific sights that greet them. Besides the mass of dead bodies and many dying shortly, few show any resemblance of good physical health including Marta. American GI Paul Mattison gives Marta her first water since the Gestapo captured her. Marta eventually goes to an Austrian refugee camp where she meets an ailing camp survivor Rose, who soon passes away. Marta takes Rose's visa to go to London; on her trek across the continent she meets Paul in Paris where they make love. They vow to rendezvous in London in two weeks, but Paul's plane crashes in the Channel. Pregnant Marta meets and marries diplomat Simon Gold. As the Communists are putting down an iron Curtain across Eastern Europe, Marta undertakes a dangerous mission in Poland with roots in her past.

This excellent historical sequel to THE KOMMANDANT'S GIRL brings alive 1945 Poland as the Cold War is about to begin. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the cast especially the heroic Marta who realizes that she might have to sacrifice her happiness to expose a traitor. Fans of historical thrillers will appreciate Pam Jenoff's terrific thriller as she brings alive the tension of battered Europe carved between the victors even as a war between former allies seems imminent.

Fire and Ice
Anne Stuart
9780778325369, $6.99

Twenty years old California graduate student Jilly Lovitz decides to get away from the States by visiting her sister in Japan. Using the pretence of studying Japanese art, the genius Jilly visits Summer and her brother-in-law Taka, who she is unaware are in hiding from hitmen.

However Russian mercenaries go after Summer and Taka, but settle on Jilly. Taka's cousin Reno, an undercover agent, rescues Jilly from the Russians. Reno is upset with the fact that he attracted to the American and that she blithely disobeys his safety orders. Still he plans to keep her secure while stopping the hired guns. He also knows that as Hiromasa Shinoda he has family commitments, but he cannot ignore his feelings for the vulnerable American.

The aptly named FIRE AND ICE never decelerates from the moment that Jilly decides to cross the Pacific as she becomes the target of thugs. The story line is action-packed as Reno finds Jilly is a monster-distracter when he needs to focus on the killers. With a touch of Japan to anchor the tale, fans of romantic suspense thrillers will relish this exciting one sitting tale.

Last Dance at the Jitterbug Lounge
Pamela Morsi
9780778325192, $13.95

In Texas, Jack and Claire Crabtree are raising three children while successfully having built a pool-cleaning business. However, they have recently fought over everything; especially contentious is the house Jack built that he wants his family to move into while Claire is happy with their present home and refuses to dislocate their children (nine years old Zaidi and six years old twins Peyton and Presley) just because her husband believes bigger and newer mean better.

When his family informs Jack that his grandfather is in a coma, he goes home to Catawah, Oklahoma, a place he avoids like the plague because he is embarrassed by his roots. Claire, who has never met his side, accompanies him. Meeting his family is a stunner for Claire who learns a lot about what makes Jack tick as she realize she may love him but did not know Jack about him; maybe it is time she did.

There are two relationship dramas; obviously that of Jack and Claire, but also flashbacks that provide readers with insight into that of his grandparents, Bud and Geri. This technique enables the audience to compare the eras and to contrast the similarities and differences between the relationships. Fans will enjoy this poignant character study as Claire and readers learn first hand why Jack buried his roots and why big and new are better.

The Shadow Isle
Katherine Kerr
DAW Books, Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756404765, $24.95, 1-800-847-5515

The island of Haen Marn has been located off the coast of Albe for years. Its inhabitants have been waiting for it to move through the dimensional barrier once again and into the world of Deverry and the Westfolks. This happens as Angmar's eldest son Enj gives the ruined trumpet to the dragon Rori who gives it to a powerful dweomor user. Valanrdorio appeals to the spirit of the Lady of the North upon Earth to fix it which she does. Enj blows it and the island returns home.

Their world is a different place than the one Argmar left. Her husband Jori is a dragon who secures the inhabitants' lands to make sure the Horsekin don't lay seige to the populated towns in their religious zeal to convert everyone to the cult of the goddess Alshandra. Jori isn't sure he wants to be turned into a human and since the Horsekin plan to invade, the rulers can use an ally like him in his dragon form. People are fleeing their homes because they are not safe from Horsekin raids. The islanders wonder what will become of them in this new world with its war strategies, new alliances and the threat of the Horsekin invading their lands.

The third Silver Wyrm tale has many more subplots than written above as almost every character has something going on, which can overwhelm the reader with switching perspectives. Laz the thief is the most fascinating of the vast cast as he landed on the island to escape punishment for stealing magical gems. He has one chance left to make amends by righting wrongs and eliminating much of the bad karma he caused over several lifetimes. His chance for redemption depends on the choices he makes; readers will wonder which way he goes as Jori and the people of Haen Marn return home in THE SHADOW ISLE. Katherine Kerr has written a great epic fantasy.

The Dark Ferryman
Jenna Rhodes
9780756405212, $23.95

The Gods were disgusted at the damage that the Mage Wars did so they took the magic away from them and turned their backs on the people of Kerith. The Vaelinar Elfin like beings of magic were thrown into Kerith and over the centuries this long life spanned species entrenched their way into the infrastructure of this world. Lariel the Warrior Queen rules the land, but she has enemies within and without as civil war seems imminent.

Half-breeds Rivergrace and Sevryn, the Queen's Hand find love, but Lariel supervises them until she can make sure that the former is not a traitor or a threat to her rule. The powerful Warlord Quendius leads his ruthless army of two deadly races, one of which is the Raymy, a deadly race of sentient reptiles. Lord Diort has his Boelgers, Galdarkin and his Kerran as alliess and they prepare for war against Kerrith. Enemies become allies and friends become seditious foes as the Ways become dangerous with only the DARK FERRYMAN seeming to know the answers, but his cost is exorbitant; just ask Rivergrace and Sevryn.

Jenna Rhodes has written a wonderful epic fantasy in the tradition of Terry Brooks and Kate Elliot. THE DARK FERRYMAN is filled with backstabbing political intrigue and fascinating characters who mostly have personal agendas to gain power. Especially fascinating is a brilliant Machiavellian traitor who makes the Neocons look honest as this genius plays puppeteer operating from the shadows to string those in the inner circle of the queen. There are plenty of surprises and twists starting from the moment the beleaguered Lariel no longer trusts those whom she always thought were loyal and as revelations surface, readers cannot put down this superb tale waiting for the next spin to occur.

Valor's Trial
Tanya Huff
9780756404796, $24.95

Humans, di'Taykan, and the Krai were invited into the Confederation by the Elder Races who turned their backs on violence long ago. When the Others went to war against the Confederation, the younger races were sent to fight the enemy. Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr has seen more violence in her years in the Corps than most people combined see in a lifetime. She and her squad are sent to the planet Estee where the Others are gathering for a large battle.

Upon landing on the orb, Torin is sent to the front line to pull back the troops, but an explosion knocks her out. When she awakens she is in an underground tunnel and quickly learns that corrupt "Colonel" Harnett and his goons are running things and the three younger races from different battles and places are too weak to fight him. Torin kills Harnettl and his cohorts; afterward she and some soliers in good shape seek a way out of this buried bunker. However they are stunned when they find Others as prisoners as well. They struggle to find the exit, but when they finally surface on the unstable planet, they have little hope for survival.

There is plenty of action especially battle scenes in this story, but the most interesting twist of VALOR'S TRIAL is survival is the mother of agreements as the Confederacy and the Others ally to live for another fight between them. The different species seem plausible and their wary cease fire to escape the imprisonment seems believable and reasonable. Tanya Huff has written a rousing "Valor" military space opera focusing on strange bedfellows that will appeal to Honor Harrington fans.

Something Magic This Way Comes
Edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Sarah A. Hoyt
9780756404727, $7.99

This fantasy collection focuses on modern day magic in a world filled with technology and science, but as pointed out in the "The Power of Magic" introduction by Sarah A. Hoyt when our computers have "some inexplicable event" we say "Gremlins". The entries are solid with no clinkers as expected by the top tier contributors Like Harry Turtledove and the Resnicks (Mike and Laura - separate stories). Irene Radford opens the anthology at the Beltane Renaissance Fair with the palm reader warning Gabrielle that her lifeline is broken three times and then abruptly cuts short in "More to Truth than Proof." Dave Freer ends the collection with his humorous "Regency Sprite" in which the trapped Fay cannot threaten nor offer reward to the drunken human. In between are well written tales such as a wife fleeing spousal abuse helping an elf fleeing hunters in Kate Paulk's "Raining the Wild Hunt". There are all sorts of entries in between as Carolina "Lighthouse Surfer" and his friends test "Orygun" waves and more in Daniel M. Hoyt's East coast meets West Coast tale. Throw in "Houdini's Mirror" by Russell Davis along with all types of magical species like Charles Edgar Quinn's "The Star Cats" and locations like Esther Friesner's "In a Dark Wood, Dreaming". Fans will appreciate the wide cut of this fine magical compilation.

Dying Breath
Wendy Corsi Staub
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9781420101317, $6.99, 1-800-345-2665

Her mother vanished when Camden Hastings was a child; soon afterward her sister committed suicide. Haunted by the losses, as a teen, Cam began seeing horrific visions of frightened children in danger.

Cam loves her husband Mike, but her demons have led to her having alcohol problem and other issues; they are separated. She hopes to save her relationship with Mike but plans to start over for the sake of their teenage daughter, Tess. However, on Long Beach Island off the Jersey shore, Cam sees the poster of a child who has haunted her recent dreams. She tries to be the Good Samaritan assisting the police only to have Tess abducted; she and Mike desperately try to find their child before it is too late.

This complex paranormal suspense thriller seems initially overwhelming as the myriad of subplots keep changing as does the prime player. Once the table is set by talented Wendy Corsi Staub (about a fourth of the way in) readers will appreciate the increasingly tense tale as the audience can feel the horror eating at Cam's gut. She is a fabulous protagonist as she learns no good deed goes unpunished yet cannot ignore her visions partially because she was helpless when her sister died and her mother disappeared; fans will root for her as she and Mike struggle to save Tess.

Jacquelyn Frank
Zebra Books
9780821780688, $6.99

The Lycanthrope Princess Syreena can help but envy her sister Siena's loving marriage to the Demon Elijah. Syreena is placed in charge of the guests who come to visit the newly discovered Library concerning all Nightwalker races. When Vampire Price Damien arrives, Syreena remembers her feelings for him, but assumes non reciprocity; she is unaware he feels the same way. Both know that interspecies mating is taboo.

While a taking a walk on the catacombs in the Russian steppes where the Library is buried, Syreena is abducted by Ruth, a mind Demon who practices black magic which is forbidden to all Nightwalker races. 6Damien follows the blood trail Syreena has left behind all the way to France. He helps her escape from Ruth, but she is dying so he takes her to Mistral Territory where that species can heal or harm with their unique voices. They help both of them, who return to their previous lives, but neither can forget the other. They break the taboo that forbids mating, but before then can straighten out the family, social and political ramifications, ruthless Ruth returns.

Readers who have followed the Nighwalker saga will thoroughly appreciate DAMIEN, a tale that reveals more secrets that the Ancients buried. Not everyone from either race is happy about a vampire-shapeshifter romance, but the people directly affected believe it can work because of the pair at the center of the controversy. Although newcomers will find it easier to understand the
Frank mythos by reading precious tales, romantic fantasy fans will relish this latest entry.

Old Flames
Jack Ketchum
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843959994, $7.99, 1-800-481-9191

"Old Flames". In Manhattan Owen dumps his lover Dora Welles by message. She confronts him and the married with children Owen admits he found someone else to be his lover. Dora destroys some of his prized possessions like a seventeenth century vase. At a bar she meets Estha from her high school class of twenty-five years ago. Estha says she hired a private detective who found her teen boyfriend Ralphie. Dora decides to do like wise she hires Flame Finders Joseph Ledo who quickly locates Jim Welbourne, an attorney with a wife and kids living in California. Dora goes west to see if he is the one. If not she will assume her significant other was her late cat Lawrence; but if yes his family will be collateral damage.

