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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 10, Number 5 May 2011 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Donovan'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 Taylor's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf

Cowper's Bookshelf

The Lonely Sky
William Bridgeman with Jacqueline Hazard
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440158704 $21.95

Originally published in 1955, The Lonely Sky: The Personal Story of America's Pioneering Experimental Test Pilot is the autobiographical testimony of William Bridgeman, an ex-Navy man who joined Douglas Aircraft as an engineering test pilot, and became personally involved in testing the Skyrocket, an experimental, needle-shaped rocket-powered ship. He set altitude records, and even earned a spot on Time magazine's cover as "The Fastest Man Alive" in 1953. His extraordinary life and determination to brave flying at near-body-crushing speeds distinguish this amazing memoir, which superbly captures the harrowing experience of risking one's life in the skies. Highly recommended.

Einstein, Religion, Politics, and Literature
Lonnie Hicks
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9780984348671, $16.99,

Problems are something that the country will always face, and finding solutions are vital to finding success. "Einstein, Religion, Politics, and Literature: Connecting the Dots" are ponderings on the many avenues of life and everything else. Lonnie Hicks hopes her thoughts will grant some guidance to readers to help those try to find their own solutions to life's problems. From faith to politics, Hicks offers much to ponder, making "Einstein, Religion, Politics, and Literature" very much worth considering.

Love Over 60
Bob Kamm
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomingotn, IN 47403
9781452084749, $20.00,

The need for love never fades. "Love Over 60: Later the Hour, Sweeter the Moment" is a collection of poetry aimed at those seeking love after 60, and the certain flare and wisdom that can come with love in the golden and twilight years. "Love Over 60" is simple and serene work, "Force of Nature": The rain/your breathing/...can't tell them apart,/but the lightning,/that was clearly you.

And Nobody Cares
Nye Hurst
Privately Published
9781453818459, $7.99,

Race has become an increasingly touchy subject in today's world. "And Nobody Cares: Thoughts on the African-American Journey into 21st Century" is a discussion form Nye Hurst on the issues of race and they are approached in today's world. Hoping to shed some light on this crisis and offers plenty of thought into the future of race and America, "And Nobody Cares" proves to be an insightful and recommended read, not to be overlooked.

First Love
Violeta Barrett
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450279925, $18.95,

Just because you're married doesn't mean you've known love. "First Love: Just Once in a Lifetime" is a memoir of truly finding love from Violeta Barrett, who recounts being spurned by her then husband and fleeing to Mexico, and finding what she dubbed as true love. Even though it failed to last a lifetime, it lasted for four wonderful years, and Barrett hares her story well. "First Love" is a true story romance, highly recommended.

The Red Mushroom's Wrath
Ji Zhou Z. Pedersen
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave., South New York, NY 10016
9780533163007, $13.95,

Farmers just trying to get by have little concern for booming economies or international legal affairs. "The Red Mushroom's Wrath" is a novel produced by Ji Zhou Z. Pedersen as she uses her own international legal expertise to create a novel of a very real crisis in today's world. Discussing culture, economy, and the world stage and how it relates to the little guy, "The Red Mushroom's Wrath" is a fine read with plenty of education worked into it all.

...Keeping Clarke.
Stephanie Benbenek
Privately Published
9780578038223, $16.00,

We all face grief in somewhat different ways, finding our own power to continue on. "...Keeping Clarke." is a memoir of grief and recovery from Stephanie Benbenek as she comes at readers with her own story of tragedy, losing her son to a random freak accident that sent her life into a way she never expected. Hoping her story will strengthen those around her to continue on, "...Keeping Clarke" is a wise read, very much worth considering for parents who have faced their own plight.

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

The Changing Landscape of Retirement
Mark S. Singer, CFP
ATA press
9781615391912 $14.95

Mark Singer has been involved in the financial planning business for over twenty-five years, and thus has observed many changes in the industry. During this time he's collected the stories of clients who have weathered many different business environments, but he's never seen as much confusion about options as in this current financial environment - and THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF RETIREMENT reflects some of the new rules and approaches designed to promote more flexibility in retirement planning than traditional models offer.

His is not a 'one answer fits all' approach, but provides an important emphasis on keys to finding the types of answers that fit each reader's unique financial goals and perspective. As such it presents a method, not a formula - and this makes THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF RETIREMENT more versatile than most retirement guides.

Money and lifestyle needs, sources of income streams and their different requirements, purchases and travel needs during retirement years, and other concerns all contribute to different 'benchmarks' for retirement income goals. Financial decisions currently are too often based on fear rather than reality: fear of what adversely-changing markets will do to retirement income streams.

Not planning for inflation and taking too much money from a retirement portfolio are only a few of the issues Mark Singer tackles in THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF RETIREMENT. Add in the fact that retirement goals change over the decades but investment portfolios are often not adjusted to reflect these changes and you have a conundrum that THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF RETIREMENT addresses: the lack of flexibility and adjusted options and vision in retirement planning objectives.

New lessons geared to volatile, uncertain market conditions and changing consumer needs promote flexibility in vision and thinking, focusing on coordinating goals and understanding planning strategies key to retirement success. Chapters discuss changing scenarios which require re-defining objectives, they show how to create a more flexible 'retirement roadmap', and they tell how to coordinate paperwork and planning to achieve a unified yet movable set of objectives.

From special issues women face to selecting a financial planner or planning firm, THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF RETIREMENT tells how to create a plan, coordinate different objectives, bring them all together, then maintain a type of flexibility that can easily adjust to both changing markets and changing retirement goals.

Add in case history examples from Mark Singer's clientele and you have an outstanding, well-balanced survey highly recommended for business and consumer libraries seeking a successful strategy versatile enough to apply to a range of concerns.

Diane C. Donovan
Senior Reviewer

Dunford's Bookshelf

Reshaping The Tornado Belt
Vincent Godon, Nancy Godon, & Kelly Kramlich
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450244282, $25.95,

Tornadoes do untold damage with very little warning. "Reshaping The Tornado Belt: The June 16, 1887, Grand Forks/East Grand Forks Tornado" tells the story of this historic Tornado which wrecked two major towns who thought they were safe from this particular flavor of nature's wrath. The authors set out to tell the story of how this forever changed the two towns to prepare themselves and cope with the damage they never expected to face. "Reshaping the Tornado Belt" is a fine study in the history of tornadoes and people's response, highly recommended.

He Kan't Kill Your Future
Sharquent Webster
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432764456, $23.95,

The pain inflicted by your past only lasts as long as you allow it to. "He Kan't Kill Your Future" is a memoir from Sharquent Webster as she speaks on the reality of life in the worst of South Central Los Angeles. Speaking on her own terrifying journey, she advises readers that even when life is at its darkest, God may be there to help you out of your hole. "He Kan't Kill Your Future" is an inspirational read well worth considering for those looking for a tale to making something from the worst of it all.

Coping with Fibromyalgia
Bruce Nelson
Privately Published
9781456363741, $12.49,

Chronic pain is something truly terrible and difficult to live with. "Coping with Fibromyalgia" is a guide for those who are struggling to deal with the disease and its pain that can cripple one's life. Focusing on techniques to deal with the pain instead of discusses its cause or controversy, Bruce Nelson's goal is simple and provides simple methods for attaining that goal. "Coping with Fibromyalgia" is a useful read for those who believe they may be dealing with the disease.

Balancing the Beast
Helena Smole
Bubina Baita
9789619297902, $12.50,

Mental issues lead to having to approach happiness in a new direction. "Balancing the Beast: A Bright View of Schizoaffective Disorder" is a guide from Helena Smole aimed at those coping with the titular disorder and struggling to control it all. With humor and determination, Smole presents simple wisdom of having to deal with your life, and overcoming it all, while not blaming yourself. "Balancing the Beast" is a useful read that is very much worth considering for those faced with Schizoaffective disorder.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Girl You Are Worth a Million Dollars
Alayjiah Bargnare
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432756079, $16.95,

Drive can be all you need to become successful sometimes. "Girl, You Are Worth a Million Dollars" is a memoir from Alayjiah Bargnare, as she reflects on trying to overcoming sexual abuse throughout her young life and how driven to make the most of her life for her three children, she finds her own piece of success. Uplifting story of climbing out from tragedy, "Girl, You Are Worth a Million Dollars" is a fine read, very much recommended.

The Return
Maggie Allen
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432762605, $14.95,

Traveling across the world for love is a risk that is all too often taken. "The Return" follows Virginia Wilson as she travels to Totoba in East Africa to follow a Summer camp crush. But in her journeys for love, she finds there is more to Totoba than she ever through. Blending the supernatural, mystery, and romance, "The Return" is a fun and entertaining read that will be hard to put down.

If You Don't Like Worms, Keep Your Mouth Shut
Linda Loegel
Diversion Press
9781935290179, $9.95,

A simpler time that is almost alien to the modern day. "If You Don't Like Worms, Keep Your Mouth Shut" is a memoir from Linda Loegel reflecting on the simpler small town life in Springfield, Vermont. Poignant, simple, and reflecting the endless curiosity of youth and a time long gone past, "If You Don't Like Worms, Keep Your Mouth Shut" is a simple and thoughtful read with plenty of wisdom and youthful spirit.

Blood, Money, Power
Michele Marie Tate
Privately Published
9780983114802, $15.95,

Every generation has its crisis, just the breed of the crisis changes. "Blood, Money, Power" is a novel inspired by a true story from Michele Marie Tate as she presents a story of a family, and through three generations they face their own growing problems. The joy of affluence, the dark side of freedom, and the corruption that always comes with old money. All set on the backdrop of family loyalty and to what extent it goes, "Blood, Money, Power" is an exciting read that won't be easy to put down.

Erin L. Snyder
Privately Published
9780982888438, $8.99,

Sometimes the hidden self can be the most terrifying thing one ever faces. "Facsimile" is a science fiction thriller from Erin L. Snyde, telling the story of Persephone Kilard, a woman looking for social networking without the complexities of being social, embracing a new technology to do so. But as a glitch copies her very nature and leaves her with what she hoped she'd never have to find, "Facsimile" proves to be an exciting read that will be hard to put down.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Poetry Emotion
Sibylla Chan
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781456771492, $18.87,

Poetry allows you to use language in a way that it comes with emotion, rather than just fact. "Poetry Emotion" is a collection of poetry from Sibylla Chan as she brings to light her life's work in poetry and how it has helped her face the worst of life and leave her to express what she has learned. Each chapter covers a certain emotion, and "Poetry Emotion" should provide quite the read for poetry fans. "Another Night": Another night of fruitless contemplation/Of what I had and lost, and/Of what could have been.//Another night of loneliness/Curled up in foetal despair/Aching for your love, your embrace.//But you are not there./Not now/Not ever again.

Sanctuary of the Soul
Aaron St. Julien
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432761974, $13.95,

Through youthful invincibility to the vulnerability of reality, "Sanctuary of the Soul: Sacred Heart Offering" is a collection of poetry from Aaron St. Julien as he offers poetry from his barely becoming a teenagers to as he becomes a teenager and the limited wisdom that he has gained throughout it all. With a unique approach, "Sanctuary of the Soul" is a wise set, worth considering. "Source of Love": Know that our ever meeting is Sacred/ and Love continues to blossom, Even in the absence of your physical presence,/eventually the distance btween our souls/lessens, turning within, I begin to perceive/you as my own essence which "IS"/Divine without question.

Death and Morning
Richard Atwood
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450271349, $17.95,

As we face our journeys through life, trying to make some sort of understanding can be more daunting than we ever imagined. "Death and Morning" is a collection of poems from Richard Atwood, as he reflects on his own journeys and the limited wisdom he has gathered through the travels in our never ending quest to find more. "Death and Morning" is a thoughtful collection of poetry, highly recommended. "At Last": Our earth was built on dreams;/even the stars too far, unreal --//now, the clock has counted the season;/the dawn breaks forth...//and with what words shall I leave you --?. Also from Richard Atwood is "How Deep the Pain Goes Quiet, After" (9781450231145, $11.95).

Love and Life in Rhythm and Rhyme
M. F. Handy
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave., South, New York, NY 10016
9780533163458, $10.00,

Faith and spirit can be a constant companion through life if you treat it right. "Love and Life in Rhythm and Rhyme" is a chapbook of poetry from M. F. Handy, as he draws on his small town upbringing to bring a dedication to love and life and everything around it with a certain profound nature. "Love and Life in Rhythm and Rhyme" is an excellent take on poetry, worth considering. "Poetry": There are jingles and rhymes and limericks too;/And all of them have just one thing to do./They all have a story they want to tell you/In rhythm and couplets to name just a few./The story will build one line at a time.//The climax will come from the grim and the grime./So read them and smile recognizing their worth,/Or laugh til you cry recognizing their mirth.

A Single Year
Dawn Mueller
Privately Published
9780615431048, $9.95,

It becomes too obvious all too quickly. "A Single Year" follows Dawn as she comes to terms with her sexuality as she copes with her own addictions, faith, and struggling with her identity. As she soon finds that the empty part of her is nothing like she'd expect, the reality sets her free of many things. A charming read of lesbian fiction, "A Single Year" is a fine read and very highly recommended.

Helen Dumont

Klausner's Bookshelf

In the Rooms
Tom Shone
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312622787, $24.99,

Following a nasty end to a relationship and his work tanking, publisher Patrick Miller flees London for New York. Patrick moans the fate of British expatriates around the world as he toasts London until he spots the literary legend Douglas Kelsey. The man's first novel made him the top American writer of his generation, but leading with his chin Kelsey got into a battle with his publisher and seemingly vanished.

Knowing how easily Kelsey rages, Miller needs a ploy to meet the man. He stalks Kelsey until he finds the opportunity when the writer enters an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Miller follows him pretending to be an alcoholic so that he can make first contact and hopefully renew his publishing career.

This is an amusing tale that is at its best when it focuses on the changing relationship between the two "alcoholics" as the British expatriate is on a mission to publish the American author's next book. The story line is rapid fire stand up comic humor that gels nicely when the lead couple takes center stage. The plot loses some of its lampooning of Anglo-America when the tale turns to the changing relationship between Patrick and Lola as that feels more of a requirement though in fairness well written and funny. Fans will relish the jocular British invasion as Patrick sadly muses that he is a victim of the "Sun never sets on the British Empire".

The Lens and the Looker
Lory S Kaufman
The Fiction Studio
9781936558025, $14.95,

By the twenty-fourth century, humanity has come a long way from the brink of extinction due to AIs creating a better world. One particular improvement to foster better citizenship is the History Camps, where the young are sent to learn from past mistakes during a realistic reenactment.

In 2347 CE in the New York Community, rebellious teen Hansum scores a 0 on a test so the school's Dean Turkenshaw decides enough nonsense and enrolls the seventeen year old student for a two week session at the Deep-Immersion History Camp, which means his communication implant is removed to isolate him. Hansum looks forward to the lesson he plans to provide the enactors.

Hansum, fifteen year old Shamira and fourteen year old Lincoln arrive in 1347 Verona. The boys are apprentices to a lens-maker while the girl is assigned kitchen duty. The trio pretends to behave until the end. When the truth about the recalcitrant threesome surfaces, they are sent to Arimus who escorts them to the real 1347 Verona where they will behave or face real punishment.

The first Verona science fiction story is a terrific thought provoking tale as the History Camps are the futuristic boot camps to make recalcitrant students behave. The three teens are strong leads who just want to have fun their way in a society that has different expectations. The premise of learning from history's mistakes with lens-making and cooking was never clear how that teaches life lessons as the time in the community and the camp was relatively limited. Still The Lens and the Looker is a super opening act that hopefully contains more events in the future at the Community and at the Camp.

The Council of Shadows
S.M. Stirling
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451463937, $25.95,

They are creatures of myths and legends: beings who drink blood; those who shift shape; and sorcerers who use magic to control people and the environment. They are Homo Nocturnis Shadowspawn hominids who are not human as they contain genes that enable them to use the energy powers of the universe. Their source is science not magic and once the Empire of Shadow in prehistorical times ruled mankind. Over the eons, their bloodline was diluted by mating with the humans and now they rule in the shadows, working behind the scenes to control people and events.

The Council of Shadows want to come out in the open and believe they can accomplish this by killing about half the human population in what they declare Operation Trimback. The Council will decide how when all the Shadowspawn meet in Tbilisi. Shadowspawn Adrian Breze and his human wife along with the rebel group the Brotherhood want to prevent the pandemic species cleansing. He will soon be taken aback to learn who is leading the death squads as that person is as powerful as Adrian is, but also sinister as collateral damage even among the Shadowspawn is an acceptable price and has traitors supporting the endeavor.

Ellen and Adrian are in love, but while she lacks enough genetic material to tap into the Shadowspawn energy, he treats her as his equal. The middle book contains less action than its predecessor (see A Taint in the Blood) as the entreating story line digs deeper into the psyche of individuals and the group dynamics of the Council and the Brotherhood. Urban fantasy readers will appreciate S.M. Stirling's enjoyable urban fantasy.

Death in the Fifth Position
Gore Vidal writing as Edgar Box
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780307741424, $14.95,

In New York City, as the House Un-American Activities Committee conducts hearings, the Grand Saint Petersburg Ballet hires public relations specialist Peter Cutler Sargent to create a positive spin to avert trouble since renowned choreographer Jed Wilbur was once a communist. He expects a relatively easy assignment by controlling the media though the director Ivan Washburn explains the pickets and an accusation letter have unnerved him especially as the fifth ballet to arrive in town.

However, a dark cloud surfaces when the star ballerina Ella Sutton dies during a performance by falling from thirty feet above the stage. Sargent investigates though NYPD Inspector Gleason tells "Harvard" to stick to the PR lies. He finds that behind the scenes of the ballet people are loaded with backstabbing machinations as rivalries and affairs are the norm for this troupe even as he hopes his new lover Jane Garden who replaced the unfortunate Ella is not the culprit.

This is a reprint of a Gore Vidal's first terrific novella written pseudonymously as Edgar Box due to his being blacklisted by the NY Times for the then controversial The City and the Pillar; the author gives kudos to brave publisher Victor Weybright for his support. The super storyline is obviously a theatre whodunit, but six decades later provides an interesting timely look at 1950s censorship as the present gurus want to rewrite Mark Twain. The novella is clever, but it is the cast starting with the PR amateur sleuth who makes for a wonderful night at the Russian Ballet.

The Violets of March
Sarah Jip
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452297036, $15.00,

When Emily Wilson was in her twenties, she seemed to own the world. She wrote a bestseller and married a hunk Joel. That was then; a decade later Emily feels rudderless as her two anchors, writing and her spouse, fail her.

Her Great Aunt Bee invites Emily to spend a month on Bainbridge Island, Washington. With nothing to keep her away, she accepts the offer to stay by the sea. Just a half-hour ferry away from Seattle, the island begins to heal Emily's mental strain so she can begin writing again. The writer finds a red velvet covered diary dated 1943. She reads about the diarist's angst and sees a parallel to her current situation. Emily begins to feel renewed as the dairy has given new meaning to her life.

Filled with metaphors of life, Sarah Jip provides a fascinating second chance at life tale. Emily is the glue that holds the character driven story line together as she reads the WWII diary while researching what happened to the author and extrapolating the parallels to her present life. Although the action is limited, the support cast is fully developed and the locale wonderful. Readers will enjoy the visit to Bainbridge Island as Emily finds her missing groove.

Bonded in Brazil
Rhiannon Ellis
Camel Press
9781603818469, $15.97

In Caxias do Sul, the Brazilian Menino family is in trouble as they have failed to pay their loan. They stand to lose the Vina da Gloria vineyards that have been part of the Menino clans for four generations.

Daughter Eliana Menino is willing to do almost anything to save the land as she knows losing it will destroy her father the vintner. She arranges a deal with "Demonio", her name for the investor who holds her family's IOUs. Hale Forester brings his new indentured servant to his Napa Valley estate. Her first time outside of Brazil frightens Eli, but she would go to hell for her family. However, she soon finds her heartless employer has a heart broken in his past, but what she feels for her Demonio is not pity but she fears it is unrequited love.

This warm contemporary romance is an enjoyable read as Eli proves her mettle in Brazil and California. Although the story line is somewhat linear even with an unexpected twist on the loan, feisty Eli makes for a wonderful tale as the lovely Brazilian takes America to save her family's birthright from the Demonio she loves.

Ding Dong the Diva's Dead
Cat Melodia
Camel Press
9781603818070, $15.97,

Thirtyish opera singer Deborah de Lille is thinking of ending her career as she sees her future on stage performing as a two bit player on minor league tours. However, her agent gets the mezzo-soprano a part with the new Ville d'Aurore troupe in Idaho. The production is Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann.

In Idaho Debbie quickly joins the production in time for rehearsal. She learns she got the demanding support role of Nicklausse when the performer she replaced died in a car accident. Her role is demanding though always in a secondary role. Debbie plans to be professional on and off stage, but when she gets a second part due to a performer leaving, she becomes the victim of petty jealousies, megalomaniacal performers and sexual thrusts from both genders, while someone wants the new diva dead.

The fun in this entertaining amateur sleuth is observing the humorous goings-on behind the scenes of a local opera company as the cut throat competition is not just about roles on stage. Whereas Debbie is the star holding the tale together, the support cast is solid with a range of egomaniacal personalities at the opera house and zany (insane may be more descriptive) friends and family of the heroine. Fans will appreciate A Night At The Opera.

Cold April
Phyllis A. Humphrey
Camel Press
9781603818223, $15.97,

After spending the past three years working in America, Englishwoman Elizabeth Shallcross decides her future is not with being a governess to the affluent. She wants more independence, but has one last commitment to complete that will also book her passage back to America. Elizabeth will accompany the precocious child Kathleen as the girl and her wealthy father travel from London to New York.

On the Titanic, two males are attracted to Elizabeth. First there is her current employer who admires how good she is with his daughter, but likes her for herself too. Then there is Harry Palmer the magician who wants her. However, as Elizabeth decides on what she wants with neither or one of the two men competing for her, crashing into an iceberg changes all thoughts of the future.

Although there will be obvious comparisons to the Cameron Titanic movie, Phyllis A. Humphrey provides a fresh take on the disaster with a cautionary timely message to beware of prideful over-optimism (BP and Fukushima disasters). Through the fine cast especially the heroine, readers will believe they are on board the unsinkable luxury liner; as that Cold April almost a century ago has become A Night To Remember (by Walter Lord).

Retribution Falls
Chris Wooding
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780345522511, $16.00,

In Vardia, Darian Frey is captain and solo driver of the Ketty Jay. He works closely with freebooters. However, his quasi-legal world crashes when a robbery in the air leaves someone dead. He is accused of the murder as well as piracy by law enforcement.

Frey knows he must flee before the authorities Century Knights, bounty hunters or a nasty ex Trinica Dracken catches him; the latter being the most dangerous threat. Because his crew is ruthless and sleazy with each out to take care of only number one (as does the captain), he distrusts them but needs their support. They were loyal to him only due to the fact he owns and steers the aerium-fueled aircraft they use in their heists. He needs to keep track of each of them because he believes at least one of them sold him and his team out, but who and to whom remains nebulous. Beleaguered Frey considers the daemonist accompanied by his golem, the new recruit and the alcoholic doc as the most likely suspects because the frame takes intelligence and contacts.

From the opening Russian Roulette scene until the final confrontation, this is a fun steampunk fantasy. Frey and the key secondary characters are developed over the course of the entertaining story line. Although the plot at times slows down under the weight of the vivid background, sub-genre fans will enjoy riding the Ketty Jay.

Devil's Plaything
Matt Richtel
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590588871, $24.95,

In San Francisco medical reporter Nate Idle makes some cash posting a medical blog. He also spends his free time with his editor Pauline Sanchez in her office.

At the same time at Magnolia Manor his octogenarian grandma Lane suffers from dementia. She currently responds to online questions from the Human Memory crusade. She shares a lot of personal family information with the computer that calmly says trust me. Nat ignores his grandma's ramblings until he takes her for a stroll in Golden Gate Park; only someone fires what seems like random shots, but he begins to think this culprit targeted the Idle pair. Soon he realizes the attempt is tied to an encrypted flash drive he received anonymously by an unknown person demanding a meeting though he wonders why him and his family.

The freshness to this over the top of the Twin Peaks neuroscience technological conspiracy is the beleaguered everyman's octogenarian grandma who suffers from dementia so cannot be relied on for what she remembers, which is very little beyond WWII. Still fans that ignore plausibility will be Hooked as the grandson and his grandma team up in an entertaining investigative medical thriller.

The Burning Lake
Brent Ghelfi
Poisoned Pen
9781590589250, $24.95

On a wintry night in Moscow, espionage agent Alexei "Volk" Volkovoy meets with gulag survivor Ilya Jacobs. The latter informs Volk that someone assassinated reporter Katarina "Kato" Mironova in a remote village in the Urals. Three students were also murdered.

Although a reporter's life is perilous in Putin's Russia, Volk is indifferent to that aspect of Kato's life. Instead he feels her killing is personal as he and Kato were lovers during the second Chechen conflict. He resolves to uncover who killed her and why. The agent quickly learns Kato was digging into a story about a reservoir in the mountains containing holding liquid radioactive waste that exploded in 1958. The area became contaminated with radioactive waste. Before long the trail leads to Las Vegas.

The latest Volk dark Russian thriller (see Volk's Shadow and The Venona Cable) is a great timely investigative tale. The story line is the usual frantic pace of a Volk tale as he connects the Stalin evil past and the dark Putin present. Fans will anticipate a showdown with the Frenchman, who is setting up the kill of Volk as Brent Ghelfi writes a tense thriller that captures the essence of 1950s and current Russia in this powerful entry.

Among the Departed
Vicki Delaney
Poisoned Pen
9781590989243, $24.95

In 1996 in Trafalgar, British Columbia, Brian Nowak vanished without a trace. No one knew what happened to Brian who seemed to have no enemies. He left behind an uncaring spouse, an unreliable son, and a precocious daughter who was the apple of his life; anyone who knew him knew he would never leave his darling Nicky behind especially with her mother.

Fifteen years after Brian disappeared, the remains of a human are accidently found. The townsfolk assume the deceased is Brian. Nicky, who was an eighth grader when her dad vanished, was never the same as she has gotten into all sorts of trouble involving drugs and prostitution since. Her childhood best friend Constable Molly Smith leads the investigation into the murder of Brian hoping this brings closure to a disturbed Nicky.

The fifth Constable Molly Smith police investigation is an engaging Canadian village whodunit. The key to this tale and its predecessors (see Valley of the Lost and Negative Image) is the strong support cast as Molly obtains the usual assistance whether she wants it or not from her boyfriend RCMP Sergeant, his dog, and her mom; and the lack of cooperation from the horde of locals including the victim's daughter who is no longer an innocent. Among the Departed is a terrific mystery with a great realistic finish.

Carol Higgins Clark
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781439170281, $25.00,

Private investigator Regan Reilly and her husband Jack who heads the NYPD Major Case Squad plan to go to the Jersey Shore for the weekend to celebrate her mom Nora's birthday. Regan leaves without Jack because Nora asks her to accompany her to the home of Mrs. Edna Frawley who is selling her beach house and therefore hosting a yard sale including items left behind by her tenant movie star Cleo Paradise. Edna's daughter Karen is a friend of Nora and wants her to insure her mom in her zeal does not sell any of her items.

When Regan and Nora arrive, they find Edna gleefully waiting for the yard sale to begin. Regan receives calls from Cleo's best friend and the actress' mother wanting to know where she is. A stalker has been sending Cleo dead roses with thorns as real life imitates the movie she starred in. Cleo's mom hires Regan to find her daughter who has many enemies among the envious Hollywood crowd. Cleo relaxes at a dude ranch nearby, but is unaware that someone is closing in on her to hurt her; at the same Regan seeks to protect her.

As always, a Regan Reilly mystery is a fun, delightful and entertaining tale due to quirky endearing characters especially when mom the author and daughter the sleuth team up. Although the story line is somewhat farcical with two degrees of separation; readers will not be able to put down Mobbed as everyone looking for Cleo converges while the actress is having a good time at a dude ranch.

Leaving Van Gogh
Carol Wallace
Spiegel & Grau
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9781400068791, $25.00,

In 1890, Vincent van Gogh moves to Auvers-sur-Oise, France to paint in the serene rustic environment. His brother Theo asks mental health specialist Dr. Paul Gachet, known for his artistic inclinations, to keep a close watch on his troubled sibling. As a patron of the fine arts, Gachet agrees. The physician finds the artist's work incredible, but fears for the anguished man. He tries to comfort the tormented van Gogh and prepare Vincent's family for the seemingly inevitable as the illnesses that torture van Gogh's mind continue to grow. Ten weeks after the doctor was retained, his only patient committed suicide.

This is an intriguing biographical fiction that looks at van Gogh through the filter of the real doctor (van Gogh did a portrait of Gachet) who treated him in the months of his life. That perspective allows a fresh view, but also adds a degree of separation from the artist. Still this is a strong historical as Carol Wallace paints a vivid picture of medical profession at the end of the nineteenth century as the doctor struggles to help a difficult talented artist with a strange illness.

The Journey
Wanda E. Brunstetter
Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781602606814, $14.99,

In Paradise, Pennsylvania, Titus Fisher always compared himself with his twin Timothy and found himself lacking. He loves his brother, but envies him. The latest comparison is Timothy is happily married to Hannah with a young daughter Mindy; while Titus' beloved Phoebe Stoltzfus ended their relationship to move away from the Amish in California. When Englischer Allen Walters stops at the Fisher family spread, he informs Titus they need a carpenter in the Amish community in Christian County, Kentucky. Titus decides to take the position as he feels a need to start over.

In Pembroke, Kentucky Titus and Amish Suzanne Yoder meet. They are attracted to each other as each is excellent at woodworking; however she looks like a sister of Phoebe so he knee jerkily dislikes her. Besides which he rationalizes she is a tomboy who can't cook. However, as she watches how considerate of others she is, he reassesses his assessment of Suzanne when Phoebe arrives for a second chance.

The latest Wanda E. Brunstetter's Amish family drama is an entertaining tale as Titus' response to the Lovin' Spoonful song "Did You Ever have To Make Up Your Mind?" is to trust in the Lord to guide him. Although some minor subplots feel like inane padding, fans will rejoice with the first Kentucky Brothers' tale as there is joy and heartbreak making for a tender realistic journey.

The Map Across Time
C.S. Lakin
Living Ink Books
9780899578897, $14.99,

In Sherbourne, heartbroken siblings Adin and Aletha are saying their final goodbyes to their dying loving mother, the queen. She gives her beloved children lockets containing a message in the ancient language that "Love is as strong as death". The queen depends on Reya the nurse to love her children and to guide them as she knows she cannot rely on her spouse. While his wife dies, the cold king, who despises his cripple son, loses himself due to the avaricious and fawning of his councilors. Sherbourne is in trouble of imploding due to royal neglect and greed.

The young prince and princess know the saving of the Kingdom of Sherbourne is up to them. Heeding the mentoring of Reya, the regal pair obtains the magical Map Across Time guiding them to Sherbourne's past. There to save their present, Adin and Aletha must believe in the ancient truths and bring them back across time.

Adin sums up this terrific allegorical drama when he muses about Heaven selecting the weak to achieve improbable great accomplishments. Thus it is the innocent who is the only hope to save a kingdom from the greed of their father. High school and older readers will relish this terrific tale filled with references from the Old Testament as two young siblings heroically set out to rescue their beloved people on an impossible quest.

Altar of Bones
Philip Carter
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781439199084, $25.00,

In Siberia, an assassin murders Katya Orlova. Her San Francisco granddaughter lawyer Zoe Dmitroff receives a letter from her grandmother who she thought died years ago. The late Katya explains in her note that Zoe is now the "Keeper" of an ancient secret of the Altar of Bones.

Before Zoe can digest the strange letter, she is attacked by the Russian mob and her own mom demands she reveal the secret to her. Ry O'Malley, whose father and brother were also murdered, arrives to protect Zoe. They flee to Europe as an unknown adversary wants her dead and by association him too.

Over the top of the Urals, Altar of Bones grips the audience from the opening assassination and never slows down as the rookie Keeper and her protector dash around Europe with a little luck and a lot of moxie as killers chase after them with one intention. Throw in Rasputin, Stalinist Russia, and Siberia and fans will enjoy Philip Carter's adrenaline tour of Russia past and present in what is a fun thriller. Warning: set aside time because your bones will be tired with this impossible to put aside suspense.

The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf
Molly Harper
9781439195871, $7.99

Near Grundy, Alaska, the local werewolf pack enjoys howling at the moon. However, they wisely know to hide their instincts from the nearby human population.

Researcher Nick Thatcher comes to Grundy to investigate rumors of werewolf activity in the area. Pack alpha Maggie Graham knows how important it is to hide their existence from that other species is so decides she must run the outsider out of the Grundy vicinity. She decides to take a butt bite to drive him away as she has enough on her paws preventing a war with a rival pack. However, Nick has a new more important reason for remaining in Grundy; he is cultivating The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf.

The second Naked Werewolf Alaskan romantic fantasy (see How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf) is an engaging tale with the freshness coming from the wise female Alpha who can kick male butt (human and werewolf). The story line is fast-paced as Maggie knows the timing of finding her mate, albeit a purebred human, is terrible as she has to deal with Alpha Clay and his pack invading her turf. Fans will enjoy the beat researcher and the alpha pack leader falling in love in the Last frontier.

An Affair Without End
Candace Camp
9781439117996, $7.99

Twenty-eight year old Lady Vivian Carlyle loves her lifestyle of defying the rules of the Ton; starting with no desire to marry. Her childhood friend Oliver, the prim and proper Lord Stewkesbury shakes her up at a ball by asking her to dance. She knows they are oil and water as he is boring unlike his four Bascombe American cousins.

Still she offers him a shocking clandestine affair, which to her amazement and trepidation he accepts. At the same time someone is stealing jewelry from the Ton. Vivian assists her frantic friend Lady Holland just after a thief brazenly stole her brooch. Over the objections of a concerned Oliver, Vivian investigates. Fearing for her safety and acknowledges to himself his love for Vivian, Oliver accompanies her as she makes inquiries into the thefts.

The third Willowmere late Regency (see A Lady Never Tells and A Gentleman Always Remembers) is a wonderful tale due to a strong cast to include the last one standing solo of his American cousin and her brother in a warm secondary romance. The fire between the lead couple is fun as the sniping never ends except when they kiss. The amateur sleuth whodunit enhances a charming historical romance between two people whose refrain for years has been I'm Not In Love (10 CC).

The Sisters Brothers
Patrick Dewitt
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062041265, $24.99,

In 1851 the Commodore directs his vicious hired guns Charlie and Eli Sisters to kill prospector Hermann Kermit Warm. The siblings head from Oregon City through San Francisco to Sierra foothills where Warm has a Gold mining claim.

Their trek south is wrought with danger and adventures whether it is in the wilderness or the saloons. From a witch who curses the duo to drunken females who entice them, The Sisters brothers are starting to understand human existence is more than just birth and death as they elude a horde of fur trappers out to kill them.

This is a strong pre Civil War western thriller starring two interesting brothers. The key to the insightful look at the underbelly of the Pacific coast circa 1850s story line is how the readers' attitude towards the Sisters changes through the course of the tale. Initially, the siblings seem like brutal cold killers (Liberty Valance comes to mind). Soon as their back story becomes known; as well as the affectionate caring for one another and Eli's tenderness to a woman surface, fans realize there is more to the brothers in this super mid nineteenth century Americana.

Trish Perry
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200
Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781609361129, $12.99,

In 1951 outside her Arlington, Virginia dance studio Rachel Stanhope mutters in frustration while pacing back and forth on the sidewalk as her employee Betty fails to arrive with the keys to open up before the junior high school class begins. Moms dump the kids on her and one male arrives with two children. Former WWII pilot reporter Josh Reegan drops off his sister's children, but not before he insults Rachel about that artsy thing. She detests his sarcastic arrogance and pessimism.

Josh believes ballroom dancing is an inane activity only for the rich and stupid. Still he finds her upbeat nurturing attitude totally opposite the cynics he normally meets due to his profession. In fact he is a cynic when it comes to humanity after his combat and his journalist experiences. He is here because his editor assigned him to do an article on her studio's competition in New York City. However, while the ballroom dance contest occurs, he investigates government corruption at the same time they continue their tango of love; as each finds the other Unforgettable.

This is a terrific inspirational historical romance that brings to life 1951 with intriguing little tidbits like pregnant Betty having to give up dancing because the prevalent medical belief of the era is that women carrying needed rest. The enjoyable story line is character driven as the support cast especially their respective extended families, the students and several other key players are fully developed. However, the tale belongs to the dance instructor who sees God's world as a half filled cup needing to be topped and the reporter who sees a half empty cup needing to be drank as they foxtrot to When I Fall In Love.

The Corruptible
Mark Mynheir
9781601420749, $14.00

Ray Quinn retired from the Orlando Police Department due to a perpetrator shooting his hip; shattering the joint. His replacement hip forces him to use a cane to walk slowly as the ache is unbearable. To numb the mental and physical pain, Ray turned to alcohol.

Quinn has opened up The Night Watchman Detective Agency where he mentors a rookie Crevis Creighton who wants to become a cop and employs Pam Winter, a former client. Armon Mayor of Mayor Holdings, Inc. hires him to recover stolen confidential client information. The prime suspect is Logan Ramsey, who before working at Mayor Holdings, was employed as a Narc for OPD but was forced to leave the force.

The second Quinn fun inspirational Noir (see The Night Watchman) is due to the hero, who sets the tone early when he explains to his employees that he broke the other guy's fist with his face and uses his cane as a weapon. Other subplots add to the entertainment when for instance he electronically poses as an elderly woman scamming the email scammers offering to share money from overseas banks in crisis countries for a fee. The banter between the Night Watchman trio is amusing but caring, which enhances an exciting private investigative mystery in which Quinn ironically misses clues the audience will not.

