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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 5, Number 10 October 2006 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Dunford's Bookshelf Kaveny's Bookshelf Klausner's Bookshelf
Laurel's Bookshelf Mary's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf
Shirley's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf

Dunford's Bookshelf

Teenage Nervous Breakdown
David Walley
270 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10016
0415978572 $19.95 1-800-634-7064

Written by popular music and culture expert David Walley, who has documented the evolution of rock and roll since the late sixties, Teenage Nervous Breakdown: Music and Politics in the Post-Elvis Age is a close scrutiny of how rock and the rock lifestyle have been commercialized and merchandized, first to a teenage audience, and now to a worldwide consumer society. In particular, Teenage Nervous Breakdown explores how modern culture has been "adolescentized", and what the consequences are. How did the counterculture movement get commercially hijacked, what exactly is the "cool" aesthetic, and why has youth culture been elevated to the mainstream? Teenage Nervous Breakdown offers keenly aware answers to all this questions and more. From the marketing of politicians to the ramifications and cultural views of psychotropic drugs, no issue with a tangible connection to rock-and-roll goes overlooked. A "must-read" for rock-and-roll fans especially, as well as students and even businessmen interested in the dynamics of popular culture.

My Own Places
Don Kerr
University Of Calgary Press
2500 University Drive, NW Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N IN4
1552381706 $24.95

My Own Places: Poems On John Constable by Don Kerr (Professor Emeritus in the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan) is a collection of free-verse poetry from brief lyric poems to extended narratives, all inspired by British landscape painter John Constable (1776-1837). Constable's work had a local quality that reflected his unwillingness to travel far from home. A handful of black-and-white and color images of Constable's artworks illustrate the collection. A soulful reflection of serenity and contentment with one's lot. "Sleight of Landscape": he pruned a tree / and chopped a willow / enlarged a house / cut a gable / he planted trees / dug up a hedge / moved a church / from here to there / and a windmill too / drew down clouds / out of thin air.

Taking On The Local Color
Cynthia Genser
Wesleyan University Press
215 Long Lane, Middletown, CT 06459
0819510858 $14.95 1-800-421-1561

"Taking On The Local Color" is a compendium of poetry by Cynthia Genser who writes her verse with witty, evocative, and carefully selected language offering readers a memorably lyric poetry that is intelligent, imaginative, and beautiful. 'Heartlands': All the tall women are dancing/with their hair in their teeth,/in the mouths./From the lit circumference rivers break,/and break their bans.//These read like a map:/Sweet Georgia and Niger with her pale scar./Marked off, and off limit/to any man's mark/they conquer me, whispering:/this is no Everest,/remember your manners.//And the night waits, sharp,/behind the door./Soon, or later, its eternal invitation./Not yet. Not now/when I am moving in a deep warmth/beneath a face/pearled and fiery--Oahu,/cooling after birth.

Michael Dunford

Kaveny's Bookshelf

Are the terms academic and interesting a contradiction in terms when applied in a complimentary sense to the Jack London's short story "A Piece of Steak"? This story may be found in

Sporting Blood: Selections from Jack London's Greatest Sports Writing
Jack London
Presidio Press (1981)
ISBN: 0891411267 $14.95

Let me elaborate a bit just what I mean to do. I thought I would start this month's Kaveny's Bookshelf as a kind of thought experiment in which I ask the question are the terms academic and interesting used in a complimentary sense a logical contradiction in terms. In doing this I will acknowledge to the world that as an author and critic that is my intent. I am at an age and a stage in my life where I do not have to use my publications as a means of manufacturing tenure, rather though a lifetime of hard work and a decent retirement I have earned the right to discuss what I find interesting. It is my hope that my reader would share that interest.

I thought I would focus this month's Kaveny's Shelf on a single short story by American writer Jack London's (1876-1916) l whose literary works are embodiments of his lust for life and thirst for adventures, and his cries for social justice. Jack London not only wrote his novels and stories he lived them first in the San Francisco Bay area and later around most of the Pacific Rim. Jack London was forced to come manhood very early life in the 1890's. He was a living paradox that the young reader finds fascinating. London was doubly gifted with both a keen mind and a robust physique and great physical strength and coordination, yet concurrently he was plagued with ill health. Some of which originated from the demands he placed on his body by the life he lead.

London worked as a mill hand, newsboy, coal shoveler, sailing sloop owner, "an oyster pirate" an able-bodied sailor, seal hunter, Alaskan gold rush a prospector, war correspondent rancher, and sports writer before he was thirty years old. The authenticity of his experiences is reflected in the honesty of his works. This makes them particularly attractive to the young readers who find that they can relate to his stories that feature action and outdoors themes on the frontiers of human experience. Though London is best remembered as an action writer his accessible style also evidences a profound moral dimension. As one reads his stories most written nearly a hundred years they seem to spring to life on the page since London easily involves the young reader and holds their attentions because he engages their sense by showing rather than telling the story.

Plato the Poetics & Jack London's short story "A Piece of Steak"

In order to test some of the Platonic and Aristotelian formulations on the philosophy art that we covered in the first two weeks of the course I thought that I would write a bit about the Jack London (1876-1916) 1909 short story a "Piece of Steak."

The story set in Pre-World War I Australia is about Tom King the forty-year old former heavyweight boxing champion of New South Wales who along with his wife two children have been reduced to the direst form of poverty by social and economic forces beyond their control in an age when there were no safety nets. All of the family's credit with the butcher has been exhausted when the Tom King the boxer gets one last chance to win thirty quid as long end of purse in a preliminary bout to a main event. But the boxer, Tom king, had not eaten dried bread and gravy the day of the fight, and his wife and two little Uns had not eaten at all. Further, Tom knows that though he has not lost all of his skill and guile as a boxer, and has paid dearly with his youth for his ring knowledge. He will need a piece of steak which is not to be had to carry him through the later rounds, with the upstart contender who is half his age. But nobody will give him or his family credit to buy that piece of steak.

Jack London a socialist who lived the narratives he wrote about creates a series fight scenes which are at least the literary equal, and perhaps visual equal, of 1976 academy award winning best picture" Rocky I". However, this stories, "A Piece of Steak "is not a fairy tale like "Rocky". It is over a purse of thirty quid. Tom King fails when he does not have it to put the kid away in the last round, loses out of exhaustion... The story ends with Tom King crying bitter tears with broken hands which will not allow him to work in the ship yard for weeks, and him and his family face eviction and starvation.

It is interesting to conjecture that Plato would have been familiar with boxing as an Olympic sport, and having served as a Hoplite grunt in the Peloponnesian Wars, would have seen the brutal side of life.

But, I think would have read this story with utter disgust on a theoretical and moral level. Yet he might have grudgingly granted that since London was a boxer himself he might have known something about what he wrote, however, this is a trivial point because London's story would still be an inferior copy thrice removed from the universal ideal of Olympian Athletic perfection However, the thing he would have found the most despicable was that this was a story about a third rater who could not support his family with slopping forehead, and dragging knuckles. Tom king was forced to hunt a forage for his family like a crippled lion who when he failed committed the cardinal sin of bitter and public tears for his failure to provided for his family. The story this teaches us to be weak and fall into tears at our failures, not as great and fallen men but as third raters, not even well enough for the main event. This would be true no matter what level of beauty and power London might be able achieve with his self evident literary skill which is apparent in the attached story. London worse sin is that he has used is craft to portray a poor subject and bad morals.

And yet I think in those it tears which Plato would find despicable that we can find a kind of Aristotelian validation of this story which hangs only partially on Jacks London's necessary but not sufficient craft as one of the 19th and early Twentieth Century story Tellers. What I mean by this simply that it takes the great craft of Jack London to make this story come alive, but that is not enough to make it a great story. Just as everything Tom King learned and paid with all he had was not enough to win the match because of what he lacked, "a piece of steak". What makes it a great story is it conformity or at least resonance with at least those aspects of "The Poetics" which deal with tragedy.

However, upon re-reading Chapter three in Wartenberg I realized that there was a major problem I must deal with. "A Piece of Steak" exists in narrative form without a word of dialogue. This is a form that Aristotle specifically excludes from "The Poetics "which is really about poetry. I am not satisfied Wattenberg's assertion that we should take Aristotle's views on poetry as applicable to all literary forms. So let me suggest another way of approaching this question which involves a slight historicizing of the matter, since for almost all American writers found the popular short story market as way of earning a living collapsed in the late 1950's. Thus these same short stories writers were to face the grim fate of teaching creative writings courses in the short story with no viable economic market, or in the case of Kurt Vonnegut opening and failing at a Volvo Dealership in up State New York.

However when the short story existed as a viable and respectable for of public entertainment (roughly from about 1890 to 1960) Vonnegut claims that it was to the writer's most critical function to create a theater in the mind of the reader through the narrative structure of the story would play out. This where the reader though the process of imagination could see how the action of the story take place. So for our purpose in this story London's Narrative becomes transparent only to remerge serving the function of the cultural space of the Greek Amphitheater where the action plays out in the readers mind. This were "A Piece Steak achieves its dramatic potential

The power and artistic unity lies in the inevitable conclusion of the story which London has craftily miss direct us from with all of the visual poetic force and skill of his narrative. This is not a story about boxing this is a story about a simple mans horrible realization that the tears he cries are the same ones his first opponent a man like himself now cried when Tom won his first match. Tom's opponent is no longer other but himself.

I have one last question to answer about Tom King "a third rater who could not support his family with slopping forehead, and dragging knuckles". What does that have to do with us the literary and academic reader? The answer to me is this he is us. At least any of us who have family we really love and care about. Be it wife children or aged parent. True Tom has been trapped by earlier choices he made, which must by necessity lead to the conclusion of the story. For example think of the humanities scholar was worked for twenty years since he was a first year undergraduate, a doctorate in a very competitive field, only to be denied tenure in favor of a younger and more completive and flashy scholar who had a free ride his whole career. But even them that same scholar would be physically intact enough to pursue a career in house keeping, food service or cab driving. But it also must be noted that we are living in a country which my in not so many years look more like early 20th Century Australia than the America I grew up during the 1950's and 1960's.when I first read this story as a young man and heavyweight college wrestler, and I first read Plato's Republic.

Phil Kaveny
Senior Reviewer

Klausner's Bookshelf

Wild Things
Douglas Clegg
Cemetery Dance
132-B Industry Lane, Unit #7, Forest Hill, MD 21050
1587671565 $20.00

"The Wolf". A wolf comes down the mountains to eat the sheep. Hunting parties can't find it so a rancher hires a professional hunter to kill the wolf. The hunter is accompanied by a young man who feels he owes the rancher. The hunter describes the differences between wolves and sheep. This is an allegorical tale that can be applied to different kinds of humans.

"A Madness of Starlings". A man takes an abandoned baby starling bird into his home and his family nurtures it until it is ready to fly solo. The boys don't want to let it go but the man insists yet when he does he misses the fledgling. He becomes obsessed with birds to the point it interferes with his human relations to the point he dives deeper into the world of birds and lets go of his normal life. This is an exciting tale of one man's decent into madness.

"The American". At ae cafe in Rome, a man tells the people at his table that he tried to commit suicide because his lover didn't love him. He told his audience the man did terrible things to him and now he wants the American to kill someone. The people at the table advise him to leave the man who forces him to do these horrific things. They departand the American stays in the shadows following two of them. This story is scary not in a supernatural kind of way but in a horror of the human kind setting.

"The Dark Game". A nineteen year old American is taken prisoner of war by the enemy and is tortured. He escapes by playing the Dark Game his mother taught him that allowed him to travel in his mind to places where he feels no pain. After a time, the brainwashing starts but he uses the Dark Game to avoid being turned. His captors think he is on their side until he shows them differently. This dark and gothic tale is chilling.

These four short stories demonstrate why Douglas Clegg is such a brilliant storyteller of horror tales both supernatural and of the atrocities humans carry out.

Douglas Clegg
Cemetery Dance
132-B Industry Lane, Unit #7, Forest Hill, MD 21050
1587670895 $20.00

She was born Iris Catherine Villiers, the youngest of four siblings. Her oldest brother Lewis was six years older than her while the twins Spencer and Harvard were three when she was born. Their mom was an artist from Chicago while their dad was a Brit living in Manhattan. They initially lived on Fischer Island in Long Island Sound, but when their father was assigned to Burma, the family except for Lewis moved to his ancestral home Belerion Hall in Cornwall to be with the dying "Gray Minister", their paternal grandfather, who considered them sinners. Still in spite of the dark mutterings of her crazed grandfather, life is good for preadolescent Iris and the twins as they play together the Tragic Tale of Isis and Osiris.

As the years pass by, Iris continues to dabble as Isis though her governess Edyth believes this is sinful pagan byplay. When Iris discovers her governess is sleeping with her brother Spence, the two women argue. Edyth slaps Iris, almost knocking her out the window. Her brother Harvey comes to her rescue but Iris can't hold on to his hands and they both fall out the window. Harvey dies but using the spell she has learned over the years, she brings him back from the dead, not realizing that what she has done will come back to haunt her.

ISIS is a terrific horror novel that grips readers who know what the outcome is, but wonders how a kindhearted precocious little girl transforms into the Oracle at Harrow. The story line is a dark coming of age thriller as Iris begins to become Isis. Fans who appreciate a character driven horror novelette will enjoy this fast reading one sitting transformation tale.

The Other End
John Shirley
Cemetery Dance
132-B Industry Lane, Unit #7, Forest Hill, MD 21050
1587671506 $40.00

Although the world does not know it, Judgment Day is fast approaching but it is nothing like the scenario that evangelical Christians believe. It begins with cones moving counter clockwise in different parts of the world, sending out light that shines on certain people, allowing them to see themselves for what they really are. Some change and release the darkness in themselves but others are so steeped in evil that they don't want to change.

Energy beings inhabit the bodies of people that have passed on and inform certain people that the world as they know it will change and they must make a change or what follow will mean nothing for them as their lives will go on as before. A sheet of light sweeps the globe, killing many, those that are evil beyond redemption. People learn that the Creator is really an Undergod, a being left on earth to serve as a referee only he became a megalomaniac and encouraged the evil and depravity that now exists. Now he is gone and the people will have to choose whether to side with the adjustors as they call themselves or give life on earth another chance.

THE OTHER END is John Shirley's answer to the left behind scenario. His theory is that when Judgment Day comes, people of all creeds and religions will have a choice for true justice if they choose the right path. Although there are many characters given their second chances, they serve as archetypes and avatars that move the story along. Mr. Shirley has a wonderful imagination and a way of creatively (pun intended) putting his ideas into a fascinating and unorthodox storyline that readers will thoroughly enjoy reading

The Harsh Cry of the Heron
Lian Hearn
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
1594489238 $26.95 1-800-847-5515

Over fourteen years have passed since Otori Takeo defeated his enemies and united the Three Countries. Prosperity and harmony are everywhere, but underneath the surface calm, Takeo's foes rage as they treacherously plan to avenge their previous defeat. Kikuta Akio and his assassin, followers of the Tribe, want a return to their notorious past that Takeo stopped; his brother-in-law Lord Zenko wants to usurp power; the Emperor wants to end Takeo's independence by dispatching deadly warlord Saga to do whatever it takes; and finally the seer prophesizes that his unrecognized illegitimate son will one day kill him.

Akio raises Takeo's teenage son Hisao by training the lad to hate his father. Takeo has never told his beloved wife Kaede that he has one more offspring from a previous relationship; instead they raise their daughters in love with Shigeko being his acknowledged heir. To reconcile with the emperor, keep his family safe, and to insure Shigeko inherits his legacy and rule, he offers to Saga his daughter in marriage as he knows the forces of military, assassins, and magical destiny will soon converge on him.

The forth Otori tale is a terrific historical Feudal Japan thriller with some fantasy elements. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action. However, it is the cast that makes the tale and the full saga is one of the best of the decade as the audience obtains a taste of political maneuvering to survive. Readers will want to read the quartet, but also know that THE HARSH CRY OF THE HERON can stand alone, a tribute to Lian Hearn's talent.

Wild Harmonies
Helene Grimaud
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
1594489270 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

WILD HARMONIES is an insightful delightful "Un" autobiography that breaks the rules of chronological order most books in that genre follow. Instead, the renowned French pianist is all over the place yet contains enough discipline so that the reader can follow her story. Most interesting is the combining of a love for music with a love for wolves. The music started as an unmanageable and unpredictable child in France while the love of wolves began as an adult in Florida when she met her neighbor's she-wolf. As she did with the piano Helene Grimaud became an obsessed fanatic who has opened up a wolverine conservatory in Upstate New York.

Readers will appreciate the sidebar reflections as Ms. Grimaud relates her life with music freeing her from a dull un-life though she has always refused to perform anyway but her style. The isobar lateral entries on the history of wolves in Europe and America add to the feel of a deep zealous uncompromising autobiography that is not for everyone from an author who would say so what as long as Ms. Grimaud believes she has remained true to her essence. Not an easy memoir to read, but well written and worth the time to comprehend the odd passionate combination of a "Life of Music and Wolves".

Amber Benson & Christopher Golden
Del Rey
c/o Ballantine Books
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345471318 $23.95 1-800-726-0600

When their grandfather dies, Tamara and William Swift become the new protectors of Albion, sworn to protect Britain from her mystical enemies. Although they are new to their positions and must learn how to use their powers, Tamara and William, the "mystic defenders of the soul of England", have the help of the ghosts of Lord Byron, Queen Bodicea and Lord Admiral Nelson.

William is determined to oust the demon Oblis from his father but he shuts out his fiancee Sophia Winchell who has nobody to turn except William's father when she thinks he has temporarily defeated the demon within. Tamara is at Camelford where it is said King Arthur and Mordred fought their fatal battle. Virgin girls from the town and fairies from Stronghold, the border manor between the mortal world and faerie and unseen by human eyes are disappearing and whispers of witches, half humans and half demons are said to be taking them. Tamara knows that they are still alive and will be used in an evil spell to bring forth a malevolence into Albion that she and her allies must prevent at any cost.

This magical and enchanting Victorian Gothic thriller shows the champions of light battling the minions of darkness in a horror tale that pulls the audience into the storyline and keeps them there because there is no break in the action. Surprisingly, in spite of the non stop adventures the characters are fully developed including the ghosts. The amusing Serena, the less than one foot sprite who is always ready to fight, is used as comic relief to lessen tension levels when they threaten to become too overwhelming, seems in a small way genuine.

The Tea-Olive Bird Watching Society
Augusta Trobaugh
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0452287499 $14.00 1-800-847-5515

In Tea-Olive, Georgia, the four friends (Beulah, Zion, Wildwood and Sweet) attend church together and enjoy bird watching and their late buddy Love-Divine bequests to the Tea-Olive Bird Watching Society a patch of land, the King's Woods Birds Sanctuary. If the club breaks up the town obtains the parcel to do what they want with it.

Retired New York Judge Hyson Breed moves to the town where he courts Sweet; they marry and he gains control of her family estate, which he plans to develop. Hyson isolates Sweet from her bird watching pals and becomes a favorite of the town merchants and leaders. Beulah and Zion worry about their friend who never sees anyone and when they visit her they see the bruises of abuse. Learning more about Hyson's plan to exploit their town like he has their friend, the ladies decide only his death can stop the evil he has brought with him.

Though the cast is stereotyped with the ladies being sweet, caring and pious and the villain malevolent sinister and devious, readers will laugh at the antics of steel magnolia vigilante justice as the tea-toting, bible-quoting ladies fumble and bumble in their endeavor to protect their cohort and town. The breezy story line is fast-paced as the classic good rural vs. evil urban premise makes for a fine polite (sort of like a southern contemporary Arsenic and Old Lace) regional character driven tale.

Lisey's Story
Stephen King
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th floor, New York, NY 10020
0743289412 $28.00 1-800-223-2336

Two years have passed since Lisey Landon's husband Scott died. While she mourned her loss and found an emptiness and loneliness with his demise, the outside world never gave her a moment of peace. Everyone from college professors to paparazzi to collectors pulled stunts to get the grieving widow to acquiesce to their demands to allow them to catalogue his papers and publish his final manuscripts. Scott was a rarity, as an extremely popular author with strong critical acclaim. The last intruder threatened to harm her if she failed to give him access.

Sick of everyone, Lisey decides peace will only come if she chooses to donate her beloved late spouse's papers to a reputable archival library. She begins to organize his work while someone increases the threats to physically hurt her. Though frightened Lisey hears Scott's voice advising her to go to the dark place where he and his dead brother used to escape to hide from their psychopathic father and where he as an adult found his muse. She trusts his love for her and ventures to this dark place where beauty and horror reside side by side as Scott's demons dominate, but here in Boo'ya Moon, her demons surface to destroy her if she lets them.

This is a haunting love story that is part psychological horror and part parable as Stephen King is at his best with the dangers of traveling through the darkness of the mind to reach a personal enlightenment. Readers see first hand what disturbed Scott and how he dealt with his nightmares as well as Lisey's fears and strengths. While there is real potential harm from those making demands of Lisey, the most dangerous and ironically loveliest place in the world is the imagination. Mr. King is the king with this terrific touching tale.

This Is Chick-Lit
Edited by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
1933771011 $14.95

There are few sub-genres, if any, more suited to the short story format than chick-lit as this superb anthology proves. Each of the eighteen entries are fun with no duds as female protagonists struggle with everyday relationships while providing "wisdom" in asides to the audience. All the tales are new having been written in 2005 and as far as this reviewer knows never published before. How can fans not enjoy tales like "Secret Agent Chick" starring a woman who enjoys girl fights or the satirical "How To Be a Millionaire". Fans of the sub-genre will appreciate this entertaining anthology that is unabashedly pleasant reading as each entry showcases the sub-genre at its strongest. To be honest, I believe this is the format (more so than the novel) where chick-lit is at its best; where one finds humor, jabs, irony and satire like a woman dreaming of becoming a pumpkin wife in a "Shell Game". Ladies – you have done a great job with THIS IS CHICK-LIT anthology that requires no further defense of the maligned sub-genre because of the contributions.

Goodnight, Texas
William J. Cobb
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195, Lakewood, CO 80214
1932961267 $24.95 1-888-732-3822

The Texas gulf town of Goodnight by the Sea, Texas is dying as the once profitable shrimping industry has tottered towards extinction due to the unfair global market and the destruction of the natural habitat by warmer temperatures. Former shrimper Gabriel Perez teaches driver's-ed and
is now girlfriendless as Una Vu, a waitress, dumped him apparently for a fry cook Falk Powell.

Russian restaurateur Gusef learns that an alleged extinct zebra fish has landed on the nearby beach with a dead horse inside its stomach. He wants to use the fish as bait to bring in some new customers. He sends his fry cook Falk to at least photograph the gigantic corpse while he works on ways to make money off the caucus before the hurricane that is coming blows it back out to sea at a time when Gabriel plans to harm his teenage rival.

Readers will appreciate this look at a dying small Texas town with no future as events well beyond their control have destroyed their livelihood, aspirations, and future. The characters are a solid cast who make for a fine ensemble look at no tomorrow (except for the hustling Gusef) at least here with the hurricane symbolizing the end. Fans of strong character studies will want to visit GOODNIGHT, TEXAS where denial battles reality as hope is abandoned there.

The Proof
Austin Boyd
PO Box 35001, Colorado Springs, CO 80935
1576839451 $14.99 1-800-366-7788

Captain John Wells, Captain Sean O'Brien and Dr. Micelle Caskey head to Mars to see what if anything they can learn from the spider like aliens that were seen on the planet. As they depart, the creatures appear at the landing site and proclaim to be the Father Race. Father Malcolm Raines has gained worldwide recognition by claiming to be in communication with the aliens and every prediction he makes comes true.

When the astronauts land on Mars, one of the aliens gives them a globe while the earthlings provide her with a snow globe. In reality, the gift contains a recording device that tracks signals from the alien. They also gain a sample of the material the spiders are made of, which prove astonishing. Six aliens are attached to an underwater sub commanded by a terrorist who attacked Washington DC. On the long voyage home John has only his memory to sustain him in the time of his greatest hardship and to puzlle out the link between aliens, a preacher and a terrorist.

The scenes on Mars are vivid and exciting as the astronauts deal with one revelation after another. However, THE PROOF is more than a Martian adventure as it is also a conspiracy thriller only readers do not know what the conspiracy is, nor its motive or who is behind it. THE PROOF is a terrific alien encounter thriller, but will be enhanced by reading the first tale of the Martian Hill Classified files, THE EVIDENCE while waiting for THE RETURN to be released.

The Draft
Wil Mara
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312359292 $23.95 1-888-330-8477

Baltimore Ravens General Manager Jon Sabino has been toasted as the latest genius as his team has won the last two Superbowls. He plans to make history with a trifecta and many professional football pundits make the Ravens the favorite the three-peat.

During the off season, the star quarterback Michael Bell is injured in an accident that leaves him out for the season and the team without a strong player at the key position as neither the back up nor free agency provides the leadership needed to go all the way. Jon knows the best chance lies with the upcoming college draft by taking a chance on a rookie adapting to the NFL right away, which he believes Wolverine Quarterback Christian McKinley can; as he has the talent and played well in the major bowls and Big Ten games. However, without him the Ravens go nowhere. To get him means working a deal with San Diego who has the first draft pick and is willing to sell the rights to the highest bidder of the McKinley Sweepstakes. Sabino plans that to be him at all costs.

Though the intrigue elements (industrial espionage and a quarterback thinking of passing on the pros) seems more like a forced throw into coverage, NFL fans will enjoy the look behind the scenes of a successful professional football franchise. When the plot focuses on Sabino's efforts to insure an opportunity for the historical third ring, the tale is fast-paced and fascinating; when the story line focuses on other characters like a rival General Manager, it becomes time to punt. Still since much of the tale centers on Sabino trying to keep from being sacked, football fans will enjoy THE DRAFT especially with its parallels to Brady (Michigan QB) and Roethlisberger (bike accident).

The Shadow of the Lords
Simon Levack
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
031234841X $23.95 1-888-330-8477

In 1517 in Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire, citizens are afraid as rumors abound of a sighting of a person running through the streets; the fear comes from his visage which is that of a snake and his sparkling green plumage that coats his body. Could the Feathered Serpent of God, Quetzalcoatl, be haunting the streets as a foretelling of impending doom? Or could Tezcatlipoca, the most feared God, have come as a final day reckoning?

Yaotl is a slave to the second most powerful person in the empire, Chief Minister, Chief Priest and Chief Justice Lord Feathered in Black. He is known for his merciless use of living examples; those who provide the slightest affront or disobey him are publicly dealt with so others learn. He ignores the apprehensive prattle of the end of days because Yaotl has a more personal problem; his cruel owner seeks the killer of the odious merchant Ocotl; the suspect is Yaotl's son, who has vanished. Yaotl knows that once Lord Feathered in Black makes the connection he is dead plus he is worried about his child so he investigates who dismembered the victim, seeks his offspring, avoids the apparent appearance of the God, and dodges the lethal belligerent warriors of his master while uncovering avarice amidst the feather artisans.

Though obviously a historical mystery, THE SHADOW OF THE LORDS is much more as the audience obtains a deep insightful look at the Aztec Empire in the early sixteenth century. Yaotl is a terrific amateur sleuth who seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but has no choice as he follows the clues wherever they lead. Readers will appreciate this astonishingly well written exhilarating tale that is sure to obtain award nominations and make Simon Levack a sub-genre favorite (see DEMON OF THE AIR).

Liam Jackson
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
031235570X $23.95 1-888-330-8477

The Runner, as Lucifer prefers to be called, knows that he won't be the one to cause Heaven's Gate to fall; instead the Usurper, one of the Seraphim, has turned against the Creator with over one third of the angels joining his cause. Lucifer turned his eye towards earth and has corrupted the Eye of God, the vortex in the multiverse where all planes connect. This enables travel from one locale to another. Lucifer makes a temporary alliance with the demons from the plane of Sitra Akhra to further corrupt humanity.

The Greater Demons want the Offspring, the descendents of angel and human mating, destroyed so Lucifer sends his Fallen to perform the task. He also wants them to un-make the Earthbound Host. Of particular interest to the Demon and by default Lucifer is teenager Sam Conner, an Offspring, who like his peers is heading to Abbottsville, Tennessee. Along the way he has divine assistance and joins with other Offspring, who answer the Call of the Eye of God, which must be closed before more and greater demons enter earth to destroy it.

The fearful protagonist is prepared to fight his enemies and if need be die at the gateway to earth to accomplish his mission. Acting as he does, he displays courage though he is very afraid and does not want to die. The adrenaline pumping story line is reminiscent of Frank Perretti's books in which spiritual warfare on earth is common. Liam Jackson opens his six saga thriller with an awesome tale as the OFFSPRING try to give humanity a choice between the light and the dark.

Against a Crimson Sky
James Conroyd Martin
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312326823 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

While fleeing the Russian assault on Warsaw, the arrogant Countess Zofia falls off a suburban bridge into the River Vistula only to be rescued by a teenage peasant and his grandfather. When she recovers, she returns to the capital to stay at the home of her suitor Count Pawel, whose previous offer of marriage she has rejected as Zofia plans to wed Napoleon. However, she is carrying a child so Zofia must modify her plans for now as the Little Emperor remains her ultimate objective.

At the same time, Zofia's cousin Anna has married her true love Lord Jan Stelnicki, who tries to be a father to her son Jan Michal, an offspring of a rape (see PUSH NOT THE RIVER). Anna soon gives birth to their son, Tadeusz at time when supoerpowers Austria, Prussia and Russia divide the nation and force the Polish King Stanislaw into exile who seeks help from Napoleon. As Zofia, who has given birth to a daughter, manipulates her way up the aristocratic elite ladder, Pawel plots to place Tadeusz on the throne, and Jan joins the resistance while his wife worries and rusticates raising their two sons alone even as the years move on

AGAINST A CRIMSON SKY continues the saga of Anna Berezowska and her family as Poland is caught in a deadly vise from its more powerful neighbors. The story line provides a feel for the history, but is more a historical romance spanning over two decades of two people (Jan and Anna) trying to do what they feel is right for their country yet also keep their loved ones safe. In many devious ways Zofia is the star of the tale as a Lady Macbeth plotting at the cost of others (collateral damage) to achieve her goal. Fans of Polish historical tales and Regency era romances but in central Europe will enjoy James Conroyd Martin's fine sequel.

Almost a Crime
Penny Vincenzi
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
158567852X $27.95 1-800-743-1312

Everyone envies the "power marriage" between charity lawyer Octavia and public relations specialist Tom Fleming except for her father Felix Miller who detests his son-in-law though he loves his three grandchildren, the twins and the infant Minty. A widower, Felix has a girl friend, but his life is his daughter.

Octavia's best friend Louise Trelawny informs her that her beloved mother Anna is dying from cancer. Her spouse Sandy and their young child Dickon are worried about Louise who is very upset. Octavia is upset too as Anna is like a mother to her.

Octavia finds a lacy hanky that does not belong to her and becomes suspicious. She checks up on Tom, who is on a business trip and learns he is staying at a hotel with his "wife". She informs him she wants a divorce. He meekly agrees as his life professionally collapses too. Tom knows he loves his wife and screwed up, but he doesn't know what to do as Felix is coming for him and Octavia has apparently found someone else. He hides the worst of his indiscretion from her (who he did it with) because the consequences of his actions would make the betrayal hurt her so much more

Though the tale takes a bit to get started as Penny Vincenzi introduces her ensemble cast, readers will enjoy this complex contemporary (the above only follows one subplot of several) )with strong characterizations. Fans will believe in the relationships that form or break up as these move the multifaceted story line forward. With a cast of many, all containing differing personalities, Ms. Vincenzi provides a deep modern day English relationships drama that is totally enthralling.

The Magic Toybox
Edited by Denise Little
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0756403790 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

Taking the premise from the movie Batteries Not Included, THE MAGIC TOYBOX contains fourteen new tales based on toys coming to life. Each contribution is lighthearted fun as if the contributors had a good time deciding who the lead character is and what setting and or cause to bring that protagonist to life. Especially enjoyable to readers will be to decide whether they recognize the star like Mr. Magoo (though as Ms. Little implies in her introduction that might mean a few tree rings for some of us) or a take from a popular movie like a wooden Roman gladiator, or a Chucky clone taking possession of a doll, etc. The stories are well written and for the most part kept extremely light even with the touches of horror so that the worst catastrophe that could occur to a young adult is not the end of the world in a whimper or a bang, but returning to live with their parents. Fantasy readers will enjoy the fabulous adventures of these come alive playthings.

The Forest King: Woodlark's Shadow
Dan Mishkin and Tome Mandrake
0974280356 $12.95

John and Beth Woodlark accompanied by their preadolescent son Justin relocate from the big city to the small woodland village founded by an ancestor on the edge of the forest. Their new house in fact abuts the woods. Justin makes friends with kids his age especially athletic Alice Crane and sprouting up Rob Prichard.

However, though he plays Hide and Seek, and Old Man of the Forest, the nearby woods scare him as he has heard shrieks and other noises and seen things that should not be. He believes that something evil, perhaps the Old Man of legend, lives in the forest and is growing. Justin fears the shadow that seems to be coalescing into to something else, but also wonders what to do as he knows no one will believe his ridiculous story including him, but if he does nothing his parents, his friends, the town and he will be engulfed by an ancient malevolence growing stronger by the nanosecond.

This is a terrific young adult horror thriller starring a likable lead character struggling with what to do as he thinks he's just a kid and should not have to deal with the weight of the world (or at least his town) on his shoulders. The story line is action-packed and enhanced by terrific illustrations that add to the feel of foreboding and doom. Readers will enjoy Justin's adventures as the frightened lad battles an ancient evil to determine who the true Forest King is.

Heir to Fire
Rob Worley and Mike Dubish
0974280372 $12.95

In Gila Flats, fourteen year old shy teen Ryan Morales with his friend Donut finds a spider that has never before been discovered before. Both boys go to Corrine's pool party where somehow Ryan make the water turn hot. His faints and when he comes to he is told by his parents that he always had an affinity for fire and heat. They also tell him he was adopted as his father found him in the desert with an amulet near him and a protective circle drawn around him.

When Ryan goes to see his friend Donut, he acts strange and sees the new spider around his neck just like the ones that are attached to the necks of the townsfolk except for Corrine. They go to the Oobakka house where they find the humanoid spider king who has come to earth to kill the fire prince of the world of Akasalon. The spider king and his minions conquered Ryan's former world and they want to do away with the last heir to the throne; Ryan doesn't know how to stop them but Corrine feels he will find a way.

Targeted for middle school pre-teens, HEIR TO FIRE is an exciting horror story in which young readers will identify with the reluctant hero, a reticent teen who tries to do his best to defeat evil. The characters are realistic and the audience will find themselves rooting for the hero to defeat the monsters. The illustrations are well drawn enhancing the fascinating storyline.

What I Did On My Interstellar Summer Vacation
Adam Beecham and Dan Hipp
0974280364 $12.95

Teddy Harper is not looking forward to summer vacation because his parents enrolled him in Summer Science. Prince Al'ak of the planet Manoosh is not allowed to leave the royal compound and see the world outside. He uses the Manoosh crystal and is transported to Teddy's room. When Teddy arrives: the two lads talk and agree to change places.

Prince Al'ak shows Teddy how to use a holo-imager that makes him look like the prince. Teddy then uses the Manoosh crystal to go to Al'ak's world. He hears the king's bodyguard and advisor talk about the coup they are planning. Teddy, with the help of Al'ak's friend Ker'plok, leaves the compound and asks Ker-plok's father, the leader of the citizen's army to fight the traitors in the royal guard to preserve the monarchy. He agrees to do so if Teddy can cause a diversion, dismantle the null field and find a way to delay the royal advisor from giving the word to start the coup.

This science fiction Prince and the Pauper space adventure will appeal to young readers who like stories with lots of action, descriptions of another world and a hero who just wants to have fun but instead he finds himself trying to save an alien world's government. The black and white illustrations add a nice touch to a fast paced sci-fi adventure tale.

Cat Scratch Fever
Sophie Mouette
Black Lace
0352340215 $7.99

In Southern California, the Zoological Association is investigating the consequential impact of an apparent financial crisis at the Southern California Cat Sanctuary. Gabe Sullivan of ZA is to judge whether the myriad of various felines are being neglected by the fiscal shortfall and if they should finance it or shut it down. Their inquiry has caused a media feeding frenzy worse than a leopard in heat. Meanwhile someone is sabotaging the efforts of SCCS to remain solvent with little potentially dangerous incidents like breaking the lock to release the ocelots.

SCCS Felicia DuBois has enough on her plate with a need to raise money ergo with a fundraiser that is behind the times, the sabotage, and the lack of a sex buddy because she has gone through the available male population at the sanctuary. Now she meets gorgeous Gabe, who makes her body smoke with one look. Felicia knows she must cool down her ardor because the cause of her heat is probably the enemy. Still her brain says one thing while her heart says sleep with the enemy. Gabe feels the same way from the moment she shut down his upper head and activated his lower head with one look. As two torrid cats on a hot tin roof battle for sexual supremacy, Felicia tries to uncover the identity of the culprit destroying SCCS's hopes to keep their felines safely housed.

Not for everyone CAT SCRATCH FEVER is an ultra hot erotic romance that starts off with a temperature warmer than Venus with Felicia's Brazilian underwear off and never slows down until the final sex scene. The story line contains a solid amateur sleuth subplot as Felicia investigates who the culprit is harming her facility, but also provides solar heated subplots and not just between Gabe and Felicia. Sophie Mouette provides a chili pepper erotic whodunit.

Cruise Ship Diaries
Irene Magers Gingold
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
142411618X $21.95

In New York forty-four year old married trice but now single Margaret Maghpye is stunned when after twelve years at the firm she loses her position as a paralegal at Goodman, Barr & Noune. Her boss Laura Noune unfairly blames Margaret for poor research for a terrible day at court. Stunned and with no one to tie her down, Margaret decides she needs to escape her troubles and the wintry teen temperature of Manhattan so uses her meager savings to go on a Mexican cruise though she knows she cannot afford this financially. She prays this will lift her out of her growing depression.

She flies to San Diego where she boards the Mexican Star for seventeen days and nights of what Margaret hopes is uplifting fun. However, instead of an upbeat time, Margaret feels the sexual shenanigans on board too overwhelming and the port stop at Acapulco too commercial. However, the topper occurs when an elderly passenger Francine Wirth is being tossed from the ship at a remote Mexican hospital because she suffered an injury, which cannot be treated by the ship's doctor; this stuns Margaret (and readers). On the plus side she meets and is attracted to passenger Michael Sanders, though he seems withdrawn. While he has a different agenda for being on this excursion, he cannot stop himself from wanting to spend time with Margaret.

The sea cruise romance between the middle age couple is handled deftly as the two protagonists fear love, but cannot help themselves stop the attraction. However, what makes the CRUSIE SHIP DIARIES different than the myriad of ship romance novels is the insight into the downside of cruises in which the lines are held unaccountable once they cross into international waters as the Francine incident apparently is genuine. Irene Magers Gingold provides a delightful and charming contemporary with quite a stunning message that the passengers have fun but beware.

Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum
R.K. Mortenson
1597893587 $9.97

Landon Snow, his two sisters Bridget and Holly and his parents are visiting their relatives in Button Up, Minnesota. When they arrive in the library, it suddenly fills up with water and a stone boat allows them to survive the experience. They sail into uncharted waters followed by an ark, which at first they believe is Noah's but soon know it came from their Wonderworld friends. Together with the three children they sail to the island of Arcanum.

There they will gather the animals that were taken from Wonderworld but first they must battle the Arcans, inhuman evil monsters who feed off of fear instead of food. The animals are under an enchantment to obey the Chief Arcanum who worships the shadows of Malus Quidam, the prince of darkness. Once they break the enchantment with the help of the Auctor who is in their hearts and soul, they fight the Arcans with freedom for all at stake.

R.K. Mortenson's latest Landon Snow adventure is a great fantasy even though the protagonists use no sorcery. Their belief in the Avatar sustains them through the darkest times and young adults will enjoy this cross between Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia. Reference to the other books in this series will have readers wanting to go their nearest bookstore to obtain them.

Von Neumann's War
John Ringo and Travis Taylor
PO Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
1416520759 $25.00 1-800-223-2336

Within months of one another three probes are sent to Mars from Russia, Europe and America respectively, but contact is lost on all. Astroscientists are further stunned as Mars seems to have abruptly changed from the angry red planet to an aging grayish orb. No known natural phenomena can be postulated to have caused this radical sudden change. Finally communication with Mars probes vanishes entirely.

Desperate to learn what is going on to insure it does not spread inward to earth, a special probe is sent, but this one is destroyed far from the planet. The conclusion is a foreign force is industrializing Mars with no concerns as to the environment. The only reason to destroy communications with probes from earth would be that the aliens are setting up a home base to stage a military invasion of Earth. While the military strategists work on a plan to prevent the invasion and the scientists work on a weapon, they come, but these are not little green men. They are the race of Von Neumann probes ignoring people while stripping all planetary metal to replicate themselves; some misfortunate humans die as collateral damage. Meanwhile the American military establish new command posts where metals are not a major issue such as the Huntsville hooters because breasts, wings and beer attract men, not Von Neumann robots.

VON NEUMANN'S WAR is an excellent military science fiction thriller that pundits will read in one delightful sitting as fans will need to "watch the second half". The key to this Armageddon thriller is humor as John Ringo and Travis Taylor lampoon the sacred icons of society. The story line contains a solid Mars attacks tale based on the theories of late Hungarian mathematician John von Neumann, but filled with a droll wit as we have finally found the weapons of mass destruction in our face.

Paid in Blood
Mel Odom
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
1414303068 $13.99 1-800-323-9400

Though somewhat immune to murder having been a Naval Criminal Investigative Services Agent for a few years, in Wilmington, North Carolina Commander Will Coburn sadly looks at the corpse of NCIS Chief Petty Officer Helen Swafford, who was on her own unauthorized hook when her throat was slashed. As he wonders what she was involved in, Will and his team (Maggie Foley, Shel McHenry, Estrella Montoya, Dr. Nita Tomlinson, and Frank Billings ) begins tracking clues involving the illegal trafficking of military weapons being sold to rogue states and terrorist groups. Their efforts lead them to Chainae, Republic of Korea where they spy on a suspected weapons dealer.

However, to their shock and chagrin, hooligans working for a drug dealer abduct their prime suspect. When they finally catch up to the kidnappers and their victim, the NCIS team find corpses only, as if someone knows what they are doing and wiped out the evidence. The Navy takes control of the body of their prime suspect, only to have it snatched from them leaving behind a dead NCIS agent. With no time to mend fences at home though each, except perhaps Frank, face personal crisis, the unit finds clues in South Korea, Colombia, Russia, and the Middle East, but how drug dealers and weapons sellers converge as their commodity markets are so different remains just out of reach.

