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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 10, Number 3 March 2011 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf Greenspan's Bookshelf
Helen's Bookshelf Klausner's Bookshelf Laurel's Bookshelf
Lorraine's Bookshelf Micah's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf
Shirley's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf

Cowper's Bookshelf

Language And Style In Old English Composite Homilies
Hiroshi Ogawa
Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance
Arizona State University
PO Box 874402, Tempe, AZ 85287-4402
9780866984096, $52.00,

A homily is a sermon or discourse on a moral or religious topic, and was an integral part of church services in Christian communities. "Language And Style In Old English Composite Homilies" is a 207-page study by Hiroshi Ogawa that specifically focuses upon homilies as a prose literature tradition that extended over several centuries when Old English was the spoken and written language of Britain. Superbly enhanced with an informed and informative introduction, an extensive bibliography, an appendices, and a comprehensive index, "Language And Style In Old English Composite Homilies" is organized into five major sections and a conclusion, making it a seminal and significant contribution to this specialized field of study and a core addition to academic library Medieval Studies reference collections.

Cottage Lake Soliloquy
John F. Shephard
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781426917066, $31.86

Through life, we learn about many things, most importantly ourselves. "Cottage Lake Soliloquy" tells the story of Psychotherapist Jay and Bea, as they face their life in the small town of Forestville. Through their encounters in their lives, they learn much about the nature of things, about themselves, and about each other. Author John Shephard writes that it is a tale about enlightenment, and there is much to be learned from "Cottage Lake Soliloquy".

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

My Story of God's Grace
Shyluer Holder-Hansen
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432761943, $12.95,

The challenges of life start early and never let up. "My Story of God's Grace" is a memoir of Shyluer Holder-Hansen as she reflects on her life's constant challenges and speaks candidly on how she holds God vital in getting her through her early years and giving her the power to continue on through the cruelty of life. "My Story of God's Grace" is a solid and highly recommended read for any Christian.

Grey Line Press
PO Box 42271, 3000 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19101
9780983002802, $16.00,

For love, KJ and Lorraine's whole words will come crumbling down on top of them. "Hope(less)" tells the story of two high school lovers on the run from their fates throughout America. A story of the devotion of love and how one may give up everything even their lives, "Hope(less)" is a riveting blend of romance and coming of age, highly recommended.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

S. Jane Scheyder
Andres & Blanton
PO Box 34, Niantic, CT 06357
9780983031802, $15.00

When you are honest with yourself, your life can go in strange new ways. "Cafenova" tells the story of Maddy Jacobs, embarking on a new life after a failed relationship, moving clear across the country. Pursuing her dreams of a bed and breakfast, but in her way, love lurks against to tempt her from her path. "Cafenova" is a novel of the challenge of the independent woman, highly recommended.

Red Star Crescent Moon
Robert A. Rosenstone
c/o New Academia Publishing
PO Box 27420, Washington, DC 20038-7420
9780984406289, $24.00

Faiths are not only in conflict with other faiths, but within themselves. "Red Star Crescent Moon: A Muslim-Jewish Love Story" is a story telling of a love story between a Muslim and a Jew, set in modern Spain as terrorist threats loom to further separate their worlds and leave their lives in a bad way. Enticing reading with a view on current events, "Red Star Crescent Moon" is an enticing collection, and very highly recommended.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

From Seed to Skillet
Jimmy Williams and Susan Heeger
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9780811872218, $30.00,

There is a certain satisfaction in enjoying something you made from the very seed. "From Seed to Skillet" is a blend of cookbook and gardening book, focused on creating appetizing dishes from what you can create out of one's own garden. The first part focuses heavily on the gardening aspect, with plenty of full color photographs walking one through the finer aspects of gardening, with the later part focusing on the cooking aspect. For those with a love of gardening and cooking, "From Seed to Skillet" may be the ideal pick for them.

Stories I'd Tell My Children
Michael N. Marcus
Silver Sands Books
230 Woodmont Road, Suite 15, Milford, CT 06460
9780981661759, $15.95,

There's plenty of wisdom to be taken from one's life. It just isn't always appropriate for younger individuals. "Stories I'd Tell My Children (But Maybe Not Until They're Adults)" is a collection of personal memoirs from Michael N. Marcus as he reflects on 100 occurrences of his life as he faces what we all face in life, the constant changes of life with different challenges and the strange bizarreness of it all. Claiming these stories to be mostly true, "Stories I'd Tell My Children" is a thoughtful and fun read, highly recommended.

White Sails Became Me
Nicholas F. Starace II
Bascom Hill Publishing Group
212 3rd Avenue North, Suite 290, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781935098485, $26.95,

The world's oceans seem like a perfectly fine place to call home for Nicholas Starace. "White Sails Became Me: Memoirs of a Seafaring Heritage" is a memoir from Starace as he reflects on his life long love affair with the sea. Stating the challenges of his drive have brought to his life and the strange circumstances which he found family and became closer to them, he speaks on the triumph and tragedy of life like only a sailor can. "White Sails Became Me" is a choice pick for any fan of nautical adventure and life, highly recommended.

Helen Dumont

Klausner's Bookshelf

Rock Bottom
CJ Lyons and Erin Brockovich
Vanguard Press
c/o Perseus Books Group
Eleven Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
9781593156251, $25.95,

Angela Joy Palladino left Scotia, West Virginia as a pregnant teen with no future there. She gave birth to physically impaired David who she has raised as a single mom; yet also went to school while holding a job. Finally AJ becomes an on the air radio celebrity as an environmental activist that People magazine dubbed "The People's Champion". However, her efforts to end polluting by Capitol Power led to their declaration of bankruptcy; an irate former employer calls her on the air blaming her for losing his job, his home and his dignitary as he and his family reside in a tent; the gunshot ended their one sided discussion; turning her from crusading heroine to widow-making pariah.

Litigator Zach Hardy hires her to help end the coal mining firms' practice of mountaintop removal in Scotia. However, nothing goes right starting with her boss is dead. Her parents demand she leave while they make her and their nine years old grandson stay at her Gram Flora's house as they do not want her under their roof. Finally Cole the father of her son is angry with what AJ did to him.

This is a character driven environmental-family drama that grips the audience from the opening gunshot until the final confrontation. The key to this strong story line is that though saving the environment is the theme, the authors insure readers understand opportunity costs like less fuel and potentially less jobs. AJ is a terrific heroine who has taken life's gut punches but keeps on going with gusto; that enthusiasm for life is what she has given to David. With several tense subplots that tie together into a powerful taut thriller, fans will demand more similar tales from CJ Lyons and Erin Brockovich.

Someone's Watching
Sharon Potts
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608090136, $25.95,

Once a corporate suit, Robbie Ivy works as a bartender in Miami's South Beach section. Her estranged father arrives at the club where she works to ask Robbie for a favor. His other daughter Kaitlin "Kate" Brooks and her BFF Joanne Sparks are missing somewhere in the concrete South Florida jungle; he wants Robbie to help find her.

Robbie is stunned to learn she has a sibling as she had no idea until her dad's visit that she had a half-sister. Not knowing how to start, she asks her former boyfriend, Jeremy Stroeb for advice. He suggests she speak to Detective Judy Lieber who cautions Robbie to watch her step as coeds like Kate are targets of nasty predators especially when Joanne is found dead. Her amateurish inquiry turns deadly as Robbie realizes time is running out on her meeting her younger half-sister alive.

Relationship damaged Robbie makes a terrific protagonist as she hopes to make it with Jeremy, reunite with her father and become friends and sister with her sibling. Thus she has a major impetus to find Kate. Mindful of the exhilarating mindless action movie Taken (even though the heroine is an amateur while Neeson's character Mills is a former CIA field operative). Filled with spins and stunning red herrings, readers will appreciate this engaging, timely but sordid tale of kidnapping teens and forcing them into prostitution (right out of the headlines).

Karen Marie Moning
Delacorte Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385341677, $26.00,

MacKayla "Mac" Lane continues her quest for the magical book of the dark Sinsar Dubh that has the power to eradicate worlds. She is no longer the frightened Irish-American exile although she still grieves for her late sister Alina; Mac enters the forbidden White Mansion of the Unseelie King who wrote the tome of evil she seeks that she believes has answers to what she truly is and may provide a light to Alina's homicide.

She remains inside the abode with the Unseelie King much longer than she anticipated, but finally returns to Dublin with a new outlook as she now understands the essence of evil as "bad thinking it is good"; the remaining Americanized tenderness has been expunged from her soul. Mac will do what it takes to achieve her goals. If friends die, so be it; if she seeks strange bedfellow enemies as allies so what; yet Mac remains off kilter with each revelation she discovers about her sibling, herself and that dammed tome that is hunting down Mac and her allies.

This is an excellent finish (not sure about whether this is truly the end as major questions remain including new ones) to a strong urban fantasy (see Dreamfever and Faefever). The fascinating story line shows how much Mac has evolved from that naive caring American coming to find her sister's killer only to find monsters around ever corner; thus her travails and tribulations including grief has hardened her heart and turned her tundra colder with an absolute belief that the end justifies the mean. Exciting though there appears room for another book (re Barrons and another key player) to tie up the loose ends and an adjustment is needed to accept the evolved Mac, fans of the Fever fantasy saga will enjoy the heroines search.

The Radleys
Matt Haig
The Free Press
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439194010, $25.00,

Dr. Peter and Helen Radley, accompanied by their teenage children Clara and Rowan, move from swinging wild London to quiet sedate Bishopthorpe. Believing blood thirst is a simple addiction, the parents adhere strictly to The Abstainer's Handbook rules that strongly suggest living like a human while living amongst humans. However, they have also neglected to inform their fifteen years old daughter and seventeen years old son that they are purebred vampires.

The offspring suffer form nightmares that each conceals from their parents. However, everything changes when an intoxicated Stuart Harper attacks Clara a vegetarian. His assault causes the dormant thirst for blood (and meat) to arise in his female classmate as her fangs surface. Peter asks his brother Will an overt vampire to help them with their problems.

This is an entertaining dark vampire family drama with a powerful twist to the relationships. Character driven, the cast makes the tale fun to read as none of the extended Radley family come across as vampiric stereotyped; instead ironically the four Radley suburbanites are stereotypical: repressed and must behave in accordance with the middle class rules of order while Uncle Will prefers the bloody life of a swinger. Intelligent this is a witty satirical spin to the recent vampire lives amongst us craze.

Seasons of Death
Marlene Mitchell and Gary Yeagle
Black Wyrm
9780982006757, $15.95,

In the Smoky Mountains, the stranger accosts a drugged Asa Pittman. He explains to Asa that he has no friends nearby to help him and the Novocain can do to numb the body. The stranger methodically and calmly begins slicing off Asa's fingers and punishing him elsewhere. Explaining he loathes the way Asa and his drunken buddies treat animals they hunt he leaves the dying man for the coyote and other animals and insects to dine on.

Photojournalist Doug Eland finds the corpse and informs Jack at the National Park Service. Soon afterward, Townsend Police Chief Axel Brody and Officer Grant Denlinger arrive to look at the body on Thunderbird Trail. The coroner Jeff Bookman arrives and quickly concludes the fingers were deliberately sliced off. No one is aware yet that Asa was first with his buddies to follow. Next is realtor Mildred Henks, puppy mill owner. The avenging stranger vowed to get even for what Asa and his comrades did over two decades ago back in 1969 when they killed Farmer Pender and his wife and several animals in what is no longer a cold case. The two Pender sons escaped, but would one or both of them be the predator after all these years?

This is a dark vivid police procedural with an avenger whose calm almost detached discussions with the victims adds to the sense of horror as this killer gives animals a chance for an eye for an eye against those who tormented them. Fast-paced and filled with action, the killer is in plain sight yet not easy to pick out. Readers will enjoy this fine thriller with an intriguing climax that
simplified matters for Denlinger yet also weighs heavily on his conscience.

The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse
Steven C. Schlozman, MD
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446564663, $19.99,

A zombie plague has been turned loose upon the earth, but the disease is not natural as it is man made. The research has turned people into NGH, No Longer Human. This leads to medical researchers on a remote island dissecting and experimenting on captured zombies seeking a cure with the belief that NGH types are classified as monstrous beasts who live to feed endlessly on human flesh.

Nuclear bombs fail to end the spread of the epidemic. Meanwhile on the coral atoll Bassas de India between Madagascar and Africa, a research center has been established to find a cure. Led by renowned zombie expert Dr. Stanley Blum and Dr. Blanca Gutierrez, volunteers have come to help. They conclude that the disease works similar to catching the flu with prions playing a key role. They believe they are closing in on a vaccination, but abruptly they seem to have vanished. However, Dr. Blum's The Zombie Autopsies' journals have been found and under review by the World Health Organization; as time runs out on Homo sapiens remaining the dominant species on the planet.

As Z books go, The Zombie Autopsies is a truly gruesome horror medical thriller; not so much due to someone creating the disease, but more because of the inhuman experiments on humanoid bodies by scientists mindful of Dr. Mengele and the Nazis. Although the reader will understand the despite attempts to save humanity, the scientific saviors lose what makes a person human while conducting their research. Dr. Blum and the Z crew put the faces to the tale as he knows he will never leave the island as he regrets what he believes he must do while fans will have to decide whether the zombie is a monster or sick grandma as this is a chilling, vividly gory thriller.

The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship
Lisa Verge Higgins
Five Spot
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446563512, $13.99,

Rachel Braun, Kate Jansen, Bobbie Jo Marcum, and Sarah Pollard were best friends forever, but three of the foursome did not expect forever to end abruptly with death. Not quite forty, Rachel the bravest of the quartet dies from cancer that she concealed from her BFFs. However, before her death, Rachel wrote letters to each of her buddies daring them to take on the challenge of their greatest fear.

Rachel directs house-mom Kate to rekindle the spark of her marriage with Paul that she doused to give her all to their three children. Doctors Without Borders nurse Sarah needs to win back the love of her life Colin who lives a zillion miles away in geography and lifestyle, but who she never moved on from; this requires risking her heart again so that win or lose she wins as she can love again. Jo the businesswoman avoids personal commitment like it's the plague as she learned as a foster child; so single mom Rachel challenges her to raise her seven year old daughter Gracie with the grace she knows the woman has.

This well written contemporary buddy book contains plenty of depth as the premise of friends knowing you at times better than you want to admit makes for a strong tale. Rachel from her deathbed provides the impetus to her three BFFs to take risks as she insists you only live once and must make the best of your short time span. No final negative shockers though some spins end surprisingly, fans will enjoy the saga of the three surviving musketeers who understand that life is a risk but with friends who are "all for one and one for all" (Dumas) it can be fulfilling.

Life From Scratch
Melissa Ford
Belle Bridge Books
PO Box 300921, Memphis, TN 38130
9781935661986, $14.95, www.BelleBridge

In her tiny New York apartment, she writes in her blog that June Cleaver, Martha Stewart and Mrs. C, etc. can cook while she can't. Divorced from lawyer Adam the "stranger" she still loves, Rachel Goldman decides to learn how to cook in her small kitchen. Boiling and microwaving pre-fixed items do not count as Rachel plans to fry an egg without breaking the yoke.

As she writes in her blog about her failures that would have Cleaver hammering her with baking pins and her tiny successes, her blog becomes popular not as Best Kitchen or Best Food Blog but as Best Diarist. Still she focuses on one meatloaf casserole cooked evenly throughout instead of burnt to a crisp on the outside and so raw as to be dangerous to eat on the inside. She continues to teach herself with hopes that one day mom will allow her to cook the Seder and that Adam will learn what he lost especially since a man has shown interest in her.

Life From Scratch is an intriguing character driven tale of a woman needing to find something to affirm her self-worth; her choice is cooking as she starts from a zero base and uses her blog as a means to release her frustrations (and add humor to the recipe). Readers will enjoy the insightful yet jocular story line with its underlying message that Polonius advices his son Laertes (Hamlet) To thine own self be true"; especially telling loved ones your hopes and aspirations, but even more so your fears. Rachel learning to cook is a metaphor for readers to live even if it means beginning over Life from Scratch.

The Year She Fell
Alicia Rasley
Belle Bridge Books
9781611940008, $14.95, www.BelleBridge

In Virginia at the second Rushmore Presbyterian Church, Brian Warrick shows Minister Ellen Wakefield O'Connor his birth certificate, which states the mother of Adam Paul Wakefield is Ellen. He explains further he was adopted by the Warrick couple. Ellen says she cannot be his biological mother as she was in Washington pregnant with her child Sarah, born only a few moths after she allegedly gave birth to Adam. However, she looks at a photo she has and though not knowing who the mother is, she knows who the father is; her husband Tom.

Confronted by his wife and his biological son, Tom refuses to divulge anything. The truth lies back home in Wakefield, West Virginia where Ellen, her sisters Cathy and Laura and their adopted sibling Teresa grew up in affluence surrounded by poverty. There is where Brian's letter never made it to Ellen and there is where the mystery of how Cathy died that haunts her surviving siblings might be solved.

This is an engaging regional family drama in which keeping secrets cause more harm than revealing them would have done. The key cast members have diverse personalities especially the three surviving sisters (and to a lesser degree Cathy though her family filters). None of the secrets are difficult to figure out before the story line fully reveals them, which leads to a somewhat linear tale. Still fans will enjoy Alicia Rasley's The Year She Fell as the Wakefield clan struggles with inconvenient truths.

What The Heart Wants
Deborah Grace Staley
Belle Bridge Books
9781935661979, $14.95, www.BelleBridge

In rustic serene Angel Ridge, Tennessee, Lark "Candi Heart" Hensley plans to open up Heart's Desire, lingerie and perfume parlor. She understands that some of the under five-hundred residents will object to her shop, calling it blasphemy; especially anyone who knows her heritage here in this hamlet believes she comes from allegedly enchantress witches seducing the menfolk.

However, her biggest problem with coming to the town of her ancestors is Sheriff Grady Wallace who she is attracted to and he fails to conceal how much he wants her. On the plus side is that Ferguson's Diner's Dixie Ferguson likes the stranger with the odd name. However, as Candi and Grady fall in love while he tries to learn her secrets of why here that he believes she hides, someone wants her out of town with threats at her store, home, and as a pedestrian; to that unknown adversary a body bag is an acceptable means.

The third Angel Ridge romance (see Home for Christmas and Only You) is a fun contemporary regional romance with an engaging suspense subplot. The lead couple is a warm pairing of two people with a family history in Angel Ridge. Although the thriller element is tension-filled with national and local implications, that subplot serves more as an impetus to the courtship of Candi Heart.

Red Wolf
Liza Marklund
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781451602067, $25.99,

In Stockholm, Evening Post reporter Annika Bengtzon no longer works the crime beat (see The Bomber for why). Instead her assignments are more independent as she follows stories over the country involving terrorist activity mostly tied to the Communist movement of several decades ago.

Annika travels to Lulea to meet a journalist who is giving her a lead on a story. Instead her source is killed in a hit-and-run accident that Annika believes was deliberate. Refusing to back off even when more related homicides occur, the intrepid reporter follows clues that tie back to a deadly sabotage incident on a military base in 1969 by someone using the code of "Ragnwald". She thinks this cold blooded killer has returned as a serial killer.

It has been several years since Bengtzon conducted an investigation (see Studio Sex), but her return to Prime Time has been worth the wait as she is at her best in this terrific police procedural. The story line focuses on the social impact of the final Soviet decade on Sweden today so that readers obtain a strong whodunit investigation wrapped inside a national psyche struggling with mostly late 1980s Cold War events. Fans will enjoy this strong Scandinavian thriller as Bengtzon, who has personal issues as well, struggles to tie the dots of then to now.

How to Knit a Heart Back Home
Rachael Herron
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061841316, $13.99,

In Cypress Hollow, California, thirtyish Book Spire bookstore owner Lucy Harrison volunteers as a fire brigade fighter. However, she is also a serial knitter who cherishes the work of famed late knitter Eliza Carpenter, who was a friend of Lucy's grandmother and of Alzheimer's victim Irene Bancroft.

Irene's son retired SFPD police officer Owen returns home due a duty related injury. Lucy is euphoric as she loved unrequitedly Owen during their days together in high school. She hopes the second time is the charm as she considers How to Knit a Love Song. Adding to her delight is that he moves in next door to her bookstore. He is as attracted to her as her to him. Lucy helps him with his mother's items since Irene moved into an assisted living facility. Doing so enables Lucy to find a wealth of material on her idol and writes a biography. When Irene runs away from the home and moves into an unsteady shut down lighthouse, Lucy has to retrieve her as Owen's injury does not allow him to do so.

This is a warm knitter romance in which Rachael Herron's love of the craft shines throughout the enjoyable story line. The Cypress Hollow cast makes for a fun time especially for the knitter crowd; though we civilians will appreciate the wonderful second chance at love prime plot and the loving lore of the craft. One last aside to Knitters: there is a wonderful end that in my opinion is worth a first look.

Night Betrayed
Joss Ware
9780062018632, $7.99

Selena "The Death Lady" was miraculously born during the Change. Her nickname comes from her unique ability to see the ghostly cloud that denotes that person is about to die. What makes her extraordinary is that she somehow helps the dying move on.

Selena sees the cloud of a dying man. However, this time something strange occurs as a voice orders her to touch the corpse with her crystal. Somehow Theo Waxnicki, a Change survivor on a Strangers' mission, was shot to death; yet recovers in Selena's compound where he believes information on the world's destruction can be found. While his twin Lou frantically searches for him, Selena not only brings him back to life, she brings him back to live as feelings lost in the Change return to him.

The latest Envy Chronicles (see Abandon the Night, Embrace the Night Eternal and Beyond the Night) is a superb mid twenty-first post apocalyptic romantic thriller. The story line is fast-paced and the cast especially the lead couple are a wonderful match. However, it is Ware world that makes for an engaging read as fans will believe they have been transported four decades into the future as places like Vegas, Arizona and elsewhere feel reasonably real.

Tainted by Temptation
Katy Madison
9780062017345, $7.99

In London Velvet Campbell was a magnet for gossip. Needing to escape the unfair whispers and innuendos, she accepts employment in Cornwall although she has heard cruel accusations of her employer murdering his late wife by throwing her off the nearby cliffs. Lucian Pendar hires her as governess to his daughter Iris in spite of a horrific first meeting.

Velvet and Lucian are attracted to one another, but both know that the needs of grieving Iris must come first. The child not only wants her mom to come home, the woman's ghost seems to be walking the mists near where she fell to her death. As Velvet investigates the questionable death, she falls in love with father and daughter, but her efforts to prove Lucian is not a killer prove futile as each new piece of evidence she finds affirms the rumors that he murdered his wife.

Although a linear story line in which readers will find no twists, Tainted by Temptation is an engaging gothic historical whodunit romance. The lead couple each has secrets that explain their role in the scandals that engulf them, but neither trusts the other with the baggage they carry. Action-packed from the moment Velvet faints at Lucian's feet and never slowing down, fans will appreciate Katy Madison's entertaining romantic amateur sleuth.

The Countess
Lynsay Sands
9780061963049, $7.99

Reluctantly Christiana Madison marries Richard Fairgrave, Earl of Radnor, so her father can pay off his gambling debts before the family, especially her beloved sisters, is ruined. "Dicky" proves nasty as a spouse treating his wife as an object and not allowing her to see anyone even her family. Having enough she brazenly enters his off limits office to confront her husband, only to be greeted by his corpse.

Since her sister wants to attend a gala in which she would chaperone, Christiana conceals that her husband is dead as she would have to mourn her loss though inside her she is euphoric. However, Richard arrives to the shock of Christiana. She soon learns the newcomer is the real Richard and she was married to his psychopathic identical twin George. Richard investigates his deadly sibling's murder with the prime suspect being his sister-in-law who he is attracted to. She agrees to pretend this new kind and caring Richard is her spouse as he searches for a diabolical killer who is planning to blackmail the real Earl and his widowed sister-in-law.

The Countess is an intelligent historical romantic suspense with identity theft being the driver of the story line. This tale is very witty and fans will enjoy the pretend relationship between the real earl who assumes his "wife" is a gold-digger and the title character who fears madness runs in families. With a murder investigation and a blackmailer attempting to extort money, readers will enjoy Lynsay Sands wonderful tale.

Burning Darkness
Jaime Rush
9780062018854, $7.99

Using his pyrotechnical mental skills, Offspring Eric Aruda killed two CIA agents using a thought to set them on fire and shot another. Trained government assassin Fonda Raine is assigned to kill Eric. Using her projection skill she manages to get close to him, but finds committing the act difficult because he is not the cold blooded killer she expected and murder in cold blood is not an easy task for most people.

Making matters more complicated is when someone with more firepower than all of the Offspring surfaces as a killing machine. As they team up to end this predator, Fonda also realizes all she thought she knew about the Offspring is questionable as he is nothing like the dangerous psychopath she thought although dangerous fits. Still a killer stalks the Offspring and seems to have high level government support.

The fourth Offspring romantic urban fantasy (see A Touch of Darkness, A Perfect Darkness and Out of the Darkness) is loaded with dangerous action starring two seemingly enemies falling in love. Part of the fun comes from the heroine's projection skill that initially has Aruda wondering if he suffers hallucinations from the beautiful vision that comes and goes in a blink. However, the keys to this great entry are that the overarching theme moves forward and stunning depth is added to the Rush realm. Burning Darkness is an exciting thriller.

Pack of Lies
Laura Anne Gilman
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373803248, $14.95,

In New York City, a mob of humans assaults the mortal companion to a ki-rin. When the dust settles, all the attackers are either dead or near death. Bonita Torres of Private Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations (PUPI) leads the inquiry into the deadly incident at a time when anger is high between the humans and the fatae and the Casa Nostradamus members refuse to talk to cops.

At the same that Bonnie and her team scrutinize the deadly scene, she and her boss Benjamin Venec struggle to control their attraction for one another. Each wants the other, but both understand a non professional relationship between a superior and a direct reporting individual is trouble.

The second Paranormal Scene Investigations urban fantasy (see Hard Magic) is a terrific "Electric Apple" police procedural that comes out of the gate at full speed and never decelerates as the PUPI team struggles with the magical community closing its ranks to outsiders. The Gilman's Gotham comes across as real due to little things like Pink Floyd while Bonnie is a super lead investigator and her teammates on the case (Pietr and Sharon) add depth. Readers will enjoy astute Bonnie's first person account as she has come a long way since her college days, which she will remind readers were seemingly just yesterday.

Dark Town Redemption
Gary Hardwick
HardBooks Publishing
9780972480413, $12.95,

Even in South Vietnam in 1967, race relations between blacks and whites in an integrated army are terrible. Sergeant Robert Jackson is a black person who chose the marines over the streets of surrealistic Detroit. His younger brother Marcus belongs to the group The Vanguard; a radical group in the forefront of a race riot that rocked the city and shocked the nation.

Soon after that deadly night, Marcus is killed and four police officers are at the scene. They all tell the same story without one iota of difference. One of the cops is Thomas Riley, a third generation officer living his father's dream after his older brother (and dad's favorite son) died in Korea. Robert comes home and joins Vanguard to infiltrate them as he believes one of their members killed his sibling, but he also believes they are the only hope to fulfill the dream of equality. As times change, Robert and Thomas discuss the murder of Marcus and their hopes for a future, if they have one after reopening the cold case.

Gary Hardwick takes readers back to a pivotal moment in the Black community as two visions of change compete between the Panthers and King. Using true events like the riots, the author provides a profound look at a thunderous period. Robert and Thomas are similar in personality though their lives differ; their confrontations and discussions make the story line stronger and more believable. Filled with symbolism, including the pivotal 1968 World Series (only matched in my mind in terms of social importance by the 2001 games) readers will enjoy Dark Town Redemption, a powerful historical thriller that pulls no punches on racial issues.

Playing for Keeps
LuAnn McLane
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451232762, $6.99,

Former Major League baseball pitcher Noah Falcon turned actor has been fired from the soap opera he performed on. Decided a respite is in order Noah goes back to his old Kentucky home after two decades away.

Olivia Lawson attended Cricket Creek High School with Noah; she never forgot that the star athlete ignored the bookworm except when she tutored him. He does not want to ignore her now as he thinks the schoolteacher is beautiful and her voice sexy, but she knows from the tabloids he is a playboy. As their attraction grows, they perform together on stage in a local production where she realizes he cares about the play, the people and the town. The audience can see that love flows between them, but she still she fears his rejection once he goes back to Hollywood.

This Cricket Creek contemporary romance is a fun tale due to the brisk banter between the lead couple. With a strong secondary cast mostly the townsfolk who encourage the protagonists as they fuss, fight and fall in love, fans will enjoy LuAnn McLane's mantra that "There's no place like home."

An Unlikely Countess
Jo Beverley
9780451232717, $7.99

In 1765 in Yorkshire, Prudence Youlgrave lives in poverty. She knows her only hope to escape is to marry wealth above her social level. However, meeting someone with money is difficult for someone in her economic straits.

Catesby Burgoyne rescues Prudence from robbers. Shocking himself though he knows his intoxicated state keeps him from remaining logical, he asks her to marry him; shocking herself she accepts. When sober he regrets his fight with his brother the Earl of Malzrad and not because he has no money being cut off. Resigning from the military, he and Prudence are further shocked with what fate spins next. Cate's older brother dies unexpectedly, which makes the remorseful spare an Earl and his wife Prudence the Countess. As they fall in love, her former fiance arrives to stake a prior claim on Prudence.

The class distinctions come across very powerful in this super Georgian romance as the support cast of aristocrats could make or break the new Countess. Although the ending with Prudence's ratty fiance seems unnecessary and a bit weak, this fast-paced tale will thrill fans of Jo Beverly's Malloren saga as the engaging historical romance contains combat on two fronts: gender and class warfare.

Never Again
Michele Bardsley
9780451232755, $7.99

House of Dragons wizard Gray Calhoun is the guardian of Nevermore, Texas with the Census Bureau proclaiming the population in triple digits. However, since his wife betrayed him to a demon, he has neglected his duties as he no longer cares about responsibility.

His former impoverished sister-in-law House of Ravens witch Lucinda Rackmore arrives in Nevermore. She is cursed and needs Gray's help, as her former lover betrayed her by extinguishing her magical abilities. Now everyone loathes the Rackmore family so with her mundane she is a target of their frustrations. Since the betrayal, Gray sees everything black and white so wants nothing to do with anyone related to his former spouse. However, he also admits to his chagrin he is attracted to Lucinda and cannot prevent himself from protecting her and trying to assist her.

The tone of Nevermore is totally opposite of the Broken Heart series as the new saga is very dark (fitting of Edgar Allen Poe) while the Oklahoma tales were lighthearted frolics in which bites were sexually bloodless. The world of the Wizards of Nevermore is refreshingly new and fully developed yet interwoven inside the fast-paced story line. Although the climax is somewhat a disappointment as the audience will have expected much more after such a strong plot, readers will appreciate this small town second chance romantic fantasy.

The Union Quilters
Jennifer Chiaverini
c/o Penguin Putnam
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780525952039, $24.95,

In 1862 the men of Water's Ford, Pennsylvania join the Northern army leaving behind their loved ones. The women worry about the males but know the cause is just. They will do whatever they can to support the war and pray for the safe return of their beloved.

The Elm Creek Valley quilting bee members rally around one another. Constance Wright knows her husband Abel a freeman of color wants to free other slaves like he did when he bought her freedom though this time he will use his rifle even if the Union refuses to accept a black. Dorothea Nelson and Charlotte Granger worry about their educated spouses. A former schoolmaster Thomas Nelson takes with him his beloved Dorothea's Dove in the Window quilt. His brother-in-law Dr. Jonathan Granger leaves behind his pregnant wife Charlotte and their child. Gerda Bergstrom misses Jonathan who seems to have moved on from his first love while her brother Hans refuses to fight claiming he is a pacifist.

The latest Elm Creek drama (see The Aloha Quilt and A Quilter's Holiday) is a strong fresh entry that gives readers a profound look at mostly abolitionists either fighting as volunteer soldiers for the Union Army or at home in Pennsylvania seeking ways in addition to prayers to help their loved ones at war. Readers will appreciate this superb Civil War entry though ironically for an Elm Creek tale the stich count is at an all time low.

One Rough Man
Brad Taylor
9780525952138, $25.95

By Presidential decree, President Warren established Project Prometheus to capture or assassinate terrorists as soon as possible; preferably before an event. The field unit of this top secret government is Taskforce who understands the mission is to kill the enemy before they harm Americans.

Pike Logan is one of the best taskforce operatives. However, while performing a mission involving Azzam the Jordanian dirty Hedgehog in Tbilisi, he suffers a personal trauma back home as he fails to be there for his family at a time they needed him. When he returns to the States, Pike vanishes as he now understands the threat is not fanatics or rogue nations but a few powerful affluent ideologues.

Nine moths since the assault on his family, Pike's "retirement" ends when he rescues College of Charleston student Jennifer Cahill from two professional killers. While she has no idea why they came after her, at the same in Guatemala her uncle Professor John Cahill finds an ancient Mayan weapon of mass destruction that Arab terrorists plan to steal and employ to cause a Holy War in the Mideast.