"Right to Life". In1998 Manhattan married with a son Greg Glover is worried about his pregnant lover Sara Foster as he takes her for an abortion. He knows she lost a child in a lake accident that also ended her marriage. He drops her off near the clinic while he goes to park the car. When he arrives at the clinic after dodging the picket line, he asks for Sara, but she has not checked in. He franticly looks for her and obtains help from the cops, but Sara is nowhere. Panicked Greg knows this is not like Sara; what he does not know is Sara is wakening up in a "prison" cell in New Jersey having been abducted by the picketers.

These are two well written exciting psychological horror thrillers that put twists on seemingly everyday people. Readers will appreciate Jack Ketchum's shockers that take adverse relationships plausibly further than one would expect.

Gabriel's Lady
Charlotte Hubbard
Leisure Books
9780843960082, $6.99

Although a decade older than Solace Monroe, Gabriel Getty feels a connection to the young woman. However, he does not act on his confused feelings and marries someone else. Six years later, his pregnant wife dies taking their unborn with her. Having lost his faith, Gabriel gives up his legal practice to return home bitter at God.

A horse trainer and a rider in the Wild West show, Solace also writes dime novels. She comes home too where she informs Gabriel that she loves him and always has. Still grieving his double loss and feeling guilt because of how he feels about Solace, Gabriel fails to act on her declaration. However, when Solace is accused of murder, Gabriel defends the woman he always loved.

This engaging historical romance deftly turns into a wonderful inspirational romantic legal thriller as Gabriel needs a miracle to save the courageous woman he loves. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Gabriel wonders if he is marrying the wrong woman at his wedding and never slows down as he tries to prove Solace is being framed. However it is Solace who brings a strength and uniqueness to the mix; so much so fans will admire this wonderful woman.

The Scorpion & the Seducer
Bonnie Vanak
Leisure Books
9780843959758, $6.99

In London, the Ton has always treated half-Egyptian Jasmine Tristan as a pariah disparaging her as the "Brown Scorpion". Perhaps the only exception besides her adopted father is the Earl Thomas Wallenford, who not only admires her elan, but believes he is in love with her. Although she reciprocates his feelings, she knows they cannot make a match; when he was twelve, his late father made it clear she was a loser two times as a heathen and as an illegit; affirmed by Thomas' mother.

When his older twin Nigel the "perfect one" dies, Thomas becomes the duke and must ignore his heart for the sake of his title. Still he and Jasmine make a trek to Egypt where she hopes to learn who her natural parents are and he spent time with family there when Nigel was ill back when they were preadolescents. As they admit their love in the desert, the person who killed the twin plans to murder Thomas too.

The latest desert historical romance is a superb tale that brings to life Egypt in the late 1890s. The lead couple is a strong pairing as both knows his mother thinks Jasmine is beneath her socially yet love blossoms between them. The murder mystery is well done, but serves as a minor subplot as Bonnie Vanak provides another strong Victorian Egyptian romance filled with a vivid background.

Coffin County
Gary A. Braunbeck
Leisure Books
9780843960501, $7.99

Cedar Hill, Ohio has seen more than its share of violence over the two centuries since its foundation. In fact the small town was built on the blood of mass murders. Several decades ago, a mob lynched a man. Recently, the casket factory exploded before burning down the surrounding neighborhood.

Violence is the periodic norm. The townsfolk believe the ancient tree contains demons locked away for eternity as long as no one slices a limb. When murder arrives, everyone knows the tree is not containing a demon. When murders begin that puts Cedar Hill on the national news beyond being known as the Coffin County, the police investigate. The Reverend who runs the Cedar Hill Open Shelter will tell you more than you want to know; he is even writing the events down. The police detectives are not as forthcoming with the truth as the clues of the homicides lead back to an abandoned cemetery besides which everyone especially Sheriff Jackson is watching Ben Littlejohn whose wife and son were killed.

With two Cedar Hill short stories on top of the full length novels, fans of small-town horror thrillers will appreciate the aptly named COFFIN COUNTY. The prime tale takes its time as Gary A. Braunbeck establishes the atmosphere with a unique strangely different style, a personalized account by people like the Reverend and Ben reacting to the serial murders that seem impossible to have occurred by a mortal. Fans must peruse deep into the novel before beginning to understand the cause, but most readers will enjoy the slow simmer leading to learning what is going on in Cedar Hill while wondering whether a grieving Ben will only watch from the sidelines.

What Burns Within
Sandra Ruttan
9780843960747, $7.99

In Vancouver, British Columbia the three constables had worked a difficult case together last year that turned nasty; each tacitly agreed to not see one another as a means of forgetting how dysfunctionally they performed. Now Craig Nolan looks into a serial killer case; Ashlyn Hart seeks a serial arsonist; and Tain works on a serial child abduction investigation.

However, each soon realizes that the seemingly three different investigations connect. If they are to prevent the next rape, inferno and kidnapping from happening, they must work as a team, but emotions run deep as the memories of last years fiasco still burns in the professional souls of Nolan, Hart and Tain.

This is a terrific Canadian police procedural that starts off with three distinct cases and the cops having a shared history that each wants to forget; avoidance of the others is the psychological mechanism used, but out of sight out of mind fails them. When the cases intertwine none want to work with one another, but as professionals they know they must to prevent the horrors that have occurred. Besides three lead police detectives, Sandra Ruffen merges her investigative subplots into an excellent police procedural.

Eyes of the World
Rob Palmer
9780843956764, $7.99

The election for the next President of the United States is two weeks away, but appears to be a historical one. Carolyn "Lynnie" Connor is leading comfortably in all the major polls and looks ready to become the first female president. Her spouse former naval chaplain "Saint Devon" is a popular individual as he does missionary work around the world; currently the future First Man is in Africa. The only thing that could derail Lynnie's trip to the White House is a mega scandal. That possibility exists because of her affair with her childhood friend, who saved her life during a fire that killed his sister; her trysts with Michael "Mike" Stanbridge will not be forgiven by the voters as she is cuckolding her paragon of a husband.

Reverend Eve Tessmer has set up a "This Is Your Life" for Lynnie in her home town. She has arranged guest speakers to represent each phase in Lynnie's life, except for when she was in Arizona. Eve's friend Archibald "Archie" Pascoe takes some of the Arizona documents home to peruse in an effort to determine a suitable speaker. That same night someone kills Eve and takes her Arizona file except what Archie possesses. The police suspect Mike killed Eve. When someone tries to murder Archie, Mike knows he is the only target of the Feds for this attempted murder and an unknown assassin who he fears is working for a famous person he knows intimately.

With the obvious connections to the real election aside, this is an exciting thriller as a lone nobody becomes the focus of an assassin, the media, and law enforcement. Though somewhat over the top readers will enjoy the fast-paced EYES OF THE WORLD as Mike will remind the audience of Cary Grant's character psychiatrist Thorndike in NORTH BY NORTHWEST.

Divorcing Dwayne
J.L. Miles
Cumberland House Publishing
431 Harding Industrial Park Drive, Nashville, TN 37211
9781581826500, $14.95, 1-888-439-2665

Francine Harper muses how she met Dwayne at a pig-pull and married him once but divorced him twice as she relaxes in the Hall County, Georgia jail. She was arrested for killing their bed given to them by her daddy. Actually she was jailed for trying to shoot Dwayne and Carla the Peel 'n Squeal stripper, who were fiddling around in her bed, but her three shots missed them and murdered the bed instead.

Francine thinks nothing of her murdering the bed as little disturbs her since an alligator crashed her wedding except the love of her life cheating on her. However the county's District Attorney Warren Wilson plans to use criminal prosecutions of dangerous felons like Francine to get elected as the next governor. However, not one to sit idly by and be used by a political a-hole, Francine and her best friend Ray Anne Pickles conducts their own inquiries into the town of Pickville Springs, the Greenwich Village of North Georgia; that is in between her courtroom trial.

This amusing regional tale is a fun "grit-lit" story (per J.L. Miles) that readers will appreciate. Francine and Ray Anne go from the frying pan into the fire with each inquiry they make. The heroine's asides provide the audience a deep humorous look at Northern Georgia as her insight is fun to follow especially when Hollywood invades Pickville Springs. Zany and over the top of the still recognized southern end of the Appalachia trail that actually extends into Alabama, fans will enjoy the antics of Francine as she is DIVORCING DWAYNE again.

Night Child
Jes Battis
Ace Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780441016020, $6.99, 1-800-847-5515

She is an Occult Special Investigator for Vancouver Mystical Crime Lab which is part of the Central Occult Regulation Enterprise. They are mages who try to prevent demons from harming humans. Currently the two sides have a working truce that is about to be tested.

In the middle of the night Tess Corday and her partner Derek are called to the crime scene featuring a murdered vampire. The telepath at the crime scene picks up images of the vampire's last moments filled with fire and a teenage girl. In the vampire's pocket is a picture of himself and his sire as well as an address. Tess and Derek visit the home of Cassandra and her niece Mia. They are shocked to realize the aunt is a demon and the niece is a mage whose powers remain surprisingly dormant. Mia confides that the vampire was in her guardian's home. A vampire attacks the two investigators, but they escape unharmed. They get into further trouble when they are warned then ordered by their superiors to stay away from Mia. Tess feels a strong affinity for Mia so she risks her life and her job to keep the focus of seemingly everyone's interest safe.

NIGHT CHILD will appeal to a wider audience then just the obvious Dresden urban fantasy crowd. The world building is fabulous as the audience will feel like Jes Battis' humans are caught in the middle of a cold war that could go hot in a nanosecond between mages and demons. Adding to the depth of the characterizations is both sides have good and bad members with their ethics being extremely complex. Fans will appreciate this tour of the Battis universe where the supernatural, the natural, and the hybrid live together in a not so peaceful co-existence.

Code Spell
Kelly McCullough
Ace Books
9780441016037, $6.99

Magical has gone digital in the twenty-first century with magic performed on the MWeb which uses computers formed by webgoblins. Both forms are sentient and Melchior, Ravirn's familiar is loved by the man who once owned him then set him free when he realizes he was sentient. After fighting Hades, he was turned into a Chaos entity with his own House of Raven. While in Hades, he rescued Persephone and his girlfriend's webgoblin Shara. He e-mails her to Raven's girlfriend Cerice. He did not realize that Persephone created a virus that she placed in Shara.

Now the magic of the mweb is chaotic and working at fifty percent capacity. Cerice leaves Ravirn to repair the supercomputer Necessity and because she belongs to the House of the Fates where order is obsessive and she realizes she cannot cope with the chaos Raven brings. Necessity is a goddess who turned herself into a supercomputer so that magical users can access the multiverse while the Fates are subordinates to the compute. The Fates hope to repair the machine, but under their control. Ravirn is backed by the Furies to fix their mother Necessity so that the Fates will not have control of her. He holds all the powers of the world in his fingertips, which leads to many wanting him dead before he repairs Necessity.

This is a fun to read fantasy filled with irreverent witticisms, plenty of action, and a mind boggling romantic subplot. The protagonist has become a demigod and has a new outlook while juggling romances, avoiding enemies and relatives who in some cases are both, and fixing a sentient computer. Ravirn has a dry wit and a streak of kindness that at times gets him in trouble but endears him to readers as he bumbles and fumbles with a CODE SPELL.

Phaedra Weldon
Ace Books
9780441015931, $14.00

While walking out of her body one day Zoe Martinique clashed with a Sybiont she calls Trench Coat from the Abysmal plane. She changes into a Wraith when something happens to her or her loved ones. When she is OOB and Wraith, Zoe is not human, but Other. Trench Coat took her voice and gave her his mark on her hand. Zoe is able to use her new powers as a Traveler and a Wraith to work as a private investigator.

