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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 12, Number 11 November 2013 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Donovan's Bookshelf Julie's Bookshelf
Klausner's Bookshelf Laurel's Bookshelf Lorraine's Bookshelf
Mason's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf
Shirley's Bookshelf    

Cowper's Bookshelf

The Best Ladies' Guide to Football So Far
Dennis Launarey
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781481779081 $22.95

Despite its title, The Best Ladies' Guide to Football So Far isn't just for women - it's a self-teaching guide for absolutely anyone who wants to learn the rules, plays, and workings of American football, whether to play the game, coach a team, or better enjoy watching NFL games on TV with one's significant other. Chapters take an aggressively quiz-themed approach, interspersing lessons about rules, positions, and plays with multiple choice mini-exams to ingrain one's knowledge (answers to all quizzes are in the back of the book). Supplementing its text with a wealth of easy-to-follow, black-and-white diagrams - drawn with icons of actual football players rather than confusing abstract X's or O's - The Best Ladies' Guide to Football So Far is worthy of the highest recommendation for would-be football fans everywhere!

Grateful for Everything
Skip Johnson
1264 Old Alpharetta Rd., Alpharetta, GA 30005
c/o Max Communications (publicity)
2865 Lenox Road #302, Atlanta, GA 30324
9781610053860 $14.95

Grateful for Everything: Learning, Living, and Loving the Great Game of Life is a self-help guide to incorporating gratitude into one's daily life. The spirit of gratitude is a valuable gift in and of itself, that can brighten attitudes, cultivate fulfillment, and improve social graces. Learning to feel and express deep gratitude can be a valuable step toward transforming one's life for the better. Chapters cover "Obstacles to a Life of Gratitude", "Staying Grateful in Really Challenging Times", "Gratitude in the Game of Leadership", and much more. "The foods we are eating, the people we are associating with, the words we choose, the organization of our work and leisure spaces - all of these choices create an environment in which gratitude may flourish or in which gratitude is diminished. If the people you are associating with are constantly using language that is discouraging or envious or gossip-oriented, you will find it to be an ongoing struggle to infuse your conversations with gratitude." An excellent contribution to self-help and spiritual improvement shelves.

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Your Self
The Gem People
Logan Mickel

The Gem People is told in the first person by Cole, a boy who hates for school to end because it means he will have to go 'outside' to a hard life in the isolated mining community of Flintchip. Lives are hard in a regulated community where school time is closely limited by a timekeeper and after-school time involves returning to hard labor. Cole and his brother Rab work in dangerous regions where their mother died, and have little hope of any other kind of life... until a discovery is made that will change not only their lives, but their community's purpose.

Logan Mickel's descriptions are vivid and striking throughout, delicately painting scenarios with emotional depth and vivid metaphors: "The entrance itself is dark, oval, and tilts slightly inwards, like a giant mouth sucking us into the mountain."

When a giant wall/door with mysterious words is discovered within the depths of the mountain, it's Cole who finds himself at the center of not only an impossible mystery, but an equally implausible solution revolving around mysterious Engineers of bygone days (now legends in a community where history is barely real.)

Because Cole found the chamber, he's intimately involved in events which unfold from that point onward. The town council's decision to open the door is one that will change all their lives (it could be a trap - or it could hold riches and wonders).

But the door doesn't lead to any kind of paradise, as hoped: instead it opens to the Gem People - an amazing form of rock-based life with the 'shine' - a power to instill feelings of peace and magic within others: "The world seems different, somehow. Magical...For that one shining moment, all our troubles are gone. "

It turns out the Gem People have many different abilities, so it seems inevitable that a positive discovery would take a darker turn, eventually. The initial descriptions are delicious: "The shine. That's the name we give it when the Gem People burst into light and melt us into quivering pools of giggles."

As the Gem People assimilate into the town, lives are indeed changed with a phenomenon that borders on magic. No matter what the technical analysis, it's evident that the 'shine' is an extraordinary gift.

Cole's association with one Gem Person in particular, Ember, leads to more puzzles as she acknowledges she is special and that there's an important task she needs to do - if she can only remember it. Add in a time factor (the Gem People must be kept hidden in the town to be safe from the outside world and the Train Lords) and you have an odyssey to discover various truths before oppression returns.

The Gem People is at once a fantasy, a coming of age story, and a vivid account of a small town struggling to survive on many levels. It's about genocide, good and bad decisions, and the strength of goodness in the face of evil.

Most of all, it's about one boy's determination to find a truth that could free not just the town, but the world. The relationship between two very different peoples will ultimately test both their realities in this warm, engrossing novel which captures reader interest and holds it tightly to the end.

The Speaker for the Trees
Sean DeLauder
Print - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Digital - Kindle Direct Publishing; Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
ISBN-10: 1477476628
ISBN-13: 9781477476628
Print - $4.99; Kindle - $2.99

The Speaker for the Trees opens from an unusual perspective: that of a bonsai tree that knows "...the woman was named Anna and the man was named Hedge." And with this introduction from a plant that wonders (within the limits of its intelligence) what Hedge is doing there and what his connections are to the plant kingdom comes the unusual story of a fat, balding, faintly green man who seems ordinary but in fact is a "plant sent to the planet by the legendary Plant of Ultimate Knowing to observe humanity and, if necessary, protect them from one of countless interstellar perils."

His mission is to observe and remain hidden until needed, or until the destructive space alien Visitors arrive. His mission has remained the same for 20 years - but it's about to change.

For the Visitors have discovered Hedge and Earth, and the Plant Council has summoned him back, causing conflict with his beloved Earth wife Anna.

There are whimsical and fun moments throughout The Speaker for the Trees despite its serious overtones, which will delight readers who enjoy a dash of lightheartedness along with the unexpected: "He knew she was worrying that his ulcers were boiling or that he didn't enjoy the pork chops. These worries were, of course, completely ridiculous. Ulcers were an impossibility since Hedge processed light into energy and had no stomach. Whether he liked the pork chops or not was irrelevant because he had no taste buds and stored food in an empty vacuole for later disposal. So he stared back at her, absorbing the expression and tracing her face with his eyes. People appreciated that. Paying attention."

The interactions between species and unusual observations that result are one thread that runs through The Speaker for the Trees and adds a unique touch to what otherwise could be deemed light science fiction reading. To 'peg' The Speaker for the Trees as such would be to do it an injustice: its humor and observations make for far more than just another light fantasy and create winning scenarios between protagonists and species that involve readers beyond the usual adventure story level.

Descriptions are often unexpected and satisfying: "Hedge might have danced if he knew how and were his body suited for such activity. It was a strange, overwhelming sense of pure elation that built inside him like too many pork chops, and Hedge felt if he didn't release them he might burst."

It's the different perspectives on humanity which make The Speaker for the Trees such a satisfying read, along with the added bonus of humor which overlays these encounters.

And let's not forget one of the punchlines: that the hopes of Humanity's survival ultimately lies in .... a toaster.

No more will be said here so as not to spoil the plot: suffice it to say that The Speaker for the Trees is more than a cut above your usual sci-fi story of invasion, and is packed with unexpected twists, perspectives and moments - and yes, even romance.

Extraordinary Retribution
Erec Stebbins
Twice Pi Press
Hardback 9780989000482 $24.99
Paperback 9780989000475 $15.95
Ebook 9780989000499 $2.99 (Kindle)

Extraordinary Retribution is a recommendation for fans of international thrillers and espionage and opens in Syria, where a hidden prison compound in the desert is invaded by an assassin haunted by the anguish of his people and intent on violence and freeing prisoners. But his mission isn't singular: his larger vision involves the international community, a global cover-up, and operatives in other countries who scramble to solve a high-level mystery before the entire world becomes immersed in violence.

Extraordinary Retribution takes thriller readers on a whirlwind tour of world politics, interactions, and undercover schemes - all linked by the actions of an assassin and two rogue CIA agents who become immersed in a plot involving the highest chains of world command.

High technology (video streams, laptops, scramblers) drives a story where cat-and-mouse games revolve around murder and corruption: "Basically, we have potential killers out there looking for us, and we don't have the faintest clue who they are, where they are, why they're hunting us, or when they'll show up on our doorstep."

High-tech experiments, high-security government installations and intelligence operations all blend in a vivid thriller that is fluid and filled with changes: perfect for readers of international espionage. Even those well-versed in the genre will delight in the unpredictability of a novel which leads right up to what one thinks is a logical conclusion, then makes a u-turn towards an entirely different direction.

Expect a story line replete with violent confrontations and even scenes of torture. Also expect issues of justice, vengeance, and conflicting psychological tensions that neatly assess purpose, ethics and values, and ultimately even romance.

Extraordinary Retribution assimilates all these elements into a fast-paced international thriller format that doesn't even have a neat, handy conclusion. Without giving anything away, suffice it to say that the twists and turns of plot continue right up to the last emotionally-charged paragraph. And in a genre replete with formula writing and predictability, that's saying a lot.

The Himalayan Revelation
Pankaj Misra
CreateSpace/Amazon Kindle
ISBN-13: 9781492217107
ISBN-10: 1492217107
ASIN: B00F25LC8M, $3.49

The Himalayan Revelation blends mystery and romance with international intrigue; but most of all, it adds the backdrop of Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage site and capital of the Vijayanagar Empire which was plundered centuries earlier, and which holds a secret buried deep in the Himalayas.

Protagonists Gaurav and Natasha uncover the presence of the secret but must embark on a dangerous expedition to unravel its truths; and as facts from the past merge with international concerns of the present, tensions run high.

One thing to note about The Himalayan Revelation is that past and present are closely linked and take the form of alternating chapters that move neatly between past and present events. In some novels this format simply doesn't work, but in The Himalayan Revelation chapters are clearly marked and leave no room for doubt or confusion on the reader's part.

Descriptions of place are also vivid and realistic and provide a wonderful sense not just of place, but of culture: "Amidst the towering snow-capped peaks of desert Himalayas which seemed to be tugging at the helms of the clear blue sky, was cradled a beautiful wooden building in traditional architecture resplendent with Ladakhi motifs and colors. Numerous brightly colored prayer flags were performing a ballet in the bright sunlight as frigid wind blew across."

There are also maps and black and white illustrations accompanying discussions of the Vijayanagar Empire (which is actually a controversial topic in South Indian history.) Rich historical references move beyond casual scene creation to provide readers with complete background relating the region's interactions and culture. These elements are yet another reason for choosing The Himalayan Revelation: no light read, it's actually a rich blend of fiction and fact that will delight readers who seek more complexity from their thrillers.

Clues, puzzles, and inquiries surround translated texts, hidden meanings, and a mysterious Chinese character that translates to 'treasure' - and involves more than a handful of protagonists in a growing search.

While at times it's difficult to separate the well-researched facts from fiction, at all times the novel is compelling and well detailed in its descriptions of history and regional politics: "From the time man learnt the art of shipping and maritime trade, Indian Ocean routes have acted as lifelines. From the ancient silk & spice trade to the modern hydrocarbon fuel trade, the Indian Ocean and its ports have always acquired a vital position in every country's naval strategy. In recent times, China's ambitious growth plans led to formulation and fantastic execution of a superb strategy - the String of Pearls."

Any who seek a complex, detailed thriller based on actual historical fact and not just a light read of espionage and intrigue will find The Himalayan Revelation to be an excellent choice.

The Hollow Man
Paul Hollis
Dog Ear Publishing
ISBN: 9781457520419
ASIN: B00DON62CK, $4.99

The Hollow Man is a thriller revolving around terrorism, and centers around a young field analyst assigned the task of protecting an unpopular Spanish prime minister. When said prime minister is murdered, it falls upon the analyst to uncover and learn the tactics of a terrorist plot that involves destroying Europe's economy and sparks a cross-continent chase between warring factions.

The first thing to note about The Hollow Man is that it's not just a thriller. It's a romance, mystery, and thriller bundled into one; with more than a touch of history added to solidify backgrounds and create interesting contrasts between European cultures.

The use of the first person to trace this analyst's journey immediately involves readers in a chase which blends politics with personal interests - and also succeeds in creating scenarios so realistic that one can almost feel the surroundings and events being described: "I began to regret not bringing my gloves and scarf as a cold gust cut through my long coat. The bitter weather reminded me of winters growing up in Chicago. No matter which way I turned, the swirling wind was still in my face. The frigid air seeped through my clothes and froze muscle as hard as bone."

Add the companionship of agent and lover Zita (who in many ways is more savvy about survival than her companion) and high profile players that constantly threaten to murder them both and you have many scenes of intrigue and deception that document the protagonist's constant challenges to remain undercover and effective: "I was followed again, or played. With the smell of death sticking to me like tree sap and my photograph decorating most of the country, I was finding it increasingly difficult to maintain a low profile on the peninsula."

That The Hollow Man is based on true events only lends authenticity and intrigue to its story line. Readers will be pleasantly surprised by a plot which goes beyond surface tensions to probe underlying motivations, politics, and social and cultural interactions. This is not a romance/thriller for light readers and those looking for entertainment alone may be stymied by the complex, always-evolving plots and subplots that permeate this complex, well-detailed story.

Without giving away The Hollow Man's surprise ending, a friend sums it up well: "It is not over," she said. "You do know there's more to come before you can rest, don't you? There are many lessons to learn before you know who you are. It's your beginning and my ending."

Don't expect a simple story line, logical progression of events, or neat wind-up of plot. DO expect a fast-paced, world-spanning saga packed with high-octane energy, unexpected twists and turns, constantly-evolving challenges to protagonists in a story line that's hard to put down.

The Borealis Genome
Thomas P. Wise & Nancy Wise
ISBN: 978-1-4817-5890-1 (sc)
ISBN: 978-1-4817-5889-5 (hc)
ISBN: 978-1-4817-5888-8 (e)
ASIN: B00D86S66I, $3.99

The Borealis Genome comes across as a thriller; but from the first few paragraphs it's evident that so much more is involved, with a healthy dose of science and science fiction moving it more into the 'sci fi/thriller' genre.

It's all about zombies, genetic manipulation gone awry, and the efforts of a CDC agent and his fiance to get at the heart of what is proving to be a manufactured epidemic bankrolled by the rich.

Now, traditional readers of zombie literature usually don't receive the healthy dose of science that makes The Borealis Genome stand out from the genre norm. 'Zombie' stories typically focus on action and events; not causes and solutions. That's one of the strengths of The Borealis Genome, which provides a slow evolutionary process moving from initial realizations to evolving social and political interactions: all fused with a solid layer of scientific query.

The Borealis Genome opens with one Blue observing the presence of a young boy 'floater' (or dead body) in a neighborhood pool in Philadelphia, then moves to the comparatively sunny, calm morning opening Tim and Nora's day - until a TV news report of yet another 'biting attack' reveals a new zombie cannibal assault.

Unlike typical zombie books, these assaults don't lead en masse to the near-instant breakdown of society, but are a slowly-evolving symptom of a greater problem which challenges Tim and Nora's investigative prowess. At thirty, Tim is still working on his PhD in criminal forensics; but this growing crisis will immerse him in an investigation far beyond his skill sets or those of any other CDC member.

A creature of habit, Tim is used to orderly and logical progressions of events ... routines challenged by the evolving zombie presence in society. As he finds his world permeated by terror and too many questions without answers, he slowly comes to realize that even the best of his studies, routines and habits won't be enough to tackle the increasing violence threatening the world.

As other protagonists join in the action (Jason, Tommy, Ron,, a complex plot evolves where nobody - not even Tim and Nora - will be safe.

Don't expect an easy, light read here. The plot flows smoothly and quickly and is fascinating, but holds an underlying complexity which belays the usual superficial zombie apocalypse scenario.

Don't expect a pat conclusion, either. The power of The Borealis Genome lies in its ability to stay one step ahead of reader expectation, and to provide information and twists which are revealing and surprising. There are no easy answers and no neat conclusions.

It is these factors which make The Borealis Genome an exciting and different addition to zombie literature.

The Seventh Equinox
Matthew Warner
Raw Dog Screaming Press
Hardcover: 208 pages, 6 X 9, $29.95, ISBN: 978-1-935738-50-3
Trade paperback: 208 pages, 6 X 9, $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-935738-51-0
eBook, $4.99, ASIN: TBD

Book trailer and other goodies:

The Seventh Equinox is a fine 'first' for horror novelist Matthew Warner, who here enters the world of urban fantasy with a story set in a small town in Virginia (based on his own hometown.)

The stage is set with an opening chapter that begins seven years in the past, where former mayor and alcoholic Richard Liscomb captures current mayor Gordy Parkhurst and invites him to shoot him, trying to explain that their roles as stand-ins for the mythical forces Hunter and Bear will keep a real threat from being loosed in the world. The only problem is, the mayor somehow doesn't believe him - and even murder isn't enough to thwart a phenomena that can absorb bodies and take over humans, dead or alive.

Despite issues, The Bear is successfully laid to rest for another seven years ... now fast-forward to modern times where it's Bessie's turn to take on the task of saving humanity.

Bessie's escape to a small town in search of peace and respite is challenged from the start; from the discovery of secret caves underneath her Victorian home to what appears to be a criminal hiding from the law in her cellar.

But Robin Goodfellow is anything but a criminal: he's actually an injured demigod in search of sanctuary while he heals, and he needs to feed on Bessie's life force to survive long enough to engage in the Hunt, a renewal ritual that will save the planet. He holds all the memories of the Hunters before him - but even that may not be enough to save the planet.

The only problem is: Bessie herself is hiding from men; and the last thing she wants is an involvement with any man, let alone a demigod.

A series of encounters involve other townspeople as environmental imbalances increase, Bear and Hunter become more active and threatening, and Bessie finds herself challenged to believe in a seven (or possibly seven-hundred)-year-old man's impossible tale.

Add the involvement of police, the reappearance of Gordy Parkhurst as a key player in the evolving confrontation, and Bessie's higher connection to events beyond that of a circumstantial spectator and you have a fast-paced story of magic, renewal and adventure perfect for urban fantasy genre readers.

Will Shakespeare and the Ships of Solomon
Christopher Grey
Basilicus Press
c/o Pacific Coast Creative Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-0-9839641-9-3 $24.95

Will Shakespeare and the Ships of Solomon is intrigue and mystery at its best, and revolves around Sir Will Shakespeare, a secret member of the Knights Templar who in 1947 sees his knighthood group destroyed by a rogue militant sect operating from Vatican circles.

His remaining mission is to escort fellow Templar member Dorothy back to her Bermuda home - and once there, to obtain a treasure located in caves under her father's property before a hurricane can destroy its legacy to the world.

What appears to be a simple final task evolves into a world-changing mission as Will's journey involves him in a treasure map, a quest, and a host of forces that work against his mission.

Will Shakespeare and the Ships of Solomon is adventure reading at its best and brings to mind the sagas of Indiana Jones, with their overlay of supernatural intrigue and action. Any with affection for this kind of drama will find this novel exceptional: replete with information on the Knights Templar order and steeped in an evolving romance paired with the thrill of a treasure hunt.

What first begins as a mission for Will and a ticket back to Bermuda for Dorothy becomes much more as the journey degenerates into suspicion on all sides: "...the whole situation seemed wrong. Was this man really trying to protect her, or was she simply being used to get to the property? She'd play his game, but only because it was clear he thought she was naive. They'd find what was on her property. She'd then give the treasure to the rightful owner, her father. Anything on land he owned belonged to him, and no ridiculous private club of history conjurers and criminals would take her father's property from him."

The adventure moves from Oak Island to Bermuda, involves dangerous dives in underwater caverns that bond the two adventurers in shared dangers, and reveals dangerous forces that seek to destroy the searchers. Will Shakespeare's bond with Templar mysticism often provides them with the only key to success not already held by their assailants: "Will closed his eyes to perform a mental exercise he hadn't done in years. Part of being a knight meant having mental control and the ability to meditate. The trouble was, he practiced mysticism about as much as he went to Catholic Church."

Add the entire Bermuda police force which becomes involved in gunfights, Templar ships, and impossible weather and you have a powerful adventure saga that is filled with all the elements of superior leisure reading: romance, danger, elements of the supernatural, and a spicy, elusive treasure hunt.

Well Bear Brave Bear: My Visit to the Doctor
Osito Saludable, Osito Valiente: Mi Visita al Medico
Story by David Woolley, Photography by Sheila Kelleher
Thinkofit, Inc. -- Free

Youngsters attracted to the Internet and online reading will relish the internet-only, bilingual publication of Well Bear Brave Bear: My Visit to the Doctor/Osito Saludable, Osito Valiente: Mi Visita al Medico, which provides a teddy bear's-eye view of a visit to the doctor.

Black and white photos portray a large teddy bear who is getting to be big enough to go to school - and big enough for the mandated pre-school doctor visit.

This approach isn't a picturebook per say: for one thing it's not in the format of an ebook or hard copy reader, but only available as a free (yes: FREE!) online read. For another thing, it requires some reading and internet access skills to get to the website - which makes it the perfect choice for parents looking to interact with their children on the concept and its presentation.

Photos show real people interacting with the bear, from waiting for the doctor in a waiting room to changing into a gown, getting weighed and measured, eye and ear checks, and even getting a shot. From pediatricians to nursing assistants, the entire process is clearly explained and the bear's worries are addressed at each step.

Having a text in Spanish and English and adding humor in the form of a teddy bear familiar to children of different cultures lends a friendly and open feel to the typical account of a visit to the doctor, and makes it accessible to all families.

The result is a simple, user-friendly free Internet story that will please any parent looking to explain the concept of a visit to the doctor to the very young.

Cache a Predator
M. Weidenbenner
ISBN 10: 1-4909363-9-4
ISBN: 978-1-4909363-9-0
ASIN: B00E1ROP7M, $2.99

Officer Brett Read faces a dilemma when his drug-addicted wife is granted custody of his beloved five-year-old daughter Quinn; especially when he loses his temper and faces the judge's wrath and a restraining order as a result. Just when it seems things can't get much worse, they do: Quinn is found abandoned and delegated to a temporary foster home just as a psychopath begins to attack child predators, taking justice into his own hands.

And this is only the beginning of the chain of events that makes Cache a Predator so captivating: Brett Read soon finds his personal and professional lives dovetail in unusual ways, and faces some dangerous decisions for as a result.

It's all about justice and love. Under what circumstances does love and protection justify extreme measures? But Cache a Predator isn't a one-dimensional story of one man's vendetta: it's also about mystery and suspense wrapped up in the modern art of geocaching (thus the title). And if you don't yet know what geocaching is - that's part of the allure of Cache a Predator, which uses this urban game to best advantage in the context of a urban mystery.

Unlike video games, geocaching is not a stationary sport. It's an active game revolving around clues and GPS coordinates provided to solve these mysteries (considering all the elements of the geocaching community, it's a wonder mysteries revolving around this sport haven't become more widespread.)

Under different hands this element alone would have become the sole focus of the novel; but adding the persona, profession and conflicts of a police office who loves and wants to protect his child into the mix of an urban nightmare makes the story line all the more captivating. The emotions surrounding abuse and protection run high - and these elements give Cache a Predator its final, high-charged kick.

Any who look for deep psychological elements in their mysteries will find this a satisfying read, moving beyond the usual one-dimensional focus on mystery to reach out and tweak the reader's heart.

The Lie
Ashley Fontainne
RMSW Press
Ebook price: $4.99
Paperback: $14.99

Few get to be published authors at the age of sixteen, much less become famous authors whose writings are well publicized - but Karmen Moncrille's life has been magical this way and she's enjoyed bestseller status from her first book. Despite her success she's been a recluse, avoiding the limelight of book tours and publicity efforts and hiding a deep, dark secret from the world: a secret which is the wellspring of her literary inspiration.

She's been successful at keeping the lid on this secret for so many years that she's well over twenty when a series of revelations connects her work and abilities to a force which will affect mankind's future.

Now, a caveat: The Lie could, under some circumstances, be deemed 'Christian fiction'. That's because a strong religious undercurrent permeates its plot, elevating the story line beyond that of a mystery, thriller or science fiction and adding elements of spiritual insight and ethical analysis not usually part of mainstream genre writing.

The Lie uses Biblical insights and Christian perspective to build a powerful story revolving around a long-perpetuated lie's ability to influence the world and one talented girl's ability to make or break that lie, and it provides a changing, dark story line filled with twists and turns to involve readers in a stark and unpredictable story.

Karmen faces a dreaded interview pushed by her mother in the interests of furthering her career and image. Interview questions always circle around to the heart of her inspiration - and 'talking to the dead' is not an acceptable answer in the course of discussing wellsprings of genius. She suffers a paralyzing attack when facing deeper probes of her abilities - and embedded within the facade of a panic attack are messages to Karmen revolving around destiny and the writing skills that seem to come from far outside her experience and abilities.

How does Karmen survive these pressures? By turning her mind to other things: "Most of the time, I simply avoided deep musings about my life. I forced myself to busy my thoughts with the trivial, mundane everyday experiences of living. Thinking about how things really were inside my head was just too damned frightening....for the past six plus years, I tried to pretend that I was just eccentric. That I was just an oddity who happened to have been gifted the talent of writing prose onto paper...."

Once Karmen decides that, for her own sanity, she must more closely examine the source of her talents, she undertakes a journey that will reveal not just the source but a frightening outcome that only she has the power to change.

While The Lie could readily appeal to young adult readers, with its young protagonist and her vivid personality spearheading change, to limit its audience to the teen genre would be disappointing. Any adult reader interested in intrigue, mystery, supernatural thrillers and a thread of spirituality linking all elements will find this an engrossing saga with unexpected turns and a very unpredictable conclusion.

Without giving away a vivid plot, suffice it to say that Karmen's legacy will move beyond a simple story of one girl's life-changing revelations to affect a host of protagonists who find their worlds upside down as a result of Karmen's abilities and investigations.

In the end, nothing will remain untouched. And that is one of the driving forces of The Lie, which closely examines the influences of disparate factions in the world.

Insufferable Indifference - The Mocking of America
Neil E. Clement
MTCC Publishing Company, LLC
9780989537810, $7.00,

Insufferable Indifference - The Mocking of America is a 'nonfiction novel' for adults, and represents the 'Deep Thoughts' of a 'Theoretical Deductionist' who now has more time to pursue his own interests, thanks to a permanent disability that keeps him at home pondering life, the universe and everything. In this case 'deep thinking' is as much a philosophy about America as it is a state of mind, with the author speaking about many subjects and circumstances - including his own disability.

Neil E. Clement became a disabled, involuntary retiree at age 50, moving from a comfortable life and work routine to facing large medical bills with no insurance and no prospect for gainful employment on the horizon. Certainly not anyone's master plan for retirement; but an event possible in any aging individual's future.

Like many Americans, Clement always thought he'd be covered by government programs if facing disability: "I always had faith that should this happen to me that it would be no problem collecting the promised SSA disability insurance benefit payments. It seems to me that helping those who cannot work due to unexpected disability was the original intent of the creators of this insurance, the whole enchilada if you will, the reason behind all this stuff in the first place."

Think again. In fact, Clement discovered that SSA benefits are largely issued not on logical grounds of need, but on what amounts to the whim of individual agents: "I was forced to pay the premiums all those years for a compulsory insurance policy which benefits I can only collect on if some stranger agrees to this based solely on their own interpretation of my situation irrespective of my actual circumstances. In other words, one collects SSA disability insurance benefit payments based solely on how some person feels about this and this person is not your doctor."

From his quest for pain relief and financial security to his confrontation with addiction and the surprising limits of the SSA's insurance and assessments ("The SSA Disability Insurance Trust Fund does not belong to the government. It belongs to the people who paid in. Repeat. This is not government money. This money is being held in trust for the people, it belongs to the people, and the people should be the ones who decide how it should be administered."), Insufferable Indifference - The Mocking of America is, in effect, a damning personal, political and social documentation of this nation's failure to care for those in need. In this case it offers much food for thought for any worker either facing the prospect of disability and collecting from the system, or interested in how the SSA actually works in the real world, apart from ideals and management parameters.

There is a LOT of capitalization in the process of expressing these Deep Thoughts: readers should be prepared for this as part of absorbing Clement's opinions about America, the state of society, and his experiences and struggles with the government. But don't expect a whiney account centered around feelings of entitlement: the author's experiences are specific and are presented here because "I have an obligation to tell you what treatment you can expect to receive should you become physically disabled in some fashion making you unable to work full time and therefore possibly in need of the assistance SSA disability insurance payments can provide in helping to cover living expenses."

In reality, there is nothing like a 'novel' to this personal and political narration of events and thoughts about the process - unless you count the pathos and drama involved in trying to work through a broken system. Instead there are encounters with the justice system, police, judges, administrators, and more: encounters that include harassment by officials in high places and contrived affairs that forced the author to move his abode to evade destructive forces.

Insufferable Indifference - The Mocking of America is also a condemnation of the social complacency that has caused these 'leaders' and circumstances to become the norm, rather than the exception, in society: "Complacency on the part of the general population has led to a situation wherein so-called authority can conveniently disregard constitutional protections whenever the need arises."

It's an assessment of constitutionally guaranteed rights and how they have been eroded by a combination of institutional processes and public indifference, it's a story of one family's struggles to survive an illogical, impossible system, and it's a call to action, to instigate the basic premise of the 'power of the people' to right wrongs.

In the end, don't expect a 'novel' with its usual course of drama, intrigue, or adventure. DO expect a blend of autobiography and political and philosophical commentary that calls upon Americans to enforce the foundations of democracy.

A Cuban Summer
Tony Mendoza
Capra Press
9781592661022, $15.00,

A Cuban Summer's dedication is to the "Cuba before Fidel that I remember with affection, a country that overflowed with energy, laughter, and many imperfections." It's this dedication that sets the stage for a novel replete with Cuban culture, ideals, and changes; all set against the backdrop of 1954 where Tony de la Torre comes of age during one memorable summer.

Tony is no ordinary lad: his family is wealthy and he's been raised by servants with the trappings of inherited luxury. So when Tony's coming of age coincides with the many social and political changes affecting Cuba's place in the world, the forces affecting both Tony and pre-Castro Cuba are brought to the foreground in a novel replete with social and sexual tension and growth.

One wouldn't expect to have a humorous overtone running through a story which embraces so many personal and political changes, but in fact A Cuban Summer uses such humor as a binding force to capture the spirit and lively peoples of the land, and this is one of the features that makes this novel so endearing.

Another notable feature: by choosing an adolescent boy's viewpoint, the changes brought about by social and personal forces come neatly together in a perspective that can be readily understood by Cubans as well as those with little prior familiarity with the country's peoples and politics.

From family and religious roles to the increasing intrusion of politics into personal and public affairs, A Cuban Summer neatly captures the atmosphere of a very Catholic, very well- defined society which stands on the brink of revolutionary changes.

Tony Mendoza's storytelling ability is only equaled by his ability to capture a teen's evolving emotions: "The young woman who ran that coffee machine was as attractive as a movie star, in Tony's opinion. He often went to the coffee stand after school and asked her for a cortadito, a small cup of espresso. What he especially liked about her was how she always referred to her clients as mi amor, or mi vida, my life. She seemed to be on intimate terms with everyone. When Tony ordered his cortadito she often said: como ests, mi amorcito? How are you, my little love? It was worth getting a cup of coffee at that stand just to hear her say that."

Tony's blossoming feelings for young Carmen (and other girls) and his assessments of how to enter into a "proper Cuban courtship", his evolving awareness of philosophy and ecological and world relationships, and his eventual realization that Cuba lives in his soul as much as he spends time on its soil makes for a blossoming saga of a summer during which everything - even his relationship with Cuba - will change.

In the end you have a bittersweet, gentle novel steeped in old-world Cuban culture and sentiments that provides readers with a lovely snapshot of old world values in flux. When his changing, evolving and terrific summer is over, Tony will find himself in a new place: one in which his own presence in the old world has become a memory of the past.

A Lifetime to Die
P.S. Meronek
Ponytale Press
9780985709624, $5.99,

Set in 1968 when the Red Army invades Prague, A Lifetime to Die tells of Aristotle, who is nearly an adult before he learns the truth about his father's death: in fact, his father isn't dead after all. Someone else was murdered in his place in a staged 'accident' and his father is very much alive and residing in a prison for the criminally insane.

