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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 6, Number 11 November 2007 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Saint Clements Bay
B.L. Lang
Plangent Press
PO Box 976, Boulder, CO 80306-0976
9780979384523, $15.95

Native Virginian B.L. Lang presents Saint Clements Bay: A Novel of Remembrance, a tale of generations connected by ties of blood, love, and tragedy. Della Elzina Mabrey, born at the end of the nineteenth century, regales her eager grandchildren with stories of her incredible and adventurous life. Meanwhile, her grandchildren engage in a summer filled with discovery: of their family, their community, and most of all, themselves. Nostalgia for a bygone era flavors the pages of Saint Clements Bay, as does an appreciation of the beauty and tranquility of rural life. Thirteen recipes drawn from Southern culture round out this heartwarming tale.

Not Bartlett's
Elise Lufkin
Helen Marx Books
c/o Goldberg McDuffie Communications
444 Madison Avenue, Suite 3300, New York, NY 10022
9781933527130, $16.95

Elise Lufin's "Not Bartlett's: Thoughts on the Pleasures of Life: People, Love, Gardens, Dogs and More" is an impressive compiled and deftly edited compilation of fascinating, entertaining, informative, memorable, cogently expressed, thoughtful and thought-provoking citations drawn from the writings of hundreds of men and women, ancient and contemporary, who had something to say -- and expressed it uncommonly well. The subject matter ranges from family and lovers, to writing and reading, to dogs and cats, to happiness and melancholy, to life, growing old, nature, gardening, travel, art, history, politics, and advice for living. "Not Bartlett's" is enthusiastically recommended reading that is ideal for browsing from time to time, again and again, over the days, weeks, months, and years that are the daily tallies of our lives. "Many have sought light and truth, but they sought it outside themselves, where it is not." St. Augustine.

Orphan's Quest
Pat Nelson Childs
Glynworks Publishing
17 Pine Street Dixfield, ME 04224
9780979591211, $19.99

The debut novel of Pat Nelson Childs and first of a trilogy, Orphan's Quest is unusual among epic high fantasy in that the protagonist happens to be a gay person - or "samer", as the people of the mystic land of Firma would say it. Rokey is an orphan of seventeen, who has spent most of his childhood in a monastery; he is concerned when his awakening desires pull him toward another man, though his roommate Ely assures him that being a samer is nothing to feel alarm about. When an opportunity for Rokey to serve the brotherhood is followed by terrible tragedy, he must learn to uncover the identity of a mysterious enemy that seeks to snuff out his life. Aided by a set of unlikely companions, Rokey's quest will bring them through danger and betrayal to discover the power of friendship, the path to making peace with his sexual identity, and even his first love. Orphan's Quest is a fantasy adventure first and foremost, not an erotic novel; Childs has openly states that his choice to write about a gay protagonist is simply to counter the exclusion of such individuals in the traditionally heterosexual fantasy genre. Highly recommended.

Overcoming The Problematics Of Art
Yves Klein & Klaus Ottmann
Spring Publications, Inc.
PO Box 230212, New York, NY 10023-0004
9780882145686, $22.00

This Springs Publications edition of "Overcoming The Problematics Of Art: The Writings Of Yves Klein" is ably translated into English and furnished with an informative introduction by Klaus Ottman. This compendium is the first complete collection of the writings of the late French conceptual artist Yves Klein (1928-1962) who blended spirituality with philosophy and served as an agitator of ideas who utilized personal charisma and an analytical mind to argue for the employment of art in the service of social change. The 26 essays and articles comprising "Overcoming The Problematics Of Art" range from 'On Judo' to 'With Regard to My Attempt at the Immaterial'. Inherently fascinating, iconoclastic, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Overcoming The Problematics Of Art" is strongly recommended reading for those interested in the role and evolution of art with respect to social, cultural, and philosophical issues, and a critically important contribution to academic library collections.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

Blind Faith
Janet Clark
1st World Publishing
1100 North 4th Street, Fairfield, IA 52556
9781421899190, $18.95

Award-winning writer Janet Clark presents Blind Faith, a novel about the Roman Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal as experienced through the eyes of young Jack O'Donnell and his family during the late 60s and early 70s. A sincerely told tale of the severe physical and emotional pain caused by the breech of trust, as well as the sinister cover up that the church hierarchy engaged in. An involving story about the blind faith of a community manipulated, children betrayed, and the struggle to cope with hopelessly tangled emotions. Highly recommended.

The Writing on the Wall
Hannes Artens
Cosmos and Polis Press LLC
3607 Fern Valley Rd., Suite 102, Louisville, KY 40219
9780979632006, $23.95

The debut novel of Austrian-born International Conflict Analysis expert Hannes Artens, The Writing on the Wall is a suspenseful novel set in the very near future. Maverick senator Jim Whitman wins the 2008 American presidential election by selling out to a bevy of reckless pandering interests, from televangelists yearning for Armageddon to big oil companies. The forces controlling his policies push him, and America, into war with Iran, with horrendous results - a military quagmire, economic depression, and the threat of nuclear war. Three people are propelled to negotiate the future of the Middle East: Seran, a Kurdish refugee raised in America, who has made a career in the oil business yet works for an independent Kurdish state; Elia, a diplomat whose personal demons drive her to a pathological obsession with severing her beloved Europe from the United States; and Bryn, a moderate Democrat who feels betrayed by the Bush Administration's exploitation of the September 11th attacks and vows not to let President Whitman do the same. The plot of The Writing on the Wall hinges upon political talks and alliances that seem to shift like the wind. Allies join forces and betray one another, and impending doom threatens the free world in this tautly narrated thriller.

Seven Ox Seven Part One: Escondido Bound
P.A. Ritzer
Seven Ox Press
PO Box 472467, Aurora, CO 80047-2467
9781933363011, $26.95

The product of four years of traveling and research through Kansas, Colorado, and Texas by author P.A. Ritzer, Seven Ox Seven Part One: Escondido Bound is the first volume of a western trilogy. Opening at the meeting of two cowboys, Luke Stuart and Tom Schurtz, during the height of the 1877 cattle-trade season, Seven Ox Seven draws the reader into a partnership between the cowboys and Luke's devout wife Elizabeth, with the goal of establishing a ranch at the edge of the Staked Plains, the Llano Estacado, recently (if not completely) vacated by the Comanche. Their determination will be tested in challenge after challenge, and their goal is shrouded by a host of mysterious happenings. A dramatic epic unfolds, richly flavored and brought to life with keen historical accuracy.

Brian's World
Brian Chulik
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781420862522, $12.49 1-800-280-7715

The debut book of author, science teacher, dog lover, and all-around everyman Brian Chulik, Brian's World: Personal Perspectives and Insights from the Mind of an Ordinary Everyday Philosopher is an eclectic collection of wisdom on topics ranging from overcoming self-doubt, the trials and tribulations of romantic relationships, the benefits of owning pets, the value of personal integrity, and much more. Black-and-white photographs reflecting the author's life intersperse this smorgasbord of tell-it-like-it-is observations. "Do comics have value as compared to traditional, critical favorites such as works of Shakespeare? Why not?!? What really makes a literary work or character worthwhile or worthy of praise?" An anthology that's fun to read whether a bit at a time or all at once.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Bank Robbers Now Use Computers
Herman McDaniel
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd., 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432704506, $17.95 1-888-672-6657

Bank Robbers Now Use Computers is a wake-up call to how criminals in the twenty-first century rob their victims. The era of traditional bank holdups is being supplemented by increasingly savvy computer fraud, identity theft, ATM abuse, as well as the kidnapping or murder of people for their ATM cards, debit cards, or credit cards. Bank Robbers Now Use Computers consists almost entirely of various crime and scam stories involving theft. These true tales include crimes in the US and abroad, and range from "Nigerian email" schemes where the con man never sees his victim to brutal robberies and killings. Although horrifying, the stories also offer the best defense - that of prevention through knowledge. It is author Herman McDaniel's hope that by spreading word of robbers' schemes more people will learn how to protect themselves against them, and to that end, Bank Robbers Now Use Computers does not disappoint.

Our Children Deserve Better Health Care
A. James Hirschfeld, M.D., M.S.
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor, New York, NY 10016
9780533155798, $9.95 1-212-736-1767

Our Children Deserve Better Health Care: A Pediatrician's Forty-Year Experience and Observations is the true testimony of pediatrician A. James Hirschfeld, M.D., M.S. during a lifetime of hard work in the field. Hirschfeld's book is not merely memoir - he has hard-hitting insight to present about selfishness and flaws in every corner of the medical system, then and now. In particular, Hirschfeld criticizes how the system encourages blaming the parents when the cause of a child's problems is not known; drug companies who seduce doctors with expensive perks to foist their expensive, unproven medicines upon patients; the barriers that religion erects against medical science; how the media hypes fear (including fear of vaccinations, when outbreaks of the diseases that vaccinations prevent are extremely deadly); the corruption that ensues when politics dictates how medical practice is done; and the ugly side of the legal system - while acknowledging that the threat of malpractice suits as punishment for bad care is needed. Of particular interest is Hirschfeld's description of how pediatric professionals commonly become burnt out, or neglect to stay current with the latest medical findings and procedures, and his proposal for improving the current system to prevent such commonplace laggardom. A "must-read" manifesto for anyone involved in the medical system, whether as a professional, a patient, or the parent of a patient.

The Art of Managing
Jane Treber Macken
AME Author Marketing Experts
PO Box 421156, Sand Diego, CA 92142
c/o Buy Books On The Web
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741439338, $18.95

Author Jane Treber Macken draws upon her years of experience managing, supervising, and teaching in The Art of Managing: How to Build a Better Workplace and Relationships, a guide to managing and motivating individuals. Offering an overview of the history of management theory, recommendations for cultivating the positive characteristics of successful managers, motivate others, form and manage successful teams, and much more, The Art of Managing is up-close and personal in the delivery of its message. "We judge others by their behavior, but we judge ourselves by our intentions. To close the gap, we must be open to change and suggestions." Highly recommended.

Place Names of Glacier National Park
Jack Holterman
Riverbend Publishing
PO Box 5833, Helena, MT 59604
9781931832687, $12.95 1-866-787-2363

Place Names of Glacier National Park: The Fascinating Stories Behind 663 Geographic Names in Glacier National Park, Montana, and Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta lives up to its title. Each place name is arranged in alphabetical order, and boats a description of how that name came to be ranging in length from one sentence to a full page. Many places have Native American names; others are named after the explorers who discovered them, or their distinguishing features. "Dragon Tail, near Comeau Pass, is a ridge or spur to the southwest of Mount Reynolds. The curious thing about dragons, which are not numerous among the fauna of Glacier or Waterton, is that in European tradition they represent chaos, whereas in Eastern thought they symbolize the power that brings order out of chaos." An amusing guide to browse through.

Able Greenspan

Klausner's Bookshelf

Selling Out
Justina Robson
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781591025979 $15.00 1-800-421-0351

By 2021, the Quantum Bomb changes the universe by creating six interlinked realities. Earth no longer exists as we knew it; now called Otopia magic works where sprites, ghosts and other formerly paranormal species exist. A third realm Alfheim contains elves, who have forged a shaky alliance with the residence of Otopia. Other realities include Zoomenon consisting of Elementals; Daemonia home to magical adept demons; Thanatopia, the "land of the dead" in which no living human has ever returned after a visit and Faery, a fun tourist trap.
Her handlers and superiors, fearing the fragile peace between realms may be breaking, assign twenty-one years old super secret agent Lila Black, as much artificial intelligent metal as human, to learn more about rebellious royal fairy Zal. The Otopia leadership fears Zal without being aware that he and Lila are dating because she hides her relationship from her employers. Somehow Zal has done the impossible to himself when he altered his e essence to add other magicks found only in Alfheim and Daemonia, destroying a delicate balance.

Although SELLING OUT can stand alone, to better understand the six realms, especially their interrelationships, alliances, and discords, readers should read book one of the Quantum Gravity saga, KEEPING IT REAL. The first book introduced readers to the realms, but mostly through the residents of Otopia where almost the entire book occurs; this time the audience visits Daemonia and Zoomenon while also learning how Zal and Lila got to where they both are super changed beings. Though darker in scope (hell - we are on the demon realm), Justina Robson provides a strong entry that continues to establish the physics of her multiverse.

Under the Spell
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek
9781593748814 $5.99

Network's Justine Fielding is assigned field work after six years as a Communications and Systems Analyst. If it was not serious, she would find it ironic that she is to go home to her family ranch as herself Gina Calhoun, who "died" when she joined the Network, to uncover the identity of who is sending encrypted messages from the ranch.

At her family ranch, Alex Lynch is stunned to see Gina, the only woman he ever loved. He thought she was dead, but assumes she came home to claim the ranch that he has kept working in the hope he would one day own it. She, in turn, finds evidence that makes him look responsible for sending the classified transmissions that have spooked her superiors at the Network and for the suspicious death of her father. As each suspects the motive of the other, Gina and Alex fall in love again.

The Incognito series has been consistently one of the best thriller sagas on the market today. The fifth book will place newcomers UNDER THE SPELL of author Karen Wiesner (fans already are ensorcelled by this writer). The lead couple makes for a fast-paced plot as each realizes they still love the other, but neither trusts one another or their own heart. The espionage elements are cleverly designed to keep the audience and Gina struggling with the fact that Alex is certainly the traitor. As fans know set aside the hours, this is a one sitting espionage romantic thriller.

Along for the Ride
Michelle M. Pillow
c/o Virgin Books
65 Blrecker St. , New York, N. Y. 10012
9780352341457 $12.95

Detective Megan Matthews is irate as she has been suspended from the NYPD. She holds forensics photographer Ryan Lucas culpable for her official troubles. His first photograph of her in action led directly to management transferring her from homicide to burglary as she became too known due to his "flash" of NYC's "Little darling detective" arresting a serial killer; his second picture of her was even more damaging as he caught her stepping on key evidence.
On a forced vacation with her family, Megan grits her teeth as they are about to go. Making her even angrier, her personal public enemy number one Ryan arrives informing her family that he is her fiance; backed up by her turncoat sister. Ryan wants to make the pretend engagement real as he has fallen in love with her from the moment he accidentally took her first picture, but she assumes he is trying for strike three she's out with an expose of her.

The second Matthews Sisters tale (see OPPOSITES ATTRACT) is a wonderful contemporary romance in which the lead male cannot do anything right when it comes to his beloved. Megan has good cause to distrust Ryan as his first picture forced a transfer and his second a vacation. Readers will appreciate his efforts from pillow talk to handcuffs to personal photos for his own viewing in order gain Megan's trust and love.

Karen Marie Moning
Delacorte Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385339162 $22.00 1-800-726-0600

In Dublin the barriers that separate the realms of mankind and Faery is collapsing. Twenty-two years old MacKayla Lane left her native Georgia when her sister Alina was murdered in a Dublin alley (see DARK FEVER). What she learned has nuked her southern existence as she finds out she (and Alina) contain the DNA of ancient Celtic sidhe-seers who fight the Fae. Now she seeks vengeance against those otherworldly abominations that killed her sibling.

Mac's objective is to kill the dark Lord Master, but needs the black magic tome, Sinsar Dubh. She distrusts her ally ancient books and other antiquities vendor Jericho Barrons, but has no choice if she is to prevent the Lord Master from totally destroying the barrier.
The second Fever paranormal thriller is a dark tale told mostly by the heroine, who paints a scary deadly Dublin otherworld. Mac is learning on the job, as she remains focused on her avenging mission although the mysterious Barrons is quite a distracter even as she wonders whose side he is on. The enemy Lord Master seems so much more powerful than our tyro champion; however, fans will root for Mac who knows she better become proficient rather quickly or she will join her sister on the other side of the Moning mythological pantheon.

Rafael Abalos
9780385733748 $17.99

In 1313 in mountainous France, youngster Grimpow sees the corpse. He had no idea who this dead person is, but scared he brings adult Durlib to look at the body. Durlib says the deceased died peacefully and wrenches a stone out of the man's clenched hand. He tosses the stone to Grimpow. The pair examines a nearby bag containing a large booty. They argue over what to do with the silver coins, ruby and emerald covered daggers, and precious jewels; as Durlib insists they are tramps and thieves while Grimpow says they are not grave robbers. However, they also find a letter written in an unknown alphabet containing a strange seal of a snake swallowing its tail.

Grimpow may learn to regret the last item he grabbed. As he holds the stone as an amulet, he begins seeing weird visions of unknown locales. Frightened further because now Grimpow can read the letter as if the language was something he always knew, but the note is for someone else who Grimpow fears will soon be coming for the bearer of the letter. Even worse befalls him when he finds he cannot leave the letter or the stone behind as if they are part of him. Thus begins Grimpow's centuries' journey on "The Invisible Road".

GRIMPOW is a fascinating fantasy that readers will appreciate because as the hero's adventures occur, he learns more about the stone he possesses or as he has come to believe possesses him. Interestingly men have grasped this amulet, but never owned it; however, Grimpow is the first child to hold the stone. Readers will want to travel alongside Grimpow as he unlocks the secrets of the stone.

Robert Liparulo
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9780785261797 $24.95 1-800-251-4000

In Saskatchewan, Canada is the small isolated hamlet of Fiddler Falls where everyone knows everybody else and crime is non-existent; but that serenity changes when the strangers come to town. Declan, his teenage brother Julian and four other men and women have come with a specific goal, to test a new weapons system using a satellite driven by nuclear power to power up the attached laser. They want to see how accurate it is when targeting specific objects and people. They kill the town's only police officer but his wife Laura and son Dillon get free.
They are separated and each falls in with a group of hunters from the United States who wanted to take a two week vacation from the stress of home. Hutch and Dillon find each other and make it to the rendezvous point his mother told him about. While Laura and Terry also head for their vacation cabin unfortunately, Declan and his pals are right behind them and what ensures is the biggest cat and mouse game with the stakes the lives of the townsfolk, the hunters and the mother and son they rescued.

Think Deliverance with a high tech weapons system that is being tested by an evil sociopath who views the lives he takes and the people he rounds up as cattle to be culled. Then the reader will have some idea what DEADFALL is all about. The action never lets up in this thrill a page, pulse pounding blockbuster. Robert Liparulo is a grand storyteller who keeps thriller readers' interest with his two groups competing against each other in a winner take-all survival contest.

Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Decked Out
Neta Jackson
Thomas Nelson
9781595543615 $14.99

Three years ago in Chicago, several women got together to form the Yada Yada Prayer Group. A diverse membership, they come together obviously in prayer, but also try to be there for one another when a crisis occurs; as happened in New Orleans when Katrina struck sending refuges as far away as Chicago. Now the members feel they have come full circle as the son of one of them is marrying the daughter of another. Barring health, all plan to attend even two women coming home from overseas.

The seventh and apparently final Yada Yada Prayer Group tale brings the tale fully around as the next generation begins forging permanent adult relationships. Fans of the series will have mixed feelings like melancholy that the series is ending, but readers also feel good to remember how far the members have come especially learning to forgive transgressions that does not just hurt, they etch into the soul.

American Skin
Ken Bruen
Justin Charles
236 Huntingtion Ave, Suite 311, Boston, MA 02115
9781932112498 $12.95

In Galway, Ireland Stephen Blake reluctantly participates in a bank robbery in which his friend is killed. He escapes with the loot and after consulting with his girlfriend Siobhan flees to Tucson, Arizona where he is to hide as an American; Siobhan will join him shortly with the plan being she will launder the money.

The IRA leader who arranged the heist wants its booty. Crazy outraged hitman John A. Stapleton comes to America to take back what is his; however, John A. plans to eliminate anyone who knows about the money. Blake also runs into other problems in spite of his effort to remain figuratively buried in the desert. He meet femme fatale killing machine Sherry and Tammy Wynette's biggest fan Dade, who kills anyone who fails to stand by his singer. This fearsome five will soon collide turning the southwest into a ferocious dead zone.

This Irish visitor Noir is an over the Rocky Mountains thriller that hooks fans of Ken Bruen from the moment the key quintet is introduced and never slows down until the desert storm is over. The story line is action-packed as the audience anticipates a multiple High Noon shoot out in which there is no telling who the last man or woman standing will be. Violence may be as American as cherry pie, but Mr. Bruen takes murder and mayhem to caricature levels in this fun tale.

Kristine Smith
Eos Books
c/o Morrow & Company
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780060503598 $7.99 1-800-242-7737

Change has come to humans and the Idomeni aliens when they first met in space and got to know each other. Right now, there is an uneasy coexistence between the two species with treaties in place to guide behavior and interactions. Hybridization is a choice to blend the two species into one, sometimes for health reason and sometimes for the need to find a better way of life. The hybrids live in Thalassa which is trying to become sovereign.

The impetus for Hybridization and alien and human getting to know one another is condemned by the leader of the Idomeni people yet some are not afraid to speak their beliefs even though they are anathema to the zealots on his homeworld. The hybrid woman Jani Killian is shattered when her mentor is assassinated and she vows to bring his killer to justice. To do that, she will have to change the beliefs of Idomeni, wreck havoc by arranging the largest mass exodus ever known and overthrow the regime whose leaders sent the killer.

This latest Jani Killian novel is science fiction at its' very best. Splinter groups try to drive a wedge between human and alien relations. Yet because the two species are more alike than different they are fated to achieve only minor success, but doomed to failure in the larger sense. Jani is a well developed character; she is independent, doesn't pay attention to diplomatic protocol, does what she believes is right even if it disturbs two civilizations and is totally loyal to her friends. Kristine Smith is a superb species builder who creates a vivid picture of aliens especially on their homeworld and a deep look at human reactions to them.

A Clubbable Woman
Reginald Hill
Felony & Mayhem
156 Waverly Pl., New York, NY.10014
9781933397931 $14.95

In the early 1970s in Yorkshire, Mary Connon loved rugby; literally she loved seducing the local rugby team's players. Her husband "Connie" knew she flirted with the entire squad, but seemed to tolerate her activity. That is until she is found dead in their home; the Mid-Yorkshire police believe a cuckold drunken Connie killed his wife fueled by the alcohol.

Case closed except the new cop on the block Andy Dalziel finds the wrap up too simple especially since everyone knows Mary was the local rugby team's biggest fan. He thinks sharing a few pints with the players might prove illuminating. Sergeant Peter Pascoe cannot believe the investigative method of his new superior "Fat Andy", but tags along especially as clues begin to point towards the squad rather than the spouse.

Although in some ways this reprint of the first Dalziel and Pascal British police procedural feels like a 1970s historical (although written at the time as a present day tale), A CLUBBABLE WOMAN remains a well written somewhat a sports whodunit. The story line introduces the audience to the dynamic duo who are working together for the first time; thus Pascoe is shocked by Dalziel's techniques as he has not adapted to it yet. Fans of the series will enjoy where it all began.

Around the World in 80 Dates
Christa Ann Banister
PO Box 35001, Colorado Springs, CO 80935
9781600061776 $12.99 1-800-366-7788

Travel magazine writer Sydney Alexander believes there is someone out there for her. However, to her major disappointment most of the men she has dated have been Losers with a capital L.
Getting a bit desperate Sydney tries going AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DATES and to her surprise begins to meet some nice males while on her serial dating odyssey. She also has a professional opportunity if she takes a risk. However, Sydney must overcome her fear of failure with the caring hunks she has met and in her vocation if she is personally and professionally going to succeed.

This is an interesting tale starring a likable heroine whose exploits are fun to follow. Sydney's escapades feel genuine as she never loses sight of her belief that someone out there is intended for her (and visa versa) although her failed attempts depress her, but gain readers' empathy especially those who have waited for their personalized Prince Charming to sweep them off their feet. Although the changing perspectives between her first person confessions as a Christian serial dater to the third person view of a particular date feels somewhat chaotic, fans will enjoy her efforts to find her Mr. Right.

A Crooked Path
Annette Smith
9781576839966 $12.99

In Mexico, Manny Ortega grew up without a father as his dad abandoned the family. Desperate to care for his family, Manny came to Texas to find work in which he could send money home.

Finally obtaining legal status, Manny gets a job on the cattle ranch of Texan Owen Green. Owen thinks Mexicans are scum and treats Manny as such. However, Manny refuses to give up on his dreams of caring for his family so he puts up with Owen's crap. However, the relationship between the immigrant employee and his prejudicial gruff employer abruptly changes when Owen's daughter Chaney meets Manny; as they fall in love with one another.

The second Eden Plain romance (see A BIGGER LIFE) stars Manny, who is a sympathetic hard working Mexican immigrant who simply wants to provide a better life for his loved ones back home. However, the more interesting relationship is between the two men that changes from stereotypical scorn by the American to respect and more. Although the ending feels like a gimmick to foster behavioral modification, A CROOKED PATH is a strong relevant look at immigration although fence builders and sitters will be unhappy that Manny is not a killing terrorist, but simply a caring family man.

Crossing the Dark
Heidi W. Boehringer
Serpent's Tail
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 West 108th Street, Suite 901, New York, NY 10025
9781852424985 $14.95

Unlike everyone else, police officer Mona Longo does not believe her thirteen year old daughter Perdita ran away with an older male teen riding a bicycle; she thinks something bad happened. For two weeks she went on leave and followed the clues until she found Perdita in a dilapidated shack in the Everglades where Cesar has sold her to customers and videoed the sex probably for Internet sales. She manages to rescue her distraught daughter and take one of his cameras, but Cesar gives chase shooting at them. Mona calls her partner Nick, but he fails to catch the thug.

Mother and daughter temporarily live in the home of Mona's former husband and Perdita's dad Les, who is his obnoxious self. As Mona tries to help Perdita cope with depression, Les offers his offspring beer. Cesar is caught, but the DA offers him a plea bargain to the outrage of Mona. She begins to believe the judicial legal system is broken as Cesar has all the rights while her daughter has all the pain. Needing justice and closure for herself and Perdita, Mona begins a plan outside the legal system but inside nature's law.

This tense psychological thriller grips the audience from the moment that Mona tries to safely expedite her daughter from the nasty Cesar and never slows down until Nicky's final depositions. The action-packed story line is driven by the anticipation of war between Mona and Cesar, as she knows if he gets out of prison he is coming for them; and he knows that if he gets out of prison she is coming for him. The laws of the jungle rules in Florida; as both antagonists understand that you mess with a lioness' cub, you better kill the momma or die trying.

Gossamer Hall
Erin Samiloglu
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
9781932815894 $7.95

Since he was a young child Juan Fuentes knew he had the special gift of making things out of thin air. This skill horrified his mother who sent her "evil" son away to be raised by a relative. Juan currently attends Brookhaven College; where his history professor Dr. Hastings knows what the student can do and intends to exploit the teen in order to obtain the cache of gold that mass murderer Mad Maron hid.

Hastings arranges for a seance in his class, but before they can finish, an earthquake strikes. The deformed grotesque bodies of Mad Maron and his partners rise from the ground wanting to kill everyone in the classroom. Since they are already dead, they cannot die, but they can be distracted so that the students can escape. However, the dead men use the secrets of each pupil to induce them to come to them; only the strong willed can resists the lure.

This reads sort of like a slasher movie where many will die by choosing a foolish path. Readers will be hooked by wanting know who survives fighting the call of these two dead killers. There are plenty of action scenes but the gore is limited as the classmates try to outwit the homicidal deadly quartet. Fans get to know some of students as their plight grows nightmarishly worse with little hope to survive the reanimation ordeal.

Lake of Fire
Linda Jacobs
9781933836218 $6.99

In 1900 Chicago heiress Laura Fielding travels by stagecoach to meet her father at the Lake Hotel near Yellowstone. However, robbers stop her coach, but a cowboy Cord Sutton saves her life. He safely guides her to her destination, which he assumes is her place of employment as he believes she is a maid at the Lake Hotel.

During the three day trek, strong feelings grow between them. However, In Yellowstone, he finds out how wealthy she is as the heiress daughter of a rival bidder for ownership of the Lake Hotel; and she learns who he really is. Still neither Laura nor Cord can stop from falling in love with one another. However, his being twenty-five percent Nez Perce makes him unsuitable for her almost as much as his being her father's business competitor and his Indian heritage makes him a target of the law forcing him to flee before twisted justice occurs.

Readers will enjoy this Americana romance that brings to life the business expansion across the western states. Fans will feel they are in Wyoming in 1900 as Linda Jacobs paints a vivid picture of the stagecoach trek and the town of Yellowstone at a time when the country celebrated the start of a new century. The star-crossed romance augments the historical elements of the well written engaging LAKE OF FIRE.

The Flyer
Marjorie Jones
9781933836225 $7.95

In Port Hedand, Australia, Great War Lighthorse Regiment veteran Paul Campbell, believing this is one of his duties, dives into the water to battle Bessie the killer croc. He wins the watery skirmish killing the rogue, but suffers a severe wound. His best friend Tim takes Paul to see Dr. Richard Mallory to tend to the croc's bite. Instead of Dr. Mallory, twenty-four years old Helen Stanwood answers their knock. She explains she is a doctor from San Francisco whose father is a friend of Dr. Mallory. Dr. Stanwood expertly stitches up the wound.

Paul courts Helen, who seems attracted to him, but rejects his advances. She is still suffering the burn of Reginald's rejection back in California. However, as Paul flies her all over the Outback to provide medical service to the needy and allows her to drive his motor car, they fall in love, but neither is ready to commit to the relationship demanded by such a strong emotion.

The sequel to the delightful historical THE LIGHT HORSEMAN, THE FLYER also soars as Marjorie Jones takes her audience back to post WWI Australia. The picturesque story line provides readers with a deep look at the Outback approximately in 1920 when medicine and doctors needed planes to reach the many spread out living there. The lead couple is a fine pairing of two likable protagonists who fear love and permanency. Historical romance readers will appreciate this fine early twentieth century tale of love between the expatriate American doctor and her war veteran pilot.

Street of Death
Mary Ann Mitchell
9781932815849 $7.95

Late in the fifteenth century in Spain everyone fears the Inquisitor, whose Papal direction is to root out heretics and Jews, but never allow blood to flow. Many Jews convert to Christianity to avoid torture, but practice their secret religion inside their homes; if outed they are tortured until they confess. Susana Diego's lover reported to the authorities that her father was still a Jew so he was burned at the stake and though she lived to give birth to a daughter had her skull nailed to her home to warn others from going down the wrong path.

Susana's daughter Teresa, unaware of her Jewish heritage, was born at a convent and raised by the sisters. Considered a healer Teresa is sent to the Velez home on the "STREET OF DEATH" to care for the dying wealthy patriarch Roberto, a converted former Jew. His son Luis does not want her in their home at first, but soon finds himself attracted to her courage. As they fall in love, Luis continues to try to learn the fate of a servant Catrin, taken by the Inquisitor. However, family secrets by their parental generation begins to surface placing both in danger as Teresa is accused of witchcraft and Luis of Jewish heresy.

The haunting atmosphere of the Velez home located on the aptly named STREET OF DEATH ironically brings to life the Spanish Inquisition in which loyalty was a commodity not to trust. The family secrets provide fascinating twists that add depth so that the audience fully understands the plights of Jews in fifteenth century Spain; for instance why Luis' mother is buried where she is. Although Luis' conversion from disdain to desire seems a stretch, Mary Ann Mitchell paints a dark picture of what mankind did in medieval times and still does to one another in the name of God.

Odd Mom Out
Jane Porter
5 Spot (Hachette)
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446699235 $13.99

In Seattle Marta Zinsser has always ignored convention and just fitting in. Instead Marta prefers not just thinking out of the box, but breaking the comfort confinement that the box provides to those who hide inside it. Her independence has led to her owning a somewhat successful advertising firm.

However, single mother Marta has one gorilla problem that worries her. Her ten-year-old daughter, Eva, a product of a sperm bank withdrawal, wants to fit in with her peers at school, but her mom is the antithesis of the other parents. Whereas the other mothers dress in feminine garb, Marta wears combat boots. Feeling hemorrhoids and ulcers coming on if she has to join the stereotype motherhood society Marta still tries for compromise and even begins dating again. However, all this sidebar efforts of motherhood and dating in search of pleasing others tires Marta and suddenly impacts her business.

Marta turns ODD MOM OUT into a deep character study that focuses on personal and professional relationships that require comprise to achieve consensus and that there is only 24 hours in a day with sleep as a detractor so juggling everything means dropping some things. Hopefully the person selectively chooses to dump minor items. Fully developed characters Marta and Eva share an interesting mother-daughter relationship as the older Zinsser prefers being different while the younger needs to belong (the antithesis of the chip off the old block). Readers will appreciate the Zinsser females in conflict seeking compromise as both learn you can't do everything to please others.

Darker Side of Pleasure
Eden Bradley
Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036

9780553589740 $13.00 1-800-726-0600

"The Bonds of Love". In Seattle with their six-year marriage in trouble, Jillian and Cameron decide to try bonding through sexual healing.

"The Lair". In the Malibu Hills Cassandra studies sensual submissiveness only to fall in love with her dominating instructor Master Robert.

"Love and Discipline". In San Francisco journalist Maggie assumes she would do anything for a story, but will she go all the way to interview Damien a sensual hunk?

These three entertaining ultra heated erotic romances focus on power relationships in which the females emotionally grow from doubters to believers while the males grow only in their lower head. Sub-genre fans will appreciate as much as the lead couples the DARKER SIDE OF PLEASURE.

In the Cities of Coin and Spice
Catherynne M. Valente
9780553384048 $14.00

In THE NIGHT GARDEN of the sultan, the nameless female exile, whose eyelids are tattooed with stories, continues to tell tales to the heir. As the boy sits in rapture listening to the saga of seven, the seventh son of a seventh son, his family prepares the palace for his sister's wedding.
On his seventh birthday, Seven awakens to find himself with other children, many of whom are dead in a city of garbage; the other residents are inhuman wraith like creatures, but they are not part of this tale. The foreman directs the children including Seven to an abyss under the ground where they slave at the Mint, a machine that transforms the bones of the dead children into coin. As the years pass, he and his friend Oubliette (a hybrid cow, tree and human) plan to escape their enslaved incarceration by converting the arm of Seven into a dozen coins. They succeed, but over time are separated. With his last coin he buys passage one way for one from a skeletal boatman to take him across a lake where his beloved Oubliette is imprisoned.

Perhaps the most complex fantasies around, the second of the Orphan's Tales is much more intricately interwoven than that described above as there are so many delightful sidebars going on; yet with all that Catherynne M. Valente spins a perfect double helix. Readers who appreciate multifaceted entertaining stories will cherish IN THE CITIES OF COIN AND SPICE as well as its predecessor THE NIGHT GARDEN as these delightful renditions of Scheherazade and the Arabian Nights are incredibly creative and enjoyable.

Bang Bang
Lynn Hoffman
6901 Bryan Dairy Road, Suite 150,Largo FL 33777 USA
9781601640005 $19.95

Philadelphia waitress Paula Sherman is distraught when her best friend was killed. She blames the shooter not the hand gun for murdering her pal. However, the most powerful gun lobby in the world the United Gun Association (UGA) learns of her comments and they along with the Pennsylvania senator in their back pocket quote Paula out of context in an ad campaign featuring her.

Outraged she wants the UGA to stop using her and her words, but the arrogant leaders ignore an overweight wannabe singer as beneath their notice except for their use and abuse of her words. Paula decides to create vengeance with a gun by targeting the windshields of cars with the UGA sticker on them as her motto is to fight fire with fire. Soon her vigilante campaign takes off as others begin shooting the windshields with UGA on them.

This is a deep yet entertaining look at the abuse of the Second Amendment by those who claim the convenience of certain constitutional rights. However, though a condemnation it is Paula who hooks readers once she realizes how her grief has been used by the spin doctors to defend the indefensible. No question author Lynn Hoffman will become criminalized, demonized, and a amoral leper as the NRA and their congressional slaves will have their media spin maestro servants use weapons of mass destruction as their right to assault her.

Waiting to Surface
Emily Listfield
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416537830 $24.95

Sculptor Todd Larkin travels to Florida to visit his girlfriend. Soon afterward the police call his estranged wife of a decade Manhattan magazine editor Sarah informing her he has disappeared after going for a midnight swim. Apparently his Sunshine State girlfriend let four days lapse before calling the cops.

Although she wonders if Todd is alive, Sarah is more worried for their six years old precious daughter, Eliza who she fears will be permanently traumatized by the apparent tragedy as their child was still struggling with her parents' separation. Still as Sarah tries to be there for Eliza, she takes a chance professionally and personally. She knows she must never forget Todd but she rationalizes that this is for Eliza's sake, but deep in her gut she knows his memory is important to her too.

Based on a true tragedy that happened to the author, WAITING TO SURFACE is a character driven haunting tale that asks what people do to cope and help their preadolescent children adjust when closure is unavailable. The story line grips you from the onset as Sarah struggles three months after Todd vanished with how to help Eliza while ignoring her own grief, which in turn eats at her gut. This powerful family drama shows how much love hurts yet means so much when an unexpected loss occurs.

Stanley Bennett Clay
9780743291026 $13.00

Although their backgrounds are miles apart, Brando Haywood and Omar Stevens became best friends while attending Hamilton High School in the early 1980s. Their friendship was solidified on the day they graduated when Brando was there for a grieving weeping Omar whose beloved Grammy died in an accident as she was coming to see him get his diploma.

Two decades later they remain best friends although their lifestyles like their upbringing are miles apart. Entertainment attorney Brando, raised by loving caring parents, wants passion in his relationship; he has not found that since his last lover left him two years ago. He remains celibate. Showbiz journalist and writer Omar, before Grammy took him was raised by an abusive single mother who was a rape victim, relishes various partners; he is promiscuous. Now Brando's friend Jeanette pleads with him to defend her on a murder charge in which she is accused of killing her rapist. Brando reluctantly agrees as criminal law is not his expertise, but leaves L.A. for SF anyway. The case reignites Brando's passion for his professional life and soon overflows into his personal life as he claims love by accepting who he really is inside and stops looking for an image in all the wrong places.

LOOKER is a challenging well written tale that profoundly explores various relationships in the twenty-first century by deeply delving into how the two best buddies perceive love. The story line is character driven as the audience will know what Brando wants and who Omar loves. Although the final spin seems obvious as the climax fits the plot, fans of deep relationship dramas will relish Stanley Bennett Clay's strong tale of love while also IN SEARCH OF PRETTY YOUNG BLACK MEN as the author has led the way with his upper middle class African-American male stories seeking much more beyond the material that they already possess.

Rashi's Daughters Book II: Miriam
Maggie Anton
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452288638 $15.00 1-800-847-5515

In 1078 Troyes, France, Rabbi Salomon ben Isaac, cherished and highly regarded by the local Jewish community as Rabbi Rashi, lovingly teaches the Talmud to his three daughters although that defies centuries of the norm as only males are supposed to study it.. His courageous intelligent middle daughter, Miriam really appreciates learning what the ancient Jewish wise men had to say about life as a Jew. As she learns much about her religion, she is determined to break gender boundaries that men not the Talmud has placed on women. Grieving the death of her betrothed, Miriam wants to become the midwife and mohel to the Jewish community of Troyes. However, many people oppose a woman studying the sacred Talmud as that is a man's job and a female performing circumcision on the newborn is as unacceptable too. While pushing the medieval envelop, Miriam has a new suitor as well Judah ben Nathan who has issues to hide too.

This is a fabulous biographical fiction based on the renowned medieval French Rabbi Rashi and his middle daughter Miriam. The tale brings to life how the eleventh century Jews lived in France, especially the educated rabbinical social class. As with the first book that focused on Rashi's oldest daughter Joeheved, RASHI'S DAUGHTERS-BOOK II: MIRIAM entertains the audience but also provides a profound spotlight on an enlightened Jewish teacher and his middle daughter. The saga continues with the youngest offspring Sotah to follow.

The Critic
Peter May
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584583 $24.95 1-800-421-3976

Several years ago renowned wine critic Gil Petty vanished without a trace during a "vino veritas" trip to the Gaillac region of France. A few years later his preserved corpse was found drenched in wine. The case was never solved after he was found hanging like a wet scarecrow in the nearby woods.

Scottish expatriate forensic expert Enzo Macleod decides to solve the cold case. However, the local police do not want the outsider making them look foolish so they refuse to cooperate. Worse, region winemakers prefer the homicide remain unsolved; Enzo assumes because Petty lived up to his name and was universally disliked. However, when another murder victim embalmed in wine appears in the woods, the local vintners become concerned. Meanwhile Petty's daughter Michelle tries to seduce Enzo, who is held accountable by the other women in his life. However even as Enzo digs up dirt on the arrogant odious late critic, he finds many people in the industry and the family who had a motive to kill the Petty expert and would not mind pickling Enzo too.

The second Enzo Macleod French cold case mystery is a superb tale that will send readers seeking his previous starring role (see EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE). Enzo is fabulous as he uses all his forensic skills seeking the motive, which initially might have been personal but begins to believe insider trader information is the key. Breaking Petty's code that the deceased used to conceal his work adds to the fun of a wonderful whodunit in which wine seems inappropriate way to toast Peter May for this entertaining whodunit.

Broken Heartland
J.M. Hayes
Poisoned Pen Press
9781590584521 $24.95

In Benteen County, Kansas, the election for sheriff is a hot race between the incumbent Sheriff English AKA "Englishman" and braggart Lieutenant Greer, who has the support of the radical right in a state in which the political spectrum runs from the far right to the extreme far right.

However, Englishman has other problems to deal with when his only Deputy Wynn is severely hurt during a high speed chase car accident involving a station wagon and a school bus. With Wynn in a Wichita hospital's intensive care unit Englishman claims he is to busy to attend a Buffalo Springs Chamber of Commerce pancake breakfast or debate his opponent. To himself, the sheriff expects to lose his job for legally upholding the law. Meanwhile, his half-brother born again Cheyenne Mad Dog has a feeling that Englishman needs him so accompanied by his wolf Hailey rushes from the Black Hills to Kansas. Englishman's two college student daughters feel the same way as their uncle and rush home to help their dad too. All three are right as angry Buffalo Springs High School student Chucky Williams threatens to make Columbine and Virginia Tech look minor while an army of organ harvesters abduct Mad Dog to reap his inner parts.

When you mix a Mad Dog with an Englishman you can expect a zany cocker tale that will elate those fans who appreciate the offbeat in their police procedurals. Even Dorothy would not want to go home to this mess as fans observe a day in the life of a county sheriff on the Plains when even he questions whether he would be better off losing the election. Although life is as out of control here in the BROKEN HEARTLAND as it was in PRAIRIE GOTHIC, and MAD DOG AND ENGLISHMAN, J.M. Hayes provides a zany law enforcement tale.

Sorcery and the Single Girl
Mindy Klasky
Red Dress (Harlequin)
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373895632 $13.95

Before the local Georgetown coven accepts her as a witch, Jane Madison must perform a creditable deed worthy of this skilled group. She knows she is not ready, but keeps studying the GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT for the day she can prove herself.

Meanwhile as she struggles with her training as wannabe sorceress single swinger, Jane also has relationship issues with her best friend and her mother. However, her new boyfriend makes her feel good about herself yet is also lacking. Finally as she practices for a Halloween performance, her world crashes down on her as those who care about her no longer know her since her priorities changed

The second Jane coming of age fantasy (see GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT) is an enjoyable tale that will be enhanced by reading the previous book first as the audience will be able to gauge how far (or little) the heroine has come in meeting her objective. Readers will enjoy Jane's efforts to be good enough to be accepted by the local coven and how her endeavor causes friction with her best friend and her mother as wiggling noses bewitches no one in Mindy Klasky's humorous whimsical tale.

Judgment Fire
Marilyn Meredith
Mundania Press
6470A Glenway Avenue, #109, Cincinnati, OH 45211-5222.
9781594264849 $10.00

In Bear Creek, Yvette La Rue hears the screams from her neighbor's house and calls 911. Deputy Tempe Crabtree responds to the domestic dispute in which building contractor Tom Cannata had battered his wife Jackie. Tom is taken away while Jackie complains the cops should stay out of her family matters and that Yvette only called to embarrass her. Tempe has known Jackie since their school days together although they ran in different social circles as the Deputy was ostracized for being partially Native American.

Meanwhile another neighbor computer geeky guru Spence Gullott claims Tom diverted water from Bear Creek to his property, which now threatens Spence's home and his family; at least that is what he claims. Not long afterward, someone kills Jackie who is found dead in her bed from a gunshot. The police suspect Tom and their son Ronnie, but Tempe has a gut feeling that the latter is innocent. As she wonders if her sensation is part of her Native American heritage, a police hunch, or both, she investigates the homicide while heeding the advice of her friend Native American shaman Dorethea Nightwalker that she faces danger.

Married couple, Deputy Tempe and Minister Hutch, makes this Native American whodunit exciting as they both are beginning to accept her mystical heritage. Thus fans of the series see how much the Crabtrees (and their offspring) have grown in terms of religious tolerance and acceptance since the earlier well written police procedurals (see CALLING THE DEAD and KINDRED SPIRITS). The investigation is fun, but it is the increasing acceptance of the reality of Native American mysticism (as embodied by the female Shaman) by the cop and the pastor that make the visit to the Sierras fun for readers.

The War Journal of Lila Ann Smith
Irving Warner
Pleasure Boat Studio: A Literary Press
201 West 89 Street ,New York, NY 10024
9781929355334 $16.00

In 1979, Lila Ann Smith died at the Meadows facility in Cedar falls, Iowa; she had no known living relatives so the director handled her funeral and disposed of her possessions. Of most interest to him is her diary kept during WW II.

On September 2 1941, sixty-one years old Lila Ann and her second husband Osmond were sailing on the not so pleasant boat the Northern Supplier to provide the Bureau of Indian Affairs missionary services to Aleut Indians in Chchigof Village on Attu Island, Alaska territory. They reach their destination twenty days later and are welcomed by the villagers led by Chief Alexi Chirikoff. They were especially in awe of the six foot Lila Ann, the teacher to their children. In spite of the threat of hostilities, Pearl Harbor and the war, the Smiths enjoy their time with the Aleuts. That is until Jun 6, 1942 when Japanese Rear Admiral Omori takes control of the island; Osmond is killed. Not long afterward Lila Ann and forty-four Aleuts are moved to Otaru, Japan. Lila Ann continues her journal until 1945 when the Americans free her and her companions.

Based on a real event, THE WAR JOURNAL OF LILA ANN SMITH is an exciting historical fiction that shows how far-reaching WWII was. The use of a journal enables the audience to understand how Lila Ann feels about events including the tedium of the voyage, the enthusiasm of her students, the death of her second husband, and the incarceration-exile as civilian POWs with no Habeas Corpus available for her or the Aleuts. However, this format also slows down the story line as it moves forward in leaps and bounds from incident to incident over four years. Still Irving Warner provides a vivid glimpse of a little known WW II episode.

