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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 9 September 2008 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Vegetarian Restaurants & Natural Food Stores
John Howley
Torchlight Publishing
PO Box 52, Badger, CA 93603
1887089446, $19.95,

Vegetarian cuisine can be very diverse and delicious, if one knows where to shop. "Vegetarian Restaurants & Natural Food Stores" is a complete and comprehensive guide on shopping vegetarian. With well over two and a half thousand eateries listed, it is the ideal compendium to know where the shop wherever one is in America. With tabs also on popular chain restaurants such as Subway, "Vegetarian Restaurant & Natural Food Stores" is a must for any dedicated vegetarian or vegan.

Passion For Tea
Beverly Rorem
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781434362940, $18.99,, 1-800-280-7715

Ever since the first tea leaves were brought from Asia into Europe, tea drinking has been an iconic mark of civilized society. In "Passion For Tea", Beverly Rorem brings to bear her enthusiasm for tea in a compendium of information on the history of tea from its history in China, to its cultural impact on Japan, India, Russia, Turkey and the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. These historical overviews are capped off with a concluding chapter on what scientific research has revealed about the therapeutic benefits of tea for everything from alcohol damage to liver and brain, to arthritis, cholesterol, bacterial infections, cancer, skin care, and more. Deftly written and knowledgeably presented, "Passion For Tea" is very highly recommended reading for anyone who has every enjoyed a cup of tea in good company.

A Book About Something
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave., South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159215, $7.95,

Values that everyone can agree on, that's what Katrius offers in "A Book About Something". A collection of easy reading that offers values such as caring, responsibility, and fairness, among other values, includes an example of that value in action. Each value is alongside some charming artwork, making "A Book About Something" highly recommended as a simple gift to children everywhere.

Parenting for Tomorrow
John Samuel
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158393, $10.95,

The world changes and treating your children like it's not won't help them prepare for success in life. "Parenting for Tomorrow: A Results-Oriented Approach to Preparing Your Child for Tomorrow's World" is a guide to evolve one's parenting skills with an evolving world. Telling parents they need to be with their children and take an interest in what they take an interest in to better understand their children, "Parenting for Tomorrow" is solid and highly recommended reading for any parent who wants to stay with the times.

You Turn
Nancy Irwin
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419695018, $18.99,

Life is never a one way street. "You Turn: Changing Direction in Midlife" is a guide for those who have hit the dreaded mid life crisis and want a change in their life. With countless anecdotes from people over forty who have turned their lives around into an entirely new direction, it serves as an inspiration for anyone who looks at where their life is heading and hates it. "You Turn" is encouraging and highly recommended for those who want to change when there is still time.

Ripley's Believe It or Not! Prepare To Be Shocked!
Ripley Publishing
7576 Kingspointe Parkway, Suite 188, Orlando, Florida 32819
9781893951310, $28.95

Lavishly illustrated with full-color photography on every page, Ripley's Believe It or Not! Prepare To Be Shocked! is a compendium of things amazing and extraordinary, sure to impress readers of all ages and backgrounds. Every two-page spread, half-page focus or thumbnail note covers a different topic so incredulous as to be worthy of the "Believe It or Not!" tagline, from the true story of a crocodile attack survivor who had to have his arm reattached, to a skilled Chinese folk artist who can push a living snake into his mouth and pull it out through one of his nostrils, to unicycle marathons, staggering collections of everything from hot wheels to diseased human brains (exhibited in a museum in Lima, Peru) to a frog trained to ride a miniature motorcycle. Almost impossible to put down once picked up, Ripley's Believe It or Not! is an the perfect gift for the any reader who claims to have seen it all.

Mindfulness and The Art of Choice
Karen H. Sherman
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690514, $15.95,

Unhappiness doesn't have to be something someone is sentenced to. "Mindfulness and The Art of Choice: Transform Your Life" is a useful and 'user friendly' guide for anyone wanting to turn their life around and become content with things they are otherwise compelled to deal with every day of their ordinary existence. With advice on making good choices, portraying a positive attitude to those around you, healing and dealing with loss, and more, author Karen H. Sherman offers a unique set of suggestions for everyday life. A welcome addition to personal self-help, self-improvement reading lists, "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice" is especially recommended for its underlying and foundational message that everyone does have a choice.

The Navigator of Life
Nathaniel J. Williams, Ed.D, MHS, MPA
Privately Published
1655 Valley Center Parkway, Suite 150, Bethlehem, PA 18017
9780981474205, $29.95

Written by doctor of education and CEO Nathaniel J. Williams, The Navigator of Life is a self-help book for readers of all backgrounds, offering a three-step process for dealing with the complicated obstacles of life, using navigation at sea as a metaphor. The three helpful phases are Dock, in which readers re-examine their core beliefs in such things as continuous improvement, unconditional manners, respect, adopting language and behavior of an uplifting behavior, and more; Chart Course, in which readers divine their best path by asking themselves questions about eight key areas of their lives (ranging from spirituality to finances, education, health, family and friends); and Home Coming, in which the answers to the previous questions offer forth the best, individually tailored approach to dealing with current problems. A straightforward, plain-terms guide to dealing with difficult issues that have different solutions depending upon what type of person is confronted with the problem, The Navigator of Life is highly recommended for personal and public library self-help collections.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

The Filibustero
J.J. Knopf
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533157648, $24.95,

The Civil War tore many things apart alongside the country. "The Filibustero" is the first part of J.J. Knopf's work of epic historical fiction, being too much for the book's already five hundred page plus size to really handle. A story following Perry, a man torn between two loves. One is a free black woman and voodoo priestess, and one is the rich plantation woman – who happens to already be married. Perry would hope that there wasn't more to it than that for his problems, but he is called off to participate in the bloodiest conflict in American history. "The Filibustero" is a moving piece of historical fiction that will keep readers yearning in anticipation for the next volume.

Hair on Fire
Wayne J. Pate
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Ave., South, New York, NY 10016
9780533157157, $13.95,

Snatched from your family at the age of nine is a life changing experience indeed. "Hair on Fire" is the story of Samuel Harcone, what he calls himself until he becomes Sun Hawk. Samuel is pulled from his European American Family at the age of nine and is adopted by the Quahada Comanche tribe of native Americans. The story tells of growing up in this environment where he grows as far from his original culture as his adoptive family in this unique coming of age tale. "Hair on Fire" is something to consider for all fiction readers.

All You Know on Earth
Marilyn McGrath
International Plaza 2, Suite 410, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
9781436323215, $19.99,

Memories, like the humans who posses them, are fallible. "All You Know on Earth" follows Dr. Cal Wyatt as he deals with a female mental hospital inmate who seems to be an amnesiac. In the confines of the asylum, Wyatt must figure out Rachel's problems, and in the process discovers much about memory and why his previously heavily Freudian believes may not be as correct as they were. "All You Know on Earth" is a novel of psychology, and will make the reader question their own thoughts.

Common Sense Officiating
Dave Gambridge
Privately Published
5835 Glen Hill Drive, Bethel Park, PA 15102
No ISBN, $10.00

It's the rules that are critical to fair play and competition. It's the referees that enforce the roles and make the games they officiate fairly played with respect to who wins or loses. Dave Gambridge draws upon his many years officiating in highschool and college basketball to create "Common Sense Officiating: A Survival Guide For Sports Officials", a pocket-sized 'how-to' manual for referring any and all kinds of sports events fairly and professionally. Beginning with exploring why the reader would want to be a referee, Gambridge goes on to cover what can be expected from pre-game meetings, to every quarter of play, to dead-ball situations, to playoffs, to camps, networking, and more. Knowledgeable, comprehensive, and 'user friendly, "Common Sense Officiating" is especially recommended to non-specialist general readers who may be called upon to officiate a game, as well as anyone seeking to improve their officiating skills and expertise as a professional referee for highschool and college athletics of any category or kind.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Cracking the Glass Darkly
Robert Egby
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434349019, $18.95,

Unhappiness is a state of mind. "Cracking the Glass Darkly: Discovering Power and the Ecstasy of Your True Cosmic Self" is a compelling and informative examination of the depression that humanity so often puts itself through for no apparent reason. Speaking on how to deal with it and how to break through one's own fog of depression, it encourages readers to stop living in the past and stop living in the future, but to focus in on the here and now. Highly recommended for Self-Help, Self-Improvement reading lists and reference collections, "Cracking the Glass Darkly" is a fresh and original approach to helping one's self out of life's funk.

Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man
Harry E. Gilleland, Jr.
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9781435712423, $12.98,

Not all poets are hipsters sitting on stools in clubs wearing berets. "Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man" is the third anthology of Harry Gilleland's work, and fans of the first two will undoubtedly find much to enjoy within. Focusing on the simpler things in life, "Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man" is highly recommended. "Louisiana Alligator" : In the bayou lived a big old gator./Everything else feared being lunch later./Cajun and gator tussled./Gator was soon out-muscled./It was stewed with peppers and a tater.

A Burden of Light
Joan M. Green
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158003, $11.95,

God is always with us, even when we're doing the most unreligious of things. "A Burden of Light" is an anthology of poetry from Joan M. Green. Her poetry focuses on her faith, preaching the gospel with vivid and beautiful verse, and how everyday life is filled with opportunities to revere the Lord as the creator he is. "A Burden of Light" is a must for poetry fans who happen to be Christians as well. "True Tears": A mother's tears – they nurture not/They rob her soul – they're burning hot//They eat away-and wear her down/A mom should never—wear a frown//A mother's tears—cut to the core/Her spirit screams—please God no more!

Mounting the Clouds
Victor Akinrinmade
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533149636, $14.00,

The writer's block phenomena that can afflict any author or poet is said to stem from the lack inspiration and a failure of imagination on the part of the writer. "Mounting the Clouds" is Victor Akinrinmade's call that inspiration for writing is all around us. He demonstrates this fact with a diverse catalogue of poetry displaying inspiration from the little things in life. The sun, rainbows, and life itself. A warm and inspiring collection of verse, "Mounting the Clouds" is a must for poetry fans -- and anyone who has ever suffered from a temporary lack of ideas for their own writing. "You Must Meet Her": She writes with a/golden ink,/a pen like a/crystal sea.//Have you met her?//Have you seen her?//The rock my soul/but loves?//She shines like a/glowing sun;/a heart like a/blending love;/oh, yes, you must/but meet her/soon.//But think, my joy,/but think;/you must meet her,/my dear.

A Huge Happy Pageant
Francis Xavier Cunningham
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158485, $12.95,

Irish Catholics have a long stay of history in America, and "A Huge Happy Pageant" is a collection of short stories and essays that draw upon author Francis Xavier Cunningham's own time and experiences growing up. Recalling experiences not necessarily exclusive to his own people and looking back on the history of his family, his look back is unique and well worth reading. "A Huge Happy Pageant" is unique and recommended reading.

Able Greenspan

Klausner's Bookshelf

Exit Music
Ian Rankin
Little Brown
9780316057585 $24.99

For the first time he can remember Edinburgh Police Inspector John Rebus is worried about the future. In ten days, the long time cop is turning sixty, which means mandatory retirement although he does not feel ready to leave the force.

Still, Rebus plans to finish his last cases although he only has ten working days left. His prime investigation is the murder of Russian poet Alexander Todorov; in which he and his associate Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke find no motive, but a horde of odd conspiracies bantered about that include Russian businessmen, Scottish bankers and local politicians rallying behind an independent Scotland. The case turns even more bizarre when a second homicide occurs; the victim taped a recital of Todorov reading his work. Increasingly the inquiry points towards Edinburgh crime boss "Big Ger" Cafferty, but finding proof to pin two murders on the mobster in under ten days seem impossible.

The investigation takes a back seat to Rebus' final police case before going into forced retirement. Thus, as good as the previous entries are, this may be the most personal as the emotions are high as fans wonder what will their hero do. EXIT MUSIC is an excellent complicated police procedural as the great John Rebus works what is his apparent last police case.

The Turnaround
George P. Pelecanos
Little Brown
0316156477 $24.99

In 1972, three suburban teenage white friends (Alex Pappas, Billy Cachoris and Pete Whitten) are stoned having smoked marihuana and drank alcohol. As high as they ever been, the trio cruises D.C in a Torino stopping in a poor black neighborhood where they challenge three local males (brothers James and Raymond Monroe and Charles Baker). The ensuing brawl leaves Billy dead and Alex severely battered.

In 2007, Alex grieves the loss of his son, a combat casualty in Iraq. He owns and runs the Pappas and Sons Coffee Shop that his father established in 1964. At Walter Reed Raymond Monroe, one of the three blacks involved in the deadly fight, recognizes Alex's name. Raymond thinks maybe he can put somewhat behind him the mess that has haunted him for thirty-five years by talking with Alex so he contacts the coffee shop owner; Alex too needs closure. At about the same time, Baker who destroyed Alex's face has just left prison with a plan to blackmail the participants in the '72 race war.

This stand alone urban thriller hooks the audience from the opening joyride and never let's goes as the audience wonders whether Alex and Raymond will find liberation from their overwhelming guilt for their respective roles in the fight or a second war. The key cast members are fully developed so that the reader understands what they need and what they could lose if they risk THE TURNAROUND of redemption and ignore the extortion. George P. Pelecanos writes a great tale that will be on everyone's short list for thriller of the year as the DC area has rarely seen as imposing as it does in 1972 and 2007.

Book Of Scandal
Julia London
1416547118 $6.99

Because of their beloved son's death, the once loving marriage between Nathan Grey the Earl of Lindsey and his wife died too although they are not divorced. Over the next five years Nathan ignored his spouse Evangeline while womanizing in rustic splendor. Evangeline remained prim and proper while residing in London.

However, Nathan becomes irate and though he will not admit it to himself is jealous to hear rumors that Princess Caroline's infamous book contains scandalous behavior by Evangeline. He comes to London to save the Lindsey reputation; demanding she leave for the countryside with him. Evangeline no longer needs the man she loves who deserted her when she most did; besides she plans to divorce him and marry someone else. He realizes how much he misses his wife, but to persuade her he will not leave her again proves futile. However, they become caught up in a dangerous treachery in which an unknown adversary will gladly kill husband and wife.

Using the historical reference book of aristocratic scandal written by Princess Caroline as a backdrop to a second chance at love Regency romance, Julia London cleverly freshens up a common theme. The story line is driven by the broken relationship between Nathan and Evangeline as each coped with their loss in different ways, but neither was there for the other. With the looming scandal of the Princess' BOOK O SCANDAL serving as a sort of matchmaker, fans will relish this astute entertaining historical.

The Ant King: And Other Stories
Benjamin Rosenbaum
Small Beer
1931520534 $16.00

This is an interesting surrealistic speculative fiction anthology that readers who enjoy something different will appreciate. There are several excellent entries, which by contrast make the remaining good short stories seem lacking yet none are of poor quality Readers will relish finding the "The Book of Jashar" in which a new Old Testament tome has been discovered; also superb is "Start the Clock" as preadolescents are stuck forever as the heirs to the current generation; a sensitive retelling of Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" also is quite provoking. Perhaps the two strongest tales are "The Ant King" in which a giant roach abducted a woman (where is She-Hulk when you need her) and "A Siege of Cranes" starring a lone survivor of a village seeking vengeance on what destroyed his family and neighbors. This is an engaging collection that takes readers into a realm where anything especially the absurd rule.

His Wicked Sin
Eve Silver
0821781294 $5.99

In 1828 Yorkshire, impoverished Elizabeth "Beth" Canham arrives at a remote site awaiting the coach to take her to Burndale Academy where she is the new teacher. Griffin Fairfax offers her a ride although he admits he is not from the academy. She accepts. In front of Beth at the academy he asks a servant if she (not the servant) will come to him; the servant says she refused. Upset he leaves abruptly for his nearby home at Wickham Hall; while Beth ponders her attraction to him. Griffin is upset that Isobel would not come with him. His housekeeper tells him her niece Sarah is missing and assumed murdered by the serial killer who is stalking the area. Griffin thinks back to his late wife Amelia.

Beth senses that someone evil is watching her. It reminds her of her youth when she feared so much. She fears the dark and small closed spaces, but tries to hide it. She sees Griffin and tells him to go play with his daughter, but he refuses as he says she blames him for her mother's death. Griffin is attracted to Beth not just because she is pretty, but because he feels she knows his soul and still wants him though he believes he is unworthy of her and asks if she heard of the rumors that he killed his wife. Soon she will know all the answers, but may not live long to tell anyone else like the father and daughter she loves.

The serial killer subplot is cleverly designed so that the hero looks guilty and ties everything together while the romance between the lead couple is fun to follow. Historical romantic suspense readers who like a gothic feel to their tales will enjoy Eve Silver's fine late Regency.

Left to Die
Lisa Jackson
9781420102765 $7.99

In Grizzly Falls, Montana, police detectives Selena Alvarez and Regan Pescoli struggle with a particularly vicious serial killer who deep freezes his living female victims until they die. At the same time that the cops try to prevent another homicide, Jillian Rivers receives pictures that allege her late husband Aaron remains alive and well in Montana. Needing to know the truth she drives to Montana.

However, someone fires a shot hitting her tire causing Jillian to crash into a frozen ravine. When she regains consciousness she awakens inside the cabin of Zane MacGregor, who swears he found her nearby and hurt. She has no choice but to trust the hermit as a blizzard makes it impossible to leave even if he would let her and she was physically able to. Meanwhile Alvarez and Pescoli find her car in the ravine and fear she is the next victim of the killer.

Leaving bayou Country for the Big Sky, Lisa Jackson introduces her fans to two terrific police detectives working a difficult homicide case. The story line moves forward on two subplots; the two cops seeking to rescue Jillian, and the Rivers-MacGregor spin of is he the killer or her savior. Readers will relish this strong chilling police procedural while Lisa Jackson brilliantly sets up the sequel CHOSEN TO DIE.

Jacquelyn Frank
9780821780695 $6.99

Demon King, Noah is beloved by his subjects because he cares about them and protects them from their enemies. Although adulated by his people, Noah is also lonely as his closets friends are Imprinted (mated) and the woman he believes is his Destiny only appears in his dreams. He has never met her in person. Kestra shares Noah's erotic dreams, but she assumes the hunk she desires is a subject of her imagination only. Just as he decides to search for his dream woman in the real world, the dreams end and instead he has a horrific vision of the woman who is to be his mate being killed. With the help of the Enforcer's child Leah he bends time to prevent his beloved's death.

Kestra is taken to Noah's castle where she begins changing into a Druid. She begins to absorb his energy without which she will die. Surprisingly Kestra takes what has happened to her in stride, but a trauma from her past leaves her fearful of love although she has deep feelings for Noah and she believes strongly he loves her. As they work on their muddled relationship, they come under attack from vampires who want their Nightwalker blood to gain their powers. To survive they must join their powers in love, but Kestra remains fearful of loving anyone.

NOAH is a great paranormal romance due as much to the vivid world described by Jacquelyn Frank as well as the seesaw relationship between the lead couple. They make the realm with demons, vampires, and other ilk seem genuine in this well written character-driven saga. Characters from previous novels make appearances as Ms. Frank and her fans welcome them back inside of an engaging romantic fantasy with the emphasis on the romance.

Tarizon: The Liberator
William Manchee
9781929976485 $23.00

On the planet Tarizon, several volcanoes erupted simultaneously; placing the world in darkness and affecting the ability to survive and even grow crops. Everything is aimed at survival so the people of Tarizon make a deal with the authorities in the United States. The will give America tech in exchange for mating with humans and producing healthy offspring. When teenage earthling Peter Turner discovers there are aliens amongst us, they kidnap him and send him to Tarizon to silence him. Many believe he is the prophesied Liberator who will appear from outside during a super eclipse, which occurs as he arrives.

Peter learns his new home, still devastated by e nature, is on the brink of a civil war that neither side can truly win. The Chancellor is incapacitated and Videl of the Purist Party takes his place. He and his followers oppose the Supreme Mandate that grants freedom and equality to sentient non-humans including mutants, the rhutz, the Nanomites and the Seafolken. Peter sides with Vidal's opponents the Loyalists who vow to uphold the Supreme Mandate to live free or die. Still he is caught in a civil war between the Purists and the Loyalists as there is no room for compromise only death.

TARIZON: THE LIBERATOR targets the young adult science fiction audience, but older readers will enjoy the action-packed exciting thriller with a deep message of at least tolerance for all while preferable consensus. The vivid descriptions of the planet will feel as if fans are there assisting the earthling as he struggles with doing what he believes is morally right and taking part in the action and battles. William Manchee has created a fascinating world in trouble that anchors this exhilarating powerful morality tale.

Dance of the Wolf
Karen Whiddon
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617920 $5.25

When his best friend Dr. Charles Watkins vanishes after using Dallas' hottest nightclub Fantasies as a spot to help the poor, Dr. Jared Gies investigates his disappearance. He is a bit surprised when he hits owner Elena Cabrera with his car, but she insists she is okay as she needs to find Charles who she recently fired when she saw him change into a monstrous werewolf; her fear is he harmed her reliable dancer Damien who is missing. Jared is stunned as he wants her immediately, but he knows first his inquiry then his libido. Elena is worried about Damien too as he has been reliable since she hired him to replace the monster. Charles Watkins.

Elena reciprocates Jared's desires, but is wary also as two of her dancers have recently been killed. Still she and Giles agree to team up on an investigation into who is the predator. As they fall in love, Jared knows they have no future together as he would have to reveal that his lone wolf is not a shapeshifting act

Elena creates this totally enthralling and enjoyable paranormal romantic suspense with amateur sleuth elements. She is courageous as she refuses to back down from the Pack (see CRY OF THE WOLF and TOUCH OF THE WOLF), a clever killer, nor love. Werewolf romance fans will enjoy Karon Whiddon's latest tale.

Son of the Shadows
Nancy Holder
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617937 $5.25

Jean-Marc de Devereaux Guardian of the House of the Shadows loses much of his essence when a demon depletes his soul. Guardian of the House of Flames Isabelle De Bouvard uses her mage powers to enable Jean-Marc to regain much of his soul and live, but the cost to her is immense. She suffers from amnesia after over extending herself.

Meanwhile Isabelle's twin sister Lillane, Guardian of the House of Blood, owns the remaining part of Jean Marc's soul. She tries to use that to manipulate him into killing her sibling; if Isabelle dies, Lillane will begin a world of evil under her control. As Jean-Marc struggles to control the dark that coaxes him to kill the woman who saved his life, he must open the remainder of his soul to Isabelle although that means falling in love.

The latest Guardian romantic fantasy (see DAUGHTER OF THE BLOOD and DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES) is a terrific entry due to the sacrifices made by the lead couple to save their beloved and the threat of her twin who owns the rest of his soul. That weird triangle makes for a powerful tale as Jean-Marc struggles between the pulls of the sisters; as he loves the one he must kill while hates the one he obeys. Fans will appreciate this character driven exhilarating trek into the Guardian world of Nancy Holder.

Out of Time
Samantha Graves
0446618373 $6.99

Harlem's Linden Museum curator Jillian Talbot inherited her psychic gift, but always believed no one outside her family knew of their skills. Her ability to see an object or person's past benefits her work at the museum.

Once an artifact stealer, Simon Bonner never planned to return to field work. However, his tomb raiding rival, a severely wounded Jackson informs him that his ex wife Celina is being used as a hostage to force him back into robbing tombs. His assignment to obtain an ancient crystal lens and abduct Jillian, who the blackmailer believes is the seer that a prophecy claims she can find buried archeological booty. Apparently the extortionist has ruthless Kesel working the abduction too as Simon barely keeps Jillian from being snatched. He persuades her to join with him as they play a ten days maximum game of cat and mice in Mexico with one known deadly opponent and several unknown adversaries who change the rules to fit their requirement of win at all costs to others.

OUT OF TIME is a fabulous romantic suspense with a touch of the paranormal. The lead couple is a terrific pairing of opposites as she sees the goodness in everyone and everything while he finds everyone evil and everything ugly. Their differences make for a strong thriller as they perceive their opponents differently as Simon thinks she is naive and Jillian believes he is cynical. Fans will appreciate this fine psychic tomb raiding thriller and seek out SIGHT UNSEEN starring Jillian's thief of a sister.

A Highlander Never Surrenders
Paula Quinn
0446619132 $6.99

In 1659 English General Monck captures Scotswoman Claire Stuart. He plans to use her as a negotiating pawn to force her brother Connor, leading an enemy fighting force using guerilla tactics, to end their rebellion by surrendering. While in captivity, Claire keeps in shape and improvs her fighting skills waiting for the opportune moment to escape and join her sibling.
Graham Grant is a superb warrior, but refuses to join the fight. He joins his brother-in-law, a Royal Scottish Earl, Robert Campbell on a trip where he learns of Claire's captivity. Graham helps Claire escape and accompanies her as she heads to her brother. As they fall in love, neither has any hope of a future together as she supports the rebellion and he pushes for peace.