Lilies in Moonlight
Allison Pittman
9781601421388, $14.99

In 1925 Lilly Margolis is a flapper who, after being tossed to the street by her mother, ekes out a living selling makeup to the affluent. Even for the fun lover, last night was a doozy when she awakens in a stranger's backyard with a sprained ankle and a headache.

Widow Betty Ruth Burnside takes the unflappable Lilly into her home. Her son Cullen wants the wastrel gone as he assumes she will swindle his mom out of money. He has enough on his plate with his mom suffering from dementia and he disfigured physically and tormented by the traumas of the Great War in France. However to his chagrin, he is attracted to his mom's guest, an emotion he loathes. As he suffers with battle fatigue from the war and caring for his mom and she has remorse over her past, he decides to take her home.

This is a wonderful historical romance with the focus on the Roaring Twenties through baseball and nightclubs. The support cast is solid though their roles limited as the lead couple see 1925 from different polar perspectives. Readers will enjoy this delightful Americana character driven story line as the flapper and the veteran find healing through love.

When Sparrows Fall
Meg Moseley
9781601423559, $13.99

Pregnant with her sixth child, Miranda Hanford had no time to mourn the death of her husband. When the Pastor Mason Chandler announces he is relocating the flock from Slades Creek, Ohio to McCabe, North Carolina, Miranda decides this is the time to end ties with the church though she will miss some of the women. She wants her children to feel free and loved instead of trapped and scorned as the pastor controls everyone's life.

However, Chandler rejects Miranda's notion of staying behind even when she says her late husband told her to hold on to the land. Instead he threatens to expose her secrets for the world, especially her kids, to know. The oldest child Timothy calls his Uncle Jack, a university professor, informing him that his mom took a nasty fall and he is their guardian while Miranda recovers. Though estranged from Miranda, wasting no time Jack arrives. He finds his nieces and nephews charming in spite of their ultra fundamentalist lifestyle. Jack brings with him a sense of freedom that life is to be enjoyed. Meanwhile Mason turns up the heat on Miranda while Jack tries to learn what the Pastor has on his sister-in-law.

When Sparrows Fall is an exciting small town drama that uses hyperbole to purposely showcase how much a pastor can control their flock. Character driven by a strong cast, readers will relish the psychological battle between Jack and Mason over the souls of the children and their mother. Although a romantic subplot feels more like a sub-genre requirement, the relationship shows how far Jack has come from mocking his sister-in-law. Fans will enjoy this deep family drama.

The Trigger
Hon Hoh
Believers Press
6820 West 115th Street
Bloomington, MN 55438
9780578071954, $19.99,

In 2032 Pastor Josh McGuire is in China preaching the Word to underground churches. He is a fervent believer that he rejoices that he converts the people to become children of God. Security forces arrest Josh; Shanghai Security Chief Yang interrogates the Westerner. Calmly Josh feels the Spirit moves him to rid the demon from his tormentor's body. A dazzled Yang is impressed by what his prisoner accomplished and converts just like his wife as a devotee of Christ.

Josh leaves China for Australia to meet with the missionary who told him that he has visions of going to Yangon in Myanmar. This is the last populated place on earth where the Word has failed to arrive. Josh touched by Jesus and Gabriel knows he must head to Yangon as he believes that is where the Trigger for the second coming will begin. The French president manipulated by Appolyon the demon leads the opposition trying to prevent the Word from reaching Myanmar even if that means millions of believers and non-believers die.

Although the Trigger is an End of Times Revelations thriller, Hon Hoh provides a fresh different interpretation to the final days. Instead of Armageddon occurring near Jerusalem, destruction is global at the same time. When called upon by God to bring about the Second Coming, Josh feels sort of like Moses as the wrong man for the upcoming trials and tribulations; he depends on his belief in the Lord to enable him to achieve the impossible mission. Sub-genre readers will relish Mr. Hoh's extrapolation of contemporary international relations with a unique but incise interpretation of the Book of Revelation.

An Evil Eye
Jason Goodwin
Sarah Crichton Books
c/o Farrar, Straus & Giroux
18 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9780374110406, $26.00,

In 1839 the long reign of Sultan Mahmut II ends with his death. Abdulmecid now sits on the Osman Throne of the shrunken Ottoman Empire as his predecessor lost the Crimea, Greece and Egypt. The latter hurts the most as some upstart Mehmet Ali Pasha took the North African country from the Turks due in part to the Admiral of the fleet Fevzi Ahmet defecting.

Yashim the eunuch is assigned to investigate why a hero turned traitor. The case is much harder than his previous inquiries as those were potentially lethal while this case looks into the activity of Yashmin's mentor and teacher, a vicious man willing to die for the late Sultan. As he begins his search for motives, women under the Sultan's protection begin to die from a strange illness. The intrepid sleuth wonders whether the deaths of females under the Sultan's protection are tied to the defection of the most loyal supporter of the Sultan.

The latest Yashim historical mystery (see The Bellini Card, The Janissary tree and The Snake Stone) is a great tale that looks deep into the corrupt rot at the core of the Ottoman Empire. Yashmin is terrific whether he is making inquiries or just making dinner as he holds the strong why he done it story line focused. Fans of the series will relish this terrific entry in which Jason Goodwin shines a deep cause and effect spotlight on what the corruption at the highest levels is doing to a crumbling giant within a powerful mystery.

Tea for Two
Trish Perry
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North
Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736930161, $9.99,

Counselor Tina Milano uses Millicent's Tea Shop in Middleburg to facilitate her group sessions with women. She also enjoys, as do all the females, inspecting the goods of the "hot produce man".

The deliverer of fresh fruit and vegetables to Milly's, Zack Cooper is unaware that the ladies consider him a hot hunk. Instead the single dad struggles with the troublesome behavior of his two teenage children Dylan and Sherry and his first attraction to a woman in years. However, he is over the top when his son calls from jail and his daughter lies to him. Milly suggests he asks Tina for help before his two kids get any deeper in trouble. Neither knows how to deal with their attraction for one another, but both knows the kids come first.

The second Tea Shop romance (see The Perfect Blend) is a warm contemporary starring two refreshing lead characters as each is relationships reticent with flaws holding them back on taking a chance especially when each rationalizes they have dependents in need of them. The secondary cast enhances a tender tale as the tea shop employees, owner and customers as well as Tina's BFF and clients, and Zack's kids make for a fun spot of tea at Milly's.

The Daughter's Walk
Jane Kirkpatrick
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200
Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400074297, $14.99,

In 1896, mother and daughter Helga and nineteen year old Clara Estby begin a walk from Spokane to New York City in an attempt to win a, $10,000 prize from the fashion industry to save the family farm; threatened by foreclosure. On their pedestrian trek, Clara begins to understand her mom's life especially the mistreatment by family.

When they return home, Clara leaves her family. Estranged from her kin for years, Clara tries to make it in the unheard of position for a female, a businesswoman. Still with success professionally, she prays to God that one day to reconcile with her family.

Mindful of Susan Hunt's Bold Spirit, especially the first part of this super historical novel that focuses on the real life walk of mother and daughter to save their family farm. The rest of the story line centers predominantly on Clara, who learns so much about life; though much of her lessons are negative from her trek across the country with her mom. Readers will believe they have been transported in time and place as they walk the walk with the Estby duo and continue to accompany Clara a suffragette business woman who navigates a male only world populated with true believers that females belong in the kitchen and bedroom not the boardroom.

The Ale Boy's Feast
Jeffrey Overstreet
9781400074686, $14.99

Although the Cent Regus Beastmen have been defeated, the Seers of Bel Amica continue to destroy the beauty of the realm especially with the poisonous Deathweed. Jordam the Beastman tries to bring back the comatose near dead remains of House Abascar especially Rescue the firewalker ale boy as only he can lead them to salvation in the former hidden city of Inius Throan.

Milora leads others from tattered Abascar to the Promised Land Inius Throan. Also heading there is Abascar King Cal-raven who has lost his belief in the Keeper. The monarch's former tutor Scharr Ben Fray the stonemaster mage tries to keep the true Expanse history from being overwhelmed by revisionists fabricating threads while hoping to see a New Abascar rise from the ruins of the old order. None can make it to the ancient city yet all can make it to the ancient city.

The fourth and final Aurelia's Thread epic fantasy (see Raven's Ladder, Auralia's Colors and Cyndere's Midnight) is a great finish to a strong allegorical journey. The Ale Boy's Feast contains several rotating subplots that Jeffery Overstreet intertwines into a powerful tapestry as the key cast struggles with doubts while praying for a new start. Complicated and convoluted, this is a fitting climax to a fabulous multifaceted saga.

The Sandalwood Tree
Elle Newmark
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781416590590, $25.99,

In 1947, Jewish-American scholar Martin Mitchell earns a Fulbright grant to study Indian politics. He takes his Catholic wife Evaleen and their son Billy to Masoorla, Hindustan at a time when their marriage is shaky as he came back from the war a changed person.

Meanwhile Evie finds letters from the 1850s written by two foreign female occupants of the same house the Mitchell family resides in. The British women (Felicity and Adela) were concerned with the bloody Sepoy Revolt, but that takes a back seat to when Felicity becomes pregnant carrying her Sikh lover's child; while Evie worries about her family's safety after the Partition, but cannot stop researching what happened to Felicity and Adela.

This is an entertaining insightful look at India through the eyes of three women during two tumultuous eras. Thus the story line has a historiography feel as a 1947 American expatriate reads the letters written a century earlier by two British expatriates. The 1850s saga is the fresher subplot due to being less known today by most readers than the 1947 Independence days. Although the Mitchell marital woes wrap up to quickly, historical readers will feel transported to both eras by Elle Newmark's well written the Sandalwood Tree.

Warm Bodies
Isaac Marion
9781439192313, $24.00

Earth is dying due to global floods, wars that never end, riots and constant bombings. Seventy percent of America is dead, skeletal buildings lie vacant everywhere. There is no electricity and dwindling survivors hide behind barriers inside sturdy edifices like sports arenas and parks to keep out the newest planetary predator: zombies.

Nobody knows how these beasts first appeared, but one bite cause their victim to turn. They are sentient cannibals who decay with an odor of death emitting from their carcasses. R is one of these cretins, but he is a bit more compassionate than his species. He saves the life of Julie the human. R eats the brain of her boyfriend and obtains some of his memories of Julie, who he risks his life to keep safe. Together they create something that might, if allowed to blossom, reverse the path humans are traveling; that is if her father, who is behind zombie nation, and his minion does not kill them first.

This is not a typical zombie thriller as these reanimated dead are thinkers and not just senseless killing machines. Meeting Julie changes R; but the elder zombies recognize this and want him to live as he and his beloved may change the status quo for the good. R regains his lost human feelings especially when it comes to R and she reciprocates. Readers will enjoy this warm post apocalyptic tale as Isaac Marion provides a wonderful zombie love story; that is if this Romeo and Juliet couple survives the assaults by those who want them dead.

Sweet Possession
Maya Banks
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425239070, $15.00,

Former Marine Phillip Armstrong is at the end of his rope when the antics of his top pop star Lyric Jones led to the firing or quitting of her security staff. The record executive calls in the marine motto of never leave a comrade behind when he asks his brother in arms Pop Malone to provide personal protection to Lyric while she is on "vacation" in Houston. Pop informs his stunned son Connor he will take care of the music diva. While his sister Faith smirks, Connor objects pointing out that they install security systems not provide bodyguards.

Malone and Jones detest each other at first sight and state so to one another, but he loathes her nasty manager Paul much more. However, under their veneer of disgust is also a desire neither wants to admit as he is hard from her first scornful remark and she is upset with his obvious disappointment when he gazed past her glitzy veneer into who she truly is. Neither wants a second engagement, but the two marines pressure both. At the Cattleman's, she kisses him, leaving both shocked with need. As they fall in love, a betrayal to the media exposing her past leaves Lyric distrusting Connor.

The latest "Sweet" heated romance (see Sweet Temptation and Sweet Seduction) is a wonderful contemporary starring a caring male and a flawed female whose childhood leaves her unable to ever be alone. The story line is a commonly used theme, but the lead couple and the support cast including the villain make for a fresh brisk tale; as Maya Banks insists that a powerful mental healer is sharing love.

Lauren Dane
9780425239087, $15.00

The Imperium forces are creating a gizmo to destroy space portals. If successful it will devastate economies of most worlds as inert space travel would halt. A Depression would occur leaving countless people in trouble.

In Asphodel, the Federation Military's Phantom Corps leaders assign top assassin Andrei Solace to prevent the calamity from happening. To assist him, they hire his former girlfriend mercenary Piper Roundtree as his pilot. As they work together, eleven standard years since they last saw one another seem like last night; as their passion is hotter than a sun. However both understand the mission comes first though sex is not a distant second.

Readers will feel Laura Dane Mesmerized us with this exhilarating second chance in space military romantic science fiction. The story line is faster than Piper can pilot a vessel through canyons, but it is the relationship between the mercenary who has people depending on her and the military assassin who has a universe depending on him, who make the tale work. Sub-genre fans will enjoy the Phantom Corps entry (see Insatiable) as the only time out is for bickering and lovemaking.

Mercy Burns
Keri Arthur
Dell Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440245704, $7.99,

Mercy Reynolds trusts few people as she knows firsthand how treacherous others are especially towards a "Draman". Recently, the half air dragon's single digits were reduced by one when her best friend purebred sea dragon Rainey was murdered in a car incident in which Mercy was a passenger. Her BFF's homicide is hard enough for Mercy to accept, but the death precluded the rituals needed to enable Rainey to move on as dragons dead at sunrise without the ritual cannot. Mercy knows that if she can find and bring the killers to justice she can perform the rituals for Rainey to pass; five days left and counting to achieve the impossible San Francisco mission.

Damon Ray is trying to do his job of killing rogue purebreds and draman dragons who break the law. His current assignment has humiliatingly a draman helping him. However, worse is he is attracted to the half-breed while she refuses to back off as she is on a mercy mission for her beloved late buddy.

While Riley Jenson takes a deserved respite, Keri Arthur writes an engaging investigative romantic urban fantasy. Mercy is a terrific heroine whose objective is not vengeance but the purity of enabling her friend to move beyond this realm. Damon is more hard boiled even with his attraction as the audience will relish this paranormal tour of the streets of San Francisco in the second Myth and Magic thriller (see Destiny Kills).

The Silenced
Brett Battles
9780440245674, $7.99

As a Cleaner for hire Jonathan Quinn always feared his past will catch up to his present. So far he has been fortunate, but his luck runs out on his latest job. As Quinn mourns the death of a man he considered his father and worries about his mom, a client David Willis employs Jonathan and his crew to take care of something in the states and remove a long buried body from a London building about to be demolished.

However, the simple extraction proves deadly as more corpses surface. His girlfriend Orlando and his business partner Nate assist Quinn who realizes two groups are competing with dead people being the ante. The Cleaner and his associates know a joker has targeted him and guilt by association his teammates for cleansing too.

The fourth Cleaner thriller (see Shadow of Betrayal and The Deceived) is an exhilarating tale as the crew struggle to avoid being another Cleaner's cleaning. The international conspiracy is over the top of Big Ben, but fans of the series will not care as Quinn, Orlando and Nate are loose ends needing a deadly cleaning.

Shiver of Fear
Roxanne St. Claire
Forever Romance
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446566599, $7.99,

Devyn Hewitt Sterling remains shell shocked that her husband was a criminal who betrayed her. She is happy he is dead. Though raised by kind adopted parents, she wishes to know her biological parents. Sometimes you get what you she wish for as she learns who her birth father is; a fugitive.

As she thinks the acorn does not fall far from the tree, she travels to Belfast to warn her biological mother Dr. Sharon Greenberg that she could be in danger. Former FBI agent turned Guardian Angelino operative Marc Rossi is assigned to find and bring her home for their client the feds, but prefers keeping her safe in between kisses.

The second Guardian Angelinos romantic suspense (see Edge of Sight) is a terrific thriller as the lead coupling brings freshness to what would otherwise be a typical sub-genre frolic. Marc believes honesty is the only way to forge a relationship while Devyn fears telling him the truth will abort their relationship before it can get off the ground. Neither trusts the other, but the key to this taut thriller is not the lead pair, but her biological mom who is the target of her daughter, the Feds and some sleazy terrorists for differing reasons.

Never a Gentleman
Eileen Dreyer
9780446542067, $7.99

In 1815, as a military officer's daughter Miss Grace Fairchild knows her strengths and weaknesses before going into "battle" with each new posting by her father the General. To most men, she is way too tall and plain so she knows she will not marry.

However in Canterbury, she awakens one day nude in her bed to find a naked man in her bed while seemingly a unit of the Ton watched gleefully. Someone drugged and dumped Diccan Hilliard in Grace's bed. He knows they will marry, but Grace has yet to learn the rules of engagement amidst the Ton. As they begin to fall in love, Grace realizes her spouse conceals a dark secret from her linked to what she thought was a cruel prank, but now knows is something for deadlier.

The second Drake's Rakes (see Barely a Lady) is an enjoyable Regency romantic suspense with twists and spins bringing freshness to the over used caught in bed scandal leading to marriage ploy. The story line is fast-paced with a solid mystery subplot to enhance the romance between the lead married couple. Regency fans will appreciate Grace's snooping into what Diccan hides from her, as she fears what ugliness she will learn that he conceals.

The Sweetest Thing
Jill Shalvis
9780446571623, $7.99

Tara Daniels inherits an inn in Lucky Harbor, Washington along with her two half-sisters (Tara star of Simply Irresistible and Chloe) whom she never knew existed. The three women share the same mom but different fathers. The three siblings agree to try to run the B&B.

In Lucky Harbor, Tara also runs into her teenage sweetheart Ford Walker. When each was seventeen years old, they had a child that reluctantly but rightfully they gave up for adoption. Ford knows he never stopped loving Tara and regrets they had no choice but to give away their baby as they had no other options. However, his efforts for a second chance are impeded by her former husband, injured NASCAR driver Logan Parrish, arriving in Lucky Harbor to stake his second chance claims on his ex wife.

Second is the key number in this warm Pacific Northwest romance as this is book two in the Lucky Harbor half-sisters trilogy and the two men in Tara's past want another chance with her. Readers will enjoy the triangulation as jocularity and heat combine to make The Sweetest Thing a fun contemporary romance.

Blood Sin
Marie Treanor
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451232311, $14.00,

Scottish graduate student Elizabeth Silk struggles with what she caused in Dmitriu, Romania .while researching the legend of vampires. She accidently released Prince Saloman an ancient vampire (see Blood on Silk). They are attracted to one another and he is bound to her for freeing him, but Elizabeth also has learned that inside her arteries and veins, blood of vampire hunters flow; including her ancestor who "killed" Saloman.

However, his ancient sword becomes the heart of a blood bath between vampires and humans, as both sides want possession. While he refuses to allow either side to have the sword as he knows how vicious both species can be when in possession of power; Elizabeth trusts her beloved to do the right thing while she is pressured to choose sides.

The second An Awakened By Blood urban fantasy is an exciting action packed tale starring two engaging natural enemies in love. The story line starts slow, but accelerates once the Grand Master of the American order of Vampire Hunters makes his move and never looks back. With a fabulous twist and an aperient eternal set up for the next entry, sub-genre fans will enjoy Blood Sin wondering whether the Vampire Hunter will adhere to her DNA or her love.

Red Mortal
Deidre Knight
9780451232991, $7.99

Before he became an Immortal Warrior, King Leonides led the 300 Spartans in combat twenty-five centuries ago at Thermopylae. When he and six of his comrades died, they drank the water of Styx and made the vow that made them immortal but beholding to Ares the God of War. Now Leonides and the God of War's half-sister Daphne the Oracle of Delphi admit their love for one another, Ares punishes the Immortal Warrior by turning him into a mortal with an accelerated aging towards death.

Demon Centaur Sable is heading towards the light ever since he helped the warriors, but feels conflicted as he loves Sophie Lowery the seer. Ares offers him a deal to fulfill his desires, but which if accepted will betray his brothers in arms.

The final Gods of Midnight series is a great romantic urban fantasy with two touching complicated tales of love. The fast-paced story line hooks the audience from start to finish as do the previous Red tales (see Red Fire, Red Demon and Red Kiss). Leonides and Sable are epic heroes while the females they love are their equals. Readers will appreciate Deidre Knight's contemporary mythos-historical blending as love and war battle for supremacy.

Eternal Kiss
Laura Wright
9780451233844, $7.99

Although he detests what he has volunteered to do, Nicholas Roman remains resolute that his brother Lucien will not become a breeding male like their unknown dad was. Thus he agrees to work with the vampire Eternal Order instead though he loathes doing anything for this tyrannical group as he prefers living as a normal.

Female vampire Kate Everborne is near release having served her sentence for breaking the law in a vampire prison. However, she observes impure vampire Ethan Dare murder a female vampire. The dying female persuades Kate to escort her son Ladd to his pure-blood vampire father, Nicholas. Kate accompanies Ladd to his sire, but is caught in the crosshairs of a vampiric war between Dare and the Roman siblings.

The second Mark of the Vampire (see Eternal Hunger for Alexander Roman's tale) is a super urban romantic fantasy due to the powerful Wright mythos that makes the realm of the Eternal Order seem genuine and ergo readers will believe vampires exist. Nicholas and Kate are a fabulous pairing as she trusts no one except his siblings and she trusts no one as betrayal is the norm in her experience. Yet trust and reliance are needed if this pair is to not just survive, but to mate in love. This author clearly has the Wright stuff with the complicated world of the Roman vampire brothers.

Taken by the Prince
Christina Dodd
9780451413048, $7.99

Prim and proper Lady Victoria Cardiff came close to falling off a balcony, but rakish Raul Lawrence saved her life. After his rescue, they share a kiss.

In the dictatorial Principality of Moricadia, Victoria the governess accompanying her charge and Raul meet for the second time. They are attracted to one another, but he has no time for a female in his life though he loses focus on his mission and fears she may know his secret. Raul is both the long lost rightful Prince of Moricadia and the rebel leader Saber. As he leads the counter insurgency against the de Guignard tyrannical rule, he locks away Victoria to insure she cannot inform anyone what she knows and to keep the woman he loves safe from being used as a pawn by his enemies.

The latest Victorian Governess Bride romance continues the Moricadia arc (see In Bed With The Duke) with a warm tale of love. The rebellion subplot serves more as a catalyst of love than a suspense element though it does move forward the anticipated battle between freedom and tyranny. Readers will enjoy Victoria's Moricadia adventure as her heart is Taken by the Prince of the principality.

Vowed in Shadows
Jessa Slade
9780451232984, $7.99

When Jonah Walker was mortal he was a dedicated missionary doing the Lord's work. However, the pious Jonah has become immortal after a stint with a demon; but he finds his world filled with anger and violence. His biggest issue with adapting to his change is he misses his beloved wife and other family members as he welcomes death that can never come.

In Chicago Nim "Naughty Nymphette" Hamlin entered the underworld not of her own fruition as she never believed such a realm existed. She struggles with adapting her battered belief system that scoffed at demons existing to a new reality, but apparently she has enthralled one of them. As for Jonah the righteous, she knows she will never be his equal nor will she ever be his partner except in a battle against evil.

The latest Marked Souls urban romantic fantasy stars two compassionate flawed protagonists; each struggling with a radically different reality than what they believed for most of their lives. The story line is filled with action, but driven by the lead couple who at that first look were unsure whether heaven or hell took over their heart. Though a glossary and a Possession classification are included, to better understand the scope of the Slade Shadows saga readers should start with the previous entries in the mythos (see Forged of Shadows and Seduced of Shadows).

Flesh Eaters
Joe McKinney
Pinnacle Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21
New York, NY 10018-2522
9780786023608, $6.99,

First there was Rita; followed by Ike. Both were Category Five leaving a battered Houston barely surviving. Now a third Category Five hurricane Hector slams into the city followed by another even bigger storm Kyle. A secondary tidal wave hammered the city devastating chemical and oil containers. The dead were pushed by the contaminated rushing waters inland as far as forty-five miles from the city. Hurricane Mardel left the city underwater and the coastline moved several miles inland.

As the crisis turned pandemic, people showed their true colors including the Nortons and the Shaws. Houston is a dead zone and the Shaws dynamite an underwater bank and take seven million dollars. Eleanor, Jon and their teenage daughter Madison want to just leave the city. One thing prevents the family from escaping Houston: zombies. The toxic soup created a necrosis virus that is a big brother to Ebola. The creatures are cannibals who neither talk nor think. With their strange eyes they hunt humans to kill and multiply the new species who own the Gulf coast Texas.

Joe McKinney provides a scary prequel to Dead City and Apocalypse of the Dead as a series of hurricanes (ignoring the alpha order) devastate Houston leading to a zombie infestation. Filled with plenty filled of action, readers will enjoy the depth of the tale as the Norton brood try to survive.

Kevin O'Brien
9780786021376, $7.99

In Seattle Molly married Jeff Dennehy and for the next months lived in the home of her husband's ex wife Angela, who left him, the house and the kids. Angela has visitation rights and comes to the neighborhood quite frequently to see her friends who are frigid to Molly. Their coldness and the Cul-de-Sac Killer, who has murdered residents in similar homes, has Molly concerned about living in the complex.

Molly adores her two step-children Erin and Chris though they keep her at a wary distance. When Ray Corson, Chris' former counselor, is murdered, life in Willow Tree Court has become dangerous. The Cul-de-Sac Killer is interested in the families living there. However, the psychopath has a rival as someone else is also killing people in this cul-de-sac by imitating the infamous serial killer. Other deaths occur leaving everyone badly shaken, but the culprit has left the Dennehy household for last. However, the killer had not expected resistance from Molly and Chris who refuse to die without a fight.

Kevin O'Brien is a great thriller writer because of his ability to insure the targeted individuals seem real as they face danger. The Willow Tree Court residents are three dimensional with quirks and flaws so that when the predator strikes, the audience feels a neighbor has died. The story line is action-paced as the suspense grows tenser with each kill. Readers will cheer for courageous Chris and conscientious Molly as they begin to understand to kill or be killed.

Closer Than Blood
Gregg Olsen
9780786020454, $7.99

Beauty can mask evil with neither naturing nor nurturing matter when a person turns to the dark side. The perfect example is mirror twins Lainie and Tori. They were treated the same way by their parents but everyone who knew them realized Tori was a bad seed. Fifteen years ago the twins were driving on a rocky road in Kitsap County, Washington where teens raced for thrills; only one of the teens felt remorse for the death of their friend Jason.

Tori went to a juvenile facility and was released when she turned eighteen. She disappeared only to surface at her high school reunion. Her husband Alex Connelly was murdered and she was shot in the back. Toni made it to her neighbor's home. She calls her sis Lainie O'Neal asking her to come to Tacoma because the police suspect she killed her husband. The cops arrest Darius, a neighbor and an ex-lover as there is overwhelming evidence he was in her sister's home. County Sheriff's Detective Kendal Stark does not believe Darius is the killer just like she never accepted the story of Jason's demise years ago. She works the cases from fifteen years ago and today hoping to find the truth behind both deaths.

Ironically from the onset, the audience knows who the killer and how that person used sex to control many people. In spite of this advanced knowledge, Closer Than Blood is an exciting tale as Gregg Olsen still provides surprising twists and suspenseful spins. Readers will enjoy this drama as identifying the killer does not mean preventing the killings as Mr. Olsen keeps the reader hooked wondering if the culprit be stopped or at least exposed.

The Fallen Angel
David Hewson
Delacorte Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385341523, $25.00,

In Rome, British academic Malise Gabriel falls from scaffolding around his apartment. Police Detective Nic Costa watches the horror unfolding. At the same time Nic also observes Malise's son fire a gun into the air and meets Mina, the other offspring of the victim.

Costa is attracted to the musical Mina though frustrated by her refusal to tell him anything related to her father's death. He finds the other family members as silent as Mina when it comes to Malise's demise. Being obsessive compulsive when it comes to an investigation (and food), Costa keeps digging until he finds a link back to the late sixteenth century trial and brutal death of Beatrice Cenci and her infamous abusive father Francesco.

This is a superb Italian police procedural with a strong historical anchor as David Hewson deftly connects the execution of the real Beatrice to the present day Roman holiday. Regardless of whether it is 1599 or the twenty-first century, the subplots are fast-paced yet the key players are fully developed. Costa is at his best as he revises his hypothesis as to what has happened and what might occur if he fails to remain diligent.

Sleight of Hand
Peter S. Beagle
Tachyon Publications
1459 18th Street #139
San Francisco CA 94107
9781616960049, $14.99,

This anthology contains thirteen fascinating "family" fantasies in which three have not been published before; one was released as a podcast; and the remaining released in the last four years. The collection is terrific though my personal favorite is "The Rock In The Park" from (the Green Man Review podcast) as Montefiore, Gun Hill Road, Jerome Avenue (with the el) and Van Cortland remind me of growing up in a more mundane household in the 1950sand 1960s in the Bronx. I suggest reading back to back the whimsical title tale in which nurturing love is the strongest magical bond and its counterweight of smothering magical love is its only equal in "What Tune the Enchantress Plays". Other super strong entries include the dark crime thriller "The Bridge Partner", the aftermath of Jack's homicide in "Up The Down Beanstalk" and "The Rabbi's Hobby" as a child and his Rabbi notice a woman appearing magazine photos from decades ago. Whether it is New York, Hawaii ("The Children Of The Shark God") or "Oakland Dagon Blues (in which Mr. Beagle co-stars), these are all winners; topped off by the opening act of Schmendrick prior to The Last Unicorn in "The Woman Who Married The Man In The Moon".

Skeleton Crew
Cameron Haley
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373803262, $14.00,

Los Angeles street smart and kick butt tough Domino Riley continues to serve as the lieutenant to six millennia old Sumerian gang boss Shanar Rashan having faced several paranormal Mob Rule challenges to her position (see Mob Rule and Retribution in the Harvest Moon anthology). However, even she is unprepared for the zombie horde that appears ready to dominate Southern California. To prevent L.A. from becoming Zombieland, Domino needs to rescue the sacred dogs who carry souls to the other side.

In her way and that of her team are demons who prefer the old order overturned with chaos as only zombies can do. Besides dealing with zombies, demons, and some unmentionables, Domino also must look inside her heart to how deeply she feels about her attraction to her employer's son Adan.

The latest Underworld Cycle urban fantasy is an entertaining often jocular story mostly due to the hard-boiled heroine whose only soft spot is Adan; a feeling she feels ranks not much above the flu as she seeks resistance to the love bug. The cast is very powerful and Cameron Haley's vision of Los Angeles is superb as this feminist Noir makes the thin plot fun for sub-genre fans who will enjoy Domino and her odd team battle a Skeleton Crew (and a few other evil dudes).

Spirit Dances
C.E. Murphy
9780373803255, $14.95

Fifteen months of baptism under fire has led Joanne Walker to feel a bit more confident that she has the right stuff to be a shaman and a Seattle police detective although her use of her gun has her on edge while under a three day full pay suspension during the inquiry. The Troll Lady she saved thanks her with two tickets to a Native American dance gala. She asks her boss Police Captain Michael Morrison to accompany her and he accepts. Whereas, she needs rubber underwear for this assignment that she calls a date (and he just a concerned boss with his distraught employee) which makes the Urban Shamans think her battles with the Walking Dead and the Demon Hunt seem kindergarten.

During the transformative performance, Joanne begins to turn into a coyote until a dancer falls to the stage. The dancer is dead. Joanne learns that the homeless are vanishing without a cause. As she looks into the seemingly mystical death of the performer and why the homeless vanished, the Urban Shaman works the Seattle underground where a deadly creature resides that logically she knows cannot be real.

The sixth Walker Papers urban fantasy see demon Hunts) is a crossroads thriller as the heroine finds herself struggling between her two roles of coop during the day and shaman at night; as Michael asks her why didn't she use the magic instead of the gun. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the dancer dies and never slows down as the shaman cop spins into a Coyote while her heart is pounding. Fans of the series will be stunned by the great late twist; next stop to follow.

Born of Shadows
Sherrilyn Kenyon
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446573252, $21.99,

Caillen watched his father a smuggler killed. He takes his responsibility as the man of the house seriously though he wants to strangle his pain in the butt demanding sisters. He is elated that Sharhara and his friend Syn are married (see Born of Fire), but wants to kill Kasen, whose activities have left Caillen on the verge of execution.

However, he is saved when the court realizes he is the kidnapped son of Emperor Evzen. Caillen struggles with being a Prince and adjusting to a new royal family. However, he has little time to learn as someone tries to assassinate his biological father.

Royal Guard Desideria Denarii, daughter of Qillag Queen Sarra, has pledged to keep her mother safe from assassins. A murder attempt on her mom leaves her and Caillen trapped on an enemy's planet with both their empires in trouble from coups.

The latest Born of League outer space thriller (see Born of Ice) is loaded with action, intrigue, action, romance and more action as assassins seem everywhere. The lead couple makes the exhilarating adventure work beyond being a space opera survival quest as each is fully developed and brings pathos to their relationship. Readers will enjoy touring the Kenyon League cosmos escorted by two royal guides.

The Realm of Hungry Spirits
Lorraine Lopez
Grand Central
9780446549639, $13.99

Growing up in a devout fundamentalist household, thirtyish schoolteacher Marina Lucero has gone the complete opposite of her dogmatic parents as she has grave doubts about organized religion. Instead she turns to the Dalai Lama for spiritual enlightenment.

However, heeding to the Dalai's code to care for the downtrodden proves difficult. The dependents at school, in the neighborhood and her family take their toll on her mental state. Her former boyfriend shows chutzpah when he arrives with his list after dumping her on Valentine's Day. Her sister makes demands of her though offers nothing in return except more demands. Rudy's best friend, a Santeria priest, threatens to give her the evil eye if she fails to fill his order. As her life implodes and tragedies occur, Marina wonders what she did to deserve this; her self-deprecating answer is being the sucker Good Samaritan; so she knows it is time for no more Ms. nice guy as she needs to cleanse her soul.

This is an amusing dark lampooning of the Good Samaritan who tries to be there for everyone else, but has no time to take care of herself. This work is satirical as the support cast keeps making demands on the protagonist who fails to say no even to those who hurt or threaten her. Although the story line is too long as the demand and supply becomes too frequent, fans will enjoy this dark jocular satire as readers conclude that even the Dalai Lama would retire rather than deal with her demanding crowd.

The Sixth Man
David Baldacci
Grand Central
9780446573108, $27.99

Former Secret service Agent Sean King believes he owes his former mentor lawyer Ted Bergin big time. So Sean feels good when his friend hires him and his partner Michele Maxwell to help in the defense of alleged serial killer Edgar Roy.

Edgar is being held in an isolated supermax psychiatric facility where the most dangerous criminal psychopaths are incarcerated. He was caught in his barn and soon after authorities found the remains of six bodies he was digging a grave for. A genius who worked for the IRS, Edgar left his job to work somewhere else. Sean and Michele drive to meet Ted when they see flashing hazard lights on an isolated road. They stop to see if the driver needs help only to find inside Ted who is dead. Determined to avenge his friend's murder, Sean and Michele dig deep into the Edgar case, but the more they uncover, the more they learn that the inmate has incredibly powerful enemies at the top levels of government who want him dead without a trial. As people associated with Edgar are murdered and attempts on the two sleuths increase, several groups have plans for Edgar.

The latest King-Maxwell investigative thriller (see Split Second and First Family) is a terrific action-packed tale that explodes on the first page and intensifies to such a degree that the armchair reader will believes our lives are in peril too. While the relationship between the lead sleuths is tested, fans will wonder if this could be figuratively be the end as partners. In spite of a conspiracy seemingly over the top of the Washington Monument, David Baldacci shows his talent by convincing the audience that this thriller is true crime.

The Moses Quest
Will Adams
Grand Central
9780446563215, $7.99

In Alexandria, Egypt Archeologist Daniel Knox walks in a local market place when he notices what appears to be an ancient earthenware bowl. The teenage vendor insists the artifact was given to him by his friend Daniel Knox and once belonged to Alexander the Great. He is amused by the hawker as everyone claims to be his buddy since The Alexander Cipher case. The lad sets prices based on pure supply and demand of how much he perceives the customer can afford, but refuses to reveal where it was found.

Knox visits his friend Omar Tawfiq who lets him browse through his database. He finds a picture of it, but Omar explains it is not a bowl from Ancient Egypt; instead it is a storage jar lid from Qumran, home of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Soon that lead takes the excited Knox to a dig led by Reverend Ernest Peterson and his team of theological students who seek a portrait of Christ that Peterson plans to keep. As a murder of a native archeologist occurs, corrupt cops blame Knox while the beleaguered Egyptologist learns in horror from his cell that his partner Gaille Bonnard was abducted near the ruins of Amarna, several hundred miles away

This reprint of The Exodus Quest retitled The Moses Quest contains a strong ancient historical base that comes alive in the fast-paced over the top of the Sphinx entertaining antiquities thriller. Readers will enjoy the hero's hyperactive adventures in which he is a guest of the state, but needs to be in three other places at the same time. First he must rescue himself by proving his innocence, which is difficult to do when you're in a cell; so that he can second rescue Gaille; and third rescue the artifacts being devastated unmercifully by the Reverend. No caffeine for Knox.

Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders
Gyles Brandreth
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781439153680, $14.00,

In 1890 the elite of English aristocratic society attend a party hosted by Duchess Albemarle. The next day, the news reported the Duchess died over night from a heart attack.

In fact the press was fed false information to avoid a panic. Albemarle was found in the telephone room partially naked with cuts all over her body and two puncture holes in the jugular vein area. The Prince of Wales directs fellow attendees Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle to investigate the murder discreetly to prevent a scandal. While reporter Robert Sherard makes inquires as he believes the media has been duped, the two writers encounter theater manager Bram Stoker and artist Rex LaSalle who insists he is a vampire.