Over Hexed
Vicki Lewis Thompson
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451412485 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

Exiled for unethical magical matchmaking mischief by Cyril the Grand High Wizard, Ambrose and Dorcus Lowell detest being sent to backwater Big Knob, Indiana, but the matchmaking duo has no say in the matter. They cannot return until they straighten out George the dragon who suffers from ADD. They worry about how to pass time in a town of under 10000 mortals, but consider doing their magic with humans, a no no back home, but what the heck that is a double negative.

The duo meets mortal Sean Madigan, who laments that he is bone weary of females wanting him. Although they know they should stay with the normal clientele, witches and warlocks, the out of town therapists agree to help Sean with his problem by changing him from the hunk of hunks to an average American. Now that he is no longer the fantasy star of female dreams, Sean ironically meets his soul-mate Maggie. He finds he must court her by using charm and tenderness instead of Greek God looks, but this is something he never had to do before and fails at persuading Maggie he is the one for her.

OVER HEXED is a lighthearted romantic fantasy starring two out of control but caring matchmakers and an interesting pair of humans. Sean makes the tale as his wish is granted at a time he meets his true love, but must work at winning her; something he never had to do before as women worked to get him. Readers will enjoy this amusing irreverent frolic that uses the paranormal to spoof the politically correct and anti politically correct babble.

New Slain Knight
Deborah Gabrien
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312374006 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

A three week vacation with her lover is disturbed when his sister calls musician Ringan Laine to ask her to watch her daughter for two weeks. His significant lover Penny Wintercraft-Hawkes does not mind that Rebecca is going to be with them; she suggests they go to Cornwell. Ringan arranges for them to stay with his friend and fellow musician Gowan Cambourne. He makes Penny feel uncomfortable and she and Becca share the same vision when the song NEW SLAIN KNIGHT is played.

Gowan confesses that his lover committed suicide in the house and that Rebecca reminds him of a younger version of her. Becca performs NEW SLAIN KNIGHT with Gowan's band and has a vision of his ancestors who lived five centuries ago insisting murder, suicide and rape occurred. Before something deadly happens, a concerned Ringan takes his two women to Tintagell, but the visions continue. Only the truth about what happened in 1451 will free Becca and Penny.

The latest "Haunted ballad" mystery is a ghost story that transports the mediums into a tragedy that happened centuries ago; in turn this enables the audience to experience the pain and heartache that led to crimes occurring and an inability to live with the consequences of what they wrought. The danger to the modern females is palpable as each vision and flashback seems more vivid than the previous one as if those long dead are trying to redo their errors through Penny and Rebecca. Deborah Gabrien spellbinds her fans with this tense ghost story.

Smart Girls Like Me
Diane Vadino
9780312374754 $23.95

As the millennium counts down, twenty four Betsy Nilssen feels lonely as her best friend Bridget Callahan is marrying a medical hunk on some exotic privately owned South Pacific rock. As the maid of honor, Betsy will be there, but she would rather be at a swinging New Year's Eve Party rather than attend a wedding unescorted.

At the same time as 1999 counts down, she fears the end of days will begin on January 1 so she has filled her Manhattan apartment with non perishable food and frets over Y2K shutting down the world. However, the first bright spot occurs when Ryan Wells returns from Japan to work at the same place that bores her since he left. She is attracted to him and him to her. As they begin to see one another and she dreams he will accompany her to Bridget's wedding, she learns he is also sleeping with their boss Eva. Hurt and despondent as she was sure he was the one, she quits her quits her job and moves back to her parents' house in the burbs. Betsy fails Bridget until all hell breaks out between the once best friends in the tropics.

SMART GIRLS LIKE ME is an engaging chick lit tale because of the witty cheeky asides, barbs and skin removing hits tossed like hand grenades by a biting Betsy. Her observations peel away the veneer of polite packaging from her musing that a wedding invitation is actually an overdraft credit card to what happens to best of female friends when a third party nukes the relationship dynamics. Although the plot is thinner than Twiggy ever was, fans will enjoy this intelligent look at the impact of a fiance on the relationship between best friends.

Garcia's Heart
Liam Durcan
9780312367084 $23.95

In Montreal teenage Patrick Lazerenko was just another aimless street punk until he was caught vandalizing the Bodega owned by immigrant, Hernan Garcia. However, Patrick got off soft as he is allowed to work off the damage he caused. He becomes part of the Garcia family and considers Hernan as a father figure. In fact it is Hernan's illegal practice helping Central American immigrants with health issues that inspires Patrick to attend medical school and become a doctor.

Decades later, Hernan is exposed as the Angel of Lepaterique, who was part of a CIA sponsored group that tortured Hondurans during the Reagan era. Hernan is brought to The Hague to stand trial as a war criminal accused of abetting detainee torture. Unable to ignore his mentor in trouble and needing to know the truth, Patrick travels to Europe unable to reconcile the man who saved him and gave so much to immigrants in Montreal with the person who could be part of a group torturing dissidents.

Patrick holds together this superb contemporary character study as readers observe his myriad of emotions as his hero whom he placed on a pedestal crumbles to the ground. On the one hand he wants Hernan to be exonerated, but also begins to believe his mentor did the nasty deeds. Complicating his feelings towards his father figure is seeing his former lover Hernan's daughter Celia with in your face references that imply war crime trials for those in charge and participating at Abu Ghraib and Guantamino is appropriate.

Night Work
Steve Hamilton
9780312353612 $24.95

In Kingston, New York, juvenile probation officer Joe Trumbull has spent the past two years buried in his work while he grieves the strangulation murder of his fiancee Laurel three days before their wedding. Though he still mourns his loss and believes he will compare all women to Laurel, Joe finally goes out on a blind date with Marlene. A few hours after their date ends, Marlene is found strangled to death. Not long after that he tries to help battered wife Sandy, who soon after his offer of assistance is found strangled to death.

The local police turn to the State for homicide detectives to investigate since the small department has no one capable of working a serial killer case. Joe being the obvious link between the murders is the prime and only suspect. He begins an investigation to find a killer before he is arrested.

This is an entertaining investigative thriller although fans of Steve Hamilton who know Alex McKnight will think Joe Trumbull is no Alex. The whodunit is cleverly developed especially the motive and the location on the Hudson is vividly described. However, Joe's constant self pity becomes irritating and after a while he loses the empathy he had early on. Still this is an interesting stand alone tale of a man who is trying to return to the living when all he finds are deaths.

The Cut
Wil Mara
9780312359300 $24.95

In two years Giants tight end T.J. Brookman went from nowhere to the best player in the league at his position. However, when he joined the team he signed at the minimum amount but feels he earned a new contract with a substantial increase. His agent Barry Sturtz asks the Giants management to rip up the still valid one and renegotiate. Head coach Alan Gray tells his superiors to refuse and let Brookman sit out without any pay

As Brookman fails to show up at training camp, Gray brings in three people to compete for the tight end slot. Former Pro Bowler Jermaine Hamilton comes out of retirement; Corey Reese comes back from a career-threatening injury; and walk-on rookie Daimon Foster signs on as a free agent. As all three work their butt off, Gray has already made up his mind before he signed these "losers"; none were going to make the squad as he is using them to force Brookman back on to the playing field at a minimum football wage.

The second Giants football tale (see THE DRAFT) is an entertaining sports story that the die hardest NFL fans will enjoy. None of the three signed players competing for the tight end position step out of a classic sports stereotype, but NFL enthusiasts will not care as the look into training camp (seems more like intense boot camp) is detailed and eye-opening. Fans who equate football to religion will want to know who survived THE CUT.

Seduction's Spell
Lynn LaFleur
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061176326 $13.95

Off the Rose River in North Texas lies the resort Belle on the Bend built in 1844. Current owner young and vivacious Belle Patricelli loves her antebellum mansion and its posh estate that she has restored to its former glory. Belle especially enjoys helping guests who come here with problems including a lack of passion that most of her visitors lack in their lives.

Belle greets three guest couples. Isaac Olvera dotes on his wife Maggie giving her material things when what she wants most from him is his love in return. Yvonne Lowe the supermodel wants a man who cherishes her not for her perfect body but for her; she and Dolan the maintenance chief meet and each feels like a linebacker blitzed them. Football star Vince Wagner throws for a Hail Mary pass in hope of winning back the love of his ex-wife Sara Fletcher. Meanwhile travel reporter Mitch Cavanaugh is supposed to write an article on the resort, but he cannot get pass the curves of the owner.

Fans of heated contemporary romance will surrender to the seductive spell of author Lynn LaFleur, who writes four interrelated short stories filled with heated passion, romance, and love as the prime octet appear in each tale. The eight prime characters are fully developed with flaws especially when it comes to relationships leading to readers hoping each couple will make it. This is an enjoyable erotic romance.

Mary Castillo
9780060876081 $13.95

Married with an infant Nely Mendoza is the best friend of commitment phobia boutique owner Aggie Portero. Although their lifestyles are 180 degrees apart each to a degree envies what the other has. While Nely wipes the baby clean, Aggie kicks herself for sleeping with her neighbor Kevin. Both look forward to sharing a girls' weekend together at Venatana de Oro spa where the highly regarded Guru Sauro practices his Seekers of the Dead mumbo jumbo.

However at the spa the "grumpy Guru", tired of their whining, believes the two best friends need a kick in the butt to learn that each lives a rich fulfilling life. He performs SWITCHCRAFT so that Aggie's conscience resides inside Nely's body and visa versa as Nely's is inside that of Aggie. Now Aggie deals with Nely's baby, her needy husband Simon, and her sarcastic mother-in-law, while Nely manages Aggie's boutique and keeping Kevin on the other side of the fence.

Switching bodies has been used in many books and movies, but Mary Castillo makes it feels fresh because the audience obtains a deep introspective look inside the souls of the two prime characters as Nely and Aggie learn that the grass on the other side of the fence might be brown under close inspection. The story line is amusing as each of the switcheroos struggle with living their best friend's life. Readers will appreciate the latest New Age reincarnation of switch.

Blessed Assurance
Lyn Cote
9780061349942 $9.95

"Whispers of Love". Several years have past since the Civil War made Jessie Wagstaff a single mother. She runs a Chicago boarding house as she raises her young son Linc. A new guest Lee Smith makes her feel uneasy as he seems too interested in her late husband's family and besides she feels attracted to him. However, when the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 threatens mother and daughter, Lee risks his life to keep them safe.

"Lost in His Love". In 1906 San Francisco social activist Linc Wagstaff demands the city outlaw child labor. To make his case stronger he investigates the Dickensian exploitation. During his inquiries he meets heiress Cecilia Jackson. As they fall in love, he holds her accountable for practices her trustees are doing to increase her wealth. Before they can confront one another, an earthquake devastates the city leaving everyone struggling to survive.

"Echoes of Mercy". Meg Wagstaff has returned to the States after spending time as a volunteer in France during the war. Her parents, Linc and Cecilia are elated she came back safe, but Meg learns her childhood friend Delman Dubois has been accused of murdering Mitch Kennedy by the New Orleans police. Meg refuses to believe Del would kill anyone so she travels to the city to prove her Negro friend is innocent. As Del faces racism that will gladly lynch him, Meg feels like a traitor as she is attracted to her opponent New Orleans Parish Attorney Gabriel St. Clair.

The omnibus collection of the three superb Wagstaff BLESSED ASSURANCE inspirational historical tales will elate fans of the genre as each era comes alive due to the strong lead couple and a deep support cast.

Fate Fantastic
Martin H. Greenberg and Daniel M. Hoyt (Editors)
DAW Books, Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756404406 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

The premise of this collection is the role of fate as a hero and or villain is destined to fulfill an ancient prophecy whether they want to or not. Whereas some individuals embrace their destiny as being on an absolute level with "Death and Taxes" (by Kristine Kathryn Rusch), others follow Jonah trying to flee even "The Final Choice" (by Irene Radford) of Death under the premise of free will. The sixteen entries that make up FATE FANTASY are all quite good with a few being excellent. The best short tale perhaps of the year is the Kabala gambling edge of "Approaching Sixty" by Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg. With a fantasist who's who, fans are fated to read this excellent anthology; as read in their bones as the prime "Choice of the Oracles" (by Kate Paulk) or was that the "Prophecy of Symon the Inept" (by Rebecca Lickiss).

The Sagittarius Command
R.M. Meluch
9780756404574 $23.95

The old Roman Empire never really died it just went underground placing its people in positions of power. When mankind colonized the stars, the Roman Empire now called the Palatine Empire broke away from Earth's control and established a new empire that became an implacable enemy of Earth especially America. When the Hive; an alien life form who knows only hunger begins eating away at Roman Colony planets, Captain John Farragut of the Merrimack negotiated the Subjugation.

Roman forces are under the command of Farragut for as long as the crisis lasts but the Hive is a formidable opponent eating everything on a planet until that orb can no longer support life. It is discovered where the Hive is and the human life form that lies safely on one of the planets in the Sagittarius sector is believed to be an enemy of Rome who thought they destroyed him. He resonates on the Hive harmony and is directing them to planets he wants them to devour. Farragut hopes to find out how he is doing it and destroy the Hive before any more planets full of people are destroyed.

R.M. Meluch is a creative writer of outer space military fiction. The action starts in the first chapter and never lets up until the last page is turned. The cast is fully developed especially those characters on the Merrimack so readers obtain a character driven military thriller that takes place for the most part aboard the space ship. The third book in this exciting series, THE SAGITTARIUS COMMAND continues to fascinate as audience will thoroughly enjoy trying to figure out what the Hive actually is.

Reserved for the Cat
Mercedes Lackey
9780756403621 $25.95

Growing up poor Ninette Dupond's mother made sure her offspring would be accepted by the Paris Opera Ballet in Montmartre. She now hopes to find a wealthy a wealthy patron. Ninette loves to dance and is given the starring role in La Sylphide when the lead hurt her ankle. She attracts the interest of the star's paramour, but that leads to her being fired with no money to pay for food or her rent. A cat telepathically tells her that he was sent by her father, an Elemental Master to help her.

The stray persuades Ninette to go to Blackpool, England pretending to be the famous Russian ballerina Nina Tchereslavsky, who they will say vanished during a ship wreck. The dance hall her feline guide escorts her to is run by an Elemental Master of Air while his closest friend, a magician is an Elemental Master of Fire. They accept her and protect her while Ninette tries hard to fit in. Nobody is aware that the real Nina knows about the impersonator and is furious plotting revenge for stealing her name and reputation. Nina is an Earth Elemental who got freed of her Master and likes living on the mortal plane; she intends to keep doing so by absorbing humans in order to take over their form and intellect. Assimilating Ninette is the perfect disguise as the pretender has already taken up her role.

The Elemental novels are beautiful romantic adult fairy tales. RESERVED FOR THE CAT contains a wicked villainess who makes the Snow White Queen seem benevolent, a courageous cat to rival Puss n Boots, and a fine brave heroine in peril (take your pick). Ninette is a strong willed intrepid individual who believes she must actively help in her defense. Master magician Mercedes lackey writes a charming fantasy.

Fire Bell in the Night
Geoffrey S. Edwards
Touchstone (Simon & Schuster)
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416564249 $15.00 1-800-223-2336

In 1850 New York Tribune journalist John Sharp is sent to Charleston, South Carolina to report on the trial of white farmer Darcy Nance Calhoun; accused of violating the law when he abetted a runaway slave, a capital offence. If convicted Darcy will hang. Already aware of the crisis throughout the nation since winning the Mexican War, John arrives with a sense of foreboding especially since his predecessor from the Tribune was murdered; probably because the local assumed a Yankee reporter denotes an abolitionist lover.

As John makes inquiries in the city seeking the truth, he is stunned by how angry everyone seems to be; in that atmosphere Darcy has no chance even if he did nothing and could prove he was totally innocent of the crime. The outside reporter does not believe Darcy will make it to trial as the city led by powerful plantation owners with connections like Tyler Breckenridge has all but hung him. As fires purposely set burn 24/7 with the alarm bell seemingly ringing constantly, underneath the rage, many of the elite and affluent are demanding secession from the Union in spite of knowing the North would invade.

FIRE BELL IN THE NIGHT is a deep look at South Carolina at a point where entrenched partisan feelings has divided the nation so that either secession or civil war seems imminent. The historical story line focuses on unrest from several perspectives as slave families are divided for individual sale and plantation owners see their region's national influence slipping with the addition of the territories taken from Mexico; as the 14 to 14 tie will soon be over with the north winning. The strong cast brings to life the critical moment in which the great regional compromisers (Calhoun, Clay, and Webster) are gone and the strong President (Taylor) with convictions dead; the deal worked only temporarily and cooled the heat for a few years.

The Choice
Nicholas Sparks
Grand Central (Hachette)
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446579926 $24.99 1-800-759-0190

In 1996 Beaufort, North Carolina, thirtyish veterinarian Travis Parker enjoys his swinging singles lifestyle until physician assistant Gabrielle Holland moved next door. At their first encounter, he is kind and welcoming, which frustrates her as she is angry with him. Exacerbated with his neighborly greeting, she angrily accuses him of letting his wandering boxer Moby impregnate her collie Molly. Besides that auspicious beginning, they are attracted to one another. However, Travis fears commitments will destroy his lifestyle while Gabby is seeing longtime boyfriend Kevin; her choice will impact his. Eleven years later, a car accident forces Travis to confront himself as he has a choice to make..

Told in two parts (1996 and 2007), THE CHOICE is a terrific look at a couple when they first met and a little more than a decade later. Travis and Gabby are fully developed so that the audience appreciates the ups and downs of their relationship as if these are close friends or family. The support cast like his father enhance how much the reader knows about the lead pair. Nicholas Sparks is at his best as he provides a strong character driven tale based on the premise that love's survival depends on choices people make.

Archie Mayor
Grand Central
9780446582582 $24.95

Les Gunther and his mother are driving home after seeing a movie when all of a sudden the car isn't operating the way it should; they crash leaving both of them badly injured. The next of kin Joe Gunther, a commander in the Vermont Bureau of Investigation, is notified and he passes a John Doe corpse case he is working on to his team while he returns home.

Before his brother lapses into a coma he says something was wrong with the car. When they discover what is wrong with the car, Joe is immediately suspicious because the vehicle was too new to have thrown a rod. When they find the cotton pin that held the rod in place they have probable cause to confiscate the computer at the Griffis Garage where the vehicle was serviced. The father E.T. and son Dan blame Joe for putting away the youngest brother Andy who was probably innocent and took the fall for Dan. If Dan was convicted of another crime he would have been put away for life under the state's three strike rule. While in jail Andy was raped and when he gets out he committed suicide. Ironically there is nothing on the computer to implicate Dan with his crashing the vehicle but there are a series of chat logs connected to the case Joe was working on before his family emergency.

This regional mystery gives a vivid picture of the Vermont countryside and the colorful inhabitants who populate it. Joe's love for his family is so real that readers expect to do what he can and more for them. The mystery is well plotted and has so many suspects besides the obvious avenging father and son team that readers will never guess who the killer is. Archie Mayor has written another great Vermont police procedural.

Wind Follower
Carole McDonnell
9780809557790 $12.95

Death and constant grief are all that Satha has seen in her young life as her impoverished clan the Theseni has suffered severely during the forty year war caused by the superior outsiders. Now she has left her ever weeping despondent mother behind to journey across the land to that of the affluent Doreni clan where she marries Loic, son of the king's First Captain. He has the skill of reading souls and tries to bring some solace to his sorrowful spouse, whom he loves and cherishes.

As she begins to loves her gentle husband; a serpentine betrayal from a trusted friend occurs. Loic knows he must avenge their honor, but his love for Satha has turned to loathing for what he believes she caused. While on his quest to regain what he blames Satha for losing, the Arkhai spirits doom him to fail for fear he is the one to bring the Creator back to the country that they control. While he is gone, Satha has no defenders; she is sold into slavery to the abusive religiously right Angleni clan. The Creator is there for this dysfunctional couple struggling with danger and despondency; but each must reach out to the Creator if they are to spiritually heal.

This intense African romantic historical fantasy vividly brings to life the interrelationships between the three tribal clans as well as the effect of the outside forces. Thus the audience receives a complex tale of broken love and potential redemption in which the backdrop is a war torn land and on a metaphysical plane the spirits interfere with the lead couple while the Creator encourages them to find paradise lost. Carole McDonnell writes a powerful character driven (not just by humans) epic parable, which depending on what the pair separately do could turn into a great Greek (albeit African) tragedy or a second coming.

Sylvia Kelso
9780809572052 $6.99

Amberlight is a fairly populated city with a great amount of land and an even greater amount of wealth due to other nations buying slates of qherrique, a pearl gray stone found only in the city. Rulers use the precious stone to control the population of a country; however the power is finite so that the merchants have repeat business. The city is ruled by the Thirteen Houses which consist of women only as only females are in positions of authority and leadership.

Tellurith, head of an influential House, finds an unconscious obviously raped male. She takes him into her living quarters where he regains consciousness with a foreign salute although he has no memory as to who he is. Tel demands he confess who he is spying for; as he begins to recall things, she assumes he is a mercenary sent from an enemy who wants to control qherrique. Improbably they fall in love and for a few months Tel is happy. Her contentment is shattered the night the qherrique speaks to him and he vanishes probably to betray her to his employers.

AMBERLIGHT is a character driven fantasy that examines the culture of a matriarchal society in order to raise the issue of selling weapons of mass destruction (qherrique) to unscrupulous abusive rulers (foreign military sales to deadly despots like Hussein during the Reagan era or the present Mid East plan). The powerful plot also looks closely at the impact of rape with the twist that the male is the victim. Sylvia Kelso provides a colorfully refreshing tale starring two likable fully developed lead protagonists. Perhaps the only negative is the mystery of qherrique which remains for a future story.

Dancing With Werewolves
Carole Nelson Douglas
9780809572038 $6.99

At the turn of the new Millennia, the Y2K crisis fizzles and the end of days never happened. What did occur is that the creatures of myth and legend including vampires, werewolves, witches and others came out into the open. Old timers think it is a hoax but youngsters, like twenty-something Delilah Street know these creatures are real. Having been raised in an orphanage, never adopted or fostered out, she learned to be self-sufficient and independent.

While watching television, she sees a doppelganger of herself down to the earring in her nose. She goes to Las Vegas and the producer Mr. Nightwine of the show mistakes her for Maggie; the corpse who has become a cult favorite. He provides Delilah a place to live on his estate while she tries to track her double down and she meets Ric Montrose, searching for dead bodies. When she douses with him they find new bodies wearing clothing at least sixty years old. She feels their last moments of life and learns she is a certain type of medium. Ric and Delilah are attracted to her but other people take an interest in her including Snow a vampire who encircles her arm with a bracelet formed of his hair and werewolf Cicerau who mistakes Delilah for her double and kidnaps her to be in his magic show. She uses her new found powers to escape and helps Ric identify the two dead lovers while trying to find out who she really is.

Carole Nelson Douglas leaves her Midnight Louie series to provide fans with an entertaining urban fantasy with that rivals that of Kim Harrison and Kelly Armstrong. The protagonist jumps from the frying pan into the fire as she tries to stay one step ahead of her enemies and those who want to use her. DANCING WITH WEREWOLVES is a mystical delight.

Blood Magic
Matthew Cook
9780809572007 $6.99

She was brought up to be a lady and to make a good match but when her twin falls in love and marries the drunken womanizing Marcus; she insists her twin marry his best friend. Both women are brutalized by their spouses but where Kirin accepts it her sister learns blood magic from the local herbwoman. When Marcus kills her Kirin while in a drunken stupor assumes her identity and using her blood magic to suck the life out of him and brings it into her.

She runs away from her village using the dead who obey her command until they crumble into dust. Her magic is taboo by the other religions but Kirin ignores their pious mouthing and does what she needs to do in order to survive. The Mor, monstrous creatures, emerge from their caves and underground tunnels to make war on humanity as they do every few decades. Kirin becomes a scout in the Imperial Army and she watches five thousand soldiers killed by five hundred Mor. She aids the refuges healing with blood magic even though Brother Ato condemns her and Element Master of Air Lia Cho tries to support her even if she doesn't approve of the use of blood magic. However, that might be the only way humanity can defeat the Mor although the people she is trying to save won't accept her methods.

BLOOD MAGIC is a spellbinding sword and sorcery tale about a young woman who goes from an innocent girl to a person who kills when she needs to survive or when helping people who scorn and fear her when she helps them against a common enemy. It hurts her not to be accepted for what she is but she knows she is not evil and does what she thinks is right although many question whether the means is acceptable even if the end is saving humanity. The Mor remains an unknown quantity as people (and readers) don't what motivates them. This is the first book in what looks to be a fantastic fantasy series.

Unveiling the Sorceress
Saskia Walker
9780809557813 $12.95

The Emperor of Aleem and the Empress of Karseedia sign a friendship alliance between their nations. Besides ending the war between them, the key coda to affirm their serious adherence to the treaty and as a final binding is the agreement that his daughter Elishiba and her son Hanrah will marry. Although Elishiba does not wish to wed the stranger who just became emperor, she knows her duty to her people must come first and if marriage prevents further hostilities so that her people can prosper in safety so be it; still she hopes to negotiate with her future spouse.

Meanwhile the Council of the Gods is worried about the unrest in the exotic lands inadvertently caused by a bored rogue member Hurda. The Godsend Amshazar is assigned to unravel the mess and return things to what they were before Hurda's women's rights interference. As Elishiba quickly learns the power of the Karseedia throne resides totally with her future mother-in-law as Hanrah is her ineffective childish puppet, she meets and falls in love with Amshazar; he feels as strongly about her. However, their respective missions appear to leave these star-crossed lovers as adversaries.

This is a terrific romantic fantasy in which the key players seem genuine especially the heroine who finds herself struggling with layers of political intrigue and Machiavellian manipulations by the Empress, the Godsend she loves, and even her father. If she chooses Amshazar she will have to obey the Empress; something she does not seem capable of doing. Readers will appreciate this strong tale as the magical elements enhance the deviousness of mortals and Gods to get others to do their bidding; welcome to Walker world.

Portia Da Costa
Black Lace
c/o Virgin Books
65 Bleeker St.,New York, NY10012
9780352341501 $7.99

Turning thirty and having lost her youthful innocence from too many ugly stories and too many disaffected romps, reporter Natalie leaves the light speed of London to return home to the prim and proper village of Redwych where her half sister Patti lives. On the slow mobbing train she thinks of Patti as her best friend and her most competitive opponent with each daring and double and triple daring the other to perform sexual conquests, submissions and anything in between.

However, the quiet community she left seemingly ages ago has turned into a HOTBED of depravity led by drag queen Stella Fontayne. Although Natalie swore no more men, she also needs a man. Soon she sexually competes with Patti to see who can be closest to Stella as no perversion or sexual boundaries exist for these siblings, who will try anything and do.

The sexual war between the sisters will grip erotica readers from the onset when the he-bitch congratulates Pattie as she-he loves "a woman who can make another woman come". That double entendre (along with immediate profanity that seems apropos) sets the tone of a fabulous tale of depravity as each of the sisters take turn bringing the CONTINUUM of debauchery lower and lower. Fans of character studies that look deep at how much the chit rules relationships will appreciate this fine triangular literotica in which the lead trio seems genuinely depraved.

Templar Prize
Deanna Ashford
Black Lace
9780352341372 $7.99

In 1191 Sicily King Richard is getting married even as he leads a Crusade into the Holy Land. Amongst his retinue is Templar Knight Stephen the Comte de Calais who he directs is to help recently widowed Edwina de Morville overcome her "grief". Stephen and Edwina fell in love four years ago and were to marry, but her odious brother Fulk sold her to abusive Templar Knight Hugh de Morville. Stephen and Edwina still love one another and he frees her from a cruel chastity belt enabling them to make love. They obtain Richard's permission to marry.

While on separate vessels sailing the Mediterranean, a storm scatters the crusaders. This is the omen that the star-crossed lovers face, as soon afterward rogue Templar Knights and nobles on both sides of the Holy Land fight keep them apart as if their destiny is to never be together. However, their love is so strong that each does not fear disobeying Richard, challenging Saladin, and confronting the papal leadership in order to be together.

The second erotic "Prize" historical romance (see the equally heated Ancient Roman BARBARIAN PRIZE) is an exciting historical starring two protagonists who face all sorts of danger in order to be together. The story line is fast-paced especially once the couple goes to sea and never slows down as fate seems to want to keep them apart, but love pushes them together. Although Hugh displayed no redeeming quality even when dying from quatrain fever (at least based on his widow's memories), fans will enjoy this interesting look at the reign of King Richard II as he leads the Crusades expecting to receive godly glory for his triumphs.

Black Lace Quickies 5
Mandy M. Roth, Maddie Mackeown, Lisa Sedara, Nuala Deuel, Michele M. Pillow and Fiona Locke
Black Lace
9780352341303 $4.99

"Academic Attraction" by Mandy M. Roth. Professor Mike knows what he risks and how wrong the faculty will see this if he is caught, but masturbation can no longer satiate his need to make love to his teaching assistant Haley.

"Butter Fingers" by Maddie Mackeown. Lowry hosts two guests, barristers Blake and Sebastian, but it is his discipline of his servant Eva for an "accident" that sparks their desires to spank her too.

"Doing a Number on Him" by Lisa Sedara. When Malcolm the auditor threatens to expose Ms. Demmings for payments to a personal account, she blows him off, but he comes back demanding more of her.

"Ramraiders" by Nuala Deuel. Film director Hector with actors Neil and Guy, and actress Saffy begin a late night filming in which studio guard Suki joins them until the final handcuffed climax.

"Precipitous Passions" by Michele M. Pillow. Peter the boss dominates his subordinate Hallie.

"The Apprentice" by Fiona Locke. Although he always said no females need apply, master violinist Leighton knows by his attraction amongst other clues that his most talented apprentice ever is pretending to be a boy but is a girl who he plans to cane before making love to her.

These six tales live up to the title as these are heated short shorts that run much of the erotic gamut. Fans who prefer a passionate quickie will appreciate these interludes.

The Italian Lover
Robert Hellenga
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316117630 $23.95 1-800-759-0190

Fifty-three years old American expatriate Margot Harrington still resides in Florence. There she awaits film producer Esther Klein who wants to make a movie of her memoir The Sixteen Pleasures (for the film it is called The Italian Lover) in which the author describes how she found a valuable Renaissance erotica and in more detail her foolish love affair.

Esther needs this project to prove she can go it alone since her partner-spouse dumped her; she hires Margot to write the script. Margot meets and falls in love with American Alan "Woody" Woodhull, who plays the guitar at the Bebop Club and teaches literature at the American Academy. Margot and Woody write a script from her memoir of what happened in 1975 while dying Michael Gardiner is hired as the director and Miranda Clark to perform as the younger Margot. However, Hollywood prefers happy endings, but for the almost thirtyish Margot that did not occur; whereas the fiftyish Margot might achieve what her younger self failed to obtain.

This sequel to the SIXTEEN PLEASURES continues the life of Margot fifteen years after her heart was broken. The story line is loaded with subplots that bring out the Hollywood invasion of Florence as much as the prime story line of Margot and Woody falling in love. Interestingly the city comes into deep focus as much more than a noted historical site while much of the cast including the star seem pale in comparison; somewhat because too many sidebars involving the support characters never allow anyone to become fully developed. Still this is an enjoyable tale that compares real life vs. movie life.

Creation In Death
J.D. Robb
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399154362 $25.95 1-800-847-5515

In March 2060, NYPSD Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas watches an action movie with her husband Roarke when an official call comes in from Commander Whitney. He tells her to go to a crime scene without providing her any information as to why he ordered her to do this on her day off. When she arrives at the location and examines the corpse, she knows why her superior provided her with nothing.

Eve realizes that Whitney wanted her to verify independently his theory that "the Groom" a serial killer who tortures his victims to death and then carves into their bodies how long they lasted under torture. Dallas believes this is the same culprit who she failed to catch nine years ago. He killed four women back then and many others in other states and countries, but apparently he is back in NYC. Eve vows to cage this animal.

Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb is at the top of her game in CREATION IN DEATH, the latest exciting entry in her futuristic police procedural series. Even though the tale occurs only five plus decades from now, the audience easily accepts the future ambience as tidbits are blended into the fine story line. This is a terrific cat and mouse thriller with the determined Eve assuming she is the hungry cat on the prowl while her opponent is a master tiger tamer.

Book of the Dead
Patricia Cornwell
9780399153938 $26.95

Dr. Kay Scarpetta and her long time lover Benton Wesley are called to Rome to work with a team investigating the death of sixteen-year-old tennis star Drew Martin. Her body was left in a prominent location so that her mutilated corpse would be found quickly; huge chunks were cut out of her body and her eyes are gouged out and sand was placed in them before they were glued shut. The killer who will come to be known as the Sandman thinks he is doing the victim a favor by putting her out of her misery.

Before they fly home Benton gives Scarpetta a ring and then she returns home to South Carolina where she has opened up her own pathology practice Coastal Forensic Pathology Associates.

The Sandman is also in Charlotte where he is scoping out his next victim a woman who, like Drew, also appeared on Dr. Marilyn Self's talk show. Dr. Self has volunteered to be a patient in Benton's study coordinated at McLean University in Massachusetts because the Sandman is e-mailing her pictures of his handiwork. Kay is involved in the case and is also trying to deal with the fact that someone is trying to run her out of town, Marino's angry moods, Lucy's snooping into her personal life and a nosy neighbor who likes to make trouble for her.

Patricia Cornwell always writes crime thrillers that are fantastic but BOOK OF THE DEAD, though superb, is a bit of a departure for her. The author concentrates more on the relationship between Kay and those she cares about and their feelings; some revelations are revealed as well as a shocking act that nobody who knows those characters could ever see coming. The cast comes alive in a way they have never done before and readers will feel connected to them in a way they have never done before. Ms. Cornwell admits to being proud of BOOK OF THE DEAD and she should be.

Remote Control
Cynthia Polansky
Echelon Press
9781590805398 $12.95

Due to a medical mishap Judith McBride dies at the age of thirty one and she is immediately released from the corpse that no longer contains her spirit. In death, she still has a body and looks better than ever. She attends her own funeral and sees her beloved husband still coping with her death. After that she is transported to the astral plane where she meets her spirit guide. Ashraf. He tells her she has reincarnated forty-nine times before.

She is assigned to Level Seven but can visit the lower levels. While there she is offered a job to care of pets waiting for their owners just as Judith was reunited with her late dogs. She visits Saul and sees he is with their accountant Mary Lynn. Although she is told she can't get involved in changing anyone's destiny, when Mary Jane convinces Saul to go to bungee jumping in New Zealand Judith knows if he goes he will die. She sends messages to him and her friend Michaela through dreams that warns him not to go. Judith has yet to learn that instead of dealing with someone else's karma she should be working on her own spiritual growth.

Mindful of Albert Brooks' Defending Your Life, REMOTE CONTROL is one woman's experiences in the afterlife and her determination to save her husband from harm which is more important to her than her spiritual growth. Readers will like her in spite of her hubris in believing she can meddle in someone's destiny even out of love. The afterlife is fabulously described by Cynthia Polansky and readers are treated to see five levels of that realm. This is an enchanting and spiritual book that will appeal to readers of all religions.

Jump Cut
Max Allan Collins
Obsidian (Berkley)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451223180 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

Like most cities in the United States, Lawrence Kansas has a homeless problem that the authorities would like to move out of their area but they don't want to see anyone killed. Somebody though is murdering the homeless population, stalking them, drugging them, chaining them in an enclosed area making them hope they can get away. To date four bodies have been found in various places around the town but the police are no closer to finding the killer than they were the day the first corpse was found.

In desperation, the police call in the Behavioral Analysis Unit, a group of expert profilers to assist them in finding the killer. When the team arrives, they get to work right away and though they have no leads they come to the same interesting conclusions; the most important one being that the hate crimes are escalating with more signs of violence on the later victims. While the BAU is in Lawrence, twenty-year-old college drama student Kelly Bonder is kidnapped and the ransom is $68,000. In such a quiet town, the profilers believe this crime is linked to their case and if they discover the connection they will find the killer. They race against the clock too uncover the perp before the ransom deadline arrives.

This novel is based on the television show Criminal Minds and readers get to see the step by step criminal investigation of the FBI. The prologue is in the first person voice of the killer and he speaks periodically throughout the book which sends goose bumps down the spine of the audience because he sounds so sane in his insanity. The investigation takes place in the third person and is also terrifying because the reader feels the tension of the last victim. This crime thriller absorbs the reader in the unfolding drama of mind games played by a brilliant serial killer.

Sisters on the Case
Sara Paretsky (editor)
9780451222398 $7.99

This twenty-story anthology celebrates "twenty years of Sisters in Crime". The tales run the gamut of the mystery genre especially procedurals and historicals, but not limited to those sub-genres as for instance Eve K. Sandstrom goes tribal, Clare McNab writes about an Aussie investigator interrogating a canine movie star and Sue Henry turns mystical. Fascinatingly Chicago seems to be the prime spot for crime thrillers though other locales are used. Each of the tales is well written as expected by the renowned female authors who contribute. Especially fascinating is Ms. Paretsky's preadolescent Warshawski's first case when she is called Victoria or Tori. Once again the Sisters in Crime prove they still are on the case of providing first rate entertainment with this superb collection of all new tales.

Accessory to Murder
Elaine Viets
9780451222589 $6.99

Josie Marcus is a single mother who pays a nominal rent by living in her mother's house. She has known much heartache and tragedy but she is also best friends to Alyce who lives in an affluent gated community filled with mansions and villas while she lives in a blue collar neighborhood. She doesn't like Alyce's husband Jake who cheated on his wife but tolerates him out of her friendship for his spouse.

When Alyce's neighbor is murdered in what looks like a carjacking, a black male is arrested while running through the mall. The police are forced to let him go when evidence proves him innocent; then the police turn their eyes on Jake as a suspect. Circumstantial evidence points to him having an affair with Halley Hardwicke and witnesses saw them arguing before her death. Alyce knows that Jake is innocent of murder and asks Josie to help. She starts nosing around and almost gets killed by a cold blooded killer who has gotten away with murder twice.

There are two heroes in this book: Alyce for sticking by her man even though he doesn't deserve it or her and Josie who goes the extra mile to help her friend. There are some very funny scenes as Josie is mystery shopping at greasy fast food places and is inundated with hundreds of packages she never ordered by someone who wants her busy returning packages and magazine subscriptions. Elaine Viets has written a well thought out who done it starring a sleuth who is totally believable and a bit quirky.

Dead of the Day
Karen E. Olson
9780451222473 $6.99

Crime reporter Annie Seymour is presently working on two pieces for the New Haven Herald: a floater at Long Wharf whose body is covered with bee stings and a profile of on the city's new chief of police Tony Rodriguez. However, Annie struggles with the profile that isn't coming together because Rodriguez is so bland she can't find a hook. The story about the floater is also difficult to write about because nobody knows who he is or where he came from .

The chief of police story turns exciting when a drive by shooting leaves Rodriguez dead while he sat in his car. Witnesses claim that someone opened fire on two policemen, Annie's ex-boyfriend Tom and Rodriguez's second-in command Sam O'Neil. The shooter is now in the hospital in a coma. Annie is assigned the story and finds much more than she bargained for with illegal immigrants, a green card scandal, bomb sniffing bee experiments and someone wanting to permanently stifle the curious intrepid reporter.

This crime thriller starts out at light speed and accelerates from there never giving the readers a chance to catch their breath. Annie is a strong willed woman who never lets a death threat frighten her off the investigation. Besides dodging bullets and cars that want to run her off the road she is trying to figure out if Vinnie the P.I. she is in love with and hasn't spoken to in months wants to get back together. This is a great investigative series and readers will look forward to the next book in the series.

Dance with the Dragon
David Hagberg
Forge Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765308344 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

Retired CIA director turned guest professor at the University of Southern Florida Kirk McGarvey is assigned to lead the investigation into the shooting death of CIA agent Louis Updegraf; who was murdered at the entrance to the American embassy in Chihuahua, Mexico. Louis' last operation was wiretapping into the Chinese embassy, but none of his superiors apparently know who assigned him or why.

Kirk quickly finds a link between Iran and China in Mexico, but the connection is the dead American spy. His clues lead him to Iranian belly dancer Shahrzad Shadmand, but her lies send Kirk down false paths. The former CIA head also follows clues that focus on Chinese espionage agent General Liu, who resides in his country's compound in Mexico City where he arranges for galas attended by North American diplomats who appreciate his juvenile whores. Still Kirk is unable to learn what Louis sought, but he knows the veteran agent would not go fishing unless something big is coming and besides the enemy would not murder him unless they need time to accomplish this big incident. With a creepy deja vu premonition, Kirk fears another 9/11 level terrorist event is being executed.

This is a superb espionage thriller that will have the audience wondering along side of the hero what is going on as red herrings and triple crosses are the norm. The fast-paced story line grips the reader once Kirk begins to connect the Iranian belly DANCE WITH THE DRAGON from China, but is unable to figure out any of the whys. The climax is terrific as it provides closure yet sets up the next story; which is going to be the only complaint - waiting for the follow-up to this stupendous saga.

F. Paul Wilson
9780765317063 $25.95

Filled with guilt as he knows his vocation holds him culpable for the hit and run assault on his girlfriend Gia that left her battered and their unborn dead (see HARBINGERS), Repairman Jack has quit trying to fix things. He concentrates on helping his beloved heal physically and emotionally while keeping her and her daughter Vicky safe though he would not mind learning more about the Watcher who is always near at night but never there when Jack goes to confront him.

When single mother Christy Pickering asks Jack to help split up her teenage daughter Dawn from twice her age Jeremy Bolton, he says no. However, Gia demands Jack take on the case as she insists they need to return to the norm, which for Jack is repairing things. Jack learns that Bolton has captured the attention of Dawn as the first male to show interest in her. He also finds out that the Feds have a scientific interest in Bolton, who's DNA makes him into a homicidal beast. Bolton's half brother Hank Thompson shares that same violent DNA while leading the Kickers cult. The siblings know their mission as assigned to them from their late father is to sire the dawning of a next generation of evil.

The latest action-packed Repairman Jack thriller is an over the top implausible tale that will grip fans from the onset. Even when Jack stays domestic to keep Gia and Vicky safe, the story line is faster than the speed of light and never decelerates as BLOODLINES sets up the book twelve. Although not the strongest entry in this terrific series, the latest saga is still an enjoyable tale.

Naked Addiction
Caitlin Rother
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843959956 $7.99

San Diego police detective Ken Goode wants more than anything to be transferred to the homicide division so when he ultimately stumbles over the body of a dead woman he thinks she is his ticket to getting what he desires. His attitude changes when he comes to "know "the victim Tania Marcus who attracted men in droves, some of them walking on the wrong side of the law. He learns that she attended Head Forward School of Hair Design and that she planed to open an "escort" service that will cater to men and women.

A couple of days later Sharona, a girl who attends the same school is found dead in the same manner. Through good old fashioned police work Goode finds a connection between the two women and how the Pumphouse, a bar where drugs are sold house works and two men Seth and Keith who are suspected drug dealers and knew the two women. When Keith is murdered Goode knows all three murders are connected and he believes they were all killed by the same person. However, finding the link and the killer isn't easy; as different suspects have diverse motives for killing only one of the victims with no one having reasons for three homicides.

Caitlin Rother's first novel is an excellent police procedural that will appeal to fans of Nancy Taylor Rosenberg and Christine McGuire. The investigation contains red herrings, wrong paths taken and misdirection and that makes the reader feel they are accompanying the protagonist. Goode is an honest police officer whose motive for solving the case changes from wanting a transfer to solving the crimes as he gets to know the victims.

Night of the Wolf
Elaine Barbieri
9780843958522 $7.99

The sound of a wolf howling has always frightened Letty Wolf because she knows what it means. So when she hears the noise that rips her gut apart, she fears for her second oldest daughter, Johanna Higgins, who is heading to the Arizona Territory where her father died.

On the trail, Johanna, hearing the wolf's howl, knows she is in trouble. Her warning proves true, but Wade Mitchell saves her from a rape. She hires him to drive her wagon. As Wade and Johanna fall in love, he knows he must let her go as he is on the run from the law; if the posse catches up to him, they might act more like a mob and string him up for a murder he swears he did not commit.

The second Wolf paranormal western romance (see SIGN OF THE WOLF for oldest daughter Meredith's tale) is a fascinating historical. The story line is fast-paced and the lead couple appears to have no chance together although both want it with all of their respective heart. This is a terrific tale in which every time the wolf howls, sub-genre fans will hear the sounds and wonder what tragedy is about to occur.

Warrior's Bride
Gerri Russell
9780843959840 $6.99

In 1372 on the Isle of St. Kilda, Scotland, Lady Isobel Grange understands the power of the Seer's Stone as she saw first hand in the tower they shared how it eventually drove her mother insane. Isobel's greatest fear is that the stone will drive her mad too. Apparently, the Stone demands Isobel marry Douglas Stewart, known as the Black Wolf of Scotland.

However, besides having no plans to wed anyone ever as he believes their line needs to end with him, Douglas would never heed his abusive father's demand that he marry Isobel. Still he feels it is only right to tell her in person that he will not be her husband. However, whether it is the Stone or just his heart, Douglas finds he wants her. She, in turn, is stunned because she has never been attracted to anyone before. As they fall in love, their families and the Seer's Stone manipulate them leading to a potentially deadly schism between Douglas and Isobel.

Gerri Russell's second medieval romance (see THE WARRIOR TRAINER) is an exciting paranormal historical that sub-genre fans will want to read soonest due to the likable star-crossed lovers. Readers will cheer for Douglas and Isobel who have plenty to overcome if they are to make together. Isobel is especially a fascinating character as she fears she will ultimately follow her mother's path into lunacy that she witnessed even as her mom battled to remain sane for her daughter. Ms. Russell provides a fresh look at fourteenth century Scottish romances.

Paying the Piper
Simon Wood
9780843959802 $7.99

Eight years ago the Piper kidnapped preadolescent Nicholas Rooker demanding two million dollars in ransom from his wealthy father, a successful bay area realtor. The serial abductor began calling San Francisco Independent reporter Scott Fleetwood leaving clues for the cops to track. However, by the time the police realized that the caller was a fake, the Piper changed is MO of returning the kids unharmed once remittance occurred; this time he killed Nicholas.

In the present, after a hiatus the Piper abducts one of Scott's children, Sammy. He feels Scott owes him more than just the money he lost; he blames the reporter for his killing Nicholas, the first time he committed murder. Nicholas' father Charles Rooker puts up the ransom money hoping that this time the FBI, led by Agent Shiels, captures his son's killer. The cat and mouse game has just begun on the streets of San Francisco with the Piper warning Scott to play by his rules because of ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN.