Using real historical figures and events to anchor time and place, Paula Quinn provides her fans with an engaging seventeenth century romance. Claire is a fabulous lead female who prefers to fight alongside her brother while the capable warrior Graham is sick of death, maiming, and blood chooses peace. Readers will relish their delightful match up as Ms. Quinn provides a strong war and peace historical.

Liz Jasper
Cerridwen Press
9781419956836 $7.99

In Long Beach, California, Jo Gartner teaches geology to the hormonal crowd, eighth graders. She attends a boring Christmas party with her best friends, high school science teachers Becky and Carol when the spiked and dyed hair Korean-American Becky informs her a hot dude in black is eying her like the last piece of Carol's chocolate cake. After dodging Roger, Jo says no way, but Becky persuades her to talk to the hunk worth dying for. Will insists Jo needed rescuing from ennui and besides he explains he loves Jane Austen.

They go outside to talk further, but instead of Pride and Prejudice, he bites her neck. Jo is clueless to what his nip means as Will is a vampire who has turned the science teacher into an underdead; an almost vampire, sort of like being almost pregnant, as she has all the issues like sunburn and no bread to cope with, but none of the benefits. Gavin the vampire hunter arrives to either kill or help her. Meanwhile Jo struggles with her blood attraction and loathing of Will; while his vampiress lover rejects the notion of sharing his neck. Soon afterward another teacher is killed with phony vampiric bites on the neck in Jo's classroom. However, learning vampirism 101 and amateur sleuthing still seems relatively easy to Jo after teaching eighth graders and worrying how her mom will react.

Using amusing hyperbole to stereotype the negative side of vampirism, this tongue in cheek (and teeth on neck) tale is an amusing fast-paced paranormal whodunit that the audience will enjoy because of the combination of suspense, romance and the supernatural. Jo is terrific as the focus of the storyline; she muses how she went from dateless to a triangle and one in the romance department while working on a mystery and surviving eighth grade. as Liz Jasper writes an entertaining lighthearted romp.

Just Breathe
Susan Wiggs
0778325776 $24.95

In Chicago, Sarah Moon loves her husband of five years Jack Daly. She enjoys her work writing the comic strip Just Breathe whose star Shirl reflects much of the idiosyncrasies Sarah sees in life; but unlike Sarah Shirl often confronts the hypocrisy. Sarah has been undergoing infertility treatment until she came home and saw Jack, who had been struggling to get it up with her, naked and up with his "horsy" business associate.

She leaves heading home to Glenmuir, California while having Shirl represent her frustrations with men, divorce and being in your thirties while living under your mom's roof. Ironically, Sarah is pregnant and even more sardonic, she and fire chief Will Bonner, a single father, are friends. He was her enemy in high school while his daughter Aurora is her teen replica of loneliness and angst from when she was in high school and, who already has mom issues exponentially compounded by her father and the cartoonist falling in love.

Susan Wiggs shows her greatness with this terrific second chance at love tale as she combines humor with the Shirl comic strip at the start of each chapter with deep angst laden relationship issues. The story line is obviously character driven by the lead couple and Aurora; but what makes this so good is the reader will cry and laugh with the lead trip throughout. Ms. Wiggs provides a superb family drama filled with love.

My Husband's Sweethearts
Bridget Asher
Delacorte Press
038534189X $22.00

In Philadelphia thirty something Lucy Shoreman loves and hates her fiftyish husband Artie. She left him six months ago when she learned he cheated on her. However, when Artie informs her he is dying, Lucy comes home to help him in his final days. Still she is bitter and finding out other secrets he hid from her increases her acrimony; especially his concealing an illegitimate alienated adult son, John.

She decides life is unfair that she the cuckold one needs to go it alone when he had so many women in his life who shared the good times so let them also share the end times. She calls all the women in his black book and assigns the somewhat stunned females with tasks. She orders her mom, the divorce queen, to arrange the funeral. Finally to herself, she assigns bringing together estranged father and son; though she admits to herself he is a chip off the old hunk block.

The story line is limited as everything focuses on the death countdown; however the ensemble cast make up for this with their differing personalities and reactions to Artie and Lucy. The sharp chick lit asides and the often rancorous exchanges are superseded by a sentiment of doing the right thing even if it kills you. Fans will appreciate this bittersweet final grand "Tour d'Artie".

Six-Gun Two-Step
William C. Duncan
1424186099 $24.95

In Cleveland, Timmy Thomas supports his slight drug habit as a two bit neighborhood dealer. He has no ambition to go up the illegal drug selling pyramid. His girlfriend Sandy went to the apartment of their dealers Bam and Susie both of whom are dead; she from an overdose and he from blowing out his brains. She grabs two bags filled with the white powder she cam to purchase and flees the death scene.

Sandy tells Timmy, who suddenly gains ambition as he sees a chance for a big score. Not sure how to sell so much, he enlists exotic dancer Glendy to assist him. However, their efforts upset the major gang dealers especially the Guatemalans, whose supply they stole. The pair flee to New York planning to hook up with the mob there, but things just get worse as he gets hooked on his product and back in Ohio an even deadlier gang than the Guatemalans demand he hand them his goods or else; two other gangs show interest too.

This is a fascinating look at the supply and demand of illegal drug economics although the realistic cast of a zillion participants can be difficult to keep score. When the tale switches into a terrorist plot to destroy the Cleveland area, it loses steam as that seems surreal. Still this is an interesting glimpse at a two step player foolishly dealing with six-gun gangs even if the gangbangers' cumulative IQs sum in double digits.

Death Books a Return
Marion Moore Hill
9780977191369 $17.95

Wyndham, Oklahoma librarian Juanita Wills is writing a history of the town when her research comes across the cold case murder of back teenager Luther Dunlap in 1959. She is elated to have found a witness to the homicide as the victim's best friend almost fifty years ago Samuel Davis agrees to talk to her. However, when she goes to his home in nearby Bryson Corner, no one answers her.

Later she learns Samuel died from corn cockle poison in bread left by eccentric reticent Grace Hendershot. As she keeps digging, her boyfriend police lieutenant Wayne Cleary warns her to not get involved as some people want the segregated abusive past left buried. He proves right when someone tries to shoot her or her walking companion and tinkered with a tilt ride that hospitalizes Juanita. However, the intrepid "scrappy librarian" refuses to close the book on her amateur sleuthing until she solves the 1950s killing, the modern day murder, and a few relationship enigmas.

This engaging cozy explores race relations then and now as Marion Moore Hill makes the case that though we have come a long way yet in some ways Otis Redding remains right that "Everything still remains the same"; so we must work even harder at achieving equality. At times the mystery takes a back seat into the interrelationships between characters; not just interracial although that is the prime theme. Though the action overall is light in spite of two attempts on the heroine, fans will appreciate the second well written Scrappy Librarian tale (see Bookmarked for Murder).

Curse of the Pogo Stick
Colin Cotterill
1569474850 $24.00

In the late 1970s the Laotian National Coroner seventy-three years old Dr. Siri Paiboun is attending some governmental Communist Party function (waste of time if you ask him) in the north. Meanwhile back in the capital Vientiane a corpse of a soldier booby trapped with grenades is anonymously dropped off at the morgue. Only the fast and capable work of Paibourn's assistant Nurse Dtui avoids a tragedy from happening.

Meanwhile Paiboun looks forward to getting home to spend time with his fiancee Madame Daeng and even time in the morgue, which is better than attending these inane officious official officialdoms. Instead the female members of the Hmong tribe abduct Dr. Siri as they need his help; or at least of the millennium old shaman Yeh Ming is to perform an exorcism on the tribal chief's daughter demonically possessed due to an evil pogo stick placed on an alter.

CURSE OF THE POGO STICK is a solid historical mystery that contains two subplots, in which both contain humor inside serious situations that brings to life 1977-78 Laos. The Vientiane investigation is superbly written as Nurse Dtui cleverly leads the inquiry into who would use a dead soldier to kills others. However, Colin Cotterill's insight into the suppressed Hmong people, caught between the violent Communist regime and Nixon's just completed a few years ago secret war, is what makes this a great entry as neither side cares what happened to these expendable mountain pawns. The insight into the Hmong culture and their "collateral damage" plight supersede the whodunit.

Folly Du Jour
Barbara Cleverly
156947513X $24.95

In 1927 Scotland Yard Detective Joe Sandilands attends the Interpol conference in Paris, but when he lands at the airport the local police meet him. They take Joe to a prison where they hold a countryman of his charged with murder. Joe is stunned to find the French police accuse his long time friend Sir George Jardine of stabbing Sir Stanley Somerton, another person Joe knew but in this case would prefer not to have ever met the horrid victim.

Joe rejects the official position as he knows George would never do such an act except in self defense. He and French detective Inspector Jean-Philippe Bonnefoye investigate together based on the assumption someone else murdered the sleazy Somerton. They start at the morgue where pathologist Dr. Moulin explains the odd M.O. matches several recent homicides in the last three to four years. The two sleuths wonder whether a serial killer is stalking Paris.

FOLLY DU JOUR is a terrific 1920s police procedural starring two superb detectives. Joe may be shocked in his latest case (see THE BEE'S KISS, THE PALACE TIGER and THE LAST KASHMIRI ROSE), but gets to work right away while his French partner holds up his end of their joint investigation. Although the resolution can be seen from the French capital to London, historical mystery readers enjoy the two detectives' guided tour of Roaring Twenties euphoric post WWI Paris as this is a superb historical whodunit.

Anarchy and Old Dogs
Colin Cotterill
9781569475010 $12.00

In 1977 Vientiane a truck ran over blind dentist Dr. Buagaew, killing him instantly. Everyone who witnessed the tragedy assumes the late pedestrian obviously owed karmic debt so no tears were shed. As is the case in these types of vehicular deaths, the Laotian National Coroner septuagenarian Dr. Siri Paiboun is directed to perform a cursory review. He and his capable assistant Nurse Dtui assume nothing of their inquiry even when they find an odd anomaly of blank papers on the victim.

Paiboun soon realizes the papers actually contain encoded notes written in invisible ink. He and Dtui with the assistance of his closest comrades Police Officer Phosy and Politburo member Civilai begin to find clues related to the secret writings that to their shock is simply moves in a game of chess that sends the coroner to the city of Pakse where he begins to piece the puzzle together of a plot to overthrow the Communist regime.

Combining humorous eccentric characters like a fortune telling transvestite Auntie Bpoo and the corpse as a practicing blind dentist inside a strong serious investigation, Colin Cotterill continues his great late 1970s Laos mystery series with another excellent entry. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the truck hits the dentist and never slows down until the final confrontation between anarchists and the old dogs like the coroner. Readers will appreciate Colin Cotterill's fine tale with newcomers seeking the backlist (see DISCO FOR THE DEPARTED, THE CORONER'S LUNCH and THIRTY-THREE TEETH).

Stalking the Unicorn
Mike Resnick
9781591026488 $15.00

It is New Year's Eve in present day Manhattan and private detective John Justin Mallory is having a drink at his office when he sees the elf Murgensturm; the sleuth assumes he is hallucinating. The elf convinces the shamus he is real and needs his help. On Murgensturm's Manhattan in a parallel universe he was given an assignment by his guild and he blew it. If he does not find the unicorn Larkspur by the next morning he will die. Leprechaun Flyer Gillespie stole the unicorn on behalf of the demon Grundy.

Gillespie double crosses Grundy so Mallory on this alternate earth searches for the impish leprechaun. He gets helps from Felina the cat-girl, who adores him and is at his side as he makes his inquiries. A small talking horse informs Mallory that Larkspur is special because on her forehead is a magical ruby that is the gateway between earths. Something happens and his quest becomes personal. Mallory must find the ruby or become trapped on this alternate Manhattan that is weirder than his birth side as elves, goblins, dwarves and other make up part of the populace. Worse some want the outsider dead.

Mike Resnick shows why he is a first class storyteller who switches from his more serious works to a lighthearted whimsical urban fantasy filled with interesting characters from various mythological species and of course a somewhat stunned human sleuth. The tale located in Manhattan is fascinating as there is no telling what might crawl out of the subway (sounds actually like the NYC I grew up in). The hero is a Phillip Marlowe type placed in a strange yet similar environs and his investigation is very entertaining as he follows clues that seem slightly off kilter in his mind.

Stalking the Vampire
Mike Resnick
9781591026495 $25.00

The Manhattan that private investigator John Justin Mallory lives in is quite different than the one he used to reside in; the one on our earth. Some of the differences are insignificant like Madison Round Garden, people visit the Museum of Unnatural History, and the American Civil Liberties Union is the American Civil Freedom Organization. However, other variances are yellow elephant taxies and humans mingling with such beings as vampires, goblins, and shapeshifters, on my; having the same rights as humans have.

Mallory is in his office when he realizes his partner Winifred Carruthers has punctures on her neck and her nephew Rupert says he thinks he was bitten by the vampire Aristotle Draconis. After Rupert dies, Mallory tracks down Draconis with the help of the cat-girl Felina, the dragon Scaly Jim Chandler who is a mystery writer and the timid vampire Bats McGuire. They learn that Draconis was trying to save Rupert from Vlad Drachma. Vlad leads the troupe on a merry chase as they seek his coffin, but no one seems to know where it is yet their goal is to destroy a millennium old serial killing vampire.

This tale is a tongue in cheek dark humor novel that will have the audience believe Mike Resnick cast a spell to alter Manhattan where magic is a science and creatures from mythology use public transportation. Readers will enjoy this alternate reality urban fantasy that is elephantine different from Mr. Resnick's novels as he satirizes the sub-genre. Full blooded (at least for now) Mallory is terrific as he adapts to a new world order while retaining his old world values like loyalty.

Nancy Werlin
Dial (Penguin)
9780803730021 $17.99

Lucy Scarborough feels very lucky to have wonderful foster parents Soledad and Leo Markowitz, who took her in when her mother Miranda, only eighteen when her child was born, went insane and left. Lucy sees her sometimes as a bag lady with a shopping cart. Right now Lucy looks forward to going to the Junior Prom with Gray Spencer, who she likes. The date turns miserable because he rapes her, but she does not believe her predator was Gray as his eyes changed and he spoke in another language; he also called her Fennala.

Her caring parents and her childhood friend Zach get her through the next four months. Zach finds her biological mother's diaries in which he reads that the Scarborough family line including Lucy has been cursed; to lift the elven curse, each female must accomplish three impossible tasks or go mad. None including her mom has succeeded at even one task. However, Lucy has something unique to aid her on her quest that her ancestry never had; she has three people who love her very much, who willingly risk their lives to help her. Three people she loves back as a daughter who cherishes her parents and as a girlfriend to Zach; so she prefers to keep them safe and go it alone but they won't let her.

This is an outstanding young adult fantasy thriller based on the Scarborough Fair ballad with a Brothers Grimm Grim like spin that older readers will appreciate due to an excellent tense story line and strong characterizations. Zach and Lucy are determined obstinate individuals who in his case is willing to die for his beloved and in her case she is not willing to accept his help as she wants him to live (proving Mickey & Sylvia right that "Love is Strange"). The antagonist demonic elf is evil punishing generations of women due to the first sin of an ancestor rejecting him; affirming that adage that Hell has no fury like an elf scorned.

City of Time
Eoin McNamee
Wendy Lamb (Random House)
9780375839122 $16.99

A year has past since Owen and the Resisters won the battle against the Harsh Ice beings who wanted to destroy the world by destroying time. Now the Resisters are sleeping until they are called again when the world is in peril by Cati the Watcher. Owen has the Puissance, a weapon that can destroy time, locked inside his trunk; the lock is the magical Mortmain, which looks like a tarnished brass lock, but is much more.

Owen knows trouble is coming when he speaks to a young woman when he suddenly looks at the face of an old woman. Cati sees geese age crumbing into dust in an instant. Cati notices the atmosphere in the work house is stale as time is leaking out of the world. Owen gets a note from the famous Navigator telling him he must obtain a tempod,, an object that holds time, and bring it back from Hadina, the CITY OF TIME. Cati and a Resister, who Owen awakened, accompany him, but Hadina is full of danger with part of it seeming like it is dead. To survive and save time, Owen must begin to act as the Navigator.

CITY OF TIME is an apocalyptic thriller aimed at young adults; yet this entertaining action-packed science fiction thriller will remind grateful older fans of the works of Robert Heinlein. Owen is a brave hero; a person afraid but performs his mission to save the world anyway. With a great climax, this middle book can stand alone though it remains consistent to its predecessor THE NAVIGATOR. It is also worth reading as a great tale and to better understand Owen and company.

Mia the Melodramatic
Eileen Boggess
9781890862565 $19.95

Fifteen years old Mia fears this is going to be the summer of her discontent. Her best friend Lisa is off to some brainy camp and her boyfriend Tim is in Maine visiting his grandparents while she remains in Des Moines. She assesses her options, Mia concludes she can spend her vacation time being the butt of her younger brother Chris' pranks or she can escape the house by finding a job although employment for a young teen is not easy to find.

Mia obtains work at Little Tyke's where her role is coming off the bench to replace youthful stage frightened actors; that is when she is not mortifying herself as Playtime Pal the clown. As Tim dates a New England teen, heartbroken Mia considers going out with attractive fellow troupe member Eric.

The heroine has come a long way from MIA THE MEEK as she does things she could not have done before like performing on stage and overcoming a broken heart to dive back into the dating pool. What stays the same is the amusing sibling war with Chris as she matches him prank for prank; young readers will be on the alert when it comes to their breakfast. Yet by summer's end there is a truce of sorts between the battling sibs. Young adult fans will enjoy the lighthearted MIA THE MELODRAMATIC as the star deals with several relationship calamities although never that deeply.

Buffalo Bill's Defunct
Sheila Simonson
Perseverance Press
9781880284964 $14.95

After her daughter leaves the nest to attend Stanford, Meg McLean decides to make a few life changes starting with moving to the Pacific Northwest town of Klalo to become the head librarian. Her next door neighbor is Rob Neill, the sheriff's investigator still seeking to solve his first case that occurred a decade ago. Artifacts sacred to the local Native American tribe were stolen and the cop and the tribe believes it is in the hands of a private collector.

Meg finds a piece of a petroglyph that was part of the lost collection that somehow ended up in her empty garage. When she shows it to Rob, he goes into the garage and smells death. He looks closely at that artifact's location and the body of a dead person is found; the corpse is identified as a Kleo who searched for the purloined treasure at the behest of his Chief. Meg and Rich team up seeking to catch the killer and the booty, but more deaths make the cop wonder how many people are involved and how to keep his new neighbor safe.

This combo police procedural amateur sleuth mystery is entertaining even though readers will doubt the hero would welcome a civilian into the investigation. Ironically it is the pairing that makes the story line fun as each is attracted to one another and have a deep need to solve the cold case. For that matter so will fans who will try to solve the identity of the killer(s) as Sheila Simonson provides a difficult but interesting whodunit.

Green Monster
Rick Shefchik
Poisoned Pen
9781590585245 $24.95

The curse of the Bambino was partially buried when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 with a sweep of the Cardinals. Any lingering doubt concerning the Ruth mojo was put to rest in 2007 with a second championship.

However someone signing off as Babe Ruth insists that proof exists that the Cardinals were paid to throw the World Series; that individual demands $50 million or will go public with the evidence that the fix was in. Although he does not believe the extortionist, owner Lucky Louie Kenwood fears the implications of even a rumor as basketball and football are dealing with similar issues. He hires private investigator Sam Skarda to look into the claim and assigns his personal assistant Heather Canby to assist the sleuth. Sam and Heather start with those Cardinals who had an extremely sub-par series; then All-Star right fielder Ivan Hurtado and the league MVP pitcher and third baseman Alberto Miranda. The detective wonders if one of the two stars who played poorly is the source of the allegation and through that player wonders if they can uncover the identity of the blackmailer. They soon find a double helix trail of drug enhancers and gambling that tie to the mob, the owner's son and Fenway Park; as increasingly Sam and Heather believed the 2004 World Series was fixed.

The premise seems over the top of the GREEN MONSTER although with the NBA referee scandal maybe not. Regardless this is a fun sports whodunit unless you're a Red Sox fan as the book will be filed in Boston alongside the Buckner error and the Dent homer. Heather's all star propensity for hitting homeruns in everyone's bed is a called strike three as it distracts from Sam's fine sleuthing into what he believes is the second coming of the black sox scandal.

Different Paths
Judy Clemens
Poisoned Pen
9781590583005 $24.95

In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the first reaction by everyone to the assault on veterinarian Carla Beaumont and the subsequent hijacking of her truck is that the criminal was after the drugs she carried. Stunned by the attack on her currently hospitalized friend, dairy farmer Stella Crown agrees with the consensus, but revises her opinion when other female professionals are assailed with no males harassed at all.

The police continue to cling to the drug theory assuming that the perp believes women are easier targets. The violence widens as a new female pastor's office and the truck of a woman driver are vandalized and medical physician Dr. Peterson is killed. Stella begins to investigate with her MS afflicted boyfriend Nick covering her back.

Stella is extremely opinioned as judge and executioner based on her first impressions upon meeting someone; this often leads her into inadvertently forming red herrings about people and cases. Her abrupt often false conclusions make the tale and the series (see THE DAY WILL COME) fun to read as the heroine is not the crown jewel of amateur sleuthing though she is wise enough to adapt her theory; this leads to excellent whodunits as she overcomes her initial estimations to achieve success. Fans will enjoy eccentric Stella, loyal to a fault to her friends and acerbic to her enemies.

Night Kill
Ann Littlewood
Poisoned Pen
9781590585047 $24.95

At the Finley Memorial Zoo in Vancouver, Washington, husband and wife Iris Oakley and Rick Douglas are zoo keepers; her specialty is big cats while his is the reptiles. They argue over his excess drinking and he promises are to stop.

Soon afterward, Rick is torn apart in the lion lair. The police decide an accident occurred due to alcohol. Iris is irate that he already broke his promise to her even as she mourns her loss. Concerned about a grieving Iris and knowing her new "ghost" haunts her current assigned location, the zookeeper transfers Iris to the aviary house over her objection and that of the chief bird-keeper. While some cronies suspect Iris killed her husband for his insurance; a tiger incident that almost left her dead has Iris wondering if someone wants to kill her and probably murdered Rick although she has no idea why.

Feeling like a woman in peril for good reason and not trusting anyone since her late husband let her down while used going alone in the working with the big cats, Iris does her own snooping in a fascinating setting, the background to a zoo. Ironically readers will know who the killer is long before the heroine does as her biggest obstacles to the truth are her peers who demand she leave. Although the sleuthing is relatively simplistic, readers will root for Iris who believes she must depend on no one as everyone could be her wannabe killer.

The Falcon And The Sparrow
M.L. Tyndall
9781602600126 $10.97

In 1803 the French leave Dominique Dawson' with a Hobson's choice. She can spy on her beloved homeland England or never see her brother languishing under French incarceration ever again; she knows the threat is real and if she fails to do her mission, her sibling will be dead.

Dominique obtains work as governess to the son of Royal Navy Rear Admiral Chase Randal of the Royal Navy in order to gather information for Napoleon's agents. She pretends being a mouse, which disgusts her new employer, but he begins to notice her lioness ferocity when it comes to his son. Deeply attracted to father and son, Dominique expects someone she loves will die regardless of what she does.

This is an intriguing historical romance due to the predicament the heroine must face as she believes she will betray someone she loves regardless of what she does or does not. Readers will enjoy following Dominique's anguish as she rationalizes what she must do and even projects her ethical dilemma onto others as a psychological defense mechanism. Still as always M.L. Tyndall provides her fans with an interesting Regency due to the lead female's lament.

That's (Not Exactly) Amore
Tracey Bateman
9780446698955 $13.99

In Manhattan, as part of her final semester at interior design school, Laini Sullivan must do a real project. She and her project partner Jazz are assigned to make over Nick Pantalone's struggling coffee shop. Nick is all for the two young women adding zest to his shop; his nephew Joe opposes what he classifies as her intrusion and detests all her ideas. Almost as bad is the fact that while all her friends seems to have a significant other in their life, she baby-sits on Valentine's Day.

Whereas Joe is outright hostile towards her; police officer Mark Hall, who she recently met, likes her. They begin dating, which upsets Joe, who suddenly acts nice towards a confused Laini, who went from no men to two men in a heartbeat. However, she is "not exactly sure which of her studs makes her heart beat.

The third Drama Queens chick lit tale (see YOU HAD ME AT GOOD-BYE and Catch a rising star) is an amusing angst laden story that starts with Laini's jocular yet grim aside that she is five feet in seven feet of water. Her asides are humorous, but also poignant and inspirational as the heroine struggles with doubt about herself that makes the choices she has that much more difficult as she has options re her profession and her personal relationships (including with God) but lacks confidence.