Though the investigation turns over the top with global repercussions, Mel Odom's fine NCIS thriller is an exciting tale starring real people as the Navy investigators. Each of the team members has issues back home with family members or with themselves as they struggle with personal demons while battling an insidious unknown enemy who may be connecting two major illegal commodity selling groups into a super power. Fans will enjoy observing the dedicated team members follow the clues in North Carolina and overseas trying to save the big world while their little world teeters on the brink of implosion.

Karen Kingsbury
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
0842387463 $13.99 1-800-323-9400

Though she will be a star witness at the assault trial of Margie Madden that does not frighten her as she survived the woman's efforts to make her the latest Los Angeles' homicide statistic. However, Katy Hart fears her new found fame and her relationship to Hollywood heartthrob Dayne Matthews will make her a paparazzi moment in which her privacy and those of her family will be forsaken. Still she believes their love for one another will carry her through the trial though she it not as confident about their relationship surviving his fame.

Dayne feels on top of the world since he met and fell in love with Katy; much greater than any of his films have taken him. Through his love for his cherished Katy, he and his father John Baxter have gotten together and he has forgiven him and his late mother even as he looks forward to meeting his siblings. However, he does not want them or Katy to become meals of a media feeding frenzy that his blood link if exposed will bring to them.

Fans of the Firstborn series will enjoy the continuation of the Baxter family saga, which inspires the audience to believe in God's overall plan even when it feels off kilter. The story line is action-packed especially during the trial scenes and insightful as the Baxter brood, Dayne, and Katy forge new relationships. Though the repugnance of the paparazzi is overkill, series readers will appreciate this entry while newcomers should start with book one FAME and continue sequentially (through FORGIVEN and FOUND) to better grasp the complex interrelation nuances of the extended FAMILY.

The Bachelor's Bargain
Catherine Palmer
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
0842319298 $12.99 1-800-323-9400

In 1815 Devon, England, servant Anne Webster desperately hopes to sell the Honiton lace to her employer Alexander Chouteau, son of an earl, so that she can use the money to hire a barrister to represent her incarcerated father. His crime was supporting the Luddites who complained about working conditions before rioting. However after a prayer for help though she knows God is aware of her family's predicament, but before she can offer her wares, his long thought dead brother, the Marquess of Blackthorne and the actual heir to the earldom, has come home.

Ruel Chouteau assumes no woman would marry an adventuress rogue like him but wants to keep the mothers from throwing their singles at him so he proposes to Anne to prove his worthlessness, but before she can respond she is accidentally shot and is apparently dying. On her death bed she accepts his offer thinking he would have to help her family as honor dictates he does. However, to their shock, Anne miraculously recovers forcing the duo to face marital survival as the tabloids look forward to much scandal from them.

The sequel to THE AFFECTIONATE ADVERSARY (the link being Society Tattler Miss Pickworth) is an intelligent Regency romance starring a strong support cast and two interesting obstinate lead protagonists. The story line is action-packed but driven by the lead pair as she needs his wealth and power to assist her father and her family while he sees her skill with silk as a means for his future. Fans will appreciate Catherine Palmer's fast-paced one sitting historical.

Before I Wake
Dee Henderson
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
1414308159 $13.99 1-800-323-9400

Rae Gabriella left the FBI after years of dedicated service when a case went ugly. She accepts a position as a private detective at Chapel Detective Agency II, headed by her former Fed partner Bruce Chapel in Justice, Illinois though she has doubts about working with her former lover, but her hometown is nearby so she can visit family and she has to start somewhere.

Justice County Sheriff Nathan Justice has his hands full with a strike that could turn violent and his grandfather. However, he soon has more to deal with when Peggy Worth is found dead in her hotel room, five rooms away from where Rae is staying; a woman she met earlier in the day. Peggy's parents hire Rae to investigate what seemed likely a natural death in her sleep of a twenty-eight years old healthy female. Soon Bruce, Rae and Nathan know that a serial killer murders women in their hotel room without a whisper or a hint of a struggle, but never takes their money or jewelry so no motive has surfaced. Whereas she seeks justice, he fears she could be next.

This is a fabulous police procedural serial killer thriller though two of the "cops" are former law enforcement officials. The story line hints at a romantic triangle, but that simmers on the back burner as the trio work together to stop a clever silent killer. The story line is action-packed as the tension mounts on two levels, personal and professional. Fans witness a tense suspense cat and mouse thriller.

Road of the Patriarch
R. A. Salvatore
Wizards of the West Coast
PO Box 707, Renton, WA 98057-0707
0786940751 $27.95 1-800-821-8028

After disabling the Zhengyian Construct in the shape of Castle Perilus ruled by a drcoliche and inhabited by gargoyles and other dangerous creatures, the assassin Artemis Entreri is awarded by King Gareth of Bloodstone with the Knight of the Order; his companion Jarlaxle is named a Bloodstone hero. The drow dark elf and Artemis are the furthest thing from heroes imaginable as the human does not have a heart and the drow lusts for power and adventure.

After receiving their rewards, Artemis has a run in with the Assassins Guild. He and his companions run for their lives before reclaiming the castle and restoring it using magic. The elf claims the land of Vaasa renaming it D'Aerthe ruled by King Artemis I. King Gareth and his army march to defeat the usurper because he wants to make Vaasa a barony of his kingdom. The elf knows his side cannot win so he retreats to his homeland while Artemis is exiled with the drow coming to rescue him.

Although Jarlaxle is selfish, he finds himself genuinely fond of Artemis, which is why he used magic and an ensorcelled artifact to let him feel again. There is plenty of action, political intrigue, and battles in this spellbinding tale. The Sellswords Chronicles has a special feel to them as the supernatural seem natural whether they be dragons in human form, drows or gargoyles. R. A. Salvatore provides another strong sword and sorcery saga that demonstrates his exceptional world building skills.

From the Belly of the Dragon
Mark Mynheir
601 North Larch Street, Sisters, OR 97759-9320
1590523997 $12.99 1-800-929-0910

With incredible sales success from his books and tapes, psychiatrist Dr. Walter Simmons has amassed a fortune. His ability to merge basic psychological concepts into an optimistic moral and spiritual holistic wholeness has made him extremely popular especially amongst college students. He currently invites his top (meaning alienated, lonely, or both) Florida State University students to a special "boot camp" training program.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agent Tim Porter is worried about his daughter Ruby, who has been acting stage of late though her being at FSU and he being divorced from her mother, her prime caretaker, means he sees her infrequently. Still he mentions is concerns to his former wife and his partner John Russell. Soon he learn that Ruby is undergoing special training along with other students under the tutelage of Dr. Walter Simmons; special training that looks like a cult, acts like a cult, sounds like a cult; ergo a cult. How to free his daughter in a scenario in which the local police back the psychiatrist, the FBI demands he stay out so as not to taint their investigation of Simmons, and the charismatic doctor appears to have the spiritual edge that claims Ruby's soul is his quest.

The first "Truth Seekers" tale, ROLLING THUNDER, was a strong police procedural supported by an inspirational family drama with John as the star. This time Tim is the focus within a powerful family drama supported by a fine "unsanctioned" police procedural. The fast-paced story line grips the readers as John turns from concern to fear as he feels he is losing the soul war to his dynamic adversary. Fans will appreciate this deep insightful look at a cop willing to do anything including losing his job and team up with his ex-wife for the first time since before their split to save his child.

Spin Control
Kate Donovan
Silhouette Bombshell
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373514190 $4.99

In Northern California Judge "Taylor the Jailor" informs FBI agent Justin Russo just because he fires his lawyers in court that he will not receive any delay to prepare his new representation. Justin asks Judge Taylor to appoint attorney Suzannah Ryder, who is in court having worked on another case, to defend him. The Judge gives her no choice so she reluctantly agrees to be his defense lawyer as he is on trial for second degree murder. Worse, the judge frees him on bail into her custody.
Hearing his facts and with no other information, Suzannah begins her defense by spinning the image of the accused into that of a handsome heroic hunk who she hopes a predominant female jury will desire and free. However, when she looks into his eyes, she begins to wonder if he committed the act especially as the evidence mounts against her client. With Taylor pushing to end the trial fast and allowing her no flexibility, she wonders if perhaps this time she is defending a heated killer though she finds whatever SPIN she takes she still wants the Fed.

This is a terrific investigative legal thriller that hooks the audience from the opening prologue and never slows down until the final confrontation. The exciting story line is filled with action, but also contains a terrific romantic subplot. Like his lawyer, readers will slowly begin to believe that Justin is guilty as Kate Donovan spins a strong romantic suspense thriller.

Dark Revelations
Lorna Tedder
Silhouette Bombshell
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373514204 $4.99

Dr. Ginny Moon stole art for the highly connected deadly "philanthropist" Adriano family, but wants out as she wants to go straight. However, the family patriarch refuses to free the notorious Aubrey de Lune jewel thief, somewhat out of an obsession, but also because she could cripple the gang if the authorities learn who she is. Besides, the bottom line is no one leaves his Family.
The Family asks her to perform one last job for them with bodyguard Eric Cabordes at her side; she assumes as a babysitter. However, she soon finds out that the object she is purloining is worth a lot more than just money if it ends up in the wrong hands. She turns to Eric in a desperate move to keep the Adriano Family from stepping closer to obtaining the Madonna Key.

Ginny makes the action-packed thriller work as she struggles between doing the right thing and the demands of her "employer" in the latest stand alone yet interrelated Madonna Key tale (see HAUNTED ECHOS). The fast-paced story line never allows the audience to catch their breath as she and her new cohort try to remain one step ahead of their former employer. With its Joan of Arc connection already making DARK REVELATIONS fascinating, part of the delight of this fine romantic suspense is the heroine's turmoil as to whether she should trust the bodyguard who she is falling in love with. Lorna Tedder adds a strong thriller to this fine miniseries.

Getaway Girl
Michele Hauf
Silhouette Bombshell
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373514212 $4.99

Having been the getaway driver for thieves and having worked on the underground racing circuit, Jamie MacAlister feels good that she is using her skill of driving at high speeds for the side of justice. Her first assignment in Paris working for the Robin Hood like Faction is to help with the rescue of a kidnapped woman. She succeeds and feels good about being on the right side, not necessarily of the law, but the right side.

However, as she does more work for the Faction, she begins to question whether she miscalculated the Faction's motives especially after meeting "client" Sacha Vital, son of a dangerous criminal. Jamie wonders if she has been naive and set up, but by her employers, another group or perhaps Sacha. If she is to stay alive, out of jail, and keep the latest victim herself safe, Jamie has one option and that is to trust Sacha.

This terrific thriller keeps the audience on edge wondering just like the lead female who is the good guys and who is the bad dudes. The fast-paced story line accelerates from the first time Jamie drives the getaway car that seemingly rescues a young woman and never slows down as she begins to realize nothing is simple as nothing is what it first appears. Sacha is a fabulous counterpoint as readers will ponder whether he is the villain, hero or in between. Michele Hauf provides a one sitting romantic suspense.

Too Close to Home
Maureen Tan
Silhouette Bombshell
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373514220 $4.99

Hardin County, Illinois Deputy Sheriff Chad Robinson misses his former girlfriend Brooke Tyler. She dumped him without a reason and joined the Maryville police department. Brooke hides secrets about her family that she has vowed to never reveal; this pledge and to a greater degree shame led to her leaving Chad.

Chad calls her about a corpse found in her jurisdiction. Hearing his voice reminds her of how much it cost her when she realized she had to end their relationship for his sake as he deserved better. As she investigates, more dead bodies surface and Chad seems to be at her side just like when they were partners on the county's sheriff department and in bed. With no one to turn to except her former lover, Brooke investigates the serial homicides fearing her family's darkest secret will surface also.

Though the climax seems implausible, TOO CLOSE TO HOME is an exhilarating police procedural with plenty of sexual tension between the lead couple. The story line focuses on Brooke as her inquires lead closer to her home and her heart. Fans will appreciate her efforts to uncover the truth without revealing the dark secret that forced her to end her relationship with her beloved.

Expecting His Brother's Baby
Karen Rose Smith
Silhouette Special Edition
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373247796 $4.99

Recently widowed Kylie Warner has no time to mourn as she struggles with debts that threaten the Saddle Ridge family ranch and with a pregnancy. However, she is shocked when she comes across undisputed proof that her late husband Alex cheated on her. Whether it was grief, hormones or despair, following a fight with the other woman Trish Hammond she reacts poorly and ends up hospitalized after an accident.

Saddle Ridge foreman Dix worries about Kylie so he informs her brother-in-law geological consultant Brock, who leaves Texas immediately for Wild Horse Junction, Wyoming to insure she is okay. Brock is between consulting jobs so hangs around the ranch to help Kylie. She finds his presence unnerving as she was sweet on him years ago, but nothing came of it. Brock is half way in love with his hostess, but both he and she know that she is EXPECTING HIS BROTHER'S BABY so neither is ready to take that first step towards the other.

This is another superb Baby Bonds book (see CUSTODY FOR TWO and THE BABY TRAIL) starring once again very likable protagonists. The story line focuses on Kylie who internally scuffles with her relationships, past, present and future. Brock is a solid person willing to sacrifice his feelings for her to insure his brother's offspring and widow have what is best for them. Karen Rose Smith provides an entertaining contemporary family drama.

It's Only Temporary
Eric Shapiro
Permuted Press
097655593X $8.99

Sean always thought he had plenty of time to make something of himself until six weeks ago when the government proclaimed that a meteor was going to strike the earth; best estimates were 60,000 would survive the impact. On his last day of existence, Sean spends it with his beloved Selma, who ended their relationship to start seeing another man before the pandemic collision was announced.

With a few hours left in the countdown, Sean drives off into the "sunset to be with his lost love. On a deserted road, he picks up a previously kidnapped woman who persuades him to rescue the others. When that is completed they head up to someone's home to get a car and wind up delivering a baby. Will he get to Selma before the people of earth are wiped out?.

Eric Shapiro's fine tale with its limited cast will remind the audience of some of the classic disaster tales from the 1950s and 1960s like On the Beach. The story line is action-packed, but as the countdown continues, readers will begin to believe that no Bruce Willis will save the world from Armageddon. Instead the plot is an insightful character study of what one person finally understanding that life, IT'S ONLY TEMPORARY, and must choose what to do while the clock ticking towards certain death nears.

Madmen's Dreams
Eric S. Brown and D. Richard Pearce
0976555913 $12.99

This horror-science fiction anthology consists of thirty-four for the most part ultra short stories (mean average length is 4.2 pages) that are predominantly written by Eric S. Brown as D. Richard Pearce contributes two solos and three collaborations. The tales run the gamut of horror and science fiction from A (angels) to Z (zombies) with plenty of supernatural and alien stops in between. The bloodsuckers bring a new meaning to "Family" while Zombies display how high the price of gas can become and tyro Demons attend "Hells Daycare. Most of the stories are well written, but in this minuscule format no character develops beyond their front fangs. Overall a solid cross section of the two genres, MADMEN'S DREAM is a fine collection though at times readers will believe longer formats would have suited the contribution like the "Underdweller" and "Last One Standing".

The Undead
Edited by D.L. Snell & Elijah Hall
0976555948 $13.99

These twenty-three short stories focus on zombies in all walks of life (pun intended) as the authors provide insight into the various ways of the "Living Dead". Each tale is well written as the contributions go way beyond Romero's Living Dead films. The entries were predominantly written in 2004 with three in 2005; two as ancient as 2001, and one in 2003. As far as this reviewer can tell, these have not appeared in print before. Most of the authors are relatively unknown (how can they be otherwise with zombies running wild in places like West Virginia and San Francisco) though Brian Keene has won a Stoker Award. Their entries are solid fun, as we learn how to properly dine on human leg that tastes remarkably similar to a chicken wing. The compilations range from fresh human meat struggling to survive in a world in which the superior being is the undead to zombies in outer space to reality zombie TV. Some tongue in cheek, some science fiction; all are fun horror thrillers that showcase the various lives of zombies beyond the usual stereotyping of flesh eating slobbering slobs. Sub-genre fans will definitely want to read this tribute to zombie mania while most other horror readers will also appreciate these dining on human gourmet collection.

Down The Road
Bowie Ibarra
Permuted Press
0976555980 $12.95

The illness struck New York City first then quickly spread to the entire country. Everyone who contracted it died but latest rose up as undead zombies eating human flesh and spreading the disease through bites. George Zaragosa is determined to leave Austin and return to his hometown of San Uvalde to be with his family, but getting out of town isn't easy as he has to avoid and kill the zombies by smashing their brains in; that's the only guarantee that they don't rise again.

In addition to avoiding the criminals who add to the chaos, George must also avoid Homeland Security and FEMA who are forcibly putting the disease free people in camps where rape, murder and enforced segregation is the norm. He is caught and put in a camp but he escapes when the zombies break through. He finds refuge in a makeshift shelter run by a drug lord and his police allies. Escaping means more killing but when George finds out what the leader of the group did, he feels it is his mission to take him out. In a world gone mad, it is not only zombies that are killers but humans exterminating one other.

Horror fans who want a real zombie killer thriller that pulls no punches, is full of action scenes, blood and gore, and violence that fits easily into the plot will want to get a copy of DOWN THE ROAD. The FEMA Camps are not so far fetched as many victims of Hurricane Katrina who stayed behind know first hand. The protagonist is a passive young man who reacts to events but never really takes charge and that character trait leads him into more trouble.

The Geographer's Library
Jon Fasman
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0143036629 $14.00 1-800-847-5515

In Lincoln, Connecticut, reporter Paul Tomm for the weekly newspaper the Carrier is assigned to write the obit for Estonian academia's Jaan Puhapaev. To do so Paul investigates Jaan though he expects nothing to come of it beyond accolades. Eerily soon after Jaan's death, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy dies in a car accident.

Recently graduated, Paul knows, from his college days, coincidences like these two deaths are rare though plausible. He makes inquiries which leads him to Jaan's neighbor music teacher Hannah Rowe and evidence that the late Estonian worked with lethal international jewel thieves. Soon Paul's efforts lead to a specific map created by twelfth century Arabic geographer al-Idris for a Sicilian client and artifacts allegedly owned by the cartographer, but especially the legendary alchemist's handbook the Emerald Tablet. As the journalist closes in on the truth, dangerous foes want him stopped with his demise being the preventative first choice.

The story line actually switches focus back and forth between the twelfth century and modern times, but never misses a beat as Paul's inexperience in investigative journalism and love makes him endearing and the tale fun to follow. As Paul investigates, he begins to uncover clues of a jewel thieving cabal, who he conjectures murdered the professor and the pathologist, but fails to see that as he gets closer, the killers will want to exterminate him too; thus in spite of his obvious intelligence, he seems too dumb not to anticipate they will come after him. Still though complex both subplots tie together nicely to make THE GEOGRAPHER'S LIBRARY.

Norah's Ark
Judy Baer
Steeple Hill
0373785666 $13.95

Pet store owner Norah Kent loves the Lord and animals; she dreams of one day having a family with Mr. Right, a person who must accept that she is prime caretaker of her beloved elderly Auntie Lou, is owned by Bentley the mutt, and must share her two passions especially her Christian faith.

Three bachelors show interest in Norah. US Navy Commander Connor Trevain seems to care for Norah, but she fears stepping out with him because her best friend Lilly wants him. The townsfolk push Joe Collier, who asks Norah for dates, but she knows he is not the one so has ruled him out. Finally there is police officer Nick Haley, who has three things going for him. Bentley has chosen him though he seems to fear the mutt and she keeps hearing the bells. Still Connor is nice if only Lilly wanted someone else like Nick for instance.

NORAH'S ARK is a pleasant optimistic Christian romance starring an upbeat somewhat innocent (too naive around men) protagonist and a cast of eccentrics starting with her matchmaking canine and a horde of other two legged, four legged, and no legged animals). The fast-paced breezy story line will provide fans of Judy Baer with plenty of entertainment from start to finish as the audience will wonder just who will win the Norah sweepstakes. The novel lives up to its classic second line "HAVE YOU HUGGED YOUR IGUANA TODAY?" as a fun filled tale.

Red Hook
Reggie Nadelson
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 300, New York, NY 10010
0802715346 $23.95 1-800-289-2553

In 2004 as the Republican National Convention prepares to begin in New York City, NYPD and the Feds worry about terrorist activity. Department Detective Artie Cohen, born in the Soviet Union but a local for twenty-five years, feels optimistic with blues skies smiling at him as he is getting married to his beloved Maxine Crabbe and while Republicans will own Manhattan he will be honeymooning.

However his blue skies turn cloudy not due to the Bushian led invasion, but instead because his long time friend reporter Sid McKay calls him a couple of times with cryptic messages that seem to call for help and overtly accuse the news media of pampering corruption especially covering the administration. Only for Sid would Artie dig even a little into the connection between the Russian mafia and a questionable real estate deal as he is about to leave town on his honeymoon. However, when someone kills Sid, Artie needs to learn who and especially why, but unraveling the truth also opens information about his late close friend that Artie does not want to know.

Artie is at his best as he runs the City from Hunts Point in the Bronx to Red Hook in Brooklyn and a few stops in Manhattan. He is at his best as this investigation has turned personal at a time when he was euphoric but as he digs deep into the Sid scenario, he becomes sad and depressed. The story line hooks readers from the moment that Artie finds Sid and keeps readers' attention until the final altercation in the harbor. Artie is in top form as he behaves more like a noir star than a cop as he unravels truths that remind him of his heritage as much as solving who killed Sid.

Cindy Holby
084395308X $6.99

In 1867 Laramie, Wyoming Territory, following a roll with Maybelle, Zane Brody reflects on how his friends are all recently married. Chase has Jenny (see WIND OF THE WOLF); Ty is wed to Cat (see CROSSWINDS); Cole and Grace make a nice couple (see CROSSWINDS); Jake and Shannon (SEE WINDFALL) are together; and now Caleb has married Amanda (see FORGIVE THE WIND). Only he remains single and though he ponders marriage, he likes his carefree life as the centerfold of hunks.

Indians raid the train that was bringing new schoolteacher Mary Dunleavy and her doctor-brother to Wyoming. Zane finds himself wanting to help Mary rescue her sibling taken captive by the Indians. However, their efforts go astray when they become prisoners too. After escaping, they fall in love, but neither feels worthy of the emotion so they hide how they feel from one another.

WHIRLWIND is a delightful western romance that completes the Wind saga. The story line is at its best when it concentrates on the lead couple especially during humorous interludes like a goat assaulting the hero. The final pairing is a delight as two independent souls battle love, one another, and rogues. Though too many flashbacks slow down the tale, Cindy Holby provides a fun finish to a saga that started several years ago (see CHASE THE WIND).

Celestine Vaite
Back Bay
c/o Little, Brown & Company
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0316016586 $12.99 1-800-759-0190

On Tahiti, a drunken Pito Tehana proposes marriage to cleaner Materena Mahi, the mother of his children. Materena, who loves anything involving love, considers his proposal by measuring it against proposals in love movies she has seen. By morning while she ponders how Pito's declaration compares to her fantasy, he forgets that he asked her.

Materena dreams of her nuptials while a sober Pito is in denial and struggling to thwart her expectations. She simply ignores his protestations and begins to consider what type of marriage she shall have. Meanwhile the "coconut radio" island gossip alerts everyone that these long time lovers will soon marry once they work out the details. This leads to family members encouraging Materena to force her "fiance to do right by her especially his mother, who drives a wedding car.

The sequel to the delightfully amusing FRANGIPANI is actually a wonderful prequel as the events occur much earlier than the first Islander novel. The story line is fun to follow though it is in many ways it is more a series of gossipy vignettes as the coconut radio visits to Materena provide the audience with insight into life on Tahiti. Materena is terrific as she guides fans on a warm and insightful tour of sharing BREADFRUIT and love, Tahitian style.

Small Acts of Sex and Electricity
Lisa Haines
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195, Lakewood, CO 80214
1932961275 $23.95 1-888-732-3822

Mid thirties Jane and Mattie have been best friends since childhood, but during college they competed for the affection of Michael with the former easily winning the prize and marrying him. Jane and Michael have two daughters, teenage Livvy and preadolescent Mona. To Mattie's envious eye Jane has everything with her California family while she remains single in the Midwest.

When Jane inherits a house and a Jaguar from her recently deceased grandmother Franny, she decides to take the car and leave her family behind to seek glamour and men not spouses and children. She assigns her visiting pal Mattie to inform Mike that she left him and their kids. Mattie, who came to appraise Franny's art collection, becomes surrogate mother and wife in Chicago while Jane seeks adventuress men.

SMALL ACTS OF SEX AND ELECTRICITY is a strange but entreating relationship drama starring two women, me-me Jane and envious Mattie. They sort of switch places as Mattie, feeling as if she is IN MY SISTER'S COUNTRY, gets a chance to see what could have been if Mike chose her and Jane seizes the opportunity to find out what should have been if she stayed carefree and single. Fans of odd but perceptive family dramas will appreciate Lisa Haines' unusual character driven tale.

Queen of Fashion
Caroline Weber
175 - 5th Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
0805079491 $27.50 1-888-330-8477

This is a terrific look at Marie Antoinette through the fashion she wore that defied French society over the objections of the aristocracy yet set trends with these same nay-sayers imitating or parodying the monarch while the hookers and madams copied her. The premise of Caroline Weber's fashionable biography is that the doomed queen was her own person from the time at fourteen she first sat on the throne to her last dance with Madam Guillotine. This book is well written and fascinating and fans of the French Revolution era will be enthralled by the detailed accounts especially the haunting all in white final ride to the execution as the author uses the clothing to symbolize the extravagance and ruin of a regime. With a salute top Arnold's Clothing Theory, Caroline Weber provides a fresh look at this violent period through the wardrobe of its most representative figure.

The Buenos Aires Quintet
Manuel Vazquez Montalban
Serpents Tail
1852427833 $14.00

His uncle hires Catalan private investigator Pepe Carvalho to go to Buenos Aires to learn what happened to Raul Touron. Beyond Diego Maradona, Pepe knows nothing about the country except that his cousin worked there before the military coup of '76 as a research behavioral scientist who discovered a link between rat behavior and the quality of their food. The military sold Raul's concept and put it to use to destroy the opposition subversives Peronists. Raul joined the rebels, but a year later his wife and baby were abducted though he spent time in prison too.

Pepe knows that a Spaniard cannot work as a private sleuth in Argentina so he hires elderly Don Vito Altofini as a front. They establish an office and Pepe begins the investigation with University Professor Alma, Raul's sister in-law. She provides little help only more questions especially why he would come home from exile except perhaps to find his daughter. Others seek the missing man too and they do not welcome the Spaniard sleuth as they have plans once they catch up to Raul that Pepe is not a part of.

THE BUENOS AIRES QUINTET is a fabulous private investigate tale that brings out the impact over two decades after its fall of the vicious military rule (1976-1983) in Argentina. The fast-paced story line never takes a break with Pepe on the case while others are willing to harm, maim or kill the foreigner as he gets in the way. Readers will enjoy his "illegal" misadventures with only his laid back partner seemingly on his side.

A Walk in the Dark
Gianrico Carofiglio
Bitter Lemon
1904738176 $14.95

In Bari, Italy, defense lawyer Avvocato Guido Guerrieri earns a living providing legal council to petty criminals; his business depends on returning customers as most of his clients are repeat offenders. However, for whatever reason deep in his pyche, Guido has a soft spot for the underdog especially abused females so at times he will take on impossible cases.

This is one of those times when Guerrieri turns champion because to his chagrin he is immediately attracted to Sister Claudia, director of Safe House, who asks him to help one of her volunteers now hiding at the shelter. The woman moved in with a wealthy Prince Charming who turned into an abusive beast. He beat her in public twice and in private several times. Because of his connections, the carabineri, the police and a judge deny the woman's plea for protection from his harming her. Two lawyers have said no, but Guerrieri agrees to take on the case of protecting the ex girlfriend Martina Fumai, Sistaer Claudia and the shelter from Ernesto Scaianatico, son of of a criminal appeals court judge. However, Guido will learn the hard way why his peers said no.

This terific legal thriller stars a fascinating protagonist who normally is indifferent and bumbling when it comes to his typical clients; however some cases fire up his inner gut turning him into a capable caring attorney and much more. Guido's two capers (see INVOLUNTARY WITNESS) are legal noirs as he struggles to insure his clients remain safe against powerful adversaries who use money and abuse of power to insure victory over justice. Gianrico Carofiglio provides a terific Italian thriller

With or Without You
Alison Tyler
c/o Holtzbrinck Publishers
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0352340657 $12.95 1-888-330-8477

In California, free sprit Nora Hammond announces a reality TV show to select the next head bartender at her popular in spot the Pink Fedora. At the same time, her look alike but opposite in outlook best friend Eleanor Jane Romano of the Art, research, Translation, Science Institute (ARTSI) learns her live in lover Byron Millman has a new lover. She swings her laptop at him, but instead hits and shatters an ancient urn her late Great Aunt Rose sent her. Ancient documents spill out.

After spending the night with Nora to include a menage de trois and voyeurism, the shell shocked Nora takes her find to her ARTSI peer Anthony Ginsburg. When she tells him if he translates one page by evening she will take him to dinner, he dives head first into this. Anthony has desired Nora since they first met and if a translation of an ancient language wins him her heart so be it. As his translation turns sexually hotter, life imitates art as Anthony and Nora make love even as they fall in love.

Nora is such a crazy lovable eccentric that she brings an erotic dynamic freshness to this superb XXX contemporary romance. Eleanor is a fine character in her own right and is the star of the story, but as she knows she pales next to her insane charismatic look alike except in the eyes of Anthony. Readers will enjoy the sexual antics of the two best friends while the ARTSI hunk takes advantage of the opening he has craved for quite some unrequited time.

Death of a Department Chair
Lynn C. Miller
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
0299219747 $24.95 1-800-621-2736

On a Monday morning at Austin University the chairman of the Department of Literature and Rhetoric, Isabel Vittorio is found murdered in her office with her clothes ripped off leaving her nude. Miriam Held, who lost to Isabel an election to be the chair, is the number one suspect for a number of reasons. She had an affair with the victim that ended badly; she is writing a book (started before Isabel was murdered) about the death of a department chair; and Isabel who agreed to hire a brilliant and well known African-American reneges on a promise to Miriam because she wants her lover hired instead.

In addition to these marks against her, someone is trying to frame Miriam as the killer. A file filled with false memos was found in her desk as was Isabel's diary. Miriam never saw either one of these documents. As the police place her under a greater scrutiny, she and friends are determined to find out who is trying to frame her and expects this knowledge will lead them to the real killer.

Many academic mysteries like DEATH OF A DEPARTMENT CHAIR are literary in style and scope. This tome is not only a mystery but a look at political infighting that goes on behind closed doors between dogmas that insist they are right and never listen to the opposite viewpoint. The protagonist is a strong willed woman who doesn't understand why someone is trying to make her look like a killer yet the victim steals the show though her diary entries. The who-done-it is superb so that readers will have a hard time figuring out who the killer is.

Sex and the South Beach Chicas
Caridad Pineiro
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th floor, New York, NY 10020
1416514880 $13.00 1-800-223-2336

In South Beach, Florida, the four young females are best friends and have been for quite a long time. They share their secrets, their desires, and their aspirations about careers and men; though they seem to be doing better with the jobs than the hunks. The quartet also support one another in trying to keep lethal mothers mating them with every unmarried male who can breath.

Of the fearsome female foursome, Tori would probably be voted by all of them including herself, as the most prim and proper; she thrives on structure and feels uncomfortable with spontaneity. Thus when she falls in love with Gil her three pals are shocked, but not as much as when Tori moves in with him and considers eloping. Her actions to impulsively grasp at love leads Adriana, Sylvia and Julie to reconsider their lifestyles.

The quatros amigas are terrific protagonists filled with energy that pulsates as it pulls readers into their lives. Each is an individual with likes, dislikes, and woes including mamas wanting them married with children. Though at times too lighthearted, fans will enjoy the skirmishes between the two generations of Latina-Americans as the band of sisters follow the lead of the most reticent when it comes to men.

Invisible Lives
Anjali Banerjee
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th floor, New York, NY 10020
1416517057 $13.00 1-800-223-2336

In India almost twenty-eight years old Lakshmi has a gift that her mom says comes from the Goddess she is named after who visited her when she was still in the womb. Lakshmi shares her ability to see inside the hearts of people to observe the tribulations that haunt them and she lifts those burdens off of that individual. As a side benefit of her mental skills, Lakshmi knows the perfect color and fabric for patrons of the family's sari shop.

However, because of her age, her mother worries that her daughter remains single so she arranges a match with a friend. Reluctantly as an obedient daughter and to honor her late father, Lakshmi accepts her mother's arrangement. However, as fate (and romance novels) would have it, she meets chauffeur Nick Dunbar and knows he is the one for her because her ability to look into hearts fail whenever she is around him.

Readers will enjoy this contemporary romance starring a delightful likable young woman who balances having one foot in the modern world and another in her heritage. Lakshmi's dilemma feels real as she wants to honor the desires of her mother and her late father, but loves Nick. This is a fine tale that rings true as a genuine chick lit Bollywood style.

Mozart's Sister
Nancy Moser
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
0764201239 $12.99 1-800-328-6109

Prodded by their father Leopold and trained since birth to perform, by 1762, twelve years old Nannerl Mozart and her seven years old brother Wolfgang play in public for the first time. Thirty years later Wolfgang is dead not too long after Leopold passed away while Nannerl reflects back on their lives wondering if they started even earlier whether his precocious talent would have still overwhelmed her superb skills. Their late father believed this is so as Wolfgang got all the praise from royal patrons and especially from their dad. Though she dreams of performing to regal accolades and settles pragmatically in marriage to Johann, she looks back at what might have been.

This is a terrific biographical fiction of Nannerl Mozart, who apparently was a very talented musician, but never received any acclaim from patrons or her parents because she performed for the most part along side her superstar brother. The story line brings to life late eighteenth century musical Vienna from a different perspective as readers observe how Nannerl deals with a talented precocious highly acclaimed younger brother though some say she rivaled him in performing skills. This is a winner as readers learn the pressures on females to conform while their artistic male siblings can do almost anything and like Nannerl (at least in this novel) wonder what if. Nancy Moser provides a powerful insightful tale that has a modern day message of encouraging the young to be all that they can be.

Calculated Loss
Linda L. Richards
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778323455 $6.99

When she hears the news that her celebrity chef and former spouse Braydon Gauthier committed suicide, day trader Madeline Carter is shocked because that seems so out of character for the upbeat bigger than life gourmand. Feeling an obligation and having divorced amiably, Madeline attends Braydon's funeral in Vancouver while wondering why he killed himself.

However, when she learns he killed himself by dining on a poisoned duck a l'orange and beef Shiraz, Madeline knows instantly he was murdered. She tries to explain to the local police her rationale, but they blow her away as a griever in denial. Knowing Braydon would never have had that type of combination that separately are delights but together kills the palate, she begins investigating starting with his finance even as someone watches her closely to insure if she seems too close to uncovering the truth, a second suicide of a the grieving "widow" will follow.

CALCULATED LOSS is a fascinating amateur sleuth tale starring a heroic protagonist whose logic for why Braydon died is odd, but shows she knew her ex spouse. When the police tell her to forget it, Madeline cannot; so she begins her inquiries seeking a motive as to why someone poisoned the gourmet chef. Linda L. Richards provides a delicious Vancouver whodunit that never slows down until the final meal is served.

Bonnie Hearn Hill
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778323471 $6.99

The Body of San Francisco Father David McCaffrey is found slashed to death in Golden Gate Park. Because the victim is a priest, a media feeding frenzy explodes as the police investigate the homicide. When the forensic report confirmed Father David had sex just before dying, the media turns euphoric as they now have sensational cutlines starring the Father and "The Razor Killer". Among those reporting on the murder is Times journalist Leta Blackburn, but she vanished soon after Father David died.

Reporter Geri LaRue arrives in San Francisco expecting to meet her friend's sister Leta at the airport, only to learn the award winning journalist has disappeared without a trace. Geri reviews Leta's file on the case, which leads her to therapist Malcolm Piercy, who believes the culprit gets off sexually by murdering beloved mates sort of like a black widow. As they work together and are attracted to one another, the killer observes Malc and Geri with plans of a horrific CUTLINE involving a female reporter dying after a sexual encounter.

The latest Bonnie Hearn Hill journalistic investigative tale (see IF IT BLEEDS) is a terrific tense thriller as readers ironically know how much danger Geri is in while the reporter is clueless in spite of her finding evidence pointing towards the killer. Geri is a dedicated solid reporter who knows that Malc is hiding something from her; Malc feels guilty but has doubts about revealing his theory even OFF THE RECORD (next LaRue installment). Fans of suspense cat and mouse thrillers with a romantic subplot will enjoy the exciting CUTLINE.

The Widow
Carla Neggers
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
077832303X $21.95

In Mount Desert, Maine, FBI Special Agent Chris Browning and his wife Boston homicide detective Abigail are on their honeymoon when someone murders him. Seven years later, the homicide is unsolved and classified as a cold case by local authorities.

Thirtyish Abigail has not been able to find closure as long as her spouse's killer walks free. She decides she has waited too long so she resolves to return to the killing scene to investigate. She begins questioning locals starting with Owen Garrison, who had informed her that Chris was dead. Most of the locals offer nothing while the summer people offer less. However though emotionally dying with every step, Abigail refuses to back off even when someone tries to kill her.

THE WIDOW is a fabulous private investigative tale (Abigail may be a cop but she is on her own) in which the heroine seeks closure, but finds a myriad of plausible suspects instead. The Maine background adds to the feeling of New England stoic silence that seems to hammer at Abigail's inquiries. Though a romantic subplot with Owen seems more a throw in to fans of that genre, Carla Neggers provides a strong thriller.

Facing Down Evil
Clint Van Zandt with Daniel Paisner
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
039915308X $24.95 1-800-847-5515

This is a fascinating look from a different perspective of some of the major FBI incidents spanning a twenty-five year career that ended in retirement in 1995. Clint Van Zandt provides a little background material about his growing up and makes no apologies for being a family man who loves his country and his agency. However, the autobiography takes off with the specific incidents including some overseas especially the more famous ones like the 1985 siege of the Covenant, the 1993 Waco confrontation with the Branch Davidians, the Unabomber, and his paradigm suggestion that Oklahoma City was tied to Waco not the Middle East. This is an excellent autobiography of a dedicated law enforcement official who spent a career FACING DOWN EVIL as it is the behind the scenes look at these cases and more that will grip the audience.

Hundred Dollar Baby
Robert B. Parker
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0399153764 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

Boston private investigator Spenser makes no moral judgments of how people live so when hooker April Kyle (see CEREMONY and TAMING A SEA HORSE) needs help, he provides it. He goes even further hooking (pun intended) her up with a high class madam. April is in trouble again so she turns to Spenser for help. Someone wants to take over her business and so has hired Ollie DeMars to harass and frighten her into paying for protection.

Spenser learns that the man behind the muscle is Lionel Farnsworth who teamed up with April to scare her mentor out of money used to open up a chain of bordellos. April claims she broke off with Lionel when she caught him having sex with one of her girls and tells Spenser to back off. Soon after confronting his client, Spenser finds out that someone murdered Ollie, who once shared a low security cell with Lionel. Spenser feels strongly that April is hiding something from him; he needs to find out what that is because he believes she is in a lot more trouble than she admits.

Spenser is at his best in HUNDRED DOLLAR BABY as he tries to help a female friend who rejects his assistance as she spirals downward. One of the hero's endearing traits is he makes friends with politically incorrect individuals who in many cases work outside the law. Robert B. Parker refreshes his long running series as Spenser struggles with the object of his protection insisting he butt out.

Short Straw
Stuart Woods
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0399153683 $25.95 1-800-847-5515

Santa Fe attorney Ed Eagle wakes up surprised to see that his wife Barbara is nowhere to be found at home or in their new office. He learns that one and a half million dollars is being transferred to an account in the Cayman Islands. His broker tells Ed that he liquidated his million dollar account and are getting ready to wire it. He's able to stop the money from being transferred except for the $300,000 Barbara took out of her new account.

Ed hires private detective Cupie Dalton to Mexico City where the money bounced to from the Cayman Islands. He wants Cupie to find his spouse and have her sign six sheets of papers. Barbara ends up shooting him and even though the wound isn't severe he sends another private detective Vittorio for back up. Someone in Mexico wants Barbara dead and the two PIs end up protecting her. She tricks them into thinking she signed the papers not once but twice and Ed realizes just how dangerous she really is when he learns she took a hit out on him. Ed with the help of the two private detectives is determined to bring her down, but Ed wants his wife alive while other men want her dead for what she did to them.

The antagonist is the personification of a black widow, willing to kill her mate (and others) to get what she wants which is his money. This leads the audience to wonder how Ed and others missed her lethal avaricious traits. SHORT STRAW starts out at light speed and never slows down as is typical of Stuart Woods' action thrillers. Surprisingly his characters are three dimensional, not stereotypes and all of them are believable. Let us hope the author writes more works starring Ed Eagle, a protagonist who gets things done his way.

The Fourth Perspective
Robert Greer
1583941622 $24.95

Blaming C.J. Floyd for her brother's death, Celeste Deepstream is determined to even the score by killing C.J. After kidnapping and beating up his girlfriend Mavis, C.J. and Celeste tangle but she escapes and now is teamed up with Russian Mafioso Alexie Borg who will help her kill the former bounty hunter and bail bondsman.

C.J. sold his share of the business to his partner Flora Jean and opened Ike's Spot: Vintage Western collectibles after the trauma both C.J and Mavis suffered, . A college student comes in the store to sell him two books which he buys. When he goes to his car, student Luis Del Mora is killed and C.J. later discovers that in the book cover of one of the books was a million dollar daguerreotype of the golden spike railroad ceremony in 1869. Luis's mother Theresa hires Flora Jean to find out who killed her son.

Alexie has a colleague blow up C.J's store but most of the damage occurs to the adjoining store of his landlord. C.J. gathers his friends to help flush out Celeste who is determined now to take her nemesis out on her own Flora Jean, knowing C.J. is broke, asks for his help in tracking down Luis's killer. He minimizes the danger to Mavis, but realizes he is anticipating the adrenaline rush that he experiences when he is on a dangerous hunt. He wonders if he can find a way to stop Celeste and continue with his antique business and do some dangerous jobs without angering Mavis.

The latest C.J. mystery is filled with lots of action, intrigue, and a spot of romance. C.J. is the original tough guy but in THE FOURTH PERSPECTIVE is portrayed with more vulnerability then he usually is. This humanizes him and makes the readers root for him especially because he needs his friends to be safe and not worry about his safety before their own needs. Robert Greer has written a crime caper that is loaded with intrigue, double-crosses and dangerous games of cat and mouse.