The latest Oscar Wilde late Victorian investigation is an engaging whodunit but the rotating perspective makes the story line more difficult to follow than the previous mysteries (see Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man's Smile, and Oscar Wilde and a Game Called Murder). Wilde and Doyle are a fascinating match-up as two witty writers who have a different vision of Victorian England. They make the tale fun in spite of the seemingly unnecessary complicated changes in viewpoint.

Aunt Dimitry & the Family Tree
Nancy Atherton
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780670022434, $24.95,

Following some time in New Zealand (see Aunt Dimitry Down Under), Lori Shepard returns to her home village Finch in the Cotswolds. Meanwhile her affluent father-in-law William Arthur Willis Sr. has retired from the Boston based family law firm he ran for years and has moved nearby to spend time with his seven years old twin grandchildren, son and daughter-in-law.

Lori helps William hire a live-in couple Deirdre and Declan Donovan as cook and groundskeeper. She also assists her in-law with a meet the neighbors' party. However, strange things occur after Willis moved into Fairworth; the furniture moves and unexplained noises happen. Lori asks her amateur sleuth partner Aunt Dimity the ghost to help investigate what appears to be the paranormal. At the same time baker Sally Pyne returns from Mexico begging the American for help. In North America, she met Henrique Cocinero, who is coming to see her, but lied by telling him she is Lady Sarah of Fairworth House.

The latest Aunt Dimitry tale is more a comedy of errors looking at a Boston Brahmin invading an English village rather than a murder mystery. The story line is brisk and jocular as William the red Sox fan tries to help Lady Sarah pull off her ruse while his grandchildren know cricket not baseball. Fans will enjoy this lighthearted amusing paranormal cozy, but the bumps in the night (and day) are minor league compared to what Aunt Dimitry has dealt with in previous whodunits.

Angel Sister
Ann H. Gabhart
c/o Baker Publishing Group
PO Box 6287
Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
9780800733810, $14.99,

In 1930s Kentucky Preston Merritt is the most powerful person in town. However, since his favorite son died in a drowning accident, he has become cold and nasty even towards his surviving offspring. His son Victor marries Nadine, daughter of Reverend Orrin Reece before he went off to fight. When he came back from the war he was not the same, but he still loves his wife though he loves alcohol as much or more.

They have three children. The oldest Evie falls in and out of love while the youngest Tori is a tomboy of sorts. The middle daughter Kate is the responsible one trying to take care of the family especially her dad when he comes home intoxicated.

Six years old Lorena Birdsong is abandoned by her parents on the steps of Rosey Corner Church. Her mom says an angel will soon come for her. So when Kate finds her, Lorena assumes this is her angel. The Merritt family takes the child in, but the townsfolk decide Victor cannot care for his family so Lorena will be taken from them and placed with a wealthy family.

Although Kate is the glue that holds the wonderful storyline focused, the ensemble cast is fully developed in this terrific historical Christian family drama. Each has flaws, which turn worse as their troubles mount while their faith in God wanes until it seems it will take real angels dancing with the joy of a miracle to keep the extended family (to include the abandoned Lorena) together. Readers will appreciate this inspirational rural Americana Depression Era tale.

The Enterprise of Death
Jesse Bullington
Orbit Books
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316087346, $14.99,

Awa the Moorish slave is tossed out of her home in Grenada. A necromancer captures her and orders her to learn his skills though she prefers not to but she has no choice. Finally Awa escapes only to find out the mage knew she would flee and cursed her.

Awa has a decade to find the necromancer's tome or lose her soul. The arcane book can be anywhere. Not one to give up, Awa begins her quest. As time keeps on ticking into an apparent soulless future, her search looks futile. Still, Awa makes friends and allies to include painter Niklaus Manuel Deutsch who pays for his supplies by hiring out as a morbid mercenary and Monique the lesbian gunsmith madam as well as Dr. Paracelsus the alchemist, some paranormal essences (at least that is what assumed by Awa the cursed Moor) and a few normal beings.

Not for those with weak stomachs, The Enterprise of Death is an amusing vividly gruesome lampooning of the horror fantasy combine. Awa is terrific as she holds the grisly story line focused while she learns life's lesson that quitting is more difficult than continuing. Manuel feels remorse as to how he funds his morbid art while Awa's plight has made her his muse. The rest of the key players enhance Awa's desperation. Readers who enjoy a dark jocular historical horror fantasy will want to join Awa on her odyssey to keep her soul.

The Neon Court or The Betrayal of Matthew Swift
Kate Griffin
9780316093644, $19.99

London is trapped inside the eternal night with neighborhoods vanishing one after another. War is imminent between the Neon Court and the Tribe; besides being enemies for seemingly ever, a daimyo was murdered. The only hope to prevent the hostilities between two magical user groups from igniting is the electrical magician Matthew "The Midnight Mayor" Swift. He has shown the ability to protect London from various paranormal threats including A Madness of Angels, but he fears he will not be able to stop the war.

However, Matthew has been ordered to come to a nearby burning tower where the corpse of his associate Oda the Warrior of The Order lies. She has a hole and Matthew's symbol as the Midnight Mayor drawn in her blood; yet she walks and talks while trying to kill Swift. As the night turns darker, Lady Neon is coming to London while unknown phenomena hunt for a monster that burns the eyes of victims and the dead woman still walking and talking.

This is an exciting Swift fantasy (see A Madness of Angels and The Midnight Mayor) as the electrical sorcerer deals with big issues trying to prevent a war and personal issues trying to save his friend from killing him. Loaded with tons of action mostly of a paranormal kind that at times supersedes the plight of the hero, readers will enjoy Matthew Swift's tightrope as otherworldly occurrences threatens his city and definitely his well-being.

The Stone of Destiny
Jim Ware
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434764645, $14.99,

In St. Halistan at Santa Piedra Middle School student Morgan Izzak diligently studies his father's ancient tomes on the Philosopher's Stone and visits Madame Medea for help. That is when he is not eluding bullies at school and failing to properly navigate the convoluted social caste system. With his mother Mavis suffering form cancer, Morgan hopes to find the magical stone his dad references and use it to cure his mom.

His only friend Eny Ariello listens to Morgan's desperation to find the Philosopher's Stone, but offers a different idea. Eny believes the Irish Stone of Destiny is in their town. The two middle school kids begin a quest to find that stone, but rivals want the Irish Stone of Destiny too. As nasty giants and other evil beasts chase them, Morgan betrays his BFF and apparently lost the Irish Stone of Destiny too.

This is a fabulous parable fantasy in which the young hero learns from his mistakes, which pile on one after another, to keep the faith. Morgan turns to magic ignoring medicine and God in his quest for a miracle. He will understand that for the Grace of God, his errors sum into a goodness though he is filled with remorse especially with his betrayal and his inability to find the magical elixir; in fact he seems to make things worse for everyone though he keeps trying. Readers will enjoy his escapades as he searches for a magical cure for his dying mom, who ironically is a true believer.

Shake, Murder and Roll
Gail Oust
Obsidian Mystery
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451231987, $7.99,

Serenity Cove Estates, South Carolina is a retirement community where Kate McCall chose to live after her husband retired. When he died, she stayed there making friends with several women who formed the Bunco Babe's squad because they love playing the dice game of the same name. Retirement villages are normally serene, but Kate does not know the meaning of the word as she has been involved in two homicide cases that she solved (see Whack and Roll and "Till Dice Do Us Part).

Another death occurs when Dr. Sheila Rapport, host of a cable gardening show, gives a talk at Serenity Cove. In the middle of her speech, Sheila collapses. Her companion Dr. Vaughn Bascomb has a more serious reaction and dies. When Sheila recovers, she tells Kate they were poisoned. Knowing Kate's track record, she asks her to find out the killer is though she assumes it is a stalker. Kate uncovers a horde of suspects with means, motive and opportunity for one of the pair, but who wanted both dead remains just out of reach until the culprit tries to kill Kate.

Putting aside the fact that Kate risks her life as a sub-genre hazard, she and the women in the retirement community are energetic and active. Kate is a believable character who refreshingly admits she addicted to homicide investigation. Her love life adds pizzazz to the mix as Kate like the other Buncos babes roll the dice on murder.

The Wedding Shawl
Sally Goldenbaum
9780451233196, $24.95

In Sea Harbor, Massachusetts, the Seaside Knitters (Nell, Birdie and Cass) are knitting a wedding shawl for Izzy Chambers who is getting married to her beloved Sam in June. Izzy's Aunt Nell oversees the wedding preparations since her sister can not do it. They take a break to hear an author talk about a cold case. Harmony Farrow died on her graduation night fifteen years ago off of nearby quarry water. There was a lack of evidence to charge anyone with the crime including her boyfriend Andy who was not there to witness her deadly tumble.

The wedding's hair stylist is murdered in her basement office in the salon where she worked. The Seaside Knitters learn Tiffany Ciccolo was Harmony's best friend and was dating Andy before the murder. The police consider Tiffany's death as a separate matter from the homicide of Harmony. The Knitters believe differently as they investigate the cases as if they are linked. While they make inquiries planning to uncover the culprit's identity before the nuptials, the killer reacts by slicing their tires and painting a warning message on Izzy's door. The assault only compels the four females to work harder on catching the killer.

The colorful New England coastal atmosphere enhances the entertaining charming cozy. Like the Knitters readers believe Andy is innocent of both homicides, but is the link between the murders of the two females. However, besides dating both, the Knitters struggle to find why someone besides Andy would kill the two young ladies. The wedding Shawl is a fun regional Seaside Knitters amateur sleuth who done it(see A Holiday Yarn).

Pumped for Murder
Elaine Viets
9780451233202, $23.95

After settling most of her legal problems in St. Louis, Helen Hawthorne reclaims her identity and marries her lover Phil. They met when both rented apartments in the Coronado Tropic Complex. They also decide to open up their own private investigative firm with an office in one of the apartments they are leasing thanks to a landlady who believes in them so only charges them a fee of, $1 per year for the rental.

After recommendations from their neighbors, two clients hire them. Gus the car mechanic thinks someone years ago murdered his brother although the police ruled his death a suicide. Shelby wants them to determine whether her husband is cheating on her at Fantastic Fitness where he spends most of his time. Helen obtains a dead end job as a receptionist at Fantastic Fitness. While she never sees her client's husband philandering with women, she sees a lot of illegal activity including steroid use by body building competitors. One of the women training for a competition is murdered and a bull-headed cop abuses an elderly and the timid woman and then arrests her.. Helen vows to find the real killer while she and Phil work on satisfying their paying customers.

Phil a licensed P.I trains his wife so she can also be certified as their professional and personal relation adds a new dimension to the long running Dead-End Job mystery (see Killer Cuts and Clubbed to Death). The two paying cases and the third unofficial inquiry are filled with action as the fascinating cases rotate prime focus. Elaine Viets provides another great mystery worth reading as even with her name cleared; the heroine ends up working a dead-end job; albeit undercover.

Mothers and Daughters
Rae Meadows
Henry Holt & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400
New York, NY 10010-7725
9780805093834, $25.00,

In Madison, Wisconsin thirtyish Sam struggles with the recent death of her mother Iris just before giving birth to her daughter. She is unable to move past the roles of grieving daughter and supermom. Her husband Jack is alienated by her abnormal behavior and her inability to give him any time. Sam knows he is right and tries to do otherwise, but is unable to generate any energy involving going back to work.

Sam receives a box of her late mom's mementos. This includes information on her maternal grandmother Violet that she never knew occurred. Violet grew up as a neglected child wandering the streets of the Bronx until her indigent mom placed her on the Children's Aid Society's orphan train heading to the Midwest when she was eleven. Learning more about Violet enables Sam to understand her late mom much more than when Iris was alive.

Moving back and before in time, this is an entertaining look at the relationships between Mothers & Daughters. Character driven by the three generations of females, the story line is at its freshest following the journey of Violet from a New York street urchin to her new life in the Midwest. Although the males in their lives seem emaciated compared to the three women, readers will appreciate this well written family drama.

The School of Night
Louis Bayard
Henry Holt
9780805090697, $25.00

Elizabethan scholar Henry Cavendish declared the poem by Raleigh as genuine only to later be humiliated when it is proven to be a fake. His career dead, he takes whatever work he can scrape up to get by. His only friend is historical document collector Alonzo Wax, but Henry is stunned when his crony commits suicide and he is named as the estate executor. Before he killed himself, Alonzo informed Henry that he possesses a segment of a letter that discusses the secret School of Night, where five Elizabethan intellects heretically debated theology of the Black Arts vs. science.

Henry leans that Wax revealed his secret to Clarissa Dale who claims a psychic connection to one of those late sixteenth century scholars Thomas Harriot the scientist. Antique book collector Bernard Styles insists the letter is his as he accuses Wax of theft. Soon a murder occurs and the Wax collection is stolen. Henry and Clarissa team up to follow clues to the North Carolina Outer Banks where a shocker awaits them as they follow the trail of Harriot and his lover Margaret Crookenshanks.

This is a super amateur sleuth with a refreshing subplot involving the actual School of Night real persona; Harriot for instance was a genuine scientist and readers heard of Marlowe and Rolfe. The story line is fast-paced in both eras with the modern period containing several superb twists. Louis Bayard provides an entertaining intelligent thriller as readers travel with Henry have just begun in North Carolina.

An Ocean Away
Lisa Harris
Summerside Press
9781609361075, $12.99,

In 1921 in Northern Rhodesia, Lizzie MacTavis continues to provide the Lord's word to the locals. She is dedicated to God and to people residing along the Zambezi River.

Anthropologist and explorer Andrew Styles is hired to locate Lizzie and escort her back to New York. When he finds her in Southern Africa, he tries to persuade her to come home. She refuses as she feels her work is here. However, Andrew explains back in America, she has a fortune that can help her adopted impoverished people. Thus, Lizzie reluctantly and tearfully leaves even while vowing to return. In New York, Lizzie is unprepared for falling in love with an unbeliever who may be her enemy and with someone trying to kill her in so called civilized America.

This is an intriguing historical thriller starring a caring missionary who feels safer in Rhodesia than she does in the jungle of New York. Lizzie is terrific as she firmly believes God wants her to remain in Africa, but Andrew makes a convincing case she can do more if she goes home; which she counters is Rhodesia. Though An Ocean Away lacks the intensity of the Mission Hope thriller Blood Ransom (few novels do), readers will enjoy this engaging 1920s tale with its message to embrace God rather than running away from the Lord even when a tragedy strikes a loved one.

Love Finds You in Tombstone, Arizona
Miralee Ferrell
Summerside Press
9781609361044, $12.99,

Christy Grey fled Tombstone, Arizona seeking a new beginning in California (see Love Finds You in Last Chance, California). In 1881, her brother Joshua sends a wire asking Christy to come home to help with their ailing mom. Dutiful and caring, she travels by stagecoach only to robbed and shot in her arm by the bandits.

When she reaches Tombstone, Christy finds her brother addicted to gambling and no help to their sick mom. Having lost her money to the stagecoach robbers, she desperately needs to bring in cash. The only place willing to hire Christy is the gambling halls; just what she ran away from in the first place. She meets and recognizes Nevada King, who was involved in the holdup. They are attracted to one another and he would love to settle down with Christy, but besides the robbery, a gang of outlaws want him dead.

The key to this Americana romance is Christy who as a single woman with a dancehall past struggles with her virtues as most males feel she is open season. Character driven by the courageous Christy and real persona like Doc Holiday and events like the stagecoach robbery, readers will appreciate this Love Finds You in a wonderful historical novel as Miralee Ferrell brings to life living as a single female in a frontier mining town just before the famous shootout.

Attack of the Vampire Weenies
David Lubar
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765323453, $15.99,

With "Attack of the Vampire Weenies: And Other Warped and Creepy Tales" David Lubar has released another humorous horror anthology aimed at middle school readers. The thirty tales are spooky but contain no blood or slashing. The stories are short, but gripping as the young audience will enjoy the brisk reading experience.

The title entry stars a boy sick of the fake vampires especially his sister and her boyfriend and decides to teach the "undead" a biting lesson. "The Ride of a Lifetime" focuses on Zack who wants to ride the Titanium Tempest, but his family prevents him so he pulls off a stunt for a midnight ride only to know he wants off immediately. Particularly amusing is "Chirp" who turns into different birds when he says "Chirp", but will soon make a potentially fatal mistake. Jacob is disgusted with the workers lazing around until he complains and learns what their "Roadwork" is missing. In "Lost and Found", Dale and Kirby find an expensive handkerchief with a series of symbols sewn into it that has them take it a grateful Xantin who is euphoric and glad to have two boys inside his house of horrors.

The other contributions are as scary and funny whether it is in the school gym or running a train, as Mr. Lubar provides an amusing compilation.

Shadow Chaser
Alexey Pehov
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765324047, $25.99

Shadow Harold and his team are trying to understand what it means for him to be the destined Dancer in the Shadows as they seek the horn to save their land from the horrific Nameless One Dark Lord. They trek towards Hrad Spein, an impregnable place that no army, even that of wizards let alone a small impoverish cell, has breached. If they reach the dark underground palace and are able to enter only Shadow Harold can complete the journey.

While they march forward, frightening adversaries pursue them. Besides The Nameless One, another Dark Lord the Master also wants to gain access to the legendary grim tomb. Their respective hordes give chase. As the Shadows leave behind fallen comrades they fight for their lives against nasty ogre, elves, the Dark One's minion, and a worse malevolence with extraordinary power.

The second Chronicles of Siala (see Shadow Prowler) is an enjoyable quest fantasy that uses humor to diffuse the heart of battle. The story line is at its best at the moments the tension is high; for instance when a teammate dies. The jocularity fails to translate very well (assuming it works in Russian) and only slows down an otherwise fine thriller held together by the beleaguered Shadow Harold.

The Crippled God
Steven Erikson
9780765316561, $19.99

What is left of the Bonehunters Army of the Malazan Empire is a battered unit who were devastated by the Chain Nah'Ruk. Their resolute leader Adjunct Tavore Paran knows the morale of her soldiers is mutinous as most want to go home to die. However, though she expects treachery and assassination from within, she relentlessly marches on with one last prayer that she hopes grasps victory from certain defeat.

She understands humanity has to prevent the pandemic annihilation by the Forkrul Assail Elder Gods, who plan species cleansing through the liberation of Korabas the Otataral Dragon. The only chance Paran and company have resides with another deity. Paran and her army must liberate The Forgotten God, imprisoned by the Elder Gods for over 15,000 millennia. The Adjunct like the Watch expect to die, as Paran knows even if they somehow succeed to free the Crippled God, they still have no binds to control the enraged deity.

Although it behooves the newcomer to have read the decade in the making ten book saga, at a minimum the audience needs to peruse the previous tale (see The Dust of Dreams) as that is the pre-set up (The Crippled God has a lengthy set-up anyway) to the ending novel. Loaded with action, fans will enjoy the climax once Steven Erikson starts the final days. Once again the theme is a person's heart as symbolized by courageous Paran who offers nothing to make her an extemporary leader except her soul. She and her everyman soldiers, though they will be forgotten by history as no minstrels will recall their names, are the heroes of the wars declared by elder armchair leaders.

The Dark Zone
Dom Testa
9780765321107, $16.99

When the tail of the comet Bhaktul passed through the Earth's atmosphere, it left behind toxic particles that caused a fatal disease for anyone over eighteen years old. To prevent human extinction as those turning eighteen caught the disease also, a bold plan to send 251 chosen teenagers led by Triana to fly a spacecraft the Galahad to the distant Eos solar system began (see The Comet's Curse).

They deal with a stowaway, meet the Cassini aliens on a Jupiter moon (see The Web of Titan) and navigate though the hazardous Kuiper Belt (see The Cassini Code). Although the crew expects smooth sailing once they clear the Belt, they are met by strange vulture-shaped organisms. Unsure whether the entities are sentient and friendly, biological or mechanical the Council agrees to move ahead with the mission. Still they capture one of the essences leading to a series of mistakes as a crew member dies on board and another human makes a unilateral decision that impacts survivability on the Galahad.

Dom Testa continues his powerful teen suspense science fiction space opera as a potential new danger greets the earth travelers. The teens have become increasingly cohesive though they come from a variety of cultures and nations as they deal with perilous adventures. They prove dedicated and responsible and need the success of their mission. The story line contains numerous subplots involving the personal needs of the crew, but also moves forward the overarching major theme of travel through unknown space in a terrific odyssey.

Dark Jenny
Alex Bledsoe
9780765327437, $14.99

In Neceda a coffin delivered to Eddie LaCrosse at Angelina's Tavern during a blizzard leads him to tell a tale from his youth when he was a private sword jockey investigator. Seven years ago Eddie was on Grand Bruan Island, a monarchy ruled by King Marcus Drake. He was tracking down a runaway husband Ken, Lord Astamore for his client Fiona an island noblewoman. At Nodlan castle, Sam Patrice a Knight of the Double Tarn dies from eating a poisoned apple. The attendees assume it was intended for Queen Jennifer, suspicion falls on the outsider who explains he has no motive or opportunity and that the target was fruit fetish eater Thomas Gillian.

Eddie persuades Big Robert that he did not commit the homicide. He volunteers with a lot of insistence by Big Robert to investigate the murder as the Knight explains that those at the gala believe Queen Jennifer is the assassin. Confusing Eddie is her Highness' protector Elliott Spears and the monarch's advisory mage Cameron Kern are missing.

With a terrific Camelot Noir, the latest Eddie LaCrosse hard boiled detective case (see The Sword Edged Blonde and Burn Me Deadly) is an amusing fantasy whodunit. The story line is fast-paced, loaded with action and plenty of jocular acerbic asides by the hero. Readers will enjoy this entertaining whodunit while like the tavern patrons and owner wonder who is inside the coffin and why the delivery, especially in this weather, came to the private sword jockey.

William Peter Blatty
9780765327130, $14.99

Georgetown Police Lieutenant Kinderman investigates the homicides committed by a serial killer who reminds him of San Francisco's Gemini killer. The case is personal as one of the victims is his friend Father Dyer (see Exorcist) brutally murdered in a hospital. The problem Kinderman faces is that in spite of the identical vicious homicides occurring, the perpetrators in each case are a different person.

Thinking back to his experience with Father Dyer over a dozen years ago, Kinderman wonders if the evil spirit of Gemini is serial possessing people and forcing the host to kill. He follows the clues until they take him to a locked in isolation mental patient.

This is a reprint of the 1983 sequel to The Exorcist though with a different less graphic but much more nastier and lethal spin to the evil. The cast especially obsessed Kinderman are fully developed though his debates with himself and with anyone who would listen for more than a nanosecond become tedious as he keeps reiterating the same theological paradox of a kind God allowing evil to thrive. Still fans of the original book will enjoy William Peter Blatty's exciting sequel.

Central Park Knight
C.J. Henderson
9780765320841, $15.99

After he saved the world twice, the Men in Black abduct Brooklyn Museum curator Piers Knight, his former girlfriend Tian Lu, and museum intern George Rainert. They are taken to Washington DC where agents are putting together a defense plan against an expected dragon invasion.

They already have an assortment of weapons, mundane and magical to throw at the ancient menace. However, whether they use magic powders or missiles, the enemy is extremely powerful soaring through the skies while tossing fire at targets. Thus the Feds added Brooklyn Knight to the team as he has a proven success rate against impossible odds vs. invincible adversaries.

This is an over the top of the Coney Island Cyclone and the Brooklyn Bridge pulp fiction in which readers, who ignore plausibility, will be caught up in the frantic pace to save the world several times in one thriller. In fact boomer fans will sing the theme song to Mighty Mouse as Knight "comes to save the day". Faster than a subatomic particle in a super collider, readers will enjoy Central Park Knight as the hero and his two cohorts struggle to prevent global extinction.

The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man
Mark Hodder
59 John Glenn Drive
Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616143596, $16.00,

In sort of 1862 in Trafalgar Square, someone abandons a clockwork brass man. The King's agent Sir Richard Francis Burton and his sidekick poet Algernon Swinburne investigate as the object is linked to the stolen Garnier Collection of black diamonds thought to be from the Lemurian Eye of Naga meteorite. Their inquiry leads to the Tichborne Claimant.

A man claims that he is wealthy heir Roger Tichborne, who allegedly died at sea. Burton investigates this Tichborne while rioting amongst the lower class has broken out tied to this grotesque odd individual; anyone who knew the aristocrat before he was lost at sea would never recognize him as this claimant. However this Tichborne pretender in spite of one syllable one word droning responses somehow has the support of the angry lower class. The case turns crazier than time changing as Burton and Swinburne begin to connect dots of an insidious scheme that threatens the Empire and their sanity.

The sequel to The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack is a terrific alternative historical thriller that is anchored by real nineteenth century persona like Florence Nightingale and Charles Doyle. Burton is a wonderful protagonist who knows destiny tilted as he remains haunted by some nefarious things he did. Herbert Spencer is a key character helping the lead duo stay focused on deciphering the clues of what increasingly appears is a plan to set the sun forever on the British Empire. Although it pays to read Spring Heeled Jack first as that sets the table, the Clockwork Man is more than just a middle book as adventures of Burton and Swinburne keep on occurring while time is running out on them.

Black Halo
Sam Sykes
9781616143558, $16.00

Lenk the Swordsman and his dysfunctional band of mercenaries (Kataria, Dreadaleon, Denaos, Asper and Gariath) succeeded in retrieving the Tome of the Undergates. They now sail for home to insure the Kraken Queen Ulbecetonth cannot obtain the dangerous relic by giving it to their current employer Miron for safekeeping. As the sea voyage takes forever, tension between the former six allies goes stratospheric. Thus, when disaster strikes as an Akaneed attacks their ship, each reaches land on their own.

On a seemingly deserted island, the six are separated and apparently stranded. Each is unsure they want to team up again with the others though logically they know that is the only way to go home. Even when they see the eerie remains of war dead and encounter a philosophy spouting monkey, the obstinate teammates fail to unite.

The second Aeons' Gate quest fantasy is an enjoyable tale due to the split up of the gang of six, which is not shocking, as they despised each other even before they set off on their previous adventure (see Tome of the Undergates); close quarters at sea enhanced this loathing. Thus readers get to know watch of the sextet that much more as for a while they have solo escapades. Although the overarching theme feels as if it has been detoured, Black Halo is an entertaining thriller in which sub-genre readers will relish taking the roundabout way home with this argumentative six.

M.D. Lachlan
9781616143572, $16.00

King Authun leads his men on a raid of a village; but before they arrive at their destination he warns them they will all die. None are afraid as warriors prefer death in combat. The monarch's mission is to find the royal heir to his throne as prophesied by the Queen of the witches. In a Christian church, Authun finds twin male babies. He takes the pair with him leaving behind his loyal soldiers except one to die. In the North Sea his last comrade raises his sword in combat before diving to his death as no one except the witch, the king and his wife will know the heir's origin.

Several years later, one of the infants Prince Vali the heir lives with a rival ruler. He loves Adisla and prefers working the land rather than fighting for land. When raiders attack, Vali uses strategy to defend the village successfully though they capture Adisla. Those he saved from certain death loath Vali for using unacceptable tactics as the warrior credo insists on fighting to the death. Cerebral Vali and his feral brother Feileg raised by the Witch Queen as a warrior wolf join on a quest to rescue Adisla though neither realizes they are related. The adventures of the twins are just beginning.

Using Norse mythology, M.D. Lachlan tells a strong quest fantasy that contains two distinct yet related story lines. The first described above is a sword and sorcery thriller while the other subplot involved the intrusion of the Gods on the lives of mortals. Fast-paced and loaded with plenty of action while establishing the Lachlan world order and setting up future escapades; readers will be hooked as the twins chase after raiders to rescue Adisla. Interestingly even with long stretches without either of the polar opposite twin stars, Wolfsangel enchants the audience.

The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man
Mark Hodder
9781616143596, $16.00

In sort of 1862 in Trafalgar Square, someone abandons a clockwork brass man. The King's agent Sir Richard Francis Burton and his sidekick poet Algernon Swinburne investigate as the object is linked to the stolen Garnier Collection of black diamonds thought to be from the Lemurian Eye of Naga meteorite. Their inquiry leads to the Tichborne Claimant.

A man claims that he is wealthy heir Roger Tichborne, who allegedly died at sea. Burton investigates this Tichborne while rioting amongst the lower class has broken out tied to this grotesque odd individual; anyone who knew the aristocrat before he was lost at sea would never recognize him as this claimant. However this Tichborne pretender in spite of one syllable one word droning responses somehow has the support of the angry lower class. The case turns crazier than time changing as Burton and Swinburne begin to connect dots of an insidious scheme that threatens the Empire and their sanity.

The sequel to The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack is a terrific alternative historical thriller that is anchored by real nineteenth century persona like Florence Nightingale and Charles Doyle. Burton is a wonderful protagonist who knows destiny tilted as he remains haunted by some nefarious things he did. Herbert Spencer is a key character helping the lead duo stay focused on deciphering the clues of what increasingly appears is a plan to set the sun forever on the British Empire. Although it pays to read Spring Heeled Jack first as that sets the table, the Clockwork Man is more than just a middle book as adventures of Burton and Swinburne keep on occurring while time is running out on them.

Deadly Enterprise
Christopher Hoare
Double Dragon
9781554044900, $14.99,

From the future with an advanced technology but a damaged starship the Iskander, the crew must adapt to the old war ravaged earth of Gaia. The Iskander leaders wish to broker a peace between the emperor and his opponents so all can prosper. The best choice to work with is considered the merchant-banking Felger family. Although she is young and a rogue, Lieutenant Gisel "Wildcat" Matah, is chosen to make first contact with Yohan Felger; as she bends rules but always accomplishes the mission because she never loses focus as to who she portrays under cover.

Gisel's assignment is to work a trade deal that will benefit her people and his family. However, in his world, women are subservient and not equal let alone superior. To negotiate, Gisel must dress and act as if she is a man. As troopers search for outside operative Wildcat, her superiors switch her mission when another stranded space traveling species surfaces. However, the hardest impediment to staying in character is her attraction to the man who sees her as a male but her heart is all female.

The key to this terrific alternate earth science fiction thriller is the heroine who comes from a future in which a woman can be all she can be, but in this past, a female has restrictive roles. Fast-paced throughout, readers will enjoy Gisel's efforts to broker a peace between two adversarial groups who have been fighting a Hundred Years War while another joker enters the fray. Although the support cast can seem overwhelming as there are so many players providing diverse limited roles, Deadly Enterprise is an enjoyable action-packed tale (see Wildcat's Victory and Arrival for other thrillers starring Gisel).

The Knitting Diaries
Debbie Macomber, Susan Mallery, Christina Skye
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9781410436122, $7.99,

"The Twenty-First Wish" by Debbie Macomber. Anne Marie Roche is worried about how her adopted daughter Ellen will adjust to their new home. She also worries about how much she should allow Ellen's biological father Tim Carlsen into the child's life. To ease the move, mother and daughter make a twenty wish list, but Ellen has added one more to her desire; that her dad and mom marry and with her become a family.

"Coming Unraveled" by Susan Mallery. After failing to make it under the lights of Broadway, Robyn Mulligan comes home to Georgetown, Texas moving into her grandma's home and taking over the Ewe knitting store. She feels the stranger her grandmother and her senior friends "adopted" is going to rip them off; ironically T.J. Passman thinks the granddaughter will do likewise with the senior citizens.

"Return to Summer Island" by Christina Skye. In Chicago, Caro McNeal is severely injured in an accident. She returns home to Summer Island, Oregon to heal with her beloved grandma who raised her when her parents died. There she meets marine Gage Grayson as he is leaving town. Gage and Caro exchange emails. When she learns that his pets are staying at a shelter until he returns, Caro befriends them. However, Caro wakes up in the night fearing something bad happened to her beloved email pal.

These are three warm well knit romantic family dramas with strong characterizations and the bonus of a stop on Blossom Street.

The Last Exile
E. V. Seymour
9781741166125, $7.99

In Birmingham, England their Control tells police officers Paul and Stu to shoot a woman fleeing from them as they thought she was a terrorist tied to a failed bomb attempt. Later they learn the person they killed was innocent. Both are forced to leave the department as someone must take the fall for the mistake though authorized by their Control.

Over the next year, remorseful Paul is an alcoholic security officer while his former partner is an emaciated drunk. M15 hires Paul to find four illegal immigrants who served prison sentences, but before they were to be deported they vanished. He is to only find the quartet and not confront any of them as immigration officials will apprehend these illegals. Given one file to work at a time, Paul solves the first case, but the wrap up is not what he expected.

Although there is no explanation as to why the two cops became the fall guys, or why they failed to fight back as others share in the wrongful death, fans will enjoy the first Paul Tallis thriller. He is guilt laden with an empty feeling inside his gut and his family relationships only enhance his hollow sense of worth. The M15 case makes for a fascinating British thriller with Tallis' mental hell turning bleaker as his seared soul makes Dante's Inferno seem heavenly.

The Vampire Voss
Colleen Gleason
9780778329527, $14.95

In 1804 in London, the Woodmere sisters become concerned when their twenty-seven years old brother vampire hunter Chas vanishes. They turn to their guardian, the Earl of Corvindale, hoping he can find Chas who they fear is in trouble due to his hazardous occupation.

Meanwhile Dracule Lord Voss Arden returns to England from the upstart colonies calling themselves the United States with news about Chas, who he believes abducted his sister. Voss has no heart as a minion of Lucifer. However, he is stunned when he meets one of the Woodmere sisters Angelica, who has the gift of sight. He wants her as she makes his blood boil. She feels the same way until she learns the nature of her beloved. Now she feels betrayed while each share a broken heart.

The Book of the Regency Dracula is a dark historical romantic fantasy starring two star-crossed wannabe lovers. Besides her brother never accepting a Vampire as suitable for any of his younger sisters, his species (and others) would never allow him to be with a human possessing the Gift. Readers will enjoy this new paranormal trilogy starring a seemingly Romeo and Juliet couple in Regency England. Colleen Gleason provides a respite for Victoria Gardella with The Vampires Voss' dangerous tale of forbidden love.

The Goodbye Quilt
Susan Wiggs
9781611069945, $7.99

Mother and daughter Linda and Molly Davis are driving across the country for the latter to begin college. As they journey together on their first trip without the man of the house Dan, Linda, having worked part-time at Pins and Needles, begins knitting a quilt using remnants of fabrics from Molly's past to highlight her daughter's life. Her plan is to give the quit to her daughter when they reach their destination.

Linda also ponders what life will be like without her offspring sharing the house with her and Dan who remained behind to care for their aging pet Hoover. Meanwhile as Linda considers empty nesting, Molly wonders about leaving behind her high school boyfriend.

The Goodbye Quilt is a deep look at a mother and daughter relationship at a critical point when the only offspring leaves home for the first time. The quilt represents where Molly has been while the road trip reflects the present and where she is going. Susan Wiggs provides a powerful passionate parable of the first rite of passage the older person begins passing life's torch to the next generation.

Already Home
Susan Mallery
9780778329510, $14.95

With her marriage to chef Aaron in ruins due to his cheating and her self-esteem in the sewer, sous chef Jenna Stevens leaves Los Angeles and returns home to Texas. When Jenna sees a to rent sign near her parent's home where she is staying, she decides to open a cooking store. She immediately hires Violet to work at the store.

Like Jenna, trying to move on to is Violet. She and Jenna make a terrific team at the store and as friends. Violet also is welcomed by Jenna's mother, Beth who worries about her daughter succeeding with a store as Jenna has no experience running a shop. However, just after the store opens, her biological parents Atomic and Serenity arrive hoping to bond with their daughter; confusing Jenna and upsetting her mom.

The extended family females (to include Violet and Jenna's high school friends) are fully developed characters with fears, flaws and diverse personalities. On the other hand the men in their lives lack that same level of intensity as they each come across as one dimensional in support of the prime woman in their life. Still readers will enjoy Susan Mallery's warm contemporary tale as jittery Jenna finds her groove.

Phantom Evil
Heather Graham
9780778329534, $24.95

The wife of Louisiana State Senator David Holloway, Regina falls from the balcony of their mansion to her death. The New Orleans Police Department investigates and concludes Regina committed suicide as she still grieved the loss of her son Jacob due to a DUI several months ago.

Adam Harrison sends his special investigative team to New Orleans to look into the Holloway death. The unit is led by Jackson Crow, who used to work for the Fed's Behavioral Sciences Unit. He, his team of five, and paranormal pragmatic Virginia police officer Angela Hawkins who can detect the supernatural arrive at the Holloway mansion in the French Quarters. Their mission is to determine whether the supernatural was involved in the woman's fall. Soon they revise the objective to staying alive.

No one writes romantic urban fantasy better than Heather Graham does as she consistently blends suspense with the paranormal. Her latest thriller Phantom Evil uses the disturbing past of people who resided in what appears to be a haunted house with modern day supernatural happenings. Readers will hear the bumps in the night as Ms. Graham provides another powerful New Orleans paranormal romantic suspense thriller.

In Desperation
Rick Mofina
9780778329480, $9.99

In Mexico reporter Jack Gannon investigates a situation when he receives the call from the last person he expected to phone him as he assumed she was dead. From Mesa Mirage, Arizona his sister Cora Martin, who has not spoken to him in two decades, begs him to help her. Someone kidnapped her tweener daughter Tilly demanding five million in five days that they insist her boss at Quick Draw Courier stole from them or the eleven years old child will be dead. Afraid to turn to the cops, frantic Cora pleads with her sibling to find her.

Fuming at her deception, Gannon works closely with the FBI while wondering why his sibling was apparently in hiding all these years and from who; the likely kidnapper. To his surprise he begins to find a tie to his Mexican investigation as time is running out on a niece he has never met.