Although the body count is way too tropospheric and the romantic subplot feels more like a softening requirement of One Rough Man, Brad Taylor provides an exciting thriller that grips the audience from the opening mission in Georgia and never slows down for a nanosecond. Action-packed with corpses seemingly on every page, fans who enjoy an engaging look at globalization from his perspective of weapons of mass destruction will want top read Pike's return to the living thanks to Jennifer.

The Queen's Rival
Diane Haeger
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451232205, $15.00,

Fourteen years old Bessie Blount is part of the retinue of Queen Katherine of Aragon. However, the precocious teen catches the eye of Katherine's wandering husband King Henry VIII. He wants her, which makes her an enemy of her employer.

The monarch and the teenager begin a tryst, which ends when she becomes pregnant; replaced by the Boleyn sisters. When she gives birth to a son Henry, her baby is removed from her care and she is forced to leave court. She marries her friend, Lord Gilbert Tailbois and has three children with him before his death makes her a widow. She dies from consumption when she is in her thirties.

The latest In the Court of Henry VIII historical thriller (see The Queen's Mistake), Diane Haeger focuses on the life of Bess Blount who was Henry's mistress when she was a teen only to be kicked aside when the Boleyn babes arrived at court. Ironically, their offspring is the only illegitimate that the lusty womanizing monarch recognized. Even with Bessie bringing freshness as a rarely used (if ever) character, the period has been the setting so frequently that fans of anything Tudor will find little fresh though "Bless 'ee, Bessie Blount" makes for an engaging biographical fiction anyway.

Seduced by Destiny
Kira Morgan
Forever Romance
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446548175, $7.99,

In 1561 Scotland, raised by three combat veterans, Josselin Ancrum is a trained warrior. She travels to Edinburgh to see the arrival of Mary, Queen of Scots. However, her mouth gets her involved in a brawl. Undercover as a Highlander, Englishman Drew MacAdam rescues her from a nasty situation.

Drew prefers fighting on the golf links than the war zone where he proves better than the locals winning Scottish money. Josselin is attracted to Drew as she enjoys drinking beer with him as long as he pays the tab. However, she refuses to allow anyone to interfere with her quest to secretly keep her queen safe. Her undercover effort fails as she cannot conceal her zeal from anyone, but her sword proves mightier than the golf club when it comes to protecting Queen Mary. Meanwhile Drew roots for the woman he adores even though he assumes she can out fight him regardless of his choice of weapon.

This refreshing superb sixteenth century romance stars two unique protagonists as she is a warrior skilled with the sword and he is golfer skilled with the clubs. Their engaging banter is fun to follow as Kira Morgan provides a brisk entertaining historical (see Captured by Desire) due to a wonderful pair of battling combatant in love.

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing
Jasper Fforde
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780670022526, $25.95,

In BookWorld, the dispute between the various genres has not always been civilized as insults are literally ugly. The Council of genres tries to keep the peaceful coexistence from becoming a book burning battle in which everyone loses in that combat scenario. The Council needs a hero but cannot hold out for one any longer, as Thursday Next has retired and relocated in Realworld.

Desperate situations call for desperate measures. The Council asks the written version of Thursday Next to serve as the peacemaker and peacekeeper of the written (and other formats) word. She begins her mission traveling the Metaphoric River where she uncovers a diabolical twisting plot to end BookWorld.

Once again skewering the hand that feeds him, Jasper Fforde returns to BookWorld with another super First Among Sequels saga. The literature Thursday is an interesting spin of the Realworld Thursday as the literary wannabe heroine sails the Metaphoric only to discover that reading may be fundamental but can prove deadly when Something Rotten is occurring. Fans who enjoy humorous satire will appreciate the return to a realm where lost plots are lethal.

A Discovery of Witches
Deborah Harkness
9780670022410, $28.95

Most of the patrons and staff at the Oxford University Bodleian Library are paranormals consisting of three species: witches, daemons and vampires; though there are some humans also. Visiting American witch Yale professor Diana Bishop is at the library conducting research into ancient alchemy tomes when she uncovers the Ashmole 782 manuscript that may provide insight into the origins of the species. Using her paranormal skills, as the offspring of two powerful but deceased witches, Diana uses an enchantment to open the tome.

Her incantation leads 1,500 years old vampire Matthew Clairmont to Bishop as well as the now, freed by her, undead who want their accidental liberator dead in case she can reverse what she wrought. Breaking the class taboo, the witch and the vampire team up to keep her safe while they investigate the origin of the species. As their attraction grows, many of the paranormal want both dead for breaking the laws of nature that forbids cross species relationships.

Although over the top of Sir Christopher Wren's Tom Tower, A Discovery of Witches is a great academic fantasy in which readers will feel Deborah Harkness put a spell on us. Fast-paced with an underlying social theme and a nod to Darwin, a world of four sentient species sharing the famous library and fragile peace makes for a fun start to an engaging tale. Diana the intellectual witch and her undead protector are a fine team escorting the audience through lethal maize of paranormal who want them dead.

Karen Russell
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, N Y, NY 10019
9780307263995, $24.95,

Florida is known for some of the oddest tourist attractions (some might say traps) on the planet. The state is home to Swamplandia where Bigtree alligator-wrestling has gone on for ages. However, several recent setbacks place the family business in jeopardy as the once popular stop appears heading to bankrupt extinction.

There are talent issues as the star wrestler Hilia who brought in the masses to watch a female pin alligators recently died. The older daughter Ossie has fallen in love and elopes with a ghost of a man. Adding insult their brother Kiwi accepts a position as janitor at their more powerfully backed rival the World of Darkness. Finally the patriarch Chief Bigtree has vanished. Thus the youngest sibling thirteen years old Ava takes over her late mom's spot as the show must go on, but lacks her glamour and experience and besides has to herd just under a hundred gators and care for the park while controlling her grief. However, all changes when Ava believes she must rescue her father trapped in hell otherwise known as Gulf of Mexico; her allies are Grandpa Sawtooth, the Bird Man, and her BFF the midget alligator; at stake is her dad, the park and their island.

This is a wonderful odd fantasy with the key players fully substantial that they bring core realism to the capricious tale. Obviously this is Ava's saga but the support cast enhances her save her world story line. Readers who enjoy something cutting edge different will want Swamplandia! Tour guide Karen Russell escorting them around the island, the park, and the Gulf in this enchanting but strange thriller (see St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves anthology for more entertainingly refreshing).

The Illumination
Kevin Brockmeier
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th fl, New York, NY 10019
9780375425318, $24.95,

One night just like any other suddenly The Illumination miraculously occurs as any wound on any person suddenly shines with a glow. The light shows how battered and bruised humanity truly is; as no one remains illuminated-free. During the beginning of The Illumination, Carol Ann is in the hospital due to a sliced off thumb. During anesthesia she bites her inner mouth adding a second injury. After surgery she shares a room with Patricia who along with her husband Jason were in a car accident due to ice. Patricia gives Carol Ann a book of love poems Jason wrote to his spouse. The woman assumes her husband is dead so she gives the book to Carol Ann before she dies.

Jason wants to see Carol Ann. Soon afterward battered child Chuck Carter breaks into Jason's home and steals his journal of love. He passes the journal to evangelist Ryan Shifrin who wonders about humanity's mental and physical sufferings under a benign God. The love tome soon passes on to Nina Poggione.

This is a powerful tale that focuses on humanity's pain and suffering yet with a glimmer of hope as Kevin Brockmeier uses six degrees of separation to make a case that mankind is always tied together with one another even if it is for evanescent moments. The key to this tale that in some ways reads more like a short story collection as the focus shifts to the current book bearer is that the six prime stars seem real as each suffers from mental and physical injuries yet like The Illumination, Jason's book of love shines through tying each to one another. Character driven, readers will appreciate the Illumination into the collective soul of mankind.

Dead Space
Lee Goldberg
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781456501686, $11.99,

Pinnacle Pictures decides to create a fourth network. As the anchor program, the brass chooses a revival of their 1960s cult classic TV show Beyond the Beyond. Former cop Charlie Willis (see My Gun Has Bullets) heads security at the studio.

He quickly learns working street patrol at night in downtown Los Angeles is an easier job than keeping the maniacs working on the project safe and the even crazier fanatic fans wanting in out. However, someone takes fanaticism over the top of the Hollywood sign when murder occurs. Charlie believes Clive Odett, head of The Company is behind what appears to be professional hits as the firm will kill to control all the TV hits. However, Charlie's focus on Odett and his dirty practices has him miss some of the fans who reject ruthlessly any change in casting as a heresy from a show that went off the air over two decades ago. Encouraging the loonies is the original Endeavor starship Captain Pierce actor Guy Goddard who has not had a real gig since the show went off the air as he wants his role back.

With an obvious lampooning of the Star Trek craze and a nod to the movie Galaxy Quest (though the novel came before the movie), this reprint of a 1997 thriller takes no prisoners as Lee Goldberg satirizes Hollywood business practices and fanatical fundamentalist fandom. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Pinnacle announces the revival, greeted by some as the Second Coming. Although Charlie's inquiry is entertaining that subplot never matches the lunacy of the reactions of bottom line slimy Hollywood insiders and the gross frantic wannabe insider fans as Mr. Goldberg rakes both symbiotic groups as adding noise to Dead Space.

Three Ways to Die
Lee Goldberg
9781456481872, $5.99,

"Jack Webb's Star". Writer Kevin Dangler and about two dozen other offenders attend traffic school overlooking Jack Webb's Star. He meets a bunch of lunatics including armed robbery convict turned construction worker Titus Watkins who seen Kevin's wife perform an XXX taxi scene with Christopher Walken. They team up on a theft of a star that leads to much more.

"Bumsickle". After two decades on the police force, Spokane Police Detective Bud Flanek knows he still thinks like a dick as he did when he joined due to the recruiter's luscious looking breasts. He has managed to achieve a consistent level of mediocrity though at times that bar is too high. His current case involved the homicide of the thirty-something Jane Doe Caucasian with no ID except her visage is his wife who he has not seen in two years.

"Remaindered. Kevin's first novel Frost Bite was a monster success that had him singing along side of Elmore and alphabet Grafton. His second thriller Do Unto Others tanked. His latest tale Twisted Sheets was bought by a minor publishing firm. Kevin is on a signing tour of his former best-seller, which is why he is at a K-Mart in Spokane where he meets his greatest fan Megan. He thinks she is a sign from God, but will soon revise who sent her into his life.

This short collection contains reprints of three excellent crime capers with loosely interrelated twists. Lee Goldberg is at his best in each of them as appreciative fans of short mysteries will testify.

Serpent's Storm
Amber Benson
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, NY, NY 10014
9780441020096, $7.99,

Calliope Reaper-Jones has a unique DNA as she happens to be one of Death's Daughters. She just wants to be a normal New York City yuppie, but with her genetics normal is not a term Calliope expects to ever find.

However even she is unprepared when her sister Thalia united with the Devil commits patricide killing their father Death. Complicating matters for Calliope is she is unsure whether she should grieve or not for her dad or herself as she is now Death. She must accept this position she never wanted starting with the need to kill her new lover Daniel the former Devil's protege turned soul-saver; for if she abdicates her duty, chaos has entered the Hall of Death, which will swarm all over the universe including heaven and hell but especially earth. Then she must pay the death debt with the Ender of Death for what occurred to her family especially her widowed mom.

No longer the heir apparent thanks to her sibling, the Reaper Jones must embrace her heritage or watch the universe implode. Fast-paced but filled with humor and pathos, readers will embrace the heroine as accepts Manhattan is no longer home if it ever truly was. Serpent's Storm is Cal's fantasy as she with a strong support cast make for a powerful action-packed thriller.

Daybreak Zero
John Barnes
9780441019755, $26.95

Almost a year has passed since Daybreak made itself known, but those aware of its existence remain clueless as to what it is though its purpose appears to be the extinction of the human race. Fusion bombs explode and fourteen EMPs strike the United States causing the massive black-out and billions of deaths. Nanoswarm attacks destroy petroleum products including plastic leaving more people dead. On the moon, a gun appears that shooting rays at earth so that there is no radio or television; Daybreak is behind the assault.

In America much of the land has been devastated by the Daybreak attacks. President Graham Weisband and his provisional Constitutional Government in Olympia, Washington and Cameron Nguyen-Peters of the temporary National Government in Athens, Georgia argue over how to get the country back on its' feet.. In Pueblo, Colorado, Heather O'Grainne head of the Reconstruction Research Center prevented a civil war (see Directive 51) and hosts conferences for the candidates wanting to become the next president with the Constitution serving as the basis for a new government. She also wonders how the Tribals are linked to Daybreak who seems to be able to kill anyone in opposition at any time.

Daybreak Zero is an exciting thriller starring a force that can either kill or control mankind. The story line contains several mysteries re Daybreak as to how it works and who is the powerful wizard behind the curtain. Readers wonder whether Quislings are selling out the government and consequently the people as some of those insiders remain avaricious power hungry addicts. Although a middle book feel as more questions surfaced and no major ones answered, John Barnes shows his talent as somehow the author continues to pique reader interest in his latest super Daybreak chronicle.

The Griffin's War
K.J. Taylor
9780441020102, $7.99

The destroyer of the Eyrie of Eagleholm, Arenadd Taranisaii remains incarcerated in a dungeon. Once he was a free Northerner bonded to a griffin and once he was a slave, but in both cases when he was called Arren Cardockson he was the victim of de facto racism. Now he is a lunatic singing all day and night. His guards have no idea how to deal with the maniac who as a kraeai kran ae lacks a heart.

Though he fears the consequences of his vow to his people's dark deity Arenadd pledges his life to the Night God, which enables him to wander the shadows unseen. Using this skill, he escapes from his Southern imprisonment. He heads back to his northern people accompanied by his bonded The Dark Griffin ready to lead a revolt against an oppressive south. Only Errian and one other Arenadd stands in his way.

The finish to the Fallen Moon fantasy (see The Griffin's Flight) is a strong climax to a fabulous trilogy. Arren has "evolved" into Arenadd believing that his former essence is dead since the curse cost him his heart. Loaded with battle action, but anchored by a profound look at a stifling caste society in which political (power) gains supersede people needs. Fans will relish the last war of the being with no heart while wondering whether the curse physically removed his heart or society metaphysically makes him a heartless fiend greater and less than human.

Dead Waters
Anton Strout
9780441020119, $7.99

In Manhattan's Columbus Circle, Department Of Extraordinary Affairs Other Worldly Division field agent Simon Canderous and his girlfriend Jane Clayton-Forrester of Greater and Lesser Arcana Division are off the clock doing a favor for vampire Aidan Christos. Customer complains about a spirit haunting an antique store the Undead own; vampires are unable to bite or punch ghosts. The pair rid the store of the insane ghost, but psychometric Simon absorbs tons of negative emotion from the sick spirit.

No time for rest for the weary as the pair attends a meeting called by Simon's boss Inspectre Qumbley who explains to Jane, Simon and his partner Connor Christos that David Davidson of the Mayor's Office of Plausibility Deniability needs the help of DEA. Davidson explains that a murder of Professor Mason Redfield has shaken up NYPD. Quimbley is shook too as he knows Mason. The three agents visit the homicide scene in which Mason drowned without a struggle as there is no water on his clothing or on the floor; only in his lungs. The case spins wetter and weirder while Simon struggles to control emotional overload and the need for a chest of drawers.

The latest Canderous urban fantasy (see Dead To Me, Deader Still and Dead Matter) contains the usual defense mechanism banter used by the field agents to relieve the emotions of some of the gruesome adversaries they dive after in "mortal" combat. City budget cuts provide further comic relief as those risking their lives for a government paycheck are told the phony platitude to do more with less although they already spend 90% of their work time in deadly inquiries and 120% time on bureaucratic paper required by fiscal cookie-cutters. Fast-paced even off the clock, readers will enjoy Anton Strout's Dead twisting investigative thriller with a stunning climax.

Play Dead
John Levitt
9780441019649, $7.99

In San Francisco dark magic practitioner Jessica Alexander wants to hire middling Enforcer Mason and his canine-ifrit familiar Lou. He prefers to say no and wonders how far he has sunk to visit a dark practitioner at her office, but the guitar playing musician needs to pay the rent and fix up his truck. Thus he considers Jessie's paying gig to locate Jackie who stole something from her. Besides as Jessie knows, the chief of the enforcers Victor orders Mason to accept the job, but to report back to him as a spy.

Mason and Lou search for Jackie turns twisted when they learn the heart of the matter is an arcane spell book that contains incantations to open portals to other worlds. Dark and Light practitioners including Mason covet having such power. However, as Lou reminds his partner, absolute power corrupts the soul while the pair struggle in and out of one incongruity after another wondering what lethality Jackie is actually deploying.

The fourth Dog Days urban fantasy (see Unleashed and New Tricks) is a terrific tale that grips the audience once Mason and Lou agree to investigate as to the whereabouts of Jackie. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, though the jocularity is somewhat abated compared to the previous novels especially with the climax. John Levitt has four aces in a row with his excellent Dog Days saga.

Mists of Velvet
Sophie Renwick
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451232601, $15.00,

Annwyn is the Otherworld in which most mortals are unaware of its existence. Those few who do know of the realm are descendent of the Otherworld denizen.

One of these individuals with the blood of his great- grandfather a Sidhe royal who abdicated for love, Rhys MacDonald owns Velvet Haven night club that caters to the paranormal. When he learns of a major magical menace threatening to destroy the Otherworld, he ignores the taboo of mortals forbidden in Annwyn and races through a portal in his establishment. However, upon entering the Otherworld, he is captured but liberated by Bronwyn the shapeshifting goddess who rescues from death the male she believes is her soul mate, having seen him in her visions. As Rhys falls in love with his savior, he must prove a worthy warrior to save her and others against the Dark Magick that engulfs Otherworld.

The second Immortals of Annwyn (see Velvet Haven) is more a quest fantasy with a strong romantic subplot enhancing the save the realm story line. Filled with plenty of action from the moment the hero leaves his border sanctuary on a rescue mission, fans who prefer more fantasy than romantic interludes will want to join the hybrid warrior (a support player in the previous tale) as he risks his life to save the world of his beloved and his heritage.

The Perfect Play
Jaci Burton
9780425238813, $15.00

Right Touch event planner Tara Lincoln feels fortunate that she got the gig for the NFL San Francisco Sabers summer party. For the past four months Tara killed herself as she know this gala could be a walk-off winning touchdown or a game costing fumble.

The team's star quarterback Mick Riley congratulates her for hosting a fine event. They share a great night together in which she assumes Cinderella goes home to never see Prince Charming ever again. Besides as a single mom she has enough trouble with the male in her life, her troubled teenage son Nathan. However, Mick's trait of never quitting which serves him well in the NFL also has him remain resolute as he wants more than just a one night stand.

This is an enjoyable heated football romance starring a superstar athlete and a single working mom. The story line is faster than Bob Hayes ran for a touchdown in and out of the sack. Ironically the "matchmaker" is also the alibi as Tara hides behind her need to project her child from the crap she went through at his age. Readers will enjoy this excellent sports romance as the QB seeks the Perfect Play to win the game of love as he already has her heart.

Christina Phillips
9780425238820, $15.00

Druid priestess Morwyn watched in horror when all she believed in died with the successful Roman invasion of Britain. Angry at her failed Goddess, Morwyn takes a vow of celibacy while also seeking to free her people from the ruthless legion.

She masquerades as a trader trying to reach Cymru and her fellow Britons hiding while regrouping in plans for a counter insurgency. However, a Roman unit catches her and abuses her until their leader Brennus ends their assault. He claims the Celt as his. As they travel together, they fall in love. Her visions say he is the man she seeks to save her people, but Morwyn distrusts anything sent by the Goddess. She flees to where her king is only to find Brennus beat her there; as he reveals he is not a Roman but an undercover Gaul loyal to her monarch.

The second hot Ancient Britannia romance is a superb tale as the Druid priestess knows her abstinence pledge is being tested by her meeting the "Roman". The story line is filled with action yet also insures the audience will feel caught in the conflict in AD 50, seven years after the invasion. Each of the lead couple struggles with an attraction that has come at the wrong time in the wrong place, and further complicated by purposely misleading omissions. Readers will want more historical thrillers like Captive and Forbidden from Christina Phillips.

Mine Is The Night
Liz Curtiss Higgs
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400070022, $14.99,

In 1746 those who supported Prince Charles' claim to the throne during the failed Jacobite Rebellion are paying the price. Widow Marjorie Kerr saw her two sons Donald and Andrew die at Falkirk and her family's title stripped for supporting Charles. She and one of her widowed daughter-in-laws Elisabeth head to Selkirk where her cousin Anne lives in meager conditions.

Marjory knows she is a charity case imposing on a poor relative she ignored for a decade. Ann, who earns her living as a lace-maker, allows them shelter. Elisabeth is unafraid of hard work as she is talented with a needle. She obtains work sewing shirts for Widower single father Michael Dalgiesh's haberdashery. Marjory becomes the cook for her cousin and her daughter-in-law. She also fears for the life of her butler Gibson who should have been here before then, but has failed to arrive. Meanwhile wealthy hero Lord Jack Buchanan is expected shortly and his arrival could prove disastrous to widows of traitors.

This is an entertaining eighteenth century Christian romance starring three Kerr females struggling to survive in a world turned upside down by the late men in their lives. Elisabeth and Marjory turn to the Lord for guidance when things look dire and gloomy. Although the story line is straightforward with no surprises from start to finish, ending the way the audience expects, the strong surviving women and the solid support cast make for a fine historical (see Here Burns My Candle for the previous Kerr saga).

Agent X
Noah Boyd
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061826986, $24.99,

Former FBI agent Steve Vail looks forward to his New Year's Eve date with FBI assistant director Kate Bannon. However instead of romance, the FBI has an issue in which Vail is the man. He finds it ironic that the Feds who fired him for insubordination while solving cases now want to use him on their most convoluted inquires since he is a civilian Chicago Bricklayer.

Russian embassy officer "Calculus" informed the FBI that he will sell them a list containing Americans selling secret information to the Russians; for each traitor arrested, he expects, $250,000. However, the deal ends when his superiors order Calculus back to Moscow. The FBI believes the Russian know he was about to betray them and will kill those on the hit list. Vail and Bannon will welcome in the New Year together trying to find the list of Calculus.

This is an exciting espionage thriller starring an intriguing renegade and his beautiful sidekick. The story line is fast-paced with a sense of the unlikely that enhances the fun. Although a comparison of how Vail investigates with standard operating procedures would have enhanced the thriller especially the seemingly over the top scenes, fans will enjoy the Bricklayer's return as the numbers fail to add up.

The Headhunter's Daughter
Tamar Myers
9780061997648, $13.99

In 1945 in the Belgian Congo, a Bashilele warrior on a headhunting quest finds an abandoned baby that he assumes is an ailing human due to her white skin and blue eyes. He takes the infant to his tribe to be raised as a member affectionately called "Ugly Eyes".

In October 1958 in the Belgian Congo, rumors fly in the diamond-mining town of Belle Vue that a white teenage girl lives with the Bashilele tribe. American missionary Amanda Brown; her boyfriend police captain Pierre Jardin; and her scheming maid Cripple are stunned with the news of a Caucasian residing with the headhunters. The teen is brought to the outpost, which leads to everyone discussing whether "Ugly Eyes" is the Belgian infant who vanished thirteen years ago. They also debate what to do with the child as resolution of the problem is complex but surprisingly also dangerous.

The Headhunter's Daughter is a fantastic Belgian Congo historical thriller that brings to life the then African colony with tender affection just like Tamar Myers did with the terrific The Witch Doctor's Wife. With a nod to the "white man's burden" rationale for colonization, the story line is character driven by Good Samaritans who learn first hand what paves the road to hell as nothing seems to go right for the pair or the girl they want to help. However though the American and her boyfriend drive the tale, it is the deep look at colonial Belgian Congo during the Eisenhower Administration that makes for a powerful Cold War era thriller.

Dark Prince
Christine Feehan
9780062009623, $19.99

In the Carpathian Mountains lives an immortal race of blood drinkers. These eternal Carpathians face several crises that have the species nearing extinction. There are few females and no new child has been born alive in ages. Humans with their superior numbers hunt Carpathians as soulless beasts. The assertion has support as the male must find his soulmate within a few centuries or turn into blood sucking vampires; some recognize the emotional void when they lose the ability to see colors and choose suicide.

Prince Mikhail Dubrinsky despairs for himself and his people as he is on the brink of lunacy. His emptiness overwhelms him so he wants to shut down the emotions; still he holds back his anguish as his people need him as their moral anchor. He wonders if he totally lost it when he hears a female telepathic voice in his head. Mikhail finds the woman psychic Raven Whitney the serial killer hunter. He knows who she is to him so he abducts her. Using mind-sex to make it with his virgin, Mikhail begins to win the heart of his savior. He has little time to persuade her that they are life mates as a serial killing monster hunts Carpathians with species cleansing the objective.

"The Author's Cut Special Edition" reprint of the original first Dark Carpathian romantic fantasy (released in 1999) includes over a hundred pages removed from the initial publication. These include sexual padding but also provide deeper insight into the Carpathian culture. Mikhail is a wonderful lead character with his mental roller coaster while Raven proves his equal as his soul savior. This life mate team must prevent the genocide. Reader of the twenty-one books series will enjoy the revised alpha thriller with its marvelous underlying premise while newcomers will find this is an excellent way to enter Christine Feehan's Dark.

A Light at Winter's End
Julia London
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439176498, $7.99,

Heartbroken Wyatt Clark watched his wife Macy leave him to return to her first husband Finn Lockhart, who had been mistakenly reported dead by an IED in Afghanistan (see Summer of Two Wishes). Wyatt spends the next two years moving back and forth between anger as he brought Macy back to life after she learned her Finn died and self pity as he believed Macy owed him. He remains in isolation on his Texas ranch.

In Austin, Texas Holly Fisher has dreamed of being a songwriter for a long time. Now the time is right to begin her career. However, her aspirations are put on hold when her estranged sister, Hannah, a drug addict, arrives with a baby. She dumps Mason on Holly before leaving to enter a rehab program. Holly takes Mason with her as she goes to the Fisher family spread, next door to the silent sourpuss Wyatt. As she falls for Wyatt and Mason, she wonders whether a love song can do her feelings justice only reality turns her lyrics to How can You Mend a Broken Heart (BeeGees).

This sequel is a super character driven Texas romance starring a mentally wounded rancher who understands Nazareth's Love Hurts so refuses to go back on the horse that threw him and a nurturing woman who puts her aspirations aside to care for her one year old nephew. Filled with angst due to realistic characters, readers will enjoy A Light At Winter's End though it helps to understand Wyatt better by reading his previous heartbreaking appearance in Summer of two Wishes.

Etched in Bone
Adrian Phoenix
9781439137307, $7.99

He has his feet in three worlds though he wants none of them. Vampire Dante Baptiste is the Fallen maker and the Great Destroyer who wants neither role. However, he wants a future with his beloved FBI agent Heather Wallace who shares his love and anguished tortured soul (if he has one that is) that often teeters towards insanity.

The vampires of nightkind want him as a means to take control of the planet. At the same time, the human Shadow Branch agents seek to control him by using enhanced psychological persuasion of him and if needed his love Heather. Finally the Fallen followers are growing impatient with their leader's refusal to lead them to the Promised Land as expected by his "offspring for over a thousand years. These three diverse groups hone in on Dante and Heather.

The fourth Maker's Song (see In the Blood, Rush of Wings and Beneath the Skin) is a taut thriller in which the reader continues to empathize with the beleaguered hero and his beloved Fed. Although there are too many subplot start-ups with a horde of new mostly antagonists that make it difficult to follow the Dante (and by association Heather) assaults and where they will lead as Etched in Bone completes the transition of the overarching theme from a paranormal police procedural into a grim urban fantasy.. Still fans of Adrian Phoenix will enjoy stepping into the author's dark world.

Healing the Highlander
Melissa Mayhue
9781439190203, $7.99

Hybrid Fae-human Leah Noble fled the twenty-first century breeding program of the Nuadian Fae who tortured her by doing what she thought is her only chance for a haven; going back in time to 1293 MacQuarrie Keep where Grandma Mac takes her in. Leah assumed she would be safe back in time. However, by 1305 her assumption proves false when Richard MacQuarrie lives up to his nickname of Dick by promising her in marriage to a nasty Englishman.

Leah flees again but not in time. This time she seeks shelter with the MacKiernan clan who has Fae blood. However, when she falls into a loch, severely injured Highland warrior Andrew MacAlister rescues her. Her tumble into the water costs her the map and letter she needs to obtain a welcome from the MacAlister clan. Andrew escorts her even claiming she is his wife when her enemy catches up to them.

The latest Daughters of the Glen historical fantasy romance (see A Highlander's Homecoming, A Highlander's Destiny and Soul of the Highlander) is a warm entertaining time travel tale. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing as each needs the other to heal from physical and emotional hurts. Although the story line is more linear (even with the heroine going back several centuries) than usual for this enchanting series, fans will enjoy Melissa Mayhue's magnificent seventh saga.

How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf
Molly Harper
9781439195864, $7.99

Mo Duval-Wenstein drives from Leland, Mississippi to Grundy, Alaska; population of 2,053. She left behind a broken engagement and a concerned mother who has flooded her cell's voice mail with a zillion "call me" messages that she deletes each night without listening to them. She needed to get away so she leased the Meyers' place for a year. Her first person to greet the Lower Forty-eight transplant is Yosemite Sam AKA Nate Gogan the lawyer.

Her abode smells of dead fish as the last residents were weekend anglers. At the Blue Glacier Saloon, Mo meets owner Evie DuChamp who tells her as long as they don't offer her meat they are harmless. She also meets Cooper Graham who scoffs at a southerner surviving in Alaska. He conceals from her that from his first sniff he knows who she is to him. Soon afterward, Mo is taken aback when a naked Cooper with an animal trap locked onto his ankle limps onto her porch. He is a werewolf, who fears he is the serial killing wolf murdering people. Mo refuses to believe her alpha life mate is a psychopath even in animal form so he risks her life to prove her assertion.

This jocular Alaskan romance places a dysfunctional werewolf pack whose alpha has deserted them and a Mississippi Delta woman into the middle of Northern Exposure. With culture clashes that make Fleischman seem like another Native Alaskan instead of a New Yorker, How To Flirt With A Naked Werewolf is a zany tongue in cheek lampooning of the sub-genre. Filled with sassy southern sensitivities and wacky werewolf wanting, fans will enjoy "Nice Girls Don't" marry dead men with fangs in places like Leland or Half Moon Hollow, but in Alaska tongue out of cheek lycanthropes make better lovers.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find
ReShonda Tate Billingsley
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439183502, $15.00,

Investigative journalist Ava Cole feels like she fell through the rabbit hole when the news magazine she works for shuts down. Instead of seeking a job, Ava is assigned to work for a sister publication, the National Star; a tabloid in which the story always comes first even before the safety of the reporter and the subject of the expose.

Ava admits to herself she appreciates the upbeat accommodations her new position provides, but hates wallowing in the dirt. Her current assignment has her in Aruba to cover pop superstar India Wright's wedding. Her editor expects Ava to find the sordid filth on the bride and groom. However, Ava also finds romance with photographer Cliff and with India's manager Julian; while hoping she is below the radar screen of some tabloid reporter exposing her triangular tryst.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find is an entertaining look at tabloid reporting of scandalous behavior' which ironically as Ava knows she could be the story. The cast is solid especially Ava struggling with how far she feels she fell in the journalism world and the rejection of her long time former boyfriend. However, as she learns sex scandals sell while other investigative reporting apparently does not and that she needs two hunks to move passed her former hunk. Readers will enjoy Ava's revelations as she fully comprehends the true meaning of A Good Man Is Hard to Find and even harder to retain.

The Dawn Country
W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765320179, $25.99,

In 1400, the Iroquois tribes are at war with one another due to overpopulation and a lack of fertile soil to grow crops. Clans fight for the same scarce game to feed their people. The Dawnland People destroys Bog Willow Village killing men, stealing their goods and abducting women and children into slavery.

After the carnage ends, the amoral witch Gannajero wants to buy children to make them her slaves including renting them out to sexual deviants. Wrass understands no immediate rescue will occur. He and the other children must save themselves. He creates a diversion that enables some of the kids to escape from the evil crone and her malevolent warriors. Siblings Odion and Tutelo are some of the few who got away. They make it and find their parents of the Yellowtail village of Chief Koracoo and her deputy their father Gonda. The tribal chief and her deputy search for more of the lost children especially heroic Wrass and Zateri. They know even with allies like Cord the Mohawk War Chief and Wakdanek the Dawnland healer they face difficult odds in finding the sold children and when they confront the odious witch, but Koracoo vows to kill the vile one.

The second People of the Dawnland quartet of historical novels is a terrific reading experience that transport fans to a pre-Columbus North America's Forgotten Past. Team Gear provides their fans with a fascinating look at the Iroquois culture inside of a powerful story line in which children play a strong role. The heroic adults' knowledge that not all the children will be rescued as some will be sadly sold into sexual slavery enhances the realism as does a coda with Zateri's tribe. This is a super entry as the wicked witch and her perverted customers leave emotional and physical scars on the children and adults.