Robert K. Tanenbaum
9781593154745 $25.97

New York District Attorney Butch knows the world is watching because whenever a mother kills their young, the homicide becomes headline news. The mother in this case, NYU Political Science Professor Jessica Campbell has some notoriety for her protests starting in 2001 with chaining herself and her three year old daughter Hillary to the gates of Trinity Church. Her defense for killing her three preadolescent kids (Hillary, Chelsea and Benjamin) is the God order insanity plea that he directed her to "send her three children to Him". Karp has to prove she knew what she was doing in spite of her claim and the public's general belief that the murdering of an offspring denotes insanity.

At the same Butch mounts the prosecution's case, Islamic terrorist The Sheik has trained an American jihadist unit all willing to die for Allah to deliver a major terrorist attack on Manhattan that would cripple the global economy. Butch his still somewhat shook wife Marlene Ciampi, their daughter Lucy and a few other dedicated people try to prevent the planned tragedy.
ESCAPE is a fast-paced thriller that obviously moves on two subplots with the connection tenuous through the Professor's admiration of Islamic extremists willing to suicide for their belief in Allah. The legal case re the prosecution challenging the defense's insanity plea is well done, fun to follow and fits the role of Butch. On the other hand a band of superheroes led by Butch and Marlene against dedicated terrorists seems off kilter as one wonders where NYPD, Homeland Security, and the Defense Department are with so much at stake. Still this is an exciting tale if you let your imagination accept a DA and his team as professional field counterterrorists.

At First Sight
Stephen J. Cannell
1593154828 $25.95

Fifty-five years old Chick Best has run an Internet business for the past dozen years; however recently competition from the global chains threatens to bury him. The affluent Los Angelino is married to philandering Evelyn; though she cheats on him he thanks God for that. He is concerned with his sixteen year old daughter Melissa who knows more drugs personally than any pharmaceutical company.

Chick and his two indifferent towards him women go to Hawaii on vacation. When he sees newlywed Paige Ellis emerge from the Maui hotel swimming pool, Chick finds himself in love at first sight. He insures he meets the object of his adult rated fantasy and to his chagrin, her spouse Chandler though he is cleverly nice to the man in his way. Back in the Forty-eight states, Chick is on a business trip to New York, but instead of going home he heads to Charlotte where the Ellis couple lives. There he accidentally runs over Chandler several times to eliminate the only person in the way of happily ever after with his obsession.

This is an exciting thriller with morbid dry humor as Chick allows his fixation for his love interest to get control of head as if his brain had one icon: Paige. The story line is told by the prime players, for the most part Chick. Although somewhat satirical, the reaction of Chandler's family including to a lesser degree his new wife seems too indifferent (especially when they learn how they died) even though that purposely contrasts their apathy to his killer's passion. Still Stephen J. Cannell provides readers with a fascinating "novel of obsession".

The Night Villa
Carole Goodman
9780345479600 $14.00

University of Texas Classics Professor Dr. Sophie Chase knows she is fortunate to be alive when cultist Dale Henry, ex boyfriend of promising classics student Agnes Hancock, starts firing a gun at those attending an interview. Although shook up, Sophie joins a special reenactment in Capri. John Lyros is sponsoring the rebuilding of an exact replica of a Herculaneum villa and will use an information technology program to interpret the burnt scrolls that somewhat have been salvaged from the volcanic ruins.

However, Sophie's Italian dig turns sinister when her former boyfriend Ely, who vanished five years ago apparently into the same cult as Dale joined, sends her a message by returning a book he borrowed from her. Meanwhile a scroll found amidst the ruins written by a visiting Roman insists the NIGHT VILLA was a place for blood, sex and duplicity. In the labyrinth below the city, Sophie will find much of the same as what happened to a free woman in 79 AD.

This is an engaging academic thriller with a delightful link between modern day archaeology and the Ancient World; mostly through the scrolls. Sophie is a terrific lead player holding together the two prime parts of the novel while she and her cohorts dig into the past at the same time struggling to survive the present. Fans will enjoy Carole Goodman's fine tale and seek her previous literary mystery, (THE SONNET LOVER.

Deadly Beautiful
Sam Baker
0345475909 $25.00

When her career collapsed after leaving behind her teen years, former supermodel Scarlett Ulrich landed in Tokyo working at a bar. However, when Scarlett, the face that launched a million album covers, vanishes; her half-sister, Luella "Lou" McCartney becomes concerned. Knowing she needs help, Lou asks her reporter friend Annie Anderson to investigate.

Anne explains she is now a fashion features editor for Handbag magazine and is no longer doing investigative journalism as she used to (see FASHION VICTIM); besides she is in New York City while Scarlett was in Tokyo. However, Anne makes a few long distance inquiries and learns of Japan's Roppongi Ripper, who has murdered several Western young blonde females; she fears Scarlett is on the dead list. She heads to Tokyo to learn what happened to Scarlett.

The investigation is superb as Anne tries to find Scarlett, but it is the look at the fashion industry's obsession with the young that makes the tale worth reading. The father of the half-sisters symbolizes the youth fixation as Rufus is a "modelizer" who only wants to screw the latest superstar who is younger than his daughters. Readers will enjoy Sam Baker's fine expose in which twenty is old, twenty five is the walking dead, and thirty is an ancient history corpse.

Bound by Flame
Anna Windsor
97803454985440 $6.99

Fire elemental Sibil Cynda Flynn and half breed demon NYPD cop Nick Lowell are so attracted to one another they fear their sparks will cause an inferno. Meanwhile Nick's brother Creed and earth elemental Sybil Riana married (see BOUND BY SHADOW). However in spite of their bliss, everyone fears the evil Legion is fostering some nastiness.

They prove correct when someone, most likely the Legion, assault fire sibils. This places Cynda in jeopardy. Nick risks his life to keep his beloved "firebird" safe. He goes so far as to prepare to kill his brother Jake an Astaroth demon who is held captive by an unknown adversary pulling his strings by using his personalized talisman.

The second Dark Crescent Sisterhood tale is an action-packed urban romantic fantasy that grips the audience from the opening sequence and never slows down running red lights in Manhattan. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing while the third Lowell brother is manipulated into being the deadly stalker by a diabolical puppeteer. Anna Windsor has bound the sub-genre fans who will relish this exciting tale and look forward to the next thriller in this wonderful series.

It's a Crime
Jacqueline Carey
034545992X $24.00

LinkAge Telecom accountant Frank Foy is convicted of fraud and sent to prison. His wife Pat, a landscape designer, rejects his guilt; insisting a simple mistake occurred. Obsessed while living with their teenage daughter Ruby, Pat decides to prove her spouse's innocence based on his explanation that fixing the numbers is standard acceptable accounting practice in the United States. She plans to make remittance to the victims.

Her efforts prove overwhelmingly futile but lead her former best friend Ginny Howley and her first lover Lemuel Samuel to offer to help her; although both mystery writers are victims of the firm's collapse. Along with his teenage son and Ruby, they try to persuade Pat that Frank is guilty and deserves jail time for all the people he hurt.

Echoes of Enron and Arthur Anderson run throughout this unusual character driven tale of five people impacted by the fraud. The cast is solid although the changing perspectives can prove overwhelming and subtract from the morality tale of minimally correcting wrongs. Still this is an interesting look at the business of business in the Bush Era in which the White House and Congress are located on Wall St.

Bachelor Degree
Judith Marks-White
0345492390 $14.00

In New York thirty-eight years old divorcee Samantha Krasner has always felt overwhelmed by her beloved but larger than life mother, Madeleine Krasner-Wolfe. Inanely she thinks her mom has been wealthy widowed twice to her one impoverished divorce and is a noted art collector while she is an assistant at the Cole Gallery.

Madeleine wants her daughter to live life to the fullest as the late Rosalind Russell described her philosophy that "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death"; so she is euphoric when Samantha and hot British artist Blake Hamilton seem to hit it off. However, geography is a factor so Madeleine encourages her daughter to after the gynecologist hunk Spencer Gould or perhaps Mark Robbins. Meanwhile she makes it a family affair when Madeleine decides to go after Spencer's father Alden, also a gynecologist. To matchmake with the father and son physicians, Madeline arranges medical appoints for her, Samantha, and her niece virginal Celeste.

The upper crust Manhattan-Long Island lifestyle comes across in a vivid manner through the escapades of the Aunt Mame like mom and her often embarrassed daughter. Madeleine is more of a caricature lampooning the elitist affluence right next door to poverty while the rest of the support cast enables the audience to see deep into what makes Samantha tick. Samantha is the star but her chick lit asides are more often cold and cruel instead of cool and comical. Still overall this romp through the world of the nouveau widowed riche is an intriguing look at the indifference of the let them eat cake crumbs crowd.

The Map Thief
Heather Terrell
0345494687 $25.00

Famous conservative kingmaker Richard Tobias hires art recovery investigator Mara Coyne to find a valuable Chinese map stolen from an archeological dig. This is the type of artifact that Coyne searches for as it is the oldest known map to clearly show the entire globe; dating to the early fifteenth century and the expedition of Admiral Zheng to sail around the world. The priceless artifact was smuggled out of China when an Emperor purged any reference to the expedition. It reappeared when Vasco Da Gama used it as a guide in his search for the western sea passage to India.

In the present many groups willing to use force want the map mostly to suppress the evidence that the Chinese came to the Americas decades before Columbus. Mara and archeologist Ben Coleman struggle to find the map and stay alive; neither task easy to accomplish.

Fictionalizing the historical theories of Gavin Menzies (see 1421 THE YEAR CHINA DISCOVERED THE WORLD and 1434: THE YEAR A MAGNIFICENT CHINESE FLEET SAILED TO ITALY AND IGNITED THE RENAISSANCE), Heather Terrell provides a fascinating thriller. The story line is at its best when the focus is on the fifteenth century among Zheng and Da Gama journeys. The modern day cast fails to hold up next to the real historical cast, making most of the contemporaries feel as unnecessary intruders except for Coyne who is the readers guide to the expeditions of Zheng and Da Gama.

Everything Nice
Ellen Shanman
9780553591477 $12.00

In Manhattan Michaela "Mike" Edwards learns the truth when she was fired from her job as a copy writer at A.S. Logan Advertising because she bet on the wrong horse at the office politics race and no one on the other teams wants a woman who cannot relate to other females. No income means no more expensive New York apartment so she moves back in with dear old dad who raised her as a single father and his live in girlfriend.

Mike obtains work as a substitute life skills teacher to a group of seventh-grade girls. She wants to nuke the curriculum which teaches girls to be domestic girlie girls instead of all you can be. Meanwhile, she and visiting Aussie reporter Gunther seem attracted to one another, but he must soon leave the city of "oy vey" pessimism to return to home land of sunny optimism.

Mike is fabulous as a tomboyish kick butt woman who cannot cope with the inane office females arguing over mascara and lipstick color; she prefers to be one of the guys. The story line is fast-paced as she struggles with earning money, residing in the land of barbarians (Brooklyn), teaching girls to cook and sew, and dealing with Gunther who has turned her life upside down. Fans will enjoy Ellen Shanman's fine chick lit character study as the heroine makes EVERYTHING NICE, RIGHT BEFORE YOUR EYES.

Sherry Thomas
9780440244325 $6.99

In London she was scorned for being a mistress to her employer Bertram "Bertie" Somerset, who recently died; in Paris she is the toast of the city for her DELICIOUS meals. Verity Durant loves being a chef. However, her joy of cooking is suddenly disturbed with the arrival of Bernie's illegitimate brother Stuart the barrister arrives.

A decade ago she fell in love with Stuart; they had a heated one night affair and he left. She still wants him as she never stopped loving him. However, he is engaged to prim and proper Miss Lizzy Bessler. Stuart realizes the error he once made when he let the love of his life go and feels marrying Lizzy is his just desserts. However, Verity tries to serve him the one repast he cannot resist, her.

This is a wonderful gender war as Stuart and Verity love one another, but use words to hide their deep feelings from their beloved enemy. As the heroine points out from the onset some aristocrats think their romance is a Cinderella tale, but no fairy Godmother came to her rescue as a pariah with passion for cooking and for Stuart. Readers will appreciate this fine tasty delight as Lizzy, the Ton, villains and the lead couple stand in the way of a happily ever after fairy tale ending.

Before I Wake
Kathryn Smith
9780061340277 $6.99

In New York, psychologist Dr. Dawn Riley is the top authority on dreams interpretation at the Sleep Center where she works. She knows that her incredible skill is because of her "Nightmare" DNA as she is a chip off the old male block. Her father is Morpheus, the King of Dreams; her mother met him while she slept and they hit if off, literally. To be with him in his only realm of existence, the land of dreams, her mom buried herself in a coma rather than raise her daughter. Her dad warned her not to visit all of the "Dreaming" places because her Uncle Icelus irresponsibly, in the name of freedom, allowed some of his creations to wander freely; his sector is disturbing and is populated with frightening monsters; thus Dawn always stayed at her father's castle when visiting his realm.

For the first since Dawn was born, she is attracted to a man Noah Clarke who is a subject in a study she is doing. He feels the same way with his instant attraction to her. However, being half mortal has its negative side as the nasty Karatos stalks Dawn and Noah while they sleep. She is an expendable pawn in his plan to take over the Dream realm.

The key the well written first paranormal Nightmare Chronicles is the Dream Realm seems real as a place where nightmares literally can leave visitors dead. The romantic urban fantasy story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down once Karatos begins his assault on his turf on the lead couple. Fans will enjoy Kathryn Smith's eerie tale with the consequence of trying not to go into a deep dreaming sleep.

Twice Loved
Lori Copeland
9780061364914 $12.95

In 1865 Texas the three friends, Willow Madison, Copper Wilson and Audrey Pride all taught school until the Civil War entered Thunder Ridge and the surrounding towns; the Northern army destroyed everything in its march to crush the south.

When the war ended, this section of Texas has become home to poverty. A desperate Madison's ailing Uncle Wallace begs her to marry wealthy Silas Sterling, thirty years her senior, who might have a reason to invest in rebuilding the demolished town. She reluctantly agrees although she feels no attraction to him. Making matters more complex and difficult for Madison is sawmill owner Tucker Gray who she wishes was her suitor, but he holds her culpable for the fire that destroyed his mill.

TWICE LOVED is an entertaining Post Civil War Texas romance starring a courageous heroine willing to sacrifice her desires to help her family, friends, and neighbors in need. When she realizes her heart wants Tucker while her head says Silas, Willow prays to God to guide her as she believes she is giving up her integrity by marrying Silas. The rest of the cast is solid as Silas hopes his fiancee will learn to love him one day; Tucker wants her, but has issues with her; her two teacher friends beg her not to sacrifice herself; finally there is fascinatingly deep yet ironically shallow Uncle Wallace who disguises his real reason for his niece to wed Silas behind his altruism. Americana fans will relish the first Belles of Timber Creek saga with Audrey and Copper to follow.

Surrender to Me
Sophie Jordan
9780061339271 $6.99

The Ton blames Lady Astrid Derring for her spouse leaving her. With no income, she is forced to attend galas in order to eat the crappy cucumber sandwiches served while men make illicit offers and women gossip. When she hears a rumor that the rat who left her is marrying an heiress in Scotland, Astrid decides to confront the man who destroyed her reputation in order for his betrothed to know the truth.

On the trek to the Highlands, Texan Griffin Shaw, in Scotland to meet his Scottish relatives, rescues Astrid from thugs, but he is hurt in the battle. They stop at a nearby inn to see to Griffin wounds only her spouse is there. Astrid is under the scoundrel's bed hiding when someone kills him. As one assault after another occurs as they travel to his grandfather's estate, the American and the widow fall in love, but survival comes first.

This is a fast-paced regency that showcases the tenuous position of many female members of the Ton; as everyone blames Astrid for the desertion. Astrid is a wonderful protagonist who holds her head up high while attending events she does want to go to; her motive for going is the food she cannot afford. Griffin is a more typical character as a Texan with aristocratic blood in his veins taking his Wild West personality amongst the Ton. Regency romance readers will appreciate Sophie Jordan's fine historical romance.

Before the Scandal
Suzanne Enoch
9780061456749 $6.99

Lieutenant Colonel Phineas Bromley is as much a legend in the bedroom as he is at battle. However, the war hero known also as a notorious gentleman lover is stunned when he gets home to his estate. The place looks like a battlefield. He concludes someone is methodically ruining his family and he plans to expose the scoundrel.

He dons a mask and hunts the thug disguised as a highwayman. To his shock when he stops on the shelf Lady Alyse Donnelly, she does not act frightened as he would have expected. He is attracted to her courage and could not care less of the scandal that made her unsuited for marriage. However, he does care that Alyse insists on helping him with his charade though that places his beloved in danger from the still unknown adversary.

The second Notorious Gentlemen tale (see AFTER THE KISS) is an excellent Regency romantic suspense starring two fully developed protagonists and a lurking stalker ready to pounce on any weakness; in this case Phin's Achilles' heel is Alyse. Historical romance readers know you cannot have enough novels from Suzanne Enoch as she consistently provides entertaining exhilarating epics.

Too Dangerous to Desire
Alexandra Benedict
9780061170478 $5.99

In 1819 as they come home from Italy at the request of his mom, while at sea on the Hercules, pirates led by Black Hawk steal Adam Westmore's wedding present watch from his wife Teresa. Not long afterward a storm hits the ship. Adam leaves Teresa in the cabin while he investigates the damage. He is knocked overboard while the ship turns into an inferno. His beloved Teresa is dead and he blames his wastrel brother the Duke of Rogues Damien for they were coming home due to his depravities.

In 1825 Adam lives in an isolated home rejecting his family. He sees a woman jump off a cliff and rescues her. Evelyn awakens in fear as she trusts no man as all are selfish and cruel like her father who sold her sister Ella to pay gambling debts and like her brother in law who killed her sister Ella.

Adam explains he lives by the sea to be near his late wife. Evie tells him her sister is dead, but that her dad sold her this time to "Him" as she fearfully in scorn calls her vicious brother-in-law, Prince Vadik. Adam vows to keep her safe from "Him". As they fall in love, he learns how complex meeting pledges truly are.

The lead couple are interesting protagonists with both carrying baggage as they fall in love. Adding to the fun of this angst-laden Regency romance is the return of the stars of TOO GREAT A TEMPTATION in key support roles as the estranged brothers struggle to reconcile. The irony re Black Hawk is a great twist although the final confrontation seems a bit watered down after all that occurred. Fans will fully appreciate Alexandra Benedict's exhilarating character driven historical romance.

The Mistress Diaries
Julianne MacLean
9780061456848 $6.99

In 1873 widow Lady Cassandra Montrose and Lord Vincent Sinclair share passionate evening of lovemaking. Both consider the tryst a one night stand. However, to her consternation Cassandra, who believed she was barren, becomes pregnant and gives birth to a daughter.

One year has past since they made love. Due to inheritance pressure from his dad, Vincent is engaged to marry Lady Letitia Markham, daughter of a duke, when Cassandra arrives with their three month old child June that she has raised as a single mom. However, Cassandra fears she is dying so pleads with Vincent to raise their love child. He is stunned by instant desire to make love to his unexpected visitor. To care for her and their baby, he persuades her to pretend to be his mistress. However, that is not good enough for him as he wants her to be his wife and their child his legitimate offspring.

Although the underlying theme of a woman giving birth out of wedlock has been used quite frequently in contemporary romances, it is rare to see this "matchmaking" ploy applied to a Victorian. The story line is fast-paced as Cassandra, worried about June's well being, accepts Vincent's offer of her being his mistress; neither consider marriage as an option even as their passion turns to love. Although Letitia comes across as a shrew, the lead couple makes for a fine tale as he must choose between inheritance and love; acceptable behavior and scandal; and duty and friendship. here is June for him to consider too. Juliana MacLean turns Vincent's options of for love or money into a fabulous Victorian romance.

Some Like It Wicked
Teresa Medeiros
9780061235351 $7.99

Almost sixteen year old Catriona Kincaid meets Sir Simon Wescott when she was reading Sir Walter Scott in a loft while he is seducing her cousin Alice. Whereas her vile cousin calls her a monster, he thinks nothing of her being there beyond coincidence. Although he calls her a lad and then a little girl, even his rakish actions fail to deter her from worshipping the rogue.

Five years later in 1810, Lord Eddingham informs Catriona and her Uncle Ross that he purchased land in Scotland once owned by the Kincaids; he plans to end the raids led by the outlaw Kincaid. Catriona fears that might be her brother so she decides to go home to the Highlands where her family was once head of a clan until her grandfather chose otherwise. Realistically she knows she needs an escort and is resolute that her "hero" takes her to Scotland. Simon resides in Newgate so she visits him there with an enticing proposition. She will pay off his debts, which will free him from prison if he marries her and takes her home. He agrees and once he is released he honors his new debt by marrying Catriona. The journey north is dangerous as someone apparently wants to prevent her from coming home while her beloved proves to be a real hero risking his life to keep her safe.

This entertaining Regency romance is fun to follow as Catriona's puppy love turns into an adult love while Simon finds himself falling in love with the courageous woman whose terms he agreed to as he no longer thinks of her as a little girl. Whereas her uncle, her cousin and Eddingham display no positive attributes, fans will still enjoy this fine historical as Catriona and her hero fall in love while waiting anxiously for the sequel to see what happens with the hanging thread.

Mo Hayder
Atlantic Monthly
9780871139924 $24.00

Still grieving the loss of her parents in an accidental drowning two years ago in Boesmansgat (Bushman's Hole) in Africa, police diver Sergeant Phoebe "Flea" Marley recovers from Bristol Harbor, a detached hand; no other body part is found. The hand's fingerprints identify the limb belonged to heroin addict Ian "Mossy" Mallows.

The obvious drug connection is explored by Detective Inspector Jack Caffery; Flea investigates a seemingly loose thread tied to the African witchcraft of muti that she knows from her parents deaths in the Kalahari Desert. It uses body parts as part of the rituals. The two cops soon change their minds about finding a corpse as evidence begins to point towards the victim being alive. They also conclude that the muti ritual is a sleight of the hand (no pun intended) ploy to cover up even more nefarious plans.

This gritty urban English police procedural hooks the audience from the opening dive until the final confrontation as the two cops uncover a case tied to illegal drug usage and the torture side of muti before realizing there is much more to the investigation. The story line is fast-paced as the readers wonders along side of Caffery and Marley what is going on especially when they feel strongly the victim is breathing. Fans will appreciate this strong investigative thriller (see THE TREATMENT and BIRDMAN; neither read by me) as Mo Hayder provides an enjoyable whodunit that focuses on learning what was done.

Moonpies and Movie Stars
Amy Wallen
9780452288959 $14.00

In 1976 in Divine, Texas grandmother Ruby Kincaid feels her life is overflowing with family concerns with no time for herself. The widow runs her late husband's bowling alley; serves as mother to her runaway daughter's abandoned children Bunny and Bubbie whose dad is about to remarry; and finally puts up with her impudent childish sister Loralva. Ruby copes nicely with her "moonpie" lifestyle until she sees her absentee daughter Violet starring in a TV commercial.

Outraged, Ruby decides enough of this inane separation; though she also knows she would not mind a bit of self time. She mounts a save the marriage and family rescue mission. Loading her Winnebago with MoonPies to limit the stops, Ruby, Loralva, Bunny, Bubbie and their paternal grandma Imogene head to Hollywood to bring Victoria home; with an agreed upon side trip to meet Bob Barker on The Price Is Right.

This is an amusing yet angst ridden historical tale in which rural Texas dirt meets Hollywood glitter on Hollywood and Vine. The trek west is fun as long as you are metaphysically arm-chairing the journey. Though some of the capers the Divine trio get into seem strained beyond farcical lampooning, fans will appreciate this interesting look at save the marriage while wondering whether they can succeed when Violet has seen the lights of Hollywood; Americanization of "How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?"

The Riven Kingdom
Karen Miller
9780316008365 $7.99

In the walled island Kingdom of Ethrea, Rhian stays with her father the King as he is dying. She sadly muses she will be an orphan soon since her mom Queen Ilda died ten years ago. Rhian detests the unfairness of succession as her two brothers are dead two months and she is the next in line to the throne; however Ethrea has never had a female ruler. Even near dead with his belief he failed the kingdom when he left no heir, the monarch frets that he never found a husband for his daughter.

Sadly Rhian knows she is the best person for the job of ruling the kingdom, but knows the religious leader Marlen will tell the ruling council who she will marry; some loser he controls to the ruin of the kingdom. That is if he even lets her outlive her father. No one seems to accept she is capable not even her dying dad. Rhian concludes she must flee to find allies to take back her country. Toymaker Dexterity Jones pushed by the shade of his late spouse Hettie offers to help the besieged princess. They obtain assistance from Zandakar, the son of the insane Empress of Mijak; he helps them so that they might one day abet him to end his mother's slaughter of millions.