This excellent thriller is loaded with suspense that feels real especially the reactions by the two siblings as they deal with her San Francisco "mistake" that led to her vanishing and her boss' rip off of the laundered money from the Mexican Norte Cartel that led to the abduction. While the days count down in a death watch, readers will appreciate this powerful fast-paced tale in which a family reunion appears deadly; summed up by Jack that nothing truly breaks the basic law of economics in which we demand drugs and the cartels supply them.

Before Cain Strikes
Joshua Corin
9780778329336, $7.99

When Esme Stuart married, she quit her career as an FBI agent. However, recently she has had doubts whether she should have left the Feds. She is brought back as a consultant because a case she worked seems to have ties to a current murderer's row investigation. Her return to work is marred when her husband Rafe and their child Sophie are kidnapped (see While Galileo Preys).

While her spouse blames Esme for his abduction, she realizes a serial killer is mentoring students to be predators. Professor Cain42 tells his graduating class to go out and have murderous fun. Though her involvement may cost her marriage, Esme vows to flunk the mentor and the class.

The sequel to While Galileo Preys is a fast-paced thriller as the audience anticipates a shoot-out at the OK Corral; in this case a bed and breakfast. The villains are psychopaths being mentored by one of the most disturbing predators in years; Professor Cain 42 teaches a lesson that "family values" can be negative. Family values are also an issue for Esme and Rafe as he makes a powerful argument that she inadvertently takes her work home, endangering her family. Although the ending is over the top of the Keystone Cops, readers will enjoy this insightful look at how much an agent sacrifices to do her job legally with due diligence.

Driftwood Cottage
Sherryl Woods
9780778329961, $7.99

In Baltimore, Heather Donovan loves divorce lawyer Conner O'Brien and desperately wants to marry him. However, he has unresolved issues with his mom Megan who walked out on the family years ago even though she is back married to his father, famous architect Mick O'Brien. He refuses to marry anyone even the mother of his baby son Mick who he loves and has lived with since college.

Having been estranged with her parents over being pregnant and unwed, she realizes how futile her dream is. Unable to pretend otherwise, Heather accompanied by their child, moves away from her beloved to start over in his hometown of Chesapeake Shores. The former inner city high school teacher opens up a quilt shop and is welcomed by the O'Brien clan elated with their grandson living nearby.

The key to the latest Chesapeake Shores O'Brien family drama (see A Chesapeake Shores Christmas and Harbor Lights) is Connor. His distrust of marital relationships does not magically disappear though he misses Heather and Mick as months have passed and he remains obstinate. When he finally turns around after an extended separation, Heather rejects his attempt at reconciliation as she does not believe his so-called epiphany. He has his work to atone for what he caused as he casts around for a solution. Fans of the series will enjoy the latest entry.

The Woodcutter
Kate Danley
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781453876145, $12.99,

The Woodcutter patrols the woody expanse between the Kingdoms of Man and the Realm of Faerie. While performing his duty, he comes across the corpse of a pretty teenage female stranger. Putting down his axe, he searches for her death wound, but finds none. He concludes her spirit fled her body due to immense fear. He ponders what could have been so scary that it frightened the girl to death. He informs his dear Wife he must leave.

The Woodcutter begins his investigation learning the victim was Cinderella and the predator was an escaped from the Wild Hunt hellhound of Odin. He must capture and return the hellhound to the Wild Hunt pack before other innocents die. However this simple journey turns into a harrowing experience due to evil wanting to foster malevolence in all realms so that they can rule as the Gentleman and the Queen; yet he also meets caring folks assisting him on his mission.

The Woodcutter is a fantastic dark fantasy that turns classic fairy tales upside down in a serious quest thriller (the diametrically opposite tone form Shrek). Starting with the King of the Golden River and visits with other fairy tales, the Woodcutter cuts quite a heroic stoic path as he follows the deadly trail of a dangerous beast. Readers will enjoy trekking with the hero as Kate Danley provides an entertaining engaging thriller.

The Dead Man: Face of Evil
Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin
9781460920589, $6.99,

In February 2011 at Mammoth Peaks Resort, Barney and Sophie Slezak and their little daughter Kate build a snowman when the child finds the snow buried body of Widower Matt Cahill. Barney's video goes pandemic on YouTube while the Forest Rangers bring the corpse to the Clarion County Morgue where Assistant Coroner Lyle Whitaker begins the autopsy on the body buried beneath an avalanche for three months when he sees the impossible: blood.

Matt returns to the living to the shock of every medical person involved in the case. As everyone wants a piece of Matt; Rachel, from the firm B. Barer and Sons Sawmill he quit when they downsized his friend Andy Goodis, shared a room with him when they went skiing just before the deadly accident. She takes him home form the hospital. However, he begins seeing things starting with a hole in Andy's face that is not there and a man stalking him that no one else notices. As people in his sphere die horrifically, Matt learns what love and friendship means in his second chance at life.

The Face of Evil is a fabulous suspense novella that grips the audience from the moment Lyle takes that first slice and never slows down as Matt's past, present and future converge. Fast-paced, readers will wonder what is going on and who the serial killer is as the evidence mounts that Matt's near death experience has left him psychopathic with only Rachel believing he would never hurt anyone. With a nod to Stephen King's The Dead Zone, readers will enjoy the opening of The Dead Man saga.

Baby, Baby
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek Press
PO Box 51052, Casper, WY 82605-1052
9781611600117, $17.95,

In Peaceful, Wisconsin, Robert and Tamara married just after graduating from high school. Over the next two decades, he brought in income while she stayed at home as a housewife to raise their children. Now the youngest Cora enters preschool so Tamara considers what to do with her suddenly part-time "empty nest". The answer comes from an elderly woman who sees the baskets Tamara makes for friends and family. She offers Tamara money to buy one so she can send it to her daughter as a birthday present.

However, when she tells Robert she wants to open up a gift business selling her hand made baskets, he is unhappy as he is filled with pride being the breadwinner like his father was. Thinking what he could do before his beloved Tamara no longer needs him in her life; panicked Robert decides the answer is another baby at a time he loses a deserved promotion to an inexperienced college grad. Stunned by her husband's response as she thought he would encourage her, Tamara turns to God for advice. She ponders whether Proverbs 31 submissive missive is to cede all your wants to your husband's desires; which in turn denotes never doing something for your own self gratification as that otherwise is selfishness.

This is a reprint of the first entertaining Family Heirlooms inspirational family drama. The enjoyable story line is character driven mostly by the lead couple, but ably supported by a strong support cast especially the extended family. Although some readers will scoff at adhering to God's Will to solve major problems, fans will appreciate Robert's actions and reactions when Tamara announces her intention of a designer gift basket business; as he makes the tale worth reading.

In the Shadows of Swords
Val Gunn
Errant Press
9780615232690, $24.95,

Hiril Altair flees for the Elies Embassy where he knows he will receive sanctuary that will keep him safe from the agents of the Sultanate of Qatana and the Rassian Majali of Miranes especially with what he has to show his hosts. However, just a few steps to the door his life ends when the legendary Kingslayer Ciris Sarn the half-jinn assassin brutally kills him.

Hiril's widow Marin wants what she believes is her right, Sarn's death at her hands as a widow's debt. She obtains the magic tomes left behind the widowmaker as she begins her vendetta. At the same she tracks her prey across the desert; the Sultan's advisor Fajeer Dassai stalks the widow in order to possess the books. He is unaware that the head of the Jassaj, Pavanan Munif stalks him.

The first book of the Tales of Ciris Sarn is an action-packed fantasy thriller filled with short chapters that never allow a grateful audience to take a respite. Fast-paced, from the opening vicious kill to the exciting climax, readers will relish this terrific complex Arabian mythos as a queue of stalking adventures begin and end with Sarn.

Healer's Heresy
Alex Matthews
Veiled Intent Press
546 N. Humphrey, Oak Park, IL 60302
9780979475610, $15.00,

In Chicago, Jordan Wenzlaff was a patient of therapist Cassidy McCabe because he was stalking Dr. Claudia Leavitt until she took out a restraining order against him. Cassidy believes that Jordan finally got over his obsession.

That is until he comes to her home late at night to tell her he entered Claudia's home since the door was open. Cassidy's reporter husband Zach notices his wife's patient smells of alcohol and has blood on his clothing. Jordan informs the therapist that he saw Claudia on her floor with a bullet hole in her chest. He carried her to her bedroom and tucked her in bed like she was sleeping. Since he knows the cops will question him, Jordan demands Cassidy destroy his files; she agrees only if he signs a waiver that allows her to keep her spouse informed. The married couple investigates Claudia's background. They learn she picked up men especially celebrities; stayed with them for a few months; and dumped them. Clues lead them to a killer ready to pounce.

It has been almost three years since the last McCabe mystery (see Murder's Madness), but readers will agree that Alex Matthews has made the wait worth the time as she still has her mojo. The story line is action-packed as the inquiry leads the lead couple into a scenario that has them struggling to stay alive. They are a dynamic still in love adorable duet. Yet ironically in many ways the character driven tale is owned by the disturbed Jordan and the late Claudia; both possess psychological excesses only the doctor concealed hers while the patient overtly displayed his. This is a terrific psychotherapy murder mystery.

A Heart For Home
Lorraine Snelling
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55438
9780764206115, $14.99,

In 1904 in South Dakota, Dr. Astrid Bjorkland provides medical care to the Rosebud Indian Reservation at a time the tribe faces a terrible epidemic. She and her family also try to help the immigrants settling in Blessing, North Dakota. In fact the Bjorkland clan wants to construct a medical facility to help the needy.

However, Astrid's immediate concern is the ailing Indians whose elders want her to leave until wise men like Red Hawk notice some of their tribe is recovering under her care. While she works diligently as a physician, she also mentors others to provide some medial help. Meanwhile Joshua Landsverk wants a second chance with Astrid who believes God wants her to doctor the needy.

The third Home to Blessing historical tale (see No Distance Too Far and A Measure of Mercy) is a terrific early twentieth century novel that provides a deep spotlight on the Native American and Norwegian cultures in the Dakotas. The cast is solid but this is Astrid's tale as she wonders what God wants from her when Joshua begins to try to court her. Readers will appreciate this wonderful return to Blessing.

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party
Alexander McCall Smith
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780307378392, $24.95,

In Botswana, Mma Precious Ramotswe grieves having to sell her van to a scrap dealer in an act of euthanasia as the vehicle has been her traveling companion for years. However, life still goes on at the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Nervous Mr. Moeti refuses to enter the office so Mma Ramotswe agrees to meet him at a nearby cafe. Though obviously frightened and ready to flee, he hires her to look into the death of two cattle in the small village of Gaborone.

Meanwhile Mma Ramotswe keeps seeing her van on the road as does her assistant Mma Grace Makutsi, who also is getting married soon to Mr. Phuti Radiphuti. Violet Sephotho announces she is running for Parliament while Mma Ramotswe tells her husband Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni learns an apprentice mechanic at his Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors Charlie apparently sired baby twins.

As always with this wonderful series (see The Double Comfort Safari Club), Alexander McCall Smith provides a terrific entry in which the kindhearted Prudence works on resolving personal issues as well as her client's case. The story line gives readers a profound look at the Botswana culture through the heroine and the supporting ensemble cast. Consistently the best anti-hardboiled detective stories, fans will enjoy the wisdom of Mma Ramotswe as the owner of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

Blind Sight
Meg Howrey
9780307379160, $24.95

In Philadelphia seventeen years old Luke Prescott has never seen his father; for that matter he has never met a blood male relative. He lives with his mysticism divorced mom Sara, devout Christian Nana, and two younger half-sisters (Aurora and Pearl).

He is filling out his college applications when his biological father whom he never met asks him to visit him in Los Angeles. Luke knows his dad is a famous TV star who had a one nighter with his mom. He accepts the invitation to spend the summer with his father. In Hollywood, Luke quickly separates the public Mark Franco from the private Anthony Boyle lives of his dad. He learns secrets from both his parents as he feels he is finding his personal Rosetta Stone as empirical data does not always lead to truth.

This is a terrific character driven family drama starring a delightful caring teen. Luke is fabulous as he tells much of the tale, which at times effortlessly switches from his filter to the third person viewpoint. Although a late twist detracts from what Luke and the readers learn during his season of epiphanies, the audience will appreciate how the teen spent his summer.

Trades of The Flesh
Faye L. Booth
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765327840, $14.99,

In 1887 in Preston, dying Nell Ketch tells her oldest daughter Lydia to take care of her younger sister Annabel. Her mom suggests Lydia use her comely body to make a living. Lydia's only other choice is the brutal workhouse.

In 1888, Lydia works for brothel owner Kathleen Tanner, as she takes care of herself and her sibling. Client Henry Shadwell makes an intriguing offer as a photographer he wants to take pornographic pictures of her. Realizing this is an easier means to make money she agrees. Over time she assists him in obtaining corpses for his anatomy class because he is a surgeon that he teaches. As she falls in love with him and he wants only her, they keep their sexual relationship as it always has been with him being her paying customer.

This is a superb Victorian historical tale starring a young woman desperately trying to keep herself and her sister out of the workhouse though the protagonist hopes to leave the brothel business soonest too. The story is character driven, but it's the Dickensian descriptions of Victorian England even two decades after the writer's death that grips the audience; as being a woman of ill repute is less acceptable even with her patrons (and their families) than dying young at the workhouse. With a powerful unexpected final twist, readers will appreciate Trades of the Flesh, one of the few ways an impoverished woman can make a living.

A Tapestry of Dreams
Roberta Gellis
Sourcebooks Inc.
1935 Brookdale Road, #139
Naperville, IL 60563
9781402254987, $9.99,

In the twelfth century an orphaned heiress Audris is able to weave visionary tapestries. Her honorable Uncle Oliver raises her as if she was his child not out of affection, but because he is a hard yet just person doing the right thing by his niece.

His noble mother died birthing Hugh Licorne while his father is unknown. Arch Bishop Thurstan raised Hugh, who has become a knight pledged to King Stephen of Blois.

When Audris' half-brother Bruno introduces his sister to his friend Hugh, they are attracted to one another. They pledge loyalty to each other though he believes he is unworthy of her unless he can rise higher up the feudal hierarchy. Hugh and Audris begin a quest to learn who sired him in hopes that will raise him to a level equal of that of his beloved heiress.

This is a reprint of a great Roberta Gellis' 1980s medieval romance. The character driven story line is fast-paced yet contains the trademark vivid detail that makes armchair readers feel they are in the middle of an English civil war between the Empress Matilda and King Stephen. Medieval romance readers will relish A Tapestry of Dreams as the heroine and her family remains sort of neutral in the conflict only wanting to protect their city and land.

The Queen of New Beginnings
Erica James
9781402253164, $14.99

Almost infamous fortyish Clayton Miller flees London after causing a public humiliation involving his former girlfriend Stacey and his former writing partner Barry "Lucky Bazza" Osbourne. His heart is shattered and his career as a scriptwriter recently in the stratosphere has crashed to earth as he is out of work and out of ideas except for writing his obit

His agent Glen told Clayton to relocate temporarily in the countryside at the Cuckoo House. There he and Alice Shoemaker meet when she arrives as the housekeeper. The house is actually her family abode and though she suffered broken hearts here, she relishes being able to come home. The pair dislikes one another from the onset yet also feels a fascination. They forge a friendship as each tells the other why he and she rusticate in the country. As they start to trust and rely on one another for emotional relief, they begin to fall in love; but both fears that feeling will lead to a fresh heartbreak with no one around to help them weather the storm.

Although the story line is linear as the plot goes as expected, the cast (London and the villagers) is superb. The support characters enhance the look at the lead pair while Clayton and Alice are nice people who each fears love having recent heartbreaks. The strong characterizations make for a tender second chance at love tale if the lead duet can take that leap of faith and trust in their respective hearts.

Wickham's Diary
Amanda Grange
9781402251863, $11.99

In 1784 two boys around the same twelve years of age play together at Pemberly. Fitzwilliam Darcy will one day inherit the estate while George Wickham is the son of the steward and will only obtain whatever his friend's father gives him as he cares for the lad like a second son. Wickham's mother wants her son to marry an heiress and gives him advice on how to use Darcy as his entrance into Polite Society.

Darcy's father pays for Wickham to attend Cambridge with his son, but while the latter is a stern righteous person walking the straight and narrow, the former is wenching, gambling and drinking. When Wickham is caught with a prostitute, Darcy washes his hands of his former best friend and refuses to pay his way out of prison. A few years later Wickham finds it ironic when he meets Georgiana Darcy as she is a beautiful adult heiress living apart from her brother and he starts to court her. Just when his dreams are about to happen, Darcy intrudes.

This may be a novella, but it packs the punch of a novel as readers observe the influence Wickham's mother had on him. She encouraged him to go above his station, feeling it was his earned right to use any means necessary. The grand divide between the classes is shown in stark detail as George covets what Fitzwilliam inherits. Amanda Grange who has written Darcy's Dairy Fitzwilliam's viewpoint to Pride and Prejudice gives Wickham the same insightful treatment.

To Defy a King
Elizabeth Chadwick
9781402250897, $14.99

In 1204 daughter of renowned British knight William Marshal, fourteen year old Mahelt "Matty" Marshal marries Hugh Bigod, heir to the earldom of Norfolk in a politically arranged deal between two powerful families. Over the next few years, the pair shares a deep regard for one another that turns to love as they raise their four children.

The serene rustic lifestyle ends for Matty and Hugh when King John begins systematically abducting her family. He arrests the heir to the Pembroke earldom, Matty's brother Will; and follows that with incarcerating her other sibling Richard. Finally King John goes after her famous father, who has made it clear he is against the monarch's avaricious stealing of land. Matty resolutely tries to get her family free while also remaining loyal to her husband and their children; not easy to achieve when contradictions and conflict are the norm.

This is a great Middle Ages biographical fiction that enables fans of Elizabeth Chadwick to feel they are "living the history". (See the author's blog at for more information). The story line is character driven mostly by the heroine although the support cast especially her two families enhance the heroine's dilemma of being caught in the middle of rescuing her birth family and yet not endangering her married family. Readers will enjoy Matty's efforts to walk a thin red line as she knows not to waste her time pleading For the King's Favor since the Marshal kin are persona non grata, but cannot remain idly on the sidelines.

Alice in Zombieland
Lewis Carroll and Nickolas Cook
Illustrations by Sir John Tenniel and Brent Cardillo
9781402256219, $14.99

Alice plays in the graveyard near her house while her sister watches her. When her sister momentarily takes her eyes off Alice, the girl notices a Black Rat running who suddenly vanishes. Intrigued, Alice runs to the spot where the rodent disappeared. She spots an open grave, which she dives into. When she lands, she finds herself in an underground world that smells of decay and rot.

Alice sees a spooky graveyard that can be entered through a locked door. She wants to get outside, but is either to tall or too small depending on what she eats or drinks. When she gets injured, blood drops on the floor. Alice drinks an elixir and shrinks until she swims in the blood getting outside. She walks until she crashes the Mad Hatter's tea party and afterward sees various body parts with missing rotting pieces of flesh. Alice comes across a croquet match using zombie heads while her skin is rotting and her hair is falling out in clumps and she lost a tooth. The Dead Red Queen wants her head, while the little girl just wants to home.

Alice in Zombieland is a humorous retelling of the classic tale using zombies as key characters in similar scenes to that written by Lewis Carroll in the original. The dialogue is snappy and filled with puns similar to Piers Anthony's Xanth series although there are some dark scenarios lightened by Alice. Even though zombie fever has become overly used with the classics (see Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the same prime title by Steve Hockensmith and Katherine Kellgren), illustrations add to the sense of the reader falling down that rat hole in this refreshing remake.

The Law of Angels
Cassandra Clark
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312674557, $24.99,

In 1385, Abbess Hildegard sets up a tiny religious cell in Deepdale, England. However, her serene rustic retreat is disturbed when armed men attack two of her youthful guests, Maud and Petronilla, who had turned to her for protection. They are fortunate to have survived the crisis, but Hildegard and the two victims fear they will return to finish the job.

Maud is especially worried that she was the intended target as she escaped from killers who murdered her young brother and destroyed their home. Hildegard knows no one is safe in England since the Wat Tyler revolt and the latest Papal excommunication. She escorts the girls to York where she hopes they can obtain protection, but soon the Abbess finds herself in the middle of a murderous plot centering on the Cross of Constantine, which she found.

The third Abbess Hildegard of Meaux medieval mystery (see Hangman Blind and The Red Velvet Turnshoe) is a charming tale in which the late fourteenth century era of abject fear supersedes the slower suspense subplot. Hildegard is a wonderful caring person who risks her life to insure her two wards are safe as she keeps the story line focused. Fans of profound historical tales with a supporting mystery will enjoy the Abbess' latest adventures.

P.C. Doherty
9780312678180, $25.99

In 1304 King Edward I directs his most-trusted aide and the keeper of the secret seal Sir Hugh Corbett to travel to Essex. There Sir Hugh is to retrieve an ornate cross from Lord Oliver Scrope who took it from a sect the latter declared heretical. The monarch also orders Sir Hugh to censure Scrope for going outside his power when he slaughtered the members of the sect.

Corbett arrives in Essex to learn a serial killer Sagittarius stalks the residents. The attacks by this predatory hunter have left everyone fearful as the killer seems to randomly choose who is next to kill before the sound of the hunter's horn announces an arrow has been sent at a target. When an impossible homicide occurs on a remote nearly unattainable island inside a locked room, Corbett knows he must end the reign of terror.

The latest Corbett medieval mystery (see The Waxman Murders) may be the historical whodunit of the year as P.C. Doherty provides a super investigative tale. Fast-paced yet setting time and place so that fans will feel they accompany the hero in January 1304 England on his regal mission. Set aside plenty of time as Nightshade is nearly impossible to put down.

Gone with a Handsomer Man
Michael Lee West
9780312571221, $24.99

In Charleston, South Carolina, wannabe pastry chef Teeny Templeton is excited about marrying Bing Jackson and making the perfect red velvet cake. However, her euphoria ends abruptly when she sees an excited Bing playing badminton with two pretty ladies without one stich of clothing on any of them. Irate, Teeny plays dodge ball with the naked threesome by throwing unripe peaches at their butts.

She is charged with assault and receives probation. Additionally a restraining order is processed to keep her away from Bing and his women. A few days after being legally warned to stay away from her ex fiance, Teeny finds Bing dead. Obviously, the prime (and only) suspect as pointed out by the local news, Teeny distrusts the police (and the media) to search elsewhere for the killer so she applies the Templeton Tradition of creating recipes to solving the murder.

This entertaining regional culinary amateur sleuth mystery with a pinch of romance is a delightful tale due to the strong cast starting with Teeny. The secondary characters are fully developed as Michael Lee West provides a super Southern whodunit enhanced by the refreshing Templeton Tradition.

Death On Tour
Janice Hamrick
9780312679460, $24.99

The Austin, Texas Shore cousins (high school teacher Jocelyn and stylish Kyla), are best friends. They decide to tour Egypt together so they sign up with WorldPal Tours. However, in spite a terrific job by their guide Anni, the trip is not as much fun due to irritating fifty-something Millie Owens. When odious Millie falls to her death from the great pyramid of Khafre, the group is stunned and a bit remorseful as everyone wanted her to shut up, just not this way.

The Egyptian police find Millie was stabbed in her neck so obviously a murder occurred. Jocelyn comes across a journal the deceased kept that implies someone on the tour is dangerous, but who?. An unknown adversary attacks Jocelyn and a haranguing merchant is killed with the same M.O. as Millie. Jocelyn ponders who the killer is while assuming handsome hunk tourist Alan Stratton could not be the culprit as he is too good looking and interested in the cousins.

This is a wonderful on tour amateur sleuth. The entertaining story line captures the essence of being with a tour group as you don't select your companions or your schedule. Part of the fun is the generation gap as the younger Shore cousins especially Kyla are somewhat amusingly contemptuous of the boomers (you don't pick your travel mates on tour) in their group. Readers will enjoy this fine whodunit as Jocelyn wonders how an Austin schoolteacher on her once in a lifetime tour of the Pyramids has become a killer's target.

A Gentleman of Fortune: Or, The Suspicions of Miss Dido Kent
Anna Dean
9780312596965, $24.99

In 1806 in Richmond, Miss Dido Kent sends a detailed letter to her sister Eliza re the death of Mrs. Lansdale, who passed away suddenly from a seizure. Odious Mrs. Midgely spreads the rumor of a suspicious death using the local apothecary as her evidence of foul play She also her casts doubts about the late woman's nephew Henry Lansdale. Dido's cousin Flora is upset with what she deems slander as she and her husband claim Henry as a friend.

Over the objection of her suitor Mr. William Lomax, Miss Dido decides to observe the townsfolk in order to determine if one of them killed the elderly Mrs. Lansdale although she still believes natural causes took the woman's life. Miss Dido is stunned by what she learns by just watching the residents as she finds everyone especially the aristocracy tries to conceal dark secrets that have nothing to do with the death of a respectable woman.

The second wonderful Anna Dean Regency amateur sleuth (see Bellfield Hall) is much more than just a mystery as the observations and "The Deductions of Miss Dido Kent" makes for a delightful period piece. Character driven, readers will enjoy observing the heroine shining a deep light on the darkest secrets of the Ton and others.

Anthem for Doomed Youth
Carola Dunn
9780312387761, $24.99

In 1926, three male corpses are found in a shallow grave in Epping Forest. Local police officer Di Grant leads the inquiry until Scotland Yard's Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher and his team arrives at the crime scene. Irate with the outside interference, Grant leaves.

Alec knows they must identify the deceased and find what connects them if they are to solve the homicides. To his chagrin as his boss told him to keep his spouse away from the case, his wife, the Honourable Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher, suggest a World War I link. One of the dead was abusive Colonel Pelham, whose wife is euphoric that the bully is dead. The two other victims were much younger than the Colonel so could have served during the war under his command. Meanwhile Daisy and her friends (Melanie and Sakari) attend a sports day at their daughters' school. The three moms meet bully boys game teacher Harriman and other teachers still suffering from their service time. When Melanie's daughter finds Harriman's corpse, Daisy protects the girls from the incompetent investigation conducted by Gant.

This is a fabulous Post WWI murder mystery starring delightful Daisy who goes out of her way to not get involved but that proves Sheer Folly as she ends up the thick of things. The story line is fast-paced yet provides a sense of being in England in 1926 through the Fletcher family and their friends, and especially through the war veterans as many suffered from undiagnosed Battle Fatigue. Fans of the series or anyone who appreciate an entertaining yet insightful early twentieth century British mystery will appreciate Anthem for Doomed Youth.

Evil Eclairs
Jessica Beck
9780312541071, $7.99

April Springs, North Carolina is the location of the well known Donut Hearts; owned and operated by Suzanne Hart. Her store is turning a profit, but not by much. As she prepares to go to sleep, she hears controversial radio talk host Lester Moorefield call her product poison and labels her a killer for selling unhealthy food. He finishes his diatribe with calling for a boycott of the "deadly dough".

Furious, she goes down to the station only to see him smoking a cigarette. Her shouting at him lets everyone know they are feuding. Later the cops escort Suzanne to a crime scene where Lester created his show. The police chief questions Suzanne as someone murdered the radio jock leaving a Donut Hearts' eclair stuffed in the victim's mouth. Business slides as some of her customers believe Suzanne is the killer. To regain her reputation and save her shop, she and her friends Grace and George investigate only to find a horde of suspects with viable motives; many of whom she respects and likes.

Perhaps the only warning needed for the latest Donut Shop mystery (see Sinister Sprinkles and Fatally Frosted) is not to read it on an empty stomach because each chapter contains a recipe for a type of donut. A romantic subplot between Suzanne and her State Police boyfriend Jake enhances the tale (just think what he must be putting up with dating a donut baker). Readers will admire the spunky heroine and her loyal sidekicks as they investigate death by pastry in a cute Carolina cozy.

The Bone House
Brian Freeman
9780312562830, $24.99

In Door County, Wisconsin, teacher Mark Bradley is accused of an affair with a teenage student Tresa Fischer. Both deny the accusations though the pupil admits she has a crush on Mark. He is fired as the townsfolk figuratively inscribe a P on his forehead for "predator". His wife Hilary believes him.

Tresa's sister Glory is drunk when she sees Mark on a Florida beach alone at three in the morning. She offers her body to him, but instead he tells her he is taking her home. Later that same morning, Glory's corpse is found near the hotel where the Bradleys are staying. The police suspect he killed his lover's sibling in a passion rage. Already irate over the injustice he suffered; Mark is stunned when he realizes he is the only person of interest. While Hilary investigates to prove her spouse's innocence, Florida Detective Cab Bolton tries to break the suspect, but begins to believe the wife's dangerous theory even as her faith in Mark is beginning to shatter.

This is a super police procedural-amateur sleuth thriller starring a powerful cast and loaded with twisting action from start to finish. Readers will believe Mark is innocent but like his wife soon will wonder if he is guilty of homicide and sex with a minor. Coincidence like being alone on a Naples beach at three in the morning propels the tension and sense of guilt so that readers will appreciate this taut thriller.

Please Look After Mom
Kyung-Sook Shin
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780307593917, $24.95,

In an overly crowded Seoul subway station, Park So-nyo becomes separated from her husband rushing to make a train. A rural farmer who is totally lost in the big city Park vanishes.

Her spouse and adult children panic as mom's steady consistency is the magnet that kept the family together. Each of Park's family feel guilt for taking her for granted as they all assume she will always be there. Her spouse who has never had a kind word for his rural wife realizes how much she means to him and how she ignored her desires to be there for him. Her daughter who thought her mom was an illiterate barbarian who could not read a book misses her as she fondly recalls how her mother encouraged her to read and be much more. Her son who treated her with disdain as he made demands of his mom wants to make amends for his treatment of her. Meanwhile mom wanders the city while recalling her family's embarrassment and disdain of her for being a throwback from a previous century.

This is an intriguing look at a Korean family who could be any ethnic group in which taking for granted a loved one until you lose what turns out to be most cherished is a common fault. The husband and two children were embarrassed by their mom until she vanishes; now they're worried and remorseful while mom reflects back on her loneliness due to her performing her motherhood duty. Filled with pathos and a strong underlying message to cherish those you love before it is too late, readers will relish this profound tale made even more poignant by the rotating viewpoint.

The Snowman
Jo Nesbo
9780307595867, $25.95

In Oslo, as the first snow of the year falls, Jonas Becker awakens during the night to find his mother Birte not home. Footprints from trekking in the wet snow are inside the house. Eerily outside a snowman stares at the house wearing a pink scarf that a terrorized Jonas knows belongs to his mother.

Police detective Harry Hole leads the inquiry into the missing person case that looks like a house invasion abduction. His first suspect is the husband, arrogant Professor Filip. However, he revises his opinion when the head of a female is found atop the body of a snowman. As he analyzes the data, he received a letter from a killer signed as the Snowman referring to a case Harry worked on years ago in Australia. He soon realizes this psychopath has been murdering women on the first snowfall for years, but only now has decided to become visible by battling Hole in a game of wits.

Although a game between a serial killer and a detective has been done by other novelists (see Beverly Barton's The Murder Game and The Dying Game), Hole, who has the personality of a hostile newt (the Salamandridae family will complain about the insult). make for a fresh contest. The investigation is fun to follow as the cop's team, superiors, and family dislike him, but he is the best detective on the Oslo force; beside which the Snowman selected him for the wintry chess match. Readers will enjoy this award winning Norwegian police procedural and seek other translated Harry Hole inquiries (see The Devil's Star).

The Troubled Man
Henning Mankell
9780307593498, $26.95

In 2008 Sweden at Hakan von Enke's seventy fifth birthday party the disturbed former Swedish naval commander tells Kurt Wallander about a 1980 incident he was involved in. His crew found an unidentified submarine in Swedish territorial waters, but when he reported it to his superiors while preparing to force the sub to surface, he was told to back away.

Soon after the septuagenarian tells his tale, he and his wife vanish. Although suffering from diabetes and memory lapses, and euphoric over the birth of his grandchild, sexagenarian Ystad Police Detective Wallander investigates what happened in the last few days to the parents of his daughter's mate and back during the height of the Cold War.

Wallander is at his crusty best with a case that goes nowhere and with age aches reminding him of his mortality as he fears death making him The Troubled Man; as ironically also is von Enke over the 1980 incident. The mystery is top rate as always in this super Swedish police procedural as the hero sees his detecting days nearly over with the family torch going to his police officer daughter. However, he refuses to quit on an inquiry involving his future in-laws as the Cold War echoes two decades after it ended in wintry cold Sweden.

Devil Red
Joe R. Lansdale
9780307270986, $24.00

In East Texas crime solving partners Hap Collins and Leonard Pine agree to look into a two year old cold case. The white Collins and the Black Leonard look at the file, which contains photos of the murder scene. In the pictures they notice a devil's head scribbled in blood. The killer is a murderer who has quite a number of kills across the country as they recognize the trademark.

Hap and Leonard soon find numerous suspects who could be the infamous Devil Red. As they dig deeper, the odd sleuthing couple suddenly believes Devil Red is coming for them. They debate waiting for the psychopath or continuing their search for him; either way Hap and Leonard expect high noon in East Texas.

The latest Collins and Pine Florida jocular hard-boiled bloody noir (see Vanilla Ride) is a great tale due to a strong investigation that leads the duet and readers to reconsider moral values especially relationships. As always there is plenty of sex and gore, but also as usual in between the bodily fluids is a tense plot. Joe R. Lansdale pulls no punches in this terrific taut thriller

Hard Bitten
Chloe Neill
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451233325, $15.00,

As anti-vampire protesters picket Cadogen House, three women go missing. Chicago Mayor Tate warns Master vampire Ethan Sullivan head of the Cadogen House that he will go to jail or worse if he fails to catch and hand over the serial killer of humans. Ethan assigns his young Sentinel Merit to investigate the homicides.

To keep her master from spending time in prison, Merit and the underground vampires team up to find the killer. However, Merit knows she must watch her back with the underground who have their own objectives. She is unprepared as to the direction the clues lead at the same time humans demand she and her associates mind their own business or else.

The fourth Chicagoland Vampires (see Twice Bitten and Friday Night Bites) is an exhilarating entry as the lead vamps and the Mayor face difficult issues. The story line is fast-paced with a sort of amateur sleuth feel to the plot as the heroine explores the human and paranormal species links while hot heads from both sides want her staked. With a great stunning late twist Chloe Neill continues to rock the urban fantasy sub-genre with her strong thrillers.

Bite Club
Rachel Caine
9780451233189, $17.99

In Morganville, Vassily the vampire opens up a new gym offering a class in self-defense to humans. Shane likes the idea of beating the crap out of vampires; that is if they have crap as he detests the undead though ironically his best friend is Michael the vampire.

After a few lessons, over the objection of his girlfriend Claire, Shane joins an underground extreme fight club in which humans and vamps will participate. However, someone tapes the fights and places them on the Internet. Soon afterward Michael and Shane vanish leaving it up to Claire and their fourth housemate Eve to find and rescue them, but from what.

The tenth Morganville Vampire urban fantasy (see Ghost Town) is a brisk fresh entry due to Shane playing a major second fiddle role enabling fans to learn what makes him tick. The story line is fast-paced as underground fighting has come to this unique Texas town. Blood will flow but how much and how deadly is to be read as Rachel Caine provides a wonderful extrapolation of contemporary issues facing teens like joining the Fight Club, to MIT or not to MIT, and a taboo cross-species relationship in this super urban fantasy.

To Be Queen
Christy English
9780451232304, $15.00

Her father Duke of Aquitaine William X trained Eleanor to maneuver her way through the volatile lethal world of regal politics. When he died when she was fifteen, she became the duchess as he mentored her to be. Her people adored and cherished their duchess. French King Louis adores Eleanor and three months after she became duchess she became his queen. They have two daughters, but Eleanor is disappointed in her spouse as he allows the Church to direct him instead of his acting as the monarch. Their marriage is shaky and collapses when Eleanor meets dynamic Henry of Normandy. Eleanor ends her marriage to Louis and crosses the Channel to wed her beloved Henry.

This is a biographical fictional prequel to The Queen's Pawn with much of the focus on the first royal marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine. At a time when female power meant no power, Eleanor learned starting with her mentoring father how to navigate a world of backstabbing betrayers to become a queen on both sides of the Channel. Well written, sub-genre readers, especially those who cherish the medieval period, will want to read Christy English's entertaining look at the prototype for woman power.

Lover Unleashed
J.R. Ward
9780451233165, $27.95

Mother dearest Scribe Virgin incarcerated her daughter Payne the vampiress for eons. Now, Payne is free in a world she does not recognize. She seeks out her brother Vishous who has found a niche in Upstate New York with his Jane; while she wonders where she belongs being a chip off her mother's block as an aggressive female in a realm that prefers domestic women.

However, her journey to her sibling proves near fatal as she suffers a paralyzing injury. The Black Dagger Brotherhood ask brilliant human surgeon Dr. Manuel Manello, whose best girl suffered a crippling injury at Aqueduct, to save the sister of his former employee's mate. Neither Payne nor Manuel is prepared for their reaction to one another; or their actions to protect the other as the war with the minion of the Lessening Society continues to heat up.

This is a strong romantic urban fantasy due to the fully developed lead characters. Manny is a caring individual as shown when his filly went down while Payne has been taught that love hurts so never allow that emotion to cripple you. Saga fans will appreciate the latest entry as the war continues while one potential mating couple struggles as star-crossed essences in love.