The stage is set for Aristotle to rescue his father, but it's too late: prison has taken its toll and even the prospect of freedom can't help his father recover from his ordeal. But before his father passes on, Aristotle receives evidence of an uncle's evil (and successful) plot to steal the family business and frame an innocent man - and he vows revenge.

Forced to flee to America, Aristotle's vow to someday return and bring justice to his father's name must wait, simmering, until political tensions in the region subside. Even his journey to America and his newfound success and relationships there don't quell his hopes for return and justice - even when love blossoms.

To call A Lifetime to Die a political thriller would be to do it a grave injustice: it's really a family drama about changed relationships and world journeys that bring about love and connection.

Aristotle's growth begins with the book's opening when he's sixteen and immersed in family issues; by the novel's conclusion he's an adult with newfound knowledge of danger, treachery, lies and deception - and also with blossoming knowledge of the special powers of success and love.

A Lifetime to Die is also a narrative about choices, options, and the paths that led to either good or evil. Aristotle's paths are uncertain and his choices at times are unclear, but the end result is a life that incorporates past experiences and present-day challenges, creating a unique perspective with clear goals and moral and ethical foundations.

From Prague to America, local cultures and feelings are conveyed with an attention to 'you are there' details: "... to actually have it taking place now, as the city of Prague was waking up, was like watching a boogey man suddenly jump out of the closet. Even though I hadn't yet seen the actual soldiers and their machines, I had no doubt the monster had come to life and was very real indeed."

Over twenty years pass since the Prague events, and Aristotle still struggles. Even as a self-made billionaire in America, married and with a future, Aristotle can't shake the grasp of his past; and when all comes crashing down around him, he knows the attempts of evil to gain control of him have also penetrated his American stronghold ... and there is no place safe.

The tangled emotions which emerge when he finds out about his uncle's daughter and handles the grief of his own childhood will drive him to, once and for all, achieve an uncertain peace with his past. Can love truly conquer all and bring lasting peace? That's the real question and driving force of A Lifetime to Die, with its focus on one immigrant's life and challenges in a new world.

The Joshua Effect
P.S. Meronek
Ponytale Press
9780985709655, $5.99,

Murder most heinous and deadly can strike anyone, anywhere - even the wealthy and protected Jonathan Strickland, who finds over sixty of his colleagues and friends destroyed in an instant of mayhem at an elegant Manhattan reception. From that point on Strickland becomes immersed in a plot that assumes international proportions when he is kidnapped while searching for clues to the killers.

The Joshua Effect is both a murder mystery and an international thriller. Its ever-changing plot moves from that of investigating a mass murder to probing an even larger destructive plan called 'The Joshua Effect': a plan that will reach beyond the deserts of Syria to change the world.

Faced with all these events (murder, mayhem and international intrigue) readers might not expect a love story to be woven into the plot. Yet, indeed, P.S. Meronek's intention is to show how love emerges even under the most dire of predicaments and circumstances, often to prove the singular motivating force of the protagonist's efforts and trials.

Terrorism, spies, and high technology operations blend in a satisfying tale that offers gripping and revealing moments throughout: "Us against the world, I thought. It was a fleeting moment that passed from my mind in an instant. Us with the world was more like it. It was an irony, but if anyone out there knew we were alive and this close to stopping the terror, they would definitely be rooting for the home team."

Invisible enemies, conspiracies, and confrontations between professional killers mark a changing plot that involves an ever-widening cast of characters and which will result in all of their lives being changed. In the end it's all about a bigger picture - about a country changed by terrorism and fear - and it's also about Jonathan's evolving place in a new world he's had a hand in creating: "Revenge wasn't the answer. We were better off fixing it, not ruining it. This is the best country in the world."

How he gets to this place of wisdom is the focus of a thriller that weaves human affairs and deep-rooted emotions: perfect for readers who want more depth than the usual thriller provides.

Stay Another Night
P.S. Meronek
Ponytale Press
9780985709686, $5.99,

Stay Another Night tells of an underage stripper who meets and falls for a young Mafia boss during his raid on her club, and charts the uncertain progress of a romance that results from their encounters.

Sam offers her a way out of her dead-end job via the fashion world; but Coco remains precariously balanced between success and failure as she explores the high-stakes worlds of fashion and acting while struggling with her own demons of past and present ... demons that are intent on destroying her.

The story opens in the tiny town of Brittle, Nevada and grabs reader attention with Coco's first-person discussion of a pivotal moment in life: "Once in a blue moon life throws you a curveball you never see coming. It rises up at you, does a funny little twist at the very last moment, and takes you on a fast detour from the place you expected to go. Such detours can be powerful, like a deuce trump card when no one else around the table has one. Billy Cunningham was my curveball, and I never saw him coming until it was too late to do anything about it.

Coco is alluring - and she knows it: "I was twenty-five, unconcerned about the lines and crow's feet which were inevitably right around the corner of life's visages....I straightened a few blonde locks dangling in front of my eyes. I was five foot eight inches of drop dead gorgeous, a devil in blue jeans with a tight fitting t-shirt. I knew it, and so did he."

Despite her history of using her looks and talents to get what she wants from men and life, Coco discovers she's in over her head with Sam, whose influences are wide-reaching and relentless. Sam has all kinds of operatives in all kinds of places, is always playing 'in front of the pack', and his particular kind of game holds the possibility of providing Coco with freedom even as it manipulates her to stay locked under his influence.

Coco's journey won't limit her to Nevada or California, either - it will lead her around the world to observe friendships segueing into dangerous territories, lost treasures affecting both romance and the hunt for riches and redemption, and Sam's ultimate decision that could haunt both their lives.

Couched in romance are issues of freedom and choice, and within the exploration of Coco and Sam's nearly-impossible relationship potentials is an examination of sanity, insanity, and issues of forgiveness both within and outside family boundaries.

When Coco finally makes a shocking discovery about Sam's past that involves her own close-held family values, she is forced to at last understand the extent of his influence and the consequences of his actions.

Expect a satisfying blend of thriller and romance which holds solid elements of both, all wrapped within the saga of two people's concurrent journeys to uncover love and meaning in life. That's the foundation of Stay Another Night, a romance/intrigue chronicle packed with satisfying twists of plot that always remain faithful to the ideals of love and redemption.

The Sharing Moon
Christy A. Campbell
Christy A. Campbell and Lulu Press Inc.
9781304156365, $11.99 (trade paperback), eBook $2.99

The Sharing Moon provides young adult readers with a good leisure read and centers around the very changed world of eighteen-year-old Elijah Solomon, purpose in life becomes fixed on aiding Seraphina, who has lost her father and is living with an unresponsive mother.

Ellijah's mission is to change the path and life of Sera - and Sera's challenge is to accept and recognize the world's light as well as its darkness, integrating both elements into her psyche. As Ellijah becomes part of both her nightmares and her hopes, Sera struggles to find her way on an uncertain road to freedom - and comes to rely on Ellijah's guidance more and more.

For his part, Ellijah remains confused about his purpose and goals in returning beyond the grave: "No one had bothered to explain to Elijah that he would be placed randomly in periods of time with no just cause or even with just cause...Elijah hates the whys. Why he was sent here . . . why he sits, holding a message that doesn't explain a thing, other than someone is quite impatient and feels Elijah isn't working fast enough. Fast enough for what?"

Add romance, the introduction of one Damien Cass into Sera's life, and entanglements that bring with them "No possibilities . . . just absolutes" and you have a series of encounters and changes that involve confrontations between good and evil, depression and life, and the possibility of Sera living a life that's not ruled by fears and angst.

Ellijah finally he comes to realize his role in all their lives, which reaches to a higher purpose than he's been able to discern throughout most of the story: "He feels a bout of shame wedging its way into his mind. This whole life he was handed was meant to replace a past that can't be undone."

There's a disconnect between mind and body that affects Elijah's relationships with those around him. This disconnect, paired with encounters that all seem to serve a higher purpose, makes for an otherworldly sense throughout The Sharing Moon that will keep young adult readers involved and immersed to the novel's unpredictable conclusion, which offers an open-ended hope and the promise of more revelations to come.

Moonlight Dancer
Debra Atwood
New Potato Press
ASIN: B008XO9OCU, $2.99

It's rare to find a murder mystery revolving around a doll; but in Moonlight Dancer just such a connection is created when an antique Korean doll discovered in a warehouse begins to cause mayhem and leads new owner Kendra JinJu MacGregor on a series of time-traveling adventures to uncover the source of the doll's evil heritage.

For the doll contains the evil spirit NanJu, and Kendra has not only introduced it to the world, but she's also involved handsome warehouse owner Hiro in a desperate journey to right a wrong of the past and keep evil from permeating the world.

The first thing to note about this supernatural adventure saga is that its roots lie in Korea. Ancient Korean history and culture thus permeate a saga that revolves around obsession, romance, and past wrongs injected into a very different modern world and culture.

As Kendra makes more discoveries about the doll's past, she becomes increasingly ill - and is thus effectively isolated from the friends and forces that could help her. It also becomes evident that a ghost is trying to break into the present from the past by using Kendra as a gateway: if Kendra can't overcome the ghost's evil influence, she will succumb to its possession and will be totally absorbed.

Moonlight Dancer takes a few chapters to flow smoothly: the juxtaposition of past and future worlds and the characters of Kendra and spirit NanJu all are presented in a twisting, winding series of vignettes and encounters which take some getting used to. Once readers have these changes down, Moonlight Dancer flows smoothly and its plot and characters become much clearer - and much more compelling.

At once a ghost story, a romance, and an account of struggle for individuality and control, Moonlight Dancer is more satisfying as a ghost story than as a straight romance. Here romance is an added element, not the impetus driving the entire plot: this is relegated to the ghost, who does not disappoint in its intentions and influences.

Forward to Camelot: 50th Anniversary Edition
Susan Sloate & Kevin Finn
Drake Valley Press
eBook: $8.99 ISBN 978-193597015-6
Paperback: $23.88 ISBN 978-1935970

It's unusual to have a time-travel story solidly rooted in historical fact and centered on a pivotal point in American history; but Forward to Camelot holds this attraction with a setting that begins in 1963, just hours after President Kennedy's assassination, and is centered around a Bible that vanishes once Johnson is sworn in.

Fast forward to the year 2000, when actress Cady is tapped to return to 1963 on several missions: to locate the missing Bible, uncover the links between Kennedy's assassination and her own father (who went missing on the same day), and possibly save Kennedy's life - thus changing the course of history.

Now, any who were alive in 1963 will readily recall the shocking progression of events - and will acknowledge the widespread shock and anguish caused by Kennedy's assassination. There was also plenty of anger and regret. What if one person's actions and choices could change this outcome - and what if your companion on the journey was an ex-marine named Lee Harvey Oswald?

Kennedy's own prophetic words introduce the premise of this fast-paced novel ("We celebrate the past to awaken the future.") and set the tone for a time-travel thriller that opens with a kick as it shows Catherine Cuyler, in full actress mode, playing the part of a young paramedic in love. For Cady, it's a dream position: a daytime drama that tests all of her acting skills and makes the most of her abilities. Or so she believes, until she's told a marketing report has reported her audience is less than thrilled. In answer to this poll it's been decided Cady's character will die - leaving Cady out of a job and freeing her to move on to something bigger and better.

Within the first few chapters it becomes evident that Susan Sloate & Kevin Finn have built a powerful, realistic protagonist in the form of Cady, who will successfully carry an ever-evolving and fantastic plot. By the end of Chapter 1 the scene has been set for Cady's failure; by the end of Chapter 2, that failure sets the scene for what could be Cady's greatest success.

For what Cady is being offered is not another acting job, but a rare chance to go back in time and change history: a history that could have wide-reaching implications for her own life, which has been irrevocably changed by her father's disappearance. What appears to be a collector of Presidential history and artifacts turns out to be much more - and suddenly she finds herself a part of that history with the power to affect events.

The transformation from a story about one actress' failed career to her participation in a unique project with a critical outcome is only one of the elements that sets Forward to Camelot apart from your usual timeslip story. Cady has no experience with science and no intention of becoming a definitive cog in the wheel of American history. What she does hold is an interest in possibly affecting lives that have been changed forever by one man's disappearance and another man's death.

Why has Cady been chosen for the mission? For one, she wasn't alive in 1963: she was born a year later. This fact fits one of the parameters for time travel: " one who has a living counterpart in any time can travel back to that time. Two of the same person can't exist in any given time period - which means we have to use someone born after that date."

For another, she's intrigued by both history and the idea of a treasure hunt. After all, she's spent all her life (and all her money) hiring private investigators to try to find out what happened to her vanished father on the day Kennedy was killed.

From conspiracies to the involvements of her parents, President Kennedy's own participation in an impossible plot, and Cady's interactions with high-level officials, the President and his wife, and more, Forward to Camelot invites readers on a roller coaster ride through time with a series of unpredictable events that will leave even the most seasoned reader of time travel novels (and Kennedy history) guessing right up to the end.

I've read a lot of nonfiction (and fiction) surrounding the Kennedy assassination and Forward to Camelot provides an intense, intriguing story line that spins some alternate possibilities not seen elsewhere.

Forward to Camelot was originally penned in 2003 and was based on years of research of Kennedy archives, history, and files. Since that time new information has been uncovered; much of it supporting Forward to Camelot 's underlying contention that Oswald was framed in order to set the foundation for a war against Cuba.

Interest in the Kennedy assassination has never waned and Forward to Camelot thus will find a wide, welcoming audience among history buffs and fans of timeslip novels alike.

The Alpha Choice
M.D. Hall
M.D. Hall, Publisher
Amazon Kindle
ASIN: B00F3HO58S, Price 2.56 Brit. pounds / $3.99

The Alpha Choice is the first book in the Te'an Trilogy, so be forewarned: there're more coming, so don't anticipate a neatly wrapped conclusion to this story!

It opens three thousand years in the past, when Chindara is summoned to Council before she's fully recovered from shedding her exoskeleton, there to discover the bipeds have suddenly left, with their trade contract unfulfilled. This could prove devastating to her people, the Khitine, who have only recently achieved flight to their three moons, and for whom interstellar travel has been a fantasy - until the Te arrived, with their high technology.

The agreements would have traded their planet's riches for keys to travel beyond their solar system: now not only have their dreams been dashed, but Chindara will face the destructive wrath of her people for failing the mission.

But the Khitine soon faces much more than a failed contract: next on the to-do list of the Te'an is a full-fledged invasion force to take what they need, until a protective force (the Custodians) enters the picture to prevent these plans. They neutralize the invasion, then state that any further attempts to invade a non-emergent species will result in the eradication of the Te'an's entire species.

Fast forward to 21 years in the past, where a military space operation is taking place. Commander Jaron takes a big risk in assuming the Balg act only in self-defense - and he halts an attack mid-stride on the assumption the Balg won't act further. His gamble results in a win ... and a mystery.

As encounters in various solar systems continue and races confront one another, the initial warning of the Custodians fade even as decisions are made that hold lasting impact for the peace - and survival - of the universe.

The Alpha Choice moves swiftly from different time streams, different protagonists, and different parts of the universe: it will take several chapters to readily absorb all the forces and species involved, along with the different time shifts. Once this familiarity is achieved, the story line flows smoothly with a decidedly military air, and readers are drawn into a sweeping epic involving not only alien planets but Earth.

Ultimately the actions of two very different Earth beings will prove the pivot point for survival. Add a dose of mystery, motivations and danger, and battles that can make or break promises and you have a sweeping epic especially recommended for fans of military science fiction who look for complex, in-depth plots crossing space, time, and species.

The Silver Strand
LJ Clarkson
Indicated Publications and Promotions
ISBN number: Paperback - 9780992301705
Ebook - 9780992301712
Price: $3.99 (ebook) and $11.99 (paperback)
Ordering links: Wholesale orders can be made direct from Ingram.

Amazon US ebook and paperback:

Barnes and Noble ebook and paperback:

The Silver Strand is Book 1 of the 'Mastermind Academy' series and is a pick for young adult readers who enjoy stories of magic and fantasy.

At the heart of the saga is twelve-year-old Isabelle, who holds no magical powers until a mysterious silver strand of hair sprouts, generating embarrassing pink dust and fireworks. All it takes is a wish from her that it never grew, to suppress its magical implications and make it vanish - or so it appears.

Readers ages 9-12 will find The Silver Strand an absorbing account of magic and renewal, and also an unexpectedly fun read with humor sprinkled not only within the story line but in chapter headings (such as 'Basketball, Worms & Pink Dust'.)

The character of Isabelle reads like a typical twelve-year-old, which lends a satisfyingly realistic feel to her story. Equally realistic is Isabelle's struggle with teasing and fear as the other children target her for being different: "Catching the bus was a very bad idea. Isabelle prayed again for that black hole to open up and suck her in. Better yet, she wished it would gobble up the bigmouth."

What would you do if you discovered you have magical powers that set you apart from others? Would you use them, or would you wish them away?

The Silver Strand moves from one girl's dilemma to her experiences of a much wider universe, including a talking cat (Boldrick) who is much more than a cat, new friend Esme (who holds her own special powers), and a journey that will change them all.

Humor links all encounters and is a lovely, satisfying feature: "Let me finish, Lady Isabelle," said stinky cat breath. "The Councilors and their buffoons are on their way to Shonshe to arrest you. Shame they won't find you there. Please hurry and get the crystal to Shambala. We pray this message finds you before the Councilors do. Regards, Boldrick Cavendar. P.S. Any tips to escape would be appreciated." Boldrick read the letter and mouthed the words to himself. "Thank you, Lady Isabelle. Now hurry and fold the letter into a paper plane."

From teleportation to a magic city, a talking cat to a super-computer storing records of a magical land and a school that teaches how to use magic of the mind, The Silver Strand features fine characters, tensions and subplots - all neatly woven into the experiences of a preteen struggling with her own inherent powers and bigger picture of the world.

Adult fans of fantasy who seek lighter reading will also find The Silver Strand an easy, inviting read.

Pauline Creeden
AltWit Press
Amazon Kindle
ASIN: B00FI2W6CK, $2.99

Sanctuary is an unusual Christian fantasy/horror novel holding special appeal to Christians who want their fantasy reading to include a dose of spiritual reflection and more than a few elements of horror.

First off, it should be said that this is no simple or light read. There are three alternating viewpoints, three separate story lines (which eventually merge into one unified story), and an overlay of Christian perspective tying them all together.

It should also be said that this overlay is in no way commanding or overbearing. While Christian readers will definitely appreciate the focus, non-Christian readers won't feel overwhelmed by preaching or religious references: it's an added taste to the plot, not the impetus for action.

Secondly, don't expect a story line that can be neatly pegged as any one genre. To call this a 'horror', 'fantasy' or 'Christian fiction' is far too limiting: Sanctuary crosses boundaries and borders and incorporates elements of all kinds of action and intrigue, from thriller-like adventure to a post-apocalyptic tale of life after aliens invade. Thus it will delight readers seeking something truly different, while disappointing those who anticipated a shallow, one-dimensional subject and story line.

It's set in a world where one-third of the population has been killed off by alien ships while the rest is on the run. In the midst of this chaos the story opens with Jennie Ransom, who is primarily concerned with fielding her best friend's desire to catch a glimpse of the invaders. After they get their look at the humming, hovering disc, Jennie flees to safety.

Six weeks later the alien ships are still hovering; only now they are have produced killer dog-like creatures that are putting the bite on everything Jennie knows and holds dear, from her own mother's to the rest of the world.

Spiritual moments run like a thread throughout the ever-changing scenes of horror: "Jennie chided herself for being so selfish. When was the last time she'd thought about Jesus, or God, or anything spiritual? She decided to change that right now. She bowed her head and said a short, simple prayer. She didn't want to be one that came to Him only in crisis, but she honestly needed Him and His assurance right now."

But wait - there's more than just alien invasion going on here. Soon there are threats from zombies as anyone bitten becomes one - and only Pastor Billy Crawford can help Jennie by offering what may be only a temporary sanctuary in his church.

Hugh Harris, another protagonist facing the apocalypse his own way, is a high school biology teacher who confronts the invasion with scientific knowledge, using his master's degree in animal biology to analyze alien strategy even as the world is being overrun with dog-like biting enemies: "The actions of the aliens seemed totally unlike the predatory conduct of Earth's mammals. Instead of attacking the weak or old, the aliens singled out specific people for no visible reason. If it were a military excursion, he decided they would most likely attack the strongest. But it seemed that wasn't the plan of attack either."

And then there's the character of Brad, a bad-boy womanizer who observes first-hand and at close range an alien lion/dog's attack, and who undertakes a brave and impossible rescue only to find he's dragged trouble into the very place that was a sanctuary for five survivors.

Eventually Jennie, Hugh, sibling Mickey and Brad face their own challenges revolving around personal survival, faith, and moral behavior. Courage and daring continually stems from a combination of faith and action: "She needed to remind herself to keep relying on God. Even though this was the third time she'd face the lions, it was by no talent of her own that she could do it. If she lost her focus on God, they would attack her, and of that she was certain. Focus. Faith. And she opened the door again."

In the end it's Biblical prophecies about the end times that might make the most sense - and which might point out a path to redemption and salvation. And even the aliens may not turn out to be what they seem in this fast-paced, engrossing apocalyptic novel that offers many twists and turns of plot to keep readers guessing.

The Starlight Fortress
Fiona Rawsontile
9781490541068, $2.99 for Ebook; $9.69 for paperback

The Starlight Fortress is a science fiction novel revolving around gaming, battles, and epic confrontations, telling how different nations attempt to survive war. At the heart of the story are an ineffective queen and an emperor who is a wicked gamer clever with war machines and technology.

The Starlight Fortress is the one device which could change the rules of such a game: it's a giant space structure with the capability of becoming the ultimate weapon and the powers it wields will prove enough to change the face of combat strategies.

Time travel, treachery and military confrontation permeate a saga that begins with political posturing and very different personalities but soon evolves into not just a multi-faceted novel of cat-and-mouse war games, but an examination of the roots of war in the personalities of its participants.

What keeps The Starlight Fortress from being another predictable military fiction story is its focus on the human elements involved in war, strategy, and the efforts of both sides to win in conflict: "War is about the people who fight it. When they fight together with the same belief, they form a single entity. That's why heroes are never singular events; they are always followed, repeated, exceeded. I have hope because once the fire has started, it'll stop at nothing until it takes over. I need to say no more. The game is on. We've made our choice. Everyone's effort will count, every hope will open a possibility, and every pain we've suffered ... will add to our strength."

There are changing scenarios with allies on all sides and there are battles between groups - but there are also efforts on the part of Queen Geneva to understand changing sides, the roots of aggression, and changing relationships and techniques of confrontation.

From murder attempts to lives changed by parenthood, The Starlight Fortress dances deftly between the personal and the political, drawing neat lines of connection between the two and creating scenarios in which key players are changed by each other's perspectives and goals.

Readers will ideally be versed in and appreciative of military science fiction, and will find the protagonists and changing perspectives of The Starlight Fortress provide an engrossing saga that moves beyond military might and strategy alone to probe the heart of war's origins.

The Mamluks
Edward Lake
Amazon Kindle
ASIN: B00EYI8I08, $0.99

Episode 1 of the 'Mamluks Saga' opens with a bang: Andrew and his girlfriend Emily are looking through dvds of movies in their Hollywood apartment one minute; the next they're listening to screams from outside, and their apartment is shaking. It's not an earthquake, as they first suspect: it's an alien invasion: it's not long before the couple is captured, then separated.

The invaders resemble humans, only they are ten feet tall. They are gathering up humans and bringing them into their spaceships. And they are 'Mamluks' from the planet Marsden, on a mission to conquer Earth.

At this point Andrew and Emily's paths diverge to very different experiences as captives. For Andrew, it's about manual labor, enslavement, and death or possible escape. Emily, however, joins other captured women who are treated with care, from hot water baths to decent food; but she wonders what will happen to her when a selection process lands her on the side of the room where the feistier survivors stand.

The Mamluks seek breeding females to continue their bloodline since their women are sterile and Emily, along with other Earth women, has been chosen as a suitable host to the spawn that will result from the union of Mamluk and human.

One surprise is that Emily appears to accept her fate without great angst or protest. Given the choice between death and life as a semi-revered host mother, one could possibly understand - and also given the new psychology around kidnappers and their victims, one can also gain a sense of why Emily's new role is not one replete with dangerous protest. Still, the low amount of reluctance demonstrated by Emily and some of the other women even when their fates becomes evident is surprising.

Fast forward nine months: Emily has given birth to the spawn, has chosen to give it a Mamluk name, and seems to be fitting into her new life as a Mamluk's mate, even as Los Angeles has been turned into a desert and Andrew is carving out a life far from any Mamluk threats.

As Emily accepts her newfound role as not only mother of the Champion's son but mentor of his future, Andrew finds himself more and more involved in efforts to rid the planet of the aliens - and encounters other species and prisoners who have their own agendas.

Add Emily's elevated status to the evolution of a union between alien and human which may hold the only key to joining two very different species and you have a powerful saga that focuses on belief, survival, and how species make important decisions and choices in order to ensure continuation of the species as a whole.

Science fiction fans may be well versed in your usual alien invasion saga, but The Mamluks offers many differences, from assessments of human/alien personas and purposes to the inclusion of psychological factors affecting survival choices. The added depth helps this stand out from the crowd and will make The Mamluks especially appealing to readers who enjoy a healthy dose of psychological realism in their reading.

And since The Mamluks is billed as Episode 1, look forward to possibly more additions to a series.

In the Himalayan Nights
Anoop Chandola
Savant Books and Publications

Set in 1977 India and covering a brief eighteen-day period of time during which India struggles to become a part of the modern world, In the Himalayan Nights provides a powerful saga from the viewpoint of Professor Rainwal, whose knowledge of the country and its epic fables (particularly one of India's most notable literary works, the Mahabharata) results in his organizing a culturally-diverse group to observe a dance which represents the history of the eighteen-day war presented in the classic Mahabharata. His group journeys to the Himalayan region of India known as Dehradun to observe this Pandau dance, where they are drawn into drama as chapters of In the Himalayan Nights assume the structure of the Mahabharata itself, with each day of the war covered in every other chapter, juxtaposed between modern-day events.

The structure of In the Himalayan Nights, with its dense Indian history and culture, at first may prove daunting, especially to readers who anticipated a somewhat lighter read. The use of the first person character, Professor Rainwal, to explore and study the region is an effective tool for adding observation and emotional qualities to what otherwise might prove a challenging academic survey based on author Anoop Chandola's own fieldwork and familiarity with India.

It will help readers to have a basic familiarity with Indian culture and folktales. Such a founding will cement the realization that In the Himalayan Nights is, itself, an epic saga that creates its own dance around the Mahabharata's legends.

As the Professor moves from observing his first 'possession' during a dance to assessing the impact of his research on those he is studying as well as students he has brought on the journey, readers are treated to an observational piece which captures the sights, sounds, and feel of the region: "The circular war dance, the Pandau, that which we had come to observe, seemed very exciting around the huge bonfire during this wintry Himalayan night....Their voices were deep; the beat was martial. Our hearts should have felt the energy. Yet, not everyone's heart had lightened."

Discussions that evolve from their experiences and encounters often center on topics that are taboo or challenging, while connections between literary stories and those dancers who re-enact events are presented with an eye to exploring how legends are translated, enhanced, dramatized, and ultimately changed: "Ask the drummers. They will sing the war and its heroes. It's their call. They decide who is a hero and who is not. In this place and during this ceremony, the story is not only told; it is manifest."

Chapter titles tie together all these elements, providing a timeline of events to assure readers don't become lost and pairing epic tales in one chapter with encounters by the professor in modern times in another. It's all about Hindu culture, legend and folklore - and it's also about how elements of an ancient civilization translate to modern times and experiences.

Quotes from India's literary and spiritual classics permeate a story line that is filled with lively insights: "Ranger, like the Judge, didn't count much for my father, either. My father also had no respect for men with many wives and material possessions. He used the Bhagavad Gita word mithycra, "false ethicist," for them. My father took his position from the verse in which Krishna says to Arjuna, "He who controls the senses and then broods over the objects of the senses is a confused person. Such a person is called a false ethicist."

In the Himalayan Nights is filled with contrasting perspectives and especially with sharp contrasts between myth and legend and social experience, moving from social issues of polygamy and women's rights to rituals exploring and explaining religious thinking.

Discussions of everything from caste systems to following the path of peace make for insights any student of Indian culture will find real, absorbing, and meaningful; from the efforts of ordinary individuals who become 'world heroes' to how the ordinary becomes brilliant and extraordinary, changing the world.

Do not expect a 'novel' in the usual sense of entertaining, light reading. Even though protagonists are fictional, the Himalayan setting and academic insights are anything but fiction. This is a story of change, transition, acceptance, and survival; all bound together by the ever-persistent backdrop of drumming and singing. Readers who enjoy academically-driven story lines will relish the depth and insights of In the Himalayan Nights.

A Rebel Comes of Age
Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
9781301313990, $3.90

Apple ibooks (iTunes):

Barnes and Noble (Nook Book):

A Rebel Comes of Age is Book 2 of the 'Battle for Tomorrow' series and tells of seventeen-year-old Angela, who meets activist Fabio during the 2011 Occupy Wall Street rally and joins up with three other homeless teens to 'occupy' a vacant commercial building in Brooklyn. Bank of America (the building's owners) serves them with an eviction notice - and then real trouble
begins; for nobody is moving without a fight.

A Rebel Comes of Age is about social justice, activism, and confrontation, and it uses the character of a teen who becomes involved in 'occupy' politics and issues to neatly translate the process by which the personal becomes political and the individual becomes a symbol of community involvement and activism.

It's important to note that this book is a sequel to A Battle for Tomorrow, but prior familiarity with this title is not required in order to readily absorb the characters, setting and perspective of A Rebel Comes of Age (though, surely, new fans of this will want to read its predecessor).

In casting the protagonist as an older teen, A Rebel Comes of Age more clearly defines its audience as the mature teen reader with an interest in social issues and community efforts, and it's this reader who will gain the most from a story line that moves swiftly from an idealistic 'occupy' platform to one that incorporates violence and places protagonist Ange at the forefront, holding an M16 and facing a battle that might end her life.

From the decision to move from peaceful protest to armed conflict to the motivating forces behind adults who work with teens, Ange finds many of her beliefs tested and re-tested in the line of fire: "She didn't like or trust Phillip. He didn't seem to like teenagers very much. His desire to work with them puzzled her. She strongly sensed he had some ulterior agenda that had nothing to do with empowering the homeless youth of Bedford- Stuyvesant."

In the course of their actions, social issues ranging from racism to drugs and alcohol enters the microcosm of their new 'society', prompting re-assessments of cultural and social differences through psychological insight and capabilities one often doesn't associate with teens, however mature - such as the ability to recognize and assess the potential for destructive 'copycat behavior'. This particular issue is addressed is via an eighteen-year-old character with Asperger's Disorder.

Let's not neglect the presence of feminist thought also, which weaves gently into the drama of the story as Ange forms greater insights about her life and influences: "She hated the taste of alcohol and the sour feeling it gave her stomach. However she always joined in anyway, convinced that men would find her uninteresting and unattractive if she didn't."

From confrontation to rallies and small conflicts turned into bigger, more serious involvements, Ange grows politically and socially throughout the events that permeate A Rebel Comes of Age. In the end it's her own forms of rebellion, belief, and responses to injustice and social strife that will be put to the test - along with the new relationships she's formed as a result of the Occupy movement.

Any who enjoy reading novels about mature teens and their evolving political and social consciousness will find A Rebel Comes of Age a solid and lively inspection of one girl's journey toward realization and understanding.

Brent Green
Brent Green Associates
9780615888859, $TBA,

Warrior: The Life and Lessons of a Man Who Beat Cancer for 57 Years is a biographical novel about a fitness expert who survives five bouts of cancer over a 57-year period, and is based on the actual life of Dr. G. Mark Crooks, who passed away in 2010.

It would have been all too easy to have provided a straight-ahead biography of Crooks, but Brent Green chose the novel format for a reason: his use of the first person succeeds in letting readers into the mind and logic of Dr. Crooks, offering far more involvement and personal revelation than a third-person biographical structure could have provided.

Warrior's protagonist first faces disfiguring cancer at the age of eight: by adulthood he's gained his PhD in exercise physiology, has become an expert in extreme fitness routines, has served as a poster boy for recovery - and continues to battle chronic illness in such a way that shapes and gives meaning to life.