Although an action-packed thriller that never slows down even when the cast climbs the hills, the story line belongs to the four male protagonists who make up a macabre square with each feeling strong degrees of guilt over what happened to Nicholas. Fascinatingly the Piper regrets having had to murder Nicholas although he holds Scott culpable; Scott feels the same way and to a degree so does Charles and even Shiels. PAYING THE PIPER is a terrific thriller as the quartet knows that they all fall down on this one.

Painted Heart
Jean Moynihan
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594146121 $26.95 1-800-223-1244

Camille Hanssen left her broken heart and her shattered career as a dancer behind in Los Angeles to start anew in Callaport, Oregon. She obtains work on the Coast Gazette as the arts reporter. Camille meets local painter Alex "Mr. Aqua Eyes" Thompson, who tries to bully her into writing articles in support of the town's annual art fair.

She also meets famous artist Kenneth Worthington, who asks Camille to serve as his model on a series of works involving Greek goddesses; he also asks her to ghostwrite his autobiography. Alex is unhappy that his former mentor is competing with him for Camille's attention while his former girlfriend Morgan warns her to stay away form her man. As Alex and Camille fall in love, their differences over commercialization of the arts may keep them apart as she is an idealist and he is a pragmatist; besides he does not consider the performing arts on a par with the fine arts.

PAINTED HEART is an entertaining contemporary romance that looks deep into the world of art as the lead couple debate the freedom of the starving artist; Alex believes creativity is stifled if human basic needs are not met (Maslow's Hierarchy) while Camille claims selling out stifles creativity. Readers will enjoy this fine tale as "every sunset is a dawn somewhere".

Two in the Churchyard Lie
Kinley Roby
Five Star
9781594145995 $25.95

The car was pulled out of the nearby canal contained the corpse of retarded John "Bunny" Roberts. The police including his brother assume Bunny committed suicide rather than face jail time for his role in a robbery. His sister Martha refuses to accept her happy sibling killed himself so she hires private investigator Harry Brock to conduct an inquiry although he explains the case is four years old, so cold and the probability is Bunny killed himself.

As he interviews family members and meets Bunny's still grieving fiancee Harry begins to believe a homicide was committed, but has no clue or motive. At the same time he gets involved with his neighbor's campaign to protect unique butterflies from development encroachment and his involvement with Helen Bradley turns into a triangle when her former lover Riga Kraftmeier comes to rekindle what they lost.

The latest Harry Brock private investigative tale (see NOW COMES DEATH) is a fascinating dysfunctional relationship drama. Not only is Harry struggling with the omissions of his client, but with getting her insane family members to cooperate. On the personal front, he finds himself caught in a romantic triangle in which he knows his rival is better for their mutual person of affection even though his opponent is a female. Although the three subplots at times seems too much between how Bunny died; saving the butterflies; and romancing Helen, Harry shoulders them all leading to a fine mystery.

Twisted Sister
Natalie M. Roberts
Five Star
9781594145735 $25.95

In Santa Barbara, California, the first victim was Jake Higgins whose penis was cut off. At the Santa Barbara Community Hospital, Nurse Alisha Telford looks at the corpse and recognizes him as the man who raped her when she was sixteen. Her present boyfriend, Police Detective Joe Morsen and his partner Quinn Anderson lead the official investigation. However, when Joe observes Alisha looking strangely at the body of Higgins, he wonders what is going on until suddenly he suffers a heart attack in front of her; she takes her time before calling for help and Joe dies.

The second victim is a wife abuser whose spouse is friends of Alisha and her best buddy Kelsey, whose boyfriend is Quinn. As he sees the obvious connection between the two victims beyond the physical slicing off of their precious jewel, he wonders if either Alisha, Kelsey or an associate of both from the Women Against Violence group has a literal ax to grind with men.

TWISTED SISTER is an entertaining but strange combo police procedural psychological thriller. The fast-paced story line grips the reader from the opening moment when the fatale assaults Higgins and never slows down until the final slice is served. Although readers know the identity of the killer early on (and so should Quinn), fans (males may feel squeamish with a killer providing "penectomy" services) will appreciate this exciting suspense filled tale as a serial killing avenger castrates male predators.

Soldier on the Porch
Sharon Wildwind
Five Star
9781594145940 $25.95

In 1973 at the Pisgah Mountain VA Hospital in Ashville, North Carolina, an explosion rips into an abandoned wing. Security guard Avivah Rosen investigates the ruins. Two corpses are found; one is nonagenarian patient Zeb Blackenship who went out for a smoke and the other is Major Henry Campos, Avivah's nasty former superior in Viet Nam. Meanwhile Avivah's friend nurse Elizabeth Pepperhawk knows the rules, but showed up for work somewhat intoxicated; she is forced to join a counseling program. Their other friend Benny Kirkpatrick is too busy with school and babysitting to assist either female.

The FBI Agent Harrington and Military Intelligence Officer Darby Baxter take Avivah into custody to protect her from a serial killer. Besides Campos, three other officers from that cell of five are dead; she is the last one standing. However, not one to sit around, Avivah sneaks out with the help of newspaper reporter Saul Eisenberg as she begins an inquiry into who wants them dead; she already knows why.

The latest 1970s military veterans Pepperhawk/Rosen mystery (see SOME WELCOME HOME and FIRST MURDER IN ADVENT) is an exhilarating thriller that focuses mostly on what happened in Viet Nam that Avivah has hidden. This time Ben is a minor player unable to come to the rescue of his two female friends and Elizabeth is tied up with an alcohol issue. This leaves Avivah going alone (she enlists Saul) to fix the mess as her choices seem to be going to jail or learning of more murders until she becomes a corpse. Historical mystery fans will enjoy this strong investigative tale that remains relevant as the then hot Cold War Against Communism is now the hot cold War Against Terrorism.

Colorado Pickup Man
Jacquie Greenfield
Five Star
9781594146152 $26.95

At the Denver Tri-Country auction, distraught Debra Walker is selling her beloved horse Branded Sunset because she has no place that she can afford to keep the horse since she sold the family ranch to pay off her late father's gambling debts. Debra is going to be a computer administrator at Watson Technology in Colorado Springs. J.D. Garrison pays six thousand for the horse that he hopes will be used by his severely ill nephew Dillon, who has a heart defect.

J.D. is attracted to Debra and is concerned when he learns her boss is odious Robbie Nelson, whom he has a personal history with involving his former fiancee. Still she is and adult and there is little he can do except fret. However, as she uncovers some nefarious practices at the firm and is sexually harassed by Robbie, Debra flees to the only place she feels safe, J.D.'s ranch; unaware of the danger she is in due to the knowledge she possesses.

The despicable illegal practices bring a woman in peril element to the plot, but are unnecessary as the sexual harassment angle is a terrific segue. Debra is a delightful protagonists struggling with a new life that turns ugly from the start and forced to flee to J.D. He, in turn is a hero in every sense of the word as he not only risks his life to keep his beloved safe, but also will do anything to improve his nephew's life. COLORADO PICKUP MAN is an entertaining contemporary romance.

Silver Lady
Linda George
Five Star
9781594146138 $26.95

In 1882 Kate and Ben Mathison leaves Sutterfield, Montana to travel to Silverton, Colorado to see their father who deserted them and their mom twenty years ago, but sent them wires to join him. `However in the Wyoming Territory, a rattlesnake spooks their horses leaving Ben dead from a broken neck. Drew Kingman arrives and buries Ben and escorts Kate to a nearby town. She asks and he agrees to take her to see her dad.

As they journey to Colorado, Drew's former best friend Jerome Carson and two other men pursue him. Jerome plans to kill Drew for murdering his brother Tom. Drew insists he had no choice as it was self defense and besides Tom stole his cattle. When they are snowed in a cabin in the Rockies, they fall in love, but he fears for her safety as his enemies still are coming for him and besides he never recovered from the death of his wife in childbirth and their son.

This is an interesting late nineteenth century western romance starring two likable protagonists and a strong a support cast. Even when snowbound for three months the story line retains a fast pace and a wonderful late family twist in Silverton. Although Kate adapts to easily especially after her beloved brother died, sub-genre fans will enjoy this entertaining Americana.

Coyote Season
Michael Bergey
Five Star
9781594146107 $25.95

Coyote the trickster is in his animal form in this incarnation learning about the human magic of science so when he passes over he will have a new tool to use. He doesn't remember how to do magic or much before this birth but he has humans to trust like Mooney, John, and Mouse and he has cubs with Lazytail in a mating. He has five spirit children living with him at all times and they have his memories and magic but don't tell him how to use the magic or what he did in previous lives.

Coyote learns the Iron Song which has the affect of making metal rust and he used it on a farmer's tractor totally destroying the metal but leaving the other parts in tact. The CIA learns of this and arrives to figure out who has such a weapon. They take over the farmer's home leaving Coyote and his crew sniffing around for information. Unknown to Coyote, he is heard talking to Mouse and agent Rick Molina believes that coyote can help and intends to use him. Coyote embarks on a series of dangerous adventures to get around those who would use his magic. These include government agents a magic practitioner who uses spells on the dark side to a demon. If he can remain free he has important information to tell the American government about Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

This is a very creative urban fantasy that centers on a unique protagonist, a trickster Totem spirit who did some very bad things in his past lives and has an evil reputation because of it. In this life, he tries so hard to be good yet trouble seems to follow him like a plague but he always acts with honor and he knows how to love and not give in to mischief. The various spirit realms he visits in his attempts to escape enemies are well developed so that readers obtain a full Native American mythos in a modern day setting.

The Chainsaw Ballet
Thomas J. Keevers
Five Star
9781594145803 $25.95

In Chicago, three Serbian immigrants opened up Club Belgrade. They took out million dollar insurance policies on each other. Two of them (Milan Krunic and Uri Simunick) have since been murdered and the survivor Stepan Vasil has received payment, but has not stopped the policy, which seems odd to Minnesota Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Minnesota Mutual Agent Orson Prescott hires private investigator Mike Duncavan to learn why Stepan has not ended the insurance policy as he has no partners to claim the insurance if he dies. Mike visits Club Belgrade where he meets bartender Eva, who he is attracted to but fears is working 24/7 for her employer. As Mike keeps digging for a motive, he begins to find proof of unsavory illegal practices involving international sex slave sales; an angry Stepan knows the former cop has found evidence that could lead to jail time so he plans to take Duncavan out of circulation with the help of police officers who owe him.

The third hard boiled Duncaven detective tale (see WHAT THE HYENA KNOWS) is an exhilarating investigative thriller starring a fired street cop turned disbarred lawyer turned private sleuth who knows the mean streets of Chicago as well as anyone does. The story line is fast-paced even before Mike makes the scene at the Club Belgrade. Action-packed with confrontations the norm, fans will be hooked wondering why Vasil continues to pay for partnership insurance when his partners are dead.

Sherry Scarpaci
Five Star
9781594145834 $25.95

Following the death of her beloved detective spouse Danny in the line of duty, cop Vicky Langford left the Westport police force to become a crime reporter for the Herald. She always felt crime king Richard Blackwell killed her husband and wounded his partner, who since recovered.

At a murder scene, Vicky meets the newest detective Jim McCann, a former Seattle cop who directs her to leave as reporters are not wanted at the crime scene (or anywhere else). He later learns her godfather, chief of police Paxton, has made an exception with her because she has helped them solve cases even though she no longer is a cop. However, when someone breaks into her home, Vicky realizes her obsession endangers her young son eighteen-month-old Josh so she plans to back off her investigation of Blackwell. However, that does not stop the Dark Man's stalking her from continuing his terrorist assault on her by apparently raising the stakes culminating with the abduction of Josh. As Vicky and Jim are falling in love, she risks her life to save her beloved infant from the Dark Man.

LULLABY is an exciting suspense thriller starring an interesting heroine struggling to move past the death of her spouse for the sake of their offspring, but unable to let go of his murder until the newcomer gets her to see the danger she causes to her son. The Dark Man's motive strongly parallels Vicky's obsession to see Blackwell go down. Although the romantic subplot between Vicky and Jim seems out of place, fans of tense mysteries will appreciate Sherry Scarpaci's strong debut.

Madame's Deception
Renee Bernard
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416524212 $6.99 1-800-223-2336

In 1861, seventeen years old Jocelyn Tolliver ran away from boarding school when she realized her beloved mother was dying to tend to her. However, mom informs her that Jocelyn is about to become a mistress as she inherits the famous wicked brothel, the Crimson Belle in London; Jocelyn was now Madame DeBourcier. Jocelyn figures she will have no trouble running the place even though she is a teen because she assumes she is a chip off the old block.

Nine years later Alex Randall has been attracted to Jocelyn since he first saw her. He proposes an offer she cannot refuse; that she be his for the summer. As they make love and enjoy each other's company, they fall in love. However, as a serial killer is murdering prostitutes, summer draws to a close; Jocelyn fears more for her heart than her life.

This is an entertaining Victorian romance starring two fascinating protagonists especially Jocelyn, the daughter of a courtesan, who believes that she is fulfilling her destiny and her mother's death bed wish. The serial killer subplot adds plenty of suspense and serves as a catalyst between the lead couple, but also feels unnecessary as the prime focus is the delightful entertaining romance between the brothel mistress and the aristocrat.

Ain't Myth-Behaving
Katie MacAlister
9781416524932 $6.99

"Stag Party". Wanting to remain the Irish god Cernunnos, Dane Hearne, needs his wife, Fidencia to renew their vows at the annual Beltane ceremony. However, this year his spouse says no. He has a week to find a bride or lose his godly status. He thinks the gods must be with him as American visitor Megan St. Clair arrives at his castle; all he has to do is persuade her to marry him for eternity.

"Norse Truly". Alrik and his Viking crew are fated to sail for eternity unless a Valkyrie ends their curse. Centuries of following the Swedish coast pass when the American Brynna arrives to see her family. An accident dumps her into the sea where Alrik demands she ends their torment, but she is a modern day Yank with no idea how.

These are two amusing romantic fantasies in which the Gods and the Vikings learn first hand that modern day American women kick butt.

Moon Fever
Susan Sizemore, Maggie Shayne, Lori Handeland and Caridad Pineiro
9781416514909 $6.99

"Tempting Fate" by Susan Sizemore. Desiree Gill thought her delightful sexual encounter with vampiric rock star Jon Coyote was a fantasy until the truth proves otherwise as she is carrying his offspring.

"The Darkness Within" by Maggie Shayne. Caroline Connelly hires private investigator Johnny Lipton to help her solve the mystery of the ghost that haunts her new home while she wonders if her ex-spouse Shawn is behind the "supernatural".

"Cobwebs Over the Moon" by Lori Handeland. Werewolves stalk Carly Kelly whose hope to not be torn apart is soldier Dylan Shepard.

"Crazy for the Cat" by Caridad Pineiro. Deep in the Amazon, Javier da Costa guides scientist Jessica Morales only to find danger under every bush.

Readers will fully enjoy biting into these four thrilling paranormal romances that run the gamut of the supernatural.

Norway to Hide
Maddy Hunter
9781416523802 $6.99

It is time once again for travel escort Emily Andrews and her group of senior citizens to embark on another tour of a foreign country. They are traveling to Scandinavia concentrating on Finland and Norway. Emily's fondest hope is this trip proves to be no "Passport to Peril"; meaning no dead bodies to deal with especially since her ex-husband Jack (now Jackie after a transgender operation) published her book, which is ranked and rated on Amazon.

The Iowans are on the Midnight Sun Adventure tour with a group of Floridians senior citizens, who live in the affluent gated community Hamlet. The two groups don't get along but even Emily is surprised to find the leader of the other Hamlet group Portia Van Cleef murdered, strangled by a fish and plum necklace. At first Jackie is the prime suspect because she threatened her with violence but the police can't hold her because there is no evidence and others had a motive to kill her. When another Hamlet is killed, a Pulitzer prize winning reporter, Emily believes she needs to clear her group so she decides to investigate. Everyone wants the killer caught because the travel group doesn't want to keep looking over their shoulders for a murderer.

Maddy Hunter writes a riveting who-done-it that will appeal to armchair travelers and readers who like a meaty cozy plot with no blood and guts flowing. The heroine has not had a good time on this trip as she deals with cranky travelers, a despondent writer who was totally obsessed with the numbers concerning her book, long distance wedding plans that have to be changed because a twister destroyed the place she was going to get married. Oh yes, she needs to find the killer to salvage what is left of the trip. The humor spread out throughout the storyline is used as a tension reliever.

Lover Unbound
J.R. Ward
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451222350 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

Raised in a dysfunctional environment by a sadistic sire, Vishous AKA V has always been different starting with his glowing hand. His father hated him before he was born and showed his disdain by torturing him while raising him alone. Eventually V learned why his sire treated him as crap; his mother is the Scribe Virgin goddess. She demands he fulfill his destiny as the Primale, who will impregnate the Chosen one; instead of wasting his time as a member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood of vampire warriors fighting the Lessening Society of Slayers in Caldwell, New York

Rushed to the hospital near death, trauma surgeon Dr. Jane Whitcomb miraculously saves the life of V. As he recuperates, he insists she leave the hospital for her safety from the forces of the dark ones. However, as V has finally fallen in love for the first in his tormented life and has someone to live for, his mother the Scribe Virgin warns him to do his duty or his beloved will suffer for eternity.

The Black Dagger Brotherhood "Lover" fantasy thrillers (see LOVER REVEALED, LOVER AWAKENED and LOVER ETERNAL) have been consistently some of the best the sub-genre has to offer. However, the latest saga is the finest of the series to date. V is an incredible protagonist who comes from the poster-parents of abuse, who for the first time finds someone who cherishes him for his sake yet must give her up to keep her safe. J.R. Ward has cursed her audience as this 500 hundred plus page turner will keep readers up late into the night.

Never Say Never
Geralyn Dawson
9780451222431 $7.99

Photographer Torie Bradshaw and Matt one of the "Holy Terrors of Brazos Bend" Callahan meet on a tropical island off the coast of South America. She happens to be there at the request of her twin sister Helen so she could see that Collin Marlowe was not a snake; besides catching Collin kissing a bikini, she also photographed someone killing him on his yacht. Matt is also on the godforsaken island at a Bradshaw request; though his is more of an order from Torie's father a General Officer. However, their mutual intervention turns ugly with the murder of Collin, but they survive.

Eighteen months later back home in Texas; Torie realizes someone is stalking her. She figures her safety is with "James Bond" Matt so with her pampered dog in hand (literally) she invades his home. As their initial attractive spark ignites into love, he knows he must stop a killer before she is hurt, but he wonders how he can get rid of that pesky canine.

The second "Holy Terrors of Brazos Bend" romantic c suspense thriller (see GIVE HIM THE SLIP) is an exhilarating action-packed tale that can be summed up by the hero who on his second encounter with the military brat informs her that he has had wet dreams about her. Fans will enjoy reading their attraction, antics, and adventures; as this sensational saga is an enjoyable novel.

Melina Morel
9780451222510 $6.99

Paul DuJardin plans to expose fellow Frenchman Pierre du Montfort as a werewolf in a book he is writing. Once he outs Pierre, he feels he and his werewolf slaying partner Catherine Marais will be able to kill the shapechanger. However, Pierre, who has always been able to hide his beastly side with a sophisticated veneer from the purebreds, is outraged that the hunter is outing him and plans to act accordingly.

Meanwhile in New York a werewolf is on the rampage with Pierre the prime suspect in the killings. However, their superior tells Paul and Catherine to bring Pierre in alive. For Paul that is made more difficult because he fears the raging werewolf will go after the woman he is falling in love with Professor Julie Buchanan. For Catherine killing the last Montfort werewolf is what she has lived for until she meets two hundred years old vampire Ian Morgan.

Although there are two romantic subplots, DEVOUR is more a paranormal horror thriller as Paul and Catherine know the rampaging werewolf must be stopped. The kills are graphic so don't eat before reading this exciting High Noon like tale; reader will anticipate the confrontation between the evil werewolf and the dedicated hunters while wondering whose side the vampire is on; whereas the professor is a pawn or is she in the final altercation. Melina Morel provides a fast-paced horror story that werewolf fans will want to read.

Mistletoe Bay
Marcia Evanick
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780821780091 $6.99 1-800-345-2665

With her father ailing, Cooper "Coop" Armstrong returns from California to Misty Harbor, Maine to help care for him; he accepts a job with UPS. However, the biggest change in his lifestyle is meeting single mother of three, widow Jenni Wright, at a time when he is down on all women thanks to his cheating ex back on the West Coast.

Jenni, with the help of her mother-in-law Dorothy and her teenage sister-n-law Felicity raises her three sons and runs a business from their home. However, the Wright dilapidated home is falling part leading to Coop making repairs. As he and Jenni fall in love, he never planned on instant kids, let alone three of them, but he also finds he cares about them, their aunt and their grandmother too.

Fans of the Misty Harbor family romances (see MISTY HARBOR WEDDING and HARBOR NIGHTS) will enjoy the latest holiday tale. Coop is a delight as he does not want to fall in love with anyone let alone a single mother with three offspring. However, love magic is in the in MISTLETOE BAY so as Coop learns first hand what chaos theory truly is, readers obtain an enjoyable contemporary romance.

A Highlander for Christmas
Sandy Blair
9780821779972 $5.99

In 2007 in a Boston neighborhood, a gang of hooligans terrorize Claire MacGregor at her antiques store shop. As he fusses with an eighteenth century puzzle box, she wishes for some peace on earth, at least in her store during Christmas, but instead a naked hunk arrives.

Highlander Sir Cameron MacLeod is confused as he struggles with all that he sees as he insists the year is 1745 and he is preparing for the battle of Culloden. He needs to return home to perform his duty even in a losing cause. Claire tries to help him, but the local witch fails at sending him back in time. As he gets into all sorts of trouble with the law and giving back to the gang what they gave Claire, they fall in love, but he is eighteenth century and she is twenty-first.

The key to this wonderful time travel romance is the tongue in cheek humor as the eighteenth century style chauvinistic honor keeps getting the good intention hero in twenty-first century trouble. Claire is a solid protagonist and the supporting Bostonians enhance the plot; however Cam makes the tale as he struggles to adapt to modern day living demands that make it a bit difficult for a kilted warrior to walk down Beacon Street carrying a sword.

Free Fall
Fern Michaels
9780821778814 $6.99

The Sisterhood selects Michael "Mick" Lyons as their next target. In Japan over three decades ago, Michael purchased the mother of member Yoko Akia from her parents promising a good life for their offspring in America. Instead he used her as part of his prostitution ring; selling her as an exotic hooker until she became pregnant with his child. The irresponsible hedonistic movie mogul dumped her expecting her to die. That child Yoko survived and as an adult seeks vengeance for her mom.

The Sisters begin their diabolical plot of vengeance by exposing for the world especially his circle the sleazy dealings of Lyons and some of his cronies. As they carry out their scheme, the Sisters know they must be vigilant as the police seem to be closing in on them.

The latest Sisterhood SWEET REVENGE PAYBACK to bring LETHAL JUSTICE to those who have gotten away with crimes against women is an exciting thriller with this time being Yoko's VENDETTA. The story line is action-packed as the fearsome feminists plot to destroy Michael and his VIP male cohorts. The plot, as is the norm in this fun series, seems implausible, but no one will care as everyone will root for Yoko to destroy her biological father.

Mistletoe and Molly
Janet Dailey
9781420100419 $6.99

Dr. Jonas Concannon decides someone else can do homage to Sinatra and make it in New York City as he no longer cares too. He goes home to Randolph, Vermont after being away for a decade. He almost immediately runs into Bridget O'Shea at her shop. As teens they were in love over a decade ago before her parents interfered and both moved on. She is a widow raising her eight years old daughter Molly and running a local craft shop.

Bridget and Jonas realize their youthful attraction remains as strong as ever. However, her parents pressured her to reject Jonas years ago and still believe he is not worthy of their daughter. Bridget knows she owes them for their help with Molly, but what about her needs; that is if he still wants her once he learns what she concealed form him.

MISTLETOE AND MOLLY is a warm second chance at love holiday romance that fans of Janet Dailey will enjoy although the plot has been used a zillion times before. The cast is solid as the lead couple is fully developed with flaws and issues while the key support players, mostly her family, bring out the best and worst in Jonas and Bridget. Contemporary readers will appreciate this entreating New England village tale.

When the Nile Runs Red
DiAnn Mills
Moody Press
820 North Lasalle Drive, Chicago, IL 60610
978082499110 $12.99 1-800-621-5111

In 2005 in the Sudan, many hope that the newly formed government, which includes John Garang as vice president will end the bloodshed especially the genocide in Darfur. However, people like Paul Farid, a former Muslim member of the royal family who converted to Christianity, believe the Government of Sudan (GOS) soldiers will continue their killing raids. He in fact sees first hand the destruction of the Dinka village Xokabuc by the GOS because they seek to capture him. Paul warns his best friend Sudan's People Liberation Army Colonel Ben Alier that a GOS battalion is coming for them. Although Ben's men defeat the enemy he takes a bullet that requires emergency treatment so he is rushed to Paul's wife Dr. Larson, who hides her pregnancy from her spouse.

Meanwhile Paul's brother devoted Muslim Nizam wants to meet him in Kibun. Although his family wants him dead for his atrocity and sins against the Prophet, Paul agrees to see his favorite sibling. He hides what he is doing from Larson, but she follows him into danger in which she and others become an expendable royal family pawn.

With its apropos title WHEN THE NILE RUNS RED is a deep look at the atrocities occurring in the Sudan. The three prime players are fully developed and feel heroically genuine so that their encounters provide a realistic graphic glimpse at humanity's darkened soul. Although there is a bias towards Christianity as the benevolent religion vs. the alleged harshness of Islam, readers will be stunned by the powerful vivid expose of genocide.

The Last Secret of the Temple
Paul Sussman
Atlantic Monthly
9780871139726 $24.00

Hotel owner Jan Weiss is found dead at the archeological site at Malqata, Egypt. Luxor Police Inspector Yusuf Khalifa leads the official inquiry. As he digs into the victim's history, Yusaf sees an eerie similarity to the vicious murder of an Israeli woman at Karnak years ago. His gut told him the wrong person was executed for that homicide, but until now he had no proof.

His superiors tell Yusaf to back off from the Israeli angle while he also has doubts about cooperation with Israeli officials. Still he goes with his stomach and reopens the previously solved case. No nonsense Jerusalem detective Arieh Ben Roi is assigned to work with the Egyptian.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem journalist Eva Town still glows from her recent interview of Palestinian extremist "Al-Mulassam" when she receives a note offering her a scoop in exchange for arranging a meeting with Al-Mulassam. There separate investigations soon converge over a biblical artifact dating back to Holy Temple, circa AD 70, that could lead to World War III starting in the Middle East where symbolism supersedes substance.

This is an exciting police procedural that soon spins into a dangerous scenario in which the end of days may be beginning if the two cops fail with their changing mission. The story line is at its best as an investigative tale in which neither the Egyptian nor the Israel has any real support from their superiors nor trusts the other. When the plot spins into preventing the regional contagion from occurring, it picks ups suspense and action, but loses some plausibility in the process. Still Paul Sussman provides an exhilarating thriller based on the premise that if it has a religious connotation it means war.

Sweetheart Deal
Claire Matturro
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780060773250 $23.95 1-800-242-7737

Sarasota, Florida attorney Lillian Rose Cleary vowed never to go home, but rushes back when her bipolar abusive mother is accused of murder. Lilly would not have come back to Bugfest, Georgia after two decades away especially to see her mother except to defend her mom in a court of law. For her own peace of mind Lilly needs to believe she would have ignored her mother being in the hospital as the woman abused her (starting with naming her after two flowers) and her brother when they were growing up.

As she mounts a defense for mommy dearest and investigates the homicide, Lilly runs up against her mom's home (should be an EPA superfund site), someone trying to kill mom with red ants, avaricious developers and the sale of endangered species as specialty meats sold to expensive restaurants. Still her prime reason is to not battle the environmentally challenged including mom's abode; it is to get mom free so Lilly can immediately head south and away from this insane termagant who makes DNA cleansing seem politically correct.

The latest funny clearly chick lit legal thriller (see SKINNY DIPPING and BONE VALLEY) is an entertaining tale that affirms the belief you can't go home as Lilly learns the hard way that mom still is a lunatic and her efforts to defend her lead to dangerous scenarios for the courageous neurotic attorney. Although in many ways more a neurosis filled amateur sleuth than a legal family drama, readers who appreciate a spunky phobic heroine will enjoy Lilly's escapades especially her jocular asides even when they slow down the action.

The Sound of Butterflies
Rachael King
9780061357640 $24.95

Nouveau riche Brazilian rubber barons throw away money on the frivolous things like sending their soiled clothing to Europe for cleaning. They treat their pets like royalty and their employees as expendable slaves discarded if unable to perform the horrific field work. Anyone who objects to the abusive maltreatment is killed.

In 1904 English naturalist Thomas Edgar comes to Brazil in search of a rumored new butterfly species. Several months later, he comes home, a shell of his former enthusiastic self. Although outwardly she shows her spouse little emotion beyond welcoming him home, his wife Sophie, horrified by the scars all over Thomas' body and his withdrawal, needs to know what happened to her silent her idealistic husband because she plans to heal him with her love.

THE SOUND OF BUTTERFLIES is a fantastic historical tale that provides a vivid light on a cruel Dickensian period in Brazil. The story line moves back and forth between January1904 in Brazil and May 1904 in England connected by a journal, letters and the perspectives of what happened to the naturalist from that of his wife and himself. Adding to the fascination of this powerful early twentieth century character study is the parable of searching for the perfect specimen in a world of cruelty, abuse and imperfection. Rachael King provides a somber glimpse of inhumane treatment and its aftermath on one person and his spouse that still resonates today in world of genocide, ethnic cleansing and rationalized rendition.

Last Rituals
Yrsa Sigurdardottir
9780061143366 $23.95

In Reykjavik, Iceland, the police arrest a drug dealer for murdering and mutilating German college student Harald Guntlieb. However, the victim's affluent parents do not believe the police caught the right person; they cannot comprehend why a drug dealer would asphyxiate a victim rather than just shoot him, not carve out their son's eyes nor carve ritual symbols on his chest. They assume their offspring was killed in a witchcraft homicide.

Still seeking closure, the parents send trusted family friend Matthew Reich, a former CID agent, to Iceland to investigate. He knows even before he leaves the continent that he will require local assistance so through Harold's grieving mom Amelia, Matthew hires lawyer Thora Gudmundsdottir, a single mother, to assist him on the case as she speaks his language as well as that of the locals. They follow up on the odd LAST RITUALS by looking into Harold's life in Iceland and learn he belonged to a strange group that participated in unusual sexual rites and had a passionate fascination with medieval witch-hunts. As they dig deeper, they find the case spiraling out of control even as Thora's family life intrudes.

Thora makes this exciting Icelandic whodunit an entertaining read as she struggles between balancing a complex investigation with the demands of her children especially her teen son. Matthew knows he can go nowhere without her as he does not speak the language besides being a foreigner no one would cooperate with him. Thus her family needs intrude on the case driving Matthew to distraction. The mystery is clever as the audience will find many suspects to choose from even while the police seek to end the case with a second arrest of a student. LAST RITUALS is a terrific investigate thriller.

Beyond the Body Farm
Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson
9780060875299 $25.95

With two body farm novels (see FLESH AND BONE and CARVED IN BONE) and an account of his forensic anthropological work (see DEATH'S ACRE), Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson provide a sort of autobiographical account of the former's work in Kansas and more so in Tennessee where he created the first "living" forensic research lab. Dr. Bass gives credit to his instructor five decades ago Dr. Krogman, known as the "Bone Detective" who got him interested in the unnamed at that time field of forensic anthropology. He also credits Patricia Cornwell with her novel THE BODY FARM for making him famous and his type of work acceptable amidst the public; without Ms. Cornwell there is no CSI on TV. However, the fascinating segments of the book are the cases over the last fifty years that run the gamut from the Big Bopper to the wrongly identified corpse to a fireworks factory explosion to ancient Persia to solving modern day cases for local police departments. It is these cases and how he and his team solved them by shaking and tossing of the bones that makes for a fine CSI read with Harry Houdini appearing as a star performer in a future exhumation.

The Mane Event
Shelly Laurenston
Kensington Brava
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780758220363 $14.00 1-800-345-2665

"Christmas Pride". When NYPD cop Desiree "Dez" MacDermot sees her childhood friend Mace Llewellyn for the first time in years; she thinks he is one muscular hunk. His stare could melt an iceberg as Mace makes it clear he wants Dez and she feels like heavenly ecstasy as he sniffs and tongues her neck; even his purring puts her in the mood. However, even as she is FALLING Dez has doubts as Mace insists he is a shapeshifting man-lion.

"Shaw's Tail". New York City Hotel owner Brendan Shaw lies in his hospital bed battered from head to toe. However, in spite of the severity of his injuries, Brendan knows his nurse is his soul mate. The lion shapeshifter has to persuade the wolf from Tennessee Ronnie Lee Reed that he is the one for her.

These two linked paranormal novellas star shapeshifting lion-humans and their seemingly opposites in a cat vs. dog tales. Each story is amusing as the lions know who they want, but it is the feline who prove to be the tamers. Lighthearted in nature except in the boudoir, fans will enjoy the jocular romances of shapeshifters.

Jane May
9780758213624 $14.00

In Miami, twenty-eight years old assistant dock master at the luxurious Trade Winds Yacht Club Clarence "Woody" Woods lives with his aunt and drives a dilapidated truck. He was never conscious of his status until he meets Romanian waitress Madalina Dragoi at the Spinnaker Cafe as love has turned his six foot frame into the size of a pea. However, she treats him like a friendly customer while seemingly wanting affluent club member Todd Hollings who sees her as a fine "piece of ass".

Former used car dealer Raymond Prince was caught cheating by his irate wife Sandy; he knew his life was changed forever, but not how much as he now swims with the fish as the Prince of the sea. He meets Woody and tells him that he can grant any wish the man wanted. Soon Woody owns a new car and a mansion where Madalina resides. When she demands he order his talking fish to provide them with much more material luxuries, Woody fears bankruptcy of the heart more than finance.

This is an entertaining modern day adult rendition of the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale .The Fisherman and His Wife. The lighthearted and amusing story line contains moral lessons as the cast learn lessons in relationships of all kinds such as Woody finds out the hard way not to think with his woody while Prince is a Brooklyn version of Mr. Limpet wondering how to get Sandy to forgive him for his unzippered moment. Readers will be HOOKED by Jane May's humorous irreverent tale of sometimes you get what you wish for but that is never enough.

Bang Bang
Theo Gangi
9780758220547 $15.00

Now thirty eight and in the business for years with his psychotic partner Malik "Mal" Dumont, half Jewish half black Ezekiel "Izzy" Levin wonders why his job is titled Stickup Kid and never Stickup man; he ponders whether life expectancy in his line of work is so short that one can never be a man. Still while he muses about his profession of robbing criminals and leaving no witness behind, he relishes the subway World Series as his passion is baseball and his two favorite teams are playing for the championship. However, to even his shock at a bar to watch the game, he becomes more interested in a woman who is also there. He persuades Eva to go out with him in a couple of nights.

Mal and Izzy head to Queens accompanied by their client's "agent" Benny. As Mal cleans house, Izzy fails for the first time to make the closer save (like Mariano Rivera always does) by killing her. The witness is Eva whose cousin is lying dead from a knife wound. Understanding the rules of kill all or be a victim, Izzy saves Eva's life, but now Mal is after them to finish the job.

As this reviewer read this fascinating crime thriller, I kept thinking of Nova Swing (Harrison): "It starts with a dame" combined with paraphrasing the best man's comment at the wedding of my nephew Marc the cop as his "vocation is the dreams of a Jewish mother". Izzy grips the audience as he is obviously intelligent yet his profession as a criminal closer is not what one would expect of someone with his intellect. On the other hand the over the top of the Empire State Building Mal is crazy enough to be a closer. This is one tour of the Big Apple that will grip readers who, like the police, will follow the corpses as High Noon comes to New York City when a woman coming between two former partners.

Big Spankable Asses
Angie Daniels, Kimberly Kaye Terry, Lisa G. Riley
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758221810 $12.95

"Just Lay Down" by Kimberly Kaye Terry. After having faked enjoying her husband's "brown Tic Tac with two juju beans dangling behind it, Lilliana Michaels had enough when Marcus turns physically and verbally abusive. She leaves him after threatening to beat his butt sore and vows to her two pals, Mel and Simone, no more faking pleasure with brain dead self absorbed men; only a stud who knows how to pleasure a B.S.A. (this is not the Boy Scouts of America). On an elevator at work, Lilly and Josh Ellis meet. After reading her personal ad as a B.S.A. pleasure seeker, he plans to answer it by providing her with sexual bliss.

"Caught" by Lisa G. Riley. Three years divorced Well Health Clinic Nursing Supervisor Melinda Carlisle rarely imbibes, but now suffers from a hangover while having a nursing shift to get through. Dr. Nick Pantino has wanted Mel since he met her several months ago, but from the gossip he knows she has not dated since her divorce. However, he learns of her B.S.A. ad and plans to respond as he wants to passionately make love to her.

"Fienin'" by Angie Daniels. Chicago nightclub owner Simone Thomas thinks there must be something bad in the water as good dick is hard to find anymore. That is why she agreed with her two best friends Lilly and Mel to the B.S.A. ads. Architect Shaun Dutton meets Simone at her smoky steamy club and wants to take her to Florida where his indulgence in her fantasy will make it hotter in their room than outside.

Title aside, these three interrelated B.S.A. contemporary erotic romances will entertain the sub-genre as the women are likable and the men are not the butt of jokes. Each tale is fun as Lilly, Mel, and Simone find sex and love and have the T-shirts to prove it.

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
E.C. Sheedy
Kensington Brava
9780758215635 $14.00

Over two decades ago Phyllis Worth rescued nine years old April from the dark eyed man who hid her in an unlighted basement. Phyllis raised the frightened April as her own. Now Phyllis is missing fleeing for her life without a moment's notice. She left behind a quickly scratched note warning April to hide as the dark eyed man seeks her.

April still fears her bogeyman, but needs to insure Phyllis is safe. She turns to Joe Worth to find Phyllis and keep both females safe. Joe wants to say no to sad eyes as Phyllis is his biological mother, who deserted him years ago. However, he cannot leave April at the mercy of a deranged serial killer who wants to use Phyllis to get to his intended target; besides which he has instant heat that she reciprocally makes hotter.

The dark eyed killer who in many ways remains in the shadows of a nightmarish memory steals the show of a superb erotic romantic suspense thriller. E.C. Sheedy uses the family link to bring the lead couple together, but plays down the soap opera in order to provide a strong complex mystery. The lead couple is a fascinating likable pairing as he needs prove to himself that he is worthy of her trust by keeping her safe more so than completing her request to save his mother. Readers will kiss the day away reading this exciting tense one sitting romantic mystery.

I'm Your Santa
Lori Foster, Karen Kelley and Dianne Castell
Kensington Brava
9780758219831 $15.00

"The Christmas Present" by Lori Foster. Outraged that her boyfriend cheated on her, Beth Monroe sought revenge with a one night stand with the best friend Levi Masterson. That one night became a weekend until frightened by her feelings, Beth flees to her parents; unaware that Levi believes deep in his heart they belong together.

"It's a Wonderful Life" by Karen Kelley. Leaving Hollywood and feeling a need to understand how a priest lives for the part he will play in a movie, actor Jeremy Hunter goes to Texas dressed as a Father. However, temptation appears when he meets Bailey Tanner, who is upset with herself for desiring a priest.

"Home for Christmas" by Dianne Castell. Pregnant but no longer with her cheating boyfriend, Lulu Cahill heads home to O'Fallon's Landing, Tennessee vowing no more men. Sebastian Moore was jilted, but decides to have the pre-wedding gala as everything is paid for. He tries to convince Lulu to be his temporary fiancee although he would prefer a more permanent arrangement with her and her unborn.

Readers will enjoy this anthology as the three warm contemporary holiday romances contain interesting lead couples.

Bowled Over
Kasey Michaels
9780758208842 $14.00

Regency mystery writer Margaret "Maggie" Kelly still wonders about her sanity ever since the hero of her historical whodunits Alexandre "Alex" Blake (the Viscount Saint Just) and his assistant Sterling somehow came to life in her home. However, as time has passed and they have worked several capers, Maggie begins to believe that Alex is real and perhaps they belong together.

Maggie, accompanied by Alex and Sterling, is heading to Ocean City, New Jersey for another Kelly family Christmas disaster with her separated parents, Alicia and Evan. However, before leaving the city, Maggie looks at a Manhattan house she might buy; but breaks her foot on the metal doorstop. Maggie and her Regency companions travel to Evan's apartment only to find the police arresting him for the murder of his bowling friend Walter Bodkin; the motive is Walter's affair with Alicia and the murder weapon Evan's bowling ball. Maggie, Alex, and Sterling investigate only to realize much of the heterosexual male population of New Jersey wanted Bodkin dead for his trysts with their wives; a number of females including Maggie's sister and mother shared their desire.

BOWLED OVER is an amusing romantic cozy that in spite of the Regency gimmick and being the sixth Maggie mystery retains a freshness that showcases Kasey Michael's talent. The fast-paced story line is fun to follow as Maggie stumbles and fumbles with Alex and Sterling always there to pick her up. The whodunit is cleverly designed so that the audience as well as the heroine has the clues, but putting them together proves difficult. This is another winner in a magnificent series.

Sins of the Flesh
Devyn Quinn
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758220172 $12.95

In Warren, California, Mystique Goth nightclub owner Devon Carnavorn is bored with life as an undead; when he accepted immortality back in 1895 England he never anticipated the ennui even with a century plus of beauties to warm his soul (that is if he had one). He even considered suicide, which is easy when the ruthless sunlight can destroy you, but that feels as wasted as each evening.

Once they opened up the mall, the small Main Street shops like Rachel Marks' bookstore went bankrupt. Twelve years of hard work for nothing. However, as much as she would like to drown in self-pity, she needs to pay her bills. Desperate she sees the ad for a waitress at Mystique, applies and his hired. When Devon sees his new employee, he finds an awakening enthusiasm for the first time in decades. Rachel reciprocates, but as they share heated sex and fall in love, his swearing that he is nocturnal because he is a vampire makes her doubt his sincerity. Devon wants to spend eternity with Rachel, but should he turn her without her acquiescing?

SINS OF THE FLESH lives up to its title as a torrid erotic vampire romance. Devon is a fascinating individual whose confidence has waned as immortality denotes monotony to him until he meets his new employee who is a jolt of caffeine to his heart. Rachel is not quite as despondent as her new boss, but is depressed until his lovemaking shakes her booty. The explicit sex scenes are well written as they as they run the gamut to orgy, homosexuality, anal and of course the lead pairing.

Hot for It
Melissa MacNeal
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758214126 $12.95

Romance writer Cat Gamble cannot believe how fast her life has fallen apart. Her husband Laird committed suicide and his ruthless creditors demand she pay off his gambling debts or else. Her late spouse left them penniless, as his vultures took what they had and want the rest, but she has no funds to keep her joints healthy. That is until the angelic voice in her head tells her to check her Powerball ticket.

With her lottery winnings Cat buys the Caribbean island Porto Di Angelo. Leaving Crystal City behind she travels to her new home. There she books an erotic fantasy vacation with Captain Jack Spankevopoulos, who vows to make her his sex slave as they ride his vessel the Captive Fantasy. She enthusiastically signs on board only to learn that the best laid (pun intended) plans of mice, men and a Cat go astray when the Wong brothers kidnap her with plans to make her a real sex slave.

HOT FOR IT is a lighthearted erotic romp that sub-genre fans will appreciate as the heroine has more ups and downs than a seesaw. Readers will enjoy the high seas piracy as Captain Jack chases after the Wong Brothers to rescue his client; as she has become much more than just a pretend sex slave to him. Far-fetched, but no one will care, as readers will sail with Captain Melissa MacNeal who writes an entertaining sexually driven Caribbean adventure.

Naughty, Naughty
P.J. Mellor, Melissa MacNeal and Valerie Martinez
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758220257 $13.95

"Hot for Christmas" by P.J. Mellor. In Flintlock, Texas Chris MacNeal hates the holidays so she has strong reasons to detest newcomer Allison Conroe who just opened up a Christmas boutique. Instead of bah humbug however, Chris wants Allison wrapped in sexy packaging that he plans to slowly open on bow at a time.

"Cabin Fever" by Melissa MacNeal. In Wyoming, Norah Dalton is broken due to Alex disappearing with their inventory. Now stuck in a ditch in the countryside as a blizzard hits, her lover Leon Scurtz calls her; she is abrupt with him before hanging up her cell. Norah reaches a cabin where Danny Black is drinking whiskey to forget his financial problems caused by his family. When he sees the angel needing help, he comes to her rescue. Isolated, this depressed pair finds solace in each other's arms.

"Triple Xmas" by Valerie Martinez. In Kristmastown, Deb knows she and Ranger Rick will marry one day, but before they do she wants her deepest fantasy fulfilled. Deb' Christmas wish is a menage de trois with Rick and the "Brawny Man"; Rick detests the idea for several reasons, but also wants to fulfill his beloved's desires.

Although erotic novellas with obviously the sex scenes important elements, these three tales are much more. Each of the couples has major issues to contend with so much so that love-making in a variety of ways is a welcome diversion, but love is not. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this anthology though not as heated as some of Aphrodisia's other collections.

It Happened at Christmas
Penny Jordan, Helen Brooks, and Carol Wood
Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9789373837175 $5.99

"Bride at Bellfield Mill" by Penny Jordan. As England celebrates the beginning of the Edwardian Era, Lancashire mill owner Haywood Denshaw and his new housekeeper Marianne Brown are attracted to one another. However, their social status and Marianne's values keep them from going beyond employer-employee relationship to that of loving equals.

"A Family for Hawthorn Farm" by Helen Brooks. In 1899 England, affluent farmer Luke Hudson rescues destitute Connie Summers from a life of misery working at the workhouse. However he soon wonders if she rescued him as her elan makes him reconsider what he thought was important while he pursues a second chance at love with Connie.

"Tilly of Tap House by Carol Wood. In 1928 East London, Dr. Harry Fleet brings the most current theories to his practice; Nurse Tilly Dainty believes in the old methods. His aloofness and her compassion clash, as they fall in love while working together at Tap House.

These are three warm holiday historical romances that focus on social differences between the lead couples. Sub-genre fans will appreciate these twenty century (1899 is close enough for government and book reviewers) tender tales.