I Spy a Dark Obsession
Jo Davis
9780451232229, $14.00

Former Homeland Security Department field agent Robert Dietz shot his Secret Homeland Defense Organization (SHADO) leader Michael Ross several times before leaving him for dead. However, Michael survived thanks in part to his subordinate operative Bastian Chevalier, who confessed he loves him. However, Bastian knows he erred with revealing his feelings to his boss who turned to Maggie instead and drove a wedge between them. Psychopath Dietz has brought the pair back together as they plan to hunt him down once Ross heals.

Although not totally recovered, Michael and Bastian begin developing their counter strategy starting with adding techie Katrina Brandt to the mission. As the trio works on capturing a deadly sly lunatic, their lust for each other turns overt as Michael no longer conceals his desires for Bastian; mostly due to Katrina's open mind and libido. However, the hunted soon hunts the hunter threesome forcing each of the triad to look deeply at their respective heart.

Inane title aside, I Spy a Dark Obsession is a serious drama that brings a very insightful MM relationship subplot to the forefront; perhaps only Suanne Brockmann's FBI Agent Jules Cassidy is as deep. In addition to the MM, the F joins the duet making for a loving menage a trois while also distracting the lead trio from the mission of taking down Dietz. Although the female feels more of a forced necessity to soften an MM love story (rather than an intriguing revival for Michael's affection), readers will appreciate Chevalier's lament and Ross' denial until Brandt's desires brings both males out into the open sexually. However, it takes Dietz's deadly move to force each to realize how they feel. Bravely Jo Davis has a refreshing winner.

The Medusa Amulet
Robert Masello
Bantam Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780553807790, $26.00,

In Chicago Dante scholar David Franco knows his beloved sister Sarah is dying from breast cancer. He would do anything even give up his soul like Marlowe's Dr. Faustus to save her life.

Kathryn Van Owen is a contributor to the Newberry Library where David works. She asks him to search for a reflecting glass created by the renowned Renaissance artist Benvenuto Cellini. The mirror is said to contain an image of Medusa. If he succeeds, he will be promoted; but more important is the million dollar reward that he can use to pay for Sarah's treatment. He follows clues that lead from Florence and Paris. Tour guide scholar Olivia Levi assists him on his quest while assassins try to prevent him from achieving his mission.

The Medusa Amulet is an exciting fast-paced thriller in which the scholar faces death seemingly on every other page, which appears over the top of the Willis Tower (unless he is the cook in Steven Seagal's Under Siege). Although the romantic subplot feels more like a forced requirement, a desperate David risks his life to gain the mirror to save Sarah; fans will enjoy joining him on his action-packed misadventures.

Sarah Graves
9780440423126, $25.00

In Eastport, Maine, Jacobia "Jake" Tiptree scrapes paint off the front steps of her 1823 Federal house. However, a young man rides a bike pass her house giving her a look of anger that is so intense, Jake wonders what his problem is. He returns, but this time dismounts from his bicycle. Getting into Jake's face, the twentyish male accuses her of vague criminal activity. He departs with the words: "Blood shows up again. Murder will out."

Confused and upset, Jake looks forward to spending the Fourth of July with her family and Wade. However, she receives a threatening e-mail to "Beware the Fourth" from an unknown person using the alias "Nemesis." Although troubled by the bicyclist and email encounters, Jake is not one to sit idly by waiting for a stalker to knock her down. She assumes her predator is tied to her unsavory financial management days until the attack on Eastport begins.

The latest Home Repair Is Homicide amateur sleuth (see Crawlspace) is probably the darkest entry in the series. Jake will soon learn that her previous life in finance has come home to roost like a Dead Cat Bounce. Series fans will be hooked from the moment the bicyclist begins his spin. This is a great work in a fabulous series

Hiss of Death
Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown
9780553807080, $26.00

In Crozet, Virginia, as she prepares to sell her first grapes, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen struggles with stage one breast cancer, but refuses to let the deadly disease prevent her from living. Thus with her husband Fair's encouragement the fortyish Harry signs up to participate in a 5K Run for Breast Cancer Awareness.

However, before the race, Harry and her pets (felines Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and incorrigible corgi Tee Tucker) find the corpse of popular Central Virginia Medical Complex operating room nurse Paula Benton. Harry met the OR nurse during one of her recent hospital stays and respected the woman who was a key organizer of the race. Paula apparently died of anaphylactic shock caused by a hornet's sting. However, Harry wonders if the woman was murdered as Paula had issues with former addict now drug counselor Thadia Martin. Both were attracted to Dr. Cory Schaeffer, who is almost electrocuted in an electric car, which further affirms the belief by Harry and her sleuthing team that someone murdered Paula and tried to kill the physician.

The nineteenth Mrs. Murphy amateur sleuth (see Cat of the Century and Santa Clawed) is perhaps the most poignant tale of the long running series as the Brown tandem deftly focuses on breast cancer awareness inside of a well written whodunit. The cancer subplot supersedes the murder mystery summed up nicely in the Afterward by Ms. Brown's late mom: "You're going to be dead a long time. Do it now." Readers will enjoy the latest anthropomorphist mystery as the "real important characters" and the human support encourage Harry; who accompanied by her three pets investigate the death with the last word finally belonging to "maligned" Pewter.

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted
Bridget Asher
9780385343916, $15.00

Henry died two years ago in a car accident. His wife Heidi has failed to move on as she lives for his memory and to keep germy reality away from touching her and their eight years old son Abbott. She even stopped making her bakery a success.

Heidi's mother and her sister Elysius are worried about Heidi and what her grief is doing to Abbott. They decide that Heidi and Abbot accompanied by Elysius' troubled teenage stepdaughter Charlotte will go to the family house in rustic Puyloubier in Provence, France to oversee the fixing up of the kitchen ruined by a fire. Although they object, the trio heads to the estate only to lose all their belongings. However when Julien, whose marriage has just ended, and Heidi meet for the first since they were children, they are attracted to each other. However, their mutual desire leads to Abbott running away, sixteen years old Charlotte announcing she is pregnant, and what happened the summer mom ran away to Provence.

This is an entertaining family melodrama starring a wonderful protagonist who wants to be left alone in her wallowing and a strong cast who either share in her miserable outlook or foster an intervention on her. Melancholy and nostalgic, fans will agree with mom that the house in Puyloubier possesses the "logical cure for the brokenhearted."

Damaged Goods
Heather Sharfeddin
9780385341882, $15.00

In Willamette Valley, Oregon three months ago, Swift Consignment Auction owner and auctioneer Hershel Swift was in a car accident. Although healed sort of, his memory is like Swiss cheese filled with holes. However, as he struggles with memory failures and language issues, he sees the looks of his employees filled with loathing and his customers displaying contempt. Hershel vows with his second life to be a considerate of others better person; while he wonders why he was driving at night on a dark isolated road.

When Silvie Thorne's vehicle brakes down, Herschel rescues her and gives her a place to stay, but illegally sells her junker and what it contains. She knows she must keep moving as the psychopath stalks her to reclaim the lockbox she took from him; this predator will use excessive force including murder and molestation to gain what he wants while hiding his destructive nature behind a badge. Silvie fears staying put will hurt her Good Samaritan while Hershel begins to learn about his unethical business practices and the hurt he made his mom feel. He believes, unlike Sylvie, he caused his own problems, Silvie is an innocent caught in an unattainable situation. He will be there for her if she lets him.

This is an exciting suspense thriller with a romantic subplot that is wisely kept in a secondary support role. Although memory loss is an ancient device, the fresh story line is character driven by the lead pair as each has issues to contend with from their respective pasts, but most pressing is her immediate problem as this potentially is deadly.

The Peach Keeper
Sarah Addison Allen
9780553807226, $25.99

Thirty year old Willa Jackson hopes to be able to move beyond the long shadow cast by her ancestors who went from prominence to poverty. Her family's once proud home The Blue Ridge Madam symbolizes the acme and decline of her clan as much as her being a female storekeeper.

The Walls of Water, North Carolina Women's Society Club President Paxton Osgood, who attended highs school with Willa, invites her and others to attend the gala reopening of the restored Blue Ridge Madam as a prestigious inn. However, the remains of traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked the circuit over seven decades ago, are found. Ironically as both struggle due to a lack of any true friends, their grandmothers Agatha and Georgie were best of friends. Now with a common cause to learn what happened to Devlin, they begin to investigate the talk. With a hint of magic in the air, Willa and Paxton begin to forge a friendship that each hopes mirrors that of their ancestors.

Although there is a sense of Garden Spells in the air and a touch of the amateur sleuth, The Peach Keeper is more a character driven tale of friendship. Willa and Paxton are fully developed lonely protagonists who bond over Blue Ridge Madam renovation and corpse interred for years under the peach tree. The story line is uplifting as the magic of the latest visit to Sarah Addison Allen's North Carolina (see The Girl Who Chased the Moon) is everyone needs close friends.

Barbara Ashford
DAW Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756406820, $15.00,

Following losing her job and the ceiling plaster in her New York apartment caving in, Maggie Graham decides to spend a weekend in Vermont to get away before regrouping. When she learns of summer stock roles performing at the Crossroads Theatre in a barn just outside Dale, Maggie shocks herself and decides to audition. She is further stunned when she obtains roles in three shows.

Maggie muses how she has come full circle; having left the stage years ago only to return. She finds the troupe odd yet endearing. However, Maggie is most disturbed by director Rowan Mackenzie, who she has never seen leave the Crossroads Theater and never casts a person in the role they plan to try out for; instead he somehow knows what the person needs to perform on stage and in life.

Maggie keeps this wonderful whimsical witty tale focused as her past (she feels she failed professionally and personally) has impacted her present belief she is a loser and how she feels about her lack of a future. The theater proves healing and mesmerizing as it casts a spell on Maggie (and the audience). The otherworldly elements subtly enhance Barbara Ashford's tender look at a second chance at making dreams real.

Night Mares in the Hamptons
Celia Jerome
9780756406639, $7.99

A wall divides our world from a universe where magic exists and creatures from our mythos are real. Graphic novelist Willow Tate draws beings from that other realm; but what makes her unique is sometimes her depictions break through the barrier to her world. It is not a shocker that Willow is a Visualizer; as she comes from Paumanok Harbor in the Hamptons, a place where many residents possess psychic skills.

Three Night Mares arrive in the small Long Island village seeking a missing colt. They flicker in and out at night causing sleepless woes for the locals, but never appear in day light. People lack sleep and suffer from nightmares that has everyone irritable and over the edge. Minor irritants turn into full scale wars. The Department of Unexplained Events sends internationally renowned horse whisperer, Texan Ty Farraday to help the towns folk send the magical night mares home. He and Willow are attracted to one another and he make it known he wants her while in town. Willow focuses on the missing foal as she can sense the terror felt by the baby steed as people who possess the magical horse will kill to keep their prize.

With a nod to Xanth, the second engaging Willow Long island fantasy (see Trolls in the Hamptons) is a wonderful tale in which the fun story line never takes anything seriously. Willow is terrific holding the plot together through her courage and fear while the eccentric villagers enhance the purposely hyperbolized thriller. With a romantic subplot adding to the mix, Celia Jerome has written a charmer.

C.J. Cherryh
9780756406547, $25.95

Bren Cameron is the paidhi-aiji negotiator with the Atevi. He and the ruler of all of the ai-shidi'tat states, Tabini-aiji, have become close friends especially during the recent civil war in which the human's skills at solving difficult issues proved valuable.

However, though the capital of Bujavid is back under full control, hostilities remain especially in the Marid District, which borders on Bren's estate. Tabini's grandmother Illisidi assigns Bren to use his negotiating skills to broker a deal between Tabini-aiji and upstart ambitious Machigi of the Marad. Machigi is interested in what the first human he has met says, but distrusts sly Illisidi. Instead he invokes Atevi law by naming Bren the mediator between his unstable side and that of the leader. Knowing Atevi history better than almost any native, Bren knows the most difficult part of the assignment is staying alive as mediators almost always are the only thing two fractious sides agree on; that is death to the mediator.

The third book in the fourth Foreigner Universe series (see Deceiver and Conspirator) is a terrific cerebral entry with plenty of action, but the as political machinations are the backbone to the exciting story line. The human hero is once again caught in the middle but this time he is must prove loyal to both sides in the debate; not easy to achieve since he and Tabini are close friends. Fast-paced, as always in this saga, readers need a chapter or two adjust to the local dialect as C.J. Cherryh transports her audience to het Foreigner Universe.

The Shining City
Fiona Patton
9781101479117, $15.00

In Anavatan, the Gods walk among the people. Most of them pledge oaths to one deity or another. The more supporters a God has, the stronger that being is; and in turn the more that essence can do for his or her followers. The God of prophesy Incasa, the Chief God used the thousands of supporters especially the boys Brax, Spar and Graize six years ago to create the fledgling God Hisar.

While the seer Spar became young Hisar's chief priest, Brax the warrior is pledged to the war god Estavia. In turn seer Graize became bitter enemies of his two former friends. He left for another land to fight against the warriors of Estavia while seeking allies to return in order to conquer Anavatan. He may get his wish as war is coming since Anavatan has hostile relations with neighbors Volinsk and Roctov, who were once adversaries but now are united against a common foe. Other counties jointhe planned invasion of Anavatan who lacks the military strength to prevent an invasion on several fronts. The only hope is for former friends turned foes to reunite behind Hisar, but Graize resents his two ex buddies and his homeland

The final Warriors of Estavia (see The Golden Tower and The Golden Sword) is an exciting climax that ties up all the major threads to a strong epic fantasy trilogy. Although readers may be disappointed with the way the invasion is given a short amount of pages Fiona Patton's heroes insure a gripping entertaining High Noon finish.

Invasion: The Secret World Chronicles
Mercedes Lackey, Steve Libby, Cody Martin, Dennis Lee
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781439134191, $26.00,

In Atlanta, Heinrich Eisenhauer arrives at the Echo metahuman detention center insisting he is a Nazi although he looks too young to have fought in the war. Echo Support Detective Ramona Ferrari is assigned to question Eisenhauer. However, before she can interrogate the prisoner, Nazis invade Echo. She is wounded and fakes death while observing Eisenhauer talk with a cell mate Slycke. The Nazis assassinate Eisenhauer as Slycke escapes.

At the same outside of Echo Headquarters, all hell has broken out around the world. In a panic attack as she sees humongous war machines in a shopping parking lot, romance writer Victoria Nagy causes the ground to shake beneath the stormtroopers. Belladonna Blue watches nine foot tall armored suits shoot energy balls from their arms. The Third Reich has returned in New York City to the horror of John Murdock and others in a bar, but none of the metahumans fighting against the rise of these Nazis know how this could be true. Besides which the synchronized assault has the world reeling as Seraphym of the Infinite only sees fears and little hope in people she meets.

Invasion, the opening act of The Secret World Chronicles, is a fun over the top of the Fernbank Observatory alternate historical science fiction thriller. The story line is faster than the Silver Age Flash as the metahuman homeland security operatives battle the resurgent Nazis. Fans who enjoy reading superhero tales like Crisis on Infinite Earth and the Watchmen will appreciate this exciting tale as the supervillains seem poised to rule the world.

More Than Words Vol 7
Carly Phillips, Donna Hill and Jill Shalvis
Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373837632, $7.99,

"Compassion Can't Wait" by Carly Phillips. Social worker Julia knows how fourteen year old Michael feels; as the teen stoically spends his time at the hospital playing baseball games while his mom stays with his dying twin Manny. Julia asks The Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation to find a hero for Michael. They arrange for Miami Suns baseball superstar Kyle to mentor Michael. When the social worker and the pitcher meet, each recalls their high school days as a couple until he left for baseball and she stayed with her dying sister.

"Someplace Like Home" by Donna Hill. When Verna and Ronald meet, each recognizes an obsessed need to help the young. Attracted to one another, she seeks her biological mother who abandoned her and he learns he may have a teenage daughter he never knew existed. Thanks to Eva's Initiatives and the Family Reconnect Program he learns the truth about whether April is his biologically, but dreams that he, Verna and April can forge a loving family together.

"What the Heart Wants" by Jill Shalvis. Teacher Ellie has no money to spare as she uses her meager salary to pay bills and to fund Powerful And In Charge, an organization helping teens. When she and teen Kia are stuck with a flat, Jack comes to the rescue. Jack and Ellie were a couple years ago as troubled teens. As they fall in love all over again, Kia returns to bad ass Bobby.

All three well written tales honor a caring organization (Ms. Shalvis' dedicated hers to WET (Women's Expressive Theater) trying to make things better for people. Each entertaining entry affirms love comes in different relationships.

The Pleasure Garden
Charlotte Featherstone, Amanda McIntyre, Kristi Astor
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373605545, $14.95,

"Sacred Vows" by Amanda McIntyre. In Dublin, the law forbids the mingling of Gaels and English nobles. However, Cara risks her life by breaking the taboo because she believes Edmund is her beloved though he is bound for the priesthood.

"Perfumed Pleasures" by Charlotte Featherstone. Before Joscelyn left to fight in the Crimean War, he and Catherine the heir to Fairfax House were lovers. Now in 1856 he comes back scarred in body and mind wanting to die; while she is engaged to his cousin; but their love for one another remains strong.

"Rites of Passion" by Kristi Astor. On the other side of a Beltane fire, Widow Emmaline and Jack see one another with an instant attraction. Later he arrives at her home, but catches the flu, from which she helps him recover from the illness and the trauma of serving in WWI. He also heals her pain suffered on account of her beloved Christopher dying at Amiems.

The three heated erotic romances use the May Queen mythos as a backdrop to exciting tales occurring in different eras.

The Iron Queen
Julie Kagawa
Harlequin Teen
9780373210183, $9.99

Almost seventeen Meghan Chase may have defeated the Iron King Machina Meghan but as a half-breed most of the Fey want her to return permanently to the human realm rather remain in the Seelie Summer Court of her father King Oberon. The Fey get their wish when she is banished from Nevernever for refusing to give up her lover Prince Ash of the Unseelie Winter Court. He joins her in exile though she worries about his adapting to the mortal plane while she considers whether to attend ITT after her adventures in wonderland.

At what she considered her former home before her banishment, the Iron Spider Hags attack them while Robin "Puck" Goodfellow joins them since he has been exiled too due to wanting to visit his friends. Soon after the reunion, her sire and Queen Mab demand the star-crossed lovers return to Nevernever as the threat from the Iron King has reached a distinct point of annihilation of the Fey. They want Megan to kill their enemy and defeat his horde before the Fey become extinct.

The third Iron Fey fantasy (see The Iron King and The Iron Daughter) is a terrific entry in which the overarching theme moves forward at the same that the audience learns much more as to what make each of the key lead trio ticks while the overarching theme moves forward. Once again the key player is Meghan who is getting an education on Fey politics, family and love as she is bright back to the court that banished her in ought to battle an enemy in mortal combat.

Rush of Darkness
Rhyannon Byrd
9780373775583, $7.99

In France, since her rescue from the evil Casus and Westmore the malevolent Kraven, half-breed (Deschanel vampire and Alacea psychic) Raine Spenser obsesses over destroying her former evil captors. Her vendetta is personal not just because of what they did to her, but because they murdered her sister. She plans to send them to a hell worse than the Meriden prison they escaped from.

Former vampire hunter Seth McConnell has enlisted with the Watchmen to prevent Westmore from succeeding with his dreadful schemes. Since vampires massacred his family, Seth loathes the undead. Still he has to reconcile his hatred with his need for Raine who soothes his troubled soul though she distrusts the hunter who rescued her and he distrusts the half-vamp he rescued.

The seventh Primal Instinct urban fantasy romance (see Touch of Temptation, Touch of Seduction and Touch of Surrender) is an engaging tale of star-crossed lovers as he hates her kind (at least half of her kind) and she hates loving him as that emotion interferes with her prime objective. Fans of the saga will relish this fine entry as Rhyannon Byrd keeps the overarching paranormal war theme moving forward while focusing on the romance between two essences who by nature and nurture should be mortal enemies.

Michele Hauf
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618569, $5.99

The fear of what Juphiel is planning has shaken up the hierarchy of the Beneath; as the fallen angel has chosen his female muse to impregnate her. The offspring would be an amoral flesh and blood eating nephilim. To prevent the calamity, Sinistari demon Pyxion the Other has been sent to kill him.

Pyx locates Juphiel in a Paris club, while he is using the human guise of Cooper Truhart, as he searches for his lost halo that contains his soul. Instead of what was reported, Pyx finds a determined Juphiel trying to not fall for the lure of his muse and will never create an evil beast with her. Instead, Cooper plans to have Pyx his way whether that means ripping out her metal heart or winning her metal heart as she is the first female Sinistari he ever heard existed.

The key to this Of Angels and Demons thriller is the Hauf world seems genuine as the Sinistari try to prevent the Fallen from siring Nephilim with their muses. However, it is the lead couple who make the tale fun to read; as fans of Michele Hauf will enjoy the twists and turns of this delightful romantic urban fantasy as forbidden love between eternal enemies leave angels, demons and readers wondering what next.

Golden Vampire
Linda Thomas-Sundstrom
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618576, $5.99

The Feds send former cop Jesse Stewart and her crew, known for rescuing missing persons typically in an extraction, to go to Slovenia to bring home the kidnapped daughter of a U.S. Senator. While in Europe on her mission with subordinate Stan having her back, Jesse meets vampire Lance Van Baaren; who in spite of her attraction to him she assumes he is evil.

However, Lance is a Guardian, pledged to protect the innocent and to keep vampire blood pure. He offers to help Jesse on her quest as evil rogue vampires have captured the young American girl. As the human and the vampire team up, she realizes who he is as he saved her life from a vampire assault when she was a child living in Los Angeles.

This is an exciting romantic urban fantasy starring two strong lead characters with a history. The entertaining story line takes its time to introduce the players and the Thomas-Sundstrom world of Moon-Vampires, but once done the plot goes into hyperspeed. Fans will enjoy this twisting thriller whole wondering who will get the last bite.

Naughty Bits 3
Megan Hart, Kate Austin, Jennifer Dale, Amanda McIntyre, Letty James, Eva Cassel, Alison Richardson, Adelaide Cole, Grace D'Otare
Harlequin Spice
9780373605538, $14.95

"The Countess's Client" by Alison Richardson. As the daughter of a Prussian general, she lives a virtuous but boring life until the Comtesse d'Esslin considers going public.

"Devoured" by Letty James. Marco the chef proposes an all night tryst with Christine in exchange for a, $5-million house; she wants the sex with the hunk over the home.

"Dreamer" by Kate Austin. She dreams of him every night, but wakes up without an orgasm Miri becomes a sex addict looking for the perfect lay, but she does not know Jack when she will come.

"The Pirate's Tale" by Grace D'Otare. Gertrude of the convent and the sea captain are to marry over her objection. She changes her mind when she enters a room filled with erotic secrets.

"Acting the Part" by Eva Cassel. Filming in France, Lydia worries about the final shoot requiring her to orgasm with Mikhail, but she wonders if she has to act the part after a taste of his Method technique.

"Her Lord and Master" by Jennifer Dale. Molly hopes to impress her new master, but she finds she must choose between her lord and a commoner.

"Mirror, Mirror" by Amanda McIntyre. Quadriplegic Paul pays men to have sex with his wife Charlie as long as he watches. The latest hired gun Cade has a different plan in mind.

"Reason Enough" by Megan Hart. Elle and Dan enjoy a heated marriage until he brings up the taboo subject of a baby.

"The Flower Arrangement" by Adelaide Cole. In 1903 the teen joined the Riggs household thanks to a friend. However, Emma meets Master Riggs, which begins her education.

These are nine well written erotic short story romances with neat twists.

The Darkest Secret
Gena Showalter
9780373775491, $7.99

Amun was one of the twelve immortal warriors who opened Pandora's Box eons ago. Like his peers he was punished by absorbing one of the demons Secret as a Lord of the Underworld.

Meanwhile Strider and his demon Defeat capture Haidee, a demon Hunter whose ancestors were massacred by the Lords of the Underworld in ancient Greece. He takes her to the ancient warriors' fortress. There she meets in a cell Amun locked by his peers to keep his demon from manipulating the darkest emotions of his peers while the Warrior still recuperates from travel to Hell and back. Her touch calms the demon inside of Amun, but though attracted to one another, a hunter and a lord are as star-crossed as lovers can be.

This is an intriguing entry with a strong late twist as readers will wonder whether love conquers all includes demons and their hunters. The romantic urban fantasy story line continues to be extremely complex and convoluted so don't dive in here as it behooves readers to peruse the previous tales. Not for everyone as Gena Showalter does not run away from the transgressions the Warriors have committed with rape and violence. Still fans will enjoy the tale of the hunter trained to kill the demon and his host.

Immortal with a Kiss
Jacqueline Lepore
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061878152, $13.99,

In 1862 Sebastian Dulwich asks his friend Emma Andrews, a vampire hunting Dhampir, to leave Copenhagen where she is studying the information on her undead enemies to head to the Lake District because an evil predator is attacking students at the same girls' school Blackbrier School for girls that her mother attended. She assumes she will hunt a vampire while she knows she will seek clues to her heritage.

Emma arrives and interviews the "coven girls". She comes away from her interrogations with the conclusion a vampire has mesmerized the coeds and will soon dine on them if not stopped. However, as she digs deeper with the support of her comrades (Sebastian, Father Luke and Valerian Fox) Emma and her loyal teammates learn of a malevolence who she fears is the ancient dark Goddess Cyprian Queen.

The second Emma Victorian vampire gothic (see Descent Into Dust) is a terrific entry as the reader learns more about the heroine's roots inside an exciting thriller in which the era comes alive through the strict code of conduct at the school. Ironically the audience knows who the villain is even with the predator pretending to be a sheep hiding amidst the herd. Although the climax seems a bit rushed, fans will enjoy this engaging historical horror fantasy due to courageous Emma fun investigation into the realm of the bloodsuckers.

Vampire Mine
Kerrelyn Sparks
9780061958045, $7.99

As he nears five hundred years old, vampire Connor Buchanan feels depressed. His work as a bodyguard to the Draganesti family is the only reason he has for living. He knows his problem is he does not care about anyone except the brood he keeps safe, but has no cure for the vampire blues.

Connor rescues exiled Marielle the angel condemned to mortality after being kicked out of heaven. The Banished One caused the death of a vampire under Connor's protection so she must pay the price even if it was an accident. However, Connor and Father Andrew think the Fallen Angel can help the vampires. Marielle falls in love with her vampiric protector even as she feels divided and confused as she also wants to return to Heaven.

The latest Love At Stakes (see Eat, Pray, Love) takes an intriguing spin as the Sparks mythos expands with a Banished Angel falling into the Draganesti brood; as readers know where angels tread, demons follow. Besides the fresh romance, the overarching theme moves forward as the fight continues with some characters making their final live appearance. Vampire Mine is a strong urban romantic fantasy with a brisk new spark to the saga.

Sex and the Single Vampire
Katie MacAlister
9780062019325, $7.99

Anton Melrose II, chief of the western division of the United Psychical Research Association, informs employee Summoner Alegra Telford that if fails again, she will return from London for the states unemployed. Alegra feels like a charlatan as she is in England because that is where many ghosts haunt and as a Summoner, she should be able to make contact.

Nine centuries old Moravian Dark One Christian Dante detests swinging London though he swings the scene in an attempt that seems futile to find his cherished one; only she can save his soul with her love. His nightmare wait suddenly turns to a blissful dream when he meets Alegra who thinks she has summoned him through the portals of the netherworld. He persuades her that he has never even visited the place, but as a vampire, he hopes that she will insure that he never does. When Alegra finally succeeds in summoning ghosts, she comes to the attention of worshippers of the dark and their malevolent evil spirit. Only with Christian's help can she hope to remain safe even as she finds herself reciprocating the love he feels for her.

A reprint of a 2004 book, Sex and the Single Vampire is an amusing paranormal romance starring two delightful protagonists, a horde of supernatural creatures that make the beyond seem real plus the return of Alegra's pals from A Girl's Guide to Vampires (also Dante's first appearance). The story line hooks the audience from the moment that Christian and Alegra meet because the reader feels the attraction that sets in motion the dangerous gathering of a deadly entity and his followers. Urban romantic fantasy readers will enjoy this one-bite sitting teeth in cheek (and neck) tale.

Captured by a Rogue Lord
Katharine Ashe
9780061965647, $7.99

Twenty five years old Miss Serena Carlyle is okay with the knowledge that she is on the shelf. Her plan is to see her younger stepsister Charity marries the prefect man. She thinks their neighbor wealthy hunk Alex Savege is the right person; though a rogue he is an earl.

However, Serena may not have chosen the earl if she knew about his secret life as Redstone the pirate raiding the yachts of the wealthy to help the poor. Still she asks Alex to help end ruthless smugglers from plundering the coast. He agrees, but she is unprepared for this pirate plundering her heart one kiss at a time.

Although the theme of a pirate romance prate between aristocratic neighbors has been used before (see The Pirate Next Door by Jennifer Ashley), Katherine Ashe keeps it fresh due to the spinster's antics based on her premise he rejects that the earl is perfect for her stepsister. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the earl stepped into the room and never slows down as the lead couple duel with wit and love in Ms. Ashe's wonderful historical.

Tale of Two Vikings
Sandra Hill
9780062019127, $5.99

In 964 in the Land of the Saxon, identical twins Toste and Vagn Ivarsson have never been apart as they are best friends as well as brothers. However, due to their childish behavior, their disappointed father exiles his offspring hoping the pair finds themselves by partaking in a Viking raid. Having to smell two hundred Vikings who never bathe over months, the Ivarsson brothers know raiding is not their lifestyle. During the chaos of an assault, they are separated and both injured.

When Toste regains consciousness he finds a horde of nuns tending to his wounds. Also at the nunnery is Lady Esme, hiding from her avaricious father until she can gain her inheritance. Toste agrees to assist her because he has fallen in love with her.

At the same time, Vagn awakens to find himself tied to a bed in Gorm Sigurdsson's home. His host believes he has captured Toste, who he has chosen to wed his daughter Helga. However, Helga would know Vagn anywhere as she wants his baby and him too if he is willing.

This is a zany over the top of the High Road "double the trouble" Viking romance as the Ivarsson twins lighten up the Dark Ages with their antics in and out of the boudoir. Fast-paced, readers will root for the twins to reunite (with their respective beloved woman nearby) as Sandra Hill provides twice the spice, jocular and as usual irreverent historical romance.

It Happened one Season
Mary Balogh, Candice Hern, Stephanie Laurens, Jacquie D'Alessandro
9780061993374, $7.99

"The Seduction of Sebastian Tranter" by Stephanie Laurens. Military code breaker Sebastian sneaks into a library to escape the gala. Tabitha enters the library mumbling about a blackmailer's letters. Sebastian says it is a code and offers to help her catch a rat, but must pretend an engagement that he plans to make real.

"Only Love" by Mary Balogh. Cleo the Widow and Jack the Major met before the war and meet again after. His brother orders Jack to marry in order to sire the male heir he cannot. Jack wants Cleo, but she agrees to be his mistress until she proves whether she can carry a child.

"Hope Springs Eternal" by Jacquie D'Alessandro. Alex has vowed to care for Penelope, whose brother died under his command. He locates her after a scandalous work she created leaves her with her reputation tattered. He offers marriage, but needs to tell her the truth about her brother.

"Fate Strikes a Bargain" by Candice Hern. Having just returned from the war, Nathanial is told by his brother to marry and sire children so the title remains in the family. He meets Phillippa who has a severe limp and is overly protected by her loving caring family. Nathanial has his own issues from the war that haunts him, but proposes marriage.

Using the same historical theme of second son bachelors returning from the war needing to sire heirs as the title older brother has no male offspring; It Happened One Season is a wonderful collection with four engaging diverse renditions to the premise. Ironically the females make each tale as they are not diamonds to the Ton but are to the men who love them.

The Welcome Home Garden Club
Lori Wilde
9780061988431, $7.99

In Twilight, Texas, single mom Caitlyn Marsh disliked affluent J. Foster Goodnight who never recognized her high school sweetheart Gideon Garza as his. Eight years ago Garza was murdered and she was left pregnant and estranged from her father. Thus, she is stunned when Gideon, who left town late at night without a goodbye to join the Green Beret, arrives in town for Goodnight's funeral.

Caitlyn is hired to create a special garden to honor Goodnight; meanwhile Gideon has come back home, seeking closure with the dying man who was his biological father but never recognized him as such. That is until Goodnight was near death and left his ranch to Gideon. Still suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, Gideon takes one look at Caitlyn's son Danny and knows he must be his offspring; as the kid looks just like he did when he was Danny's age. Now he must persuade his beloved to give him a second chance as he loves Caitlyn and unlike his late dad wants to be a father to their child.

The latest Twilight contemporary romance (see The First Love Cookie Club) is an engaging second chance tale with a strong support cast (the Garden club and family members) and a solid lead couple who have become stronger out of necessity since their teen days. The story line focuses on second chance relationships between the protagonists and their fathers (Goodnight's from the grave), and one first chance between a dad and his son. Readers who enjoy a warm family drama will appreciate the welcome to Twilight from the garden club.

The Caregiver
Shelley Shepard Gray
9780062020611, $12.99

For two years, Paul abused his wife Lucy. She concealed the bruises from friends and families; however those aware of his viciousness also pretend all was right with the couple. Now Lucy feels relief since Paul fell off a ladder to his death although it is one year since he died and she still remains frightened of men.

Lucy rides the train to visit her ailing cousin Mattie in Jacob's Crossing. Timid Lucy meets Amish siblings extroverted Calvin and precocious Katie on board. The train breaks down near Cleveland, which allows additional time for Lucy to become less frightened with Calvin. He notices how comfortable she is with his younger sister but is wary of him. When they reach Jacob's Crossing, they learn they are neighbors, but her focus is on her relative suffering from breast cancer while he concentrates on his family farm. He hopes to help her move past the big hurt that has her acting like a scared cat around him but fears giving her his heart.

The first Families of Honor tale is a terrific and stunning story as Shelley Shepard Gray makes a case that even in the most pious communities abuse occurs and is often ignored by those who should intervene. Lucy makes the plot work as she is afraid of men yet attracted to Calvin; while she also remains a true believer, in contrast her cousin is losing her faith in the Lord. Character driven, readers will enjoy this insightful look at an abuse victim starting to heal due to her faith and people showering her with love.

Secrets of a Proper Countess
Lecia Cornwall
9780062018939, $7.99

Widow Isobel Maitland is very careful with how she behaves amidst the Ton especially with her in-laws watching her every move because they do not want a scandal to interfere with their covetous need to climb up the aristocratic system. However, the Countess decides to let herself go and enjoy a masquerade party she attends. She meets Marquess Phineas but introduces herself as Yasmina to the notorious rake.

Phineas actually uses the role of rogue to conceal he is an undercover agent working for the crown. He searches for his Yasmina as much as he seeks to expose a smuggler working for Napoleon. Once he figures out who Yasmina is and accepts the evidence that prim Isobel is her, Phineas wants to make her his wife, but fears she might be in cahoots with the smuggler.

Lecia Cornwall provides historical romance fans with an entertaining nineteenth century tale starring two intriguing protagonists. The metamorphosis of Isabel from prim and proper to seductress (perhaps to easily done) makes for a fun time as readers will enjoy the havoc her change in deportment does to Phineas while he tries to focus on the case. Secrets of a Proper Countess is an enjoyable historical.

The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught
Jack Campbell
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor
New York, NY 10014
9780441020379, $25.95,

The war is over and the Alliance won thanks mostly due to the strong military leadership of Admiral John "Black Jack" Geary (see six books of The Lost Fleet Syndicate Worlds war). As his reward, the popular officer is assigned command and control of the newly commissioned First Fleet.

However, the Alliance political leaders who were grateful to Geary for the tough war decisions do not want a popular war hero hanging amongst them. They order Geary and his First Fleet to enter into the far rim of Syndic space allegedly to investigate alien occupation. Geary understands though the combat with the Syndicate Worlds is over with the enemy shattered, entering the deepest sector is suicide. Making the mission even more perilous is his unit has been supplied with inferior equipment and orders that stifle accomplishment while increasing risk.

With a great space rotation, The Lost Fleet turns from military science fiction to Star Trekking Beyond the Frontier. The story line is as always faster than the speed of light as hostilities remain extremely high even with the war over; as Black Jack's previous political supporters want him out of town. Jack Campbell creates a terrific unexpected spin to his great outer space saga as the formerly Lost Fleet now The First Fleet is sent by armchair leaders to die.

Dead Reckoning
Charlaine Harris
9780441020317, $27.95

In Bon Temps, Louisiana, Sookie Stackhouse helps her cousin Claude the Fairy and Great-Uncle Dermot clean out the attic cluttered with generations of junk. Sookie becomes excited with finding a letter from her grandmother to her accompanied by a buried treasure.

Someone tosses a Molotov cocktail into Merlotte's when the place is filled with customers. The police believe the motive is to get at the owner Sam Merlotte who has recently come out as a two-natured person. Sookie thinks the cops are wrong with their looking at the anti-shifter fanatics, but she has no idea who or what the motive is. At the same time Victor the vampire is causing problems for Sookie's lover Eric Northman and his "child" Pam as the evil one's antic is leading to business loss at Fangtasia. Eric and Pam plan to kill their master while Sookie joins them to keep them safe.

This a terrific transition thriller as several subplots are closed and new ones seem started. Super Sookie the sleuth has come a long way trusting in her abilities, but still is unable to read what makes others tick especially her lover the vampire who her instincts screams is about to embark on a dangerous quest. Fans of the series will relish this True Blood entry as Charlaine Harris provides another strong Cajun fantasy.

Waking Nightmares
Christopher Golden
9780441020171, $7.99

For centuries Peter Octavian was a vampire. After a millennium in Hell, he emerged as one of the most powerful mages on an earth where humans know vampires, demons and other species exist. Residing in San Francisco, Peter prefers a quiet life, but also believes it is his role to prevent the paranormal species from harming humans.