Autumn: The City
David Moody
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312570002, $14.99,

The pandemic virus was so contagious, over 99% of mankind died in under twenty-four hours. Civilization was over and the few humans to survive had no time to mourn their losses as a few days later the dead began to ruse. Some fortunate people escaped the city (see Autumn) though unsure where to go.

However, not all were able to leave. Those trapped inside the city have little hope as the streets swarm with the walking undead who "live" to rip human flesh apart. Donna York hid under a desk during the brutal first forty-eight hours. Jack the warehouse worker stayed home after he observed oddness on the bus and saw his elderly neighbor. Clare the student meets Jack when she enters his home seeking shelter. Paul hid in the music store where he worked. They begin to meet other survivors like Michael and Cooper. These few unfortunate knows their only prayer is to run a gauntlet through aggressive killers in order to reach an underground military bunker that Cooper says is their salvation; not knowing whether the military remains in control inside of it.

This is an action-packed exciting Z thriller (don't use that Z word with the Autumn tales) as the few remaining humans trapped inside the city struggle through a deadly path to reach their only chance to survive. The story line is fast-paced with the early chapters before everyone converges displaying some of the fears each possesses of the unknown and more so of the known. Although David Moody never digs deeper into the emotional defense mechanisms mentally deployed to control a wide variety of psychological issues such as survivor guilt and seeing friends and family change into mindless killers, fans will enjoy the escapades of those fleeing for their lives with the Undead everywhere ready to pounce.

The Invasion Year
Dewey Lambdin
9780312551858, $25.99

In 1803, British Royal Navy Captain Alan Lewrie saves a French fleet from a slave rebellion in Haiti though he wanted to ignore their deserved plight as he felt the Haitians were in the right. Soon afterward, Lewrie and his crew cross the Atlantic protecting merchant ships. In London King George III honors Lewrie for his patriotic endeavors by knighting him.

However, even he is taken back by his next assignment as he thought he had seen everything. Lewrie works on a torpedo experiment as a potential weapon to greet Napoleon when he crosses the Channel. Only debauchery and wenching keeps Lewrie afloat as the new weapon seems more dangerous to the handlers than the French.

The latest Lewrie historical military thriller (see King, Ship and Sword) is filled with trademark humor as the hero is more intoxicated then usual and has more senior officers who only get wet in Bath available to offend. The overall story line is fast-paced but overly cites (in detail) the protagonist's daring deeds that led to his knighthood. Still fans of the series will enjoy Lewrie's return home as Napoleon prepares for the French Invasion Year that the brass hopes they can torpedo with the hero as an expendable guinea pig.

Bank of the Black Sheep
Robert Lewis
Serpent's Tail
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 West 108th Street, Suite 901, New York, NY 10025
9781846687457, $14.95,

Alcoholic private investigator Robin Llywelyn wakes up chained to a hospital bed. He has no idea how he there or why he is chained though he suffers from a massive hangover. When Dfyed-Polis Police Constable Matt Roberts and Avon-CID Detective Inspector David Knight show him his business card, Robin does not recognize his own name. The morphine dripping into his arm has sedated his pain but turns his brain into mashed potatoes. The two cops leave with the salutation of "give my regards to the cancer". Later the Crown decides to not prosecute Robin who has no more than two months to live.

Taking himself off the morphine so he can think straight, Robin needs a drink so he decides to leave the hospice and go on a date with another patient; as ironically his lungs failed him while his stewed liver did not. Llywelyn receives a package containing a letter, a gun and money, which gives him a second motive to leave the hospice as he realizes there is a fortune buried in Wales that people would die for to possesses; since he is dying he might as well possess it.

The third Llywelyn incompetent investigative thriller (see The Last Llanelli Train and Swansea terminal) is a terrific satirical tale is over the top of Mount Snowdon, but fans who enjoy something different in their crime capers will not care. Fast-paced and filled with zingers, cops and robbers chase after the antihero, Bank of the Black Sheep is an intelligent jocular lampooning of the incompetent sleuth who allegedly makes a living by turning miraculously their chicken sh*t into a chicken dinner; Robin on the other hand succeeds at being a derelict.

Iron Crowned
Richelle Mead
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9781420111798, $7.99,

Being the Queen of Thorn Land should ease making a living but it does not as in reality it adds debts, which Eugenie Markham has learned since sitting on the throne (see Storm Born and Thorn Queen). Instead the Storm King's offspring loves her powers including that of her sire, but loathes the responsibility and accountability that comes with the non-paying gig. In fact she pays the bills by doing mercury work as a shaman to the highest bidder.

The biggest issue, besides the fact that her child is foretold to conquer mankind, is the ruthless lethal war with Queen Katrice that Eugenie wants ended. She also has male issues as her former lover Kiyo the shapeshifter wants back in her life and Fairy King Dorian wants to sire that prophesied offspring with her. Eugenie considers obtaining the mystical Iron Crown to end the combat but fears what she knows of the artifact. The two men offer to help her, but she distrusts both of them.

The key to the entertaining Dark Swan fantasy series (see Thorn Queen) is Eugenie may be an adept shaman for hire to the highest bidder, but the ruler is also a terrible leader. Her incompetence makes her ironically seem human. Loaded with action, the road to hell is filled with misadventures as Queenie Eugenie seeks the legendary Iron Crown with two males sniffing at her legendary uterus.

Never Kiss a Stranger
Heather Grothaus
9781420112429, $6.99

The three Foxe sisters rule Fallstowe Castle. However, being the oldest and most ruthless, Lady Sibylla rules over her two sisters Lady Cecily and Lady Alys. Thus she arranges for her flighty out of control youngest sibling Alys to wed uncomplicated Clement Cobb.

On a wintry full moon night, Alys sneaks out to the nearby Foxe Ring stones hoping the legend will send her the right man for her to marry. On his way to London, Piers Mallory takes a shortcut crossing through the ring of stones. Alys believes he is her mate and tells the flabbergasted man that they are married IAW the legend. She insists she accompany him on his trek and be at his side when he pleads with the king to accept the proof of his birthright; though bewildered he agrees to her coming with him thinking a woman would help masquerade him from his murderous enemies.

This charming whimsical historical romance hooks the audience from the moment that the believer in the legendary enchantment and the skeptical pragmatist meet inside the stones. Alys assumes they are fated while Piers sees an opportunity to disguise himself. On the trek as they argue, fuss, and kiss, he realizes he had no choice with his spunky companion. The first tale of the Foxe females is a fabulous fable.

Deadly Games
Kate Noble
9781420101720, $6.99

Rocco Taylor was in the field when Gena Armstrong lost their baby. Rocco Taylor was in the field when Gena Armstrong married someone else. Rocco Taylor was in the field when Gena Armstrong turned to drink. Rocco Taylor was in the field when Gena Armstrong became a recovering alcoholic widow.

Rocco knows she wants nothing to do with him, but everyday he prays and wishes she would give him a second chance. He did not expect his wish to ever come true as sometimes you get what you wish for. Rocco knows his enemies attack him indirectly by going after the few people he cares about; especially targeted is his Gena. She is stunned when the ghost that she once loved arrives to keep her safe from a malevolent predator who plans to destroy Rocco through his Achilles' heel: Gena.

Deadly Games is an action-paced second chance romantic suspense. The story line for the most part is fast-paced though looks back at the first time around slows down the pace even as that enhances understanding of why Gena feels so disappointed with Rocco and why he agrees with her assertion. Readers will enjoy this exciting thriller as Rocco knows nobody lives to tell tales after an agent of death marks them on a deadly assignment (see Deadly Seduction).

Trouble and Her Friends
Melissa Scott
Orb Books
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765328489, $15.99,

In the future, the "brainworm" technology enables hackers to plug into databases in order to steal information to sell on the thriving gray market. Business is booming for those who plug in but the conservative old guard "netwalkers" complain to Congress that this outlaw activity needs to be banned. Sometimes you get what you ask for as the Evans-Tindale law bans the use of the brainworm and perhaps much more.

The best brainwormer is Trouble supported by her lesbian lover Cerise. The former fearing a long jail sentence stops using the technology as both women turn legit. Immediately afterward, Trouble just vanishes from heartbroken Cerise's life.

Three years later, Cerise realizes someone impersonates her Trouble on the Internet; that rogue steals industrial secrets like she and Trouble used to do and also leaves behind a nasty virus. With her job at stake if her dubious past surfaces and with her beloved in trouble, Cerise needs to find her so they can team up to prove Trouble's innocence and take down the clever culprit.

This reprint of an exhilarating 1994 technological thriller remains a gripping timely tale even with incredible advances in the real world since the original publication as the premise of hackers and Big Brother (and Sister) retains its validity accentuated by the recent classified leaks. Readers anticipate a virtual OK Corral showdown between retired Trouble and her intelligent imitator in Melissa Scott's engaging tale.

So Close the Hand of Death
J.T. Ellison
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778329435, $7.99,

Across the United States copy cat serial killers of dead or jailed psychopaths surface. Law enforcement is stretched way too thin as the homicidal frenzy is from sea to shining sea. The media adds to the taut situation demanding underpaid and understaffed cops do their jobs.

Nashville police homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson knows who the mentor of these crazed killers is. The Pretender has returned with a horde of trained deadly predators imitating the worst murderers of society. She also knows his personal target is her as she has been for quite a while (see The Cold Room, for instance). The apprentice killers are just background noise to isolate her from support and to break her mentally with what happens to those who remain close to her. The Pretender is coming for the woman he cherishes and loathes for cherishing her.

So Close the Hand of death is an exciting Taylor Jackson police procedural (see All The Pretty Girls) that grips the audience with suspense as fans anticipate the Pretender coming close enough to Jackson to either kiss or kill her. Fast-paved and tense from the onset, fans of the series will appreciate the latest case though wonder whether Jackson is a modern day Typhoid Mary as anyone who befriends her throughout the six books is in jeopardy from a serial killer.

American Vampire
Jennifer Armintrout
9780778328780, $7.99

Somewhere in Ohio, Graf McDonald is on his way to a party, but in spite of GPS he is totally lost. Smoking a cigarette, the vampire sees a light and heads to it. When no one responds to his knocks he shouts at whoever is inside. Twentyish Jessa tells him to shut up and drive as It is coming.

Graf is confused thinking maybe he entered an isolated Amish community though unsure what caused a part of a roof to fly at his car. He learns he is in Penance, Ohio as the first outsider to enter in five years as It does not allow anyone to enter or exit. Supplies are extremely low and the townsfolk are panicking. Now he cannot leave either. Though neither Graf nor Jessa trust each other, they need each other to survive; and not just from It.

This engaging romantic horror fantasy stars a hedonistic vampire and a desperate country girl inside a town with no pity run by a monster. The lead couple is terrific as he cares not one iota about others except as a blood bank or a place to hide from the sun; thus his transformation to caring in love feels off kilter and detracts from his self-indulgence. On the other hand Jennifer Armintrout cleverly reveals clues about It over the course of the story line that has readers wanting to know what it is. Although the romantic subplot feels more like a sub-genre requirement, readers will enjoy the tale of an American Vampire trapped in the Heartland.

Lethal Lineage
Charlotte Hinger
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590588376, $24.95,

In Western Kansas, Episcopalians came together to build St. Helena Church at the point where four counties meet. Bishop The Right Reverend Ignatius P. Talesbury arrives to give the guest sermon at the special ceremony for Tammy Clements who will be confirmed today. The congregation is stunned when the Bishop attacks the flock blaming everyone for the diocese' financial troubles. Tammy's twin aunts react differently as psychologist Josie Albright studies the faces of the people in attendance while Carleton County Deputy Sheriff Lottie Albright would like to lock up the incarnation of Darth Vader, the odious Bishop.

The church's temporary rector distressed Mary Farnsworth accidentally drops the chalice filled with communion wine. Stunned she runs into the back room. The Bishop handles the spill employing an odd ritual. After the services are done, Lottie finds Mary dead. Octogenarian Edna Mavery says she heard the man talk to and frighten Mary after the wine spill and the woman's fear led to a fatal heart attack. The autopsy reveals Mary was poisoned. Although she would love to prove the Bishop killed the rector, Lottie investigates the homicide that none of the bigwigs want conducted and another county sheriff with strong support wants to run the inquiry. Supporting her efforts is her husband Keith and Josie.

The latest Lottie Albright police procedural (see Deadly Descent) is a terrific whodunit with several fascinating twists starting with Mary's past. The cast is strong with Lottie as the focus holding the strong story line together. Readers need to set aside time as this is a hard to put down murder mystery.

The Bird House
Kelly Simmons
Washington Square Press
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439160930, $14.00,

In Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, septuagenarian Ann Biddle knows her short term memory is failing her as she suffers from dementia. On the other hand her long term memory works better than ever as recalls in vivid detail her past; especially traumatic events. She knows everything about her daughter's death and her failed marriage, for instance.

Her eight years old granddaughter Ellie asks for her help with a school project. Ann is excited, but knows her daughter-in-law Tinsley will interfere as she cocoons her daughter from hurts. As Ann and Tinsley war over Ellie, the child feels unsure what to do as she does not want to hurt either her mom or grandma but struggles with her older loved ones trying to control her relationship with the other.

The Bird House is a wonderful family drama that looks deeply at the relationship between three generations of women. The story line in some ways is a parable about the American family as Ann begins to understand nuances re her mom and grandma at war over her. For instance, the little girl concludes "A house divided against itself cannot stand" (Lincoln) and her loved ones created a governance "constitution" built on lies and secrets that led to remorse and regrets, but remains strong and positive. With three real people acting and reacting in genuine ways, Kelly Simmons provides a super relationship feud in which one family represents the national family.

Swept Off her Feet
Hester Browne
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439168844, $15.00,

Evie Nicholson works for Max Shacks at his antique shop in Chelsea. He is upset because Evie the dreamer overspent on a lot of junk. Her organized sister Alice arrives and agrees to issue a check to cover the purchases, but asks her sister for a favor. She arranged for Evie to catalogue Kettlesheer castle whose owners Duncan and Ingrid must sell antiques to keep the place. Alice asks Evie to cover for her for now with her boyfriend Fraser Graham who Evie has a crush on. Evie reluctantly agrees though is confused by her sister.

Evie drops Fraser off at the home of his parents. When she arrives at night, a man hugs her. The Kettlesheer heir Robert thought she was Alice. She also meets neighbor Catriona Learmont and her hosts. Guests show their valuables to Evie to appraise in a drive-by valuation party. Robert is cynical and thinks Evie is naive as he sees Kettlersheer as a white elephant while she sees it as a historical treasure trove. He shows her the complicated Reel of Luck dance that Alice dumped on her to partake in with seven other experienced dancers; both sisters hated dancing as they towered over the boys as youngsters. Evie will soon learn why her sister failed to accompany Fraser; knowing that her beloved Robert has a better match with Catriona.

The ensemble cast is strong and diverse with the lead character a refreshing dreamer. A late twist involving the furniture enhances the strong look at how the British aristocracy survives in the Internet era. Although the story line is linear with the climax expected occurs, fans will enjoy Hester Browne's wonderful contemporary romance.

Pale Demon
Kim Harrison
Eos Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061138065, $26.99,

Rachel Morgan knows she is running out of time if she is to avoid execution or eternal exile into the demonic underground realm (see Black Magic Sanction). She has three days to get from Cincinnati to San Francisco where she then must prove her innocence of the capital offense of black demonic magic use at the annual witch convention. She knows how difficult her plea will be as the end never justifies the mean even when saving the world in the white and black magic world. However, she is on the no fly list so a plane is impossible as security will never let her board.

Drug lord Trent Kalamack is the elf who is sort of still in hiding and kind of helped her in her recent fiasco (see Black Magic Sanction) that has led to Rachel's latest condemnation by the witch coven; he offers to chauffeur Rachel and her two BFFs Ivy and Jenks. She accepts though he has an agenda to recover something an ex stole. Their trek through ghost town America is haunting enough, but Ku'Sox the demon trails their not so joy ride.

Besides a strong urban fantasy, Pale Demon is much more jocular in tone than the previous few save the world epics (see White Witch, Black Curse) while also providing a serious look at a segue of real American heritage, the disposable discard of anything including towns and other locales. The story line is as usual fast-paced even while driving and has what appears to be the beginning of the long waited romantic arc. Fans will relish Kim Harrison's strong tale in one of the best series over the past decade.

A Shortcut to Paradise
Teresa Solana
Bitter Lemon Press
37 Arundel Gardens, London, W11 2LW, United Kingdom
9781904738558, $14.95,

In Barcelona, fifty something bestselling author Marina Dolc wins the Sixth Edition of the Golden Apples Fiction Award. After gracefully receiving the misshapen fruit with a bite taken out on a Thasos base prize, Marina returns to the Ritz Hotel where she always stays. A late visitor arrives who she welcomes in her room though Marina is tired. The visitor picks up the statue and hammers her in the head with it. Her assassin leaves her dead with her prize next to her; a climax that comes from one of her novels.

The Catalan police realize the victim welcomed her killer into her room. They arrest author Amadeu Cabestany, who knew the deceased and came in second for the prize. Although they insist they are not detectives, but only consultants, the brothers Eduard Martinez and Borja Masdeu are hired to prove the prime suspect is innocent. Using the same tactics they applied to solving A Not So Perfect Crime and to their usual adultery case, the siblings bluff their way from one clue to another as they improvise the script while interviewing the pretentious ostentatious literati world.

The second bumbling Martinez-Masdeu satire lampoons the cast of characters who make up the literary world though ostensibly Barcelona, but could be London, Melbourne, Singapore, New York or Toronto as well. The amusing story line is fast-paced as the siblings trip over clues while exposing the greats and the wannabes as egomaniacs without substance. Although some of the translation loses the Spanish essence of the cast, fans will enjoy this nod to Peter Falk's Colombo while endearingly mocking the hand that feeds Teresa Solana.

The Raven Queen
Jules Watson
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780553384659, $15.00,

Her father King Eochaid of Connacht married Maeve to two lords as political alliances, but broke off both. She hoped to remain home, but her dad arranged another marriage for her to the King of Ulaid Conor.

Two years later, desperate not to be a political pawn of the male rulers, Maeve concludes her only way out of marital hell is to replace her father when he dies though he has a son still living, her older brother Innel, as his heir. She flees Conor offering her knowledge of his Red Branch warriors for her freedom, but her dying father and ambitious brother call her traitor. Maeve knows if miraculously she becomes the Queen of Connacht she has less time than a man would have to insure affluence comes to her kingdom. To do that she must overcome her sibling, his rivals, the clan's anti female bias and her husband; thus to succeed she needs to convince Ruan the Lake wanderer and the Fae to support her claim. If she fails almost from the onset the Druid priests will sacrifice her to the Fae in exchange for their providing wealth to the kingdom.

The latest entry in the Watson mythology (see the superb Swan Maiden), The Raven Queen is another terrific Ancient Eire mystical thriller. Filled with action but driven by courageous Maeve and supported by a strong secondary cast, fans will relish this lyrical Irish mythos as Jules Watson brings to life ancient Eire with this exciting tale.

S.J. Parris
Anchor Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780767932523, $14.95,

In the late sixteenth century the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated Monk Giordano Bruno for his heretic belief in the Copernicus theory of a heliocentric system. He has no safe haven as the Inquisition hunts him in order to burn him at the stake for daring to espouse that the sun is the center of the universe. Still he flees his Naples monastery just before the Father Inquisitor comes for him heading to Paris and then London where he prays he will find respite in Queen Elizabeth's anti papal reign.

In 1583 the queen's Secretary of State Sir Francis Walsingham asks Bruno to visit to Oxford to look for treasonous Catholic scholars. He agrees as he wants to go to Oxford but in search of the fifteenth book of Ancient Egyptian High Priest Hermes Trismegistus who wrote in this tome his understanding of the "Divine Mind". However, the defrocked monk never expected to be the hub of gruesome homicides.

The real life intelligent elucidate Bruno tells the tale mostly of his time in Oxford in 1583. He makes the story line fun as a wonderful historical thriller. The serial murder mystery engages the reader also, but takes a back seat to the divided deadly dogma of religious loyalties during the Elizabethan Era as portrayed by the excommunicated enlightened monk.

Franny Billingsley
Dial Press
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780803735521, $17.99,

In the village of Stratton in Swampsea lives Briony, a person filled with self loathing. She blames herself for hurting her identical twin Rose and turning her into a child-like female. Briony holds herself culpable for the flood that swamped the parsonage where she lives with her sister and their father the pastor and the death of Stepmother who kept her secrets including the fact that she is a witch.

Loaded with overwhelming guilt and remorse, Briony assumes she is a witch too as she can communicate with the Old Ones who haunt the marshes as only witches and the Chime Child are capable of doing so. She also knows she is a witch because she casts spells as only a witch can.

Briony's life radically changes when Eldric arrives in the village; he is body beautiful enhanced by his golden hair. He looks deep inside Briony and sees only goodness. Fearing how much he knows about her with his penetrating yellowish eyes that slowly reveal her zillions secrets including her being a witch; a person the villagers would execute if they knew. Eldric remains resolute in his need to know what makes Briony tick so that he can persuade her she is not a monster.

Chime is an enchanting fantasy filled with magic, monsters, and a romance that breaks down defense mechanism barriers created over the years. Briony is a vulnerable person who feels deep emotions, a non-witch trait, that she conceals to hold back her deep rooted mental traumas. Told in the first person by Briony, her self loathing is a two edged sword as her self-hatred can overwhelm the reader and plot but also makes her a fascinating and unique protagonist in a refreshing tale.

Paul McEuen
Dial Press
9780385342117, $25.00

In Ithaca, New York, everyone at Cornell University is stunned when octogenarian emeritus Professor of Biology Liam Connor commits suicide. The Nobel Prize winner in nano-science and nano-robotic technology seemed contented in his role of elder statesmen and mentor. Especially shocked by his death is his family including his granddaughter Maggie and his academic partner Professor Jake Sterling; neither had seen it coming.

The pair has no time to grieve when an autopsy reveals that silicon metallic micro-robots were implanted in the stomach of the victim. Maggie and Jake know their hero did not kill himself, but was apparently murdered to probably cover up his being tortured. Meanwhile as Connor's granddaughter and the professor struggle with his enigmatic messages from the grave, someone plans to release a biological doomsday bomb with ties to the WWII Japanese Imperial Army bio-weapons development Unit #731.

Spiral contains a strong story line that starts off as an amateur sleuth homicide investigation that evolves into a bio-weapons thriller with a genuine historical link. Fast-paced from start to finish, the keys are the college setting and the relationships between the lead couple and with the deceased that brings the sense of urgency to the action-packed story line with time running out echoing the final scene in Fail Safe when Manhattan is bombed.

The Irish Princess
Karen Harper
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451232823, $15.00,

For the first tens of her life, Elizabeth "Gera" Fitzgerald is happy as her family is caring and loving and the patriarch a powerful lord in Ireland especially in County Kildare. Her idyllic childhood ends when King Henry VIII who also rules over Ireland orders Lord Fitzgerald to give an accounting of his seditious activities. Fitzgerald's denial is ignored as the monarch locks him away in the Tower where he dies.

The King proclaims the extended Fitzgerald family as traitors to the throne for their activities in support of a free Ireland; this leads to the execution without a jury of peers' trial of Gera's uncles, her older brothers and several other males. The family arrives in London to beg for clemency and pledge their loyalty to Henry. Raging, but concealing her feelings about the ruthless monarch, Gera plots to kill His Highness even if it means her execution. While feeling a sense of sisterly camaraderie with Henry's estranged daughters and controlling her attraction to Lord Clinton as sixteen year old she marries Lord Browne to gain easier royal access; Gera waits for the right moment to cut the royal throat as she doubts he has a heart.

This is a super Tudor biographical fiction of the "Fair Geraldine", immortalized in a sonnet when she was ten years old. Her goals were killing Henry for murdering her family and to regain their noble standing stripped away by the ruler. The story line provides a fresh perspective to the deadly politics at the court of King Henry VIII starting with a terrific prologue as fans of the Tudor period will appreciate The Irish Princess who refused to back away from her own objectives.

Restless Heart
Wynonna Judd
9780451229267, $25.95,

In Wilmot, Kentucky, thanks to some manipulating from caring friends Destiny Hart wins the local talent contest. She knows she would never have entered if her friend Cooper had not planned the prank on her. She easily wins with her strong voice.

Moving to Nashville with dreams of becoming a country and western star, four years since she won the Wilmot competition, Destiny still waits for her break. When it finally comes and she is a success on the stage, pressure from Wilmot also arrives as her loved ones plead with her to come home. Her parents' relationship teeters on the brink of collapse; her former boyfriend Seth wants a second chance; and her older sister Grace needs her. Destiny tries to balance her dreams and the Wilmot demands wondering why she can't have both. Her family and Seth answer her plea as they soon become her biggest cheerleaders.

Restless Heart is a warm contemporary romance that sings to the reader to follow your dreams but not lose sight of your reality anchor your well meaning loved ones. The entertaining story line uses a deep look at making it (or not) in the Music City to add depth to a well written family drama. Fans will enjoy Wynonna Judd's strong tale while pondering will success spoil Destiny Hart? Not if her family has any say.

Rob Thurman
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451463869, $7.99,

Hybrid human-Auphe Cal Leandros awakens on a beach with no idea how he got there or why he is surrounded by dead spidery monsters. Although his memory is gone, Cal believes in his gut he is a natural born killer as he heads into Nevah's Landing, South Carolina.

Two men he does not recognize arrive claiming they are here to help him. One of them says he is Cal's purebred brother Niko and the other insists he is their friend Robin Goodfellow. Niko explains they are BFFs also and run a private investigator business together. He distrusts both of them as his instincts, especially his Auphe side, insist he do so. That changes when more spidery monsters attack and they have his back as other enemies surface.

The latest Cal Leandros thriller is an exciting tale enhanced by a realistic modification in the relationship between the siblings. While Niko is hurt by his brother's behavior towards him, Cal continues to struggle between his dueling dual natures as Cal fears what he truly is since he has no memory of who he is. Filled with action, Rob Thurman provides a terrific twist to the protagonist in the angst-laden Blackout (see Roadkill and Deathwish to fully understand the spin).

March in Country
E.E. Knight
9780451463340, $24.99

It is February of the fifty-sixth year of the Kurian invasion with most of earth subservient to the conquering vampiric Kur. However, the Kur risk nothing as they never go out seeking the human energy that sustains them. Instead they send their combat laborers the Reapers who drink the victim's blood and sends back bring back the needed Vital Auras via a form of telepathy to their Kurian master.

There remains a strong resistance movement in the United States that has led to a battle for the land between the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. The Kur want it captured while Major David Valentine wants to establish free human communities in Kentucky. David knows the Golden Ones would love to settle in the lush land. Thus the Major and some allies journey to the Midwest where the group resides, but the dangerous trip proves futile. The Golden ones choose to honor their loyalty pledge to the Baron. Even if he can find a way for the moral group to remain loyal to their oath and relocate to the Promised Land, Valentine knows the Kurian Order awaits them on the treacherous trek back as do other murderous human Quislings and outlaws.

The ninth Vampire Earth science fiction thriller is an exciting tale filled with action and new revelations re the various sentient species. Readers will be able to picture an America mostly captured by the outsiders with pockets of resistance. David is a real American hero who risks his life in order to kick the ETs out of his country and preferably out of the solar system. Though it behooves the audience to read the previous series entry (see Winter Duty) as the concept of a Kentucky freehold begins there and is not reiterated here. Fans of the saga will enjoy this entertaining entry.

A Hundred Words For Hate
Thomas E. Sniegoski
9780451463777, $14.00

Archangel Remiel of the host of the Seraphim fought on the side of the Creator when Lucifer and his allies rebelled. Although his side won, drenched in the blood of his friends, he witnessed the atrocities angels committed in the name of the Creator. He left Heaven to come to earth. After several millennia as a hermit he hid his angelic persona to live amidst the earthlings; and loved and married a mortal who taught him how to truly be human. Now a widower Remy Chandler, twenty-first century Boston private investigator, fights for the Creator only when he deems it necessary to protect the species he cherishes.

The Sons of Adam are direct descendants of the First Father. Adam is dying after so many millennia; his request is to be buried in Eden. The Sons contact Remy to inform him Eden is retuning to earth. However, the Garden is dying due to something planted by the Fallen; their creations are killing her. A fallen angel seeking redemption, a woman who does know she is the key to open the gates to Eden, Eve's direct blood descendant Izzy, and Adam's son Jon work to prevent an apocalypse from occurring. Remy makes peace with the other side of his nature as Remiel fights creatures that will bring hell to heaven and earth.

As with his previous adventures (see A kiss Before the Apocalypse, Dancing on the Head of a Pin and Where Angels Fear to Tread) Remy is a complicated "human" and an even more complex angel. His latest escapade is a multilayered urban fantasy with numerous subplots and diverse perspectives as to the convoluted relationships between the parties of the "golden" triangle. Filled with action, pathos, divine and mortal love and redemption, A Hundred Words For Hate provides an intriguing spin on what the return of Eden means to the respective minions of Heaven, Hell and Earth. Well done Mr. Sniegoski! This tale is absolutely riveting.

Twilight's Dawn
Anne Bishop
9780451463784, $25.95

"Winsol Gifts". The Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince of Dhelan Daemon Sadi prepares for the gala celebrating his first anniversary with his spouse Jaenelle the Witch Queen; as family and friends arrive.

"Shades of Honor". Daemon's brother Prince Lucivar Yaslana struggles to escape a traitor's trap at a time when Surreal of Ebon Rich learns her former lover Prince Faloner claims he is the ruler.

"Family". The vicious warlord No Face threatens the lives of Queen Sylvia and her sons Beron and Mikal.

"The High Lord's Daughter". Daemon has lost his heart and soul with the deaths of his beloved wife and father Saetan. As the High Lord of Hell he meets and marries Surreal, and they have a daughter named after his late first spouse. However, the two women in his life may not be enough to get over his broken heart.

This is a super Black Jewels dark fantasy anthology containing four strong entries due to Anne Bishop's ability to make her characters seem real as life is a struggle from birth to death, but joyfully with loved ones at your side.

The King of the Crags
Stephan Deas
9780451463760, $25.95

In the Realms, Prince Jehal has succeeded in achieving the first objective in his strategic plan. He has placed his lover Queen Zafir in charge of the hundreds of drugged brutally trained dragons and consequently their respective aristocratic riders. Everything came together except for that pesky white dragon who, if still alive, could destroy his plot to replace Zafir as the ruler of the realms; Jehal is unconcerned that if the freed beast attacks many will die.

Snow the White Dragon is planning to liberate her peers. The task will be difficult as they are drugged but just like she telepathically linked to her master Kailin, she knows she mentally will reach the intelligent part of the dragons. Whole Zafir distrusts Jehal and prepares to prevent his coup d'etat, exiled Princess Jaslyn and Hyrkallen the dragonmaster lead a counterinsurgency.

The second Memory of Flames dark fantasy (see The Adamantine Palace) continues the brutal gruesome adventures in the bleak Deas Realms as this is no cozy. The story line is fast-paced with literal back-stabbing a normal acceptable way of life as alliances are temporary and fragile. Readers will appreciate soaring through the skies of the Realms as every free thinker has a deadly agenda with civilian (human and dragon) deaths an acceptable consequence.

Green-Eyed Demon
Jaye Wells
Orbit Books
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316037778, $7.99,

Vampire mage Sabina Kane learns someone kidnapped her twin sister Maisie. Fuming especially with the photo of her battered sister, Sabina vows to rescue her sibling and kick abductor butt. With her demon servant Giguhl and Adam Lazarus the mage at her side, she kidnaps Tanith the Dominae though she intended to snatch Persephone to extract information. However, the Dominae makes a deal with the Queen of the Fairies, leaving a raging Sabina seemingly on the out again.

Still Tanith who plans to rule the vampires provides information that sends Sabina to New Orleans. There she confronts her psychopathic grandmother Domina Lavinia, the vampire queen and her horde of Caste of Nod Undead. Sabina knows only one side might get out breathing; and she plans that to be her with her sister. Voodoo priestess Zenobia and Brooks the changeling drag queen assists Sabina who knows she cannot afford to alienate either of them if she is to successfully overcome her homicidal relative who she assumes is behind the abduction.

This is an exciting Sabina Kane urban fantasy with the return engagement with grandma dearest (see The Mage in Black for their previous family reunion). The somewhat convoluted non linear story line is loaded with action as the heroine does not have a straight path to granny's house of pain. The discussions between Sabina and Giguhl add jocularity as she fumes over her unwanted feelings towards Adam and he muses over her fuming. Readers will enjoy the Red-Headed Stepchild after an interlude with Tanith heading to grandma's house.

Managing Death
Trent Jamieson
9780316077989, $7.99

Due to the unmanaged deaths of many of his extended kin's Psychopomps who worked like he did at the family firm Mortmax Industries (see Death Most Definite), Steven de Selby has been promoted to Australia's Regional Manager. He knows he is not ready for this new position that he got due to being the last Pomp standing so he does what most young males do - he turns to drink, rage and more drink and his girlfriend Lissa.