The Splendor of Silence
Indu Sundaresan
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0743283678 $25.00

In 1942 in the Kingdom of Rudrakot in Northwest India, U.S. Army Captain Sam Hawthorne comes to this desert environs to recuperate from an injury he received while working a rescue behind Japanese lines in Burma. However, to the local desert people, Sam's claims as to why he is here seem odd. Truthfully, Sam is an espionage agent of the recently formed OSS, but his secret assignment is personal. His brother Mike vanished while voluntarily serving with the Rudrakot Rifles in an independence from the Britain movement.

Though he knows better, Sam cannot resist a tryst with Mila, engaged to a prince and the daughter of the kingdom's Indian political agent, who took the American into his home. He learns that his brother is a prisoner at a detention center and that Mila's brother Ashok has joined a group planning to assassinate the British representative in Rudrakot. If he stops the plot, he loses his chance to free his sibling.

Though the myriad of subplots can become difficult to follow though needed to emphasize the complexity of India in WW II, Indu Sundaresan provides historical fans with A FEAST OF ROSES as the deep look at Rudrakot enables readers to understand the war effort vs. the quest for independence. The story line is character driven by the locals who bring to vivid life the time and place. Sam is an interesting protagonist as he knows better, but cannot resist the lure of Mila. Fans will appreciate this strong historical tale.

Ted Bell
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0743277236 $25.95

Alex Hawke knew immediately that his vessel the Pura Vida on the Rio Negro was destroyed by the explosion killing many of his colleagues including marine biologist Dana Gibbon. He had to let go of her hand to reach shore. He made it to land only to be caught and sold as a slave worker to the Xucurur who guard the work camps of the Muhammed Top. Alex serves on a road contraction crew and as a human target in case enemy combatants attack; life expectancy is zero. Though death looks more welcoming than life, Alex, wondering about this Al Qaeda army in the middle of the Amazonian jungle escapes.

He realizes the American government leaders are preoccupied with reelections which mean fake temporary concentration on the Mexican border; though real issues abound involving masse illegals and the Mexican army crossing into American territory and young females kidnapped from border towns. Alex turns to trusted friends Ambrose Congreve and Stokely Jones to help infiltrate the Las Medianoches Al Qaeda cell because he believes they plan something spectacularly jihad against the United States probably at that suddenly prominent line in the sand called the Mexican Border.

In his fourth appearance (see ASSASSIN, HAWKE, and PIRATE) Alex is at his best as he suffers survivor guilt though he also believes those like Dana are better off dead. Yet the premise of Mr. Bell's work is that the "terrorists in the jungle scenario" is based on the immigration of Hezbollah operatives from Lebanon during the 1970s civil war. Fans will appreciate the fast-paced and action packed thriller; as readers join Alex and his teammates on a quest to prevent the jihad from happening with the odds heavily favoring the terrorists in their plan to devastate North America.

Come September
Jacquie D'Alessandro, Cathy Yardley & Stephanie Doyle
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373837232 $5.99

"Summer Breeze" by Jacquie D'Alessandro. Though five years have passed since the death to cancer of her spouse Ian who fathered their two children, Elise Stanford and her kids, James and Maggie, move to her hometown on Long Island to start over. To her surprise she is attracted to a younger man Seth McGuire, but fears hurting her children, the memory of her husband and her reputation as a single mom.

"Sweeter than Wine" by Cathy Yardley. Chad McFee inherits the Honey Ridge Vineyards from his late Uncle Charles, but knows nothing about operating a winery. His winemaker Leila Fairmont has one month to teach him the trade and find a reason for him to stay besides her desire for him.

"Ice Cream Kisses" by Stephanie Doyle. Gracie McMillan owns and operates Sea Breeze-Ice Cream parlor that slows down once summer is over and it is winter in New Jersey. Dean Alexander Wright III arrives allegedly to write a book, but she wonders if she will survive the last chapter.

Sub-genre readers will enjoy these three fine contemporary romances starring likable protagonists.

Her Better Half
C.J. Carmichael
Harlequin Next
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373881096 $5.50

In Toronto after being fired from an investment bank, Gary Holloway takes up yoga as a means to release his rage and frustration. Six months later he has found his enlightened side, which mean divorcing his wife Lauren and deserting their fourteen years old twin daughters Jamie and Devin to continue his spiritual journey with his instructor Melanie.

One year later, Lauren still remains in shock and struggles to adapt to the abandonment and being a single mom to teenage twins. The three female Holloways have given up their affluent lifestyle, much of their relationships with family and friends and their home as they relocate to a working class neighborhood. Their next door neighbor, single mom of six year old Shelley, private investigator Erin Karmeli offers the fallen upper class elitist a trainee job while diner owner Murphy Jones offers friendship. Lauren adjusts to her new surroundings and makes friends. However, Erin, who does not fear death, has one apprehension, Shelley's wellbeing, which forces the three Holloways to lovingly change even further.

HER BETTER HALF is a strong family drama starring fully developed likable characters who seem real because of relationships such as the friendship between Lauren and Erin as the newcomer believes the very tall ultra thin neighbor initially was a hooker then a drug addict before learning the truth as her pal becomes a loving sister to her. The other relationships also appear genuine so that this tear jerker makes for a strong contemporary fiction tale that fans will fully appreciate.

Suburban Secrets
Donna Birdsell
Harlequin Next
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
037388110X $5.50

Her husband left her and their three kids for an older woman so Grace Becker is struggling while Tom is having a good time and stretching out the divorce settlement so that she will soon have to beg. Grace is on the verge of capitulation when too much alcohol and a game of truth or dare leaves her giving her undies to a hunk who happens to be much younger than her

The hunk turns out to be Secret Service Agent Pete Slade, who thinks she can help him with her knowledge of Russian cuisine. Within two nights of losing her underwear, the suburban soccer mom is kicking up meals for a Russian mobster while males notice how pretty the single mom of three is including Agent Slade.

An over the top story line starring a likable woman wondering how she went from soccer mom to undercover espionage agent in a few hours of drinking make for a zany wild contemporary tale that has the audience wondering what is next for the heroine. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that a slightly drunk Grace chose dare and never decelerates until the final undie confrontation. Fans will enjoy Grace's wild turnaround.

The Merry Widow's Diary
Susan Crosby
Harlequin Next
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373881088 $5.50

Her two daughters are attending college so suburban widow Jill Townsend feels lonely especially since her spouse, Wade, a college professor, only recently died. She knows she needs to get a life, but finds it hard not just because she is mourning. The difficulty lies in the reality that she has been a mother and a wife; but not a Jill in almost two decades.

However, Wade leaves her with an enigmatic key that makes little sense to her and related information that adds to her confusion, but soon takes Jill from suburbia to Manhattan where she plans to live the good life of a swinging single merry widow. Her husband's best friend writer Alan Haggerty refuses to allow Jill to totally sever her former life as a college professor's wife. What he fails to tell Jill is his reason is selfish; he has hidden his love for her from the moment Wade introduced her to him.

This is an insightful family drama as a grieving Jill wants to help her daughters with their anguish, but has issues of her own as she struggles to start over while still mourning her late spouse and worrying about her children. Readers will feel for Jill who's on a quest to find a life that she can label Jill instead of a role like widow and mother without devastating her cherished relationships with her daughters or the memory of Wade. Readers who appreciate a deep character study will appreciate the well written entertaining THE MERRY WIDOW'S DIARY.

Leaving L.A.
Rexanne Becnel
Harlequin Next
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
037388107X $5.50

In Los Angeles, thirty-nine year old rocker Zoe Vidrine is stunned to learn she is pregnant. Knowing the party lifestyle would prove hard to resist and not wanting to harm the life she carries, Zoe decides to leave L.A. and her hedonistic druggie ex behind and return to her Louisiana roots though she left there without a look back over two decades ago to escape her ditsy hippie mom.

Her widowed sister Alice does not welcome Zoe back though she allows her to stay at her farm. Zoe detests the holier than thou attitude of Alice, whose late husband was a minister. However, Alice fears her wild sibling's influence on her teenage nephew. Meanwhile newspaper editor Joe Reeves is attracted to Zoe, but though she reciprocates she trusts no one; not even her sister let alone a guy wanting her body though she admits he seems to desire her though she is pregnant.

LEAVING L.A. is a fascinating family drama starring estranged sisters whose outlooks on life are dramatically opposite. Zoe, in spite of her sister's constant anger which seems unfair and misplaced is the more intriguing of the siblings as Alice is prim and responsible. Their relationship makes the tale as each sees the other as the great sinner with Zoe disgusted with the pious in your face religion of her sister while Alice detests her sibling's loose behavior influencing her son. Though the ending is way too simple for this family feud, Rexanne Becnel provides an interesting tale of two sisters.

Fear of Falling
Cindi Myer
Harlequin Blaze
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373792786 $4.75

In Colorado artist, John "Sartyr" Sartain is known as much for his erotic paintings as his lifestyle. Rumors abound that he built a castle high in the mountains to be away from peeping paparazzi when he hosts orgies. His business agent Douglas Tanner hires business manager Natalie Brighton to represent Sartyr's growing empire. She is to meet him for the first time at his remote abode.

At night Natalie arrives at Sartyr's isolated castle; not knowing what to expect from her employer. She finds herself already half seduced just by his work, but in person the lure is stronger. He feels the same pull. However, as they share games of lust and forbidden love, someone hates the artist so much a negative campaign has begun to destroy his reputation. Soon Natalie will find herself facing peril from an adversary who loathes Sartyr or perhaps from the great man himself who could be purposely playing adrenaline games with her heart.

FEAR IF FALLING is a heated contemporary romance starring a likable heroine and a hunk aptly nicknamed Sartyr. Because of the remoteness of the castle, the danger to the "innocent" heroine and the dark lure of the lead male, fans will fell that Cindi Myer has written a solid modern day gothic romantic thriller.

Just Trust Me
Jacquie D'Alessandro
Harlequin Blaze
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373792808 $4.75

When Dr. Brett Thornton invented an antiaging formula, he did not expect the uproar that would cause though he should know better with the American capitalist market emphasis on youth or the demand on his time from companies wanting to own his product. Unable to cope with the pressure, Brett decides he needs to escape where no one in their right mind would follow him. He flees to the Andes in Peru so that he can spend quiet time as a tourist and decide what to do with his elixir.

Instead of preparing for her sister's upcoming wedding, Kayla Watson is heading to Peru disguised as a tourist traveling the Andres Mountains. Outraged but with no choice if she wants to remain employed her boss Nelson has sent her to keep an eye on Brett to insure he does not sell his formula while in South America. Her instructions are to use any dirty trick she must even her body to keep the scientist from selling. However, she does not need to fake her desires as Kayla finds herself in heat as she lusts after Brett although exhausted from the mountainous trek. As she falls in love, she fears her beloved will dump her once he learns who she is and why she is on tour.

Jacquie D'Alessandro is at her best with this terrific blazing romantic suspense thriller high in the Andes. The action-packed story line never slows down from the onset when Brett's creation becomes known until a distressed Kayla risks all for the scientist she loves. Fans will appreciate their relationship built originally on distrust and love as the heroine knows she must reveal why she is on tour, but fears her beloved will dump her. Kayla's concerns changed from job security to mate security in a refreshing setting that makes for a fun contemporary tale.

Angels of the Big Sky
Roz Denny Fox
Harlequin SuperRomance
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373713681 $5.50

Former Navy pilot Marlee Stein leaves San Diego with her young daughter Jo Beth to start fresh in her hometown, Whitepine, Montana. She hopes the change of scenery and her family being there will help Jo Beth adjust to the loss of her father Cole who died at thirty six years old from lymphatic cancer. In Big Sky Country, Marlee plans to help her brother run the family's charter air service, Cloud Chasers and mercy missions for Angel Fleet.

To her shock and feeling a bit guilty, Jo Beth finds herself attracted to park ranger Wylie Ames. He reciprocates, but he too wants no relationships at this time as he raises his son Dean. However their respective children ignore the adult concerns and become close friends. As the single parents fall in love, Dean is diagnosed with cancer making life difficult for his father, but also disturbs his best friend and her mother, still grieving their loss.

ANGELS OF THE BIG SKY is a heartwrenching tale that stars a fascinating female who is unsure that love is strong enough to deal with a second cancer victim of someone who means so much to her. Marlee makes the tale seem so real as she loves father and son, but struggles with coping with the death threatening illness after she and he daughter watched Cole fade away. Her fears include how Jo Beth copes. Readers will appreciate Roz Denny Fox's well written realistic family drama.

The Return of David McKay
Ann Evans
Harlequin SuperRomance
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373713703 $5.50

Ten years ago David McKay left Broken Yoke, Montana to follow his ambitious dreams, vowing only to come back for his grandparents. Two years ago his grandfather Herbert passed away, but before his grandmother could fulfill her husband's wish to have his ashes scattered, she underwent heart surgery. Now feeling recovered she plans to ride a horse over rough terrain to complete the quest over David's objection that she is too frail to do so; he offers a plane instead, but she says no as that is cheating her late spouse.

David decides to go along to insure his grandmother is safe during the two week trek. However, his gut is hit even harder when he learns his high school girlfriend Adriana "Addy" D'Angelo will be their guide; the girl he left behind. Both insist they are not in love, but a matchmaking grandmother with help from above knows better.

The key to this Big Sky romance is the characterizations (including the mountains) as the lead couple and the matchmaking grandmother are three dimensional protagonists. The story line focuses on the quest to spread the ashes that bring together David and Addy for a second chance at love; this time as adults. Ann Evans provides a wonderful compassionate contemporary that readers will enjoy.

Mr. Imperfect
Karina Bliss
Harlequin SuperRomance
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373713703 $5.50

Bad boy Christian Kelly vowed to never return to his dried out hometown of Waterview, New Zealand as he feels he has nothing there. However, when he learns that Muriel Medina Rose, the only person to show the orphaned Christian kindness, he has to attend her funeral though he knows that means seeing her granddaughter Kezia, his first and only love, who he hurt so badly as a teen.

Rose gave Kezia the family's over one hundred years old hotel to run two months before she died. The place is in trouble and Kezia fears she will lose it. Out of love for the grandmother and granddaughter Christian remains in town to help Kezia make a go of the hotel, but she does not want his assistance as he deserted her when he left the last time. As he tries to tell her he fled for her sake as she could have done better than a worthless person like him, their teen love reignites into an adult passion, but she fears he will leave again and he still believes he is not good enough for her.

This is a warm contemporary New Zealand romance starring a likable lead duo and a matchmaker from the grave. She was the one person who loved nurtured (or tried to) and cared for both of them. Kezia is a kind girl next door while Christian has a bad boy wild reputation. Though a stronger descriptive inclusion of the Hauraki Plains setting would have enhanced this fine tale, sub-genre fans will enjoy MR. IMPERFECT.

Daddy Daycare
Laura Marie Altom
Harlequin American
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373751362 $4.99

Kit Wells travels from IdaBelle Falls to downtown Chicago to inform CEO Travis Callahan that his sister Marlene died in a car accident and that his infant niece Libby needs him. Marlene also told her best friend not to give up on her brother, whom she kissed under the mulberry tree back home. Though in shock, Travis will raise his kin even if he has no idea how to deal with a baby.

However, managing a major corporation is a piece of cake when compared to managing a six month old child as Libby makes demands at any hour and the smell could force Bin Laden to surrender. Still he is fortunate as Kit remains in the Windy City to help him adjust though she hopes that adjustment takes a lifetime as she still loves the boy next door who broke her heart once before.

This is an interesting family drama in which death and an infant serve as matchmakers. Kit and Travis keep the story line moving forward as both wants to do what is right for his young niece while fearing rejection if they take that first step towards one another. Though Travis adapts too easily from workaholic CEO to loving family man, contemporary readers will enjoy his new role as the head of DADDY DAYCARE.

My Baby, My Bride
Tina Leonard
Harlequin American
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373751338 $4.99

In Tulips, Texas, Sheriff Duke Forrester still misses his beloved Liberty Wentworth who left him on the day they were to marry accusing him of being too rigid in his manner. He cannot understand why she believes that as he knows the town is run by females and he reports to a woman.

Though it happens to be Ladies Only Day at the Tulips Saloon, Duke enters the establishment to the ire of the patrons; he says he heard rumors that Liberty is back in town and he wants to confront her. However, though Liberty is pregnant carrying his offspring, she still refuses to marry him. Desperate but as obstinate as his beloved claims he is, Duke pleads with the ladies of the Tulips Saloon to help him on his quest though that means working with the enemy whose advice sent Liberty running in the first place.

Tulips is a fascinating place as matriarchs run everything and are mentoring their replacements. Duke is a wise person who learned from his initial mistakes that winning Liberty's heart is not enough as he must sell himself as a husband and father to the town female leaders. Though a bit inane, fans will enjoy his efforts to gain support by enlisting the enemy to develop the strategy he needs to deploy to triumph as this is love and war.

Damage Control
Kristi Gold
Harlequin Hotel Marchand
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373389418 $4.99

Movie producer Renee Marchand returns home to New Orleans to regroup following a major fiasco. She agrees to take over public relations for the family run Hotel Marchand though she insists this is temporary as she plans to return to Southern California to reenergize her career.

Film director Pete Traynor comes to New Orleans seeking locations for a film he is planning to make. He stays at the Hotel Marchand where he sees Renee; three years ago they shared a torrid one night stand, but though both wanted more but career commitments ended their relationship before it began. Now he wants to start where they left off while she feels the same, but fears this time her heart will not recover once he leaves her, which she assumes will be as soon as he completes his mission.

The latest Hotel Marchand post Katrina romance is a fine entry in a warm series as the lead couple is a nice pairing who belong together. However, that also leads to the conflict of when he will leave her behind as he returns to California. This conflict seems forced and adding to the hero and heroine's worry is neither of the stars wants to admit the truth. Still readers will enjoy Hollywood in New Orleans as the likable Pete and the nice Renee complete what they started three years ago with lust metamorphosing into love.

Sign of the Cross
Chris Kuzneski
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0515142115 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

Thirty miles north of Copenhagen in Helsingor, Denmark, Father Erik Jansen is crucified on a cross with a sign nailed to the top: "IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER". By the time touring students find the deceased, his corpse is rotted gray and birds are dining on his flesh. The next day, identical homicides occur in other parts of the world.

At the same time of the crucifixion murders, archeologist Dr. Charles Boyd leads a dig at the Middle Ages "Vacation Vatican haven underneath Orvieto, Italy. There he believes he will find a depository of scrolls; that is if he and his crew can locate the Catacombs that most of his peers classify on a par with the Loch Ness monster. Boyd proves right as he and his assistant Maria Pelati make a discovery that would destroy Christianity. Now they are targets of several diverse groups, one of which is killing priests already and another is sanctioned by the Vatican. Their only hope to stay alive long enough to show their finding from first century Rome to the world reside in the penitentiary in Pamplona, Spain where former MANIACS Jonathan Payne and David Jones linger waiting for "official" intervention.

Loosely echoing the Brown phenomena, SIGN OF THE CROSS is an action-packed Christian conspiracy thriller that goes full speed from the onset (with the murder of Father Erik) and never slows down until the final explanation of the finding. The fast-paced story line grips the audience as the plausibility of the discovery seems reasonable so that the too many cat and mouse encounters that follow appear possible. Though the cast in some ways come out of Brownian 101 casting, readers will appreciate Chris Kuzneski strong thriller that refreshes the Christian conspiracy sub-genre.

Dance of the Gods
Nora Roberts
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0515141666 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

The Goddess Morrigan gathered the Circle of Six champions to battle against the vampire Lilith and her undead minion whose goal is world conquest. The sextet consist of Hoyt the Sorcerer, his vampiric sibling Cian, the witch Glenna, Geallian Princess Moira, shape-shifter Larkin, and demon hunter Blair. They come from different eras and even worlds as each exited the Dance of the Gods to meet in twenty-first century Ireland training for a war against a much more powerful enemy.

Even while training, they must fight Lilith's soldiers sent to destroy them before the final engagement, They bicker fitfully among themselves and, for some, dog their best to ignore the mounting sexual tension. Their teachers worry about relationships as they prepare; for instance the constant bickering and arguing between Larkin and Blair has turned to lust, but what will happen under fire when sacrifice might be needed for the better good. Still the group impatiently waits for their instructors to tell them the time is now to enter the Geall stone circle to go back to the past to rage the Armageddon war with Lilith and her forces.

The middle tale of the Circle Trilogy (see MORRIGAN'S CROSS) is an excellent romantic fantasy with the emphasis on the paranormal magical elements. The story line is character driven as the six train and forge friendships between them while others do not get along. Nora Roberts provides the right amount of battle with the foe so that the audience receives a strong enchanting tale that moves the saga forward yet sets up what should be quite a final fantasy.

Knights of the Round Table: Lancelot
Gwen Rowley
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0515141992 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

The Lady of the Lake blessed Sir Lancelot du Lac with fighting skills no one has matched. He will keep his role as First Knight as long as he adheres to his loyalty vow to his King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. However, as arrogant as Lancelot is in jousts and in battle, he feels lonely.

Guinevere orders Lancelot to pose as just a regular knight instead of a superhero warrior at an upcoming tournament. When he stops at run down Corbenic Castle he hides his identity from his hosts. He quickly realizes that the lord's daughter Elaine holds the poor keep together as her father spends all of his time seeking the Holy Grail and her brother with alcohol following a maiming by Lancelot at a tournament. She sees the guest as a chance to escape from her current downward spiral while he sees her as salvation. However, once she knows who he is, she rejects him. Lancelot can hide behind his pride or he can risk humiliation on a chance that love can save both of them.

Though Camelot is in the background, this tale is more a Dark Ages romance between the individuals with a mutual past to overcome if both take the steps that love offers them. The arrogant Lancelot is a fascinating character as his skills are a blessing and a curse; he hides his vulnerability behind a conceit made from his military achievements in jousting and war. Elaine gets past his armor into his inner soul, but has doubts when she realizes who her beloved is and what he did to her sibling. Fans of Arthurian tales may want to pass, but historical romance readers will enjoy this fine interpretation of the mists of Camelot.

The Book of True Desires
Betina Krahn
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0515141704 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

In 1898 at the Tampa Bay Hotel, statuesque beauty Cordelia O'Keefe checkmates elderly Samuel P. "Hardacre" Morgan before inviting the much older gentleman to join her for dinner. At the restaurant, Cordelia introduces her Aunt Hedda to Hardacre before he demands she tell him what she wants from him. She explains she is a gambling explorer who always wins her wagers as she sets out to examine places no one of either gender visits. She further states she won a hieroglyphics stone dated back to the biblical era in Egypt of the mines of a foreign king that experts tell her is Solomon. She wants him to fund her expedition to King Solomon's mines until she sates she is his granddaughter; her father was his son Thomas.

The next day he provides her with a counteroffer of financing if she finds the Mayan Gift of the Jaguar with his indentured butler Hartford Goodnight to authenticate her success or more likely failure. As the daring duo struggles for survival in the Yucatan against snakes, butterfly hordes, and two and four legged beasts, they fall in love, but an unknown person follows them with a plan to steal the Jaguar and kill Hartford and Cordelia.

From the moment that the incredibly competent Cordelia (think female Indiana Jones) checkmates her grandfather in nine moves until the last rumble in the jungle, this terrific historical romantic adventure never slows down. The story line is fast-paced, but the lead couple is a fully developed pairing as Cordelia realizes the arrogant English butler is quite at home in the heat and danger of the Yucatan. Fans will appreciate joining the intrepid couple on their jarring, jostling, and jolting jaunt for the Gift of the Jaguar.

The Falcon's Bride
Dawn Thompson
Love Spell
0505526794 $6.99

In 1811 Ireland, Londoner Theodosia "Thea" Barrington lives with her wealthy but abusive fiance Nigel Cosgrove though his increasing use of violence scares her and makes her want to reconsider marrying him although she really has no choice as her family needs his money and power. However, shehas a personal reason for remaining at least at Nigel's castle; a gypsy told her she will wed Ros "Black Falcon" Drumcondra, whose grandfather lost Cashel Cosgrove due to betrayal to Nigel's ancestor over a century before.

Thea enters ancient ruins that are a portal leading her to 1695, the year that the laird allegedly disappeared, but before she can get her bearings, Drumcondra's men abduct her. He thinks she is the intended of his enemy, Cosgrove. He holds her for ransom, but quickly her and her captor fall in love. Thea plans to save her beloved's life before returning to her time.

Though the time travel story line takes a bit to understand especially who Drumcondra really is, readers will enjoy this fine historical due to the heroine who is out of place as a Regency lady in seventeenth century environs. The story line is action packed as Thea is a pawn between the two rivals, but chooses love and goes out of her way to insure her beloved survives the upcoming betrayal. Readers will enjoy Dawn Thompson's fine time traveling romance.

Divine Madness
Melanie Jackson
Love Spell
0505526905 $6.99

To remain an immortal Ninon must bathe in Saint Elmo's Fire every fifty years. As the semi-century event approaches, Ninon is concerned. If she fails to bathe she will die, but if she goes to Saint Elmo's Fire she knows her enemy Comte de Saint Germain awaits for her there to ambush and kill her. Still she heads to Mexico.

Ninon also learns that her deadly adversary plans to release devastating evil on an unsuspecting world. She needs an ally, but has doubts whether to trust the vampire Miguel Stuart, the offspring of a malevolence that his late Scottish father feared, whom she has just met in Mexico. As he battles to control his inner demon craving for blood and she considers how to renew her existence, they begin to fall in love. However, both knows that first they must save a world from Saint Germain's repugnant minion especially his "Xeroxing" machine before they can begin considering a lifetime, in this case eternity, together.

DIVINE MADNESS is a wonderful romantic horror thriller with the love subplot for the most part taking a back seat to the supernatural spin as the story line cleverly intertwines the paranormal elements into the mundane world. Ninon and Miguel are a wonderful pair of champions who together might succeed, but apart will die. Though reading the previous tale (see DIVINE FIRE) enhances this novel, fans of dark thrillers will appreciate Melanie Jackson's divine hell on earth book.

Just One Sip
Katie MacAlister, Jennifer Ashley and Minda Webber
Love Spell
050552659X $6.99

"Viva Las Vampires" by Jennifer Ashley. Reporter Meredith Black seeks to interview Vegas hotelier Stefan Erickson, owner of Transylvania Castle hotel. Vampiric Stefan seeks Meredith too for personal reasons. However as his eyes seem to devour her, she wonders whether he seeks her for a fast nip or eternal cocktails for two.

"Bring Out Your Dead" by Katie MacAlister. Zombie life coach and English instructor to the undead Ysabelle Raleigh meets Sebastian, a vampire who claims she is his long lost Beloved. She scoffs at his insistence though she thinks he is kind of cute. He must persuade her that he is serious and not just handing out a line for a quick bite. He must win her heart in between battling despondent zombies and a teenage vampire.

"Lucy and the Crypt Casanova" by Minda Webber. TV talk show hostess Lucy Campbell has interviewed the paranormal and supernatural for several years. Now she is teaming up with the last being she wants to be near anywhere in the universe, her ex, a vampire detective. Still she has little choice as she investigates, along side the man who stomped on her soul, a murder allegedly committed by an incubus.

These are three amusing and interesting vampiric romantic fantasies starring likable protagonists who will take a bite of time out of sub-genre fans.

The Birth House
Ami McKay
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0061135852 $24.95 1-800-242-7737

In Scots Bay, Nova Scotia, Dora Rare lived up to her surname having been the first female offspring in five generations. Because she was so rare, the midwife Marie "Miss B" Babineau mentors her in the art of herbal healing including ending a pregnancy. In 1917 when Dora was eighteen, her father and five uncles, all shipbuilders, construct her home overlooking the Bay of Fundy, which soon becomes the local birth house.

Not long afterward, Dr. Gilbert Thomas arrives in the village setting up a practice in which he claims painless births at his clinic. He begins a clever campaign to undermine the competition by insisting he provides the most modern scientific techniques while the midwives offer superstition, questionable methods, and pain though he ignores the comparative costs as his charges leave most locals financially strapped. As the women debate tradition vs. scientific progress, Miss B dies making it even easier for Dr. Thomas to claim superiority as his rival is young with limited experience.

This is a terrific historical tale that looks closely at the debate of "progress" vs. tradition with the changeover during an age when doctors begin replacing midwives as health providers. The characters are purposely stereotyped to emphasize their perspectives on the debate; however, whereas Miss B and Dora seem kind and caring towards their patients, Thomas appears arrogant with more concern over his needs though he is competent. Ami McKay has provided an interesting WW I Canadian tale that is apropos to much of the argument over medical scientific research (and other social issues) making headlines today.

Madame Tussaud: A Life in Wax
Kate Berridge
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0060528478 $25.95 1-800-242-7737

Though the focus is on the woman who brought wax figures of blood and gore to the forefront in the late eighteenth century this terrific biography also showcases the era. The concentration on Madam Tussaud's life also contains an interesting underlying theme that seems apropos today and perhaps can be generalized as a human condition that the macabre of "if it bleeds, it leads" especially if a celebrity is involved. This has always fascinated mankind. Born in 1761, to a teenage cook, Madame Tussaud using chutzpah that PT Barnum later adopted learned her trade from a traveling showman before turning to the French Reign of Terror to recreate wax scenes of the guillotining of King Louis XVI and Robespierre. She was a businesswoman first and foremost, but also was a wonderful artist and a terrific reader of the human condition as her work, which moved from Paris to London became part of the pop culture of the first half of the ninetieth century and remains a fixture today (movies like Waxworks). Biography readers will enjoy this fascinating look at a competent female whose life in wax still fascinates people over a hundred and fifty years after her death as her "name" Madame Tussaud brings up interesting gruesome images.

Exiles in America
Christopher Bram
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0061138347 $24.95 1-800-242-7737

In Williamsburg, Virginia, in their late forties William and Mary professor Daniel Wexler and psychiatrist Zachary Knowles have been a happily "unmarried" couple for over two decades yet. However, they look so solid to everyone who knows either of them that they assume the pair will remain together until one dies. However, their close loving relationship no longer includes sex between them; instead Daniel has affairs while Zack has become celibate.

When the college's resident artist of the year arrives, Iranian Abbas Rohani and his Russian spouse Elena with their two children, Zack and Daniel are the first to truly welcome them by inviting them to dinner. While Zack and Elena hold an intelligent discussion, Daniel tries to impress the arrogant attractive Abbas by showing him his paintings. Zack and Elena begin to forge a close friendship, but Abbas devastates Daniel by saying his paintings are poor. After seeing Abbas' superior work, Daniel and the Iranian hunk begin an affair that threaten both marriages at the same time that Abbas' pious older brother Hassan demands he and his wife return to Iran immediately.

This is a well written interesting relationship drama starring four fascinating protagonists that is a modernizing of the late 1960s movie "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice". The story line digs deep into the four prime players mostly through their relationships with the other three in a sort of rectangular connection. Though at times Christopher Bram seems to want to normalize the coupling which takes away from the prime premise that relationships come in all forms, fans who appreciate a deep character study will enjoy this fascinating look at Zack and Daniel and Abbas and Elena.

Some Nerve
Jane Heller
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0060599278 $24.95 1-800-242-7737

Celebrity gossip columnist, make that writer; Ann Roth takes pride that her work is above the typical fluff of her peers. Her current assignment is to obtain an interview with reclusive but hot actor Malcolm Goddard. He offers her one chance flying in his Cesna; fear of flying Ann refuses, which infuriates her boss, who fires her.

Stunned, she goes home depressed to Missouri to regain her equilibrium. Not long afterward, Malcolm checks into a Midwest hospital with a dangerous heart condition. Ann sees this as an opportunity to regain her position so she becomes a volunteer at the hospital. She begins seeing Malcolm every day, but he does not recognize her as the cowardly reporter. As Anne finds herself reaching out to the patients, who some are on a lonely death row; she begins to fall in love with Malcolm. She knows she must reveal her vocation to him, but that means the story or the love.

Though interesting to follow the antics of a defrocked gossip columnist, neither the deceitful reporter or the supercilious actor come across initially as sympathetic characters; that begins to change when the patients open their eyes. Fans of Jane Heller will enjoy watching the cynical journalist and the arrogant actor metamorphose into nicer people while falling in love. The key being that the ambitious Ann would have chosen the article over the man, but as she changes readers will wonder whether she will select the story or the hunk.

Farewell Summer
Ray Bradbury
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0061131547 $24.95 1-800-242-7737

In 1928 in Green Town, Illinois with school to shortly commence twelve years old Douglas Spaulding leads his brother and their friends in a make believe war against the town's older male citizens. Their childish mischief irks octogenarian Calvin C. Quartermain, who expects children to respect not harass the elderly. After a cap gun raid followed by the abduction of chess pieces, Calvin, invoking his memories as a young teen during the Civil War, mounts a counter offensive while the courthouse big clock keeps on ticking.

The war between the young and the old escalates with neither side ready to capitulate or allow the sandwich generation to intercede with a punishing self-serving truce. However, the two ring leaders quickly gain respect for one another, but it is life that intervenes when Doug discovers he likes girls more than war.

Ray Bradbury is at his best with his expanding a tale included in his work DANDELION WINE. The lead "generals" make the tale as both start out with dissing their adversary, but soon respect their opponent. Both soon realize they walk in the same shoes as Calvin sees Doug as his past and Doug sees Calvin as his future. One of the grandmasters of twentieth century literature, Mr. Bradbury is still in top form with a superior character study that looks at time ticking with a child eventually becoming the adult.

Mark Billingham
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0060841664 $24.95 1-800-242-7737

In London, Specialist Crime Directorate Murder Investigation Team Detective Inspector Tom Thorne is not dealing well with the death of his manic father. His superiors decide he needs time away from violent crime; as such they assign him "gardening leave", which means desk duty ad nausea.

Bored and with too much time to think about personal thoughts rather than cases, Tom begs his way onto an investigation into someone kicking to death the homeless. His boss reluctantly agrees to allow Tom to go undercover as a homeless person though those who worry about his mental state fear he is trying to destruct. He begins living on the street where the cold is unbearable though food is readily available, but the serial killer continues to murder Tom's new peers, mentors, and dangerous rivals.

LIFELESS is a superb British police procedural starring an empathic detective who's so despondent that the audience wonders whether he will "return" to his middle class existence once the case is resolved. Tom terrific is at his best in this superb undercover investigative story line. However, what makes this tale so powerful is spin on the homeless as a community with a hierarchal relationships filled with dos and don'ts. Mark Billingham provides a fabulous societal issue based investigative thriller.

To Rescue a Rogue
Jo Beverly
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451220110 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

In 1815 during the pivotal Battle of Waterloo, Lord Darius "Dare" Debenham is critically injured and rushed from the front. To dull his severe pain and help him heal, he receives medication, but finds out over time way he had way too much laudanum as he become addicted to the opiate. Now two years later, he fights his craving for the drug every moment he is awake.

As he struggles to control his addiction and accusation that he cowardly fled the battlefield, family friend Lady Mara St. Bride wants the return of the old Dare that she secretly loved. She will do what it takes to persuade him that he can contain the demons and still live a fruitful fulfilling life in the light instead of humiliatingly hiding in the shadows. As Mara does anything and everything including touring London with a blanket and her undies and enlisting the other eleven Rogues, the last of them dares to think he can return to life with the love of Mara as his impetus.

This is a fantastic finale to the superior Regency romantic suspense series, the Rogues. Mara is a courageous heroine risking her reputation and much more for the man she loves while the return of the other eleven of the Dirty Dozen provides a homecoming feel to the plot. However this story belongs to Dare as he struggles with everyday life having no dreams or aspirations for even tomorrow until Mara kicks his butt and heart into first gear. As has been the case throughout this exemplary saga, Jo Beverly writes an outstanding historical romance.

Love, Lust, and Dixie Dust
Luann McLane
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451219503 $14.00 1-800-847-5515

"Crazy". In Nashville, Brody Barker celebrates with too much alcohol the release of his first solo recording. Drunk he staggers into The Psychic Love Connection Shop owned by psychic Mary Jane (M.J.) Barone. She realizes immediately that he is her true love, but he thinks she is a nut case especially when Pixie the ghost that only she sees and hears advises her on matters of the heart and soul.

"Honky Tonk Angel". Next door to The Psychic Love Connection Shop is Logan's Bar where Brody was actually heading towards when he tottered into M.J.'s life. Owner Logan Parks is attracted to medium Sophie Barone, sister to M.J. He tries to ease her discomfit from a reoccurring nightmare while caressing his beloved. Frustrated Pixie tries to help this pathetic loser, who denies Pixie's existence, win the woman he cherishes.

"Walking After Midnight" Logan's sister country singer Savannah Parks dreams of a record deal while Lucio (Luc) Barone (brother to M.J. and Sophie) is a personal trainer to the stars and is hired to help her become sexier. They meet and the heat is on. However, his bad boy behavior costs her a chance at a recording deal and them a chance at love. Pixie knows Luc denies the psychic connection making it much more difficult to move this fitness and nutrition expert to understand what love is all about.

These three interrelated paranormal romances also have a love connection to Luann McLane's Wild Ride anthology (see "Hold on Tight"). Each tale is low-keyed fun as the Barone siblings find love with the help of Pixie the ghost.

Parallel Heat
Deidre Knight
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451219651 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

In the future, Refaria warrior Marco McKinley thinks any wormhole would do as he drives lost on some highway on some remote planet called earth. He stops at some dive deciding to get drunk when beautiful soldier Thea Haven appears out of nowhere to take his virginity.

New Timeline but in the present, Refaria warrior Marco McKinley is on planet earth to help his liege Jared regain the throne. Loyal to a fault, Marco soon finds himself desiring Central Intelligence Advisor Thea Haven, Jared's cousin, who is upset that the human Kelsey usurped what she thought, was her divine right to marry the king. Neither knows they have met in another timeline; both know this is not a good time as the dictators who overthrew Jared on Refaria are preparing for war on earth. Still desire flows and Marco has been warned about twists, fate, and alternate timelines. If he chooses Thea he will betray his king; if he chooses Jared, he will betray his heart.

The second "Parallel" military science fiction romance (see Parallel Attraction) is a terrific complex thriller starring two strong protagonists struggling with what is best for their king and their people, which seem to mean separation rather than life-mating into an oneness. The story line is action-packed with readers believing an outer space civil war has come to earth even as much as the alternate time lines seem genuine. With several fascinating twists that accentuates string theory fans will be hooked from the first scar-faced encounter to the final shtkasa like roar.

Give Him the Slip
Geralyn Dawson
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451219635 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

Needing to start over reformed hedonistic bad girl Maddie Kincaid moves to Brazos Bend, Texas and opens up a senior citizen care taker business. She quickly makes friends with townsfolk especially clients and feels good about her life.

However, a simple cleaning job goes awry forcing her to flee to Louisiana for her life accompanied by stoic Oscar the goldfish as they seek her friend Terry Winston at a marina. Unable to find her friend, she hides on the boat the Miss Behavin' II, owned by a card carrying member of the Holy Terrors of Brazos Bend, Luke "Sin" Callahan. A retired DEA Agent, Sin plans to sail into the sunset until he discovers his beautiful stowaway. She pleads for his help, which he reluctantly agrees to give, but will do so while adhering to his vow to avoid taking one step into Brazos Bend. However, he soon finds he cannot help but be her hero as they fall in love while the danger mounts.

The fun in this filed with twists romantic suspense thriller is the eccentric support cast who add vigor to an already electrifying story line starring two delightful former "bad" guy and gal. Whereas Sin and Maddie are a wonderful pairing, his siblings (talk about false advertising - Matthew, Mark and John), her customers, Oscar the goldfish and Dairy Princess owner Kathy add local flavor. The real bad dudes are dangerous, but Geralyn Dawson combines humor with suspense to provide her fans with a wonderfully romantic Holy Terror of Texas thriller.

Barbara Freethy
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451219694 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

In San Francisco, Barclay Auction House will sell the Benedetti Diamonds especially one special gem with a heart inside. Local security and a team from Italy guard the treasures, but are unaware of the tunnels below the auction house. Meanwhile at a gala, art historian and genealogist Christina Alberti wears the fabulous star diamond of the collection. Attending the party is FBI Agent J.T. McIntyre who thinks his college roommate sociopath thief Evan Chadwick will try to steal the gem. Stefano Benedetti worries Christina might help her father steal the gem.

Christina checks the gem and overall it looks okay but there is no heart inside. She wonders if a mistake occurred or her father somehow pulled a switch. J.T. and Christina are attracted to one another and he warns her that if the diamond is stolen, she will be blamed due to her father. He begs her to come clean with him for he believes she is hiding something. She says he will arrest her anyway so why should she trust him. When the gem is stolen, he joins her on the investigation that leads to her father in Italy not his former friend in California, but J. T. fears Evan is coming for father and daughter.

This is a terrific romantic suspense made more powerful by the complex relationship between the lead couple as her father comes between them. She believes her father would not hurt her so he must be innocent while he thinks otherwise that her dad is the thief. The strong support cast augments the fast-paced tale while a terrific final twist that will surprise readers. In spite of the improbable scenario that the villain, who has no grasp of reality, employs deep analysis of the logic of others that enables him to learn information faster than the Feds or others, fans will appreciate his cat and mouse game.

Lover Awakened
J.R. Ward
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451219368 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

In the Caldwell area of upstate New York, war between vampires and the Lessening Society slayers has recently become more overtly hostile. With the fighting hotter than ever, the six highly trained Black Dagger Brotherhood vampires find themselves overextended but prepared to die to keep their species safe.

Now the Lessers abduct Bella whose peers assume she was tortured before being killed. However, the Black Dagger Brotherhood obtains information that not only is Bella alive, but where she is being abused. Black Dagger member Zsadist is outraged by what is happening to Bella as he knows to well from his experience how it feels to be a blood slave. Feared by his own peers for his ferocity and anger, he rescues Bella killing anything in his path. To his shock and horror he finds himself attracted to Bella; even more frightening she seems to reciprocate. However, Zsadist knows he is unworthy of someone as pure and good as Bella, but she has other plans for them while the Lesser, who held her captive, schemes over regaining the female object of his obsession.

The latest Black Dagger Brotherhood thriller (see DARK LOVER) is a fabulous supernatural romantic suspense that stars a courageous heroine and the emotionally scarred vampire she loves. The story line is fast-paced as Bella tries to convince Zsadist that his past is not his fault and he is her soulmate. He desperately wants to believe her, but cannot overcome who he was. The Lesser fixated over Bella as a slave adds to the suspense, but it is the relationship between the lead couple that makes this a superb tale as showcased by a final twist involving her sibling, Rehv.