Shadow Lake
B.J. Daniels
Harlequin Special Release
9780373198917 $5.99

In Washington State during the heavy rain at night, visibility was poor as Anna Collins drives her car when a deer steps out of the nearby woods. She brakes, but loses control of her vehicle which plunges off the road into Shadow Lake. Nearly dead from drowning, she sees a face outside her. The next she knows is that she is a nearby hospital under the care of widower Dr. Gene Brubaker.

Officer D.C. Walker leads the investigation. He contacts Anna's spouse Marc who says she was in an accident eight moths ago in which their child Tyler died. He also says she is dangerous and threatened to kill, which is why he allegedly stopped divorce proceedings. When her car is pulled out of the lake, they find a corpse in the trunk. When she describes the face she saw it fits the description of reclusive Jack Fairbanks, the cop questions further her veracity. However, with his boss Chief Nash acting strange, Walker goes it alone seeking the truth even as he admits an attraction to a woman he considers a probable killer who tried to commit suicide.

Romantic suspense fans will appreciate this tense character driven thriller as the reader will agree with Walker's assessments that his boss is acting peculiar (we know why) and the woman in the lake is a killer and attempted suicide. In both cases, he tries to hold off judgment until all the facts are in. However, when it comes to Anna, he fears his judgment is distorted as he is falling in love with her Yet in spite of wanting her innocent, all evidence from the corpse in her car to the death of her child to the so-called rescue in the lake and finally to her spouse's fears and warnings point to her being a sociopathic murderer who snapped when she drove her child's death vehicle. Readers will enjoy this fine twisting tale.

Debra Webb
Harlequin Special Releases
9780373198924 $5.99

Thirty two years old Samantha Fox works part-time as a UN translator, but full time as an IT&PA field agent. Her assignment is to save the world from terrorists by handling mission impossible cases that the polite colleague FBI, the arrogant colleague CIA and the agency NSA cannot. Her support team is top rate as Trainer, Big Hugh and Angie would do anything to keep her safe during an operation.

Her superior IT&PA Director Anderson Marx sends her to Paris to obtain critical codes that will help the agency to prevent an operation from occurring. However, instead of completing the deal as pre-arranged, the courier Frederick Heilman jumps back onto the train; Fox follows only to have a sniper kill her contact before they can do much talking or for her to receive the code. Immediately afterward, Eric "the Dragon" Drake, former head of INTERPOL, warns her they need to get off the train or die. Fox distrusts Dragon as he betrayed her on a joint mission two years ago. However, when they are abducted, Fox knows her only hope to survive and gain the codes is with Dragon, the man she fell in love with on their last assignment together.

From the opening sequence in which Fox rescues an Israel family being tortured for information in a Manhattan hotel to the final twist confrontation, OUT-FOXED is a terrific romantic espionage thriller. Like Fox, readers will wonder where Dragon's loyalty lies and if it is the highest bidder will the heroine go up in his flames. The family problems Samantha has back home with her mom humanizes her, but also detracts from an action-packed romantic suspense thriller starring a fabulous heroine, a questionable love interest who may be her enemy, and a strong support cast, especially the Fox network.

The Ransom
Maggie Price
Harlequin Special Releases
9780373198900 $5.99

It has been a decade since Kathryn Connor stepped on the family owned Cross-C Ranch in Texas, but with the death of her martinet grandfather she has come home accompanied by her five-year-old Matthew. However, she is hardly back when someone breaks into her home while she is sleeping and abducts Matt. The kidnapper leaves behind a cell phone with a text message warning her no cops and one million dollars in ransom or her child will die. She is frantic yet unsteady as she will learn later that her wine that she takes every night was drugged; Kathryn panics because her son needs medicine everyday to prevent his body from rejecting his kidney transplant.

Her ex-husband Devlin is overseas at a remote site on a film project so is difficult to reach him. Instead she turns to Clay Turner, whose parents were abducted in Columbia and knows first hand how to deal with a kidnapping although in his case doing everything right still failed to save the lives of his loved ones. He knows the person who snatched the child had intimate knowledge re Kathryn's habits and he arranges for an expert negotiator to take charge. he knows his one regret in life was rejecting Kathryn's love years ago and that still haunts him.

This is an exciting second chance at love romantic suspense thriller as Clay seeks redemption and Kathryn seeks the safe return of her beloved son. The story line is fast-paced with the clock ticking. Clay points out that the kidnapper obviously knows intricate details about mother and son, but fans will wonder how anyone would know so much since she just moved back for instance that she drinks a glass of wine each night. Still readers will appreciate the deep look at the desperate mom who knows she needs help (not everyone is Mel Gibson) as she drives this exciting tale.

The Harlot's Daughter
Blythe Gifford
Harlequin Historical
9780373294701 $5.99

In 1376 with the death of the king, his mistress and her two young daughters from her royal paramour are exiled. Now a decade later, the older illegitimate offspring Lady Joan Weston known as Lady Solay has come to plead with King Richard II for leniency for her impoverished mother and sister and a place at court for her. As everyone watches the Doxy's Daughter step forward. The Parliament Oversight Council lawyer Lord Justin Lamont thinks the mother of Joan the Elder almost destroyed the realm, but he cannot pull his eyes from her.

King Richard assigns Joan to read the stars on his birthday. Meanwhile Lord Justin and the Council struggle with Richard's giving presents to his friends while demanding higher taxes to pay for his gifts. Having been fooled by beautiful eyes before and knowing the damage her mother did, Justin distrusts Lady Joan although he attracted to her especially her violet eyes. To their mutual chagrin, King Richard orders them to wed because his assignment for Joan is to spy on Justin and the Council. Joan knows firsthand how cruel the Council can be and how much her mother and sister need her to pull them out of poverty, so she accepts the royal decree; knowing that she will be betraying the man she loves.

In spite a zillion takes set during the reign of King Richard II, few historical romances contain the late fourteenth century atmosphere of the royal court as THE HARLOT'S DAUGHTER possesses. The story line provides a powerful look at pre Magna Carta intrigue between the youthful monarch and Parliament. Especially insightful is the avaricious hanger-ons that will remind the audience of heavyweight champions' retinues. The romance between the lead couple is deftly designed to provide a beautiful love story of apparent star-crossed lovers caught in a web of domestic spying and vile gossip are the norm.

My Front Page Scandal
Carrie Alexander
Harlequin Blaze
9780373793563 $4.99

The Martinis & Bikinis Club members have been challenging one another to accept a Martini Dare, which risks humiliation if you do and worse if you don't. Prim and proper thirty years old Bostonian window designer Brooke Winfield joins the women's club out of boredom.

While working on a window design, Brooke tries on a scanty Gualtier dress that covers nothing as it was intended to be worn with other garb. At about the same time reckless Red Sox World Series hero (up until recently that would be an oxymoron) David Carerra crashes his bike. She comes to his rescue and he becomes her Martini Dare. As they fall in love, they scandalize her conservative blue bloods, purist Red Sox fans, and New Englanders who follow the Glove.

The latest Martini Dares tale (see MY SECRET LIFE by Lori Wilde), MY FRONT PAGE SCANDAL is an amusing lighthearted romantic romp. The lead couple seems like opposites at least on the surface as she is Boston Brahmin and he is red clay Georgia. Their antics encouraged by her Martini Dare "teammates" scandalize much of the city to the joy of Carrie Alexander's fans.

Karen Foley
Harlequin Blaze
9780373793570 $4.99

Department of Defense aerospace engineer Sedona Stewart has spent much of her education and work trying to be accepted as one of the boys. However, in spite of her superior record, she was passed up for promotion to senior engineer again; this time the chosen one is dorky Bob Lewis. Irate as the good ole boy network has slapped her in the face, she vows to get that job.

She soon learns that her agency has a secret criterion that is not part of the OPM/EEO/Rumsfeld civilian personnel rules and actually illegal as sexual prowess determines selection. She plans to expose this illegal practice with a formal complaint, but first investigates a series of jet fighter crashes partnering with Navy pilot Angel Torres. They are attracted to one another, but stopping the sabotage comes first and stripping naked the sexual practices of her peers comes second or do they?

Though DOD is noted for its sexual harassment prevention program, with some of the sex scandals that have occurred over the past decade or so, the conquest criterion seems over the top yet somehow the audience will believe it is feasible. Sedona is a terrific protagonist who has been one of the guys in all ways except apparently the key one. However when she meets her Angel, she knows she no longer wants to be one of the boys or one of his women; she wants to be his only woman. Although the sabotage is exciting and brings the lead couple together, FLYBOY is an entertaining military thriller that is at its best when the plot looks into sexual office practices that harm employees and cause morale issues.

For the Children
Marin Thomas
Harlequin American
9780373751884 $4.99

In the Kentucky hills schoolteacher Johanna "Jo" MacPherson meets Seattle reporter and obvious flatlander Sullivan Mooreland when his once shiny red Corvette runs out of gas. Her chaperone during this encounter is her shotgun. In spite of his fears she will pull the trigger, Sullivan is attracted to the hillbilly, but knows his investigative assignment is to expose Lighting Jack, the renowned moonshiner.

His fancy vehicle, modern equipment, and demeanor denote city slicker to Jo; to her chagrin she is attracted to the outsider. However, she refuses to give up her mission to educate the children of Heather's Hollow and fears his story will cause trouble for her clan. Thus she knows what she must do, which is forcing him to leave even as she realizes when he does he takes her heart with him.

Marin Thomas's first Hearts of Appalachia tale is an amusing romance starring two opposites, but also provides a deep look at the subculture opening the minds of the audience and the reporter. The story line is fast-paced and filled with wonderful eccentric secondary characters. However, though much of what Jo does is FOR THE CHILDREN, readers will appreciate the romance between her and Sullivan as the hills are alive with the sound of laughter and love.

Marriage on Her Mind
Cindi Myers
Harlequin American
9780373751860 $4.99

Although she has doubts, Casey Jernigan leaves Chicago for Crested Butte, Colorado where she will work as the assistant director of marketing for the local chamber of commerce. Her family is appalled with her decision especially since she jilted her groom whom she had been marrying to please everyone but herself. When she arrives at her new home, she meets her landlord, mountain man Max Overbridge, who is nothing like the social butterflies she dated back home.

Max and Casey are attracted to one another and both like the fact that neither wants a commitment. As they fall in love, he helps her come to grips with her understanding it is her life that she only has one time to enjoy. Now she must help him understand that he is the one life that would enable her to enjoy her life completely.

This lighthearted romantic romp contains two likable protagonists and an underlying message that you only have one chance at life. The story line is fun although Casey adjusts too easily to the rural Rockies after living by the urban Great Lakes. Still fans will enjoy her escapades as she goes from a fling to MARRIAGE ON HER MIND forever with her mountain hunk.

The Baby Gamble
Tara Taylor Quinn
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373714469 $5.50

Blake Smith spent just under four years as a prisoner of a Middle East group, but now returns to blessed dusty Texas. He looks forward to seeing his beloved wife Annie, whose image kept him alive during his forty-seven month ordeal. However, he learns while he was declared legally dead, she remarried.

Two years later, divorced from her second husband Annie tells her brother Cole that she wants a baby to raise without a husband. Cole thinks his Texas Hold 'Em buddy Blake is the right person and she agrees with her sibling even if he was her first spouse. Blake wants his wife back so he accepts THE BABY GAMBLE.

This is an interesting Texas romance due to Blake. He mentally survived his captivity by having a pot incarceration goal of making love to Annie, but has not achieved his surviving objective once freed and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Annie is a well rounded character who the audience will understand her reluctance to consider marrying again. However, the tale totally belongs to Blake who antes up THE BABY GAMBLE with plans to raise the stakes until he holds the winning hand of Annie.

The Baby Doctors
Janice Macdonald
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373714506 $5.50

Dr. Sarah Benedict spent fifteen years in Central America practicing medicine to the impoverished population. A widow, she has come home to Port Hamilton, Washington knowing that her time away was spent running from her unrequited love for Dr. Matt Cameron. Matt has always treated Sarah as his best friend so she expects to partner with him at the small town hospital.

Divorced Matt knows he failed his teen daughter though an emergency caused him to miss her birthday. He considers the practicality of selling and converting the small hospital into a big medical facility that would give him more personal time. However this places him at odds with Sarah who believes big medicine ignores the poor.

Although the lead couple is a delightful pairing, an ailing child denied medical care due to an economic decision will hook the audience more than the comparative analysis of big vs. little hospitals or the romance between the doctors. The angle with his teen daughter Lucy seems a bit unnecessary except to somewhat personalize Matt's priorities. Still this is a fine medical romance that brings to life (and death) the failure of the American health system to provide coverage for the working poor.

Because of a Boy
Anna DeStefano
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373714490 $5.50

Atlanta Nurse Kate Rhodes believes that Manny Digarro is abusing his ten years old son Dillon, whose latest "accident" was a fall down the stairs at the Midtown Shelter. Manny insists his son is clumsy, but Kate thinks otherwise as this is not the first incident. She informed the Atlanta Police Department and has legally restricted access to the father.

Manny's Legal Aid lawyer Stephen Creighton believes his client is innocent and loves his son. He takes exception to Kate's description of a barbarian insisting the homeless do not have easy access to medical care. He also fears her intervention will cause harm to this illegal immigrant father and son pair, trying to start over after a harrowing experience in Columbia. Now the IMS and a drug lord seek both as the Digarro duo go on the run even though Dillon needs medical attention as his injuries are from internal diminished bone density. Feeling she caused the trauma by her bias, Kate vows to help them; Stephen joins her quest.

Except for Kate's ex-husband Robert who is too perfect and caring in every way (at least he is not evil), BECAUSE OF A BOY is a fabulous look at health care for the homeless and for illegal immigrants as much as a contemporary romance. The story line is action-packed from the first encounter in the hospital between the lead couple and never slows down until the final altercation. Yet with all the non-stop action and the romantic subplot, Anne DeStefano provides a strong expose on the lack of any health care for the homeless and limited at best for illegal immigrants (Hippocrates must be turning in his grave with some of the Draconian solutions to outlaw help).

The Secret Dreams of Emily Porter
Judith Raxten
Harlequin Everlasting
9780373654208 $5.25

In Maine artist Emily Porter and photographer Ethan Douglas fell in love, married, and have a child. Everyone who knows the pair assumes happily ever after for them, but that ended quite quickly for the couple when Ethan died.

Although she needs to move on, Emily cannot. Their cottage is filled with Ethan's presence, which she believes is much more than just memories; Emily feels he is there watching over her. When their cottage burns down, she hires contractor Josh Lundgren to rebuild the place. , she notices him right away. He makes it clear that he desires her while she is attracted to him, but her guilt over deserting Ethan makes it impossible for her to make a future without him although Emily begins to believe that Ethan selected Josh for her.

THE SECRET DREAMS OF EMILY PORTER is an unusual character study that looks deep into the soul of a woman grieving for the man she loved who died so young. The story line is driven by Emily, who believes that Ethan is with her, not just as a memory, but as her guardian angel guiding her including sending her Josh. Mindful of the movie A Guy Named Joe, readers will appreciate this tender whimsical tale of emotionally healing from a devastating unexpected loss.

The House on Briar Hill Road
Holly Jacobs
Harlequin Everlasting
9780373654192 $5.25

Nurse Hayden McNulty knows her best friends are Brian Conway and his mother, Kathleen. They are her family in every sense except biological. When Kathleen informs them she suffers from breast cancer, Hayden and Brian worry about their "mom". This leads them to seek solace which turns into making love for the first time and she gives birth to a daughter Livie, but rejects his pity proposal. Kathleen recovers

Eventually Brian marries and moves to California, but ultimately gets a divorce as he never forgot Hayden, who he wants to marry because he loves her. He decides to try to convince her they belong together because of their love for one another. As she considers accepting his offer, Kathleen announces the cancer has returned.

THE HOUSE ON BRIAR HILL ROAD is a fascinating relationship drama that is a serious take on When Harry Met Sally even though they met much younger as preadolescents enjoying Halloween. Hayden and Brian are nice people who care for one another so much so they hide their not sibling love from the other so as to insure their friendship survives that is until Livie is born, changing the dynamics though a minor player. However, what makes Holly Jacobs' contemporary a delightful read is the author avoids turning the story line into a melodramatic soap opera driven solely by mom's battles with cancer; instead Kathleen, like her son and "adopted" daughter, is three dimensional so readers sympathize and root for her to conquer the illness. This is a strong character driven drama in which the romance enhances the relationships.

Chasing Midnight
Susan Krinard
Harlequin HQN
9780373772186 $6.99

In 1924 in Greenwich Village, Allegra Chase is a rare species who can walk in daylight living a normal life outside of the protection of the clan. However, New York Master Vampire Cato believes Allegra is the future of vampires, but fears for the life of this independent undead.

Griffin Durant is a unique werewolf as he refuses to join any pack. Instead he feels his duty is to keep his sister safe from the supernatural and natural terrors that haunt and hunt New York City. That is until he meets Allie while seeking to learn what happened to a friend who vanished; she is also on a quest to learn likewise the fate of her pal. As gang war seems imminent between a human criminal, Cato and a werewolf Alpha pack leader, Griffin and Allegra fal in love.

CHASING MIDNIGHT is a fun Roaring Twenties paranormal romantic suspense. Fans will believe that werewolves and vampires enjoy speakeasies and dens of iniquity as Prohibition New York City comes alive. The cross star romance is well written due to conflict between species, but it is the historical Big Apple that turns Susan Krinard's tale into a juicy bite.

Dark Rival
Brenda Joyce
Harlequin HQN
9780373772193 $7.99

Master of Time Black Royce is sent by the Gods to the early twenty-first century to protect Long Island healer Allie Monroe from the evil that stalk the Big Apple. However, upon meeting the mortal Royce is stunned worse than any blow received from an adversary; she is his soulmate. They make love like there is not time beyond the present.

Allie learns that her beloved Royce will die on September 7, 2007; considering she met the hunk with her car on September 4th, she knows she has to work fast to keep him alive while he pledges to keep her safe. She vows to find a way they can be together. She travels back to his time long ago to see if she somehow can change his future. Royce fails to recognize her so this time she seduces him. However, to achieve her goal she must kill the evil demon Moffet, or risk dying in the attempt.

Returning to a realm where good (Masters of Time) vs. evil demons and their minion), Brenda Joyce provides her fans with an entertaining romantic fantasy starring two heroic individuals willing to risk their lives and their love to keep the other safe. The story line is fast-paced, yet insures the lead couple feels genuine even when they time travel. Although each adjusts too easily to the other's era, DARK RIVAL is a powerful fun tale that seduces the audience to read it from start to finish in one sitting and to obtain the previous series saga, DARK SEDUCTION.

The Return of the Prodigal
Kasey Michaels
Harlequin HQN
9780373772803 $6.99

Rian Becket was wounded at Waterloo; he was saved when a stranger removed him from the battlefield and left him with the lovely Lisette to help him heal. As he recuperates physically, mentally he remains despondent over the loss of an arm. Only the innocent Lisette keeps his spirits from crashing.

Rian believes Lisette's tale of fleeing a cruel employer because he needs to in order to survive. However, he soon will learn the truth the hard way about his Lisette, who has set him up as a pawn for an enemy, who "owns" her, trying to destroy the Becketts. The adversary failed to account for one minor detail in an otherwise perfect scheme; Lisette has fallen in love with Rian.

Readers who have followed this refreshing Regency saga will know that the end is near as the mystery of who wants to destroy the Beckets of Romney Marsh is focusing. The story line is action-packed, but driven by the RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL and the nurse he loves. Lisette steals the show from the Beckett brood as she must decide between loyalties to her father vs. fidelity to the man she loves. Although this tale like the previous ones can stand alone, to understand the flow of the mystery, fans should start with the first book and proceed from there.

A Daring Passion
Rosemary Rogers
Harlequin HQN
9780373772476 $6.99

Until he became ill from the bullet wound inflicted by the new competent magistrate Tom Harper, Lord Josiah Wimborne hid his secret identity and mission from his beloved daughter Raine who he protected at all cost. However, when the sheltered Raine learns she is the offspring of the notorious Robin Hood like Knave of Knightsbridge, she decides to prove she is a chip off the old block and take up the mantle of robbing from the rich to give to the poor.

She is very successful as a highwaywoman until she assaults Philippe Gautier. He turns the tables on Raine and makes her his prisoner threatening to expose her father as the Knave of Knightsbridge if she fails to cooperate. Phillip believes Raine is the key to saving his brother incarcerated in France. As they fall in love, the danger mounts from a treacherous foe, who will have no compunction killing Raine; Philippe's death is foregone conclusion.

Although a female smoothly taking over as a legendary highwayman is not new and in this case questionable due to Raine's background, A DARING PASSION is a strong historical romance. Philippe finds himself trapped in a quandary of his own making when his plans to use Raine as a pawn to free his brother becomes difficult to do; not just because he loves her, but also he admires her spunk and courage while questioning if he is doing the honorable thing. Fans will appreciate this fine tale of love that grips the audience who will wonder will he choose his brother or his beloved.

Catch of the Day
Kristan Higgins
Harlequin HQN
9780373772247 $6.99

In Gideon Cove, Maine thirtyish Maggie Beaumont owns the only restaurant in town, Joe's Diner. Considered somewhat a hangout, Maggie knows first hand how fast gossip travels; although she admits she is part of the instant messaging. She especially knows her relationship fiascos moves around the town faster than the speed of light; she jokes about her failures but inside Maggie hurts as she wants a man to love who will cherish her forever just like her sister has.

In spite of efforts to conceal her desire, to her chagrin the townsfolk believe Maggie has the hots for the forbidden, a priest. Maggie figures this is just another failure at finding a hunk for herself while the Father is determined to find a perfect catch for the kind restaurateur. However, no one expected her to fall in love with taciturn lobsterman Malone and him with loquacious Maggie.

CATCH OF THE DAY is a lighthearted contemporary romance starring two opposites as she never shuts up (her asides are often witty self-deprecating digs) and he never opens his mouth except to eat. Fans will enjoy their relationship as the eccentric townies are shocked that love blossoms between them.

All the Right Angles
Stef Ann Holm
Harlequin HQN
9780373771868 $6.99

Being part of a close Italian family, architect Francesca "Franci" Moretti thinks nothing of rolling up her sleeves to work with her parents and brothers on construction projects. Her dad enlists his offspring to help with a major construction project. Thus Franci meets rival Kyle Jagger, owner of Legacy Constructors; both are attracted to one another, but have doubts about seeing each other as they are business opponents.

Although competitors, there are deep ties between the Morettis and the Jaggers. Unable to resist their desires, Kyle and Franci begin to see one another, while feeling guilty of betraying their respective families.. As they fall in love, Kyle and Franci believe they must choose between their loving family devotion and their soul mate.

ALL THE RIGHT ANGLES is a delightful family drama in which the romantic subplot leads to relationship havoc. The lead protagonists are an interesting pairing as their families are business rivals, which make them competitors. The story line focuses on their relationships with one another, their families, and the construction business. Stef Ann Holm provides an enjoyable romance that has a touch of the Romeo and Juliet spin without the deadliness.

Sealed with a Kiss
Carly Phillips
Harlequin HQN
9780373772391 $7.99

Less than a year ago, Molly Gifford left her boyfriend Daniel Hunter, their hometown, and her profession behind because of a clue as to the whereabouts of her biological father. Daniel was heartbroken that Molly deserted him, but has begun to move past his loss.

That is until now. Molly has come back in need of Daniel, but not as her lover. Her father has been arrested on first degree murder; Molly believes Daniel is the best attorney to represent him. He reluctantly agrees not for her sake, but because he believes her dad is innocent. However, this time he plans to hide his heart as he rejects the notion of a second chance unlike his best friend Tyler (see CROSS MY HEART) with a woman who will leave once he completes her request.

This is an enjoyable second chance at love contemporary romance. The story line looks deep into differing relationships that compete for the affection of the prime key that ties everyone together. In this case the focus is Molly who is pulled by a desire to have her father in her life vs. her love for Daniel. The legal thriller subplot enhances the tangle of a triangle between a father, his daughter, and her beloved, who happens to be his lawyer.

Kate Donovan
Silhouette Athena Force
9780373389742 $5.50

Athena Academy graduate and FBI agent Sasha Bracciali is undercover using her vocation as a fashion designer and her heritage as the daughter of Chicago Mafia Don "Big Frankie" to hide her efforts to rescue an Athena student Teal Arnett being held by the new Kestonian dictator. Apparently this Eastern Europe despot is aware of Teal's special skills.

Accompanying Sasha on the rescue attempt is her FBI handler special agent Jeff Crossman, who recently has become her lover. However, inside the Kestonian compound, Sasha operates alone as she must seduce the megalomaniac in order to save the child. However, as she gets closer to mission successfully accomplished, Sasha unravels shocking information that leaves her trusting no one especially Jeff.

Country name aside (Kestonia vs. Estonia?) The third Athena Force tale since the reincarnation from the Bombshell days (see THE GOOD THIEF by Judith Leon and LINE OF SIGHT by Rachel Caine) is an excellent fast-paced thriller. Sasha is terrific as an Athena graduate trying to save a current academy student while quickly finding she is alone with no one she can trust or rely on. Readers will appreciate Kate Donovan's entry as CHARADE is a superb action-packed romantic suspense.

Dark Lies
Vivi Anna
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617739 $5.25

Other worldly species like vampires, lycans, and witches have a safe haven in the city Necropolis, a place where few humans reside. The Otherworld Crime Unit solves criminal cases across species lines, but those in the human world that know of other existence call them to a human city to investigate a case similar to the one that they thought they solved in Necropolis with the suspect dead. Jace Jericho, a one year resident returns to the human realm where he was caged and exhibited as a sideshow freak against his will.

When they arrive at the crime scene, Jace meets Tala Channing and sparks ignite immediately, which is shocking as the lycan hates humans. The crime scene contains the same mosaic signature as that solved in Necropolis, which puzzles the team as that indicates they did not catch the real killer as previously assumed. As the culprit works behind the scenes to get the OCU out of town, Jace and Tala are involved in their mating dance, which frightens her because she will have to tell him just who and what she is.

Vivi Anna provides quirky heroes in blue in this welcome paranormal police procedural. The investigation and romance are balanced so neither overshadows the other. The treat to this fine suspense thriller is the various species working together to assist mortals who would be frightened if they know what they are. DARK LIES is part of the Valorian Chronicles with the Puppetmaster remaining hidden pulling every person's strings.

Night Mischief
Nina Bruhns
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617722 $5.25

Lady Dawn Maybank's ancestors founded the Order of the Cadre, an organization dedicated to preventing humans from coming to harm from evil supernatural entities that most rational people deny exist. Unlike its competition P-Cell, a section of M15, they either send a demon home or capture it in a crystal for eternity. One fog filled day Dawn runs into the demon Galen McManus who is a vengeance demon that she inadvertently found masquerading as an incubus.

He offers her something that her father has been fruitlessly searching for, the Demon Star. It was stolen by the destruction demon Rofocale and Angus won it in a card game so he claims. He will give it to Dawn in return for five nights in her bed. Her desire for paternal approval is so great she accepts his offer. Their boudoir time is hot and steamy. Dawn comes to love her strange bedfellow although she knows demons only feel anger and lust. Angus' surprised when he realizes that he cares for her as well. He is uncomfortable with these undesirable feelings preferring them to go away and is also afraid that P-Cell P-Cell is after him. He also knows one mistake with her family, and love is considered the biggest blunder to them, will have him crystallized for eternity although she is no demon-kind.

Nina Bruhns has written a diabolical paranormal romance focusing on a fascinating look at the demon mythos. They are the dark side of the universe bringing a necessary balance to the world. It is easy for readers to ignore that Angus is a demon because he oozes sex appeal that will lead readers to fall under his spell. He teaches Dawn much about herself and by mentoring her he learns about himself and his bias towards mortals. Their star-crossed romance is the stuff legends are made of.

Beware False Profits
Emilie Richards
The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425218686 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

Aggie Sloan-Wilcox is the wife of Pastor Ed Wilcox of the Unitarian-Universal Church in Emerald Springs, Ohio; the beautiful serene town offers little peace to the Wilcox. There house is crowded because her mother lives with them until her Victorian house is renovated into a combination home and crafts shop.

Needing some romance in their lives, they go to New York City where they get a call from parishioner Mara Wagner who tells them her spouse Joe never came home from his monthly business trip. A clue leads Aggie and Ed to the Pussycat Club where they learn that Ed's "business" is dressing up in women's garb to perform on stage as a female impersonator. At a fund raiser to benefit a charity that Joe runs, his nemesis Hazel Kefauver keels over and dies. Later they find out she was poisoned; Aggie believes there is a link between the murder and the disappearance. While trying to discover who killed Hazel and where Joe is, Aggie looks for the church's' valuable antique punch bowl that she lost and is trying to learn the identity of the carpenter working at her mom's new home.

Fans of intelligently constructed cozies will thoroughly enjoy BEWARE FALSE PROFITS. The heroine seems so natural as a sleuth that the audience will find her investigations believable and think she would make a good police detective though she is an amateur. Although Aggie is a minister's wife, she defies the stereotypes because of her independence to do what she believes is the right thing even if that means swimming upstream against a current of parishioners, her spouse and a cop. She makes this a fine small town Midwest mystery.

Turkey Flambe
Nancy Fairbanks
9780425219041 $6.99

After much delay, Carolyn Blue's cookbook "Eating Out in the Big Easy" is finally being published by Pettigrew Publishing. To celebrate the company is throwing a party in Carolyn's honor. They even persuade Carolyn to make TURKEY FLAMBE. When she ignites the cognac that soaks the turkey, a loud explosion occurs. The room is on fire and the two turkeys that combusted are tossed out a window. One slams on a car driven by a Chinese-American who ends up in a coma; while the other falls on the Benamian ambassador.

The FBI and the State Department are involved because the Feds believe this was a deliberate attack on a moderate Arab politician attending to his business. The police lean towards Carolyn being guilty as they consider negligence as the cause. Carolyn knows someone sabotaged her turkeys causing the initial explosion. She begins her own investigation to clear her name because she believes the cops will not look beyond her.

Nancy Fairbanks has written an exciting, humorous amateur sleuth starring a cookbook author who will remind readers of the Perils of Pauline, as she jumps from the frying pan filled with adventure into a simmering stew of danger. Carolyn is quirky and courageous while the support cast is a loyal eccentric friend, a government official, or a suspect (at least in the heroine's mind). The recipes in this culinary whodunit are mouth watering so that TURKEY FLAMBE should not be read on an empty stomach.

Servant: The Awakening
L.L. Foster
9780425218747 $7.99

Demons live amongst us looking like normal humans; most people cannot distinguish a demon from a mortal. Gabrielle "Gaby" Cody is unique as she can and believes she has a divine responsibility to destroy these evil essences. Her burden as a demonic assassin has left Gaby all alone.

Detective Luther Cross is attracted to the enigmatic Gaby, but fears she is a serial killer. Still he wants to help her even though he does not understand her. He also realizes he can feel for her kindhearted loser of a landlord Morty Vance, comic book storeowner, who worships her as if she is warrior princess starring in his favorite comic books that she secretly draws. Still though she would like things different, Gaby believes no relationships can be for her as her holy mission comes first before love and soul-mates especially a nosy cop.

This is an entertaining paranormal romantic suspense that grips readers from the moment Luther crosses swords with Gaby and never slows down as he struggles with her vigilantism and she with her solo act. Morty serves as a sidekick although he is unaware of what his heroine does even as her comic books are autobiographic. Romantic fantasy readers and fans of Buffy and the movie They Live will want to read the first tale in the human war against demons.

Alan Dean Foster
9780345485076 $23.95

For years Flinx has searched the galaxy for his father, a man who sympathized with the goals and experiments of the Meliorare society, a group involved in evil eugenics. Flinx is experiment 12A of the society, the only experiment not mind wiped. He has powerful empathy abilities and is unable to die. When he comes close to death an unknown trigger arranges a rescue for him so that he can find the Tar-Aiym weapons platform disguised as a brown dwarf that only he can use.

The weapon system is the only hope to stop the malevolence that is advancing beyond the Great Emptiness into Commonwealth space. Once it passes, everything in its path will be gone. Knowing all this Flinx and his minidrag Pip travel to Gestalt, a cold planet where his father might be staying. Avoiding a hitman and surviving near death experiences, he hopes to get the answers he has all his life tried to find.

After a couple of lateral tales, PATRIMONY, the thirteenth Pip and Flinx thriller moves the prime quest forward, answering one of the key questions that has haunted the protagonist for years and it sets the stage for the final countdown in this mind blowing science fiction series. The native society on Gestalt, the Tlels are one of the nicest species Flinx has ever met; as they co-exist peacefully with the humans on that planet. However, this entry belongs to Flinx as his saga takes a major leap forward.

Shayla Black
9780425217214 $15.00

Kimber Edgington has loved rock superstar Jesse McCall seemingly forever. However, he has not shown any reciprocal inclination; she assumes it is because he a bad boy renowned for his sexual appetite and she is a pristine virgin.

Kimber decides she needs seduction training so she turns to second cousins Deke Trenton and Luc Traverson to teach her everything she was afraid to ask about sex, but to do so without breaking her cherry. She believes that she needs to remain a virgin, but know what she is doing so when Jesse finally takes her he will avoid ptomaine poisoning by eating at home. However, as Kimber begins to see deeper into the man she loves and a maniac threatens to kill her, she begins to understand what her body and heart has been telling her; her beloved is not the musician but one of her instructors.

What a fascinating triangle as the innocent asks the experienced for sexual lessons with the stipulation she remains a virgin (obviously a Doris Day role although not sure about Rock's blue balls). Fans will be hooked from the moment that Kimber seeks Deke and meets Luc as the audience will wonder will she end up alone, with one of the cousins, with Jesse, or with someone else. Shayla Black turns up the heat with this entertaining contemporary romance.

Down and Dirty
Sandra Hill
9780425217931 $7.99

Zachary "Pretty Boy" Floyd does not care what the brass does to him for breaking laws when he went to Afghanistan to bring his young son Sammy, who prefers Samir, back to the States with him; his only remorse was that he did not know about his offspring sooner. However, he expects a harsh punishment, but feels his sentence is cruel and inhuman; he is assigned to train the newly formed WEALS, women SEALS.

One of his students Zach previously met (see ROUGH AND READY) is muscular Norsewoman Britta, who actually traveled from the eleventh century to join the modern day US Navy. He prefers her to be his son's babysitter although their attraction is hot enough to evaporate the Pacific Ocean, Britta fears she is returning back in time while Samir's grandfather, a Taliban butcher with a false religious face Mullah Ahmed Arsalah plans to return Samir to his "hidey-hole" in Afghanistan and kill the boy's American father (and anyone else who gets in the way) while doing so.

The latest Viking time travel romance is an entertaining tale that is at its best when either Samir or Britta rips off the skin of Zach with their acerbic lip. The suspense subplot with the Mullah and his men is well written, but does not compare to the vicious tongues that the hero faces. Fans of the series will enjoy the return of previous lead couples, but DOWN AND DIRTY belongs to the changing triangular relationships between the lead trio, as seen first hand from changing perspectives.

Girls That Growl
Mari Mancusi
9780425217160 $9.99

Goth girl Rayne McDonald has the worst of both worlds as she is a vampire slayer who recently became a vampire. Rayne has enough to deal with her Sunny sister, her mom, and their respective boyfriends Magnus and David. Finally adding to her already raging hormonal confusion is her dark nocturnal vampire boyfriend Jareth who has become a Beach Boy surfer.

However, now Rayne's slayer handler orders her to perform her most dangerous complex mission to date. She must go undercover as a cheerleader in order to investigate the disappearance of two football players that Rayne thought should have been sacked. Apparently the only suspects are the cheerleaders, whom she must interrogate; but to the squad members one must letter in sports to be a cheerleader. Using what a teen does best: extortion; she gets on the team, but realizes her new teammates are weirder than vampires riding the surf in sunlight without proper lotion.

As with BOYS THAT BITE and STAKE THAT!, GIRLS THAT GROWL is an amusing teenage vampire tale starring a fascinating high school student who believes her current assignment is too dangerous as no outsider wants to join the in cheerleader squad. The story line is fast-paced, but focuses on the rain in Rayne's life as she has sibling issues, mommy troubles (even lost her bedroom to mom's latest boy toy), her own boyfriend tsuris, but worst is dealing with the squad. Young adults will enjoy growling along side of this vampire slayer who has no time left for homework.

Mr. Knightley's Diary
Amanda Grange
9780425217719 $14.00

In his journal Mr. Knightley writes about being sad that he had to missed the weeding, but amazed that his friends John and Isabella have been married seven years and have five kids. H wonders if he needs to take some time away from his successful properties and their tenants to find a wife although he has no prospects. Highly regarded by everyone who knows Mr. Knightley, his closest friends are his neighbors, the invalid Mr. Woodhouse and his daughter Emma, who drives him crazy with her romantic matchmaking until the new hunk arrives on the scene. Upset and jealous, Mr. Knightley continues to write diary entries as he attends dinners, other galas, and plays whist while venting in secret.

Jane Austen continues to be in as Amanda George provides a gender bending tribute to Emma from the male viewpoint as to the goings-on in the neighborhood. Well written with a realistic eye to the rustic lifestyle of the aristocracy, fans of Ms. Austen will appreciate this interesting perspective, but keep in mind that a journal is more a series of vignettes than a cohesive story line.

The Education of Mrs. Brimley
Donna MacMeans
9780425218303 $6.99

In 1876 Emma Brimley leaves London hoping to obtain teaching position at the Pettibone School for Young Ladies in Yorkshire. Knowing that a miss would be unacceptable, Emma claims she is a young widow. When she succeeds in gaining the job, she is elated, but is stunned by her students not much younger than her who want to know the details involving sleeping with a husband. Emma's problem is that she is as ignorant as they are, as she is a virgin.

Artist Lord Nicholas Chambers wants Emma to pose for him. A notorious rake who quotes Byron, she thinks he could prove an enlightened source so she agrees to be his model at Black Oak Manor if he answers her questions on intimacy; but he offers to show instead of tell. As they fall in love, Emma fears her heart will soon bust while Nicholas dreads the scandalous portrait of her will cost him her.

Victorian romance fans will enjoy this fun frolic starring two likable protagonists who fall in love while he trains her in the art of love. The droll double entendres make for an intelligent amusing historical as the student teaches the teacher as much as he does her.

Touched By Fire
Catherine Spangler
9780425217955 $6.99

In Texas, the evil Belian has killed dozens of innocent humans. His explosives are everywhere yet he leaves no evidence enabling the Sentinels to stop his killing spree. Sentinel Luke is frustrated by not preventing more deaths, but continues on his Harley seeking to stop this crafty confident malevolent mass murderer.

Luke meets Marla, a conductor, who he believes is the key to stopping the Belian. He knows she is his perfect match so he invades her home and kidnaps her, taking her to his house where he learns to his incredulousness she is a thirty years old virgin. Marla fears sex giving witnessed her sister's rape over a decade ago. Still there is something about this man that has Marla fearing and wanting him. As he explains the Belian evil to her, she senses the killer is nearby waiting for her. When the Belian mentally links to Marla, Luke knows a showdown is coming. If he could only persuade his soulmate that sex can not only be enjoyed especially between those in love, but is the most powerful tool for a conductor to track a Belian.

The stand alone sequel to TOUCHED BY DARKNESS (Luke as a character in that tale) is an electrifying paranormal romantic thriller. The lead couple suffers from tragedies; Marla obviously from her sister's rape and Luke from his mother's death making him family head. Those traumas make their relationship much more interesting as they must overcome their respective pasts to have a remote chance at defeating the seemingly invisible Belian. Sub-genre fans will be touched by Catherine Spangler's entertaining Sentinel saga.

Atlantis Awakening
Alyssa Day
9780425217962 $6.99

In Seattle, Atlantean warriors Ven, Brennan and Alexios battle vampires when a peer Christophe arrives with a message from Ven's older brother King Conlon. His Highness wants his sibling to represent the Seven Isles of Atlantis at a meeting with the witches of the Circle of Light; the topic being an alliance against the vamps.

As Ven impatiently awaits the wizard he is to meet at a pub, he prays his brother and pregnant sister-in-law Riley an emotional empath has plenty of babies so he is not close in line to the throne. A witch Erin Connors arrives to discuss a quest that no one else seems to want to join her on. Ven touches her causing the wilding music to start. Erin struggles to control it while Ven stunned flees to Atlantis to see High priest Alaric to learn what did occur. However, Erin telepathically calls him back as she is in trouble. He returns and with the help of Drakos the vampire stops two witches from harming Erin. Drakos warns Ven that Caligula wants Erin before fleeing. Three witches arrive to take charge of Erin so Ven leaves for Atlantis where Alaric tells him Erin is a mythical gem singer. Erin and Ven have begun their adventures in love, in trying to rescue her sister and stopping Caligula and the evil Goddess Anubisa.

This exciting epic fantasy will grip the audience because of the courageous lead couple as neither is prepared for love. However, the key to this superior tale is that the various paranormal species such as Goddesses, Atlanteans and vampires and human witches all seem genuine and the myriad of subplots tie together in the final confrontation, but also set up the next tale. Although readers might doubt that a certain person has been a traitor for a decade with no one aware of it, fans will not doubt how good the Atlantis series is.

The Crafty Teddy
John J. Lamb
9780425218853 $6.99

After a quarter of a century as a San Francisco police officers with fourteen of those years as an inspector in the Robbery-Homicide Division, a bullet shattered Brad Lyon's kneecap forcing him to retire. He moved across country to live in Remmlkemp Mill, Virginia with the love of his life, his wife Ashleigh. They collect and create teddy bears.

All of Brad's cop instincts are on red alert when he awakens to a sound he never heard before. Taking his gun with him, he goes down the stairs, but the intruder fires a shot at him before fleeing with a valuable antique Farnell Alpha Teddy. Upsetting him more than the shot is the teddy was a present to Ashleigh; the Farnell was never found. A couple of weeks later, Brad notices three Yakuza (Japanese gangsters) asking for directions to the Masssanutten Museum of History. Although retired from law enforcement, Brad follows them to the museum only to find the curator dead, a victim of a homicide. The Sheriff knows of Brad's detective background and asks him to help on the investigation that is loaded with suspects: the Yakuza, the churlish wife he cheated on, his mistress who believed he would never leave his spouse, her husband who knows he was being cuckolded, and seemingly much of the rest of Virginia.

THE CRAFTY TEDDY is a riveting police procedural that is rich in plot and characterizations (especially the horde with motives), but delightfully lacking in explicit evidence to hone in on one person. Many people had a motive and opportunity to kill the victim; thus the investigation is intense as Brad interviews a variety of suspects. The Bear Collector's latest tale showcases a fascinating hero, who is macho cop (retired) and cuddly teddy creator.

The Trouble with Paradise
Jill Shalvis
9780425217191 $14.00

In Los Angeles shy Dorie Anderson works in the junior fashion at Shop-Mart when she receives a call from All Continental Resorts that she has won a free trip to Fiji. She informs her boss and her mom that she is leaving on vacation.

At the dock in Fiji where the Sun Song anchors, Dorie is tongue tied when she meets "baseball cutie" Andy Hutchinson. She takes a step back and trips over her luggage spraining her ankle. Before she can get up off the plank, a man rushes past her shouting emergency. Dorie goes to see the ship doctor who is the same man who sprinted past her. Dr. Christian Montague assumes she is just like his emergency with a paper cut. However, he changes his mind when he sees her limp. She is tongue tied again and is embarrassed to mention the two splinters on her butt.

At the meet and greet gala, Andy makes it clear he wants Dorie. She runs to the bathroom when he asks her out. She meets guests Brandy and Cadence who are both nice. They discuss the men on board with Brandy picking crewman Bobby, Cadence the captain Denny, and Dorie the grumpy doctor. A storm devastates the ship. Christian holds Dorie to comfort her as she is scared, but he insists he doesn't mix business with pleasure. The ship drifts to a deserted island, but Bobby is missing. As the doc and the clerk fall in love, something remains amiss about what happened.

The ensemble cast consists of unique individuals; especially fully developed is the lead make and the three females. The whodunit is fun to follow though it is more in the background to the entreatingly changing relationship between the lead couple. Although the climax is too fast and Dorie shows no after effect from a concussion, fans will enjoy this vacation romance.

All Shots
Susan Conant
9780425217443 $22.95

Dog lover Holly Winter trains malamutes. When she walks into her Cambridge, Massachusetts home, she finds a strange man sitting inside. He introduces himself as Adam and asks her if she has something for him and if she heard from Calvin. She assumes he meant to contact the other Holly Winter living in the university town, so she gives him direction to her place.

Later that same day she is asked to go to Mellie's house in reference to finding a missing Siberian husky. Her search leads her to the yard of Dr. Zach Ho. She peaks through a glass door and sees a dead woman and a trashed room. A police friend informs Holly that the deceased had bills and receipts from the other Holly and that the dead female was trying to steal their identity. Inside the house was also a picture of a blue malamute. A short time later, Holly receives a call from a stranger that they have her blue malamute with tags identifying her as the owner. She picks up the canine, who is not her dog; unaware that the dog is the key to finding the killer, identity theft, dog smuggling and kidnapping, meth labs, and the three Holly Winters of Cambridge.

Dog lovers will thoroughly enjoy this amateur sleuth because of the antics of the many canines including the hero doggedly steals the show. Likable Holly (the malamute trainer - not the other) is the center of the tale as she investigates a missing canine case that leads to a homicide inquiry. Although some of leaps of faith seem very risky, readers will appreciate her efforts as she tries to take a bite out of crime.

A Carol for a Corpse
Claudia Bishop
9780425218341 $6.99

The Inn at Hemlock Falls in Upstate New York is owned by two sisters, Meg Quilliam who is a three star chef and Sara Quilliam-McBride runs the hotel. Since the opening of a nearby upscale resort, business has been bad and the siblings fear they may have to shut their hotel down. The bank is working with them by sending over an efficiency expert to find ways of improving service while reducing costs.

They also sign a deal with L'Apertif magazine who will feature their jams and jellies and televise a show they are producing four times a year. They will tape the cooking show Good Taste at the inn and it will last a month for each taping. Lydia Kingsfield is the star of the magazine and the show and her husband Zeke, who is even more obnoxious than his odious wife is a notorious larger than life business man who has cheated many people out of their money with his unethical ventures. His body is found at the Inn's ski run; it looks as if he was killed by negligence, but Quill believes otherwise. She sets out to prove murder occurred, but finds half the State had a motive to want Zeke dead.

A CAROL FOR A CORPSE is a charming cozy that puts readers in the holiday spirit due in large part to the vivid picturesque descriptions of Christmas decor, the mouthwatering food, the feeling of good will, but especially the Scrooge attitude of Quill. She is ruthless when it comes to keeping her cherished sister safe and is passionate about the inn. Thus she needs no more motives to investigate the death of Zeke than the possible harm to Meg or the loss of the inn, as she rejects the negligence ruling. Fans of the series will enjoy the freshness in the story line due to a couple of interesting surprises, making this a merry Yuletide amateur sleuth tale.