Finally he accepts that he has no choice except turn the Death collection firm around though he faces plenty of issues starting with a stirrer revival epidemic due to a shortage of experienced Pomps (thank goodness for high unemployment as the survivor benefits are excellent not that the recruit will care), plan for a Death Moot, organize the office Christmas party and deal with an apparent zombie master who wants to end the world as Steven knows it. In other words he has to stop wallowing in survivor guilt and begin Managing Death while avoiding death as someone wants to reengineer the system; all that and a few drinks at the Christmas party.

The second Death thriller is a terrific entry that has less action than its predecessor but stronger character development especially Steven, who comes out of his PTSD to find the regional end of the world, has become more global. Told by Steven, fans will enjoy insight into his work, office pace, and an Australia turned upside down by Trent Jamieson. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Steven's rapid rise to the top of the dead heap, but he knows there is always someone gunning to take you down; in his case that is literally not figuratively.

Bound by Guilt
C.J. Darlington
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414340128, $12.99,

She has spent her young life as a serial foster child moving from one home to another. Roxi Gold dreams of belonging to a loving family permanently, but each new home makes her feel this will never occur though she tries too hard to belong.

Currently, Roxi travels the country with her foster parents stealing rare books in order to remain in her current home; if she refuses she will be kicked to the street though she is disturbed by her criminal activity. Police officer Abby Dawson feels worn out by a job she once cherished as her work was used against her in the custody fight with her ex. She wishes she could turn to her dad for solace, but they are estranged. Roxi and Abby meet when blood flows over a first edition of the Great Gatsby.

Roxi makes for a strong tale as her odyssey will reach inside to the souls of the readers. She makes the tale seem real as her desperate need to belong leads her to criminal activity to keep her guardian pleased with her. Bound by Guilt is a terrific Christian contemporary due to the protagonists and a powerful support cast.

Springtime of the Spirit
Maureen Lang
9781414324371, $12.99

In the fall of 1918, German Major Christophe Brecht returns from the trenches in France to a defeated nation though neither he nor the other soldiers with him understand how they lost the Great War as little of the combat occurred in his homeland. He and others are angry at the Kaiser as he makes his way to Braedon just west of Munich. When he finally reaches his home, he finds out that his sister Nitsa has left for Milwaukee to be with their uncle.

Annaliese Duray believes the time for political and economic reform in Germany is now. She is not afraid to speak her mind about taking care of the workers, but not the way the violent Communists want to do. Christophe who loves Annaliese finally finds her in Munich where she pushes for the disenfranchised to have a say in the country. However, as an army sent from Berlin arrives allegedly to keep the peace by preventing the rabble-rousers from taking power in Munich, Christophe believes inner and community harmony comes with God while Annaliese assumes equality for all is the only way to achieve national healing and well-being.

This is a strong historical thriller with a romantic subplot anchoring a profound look at a defeated Germany just after WWI. Christophe and Annaliese are fully developed protagonists who know the cost of the war first hand but in different ways. He saw it on the not so quiet Western Front while she saw it on the home front. Readers will fully relish Springtime of the Spirit as the hero finds sustenance in faith after the failure of the state; while the heroine finds her mojo in her belief in an equality state in which gender, race or religion is irrelevant as is a free will God.

Arcadia Falls
Carol Goodman
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345497543, $15.00,

When Jude Rosenthal suddenly died from a heart attack, he left behind a widow Meg, a teen daughter Sally and a ton of debt. With no time to grieve and unable to remain in their exclusive Long Island home, Meg quickly accepts a teaching position at the Acadia private school in the Catskills in Acadia Falls; Sally receives free tuition to attend.

Soon after mother and daughter arrive, a student Isabel dies after falling off a nearby cliff. Meg learns the school was founded just before the Depression by a lesbian couple Vera Beecher and author Lily Eberhardt who wrote the classic fable "The Changeling Girl." Lily fell from the same cliff that Isabel just did. Meanwhile Sheriff Callum Reade investigates the recent fall while he and the new teacher are attracted to one another. Meg find Lily's lost diary and learns that painter Virgil Nash impregnated her, which is why the painter fled her lover to paint a mural for a convent, St. Lucy's for unwed mothers and orphans. Years later Lily's daughter Ivy St. Clare arrived to attend the school; the same woman who is now dean of the school.

Although over edge of the cliff, the strong characters make for a taut thriller. The emphasis is on the role of women in society as females make difficult choices often alone that sacrifice their desires and impact their loved ones. Frequently, the female is unfairly held accountable by others who fail to wear the "Scarlet Letter" wearer's moccasins; instead ignore the available possibilities that the decision maker weighed costs (including emotional) vs. benefits, which makes it easier to morally condemn the female for her selection. Character driven with a strong cast including the journals written by the lesbian lovers, readers will enjoy this deep tale of choices.

Kiss Me, Kill Me
Allison Brennan
9780345511690, $7.99

In New York City, FBI Agent Madeaux and NYPD Detective Panetta work together on the Cinderella Strangler case. The Strangler has murdered for the fourth time with the only connections between the victims being they attended sex parties at abandoned locations. The first was in Harlem, the next in the Bronx; the third in Manhattanville; and now Jessica in Brooklyn. All four were asphyxiated with a plastic bag without a struggle as they were high and no apparent sexual assault occurred though a shoe is missing in each case.

In Woodbridge, Virginia, RCK East private investigators Sean Rogan and Patrick Kincaid search for a missing teenager Kirstin Benton; a serial runaway but always returned home after a weekend away; but not this time. Rogan knows he is missing something inside of Kirsten's bedroom so he asks his girlfriend Lucy Kincaid, who is also Patrick's sister, to help. She notices a webcam pointed at the bed. While Patrick objects to his sister seeing his womanizing partner and to her involvement in a case that has to bring back ugly memories (see Love Me To Death), Lucy remains on the search.

As each team works their respective case, they connect when Jessica and Kirsten belong to the Party Girl website. They collide in the warehouse where Jessica died; as Madeaux and Panetta soon learn what Sean already knows. Lucy is a brilliant analyst who finds links no one else notices.

Readers ironically know not only what each team is doing, but the whereabouts of Kirsten in this great fast-paced thriller. Action-packed on both investigative fronts and continues as such even when the three subplots converge, fans will relish Lucy Kincaid's second thriller as the heroine proves time after time she notices what the other professionals fail to see.

Angel's Rest
Emily March
9780345518347, $7.99

Architect Gabriel Callahan's life ended in Virginia when his wife Jen and their son Mathew passed away; today his child would be six years old. Out walking in the snowy Murphy Mountains Just outside of Eternity Springs, Colorado, he trips but does not bother to get up. Instead he pulls out a Glock with one bullet in it when a beast jumps on his back with claws ripping him. Thinking it is a mountain lion, he is ready to fight for his life when he hears the sound of barking from a mangy boxer who tongues him in joy. Realizing the irony, Gabe laughs for the first time in months.

Gabe brings the injured canine to Eternity Springs Veterinary Clinic where Dr. Nicole Sullivan practices animal medicine. As Dr. Nic cares for the unconscious boxer hurt by an animal trap, she also notices Gabe's shirt is bloody from the dog's claws and teeth. She cleans his cuts and quarantines the canine until they can insure he is not rabid. Starting with the canine and soon "volunteering" on a renovation project, Gabe finds the townsfolk will not leave him alone. Finally there is Dr. Nic who he liked even before the dog introduced him to her. However, though she makes it clear she loves him as does Clarence the dog; he knows love hurts fearing this second chance to breathe again.

The first Eternity Springs contemporary mountain romance is a warm inspiring linear tale starring two likable individuals who have found possible second chances at life in the Rocky Mountains if they take the risk; she is willing and has with her veterinary practice while he hesitates. Aptly named Clarence is more an angel than a just a dog as readers will believe It's A Wonderful Dog's Life.

Letter to My Daughter
George Bishop
9780345515995, $13.00

Laura the mom and Elizabeth the teenage daughter have a major argument over boys. Raging the fifteen years old Liz races out of the house after her frustrated mom slaps her. Upset and worried, Laura decides to write a letter to her daughter about how she as a teenage girl became a woman.

In 1969 in a small town Louisiana high school Laura and impoverished Cajun Tim Prejean were dating over the objection of her parents. Knowing their daughter rebelled against their authority with Tim as a token, they transferred Laura to a strict private Catholic school Sacred Heart for girls only. In spite of derision from her classmates over seeing a Cajun, Laura and Tim continued to exchange letters even after he is drafted and sent to Vietnam. However, she begins to question their relationship though she does not want to hurt her first love.

Putting aside the problem with a mom writing a novella sized letter while her daughter has just ran away in anger, fans will enjoy this mother-daughter relationship drama as Laura looks back at her teen years. Laura is an interesting protagonist as she wonders if she waited to late to tell her story starting with Tim and her parents sending her to school to end their relationship. Readers will enjoy Laura's pearls of wisdom that she prays she can apply to her relationship with her daughter starting with simply two way communicating.

Drinking Closer to Home
Jessica Anya Blau
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061984020, $14.99,

In Santa Barbara, fifty-something Louise suffers a massive heart attack. She remains in a hospital in critical condition with her prime complaint being the lack of a cigarette or two hundred. Her husband Buzzy the lawyer promised Louise he would conceal her condition from their three adult kids, but could not as he needs them near for his sake.

Anna flies in from Vermont; leaving behind a spouse she cheats on due to a sex addiction to run their florist business and their infant. Portia, separated from her cheating spouse Patrick, arrives alone since their daughter Esme lives with her father's lover. TV producer Emery and his boyfriend Alejandro also come from the East Coast; they hope to persuade his older sisters to donate their eggs so that they can raise a baby; they already have selected the chosen female bearer. The bickering horde invade Louise's room causing havoc to the hospital's rule keepers, which in turn elates Louise still a renegade hippie after all those years.

The insightful story line rotates focus from the present mostly at the hospital and the past in which each protagonist recalls incidents differently. Louise is the prime player who holds the strong quirky family drama together. Buzzy and the children have flaws that make each seen real and lead to fans empathizing with them; especially Portia who as the middle child became the mom when her older sister and their mother abdicated the role yet her daughter rejects her.

Death's Sweet Embrace
Tracey O'Hara
9780061783142, $7.99,

Snow leopard shifter Kit Jordan left the medical examiner's office as she mourns the death of her brother Dyan. She obtains a teaching position at NYAPS where she plans to meet her twins she was forced to give away after giving birth to them years ago. A pariah with her pride, Kitt feels alone.

Meanwhile the father of her twins Raven Matokwe is wanted by the law. Still he works for Oberon on investigations. Their current case is particularly horrific as a serial killer somehow paralyzes teenage shapeshifters and while they still breathe rips out their hearts in what appears to be a ritual of sorts. The investigation brings Raven and Kitt back together trying to end the reign of terror of a psychopath.

The second Dark Brethren urban fantasy (see Night's Cold Kiss) retains the foreboding atmosphere even with a romantic subplot of a darkened world in which sentient species battled for over a century to be at the top of the food chain. The prime plot is a desperate investigation to end the reign of terror of a serial killer. Vivid, don't eat while reading Death's Sweet embrace as sweet is not quite the adjective to describe this dark thriller.

When We Were Strangers
Pamela Schoenewaldt
9780062003997, $14.99

Growing up in the small village of Opi in Abruzza on the spine of Italy, Irma Vitale's mamma always warned her never to leave. When Irma was sixteen, her mamma on her deathbed reminded her daughter that "If you leave Opi, you'll die with strangers." For the next few years after her mamma's death, Irma heeded her dying advice, but after Carlo leaves for a place called Cleveland, her father turns increasingly to drink. Aunt Zia Carmello worried about her single niece with no reasonable male prospect to protect her from her father, gives Irma money to flee to family in America.

Twenty year old Irma hopes her sewing skills provide her employment as she sails on the Servia across the Atlantic as a young single unprotected female. Though scarred physically and emotionally from the crossing, she makes it to Cleveland where she obtains work in a horrific sweatshop. From the misery of Ohio she goes on to Chicago only to have the Great Fire destroy her dressmaking lifestyle and finally renews it in San Francisco with a precise needle that makes her much more. Her journey across the ocean and the United States enable her to meet fellow other immigrants seeking the American dream too

This is a well written timely reminder of the great wave of late nineteenth century immigrants coming to America to act on a dream like business mind ambitious Molly the Irish maid. The strong cast anchored by Irma's odyssey provides a sense of the diversity that made America strong. Readers will enjoy this deep historical as Pamela Schoenewaldt opens the window to a world When We Were Strangers coming together though from diverse Old Countries to start anew.

Home to Woefield
Susan Juby
9780061995194, $14.99

Having lived her entire life in Brooklyn, twenty-four year old Prudence is euphoric to inherit a farm in Canada from a relative she never met as working the land has been her dream.. Celebrity blogger alcoholic Seth lives at home as a recluse with his mom embarrassed by an incident involving the drama teacher at the school he attended. Septuagenarian Earl lives on Woefield farm whose owner just died; he is stunned that a no brains and all mouth inherited the spread.

Prudence decides to host a strawberry social. She asks Earl the grump who should come; he ignores her question. Seth's mom tosses him out and suggests he asks the newcomer if he can stay with her. Shocked he does and even more shocking she says okay. Prudence worries about the farm's debt. At the social, guests are excited that she is a published author though it is only one panned novel; they ask for paid lessons. Sally Spratt asks if her daughter Sara's prized chickens can stay on the farm for a fee as the little girl is a member of the Jr. Poultry Fancier's Club. The bank will not float a loan until Prudence mentions converting to a treatment center with Seth as her first patient; the loan officer agrees of her niece can attend. When Prudence learns Earl's younger brother Merle is a famous bluegrass player she concocts a plan to rescue the farm and several lost souls including her own.

The key ensemble cast, especially the four prime players, is all developed while the rotation of viewpoint gels nicely together; filled with wry humor, readers see similar incidents through different eyes. Although there is a morality issue as no one is punished for misbehavior, fans will enjoy Brooklyn bringing to rural Canada compassionate chutzpah.

The Raising
Laura Kasischke
Harper Perennial
9780062004789, $14.99

One year has passed since the fatal accident left Nicole Werner dead. Her boyfriend New Hampshire native Craig Clements-Rabbitt was driving and has not moved on as everything at Godwin Honors Hall reminds him of Nicole. Although his parents and his roommate Perry Edwards try to help him with his grief, the latter also has his own issues having known the late Nicole all his life and being the one who introduced her to Craig.

Meanwhile, the witness of the car accident Shelly Lockes is forced to leave the Midwestern town after insisting the victim was not dead contrary to media reports of a bloody corpse; while Sociology Professor Mira Polson receives immense pressure involving her family to resign after finding anomalies with the official report of the deadly incident. Nicole's sorority sisters at Omega Theta Tau remain angry and adamant that her killer and his defenders pay the price. Soon after Craig's return to campus, apparent suicides and accidental shootings become the curriculum.

The Raising is a super academia suspense saga that grips the audience from the moment Craig's dad takes him back to school. The story line is character driven by several players including those above, the sisterhood, and obsessed Ted Dientz. Although the actions of the Omega Theta Tau sisters are over the top of the Gateway Arch, readers will enjoy Laura Kasischke's twisting taut thriller.

Late For Tea at the Deer Palace
Tamara Chalabi
9780061240393, $27.99

Just after WWI Iraq remained Under British control, but the Chalabi family was one of the most powerful locals as they pushed for modernization. The author's great-grandfather Abdul Hussein Chalabi was a key figure in the birth of a nation. In 1932, Britain granted Iraq its independence, which enhanced the influence and wealth of the Chalabi family as a monarchy is established. Between the World Wars, Baghdad become known as the Middle East's Paris with the writer's grandma Bibi leading the revival. Abdul's son Abdul Hadi Chalabi became extremely rich with a deep connection to Britain especially during World War II. However, in 1958 the coup ends the Chalabi power as they are forced to flee the country. When Saddam took power, Ahmed Chalabi became the leader of the opposition Iraqi National Congress in exile. Finally his daughter Tamara leaves England arriving in Baghdad for the first time in 2003.

Late for Tea at the Deer Palace is an excellent historical chronicle of Iraq through four generations of the Chalabi family. An historian, Tamara Chalabi provides a profound look at her country that she first stepped inside when she was in her late twenties though the tales from her family to her provided her a rich background. The exile years are not as fully developed as the preceding decades with the best segues of the family saga coming from Bibi's extremely modern (eye opening) perspective that will leave readers to ponder what if.

The Remembering
Steve Cash
Del Rey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345470942, $15.00,

The Meq are an immortal human-like race who stops maturing at twelve years old. They possess many extraordinary skills such as immunity to disease and psychic abilities like mind control, telepathy and teleportation. None of them know why they differ from their human neighbors but every Meq hopes that the predicted Remembering comes soon though no one know what this event truly is.

Born in 1869, Zianno "Z" Zezen was in Nagasaki with his bitter enemy the Fleur du Mal assassin Xanti Otso when the bomb destroyed the city; he is shocked with the carnage of one bomb. He was also in Dallas though in the wrong place to prevent the assassination of JFK. A black ops group led by Blaine Harrington knows of the Meq and like their Soviet counterpart wants to use them as assault weapons. The Meq is fortunate that they have excellent intel and Jack Flowers protecting them from abduction. Z and his Meq mates work with Fleur du Mal trying to decipher arcane writings on an ancient sphere that they pray will tell them the location of the Remembering.

The final Meq thriller (see The Meq and Time Dancers) is a fabulous finish to a brilliant metaphysical epic fantasy. The Meqs have humans they trust to keep them safe even though some like Fleur du mal have lived for millennia and witnessed much of the human historical chronicle. The race hides in plain sight knowing with few exceptions the overwhelmingly superior in numbers humans would use them for malignant purposes. Fans will enjoy the escapades of Z and company as they seek The Remembering.

Star Wars Knight Errant
John Jackson Miller
Del Rey
9780345522641, $7.99

A millennium before Skywalker became a galaxy name, the Sith traveled destructively across the Republic as everyone is considered a slave on a chain. No one except a Sith Lord would dare challenge any of these predatory superego maniacs who share in common the belief they are the dictators of the galaxy and collateral damage of innocent bystanders is desired as a means to control everyone.

In this brutal Dark Age, one light shines and that is Jedi Knight Errant Kerra Holt, who does not fear using the Force to destroy the Dark Lords. Her quest has made her Sith Lord public enemy number one; number two is each other. However, her battles with Lord Daiman who knows he created the universe in his image with a big bang and his older jealous brother Lord Odion who knows he destroyed the universe in his image with a big crunch suddenly seems minor. In Daiman's capital Darknell, Kerra meets Narsk an Odionite enabler, which leads her to realize an interwoven diabolical family affair with previously unheard of modern technology rather than individual megalomaniac exists. She must find a way to divide and conquer amidst the chaos of combat.

Based on the Dark Horse comic book, Knight Errant is a fun Star Wars tale occurring even before Lord Bane. The story line is faster than the Force and loaded with action as obsessed Holt assumes everyone is her enemy though she knows she needs allies if she is to end the threat. The heroine is a sort of Paladin (from Have Gun Will Travel), but not for hire. Though none of the cast is developed beyond their prime trait, readers will enjoy Kerra's saber butt kicking escapades in a Republic overwhelmed by incestuous infighting Sith Lords who bring new insanity to the meaning of the Dark Ages.

Kings of the North
Elizabeth Moon
Del Rey
9780345508751, $26.00

Former mercenary leader Kieri Phelan has become the King of Lyonya while Mikeli is crowned ruler of Tsaia. At the same time Senior Captain of the Second Cohort mercenary company Dorrin has become the Duke of Verrakai. All have come a long way, but now are targets of assassins whose employers covet both aristocratic positions.

One of the biggest threats to both kingdoms comes from newly self-proclaimed Duke Visla Vaskronin. However, Kieri also deals with imminent war with neighboring Pargun. He pleads with his elven grandmother the Lady to help him and their kingdom that she rules along with him, but she fails to assist him. He knows it is up to him to keep Lyonya safe. At the same time Mikeli feels he must act to destroy what is left of the evil Verrakaien magelords.

The second entry in the second Paks world series follows the key characters closely as the two monarchs and the dukes adapt to new duties not always successfully. There is plenty of off page major events, but those are seen passively through the eyes of the lead protagonists rather than in person by the reader. Thus, the pace is at best moderate speed, but fans of a cerebral character driven fantasy will enjoy the journey into the center of the minds of Kieri, Mikeli, Dorrin and somewhat less Visla.

Shortcut Man
P.G. Sturges
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439194171, $24.00,

In Los Angeles, Dick "Shortcut Man" Henry is the best at helping clients work through barriers whether it is a cuckolded spouse or a tenant not paying their rent. Not one for the Power and the Glory, Dick always starts off with a polite request to the individual stonewalling his customer. However, if that fails he employs Enrique Montalvo Rojas and the Laurel Canyon Irregulars to persuade the person to do the right thing as defined by the Shortcut Man or else face the consequences.

Porn movie producer Artie Benjamin hires Dick to identify the person who is sleeping with his wife Lynette. The Shortcut Man knows he does not need any time to investigate because he sees the lover in the mirror every time he shaves. Dick knows he cannot fail on a mission or lose the mojo PR image he created, but he also must avoid some nasty killers and finally decide what to do about Lynette and Artie.

This is a delightful urban noir starring a hardboiled sleuth who does not want to be hailed as a conquering hero and his even harder boiled sidekicks; as they sweep the streets of Los Angeles not afraid of either side of the law. Although the villains seem emaciated in comparison to the great Shortcut Man and crew, fans will appreciate Henry's travels in this is dark humorous thriller.

Fatal Error
J. A. Jance
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416563815, $25.99,

Former California TV anchor Ali Reynolds knows this is the summer that could make or break her. She will work the morning shift at her family's restaurant while her parents go on vacation. Serving coffee at six AM is brutal enough. However, the fortyish Ali is also making a dramatic career change. She is by far the oldest of the five female students (and 102 males) attending the six-week training class in Peoria for new recruits at the Arizona Police Academy; in other words she is "Oma", the Afrikaan word for either grandma (which she soon will be) or old woman.

Her former news colleague Brenda Riley asks to see her at the Rimrock Inn. Ali finds a drunken Brenda worried that her fiance, Richard Lattimer of Grass Valley, California; whom she met online but has not seen in person or even a photo of him, has vanished. Ali agrees to make inquires and learns Lattimer is cyber stalker Richard Lowensdale.

Five months later, someone murders Lowensdale in his home in Grass Valley. The police suspect one of the dead man's cyber victims; with the most likely being Brenda, who exposed Lowensdale to the women he hurt. Ali knows Brenda would have done a lot to harm her former fiance, but not kill him so she investigates the cyber stalker's homicide.

This is a strong investigative thriller with terrific twists that emphasizes some believe the end justifies the mean at any cost including allowing the ten fatal errors of law enforcement placing cops at risk. Ali and her partner Grass Valley Police detective Gil Morris work well together on the complex case. Fast-paced from start to finish, the latest Ali Reynolds' whodunit it is a great entry (see Cruel Intentions and Trial by Fire).

The Mozart Conspiracy
Scott Mariani
9781439193365, $24.99

International opera star Leigh Llewellyn sends a message to her former lover Ben Hope that she needs his help. A former SAS solider, Ben immediately visits Leigh. She explains her late brother Oliver who was Ben's friend was writing a biography of Mozart when he suddenly died in Austria under questionable circumstances. She fears for her life too as she thinks her sibling was murdered over the seemingly innocuous book.

Though he doubts it is foul play, Ben agrees to protect Leigh. However, as he expected to rusticate with his ex lover, Ben revises his opinion when deadly mobsters try to kill them. Apparently the father of Leigh and Ben found a previously unknown Mozart letter dated just before the great composer died. In it Mozart accuses the secret Order of Ra members of odious deeds including assassinations and provoking war. This lethal cabal remains active with Ben and Leigh in their crosshairs for elimination.

The latest Ben Hope thriller (see The Doomsday Prophecy and The Heretic's Treasure) is an exhilarating tale that is a cross between Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, Harrison Gradwell Slater's Night Music and Dick Adler's The Mozart Code. The story line is fast-paced as Ben and Leigh struggle to stay alive while the deadly operatives of the Order of Ra want them dead.

The Night Season
Chelsea Cain
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312619763, $24.99,

Portland, Oregon police detective Archie Sheridan feels he can finally move on with his life as his nemesis serial killer Gretchen Lowell is incarcerated. However, he also knows she has been locked away before, but escaped like a magician.

As the Willamette overflows its banks, a body is found at an amusement park. Archie assumes it is another misfortune drowning victim until the coroner reports the cause of death being from a puncture wound. Other corpses turn up with the same trauma. At the same time reporter Susan Ward is writing an article on a skeleton found in the ghost-town Vanport, destroyed by the 1948 flood. Archie allows the journalist to join his team as they search for a serial killer using a strange toxin.

The fourth Sheridan police procedural (see Heartsick; Sweetheart; Evil at Heart) is a refreshing tale though the hero deals with another serial killer but this time Gretchen is limited to a few moments when Archie agonizes over his mixed feelings towards the black widow. The key to the superb whodunit is the real Vanport flood of over six decades ago that will remind the audience of Katrina as Chelsea Cain brings this disaster alive to readers. Fans will enjoy Sheridan's brisk investigation of a present day psychopath and the deep look at the Vanport Flood calamity.

On Borrowed Time
David Rosenfelt
9780312598365, $24.99

Manhattan based reporter Richard Kilmer and his lover Jennifer Ryan drive from their apartment on the Upper West Side to her hometown to meet her family in Kendrick Falls. He plans to ask her to marry him. However, they have an accident, but eerily somehow before they finish the two hour drive, Jen vanished.

Stunned with no clues as to his beloved's whereabouts, Richard meets the family he thought would be his in-laws. Shocked further after meeting her family when they insist she is not their kin; her friends deny knowing a Jennifer Ryan. Finally even his friends claim they never met her. As a catharsis, Richard writes articles for a magazine about his recent trauma. Allison Tynes comes from Wisconsin to New York to meet Richard as she insists she is Jen's identical twin; leaving the journalist further bewildered.

This suspense thriller grips the reader once the car accident occurs and never let's the audience go even after the climax as the audience will ponder what happened to the key characters especially the beleaguered protagonist who sadly muses that he entered the Twilight Zone. To David Rosenfelt's credit and writing skills he never ventures in to the Serling realm. With Andy Carpenter on respite, fans will still relish this taut thriller as like Kilmer will wonder what is going on.

Bless the Bride
Rhys Bowen
9780312628109, $24.99

In 1903, the marriage between private investigator Molly Murphy and NYPD Captain Daniel Sullivan is coming soon. He expects her to behave like a wife and not a detective; his mom also implores her to act accordingly. Shockingly Molly seems to acquiesce.

Wealthy Chinese businessman Lee Sing Tai asks Molly to help him find a missing valuable jade. Although she believes her client is omitting much of the story, she agrees as she rationalizes her promise to no longer sleuth begins after the marriage though she hides her activity from Daniel. Molly thinks Lee is actually seeking his missing bride who ran away. However, she has no idea how a Chinese female who does not speak English hides in plain sight in New York when Asian women are not allowed outside without a chaperone. As Molly searches for the young runaway, she fears she will bring further harm to the bride Lee bought in and brought from China.

This is a strong entry in one of the best historical mystery series on the market. The investigation is top rate as Molly goes from searching for a runaway bride that has her pondering the parallels to her own fate as a wife in which she is expected to give up her freedom to detect. As the heroine conceals her case from her fiance while wondering whether marriage means being The Last Illusion living In a Gilded Cage, her case turns lethal. Rhys Bowen provides a great early twentieth century Molly Murphy mystery.

An Empty Death
Laura Wilson
9780312538101, $25.99

In 1944 London, the war that has no end has taken its mental toll on the stiff upper lipped British. In that environment, Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Ted Stratton struggles with his morale as he conducts investigations into hideous crimes.

When the corpse of Dr. Reynolds of Middlesex Hospital is found with head traumas, the initial assumption is falling debris caused a misfortunate accident. However DI Stratton nonetheless digs a bit deeper to rule out a clever homicide. He soon learns Reynolds chased after the nurses at his hospital and allegedly failed to provide proper care to patients who died from his seemingly neglect. Stratton begins to believe a killer works at the hospital, but who he or she is remains just out of reach. Meanwhile Dr. James Dacre continues to pose as a physician though never trained.

The latest Stratton WWII British police procedural is an entreating whodunit as the fog of war even in the home-front makes the case that much more complicated. Stratton is fabulous as he os depressed about the endless fighting but diligent about his job. Although the climax seems improbable, fans will enjoy Laura Wilson's exciting historical mystery.

Rizzo's Fire
Lou Manfredo
9780312538064, $24.99

As he nears retirement Brooklyn Police Detective Sergeant Joe Rizzo has seen everything in his years on the NYPD force. His new partner Priscilla Jackson is an openly lesbian African-American, which does not faze the veteran cop in the least though he feels for her as her mom cut her off over her sexual preference. Joe's biggest concern of the moment is his daughter wants to become a chip off the old block and become a cop, which he opposes.

Joe and Priscilla investigate the strangling death of a former shoe salesman Robert Lauria. The homicide seems identical to the recent murder of a Pulitzer Prize - winning playwright. As the two cops seek clues, Joe fears a serial killer is on the loose.

The prime homicide investigation starts several chapters into the enjoyable Brooklyn police procedural as the opening segue focuses on personal issues and routine office work that the two cops face. Once the story line shifts into first gear when the inquiry begins, the action becomes fast-paced. Although the two detectives seem on their own with little support from their precinct to include data warehousing to affirm or disprove Rizzo's theory, fans will enjoy the view of Brooklyn from a pair who would insist a tree never grows in a cement jungle (see Rizzo's War for his first case).

The Lost Sister
Russel D. McLean
9780312576820, $24.99

In Dundee, Scotland, fourteen year old Mary Furst vanishes. The family believes time is short as Mary is a great student and promising artist who would never have just run away. Not expecting the overworked police to rescue the teen alive, former Dundee cop turned private investigator J. McNee is hired to find and save the child. He agrees with the assessment that the child was snatched takes on the case; he barely conceals his ire and if he can get his hands on the culprit with no cops around the predator will regret abducting a kid.

McNee is not hampered by the restrictions placed on the cops as he follows leads. He wonders if Mary's criminal Godfather is the cause as an enemy could be behind the abduction. He finds that the child's mom is uncooperative so he bullies her trying to get her to tell him what she fearfully but obviously hides. Ignoring legal boundaries while working closely with Constable Susan Bright, McNee fears time has run out on Mary who he thinks is probably dead.

The second McNee raging out of control investigation is a super thriller as the hero's anger management issues remain a critical part of him, but provides insight into the causes of his emotional problems; something the exciting The Good Son lacked. Ironically the story line is fast-paced from the moment McNee does the favor, but in the protagonist's mind his pace is too slow. Readers will appreciate the traumatized hero who is apt to lead with his fists and ask questions later.

The King of Diamonds
Simon Tolkien
9780312539085, $24.99

In 1958 at the Old Bailey in London, David Swain stands on trial for the murder of Ethan Mendel in what has been sensationalized as a crime of passion. David accused Ethan of interfering with his relationship with Katya Osman. Oxford Detective Inspector William Trave testifies, which is a prime reason Swain is convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Although he did his duty, something about the case annoys Trave.

Two years later, Trave's marriage to Vanessa falls apart. At the same time Katya's diamond dealer paternal Uncle Titus lends his support to the DI while ironically having an affair with Vanessa. Osman also conceals that he and his brother-in - law former Nazi sympathizer Franz Claes have kept his niece locked away in her home. Meanwhile, acrimonious and raging Swain works on his escape in order to kill his duplicitous former girlfriend. Just after Swain succeeds in breaking out of prison, someone murders Katya. Although the obvious suspect is the escaped convict who swore he would kill his former lover but Trave hypothesizes that her uncle and his in-law murdered the niece and Mendel. The problem with his theory is his motives re Vanessa.

Although a bit over the top of the Old Bailey, the second DI Trave police procedural (seer The Inheritance) is a super exciting thriller that transports readers back to 1960 Oxford. Trave is terrific as he investigates the second homicide tied to Katya, but this time she is the victim. His peers scoff at his theory as Swain is an easier culprit to hang and besides Trave has a motive to want Osman to hang because his estranged wife and the King of Diamonds dealer are having an affair. Fans will enjoy Simon Tolkien's entertaining historical thriller.

Deadly Vows
Brenda Joyce
Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373775514, $7.99,

In 1902 in New York, Francesca Cahill and Calder Hart are getting married in a few hours. However, before the ceremony, Francesca sneaks off to a gallery to see a portrait Hart commissioned. She is locked inside, but by the time she escapes from the gallery, everyone including Hart believes she jilted him. Francesca knows someone set this up, but not who or why.