The second Godspeaker tale (see EMPRESS) is an entertaining epic fantasy thriller whose strong cast keeps this fine entry from being just another middle book (though it has many of the set up trappings). Rhian cannot understand why gender not skill or even bloodlines is the prime requisite to be the next ruler; Dex has talked to his wife since she died years ago, but now she is talking to him; finally Zandakar realizes he must depose his mom who is much stronger than him. Although it is a necessity to read EMPRESS first to avoid getting lost in the plot, readers will appreciate THE RIVEN KINGDOM as civil war and much worse have arrived on the island

Debatable Space
Philip Palmer
9780316068093 $12.99

Lena is traveling solo in deep space glad to get away from the perfection of thirty-first century Earth when the computer implanted in her brain informs her that a pirate ship is heading her way. The leader of the pirates Flanagan wins the battle and boards her ship telling her she is a hostage to be used in negotiations with Cheo the dictator of Earth. He knows of the special relationship that exists between the two of them and intends to exploit that.

Lena knows that when it looks hopeless, the Cheo will let her get killed. Flanagan has plans and one includes the liberation of his homeworld Cambria a slave colony ruled by Doppelganger Robots who are inhabited by the minds of the elite on Earth. He has a plan that would allow the crew to disconnect Cambrina from the universal web. From there he convinces the pirates from all over the galaxy to help him disconnect the beacons which would result in isolating Earth and freeing the empire. The only problem is the empire has warships in the millions and the pirates have ships in the six digit range.

Philip Palmer writes a terrific space opera and DEBATABLE SPACE would make a great marquee movie in the tradition of Star Wars. Alien races co-exist with humanity and the aliens are major characters so readers feel as if they actually exist. Readers ride an orbital roller coaster that takes us to various planets in the galaxy, making the audience realize how enslaved the human race is if they don't live on Earth.

Stan Nicholls
9780316033701 $14.99

"Bodyguard of Lighting". Half-nyadd Queen Jennesta (her other side is irrelevant and weak) sends her mostly Orc unit the Wolverines to retrieve a cylinder from the humans in Homefield. She warns her commander Captain Stryke not to come home alive without the package; collateral damage is desired. The troops succeed, but celebrate their victory by using illegal drugs they stole from the humans. Kobolds attack the unit and steal the cylinder. Not back on time, Jennesta assumes she was betrayed and so declares the Wolverines as outlaws.

"Legion of Thunder". Queen Jennesta sends Orc Commander Delorran to kill the Wolverines and bring back her cylinder. The evil sorceress warns her minion not to fail on either of their tasks; if they do she will dine on their life forces. Soon afterward Stryke learns his and his men (and one female) are named outlaws; if they go home her Highness will serve them as her main meal regardless of bringing the cylinder to her. He knows Jennesta waits for no living thing. So he changes the mission to recapturing the cylinder to learn what it contains and go from there.
"Warriors of The Tempest". Stryke and his warriors struggle to collect the now known five-artifacts and learn how to use them to save the world from the shocking axis of evil. The three deadly sorceress sisters seem to have forged a pact that will lead to pandemic horror if true; as paradoxical as it seems each is the most malevolent powerful being on the planet.

This omnibus edition of Stan Nicholls' thought provoking Orcs trilogy uses the perspective of the so called "bad guys" to tell the quest fantasy. Their ruminations on the vicious vile violence they obeyed before switching to stay alive make for a fine fascinating saga. However, Tolkien purists will object to the change from wicked Wolverines to courageous champions trying to save the world from the tempest triad. Fans will enjoy this fine threesome as the "Stryker" force makes a strong case against ethnic profiling.

King of the Holly Hop
Les Roberts
Gray & Company
159851038X $24.95

Cleveland based private investigator Milan Jacovich wonders where the time went since he graduated from St. Clair High School; as he attends the fortieth reunion gala. As he muses over who attended that he never would have bet on coming and who did not that he would have considered a sure shot to attend, a heated loud argument breaks out between cardiologist Dr. Phil Kohn and playwright Tommy Wiggins ending with the latter tossing his drink into the former's face.

Not long after that Kohn is found murdered; shot in the parking lot. For obvious reasons, police Sergeant Matusen assumes Wiggins to be a person of interest. Wiggins hires attorney Ben Magruder, wife of classmate Danielle, to defend him; both attended the reunion, but left before the brawl. Magruder hires Jacovich to investigate though he understands the sleuth like anyone at the gala including the lawyer is also a suspect. Milan begins interviewing his classmates with many attendees having strong motives to kill Kohn, still universally considered a "snotnose" four decades since they graduated.

Though lacking the twists and spins that the Jacovich's mysteries contain, KING OF THE HOLLY HOP is an enjoyable whodunit with a deep realistic look at Cleveland now and a nostalgic surreal look at the city in the 1960s though the distorted lens of memories. There are obviously a lot of suspects as Magruder points out when he hires Jacovich that anyone at the gala could be the killer. Although the investigation is not the strongest, fans of the series will enjoy this entry as the audience meets people from the sleuth's teen years and through their recollections see another side of the hero.

Irrational Numbers
Robert Spiller
9781933836881 $7.95

Five years ago at his high school graduation, the most popular male Leo Quinn the Salutorian announced he was gay. The residents of East Plains, Colorado turn against the teen, feeling he was not the person they thought he was nor should be, One night on Squirrel Creek Road, his former classmates and friends, all homophobes, decide to play prank on him.. The next day his naked corpse is found with three bullets in the heart.

Math teacher Bonnie Pinkwater had Leo as a student and liked the teenager. The police question her as they found her phone number in his neatly folded pants lying next to his murdered body. Later at the rodeo Bonnie finds the dead body of a clown with bullet holes in the chest region just like Leo. Soon other young men are killed with ballistics proving the same gun being used. At Leo's funeral, youth pastor Jason is shot; the critically wounded man was once Leo's lover. Bonnie and her boss Principal Lloyd Whittaker investigate before the serial killer adds more young men to the deadly spree.

IRRATIONAL NUMBERS is a fascinating mystery due to the intense need for the protagonists to end the homicidal assault on the young. The sexual preference choices especially homosexuality is handled deftly so that the audience obtains a wide spectrum of reactions such as Leo's father kicking him out of the house, but later demands justice for his son. Although educators turning into sleuths on a serial killing case seem as if 1 and 1 makes 3. Fans will appreciate this riveting whodunit that takes a deep look at the impact of coming out of the closet.

Blaze Of Lightning, Roar Of Thunder
Helen A. Rosburg
9781932815641 $7.95

Louisa Rodriguez survived the scalp-hunters massacre of her family and the other Santa Rita villagers though a bullet grazed her head. She buried everyone and struggled to also bury from her conscious mind the horror she witnessed. Louisa insanely wandered naked for a couple of months until horse wrangler Ring Crossman found her. Whether she remembered her name he did not know because she refused to tell him. He calls her Blaze for the lightning looking light colored streak caused by the bullet in her black hair. Unable to forget, she vows vengeance on the scalp-hunter leader.

Known by his Apache people as the Bringer of Thunder, warrior Bane seeks his sire who raped his mother. He plans to kill the evil one so he cannot hurt anyone else. When he and Blaze meet, they are attracted to one another but also share a thirst for vengeance against the same person. Their hate appears stronger then their love.

This gripping and enthralling western romance hooks you from the moment the scalp bounty hunters attack the village and never slows down as readers will feel empathy towards Louisa even if she believes that woman is dead replaced by an avenge seeking Blaze. The story line is fast-paced with a great ending, but character driven mostly by Blaze and to a lesser degree by Bane, Ring and the horse wrangler's woman Carrie. This may be over three hundred pages, but fans will read in one sitting the avengers, BLAZE OF LIGHTNING, ROAR OF THUNDER.

Angelslayer: The Winnowing War
K. Michael Wright
9781933836539 $25.95

Although it was forbidden; when the angels looked upon the humans with curiosity and lust, they mated with them. This damned those who did the forbidden by the Creator Elyon; he made their progeny giants (Nephilim) did. Desperate for forgiveness, they send Enoch to plead with the Creator for a second chance; he returns to tell them their children will be cursed with a thirst for human blood and flesh and that this generation of Nephilim will be the last one. The Nephilim generate over the generations, but the goodness is the part that vanishes. Now they only survive by eating purebred humans' flesh and blood.

The Nephilim fleet ventures forth From Etlantis, the city created by the Son of the Morning to take control of what is left of a devastated world; depleted over the centuries by their evil. However the pirate chief Darke and his men make it their mission to raid the invading fleet, but now they are visiting Satariel, the Fallen angel, who offers an exchange of prisoners. The angel will free the pirate's son, long thought dead, in trade for a Datahoon Loch, who like all his people, is the descendant of Uriel the archangel. Darke completes his part of the mission, but not before Lach plants his seed in Adrea. Their child will be humanity's last hope after Darke delivers Loch to the angel.

This wondrous fantasy is based on two biblical verses in which the Fallen Angels and their offspring walk the earth, but with the spin that they no longer accept living in harmony with humans as the first generation of Nephilim did. The only reason mankind lives is because they are a food supply, which makes for an intriguing look at the "origin" of the vampire mythos. The protagonists work hard to stay alive and free in a world in which the Creator seems to have deserted all his children, but has given them a distant light of hope. L. Michael Wright has the right stuff as he provides a mesmerizing thriller.

Running Scared
Cheryl Norman
9781933836416 $7.95

After living for two years with a violent spouse who put her in the hospital, Ashley Adams is a free woman. Determined to become all she can be including recovering what she was before her marriage in hell, Ashley goes to therapy, learns self defense, and carries a gun; her vow is never again. Peter calls her all time alternating with pleading and cajoling for her to come home and cursing her out. She ignores both sides of the SOB.

Instead Ashley is preparing to run a marathon with her good friend and coach in DC, which will add to her self esteem. Early one morning, she and the coach are running when a car suddenly bears down on them; a gun shot is fired from the vehicle killing Paul Stratford, who was picking up a newspaper in front of his door. Homicide Detective Rick Edwards is uncertain who the intended victim was, but believe this was not random. Ashley has no doubt that her ex spouse Peter hired someone to kill her. The next day, Ashley runs again, but her coach suddenly collapses after drinking some water and is rushed to the hospital where he is diagnosed with turpentine poisoning that she knows Peter put in their water. Her house is broken into twice and someone shoots at her. Peter swears he is innocent; that someone else who drives a gold HHR is making him look like the suspect. Rick vows to protect the woman he loves though she doubts he will ever commit to a permanent relationship.

This is an exciting explosive suspense thriller that works on several levels. Ashley and Rick are a couple the audience hopes will make it as she helps him through his personal problems while also working on her own self worth. Readers will wonder if Peter hired a killer as the obvious scenario is that the abuser refuses to accept Ashley wants nothing to do with him. Cheryl Norman keeps fans off balance as other possibilities crop up. Mindful of Linda Howard's novels, RUNNING SCARED is a terrific thriller.

Death by Latte
Linda Gerber
Sleuth/Speak (Penguin)
9780142411186 $6.99

Four years have past since her dad Frank Connolly took his daughter Aphra to Open and Run an exclusive Pacific island resort; her mom Natalie remained in the States allegedly seeking to find herself as an artisan. Aphra has not seen her mom in four years and after the recent harrowing experiences with the "Smith" family nee Mulo (see DEATH BY BIKINI) decides to confront her in Seattle. She tells her dad, still recovering from poisoning, that she is going to see a friend in South Carolina.

Her mom is stunned when Aphra shows up at Pike's Pottery. She tells her daughter she is leaving for the island immediately. Aphra realizes her mom still works for the CIA and her partners Joe and Stuart are undercover with her trying to know who has betrayed the agency by going after family members. Matters turn frightening when teenage Seth Mulo arrives asking Aphra for a ring he gave her that some thugs now are demanding or they will slice off his father's body parts one at a time; a finger has already arrived special delivery. About the same time Joe dies from a poisoned latte; it is too late for Aphra to leave town as she has been spotted.

The second Death by young adult mystery suspense thriller is an exciting sequel with the action switching from the Pacific island to the American Northwest Pacific coast. The story line is fast-paced from the moment a stunned Natalie sees her daughter innocently step into the danger that mom sent her and her beloved spouse away from. Although this is a stand alone, reading DEATH BY BIKINI helps set the table for DEATH BY LATTE as the audience better understands motives especially Seth. Linda Gerber provides an entertaining Seattle joy ride that middle school teens will appreciate.

The Fifth Floor
Michael Harvey
9780307266873 $23.95

In Chicago, private investigator Michael Kelly is working a simple domestic violence case although he knows this one is personal. His former girlfriend Janet hires him to follow her abusive husband Johnny Woods, who works for the city's mayor as a fixer of potentially embarrassing problems. Michael wants to get Janet and her daughter Taylor to a safe house as he fears what Woods is capable of doing, but the woman warns him not to make it personal. However, his surveillance quickly proves the case is much more complex when he finds a body inside an old house. As he digs into the murder he stumbled upon, Kelly begins to see connections back to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 including a cover-up back then, but still in effect, involving two prominent wealthy families with the final solution of eradicating the undesirable Irish. Afterward he is forced to visit the infamous City Hall's Fifth Floor for a lecture by the mayor to back off or else. However, Kelly begins to feel like Mrs. O'Leary's cow when the modern day killer sets him up to take the fall for the corpse he found.

Still a frustrated Cubs fan and attracted to a judge he wants to call but never seems to, Michael is a terrific hardboiled private investigator who makes it to THE FIFTH FLOOR where he assumes is the wood shed for those embarrassing the powers. His second urban noir thriller (see THE CHICAGO WAY) is a superb whodunit that ties current Windy City activity to the 1871 inferno. The star investigates both even as he struggles to stay out of jail as a clever killer perfectly frames him reminding him about that cow held culpable by the myth (mindful of "Professor" Robert Wuhl's underlying assumption in "Assume the Position".

Leather Maiden
Joe R. Lansdale
0375414525 $23.95

Reporter Cason Statler has been nominated for a Pulitzer; so when he comes home to Camp Rapture, Texas to work for the local newspaper the Camp Rapture Report even he knows how far back he has fallen. The scandal he caused in Houston over boning his boss' late forties wife and thirty something daughter ended the Gulf War journalist's career. Mrs. Margot Timpson editor of the Report gives him a chance to redeem himself though she is unhappy that his best friend seems to be Jim Beam.

He decides to investigate the disappearance of twenty-three years old history major Caroline Allison who vanished six months ago while on a late night food run; her car was found near the creepy Siegel place. As he makes inquiries Cason sees a connection with some more recent odd unsolved felonies that even bring his successful older brother the history professor who knew Caroline as a possible suspect in the student's disappearance.

Few if any writers bring alive the essence of East Texas as well as Joe R, Lansdale consistently does through his usual endearing eccentric cast. His latest investigative tale stars a reporter who has fallen into disgrace rather quickly and remains in the doo-doo pond even as he struggles to right himself. With a strong support cast especially at the Report, plenty of weirdo humor and pulling no punches from the moment Cason explains his disgrace to Mrs. Timpson until the climax with Belinda the reporter at his side, fans will enjoy Mr. Lansdale's latest East Texas mystery.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson
9780307269751 $24.95

In Sweden financier industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerstrom successfully sues Millennium magazine financial journalist Carl Mikael Blomkvist for libel and defamation of character. Mikael cannot believe he lost as he thought his proof was solid that Wennerstrom had used state funds intended for investments in Poland in an arms deal. The reporter refuses to appeal; he will serve his ninety days in gaol and pay the damages and court fees. He has no idea how the Minos Affair scandal as the media dubbed it turned so wrong.

Milton Security's top researcher tattooed Lisbeth Salander looks into the trust factor of Blomkvist for a client. She speculates that he was set up by someone in the Wennerstrom fiasco, but is honest to a fault. In Hedestad eighty something industrialist Henrik Vanger hires Blomkvist to learn what happened to his beloved great-niece Harriet who vanished decades ago. Henrik explains that when Harriet was twelve she baby-sat three year old Mikael, who did not remember that. The elderly man wants Mikael to uncover the truth of who killed the then sixteen year old Harriet in 1966; as she instead of her brother would have run Vanger Enterprises as she was the talented intelligent one of her generation. He agrees but the family does not truly cooperate so he gets nowhere until Lisbeth joins his investigation, which increasingly finds powerful men hating women of substance.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is a superb Swedish thriller that grips the audience on two fronts. First is the libel case in which author Stieg Larsson vividly describes the government-industrial complex ripping off taxpayers to set up fake business ventures; the second is the investigation into the Vanger family. Readers will be fascinated with the business scandal, but enjoy the whodunit even more as that is fast-paced and exciting. The first Millennium Trilogy tale is a strong investigative thriller, a great homage to the talented author who past away a few years ago.

The Gone-Away World
Nick Harkaway
9780307268860 $24.95

For a rare time the government's claims re the Go Away Bomb is not obfuscated with the usual disinformation and misinformation. The assertion that the weapon was not of mass destruction just capable of erasing nasty reality elements made people euphoric with the no damage to property concept. However, the reality modification proved in reality a bit more convoluted as Einstein was right about relativity. Soon after the release of the Go Away Bomb, people's nightmarish thoughts started to turn into real monsters of the under the bed variety.

The Jorgamund Pipe is built like a belt around the world that releases FOX, an elixir to counteract the Go Away Bomb effect at least for the few kilometers nearby. When a fire threatens the pipe and consequently the shrunk world, Gonzo Lubitsch, his best friend, and their HazMat emergency team go to put out the blaze and repair the damage. They know they enter a world of horrific chaos, but as Gonzo's pragmatic best friend says that is the norm for his pal going back to childhood under the tutelage of a Kung Fu guru, his military time building a bomb of not mass destruction and seeing its collateral damage shrinking the globe to a small Livable Zone.

With nods to Vonnegut and Pratchett, THE GONE AWAY WORLD is an engaging satirical science fiction cautionary tale that takes a strong anti-war stand based on the justifications proving reality is relative. Those who believe will insure the facts fit their thesis; those who do not likewise (Cheney and Anti Cheney Effects). The story line is non linear as the unnamed best friend narrates by providing readers with Gonzo's biography. This is for the most part entertaining and relevant even with a final monster twist but also at times at least to the reality envisioned by this reviewer feels as if a sidebar hijacked the plot temporarily. Still cerebral sci fi fans with plenty of time will want to read Nick Harkaway's thrilling thriller.

The Ruby in the Smoke
Philip Pullman
9780375845161 $7.99

In 1872 London, sixteen years old Sally Lockhart lives with her scornful Aunt Caroline Rees following the death of her father at sea. However when she receives a note that appears to have been sent by her dad, she visits her late father's former business partner Selby to learn who Mr. Marchands is and what is the Seven Blessings included in the enigmatic message. Office assistant Jim Taylor escorts her to secretary Mr. Higgs. Her mentioning of the Seven Blessings leads to Higgs suddenly dying from a heart attack.

When she receives a note from Mr. Marchands warning her to beware of the old witch, she goes to visit him. He tells her he cannot help her, but provides her with a journal from when her mother was murdered sixteen years ago in India. She avoids the witch who happens to be visiting Marchands and meets young artist Frederick Garland. She returns by train to London, but falling asleep the journal is stolen except for the last few pages that fell out. Her adventures are just beginning but she has allies in Jim, Frederick and his actress sister Rosa even as the witch Mrs. Holland arranges to have her murdered as she did Mr. Marchands.

This is a reprint of an entertaining Victorian young adult thriller starring a wonderful teenage heroine in peril and a strong support cast either willing to help her or hurt her. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Sally just wants to know what her father's cryptic note means and never slows down as each innocent step she takes leads to trouble. In some ways in just a few scenes the vile villainess Mrs. Holland steals the show as her plotting is diabolically brilliant; just ask the journal thief. With a strong stance towards equality and bringing Madison Avenue marketing to Victorian London, fans will enjoy THE RUBY IN THE SMOKE, the first of the Sally Lockhart mysteries.

The Viper Within
Sam Mills
9780375844652 $16.99

Charismatic high school student Jeremiah forms the religious sect Brotherhood of the Hebetheus. He quickly gains a following amongst his peers including Jon who has lost his childhood faith. Jeremiah insists he overheard student Padma plans to place a bomb in her locker so she must be stopped. Seeing glory in preventing a catastrophe as their leader convinced his flock she is a suicide bomber sent by a local Muslim cell, his disciples abduct Padma.

The brethren call Padma "Snake" for obvious reasons. They incarcerate her in the home of an elderly woman lying dead in her bed. Jon has doubts with what they did especially as he is attracted to their prisoner. Confusing matters worse for the jailers is her insistence she is Hindu not Muslim, which brings the issue of Jeremiah's fallibility to the surface.

THE VIPER WITHIN is a fascinating tale that focuses on how a seemingly nut case can charismatically charm others to follow their path; think of Waco or Manson. Jeremiah makes the tale interesting as he gains followers who do his bidding even when they believe it is wrong like the abduction of Padma. Her pleas of innocence and being Hindi is believed by some of the flock, but most still believe even more in Jeremiah. Although Jon's actions and reactions seem apparent from the onset, especially his falling for the prisoner in a reverse Stockholm Syndrome scenario, young adult readers will enjoy this cautionary thriller that proclaims (perhaps too much) it could happen to almost anyone. Ironically most of the audience will insist this could not happen to me as the Brotherhood is obviously made up of dolts and losers.

Bad Idea
Todd & Jedd Hafer
Think (NavPress)
1576839699 $12.99

In Kansas, eighteen years old Griffin Smith has just graduated from high school. He looks forward to going away from home where his parents divorced and new relationships in two states have left him confused. His mom married Max the "Mediocre" author while his father is engaged to Rhonda the Cliche a woman closer in age to Griffin than his dad. Griffin plans to fly to Lewis College in Southern California to meet his pen pal Carrot (who he prays is the female of his dreams) and his running teammates.

Dad has other ideas. He decides father and son need to re-bond like they did before the extended family soap opera so he insists on a road trip. However, before Griffin can object, his father includes Rhonda so she too can bond with his son. Also on the drive are Griffin's five years old brother Colby (a partial bond project for dad and fiancee as he is to be dumped in Topeka at his aunt's house) and Griffin's best friend Cole; one stop is to see mom for more bonding.

Griffin knew as soon as the Cliche suggested the road trip that it was a BAD IDEA. However, he soon learns five key life lessons that will stay with him forever so he reassesses the road trip as still being a bad idea worth doing (except for the dead coyote biting him). Readers will enjoy his teen lit commentaries on extended families divided all over the country, going to college, and prayer as he learns through some hallowing experiences what grace under fire truly means. This is a well written at time amusing yet always serious young adult inspirational tale, starring a sensitive high school grad trying to experience the world.

From Bad to Worse
Todd and Jedd Hafer
Think (Navpress)
1576839702 $12.99

Teenager Griffin Smith knows he is not in Kansan, the center of the great debate between God vs. coincidence AKA Darwinism. Griff is like most Wheat State residents and probably the brunt of the country thinking not all about whether God or Darwin created the universe. There are more important things in life than worrying whether one has an afterlife or not especially since he is about to begin his second road trip; having barely survived his first with his extended family including the irate coyote he ran over; he still suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

This time the itinerary is to go from his California college to Oregon to pick up his childhood friend and secret love Amanda Mac to take her home with him. However he kicks himself for agreeing to his father's abstinence vow caused by Griff hearing chase when his father said chaste. Amanda Mac is the woman for him though she is unaware of how much he loves her. He also has a secret that he believes will end any chance he has with Amanda Mac, but owes her the truth even as the miles pass without him able to tell her. He knows the family waits for his heroic arrival while he thanks God though he is not sure for what beyond being the modern day teenage Job.

The second Griff tale is a deep biting character driven story in which the hero and everyone he knows has issues that believing in God and even worshipping does not mean instant eraser with a prayer. This concept contrasts with recent claims of evangelists who "sinned" but prayed for cleansing and insisted God answered them. Thus the Hafer brothers provide a realistic, often amusing, but always underlying serious spin to being a teen Christian in the modern world. Young adults will appreciate FROM BAD TO WORSE and the equally poignant BAD IDEA.

A Quarter After Tuesday
Jo Kadlecek
1600060501 $12.99

Jonna Lightfoot MacLaughlin left her hometown of Denver (see A MILE FROM SUNDAY for her adventure as the Denver Dispatch journalist) for the Big Easy to work at the New Orleans Banner as the religion reporter. When Jonna stops for her usual coffee and two baguettes, she also receives a Big Chief message from one of God's messengers stating Big Mama is mad and in town.