Shrouds of Holly
Kate Kingsbury
9780425218495 $13.00

In Badgers End, England Pennyfoot Hotel proprietor Cecily Sinclair Baxter praises Madeline Pengrath for decorating the ballroom for the upcoming Christmas holiday. To complete the decor, Cecily's husband and stable master Samuel went to the nearby woods to gather holly.

However one of the horses returns too quickly without either man. Instead inside the trap to contain the holly is a dead stranger; Mr. Baxter and Samuel failed to come home. Cecily sends for Constable Northcott. However, when he makes no progress on the case, a frustrated, worried and determined Cecily begins her own inquiry into what happened to her spouse and stable master, and who killed the man in the trap.

SHROUDS OF HOLLY is a delightful Edwardian whodunit starring an intrepid heroine who turns investigator out of fear for her husband as she believes the constable fails to understand time is running out. Fans of the series will enjoy this fun to read historical holiday cozy as the latest Pennyfoot Hotel mystery (see SLAY BELLS and NO CLUE AT THE INN) cleverly uses stereotypes of Pre WWI English to round out the entertaining amateur sleuth mystery.

An Enchanted Season
Maggie Shayne, Erin McCarthy, Nalini Singh & Jean Johnson
9780425217856 $14.00

"Melting Frosty" by Maggie Shayne. As preadolescents in 1992, he in Flint and she in Oswego suffered a jarring tragedy during the holidays that has stuck with them as adults. Now Matthew and Holly meet for the first time when they are snowbound over Christmas.

"Charlotte's Web" by Erin McCarthy. Charlotte the witch casts a spell of lust on her pal Will; not fully appreciating that he needs no incantation to love her.

"Beat of Temptation" by Nalini Singh. In 2019 as the Psy Council tries to outlaw Christmas, Psy Pack operatives Nate and Tamsyn meet, each is immediately attracted and enchanted by the other.

"Gifts of the Magi" by Jean Johnson. B&B owners Steven and Rachel are in financial trouble as the weather has forced cancellations. However they greet three unexpected guests for the holidays.

These are four enjoyable holiday paranormal romances that will bring AN ENCHANTED SEASON to sub-genre readers.

The Queen's Handmaiden
Jennifer Ashley
9780425217320 $14.00

Eloise Rousell is the same age as Princess Elizabeth as both were born in 1533. However, unlike the royalty, Eloise lived with a traveling troupe until her aristocratic mother is dumped as a pampered pathetic lady once her actor spouse died. The five years old is sent to live with her Aunt Kat, governess to the "defrocked" no longer a princess by royal decree of her sire when he beheaded her mother so Eloise moves to the court.

She becomes Elizabeth's most trusted confident. Thus she is there when King Henry died; she sees his offspring young King Edward die in a rather short reign; and observes first hand Bloody Mary take the throne terrorizing her half sister Elizabeth and others. When Elizabeth becomes queen, Eloise's importance to her highness is even greater. However, when Eloise falls in love, she fears her beloved might be endangered as those surrounding the Queen would do anything to gain an edge; she has not considered that she might also be in peril from those who want to gain power.

Jennifer Ashley provides a clever look at the life of Elizabeth I through a fictional confident Eloise Rousell. Royal events like queen beheadings are cleverly tied to moments in Eloise's life. Thus fans obtain a deep biographical fiction that intelligently compares the big scenario of the royal stage to a minor participant influenced by what happens at center court.

The Courtesan's Daughter
Claudia Dain
9780425217207 $14.00

In 1802 Lady Caroline Dalby knows she has no chance at marrying someone from her social class because her mama was a renowned courtesan. Her mama widow Lady Sophia Dalby offers a deal to the Earl of Ashdon; she will pay off his gambling debts in exchange to his marrying her beloved daughter; reluctantly he agrees.

However, Sophia is stunned when Caro refuses to marry Ash. She prefers to be a spinster on the shelf if she has to wed someone who does not love her; however Carol also considers being a courtesan with Ash as her first client. As Sophia maneuvers her daughter and the lord who is in her debt, she knows they are perfect for one another. She is elated when the couple is caught in a compromising position because that affirms she is right; now to get this stubborn duet to understand their feelings go much deeper than an aristocrat and his mistress.

THE COURTESAN'S DAUGHTER is a fun Regency romantic frolic starring a likable cast as readers will enjoy the antics of that great Machiavellian courtesan as she manipulates her daughter and her chosen one to come together in matrimony. Sophia, like most parents, wants so much better for her child. Although several other subplots add a feel for the Ton and are well written, they take away from the enjoyable main attraction; that of Sophia's matchmaking.

A Murderous Glaze
Melissa Glazer
9780425218365 $6.99

Carolyn Emerson lives in Maple Ridge, Vermont where she owns Fire at Will, a successful paint-your-own- pottery studio. Her dream is shattered when she finds the dead body of Betty Wickline with an awl through her chest. Carolyn readily admits she did not like the woman, but she also insists she never wished her harm; thus when the sheriff implies she is the prime and only suspect, she becomes indignant.

After word of the homicide spreads around the town, no one enters the store and people she has known all her life cold shoulder Carolyn. Not trusting Sheriff Hodges to conduct a through investigation, Carolyn decides that if she wants to save her shop she must make inquiries. One group of customers-friends, the Firing Squad, becomes her posse abetting her Betty sleuthing. They find a horde of viable suspects wanting the victim dead.

Readers who appreciate bloodless chick-lit asides cozies (oxymoron) will appreciate the entertaining A MURDEROUS GLAZE as the violence and gore occur outside the pages. The protagonist is a spunky fiftyish heroine who is filled with energy that makes the Energizer Bunny look at rest. The support cast includes the quirky posse who sweeten the story line with their maple syrup optimism and her spouse Bill who insists she skips the investigation as it is too dangerous yet is her biggest cheerleader. Readers will enjoy this fine character driven Vermont amateur sleuth tale.

Big Girls Don't Cry
Cathie Linz
9780425218310 $7.99

Leena Riley left Rock Creek, Pennsylvania dreaming of becoming a plus-sized model. However, her aspirations never prove fruitful so the big woman returns home to start over.

She reluctantly obtains work as the office assistant at Dr. Cole Flanigan's veterinary clinic. Her hesitation goes back to her school days when Cole, though two grades below her, would unmercifully tease her about her size until she showed him what a big girl can do when she knocked him out. Now Cole the hunk is attracted to Leena, but she does not believe it; besides she plans to soon try again to make it in the city as a plus size model.

BIG GIRLS DON'T CRY is a laugh out loud humorous contemporary romance as once again Cathie Linz proves that BAD GIRLS DON'T this time CRY at least not in Rock Creek. Leena and Cole are an interesting pairing because he is tentatively her boss and their high school history. The return of much cast from the previous jocular tale adds to the feel that readers have of visiting friends in this Pennsylvanian town. Lighthearted yet with a serious message on self esteem as healthy chunky curves are fine.

The Nightmare Factory Based on the Works by Thomas Ligotti
Stuart Moore, Joe Harris, Colleen Doran, Ben Templesmith, Ted McKeever, and Michael Gaydos
Atomic Fox Comics (Harper)
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061243530 $17.99 1-800-242-7737

"The Last Feast of Harlequin" by Stuart Moore (writer) and Colleen Doran (art). The anthropologist hid behind the clown's mask to attend pre-Lenten rituals and festivals. At a winter carnival in Miracaw he will witness and participate in sacrifice to wormy beasts that would give Lovecraft nightmares.

"Dream of a Mannikin" by Stuart Moore (writer) and Ben Templesmith (art). At her first visit to the psychiatrist, Amy Locher tells him about her nightmare that brings the doc into her horrific "realm".

"Doctor Locrian's Asylum" by Joe Harris (writer) and Ted McKeever (art). The Shire County Asylum looms over everything in the town though it has been closed for years. Everyone remains haunted by the largest gloomiest edifice not just due to its ghastly shape and size; friends and family spent time there and though shut some might still stalk its halls.

"Teatro Grottesco" by Joe Harris (writer) and Michael Gaydos (art). No one knows exactly why or when the Teatro Grottesco will show up in a town although there is a link to underground artists disconnected with the locals. However, when this theater of the absurd arrives, it sucks away the inspirations and aspirations of artists before continuing its macabre tour.

These four Thomas Ligotti's tales are converted into graphic comics that do justice to the horror writer, who provides introductions to each. The obvious link to Lovecraft is throughout each work, but fans will recognize Mr. Ligotti has his own spin to the Lovecraftian tale. The art by four different artists is well done, but there are distinct differences in style, which add freshness to the overall book. However, in the end it is the adaptations by Stuart Moore and Joe Harris that pay home to Mr. Ligotti.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Tasha Alexander
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061431234 $13.95 1-800-242-7737

King Philip of Spain believes he is doing God's work although he loathes cutting down trees to make the ships he needs to return Europe back to the true Catholic God; he considers his mission is to save the soul of England, his late wife's country. With the heretic Elizabeth on the throne, he plots to replace her with her guest prisoner of twenty years, Queen Mary Stuart.

Captain Walter Raleigh has docked his ship the Tyger in London for repairs. With him are two natives from the New World, whom he hopes to introduce to the Queen. Walter wants her backing to set up a settlement at Roanoke Island in what he calls Virginia in honor of Queen Elizabeth.

As she does every Sunday, Elizabeth walks from the Presence Chamber to the Chapel Royal so that her people can see her. However, this time Walter steps out of the crowd and puts his cloak down so she would not step in a puddle. Later after rejecting her advisors latest marital scheme to prevent a French-Spanish alliance, she has her favorite lady in waiting Bess Throckmorten brings Walter to her. The Spanish ambassador Guerau calls Walter a pirate, but he mentions a colony and introduces her to his friends and tobacco. Walter has begun his efforts to obtain her Highness' patronage even as he and Bess fall in love while Phillip launches the Armada.

This is a terrific character driven biographical fictional account of Queen Elizabeth, who comes across as a powerful queen with state and personal problems. Readers will obtain an incredible insight into the mind pf King Phillip of Spain who believes God is on his side as well as a deeper look at Raleigh than the usual romanticized popular version of a cloak dropper. The rest of the cast also is fully developed as Tasha Alexander provides a wonderful novelization of the upcoming sequel to the award winning film Elizabeth.

Wicked Dead: Lurker
Stefan Petrucha and Thomas Pendleton
9780061138492 $7.99

Anne, Mary, Shirley and Daphne take turns telling a haunting Wicked Dead story. Anne is first as she relates Lurker to her pals at the run down Lockwood Orphanage.

In her mind teenager Mandy lives an ideal life even factoring in her boyfriend Dale who messed up real bad so she dumped him. Everything is fine and apparently normal for instance Naughty Nic skipped school. However, normalcy crashes for everyone when they learn Nic failed to attend because someone murdered her. Not just Mandy is shocked by the tragedy; the entire Lake Crest High School personalizes the homicide and the town is traumatized that such an act could happen here.

Stunned although not a close friend of the late girl, Mandy finds herself seeing visions of an unknown person, who she begins to believe is Nic's killer dubbing him the Witchman. An apologetic Dale wants Mandy to forgive him and take him back while she is considering Kyle the Internet dude she has not met, but would like to soonest.

LURKER is the first of four horror novellas as each of the ghostly female "pajama party" pals stare at bones and tell a tale of death. Mandy is a terrific lead character holding the tale together while fearing she will meet the Witchman who haunts her sleep. The murder mystery and the aftermath reaction to it especially of the victim's school peers bring a reality to this entertaining tale with a stunning, otherworldly twist. Although targeting young teens, boomers also will appreciate this opening Wicked Death thriller.

Holidays Are Hell
Kim Harrison, Lynsay Sands, Marjorie M. Liu and Vickie Pettersson
9780061239090 $7.99

"Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel" by Kim Harrison. Teenager Rachel recuperates from I.S. disease that killed her father and nearly killed her, but left her new powers as a witch in training; however, she misuses her new skills with a resurrection that may prove lethal.

"Run, Run Rudolph" by Lynsay Sands. Nick and Jill are to play Mr. and Mrs. S. Claus, but instead shapeshift in a flight for their lives when John tries to shoot her with a destabilizing ray.

"Six" by Marjorie M. Liu. Necromancer Joseph warns Six, a member of the Chinese Squad Twelve, of a deadly vampire plot.

"The Harvest" by Vickie Pettersson. Retired Zodiac warrior Zoe Archer must return to the mortal realm to rescue her newborn granddaughter.

These are well written thrilling fantasy novellas with the added bonus that Ms. Harrison's tale stars a younger Rachel Morgan.

The Book of Vice
Peter Segal
9780060843823 $24.95

NPR radio host Peter Sagal provides an amusing look at the behavior of people when they indulge in vice vs. virtue. He makes a point that vice is not sin, but actually socially accepted as long as one follows the military practice of don't tell. For instance the porn industry rakes in billions, but has no customers (try surveying their tastes with a questionnaire). Gambling is illegal in much of the country, but how much is bet on Superbowls and World Series. Whether it is Chicago, San Francisco or New York, Mr. Sagal insists vice is the perfect supply and demand model that should be used to explain economics; as the demand goes up the supply increases, etc.

Well written and irreverent yet relevant with Congressmen finding their supply of vice in workhouses and bathrooms while pushing virtue legislation on the rest of us hedonistic pleasure seekers, readers will appreciate this witty look at vice. Although some of the anecdotal seem padded with reiteration (for instance Mr. Bennett's gambling vice vs. his family values virtue goes on and on and on) this is a fun look at America's pleasure domes with the people the author interviews coming across as you and me.

Mister B. Gone
Clive Barker
Harper Collins
9780060182984 $24.95

When the reader opens the book, the demon Jakabob Botch who is trapped insides begs his audience to burn the book so his miserable existence can come to an end. He begs, cajoles and entices before he finally begins the story of his life in the hope that such a gift will be sufficient for the reader to accept his fiery wishes.

He was born in the ninth circle of Hell to a wife beating drunkard married to a demon whore. When his Momma finds his journal pages where he writes what he would like to do to those who hurt him, she burns them and he falls into the blaze burning his eyelids, nose mouth and leaving scars on his visage. His father tries to kill him but both are trapped and taken to the World Above. Abused by his Pappy before they reach it, Mr. B. kills his Pappy and then escapes from those who want to use him before they sell him. He meets with the demon Quitoon who is masquerading as a knight and together they perpetuate great evil in the world. It is when Quitoon decides they should go to the Guttenberg home in Mainz in 1439 that Mr. B. learns of a secret concerning heaven and hell. Both sides don't want him talking about it leading to the demon's troubles becoming insurmountable.

The demon mythos as espoused by Clive Barker's MISTER B GONE is fascinating. The ninth circle of Hell is garbage ooze below even the demonic food chain where the most unrepentant and incorrigible demons and sinners abide. The only demons with power and near immortal are those born by a mating between Lucifer and one of the First Fallen. Mr. B. is an enticing antagonist, so evil and beguiling that readers want to know his story. This is the perfect book to either read or burn on Halloween Night because it frighteningly centers on the charm of unrepentant evil.

Diamonds in the Shadow
Caroline B. Cooney
9781400074235 $15.99

In an affluent suburban Connecticut the religious committee announces that the Amabo refugee family of four will be coming from civil war torn Liberia. However, the apartment they were to have has fallen through so Drew and Kara Finch has agreed to take them in. The parents will have their own room while the two teens, genders unknown, will bunk with teenage Jared and ten years old Mopsy. Only Jared objects as he says he and Mopsy are the only ones sacrificing while everyone else claims good deed credit.

However, five people from Africa debark at JFK. The Finch family brings home four with them: ailing Andre who has lost his arms to the war, his wife Celestine, and their son Mattu, and daughter Alake. Jared quickly realizes there is something wrong with the newcomers even as everyone else accepts their story as gospel. He clumsily investigates hoping to expose the quartet; not realizing the danger he places his family and the refuges in from the fifth refugee.

DIAMONDS IN THE SHADOWS is an interesting Christian thriller in which good intentions and deeds may pave the road to hell. The story line is fast-paced as the two families struggle with the adjustments. Readers will appreciate Jared's sincere complaint about just who is sacrificing (sounds like Iraq as most American have sacrificed nothing but accept credit for doing so) although doubtful he would speak up like he did and his parents remain silent. Caroline B. Cooney's morality tale plays out nicely on two levels; especially strong is truly helping a refugee family (read the book for a twist on this) subplot and the more exciting but less insightful potential consequences of a good intention.

Creston Mapes
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781590526248 $12.99 1-800-929-0910

He heard the report of a dead homeless person sitting at a Las Vegas Boulevard bus stop on the police scanner so Review Journal reporter Hudson Ambrose drives over to see if there is a story although he assumes another "Nobody" was probably mugged over wine. No cops are in sight as he sits down next to the deceased, a murder victim, and though he knows better checks the pockets for identification. To his astonishment he finds a Wells Fargo bankbook with a balance of $689, 800 and a blood stained safety deposit box key; Hudson takes both and leaves the scene.

That morning he goes to the bank and uses the key to open the box. Inside he finds plenty of money, two rings, stock, and articles on Chester Holte and his late wife who died in a tragic accident. Hudson now knows who the victim is. When he follows up on the police action, he finds no homicide reported or for that matter a corpse found; the bus stop has no blood stains. When someone breaks into his house, Hudson realizes that probably the killer knows what he did. As he investigates why Chester worked the streets, he meets Holly Queens of the Downtown Outreach Clinic, who thought Hudson was god sent. Hudson's inquiry angers violent dirty cops and casino employees while the homeless is outraged that their angel was murdered and the police do nothing because he was a NOBODY.

The premise behind this gritty dark yet inspirational look at the other side of Vegas is that there is room for everyone in God's tent so that there needs to be room for everyone in each person's soul. Creston Mapes never preaches as he tells the tale of how Chester became the homeless' guardian angel through cynical Hudson's investigation into the man's life. Readers will appreciate this engrossing gloomy yet moving investigative thriller as even a NOBODY is somebody to someone.

Never Look Back
Kathy Herman
9781590529225 $12.99

Ivy Griffith spent time behind bars for her role in covering up the strangulation death of Joe Hadley ten years ago (see EVER PRESENT DANGER). Now freed, she vows to NEVER LOOK BACK at her mistake as she starts anew with her seven-year-old son Montana working at her parents' Christian retreat center in Jacob's Ear, Colorado; though she knows some locals will never forgive her for her silence.

Ivy thinks things are going her way when she meets kind hearted Rue Kessler. He is nice to her and her child, who desperately seeks adult male attention. However, someone begins assaulting townsfolk. The brutal attacks point towards Rue. Chastised once for believing in a boy, Ivy wonders if she will rue the day by believing in another male.

The second Phantom Hollow tale continues the story of Ivy, who has begun her redemption trek only to be on the wrong side of public opinion again. Rue is an interesting male in peril character as he seems to be the violent stalker. Although the key twist seem implausible, the changes in Ivy from her return home in EVER PRESENT DANGER makes Kathy Herman's tale a fun sequel, but read the previous book first to appreciate how far she has come.

Kill Time
T.J. MacGregor
9780786018321 $6.99

In Blue River, Massachusetts, college psychology professor Nora McKee knows her marriage of five years to the English Department Chair Jake is over. As she struggles with telling him so, two federal agents Curtis and Sargent from the Department of Freedom and Security grab Jake to take him into custody. Nora is stunned not just because he was snatched, but it reminds her of the pivotal incident of her childhood when twenty-three years ago Feds abducted her mom whom she never heard from again.

Nora calls college librarian Alex Kincaid, her former lover and Jake's best friend. The Fed already told her to get a lawyer as she is guilty by association of violating Section 14 Code 3. No warrant is needed to snatch people off the street by this shadow top secret agency. With Alex at her side, Nora begins an odyssey through time as they learn of an experiment that crossed the line when all they seek is the truth of the "legal" kidnappings of her mom and her spouse while also remembering Jake's last words to her: "Run, Nora, run".

From the beginning when the Feds snatch Jake until the climax, fans will be hooked to keep on reading to learn what Nora and Alex will learn next. The suspense never slows down as the lead couple dodges dangerous agents who legally can eliminate them without a judge or jury. As they uncover the truth about the kidnappings of her loved ones and other snatches as well as the experiment in which Nora is the link tying the abducted together, they struggle to survive. Thus the audience receives a cautionary tale to beware of out of control government agents using security issues to take people off the street as happened a few decades ago in Argentina while readers also receive a warning subplot on scientific experimenting going wrong. However, the bottom line is KILL TIME is an exhilarating suspense thriller.

In for the Kill
John Lutz
9780786018437 $6.99

The city is frantic, especially the women as the Butcher dismembers females limb by limb and stacks each of them into eerie pyramids in their bathtubs. He is extremely precise with his human Lego's, but never leaves behind a forensic trace of any sort.

NYPD Deputy Chief Harley Renz knows he needs his best serial killer specialist to lead the inquiry; however the department's top gun is retired. Still Harley asks former NYPD homicide detective Frank Quinn to return to the field to stop The Butcher from killing anymore women. Police Officer Pearl Kasner, Frank's former girlfriend, is assigned to work with him. However, Frank is immediately stunned when he realizes the first letter of the surname of the five victims spell the proper noun Quinn.

John Lutz provides an exhilarating tense thriller using the old standby High Noon premise of a retired police detective in a cat and mouse struggle against a diabolical clever grandmaster killer. The cast is fully developed especially the hero, but it is the serial killer who methodically steals the story line. Readers will enjoy this chess game between two intelligent opponents with the falling pawns being women of the city while Frank's endangered queen might be his partner or perhaps his visiting daughter.

The Tomb of Zeus
Barbara Cleverly
9780385339902 $13.00

In 1927 wealthy Laetitia Talbot comes to Crete to sponsor a dig. Famous archeologist Theo Russell directs the patron to the Mountain of Juktas to a location he already selected where he believes THE TOMB OF ZEUS is buried. Laetitia takes an instant dislike to the pushy man, but adores his wife Phoebe.

Before going to the village of Kastelli where the team will be based for the dig, Phoebe escorts Laetitia to the ruins of Knosses where her new friend suffers a fainting spell and is brought back to her villa. There are sores all over Phoebe's legs that Laetitia believes come from wearing tight boots. Shortly afterward Phoebe is found dead in her room; an apparent suicide. Laetitia does not believe the woman killed herself, especially when she learns Phoebe was pregnant but not carrying Theo's child. Instead the site patron digs amongst the ruins of lives to uncover the murderous truth.

Readers of historical mysteries and armchair time travelers will thoroughly enjoy this wonderful whodunit. Besides the vivid look at Crete during the golden age of archeology, fans will ponder whether the heroine is wrong as there are few suspects with a motive to kill Phoebe; increasingly suicide seems right yet Laetitia stubbornly believes otherwise based on her short time with the woman. Barbara Cleverly explores the culture of Crete in great depth so that her audience can fully visualize what was back in ancient time and what was in 1927-28; an era used as a setting in modern literature for great female sleuths (Phryne Fisher and Maisie Dobbs) and now amateur sleuth fans have one more.

Fatal Feng Shui
Leslie Caine
Dell Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440335993 $6.99 1-800-726-0600

Celebrity chef Shannon Young hires the interior design partners Erin Gilbert and Steve Sullivan to renovate her home. She also employs feng shui expert Ang Chung to insure her abode contains harmonious flowing vibrations. Conflict arises between Ang and Shannon on one side and Erin, Steve, and contractor David Lewis on the other, as state and county laws prohibit some of the feng shui design.

Besides the discordant flow disrupting her serenity, Shannon's neighbor Pate Hamlin will do anything to get her to sell her house to him as cheaply as possible. He arranges all sorts of dangerous mishaps to upset Shannon's mental state and put the project behind schedule. When the site foreman, Erin's half-brother Taylor Duncan dies in what the local police claims is an unfortunate accident, Erin investigates even as a rival attempts to lure Steve to join her professionally and personally.

The latest Domestic Bliss mystery (see KILLED BY CLUTTER and DEATH BY INFERIOR DESIGN) is an enjoyable cozy as Erin believes her half-brother was a murder victim, but has doubts that Pate killed him. Thus her inquiry after the police quickly sweep the case under the rug considers that Taylor has been a guest of the county. With decorator tips on the side, Leslie Caine provides her fans with an entertaining cleverly designed amateur sleuth.

Lois Greiman
9780440243625 $6.99

After almost being killed by two different men, Los Angeles psychologist Dr. Christina McMullan is obsessed with safety; she always sets her alarm system and is extremely wary of strangers especially males. When she meets Will Swanson at a gas station, they talk while he cleans her windshield. He explains he is a carpenter and she says she needs a new garage before she drives away. When he appears at her home, he explains her dimwitted secretary gave him her address; although not frightened, Christina still talks with Will outside not allowing him into her house.

Suddenly, a shot rings out and Will falls to the ground dead. Christina's boyfriend LAPD Detective Rivera arrives at the homicide scene in an official capacity. During his investigation he learns that Will is an alias and that Texas law enforcement officials believe he was a hit man. Christina does not have a clue as to who or why someone wants to kill her, but when her brother Pete comes to town, she thinks that the culprit might have been after her sibling, who looks somewhat like Will did. From no suspects there is instantly a myriad of individuals with motives as Pete owes $20,000 in gambling debts to those who accept remittance one cold way or another.

The dynamo heroine leaps from or is pushed into one dangerous incident after another, but she keeps her cools so she can react to avoid physical injury or death. The romantic interludes between the cop and the shrink are scorching even though they do nothing more than kiss, talk or leer. However, the key to this terrific often amusing whodunit is that the readers are unsure who the killer is and the motive though it bears repeating that the heroine's Peter Pan complex brother seems the most likely cause.

Voice of Crow
Jeri Smith-Ready
Luna (Harlequin)
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373802906 $14.95

The people of the Spirits have the magic and wisdom of their Spirit guider that forms the person's Aspect. Rhia has recently reconciled herself to the Aspect Crow, the harbinger of death. When the Descendents, the ancestors of the Spirit people who broke away from the primitive villagers to build great cities that became the Ilion Empire, invaded Asermos, many people from the village of Kalindos fought to defend their way of life.

They won, but in retaliation, the Ilion army wiped out Kalindos, killing the elders, and capturing many people to take back with them to their capital Leukos. Merek and Rhia marry and she is pregnant to both their euphoria. Several people dream of Raven bestowing her Aspect to move through space or time. This has never happened before so many believe that this Aspect is to save the people from extinction. The child will be the offspring of a crow, but Rhia is elated to have given birth to a healthy boy. When tragedy strikes, although knowing she might die, Rhia accompanied by warriors head to Leukos to regain what was stolen.

Readers will thoroughly enjoy this fabulous fantasy that is so creatively vivid, the audience will lose track of time and space. The people of the Spirit accept the will of the Aspect as their guides in their everyday lives; those who reject the Aspect are considered incomplete. Rhia plays a critical role, but unlike the VOICE OF CROW, the exciting story line is told from the perspectives of several other people as well; adding a freshness and insight to a strong epic.

Heart of Stone
C.E. Murphy
9780373802920 $14.95

Manhattan attorney Margrit Knight is jogging in Central Park when she stumbles onto a dying woman. Nearby is a male who is not quite a man and Margrit's first reaction is he is the murderer. He says he is Alban, a gargoyle and insists he did not kill the female and pleads with Margrit to help find who did. Although her legal training sets off alarms to beware and not trust him, her instincts tell her to help him.

As they begin to work together to uncover the identity of the killer who he fears is one of his race, he explains he is a gargoyle, a species that have lived on the edge of human civilizations for millennium. However, as they dig deeper, Margrit finds herself feeling like Alice falling through the rabbit's hole as the paranormal proves genuine and every step she takes could prove her last.

HEART OF STONE is a fabulous romantic fantasy whodunit starring an incredible heroine who overwhelms the rest of the cast including her rock hard companion. The story line is fast-paced but totally driven by the once skeptical now believing Margrit who insists she is a lawyer not a paranormal sleuth or a knight rescuing the gargoyle in distress, but as she falls in love she wonders if a man of stone can have a heart (other parts she assumes are naturally hardened).

Why Mermaids Sing
C.S. Harris
Obsidian (Berkley)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451222268 $23.95 1-800-847-5515

In 1811 Westminster chief magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy looks at the mutilated body of Lord Dominic Stanton, son of a close associate of the Regent, left for all to see near the Old Palace yard. Three months ago a banker's son the corpse of Barclay Carmichael was found battered and posed in St. James Park. Believing they lack the skills needed to deal with a diabolical killer, Henry asks Viscount Sebastian St. Cyr, known for his detection proficiency, to investigate.

St. Cyr considers accepting the case though he is tired of death and assumes murder begets murder; besides he has an inquiry going on to find his mother on the continent. As more ritual like homicides follow he links the killer to a John Donne poem even as he struggles with the lack of cooperation from the victims' families; in fact the fathers are outright hostile as if they do not want the truth revealed. Unknown adversaries also want St. Cyr and his team stopped.

The third S. Cyr Regency mystery (see WHAT ANGELS FEAR and When Gods Die) is a terrific serial killer whodunit starring a fabulous detection expert. The fast-paced story line is driven by the reactions of the victims' families as each prefers to have the hero end his inquiry. Historical mystery readers will appreciate this strong tale.

Murder by the Slice
Livia J. Washburn
9780451222503 $6.99

In Weatherford, Texas, four members of the Retired Teachers Association sell baked cakes as a scholarship fund raiser. When Loving Elementary School Parent-Teacher organization member Marie Tyler comes by their table, she asks the quartet to help her with the carnival that she is chairing. As Phyllis Newsom is about to say sorry, but too busy, Dolly Williamson says yes that they will help with the food.

The ladies agree to have a food contest but all entries must be healthy. However, as the RTO members meet the PTO leader dictatorial Shannon Dunstan, each wants to say no as the woman is outrageous, nasty, and demanding; Phyllis believes that's her better qualities. Still they honor their commitment, but at the gala, someone kills Shannon using a knife that Phyllis believes is one she used on her cake. Besides her fingerprints, telltale frosting is on Shannon's body. Knowing that she is now the prime suspect, Phyllis begins her own inquiry; only it seems to her that the entire state of Texas loathed the late nasty martinet and a large segment had the opportunity to kill her but who was willing to actually stab her while facing her remains a mystery.

MURDER BY THE SLICE is A PEACH OF A MURDER due to the retired chick lit asides by the heroine whether she sells cake at Wal-Mart or Loving Elementary or during her investigation. The whodunit is fun and the recipes mouthwatering. Putting aside the assumption that the intelligent retired JHS history teacher would hire an expert investigator, it is her bumbling amateur sleuth antics that cook up a tasty culinary mystery.

Phoenix Unrisen
Kathleen Nance
Love Spell
9780505527035 $7.99

New Orleans News Eyes (NONE) reporter Natalie Severin believes she is the real Kolchak of TV fame as she investigates the unbelievable, stories that everyone assumes are fantasies. Thus, nothing shocks the intrepid journalist. That is until she meets veterinarian Ram Montgomery in the bayou.

He seems like a modern day six million dollar man (inflation might mean sixty million). She saw him defeat three armed thugs with his incredible flash-like speed alone; his touch heals injuries and wounds that should need time, but he does it in nanoseconds. However, his greatest strength is ability to make her feel hot and melted with just a look. They join forces trying to stop lethal poachers from illegally importing exotic animals into Louisiana. Neither is prepared for the cult they uncover whose dynamic leader wants to sacrifice Natalie on their altar instead of an illegally snuck into the country animal.

Paranormal romantic thriller fans will enjoy this Bayou tale as Natalie is second to NONE when it comes to courage and risk taking while readers will be fascinated by Ram, whose superpowers are beyond human range. Especially enticing is his "super-vision that heats Nat with a look. Still even with their teaming, the odds are with the bad guys. PHOENIX UNRISEN is an entertaining over the top one sitting tale as Kathleen Nance hooks her fans with this awesome character driven thriller.

Riding the Thunder
Deborah MacGillivray
Love Spell
9780505526922 $6.99

After his brother's successful INVASION OF FALGANNON ISLE, Jago Merschon heads to Kentucky to perform his part of avenging their father. His Montgomerie target is Asha Montgomerie, who owns a Kentucky motel. This makes it easy for Jago to go incognito as a developer temporarily renting one of her rooms.

Asha is attracted to the outsider, but also fears him although she is not sure why. When she tells him about the ghosts that haunt her place, he scoffs at her. However, Jago is not ridiculing her when a local intimidating thug decides Asha will be his girl whether she wants to or not; instead he turns jealous and protective while the paranormal bully him to keep their hostess safe.

Deborah MacGillivray is two for two with her Mershan brothers' avenger romances. RIDING THE THUNDER is a delightful fast-paced paranormal romantic suspense that hooks the audience once Jago arrives undercover in Kentucky. A second tale of love between the ghostly couple Tommy and Laura augments a fine contemporary with early 1960s nostalgia starting with Ray Peterson's "Tell Laura I Love Her" and proving over four decades later that their love will never die. However, this M&M thriller belongs to the feuding Montgomerie-Merschon couple falling in love.

Calamity Jayne Heads West
Kathleen Bacus
Love Spell
9780505527332 $6.99

Tressa "Calamity" Jayne's crazy grandma is taking the family with her so that they can attend her wedding to the grandfather of Jayne's maybe boyfriend Rick. They are heading to Flagstaff, Arizona. On the trek, Jayne knows she needs to find the right present for her beloved wacko relative and thinks she has succeeded with "Kookamunga" an ugly fertility figurine that reminds her of granny.

However, someone else wants Kookamunga and is trying to steal it. Jayne will do anything to insure granny gets what she deserves so no thief will get away with Kookamunga as far as she is concerned. At the same time, Jayne and her horde of invading relatives including her pain in the butt sarcastic preadolescent nephew begin a treasure hunt while Rick is hot and cold in his affections towards her.

The latest lighthearted Calamity Jayne caper is an amusing thriller as the heroine is overdosing with to too much family. The treasure hunt is fun to follow as Jayne and ilk seem to land in one problem after another. Although her nephew comes across as a brat irritating readers as much as Jayne, fans of the series will enjoy her latest adventures as she and the clan invade the Grand Canyon State.

Blood is the New Black
Valerie Stivers
Three Rivers (Crown)
1745 Broadway, #B1, New York, NY 10019-4305
9780307352132 $13.95 1-800-726-0600

In Manhattan Kate McAlliston obtains a summer intern position at Tasty, the most popular young women's magazine in the country. However, Kate soon learns the ropes or at lest the bites at her new job as blood-spattered is the in-crowd's favorite design.

Her boss, editor-in-chief Lillian Hall assigns Kate to assist in organizing the Tasty Girl modeling contest. As she and others work on selecting who the surviving finalists will be, someone is dining on people leaving behind human bodies and even a canine, void of blood. Although not in her job description and fearing her boss who needs dental work might be the gourmand, Kate investigates who is feasting on Tasty folks.

This amusing chick lit tale satirizes the fashion industry as being filled with "bloodthirsty" taste. The breezy story line never slows down once Kate begins working at Tasty. The heroine and fans will wonder whether a serial killing vampire is making a fashion statement and how to describe her job on her resume as an intern to a maybe undead. BLOOD IS THE NEW BLACK is a jocular romp that will have readers laughing at the antics at Tasty where standard operating procedure is no garlic is allowed on the premises.

Last Night I Dreamed of Peace
Thuy Tram
Harmony (Crown)
9780307347374 $19.95

In 1968 in a Viet Nam twenty-four years old Dr. Dang Thuy Tram joined the Viet Cong as a physician at a battlefield hospital. In 1970 American soldiers shot and killed her. In those two years that she served as a battlefield doctor, she kept a diary. Military Intelligence officer Fred Whitehurst found the tattered hand sewn journal in 1970; preserved it (against orders); and eventually in 2005 presented it to Dr. Tram's dairy to her family.

The diary is a deep look at the destructive impact of the Viet Nam war on the country and its people from the perspective of a young medical volunteer who was zealous towards healing her patients. Dr. Dang Thuy Tram provides insight into the horrors of war as she struggles with saving lives and not having great success. Although difficult to read at times as this is a journal filled with short concise commentary (remember this was not intended to be published as a book three decades later), LAST NIGHT I DREAMED OF PEACE is a powerful indictment of those who rush others to war from a safe distance as the innocent suffer for years afterward.

Dexter in the Dark
Jeff Lindsay
Doubleday & Company
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385518338 $23.95 1-800-726-0600

Miami crime scene investigative cop Dexter Morgan uses his policing skills to solve cases and to hide the evidence of his being a serial killer who heeds his Dark Passenger voice inside him to kill someone although he limits his victims to those he deems evil. His current official assignment is to investigate the gruesome crime scene of a double homicide at the University of Miami. The two female students were burned and beheaded in what seems like a ritual killing.

However, Dexter, who is the best CSI in MPD, seems to fumble the inquiry. He knows why he struggles; his Dark Passenger recognized something in the vicious murders that sent the creature into some hiding hell hole from even Dexter. The Dark Passenger is actually the brains behind Dexter's incredible rate of solving cases. With only donut power to sustain him, Dexter must solve the ritual coed murders and try to figure out just what is the Dark Passenger as Dexter feels in the dark on the case and a bit alone without his mental companion.

The third Dexter Morgan entry is much different in tone than his previous appearances in DARKLY DEVOTED DEXTER and DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER; as the serial killing CSI is more pensive since he is alone. His fascinating thought processes are his own as he reflects on the murders, his own self worth, and his vanished "partner" as opposed to the witty schizoid-like dialogue with his "partner". This switch, still graveyard humorous, keeps the Dexter tales fresh as the hero works a case while feeling alone without his Dark Passenger providing him with ghoulish insights into life and death.

Where Angels Go
Debbie Macomber
Mira Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778325154 $16.95

Although he knows they are the worst rule breakers in heaven and expects them to one day cause him to have heart failure, Archangel Gabriel realizes that the angels Shirley, Goodness and Mercy somehow get heavenly results. So he reluctantly sends the trio back to earth for Christmas to answer human prayers for divine intervention, but also sternly warns them to abide by the heavenly rulebook.

Mercy is tasked with helping an elderly man Harry find some peace before he dies as he fears leaving his beloved wife behind. Goodness is to assist Beth who is afraid of taking a second chance at love ever since her forever marriage ended rather quickly. Finally Shirley is to grant a wish to a little boy who just wants to keep Rusty the dog, but his family cannot afford another mouth to feed.

When it comes to Shirley, Goodness and Mercy readers know that WHERE ANGELS GO, trouble follows. As always with this series (see A GIFT TO LAST), Debbie Macomber provides a lighthearted entertaining angelic romp. Readers will appreciate the three heavenly visitors as they break the rules, cause havoc, and bring good cheer to those in need including the audience.

Last Known Victim
Erica Spindler
9780778324614 $24.95

The Doomsday predictions accompanying Katrina prove true as New Orleans Police Captain Patti O'Shay surveys the city that has ninety percent of its buildings including police headquarters flooded. NOPD worked out of Harrah's Casino and police headquarters is located in the Royal Senesta, but rescue efforts are hampered and Patty worries about her missing in action spouse Sammy until she found him dead, shot in the back twice.

Two years later, the city still recovers from the aftermath of the hurricane and the failure of the government at all levels. Meanwhile during the rescue efforts, a massive refrigerator had been found to contain six female right hands inside; the media calls the culprit "The Handyman." Now a victim has been found buried in City Park; her right hand was severed, but amongst her remains is Sammy's badge. Still grieving her loss and angry at government at all levels, Patti needs to know the truth although it means breaking all the rules that she has lived her life by; she expects a confrontation in which she will either bring him down or become his LAST KNOW VICTIM; as the Handyman looks forward to adding her right hand to his grisly collection.

This suspense thriller hooks the audience from the onset with its deep dark look at New Orleans after Katrina has turned the city into a big bowl of water. The cat and mouse game picks up two years later as Patty breaks procedures while knowing her adversary stalks her; the better man (she hopes woman) left standing in a KILLER TAKES ALL showdown. Police procedural and suspense thriller fans will fully appreciate this enjoyable action-packed (rightfully so no romance) thriller.

Double Vision
Fiona Brand
9780778325468 $6.99

Over two decades ago in a tragic car accident that killed her mother, Rina Morell lost her eyesight. However, over the twenty-two years of blindness her doctors insist there is no physical cause to her loss of sight.

Following a recent accident in her home, Rina's vision partially returns. However, similar incidents occur making her fearful of her spouse Alex Lopez. She is unaware that Alex was involved in the car accident and has reasons to keep an eye on her when he married her. Fearing that her husband plans to kill her, Rina turns to CIA agent JT Wyatt, who has reasons to watch Alex that has to do with the latter's family inheritance and business although he prefers watching Rina.

This is an entertaining romantic suspense thriller with the emphasis more on the woman in peril. The story line is action-packed from the onset as Rina begins to wonder whether her husband wants to harm her and so as her vision returns she begins to uncover just whom she married. Readers will appreciate this tense tale as the heroine begins to focus on a killer while looking forward to more of the same brand suspense.

Behind Closed Doors
Tara Taylor Quinn
9780778323952 $6.99

In Tucson, Arizona an intruder with a gun invades the home of African-American history professor Harry Kendall and his white wife botanist Laura Clark. He beats up Harry before tying him up and raping Laura. Already irate, Harry becomes outraged at the police's failure to make any progress on the case as he knows they are looking at a random act while the culprit made it clear it was racially motivated.

Fuming he decides to investigate. As he obsessively follows clues to the white supremacist serendipitously politically connected Ivory Nation, he places himself and his spouse in danger from an amoral racist (and his allies) who has no compunctions in killing him and raping a fearful Laura again at a time she is pregnant carrying who knows who's child.

The keys to this powerful thriller are the reactions of the lead couple to the assault and rape, and the underlying concept that even BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, people are not necessarily safe from those who use force and fear especially to further a "sanctioned" cause. The action-packed story line focuses on the aftermath impact on the psyche of mostly an angry Harry, who seeks vengeance even legal reparations. However to a lesser degree fans see how Laura reacts as she is very frightened (almost agoraphobic) but tries to move on while worrying about the DNA of the fetus she carries; and somewhat on Bobby Donahue of Ivory Nation, who escaped justice IN PLAIN SIGHT as he shows a human side with his tenderness towards his infant son, who is his reason for doing what he does. This character driven thriller will hook the audience from the onset until the final new beginning.

Mending Fences
Sherryl Woods
9780778324577 $6.99

For over ten years neighbors Marcie Carter and Emily Dobbs have been best friends helping each other raise their two offspring each. Whereas Marcie is married to Ken, Emily is a single mom, but marital status has not interfered with their friendship.

However, both moms are shocked when Marcie's son Evan, a University of Miami football star with an NFL future, is accused of date rape by Lauren Brown. Emily Dobbs refuses to believe it as she knows Evan and his sister Caitlyn quite well from them playing with her kids Josh and Dani as much as from babysitting and family gatherings. However, as Ken tries to prove his son's innocence regardless of the cost to others even his wife and daughter, Emily notices Dani is acting strange at a time when Police Detective Grady Rodriguez has a hunch that the teen can shed a light on the dark side of Evan.

MENDING FENCES is a tense family drama starring a fully developed cast. The story line is driven by the characters. Each of the Carters and Dobbs react differently to the news of Evan's arrest; however, the fascination is how the attitudes of the two moms change as the truth is revealed while Ken would sacrifice his daughter for his son. Although a romantic subplot between Grady and Emily seems unnecessary except to please romance readers, Sherryl Woods provides a strong look at the impact of a trauma on the friendships between two next door families.

The Seance
Heather Graham
9780778324652 $7.99

Everyone attending Christina Hardy's housewarming party is upset with word that the notorious "Interstate-Killer" has returned as a recent homicide parallels that of this serial killer, whose murderous spree was fifteen years ago. To return to the party mood, Christina brings out an Ouija board. However, instead of harmless fun, the board enables the former lead detective on the Interstate killer investigation, the late Beau Kidd to contact Christina.

He insists he was innocent although he became the prime suspect and that the real killer is back. Beau wants this murderer caught so his name is cleared and in turn he can go on to his deserved rest. Christina tells her childhood friend former cop turned true crime writer Jed Braden that the ghost of Beau visited her. Jed skeptically scoffs at her until he checks the accuracy of her information she provided him with the police even as more people are murdered. Hired by Kidd's sister to prove her late sibling never committed the murders, Jed knows he needs to use Christina's link to the deceased sleuth while also keeping the woman he loves safe.

Heather Graham's latest paranormal romantic suspense (see GHOST WALK and BEYOND THE GRAVE) is an entertaining serial killer ghost story. The three prime characters are fully developed, but the love subplot between the skeptic and the believer interferes with the tense inquiries except when Kidd interrupts their interludes with his demands. Fans will appreciate this fine romantic suspense ghost investigation into the return of a serial killer; perhaps from the grave as the evidence still points towards Kidd.

Jasmine Cresswell
9780778324775 $6.99

Being a divorce lawyer Liam Raven is skeptical when it comes to relationships. However, his affluent father's bigamy stuns even cynical Liam who had believed he heard everything from couples. Apparently his dad Ron had a household here in Wyoming and one in Atlanta for twenty-five years with kids in both cities. While his families, the Ravens and the Fairfaxes, are in the media fish bowl, Ron is MISSING.

Liam is elated to have a client Chloe Hamilton to distract him from his family issues as he has no idea how to help his distraught mom or his sister although the latter seems to have found a distraction in of all people a Fairfax. Chloe expects to be charged with first degree murder of her spouse, Denver Mayor Jason Hamilton. However, the case ties back to his family as the victim was a business crony of Ron's partner and apparent the other brother-in-law Paul Fairfax. As Liam fights his attraction to his client, he obsesses with proving her innocence by seeking the real culprit.

Although lawyers acting like investigators especially on a capital case seem a stretch, readers will enjoy the exciting romantic suspense thriller SUSPECT, the second Ravens and Fairfaxes tale. The story line is action-packed and fast-paced as Liam and Chloe fall in love while he does field work to uncover the killer's identity. As these type of cases are emotionally draining on lawyers without falling in love and take up enormous amounts of time (except in Texas), romantic suspense fans will appreciate the strong tale due to the fine lead characters, but also know his actions seem implausible. Still this is a fun thriller and PAYBACK is coming.

Midnight Clear
Jerry B. Jenkins and Dallas Jenkins
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414316598 $9.99 1-800-323-9400

It is the day before Christmas Eve and five people do not feel that tomorrow will be any different than any other day; except maybe worse. Lefty has lost his apartment, his job and visitation rights to his children because of his habitual drinking. Evie is estranged from her children and feels there is nothing to live for; she plans to commit later that night. Mary and her son Jacob feel the loss of her institutionalized husband/his father Rick due to brain damage incurred when a DUI rammed into his car.