Hart refuses to listen to her explanation as he is hurt and humiliated; raging he ends their engagement. Stunned and hurt too, Francesca turns to Hart's half-brother Police Commissioner Rick Bragg for solace at a time when his marriage to Leigh Ann is crumbling. As Francesca ponders who owns her heart, she and Bragg search for who "framed' her and is trying to blackmail her and soon a killer is after her too.

Though the roller coaster ride for the heroine's relationships and affection continues to the point it feels sort of inane yet due to Brenda Joyce's talent very entertaining as Cahill and the crew work two mysteries as well as the enigma of her heart. Filled with action, dysfunctional relationships (a common thread) and a sense of being in Manhattan at the start of the previous century (once again a fabulous recurring theme), fans will enjoy Francesca's latest escapades in maybe (nor not) making it to the altar.

A Creed in Stone Creek
Linda Lael Miller
9780373775552, $7.99

Wanting a safe place to raise five year old Matt St. John, guardian Steven Creed an attorney moves to Stone Creek, Arizona where he buys a dilapidated ranch. He hopes the small town with his McKettrick kin nearby is the right atmosphere for Matt, whose parents Zack and Jillie recently died. Zack being Steven's best friend asked him to take care of Matt if he should die as Jillie already had passed away from breast cancer.

Steven and county prosecutor Melissa O'Ballivan meet and are attracted to one another; feelings neither want at the moment. He needs to focus on fixing up the ranch and insuring Matt adjusts well; while she has not had a male in her life except in court in two years ago. As the adults fuss and fight, they begin to fall in love, but both remain stubborn. So a little sad-faced matchmaker, encouraged by senior citizens, abetted by Elvis the dog who demanded adoption and much more want Melissa in the extended family as the child's mommy and the guardian's wife.

The latest return to stone Creek is an enjoyable angst-laden contemporary romance starring a likable lead couple, Elvis, a pony and a confused grieving orphan serving as the catalyst of love. The story line is character driven from the moment Steven stops at the motel with his grieving ward and never takes an emotional respite. Fans of the McKettrick-Creed crowd will appreciate stopping in Stone Creek.

The Guy Next Door
Lori Foster, Susan Donovan, and Victoria Dahl
9780373775569, $7.99

"Ready, Set, Jett" by Lori Foster. School teacher Natalie Alexander and private investigator Jett Sutter enjoy their tryst until he decides he wants their relationship to go to the next level.

"Gail's Gone Wild" by Susan Donovan. Accompanied by her teenage daughter, Professor Gail Chapman travels to Key West where she and author Jesse Batista meet and fall in love.

"Just One Taste" by Victoria Dahl. Brewery owner Eric Donovan and erotica boutique manager Beth Cantrell meet and fall in love, but her job upsets the pedantic beer maker.

These are three warm romances though the story lines' tones differ.

In His Good Hands
Joan Kilby
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373716876, $5.50

Retired pro Australian football player Brett O'Connor returns to his hometown Summerside accompanied by his teenage daughter Tegan with plans to open a gym there. He goes to the Community Bank for a loan. The bank's loans manager is someone he went to high school with, Renita Thatcher. She had a crush on him back then when she was his math tutor and to her chagrin still does. He admits he is obtaining a divorce from gorgeous Amber.

Renita approves part of what he asks for. Still he persuades the overweight bank officer to join his gym. She and her dad do. Renita quickly knows she always loved Brett and still does, but believes he can choose any woman he wants so why settle on a chub like her; yet he seems always be around her.

Renita makes this Australian second chance at love work as her insecurities about her looks makes for a fascinating character study of a unique (that is for romance novels) protagonist. Brett remains as resolute as when he banged heads playing football. The support cast enhances a terrific tale as readers will know they are in good hands when Joan Kilby is the author.

Taken to the Edge
Kara Lennox
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373716890, $5.50

Feeling burned out for the second time in two years having left the Houston Police Department previously; Ford Hyatt leaves Project Justice after another woman ends up in intensive care due to his diligently getting an allegedly innocent person out of jail. Just after his resignation, Robyn Jasperson joins him at a bar to plead with him to take on the case of her former husband, Eldon, who sits on death row. Suffering from guilt and post traumatic stress disorder, Ford says no though he had a crush in high school on the notorious bad girl. However, though fearing he is thinking with his wrong head, he reluctantly agrees to take on the case when there is no one else available to do so and Robyn's plea that her ex spouse is innocent.

Ford looks at the evidence that convicted Eldon of killing his son Justin though no body or any sign of foul play was found tied to him. Believing the death row inmate is innocent, he and Robyn, who has not had a chance to mourn for her son, investigate the vanishing.

The key to this exhilarating Project Justice taut thriller is that the romance plays a secondary role to the investigation that proves increasingly dangerous. Tense from the moment the long legged Robyn enters the bar, sub-genre fans will appreciate accompanying the lead couple as they make inquiries into what happened to Justin.

Maddie Inherits a Cowboy
Jeannie Watt
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373716906, $5.50

Ty Hopewell blames himself for the death of his friend Skip Blaine as he was driving the truck when the accident occurred. Two years have passed since that fatal day, but Ty has not moved on in spite of knowing Skip would demand he did.

Skip's New York anthropology professor PH.D sister, Madeleine arrives at Ty's ranch to learn why her inheritance from her late brother has stopped turning a profit. She assumes Ty is cheating her out of her rightful share. Even before she arrived, she was thinking of selling her share. A few days at the archaic ranch with no heat and not even a bed convinces her that her decision to sell is right. However, she also realizes that her partner wallows in guilt and grief as he holds himself responsible for her sibling's death. Though she has job issues back home, she decides to stay a little longer to protect the livestock and to help Ty finally move on; unaware that her Good Samaritan endeavor will help her move on too.

This is an enjoyable second chance at life contemporary ranch romance. Ty makes the tale with his remorse driven attitude that could frost the tropics; although Madeline has made her share of mistakes too. Readers will root for the city slicker and the remorseful rancher to make it as they need each other and not just because of love.

Under Wraps
Hannah Jayne
Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758258922, $6.99,

In San Francisco, beneath the police department is located the Underworld Detection Agency. Their mission is to conduct investigations and negotiations especially involving humans for their paranormal clients. In fact, the only "Breather" human working for UDA is administrative assistant Sophie Lawson.

Recently, the supernatural crowd is shocked when a serial killer begins a deadly murderer's spree of the paranormal. Sophie becomes worried when her nice boss Peter Sampson the werewolf vanishes without a trace as she fears he may have been a victim of the predator. Never working the field, Sophie tentatively investigates her employer's vanishing, which leads her to police detective Parker Hayes. Though attracted to the cop, she begins to realize that he is not telling her something critical either about Peter or himself, so she distrusts him.

This is an engaging investigative urban fantasy that takes a while to get the elements in place, but once that occurs (about a fourth of the novel) turns into a delightful thriller, extremely difficult to put down. Sophie the token breather keeps the story lien focused while her relationships to her werewolf boss and a vampiress roommate make the paranormal seem normal. Fans will appreciate her adventures on and under the streets of San Francisco as she and the cop she desires with her heart but distrusts with her head search for the lost lupine shifter.

Michael Griffo
9780758253385, $9.95

In the insular town of Weeping Water in Nebraska, teenager Michael Howard feels alone and alienated. His peers taunt him about being gay while his mother keeps her distance from him and his grandfather, whose house he lives in, is always on his case.

When his mother dies, his father Vaughn takes him back to his country England only to dump the lad at Archangel Academy in Eden. There he meets enigmatic Ronan, a gay teen. Each realizes they have met their soulmate, but wanting a strong foundation to their relationship, they take it slow. Michael has secrets he hides from his beloved, but Ronan conceals a humongous one that he is a hybrid vampire whose exiled clan is at war with the popular version of the vampire. Ronan worries about how his Michael will react when he tells him truth; he also knows the American is his Achilles' Heel. When the time comes, Michael will have to choose between hurting Ronan (and himself) or embracing their love. However, first they will have to outwit their enemies who look at Ronan's species as an abomination.

Ironically titled Unnatural is a creative imaginative vampire enthralling thriller that targets young adults though readers should be aware there are graphic sex scenes. The strong story line focuses on the impact of a teen who is a part of a shammed minority group. Filled with action, Michael Griffo also cautions parents to be there for their children regardless of their sexual preference even when it differs from yours so that their offspring will not be like Michael ashamed of himself until he finally makes friends at the Academy. Everyone needs to feel they belong somewhere and with someone.

Simply Forbidden
Kate Pearce
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758241399, $14.00

Major Gabriel Swanfield returns home to England after spending time in prison in France. He does not come home to a hero's welcome as everyone assumes he gave away military secrets to the enemy and they believe that is why he was freed. His avaricious uncle controlled Gabe's estate while his nephew served in the military during the Napoleonic War and became a POW; he continues to run Swanfield as his battle fatigued nephew fails to fight back.

Lisette Delornay sees Gabe enters Madame Helene's Pleasure House; she decides she wants him and she gets what she wants. He is attracted to her but assumes she cannot give him the satisfaction he obtains at Madame Helene's Pleasure House. The daughter of Madame Helene, although convent raised, plans to prove him wrong.

The latest House of Pleasure Regency romance (see Simply Shameless and Simply Insatiable) is a great entry due to the hero who suffers from Post traumatic Stress Disorder made worse by the unwelcome response of family and friends who consider him a traitor. Lisette has her issues too being the daughter of the notorious Madame Helene. Men expect sexual favors from her. As this pair fails in love, he vows to prove his innocence and regain control of his estate while she pledges to have his back and other parts of his body.

Sinful Harvest
Anitra Lynn McLeod
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758235350, $14.00

In the Onic Empire, Kerrick the Harvester performs his duty of sex with a myriad of virgins with control expected of one of his vocation. However, the rules governing sex are changed leaving Kerrick shocked. He is expected to be the submissive sexual servant to his mate Harvester Ariss.

She is elated as finally she controls her pleasure instead of taking care of virgins. Ariss enjoys her monthly sensual time with Kerrick and soon discovers only he pleases her. She breaks the rules and sneaks into his room, but they are caught and punished. Worse a God takes control of Kerrick's body with the intent to teach Ariss to only enjoy sex when pain is part of the encounter.

The latest Harvest romantic fantasy is an interesting tale that continues the premise of the Onic Empire being an extremely dark place in which sexual depravity is the norm with rape and torture a way of life regardless of gender. Anitra Lynn McLeod cleverly uses the victim's emotional aftermath to tell the violent molestation. Although the story line is overall fast-paced, deceleration occurs at times due to the exceedingly convoluted complexities of the fascinating McLeod realm (it helps to have read Wicked Harvest and Dark Harvest).

Letters from Home
Kristina McMorris
9780758246844, $15.00

During the turmoil of WWII, Betty Cordell, Julia Renard and Liz Stephens become roommates in 1944 in Chicago. Each has different dreams about their future.

Betty plans to avoid the mistakes her mom made; she will only marry someone affluent. Julia has a fabulous offer to intern at a renowned fashion design firm, but declines the chance as she waits for her soldier fiance to come home to marry him. Liz ponders whether she truly wants to be a professor married to a politician after briefly meeting soldier Morgan McClain at the USO; his interest is with Betty; he asks her to exchange letters with him while he is overseas but Liz does it by pretending to be Betty.

This is an engaging historical tale with a strong romantic underpinning. The key to the story line is the various background settings from Chicago to the European battlefields and a combat deployed field hospital in Dutch New Guinea; each brings alive the era in diverse ways. Fans will enjoy this fine WWII drama wondering how Morgan will react if he survives to come home to duplicity when the war is over.

Devil's Food Cake Murder
Joanna Fluke
9780758234919, $24.00

In Lake Eden, Minnesota, Hannah Swenson, owner of the popular Cookie Jar bakery, feels good for her best friend Claire who recently married Reverend Bob Knudson. On a sabbatical, Bob's friend Lutheran Minister Matthew Walters arrives in Lake Eden and agrees to preach to the flock at Holy Redeemer so that the newlyweds can go on their honeymoon.

However, the manna from heaven plan turns to devil's food cake when Hannah finds Matthew dead in the rectory. Although her sometimes boyfriend Winnetka County's chief detective Mike Kingston leads the official investigation, Hannah starts her own inquiry, which he encourages as she has quite a solve rate (see Apple Turnover Murder). She begins to find the saint is a sinner while wondering if the gold coins in the collection plate or the jewel robbery in Minneapolis is the motive for the homicide, and whether the victim's ex convict cousin is involved with the murder.

The latest "Land of 10000 Lakes" culinary whodunit is a delicious amateur sleuth mystery though Mike might take exception to the word amateur when it comes to his girlfriend solving murder mysteries. The story line is fast-paced with a strong cast including the deceased Lutheran Minster. With additional mouth watering recipes, readers will enjoy stopping at the Cookie Jar for a tasty piece of sleuthing.

Rebecca Zanetti
Kensington Brava
9780758259233, $14.00

Plant physiologist Dr. Cara Paulsen is an empath raising her four years old child Janie by herself. The botanist will do anything to keep her beloved Janie, who has psychic skills, safe.

When stranger Talen Kayrs introduces himself, he insists he is protecting her and Janie. She assumes he is a lunatic, but Janie reassures her that he is legitimate. He also demands she marry him so his family will be obligated to protect both of the Paulsen's as the Kurjans want females with special skills especially Janie. Extremely reluctant though Janie says otherwise, Cara refuses initially to marry him when she realizes the visitor is a three-century old vampire though his touch lights her on fire with desire.

Although the incongruous basis for the triangle relationship is over the top, readers will quickly ignore the opening encounters as talented Rebecca Zanetti provides an entertaining engaging paranormal romance. Fast-paced, readers will appreciate the efforts of the hero and the mommy, who as they fall in love, risk their lives to keep her gifted toddler safe from a nasty group who has long term eugenic plans for young females with special skills.

Restless Heart
Emma Lang
Kensington Brava
9780758247520, $14.00

In 1872 the third wife of abusive Latter Day Saints Elder Josiah, Angeline Hunter flees from his brutality as she has no place to turn to in their Mormon community; not even papa who agreed to her marriage to this vicious but highly important man older than him. She makes a new life working at the Blue Plate but always looks over her shoulder in Wyoming. The townsfolk quickly like and admire the outgoing caring newcomer.

Reticent half-breed Sam Carver struggles with his injured leg and caring for his elderly father. He especially is charmed by the vivacious Angeline. As the pair falls in love encouraged by the townsfolk, she knows she cannot marry as she is already a wife even if she took a chance with giving her heart to gentle Sam.

This sequel to Ruthless Heart (the romance of Angeline's sister) is an exciting post Civil War romance that brings to life rural Wyoming. The story line is fast-paced with a delightful flawed lead couple struggling with their feelings. Although Josiah is the stereotype of the malevolent abusive leader cloaked in religious respectability, fans will enjoy High Noon in late nineteenth century Wyoming.

Truth or Demon
Kathy Love
Kensington Brava
9780758231970, $14.00

Arrogant First Circle demon of Hell Killian O'Brien is knocked out; when he regains consciousness he is surrounded by one pint sized woman Poppy Reed and three teenage girls (Poppy's sister Daisy and her best friends Emma and Madison). The teens tell Poppy he is Madison's cousin from Sweden. Poppy apologizes for hitting him over the head. The devilish trio explains to Killian they control him until he finds Poppy's soulmate.

Killian thinks his dilemma is worse of a hell than that of his boss. The teens tell Poppy he is a paranormal investigator from Sweden seeking reputed spots in the Boston area. Poppy agrees to escort Killian around town. Poppy explains to Killian that her life changed when their parents died as she went from big sister graduating college to mother. Killian tries to use his mental charm on her but it fails; just like it did with the teens. He is attracted to his cute elfin escort. At the apartment he stays in, Veper the demon warns Killian that Satan is unhappy with him. Immediately afterward the teens warn Killian that Poppy is not to fall in love with him, but he wonders what about him falling in love with Poppy.

The lead couple is a fascinating pairing of a demon and a woman who gave up her life to raise her sister. The three teens come across as real caring individuals whose antics add humor while enhancing the fun frolic. Although the anticipated confrontations never reach hellish levels, urban romantic fantasy fans will enjoy this pleasant lighthearted diversion.

Love You More
Lisa Gardner
Bantam Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780553807257, $26.00,

Her former lover Massachusetts State Police Detective Booby Dodge calls Boston Police Sergeant D.D. Warren to tell her to get her butt over here as they have the worst type of case to investigate. The victim is merchant marine Brian Darby who lies on a kitchen floor in his pool of blood. His wife Massachusetts State Trooper Tessa Leoni confesses she killed her husband but that it was self-defense as he battered her. Missing is her six-year old daughter Sophie.

Tessa offers nothing beyond her confession; insisting she has no idea where her daughter is. With a sea of blue sympathy for Tessa, Warren and Dodge work the difficult case in which the death seems obvious but the child's disappearance does not. Warren believes Leone is lying and that the untruths relate to the child, but her efforts to learn the truth and save the kid are hampered by her peers and the mother who refuses to tell her anything but fabrications.

This is a great police procedural that grips the audience from the moment Dodge calls Warren and never slows down. The key to this exciting thriller is that all the players including Gertrude behave in a genuine way. As Leoni answers the question "Who do you love?" fans will appreciate Warren's latest investigation (see Live To Tell).

Shadow Pass
Sam Eastland
9780553807820, $25.00

A German agent drives a motorcycle from his homeland into Poland. From there he enters Stalin's Russia where a man waits for him. He has the schematics for the Konstantin project, which he gives to the other party in exchange for money. The German leaves, but is shot from behind.

Stalin is furious about the leak of T-34 a new weapon to use in the upcoming war with Germany. He orders former Prisoner 4745-P Inspector Pekkala to interrogate the person in charge inventor Colonel Rolan Nagorski. Pekkala concludes that the Colonel is innocent, but someone inside committed treason and must be found before further leaks occur. However, before he can dig deeper, someone murders Nagorski. A raging Stalin wants the killer caught immediately, but Pekkala knows he must not work in haste to insure the seditious murder is caught before Internal Affairs Commissar Major Lysenkova further muddies up the case, probably on purpose.

The second Stalinist era historical police procedural (see Eye of the Red Tsar) enables the reader to look deeply at the paranoid Russian leader who saw assassins everywhere; leading to his killing millions as enemies of the state. Pekkala is an honorable courageous person who knows his Stalin-sanctioned investigation into anyone is paramount to official suicide, but his love for his Mother Russia has him carry out his mission. Shadow Pass is a terrific 1930s whodunit enhanced by flashbacks to when Pekkala was the Tsar's top investigator.

Secrets of Paris
Luanne Rice
9780553587838, $15.00

In order to escape somewhat from the murder-suicide death of her father and take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity, Lydie and Michael McBride move to Paris on a cultural exchange program. The photographer stylist and her architect husband redesign a room at the Louvre.

Lydie and Bostonian expatriate Patrice d'Origny become friends as she does with Patrice's Filipino maid Kelly. Meanwhile, Michael begins an affair with a French author Anne Dumas who is writing the biography of Mme de Sevigne. Patrice's husband Didier hires Lydie to develop the new d'Origny Bijoutiers jewelry catalogue. As Lydie and Michael seem to drift further apart, each wonders if they can regain what they lost as Americans in Paris.

This reprint of a 1991 family drama predominantly focuses on Lydie, but also looks deep at Patrice and Kelly. The story line is character driven with little action as the themes of friendship, forgiveness and second chances are explored. Though the men and Anne are emaciated stereotypes, readers will enjoy Luanne Rice's look into the souls of three women at key crossroads in their respective lives who will always have Paris.

Found Wanting
Robert Goddard
9780385343626, $15.00

In London, government bureaucrat Richard Eusden knows every day at work is the same as the previous zillion days. The civil servant muses outside his office building at Whitehall that nothing changes as everything remains the same when it comes to the job.

However this Monday morning will prove a bit maniacal when his former wife Gemma pulls over to the curb and orders Richard into her car. She asks her ex to do her a favor. Her other ex Marty Hewitson is dying. She wants Richard to deliver to his childhood friend Marty an old attache case that belonged to the latter's grandfather, Isle of Wight police officer Clem Hewitson who was buried two decades ago. Richard travels to Brussels to deliver the case but learns what happens to Good Samaritans as he finds out first-hand that the late Clem's epic espionage exaggerations that stretch back to 1909 may not have been hyperbole. A brutal kidnapper warns him to hand over the case if he wants Marty returned alive and if he prefers life over death. Stunned Richard flees across the continent with assassins chasing after him wanting the Romanov secret documents that the attache contains.

This is a terrific suspense thriller as Richard feels paranoid because he distrusts everyone soon after arriving in Belgium; this includes Gemma and Marty. Fast-paced with tense twists and trademark humor, Found Wanting is an exhilarating thriller as Richard runs to Germany with no idea where to go or who to turn to while killers pursue him.

False Pretenses
Kathy Herman
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781403405, $14.99,

In the town of Les Barbes in Saint Catherine Parrish, Louisiana, a mystery comes to light. Vanessa and Ethan Langtry remodel Langtry Manor converting it into a B&B. Their son Carter says the candyman gave him lemon drops, but his parents assume this is just a child's imagination until they sees candy on the floor. Neither adult can figure out how a person entered their tightly secured locked faculty.

Zoe and Pierce Broussard own Zoe B's brasserie, which she opened a decade ago. She has received letters saying: "I know what you did." Zoe assumes the anonymous writer refers to a ring she stole and is preparing to blackmail her. To eliminate the extortion, Zoe confesses to her former employer and offers to pay back the cost of the ring. Her ex boss is kind and asks Zoe to simply repay her what she got for it. However this proves not to be the source of the threat. Someone wants what the real Zoe Broussard parents owed him. Ironically, she is not that Zoe, but instead Shelby Siegler who fled from her abusive molesting father to reinvent herself as Zoe Benoit who lived in her hometown. Knowing the predator will kill her and Pierre, Zoe needs to tell her beloved husband the truth but fears that will kill her marriage.

In the first Secrets of Roux River Bayou, Kathy Herman provides a strong romantic suspense thriller with two major subplots that intertwine leading to what may be the great author's best work to date. Besides the Broussard's confrontations with a psychopath and the Langtry's trepidations of an intruder, the town is in a frenzy of rage over the lynching of a white man. As the Langtrys befriend the Broussards during their crisis, which cleverly merges the two prime plots, readers will appreciate a trip into the Bayou escorted by Ms. Herman.

All For One
Melody Carlson
David C. Cook
9781434764935, $14.99

In Clifdon, Oregon, the fifty-something four Lindas continue to be there for one another since they recently reunited after decades apart (see Hometown Ties).

Abby suffers from sleep deprivation because she keeps a vigil, watching over her husband of their-five years Paul, who suffered a heart attack recently. She has even neglected renovation of her Coastal Cottage B&B that she loves so her three friends led by Marley perform an intervention.

Caroline knows her mother belongs in a care facility as the Alzheimer's has gotten worse. She is away from the house when a fire breaks out while a substitute care provider attends her mom. Severely burned her mom survives on life support that Caroline wants unplugged. The lead detective believes Caroline tried to kill her mom. While her boyfriend Mitch is overseas, her friends Abby and Marley investigate while Janie provides legal support. Her abusive brother arrives for the funeral with demands on his beleaguered sister.

Divorced Marley worries about her adult son Ashton who sounds suicidal and depressed. She brings him home where she prays her friends and her potential boyfriend Jack will welcome her gay son.

Janie's boyfriend Victor is having second thoughts since his first wife and mother of his two adult sons Donna has moved into his home. Donna makes it crazily clear that they remain married under God's law though she divorced him and remarried.

Although the four prime subplots move forward as expected, the third Lindas entry is a terrific Christian contemporary tale that focuses on several modern day social issues confronting the Church and society as a whole. Each is handled with the dexterity expected from Melody Carlson as All for One is a strong character driven drama.

Lisa T. Bergren
David C. Cook
9781434764331, $14.99

Every summer, sisters Gabi and Lia Betarrini accompany their archeologist parents on an excavation in Italy. The pair hates the dust and heat, but mostly the ennui. This year is especially difficult as their dad recently died and they are with their mom Dr. Adri Betarrini who works at an Etruscan dig where the youngest single male is a septuagenarian. Dr. Manero of the Italian government may send mother and daughter back to Boulder as he wants to horn in on the glory.

To pass time while mom and Manero argue over paper and espresso, the siblings enter a recently opened tomb just to look around. However, their boring hot summer ends when Gabi places her hands in handprints, which transports her back to what looks like a renaissance reenactment battle scene except the blood is obviously real. Two opposing knights Forelli and Paratore are the most combative enemies as Gabi learns she is in 1332 with these heirs to city states fighting each other. With Shakespeare centuries into the future and towering over all the women and most of the men, Gabi wonders how to go home when no tomb with handprints appears for her to try and no ruby slippers exist.

The first River of Time young adult thriller is a super suspense filled tale as teenage Gabi finds she is in all sorts of trouble starting with landing in a combat zone and unable to find immediate clothing that fits her being over a hand taller than the next tallest female in Siena. Fast-paced, prideful Gabi makes the exciting story line feel real. She is a stranger in a strange land struggling to adjust to missing her mom and sister; as much as to having no indoor plumbing and even though she knows a lot about the era using chamber pots are not the same as even portable toilets.

Late Eclipses
Seanan McGuire
DAW Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756406660, $7.99,

Half-breed private investigator Toby Daye finally believes she belongs in Faerie after leaving the land two years ago for San Francisco. She even has made a shaky peace with an adversary Tybalt the Cat King. However her serenity abruptly ends when her close friend the undine Lily the Lady of the Tea Gardens was recently poisoned and is dying. She becomes further shocked when Luna the wife of liege lord Sylvester Torquil becomes ill. Toby believes someone is targeting her through people she cares about.

At the same time Oleander de Merelands has returned. She was a key part of a group that kept Toby trapped as a fish for years. No one else believes Oleander is back as only Toby can see her, which leaves her friends wondering if the changeling has become insane. Crazy or not, Toby investigates before something else horrific occurs to someone else she cares about.

The fourth October Daye urban fantasy whodunit series (see An Artificial Night, Rosemary and Rue, and A Local Habitation) is a fabulous thriller as the heroine burned by both sides of her DNA has a lingering distrust of everyone so her paranoia kicks in and she does what she does best: investigate. Fast-paced, the case is personal as friends are dying; she is the accused; her enemy has surfaced; and her mom is somehow in the middle of what the heroine believes is a concerted effort to destroy her. No one provides better Noir tours of San Francisco and Faerie than Ms. Daye does when she resolutely works an investigation.

House Name
Michelle West
9780756406516, $25.95

In the Essaylieyan Empire capital, Averalaan, Jewel "Jay" MarkessA has survived being an orphan in the slums thanks in part to her "mentor" Old Rath the demon slayer who taught her how to live off the treasures beneath the mean surface streets. She has formed a den of discarded children in Rath's home and struggles to feed her charges; but her life and that of her pups appeared to improve when the most powerful of the Essaylieyan Empire ruling Houses, Terafin take Jewel and her den rats under their protection with the stipulation she must pay the price.

Jewel proves her worth when she prevented a demonic assassination of the Terafin ruler. That proves easy compared to what the House leaders assign her next. With demon kin planning something deadly, they order her to escort their mages on the magical pathways into the hidden Undercity where the demons reside. Initially Jewel assumed this is easy thanks to her relationship with Rath, but each portal vanishes just before Jewel reaches them. Jewel fears that her den will be deported back to the slums. The visions she sees adds to Jewel's feelings of hopelessness when failure is not an option, but success seems impossible as she expects the improbable of an all out demon kin assault on the House of Terafin, but does not know how to prevent what seems inevitable.

The third book of the House Wars saga is an exciting entry that continues to tell the events of the Sun Sword epic from the primary perspective of Jewel. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action, but lacks the freshness of the first two tales especially The Hidden City; as fans of Michelle West will sense deja vu. Still following the adventures of Jewel remains a delight.

License to Ensorcell
Katherine Kerr
9780756406561, $7.99

Federal agent operative Nola O'Grady works for the most top secret government agency consisting of an entity of psychics that even the FBI and CIA are ignorant that it exists. She has doubts about coming home to San Francisco to work because she worries that her gifted family will get involved in her dangerous cases.

Making matters more complicated is her new partner Israeli Interpol secret agent Ari Nathan whose shoot first philosophy makes a bull in a china shop seems like ot behaves like a kitten. They investigate a serial killer who uses silver bullets to murder victims the psychopath believes are werewolves. Whereas Ari assumes the predator is insane, Nola knows the hunter targets are real lycanthrope as her brother Pat who ironically wanted to become a catholic priest was the first known victim.

This is an entertaining investigative urban fantasy that sub-genre readers will enjoy as O'Grady is a psychic Lara Croft and Nathan is her sidekick stepping on toes whose prime mission turns out to insure his female partner eats meals. Although the lead relationship is not a new combo (see Caitlin Kitteridge's Black London and Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels) nor is the story line (see D.D. Barant's Bloodhound Files), fans will enjoy the streets of San Francisco as seen through an otherworldly lens.

Shadow of Evil
Robin Caroll
B&H Publishing Group
127 Ninth Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37234-0143
9780805449792, $15.99,

In Eternal Springs, Louisiana, contractor Layla Taylor is stunned when a house she just completed is set on fire. Once the blaze is put out and the remains cooled down, a dead inspector is found inside. Detectives Maddox Bishop and Houston Wallace investigate the homicide-arson with Layla as the only link to both crimes besides the victim.

Maddox and Layla are attracted to one another from their first meeting. However, when more incidents including murder and arson occur, he knows the case comes first. He works diligently to keep Layla safe as she is the seeming focus that ties everything together, he does not want to have happen to her what happened to his mother almost two decades ago, which he still feels overwhelming guilt for not being home on time to protect her.

The latest Eternal Spring inspirational suspense thriller (see Deliver us From Evil and Fear No Evil) is a terrific police procedural with strong relationship bases. The sisters obviously love one another though disagree more than they agree on issues. The police partners provide strong support for each other on and off the job. Maddox with his remorse and guilt over his mom shapes his personality as he and Layla fall in love, but God is in their way as she believes strongly (as does her sibling) while he no longer accepts a deity who allowed a bad thing to happen to his mom. This occurs inside a strong investigation with an unexpected but plausible late twist as a serial killer-arsonist seems to target Layla.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765328045, $27.99,

Mykella had never expected to replace her father Feranyt as the Protector of Lanachrona because she had no psionic talent and several males including her uncle and cousin, and her brother were in line before her. However, with her father's death due to poisoning by his brother and nephew during a failed bloody coup, her latent psi skills surfaced. She has become the first Lady-Protector since the legendary Mykella the Great created the position. The new Protector knows she can depend on only her sisters Rachylana and Salyna, as traitors are everywhere.

However besides the family seditious deadly activity, Mykella learns that Lanachrona is bankrupt. Additionally she immediately must prove her worth to the Arms Commander Areyst starting with no honorable funeral for the deceased traitors. However, she has no time for her country's healing and economic recovery; her military leaders warn her that neighbors like Midcoast or Northcoast see an opportunity to invade with a tyro female running a devastated divided nation. An ancient magic arises within her that gives her hope to save her people and fear that the ancient enemy will also arise.

The latest The Corean Chronicles is an exciting political-military fantasy starring a strong heroine and a sold cast especially Areyst. The story line overall is fast-paced though L.E. Modesitt, Jr. somewhat mutes the pace with interwoven references of the back story (see The Lord-Protector). Still with a touch of romance, plenty of political intrigue and loads of life twisting lethal magic, fans of the saga will enjoy Mykella as the Lady-Protector even if she takes over a role too easily that she never trained for as she never expected to sit in the power seat.

After the Golden Age
Carrie Vaughn
9780765325556, $24.99

In Commerce City, Celia West the forensic accountant is fortunate that the Olympiad superheroes protect her because she keeps getting kidnapped. She is the daughter of the group's leaders Suzanne known as the Spark because of her ability to create and control fire and Warren endowed with super speed and strength. However, Celia is estranged from her parents as she wants to live a normal life working assets and liabilities that are numbers and not fighting supervillains with masks and powers.

Currently she is looking into the records of supervillain Destructor seeking proof of tax fraud. When his case comes to court, her relationships through her parents to the alleged felon are exposed. This costs her the job and her friends while widening the rift with her parents. As a crime wave hits the city and with too much idle time on her hands, Celia sees a pattern that ties all the felonious activity to one person. She uses the supercomputer at the Olympiad headquarters trying to uncover the identity of this diabolical mastermind, but also learns much about the yin yang births of superheroes and supervillains.

Carrie Vaughn is a superhero of an author as she deftly switches voices and worlds with her different series (see Kitty the werewolf tales). The story line obviously pays homage to the Golden and Silver Ages of comic books with the twist of an accountant working the numbers to bring down supervillains. Readers root for Celia who they hope reconciles with her parents and obtains self-esteem as she fears she can never live up to the legends her parents are. Filled with pathos and a touch of romance as well as plenty of POW! And AM! Fans will enjoy the silver adventures of the offspring of two Golden Age heroes.