Real estate reporter Rufus Ezekiel "RED" Denton suggests Jonna do a story on the Harmony Interfaith Senior Manor; a place where his ninety-four years old Auntie Belle is a resident and his cousin Marva Rae Bills runs the facility. He explains the religious angle is that different faiths got together to establish the senior citizens home to care for their elders; seniors with powerful faith convictions. However, when she arrives, Marva Rae informs her that a septuagenarian resident Ricky Jefferson mysteriously died; the cause unknown. Jonna begins to investigate and soon worries that an unknown person plans for the residents to meet their maker a bit earlier than expected. At about the same time that she seeks a decent gumbo and answers to who wants to harm the seniors, her personal life goes from zero to meeting interested men even if they offer her fried dough instead of chocolate.

The second The Lightfoot Trilogy tale (see A MILE FROM SUNDAY) is an interesting inspirational investigative thriller as Jonna escorts readers on fascinating tours of New Orleans's various faiths and sites. In fact, the mystery actually does not take full focus until the latter half of A QUARTER AFTER TUESDAY. The lack of the impact of Katrina on religion seems like a lost opportunity in spite of God's watery message to the heroine. Still fans will appreciate the intrepid reporter's trek around the Big Easy seeking good news to report while she meets some fascinating men, struggles with the latest heavenly message, and what is going on at HIS Manor.

The Book of Names
D. Barkley Briggs
9781600062278 $12.99

In Independence, Missouri, grieving the loss of their mom, Haydn and Ewan struggle to move on past her death. Ewan dreams of an arch, which seems to be calling for him to come. When he finds the arch, he walks through it and realizes he came through a portal to his dream realm of Karac Tor. More philosophically pensive about their "Velveeta Cheese" lifestyle having already ended, Haydn worries about Ewan, so he follows him through the arch.

As they explore this strange realm with no Nyquil, soccer or Kansas City nearby, they begin to meet locals such as Flogg the gnome, Sorge the warrior monk, and Asandra the Mirling. The siblings also learn that Karac Tor is under siege from the malevolent Sorceress Nemesia. The brothers know now why Ewan dreamed of the arch; they are the desperate last hope of the forces of good to defeat the evil one and her treacherous minion.

THE BOOK OF NAMES is a terrific first book coming of age fantasy starring two likeable young men having no time for grief as they are thrust into a situation and a world totally unprepared Hayden realizes he is just a sophomore not a superhero. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the two quite different in outlook siblings cross through to Karac Tor and never slows down although the ending is overwhelmed with too many unresolved threads (setting up future books apparently). Still save the world teenage fantasy fans will appreciate the brothers Barlowe no longer traveling on I-70.

Heat Lightning
John Sandford
9780399155277 $26.95

The Shooter killed Charles Utrecht, who put up no resistance because he felt strongly that though he did one bad thing in life three decades ago and paid for it since, he deserved to die. His body was found with a lemon in his mouth. Bobby Sanderson walks his dog on the same path every night; the Shooter forces him to give up the names of his associates from an incident many years ago before they kill him. Like Utrecht he is found with a lemon in his mouth and posed by the Veteran's Memorial.

Lucas Davenport, back with the BCA, assigns the case to Virgil Flowers. Sanderson's girlfriend tells Virgil that Bobby was in a heated argument twp people after he went to a Viet Nam meeting. Slowly, Virgil begins to put together who is involved in this Minnesota killing spree and why as more men are murdered execution style. He must find which men on this veteran's lost are the killers before they can kill them.

With homage to the classic Christie tale and to a degree the movie the List of Adrian Messenger, John Sandford has created a terrific lead character in thirty something Virgil, a free spirited, dedicated and loyal person (see DARK OF THE MOON). His boss Lucas mentors Virgil, whom he sees as himself when he was a hot shot with all the answers early in his police career (see the "Prey" series). The story line is loaded with red herrings, nice twists, and the list in which six need killing but which six remains just out of reach. HEAT LIGHTNING is an engaging and enthralling Minnesota police procedural.

Dick Francis and Felix Francis
0399155333 $25.95

Julian Trent blames his former London barrister Geoffrey Mason for his initial assault conviction that was overturned on appeal. Mason thought his client got off soft on an overwhelming lost case. However, Trent believes his lawyer did not provide a proper defense and begins sending intimidating messages to Mason.

Although he has doubts bigger than Big Ben, Mason agrees to defend jockey Steve Mitchell against a murder charge. Evidence is strong that a crime of passion occurred as witnesses saw Mason's client and another jockey Scot Barlow arguing over the latter's late sister who was the former's girlfriend Millie when he was married with kids. Barlow blamed Mitchell for his sister's suicide while Mitchell blamed Barlow for informing his wife of the affair as his spouse divorced him, remarried an Aussie, and moved with their kids to Australia. Not long after that Barlow was found murdered with the means being a pitchfork. However, to his shock, unknown adversaries order Mason to lose the case or else they imply his septuagenarian father would be battered like his computer just was.

SILKS is a terrific legal thriller starring a barrister with a difficult case exponentially compounded by threats to lose and by Mason's problems to focus as he also believes Trent is involved. The story line is a fast ride around the track although racing is more background than usual in a Dick Francis thriller. Although the courtroom revelation seems out of Perry Mason rather than Geoffrey Mason, fans enjoy the latest collaboration from the father and son Francis horse racing mystery team (see DEAD HEAT).

Fresh Kills
Bill Loehfelm
0399155317 $24.95

When Staten Island bartender John Sanders, Jr. learned that his father senior was executed mob style by an unknown culprit, he reacts with mixed feelings; on the one hand he is indifferent to the death of his cruel father while on the other he figures he got what he deserved. Senior physically and mentally abused him as a child.

However his sister Julia reacts differently to the death of their odious dad. She comes from Boston to arrange the funeral, but also wants to connect on a sibling level for the first time outside of avoiding their father with her brother. Perhaps it is Julia's presence, but Junior feels a need to know the truth about his father's death so he makes some tentative inquiries angrily hoping senior suffered.

The relationships between the dysfunctional Sanders family even after the abusive patriarch is dead is the prime story line superseding the whodunit. The fully developed cast is powerful even the deceased and the location Staten Island's Fresh Kills symbolizes human decay and misery as the world's largest garbage dump (higher than the Statue of Liberty). Bill Loehfelm provides a vivid look at the aftermath of parental abuse that clings like fungus to the victims; even years later as adults who cannot relate very well.

The Last Pope
Luis Miguel Rocha
0399154892 $24.95

In 1978 with the death of the Pope, the College of Cardinals meets in the Vatican to elect his successor. The Cardinals are divided into two extreme camps between traditionalist Cardinal Agosto Mancini and change agent Cardinal Ignatius Heriot. Thus an unacceptable comprise Cardinal Don Albino Luciani is chosen to sit as John Paul I on the papal throne. He makes clear his intention is to clean up and out the House of God everywhere; a little over a month later, he dies with rumors he was murdered for his ethical cleansing campaign especially to end church-mob ties. A second College of Cardinals session elects Karol Jozef Wojtyla of Poland as Pope John Paul II.

Three decades later London journalist Sarah Monteiro receives a letter that insists Pope John Paul I was murdered and the attempts to kill his successor were from the same conspiratorial group who also killed Sweden's Prime Minister Olof Palme. However, Sarah assumes this is a hoax worth checking into, but soon believes the accusations are true when several attempts to assassinate her occur. Due to the grace of God she lives, but fears her days are numbered in single digits.

Conspiracy fans will relish the constant power struggle within the highest levels of the Catholic Church. Luis Miguel Rocha builds his exciting story line upon the underlying premise that Pope John Paul I was murdered. The look back to behind the scenes shenanigans by the competing Cardinals in 1978 is fascinating whether one accepts Mr. Rocha's assertion or not. The present scenario with Sarah on the run is more action-packed, but not quite as interesting as three decades ago is. Still thriller fans will enjoy THE LAST POPE wondering how acrimonious poisoning politics even enter the selection of who will wear The Shoes of the Fisherman (by Morris West).

Hot Mahogany
Stuart Woods
9780399155154 $25.95

In Manhattan former police officer and now highly regarded lawyer Stone Barrington is in Elaine's restaurant with Dina Bochetti; they both are shocked to see Lance Cabot, CIA Deputy Director for Operations looking disheveled and foreworn. A few minutes later the real Lance arrives at the nightclub to the amazement of Stone and Dina; he explains his doppelganger is his older brother former army intelligence specialist Barton, who still suffers from an amnesia causing blow to the head.

Barton is also an artisan who makes antique reproductions, but when he gets to his workshop, he seems one of mahogany desks has been stolen; the original is a Goldbard-Townsend worth millions, but he is unsure whether the original or his replication was taken. He hires Stone to help him find it; Barton's theory is one of the men who served under him in Nam stole the desk because he was dissatisfied with his share of the contraband smuggled out of Viet Nam by the unit. While avoiding jealous and cuckold lovers and still making love to a variety of women, Stone accompanied by Dina investigate Barton's allegations, but only the amnesic can take them to the perpetrator.

As always a Stuart Woods novel is a special treat and HOT MAHOGANY is no exception. There are many amusing scenes especially since Stone consistently thinks with his wrong head and ends up taking it up the shorts. From the opening page, the action begins and never stops keeping the audicne on the edge of their seats whether Stone dodges a lover or someone trying to end his investigation. Though Stone in this thriller is much more a sleuth than a lawyer fans will enjoy Stone's look at the dangerous world of antique sales.

Darkness Falls
Kyle Mills
Vanguard Press
1593154593 $24.95

Environmentalist Erin Neal seems to have done the impossible; his latest book left him with irate enemies from both extremes of the environmental vs. economy issue. However, how angry becomes apparent when someone kills his former lover eco-terrorist Jenna Kalin; Erin assumes his book was partially the cause so he becomes a hermit wanting nothing to do with the world at lodge.

Mark Beamon heads the Homeland Security Department energy security section. He and his team know first hand of a calamitous conspiracy to use bacteria to destroy the major oilfields; the bio-terrorists have already caused substantial damage in Saudi Arabia. He needs bioengineering help; so turns to the American expert reclusive Erin who had conceptually thought of creating something similar. The world economy is at stake with Mark and a reluctant Erin trying to prevent pandemic biblical destruction.

This action-packed relevant thriller works because Kyle Mills insures the bioweapon employed by the terrorists seems feasible to develop. The story line is fast-paced in spite of an over abundance of subplots (some feeling like cul de sacs) early on used to fully develop Erin and Mark so readers understand where their loyalties lie before they hook up and to insure the bioweapon and its results in Saudi Arabia appear reasonably possible. The tale soon converges into a stop the terrorists' thriller. The key to the return of the former FBI operative (see SPHERE OF INFLUENCE) is the realism that this could happen.

Domestic Affairs
Eileen Goudge
9781593154752 $25.95

In 1982 Greenhaven, Georgia, Abigail and Lila were best friends although the former's mother worked as a housekeeper to the latter's affluent family. Abigail also was attracted to Lila's twin brother Vaughn. However, Lila's mom accuses Abigail's mother of stealing, fired her, and tossed mother and daughter into the street.

In present day New York, Abigail runs a successful catering business and is a TV show guest due to a popular cook book she wrote; while she and her husband Kent raise their child Phoebe. However, lately Abigail has been unhappy as Kent ignores her and Phoebe seems frighteningly withdrawn. In that environs Lila arrives impoverished from a factory fire and despondent from her husband's suicide. She begs for a job for the sake of her son. Abigail hires her frantic former friend as the family housekeeper. However, what has split them for over two decades remains especially with the insult of the job as a reminder of reverse fortunes; but soon current painful issues such as Vaughn reappearing will surface to complicate any chance of reconciliation between the once two best friends.

DOMESTIC AFFAIR is an engaging contemporary tale that focuses on friendship and betrayal. The story line is character driven obviously first by the two lead females, but also enhanced by their extended family members. Although at times the plot veers into soap opera turf, readers will enjoy this fine modern day drama wondering what will happen to each key cast member as the underlying rapport and discord of relationships change.

The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan
Nancy Springer
Philomel (Penguin)
9780399247804 $14.99

In 1889, Mycroft Holmes tells his younger brother Sherlock that he worries about their fourteen year old sister Enola who ran away from home when her mother deserted her. For eight months Enola has eluded her older siblings while also solving three cases.

Enola is earning a living as the "assistant" to Scientific Perditorian Dr. Ragosotv, a figure head she made up as a front. Stopping at the London Ladies' Lavatory she runs into Cecily Alistair, who she recently rescued (see THE CASE OF THE LEFT-HANDED LADY) chaperoned by two dominating aristocratic ladies. A desperate Cecily passes a pink fan to Enola after mouthing silently help. Cecily begins her rescue effort with a search for the "Pink Tea" party among the fashionable magazines; unaware that Sherlock has been hired by Cecily's mother to save her daughter from an unwanted marriage arranged by her husband.

Although targeting older elementary school students, the Baker Street Irregulars will appreciate this well written entertaining Victorian investigative tale starring Sherlock Holmes smarter younger sister. Enola makes the tale as she eludes her well meaning older siblings while earning a living as a Scientific Perditorian. Whereas Mycroft plays a tertiary character trying to do what he feels is right for his teenage sister whose suffragette mom abandoned her and London, Sherlock plays a key secondary role in the case. Nancy Springer provides a fresh entry to the vast ever expanding Holmesian universe.

Falling Under
Danielle Younger-Ullman
9780452289659 $14.00

When she was a young girl, Mara Foster's parents acrimoniously divorced; besides learning Santa was a fraud that Christmas Mara knew dad was never coming back. She took it personally blaming herself and it still affects her relationships as an adult. Mara always sees the dark side to humans as she suffers from the anxiety disorder agoraphobia.

Men do not want to deal with Mara's issues. That is until she meets Hugo, who wants to be with her in spite of her phobias. He encourages her to move on, but to do so Mara must look deep inside herself; a thought that frightens the young woman, but enough to run from or towards Hugo remains to be seen as she loathes touching and he wants intimacy.

FALLING UNDER is a one woman show as the story line deals with Mara's phobias that make it impossible for her to have an intimate loving relationship; though in some ways she does have that with her only friend who is as angst laden with demons as she is. The storyline focuses on whether besieged Mara can move past her terrors encouraged by the kind Hugo. Readers who relish a realistic study of a tormented lonely person will appreciate FALLING UNDER as the quince will wonder whether Mara finds her groove or remains tortured in self afflicted hell. PS the ending is realistic but not easy to swallow.

Cam Jansen and the Green School Mystery
David A. Adler; Joy Allen (illustrator)
9780670062652 $13.99

With pride, principal Dr. Prell declares the elementary school has become a "Green School" with its can collection recycling drive to pay for skylights in order to cut back on electricity. Students have brought in cans that are given to recycling; each can brings in a nickel. The school has 927 rolls of nickels.

At the Green Day assembly to show the rolls of nickels to the students before it goes to the bank, the wagon holding the loot instead contains bricks. While the police investigate, photographic memory whiz, Cam Jansen begins "clicking" what she saw earlier in the day in hopes of solving who stole the coins and how. On a roll, Cam gets closer to solving the Green School theft.

Targeting second and third graders, the latest Cam Jansen elementary school mystery is a fun tale starring the amateur sleuth at her photographic clicking best as she solves the case. The story line focuses on the how the crime was pulled off but equally on what young children can pragmatically do to help green the planet. The illustrations enhance a fine early elementary school relevant mystery that the audience will love clicking away while driving parents happy (for reading) and crazy (for clicking).

Another Man's Moccasins
Craig Johnson
0670018619 $24.95

The caller informs 911 that a female body lies alongside the highway in Absaroka County, Wyoming. Sheriff Walt Longmire goes to investigate. There he finds the corpse of Vietnamese woman Ho Thi Paquet; nearby sitting on the ground holding the victim's purse as if it is sacred is Native American Virgil White Buffalo. However Walt is stunned when he goes through Ho's personal possessions to find a photograph of him when he served as a military inspector in Nam with a Vietnamese barmaid circa 1968.

Walt concludes that the obvious in which Virgil killed Ho is not what happened. He and his friend Native American Henry Standing Bear investigate by trying to follow Ho's recent journey, They are shocked when the paths the young woman took lead back to a West Coast slave trafficking ring and the sheriff's Vietnam duty.

This is the fourth Longmire police procedural (see DEATH WITHOUT COMPANY, COLD DISH and KINDNESS GOES UNPUNISHED), but this reviewer's first; based on this superb tale this reviewer will have to go back to read them. The whodunit is fun to follow, but the look back to Walt's war time makes for a superior read as the present connects to four decades ago. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this engaging, engrossing thriller that ties late 1960s Viet Nam and 2008 Wyoming effortlessly together.

Dirk Wittenborn
0670019429 $25.95

In 1952, Yale University psychopharmacologist Dr. Will Friedrich and psychiatrist Dr. Bunny Winton conduct experiments on volunteer students using a mood enhancer drug that comes from a new Guinea leaf used locally by witch doctors in rituals. Will gives a dose to troubled undergrad Casper Gedsic. The freshman goes on a murdering rampage.

Years after the incident Will still carries deep regret and mountains of guilt. He also does not hide his disappointment in his four "unprofessional" offspring as they fail to meet his standards of acceptable vocations. The youngest Zach has become an addict more than a writer; Fiona becomes a painter, Lucy is an aid worker; and the great hope Willy proves the most inadequate when he leaves acceptable pre-law to study art.

Zach narrates the historical tale of a dysfunctional family whose patriarch has "sock moments" in which he seems so deep in thought he appears comatose. The story line is at its best when the focus is on the experiment and its aftermath especially the impact on the participants. When the plot switches to the Friedrich children, their woes seem mundane compared to the guilt suffered by their father, who has not been able to find a defense mechanism to psychologically adapt to what he wrought. Still fans of family dramas will appreciate this look at the degrees of affect of one tragic incident.

How Far Is the Ocean from Here
Amy Shearn
Shaye Areheart (Crown)
0307405346 $23.00

Susannah Prue agreed to serve as a surrogate mother to wealthy Kit and Julian Forsythe, but in the trimester of her pregnancy, she changes her mind and flees. Now "hugely pregnant" Susannah takes refuge at the dilapidated Thunder Lodge motel owned by the elderly Garlands who generally know why a big pregnant big city girl chooses to fall of the map and be buried on the Texas-New Mexico desert.

Susannah finds the other guests and the owner Marlan, who calls her Susie Q, and his family as desperate to hide from the world or at least someone like she is. She makes friends with the owners' mentally impaired teenage son Tim and Alabamian Dicey and her niece Frank. Now Susannah is going to give birth any day, but has no idea what to do about her child, but knows what she does not desire, the disinterested Forsythe couple raising her baby.

The residents of Thunder Lodge are a terrific fully developed eccentric group who forge a family of sorts; on the other hand Kit and Julian are stereotypes of the idle rich with no purpose in life except hedonism. Julian sums it up when he suggests to Kit they should redecorate their home instead of raising a child while Susannah is already carrying. . Still this is a profound character study focusing on the human need for love and belonging with others by answering the deep philosophical title question.

Holding My Breath
Sidura Ludwig
Shaye Areheart (Crown)
0307396223 $23.00

As a child after hearing the daring exploits of her late Uncle Phil who died flying a plane in Africa during WW II (several years before she was born), Canadian Jew Beth Winnipeg wants to become initially an aviator but then an astronaut. Her parents assume she will outgrow that childish whim as women, Canadian and Jews mean three strikes and your out. However, her life in Winnipeg changes abruptly when her maternal grandmother suddenly dies. Her mom Goldie takes in her younger siblings. Thus as Beth starts elementary school, she suddenly has two older "sisters" with dreams of their own.

Teenage Sarah wants to go either to Hollywood or Broadway as she dreams of becoming an actress or a singer. Reticent Carrie who vows no husband ever pushes her younger niece to go for her desires. Meanwhile Beth's parents want her to marry a Jew and raise a family in Winnipeg as her mother wants to reach the pinnacle of Manitoban social strata and believes her daughter through marriage is the ticket.

This is an interesting Canadian mid twentieth century historical tale that affirms life goes on whether one faces death, illness, anti-Semitism or abuse. The problem with strictly adhering to let's move on is that the trauma ends abruptly without deep lasting consequences. This is a charming somewhat compelling family drama as Sidura Ludwig provides a fascinating look at growing up Jewish in Manitoba in the 1950s and 1960s.

Chris Howard
9780809572816 $7.99

Not just born of the sea, Kassandra comes from Seaborn royalty as her grandfather rules the species. However, in spite of her regal sea blood, Kassandra has spent much of her living amidst the surfacer (land people) for she is unique as the powerful wreathbearer who possesses the spirits of her ancestors guiding her to free the Seaborn from her sadistic dictatorial grandfather whose weapon of choice to hold onto the throne is mass murder.

Four centuries of incarceration by the Seaborn has devastated the mental state of the previously unbalanced evil sorcerer Aleximor. He has finally escaped and taken control of the body of California surfer college student Corina Lairsey with plans to raise a new deadly force to destroy the surfacers and the seaborn. Kassandra with her family at her side must prevent Aleximor from succeeding, but Corina may be collateral damage; while also at the same time open up a second front war: a coup d'etat to liberate her people.

This is an exciting extremely graphic fantasy, which needs a warning label not to eat while reading SEABORN; Chris Howard is explicit with vivid violent descriptions to torture and mutilation. The story line is entertaining but driven by the heroine who has known since birth she has a quest to bear and now has no time left to learn her skills since her mission has turned out to be on two fronts. Readers who appreciate the realism brought to an epic "military" fantasy by broken bodies, blood and gore will want to read SEABORN, a well written opening saga.

The Lost Art
Simon Morden
David Fickling (Random House)
9780385751483 $16.99

A thousand years have passed since the great war destroyed civilization and radically changed the environment with massive climate alterations. The age of the machine users is gone replaced by a Church enforced Dark Age in which pre-industrial pockets have formed. Science is forbidden and technology taboo in the Turn post machine world.

Something attacks the remote Siberian Saint Samuil of Arkady monastery that contains in its scriptorium books written by the Users; every resident except Va the monk dies in the assault; the reference tomes are stolen. Va vows to retrieve the books before they are misused. Princess Eleyna also saw the carnage and joins Va, whom she loves, on his quest.

Two groups of earth descendants who colonized another planet differ on how to help the beleaguered orb. One wants to bring back science and technology way beyond even that of the Users. The other wants to leave earth alone. Benzamir Mahmood comes to earth, to insure there is no interference from his tribe. He meets Va and Eleyna, and realizes the urgency of possessing the books before they are employed with catastrophic results like probably destroying the world.

Although the target audience is young teens, adults will appreciate this bleak post apocalyptic science fiction thriller. The three lead protagonists and several key secondary characters agree on the outcome objective, but radically differ on the means to achieve the end state they desire. That concept is the prime underlying theme to this strong quest thriller as each individual (and readers) asks themselves whether any method is acceptable to accomplish the mission. Although the ending seems wrong for what happened prior; as if talented Simon Morden suddenly had to dumb down an intelligent well written story line to fit his prime readers, highs school students and older fans will enjoy the journey.

The Inferior
Peadar O Guilin
David Fickling (Random House)
9780385751452 $16.99

Survival of the fittest is understood by Stopmouth and his tribe; either kill or be someone else's meal; although his people expect him to be fodder because his stupidity makes them believe Stopmouth is inferior to them. Expediting his demise is his brother who betrays Stopmouth.

In this dangerous environs of the law of eat or be eaten, Indrani falls from the sky landing in the midst of Stopmouth's tribe. They debate what to do with the intruder as some want to trade her to those who relish fresh human meat. Stopmouth is attracted to her and wants to keep the beautiful intelligent woman who fell from the glowing Roof as his even though that violates the one commandment of eat or be eaten. Meanwhile she hides from her protector the truth of what she knows about the origins of her benefactor and his tribe and their prime reason for existence.

Avoiding a spoiler makes the review difficult to write as the key to the story line and the relationship between the lead pair is the knowledge that Indrani possesses although that takes quite a while before the obviously not so stupid Stopmouth figures it out. The action is fast-paced but not enough of it especially for the intended young teen audience as much of the plot is used to describe in too much detail the surface world. Still this homage to Tarzan in the Twilight Zone will engage the reader who will be appalled to learn the truth behind the connection between the Roof top intellects and the INFERIOR surface dwellers.

Hudson Lake
Laura Mazucca Toops
Twilight Times Books
9781933353579 $16.95

In 1926, in spite of being out of the way in a remote rural part of Indiana, the hottest jazz spot in the Midwest is the Blue Lantern Club on Hudson Lake. Especially popular amongst aficionados is the Jean Goldkette Orchestra featuring highly regarded Bix Beiderbecke on the coronet.