Mitch, a youth pastor at the church Mary used to attend before the accident, was in the vehicle when the drunk crashed into then. He is unable to visit Rick because he cannot cope with seeing his best friend with the mind of an infant. Suffering his own crisis of faith, Mitch considers quitting as the youth pastor. Kirk, the owner of a self-service gas station and convenience store, lives in a grey world.. These five people cross paths in a random way, but are changed by accepting the gift of grace.

This is a beautiful Christmas story filed with love, hope, redemption and a chance to turn one's life around by accepting the gift of grace especially when things seem darkest and it feels as if God abandoned you. Each of the five prime players represents a cross section of the population yet everyone is fully developed so that the audience understands their depression that comes with their tribulations. Jerry B. Jenkins and Dallas Jenkins have created a delightful charmer that empathizing readers will appreciate as life is worth living.

Falling for You Again
Catherine Palmer and Gary Chapman
9781414311678 $13.99

In Deepwater Cove, Charlie and Esther Moore celebrate fifty years of a strong marriage. The couple love and as important respect one another. In fact many townsfolk see their relationship as the model for couples to emulate.

However, when Esther suffers an accident, the ideal relationship begins to feel strain as Charlie resents the pressure put on him to care for his beloved wife while Esther hates his pandering. A worse blow to their marriage is finding a very personal sketch of Esther engraved with a loving message that did not come from Charlie. In the fall of their lives, is the five decades old marriage between the Charlie and Esther heading to divorce court?

The fall of the Four Seasons of Marriage series (see IT HAPPENS EVERY SPRING and SUMMER BREEZE) is an enjoyable look at a couple whose marriage has seemed perfect to outsiders for five decades, but in their golden years has issues for all to see. The story line continues to use fiction to provide readers on ways to maintain a strong relationship regardless of how much time together has past. Catherine Palmer and Gary Chapman continue to provide a deep look at couples who have overcome trials and tribulation by FALLING FOR YOU AGAIN and again and again.

After the Leaves Fall
Nicole Baart
9781414316222 $12.99

When Julia Bakker was nine years old, her mom left her and her dad; no big deal as she had deserted them mentally long before she finally packed her bags. When she was fifteen, her father died after a long illness slowly debilitated him. Julia is left with her grandmother on the family farm. A year later Julia falls in love with Thomas, but he has a girlfriend at college. Soon after that Julia leaves for college, but though she plans to reinvent herself, she makes bad decisions that force her to return home where her loving grandma offers hope.

AFTER THE LEAVES FALL is a fascinating spiritual coming of age tale. Julia is a deep character who learns life's lessons the hard way as she ran off to college to escape her unhappiness only to go full circle as she learns how supportive and loving her grandma is. Although her emotional change appears abrupt and intended more for a sequel than a climax, young adult fans will appreciate this deep teen character study.

The Ghost
Robert Harris
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416551812 $26.00 1-800-223-2336

Rhinehart Inc has paid former British Prime Minister Adam Lang a fortune to write his memoirs especially focusing on his war against terrorism; the project comes to a screeching halt when the ghostwriter Michael McAra dies in an apparent suicide. To bring the book back on schedule, they hire a new ghostwriter who agrees to do the job in four weeks for a sizable fee.

He travels from London to the Rhinehart Estate on Martha's Vineyard to write the autobiography. While in residence, he notices a lot of undercurrents including Lang's wife Ruth behaving very antagonistic towards her spouse's beautiful assistant. The book in its present form is a disaster, but the ghostwriter believes he can extract some spice out of the dry passages to insure a bestseller. While there a sordid beak involving Lang who supposedly ordered the SAS to kidnap suspected terrorists in Pakistan to rendition them to the CIA for torture. Since the new British government refuses to investigate, the International Criminal Court of the Hague starts it own inquiries. Although he has zero interest in politics, the Ghostwriter conducts an investigation only to find secrets that could lead to his death if he is lucky or worse if he is rendition.

This is an enthralling political thriller that is totally frightening because Robert Harris makes his basic premise believable. There are many shocks to readers especially those who refuse to believe our side, the so called good guys, would resort to some of the tools of the trade. Almost as stunning is the dysfunctional inner circle that surrounds the former PM as everyone ahs an agenda to insure they look good in the autobiography. The Ghostwriter is a fascinating character as he knows no once is innocent, but who is the great puppeteer manipulating everyone even him. Mr. Harris, author of FATHERLAND, has written a chilling, plausible and enthralling tale.

Who is Conrad Hirst?
Kevin Wignall
Simon & Schuster
9781416540724 $14.00

Who is Conrad Hirst? He is a hitman who has killed scores of people for German crime boss Julius Eberhardt. Now at thirty-two after killing old Klemperer he realizes he doesn't want to kill anymore. He knows only four people who knows who he is and what he has done; his handler Frank Dillon, Eberhardt, arms dealer Freddie Fischer and forger Fabio Gaddi. He plans to kill them all and walk away into the sunset.

As Frank is dying, he tells his killer Conrad that all these years together he lied to him. He isn't sure what that means until he goes to see Eberhardt and sees he isn't the man who recruited him almost a decade ago. He realizes Frank was serving two masters but he doesn't know who the second master was. Freddie and Fabio have disappeared and are perhaps dead, two women have taken an unusual interest in him and spooks are spying on him. Conrad believe if he can't walk away by convincing whoever is really in charge he is no threat, he will go down in a blaze of glory.

Conrad was a damaged young man when he was recruited; he has healed and he finally knows it. Readers will feel sorry for him even though he never asked questions about who he was killing and why or that he believed he worked for a crime boss. The question of who Conrad's handlers really are will keep readers turning the pages of this mesmerizing crime thriller. The antagonist comes across like a little boy waking up from a terrible nightmare.

The Night Climbers
Ivo Stourton
Simon & Schuster Spotlight Entertainment
9781416948698 $24.00

Eighteen years old Tudor College of Cambridge University freshman James Walker is a bit awed at being at the prestigious school, but that will not preclude his desire to party with pretty coeds. Still he fears he will be left on the outside unless he befriends the in-crowd whoever they are.

James meets Michael Findlay and he leads the newcomer to a bunch of thrill-seekers who welcome him to join their group, the Tudor Night Climbers. Although he has some doubts about climbing buildings and other edifices at night he joins them. He quickly is attracted to Jessica Katz, but she seems to desire the dynamic leader Francis. When Francis' father cuts off his funding (and consequently the group), they follow up on an idea by one of them, Lisa, to continue to finance their climbing way of life Emboldened by Francis; they remain naive that fourteen years later they will still be paying the price.

THE NIGHT CLIMBERS is a fascinating complex (perhaps too complicated with its myriad of subplots) group character study. The building climbing apparently is based on a 1960s fad (although this reviewer does not know of any Queens College climbers). Each of the key characters are fully developed and ultimately tied together by the scheme more than by the climbing or the attraction. Ivo Stourton provides an appealing glimpse at the tentative bonds of friendship.

Josh Conviser
Del Rey
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345485038 $13.95 1-800-726-0600

Five years has past since CIA agents Ryan Laing and Sarah Peters destroyed the global manipulating ECHELON. Ryan and Sarah moved on separately with both leaving the agency after the ECHELON affair; he climbs mountains on all seven continents and she seeks to be more his equal with nanotechnological enhancements.

However, neither is aware that ECHELON survived their destruction of it by metamorphosing into EMPYRE. Newville Phoenix turns Sarah into a plague carrier, who devastates the much of the staff of EMPYRE and the CIA. As she continues her path of destruction, EMPYRE Chief Dillon sends CIA agent Frank Savakis after her. Frank captures Ryan and tortures him in order to force him to reveal the whereabouts of Sarah, who he shares a link with. Ryan escapes, but hunts Sarah who he fears turned into a murderous traitor that he must kill before she spreads her plague elsewhere.

If there are flaws in the story line (like some of the technology seems a too convenient stretch), no one will care while reading it except for nitpicking critics like moi. The story line makes DC's Flash look like the Turtle as the action never decelerates for a nanosecond. However, as with the previous tale ECHELON it is the Big Brother tone of the plot that lingers with readers long after finishing this faster than the speed of light science fiction conspiracy thriller.

The Snow Empress
Laura Joh Rowland
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312365424 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

In 1699 in Edo, Masahiro, the son of chamberlain Sano Ichiro and his wife Reiko, vanishes without a trace. At about the same time that his parents are aware of his abduction, Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi summons Sano to the palace. There Sano's enemy Lord Matsudaira accuses him of bombing his villa. Sano believes the bombing is a distraction ploy as his odious foe probably kidnapped his child.

Tokugawa sends Sano to the faraway island of Ezogashima, where he is to help Lord Matsumae battle barbarians. Meanwhile Matsudaira confesses that Sano's son has been taken to Ezogashima also. Sano and Reiko accompanied by a small retinue rush to Ezogashima, but meet no cooperation from anyone and almost lose their heads as grieving Lord Matsumae trusts no one since his mistress was murdered; meanwhile his wife mourns the homicide of their daughter. Reiko investigates the murders allegedly committed by the SNOW EMPRESS and the whereabouts of her son while Sano struggles to get through to the apparently insane Matsumae.

Ichiro's twelfth historical mystery is an exciting thriller that once again brings to life late seventeenth century Japan. The story line is fast-paced as Sano tries to stay clam in light of his son's kidnapping and the insanity of the Lord he is supposed to help; he would like to harm Matsudaira for the abduction and remove Matsumae from office. However, his volatile wife does not care one iota about political correctness especially when Masahiro is involved. Although placing the lad on the same island that the Shogun sends the hero to makes it easier on the lead couple to work together, fans of the series will enjoy their latest escapades as the Chamberlain and his wife try to rescue their offspring and struggle with obeying their order to help the insane Lord.

Only You
Francis Ray
St. Martin's
9780312948740 $6.99

In San Francisco her sister-in-law Sabra Raineau-Grayson (see IRRESISTIBLE YOU) persuades visiting Sierra Grayson to participate in a celebrity auction. Businessman Blade Navarone wins her with the highest bid as he makes it clear no one will outbid him. They have a terrific time together and she persuades him into naming her as exclusive broker for Navarone Properties.

However, Sierra must leave her Santa Fe, New Mexico home for Texas, which she has mixed feelings over; she feels good that she will escape from the over-protectiveness of her family, but also bad as she leaves behind her loving family. Already attracted when they met in California, in Texas she falls in love with Blade and believes he reciprocates, but he has the Great Wall around his heart. As Sierra is ready to give it up as a losing cause, her mother Ruth, matchmaker extraordinaire as her sons know, decides she needs to intercede (or as her children insist interfere).

Mama Grayson continues her intruding matchmaking as she knows her only daughter (and youngest offspring) Sierra has met her perfect match, but needs a bit of help because Blade is paranoid when it comes to relationships. Fans will enjoy her antics while feeling the heat between the lead couple who seem to have no choice except to mix business and pleasure as love bounds to one another. The Grayson saga is a fun series in which each offspring's tale of love differing with mama being the constant (see DREAMING OF YOU and YOU AND NO OTHER).

High Season
Jon Loomis
St. Martin's
9780312367695 $23.95

Melinda Merkin visits the basement office of the Provincetown, Massachusetts police department where detective Frank Coffin works. She reports that her renowned anti gay rights husband, Reverend Ron Merkin, has vanished. She also demands that Frank conceal the fact that her spouse is a transvestite who loves wearing female garb. However, not long afterward, Ron's corpse is found on the Cape Cod beach wearing a floral muumuu and strangled by a raspberry-colored scarf.

Frank suffers palpitations as he left Baltimore for his hometown to get away from panic attacks whenever he worked a homicide, but must find the way to lead the investigation or lose his position into the first murder here in six years. As he struggles to keep his anxieties under control and not faint at the crime scene, a second homicide, that of Sonny Duarte, occurs and others follow.

HIGH SEASON is the opening act of a cape Cod police procedural starring an interesting lead detective with mental traumas and family issues that harm him at the office and at home. He is ably supported by a strong secondary cast that round out his personal and professional lives. The whodunit is fun to follow as the cops go undercover in drag, but fail to uncover the serial killer. Sub-genre readers will enjoy escaping to the dunes of the Cape escorted by frantic Frank Coffin although much of the story line is introducing the hero and his support.

One-Way Ticket
William G. Tapply
St. Martin's
9780312358297 $23.95

Twentyish Robert Lancaster calls attorney Brady Coyne from the New England Medical Center to inform him that his dad, the lawyer's law school roommate and fishing friend, was in the emergency room after three thugs beat him up as a warning to pay off his gambling debt within a week or else. Brady quickly learns the physical message was delivered by those in the pay of Boston mobster Paulie Russo, son of the North End crime kingpin Vincent. He also finds out that the victim owes nothing, but that Robert, being a chip off the old block, has run up the debt. Apparently like his dad, he has a horrific gambling addiction too.

Not long after Brady tries to mediate with the Russo mob on behalf of his father-son clients, three thugs escort him to meet Paulie. The gangster chip off the old block wants Robert to intercede with his grandmother, Superior Court Judge Adrienne Lancaster, on a Russo case. Brady informs the Judge, who plans to remove herself from the case until a CD arrives starring a taped up Robert with demands including Brady serve as the middle man. As Brady struggles to free the son of his friend, his girlfriend Eve, who left him to spend time with her dying father, calls.

Except for the Judge recusing herself from the Russo case, this is not a legal thriller, but instead an entertaining crime tale that is a weaker Brady Coyne entry even if the attorney and his pals discuss 2004 as a one time aberration with the Buckner Syndrome being the norm. The story line is a ONE-WAY TICKET as Brady struggles with keeping the Lancaster duo safe from the mob, who demands payment in terms of fixing their court case. Fans of the series will enjoy the entry, but know the Red Sox are not in top form in this tale.

Mine Till Midnight
Lisa Kleypas
St. Martin's
9780312949808 $7.99

In1848 London Amelia Hathaway is worried about her brother Leo who apparently vanished after visiting West End gambling hells and brothels. Desperate to find her sibling, she asks half-Gypsy club owner Cam Rohan to find him.

Meanwhile Amelia and her family visit their recently inherited house outside of London. Cam happens to be nearby visiting a neighbor of the Hathaways. He is attracted to Amelia so he begins seeing her in spite of some doubts about her eccentric relatives. He gently woos her while helping her and her sisters restore the neglected estate. Already in love with her persistent but kind suitor, Amelia knows he is the one for her as he helps her family as much as her.

Although a former suitor trying to "win" Amelia's hand for diabolical reasons adds some unneeded suspense to the terrific plot, fans of Lisa Kleypas' Wallflower saga will appreciate MINE TILL MIDNIGHT. In fact the hero Cam played a secondary role in THE DEVIL IN WINTER. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the relationship between the lead couple as the strong seemingly tough Cam is gentle with the innocent but courageous Amelia. This is an entertaining Victorian romance.

Jo Bannister
St. Martin's
9780312375669 $24.95

In Dimmock, England Brodie Farrell's business-Looking for Something? detective agency has proven a success. However, Brodie is taken aback when she learns she is pregnant; a delicate condition that panics her as this is not good for sleuthing. Adding to her chagrin is that just before she found out she was carrying, she and her partner Detective Superintendent Jack Deacon split.

However, Brodie's loyal best friend Daniel Hood tales a leave of absence from his math teaching position to run Looking for Something? while she deals with her pregnancy. However, Daniel becomes concerned about a baldy bruised preadolescent child, Noah Selkirk. The twelve-year-old boy claims his influential father attorney Adam Selkirk abuses him. Daniel tries to intervene with the family on behalf of Noah, but is threatened with a lawsuit for slander, a warning to stay away from their son or else face nasty accusations, and bodily harm.

There is a bit of a mystery in the latest treasure seeker tale (can't say thriller), but that serves as a minor subplot to what is a deep character study as the two prime plots are Daniel's mishandling the Selkirk family affair and Brodie's demeanor albeit her pregnancy and her men, past and present. Besides Daniel and Brodie being fully developed (and not just because she is pregnant), the secondary cast seems genuine; readers will believe that the wealthy Selkirk brood have major issues and so does Brodie especially with Jack who seems to have bounced into another woman's arms. Readers will appreciate this comic-tragic relationship drama.

The Heir
Barbara Taylor Bradford
St. Martin's
9780312354626 $25.95

In 1918 England Edward Deravenel successfully runs the family business empire with the help of competent loyal assistants. With the pandemic influenza, however Ned worries about the health of his heir, five years old "Young" Edward, and his spare two years old Richard; but also loves his other offspring including out of wedlock Grace Rose. Although he loves his wife Elizabeth, he has issues with her hurtful speech and feels more comfortable with his mistress Jane Shaw. His youngest brother Richard is very loyal while their odious middle brother George is ambitious and jealous. Ned accepts some of George's antics because his mother has asked him too.

Ned sends George to negotiate with Ian MacDougall over buying the Scottish distillery at the same time that dedicated assistant Will asks Amos to investigate George as rumors of womanizing, drug abuse and gambling debts abound. Will and manager Alfredo tell Ned what Amos learns. Ned worries about dying so he begins to take care of those he cherishes. George's behavior with Ian makes it critical he fixes who inherits the business as the Scotsman complained about his wastrel brother. Ned pays off George's debts and tells him he owes him the money. George is angry and scared.

The above two paragraphs highlights Part One of a four part family saga similar to the author's Harte tales. Segments two and three take a deep look at what happens to the extended family. The last part leaps to the 1970s with some musing on the in between decades. All four segments are well written with strong characters dealing with family conflict and there is a clever interesting use of names that imply historical persona. Although the last segment feels like padding and wives die off making it easier for the lead protagonists to fix problems while two key mysteries are left unresolved, fans will enjoy Barbara Taylor Bradford's latest epic.

A Prayer for the Damned
Peter Tremayne
St. Martin's
9780312348335 $24.95

In 668 AD in the Five Kingdoms (ancient Ireland), Abbot Ultan is acting as the emissary for Bishop Segene, the Abbot of Ard Macha. He travels the country seeking to sell the concept that Segene would be lead abbot. Both men adhere to the strict laws of a sub-group of Rome State who believe the church holy cannot marry; they each believes it is their calling from God to do whatever it takes to insure others follow their religion as well including bribes, coercion and force.

Ultan and his retinue head to Cashel in the Kingdom of Muman where King Colgu's sibling Sister Fidelma is about to take the vows to make her marriage of a year and a day to Brother Eadulf permanent. The abbot arrives to voice his strong objection to two church officials marrying. Before he can make his displeasure known, someone murders Ultan. The wedding ceremony is postponed while the bride and groom investigate the homicide in which one f the kings of the Five Kingdoms is the prime suspect.

Readers who love Middle Ages whodunits will want to read A PRAYER FOR THE DAMNED (as well the previous Sister Fidelma tale) as this series is one of the best being written today. The freshness in Sister Fidelma's latest inquiry is her doubts as to whether she should be releases from her vows as a religeuse. The power struggle between Rome's edicts and the Irish church leaders are meticulously examined even as this serves as a key element to the exciting descriptive plot. Readers gain plenty of insight into seventh century religious and secular politics in Ireland yet the beauty of Peter Tremayne's skill is he does this while entertaining his fans.

Mari Jungstedt
St. Martin's
9780312363772 $23.95

On wintry Gotland Island, Sweden Police Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas leads the investigation into the homicide of alcoholic former news photographer Henry Dahlstrom. They uncover a tenuous link between Henry and missing fourteen year old Fanny Jansson. Before his murder Henry won a lot of money at the racetrack while Fanny cared for the horses at a local stable.

The police find Fanny's strangled corpse on a remote heath. They also discover poorly shot pictures of Fanny in explicit poses with a male stranger in Dahlstrom's darkroom. Knutas believes an American working at the stables committed the double murders, but the suspect is away on vacation. Stockholm based TV journalist Johan Berg is assigned to report on the two cases, which enables him to see his married lover Emma Winarve, whom he first met last summer (see UNSEEN).

The official investigation is cleverly designed to keep the audience attention on this strong Swedish police procedural. The cast is fully developed especially the contrasts between the superintendent who does not want to be there and the reporter who does (but not for the story). However, with a terrific whodunit filled with strong characterizations, the island in winter steals the show as readers will feel the bitter cold while the story line twists and turns in the wind.

No Rest for the Witches
MaryJanice Davidson, Lori Handeland, Cheyenne McCray, and Christine Warren
St. Martin's
9780312949211 $7.99

"The Majicka" by MaryJanice Davidson. Micah seeking the next Majicka has come to Cannon Falls, Minnesota where he meets Ireland and her roommates (a vampire, a fairy, a werewolf, and a zombie always under foot) at the Shea family farm.

"Voodoo Moon" by Lori Handeland. FBI agent Dana "I'm not Skully" Duran does not believe in magic yet the just the facts point to a serial killer practitioner. In Devil's Fork, she meets Sheriff Marcus Brody who asked Quantico to send him a Behavioral Analyst; however, the paranormal is not her expertise.

"Breath of Magic" by Cheyenne McCray. As the D'Anu witches and D'Danann warriors battle Darkwolf, Sydney and Conlan battle their feelings for one another.

"Any Witch Way She Can" by Christine Warren. Miranda is the unthinkable, a human in a family of paranormal. However, Randy casts a love spell personal ad answered by Miranda.

These are four enjoyable romantic fantasies with each tale unique. An added bonus is that Lori Handeland and Cheyenne McCray have provides tales within their respective mythos. NO REST FOR THE WITCHES is a fabulous anthology.

Confessions of a Werewolf Supermodel
Ronda Thompson
St. Martin's
9780312949259 8.99

Seven years ago on prom night Sherry suddenly sprouted hair all over her body for the first time. When she returned to normal she feared she killed her date Tom Dawson so she vanished and became supermodel Lou Kinipski. Over the years, Lou assumed prom night was a bad dream until a PMS bout led to another furry conversion. Now as her hair germinates during a photo shoot, Lou knows she is a werewolf; only her best friend Cindy knows the truth about her other essence.

Adding to her stress is a sudden horde of men interested in her. Photographer Stefan O'Connor tries to control his attraction as being unprofessional, but Lou senses his desire just like she wants him. NYPD Detective Terry Shay investigates the death of a woman who insisted she was Lou and private investigator Morgan Kane hired by Lou to find her parents is attracted to her. Now a stalker wants to destroy Lou.

Fangs and fur fly in this amusing chick lit werewolf tale. The story line is fast-paced with a strong cast, mostly Lou and her male "pack" of sniffers. However, it is the twists and turns that keep the audience involved in this fun one sitting read as the other life of a supermodel is revealed.

Lee Jackson
St. Martin's
9780312363444 $24.95

Under the guise of stopping terrorists at home, Homeland Security uses a humongous net to incarcerate citizens. Former English Professor Ben Trinity knows first hand the torture to force confessions as you disappear in the ooze beneath the judicial system with no rights. After losing everything and never charged with any crime, Homeland Security agents release Ben under a stipulation that he understands they will bring him again if they feel like it; they plan to monitor his activity with a fine tooth comb as they hope he leads them to capturing bigger fish.

Ben hitchhikes to Redemption, Montana hoping to not just start anew, but to be as far away from the use of force first HSD agents as he can be while also doing their bidding. However, he is unwelcome by the townsfolk even before they learn he is an HSD stooge as outsiders mean trouble to the close knit community. Ben realizes if he to escape the shackles of the shadow government of HSD, he needs to prove his innocence of what the agents claimed he did although he also knows his handlers will not allow him to investigate.

This futuristic cautionary tale stars an interesting victim of excess homeland torture under the guise of security. Ben is fascinating as his choices are limited leading to depression while the support cast add to the gloomy outlook as mobs accept strangers are terrorists and dealt with accordingly; and then there is the sexy deadly voice of handler Mrs. Clarice McGraff. Although the background used to affirm the future feels off kilter, thriller fans will appreciate the HSD style "recruitment" of Ben Trinity.

Body and Blood
Michael Schiefelbein
St. Martin's
9780312330194 $23.95

When they were sixteen years old seminary students Chris Sieb struggled to hide his attraction to Jack Canston. He succeeded as no one knew how much he wanted to give up his body to Jack instead of the Lord.

For the next twenty-five years Father Chris Sieb hides in the closet his gay feelings as he never acts on them. Currently Chris lives in Kansas City where he successfully runs the St. John's Diocesan Center. However, Father Jack Canston has come to see him. Both feel the incredible attraction that makes Chris wonder whether he needs to give up his priesthood as in his heart (and loins) he fails the Christ. Both are stunned by the recent suicide of Father Eddie Gerhardt, who killed himself over his guilt closeted homosexual feelings that made him believe he was not pure for the Christ. Now Chris and Jack must confront what Eddie refused to face, can a gay preferential individual be a good Christian priest especially of they adhere to the celibacy vow?

Leaving his vampires behind, Michael Schiefelbein provides a powerful character study that digs deep into human psyche with the conflict between personal needs and desires vs. religious beliefs. As the suicide of Father Gerhardt affirms these are not necessarily compatible. Chris and jack struggle with their sexual preference, which is a double sin as their celibacy vow is under assault and being gay in their minds makes it even more of a transgression. BODY AND BLOOD is a superb look into faith when the human desires are in conflict with the heavenly requirements.

Every Past Thing
Pamela Thompson
Unbridled Books
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195, Lakewood, CO 80214
9781932961393 $24.95 1-888-732-3822

In November 1899 artist Edwin Romanzo Elmer and his wife Mary Jane return to New York City ostensibly to start over, but in many ways to try to finally move past the death of their daughter Effie, who died almost a decade earlier. Whereas Edwin wants reconciliation with his affluent brother Samuel so that he can re-enter the upper crust and subsequently obtain a position with the National Academy of Design; Mary Jane secretly searches for her former lover Jimmy Roberts at an infamous Manhattan anarchist dive. He seeks to escape with his art into the future while she seeks to escape in her more exciting past. However, Edwin is distracted from his goal by his wife's frequent disappearances as he suspects she has a lover.

This is an interesting biographical fiction of the famous still life painter and his wife that rotates perspective so the audience comprehends her disenchantment and his fears. The story line takes place over five days in 1899, but clever use of flashbacks to Effie's death in 1890, the renowned Mourning Picture paying tribute to her death, and Mary Jane looking back to her time with the anarchists add time and depth to the tale. Although ironically the Mary Jane segue, especially early, can turn too artisty slowing the read, fans of late nineteenth century American bio-fiction will appreciate the spotlight on the painter and his spouse.

The Pirate's Daughter
Margaret Cezair-Thompson
9781932961409 $24.95

In 1946, Errol Flynn was sailing the Caribbean when a storm forced his boat to land on one of the smaller Jamaican islands. The former movie swashbuckling superstar enjoys his stop and begins throwing wild parties for his Hollywood guests with natives attending to provide extra activity.

The actor spends plenty time alone with young local girls like Ida. His tryst with Ida leads to her giving birth to May. Father and illegitimate daughter meet once, but that encounter accentuates May's feeling of not belonging; whereas her mother dreams of belonging to high society preferably in Southern California but Jamaica will do, May feels like an outsider who does not belong to the black or white societies.

This fascinating historical tale provides the audience with an interesting look at the impact of the Hollywood invasion on the lifestyles of Jamaicans just after WW II. Readers will appreciate the up close look at Jamaica while also feel a sense of sadness as former matinee idol Errol Flynn, who could have had almost any woman at one time, finds his last hurrah is with young girls while his daughter and her mother tragically fall in and out of love. Melancholy yet nostalgic, Margaret Cezair-Thompson's well written tale is a fresh mid twentieth century drama.

The Melancholy Fate of Captain Lewis
Michael Pritchett
9781932961416 $24.95

High school history teacher Bill Lewis decides to write a biography of his famous namesake Meriwether Lewis to be completed in time to meet the bicentennial anniversary of the renowned explorer's suicide, October 11, 1809. Bill researches Meriwether's interaction with the Burrs, father and daughter, who expected to become the empires of the west when they led the succession from the union. The modern day teacher studies the Lewis and Clark expedition and his subsequent time as governor of the Louisiana Territory. Meriwether meets other famous figures upon his return to DC as he has a hero's welcome. Eventually he slid into depression and three years after his triumphant return with Clark from the Pacific, broke and addicted, Meriwether killed himself. Meanwhile in the present Bill has family problems caused by his teenage son who refuses to eat. This leads Bill back into clinical depression which jeopardizes his biography and his marriage.

The story line rotates between the modern day subplot and that of the early nineteenth century. Both are well written as readers obtain a sense that besides the same surname, the two Lewis males suffer similar mental problems. Fascinatingly the current Lewis with his everyday family life is the more passionate segue. Somewhat this is so because of the recent focus on the two hundredth anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition to find a Northwest passage so that Meriwether's emotional collapse and suicide has become well documented abating the impact. Biographical fiction fans will appreciate the comparison between a legend and an everyman; who is the hero depends on who is deciding as Bill's family might choose him for his efforts to overcome his depression to try to be there for them.

Your Coffin or Mine?
Kimberly Raye
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345492180 $6.99 1-800-726-0600

In Manhattan professional matchmaker BV (beautiful vampiress) Countess Lilliana Arabella Guinevere du Marchette (call her Lil) is hired by a reality TV show to find a match for a famous bachelor. However, that project seems relatively tame when compared to a telepathic message she received from bounty-hunting vampire Ty for help; He vanished several months ago without a trace after a glorious one night with Lil.

As Lil tries to locate Ty in order to rescue him for a second night and who knows what else, she meets homicide detective Ash, who is not human or vampire. They work together seeking to find Ty. At the same time the human fiance of her brother pleads with Lilliana (not quite one of her best buds yet so Lil is inappropriate) to find the right wedding dress and her mother tries to matchmake her DEAD AND DATELESS daughter with any mortal, vampire, or other ilk as long as they are male.

The latest adventures of that DED (DEAD END DATING) BV Countess Lil is, for the most part, a lighthearted romantic romp although the Ty subplot is a bit darker and much more serious in tone. Fans of the serious will appreciate Lil's fun Manhattan frolic as few authors combine chick lit shtick with vampire bites better than Kimberly Raye does.

A Lick of Frost
Laurell K. Hamilton
9780345495907 $24.95

Prince Cel is freed from his imprisonment so Princess Merry Gentry and her retinue (bodyguards and lovers) travel to Los Angeles to escape her insane cousin's assassination attempts. Cel wants Merry dead to insure she never gets pregnant because if she does she becomes the heir to the throne of the Unseelie Court currently ruled by the sadistic Queen Andais.

At present Merry is at her lawyer's office dealing with the authorities who consider pressing charges against three of her guards for rape against a member of the Seelie Court. Merry's Uncle Taranis, King of Light and Illusion of the Seelie Court, made the accusation that his niece believes are false; instead she thinks there is a method to his madness that she just has not figured out yet. When things do not go according to his plan, Taranis becomes irate and tries a more direct approach on Merry. Meanwhile members of the Seelie Court offer her his throne. With Cel, Andais, and Taranis aiming at her, Merry finds Los Angeles as unsafe as the Unseelie Court.

After reading A LICK OF FROST nobody will believe being a faerie princess is a fun long time occupation. Merry has to watch her back from danger from both faerie courts and must marry the man who impregnates her not necessarily the male she loves. Laurell K. Hamilton writes an exciting action-packed urban fantasy that entertains her audience with shocking revelations and unexpected plot twists that refreshes the series. Like the previous tale, this one is bestseller bound.

The Awakened Mage
Karen Miller
9780316067812 $6.99

In the capital city of Dorana in the Kingdom of Lur, malevolent mage Morg has kill the Doranen royals except for pathetic Prince Gar, who is no threat as he has no magic skills. Morg has also taken possession of the body of the prime successor to the weather controlling throne Conroyd Jarralt.

Gar believes he is the last hope to prevent the catastrophe that Morg's assent will bring, but he lacks magic. He turns to his best friend and assistant Asher the Olken, who are not supposed to be able to wield magic. Gar pleads with Asher to perform weather magic as the ancient prophesy predicted that an Olken mage will save the kingdom Doranen with weather magic.

The conclusion to the delightful THE INNOCENT MAGE is a fabulous fantasy thriller because the title hero Asher has a chance to win against a superior foe only if he can control the anger caused by being a victim of stereotyping racism. Olkens are considered inferior because they allegedly cannot perform weather magic so he has to hide his skills if he wants to survive yet now he must use his skills if his country wants to survive. He may be destiny's darling, but will he attempt to save a kingdom that treats him at best as a second class citizen? Karen Miller provides a fabulous finish to her saga.

The Race
Richard North Patterson
Henry Holt & Company
175 - 5th Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
9780805079487 $26.00 1-888-330-8477

During the Gulf War, Air Force pilot Corey Grace survived his jet's crash and months of incarceration and torture from the enemy who ignored the Geneva Convention. He became a media darling as a real American hero. Over the thirteen years that have passed since his ordeal, Corey has become the Republican US Senator from Ohio and considered one of the 50 "sexiest men alive".

Corey is running for his party's presidential nomination. He has a reasonable chance of winning, but his handlers fear his telling the truth is harmful to his chances as much as his willingness to cross the aisle to work with the Democrats. His chief rivals are Senator Rob Marotta who is willing to pay the price of doing whatever his handler "The Darth Vader of American politics" demands including stretching, omitting, or misleading the facts; and Christian fundamentalist Reverend Bob Christy who considers Corey a heretic is also working against him.

With all the ethical and hypocritical issues coming out of DC and with rigging the executive branch to further a party over the country, Richard North Patterson's latest thriller feels genuine. Turning Gore Vidal's The Best Man upside down, Mr. Patterson makes the case that an honest person, even the greatest American hero, cannot easily win a party nomination for president because the other side plays loose with the facts and the media does not confront their swift assault in a timely manner. Readers will appreciate this exposure on honesty is the last choice in American politics.

Forever My Lady
Jeff Rivera
Warner Books, Inc.
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446698818 $13.95 1-800-759-0190

Dio Rodriguez knows the side of Las Vegas that the high rollers and tourists never see. He has grown up in a rough neighborhood far from the glitter of the neon lights of the Strip or the Downtown. At thirteen, he joined a gang because that was the only way to survive, but understands that he must always act tough.

However, now seventeen, Dio hides his soft side from the world because if his peers learn of any trait they consider a weakness, they will use and abuse it to get at him. Only his girlfriend Jennifer knows the inner Dio. However, his life spins out of control when his beloved Jennifer is hospitalized following a drive by shooting and Dio is sent to prison boot camp. He worries about her and when he learns she is carrying his offspring, Dio vows to turn his life around and make a family with her although his options to leave the mean streets seem limited.

Jeff Rivera provides a terrific character driven redemption tale starring an interesting protagonist who much of the audience will not initially like and anticipate his lying dead in the streets. When the audience meets Jennifer they see the inner soft side of Dio that he hides from everyone else as a protective mechanism. At the boot camp, with a goal for the future, he detests authority figures, especially his drill instructor yet at the same time gains a deep understanding of the need for self- discipline if he is to make it. Mr. Rivera provides a powerful relationship tale focusing on the concept of caring for someone else proves a strong motivator to get off the streets and make it.

Sexiest Man Alive
Diana Holquist
Warner Forever
9780446617987 $6.99

Costume designer Jasmine Burns has a hunk-phobia as she freezes when it comes to sexy men. She knows this is not a good condition to have when part of your job description is to dress and undress stars. Now her psychic sister Amy (although at times psycho is more descriptive) insists Jas' true love is movie star Josh Toby. Jas knows how accurate Amy is though she ponders whether she is fulfilling the prophecy by believing in her sister.

Jas already knows she has troubles coming as she is his dresser and costume designer on his latest movie though she will freeze up and not be able to speak to him. Desperate she searches for another Josh Toby and finds one, a librarian, who thinks she is a lunatic. Meanwhile Josh the actor-hunk knows he and Jasmine are soul mates, but to persuade her they are a perfect match seems impossible.

Contemporary readers will rejoice with the return of the Burns sisters (see MAKE ME A MATCH) as the SEXIEST MAN ALIVE is an amusing entertaining romance. Much of the zany fun comes from the downside of knowing who your true love is yet unable to utter two coherent words in his presence. Diana Holquist provides a humorous tale with lovable characters enhanced by the paranormal.

Crazy in Love
Lani Diane Rich
Warner Forever
9780446618243 $6.99

The guilt was unbearable even though Flynn Daly knows she did nothing wrong. The pressure from her family is incredible for her to get back into the family business as even sister Freya arrives in South Boston to persuade Flynn that they need her. Reluctantly after her sister pulls out the daddy had a heart attack card; Flynn agrees to temporarily run her late Great Aunt Esther's inn The Goodhouse Arms in Scheintown, New York.

Former cop Jake Tucker works as a bartender at Aunt Esther's inn. He believes Gordon Chase killed Esther because she refused to sell her inn to him; the motive is to get the heir to sell. Jake is attracted to Flynn, but thinks she had one too many Boston baked beans. Flynn assumes she must still have the aftereffect of her one time indulgence in chocolate martinis as she is halfway in love with the bartender and worse believes Esther's ghost is playing matchmaker while demanding her niece and her employee find her killer.

Few authors if any can match the entertaining Rich insanity as this author does consistently (see THE COMEBACK KISS and MAYBE BABY). Her latest tale is a madcap paranormal romantic mystery with a strong lead couple CRAZY IN LOVE and a deep support cast especially the ghost, the potential buyer, and other inn occupants. The investigation is clever and the romance enjoyable as Aunt Esther interferes with both leading to a wild one sitting read.

Demon's Kiss
Eve Silver
9780446618922 $6.99

Twenty years ago sorcerer Ciarran D'Arbois intervened when a child was dying. His assistance enabled the child Clea Master to "steal" Ciarran's magic to heal herself. Having lost some of his power led to a demon injuring Ciarran.

Over the next two decades Ciarran has struggled to control the demonic darkness disease that is overwhelming his soul while he and his peers believe the layer separating demons from humans has been torn. However, even more shocking is the demonic horde attacks on Clea; Ciarran saves her life, but wonders why her and whether he will eventually abet the enemy who is growing inside him by betraying the girl he saved and now the woman he loves.

DEMON'S KISS is an original Silver, but romantic fantasy readers will know it is pure gold as the opening gamut of Compact of Sorcerers brotherhood series. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the changing "triangular" relationship between Clea, Ciarran, and the demonic disease inside the hero. Fans will feel his internal torture as a Janus who loves and needs to protect Clea yet also increasingly desires to destroy her. Clea, for much of the tale, is an enigma as the mystery is why her. This is a great tale from a writer who must be a mage as her novels entice human readers to become deeply involved.

To Love Anew
Bonnie Leon
c/o Baker Publishing Group
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
9780800731762 $12.99

In London with the death of her beloved mum, Hannah Talbot feels all alone. Adding to her grief, she loses her dressmaking shop that she and her mum made somewhat successful. Desperate she accepts a job as an upstairs maid working for Mr. and Mrs. Walker. However her new employer blames her for something she didn't do. She leaves, but when she steals food and is caught, she is sentenced to fifteen years in an Australian prison.

Affluent businessman John Bradshaw has everything until the great betrayal. His partners set him up to take the fall on a venture leading to his wife leaving him. Angry, he finds himself fighting to survive especially when his enemies try to kill him. However, instead he kills his adversary, but is sentenced to life in an Australian prison.

Neither Hannah nor John has any hope for the future as they set sail as prisoners on a prison ship. Both feel God deserted them. Then they meet.

The first Sydney Cove tale is a deep inspirational historical romance that paints the grim gritty side of English society in which those in power abuse their positions. The lead couple is a great pairing of two individuals hurt by what has happened to them from people they thought were honorable and trustworthy; both are now with anger and despair. Hannah and John are terrific as they find hope and God when they find each other.

Whispers Along the Rails
Judith Miller
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
9780764204418 $19.99 1-800-328-6109

In 1893 Pullman, Illinois, Olivia Mott, formerly a London scullery maid, works as an assistant chef at the Hotel Florence. That is when she is not undercover as a spotter on the Pullman cars where she makes process observations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the company. Mr. Pullman's prime assistant Samuel Howard and worker Fred are attracted to her, but both cause issues for Olivia, the company town and the firm.

Lady Charlotte Spencer feels guilty for leaving her baby with Olivia while she ran off to Chicago. Financially broke although the daughter of an affluent English aristocrat, Charlotte obtains employment at Marshall Field's store and a place to live. However, though she feels she is not mommy material, she needs to see her child before she faces her disproving parents.

The second Postcards from Pullman tale (see IN THE COMPANY OF SECRETS) continues the saga of the four prime players as each has major problems to contend with. The story line provides a vivid look back at an nineteenth century company town as well as the operations of the Pullman Company. Although seeking process improvements and related efficiencies before the publications of the works of Fredrick Taylor on industrial engineering seems a minor anachronism, Judith Miller provides a strong late nineteenth century Americana.

Searching for Eternity
Elizabeth Musser
Bethany House
9780764203725 $13.99

In the 1960s born and raised in France, Emile de Bonnery, accompanied by his mother, leaves for Atlanta to live with his maternal grandmother. He is upset with the change failing to adapt to his new home. Instead he is angry with his father who be believes deserted his mother and abandoned him for another woman; although at mellower moments Emile romanticizes that his dad is a spy.

However, Emile's attitude abruptly changes when he meets Eternity Jones as he learns how good he has it with the love of maternal relatives. Instead he finds her world is filled with poverty and racism accentuated by alcoholism. As his open minded grandmother shows him by her actions the way to welcome people regardless of race, religion, or economics, Emile learns faith in the Lord's plan keeps Eternity being stronger than he is as he only has material superiority.

This is a deep look at a changing Atlanta through four decades of the life of French immigrant Emile de Bonnery as he sees how much his adopted city changes from segregation to integration ultimately with black political control. The use of newspaper clippings enhance the feel for the metamorphosis, but also slow the narrative. Still this character driven tale provides a puissant relevant glimpse of how Atlanta became the jewel of the south thanks in part to people like Emile's grandmother who proved with her actions that all people matter and Eternity who affirmed the belief that everyone is someone important.

The Parting
Beverly Lewis
Bethany House
9780764203107 $13.99

After the accidental drowning death of her sister Suzy during Rumschpringe, Amish teen Nellie Fisher grieved her loss. Several years pass and Nellie is emotionally healing due to the distraction of her baked goods shop.

When Caleb Yoder asks her to go steady, she feels ready to move on with her life as she recognizes that she will always mourn her sister's death, but that was part of God's master plan. She agrees expecting they would they would marry one day. However Nellie's road to marital bliss with Caleb is not smooth as her father breaks societal dogma when he reads taboo scripture and begins seeking his salvation by other means than a pious life filled with good deeds.

There are several other subplots that enhance the readers visit to the Amish, but the prime story line remains Nellie's saga. She heals from her loss through her shop and Caleb's courtship as much as her and her family's belief that Suzy's death is God's plan. Although that concept of predestined is hard to accept especially with the recent school killings and if one believes in free will, fans will appreciate Beverly Lewis's insightful look into Amish family several years after a tragedy occurs.

The Border Lord's Bride
Bertrice Small
9780451222145 $14.00

In 1494, the unprotected are pawns for the more powerful to obtain greater strength. That is why elderly Lochearn Laird Ewan MacArthur sends his beloved orphaned granddaughter Ellen to King James for her safety. Two weeks after her departure, their cousin Gavin demands Ellen marry his son Balgair instead of the heir Donald McNab as he plans to make his offspring Laird of Lochearn even if it means turning Ellen into a teenage widow.

Border Laird of Duffdour Duncan Armstrong visits King James to ask a favor of his liege. In return James assigns him to safely escort Ellen home so she can wed Donald as the monarch believes it is Ewan's decision. When they reach her home, they quickly learn what Balgair and his sire have done as he has her grandfather's signed document making him heir and her spouse; he explains that he held Donald hostage, but once signed slit both their throats. However, Balgair made one mistake as he asks Duncan to witness the ceremony, he failed to understand the escort is an honorable loyal person, who takes this into his own hands by wedding Ellen although that means giving up his hope to marry for love; or does it.

The second Borderlands Chronicle historical romance (see A DANGEROUS LOVE) is a fabulous late fifteenth century tale filled with intrigue and treachery much greater than that described above. The lead pair struggles with her odious extended family and with the machinations between the rival Kings James and Henry VII. Readers will cherish the heroic Duncan as their own as he risks his happiness and ultimately life to keep Ellen safe; fans will also admire the spunky female protagonist, whose tasted violence and death with her parents already gone and now her betrothed and beloved grandfather were murdered; yet she keeps her with and takes a chance on the unknown rather than the devil she knows. Bertrice Small provides a great read.

Robert Charles Wilson
Orb (Tor)
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765319050 $14.95 1-888-330-8477

In 1912, war in Europe seems imminent when an alien realm Darwinia abruptly replaces Europe on planet earth. The United States is unconcerned with what has vanished; instead declares the cosmos event a Miracle and encourages colonization especially by the devout who believe this is God's work to replace evil with good. Over the next few years a few struggling colonies settled mostly by religious fanatics are formed within the extraterrestrial forests.

In 1920 American creationist scientist Preston Finch leads an expedition to chart the New World. Boston photographer Guilford Law leaves wife Caroline and daughter Lily in New London as he joins the quest. However, the journey proves dangerous as outlaws and the strange alien wildlife attack them. However, it is the dreams and odd occurrences that frighten the participants. Guilford the photographer meets Guilford the dead WW I soldier before leaving Darwinia. In New London he learns that his family thought he died so they left to grieve in Australia. The other Guilford explains to the bewildered photographer that they are expendable military fodder protecting humanity in a universal war through time against demon controlled humans. When Darwinia came to earth to protect the enigmatic Archive from the Great War; hostility came with it to this time and place.

This extremely complex and convoluted alternate history thriller is a difficult tale to follow as the story line is not always linear especially when the scope widens laterally. Guilford the photographer is a fascinating lead character as his problems with his wife that seemed monumental before the expedition now appear molehill as he begins to understand what is happening on a global scale. Fans who prefer deep thought provoking thrillers will want to read this intricate tale as Guilford learns nothing is quite what it seems, not even demons.

Chronicles of the Black Company
Glen Cook
9780765319234 $15.95

"The Black Company". The Black Company is a troop of mercenaries who know the risks they take on all their missions especially whenever they inter one of their comrades, which is frequent. They exclusively serve the great malevolent sorceress Lady. However, their assignment has changed as rumors abound of the rebirth of the good White Rose; they must kill this possible reincarnation of a long dead savior before the Prophesy takes affect, but first they must find her while also slaughtering those who protect her.