Demon Song
Cat Adams
9780765324962, $14.99

Bodyguard Celia Graves knows her inner self battles between being a siren by birth and a vampire by mistake. She struggles with managing her new thirst for blood with the emotional fallout from her recent battles with a demon and a siren queen (see Blood Song and Siren Song). On top of all that turmoil she regards herself as human.

However, instead of R&R adjustment to her new skills and a chance to lick her wounds, Celia finds out that an ancient portal closed when Atlantis died is tearing the dimensional barrier asunder. If so demon hordes will invade the mortal world killing and enslaving humans. She needs to interpret prophesies left behind by a dead friend and obtain allies, several prejudiced against vampires and others against her in particular, to reseal the widening gap before it is too late.

The latest Adams urban fantasy (see Blood Song and Siren Song) is a great entry that moves forward on two interacting fronts. The heroine copes poorly with her mental adjustment to the changes made worse by Posttraumatic Stress Disorder while the demons are coming, the demons are coming. Fast-paced and loaded with action, readers will relish Celia's latest grave crisis when all she wants to be is a human woman and not siren-vampire save the world heroine.

An Embarrassment of Riches
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
9780765331038, $29.99

Early in the thirteenth century, Count Saint Germain uses the name Rakoczy Ferancsi as a guest of Bohemia's Queen Kunigunde. For now, he knows he cannot go home but even if he could the mercurial monarch keeps the Count locked in a gilded cage. Still, he enjoys his respite in Prague making jewelry for Her Highness and trying to avoid court intrigue.

However his efforts prove futile as the ladies at court assume he is rich and single, and can see handsome. Three females vie for his attention: sneaky Rozsa, Imbolya the teenager and resolute Iliska. He eludes the trio though not easily especially Rozsa as she threatens to expose Saint Germain to the local Church, who already is suspicious of the stranger, if he fails to do her bidding.

As with all the recent Saint Germain tales (see Blood Games) the story line is much more a historical thriller than a horror novel. Still readers will enjoy the hero's time in medieval Bohemia as he tries to avoid any entanglements but starting with the avaricious women, he cannot keep out of their affairs, that of the court especially the queen, and the church. Readers will enjoy An Embarrassment of Riches as once again the Count's efforts to fit quietly in a new location and time make for a fresh thriller even with over three decades of starring roles under his cape.

Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
9780765322692, $25.99

From the frontier aptly titled planet Hellhole, exiled rebel General Tiber Adolphus remains adamant with his opposition to the avarice plots of the Crown Jewel worlds and Diadem Michella Duchenet. He and his cohorts know what they must do if they are to overcome the powerful elite, but to achieve it seems out of reach especially from the nightmarish orb they hide on. His side must find a means to end the royal space travel monopoly. Once that is achieved, they can go onto the next step which is to forge an alliance of Deep Zone planets.

On Sonjeera far from the Deep Zone frontier planets, Diadem Michella has issues with the ancient noble families. At the same time her preoccupation means she and her advisors fail to notice Adolphus is implementing plans that could shake the royal stranglehold on space travel and beyond that much more.
This outer space science fiction thriller pays homage to Dune with the Hellhole environ, but takes its own overall entertaining spin in spite of none of the key cast breaking out of stereotypical roles. The story line is filled with action although the ending is a disappointment as that resolves nothing except set the stage for the next saga. Still fans of Dune will enjoy this epic offspring space opera.

The Sea Thy Mistress
Elizabeth Bear
9780765318848, $25.99

To save the world, Muire the Angel gave herself up by diving into the sea to become the Bearer of Burdens (see All the Windwracked Stars). However, not everyone she left behind rejoice with her ascension sacrifice. In Eiledon Cathoair the immortal warrior angel mourns his loss, which he sees everyday in their offspring Cathmar, who he raises as a single dad knowing the lad will never meet his mother.

Even more raging is Heythe the Goddess, who had set in motion the end of the world before Muire interceded, but riding into the future she is shocked to find a renewed world rather than a dead orb. Knowing what Muire sacrifice has cost her, Heythe takes out her anger and frustration on tormented Cathoair who wallows in pity. She encourages the relatively new immortal to walk a personal path of destruction to force Muire to break her Bearer of Burdens oath and cause the final demise of Valdyrgard. On the other hand her other toy is the son but he displays maturity as he becomes an adult. Meanwhile Mingan the wolf observes the return of the evil enemy and plans to prevent Heythe's second chance at ending the world.

This fantasy is fascinatingly more a character study as readers see deep into the souls of father and son and to a lesser degree other cast members. Elizabeth Bear enables her fans to feel Cathoair's torment; yet there is plenty of action as Heythe tries to force Muire to return to save her beloved mate and their son. Although Heythe is not quite as powerfully wicked as she was in All the Windwracked Stars, The Sea Thy Mistress is a super thriller as the audience wonders how the heroine of the first thriller will react to the latest threat.

Jack: Secret Vengeance
F. Paul Wilson
9780765318565, $15.99

In 1983 in Johnson, New Jersey Senior quarterback Carson Toliver is the big man on campus at South Burlington County Regional High School. Almost all the students worship the football team captain partly because Carson knows how good he is at the sport but instead of being a snob he is friendly towards everyone. Even Jack admires Carson especially after watching him intervene when a bully was threatening harm to a social Jersey Pine Barrens "Piney" misfit.

He is not surprised when his best friend Louise "Weezy" Connell goes on a date with Carson as she has an obvious crush on the star. However, Jack is stunned when a heartbroken Weezy tells him soon afterward that Carson sexually assaulted her. He pleads with Weezy to report the attack, but she has parental issues and fears retaliation so she prefers to say nothing; she begs Jack likewise to remain silent. However no one told Carson to shut up as he brags about that night. With his buddy's reputation in tatters as she is now known at school as "Easy Weezy", raging Jack vows to sack Carson with the Pineys providing support.

The third Repairman Jack "Secret" youth years (see Secret Histories and Secret Circle) is a superb entry that allows readers to see fourteen year old freshman Jack honing the skills that he will need as an adult working the Adversary Cycle countdown into Year Zero. Fifteen years old veteran sophomore Weezy adds an element of helpless futility as she believes she has no options to get back at Toliver the rat. Jack tries to wrong a right while learning to move and that violence begets violence.

Other Kingdoms
Richard Matheson
9780765327680, $24.99

In 1918, more to escape from his abusive father rather than any sense of patriotism, Alex White joins the army. He is quickly sent to the trench warfare in France where he meets Harold Lightfoot who is from Gatford, England. When Harold dies, Alex finds gold in his duffle bag instead of Harold's bag. Alex instantly decides to visit the place Harold called the most beautiful village in the world. Alex crosses the Channel, but soon realizes locating the rustic quaint village is not easy as if Gatford does not want to be found by just anyone.

He rents Comfort Cottage using the money he received by selling the gold. The owner is shocked when it turned to dust; this is the beginning of the travails he finds in the village where the townsfolk believe the Faerie live in the nearby woods. They warn him never to leave the path and to avoid Widow Magda Variel the witch. Alex fails to heed the sage advice as he and Magda begin a relationship and encounters Ruthana a beautiful Faerie. Both women want him exclusively, but the more time Alex spends with Magda, the more ne becomes wary of her actions. He enters Faerie, but life there proves dangerous there also as someone wants him dead.

This is a chilling DNA helix-like twisted historical love story as a female uses her power to keep the male object of her obsessive affection at her side while her rival is willing to sacrifice her desire for his safety. Told in the first person, Other Kingdoms draws the reader into Alex's account starting with his enlistment, but mostly his time in Gatford and the surrounding areas as he
believes he has fallen in love with two diverse women.

Enter the Zombie
David Lubar
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765323446, $17.99,

Although Nathan knows he owes the Bureau of Useful Misadventures (BUM), especially their leader Mr. Murphy and Dr. Cushing, for hardening his bones as the life span of a zombie is rather disgustingly short, he prefers to avoid them. Nathan and Abigail see Murphy at their school where he demands they and Mookie team up in a contest sponsored by evil RABID as a drafting mechanism to find appropriate young recruits.

Rodney the bully also forms a team to compete and pound into the ground Nathan and his squad. However, during the games, Rodney and others closely observe Nathan leaving behind bodily yucky pieces on the playing field. Nathan sadly tells Abigail that mission-obsessed BUM in their way is almost as evil as Rabid is; he concludes Mr. Murphy will never humanize him because having a zombie on call, even a preadolescent, is a great secret weapon.

Although there are several less pints of puke and other loosely labeled bodily fluids that the EPA would condemn, Enter the Zombie is a terrific upper elementary school thriller. Nathan and Abigail display wisdom as they draw generalizations based on observations, For instance, her wry comment on research and his re the merits of BUM and Rabid in which they share in common the tenet that the end justifies the mean. Mookie provides comic relief when the gross meter is about to implode. Fans will appreciate the latest Nathan the child zombie tale as the trio works together to survive the brains and brawn contest while seeking the Zombie fever cure.

The Terror of Living
Urban Waite
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316097895, $24.99,

In Auburn, Washington, horse farm owner Phil Hunt keeps his ranch afloat by occasionally escorting an illegal delivery though the nearby mountains to Canada. Phil still feels remorse over what he did two decades ago when he killed someone while transporting a load though he spent time in prison.

Nearby in Silver Lake, Deputy Sheriff Bobby Drake struggles with the reputation of his father who was a highly regarded lawman until he was arrested for smuggling drugs into Canada. He has not seen his disgraced dad in a decade.

Drake happens to notice a horse trailer parked in a strange area. He goes to investigate and interrupts an illegal shipment. The operation that seemed benign when it worked smoothly now reveals to Hunt just how deadly his sideline has become. Phil flees from the law while his employers angrily send the Chef to collect their stolen goods and kill the transporter and lawman.

The aptly titled The Terror of Living is a great character study that looks deep into the souls of two men. Each makes it clear that life is not a simple choice between two forks in the road, but instead consists of multiple opportunity cost options in which going down an illegal path may be the best avenue, but how far one goes is the key. Phil like Bobby's dad knows he is breaking the law when he transports illegal drugs into Canada, but does so to care for his family while also understanding he could go back to jail if caught. When does he and to a degree Bobby draw a line each refuses to cross become the focus of this excellent personalized thriller.

Soul Survivor
Jeanne Glidewell
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594149481, $25.95,

In 2001 in rural Kansas, Trey and Zoe Robbins become concerned with their five years old daughter Skye's out of character behavior. They take their child to a doctor who sends her to a child psychologist Dr. Azzam.

The psychologist is stunned with what he believes is happening to the little girl. He consults with regressionist Jutta Meyer. They agree that Skye has past life memories of a teenager living in Bombay in 1966. While her parents scoff at the theory, Azzam and Meyer try to better understand how Skye knows so much about fifteen years old Radha Joshi, as this is proof of a past-life memory. As their daughter gets worse, the Robbins leave their farm to escort Skye to India to learn what happened to Radha; not realizing Bombay is only the beginning of their search that cuts through Greece before returning to the States as all roads converge in Wyoming.

Soul Survivor is an engaging paranormal mystery that uses flashbacks and current nightmares to build up the suspense. Although none of the characters in the past or present are fully developed beyond the minimum of what their role requires to enhance the tension, the strong mysteries of what happened to teenage Radha decades ago and why Skye possesses her memories will grip readers throughout this this exciting thriller.

No Less in Blood
D.M. Pirrone
Five Star
9781594149276, $25.95

In Birch Falls, Minnesota twelve year old Linnet Chapman waits with her maternal grandfather Jackson Schlegel for her mother, Grace to come to get her. Grace never arrives at the Schlegel manse, no longer owned by the family, as her abusive husband Luke murdered her in Chicago. Luke next searches for Linnet.

In 1904 mining magnate Andrew Jackson Schlegel writes a will that will make any kin of his wealthy. Meanwhile in the present adoptee Rachel Connolly, searching for her biological parents, finds proof her late birth mother Minna McGrath was related to the Schlegels. She meets Linnet in Birch Falls where the latter shares the diary she found of her great-grandmother Mary Anne Schlegel, who vanished at the 1893 Columbian World's Exposition. This provides a link between the two women even as Jackson and Luke team up to eliminate the females in their way.

No Less In Blood is an excellent thriller in which a historical missing person's case leads to a second mystery one century later. The story line is fast-paced as the two females struggle to survive their respective male predator. Readers will enjoy this taut tale of the impact of an event in 1893 leading to a will in 1904, which in turn leads to avarice amidst and extended family.

York's Moon
Elizabeth Engstrom
Five Star
9781594149283, $25.95

Near the Yorktown hobo camp just outside of West Wheaton, California, a man falls out of a train. Identified as a minor mobster Wayne Haas, he is found dead in nearby weeds by camp resident Clover; he was murdered.

Sheriff Goddard assumes one of the Yorktown hobos killed Haas while his young Deputy Travis knows they did it for certain and plans to prove it the same way he learned law enforcement from TV shows. The prime suspects are blind camp Mayor York, Clover's hyperactive boyfriend Denny and combat fatigue Vietnam vet Sly. Clover investigates the homicide while the West Wheaton Mayor Milo Grimes uses the murder as an excuse to demolish Yorktown.

York's Moon is an entertaining murder mystery starring an intriguing cast led by York who has a "calling" with a flock and courageous Clover. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that the Hass corpse is found and never slows down. However Yorktown lacks the gritty grime one would expect at this type of camp as instead of a place filled with disease, crime and drugs, it comes across as a well-run safe unincorporated village. Still in spite of the romanticizing of the hobo camp, fans will enjoy Clover's detecting.

Season of Evil, Season of Dreams
J. C. Weeks
Five Star
9781594149, $25.95

A citizen finds a human skull in a field in the Black Hills near Gold Hills; South Dakota. The citizen notifies Gold Hills Police Chief Ben Logan who takes charge of the official investigation. Logan and his deputy Jim Donne find eight more skulls nearby. Most of the skulls are small and most likely that of a child.

Logan continues his inquiry fearing that the serial killer will murder more young victims especially with two teens missing. His fears are affirmed when he finds the remains of the teenagers with their respective heads and hearts missing having been ripped away; left behind on each is a medallion that the overwhelmed Logan shows to former teacher Lorna Hollingsworth. She arranges for Logan Native American Studies Professor Morgan Patterson to see the etchings and he says they are most likely Aztec. As he struggles with the case made more difficult by official animosity, two more kids vanish on the eve of the autumnal equinox.

This powerful police procedural will hook readers from the opening harrowing scene to the final words of wisdom "Let's go play". Fast-paced and filled with action, the key to J. C. Weeks' strong murder mystery is in spite of the gruesome nature of the homicides; they occur off page yet retain a disturbing vividness as no one will look at the sun the same way. With a touch of Aztec culture especially beliefs, Season of Evil, Season of Dreams is a superb South Dakota whodunit.

Free Range Institution
Michael Haskins
Five Star
9781594149290, $25.95

Reporter Liam "Mad Mick" Murphy and attorney Rita Toledo go to lunch on what each hopes will prove a romantic interlude. Instead they watch Murphy's waterfront pal Jay Bruehl dive off the roof of the six-story Hotel Key West. A notorious snitch, the late Bruehl recently informed Murphy about a big drug deal. The Hotel Key West happens to host Colombian traffickers discussing importing deadly low grade cocaine though the Keys.

After gaining entrance to the drug meeting, undercover cop Rebecca Connelly vanishes. Guatemalan Father Thomas Collins claims angels informed him where Connelly is being held. They find her battered corpse at the locale the priest said she could be found. The federal, state and local law enforcement officials and the drug cartel target Collins and Murphy. Soon Key West becomes a graveyard as violence turns the Caribbean into a red sea.

The second Mad Mick Key West thriller (see Chasin' the Wind) is a wild over the top of Solares Hill (make that the proposed Miapolis) as once again readers will wonder what is the difference between the good and bad guys as neither seems concerned with collateral damage. The story line is fast-paced with more bullets flying in the Conch Republic than Al Capone ever authorized in Chicago as mad Mick lies to authorities to get the story and obtains reinforcements from a horde of souls even crazier than he is. Fans who ignore plausibility and appreciate that death has become a local growth industry will enjoy the Free Range Institution gunfight at Key West.

Not Without You
Jean Barrett
Five Star
9781594149498, $25.95

In 1991 news correspondent Kate Groen covers the Persian Gulf War. She loves her work, but is frightened when she is taken prisoner. Her spirits soar upon meeting prisoner of war US Army Lieutenant Efrem Chaudoir. They fall in love.

When they are freed, Efrem begins his plan to divorce his current wife Jackie who also wanted to end their marriage. He wants to be single so he and Kate can marry. However, his wife's pregnancy keeps him married to a woman he does not love. Meanwhile in DC before she covers Kosovo, Kate meets kindhearted Gordon May who helps her move pass her lost love. Over the ensuing years, Kate and Efrem meet in various international hotspots like 1999 Kosovo and 2007 Afghanistan, but never seem to come together permanently even as their feeling for one another remains strong.

The star-crossed romance takes a back seat to the epic look at two decades of world events though the eyes of an army career officer and a journalist. Ironically both Kate and Efrem are a delightful pair when overseas at a hot spot. On the other hand when at home each comes across childishly resentful loathing their sacrifice for someone else though why they sacrificed never quite gels; for instance Jackie wanted a divorce too but gave up her desires for their child and besides by 1990s divorce even with kids involved had become commonplace. Still readers will enjoy Not Without You for its grand scale look at the crisis zones during the previous three Administrations.

Where Shadows Dance
C.S. Harris
Obsidian Mystery
c/o The Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451232236, $24.95,

In 1812 England, doctors are forbidden to dissect corpses. Conscientious physician Paul Gibson pays resurrection diggers to bring him the bodies of recently interred people. Paul has in his possession the remains of twentyish Alexander Ross, who allegedly died in his sleep from a heart attack. However, when he examines the body, he realizes the man was murdered by a stiletto stabbed through the base of his skull.

Unable to report his findings to the authorities who would arrest him and probably ignore the homicide as too much bother, he asks his friend Sebastian St. Cyr to investigate as he know Lord Devlin has a compulsion to solve mysteries. St. Cyr accepts the case and looks into the deceased's occupation at the Foreign Affairs office; where he was privy to state secrets that many would kill to know. Assuming that was the motive, St. Cyr feels a second similar homicide affirms his belief when the body of American Ezekiel Kincaid is found in a ditch. Fearing for the life of his feisty pregnant fiancee Hero Jarvis who St. Cyr believes knows the corpses' connection that he fails to find, he still uncovers viable suspects in the international world of politics where literally backstabbing is the norm.

Entertaining with details of various class lifestyles in Regency London, the latest St. Cyr mystery (see Where Serpents Sleep) is a super whodunit as potential killers seem to be in every ballroom. Enthralling as the hero chases suspects while seeking clues to identify the actual killer and in between arrange his wedding to his beloved frustrating Hero. The murder investigation is excellent as readers obtain insight into early nineteenth century politics that proves uglier than even our current American system enhanced by the romance between two independent personalities.

Murder of a Bookstore Babe
Denise Swanson
9780451232809, $6.99

In Scumble River, Illinois school psychologist Skye Denison also serves as a consultant to the local police; whose chief is her fiance Wally Boyd. He is grateful to her for her expert assistance on homicides cases (see Murder of a Wedding Belle) as her job and the fact she is related to most of the townsfolk have proven extremely helpful.

Tales and Treats bookstore opens up to the dismay of many locals. The proprietor Rise Vaughn has a dispute with Better Than New Autos owner Hugo Leofanti who illegally parks his merchandise in front of her store. The librarian fears people will go to the bookstore making the library obsolete. The insurance agent bills the new storeowner for a much higher premium than originally quoted. A teacher and her friends picket the store because Tales and Treats sell romances and YA fantasy and sci-fi. Skye enters the store one nigh and finds a woman lying face down on the floor with a bookcase on top of her. She is positive the victim is Rise. When she learns the deceased is popular employee Kayla Hines, Skye is shocked. Wally and Skye hypothesize that the intended victim was supposed to be Rise as anyone looking at the pair from behind could lethally err. However with so many angry at Rise, who murdered Kayla remains unknown.

The latest Scumble River mystery is a great puzzler as so many are irate with Rise but that same angry mob genuinely likes Kayla; thus the postulation that the wrong person was killed but there is no evidence to eliminate anyone in the crowd. Though Skye is a corpse magnet (see Murder of a Small-Town Honey), readers will admire her determination to find evidence to eliminate the suspect as she shares blood with many of the Fighting Illini suspects. Filled with humorous Prairie State eccentricity which include the heroine's mom, May the dispatcher and her brother Vince the nag, fans will enjoy Skye's latest case.

Begging for Trouble
Judi McCoy
9780451232786, $6.99

In Manhattan professional dog walker Ellie Engleman loves canines who worship her as she has the uncanny ability to telepathically talk with her animal clients. Her boyfriend NYPD detective Sam Ryder adores her but pleads with her to stay out of homicide investigations; her other skill (see Death in Show).

One of her favorite customers Rob Cheaney (owned by Bitsy the Poodle-Chihuahua) gives tickets to Ellie to attend the opening of his newest transvestite show. She drags Sam with her though he is uncomfortable attending the show. During the performance, a harrowing scream from backstage occurs. Sam rushes to the location of the scream to find Rob holding scissors while kneeling over the corpse of one of the performers. Sam arrests Rob while Ellie takes Bitsy home with her. Knowing she has solved cases before, Rob begs Ellie to investigate while Sam tells her to stay out of the inquiry though he believes she will sniff around. Ellie plans to interrogate gently the mixed-breed eye witness.

Readers will enjoy this magical whodunit as Ellie and her K9 corps work the case together through mental intelligent connections. The whimsical entertaining story line is lighthearted fun with a linear mystery at its anchor yet character driven by the detecting dogs especially the walker's significant other Rudy, the heroine and "Detective Doofus".

Blood Covenant
Lisa Harris
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310331476, $14.99,

In the African Republic of Dhambizao, civil war between the government military and the rebel Ghost Soldiers force thousands to flee. Dr. Paige Ryan of the Volunteers of Hope relief sets up a temporary refugee camp to provide medical care and some sustenance; knowing temporary can be decades.

The Ghost Soldiers attack an American mountain climbing expedition. Dt. Ryan and her team rescue some of trapped climbers. However, one of those rescued brings to camp a highly infectious disease. Ryan, pilot Nick Gilbert and her crew desperately try to obtain vaccines but the Ghost Soldiers refuse to allow anyone to leave the encampment even for humanitarian reasons unless their demands are met. American diplomat Paul Hayes negotiates between the government and the Ghost Soldiers as time is running out for those inside the camp.

The second Mission Hope thriller (see Blood Ransom) is an exciting tale driven by a cast used to tragedy yet remains hopeful. The negotiations are not easy as everyone has a stake they can lose in the outcome. Readers will enjoy the courageous efforts of Ryan and her beset team of volunteers, and the daunting work of Hayes and Gilbert, but the taut story line belongs to the three groups (government, Ghost Soldiers, and the refugees) of people of Dhambizao who put faces and complexities to the deadly crisis.

Vicious Cycle
Terri Blackstock
9780310250678, $19.99

While nineteen years old teenager Emily Covington completes her year long stay in rehab thanks to the Intervention of her mother Barbara and her fifteen year old brother Lance, another teenage meth user Jordan gives birth to a daughter in her home. Jordan hates herself as she was too high to go to a hospital and has spent nine months buying meth instead of vitamins. To her chagrin her mom sold "it" for forty thousand dollars. Although afraid of her mom and her brother Zeke, Jordan leaves her newborn in the car belonging to Lance who has been trying to help her kick her meth habit.

When confronted by her dangerous family, Jordan accuses Lance of kidnapping her daughter. The cops arrest Lance. A desperate Barbara, preoccupied with Emily coming home, asks Atlanta police detective Kent Harlan who she met during her daughter's Intervention, what she should do. He says he is coming to Jefferson City to help her and her son. Kent drops everything even a case he is working on to fly immediately to the woman he loves.

The second Intervention Christian thriller is an action-packed tale that looks deeply at the impact of drug abuse on the user and their families as well as what happens after an extended rehab; to a lesser degree there is also a glimpse into illegal human trafficking. Some of the action is over the top of Kennesaw Mountain especially how easily Kent leaves Atlanta and gets to Jefferson City (without beam me up technology). Still, fans will enjoy Terri Blackstock's Covington family drama as the widow must think she is a modern day Job because of all that has happened since her husband died yet she keeps the faith. This author has written some of the best inspirational thriller books of the last decade.

Lucifer's Tears
James Thompson
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157004, $24.95,

Police Inspector Kari Vaara now works homicide in Helsinki since his wife Kate detested living in his hometown. Kari has a lot on his plate with his pregnant wife only weeks away from giving birth after miscarrying last year. He is hurting mentally over the Sufia Elmi case that left his face scarred and physically from headache from a three-week long migraine with the end nowhere in sight. Worse than the headache is his new partner Milo who is a certified genius with a Dirty Harry gunslinger perspective. New to homicide, his office peers wonder if he will break solving a homicide. There hasn't been an unsolved homicide in decades

Kari gets a chance to prove them wrong when he is assigned the torture murder of Lisa Filippov whose lover is arrested for killing his married mistress. His superiors order Kari to find evidence to hang the lover and look nowhere else, but Kari instead notices anomalies that lead him to believe the Finnish government is protecting the husband, influential Russian businessman arrogant Ivan Filippov, abetted by his mistress, who he believes likely committed the murder

His other inquiry also has high government visibility as Germany demands the extradition of Finnish World War II hero Arvid Lahinen to stand trial for war crimes allegedly committed in Northern Finland. The Interior Minister demands Kari proves the hero is innocent so he cannot be deported; nothing condemning the hero is acceptable.

Lucifer's Angels is a super Finnish police procedural that quickly immerses the reader into the exciting story line. The audience learns much about Finnish society today and explosive events not found in history texts about Finland's role in WWII. Kari is a fascinating protagonist with personal issues and whose first two Helsinki investigations have big brother government telling him the acceptable outcome.

Cold Wind
C.J. Box
9780399157356, $25.95

Joe Pickett is happy being home in Saddlestring, Wyoming with his beloved wife Marybeth and their daughter instead of being the Wyoming governor's point man. The only person who resides in the county that he dislikes is his mother-in-law Missy, who just married her sixth husband multimillionaire Earl Alden. However he is missing and she demands her game warden son-in-law find him.

Joe arrives at the ranch and quickly finds a body in a wind turbine. He climbs the ladder and identifies the corpse as his latest father-in-law. Sheriff McLachlan orders him down as he knew this was a crime scene before her got there due to an informant's tip. He arrests Missy, but Joe believes she is being framed as the informant is her ex husband Bud Longbrake who lost his ranch to her when she divorced him. Marybeth begs Joe to investigate, which he reluctantly does. He quickly learns everyone within Earl's scope wanted him dead. That is enough for Missy to be not guilty in court, but Marybeth wants her mom proven innocent.

This complex mystery with its strong casting is what fans expect in the Pickett investigative series as C.J. Box provides another terrific tale. The story line is personal because Joe and Missy detest one another, but both love Marybeth. Readers will enjoy Cold Wind as the hero works a case trying to prove his number one enemy is innocent.

Night Vision
Randy Wayne White
9780399157059, $25.95

While driving on Sanibel Island, Florida passenger Tomlinson the hipster tells his friend marine biologist Doc Ford he needs to help a gifted thirteen years old Guatemalan girl Tula Choimha who is in trouble. Doc says all of Tomlinson's women are in trouble because they are seeing him. Tomlinson though "medicated" insists Tula is not a woman but a girl in trouble.

Tula lives in the Little Guadalajara trailer park, home to illegals. Everyone believes she is special as she speaks with God and is protected by Saint Joan and her Godly knights. The child searches for her mother and brother who came to the states months ago but vanished. Meanwhile the steroid-fried trailer park manager Harris Squires is ordered to evict everyone so a development can begin to be built. He fears what Tula saw he did with human remains so he kidnaps the gifted teen until he decides whether to kill her or not. Ford and Tomlinson search for the adolescent in the out of sight out of mind underbelly of America while Harris' violent girlfriend Frankie challenges Doc's intervention.

Loaded with suspense in a great wildlife setting that spotlights the plight of illegal immigrants inside a country that has forgotten its roots, the latest Doc Ford thriller is a poignant tale of "good and evil" with a surprising spin as to who Tula considers a good knight. Doc is his usual defender of the unprotected but it is the two females involved in Harris' life who make this a strong entry as Tula and Frankie are seemingly polar opposites but share many traits. Night Vision is a terrific tense tale.

Devil's Slew
Darryl Wimberley
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312649494, $25.95,

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agent Barrett "Bear" Raines attends a little league game when duty calls. In the Devil's Slew swamp, Afghan vet Quentin Hart has taken his girlfriend prisoner. Bear and Sheriff Smoot Rawlings arrive at the scene hoping to talk down the angry former combat soldier with no body getting hurt. Instead, Quentin races out of his home holding his automatic rifle pointed at the cops. They kill him as each knows the veteran committed suicide by cop.

Bear feels depressed over the incident though he knows he and Smoot did the right thing. He investigates Quentin's last days trying to understand why he snapped. Aided by other law enforcement officials he soon uncovers a connection to vets involved in counterfeiting and money laundering. The FBI believes they kidnapped and beheaded one of their agents in New Orleans. As the evidence mounts that this is a dangerous gang based in Florida but working in Mexico and Afghanistan, someone is targeting these vets for death.

Devil's Slew is a fascinating police procedural in which the chaotic story line showcases how convoluted an investigation can become. Fast-paced from the moment Bear and Smoot arrive in the aptly named swamp and never slowing down, readers will appreciate Darryl Wimberley connecting dots between Florida, Mexico and Afghanistan in Bear's latest thriller (see Pepperfish Keys).

The Road to Rome
Ben Kane
St. Martin's
9780312536732, $26.99

Twins Romulus and Fabiola have come a long way from their days as slaves. He has become a legionnaire in Caesar's army and she has become Brutus' lover. Whereas Romulus knows better than to display open hostility towards Caesar even though the man destroyed his family, his sister cannot hide her hatred towards the Emperor.

While Romulus and his friend Tarquinius are involved in a vicious war in North Africa, Fabiola begins a scheme to assassinate Caesar. Having survived the deadly Egyptian campaign, Romulus and Tarquinius return to Rome where the former learns of his twin's insane plan to kill the Emperor on the upcoming Ides of March.

The third ancient Rome Forgotten Legion thriller (see The Forgotten legion and The Silver Eagle) is a super tale that provides a vivid look at first century BC through a military unit slashing, clashing and smashing their way in the battlefield on the road to Rome. The excellent story line is fast-paced from the first sword blow to the last, but is much more than an ancient military historical thriller as the politics of spear assassination thrives yet shakes Rome with beware the Ides of March.

Fade to White
Wendy Clinch
St. Martin's
9780312593278, $24.99

Hollywood Harper Stone arrives at Spruce Peak, Vermont to film a mouthwash commercial. Once a star, this is the only gig he can get though he does not hide his rage over how far his fame has fallen.

Avid skier Stacey Curtis looks forward to a turn on the slopes before going to work at the Broken Binding bar. However, the lift is closed due to the filming directed by Stacey's former boyfriend Brian Russell. Still the Ski Diva and her friend ski patrol operative Chip Walsh ski together until they run into a corpse. Someone murdered Harper with the last person to see the actor alive being Brian, who is known for his jealousy and anger. Stacey knows to stay out of the homicide on the slopes, but investigates anyway

The second Ski Diva amateur sleuth (see Double Black) is an engaging tale that focuses more on skiing than on the whodunit. Stacey is a wonderful protagonist whose theme is Let it snow; let It snow; and let it snow. Although the mystery takes the backseat on the lift, fans will enjoy going downhill with Stacey who brings enthusiasm and energy to the slopes.

Finding Jack
Gareth Crocker
St. Martin's
9780312621728, $23.99

In 1972, the family of twenty nine year old Fletcher Carson dies in a plane crash. Distraught and filled with survivor grief, Fletcher enlists in the army. After basic, he is sent to Vietnam.

As the war winds down, Fletcher and his platoon complain about the uselessness of the combat, which has left so many of their comrades in arms dead and others mentally and physically destroyed. Yet though Fletcher and the other men know the war is lost they diligently still patrol the perimeter and perform secret missions. When they find a trained wounded scout dog, they bring the K9 back to camp. Calling him Jack, they help him heal. Jack joins them as a key member of the unit by locating deadly traps and ambushes. When Fletcher is assigned to go home, he wants to take his best friend Jack with him. Knowing he cannot do it through official channels, Fletcher deserts taking Jack on a three hundred and fifty mile trek through hostile territory hoping to reach Thailand.

Finding Jack is an interesting Vietnam War thriller starring a mentally wounded warrior who was hurt with grief before he joined the army and the canine who becomes his family while saving his life by giving Fletcher a cause and subsequently a reason to live. Although some of the scenes the soldier and the dog get into seem over the top of Mt. Fansipan, fans who enjoy something different in their brothers of arms tales will want to accompany Fletcher and Jack as they run a deadly gauntlet.