Bix has come to isolated Indiana to avoid life as he failed at love, family, and now alcohol. Women love the great coronetist, but they accept that in Bix's mind jazz comes before them; locals and those from Chicago and Indianapolis accept that is part of Bix; his Iowa family never did. Of course I.U. student Harriet understood what a fling with a musician meant until Bix; Joy, a flapper who hangs out with gangsters, also has interest in Bix. However, women and jazz may mix, but the big city mob wants bootlegged alcohol and jazz to mix too; whereas the Ku Klux Klan plans to own the conservative area, which means no big city jazz. Bix has no time for either violent group as his two women have become possessive.

This superb biographical fiction tale brings to life the Jazz Age in the Midwest as the audience gets an in close look at the band, obviously Bix, and their personal issues re doubts about skills and family. The invasions by the KKK and the Chicago mob add depth to the 1920s in Indiana. However, this is Beiderbecke's tale in every sense as his struggles to be loved and accepted are fraught with self tormenting doubt and self destruction when he could not cope with accolades even as he begged people to praise his work. HUDSON LAKE is a strong historical tale in which the reader gains a vivid glimpse of a bygone Americana era through the travails of Bix and the band.

Old Devil Moon
Christopher Fowler
Serpent's Tail
1852429259 $14.95

This dark often amusing and satirical crime suspense anthology is a terrific anthology from one of the best short story authors today (Mr. Fowler's odd couple Bryant and May police procedural novels are also excellent). Each of the twenty-two entries is top rate. Baker St Irregulars will especially appreciate "The Lady Downstairs" starring Mr. Holmes's landlady while fans of 1960s British movies will relish the appearance of the late actor Terry-Thomas in the aptly named ghost story "Old Friends". Weird fun are "Turbo-Satan" in which two East Londoner slackers Daz and Mat text messaging to SATAN and even stranger "Take It All Back, Put It All Back" starring statistically bad luck magnet Lukas Forrest. Also superb is the Miami police officer struggling with "The Spider Kiss" mad disease spreading amidst residents in which an outbreak of insane human behavior in South Florida proves to have strange beastly origins. Well written, Christopher Fowler uses taken for granted aspects of everyday life like text messaging, walking the dog on a big city street, and comic books, etc. but runs them into dark dangerous devices and places.

Stolen Children
Peg Kehret
9780525478355 $16.99

With her nanny of two months Darielle Monroe on vacation, due to an emergency in which her mom was rushed to the hospital with a broken leg, wealthy Elyse Edgerton hires fourteen year old Amy Nordlund to baby-sit her three years old Kendra. Amy took Mrs. Montes babysitting class as she still feels guilt from disappointing her dad when she failed to take responsibility for walking her neighbor's dog as she had promised; his last words to her was he was ashamed of her; he died right after that last lecture in a car accident.

Two men enter the Edgerton residence using a key. They kidnap Kendra and when Amy tries to intercede they take her too. Smokey Sanderson and his Uncle Hugh send DVDs to the families demanding ransom money, but are unaware that Amy is sending secret messages to her best friend Jorja. She knows she might not make it out alive, but heeding her late dad's advice on responsibility her first mission is to keep Kendra safe.

Targeting older elementary school children, STOLEN CHILDREN is an exciting thriller starring a fascinating cast and filled with subtle interwoven ethical lessons. Amy is a clever, brave lead protagonist as she carries guilt and shame while grieving her father's death; she had several opportunities to escape but each would have left her infant charge alone with the kidnappers so she stays as a responsible person to try to keep the baby safe. The support cast is solid although Smokey has smoked one too many illegal substances. Peg Kehret provides an interesting fast-paced tale filled with interwoven into the plot messages to get involved when something seems off, fulfill your commitments including making up for errors as saying your sorry may be only the beginning of fair repayment, and stay calm and think during a crisis.

Gamer Girl
Mari Mancusi
9780525479956 $16.99

Maddy Starr did not appreciate how great her life was until her parents separated. She was the collateral damage of the split as she no longer attends an exclusive school in New Hampshire but goes to public Hannah Dustin High School as she now lives with her old fashioned grandmother; hip is out and ancient is in. Her fist day freaks her out as she alienates the in boy Billy Henderson, who with his popular friends makes life miserable for Maddy starting with calling her Freak Girl and becomes their favorite person to harass. No one not even the losers will help Maddy battle the most popular "Haters" as she calls Billy and his clique.

For her birthday, her father sends Maddy Fields of Fantasy computer game. Her character is Elfin Princess Allora, who becomes a powerful mage mentored by Sir Leo the tank. Maddy begins to write a manga comic book based on Allora's adventures in the FOF realm and starts a manga club at school.

This is a fun teen tale as Maddy goes from popular to freak when she changes schools. She turns to manga art and FOF as a defense mechanism to temporarily escape her mental pain in the real realm. The GAMER GIRL meets on line Sir Leo and in person Chad Murray, but feels fickle as she likes both of them. Young adult readers will appreciate Maddy's woes as she struggles in real life while escaping albeit temporarily in virtual life.

The Dragonfly Pool
Eva Ibbotson
9780525420644 $17.99

By 1939 most English know war against Hitler is imminent. In London, Dr. James Hamilton worries about his extremely popular daughter Tally, born just before her mother died. Thus when a grateful patient arranges for a scholarship at the remote boarding school Delderton, he accepts because he wants her out of the capital though he knows he, his spinster aunts, his patients, and the neighbors will miss his precocious caring daughter.

Tally is unhappy to leave London, but makes friends with other students on the train. She soon finds she loves the school especially the freedom and the lessons by her counselor and biology teacher Matteo. She continues to help other people as that is her makeup. When she attends a movie that has a newsreel, she is excited by the freedom stand by the King of Bergania, who rejects the Nazis' demands. When Tally learns of a folk dance festival there, she organizes the students to participate, chaperoned by Matteo. There she meets the lonely twelve year old Crown Prince Karil. However, when his father is assassinated while attending the festival, Karil is in danger by those who hope to appease Hitler. Tally and her friends risk their lives to try to help Karil flee to England.

This is an entertaining historical fiction filled with a can do optimism in spite of the mass murdering madman. Tally is terrific, a sort of preadolescent Mary Poppins assisting others with their problems; the middle school audience will admire her determination and courage as she is an excellent role model. The rest of the key characters are also fully developed though they either move forward the vivid story line or increase understanding of the remarkable heroine. My advanced copy did not contain the illustrations by Kevin Hawkes, but if his entries match that of his work in LIBRARY LION, fans are in for an even greater treat. Early teen readers will dive head first into THE DRAGONFLY POOL while demanding their school be more like Delderton.

Claudia Mair Burney
David C. Cook
9781434799388 $13.99

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, due to her health issues, twenty-four years old African-American Regina "Gina" Dolores Merritt is very aware of her fitness as she suffers from bipolar, fibromyalgia and migraines. Gina has tried suicide when her mental wellbeing turned so bleak even for her depressing standard, but miraculously (or in her mind despondently as even Hell rejected her) she survived. She turned to Jesus for salvation for her and her child Zoe as she feels she shares his suffering.

On Ash Wednesday at the Vineyard Church Gina attends, she is stunned and near hysterical when Christ wounds, the stigmata, begins to appear on her. As the flock is in shock with this seeming miracle occurring to the crazy person, word begins to spread around Ann Arbor. Many assume Gina the insane did it to herself as the self proclaimed pious prophets insist Jesus would never pick a certifiable suicidal single mom. However soon afterward, addict Anthony Priest offers his help to the beleaguered stunned single mom as does his estranged mom Veronica Morelli; but even Gina wonders what does either expect to gain with their self-proclaimed pious offers.

This unique inspirational tale is an entreating character study, but not your typical faith fiction. Jesus is treated both as a person with human lovers and as the Son of God; while Gina is the last person anyone would expect as the Chosen One. The story line is told mostly from a first person introspective that rotates amongst the key players; especially fascinating is Gina, the self anointed oldest twenty-four years old person in the world. Through her, the audience obtains an insightful exacting look at sharing Christ's suffering rather than the distant metaphysical metaphor that is like the Iraq War for many Americans. Although there is some intrusive padding involving saints, readers who prefer well written but different spins to their Christian literature will enjoy the crazy woman's miracle.

Red Knife
William Kent Kreuger
9781416556749 $24.00

While there is not always harmony in rural Minnesota especially in Tamarack County between the Anglos and the Native Americans who reside on the Ojibwe Reservation, there is respect. Now there is a war coming ever since Alexander Kingbird formed the gang the Red Boyz, who affirm that Anglo law does not apply to them; rumors fly they are part of the illegal drug pipeline. Kristi Reinhardt died from a dose of Meth given to her by the Red Boyz whose name is Thunder. Buck Reinhardt want the leader of the Red Boyz gang dead as Kingbird defies the law hiding Thunder on the Rez.

Alexander asks part Ojibwe former sheriff and current private detective Cork O'Connor to arrange a meeting with Buck so that the Red Boyz leader can assure the grieving angry man that justice will be done. He fears that if he takes matters into his own hands, a heated race war will ignite. However, before that can occur Alexander and his wife Rayette are executed; almost immediately afterward Buck is killed in a drive by shooting. Tensions have boiled over between the two groups with Cork believing only the hidden Thunder is able to ease the rising conflict before an open war explodes.

The Cork O'Connor mysteries are consistently some of the best regional whodunits. Cork has switched from law enforcement to private detective work, but though at times he misses his former job not in this case; he is thankful that he is no longer a sheriff as he has to go outside the law to insure justice occurs and a deadly war prevented. The story line is told from various viewpoints so the reader obtains a deep understanding of the Ojibwe need for the youth to know and cherish their heritage while many of the Anglo sees that as ironically an internal form of immigration. William Kent Kreuger is at his best with this strong thriller as his hero struggles to stop a lethal range war that will only harm everyone.

Forced Out
Stephen Frey
9781416549635 $24.95

In Sarasota, Florida sexagenarian Jack Barrett suffers from arthritis and anger as he was the fall guy for the Yankees' collapse in the playoff against the enemy Red Sox. He brings in chump change bagging at a nearby store and to reduce costs he lives with his adult daughter. Jack was once a highly regarded scout for the Tanks, but was fired though he is not sure why and the dismissal cost him his pension; unlike most of baseball's sub-groups scouts are on their own with no union to coddle them.

It has been four years since he was FORCED OUT and four years since he has gone to a baseball game; now his daughter Cheryl and some insolent date of hers force him to attend the local Tarpens minor league game. He realizes the centerfielder has major league talent, but apparently no one, fans or teammates likes Mikey Clemants. Jack realizes Mikey is his ticket back to Yankee Stadium (the reincarnation that is), but his meal ticket seems to not care about the majors. However, Luchesi hit man Johnny "Deuce" Bondano from the Shea Stadium area has been hired by Angelo Marconi to murder the allegedly dead Kyle Mclean, the person who killed a chieftain's beloved grandson. Soon these three men will collide at home plate.

Although the number of support players could fill the entire Tarpon team roster and their family members, fans will enjoy this fun baseball thriller. Especially entertaining is the tales of Jack and Mikey as sports fans will want to know how the former became a bag packer and the latter gained his uncaring attitude. In spite of the Mafiosi subplot adding unnecessary extra inning suspense to a well played nine inning game, fans will enjoy Stephen Frey's fine sports tale.

My Wicked Enemy
Caroline Jewel
Grand Central
0446178233 $6.99

In Tiburon, California, Alvaro Magellan raised the orphan Carson Phillips. She believed he was altruistic until she learns the truth about her guardian when she witnesses his killing of a man. As if a haze lifted from her brain, she concludes her protector was siphoning her psychic skills for his personal use. Desperate to escape, Carson flees the affluent mansion she has called home taking a talisman with her. Frightened she expects her former hero to send his minion to bring her back for him to overtly steal her power.

On the streets of San Francisco's Chinatown, Carson has little faith of surviving until she meets warrior demon chieftain Nikodemus, who recognizes her as his most detestable enemy's best weapon. He rejects her claims of innocence; as he assumes she volunteered to assist her mentor with her power enhancing his. However, he scans her mind to find out if she is telling the truth. She offers to help him destroy demon-kind's worst nightmare if he keeps her safe. As they work together, he wonders if it is her magic that keeps him in a constant state of desire; she believes a higher form of magic called love has her wanting the demon.

Romantic fantasy fans will want to read MY WICKED ENEMY as the transformation of Carson from ignorant abused to powerful witch in love makes the tale fun to read as she and readers know it is her new codependence on Nikodemus that enables her to change. That switch from total submissive to loving equal makes the exciting tale for the paranormal romance fans, but many purebred fantasists would prefer the demon used her too in his need for vengeance. Still with a strong support cast and a superb Northern California setting inside a strong mystical High Noon story line, sub-genre fans will appreciate this fine jewel of a tale.

Death's Half Acre
Margaret Maron
Grand Central Publishing
044619610X $24.99

In North Carolina, rural Colleton County commissioner Candace "don't call me Candy" Bradshaw commits suicide stunning everyone. Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant investigates to insure that Candace did kill herself even with the note she left behind claiming bad deeds, the woman seemed to have everything going. He soon begins to uncover why as greed, official corruption, and homicide seem to have tentacles throughout the county; kickbacks to award construction of housing and malls is prevalent.

Bryant's wife Judge Deborah Knott is working mostly on small-claims suits that include many small farmers being squeezed off the land in a big government eminent domain grab. She worries these cases are going to cost her future in local politics even more than her reprobate father Kezzie, a infamous bootlegging con man who swears he is retired, but she assumes he is cooling his heels setting up his next sting.

The key to this cozy and the entire Knott series is how realistic the Carolina blue cast feels. Readers will enjoy this fine entry as Dwight struggles with a case that looks like suicide yet has some doubts while his wife worries about the impact of whatever her father's next travesty will be while also getting involved in the Bradshaw death. Readers will enjoy the deep look at development on the rural locals of Colleton County as fraud and bribery are the American way.

Robert Ludlam's the Bourne Sanction
Eric Van Lustbader
Grand Central
0446539864 $25.95

Still reeling from the death of Martin, Moira Trevor asks her friend Jason Bourne who is David Webb in his office at Georgetown University. Jason explains David is a widower and a father of two children who live in Canada with their maternal grandparents as he wants them as far away from the BOURNE LEGACY as possible. He tells Moira that he returned to the teaching position as head of Comparative Linguistics Department, a role his late wife Marie loved for him, Moira's anodyne is go back to field work, which is why she has come to visit him. Her employer NextGen Energy Solutions fears a terrorist attack at the Long Beach port.

However, not too long after returning to his Professor Webb persona, Bourne is bored with normalcy. He informs his academic mentor Professor Dominic Specter only to see two thugs grab the man; Bourne rescues him. Specter explains his father died fighting the Eastern Brotherhood, Muslims who claim since WWII to want to fit in peacefully with the West, but who are terrorist known as the Black Legion. He asks Bourne to kill leader Semion Icoupov who has started a terrorist plot to devastate America that has begun the countdown with the murder of an associate Pyotr by Leonid Arkadin.

This is an exciting entry in the Bourne saga as the action starts from the moment Webb meets Specter for coffee and never slows down until the final Treadstone-Conklin coda. The story line is fast-paced though the European connection with WW II roots seems a bit over the Alps. Still no one will care as the Bourne adrenalin flows with he doing what he does best battling bad guys to prevent a terrorist attack; unable to wait for High Noon with an assassin sent to murder him.

Off Season
Anne Rivers Siddons
Grand Central
0446527874 $24.99

Fifty three years old Lilly Constable McCall knows she has lived a most fortunate life as she married her beloved soulmate Cam and raised together fine children. He was a highly regarded architect while she was a popular sculptor. They are decades into a loving marriage that both expect would last for many more years. Then their love story ended when Cam died in Edgewater, Maine.

Feeling more than just grief, Lilly feels she has no reason to live. However, she obsesses over going to the family cottage in Edgewater; a place she spent a lot of her childhood there. She muses about the summer of 1962 where Peaches Davenport is jealous of Lilly. not so much because of the material possessions or even the interest Jon Lowell seemed to have with then eleven years old Lilly. It was her parents she coveted. Peaches wanted to be the daughter of a GW professor and the feminist rights activist and artist mother; whereas Lilly hated her father's total control of her and her mom's disdain for a tomboyish daughter, preferring cute Caroline Kennedy. However, the middle age Lilly will soon learn you can't go home even when it feels like deja vu especially betrayal.

This is an entertaining family drama starring an interesting middle age woman overwhelmed by grief who hopes to recapture her passion for life by returning to a place she cherished at one time although that summer ended in betrayal. Lilly does not handle loss well and soon will have to deal with another death; preferring to cocoon herself into isolation. Readers will root for her to overcome her understandable depression, but will feel blitzed by a climax that seems off key. In spite of the ending, fans of Anne Rivers Siddons will enjoy the deep poignant OFF SEASON.

The Seamstress
Frances De Pontes Peebles
0060738871 $25.95

In 1928 in lawless Northeast Brazil sisters Luzia and Emilia Dos Santos are both talented seamstresses who each dream of a Prince Charming to take them away from the "war" between the affluent "colonels" and the outlaw cangaceiros. However, Luzia knows her chances of marrying a handsome wealthy hunk is zero ever since she was scarred and her arm deformed in a childhood accident. Emilia is a beauty with many men wanting her; albeit all locals.

Two events change the sibling dynamics. Infamous bandit Hawk kidnaps Luzia and their Aunt Sofia dies. Emilia marries wealthy influential Degas Coehlo but remains dissatisfied while Luzia survives her ordeal and soon becomes one of the outlaw cangaceiros. As Luzia becomes notoriously famous as THE SEAMSTRESS, Emilia hides their connection fearing her scornful mother-in-law will toss her back to her rural dirt roots; but her father-in-law the criminologist is going after her sister.

This is a fascinating historical tale of two sisters whose paths diverge yet converge. Interestingly in the lap of luxury, Emilia is unhappy while living dangerously off the land Emilia is contented. Although overly written with too many passive descriptions, fans will appreciate this deep look at life in Brazil in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Alexander and Alestria
Shan Sa
0061543543 $23.95

Macedonian King Philip abuses his heir Alexander though he rationalizes that a monarch must be tough. Queen Olympias offers no protection for her offspring from his dad; instead makes demands on him. Angry Alexander turns abusive towards those weaker than him. However, he widens his outlook to include poetry entirely due to his tutor Aristotle.

When an assassin kills Philip, Alexander is glad not just because he is the king. He feels this is his chance to take out his revenge on his nasty father and showing his superiority to his imperious mother by conquering the world, not just Macedonia. He quickly wins in Greece, Persia and Egypt. However, he finally meets an opponent who matches him in cunning strategy when it comes to war and surpasses him when it comes to love, Queen Alestria of the Amazons; who admires his strength as almost her equal and decides to make Alexander her "wife".

This refreshing look at Alexander rotates viewpoints between the titled couple and her loyal servant Ania. The story line focuses on the romance between the lead couple although there is wonderful look at the world of the amazons as Shan Sa makes the myths seem like hard core history. Fans of ancient historical romances starring real persona will enjoy ALEXANDER AND ALESTRIA as the great conqueror and the amazon queen meet their perfect opponent to cherish and fight for who is on top.

The Matchmaker of Perigord
Julia Stuart
0061435074 $13.95

Guillaume Ladoucette, the only barber in aging Amour-sur-Belle, France struggles with his business in decline because his customers are reaching the age of baldness. He also is somewhat bored with life in his village except for the elaborate meals in which time has ignored the microwave generation.

The bachelor wonders how he can remake himself and his shop. He comes up with what he assumes is a brilliant plan of being a matchmaker as he knows all there is about love having lost his Emilie years ago to a much wealthier suitor. Guillaume changes his tonsorial shop to Heart's Desire and tests his service with his best friend, Yves Leveque, who suffers heartburn from his failed relationships. After decades away Emilie returns home as an affluent divorcee with plans to restore the town's rundown chateau to bring back the tourists who once flocked to the village. Guillaume believes she came home for him so the matchmaker works on himself.

This is an engaging whimsical tale that although occurring in the present invokes a bygone pre-Internet era. The characters make the story line fun to read as Guillaume arranges dates that fail yet somehow assist his clients with what they need and not what they want in a sort of turning upside down the belie the customer is always right. Although somewhat padded and the ill-advised use of enchanted "tiles" to resolve some relationship issues seems off kilter in spite of the fanciful quirkiness, fans will enjoy a charming trip to rural France guided by Julia Stuart.

Death Perception
Victoria Laurie
9780451224866 $6.99

Abby Cooper feels her life has been most fortunate especially of late. She makes a good living as a psychic who advises clients with what to do about their problems although she censors the darker messages from beyond. She enjoys working with her best friend Candice Fusco on private investigations in which her spirit guides enable her to help her partner. However, it is her love for former FBI Special Agent Dutch Rivers and his belief in her paranormal skills that make her feel euphoric.

When Dutch learns his cousin Chase, an employee of Rivers Security, was kidnapped along with the person he was protecting, he rushes to where his cousin was last seen, Las Vegas, accompanied by Abby. However he made her promise to go home if something happens to him. Abby senses her beloved is hurt and soon finds the CRIME SEEN where his crashed vehicle with blood and an amnesiac woman inside are. Candice and Abby's sister Cat arrive to help her rescue Dutch before his former boss, whom they knows killed a CIA Agent thirty years ago, and the other FBI agents find him first.

The latest Abby Cooper Psychic Eye mystery is an enjoyable whodunit mostly because the heroine misinterprets her visions and her beloved Dutch hid some facts from her; fascinatingly her contemporary conceptions interfere with her sixth sense perceptions while Dutch concealed information because of that DNA imprint to hide his fears and feelings. Sub-genre readers will appreciate the latest caper as this time the case is very personal.

Written in Blood
Sheila Lowe
9780451224873 $6.99

Claudia Rose runs a thriving business as a graphologist who the local law enforcement recognizes for her forensic handwriting skills. Young widow Paige Sorenson married much older wealthy Torg and; when he died he left his entire estate to her including The Sorenson Academy. His twin children from his first wife, Dane and Diana, challenge the new will that gave everything to this gold-digger younger than them; they accuse her of fraud insisting she forged their late dad's signature. Paige hires Claudia to prove the signature on the will is that of Torg.

Claudia compares specimens and affirms the signature is that of Torg. Her expert testimony leads to Judge Krieger ruling that the will stands as is. The graphologist also becomes involved with Sorensen Academy student Annabelle Giordano, whose father Dominic runs a construction company allegedly with mob ties. Despite Annabelle's anger, Claudia bonds with the hurting teen. When Paige and Annabelle disappear, everyone assumes Annabelle kidnapped and killed Paige except Claudia. When Annabelle calls her, Claudia worries for the adolescent because there are people who want her dead.

The second Forensic handwriting mystery (see POISON PEN) is filled with plenty of action and deep emotions as Claudia cares about Annabelle. Paige will surprise readers as she also care about her students especially suicidal Annabelle and Claudia, whom she just met. There are plenty of suspects, but it is difficult to pick out the clever culprit from the crowd as that person is a nice individual who prefers the background. There is a fabulous courtroom scene where the opponent's handwriting expert proved to be a fraud instead of a differing rival pro. Readers will relish Sheila Lowe's fine tale.

Meg Gardiner
9780451225221 $7.99

In high school, Evan Delaney and her class go on a field trip to the Naval Base in China Lake to do some sketches of drawings on a canyon. Evan and three other girls slip away and go where a project is being blown up, which they witness. Various Federal agents interview the four high school females, but eventually they return to school. Evan goes on with her life assuming the incident was nothing.

Evan accompanied by her lover Jesse attends her high school class' fifteenth year anniversary gala. Those who died are commemorated, but no one notices that the people who died are way higher than average in this grouping. Someone killed one of the high school witnesses before the reunion and a second one just after the event. Evan soon learns that a black ops experiment being blown up was what they actually observed fifteen years ago. Now anyone remotely associated with Project South Star is being killed; Evan will not sit idly by waiting her turn.

This is the fourth Meg Gardiner thriller I read and as with the others this super author hooks the reader with plenty of action and a heroine who is a woman in peril, but takes care of herself although that drives the men in her life crazy especially Jesse who loves her. The story line is fast-paced and a bit over the Sierras, but fun to read as Jessie will do anything to keep his beloved Evan safe even when she, in his mind, foolishly risks her life to stop the Captain America replica.