Step into Darkness
Naomi Bellis
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451219384 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

In 1793 in London a desperate Lady Sarah Leaford will do anything to save her father from Madam Guillotine in Paris. Her despair sends her to beg criminal Gentleman Jack, but he rejects her supplication. She turns elsewhere refusing to give up; this time offering to marry an influential diplomat and family friend Lord Stephen Layton, whom she does not love.

Jack's conscience Gabriel lectures him not to blow an opportunity to correct an injustice by helping Sarah's father though both know their boss the Master will be outraged of he leaves England. Still it galls Jack to agree to do so because years ago he was falsely accused of murdering Sarah's paternal grandfather. Her father Lord Carliegh wanted him hung; Jack barely escaped Newgate and now as a felon he has turned into a skilled criminal. His larcenous activities disguise Jack's real undercover assignment and his personal quest for justice by uncovering the identity of who set him up though he believes Lord Layton is the culprit. He informs Sarah that he changed his mind, but soon finds her as his beloved partner who he wants by his side long after they free her father, assuming they succeed.

STEP INTO DARKNESS is an action-packed Georgian espionage romantic intrigue that takes off from the moment Layton and Jack see one another for the first time in years with Sarah as witness to their encounter and never slows down until the final resolution of their triangle. The fast paced story line moves out once Jack undertakes the mission that he know will anger his enigmatic employer and put him back at odds with Layton, who he wants to kill anyway. With a touch of magic that seems off kilter though adding fun to the relationship between the half French witch and the Gentleman thief, fans will enjoy this enchanting historical.

I'm the Vampire, That's Why
Michele Bardsley
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451219376 $6.00 1-800-847-5515

In Broken Heart, Oklahoma, Jessica Matthews, widow mother of two kids takes out the garbage when her fourteen years old son failed to do so as always. However, this time dumping the trash leads to her assault by a starving vampire. When she regains consciousness, instead of the Pearly Gates, she finds she is amidst her garbage with her enlarged canines sunk into the thigh of a naked hunk, Patrick O'Hallorhan.

Jessica is irate though at least at night she has not felt this healthy since she gave birth. However, tired of men using her like her late spouse who left her and their children for his secretary before dying in a car crash, she vows to avenge the bite especially since she fears for her offspring. However, the cretin who bit her owns her sexually and more for at least a century. Her last commitment didn't last two decades and besides Patrick is the vampire her heart wants even as she learns that her town is the center of eerie with the Consortium battling the Wraith.

This is an amusing vampire romance told from the viewpoint of the heroine whose asides bring a bit of a chick lit feel to the story line. Jessica's escapades are fun to follow as she struggles with raising her children normally, getting involved with supernatural politics, hunting her predator and falling in love with her savior. Fans will believe that Broken Heart is the center of the paranormal on the mundane plane as this bard provides a terrific contemporary tale.

A Peach of a Murder
Livia J. Washburn
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451219740 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

The townsfolk of Weatherford, Texas is getting ready for the annual festival and housemates Phyllis, Mattie and Carolyn are plucking peaches in Newt Bishop's Orchard. Phyllis happens to notice that Newt is arguing with another man who turns out to be his own son. When she hears a scream coming from the barn, they see that Newt's car fell on top of him. They later learn that it might have been murder instead of an accident.

At the cooking competition, Donnie, an affluent businessman and one of the judges, suddenly keels over; it is later discovered that his water jar was laced with arsenic gotten from the laetrile from the peach pits. Suspicion falls on Carolyn because her daughter who worked for Donnie was arrested because he charged her with embezzlement; she claim he wanted revenge as she spurned his advances. A high school student commits suicide and one of the teachers is run over in a hit and run. Nobody realizes all these events are linked and when Phyllis discovers who the link is she doesn't want to believe it nor do any of the townsfolk.

Instead of pining away when her beloved husband died, the heroine opened her home to boarders and now three retired teachers and a widower who recently lost his wife are active in the community and are there for one another. Although Phyllis and Carolyn were competing in the cooking contest, Phyllis starts her own investigation because she is sure her friend is innocent. There are many surprises in this entertaining who done it but when the killer is revealed, nobody can believe that person is the killer. Livia J. Washburn has a refreshing way with words and knows how to tell an exciting story.

Shooting Gallery
Hailey Lind
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451219732 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

Annie Kincaid grew up knowing the people who populated the art underworld thanks to her grandfather, the expert forger Georges LeFleur. Annie is almost as good an artist and at seventeen was arrested for selling forgeries of French masters. The only reason she isn't doing prison time is there was no evidence and the French couldn't believe an American could do such work that even the experts were fooled.

At an open air art exhibit, Annie is the only one who knows that the sculpture of a man is really a dead body with his fingers chopped off. At the same time of her discovery, a Chagall painting is stolen and her friend Bryan is the number one suspect. She promises to find the painting and while there she is hired by the Hewitts to get back the sculpture Head and Torso taken by his creator Robert Pascal. She also agrees to help her landlord, the owner of a security firm, to restore a Picasso that has crayons drawn on it. When Michael, the notorious art thief comes back in her life, she suddenly receives death threats and is almost killed by someone who believes she has something they want.

The protagonist in SHOOTING GALLERY is a vibrant and quirky character who tries so hard to stay on the right side of the law but when the people she cares about are in trouble she finds herself in shaky legal territory. The support cast is populated with eccentric characters who add a lot of humor to this fast paced delightful amateur sleuth tale. Readers will want more mysteries starring the incomparable Anne Kincaid

Apples of Gold
Lisa Samson
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor,New York, NY 10019
1400070937 $10.99 1-800-726-0600

Kind hearted island Governor St. Juste summons the two Carpenter sisters, just turned seventeen Kate and almost eighteen Liza. Just his calling for them terrorize the siblings who cannot understand what they did wrong even as they rationalize that the governor owes his life to their father. Still he is their benevolent ruler so they heed his beckoning.

He explains that his eldest son Claude is coming home after a tour with the Royal Navy. He gives each girl a red apple that they are to protect before giving it to Claude. The one who keeps the apple properly will stay in Claude's home. Who will pass the test depends on how each sees the importance of cherishing and nurturing the apple but neither understands the hidden agenda well beyond keeping house for an aristocrat.

Those who push abstinence down teen throats expecting sheepish obedience need to take a close look at the low keyed parable APPLES OF GOLD; a fantastic fairy tale that emphasizes sexual wholesomeness is a reasonable choice. Liza is a terrific character struggling with the possibilities of intimacy that her sister seems to enjoy, but believing as difficult as it seems she feels not ready and sticks to her convictions. Though simplistic, this "parable of purity" is a well written message targeting young teens as sexual pressures to do it bombard her from every angle as NPR recently reported with even young children's TV shows.

The Best of Evil
Eric Wilson
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor,New York, NY 10019
1578569117 $13.99 1-800-726-0600

When he was six years old living in the northwest, he watched his mother die from a fall that he attributed to his Uncle Wyatt. He lived a violent on the streets lifestyle until he was almost assassinated by a former gang associate. During that moment when a gun was pointed at his head, he calmly found God. Now over two decades since his mom's death, Aramis Black lives with his older brother guitar playing Johnny Ray in Nashville and owns and operates a coffee shop.

On the day he is to hire a new employee, a man is murdered in his shop. The victim Darrell Mitchell tells Aramis to "turn your eyes from greed". Frighteningly, this was his mom's last words to Aramis. Johnny Ray takes Aramis on a drive to the grave of Meriwether Lewis and tells his sibling a strange tale that they are half brothers. Furthermore he insists that Aramis is a descendent of the famous explorer, who Johnny Ray believes was killed by avaricious General Wilkinson and that Aramis' mother was also murdered because of that early nineteenth century deadly rivalry. He could be next as he has the proof that could devastate the influential affluent descendents of Wilkinson though Aramis has no idea what his brother is talking about.

Though the premise of tying the murder of Aramis' mother to the possible homicide of Lewis seems like fantasy, Eric Wilson makes it feel plausible though still some doubters would insist that it is only a slight possibility but all will agree this is a clever solid amateur sleuth tale. The story line is fast-paced from the first murder at the lead character's espresso cafe and never slows down until the stirring climax. Readers also receive fascinating tidbits about Lewis after his adventure with Clark; these factoids are cleverly intertwined into the conspiracy. Believe it or not, THE BEST OF EVIL is a terrific thriller.

Straight Up
Lisa Samson
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor,New York, NY 10019
1578568862 $13.99 1-800-726-0600

Georgia Bishop is a talented jazz pianist, but like everything else she tried she failed. When her father dies her last anchor died with him. She quits her job at the Grotto Church, rejects her estranged spouse's Sean's efforts to reconcile, and moves into her dad's Baltimore condo with no plans except to further atrophy in alcohol there.

Georgia's cousin Fairly Godfrey has made a success as a New York based design expert, but since her spouse Hart died, she feels lonely and despondent. She heads to Baltimore where misery loves miserable company which being with an equally depressed Georgia definitely is. However, instead of spiraling further downward, the two women begin to gain some equilibrium from Solo, a Congo expatriate with two kids who worked for Hart, from Sean's refusal to quit, from their uncle, from each other, and ultimately from God who through his grace wants Georgia and Fairly to be all that they can be.

This is a terrific Christian inspirational character study starring two delightful yet depressed women who have watched loved ones die and ergo lost faith in the Lord and in themselves. What makes this excellent drama refreshing besides a strong ensemble cast who seem genuine and two fabulous female leads is how Lisa Samson deals STRAIGHT UP with the God's plans for the two cousins, who both want to quit on life until they begin to understand why they are alive.

The Brushstroke Legacy
Lauraine Snelling
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor,New York, NY 10019
1578567890 $13.99 1-800-726-0600

In Chicago, Ragni Clausen feels her life is a lie as she has failed at everything important. At her job at Advantage Advertising Inc, she feels like screaming AAI as someone modified her dog biscuit ad campaign. Her love life just ended unceremoniously. Her dad suffers form dementia. Now her mom has a note from a Paul Heidelberg claiming the family cabin on the Little Missouri is in need of repair after two harsh winters. Her sister Susan and their mom want Ragni to go the Badlands to fix the cabin while on vacation, but Susan demands she also take her niece Erika with her by calling in a sisterly favor.

Not only is Erika irate over having to tag along, she detests the need for a baby sitter as she is a teen though her mom explained she will be busy much of the summer. In the Dakotas, the two females find the cabin devastated and consider persuading mom to sell to Heidelberg. However, they find several paintings by Ragni's great-grandmother Nilda that inspire the two women to make a go at restoring the family cabin and Paul as a surprisingly young neighbor willing to help.

THE BRUSHSTROKE LEGACY is a warm character study that enables readers to compare life between 2002 and 1906 Badlands. The strong realistic evolving relationship between the aunt and her niece is delightfully portrayed though the same cannot be said of the seemingly rushed love between Paul and Ragni. Still the thrust of this fine moving story is the three generations of women finding their respective niche.

Lone Wolf
Linwood Barclay
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0553804553 $6.99 1-800-726-0600

Zack Walker is relived to learn that the body found at his fishing camp near his cabin belongs not to his father, but to Morton DeWort, a guest who was staying at the home that Timothy Wickens is renting from Arlen Walker. Timothy claims a bear mauled him, but a nurse at the camp insists that Morton died from dog bites. The Wickers own vicious canines trained to kill people so everyone avoids them and even Chief Orville fears confronting them.

While his father recovers from injuries, Zack runs the camp and also investigates the Wickens. He finds their yard is a mess filled with cars in various need of repair. The house smells of feces and the only apparent way in is via a padlocked gate. A picture of Timothy McVeigh on the wall increases Zack's worries as does the feeling of horror from a family who believes the holocaust is a lie and Jews and Blacks are second class citizens. A feed store worker is killed and thousands of pounds of fertilizer is stolen. Timothy's daughter asks for refuge for her and her son from her father. Zack thinks the Wickens plans to explode a major bomb, but he lacks proof.

The Wickens are obviously a bunch of whackos, but no evidence proves they are doing anything illegal besides which they have intimated everyone including the police chief and lawyers as Arlen learns when he cannot obtain legal help as one attorney's house was previously blown up. Zack sees the ties between murder, the stolen fertilizer and the alleged bear killing, but lacks proof that the Wickens plans something nasty. Though perhaps the villains are too evil, Linwood Barclay masterly provides deeply developed characters starting with the paranoid Zack and following with the malevolent Wickens.

Marc D. Giller
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0553903012 $12.00 1-800-726-0600

In an unspecified time in the future, governments have been replaced by corporations known as the Collective. The Assembly consists of members from each collective and hammerjacks are plugged into the information network to ferret out secrets from different corporations to give to their employers. Lea Prism a former hammerjack who was part of the terrorist organization, Inru that wanted to destroy the sentient computer Lyssa.

Now Lea protects the A.I. and the organization she wanted to destroy as well as hunting down operatives of the Inru organization. Her search takes her to the radioactive wasteland of Chernobyl where she sees several humans in stasis that are now dead. At the same time on Mars, a hammerjack on the ship Almacantar finds a signal in the code of the information network; when they land on Mars they find a hidden hideaway inside a volcano containing six Security Forces people alive in stasis. They are taken aboard the ship where suspicions surface about their true station and nature. These two events are linked and could mean the end of mankind unless they listen to the leader of the Inru organization and Lea, an ex-Inru operative.

People who are not familiar with the events that took place in HAMMERJACK and are not computer literate may have a difficult time fully comprehending some terminology and events, yet overall the audience will enjoy this exciting fast paced science fiction thriller. The heroine must navigate her way through corporate greed, terrorist goals and an artificial intelligence that contains the personality of the man she loved while saving the world from these very same forces. Marc D. Giller extrapolates the present to give a realistic grim picture of the future.

The Dream Thief
Shana Abe
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0553804936 $18.00 1-800-726-0600

In Darkfirth, England Lady Amalia "Lia" Langford can "hear" the future in her dreams. In 1768 she began dreaming of the human Zane bringing the dreaded Draumr gem to her clan. Draumr is the only known item that can enslave Lia's people who are the shapeshifting Drakon, who live in the most remote mountainside of Northern England.

The clan knows Zane, as Lia's mother, married to the Alpha leader, saved his life; he likewise knows their secrets too. In 1773 The Drakon enlist Zane to bring to them the Draumr as they plan to insure it can never be used against them. Zane agrees to travel to and find the gem in the Carpathian Mountains. However, he has plans to use the gem's power to further his affluence and clout. What he never expected was to meet a Drakon in Hungary, but Lia waits for him there as she has heard her future and he is intimately the core of it.

The sequel to the delightful THE SMOKE THIEF, THE DREAM THIEF is a superb late eighteenth century romantic fantasy that grips readers from Lia's first dream until the final confrontation five years later. Lia is a fascinating character as she has broken clan rules and risks her heart to insure that her beloved Zane does not harm her people. Zane steals the show as a "bad boy" who must choose between thieving diamonds and love; readers and the heroine will not be sure which he will select.

The Edge of Darkness
Tim LaHaye and Bob Phillips
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0553803255 $26.00 1-800-726-0600

At Preston College, biblical archeologist Michael Murphy receives another letter from Methuselah that contains a riddle. After figuring out what it means, Michael travels to the underground funhouse in Charlotte where he battles and defeats Ninja killers. He finds another riddle that he deciphers that focuses on Aaron's Rod and the Golden Jar of Manna that was in the Ark of the Covenant before it was lost to the Philistines.

Michael's friend Isis, also an archeologist, researches where those items might be found and determines the most likely spot is the Temple of Dagon in Israel Murphy, who loves finding artifacts that prove the genuineness of the bible sets off to make his latest discovery, but is unaware that an old adversary is following him with the intent of killing him before he interferes with the powerful plans of the Seven, a group who manipulates, from behind the scenes, world events; they want the False prophet brought to the attention of the globe in preparation for the Antichrist to rise tom power. Michael knows of the Seven from Methuselah, but refuses to let them scare him off his quest to prove that everything written in the bible is fact.

Book four of the Babylon Rising series provides deep explanations about the enigmatic Seven and their goals, who Methuselah is, and why he assists Murphy, and how the false prophets are fooling people. Murphy is an Indiana Jones type adventurer with strong beliefs in God that sustain him; he is flawed and prone to doubts when he makes difficult decisions as a modern day Diogenes hunting for the truth. Readers will enjoy his exploits as THE EDGE OF DARKNESS is a riveting thriller.

The Fifth Quadrant
C.J. Ryan
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0553589024 $6.99 1-800-726-0600

In the thirty-third century, Gloria Vandeen is the most beautiful and popular woman in the Empire. The intelligent female heads the Department of Extraterrestrial Affairs, Office of Strategic Affairs. The leaders of the four quadrants that make up DEXTA are determined to shut down Gloria and her cell, but she is resolute planning to defeat them at their game. Her ex-husband the Emperor Charles V needs an heir and wants to remarry her so that he can have her and children.

Gloria investigates the recent use of plasma weapons in Quadrant Four that are traced to a shipment of armaments that were shipped there decades ago in anticipation of the onset of a war with the Ch'ignith. Obviously the weapons never made it there and are being used on the planet New Cambride where a DEXTRA conference is convened. Intelligence reports that there is a high degree of certainty that a plasma bomb is on the planet with a capability of eradicating the entire world. Gloria and her team take the threat seriously as they search to find the weapon of mass destruction to disable it before the catastrophe occurs.

Gloria is an intelligent sexy woman who in her offbeat charming manner defuses many crisis on various planets before they go into hostile overdrive. She uses her perfect looks as a weapon to fool her enemies who assume she is a dingbat even though she always gets what she wants mostly with out of the box logic and solutions. THE FIFTH QUADRANT is an erotic fun filled futuristic science fiction thriller that takes readers on an epic adventure guided by a delightful one-of–a-kind heroine.

The Deception of the Emerald Ring
Lauren Willig
c/o Penguin Putnam
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
0525949771 $21.95 1-800-847-5515

Harvard Ph.D. aspirant Eloise Kelly researches her third potential nineteenth century female spy (see THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE PINK CARNATION and THE MASQUE OF THE BLACK TULIP) as she begins to find information on nineteen years old Letty Alsworthy. Apparently, Letty married Lord Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe, her older sister Mary's fiance. This happened because she, the younger sibling, tried to prevent Mary from making a mistake that ironically ended with Letty making a mistake; alas the consequence turned out to be her hurried marriage to Geoffrey.

The League of the Purple Gentian sends Geoffrey to Ireland to prevent a rebellion. Letty assumes he is fleeing her so she investigates where he may have run off to after they ran off and married. She cleverly traces him to Dublin where she concludes her new spouse is a spymaster. Believing in supporting one's husband, Letty is active in his secret vocation though her bumbling amateur ways causes Geoffrey much consternation as she keeps trying to don his black cloak.

This is a terrific amusing historical romance that is at its best when the story line remains in the nineteenth century. When Eloise periodically takes center stage, the plot feels disrupted. Still this is a superb tale filled with warm characters in dangerous situations turned ironically humorous. Now if Eloise can be kept to pre and post game commentary, Lauren Willig's colorful female spy series would be perfect.

Take Me
Lucy Monroe
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425212211 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

In 1825, his dying housekeeper and friend Mary asks her employer Viscount Ravenswood to introduce her daughter Hannah to the infamous hermit the Duchess of Clairborne. Instead he offers to raise the child as his own though he knows she is a by-product of a rape, but Mary gets him to agree to her deathbed request to take the lass to the "Angel" as she calls Calantha. He considers Calantha as evil because her late husband, the monstrous duke, raped Mary and sired Hannah and she did nothing to protect their servant.

Calantha does not want any part of the man known by the Ton as Lord Beast because she fears her attraction to Jared. However, he refuses to back down as honor demands he complete his quest though he too finds he cannot ignore the Angel who somehow is in his every conscious thought. As they fall in love over a child and roses, someone is trying to hurt Hannah with all the evidence pointing at Calantha.

The third "T Me" Regency romance (see TOUCH ME and TEMPT ME) is a terrific tale starring a hero whose father "stole" him at birth from his mother and sister, and a woman he initially considers a she-demon. As they fall in love, Calantha, a survivor of a nasty relationship just like Jared is, risks all to keep Hannah safe while her beloved wonders if she could be the culprit as he still struggles with her being an Angel. If they trust in love they might save Hannah's life, but Calantha believes he loved Mary and Jared fears his heart is blinding his head from the reality of an avenging angel. TAKE ME is a superb ending to a fine historical trilogy.

The Cat Who Reunion Cookbook
Julie Murphy and Sally Abney Stempinski
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425211886 $23.95 1-800-847-5515

When asked if the K-Fund will be willing to publish a cook book based on meals served at family reunions, Quilleran tells Mildred Riker, Food Editor of the Moose County Something that he will be he the foot taster and will publish the book. The most beloved families in Moose County submit invitations and recipes to the cause. The recipes are easy to follow and taste delicious ranging from beverages & bread to salads and side orders. Meat dishes are popular at every family reunion and the desserts are so delicious readers will want to try the recipe of each one. Readers will find this cookbook one of the better ones based on a fictional series on the market.

Wolf's Temptation
Donna Birdsell
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425212610 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

In 1777, society considers Ethan Gray as a rakish wastrel seducing their females, innocent and married alike; however the higher ups in Lord North's Anti British Activity Committee know him as Wolf, their top spymaster. Now His current assignment is to uncover the identity of the smuggler delivering weapons to the rebels in the colonies. Since he has shown no progress in his mission, Lord North assigns him to work with female spy, Maris "Raven" Winter over his objections.

The Wolf and the Raven have a past together as he failed in a courageous attempt to save her
father's life. Now he finds he has another problem because he wants Maris and he knows she reciprocates. However, besides the mission coming first and feeling guilt over his failure to rescue her sire, he assumes her attraction is hero worship. However, she too has a reason not to pursue a personal relationship with her hero; she vows to keep safe the smuggler.

The second Georgian Spies romantic thriller (see FALCON'S MISTRESS) is an action-packed tale that never slows down from the moment that the Wolf and the Raven are teamed until his sister Freddie's final revelations (read to learn what they are). The lead couple is a fascinating duo as both struggles with an attraction that could interfere with their mission. Historical fans will enjoy WOLF'S TEMPTATION, a fine look from the perspective of British espionage agents (honor and duty over personal feelings) and the aristocracy (ungrateful insurgents) during the early years of the colonial rebellion.

The Queen Geek Social Club
Laura Preble
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425211649 $9.99 1-800-847-5515

In San Diego fourteen year old Green Pines High School freshman Shelby Chappelle realistically knows she is the queen of geeks yet is able to attract the attention of Dustin the tennis hunk. Intelligent with self deprecating humor, Shelby knows he just wants to feel her boobs when he shouts out he loves her. She uses silly string to end the match. Still in spite of the date, Shelby has no friends perhaps because of her dad the mad scientist with a lab in their home or Euphoria the robot. All the teen wants is a pal.

A new girl enters English class; Becca Gallagher is freakishly tall, but also wears platforms to make her even taller. At lunch Becca and Shelby talk when Dustin and his boob-mates arrive to harass the girls saying they are lesbos until the towering female suddenly and painfully twists his tits and bends down to whisper in his ear that if he is a prime male girls have no choice, but one another. The two females become close friends forming the Queen Geek Social Club that enables them to become social butterflies. Through bowling and dancing, the short one finds Fletcher annoying and the tall one Brandon can look straight into her eyes, but both know they will always be queen geeks.

In many ways in spite of adolescent pranks, Shelby and Becca seem much older than their fourteen years and their friendship make for a fine coming of age tale. Shelby is delightful as she struggles with boys especially Brandon, Anders (an exchange student) and Fletcher. Becca has her own male problems as boys are leery of her incredibly fast tit twister submission hold let alone dancing cheek to breast. Though some language seems inappropriate for the targeted audience, this is a fun friendship tale.

Hell with the Ladies
Julie Kenner, Kathleen O'Reilly & Dee Davis
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425211827 $14.00 1-800-847-5515

Lucifer needs some R&R from his eternal job of taking souls. However, he cannot leave the stewardship of Hell without adult supervision so he decides one of this offspring will prove capable of replacing him, but which one? He tests his three sons.

"Jack" by Kathleen O'Reilly. The oldest son Las Vegas casino owner Jack Veassago must gain possession of the Book of Souls. To do this he tries to seduce the tome from owner Gabriella D'Angelo.

"Nick" by Julie Kenner. When Jack fails Lucifer visits his middle child artist Nicholas Velnias who he assigns stealing the soul of Delilah Burnett, a preacher's daughter. Nick realizes she is the one he has searched for his entire life.

"Marcus" by Dee Davis. Lucifer is disappointed in his two oldest boys and prays (not to that guy) that his youngest son proves to be a chip off the old block. Marcus Diablo must obtain the Devil's Delight However his rival Celeste wants to steal the same item for her father.

These three superb paranormal romances affirm that even Lucifer dangling a hellish inheritance cannot overcome the strength of love.

The Last Van Gogh
Alyson Richman
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
042521267X $14.00 1-800-847-5515

In 1890 an ailing Vincent van Gogh arrives at Auvers-sur-Oise, France seeking help from homeopathic Dr. Gachet. The artist finds an odd household awaits him as the widower physician has two children, twenty years old suppressed daughter Marguerite and a younger brother of no consequence to Vincent. The child also has governess Madame Chevalier, whom van Gogh assumes is the doctor's mistress. Finally, Chevalier's adult daughter Louise-Josephine joins the mix.

A talented pianist Marguerite finds a connection to van Gogh as she would love to escape her gilded cage and see the world. She thinks the frail van Gogh might be her ticket. The painter also likes the youthful enthusiasm of the young woman and asks her father if he can paint her. Obtaining permission, he begins a series of paintings that depict a girl becoming a woman but also emphasizes her loneliness. As they begin a tryst, he tells her he cannot marry her, but gives her a painting of her to keep before her father realizes what is happening and locks her way; not long afterward van Gogh killed himself.

This historical fiction actually centers more on Marguerite than on van Gogh with the premise being that she was his muse during his last seventy days of life, in which he provided an extraordinary explosion of masterpieces. The story line is intriguing; however, the support cast (including van Gogh) comes across as more fascinating and fuller than the lead protagonist. Still the vivid colorful look at the final days brings the era to life along with some insight into the demons eating at the artist. Readers of biographical fiction will enjoy this account of the LAST VAN GOGH from the perspective of his final inspiration.

Master of Swords
Angela Knight
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425209210 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

In 510 Avalon in the mageverse, Gawain of the Round Table sees six hellhounds have trapped a dragon. He intercedes and saves the dragon's life, who uses a spell so they can communicate. Kel and Gawain become friends. One year later, Kel finds he likes being in human form where he seduces the magae, but his hanging with Gawain and company upsets the other dragons. Kel's Uncle Dragon Lord Tegid fearing him casts a spell that reduces his nephew to a silver sword with his only escape being the death of his best friend Gawain.

In the present, after an attack left four tyro defenders dead, King Arthur announces a new pairing. A relative newcomer will be paired with a veteran. Gawain becomes Lark's mentor. At his home, Gawain and Lark make love and he takes a bite as vampires do when they are with magae. Afterward Morgana assigns Gawain and Lark to investigate a murder. They find strong magic, but finally with Kel's help they arrive to find the sorcerer dead. They track that kill to a more powerful sorcerer Richard Edge, son of Avalon parents; but he was rejected by the community as unworthy. Now Richard has a powerful ally and owns the last of the three Black Grails.

Though this delightful Camelot tale can stand alone, the tale has threads left from previous Mageverse novels like MASTER OF WOLVES and the novella "Galahad" from BITE. The strong support cast especially Kel and the Camelot crowd adds depth to the mageverse and enhances either by combat or friendship the terrific relationship between the lead couple that changes over time. A fabulous final twist involving the hero and his father add to a terrific romantic fantasy that spins the Arthurian legend into a different unique direction.

The Sparks Fly Upward
Diana Norman
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425211584 $15.00 1-800-847-5515

The Reign of Terror has engulfed France with the festive activity being the beheading of the aristocracy by Madame Guillotine; in England, though horrified by what is going on across the Channel, the Ton continues partying with no fear of their inferiors rising up. In that London atmosphere where Lord Andrew Ffoulkes hosts waltzes, Philipa feels alone with no one loving her. Her dad died two years ago and her mother Makepeace Hedley mourns her late spouse yet firmly believes she and her daughter must do useful things to help people at the cost of showing no affection towards Philippa. When the man Philipa loves marries someone else, the heartbroken young lady decides to settle on a marriage of convenience to a kind person that she knows she will never love.

However, everything changes when Philipa learns her friend, the Marquis de Condorcet, has been arrested in Paris and his sisters are in hiding. Determined to heed her mother's advice to get involved, Philippa obtains a forged passport for the Marquis and arranges to get him to England. However, first she must get him out of the Bastille, which means she must journey to France where a date with Madame Guillotine awaits her if she is caught.

More a historical novel than a late nineteenth century romance though a romantic subplot enhances the thriller, THE SPARKS FLY UPWARD is a vivid acute look at A Tale of Two Cities during the French revolution through the eyes of a lonely young woman caught in both worlds. The story line is filled with non-stop action yet it is the cast especially the intrepid forlorn heroine who captures the reader's attention as she risks her life for a friend while observing how immune the locals have become towards the public deaths. Fans will appreciate Philipa's saga echoing the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Strange Candy
Laurell K. Hamilton
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425212017 $23.95 1-800-847-5515

This fourteen short story fantasy collection showcases Laurell K. Hamilton's dark humor and strong female characters. Six are brand new; three were published in 1989; four in 1990s; and one in 2005. The first tale, "Those by Themselves" is an Anita Blake story back in her early days when she was an unconfident inexperienced rookie and the Hamilton-Blake mythos had not quite developed; for followers of the executioner this will be fun culture shock as she has come a long way baby. Three of the contributions are set in the sword-and-sorcery realm of NIGHTSEER (the author's first novel from the earl 1999s). The compilation is solid with most of the stories great fun. Fans of Ms. Hamilton and anyone who appreciate her dark droll fantasies will want to read this delightful anthology.

Grave Surprise
Charlaine Harris
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425212033 $23.95 1-800-847-5515

In a Memphis cemetery cynical anthropology professor Dr. Clyde Nunley tests Harper Connelly's clairvoyance skills in front of his students; he expected either a fraud or failure. However, Harper realizes something is wrong with a freshly dug grave. Inside is a different person than that identified by the cemetery.

Surprisingly, the victim is a missing twelve year old, Tabitha Morgenstern, whom Harper failed to find two years ago in Nashville. The police look closely at Harper and her manager, her stepbrother Tolliver Lang as prime suspects as the coincident seems too much. Clyde sticks to his belief that Harper is a con artist, but soon after he accuses her of chicanery while imbibed, his corpse is found in the same burial plot that Tabitha was interred in. The Memphis police live in Harper's hotel room looking for evidence while Tabitha's family wants more from the psychic and the media turns this into an even wilder circus.

The second grave investigative paranormal mystery (see GRAVE SIGHT) is a terrific amusing sleuth tale in which the heroine and her stepbrother decide to take on the case because they are the prime suspects only every clue they find adds to the growing evidence that the siblings did the homicides. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with dry graveyard humor yet contains a strong sleuthing subplot. As with the Sookie tales, Charlaine Harris has another winning series to her credit.

Slave to Sensation
Nalini Singh
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425212866 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

Over a century ago back in 1969, the Psy Council introduced the Silence to condition through rigorous training the young to avoid rage, but within a decade the reality was to prevent all emotions including love. By 2079, Psy were so in control of their feelings, everything they did was calculated and pragmatic; nothing could make them passionately react to anything as they are totally void of emotion.

Her mother names Psy Sascha Duncan as the liaison on a business deal with Changeling Lucas Hunter, the ruling alpha leader of the DarkRiver leopard pack. As the passionate Lucas and the ice Sascha work together, both hide something from the other. Lucas seeks entry into the closed society of the elitist Psy Council in search of the individual who killed his partner; Sasha conceals even from her mother that she has deep feelings and always has had them. As they work together on the project, they fall in love, which if any of her kind, especially her mother, learns how she feels, Sasha will die.

The key to this superb science fiction romance is readers will believe that the Singh universe is a plausible ecosystem in which Weres and Psys, and other interesting species co-exist. The story line focuses on hidden agendas as Lucas investigates the murder while Sasha investigates her taboo feelings that threaten to explode especially since she wants the Leopard man. Lucas starts off planning to use his liaison as an expendable pawn, but soon finds his dual nature both desiring the Psy as his mate. Readers will enjoy Nalini Singh's excellent futuristic thriller and demand more tales from this fascinating realm.

Heart Quest
Robin D. Owens
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425210847 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

On planet Celta detective Ilex Winterberry is frustrated, but his reason differs from most of his Druida City Guardsmen as he knows who his Heartmate is while many of his peers do not. His problem is that he has seen his death. Out of love he refuses to cost his beloved Trif Clover her soul by acknowledging her, as she would die when he dies. Instead he hides his feelings from her.

As a serial killer puts fear in the residents of Druida City, Ilex learns his Trif decides to find her Heartmate. Thus while he investigates the homicides he keeps an eye on Trif, who is closing in on her man and will not accept anything less than his acknowledgement that they are Heartmates. If she dies because he died, so be it as she insists that it is her choice to die too.

The latest Robin D. Owens' Heart fantasy is a terrific police procedural in a science fiction setting. The clever whodunit stars an honorable male protagonist and a determined intrepid female. The story line is fast-paced with a strong support cast augmenting either Trif''s quest or Ilex's investigation. Fans will cherish this fun entry while newcomers will go on a quest to find the backlist (see HEART CHOICE, HEARTMATE and HEART DUEL).

Yasmine Galenorn
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425212548 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

The magical races of Otherworld make their presence known to Earthlings and the Sidhe travel through guarded portals to terra. They have agents on Earth that belong to the OIA and these agents guard the portals and fix things that involve Earth otherworld inhabitants. Three of the OIA operatives are the half human half faerie D'Artigo sisters: Camille the powerful witch whose spells sometimes backfire, Delilah a were who shifts into a cat, and Menolly a reluctant vampire.

The sisters learn that there has been a change of leadership in the Subterranean Realms where the demons reside and the new ruler Shadow Wing wants to gain control of the same magical seals that the elemental hands lost. When he has the seals he will be able to have his army pass through his realm into earth. He hates humans and wants earth scourged of their presence and his minions in control of the planet. Both sides know who has the seals and they are in a race to claim it.

Yasmine Galenorn has written a fantastic, exciting and electrifying urban fantasy that is on par with such greats at Laurell K. Hamilton, Mercedes Lackey, and Kim Harrison. Camille is torn between two different magical beings, one of which belongs to a fickle fae group who always leave their lovers and the other is a fae creature of earth that has powers equals to his lover and his rival. There is plenty of action witty dialogue and a well crafted plot in this be-WITCHLING tale.

Charmed and Ready
Candace Havens
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425211614 $14.00 1-800-847-5515

After saving the life of the English Prime Minster, but almost at the cost of her beloved Sam (see CHARMED AND DANGEROUS), witch Bronwyn wants some quality time with her boyfriend even if Sweet, Texas is sweltering in the August heat. However, the Prime Minister has asked Bronwyn to protect a friend, rock and roll star Zane. Sam is unhappy but duty calls so she leaves him in the states to journey to Bournemouth, England on what she assumes will prove a tedious assignment.

However, Bronwyn may wield some powerful magic, but her forecasting skills prove inept. First the paparazzi are everywhere and catch her in unfortunate seemingly compromised positions. When she calls Sam to explain, he refuses to speak to her or call her back. These nasty photographers crawl from under every rock and are always underfoot even when Bronwyn battles against Goth-clad demons who either want to take Zane to the dark side or eliminate a pest of a witch who has thwaredt their plans.

This sequel follows the further escapades and misadventures (at least in love) of heroic witch Bronwyn, as she battles evil demons who want her dead. Bronwyn's first hand account is fun to follow as her asides add humor to the fantasy mix. Fans needing a haven to escape the mundane will want to read the exploits of the CHARMED AND READY super witch as she battles evil while pondering whether demons or paparazzi are the bigger threat to her well being.

Captive Dreams
Angela Knight and Diane Whiteside
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425207757 $14.00 1-800-847-5515

Prologue. The Carson sisters, Celeste and Corinne have each written several novels each about the adventures and heroic escapades respectively of fantasy champion Mykhayl and future cyborg-human defender Jarred. However, the seemingly impossible occurs when the two fictional characters use "dragon magic" to break through the "barrier" to abduct the specific sibling who has made their life hell with so many trials and tribulations.

"Bound by the Dragon" by Diane Whiteside. Mykhayl abducts writer Corinne taking her to his sword and sorcery realm where he plans to make love to her in between saving the world from dark magic, but finds he needs to save the world in between his sexual encounters with this seductive siren.

"Bound by the Dream" by Angela Knight. Jarred kidnaps Celeste taking her into his futuristic realm where he plans to make love to her in between saving the world from space aliens, but finds he needs to save the world in between his sexual encounters with this seductive siren.

Tongue in cheek (and a few other places), these two fantasy romances are hot and out of this world as Angela Knight and Diane Whiteside have fun showing what happens when authors meet their fantasized heroic hunks.

Tempting the Devil
Patricia Potter
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425212580 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

In Meredith County, law enforcement officials and Atlanta Observer reporter Robin Stuart are stunned with the assassination of three cops shot in the back of their heads gang style. FBI Agent Ben Taylor follows the news on the cop killings. At this time he has no entry into the homicide investigation though his gut believes the deadly Southern Mafia Hydra, a group he has under surveillance, did the act.

Robin finds a frightened source, which can connect the murders to the Hydra. Now she is caught between three pulls as local law enforcement, the Hydra, and Ben demand she reveal her intimidated tipster. She refuses to tell the cops or Ben as she does not trust any of them even with a threat of contempt of court jailing. However, the Hydra provides a more powerful incentive to tell all with only Ben, who distrusts journalists, to keep her and her source safe.

Though using murder instead of outing a CIA agent, Patricia Potter personalizes the question of how far should a reporter go to protect her sources. Obviously the NYT Miller went to jail, but Robin has more to lose as the Hydra will maim or kill to get to her source. The story line is action-packed especially once the lead couple meets and realizes they share two things in common, distrust and desire. Fans will appreciate this romantic suspense with the emphasis on the action.

Almost Perfect
Dianne Blacklock
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425211622 $14.00 1-800-847-5515

In an upscale suburb of Sydney, Australia, Anna and Mac seem to have it all as they are the perfect married couple obviously in love with one another while also succeeding in at their respective work. . However, being DINKs (double income no kids) has bothered both, but especially Anna. She has become obsessed with having a child, but seven years of infertility has left her depressed and turning to alcohol for comfort; he turns to other comforts and longer hours at the office to avoid her.

In another nearby suburb, bookstore owner Georgie moans her lack of a love life. She wants a relationship in the worst way. When she meets Liam at her bookstore, she thinks she found Mr. Right. However, she soon believes he is not even close to being ALMOST PERFECT.

The key cast members including others besides those above make for a warm contemporary Australian drama. The story line is driven by the needs and desires of the two women, whose actions inadvertently damage their relationships with the respective men in their lives. Though everything ties up too neatly in spite of so much angst, ALMOST PERFECT is a strong character study.

A Reason to Live
Maureen McKade
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425212203 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

During the Civil War Nurse Laurel Covey provides solace to dying soldiers though no one offers comfort to her. Her Massachusetts parents disowned her after forcing her to choose between them and her Virginian spouse, who died at Gettysburg. His family wants nothing to do with a New Englander. Though watching the young die torches her soul, she writes down their last words promising them she would deliver their final message to loved ones.

In 1865 though bone wary from the war, she begins her odyssey to bring comfort to the grieving family members of those she watched die. When two scraggily hooligans assault her, bounty hunter Creede Forrester rescues her. The Texan has come east to find his estranged son, who fought for the Confederacy. She informs him that his son died. Anger joins his feelings of guilt as he never obtained the chance to reconcile with his offspring. He joins her quest out of remorse for failing his late spouse and son. As they venture from one grieving family to another, they turn to each other for solace; love blossoms, but both has major psyche hurts that make neither able to show how they feel.

Though a historical, A REASON TO LIVE is a deep poignant tale that clearly would apply today as Laurel makes the difficult rounds to provide grieving individuals and families with the last words of their deceased loved ones. The lead couple is a enchant pair who care about others for different reasons. The romance enhances the story one, but this Post Civil War drama belongs to those suffering from the loss of a loved one; perhaps if the presumptive first strike believers had to visit the surviving family members to tell them their loved one died in combat they would take a harder look at the war only option.

The Hounds of Ardagh
Laura J. Underwood
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive,Waterville, ME 04901
1594143765 $25.95 1-800-223-1244

Mageborn Ginny Ni Cooley is content living alone in her little cottage in Tamhasg Woods as she offers her services to her neighbors. Her mentor, Manus MacGreeley, has died and come back to the world as a ghost and since he doesn't have a body the Mastermage cannot use magic. He needs to connect every day to cairn where is body lies to rest.. One night Ginny's peace is disturbed when a pack of demon hounds chase a boy with a tale and a mane of hair on his spine.

The lad informs Ginny and Manus that his name is Fafne MacArdagh and his clan was celebrating turning in a traitor who plotted to overthrow the king. The next thing they know a blood mage appeared and killed everyone but Fafne who hunts this mass murderer. The blood mage was working with the traitor and cast the spell that kept the clan from testifying by turning them into hounds. This evil also has the way to give the soul of her husband, the laird of Don Elyn to the demon Annwn in exchange for deven more years of eternal youth. When the villainess steals the essence of Manus, Ginny vows to stop her though it may be too late as the malevolent mage's spouse committed suicide.

THE HOUNDS OF ARDAGH is filled with plenty of action and magical battle scenes. The conversations between the ghost and the mageborn are loaded with repartee that hides their deep regard for one another. The villain is reminiscent of Snow White's evil stepmother while the heroine is a loyal courageous person willing to risk her life for those she cherishes. Hopefully Laura J. Underwood provides future fantasy epics in Tamhasg Woods.

Wedding Belle
Valentine Dmitriev
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive,Waterville, ME 04901
1594145210 $25.95 1-800-223-1244

In Seattle Ariel Barton runs Haven House, a shelter for battered women, but needs funds to repair the facility before the city condemns the building as unsafe. Her Uncle Phin controls her trust fund since her parents and grandma died years ago in an accident; he refuses to release any money unless she marries. His choice is law firm partner Cyrus Capp.