"Shadows Linger". The Black Company still works for the evil Lady as honor means adhering to their contract with her even when many of these soldiers know they fight for the wrong side. They prepare for the latest skirmish with the rabble and those they assume are false prophesy followers allegedly defending the White Rose. However, a twist of fate has occurred as the Black Company rescue a mute girl who brings with her the light of goodness; she is the White Rose.

"The White Rose". The Black Company has changed sides now that they have met the White Rose. On the Plains of Fear they prepare to battle their former employer the immoral Lady. However, once again fate takes a spin when the most lethal vilest creature ever known, the Dominator is reborn.

This omnibus collection of the three 1980s Black Company military fantasy saga will please fans of Glen Cook as these are well written exciting tales that were one of the first (if not the premier) series to use real war horrors and atrocities inside a fantasy thriller.

Moon's Fury
C.T. Adams & Cathy Camp
9780765356642 $6.99

Tedford County, Texas Sheriff Cara Salinas is the alpha leader of her werewolf pack. When Minnesota pack second in command Adam Mueller arrives in Texas, Cara has some concerns as werewolves normally stay close to home. Cara has not been made privy to the knowledge that the Sazi Counsel has decided to disband the Minnesota pack and relocate the members to other packs; some like Adam will join Cara's squad.

However, Cara has other immediate concerns besides her attraction to the newcomer. As the sheriff she needs to stop a serial killing group of Sazi eating the offspring of her and his packs. Adam has found his soul mate and assists Cara as they investigate the murders only to uncover a lethal conspiracy that could set back the Sazi for years to come.

The Sazi moon thrillers have been consistently some of the best romantic fantasies on the market in recent years. The latest tale MOON'S FURY will add to the reputation of the authors and their top rate series. The story line contains two terrific subplots; a well written paranormal police procedural and a romance in which being a soul mate is not enough as both need to learn to respect the other. As with the previous books, each one expands the Adams-Camp mythos, but also can be read as a stand alone.

Pirate Freedom
Gene Wolfe
9780765318787 $24.95

In the twentieth-first century, Christopher, the son of an American mob boss who moved to post communist Havana to run a casino, is considering taking holy orders, but decides to delay his final pledge to God. Instead he leaves the post communist Cuban monastery only to end up in Cuba three centuries ago.

Although bewildered by what happened to him, he adapts as he considers himself a modern day wandering Jonah although he believes God will forgive his transgressions. Christopher obtains work on a ship so that he can survive as he lacks the skills of this century. He soon joins a pirate vessel and after plenty of hard knocks, he becomes a pirate captain.

Although the story line is filled with plenty of swashbuckling adventures that would tire Errol Flynn in his prime, the fascination in this superb time travel thriller is Captain Chris confessing his sins to Father Christopher. Thus the audience obtains a vivid look at an eighteenth century Caribbean and Atlantic ethos as seen by a twenty-first transplant in which the two superpowers (pirates and the military-industrial complex) contain their own respective ethics as they battle for High Seas supremacy.

A War of Gifts
Orson Scott Card
9780765312822 $12.95

Zack Morgan is in his dad's church listening to his father preach when a man enters and forces him to go with him to his house where he will be tested to see if he is qualified to attend Battle School. Zack is a pacifist, indoctrinated in his father's religion by the whip marks on his back. Tests show he has the brilliance needed and wanted to attend the school. He promises the testers he will go but he won't fight.

He keeps that promise and preaches at the slightest opportunity although most of the students passively ignore him. When a Dutch student gives a gift to another Dutch boy in the name of Sinterklaas, Zack reports it because he knows that it is forbidden to practice religion in Battle School due to the belief that is to divisive. Christians start exchanging gifts in the name of Santa Claus but when the Muslims begin praying in public they are arrested. The Christians stop exchanging gifts and life goes back to normal except that Zack is treated as a Judas pariah. Ender Wiggin takes matters into his own hands.

For such a small novella, the story line is loaded with social themes including religion and how it is practiced, parental abuse, eliminating things like religious practices so that the students learn to fight as a group with no divisiveness to split them apart and weaken morale. Zack is a master manipulator who goaded the Muslims into praying in public because he had a desperate need to get home. Orson Scott Card has written a powerful tale that transcends age and makes a perfect holiday gift.

Kris Long Knife Audacious
Mike Shepherd
Ace Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780441015412 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

After numerous assassination attempts, Princess Kris Longknife, a Lieutenant in the Wardhaven navy plans to do a little business and get some rest and relaxation on the planet New Eden. Almost as soon as she lands an attempt is made on her life and efforts to get assistance from her computer implant were jammed. This was thought to be impossible and the last time it happened her family's enemies were involved.

The attempt on her life makes it on the news and she learns after some digging that New Eden is not as productive and peaceful as it is supposed to be. New Eden journalists are forbidden from reporting negative stories, a large part of the population is forbidden to vote and there is much crime but nobody hears of it. She discovers Victoria is on the planet and she blames Kris for killing her brother. In the course of dealing with another assassination attempt, a large cache of weapons is found by Kris' troops. Something big is going to happen on New Eden and Kris will find herself, her marines and other allies in the middle of it.

Mike Shepherd is a fantastic storyteller who excels at writing military science fiction. His protagonist is a strong willed independent thinker who does what she thinks is best for humanity even if it means not adhering to planetary law. Human life is very precious to her and those people in her inner circle who play roles in the storyline. There is plenty of action and tension as this is a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience for science fiction fans.

Dog Days
John Levitt
9780441015535 $6.99

Once Mason worked with other magic practitioners to police their own but he soon got tired of that and started playing guitar for a jazz band in San Francisco that needed a performer. He has Lou-, a semi-supernatural being called an ifret that looks like a wolf-dog who became attached to him and his music so he was reasonably content. One night after a gig, while walking to his car, a creature from a mural leaves the painting and attacks mason.

Mason defeats the creature and soon finds himself in a realm exactly like his own only without people. He finds red jewels there and with the help of his wolf totem, he escapes. Powerful mages Eli and Victor tell him there is something wrong magically in the area. One of their own was killed in what mortals believe was a hit and run. They come to the conclusion that a powerful magician is siphoning the power from other practitioners and Mason who saw the mage's aura knows who he is. It will come down to him and Mason in a magical duel in which the guitarist knows that he must improvise or lose, which means the evil magician will have an open gig.

John Levitt has written an entertaining urban fantasy that is reminiscent of the Harry Dresden novels. The protagonist is powerful but is too impatient to be trained properly so he has to improvise which results in unusual magical solutions to counteract the spells sent against him. His dog Lou comprehends what he says and stays with him out of love as he steals much of the show with a superstar performance. The antagonist is so warped and crazy and what he is doing to get the jewels is so repugnant, readers will love to hate him while loving his opponent.

Jack McDevitt
9780441015252 $24.95

Government sponsored interstellar flight research is a thing of the past as it proved to expensive; some private foundations provided limited funding to scientists, but by 2255 everyone knows that the dreams of the now defunct Academy of Science and technology are over.

That is until now when physicist Jon Silvestri insists he has found an efficient effective star drive. The Prometheus Foundation decides to fund his tests, which prove successful. The Foundation assigns Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchins to join Jon and a crew on the Cauldron, whose mission is to learn what is inside the omega clouds at the core of the galaxy that is expanding outward and destroying other segments of the sector. However, the trip proves nonlinear as the Cauldron meet technologically impaired aliens, land on a deadly seemingly deserted planet, and is pulled towards a black hole.

Although a well written outer space thriller starring Hutch and a crew of eccentrics, the prime directive of the story line is penetrating the clouded core to learn what is going on, but that segue is given a short climatic coda no more than fifteen percent of the tale). Instead over eighty percent of the exciting story line involves the travel. Thus the audience will appreciate the superior writing as the crew of the cauldron goes where mankind has never been before, but is also disappointed in the omega cloud finish that proves faster than Silvestri's star drive.

Reader and Raelynx
Sharon Shinn
9780441014699 $24.95

In the realm of Gillengaria in the capital city of Ghosenhall, King Boryn knows there is unrest in the Southern Houses especially by the Rayson Fortunalt, who wants to wear the crown. Hoping to avert a civil war, the monarch decides that his nineteen years old daughter Amalie should make an advantageous political marriage. When she meets with her suitors, guards are hidden nearby as well as the mystic Cammon, who reads the truth in the hearts of others.

As Cammon reads the intentions of Amalie suitors in order to root out the malevolent ones, he befriends the lonely princess. He feels for her being an expendable pawn of power as he sees inside her soul and knows how noble she truly is. When war comes to the land in spite of Boryn's efforts, many lords turn traitorous with avaricious eyes on the throne. As Cam and Amalie fall in love, they risk their lives defending her father, her friends and the kingdom.

Sharon Shinn, known for her romantic fantasies, writes a beautiful adult fairy tale that readers will appreciate as they hope the apparent star-crossed wannabe lovers overcome the impossibility of forming a marital relationship. The kingdom of Gillengaria seems real even with magical elements considered part of the norm as the political backstabbing and in-fighting brings a sense of authenticity to the realm. Although the plot has been used often by genre writers, Ms. Shinn provides a vivid spellbinding addition to the superb Twelve Houses saga (see THE THIRTEENTH HOUSE).

When All Seems Lost
William C. Dietz
9780441015245 $24.95

The interstellar war with the ruthless Ramanthians remains heated as the vicious insectoid race fights to the death with no rules except to win. They physically overwhelm their opponents on the battlefield by accepting mass deaths on their side in order to subjugate as slaves any survivors of their pandemic slaughter.

The Ramanthians are unaware they captured President Marcott Nankool, the head of their strongest adversary, Confederacy of Sentient Beings. They send him to a labor camp where the POWs slave until they wish to die before they become food for the billions of hatchlings. One of Nankool's incarcerated aids, human diplomat Christine Vanderveen knows that any one of his loyal supporters could give away the president's identity in exchange for better conditions, which means death. She will kill anyone who might betray the president.

Ambitious Vice President Leo Jakov orders the military to do nothing as he insists Nankool is dead and he is the president. However, Legion General William Booly ignores the unimpressive buffoon and assigns Captain Antonio Santana to lead a volunteer suicidal rescue mission that Tonio accepts because his beloved Christine is one of the prisoners.

William Dietz is known for his action-packed graphic military science fiction thrillers (see FOR MORE THAN GLORY and FOR THOSE WHO FELL). His latest Legion of the Damned novel is all that, but much more as the author uses the conflict to enable fans to look deeply inside the various cultures. As expected, the Ramanthians are the most interesting as their society accepts the loss of millions in combat. The human and other alien prisoners form a prisoner group that initially bands around keeping Nankool safe; but becoming hatchery food makes everyone reconsider. The military and the politicians also have contrasting subgroups, as the politicos are self serving while the military are heroic. Mr. Dietz's legions of fans will appreciate WHEN ALL SEEMS LOST.

The Cipher
Diana Pharaoh Francis
9780451461797 $7.99

As a member of the royal family Lucy Trenton hides her skill from her relatives in order to remain safe. Besides the scandal that would devastate the Rampling even if she is so distant from the throne that she should not matter and the connection seems nebulous; she fears she would be a pawn if anyone learned she can detect magical artifacts and mages.

Occasionally she errs by using her talent to locate missing magical items, but normally recovers fast enough to conceal what she did. When she finds the missing Cipher, however this time she cannot cover up her activity that may lead to a magical disaster for the royals, the kingdom, and at a minimum her. She must hide the Cipher and herself with her only hope being the assistance of her current suitor, Marten Thorpe, but Lucy does not trust this ship captain as she assumes he has an agenda and if he learns what she harbors he will betray her; yet she desperately turns to him.

Lucy as a woman in peril turns this intriguing fantasy into a delightful read. She mentally beats herself up for her error in judgment as she has spent her life hiding her skills to avoid being the center of a scandal. She knows she might become the Butterfly of Chaos Theory. The romance between her and the grumpy Trenton is atypical as his wooing techniques fail, but his seafaring skills make him her only hope to weather the storm and prevent it from turning into a tsunami. Genre fans will enjoy Diana Pharaoh Francis' fine character driven saga as Lucy learns any "Path" she chooses is at best personally disastrous.

Faith Hunter
9780451461735 $14.00

The Apocalypse occurred over a century ago reducing the human population by six billion. Seraphs sent by the Most High monitor and control human and neo-mages behavior. The neo-mages were born from mothers pregnant before the first plagues happened and survived the Last Days. Neo-mages are said to be born without souls; abandoned by the Most High and they can manipulate creation energy to produce what looks like magical results.

Even though the Most High has forsaken the neo-mages, Thorn St. Croix from Mineral City, Carolina has risked her life protecting the townsfolk from the fallen Seraph called the Dragon, who is second in command of the Fallen's armies. He tried to escape and Thorn and company went down to his hellhole and fought one of the Dragon's minions and contained him.. The containment has not lasted and soon demon spawn and other Fallen invade the town. Thorn battles them with the help of the townsfolk who accept her as their protector. The Dragon uses energies from the battle to cut off the town and Thorn knows it is a matter of time before the enemy breaks free and tries to bury the town. She is their only hope if she can stay alive and fulfill the prophecy.

Even though she supposedly has no soul, Thorn fights for humans against the Dark as if she is the one facing final destruction from neo-mages and fallen Seraphs; readers will admire her sacrifice placing others before herself. Thorn is alarmed when a Seraph insists she is the one who is the key in the ongoing war. Although prophecies are an overused device in apocalypse thrillers, fans will enjoy reading about the continuing end of days.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Address: Central Park And Other Stories
Ed Galing
Peerless Press
3435 Mill Road, Hatboro PA 19040
No ISBN $5.00 + s & h

Ed Galing's poetry has been featured in many well-known journals and he has numerous chapbooks to his credit. I've been privileged to review most of them. This is his first book of prose. These stories first appeared in Spare Change, a publication out of Cambridge, Mass dedicated to poverty and homelessness issues. While reading this book my first thought was: Amazing! His writing style is feisty, honest, touching, and amusing, with an energetic spirit shining out of every story. Ed Galing knows poverty and injustice; he remembers a childhood spent in the tenements of New York City and Philadelphia. Galing sympathizes with the homeless because he understands that many Americans are one paycheck away from living in a cardboard box. And so, in his ninth decade of life, Ed Galing, Poet Laureate of Hatboro PA, compiled this book of fictional short stories that contain more than a modicum of truth. These are among some of the best short stories I've read anywhere, by any author, famous or otherwise. I've chosen a random sampling of these fifteen stories for review purposes:

"Central Park" introduces readers to Joe Brown. Joe has no skills with which to earn real money and his odd jobs don't allow for even the cheapest of lodging. He looks on the bright side, though, and tells himself sleeping under the stars in Central Park is akin to camping out.

In "Conversations With Myself" we meet Harry Cohen, age 82. This lonely widower never had much money but lived frugally and raised two children. He enjoys discussing politics and books, and pursuing a gentle flirtation with his lady friend.

35 year old Harry Epstein drives the narrative in "My War With the Unemployment Office." Abandoned by his parents as a child, he grew up in foster care. He's knocked around from job to job for years but hopes for steady work so he can find a decent apartment. He files for unemployment after his latest lay off. His only hedge against poverty is a $5 bill hidden in his shoe.

"Once Upon a Neighborhood" is a poignant picture of life back when almost everyone was poor. But in South Philly neighborhoods, working class people banded together and even The Mob had a heart. Cops, firemen, hustlers, and the working poor could forget their troubles for one night when a young Sinatra entertained at a local nightspot.

Jeff Grimly is riding high with a good job one day, and homeless the next after losing his business in "The Fall Guy." Jeff learns that honor and honesty are worth more than money, even to a homeless guy.

Bill Kearney is a 50 year old music teacher at a Settlement House on New York City's East Side in "East Side Melody." Josh Samuels is his 16 year old prodigy, living in abject poverty, struggling to avoid joining a gang. Amidst the dregs of tenement life, Kearney finds gold in a boy whose untrained musical gift is stunning.

"Diary of a Squatter" shares the life of Jake Summers. Jake lost his wife, then his home, after getting laid off from his job. He's too proud to live in shelters so lives in a condemned, boarded up building that used to be a crack house. His home has no electricity, water, or heat, but the beauty of this story is how Jake makes an acceptable life out of nothing, with only a mouse for company and a few candle stubs to read by.

A handful of discriminating, respected poets and publishers have discovered Ed Galing's work and I've been singing his praises since reviewing his first book of poetry. After reading Address: Central Park, I'm doubly impressed with his abilities. Check out Galing's blog, created and maintained by Doug Holder, to see more of his work. Ed Galing's home made books are treasures and highly recommended.

Valga Krusa, Volume I The Yellow Christ
Charles Potts
Green Panda Press
3174 Berkshire Rd., Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
9780975884348 $10.00

In my experience as a reviewer, the only sixties-era name spoken with as much reverence as Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Bukowski is Charles Potts. Potts was an active member of the "Underneath-the Underground" poetry movement of the sixties and seventies. The Beat Generation was fading then, giving way to the Hippie movement, and Charles Potts played a pivotal role in advancing poets of the era. He published his own poetry and that of others in a journal he created, Litmus. He worked tirelessly to promote poetry and poets through readings and publishing, and raged against the academic and literary elite of that time. The poems, plays, dreambooks, and social commentaries in Valga Krusa represent the young Potts and his travels from Seattle to Berkeley, from Portland to Puerta Vallarta, from Pocatello to the Bay Area. This early work is living history, intense and immediate, as pertinent today as it was 40 years ago.

For the young Charles Potts and his contemporaries, a poetry reading at the Shakespeare Book Store took precedence over a Presidential address or political assassination. Politicians come and go, but a poetry reading was hard to come by in those days. Potts and his peers were poor, sharing apartments and expenses to survive. Potts often felt isolated and alone despite communal living. The stories and poems in Volume I clearly document his gradual mental and physical unraveling. Weight loss, uncoordinated movements, and weakness compound his mental confusion. Bewildered friends watch helplessly as Potts -- aka Laffing Water -- gives away his meager belongings and precious books. Despite mental and physical deterioration. he continues to write stunning poetry and commentaries. Consider this excerpt from the long poem "Uproar" for example;

...and who am I to worry
for the death of everything
when I can't even keep
all my other selves in place
much less the one that
writes and he who reads
and him whose chief desire
had the day off
and didn't come to see me yet....

This day-to-day history of Potts' youth includes people who are icons today: Corso, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Bukowski, and Brautigan to name only a few. He writes about them with a generosity of spirit and innocence I found refreshing. Critics describe Valga Krusa as brilliant, free wheeling, a neglected classic. The story continues with a review of Volume II. The body of work and the history included here is exceptional.

Valga Krusa Volume II Laffing Water
Charles Potts
Green Panda Press
3174 Berkshire Rd., Cleveland Heights OH 44118
9780975884331 $10.00

Valga Krusa Volume II distills the content of Volume I and enlarges Potts' schizophrenic view of the world. This chaotic and fragmented view is reported by Potts, his alter ego Laffing Water, and a third persona adopted in a mental hospital -- Krusa. In later life, Potts became a neurolinguistic programmer, an appropriate profession for a man who placed such a high premium on words. He explains in retrospect the meaning of Valga Krusa: It's the true story of one person and his relationships.

Relationships were of prime importance to Charles Potts. He cared about his peers and exhausted himself ensuring that not one poem would be lost or one poet forgotten. As his physical health deteriorated and schizophrenic compulsions clouded his judgment, Potts' friends intervened. Potts believed that with a proper diet and love, he might not have "gone bananas." His friends knew a cure entailed much more than that, if he could be cured at all. Sleepless and actively hallucinating, he imagined sinister listening devices everywhere and devised grandiose scenarios to restore his health and patch himself together.

Volume II is a testament to Potts' abilities as writer. The reader knows he wrote these profound passages while lost in schizophrenic hallucinations, and yet, clearly, his humanity is intact. His experiences in the mental hospital are horrible and terrifying, and yet he records them without malice. Each minute detail, however awful, is shared with a spirit of forgiveness and compassion -- compassion for himself and others. Potts' writing here is powerful, enviable.

Critics have been praising the writings of Charles Potts since his Berkely days in the late sixties. Readers too young to remember the turbulent Sixties will get a first hand view through Potts' eyes. His writing is often lyrical and occasionally profane, but always focused. And always, his voice clearly resonates above the din that was his fractured mind at the time. This is a timeless chronicle that educates and enlightens with stark honesty.

No One Dies at the Au Bon Pain
Doug Holder
P.O. Box 441429, Somerville MA 02144
9781934513002 $8.00

Doug Holder is founder of Ibbetson Street Press, small press activist, champion of unknown poets, and a poet himself. He wears his many hats with panache. In this chapbook he shares a sense of longing for what was and a sometimes reluctant acceptance of what is: Humans are vulnerable, and mortal.

Holder's thoughts are expressed with a simple power. These excerpts from "Am I a Man of Bone or Flesh?" reflect that power. How does the world see him?

Can you still
feel my supple flesh,
like a fruit's
skin blushing
with ripeness?

…still I am more
than brittle bone,
the cold
unfeeling face
of glacial stone.

Consider the first verse of "Why Did He Leave Her" to understand how a skillful poet puts words together:

Because of the terminal
certainty of the itinerary --
his course redlined
with an actuary's passionless
a replay of his father's descent.

"Glaucoma" is my sentimental favorite, perhaps because the experience is all too familiar. I quote this poem in its entirety because a poet sees with more than just his eyes:

And how those angelic halos
around the streetlights
to an homage of
nefarious intent.

The pressure
the threat
and those images
of her smile,

the Maine coast,
the surf jumping
the rocks
as its mussels maintain
a tight grip.

And I don't see
in wanton gulps
but I sip

I sip.

Holder's work here is rich with textual imagery. A stranger's laugh becomes an "astringent mixture of the hilarious and sinister." Rain is a "spectral tapping on the roof." These are words of a master poet who sees the world clearly and shares that vision generously with readers.

From Mist to Shadow
Robert K. Johnson
Ibbetson Street Press
25 School Street, Somerville MA 02143
9780979531309 $12.00

Robert K. Johnson is a poet, writer, retired English professor, and student of life. Between 1975 and 2007, he's had six collections of poetry and two non-fiction books published, plus been featured in two poetry anthologies. In this latest book, Johnson tenderly transforms the small memories, wonders and sorrows of everyday life into moments brightened and sharpened through his words.

The commonplace turns quietly sinister as Johnson remembers the unexpected suicide of a friend. "Jimmy" recalls the class clown, the day he put his head in the oven after school, and the numbing effect on the poet:

And suddenly all the bushes, trees
and flowers I stared at in our yard
looked different, strange,
as if -- year after year --
they had been hiding something from me.

"Anguish" is a simply stunning poem about a mother lost to dementia, unable to separate reality from hallucination, and the son forced to witness her decline. I cannot do this fine poem justice with an excerpt; it must be read in its entirety.

"Brother of the Prodigal Son" is a long poem that remains true to the biblical version but extracts a bitter truth unspoken in the parable. This poem, also, cannot be adequately honored with an excerpt.

"The Truth About the Past" is another powerful recollection about the father who shared memories of his own revered father's many talents. A long-lost great aunt shatters those memories with a harsh truth:

…she described my father's childhood,
starting when he was two
-- the year his father abandoned
his wife and son.

Life is often unpredictable. This excerpt from "On F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'Babylon Revisited'" shows how forgotten words and acts unexpectedly return to us like bad karma:

-- all can silently arc
over our heads for days,
for blithe or busy years
until the moment they curve
back into our lives as swiftly
as a hawk's swooping claws
puncture a rabbit's skin.

Regardless of age, a poet is always a poet. Age settles over us all, but Johnson still sees poetry in the world around him:

…subjects for poems,
like frightened children
seeking shelter,
tug at my mind…

One critic describes Robert K. Johnson as "the poet/laureate of the ordinary moment in time." He is that and much more. His poetry is quietly powerful and poignant. This collection lives, breathes, and transforms the ordinary through the thoughts and memories of a skilled wordsmith. From Mist to Shadow is a book you'll want to keep and reread.

Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust Revised Second Edition
Edited by Charles Ades Fishman / Cover art by Reva Sharon
Time Being Books
10411 Clayton Rd. Suites 201-203, St. Louis MO 63131
9781568091136 $27.95

To quote Charles Ades Fishman from the preface: "Poetry, at its best, resists abstraction and permits us to feel again, to be wounded again, and, though never entirely, to heal." This exquisite compilation of 240 poets and 400 poems fulfills Mr. Fishman's quote to perfection, presenting the contents alphabetically by poet and poems. Spectral memories are allowed to speak -- like smoke rising or prayers shouted, sung, screamed, and whispered -- and to share living history, to resurrect the disappeared geography and tribes of Europe and Eurasia.

Before and during World War II, Nazi Germany killed Jews, Gypsies and other people deemed dispensable by Hitler, but memories and the truth survived. Their spirits scattered like stars in the night sky, forever shining. The breath of lost millions mingles with the air we breathe today and their ashes still fertilize the soil of Europe. These murdered souls are fragments of Divinity, children of the God who called them "His people." In these poems, readers will find a stunning beauty gleaned from the ashes of an unspeakable evil.

The same theological questions asked sixty years ago remain unanswered today: Why did the God of Abraham and Moses hide his face? Why did He remain silent while his people were tortured, starved, gassed, and burned? Why did He not hear the collective voices of millions raised in prayers of deliverance and lead them out of Dachau, Birkenau, Auschwitz? Perhaps those souls lost during the Holocaust know the answer to these questions, but the writers and readers of these poems remain to ask and wonder, "Where was God in the midst of this horrifying evil?"

Whether we are Jewish or not, life changed for all of us because of the Holocaust. History changed. Geography changed. The entire world changed because we lost generations of artists and artisans, geniuses and poets, statesmen and laborers. The blessed seed of Abraham, Isaac, King David, and Jesus of Nazareth, God's chosen seed, was cruelly eliminated from our midst just because Hitler decreed it. As one writer stated, "We are all tattooed." We are all marked and share in the loss.

The poets in this amazing anthology seek to educate, inform, and illuminate. Whether poignant, horrifying, or rage-filled, their poetry speaks truth. They share more information and personal testimonies in the Poets' Statements section, an exceptional addition to this book. The Glossary and Poem Notes are also helpful and packed with valuable information. Blood to Remember should be mandatory reading in every high school, college, and seminary in the world. Charles Ades Fishman has compiled a highly recommended, life changing work here.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Cold Tears
John Foxjohn
L & L Dreamspell
PO Box 1984, Friendswood, TX 77540-1984
9781603180122 $17.95

John Foxjohn spent his childhood in Nacogdoches, Texas. He quit high school and joined the army at 17, where he was an Army Ranger in Vietnam and Germany. After he left the Army he became a police officer and worked homicide. He solved many cases and developed an interest in forensics and fingerprinting. He went on to graduate from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches in history and moved on to teaching and coaching. He is now a full-time writer and speaker who instructs writers in forensics, crime scene investigations, and writing mystery and suspense. COLD TEARS is his third novel and second David Mason mystery.

David Mason is a Houston homicide detective who has a reputation for solving a high percentage of his cases. He has also had to kill a few people in the line of duty. While performing a neighborhood sweep, David comes face to face to a grieving woman with a gun, who shoots him several times. He returns fire and kills her, and her eyes haunt him. His fiance, Beth Porter, panics after David is shot and breaks off their engagement. In the meantime, a serial killer is zeroing in on David, and taunts him with notes before he brutally abuses and kills his victims. A senator's daughter is one of the victims, so David finds he has to deal with Washington politics that threatens his investigation. To add to the mix, a beautiful rookie F.B.I. agent is assigned to work with David:

"She knew why they had to do it this way, but she didn't have to like it. He'd surprised her. Although she'd read his file, she hadn't expected as much cooperation as she received from the detective. She'd heard horror stories of agents who attempted to work with locals. She also knew it wasn't all the local's fault. In her experience, field agents tended to come across as arrogant, and most looked down on local law enforcement."

COLD TEARS is a realistic, suspenseful, crime scene investigation mystery written by a veteran police officer who understands violence and how it rips lives apart. Foxjohn's experience with politics also stands out in this book that can't be put down once started. Foxjohn is also a sensitive writer who does a wonderful job plotting his novels. David Mason is sort of a renegade detective, but he is extremely likeable as the hard-working, blue collar hero he is. COLD TEARS sets up Foxjohn's David Mason mysteries as a force to be reckoned with. Excellent!

The Widening Stain
Morris Bishop
Rue Morgue Press
87 Lone Tree Lane, Lyons, CO 80540
9781601870087 $14.95

Mystery writing used the be beneath academics, so when a Cornell professor of romance literature by the name of Morris Bishop wrote his one and only mystery under a pseudonym, the future provost hid behind his fake name. He published under Dashiell Hammett's and Raymond Chandler's publisher, and eventually became Provost of Cornell. Even as he denied authorship, Bishop scribbled a limerick establishing his guilt and remorse as author of THE WIDENING STAIN, to be found in Cornell's Olin library for posterity.

With librarian Gilda Gorman, chief cataloger at the University library in the role of female sleuth, this fanciful mystery begins with a build-up to the boring President's reception, which is attended by reluctant faculty. Gilda and her would-be fiance, the tall, blond, and handsome Francis Perry, are discussing the merits of a possible marriage. Gilda has determined that she really doesn't know much about Perry, and seems to be throwing obstacles at his proposal:

"'I would tell you anything you want to know, Gilda.' Parry's voice was low.

'Well now, for example - last year, as you probably know, your name and that of Lucie Coindreau were, in that nice phrase, coupled. Was there anything serious between you?'

'Would it make any difference?'

'I don't know. I think it might.'

'Well, then - no.'"

With that conversation and the subsequent discovery of the 'dark-hair Frenchwoman who arouses the beast in men,' the suave Perry in fact loses his love. As far as Gilda is concerned, she is the curious sort who only wants to find Mademoiselle Coindreau's murderer, even if it means putting herself at risk. The stain widens as more are pulled into the initial murder.

Morris Bishop incorporates his love of limericks into this tantalizing mystery, which is defined as a verse with an "a-a-b-b-a" style with five anapestic lines (two short, followed by a long line). Although THE WIDENING STAIN was, no doubt, meant as an intellectual exercise allowing the author to stretch, it accomplishes its mission as a comedic mystery. Characterization is fitting for an academic atmosphere, with love acting as its main high jinx.

Killer Storm
Jen Wright
Clover Valley Press, LLC
6286 Homestead Rd., Duluth, MN 55804
9780979488306 $14.95

Jen Wright is part of the ever-growing artistic community (who also have other careers) of people who live along the breathtaking north shore of Lake Superior in Clover Valley located east of Duluth, Minnesota. Jen's nine-to-five career consists of currently working as a Court and Field Supervisor for a local corrections agency, meaning she is a fount of information about the increasing problem of juvenile delinquency and gang activity in the Duluth area. Jen is a dog person and lives with her partner and enjoys a tight circle of friends.

Jo Spence lives such an efficient life that even the number of pants that get to occupy her closet are numbered. She is the Juvenile Probation Supervisor in Duluth and loves her job until a family is murdered, probably by the newest and "baddest" gang in town. Jo's home is invaded, forcing her to bunk with friends, who set her up on her first date since her partner left in a huff. As the tale unfolds, it is evident that someone close to Jo is working to undermine her efforts to put the murderer behind bars and to close down the newest threat to Duluth:

"Nate quickly ran to the door with his weapon drawn. He put his back to the door and peeked his head around with his weapon out in front of him pointing to the ceiling. He took one hand from the weapon and gestured for us to stay. He whispered into his head unit, 'Armed suspect has a hostage.' There were still FBI agents posted throughout the building. Nate continued talking quietly, 'Suspect has two in-custody subjects. Suspect has a gun, and Nichols is with him. They are edging their way toward the back north stairwell. Hostage is a federal agent. Transportation officer is down an in need of assistance. Please call an ambulance.'"

Jen Wright does a nice job of weaving her own personal knowledge into a whodunit that is smart and contemporary. She relieves the tension of dealing with homicidal teenagers with a sweet emerging love story for Jo Spence, who is also sorting out in her own mind what it takes to create a lasting relationship. Wright also throws in a bit of betrayal to sweeten the mix of an already compelling story. KILLER STORM is an entertaining whodunit from a new generation of talented writers, and Jen Wright has much to offer as an author. Well done!

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Rules of Engagement
Dr. N. Cindy Trimm
Creation House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746
978159858218 $9.99

In this book by Dr. Cindy Trimm we are led into our prayer closets to pray one of the most comprehensive and powerful prayers I have seen in a long time.

As we begin this book we read an introduction that explains the prayer world of David, one of God's true followers. Here we are shown that we must trained and put in the battle to become a skillful warrior. Through this training when we are confronted by the enemy we will rise up and become the victor, not the victim. Her explanation of the importance of our words and prayers is outstanding and she explains that our prayers must not be 'earth-bound', and how we can correct this mistake.

If you are discouraged that your prayers don't seem to be hitting the mark or making a difference, this book is for you.

If you want to grow in the Spirit and change the world you live in, this work is a must have. Researched and Biblical the prayer in this book, if prayed under the directions given and the leading of the Spirit of God, will indeed become life changing. and bring you into a realm of excitement at the beginning of each new prayer day. You can influence the world you live in and this book will help you understand what to do to achieve that goal. Excellent read, great help!

I Never Saw Paris
Harry I. Freund
Carroll & Graf Publishers
245 West 17th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10011
100786720549 $22.99

We all know that none of us is promised tomorrow; our eternity may begin at any moment. In this story a car, out of control, takes the lives of a group of strangers on the corner of a street in New York City. These strangers find themselves grouped together and are confronted by an Angel named Malakh, who is to help prepare them for their day before the Judge of the Universe, who will decide where their next destination will be.

In this read these strangers bear their lives on earth in an attempt to bring forth things that they should be prepared to explain and defend before the Judge. As each story progresses you find a mix of emotions but the one thing this group does find is unity with one another and a bond forms bringing this story to a conclusion that you may not expect.

To me this book was not at all what I expected. I thought I would read about souls truly making their way to Paradise,at least the way I perceive Paradise and the afterlife to be. However, for those that want a different slant on what happens after death than you may expect, you will enjoy this read, for it does show how a group of stranger overcame and with united strength achieved a victory, even in the afterlife.

The Art of Empowered Parenting: The Manual You Wish Your Kids Came With
Erik Fisher, Ph.D., Steven Wayne Sharp, & Diane Fivaz Wichman
Ovation Books
PO Box 80107, Austin, Texas 78759
0979027543 $16.95

I know what you are thinking that this is just another book on what you should and should not do with your own children, well think again. Inside the pages of this work you will be pleasantly surprised as you are shown strategies to overcome so many areas of difficulty in raising your children.

However, before you can be a victor you have to understand the how's and why's of these problems and this book does an exceptional job in doing just that. From troubled child to timid child, you will gain insight into the inner working of your offspring, and be more sensitive to what needs to be done for them.

The authors want you to succeed in parenting and explain the true meaning of an equity-based parenting approach. Sounds weird and not for you? Believe me, once you understand the benefits of this approach you will sing a different tune. I certainly could not begin to explain this to you in such a short review but believe me I was impressed and wished I had used this years ago when my children were young. The authors have penned a great book and one that all parents will find invaluable in raising their children to be self-productive and strong adults.

Body Talk
Nancy Rue
Zondervan Publishing
P.O. Box 22000, Fort Worth, Texas USA 76122
0310712750 $7.99

It is a truth that we would like to keep our little girls just that, little. However time has a way of moving on and before you know it, girls become women, almost overnight. As a mom and a grandma, a friend and a mentor of many young girls, and of course remembering my own maturing days, the transition is not always an easy one. Questions are asked, or thought and never voiced. Concerns may way become excessive fears if not confronted, as young girls take their journey into their role as a woman.

In this outstanding book by Nancy Rue girls will find a down-to-earth, truthful look at just what is happening to their bodies and why. Discussions are made and explained about the visit of their 'monthly,' to 'smelly feet,' and along with all the why's and how's.

However, don't think this is a text book manual because it is far from that. No, this is written on a one to one, open your heart, ask a question, and just be real manner. Inside the pages of this work, young girls will learn to understand what is going on in their bodies and why. They will be able to associate with the different emotions they are feeling and know that it is normal to feel that way. I definitely will give each of my granddaughters a copy of this book. It is definitely a jewel that every woman to be will cherish. Very, very highly recommended.

Girl Politics
Nancy Rue
P.O. Box 22000, Fort Worth, Texas USA 76122
0310712963 $7.99

Do you remember the bully in school? Do you remember being teased over something that you had no control over?

Has it left a scar in your life that even now the very thought of it causes a subtle pain within you? I think we all have, and that is very sad for all of us.

In this work by author Nancy Rue we are taken into the young world of such as this. A world where bullies may run rampart and teasing maybe the norm. However, things don't have to end up the way they did with us, not if young people are taught what God would have them to do when confronted with bullies and teasing that borders on pure cruelty. Just what are the guidelines and when is enough, enough and just how do you make it stop? Hard questions are asked, situations explored and solutions given in this book that are sure to help bring peace during the hard years of peer pressure, and decision making days. Growing-up is hard, this wonderful book gives girls a head-start on how to handle troubled waters with their friends, and even enemies in Godly attitudes. Recommended.

The Popular Encyclopedia of World Religions
Richard Wolff
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR. 97402-9173
9780736920070 $16.99

In the times we live it seems the religions of the world are awakening to a magnitude we have never known before. We find ourselves being witnessed to by some and our very lives threatened by others. Like it or not, a spiritual move is occurring and your best defense is knowledge of who you are and what you stand for, and why, and who those in other religions are, what they stand for, and why.

In this outstanding read by Richard Wolff we are taken into the world of some popular world religions such as, but not limited to, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism and Buddism, and Christianity. Our author takes us through the door as he explains how these religions began, what their teachings are, and how they feel about the rest of us in this world. Talk about an eye opener and a learning experience!

Listen, this work is packed full of needed information relevant to our times and seasons. It is not a book that you will read in one sitting, but one that you will absorb slowly as you are given answers to so many unasked and asked questions about different religions. It is one you will not pass along to others, but will keep within easy access to use as a reference when the need arises, and I'm sure it will. You are also given what the author calls, "contact points," which are areas that you may use during ministry opportunities.

The Popular Encyclopedia of World Religions is a must have, not just for Christians, but for all who have a true need to understand the beliefs of those we share this world with.
Exceptional and very highly recommended.

Son of My Soul: The Adoption of Christopher
Debra Shiveley Welch
Saga Books
Box 190, Carmangay, T0L 0N0 Alberta Canada
9781894936934 $13.95

I believe it is true that God anoints the pen of some writers to bring forth words from their heart to those with a specific need. In my opinion, author Debra Shiveley Welch, has the anointing of the Lord upon her words in her newest work, "Son of My Soul - The Adoption of Christopher," as she tells the story of her adoption of her beloved son, Christopher, and the foreshadowing of her life's cycle that would bring her to that moment in time. Within the pages of this book our author bares her soul as she reveals her life story, one of rejection, abuse and remorse and takes us on her journey to healing, redemption and fulfillment of a promise made so long ago. Much of the tales of her youth were heart wrenching, and the courage of this woman was evident even at the most tender age. You will be amazed and deeply moved. Undergoing rejection, not only from mother, father, step-grandmother and other family members, our author forged through two broken marriages, and as you read, you hope upon hope that somewhere happiness awaits this hurting soul. Strengthened by her faith in God, slowly she is led towards the destiny He has placed upon her life; and moves forward with trust and belief that destiny will be fulfilled. Remarkable!

We travel along as Debra again marries, and she and her loving husband are entrusted with a baby boy, shortly before the chance may have been gone forever. A child with problems that many would find too unbearable to undertake, Mrs. Welch embraced immediately the child of her heart. This couple of faith and love moved forward into a future that they knew at best would be a challenge, but they never let that dictate their decision concerning making Christopher their own.

My heart broke time and time again as situations were told of countless operations, near death experiences, and learning problems encountered by their Christopher, but I rejoiced at the determination, faith and fortitude of this couple and the victorious outcome of this loving family. We all have challenges in our lives and dreams that we want to see fulfilled, but do we have the courage to never let them go? In this read you will see the courage of one woman who overcame deep hurts, extended forgiveness, found her destiny child, and gave freely and gladly to him unconditional love, and a chance at a wonderful life. Her story and Christopher's is one you will treasure and remember in your heart for a long time to come...One that will bring a tear and a smile. A story of horror, pain, and rejection that is replaced with courage, hope, faith, love and victory. This is a book every adoptive parent should read, and every person who has a child of their heart, for in this read you will find the true meaning of love. Well done Mrs. Welch!

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Wine Tasting Guide to California Central Coast
Mike O'Beirne
Old Vine Publishing Company
PO Box 6774, Pine Mountain Club, CA 93222
9780979429132, $19.95

Written by veteran wine tasting tour leader Mike O'Beirne, The Wine Tasting Guide to California Central Coast: 230 Wineries From Paco to Mailbu You Won't Want to Miss lives up to its title. Chapters guide the reader to little-known, back-road wineries, with tips for getting in to wineries that seem to close their gates to the public; offer a basic course in winemaker's lingo as well as how to pronounce wine names; recommend wine clubs that are best for different tastes; and much more. A wonderful resource for any wine lover in the California Central Coast area, whether tourist or resident, that reveals the author's joy in the hobby on every detail-laden page.

Golden Poet's Variety Poems
Nick Berg
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor, New York, NY 10016
9780533156269, $7.95 1-212-736-1767

Golden Poet's Variety Poems is a very brief collection of short, rhyming poems brimming with joy. Although religious themes are occasionally touched upon, most of the verses simply reflect the wonder and happiness to be found in everyday life. A delightful, read-aloud morsel ideal for poetry lovers everywhere. "Floating": I feel like riding on a rainbow or a star today and have / Wings and float through the galaxy. Hurray! / I will visit the planets, like Jupiter, OK, / Or maybe I will ride the Milky Way. / It's time to come down from my fantasies. / Because I haven't crashed yet, we'll see.

Tibetan Adventure
Jack L. Parker
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
978159886516, $11.99

World traveler Jack L. Parker presents Tibetan Adventure, an exciting novel set in an exotic land. When Jeff Thornton's parents disappear, he discovers they were taken by an evil Chinese army colonel who seeks to use their talents as research scientists to no good end. A Tibetan Khamban named Dorje tells Jeff that his parents are held in an abandoned monastery in Tibet; together, the two join forces to free the hostages. The mythical yeti, a fascinatingly powerful secret formula, and the majesty of Tibetan land and culture enliven this grand adventure.

Houdini Periodical Bibliography
Arthur Moses
H&R Magic Books
3839 Liles Lane, Humble, TX 77396
9780972793889, $40.00

Houdini Periodical Bibliography is a bibliographic listing of every significant magazine, periodical, newsletter, comic book, weekly, or serial article concerning famous magician and escape artist Harry Houdini. Covering articles published from 1898 to the end of 2005, Houdini Periodical Bibliography lists the name, date, country of origin, page, and title of each article. A handful of color plates illustrate this comprehensive and highly serviceable reference.

John Taylor

Vicki's Bookshelf

The Arrival
Shaun Tan
Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780439895293 $19.99

In a heartbreaking parting, a man gives his wife and daughter a last kiss and boards a steamship to cross the ocean. He's embarking on the most painful yet important journey of his life - he's leaving home to build a better future for his family. Shaun Tan evokes universal aspects of an immigrant's experience through a singular work of the imagination. He does so using brilliantly clear and mesmerizing images. Because the main character can't communicate in words, the book forgoes them too. But while the reader experiences the main character's isolation, he also shares his ultimate joy. This wordless, graphic novel is a masterpiece - as poignant as it is original.

Bunnicula and Friends: Creepy Crawly Birthday
James Howe, illustrated by Jeff Mack
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9780689857287 $16.99

In the latest emergent reader in the "Bunnicula and Friends" series, the animals in the Monroe household fear they are about to be replaced when seven suitcases, apparently containing new pets, arrive on Toby's birthday. Harold the dog, Chester the cat, and Howie the dachshund puppy are excited because birthdays mean parties, and parties mean presents, and, best of all, cake. But when the pets find seven suitcases in the room with all of the gifts, they start to worry. What could be inside? Why are there holes in them? And are they...moving?

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Washington Irving, illustrated by Gris Grimly
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416906254 $16.99

Are all the lights on? Is there a parent in the house? Are the windows shut and locked? Double-check! Kids may want all the lights on in the house, too, if they're going to read this book, the creepiest picture book rendition of one of the greatest ghost stories ever told: "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." While you may have heard of Ichabod Crane, Katrina Van Tassel, and the Headless Horseman, you've never SEEN them quite like this -- through the macabre imagination of the inimitable Gris Grimly.

Letters from the Corrugated Castle
Joan W. Blos

Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9760689870774 $17.99

Thirteen-year-old Eldora has always believed that her mother died when she was very little, and for nine years she has lived with people that she calls Aunt and Uncle. The year is 1850, and all three have exchanged their quiet lives in New Bedford, Massachusetts, for new ones in San Francisco, the rapidly growing city that is the heart of the California Gold Rush. Shortly after their arrival, they receive a letter from an unknown woman who believes she is Eldora's mother. She is eager to meet her long-lost daughter, and a visit is arranged. As Eldora deals with her conflicting feelings about this news, she must also adjust to the challenges -- and dangers -- of living in a brash and growing city. She finds herself teaching English to two Mexicano children and beginning to learn Spanish, and an unlikely friendship with a boy named Luke introduces her to the hard, sometimes humorous, and often violent world of the mining camps. Every day seems to bring something different and new to consider. But can Eldora discover where -- and to whom -- she belongs? Told in letters that ring with the voice of the times, "Letters from the Corrugated Castle" is an intriguing adventure set in a fascinating time in California's history -- a worthy conclusion to the geographical trilogy begun with "A Gathering of Days," winner of the Newbery Medal, and "Brothers of the Heart."

When Dinosaurs Came with Everything
Elise Broach, illustrated by David Small
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9790689869228 $16.99

Just when a little boy thinks he's going to die of boredom from running errands with his mom, the most remarkable, the most stupendous thing happens. He discovers that on this day, and this day only, stores everywhere are giving away a very special treat with any purchase. No, not the usual lollipop or sticker. Something bigger. Much, MUCH bigger. It's a dream come true, except...what exactly do you do with these Jurassic treats? And how do you convince Mom to let you keep them?

Shannon Hale
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
1596912855 $19.95

Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined. Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen—or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It's all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie
Laura Rankin
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781599900100 $15.95

Ruthie loves little things -- the smaller, the better. When she finds a teeny tiny toy on the school playground, she can hardly believe her luck. There's just one problem: it belongs to somebody else! Ruthie insists the toy is hers, but deep down, she knows better. How could one little toy turn into such a great big problem? A sweet picture book cautionary tale teaching right from wrong.