The novel's focus is simple and relies on the premise that a life worth living is one that involves becoming a warrior, to "meet destiny in control, rather than being controlled by it."

This perspective runs through the entire story and offers not only inspiration, but lessons in physical and mental wellness in the face of seemingly impossible obstacles.

Chapters pay tribute to Dr. Crooks even as they delve into his methods of survival and achievement: "I practiced visualization and whispered quiet monologue....This was not a stunt, mere sensationalism; this was me engaging my mind, will and fitness, all merging into steel resolve."

Another surprising aspect of this novel: points of reference often change to another perspective as the cancer that keeps recurring assumes anthropomorphic proportions and makes its own comments about being a part of Mark's life: "I've been quiet these last four decades, but I've been around...You'd think forty years would be enough to eliminate his lingering anxieties of recurrence, the delirious freedom of denial, but that's the cool thing about mean Mr. Cancer: always there somewhere, in mind, body or both."

Medical and health insights blend into the story as cancer rears its ever-present head and forces Mark to not only battle on multiple levels, but to constantly re-invent and re-strengthen his connections to life, from helping others in their own medical challenges to creating stunts and athletic fetes that display his prowess to the world.

His are not casual encounters with individuals on their own journeys to health and well-being, but deep, emotional connections that hold an almost spiritual element in their stories of revelation: "I genuinely want to help my patients not only survive their heart attacks but also thrive for years to come....(sic) The miracle is our capacity to change and grow...but your future success depends on how you take care of your body today. That's why I'm here, Bill. I'm here to help."

In finding meaning in his own body and life struggles and translating that meaning into a survival plan for those around him, Mark discovers within himself the courage and determination to not just survive cancer, but to leave his mark on the world.

It's this perspective which makes Warrior: The Life and Lessons of a Man Who Beat Cancer for 57 Years such a powerful, hard-hitting story of a remarkable achiever - and which offers such inspiration and hope for any cancer survivor looking for their own higher perspective on survival and wellness.

Lunch with Fellini, Dinner with Fidel
Deena Stryker
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B008VEG19Q, $9.99

This memoir begins as a Jewish-American teenage girl who identifies with her family's Eastern European roots, moves to post-war France to board with a local family and attend French schools. As a journalist, her year-long witness of a celebrated cineast at work enables her to recognize the creativity of a revolutionary, while a bread-making grandmother 'puts her cats eyes' on the father of her first-born.

Chapter 1 is titled 'Early Comings and Goings', and sets the scene for what will become a series of sojourns around the world throughout the author's life, ultimately coming full circle to the city of her birth with newfound knowledge not just of family events and other cultures, but the bigger picture of America's changing place in the world.

Her adventures cover nearly half a century and her memoir captures the cultures and flavors of many nations and different periods of the postwar and contemporary era, as well as major social and political interactions penetrated thanks to habits begun in childhood: "In the family album, Jake is more slender than when I knew him, but shows the steadfast Ukrainian kindness that was so different from Rose's somber Bela Russian ethos. Jake provided generously for his family with a bar-restaurant in old Philadelphia.

He watched over the roast beef, kosher sausages and sauerkraut, stuffing bagels with lox, or darting out from behind the cash register to help a waiter, without losing a beat or a smile. From time to time, he downed a small glass of Bourbon, and at all times, he put up with Rose."

One attraction of Deena Stryker's memoir is the unique versatility that developed as a result of childhood challenges: "...without the strength I had to develop to flourish without maternal love, I would not have considered it perfectly normal to be on my own at age fourteen, in a foreign land. I feel close to tears over this breakthrough, vulnerable for perhaps the first time in my life."

The author's growing political awareness not only about events abroad but of how America interacts with other nations makes for an eye-opening perspective on major events: "As the religious wars of the nineties raged in the former Yugoslavia, I wondered, like those around me, how the escapades of the American president could monopolize Congress. The land of my birth was ever foreign to me, and I expected to end my days in exile, as I had lived most of my life."

As chapters encompass political and social changes and religious differences and similarities, readers are treated to a fine personal reflection blending individual life experiences to wider issues: "Another friend's struggle with death reminded me that both these philosophies see death as part of life, and I began to wonder how Western religion, to which death is inextricably linked, influenced politics. In a sort of virtuous circle, I began to wonder how attitudes toward death and religion might affect the way people dealt with Otherness - and what that might mean for politics."

Deena Stryker is able, because of her highly personal journeys, to make unusual connections between peoples, atmospheres and places that few without such a background can achieve: "Francois Mitterrand had just been elected President, bringing the socialists back to power for the first time since 1959. The atmosphere in those first heady days following the 'victory of the rose' was remindful, all things being equal, of that which prevailed in Havana in the early years of the Cuban revolution."

It is this flavor that makes Lunch with Fellini, Dinner with Fidel an exceptional read, blending family life and growth with wide-ranging perspectives on other cultures and lives.

To call this memoir an 'autobiography' would be to simplify its contributions: it's a whirlwind of relationships both foreign and domestic, moving from the personal to the political and creating powerful accounts of many worlds, many tides and connections, and many loves. It brings together disparate eras, peoples and connections in a deeply personal yet observational memoir highly recommended for readers seeking more than singular life stories.

Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Your Self
Ilene Val-Essen, Ph.D.
Quality Parenting
9780967537115, $19.95 softcover; $12.95 e-book
Bulk orders:

Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Your Self: Creating a Family Based on Mutual Respect is recommended for parents who hold the ideal that respectful interactions with their children are possible--and the book does so much more than simply offering adages about better parenting.

It's actually a tested, successful program developed over twenty-five years and based on the premise that despite appearances, kids and teens really want to be cooperative, responsible, and independent. Difficult behavior is viewed as a cry for help. Children want us to help them find an effective way to meet their legitimate needs. We're on the same side.

Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Your Self is committed to helping families create strategies to raise resilient and capable children, and parents who enjoy the rich rewards of family life. This book provides specifics on how to build solid, lasting relationships based on family agreements. Examples you can readily identify with cement the strategies explained here and provide parents with many keys to success, even when kids resist and display their worst behavior.

This isn't just an analysis of kids' behavior patterns: it considers typical scenarios in which parents also exhibit ineffective choices or behaviors, analyzes their roots, and shows how the impulse towards unproductive behavior can be modified on all sides.

Now, there are shelves and shelves of books on positive parenting: most will go unread. There are several reasons for this; one being the sheer volume of self-help parenting guides on the market and the other being the fact that many of these guides are based on untested methods and author opinion alone.

But if only one book were chosen for a "foundation parenting guide," it should be Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Your Self: Creating a Family Based on Mutual Respect. The combination of practical, real-world tested applications, a clearly-written formula for successful interaction strategies, and case history examples supporting all contentions keeps this book head and shoulders above other parenting guides.

One of the best features of Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Your Self is that it's formed from real-life proven strategies that have worked over a long period of time. It's written by a doctor who uses a non-technical tone to address common patterns of interaction which may have been handed down through generations yet, unfortunately, may weaken families. It offers a long-range, bigger picture on how to parent children for lasting relationships, rather than a short-term approach which simply puts out fires for current disciplinary problems - which return again in time.

The focus on new ways of viewing behaviors and the specifics on how to turn these behaviors around provide parents with many keys to success, both in their own actions and reactions and in modifying a child's approach to life. By taking these disparate behaviors and by working them into an overall program, Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Your Self provides a concrete process based on mutual respect, which includes better listening, problem solving, and planning skills.

Chapters offer a rich vocabulary to express feelings and strategies for exiting lower-self interactions and moving into centered-self functioning. The book covers very specific, concrete advice often missing in general parenting titles - such as assessing when assertion works and when it does not: "Like any tool, assertion works best when used in appropriate situations. A fork is a great utensil, but it's not very useful for eating soup. We should use assertion when we're calm and centered - when we're under stress, we're vulnerable and in danger of slipping to the lower self. Once that happens, we become aggressive or passive; these are the opposites of being assertive."

Practice exercises for adults and children, keys to educating the entire family about feelings and appropriate methods of expressing them, and points about the difference between assertion and aggression (" assertive statement tells what you feel or want, without judging others. Again, it has two parts: the assertion and the explanation.") make for clear explanations even those without any psychology background can easily understand.

The Rose Shipwreck: Poems and Photographs
Christopher Bernard
Kindle Books, $3.99

The Rose Shipwreck: Poems and Photographs opens with an introduction that assesses what a poem is, what it isn't, and how it functions in the literary and social world, offering a few starting points to the discussion: "A poet is sometimes never more sincere than when he is telling you lies about himself. Sincerity is not his business: exploration and experimenting with ideas and emotions is."

This and other revelations survey the mercurial nature of the poet and his craft and serve as a fitting preface to Christopher Bernard's collection, with his first piece offering a different version (in verse) in Preface by a Word Drunk [the rude version] : "...maybe he is so mercurial/precisely because, alone,/ he is firm on that upon which/everything else reposes,/ everything else emerges a tendril of the secret root/of the Self of the world:/his own." The contrast between verse and essay and the changed meanings resulting from form are thus reinforced through a contrast that highlights how cadence and images can be restructured and changed through the use of verse. Through this single example the differences between prose and poetry are highlighted in a manner even non-poets (or those less familiar with verse) can readily understand.

Despite a truly powerful introduction which winds from essay format to poem, Bernard's true poetic talents really shine in 'The Rose Shipwreck', a poem replete with gorgeous images and twists of pen: "Such a shipwreck of flowers - a petaled wreck/ on an azure sea, of blood-red salmon/ stained with peach, with a steady clear/ tolling of deep bells under a sheer blue sky/ half-deafened in the gale - flowers staining/ the sea in disintegrating color..."

It's in this poem that Bernard's abilities to create surreal, color-charged landscapes shrouded with emotion really stands out: it's at once an account of journeys, a voyage of discovery, and a call to action: "Shall we build our ships of roses and brave the sea,/ that rose of fire, garden where winds take root/ and grow into forests?"

It's after this second poem that the first photograph appears: a picture of a wall of street art in SoHo, New York. Bernard's photos center on urban scenes and topics from New York to San Francisco, from street art and graffiti to images of a rainbow over Coit Tower in San Francisco. The poems that precede and follow are appropriate melds to the images, successfully solidifying the image's art ('Wind' follows this photo - and the impression of movement is thus visually reinforced).

From first-person reflections to some striking pairings, such as the silhouette of 'Cat at Window' with the equally evocative 'The Peeping God' ("He peers between the shadows of the blinds/ the clouds draw across him in the sunlight."), these poems discuss everything from religion and social issues to life's ironies and inconsistencies.

Woven through the tapestry of visual and verbal art are themes of collapse, reincarnation, and discovery that draw fine lines between individual and social experience.

This haunting juxtaposition of verse and photos shouldn't be missed by any who appreciate urban images, poetry, and art.

Pelissippi Ghosts: A Story from the Early Days of the
Civil Rights Struggles in Clinton, Tennessee
Danny Thomas

First off, it's important to note that Pelissippi Ghosts: A Story from the Early Days of the Civil Rights Struggles in Clinton, Tennessee is a work of historical fiction, blending real-world events with fictional embellishments to create a smooth and compelling read spiced with the best of both worlds.

The heart of Pelissippi Ghosts lies in rising social and political sentiments that threaten to set whites against blacks and change the face of a small town. All hell is breaking loose in Clinton, which is a microcosm for events in the rest of the South; and at the heart of it lay regrets, prejudices, and the actions and choices of judges, lawyers, and authorities.

Danny Thomas captures in dialogue and circumstance the heart of activist movements and sentiments of the times: "That kind of law and order needs to collapse. To end. So you can decide for yourselves how things ought to be. Don't pay heed to a corrupt Supreme Court. I like Ike, but I won't let him and his Supreme Court force niggers into our schools!"

As spite and hatred move from undercover operations to overt action, the entire region is caught up in a different kind of civil war for liberties that are held dear to white and black alike. At the heart of conflict is the trial of John Kasper, who has blatantly interfered with integration at a local school and which brings the dilemma of how a guilty man's freedom may free the town ("If he gets off, these interlopers, these agitators from out of town, will go someplace else," Reeves said. "Is that your premise?".)

Pelissippi Ghosts provides a powerful saga of a community that finds itself facing issues often provoked by outsiders...and making decisions that will affect not only small town sentiments and makeup, but its position in the larger world: "If we as a community... can react to Kasper and Carter and the throngs that have beset us in just the right way...with just the right amount of force and kindness, then we might be all right."

It turns out that the 'ghosts' of the title are not singular entities revolving around singular events, but a host of hauntings that involve a lawyer, townspeople, and any who are concerned about the past's influence on the present.

For Attorney Reeves, the spirit he senses may (or may not) be that of his deceased wife: "the glimpse might be just a trick of lighting. Or his imagination. Or wishful thinking. The sounds, perhaps the wind. Or echoes. Or a mind unhinged?" Whichever it is, Reeves is left with a bittersweet memory that is both rewarding and perplexing.

Others find their personal ghosts assume different forms, and it's a trial that brings together these diverse personal and political elements, and which will decide the fate of the town and its members. As Avery watches the Kasper trial he and others are treated to Kasper's insights on his real purpose in town: "I recently talked with a fellow here in Clinton who said that the Civil War may have been won by the North, but the people here in Tennessee are winning the peace. There's no more blue against gray. Evil is disguised in many forms, and people need to be careful who they listen to. I heard what was happening here, and I heard there was no leader in Clinton, so I came to be that leader."

In personalizing the political conflicts of the 1950s, Pelissippi Ghosts provides a satisfying, involving story line that keeps readers involved through a cast of characters whose interests blend personal and political concerns. The blossoming of these personal concerns to higher-level politics is what keeps Pelissippi Ghosts a powerful read, filled with lessons from civil rights days.

Don Castle
ISBN: 148017937X
ISBN-13: 9781480179370
$2.99 Kindle
$10.97 Paperback

Shadows is a Jake Somers novel and provides a traditional detective story as it follows the life and journeys of a young woman whose terrible past becomes linked to a modern-day murder spree when a young girl's body is discovered behind the building that houses the Jake Somers Detective Agency in North Dallas.

It may not be coincidence that the dead body in the alley lies so close to Jake's place of business, or that Jake's background (as a former police detective) places him at the forefront of the investigation. With more murders, more crime scenes, and more motives, what slowly evolves is not a singular murder, but a search for a serial killer.

It's Jake's long-time connections with the police department that let him become more involved in these cases than a regular P.I. could achieve: officers have familiarity with and respect for Jake's skills and afford him more respect and cooperation than might otherwise be the case. As Jake taps various departments and people to gain better insights on the victims, he draws important connections between them and begins to map out scenarios that will lead him to the perp.

Add the needs of an elderly mother who falls and fractures her hip and the added stress of a wedding in the works and you have a P.I. who has his hands more than full.

While injecting the specifics and stresses of a wedding into the mystery at times feels like overload, in fact this provides relief from the ongoing investigation and also adds personal enhancement to the Jake Somers persona, neatly breaking up the mystery and making for a fuller novel.

Shadows plays out its evidence and scenes very well. It creates a series of cat-and-mouse games where information takes the form of puzzle pieces that don't really fit together until the end. Seasoned genre readers will find the story line peppered with 'breaks' as Jake deals with personal life challenges, and will come to find that often these departures bring them full-circle to another clue in the evolving mystery.

Where other mysteries provide a nearly one-dimensional focus on clues and perps, Shadows seeks more well-rounded representation of these murder scenarios in light of the larger issues of protagonist Jake's life. The puzzle thus becomes part of a bigger picture, solidified by the protagonist's underlying motives and concerns - and becomes far more realistic than the bulk of mysteries. If it's greater depth you look for, beyond the puzzle itself, then Shadows is for you.

Heaven is in Your Future: The Gift You Cannot Refuse
David Arthur DuRocher
Amazon Digital
ASIN: B00ERNAX4O, $2.99

Heaven is in Your Future: The Gift You Cannot Refuse offers a Biblical message to Christian and New Age readers alike, and provides thought-provoking insights based on the author's views of heaven, relationships between God, humanity and Jesus, and the idea that other souls like Jesus exist not just on Earth, but throughout the cosmos.

But this is more than an opinion piece: specific parables from the Bible are used as a foundation for discussion, pairing Biblical events with new interpretations to reinforce the notion of a kind of revolving reincarnation experienced until heaven is achieved by all.

So what does this mean for devout Christian and/or new age readers?

For one thing, it places responsibility for life choices and actions square on the believer's shoulders, rather than just putting faith in a higher force's ability to set everything right.

This level of responsibility, combined with the reinforcing message of having many lives to live, encourages Christian readers to modify their approaches to prayer, belief, and life experience to take more responsibility for directing the course of their spiritual paths.

The author's introduction actually sums up the rest of a book supported by Biblical experience and passages: "For several minutes I could perceive that I was a divine, eternal being. During those moments, I sensed that I had existed forever in the past, and would exist forever in the future. And was my destiny to someday enter into the kingdom of heaven."

Chapters consist of Biblical passages, footnoted references, and comments that use these specific references to support new ideas: "The trees thrown into the fire represent the souls in our Universe that will receive the second baptism at the end of this age...(sic)...every soul of our creation will become cleansed of sins by one of these two types of baptism. All will enter into heaven together; none will be returned to hell."

There are many revelations in the course of exploring how this process; from how sin is created to why the words of Jesus actually predicted (and directed) the future course of faith in referring to being born again - something which could not happen until after his death.

David Arthur DuRocher adds much personal insight into his analysis: "...They were the kind of followers that He wanted. He was recruiting men, and women, who would share His cup - that is, open their souls to the sins of the cross."

Christian readers open to new interpretations of scripture will find Heaven is in Your Future: The Gift You Cannot Refuse is packed with specifics which will challenge many a pastor. Its purpose is to take basic questions about God, Jesus, and the church and offer specific references to scripture - but new meaning and in ways that support the idea of 'many mansions'.

Readers will discover it's easy to accept these alternative interpretations as messages of hope and promise for all souls - not just Christian readers. And that's what makes this study stand out from the myriad of Christian titles providing standard interpretations of text: the message that there is the promise of heaven for all, regardless of belief and faith.

Diane Donovan
Senior Reviewer

Julie's Bookshelf

Replacement Child
Judy L. Mandel
Seal Press
1700 - 4th Street, Berkeley, California 94710
9781580054768, $16.00, 320 pp.,

Synopsis: Judy L. Mandel was born into a family crippled by grief. But it would be years before she would discover the shocking circumstances of their loss. "Replacement Child" is Judy's memoir and tells the true story of a horrifying accident: A plane crashes into a family's home, leaving one daughter severely burned and another dead. The death of the child leaves a hole in the family that threatens to tear it apart. In an attempt to fill the painful gap, the parents give birth to a "replacement child." In this powerful story of love and lies, family and hope, Judy L. Mandel's story is one of being the child brought into the world to provide "a salve for the burns." As a child, she unwittingly rides the deep and hidden currents of her family's grief - until her discovery of this family secret, years later, changes her life forever, forcing her to confront the complex layers of her relationships with her father, mother, and sister.

Critique: Deeply personal and impressively candid, "Replacement Child" is a poignant and extraordinarily written memoir that is highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library American Biography collections. It should also be noted that "Replacement Child" is available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Waiting For The Queen
Joanna Higgins
Milkweed Editions
1011 Washington Avenue South, #300
Minneapolis, MN 55415-1246
9781571317001, $16.95, 256 pp.,

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Eugenie de La Roque and her family barely escape the French Revolution with their lives. Along with several other noble families, they sail to America, where French Azilium, as the area came to be known, is being carved out of the rugged wilderness of Pennsylvania. Hannah Kimbrell is a young Quaker who has been chosen to help prepare French Azilum for the arrival of the aristocrats. In this wild place away from home and the memories they hold dear, Eugenie and Hannah find more in common than they first realize. With much to learn from each other, the girls unite to help free several slaves from their tyrannical French owner, a dangerous scheme that requires personal sacrifice in exchange for the slaves' freedom.

Critique: A superbly crafted historical novel that will have particular appeal to young readers ages 10 to 15, "Waiting for the Queen: A Novel of Early America" is very highly recommended for school and community library collections. It should also be noted that "Waiting for the Queen: A Novel of Early America" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Survival Of The Hive
Deborah Mackin & Matthew Harrington
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781481749725, $14.95, 108 pp.,

Synopsis: Learn valuable leadership lessons and organizational "survival" tactics through the eyes of one of the world's most industrious and successful creatures, the honey bee. Survival of the Hive takes the lid off a beehive and provides a fun, relevant and reflective look at the tiny, purposeful inhabitants inside. Through the leadership experiences of Zync, a queen-in-waiting, we are taught seven important leadership lessons by her mentors, Vision, Belief and Strategy including The Front Porch Philosophy of accountability, Bee-2-Bee Waggle Dance of communication, the all-important P-Factors: Footprint, Resourcing, Calming, and Unity, and the Perfect Product Honey System. Deborah Mackin and Matthew Harrington, in a creative yet practical way, use the bee colony and specifically Zync, as an entertaining fable to illustrate leadership in an organized community. Throughout the book, the hive provides a working illustration of cultural complexity, leadership clarity, and the importance of trust as a foundation for excellence. Included at the end of each chapter is Reflections for Today's Leaders, as well as Group Discussion Questions to help facilitate a "Survival of the Hive" philosophy within your own organization.

Critique: Thoroughly 'reader friendly' from first page to last, "Survival of the Hive: 7 Leadership Lessons From a Beehive" will prove to be an enduringly profitable instructional guide and is very highly recommended for anyone with a corporate or small business managerial responsibility. The hardcover edition (9781481749718, $23.99) is especially recommended for community and academic library collections.

The $7 Diet
Christopher Crennen
4900 LaCross Rd
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492747628, $7.95, 56 pp.,

Synopsis: "The $7 Diet" recommends delicious, high-fiber, whole foods that fill you up and keep you satisfied until the next meal, a satisfying, high-nutrient, low-calorie diet that is ideal for losing weight and that can be followed for life. Simple recipes (requiring only a few minutes to assemble, heat and clean up) are provided for each daily meal. A shopping list of foods (with store names, brand names, package sizes and prices) is provided. The prices of the foods were compared at the four largest U.S. food retailers (Wal-Mart, Kroger, Costco and Safeway). The cost of the diet is quite reasonable, about $7.00 per day. The book summarizes some of the major food studies (Adventist studies, China Project, WHO diet nutrition report, the World Cancer study and others) that recommend foods to eat and avoid to prevent heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, dementia, diabetes, obesity and other diseases. Also listed are YouTube (R) videos and DVDs readily available at libraries and which are recommended to reinforce the benefits of a healthy diet.

Critique: Informed, informative, "The $7 Diet" is strongly recommended reading, especially for anyone who is on a limited income and desires to utilize their diets to insure maximum health benefits for themselves and their loved ones. An invaluable and thoroughly 'user friendly', "The $7 Diet" would make an excellent instructional reference guide for nutritionists, social workers, and other professionals seeking to help their clients eat better and healthier and more economically.

The Angel With Burnt Wings
Scarlett Jensen
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781481798426, $18.24, 212 pp.,

Synopsis: "The Angel With Burnt Wings" is true reflection of shackled lives behind the media's publicity-seeking headlines that strike a whole country from time to time. Remember the gripping stories of the "downfall of a golden girl, sex web, shackles and shame, gangster's moll, Bonnie and Clyde - like story, heartache of a fallen girl, the soul of a robber child, burning passion and devotion to a dominant lover and bad kids" "The Angel With Burnt Wings" is a story of a downfall and victory that each of us should read. It could happen to anyone of us.

Critique: Candid, personal, revealing, "The Angel With Burnt Wings" is a kind of docu-drama, a fictionalized account of real life experiences. A woman survives molestation, rape, prostitution, addiction, alcoholism, even crime -- and eventually overcomes these horrific handicaps to a life worth living in every aspect of that concept. A riveting literary work, "The Angel With Burnt Wings" is an ultimately unforgettable and rewarding read.

Hadrian's Wall
Felicia Jensen
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
The von Raesfeild Agency (publicity)
2860 Alder Lake Court, Henderson, NV 89052-7054
9781484995198, $19.95, 460 pp.,

Synopsis: When Melissa Baker wakes up in a hospital in Hadrian's Wall, a small town in Maine, she has no idea how she got there, nor can she recall the events of the past few weeks since she left the orphanage. Adrian Cahill is the doctor in charge of her care. Melissa later discovers that he's a member of the powerful family that founded Hadrian's Wall. He's rich, handsome, and intriguing. Like Adrian, everything about the place is strange...exotic. The whole town pays homage to the Cahills, but the clan is hiding some secrets and Melissa is about to get involved in something for which she is totally unprepared.

Critique: A complex yet deftly written novel, "Hadrian's Wall" is raptly entertaining from beginning to end. With her carefully crafted characters and intriguing plot twists, author Felicia Jensen's debut novel is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library contemporary fiction collections. It should be noted that "Hadrian's Wall" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.95). Attention Hollywood -- Hadrian's Wall is the kind of novel that block buster movies are made from!

The Cricket's Dance
Deborah Robillard
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781478374268, $16.95, 280 pp.,

Synopsis: The intriguing history of the "Old South" often encompassed such undesirable elements as murder, mystery, racial discord, and man's unquenchable thirst for wealth. The true essence of the past as seen through the eyes of those who dare to look at it today is often just a blurry reflection of what was real and what was truth versus what we choose to remember. When Angie Lawrence came face to face with the truth, she was able to see it as clearly as the words written on the journal pages hidden almost 150 years ago. Will the consequences of looking at the past with clear vision and eyes wide open show her a future she never dreamed possible?

Critique: "The Cricket's Dance" is author Deborah Robillard's debut novel and clearly documents her as a talented author in full mastery of the kinds of storytelling skills that engage a reader's full and rapt attention from beginning to end. "The Cricket's Dance" provides the reader with an intense literary experience as the lives of recognizable characters experience cruelty and forgiveness, friendship and love, and the inevitable dramas that life affords us all in one measure or another. Also available in a Kindle edition ($5.95), "The Cricket's Dance" is enthusiastically recommended and would make an enduringly popular addition to community library fiction collections.

With Death Before Us
Mary Lou Mirante
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
c/o Bohlsen Group (publicity)
9781477284292, $23.95, 348 pp.,

Synopsis: What happens, after the doctor delivers a death sentence? "With Death Before Us" is Mary Lou Mirante's heart-wrenching love story, a memoir about a man who fights for life. With a history of heart and lung problems Tony visits his family Dr. before a planned trip to Maui, only to discover another nodule has appeared on his lung. The story is about an illness, with many, escapes from death, and multiple blessings along the way. The struggles a close family faced in the name of love, packed with emotion, as they supported each other.

Critique: Candid, intensely personal, informed and informative, inspired and inspiring, "With Death Before Us" is an extraordinary and very highly recommended memoir that will linger in the minds and hearts of readers long after it is finished and set back upon the shelf. It should be noted that the hardcover edition (9781477284285, $31.99) is especially recommended for community library American Biography collections. "With Death Before Us" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99) as well.

The September Garden
Catherine Law
Allison & Busby Limited
c/o International Publishers Marketing
22841 Quicksilver Drive, Dulles, VA 20166
9780749011116, $29.95, 288 pp.,

Synopsis: Set in London during the Blitz, in occupied France, and among the rolling Chiltern hills, this is the story of two cousins thrown together by the outbreak of war. Nell and Sylvie grow up quickly during the early days of rationing, blackouts, and the arrival of RAF planes in the skies. But even as the war rages on around them, the competition and jealousy between the cousins battles on - especially in romance. When the girls fall in love with the same man, he is spared having to choose between them as the war pulls them all apart and changes the course of their lives, with devastating consequences. For Nell, the only place she can ever find solace is inside the September Garden, her father's walled sanctuary. It is here that she decides to hide her most dreadful secret . . .

Critique: Catharine Law has an extraordinary gift as a writer -- the ability to draw her readers into a deftly woven story populated with memorable characters caught up in a web of all too human emotional entanglements and conflicts. Also available in a Kindle edition ($8.15), this truly exceptional novel is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library fiction collections.

In The Moors
Nina Milton
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive
Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738738369, $14.99, 408 pp.,

Synopsis: Shamanic counselor Sabbie Dare doesn't believe her troubled client, Cliff Houghton, is capable of evil. But Cliff has become the prime suspect in the murder of a young boy after the police catch him lurking in the moors where the body was found. Continuing the therapy they'd begun together, Sabbie recovers disturbing childhood memories from Cliff's subconscious, shedding light on a spate of crimes that terrorized the English countryside twenty years earlier. And when a second child goes missing, Sabbie must piece together fragments of the buried past before another innocent victim is robbed of his life.

Critique: A riveting murder mystery of the first order, "In The Moors" captures the reader's total and appreciative attention from beginning to end. A roller coaster of a literary thrill ride, author Nina Milton draws from her years of experience as a druid to play fair with her complexly woven story with its shamanistic elements. Very strongly recommended for anyone who appreciates unique murder/suspense novels, it should be noted that "In The Moors" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.09).

Phyllis Mason
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781479210084, $14.95, 62 pp.,

Synopsis: A fantasy about a Pegasus called Nevron who was born an outcast, who must grow into a powerful Stallion and fight fierce enemies to claim his birthright as leader of his herd of winged-horses. This story is set on another planet and offers a message of tolerance and acceptance of one who is different.

Critique: Beautifully written, "Nevron" is a very highly recommended and entertaining fantasy for children. It should be noted that "Nevron" is also available in both a Kindle edition ($9.99) and as a DVD production ($19.95).

Julie Summers

Klausner's Bookshelf

Torn Blood
David J. Bain
Bo Iti Press
9780988171008, $17.99,

In 2007 in Kazakhstan at the Stepnogorsk Scientific and Technical Institute for Microbiology, attendees discuss deploying a new strand of undetectable airborne anthrax in Palestine. Not only will this strain kill the population, it can be neutralized afterward so that the Palestinians can go home after a six-decade exile.

A few months later, the new Consular Officer Addison Deverell reports to the American Embassy in Tel Aviv three weeks before his due date. He sits for hours at the embassy until Arabic Hafiz IbnMansur arrives from Jerusalem to escort him around the country and teach him how to survive by avoiding being an easy American target. However, he came early not to play tourist, but to learn more about his past. Instead Deverell becomes embroiled in a dangerous bioweapon plot to destroy the Zion State and replace it with a Palestine homeland. Meanwhile in Oregon, Dr. Janelle Henning receives a message that shakes her existence and has her considering a trip to the Holy Land.

This is an action-packed thriller that focuses on biological weapons of mass destruction while also providing insight into what it means to be an Israeli as identity matters. Fast-paced from the opening discussion on anthrax and never slowing down, readers will appreciate this exciting tale; as no compromise and no surrender remains the values of a small nation as depicted by the "relative size" map.

Strange Bird
Anna Jansson, author
Paul Norlen, translator
Stockholm Text
19820 82nd Place NE, Kenmore, Seattle, WA 98028
9789187173950, $14.95,

On Gotland Island, the pigeon lands at Ruben Nilsson's dovecote. Soon afterward Nilsson dies from avian flu. Others become ill and die causing a panic as the epidemic spreads; a shortfall of medication makes it worse as Tamiflu fails to stop the contagion while the sick are quarantined. When young campers catch the disease, they are isolated adding to the anxieties. Detective Inspector Marian Wern fears for her tweener son Emil who is among those held in isolation.

Meanwhile at the Vigoris Health Center, Nurse Sandra Hgg discovers a shocking revelation. Only someone wants her finding buried so Sandra is murdered in her apartment. Worried about her child, Wern struggles to concentrate on her homicide investigation.

This is a strong Swedish thriller that looks deeply into how first responders, medical personnel and the general population deal with an out of control lethal contagion in which money buys health even in a highly socialized system. As the death count grows, panic exponentially rises faster because those depended upon to end the epidemic not only are failing but are dying too. The murder mystery is clever, but it is the community's reaction to the deadly disease that makes this a profound tale.