After an unsuccessful meeting with her Uncle, Ariel notices a homeless man and his dog. She helps him starting with obtaining his medicine and gives him a place to stay that includes his canine Rufus. When he cleans up she realizes this is Dane Garrison, not Dave Gannett as he claimed; she still remembers his kiss from college that made her realize he is the one for her. When her uncle dies, his will gives her one week to marry or else she will never receive her inheritance. She offers Dane a marriage in name only, but he refuses though he loves her. Instead Dane needs to prove his innocence of a charge of sexual assault before he will propose a real marriage to his beloved.

Though things wrap up to easily, WEDDING BELLE is a fascinating contemporary romance starring a caring female and a downtrodden male. The story line is driven by these two characters though a strong secondary cast augments the fine story line by either encouraging or nuking the relationship between Dane and Ariel. Readers will enjoy this fine tale that highlights the serious issue of the homeless as Ariel needs to help while officialdom and her Uncle prefer they be swept away under a bureaucratic rug.

Of Paupers and Peers
Sheri Cobb South
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive,Waterville, ME 04901
1594145296 $26.95 1-800-223-1244

The London solicitor searches the College of Arms tome for four months to determine who inherits the wealth and title of the Duke of Montford, whose previous occupant died with no offspring. Finally having to go back a century to a family estrangement, the attorney determines that Fairfield Curator James Weatherly is the new Duke. James is stunned to learn he inherited two million acres in Surrey and other properties.

James travels to the prime seat of Montford stopping at an inn where he intercedes in a dispute, but by doing so he shows he is carrying a lot of money. On the final leg of his journey, two thugs accost him, take his cash, and leave him unconscious from a blow to the head. Margaret Darrington finds the bewildered injured James and assumes he is the tutor Mr. Fanshawe she hired to teach her fourteen year old brother Philip. She finds the teacher quite attractive, but is unhappy he seems to desire her beautiful eighteen years old sisters Amanda. With encouragement from her wacky Aunt Hattie and as he begins to recover his memory, James knows he loves one of the siblings, the one he considers the adult not the teen.

OF PAUPERS AND PEERS is an interesting Regency romance starring two likable protagonists and a solid honorable secondary cast. Margaret the lioness protects her siblings and her aunt, but also is jealous of her sister for the first time as she assumes Mr. Fanshawe is like every other male who fawns over the beautiful angelic Amanda. Fans will appreciate this fine historical as the lead male begins to regain his memory he knows whether he is Fanshawe or Weatherly he is in love.

Sue Swift
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive,Waterville, ME 04901
1594144656 $25.95 1-800-223-1244

The Board of Directors of the Gensplice Corporation forced their C.O.O. Blair Anderson and her cousin top scientist Nathan Rankin to attend a team building session hosted by Nona and Orlando's Business Systems on board the yacht Swashbuckler. Others in attendance are Blair's husband Roger and her brother Philip who brought his male lover on board. Finally all around gofer Marilen Case is there to serve; she hopes to gain a proposal from her boyfriend Nathan.

They have not left port before Blair starts acting nasty towards everyone especially Marilen and gets into a brawl with Nathan after nastily dissing Marilen. Not long afterward Marilen and the ship's Captain "Free" Freeman become lovers while someone kills Blair in her cabin. The new lovers begin investigating a bunch of folks having a grudge against the nasty Blair to include an apparent stowaway who allegedly snuck on board to spend loving time with the cook, the brilliant cousin, the philandering spouse, the brother and his lover, but especially Marilen whose alibi is sack time with Free.

Though the queen of mean is too nasty towards everyone, which ironically leads to a boatload of suspects, TRIANGLE is a swift moving amateur sleuth investigative tale. The story line starts off as a relationship drama between dysfunctional family members and outsiders drawn into their internal squabbles, but after the players take side, the plot changes into a locked room murder mystery. Fans will enjoy this fine at sea thriller.

Herr Schnoodle & McBee
P.K. Paranya
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive,Waterville, ME 04901
1594144125 $25.95 1-800-223-1244

In New York, fortyish Alexander McBee changes vocations from accounting to private investigative work based on a correspondence course, Magnum reruns, and the DNA of his father and grandfather, former cops. He literally picks up a new partner when the lone sleuth finds an injured ugly canine that is a horrendous mixing of a schnauzer and a poodle, who he calls Herr Schnoodle.

With Schnoodle at his side they recover a missing Persian cat, stolen grocery carts, and solve the case of a missing person. However, McBee admits to himself that Schnoodle is the brains of the operation as the dog solves the case though it seems to outsiders that McBee accomplishes the feat. They meet homeless Apple Sally and both are intrigued by her. As McBee's rep grows, reporter Darcy takes a personal interest in him even as he finds himself needing to know more about Apple Sally. Before Schnoodle, McBee had no friends; now hehas plenty, but first he and his partner want to make things right for Apple Sally.

This is a lighthearted private investigator tale with a serious subplot involving Apple Sally. WC Field's theory of not performing with animals or children as they will steal the scene comes through as Schnoodle constantly stars. McBee is a fine person just coming out of his shell thanks to his partner and Apple Sally. Fans will appreciate this humorous detective tale summed up by McBee when eh reflects how Herr Schnoodle is the brains of the operation.

Deadly Interest
Julie Hyzy
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive,Waterville, ME 04901
159414494X $25.95 1-800-223-1244

Chicago TV reporter Alex St. James of the Midwest Focus Newsletter is running late for an award ceremony in which she is a nominee so somewhat brushes off her neighbor Evelyn Vicks when the older woman wants to show her something. She does help Evelyn get back into her locked house before racing off to the gala where she watches her former lover, Dan Starck of a rival show win the award. He humiliates her in his rambling speech dubbing her as the engine that could implying no matter how hard she tries she can't with no hint that he stole her story.

When she returns home she learns someone killed Mrs. Vicks whose son Bart insists she help him with probate because the president of the bank where Mrs. Vick work David Dewars insists Bart killed his mother because he needed his inheritance. Alex, who wants to help, is being stalked by a dangerous con just released from prison. As Chicago Police Detective Lulinski investigates, Alex finds she is caught in the dangerous middle even as her older sister Lucy, who suffers from Williams Syndrome, temporarily moves in with her during renovations at the assisted living facility where she lives.

The second "deadly" tale is a terrific investigative thriller starring a likable protagonist whose life becomes quite complicated when her sibling moves in with her, her neighbor is murdered just after speaking with her, and several men enter her life interested in her. The story line is fast-paced and the ending surprising but plausible as readers will count their blessings that Alex is on the case. On top of that is a fascinating coda at a gas station between Alex and Chicago private detective Ron Shade (Michael A. Black's literary sleuth).

A Final Judgment
Michael A. Black
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive,Waterville, ME 04901
1594144265 $25.95 1-800-223-1244

In Chicago, attorney Rick Walters hires private detective Ron Shade to conduct an investigation in support of a wrongful death lawsuit in Cook County. Rick's clients, parents of deceased Laura Gooding, are suing their former son-in-law Todd, acquitted in a Cook County case, of killing their daughter. Ron, a contender for the heavyweight title of the World Kickboxing Association, looks at the files and cannot see how the husband was acquitted as the evidence stacks up that he killed his wife and there were no mistakes by the cops or the prosecution. The other side has the elite of lawyers Mason Gilbert and the legend of sleuths Big John Flood.

Ron's nemesis Police Lieutenant Bielmaster asks Ron to do him a favor; Ron, who blames Bielmaster for getting him kicked off the police force plans to say no until he sees the cop looking frail as he lies in a hospital bed recovering from bypass surgery. Beilmaster's eighteen years old daughter Grace is Yale bound if they can keep Tim Knop away from her. Three years ago Tim impregnated Grace who gave up the child for adoption and her boyfriend went to jail for sexual abuse of a minor.

Besides wondering if Ron will finally fight for the title as he was injured twice before doing his day job (see A KILLING FROST and WINDY CITY KNIGHTS), fans will enjoy Ron work the two assignments while also training. The story line is fast-paced in and out of the gym as Ron begins to uncover fraud in the judicial system while Rick's two female employees react differently towards him; one seems to hero worship him while the other thinks he is a muscular bum.

Cactus Flower
Alice Duncan
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive,Waterville, ME 04901
1594144567 1-800-223-1244

In Rio Penasco, New Mexico Territory, blacksmith Nick Taggart was enjoying his tryst with Violet Watson when he heard the whoop and scream. He knew the whoop means Uncle Junius is chasing a woman and the scream is from the female he caught. He races outside to end the incident before Sheriff Wallace either tosses them out of town or locks up his relative, but instead the fragile female whacks Uncle Junius in the head with her valise. It turns out that Eulalie Gibb, a singer, has come to town to work at the opera house, known for its other activities.

Nick and Junius fled a family of stepsisters and their mom by coming to this wild western town. He has vowed never to marry, but soon finds himself reconsidering as the thorny ferocious female midget makes him desire her; something he cannot understand. However, her past arrives from New York City; delightfully her beloved sister Patsy joins her, but so does dangerous murderous stalker Gilbert Blankenship. Nick vows to keep both siblings safe as he loves them; insanely he thinks he wants the acerbic one as his mate and the gentle kin one as a sister.

CACTUS FLOWER is an apt description of the heroine. The fast-paced story line is action-packed, but contains both humor and danger. The lead couple is a superb pairing as he cannot comprehend how he fell in love with a woman who goes out of her way to rip his skin off. Though Gilbert is perhaps too dark and evil of a sociopath, readers will enjoy Alice Duncan's excellent western romance.

Godfire Book 2: Heart's Wound
Tim Waggoner
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive,Waterville, ME 04901
159414446X $25.95 1-800-223-1244

In the kingdom of Athymar, the end of the battle at Heart's Wound caused every human to fall asleep and when they awakened they had been given a power from the godfire that was distributed when the gods Rudra and Anghrist discorporated. A group of six champions of the light are on a quest to find and rescue the daughter of Rudra, Lodura from a near fatal wound that kept her near death for two millennia. It is the champion's hope that Lodura would keep the Godfire left in the world from helping those who serve evil.

They travel to Garanhon where one of the champions, the wizard Cynric looks through the castle library to see if there is a clue to Lodura's resting place. The priestess Saith intends to go into the church archives to look for ideas. The man who claims the throne Dreadlord installs fear in everyone who is against him is defeated by the champions and they find a clue that leads them to a manor home in the Twrych. Even if they revive the demi goddess, another battle is brewing on Heart's Wound for possession of the Gofire conduits.

Tim Waggoner has written an exhilarating fantasy where magic is real and each human has at least one power. The sword and sorcery scenes are graphic, violent, and very realistic but it is the magical battles that are magnificently written. They are so vivid that readers can easily visualize them. Although Tarian the healer loses his wife because she has turned to the dark side and become an evil demon, he falls in love with the warrior woman Danya who is always there for him. Together with his son Phelan, who has a very unique power, and the before mentioned heroine, they team up and together they are stronger together than they are apart.

The Chemistry of Death
Simon Beckett
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0385340044 $22.00 1-800-726-0600

A drunk driver killed his wife and daughter, but walked away from the vehicular homicide scene without a scratch. A despondent Dr. David Hunter left everything behind including his forensic anthropology vocation to move to the small English village Manham as an assistant to general practitioner Dr. Henry Mallard.

A corpse found in the woods turns out to be Sally Palmer, a woman that David was once involved with. He also finds her dog dead from a knife wound to the throat. At the request of Chief Inspector Mackenzie, David examines the crime scene and the body; he concludes that the killer held the woman captive for three days before killing her. When Lyn Metcalf vanishes while running, the fear is the culprit has abducted his second victim, which proves true when her body is found. As David helps Mackenzie connect the dots, Jenny the woman he is dating vanishes making the investigation personal.

Fans of Patricia Cornwell and Christine McGuire will love this enticing investigative thriller. The protagonist lost everything when his family died, but has returned to life when he met Jenny. He is unable to remain a spectator leaving her life in the hands of the police though he respects the Chief's competency. Thus he begins his own investigation with readers encouraging him. Simon Beckett provides a delightful village whodunit starring a scarred soul trying to prevent another tragedy.

Shadow of the Bomb
Robert Goldsborough
1590803515 $12.99

In 1942 most of the newspaper coverage is on the war, but Steve Malek covers the local police beat for the Tribune. He gets a tip that in the Hyde Park area foreigners are walking around, but his snitch knows nothing about this. Even more interesting is a University of Chicago scientist telling people including the reporter that they are developing a secret weapon to win the war.

When Malek goes to interview Arthur Bergman about this, he finds him murdered with a rope around his neck. Further digging leads to the fact that the victim worked in the boarded up Metallurgy Lab guarded by soldiers. Rumors fly that a team headed by Enrico Fermi were trying to create a controlled nuclear chain reaction. A second project scientist is killed so Malek spies on the Fermi team, but the killer watches him just in case he gets too close and needs to become the next victim.

Readers obtain a glimpse of how the war impacted Chicago and how careful everyone is not to reveal anything on weapons development. Malek is more interested in solving the homicides than in uncovering tops secret weapons that could harm his nation if revealed. His investigation is realistic and engrossing as he works his crime beat to the delight of fans of historical mysteries. Robert Goldsborough is a fantastic storyteller

Journal: The Short Life and Mysterious Death of Amy Zoe Mason
Found by Kristine Atkinson and Joyce Atkinson
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th floor, New York, NY 10020
0743290380 $23.00 1-800-223-2336

Kristine and Joy Atkinson bought a desk at a Houston resale shop. They restored the small desk and found a secret compartment containing the nineteenth century journal of thirtyish wife and mother Amy Mason. However, Amy uses the novel Lucille by Owen Meredith to tell her year of discontent.

Amy's husband, physician Robert relocates from their Houston home to take charge of a cardiology institute in Boston. He leaves behind his wife and their two small children with plans for them to follow once he finds them a home and sets up standard operating procedures on the job. While he dives into his medical practice and joins high society, he rationalizes that socializing with the Brahmin comes with his vocation. Artisticly inclined Amy feels lonely and increasingly despondent. She makes a new friend, her Houston real estate agent Vanessa Garamond, but feeling abandoned Amy begins to have suspicions about her realtor and her husband. Not long afterward Amy is dead. The Atkinson duo (and readers) ponders murder, suicide, or accident.

JOURNAL is a refreshing creative tale that uses a journal, post cards, newspaper clippings, and other items to tell the story of the last year of the life of Amy Zoe Mason. Readers will appreciate this unique mystery as the clues are laid out, but not in a linear method with the audience accompanying the sleuth. Those who prefer an open and shut case will need to pass; however, fans who cherish something different will want to read the Atkinson siblings' historical scrapbook.

Going Home
Harriet Evans
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th floor, New York, NY 10020
1416503951 $14.00 1-800-223-2336

When London becomes to overbearing or her troubles overwhelming, sensitive Lizzy Walters enjoys the respite of her rustic home Keeper House where her family has always been welcoming. Lizzy needs the warmth and hugs of her kin after she has lost her "big love" so she plans to go back as soon as she can escape from the hustle and bustle of London.

However, this time Keeper House seems more foreboding than hospitable as family secrets begin to surface that shake Lizzy. Even more shocking and making Lizzy feel dizzy, he who abandoned her has arrived at her haven. She is not sure she wants to deal with him as his arrival and her family's behavior since her return make GOING HOME seem a mistake.

This is an interesting English character study starring a fascinating female who decides a bit of family love is just the cure for her broken heart, but instead receives a horde of woes tossed like grenades from those she expected comfort from. The absorbing story line is somewhat amusing as the Walters seem harmlessly eccentric, but throughout readers will wonder why there is the lack of communication from anyone with Lizzy; neither her family members nor her "big love" who dumped her appear able to simply talk to Lizzy though this reviewer is not sure whey. Still she is an intriguing protagonist struggling with the down side of love.

The Panther and the Pyramid
Bonnie Vanak
0843957557 $6.99

While the Bedouin invaders held him captive, they also made young Graham Tristan watch as they brutally murder his parents. He vows one day to avenge what these cruel killers did to his family. Over the years he worked at achieving his goal until now he is known as the fiercest warrior of the desert, The Panther even though he rides with powerful courageous fighters as part of the Warriors of the Wind.

However, the time to return to England has arrived so he goes home to become the Duke of Caldwell. The drams he began having in the desert of meeting a red haired green eyed termagant continue until he meets his vision in the flesh in a brothel. Lady Jillian plans to lose her virginity so her father cannot sell her to the highest bidder, an odious person. However, as the two virgins make love, passion ignites them to an even higher plane. Already in love with his vixen, Graham demands they marry, which she agrees to as she returns his feelings. As a married couple they head back to Egypt where treasure or his nightmare youth await them.

The fourth late nineteenth century Egyptian romance is an exciting action-packed thriller starring a fine coupling as he is more Egyptian than English aristocrat while she is a daughter of the Ton making for a delightful pairing starting with their first sizzling encounter in the brothel and never slowing down. Though Jillian is too typical of the sub-genre, fans of historical adventure romantic epics will want to read this quality tale and its exciting predecessors (see THE FALCON AND THE DOVE, THE TIGER AND THE TOMB, and THE COBRA AND THE CONCUBINE).

You Had Me at Goodbye
Jane Blackwood
0821779508 $6.99

Kat Taylor needs time to heal from the collapse of her business and the dumping by her fiance Brian. Her Aunt Lila, mourning her recent loss of her kind spouse Carl, allows her to use her summer cottage on Martha's Vineyard.

British author Lawrence Kendall needs time away from everyone so that he can overcome writer's block and finish his latest book on time. His father's late friend Carl offered Larry use of his summer cottage at Martha's Vineyard.

When Kat and Lawrence meet at the same summer house, both claims first use and want the other to leave to obtain privacy, but they finally compromise. They agree to an arrangement to allow both plenty of space. However when Brian arrives to persuade Kat he wants to marry her, she turns instead to her housemate Lawrence, who finds his writing works when he knows Kat is nearby, but not too close as he wants her.

Contemporary romance readers will enjoy this appealing tale due to the chemistry between the lead pair from the start. When Brian arrives, Larry and Kat imply much more than mistaken roommates as they early on to readers seem to belong together. Sub-genre fan enjoy this wonderful tale of love showing up when it is least expected.

My Immortal Highlander
Hannah Howell & Lynsay Sands
0758212925 $12.00

In 1509 Scotland in order to save their clan, identical twins Botham and Calum MacNachton must find wives who are not afflicted with the bloodlust that is destroying them. Neither has hope of finding anyone.

"The Hunt" by Hannah Howell. Seer Kenna Brodie of Bantaluch must bring home the corpse of a MacNachton as demanded by her odious demanding but sly uncle or remain in exile. When she meets Botham, she knows she must kill him, but cannot as she is attracted to him; he shares her deep regard. As they fall in love, they team up to fool her uncle.

"The Rescue" by Lynsay Sands. Kidnappers abduct Sarra DeCourcey, but Calum rescues her. Apparently a rejected cruel suitor will do anything to force Sarra into marrying him. While Calum and Sarra fall in love, they must prevent her merciless adversary from taking her again. Though both siblings have fallen in love and want to marry their respective woman; neither knows whether the chosen ones can save their clan.

This is a terrific two in one historical romantic fantasy that is a delightful follow up to the wonderful ETERNAL HIGHLANDER. The brothers are beguiling protagonists struggling with overcoming a curse by marrying the right women yet fall in love with two females in trouble who might not meet their requirement. Fans will appreciate the superb teaming up of Hannah Howell & Lynsay Sands as they deftly provide an entertaining tale.

Always Mine
Sophia Johnson
0821778846 $4.99

As a child living in New York, Lydia Hunter would spend her summers in Scotland where she would visit the ruins of Blackthorn Castle. She particularly found the portrait of eleventh century Lord Damron whom she dubbed "Lord Demon" quite alluring. Now as an adult following a divorce, Lydia needs a sense of belonging and simple solace. She thinks back to her happiest moments in her life gazing at the portrait and decides to visit for the first time in years hoping to recapture some of her youthful magic.

At Blackthorn Castle, during a storm Lydia slips and falls unconscious. When she awakens she finds herself inside the body of Lady Brianna, spouse of Lord Demon circa 1072. The king ordered Damron Alasdair to marry Brianna, which he did by proxy without his bride's attendance or knowledge. Now he goes to collect his pampered spoiled wife, but finds instead an argumentative feisty female cursing him while challenging his rule over her. Unable to reconcile the spirited independent female with the image of what he was told, Damron learns from a Druid that his wife is not Brianna, but instead the soul of Lydia from the future. In love with her, he will do what it takes to keep his Lydia at his side.

The enchantment in Sophia Johnson's delightful time travel romance resides in the shocked reactions by the medieval residents of Blackthorn castle to Lydia's use of profanity and her overall kick butt fighting spirit. She makes the tale fun to read though her adaptation to the eleventh century occurs too easily. Sub-genre fans will want to read this fine tale of an independent twenty-first century Yankee capturing a medieval Scottish warrior's heart.

The Knight Before Christmas
Jackie Ivie
0821780123 $5.99

In 1455 Scotland his father demands Myles Donal marry the Harridan of the Highlands. Myles tries his best to stall his pending nuptials in the hope that his sire will change his mind or a miracle will occur, but he finally runs out of excuses so begins his hike into hell known as Eschoncan Keep

However, he feels fortunate when a snow storm leaves him freezing and in need of having shelter. He manages to find it inside a small croft in which a female is also waiting for the storm to let up. Myles soon learns that the courageous feisty woman is his betrothed, Kendran Eschoncan. She is fleeing the arranged marriage her father agreed to with another Laird. She makes it clear she has no plans to marry anyone though attraction and ultimately passion flow; Miles deems otherwise as he finds the elan of the "Harridan" desirable. However, at Eschoncan Keep, Myles learns that Kendran is not his intended; instead another sister is. He and Kendran hide their feelings for one another and their prior encounter so no one's honor is destroyed; however one of her sisters Sybil, who has the gift of sight, advises them to seek love not duty.

THE KNIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS is an entertaining often humorous Scottish medieval romance. The story line is character driven as Myles struggles to cope with more than just a Harridan as he deals poorly with the Eschoncan sisterhood. Fans of delightful lighthearted romantic romps will want to read Jackie Ivie's fun gender war's tale as the hero learns where there's a will there's a way especially when an Eschoncan female leads.

Murphy's Law
Lori Foster
082177803X $6.99

Quinton Moore was raised in affluence while Ashley Miles grew up with nothingness. However, the rich CEO breaks all his habits to the point he feels almost like an obsessed stalker just to spend a few minutes with the building's cleaning lady mid twenties Ashley Miles who recently kissed him senseless, but rejects his advances since. He wants her even on her terms; she feels the attraction from her head to her toes and all points in between, but fears giving up her hard earned independence and life goals. Besides she has no time for a man between two jobs and school; especially a hunk who will discard her once his lust is satiated.

When someone threatens her life, Quinton demands she move into his home for her protection. She reluctantly agrees, but wonders who will protect her heart from her host. As they fall in love, this adversary expands his attempted assault to include anyone that he observes Ashley seems to befriend; his goal to destroy the meddling woman.

A secondary character in JUDE'S LAW, Quinton defies his namesake's law with optimism that when it comes to Ashley and him, love makes sure that everything that can go right will go right though it might take all night. Ashley is a delightful protagonist as her hard work to get ahead is inspirational. Their mutual desires makes for a heated romance with a matchmaking thug pushing them together with his obsession to kill her (though the why comes extremely late).

River's Edge
Marie Bostwick
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
0758209916 $14.00 1-800-345-2665

In Germany though he loves his daughter Elise deeply, grieving widower Herman Braun fears for her well-being with the recent death of her mother and his beloved wife especially with war imminent. He sends his cherished Elise to live with his cousins in the United States for fear of what Hitler is doing to his beloved fatherland and apprehension over her living alone while he is deployed.

Feeling abandoned by her father though he acted out of love and concern for her, Elise moves in with the Muller family in Massachusetts where she adapts to her new lifestyle quite nicely, but misses and worries about her dad. When America enters the war, her guardian and his son Junior enlist to fight for the United States, but not before she and Junior become engaged. As she waits for news from both sides in the European Theatre, locally she is treated as a pariah because of her heritage with only the piano as her salvation.

RIVER'S EDGE is a superb WWII drama starring real people struggling with difficult personal decisions. Elise holds the tale together as she worries about her father though upset that he "exiled" her and is concerned with the safety of her guardian and fiance. In Massachusetts she faces prejudice because of her ancestry adding to her feelings of displacement and wondering whether to go home or stay once the hostilities end. Marie Bostwick brings war to the home front with this deep look at the impact on those loved ones left behind.

Sex and the Single Ghost
Tawny Taylor
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
075821507X $12.95 1-800-345-2665

The ghost of Claire Weiss has some regrets about her present state. Her cat hates her, she can't eat chocolate and most of all that as a Spirit-American she cannot touch let alone have sex with her still alive beloved Jake. However, she has one chance to enjoy caressing her Jake if he lets it occur though nine years have passed since they have seen one another. If she succeeds in reconnecting with her cherished Jake Faron, they can share nine days and nights of bliss before she must move on though he hides a mystery from her as he chastises himself for not telling her how he felt nine years ago..

Jake still mourns the loss of his beloved Claire and has not moved on with his life. When Claire the ghost gives him an opportunity to make love he leaps at the chance. However, he has his plans to keep Claire with him even when her nine day respite is over.

This is an interesting second chance ghost romance starring star-crossed lovers unable to cope with their separation mindful of the movie Ghost. The story line contains a terrific early twist that ironically readers know, but the protagonists do not. Though the tale turns too often erotic with light bondage, fans of heated supernatural romances will enjoy this torrid paranormal second chance at love tale.

Out of This World
Jill Shalvis
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
0758214448 $14.00 1-800-345-2665

Late Great-Great Aunt Gertrude bequests her Hideaway B&B to Rachel Wood. That would be a nice windfall for the Los Angeles resident as it is just outside a preserve; only this inn is just outside the Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Still though Alaska is cold, Rachel decides to see her new holding, but needs someone to hold her hand while she does so. Her best friend Dot McInty cannot leave her day job so she sends her brother Kellen, a dolphin trainer at Sea World who communicates better with animals than humans.

At the Hideaway, Rachel finds a competent staff awaits her starting with a chef who cannot cook and a tour guide who gets lost easily. Whether it was the lightning that hit Rachel or the moose that tried to hit Rachel, she suddently finds herself attracted to Kel, her brainac hero. To her shock he reciprocates proving he knows how to communicate one kiss at a time.

This novel is a zany Alaskan romance with a touch of the supernatural to enhance the tale. The story line switches perspective between the lead duet so that the audience obtain varying he said she said viewpoints on the same event. Though that tends to slow down the plot, Jill Shalvis rules with this way OUT OF THIS WORLD tale.

Doggy Style
Jane May
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
0758213603 $14.00 1-800-345-2665

In Manhattan, Jen and Bob stop at an animal shelter where they meet Miles a street smart half-Chihuahua, half-dachshund, who cannot understand how a charming intelligent pooch like him is stuck in a ragged cage that houses the masses. The human couple like the unkempt Miles so seeing a hand or four to feed him he adopts them as his pets.

Jen and Bob live in different parts of town as both fears the next step in their relationship due to each already having a divorce on their personal resume from previous partners. When Jen believes that Bob is making it with actress Valerie, who Miles introduced him to when they were walking together, the couple breaks up as he cannot deal with her jealousy. They agree to share custody of Miles as they see others while their canine plots to bring his two owners back together as joint custody several miles apart is hard on his paws.

From a dog's perspective, this is a lighthearted Manhattan romance starring two veterans of the divorce wars and the matchmaking canine who cannot comprehend their behavior. Readers will agree that WC Fields is proven right as you do not perform with pets as they steal the show, which Miles does. Though Mile's woofing can become an overbite, fans of romance, DOGGY STYLE, will enjoy the amusing gender battle with a likable canine peacekeeper.

You Don't Know Jack
Erin McCarthy
075821409X $14.00

Social worker Jamie Peters seems to date a lot of losers who she helps get on their feet and builds up their confidence until they feel ready to face the world, but first they dump her. Her psychic friend, Beckworth Tripp tells her that her bad run of relationships is about to end because she is going to accidentally run into Mr. Right. She ridicules his prediction, but deep down fears what will happen because she knows Tripp never trips up.

On the subway, a sudden jerk by the train sends Jamie into Jack Davidson, destroying his spaghetti meal. They are attracted to one another, but he has relationship issues too as women want his wealth and power rather than him. He hides from her that he is former Wall St. genius Jonathon Davidson, her college roommate's brother and the man who directed the Hathaway Foundation to reject her application for funding of her Urban Gardens project because he thinks her agency is involved in illegal day trading. As they fall in love while he dates and investigates her, he fears what will happen to their relationship because she may not know Jack from Jonathon, but she detests liars and their foundation is built on a lie.

YOU DON'T KNOW JACK is a fun lighthearted romantic romp starring two likable protagonists. Jamie knows the moment she accidentally knocks into Jack he is her "One" as predicted by cross dressing Beckworth. Jack knows one thing that when she learns just who he is, he faces strike three: hiding his identity, rejecting her application; and investigating her agency. Fans will appreciate their up and down relationship as he knows he needs to prove his sincerity to his beloved so that he regains her trust; as the delightfully eccentric Tripp will tell readers anything can happen on Hudson Street.

The Southern Devil
Diane Whiteside
0758212100 $14.00

In 1863 as the War Between the States seems increasingly bleaker for the south, Confederacy Lieutenant Morgan Evans goes undercover in his hometown of Memphis. Though he thinks he has a solid masquerade, iron magnolia Jessamyn Tyler finds her childhood friend's behavior odd and assumes he is spying. She captures him more to keep him safe than any other reason, ties him to her bed, and though she knows better ends up making love with her imprisoned pal. Afterward humiliated with how she controlled and seduced him in and out of bed before dumping him, he vows one day to make her beg with desire and need.

Years later in 1872 Colorado, Jessamyn accompanies her spouse Cyrus Evans, Morgan's cousin, when he finally catches up with the woman who has haunted him since she took him during the Civil War. Though he is attracted to her and feels he owes her, Morgan would do nothing to hurt Cyrus so his vow is an empty pledge. That is until his cousin is killed and Morgan pleads with him to help her find hidden family gold.

This is an exhilarating torrid Reconstruction Era romance with a bit of late action (the treasure hunt). The story line is fast-paced in both 1863 and 1872 especially when the gender war between Morgan and Jessamyn occurs. The lead couple will enjoy their battles as he is a solid southern gentleman with an agenda when it comes to her and she believes he is THE SOUTHERN DEVIL she must avoid.

Cold as Death
T.J. MacGregor
0786016817 $6.99

After the Category Five hurricane destroyed the Florida Keys, psychic Mira Morales is trying to piece her life together. She has construction teams work on her home and bookstore and is also trying to get over her break-up with Shep who doesn't want to deal with wormholes, trips to the past, visions, ghosts, and things that go bump in the night. Mira is taking a walk trying to clear her mind when she sees the ghostly vision of a woman fleeing a house.

When the ghost disappears, she enters the house and finds the dead body of a maid. Paul Nichols, one of the owners of the house thinks, she killed the woman and kidnapped her son Adam but the FBI doesn't consider her a suspect since she has helped them many times solve cases. It is former actor Spenser Fitch who took Adam because he blames Paul, a director and his academy awarding winning wife Suki for his failure to become a well knows actor because they rejected him for the leading role in one of their pictures. Suki hires Mira to find her son and she ends up getting kidnapped and put in the same room as Adam; it will take otherworldly intervention to get them out of there alive.

Shep gets drawn back into Mira's world when they work on the case together and despite his desire to never experience the paranormal again, he acknowledges that he is bound emotionally to Mira. The antagonist has killed before but he acts like a mixed up kid who is still in recovery from the trauma of being raised by a physically abusive father. COLD AS DEATH plunges the reader into an absorbing thriller that takes place on two different levels; the real world and the metaphysical realm. Did I forget to mention the mermaid?

Fear of the Dark
Walter Mosley
Little, Brown
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0316734586 $25.99 1-800-759-0190

In 1956 Watts, Ulysses "Useless" S. Grant IV visits his cousin bookseller Paris Minton with his usual request; he needs his help to extract him out of a potentially lethal but definitely dangerous situation that he insists is a misunderstanding that got out of control. With a personal philosophy to avoid trouble, Paris, who refuses to allow Useless into his home or store, knows he needs to say no because assisting his cousin means you bought into strife you do not need. Still he loves his aunt, Useless' mom, so cannot refuse the creep; needing a hero, he turns to his friend Fearless Jones.

Fearless has his own problems at the moment as he fears the dark ever since he was buried in a crawl space with a dead Tiny Bobchek, former boyfriend of his lover Jessa Brown and all he could think of when he was in the crawl space was sharing eternity with this loser. Still he will do anything for his friend Paris even saving the sorry butt of blackmailing trickster Useless. Enlisting the dirty dozen, Fearless and his allies seek the leader of the blackmailing ring leaving behind with each clue a corpse or two.

In his latest appearance (see FEARLESS JONES and FEAR ITSELF) Fearless faces his fears as he assists his friend Paris help his useless cousin out of love for the cretin's mom, Aunt Three Hearts. The violent exciting story line contains an interesting philosophical underpinning that ties ancient Mythos musing to 1950s street corner thinking as the hero, his loyal sidekick, and the fool do what it takes to survive, thrive, and jive in pre Dodger Los Angeles.

A Day of Small Beginnings
Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum
Little, Brown
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0316014516 $24.99 1-800-759-0190

In 1906 Zokof, Poland, in 1906, Itzik Leiber intercedes in the assault of three small Jewish boys, but his intervention leads to the death of a peasant. Frightened as protecting Jews is not an acceptable defense, Itzik hides in a Jewish cemetery. There the spirit and soul of Friedl Alterman, who died last year at eighty-tree years old, enters the frightened lad. Friedl protects and guides Itzik as he flees his hometown planning to vanish in Warsaw before he escapes to the United States.

Eighty-six years later, Itzik's son, recognized international law expert, Professor Nathan Linden, who anglicized his last name, has come to Poland as a guest of the government. Obsessed (by still protective Friedl), he detours from his itinerary to visit his father's hometown. There he meets the last Jew residing in Zokof, Rafael Bergson, who pleads with the agnostic Nathan to use prayer to release Friedl's soul so she can move on. However, he seems to make no progress leaving it to his choreographer daughter Ellen, to accomplish the deliverance

Using a paranormal element to foster the link between the old and new world and amid three generations of Jews, Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum tells a terrific tale of Jewish life especially during the twentieth century mostly in America. The changes from Itzik to his granddaughter are astonishing as she is so assimilated in American life while he is a refugee with one major foot in Europe and a smaller toehold in the United States. Fans will appreciate this enjoyable, clever and insightful tale.

The Keeper
Sarah Langan
Harper Torch
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
006087290X $6.99 1-800-242-7737

Bedford, Maine is dying as the last industry the paper mill closes. People are leaving to escape the darkness that is everywhere. Susan Marley, who embodies the dark side of the town, is bringing destruction beyond her control to her hometown. She knows their secrets and many are forced to stay because they have nowhere to go. Many even blame her for the rains that never end. Susan is the embodiment of their worst nightmare because a part of her lives in each of them.

Her sister Liz tries to mend the bonds broken when their father chose Susan as his favorite. Liz tries to ignore what he did to her older sister unlike her mother who chooses to believe her oldest daughter is dead. When Susan dies in an accident, most people are relieved, but that changes to horror as she rises from the grave to make her neighbors face what they are.

Nobody will believe the aptly naked THE KEEPER is Sarah Langan's first novel because the tension that mounts will remind the audience of King and Koontz. The character seem real, which makes the events that more frightening as the darkness inside of everyone threatens to emerge supreme. Keep the lights on as this is a dark scary thriller.

The Pinhoe Egg
Diana Wynne Jones
Greenwillow (HarperCollins)
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0061131245 $17.99 1-800-242-7737

The Pinhoes, a magical clan, live in Ulvergede and are friends with another witch group, the Farleighs. When Gaffer Farleigh and Gammer Norah come to Gammer Pinhoe's home, the leaders of the clans get into an argument leading to an exchange of spells. Gammer Pinhoe can no longer speak and her mind is jumbled; against her will her family moves her into a relative's home. When the powerful enchanter Marianne Pinhoe finds an egg in Gammer's attic, she gives it to Cat Chrestomanci.

The Pinhoes do not like the leader of the clan Chrestomanci who always examines them and their use of magic. They planted two spies in their household; one of them being Marianne's brother Joe who make friends with Cat's sibling Roger. Plagues attack the Farleighs, who blame the Pinhoes but Marianne suspects otherwise. She and Cat try to defuse hostilities, but it is the elder Chrestomanci who peels away the layers of deceit.

Young teens who enjoy urban fantasy will thoroughly appreciate this creative riveting work from the author of HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE. There are plenty of light amusing moments (a trademark of Diana Wynne Jones) that embellish the growing inter-clans tension; especially humorous is when the egg hatches and Cat finds himself with a baby griffin demanding like all newborns to be taken care of. Ms. Jones's young adult fans will treasure her latest magical fantasy.

What Came Before He Shot Her
Elizabeth George
Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
006056332X $26.95 1-800-242-7737

In London preadolescent Joel Campbell feels the weight of the world upon him as he resides in his Aunt Kendra's dump with his older sister Ness and his crazy younger brother Toby. His dad is dead from a bad drug deal and his mom is locked away in a psycho ward. Ness is more hooligan than sibling as she suffered sexual assault from male relatives that has turned her into a sex abuser and drug loser. His Aunt assumes a roof is enough. Thus Joel watches over Toby, who looks like he will be taken away into the foster system.

His efforts to save his siblings always fail and lead to tragic consequences. Saving Toby from punks almost led to the youngster's death in an inferno; his helping Ness with her nasty boyfriend led to her gang rape and subsequent knifing of those who harm her. Now he arranges with local drug dealer Blade to protect his siblings, which leads the eleven years old adult-child to Belgravia where he holds a gun waiting for Helen Lynley, wife of a Police Inspector. As always Joel's efforts turn tragic and now he is the focus of a seemingly senseless homicide as she is gunned down on her doorstep, but is it really random?

Although readers might feel there is too much Dickensian pathos in this tale, WHAT CAME BEFORE HE SHOT HER is a powerful condemnation of western society's inability or perhaps just not giving a darn about the plight of the disenfranchised poor, especially the young once they are born. The aunt and her three dumpees are fully developed protagonists whose troubles grip readers from the start especially the seemingly Shakespearean like doomed tragic Joel. Showing a different perspective from WITH NO ONE AS WITNESS (both are stand alones, but complement one another) in which Helen was murdered, Elizabeth George is at her best with this powerful chilling censuring of Blair's England.

Terry Pratchett
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0060890312 $16.99 1-800-242-7737

Thirteen year old Tiffany Aching is an apprentice witch learning to use her magic to perform spells. People don't want anything to do with witches until they actually need them. Tiffany is watched over by Feegles who are little blue men who live in mounds in the earth and will do anything for their HOG (Witch). Her mentor is Miss Treason who is a hundred and thirteen years old and has a lot of knowledge.

They arrive to see the winter dance performed and the rhythm of the music is so strong that Tiffany jumps right into the middle of the dance cutting out summer. Wintersmith takes notice of the witchling and creates snowflakes in her images, makes roses out of ice and showers her name in the snow. He wants to be human so they can be together always.. Tiffany with the help of the Feegles must rescue summer in time for her dance with Wintersmith to return the balance of nature.

Terry Pratchett's well crafted plot will appeal to teens as well as adults. The heroine is astute beyond her years and acts as a herb woman, a wise woman and witch depending on what the occasion calls for. Wintersmith is an interesting character who learns what it is to be human though he never will be one and his infatuation with Tiffany gives him a glimpse into a world he will never be a part of; but he enlists no sympathy because he is an elemental who has a higher purpose to perform.

Sleep With the Fishes
Brian M. Wiprud
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0440243130 $6.99 1-800-726-0600

Sid Bifulco is a loyal lieutenant in the Palfutti family with at least ten kills to his credit and a weakness for red shoes. The authorities dropped a mike in his car recording conversations that could have sent him up the river for life if he didn't make a deal. For a lesser sentence he testified against his former employers including Johnny Fest and to preserve his life when he gets out of prison he makes another deal with the rival Camuchi gang who make sure that any Palfutti thug not in prison won't go after Sid. He also gets a tidy retirement egg.

In jail, he learns the rudiments of fishing and the warden takes him under his wing and promises him that he will visit him in his new home to go fishing with him. He also arranges that Sid can live out of state and report to a parole officer in Pennsylvania so he won't run into his former comrades. Sid's simple life gets very complicated when Johnny Fest breaks out of prison and goes gunning for Sid. When Sid's neighbor Russ Smonig runs over Johnny, Sid covers up the crime but neither man knows that there is a contract out on Russ or that Sid killed his wife. The convicts know that Sid has a videotape with incriminating evidence against them on it and want him protected at all costs but they don't want Russ killed because they would bring unwanted attention down on Sid.

If an urban noir (in a small town) can be irrelevant witty and darkly serious at the same time, than SLEEP WITH THE FISHES is that novel. Sid, an anti hero finds it more dangerous being out of prison and wanting to fish than his tenure with the mob. The author uses irony in a macabre fashion to have Sid become a friend to a man who has a valid grudge against him. Sid swimming through fish infested waters is loads of fun.

A Simple Gift
Karyn Witmer
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0440335736 1-800-726-0600

In Larkin, Kansas Avery and Mike Montgomery lived a perfect life raising their teenage daughter Fiona; that is until Fiona, inexplicably, ran away from home to tour with her boyfriend's band eighteen months ago. The Montgomerys remain shocked and shattered as they thought their daughter was adjusted and contented with plans for college; Mike is also angry that his daughter threw it all away.

Still despondent, Avery is in the checkout line at the local supermarket when working another register is Fiona. The mother wants to hold her daughter, but fears Fiona will flee. Still Avery needs to know why Avery left and why she failed to tell them she came home. Fiona cannot turn to her parents especially her father as she feels she has failed them; ergo she cannot reveal secrets that are killing her. While Mike remains iron in his resolute ire, Avery seeks to bring her two loved ones back together into the loving family they once were.

This is one of the year's best family dramas as Avery (and the audience) learn that love is not THE SIMPLE GIFT of one giving their heart to another. Relationships are so much more complex with her daughter pulling on her in one direction and her husband in the other. The trio is deep protagonists so that readers can easily see themselves in similar situations. Karyn Witmer makes a superb case that love isn't so grand if people fail need to work at nurturing it.

The Crossroads Cafe
Deborah Smith
Belle Books
0976876051 $16.95

Just over ten months ago, beautiful actress Cathy Deen was Hollywood's "Face of Flawless", the Grace Kelly of the 21st century. The paparazzi followed her onto the LA freeway distracting her and causing her to lose attention and crash. Instead of helping her, incredibly the paparazzi continues to tape her instead of helping her even when the fireball assaulted her face leaving it permanently scarred, but not as damaged as her mind as she overhears the ambulance team talk about her before and now.