Since she hasn't completed her last assignment for Maherba, she is forced to acceptfor him her them or it an assignment at a benefit at the Atlanta's Westin Plaza; where she is to listen in on a conversation between Congressman March Knowles and Atlanta based businessman Francisco Rodriguez. She hears about two groups, a shipment and something in it that two groups want. She learns these groups somehow linked to three homicides with missing body parts from each victim. Two groups want to catch Zoe in order to control or kill her, but she does her best to elude them while her powers grow. However even she is not strong enough to override the Compulsion of the Command Eidolon that one of her adversarial group's leaders places on her. She is his to command unless her friends can free her.

The supernatural beings are fascinating characters in SPECTRE whether they are daimon, symbiont, shade or ghost; as each has a distinct personality. Zoe remains ignorant as to the extent of her powers or how much they will expand, but though she is often more Other than human and the Wraith is her dark side, she remains an independent free thinker trying to do what she believes is morally right for humanity. This is a great urban fantasy that will have fans anxiously waiting for the next installment in Zoe's saga.

The Prefect
Alastair Reynolds
Ace Books
9780441015917, $25.95

Panoply Prefect Tom Dreyfus is a highly regarded law enforcement official whose beat is the Glitter Band habitats that surround Yellowstone planet. His superior Jane Aumonier assigns him to investigate the shocking destruction of Ruskin-Sartorious Bubble habitat that left over nine hundred dead in a mass murder attack. Tom understands the significance of the motive is not just to help identify the culprits, but to understand why so as to prevent more assaults on innocent people.

At the same time that Tom begins his inquiries into the horrific case, Deputy Field Prefect Thalia Ng works on programming to prevent fraudulent voting following an incident at the House Perigal in which six died. As Tom works his case and Thalia tests her patch, Jane is removed from duty at a time she is considered critical by field prefects. Tom believes an unknown person or group has put together a clever diabolical plot to take control of the entire Glitter Band.

The latest Revelation Space thriller is an excellent science fiction police procedural as Dreyfus is at his best uncovering a conspiratorial scheme one clue at a time. The story line is fast-paced as the Prefects investigate several goings-on besides the prime mass murder case; interestingly Alastair Reynolds cleverly uses the cases to provide some history and geography enough for newcomers to understand the Glitter Band and for long term fans not to be irritated. Although the conspirators remain for the most part behind the scenes so never flushed out beyond their objective, fans will appreciate this excellent whodunit in Outer Space.

Daemons Are Forever
Simon R. Green
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451462084, $23.95, 1-800-847-5515

Secret agent Eddie Drood misses his carefree days as he detests being the family patriarch of a bunch of snobbish people who many of them consider him the enemy. Making matters worse for Eddie is the seemingly zillion deals his kin made in WWII with devils to battle the Nazi otherworldly horde. After exposing the scandal, the paranormal keep coming around to collect their debt; some from him as the default "co-signer" even though at the collection encounter is when he learns he is held responsible for family member IOUs.

Eddie also learns the Hungry Gods have come simply to take over the world. He enlists his girlfriend wood-witch Molly Metcalf, his Cousin Harry's hellspawn half-brother Roger Morningstar, and the Drood family Armourer known for his gizmos in an effort to save the world from invaders.

DAEMONS ARE FOREVER, the second satirical "James Bond" Drood fantasy (see THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TORC) is the usual Simon R. Green's frantic, fast-paced frolic as Miss Penny Drood insists the hero just save the world with a gizmo or two. Filled with puns normally seen only in a Xanth novel and lampooning what is in and out, fans will appreciate Eddie Drood's turning 007 into 700.

Into the Storm
Taylor Anderson
9780451462077, $23.95

At the onset of World War II, the desperate allies put into the navy several warships that have seen their better days. Commander Matthew Reddy leads one of them; a destroyer that he fears will fail. When the enemy engages his vessel, Matthew realizes how helpless they are; he orders his men to steer into the eye of a nasty storm to elude their foes.

However, Matthew fully understands what it means to jump from the frying pan into the fire when the storm abates; he and his crew find themselves in a world where dinosaurs live and humans are non existent. However Matthew learns of two sentient races at war; each side demands he join them as his junk ship is superior by far to what either side possesses.

With a nod to Star Trek and DC comics, INTO THE STORM is an engaging military science fiction parallel earth thriller. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action. On the plausible side is this alternate earth with dinosaurs and sentient races and the crew entering the "portal"; on the doubtful column is the impact of a broken down destroyer on a world war (potential technological leaps in the long run aside). Still fans will appreciate Taylor Anderson's fine tale.

Holly Lisle
Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765309945, $27.95, 1-888-330-8477

In Korre, Aaran is an experienced very successful "veteran tracker of slaves"; having attacked slave ships on the seas to free the human cargo. However, his mission this time is personal; he seeks his missing sister, who disappeared without a trace a long time ago. He knows the trail is cold, but feels he must try.

The female slave has achieved the impossible twice; first surviving the abuse of her owner the Osselene Order and second somehow becoming an oracle, Hawkspar the demigoddess. She has learned of a nefarious plot that could eradicate a race and knows how to save the lives of thousands by using her skill to change the flow of Time through the amulet Eyes of War, but at the cost of her life. However this former slave needs to be rescued before she beginsand Aeran hears her magical song.

The second Korre fantasy (see TALYN) is an exciting thriller that feels like Dungeons and Dragons on the open sea as much of the non-stop action occurs on oceans. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as one adventure follows another. However all the escapades also keep most of the cast from being fully devleoped especially villains. Still this is an engaging entry as HAWKSPAR who has not lived a gentle life finds herself caught in a personal dilemma between being a dead heroine for people who have mistreated her or a live coward.

A Fire in the North
David Bilsborough
Tor Books
9780765318930, $25.95

In the tunnels under the mountains of Eotunlandt, Nibulus leads the Questor survivors of the battles as they struggle to reach the surface where they expect their enemies the Thieves will attack them en masse. Instead when they finally reach the outside, no one eerily awaits to ambush them.

Bolldhe heads towards the next fight with the resurrected evil lord Drauglir and his horde. He expects the engagement to occur somewhere near Vaagenfjord Maw, but has little hope to win except for the strange sword he now possesses.

Gapp and Methuselech reach Wrythe where the malevolent necromancer Scathur has quietly ruled for centuries while regaining strength lost five hundred years ago on Lyndormyn, Peladanes defeated the evil rawgr Drauglir and his supernatural minions; he quickly knows who Methuselech's soul is and imprisons both of them, but they escape with his horde in pursuit. Soon everyone heads for Melhus Island and its underworld where the armies of the dead await to add to their ranks.

This is a direct sequel to The Wanderer's Tale that takes time to get started as the various key players and their allies are established for new readers. Once the action accelerates there is no slowing down as this military fantasy goes into hyperspeed with confrontations seemingly everywhere. With all the various armies at war and new leaders and heroes emerging, A FIRE IN THE NORTH still pares down to the destined Wanderer who remains the only one who can save an apathetic prosperous world from the malevolent Drauglir and the wicked necromancer Scathur as The Annals of Lindormyn move forward.

Peter Watts
Tor Books
9780765315960, $14.00

In the near future, the energy crisis has hit geometric proportions that no one anticipated just a few years earlier. Desperate for new clean sources leads to of geothermal sources deep in the ocean in places like Juan de Fuca Rift off the Canadian Northwest Pacific coast. However, it takes a special type of person to become a maintenance worker at the dangerous underwater power plants; employees must be psychotic to ignore their surface lives and agree to surgical alteration to cope with the ocean's extreme pressure.

The brave (most surface dwellers insist insane) amphibious workers relish the undersea volcanic environs. However, none under and above realize what else resides in the Rift besides the newcomer rifter human species. There lives ancient bacterium has found a host to take them from the ocean depths to the continents. Soon mankind finds itself in a war of the worlds in which human resistance seems nil.

This reprint of a cautionary late 1990s thriller affirms how accurate Peter Watts predicted the energy crisis, but the crux of the tale is the underwater world from real biology and geography to the typical human disregard to the ecosystem. Though no character truly stands out even the deadly bacterium, the end of the world scenario with its anti heroes makes for compelling reading.

Keeper of Dreams
Orson Scott Card
Tor Books
9780765304971, $27.95

The collection is broken into categories with six Science Fiction entries; eight Fantasies; two Literary; two Hatrack River (short novels related to Alvin Maker); and four Mormon Stories. Each entry has notes afterward in which Orson Scott Card provides additional information. The compilation showcases the depth of the author as Mr. Card runs the gamut of the sci fi-fantasy continuum. Many have children especially teens and the lead characters are caught up in complex moral scenarios or questions on ethical choices. The "nonreligious" Mormon tales are obviously timely and although Mr. Card explains that he targets Mormon readers as a Mormon writer; other fans might think these are "weird", but many of these others in the audience will still appreciate tales of characters facing personal crisis inside a "ward". Well written throughout, readers will relish the deep yet wide skills of Mr. Card to coax his audience to think beyond his enjoyable KEEPER OF DREAMS.

The Book of Summer
James F. David
Tor Books
9780765351470, $6.99

God spoke to the Christians and gave his Chosen one a vision of a new world along with the science and technology to make it happen. He delivered on his promises and the Fellowship landed on America, which was not the world God granted them. Among the passengers are blacks who want to have a better lifestyle. They remained on planet America; when soldiers from earth arrived to eradicate them, the settlers defeated them. The blacks are the masters while the whites are the slaves.

Summer is a slave who is owned by Master Rice; though she abhors him she believes he will make her his concubine like he did with her mother. When Rice kills the man she loves, Summer runs off to a hiding place.. There she meets Rey Mann, who has traveled the world after twenty years of being alone on the other side. He hoped the Fellowship would return him from exile, but is unaware they are gone. He has encountered severe loneliness and endured horrific hardship until he meets Summer; he delivers her baby. When Summer is captured and taken to town for punishment, Rey goes to rescue her unintentionally starting a freedom revolt.

The sequel to JUDGMENT DAY is a fascinating racial bending reversal of the Antebellum South. Summer craves freedom and is willing to die to achieve it. Master Rice is a fully developed villain who is a product of his society as he nor his peers see his actions as evil; instead Summer is property to abuse and discard on a whim; his rage drives him over the edge as he wants the power his mother-in-law possesses. This is superb thriller filled with redemption and faith as some believe God has abandoned his children, but others strongly disagree.

Books of the South: Tales of the Black Company
Glen Cook
Tor Books
9780765320667, $15.95

"Shadow Games". The Black Company took heavy losses at the battle of the Tower of Charm. Croaker leads what is left of his comrades in arms on a quest to find the lost Annals in order to bring it to the free companies' birth city Khatovar that may not exist outside of ancient history or perhaps mythos. The expedition is dangerous from the natural predators, but they must deal with shadowmaster wizards who believe humans are expendable at a time the squad still hurts.

"Dreams of Steel". Following another devastating battle at Degajore, Croaker is missing and probably dead. A former brutal wizard-empress, Lady is in charge of those members of the Black Company that escaped the city's death trap. She struggles to rally her force as they must make a desperate attack on the seemingly invincible shadowmaster wizards.

"The Silver Spike". As much of the Black Company survivors trek south in search of legendary Khatovar, some depart. Darling rejects Raven, who becomes bitter and an alcoholic until Philodendron Case begins to help him. Darling and Silent return to their underground haven. Others are also in retreat and hiding.

This omnibus contains books 4-6 and is a natural follow-up to the first omnibus reprint (see CHRONICLES OF THE BLACK COMPANY containing the first three tales - The Black Company, Shadows Linger, and The White Rose). The fine military fantasy saga holds up well through books 4 and 5 and the twists appear plausible as Glen Cook provides the full impact of war on people. However, the Omnibus edition enhances flaws as Lady seems to have the same command voice as Croaker that is blatantly obvious when reading Shadow Games and Dreams of Steel and The Silver Spike is a fascinating sidebar tying up some dangling threads, but feels out of place (though it is my personal favorite). Still the Black Company remains strong military fantasy.