In Hawthorne, Massachusetts a fisherman and his son find a box and open it. Soon afterward Earthwitch Keomany Shaw calls Peter to tell him she is drawn to Hawthorne because something dangerously evil is there; that malevolence will spread from ground zero unless they can prevent it from happening. Before the pair arrives, all perishable dairy produce curdle and spoil while a magical torrent inundates the area. When Peter and Keomany arrive, they find the magic getting stronger by the minute. People engulfed by magical energy turn to wraiths intent on hurting their family and neighbors. The two outsiders team up with Amber who has visions of what could occur if the evil is not stopped. With assistance from recently turned vampire Charlotte, they seek the source of the wicked magic, knowing that all they need is a miracle to stop whatever entity is behind this debacle.

The latest episode in the Peter Octavian urban fantasy saga (see Of Saints and Shadows) crackles with energy as the action never allows the heroes a respite; each understand time has run out. The protagonists taking a stand by fighting the entrenching darkness feel natural even with supernatural prowess. Fans of the series will feel the author is Golden with this super novel and its incredible cliffhanger.

Carolyn Turgeon
Crown Publishing
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780307589972, $14.00,

While her Northern Lands kingdom is at war, Princess Margrethe is safely concealed at the convent under the guise of Mira. Bored she escapes her cell to look out at the water only to see a mermaid drag a man onto the beach. The male turns out to be Prince Christopher, the son of the enemy of her father and their kingdom.

Lenia the teenage mermaid who saved Christopher's life falls in love with him. Although she knows staying on land is fatal for her kind, she vows to remain with her beloved. At the same time Margrethe concludes that if she and the prince marry, the combat would end and unite their warring kingdoms. However, by the time she goes to the Prince to offer a marriage of political convenience, he seems to be in love with Lenia; though he fails to realize who she is. Margrethe plans to eliminate her rival by sending the ailing sea creature back to her watery home.

This is a terrific extremely dark twisting of the Hans Christian Andersen's classic The Little Mermaid as Carolyn Turgeon for the most part un Disney's the tale. The story line is at its best when the two women compete for the prince as their methods are different. Although the Sea Witch subplot feels out of place with the rest of the strong adult fairy tale, fans will relish the political spin to the Mermaid.

The Lightkeeper's Ball
Colleen Coble
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781595542687, $14.99,

In 1910, the Stewart family is one of the upper crust Four Hundred who own New York City High Society. Olivia Stewart rejects the notion of a marriage of social convenience, but knows she needs an excuse to escape the pressure from her family. Her alibi is not what she would have wanted, as her sister Eleanor died in Mercy Falls, California.

Olivia heads to Northern California to investigate the death of her sibling; her only suspect is Eleanor's fiance Harrison Bennett. Accidents begin to hamper her progress starting with nearly drowning in San Francisco Bay; her rescuer is Harrison. As she begins to believe someone is trying to kill her, she changes her mind that Harrison is a killer. He, in turn, has good cause not to trust a Stewart though he is attracted to the sister of his late fiancee at a time when Olivia turns to Harrison to keep her safe.

The third Mercy Falls romantic suspense (see Lightkeeper's Bride and The Lightkeeper's Daughter) is an engaging historical mystery as Olivia wonders whether the man she has fallen in love with killed her sister and wants to murder her too though he did save her life several times. The story line is fast-paced while enabling armchair readers to feel they are in northern California a century ago. Although the killer's motive seems extremely weak, readers will enjoy Colleen Coble's entertaining early twentieth century tale.

Almost Home
Mariah Stewart
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780345520371, $7.99,

In St. Dennis, Steffie Wyler has been in love with Wade McGregor since they were small children. In fact her life goals were to make ice cream and marry Wade. However, once he left town for college and never came back she settled on one out of two. Thus she owns One Scoop or Two ice cream parlor.

Co-owner of KenneMac microbrewery in Texas, Wade comes home to attend the wedding of Beck and Mia. Steffie and Wade spend a romantic interlude (a lot of coupling happened at that wedding), which revises her dreams, but he abruptly leaves for Texas. Nine months later, Wade's best friend Robin is dead and with him is a toddler as he returns to St. Dennis; the company closed. Steffie assumes he is passing through, but though he wants the best for little Austin, he also delays his trip to his new job in Connecticut as he decides to pursue Steffie to see if the sparks he always felt are the real thing.

The third Chesapeake Diaries home sweet home tale (see Coming Home and Home Again) is an engaging warm contemporary romance with several family related twists. The characters drive the story line as Steffie reacts to Wade's return with a son as strike three while he tries to make amends. Sub-genre fans will enjoy the latest visit to Maryland's Chesapeake Bay.

Heartbreak of a Hustler's Wife
Nikki Turner
Ballantine One World
9780345511089, $14.00

In Richmond, shook by the attempt on her husband Des' life, attorney Yarni Taylor prays for her spouse to give up his street hustlin' ways and be a by example pastor to the congregation of the Lady of the Good Life Ministry. Des insists he will once he deals with the punk who shot at him and the insolent fool who robbed the church during services.

Already concerned with her husband's safety, Yarni turns frantic when non-clients appear at the law firm reminding her of five years old daughter's kidnapping. Eighteen year old Desember Day (see Natural Born Hustler) claims to be Des' daughter; an offspring he never knew he sired until she came to their door. In spite of never having met before, Desember proves to be a chip off her father's block with a knack to landing in trouble. Yarni comes from a line of hustlers so knows what she must do to break the gangsta cycle. For her to keep the street out of her home, church and law office means confronting those who threaten her dream even family members.

The latest "Hustler" street lit (see A Hustler's Wife and Forever a Hustler's Wife) is a terrific family drama as once again Nikki Turner makes straddling the fence between the gangsta hustle and that of the middle class hustle seem real due to a strong cast. Yarni is fabulous as she struggles between her dreams and her compromised reality. Des feels as pulled in multiple directions as his wife does. Though the novel has a sort of been there- done that sense of a transition book, the extended family and the congregation enhance an entertaining character driven hip hop thriller.

At Home With the Templetons
Monica McInerney
9780345518651, $15.00

In 1993, the magnificent seven of the Templeton clan move from England to Victorian Goldfields, Australia. They take residence in Templeton Hall, a manor unused for years. The locals are taken aback by the brood and the youngest daughter eleven years old Gracie soon learns not everyone is welcoming of her and her family.

The patriarch Henry hopes to make money off the estate by providing period piece (in full costume and decor) to tourists of the stately manor house. Eleanor the matriarch struggles with controlling her husband's zaniest money making schemes as they never work. She also needs to keep their five children actively involved or Henry's latest plan will join the boondoggle failure pile. Their neighbors, single mother artist Nina Donovan and her son Tom, rent a nearby farmhouse; both are fascinated with the Templeton family. A tragedy splits the clan apart as culpability is everywhere and nowhere as over the next decade an a half, the Templeton kids make their own way in the world.

This is an engaging look over sixteen years at a family, in which each goes their separate way down paths of success, failure, love and betrayal. The key to this family epic is that each Templeton and the Donovan diet come across as different people with strengths and weaknesses as the viewpoint changes amongst them. Fans of family drama will enjoy reading At Home With The Templetons.

Night Magic
Jennifer Lyon
9780345520067, $7.99

When she was sixteen years old, her evil mother Maeve the witch tricked Ailish Donovan into hand fasting with Asmodeus the demon. Over the next eight years, Asmodeus sends her sexual dreams to bring her to his side. Ailish fights them using Earth Witch magic, but she understands the day of reckoning is soon as on her twenty-fourth birthday, she either has rid herself of the eight year old demonic mark or she will die. Although she would prefer to live, death brings two rewards as she would no longer be tied to the demon and her mother and her malevolent coven will be dead too.

Phoenix Torq is a hunter serving the Wing Slayer by killing rogues who allow the blood lust to take over them as they heed a demon's call to slaughter the Earth Witches. However, the worst that could happen occurs when he becomes soul bond to the blind kick boxer Ailish. He knows if she gives in to Asmodeus, he will go rogue; if she dies, he dies. Fourteen days and he don't know what to do as his instincts is always to save the female, especially this one, but how.

The third Wing Slayers series (see Blood Magic and Soul Magic) is a great romantic urban fantasy that uses well-placed humor to brighten the dark Lyon mythos. The story line is fast-paced as the final countdown begins; fate tosses a curve ball at the heroine prepared to die when she meets her soul bond. Readers will appreciate this powerful thriller as Phoenix and Ailish magically conjure up in the minds of the audience the wry comment in A Tale of two Cities by Dickens: "Tis a far far better thing I do than I have ever done before.".

The Alpine Vengeance
Mary Daheim
9780345502575, $25.00

Ten years ago, Larry Petersen was convicted for the murder of his sister Laura in a bank dispute (see The Alpine Fury). However, someone insists Larry is innocent and has sent anonymous letters claiming someone else provided a deathbed confession to Alpine, Washington Sheriff Milo Dodge and Alpine Advocate editor Emma Lord. Emma asks her House & Home editor, Vida Runkel if the confessor's name means anything to her, but the Cascade Mountain town gossip queen says no.

Although Larry dies in prison from congestive heart failure just after insisting to his son he did not kill his sister, the anonymous author continues to send letters demanding justice be served. As Emma and Milo discuss the letters, poachers are raiding maples in the forests and someone kills artist Carl Laurentis just after he delivered a work to an art gallery.

This is an exhilarating mystery that has Milo and Emma hopping between The Alpine Fury (published in 1995) cold case and a new homicide during Thanksgiving in the Cascade foothills. The story line is action-packed, but the personal stuff will slow down new readers unfamiliar with the light switch relationship between the sheriff and the editor. However, long term fans will relish the whodunit ties between entries twenty two and six, and the personal references to the pasts of the lead characters.

Friendship Bread
Darien Gee
9780345525345, $25.00

In Avalon, Illinois six years has passed since their offspring Josh died. Neither Julia nor Mark Evarts has moved on as each is trapped in their grief; so much so their marriage is being torn apart from inside. She also never forgave her BFF sister Livvy who was with her son when he died.

Julia and her five years old daughter Gracie arrive home to find an odd package waiting for them. An anonymous person left homemade Amish Friendship Bread and a starter kit on how to make your own loaf. She wants to toss the package out, but Gracie begs her not to dump it. They bake the bread and soon Julia begins distributing the recipe to people in need like Widow Madeline Davis struggling with her tea salon and concert cellist Hannah Wang de Brisay whose marriage and perhaps her career has died. Over tea and bread, Madeline, Hannah and Julia begin to heal while the latter ponders whether to bring Friendship Bread to Livvy who has not forgiven herself.

This is a compassionate community drama based on the concept that good food is a healer of many emotional traumas even the death of a loved one; sitting Shiva for instance includes neighborly dishes. The women are terrific as the audience will understand what eats at each of their souls. Although the men in their lives lack any dimension beyond that of the respective woman in their life, fans will appreciate the uplifting message to bake a Friendship Bread (recipes included) to help heal a hurt.

Hummingbird Lake
Emily March
9780345518361, $7.99

Dr. Sage Anderson suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after what she witnessed as a Doctors Without Borders volunteer in Africa. So horrific, Sage has also stopped practicing medicine. She has come to Eternity Springs, Colorado to recover her mental sense of balance amongst her friends. Here, she begins to succeed as an artist because painting helps her forget the torment at least for small moments.

Woodcarver Colt Rafferty comes to Serenity Falls when he needs to clear his mind of the tragedies he investigates. When they meet, each is attracted to the other. He wants to know what secret has darkened her eyes and knows when he touches her she remembers there remains good in the universe as he brings light to her eyes.

The return to Eternity Springs (see Angel's Rest) is a charming contemporary romance in which the relationship seems simplistic yet magically the individuals are extremely complex. Character driven by two emotionally wounded warriors, Emily March once again provides a wonderful tale as love between caring people is more than just a great healer; it is a powerful vanquisher of traumas.

Born at Midnight
C. C. Hunter
St. Martin's Griffin
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312624675, $9.99,

Sixteen-year-old Kylie Galen cannot understand how her perfect teen world could implode this fast as she is exiled for the summer to the Shadow Falls Camp for troubled teens. First her parents suddenly are obtaining a divorce; and second her boyfriend Trey betrayed and dumped her. Finally she must cope with the death of her grandmother while having no one to provide her any comfort.

Complicating matters for the teenager is the troubled other campers who are a menage of freaks and geeks insisting they are not purebred Homo sapiens, but instead are paranormal species. She thinks the campers are beyond troubled and disturbed to insane though she conceals her ability to see ghosts as she rationalizes that is not the same. However as two freaking hunks (Lucas and Derek make it obvious they want to be her boyfriend, Trey pleads with his ex for a second chance.

Summer in the city is not this camp in isolated Fallen, but resilient Kylie adapts to spending time amidst the Freaks by accepting she is one of them. The question is not whether to freak or not to freak, but instead as the Lovin' Spoonful sang: "Did you ever have to make up your mind; Pick up on one and leave the other (two) behind." Young adults will enjoy Kylie's changing lament while wondering who will be the last camper standing?

The King of Plagues
Jonathan Maberry
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312382506, $14.99

The blast at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel left thousands dead and many more injured. One hour after the deadly explosion, retired Department of Military Science agent Joe Ledger arrives to investigate the carnage caused by the terrorist attack and un-retires in a rage at the lunatics who caused this horrific violence. Not long afterward, Joe and his team are attacked by assassins of the Seven Kings who plan to rule the world with iron fists.

In Fair Isle in the Shetlands, a viral research facility is breached releasing Ebola. As other terrorist attacks raise the death toll around the world, Joe knows nothing about the Seven Kings except they seem to have much more resources than the nations of the world as this group uses modern weapons to release the Ten Plagues of the Old Testament to destroy the global economy.

The third Ledger case (see Patient Zero and The Dragon Factory) is a great action thriller that grips the audience from the opening sequence and never loses the reader's attention until the final explosive confrontation. Clearly over the top of the Wall Street-German merged exchange, the London Stock Exchange and the Bombay Stock Exchange combined; fans will relish this fast-paced modernizing of the Passover plagues. Jonathon Maberry satirizes the stock exchange-military-religious complex; as Joe learns politicians and other world rulers are expendable purchases on a ledger sheet.

Zombies! An Illustrated History of the Undead
Jovanka Vuckovic
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312656508, $17.99

Perhaps the most popular Zombie fever advocate is movie director George A. Romero who began the current craze with his classic Night of the Living Dead in 1968. Since then Zombies are a feature of comic books, novels and movies. However, though this terrific reference book devotes about Zombies in the recent decades, the fun in this collection is the less known earlier periods. Thus the first four chapters are insightful and fascinating as the roots in Haiti, the literature of Poe and Shelley; the early films like the Living Dead and of course the Romero flesh feasts. Ironically though the slaves whispered of the dead walking at night, it is in the late nineteenth century the first zombie mania became an American public phenomena due to the work of journalist Patrick Hearne. The next wave is kicked off by EC comics, Romero and the Spanish zombie invasion. Finally there is choices when one enters Zombieland as readers will enjoy being on the menu due to the graphic illustrations enhancing the engaging historical look at peeling flesh via all types of multimedia sources; just keep hand lotion handy.

Charles Cumming
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312654207, $14.99

The year is 1997 and British M16 Agent Joe Lennox and CIA Operative Miles Coolidge are polar opposites in their personal lives and how they perform their job. Whereas Joe is a reflective introvert who sees the full cost of a scenario from all sides; Mile is a take the hill extrovert who does not give damn about costs even collateral damage to innocent people. This pair clash personally and professionally just a few months before the British leave Hong Kong to the Chinese.

Miles steals Joe's girlfriend as the hand off of the city ends the latter's mission. Han Chinese scholar Professor Wang Kaixuan, climbing out of the South China Sea, claims he has proof on China's human-rights violations against the Uighur population in Xinjiang. The scholar was to work with Joe, but he vanishes. Miles takes the professor and makes him a critical element in Project Typhoon, a scheme to subvert the Chinese government. Over a decade later, M16 learns of the revival of failed Typhoon under Miles' tutelage; Joe volunteers to learn the truth though he loathes the man who married the woman he still loves.

Typhoon is an intriguing espionage thriller in which the enemies are albeit on the same side. However, what makes this super is the chaos and personal baggage that fog professional decisions. Readers will enjoy touring China with guides Joe and Miles as Charles Cumming provides a cerebral spy thriller.

Deadly Threads
Jane Cleland
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312586560, $24.99,

In Rocky Point, New Hampshire, antiques store owner and expert hosts a series of classes. Her next class focuses on vintage-clothing collection with guest lecturer Riley Jordan to make the presentation. However, when affluent and amiable Riley fails to arrive on time, Josie begins the talk. She reaches under the display table to show the attendees an exquisite pair of Chanel heels. Instead she finds Riley's corpse.

Police chief Ellis Hunter investigates the homicide of a woman who apparently was well liked. He has two prime suspects. One works for Josie while the other is the philandering spouse of the victim. Although Hunter recognizes the possibility of a third unknown person as the killer, the only clues at the crime scene are a pearl and platinum button. Additionally Josie's assistant Gretchen saw a silver car leave suddenly. The will leaves Bobby with nothing and assigns Josie to dispose of Riley's fabulous vintage clothing collection, other valuables, and money.

The latest Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery (see Antiques To Die For and Silent Auction) contains a fabulous whodunit as Elias the cop and Josie the consultant investigate the murder of a vintage clothing collection. The lecture series as well as the evidence allows Josie to not only work the case, but to provide antiques information to readers; neatly interwoven inside an entertaining mystery.

Live Wire
Lora Leigh
St. Martin's
9780312945848, $7.99

Elite Ops Commander Captain Jordan "Live Wire Malone knew adding Tehya "Enigma" Talamosi to the unit six years ago was a mistake, but even he failed to predict why. Over the years, he came close to breaking his only rule about watching his squad's back a zillion times for her, but he never did. Now the contract is over and his team returns to normal lives raising families. For him, no way as he will hide behind the legend of Live Wire.

Nine months ago Tehya left the team to open a business. However, someone is leaking top secret information about her, which makes her and any one close to her in peril. Jordan still protects his team even if they disbanded and some already have kids. He arrives to warn Tehya and have her back. However, this time he no longer can resist her lure.

Although there are suspense elements, the last Elite Ops tale is more a pure romance than an action thriller. The story line is fast-paced yet filled with sex scenes and a chance to see how the team members have done since they went civilian. Tehya is a fascinating protagonist, but Live Wire feels different than in previous novels though one can rationalize he is being domesticated on the home front. Although tough love dominates the plot too much and his motive for being relationship phobic extremely weak, fans of the series will appreciate the climax of the leader and the female Elite Ops teammates trying to make it as a civilian couple even if the unit like the Hollow Men of T.S. Eliot go out in a "whimper not a bang."

Moon Cursed
Lori Handeland
St. Martin's
9780312389352, $7.99

With the cancelation of her TV show the Hoax Hunters, Kristin Daniels knows she will need a miracle to revitalize her career. Not one to idly sit around waiting for divine intervention, Kristin believes proving a legendary monster is a fake is the ticket back to the small screen. She chooses the Loch Ness monster as her target.

Kristin arrives in Drumnadrochit, Scotland to begin her hoax busting. However, she finds the corpse of a drowned female who some locals insist was murdered by Nessie. At the ruins of Urquhart Castle, Kristin and Liam Grant meet and are attracted to one another though she feels he conceals something dark from her. Meanwhile, Edward Mandenauer offers her a lot of money to assist him on his obsessive quest to find Nessie.

The tenth "Moon" Nightcreature urban romantic fantasy takes a terrific twist as the village of Drumnadrochit seems cursed by Nessie. In the gloomy dark atmosphere, the Hoax Hunter sets out to prove the killer is human, not mythical. The predator (Nessie or human), Liam and Edward form the rest of the Moon Cursed inquiry into whom or what is the psychopathic serial killer (can Nessie be a psychopath?). Fans will Crave the Moon saga as Lori Handeland provides a great entry in a strong series.

Captured by the Highlander
Julianne MacLean
St. Martin's
9780312365318, $7.99

In 1716 Duncan "The Butcher of the Highlands" MacLean seeks to kill British Lieutenant Colonel Richard Bennett for the vicious murder of his loved one. With his sawed-off Lachaber axe swinging, the Jacobite traitor charges into a bedroom at Fort William where he expects his enemy sleeps. Instead, he encounters Bennett's betrothed Lady Amelia Templeton. She explains she is also the daughter of the late highly regarded revered English Colonel, the Duke of Winslowe.

MacLean alters his plan by abducting Amelia and taking her into the Highlands. On their trek accompanied by his men, she sees how kind her captor is to everyone and begins to wonder about her fiance. However, she escapes when she hits Duncan in the head with a rock. He comes to rescue her from intoxicated British soldiers who plan to rape her. However, his rescue leaves him caught by the British.

Captured by the Highlander is a terrific Georgian romance starring a strong lead couple in which the Butcher learns rather quickly that when it comes to capturing a feisty female, he is the prisoner of her heart. The story line is driven by the triangle as the intelligent heroine revises her opinions of the two men in her life; the Butcher proves kind and caring killing only out of safety for his people while the Lieutenant kills as a big game hunter. Although some tension is abated by Bennett's prejudice that the Scottish are wild beasts to hunt down, readers will appreciate the changing relationship between Duncan and Amelia, as the heart of the matter is the Highlander is captured by the late English officer's daughter.

Scandal of the Year
Olivia Drake
St. Martin's
9780312943479, $7.99

Blythe Crompton sees how happily married her sisters are (see Seducing the Heiress and Never Trust a Rogue), and want the same for herself. Although she prefers a love match like those of her siblings, Blythe will wed a title to please her parents as well as making her dream come true. Her choice is the middle aged Widower the Duke of Savoy whose only fault is his "sweet concerned but acrimonious adult daughter Lady Davina.

However, when Blythe meets James the footman, her aspirations change. She is falling in love with James, but he conceals who he is from her and her family. James Ryding (Crompton) is the heir to the Crompton fortune, who believes her parents stole what is rightfully his and plans to expose them as frauds. Instead Blythe persuades him to pretend to be a foreign prince who is in England to court the duke's daughter so that Savoy can seek Blythe. However, one kiss leaves the plans of mice, footmen and ladies astray.

The third Heiress in London historical romance is another wonderful Compton romp as Blythe figures if she is attracted to James so will be her nemesis. The ploy fails miserably as does that of an avenging James; love proves an inconvenient truth to both. Fans of the series will relish the final tale especially the powerful climatic twist as what happened years ago in India comes home to roost.

The Redeemed
M.R. Hall
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781439157121, $25.00,

Thirtyish Conway Unit senior psychiatric nurse Alan Jacobs is found dead in a churchyard of Saint Peter's Church in the Severn Vale district. Coroner Jenny Cooper looks into what appears to be a suicide.

Not long afterward prison priest Father Lucas Starr asks Jenny to investigate the murder of adult film actress Eva Donaldson. The request is odd as Paul Craven, who confessed, was convicted of the homicide. Father Starr believes Craven confessed because he is a bit touched and that the man did not commit the killing. Jenny agrees to do a cursory look. She finds out that the late actress joined the Mission Church of God after quitting the porn industry. The victim also supported Decency a group demanding internet pornography be outlawed. As she works on both cases while still struggling with her nasty divorce that pile on top of her uglier childhood, Cooper finds connections between Donaldson and Jacobs; even as her fuming superiors (over Jenny solving the Disappearance case) demand she wrap up her two investigations immediately.

Cooper is an incredible character as she is so F up that it is amazing she is not restrained; the subplot when she was five years old enhance how mentally hurt she is. The whodunit focuses on religious and political corruption that the brass prefers disappears as M. R. Hall makes a strong case that justice is a two tiered system: the wealthy can flaunt the law and then there is the masses. Sub-genre fans will appreciate The Redeemed as Cooper battles with her personal problems fearing a breakdown and wars with her superiors over her successful inquiries breaking the Golden Rule of those with the gold make the rule.

Belinda Bauer
Simon and Schuster
9781451612752, $15.00

Wintry Shipcott is cut off somewhat from the outside due to the blizzard conditions. The townsfolk are used to rough winters so think nothing of the snow falling. However, the residents become stunned and alarmed when something brutally murders an elderly woman in her bed.

The village police officer Jonas Holly knows he is over his head but feels a sense of urgency to catch the murderer. At the same time he deals with caring for his ailing wife Lucy. Obnoxious Detective Chief Investigator John Marvel takes over the case bullying anyone who fails to obey his command. When the predator scorns Holly's skills, he stoically follows orders. However, as the body count mounts as do the letters of mockery, Holly decides to ignore the arrogant DCI to go it alone in order uncover the identity of the serial killer who he believes is a villager holding him responsible for a recent tragedy.

The dark and grim atmospheric English Moors (think of the Hound of the Baskervilles) make for a great psychological police procedural. The cast enhances the feeling of destined doom confronting the village cop while the egomaniacal DCI ignores advice from someone he considers in the ooze beneath the law enforcement food chain. With a great stunning ending, readers will appreciate Belinda Bauer's whodunit (see Blacklands for her previous thriller).

Falling Apart in One Piece: One Optimist's Journey Through the Hell of Divorce
Stacy Morrison
Simon and Schuster
9781416595571, $15.00

Wannabe film writer Chris informed his wife Stacy just months after they purchased a townhouse in the exclusive Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn that their marriage was over. She was taken aback as she had no inkling this was coming especially with their new home and nine month old child. Chris remained to help with her with her post marriage life as a single mom before leaving; while Stacy began to question her worth. However, heeding her own advice at Redbook and that of her steel magnolia mom, Stacy realized her only major error was pretending they were the All American family. She moved on no longer appeasing a spouse who felt she and Zack held him back, but had the decency to stay until they were settled.

The key to this profound memoir is Stacy Morrison's heartfelt personalized trek through chaos that at times feels like a journey through Dante's Inferno as there are many unpleasant and unhappy moments. The author limits her life moral generalizations learned to small knowledge gains, which in turn makes her memoir even more relevant. Powerful, Falling Apart in One Piece is a deep look at a dying marriage as the participants go though a form of the phases of grief while wondering what they could have done differently to resuscitate the relationship. This is an honest account of a personal journey to hell and back.

Finding Emilie
Laurel Corona
Simon and Schuster
9781439197660, $15.00

In 1749, less than a week after she gave birth to her daughter, fortyish mathematician Emilie the marquise du Chatelet dies. Since the father is unknown, the late mother's best friend Julie de'Bercy raises Lili along side of her own recently born daughter, Delphine.

Julie realizes how much Lili is just like her late mom as a brilliant independent person. Neither trait is welcome during the reign of King Louis XV. Her daughter proves as much a feisty troublemaker as her adopted child. However Lili keeps Delphine safe until she finds the right mate for her best friend though that leaves her alone wanting to learn who sired her.

Finding Emilie is a terrific Louis monarchy French historical in which the three femmes are terrific fully developed characters. The two BFFs make a formidable team as Julie (and readers) knows first hand. Based on the life of a real aristocratic female mathematician, readers will relish this deep look at eighteenth century France anchored by real people like Voltaire as Laurel Corona uses two complementary subplots; that of the two buddies and their mom, and that of the marquise as the mathematician and her daughter remind readers "to thine own self be true" (Hamlet).

The Ice Princess
Camilla Lackberg
The Free Press
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781451621747, $15.00,

With the death of her parents, biographer Erica Falck returns home to Fjallbacka, Sweden to close their estate. She quickly realizes you cannot go home as the town has changed from a coastal fishing port to a booming tourist attraction. However, when she goes to see her childhood friend Alexandra Wijkner, she finds the woman's wrists slashed in a tub of icy water; an apparent suicide victim. The grieving author considers writing a novel based on Alex.

As her abusive brother-in-law Lucas persuaded his wife Anna and the third sister Marianne, he demands Erica sell her parents' home to take advantage of the thriving market. Erica begins to look into what happened to Alex. Erica meets Patrik Hedstrom, the detective investigating the death. As they team up looking into Alex's death and begin a personal relationship, the pair finds anomalies even while someone wants the darkest secret kept concealed.

This is an exciting Swedish investigation in which the suspects provides their perspective; a technique that enhances the mystery. The town in many ways steals the story line as Fjallbacka is booming yet ironically decaying. The cast is as solid as the wintry ice, but though I cannot believe a cop on an investigation would allow a writer, especially one that he is seeing, to tag along, fans of Swedish whodunits (see the Wallander police procedural by Henning Mankell) will enjoy this engaging mystery.

Jane Austen Summer
Cindy Jones
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062003973, $14.99,

In Texas in a few months, Lily Berry lost her job due to Austen and her boyfriend also due to Austen. On top of that her mom passes; leaving behind for her two daughters necklaces made from her jewelry. Lily and her sister Karen feel they also lost her father who has a new girlfriend Sue; who he plans to marry and consequently is unavailable to help either of his shell shocked daughters.

Despondent she turns to Jane Austen for solace as the local bookstore owner Vera offers her a chance to participate in a reenactment of Mansfield Park by Janeite enthusiasts. However, Vera fails to inform excited Lily that their effort is failing and she has no role. Lily is attracted to Anglican Deacon Willis. Meanwhile Magda the director gives the Texan a hard time while she also has an affair with her superior until his wife and toddlers arrive. However, a different triangle with kids shakes the Berry siblings.

The premise of a sort of Venn diagram using interrelated relational triangles instead of circles is set up nicely due to the different personalities especially flaws the key characters bring to the mix. Since none of the relationships takes deep control throughout, readers will have difficulty determining what matters as Lily never anchors the story line. Still Janeites will enjoy spending "A Season at Mansfield Park" with the Berry sisters.

The Body in the Gazebo
Katherine Hall Page
9780061474262, $23.99

In Aleford, Massachusetts, an audit of the Aleford's First Parish Church reports, $10,000 missing from the minister's discretionary fund. The only person with access to his money is Reverend Thomas Fairchild, so obviously he is the prime suspect. Having solved mysteries before, Thomas' devoted wife caterer Faith Fairchild resolves to learn the truth as she knows her spouse would never steal funds.

At the same time she begins her inquiry into the missing money and calming her shocked spouse, her friend Pix Miller's mother Ursula Rowe asks Faith to help her deal with accusatory letters she recently received that disturbs the ailing woman. Someone threatens to reveal secrets that date back decades that has Ursula suffering from anxiety.

Faith is at her hectic best as she investigates who took the missing funds that directly impact her family, tries to help her stunned spouse and Pox's mom, and work her catering business; of course there are also the kids. Readers will feel exhausted wondering when Faith goes to sleep. Fast paced as always in this regional amateur sleuth (see The Body in the Sleigh), fans will appreciate feisty Faith Fairchild's fabulous inquiries.

I Can't Make You Love Me, But I Can Make You Leave
Dixie Cash
9780061910142, $13.99

The former "Queen of Country Music" Darla Denman is on tour with an entourage riding the bus with her. Her former spouse and still dedicated manager Big Bob and his second wife Roxie Jo are part of the retinue. In fact Roxie Joe is the opening act to Darla.

When they reach Salt Lick, Texas, Roxi Jo falls apart. Big Bob hires the Domestic Equalizers as backup singers though Debbie Sue Overstreet and Edwina Perkins-Martin are beauticians and sleuths. When the tour reaches Midland, Roxie Jo is found stabbed to death by a nail file in her dressing room; Darla confesses. The Domestic Equalizers believe Darla did not kill the trophy wife though they cannot fathom why their favorite singer confessed.

The latest Domestic Equalizers investigation (see Our Red Hot Romance Is Leaving Me Blue) is perhaps the best of the jocular series as the zany duet work a murder mystery in which a confession has already occurred. Fans will enjoy the humorous homespun wisdom of the BFFs as they cause their usual havoc while seeking evidence to prove their theory that their American idol is no stinking killer. Sisters Cash provide a delightful tale that will have amused fans humming I Can't Make You Love Me, But I Can Make You Leave.

Savage City
T.J. English
9780061824555, $27.99

In 1963, on the same day that Reverend King presented his "I have a Dream", in a Manhattan apartment, two white females were bound, raped, and brutally murdered. Nineteen year old vision impaired black laborer George Whitmore is arrested for the gruesome homicides that the media calls the "Career Girl Murders". NYPD obtained a forced signed confession from Whitmore. The convicted Whitmore spent the next decade trying to obtain justice from a system that refused to budge beyond locking away a scapegoat black male for a heinous crime against white females.

NYPD Bill Phillips was a second generation cop. He was corrupt and caught by the Knapp Commission looking into alleged illegal activity by law enforcement before testifying in the early 1970s about a department overwhelmingly white, bias and dirty. Many cops went to jail due in part to his testimony. In 1975 he was convicted of murdering The Happy Hooker and her pimp and spent years behind bars.

Dhoruba Bin Wahad was a founding father of the Black Panther Party who spent years in prison. He made enemies on both sides of the vast racial divide as rival Black groups including inside the Panthers and the white establishment through NYPD and the courts sought to silence him. In 1973 he was convicted of attempted murder of two cops in his third trial.

This is a powerful historical account of a brutal dark period in which T.J. English shines a spotlight on a New York troubled by racial tension as police brutality became a household phrase while the cops faced urban guerilla warfare with no psychological or combat training. The prime trio remains alive and free although each spent long period in jail; through them and their associates, Mr. English describes the Big Apple as rotten to the core.

Burn Down The Sky
James Jaros
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062016300, $7.99,

When humanity failed to heed the cries from an injured earth, as the avaricious power brokers chose more gizmos, and politicians ignored the climate warning signs, the planet started to die. The oceans rose dramatically as the ice caps melted. Then the oceans dried up leading to a vast desert planet with little rain anywhere. The spiral into hell on earth continued when the Wicca virus prevented females one year after their first period from having sex. Most went insane or chose suicide. The most valuable commodity in the world is a female who has not had her first menses.

Marauders attack the compound where Jessie, her husband Eden and their two young daughters (Bliss and Ananda) reside. They abduct Ananda and sell her to the Army of God cult. Leader Zekiel claims Ananda, who fights him and tries to help others; though that could mean being declared a heretic. Jessie and others including Bliss join another group heading for a confrontation with the Army of God in order to rescue their female young ones. However, the maurader's' leader is captured, but gives them information that will either enable the rescue of their children or die in the attempt.

This grim fascinating futuristic thriller extrapolates present global trends to make a case that the reckoning point of no return for planet earth is soon. The Army of God belongs to an Alliance sharing the same values. The descendants of the deniers who prevented the changes needed to stop climate change are killed and cannibal-rapists are a danger to normal people. Even if Jessica and her team rescue Ananda, they will still have to watch their back as others will come. In what looks like the opening act in humanity's final drama, readers will appreciate James Jaros' bleak cautionary tale as Zager and Evans sang in 2525" "... Now man's reign is through".

Heart of Deception
M.L. Malcolm
9780061962196, $13.99

In 1937, the Japanese attack on Shanghai killed Martha Hoffman. She left behind her Hungarian businessman husband Leo and their seven years old daughter Maddy. Being a spy, Leo needs to find a way to protect his child so he marries and sends his second wife and his child to live in New York. However, after he returns to the field, his spouse could not care less what happens to her stepdaughter. By 1942, Maddy arrives in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey to live with her Aunt Bernice Mason while believing her father deserted her.

The war may be over, but as Leo seeks to reconcile with his daughter, he needs a legitimate passport to travel to New York. He agrees to conduct one last operation in North Africa for passage to America. However, Leo is unaware that his beloved daughter has found a loving home with her Aunt Bernice. Over the years she turns acrimonious towards her dad for abandoning her and distrusts men in general though she has trysts with different types of males.

Using real persona from the 1930s through the early 1960s, M.L. Malcolm continues the saga of Hoffman (see Heart of Lies) with a strong insightful epic that can stand alone, but clearly enhanced with how the lead male made the decisions that cost him raising his daughter. The story line rotates the tale of the father the espionage agent wanting to come in from the cold and his daughter who over time loathes her dad for abandoning her. Epic saga fans will enjoy this look at three middle twentieth century decades as world events and a sister-in-law keep a father and a daughter apart.

The Confession of Katherine Howard
Suzannah Dunn
9780062011473, $14.00

In childhood, Catherine Tilney and Katherine Howard became best friends when both were wards of the Duchess of Norfolk. They remain close through their teen years as their families ignore them. Katherine falls in love with Francis Dereham. However, King Henry VIII makes the teenager his fifth wife. However, her time as queen is short because of accusations that she had an arrangement with Dereham prior to marrying the king; her best friend, a lady in waiting, is also considered for execution due to guilt by association.

The Confession of Katherine Howard is made fresh by Catherine, as the narrator Tilney provides a unique perspective that in many ways turns the exciting story line into her tale as she paints a picture of her friend as being intelligent rather than an inane flirt. In order for Howard to have achieved what she did in a man's world where she was abandoned as a child, she would have needed some smarts. Ironically what beheaded her was her childhood attraction to Francis Dereham, which no evidence supported the contention that this continued as an adult but was used as if it was alive during her marriage to the king. Although the wives of Henry have been featured in many biographical fictions including by Suzannah Dunn (see The Queen of Subtleties, The Sixth Wife and The Queen's Sorrow; and The King's Rose by Alissa Libby), this is a unique look at a woman unfairly judged during her life and since; perhaps Hnetry in his gut knew as he aged rapidly after her beheading.

Russian Winter
Daphne Kalotay
9780061962172, $14.99

Nearly eighty years old, Nina "The Butterfly" Revskaya was once a renowned prima ballerina at the Bolshoi Ballet. Residing in Boston, she arranges for the Beller auction house to sell her jewelry. Beller agent representative Drew Brooks is curious about the former dancer and her collection; as is Professor Grigori Solodin, who feels connected to the retired ballerina as he translated into English the poems of Nina's husband Viktor Elsin.