The Dead Place
Rebecca Drake
0786018070 $6.99

The Corbins were a happy family until eight months ago when someone broke into Kate's studio and raped her. The previously outgoing woman becomes withdrawn hiding in her own world. Their fifteen year old daughter Gracie began to see spoiled wealthy twenty-five year old Damian. Realizing something drastic must be done to remove Katie from the scene of the trauma and to get Gracie away from the too old for her rotten Damian, the family patriarch Ian accepts the position of dean at the University of Wickfield.

Ian begins to lose patience with his wife who remains a recluse even in their new location, refusing to go out at all even in support of his new role, and keeps checking the locks especially on her studio. She is extremely upset that young women from the school are vanishing with their corpses turning up weeks after their disappearance is reported. Kate thinks her odd duck neighbor is the killer, but the police clear him. She feels ashamed as she jumped to conclusions when she saw him do strange things. When Gracie vanishes, Ian assumes she ran off to be with Damian, but Kate thinks otherwise. Although she might humiliate herself again, Kate goes to confront the persons she believes abducted her daughter and if not stopped will say goodnight Gracie permanently.

A bit over the top of a roller coaster, THE DEAD PLACE has more twists and spins than a tilt a whirl and is as frightening as a fun house as the killer is obviously a psychopath, who delights in torture yet hides in public acceptable normalcy. That comparison to the frightened heroine who is considered ironically by many of those same people to be a neurotic crazy makes the tale. Some of the scenes involving the torture of the victims are graphic, but that adds to the tension of the cops and ultimately Kate stopping the culprit from snatching the next victim. The killer is accepted as normal while the mom has no credibility so no one believes her. Rebecca Drake provides a strong thriller with her deep look at gullibility.

Michelle Maddox
Dorchester Shomi
9780505527554 $6.99

The Great Plague destroyed over forty percent of the human population. Besides the death toll, the consequential economic disaster wiped out more people as poverty became the norm. Finally, the pandemic changed life in other ways as some individuals born after the global calamity contained psi skills. Those who tested with strong levels were quickly taken from the dying planet to Offworld where they learned to use their gifts.

Kira Jordan was born after the plague with strong psi ability; she was transferred to Offworld and taught to use her skills. Kira can read people's thoughts and see their souls if she touches them while flexing her mind. Seven years ago, someone murdered the then teen's entire family; so when she awakens handcuffed in the dark she panics as she fears the darkness. Also locked up in the room is Rogan Ellis, who calmly explains they have been abducted to participate in The Countdown, a game of survival established to entertain wealthy subscribers who enjoy watching others die. If the pair separate by ninety feet, implants in their brains will explode. There are six levels of teaming or dying; Kira knows by flexing that her partner is a convicted serial killer who spent time in jail for crimes he did not commit, but he hides something from her that makes the already wary psychic distrust him.

This is an exciting science fiction thriller with obvious connections to the Richard Bachman novel and Arnold Schwarzenegger film The Running Man in terms of the decadent affluent spectators cheering for death in a deadly game show. Michelle Maddox refreshes the concept through her key cast members as they are radically different from those in the movie. Kira is a terrific lead character whose thoughts especially fears enable the reader to understand her distrust of her game partner; whereas Rogan pretends to trust, but readers know better. Fans will wonder whether the team of Kira and Rogan will make it through the six levels and then what awaits them for we too do not trust the game master either.

Cat in a Sapphire Slipper
Carole Nelson Douglas
9780765318619 $24.95

Las Vegas based public relations guru Temple Barr assumes her former lover magician Max Kinsella is dead. Though grieving for him, Temple is engaged to former priest Matt Devine, better known as the radio self help jockey Mr. Midnight.

However, Temple is unaware that Max is alive given the name Mr. Randolph by the hospital staff as he suffers from amnesia while healing near the Alps after taking a severe fall in Nepal. Temple's romance novelist Aunt Kit Carlson is getting married, but the bachelor party is going to be for the men including Matt at the renowned legal brothel Sapphire Slipper chicken ranch in Nye County, Nevada. To his chagrin, Matt ends up with a dead hooker. Midnight Louie believes the murder was one of passion so must decide who loved the prostitute enough to kill her.

The amazing thing about this Midnight Louie cat crime caper is that the feline is on his third life of books, but the writing magician Carole Nelson Douglas shows her skills by keeping the frolic fresh, funny and fun. The amusing look at the Nevada chicken farm industry enhances a strong whodunit while Max struggles in Europe to figure out his name. Fans of the series will appreciate this engaging lighthearted romp as Louie visits the Sapphire Slipper.

Hell on Earth
David L. Porter
9780765313805 $24.95

At a time when California struggles again with the annual wild fires and other parts of the country also have trouble from out of control infernos, HELL ON EARTH is a timely insightful look at what is going on. The author somewhat personalizes his account by telling how he felt when his own house was destroyed during the 2003 season. However, much of the book is making a scientific case that it will get worse not better based on the combination of global warming and the political and public indifference to the fires (except when a person is personally involved). David L. Porter believes the firestorms have not yet had its perfect storm yet though have come close. The environmental disaster is a Catch 22 as the warmer climate brings in new predators destroying trees and the fires devastating much more adding CO2 into the atmosphere to warm the climate even further. Although well written with a strong scientific case for action and containing many anecdotal examples and showing somewhat the heroic side of the fire fighters and their frustrations, Mr. Porter fails to put a victim's face on the fires. He mentions names, but never really digs deep into those who lost their lives, loved ones, or property. Still in fairness his premise is to argue we can win the wildfire war, but must take action now starting with declaring war. This is an interesting cautionary book that warns HELL ON EARTH has only begun.

The View From Garden City
Carolyn Baugh
0765316579 $24.95

The American female has arrived in Cairo to study at the American University. She befriends six neighbors in Garden City. First there is her Arabic Professor Afkar who introduces the foreigner to more than just the language a she introduces her to Turkish coffee while explaining she remains a pariah who was forced into marrying an abusive husband due to a teen indiscretion. Twenty something Huda marries wealth as directed by her parents though she finds her kind spouse physically repulsive instead of wedding the impoverish man she loves. Part of her acquiescence is due to her mother Karima, a female genital mutilation victim. Huda's permanently grieving grandmother Selwa gave birth to twelve children, but only three live. The wife of the building's custodian Yusriyya conceals her pain as her spouse spends more time with his second fertile wife than her. Finally Widow Samira loves her best friend's husband as she always has even when her husband was alive.

This is a superb look at the life of women in Cairo as different generations of females share their loves and hates of their restrictive world with the visiting American student. The story line is more a character study series of vignettes than a novel, but is deep as the audience learns what demons haunt and restrain each of the six Egyptian women. Although the prose can get too flowery descriptive at times, fans will enjoy Carol Baugh's strong tour as the sextet provide the student and the readers with a fabulous THE VIEW FROM GARDEN CITY.

Working Stiff
Tori Carrington
9780765351005 $24.95

In Queens, New York, her Aunt Sotiria is panic stricken; someone abducted a corpse ready for display. She begs and demands and invokes their Greek blood ties to persuade her niece Sofie Metropolis, who runs a successful private investigative firm, to find the purloined body; before the mourners start arriving to view an empty casket. Sotiria worries that losing a stiff she was working on might prove bad for her business.

Sofie is also working on finding proof that proves low life Johnny Laughton is innocent of the murder charge of killing his affluent former girlfriend, whose body has never been found. She also prepares for the trick or treat crowd, her Greek-American mother wanting legal grandchildren, her broken hearted secretary and a necrophilia living like the dead next door. Life is good and normal for the sleuth as she enjoys quality time with Greek pastry baker Dino Antonopoulos and enigmatic Jake Porter.

The fourth Sofie Metropolis private investigative tale (see DIRTY LAUNDRY and FOUL PLAY) is as always an entertaining chick noir as the heroine works her Queens' caseload including the personal hunks in her life. The story line hops around a lot as Sofie works the Sotiria plea bargain, the Laughton case, and her loved life while eluding her Greek-American momma's demands. This is a fun urban mystery series.

The Devil You Know
Jenna Black
9780553590456 $6.99

Exorcist Morgan Kingsley and Demon King Lugh have reached an agreement on sharing her brain space. Neither is quite happy with the arrangement, but both see the compromise as the only way they can co-exist.

Meanwhile Morgan still has family issues although she feels y good that her now demon free brother Andy is returning to normal even though she and her parents remain alienated. Further disturbing her is a shocker about her origin and a part of her memory buried since a childhood trauma is beginning to frighteningly surface. The more she learns what was locked behind the closed door, the more Morgan wonders who she really is. Before she can come to grips on her issues, a pretender to the demon throne sends a psychopathic hunter to stalk and kill his Highness and his host.

The direct follow-up to the superb DEVIL INSIDE is an excellent urban fantasy in which once again the Black universe with its demons, possessions, laws, and special prisons seem genuine and make for an invigorating thriller. Morgan remains a top gun albeit comic book heroine who is at her best dealing with the humiliation of an exorcist being possessed by a demon although she and her royal inside have worked out an arrangement to peacefully co-exist for now. Soon they will need to increase their cooperation to fight a nasty adversary targeting both for death. Fans of this devilish saga will appreciate Morgan whose motto is to kill first and ask questions afterward so she goes after the Hunter.

Carry Me Home
Sandra Kring
9780385338134 $13.00

In 1940 Wisconsin WWII sixteen year old Earl "Earwig" Gunderman understands from his mom that the fever he suffered fried his brain leaving him struggling with learning new concepts. His older brother Jimmy tries to help Earwig as much as he can. That ends when a drunken Jimmy enlists in the National Guard. With no training, he is sent with equally raw recruits to serve in the Philippines where his unit is destroyed at the Battle of Bataan. With no word about how Jimmy fared, his family except Earwig assumes he died and grieve their loss.

Several years pass until Jimmy finally returns home, but he is not the same person who left. He suffers from battle fatigue after spending the war as a POW. He turns to drink, but Earwig will not allow his beloved older brother to drown himself in pity; nor will widow Eva Leigh.

The first half of this fabulous historical thriller introduces the audience to the Gunderman family and friends who are gung ho patriots in support of the war effort reaching a stunner when mom announces "the army lost Jimmy". However, the tale becomes excellent with a current relevancy when Jimmy returns from the war bitter, angry and introverted. He and other vets accuse the government of deserting them in Bataan, which infuriates the townsfolk who remain patriotic supporters of the war allowing for no criticism for that helps the enemy. Yet even with that deep poignancy, Earwig owns the story line with his simple pragmatic outlook.

The Swap
Antony Moore
9780385342346 $11.00

In London Harvey Briscow knows the event that destroyed his life that turned him into a comic book shopkeeper. Two decades as a child attending school in Cornwall, he traded his Superman One comic book to an idiot Charles "Bleeder" Odd in exchange for a plastic pipe. That comic book is worth a fortune and he wants it back. Worse, where he is a failure, Bleeds is a bloody success

He goes to the twentieth class reunion praying Odd will show up, but has doubts his nemesis will and besides the comic book is probably long gone. Still this time he vows to take it back if Bleeder still has it. Thus Harvey breaks into Bleeder's house to steal the comic book; instead the corpse of Bleeder's mother greets him in the cellar; her throat slashed. Soon after he flees the crime scene to return to London, Superman 1 shows up in the mail at his store. The police are interested in Harvey as a murder suspect as he had the means, the motive and the opportunity.

This is a fun dark thriller in which Harvey, Bleeder and Superman One are fully developed characters. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Harvey decides to steal back his swapped prize possession and never slows down although the climax does not soar as high as the rest of the fascinating plot. Harvey is a terrific individual who blames his chain smoking and alcoholic binges on THE SWAP and the diabolically brilliant Bleeder. Superman one is almost like a lover Harvey once had carelessly discarded and now regrets his error. Fans who appreciate a dark humorous thriller will enjoy the battle of wits between Harvey and Bleeder as Superman One completes their odd dysfunctional triangle.

Seduced by the Storm
Sydney Croft
9780385340823 $13.00

Estimates are the weather machine can easily destroy half the earth. Thus his superiors at the Agency for Covert Rare Operatives (ACRO) order American operative Wyatt Kennedy to destroy the machine before pandemic destruction is unleashed. At the same, The Aquarius Group (TAG) sends biokinetic agent Englishwoman Faith Black to obtain the weather machine for they have plans for this device.

In a bar, Wyatt and Faith meet and are immensely attracted to one another; they enjoy the tryst and though each wants more, both assume th9s is a one night stand. However, they are each concerned when they realize they are after the same target for different handlers with differing objectives. Still they team up with neither fully trusting the other once they gain the machine. In between dodging assassins, they share heated lovemaking with both wondering how their heart will survive the betrayal each expects from the other or themselves.

The third stormy romantic suspense erotic fantasy (see UNLEASHING THE STORM and RIDING THE STORM) is a superb espionage thriller in which two special agents falling in love while seeking the same gizmo but work for opposite camps. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the relationship between the ACRO and TAG agents that make for an entertaining tale work as each battle the hurricane of the century on the United States east coast with an eye on their hearts.

The Wild Road
Marjorie Liu
9780843959390 $7.99

The hotel is on fire when she awakens. She is horrified more than scared when she sees three corpses near her and blood all over her. There is also a one word message: "Run." She quickly realizes she has no idea how she got there, who the dead are, who wrote her the warning note and even who she is.

Heeding the note, she goes to steal a car to start her run to she is not sure where. Gargoyle Lannes Hannelore sees the woman splattered with blood stealing his vehicle. He comes over to stop her, but though he must stay in the shadows and avoid involvement in her mess, he offers his help. Desperate she accepts even as he wonders if the set up was to use this woman in peril to lure him into activity by something not human.

The latest Dirk and Steele paranormal romantic suspense thriller grips the audience with its eerie opening sequence as readers, Jane Doe and the gargoyle wonder what is going on. Set aside time as you are hooked into a fast-paced one sitting tale. Although it helps a bit to have read the previous entries in the saga as there are previous happenings retold with more insight, THE WILD ROAD is a fabulous story starring two fascinating protagonists that can stand alone.

Pleasuring the Pirate
Emily Bryan
0843961333 $6.99

In 1720, the pirate Captain Gabriel Drake is pardoned of all his crimes, but his Letter of Marque includes the stipulation that if he comes to London, his clemency is void and without further legal due course will pay the price. At about the same time, Jacquelyn Wren tries to get far away from her mother's courtesan lifestyle by rusticating as the chatelaine running the household of notorious seafaring Lord Gabriel Drake "the Dragon".

When Dragon comes home, Jacquelyn greets him by ambushing the pirate. However, Gabriel easily defeats the hooligan who attacked him and using his sword cuts open the covering of her bound breasts. Irate at his chatelaine's audacity and delighted with her boobs, Gabriel realizes he needs to keep Jacquelyn employed so that she can mentor him on joining high society and marry wealth. One kiss changes their bargain as neither expected the inferno that ignited. Fleeing for London, as she no longer can hide her desire, Gabriel risks incarceration and more to tell his chatelaine he wants to change her position to wife. However, when he is caught and jailed, Jacquelyn risks all to liberate her beloved.

This great Georgian romance is filled with bawdy humor mindful of Fielding's classic Tom Jones as the banter between the pirate and the courtesan's daughter is amusing and heated. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the Dragon becomes a landlubber lord in need of loot and never slows down until the final desperate daring deed. Except for the title, Emily Bryan provides a powerful historical as the adventures of the grounded pirate and the non-courtesan chatelaine will pleasure the fans.

First to Kill
Andrew Peterson
0843961449 $7.99

Although relatively young, the forty-four year old Nathan McBride has retired twice; first from the Marines and than from the CIA. As a top sniper, Nathan knew that his profession was an even younger person's game though he kept himself in great shape.

Nathan and his partner Harvey Fontana are doing quite well as civilians. The Feds are stunned with the disappearance of undercover FBI agent Greg and a ton of highly explosive Semtex. Adding to their concern is that the person missing happens to be the grandson of former FBI director Frank Ortega and the son of Agent Greg Ortega who helped Fontana once rescue McBride from a nasty scenario. The Feds recall Nathan to active duty, assigning him to first recover the Semtex and if possible rescue their missing agent. He quickly traces the explosives to two American illegal arms dealers, brothers Leonard and Ernie Bridgestone. When he takes out one of their key men, the siblings strike back; by blowing up the FBI headquarters building in Lassen County, California. However, as McBride works to capture the homegrown terrorists, he finds his investigation spinning towards Ortega and his own estranged father.

From the opening scenes in which McBride breaks a bully's bones, confronts a Rottweiler, and heeds the advice of Frank's wife, he makes this over the top of Laseen Peak thriller fun to read. Fans will admire his poise under fire and his loathing of the job yet he has no hesitation to kill even as he keeps count as a reminder that each death is a loss. A romantic subplot with an agent is kept low keyed, but feels sort of required rather than desired. Still thriller readers will enjoy this fast-paced tale starring a wonderful hero whose escapades never seen to end.

The Covenant
John Everson
9780843960181 $7.99

Feeling like a post traumatic syndrome disorder victim, bone weary from reporting all the scandalous news fit to print, reporter Joe Kieran leaves the Chicago Tribune. He accepted a journalist position as the night reporter at the Terrel Daily Times. Two months on the job Joe is bored. His daily monitoring the police radio has led to his driving to a reported scene once and that proved a false alarm.

Remaining diligent, the persistent Joe is stunned when Dispatch directs a mobile unit to investigate an apparent leaper off the Terrel Peak. It was not the leap that surprises Joe, but the Dispatcher's use of the words "another one ". Joe begins investigating the history of Peak leapers. He discovers a harrowing seemingly valid long term trend. On the same date in May someone young jumps. Warned to back off his inquiries, Joe continues to dig obsessed with the need to know why seemingly rationale contented children with no prior suicidal signs abruptly leap the Peak to their deaths. Interviewing five seemingly connected women, four of them still grieving mothers, reticent townsfolk especially the cops and his peers on the paper, and a self proclaimed Gypsy fortune teller, Joe will relearn the lesson he was taught in Chicago, but deadlier this time, that the truth does not set you free.

This exciting suspense thriller has the audience hooked with a need to know why once Joe begins questioning what the dispatcher meant by "another one ". The story line is driven by the small-town reluctance to share anything with the outsider, a big city reporter who is rusticating in their minds. Joe is terrific as he struggles to find out what makes a mentally healthy child decide suddenly to leap. John Everson has written a powerful tale as readers wonder whether it is a coincidence, the supernatural or a serial killer behind the suicides.

Triple Exposure
Colleen Thompson
9780843961430 $7.99

In Philadelphia, the nineteen years old started to stalk photographer-teacher Rachel Copeland until she finally shot him in self defense. Although exonerated as not guilty by the law, the scandal of a teacher with a student destroyed her reputation as she is hung as a femme fatale by the public especially condemning her are the altered pictures on the Internet that showed them together in lewd poses. Finally the female that calls at any hour threatening to harm her puts Rachel over the top. Having had enough of the lies and threats, Rachel heads two thousand miles to the southwest to go home to remote Marfa, Texas where mysterious lights in the sky are part of the local scene.

Rachel helps her dad with his sailplane business while still taking pictures as she always has. However, when she takes a photo of reclusive furniture maker Zeke Pike, the subsequent publicity disturbs him as he has a history with unfair public condemnation too. As Zeke and Rachel go from fulfilled lust to unfulfilled love, she feels deja vu as the stalking with suspicious accidents and calls begins again.

TRIPLE EXPOSURE is a terrific twisting Texas romantic suspense in which each time the reader settles into a comfort zone; Colleen Thompson pulls the rug with a clever plausible spin. Fans will empathize with the lead couple; as each has faced and continues to confront public condemnation even though they insist they are the victims. Ms. Thompson provides a strong thriller starring two people struggling rightfully so with trust issues while their respective worlds collapse on them and their loved ones for the second time.

Reconstructing Brigid
Lee Nichols
Red Dress
9780373895625 $13.95

In Maine twenty-eight year old Jody Hulfinger was found dead in her under the water car two weeks after she vanished following a tryst with idle middle class Aaron White, who actually is fond of her twin sister Cate. The twins' father Stanwood, known for his "big money, big noise" and big influence demands the best to solve what happened to his daughter. However, the numero uno accident reconstructionist expert in the country is in hiding following a car accident; Brigid Ashbury is unable to get back on the bike as she suffers from auto-phobia.

However, she agrees to work the case anyway as she has problems accepting a happy woman would commit suicide and what she read in the dossier makes her question a tragic accident. As she begins to uncover clues and connecting the dots, she realizes she is also Reconstructing Brigid at the same time. The evidence begins to point towards Aaron, but Brigid has doubts even as she finds everyone wants her to stop investigating as the Feds and Stanwood feel they have a perfect case against White; however one person in particular is willing to set up an accident to end Brigid's snooping.

This is a fabulous chick lit whodunit starring a likable heroine struggling with a case of post traumatic stress disorder following her car accident, but unable to resist the investigation. Readers obtain a close look at what an accident reconstructionist must do to "reenact" the event inside of a clever mystery. Lee Nichols provides a one sitting tale that hooks the audience from the moment that Aaron drinks hot chocolate while praying for exoneration but expecting handcuffs.

The Divine Talisman
Eldon Thompson
9780060741549 $25.95

On the island continent of Pentania, to save his people, former mushroom farmer, King Torin of Alson, the bearer of the legendary Crimson Sword, sacrificed himself. However his death bought time for his people to unite the country against the horde of the evil Illysp, but the capital is divided into warring factions grasping for power; civil war is imminent at a time when the Illysp send their even more malevolent once dead Illychar to destroy and recruit all in their path. Adding to the certainty of defeat, death, and reincarnation as a mindless evil Illychar, is the only symbol of hope, the Crimson Sword which is lost.

No one is aware that Itz lar Thrakkon "the Boundless One" Illychar has possessed Torin's body; obtaining his memories. The final hope resides with the half-breed daughter of the last Vandari elf; this half-elven Annleia must defeat Thrakkon and beg the all knowledgeable Dragon God Ravar to reveal how to vanquish the Illysp if there is a way; three impossible tasks.

The final tale in The Legend of Asahiel saga (see THE CRIMSON SWORD and THE OBSIDIAN KEY) is an exhilarating good vs. evil fantasy with a marvelous twist, the fate of Torin that provides freshness to the typical quest saga that is much of the makeup of this thriller. The story line is fast-paced as Annleia becomes the last resort hero with no chance of success at achieving any of her BHAGs let alone all three. Fans of the series will appreciate this fine entry but new readers would be better suited to read the previous books, especially THE OBSIDIAN KEY, to better understand how things got so desperate on Pentania.

The Servants
Michael Marshall Smith
9780061494161 $14.95

Eleven year old Mark hates moving from London to Brighton with his ailing mother and new stepfather David. Mark blames David for the fact that his divorced parents will never reconcile and his biological dad will probably never come to take him to the Chinese restaurant like they used when they came to Brighton as a family visiting the resort. He also loathes Brighton where unlike London, which stretches on forever; he can see where this new city ends at the shore. Lonely, Mark's only companion is a skateboard, but he makes no friends as the older kids ridicule his efforts on their ramps.

The elderly woman who lives in the apartment below that of Mark's shows the lad the once occupied servants' quarters. Fascinated by what he has seen, Mark sneaks in by himself to explore further. However, Mark is stunned when he begins to see the servants working and becomes frightened as he knows there are no servants living or working in the house. Mark realizes he is seeing their ghosts. He begins to connect the increasing chaos below to his mom's illness; now if he can find a way to help these ghosts with their issues, he might save his mom who seems to be slowly fading away.

Although there is a paranormal Twilight Zone feel to the story line, Mark as an angry, despondent preadolescent who does not understand what happened in the last year to his perfect life makes the tale. He comes across as an authentic troubled youth even when he enters the eerie surreal realm of THE SERVANTS, which in turn Mark brings with him a sense of "reality" to these ghosts going about their jobs as if time stood still waiting for his presence. The secondary characters including his stepfather, his mom, his memory of his father, the elderly neighbor and the apparitions enhance a strong haunted house thriller; reader will wonder if the lonely depressed child went over the edge in his search for normalcy as he remembers it.

Death Swatch
Laura Childs
9780425224786 $23.95

Three years has past since The Hurricane placed New Orleans on life support but the city is returning as symbolized by the Mardi Gras. At least that is the opinion of Memory Mine scrapbook store owner Carmela Bertrand. Accompanied by her friend Ava, owner of a voodoo shop, they attend a party tossed by Jekyl Hardy who introduces them to float designer Archie Baudier. When Carmela goes to leave she finds Archie dead with barbed wire wrapped around his neck.

Jekyl asks Carmela to investigate Archie's murder as she has done successfully before (see FRILL KILL). She agrees and shows him a coin she found on his balcony where Archie died. With Ava's help she begins the inquiries at the apartments of Jekyl and Archie where she finds their hidden compartment containing the deceased's coin collection. Carmela is stunned when she finds out that Archie was an absinthe drinker which is illegal. As she follows the clues, someone is watching her just in case she gets too close to the truth.