Bring Down the Sun
Judith Tarr
Tor Books
9780765303974, $22.95

The flirtatious Polyxena knows she is a beauty and acts accordingly though that is not normal behavior of an acolyte of the Mother goddess. When Philip of Macedon meets the enticing playful Polyxena, he is enchanted by her beauty and her sexual lure. He calls her Myrtale the "crowned one" and pledges to make her his queen when he becomes king.

No longer using the name Polyxena, Myrtale ruthlessly uses her sexual appeal and her connection to the Mother goddess to further the ambitions of her now husband Philip. Her plan is to do likewise when her unborn son the heir is old enough. No one will stand in the way of Myrtale as she plots power and greatness for her family.

The power behind the throne of Philip is his ambitious cunning wife; that is the essence of this engaging biographical fictional account of the mother of Alexander the Great. The story line actually ends with the birth of Alexander; so expect a sequel when her son becomes the ruler and her ambition is as strong as ever. Although the opening sequence when she is still Polyxena pales next to her as Myrtale, fans will appreciate this deep look at a woman the history texts ignore, but proves as powerful in her way as her more famous husband and son.

Jay Lake
Tor Books
9680765317094, $25.95

Paolina Barthes has lived her entire life in Praia Nova on the Wall that separates north and south earth in the Atlantic, but is off of nowhere and inhabited by ship survivors and castaways. She is ecstatic when she has a chance to leave her home and see the world. Her vague goal is to reach England, as she has heard that the country is the most civilized nation in the world.

Paolina is unaware of how powerful a mage she is. She is unaware that some people will use her naivety for avaricious reasons while others see her as a deadly weapon. However, though unsophisticated Paolina is a genius in spite of her home having seven books in all, emotionally strong and will not be anyone's patsy, but will she recognize in time when she is being taken advantage of.

Returning to his precision world of MAINSPRING, Jay Lake provides another unique entertaining science fiction-fantasy thriller that adds to the mythos of the heavenly clockwork yet it is so different from the first entry. The story line is character driven and not just by the young heroine although she is the prime star. Readers will enjoy following her adventures off the Wall where civilized cynics abound to use or kill the untrained but extremely talented mage.

Feast of Fools
Rachel Caine
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451224637, $5.99, 1-800-847-5515

An hour from her home, Claire Danvers attends Texas Prairie University in Morganville, Texas. She has learned a lot in her time away from her parents about life, death, and the undead. One of her roommates is a rookie vampire; while another is the son of a vampire killer; the third one is a more typical American warm blooded teen, a Goth. Claire works for the school's Founder Amelie the vampiress and daughter of a royal ancient vampire. Humans and vampires live in peaceful coexistence in Morganville, but Claire knows not to venture out in the dark alone.

The harmony between the species ends when Amelie's father Mr. Bishop arrives with his superiority complex that frightens everyone even his daughter who wonders why he came. He believes his race is homo superior to the sapiens worms who are just dessert. At a formal ball in his exalted honor, he begins his scheme to insure vampire supremacy with him at the top of the pyramid and humans in the ooze below the base. Mr. Bishop is prepared for all contingencies except for the fact that he underestimated two females, his daughter's belief in equality and that warm blooded teenage nuisance Claire; to correct his mistake, he will enjoy dining on raw Claire.

Although there is a short recap of the three previous tales (see GLASS HOUSES, THE DEAD GIRLS' DANCE and MIDNIGHT ALLEY), it behooves the young adult audience to read those tales first to get a deeper flavor of the life and undead in Morganville. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action from the onset as Mr. Bishop displays his presence by simply sitting down in a kitchen chair so majestically Claire thinks of a king on a throne. The tale never decelerates as Mr. Bishop begins his opening moves in a chess game while Amelie and Claire try to counter. Ending with a bit of a cliffhanger, fans of the series will appreciate FEAST OF FOOLS, but would have preferred a more substantial climax.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Across the Road
Story by Andra Smith-Hansen, Illustrations by Linda Wolfe
Blue Scarab Press
P.O. Box 4966, Pocatello ID 83205
9780937179161 $10.00

This is a delightful book, perfect for young children who enjoy reading or being read to. The story is presented through words and illustrations children can understand and remember. The characters are loving and brave, the lessons kindly and gentle.

Timmy is a good little boy who takes care of his dog Tito, helps with chores around the house, and minds his mother. They live in the country, far from town, across the road from a forest. Timmy listens to his mother when she tells him he must never walk along the road or go into the forest, but he often wonders why he can't explore beyond his yard. Timmy is smart, careful, and curious and minds what his mother tells him. He and Tito run and play in the pasture on his side of the road, watching the horses graze, examining flowers and weeds and listening to the breezes blow through the forest. He understands that dangers lurk in the woods -- coyotes, moose, and bears -- so throughout the summer he whittles and picks raspberries and gathers stones. At night he dreams of dangerous animals in the woods and wonders when he will be grow up to be a big boy.

Timmy's transformation from little boy to big boy comes when Tito runs off into the woods and does not return when he is called. His mother gently prepares him for the possible outcomes of Tito's absence, and by story's end, Timmy has a better understanding of what it means to be a good big boy. This charming book is highly recommended for young children.

The Filmmakers
Michael Corrigan
VBW Publishing
P.O. Box 9949, College Station TX 77842
9781602641358 $13.95

I like film noir and gritty mysteries so Michael Corrigan's latest book reflects the best of both. This is a dark tale and would make an exciting action thriller.

Steven Demko is a long way from northern Canada when he arrives in L.A. via San Francisco. He's young, attractive and talented, a hopeful student at the American Film Institute. Felicity Brown makes his stopover in San Francisco memorable for the great sex they share, the cocaine she provides, and her unexpected murder. That murder and the killing in self defense of her hitman sets the tone for Steven's life from that point on. He has to stay one step ahead of the mobsters responsible for Felicity's death, not because he killed one of their own, but because he lifted three million dollars of their money from the dead woman's apartment. Life in L.A. is far from glamorous, but pretty women are plentiful and so are the drugs that keep his juices flowing. He plans to produce and direct a film with the mob's three million dollars, if he lives long enough.

Charismatic characters add interest to the story. Ray West is a screenwriting fellow at A.F.I. who befriends Demko early on and partners with him on a film project. At forty, West is old by L.A. standards. His unfortunate love affair with a dying woman is an intriguing sub plot, as is his struggle to keep Demko clean and sober. Detective Bryan Martin is a hard nosed cop who falls in love with a woman of questionable background. Both Martin and his lover get caught in the firefight between mobs in search of Demko. From San Francisco to L.A. to cocaine detox to Idaho, Martin follows the trail of Steven Demko and the mobsters out to kill him.

If you think this book sounds like a superficial potboiler, think again. Michael Corrigan's writing style makes the read worthwhile. He draws readers into the life of Steven Demko with prose that grabs and won't let go:

"Steven paid the bill, his heart thudding as he walked to the old battered Ford. Driving toward distant Malibu, the open highway seemed so lonesome, deadly, and seductive. After post-Victorian San Francisco, Los Angeles was a swarming, disordered world; he quickly got lost on the intricate maze of freeways, driving through smog until he found the downtown bus station where he checked Felicity's suitcase into a locker. He got off the freeway and drove Los Feliz Boulevard past Griffith Park and the American Film Institute that had once been a Catholic girls' school. Steven rented a small apartment looking out onto a street lined with palm trees, somehow naked and oppressive looking.

Lying on his sleeping bag on the hot empty apartment floor, he drank whiskey and tried to clear his mind, staring at the strange glow on the ceiling from outside street lights. Somewhere, Dylan was singing a song about crossing the line. He tried to sleep and dreamed of Felicity dead and himself driving into a black hole with a roaring in his ears."

Will Steven survive to make movie history? Or will the mobsters win? You'll have to read the book to find out.

I Ask the Stars To Bring Me Home Again
Harald Wyndham
Limberlost Press
17 Canyon Trail, Boise ID 83716
No ISBN $12.00

It's a rare treat when a new book by Harald Wyndham appears in my mailbox. His work, like so many other Idaho poets and writers, celebrates their glorious natural surroundings and the quality of life their home state provides. This limited edition letterpress chapbook is visually beautiful as a perfect complement to the poems found between its covers.

In "Like Icarus" we share the poet's wild abandon as he becomes the soaring hawk:

O let me plunge from a great height,
Like a sharp-shinned hawk,
Swift as a bullet in the ice cold rush
Of air and cloud against my face…

….I spread the
Magnificent red and yellow wings held tight
Against my side during the descent
And soar like a winged god out of annihilation
To glide clean and beautiful over the long grass.

The healing power of nature is a gift that renews and refreshes after modern life has drained us dry. Wyndham reflects that healing in "Renaissance:"

Miles from home, but not
Far enough to escape
The worries of the week,
Wound upon open wound,
The stain of human news
Smudging the heart,
I stop beside a drifted bank
To catch my breath,
Lean on the walking stick,
And look out over the meadow
Deep with softening snow,
And the tracks of one small animal
Striking out alone,
Across the windblown crust,
Over the snow bridge covering the ravine,

Into the distant trees.

This excerpt from "The Great Snowbank" honors the past, present, and a dying friend. Any comment I might make pales in comparison to the poet's words:

The wet air smells of earth,
Ancient verities, reliable as spring,
The road softening and crimson spears
Piercing the gray mat of flat meadow grass.

My friend, the poet, is dying.
He will not see next winter's snow.
His poems bank the windward slope of sixty years
To nurture yet emerging generations.

Harald Wyndham uses metaphors he finds in nature to soothe frazzled nerves and calm anxiety. Through his poems, we hear "crickets crocheting the cool night air" and see a "rivulet, running like a ribbon." We stand beside him, amazed at "the Milky Way spilled out like whale sperm" in the night sky. For poetry lovers everywhere, this book would make an ideal gift and has my highest recommendation.

Poesy, Issue #36
A quarterly literary journal
Attn: Editor, Brian Morrissey
P.O. Box 7823, Santa Cruz CA 95061
ISSN 1541-8162 Subscriptions $12.00 per year

It's been awhile since I've reviewed a journal, so Poesy and I returned from hiatus together. After 18 years and 35 issues, Publisher / Editor Brian Morrissey took a year off to explore China. For this latest issue, Morrissey engaged a guest editor, Erika King, a student of literature and art history at Bennington College in Vermont. Her internship is the latest in many transitions for Poesy.

Morrissey began Poesy's journey when he was fourteen and living on the east coast. Since that first edition, Morrissey's vision has never flagged. He wanted his literary journal to be the best on the market, one that provides photographic and poetic adventures into the unknown for readers in every issue. After his move to the west coast, Morrissey was concerned that Poesy might become regional in flavor and interest instead of reflecting the work of poets across America. He contacted poet and journalist, Doug Holder, who became the east coast editor. Their editorial collaboration produced the results Morrissey wanted.

This latest issue features breathtaking photographs in black and white that effectively capture the spirit of the poetry. In Poesy, the poetry, photographs, interviews, and commentaries become the stars through simple-yet-striking presentation. Work by 16 poets and 5 photographers blend beautifully to reflect the harsh truths, stark sorrows, fragmented souls, and joy hungry spirits that comprise our chaotic world. Also memorable is an article by Doug Holder about Harris Gardner, the real estate broker and substitute teacher who single handedly founded the Boston Poetry Festival. Erika King's interview with the Guerilla Poets Project so intrigued me that I checked their website. The GPP is a consortium of small presses, poets, and writers who want poetry to matter again, with or without sales. To that end they disperse broadsides throughout the world for readers to discover as a surprise when they purchase books or check them out from libraries.