As the Russian expatriate looks back at her life in the Soviet Union with remorse and affection, Drew and Grigori also look back. Grigori believes Nona's collection and the one piece he owns retain secrets to his heritage that remain mostly a mystery to him. Nina loved the theater and her spouse. She cherished her friends Gersh the composer and Vera. However, Stalin and a personal betrayal sent her to America knowing she will never go home again.

With a powerful memoir feel to this exciting character study, readers will enjoy the terrific look at life as a professional dancer with the internationally acclaimed Bolshoi Ballet troupe under the Soviet Union. The story line is enhanced by the mystery of Grigori, but belongs to the aging ballerina who knows her life is in its Russian Winter stage as she looks back to her youth in the home country with fondness and regret.

Badass: The Birth of a Legend
Ben Thompson
9780062001351, $16.99

Ben Thompson switches from the real Badass personas of his previous tale to those of legend (biblical, mythology and Hollywood) with thirty-eight entries. Some of the toughest kick butts are females like Kali the Indian Goddess who dined on entails washed down buy blood and Atalanta who sailed on the Argo and defeated the male Greek heroes in a wrestling tournament. Others include Captain Kirk, Moby Dick, Thor, Beowulf and Godzilla, etc. The basic underlying theme that connects the Badass heroes and antiheroes is the battle between irrelevancy and reverence for top dog as only the winner does not have to look at the butt of the loser (even Saint Michael the Archangel who beat Satan's butt receives this treatment). Fittingly the Daleks are included; if you are unaware of who they are, this probably is not your book. For the rest of us, the glib commentaries make my day (Harry is included).

City of Lost Girls
Declan Hughes
9780061689918, $14.99

Acclaimed Hollywood film director Jack Donovan is in on location in Dublin. He becomes concerned over anonymous letters he received; thus he contacts Ed Loy, who he met in a bar fifteen years ago and put in one of his films, to look into them. At the same time extras needed as Donovan always focuses on minor characters vanish for no apparent reason. Although they are runaways and could have just moved on, Ed is asked to make inquiries.

Ed and Jack realize what is happening in Ireland occurred in California years ago. Four known people were in both locations two decades apart: Jack; cinematographer Mark Cassidy, assistant director Conor Rowan, and producer Maurice Faye. As Loy assumes the two incidents are linked, he decides one of these males is the culprit.

The latest Loy mystery (see All The Dead Voices) is a terrific serial killer whodunit. For the most part the story line is fast-paced as Loy seeks clues to identify who is the psychopathic Pied Piper offering film opportunities as candy to lure the victim. City of Lost Girls is a tense thriller as Loy struggles to protect a third female extra from becoming the next victim by uncovering the identity of the predator.

A Lesson in Secrets
Jacqueline Winspear
9780061727672, $25.99

In 1932, Maisie Dobbs is feeling the ennui of a long summer with nothing critical to do as she no longer needs to worry about making money since her mentor Dr. Maurice Blanche died and left her with his vast estate. She knows part of her boredom is grief from Maurice's death. That abruptly ends when the British Secret Service appears for a special investigation into a pacifist who they believe he is betraying the country.

Greville Liddicote wrote a children's book extolling the virtues of pacifism that the British government censored during WWI. Now he has opened a college in Cambridge whose mission is Pax Europe. Maisie goes undercover obtaining a position as a philosophy instructor so that she can watch the staff, faculty and students for seditious activity. However, the political war within the college already ugly turns deadly when someone kills Liddicote. While Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane and Detective Chief Inspector Richard Stratton struggle with their inquiry into the homicide, Maisie looks at extremist groups like the new Nazis party for the killer.

The historical backdrop is super while the competing whodunit makes for an entertaining Depression Era thriller. Maisie's new wealth reduces her personal problems in terms of earning a living vs. doing a gratis case, but her change in personal circumstances leads to new issues like what to do now with her free time. Readers will enjoy Maisie's latest investigation as she attends school in Cambridge in which she learns A Lesson in Secrets can be fatal.

A Kingdom Besieged
Raymond E. Feist
9780061468391, $27.99

On the world of Midkemia, the Lands of the Kingdom and the Empire seem at peace as the former gained land lost to the latter during the last war. Surface serenity proves deceiving because for years the Empire secretly have prepared for a return to hostile engagements. The Kingdom realizes they may have a major problem when intelligent agents fail to come home with useful information.

The mighty army of Kesh marches into the Kingdom and capture towns and killing residents as they plan to retrieve what they lost in the last Riftwar. They replace townsfolk with Kesh colonists who prefer the more fertile land than what they had back home. Their force reaches the strategic estate of the Duke of Credy as the Kesh know whoever controls this land has the upper hand in the hostilities. While the siege is occurring, Pug, the mightiest magician in the world, realizes something is brewing in the Demon Lands. Though he prefers to ignore the threat and stay home, Pug knows he must travel there to learn what is happening and how to prevent a calamity from occurring while helping the Kingdom fight the Kesh.

The first thriller in the alleged fifth and final Riftwar saga is an exciting opening act although another invasion feels somewhat weary for fans of the long running series. Still with what appears to be coming from the Demon Land provides the freshness to what would have proven trite by most fantasists. Readers will root for the Kingdom as the loyal cast fear they may be losing, but refuse to abandon ship. Although Pug should be ancient and scarred, as his son reminds him, he prepares for combat on an arcane plane as fans of the Riftwar will relish the first tale in the Chaoswar military fantasy in which the Demon horde led by a powerful Demon female and her followers prepare to enter Midkemia.

Children of Scarabaeus
Sara Creasy
Harper Voyager
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061934742, $7.99,

Although Cyphertek Edie Sha'nim and her bodyguard-lover Finn escaped from Scarabaeus, the tyrannical Crib government still wants her. Her hope to escape their brutal control of the universe is the fringe frontier worlds, but failed to appreciate how much her skill to change ecologies mean to the Crib.

They are caught and if she wants her lover to survive she will obey and cooperate. However, she is ill with what is demanded of her. If she performs the ecological reengineering she will kill a planet. Making matters worse the Crib is employing cypherteck children as slaves. There is the threat to the orb that started her as a dissenter, Scarabaeus.

The sequel to Song of Scarabaeus is a direct entry so it behooves fans to have read the previous tale first. Edie and Finn begin new escapades, but it is even more a coming of age thriller than its predecessor; as the lead couple struggle with political machinations as bioengineering and ecological reengineering has winners and losers as Edie has learned. Readers will relish Children of Scarabaeus as Sara Creasy continues a strong saga with a moral underlying premise in which each successful transformation brings affluence but at the cost to someone else.

A Pizza to Die For
Chris Cavender
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21
New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758229526, $22.00,

In Timber Ridge, North Carolina, A Slice of Delight pizza shop owners sisters Eleanor and Maddy Swift are despondent to learn Judson Sizemore, paternal nephew of the affluent eccentric Nathan, plans to open Italia's specializing in wood-fired pizzas on the same street as their restaurant. However, someone kills Judson with a piece of firewood in his new store just before the grand opening.

Eleanor learns Judson's Uncle was the money behind the pizzeria. The deceased's sister Gina publically accuses Eleanor of her sibling's homicide while the townsfolk look at who had the motive to kill the competition. At the same time Maddy's boyfriend Bob Lemon harangues the Swift sisters to not investigate the murder while Eleanor's ex David Quinton offers to help. However, the Swift sisters cannot help but make inquiries.

The latest cozy served with pizza (see Pepperoni Pizza Can Be Murder) is another Swift regional Slice of Murder, but tastes somewhat like its predecessors. The sleuth siblings are an engaging lead while the men in their lives and the townsfolk add depth to the entertaining story line. Culinary mystery fans will enjoy the snoop sisters investigating the murder of their new competitor.

Sweet Surrender
Deanna Lee
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758235008, $14.00

Based on a talk of the world show in San Diego of her painting in oil and water of nude bodies, Boston-based Holman Academy hires Lauren Evans as the artist in residence and the ability to do a show of her work once a year. Lauren is euphoric as the opportunity is incredible and perhaps more important she can escape the haunting Southern California.

Holman security chief Mathias Montgomery assigns British specialist and museum security head Connor Grant to insure Lauren is safe as he has a hunch that something is not right. When Connor and Lauren meet, he thinks his mum would like "Peaches and Cream" but he hates messy desserts while she thinks he is James Bond. However, as someone stalks Lauren with each assault being more dangerous than the previous one; Connor vows to keep her safe. He soon realizes he likes beautiful messy desserts as she proves intelligent and witty and enjoys sex as much as he does.

This is a terrific erotic romantic suspense in which the Massachusetts art world provides a wonderful back drop especially at the beginning. The lead couple is a strong pairing while the suspense subplot feels a bit of a stretch though based on real incidents in the art world. Readers will agree that Deanna Lee knows how to erotically paint a different perspective of the fine arts (see Barenaked Jane and Undressing Mercy) from Art Appreciation 101.

J.N. Duncan
9780758255662, $6.99

Someone drained the blood of a woman in Wisconsin. Now, an unknown predator drains the blood of twelve years old Archibald Lane, leaving a corpse with bites and a few bruises in a Chicago park. FBI agent Jackie Rutledge leads the investigation in which her psychic partner Laurel sense something paranormal at the murder scene.

Law enforcement first focuses on private investigator Nick "Sheriff" Anderson as the predator, but Jackie quickly realizes he is innocent. Instead he offers to assist her and Laurel on the bizarre case in which he and his team add to the paranormal peculiarities. Soon the inquiry leads back to over a century ago.

Because of the paranormal in Chicago, there is an obvious nod to early Dresden, but the respective teammates of Jackie and Nick make for a much different fresh urban fantasy spin. The supernatural investigative story line is fast-paced and contains a strong twist in midstream. The cast is solid as the lead pair and the secondary players are fully developed though more of the highlight film of Nick's 180 years of existence would have been helpful. Sub-genre fans will enjoy the brisk tour of J.N. Duncan's Deadworld.

Darkest Fire
Tawny Taylor
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758246967, $14.00

The three Alexandre Brothers (Drako, Talen and Malek) have been the leaders of the Black Gryffon for a decade since their father retired at fifty; as expected. Although Drako as the oldest is top griffin all three understand the mission is to protect humanity and keep secret the sources of humanity's power safe from the covetous Chimera. Proud of his offspring, their father reminds them it is time for wives and children so that they too can retire at fifty.

Thirty-one years old Drako knows what must be done though he has no one in mind. He must marry soon and sire the next generation. A billionaire playboy he prefers the knots at a bondage club, but duty before pleasure. However, he is attracted to Rin Mitchell and offers her a deal she could not refuse. He needs a mate who lets him play darkly while she needs money to liberate her sister from sexual slavery.

The first erotic Celtic fantasy romance is an enjoyable tale as the oldest brother finds his muse in Rin who literally ties him in knots as the hunter but figuratively she ties him in knots as the hunted. The fantasy elements take a back seat to the romantic subplot; as Tawny Taylor provides an entertaining Dom-Sub relationship drama.

A Sense of Sin
Elizabeth Essex
Kensington Brava
9780758251565, $14.00

In 1794 England wannabe botanist Celia Burke still grieves the suicidal death of her best friend Emily Delacourt although a year has passed. Emily's brother Rupert has struggled to move on though he has indulged in all sorts of hedonistic activity.

However, he finally decides Celia caused his sister's death and vows vengeance by ruining her. When each is blackmailed, they assume the other is the culprit. However, as they spend time together, Celia and Rupert find a common bond in their love for the late Emily. They realize that someone wants to extort money from both of them, when Celia goes to London for the season she finds love.

This is a warm late Georgian romance with a twisting suspense subplot refreshing the otherwise well written but typical story line. Celia and Rupert are fully developed lead characters whose connection is the late Emily; readers meet Emily as this pair perceive her. Sub-genre readers will enjoy the transformation of the lead couple from enemies to loving partners as a predator cleverly manipulates the grief impacting both of them.

Song of the Silk Road
Mingmei Yip
9780758241825, $15.00

Growing up in Hong King, Lily Lin, an orphan at twenty-eight, lives in New York. There she is writing her Chinese-American family biography, attending graduate school at NYU, waiting tables at Shun Lee Palace, and in a nowhere relationship with her married Professor Chris Adams.

Mills and Mann law firm contacts Lily to inform her that she inherited a fortune from a late maternal aunt Mindy Madison who she never knew existed. However, Aunt Mindy placed several stipulations that were placed on the three million. Although she has doubts, Lily, knowing she risks little as her assessment is that she has little decides to take up the gauntlet her aunt placed on her. Lily must perform specific tasks while traveling the Silk Road of the Taklamakan Desert.

This is an intriguing coming of age romantic adventure as the heroine finds her groove and love in the Chinese desert. Lily is a fascinating lead who keeps the story line focused even when her male counterpart seems more like the star of the Perils of Paul. Although the ending is too neatly tied up after such a harrowing trek, readers will enjoy accompanying Lily as she traverses the Silk Road.

Vienna Waltz
Teresa Grant
9780758254238, $15.00

Following the defeat of Napoleon, the European leadership gathers in Vienna to discuss how to draw the new boundaries. Though security is at intense levels with the foreign ministers of the superpowers in attendance, someone kills Russian Princess Tatiana Kirsanova.

British diplomat Malcolm Rannoch is looking at Tatiana's corpse in her quarters when his wife Suzanne arrives. He swears he just got there only a few minutes before her. Each insists they were summoned there. Although she has major doubts about her spouse's voracity, Suzanne teams up with Malcolm to investigate who murdered the Russian beauty before a diplomatic nightmare devastates the Congress of Vienna before it can begin in earnest.

Using real persona (Tallyrand, Metternich, Castlereagh and Wellington, etc.) and events like the festivities that occurred due to the end of the latest war to end all wars and the subsequent Congress of Vienna peace conference of 1814-1815 to anchor time and place, Teresa Grant provides an excellent historical amateur sleuth historical mystery. Suzanne believes her spouse is hiding the real reason he was in Tatiana's room though to her that is obvious. Still she joins him as the couple investigates who murdered the Russian royal before the homicide kills the Congress of Vienna efforts to redraw the map in order to prevent another Napoleonic Era of war.

Katherine Irons
Kensington Brava
9780758261403, $14.00

Thirtyish and a former Olympic team rider, Claire Bishop recently inherited Seaborne, an estate in Maine. Over the objections of her caring father Richard and her odious former husband Justin, she has decided to stay at Seaborne by herself. Since she suffered an injury in a boating accident, Claire has been wheelchair bound. Her dad fears for her safety; and her ex has other schemes in mind.

Off of Coastal Maine, Atlantean Prince Morgan senses Claire's anguish. He comes out of the ocean and takes Claire with him into the sea where he escorts her around his undersea world and like magic her useless legs work perfectly. However, Morgan has broken the strict Atlantean legal code by mingling with the humans as his half-brother Caddoc witnessed and demands legal action. As they fall in taboo love, adversaries from each of their worlds want the star-crossed couple separated and death is the best means to achieve this objective.

This is a delightful oceanic fantasy as Katherine Irons makes the underwater realm of the Atlanteans seem real from the moment the blue man-dolphin rescues a human child and never slows down until the surprising brilliant final tidal wave. Although their two respective prime enemies have no redeeming qualities, readers will root for the lead couple as Ms. Irons provides a wonderful under the sea tour.

The Shadow Guard
Diane Whiteside
Kensington Brava
9780758225191, $14.00

FBI interpreter Astrid Carlsen as a sorcerer also belongs to Shadow Guard; a top secret organization with strict rules governing the use of magic. When she mentally hears a psychic final scream of a woman murdered by magic, Astrid investigates.

Police officer Jake Hammond leads the official inquiry. He and Astrid are on-line gambling opponents. When they meet for the first time in person, she realizes he is Kubri, an essence who can recharge her magical energy to its acme with sex or for that matter destroy her through her libido. She hopes he desires an older woman as they team up on the case and in the boudoir where the magic they generate enables the pair to challenge the psychic serial killers more powerful than either of them.

The Shadow Guard is a superb erotic urban fantasy police procedural that blends the elements from the various genres into a power paranormal page turner. With an entertaining investigation, the fast-paced story line heats up on the normal and paranormal planes as Astrid and Jake learn the whole is greater than the sum of the parts when it comes to this pair sexually charging up their prowess.

Island Nights
P.J. Mellor
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758238191, $14.00

After watching like a voyeur her emaciated boss Dorinda "Dragon Lady" Laughlin have sex at the office, Reese Parker is jealous. However, she hides her envy as the Dragon Lady directs her to place a bid on a private Texas barrier island. When Reese reaches her destination Sand Dollar, she remains mystified why her employer wants the island.

The owner Ben Adams rejects her offer; as he prefers to keep the property in the family though he has doubts he can achieve his goal. However, they are attracted to one another and one kiss has both reeling. As Reese and Ben fall in love, he shows her the island and she revises her opinion of the place though she remains unsure why her boss would want it.

Island Nights is an erotic romance starring a fabulous lead couple and several other characters in heat (besides the bony Dragon lady, Reese's two BFFs and their hunks). Although the entertaining story line is not quite as thin as Dorinda is, fans will enjoy the romance between big bad Ben and passionate rousing Reese.

Kate Douglas
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21
New York, NY 10018-2522
9781420110012, $6.99,

On Lemuria, the son of the Councilor, Alton, his beloved human woman Ginny, Eddy the human woman and her beloved Dax the demon have learned that the demons control Lemuria as the Council of Nine ignored warnings. As they realize an inconvenient truth, heroic warrior women remain chained since they fought in the last demon War.

Selyn a Forgotten One daughter of a chained warrior woman was enslaved a thousand years ago by the Council of Nine at the end of that war. She and her sisters in arms prepare the rebellion against the Council of Nine. However, a guard viscously beats her to near death. Human veterinarian Dawson Buck saves her life. He heals her mind, soul and heart while she gives him a personal reason to live and fight on the Lemuria side of the portal.

Although the Demon King was defeated and exiled to the Abyss, the war continues to heat up with much of the action focused in Lemuria rather than on earth where the first two urban romantic fantasy Demonslayer thrillers (see Demonfire and Hellfire) occurred. Loaded with deadly action and sexual action, fans will appreciate this strong saga, but newcomers would be better off reading the first two entries to grasp the intricacies and nuances of the series as worlds of Kate Douglas are incredibly complex.

Too Sinful to Deny
Erica Ridley
9781420109948, $6.99

Embarrassed by their daughter's inane behavior, Lady Susan Stanton's aristocratic parents agree to exile their offspring to rusticate in the countryside. Thus Lady Susan is sent from London by her ashamed family to live with her father's cousin at Moonseed Manor in Bournemouth on the coast.

Susan arrives at Monseed but her paternal cousin is missing. She and smuggler Evan Bothwick meet and are attracted to one another, but his quest is to find out who murdered his brother Timothy. Meanwhile she assumes her cousin is dead while her ability to talk to ghosts ever since an icy dunk in the Thames leads her to believe the spirits are all disgruntled. After consulting with Timothy the ghost, Susan investigates his death, the smuggling activity and what happened to her cousin while the crooked magistrate wants her to leave for London immediately.

The latest Eric Ridley Regency tale (see Too Wicked to Kiss) is a super historical paranormal romance that grips the audience once the heroine reaches her exile destination. The story line is fast-paced as intrepid Susan talks to ghosts, which leads to her inquiry. Although the romantic subplot remains rightfully for the most part in the background, readers will enjoy touring the smuggler's coast with whimsical Susan as our guide.

Kevin Hearne
Del Rey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780345522474, $7.99,

Atticus O'Sullivan the Druid has lived for over two millennia and in that time he has made friends like Van Gogh and Galileo but also has alienated essences who want him dead. Some are extremely powerful, but perhaps his most persistent and strongest enemy is the Celtic God Aenghus Og. The Druid stole a magic sword from the God who vowed to hunt him down, kill him, and retrieve the sword. Over the centuries, Og has located Atticus, but his attempts to kill his adversary have failed.

O'Sullivan plays soccer while he also owns and operates Third Eye Books and Herbs store (hiding his Celtic heritage behind eastern beliefs) in Tempe Arizona. He has kept a low profile so that his sworn foes will not easily find him. Og locates him again and sends his nastiest minion to take care of him with instructions not to come back alive without his sword and O'Sullivan's corpse. The Druid's faithful Irish wolfhound Oberon is acceptable collateral damage.

This is a super urban fantasy in which the Hearne's mythos comes across as possible due to reasonable explanations interwoven into the fast-paced plot. Readers rather quickly anticipate an OK Corral showdown between the Druid and the God once Og locates the rodent who desiccated his deity. Sub-genre fans will appreciate Kevin Hearne's humorous tale of the "Mouse That Roared" against the superpower.

Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived
Paul S. Kemp
Del Rey
9780345511386, $27.00

Sith Warrior Darth Malgus is frustrated with the political machinations of Darth Angral and Darth Baras. Whereas he believes in getting to the point as he did when he crashed the Jedi Temple on Coruscant with an explosion heard around the galaxy; his so-called allies prefer working behind the scenes maneuvers. Malgus has other issues with his peers due to his relationship with his Twi'lek slave Eleena. The Sith only accept purity of the blood, which means only with Sith.

Jedi Aryn Leneer heads to Coruscant on a mission of vengeance against those in the Republic who destroyed the Temple and killed her Master. Also heading to the capital city is former Havok Squad Trooper turned Smuggler Zeerid Korr to provide his beloved daughter a safer life. As Aryn targets Malgus, Korr eludes the Hutt Cartel, but soon they will meet up in an encounter to rival the destruction of the Temple.

As the three prime principals collide in an explosive way, fans of the extended saga will realize how different Deceived is from Sean Williams' Fatal Alliance; the previous Old Republic thriller is vast in distance and numerous planets while this entry is limited to three orbs. The same goes for characterizations as the focus in Deceived is on the lead trio as opposed to a De Mille cast. Thus fans who relish action over characterizations and culture will prefer Fatal Alliance; while those who prefer key cast and culture to supersede the action will choose Deceived. Still both are fun to read as Paul S. Kemp concentrates on events that will not make the history books in the Skywalker future, but the audience will enjoy the clash when his fully developed threesome converge.

Enigmatic Pilot
Kris Saknussemm
Del Rey
9780812974171, $16.00

In 1844 in Zanesville, Ohio, clubfooted inventor Hephaestus Sitturd; his Seal islands Creole wife Rapture and their genius five years old son Lloyd receive an invitation to move to Texas. Hephaestus's half-brother Micah claims they can make a fortune, but his message is enigmatic as he insists he cannot explain how on paper.

Although mystified by Micah's odd note as war with Mexico seems imminent, the Sitturd family begins their odyssey across America. Lloyd a gifted inventor of oddities learns how to play poker from watching St, Ives a riverboat gambler with a mechanical hand containing a saber; they become partners. He works out the issue of humans flying and encounters robots masquerading as people after meeting the Professor and his two mute wives as ambassadors of Mars. It is Miss Viola who teaches him the ways of seduction as two ancient arcane societies continue their epochal war with one another over the future of humanity with each believing the brilliant Lloyd will be a tipping point. However it is teenage Hattie the escaped slave who teaches the lad how to love.

Starting in Zanesville but a couple of centuries earlier than Kris Saknussemm's previous Zanesville dark futuristic thriller, preadolescent genius Lloyd holds the exhilarating but enigmatic tale together as he creates oddities and meets oddities. Lloyd learns from the masters while teaching his mentors as well. However, each time the audience feels comfortable, Kris Saknussemm throws a spitball that spins the moral code elsewhere. The author extrapolates the present values back to the nineteenth century arguing that the American dream is a nightmarish facade for most and a dream for few even as early as the Antebellum period.

Classified as Murder
Miranda James
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor
New York, NY 10014
9781101514351, $7.99,

In Athena, Mississippi elderly eccentric James Delacorte hires librarian Charlie Harris to catalogue his prized rare book collection. He explains to Harris that he has supported his extended family even allowing them residence in his vast mansion though they show little respect to him from the heart. However, he is upset as he believes one of his relatives is stealing his valuable books.

Harris begins his inventory while listening to the taunts of boorish family members. When one of them kills Delacorte, Charlie assumes the stolen books are the clue to who the culprit is. With the help of Diesel his Maine Coon Cat in the Stacks partner, Charlie seeks to uncover the identity of the ungrateful murderer.

The second Cat-in-the-Stacks amateur sleuth who-done it (see Murder Past Due) is an engaging whodunit due to the male lead whose detecting is suspect (and fun). However, Charlie's relationships with his paw partner and with his adult son Sean make him seem real even with a sort of anthropomorphic dialogue between the two sleuths. Readers will enjoy this entertaining regional whodunit as the librarian and the cat work the case.

Spider Web
Earlene Fowler
9780425240984, $25.95

In San Celina, California, a sniper fires at the driver's side window of a parked police car near the town courthouse. Nobody was hurt as the vehicle was empty at the time of the shooting. Town police chief Gabe Ortiz leads the inquiry wondering what the motive could be.

Gabe's wife Benni Harper is busy with her myriad of jobs as a museum curator, rancher and caring for her beloved older relatives while also preparing for the first annual Memory Festival where she and the Coffin Star Quilt Guild will show their Graveyard Quilt for the first time in public. At the same time Benni scrambles with not enough hours in the day, a woman comes to town seeking a retirement home. However, instead she meets with Benni to discuss Gabe.

The latest Harper whodunit (see State Fair) is a fun amusing cozy due to the antics of the lead couple's eccentric family and friends. The sniper mystery is cleverly set up with readers, Benni and Gabe wondering about the motive; while the female stranger in town adds quite a wallop to the mix. This is a strong entry as even the most powerful people sometimes need help.

Mona Lisa Eclipsing
9780425238943, $15.00

Only a few months have passed since Mona Lisa went from living in Manhattan among humans to learning she was a hybrid Monere. She has since become the Louisiana Queen with a major circle of influence including five male lovers due to her respect for others rather than the contempt her peers display. Mona Lisa has also been to hell and back (see Mona Lisa Darkening)

However she feels she erred when she sent her beloved cursed Dante Morell away though Mona Lisa is aware of their ancestral link (see Mona Lisa Craving) and their shared grief over her miscarriage. Since he was last seen in Cozumel, Mexico she heads there to bring him home. The mission goes wrong and she loses her memory of who she is and why she is there. Roberto the were-jaguar with some Monere blood meets Mona Lisa. He takes advantage of the amnesiac Monere queen.

Mona Lisa Eclipsing is a strong erotic urban fantasy thriller as the heroine has to relearn her Monere Children of the Moon heritage for the second time; but affirms a Yogism that her reeducation is easier due to "deja vu all over again." The story line is fast-paced from the moment the Louisiana Queen goes to Mexico and never slows down as readers anticipate what will happen if she remembers all.

Navarro's Promise
Lora Leigh
9780425239780, $7.99

Human Mica Toler has lived amongst Breeds for a long time with her BFF being Breed Cassie Sinclair. Mica is especially attracted to Wolf enforcer Navarro Blaine, as she has since she was a teen; however, he fails to reciprocate her desire.

Insane scientist Phillip Brandenmore escapes from his incarceration. At the same time he breaks out of his cell, his cronies try to kidnap the more vulnerable Mica in an attempt to use her as an expendable pawn to get to her best friend equally alone Cassie Sinclair. Mica escapes while an upset Navarro comes for his mate as he no longer denies his feelings. They travel to Sanctuary, but Navarro does not show the marks of a bonded mated Breed, which means Mica's hear, will be broken.

The latest Breeds romantic urban fantasy takes an intriguing twist as Navarro seems to have broken one of the prime genetic concepts of the species in which you cannot resist the lure of your bond mate. Fast-paced with other twists including an ironic one involving Brandenmore getting what he wished for. However, Lora Leigh refreshes her saga by shaking up the Breeds world with her latest aloof hero who appears to be able to ignore his mate.

Flowerbed of State
Dorothy St. James
9780425240571, $7.99

It is every American gardener's dream to have the position that Cassandra "Casey" Calhoun occupies. After seeing her work in Charleston, South Carolina, the First Lady hires her as an assistant gardener at President's Park where the White House is located. The First Lady felt she and Casey shared similar views that are radical to the old guard status quo.

Casey finds herself face down in the mud and soon realizes someone tried to strangle her. A man looking like a black commando comes out of nowhere. She assumes he is her attacker coming to finish the job so she pepper sprats him. She is horrified to realize she injured Special Agent Jake Turner, an elite member of a military (CAT) arm of the Secret service. They soon follow a blood trail on damaged greenery, which leads to the corpse of Pauline Bonde, a Treasury Department accountant who was auditing the books of some powerful folks. Casey believes that the bankers who are visiting the President to talk him out of new oversight regulations and protestors who believe the First family is in bed with the bankers are linked to the murder. She investigates but almost gets killed with Turner always seemingly around to rescue her.

Part of the fascination with the first White House Gardener Mystery is the insight into how the support staff operates though that is similar to Julie Hyzy's White House Chef Mystery. Flowerbed of State focuses on the people who care for the gardens; an eccentric group who take pride in their work. Although a deep childhood psychological trauma propels Casey to search for the killer, it remains over the top of the Washington Monument that she could carry out a professional investigation while Turner seems to be going nowhere with experience and support in his corner. Still fans who ignore the plausibility will enjoy an entertaining whodunit.

Vampire Dragon
Annette Blair
9780425240526, $7.99

The Roman legionnaires were fighting when Killian the crone of Chaos cursed them; changing them into dragons and propelling them into an alternate reality on the Island of Stars. They have waited for centuries to come home as humans. Two millennia after the banishment spell they finally gain a chance due to Killian's enemy Andra who enables one at a time to return to Earth as a human in search of his soulmate.

Darkwyn Dragonelli arrives on earth after entering the mist. He is euphorically shocked to see her as he manifests nude at Bronte's club in Salem a hangout for vampires, undead hopefuls and tourists. Bronte's friend Vivica the dragon liaison manages to keep her friend from calling the cops. Struggling to adapt, Darkwyn gets a position as a vampire master at Bronte's club. He becomes close to his soulmate's son Zachary and has hopes Bronte will know they belong together. However she has dark secrets and enemies while he has a crone insuring he fails.

The third Words Like Magic urban romantic fantasy is a terrific often amusing thriller as Darkwyn struggles to adapt to an earth much different from the one he was exiled from and to persuade Bronte they belong together. Because the Blair mythos is extremely complicated, newcomers should start at the beginning with Naked Dragon and Bedeviled Angel. The new readers will agree with fans that, even though the tone is similar to the Beauty and the taming of the Beast theme of its predecessors, that Darkwyn's efforts to save his soul though love is a terrific tale.

Haunting Desire
Erin Quinn
9780425238950, $15.00

Seven years ago her mother died in a car accident, but the body was never found; her grave site in Ireland empty. Seeking closure Shealy O'Leary wants to come from Phoenix to visit the grave site though her father has a fit insisting it is unsafe for her to return to Ireland. As they argue, a man attacks her and her father. Almost immediately after a giant and a teen boy suddenly appear and her father vanishes.

The arcane Book of Fennore sent Shealy O'Leary and her father into an ancient mystical land. Fennore is a cursed place unsafe for either O'Leary. Separated, she must learn to use her innate sacred force that remained dormant until now in order to save her father from the likes of The Druid who wants to possess her power. She finds an ally in Tianan the Warrior as his enemy the Druid who cursed him is hers though his companion has doubts about her. Having failed his people, he sees the beautiful frightened female from the future as a chance to regain his honor if she believes in herself and her power. Neither expected love to come before trust.

The latest Haunting romantic fantasy (see Haunting Beauty and Haunting Warrior) is a wonderful tale that hooks readers from the onset as Shealy knows this isn't Arizona anymore. Although the lead coupling of a contemporary and an ancient Celtic has been used before including this series, sub-genre fans will enjoy visiting Fennore as Erin Quinn provides a fast-paced time travel tale.

The Demon and the Succubus
Cassie Ryan
9780425239063, $15.00

Amalya the succubus works successfully as an escort at the Sinners Redemption brothel in Nevada. Her job enables Amalya to feed and provide pleasure while, like her three sisters, pay off her debt to Queen Lilith.

Semiazas the demon escapes with one thought on his mind: revenge against the four Succubi. Queen Lilith hires Duke Levi Spencer to protect Amalya from the enraged demon who dispatched two of his vicious bounty demons, Pestilence and famine, to attack her. Levi knows he is part demon on his mother's side, but wonders if his paternal roots are angel or human. He accepted Lilith's deal to protect Amalya in exchange for the Queen providing him information re his sire. However, an instant attraction stuns both of them even as they begin to realize Semiazas has a bigger scheme than attacking the succubae; a scheme to destroy humanity.

The second Sisters of Darkness erotic romantic fantasy is an exciting tale due to the romantic subplot taking a backseat to the danger lurking throughout the Ryan universe of heaven, hell and points in between; just like in Jezebeth's tale, Seducing the Succubus. The lead couple is a solid pairing while strong support characters like Jethro add depth to the perils confronting Amalya and Levi. Readers will relish Amalya's adventures as the demons keep on attacking.

Deadly Dreams
Kylie Brant
9780425240687, $7.99

Marisa Chandler is an asset to solving homicides as she dreams about murders when they are happening. The criminologist Mindhunters unit she works with is especially pleased to have her paranormal skill as well as the fact she is a strong diligent investigator.

Lately she hauntingly has dreamed of people being burned alive. Her boss Adam Raiker assigns Risa to work with Philadelphia Police Department Homicide Detective Nate McGuire. He makes it clear that he resents the outsider intruding on his investigation. As she ponders whether to reveal to him the source of her information that brings them closer to the serial killer, she knows they work well as a team professionally and otherwise but only if he takes a chance on her.

The newest Mindhunters police procedural (see Deadly Intent) focuses on the investigation into the fiery serial killings more so than the romance. By doing this, Kylie Brant provides anther powerful "Deadly" thriller that grips the audience from the first meeting between Nate and Risa at a horrific homicide scene and never let's go until the final fiery confrontation. Fans will enjoy this exhilarating taut romantic suspense.

The Busy Woman's Guide to Murder
Mary Jane Maffini
9780425240601, $7.99

A 911 emergency telephone operator, Mona Pringle places her own emergency call to professional organizer Charlotte Adams. Apparently Serena Redding has returned to town, which terrorizes Mona, who was a victim of the woman's bullying back in high school. Mona comments she would love to kill her tormentor, but Charlotte assumes nothing with the passing whimsical comment.

That changes when another victim of Serena and her gang is killed in a deliberate hit and run, and two of the bullies are murdered. Charlotte wonders if Mona became deranged from her fear and embarked on a killing spree, or has been so frightened she vanished.

The latest Charlotte Adams amateur sleuth (see Closet Confidential and Death Loves A Messy Desk) has the events organizer balance her business, her canines and Mona's lament. Charlotte is terrific as she goes from the irony of an emergency call from a 911 operator to her fears that Mona went over the edge. Filled with red herrings and false clues disguising real leads, fans will enjoy this breezy yet insightful look at the adults several years after a youthful bullying relationship.

Slow Dancing on Price's Pier
Lisa Dale
9780425239957, $15.00

In Newport, Rhode Island, Coffee shop owner Thea Celik is divorcing her husband Jonathan Sorenson after ten years of marriage and a ten years old daughter Irina. At the same time, lobbyist Garrett Sorenson comes home after fifteen years away due to his then high school girlfriend Thea and his brother betraying him when they married. Their split makes him believe it is time for the Sorenson family to reconcile starting with a divorce party in Providence.

When Garrett and Thea meet, each is stunned as their attraction remains as strong as it did when they were teens. Although she wants to stay away from Garrett, she wants her child to know his paternal family. Garrett wants to know his niece, but distrusts Thea and his feelings towards her.

This is an entertaining family drama starring a strong woman who refuses to rat out her cheating husband to anyone especially his mother Sue who she loves. The competing brothers (and the other males) seem a bit emaciated compared to the female trio of Thea, Sue and Irina, who own the story line. Switching character viewpoints in the present and a decade ago, fans will enjoy drinking coffee and Slow Dancing on Price's Pier.

Mrs. Jeffries Forges Ahead
Emily Brightwell
9780425241608, $7.99

It is a beautiful night for a gala and the Banfield family is hosting one with two hundred guests attending. The Banfield has a long history of honorable service in support of the Crown in all corners of the Empire. However, the present generation is squabbling since patriarch Lewis married Arlette the model he loves.

Lewis' Aunt Geraldine, the former mistress of the manor, dislikes Arlette because the woman didn't belong to their social circle and the woman's business activities reflect poorly on the family name. Other people also dislike Arlette with some jealous of her new status. Especially loathing the interloper are the Bickleton matriarch who don't receive a pound to repair their furniture thanks to Arlette; she informed Lewis that Margaret Bickleton's husband has disgusting sexual proclivities. Her mother was irate with Arlette for deciding to license a semi-nude statue of her to be mass produced. However, others hated her too; only one person put poison in her champagne. Inspector Weatherspoon investigates the case while his housekeeping staff led by Mrs. Jefferies conduct their under the stairs inquiry unbeknownst but in support of their beloved employer.

Once again, Emily Brightwell creates a delightful charming Victorian cozy in which fans will understand first-hand the social class differences in late nineteenth century England. The engaging story line is addictive leaving the audience unable to put the book aside until we learn who killed Arlette. Even with the plot using the same underlying premise as done in the almost thirty previous historical mysteries in the series (see Mrs. Jefferies Speaks her Mind), readers will enjoy watching how Inspector Weatherspoon "solves" the complicated case as seemingly most of London wanted Arlette dead.

Daughters of Rome
Kate Quinn
9780425238974, $15.00

In 69 A.D. Cornelia is the paragon of a Roman politician's wife as she expects to one day soon become the empress. Their cousin Lollia is used by men in the family as a pawn to gain favors with the affluent. Another cousin Diana chooses to stay out of the elite arena as her preference is as a spectator at chariot racing.