In the North Carolina Mountains, Cathy's cousin, Delta Whittlespoon learns of her plight on CNN. She feels a deep need to assist Cathy who is in hiding so the Crossroads Cafe owner asks drunk Thomas Mitternich, who moved here from Manhattan just after 9/11 claimed the lives of his wife and daughter, to help her make contact. Reluctantly Thomas succeeds in bringing the two cousins together where he and the actress fall in love, but both have issues to contend with if they are to forge a permanent relationship.

Though there is too much angst oozing from the lead couple, fans will empathize with both and root for them to make it. Cathy struggles from being the subject of wet dreams to being the subject of nausea while Thomas feels the survivor guilt that he still lives while his beloved wife and child died in the terrorist attack. The fascinating story line grips the audience who will wonder whether this couple can overcome their doubts to forge a second chance at living.

Lucky at Love
Cynthia Hamilton
Woodstock Press
0977627810 $14.00

Journalist Allison Tyler-Wilcox explains to her editor in chief Judith Page that she wants to do a story on a man she met at ironically a wedding. A skeptical Judith who is used to Allison working controversial issues cannot fathom why she would want to report on a nobody who was married and divorced seven times and thinking of going for numero eight. Reluctantly Judith gives the okay to look into the optimistic magnetism of Jake Sorenson, Oregon mule farmer and marriage guru or loser depending on your perspective.

Allison begins her quest to understand the need of people to find the right one as a companion as much as a lover at Buckin J Ranch. Jake, a PH.D in relationships, begins to teach his "student" what love and life is all about whether it is on a mule or dancing cheek to cheek or just talking under the moonlight. As the married and thought happily Allison begins to fall in love with her article source, she begins to understand the need to be loved, give love, and bounce back from a strike out because the next at bat can be a home run.

LUCKY AT LOVE is a fascinating and moving relationship drama that takes an in depth look at the need to belong to and with someone else. Through Jake who keeps swinging the bat though he has struck out in love seven times, Allison and the reader learn what self-actualization is. Jake and Allison are delightful lead characters, whose changing relationship from his being a test subject to a possible once in a lifetime beloved will grip fans with his never give up attitude of cutting the empty top of the cup off so that it is now filled.

The Garden of Eden and Other Criminal Delights
Faye Kellerman
0446530395 $24.99

This is a fabulous crime fiction short story collection that includes three Decker family tales ("The Garden of Eden" and "Open House" which focus on Peter and Rina and "Bull's-Eye" starring their daughter Cindy), which are just under a third of the page count. The compilation includes thirteen tales exclusively written by Faye Kellerman mostly in the 1990s, one joint entry with son Jesse ("Mummy and Jack"), and one with daughters Rachel and Ilana ("The Luck of the Draw"). Additionally there are two short autobiographical essays (also from the 1990s) dedicated to her Ms. Kellerman's parents. This is a strong fun anthology that showcases the talent of this writing family's matriarch with a little help from her offspring; only Jonathan is missing.

The Book of Fate
Brad Meltzer
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446530999 $25.99 1-800-759-0190

Eight years ago, then presidential aide Wes Holloway permitted Deputy Chief of Staff Ron Boyle to ride in President Leland Manning's limousine. As they drove to a NASCAR event, Nico Hadrian fired shots at their vehicle. Secret Service, FBI and local law enforcement assumed Hadrian targeted POTUS when he killed Boyle and destroyed the right side of Wes's face.

Now that Manning is out of office, Wes, who still works for the former, finds his juggling assignments much easier to achieve. However, to his shock Wes sees Boyle attending a conference in Malaysia as impossible as that seems. Unable to ignore this as he feels guilt over Boyle's death, Wes investigates how a dead man is alive. As evidence surfaces that the Masons are involved and have been behind the scenes running the country since its foundation, several splinter groups have plans to increase their influence. The knowledge means death for Wes and his allies.

The Brownian legacy spins into the United States with this fun conspiratorial thriller. The story line is action-packed though convoluted and at times difficult to follow as readers and Wes struggle to understand what happened eight years ago; that camaraderie the audience shares with Wes makes him an empathetic protagonist. The use of unsolved real mysteries add to the feel of a super group in power behind the scenes and plotting to gain even more control. Brad Meltzer's fans will enjoy his latest tale focusing on the "truth" behind DC politics.

The Younger Gods
David and Leigh Eddings
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446532282 $26.99 1-800-759-0190

For eons the four elder sibling gods (Dahlaine, Zelana, Aracia, and Veltan) have ruled Dhrall except every 25,000 years or so they take a breather and delegate their duties temporarily to the younger foursome of gods. The time for rest is upon them; however there is no respite for the weary as the Vlagh, a deadly adversary, challenges the Elder Gods' reign.

The Vlagh plan is simple. Coming from within she has arisen from the central wasteland of the realm; people are cattle to be eaten by the evil offspring insect army. As her horde expands and conquers, the Elder Gods need rest yet must fight at a time when one of them Aracia seems to have become a dangerous megalomaniac demanding worship while a younger God Lillabeth wants to replace her as a top gun. Aracia plans to break the first taboo of the Elder Gods of thou shall not kill a younger god.

The Dreamers series is a fun somewhat simplistic saga with a subtle underlying theme involving parental-child relationships as immortality means the heir remains the heir forever. The story line is action-packed with the Elder Gods facing a crisis at a bad time for them (not that any time is a good time to face a crisis). Fans of the Eddings will enjoy this tale that can stand alone, but the nuances will be better understood by reading the previous three fantasies.

As Dead As It Gets
Cady Kalian
0765313642 $14.95

Former New York investigative journalist Maggie Mars got her big break with an article that brought her to Hollywood as a screenwriter. In Los Angeles she is working on a script involving what else but an investigative reporter. Maggie also belongs to the Creative Artists Union affectionately called COW by the CAU members.

However, when CAU executive director Roger Urban is found dead in a bathtub garbed only in a garter belt and bra, Maggie's previous "life" kicks in as she needs to investigate. Her former lover back in New York, but now part of LAPD, Joe Camanetti warns her to stay out of his official investigation as he knows Maggie will snoop. Unable not to sleuth, Maggie begins making inquiries finding Urban was a sleaze and being warned to back out of the case by an unknown adversary. When an apparent related suicide occurs, LAPD claims the case solved, but Maggie says no way and soon the killer targets the nosy Maggie.

AS DEAD AS IT GETS is a fun Hollywood investigative tale that follows the adventures of a heroine whose former lover and her father plead with her to stop her sleuthing. Maggie makes the tale as a courageous individual obsessed with solving the homicide. Having a roommate who is the queen of Hollywood gossip is in some ways too convenient, but readers will not care as Lionel's light gossipy banter adds to the locale and the feel of a delightful lighthearted Hollywood (and Manhattan) murder mystery.

Mask Market
Andrew Vachss
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0375424229 $24.95 1-800-726-0600

In New York City, private investigator Burke still mentally recovers from being shot in his face by posing as his brother. However, Charlie the Fixer knows the avenging vigilante is pulling a masquerade of sorts so confronts him with a client seeking a missing woman Beryl Preston. Burke accepts the job, but when the client goes to his car to get the fee, he is killed.

Burke is angrier over being a witness rather than over his losing a paying customer when he can use the money. He knows these professionals will leave no witnesses so they will come after him. Burke meets with his peers at Mamas. They agree with his assessment that the pros will come for him and ergo figure he needs to go after them first with their assistance, which means finding Beryl, the link to the killers.

This is a typical Burke tale filled with violence and the vigilante's code of justice; the twists this time are Burke is vulnerable including emotionally and that he rescued Beryl from abuse two decades ago and apparently will need to do so again. The story line is fast-paced and action-packed as no one takes Manhattan like Burke does. Fans of the series will agree he is back doing what he does best, killing his adversaries.

Thomas Bernhard
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
1400040663 $25.95 1-800-726-0600

Following WW II in Vienna distinguished Dr. Strauch sends his underling to a remote village Weng that the renowned surgeon assumes is a dump filled with peasants. He tells his employee to look into the mental state of his brother, a famous painter who abruptly left civilization in Vienna to rusticate.

Pretending to be a law student, the young man befriends the painter and begins sending to his employer correspondence involving the mental health of the artist. However, the newcomer becomes somewhat frightened by the painter's paranoid temper fits and schizoid discussions as if he is talking to himself. He also reports the village is filled with scandal as he realizes his landlady sleeps with the village knacker while her spouse resides in jail on a murder conviction in which his wife testified against him. As the writings of the "spy" turn unreasonable bordering on the insane, a traveling troupe arrives with a show of deformity that he sends in graphic detail to the surgeon. After spending four weeks in Weng, the outsider seems on the verge of a breakdown; that is if he has not already gone over the edge.

Mindful of Camus' The Stranger, this translation by Michael Hofmann of a 1963 classic is a terrific look at a person falling apart over the course of four weeks. Readers will observe the mental collapse of the unnamed outsider from his increasingly irrational writings that he dutifully sends to his employer. Fans who want something different will want to read the late Thomas Bernhard's compelling and profound existential look at a man seemingly falling apart as he fails to adapt to this alien environs.

The Winter of Frankie Machine
Don Winslow
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0307266079 $24.00 1-800-726-0600

Former mob hitman Frank "Frankie Machine" Machianno was considered the best at his vocation by his peers and his superiors until he retired. He relocated to San Diego, where he opened up a bait shop and sells seafood he catches to local restaurants.

Though he sometimes misses his old life, Frank knows that killing people is a young man's game with few of his profession reaching retirement age like he has. Still he does an occasional favor for his former associates so he is asked to provide backup during a disputed resolution between the San Diego and Detroit mobs and Frank agrees to do so.. However instead of providing quiet muscle, Frank realizes the scenario is a setup with someone wanting him dead. Though not quite the super Frankie Machine, Frank remains a formidable opponent and begins an investigation into who from his past hired a hit on him while surviving attempts to take him out by killing first.

Mindful of Bronsen's The Mechanic, THE WINTER OF FRANKIE MACHINE is terrific tense thriller starring an antihero struggling to survive his past. The key to this action-packed tale is Frank and his adversaries who seem genuine, which makes the suspense that much more intense and intriguing. Don Winslow provides a great tale and the audience needs to set aside time as the plot's hook keeps readers' attention from start to finish.

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
Karen Russell
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0307263983 $22.00 1-800-726-0600

These are ten delightful fables that star young heroes and heroines living in an offbeat magical Florida Everglades. The irony behind the uplifting tales is that they involve growing up to face reality yet still retain the magical environs of childhood while on the verge of losing their youthful enthusiasm forever. Each contribution is haunting (not just Olivia's tale) and satirical as Karen Russell brings out the inspirational "I won't Grow Up" from Peter Pan while having to pretend to have grown up; albeit what are girls who just want to have fun raised by wolves but now left with nuns to do except to fake assimilation. Whether one searches for a dead sister using enchanted goggles or has a Minatare as a dad, ST. LUCY'S HOME FOR GIRLS RAISED BY WOLVES: AND OTHER STORIES is a fun compilation that cleverly lampoons adult solutions to children's problems by sending them to their room in this case a camp for troubled sleepers.

Desiree Day
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th floor, New York, NY 10020
141650351X $14.00 1-800-223-2336

In Atlanta, Blair Ricci, Madison DuPree, LaShawn Greene and Lauren Hopson are close friends who every Thursday celebrate "Screw Men Night". This time they decide to get away together on a Caribbean cruise. Each needs the time desperately to think how to fix their out of control life.

Suburbanite Blair is shocked to learn that her perfect spouse makes mistakes that can prove quite costly to their relationship. Single swinger Madison finds sex is no longer a turn on as her parade of one night stands seem lacking lately. Religious fanatic LaShawn's insistence on celibacy is driving her fiance away. Finally Lauren is a super-spouse, super-mom, super-business mogul and definitely super-tired. CRUISING together these buddies seek some harmony in their respective lives after the ship docks.

The four disheartened females are likable protagonists with different needs, desires and troubles that distinguish them from one another. The audience will understand and appreciate that the consistency of the personalities the foursome display throughout as each seeks solutions to their woes seem apropos to that person's basic behavior. Though much of the subplots are conventional, readers will enjoy how each responds to the issue of how to regain some harmony and balance in their respective lives.

Tears of a Class Clown
Sara Faith Alterman
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
006075592X $12.95

She was always known for her wit and comedic barbs culminating in high school when Nina Kurtz was voted "Class Clown". Now almost a decade later, Nina remains the clown on the outside, but inside she is lonely and sad. She has no man and her employment is to tend bar at a comedy club that ironically serves no alcoholic beverages.

Nina receives the invitation to attend her tenth anniversary high school reunion, but has no plans of going as she cannot deal with everyone looking at the queen of sass with pity and believing she is a failure. Her high school boyfriend Jacob invites her to be his date at the event. She considers going because her quips never turned him off; instead he enjoyed them. However, her boss plans an improvisation that same night that would allow her a chance to get out from behind the bar as she is positive if she struts she will win.

Nina is a fascinating lead character as her insecurities conflict with her skills to rattle quips and her desire to be a stand up comic though she suffers debilitating stage fright. The story line follows her internal skirmish of wanting to see her number one fan vs. performing as she ponders whether she is using Jacob to rationalize not going on stage. Though a fine character study, readers will be disappointed that Sara Faith Alterman didn't dig deeper inside the psyche of her heroine so that we could understand the schizoid of why she wants to perform and why she fears performing.

How to Seduce a Duke
Kathryn Caskie
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022

In 1814, the Ton is excited over rumors about the beautiful Royle triplets (Mary, Anne, and Elizabeth), who many believe are the offspring of the Prince; the siblings do nothing to confirm or deny the gossip. Everyone wants the three sisters to attend their gala for if they fail to show up the party is considered a bust.

The "oldest" of the trio Mary decides that Viscount Wetherly would be a perfect mate for her so she begins to make plans to bewitch him. However his rakish brother Rogan, Duke of Blackstone, consistently destroys her plans as he always is seemingly in the way trying to seduce her. Though Mary is convinced that Blackstone is not right for her with his reputation, she admits to herself that she is very attracted to him which is ironic since she believes that he is up to no good when it comes to her. She would be right as Blackstone refuses to let his sibling fall for the wiles of a con artist though he himself cannot stop thinking and dreaming of Mary as his.

HOW TO SEDUCE A DUKE is a fabulous amusing Regency romance that grips the reader from the first "sighting" and never slows down until the gender war ends with domestic tranquility. The story line is driven by the battles between Mary and Blackstone as both agrees they are not good for one another, but cannot get enough of one another. Fans will enjoy their humorous stinging exchanges as Kathryn Caskie opens her trilogy with a delightful tale.

Dogged Pursuit
Lee Charles Kelley
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060732296 $6.99

In Maine, ex-detective and popular dog trainer Jack Field is looking forward to getting married to state medical examiner Dr. Jamie Cutler. Trouble comes in the form of his ex-girlfriend Kristen who wants him to find her missing step-daughter, Jen. When a body is found in the water under the dock, Jack as an unofficial assistant to Jamie is there and is relieved it is not Jen. He sees a light across the water and alerts the police who arrest Clay Heenry.

Jack recalls a case with the same M.O. and the police ask him to get a confession out of the man who they believe killed twenty-one people including possibly Jen's aunt. Jen witnessed the murder and Henry was supposedly on the campus when she disappeared. Eventually Henry confesses to everything but the number and when Jen sees his picture she says he isn't the man who killed her aunt.

Lee Charles Kelley has written an innovative and riveting mystery that takes the hero places he really doesn't want to go but his sense of duty and honor makes him help the police and his girlfriend. Jack's love for dogs is so much I evidence that readers who have dogs of their own that they love will totally understand his character. This author has the knack for intricate plotting and creative storylines starring likable protagonists.

Swept Away
Toni Blake
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0061135887 $13.95

Her wedding is less than a week to a nice person who Katrina Spencer sadly reflects that she does not love. Needing time to think, she flees to her family owned island to decide whether she should break off her engagement or not especially since she does not want to hurt her fiance, who deserves the best but she is also concerned about what she needs.

Dozing on the beach, she is awakened when FBI uncover agent Brock Denton scrambles ashore. She does not have to be a nuclear scientist to know that Brock has brought trouble to her haven. Not only does she still remember his searing kisses from their last encounter, but feels no man including her future husband compares to him. However, Brock has brought more than just sexual danger to the woman he has never forgotten. His cover was broken and he fled with smugglers wanting him dead. He fears he brought his danger to "Crazy Kat", but also is frightened by how much he desires her. Passion and danger ignite as they flee his pursuers, but can this be love or just the heat of the moment?

This torrid romantic suspense thriller is at its delightful best when the lead couple shares intimate interludes. However, the suspense subplot of the smugglers in pursuit relies too heavily on coincidence starting with the first and only acceptable entity of Brock landing on Kat's beach. Still the lead couple is fun to follow as they struggle with their sexual desires and the need to fight or flight. Toni Blake provides a fun tale.

Through the Darkness
Marcia Talley
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060587415 $6.99

Hannah Ives is delighted to have her daughter Emma, her son-in-law Dante and her three grandchildren move back to Maryland where they plan to open up Dante's Paradiso, a plush full service spa with a day care facility. Emma leaves Timmy by himself for a couple of minutes in the spa's nursery, but when she returns he is missing.

A through search of the premises prove that the infant is not there. The police and the FBI investigate, but no ransom demand is made leading the profiler to believe that the kidnapper plans to raise the child as theirs. As the days pass with no recovery in sight, the family loses hope; Emma and Dante drift apart as they both subconsciously hold her culpable. After an odd encounter at the mall, Hannah begins her new brand of inquiry that includes an audacious plan to bring her grandson home.

As usual Marcia Talley has written an entertaining who-done-it that pulsates with energy due to the interactivity of the beleaguered family members and several support players. Hannah, a strong willed individual, takes the necessary actions (at least as she sees it) because once she gets an idea in her head a nuclear bomb could not dissuade her. A subplot involving sexual predators targeting minors over the Internet adds a warning to parents as well as enhancing a tense trip THROUGH THE DARKNESS of human cruelty and desperation guided by the intrepid Hannah Ives, grandmotherly amateur sleuth and lioness.

Girls Most Likely
Sheila Williams
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345464761 $13.95 1-800-726-0600

The invitation to attend the thirtieth anniversary of their high school graduating class has four African-American women looking back on their lives as they close in on fifty. In the fifth grade in Ohio, the in-crowd Reenie Keller rescues bookworm Vaughn Jones from a beating by a bully. Reenie introduces Vaughn to her pal Su Penn. The trio becomes the Three Musketeers that changes into the four amigas in junior high when Audrey Taylor joins the group.

Over the next two and a half decades the quartet remains close loyal friends helping one another with life. They are there for one another when deaths strike and male troubles lead to broken dreams and marriages. They are there for one another as their offspring begin to grow up and hint at turning them into grandmothers. Now Vaughn is mentally falling apart as her troubles seem insurmountable; Reenie feels guilty over a secret she maintains that if revealed will destroy their camaraderie, but not revealing it will destroy her; Susan still scorns after all these years her mother for deserting her; and Audrey remains true to her martinet father's demand for perfection. Each is breaking down, but as a group they remain strong and supportive; now they need each other more than ever before.

This is a terrific look at four sisters whose friendships keep each afloat as life has not lived up to the dreams they had when they first met. The story line rotates between the prime players so that the audience gets inside the heads of these realistic women struggling at forty-eight years old with family issues and middle age problems including aging. Sheila Williams provides a strong look at middle age women with this deep tale (see also DANCING ON THE EDGE OF THE ROOF).

The Hounds and the Fury
Rita Mae Brown
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345465474 $24.95 1-800-726-0600

In Virginia, septuagenarian "Sister" Jane Arnold is the grand mistress of the foxhounds at the Jefferson Hunt Club. Though crusty she is normally friendly to man and beast though she finds the four legged species much kinder than the two legged animal. However, Jane does not like two new club members due to their cavalier attitude towards tradition.

Affluent Crawford Howard disrespects everyone especially Jane when he deems their antiquated methodology holds him back; he commits the ultimate insult when he purchase foxhounds to form his own rival club. Cancer specialist Jason Woods expects VIP special treatment from the JHC especially Jane, but even long time members do not get superior handling and Sister tries to ignore him. Meanwhile Jane's companion Gray Lorillard audits the books of a local company only to learn Iphigenia "Iffy" Demetrios has been withdrawing money from it for years. Not long afterward someone murders Iffy and wounds Gray's brother. Jane and her four legged buddies conclude that someone fears what else the audit will reveal.

The villain is obvious and the story line with talking animals used by Rita Mae Brown in this series (see FULL CRY) and her other major series (Mrs. Murphy) will delight her fans who will definitely want to read this charming cozy. The talk with the animals' whodunit is fun to follow as Sister and her four legged pals investigate the murder and the apparent attempted murder where she assumes Gray was the target. Fans of Ms. Brown will enjoy her latest personification mystery.

Chasing the Dead
Joe Schreiber
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345487478 $16.95 1-800-726-0600

In Boston, thirty-four years old Sue Young is on the phone with her daughter's nanny when Marilyn says someone is heading towards her. They agree to meet back at Sue's house, but when the single mom arrives home neither Marilyn nor her eighteenth-month old Veda is there. The phone rings; the person on the other end insists he abducted her infant daughter as just remittance for a crime she and her estranged husband, Philip Chamberlain committed as children. The kidnapper makes demands of the former ambulance driver that he expects her to perform if she wants Veda back alive.

She travels to Gray Haven to dig up the corpse of the baby she and Philip buried there. Next a teen doe Jeff, who she never met, jumps into her car to tell her to follow his instructions closely, not the voice on the phone otherwise the dead will return to life if she does. Before leaving her he tells her not to continue on her quest. Jeff and others return to life even as Sue drives to White's Cove expecting to get Veda back. However, to achieve her goal, Sue has one more trial of fire and that is to figure out how to destroy an evil that is playing her like a master puppeteer.

Joe Schreiber pays homage to Stephen king with this incredible New England horror novel that begins as a nightmarish thriller, but turns into something more horrifying. The protagonist is a loving mother coping with her worst fear until she realizes that what she is dealing with is even more horrendous than a child killer. Her feelings of foreboding grow stronger gripping readers who anticipate the worst at the end of her journey. Deserving of a Stoker nomination, CHASING THE DEAD showcases a new star in the horror realm.

The Take Down
Mark Anthony
c/o Holtzbrinck
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312340796 $11.95 1-888-330-8477

Paula Winslow is a twenty five year old African American FBI agent who was stationed in St. Louis but who wants to get transferred to New York and her chance came when her boss asked her if she was willing to go undercover. The FBI knows but can't prove that the Calvino crime family is laundering money through Gun Clap records owned by Tyrell "Supreme" Morgan and fronted by Horse Hopkins who the public assumes is the real owner.

Paula goes undercover as Jessica Jackson owner of a modeling agency who supplies girls for videos and other legitimate enterprises to Gun Clap records, which leads to her meeting Horse and Supreme who end up trusting her. She also maneuvers her way into life of Angela, the daughter of the head of the Calvino family and introduces her to Horse. Briefly hip hop and the mafia are in bed together but when Supreme and Horse feel that the family is dissing them, they start a war that ends up with Jessica being kidnapped on a plane ride to Mexico.

There is plenty of action, intrigue and blood and gore in this seat of your pants thriller. Readers get an insiders' look at corruption in the record industry where collateral damage is the norm while watching the protagonist go to extraordinary lengths to keep the investigation moving in the direction she wants it to go. The characters are well drawn and readers know what makes them tick though the most sympathetic character is Angela Calvino who is trapped by birth into a lifestyle that doesn't suit her.

The American Revelation: Ten Ideals That Shaped Our Country from the Puritans to the Cold War
Neil Baldwin
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312325444 $14.95 1-888-330-8477

The premise of these ten biographical essays is to concentrate on individuals who brought "fundamental Americanism", values at a time in which our leaders prefer polarizing the people to consolidate power via the money mechanism needed for reelections. Readers may disagree on the choices (no presidents), which is part of the fun of this tome. For instance, this reviewer expected Lincoln as the influence of changing from state-centric to national-conscience, but instead he failed to make the cut and some that were selected I never heard of before. Historical buffs will enjoy reading about values of this country from the seventeenth century: John Winthrop; eighteenth century: Thomas Paine and Pierre Eugene Du Simitiere; nineteenth century: Ralph Waldo Emerson, John L. O'Sullivan, and Henry George; twentieth century: Jane Addams, Israel Zangwill, Carter G. Woodson, and George C. Marshall. Written somewhat like the required reading of an American History 101 course, Neil Baldwin presents a fascinating concept supported by his chosen ones who he argues lived the American ideal of individual freedom and rights.

Murder 101
Maggie Barbieri
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312355378 $23.95 1-888-330-8477

NYPD Detectives Wyatt and Crawford enter the office of English Professor Alison Bergeron as she and her best friend Maxine Rayfield discuss killing her ex-spouse as he drives a BMW while she rides the train since her car was stolen. Crawford informs her that they found her vehicle with the body of student Kathy Miceli in the trunk of her car. Alison pukes on the shoes of the nicer cop Crawford before fainting while his partner wants to take her downtown for some intense questioning.

Crawford decides to tail Alison and not just because he likes how she looks; she is his only tenuous lead. Max persuades Alison that she is the prime suspect though no motive surfaces and that they must not allow NYPD especially that hunk Wyatt to railroad her while Wyatt looks at Alison's ex-husband as the culprit because he has learned about her ex-husband's affair with the deceased. Struggling to grade the Shakespeare class papers and ignore her attraction to Crawford as she does not trust men to remain faithful, Alison prays for a police rescue when the killer abducts her.

Though the dueling investigations (amateur and professional) take a back seat to the characters' reactions to the homicide, fans will enjoy this academic whodunit due to the four prime characters. Crawford is a fascinating protagonist who has two conflicting reasons to trail the professor while Alison has two solid reasons to avoid the cop. Throw in the romance between crusty Wyatt and Max on top of a delightful final relationship twist between the main pair leads the audience to a fun tale in which the coupling supersedes the mystery.

The Blonde
Duane Swierczynski
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312343795 $23.95 1-888-330-8477

At the Liberties Bar in Philadelphia International Airport, THE BLONDE sitting next to reporter Jack Eisley calmly informs him she poisoned him by putting something into his beer. She says her name is Kelly White; he will soon have a knot in his stomach informing him her poison is working, and he will be dead in twelve hours if he fails to obey her demands. When his stomach begins to hurt, Jack realizes the truth. Kelly says she must stay within ten feet of a human or die as a hit man is following her. Jack initially flees the crazy woman but realizes she has the antidote he needs so he decides to stay near Kelly and beg. Kelly switched to someone else, but decides to go with Jack when he comes back for her.

Meanwhile lethal CI-6 operative Mike Kowalski seeks a missing professor whose head he is to bring back to his group for lab testing. Mike observes Kelly but decides to follow the reject to his home only to find him dead. He needs to take the victim's head with him to bring to the lab, but first he goes to confront Kelly.

DOA meets 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag in Duane Swierczynski's faster than the speed of light thriller which explodes from the opening line: "I poisoned your drink" until the final triangular confrontation occurs. Jack is perfect as an innocent bystander whose harmless flirting leads to his becoming an innocent victim. Mike is his counterpart as an assassin who works for some mysterious group (government, mob, private lab or a combination of both). However the tale belongs to the blonde who coolly makes the novel fun to read as a combo victim femme fatale though plausibility needs to be left behind starting when Mike begins his head count.

Red Chrysanthemum
Laura Joh Rowland
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312355327 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

By 1698 in Edo, Japan, former Special Investigator to the Shogun, Sano Ichiro, has been the chamberlain for three years. However, his rise to power though deserved has left him with many enemies, who would do almost anything to ruin him. In fact his influence adversely impacts his family who are now considered legitimate targets of his adversaries. The latter bothers Ichiro because his beloved wife Reiko is pregnant and should not be harassed.

However, Ichiro suddenly faces his greatest power struggle with the hideous death of Lord Mori, whose mutilated corpse was found next to a naked except for blood Reiko. Her explanation rings false even to Ichiro who wants to believe her. While his foes demand his resignation, Ichiro and his best friend, the current Special Investigator to the Shogun, Hirata investigate the homicide though both fear that Reiku's alibi will prove false.

Besides the usual terrific look into late seventeenth century Samurai Japan, RED CHRYSANTHEMUM provides a fascinating twist as the principled Ichiro fears that what he will find will force him to choose between his beloved and his honor. His dilemma adds depth to the powerful insightful story line as this is the first time he doubts the veracity of his wife. Fans of the historical mystery series will treasure the eleventh entry in this top notch series that seems to get better as the "years" go by.

The Tailor's Daughter
Janice Graham
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312349130 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

In London Veda Grenfell grew up anticipating that she would marry an aristocrat though she understood that her current station in life as a daughter of a tailor means a noble would be marrying a trade person's offspring. Still she is pretty, charming and bold, which leads to Lady Hambledon advocating her, making her dream a possibility.

However, a series of tragedies strike that leave her distraught and her fantasy devastated. First her brother dies in an accident; then her mom dies during childbirth with the infant stillborn; typhoid fever leaves Veda deaf; finally her champion Lady Hambleton inexplicably dies. Knowing that no aristocrat will marry a handicapped person as their wife must be perfect, Veda works at her father's shop where she displays talent. In spite of her loss of hearing, three men seem to want Veda. Heir to an earldom Lord Breadalbane admires her elan and how sexy she looks wearing men's clothing though society demand he marry a wealthy equal; ambitious head cutter Balducci sees her as his means to inherit the shop , and tutor. Nicholls turns acerbic when any male seems to desire his Veda.

Though the early tragedies make this intelligent Victorian romance seem initially over dramatic, the story line turns into a delightful historical because of Veda, a fascinating character who provides an intriguing fresh look at 1860s English society. Her deafness adds to that insightful realistic look at London as individuals react differently towards her "imperfection". Sub-genre fans will appreciate this strong character driven tale as the star and her retinue make for a fine reading experience once the series of misfortunes end.

The Last Wife of Henry VII
Carolly Erickson
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312352182 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

This is a biographical fictional account of Catherine "Cat" Parr, the real survivor having become King Henry Tudor's only widow.. Interestingly, Cat in some ways matches the deviousness of Henry by outlasting four spouses; Henry being her number three. Henry was drawn to the intelligent and beautiful Cat when she was still a teen, but they married others until she became number six on his death card though by then he was aging and obese so that she became his final chapter. In fact after Henry died Cat married her lover. Whereas her predecessors, new rivals, and his two daughters are looked upon as losers, she laments that Henry's Church of England is more corrupt than the Papacy it replaced, as priests expected to be bought, which she
used to achieve her desires.

Carolly Erickson's tale is interesting as it brings out the Machiavellian marital machinations of the fifteenth century English aristocracy in which loving relationships took a back seat to power marriages. Though over titillating at times as if the reader is a voyeur, THE LAST WIFE OF HENRY VIII is a fascinating look at the last woman standing.

The Devil in the Junior League
Linda Francis Lee
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312354959 $22.95 1-888-330-8477

Twenty-eight years old wealthy Fredericka "Frede" Mercedes Hildebrand Ware belongs to the chic exclusive Junior League of Willow Creek, Texas. Frede adheres strictly to the rules of behavior so she dresses in an acceptably fashion and behaves accordingly avoiding scandal at all cost. When her husband Gordon has an affair, she ignores it as long as the tryst remains covert; when he absconds with her family money, fleeing the country, Frede keeps silent because status is everything.

She turns to her neighbor attorney Howard Grout, who would never make it as a club member, for assistance; though he is uncouth he can be trusted to keep quiet. However, the legal fee may be too high for "Queen" snob Frede; Howard wants her royal Frede to gain membership admittance for his wife Nikki to the Junior League of Willow Creek though the woman is a garish outsider. Reluctantly Frede agrees, but first works on toning down the tawdry lawyer's wife to make her less unacceptable while Howard follows Gordon's money trail.

Frede is obnoxious and has her values so engrained in image that she comes across as a cold egotistical person and that leads to fans cheering Gordon for splitting; her spelling out words and broken French 101 add to the reader's dislike of her. Still the other Junior Leaguers add eccentricity and the relationship between Frede and Nikki, which goes back to high school, is fun to follow as both begin to understand wearing the other's shoes. Fans of Linda Francis Lee will enjoy this lighthearted romp narrated by a protagonist who most will agree deserves the Grout treatment.

The Devil's Backbone
Kim Wozencraft
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312290632 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

Katherine "Kit" Metcalf and her sister Jenny reacted differently to the family dynamics after their mom died. Whereas Jenny obeyed their martinet father by becoming a cop like him and is engaged to an undercover police officer, Kit chose philosophy in college and avoided anything remotely involving law enforcement. Adding to Kit's estrangement is a rape that she never has come to terms with or gotten over. In anger towards all males, Kit becomes a stripper at Austin's Blaze gentleman's club where she can safely tease men with glass between her and them.

However, the dynamics change again when Austin police detective Jenny, investigating a porn ring and related murder tied to Blaze, is found dead. Needing to obtain justice for the sister she feels she let down, Kit begins to obtain therapy with psychiatrist Dr. Emily Wolfe and investigates her sibling's murder over the objections of everyone she knows. However one objector has personal reasons to prevent Kit from succeeding either with therapy or her case. That adversary attacks Dr. Wolfe and steals Kit's file. Kit ponders if it is her dad, her late sister's fiance Luke Saner, or someone else close to her who needs the truth to remain buried perhaps in her subconscious mind.

More a psychological thriller than an amateur sleuth tale, fans of both sub-genres and anyone who appreciates a deep character study will want to read this superb candid tale. The story line is action-packed, but it is the psyche of Kit that grips the audience as she grieves with no help from her stiff upper lip family who didn't help her when her mom died. Kim Wozencraft provides an incredible look at a woman over the edge without a safety net. The Devil's Backbone is a chillingly thrilling tale.

The Bancroft Strategy
Robert Ludlum
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312316739 $26.95 1-888-330-8477

Because he is considered the best at locating the target, U.S. intelligence agent Todd "The Hound" Belknap is granted by his boss a much wider degree of discretion than his field associates to accomplish his mission. Currently the Hound is irate that his superiors refuse to try to retrieves captured agent "Pollux" from a Lebanese militia in Beirut. Refusing to leave a peer in enemy hands, the Hound comes out of the warmth to return to the cold. He heads to Lebanon to liberate Pollux or die trying.

At the same time, the Hound begins stirring up local hostility in the Middle East, financial analyst Andrea Bancroft begins to realize that her family's philanthropic foundation is a cover for nefarious disturbing international plots. She digs deeper as she uncovers a connection to a missing American agent in Beirut. Going on site to see what is truly happening, Andrea fears that the Bancroft Foundation is at the core of global unrest even as she wonders if she is over dramatizing the conspiracy; that is until she meets the Hound.

Though Robert Ludlum of the Bourne fame died five years ago, new thrillers under his name have continued to appear. The latest THE BANCROFT STRATEGY is a fast-paced international thriller starring a lone espionage renegade, a courageous intelligent female, a conspiracy, and a secret cabal with the vortex between them being Pollux. The action never slows down, but lacks the freshness that Bourne contained (and still does). Still this is a fun tale filled with plenty of action that fans of the author will enjoy even if it is Ludlum-lite.

Brian Freeman
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312340443 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

In Las Vegas, Detective Jonathan Stride questions the witness, hooker Elonda who says the perp shot and killed her John; the victim turns out to be MJ Lane, the son of a Canadian billionaire and a celebrity of sorts due to an Internet bondage film. His peer Detective Serena Dial investigates a hit and run. They soon realize that the cases overlap though the link seems nebulous so they team up.

However, their pairing proves too late as another homicide occurs. A serial killer with a grudge has surfaced as the culprit methodically is eliminating anyone tied to a brutal cold case murder. Stride and Dial know they must solve the old case if they are to solve the current killing spree before someone else becomes a victim of a diabolical killer apparently seeking vengeance.

This is an exciting Las Vegas police procedural in which the two subplot investigations merge into an entertaining cat and mouse game with an avenging serial killer. Stride and Dial are a fine pair struggling to uncover the identity of the perp, but each clue turns into twists that sends them into a new direction. Though the ending seems abruptly disconnected from the preceding story line as if it was STRIPPED from a different plot, Brian Freeman provides an overall fine detective story.

Missing In Precinct Puerto Rico
Steven Torres
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312321112 $23.95 1-888-330-8477

The small town of Angustias, Puerto Rico has many eccentric residents, but few that are dangerous. The predators come from the United States as Sheriff Luis Gonzales faces a crime wave like none that he has seen in his twenty years on the job. It begins when Samuel is locked in a shack by his sister Marisol who wants to meet her boyfriend but she doesn't release him; his parents believe he was abducted.

Luis thinks he was snatched by one of the three sexual predators who have come to Puerto Rico to kidnap children, break them in and sell them on the American sex slave commodity market. One of the pedophiles Anthony Borden is on his honeymoon but in his spare time will break in a boy that they abducted. Ironically, the car crashes, the boy dies and Borden is totally paralyzed. The other monster David Poole is arrested while trying to help Anthony get away and left to the tender mercies of a sheriff from a neighboring area. The third criminal Julie Acevedo is the facilitator who disappears but another child is in a coma and they are waiting for her to regain consciousness to tell them what she knows.

The antagonists in Steven Torres latest tale are thoroughly repugnant and totally without conscience. In a macabre way it is interesting to watch them act normally until they have to conduct their business. This is a frightening story about acting without thinking and parents who don't supervise children. This action thriller is wrapped around a social issue and it gives no answer to the problems of sexual predators, it does open the eyes of the audiences to teen actions and the consequences that result from them.

Red Baker
Robert Ward
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312362749 $12.95 1-888-330-8477

In the 1980s fortyish Red Baker was downsized as part of a sixty percent workforce reduction at Larmel Steel. He has few options as the industry laid off a large chunk of the lunch bucket brigade. His best friend Dog also fired blames the "Nips", but Red knows better. Still he fears telling his spouse and children even avoiding going home until he has no choice but to explain that his aspirations of the American dream have been shattered.

Unable to cope with his inability to no longer take care of his family and considered non-trainable at his age, Red accepts menial jobs to bring in some income after unemployment checks end. However, he proves incapable of switching from a highly regarded skill of a steel worker to a car park attendant so he is fired. His esteem shatters further as his neighbors belittle him for not keeping a job; his wife Wanda, his son Ace, and Dog worry about him; even his mistress Crystal thinks he is losing it. Turning to alcohol and desperate, Red persuades Dog to do an act of stupidity.

This is a reprint of an insightful 1980s character study in which a hard working honest man doing the right thing finds his beliefs castrated as he falls from despair to depression to amoral behavior. Red is a terrific protagonist who feels he played fair, but was unfairly treated by his firm and society. His relationship with his wife is falling apart, but that looks glowing compared to his son who cannot hide his animosity as his heroic father suddenly increasingly lets him down. Still poignant today, readers of deep social issues will appreciate Robert Ward's strong tale though the story line needs time to truly take off as the first segue introduces the audience to a stunned deer in the headlights Red. Readers will want to take the time to get to the meat of this terrific tale.

No Trace
Barry Maitland
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
031235892X $24.95 1-888-330-8477

In London someone abducts the six years old daughter of artist Gabriel Rudd from their home leaving NO TRACE at all of a struggle. Little Tracey is the apparent third victim of the kidnapper; of the first two girls, one is dead and on is barely alive.

Detective Chief Inspector David Brock and Detective Sergeant Kathy Kolla head the investigation into the serial kidnapper case, but emphasize the importance of concentrating on rescuing the child. They are both appalled by Gabriel's reaction. Known for his work the "Dead Puppies" that gruesomely depicts the suicide of his wife five years ago, the abduction inspires him to begin a project depicting Tracey's kidnapping as the center of his upcoming exhibition of his works. He becomes a suspect with the motive being to recapture his moment of fame while he obviously had opportunity and the no struggle hints of someone the girl knows, but the two cops also look at other individuals in this closed bohemian artistic society.

The strength of this superb British police procedural resides with the support cast as Barry Maitland vividly describes the artist community, who to the two cops seem offbeat especially the victim's father. Readers will be fascinated in a macabre way with Rudd's reactions as he sees his daughter's danger as an exploitation opportunity, which has the audience wondering if he is that unfeeling, the culprit, or the ultimate capitalist.

The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2006
Edited by Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link, & Gavin Grant
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312356145 $19.95 1-888-330-8477

The nineteenth annual fantasy and horror collection of forty tales is as always consists of top selections accompanied by seven essays. In the fantasy summation, Kelly Link and Gavin Grant point out that there were many fewer genre anthologies than normal, but that they still had too many strong entries to choose from. Ellen Datlow, on the other hand, felt that the horror genre had an increase in terms of magazines and anthologies to select from, insisting she could have filled three books this year with quality tales. As always the inclusions (from both genres) run the table in terms of themes and format. Fans receive a taste of what happened in 2005, especially how wide the genres have become. There are also treatises on media ("horror does better during Republican administrations"), graphic novels, anime and manga, music, and obits in a year in which superstars Andre Norton and Will Eisner, etc. passed away. Though this reviewer enjoys the articles that summarize 2005, it is once again the included tales that make this compilation from famous, almost famous and the newbies a sure shot at award nomination time as this is an excellent entry in one of the superior, if not the best, annual collections.

The Harrowing
Alexandra Sokoloff
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312357486 $21.95 1-888-330-8477

Most of the Baird College population has gone home or on vacation for the extended Thanksgiving weekend. Five students decide to remain on the campus. Lonely freshman Robin expected to be alone, but finds Patrick the football player, Lisa the sex siren, Cain the musician and Martin the consummate nerdy student also staying at the dorm.

Drunk and stoned the quintet play with an ouija board to pass time. However, they are shocked when it seems some essence from beyond responds. The fivesome assumes they have reached a long dead former student (it is a dorm), but will soon learn that they have awakened an ancient evil demon, who has caused havoc and death in the past in this very building. The five know they must team up to dispatch the malevolence attacking them as separate means certain death while banding together probably means death.

If the above reads like a teen horror flick, you have the essence of a pleasant thriller. The five students have different personalities to the point that in some ways they are classic stereotypes from the separate to slash films. Fans of lighthearted young adult horror romps will appreciate this fun movie, make that teen terror tale.

The Temple Dancer
John Speed
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312325487 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

In 1657 Goa, India after the Dutch win the Pepper Wars, Carlos Dasana worries about his Portuguese family so he courts widowed sultana of Muslin Bijapur. However, Carlos also understands who the current power is as the sultan is a preadolescent; he insures he stays on the friendly side of the Grand Vizier Wali Khan by sending him a former Hindu temple dancer sold into prostitution Maya to do whatever he wants.