Long Gone Man
Phyllis Smallman
Touchwood Mystery
103 - 1075 Pendergast Street, Victoria, BC, V8V 0A1, Canada
9781771510301, $14.95,

Two decades ago in Arizona, Singer Brown was singing with the band Vortex when she met Michael, the love of her life. When he vanished without a trace, she mentally collapsed relying on drugs to help her make it past her nightmares. Recently, Michael's murdered remains were found in the desert. Seeking revenge, Singer heads to British Columbia's Gulf Islands to confront the Vortex band leader Johnny Vibes who she believes killed her beloved as she doubts he wrote his only quality tune Long Gone Man.

In a thick fog the ferry takes her to Glenphiddie Island. At the dock she drives her Beast up the narrow road on Mt. Skeena, but is forced to flee her decrepit van as it teeters on the edge. When she arrives at Vibes' home, she meets his wife Lauren and finds her target murdered. Singer and Lauren agree to provide a joint alibi to Royal Mounted Police Sergeant Wilmot so that the cop can concentrate on finding the real killer. Singer investigates the two homicides twenty years apart by looking at the band and their families; while one of them wants her dead.

With Sherri Travis taking a well-deserved Florida respite, talented Phyllis Smallman starts a new exciting mystery series diagonally across the continent. Singer is terrific and the cops competent; but it is the angry band members and their families who make for a strong amateur sleuth as the audience, Wilmot and the heroine uncover their guilt, rage and greed. Fast-paced, readers will appreciate the first act while expecting encores.

Raw Edges
Sandra D. Bricker
Abingdon Press
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426752759, $12.99,

Dying Jenna McDonough wants to leave her daughter Sadie with her love and solace. Thus she writes a journal to help her beloved child move on. One year after Jenna died, Gray still reads his wife's words of wisdom to his daughter as they find comfort with Jenna's writings, but each mourns deeply their loss.

In Tampa, the Ovacare cancer support group invites the grieving father and daughter to a meeting, which they decide to go. The attendees discuss am ovarian cancer memory quilt, a project headed by cancer survivor Annabelle Curtis. Caring Annabelle persuades Gray and Sadie to join the quilting project.

The latest Quilts of Love inspirational (see Pieces of the Heart by Bonnie Calhoun, A Healing Heart by S. Dionne Moore and Beyond the Storm by Carolyn Zane) is a gripping family drama as grief is personalized but moving on can be helped by understanding people. The journal entries are soul-touching and along with the group sessions bring hope to the single dad and his daughter. Although the romance is well-written, that subplot feels unnecessary as Sandra Bricker provides a powerfully poignant look at the aftermath of first-hand cancer combat on the mourning surviving loved ones and on the Purple Heart survivors.

The Savage Dead
Joe McKinney
Pinnacle Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, NY, NY 10018-2522
9780786029303, $6.99,

U.S. Senator Rachel Sutton is the most vocal opponent of the Mexican drug cartels in Congress. Her strong adversarial statements and the powerful law she sponsored anger the trafficker leaders like Ramon Medina who has attempted failed assassinations of Sutton; but were thwarted by Secret Service agents Juan Perez and Tess Compton who so far have kept "Piper" as the senator is called safe.

In Galveston, Sutton boards the Gulf Stream cruise ship for some needed R&R. However, Medina sends his top field operative Monica "Pilar" Rivas undercover on the vessel. Rivas releases Dr. Rosato's modified clostridium bacteria on the Gulf Stream; turning people into flesh eating zombies. As the biological weapon spreads rapidly, Compton protects Piper from the lethal zombies and Rivas.

The latest Dead World urban fantasy (see Mutated, Dead City, Apocalypse of the Dead and Flesh Eaters) is an exhilarating sidebar thriller that takes place in a confined environment making it easier for the zombies to attack ( to the delight of Z fans). Though the reanimation starts later than the usual Joe McKinney Dead World horror novels and the cartel villains caricatures, readers will enjoy the undead horde ripping flesh in a closed limited area; just don't read this taut tale if you are vacationing on a cruise ship.

John Lutz
9780786028290, $9.99

In 1984 Medford City, Kansas, pregnant Abbey drives her truck on an isolated road when it overheats. Seemingly kind-hearted Mildred gives her a lift only to duct tape the young woman and gut her with a knife.

In the present in New York City, someone drugs and duct tapes Bonnie Anderson before surgically slicing off her eyelids and cutting open her stomach as she watches in horror. The killer places a cheap Statue of Liberty inside the corpse. When a second similar murder occurs, Police Commissioner Rentz hires Q&A Investigative Agency to work the brutal homicides because former NYPD detective Frank Quinn is experienced with serial killers. Carlie Hobbs, the niece of Frank's ex-wife May, visits Q&A saying someone is stalking her; she fits the description of the victims so Frank places her under the protection of his team. As more slaughters occur, Frank uses a TV show and an inheritance to try to capture the brilliant psychopath, but knows who he needs to offer as the perfect lure.

The latest Frank Quinn and Associates investigative tale is an exciting serial killer thriller. The chilling storyline is action-packed as the Liberty killer has no problems with seducing his victims before torturing them to death; he makes the case that the child is the adult. Although the plot loses some of its edginess when it turns into a cat and mouse game between Frank and Liberty since the psychopath (and readers) gains nothing by playing; sub-genre fans will enjoy following the twisted mind of a brilliant maniac taking NYC hostage.

Silent Assassin
Leo J. Maloney
9780786029914, $9.99

In the Paris Metro, the bombs at a crowded station leave thirty-two dead including three Americans and much more in critical condition. Three months earlier a New York to Atlanta plane crashed due to the release of mustard gas leaving all 107 on board and six on the ground dead. Barcelona and Oslo followed with mass deaths and now Paris.

Desperate to end the terrorism, the Feds turn to the Zeta Division for help. They assign the operation to their top gun retired CIA agent Dan "Cobra" Morgan. His mission is to terminate former KGB operative turned international arms dealer Nikolai Novokoff, find and secure this terrorist's biological weapons of mass destruction cache threatening major Western cities and identify the person behind the Russian. Cobra's first effort in Bucharest fails while the enemy targets his wife and son in Andover.

The latest Cobra thriller (see Termination Orders) is an exhilarating action-packed over the top of Holt Hill tale. Fast-paced, readers who ignore their plausibility meter will appreciate this entertaining exciting story.

Amy Falls Down
Jincy Willett
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250028273, $24.99,

At one time, Amy Gallup was considered a budding superstar as her novels and short stories were well received. However that Amy Gallup has vanished along with her out of print books. Instead, three decades later she is a long time semi-hermit in Escondido leading writing workshops.

Just before an interview with San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Holly Mary Antoon doing a where are they now article, Amy trips in her yard and bangs her head. The interview follows a few hours later, but Amy's responses are weird and quickly go viral making her a household name again. She begins writing leading to renewed popularity as everyone wants her especially when Amy disdains fleeting fifteen minutes of fame. Amy also finds herself no longer able to cocoon in comfort concealed from the world as she begins to analyze why she vanished after her initial success.

The sequel to The Writing Class is an engaging satirical character study as Amy after the fall rises like a Phoenix from the ashes, but no longer cares about social correctness; her interviewers learn the hard way that she no longer is concerned about their bull. The amusing entertaining storyline mocks the pompousness of the literary world while also providing a profound look into the author's psyche as she ponders why she stopped writing and voluntarily vanished.

A Lady Most Lovely
Jennifer Delamere
Forever Romance
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781455518968, $6.00,

In 1852 Tom Poole returns from Australia to become the star of the London social season because almost everyone believes he rode a horse to shore after a shipwreck and allegedly caroused with the naked Aborigines in Australia. His finding gold only enhances his reputation though he is frustrated as the Ton's truths are not totally true.

He is attracted to the wealthiest socialite in England, Margaret Vaughn, but she is engaged to Paul Denault, a duke's nephew. Margaret accepted Paul's proposal not out of love but out of necessity as her late father left the family with massive debts that they cannot pay so she seeks a wealthy spouse. Instead she learns her fiance is another impoverished aristocrat after her alleged fortune and lofty social position. Tom offers her financial aid while hoping to persuade Margaret that in spite of his much lower status, he also tends his heart to her.

The second Love's Grace Victorian romance (see An Heiress At Heart) is a wonderful historical due to the strong cast especially the protagonists. Though the premise is not new, fans will enjoy the no longer an affluent lady and the nouveau riche social inferior falling in love, but that may not be enough for her to trust anyone with her heart.

The Trouble With Christmas
Debbie Mason
9781455527687, $6.00

In New York City Harrison Hartwell presented a proposal for a resort in Christmas, Colorado to Uncle Joe, Hartwell Enterprises' boss. The firm's VP of Finance Madison Lane recommends not doing this venture as Hartwell will go bankrupt. The townsfolk are disheartened as they needed the resort to bring in needed revenue and jobs.

Harrison turns to the media blaming Madison for destroying the dreams of seniors and children. The New York Times picks up the story of "The Grinch Who Killed Christmas". Needing damage control, Joe dispatches Madison to Christmas to find a way to turn the town into a lucrative wintry hotspot or she becomes unemployed. Like most residents, the single dad town Sheriff Gage McBride loathes the Grinch, but also detests his attraction to the naughty New Yorker; while she also causes near riots starting with her assault on the Santa welcome sign.

The Trouble With Christmas is a fun madcap holiday romance starring the Grinch who stole the sheriff's heart. Fast-paced from the moment Madison's BFF at the Daily News informs her she is the Times' headliner, fans will appreciate this zany entertaining yuletide contemporary.

Christmas In Lucky Harbor
Jill Shalvis
9781455547531, $8.00

"Simply Irresistible." Maddie kicks her abusive boyfriend to the curb, loses her job and inherits a share of a resort in Lucky Harbor, Washington with her two half-sisters. Upon arriving in town, she runs Jax off the road and shares kisses with the hunk. Soon afterward, she contacts JC Builders to work on her hotel. JC stands for Jax Cullen who tries to persuade Maddie they belong together, but she has doubts.

"The Sweetest Thing." Tara and her two half-sisters agree to operate the Lucky Harbor B&B and marina. Tara runs into her teenage sweetheart Ford. They had a child Mia who reluctantly but rightfully gave up for adoption. His efforts for a second chance are impeded by her ex-husband, injured NASCAR driver Logan trying for his second chance.

"Kissing Santa Claus." Having failed at reconciliation with Tara, Logan realizes his error was not trying for a second chance with the woman who owns his heart Sandy.

"Under The Mistletoe." Both given up for adoption as babies, Mia and Nick recently ended their relationship leaving her heartbroken until he comes to Lucky Harbor seeking a second chance.

This delightful anthology includes the first two Lucky Harbor romances (Simply Irresistible and The Sweetest Thing) and two shorts (Kissing Santa Claus and Under The Mistletoe). The entries engage the audience with warm loving plots though the novels tend to slow down in the middle and the short stories never fully develop the lead newcomers.

Bound By Night
Larissa Ione
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., NY, NY 10020
9781476700175, $7.99,

When Nicole Martin was a young child, her father told her that animals can be domesticated but never tamed and that vampires are animals. The vampires, including most of those in the Martin household, revolt. They kill most of Nicole's family and her beloved nanny Terese, who though a vampire died protecting her.

Years later the horror that happened when she was eight shapes her as the adult; Nicole works at the Daedelus Corporation seeking a means to eradicate vampires a. Moonbound Clan leader Hunter directs Riker to lead an assault on the Martin compound in order to take hostages. They need humans to exchange for captured ShadowSpawn Clan vampiress Neriya before in-fighting occurs. Riker, still grieving the death of his mate Terese and knowing her family enslaved his, abducts Nicole; but loathes himself for desiring the human sworn to bring his species to extinction.

The first Moonbound Clan Vampires paranormal romance is an action-packed star-crossed urban fantasy. The clan's hatred of Nicole sets a strong background, but the heroine becomes a Stockholm syndrome victim to the lead male protecting her. Although her cooperation happens faster than the speed of light and supersedes to quickly years of revenge motivation, fans will enjoy this heated cross species thriller.

Roxy's Story
V.C. Andrews
9781451650884, $7.99

In New York City, when compliant Emmie Wilcox was six years old, her martinet Papa excommunicated her rebellious teenage sister Roxy for breaking his rigid rules; his daughter was arrested three times and numerous complaints from other parents and problems at school including stealing. Over the next few years, Papa cleansed any evidence that he had an older daughter and raged whenever her French Mama mentioned the forbidden name.

At a bookstore, she "sorta" takes a book and gives it to a stranger, Columbia student Steve Carson who seemed to want it but obviously lacked the funds; their relationship fails though he is no longer a virgin as he panics over her being under eighteen but gave her confidence that she can pick up men (and boys). When she meets Robert "Mr. Bob" Diamont, he takes her to Mrs. Brittany, who mentors her in the lucrative world of upper class escorts. Over the next decade, Roxy satisfies the needs of the most affluent elitists until she learns her parents are dead and she is guardian to her teenage sister.

The latest Forbidden family drama is more a companion filler to Forbidden Sister, but lacks the profound relationship dynamics of the previous tale (between the siblings; parents ignored). The storyline focuses on the life of an upscale Manhattan escort while the reason Papa tossed his oldest out and why Mama chose death by cancer over treatment are glossed over.

Tropic of Darkness
Tony Richards
9781476727097, $1.99 (Kindle)

In 1958, a disgusted and disappointed Meyer Lansky flies from Vegas to Havana. Two big goons meet him at the airport to tell him that Mario Mantegna is acting strange by insisting she is "under my skin" and he needs her back. Meyer confronts Mario though a closed hotel suite door; instead of responding Mario kills himself.

In 1995, Frank returns from a business trip to his home in Toronto. His wife Ellen notices him acting strange as he sings in his sleep about a girl "under my skin". She can't wake him up so calls Dr. Hague; Frank kills himself with a knife.

A few days after Frank's suicide, Jack Gilliard arrives in Havana. This is his latest stop while on his decade-long musical tour of the world with his cornet since he left his unhappy home in America when he was a teenager; his only other possession he prizes is a knife. Jack hopes to play some gigs in Cuba, but instead has haunting dreams of the Mafia ruling the island in the 1950s and Castro's revolution. Disoriented Jack soon learns of an ancient curse involving a girl "under my skin" that once inside his head leads to suicide; to escape he must leave the island before he becomes the latest person singing I've Got You Under My Skin" as his funeral hymn.

Putting aside the late great Cole Porter's reaction, Tropic of Darkness is an exciting horror thriller as the past haunts the present. Flashbacks add depth to understanding the curse and the related betrayal, with Jack, due to his past, as the latest target of the darkness.

Second Watch
J.A. Jance
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062134677, $26.99,

For years Seattle PD homicide investigator J.P. Beaumont has lived with painful knees. Finally the detective opts for knee replacement surgery on both joints. After the operation is successfully finished, while still under pain medicine the patient dreams of visits from two people involved in scenarios from decades ago that still haunt him.

In 1973, Beaumont, on his first homicide investigation, never identified who killed coed Monica Wellington though he promised her parents he would; now Monica is his first visitor. Not long after that the late Lieutenant Lennie Davis visits the patient; reminding Beaumont he has unfinished business after vowing to visit his Vietnam platoon commander's fiancee to tell her he heroically died saving J.P. Filled with guilt, Beaumont plans to resolve both once he is released. Beaumont persuades his boss to reopen the Wellington cold case and seeks the late Davis' fiancee.

The latest Beaumont police procedural is a super intelligent thriller that cleverly brings the hero who understands aging is a combat sport back to his younger days. Based on the real Lennie D, this subplot and a poignant heartfelt behind the scenes afterward grip the reader throughout while honoring our fallen and injured soldiers. The clever cold case inquiry is also engaging, but takes longer to hook the audience as the Lennie D homage touches the reader's heart.

Aunty Lee's Delights
Ovidia Yu
9780062227157, $14.99

In the resort island of Sentosa, Singapore the young couple in love walk the beach when they see the plastic that looks like a large dead jellyfish. When they get closer they see the corpse inside the bag.

Widow Rosie "Aunty" Lee hosts her stepson Mark's wine-tasting party at her Aunty Lee's Delights Restaurant. Mark's wife receives a text from Laura Kwee who says she will not make it. Police Commissioner Raja and Senior Staff Sergeant Salim arrive at the restaurant to interview Aunty Lee, her stepson and their guests as the victim in the plastic bag is Laura Kwee who forensics says was probably in the water for three days. Aunty Lee and maid Nina Balignasay investigate the homicide of the guest who failed to come to dinner.

This Singaporean Mystery is an enjoyable whodunit as Aunty Lee feels obligated to solve the homicide as the victim was a guest. She adapts her recipe-creating skill to her inquiry with the help of her sidekick Nina. Although the rest of the cast are stereotypes of the amateur sleuth subgenre, readers will appreciate the two female detectives as they work the case in a fresh locale.

Mother, Mother
Koren Zailckas
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385347235, $24.00,

Matriarch Josephine Hurst runs a tight ship as she expects her three children and husband Douglas to obey her demands in order to maintain their perfect life though the youngest, tweener home-schooled William, is imperfect suffering from Asperger Syndrome and epilepsy. When the oldest child Rose flees the nest to move in with her boyfriend, Josephine is aghast with this transgression and tightens the rules on her remaining children Will and his older sister Violet. While their weak father turns to alcohol to numb his obeying his wife's orders, Violet uses drugs and Will turns to Mother.

When Violet is stoned, Will is slashed. Josephine accuses Violet who cannot remember what occurred that night. Her mother commits her to a psychiatric hospital. Meanwhile Violet searches for what happened to Rose who never contacted her after she fled home; and Will seeking for someone to say good boy to him grows even closer to his mother.

Mother, Mother is an exciting dark psychological thriller that rotates perspective between Will and Violet. Will is the more fascinating family member with his needs for acceptance and belonging lead him ironically turning to the one person who will always keep his self-esteem in the cesspool. Violet begins to understand that happiness in the Hurst family must be initiated by Mother only, which means for the daughter to live she must cut off all ties like the vanished Rose did.

The Women of Christmas
Liz Curtis Higgs
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601425416, $14.99,

Descendants of Aaron, righteous Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah the priest prayed to the Lord for a child, but though she remained barren she still remained faithful to God while her mate became a doubter even after Gabriel visited him. Engaged to Joseph the carpenter, Mary the chosen one gratefully thanks Gabriel for the Lord honoring her with bearing his son but wonders how a virgin can give birth; while her betrothed obeys the angel by marrying her. Elderly Widow Anna never leaves the Temple as she prays to the Lord to allow her the glimpse of the Messiah before God takes her.

The three generations of believing Women (and their doubting men) of Christmas is a wonderful scholarly account of the nativity. The biblical citations make a strong case that though not understanding the lord's mysterious ways each woman thanks God for involving them in the birth of the Messiah.

Soul Kissed
Erin Kellison
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, NY, NY 10018-2522
9781420118988, $7.99,

With the Shadow magically poisoned, the pandemic rapid spread of the plague threatens all of magekind. Cari Dolan knows first-hand the impact as her father, powerful head of a major House, lies dead from this scourge. However, she is not allowed time to grieve, curse her loss or understand the magic she inherited with her dad's death; the Council orders her to team up with unaffiliated Mason Stray to learn who deployed the deadly disease and hopefully with this assailant find the cure or prevention.

As a youngster Cari was attracted to the dynamic outsider, but loathes that she still is. Mason distrusts anyone belonging to the Houses especially an untested pampered tyro leader when his son is in peril. He also feels like a traitor because he detests his attraction to his teammate.

The lead couple is a wonderful pairing of forbidden love in the latest Shadow Kissed romantic urban fantasy (see Fire Kissed). Although the protagonists are a delightful teaming of distrusting amateur sleuthing mages, the sinister villain owns the thrilling whodunit storyline. Readers will relish this entry in the Kellison Shadow realm.

Gentle On My Mind
Susan Fox
9781420131925, $6.99

In Caribou Crossing, British Columbia fortyish Brooke Kincaid deals with being a recovering alcoholic who suffers from bipolar disorder. She feels stable as her illnesses are under control though she must remain diligent as she knows what happens when she drops her guard. Brooke is happy that her son Evan came home and let her back in his life; he married a single mom; and his wife is pregnant (see Home On The Range).

Riding a motorcycle, undercover RCMP Corporal Jake Brannon crashes into Brooke's fence. She helps the wounded cop inside her home. Jake says he needs her knowledge of Caribou Crossing to help him solve a dangerous drug case. Attracted to each other, they make love, but ironically her disorders are not what keeps them apart nor do the danger of his undercover work; it is his bone marrow deep belief that he is unworthy of love that is the issue that threatens them.

The latest Caribou Crossing Canadian contemporary tale is a wonderful romantic police procedural due to the unique lead heroine who has turned from an out of control maniac to a warrior battling her mental health issues. Brooke's goal is for her beloved son and daughter-in-law to not just let her back into their lives but for them to trust her with her step-granddaughter and in a few months with her grandchild. Though the male protagonist's self-esteem issue comes across as real, his problem appears insignificant compared to those of Brooke. Readers will appreciate this well-written romance.

Winter Of Wishes
Charlotte Hubbard
9781420121711, $6.99

In Willow Ridge, Missouri, Rhoda Lantz is elated that her widow mom Miriam is engaged to marry (see Autumn Winds), her triplet sister Rachel has recently married (see Summer of Secrets), and her other sibling Rebecca just came back into their lives. With some guilt, Rhoda also feels alone. Thus the Amish young woman answers an ad for a housekeeper.

Englisher Andy Leitner is fully occupied with his medical residency, but concerned about his two children (Taylor and Brett) and his elderly mother so he placed the ad. He hires Rachel who takes charge of his family. Grateful for her caring effectiveness but also falling in love with Rhoda, Andy and his family become upset when the Bishop orders their housekeeper to quit her position. The Leitner brood considers converting to the Amish Old Ways, but each has doubts as they take for granted their modern day lifestyle; while Rhoda considers giving up being an Amish though that is what she has been and knows in her heart that her DNA always will be.

The third Seasons of the Heart contemporary drama makes a strong case that major change is not easy even with love as a motivator and prayer seeking guidance; as the individual must give up something of importance to attempt the behavior modification. Though the support cast feels stereotyped except for the Lantz family, readers will enjoy this engaging tale as a Winter of Wishes and prayers may not be enough.

Nowhere Safe
Nancy Bush
9781420125030, $7.99

After being on medical leave for ten days recuperating from a stab wound to her shoulder Laurelton Police Department Detective September "Nine" Rafferty returns to work. With much of the staff down with the real flu, her first case back on the job is the same one she was working on when she left. A few months ago in February, a vicious clever killer tied a naked postal employer Christopher Balloni to a flagpole in front of his station; Christopher died from exposure.

Nine's stepbrother Stefan Harmak was tied almost naked to a basketball pole at the Twin Oaks Elementary School where he works. A jogger fortunately discovered him before the kids arrived. Stefan was taken to Laurelton General. Nine and Detective Wes Pedigree question Stefan who insists he is the victim of a prank, but both cops know he conceals the truth. Even as they pursue the predator targeting alleged sexual predators, other cases overwhelm those cops still standing; at the same time Nine and her boyfriend Jake begin to move in together though his ex remains an obstacle.

The Laurelton PD police procedural (see Nowhere to Run and Nowhere to Hide) is an exciting thriller as the flu has debilitated the department; making those on duty working much longer shifts. The whodunit is fast-paced and the glimpse at an understaffed PD brings a frantic feel to the plot and a need to prioritize that places critical cases a notch below their norm. Although the romantic "triangular" subplot seems insignificant, fans will appreciate the beleaguered Laurelton PD working the cases especially that of a brilliant predator.

Sometimes A Rogue
Mary Jo Putney
9781420127157, $7.99

Highwaymen stop the coach in which twin sisters Mariah, the Duchess of Ashton and Miss Sarah Clarke-Townsend ride. Insisting she gave birth and haughtily claiming her baby is with a wet nurse, Sarah declares she is the Duchess to protect her pregnant sibling. They leave Mariah behind and kidnap Sarah.

Adam, the grateful Duke of Ashton, asks his friend Bow Street Runner Rob Carmichael to rescue his brave sister-in-law. Diligently pursuing the gang, Rob catches up and succeeds in safely extracting Sarah from her abductors. With the angry kidnappers chasing them, they begin a perilous trek home in which each earns the respect of the other. Soon that admiration turns to love but she is an aristocrat and he is a runner.

The latest Lost Lords Regency romance (see No Longer a Gentleman and Nowhere near Respectable) is a terrific tale as the lead couple struggle to survive several harrowing scenarios. Fast-paced from the moment the coach is stopped and never slowing down, readers will relish this super charged thriller.

The Demon's Wife
Rick Hautala
9781936564958, $18.95,

In Portland, Maine, lonely and bored Claire McMullen works as a purchasing agent for Montressor; her time spent inside her broom closet-sized office is listening to a Philadelphia radio station streaming over the internet and checking out social media sites. She shares an apartment with Sally Lewis, who persuades Claire to stop at the Margarita Grille before they see The Economy perform.

At the Grille, Sally flirts with Samael, but he focuses on Claire. When someone assaults her just outside, Samael rescues Claire. She goes to the hospital, but once released Samael takes her home. When they finally make love, Claire is stunned by his lack of the usual male tools and by how sensational his tail proves to be. However, Claire fears he wants her soul for some nefarious purpose besides love's redemption. As Samael makes his case that they belong together, raging demons believe this coupling is a sinful transgression of the natural order and must end with the human banished for eternity.

The Demon's Wife is an engaging romantic urban fantasy starring two fascinating characters falling into a taboo love that shakes the eternal cold war order of Heaven and Hell. Fast-paced with plenty of action and strange bedfellows; the demons mount a campaign to end this immoral horror and the angels reluctantly protect the partnering. Samael's reformation never feels right as he recognizes his nasty history though love enables him to say Honest to God. Still fans will appreciate the late Rick Hautala's wicked relationship drama; summed up by Milton in Paradise Lost: "The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."

Cain's Blood
Geoffrey Girard
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781476704043, $25.99,

In Pennsylvania, six young subjects escape from the Dynamic Solutions Technology Institute, but not before they massacred most of the staff and took a few as prisoners. Also missing is Dr. Gregory Jacobsen who led the cloning experiment and probably abetted the escape by the six clones of notorious serial killers.

Special Ops veteran Shawn Castillo leads the search for the murderous clones starting at the DSTI facility and then Dr. Jacobson's home. He quickly learns that the scientists created more subjects than they reported with some adopted by unaware caring families. Jacobsen kept one child with him, Jeffrey who recently learned that his true sire is Dahmer. With Jeffrey as his sidekick, Castillo hunts the killers.

This is a taut DNA thriller filled with insight and asides into cloning that enhance the horror of what Jacobson and others have wrought though the lead geneticist is no regretting "Modern Prometheus" (Mary Shelley). Once again as with the YA companion piece Project Cain, the underlying premise that the military would consider using serial killers seems wrong; as besides being loners psychologically unfit for a cohesive unit, consider the PR from news media telling grieving moms that their child died from a Dahmer clone in a friendly fire incident. Still this is an action-packed suspense that makes a strong cautionary case when it comes to cloning humans.

Deadly Diamonds
John F. Dobbyn
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608090921, $26.95,

In the predominantly Italian North End of Boston, on a dare from his friends, eighteen year old Kevin O'Byrne steals a car. When the driver shouts at them, the panicky Northeastern student drives the car to South Boston. Inside the trunk is a corpse with the teen's fingerprints everywhere. Kevin's dad Irish mafia boss Frank retains lawyer Michael Knight to free his son from a possible homicide rap. Michael and Frank know the vehicle was taken from a man in front of a Cosa Nostra restaurant; so the attorney insists the gangster drop off the car in Roxbury with the corpse still inside and he will contact the cops where it was left while Kevin goes to a safe house.

With Michael present, his partner Lex Devilin meets with his childhood friends Monsignor Matt Ryan and retired mafia Don Dominic Santangelo. Lex asks Dominic to intercede before a gang war explodes due to an idiotic teen. However, the two lawyers fail to grasp the full scope of the potential mob war as blood diamonds extracted by expendable slaves in Sierra Leone are a valuable commodity both mobs want to traffick. Additionally, Matt is accused of child molestation.

The latest Knight-Devilin legal thriller (see Frame-Up and Black Diamond) is an exciting tale that is weighed down by a Cecil de Mille size cast and the over simplified stereotyping of the criminal elements on three continents (includes a trip to Ireland). Filled with plenty of action the two lawyers and their friends try to prevent the hostilities from turning Boston bloody.

Clammed Up
Barbara Ross
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, NY, NY 10018-2522
9780758286857, $7.99,

The Snowden Family Clambake business faces bankruptcy that could not only shut down the firm the late patriarch established but also force the matriarch out of her home and lose ownership of Morrow Island. Livvie and her mom know they are out of their league when it comes to finance; so they beg successful venture capitalist Julia to come home to save the family company. Only for her sister and mom, and her dad's memory would Julia leave Manhattan for Busman's Harbor, Maine.

Julia develops a strategic plan that reworks the loan and expands the company from its limited offering of clambake mostly to tourists to include catering events on Morrow Island over the objection of brother-in-law Sonny Ramsey. She sends notices to her friends and associates in Manhattan. This leads to the Snowden clan hosting the wedding of a Manhattan couple, Michaela Carpenter and Tony Poitras. When the best man Ray Wilson vanishes; no one especially his partner Tony is concerned as the man is a prankster. However, Julia opens Windsholme mansion; only she and the bridal party are greeted by Ray's hanging corpse.

The first Maine Clambake Mystery is an enjoyable amateur sleuth tale as Julia changes from trying to save Snowden Family Clambake and their Morrow Island home through business acumen to investigating the homicide that devastated her plan. Though the motive seems difficult to accept yet very plausible, readers will appreciate this Maine Island cozy with several delicious recipes included.

Forever Friday
Timothy Lewis
9780307732217, $14.99

In 2006, thirty-eight year old Adam Colby feels alone and depressed as his "forever" ended in divorce. A dreamer, he desperately wants to believe in eternal love, but fears he will never learn the secret.

Currently Adam works on the estate sale of Gabe and Huck Alexander when he notices a bundle of postcards. Intrigued with the cards as he is used to finding old photos instead at estates, Adam begins reading them. Quickly, Adam figures out the cards began in 1926 Texas and occurred every Friday for the next six decades afterward. Their objective was to insure the Alexander couple kept their relationship solidly based on the significance of Long Division especially when the loving pair dealt with life's global and internal spitballs.

The lasting love between Gabe and Huck comes across with vigor as the postcards remind each to bring their heart and soul to their marriage even when mentally tired by wearisome other concerns and tsuris. On the other hand, Adam seems more a naive spoiled brat failing to bring depth to what he takes from the postcards even when he searches for the daughter of the Alexander housekeeper. Overall fascinating, Forever Friday is an inspiring read as Timothy Lewis reminds the audience that attention to your beloved's needs matters in relationships.

Immortally Ever After
Angie Fox
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312546687, $7.99,

Though half human-fairy MASH combat surgeon Dr. Petra Robichaud expected what happened she prayed that the cease-fire that she brokered as the peacemaker would have lasted longer than it did. The war between the Old and New Greek Gods has heated up and she is back in the middle of the hostilities with each side obtaining new weapons of mass destruction. Not only did her efforts to end the bloodshed fail, her beloved Demi-God Commander Galen left her.

Meanwhile the latest Oracle prophecy includes Petra's ability to talk with the dead and soon afterward Galen returns to his beloved. With many patients to tend to, Petra has no time for the Oracle and especially Galen though she still loves him. However, the prophecy and her beloved ignore the wishes of the surgeon to the Gods (and wannabes).

The third Monster M.A.S.H. unit military urban fantasy (see Immortally Yours and Immortally Embraced) is an amusing fast-paced satire. Filled with combat medicine, strange demanding patients, and romance; readers will enjoy Petra in the middle dealing with Galen and her heart, spoiled ancient Gods and other mythological species like dragons, and also finding time to try to save humanity.

License To Love
Gina Robinson
St. Martin's
9781250033000, $7.99

Highly regarded magician Rock Powers knows his illusions are incredible, but it is the one act that his former assistant and wife Lani Silkwater performed while they were on stage two years that has left him heartbroken when she vanished without a trace. CIA National Clandestine Service head spook Emmett Nelson offers him an assignment that Rock cannot refuse. He wants the master magician to work with his agent Lani to prevent a terrorist cell from causing havoc in Las Vegas.