Taken as a whole, Poesy is an exceptional journal created by visionaries. Its very simplicity inspired excitement in this old poet-writer-reviewer-photographer on many levels. From the editors to the poets and photographers to the layout, this journal is unique and highly recommended.

The Bag of Broken Glass
Poems by Yerra Sugarman
The Sheep Meadow Press
P.O. Box 1345, Riverdale NY 10471
1931357587 $13.95

Yerra Sugarman is an award-winning poet whose work has been featured in numerous journals and publications. Her work here is reminiscent of an Old Testament psalmist, giving voice to the dark peripheries and wounds of life with lyrical grace and quiet elegance. Through skillful poetic forms and simple words, she creates powerful moments in time. Whether inhabiting the ancient past, detailing a troubling presence, or looking to an unknown future, she speaks with a universal voice.

"Through the Portholes of the Eyes" expresses eloquently the grief and fear of watching her dying mother prepare for the end of life:

But I could no more unclench
my stare from her being
than untangle my fear

that in dying
she was also forgetting
my name.

In "My Bag of Broken Glass" the poet contemplates Poland of 1939 and Canada in 1978. These two excerpts from that poem reflect the stunning clarity and beauty of Sugarman's memories of fear and death in Poland, love and survival in Canada:

Beneath the blood bitter moments,
are there only blowing voids or brittle essentials?

Words fall like long hairs on her mind's floor.
Images get caught in memory's teeth.

Surgarman entwines an individual sorrow with the universal in "Journal: Rai'ut Coma Ward, Tel Aviv-Yaffo, July 2003." Her mother's youngest sister languishes there in an unconscious state:

To connect the body's pain
with the pain of the body's world
like the hand's double,
its shadow on a leaf
of paper in this coma room's caul of light --

But you don't wonder who tenders
the bitter or who measures

the weeping and the ravaged. History bears you
in its unconsummated peace
where it always stops
and you retreat
from the world not knowing

your history or yourself.

In "Sacred are the Broken" the poet memorializes the legacy of Ruth Apteker, a half-Jewish, half-German woman whose greatest accomplishments and possessions were resurrected from a dumpster:

The body can die alone on an uptown stoop,
seeking refuge from its bug-filled studio.
And the damned, duplicitous mist
will weave a pall from its once soft cloak.
You see how we're born:
solitary, dying, holy, broken.

And sacred are the broken, the inconstant,
the distracted genius, curmudgeon, refugee,
and the one who would offer an only pair of good shoes to a victim of fire.

Critics have described the poetry in this book as invaluable, extraordinary, eloquent, luminous and masterful. Such praise is understatement. The Bag of Broken Glass has my highest recommendation.

In the Dead of Winter: An Ivy Towers Mystery
Nancy Mehl
Heartsong Presents Mysteries
An Imprint of Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 721, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781597895224 $6.95

Reviewing a cozy mystery is a new experience for me, but I became an immediate fan of the genre. Nancy Mehl weaves her cozy spell so skillfully that I was enthralled from page one. Ivy Towers is an appealing heroine, Winter Break, Kansas the ideal location, and supporting characters lend depth to the delicious plot.

Ivy Towers holds fond childhood memories of Winter Break and her Great Aunt Bitty. Ivy's parents are missionaries to China. Bitty nurtured the girl in her parents' absence. Many happy, comfortable times were spent in Miss Bitty's Bygone Bookstore. Now Bitty has died, leaving everything she owns to Ivy, including the book store. Winter Break is a tiny Kansas town where winter comes early and leaves late. The book store never changes. Outside a wintry wind blows sleet and snow against the windows, but inside Bitty's store Ivy finds a familiar sanctuary: the scent of lemon oil and smell of old books, a warming fire crackling in the fireplace, the old grandfather clock, and a purring cat. Cozy. Safe. Comforting. Ivy knows Aunt Bitty considered death to be a "home-going" and not a loss, but the truth is immediately apparent and troubling. Bitty's death was not the accident it seemed at first, and someone helped Ivy's aunt get to heaven prematurely. The small town book store owner and doting aunt was an expert in rare books and had clients all around the world. Did someone kill Bitty to possess a rare book? Or is the cause of death more sinister than that?

Mehl scatters tantalizing hints and red herrings throughout the story for readers to unravel. Did one of the colorful locals murder Bitty? Maybe the kindly owner of the Food-a-Rama didn't love Bitty as much as he pretends. Did her hired assistant weary of his labors and do Bitty in out of spite? And why is Amos Parker, Ivy's childhood friend turned sheriff, so insistent that she leave town immediately? I can almost guarantee readers won't solve the mystery before Ivy does.

If you love mysteries -- cozy, Christian, or otherwise -- you won't want to miss even one of the Ivy Towers books. Nancy Mehl's writing style is exceptional and her books highly recommended.

What the Heck Happened?
Shirley Priscilla Johnson
CreateSpace at
No mailing address
9781438224626 $12.96

I remember my 91-year old grandmother saying to me, "When did I get so old? Inside my mind I still feel 18." Shirley P. Johnson's book echoes that sentiment from the viewpoint of three generations. Although written from a fictional perspective, What the Heck Happened? hits the nail right on the head as far as aging is concerned. The author uses humor and realistic dialogue to their best advantage as the heroine investigates her way through the aging process. The relationship between Prissy and her patient husband, Fos, is particularly rich with detail. These fictional characters seem like real people. Every reader will find at least one character that seems familiar.

When Prissy and her husband Fos reach "a certain age", she decides to research aging and its effect on those around her. Her method is unscientific, perhaps, but the results are interesting to say the least. With input from the slyly humorous Fos, Prissy gathers all her friends together for in depth discussions on aging. I laughed out loud while Prissy, Fos, and their sometimes bewildered gang of friends discussed the vicissitudes of aging.

Ms. Johnson tells her tale with humor and a deep compassion for those who find themselves no longer blessed with nubile youth. Aging is one of life's inevitabilities. Her message is that we might as well accept things as they are and have a laugh or two along the way. Thanks for the grins and giggles, Ms. Johnson, and for answering the age-old question, What the Heck Happened?

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Shadows Before
Dorothy Bowers
The Rue Morgue Press
87 Lone Tree Lane, Lyons, CO 80540
091523081X $14.95

Dorothy Bowers was just establishing herself as one of the golden age mystery writers when she died of tuberculosis at the young age of 46. Her Inspector Dan Pardoe novels ended with the fifth, and she was elected to the prestigious Detection Club in 1948, shortly before she died. She was among the first women accepted to Oxford, and earned a degree in Modern History in 1926. She was also a crossword puzzle author, as well as earning her keep as a substitute teacher.

Professor Matthew Weir stood trial for the poisoning of his sister-in-law in 1937 and was declared not guilty. But suspicion lingered, so he packed up his family and moved to a house near Oxford. His wife is ailing, and a "companion" is called in to assist. Mrs. Weir enjoys picking herbs and preparing her own tea. But she is poisoned by her own tea, which brings Chief Inspector Dan Pardoe and Detective Sergeant Salt from Scotland Yard to investigate. They don't think that Professor Weir killed his wife and sister-in-law, but someone did, and just who benefits becomes the unifying factor:

"'Since we've aired the dangerous subject or murder,' Augustus went on, 'there are one or two things I would remind you of, Mr. Pardoe. After that, perhaps I may be left in peace to finish the octave of my sonnet. The first thing,' he placed one elegant forefinger against the other, 'is that with the death of Mrs. Weir my brother becomes a poor man and will undoubtedly be compelled to leave Spanwater. Therefore his dependents also become poor. Secondly, it might be both humane and expedient to discover why my nephew is a passionate upholder of euthanasia. He is an orphan…"

Authors from the "Golden Age" of mystery writing are known for two characteristics: the exquisite flow of their writing, and the 'whodunit' factor. Dorothy Bowers was a master in both areas. Her writing is sublime, and as soon as the reader fixes upon a suspect, deftly introduced by Ms. Bowers, that suspect is debunked either by becoming a victim, either alive or dead.

Ms. Bower's use of character and setting is also masterful, and the setting itself becomes part of the execution of the murder. She doesn't shy away from using the elements to build suspense, and of course this puts Scotland Yard to the test. It is a shame that Ms. Bowers couldn't have lived longer and given us more of a collection. But the little that she did will endure for those readers who appreciate the masters of crime. This whodunit should be made into a television movie!

Letters from a Dead Armadillo
Wendy Boucher
Hoyden Press LLC
PO Box 10476, Tampa, FL 33679
9780976676614 $13.50

Wendy Boucher is a woman of many skills. She holds an art degree from Southern Oregon University; a Masters Degree in Political Science from Portland State University, and a law degree from Cornell. She practiced law in Washington D.C. before relocating to Tampa, Florida. She now runs a publishing company, writes mysteries, and is involved in Asian Art, which intersects with her family heritage.

Sally Cotton has transferred to Florida to finish her law degree. She is looking forward to it on many levels. Her childhood friend Paul is there, so she has quick entry into Paul's social circle. Little does she know that a controversy is brewing between one of the women and another law student, which leads to extortion from another woman in Sally's new group of friends. There has been a tragic accident involving another law student. And there is a professor who has routinely played around with his students. But the most confusing relationship is one Sally forms within days of her arrival with a strange and handsome bartender who doesn't seem to fit in anywhere…or does he?

"'I approve of brothers.' He was smiling again, his sandwich consumed. 'I have to get back to work. Here's my phone number. Call me tomorrow morning if you are still interested and you can tell me where you live.' He got up from his chair and brushed his crumbs off the table. Sally appreciated his good looks one last time before getting up herself. He touched her arm as he moved past her towards the bar and bid her goodbye. Sally whistled as she walked home in the dark, oblivious to her usual fears about personal safety."

LETTERS FROM A DEAD ARMADILLO is a great mystery with modern day issues that is meant for virtually any audience. Mysteries involving universities automatically set a backdrop where anything can happen, and Ms. Boucher makes good use of this setting. Her plot is original; characters are well drawn; and the action begins with the first page to hold the reader's attention. She does a great job of masking her villain in the style of the master mystery writers. ARMADILLO just begs for a sequel. It is an engaging mystery set in sunny Florida, but wait…here comes a hurricane just as the action reaches a crescendo! Well done!!

When Last I Died
Gladys Mitchell
The Rue Morgue Press
87 Lone Tree Lane, Lyons, CO 80540
0915230852 $14.95

Gladys Mitchell is known as one of the "Big Three" English women mystery writers, along with Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. Her output was prestigious, with 67 books featuring Mrs. Bradley, some of which have been converted to television with Diana Riggs starring as Mrs. Bradley. WHEN LAST I DIED was inspired by the Borley Rectory, which was rumored to be one of the most haunted houses in England.

Considered one of the most educated women in England, Mrs. Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley boasts a medical degree; is a psychiatrist; works with the Home Office; and is a private sleuth with a chauffeur named George. Her looks are somewhat alarming, even repulsive, but she has a sweet voice and is so persuasive as to exact the answers from the mouths of murderers.

When a diary is found in a house of a woman tried for the murder of a professional ghost hunter, Mrs. Bradley decides to investigate. Did Bella Foxley murder her aunt to receive an inheritance, followed by the murder of her cousin and finally herself? She is found innocent of her cousin's murder and there is not enough evidence to warrant an arrest for her aunt's death. But is there more than meets the eye? And is the house she rented really haunted?

"Mrs. Bradley was silent for about a minute. Then she said: 'It seems to me that Bella Foxley was arrested on insufficient evidence.' 'Not if you read what the wife said at the inquest. She practically accused Bella Foxley of the murder, and the coroner's jury brought in a verdict accordingly. She let out—only, of course, it had to be suppressed—that she believed the real motive was that Tom knew Bella had murdered the ancient aunt. He was murdered to shut his mouth and to put an end to the blackmail.'"