Carlos dispatches his dissolute nephew Geraldo and his niece Lucinda to oversee the caravan delivering the human gift to the vizier. Along the treacherous trek in which bandits attack and assault the two females, Lucinda and Maya forge a friendship as they share their recent history especially when their elephants have accidents. At a stop in Belgaum, Lucinda realizes she loves traveling companion Da Gama while Maya and Geraldo seem to want one another though they must show caution as the Vizier has sent Captain Pathan to protect his present from other males.

Though in some ways a historical romance, THE TEMPLE DANCER is much more as three ways of lives clash on the journey serving as a microcosmic metaphor of the larger battles between Portuguese, Hindu and Muslim cultures during the final age of the Mogul empire. Each key player and several support characters (for instance the Vizier's former concubine who runs Belgaum) are distinctive, which adds to the reader understanding the differences between the three people. Though the ensemble cast leads to complicated subplots that compete for supremacy (paralleling the underlying theme of a clash of civilizations) making for at times a difficult read, fans of historical tales will want to join the caravan riding the elephant on this insightful journey into mid seventeenth century India.

Murder on the Ballaret Train
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
1590582411 $22.95 1-800-421-3976

In Australia, the Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher is on the train to Ballaret to visit some cousins when she wakes up in her compartment to the smell of chloroform. She starts opening the window reviving herself and her maid Dot. They open the windows in the other three compartments in first class. One elderly woman, Mrs. Henderson is missing until her body is found thirty feet from the track.

Her daughter Eunice hires Phryrne to find out who killed her mother. Another mystery on the train presents itself in the form of a young child suffering from amnesia. Phryrne calls her Jane and takes her home with her and has her examined by her doctor who tells her the child was sexually molested. Phryrne is determined to find out who did this to the child and who killed Mrs. Henderson; because of her reputation, she has the full support of the Melbourne police who are in awe of the indomitable Miss Fisher.

In chronological order, the third Phryne Fisher mystery is as exciting as the rest of the books in this fabulous series. Taking place inin Australia in the 1920's where women are gaining more freedom, the heroine is in the forefront of the equality under the law movement. She is independent, stubborn and generous to those she cares about. The killer hides in plane sight and for a time, much to Phryrne's chagrin, fools the intrepid heroine.

Vanity Fire
John M. Daniel
Poisoned Pen
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251 1-800-421-3976
1590583221 $22.95 1-800-421-3976

Guy Mallon is perfectly content running his small publishing company with his business partner and lover Carol Murphy. Trouble comes to the happy couple when retired businessman Fritz Marburger offers to pay them to publish his young lover's book. The author is fancy jazz singer Lorraine Evans. Once Carol and Guy read it, they believe they have a hit on their hands. Marburger is Lorraine's agent and together they set up a publicity scenario where the singer appears on Oprah and does a spread in People.

When Lorraine nixes the People article and refuses to go on Oprah, sales plummet. The warehouse that Guy rents from Marburger to store the books inside also has a tenant, Roger, who is running a POD scam and making a fortune. Carol leaves Guy who in order to avoid bankruptcy; he goes in on the POD scam with one of his authors. The warehouse burns down and all his books are gone. The police determine the cause of the fire is arson and a body is found in the ruins. Roger has disappeared and Guy intends to find him and earn back his self esteem that he lost by dealing with a criminal.

John M. Daniel has written an adrenaline racing, heart bumping crime caper that has so many interesting plot twists that readers really don't have a clue who besides Roger is the antagonist. What this reviewer likes about VANITY FIRE is that nobody can predict what will happen next. This leads to a one sitting reading to find out how Guy's problem all turn out.

A Merry Band of Murderers
Edited by Claudia Bishop and Don Bruns
Poisoned Pen
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
1590583019 $24.95 1-800-421-3976

This thirteen story anthology uses the gimmick of tying a mystery to a song. The tales are for the most fun, but only a couple would go platinum; "The Long Black Veil" by McDermid and "The Melancholy Danish" by Bishop. All thirteen authors are well known highly regarded writers; however, though their contributions are solid, these are not their best work as if most of the providers were straining to hit the right chords. Each tale ends with the lyrics (written by that writer as a solo or with an accompaniment) and short interviews of each author that are fascinating though admittedly only to die hard fans of that writer or reviewers needing a life like moi. Finally a companion CD of songs completes the ties between the music and the short stories. Overall this blending is a merry band of murder and music that will entertain readers with its creativity, but is not up to the quality of STARS: ORIGINAL STORIES BASED ON THE SONGS OF JANIS IAN.

A Short History of Tractors in the Ukrainian
Marina Lewycka
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0143036742 $14.00 1-800-847-5515

In England eighty-four years old Ukrainian immigrant Kolya Mayevska has been a widower for two years. Though he appreciates poetry and tractors, he is lonely until he meets thirty-six years old big boobed Valentina, also from the Ukraine, at the Ukrainian Social Club. Valentina falls for the elderly man because she needs him to obtain papers so that she and her teenage son, whose father she divorced, can remain in England; his money is a needed bonus.

His two daughters, big sister Vera and little sister Nadezhda, who have always feuded over saving the world, but stopped talking after their mom Ludmilla died two years ago, are stunned by the usurper, who is younger than both of them and has boobs bigger than theirs combined. They immediately realize that the gold digger satin undies-wearing Valentina loves western luxuries a lot more than their dad. They agree they must stop the invader, but are not sure how as their dad spends his retirement pension on helping the sex siren settle in England. Especially galling is when he pays for her to have cosmetic surgery. Still they cannot stop the marriage from happening in spite of lawyers, immigration, and pregnancy.

This is an interesting family drama that is told by Nadezhda so the audience obtains only her perspective of what happened to her dad. The story line is intriguing as she and her sibling try everything to stop what they see is a disaster for their father in this May-December relationship. The frustration of failure adds poignancy to the story line though flashbacks to the death of their maternal grandmother in the Ukraine seem unnecessarily heavy-handed. Still overall this is an enjoyable look at an outsider invading a dysfunctional family causing enemy combatants to become close allies.

Devil's Tango
Herve Jubert
c/o Morrow & Company
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060777214 $16.99 1-800-242-7737

A hundred years or so have passed since the pandemic Great Flood devastated the world. Few places survived its destruction as well as Basle, a city in which air particles created by sorcerers prevent crime from happening due to the particles "keeping" a check on citizens. Threre are no major crimes until now. The city is suddenly inundated by homicides. Murder should not have occurred because of the air yet killings did and are becoming frequent.

In that atmosphere of fear, the election for mayor has taken a nasty spin as Candidate Foulk claims outsiders, the Gypsies, are using outlawed alchemy to circumvent the crime prevention system and are the killers though he offers no evidence or motive. As he stirs hatred to enhance his election possibilites, Criminal Investigation Department Chief Major Gruber knows he has no in-house capabilities to solve the murders as no crime had occurred in three years since the Killer's Quadrille incident. He assigns criminal investigative reservists Witch Roberta Morgenstern and her police officer associate Clement Martineau to uncover the identity of the culprit. They search for genetic markers that lead them to the Queen of the Gypsies; not understanding that the Baron of the Mists has used burearcratic bungling to rig the investigation.

DEVIL'S TANGO brilliantly mixes elements from science fiction, fantasy and mystery into a delightful thriller. Roberta is terrific as she follows clues that place her and her associate in danger from a seemingly known adversary yet her instincts say otherwise. Fans of a wild way out police procedural will enjoy the sequel to DANCE WITH ASSASSINS.

Fortress of Ice
C.J. Cherryh
c/o Morrow & Company
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0380979047 $24.95 1-800-242-7737

King Cefwyn raised his son and heir Aewyn at the royal court at Guelemara while his older child by a few months, illegitimate offspring Elfwyn, was raised by Gran the hedge-witch in the countryside of Amefel where she called him Otter. The two royals visited Otter often and now the sixteen years old Elfwyn has been brought to Guelemara to live with his sire and half-brother though the monarch realizes that the two siblings could become adversaries. He believes with his guidance Elfwyn will be loyal and helpful to Aewyn once the younger is on the throne.

Both teens admire their father and become friends as well as brothers in spite of all that divided them. However, out of love and good intentions inadvertently King Cefwyn has brought trouble to his kingdom. The Quinalt religious sect demand that Otter leave the court as his maternal breeding is an abomination to these purist fanatics; they will do what it takes to insure this happens including assassination if need be. Worse, Otter's mother, one of the Aswydd sisters and an outraged perhaps insane sorceress, has escaped her incarceration and is coming for her boy and to kill her former lover.

The fifth "Fortress" fantasy is a terrific relationships drama that fans of the series will fully appreciate as everyone will wonder whether Elfwyn will choose his mother or his father. Though a short introduction will help newcomers understand the back story, this reviewer recommends obtaining the four previous novels to better savor this exciting saga especially the interrelationships between the various key players; all are fully developed, but their conjoining pasts are critical to this plot. C.J. Cherryh provides a fabulous tale testing the loyalties of the two teenage brothers.

The Sharing Knife: Beguilement
Lois McMaster Bujold
c/o Morrow & Company
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0061137588 $25.95 1-800-242-7737

After learning she is pregnant, Fawn Bluefield runs away from home, but is noticed by the Lakewalker Dag; Lakewalkers can use ground senses to manipulate energy that enables them to use "magic" to kill evil creatures known as malices with specially prepared knives. Dag rescues Fawn when two mud-men created by the malice attack her,. He goes hunting itknowing that only one malice left to grow can destroy the world.

However, the mud-men kidnap her and take her to the malice's lair where Dag finds her. He tosses her two knives that she uses to kill the malice. One knife becomes primed after she lost her baby in the fight with the malice. Dag takes Fawn to a hotel that welcomes Lakewalkers so that she can recuperate from her ordeal. They begin to know one another and they fall in love although Dag knows Lakewalkers only mate with their own kind.

Readers get to see up close and understand the Lakewalker culture with pressure to conform to their value while also receiving an exciting romantic fantasy adventure. The heroine is courageous as she leaves behind her family to give her baby a fresh start; Dag seems wiser yet totally charmed by the outsider's feisty independence. Lois McMaster Bujold creates strong realistic characters while building a unique world. This tale showcases the remarkable skills of this grandmistress.

The Eunuch's Heir
Elaine Isaak
c/o Morrow & Company
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060782552 $14.95 1-800-242-7737

His father the late King Kattanan duRhys is a legend for his fair, just and strong rule; some would say a saint. Most of residents of the Kingdom of Lochalyn believe the deceased revered monarch made one mistake, his heir. Knowing he could never live up to his sire's accomplishments Prince Wolfram spends much of his time partying with women.

That changes when someone tries to assassinate Wolfram, which shakes him out of his hedonistic lifestyle at the same time his ascension to the throne is challenged by doubts that he is the true offspring of the good King Kattanan. Needing time to regroup while remaining safe, Wolfram flees with his eighteen year old foster sister Princess Melody; he leaves his mother Queen Brianna and the Lord Protector Fionvar duNormand in charge of the monarchy. The two royal travelers reach the mystical Hemijrai where the Prince falls in love with virginal Priestess Dieshima while her mentor Priestess Faedara wants the male infidel dead and his female companion to join them in a sacrificial rebirth that could lead to a flowing of blood in Lochalyn.

The sequel to THE SINGER'S CROWN (Kattanan's tale) is a solid romantic fantasy starring a spoiled prince whose late father gave him everything he wanted as a reaction to the murders of those he loved when he was the heir. Thus in many ways Wolfram is the more fascinating character than his sire whose "mission" was established by his uncle's killings. The story line is filled with action and a sort of comparative analysis between the two nations that are polar opposites in outlook. Still to fully understand the goings-on, readers should first peruse THE SINGER'S CROWN as that not only provides explanations to the exiled heir's personality; it gives insight to referenced events. Elaine Isaak provides a solid second story to her saga.

Dark Moon Defender
Sharon Shinn
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0441014305 $23.95 1-800-847-5515

One of the fifty elite King's Rider, Justin heads to the remote town of Neft because some recent activity against King Baryn of Gillengaria seems to have initiated at the Daughters of the Pale Mother religious sect led by Coralinda Gisseltess located there. This Moon Goddess worship faction insists that other forms of mysticism are abominations and needs to be dealt with by death to the heretic. Thus the two travelers are to infiltrate this fanatic's House to determine whether Coralinda fosters anti- monarchy fervor.

Justin goes undercover obtaining work at the stable where he soon meets novice Ellynor, a healer with stealth skills that she hides for fear her superiors will sacrifice her as a heretical mystic. He uncovers her magicals secrets even as they fall in love with one another. Her fears prove true when she is condemned to die at a fiery stake for being an unholy magical practitioner. Only Justin can save her, but by doing so he would reveal his identity as an undercover King's Rider and ergo jeopardizing the mission.

The third Twelve House saga (see THE THIRTEENTH HOUSE and MYSTIC AND RIDER) is a superb romantic fantasy starring a dedicated hero struggling with saving the woman he loves that would most likely devastate his mission. The action-packed story line is driven by the relationship between Justin and Ellynor; ironically if he saves her, his family and his peers still will not accept her as his spouse because she is a Lirren. Fans of terrific character driven tales will fully appreciate the wonderful DARK MOON DEFENDER that deftly blends deep characterizations inside a strong saga.

Logos Run
William C. Dietz
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0441014283 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

In the very far distant future, an interstellar civilization developed that spread throughout the distant star systems. Humanity advanced because of star gates which allowed instant travel from one planet to another no matter what star system they were in. The star gates went offline after revolution decimated whole systems and the long slide into barbarianism has begun. Few star gates remain operational with most of those run by the mysterious Techno Society whose leader is Omar Tepho.

Runner Jak Rebo, sensitive Lonni Nor, heavy worlder Bo Hoggless and sentient A.I. Logos are on the planet Thara keeping a promise to a dead man, Lysander who in an early age was the Emperor Hios. His corrupt rule instigated the revolution and now he wants to make amends by having Logos install itself on the plant Sprocket so that the AI can start reseeding the star gates to enable civilization to climb back to its former glory. Tepho wants control of the star gates and as the heroes travel from planet to planet for reasons known only to the crafty Logos, Tepho and his minion are either there or one stop behind them.

Williams C. Dietz is one of the grandmasters of space opera. LOGOS RUN is full of action adventure, intrigue and surprises as the protagonists strive to do what is best for humanity by not letting the star gates fall into hands where they would be used to rule over mankind. Logos almost steals the show as he has his own agenda and manipulates those around to help him carry out his plans. The well thought out storyline is populated by interesting characters representing a civilization on a downward spiral.

Infinite Crisis
Greg Cox
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0441014445 $15.00 1-800-847-5515

Several crises simultaneously are hitting the Earth and if things don't get back to normal soon, the planet will be destroyed. The Justice League of America's Watchtower on the moon is destroyed by someone who had access to the workings of the building. The Martian Manhunter was killed in the resulting explosion. Bruce Wayne built an AI satellite Brother Eye to keep an eye on all the humans on Earth. Someone has gotten into its programming and has the satellite creating a horde of cyborgs intent on killing the meta-humans.

The Spectre, a supernatural being who worked with the JLA in the past, hunts people possessing magic seeing it as inherently evil. He kills Captain Shazam and destroys the Rock of Eternity. Wonder Woman has killed a man in cold blood and images of that murder are shown on television all across the planet. The cyborgs land on Paradise Island killing more Amazons as Wonder Woman fights to save her universe. Two planets go to war and other planets join with one side or the other spreading hostilities. Many of earth's super heroes try and bring an end to the war. Nobody realize that all these events are linked to one individual, who with the help of
officers from outside the space-time continuum, has an agenda all his own.

There is so much action in INFINITE CRISIS that readers never have a chance to relax as events keep spiraling out of control. Baby boomers, comic book collectors and fans of the golden age of comics will thoroughly enjoy this action-packed science fiction thriller that is a direct tie-in to the movie. Old characters long dead come to life in this tale and fans will feel that they have become reunited with old childhood friends.

Once Upon A Spring Moon
Dennis L. McKiernan
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451461126 $23.95 1-800-847-5515

Once upon a time in the Kingdom Of Springwood, Princess Celeste sits in her favorite tree thinking thoughts when a group of bandits try to kidnap her. Unwilling to be a damsel in distress, Celeste tries to fight them off and when the chevalier knight Roel enters the battle on her side, the thugs are killed. Roel is in danger of dying due to a poisoned arrow but he has excellent care and soon recovers. While he recuperates he and Celeste fall in love but he can't stay with her because he is on a quest.

His sister was taken by the Changeling Lord and his two elder brothers went after her but never returned. Roel intends to rescue all his siblings; Celeste, who doesn't want to depart from her love, joins him. The road they travel is hard and they must pass through different kingdoms in faery using a map recovered from the pirates to guide them. The Three Fates, at different times, assist them during their perilous journey by give her cryptic instructions and gifts that they will need if they reach the Changeling Lord's kingdom. Along the way various villains of faery attack them; it takes all their cunning and guile as well as their perseverance and strength to continue on a quest that seems likely will kill them both.

Dennis L. McKiernan is a wonderful worldbuilder who reminds readers of the magic that can be found in fairy tales. Celeste is an independent woman who believes she is the equal of any man and Roel is happy to have her as a partner instead of a subordinate. They battle trolls, goblins, sirens, ogres and a host of other creatures working together as a team. This is an enchanting tale that will have readers spellbound.

Kat Richardson
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
045146107X $14.00 1-800-847-5515

In Seattle private investigator Harper Blaine expected an apology and a check from her client, but instead he hammered her head with his fists and slammed it against the doorjamb before completing his beating of the sleuth. A few days later Harper awakens in the hospital where Dr, Skelleher informs her she had died for two minutes before they managed to bring her back.

Nothing is the same since the incident as now Harper sees ghosts and other paranormal essences that she cannot classify. Even stranger her clients take a gruesome twist as she has started to have walk-ins from the shadowy realm beyond the mortal plane. She needs professional help and a psychiatrist would cost too much money. So instead she turns to Linguistics Professor Ben "ghost guy" Danziger and his "bewitching" wife Mara to instruct her on supernatural 101, 102, and advanced courses. Life is not the same for this GREYWALKER though she tries by dating a normal antiques expert while she is one bite away from being the vampire king's dessert as she blunders on a case from beyond.

This is an amusing somewhat satirical fantasy mystery starring a delightful female who gaining an on the job education as an almost human sleuth. The story line is fast-paced, but belongs to the heroine who hopes by dating the norms she can keep one foot out of the graveyard. Fans will enjoy the delightfully entertaining detective story that moves back and forth between worlds as the tyro GREYWALKER learns about life, death, and a myriad of grey in-betweens.

Terry Goodkind
1403 Flatiron Building,175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765305240 $25.95 1-888-330-8477

When Khalan Amnell awakens she remembers nothing except her name. Her spouse, the Seeker of Truth, Richard Rahl needs to liberate Khalan from the Chainfire spell that devastated her memories and that of those who knew her before the enchantment; in other words "hid" her in plain sight.

While Richard lives a nightmare trying to save the only person he seems to care about, Khalan accompanies the evil three Sisters of the Dark (Armina, Cecilia, and Ulicia) though she is confused as to why. The malevolent trio has plans for the powerful Khalan who can destroy the current world replacing it with the dark forces. At the same time that a despondent Richard searches in a phantom zone and Khalan journeys towards her destiny, Emperor Jagang pollutes the pure magic in order to conquer the world; only Richard and Khalan can stop the Emperor and the Three Sisters, but he must find her and his stripped magic while she must find her memory and control of her magic.

Though in some ways PHANTOM feels like a set up novel bringing the threads closer together until the final climax (allegedly the next book) and the subplots include repeats of the back story, fans of Terry Goodkind's long running epic will appreciate what is happening to Khalan and Richard. The story line is character driven by the ensorcelled Khalan and the frightened for his wife Richard. Readers will want to peruse this entry that is the salad for hopefully a gourmet delight.

Jo Walton
1403 Flatiron Building,175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765314215 $25.95 1-888-330-8477

In 1941, Sir James Thirkie arranged a peace treaty with Hitler, which left the Nazis the continent. Eight years later, the right-wing Farthing Group, whose leader made peace in our times with the Germans, seems ready to take control of the Conservative Party and therefore Great Britain itself.

The Farthing leaders meet to discuss and deal with the future of England as they feel fit. However, someone murders their leader Sir James Thirkie leaving a yellow star as worn by Jews in Europe at the insistence of Hitler pinned to his chest with a dagger. This not only throws the Farthing followers in disarray, it places them under the cloud as murder suspects though they insist the Bolsheviks killed their champion. Scotland Yard Inspector Carmichael realizes that the victim died of carbon monoxide poisoning before he was stabbed by his own knife. He also believes the Jewish star is a red herring to throw blame on the despised Jews perhaps Jewish banker husband, David Kahn, whose spouse Lucy is shot. With pressure from his superiors and the leaders of the government to blame the Jews, Carmichael finds himself embroiled in a political conspiracy that could destroy this little rock of a nation.

FARTHING is a terrific alternate history police procedural centered in a world in which the British hierarchy "exiled" Churchill and avoid war by appeasing the Nazis. Though the conspiracy is over the top, the investigation is cleverly handled in a Christie manner that is fun to follow as Carmichael begins to understand the depth of what he is unraveling one layer at a time while his supervisors demand he accuse a Jew preferably the son-in-law of the host. Fans will appreciate this interesting look at a de-Churchill late 1940s England.

Stork Naked
Piers Anthony
1403 Flatiron Building,175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765304090 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

Stymey Stork refuses to deliver a baby to Surprise Golem because in accordance with the dictates of the Adult Conspiracy, she is too young to have a child. Instead Stymey leaves with the newborn while a surprised Surprise watches over two little monsters she is baby sitting for and the obnoxious Pet Peeve.

The brats and the bird actually feel somewhat sorry for their warden so they persuade Surprise that Stymey is unfair like all know it all adults when it comes to those younger. They always deploy the Adult Conspiracy to keep the next generation in line; Stymey had no right to take her infant away from her as he was unreasonable. The quartet agrees that a quest is in order to take the child from the stork. As they journey across the Lion Mountain and other locales that are and are not part of their Xanth, the Adult Conspiracy keeps arising with everyone telling Surprise and her young cohorts to go home for some adult supervision.

Once again the latest Xanth quest is obviously for fans of the series who will appreciate the puns, bon mots, and other word games that "accompany" the intrepid foursome on their journey. Pet peeve remains an irritant while Surprise is a nice surprise though some might be concerned with a teen having a baby as the underlying theme. Still die hard readers will root for the quartet to stymie the adult conspiracy by stripping naked the stork.

True Blood
Patricia Waddell
1403 Flatiron Building,175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765354640 $6.99 1-888-330-8477

The already shaky truce between the League of Planets and the Korsican Empire collapses when a ship containing people from the latter is blown up killing all aboard. War seems imminent, but cooler heads on both sides try to prevent hostilities by forming a joint investigating team to determine the cause.

The League of Planets sends diplomat Danna MacFayden, a psychometric adept; the Korsican Empire assigns Enforcer Cullon Gavriel as their representative. As they work together distrusting one another and the attraction between them, they quickly learn that one of the innocent victims was a royal though the throne no longer exists. As they ponder whether a cold terrorist would kill innocent people to murder one person, they find clues to support this as the root cause for the mass murder terrorism, but both wonders if something even more devious is afoot?

TRUE BLOOD is a superb romantic science fiction tale inside a strong mystery. The story line is action-packed and makes believers of readers that Waddell worlds exist. However, the key to this terrific thriller is the relationship between the representatives who initially mirror their side, but begin to wear the other person's shoes as they soon understand the opponent's perspective. Patricia Waddell provides a superb outer space whodunit.

Soldier of Sidon
Gene Wolfe
1403 Flatiron Building,175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765316641 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

Due to war injuries Latro's short term memory is lost. When he wakes up he remembers nothing of the previous day. To compensate, he has learned to write down everything important that happened that day, a desperately needed diary to help him survive his amnesia.

On the other hand Latro has the ability to see beings who are invisible to everyone else. He treats gods and supernatural essences as if they are humans; unable to distinguish the difference between the immortal and the mortal. To stay safe he writes down all he has done or seen that he thought was critical, but the next day when his memory is lost to the mists, he is unable to fill the gaps. Latro's latest journey has brought him to Egypt where the Gods are ugly towards humans, especially one whose curse is to forget all he encountered. They use and abuse lost wanderers like Latro unless his scribbles remind him who not to trust.

The third Latro historical fantasy adventure ( see SOLDIER OF THE MIST and SOLDIER OF ARETE) is a superb tale that once again makes the case that present and future generations put their values on display while interpreting history by filling the gaps as history does not accept a vacuum. Latro is terrific especially when he reads what he previously has written and finds gaps and unclear statements that he obviously felt was accurate when he wrote them. Besides the delightful historiographic spin, his look at Ancient Egypt provides the audience with a deep insightful glimpse into the society's isms, spiritual and mundane, as Latro straddles both realms.

Mary Rosenblum
1403 Flatiron Building,175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765316048 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

In the future low earth orbit platforms revolve around the planet with a sizable population on each of the four so that each can be their own country. Ahni Huang is on the New York Up platform to avenge the death of her brother Xai. The trail leads her to this place but in her quest for revenge she stumbles upon a group of alien looking people zealously guarded by Dane Nilson. He explains to her that they are homo sapiens and their DNA is pure human. He believes they are the next step in human evolution.

Ahni finds her brother alive and well and allied with Li Zhern, the leader of the Dragon Home platform. He invites her to join him in his plan to kill their father and share his power but she refuses and Dane gets her safely to earth. She is not there long before she returns to New York Up to join Dane in his quest to gain independence for the platforms from Earth. She falls in love with Dave and cares deeply for the alien looking children whose innocence and purity makes her their protector. However forces are at work to destroy the platforms and unless Ahni and Dave find out whom the puppets and the puppet masters are, a thriving culture will be destroyed.

Science fiction thriller fans are going to thoroughly enjoy this tale that has plenty of action, adventure, political intrigue and romance. All the characters, (major, secondary, and minor) are well developed and the audience understands at all times what their agendas are. Mary Rosenblum has created manufactured orbs that over time developed their own social mores which are very different than that of Earth and they now have the economic flexibility to secede peacefully if Earth allows it. The people of earth come across as insular and stagnating instead of growing.

Michael Flynn
1403 Flatiron Building,175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765300966 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

Historian Tom Schwoerin learns that during the height of the plague sweeping across central Europe in 1349, Eifelheim became a ghost town. Tom could find no apparent reason why the town was never resettled once the worst was over. He enlists his significant other physicist Sharon Nagy to help him investigate what happened to the German Black Forest village Eifelheim. Tom studies strange stained-glass windows with giant grasshopper pictures on them while Sharon struggles with a medieval manuscript that shows what looks like a circuit.

In 1348, a spaceship crashed in the Black Forest. The intergalactic travelers the Krenken, grasshopper-looking aliens, survived due to the efforts of local Pastor Father Dietrich. He makes friends with the Krenken and converts them to Christianity eventually baptizing them even while trying to help them find a means to return home. While the villagers follow the lead of their pastor that the outsiders are God fearing beings and not demons; others nearby assume evil has moved in Eifelheim and God's wrath brought the plague and killed the aliens who died from a diet insufficiency as no food contained a key amino acid they needed to break down the nutrients.

This excellent science fiction thriller combines a delightful subplot of aliens visiting Germany during the Black Plague and a wonderful modern day "historical" mystery. Fans will appreciate both eras as Tom and Sharon struggle with evidence that makes no sense unless you were there. Michael Flynn provides one of the year's most intelligent entertaining tales with this superb winner.

Wings to the Kingdom
Cherie Priest
1403 Flatiron Building,175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
076531309X $14.95 1-888-330-8477

On the Civil War battlefield of Chickamauga, Georgia, a ghost materializes in front of picnickers celebrating Decoration Day. Unfortunately the sprit is unable to speak, but points at an area before dissipating. Other ghosts begin to appear pointing at the same spot. Eden Moore who can see ghosts refuses to step onto the battlefield because she does not want to cope with the supernatural.

When Eden picks up her half-brother Malachi at Moccasin Bend, an institution for the criminally insane, she sees Old Green Eyes, a sentry who is supposed to guard the Chickamauga Battlefield. She overhears his mumblings to himself that the pact is ended so he can leave the battle area. forcing him to She also overhears that he is worried about the ghost who don't have WINGS TO THE KINGDOM. The ghosts need him back as their sentry as a killer is loose on the battlefield desecrating their sacred grounds while searching for something. Eden, her friends and two professional psychics investigators what is going on and what will it take to return Old Green Eyes to protect his favorite haunt; none realize that the killer has no compunction about leaving Eden and company haunting the Chickamauga Battlefield as cohorts of Old Green Eyes.

Cherie Priest proves she is no one book wonder (see FOUR AND TWENTY BLACKBIRDS) with her second novel, a stand alone ghost story that returns many of the characters from the previous haunting. The plot deploys elements of the traditional ghost story with supernatural fog, foreboding feelings of impending doom, an assortment of spirits, and a specter with a conscience. Character driven, this is must reading for sub-genre fans.

In the Company of Ogres
A. Lee Martinez
1403 Flatiron Building,175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765315475 $13.95 1-888-330-8477

Never Dead Ned has spent eternity dying, but he never stays dead as he always returns to life. As a soldier that is a pretty good trait to have as your superiors are grateful for saving the cost of mortuary bills; but as a person it is annoying to return. You never know where your next tour of duty will end up as you are unable to argue the assignment while you are dead.

Ned's latest comeback sends him to the pits at Copper Citadel, Commander of Ogre Company, the unruly out of control monsters whose superior officers don't just mysteriously die, they stay dead. The brass figures if anyone can come back to life after being killed by subordinates, Ned can; he has done so seemingly a zillion times. Of course someone want him dead and this person assumes Regina the Amazon, who believes she should be in charge of the unit of losers, will do the job. If not her there are orcs, ogres and goblins ready to kill their boss without a second thought at a time that Ned knows why he returns and must stay alive until he finishes his otherworldly assignment.

IN THE COMPANY OF OGRES is a wild military science fiction tale that grips readers once they learn about Ned's ability to return from the dead and never slows down as he has a cosmic task to accomplish while trying to survive six months with Ogre Company. The tongue in cheek story line is fast paced with a strong cast who argues and bickers over anything and everything. Ned is terrific as the anchor that the rest of the crew gravitates towards. Fans of way out satires in outer space like Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker tales will appreciate this fun thriller and seek out A. Lee Martinez's previous novels (see Gil's All Fright Diner).

The Machine's Child
Kage Baker
1403 Flatiron Building,175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765315513 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

After recovering from a nervous breakdown caused by downloading the personalities of his two clones into his brain, Alec, Edward and Nicholas agree they must rescue the immortal botanist Mendoza. All three loved her in different time periods and with the help of Alec's AI Morgan, they find what is left of her in the chamber of horrors known as Options Research in 300,000 BCE. They defeat Merco who is in charge there, and take Mendoza to the ship where she gets the proper medical treatment.

When she recovers, she doesn't remember Edward, the Elizabethan spy or Nicholas the sixteenth scholar who was murdered as a heretic. She does remember Alec whose body contains all three personalities and the four agree that Dr. Zeus, a cabal of scientists and investors, should be taken down for what the company did to her. They hip hop through time planting seeds that will bear fruit in the future by ending the company if their plan is a success.

Finally field operatives know how evil Dr. Zeus is and the four protagonists and the AI, and at least one other group based in the future realize the company must be dismantled. There are some very funny scenes as the personalities in one body argue and bicker with each other as they try to be the personality in control. There is plenty of action in this superb work of speculative fiction leading readers to eagerly awaiting the next installment in this popular and intelligently crafted series.

Hunters of Dune
Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
1403 Flatiron Building,175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765312921 $27.05 1-888-330-8477

Fleeing CHAPTERHOUSE and the deadly Honored Matres, the darker side of the all female Bene Geserit, the vessel Ithaca sails into uncharted regions of the galaxy with a crew and led by Mother Commander Murabella and 150 mostly frightened exiles. At any point on this dangerous trek, the Mother Commander and her former love slave Duncan know that the known enemy could overtake them with death being the better option. Worse would be if the unknown invincible foe of who has the Honored Matres on the run catches up with the Ithaca. However, as the trek to safety continues Murabella finds some of her passengers have other plans for her and those accompanying her. She must unmask the enemy from within who has caused havoc with violence and murder on board.

At the same time, Murabella and company struggle to survive by using genetics to bring back long dead heroes, the Omnuis of the Synchronized Empire has managed to gain access to the Honored Matres from the inside; they plan to devastate the powerful sect. Also the Face Dancer plans to end man's reign with a race of machines taking over as the acme of sentient beings. Finally the unknown enemy intends to destroy everyone and everything. The galaxy is teetering on the eve of destruction.

Though somewhat overblown, the first Dune novel in two decades is a fun entry that fans of the series will appreciate as the galaxy is in trouble from conflicting factions. The story line is action-packed though somewhat complex and hard to follow as the galaxy is crowded with contenders. Still this is a fine entry that adds to the mythos while paying tribute to its tribute to its founding father as the scientific techno concerns involving genetic engineering that Frank Herbert voiced years ago seems so valid now.

Sun of Suns
Karl Schroeder
1403 Flatiron Building,175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765315432 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

The world of Virga is logically impossible as it sits in a part of open space where previously nothing but the vast emptiness existed. However, the creation of a humongous three-thousand kilometers in diameter fullerene barrier that contains the essentials of life and life forms including people with fusion reactors as mini suns have made the unfeasible happen.

In this man made eco-balloon, humanity is the same as everywhere else as the ruthless are never satiated as they obsessively must seek power. Eight years ago, the powerful nation Slipstream sent Admiral Chaison Fanning with a fleet that assaulted and conquered tiny and "sunless" Aerie. During the hostility, the loving parents of young Hayden Griffin are killed. The lad vowed revenge. Over the years Hayden becomes proficient with weapons and a jet-bike. He sets in motion his long awaited plan to assassinate his enemy by charming Fanning's ambitious vainglorious wife. However just when the opportunity nears, Hayden is sidetracked as a plot to invade Slipstream surfaces. To his chagrin the young man puts his need on hold to assist his hated foe even as armorer Aubri Mahallan, an outsider from the brutal totalitarian Artificial Nature empire, enthralls him.

SUN OF SUNS is a way out incredible science fiction that grips readers as they learn just what Virga is while following Hayden's coming of age escapades. The story line is fast-paced as the lad seeks revenge against a devil whom he realizes his courageous, honorable and so human that he would make a great role model if the youngster did not have to kill him. The actions is fast and furious and the key casting trio fully developed with aspirations and desires, but the first book of the Virga tales belongs to the incredible world-building technology that showcases Karl Schroeder's imagination to expand and transport Buckminster Fuller's concept for Manhattan into airless space.

Spirit Gate
Kate Elliott
1403 Flatiron Building,175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765310554 $25.95 1-888-330-8477

When the Guardians ruled the Hundred, justice was the norm for everyone while their lieutenants the Reeves kept the peace. Prosperity hit every corner of the land as everyone does well with nobody falling under the safety net provided by the Guardians and enforced by the Reeves.

Then the Guardians vanished while the Reeves lost interest in justice and maintaining the peace as that meant hard work with no one to guide them. Malevolence has taken charge of the Hundred and its neighbors due to indifference and a power vacuum. However after enjoying the hedonism bestowed on the Reeves, Joss feels guilty that he has failed his homeland. At the same time that Joss gains a conscience and decides he must act, Outlanders led by Captain Anji and his wife Mai under the protection of his Qin soldiers have arrived in the Hundred as a last resort because a pandemic disaster seems imminent.

The first tale of the Crossroads is a complex fantasy in which prosperity that was once everywhere is limited to a select elite few and whereas judicial enlightenment was the rule of law terrorism is now the norm. Those in power neglect those that are not. In this realm a hero begins to emerge so that readers obtain a fully developed society filled with elaborate purposely convoluted belief systems that sets the stage of what looks like will be a tremendous saga.

Melanie Rawn
1403 Flatiron Building,175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765315327 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

Witches exist and are spread out all across the world in small numbers with each area having a magistrate who administers justice to the witches in his coven. In New York City hidden in plain sight is Elias's coven. He is also is a federal judge guarded by U.S. Marshal Evan Lachlan. Elias also has one of the few spellbinders in existence as part of his coven, a witch whose blood guarantees someone else's spell will work. In addition to being a spellbinder, Holly McClure is also wealthy and a well known author.

Through a mutual friend, Holly and Evan are introduced and it isn't long before the pair fall in love. They plan to get married until an action Evan takes shatters his career and he leaves Holly. It takes a tragedy to bring them together but their lives are unsafe because a practitioner of the dark arts will do whatever it takes to bring the spellbinder to him. Holly, who has virtually no power of her own, somehow find a way to strengthen her prowess to save the man she loves and her friends in the coven.

This is very different than anything Melanie Rawn has written but fans who love Mercedes Lackey Diana Tregarde tales or the urban fantasies of Kelly Armstrong will love SPELLBINDER. This is one of the best romantic urban fantasies of the year and readers will hope they have not seem the last of the spunky, eccentric and larger than life heroine who can always be counted on to help her friends and family.

Steven Brust
1403 Flatiron Building,175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765301482 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

As he sits in a restaurant in Adrilankha preparing to confront the House of the Left Hand of the Jhereg, Vlad Taltos thinks back to when everything changed. He was an assassin working for Neilar chasing after one of his employees who stole money from him as Vlad allows no one to cheat him and live to tell it. He followed his mark to Castle Black, the floating home of Morollan the dangerous Dragaeran lord.

At Castle Black, Vlad meets its owner and Lady Sethra the vampiress host of Dzur Castle. After a near deadly incident between them, Morollan and Sethra offer Vlad work to obtain a staff that contains the ensnared soul of Dragaeran's cousin Aliera. He succeeds barely as he is out of his element. However, Sethra insists though he did an admirable job, the work is not done. She demands that Vlad journey to the terrifying Paths of the Dead to beg the gods to restore Aliera to life.

Though not as powerful as TECKLA, Vlad's fourth appearance is a fast-paced tale that takes the reader back to Taltos's salad days. The prime story line focuses on Vlad's first encounters with Morollan, Sethra, and Aliera (though she initially is a bit wooden), etc. However that prime plot is enhanced by glimpses of the assassin's childhood, which are fun to read, but feel like cul de sacs off the main road. Still sort of a biographical fiction, DZUR is a fine entry that Steven Brust's fans will fully appreciate for its light into what made Taltos what he is.

The Grays
Whitney Schreiber
1403 Flatiron Building,175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765313898 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

In 1977 teenage Madison, Wisconsin residents Danny Callaghan meets Katelyn Burns, but neither know where they are. Not long afterward, both are returned naked near their homes. They later "meet", marry, move to Bell in the Midwest and raise a son Connor, a certified genius.

In Colorado, Lauren Glass learns that her late father actually communicated with Adam the surviving Roswell alien who killed him with a scratch. Apparently these alien "Grays" have lived amidst their human hosts using genetic engineering on selected people in an effort to save their dying species. She has been selected to replace her dad as the empath with the aliens. As the Grays become bolder and more out into the open, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Wilkes, who monitors Gray activity, believes they and their quisling human puppets are betraying mankind; he begins a search and destroy mission to save the world from these "welcome" invaders and their "offspring". Confrontation is coming to Indiana where a nine year old boy is the focus of a three way tug of war; the Grays, the xenophobic military, and Connor's loving parents.

This is a terrific alien abduction science fiction thriller (what else would one expect from Whitney Schreiber) in which the military operations are haunting, but the abduction scenes feel very genuine (even to this queen of skeptics). The action-packed story line grips the audience from the first moment that Danny and Katelyn meet and never slows down until the final confrontation. The story line is fast-paced and readers will be hard put to put it down as fans will wonder what the Grays hope to achieve and just what DNA makes up Connor.

Singing with the Top Down
Debrah Williamson
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451219260 $12.95 1-800-847-5515

In the summer of 1955 at the Fabulous Fortuno Brothers Traveling Carnival in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Pop and Mama Mahoney die when the Crazy Snake roller coaster crashes. They leave behind a ton of unpaid bills and two children, thirteen years old Paulette "Pauly" in Oklahoma and eight years old polio survivor Buddy. None of their relatives from either side want to take in the kids except wealthy eccentric Aunt Nora, who arrives driving a convertible with plans to bring them to Hollywood where she has been trying to make it as an actress.

On the "The Daring Adventure of Us" trek west with the top down, Nora picks up hitchhiking nursing-home escapee Tybolt Bisbee and his reeking Puppy. Others join their traveling road show as Aunt Nora's generosity and charm begins to win over the prime cynic, Pauly "Paulette" in California who does not trust adults to care about her interests as Mama always took care of mama first and Pop did likewise taking care of mama first.

This is an amusing 1950s coming of age tale starring a precocious naive yet cynical young teen who distrusts adults. The story line is told from the perspective of Pauly as she begins to warm up towards her seemingly caring Aunt Nora, who is sort of an Auntie Mame type of character. There is no suspense even when someone tries to abduct aunt and niece as the lighthearted touch remains throughout the plot. Those readers who enjoy an amusing overly sanguine historical will want to read Debrah Williamson's fine look back to 1955 in the southwest.

Glass Houses
Rachel Caine
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451219945 $5.99 1-800-847-5515

Sixteen year old teen prodigy Claire Danvers is a freshman at college. Monica of the in-crowd constantly picks on Claire to the point that her bullying almost kills the teenager. Claire decides to find an off campus apartment and answers an ad referring an old gothic style home in Morganville. The three roommates reluctantly accept Claire though they are concerned with her age. Most of the college town is under the control and protection of vampires, but not the house where Claire or her roomies.

Their house contains powerful protection wards, but none of them can hide inside this abode all day. When Claire returns to classes, Monica attacks her and sends her vampire friends after the teen and her roommates. Shane hates Monica and with Michael unavailable during daylight to keep Claire safe, he vows to do so. Eve also wants to protect Claire. Sick of hers fears and acting the wimp, Claire searches for the tome that the vampires seek in hopes that this book will keep her and her roomies safe.

Rachel Caine, author of the Weather Warden series, has provided a rousing horror thriller that adds a new dimension to the vampire mythos. The protagonist is a young determined heroine who the audience will admire and root for as she swallows her trepidations to insure her friend and roomies are safe. The key to this fine tale is her plausible reactions to living in a town run by vampires that make going to college in the Caine universe quite an experience. GLASS HOUSES is an electrifying enthralling coming of age supernatural tale.