The Chicken Dance
Jacques Couvillon
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781599900438 $16.95

Don Schmidt lives on a chicken farm in Horse Island, Louisiana, where his mom keeps chickens not so much for the eggs as for the "ambience." Don loves the chickens more than anything or anybody. He doesn't really have friends, and his older sister died when he was little. But how can he forget his sister, Dawn, when his mother never stops talking about what a great dancer she was? One day, Don enters a contest and wins first place for chicken judging. Even though his parents don't notice his achievement, everyone else in town does. Still, Don's blue ribbon can hardly compete with Dawn's ballet trophy. Hilarious.

Amazing Dinosaurs
Dougal Dixon
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, Penn. 18431
9781590785379 $19.95

Young dinosaur fans will discover the latest findings on 80 of the strangest and most amazing dinosaurs in Dougal Dixon's latest book on his favorite subject. Everyone's favorites - Triceratops, Brachiosaurus, T. rex and many others - are here, along with their newest (oldest?) friends, recently discovered. Some hunt, others hide, while some tower among the trees. Full-color illustrations and fascinating, fact-filled text bring to life these beasts from the past. The basics about each creature are easy to find in a quick-reference box of facts and figures.

The Best Eid Ever
Asma Mobin-Uddin, illustrated by Laura Jacobsen
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, Penn. 18431
9781590784310 $16.95

It's Eid, the biggest holiday of the Muslim year, and Aneesa should be happy. But her parents are thousands of miles away in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage. To cheer her up, her grandmother gives her a gift of beautiful clothes from Pakistan, along with matching bangles and shoes. She even prepares Aneesa's favorite dinner, which they will enjoy when they return from prayers. At the prayer hall, Aneesa meets two sisters - they are refugees who fled their war-torn country. Aneesa can't stop thinking about the girls and what Eid must be like for them, so she comes up with a plan to help the girls celebrate a more joyous Eid.

Lions Tigers and Bears: Why Are Big Predators So Rare?
Ron Hirschi, photos by Thomas D. Mangelsen
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, Penn. 18431
9781590784358 $16.95

Large, fierce, and often dangerous predators might seem the best survivors. They have superior strength, great speed, and high levels of intelligence. If they are so well equipped, why are they among the rarest animals and the most threatened by human activity? To answer these questions, Ron Hirschi and Thomas Mangelsen introduce young readers to some of the earth's most spectacular predators: cougar, polar bear, lion, cheetah, tiger, grizzly bear, and killer whale. Then they examine the animals' past and present, and speculate on their future. A fascinating look at the world in which these animals live, the environmental challenges they face, and what biologists and people around the globe are doing to help these majestic animals survive.

We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin
Larry Dane Brimmer
Calkins Creek
815 Church St., Honesdale, Penn. 18431
9781590784983 $17.95

Bayard Rustin was a man with purpose and heart. His was a life dedicated to helping others - fighting injustices and discrimination - so that people could live as one. Protesting segregation long before there was a civil rights movement, he often was arrested for his beliefs and actions, but he knew things had to change so he did all he could as a nonviolent activist, working alongside many African American leaders, notably A. Philip Randolph and Martin Luther King, Jr. With style and careful attention to history, author Larry Dane Brimner captures a story of passion, courage, and triumph through Bayard's own words and archival photographs.

The Pig Scrolls
Paul Shipton
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
076362702X $15.99

References to ancient Greece abound in this relentlessly funny adventure starring a one-time member of Odysseus's crew -- now a sarcastic talking pig -- who must fulfill a prophecy to save the world. Behold Gryllus, sarcastic former crewman of Odysseus, changed by Circe into a swine -- and happy to stay that way. Life is just fine until the prophetess Sibyl tells him that the world's in grave danger and that the only one who can save it is . . . a talking pig. "The Pig Scrolls" is a comical quest full of nonstop action and oddly familiar characters, from an oversensitive, lyre-strumming poet to the sinister, snappily dressed Epicurus; from chimeras and Stymphalian birds to the testy gods and goddesses themselves. Its abundant appropriation of Greek history and myth and its galloping humor is perfectly pitched to middle-grade kids

Things to Do Book
Jennie Maizels
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
9780763633714 $15.99

With more than 150 activities, kids 4-6 will be well entertained with the "Things To Do Book." Lots of lift-the-flaps on each page offer to keep busy hands busy discovering hundreds of imaginative things to do - from papier-mache on a rainy day to potato prints in the kitchen, counting games at the grocery store to hand shadows in bed. This book will fill any day, from morning to sleep, with fun!

Giant Sea Reptiles of the Dinosaur Age
Caroline Arnold, illustrated by Laurie Caple
Clarion Books / Houghton Mifflin
251 Park Avenue South, NY NY 10003
9780618504497 $17.00

Throughout the Dinosaur Age, enormous reptiles called ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and mosasaurs swam the seas. Some of these massive creatures weighed more than 20 tons. Others had snake-like necks as long as 23 feet. From Kansas and Canada to Antarctica and New Zealand, fossil bones of these real-life sea monsters have been found. Acclaimed science author Caroline Arnold and noted natural-history artist Laurie Caple pair up once again to show how fossil evidence worldwide is helping us learn about these amazing reptiles. Featuring eerily beautiful illustrations that bring "fossil creatures" to life, this thoroughly researched book gives insight into what Earth was like when prehistoric predators roamed the seas.

Exploring Science: Electrical Circuits
David Dreier
Compass Point Books
7825 Telegraph Road, Bloomington, MN 55438
9780756532673 $26.60

From contemporary issues, such as the greenhouse effect and genetics, to core curriculum themes such as atoms and molecules and plant cells, the "Exploring Science" series covers subject matter aimed at making readers science literate. Each discipline is covered concisely using descriptive text and a variety of charts, diagrams, and striking photographs. "Electrical Circuits," for example, discusses how electricity works and how it is created and harnessed. Other book subjects include human body systems, Plate tectonics, and the periodic table.

Freedom Rides
Dale Anderson
Compass Point Books
7825 Telegraph Road, Bloomington, MN 55438
9780756533335 $23.95

Compelling narrative take readers into the action of historic events in the "Snapshots in History" series for grades five through seven. "Freedom Rides" tells about how, in May 1961, African-American and white civil rights activists set out from Washington, D.C. to test a U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring that interstate bus stations had to be integrated. Violent attacks in Southern states forced a stop to the Freedom Rides, as the trips became known, but soon other brave activists joined the riders. Their actions forced the reluctant administration of President John F. Kennedy to secure the safety of African-Americans and their constitutional rights.

Gerardus Mercator: Father of Modern Mapmaking
Ann Heinrichs
Compass Point Books
7825 Telegraph Road, Bloomington, MN 55438
9780756533120 $23.95

From Aristotle to Amy Tan, these award-winning books captivate readers with lives that changed the world. In "Gerardus Mercator: Father of Modern Mapmaking," for instance, The Scientific Revolution is revealed as a period of radical change in basic beliefs, thoughts, and ideas. During its 150 years, ideas about astronomy, biology, and physics, and the very way scientists worked, underwent a grand transformation. Sixteenth-century geographer Gerardus Mercator won lasting renown with his world map of 1569, which introduced a new way of showing the spherical Earth on a flat sheet of paper. He also introduced the word "atlas" to describe a collection of maps. Other titles in the series are equally illuminating, particularly biographies of Indira Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, and Sir Isaac Newton.

Brothers, Boyfriends and Other Criminal Minds
April Lurie
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385731249 $15.99

Brooklyn 1977. April Lundquist lives in Dyker Heights, a neighborhood populated by the Mafia. Three hit men live on her block: Francesco "Frankie the Crunch' Consiglione, Vincent "Gorgeous Vinny" Persico, and Salvatore "Soft Sal" Luciano. When Soft Sal approaches April and her best friend, Brandi Rinaldi, for a favor, well… the girls can't refuse. But does the favor, along with the crisp hundred-dollar bills that turn up in their schoolbooks, mean that April and Brandi are now in with the Mob? Will April be able to get "protection" for her older brother, Matt, when he makes the big mistake of falling for the daughter of a big crime boss? And will April's connection to Soft Sal bring her closer to Dominick DeMao, bad-boy rocker and heartbreaker? Soft Sal, Matt, Dom…in April's neighborhood the guys stir up all the trouble, but April wouldn't have it any other way.

Gert Garibaldi's Rants and Raves: One Butt Cheek At A Time
Amber Kizer
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385734301 $15.99

Everyone knows that high school is the best part of life...everyone but poor Gert Garibaldi who is struggling to fit in. Her best friend, Adam, has made a new close friend, and Gert can't seem to understand their "guy talk." When Gert's mother gives her a diary to record all her high school memories, Gert begins working through her feeling on paper, and soon things are looking up. She realizes that she's a young woman, and that adolescence means lots of growing and changing. But unfortunately for Gert, the pressures of homecoming is just around the corner, and Gert is feeling stressed. Clever teen chick lit with plenty of snap.

The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It
Lisa Shanahan
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385735162 $15.99

"In my family, when anyone rides the wave of their emotions, we say they're chucking a birkett. When the emotion drives out all common sense, we say they're chucking a big one. The telltale signs are: flaming cheeks, shortness of breath, bulging eyes, and a prolonged illogical outburst." Gemma Stone is convinced that it's always unseemly to chuck a birkett and that it's actually insane to chuck one in front of a complete stranger. But that was before she fell for a boy who barely knows she exists, before she auditioned for the school play, before she met the family of freaks her sister Debbie is marrying into, before the unpredictable Raven De Head took an interest in her, and before she realized that at the right time and for the right reason, a birkett could be a beautiful thing.

Red Glass
Laura Resau
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
978038573466 $15.99

One night Sophie and her parents are called to a hospital where Pedro, 6-year-old Mexican boy, is recovering from dehydration. Crossing the border into Arizona with a group of Mexicans and a coyote, or guide, Pedro and his parents faced such harsh conditions that the boy is the only survivor. Pedro comes to live with Sophie, her parents, and Sophie's Aunt Dika, a refugee of the war in Bosnia. Sophie loves Pedro -- her Principito, or Little Prince. But after a year, Pedro's surviving family in Mexico makes contact, and Sophie, Dika, Dika's new boyfriend, and his son must travel with Pedro to his hometown so that he can make a heart-wrenching decision.

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385734363 $14.99

"Wyvernhail" is the conclusion to 23-year-old Amelia Atwater-Rhodes' "The Kiesha'ra" series, which delves into the volatile world of the shape-shifting avian and serpiente people. Although the avian and serpiente people now reside relatively peacefully in the unified land of Wyvern's Court, underlying differences could erupt at any moment. And when the land's leader abdicates her throne, it is possible that the ramifications could cause a renewed bloodshed among the groups. Now it is up to Hai, a falcon/serpent mix with powerful magic and an ability to see visions of the future, to save Wyvern's Court from utter destruction. Impressively, Atwater-Rhodes has been writing fantasy/horror novels for 10 years, and her first book was published when she was 14.

A School Like Mine
DK editors
375 Hudson St., NY, NY, 10014
9780756628137 $19.99

A joint effort between DK Publishing and UNICEF, "A School Like Mine" is a mind-broadening journey to classrooms around the world, this unique celebration of the commonalities and differences between school days in different countries will enrich knowledge and delight imagination as kids share in the experiences of their peers around the world. Features an introduction by soccer star David Beckham.

Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case
Donald J. Sobol
Doubleday / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780525479246 $15.99

Since 1963, when Dutton published the first book in the series, Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective , the brainy crime-stopper has been a favorite character among middle-grade readers. Now, for the first time in twenty-five years, Dutton is pleased to present a brand-new Encyclopedia Brown mystery. Following the classic formula, the book presents ten separate mysteries, complete with answers that allow the reader to solve the cases along with the Boy Detective. Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case will be a flagship for the backlist titles, which Puffin will reissue in paperback on the same list with new cover art.

How Underwear Got Under There
Kathy Shaskan, illustrated by Regan Dunnick
Dutton Children's Books
345 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
9780525471783 $16.99

I see London, I see France…here's a picture book about underpants. Do you fully appreciate your undies? King Tut sure liked his. He was buried with 145 pairs! Discover the role of underwear in history -- how it has shaped us, and how we have shaped it -- in this delightful examination of undergarments. Chockablock with facts, fascinating anecdotes, and hilarious illustrations, this lively survey examines the science, fashion, and social ramifications of various undergarments. From boxers to bustles to briefs, from history to humor to the very nature of humanity, the story of underwear has something for everyone. Or, at least, everyone who wears it.

At Night
Jonthan Bean
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
19 Union Square West, NY, NY 10003
9780374304461 $15.00

On some nights, a snug bedroom is a hard place to fall asleep. On some nights, it's better to get away from slumbering, snoring family members and curl up alone with one's thoughts in the cool night air, under wide-open skies. In this charming bedtime fantasy, a sleepless city girl does just that, finding her surprising way to a serene rooftop version of a backyard campout. With captivating ink-and-watercolor illustrations and a simple, lyrical text, newcomer Jonathan Bean has created a soothing bedtime story that is sure to charm children and parents alike.

Will Weaver
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
19 Union Square West, NY, NY 10003
9780374317256 $16.00

Maybe it was bad karma. Maybe it was just bad luck. Whatever the reason, 15-year-old David was born defective. His bug eyes, pinched face, and hearing aids are obvious, but there is a secret David keeps from everyone, even his foster parents. Because of a thin layer of skin hidden under each arm, David can fly -- well, glide is more like it. Terrified of doctors, wary of letting down his guard, David is determined to hide his secret at any cost. But then David meets Cheetah, a girl whose own defect doesn't diminish her spirit, and suddenly his life begins to take wing. In this arresting new novel, Will Weaver creates an unforgettable character on the path to discovering that some blessings can be a curse - and some curses a blessing.

Rip Van Winkle's Return
Eric A. Kimmel, illustrations by Leonard Everett Fisher
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
19 Union Square West, NY, NY 10003
9780374363086 $17.00

Rip Van Winkle is an idler who would rather starve for a penny than work for a pound, and his wife is constantly nagging him. In search of peace, Rip heads off to the woods one day with his faithful dog, Wolf. High up in the Catskill Mountains, Rip meets an unusual group of little men. He drinks their strong beverage and falls into a deep sleep. When he awakens, he finds that twenty years have passed - the world has changed and so has he. With vibrant paintings by Leonard Everett Fisher, Eric A. Kimmel's adaptation of Washington Irving's classic "Rip Van Winkle" introduces a Rip who reforms as a result of his experience.

A Crooked Kind of Perfect
Linda Urban
Harcourt Inc.
525 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101
15 E. 26th St., NY, NY 10010
9780152060071 $16.00

Ten-year-old Zoe Elias has perfect piano dreams. She can practically feel the keys under her flying fingers; she can hear the audience's applause. All she needs is a baby grand so she can start her lessons, and then she'll be well on her way to Carnegie Hall. But when Dad ventures to the music store and ends up with a wheezy organ instead of a piano, Zoe's dreams hit a sour note. Learning the organ versions of old TV theme songs just isn't the same as mastering Beethoven on the piano. And the organ isn't the only part of Zoe's life that's off-kilter, what with Mom constantly at work, Dad afraid to leave the house, and that odd boy, Wheeler Diggs, following her home from school every day. Yet when Zoe enters the annual Perform-O-Rama organ competition, she finds that life is full of surprises--and that perfection may be even better when it's just a little off center. A wonderfully warm and funny first novel from a Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators grant-winner.

Roland Smith
Harcourt Inc.
525 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101
15 E. 26th St., NY, NY 10010
9780152024178 $17.00

After Peak Marcello is arrested for scaling a New York City skyscraper, he's left with two choices: wither away in Juvenile Detention or go live with his long-lost father, who runs a climbing company in Thailand. But Peak quickly learns that his father's renewed interest in him has strings attached. Big strings. He wants Peak to be the youngest person to reach the Everest summit -- and his motives are selfish at best. Even so, for a climbing addict like Peak, tackling Everest is the challenge of a lifetime. But it's also one that could cost him his life. Roland Smith has created an action-packed adventure about friendship, sacrifice, family, and the drive to take on Everest, despite the incredible risk. "Peak" is a novel readers won't be able to put down.

William Nicholson
Harcourt Inc.
525 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101
15 E. 26th St., NY, NY 10010
9780152060114 $17.00

Seeker, Morning Star, and the Wildman return in this sequel to "Seeker," and discover that the mysterious warrior sect they were so desperate to join is not what it appeared to be from the outside. Deeply disillusioned, the three escape and head off on what they think are separate quests but that soon become intertwined -- and desperately life threatening. Fortunately, they have acquired the remarkable physical skills of the Noble Warriors, for they are certainly going to need them. The mighty warlord of the Orlan nation is gathering his forces and has vowed to destroy Anacrea -- and everything and everyone that crosses his path. With its riveting and deft handling of myriad themes including love, courage, friendship, desire, faith, and redemption, "Jango" will mesmerize every reader who dares to take the journey.

The Curious Adventures of the Abandoned Toys
Julian Fellowes, illustrated by S.D. Schindler
Henry Holt & Co.
115 W. 18th St., NY, NY 10011
9780805075267 $17.95

When Doc the bear arrives at the dump from his former home in a children's hospital, he's not sure what kind of life awaits him. But the friends he finds there are determined to make his new home a welcoming one. In the gentle, classic style of "The Velveteen Rabbit," the toys discover what it's like to live on their own. Julian Fellowes's witty text and S. D. Schindler's lovely, intricate art combine to make a beautiful gift book, sure to strike a chord with any child (of any age) who has ever loved a stuffed toy.

George and Martha: Two Great Friends
James Marshall
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780618961788 $15.00

Three more George and Martha stories just right for early readers. Story Number One: The Tub Martha teaches George a little lesson about privacy. Story Number Two: The Mirror Martha's bad habit is getting on George's nerves. He hatches the perfect plot to cure her vanity. Story Number Three: The Tooth Oh, no! George has an accident that changes the way he looks. Luckily, Martha knows just what to say to cheer up her friend.

Quest for the Tree Kangaroo
Sy Montgomery, Nic Bishop
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780618496419 $18.00

It looks like a bear, but isn't one. It climbs trees as easily as a monkey— but isn't a monkey, either. It has a belly pocket like a kangaroo, but what's a kangaroo doing up a tree? Meet the amazing Matschie's tree kangaroo, who makes its home in the ancient trees of Papua New Guinea's cloud forest. And meet the amazing scientists who track these elusive animals. From award-winning author and photographer Nic Bishop ("Scientists in the Field") and Sy Montgomery, winner of the 2000 IRA Children's Book Award for nonfiction.

The Sheep in Wolf's Clothing
Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780618868445 $16.00

Best-selling author/illustrator team Lester and Munsinger tell the story of a sheep who takes on another identity in order to fit in. Ewetopia is not comfortable in her own wool, and every attempt she makes to impress the other sheep falls flat. So when an invitation to the Woolyones' Costume Ball arrives, Ewetopia knows her chance to shine has come at last. After trying on 58 different costumes, she finally finds the perfect one -- or so she thinks. But her wolf ensemble turns out to be none too popular with Rambunctious, Ramshackle, and Ramplestiltskin, so Ewetopia finds herself standing all alone again when a stranger enters the room. He is dressed simply as a sheep, but he is so handsome, with his long eyelashes, charming grin, and wool so lovely that it looks fake. Ewecalyptus, Ewetensil, and Heyewe all look on as the newcomer chooses to dance with none other than Ewetopia. But as they twirl across the floor, Ewetopia begins to wonder about her mysterious partner: Why is his growl so deep? Why does he have such long, sharp claws? And why does he keep calling her "Mother"?

Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing
April Jones Prince, illustrated by Francois Roca
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
061844887X $16.00

After fourteen years of construction, the Brooklyn Bridge was completed, much to the delight of the sister cities it connected: Brooklyn and New York City. Fireworks and top hats filled the air in celebration when the magnificent bridge opened in 1883. But some wondered just how much weight the new bridge could hold. Was it truly safe? One man seized the opportunity to show people in Brooklyn, New York and the world that the Brooklyn Bridge was in fact strong enough to hold even the heaviest of passengers. P. T. Barnum, creator of "The Greatest Show on Earth," would present a show too big for the Big Top and too wondrous to forget.

American Heroes: Joshua Chamberlain and The American Civil War
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.and Nikita Andreev
114 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011-5690
9781423107712 $16.99

Musician, linguist, college professor, farmer, husband, and father - Joshua Chamberlain was a Renaissance man living a full and satisfying life in rural Maine when the Civil War broke out. Inspired by his conviction that our young country should stay united, Chamberlain volunteered to join the Union army. He quickly proved himself to be a brilliant strategist and great leader of men, who never hesitated to fight every battle on the front line. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. tells the fascinating and dramatic story of Chamberlain's life, focusing on his extraordinary bravery and inspiring leadership during some of the most bloody and decisive battles of the Civil War.

I Am Invited to a Party
Mo Willems
114 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011-5690
9781423106876 $8.99

Best-selling picture book creator Mo Willems continues his charming Elephant and Piggie first reader series. The books feature two lovable and funny characters: an optimistic (and sometimes reckless) pig and a cautious, pessimistic elephant. Children who sat on their parents' laps to have Pigeon read to them will eagerly take the plunge with these books to start reading on their own. Each book has been vetted by an early learning specialist. These sweet and surprising stories are a much-needed breath of fresh air in the early reader arena. In "I Am Invited to a Party" Piggie is invited to her first party. She doesn't know what to wear, though, so she asks her best friend Elephant for help. Elephant's advice is odd to say the least, so Piggie will try on all sorts of zany outfits before finally arriving at the party for a hilarious surprise. Other titles in the series include "There Is a Bird on Your Head" and "Today I Will Fly."

Legend of the Worst boy in the World
Eoin Colfer
114 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011-5690
9780786855032 $12.95

Growing up with four complainers for brothers, Will Woodman has a hard time getting an audience for his own troubles. He has to wait in line to gripe to his mom -- and that leaves his dad. But since his dad is so busy, Will has to defer to his older (and faster) brother Marty. Will decides that what he really needs is his own grown-up to complain to. And he has the perfect guy for the job, someone who's a good listener and has a lot of free time: Grandad. But swapping sob stories with Grandad doesn't prove to be as satisfying as Will thought. Grandad has tons of pathetic stories to choose from, and one is worse than the next! But when Will hears the legend of the worst boy in the world, he knows he has finally hit the jackpot.

Hurricane Force: In the Path of America's Deadliest Storms
Joseph B. Treaster
Kingfisher / Houghton Mifflin
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116
9780753460863 $16.95

Peering through the latticed brickwork of The New Orleans police headquarters parking garage on August 29, 2005, New York Times journalist Joseph B. Treaster is watching the devastating power of a hurricane up close. Packing winds of 118 miles per hour, Hurricane Katrina is attacking New Orleans, uprooting trees, tearing down power lines, and flattening homes. Inside headquarters, phones are ringing off the hook as more and more people, trapped by the rising floodwaters, call for help. But rescue workers cannot leave the safety of the building until the hurricane has passed. From this harrowing vantage point, Treaster is poised to report on what may prove to be the most infamous storm in American history. But as with all hurricanes, the story of this storm began weeks before, off the coast of North Africa. Treaster details the evolution of the storm as it unfolds in the sky above the Caribbean Sea and is anxiously tracked by the National Weather Bureau in Florida before it strikes. This is a complete behind-the-scenes account of one of natures most terrifying and fascinating disasters.

Last Dance at the Frosty Queen
Richard Uhlig
Knopf / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375839672 $15.99

On the dock of a lake in a tiny town at the corner of Nowhere & Nowhere, he sits counting the seconds until his high school graduation—at which point Arthur M. Flood intends to leave his hick life far behind in the brown Kansas dust. That's the plan. Until . . . up from the lake's muddy depths swims a girl. She's not a mermaid, but she is the one who shakes up Arty's life, makes him mad and mad for her, and helps him find a pathway to his past, his future, and where his heart truly lies. Teens will recognize their own emotional landscape in this steamy, funny, coming-of-age tale in which the heart tries to hide, only to be utterly exposed by love and lust, lost and found.

Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List
Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Knopf / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375844409 $16.99

Naomi and Ely are best friends. Naomi loves and is in love with Ely, and Ely loves Naomi, but prefers to be in love with boys. So they create their "No Kiss List" of people neither of them is allowed to kiss. And this works fine - until Bruce. Bruce is Naomi's boyfriend, so there's no reason to put him on the List. But Ely kissed Bruce even though he is boring. The result: a rift of universal proportions and the potential end of "Naomi and Ely: the institution." Can these best friends come back together again? A tag-team effort from very prolific young adult authors Rachel Cohn ("Gingerbread," "Shrimp," "Cupcake," and "Pop Princess"), and David Leviathan ("Boy Meets Boy," "The Realm of Possibility," "Are We There Yet?" and "Wide Awake").

Michael Harmon
Knopf / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
0375875166 $15.95

There's not much keeping Ian McDermott in Spokane, but at least it's home. He's been raising Sammy practically on his own ever since their mom disappeared again on one of her binges. They get by, finding just enough to eat and plenty of time to skateboard. But at Morrison High, Ian is getting the distinct, chilling feeling that the administration wants him and his board and his punked hair gone. Simply gone. And when his temper finally blows -- he actually takes a swing at Coach Florence and knocks him cold -- Ian knows he's got to grab Sammy and skate. Run. Their search for the one relative they can think of, their only hope, leads Ian and Sammy across the entire state of Washington in the cold and rain - and straight into a shocking discovery. Through it all, Ian knows exactly what he has to do: protect Sammy, and let no one split up their family of two. Michael Harmon tells a nuanced and unflinching story of wilderness survival, the fierce bond between brothers, and teen rage - and redemption.

The Gulps
Rosemary Wells, Marc Brown
Little, Brown and Company
1271 Ave. of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
978031601460 $16.99

With their trademark wit and wisdom, Rosemary Wells and Marc Brown present a side-splittingly slapstick story to introduce the importance of healthy habits. When a fast-food fanatic family of bunnies set out vacation, they pack their RV full of TVs, Jiffy Chips, and Winky Twinks. But when the weighed-down vehicle wheezes to a halt in the middle of nowhere, Farmer Spratt saves the day by showing the Gulps the value of a fresh, home-cooked meal and the lasting benefits of physical activity. The Gulps' transformation is sure to inspire a generation of super-sized kids and parents to turn over a new leaf.

Ellen Hopkins
McElderry Books / Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9761416940906 $16.99

Crank. Glass. Ice. Crystal. Whatever you call it, it's all the same: a monster. And once it's got hold of you, this monster will never let you go. Kristina thinks she can control it. Now with a baby to care for, she's determined to be the one deciding when and how much, the one calling the shots. But the monster is too strong, and before she knows it, Kristina is back in its grips. She needs the monster to keep going, to face the pressures of day-to-day life. She needs it to feel alive. Once again the monster takes over Kristina's life and she will do anything for it, including giving up the one person who gives her the unconditional love she craves -- her baby. The sequel to "Crank," this is the continuing story of Kristina and her descent back to hell. Told in verse, it's a harrowing and disturbing look at addiction and the damage that it inflicts.

The Lacemaker and the Princess
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Margaret K. McElderry Books / Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416919209 $16.99 www.Simon

Eleven-year-old Isabelle is a lacemaker in the town of Versailles. One day as she delivers lace to the palace, she is almost trampled by a crowd of courtiers -- only to be rescued by Marie Antoinette. Before Isabelle can believe it, she has a new job -- companion to the queen's daughter. Isabelle is given a fashionable name, fashionable dresses -- a new identity. At home she plies her needle under her grandmother's disapproving eye. At the palace she is playmate to a princess. Thrown into a world of luxury, Isabelle is living a fairy-tale life. But this facade begins to crumble when rumors of starvation in the countryside lead to whispers of revolution. How can Isabelle reconcile the ugly things she hears in the town with the kind family she knows in the palace? And which side is she truly on? Inspired by an actual friendship between the French princess and a commoner who became her companion, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley offers a vivid portrait of life inside the palace of Versailles -- and a touching tale of two friends divided by class and the hunger for equality and freedom that fueled the French Revolution.

The Lost Years of Merlin
T.A. Barron
Philomel / Penguin
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399250200 $10.99

Spat out by the sea, the boy lay on the rocks, as still as death. Even if he survived the day, he had no home. No memory. And no name. So begins the tale of the strange young boy, who having washed up on the shores of ancient Wales, is determined to find his real home and his true name. One day he will become the greatest wizard of all time, but he knows nothing of this now. At the knee of the mysterious Branwen, who claims to be his mother, the boy learns lore of the Celts, Druids, and people even more ancient. Yet the secret of his identity seems always to escape him. To discover the truth, and the secret of his own powers, he runs away, voyaging to the mist-shrouded side of Fincayra, an enchanted land between earth and sky that is being destroyed by blight. It is there he discovers that the fate of this land and his quest are strangely entwined? Combining all the passion, power, and spiritual depth that are author T. A. Barron's hallmarks, this book adds a thrilling dimension to the legend of Merlin in this new edition.

Ally Kennan
Push / Scholastic
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
0439865492 $16.99

Stephen hasn't had it easy. He's now in foster care because his mom is crazy and his dad is an ex-con vagabond. He's always in trouble or on his way to trouble. But none of these problems compare to the problem of The Beast -- a fierce crocodile that Stephen's been taking care of for years. The Beast is Stephen's biggest secret -- and also his biggest challenge. And that's when it's in a cage. When the Beast escapes, the stakes get even higher. With a keen eye and a startling voice, Ally Kennen joins the ranks of Kevin Brooks and Chris Wooding on the cutting edge of young adult fiction.

How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend
Janette Rallison
Putnam / Penguin
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399246173 $15.99

Sixteen-year-old Giovanna Petrizzo finds it hard enough to fit in. Three years since her family moved to Texas, she's still the newcomer compared to everyone around her. It doesn't help matters when her twin brother, Dante, takes on the mayor's son by running for class president. The least she could expect, though, would be for her boyfriend, Jesse, to support their cause. But Jesse's apparent defection triggers Giovanna's rash emotional side, and before she knows it, she's turned Jesse from the boy of her dreams to the exboyfriend she dreams of winning back. In her trademark style, Janette Rallison delivers a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy that only leaves readers wanting more.

When I First Came to This Land
Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Simms Taback
Putnam / Penguin
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399247934 $16.99

This is a new edition of "When I First Came to This Land," Harriet Ziefert and Simms Taback's picture book based on a song by Oscar Brand. In it, the new land holds a world full of promise for a poor young man who comes to it with a strong back, a warm heart, and unfailing good humor. With its bouncy, cumulative verse and colorful, detail-packed illustrations, this is the perfect introduction to an exciting chapter in American history.

Big Black Horse
Walter Farley, illustrated by James Schucker
Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375840357 $14.99

Available again after almost 50 years is the picture book version of "The Black Stallion." With stunning retro illustrations and Farley's fast-paced text, this gorgeous book will appeal to the nostalgic and adventurous alike. As the sole human survivor of a devastating shipwreck, Alec finds himself alone on a small island with a magnificent stallion, black as night and dangerous as fire. Together they each realize that the other is the key to survival, and so begins the most famous relationship in horse fiction.

I'd Really Like to Eat a Child
Sylviane Domio, illustrated by Dorothee de Monfreid
Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375837616 $14.99

A scrawny little crocodile wants the opportunity to bite off more than he can chew. He's tired of bananas; today he'd like to eat a child. But he's smaller than he thinks, and the little girl he chooses for his first meal puts him in his place -- she picks him up and tickles his tummy! The little crocodile is going to have to eat a lot of bananas and grow a lot bigger before he can add children to his menu! Simple yet hilarious artwork brings this droll story to life. The first book for the American market by a French author-illustrator team, "I'd Really Like to Eat a Child" stands out as an excellent and rare example of a picture book of incredible wit and charm that survives the translation process brilliantly.

Monday with a Mad Genius
Mary Pope Osborne
Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375837296 $11.99

In the 38th book in Mary Pope Osborne's "Magic Treehouse" series, Jack and Annie are on a mission to save Merlin from his sorrows. Charged with finding the second of four secrets of happiness, the brother-and-sister team travel back in the magic tree house to the the Renaissance period. This time, Jack and Annie will need more than a research book and a magic wand. They'll need help from one of the greatest minds of all time. What will they learn from Leonardo da Vinci?

Nobody's Princess
Esther Friesner
Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375875281 $16.99

She's beautiful, she's a princess, and Aphrodite is her favorite goddess, but something in Helen of Sparta just itches for more out of life. Not one to count on the gods -- or her looks -- to take care of her, Helen sets out to get what she wants with steely determination and a sassy attitude. That same attitude makes Helen a few enemies -- such as the self-proclaimed "son of Zeus" Theseus -- but it also intrigues, charms, and amuses those who become her friends, from the famed huntress Atalanta to the young priestess who is the Oracle of Delphi. In "Nobody's Princess," author Esther Friesner deftly weaves together history and myth as she takes a new look at the girl who will become Helen of Troy. The resulting story offers up adventure, humor, and a fresh and engaging heroine you cannot help but root for.

Squirrelly Gray
James Kochalka
Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375839757 $12.99

Squirrelly Gray lives in a world without color. His TV is the only fun he has. (And it's really not much fun.) But tonight is an unusual night for the young squirrel. First he meets the Tooth Fairy, who is very nice. And then he meets the Hungry Fox, who is not so nice. So turn off that TV, Squirrelly Gray -- the fun is just beginning! Mixing playful verse with comics-inspired illustration, James Kochalka has created a unique picture book and an imaginative fable that will have kids rooting for the always adorable, sometimes courageous Squirrelly Gray.

How Big Is It?
Ben Hillman
Scholastic Reference
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780439918084 $14.99

This big title removes the confusion of the abstract by teaching size through eye-catching juxtaposition in "oh wow!" images. For instance, any idea about the size of the mysterious Giant Squid of the deep? Sure, you could read that it's 59.5 ft. long. While that sounds impressive enough, it's a little abstract. However, when you see a full-color illustration of a Giant Squid placed in front of the entire length of a farmhouse, you get a real idea of what 59.5 feet means. Wonderfully creative, and visually stunning stand-out in young non-fiction.

Clara & Senor Frog
Campbell Geeslin, Ryan Sanchez
Schwartz & Wade Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375836138 $16.99

Sawed in half? Rabbits pulled from hats? These are tricks, just magic tricks, and Clara knows them all. But on a visit to a rich gringo's house, she spots a picture of a watermelon, done by a famous artist. The painted fly on it looks so real, Clara swears she saw it move. At last, real magic! Soon Clara discovers her own artistic abilities and she paints as if from a dream: orange cats with silver wings and shells that open up like flowers. This beautiful, original story is peppered with Spanish words, features a character reminiscent of Diego Rivera, and vibrant illustrations that evoke the essence of Mexican art.

Moxy Maxwell does not Love Stuart Little
Peggy Gifford
Schwartz & Wade Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375839153 $12.99

It wasn't as if Moxy Maxwell hadn't tried to do her summer reading. She and "Stuart Little" had been inseparable all summer, like best friends. If "Stuart Little" wasn't in her backpack, it was in her lap…or holding up the coffee table…or getting splashed when Moxy went swimming. But now it's the end of August—the day before fourth grade. And if Moxy doesn't read all of "Stuart Little" immediately, there are going to be "consequences." It may look like Moxy is doing nothing, but actually she is very busy with a zillion highly crucial things like cleaning up her room (sort of) and training her dog and taking a much-needed rest in the hammock. Just look at the pictures her twin brother Mark takes to document it all -- they're scattered throughout -- and you'll see why it's so difficult to make time for a book about a mouse. Of course our heroine does manage to finish her book, falling so in love with it that she finds herself reading under the covers with a flashlight, late into the night.

Angels on Sunset Boulevard
Melissa de la Cruz
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416927679 $15.99

Johnny Silver is the world's soon-to-be biggest rock star, but on the eve of his debut concert in Los Angeles, he mysteriously disappears, causing global pandemonium. His friend Taj tries to discover the truth about his disappearance, which leads her to and its shadowy founder, Sutton Werner, who throws the wildest parties in Bel-Air. TAP started out innocently enough, as a website that dishes the dirt on the kids of Sunset Boulevard and beyond. But it has become something more. Membership is a privilege with responsibilities and consequences. At Sutton's parties, anything goes, especially in the legendary backroom rituals nicknamed The Angels Practice. Rumors abound of a special drink handed out at the parties that tap into otherworldly sensations. One night Taj meets Nick, a Westside preppie who doesn't buy into the TAP mayhem, especially since his kid sister never came home from attending one of its blow-out bashes. Slowly the two of them are drawn to TAP and to each other. But Taj just might know more than she's letting on... For fans of the shallow, hollow teen series "A-List" and "Gossip Girl" who want to explore the darker side of Tinsel-town's brightest lights.

Gary Paulsen
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416925088 $19.99

Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single-engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a tattered Windbreaker and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present -- and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart since his parent's divorce. But now Brian has no time for anger, self pity, or despair -- it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive. For twenty years Gary Paulsen's award-winning contemporary classic has been the survival story with which all others are compared. This new, 20th anniversary edition, with a new introduction and background information by the Newbery Honor-winning author, will introduce a new generate on of readers to this page-turning, heart-stopping adventure.

Mack McGinn's Big Win
Coleen Nurtagh Paratore
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416916130 $15.99

Mack McGinn comes from a long line of winners: Gramp, the football hero; Dad, the (almost) Olympic soccer star; and Mack's older brother, Rory, who has enough trophies to start his own hall of fame. After Mack joins Rory at Danville Middle School, his own jock stock is starting to rise. Mack is running faster, getting stronger, and taking tips from his best friend Digger's dad, who might be the greatest soccer coach in the whole state. And if Mack can just steer clear of creepy Pope Banker next door, convince his mom that Digger's a good kid, keep his concentration on the track, and manage not to strangle Rory before Danville Day, he might make his family prouder than any eleven-year-old athlete ever dreamed possible.

The Marvelous Effect: Marvelous World
Troy Cle
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416939580 $14.99

Louis Proof is an ordinary kid. He loves listening to hip-hop, racing radio-controlled cars, and hanging out with his best friend, Brandon. Then a mysterious letter invites him to visit the local junkyard. There he finds a secret, underground amusement park like no other in existence. This is the best day of Louis's life. The park even has the most amazing race course for radio-controlled cars. Louis starts racing right away. It's a close contest; he's about to activate his nitro boost to take the lead, becomes the worst day of Louis's life. Without warning or reason, thirteen-year-old Louis Proof falls into a coma due to a virus of a mysterious, celestial origin. When he awakens three months later, the world that he once knew and loved is totally out of control. He will learn that his illness is connected to everything that is wrong, and that it's not only his responsibility but his destiny to set things right. This story is a mega-dramatic, remarkably true-to-life, hyper-action fantasy.

Margaret Peterson Haddix
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416911715 $16.99

Bella, newly arrived in New York from Italy, gets a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. There, along with hundreds of other immigrants, she works long hours at a grueling job under terrible conditions. Yetta, a coworker from Russia, has been crusading for a union, and when factory conditions worsen, she helps workers rise up in a strike. Wealthy Jane learns of the plight of the workers and becomes involved with their cause. Bella and Yetta are at work -- and Jane is visiting the factory -- on March 25, 1911, when a spark ignites some cloth and the building is engulfed in fire, leading to one of the worst workplace disasters ever. Margaret Peterson Haddix draws on extensive historical research to bring the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire to tangible life through her thrilling story of Bella, Yetta, and Jane.

They Came From Below
Blake Nelson
Starscape / Tor / Forge
175 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10010
9780765314239 $17.95

Seventeen-year-old Emily and her best friend Reese can't wait for summer vacation on Cape Cod. Every year, it's the same thing: high hopes that they may finally hook up with some cool guys...and it never happens. But this year, they're sure it's going to be different. So it's totally amazing when out of nowhere they meet two unbelievably adorable boys who are just too cute to be true! Which, they soon discover, may be the case. A lot of odd things happen when Steve and Dave are around. Reese figures it's because they're not from around here. So where are they from, France? Well, not quite. Summoned from the depths of the sea by the dire threat of global pollution, friendly aliens "Steve and Dave" have manifested themselves in human form and come ashore in a last desperate effort to save the oceans.

I Miss You Every Day
Simms Taback
Viking / Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670061921 $16.99

What do you do when you miss someone every day? If you live in the eloquently magical world of Simms Taback, you wrap yourself in paper, close yourself up in a box (don't forget the air holes!) and mail yourself to the one you love. From the creator of the Caldecott Medal-winning Joseph Had a Little Overcoat comes this tale about what a little girl will do to reach the person she just can't live without. Filled with Taback's signature vibrant colors and dynamic characters, with a lyrical text that's as silly as it is moving, this gesture of love will resonate with anyone who's ever missed someone.

Violet Goes to the Country
Melanie Cecka, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
Viking / Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670061815 $16.99

"Violet Goes to the Country" is the second in a series of bestselling Mitford Storybooks inspired by Cynthia Coppersmith, a character from Jan Karon's Mitford Years series. Violet and her owner, Alice, are off to the country for a visit. Violet is as excited as can be, but she keeps getting in the way of Alice's uncle Leo (who is "not much of a cat person"). "Violet Goes to the Country" will warm the hearts of Jan Karon fans and cat-lovers alike.

Young Cam Jansen and the Lions' Lunch Mystery
David A. Adler. Illustrated by Susanna Natti
Viking / Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670061716 $13.99

A field trip to the zoo seems like fun for Cam Jansen and her classmates— until lunchtime. Everyone else's sandwich is safely delivered, but Danny can't find his anywhere! Did the lions eat it? Only Cam and her amazing memory can crack this easy-to-read mystery.

I.Q. Gets Fit
Mary Ann Fraser
Walker & Company
104 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10011
9780802795588 $15.95

It's going to be an active month in I.Q.'s classroom -- it's Health Month! And when the school announces that those who pass the fitness test will get a gold ribbon, I.Q. knows right away that he wants to win one. In class, Mrs. Furber teaches the students all about a balanced diet and the food pyramid, drinking the right amount of water, exercising for fitness, and balancing that activity with good rest. But I.Q. can't run as long or jump as far as the other students, and he's worried that he won't win a ribbon. Will I.Q.'s hard work pay off as he goes for the gold?

Vicki Arkoff

Vogel's Bookshelf

Remington's First Revolvers
Charles Schif
Mowbray Publishing
54 East School Street, Woonsocket, RI, 02895
1931464294, $55.00

Remington introduced their first hand-held revolver in 1856, beginning the already successful American arms manufacturer's successful run of percussion and cartridge handguns that served in times of both peace and war, and became a recognized personal weapon throughout the American west. Designed by Fordyce Beals, these pocket revolvers came in three distinctive models which are beautifully detailed and illustrated in "Remington's First Revolvers" by gun collector and expert Charles Schif. This superbly presented collector's guide is illustrated in full color photography as well as black-and-white drawings from examples drawn from the author's own world class collection. The photographs by Paul Goodwin, supported by Schif's informed and informative text, makes "Remington's First Revolvers" a must for gun collectors in general, and Remington revolver and pistol enthusiasts in particular.

Bobcat: Fifty Years
Marty Padgett
c/o MBI Publishing Company
Galtier Plaza, Suite 200, 380 Jackson Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-3885
9780760328149, $34.95 1-800-458-0454

The Bobcat is a small and immensely versatile skid-steer loader that has over its first fifty years become an indispensable staple of the construction industry. In "Bobcat: Fifty Years", automotive historian Mary Padgett lays out the story of this unique machine from its inception by a small town corporation as a farming oriented machine, through its evolution into a major global brand. Chronicling and illustrating the changes and innovations that have kept the company responsible for the Bobcat at the forefront of compact machinery makers, "Bobcat: Fifty Years" covers every aspect from the invention of the Bob-Tach quick-change attachment system, to the introduction of the Big Bob, the Mini-Bob, and the M-700 (the first hydrostatic loader of its size). Of special note is the inclusion of a Product Index. Profusely illustrated with some 400 photographs and 15 diagrams, this 208-page history is informed, informative, and enthusiastically recommended for personal and community library collections.

Native Ground Books & Music, Inc.
109 Bell Road, Asheville, NC 28805-1521 1-800-752-2656

Native Ground Books & Music is an impressive niche publisher of books and recording in the genre of historic American music, folklore, and cookbooks. Two examples of their outstanding work in the field of American popular music is their 'Backpocket' series of inexpensive but highly informative booklets by music historian Wayne Erbsen showcasing two distinctive fields of American music. The first is "Backpocket Old Time Song Book" (0962932701, $6.95) offering the words of music to forty classic mountain tunes. The second is "Backpocket Bluegrass Song Book" (096293271X, $6.95) with the words and music for forty traditional bluegrass tunes. Other examples of Wayne Erbsen's outstanding publications dedicated to subjects associated with the American West include "Cowboy: Songs, Jokes, Lino 'n Lore" (1883206065, $5.95) which includes thirty authentic cowboy songs and twenty-five cowboy insults! Then there is "Outlaw: Ballads, Legends & Lore" (1883206162, $5.95) with songs about seventeen different outlaws ranging from Billy the Kid to Bell Starr -- as well as boothill legends, frontier etiquette, a cure for snoring, outlaw superstitions, and so much more. No railroading enthusiast will want to miss Wayne Erbsen's "Singing Rails: Railroadin' Songs, Jokes & Stories" (188320626X, $5.95), which offers 69 pages of songs like Casey Jones and New River Train, or such fascinating tidbits of information that range from railroad superstitions, to street-car poetry, to famous train robberies, to hobo jokes. Anyone with an interest in American popular culture and/or American music history, should visit the Native Ground Books & Music website at for a complete listing of all of their unique titles, while librarians are encouraged to use their 800 number to request their free catalog.

Do This
Dennis E. Johnson, C.P.A.
Minor Street Publishing
1660 South Albion Street, Suite 712, Denver, CO 80222-4045
9780979128806, $19.95

Certified public accountant Dennis E. Johnson presents Do This: Simple Actions to Eliminate Debt and Create Wealth, a no-nonsense guide to improving one's credit score, reducing credit card debt, and improving net worth. From the importance of avoiding easy credit sources (which are so easy because they cost more, especially in the long run), to protecting oneself from identity theft (beware of people looking over your shoulder when typing your PIN number at the cash register or ATM), to carefully selecting an automobile within one's means (start by preparing a list of one's current monthly financial obligations). Written in plain terms for readers of all backgrounds, Do This lives up to its title and then some. Highly recommended.

Paul T. Vogel

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

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