Having been undercover as his assistant, Lani fell in love with her performing boss; but sadly accepts her heart does not matter as her work for NCS supersedes her still strong feelings for Rock. However, Rock plans to complete the mission's objective successfully, but the outcome will include his goal of getting his wife back with him.

The latest Agent Ex espionage romance (see Diamonds Are Truly Forever and Live and Let Love) is an entertaining frolic. Action-packed, fans will enjoy this twisting second chance at love as sleight of the hand may fool terrorists but honesty is his only hope to persuade Lani they belong together.

Dangerous Curves Ahead
Sugar Jamison
St. Martin's
9781250032973, $7.99

She knows not to eat a cookie as she is overweight; but Ellis Garret craves a Black and White. Her former boyfriend's aunt Mrs. Toomey lectures her about healthy eating, but ignores Ellis' humorous retorts including how her fat girl blog readers and her customers of size at the clothing store would disapprove if she switched to healthy tasteless treats. The man behind Mrs. Toomey on the line intercedes by telling the undernourished hag to mind her business over what Ellis places in her mouth and instead focus on her own huffing and puffing lungs. Ellis is stunned as her sister Dina's ex-boyfriend police detective Mike Edwards defends her.

Mike is attracted to full figured Ellis and enjoys her sense of humor. Ellis, who had a crush on him when he was dating her sibling, refuses to believe a hunk like Mikey would like and desire a Rubenesque figure when he can choose any beauty he wants. However, he has allies like her parents, her workers, her bloggers and his buddy to persuade his BBW that she owns his heart (and other body parts).

The first Perfect Fit romance is an amusing contemporary as the heroine's wry and at times in your face humor make for a wonderful tale. Mike is a strong individual who knows whom he covets while the eccentric secondary characters add depth to the fun tale. Though the lovemaking scenes feel more of a sub-genre requirement, readers will appreciate this delightful story starring I'm not a believer protagonist; who "thought love was only true in fairy tales; meant for someone else but not for (her)" (The Monkees' "I'm A Believer").

Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's
9781250029881, $27.99

In tenth century BC, twin brothers Acheron and Styxx were separated as young children. Their sire King Archon preferred their deaths but feared the Oracle's prophecy especially re Acheron. Over the millenniums both sons faced endless torture. When Acheron died, the omen proved true as horror came to devastate the world. Though he did not want to return to save those who spurned him when he lived especially his distrusting twin and raging sire, Archon saved the world.

Years after Archon's heroism, Prince Styxx still struggles to retain his humanity after over a hundred centuries of torment at the hands of his insane father and his sire's wrathful followers. When Styxx and blind Bethany meet they fall in love. As the Goddess of Wrath and Misery, Bethany must right the wrong Acheron caused and dispatch him to hell's pantheon of dead deities. However, Styxx changes the dynamics as he risks his life to prevent the malevolence that Acheron once faced from destroying the world.

This epic fantasy is a profound Dark Hunter companion piece to Acheron; as more than half of the book follows a similar timeline but this tale is from the older twin's anguished perspective. The abuse and rage Styxx's received for eleven millennia (and hundreds of pages) are persistently atrocious and graphic as the protagonist is a victim of his father's psychotic paranoia. The romance is a secondary but is a critical subplot as Bethany brings to the angry adult a chance for something wonderful though she remains fixated on killing the twin he learned from his father to hate; yet ironically love mellows him but a lifetime of loathing is hard to ignore.

The Drowning Guard
Linda Lafferty
Lake Union Publishing
Amazon Digital Publishing
9781477805299, $14.95,

In 1826 in Constantinople, Ahmed Kadir serves as a Janissary guard to Esma, the favorite sister of Sultan Mahmud II. He hates not being with his cavalry unit but obeys the Sultan who removed him from the battlefield to insure Ahmad received no more accolades. A devout Muslim, the soldier knows Allah condemns what Ahmed loathingly performs every evening for Esma. Nightly the Sultaness takes a Christian lover; after she is finished, Ahmed strangles her latest discard before tossing their corpse into the Bosporus.

When Esma becomes ill, the royal physician cannot help her. She envisions all those she had murdered and smells their rotted corpses. Realizing his patient is filled with horrific remorse, the royal physician suggests she tell someone what emotionally disturbs her as confession is good for the soul. Sultaness Esma knows two people besides herself are aware of her deadly secret, the oarsman and the Janissary killer who does her lethal bidding; wanting no one else to learn of her depravity and following the physician's advice, every night Esma tells Ahmed tales of her wicked life.

With a gender reversing nod to A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, The Drowning Guard is an engaging look at the Ottoman Empire through mostly the eyes of the affluent amoral Sultaness; a real eighteenth-nineteenth century person. The storyline is filled with historical insight into the year the Janissary slaughter occurred as the empire begins the crumbling that eventually culminated after WWI. Readers who ignore the improbability of Ahmed, with insider information from Esma, surviving the wrath of the Sultan who killed and caged family members, will appreciate this vivid historical.

Island Of The White Rose
R. Ira Harris
Bridge Works
P.O. Box 1798, Bridgehampton, New York 11932
9780981617558, $24.95,

In 1958 affluent Americans consider Havana as another Vegas playground though the visitors chose to ignore the impoverished plight of the Cuban people. Instead places like the thriving Havana Yacht Club is so exclusive that President Batista does not qualify for membership as his pedigree fails to meet the HYC requirement of only the white wealthy elite of the elite belonging. HYC member Father Pedro Villanueva loves sailing his Lightning yacht La Rosa Blanca though he hates the chastity imposition of priesthood and that the Church implicitly supports the brutal reign of the dictator.

When his brother died as they rescued a state prisoner, Pedro's anger has no bounds as he joins the freedom fighters trying to overthrow Batista. Underground leader Dolores Barre and disgruntled government official Maria Guerra persuade Pedro to run meds and guns to the rebels. After Castro succeeds in deposing Batista, an even more depressed Maria tells Pedro they exchanged one violent dictator for another as they sail La Rosa Blanca across the Florida Straits knowing that Barre pursues them in a swifter boat.

This is a strong insightful historical that uses a dissatisfied unhappy priest to tell the tale of the Castro duplicitous revolution; summed up by the Ed Sullivan show interview in 1959 in which the American concluded Castro is the Cuban George Washington (see YouTube for the clip). The storyline vividly describes Batista's right wing violent dictatorship followed by Castro's left wing violent dictatorship. Readers will relish this well-written entertaining tale that cautions the audience to avoid extremists regardless of their political and economic leanings as neither side is good for the people.

Cold Tuscan Stone
David P. Wagner
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464201929, $24.95,

Six months ago, Rick Montoya left Santa Fe to become a translator in Italy as he speaks fluent English and Italian since his dad worked for the American Foreign Service and his mom is a Roman. Upon arrival, he met with his basketball schoolmate at the American Overseas School of Rome, Beppo Rinaldi, who surprisingly didn't join the affluent family business but instead works for the Ministry of Culture.

Beppo asks Rick to help him uncover the thieves taking valuable Etruscan relics from a tomb in Volterra and the forgers copying the originals. Rick agrees to masquerade as a New Mexico gallery agent. He travels to Tuscany where Rick chats briefly with a gallery employee who immediately afterward falls to his death. Commissario Carlo Conti suspects Rick killed the man while a horde of mostly unsavory people make contact with the American. Finally his friend La Sapienza Art History Professor Erica Pedana comes from Rome though Montoya wonders if it is for him, the art or something unsavory; while the local cops and the artifact traffickers target Rick too.

The first Rick Montoya Italian Mystery is an entertaining undercover investigative thriller due to a strong cast of thieves, forgers, and legitimate dealers while the translator and the Commissario complement each other. Action-packed readers will enjoy David P. Wagner's modern day art history in Tuscany.

Matters of Doubt
Warren C. Easley
Poisoned Pen
9781464201745, $24.95

When his wife committed suicide, Cal Claxton knew she killed two lives as he quits his position as a chief prosecutor and moved from Los Angeles to Dundee, Oregon. He opens up a small legal practice.

Tattooed street artist, Danny "Picasso" Baxter rides a battered bike in the rain the twenty-five miles from Portland to asks Cal to look into the death of his mother Nicole. Eight years ago Nicole vanished, but was not found until recently when her skeletal remains were located in the Deschutes River. Picasso believes his mom's boyfriend, businessman Mitch Conyers, killed her. With help from his friend Nando Mendoza, Cal reluctantly looks into Nicole's past as an investigative reporter for The Oregonian and uncovers sleazy business practices from prominent residents. When someone murders Convers, PPD suspects Picasso. As the evidence mounts against the homeless lad, Dr. Anna Eriksen, whose Old Town Urgent Care clinic wall Picasso has been painting a mural on, pleads with Cal to represent the young man.

The first Cal Claxton Oregon Mystery is an engaging tale that captures the essence of the Old Town street community. The cold case whodunit is fun though other murders and abductions feel over the top of Mount Hood and never reach the excitement level of the homeless social structure as seen mostly through Cal and to a somewhat lesser degree Anna.

When Mountains Move
Julie Cantrell
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781404259, $14.99,

In Iti Talao, Mississippi Millie Reynolds grew up in a dysfunctional family as her father was an angry serial abuser and her mother a pathetic" nothing mama". She wanted to find a safe house, but believed that God and people abandoned her before and even after her parents died as her guardian raped her (see Into the Free).

In 1943 she and Bump Anderson meet and fall in love. She sees him as her savior but Millie also conceals from her beloved the shame and trauma that still haunts her. The married couple travels to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado to start up a new ranch for Cauy Tucker. Millie's grandmother Oka comes to live on the ranch. Meanwhile Kat decides Bump belongs to her and will do what is needed to send her mousy rival back to the Deep South.

The sequel to the Christian Fiction Christy Awards Book of the Year in 2012 continues the strong emotional tale as Millie affirms that the adult remains the child. Bump with personal issues of his own; Oka with guilt re her granddaughter; and Cauy with his controversial ranch enhance the deep look at Millie's troubled soul. Although Kat feels unnecessary as she causes a crisis between the Anderson couple who have plenty of more fascinating psychological issues to deal with, readers will appreciate this profound inspirational historical.

How To Date A Dragon
Ashlyn Chase
Sourcebooks Inc.
1935 Brookdale Road, #139, Naperville, IL 60563
9781402275722, $6.99,

After working excessive hours on getting her greeting card portfolio ready for a TV competition and attending a wedding in Hawaii, exhausted Bliss Russo returns to her Boston apartment to sleep. However, a few hours later, smoke awakens her. As she flees she runs into the butt of firefighter Drake Cameron who gets her to safety. Desperate Bliss begs him to go back in to rescue her computer that contains her design portfolio, which he does.

Chief Tate suspends Drake for seven days for pulling another dumb stunt by rescuing a laptop during an inferno. The last of his dragon-shifting clan Drake realizes he has too much time to think about the card designer. He knows pursuing her would devastate his death bed promise he made to his mom and he assumes she will not cope with his shapeshifting although she had a taste of that during the blaze. The only individual he met who meets his late mom's dragon specs is Zina the biker-chick who decides Drake is her mate although he cannot understand a word she says. Bliss visits him at the station. They begin dating, but Zina plans to turn the city ablaze to get her dragon.

The latest Strange Neighbors amusing urban romantic fantasy (see The Werewolf Upstairs) is a fun frolic in spite of the female protagonist's early selfish behavior. Zina is even more self-indulgent yet a unique anti-hero; while the male dragon ironically fights fires. Series fans will enjoy this entry as everyone knows a dragon and a human can mate but never propagate; considered statistically extinct as a species, Drake must choose between love and the next generation.

The Outlaw Knight
Elizabeth Chadwick
9781402274626, $15.99

In 1184 as a favor to the lad's powerful family, King Henry II allows fifteen year old Fulke FitzWarin to join his teenage son Prince John's retinue as a squire. Coming from the Welsh Marshes, Fulke is considered a country bumpkin by the Prince. The eldest, Fulke must succeed if his family is to regain Whittington Castle lost generations ago, but still disputed. Fulke knows his tutor Master Glanville is the key for his family's plea, not the King.

John forces Fulke to play a game of chess. Planning to throw the game, Fulke gets caught up in the competition and checkmates John. The Prince accuses Fulke of cheating and hits him with the chessboard. Fulke retaliates in self-defense leading to John banging his head on the floor. A lifetime of bitter rivalry between John and Fulke begins that leads the latter into becoming an outlaw when the former becomes King.

This reprint of Lords of the White Castle is a great biographical fiction that uses the little known factual information about the real Fulke FitzWarin and the chronicle record written in his times; enhanced by Elizabeth Chadwick filling in the gaps while staying true to what is considered authentic. The story line is loaded, cleverly designed, and never slows down focusing the plot on the key cast members especially Fulke, his wife, and John.

Bad Nights
Rebecca York
Sourcebooks Casablanca
9781402280009, $7.99

In a remote cabin in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Widow Morgan Rains watches a video of her and her late husband Glenn Chandler when she hears a noise. Taking out a gun that she has kept nearby since Glenn was murdered during a robbery; she peeks out the window to see a naked man stumbling. Though Morgan knows she should not, she steps outside and is shocked. Her visitor is battered and has cigarette burns all over his body. Morgan tries to get him into the cabin, but he suspects her to be one of his enemies. She finally gets him inside.

Ex-Navy SEAL Jack Brandt cannot recall what happened to him beyond an explosion on an undercover mission, but he knows from the freshness of his injuries that those torturing him are nearby. As his adversaries close in on him, Jack and Morgan flee into the mountains while he begins to recall the militia he infiltrated and their nefarious deadly plan.

The first Rockfort Security saga is an exciting tense thriller in which the survival cat and mouse suspense supersedes the romance. The entertaining storyline stars two engaging leads with issues; hers is grief while his is physical. Action-packed from the moment Morgan looks out her window and never slows down until the anticipated final biological agent confrontation. Fans who appreciate a taut terrorism tale in which the love subplot feels unnecessary will want to join Morgan and Jack on their adventures.

Happy Hour in Hell
Tad Williams
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756408152, $25.95,

The Heaven equivalent of Internal Affairs has placed the Angel Doloriel on suspension as they investigate whether his activities especially his affair, friendships and advocacy job to save the souls of the recently departed crossed the acceptable line (see The Dirty Streets of Heaven). Known in the Bay Area as Bobby Dollar, he has no time for angelic inspectors as his girlfriend Caz the Countess of the Cold Hands is trapped in Hell by her owner Eligor the Horseman, whom the fallen angel stole a magical feather from the Horseman.

Lacking the patience of a hyperactive human and knowing he must be insane, Bobby dons a demon body to enter Hell to rescue his beloved demon. Making his mission even crazier, Bobby knows that Eligor has a second reason to burn him for eternity as he stole a magical feather from the Horseman. Complicating his trek through hellish layers is decades-dead psychopathic serial killer Smyler who will kill for the hell of it but has a reason with Doloriel: the feather.

The second Bobby Dollar fantasy is a wonderful thriller as the protagonist journeys through a Hell as bureaucratically incompetent as Heaven is. Although at times the pace slows down in Hell, the dark storyline contains plenty of graveyard humor and a horde of mostly sick, though one could argue eccentric, characters from Heaven, Hell and San Judas.

Chimes at Midnight
Seanan McGuire
9780756408145, $7.99

In San Francisco, the relationship between half-Fae private detective October "Toby" Daye and King of the Cats Tybalt is as strong as it ever has been. Toby becomes concerned when changeling corpses die from goblin fruit overdose. Investigating the drug-related deaths leads Toby to her adversary the Queen of the Mists.

The untouchable royal orders Toby to leave the Bay area or face retaliation much worse than banishment. A shimmer of hope to remain in San Francisco surfaces when clues claim the monarch may be a pretender sitting on the throne. However with time against her, Toby and her friends search for the true ruler.

The latest Toby Daye urban fantasy (see Ashes of Honor) is a taut thriller with a fabulous midcourse twist from an illegal drug problem to a political ruler legitimacy issue causing tremors throughout the magical McGuire milieu. Terrific Toby is at her best as she knows she and her friends are in trouble if she fails to produce the real monarch with time on the side of her diabolically brilliant opponent.

Marjorie Brody
Bell Bridge
P.O. Box 300921, Memphis, TN 38130
9781611942569, $14.95,

At the Canonville High School dance, Howard Blake persuades fourteen years old freshman Sarah Anne Hausman to teach him to dance behind the gym. Instead he begins sloppy kisses she does not want when three other boys arrive. Turnbull HS Letter Jacket tells Howard he failed to make the club. The football player orders Howard to leave, which he does. He and his companions rape Sarah.

Ashamed, she believes strongly in abstinence except in marriage especially since Pastor J says those who fail the Father by choosing the flesh will burn in hell. Thus, Sarah hides her torn dress and conceals her battered body from her Momma. However, even seeing raw meat makes Sarah feel ill and Momma notices her strange behavior while Daddy protects her. Guilt-ridden Howard tells her he is going to the cops; soon afterward Canonville PD CID Detective Ronaldson questions Sarah with her parents away and later suggests to her parents a pregnancy test. Momma takes her to Dr. Perchek who affirms the young teen is pregnant. Humiliated Momma and kind Daddy struggle with the news. Only eighteen years old pregnant Judith, expecting to marry her Carleton, seems to understand Sarah's fall from grace.

Twisted is a fascinating character-driven, leisurely-paced tale that enables the reader to get inside the mind of a rape victim who is forced to grow up rather quickly. With a stunning Twisted climax that comes out of nowhere; readers will appreciate this deep look at a teenager struggling to survive in a world filled with bullying predators.

Graven Images
Eleanor Sullivan
Yesteryear Press/Wyatt-MacKenzie
9781939288110, $14.99,

In 1833 the Separatists distrust outsiders staying at the hotel in their Zoar, Ohio village. Impoverished traveling artist Sebastian proves what the rigid leaders believe when they learn he has painted portraits of their girls. When the sinner is hung in a barn, the community rejects one of their members could be a killer; so they look outside and decide Irish tinker Egan killed Sebastian.

Midwife Adelaide Bechtmann does not accept the rationale that none of their pious people would violate God's Commandment: "Thou shalt not kill." Instead she remains open-minded, but knows she must tread lightly on her inquiry into the death of the artist; as she recently angered her husband Benjamin and the leaders when she investigated the drowning of a teenager (see Cover Her Body).

The second Singular Village historical mystery is a superb nineteenth century amateur sleuth that brings to life the rigid Separatist community in which followers must fully adhere to all edicts. Adelaide is a wonderful protagonist as her conscience to learn the truth and her need to improve herself and her community battle with her desire to obey the sect's rules. Although readers will need to adjust to a horde of characters introduced rapidly at the beginning, this is a refreshing Americana whodunit.

An Accidental Life
Pamela Binnings Ewen
c/o B&H Publishing Group
127 Ninth Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37234-0143
9780805464320, $14.99,

In 1982 New Orleans, rival attorneys Rebecca Jacobs and Amalise Catoir feel good as they break the male only glass ceiling by becoming partners at Mangen & Morris law firm. However, Rebecca suddenly feels nauseous and decides she must make that call next week.

Meanwhile in nearby Getna, Rebecca's husband, senior ADA Peter, finds himself working a horrifying case with powerful ethical issues and potential national legal impact. Teenager Glory Lynn Chasson went to the Alpha Woman's Clinic in Metairie for an abortion, but claims she heard her baby cry and decided to keep her child; the staff told her the baby died. She claims a live-birth homicide occurred.

The sequel to Chasing the Wind focuses on two interesting issues: live-birth abortions and women breaking through the top management glass ceiling in the 1980s. Both subplots are well written, but the female rise to partnership pales next to the abortion issue. In fact the best part of the engaging storyline occurs at the clinic, in the Office of the DA and in the courtroom. Based on a real case, An Accidental Life raises the issue of abortion survivors who in some cases apparently are immediately executed.

Dick Francis's Refusal
Felix Francis
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399160813, $26.95,

Sid Halley had been a successful steeplechase jockey until he injured a hand when he fell during a race. He became a successful private investigator mostly working the racing circuit. With successful investments insuring he had plenty of money, Sid, fearing threats to his beloved Marina and the battering he received, took an early retirement (see Under Orders by Dick Francis).

It has been six years since he gave up his sleuthing job, Sid enjoys rusticating with Marina and their six years old daughter Saskia. British Horseracing Authority Chair Sir Richard Stewart visits Sid asking him to look into racing doping transgressions in which someone is gaming the system. Sid has mixed feelings about returning to sleuthing, but leans towards refusal until Sir Richard allegedly committed suicide by monoxide poisoning while sitting in his closed car inside his closed garage. However, he is quickly reminded as to why he left the detective game when his actions place his loved ones as well as himself in peril.

Felix Francis proves DNA matters (with hard work) as he successfully brings out of retirement his late father's most popular character in an exciting horse racing mystery in which Sid is less confident than he once was. Fast-paced and filled with action, readers will appreciate this strong entry as like Griffey Jr. and Sr. hitting back to back homers in 1990, Refusal is a winning ticket that pays tribute to the author's dad.

The Undead Hordes of Kan-Gul
Jon F. Merz
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781451639162, $15.00,

Ran the Shinobujin of the Nine Daggers Clan in the Gakur Mountains begins his post-graduation shugyo travels amidst the outside world, but lacks funds to pay for passage across the Dark Sea. At a bar, he observes a man place a knife against the throat of a wealthy patron; interceding Ran rescues Vargul the northern trader. To thank the Good Samaritan, Vargul, who is shipping goods on the Aqaria across the Dark Sea, pays for Ran's passage to Chulai.

On board, Ran meets Kancho the drunk but knows the man is faking his intoxication to hide that he is a Murai warrior, and Neviah bodyguard to Jysal the young woman journeying to join a temple. At sea, a horrific torrent forces the ship off course until the Aqaria beaches on the reefs near the Cliffs of Doom with most on board dead. The captain and five passengers (as named above) make it to the beach. The next day Vulgar has vanished and by the following morning, only Ran and Jysal remain on the beach unaware that Kan-Gul the sorcerer has brought them here to take the young lady's power in order to amplify his own; he deploys his shadow warrior undead hordes to destroy anyone in his path.

The first Shadow Warrior fantasy is an exciting ninja vs. zombie thriller. The fast-paced storyline deploys a teen slasher premise to eliminate the stranded one at a time rather than a swift deployment of magic or the horde. Readers will enjoy this opening act as the two remaining survivors fight for their lives against The Undead Hordes of Kan-Gul.

Under A Graveyard Sky
John Ringo
9781451639193, $25.00

In New York City, at an emergency meeting of Bank of the Americas' top brass, virologist David Curry describes a horrible viral plague released by bioterrorists. The disease starts off like any airborne flu, but turns into a neurological disorder transmitted by bites from sick victims acting like zombies. Attendee security chief Thomas Smith sends a coded text to his brother Steven in West Virginia warning him of the potential for a global pandemic disease.

A high school history teacher, the Australian born Steve tells the assistant principal that his wife Stacey was in an accident; he leaves with his daughter Sophia and picks up his other child Faith at middle school. After Stacey joins them, Steve rents a boat when Warrenton, West Virginia Police Officer Jason Young arrives to insure there is no abduction. Satisfied, Jason leaves, but Steve warns him to be careful of crazed naked assailants; which the cop soon encounters as insane nudes try to bite anything including squad cars that move. Meanwhile the Smith family and others sail the Atlantic with Steve heading to New York to pick up his sibling.

The key to the fabulous first Black Tide Rising apocalypse thriller is the biological weapon of mass destruction seems plausible though excess humor detracts from the horror of the pandemic assault. Fast-paced and loaded with action, readers will enjoy this engaging zombie tale as civilization takes to the sea to escape the madness on land.

The Man Who Sold The Moon/Orphans of the Sky
Robert A. Heinlein
9781451639223, $15.00

This fabulous Future History collection contains an accompanying timeline dating the stories over several centuries while also summarizing the significant events and characters. All the entries are well written and many timely today while also influencing movies and books; though in some tales the characters are underdeveloped (to fit magazine space) and the science proven wrong. Readers will appreciate the intriguing brilliant underlying social and political concepts as Robert A. Heinlein shows his genius with these shorts.

"The Man Who Sold The Moon": In "Life Line" the machine tells when a person will die, but not how they and their loved ones will react. They discover an efficient effective electric source but the power companies say no to "Let There Be Light." Society depends on those who insure "The Roads Must Roll" as the only means of transportation. The workers feel the pressure of keeping atomic energy safe aware of "Blowups Happen." Harriman needs financial backing for his planned space trip so "The Man Who Sold the Moon" produces a scheme to turn a profit from investors. Much older and ailing, Harriman still dreams of going to the moon in "Requiem."

"Orphans of the Sky": Since the mutiny several generations ago, the multi-generational lower level voyagers think their "Universe" consist of the ship drifting through space; as none believe in existence outside the vessel until Hoyland meets upper level mutants who teach him the truth. Using "Common Sense" Hoyland tries to persuade his people that their acceptable belief system is false.

Liad Shoham
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062237446, $25.99,

Twenty-four years old Adi Regev loves her life as a single in Tel Aviv. That changes when a man with a knife brutally rapes her while elderly neighbor Sarah Glazer sees the atrocity happening from her window but vows to stay out of it. Adi describes her assailant to the police. Meanwhile her raging father Yaron diligently patrols the area near his daughter's apartment building every night seeking the animal. When he notices Ziv Nevo fits Adi's description, he informs police inspector Eli Nachum.

The police arrest Nevo, but mishandle the Lineup. Making matters worse, the distraught Adi cannot affirm that Nevo is the psychopath who attacked her. Pressure mounts from the victim's family, ambitious politicians, sycophant brass and unscrupulous media who demand this animal locked away regardless of the facts. Only diligent Nachum seeks the truth as he begins to believe the wrong man was arrested.

Rotating perspectives between key characters, Lineup is a super Israeli Law and Order police procedural legal thriller. Character driven, readers will relish this entry as the dedicated cop swims upstream against a wide horde of strange bedfellows who care nothing about the facts only the chosen one's unsavory past makes him the perfect fit. The irate father demands a conviction; the ambitious prosecutor wants an instant scalp; the reporter seeks a reputation while his editor sells sensationalism; the suspect hides a secret from the law; and even the mob has an interest. Fans will enjoy this taut tale as the veteran cop feels like a fossil in his search for the rapist.

Shelley Shepard Gray
Avon Inspire
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062204448, $12.99,

Ten years ago, Doktah Palmer fitted Elsie Keim with glasses enabling her to see. However, she is stunned by her New Order Amish family's reaction to her wearing glasses; leaving her self-esteem gutted by how they behave towards her. Over the next decade out of misguided love they treat her like a child, which has driven Elsie to conceal how bad her vision has become.

Now her sister Viola (see Daybreak) and brother Roman (see Ray of Light) have met their mates while Elsie remains at home still the helpless invalid hiding how bad her keratoconus condition has left her; as she rejects her loved ones' pity. Elsie and new neighbor Landon Troyer are attracted to each other, but she wants him to see her as a capable person so refuses to tell him that she is going blind. When Roman tells Landon, he fears his being away for extended business trips would leave his beloved helpless. He soon learns why she loathes her family's help, never asks anyone for assistance, and conceals her sight problem; but Landon's peace of mind needs his Elsie safe.

The final Days of Redemption Amish family drama is an engaging tale as each Keim member and their mates continue to struggle with issues though the prime focus is on Elsie's relationships with her loved ones built on how each acts towards her and her with them. Readers will enjoy this engaging tale as the heroine believes love is the real handicap.

Project Cain
Geoffrey Girard
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., NY, NY 10020
9781442476967, $17.99,

When Jeffrey Jacobson was five he was in an accident in which his mom died and his memory was negatively impacted. He has three photos of his mom and has been told for years that she loved him.

When he turned sixteen he learned the truth from his father Dr. Gregory Jacobson the geneticist. Eight years ago, Jeffrey was cloned as part of a project creating super combat soldiers from serial killers' DNA. His "father" was not the scientist, but Jeffrey Dahmer. Before he can be transferred from his "loving" home to the installation where he was made in Dahmer's image, Fed Castillo rescues Jeff. The serial killer's offspring agrees to help Castillo hunt down his peers who are living up to their infamous fathers; unaware that a new deadlier diabolical Dahmer pursues them.

This taut young adult thriller uses the premise that naturing in almost all cases supersedes nurturing as the bad DNA imprint overwhelms positive life lessons; which leaves fans to wonder whether Castillo should trust Jeff to have his back and not shoot his back. My husband, who worked for the Army, says the military would not want serial killers in the service; besides being loners psychologically unfit for a cohesive unit, think of the bad PR from news media telling grieving moms that their child died from a Dahmer clone killing Americans in a friendly fire incident. Mostly told from the shocked Jeff's perspective, teenage readers and older curious fans who have read the adult version (see Cain's Blood) will enjoy this cautionary tale.

Four Summoner's Tales
Kelly Armstrong, et al.
Gallery Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., NY, NY 10020
9781451696684, $16.00,

"Suffer The Children" by Kelly Armstrong. A few centuries ago, a diphtheria epidemic wiped out over thirty percent of the isolated population of Chestnut Hill, Canada with many of the victims children. Two strangers offer the grieving townsfolk a chance to bring back those who died within the last 96 hours but the preacher and tweener orphan Addie warn the others but they prove too late when remittance of the usury price occurs.

"Pipers" by Christopher Golden. The Matamoros Cartel terrorizes the border town of Lansdale, Texas with almost two dozen murders as retaliation for the interference into their trafficking by the Texas Volunteer Border patrol. Angry resident Vickers tells those who lost someone to the brutal cartel that the time for revenge is now. He wants to raise an army of their undead loved ones.

"A Bad Season For Necromancy" by David Liss. In eighteenth century England, the con artist uses the book for raising the dead to blackmail wealthy widows who do not want the return of am angry husband.

"Alive Day" by Jonathan Maberry. In Afghanistan, Captain Joe Ledger and his Echo Team back-up Rattlesnake Team on a counterdrug mission against the Taliban, but instead the Americans confront something deadlier that later none of the survivors can provide a rationale explanation for.

These four diverse fantasies share the premise of "A strange visitor comes to town, offering to raise the townsfolk's dearly departed from the dead - for a price." Each is chillingly well written, but the standout is David Liss' clever historical.

Plum Deadly
Ellie Grant
9781451689556, $15.00

Twelve years ago, Maggie Grady left Durham, North Carolina for Manhattan. She became successful and returned home once to attend the funeral of Uncle Fred; who with his wife Aunt Clara raised her when her parents died. Six weeks ago, her world collapsed when her boss Louis Goldberg showed her documents proving she stole three million from a client. Her firm decided not to press charges, but took all her money and values to make remittance. Maggie had enough cash to buy a one-way bus ticket home. Filled with guilt over her treatment of her family and helpless anger over being the fall guy for a crime she did not commit, Maggie works at her Aunt Clara's Pie In The Sky restaurant while unable to obtain any banking position and also worrying about her relative's deteriorating mental state.

Apologetic Goldberg arrives at the pie shop insisting he will name the real embezzler at a news conference tomorrow; he refuses to say who the suspect is in spite of Maggie's pleading though she records the conversation. However, before he speaks publically, someone murders Goldberg, leaving his body blocking the shop's back door. Durham PD Detective Frank Waters suspects Maggie as the killer especially with Clara's "helpful" commentary and confiscates her cell as evidence. Reporter Ryan Summerour covers the homicide story, but also is attracted to Maggie.

The first Pie In The Sky culinary cozy is an enjoyable investigative whodunit. The cast is solid while the beleaguered protagonist with help from Ryan and somewhat Frank tries to prove her innocence; their discussions are wry and witty adding depth to the action-packed storyline. Readers will appreciate Team Grant's engaging mystery and alliterating recipes.

The Suicide Shop
Jean Tuele
Gallic Books
59 Ebury Street, London, SW1W ONZ, England
9781906040093, $13.95,

The customer enters The Suicide Shop to purchase a rope to hang herself with. However, she is shocked to see the proprietor's newborn Alan smiling as the Tuvache family are renowned for their frowns. The baby's parents Mishima and Lucrece deny this their child's grinning; they insist their youngest is just as gloomy as them and their two older siblings. However, the matriarch notices in horror that Alan seems to be playing joyfully in his pram.