Gladys Mitchell, as part of England's Detection Club, vowed to play fair with clues; never to use a sinister Chinaman; not to 'borrow' other writer's plots; and to keep their feet off the table during dinner. WHEN LAST I DIED is considered her best boo

Henrietta Who?
Catherine Aird
The Rue Morgue Press
87 Lone Tree Lane, Lyons, CO 80540
9781601870186 $14.95

The Rue Morgue Press, who publishes traditional mysteries from the Golden Age, presents Catherine Aird's Inspector C.D. Sloan mysteries. Aird's tales are completely fictional, from the setting (in this case Calleshire) to Catherine Aird's name, which is a pseudonym for Kinn Hamilton McIntosh. She was born in 1930 in Yorkshire, and credited her village life as a doctor's daughter, a onetime golfer, and editor/publisher of village histories as inspiration for her mysteries. As a child kidney problems waylaid her, and reading while recuperating provided the foundation for her writing style. HENRIETTA WHO? is her third book and was published in 1968.

Grace Jenkins moved to the out-of-the-way village of Larking with a baby girl and a story of a husband killed during the war. When Grace is run down by a car, the pathologist performing her autopsy discovers that she never had children and probably was never married. Young Henrietta Jenkins rushes home from college to discover that she doesn't know who she is or who her parents really were. She has only a photograph of her supposed father and medals that don't match up. To further confuse the picture, Henrietta and her beau, Bill Thorpe, see a man who she swears is the man in the photograph alive and walking down the street. But when Crosby and Sloan arrive at his home to interview him, they find him murdered:

"When they got to the back door it was ever so slightly ajar. It opened a little further at Sloan's knock, and when there was no reply to this, Sloan opened it a bit more still and put his head round. 'Anyone at home?' he called out. Cyril Jenkins was at home, all right. There was just one snag. He was dead. Very."

Catherine Aird's style is omnipresent, with clear, concise writing. She brought the mystery genre back to the "village cozy" mystery, with humor stepping forward and grisly details of the corpse fading into the background. Aird has many fans, including the New York Times reviewer Allen J. Hubin, who called this book one of the year's best.

Descent into Madness
Ron Lovell
Penman Productions
PO Box 400, 5920 La Plaza Place, Gleneden Beach, OR 97388
9780976797852 $15.00

Ron Lovell is presently a member of the Journalism department at Oregon State University. In his lifetime he has been a magazine writer in Los Angeles, Houston, Denver, and New York. He has authored fourteen textbooks, hundreds of magazine articles, and a body of mystery books including MURDER AT YAQUINA HEAD; DEAD WHALES TELL NO TALES; LIGHTS, CAMERA, Murder!; MURDER BELOW ZERO; and SEARCHING FOR MURDER.

DESCENT INTO MADNESS begins with Professor Thomas Martindale sitting in a jail cell. It turns out that a body has been found with his bloodied university identification card within reach. Martindale's ex-girlfriend, in a fit of jealousy, jumps to a few far-fetched conclusions and arrests Martindale without any hard evidence. Martindale enlists the help of an excellent lawyer, who quickly points out that the I.D. of the body is in doubt. He and Martindale set out in search of the real killer AND Martindale's girl, who they believe is alive but in captivity. Their search begins with an abandoned mental hospital on the Coast of Oregon and in the suspect's lab, and sure enough, they find something:

"In all the other depressing remnants of the time the small band of migrants had rested here, I almost missed a crumpled up paper. I put it on the table and smoothed it out. It was a photo of the beach below my house in Newport with the Yaquina Head Lighthouse in the background. Maxine March had taken it a year ago, soon after I first met her; I suppose she could have taken the shot before we met that day."

Ron Lovell turns out his usual high-quality mystery, with lots of action. Professor Martindale is an unlikely but determined hero who forgets to prepare himself before setting out into dangerous territory. But his sleuthing abilities rise to the surface with a logical mind and a good heart. The reader follows Martindale's explorations with baited breath, and finally relaxes as he stumbles on to the answer.

The Coast of Oregon is a wonderful setting for a murder mystery, with its rough terrain and beautiful but dangerous tides. There is nothing like an abandoned institution to stir up uneasiness, and Lovell uses this setting, plus a host of vindictive law enforcement who refuse to see the real culprit, to best advantage. DESCENT INTO MADNESS is a quick and highly entertaining read from an accomplished author.

Good Night, My Darling
Inger Frimansson
Pleasure Boat Studio
201 West 89th St., #6F, New York, NY 10064
9781929355372 $16.00

Inger Frimansson grew up in and around various locales in Sweden. She presently lives in Sodertalje. She is Sweden's most popular author of psychological thrillers. She is known for showing the dark side of seemingly perfect families. She has received the Swedish Academy of Mystery Authors Award for Best Swedish Crime Novel for both


Justine Dalvik lost her mother when she was three. Her father was a businessman who traveled constantly. Like many men who lose their wives, he turned to the closest woman he could find and married her. She turned out to be an evil stepmother who was narcissistic and only wanted to control Justine. Her methods were cruel beyond belief, and Justine became a willing victim for her, a selfish and nasty clique of girls at school who tormented her, and finally, a willing sex slave to an older man who cried because he knew it was wrong. Finally, Justine snapped and the deaths began:

"Nathan was walking along the riverbank in order to find a spot to piss. No one saw her take Madh's blow pipe. No one saw her follow him, follow Nathan. He stood and contemplated the water and the rapids. He stood and rolled a cigarette. He had formed his mouth to whistle, but she didn't hear anything but the thunder of the waterfall. The dart hit him right between the shoulder blades."

The first thing one notices about Inger Frimansson's writing is the sheer power. The reader is right there with the unlikely anti-heroine, feeling her pain as she absorbs one outrage after another. This novel is an excellent psychological thriller, on par with something Alfred Hitchcock would have made into a movie. It is easy to understand Frimansson's popularity in Sweden. Her skill at creating the setting; characters; and plot is on par with a religious experience.

GOOD NIGHT, MY DARLING is not an easy novel to read. But once started, one simply can't put it down. Frimansson is a master storyteller.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Warriors Creed #1, first edition
created by John King
Guy Thing Press and International Men's Network

This was my first experience at reading a Warrior comic book, if I may call it that. I suppose being a woman I always opted for Archie so I could see how Betty was going to try and snag her man. However, this new comic for boys is quite interesting and very well done.

Created by Dr. John King, founder and president of the International Men's Network (IMN), this unique comic is packed full of adventure geared to bring excitement and adventure to young boys, or girls for that matter. It is a Christian-themed comic book which teaches biblical principles, such as courage, commitment and the importance of keeping your word.

In this first issue of Warrior's Creed we have the story of two brothers, Joseph and Paul. A terrible organization, the Black Hand, attacked their family and kidnapped their mother. We are taken in the future and Joseph sets off for revenge against those who he feels destroyed his life, anger and hatred burning in his soul. He finds himself in deep trouble and his brother Paul, who is a kickboxing pastor sets off to rescue him. Wow! Really great adventure building material, and the author did a great job in his description of the characters. He really brings them to life.

I have to say for a grandma I thought this was really good. I let an 8-year old friend of my granddaughter read this comic and he loved it. He wanted to know what happened, so I am sure he will be searching out the next issue. I believe the concept of teaching young boys biblical truths in this way is excellent, and I highly recommend this comic for all young believers, and for those who just want great adventure and entertainment.

Very well done, great illustrations as well. Excellent.

The Little Candy Breathing Dragons
Gloria Clark
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd. - 515, Parker, Colorado 80134
9781432715106 $12.95

In this absolutely delightful tale we meet two sisters Dragons named Maj and Nay-Nay. Oh don't worry, they are not your normal fire-breathing dragons, not these two. They breathe out wonderful candy scents that fill the air and bring pleasure to all around. One day they decide they will go on an adventure. As they travel along they meet many interesting characters, and each one seems to have a problem, some more serious than others. Maj and Nay-Nay do not hesitate to help each stranger that they meet and as they do they also realize they have helped themselves by the wonderful feeling they have by giving to others. They also learn how different each one can be, yet that only makes them more special. The author also adds a little adventure as the girls get lost in a storm and are afraid they may not find their way home. Now it is the girls who need help. Will they receive it? The illustrations in this book are great and definitely bring the words to life in a colorful, brilliant way.

It is a book with a message of acceptance of others, helping others, and learning about oneself, told in a delicious story that every child will embrace. Well done.

White Metal Murders
J. Bruce Monson
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd., Colorado 80134
9781432715403 $14.95

What happens when a man finds himself naked in bed with a beautiful woman, yet he can't even remember his name, nor hers? Should he rejoice or run for his life? Ah! the fun begins, in this humorous, entertaining, and tight written mystery by author, J. Monson. We meet Max Gumpers, P.I., or is that truly his name? Time will tell. Max is a very likeable fellow that trouble seems to follow around as he battles his amnesia, slowly recalling detail after detail of his life, and trying to solve a double murder on the side. Quite a boot full, won't you say?

The author weaves a great mix of characters in the read. Lovely ladies with their eye on Max. Cold blooded killers, greedy drug lords, helpful police detectives, and a very industrial dead man who certainly plotted a scheme of drug dealing that encircled a host of trouble and mystery for the living, as the road twisted this way and that, leading you down some promising ways that hopefully held some answers, only to find a dead-end. Good job. I want to make mention that the use of the model cars in this mystery certainly was not something I saw coming and really added a lot to the read because it was not the norm. I am not going to give it away, but I don't think anyone would have ever guessed what was going on with them, if it weren't for P.I. Gumpers and his great investigating work.

All in all a very good mystery read with just the right amount of who do it's and why's and just the right mix of likeable and unlikable characters. Very well done.

From Crime to Crime
Dennis Palumbo
Tallfellow Press,Inc.
9454 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 550, Beverly Hills, CA 90212
9781931290609 $24.95

In the beginning of this outstanding book we are taken into the lives of the Smart Guys Marching Society. Who are they? Four men, a lawyer, an actor, a journalist and a psychotherapist who come together each week to fellowship and share events and happenings that are important to them. And sometimes they just want to hang out and be guys. However, something strange begins to happen. All of a sudden they become involved in trying to solve different crimes that are taking place and with the help of Uncle Isaac, a houseguest of one of the men, there didn't seem to be a crime they could not solve. The character development of each one is perfect. You could picture them as though you were right in the room and as the book progressed you become comfortable and somehow become of part of the group. Although definitely a silent part. Strange, but true.

This is a collection of short mystery stories, which I really liked. I could pick up the book and read a story from beginning to end in one sitting. In each story the clues are given, although I wasn't very good at picking them up, and the reader has a chance to figure out whodunit before wise Uncle Isaac brings the matter to its conclusion. He's good, very good! Every mystery was different, at times the Marching Society would meet different places giving the reader a change of environment, which was good. Often the characters that were involved in someway in the crime were introduced adding spice to the read. At the end of this book you are also given two more stories, one featuring a female psychologist who uncovers a very terrifying secret with the police officer she is working with, and patent clerk named Albert Einstein who also has quite a mystery to unravel.

I have to say this was absolutely one of my top favorite books. It has personality, adventure, baffling mysteries, and very interesting likeable characters that you immediately became comfortable with. The writing is outstanding, giving mysteries that will definitely give any crime solver a run for their money. This is definitely one book that every mystery reader simply must have. You will find it hard to put down and when you are finished with the read you will definitely be hooked and wanting more. Very well done. Highly recommended.

Pelham Fell Here
Ed Lynskey
Mundania Press
6470A Glenway Avenue #109, Cincinnati, Ohio 45211-5222
1594264015 $14.95

In this action-packed adventure by Ed Lynskey we travel with Frank Johnson who finds his cousin Josh killed and Frank is determined to find out who did it. The problem, the police have fingered him for the crime and now Frank not only has to find the killer, but prove he isn't him. What a spot to be in. As Frank digs into his cousin's life he finds out some disturbing things and also is confronted with a couple of deputy sheriffs who are anything but on the side of the law, and Frank is their number one enemy, but why? To Frank's surprise he discovers a group of Neo-Nazis and it appears somehow his uncle's death is connected with them. No one is more surprised than Frank and he simply must find the answers. Is it possible his cousin was one of them?