A Summer of Her Own
Rosanne Keller
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451219430 $12.95 1-800-847-5515

A year has passed since her husband Paul died from a heart attack, but forty-five years old Anna Sandoval still grieves her loss deeply. Anna needs a change and knows it so she leaves their DC home for a summer in Crete. There she hopes to regain the passion for art that she sublimated as a celebrity wife in support of Paul's talk show career and to raise their two now adult children.

On the isle, Anna lets go of her inhibitions even sunbathing without a top though she learns how easy it is to burn ones breasts. She also meets two men who seem to desire her. The widower Sam and the architect Alexis compete for her affection, which is a new feeling for Anna. However, Anna remains feeling lost and confused except when she paints.

Anna is a fascinating lead character as she struggles to regain her equilibrium after the sudden death of her spouse. She had been a celebrity wife and mother, but now is grieving widow and so knows she must find the lost Anna though she understands she will always love her Paul and their children regardless of what she does. This middle aged woman seeking her groove is an interesting well written character study.

A Dangerous Love
Bertrice Small
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451219783 $14.00 1-800-847-5515

Her mother Lady Jane Radcliff and adopted father the Earl of Stanton die during the War of the Roses so six years old Adair is raised by her biological father, King Edward IV. When she is sixteen years old her royal sire demands she wed a fourteen years old by-blow as part of a political alliance with the Tudors; she refuses, flees the court, but King Edward IV marries her to the teen Llywelyn FitzTudor anyway by proxy. Scottish raiders kill her new husband so she quickly weds her neighbor Andrew Lynbridge to avoid another royal entanglement only he dies during the latest round of royal fighting.

She is branded a traitor and stripped of her title Countess Radcliff and her property. Scottish raiders abduct Adair and sell her into slavery to Lord Conal Bruce of Cleit. He purchased her to warm his bed and keep his house, but once she cleans up he realizes she is a beauty; once he tastes her spirit he realizes she is courageous. Soon they fall in love, but what is a future between a Laird and a slave?

Readers will root for the intrepid outspoken Adair as she faces royal condemnation, abduction by border raiders, and deaths of loved ones and spouses but she refuses to surrender her core values and freedom for the convenience of security. Her actions bring to life late fifteenth century England during the War of the Roses and the subsequent intrigue between rival houses claiming the monarchy. Bertrice Small fans will enjoy this action-packed erotic historical romance that brings to life the transition between Plantagenet and Tudor.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

The Land Breakers
John Ehle
Press 53
PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem NC 27130
0977228371 $19.95

Harper and Row first published the Land Breakers in 1964. Press 53 has chosen to republish it as the first in a line of Classic literature. They chose well. Mr. Ehle is the multi-award winning author of many books that include fiction and non- fiction. This is the first Ehle book I've read and I can say categorically that he richly deserves every award won, and more.

From Ireland's County Ulster to the mist shrouded highlands of North Carolina, Mooney and Imy Wright search for a new beginning. The year is 1779, the infancy of a new country. Both are indentured servants finally free of service. They're accustomed to working hard in tandem and are willing to fight for any parcel of land they can find to call home. Home becomes a high mountain valley, a place of breath taking vistas thick with primeval forests and dangerous predators. Working together side by side as they have done since childhood, Imy and Mooney clear a spot of land and build a cabin.

Family by family, new settlers move into the mountain valley. Tinkler Harrison sold vast holdings in Virginia to resettle in the new territory. Tinkler is a hard man who desires to be master of all he surveys. Accompanying him are herds of livestock, horses, seed for planting, several slaves, and his remaining son and daughter. All but two of his children have deserted him.

Ernest Plover is the patriarch of a bedraggled band of daughters, each one prettier than the next. The oldest daughter, Belle, becomes Tinkler's bride. In contrast to Tinkler's mansion home and the Wright's sturdy cabin, the Plover's build a ramshackle cabin that barely protects them from the elements. German immigrant Nicholas Benz brings his family to the mountain in search of peace and promise. Nicholas is a hard worker who hides his demons behind a bland façade.

The Larkins are newlyweds, still too young to fully understand the hardness of life. Like their neighbors, they enjoy the mountain air that seems clean and alive. The mountains, forests, and valley are still and peaceful except for nature sounds. Primordial forests surround them, vibrant with bloom and bird. Despite the hardships, this small community of settlers love their mountain valley.

Each family battles the elements and wild animals while laboring to break fields and plant crops. In 1779, any illness or injury can prove fatal. Imy is the first to die of lung fever and overwork in harsh weather. After a period of mourning, Mooney takes Tinkler's daughter Lorry and her two sons into his home. Her first husband Lacey abandoned Lorry and the boys six years before. The Larkins are lost when their cabin is overrun with swarms of poisonous snakes. Dogs and livestock are lost and Mooney seriously injured when a huge marauding bear attacks each enclave. Despite everything, the settlers are determined to make a life in the mountains.

The Land Breakers is a beautifully written saga of life as it was in the early years of America. Mooney and Lorry Wright, Tinkler Harrison, and Pearlamina Harrison are unforgettable characters. Such pioneers survived in a harsh country without adequate food, wearing flimsy homemade shoes – if they had shoes at all -- and homespun clothing, lacking medical care or medicine. There were no schools, no churches, no stores, no doctors, no roads. They persisted, subsisted on sheer will and labor that people today cannot comprehend. The living history written here is amazing, and the mountainous North Carolina locale is as much a character in this book as the humans. Ehle's literary style is exceptional and this book is highly recommended. Mooney Wright's thoughts after battling the bear are the perfect example of Ehle's prose and the book's essence:

"He looked up at the mountain. It had a snow topping tonight, and the moon cast a warm light on it. There's no prettier sight, he thought, and no prettier place than this one. It traps a man into staying, into building here; then it shows him that he doesn't even possess his own cabin and fields. The valley is its own, he knew now. The valley and the beasts and the mountains and the snows and the water and the cliffs owned themselves yet. If he left here, in a few years there would be little sign that he had even come. The vines would cover the buildings and pull them down; they would pull over even the tombstone here at Imy's grave. The trees would spring up in the fields and gnarl again with roots the yielding land. The clearing he had made on the hill would become again part of the whole, as the bear had been part of the whole and now in its grave was part of the whole, unprotestingly."

Beyond the Valley
Jacqueline Hill
Bellowing Ark Press
P.O. Box 55564, Shoreline WA 98155
0944920438 $12.00

Jacqueline Hill grew up in Washington's Methow Valley, surrounded by fields and mountains. From the perspective of time, age, and adulthood, the poet revisits her life at the family homestead. Theirs was a hardscrabble farm; family members labored long hours in heat and cold. Still, her memories of growing up are fond and warming. Love in those days may have been "stained with dirt and tractor grease," but it was unmistakably love.

"The Old Homestead" is a memory of those growing up years and the home her family shared:

Years later the homestead comes back to knock on my memory. She
appears in my mind, tall and flat. Her skin dried from the summer
heat and cracked by cold winters. The hillside bare around her body,
except for the barnaby that splits, divides and rolls beside her.

Her black eyes with secrets just behind them. Like a mother puts
out a finger for her infant to curl its hand around – I curl my heart
around her. The grass beneath the plank, the hollow windows, the
abandoned hive, some small shadow on the ground.

Through the poet's eyes, readers see moments of the past, feel the comforting presence of nature:

The summer in this Eastern Washington valley
has just begun. The snow has melted on the Cascades, leaving small
white patches in the distant tall mountains. The mountains surround
us here, like a womb. The sage on the hillside nurses us like mother's milk.

Ms. Hill's gift of poetic metaphor added depth and emotion to her poetry. In "Mother" for example, her mother's "green- / eyed anger burned in her head like a brand." And in "Older Sister" the poet says, "My older sister twisted her heart around / me like cotton candy and stayed there." In "Robert" she joyfully recalls a brother's humor, "laughter / streaming over him like water over stones." Remembering an unmarried classmate who cares for aging parents provokes sadness as she considers his lonely life in "Bob:" "I thought about his passion stored like apples in the cellar."

When the poet's Muse appears in adulthood, that arrival is welcome but not completely expected. I've chosen one segment titled "Pilgrimage" from the longer poem, "Advent of the Muse:"

Each day she walks
a little closer toward

the angels in her brain.
Away from the dishes

in the sink. Her body
is the flutter of wings

the wind felt. A slap
of water over stone.

These are poems written from a core constructed of truth and beauty. Ms. Hill's words become "an arrow / built to burn." Her Muse transformed this poetess from inexperienced girl to a woman who celebrates each nuance of her life. She has become "a wildflower breaking through the / pavement to reveal its glory." The poetry of Jacqueline Hill is highly recommended.

Harp All Made of Gold
CD of spoken poetry by Klyd Watkins with music by Watkins, family, friends
A Thundershack Production
529 Barrywood Drive, Nashville TN 37220-1636
3447934019 $10.00

The spoken words in this CD were originally the narrative poem titled "Jack," by Klyd Watkins. With Klyd Watkins' commanding voice accompanied by talented Nashville musicians and haunting Appalachian vocals as background, Harp All Made of Gold becomes an exceptional tour de force. In this allegory based on the fairy tale "Jack and the Bean Stalk," Watkins takes the story of Jack further, brings it to life with incredible depth and emotion.

Jack's desire is for the golden harp to sing for him in daylight instead of haunting his dreams at night. He desires this beyond reason. Accompaniment of fiddle, guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, and harmonica delivers a sensual, penetrating power as the golden harp teases Jack with memories of "fee fi fo fum" and the giant. Haunting background vocals and musical styles reflect the shifting topography of Jack's fears and fascinations. Musicians segue from rock to bluegrass to southern gospel to dulcet, and driving each transition is the resonant voice of poet Klyd Watkins. Each track is verbally and musically strong and hypnotic but I must admit the poet's bluegrass-style rendition of "Tourmaline" on track eight gave me goose bumps.

Nothing Klyd Watkins does in the way of poetry is ordinary and this CD produced by Bob Watkins for Thundershack is extraordinary in every way. The talented Watkins family and their Nashville friends have entertained delighted fans worldwide for years with their CDs. They're deserving of that loyal fan base. If you enjoy poetry and music, Harp All Made of Gold is highly recommended.

The Gospel According to Condo Don
Fred Dungan
Domhan Books
9511 Shore Road Ste 514,Brooklyn NY 11209
1583450041 $12.95

This modern parable of good vs. evil tells of Christ's Second Coming into a world far worse than it was at his first inception. Our Savior is born on the #4 bus, between 3rd and Pico, in the ghettoes of Los Angeles. His mother is Marva, a virginal teenage black girl. The father who raises Jesus as is own, Carlos Ortiz, is a kindly Mexican immigrant who loves Marva unconditionally.

Marva and Carlos raise the Son of God in an LA ghetto more suitable as a crumbling habitat for vermin than humans. Their world is a war zone of drugs, violent crime, and poverty set in squalid living conditions. Despite the poverty and hopeless surroundings, Jesus thrives and grows into a healthy young man.

Christ's earthly ministry is witnessed first hand by an alcoholic homeless man, Donald Thaddeus Stearns III, lately known as Condo Don. Stearns has never been able to measure up to family expectations or his name. He's failed at everything in life except drowning in alcohol, wallowing in self-pity, and constructing shelters for his homeless compadres. His nickname is Condo Don, a name he can live up to. Condo Don is collapsed on a park bench, near death, when Jesus finds and heals him with a touch. The homeless builder of shelters becomes Christ's witness and faithful companion, helping spread the word to anyone who will listen. With Condo Don at his side Christ lives the dehumanizing life of a homeless man, seeing the world as it has become.

Man has not changed in the 2000 years since Christ's first coming. His heart is broken by what he sees around him. The world is connected by technology now and the very rich have power that reaches across continents and oceans. Churches that bear his name are symbols of callous indifference to the plight of the poor and exist in a state of ethical and moral decay. Evil evangelists have become far greedier than the moneychangers at the Temple in Jerusalem. Politicians around the world rake in whatever spoils they can from demoralized citizens. Only the rich receive justice in the legal system. Where the law is concerned, poor people have become the modern day equivalent of early Christians pitted against lions or heavily armed gladiators with rich citizens and politicians gleefully looking on. One person and one healing at a time, Jesus tackles his earthly mission to spread the word of God and save humanity. As the crowds grow, so does the danger to Jesus and Condo Don. But evil principalities and powers are impotent against God's plan for Jesus, Condo Don, and a world full of people needing hope.

Fred Dungan makes this parable believable. His writing style is strong, the characters realistic. If Jesus came back to live amongst us today, he would find exactly what Dungan depicts in this book. The Son of God would weep to see humanity's behavior and rage at the changes in his church. Whether you believe in Christ's Second Coming or not, this book is a cautionary tale that every one should read.

Battles and Lullabies
Richard Michelson
University of Illinois Press
1325 South Oak Street, Champaign IL 61820-6903
0252073037 $18.95

Richard Michelson is a well-known writer of children's books and the recipient of several poetry awards. His poems have been described as witty, shrewd, and beautifully modulated. Yes, they are that, but also shattering, powerful and, occasionally, gently erotic. Through the weaving of well-chosen words, the poet memorializes the courage and tenacity of Jewish ancestors and the simple, everyday happenings of life.

In this excerpt from "Like Nobody's Business" Michelson remembers his father while showing his college-age son the old neighborhood:

It's a war on poverty, I tell my son.
We're driving through the old neighborhood, and I'm boring even myself,
pointing out the burned-out empty lots, like they're holes in my own heart.

"Counting to Six Million" is a psalm of wonderful and terrible beauty as a father remembers the Holocaust, and what impact the future might have on his son:

I want to set my heels once more in the soft underbelly of his childhood,
airlift him from danger, from disease, from all his fears,
which are maybe not even his fears at all, but only mine.
Yet now as he hovers above me, my body splayed out
like my father's before me, my every breath is less a prayer
than a love letter torn open in desperation.

"Faraway Landscape" is based on a pen and ink drawing discovered at Buchenwald in 1944. The poet lives for a moment in that awful dying place, watching the artist:

O, how I've come to hate
his scratching late each night,
his fruit trees carved
into some moldy crust of bread.
He doesn't care that starved
men envy their own dead.
He hears our cries but will not
document our pain. Instead….
he draws, knowing each line
could be his last, some Palestine,
some faraway landscape
as if he could escape this world
imagining the future
or the past.

Sections on the art of Edvard Munch and other artists are exceptional exercises in ekphrasis – poetry inspired by art. Munch's art has been reviled and revered because he painted what he saw whether the focus was considered obscene or divine by critics. Effective ekphrastic poetry is not easy to write, but Michelson makes it look simple as he views paintings by Munch, Cassat, Toulouse Lautrec, Picasso, and others.

To learn more about this gifted writer, poet, and art advocate, visit

Seasons of the Soul
Janet Syas Nitsick
Tate Publishing
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang OK 73064-4421
1598863924 $9.95

Janet Syas Nitsick is a woman of abiding faith in God's love, a wife, mother, grandmother, journalist, and daughter of Nebraska Senator George Syas. Her Christian path has not been free of stumbling stones, but still she writes of life with hope and joy.

Two of Janet and Paul Nitsick's children, Brad and Andrew, are autistic. Both were beautiful, normal children until the disturbing symptoms of autism appeared. Both grew up to be handsome young men. Brad, the oldest, does not speak or read. Through touching vignettes, photographs, poetry, and scriptures, Ms. Syas shares with readers the seasons of her life. Her true stories demonstrate the small and large miracles loving and devoted parents can experience through patience and perseverance, with daily doses of God's grace. She also shares the blessed legacies of departed loved ones, memories that enhance her strength in trying times.

Scattered throughout the book are fictional stories for children. These are equally delightful reading for adults. For example, "Squirrel Chatter" and "Little Fluffy" are small gems of love, gifts from the author's heart.

Through passing time and seasons, Ms. Nitsick takes readers on an inspirational retrospective of her life. Years of trial and sadness fade as she contemplates life's joys. This beautiful little book is suitable for all readers and would be the ideal gift for family or friends. It's also a joyful testimony for Christians and those who may be questioning their faith. Highly recommended to the parents of autistic children.

Confetti Leaves
Poetry by Sally Ann Roberts
Shadows Ink Publications
1209 Milwaukee Street, Excelsior Springs MO 64024
1932447091 $6.95

Sally Ann Roberts was raised in the peaceful woods of Oregon. She drew wisdom and strength from the forest in youth and continues to do so today. Her poetry is inspired by Nature, and influenced by the works of Edgar Allen Poe.

The classic poets, such as Poe, created skillfully rhymed verses laced with visual pictures to capture the interest of their readers. Consider this excerpt from "Longing for the Autumn Wind" as an example of Ms. Robert's style:

When prairie grasses
baked to brown
and parched like ancient bones,
then summer nights
refuse to cool
'Til autumn wind atones.

Simply and eloquently, in this excerpt from "To Live in a Cabin," the poet shares with readers the joy of her mornings:

To live in a cabin far back in the woods
Is so peaceful, lovely, and bright.
The great golden sunrise breaks through every morning
And wakes all the forest with light.

This verse from "Seashell Voices" introduces another of Oregon's wonders – the ocean – and the human curiosity that seeks its sound in small shore-bound shells :

Beyond the voice
within its depths
that we as humans hear,
where wave like tones
are ever kept
when held up to the ear.

In "The Works of Poe" Ms. Roberts shares his mystique. What made him great? Perhaps the darkness of his spirit:

Black and gothic,
expelling ink,
dark phantom brings
from feathered quill
words of terror.
A tell tale heart,
morbid mood swings,
grotesque and shrill.

"Musical Muse" is delightful and imaginative. I chose the first verse in excerpt, but the entire poem is exceptional:

Of all of the daughters,
the sisters of nine,
their father the myth God
Their various talents
from dancing to rhyme,
Euterpe's the musical

Rhyming poetry is a rare commodity today. My thanks to Sally Ann Roberts for reminding me how satisfying a well-constructed rhyming poem can be.

Wake Wake Wake
Valerie Nieman
Press 53
P.O. Box 30314, Winston-Salem NC 27130
0977228355 $14.00

Words used by critics and peers to describe Valerie Nieman's poetry include intelligent, gorgeous, rapturous, and shattering. I second those praise words for this award winning poet and novelist, and will add a few of my own.

In "First Generation," for example, she remembers forebearers whose lives continue to impact her own. I quote only one verse of this touching poem:

Your eyes have become paler blue,
and I would want to say
the color of March sky,
thin lines on paper,
or lilac petals, faded.
They measure out
this distance between us,
the rivers and the days,
and mark out the unseasonable shadows
that sharpen along the road home.

In this excerpt from "Above Dunkard Mill Run" we see and feel the gathering storm outside while anchored safely inside the farmhouse:

Every farmhouse rides
at anchor in a phosphorescent
harbor of sodium vapor lights;
every cargoed barn
waits for the tide-turn.

Our roofline is long, square
as an ark, and we rise
prow-high against the swells,
sailing into dark fields
on this late warm wind.

"A Moment's Peace" is one of those memorable poems so powerful in its simplicity it stays in the reader's spirit, haunting. From the mind of a miner dying of black lung, we share his existence, moment by moment, as he contemplates life and death:

Not that she's not the finest
woman a man could have,
you understand, as steady
as the chestnut beams
that hold up this house,
heart solid like good oak.
But for months I've been
waiting to slip away,
waiting on a time her heartbeat
and breath didn't fill all the house
and hold my life to my ribs.
A moment's peace
so that like a scarred old tomcat
I could slip away
and die without grief.

Nieman's work is elemental and visceral. Here, the deeper meanings of death and life, past and present, joy and sorrow fuse seamlessly. Whether speaking in her voice giving voice to others, her poetry is exceptional and highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Mary's Bookshelf

Best Of The Best From Missouri Cookbook
Gwen McKee & Barbara Moseley, editors
Quail Ridge Press
PO Box 123, Brandon, MS 39043
0937552445 $16.95 1-800-343-1583

"Best Of The Best From Missouri Cookbook: Selected Recipes From Missouri's Favorite Cookbooks" is a spiral-bound collection of hundreds of recipes drawn from a large number the most beloved cookbooks published in the "Show Me" state by private individuals, non-profit organizations, and small presses. From Plum Bread, to Gooseberry Salad, to Chicken Dijonnaise Strudel, and so very much more, these wonderfully diverse recipes combine flavorful explosions of favorite local ingredients, easy how-to instructions, and the solid stamp of approval that comes from the test of time. The "Best Of The Best From Missouri Cookbook" is enthusiastically recommended as a 'kitchen cook friendly' addition to any home and community library cookbook collection! Cookbook collectors are encouraged to visit the Quail Ridge press website for a complete listing of all of their "Best of the Best" series of cookbook compilations.

The Everything Wild Game Cookbook
Karen Eagle
Adams Media Corporation
57 Littlefield Street, 2nd floor, Avon, MA 02322
159337545X $14.95 1-800-872-5627

Comprised of some three hundred recipes ranging from the preparation of fowl and fish to the cooking of rabbit and venison, "The Everything Wild Game Cookbook" truly lives up to it title! Karen Eagle (an experienced cookbook author, member of Les Dames d'Escoffier, as well as the International Association of Culinary Professions), draws upon her expertise as a cooking teacher and food writer to compile "kitchen cook friendly" recipes for dishes that will please even the most gourmet palate and satisfy any appetite. From sauces and marinades to rubs, brines, and relishes, "The Everything Wild Game Cookbook" is a complete culinary reference and covers fish (both saltwater and fresh water), big game (elk deer, antelope, caribou and moose, wild pig, and boar, javelina, buffalo, bear, mountain goat and sheep), small game (rabbit, hare, squirrel, raccoon, woodchuck, beaver, opossum and muskrat), game birds (pheasant, quail, partridge, prairie chicken, ptarmigan, grouse, sage hen, woodcok, snipe, rail, piegeons, dove, wild duck, wild goose, wild turkey), as well as "trimmings" and desserts. Enhanced with an appendices of thematically appropriate websites, "The Everything Wild Game Cookbook" is a welcome and recommended addition to the cookbook collections of hunters and anglers wanting to feast upon the bounty of their efforts.

Three Guys From Miami Celebrate Cuban
Glenn Lindgren, Raul Musibay, Jorge Castillo
Gibbs Smith, Publisher
PO Box 667, Layton UT 84041
1423600630 $29.95 1-800-748-5439

The collaborative effort of Glenn Lindgren, Raul Musibay, Jorge Castillo, "Three Guys From Miami Celebrate Cuban: 100 Great Recipes For Cuban Entertaining" is an ethnic collection of mouth-watering cuisine and a "how to" guide for celebrating and partying "Cuban Style". There are whole chapters devoted to Cuban oriented desserts, drinks, appetizers, soups, entrees, side dishes, and even backyard grilling. Enhanced with a 'Cuban Food Glossary' and a list of sources for acquiring special ingredients for Cuban dishes, the recipes comprising "Three Guys From Miami Celebrate Cuban" range from 'Cake de Guayaba' (Guava Cake), to 'Ensalada de Fluevos' (Egg Salad), to 'Pollo de la Plancha' (Grilled Chicken Breasts), to 'Coctel de Frutas Tropical' (Tropical Fruit Cocktail). Wonderfully illustrated throughout with full color photography of finished dishes, "Three Guys From Miami Celebrate Cuban" is a particularly "user friendly" and enthusiastically recommended addition to any kitchen cook's ethnic cuisine oriented cookbook collection.

Mary Cowper

Shelley's Bookshelf

Every Secret Crime
Doug M. Cummings
0595403255 $19.95

Doug Cummings' career encompasses experience in college as a deputy sheriff, during which he had his share of fights and speeding cars; and a life career as a Chicago crime reporter, both as a television investigative reporter and a radio reporter for WMAQ and WGN radio stations. He has received many awards for coverage of the disasters of humanity: car crashes; murders; school shootings; tornadoes; etc. Doug currently lives in Chicago with feline friend Socks-Monster, who made a cameo appearance in Doug's second novel, EVERY STREET CRIME.

Trey Hayden, a rich kid with a penchant for getting into trouble with drugs and girls, is found shot to death in his home in old Falcon Ridge, a million dollar neighborhood. How is the murder connected to Robert "Pike" Wescott, CEO of Forge Global Technologies? It is up to Reno McCarthy, investigative reporter from Channel 14 news to find out. Reno is most recently recovering from a nasty altercation with the Russian mob that led to a split from his oldest friend, who is now laying in the hospital with heart failure. Reno and his sidekick, Jody, fight for a spot at the murder scene, but someone decides to bomb one of their new trucks, severely injuring one of their cameramen:

"Eddie sprinted through the kitchen and out the back door. At that point, the Von Hertzens said, flames were shooting out of the drivers' window. Eddie headed for the sliding panel on the opposite side intending to, I suppose, try to grab the $70,000 camera he'd left secured in a floor mount. The manager and the cook said they saw him jam a key into the lock, grab the handle and then, while crying out in pain from contact with the superheated metal, wrestle the door aside."

Not only does Doug M. Cummings and his kitty know how to spin a darn good yarn about corruption in Chicago land, he also knows how to hook a reader from page one. His knowledge of the news broadcasting business, plus a knowledge of experience probably gained the painful way of politics; the mob; and how people are "hooked" into becoming lapdogs for syndicated crime and industry is superb. His plot never stops; his thoughtful and in-depth explanations of how things are done is electrifying; and his characterizations are insightful, even down to the teenage "innocents" who start the ball rolling on this tale. An excellent read!

Chocolate Days Margarita Nights
Mckenna Davis
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
1420888935 $19.99

An ultimate escapist, McKenna Davis writes for the sheer pleasure of entertaining the masses. A Southerner by birth, Davis currently lives in Florida with her husband and dogs. She is currently working on her next mystery, 1 + 1 = Murder.

Shay Caldwell is an ordinary person with an estranged husband, a daughter she adores, and a job that allows her to use her natural nurturing abilities. Her best friend, Maggie, buys her a lottery ticket on a fluke, and impossibly except in novels, Shay wins $127 million dollars. She is unaffected by the money, but the money begins to control her life in the most unpleasant ways. First, her lout of a husband wants his half of her fortune. Just as she's about to cave and give it to him, he is brutally murdered. Life goes downhill from there and Shay wonders if she ever was meant to have a little happiness:

"Her scream could be heard throughout the building and onto the street. People came running from everywhere. 'What's wrong dear?' She pulled her ever-present apron over her nose as she walked further into the room. She could see Shay standing, still screaming, in the kitchen door and walked slowing over to her. The sight she saw next was so gruesome that she crumpled to the floor."

What WOULD a person do if they won so much money that they could never carry on with a normal life? Most people like to think of the money and not having to work, but McKenna Davis weaves a tale of murder; deceit; tragedy; love; and ultimate triumph over life's events. Shay and her friends are so normal one would expect to see them next door. But the plot that McKenna weaves is far from normal. What results is a delightful and sobering tale of human greed.

McKenna Davis knows how to have fun and to provide it for the reader in the form of excellent entertainment. CHOCOLATE DAYS AND MARGARITA NIGHTS is a delicious diversion from dreary, rainy or snowy streets and life's travails. It's a passionately touching read from an author with lots of heart and the ability to spin a good yarn.

Murder on the Mount of Olives
Muriel Kagan Zager
Highland Publications, Inc.,
PO Box 22068, Nashville, TN 37202
0977493202 $15.95

Muriel Kagan Zager is a freelance journalist who specializes in the Middle East. She has made more than fifty visits there and writes a monthly political column. She has published three books prior to MURDER ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES, including BYSTANDER, DEATH OF A PILGRIM, and THE FAITHFUL, which was nominated for a National Book Award.

American journalist Julia Fields watches relations between Israel and Palestine steadily deteriorate in the years leading up to 09/11. Living in Israel has become terror-ridden, as almost daily suicide bombings steadily destroy the fabric of human life in these countries. Although Julia dutifully reports on the worsening conditions, she becomes embroiled in the death of Gustav Weld by the poison of the fugu fish, a dish virtually never prepared in the Middle East. Who was this man; why was he killed; and what were his connections?

Besides tracking the murder of Weld, accompanied by a strange e-mail stalker, Julia manages to find time to fall in love and to befriend a Lebanese exile and help him find out the fate of his wife he left behind when the Israelis withdrew from Lebanon, leaving the Lebanese nationals to a horrible fate when Hezbollah invades. All the while, Julia is making connections between the various terrorist cells that are springing up all over the Mideast, who are connected with Osama bin Laden:

"Born in Saudi Arabia, the millionaire bin-Laden headed a terrorist network which evolved from a regional threat to United States troops in the Persian Gulf into a global threat to Americans and America's security interests everywhere. Bin-Laden's Al Qaeda network's common goal was the expulsion of non-Muslim control and influence from lands occupied by Muslims."

Muriel Kagan Zager's International journalist Julia Fields not only lays out to the complex interconnections between the real terrorists in the Mideast, but she also weaves a darn good mystery into the works. Fields is, no doubt, Zager's soul mate, and as such she has crucial information to impart. This is an important book, aside from its obvious value as a mystery that is exotic and entertaining. A wonderful read!

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

All Parts Together
Tom Mach
Hill Song Press
PO Box 486, Lawrence, KS 66044
0974515949 $16.95

I had the pleasure of reading the first book "Sissy" written by author Tom Mach in this trilogy and I was quite impressed and not disappointed as I read the second installment, "All parts Together." In this work our author continues on with the life of a 19th-century woman named Jessica Radford. We walk with her as one of the survivors of the Quantrill raid of Lawrence, Kansas. Mr. Mach does an outstanding job in conveying the mindset of the people after experiencing such a traumatic event. He did this in a way not to glorify war but to allow the reader to understand the horror of those lives that were touched and changed forever.

We travel with Jessica as she moves on to Washington, D.C. where she meets Walt Whitman and Abraham Lincoln and other important figures of the time. In sharing her visits with such historical figures we catch a glimpse of their view points which certainly add color to the storyline. We are also taken to several battles in the South such as Chattanooga and St. Louis and we hear how the war has effected the residents of those cities, their fears and concerns. We are given not just historical facts but the feel of the people, perhaps coming to the realization that they were living their lives just like you and I when confronted by the tragedy of war and the aftermath.

Mr.Mach's descriptive power in conveying his characters is outstanding, truly making them alive and quite fitting to the era. To me this was not an easy task and certainly must have taken some thought and historical study of the people in that time. Another aspect that I personally enjoyed was the spiritual side, the mention of angels, faith and one's belief in a time of true desperation, and the struggle that Jessica herself battles within concerning her own beliefs with God and mankind. I recommend this book and the first. Tom Mach has done an excellent job in giving us a historical view of the times with a fictional story to keep our interest. Well done! Thank you.

Don't Be Afraid of The Storm
Lynn Jeffcott
1235 Flat Shoals Road, King, NC 27021
0744302072 (e-book) Download $5.99

This book is outstanding and one of the most encouraging works that I have read in quite a while. The author shares many short stories and encounters of supernatural happenings that she has compiled from her own experiences and those of her family and friends. Interesting would not be a descriptive enough word for the experience of this read. As Ms. Jeffcott shares the stories of help from angels, strange and unexpected occurrences in different one's lives and tender moments of divine intervention, you find yourself smiling and your heart filled with hope. This is a must read that will definitely hold your attention from page one and will leave you with that down-right good feeling deep inside you, confirming again, we are not alone. Recommended read! 5 stars in my opinion.

How To Lose Weight and Gain Money
Vivien S. Schapera &Drew A. Logan
Four Winds Press
Cincinnati, Ohio
0970980957 $15.00

I had never really thought about this concept, putting weight loss with gaining money; they had my attention. Could this really be true? I had to know. In this work the authors show the relationship between the two; I was shocked that we had never seen this before and I certainly understood where they were coming from. They give exercises to guide you through to a desired change in your life, both physically and financially. Each step is carefully detailed to help the reader and is given in an easy to understand manner, simple to follow and put into action in your life. I have not started the program as yet, but I intend to and I believe that it will improve my life. This is one book that will hold your interest, perhaps make you shake your head at the revelation and could well turn your life around.

Turning Back The Hands of Time
Dr. John M. Emmett
Abecedarian Books
124 Beltway Drive, Baltimore, Maryland
0976310600 $14.95

Let me say right off that I liked this book. I liked the way the author writes, as if you are right there with him, down to earth, in terms that can be understood and followed. Refreshing!

He explains to you the workings of the body, what certain foods will and will not do for you and gives you some personal experience stories that bring what he is saying to life. He even understands that there are times you will cheat and gives you a cheat meal. How great is that? He tells you about supplements and explains what is and is not needed. I liked this section because for me, that subject can be very confusing. Along with this, you have an entire section on exercising, with a host of black and white pictures to make sure you are positioning yourself correctly. I don't know about you, but for me that has been a problem in the past. It's nice to look at the pictures and at least hope I can get in that position and do the exercise correctly.

You have a great nutrition plan, based on scientific and medical facts, a great exercise program and the backing of a doctor who lives what he writes. I think that makes a pretty good package and a great book. Recommended for those who really want to improve their lives, feel better and look better.

The FaithGirlz Bible
Nancy N. Rue
5300 Patterson Ave SE, Grand Rapids MI 49530
0310710022 $26.99

I have been in the ministry for over thirty years; I have seen many products come and go but it isn't often I find one that I can recommend as highly as I do this new Bible for young girls. Not to worry, it does not compromise the Word of God in anyway, but only enhances it. Zondervan uses the Today's New International Version in this work and allows it to be written in a way that young girls relate to but not changing the true meaning of God's Word. How do they do this? by being "gender-precise," which means where the Word says "sons of God," it now reads, "children of God." Simple changes that will surely help young girls to relate more to the Word of God.

Hold on though, there is more. Inside the girls will find other inserts that will help them to merge with the Word of God. For example we have "Dream Girl," which helps them imagine themselves in Bible stories; "I Get It," that helps them to learn the Bible and "Between You and Me," devotions that allow the girls and others to talk about faith and the Word. Great ideas! I have to say, with what I have seen of this product it is great and I feel that it will be a plus to any young girls spiritual walk. Good job Zondervan, getting the Word out and understand is what it's all about and this product certainly does just that.

Grace Notes
Dandi Daley Mackall
5300 Patterson Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49530
0310710936 $5.99

As adults we are all concerned for the safety of our children on the internet; however as we are aware the internet is a part of their lives that is never going to go away. Blogging has become important to many and the young are no different. Sharing their lives, their adventures, their fears is becoming a norm among our youth and also poses a threat to their safety. In this work we meet Gracie who does not reveal her true identity in her blog but soon the truth is found out after much is written that may not make her the most popular girl at Big Lake High, which is fine with her, or is it?

Gracie learns how important it is to belong, yet still be an individual, share her life, but still be private and understand that God makes us all different and unique but we all in one way or another need each other. This is a fun work that is packed with spiritual insight that every young girl will relate to.

Angela Hunt
WestBow Press
Nashville, Tenn.
0849944848 $19.99

As we begin this read we become familiar with the lives of six people who were college friends at one time, but now have parted to live their own lives. One of these friends dies and the rest travel out of respect to his funeral. All have had a dream or vision of their departed friend before they knew he had died. Why? What did this mean? Was it a warning and will they heed his frantic cries? The answer will surprise you. It is somewhat difficult to review this work without revealing the shocking ending. I will say this; the remaining friends find themselves on an uncharted island after an accident. What they discover there about themselves and their lives will shake you up; cause you to rethink your own life and hopefully make some changes. This work has an outstanding storyline, great character development and quite an emotional ending. I give it a five star and a thumbs-up review. This is a wonderful book, not only a great read but one that has eternal heartstrings attached to it that you will remember for a long time to come. Don't miss this one.

Heaven's Blue
Penelope Marzec
Awe-Struck ebooks
1587494450 $14.95

Samantha Lyons is a research scientist working on a mosquito project in the town of Clam Creek, New Jersey. But Samantha has a problem; her assistant quit and she is almost out of time to complete her research for continued funding. She is upset and at wits end until God steps in and puts David and his son James in her path. Who are David and James? Are those even their real names? Samantha does not like the answer to that question as she finds out that David has kidnapped his son and is on the run. Samantha, who was also kidnapped by her cruel father as a child, is unable to see beyond that fact and find out the truth about David's situation.

The story twists and turns as Samantha encounters disaster with her project, David is arrested and his son James disappears. But all of this does not take place before a bond of love encircles the couple even though each, for totally different reasons, will not accept it. Does this story have a happy ending? What is David and his son's real name, and why did he feel compelled to run? What horror was he protecting his young son from? Heaven's Blue is a story that will wrap itself around you as you become engrossed in the numerous situations, deep emotions, testing of one's faith and the finding of faith in one another. A story of finding a love that only God could bring.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Gypsy Horses And The Travelers' Way
John S. Hockensmith
Fine Art Editions
146 East Main Street, Georgetown, KY 40324
1599755971 $49.95 1-800-972-8385

A superbly presented photographic narrative, "Gypsy Horses And The Travelers' Way: The Road To Appleby Fair" by John S. Hockensmith visually showcases the "mystery and magic" of life as a Romani Gypsy in the northland country of England. Hockensmith has the eye of an artist as expressed through a camera's lens with his full color images of gypsies, gypsy caravans, gypsy life, and a 60-mile, horse-drawn journey through English villages and misty moors, to engage in three centuries of horse trading and communal renewal traditions at the Appleby Fair. Informatively enhanced with an accompanying text that is hallmarked by prose laced with poetry, "Gypsy Horses And The Travelers' Way" is as engaging as it is entertaining and will prove of especial and enduring interest to students of contemporary gypsy life in northern Britain..

Skin: A Natural History
Nina G. Jablonski
University of California Press
2120 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94720-1012
0520242815 $24.95

Enhanced with the inclusion of 14 color photographs, 2 color maps, 36 black/white photographs, and 13 line drawn illustrations, "Skin: A Natural History" by Nina G. Jablonski (Head of the Department of Anthropology at The California Academy of Sciences) is a thoroughly "reader friendly" and scholarly introduction to the biological and cultural functions of human skin. "Skin" addresses such questions and issues as how and when human skin came to look, fell, and function as we know it today; why we turn pale when anxious but red when we are embarrassed or angry; why touch is one of the fundamentally important senses of the body and relates to every aspect of human life; what is the real purpose of fingerprints; skin as a canvas for self-expression; the effects of aging, environmental stress, insect bites, burns, and diseases upon skin; advancing medical technologies relevant to skin issues, and so much more. Surveying more than 300-million-years of evolutionary development as it relates to the skin of homo sapiens, "Skin" addresses the critical role skin plays in human health (including processing sunlight for Vitamin D), the role of melanin in protecting us from the sun's rays, and the advances toward to the creation of artificial skin, gene therapies, reversing the aging process of skin, and other fascinating issues related to our skin. "Skin: A Natural History" is an informed and informative addition to medical school, academic library, and Anthropological Studies collections, as well as a very highly recommended study for non-specialist general readers with an interest in the biology and sociology of skin issues.

First Democracy
Paul Woodruff
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10016-4314
0195304543 $13.95 1-800-451-7556

First Democracy: The Challenge Of An Ancient Idea by Paul Woodruff (Darrel K. Royal Professor in Ethics and American Society and Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Philosophy, The University of Texas at Austin) is an engaging and descriptive analysis of democratic national empowerment, providing a conclusive grasp of what democracy really is (or was), in an extensive study of the Greek city of Athens from which the democratic idea of a governmental system originated. First Democracy provides readers with an understanding of the barriers preventing contemporary America in the opening decade of the 21st century from being a true democracy, as well as offering readers a provocative presentation of the democratic "sine qua non": freedom from tyranny, social harmony, the rule of law, natural equality, citizen wisdom, reasoning without knowledge, and general education. A highly portable paperback that can be taken (and read) anywhere, First Democracy is very strongly recommended to all students of philosophy, political science, and the ancient Greece city state of Athens.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Aristo Of Ceos
William W. Fortenbaugh & Stephen A. White, editors
Transaction Publishers
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
PO Box 10286, New Brunswick, NJ 08906-9978
076580283X $69.95 1-888-999-6778

Volume thirteen in the Rutgers University Series of Classical Humanities, Aristo Of Ceos: Text, Translation, And Discussion, edited by William W. Fortenbaugh (Professor Emeritus of Classics at Rutgers University) and Stephen A. White (Associate Professor of Classics at The University Of Texas at Austin), is an anthology of highly scholarly essays revolving around the Greek philosophical School of Aristotle in general, and the philosophical works of Aristo of Iulis on Ceos in particular. Not to be confused with the similarly named Stoic philosopher from Chios, Aristo of Iulis' works include biographies of Heraclitus, Socrates, and Epicurus, recording the wills of the leaders of Peripatos, as well as several possible writings whose authorship remain in dispute between Aristo and his Stoic counterpart. Individual essays include numerous excerpts from ancient Greek texts; though at least one essay is in Greek, the overwhelming majority of Aristo of Ceos is in English or has an English translation. A close study of characters in Aristo's writings, natural philosophy and peripatetic biology in Aristo's era, and much more, ideal for college libraries and advanced practitioners of philosophy.

Earth Alive
Stan Rowe
Newest Press
201-8540-109 Street Edmonton, Alberta T6G 1E6
1897126034 $19.95 1-780-432-9427

Written by a professional academic ecologist who described himself as "Not a misanthrope, but a defender of Earth against the excesses of anthropes", Earth Alive: Essays On Ecology is an anthlogy of brief yet well-structured essays about ecology and principle. Ranging from "The Ecology of Cities", to "What on Earth is Life?", to a straightforward "Manifesto for the Earth" (co-written with Ted Mosquin) that stresses the importance of reducing human population levels and human consumptive excess, particularly in developed countries, the essays convey an urgent need to protect dwindling natural resources and look toward sustainable coexistence. Most essays were previously published in various periodical venues, but now they are collected into one serious-minded, scientific, and unabashedly pro-environmental volume.

Conservation Across Borders
Charles C. Chester
Island Press
1718 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20009
1559636114 (pb) 1559636106 (cloth) $29.95 (pb) $60.00 (cloth)

Conservation Across Borders: Biodiversity In An Interdependent World by Charles C. Chester (Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Fletcher School at Tuffs University) broadly chronicles the history of environmental conservation movements that have extended past the borders of nations. In particular, Conservation Across Borders focuses upon the International Sonoran Desert Alliance and the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative as case studies to help the reader understand the unique challenges of coordinating landscape-scale protective efforts. The final chapter makes a bold contribution to the newly evolving field of "conservation effectiveness", and the lessons that can be learned from modern history. Written with scholarly precision yet accessible to lay readers as well as environmental activists, Conservation Across Borders is strongly recommended reading especially for anyone involved in a large-scale environmental movement, so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Paul T. Vogel

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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