Over the next few years, happy Alan is bad for business as his smiles leave most clients feeling good and not wanting to buy end of life solutions. His upbeat joy proves contagious as his mother, brother and sister become increasingly optimistic about life as do the villagers. Only mirthless melancholy Mishima remains grim as he watches sales of equipment and training drop to a point in which the family business nears its demise due to Alan and his damn attitude.

The Suicide Shop is an amusing dark satire set at an incredibly frantic pace. The customers and shop's supplies augment the look at a family whose light sheep brings an unwanted new way of living. Although the key cast is never fully developed especially their relationships outside the shop, readers will appreciate this wry graveyard social commentary.

The President's Hat
Antoine Laurain
Gallic Books
59 Ebury Street, London, SW1W ONZ, England
9781908313478, $14.95,

In 1986, Daniel Mercier meets his wife Veronique and their child Jerome at the train station. Veronique asks her husband what he is wearing; he responds President Mitterrand's black felt Homburg hat. The accountant explains to his spouse that while they were away, he decided to go out to eat dinner. Sitting next to him was French President Francois Mitterrand, former Foreign Minister Dumas and someone named Michel. Excited that he was so close he could touch the great man, Daniel mused about them asking him what he thinks about Kohl and the Soviets, but instead Mitterrand mentions to dining companions that a woman in the cafe is beautiful. Two hours later, the trios depart, but besides leaving Daniel still nursing his oysters, Mitterrand left behind The President's Hat.

Filled with a new air of confidence that his family relishes, Daniel receives promotions at work. When he loses the hat, wannabe author Fanny Marquant finds it and gains the belief she can write and deserves better in her relationships so ends her nowhere trysts with a married man. The hat continues its journey helping other French with self-esteem until the Homburg returns to the President.

The President's Hat is a wonderful whimsical tale that focuses on how a seemingly mundane Homburg magically encourages various people to believe in themselves. With the hat as the lead, the ensemble cast is fully developed; for instance readers will feel the depression of Pierre Aslan having lost his talent as an extraordinaire perfume creator and his euphoria when he obtains the hat. A creative charmer, Antoine Laurain affirms the Gallic vision of "The best of French in English."

Pierre LeMaitre, author
Frank Wynne, translator
MacLehose Press/Quercus
55 Baker Street, 7th Floor
South Block, London W1U 8EW, England
9781623650001, $24.95,

In Paris thirty year old Alex Prevost knows she has become a beautiful young woman yet has doubts about her looks as she never forgets her days as a stammering ugly teen. She notices the fiftyish male seemingly following her, as she saw him in the Metro, the street and outside a shop; but assumes she is being inanely paranoid though her nervousness about him makes her stammer.

Alex starts to walk home when a van pulls up next to her. That same man grabs her hair but pulls off her wig so she he punches her in the stomach causing her to puke before flipping her into the van and driving away. A witness walking his dog tells height deprived Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven what happened. Though he prefers the case was not his as he still grieves the abduction-murder of his wife, Camille realizes he must ignore his feelings since his only experienced peer Morel is in Lyons and knows time is running out on the victim especially when no demands from the kidnapper surfaces.

This is a terrific twisting thriller anchored by a dark description of Paris by how Camille sees the City of Lights. With two fully developed supporting cops on the lead team, readers will appreciate this exciting French police procedural as the hero, who faces constant height deficient prejudice, believes the victim is already dead.

The Sound and the Furry
Spencer Quinn
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781476703220, $25.00,

The Little Detective Agency investigators Chet and Bernie meet Frenchie Boutette who the sleuths busted for defrauding disabled Vietnam veterans. Though working as a guest of the state, Frenchie hires the two detectives to find his missing brother Ralph, an inventor who apparently vanished from his Bayou home near New Orleans.

Bernie loads their car for the drive to Louisiana, but before he finishes his task, a biker assaults him with a tire iron. However Chet intercedes forcing the gangbanger to flee and crash his motorcycle; leaving the assailant dead. In the Bayou, Bernie meets the rest of the Boutette felonious family, Ralph's friends and their adversarial criminal Robideau family; while Chet sniffs odd odors coming from the swampy water. The case looks like law-breakers from the two clans fighting over stolen shrimp, but Chet uncovers a corporate oily clue while dealing with Iko the gator wanting a taste of canine sushi

The sixth Chet and Bernie mystery (see A Fistful of Collars) is a wonderful investigative thriller told by the dog who understands English though idioms and metaphors gives him fits and at times nightmarish pictures. The case is top notch partly because Bernie finally acts somewhat competent, but as always in this delightful series Chet owns the story with his wry observations and commentary on the strangest animal on the planet: humans.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch
WMG Publishing
PO Box 479, Lincoln City, OR 97367
9780615795249, $18.99,

The hostilities between the Nine Planets Alliance and the Enterran Empire remains heated as both claim the ancient alien technology as theirs. Each side understands that ownership means gaining an enormous advantage in the galaxy.

Perhaps the best diver into the wreckages of the thousands of vessels is Boss and her Nobody's Business Two crew. They enter the Boneyard, the largest known graveyard found so far, in an effort to strengthen the Alliance against the Empire by recovering the ancient Dignity Vessels equipped with Stealth Tech. She also wants to learn what happened to Captain Jonathan "Coop" Cooper five millennia ago; while at the same time he and his Ivoire crew and their sister ship the Shadow use alien anacapa drives to guard the Alliance border with the Empire. However, as Boss and her team struggle with the Boneyard, an Empire fleet of ten battleships and five other vessels confronts Coop and his two weapon superior ships.

The latest Diving Universe science fiction (see City of Ruins, Diving Into The Wreck and Boneyards) is a fabulous outer space thriller that rotates perspective between the divers, the Alliance and to a lesser degree the Empire. Action-packed and filled with twists yet allowing the reader to understand the motives of the key players, Skirmishes is another intelligent exciting voyage into the Rusch Diving universe.

23 Years on Fire
Joel Shepherd
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616148096, $16.95,

Though accepted by most Federation citizens on Calley, former League cyborg Commander Cassandra Kresnov still has lingering doubts that she possesses the full range of human emotions especially when religious fanatics remind her that she and her kind are abominations. Sandy leads an assault on the Federation planet Pyeongwha where Neural Cluster Tech experiments to eliminate disease have turned into a social harmonious disastrous caste system proving dangerous for those civilians without NCT left in the ooze under the food chain.

After successfully completing the mission on Pyeongwha, Sandy leads her veteran unit to New Torah where corporations still thrive. On Pantala, newly created advanced soldiers threaten the peace. However not only facing more advanced technological militia machines, betrayal leaves Sandy in danger while street children she encounters places her mission in further jeopardy.

The latest Cassandra Kresnov military science fiction (see Crossover and Killswitch) is an exhilarating action-packed thriller. The protagonist is terrific as she works two military missions that as an emotional byproduct make her feel more human than she has ever felt before though I would have preferred more insight into the social caste experiment on Pyeongwha even with the Patala escapade being super. 23 Years On Fire is a strong entry as Sandy seems more human than many purebreds as she learns once again how inhuman humans can be to others while she also feels a strong need to protect those most vulnerable.

Death in the Ashes: A Fourth Case from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger
Albert A. Bell Jr.
Perservance Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel, Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745323, $15.95,

In 84 AD Rome, twenty-something Gaius Pliny the Younger loves his childhood friend and servant Aurora. However his Mother wants the slave to show more respects towards her superiors and stay far away from her offspring. Mother also selected Livia, the daughter of Pompeia, as her son's wife. In spite of being a lawyer, Pliny feels like a condemned man as he sees no way out of his marital dilemma.

Thamyras the servant arrives from Naples informing pregnant Aurelia that her wealthy husband Calpurnius is accused of murdering a freedwoman two days ago; and his refusal to defend himself adds to the common belief he killed the victim. Aurelia sends Thamyras to tell her friend Pliny, who rescued her a few years ago (see All Roads lead to Murder). Pliny questions the servant who says he saw the accused holding a knife while standing over the corpse, but never saw Calpurnius stabbed the woman. Reflecting back to when he last was in the city four years ago just after Vesuvius buried Pompeii killing his mentor, Pliny and Tacitus discuss the cold case as they travel to Naples to investigate the homicide.

The latest Notebooks of Pliny the Younger case (see The Blood of Caesar and The Corpus Conundrum) is an entertaining whodunit as the two sleuths realize a few days in Roman times means a cold case investigation. The aftermath of Vesuvius still haunts people with ash as a macabre visible reminder and ultimately important to this inquiry. Readers will appreciate this ancient mystery as the late Emperor Augustus dead for decades still impacts the living and the recently murdered.

Death Rides The Zephyr
Janet Dawson
Perseverance Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel, Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745309, $15.95,

On December 22, 1952, the California Zephyr begins its scenic journey from Oakland to Chicago. The crew is top rate as the company knows how important this trip is due to a train filled with people heading east to be with family for the holidays. The trip starts off as uneventful mostly because of the dedicated crew like Zephyrette hostess Jill McLeod who diligently works on insuring the passengers are comfortable, but she begins hearing complaints about missing items and thefts.

In Colorado, a rock slide injures some on board and blocks the tracks of the eastbound transcontinental. When a murder occurs, Jill, forced out of her comfort zone, investigates only to learn of a second killing.

Death Rides the Zephyr is a wonderful historical that turns into a "locked room" amateur sleuth tale late in the entertaining storyline. Readers will feel they are on board the Zephyr as they meet the crew and passengers with their tales told like Jill became a Zephyr to keep busy after her fiance died in Korea. Although the whodunit is well written, the detour from riding the rails to murder mystery seems unnecessary as fans will relish more the vivid descriptions of the countryside enhancing the sense of a bygone era of traveling through the west.

The Professor of Truth
James Robertson
Other Press
2 Park Avenue, 24th Floor, NY, NY 10016
9781590516324, $15.95,

Over two decades ago, the jumbo jet exploded in the sky over Scotland. English Literature Professor Alan Tealing lost his twenty-something wife Emily and their six year old daughter Alice in the calamity. Alan also knows he lost himself to that tragedy as he lives for one obsession since his family was murdered: finding the truth as to what happened on that fatal day.

An international inquiry led to the arrest of Khalil Khazar based on testimony by cabby Martin Parroulet who swore he took him to the departure airport where experts insist the bomb was brought on board. When Khazar died three year ago from cancer, almost everyone felt relief with case closed. Never receiving closure, Tealing continues to make inquiries and adamantly believes Khazar was a fall guy. Still over the years he has gotten nowhere including unable to locate the vanished witness until a dying CIA agent sends him to Australia where the cabby lives with his Vietnamese wife in the Outback.

Obviously tied to the Lockerbie disaster, The Professor of Truth is a fascinating look at the aftermath on one man who lost his loved ones in a plane catastrophe. The character driven (by the fixated griever) Scottish subplot is passive yet eerily vivid with plane parts on the ground becoming iconic tourist spots; while the Diogenes-like lead seeks the meaning of truth in western society and whether facts truly matter in a judicial system. The hero's Australian adventures are more typical of the thriller subplot with plenty of gripping action. Whether a reader believes James Robertson's assertions apply to Lockerbie or not, this remains an engaging tale.

Butterfly Cove
Christina Skye
Harlequin HQN
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373777853, $7.99,

Twelve minutes after Seattle architect Olivia Sullivan completes her latest project, a stranger enters her office and gives her an envelope before leaving. Inside is her termination letter without explanation as to why and not even signed by anyone; management never hinted or told her in person. Two minutes after that, a security guard collects her keys. Stunned, Olivia heads home to Summer Island where her three Island Yarns' BFFs welcome her back and enlist her help on their project. She also plans to learn more about how her late distant father left nothing as he apparently drained her money as well as his.

Her high school boyfriend Rafe Russo has also returned to Summer Island after serving with the military in Afghanistan. Though considered a bad boy as a teen, he has become a deputy sheriff. They meet for the first time in years due to a terrible car accident in which her driving heroics help save some school children though Olivia is injured. Both know the attraction remains tropospheric, but she needs a job and her father's mystery resolved while he feels his PTSD makes him a terrible candidate for Olivia.

The latest Summer Island romance (see A Home by the Sea and The Accidental Bride) is an engaging contemporary due to the lead wounded warriors battling personal demons that could nuke their relationship. The key subplot of what happened to Olivia's money is unresolved, which leaves the storyline feeling incomplete in spite of the super main second chance at love theme.

So Tough to Tame
Victoria Dahl
Harlequin HQN
9780373777891, $7.99

The scandal in Nevada cost Charlotte "Charlie" Allington her job and forced her return home to Jackson, Wyoming. Still humiliated by what happened and treated with contempt by her family (except for cousin Nate) and her new employer, Charlie vows to insure there is nothing else for others to gossip about her.

However, good intentions end when she meets cowboy Walker Pearce for the first time since she was his high school tutor. Charlie wants him and he feels the same way about her. As they begin a heated tryst, each falls in love but both have doubts that they are worthy of the other. Then a scandal occurs with her in the crosshairs.

So Tough to Tame is an enjoyable heated romance starring two flawed individuals. Charlie has the Nevada scandal haunting her as what happened in Vegas did not stay in Vegas and Walker hides his dyslexia that makes him feel inadequate especially with brilliant Charlie. Although the relationship seems underdeveloped (outside the boudoir) readers will enjoy the brain and the dropout falling in love.

Getting Rowdy
Lori Foster
Harlequin HQN
9780373777792, $7.99

Getting Rowdy bar owner Rowdy Yates turned a dive into a fresh upscale establishment. He gives a lot of credit to the dramatic turn around to former bar girl turned chief bartender Avery Mullins. Both also are attracted to each other, but Avery rejects a relationship between them using her refusal to become an employer-employee scratch on his bedpost as her rationale.

Rowdy sees the desire in her eyes and needs to know why she refuses to act on her feelings while also wondering why she keeps looking over her shoulder. Rowdy will soon learn the truth of all her why's when Avery's abusive ex arrives in town with demands.

The third Love Undercover romantic suspense (see Run the Risk and Bare It All) is an exhilarating fast-paced thriller that grips the audience even before the villains make their initial appearance from the way Avery always looks back. Readers will appreciate the in heat lead couple "Getting Rowdy with Avery" while the unwelcome visitors add tension to a fabulous contemporary.

Search The Dark
Marta Perry
Harlequin HQN
9780373777860, $7.99

When Widow Rachel Mason, accompanied by her daughter, came home to Deer Run (see Home by Dark), she and her childhood BFF Meredith King reminisce about how much they loved Amish kid Aaron Mast who drowned at Parson's Dam two decades ago. They began looking back at that summer leading to the conclusion that Aaron probably committed suicide. Meredith's Amish cousin Sarah needs the truth so pleads with her to investigate the cold case. Though she wonders what an accountant is supposed to find that the cops did not, Meredith agrees to look deeper into what happened.

As a high school senior Zach Randal fled Deer Run when his girlfriend Meredith's mom accused him of being a thief; Meredith refused to go with him. Now he is police detective back in town deciding what to do with the house he inherited from his stepmom. When Zach and Meredith meet for the first time since he went into exile, each realizes the attraction between them remains strong. He also gives her suggestions on how to conduct her inquiry while her ailing mom tells her to stay away from that bad boy. As she receives warnings to drop her inquiry, a related murder occurs.

The second Watcher in the Dark is a taut second chance at love romantic suspense. The heroine remains in town to care for her ungrateful mother, but also displays her courage when she ignores her mom's rants re their Amish relatives and Zach while continuing her investigation in spite of threats and a homicide. As with Home By Dark, the family and romance subplots support the suspense as the danger remains the prime focus in this tense twisting thriller.

Cowboy Resurrected
Elle James
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373697182, $5.50

"Cowboy Resurrected." Pregnant Sophia Carranza flees her Mexican home to escape from her ex-fiance ruthless Antonio Martinez and his cartel. Still grieving the deaths of his family, former Wild Oak Canyon Sheriff Thorn Drennon, now works undercover for Hank Derringer's Covert Cowboys, Inc. He captures the illegal crosser who he knows needs to be left with the authorities. Instead Thorn follows his instincts and vows to keep her safe even if it jeopardizes his mission and job. He soon realizes he underestimated the cost as the monster and his horde pursue her; placing his life and eventually his heart at risk.

"Killer Body." In Webb County, former Special Ops soldier Dawson Gray still feels remorse and guilt for not being there when his wife and baby died. He loathes his Lone Star assignment to protect amnesiac Savvy Jones, a murder suspect as he does not want the responsibility. However, as hit men target Savvy while she tries to remember killing the son of a drug cartel kingpin and shooting herself in the head, Dawson risks his life to keep her safe.

Though the males' second chance theme is identical, the getting there differs even as both entries are exciting romantic suspense. Cowboy Resurrected is the fourth CCI thriller (see Bodyguard Under Fire, Taking Aim and Triggered) while Killer Body is a reprint of a Lone Star Agency tale.

Ready, Aim...I Do
Debra Webb
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373697168, $5.50

"Ready, Aim...I Do." Mission Recovery Deputy Director Emmett Holt assigns specialist Jason Grant to go undercover in Vegas. When CIA operative Ginger Olin observes the former sniper being drugged, she intervenes by temporarily marrying him to buy them time. Whereas she pursues the sale of a deadly virus; he has been set up to take the fall of a sniper targeting civilians. The newlyweds spend their honeymoon searching for the biological weapon and its purchaser, and who targeted James and why.

"Missing." In Bay Minette, Alabama, someone kidnaps Polly Shepherd. Her frantic paternal Aunt Melissa Shepherd calls the man who broke her heart years ago, Equalizer Jonathan Foley. Feeling he owes her, Foley arrives from Chicago vowing to bring home safe the little girl though he quickly finds numerous suspects including family members.

These are two fast-paced romantic suspense thrillers with the investigations superseding the respective love subplot and the link being the Colby-Camp/Camp couple. Missing is a reprint of a new Equalizer thriller.

Lost and Found Husband
Sheri Whitefeather
Harlequin Special Edition
9780373657742, $5.50

Seven years ago, Eric Reeves's wife Corrine died. Lonely the forty-two year old widower eats out a lot rather than stay at home. His favorite place to dine in Southern California is the diner where bubbly twenty-six year old community college student Dana Peterson works as a waitress. Though he is attracted to her, Eric will not act on his feelings as he has a daughter Kaley her age and feels survivor guilt.

Dana has flirted a lot with Eric since he became a regular. Thinking he is yummy, she asks him out on a Valentine's Day date. He tries to persuade her he is too old for her, but she prevails. They make love; but feeling not ready for a relationship, he tells her never again, and he even stops coming to the diner. Five weeks later, Dana tests she is pregnant because they unwittingly used an expired condom. Believing she is the latest generation to suffer her family's unwed motherhood curse; she contacts Eric. He insists on doing the responsible thing with covering health insurance and child care payments.

The latest Family Renewal drama (see Lost and Found Father) is an engaging tale starring two wonderful caring protagonists and a strong support cast; especially her friend Candy and Kaley. Character-driven, fans will enjoy the unborn matchmaker enabling his parents to have the time to forge a loving relationship if her dad takes a second chance on his heart.

Backstage With her Ex
Louisa George
Harlequin Kiss
9780373207343, $4.99

Ten years have passed since teenagers Sasha Sweet and Nate Munro were an entry in Chesterton bound by their love for each other and for music. However, when she overheard his violent assault of a person; fearful without listening to why he lost it she dumped him. Heartbroken and feeling betrayed by his true love, Nate left town to become a Hall of Fame rock star with an infamous sex crazing reputation; Sasha became a prim and proper music teacher.

After making a promise to her students and encouraged by her sister Cassie, Sasha goes to Nate's London concert, to beg the superstar to help raise funds for her Chesterton High No Limits mixed ability student choir to enter a competition in Manchester. She asks him to do a show to raise money; but he refuses as he loathes the town that drove him away and the school that expelled him while ignoring the bullying of his late special needs brother Marshall. Still unable to resist the woman who was the subject of several of his hit songs, Nate agrees to the concert though he fears his reaction when he meets special students who will remind him of his beloved Marshall.

This is a superb drama with a strong support cast and two seemingly opposite leads. The engaging second chance contemporary romance supports the powerful look at special needs students with each of the ensemble having different personalities especially standing out is George. Character driven, readers will root for the rock legend and the teacher to make it, and even more for the No Limits choir to have fun while hopefully winning the competition.

Last Groom Standing
Kimberly Lang
Harlequin Kiss
9780373207329, $4.99

A decade ago at Hillbrook College in Upstate New York, Gina Carrington the tramp slept with her friend Marnie Price's older brother just before "Saint" Carter was to marry. In the present at Cassie Barclay's wedding plans meeting (see Girl Least Likely to Marry by Amy Andrews), Gina has a chance to apologize to Marnie (see Maid of Dishonor by Heidi Rice) who responds by saying her sibling was at fault for cheating.

At Cassie's wedding to Tuck, Marnie and Dylan Brookes are paired by default as her business partner Reese is with Mason (see The Unexpected Wedding Guest by Aimee Carson) and Gina has Carter. Marnie prefers to ignore Dylan who Reese dumped without his fighting for her. After overindulging in wine at the reception, Marnie wakes up the next day with Dylan in her bed. Though attracted to each other, Marnie believes Dylan will choose flight over fight for her.

Though there is a deja vu feel to the final Wedding Diaries romance, series fans will enjoy the still unforgiving Georgia Peach and the hunk falling in love while wondering like Marnie what Dylan, who loathes confrontation, will do about his feelings. Entertaining, the final contemporary the final contemporary as love may not be enough for the last couple standing single.

When Adam Came To Town
Kate Kelly
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373718757, $5.75

Six months ago, famous artist Sylvie Carson's father suffered a heart attack. The next day Sylvie picked up a paint brush, but the tingling magic that she felt when she worked was missing. Sylvie left Toronto to help her family in Collina at their cafe while her Pop heals. However, her erratic behavior has the townsfolk betting on when she gives birth and when she leaves town; while her agent-boyfriend Oliver insists she returns to the city to paint. Her confidence shattered and suffering debilitation anxiety attacks, Sylvie doubts she is an artist anymore.

When Sylvie meets newcomer Adam Hunter, she is intrigued by him and finds her passion to paint tingle for the first time since the magic vanished. However, she also sees his haunted eyes are the windows to his troubled soul that he refuses to explain to her as Adam assumes his past makes him unworthy of his beloved. Sylvie also poorly hides her doubts and troubles about art and love from him.

Readers will appreciate this engaging Canadian contemporary as the two protagonists struggle with personal issues that seem to prevent them from forming a permanent relationship in spite of falling in love. The small-town support cast adds depth to a warm romance.

Love In Plain Sight
Jeanie London
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373718733, $5.75

Eight years since Katrina, New Orleans Department of Child and Family Services supervisor Gisele asks social worker Courtney Gerard about the Araceli Ruiz-Ortiz foster care case. Courtney explains she inherited the case after Nanette died, but nothing was out of the ordinary though Araceli entered the system just prior to Katrina caused havoc to the city and the department. Gisele informs her that the photo in the file is not Araceli. Courtney insists she is Araceli having met the child at least once a month since Nanette. A compliance officer found a discrepancy re two girls with one name and one missing. While the FBI investigates, Courtney is placed on administrative leave.

Knowing the horrors of foster child placements, Courtney wants to find the missing Araceli. She asks injured former bounty hunter Marc DiLeo to find the missing child who was apparently replaced by an undocumented just after Katrina. He agrees to help her to get his nagging family off his back, but he needs a first floor office and she must drive. Though the case is cold and made more frozen by Katrina and Rita, they find clues that lead them to Tennessee. Meanwhile Courtney sees a warm Marc beneath his cold exterior.

Love In Plain Sight is a delightful investigative romance starring two caring protagonists and the missing teen they seek. Mostly focused on the search and romance, but also provides glimpses of ARO, the entertaining storyline uses the massive chaotic aftermath of Katrina (and Rita) with documentation vanished. With a nod To Tell The Truth, fans will say "Will the real (Araceli Ruiz-Ortiz) please stand up?"

The Missing Colton
Loreth Anne White
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278381, $5.50

After a stint as a war journalist in Afghanistan where he was incarnated and tortured, Jagger McKnight suffers from PTSD due to his time as a prisoner that also triggered his memory of being abducted and living with his captors for almost a decade as a child. He feels good about obtaining a TV and book contract to investigate and solve the thirty years old cold case kidnapping of infant Cole Colton as a means to ignore his horrors.

Jagger heads to the Colton Ranch in Dead River, Wyoming where he plans to get a job so he can go undercover. Before he reaches his destination, a vicious assailant assaults and batters Jagger, leaving him to die. The next day Colton Ranch nurse Mia Sanders finds him unconscious. She brings the severely injured reporter to the ranch and nurses him back to health. As they fall in love, an unknown adversary needs Jagger dead and Mia is acceptable collateral damage as an expendable pawn.

This exhilarating Coltons of Wyoming romantic suspense (see The Colton Ransom by Marie Ferrarella) is a fabulous entry in the extended family saga. The lead couple is an intriguing pair as both have bad memories and shaky identities issues that make love unwelcome; while the Colton brood pray Jagger is their lost Cole. Character-driven yet filled with tense action, readers will relish this strong thriller as love and dangers collide in Dead River.

Stranded With The Tycoon
Sophie Pembroke
Harlequin Romance
9780373742592, $5.99

A few days before Christmas, historian Lucinda Miles leaves Cardiff to give a lecture at a conference in Chester, England. Afterward her talk she goes to the Royal Court Hotel only to learn the conference coordinator failed to book her room as promised and no vacancies exist here or apparently anywhere else in town. Hampton & Sons hotel chain mogul Ben Hampton intercedes by offering to share the King James Suite, which contains two bedrooms. Having no choice, Luce accepts his kindness while thinking back to when he dated her roommate at college eight years ago while she hit the books.

Ben and Luce are attracted to each other; as he muses how he recalls her name but not her roommate and she recognizes his scar. However, Ben makes it clear that he is a one-night stand man and Luce knows how bad her history with men is. Snowed in, they begin to fall in love, but that may not be enough for her to loosen up and for him to take responsibility.

Stranded With The Tycoon is an entertaining romance with two engaging polar opposite protagonists and strong polar opposite supporting families (her flighty; his responsible). Readers will enjoy Sophie Pembroke delightful contemporary as love nukes what Ben and Luce respectively believed a relationship should be.

Home To Wyoming
Rebecca Winters
Harlequin American
9780373754717, $5.50

At Walter Reed, marines Lundgren, Buck and Ross suffering from survivor guilt and respiratory problems caused by their Afghan deployment agree to convert the spread owned by Carson Lundgren (see The Wyoming Cowboy) into a dude ranch for the families of fallen comrades. When the trio completes the renovation, they begin to invite surviving family members of deceased brothers and sisters in arms.

After Buck Summerhayes spent a few days with his family in Colorado, he flies to Wyoming to work at the Teton Valley Dude Ranch. On the same flight are Alex Wilson and her seven years old granddaughter Jennifer Forrester. In Jackson Hole, Alex informs Buck two months after her son-in-law Daniel was killed saving the lives of others from a grenade, her daughter Christy died from leukemia. The fortyish guardian also decides to reject her boyfriend Frank's proposal as Jennifer must come first. As Buck goes out of his way for Jennifer, he and her Nana fall in love but he agrees with his beloved that the child's needs come before their desires.

The second Daddy Dude Ranch romance provides readers with insight into the mental and physical health of returning soldiers and surviving family members. The lead couple and the child seem real with each struggling to deal with varying degrees of PTSD (his from combat trauma; theirs from grief) and he additionally needs an oxygen mask handy. The older woman younger man romance adds freshness to a tender family drama.

A Business Engagement
Merline Lovelace
Harlequin Desire
9780373732692, $5.25

In Manhattan, Beguile magazine named Fortune 500 CEO Devon Hunter number three on the Ten Single Sexiest Men in the World. However, when he visits Lady Sarah St. Sebastian at the magazine's office, she believes her boss executive editor Alex Danvers erred not naming Hunter numero uno. The Los Angeles-based Devon claims her flighty sister Gina a thief insisting she stole a valuable twelfth century Byzantine medallion he wants back immediately. Sarah is indignant until Devon shows the surveillance tape.

Devon thought Lady Gina was perfect when he first met her to fend off the women stalking him since the article was released, but thirty minutes with this bubblehead told him to look elsewhere. Hunter chooses l4 level-headed Sarah; blackmailing her with the threat of the police arresting Gina unless she agrees to be his fake fiancee to help him close a deal. Used to bailing out her sibling, Sarah reluctantly agrees. However, the plan goes astray when both want the sham engagement to become real.

The first Duchess Diaries romance is an enjoyable contemporary due to the likable protagonists. Although the theft solution and Business Engagement are over the top of the Swiss Alps, readers will enjoy this fun tale as falling in love with your fake fiancee is the ultimate revenge for her showing off his crack to the world.

Big Sky Wedding
Linda Lael Miller
Harlequin HQN
9780373777747, $7.99

Several years ago in Three Trees, Montana, the Sutton siblings, Zane the actor and Landry the investment tycoon, bought Hangman's Bend Ranch without bothering with a mortgage. Now thirty-four and tired of Hollywood, Zane trades in his European luxury car for a pickup truck and adopts Slim from an animal shelter before heading to Big Sky Country to live amongst the trees.

On his first day back, Zane runs into his next door neighbor Brylee Parrish who tells him to go back to L.A. as actors, even recovering actors, destroy the pristine land. Having been jilted recently (see Big Sky Mountain) Brylee storms away as she wants nothing to do with hunks, focusing on her successful international business Decor Galore. On the other hand Zane enjoyed their encounter. Landry and their tweener half-brother come to the ranch even as Zane and Brylee fall in love, but he must pass her ultimate test of proving more loyal than her canine is to her.

The latest Parable ranch romance (see Big Sky Country) is an engaging contemporary. The cast is solid especially the protagonists as individuals. However, the love plot never quite gels beyond her fleeing and his somewhat chasing her. Still the ranch and family issues make for an enjoyable drama but also supersede the lead couple's relationship.

Mission: Cavanaugh Baby
Marie Ferrarella
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278374, $5.50

Aurora Animal Control Officer Ashley St. James loves her two dogs (Dakota and Rusty) but no one else especially humans. She earned a taste of people as a foster child graduate abandoned by her parents as a baby. Thus she adores her canines who con her for more food although she wonders how they can eat so much and give her so much affection although they make her late for work frequently.

Ashley investigates a barking dog disturbance at a nearby garden apartment complex. When she enters the apartment she finds an agitated Jack Russell who leads her to a woman with a major slash across her abdomen. She calls Dispatch for help as the victim says her baby was taken from her womb. Major Crimes Detective Shane Cavanaugh arrives at the apartment and blisters Ashley for ruining the crime scene while asking her where she was earlier this morning. She responds by asking him what he would do different. Ashley takes the traumatized Jack Russell home with her rather than leaving him at the pound. As they search for the abducted newborn on what is their respective first homicide case, Ashley and Shane are attracted to each other; but she distrusts the entire human race and he was rejected on his one attempt at a relationship.

The latest Cavanaugh Justice romantic police procedural (see Cavanaugh on Duty and Cavanaugh Surrender) is an exciting investigative thriller. Readers will empathize with and understand Ashley's traumas while accepting Shane's once burned, twice shy attitude though his reluctance seems shallow compared to her angst. Readers will appreciate this fast-paced entry as first comes rescuing the baby, then comes taking down the psychopath, and finally comes love.

A Little Bit Of Charm
Mary Ellis
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736938686, $13.99,

The inferno at the King family farm in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania left their Maem and Daed dead. Following the funeral, two of the King children (Amy with her fiance and Nora) moved to the much more rigid Amish community in Harmony, Maine (see Living In Harmony). Not long after that Nora found her true love (see Love Comes to Paradise). Thus the third sibling Rachel who remained behind feels alone.

Rachel goes to Charm, Kentucky to stay with her cousin Sarah at the Stolls farm while seeking a position involving horses. The Twelve Elms Stable hires her and soon afterward she meets the owner's son Jake Brady who believes his Eager to Please thoroughbred has strong Kentucky Derby winning possibilities. Jake and Rachel are attracted to each other, but she is Amish and his parents are Baptists while he apparently ignores the Book so nothing can happen between them.