I have had the pleasure of reading/reviewing both of author, Ed Lynskey's previous works, The Blue Cheer, and The Dirt-Brown Derby, and thought they were great works. However, I feel Mr. Lynskey has grown leaps and bounds in his writing ability with this new work. He has woven a mystery that has layers of intrigue, unanswered questions, characters that make you cringe and some that are endeared to your heart, and a plot as thick as molasses. He adds some personal touches in Frank's life that gives you insight into the heart of the man, which was a very good addition. This story draws you in and won't let you go until the conclusion. A very tight knit mystery read and one that I am proud to recommend. Good job.

Virus Games
G.L. Sheerin
Synergy Books
2100 Kramer Lane, Suite 300, Austin, Texas 78758
9781934454046 $11.95

I was totally amazed at this book. I never realized that such an adventure as I enjoyed in this book could be found based on computers. We meet young Peter Dempsey, a great young man, but one who doesn't seem to have what it takes when it comes to computers. However, that was about to change.

One night Peter is struck by lightening, and for some unexplained reason he was able to communicate with the "packets" in his computer. I had no idea what these were, but through reading I began to understand that they were actually what sends our communications throughout the internet. Peter befriends these "packet's," who by the way seem to have different personalities, and the world of computers opens up for him. However, another young man, Terry, creates and unleashes a super virus that is bringing destruction to computers world wide.

This virus is killing thousands of "packets," and may well cause the end of the internet. Peter and his friends set out to stop this virus, but will they be able to do it? The race is on. I have to say this was really a fun and interesting read. Totally out of the box as far a other young adult books I have read. I believe the author has found a way to take the love for computers that our youth have, and adults as well, and merge it with one great tale. This is one book you will truly enjoy reading from beginning to end. Recommended. Smart and very well done.

Dan and Derrick's Prayer to the Troops
Monalis Okhilua
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd. - 515, Parker, Colorado 80134
9781432707538 $15.95

In this work the author tells the story of two brother, Dan and Derrick. The two brothers have deep faith in God and that He has our lives in His capable hands. Their heart is moved towards the troops in Iraq and the families left behind. They organize a prayer meeting where each child holds up a prayer for the troops and their families and sing to the Lord. The author even gives several animals a part to play in their quest to help the troops. Doves and Eagles join their circle of love. The illustrations are colorful and definitely bring the story to life.

This is a work teaching children that they can make a difference in the lives of others by giving of themselves in love and prayer. It definitely would be a comforting book for children who are waiting for their loved one to come home, or those who need assurance that their lost loved one is safe in the arms of God.

The Squirrel, the Worm, and the Nut Trees
Jimmie Powell
Illustrations by Bobbi Switzer
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd. - 515, Parker, Colorado 80134
9781432713263 $15.95

The moment I saw this book by Jimmie Powell I had to giggle at the cover. I saw an adorable squirrel sitting in a tree with his basket of nuts and a crabby looking worm glaring at me. It made me wonder who the good guy would be in this children's tale. I had a sneaky suspicion. We are taken into the life of Mr. Squirrel and his happy little family. The Squirrel's are busy gathering nuts for the long winter that is ahead, but there is a problem. Mr. Worm and his group are destroying all the nuts before the squirrels have a chance to gather them. Oh no! Will Mr. Squirrel and his family make it through the winter? What will they do?

In this book author, Jimmie Powell brings to light quite a serious problem that the squirrels are facing. He has Mr. Squirrel try to solve the problem in one way, and when that does not work he has the squirrels come up with another idea where they must all work together in order to survive. I think this was great and shows children that when faced with a challenge never give up when one solution does not work. The illustrations are marvelous bringing each page to life. The expressions on the faces of the animals are perfect in showing the emotions they are feeling. This is a wonderful children's book. One that teaches the importance of problem solving in a great story with top-notch illustrations.

Very well done.

Rules Are Rules
Julie Scandora
Book Publishers Network
P.O. Box 2256, Bothell, WA 98041
9781887542647 $17.95

I have to say, as I read this story I definitely could relate to Maya, as I'm sure many children and adults will too. This little girl has a problem, one she desperately needs help with. She is told to follow a rule, but what happens when a rule makes you feel uncomfortable? Should you still have to follow it? Maya sits quietly in her forest and ponders what to do. She finds wisdom and is able to talk freely with a kindly woman friend and Maya musters up the courage to talk with her mom about this rule, and give her idea of a possible solution. "Rules Are Rules" is a very good book. The author blends the calmness that nature can bring into the child's life, the understanding that it is a good idea to talk with someone, and the realization they can come up with a possible solution. The watercolor illustrations add depth to the read and definitely help bring the story to life.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Obama Movement
Jospeh Vogel, compiler
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595467037, $12.95,

Barack Obama has, even months from the November 2008 election, come as far as any minority ever has come to capturing the presidency. "The Obama Movement: Why Barack Obama Speaks to America's Youth" is a look at Barack's explosion of popularity with the youth of America, asking various young voters throughout the country why they support Barack Obama – a segment of the voting population which is usually woefully under-represented in each election. "The Obama Movement: Why Barack Obama Speaks to America's Youth" is a deftly compiled and highly recommended addition to community library political collections.

Discreet Needs
David C. Morrow
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741443848, $14.95,

The Mass Murder by Charles Whitman in 1966 – the events of "Discreet Needs" spiral out from this horrific event. Stellera decides that she can't keep her urges under control anymore and must dive into a darker side of her world with people she would have had nothing to do with before all to satiate her desires – and must somehow keep her 'normal' life with family and friends going at the same time. "Discreet Needs" is a deftly written romance novel and highly recommended to anyone who wants their romance with a little edge.

Memories Vision
Ken Coleman
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
9781425797232, $19.99,

A large famous black entertainer and a small Jewish writer – not exactly an expected couple. "Memories Vision: The Fictional Story of Queenie Jones, the most famous, notorious, and controversial black female Entertainer of all time" follows the writer as he begins to hear the story of this woman and her life, and begins to become envious...and fascinated by her. In a truly unique story from first page to last, "Memories Vision: The Fictional Story of Queenie Jones, the most famous, notorious, and controversial black female Entertainer of all time" is highly recommended to anyone looking for something different and for community library fiction collections.

Where the Birds Go When It Rains
Jamie Paul Wesseler
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434315519, $25.95,

Everyone has secrets they've told no one- not many have entire stories vital to the knowledge of the world as a secret. In "Where the Birds Go When It Rains", Carey must tell his grandson everything he knows – that he can't possibly get from another source – before he set to pass on in a short two hours. Hoping to push a new archaeological theory alongside his riveting fiction, author Jamie Paul Wesseler provides quite the tale. "Where the Birds Go When it Rains" is a mix of fiction and metaphysical studies, and is highly recommended to community library collections.

John Taylor

Vicki's Bookshelf

Finding Daddy
Louise Plummer
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385730921 $15.99

Mira Kent is nearing her 16th birthday and wants to know more about a father she doesn't remember. Her mother tells her she has all his good qualities, but isn't specific. With nothing but a photo of her father, Mira wants more. She writes him imaginary notes: "Daddy, darling, where are you? I need you in my life. Aren't you curious about me? About school? I have a boyfriend named Dylan. Mom says you both made the decision during the divorce that you wouldn't be part of my life. It was easier, she says. It hasn't been easier for me. Look for me, dearest Daddy, and I'll look for you. I'll look until I find you." The author of "A Dance for Three" has managed to write a psychological thriller that is both romantic and scary.

The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine
April Lurie
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385731256 $15.99

A mother who split for another man. A father who works 24/7. An older brother who excels at everything—and smokes a lot of weed. A best friend, of the feminine persuasion, who only wants to be a friend, and who's shooting a film set in cool Greenwich Village, New York. Dylan Fontaine's life seems to be full of drama he can't control. But when he stars in his best friend's movie, Dylan discovers that, sometimes, life's big shake-ups force you to take risks -- and to step into the spotlight. This new problem-novel for teens is from the author of Brothers, Boyfriends, and Other Criminal Minds."

Lady Lazarus
Andrew Foster Altschul
Harcourt Inc.
525 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101
15 E. 26th St., NY, NY 10010
9780151014842 $25.00

This spectacular, sprawling debut novel tells the story of Calliope Bird Morath, daughter of legendary punk-rock star Brandt Morath -- whose horrific suicide devastated the world -- and his notorious wife, Penelope. The novel is narrated by both Calliope and her obsessive biographer, who follows her from her silent childhood to her first tortured, manic public statements about her father; from her highly publicized publication of a book of poetry to her mysterious disappearance; from her reappearance as the mute leader of a cult-like brigade known as The Muse to her spectacular showdown with the biographer. A disturbing and razor-sharp meditation on 21st-century celebrity culture – with heavy debt owed to the morbid true lives of Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love and their daughter, Frances Bean -- "Lady Lazarus" is also a funny and moving story about the age-old question of the nature of the self.

Soldiers of Reason: The Rand Corporation and the Rise of the American Empire
Alex Abella
Harper Collins
1350 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10019-4703
9780151010813 $27.00

The first-ever popular history of the RAND Corporation, written with full access to its archives, Soldiers of Reason is a page-turning chronicle of the rise of the secretive think tank that has been the driving force behind American government for 60 years. Born in the wake of World War II as an idea factory to advise the air force on how to wage and win wars, RAND quickly became the creator of America's anti-Soviet nuclear strategy. A magnet for the best and the brightest, its ranks included Cold War luminaries such as Albert Wohlstetter, Bernard Brodie, and Herman Kahn, who arguably saved us from nuclear annihilation and unquestionably created Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex." In the Kennedy era, RAND analysts became McNamara's Whiz Kids and their theories of rational warfare steered our conduct in Vietnam. Those same theories drove our invasion of Iraq 45 years later, championed by RAND affiliated actors such as Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, and Zalmay Khalilzad. But RAND's greatest contribution might be its least known: rational choice theory, a model explaining all human behavior through self-interest. Through it RAND sparked the Reagan-led transformation of our social and economic system but also unleashed a resurgence of precisely the forces whose existence it denied -- religion, patriotism, tribalism. With "Soldiers of Reason," Alex Abella has rewritten the history of America's last half century and cast a new light on our problematic present.

Just Grace Walks the Dog
Charise Mericle Harper
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780618959730 $15.00

Everyone's favorite Grace is back. And this time she has a dog. Unfortunately, he's only made of cardboard and rides a skate board. Grace is determined though to prove to her parents that she is responsible and dependable enough to get a real dog. Things young readers will learn in this book: Sometimes it is okay to be sneaky if you don't get caught; How to do flashlight Morse code; What happened at school that was exciting: nothing; How it feels to walk into your class after going to the principal's office; Many other things, but most important, how to convince your parents to maybe let you get a dog. A real one, not one made of cardboard. Adorable middle grade chapter book for fans of Clementine, Judy Moody, and Emma.

Minders of Make-Believe
Leonard S. Marcus
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780395674079 $28.00

An animated first-time history of the visionaries -- editors, authors, librarians, booksellers, and others -- whose passion for books has transformed American childhood and American culture. What should children read? As the preeminent children's literature authority, Leonard S. Marcus, shows incisively, that's the three-hundred-year-old question that sparked the creation of a rambunctious children's book publishing scene in Colonial times. And it's the urgent issue that went on to fuel the transformation of twentieth-century children's book publishing from a genteel backwater to big business. Marcus delivers a provocative look at the fierce turf wars fought among pioneering editors, progressive educators, and librarians -- most of them women -- throughout the twentieth century. His story of the emergence and growth of the major publishing houses -- and of the distinctive literature for the young they shaped -- gains extraordinary depth (and occasional dish) through the author's path-finding research and in-depth interviews with dozens of editors, artists, and other key publishing figures whose careers go back to the 1930s, including Maurice Sendak, Ursula Nordstrom, Margaret K. McElderry, and Margret Rey. From The New England Primer to The Cat in the Hat to Cormier's The Chocolate War, Marcus offers a richly informed, witty appraisal of the pivotal books that transformed children's book publishing, and brings alive the revealing synergy between books like these and the national mood of their times.