The Trinity Six
Charles Cumming
St. Martin's
9780312675295, $24.99

During WWII and immediately afterward the "Cambridge Five" Trinity spy ring betrayed Britain by providing secrets to the Soviet Union. Once the ring was broken, rumors abounded for years that a sixth person was involved, but had escaped justice.

In 1992 septuagenarian Edward Crane dies in London. Fifteen years later, a reporter Charlotte Berg asks her friend Russian scholar Sam Gaddis to help her investigate rumors that the sixth person was Crane who allegedly did not die in the hospital, but instead lives and plans to tell his tale. Sam needs money to pay alimony and child support so he agrees because he believes he can write a book on what he learns if true. However, someone wants the news to remain interred as those involved with learning the facts like Charlotte allegedly died from a sudden heart attack; Sam believes she was murdered.

This is a terrific espionage thriller, which makes the case that the Cold War participants spent plenty of efforts on propaganda with disinformation and misinformation a normal spin (inductively supported though not Cold War era material by the recent WikiLeaks' government entries of recent years). Fast-paced from start to finish, readers will relish Charles Cumming's tale of whether the Cambridge Five was actually the Trinity Six.

An Act of Treason
Gunnery Sgt, Jack Coughlin, USMC (Ret.) with Donald A. Davis
St. Martin's
9780312612016, $25.99

US Marine Corps sniper Kyle Swanson and his girlfriend CIA agent Lauren Carson are on a mission in Pakistan. However, they have been exposed by someone in their chain leading to Kyle's incarceration and Lauren blamed for the fiasco; she is accused of turning traitor by selling her boyfriend out and giving top secrets to an al Qaeda supporter.

Swanson and Carson need to extradite themselves from the mess they are in as the pair trust no one. Both share in common their high regard for CIA legend Jim Hall, who mentored each of them and was Lauren's lover at one time. They would have expected him to mount an extraction rescue, but he sent them on the mission that has the pair tied in knots. Neither wants to believe that Hall set them up to conceal his selling top secret information to a Pakistani warlord who supports converting al-Qaeda into a political party and to possess a nuclear arsenal. Hall has one problem; he must kill his former apprentice.

The latest Swanson Sniper tale (see Clean Kill), An Act of Treason is a terrific espionage thriller as an idolized hero turns traitor shaking Swanson's soul more than al Qaeda can. The story line is fast-paced though linear as the audience anticipates a sniper showdown, which happens in the Alps.

Emily and Einstein
Linda Francis Lee
St. Martin's
9780312382186, $24.99

They seem to live the perfect lives on Manhattan's Upper West Side; few obtain entrance let alone an apartment in the Dakota Building, but his family's old money provided the key. Sandy Portman is a businessman while his lover Emily Barlow is a book editor.

Their idyllic life together ends in tragedy as Sandy dies after being hit by a car. Even before he is buried, Emily learns her marriage was based on lies. Besides being evicted from the Dakota, she learns the vast duplicity of the husband she cherished. Before she can consider closure, she needs the truth as to who Sandy Portman was. Adopting a mangy dog she names Einstein due to his high intelligence as her companion, Emily begins her odyssey unaware that the mutt at her side is Sandy who cannot move on in the after life without atoning for his sins with his beloved whose soul is shattered further by what she learns about him.

Emily and Einstein is an engaging redemption tale starring a remorseful spirit-canine and a grieving heroine. The linear story line is fun to follow though lacks any shockers. Mindful of Spielberg's Always, fans will enjoy Sandy's efforts to save Emily's soul from the destruction he caused to her.

Zero Day
Mark Russinovich
St. Martin's
9780312612467, $24.99

A British Airways plane flying over the Atlantic finds its controls suddenly failing. In Manhattan Fischerman, Platt & Cohen hires computer security expert Jeff Aiken to determine what caused a total system failure. Department of Homeland Security Division of Counter Cyberterrorism operative Daryl Haugen investigates a computer virus that at Brooklyn's Mercy Hospital caused several deaths. Other deadly incidents also occur due to computer failure.

A former government official Aiken and Haugen discuss their cases. Each is stunned with the similarity. They soon connect other recent system failures to theirs. The conclusion each reaches is that a Zero Day globalization attack is coming rather soon.

The entertaining story line is linear yet exhilarating and frightening especially since author Mark Russinovich is an expert on the topic as his resume brings a scary possibility to the cyber attack that the thriller focuses on. Aiken and Haugen seems real because they know they cannot stop all the incidents leading to Zero Day and people will die, but want to prevent the pandemic disaster from happening. Fans will enjoy this powerful cyber-terrorist attack that showcases how vulnerable the West is.

Allison Hewitt Is Trapped
Madeleine Roux
St. Martin's
9780312658908, $14.99

The workers at Brooks and Peabody Bookstore are trapped inside as outside suddenly are a horde of zombies. None of those locked inside the store has the slightest idea what happened not just here but seemingly everywhere. Still the military manages to maintain the Internet.

One of the trapped employers Allison Hewitt begins to write a blog on what is happening to her and the others. She connects with other human survivors in her small town and elsewhere as the scope of the disaster proves pandemic. At the nearby community center Allison meets Collin, a married astronomy professor with an estranged wife who the zombies would fear. Dining on Doritos, they begin to plan a means of retaking the village back from the zombies.

This is a fun entry in the expanding Zombie universe as heroine Allison Hewitt Is Trapped in a world gone Undead insane. The story line is character driven mostly by the most famous (perhaps only) SNet blogger. Although a trip into zombie animal-infested woods seems more like a picnic than blood scary escapades, readers will enjoy blogging with Allison as the gore and guts vividly keep on coming.

The Desert of Souls
Howard Andrew Jones
St. Martin's
9780312646745, $24.99

In the eighth century a stranger arrives in a Baghdad market only to fall at the feet of the Vizier Jaffar, his Guard Captain Asim and Dabir the scholar. As the man bleeds to death four ruffians with swords drawn and led by a snake demand a return of their property. In the ensuing fight, the surly snake leaves as Asim wins the battle. At the same time the dying man begs the Vizier to protect the bejeweled tablet he has carried with him. However, before he can explain any further he dies.

The Vizier assigns Dabir the scholar to learn why a man was killed apparently over the tablet. Dabir concludes the tablet is the key to uncovering the secrets of the lost to the sands advanced city of Ubar. However a shocked Dabir becomes frantic with worry when two thieves take the tablet from him. He turns to Captain Asim to help him retrieve the artifact that he fears will be misused by the amoral avenging wizard who along with a spy stole the tablet.

This is an exciting straightforward sword and sorcery fantasy. The action-packed story line is linear in nature and lucidly delineates the forces of good (Dabir and Asim) from the bad (the spy) and the evil ugly (the snake of a wizard). Howard Andrew Jones provides an entertaining tale in the Land of a Thousand and One Nights.

Jenna Black
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312575946, $9.99

Sixteen year old hybrid Faeriewalker Dana Hathaway understands what it is like to be the First Daughter on a date as she goes out with Ethan who saved her life from Aunt Grace while Finn the Fae bodyguard chaperones them. On the bright side, she has finally gotten her alcoholic acrimonious human mother and her mysterious Fae father in the same realm (see Glimmerglass).

However, far from a happy ever after in the crossroads of Avalon where humans and their technology work closely with Fae and their magic, Dana has major problems besides dating. Erlking leader of the psychopathological Wild Hunt and his horde have returned to Avalon where his pact with the faerie Queen limits who he can kill. Since the Faerie Queen proclaimed Dana must die as she does not want the teen to develop her rare Faeriewalker skills, everyone expects the immortal homicidal predator Erlking will kill the newcomer; everyone except Dana who believes he has a worse fate than death planned for her.

Shadowspell is an excellent young adult teen fantasy starring a strong caring heroine who risks more than her life for those she cherishes. Fast-paced yet amusing as Dana fumbles her way into understanding the rules of magic and dating Fae, readers of all ages will appreciate this engaging entry with a great late personal twist.

P.C. Cast
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312650247, $17.99

Everything is coming together for Neferet as she expected after her bargain with the spidery shadow. First the Vampyre High Council exonerated her as their foolish spies failed them; their clearing her of charges, allows her to return to her position as High Priestess of Tulsa's House of Night. Second she has her consort Kalona back under her control. Finally her nemesis Zoey Redbird is dead after she entered the Otherworld.

However, Neferet learns her third assertion proves false as somehow Zoey is back, but not in Oklahoma. Her friends are glad to see her, but she takes refugee on the Isle of Skye where Queen Sgiach welcomes her and names her heir to the throne. Raging Neferet wants her dead, but needs to get Zoey back in the Sooner State; her lure is Kalona who she controls.

This is an engaging entry in the House of Night young adult fantasy series although the story line feels like "deja vu all over again" (Yogi). In many ways the subplot relationship between Stevie Rae and Rephaim the Raven Mocker is more fascinating as he must choose between his heritage and love. Still Awakened is fast-paced and filled with action as fans will wonder how Neferet will lure Zoey back to Oklahoma when the latter has so much going as a queen in training.

Eyes of the Innocent
Brad Parks
St. Martin's
9780312574789, $24.99

In Newark, New Jersey, the house fire left two young brothers with no adult supervision dead allegedly due to a misused space heater. Newark Eagle-Examiner investigative reporter Carter Ross is assigned to write a story on space heaters using real deaths like that of the two boys caused by misuse.

Carter is also stuck with flighty intern Lauren "Sweet Thang" McMillan. He interviews the mother of the deceased children Akilah Harris, who was not at home when the fire occurred. They act hostile towards each other but Lauren oozing sympathy gets the mom to talk. Her alibi for not being there when the tragedy occurred is that she needed to work two jobs to pay off the mortgage reset by the bank and had nothing left for a childcare provider. Akilah's tale of woe becomes front-page if they can confirm the veracity of her claims. Instead her sad sack story falls apart quickly while her lover married councilman Wendell "Windy" A. Byers Jr., vanishes; leading to a new inquiry into the housing market and corrupt officials.

The second Carter timely journalist investigation (see Faces of the Gone) is a super urban tale that connects dots from a fire killing two latch key kids to the housing market corruption. Fast-paced, readers will believe they walk the streets of Newark accompanying resolute no nonsense Carter and seemingly inane McMillan who shows she has more substance than just being a simpering cute Sweet Thang.

Accidentally Catty
Dakota Cassidy
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780425239605, $15.00,

Fortyish divorcee Katherine "Katie" Woods, DVM moves her veterinary practice to Upstate New York to begin her life anew as the new forty is thirty for the most part. However, if she knew her patient would be an unconscious cougar her staff brought in from a nearby exotic animal park, she might have reconsidered relocating.

The cougar scratches Katie who soon finds some odd bodily modifications such as her trimmed nails and the rest of hand has changed into something a bit more beastly needing a manicure; while the animal she caged over night is now a naked man suffering from amnesia. Wanda Schwarz Jefferson (see the Accidental Human) and the OOPS unit arrive to assist Katie with her transformation. However, even with her own zoo crew and the OOPS squad at her side investigating the mystery of the shapeshifting were-cougar, no one can help Katie with her animal need to make love with her patient; a taboo for a veterinarian.

.The latest "Accidental romantic urban fantasy (see Accidentally Demonic) is a lighthearted frolic that will remind readers of the 1930s screwball comedies. The story line is fast-paced but never quite gels as everyone wants to be co- stand-up comics performing at the Improv Comedy Club in front of the in crowd. Still readers will enjoy the fifth paranormal conversion.

Hidden Away
Maya Banks
9780425240175, $7.99,

Marcus Lattimer made a fortune that has people doing whatever he demands; he pays for loyalty. He lives by one code only: His Honor. No one dare cross Lattimer, but Allen Cross of Cross Enterprise did. Thus, his honor impugned by an A-hole, Lattimer visits this creature of habit Cretan at the man's office; takes out a gun and fires between the eyes. However, Marcus failed to consider that his Achilles Heel, his beloved half-sister Sarah Daniels will arrive trying to prevent his killing her former employer ; only she witnesses the murder of Allen. She flees when repulsive Stanley Cross snarls at her.

CIA Agent Adam Resnick visits Kelly Group International (KGI) because he believes Lattimer finally screwed up with what appears to be a personal vendetta; he wants injured KGI operative Garrett Kelly, who lost a team due to the man's betrayal, on the job. He explains the Cross murder gives them the ability to bring down Lattimer through his sibling. They send to Garrett to keep Sarah safe while using her to catch her half-brother. However, he never anticipated that he would fall in love with the woman he earned her trust through lies.

Few romantic suspense thrillers start stronger than Hidden Away does as the players are introduced through the homicide. However, part of the island tryst slows down the otherwise action-packed story line as Garrett tactically seduces Sarah. Still they are a wonderful pairing as each sees Lattimer differently, which makes the cold killer the match-breaker. Readers will appreciate this tense tale as the audience anticipates two High Noon confrontations in paradise.

Wicked Seduction
Jade Lee
9780425240151, $7.99

Due to a betrayal, Kit Frazier spent seven years enslaved on a pirate ship. All that kept him going was simply a soul-burning need to avenge the atrocity inflicted on him. Thus when he finally escapes and makes it back to England, Kit immediately deploys his vengeance plan that he worked on in his head for those seven horrific years.

However, the best laid plans of mice and men go astray when a woman gets involved. Kit and Madeline Wilson meet and his perfectly laid out scheme is put on hold by their attraction. Maddie needs a good match, which the uncivilized boorish Kit is not. However, she sees passed his beastly demeanor to the tortured soul that she wants to heal with her love. Kit has a new goal to make himself into the man his beloved believes he is. As they help each other, a fresh betrayal threatens their relationship.

The sequel to Wicked Surrender stars a fresh male protagonist and the woman who brings him out of his mental hell with her love. The support cast is solid whether they are villain or good guys while the story is fast-paced from the start to the final climax. Readers will appreciate Jade Lee's strong late Victorian romance as the problems faced by the lead couple seem unmanageable and eternal without love bonding people.

Pleasure Me
Monica Burns
9780425238790, $15.00

In 1897 London, Marston kindly tells his mistress forty-one years old Lady Ruth Attwood that he has formed a tender with Ernestina Fitzgerald. Ruth knows he is being kind as the tendre is because Ernestine is much younger than her until she asks for the money he promised her. He becomes a sanctimonious pig telling her to sell the jewelry he gave her; she knows that will bring in a paltry sum considering her loyal servants Simmons and Dolores and the orphans at St. Agnes she funds. She knows her career as a prime choice courtesan is over.

Considered a stud Baron Garrick Stratfield learns like the rest of the Ton that Marston cut off Ruth. Being the son of a mother who abandoned him and his sister and a father who committed suicide masculine Garrick is extremely discreet. However even after bashing in a lord who insulted his sister, he has a secret that has left him a virgin. Garrick hires Ruth to teach him how to make love with a woman. As they begin their tryst, they shockingly begin to fall in love though he is so much younger than she. However, a serpent wanting to blackmail one of them and bury the other begins using insider knowledge to tell lies.

Pleasure Me is a refreshing late Victorian erotic romance starring two unlikely lovers in a May-September relationship. Ruth is a rare protagonist as an experienced woman "passed" her prime falling in love; Garrick is as rare male lead as a virgin. Although the villain's actions detract from a profound gender bending character study, historical romance readers will appreciate the love story of the older courtesan and the very virile virgin.

Sweet as the Devil
Susan Johnson
9780425240410, $7.99

In 1893, Scottish Baron James Blackwood is a lover of renown, but takes his day job seriously as a guard protecting the Duchy of Dalmia Prince Ernst. When someone assassinates the heir to Dalmia, Prince Rupert, James swears he will find the traitor who killed his friend.

Instead Ernst asks him to keep safe his other offspring, Sofia Eastleigh. James recently met Sofia during one of his trysts, but resisted the temptation of seducing her; which now that he knows who she is he is grateful for his self control. However, Sofia and James are shocked by their desire for one another as both have always controlled their passions. As they fall in love during several gender skirmishes, a predator stalks Ernst's offspring.

The latest "as" heated Victorian romance (see Gorgeous as Sin and Sexy as Hell) is a fun erotic thriller. The boudoir scenes are scintillating; slow and steamy while overwhelming the prime plot of exposing the killer. Still fans of Susan Johnson will appreciate the escapades of the devil and the daughter especially in the bedroom (and a few other places).

Primal Bonds
Jennifer Ashley
9780425240786, $7.99

Humans keep shapeshifters in run down squabble. They also insist the beasts wear fae created collars to insure these monsters are unable to use their animal nature.

Half-breed fae-lupine Andrea Gray flees from a potential mate who insists she belongs to him. She arrives at the Shiftertown section of Austin where she hopes to find protection. Feline shifter Sean Morrissey, who possesses the powerful shifter soul release sword, claims her as his mate though he does so in name only to keep Andrea safe. As the two alphas begin to investigate their desire for one another, they fall in love, but each fears to raise the issue of being true life mates as he expected no one due to his sword's skill and she has always detested the concept of belonging to any mate even as she knows he is not just any mate.

The latest Shifters Unbound urban fantasy (see Pride Mates) is an enjoyable thriller as the Ashley mythos is further developed with a sense that shifters exist and what happens in Austen is genuine. The story line is fast-paced with the sexual taut relationship between the feline and the lupine cutting across the action packed tale. Readers will enjoy the Primal Bonds between two alphas who mate at the drop of a page to the delight of fans.

Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts
Lucy Dillon
9780425238875, $15.00

At about the same time her decade long relationship ends, thirty-nine year old Rachel inherits her aunt's home, dog, and kennel. Not sure what to make of the will as she never expected the bequest, Rachel decides to move to her aunt's home on the London outer perimeter.

She finds the kennel overwhelmed with rescued canines and her aunt's neighbors to be friendly with each other and welcoming to the newcomer. Rachel decides to run the kennel as best she can though she knows nothing about dogs and sees good homes for her wards. Rachel meets divorce veterinarian George who is over the edge with his former wife who gave their children a puppy. Rachel befriends married Natalie who wants a baby but for now settles on coddling their "foster" dog. The kennel owner finds other nice people as she explains a house is not a home without a dog sharing the digs.

Mindful of the Groucho quip "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend; Inside of a dog it's too dark to read", this is an enjoyable second chance at life as the beleaguered but happy heroine finds rescuing canines ironically saves her. This is Rachel's makeover but the strong cast; canines included especially her roommate provide a warm contemporary tale that encourages the audience to learn what makes you happy and risk seeking it.

Polished Off
Lila Dare
9780425239865, $7.99

In St. Elizabeth, Georgia, Audrey Faye arrives at Violetta's Beauty Salon asking for owner Violetta Terhune. Audrey explains that her friend Simone Dubois, who during the summer accused Violetta of murdering her mom (see Tressed to Kill), suggested the beauty salon help prepare the contestants of the Miss Magnolia Blossom pageant. Violetta's daughter Grace the hairdresser agrees for, $300 a shot while manicurist Stella reluctantly acquiesces to help.

The gig turns nasty even before the hairdresser begins as ant-pageant protesters accost anyone involved. The gig turns even uglier when someone murders Audrey using Stella's nail file. Besides being the owner of the murder weapon, Stella has a motive for murdering the pageant's director. Audrey and Stella's husband were having an affair. As the show goes on and other incidents occur, Grace investigates the homicide and the rash of accidents while a killer watches her.

This is a terrific amateur sleuth Southern Beauty Shop whodunit as the inquiry is stymied by protestors, contestants and incidents. The fast-paced whodunit grips the audience who race to solve the case before the Amazing Grace can. This is a winning Georgia peach mystery.

Drip Dead
Christy Evans
9780425239896, $7.99

In Pine Ridge, Oregon apprentice plumber Georgiana Neverall of Hickey & Hickey Plumbing is about to buy her mom Sandra's house as her mother moves in with her fiance. She knows the pipes in the kitchen are galvanized steel, which rusts from the inside out over thirty years so leaks should be the norm. Thus, reluctantly Georgie crawls under the house to inspect the plumbing though she loathes that part of a plumber's job. Instead of drips, she finds the corpse of her mom's fiance realtor Gregory Whitlock.

Pine Ridge Sheriff Fred Mitchell arrives along with two blue suited paramedics. Soon afterward Fred arrests Sandra. Georgie knows her mom is only guilty of planning to marry "Mr. Too Smooth" and being a lifetime pain in the butt so like a loyal daughter she decides to investigate over the protests of her maybe boyfriend Councilman Wade Montgomery and her BFF Fred's girlfriend Sue Gibbons. With Wade and Sue having her back, she begins digging into the cesspool business practices of the deceased as only a former computer security guru as she was could do. As she unravels Smooth's shaky money scheme, a murderer pursues her while in between her investigation she studies for the plumbing license exam.

Drip Dead is an engaging amateur sleuth mystery as Georgie makes inquires into the deceased's realty business. The spirited wrench turner obviously needs no sleep as balances her mother's fears, a nasty investigation into financial crap and the test. Readers will enjoy Georgie who pulls out much more than just a plumb and her two hesitant teammates as they work a nasty Lead Pipe Cinch case while trying not to fall into a deadly Sink Trap.

Devil's Own
Veronica Wolff
9780425240182, $7.99

In 1647 in Aberdeen, Scotland, someone abducts ten years old Aidan MacAlpin from his uncle's home Dunnottar Castle. His twin brother Cormac and their playmate Marjorie are helpless to prevent the kidnapping.

Seventeen hateful years later, Aidan finally escapes from the pirates who took him to the Indies. He comes home, but is not the friendly person he was as he has one objective: to enact revenge on those who enslaved him. However to succeed he needs to read; so the illiterate Aidan hires bookworm Elspeth Josephina Farquharson to teach him. She understands how he feels as her father needs money that he can waste on his vices so he plans to sell his daughter in holy matrimony. As the pair studies the Book of Common Prayer and Shakespeare's sonnets, they fall in love. However, giving away his heart intrudes on his life's mission, but not giving away his heart intrudes on his soul; while her father objects to him and his past is sailing to Aberdeen.

The abducted twin's seventeenth century romance (see Devil's Highlander for Cormac's tale) is a fabulous historical. Aidan suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after almost two decades of pirate imprisonment; his mind insists on revenge while his heart disagrees since he fell in love with his teacher. Readers will enjoy this superb sequel as everyone will agree that Elspeth would make a lovely pirate bride if Aidan can move passed his understandable obsession.

Lora Leigh, et al.
9780425239056, $15.00

"Bleeding Heart" by Michelle Rowen. Dhampyre Declan Reyes vows to keep safe purebred human Jillian Conrad in spite of their attraction to each other. He knows only her death can bring them together. This is an entertaining direct follow-up to Nightshade.

"Skin & Bone" by Ava Gray. In a remote part of Ecuador that keeps him off the grid after five years of torture and imprisonment to reveal his gift, Silas rescues American expatriate Juneau Bright from the rubble of an earthquake. Though he fears betrayal and returning in to the grid, he finds himself thinking of a second chance at life with his new "partner". This is an exciting direct follow-up to Skin Tight.

"Angel-Claimed" by Jory Strong. In California, Addai the angel knows he must forget Sajia, but cannot. Sajia the Djinn knows she must forget Addai, but cannot. Their love is considered taboo and unnatural since djinn and angels have warred for eternity, yet each prays for the safety of the other. This is an enjoyable return to the post-apocalyptic world of Spider-Touched and Ghostland.

"Primal Kiss" by Lora Leigh. A good girl all her life got Kita Claire Engalls is betrayed by her loved ones. Now she has met bad boy Wolf Breed security specialist Creed Raines and knows she loves him. However, she fears her beloved will be like her family by betraying her love. This is an exhilarating Breed thriller.

All four tales are well-written fun that overall will satisfy series fans, but the novella format limits character development; trademarks of the contributing authors in their romantic fantasy novels.

Friday's Daughter
Patricia Sprinkle
9780451232199, $15.00

Teensie MacAllester is the sole caretaker of her ailing father, a state senator and college president. Thus when he dies she is hurt that he left the family home to all of his three daughters; as Teensie felt she earned the ancestral mansion without co-owners who were never there for their dad and he promised the abode to her.

Teensie was planning to convert the house into a nursing home. However, her siblings refuse; instead deciding to sell the place. Her nervy sisters also try to dictate how she should live her impoverished middle age existence. Instead though despondent and unemployed, she ignores her sibling shrews to accept a position as a home nurse to Native American farmer Tobias Jones, who suffers from hepatitis. Jones hires her even though he loathes the MacAllester clan for stealing his people's land two centuries ago. Tobias and Teensie are attracted to one another, which angers her prejudicial siblings embellishing his already doubts about any MacAllester. However, Teensie proves her worth when she helps him care for three young recently orphaned Native American relatives.

This engaging southern family drama stars a woman who deferred her dreams for years to care for an autocratic father only to find in his death he betrayed her; as do her sisters who give her the option of being the family charity case care-giver or remain impoverished. Although the good, the bad and the ugly parody of Cinderella and her sisters detracts from the tale as that only accentuates the lack of MacAllester morals (except for the protagonist). Fans will enjoy the lead female's efforts to liberate herself from her annoying kin who excommunicate her when she chose to live with the enemy who also makes clear he distrusts her due to her roots.

Linda O. Johnston
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780425240212, $7.99,

Near Los Angeles, HotRescues is a no-kill shelter for dogs and other animals founded by billoinaire Dante DeFrancisco, owner of a series of pet stores that which carries items manufactured and carried in his HotPets stores. He is the biggest contributor to HotRescues and though he is a billionaire he has a heart of gold. As part of a legal settlement Efram Kiley works at HotRescues, learning how to treat and care for animals for which he was paid a large sum of money in a legal settlement with Dante.

HotRescues director Lauren Vancouver is horrified to see Efron at a dirty and diseased puppy mill where he pushes beagle puppies into a drain pipe. When he turns up at HotRescues, Lauren fires him. Soon afterward, she sees his body in HotRescues with a knife in his chest. She becomes the number one suspect. When she is injured twice in potentially deadly incidents, the cops assume she set them up to make her look a victim, innocent of murder. Knowing the police are going to arrest her, she tries to ferret out the real killer.

Dante's lover Kendra Ballantine makes a cameo appearance that connects this new series to the Pet Sitter amateur sleuth novels; this adds a sense of continuity though on a different path. Linda O. Johnson fans will compare the two leading ladies; as Laura is more mature and independent than Kendra is but both are feisty, obstinate and passionate about animals. The mystery is cleverly devised even with the cops acting more Keystone than professional as in their mind the case solved. Pet Sitter readers will enjoy this similar yet different canine thriller.

A Touch of Gold
Joyce and Jim Levane
9780425240243, $7.99

On the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the island town of Duck lives Mayor Dae O'Donnell. Besides being the village's mayor she is also has the gift of finding things for people. Her psychic power works by her picturing in the client's what is lost leading to her tracking the location.

The island is filled with legends about Theo Burr who was sailing to her father Aaron. The ship either sank during a storm or Theo was killed by a pirate. The Duck Historical Museum curator Max Caudle believes Theo lived her life on the island and has a wooden chest full of gold that he believes proves his theory. Someone shoots a cannon ball at the museum destroying the structure, killing Max and injuring Dae and others who were near the edifice during the assault. Following the homicide, the culprit tries to burn down the late Max's home. Dae applies her psychic gift to see the history of certain objects so she can follow the leads to the killer, but struggles to control the intensity of the visions. Even with former FBI agent and tentative boyfriend Kevin Brickman at her side, a killer waits for the right moment to cause a special election for the mayor of Duck.

Due to the interwoven details of life on a small Carolina barrier island, A Touch of Gold feels realistic as residents know one another and at rimes squabble with each other. Paranormal amateur sleuth fans will enjoy observing Dae use cognitive and ESP mental processes to uncover a murderer who will kill again to insure achieving the goal. Readers will enjoy Team Levane's second Dae in a life of a Duck tale (see A Timely Vision).

Death Along the Spirit Road
C.M. Wendelboe
9780425240021, $14.00

A killer buries a war club into the head of developer Jason Red Cloud, who had the financial backing to build a resort on the Pine Ridge Reservation near the site of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. FBI Academy instructor Manny Tanno is assigned to investigate though he prefers not to do field work anymore.

A former Oglala Sioux tribal cop, the special agent finds he is unwelcome by the older tribe who never forgot the FBI infiltration in the 1970s American Indian Movement; even some of the younger ones who learned of AIM refuse to cooperate with Tanno. He also has problems with the acting chief Leon "Lumpy" Looks Twice who prefers the "outsider" go back to teaching and from the dead victim whose spirit apparently haunts Tanno's dreams demanding justice. However, the biggest problem confronting Tanno is a conflict of interest when his brother Reuben becomes a viable suspect.

This Native American police procedural is a strong whodunit because of the powerful backdrop in which Tanno investigates. Readers will observe the poverty on Pine Ridge and the division still haunting the present from the AIM era though over three decades have passed. With the Wounded Knee National Historic Landmark serving as an anchor between the late nineteenth century past and the present, readers will appreciate Tanno's efforts to solve the homicide with no local cooperation; in fact many prefer he joins Red Cloud in the spirit world.

Fruit of All Evil
Paige Shelton
9780425240229, $7.99

In Monson, South Carolina the business of Bailey's Farmer Market is thriving. Venders Becca Robbins and Linda McMahon are close friends. Linda asks and Becca agrees to be her Number One matron of honor.

Linda's fiance Drew Forsyth invites Becca to a family dinner. However, everyone wonders where his mother Madeline is as she fails to attend. They find her corpse in her bbedroom; she was obviously strangled. Becca believes the murder is linked to foreclosure letters from the bank to homeowners insisting they are in arrears on their mortgage payments. Fearing her BFF's nuptials will be cancelled, Becca, hopes to preserve the ceremony by investigating the crimes landing in one jam after another.

Readers will enjoy this down home regional amateur sleuth mystery due to a quirky cast headed by the matron of jams. The story line is fast-paced fun though fans will have to accept Becca as an ace detective even with her previously solving the Farm Fresh Murder case. Still Fruit of All Evil is a very special Farmers' Markey Mystery.

Blood Wyne
Yasmine Galenorn
9780425239742, $7.99

Like her two half-fae Sisters of the Moon sisters (Camille the witch - see Bone Magic; and Delilah the werecat/werepanther - see Harvest Hunting) Menolly D'Artigo the Vampire has resigned as an Otherworld Intelligence Agency field operative. The trio believes they will have more flexibility and less bureaucracy fighting the Otherworld invaders. Meanwhile she and Nerissa the werepuma are in love.

However, Menolly also cannot sit idly by when she learns a vampiric serial killer is murdering hookers. She fears the backlash by humans to vampires and other paranormals, so she plans to act before the mob mentality sets in. Tracking down the killer should be as all she has to do is follow the blood trail. However, nasty ghosts get involved mucking up her investigation. Menolly asks powerful vampire Roman to help her find the predator. He agrees for a fee; she must acquiesce to being his consort even as his mother ancient Vampire Queen Blood Wyne is returning to gain control of the undead population.

The ninth Sisters of the Moon urban fantasy is a superb thriller that continues to be fresh by the rotation of prime focus between the siblings. This time Menolly the most complicated sister with her extreme mental issues is caught up in her new world of vampirism. This forces her to choose between the lesser of evil at a time in which her species breaking into a bloody civil war seems imminent.

Scones & Bones
Laura Childs
9780425238967, $25.95

Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning left a high powered job to become a storekeeper in Charleston, South Carolina and has never looked back with regret. Her two employees Drayton Conneley the master tea blender and Helen Parker the fabulous chef and baker are loyal as the trio is close to one another with all three making business decisions.

Drayton persuades Theo to accompany him to the Heritage Society's "Pirates and Plunder" gala where all sorts of valuable pirate memorabilia and art are on display including a skull turned into a cup with a lucrative diamond implanted into it: allegedly the skull is that of Blackbeard. A scream interrupts the party so Theo heads to the source of the hysterical cry. She finds Heritage House intern Rob Commers dead, office manager Camilla Hodges who worked many riles in this the event is injured and the skull gone. The Director Timothy Neville fears the reaction of the board including firing him as a scapegoat. He asks Theo, known for solving homicide mysteries, to investigate. She agrees and drags a reluctant Drayton into her inquiry in which clues lead to unusual places.

Scones & Bones is a delightful amateur sleuth that draws the reader into the mystery as Laura Childs showcases her talent by bringing to her fans characters that seem real in odd scenarios. Even with Neville fearing unemployment and stressed by the murder and theft, his turning to Theo instead of hiring a professional detective comes across as genuine. As always in this warm and charming long running series (see Oolong Tea and The Teaberry Strangler), Charleston comes alive with a fresh look back at the role of pirates in the history of the city and state. Tea time with Theo is terrific.

Moon Burning
Lucy Monroe
9780425239803, $7.99

She would do anything to save her endangered shapeshifting people, but fears extinction is a reality that is coming unless Sabine believes she can pull off a desperate ploy to obtain and return the sacred Moon stone to her clan. The problem is the enemy Donegal clan possesses what she believes rightfully belongs to her people.