The third King family New Beginnings Amish romance is an entertaining tale of faith in taking God's path even when one does not understand why bad things happened to good people we cherish and love. Rachel is super as she adapts to her new location while her beliefs like those of her sisters shaken by the tragedy; but Jake, if he can find his way back to the Lord, represents a possible starting over opportunity for her.

Love Still Stands
Kelly Irvin
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736954938, $13.99,

Leah and Luke Shirack, their five kids and her sister Bethel Graber travel from Bliss Creek, Kansas to New Hope, Missouri to join a new Amish community. The drive is especially excruciating for Bethel who suffered a severe trauma recently that requires using crutches and will soon begin physical therapy in New Hope. When they arrive at their new home, the family is shattered by the vandalism that greets them summarized by a banner: "Go home." Brothers Elijah and Silas Christner say inside is worse as Sheriff Virgil McCormack arrives with an accusatory tone telling them their cult and related tourism are undesirable, and threatens them with violations.

Elijah wants to court Bethel, but she believes her being an invalid makes her a bad choice as a wife. When she and the sheriff's son wheelchair bound veteran Shawn McCormack meet their disabilities provide them a common denominator and lead to a friendship. Her family, community and especially Elijah demand Bethel end her relationship with the Englisher while Shawn's father and other townsfolk warn him to stay away from her and her unwanted sect.

Love Stands Still moves from Bliss Creek (see Love's Journey Home, To Love and to Cherish and A Heart Made New) to New Hope and also extends the Shirack family saga to include Luke's sister-in-law. The fascinating storyline contains a strong cast facing external and internal problems starting with religious intolerance and bigotry. Character-driven, readers will relish this strong Amish drama.

Shades Of Mercy
Anita Lustrea and Caryn Dahlstrand
River North
9780802409683, $14.99,

In 1954 in Watsonville, Maine, fifteen year old Mercy Millar works on the family farm doing manual labor rarely done by a farmer's daughter. Mercy relishes working in the field because that enables her to spend time with her beloved Mick of the Maliseet tribe; which otherwise would be forbidden by her family. However, her toiling also means not dressing like the frilly female she wants to be and looks like her Mick. Her dream is to one day soon to leave as Mick's wife; a hope he wants too but doubts will ever occur as their love is a major local taboo.

When a murder occurs, the law arrests Mick. Fearing for Mick's life since the white townsfolk demand his blood; Mercy loses hope for the future as she gives up on God and family for the tribulations each wrought towards Mick and her. Yet inside her heart remains her dream of being with Mick forever.

Shades of Mercy is a terrific historical that looks deeply at 1950s racism in The Pine Tree State. The key to this strong drama is the insight into the Maliseet tribe and what they endure in Watsonville during the Eisenhower Era. Character-driven by a strong cast starting with the interracial couple, readers will find despair and hope competing as a forbidden love shakes the moral foundations of everyone.

The Tenth Witness
Leonard Rosen
The Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Road, Sag Harbor, NY 11963
9781579623197, $29.00,

In 1978 off the coast of Holland, Poincare & Chin Consulting works on salvaging the HMS Lutine having won the Lloyds of London contract. The frigate went down in 1799 near the Wadden Sea allegedly loaded with gold bars.

Taking a leisurely stroll on the beach, Henri Poincare meets Liesel Kraus, Kraus Steel heiress. Henri and Liesel are attracted to one another after he gets over the initial shock as to whom she is and begin a romance. However, he begins to hear tales that Kraus Steel owes its success due to Liesel's father Otto's WWII business deals; as Henri's late uncle knew first-hand. Though Henri realizes he should mind his business, he makes inquiries to learn the truth.

The prequel to All Cry Chaos focuses on Henri's first case that he did not know was a case; which eventually led to Interpol recruiting him. The timely storyline told by ethical Henri uses a wonderful historiographical late 1970s spin to look back to the 1940s at those exploiting the Nazi terror and aftermath to make an exorbitant profit by paying coolie wages to desperate workers. Leisurely-paced, readers will appreciate this strong tale as the avaricious affluent use the system at the cost of the masses.

Paint The Bird
Georgeann Packard
The Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Road, Sag Harbor, NY 11963
9781579623173, $28.00,

In February 2010, betrayal by her husband and her best friend leaves the soul of Reverend Sarah Obadias broken. Acrimoniously the sixty-nine year old Sarah cannot turn to her adult daughter for comfort as her adult child has her own life. So Sarah drinks alone at Manhattan's Malatesta Restaurant when slightly older Abraham Darby the artist introduces himself. She explains the Old Testament story of Abraham and Sarah to him, but he counters by saying he failed as he erred with the sacrifice of his child. They go his loft where he enjoys her refined age while she muses over this is sex.

The next morning they take the train to Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. Abraham gives a eulogy talking about his brief fling relationship with his son Yago's mother Costa Rican painter Alejandra Morales Diaz back in 1970 that led to their perfect creation in April 1971. He finishes his bitter words by asking who in the audience infected Yago. His companion is confused by his angry acerbic accusations as Abraham rants at himself, his co-creator and his gay son's friends and lovers. Afterward Sarah continues her depressed spiral deeper into bewildered despair when she meets Alejandra and Yago who drowned as a little boy.

Paint the Bird is a strong allegorical tale that questions what a family really is in a world of changing relational dynamics. Character-driven, Sarah and readers will learn the true meaning of family and the importance of living life summed up by Ferris Bueller in his Day Off: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it".

Before The Dawn
Kathleen Bauer
9780824934248, $13.99,

Years ago Denise Stevenson ran away from her home Heather Creek Farm in Nebraska. In the present Denise is buried in San Diego. While her father Bob went home immediately after the funeral, her mother Charlotte closes out the estate and escorts her three grandchildren (teens Sam and Emily and preadolescent Christopher to the place their mom grew up and fled.

In Nebraska Sam disregards any rules at school and at home, but is fiercely protective and bossy of his siblings. Emily refuses to give up her ties to Southern California, which reduces her chances of making new friends. Christopher wants to feel at home but feels alone. Bob demands rigid disciplined behavior. Charlotte fears repeating the mistakes she made that drove Denise away, but she also believes her grandchildren need structure. Five people not united by DNA but by grief and culture shock can make it as a family if they share their inner despondency but need an external crisis to bond them.

The first Home to Heather Creek family drama (written by Carolyn Aarsen) is an engaging opening act as the Stevenson family cope with the loss of the connecting sandwich generation while the two "bread" camps struggle to get to know one another. Readers will wonder whether the fab family of five will take the first baby steps towards loving unity or remain dysfunctional.

Sweet September
Kathleen Bauer
9780824934255, $13.99,

With the harvest beginning on Heather Creek Farm, the grandparents and Uncle Bob are excited. However, the grandchildren are of a different mindset as they still struggle to adapt from leaving San Diego to living on a Cornhusker farm. The teens, Sam continues to do poorly at high school and Emily wants to go back to Southern California. Lonely ten year old Christopher makes no friends except for his cat.

Someone deliberately devastates Charlotte's vegetable garden. Upset by the vandalism but also fearing one of her grandchildren committed the vicious act Charlotte needs to know who and why. At the same time Charlotte wonders how to avoid the mistakes she made with Denise especially if she learns one of them did the dastardly deed. Her three grandchildren assist her search for the truth.

The second Home to Heather Creek family drama (see Before The Dawn by Carolyn Aarsen as Kathleen Bauer) is a warm tale as the vegetable garden amateur sleuthing brings the Stevenson brood together at a time when their tenuous bonds are ripping asunder. Writing as Kathleen Bauer, Tricia Goyer provides a fine tale as hope battles despair as fans will appreciate the Brady Bunch cleverly serving as an analogy of families divided coming together.

Bones of the Lost
Kathy Reichs
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., NY, NY 10020
9781439102459, $26.99,

In Charlotte, the police believe a hit and run killed the female victim though wonder why the deceased carried the late John-Henry Story's airline club card. Forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan looks at the remains and believes the vehicular homicide was deliberate, not accidental. She pleads with homicide detective Erskine Skinny Slidell to investigate even if the girl was probably an illegal alien drug using hooker.

The Feds send her to Sheyn Bagh, Afghanistan to look into the deaths of two locals by a marine. Though she loathes leaving the vehicular homicide case unfinished knowing it will probably have to wait until her return, Tempe is excited as her daughter Katy is deployed there.

U.S. Customs accuses Dominick Rockett, a Desert Storm veteran, of smuggling contraband into the country. Tempe examines the Peruvian dog mummies wondering if the same group is trafficking in antiquities and humans.

The latest Bones forensic investigation (see Bones Are Forever) is an exciting thriller as the heroine works three cases that she increasingly believes are linked; while her personal life continues to unravel with Katy's father Pete pressuring her to sign the divorce document. Fast-paced with each inquiry engaging the reader, fans will relish this entry as once again Kathy Reichs provides a fabulous forensic tale in which the author assumes her audience is intelligent.

I, Saul
Jerry B. Jenkins and James MacDonald
Worthy Publishing
9781617950063, $24.99,

At the Arlington Theological Seminary in Texas, Dr. Augie Knox is interrupted by an urgent text message that he failed to immediately respond to because he is teaching a class. Not long afterward his beloved Sofia Trikouplis calls him from Greece to tell him that Roger Michaels desperately needs him to call him. Roger tells Augie he needs him in Rome ASAP. Dropping everything including his job, Augie races to Italy where Roger struggles to save ancient Saul parchments from thieves.

In A.D. 67 Rome, no longer Saul of Tarsus since he converted from persecutor to follower of Jesus Christ, Paul sits in a dungeon awaiting execution. However, he feels a need to write about his atrocities and his redemption so that others may find their path to the Lord easier. He prays to God that his friend Luke can help him with his final days.

I, Saul is an engaging tale in which a modern day seminary professor and his allies struggle to protect the invaluable writings of the title character. The storyline rotates back and forth with the opening chapters deliberately slow to introduce the cast from both eras. Once done, the Augie subplot accelerates into a typical action-packed thriller; while the Saul subplot provides a fascinating look at the person who symbolizes second chances.

The Pitcher
William Hazlegrove
Koehler Books
9781938467592, $15.95,

In Florida, Ricky Hernandez lives with his Mexican-Puerto Rican mom while their abusive patriarch Fernando shows up when he needs money or the need to batter her. Ricky excels at nothing as his dyslexia makes school impossible and his heritage makes life impossible. However, at a carnival he learns he has a great pitching arm. His mom Maria would do anything to help her son succeed, but is unhealthy, unemployed and uninsured.

Maria dreams of his fastball enabling her son to make the high school team though she is aware that the parents of her son's rivals for a spot hire professional coaches to instruct their children; she does not have the money for medical care that she desperately needs. Still to help her Rickey she becomes assistant coach on his baseball team, but believes her son needs a mentor. When Rickey enters the forbidden zone of a drunk to retrieve a ball, he meets the bellicose Pitcher. Determined Maria turns to the reclusive former World Series Pitcher to help Rickey with fundamentals. The twenty-five years MLB Pitcher wants to be left alone in his garage, but instead Maria showers him with kindness.

Filled with morality themes, The Pitcher is an enjoyable character driven tale mindful of the movie The Sandlot. Filled with sliders and curves, young adults and baseball fans of all ages will enjoy taking the mound as Maria brings her fastball to the game of life and by doing so she helps Rickey and the retired Pitcher.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Lost Legacy
E. Lucas-Taylor
Kindle Edition
Amazon Digital Publishing
B00FAASBGU, $2.99, 256 pp,

A new E. Lucas-Taylor novel is cause for celebration in my world. Her plots are always well-written, exciting, intriguing, and fast paced, her characters fascinating. Lost Legacy has all these elements and more. I couldn't stop reading from first page to last!

Gillian Bradford's work as an archeologist was disrupted by grief after the death of her young husband and loss of her parents in a cave in. After an extended period of mourning, she's pulled herself together enough to continue her parents' research in tribal history and origins. She's carefully reviewed their journals, and in possession of a family treasure - an ancient bit of woven cloth containing mysterious hieroglyphics. She moves from Phoenix to Santa Fe to meet with a childhood friend, Simon Barrones, a Native American geologist and respected expert on Amerindian history who speaks several Indian languages. If anyone can help Gillian find the Anasazi origins, it's Simon....if she doesn't throttle him first! Simon is a typical alpha male: attractive, intelligent, argumentative and opinionated. He and Gillian clash from day one, but she needs his knowledge of the area to complete her research. Simon masks his concern for her with arguments and anger. Her life is in danger, but why would anyone want to kill her? Are the answers hidden in the journals she inherited from her parents? Simon knows Gillian's parents were murdered, and that an unknown danger still lurks. Until he finds answers, the only place she will be safe is with him.

Simon guides Gillian to the remote, mountainous Four Corners region where Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado join. They hike footpaths worn by ancient tribes and climb rugged cliffs until they reach the holy Indian enclaves known only to Simon and his grandfather. What Gillian finds is an archeologist's dream and the culmination of her parents' search for Indian origins. She explores a mystical cavern covered with petroglyphs created by many different hands and tribes throughout millennia. As Simon leads her farther into the heart of the holy mountains, she discovers pristine treasures unspoiled by modern humans - Greco-Roman mosaics, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and a Viking-style longboat. Through their explorations, she proves her parents' theory that American Indians originated from different cultures and races, including Atlantis. Gillian's research is complete, but she's still in danger and Simon is determined to know why.

Lost Legacy is a thrilling read, including several surprising twists I didn't anticipate. The author weaves fact and fiction skillfully to build excitement and intrigue, then seasons it liberally with mystery, danger, and delicious chemistry between Gillian and Simon. I can't recommend the book to readers under 18 or those squeamish about sexy interplay, but for everyone else it's highly recommended.

Lies, Spies, and Unfinished Business
Elizabeth Lucas Taylor
Amazon Digital Publishing
B00FA911PY, $1.99, 189 pp,

Lindsay Mayer is insecure, plump, and maybe just a little frumpish around the edges. Her marriage to the irresistibly sexy Griffin is unraveling. He's been troubled lately, avoiding her, and staying gone from home for increasing periods of time. What is her college professor hubby up to? Despite the love and chemistry they've always shared, Lindsay fears he may have found another woman. When she discovers him in his bathrobe, sharing a ritzy hotel room with an exotic beauty, her worst fear is confirmed.

The proof of Griffin's infidelity almost kills her. When she doesn't hear from him in weeks, she feels her life is over. Enter a savvy long time friend, Chloe Brennan, recently assigned to a new position in Washington, DC. Chloe has the contacts and the means of turning her friend's life around, if only Lindsay will cooperate for once. The shattered Lindsay has nothing left to lose. With Griffin gone, her life is over anyway, so she puts herself in Chloe's hands.

Segue five years into the future. Lindsay has now been successfully transformed into Honor Danforth, technical wunderkind of the British MI5. Expert in foreign languages and dialects, master of computer wizardry, tireless tracker of elusive foreign agents, she blocks all thoughts of Griffin from her heart and mind. She's shed excess weight, dyed and straightened her curly hair, changed her eye color and adopted a British accent to reflect her new life. The pain of Griffin's loss is blunted. She's moved on to another life, but not to another man. No man could ever be enough after Griffin.

When she's assigned to protect the British Embassy in Washington DC, everything she ever believed about her marriage is rocked with one revelation after another. Griffin appears in tuxedoed splendor, hobnobbing with British and American dignitaries with suave familiarity. And then she learns he's CIA - one of the best - assigned to her team, in league to ferret out one of the worst terrorists the West has ever known.

Griffin believes his wife died five years before. He's never come to grips with the guilt and sorrow. For certain he has avoided replacing her because Lindsay can never be replaced. His immediate sexual attraction to the cool and very British Honor Danforth is a mystery, but one he's bent on solving.

If ever any male and female belonged together in the biblical sense, it's Griffin and Lindsay/Honor. But each plays their own game as agent until the old familiar chemistry takes over. Amidst that inevitable sexual explosion, somehow they must stay on their toes and thwart the plans of Embassy moles and ruthless terrorists.

Oh what a fun trip it was helping these two resolve their Unfinished Business!

I recommend it to those who enjoy action and intrigue, but only for adults and mature adolescents due to strong sexual content.

Laurel Johns
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

The Compendium of Raath, Book 1: The Chosen
Michael Mood, author
Privately Published
9780615910963, $5.00 Kindle,

What are the ideal characteristics and components of a gripping heroic fantasy read? This genre has definitely mushroomed since the days of J. R. R. Tolkein's works and even before that, becoming an accepted category of pop culture, young adult and adult fantasy literature. While scholarly debates of fandoms and fiefdoms may rage into trivia contests, it would be safe to say a good fantasy read contains the following: Engaging if imperfect, believable characters of both sexes (and possibly exotic racial origins) driven by understandable potentially noble motives, set in a completely realized believable fantasy world/universe with clearly realized definitions, involved in an exciting, challenging (dangerous) quest or task with both mundane and otherworldly parameters and implications, aided by a tight plot full of unexpected twists and turns, filled with exciting action, adventure, and transformations. Is my reader bored yet with my definitions of the ideal characteristics of adult heroic fantasy? If so, skip to the end of the above and just read Michael Mood's "The Compendium of Raath, Book 1: The Chosen," available in e-book format. You will not be able to put your electronic, book -reading device down except for the usual daily required mundanities (work, sleeping, eating, etc.). Here are an amazing assortment of ragamuffins, rebel priests, magical animal "whisperers," rogues, mystical healers, and minstrels, both male and female. Their common bond appears to be a secret mark or calling, realized or clarified by traumatic life events, that brands them as five Chosen figures who are destined to play impacting roles in the coming days of conflict in a Foglin-infested place called Haroma with a Kingsguard soldiery operating to inscrutable ends. The five chief characters are 15 year old Wren, a female impregnated by her father with special powers to communicate with animals who becomes the Chosen Protector; Otom, the Chosen Monk, forced to sacrifice more than he bargains for; Domma, the Chosen Devotee, a woman of God with a mysterious past; rebellious but realistic Halimaldie, the Chosen Benefactor; and young Krothair, destined to be the Chosen Servitor, in a strange military training. Each character has a fully realized and developed profile that finally leads the five to be together at the finding of a mystic tome found by Raven, the self appointed musical chronicler of the group. The final reading of this Book sets the stage for the next volume of "The Compendium of Raath," which this reader eagerly awaits with growing impatience. Really, the first volume of "The Compendium of Raath" is seriously good fantasy, well-written, fully realized, laced with quirky humor, dark emotions and mysterious conundrums, all woven into an excellent fantasy adventure epic that is only just begun. Believable male and female protagonists, exotic races and mystical animal communication, plus a streak of religious ethical framing and promise of redemption that is intriguing and non-Judeo Christian on the surface - all these things alone perhaps do not a great fantasy make, but they sure help keep the pages turning.

Our Grandmothers' Words Traditional Stories for Nurturing
Prune Harris, et al.
Gerald Gloade, artist
Cape Breton University Press
P.O. Box 5300
Sydney, Nova Scotia, B1P 6L2 Canada
9781897009802, $14.95,

The work of Prune Harris, Murdena Marshall, Diana Denny, Flo Young, Susie Marshall, and Cheryl Bartlett, "Our Grandmothers' Words Traditional Stories for Nurturing" is a beautifully illustrated bilingual collection of Mi'kmaq traditional nurturing stories told to pregnant women to help them carry and bear strong healthy babies. The whole community took responsibility for helping to raise the precious child correctly, and it is considered important to enhance the mother's physical health and spiritual well being from the moment of conception throughout the process of birth in order to usher in a new healthy child. Each story told in this collection has a special connection to nurturing the spirit of the mother and the child, raising them in the correct, traditional Mk'kmaq way. The stories are retold to Sali'j, a strong happy Mi'kmaq woman who is carrying a child, by her Mother, her Grandmother, and her Godmother, as is the Mi'kmaw way. Further enhanced by full page artworks plus added decorative illustrations by Mi'kmaq artist Gerald Gloade, each story is written in both Mi'kmaq and English, both versions side by side on the two pages. There is a prologue, a description of cosmic connections, eleven stories, and a blessing for a new born, which is given after Sali'j gives birth to her child. Some of the traditional stories are called the Two Wolves, Hewey Headley, Man in the Moon, the Star Brides, and Medicine Boy. Here is a translation of the moving Blessing for the Newborn: " Speaking in Mi'kmaw, she (the Grandmother) touches the little girl's head near her eyes and blesses the newborn. 'May everything you see be good . May you appreciate all of creation.' The Grandmother touches the baby's ears, 'May everything you hear be for the goodness of all things, may you speak only kind words.' Next she touches the baby's hands. 'I hope these stretch out to help the needy. May they take care of other people and do good for all of your life.' Finally she rests her hands on the little girl's legs, 'May your feet always be on the right path, walking toward goodness. (p. 63)'" A final gift in this special collection of traditional nurturing stories is a page summarizing the Mi'kmaw Sacred Teachings, including 7 stages of Life with the 7 gifts, shown on a traditional medicine wheel of quarters of black, white, red and yellow, for the four directions north south, east and west. The seven Gifts run in chronological order, and are Love, Honesty, Humility, Respect, Truth, Patience, and Wisdom. They are mostly achieved or learned between birth and age 35, with significant changes every seven years. If all the Gifts are visible in a person, that person is an Elder. "Our Grandmothers' Words Traditional Stories for Nurturing" is a moving and authentic retelling of respected Mi'kmaw traditional teaching stories, containing ancient wisdom needed for strengthening, reweaving into the fabric of today.

Practical Vocal Acoustics
Kenneth W. Bozeman, author
Pendragon Press
PO Box 190, Hillsdale, NY 12529
9781576472408, $35.00,

"Practical Vocal Acoustics: Pedagogic Applications for Teachers and Singers" (Vox Musicae: The Voice, Vocal Pedagogy, and Song Series No. 9) is an excellent technical vocal tutorial compendium that includes state of the art vocal acoustic findings in an accessible format. Using a companion DVD in which Lawrence University vocal undergraduate students demonstrate vocal acoustic phenomena such as vowel turning, stepwise ascent and descent, different forms of repeated notes, and more, Professor Bozeman completes demonstration of current vocal acoustics applied theory, also incorporating user -friendly instructional technology including the Madde Voice synthesizer and the Voce Vista for spectography assistance. With an introduction including harmonics primer vocal concepts, "Practical Vocal Acoustics" adds a brief overview of three main models of changing theory of vocal resonance. Additional material on formants and harmonic formants interactions is concisely presented, along with treble voice resonance strategies and male passagio training. Further chapters on perceptions of turning over, implications of tube acoustics, strategies to encourage tube stability, and acoustic belting and explorations present new informed teaching approaches to vocal acoustics. Finally, a number of appendices offer additional clarification on madde explorations, F1 locations by voice (approximate), events surrounding the male passaggio, a listing of DVD contents and Youtube examples, plus definitions. "Practical Vocal Acoustics" has been described as a key to demystifying vocal pedagogy in its enlightened analysis and use of current vocal acoustic technology. It is a highly recommended asset to vocal pedagogy, teachers and singers.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

Copts At The Crossroads
Mariz Tadros
American University in Cairo Press
420 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10018-2729
9789774165917, $29.95, 320 pp.,

Synopsis: In the light of the escalation of sectarian tensions during and after Mubarak's reign, the predicament of the Arab world's largest religious minority, the Copts, has come to the forefront. In "Copts At The Crossroads", author Mariz Tadros poses such questions as why there has been a mass exodus of Copts from Egypt, and how this relates to other religious minorities in the Arab region; why it is that sectarian violence increased during and after the Egyptian revolution, which epitomized the highest degree of national unity since 1919; and how the new configuration of power has influenced the extent to which a vision of a political order is being based on the principles of inclusive democracy. "Copts At The Crossroads" examines the relations among the state, the church, Coptic citizenry, and civil and political societies against the backdrop of the increasing diversification of actors, the change of political leadership in the country, and the transformations occurring in the region.

Critique: A masterpiece of seminal and exhaustive scholarly research, "Copts At The Crossroads" is an important contribution to the growing library of information arising from the political evolution of Egyptian society, culture, and national development. Informed and informative, as well as enhanced with extensive notes, an extended bibliography, and a comprehensive index, "Copts At The Crossroads" is very highly recommended for academic library collections.

Pohoi And Comanche Spirit Power
J. L. Chalfant
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
c/o Bohlsen Group (publicity)
9781475973365, $19.95, 324 pp.,

Synopsis: It is the spring of 1860, and a battle for power looms on the horizon. Within the high plains of the Llano Estacado, a fifteen-year-old Comanche woman pesters her powerful aunt with taboo questions about how to gain spirit power. Pohoi knows a time of terrible change is coming. but no one realizes that she is prepared to risk everything to save her people and her family. Then traders murder her Comanche father and kidnap her whit e mother, Phoi transforms into a Comanche ghost warrior and goes after the kidnappers.

Critique: "Pohoi And Comanche Spirit Power" is a unique and superbly crafted historical novel in which author J. L. Chalfant has recreated a long lost world of the American frontier. The attention to accuracy with respect to historical detail hasn't been seen since the novels of the late Louis L'Amour, making Chalfant's "Pohoi And Comanche Spirit Power" an enthusiastically recommended read and an enduringly popular addition to community library American Western Historical Fiction collections. It should be noted that "Pohoi And Comanche Spirit Power" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

Rajeev Rana
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781481798648, $28.99, 280 pp.,

Synopsis: Based upon real life characters, "Carousel" is the fictional story of a spoilt boy from an Indian family residing in the UK. Rajesh has had a privileged and pampered life and is resentful of being in his father's shadow. Desperate to make his mark in the world and by a twist of fate, Rajesh enters the grimy world of London's organized crime scene and becomes embroiled in a complex Tax fraud called Carousel fraud. Seduced by money, power and an array of flamboyant cars and women, Rajesh is quickly losing control of his company, his marriage and his freedom.

Critique: Of special note is that author Rajeev Rana incorporates into his superbly crafted novel a wealth of incidental information about family structures in the social culture of India. A compelling read from beginning to end, "Carousel" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and would make an enduringly popular addition to community library fiction collections. It should be noted that "Carousel" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

Life Of A Double Agent
Kenneth J. Kerr
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
c/o Bohlsen Group (publicity)
9781483601687, $19.99, 384 pp.,

Synopsis: During Jim Hunt's junior year in college, the CIA recruited him to monitor radical activities on campus. After graduation from college, he joined the U.S. Army and was recruited by the Chinese Intelligence Agency, with the knowledge and support of the CIA. After serving in Vietnam, he joined The Dow Chemical Company and later worked for Renewable Power Company, but throughout his business career he continued his work for the CIA and Chinese Ministry of State Security. After retiring from all the organizations, he joined the Peace Corps, and was assigned to Krasnoyarsk, Russia. The CIA pulled him back in for one more mission.

Critique: Author Kenneth J. Kerr's debut literary effort, "Life Of A Double Agent" is an extraordinarily well crafted and complex novel that takes the reader into a fully believable world of international intrigue and global conspiracy. Populated with memorable characters embedded in a detailed adventure of the first order, "Life Of A Double Agent" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections and will leave its readers looking hopefully toward more such novels from Kenneth J. Kerr. It should be noted that "Life Of A Double Agent" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.03).

The Brotherhood
Lawrence R. Deering
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
c/o Smith Publicity
9781481765183, $35.99, 520 pp.,

Synopsis: Aaron Davis joins his father's ministry at seven years of age. He attracts national attention when he heals a woman of cancer. His services draw thousands of worshipers. He creates an organization with his sister Esther, called the Brotherhood of Man, that unites the major religions of the world. He brokers a treaty that ends the conflict in the Middle East and Northern Africa. He fields a powerful army to maintain the peace. Jack Holder, a former Congressman, becomes President. The United States is under intense international pressure to join the Brotherhood of Man's effort to create a new world order. Jack's secret Masonic organization wants Aaron Davis eliminated. Barbara Holder, Jack's religious wife, believes Aaron Davis is the Antichrist. The fate of the world will depend on which side Jack chooses.

Critique: Lawrence R. Deering's debut novel, "The Brotherhood", is remarkably well written and in view of today's political atmosphere on a national level -- very believable. A thoroughly engaging read that captures total attention from first page to last, "The Brotherhood" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections. It should be noted that "The Brotherhood" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99) as well.

On The Road To Damascus
Barry Connolly
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781475997651, $17.95, 286 pp.,

Synopsis: 33 A.D. In the months following the death and resurrection of Jesus, his followers grow in faith and numbers. But in Jerusalem, the high priest of the Great Temple mounts a campaign of terror against them. Called to lead this persecution is a zealous young scholar, Saul of Tarsus. Many of the believers in the Way of Christ flee for their lives, forced to abandon home and family. Some seek sanctuary in the northern territories. Caught in the midst of this turmoil and peril are a young Jewish artisan and the Roman centurion who cares deeply for her. Both will be swept up in a transformative journey of discovery, faith and love.

Critique: A story of high drama set in the aftermath of Christ's death and resurrection and a consequent persecution of the early Jewish Christian community, "On The Road To Damascus" The Story Of Rebekah And Lucius" is the sequel to Barry Connolly's superbly written novel "The Good Thief" (iUniverse, 9781450232876, $17.95 pb, $3.79 Kindle). A skilled storyteller, author Barry Connolly has a positive knack for engaging his reader's total attention from first page to last. An entertaining and rewarding read, "On The Road To Damascus" is highly recommended for community library Historical Fiction collections. It should be noted that "On The Road To Damascus" is also available in a Kindle edition ($1.99).

Pinot Envy
Edward Finstein
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610880893, $21.95, 199 pp.,

Synopsis: Woody Robins is a bon vivant, devil-may-care wine guru who specializes in investigatory work involving rare artifacts of a vinous nature. Amidst the backdrop of world-famous Napa, California wine country, and upbeat, cosmopolitan ''city by the bay'' San Francisco, Woody finds he's bitten off more than he can chew when hired by a wealthy grape grower to retrieve his stolen, rare, priceless, large bottle of red Burgundy that once belonged to the French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. Tested by a colorful cast of characters, deceit, blackmail, intrigue, dealings with the mob, and even murder ensue. With the help of his dozy boyhood chum, girlfriend, aunt, and detective buddy with San Francisco's finest, he eventually manages to unravel the case, but not before he learns a thing or two about himself.

Critique: With "Pinot Envy", author Edward Finstein demonstrates an exceptional talent for producing a finely crafted mystery that captures the reader's complete attention from first page to last. "Pinot Envy" is an extraordinary and deftly crafted novel, making it especially recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections and the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs.

Elusive Promises
Simone Abram & Gisa Weszkatnys, editors
Berghahn Books
20 Jay Street, Suite 512, Brooklyn, NY 11201
9780857459152, $70.00, 187 pp.,

Synopsis: Planning in contemporary democratic states is often understood as a range of activities, from housing to urban design, regional development to economic planning. The contributors to "Elusive Promises: Planning in the Contemporary World" sees planning quite differently - as the negotiation of possibilities that time offers space. "Elusive Promises" explores what kind of promise planning offers, how such a promise is made, and what happens to it through time. The contributors, all leading anthropologists, examine the time and space, creativity and agency, authority and responsibility, and conflicting desires that plans attempt to control. They show how the many people involved with planning deal with the discrepancies between what is promised and what is done. The comparative essays offer insight into the expected and unexpected outcomes of planning (from visionary utopias to bureaucratic dystopia or something in-between), how the future is envisioned at the outset, and what actual work is done and how it affects people's lives.

Critique: A compendium of outstanding and seminal scholarship, "Elusive Promises: Planning in the Contemporary World" is strongly recommended for academic library City Planning and Urban Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

A Bespoke Murder
Edward Marston
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9780750537865, $35.50, 352 pp.,

Synopsis: With thousands of Britons fighting in the trenches, a severely depleted police force remains behind to keep the home front safe. In London, Scotland Yard is overstretched when the sinking of the Lusitania sparks a wave of anti-German riots across the city. The immigrant tailor Jacob Stein, is found dead in his burnt-out shop. Initially Jacob's killing appears to be wartime hysteria - but when it transpires that Jacob had been stabbed amidst the flames, Detective Inspector Harvey Marmion and Sergeant Joe Keedy must take on the case and track down Jacob's killer. Their hunt carries them from wartime London across the Channel to the chaos of the front line.