Big Plans
Bob Shea, Lane Smith
114 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011-5690
9781423111009 $17.99

A little boy sits in the corner of a classroom, plotting his future. He's got plans…and have you heard? They're BIG. With the help of a mynah bird and a lucky stinky hat, he'll find a quarter, boss around some muckety-mucks, become the mayor – or even the president. And while he's at it, he just may fly to the moon, too. This exuberant picture book story is just the ticket to inspire any child to dream big.

Marked by Fire
Joyce Carol Thomas
114 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011-5690
9781423101437 $15.99

Abyssinia Jackson has grown up under a vast Oklahoma sky shaded with pecan trees and dotted by endless rows of cotton. She has the gift of song, a storyteller's talent, the love of her parents, and the affection and pride of her community. Then a tornado hits and drives Abby's family apart. A deranged neighbor targets her for a campaign of vengeful terror. And a physical assault all but breaks her will. A National Book Award Winner, "Marked by Fire" has been republished by Jump at the Sun and Hyperion in this simple 25th anniversary hardback edition.

Bringing in the New Year
Grace Lin
Knopf / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375837456 $15.99

This exuberant story follows a Chinese American family as they prepare for the Lunar New Year. Each member of the family lends a hand as they sweep out the dust of the old year, hang decorations, and make dumplings. Then it's time to put on new clothes and celebrate with family and friends. There will be fireworks and lion dancers, shining lanterns, and a great, long dragon parade to help bring in the Lunar New Year. And the dragon parade in our book is extra long–on a surprise fold-out page at the end of the story. Grace Lin's artwork is a bright and gloriously patterned celebration in itself! And her story is tailor-made for reading aloud.

Everybody Bonjours!
Leslie Kimmelman, Sarah McMenemy
Knopf / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375844430 $16.99

Shop a fancy France-y store. Eat a pretty petit four. Discover! Sightsee! Explore! On this fun and friendly tour, everybody says "Bonjour!" Whether at a soccer stadium ("players scoring"), a crepe stand ("batter pouring"), or strolling the Champs d'Elysee (where folks "bonjour" in every store), a little girl and her family are welcomed everywhere with the signature French greeting. Jump into these pages and enjoy the trip! Through lilting words and lively images, Everybody Bonjours welcomes young reader-travelers to a Paris that isn't just for artists, grown-ups, and dreamers -- it's for kids, too.

Likely Story
David Van Etten
Knopf / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375846762 $15.99

Mallory is a teenage girl living in L.A. and her mother is the oft-nominated, never-winning star of a daytime soap; she is, in fact, the ultimate drama queen. After yet another blow-out about her mother's awful plotlines and overacting, Mallory starts blogging about how she wishes soap operas were more like real kids' lives instead of the ridiculous storylines the shows usually feature. When her mother's agent reads the blog, Mallory ends up in her own whirlwind drama, both at school and on the lot, as she works to protect the integrity of her original idea, cope with her mother's jealousy, and get her best friend a lead role on the show. Factor in her boyfriend with the girlfriend, the cute but bad brother to said-best-friend, and the super-cute male lead on her show, and Mallory's got plenty of her own melodrama to cope with. Interestingly, author David Van Etten is actually three writers: Chris Van Etten is currently a fulltime writer for ABC's One Life to Live; David Ozanich is a freelance writer and playwright; and David Levithan is the author of "Boy Meets Boy," and many other young adult novels.

Beowulf: Grendel the Ghastly
Adapted by Michelle L. Szobody, illustrated by Justin Gerard
Portland Studios
112 Poinsett Hwy., Greenville, SC 29609
9780979718304 $17.95

With battle-bold words ancient poets sang the clash between Beowulf and Grendel. This modern retelling preserves the splendor of those Old English poetic conventions, while the taut, restrained phrasing captures Beowulf's original aural experience. But this is not a book for the ears only. Justin Gerard's luminous paintings create empathy for a time when despair meant defeat and only courage could win the day.

Zen Ties
Jon Muth
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780439634250 $17.99

Summer has arrived -- and so has Koo, Stillwater's haiku-speaking young nephew. And when Stillwater encourages Koo, and his friends Addy, Michael, and Karl to help a grouchy old neighbor in need, their efforts are rewarded in unexpected ways. Zen Ties is a disarming story of compassion and friendship that reaffirms the importance of our ties to one another. Jon Muth's spare text and gentle watercolors are a delight.

Lulu Atlantis and the Quest for True Blue Love
Patricia Martin
Schwartz & Wade Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375840168 $15.99, 232 pages,

Lulu Atlantis has a big problem: her new baby brother, Sam. With him in the picture, Mother certainly doesn't need her around. Luckily, she has her best friend, Harry, a top-hat-wearing daddy longlegs spider to turn to. Over the course of four enchanting chapters, the two friends rescue a skunk stuck in a yogurt pot, encounter gangster bakers, seek out the Secret Ingredient to make Sam's oatmeal edible, and contend with a monster (not to mention an evil cat named Princess Fancy).Through it all, Harry stands by Lulu Atlantis, his one and only True Blue Love, as she searches–quests!–for some True Blue Love of her own. With irresistible black-and-white chapter-opening art, plus an imaginative story with a classic feel, this is the perfect choice for young middle-grade readers.

When Ruby Tried to Grow Candy
Valorie Fisher
Schwartz & Wade Books / Random House

1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375840159 $16.99

Ruby Louise Hawthorne can't believe her eyes. Right there, in Miss Wysterious's garden, teacups are growing on trees, shoes are sprouting like weeds, and eggbeaters are jangling from branches. So maybe Ruby should listen when Miss Wysterious tells her all the important rules of gardening–like watering and weeding and labeling what you plant. That way, when Ruby plants her jellybeans, they really just might grow. . . Anyone with even the slightest sweet tooth is sure to rejoice along with Ruby when her candy finally sprouts! And it's all depicted in Fisher's mixed media illustrations that include real candy.

Jon Scieszka's Trucktown: Smash! Crash!
Jon Scieszka, Lonen Lond, David Gordon
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416941330 $16.99

Jon Scieszka's Trucktown is a new preschool/kindergarten series poised for release in every format, and licensed product imaginable. It's a world where all the characters are trucks, all the stories are action driven, and boys and girls can imagine themselves in all their crazy, loud, funny, creative, excited, full-throttle glory! It's a world where we work at play, and we play at work... and no one's afraid to get dirty or be LOUD! The series kicks off with "Smash! Crash!" best friends Jack and Dan are spending their day doing what they do best -- smashing and crashing, of course. All the while a strange shadow is following them around every corner. Who is this new resident of Trucktown? What does she want? Rhythmic, rollicking text will get kids' motors running and horns honking with each refrain.

The Truth About My Bat Mitzvah
Nora Raleigh Baskin
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416935582 $15.99

Caroline's mom is Jewish, her dad isn't, and Caroline has never really thought of herself as any religion. But when her nana dies and leaves Caroline a Star of David necklace, Caroline begins to wonder about her heritage. If she starts going to synagogue, won't that upset her dad? Should she have a Bat Mitzvah like her best friend, Rachel? Does Caroline want to be Jewish? The more she thinks about it, the more questions she has. Like "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret," this thoughtful and relevant novel traces one girl's journey toward discovering who she is and where she fits in.

You Know Where To Find Me
Rachel Cohn
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9780689878596 $15.99

"Jamal said only, 'Laura...' And I knew, just knew by the rip through my gut and the instant convulsion in my heart, knew by Jamal's uncharacteristically unsmiling face. I knew because Laura always did what I wished I could do." First cousins Laura and Miles grew up like sisters. Miles thought of Laura as the golden one -- smart, beautiful, rich, and popular -- while Miles considered herself the unwanted one -- an unattractive, underachieving outcast. Laura's suicide shatters Miles and leaves her feeling completely alone, and sets Miles on a dangerous downward spiral. But in the strength Miles finds in herself and in those she didn't believe cared about her, she is able to rebuild her life in unexpected ways. Rachel Cohn's emotionally powerful new novel views serious issues such as depression, suicide, prescription-drug abuse, and alternative family configurations through the lens of family love and survival.

Little Brother
Cory Doctorow
Tor / Forge
175 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10010
9780765319852 $17.95

Marcus, a.k.a "w1n5t0n," is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school's intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems. But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they're mercilessly interrogated for days. When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.

Angelina at the Fair
Katharine Holabird, Helen Cragi
Viking / Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670062348 $12.99

In her latest picture book adventure, the star of "Angelina Ballerina" is annoyed – yet again. Angelina just loves the fair – that's not the problem. She's been counting down the days until it arrives, but when it finally comes to town, Angelina's parents insist that she bring her little cousin Henry along. Angelina is convinced that Henry will ruin all her fun. Will a few fairground surprises change her mind? Fans of the wee mouse never seem to get enough of Katharine Holabird's gentle stories and Helen Craig's sweet drawings.

Vicki Arkoff
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Blues for All Season
Jalal Ghavami
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741445964, $9.95,

Poems from the heart, poems from a man of the city - "Blues for All Season" is a collection of poems by Jalal Ghavami, a veteran and prolific poet with a masters in Education. "Blues for All Season" is his fourth volume of poetry, and it is set in Newark, New Jersey, he speaks about his everyday life and how he gets from day to day with poetry that will move readers and pull at there emotions from all directions. "Blues for All Season" is a pick for community library poetry collections and for any poetry enthusiast. Q: In the Morning/Canary was Singing/ Love//Love Song in My Ear//And question was/what is valid/other than Love.

The Horns of Moses
David H. Brandin
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
Carol Hoening (publicity)
10 Nassau Ave., Plainview, NY 11803
9780595440863, $17.95,

Vigilante justice – 30 years ago his son was killed in the Yom Kippur War. Three decades later, his father still stews for vengeance, and seeks it in the "The Horns of Moses". Calling old friends, old favors, who deal with the moral implications of vengeance for acts of war that has long ago died, the debate rages on as David seeks only justice for his son – but is it a just justice or a petty selfish justice? "The Horns of Moses" is a highly recommended thriller that will make its readers think about what's right and what's wrong – a must for community library thriller collections as well.

Invasion of the Bible Thumpers
Skookum Maguire
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
Carol Hoening (publicity)
10 Nassau Avenue, Plainview, NY 11803
9780595448142, $11.95,

How can the ordinary be interesting? Because the ordinary is interesting when looked at in the right way. "Invasion of the Bible Thumpers: Tales of the North Woods and Other Places" is an anthology of short stories focusing on plain old every day people, but their day to day struggles are intriguing and something all readers can relate to. Pulling at your emotions from all directions, "Invasion of the Bible Thumpers: Tales of the North Woods and Other Places" is highly recommended for literature collections everywhere.

Desert Journey
Dr. Jerry Burgener
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
Carol Hoening (publicity)
10 Nassau Avenue, Plainview, NY 11803
9780595422265, $12.95,

Heartbreak – something that only time can heal. "Desert Journey" is the tale of Jerry's journeys trying to get over his loss of time with his past relationship – but finding relaxation isn't as easy as it seems. A meeting with a Native American Wise man reveals the truth of Jerry's life which is not all of what Jerry wanted to hear and Jerry must find himself to truly understand himself to find what he really wants in life. "Desert Journey" is a novel packed full of spiritual insight, sure to help readers find themselves alongside Jerry and is highly recommended.

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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