Sabine sets up a scenario for Chrechte Laird Donegal to rescue her. He does and she shams amnesia as a means to gain access to his keep. However, Sabine had not counted on falling in love with her enemy host while he reciprocates her deep feelings. Failure to take the holy artifact home will destroy her people, but doing so will destroy her.

The third Children of the Moon historical romantic fantasy (see Moon Awakening and Moon Craving) is a wonderful entry as the heroine struggles with her quest and her heart. Character driven, the fast-paced story line requires some reader adaptation to Scottish medieval vernacular, but that use of authentic language also adds to the sense of belief that Chrechte shapeshifter lead Celtic clans in the twelfth century.

Archangel's Consort
Nalini Singh
9780425240137, $7.99

Following the harrowing battle with the ancient Archangel of China Lijuan, miraculously newly made Angel Elena Deveraux the Guild Hunter and the Archangel of New York Raphael are recovering from their devastating confrontation with the Archangel of China, Lijuan (see Archangel's Kiss). However, though they sort of won the battle, Lijuan remains dangerous as she has evolved into something beyond the ken of the archangels.

Elena continues her training as an angel, but refuses to hand in her Guild Hunter membership. At the same time vampires are caught up in unheard of blood lust frenzies and too frequently natural disasters are everywhere. Raphael fears the rise of a long dormant insane ancient archangel he knows personally.

The third Archangel Guild Hunter fantasy (see Angel's Blood) is a terrific entry as the lead couple continues to grow separately and as a loving team. The story line is fast-paced with a strong mystery and a great twist to what is the cause of the vampire enigma. The support cast is very strong with distinct personalities as this series remains one of the best with the current entry affirming that for delighted fans of Nalini Singh.

Percival, Guardian of the King
Kent North
His Work Christian Publishing
9780979918964, $12.95

At the Guardian Angel Academy, student Percival is failing as he gets nothing right. Headmaster Aurelius is frustrated with his pupil who may be the first angelic dropout as Percival is dangerous to himself and others so he could never protect a human child. Although he knows he is not on a par with his peers, Percival continues to try his best refusing to quit even knowing he will never be given a child of his own.

Suddenly a miracle occurs when The Master chooses his least Percival to serve as the guardian angel protecting a special child. Everyone fears the worst but also wonders about the Master's plan and his mysterious ways in choosing Percival though all know the Lord has a purpose for everyone. Meanwhile the worst student angel vows to be everything to his ward as he ventures to the first century Holy Land.

Although targeting middle school children, this retelling of the child Christ is a great parable that encourages readers while embracing the Lord to be all we can be and never give up trying as part of honoring God and his Son. Readers will feel transported in time and place as Kent North provides a strong Christian tale.

Murder on Mt. McKinley
Charles G. Irion and Ronald J. Watkins
Irion Books
9780984161836, $19.95,

At the base of Mt. McKinley, the two rival oil company CEOs meet to discuss a merger on the Alaskan pipeline project. Neither Boggs Integrated Oil & Gas boss Ross Biggs or Consolidated Alaska Energy chief Julius Snowe hide their contempt of the other but as the latter's Chief Financial officer Michael Piquet musingly tells experienced climber Scott Devlon that billions make for a powerful "bonding experience". Although there are disputes between fractious groups besides the oil firms fighting each other, Scott looks forward to the climb until reporter turned author Quenton Stern informs him he is on the team; Quenton implied that Devlon left his best friend to die in Murder on Mt. Everest.

The climb begins led by Rollie Knox and Linda "Pete" Peterson. However what should be a relatively easy climb up North America's highest peak turns deadly as accidental deaths occur. With so much anger over the pipeline project and having homicides accompany him on Everest and Elbrus (see Murder on Elbrus), Devlon believes someone is committing Murder on Mt. McKinley, but has no idea who.

The Summit Murder Mystery series premise of climbing each continent's highest peak accompanied by murder and modern day issues is an entertaining saga as the authors are three for three. The story line is fast-paced with plenty of action from nature and humans. Once again fans will feel they are scaling the mountain with storms, bitter cold and climbing safety rules. However, the key to this great whodunit (and the previous entries) is the ability of Charles G. Irion and Ronald J. Watkins to incorporate local contemporary arguments into the climb and the subsequent whodunit.

The Breath of God
Jeffrey Small
West Hills Press
9781933512860, $15.95

Emory University doctorate student Grant Matthews knows he is running out of time on submitting his thesis. His topic focuses on the impact other cultures had on the early development of Christianity. In particular over the objections of the school's advisory board, he pursues a legend of an Asian boy traveling fourteen-fifteen centuries before Marco Polo went the other way.

In Asia, he learns from Buddhist monks that what he seeks might exist in one of the monasteries in Bhutan. He journeys to the Himalayan nation where his guide is a former Buddhist monk working to feed his family. He learns more about Issa and the lad's spiritual journey that affirms his subject loved and wrote down his travels. Grant meets Kristin Misaki and soon finds the treasure he sought. However, what happened to a Russian late in the nineteenth century when he made the same discovery soon proves history repeats itself. Christian fundamentalists are willing to kill, destroy or hide to prevent anything heretical that affirms that the early founders were in touch with other cultures for some of the religion's critical foundations coming east to west.

This is a super Brownian thriller that is at its best when the beleaguered hero is in Asia pursuing the Issa documents amidst Buddhist monks. The Christian conspiracy to shut down the heresy feels more like a sub-genre requirement and detracts from a powerful insightful novel. Still, based on a real Russian Notovitch was condemned as a heretic for publishing his finding of the Saint Issa scrolls in Himis, India, as those ancient documents explained the "Lost Years of Jesus", overall The Breath of God is a terrific tale.

Unholy Embrace
Neil Benson
Night To Dawn (NTD)
9780982679500, $13.50,

Human Frank Thornton and vampire Nessa Harcanu hold hands as they walk together at night in Manhattan. He knows his beloved is a centuries old vampire, but has not witnessed at all what that means until this evening. Werewolves attack them, but Nessa overpowers them; shaking Frank with her abilities.

They met three weeks earlier with both attracted at first sight. Now he needs to know why the assault. Nessa honestly thinks a serial killing demon she hunts sent the horde. He thinks about leaving her, but cannot as he loves her though he wonders if she is using her vampiric enchantress skills to manipulate his desires. Still Frank tells her he cannot convert, but wants to be with her. She explains the demon is not her worst nightmare. Her sire, who she killed back in 1627 after he converted her and sucked dry her husband, left behind a raging predator the "widow" Narice who wants to destroy her for killing the Master; Frank is her Achilles Heel.

This is an exhilarating urban fantasy filled with demons, werewolves and vampires; oh, my! Frank is a terrific human who feels as if he fell through the rabbit hole when he fell in love while Nessa is an honest vampiress who tells him the truth. Although there is too much going on with the lead couple as the demon hunters and as the Narice hunted, sub-genre fans will enjoy this tale of blood and romance flowing on the streets of Manhattan.

State of Mind
Sven Michael Davison
Bedouin Press
9780966614923, $25.95

Jake Travissi lived and was willing to die as a Los Angeles Police department homicide cop especially since Andrea and Jade were gone. However, he never expected to be kicked off the force and banned from law enforcement as occurred in 2030 following the Governor Pacheo's son fiasco. Like an addict going cold turkey he feels cut off from what he needs. Only his two years old Lakshmi and "Auntie" Gene matter. Thus when given a second chance to return to the force, he readily agrees; ignoring the stipulation that he and two other cops will be implanted with the P-Chip. The trio will belong to LAPD, but work for the Department of Homeland Security.

Jake commands the Enhanced Unit field team consisting of himself, Detective Joaquin Parks and Homicide Lieutenant Alexander Koren. He takes orders from Homeland Security Director Sanchez. However as Jake begins to see odd visions, he realizes Sanchez and others envision an American caste system of those chipped and the few controllers of the implanted. Besides fighting his superior and Senator Crennan, Jake battles to control his P-Chip as he no longer can delineate what is his while wondering if Andrea and Jade were real of machine induced.

This is an exciting 1984 futuristic thriller that extrapolates current advances in medical, biological and technological fields to form a vision of a Big Brother society. Although somewhat simplistic in terms of the good and the conspiratorial; the story line is filled with action mostly driven by the P-Chip that helps people control their cravings and addictions, but few understand at the price of giving up control of Live Free or controlled. Jake uncovers the high level conspiracy to change America, but struggles to prevent it from happening as his controller uses the P-Chip to make him dance like a puppet on a string.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Blown Away: A Curl Up and Dye Mystery
Nancy Mehl
Barbour Publishing Inc.
P.O. Box 719, Ulrichsville OH 44683
9781602605701 $10.99

Hilde Higgins and friends are back in this second Curl Up and Dye Mystery. She's still Wichita's premier hairdresser to the dead, still sporting a purple streak in her hair and driving her mother bonkers with her disregard for style, and yes, still solving mysteries when the need arises. This time, two members of Clowns for Christ are dead under suspicious circumstances. Hilde's boyfriend, Adam Sawyer, is a member of the clown group that entertains sick children. When Wichita cops focus on Adam as their prime suspect, Hilde and their friend Gabe take action. Is Adam really capable of murder, or has he been framed?

As always, Ms. Mehl's intriguing subplots add to the interest. The town where Hilde lives is hit with a tornado. Her friend Gabe's secrets are finally revealed. And, the father long absent from her life wants to see her again. Every character, plot twist, location, and the weather serve as effective backdrops to the main storyline.

I enjoy Barbour's Hometown Mysteries Series because they feature realistic characters living in the real world with grit and kindly Christian grace. The real bonus here is that Ms. Mehl is an accomplished wordsmith and quite adept at plot and character development. When she spins a tale and sets a mood, every little detail enhances the reading experience. For example, readers don't simply follow Hilde to the cemetery, they become part of her experience:

"Gabe's ancient truck rattled through the rows of tombstones like a
loose sack of bones."

I'm a sucker for positive storylines and exceptional writing. You'll find both, and more, in this latest Nancy Mehl series.

Simple Deceit Book 2, The Harmony Series
Nancy Mehl
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville OH 44683
9781602607811 $12.99

Harmony, KS is an oasis of peace in a chaotic world. Gracie Temple loves its wooden sidewalks, old fashioned street lights, and citizens who work together for the common good, And she loves farmer Sam Goodrich, his aunt Sweetie, the Old Order and Conservative Mennonite way of life. In this second book of the Harmony Series, Gracie has moved from her hectic life as a freelance graphic designer in Wichita to the house she inherited from her uncle in Harmony. The friendships she has made with residents continue to grow, as does her love for Sam Goodrich. Life is good, right? Well, maybe not so good.

First, Gracie's reputation is questioned when rumors circulate that an abandoned baby is hers. Sam's attitude towards her immediately changes. Will this be the end of their relationship? Then, the retirement community project for which Gracie is doing the graphic designs causes friction among the townfolk. The handsome front man for the project expresses romantic feelings for Gracie, further straining her relationship with Sam. The county sheriff seems to be harassing Gracie. And then a friend disappears in a snow storm and a body turns up in a snowdrift. Gracie's life goes downhill from there.

This book has everything readers of Christian mysteries could want, and more. You'll find generous doses of drama, danger, humor, faith and love, plus fictional characters who seem like familiar friends. The blizzards that plague Harmony provide an ideal ambience for the writer's cozy, pleasing story-telling style. Each book I read in every series becomes my favorite. Check this one out and see what you think.

The Coffins of Little Hope
Timothy Schaffert
Unbridled Books
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195, Lakewood, CO 80214
9781609530402 $24.95 1-888-732-3822

Timothy Schaffert is blessed with empathy, creativity, imagination, and a masterful way with words. The prose in this latest book gave me goose bumps.

The story is told in the first person from the perspective of Esther Myles -- aka Essie, Ess, or simply S -- an 83 year old obituary writer for a small, rural newspaper. Essie is a thoroughly delightful character, memorable, eccentric, and deliciously human. With her gangly form, snow white hair pulled back with a bejeweled dragonfly hair pin, and ratty old clothes, I loved her from page one.

Essie has been with the newspaper since dropping out of school in the eighth grade to work for her father. Now her grandson, Doc, owns the paper. Essie takes great pride in creating the ideal obituary for townfolk. Sometimes in dying rural towns, obituaries are the only news available. When a local child goes missing, Essie and Doc struggle with investigating and reporting the each new rumor or lead. Reporters and pilgrims come from all around the country, clogging the roads with vehicles and campers and boosting the local economy. No one remembers seeing the child. No proof can be found that she or her kidnapper actually existed. Is the missing child a captivating hoax or an all-too-common tragedy?

While everyone searches for the missing girl, Doc's paper is secretly printing the latest in a series of popular young adult books. He and his employees are sworn to secrecy, but are key chapters of the book being leaked? Large printing projects for publishers keep Doc's newspaper in the black so leaked info about the book will ruin him. The subplots woven through the main storyline are easily as captivating as the main plot. Schaffert zeroes in on human strengths, failings and foibles with a sharp eye and compassionate heart. This is an exceptional book and highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Debussy Clair de Lune and Reverie
Claude Debussy, transcribed by Jonathon Robbins
Santorella Publications
P. O. Box 60, 13 Pleasant Avenue, Danvers, MA 01923
TS315 $10.95

This unedited original transcription by Jonathon Robbins of Claude Debussy's piano solos "Clair de Lune" and "Reverie" is presented in an attractive vintage photo cover of the Eiffel Tower, with an accompanying concert performance CD of the music. In addition to the full concert piano score, there are several paragraphs of notes about the two pieces, including the text of the original poem, "Clair de Lune, by Paul Verlaine in French and English, thought to be a source of inspiration for Debussy's famous piano solo. There is also an informative brief biographical sketch of Claude Debussy's life and contributions to music and composition. The concert performances on the CD are by Dean Mora, recorded at Angel City Music, Los Angeles, CA. (Original Piano, includes Concert Piano Performance Recording).

Also recommended in this simply outstanding series of classics adapted to other instruments are the following arrangements: "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony" arranged for trumpet and piano by Jonathon Robbins (TS351, $8.95), "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony" arranged for flute or violin and piano by Jonathon Robbins (TS352, $8.95), Debussy's "Clair de Lune" arranged for flute or violin and piano by Jonathon Robbins (TS317, $8.95), and Debussy's "Clair de Lune" arranged for trumpet and piano by Jonathon Robbins (TS316, $8.95).

A Life in Baroque Dance and Music
Wendy Hilton & Susan Bindig
Pendragon Press
PO Box 190, Hillsdale, NY 12529
9781576471333 $65.00

"A Life in Baroque Dance and Music" is an assisted autobiography of famous British ballerina and Baroque dance specialist, Wendy Hilton (1931-2002). Taken from her personal papers and the extended memoirs of her many colleagues and friends across the globe, "A Life in Baroque Dance and Music" is a fascinating summation of the life and career of a uniquely talented woman who was to be remembered for many accomplishments in dance performance, research, teaching, choreographer, and author. Her area of interest was baroque dance, and due to her research, teaching, and performing, this art form has been resurrected, honored and re-interpreted for modern dance repertoires.

"A Life in Baroque Dance and Music" is full of personal experiences, pictures, and warm expressions. Wendy Hilton led a full, vivid, productive artist's life. Her assistant editor/writer, Susan Bindig was exceptionally sensitive to her requests and nuanced legacies in her completion and editing of the writings in "A Life in Baroque Dance and Music."

This outstanding autobiography is also No. 14 in the Wendy Hilton Dance & Music Series, all of which titles are listed at the beginning of the book. An extensive bibliography follows the last chapter, with lists of both archives and interviews and correspondences. "A Life in Baroque Dance and Music" is divided into three main sections, roughly chronologically. Section 1, My Childhood and Early Career, deals with events in Wendy's early years in Great Britain from 1931-1959. Part II, My Work In Historical Dance covers years of performance, forming a historical dance ensemble, and emigrating to America, 1956-1971. Part III In America covers Ms. Hilton's continued dance performance and teaching career at Julliard and in California at Stanford, from 1971 - 2002. Part III also contains her ending years, the diagnosis of cancer, beginning her memoirs, and the ceremonies connected with her death and commemoration.

"Wendy Hilton: A Life in Baroque Dance and Music" is a fitting memorial and tribute to a truly unique and gifted woman's treasured legacy. Its scholarship and credentials are impeccable and its dance arts audience interest is wide and varied. The impact of Wendy Hilton's work on the present evolution of dance, always significant, is still being measured and felt.

Leslie Marmon Silko: A Literary Companion
Mary Ellen Snodgrass
McFarland & Co. Publishers
Box 611, Jefferson, North Carolina 28640
9780786448531 $39.95

"Leslie Marmon Silko: A Literary Companion" is an analytic guide to the writings of Leslie Marmon Silko, "celebrated novelist, poet, memorist and Native American wisewoman." It is accessible to both the lay reader and the professional or graduate literary researcher in content. Beginning with an annotated chronology of multiracial Silko's life and works, it continues with a clarifying Silko genealogy family tree diagram, followed by 87 alphabetically arranged entries that cover extended complex analytic reactions to the many compelling literary works created by Silko. These entries include many quotations from secondary sources plus illuminating comparisons to both classic and popular literature. In addition, there is a glossary of common Pueblo terms and an intriguing list of 43 key topic questions for literary research and general discussion. Following is a quotation from a writing on Powerlessness: "Silko's early verse and stories depict Amerindians as an indigenous culture that draws resilience from oneness with the land. Her scenarios refute both the Hollywood "Vanishing Indian" and literary stereotypes of the squaw man - Captain Pratt in "The Geronimo Story" (1981) and Great-Grandfather Robert Gunn Marmon in "Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit: Essays on Native American Life Today (1996)" - as well as the female Indian drudge and the derelict warrior trapped by a 70 percent rate of unemployment and alcohol. Not only does the author upend preconceived notions of the helpless Indian as an endangered species, she toughens the women for endurance, a characteristic shared by Ayah in "Lullaby" (1974) and the mythic heroine Yellow Woman. In her own life, as she describes in "The Turquoise Ledge (2010)", Silko banishes fragility by bonding with desert biota as a source of everyday beauty and hope, which she symbolizes with fragments of turquoise glittering in her path (pp. 244-245)." "Leslie Marmon Silko: A Literary Companion" is a fascinating collection of ideas, revelations and insights on the complex work of the famous first internationally acclaimed Amerindian author in the United States.

How the West Was Drawn
Linda L. Osmundson
Pelican Publishing Co.
1000 Burmaster St., Gretna, LA 70053
9781589808843 $16.99

"How The West Was Drawn: Cowboy Charlie's Art" is a superbly reproduced and masterful art book sampling tour of the robust, western art of Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926). Thirteen color reproductions of paintings or sculptures by the artist are presented with background, questions, and tips about finding hidden secrets in each painting are carefully presented. Additional art appreciation activities and research suggestions are made in the Introduction, and a Chronology of Charles Marion Russell is listed at the end. Cowboy Charlie was a famous Western artist who actually lived the life he painted. The humor, detail, storytelling and historical aspects of his art are presented and the reader/art appreciator is invited to explore these aspects further. Like a stimulating museum tour with a good docent, "How The West Was Drawn: Cowboy Charlie's Art" invites the reader in, intrigues with the mystery and stunning beauty of the old west scenes portrayed, then returns the reader to the present with a thirst for more vivid artistic experiences. As with other great educational art, often a work by Charles Marion Russell can leave the viewer working out a story line, ending with the question, "What will happen next?"

Grand Procession
The Diker Collection at the Denver Art Museum
Lois Sherr Dubin
University of Oklahoma
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780914738671 $19.95

"Grand Procession: Contemporary Artistic Visions of American Indians" is a stunning tribute to the five women artists who created the figures of the Diker Collection at the Denver Art Museum. These incredibly gifted, award -winning, Native American artists are - Rhonda Holy Bear (Lakota), Jamie Okuma (Luiseno), and the Growing Thunder family (Assiniboine-Sioux): Joyce Growing Thunder, her daughter Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty, and granddaughter, Jessica Growing Thunder. "Grand Procession" presents a series of stunning color photographs of meticulously decorated miniature figures (about 2 feet high) of members of Plains and Plateau Native American tribes in ceremonial dress. Accompanying figures of animals such as horses and dogs are also included. The collection presented is the famous Diker Collection at the Denver Art Museum. Helping to explain the significance of the figures in "Grand Procession" are explanatory writings by curator Nancy Blomberg, author Lois Dubin, and Tom Armstrong, Director Emeritus of the Whitney Museum of American Art. "Grand Procession" is a stunning art book presenting a new art form evolved since the 1980's that helps to present and preserve precious, intricate cultural details of life ways of Native American Plains and Plateau dwellers.

Mom's Very Best Recipes
Vicki Hutchins & Jo Ann Martin
Gooseberry Patch
2500 Farmers Dr., #110. Columbus, OH 43235
9781936283347 $16.99

"Mom's Very Best Recipes: Our Very Best Collection of Tried & True Family Favorite Recipes from Mom's Recipe Box" is the latest superbly organized and presented release in the Gooseberry Patch series of home-style cookbooks with family-pleasing menus. Including sections with recipes for Breakfast & Brunch, Appetizers & Snacks, Soups, Breads, Sandwiches, Sides & Salads, Main Dishes, and Desserts, "Mom's Very Best Recipes" has something that is sure to please every palate and satisfy every appetitie. Who can resist the idea of Grandmother's Goofy Cake (p. 195)? Or Yummy Plum Dumplings, from Sides & Salads (p.133). Recipes' contributors are listed with their cities and states at the front of each recipe, so an eclectic collection of favorite dishes emerges. Homey tastes prevail, as in Country Skillet Soup (p. 82), or Summer Swiss Quiche (p. 19), which uses biscuit baking mix to present homemade flavors with casual modern cooks in charge. Delicate pen and ink drawings illustrate the restful green and cream pages, and handy cooks' tips are integrated and presented along with quick and easy variations. "Mom's Very Best Cookbook" is like an index of all the best country or church potluck cookbook recipes. This would make a fabulous bride's gift, or going away from home gift. Also recommended by the same authors in this outstanding culinary series is "Best-Ever Cookies (9781936283354, $16.99)."

Alan Menken, music
David Slater, lyrics
Disney Corporation
c/o Hal Leonard Corp.
7777 W. Bluemound Road, P.O. Box 13819, Milwaukee, WI 53213
9781617741111 $14.99

"Tangled: Piano/Vocal? Guitar Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack" contains the piano/vocal/guitar music for six hit songs from the Disney fantasy movie release, including When Will My Life Begin?, Mother Knows Best, the hilarious I've Got A Dream, I See the Light, Healing Incantation, and Something That I Want. This creative adventure wrapped around the core fairytale of Rapunzel features a spunky heroine, a disreputable ruffian-prince, and a comic bandit horse, not to mention a long-suffering classic mother figure. "Tangled" is a great retake on an originally great fairytale, with valuable life tools deeply embedded in the flashy, emboldened and embroidered tale. Nothing tells the tale better than the songs, and these are going to be sung a lot. Arrangements are of moderate to intermediate difficulty for piano, quite accessible for young (or advanced) vocalists, and moderately skilled guitarists. "Tangled" will become another Disney stable of fairytale staples for the vocalists and performers of the future.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Why? B'Cuz
Sherwood Goozee
Truth Seeker Company
239 S. Juniper Street, Escondido, CA 92025
9780939040483, $9.95

There is no shortage of things to ponder about faith. "Why?... B'Cuz: Nature's Revelation" are ponderings on religion from Sherwood Goozee who offers a unique collection of thought and opinion as he provides an unrestrained assault on religion and how he believes faith should be. Humorous yet thoughtful, "Why...B'Cuz: Nature's Revelation" is a fine pick and highly recommended.

Belle's Trial
Connie Gotsch
Artemesia Publishing
9 Mockingbird Hill Rd, Tijeras, NM 87059
9781932926125, $8.99,

A partnership of master and pet is one that has much to teach all involved. "Belle's Trial" tells the story of Belle and Darcey, a human/canine pair who find themselves in agility training. Belle the dog has a lot asked of her and learns much of discipline. A fun read for any pet lover, "Belle's Trial" is a thoughtful and very highly recommended read.

Micah Andrew

Shelley's Bookshelf

Revenge Served Cold
Jackie Fullerton
Thomas House Publishing
869 Maebelle Way, Westerville, OH 43081
9780984381500 $8.99

Jackie Fullerton is an attorney who returned to college after her children were grown. She earned her BS degree in business from Franklin University. She went on to Dayton University for an MBA, and earned a law degree at Capital Law School. She is not presently in active practice, but volunteers legal services at a homeless shelter. She is the author of PIERCING THE VEIL.

Elliott and Kathy Spence have an almost perfect marriage. But specters from the past mar what could be a truly happy union. Kathy is unable to have children, due to a botched abortion she had while she was in college. Her erstwhile boyfriend has never forgotten her, and decides to only again crash into her life. In the meantime, someone has run Elliott down in the street after an "it's been ages" meeting with his old best friend...and Kathy's ex. Routine stuff, except that one of Professor Spence's law students...Anne an amateur sleuth of the most extraordinary type. She and her deceased father are unofficial partners in crime:

"Anne jumped. She hadn't heard anyone come in. She snapped around to identify the speaker and recognized the familiar smoke ring floating around her father's head. He leaned against the file cabinet puffing on his pipe. She put her hand on her heart, swallowed and caught her breath. 'Don't scare me like that,' she hissed between clenched teeth.

Her father had been dead for almost two years before he had shown up in her apartment one night, a self-appointed crime fighter returning to his daughter's side. She had never gotten used to his unannounced appearances. They still unnerved her. God, was she glad to see him."

There is nothing more fun than a ghost story inside of a murder. Fullerton also, obviously, knows the law inside out. Both angles provide an excellent backdrop for this surprising whodunit. Characters are well crafted, the plot keeps rolling along, and Anne Marshall is a sassy heroine. Her dead father's ghost steals scenes. Kathy Spence is flawed enough to make for a super-tragic heroine with nasty, mean girl friends. The killer is well hidden, making for a thoroughly entertaining puzzle.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Ada -Legend of a Healer
R.A. McDonald
House of Lore Publishing
PO Box 2614, Salem, OR 97308
9780615412580 $12.95

Ada has not had an easy life, deserted by her mother and placed in the hands of an aunt who soon put her in foster care gave her a slime chance right from the beginning. Ada's life has been more than difficult as she was tossed from one foster home to another and fought against abuse in many areas. Is it no wonder that she is a loner and trust no one?

However, Ada has another challenge, one far greater than running from foster homes. Ada is a healer, a person who is able to heal others with a touch. The problem is Ada has no idea why she can do this and she has no one to ask until circumstances arise and her long lost aunt is found and takes her in. Now truths begin to unravel, but is the truth harder for Ada is live with than the unknowing?

I found this book to be absolutely wonderful. The author brings Ada to life in the minds eye in so many ways. Her emotions are laid bare before the reader and you can feel the aching of her heart, the loneliness, the desperate cry for love and understanding. Yet her sheer determination to survive a hostile world keeps her going, always on guard, always traveling the road of loneliness, yet determined to carry on. Through each trauma she has encountered she faces and makes the best decisions she can, some good, some bad. Her fortitude should be admired as she begins to see the world in a different light. Still battling with forces of greed and ugliness, selfish and uncaring people, she suddenly looks and sees compassion, family, love, and begins to make decisions based on the balance.

Her life of course is more complex due to her healing ability and the corrupt people who lust after her power. However, as she continued on her quest she was slowly learning that she must use the resources given to her to survive, and survive she will. Excellent story, highly recommended.

Darlene Cox
Outskirts Press
1041 Parker Road, Parker, Co.
9781432766368 $19.95

Pearl Sutton has a secret, one that probably was buried with her and never told. Just why did Pear marry a man twenty years older than her? And why did she taunt men the way she did and he allowed her to do it? Now it may never be known because Pearl's beaten body was found and the hunt was on for the killer. Who in this small town would do such a thing and why? When another young woman's body is found the Sheriff has his hands full. Just what is going on?

This is a very good book. It starts off a little slow but picks up like freight train and zooms down those tracks taking you for one exciting ride. The characters are extremely well developed and the local is crystal clear in the minds eye.

The author gives you some hints as he moves you along in this story but the final conclusion will probably shock you. Excellent writing, a true murder mystery with twists, turns and dead-ends. Very well done.

Sudden Moves
Kelli Sue Landon
Outskirts Press
1041 Parker Road, Parker, Co.
9781432767136 $15.95

School is beginning but will it be back to school as normal? Not in this page-turning YA book by author, Kelli Sue Landon. Michelle is concerned, her friend Katie isn't in school and no one is in her house, they are all gone. Where did they go and why didn't Katie let anyone know? Last she heard they were taking a Florida vacation, but she knew that wasn't true.

As Michelle and her friends begin to take it upon themselves to investiage the mysteries stack-up. When Michelle finds a body in Katie's backyard the race is on to find out the truth, but will both Katie and Michelle's lives be put on the line? Just what is the mystery behind this family?

This is an exceptional read. The author brings in the family life of Michelle and incorporates that into the storyline giving the reader a rich knowledge of Michelle's feelings and what she herself is dealing with within her own family. That information drew you closer to her and once the events of the mystery heated up you were already involved in Michelle's life. Now things were falling in around her and she was determined to see this through to the end and find Katie at any cost. But would the cost be her life?

This is a great read for teens. It has everything in it they could relate to, plus a true mystery story. Friendship, moral issues, deceit, family affairs and romance all wrapped together to make a great package. Very well done, a read any would enjoy.

Pecan Gap
Don Castle
Outskirts Press
1041 Parker Road, Parker, Co.
9781453726716 $14.95

It isn't often that I am treated to two crime mysteries in one read, but thus was the case with this outstanding book by author, Don Castle. We meet, Jake Somers, an ex-cop who now runs his own PI business. He lives in Dallas but comes from a small town called, Pecan Gap. We also meet his charming mom, his girlfriend and his co-workers in Dallas and friends in Pecan Gap.

In Dallas Jake is up to his eyeballs in an investigation that involves government workers. Murders of close friends and the near murder of himself and his mom keep Jake on edge as he desperately tries to find the keys that will unlock what is going on, and stop the madness he is living in, before it is too late. This mystery is rich in political evil that stretches and joins with dark figures of criminals few want to mess with.

As if his life is not in enough stress, Jake is thrown into a mystery happening in his hometown. When bones are discovered behind the old railroad station, and letters are found, stolen and an attack on Jake's mom's best friend nearly killing her happens, an investigation begins. Jake knew something evil had been slithering around Pecan Gap and the pieces were coming together, but would the answer be there before more died? What a ride.

This is an outstanding read. The author does a wonderful job at keeping both mysteries alive and keeping Jake right in the middle. The characters ran smoothly keeping pace to where they should be in the story and overlapping where they should as well. Great character development and what I liked was the way our author brought the warmth of the friends and family in Pecan Gap to the forefront even in midst of such a sinister adventure.

Basically this book has it all. Great characters - good guys - bad guys, romance, murder and mystery, and family - friend commitment. That takes one exceptional writer to pull all that off.
I highly recommend this book. Its a great read that will definitely keep you interested. Very, very well done! I was impressed!

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Alan's Letters
Nancy E. Rial
Office Prep
91 Newbury Avenue, North Quincy, MA 02171
9780982270004, $18.85

War pushes one to grow up very quickly. "Alan's Letters" tells the story of one Alan Lowell, as author Nancy Rial pieces together many primary sources to show where a small town boy can go into Patton's army and be marched quickly into adulthood. With plenty of photos and an assortment of letters written by the solider, "Alan's Letters" is an intriguing and thoughtful dive into history, highly recommended.

Historic Diary
Tony Trigilio
BlazeVox Books
303 Bedford Ave, Buffalo, NY 14216
9781609640125, $16.00

Lee Harvey Oswald in all of his infamy, proved to be one of the most intriguing characters of the twentieth century. "Historic Diary" is a work of poetry and fiction from Tony Trigilio as he tells a story through his poetry, hoping to show where Oswald's mind wandered and where it went. A truly unique experiment and blend of prose and poetry, "Historic Diary" is a fun and intriguing read that will prove hard to put down.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Mardock Scramble
Tow Ubukata
Haika Soru
c/o Viz Media
295 Bay Street, San Francisco, CA 94133
9781421537641, $17.99,

The fate of the city lies in the mind of a former prostitute. "Mardock Scramble" is a novel from Japanese writer Tow Ubukata, translated by Edwin Hawkes. Rune-Balot used to be a prostitute back when she was a human, but as she became a cyborg, she finds that herself is not her only concern, rising up to realize her cyborg power might give her the strength to save Mardock city from itself. "Mardock Scramble" is a fine pick for any science fiction fan, highly recommended.

Dial 999
H. L. Raven
Reality Asylum Books
701 East Schaaf Road, Cleveland, OH 44131
9780971867314, $13.99

Everyone is for anarchy except when it begins to happen to them. "Dial 999" is a tale set in the 1970s as Jon Hunter chases his dreams of Punk Rock. When his world and his music start to merge in ways he never expected, he has to do much to find the truth behind everything in his life. "Dial 999" is a riveting read of mystery and adventure, 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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