Critique: A brilliantly crafted mystery, "A Bespoke Murder" is a riveting good read from first page to last. This superb written novel is ideal for mystery fans whether or not they require a large print format. For those new to author Edward Marston's works, they would do well to read his Railway Detective series next. Very highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections, "A Bespoke Murder" is also available in paperback (Allison & Busby, 9780749011444, $16.95), audio book (Soundings, B00CLLV4ZG, $19.36); and Kindle ($10.19) editions.

The Circle of Thirteen
William Petrocelli
Turner Publishing Company
200 - 4th Avenue North, Suite 950
Nashville, TN 37219
9781620454145, $26.95, 336 pp.,

Synopsis: In 2082, a catastrophic explosion rocks the dedication ceremony of the new United Nations in New York City. Security Director Julia Moro is on the job, chasing after the misogynistic leader of Patria, a long-disbanded international terrorist organization now being whispered about again on the streets. This dangerous, shadowy figure has been linked to several bombing attempts and vicious attacks on women, including the Women of Peace - an organization headed by thirteen bold women who have risked their lives to restore worldwide peace. As Julia's investigation unfolds, a deep secret from her past threatens to strip her of everything she cherishes and plunge her into unrecoverable darkness.

Critique: "The Circle of Thirteen" is a strong, deftly written thriller that provides the reader with a roller coaster of a ride of plot twists and turns that holds the reader's rapt attention from beginning to end. Complex, imaginative, superbly crafted, "The Circle of Thirteen" will leave its reader's looking eagerly towards William Petrocelli's next novel. A very highly recommended acquisition choice for community library fiction collections, it should also be noted that "The Circle of Thirteen" is available in a Kindle edition ($2.99) as well.

The Night Has Begun
ZBS Foundation
174 North River Road
Fort Edward, NJ 12828
1931654581, $10.00,

Synopsis: Polly Parker believes someone has put a curse on her fiance, Clifford Barnett. Clifford and his partner, Alan Hendrix, are what's called headhunters, they find executives to run companies. Polly suspects, and so does Dixon, this may be a real headhunters curse. Dixon's friend, Orpheus, knows all about curses. His business card states, "Are You Cursed? See Orpheus, Curses Reversed!" But Orpheus won't touch this one, it's too real. He sends Dixon & Sparks to see Dr. Pew, an anthropologist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Delbert Pew has lived among the Asmat headhunters of Irian Jaya. While he takes them on a tour of the Met's incredible collection of Asmat primitive art, Dixon exclaims, "Oh my god, these things are alive!" Delbert confirms, "The Asmat believe their ancestor's spirits actually live within the works of art." When something bad happens, the Asmat believe it's caused by someone else. And they are very good at "restoring the balance," that is, getting their revenge.

But a headhunter's curse in Manhattan? Not likely. And yet, Hendrix and Barnett have been receiving frightening phone calls in the night. When Dixon & Sparks begin receiving calls on their cell phones, with strange gibberish and chanting, they suspect if this is an Asmat curse, then the primitive headhunters have gone hi-tech.

Critique: Flawless production values combined with a superb multicast performance replete with sound effects and musical enhancements result in a true 'theatre of the mind' experience that wonderfully entertains the listener from beginning to end. "The Night Has Begun" is very highly recommended for personal and community library audio book collections. It should also be noted that "The Night Has Begun" is available as a MP3 download file from the ZBS web site at Also highly recommended for personal and community library audio book collections from the ZBS Foundation is "Excuse Me While I Disappear".

The Broken Circle
David P. Bridges
Resource Publications
c/o Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3
Eugene, OR 97401-2960
9781625641526, $40.00, 362 pp.,

Synopsis: Against the backdrop of the Civil War, Dr./Major James Breathed chooses the Cause of the Confederacy over medicine. But will that decision cost him the love of his life? James is swept away into a tragic American war created by divisions between the northern states and the southern states. He was born in Virginia but now living in the border state of Maryland, and he is forced to choose sides in the war. "The Broken Circle" tragically sets up the paradoxical inner conflict of his relating to saving life as a doctor versus destroying life as a soldier. He re-channels his genius from medical to master warrior of death and destruction. "The Broken Circle" is explosively full of historically accurate battle scenes and all the characters are real historical people. Mollie Macgill, his female equivalent, utilizes her espionage talents as the two fall in love throughout the course of the war. She struggles to maintain her way of life and preserve her family, as the war tears her emotionally apart, she despairs and becomes disheartened. Among many of "The Broken Circle" are the Christian faith of both James and Mollie that are ultimately tested and shaken by the trials and tribulations of the war. In the final post-war chapters they both seek redemption from God for their greater devotion to the Southern Cause. As they seek to repair their shattered souls the novel reveals the tragedies of James' and Mollie's lives and that of their families.

Critique: A complex and deftly woven novel in the form of diary entries, archival documents, and eye-witness accounts, "The Broken Circle" is a saga that deftly grips the reader's attention from beginning to end. Highly recommended and entertaining reading, "The Broken Circle" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal reading lists and community library historical fiction collections.

Living Memories
Jerome Goddard & Rosella Goddard
Livingston Press
University of West Alabama
Station 22, Livingston, AL 35470
9781604891171, $17.95, 260 pp.,

Synopsis: People who experience traumas in their life may unwittingly have urges to act out those same behaviors. Gregory Dex Poindexter is a neuroscientist conducting research on traumatic memories looking for ways to treat or heal them. Under the guise of approved research, Dex discovers that memories can be copied and spread from person-to-person like viruses, implanting secret thoughts into their brains. While trying to manipulate his girlfriend with infectious memories, Dex unknowingly releases a secret power that can destroy far more than one small university biology department. The worst part of it all are words of a child he can t get out of his mind, Momma, the memories are so strong, so real, so alive . . .

Critique: The collaborate work of Jerome and Rosella Goddard, "Living Memories" is a carefully crafted psychological thriller of the first order. Original, engaging, and thoroughly entertaining, "Living Memories" is a strongly recommended selection for both personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Fiction collections. It should be noted that "Living Memories" is also available in both hardcover (9781604891164, $28.00) and Kindle ($9.95) editions.

The Beasts Of Upton Puddle
Simon West-Bulford
Medallion Press, Inc.
100 South River Street, Aurora, IL 60506
9781605425207, $9.99, 496 pp.,

Synopsis: Bringing the mythological world into a modern setting and introducing young adult readers to a variety of strange monsters, this fantasy novel follows 12-year-old Joe Copper on his quest to save humankind. When Joe is hired by the eccentric Mrs. Merrynether as an errand boy at her remarkable veterinary practice - a hidden refuge for a menagerie of creatures that should only exist in dreams and legend - he soon learns that she has a startling plan for his future: he is destined to command an army of beasts to protect humanity from the Conclave - a brutal council of dragons hiding on a distant island. But Joe is plunged into his new role prematurely when the callous tycoon Argoyle Redwar, who has a secret menagerie of his own, tricks Mrs. Merrynether into revealing the location of the island. Overcoming his fears, the school bully, and an escaped creature on the loose in his own village, Joe races to the island to stop Redwar from provoking the dragons to war. He takes the most bizarre team imaginable: Lilly, the surly alcoholic cluricaun; Danariel, the seraph who lives in a lightbulb; Flarp, the giant flying eyeball who can't control his excitement; Kiyoshi, the narcoleptic kappa with an extraordinary vocabulary; Snappel, the fiery wyvern plagued by hiccups; and Cornelius, the poisoned manticore. Together with newfound allies on the island, the champions are forced into an epic battle against fantastic odds, facing not only the Conclave but Redwar as he seeks total control.

Critique: A complexly woven fantasy novel that is pure entertainment from beginning to end, "The Beasts Of Upton Puddle" is ideal for young readers 12 and older. Very highly recommended for personal, school, and community library Fantasy & Science Fiction collections, it should be noted that "The Beasts Of Upton Puddle" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.58). For those to whom this is their first introduction to author Simon West-Bulford, his earlier science fiction novel "The Soul Consortium" (Medallion Press, 9781605423937, $14.95 pb., $4.39 Kindle) will prove worth while reading as well.

Amber Libra
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781477624661, $7.25, 170 pp.,

Synopsis: What is it really like to be a prostitute? How do strippers feel about the men that watch them dance? Ever thought what it would be like to work in a strip club or brothel? This (genital) warts 'n' all novel is the first of its kind. Meet Ashley, Michelle, Zoe, Shelly and Nicola: a prostitute in Berlin, a lap dancer in Crete, a stripper "with a personality", a dancer in Copenhagen who is too scared to talk to the clients and a phone sex worker who hates her job. The sex industry explored, stripped naked and exposed.

Critique: Although a work of fiction, "Superhooker" is an accurate portrayal of life as a sex worker where the women usually lead a double life complete with 'stage names' and job-based personas. "Superhooker" can best be described as a kind of reality-based 'docudrama' giving the reader an insider's perspective of the perils and profits of earning money by selling sexual services and fantasies. Highly recommended, but for mature readers only.

Jack Mason

Richard's Bookshelf

The Calloused Soul: Uncovering the Real woman Behind the Hardened Heart
Evelyn Watkins
Destiny Image Publisher, Inc.
P. O. box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403534, $11.99, 126 Pages

Healing That Leads to Wholeness

Evelyn Watkins knows the reality of pain. Within the first two pages she engages the reader with an analogy using the process of developing a callus. She goes on to ask a series of probing questions which encourage an in depth honest self-examination which leads to the recognition and reality of a calloused heart.

Evelyn, the sixth child in a family of nine, describes the turning point in her life; brought on by verbal abuse, physical pain, and emotional trauma. Her story is told in vivid word pictures that create unimaginable descriptions of physical punishment and the sting of emotional trauma she experienced as a young child, adolescent, and into early adulthood.

Although the book is written expressly for women anyone reading Evelyn's story will resonate with all readers; bringing to mind similar incidents and experiences from their personal experiences or those of friends or family members.

The Calloused Soul: Uncovering the Real woman Behind the Hardened Heart is written with a balance of personal stories of the pain and scars of abusive experiences, disappointing relationships, and unfulfilled dreams. Watkins provides the reader with help to heal theses wounds and scars, using practical steps to be taken and stories of the beauty of grace relationships. These are reinforced with positive examples from the scriptures, and an invitation to embrace the truth of stepping out in faith ready to experience the freedom to love again with an open uncallused heart.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

True Stories of the Miracles of Azusa Street and Beyond
Tommy Welchel and Michelle P. Griffith
Destiny Image Publishers Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403510, $15.99, 176 Pages

Azusa Street an Exciting Inspiration to Revival Today

For many the Azusa Street revival has become a personal spiritual marker, the Genesis of the Charismatic movement as we know it today. Tommy Welchel and Michelle Griffith capture the excitement and enthusiasm of the miraculous mighty works of God during this unique time in the history of the Church; a time often compared to the event recorded in the second chapter of Acts.

The True Stories of the Miracles of Azusa Street and Beyond is made up of testimonies of the supernatural acts of an All-powerful God through a miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit during a three and one half year period from April 1906 until November 1909.

While reading the introduction to the book I became intrigued with the way the Holy Spirit brought together the gift of storytelling of Tommy Welchel with the writing skills of Michelle Griffith for this anointed project to accomplish a far reaching impact of the written record of these stories through the medium of the printed page, in the form of this book.

True Stories of the Miracles of Azusa Street and Beyond is a powerful prophetic testament of spiritual awakening and a supernatural breakthrough worldwide.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Urban Assault: The Word on the Street
JD Morgan
106 San Pablo Towne Center, San Pablo, CA 94806
9780857703, $15.99, 306 pages,

Rebuilding Relevance into the Ministry and Life of the Urban Church

Urban Assault - The Word on the Street introduces a new standard for defending the faith described by JD Morgan as the "Urban Apologetic." In a bold proclamation, Morgan challenges the Church, its leaders, and individual members to recognize the crisis-call to evangelize the inner city.

The book is divided into three parts. Part I presents a strong case for urban evangelism, a brief history of the 'hood, and explains how post Christian and anti-Christian influences have taken root within the "household of faith." Morgan contends that to function as the church was intended it must "refocus, and redirect its ministries both inside and outside its walls as a conduit to salvation and to recommit ourselves as a church and as individuals to the ministry of reconciliation."

Urban Assault - The Word on the Street is written with conviction, is credible in analysis, and provides plausible, workable solutions for making an impact on the opportunities, theological relevance, and civil responsibility. Morgan informs readers of complex root causes that have created the urban ghettos which are resulting in crisis in the inner city across America.

Morgan is a visionary, a leader, and an evangelist who has rallied around him a team of men and women dedicated to join in a movement of those who are willing to leave the safety of the sanctuary to go out into the streets and meet the people at the point of their needs. The testimonies, passions, and solutions of some of these called-out ones are included in Part II - The Calling, and in Part III - The Called.

In the late 90's I operated a Christian bookstore in San Leandro, California. An invisible demarcation line delineated San Leandro as a suburb of urban Oakland. Geographically I was considered suburban. My passion and purpose for ministry was urban. I envisioned extending my ministry by reaching into the urban community with the Gospel message, while providing a service to individuals and the churches in both communities.

At our first meeting JD Morgan and I shared our dreams and visions across a counter in my bookstore. In the years since, I have admired James for his perseverance, for his constancy in the faith in times of adversity, and for his integrity as a minister of the Gospel.

I was humbled when asked to contribute a chapter in this book about my experiences while working behind the scenes for a faith-based organization ministering to men and women behind prison walls. I count it a privilege to have had a small part in bringing this book to fruition.

Urban Assault - The Word on the Street has an important message for every American.

Perfect: What Jesus Teaches Us about Building Intimacy with God
David Rex Gosnell
Cross Books
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462725502, $14.99, 176 pp,

Finding Intimacy with God which Becomes a Living Doxology of Praise

In his book Perfect: What Jesus Teaches Us about Building Intimacy with God David Rex Gosnell encourages thinking that challenge readers to move out of their deeply entrenched bias boxes of opinion into a new and exciting experience; a deeper relationship with God.

Gosnell guides his readers in an investigative study of the Lord's Prayer as found in Matthew 6:9-13 and in Luke chapter 11. He summarizes the content of the prayer, which includes: a salutation, a focus on God, an action on our part, petitions we make to God and a doxology of praise.

Chapter summaries capture vital Biblical teaching that will help young and growing believers grasp important truths regarding God's character, love, and forgiveness. Each chapter also includes probing questions which inspire personal reflection leading to a deeper understanding of God's plan, purpose, and His expectations from us.

Gosnell is a gifted communicator; He is excited about his message, articulates clearly, is credible and delivers his premise convincingly without being preachy or confrontational.

I plan to add Perfect: What Jesus Teaches Us about Building Intimacy with God to my personal library right next to my favorite devotional authors and writers of the well-known prayer classics.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Praying For Your Addicted Loved One 90 In 90
Sharron K. Cosby
BookJolt, LLC
P. O. Box 1619, Auburn, Washington 98071
9781624800719, $14.99, 296 pp,

Restoration Is Promised - A Parallel Journey

Praying for Your Addicted Loved One 90 in 90 offers a message of hope to individuals caught up in an addiction of self-destruction and to the family members and loved sharing in the accompanying suffering, pain, and hurt.

The 90 in 90 parallels the model set by 12 step programs encouraging addicts to attend 90 meetings in 90 days. Readers are encouraged to read these daily devotionals over the same period of 90 days as an evidence of support.

Sharron Cosby shares in an honest transparency shares and insight into struggling with the addiction of a family member and examples of how others facing the same seemingly hopelessness they faced. Each of the daily devotionals include a promise or challenge from the scripture a brief narrative, a daily prayer, and a directed question for further thought or reflection with space provided for recording a personal response.

These messages of hope and encouragement offer helpful guidance in areas of:

The process of relinquishment, restoration, and redemption

Identifying with the anguish of the brokenhearted and those crushed by a spirit of defeat and hopelessness

Finding release and liberation from bondage to a life of wholeness

A step by step road to recovery, a day by day road map for living

A process for redirecting behavior

Suggested guidelines for personalizing the scriptures

Praying for Your Addicted Loved One 90 in 90 provides a roadmap to restoration and with signposts for the journey.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Ezekiel Generation: The Father's Heart for Israel and the Church in the Last Days
Grant Berry
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403602, $16.99, 304 Pages

Fresh Insight on the Roles of Jews and Gentiles in the Body of Yeshua/Jesus

Grant Berry proclaims a message of reconnection of Jew and Gentile in his book The Ezekiel Generation. The book is divided into three distinctive parts: Understanding the mystery between Israel and the Church, understanding the disconnection, and understanding the reconnection. Berry's personal insights and God inspired revelations address the roles of Jews and Christian in God's end-time plan.

In his first book The New Covenant Prophecy Berry unveils God's purpose for Jewish peoples, the nation Israel, and for Jewish Christians. Grant is a Jewish believer in Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah.

In a practical and compelling presentation Berry takes the reader to the written, unchanging teaching of scripture as the basis of his premise and conclusions. In his discussion of the history of the church Grant introduces healing, repentance, and forgiveness in the body of Christ, end-time teaching and prophetic scriptures.

I was moved by the chapter titled "The Father's Heart" filled with an important discussion on prayer, model prayers of confession, renouncement, repentance, for pastors and leaders, and for unity within the church. In the chapter "The Ezekiel Generation" Berry looks at God's plan for showing Himself through the church. The final chapters of the book include important and vital suggestions for lifestyle Jewish evangelism.

The Ezekiel Generation is destined impact the global body of Christ in restoring God's family in these end-times.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Overwhelmed By the Spirit - Empowered to Manifest the Glory of God
Throughout the Earth
James Maloney
Destiny Image Publishers
Inc. P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403572, $15.99, 160 Pages

James Maloney is a gifted communicator, an expressive story teller, and an articulate writer. I was emotionally touched and moved with compassion as I read his vivid descriptions of physical suffering and the plight of the diseased and infirmed in hopeless circumstances. Humanly speaking, doomed to more horrific suffering and death.

Overwhelmed by the Spirit offers hope to the suffering and a challenge to the reader; to take action and join him in unlocking the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit available within and to do His work.

This is strong theological teaching on the Holy Spirit, well documented, from a Charismatic tradition, with practical principles and application that cross over any denominational lines. I appreciated the scholarly presentation at an academic level that will be appreciated by theologians, yet written with clarity easily understandable at a layman's level.

The book details the progression of the Maloney's ministry and takes him to a new understanding of what it means to manifest the sonship of God and to allow Christ full reign in his life. Consistent with his testimony and with Biblical teaching James helps the reader discover their gift and calling, experience supernatural experiences in their lives, to walk in the miraculous, and to lead others to Christ.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Fearless - 90 Days to Eliminating Fear from Your Life
Joe Pileggi
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403305, $16.99, 304 pages

Finding Courage in a World Plagued by Fear

Unresolved fears today are as prevalent as in the days of Moses, David, Job, and throughout Israel's history. God gave Israel a choice, return to Him for salvation and rest or continue to look to Egypt for their security. The prophet Isaiah, inspired by God, wrote this reassuring promise, " quietness and in confidence shall be your strength;" then he added this admonition "and ye would not." God offers us this same promise. The choice is ours.

In the book Fearless Joe Pileggi provides the reader with a 90 day devotional plan designed to eliminate the fears facing us in today's tumultuous world, a world plagued by fear. Joe challenges the reader to let go of the false security of the world system to embrace the promises of God to remove our fears and comfort us in our afflictions.

Whether in the midst of chaos or crisis, fear of failure and ridicule, in times of bondage and slavery to addictions, or in fear of personal failure God offers the reader the promise of hope, through turning to him.

Fearless - 90 Day to Eliminating Fear from Your Life delivers a message based on scripture and from personal experience that unlocks the door to a lifestyle of security, peace, and victory.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

How Do You Say Goodbye
Nan Baker with Original Oil Paintings by Vincent
Nan Baker Books
P. O. Box 603, Union Pier, MI 49129
9781483914886, $25.00, 80 pp,

From Boater's Log to Literary Art Form

In her own inimitable poetic verse Nan Baker captures human nature as found in the naive hope of the eternal optimist as opposed to the cunning shrewdness of the opportunist in her poem "Seven Coats of Varnish on the Teak," A lesson about how not to buy a boat. Nan creates a unique pattern of poetic images that take form in humorous word pictures which describe the inevitable tragedy often found in comedic drama.

She brings into her writing a reality and authenticity of raw emotion and excitement as she reflects on memories of life at sea with Jim. She writes of the silence and solitude of the night in her poem "The Silent Sea." Vincent beautifully captures these feelings with contrasting shades of blue and reflections of light from the moon and star light in his illustration of "the mystical calm of the ocean" and "myriad of stars in sight."

How Do You Say Goodbye is Nan's tribute to all boaters, to Jim, the love of her life and his love for the sea, of their shared experiences of boating through the Louisiana bayous, and of their adventures cruising on the Gulf, on Mobile Bay, the Tennessee River and more.

Baker's writing is sensitive, genuinely engaging, creative, and highly entertaining.
How Do You Say Goodbye is filled with wit, wisdom, and insight . Highly recommended.

Just One More Thing: Before You Leave Home
David and Bernice Gudgel
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781484820582, $ 11.99, 252 pp,

A Unique Perspective on Parental Counseling - Preparing Your Teen for Independence

Just One More Thing: Before You Leave Home is the result of the concerted efforts of David and Bernice Gudgel; originally used as a unique approach they used as they "counseled" their oldest son during his senior year in high school. The concept incorporates 30 chapters divided into 10 important topical themes emphasizing Biblical principles and practical guidelines.

The book is made of up stories, various viewpoints, and topics for interaction in helping the teen understand and develop their worldview, financial independence, prioritizing their time, their career choices, and moral issues. Guidelines for making good choice for maintaining sexual purity, dealing with disappointment, and the importance of developing their spiritual life are also considered.

The format of the book adds to the value of the material. Charts, illustrations and interactive exercises help the reader identify with, understand, and assimilate the importance of each of the principles considered.

David served on the staff of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries for 25 years. He currently is the lead pastor of the Bridges, a California community church, and has authored four books. He and his wife Bernice are the parents of three adult children. They share from their experiences in parenting, Biblical principles, and common sense, to provide the reader with practical advice to teens to help them move from living at home to the reality of life beyond high school.

Highly recommended; I suggest you get two copies, one for the parents and one for your teen.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Life outside the Matrix - A Journey into the Supernatural Faith Lifestyle
Venetia Carpenter
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403596, $ 14.99, 158 pages

Unplugged from the Temporal - Connected to the Supernatural

Life outside the Matrix is Venetia Carpenter's story. In response to Jesus' invitation Venetia quit her job, spent extended time in prayer, recorded the lessons she learned in a journal, rested and trusted in Him (Jesus) for all her finances. This is her account of obedience, trusting, and learning to walk in supernatural realms of faith.

Venetia describes the details of adopting a lifestyle of faith that does not look at our circumstances but is based on the word of Jesus alone; a lifestyle that does not come from a attitude of the heart which causes fear, but looks to previous faith encounters for assurance that Jesus was, still is, and will provide for every need.

Carpenter's journey of faith is engaging drawing the reader into a vicarious experience; is easily understandable, is believable, and is encouraging, filled with scriptural promises accessible to every believer.

Life outside the Matrix - A Journey into the Supernatural Faith Lifestyle buoys the spirits of the reader; inviting them to step out in faith and join her in seeing miracles released, and in experiencing a new norm in supernatural living during these critical times.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Where are the Christians?: The Unrealized Potential of a Divided Religion
Eric Shuster
Plain Sight Publishing
2373 W. 700 S, Springfield, Utah 84663
9781462112067, $21.99, 306 pp,

The Changing Nature, Dynamics, and Impact of Christianity in the Modern World

In his book Where are the Christians? Eric Shuster presents a scholarly survey, giving a panoramic overview and analysis of the history of the Christian Church. At a time when moral principles, cultural ideologies, and individual worldviews are being challenged Shuster calls for intellectual integrity and Christian compassion to examine The Unrealized Potential of a Divided Religion (the subtitle of the book.)Shuster draws heavily from the writings of Paul Johnson's comprehensive and highly revered book The History of Christianity. Although he skillfully models the scholarly presentation of Johnson and is genuinely engaging he lacks Johnson's gentle sensitivity and objectivity.

Other reviewers have thoroughly covered the content and intent of Shuster's work. I will neither try to replicate, nor challenge their evaluations. It is hoped that as you consider each review you will better understand Shuster's intent and passion for the cause of Christianity. Be sure to avail yourself of the companion workbook which provides a framework for additional individual or group study and reflection.

Shuster is to be commended for the thorough research and impeccable documentation of his work. The quality of the content, binding, cover, print, and format of the book insure that Where are the Christians? will have a permanent and prominent place in my reference library.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Adventure of Supernatural Discovery - A Handbook on Receiving Divine Encounters
Michael Kaylor
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403655, $14.99, 160 pages

Normal Christian Living Redefined

The Adventure of Supernatural Discovery - A Handbook on Receiving Divine Encounters is made up of accounts of Kaylor's personal encounters with God, testimonies and inspiring stories describing supernatural transformation, miracles, and illustrating the power available through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Michael Kaylor encourages the reader to move beyond the "norm" to experience a new norm through the same vibrant encounters with the Living Christ as experienced by the disciples in the early church. In the chapter titled simply "Bam" tells of the outpouring of God in Belem, Brazil where Michael and his wife Cherrie were ministering with Randy Clark, founder of Global Awakening. Michael relates an encounter with God that has forever changed his life and ministry.

Key guidelines are quickly identified with "compass icons" used to emphasize guidelines vital to the adventurous journey of discovery, unexplainable joy, life changing divine appointments, prophetic dreams and visions, and other supernatural encounters.

Michael Kaylor writes with simplicity and boldness, with confidence, compassion, and conviction. Michael uses a combination of Biblical teaching, positive affirmations, and supernatural events to illustrate "God's extravagant abundance." Some of these events are almost unimaginable, unbelievable, but definitely supernatural. This is a book for the individual with a hunger for God, willing to pursue and embrace the abundant life that Christ offers. An amazing account of the discovery and adventure of supernatural living.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

How to Work with Angels in Your Life: The Reality of Angelic Ministry Today
Kevin Basconi
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310 Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403589, $16.99, 254 pages

A Compelling Study on the Role of Angels in the Scriptures, in History, and Today

Kevin Basconi carefully considers the work of angels today in How to Work with Angels in Your Life: The Reality of Angelic Ministry Today. This is the second book in the Angels in the Realms of Heaven series. Kevin develops the scriptures that speak of angels in heaven, Jesus and the angels, angels in worship and prayer, healing angels, angel encounters, guardian angles, duties of angels, and much, much more.

The book is filled with stories, testimonies, and illustrations of personal encounters with angels today that provide insight, understanding and affirmation to the open minded reader. Kevin boldly proclaims a message of supernatural activity in the today's world. He invites the reader to examine the scriptures in light of these modern day testimonies of angelic ministry.

Kevin's writing is compelling, biblically based, relevant, and written with clarity. Chapter end notes and biblical references add to the credibility of his writing. The inclusion of dates, names, and locations of the individual experiences add to the authenticity of these testimonies.

How to Work with Angels in Your Life is an important addition to the reference library of pastors, bible students, and anyone seeking answers to the doctrine of Angelology and the supernatural presence of angels today.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake, Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Celtic Curse
Wendy Dingwall
Canterbury House Publishing
7350 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34231
9780982905494, $14.95,

Wendy Dingwall has experienced many facets to her career: travel agency owner, sales and operation manager for a regional publishing house, and currently, owner of Canterbury House Publishing. CELTIC CURSE is the second installment of her Yvonne Suarez travel mystery series, after HERA'S REVENGE, her first effort, which was well received. Dingwall hails from North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, two dogs, and a cat.

Yvonne Suarez, travel agent and sleuth, takes an exciting trip to Scotland, along with a client named Fiona Batson. The trip has a duel purpose: Yvonne wants to check out sites to include in travel packages, and Fiona would like to solve a decades old mystery involving the disappearance of her brother, Duncan:

"'Oh my, he's been missing for ages. Lately...I...I've been dreaming about him.' Fiona watched Yvonne make a note on her pad. 'A voice in my head keeps telling me that I need to return to Edinburgh to find out what happened to him. Not knowing what happened to Duncan is what killed my mum. She died of a broken heart. Eventually after losing his son and wife, and after I'd grown up and moved away, Dad's delayed grief sent him to an early grave. So can't you see? It's up to me to figure out what happened and bring peace to my family.'"

Dingwall takes the reader on an excellent excursion through Scotland while Yvonne and Fiona dig into thirty-year-old history to uncover the secrets Fiona's family wants kept hidden. CELTIC CURSE is a fascinating, well-crafted whodunit with an abundant overview of Scottish history, culture, and just plain old blarney.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

How The Octopus Got Eight Arms
Yvonne Arroyo, author
Carl Wanzong, illustrator
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432793692, $23.95 26 pp,

I knew I was going to love this little gem the minute I saw the adorable cover, and I was right. The book tells a delightful story about Oscar and Sharkey, who were destined to fall in love and have children. So sweet. However this is where the problem begins and where we find out why the Octopus has eight arms. No, I am not going to tell in this review, you'll have to read this little tale to find out. You and your child will love this story, it is illustrated with bold colorful pictures that really bring the characters and locals to life, and it is such a fun read. I recommend this book for young and old. Very well done.

Golf Sayings
Bradford G. Wheler
P.O. Box 403, Cazenovia, NY 13035
9780982253854, $24.95, 114 pp,

I had the total joy of reviewing Mr. Wheler's wonderful book, Cat Sayings, so when asked to do this one I jumped right on it. Was I disappointed? Not at all. Although I am not a golfer, I still giggled at many sayings in this book, and enjoyed the wonderful photography, illustrations, drawings, and other insertions that helped to bring this gem to life. So much talent out there, what a great way to show it. Also we had some comments by very famous people that lite many a candle throughout the book. As I said, I know nothing about Golf, but I did find this book entertaining and I know Golfers will love every page of it. Enjoy!

The Day an Angel Ran Into My Room
Anabelle Valenzuela-Alarcon, author
Sarah Latham, illustrator
Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co.
12620 FM 1960, Suite A4-507, Houston, TX 77065
9781618977946, $30.50, 53pp,

I have to say that this book grabbed my heart right from the start. Our little girl is so sweet and innocent and our Angel, Angelisse, so tender and loving, that you hear yourself sighing and smiling right from the start of this read.

This is a tale of a little girl meeting her Angel that is there to help her understand what she does, and what she thinks, and how she interacts with others has a large imprint on her life and their lives as well. She is also gently taught and reassured of the love and presence of God; I liked that. Told in a gentle storybook way, and wrapped in colorful illustrations that bring each revelation to life, it certainly will not be forgotten quickly, nor the deep meaning it holds.. I feel this is one of those books that every parent should share with their child. It will certainly help them to understand that what they say, what they think, and what they do has an impact throughout their lives. Great read, recommended.

Monsters of New Jersey
Loren Coleman and Bruce G. Hallenbeck
Stackpole Books
5067 Ritter Road, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055
9780811735964, $12.95, 130pp,

I grew up in the wonderful state of New Jersey, so when I was offered this book to read, I jumped at the chance. To be honest with you, growing up I didn't hear too many tales of Monsters, well okay maybe a few whispers here and there, but was I ever in for a surprise as I read this book. Inside the pages of this book you will find stories about the Jersey Devil, Big Red Eye, Wooo-woo, Hoken Monkey-Man (my favorite) and several more. Our author takes us down many a lane, and many a forest as we read of the sighting of these mysterious critters. Interesting, fun, and sometimes quite scary, you are caught up in the 'could it be?', 'no way!', 'who really knows?', syndrome as you shake your head and put the book down. To me, this was a really fun read and next time I visit good old New Jersey, I will be looking behind me. Love it!

Quantum Roots
Kyle Keyes
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781478392675, $14.95, 260pp,

Our author, Kyle Keyes, has worked some magic in his novel, Quantum Roots. I have to say, at first I was slightly confused but keep forging on and was soon caught up in this mixture of a read. It is packed full of interesting characters and facts of happenings, somehow skillfully wrapped in just the right way to bring forth quite an interesting and entertaining read. Different, to be sure, but captivating at the same time. A read that is sure to keep your attention and one I believe you will enjoy.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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