Otho leads a bloody coup that ends with the Emperor Galba dead after a reign of seven months following Nero's suicide. Cornelia's dream died with her spouse. Marcella must adapt having manipulated Galba. All four females struggle to survive as two more emperors follow in the "Year of the Four Emperors."

This work of biographical fiction looks closely at the impact of the 'Year of the Four Emperors" had on four women. Each of the women is fully developed while the men in their lives serve as background catalysts on the feminist stage. The two sisters are fascinating protagonists turned to antagonists as Cornelia mourns what she felt was her divine right lost with her husband's death and Marcella turns from historian to Machiavellian emperor maker and breaker. The cousins are fully developed but less influential. A prequel to the author's Mistress of Rome, ancient historical fiction fans will enjoy this intriguing look at the disorderly first year after Nero's death.

Dark Enchantment
Anya Bast
9780425240533, $7.99

Desperate to free the Fae, Unseelie Kieran Aimhrea uses irresistible magic to propel accountant Charlotte Bennett to come to Piefferburg. He hopes her arrival will awaken ancestral memories that she unknowingly possesses, which should enable her to open the wards binding the city and its Fae residents.

Kieran is very careful to insure no one falls in love with him because of the curse in which those who do die. He knows Charlotte loathes him for the abduction that still frightens her so he feels somewhat assured she will not die in some gruesome way. However, he had not calculated how he would feels towards her when he computed the odds of her loving him as zero.

The third Dark Magick urban fantasy (see Wicked Enchantment and Cruel Enchantment) is a superb entry as Kieran uses Charlotte though he detests that he does but rationalizes his actions are for the better good of many until he falls in love. His transformation and trepidation turn this tale into a terrific thriller. With the trademark jocularity side by side with betrayal, fans will enjoy the latest magical tour of the enchanting (though often dark) world of Bast.

The School for Brides
Cheryl Ann Smith
Berkley Sensation
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor
New York, NY 10014
9780425240502, $7.99,

Miss Eva Black runs a school for courtesans trying to retire from their previous occupation. Dressed as a grim spinster, she teaches her students how to behave as proper wives as well as finding them proper husbands. Besides concealing her beauty, she hides the fact that her mother was a courtesan; something that always embarrassed Eva.

Fuming aristocrat Nicholas Drake arrives at Eva's school demanding she return to him his favorite mistress Arabella that she stole from him or he will use his ducal affluence to destroy her and her school. Eva detests the arrogant lord for his highhanded ways, but is also attracted to him. She accepts his demand that she replace his former mistress, married with a child on the way, as he holds her debts. Nicholas assumed he would scare the stern spinster while breaking her, but Eva teaches him to never judge a book by its cover.

The School for Brides is a warm gender war historical romance as the spinster and the aristocrat battle for supremacy. Like the heroine, readers will be affronted by Nicholas' attitude towards women, but she proves a worthy mentor-teacher. Although the background never full anchors the era, fans will cheer on the courtesan's daughter as she challenges the arrogant duke on his turf.

Department 19
Will Hill
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor
NY, NY 10014
9781595144065, $17.00,

In 2007 in Kent, England, fourteen years old Jamie Carpenter and his mom Marie watched from inside his family house as his father Julian steps outside with a gun in hand only to be shot to death on the front lawn. Soon afterward the police informed stunned mother and son that Julian was caught selling highly classified information to a terrorist cell. The mail starts to arrive informing the pair that a family with a traitor is unwanted. They moved three times in two years.

The terror begins when pretty Larissa prepares to take Jamie but could not do it. He races home to find his mom missing and Alexandru with razorblade teeth coming for him when a giant Frankenstein saves the teen's life. The "Monster" brings Jamie to the government's extremely classified Department 19; the only unit without a title. He learns that over a hundred years ago Abraham Van Helsing and his team of survivors formed the cell to police the supernatural. Europe's most powerful vampire since Dracula has captured Marie. Frank and Larissa join Jamie on a quest to find his mom.

Department 19 is a great urban and historical fantasy as the exciting story line rotates between the Department's past escapades across Europe starting with that late Victorian war in Transylvania and London against Dracula and the young hero's quest. Both subplots are well written while filled with suspense that grips the reader from the moment Julian is killed. Teens of all ages will relish Jamie's run as Frank mentors him and Larissa keeps switching from wanting a bite of him to needing protecting him as readers will wonder whose side is she on.

The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
John Flanagan
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor
New York, NY 10014
9780399255007, $17.99,

In Toscana, the Aridi representatives led by Selethen negotiate a treaty with the Toscan Senate. The two nations have had wars in the past, but with wiser leaders each sees the benefit of trade and security even as they deploy different military strategies. At the same time that Will and Halt toss friendly insults at each other while watching the Toscan military perform under the leadership of General Sapristi, Alyss is part of the negotiating team.

Meanwhile their friend Horace fails to communicate with his comrades in arms as he has spent months in the Nihon-Ja Empire. However, something is not right as the popular Emperor Lord Shigeru is disposed of in a coup d'etat. Knowing he should stay out of the internal squabble between those loyal to the Emperor and the Arisaka led Senji rebels, but he feels injustice has come to the eastern kingdom. Soon his worried Araluen friends (Selethen, Will, Alyss and Evanlyn) arrive in Nihon-Ja searching for him.

The latest Ranger's Apprentice saga is a great thriller that grips the audience as all is quiet on the western front, but civil war has broken out in the east. The story line is loaded with action from the moment the story line shifts to Nihon-Ja and never slows down with heroes' regretting they have only one life to give to their emperor. Fans will enjoy this powerful military thriller in the Flanagan realm as one person can clearly make a difference if he or she takes the risk.

Buried Prey
John Sandford
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157387, $27.95,

In 1985, Lucas Davenport was still in uniform when two young girls, Nancy and Mary Jones disappeared while playing outside. After a search of their usual haunts, the police assumed that a sexual predator kidnapped, raped and killed the girls. A tipster, later known to be John fell, called the cops twice implicating homeless schizophrenic Sharpe in their abduction; evidence pointed in his direction. When the alleged culprit died, the police closed the case while Davenport argued to keep searching for Fell as he had doubts that Sharpe was the culprit.

In the present, a sidewalk is being dug up when the bodies of the Jones sisters are found; their bodies mummified and recognizable. Lucas is now in a law enforcement position to hunt a predator who has killed other children. He and his partner on the original Jones case Del intensely search for a psychopath. When one of his cherished friends goes down in the line of duty by this perpetrator, the case turns personal as Lucas struggles not to do something he will regret when he catches this vicious beast as he knows he will.

John Sandford shows why readers love his Prey police procedurals as he gets deep into the psyche of his hero who is already over the top of Eagle Mountain with anger towards the serial killer preying on the young, but goes stratospheric with rage when a close friend falls victim. Besides his struggle to control his feelings, readers also gets a chance to see Lucas as a young but experienced rookie who retains the same values he displays as a veteran including his efforts to do what he believes is right even if it means bending the law. Series fans will enjoy Davenport's internal battle to stay in control as this case is an emotional dynamo.

Bel-Air Dead
Stuart Woods
9780399157363, $25.95

In Southern California, elderly actor Vance Calder dies. He leaves his much younger widow Arrington his stock in Centurion Studios in Bel-Air. Arrington asks her former lover Manhattan based attorney Stone Barrington to travel to Los Angeles to represent her legally, as she battles over who controls the studio. Dropping everything to assist the mother of his son, Barrington makes Strategic Moves starting with reorganizing Arrington's shares; buying more stock for her; and finally forging partnerships with other holders in order for his client to have the controlling interest.

Known for playing hardball Terry Prince, CEO of Prince Investments, wants the choice property where Centurion Studios resides as he knows there is much more to be made from development. When someone murders stockholder Jennifer Harris, Barrington assumes his opponent raised the stakes. With his sidekick Dino Bacchetti having his back, Stone obtains local help as he plays chess with an amoral opponent.

With a twist that includes Ed Eagle territory (see Santa Fe Edge and Santa Fe Dead.); fans will enjoy the Stone invasion of Hollywood as the East Coast hipster matches up against a West Coast shark. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Stone arrives in California until the climax as regardless of which coast the hero is in, he retains his usual unconcerned demeanor in the face of danger while also being a chick magnet.

Gardens of Grief
Boston Teran
High Top Publications
9781567030563, $22.00

In 1915, the American State Department sends Bureau of Investigation agent John Lourdes to Constantinople where the fighting has been fierce. Lourdes knows his assignment borders on suicide as the Ottoman Empire with their Central partners having defeated the British in the Dardanelles has begun an ethnic cleansing campaign to eradicate the Christian Armenians though the government insists they are at war with rebels rather than a planned genocide.

Lourdes mission is to bring out of the war zone, Father Malek who has become a symbol of the Armenian resistance as he gave up the plow to pick up the sword. At the same time the Ottoman Empire makes a concerted effort to catch the martyr and consequently the American whose Mexican roots enables him to somewhat blend in with the populace.

This is an incredible look at one of the first mass government sponsored genocides that rivals that of those that followed like the Nazis, the killing fields of Cambodia and the bloody red rivers of Rwanda, etc. With a nod to Solzhenitsyn's exposing of Stalin, the exhilarating story line is action-packed with some scenes of horrific inhumanity; but throughout the cautionary message is to never forget hoping the world shines a spotlight on the next ethnic cleaning to prevent another round of The Creed of Violence.

The Priest's Graveyard
Ted Dekker
Center Street
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017-0010
9781599953342, $24.99,

When Danny Hansen was fifteen years old, Serbians broke into his family home in Croatia; they killed his mother, and raped before killing his younger sisters. He knew this was a religious war between the Bosnian Orthodox Christians and the Catholic Croats with Muslims in the mix. After killing the murderers of his family, Danny joined a militia seeking justice, but found no solace from the nightmare of what happened to his loved ones.

When he immigrated to America, he became a priest, but though he abides by the law of love and compassion for fellow mankind, he loathes the influential hypocrites who use the laws of man and God to fuel their avarice and perversions. Danny is an avenging killer targeting pedophiles, murderers and cold blooded sinners. His latest target is vicious Jonathan Bourque; also wanting this vile man dead is Renee Gilmore, a former hooker and drug addict. Danny meets Renee and takes her into his confidence while plotting how to kill the beast; unaware that what they wish whether it comes true or not will come back to haunt them.

The Priest's Graveyard is a character driven tense thriller starring two people who have given up on societal justice as each has been victims with no recourse in society except kill the enemy; yet in spite of their homicidal tendencies Ted Dekker enables readers to feel compassion for the pair. This non-stop action tale never slows down even with twists and turns that have the audience wondering what next will happen as Mr. Dekker pulls the rug out from his fans by switching direction several times in this exciting thriller.

On the Nickel
Maggie Toussaint
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive
Waterville, ME 04901
9781594149542, $25.95,

In Maryland, accountant Cleo Jones worries about her Mama's recent behavior, which culminated with Police Detective Britt Radcliff recently arresting her for vehicular homicide in a hit-and-run. Mama's enemy Erica Hodges was killed in the parking lot of the Trinity Episcopal Church where they both attended. She refuses to offer any alibi for where she was the night of the death and why her headlight is busted.

Cleo breaths a bit easier because sexagenarian mama will become a ward of the state and she will not have to place her in an assisted living home. Single mom Cleo raises her two teenage daughters Charla and Lexi while thwarting the advances of her former husband Charlie and trying to break par with golf pro Rafe Golden.

The second Cleopatra Jones amateur sleuth (see In for a Penny) is an engaging tale as Cleo tries to break par, figure out what Charlie wants as he sent his alimony check early, and resolve Mama's geriatric crisis. Although the older boomers like mama and her friends make being sixty the new eighty, fans will enjoy this fun whodunit.

Par for the Corpse
T. Dawn Richard
Five Star
9781594149559, $25.95

Late sixties May Bell List travels to Moody Lake; the site is where Pendersnack the fisherman caught the hair of a human corpse. Harvest Police Officer Mike Murphy is unhappy to see May arrive at the murder scene; while she is elated to see her favorite law enforcement official already there. May identifies the body as golfer widower Moira Finch who apparently was killed by an altered gardening tool.

After a stomach wrenching stop at Spokane General for the autopsy, May Bell goes undercover at the Northside Country Club where the victim played. She pretends to need a job due to monetary troubles and is hired by grounds supervisor Jeff Gullikson. Meanwhile at the site where Finch was found, campers are raging over a thief stealing from them while May finds the body of Buddy Shields apparently killed by a modified gardening tool. May and the grounds-crew investigate with her prime suspect being the nice man who just hired her.

Although Par for the Course has the amateur sleuth flaw of a civilian risking their life doing a dangerous investigation for no apparent motive; fans will enjoy May Bell's latest inquiry (see (Death for Dessert and A Wrinkle in Crime) into homicides linked by the club. The case is lighthearted fun as sub-genre readers will enjoy a couple rounds with the intrepid zany May Bell on case.

A Port in the Storm
Judy Genandt
Five Star
9781594149511, $25.95

In 1885 Boston her irate father reads the riot act to Margaret Ward for what she considered no big deal. Fuming, he exiles his daughter to the Wyoming Territory to rusticate at the Lazy R Ranch owned by Randall family.

In spite of some clumsy klutzy moments, Margaret surprises everyone when the Boston Back Bay Brahman easily adjusts to life on the ranch. Even more stunning she takes over as the teacher in the one-room schoolhouse. However, she finds three men very interested in her. Each has their assets as Phil is from her hometown, David is the flirting heir to the ranch and Tee Spencer the aloof ranch foreman compete for her attention.

Although upper crust Margaret adapts too easily to life on the rugged at times deadly frontier, readers will enjoy this late nineteenth century western romance in which the elegant easterner shows how the west was actually won. Margaret makes a difference in the small town as she proves she is more than just a high society dizzy damsel. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this historical as the lead female delightfully dances with three males who want her.

As the Crow Flies
Maris Soule
Five Star
9781594149528, $25.95

Zenith, Michigan CPA P.J. Benson gives a talk at the town library warning people not to get sucked into scams; the mantra is that if it seems too good to be true it is because it is too good to be true. After completing her presentation, elderly Ida Delaney hands a battered briefcase owned by her nephew Donald to P.J. She reluctantly accepts it.

Ida fears her nephew is blackmailing people over what is inside the briefcase: lab reports, maps, and soil samples that make several people look guilty of criminal activity. Not long afterward, Donald arrives at P.J.'s home, demands the briefcase and attacks her before leaving with it. Her boyfriend Kalamazoo Sheriff's Department Detective Sergeant Wade Kingsley warns her to back off, but P.J. obstinately refuses as she investigates a case that turns to homicide.

The second Benson Michigan cozy (see The Crows) is an interesting whodunit as the heroine and Baraka the Rhodesian Ridgeback investigate the case. The story line is fast-paced, but I had an issue with how the heroine's boyfriend the cop (and others) handle the violence against her as if she is at fault for the assaults by her neighbor Nora and Donald. Still, fans will enjoy the intrepid amateur sleuth as she ignores Wade (except to wonder why he seems to have dumped her without telling her) and the threats to her life to continue her inquiries.

Fly Me to Paradise
Catherine Andorka
Five Star
9781594149535, $25.95

In Illinois, neither she nor her husband Charles wanted children, but before he underwent a vasectomy, his wife Madeline Holt persuaded him to leave sperm at the Lynwood Fertility Clinic in case they change their minds. After he died, she decided to undergo insemination to raise a child of his. However, a mistake occurs and she learns she is carrying the offspring of Cromwell corporate pilot Kurt Williams.

Both are upseté but she makes it clear she will not abort the fetus nor give the child up once born. He surprises her as he agrees with her plans. However he has one exception; Though he suffers from Hodgkin 's disease that he prays is in remission, he plans to be in their child's life, as he vowed to never desert a kid of his like his dad did when he was six years old. As they spend time together, they fall in love. However, she keeps her distance as she feels his job is dangerous; besides which she fears heights; while he wonders why she never asked him why he donated sperm.

Fly Me To Paradise is an engaging contemporary romance in which a mistake serves as the matchmaker between a widow and a remission cancer victim. Readers will empathize with Madeline's reluctance to get involved as love hurts especially since her late husband was cautions and still died in an accident; on the other hand Kurt serves more as a role model as he learns life is precious and potentially expendable. Although their hesitations becomes a bit repetitive, fans will enjoy this fun tale of two nice people falling in love, but each has doubts about their future except when it comes to the child she carries.

What Are Friends For?
Caroline Taylor
Five Star
9781594149566, $25.95

In Annapolis, Maryland, Persephone Justinalia "P.J." Smythe works for her Uncle Alexander as a skip tracer at his loan business. When her best friend Alicia Todd Ritchie asks P.J. to participle in a documentary she is filming on the private investigative business, she agrees though she is not a hard boiled sleuth.

Wetlands Protectors Alliance Vivian Remington the amazon hires petit P.J. as a sleuth to uncover evidence that Florida state senator Marguerite Sutherland stole an ocelot fur coat. Vivian needs the endangered species coat to return it to the Fish and Wildlife Service who lent it to her. However, when Vivian dies from a heroin overdose that the cops believe was a murder, they suspect P.J. Struggling to prove her innocence by finding the killer and that the politician lifted the coat, P.J. also skirmishes with her ex-husband Bobby Crane; former college classmate Gareth Swenson, and lawyer Neal Patterson.

These entertaining hard-boiled-lit lampoons the detective genre as P.J. seems to step into more manure than a stable produces. Over the top of the head of her first client, fans will enjoy the somewhat formulaic whodunit while laughing throughout starting from the moment P.J. pretends to be a sleuth sizing down to her eye level Vivian.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

The No. 2 Pencil
Book 3, The Guardian Series
The War of Pedophilia
C. H. Foertmeyer

Children go missing every day, taken by pedophiles who lurk in the shadows just waiting for the perfect moment to claim an innocent life. In his latest book, Foertmeyer creates a frightening and heart warming supernatural tale of protection, punishment, hope and redemption.

12 year old T.J. McGraw wishes somehow he could free the world of pedophiles. By day, he worries about his little sister being taken. At night he dreams of a little girl, stolen from her home and transported to a dark, frightening place. Every night, more details are added to his dream. He sees the pedophile's escape route, sees the street names, and finally sees the building where the little girl is held. Based on TV updates, the police and FBI have no idea where the little girl might be, so T.J. decides to contact the police detective in charge, Simon Farge. Using a school pencil, he writes a note to Det. Farge on notebook paper, telling where the little girl can be found. When the note arrives by mail, Farge attributes it to a crackpot and ignores it, with horrible results. Days later, the little girl is found dead, exactly where T.J.'s note said she would be.

T. J. is devastated by his failure to save the little girl in his dreams, but he's made believers out of Det. Farge and his FBI counterpart. Over time, he has more dreams of stolen children, and sends more messages to Det. Farge and the FBI. And he meets the Messenger Guardian delivering information to him in dreams: a shape shifting guardian angel masquerading as a bobcat. Criss-crossing the country as a team, Farge and the FBI work to save the stolen children T.J. reveals in his notes. And all the humans involved, however skeptical they might be, come to believe in the guardian angels determined to protect children from pedophiles.

Book Three of the Guardian Series can easily be a stand-alone novel, but readers might benefit from reading the first two books as background so they have a broader understanding of how the Guardians work and why they were sent to Earth in the first place. I love this series because I'd like to believe such guardians exist.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Evenings at the Opera
Jeffrey Langford
Amadeus Press
c/o Hal Leonard Publishing Group
7777 West Bluemound Road
Milwaukee, WI 53213
9781574671872, $19.99,

What makes an evening at the opera the quintessential arts experience? How can this experience be enhanced? To learn many approaches to these and other fascinating questions, read "Evenings at the Opera: An Exploration of the Basic Repertoire", a magnificent collection of analytical reactions to more than 21 well-known operas in the Western repertoire (and a few less well-known). other basic questions addressed are, how can music and drama work together? And what ;makes operas successful or unsuccessful? Prepare for an evening or several of delicious critical analysis of that most complex of blended art forms, including music, dance, theater, art, and sound imagery. Jeffrey Langford has something memorable to say about every opera genre and nearly every known opera. From the comic opera of Mozart and Rossini to the Bel Canto opera of Rossini, Verdi and Bellini, to symphonic opera, Shakespearean opera, French Grand opera, even fairy-tale opera to twentieth century opera, Langford covers all categories with incisive paradigms in "Evenings at the Opera." A whole chapter is devoted to the influence of Wagner, not surprisingly. However that chapter deals almost exclusively with Debussy's "Pelleas and Melisande," and contains some much treasured commentary on that most obscure and beautiful of Impressionistic operas. "Evenings at the Opera" is rigorous enough to be a scholarly work, but also entertaining enough to appeal to the general (opera-going) public. Copies should fly off the shelves.

First Manhattans
Robert S. Grumet
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806141633, $19.95,

"First Manhattans: A History of the Indians of Greater New York" is a scholarly report of the Munsees, a group of Indians loosely within the Delaware nations who made the original land transactions with European settlers for the area known as Manhattan. This complex history is much more obscure than is popularly supposed. Perhaps for the first time a researcher presents the names and histories of several historic Munsee sachems such as Mattano, Tackapousha, Mamanuchqua, and others. The tracing of negotiations between land-hungry, less than honorable European settlers and mid-Atlantic Indian nations is more shaded with vague defenses and clever bounded titles than is commonly inferred, causing a delay of 150 years or more in court analysis which may have had the effect of buying the Munsees time to deal with their displacement and removal. Eventually the Munsees emigrated to Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Ontario reservations, badly affected by disease, alcoholism, war, and cultural erosion. "First Manhattans" is an attempt to rebuild or reconstruct their rightful place in American Colonial history. The text is supplemented by a number of carefully shaded maps of the area showing many of the different tribes and nations of Indians living in the area of Greater New York between 1524 and 1767. There are also several explanatory kinship diagrams or "family trees" that demonstrate the patterns of cross-cousin marriages or alliances between kin of Tackapousha, Mattano, and Mamanushqua, all Munsee sachems, the last individual a woman. "First Manhattans" is a fine-tooled collection of historical data about a lesser-studied Indian nation crucial to the beginning development of settlers of the Mid Atlantic part of the New World.

For the Love of Music
Elizabeth Rusch, author
Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher, artists
Tricycle Press
c/o Random House Children's Books
6001 Shellmound Street, 4th Fl., Emeryville, CA 94608
9781582463261, $16.99,

"For the Love of Music: The Remarkable Story of Maria Anna Mozart" is a child's illustrated biography of Maria Anna Mozart, musical child prodigy and sister to famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. "For the Love of Music" tells the life story of the famous keyboard artist following sonata form, with first movement, allegro, development, recapitulation, and coda, or ending, etc. By the age of 12, Maria had become one of the most famous musicians of her day, and along with her younger brother, the two children toured the known concert venues of Europe and played for royalty and crowds of music enthusiasts.

Eventually Maria remained behind in Salzburg while Wolfgang continued to play concerts on tour. Maria performed in private concerts for family and friends and composed her own music. When Wolfgang returned home, he had written a special keyboard duet which he performed with his talented older sister. Although Maria was not allowed to go on tour with Wolfgang, she continued to play at home for the love of music. Eventually Maria married and moved far away from Salzburg, raising 5 stepchildren and continuing her music at home.

Throughout the rest of her life, Maria continued to exercise her love of music, through playing, teaching, listening, and appreciating music. She outlived her famous brother and lived to hear his son play on the same instrument she and Wolfgang had learned to play.

"For The Love of Music" is a richly illustrated, authentically researched children's biography of a lesser known female celebrity whose life deserves further recognition. "For the Love of Music" is designed to appeal to children between the ages of 5 and 8. Although Maria is described as a pianist, the instruments she performed upon in her day (1751-1829) were not pianos but the predecessors of pianos, clavichords, harpsichords, and fortepianos.

The Touring Musician's Handbook
Bobby Owsinski
Hal Leonard
7777 West Bluemound Road, Milwaukee, WI 53213
9781423492368, $34.99,

"The Touring Musician's Handbook" from the outstanding Hal Leonard 'MusicPro Guides' series is an excellent practical manual for the aspiring touring musician. Including nine interviews with successful touring musicians performing on 9 different instruments, "The Touring Musician's Handbook" covers practical areas of questions and concerns for all touring musicians. Divided into 3 main sections, "The Touring Musician's Handbook" begins with 8 chapters on the Making of a Touring Musician, from The Mystique of Touring(chapter 1) to How Do I Become a Touring Musician? (chapter 5) to chapter 10, The Tour. A Great deal of practical, essential information is concisely presented in these chapters. Even performers' personalities and abilities to take criticism are covered in chapter 3, The Touring Musician's Difference. The second section is titled Players' Guides, and in 7 chapters it presents the nuts and bolts of preparing, organizing and caring for your instruments during a tour. There are chapters devoted to guitar, bass, drums, vocals, keyboards, horn and string players. Each chapter covers specific instructions and caveats, maintenance tips and techniques for the designated instrument. Most chapters start off with a section titled Be Your Own Tech, an enlightening concept for a touring musician. The third section consists of interviews with famous and successful touring musicians. A DVD ROM accompanies "The Touring Musician's Handbook" to add audiovisual input and information. Written by a pro musician, composer, and engineer, "The Touring Musician's Handbook" also contains a preface which gives credit to another contributor, Paul Ill, by author Bobby Owsinski. "The Touring Musician's Handbook" is on the must-read list for all aspiring or potential touring performers.

Beethoven (includes CD) from The Essential Composer Series for the Piano
edited by Avis Romm
Minstrel Press
c/o Santorella Publications
13 Pleasant Avenue, Danvers, MA 01923
MP012, $13.95 w/CD,

"Beethoven" is a collection of 12 essential Beethoven compositions for piano, including such well-known classics as "Fur Elise," "Menu et in G," and the "Moonlight Sonata." All compositions are accessible to the intermediate to advanced student pianist, and a CD recording by Avis Romm is included of all 12 pieces. The editions are clear and well researched and easy to read. This edition of "Essential Beethoven for Piano" is a must for inclusion in any intermediate student's piano repertoire.

Also recommended in this series are the following collections, each with its own CD: "Essential Bach for Piano (MPO13, $13.95)," " Essential Mozart for Piano (MPO14, $13.95)," "Essential Chopin for Piano (MPO16, $13.95)," "Essential Debussy for Piano (MPO17, $13.95)," "Essential Piano Masters, volume I (MPO15, $15.95)," and "Essential Piano Masters Volume II (MPO18, $15.95)." The last two volumes include compositions by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, and Debussy.

Just Leave Me Alone
Nakesha Lowe, author
Irene Olds
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781456726416, $10.70,

"Just Leave Me Alone" is a parent's manual (disguised as a brightly illustrated children's book) about learning to let go. A courteous teenage boy mouse tries to tell his mother that although she means well, imposing her rules, supervision, structure, assigned tasks, and expectations, he is feeling smothered and trapped, and needs some privacy and space. Versed text and poignant, brilliant illustrations portray an emotional spectrum of feelings. "just Leave Me Alone" describes the feelings that adolescent and preadolescent children experience when they are ready for more freedom to try their wings. Sooner or later every parent must learn to let go, and hopefully, the good training and parenting they have invested will enable their children to make wise choices on their own.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

I Found God in Hollywood
Cliff Brodsky
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440130311, $20.95,

Finding something real in a land where everything is fake is quite the endeavor. "I Found God in Hollywood" is a memoir from Cliff Brodsky as he shares his own experiences of getting clean and finding something to guide his life. He shares his life stories with a bit of humor, hoping to drive them to live their lives better in general. "I Found God in Hollywood" is a quick paced and wise read, recommended.

Two Years of Eternity
Scott R. Hoyt
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave., South, New York, NY 10016
9780533163571, $15.95,

The goal of the mission is finding people to listen, which is much harder than it seems. "Two Years of Eternity" is a memoir of Scott Hoyt's missionary work as tells of his time in Peru trying to apply his mission as a Mormon, sharing his story of a humbler life, working in a Christian message throughout and understanding the plight of us all. "Two Years of Eternity" is a top pick for those who want a Christian memoir of mission.

33 Days
Bill See
Privately Published
9780557758814, $TBA

For the music, for the party, the wisdom of adulthood couldn't be avoided forever. "33 Days: Touring in a Van, Sleeping on Floors, Chasing a Dream" is a memoir from Bill See as he reflects on when he and his band struck out on their own and had both the best and worst times of their life. With a simple poignancy on the drive of youth in the late 80s, See tells quite the story, and leaves readers with a certain bit of wisdom, that there are things we all will have to learn for ourselves. "33 Days" is a fun read that will prove hard to put down.

The Shifters of 2040
Ami Blackwelder
Privately Published
9781453785133, $12.99,

When faced by another species that is fully sapient, the definition of humanity comes into question. "The Shifters of 2040" is another entry in a continuing series from Ami Blackwelder as she focuses on prejudice and racism in the bigger picture, as an alien species comes to earth for help and hybrids of humans and the alien species begin to appear. With a riveting debate blended into science fiction, "The Shifters of 2040" is an excellent read that shouldn't be overlooked by science fiction fans.

Government in the Clouds
Patrick E. Peterson
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781456482381, $14.95,

The power has been shifting from the hands of the American people for decades. "Government in the Clouds: How to Restore Our Democracy and Empower Voters" are the political ponderings of Patrick E. Peterson as he presents his own political thoughts and theories about why America is going in the direction it has been for quite some time. Written from the perspective of the common man and his hopes for the future of democracy, "Government in the Clouds" is a down to earth discussion of the problems with the modern American government.

Micah Andrew

Shelley's Bookshelf

Missing Persons
Clare O'Donohue
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452297067, $15.00,

Clare O'Donohue is the author of two prior books: THE LOVER'S KNOT, A DRUNKARD'S PATH, and THE DOUBLE CROSS. She is a freelance producer and writer for television shows on various networks.

Kate Conway is a freelance television producer, mostly intent on obtaining a formula to package her assignments for television programs focusing on missing persons. She thought her marriage was perfect, but a little careworn, until her husband left her for the quintessential "other woman." But then her erstwhile husband, Frank, is found dead in his girlfriend/fiance's bed. Naturally, Kate is the prime suspect in the crime, and it is incumbent on her to find out who the real murderer is. In the meantime, Kate finds herself tossed together with Vera, Frank's intended:

"Vera didn't move. 'I'm not asking for forgiveness, Kate. I'm just explaining. I'm not the sort of person who sets out to hurt other people, but I did hurt You. The worst part is that for those months that Frank was still living here, I didn't even feel bad about what might be doing to you. I didn't think about You as a real person until the night Frank died. Until I heard your voice on The phone.' She looked around the living room, as if she were studying it. 'He had this whole life I never knew anything about. Those people at his funeral, who knew him and loved him. I didn't know who any of them were.'"

Something doesn't ring true. As much as she hates to admit it, Kate felt that Vera really loved Frank. She throws herself into a missing person case, which eventually dovetails with the death of her husband.

MISSING PERSONS is well written, with plenty of action, fascinating characters, multi-faceted story lines, and plenty of action. At first Kate comes off as an irresponsible twenty or thirty something, but she emerges as a heroine the readers can embrace. O'Donohue no doubt draws on her personal experiences to give her audience a taste of Hollywood.

MISSING PERSONS is an entertaining read that pulls the reader in from the first.

The Singing Sleuth Crosses the Pond
D.B. Barton
Usher Press
9780982822104 $12.95

D.B. Barton hails from Jacksonville, Florida, but grew up in New York City. Her award winning "The Singing Sleuth" series includes three prior books to THE SINGING SLEUTH. She is an avid traveler and conducts writing workshops at local libraries and book clubs.

Alec DunBarton, investigator extraordinaire, and his new bride, Paige Anderson, have just been summoned to the Centaurus, a cruise ship steaming from the eastern Mediterranean to Fort Lauderdale. Alec and Paige have just tied the knot, and the summons comes at an awkward time. But they soldier into the homicide investigation anyway, which involves a doctor who has been killed "a la Goldfinger" style. She was found nude, garroted by a picture-hanging wire, and sprayed with bronze paint. Calliope Pictures is also aboard the Centaurus filming a picture that is a remake off an old chestnut with glamorous actors who have plenty to hide:

"Explaining that he could only make an educated guess as to why Greene and Valentine were arguing, Douglas related, 'It seems the prop master came on board with an old back injury that he's been treating with hydrocodone. There was a note in his file, written by Priestley stating he was out of painkillers and had requested a bottle from the infirmary. She gave him eight, 5/500 tablets of Vicodin on Saturday afternoon and warned no more would be forthcoming.'

'Hydrocodone is addictive, isn't it?'

Douglas confirmed. 'I'm afraid so. I've often questioned why my colleagues prescribe it. Some patients become habitual users in just a few weeks..."

THE SINGING SLEUTH is full of fun things such as culinary delights; an inside look at Hollywood filmmaking; a sleuth who breaks into song at every opportunity; and the romance of newlyweds. Barton's characters are well drawn and entertaining, and her plot moves along briskly.

THE SINGING SLEUTH will be great summertime reading for fans of D.B. Barton. Her mysteries are wistful and captivating.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Brute Neighbors
Chris Green & Liam Heneghan, editor
9780615425290, $TBA

Nature has more to it than trees and squirrels. "Brute Neighbors: Urban Nature Poetry, Prose, and Photography" is a blend of mediums as editors Chris Green and Liam Heneghan offer a look at what first seems to be an oxymoron, urban nature. Explaining the concept further, they with the authors under them provide a nice study of life in an urban area and in particular Chicago, making for a unique and studious read. "Brute Neighbors" is a thoughtful collection that definitely shouldn't be overlooked.

Innocence and Anarchy
John Canzanella
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450266154, $28.95,

As corruption grows, those who seek liberty find their pursuits ever more interesting. "Innocence and Anarchy" tells the story of Russian Aristocrat Nikolai Ivanovitch Bobrikov and his half sister Tatyana. Author John Canzanella spins a story of nineteenth century Russia and its neighbors to create a struggle of liberty, tradition, and principles that ring strong even today. Riveting reading, "Innocence and Anarchy" is a fine read that won't be easy to put down.

An Other's Mind
Luis Quiros
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452075402, $19.99,

Discrimination's power has waned, but it is still strong in today's America. "An Other's Mind" is a discussion of race and discrimination in today's country, focusing on the crisis of institutionalized racism, comparing history the modern day, showing that while things may have improved, in some cases things are as worse as they've ever been. With an upfront honesty that doesn't whitewash the problem, "An Other's Mind" is an excellent discussion of race and America and the challenges that are ahead and remain strong.

The Killing Game
J. C. Stevens
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432769086, $14.95,

Murder is a hard job to retire from. "The Killing Game" follows a hitman trying to leave his dirty career, only to be dragged back in, this time into the game of kidnapping a major witness for the government. But no job is easy, and things get even more complicated. Having to use his on wit and agility to succeed, J. C. Stevens crafts a fun thriller, which makes "The Killing Game" a fun read that should prove hard to put down.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Nickel Plated
Aric Davis
Amazon Encore
9781935597322, $9.95,

The wits and cleverness of youth can only get you so far. "Nickel Plated" follows Nickel, someone who has been fighting for survival even before he was a teenager, doing everything from blackmail to drug sales to keep alive. A more legitimate pursuit is investigation, but as Nickel takes a case to find someone's lost sister, Nickel might find himself in too deep at the hands of some of humanity's cruelest individuals. "Nickel Plated" is a riveting read of adventure and the drive of youth and trying to be something better.

The Trials of Trass Kathra
Mike Wild
Abaddon Books
9781907519659, $9.99,

When a hero overcomes one trial, they will inevitably be faced with another. "The Trials of Trass Kathra" follows Kali Hooper as she conquers one challenge and rises to face another. When a curious individual called Hel'ss seems to predicts the ascension by the Final Faith, she finds that her next challenge may leave her dead and even that might not be enough. "The Trials of Trass Kathra" is an exciting read that will prove hard to put down.

With a Little Help
Cory Doctorow
9781456576349, $12.00

Trying something a bit clever can lead with some amusing results. "With a Little Help" is a self-described experiment in publishing is a collection of short stories, eleven from other sources and gathered together for the first time from Canadian tech-head Cory Doctorow as he takes influence, opinion, and assistance from a wide array of icons in nerd culture. "With a Little Help" is a fun read of science fiction, highly recommended.

Daughter of the Caribbean
Norma Jennings
3L Publishing
9780615420110, $17.95,

The island of Jamaica is a unique blend of cultures unlike anywhere else in the world. "Daughter of the Caribbean" tells the story of Olivia, native of the island and the problems facing her as she faces the issues of her heritage, family, and the never ending challenges of life. With a fine recipe of intrigue and romance used well throughout, "Daughter of the Caribbean" is a novel for anyone with a wonder in Jamaica.

What the Trumpet Player Revealed
Jean-Francois Renard
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave., South, New York, NY 10016
9780533164004, $14.95,

Even as war consumes Europe, there is still time to appreciate the finer things. "What the Trumpet Player Revealed" is a story of life, love, and art in 1942 Paris as World War II rages on around it. As Trumpeter Jonathan Malavoix tries to get by with his art to not massive success, his encounter with a woman drags him deeper into the intrigue of wartime Paris. "What the Trumpet Player Revealed" is an intriguing delve into history, romance, and the plots of Nazi-controlled Paris.

In Too Deep
Ryan J. Bunda
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452096490, $24.59,

Fantasy seeks to give an escape from the real world, but rarely does it bring readers into a utopia. "In Too Deep" is a collection of short fantasy stories from Ryan Bunda, as he takes readers on a journey through many worlds with the challenges of life that we find are different, yet all the same. With roots in horror and the supernatural, "In Too Deep" is a fascinating and fun read that will be very difficult to put down.

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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