Three years since Katrina wiped out the city leaves the story line with a gothic background that enhances the riveting cerebral amateur sleuth while also asking where the Marshal Plan is to rebuild New Orleans and the nearby parishes. Carmela is terrific as she has come a long way baby from the wimp she once was whose spouse abused her emotionally and mentally; in fact she demands a fair settlement from him as they divorce. The case proves how independent and courageous she has become as even a Russian mobster fails to scare her off. Although why she took on the investigation even for a friend is never adequately explained, readers will appreciate the latest scrapbooking cozy with a great final twist and tips and recipes.

Dial Me for Murder
Amanda Matetsky
9780425220504 $6.99

At a time when most women stayed home to take care of their husband and kids, Paige Turner broke the gender barrier by becoming the first female True Crime writer at Daring Detective magazine. The men in the office make her life there miserable, but her stories have increased circulation so her editor gives her freedom to cover what she wants. She becomes interested in the case of Virginia Pruitt whose nude body was found in Central Park alongside expensive jewelry and a fur coat. Sabrina Stanhope asks Paige to solve Virginia's murder.

Curious, Paige visits Sabrina who informs her that Virginia worked as a secretary during the day and a call girl at night. She also admits she was Virginia's Madame arranging "dates" for Melody, as the victim was known professionally. Three customers used Melody's services with Paige stunned that the Manhattan D.A. is one of them; mob connected singer and movie star Tony Morona is the second; the third man is the real stunner as Oliver Rice Harrington is her boss' boss. Paige investigates all three men until a leak leads to her being fired even as she finds a second murdered call girl. As she gets closer to uncovering the identity of the culprit, she almost gets killed doing so.

Occurring in the 1950s, readers obtain an interesting look at an era when women are moving away from the assembly lines of WWII and back into running households; in some ways this feels like ancient history as Amanda Matetsky brings the Ike age alive. DIAL ME FOR MURDER is actually an exciting historical journalistic investigative tale starring a brave reporter used to being treated like a pariah for doing her job; so jumping into trouble is the heroine's norm as that is life in the office. Filled with humor and insight from a zany cast that affirms we've come a long way since the days when the only acceptable professions for women were female unique jobs like wife, nurse, secretary and hooker inside a fun whodunit.

Blood Memory
Margaret Coel
0425223450 $24.95

Denver Journal investigative reporter Catherine McLeod assumes the sniper's failed assassination attempt of her in her home is tied to one of her stories, past or present. She eliminated a random drive by, and a visit by Arapaho elder Norman Whitehorse affirms her theory. He informs her she is Arapaho; having been adopted his revelation about her roots is awesome and frightening.

Her former husband demands Catherine flee the big city for the relative safety of his mountain ranch, but she refuses. Instead the intrepid journalist continues her investigation into what she believes is the story that has made her a target; Catherine reports the efforts of her "people" and that of the Cheyenne to regain over twenty million acres of land deeded by treaties but stolen during the 1864 Indian massacre at Sand Creek. However, Catherine is stunned by the violence of her unknown murderous stalker on the innocent and that her inquiry leads to DC.

With Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden taking a breather though she makes an appearance in BLOOD MEMORY, Margaret Coel introduces her fans to a new heroine Catherine. She is terrific as she begins to learn about her heritage while also working an investigation into the land debate. The story line is action-packed with a fresh outlook and an incredible plausible but unexpected climax. Hopefully Ms. Coel's two brave women find a common cause in a future tale (sort of like Philip R. Craig and William G. Tapply did with Brady Coyne and J. W. Jackson); if not readers will still have two strong Arapaho heroines to count on for excellent thrillers.

Linda Winstead Jones
9780425222966 $6.99

Colymbyana Emperor Jahn sends his twin brother Alix to escort two of the six potential brides he is considering making his empress to the palace. One of the chosen is sex slave Sanura. She has several extraordinary skills as she can see into the heart of a person, bring pleasure to die for to her master and has a blue dye that covers her skin that if conveyed to someone means horrific death to the receiver.

Alix is attracted to Sanura, which does not surprise her as every male is. However, she is shocked that she reciprocates as she feels for her escort who suffers from a multiple personality syndrome. Alix is a kind soul, but his alter-ego is brutal. When he is accused of murder, he accepts the charge because he knows if his other self can get out of control and kill; so he is uncertain whether he did the deed or not. Sanura thinks otherwise and plans to prove the duality man she loves would never kill in cold blood even his harsher side.

With nods towards Rogue of the X-Men and Two-Face of Batman, UNTOUCHABLE is a fabulous romantic investigative fantasy starring two interesting protagonists. The title character is heroic and lonely until now; Alix is the more fascinating individual as he suffers from a duality that is 180 degrees apart. Their love seems forbidden especially since she is a potential bride of his brother the ruler; making her even further UNTOUCHABLE. Linda Winstead Jones provides the sub-genre with a winning combo of mystery and romance inside a fantasy realm.

Sea Fever
Virginia Kantra
9780425222973 $7.99

Regina Barone is lonely. She is a single mom raising her eight years old son Nick while working as a cook at her mom's lobster shack on the Maine barrier island World's End where she was born. She has no personal life at all and no hope for one in the future as she personally understands the name of her home.

While the town celebrates a wedding, a depressed Regina sneaks away to get drunk at the beach; she miserably thinks she has no one to share her bottle with. However that proves wrong because Dylan, brother to the groom police chief Caleb Hunter, is also on the beach getting away from the festivities. His ruler the Selkie Prince sent him here to investigate a demon existence. The human and the Selkie are attracted to one another, but neither see a long term relationship brewing between them until danger makes both reassess their priorities.

This direct sequel to SEA WITCH is a fantastic romantic fantasy as Virginia Kantra enables the readers to look deep into the souls of a lonely single human mom and a Selkie. The story line enables the reader as we did in previous Children of the Sea tales to believe in the existence of Selkie and half-breed Selkie. Fans will enjoy this fine thriller as Selkie are a commitment phobic species as Dylan keeps on reminding himself even while he suffers from SEA FEVER caused by his attraction to a surface dweller.

Ace Is Wild
Penny McCall
9780425222980 $6.99

Federal prosecutor Daniel Pierce feels like an idiot though he knows it is a good cause; he is on stage taking part in a charity bachelor auction. To his shock some nut case tries to abduct him from the stage. Psychic Vivi Foster has seen a vision of two hit men coming to assassinate him. She saves his life, but he refuses to listen to her explanation.

Although she knows he is ungrateful, Vivi intercedes again saving his life for the second time. Instead of gratitude he displays annoyance at the psychic though he accepts the fact that someone wants him dead. He assumes the unknown adversary is involved in one of his prosecutions, but not whom. She cannot answer that, but he soon realizes her sticking her nose in his business has left her in trouble too.

ACE IS WILD is an amusing paranormal romantic suspense thriller that grips the audience from the onset when Vivi and Daniel clash and never slows down as their retorts back and forth make for a fun tale. They drive the story line with their bantering, but that also leaves the danger to the lead couple somewhat downplayed. With homage to the 1930s romantic mystery movies with a touch of the psychic to add spice, fans will enjoy Penny McCall's wacky and very entertaining tale.

The Conquest
Julia Templeton
Berkley Heat
9780425223413 $14.00

In 1080 at Castle Mackay in the Highlands, Rhiannon waits for her betrothed Malgor de Cion to arrive and take her back to his Castle Almerson on the English border. She does not want to marry this much older stranger as she fears the fate of her mom; her dad locked her away until she died and has since remarried Deirdre, who Rhiannon detests.

Lord Wulf sends his brother-in-law Adelstan Cawdor to escort Malgor's bride as he was hurt allegedly while hunting. Rhiannon mistakes Adelstan as Malgor and is excited as she is attracted to him. Adelstan is also stunned by that first encounter as he is attracted to her too.

When Adelstan leaves the castle, Rhiannon and Elspeth follow him. He strips and swims in a pond. Both women are stunned as he is quite a hung hunk. Their horse is missing, but Adelstan has it. He rides back with Rhiannon sharing his horse. Rhiannon holds tight and when a chance occurs she kisses Adelstan; he kisses her back as he desires her, but duty prevents him from acting on his feelings. Rhiannon makes it clear she wants Adelstan and tries to seduce him; he flees. She tells him she wants him as her husband taking her maidenhead. He tells her she is desirable, but he will deliver a virgin to her betrothed though he loves her.

The lead couple is a terrific pairing as they are in heat at first sight though both know she belongs to another; their ethical dilemma battling their desire makes for a fine tale. Additionally the return of the lead couple from THE BARGAIN in a short but critical appearance adds to the overall fun. Although why Rhiannon's dad allowed Adelstan to escort his daughter to her betrothed when he caught her sneaking into his room makes no sense, fans will enjoy this fine Conquest romance.

Midwife of the Blue Ridge
Christine Blevins
9780425221686 $14.00

The Scottish assume that Maggie Duncan is cursed because she as an eight years old child was the only survivor of the overflow of the Culloden massacre in her nearby village of Bailebeg. She was taken in by Hannah Cameron, the midwife of the Village of Black Corries; thus no surprise she became a midwife too.

However, by 1760 the twenty-two year old Maggie knows she has no future in Scotland because her fortune to survive years earlier is treated by others as if she has the black eye. She pays her crossing fee to the colonies with four years of indentured service. While on the ship crossing the Atlantic, drunken viscount Julian Cavendish tries to rape her. In the Virginia Colony, Seth Martin needs Maggie's skills to save his wife so he buys her servitude contract. His best friend Tom Roberts is attracted to the Scotswoman and she reciprocates, but Lord Julian plans to finish what he started at sea.

This excellent colonial romance works because Christine Blevins paints a powerfully vivid portrait of the often horrific lot of women on both sides of the Atlantic, but especially in the colonies. Lord Julian feels it is his God given right to rape an unmarried Scottish commoner; he sets somewhat the tone. Contrasting him are the kind hearted frontiersmen Seth and Tom. However, the key to this character driven historical is optimistic magnificent Maggie, whose realism re her plight is tempered by her Pollyanna hopes for the future.

Nauti Dreams
Lora Leigh
Berkley Heat
9780425219515 $14.00

In Iraq five years ago, the kidnappers were starting to abuse their "little American whore" Federal agent Chaya Dane. Navy SEAL Natches Mackay manages to rescue her before they raped her, but she did suffer some physical damage. His team extradited the duo before they could be recaptured. Mentally Chaya thought afterward that the most shook up moment to her psyche was Natches' kiss.

In the present Chaya works a case in Somerset, Kentucky that brings her and Natches back together. However while she works on preventing a diabolical lethal scheme and learning who is behind it, he fears the Feds are right that his estranged father stole missiles. They team up causing enough heat to warm up everyone from Kentucky to New England.

The latest Nauti SEAL tale returns readers to one of the Mackay military men (see NAUTI BOY); this time the focus is on the womanizing hillbilly and the New Englander who turns him into a one woman man. The story line is fast-paced from the opening rescue sequence to the final hostage scenario. However, the romance especially the well written hot sex supersedes all the other action including the case and the revelations re the MacKay brood. Still series fans will appreciate the trip to Bluegrass Country as the audience will bet on Lore Leigh providing an entertaining tale.

Matters of Faith
Kristy Kiernan
9780425221792 $14.00

When Marshall Tobias was twelve years old he watched his best friend Ira die in a horrific accident. He grieved his loss with the only solace he found coming from Ira's brownie making mom. Marshall questioned his faith and searched other paths, but all the jewelry he collected proved to be junk. His parents are upset with his condemnation of a God who would allow such a death, but Marshall will not bend.

He begins to turn to his girlfriend Ada's belief system in search of solace. Marshall brings Ada to meet his parents who are totally disenchanted with some of her radical thoughts; especially when she espouses prayer and exposure therapy instead of medicine. They become irate when Marshall and Ada try to persuade his sister Meghan to pray for her heath rather than undergo medical treatment. The split family meets in court as her parents demand judicial intervention to insure their daughter receives proper medical care.

This tale digs deep into A MATTER OF FAITH as readers learn how the two opposing camps feels about caring for Meghan's life threatening food allergies through the perspectives of Marshall and his mother Chloe; each represents a side in the debate. The five prime characters come across genuine making the faith vs. medical science argument that much stronger; fascinatingly Marshall seeking to fill his belief vacuum since Ira died has adopted Ada's contention, which adds to the overall strength of the novel. Kristy Kiernan provides a strong tale populated by real people divided over what to rely on.

Hot Property
Susan Johnson
9780425221730 $15.00

Zoe Chandler believes she has enough to write an expose on art collectors. To complete the task, she secludes herself at an isolated lake house.

After watching the abuse by our CIA agents in the Balkans especially in Kosovo, former field civilian interpreter Nick Mirovic knows that even after all these years he still suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, albeit the nightmares are less frequent. He avoids the pharmaceutical solution as he felt that messed up his head. Instead he has isolated himself near a remote lake. However, though the hermit tries to distance himself from his beautiful new neighbor, he fails as he wants her. When danger comes stalking their lake as Zoe's art collector portrayal has placed her in peril, Nick's protective juices flow as much as one particular male bodily fluid since he met his new neighbor.

This fast-paced exciting romantic suspense is filled with sex, sex, and the lead couple on the lam; with more sex while running for their lives. Nick is the more fascinating character as his experience in the Balkans still eats at his soul in many ways such as trust issues with other people including the woman he is falling in love with and an obsession to help the underdog. The heat is on figuratively and literally as Susan Johnson provides her fans with a HOT PROPERTY.

The Shadow Walker
Michael Walters
9780425222331 $14.00

In Ulan Bataar, Mongolia, the police are stymied as a silent serial killer stalks the streets. The unknown culprit has left behind his fourth mutilated corpse with a severed head and limbs this time in a luxurious hotel. Former Serious Crimes Chief Nergui is ordered back to lead the official investigation, but is frustrated having made no progress at all in catching the predator.

He needs specialized help as serial killers are outside his experience or any member of the department especially his younger replacement as section chief Doripalam. British CID Chief Inspector Drew McLeish is sent to assist Nergui on his quest to catch the killer before more people die, but he realizes that he knows nothing about the land or the people that he is to profile as he is five thousand miles from home. They work as a team with Nergui providing the insight to the city, the suburbs and the Gobi while Drew brings the profiling even as the body count mounts.

THE SHADOW WALKER is a strong police procedural with an exciting serial killer investigation, but it is the location that makes this tale standout. Nergui is a superb cop, but readers will appreciate even more his in-depth tour guide role as he escorts the audience and Drew around the city, the suburbs and beyond.

It Happened One Knife
Jeffrey Cohen
9780425222560 $7.99

Life is looking up for Elliot Freed, the owner of the movie theater Comedy Tonight, which shows one classic comedy and one contemporary comedy each week. Due to circumstances beyond his control the theatre required renovation, which took four months to complete and when finished saved Elliot's nerves from a meltdown. Now it is ready to reopen, but he learns his ex-wife Sharon is leaving her current husband, which makes Elliot even more euphoric as he still loves her. The evening before the official opening, Elliot opens late to a select audience who she shows a slasher flick that Anathony his projectionist made...

When it opens, the sales rep for Klassic Comedy Distributions Vic wants to connect Anthony with a movie distributor because he believes the audience will pay to see it. He also tells Elliot that he saw his favorite comic Harry Lillis ay an assisted care living center in Englewood, N. J. Elliot writes him about his classic show Cracked Ice opening in his theatre and Harry shows for the premier. Before he leaves he tells Eliot that Townes killed his wife Vivien and burned down the evidence to hide his crime. Lillis demands justice and their efforts to obtain proof backfires at the same time Anthony cannot find the only copy of his film; he believes Elliot took it.

Jeffrey Cohen shows why he is a wonderful mystery author with his humorous yet action-packed investigative tale. IT HAPPENED ONE KNIFE is fast-paced but contains a quirky cast who insures the audience will believe they are at a comedy show instead of in an amateur sleuth novel. Elliot is the terrific star in this comedic cozy.

Pleasure U
Carole Hart
0451224132 $14.00

Lila is stunned when her high school boyfriend Tad drops her because he says she puts him to sleep in bed as she is boring. Appalled and humiliated, Lila, believing Tad never lies, decides she needs to take a drastic step to improve her performance as she built her entire life dream centered on pleasing Tad.

Lying to her parents about a job in Colorado, Lila the desperate enrolls in Babylona Institute of Sexual Professions, better known as Pleasure U. After the initial shock of the various relationships out in the open, Lila, who thought she would have only Tad, finds her classes are fun and learning how to give and receive pleasure has proved enlightening. However, practical sex education with her peers from both genders looks so yesterday when she wants to go monogamous with big Ben, but only if she gains his heart as much as his penis.

Although superbly written, readers will have problems with the basic concept of a school whose entire curriculum is a degree in sex for young adult twentyish age students; credibility and accreditation aside. The story line actually is a fabulous coming of age tale starring a likable depressed teen whose entire life was planned around the boyfriend she met when she was fifteen. However, at least this reviewer had problems with a school for scandal.

Stamped Out
Terri Thayer
9780425223291 $6.99

April Buchert left Aldersville, Pennsylvania as soon as she could to escape the constant scorn of the townsfolk caused by her father coming out of the closet to move in with his lover; which destroyed her mother. She moved to San Francisco where she married Ken and expected happily ever after; that ended when she realized her spouse stole from their clients and their business.

Her father asks April to work at his business Retro Reproduction; she accepts his offer because she needs the money as Ken the thief left her in debt. They are hired to restore Mirabella a home belonging to snobby high strung Mrs. Harcourt, who treats the lover, father and daughter like indentured servants. To April's chagrin her male partners accept it because they too need cash. Mrs. Harcourt orders them to demolish the Castle guesthouse. When they dynamite the facility, they are shocked to find a skull in the fireplace. Forensics proves it to be one of the workers who everyone thought he just left when he stopped coming to work, a common practice amongst laborers. Local cop Henry York, who hates the Buchert family, arrests April's dad. Though she has never done anything like this before, April vows to restore the family name by finding the real killer.

This first Stamping Sisters mystery is a great amateur sleuth tale is a fresh tale mostly due to April's parents and her dad's lover as they bring uniqueness to the extended family connotation. The protagonist is a likable, loyal yet flawed person who wants to do better and be more tolerant. April is attracted to Mitch, the nephew of her dad's odious client, and he to her; but since Ken she is relationship phobic and technically still married to the thieving louse. However, before working through her myriad of conflicting feelings, rescuing her father comes first; the only problem is no one has a motive, the cop could not care less whether he caught the killer, and the real culprit is watching.

Wicked Weaves
Joyce and Jim Lavene
9780425223307 $6.99

Assistant Professor Jessie Morton has spent the school year teaching history and her summer moths apprenticing to an artisan at the Myrtle Beach Renaissance Village; this time she is tutored by basket maker Mary Shift. Each summer she has a romantic fling, but so far not with the bailiff Chase, who she is attracted to; she hopes this summer is their time together.

One day Jessie observes Mary arguing with a man who acts like he knows her intimately. Later she learns that a similar looking man is dead with one of Mary's weaves tied tightly around his neck. The victim was her husband Joshua who tossed her out years ago; his brother Abraham came to inform Mary that Josh is coming and she needs to send him home or he will be an outcast like her. Abraham had taken Jah, Mary's son into his home and pretended the lad was his son who actually died. He claims that Mary killed him instead of nursed him. The police suspect Mary killed her spouse, but Jessie thinks otherwise. Chase helps her investigate and they soon find an additional suspect besides Mary, Abraham, and Jah but no evidence pointing to anyone except Mary.

The Renaissance Faire mystery is the start of a new exciting amateur sleuth series from the Lavene team; known for their "poisoned" Peggy Lee Garden tales. Part of the fun of this solid whodunit is the vivid description of a the Renaissance Village; anyone who has not been to one will want to go as the Lavene duo makes it so enticing; in fact they make their South Carolina based Faire sound similar to the delightful Georgia Renaissance Festival. The protagonist is an interesting graduate student who feels comfortable in her endeavors when she classifies them into neat compartments; Chase refuses to be filed away as a summer fling as he wants more from her. The whodunit is cleverly developed so that four suspects linked to the basket weaver (Mary's lover being the other) surface with motives while clues seemingly to only point to Jessie's teacher.

Private Places
Robin Shone, Claudia Dain, Allyson James & Shiloh Walker
9780425221723 $14.00

"The Men and Women's Club" by Robin Schone. In 1887 London, the Men and Women's Club has been meeting to discuss sexology, but now face a law suit. Member Professor Joseph Manning demands London Museum publicist Miss Ardelle Dennison give back what she took from him two years ago, his virginity.

"A Night at the Theater" by Claudia Dain. In 1782 at the London theater, French exile Zoe Auvray loses her acting position because of the machinations of untalented Miranda Sinclair. Zoe's best friend scandalous courtesan Sophie Grey says she needs a wealthy patron and suggests the married Duke of Aldeth; Sophie also says she will marry the Earl of Daltry. Bets occur over who will end up with whose penis

"The Decidedly Devilish Duke" by Allyson James. In 1835 Surry, Duke Michael Beaulieu still regrets his actions that drove his beloved Amelia to the late Lockwood and him into a decade exile in the Ottoman Empire. He knows he still loves Amelia; to keep her safe from her odious cousin in law he offers to marry her and vows he will not touch her if she chooses.

"Hunter's Mercy" by Shiloh Walker. In 1783 Williamsburg, Virginia, Jack Callahan comes home after fighting for American independence. Three years ago, his best friend Richard Harper died in his arms, but made him vow he would take care of the his sister Mercy. Jack is a werewolf like his paternal ancestors, but also a hunter who kills feral werewolves. As Jack and Mercy fall in love, he has no hope because she feels werewolves are an abomination.

The lead couples are developed enough so readers will like their tales while the historical settings come across as solid background and the sex scenes are well written and fit inside the story lines. Although the Shiloh Walker entry is excellent, fans will feel it is out of place as the only paranormal in what is a fine erotic historical romance anthology.

Serpent Girl
Rod Lott
Cemetery Dance
9781587671449 $35.00

Heading from Portland, Steven Benedetti is passing through the California mountain town of Garver when he sees the sign advertising a carnival. Retired with no place to be, he decides to stop and have fun there. However, what made a carnival fun as a kid no longer is the same as displays like the House of Terror are broken just like life.

Then he hears the barker mention the SERPENT GIRL and her command of snakes. He goes to see her show. Shocking himself, Steven wants this Carmen Mattox whose sexual enticing show with the snakes around her beautiful body has him in heat with desire. When he intercedes physically on Carmen's behalf during a dispute, she leaves with him. They spend a night together in a nearby motel where he has the best ride of his life. They travel together towards his home stopping for trysts along the way. However, he begins to have doubts about his companion as he fears she may be more than just a snake charmer; but he cannot put together two coherent thoughts as Carmen keeps placing her big beautiful body around him leading to all his blood clotting in his lower head.

This is a superb thriller written by a master magician who uses sleight of the hand to fool the audience into going down one way only to end up totally elsewhere with what may be the twist of the year. The story line starts off as an erotic tale as the two lead characters cannot have enough of one another. However, just when the reader gets comfortable with the plot, Ray Garton pulls a Twilight Zone worthy spin. Fans will appreciate this wonderful psychological thriller.

Jack Ketchum
Cemetery Dance
9781587671579 $40.00

Wayne and Susan are hiking together when he suddenly starts choking her. He stops just before he kills her. Stunned Susan catches her breath and runs from him. Wayne feels like a failure for stopping his death hold on a human; he has killed animals before, but still has not tasted his first human.

Soon after that Wayne witnesses a man and a woman kill another man. He realizes the female is Carole, who is a regular at the Black Locust Tavern where he works as a bartender. She was using a Louisville Slugger on her former still abusive spouse Howard while her lover Lee watched until she used a rock to complete the kill. Ten minutes and Wayne thought he had the best hard on of his life as a voyeur who wants to play and will with his two new associates. So begins Wayne's murder fling with his two new shocked buddies.

This is a reprint of a solid psychological thriller that hooks the audience from the moment a euphoric Wayne begins to plot his murderer's row with his stunned partners. The story line is fast-paced, but the readers never fully learn what motivates Wayne into being a serial killer; whereas Carole's reasoning for killing Howard is implied that he is a nasty SOB who will never leave her alone until one of them are dead. Ironically the police investigator is understood more than Wayne is. Still fans of Jack Ketchum's dark look at human nature will appreciate this murderous JOYRIDE.

Remains to Be Seen
Jim Ingraham
Five Star
9781594146534 $25.95

In the frozen Maine woods, Police Lieutenant Webb Harrington asks his rookie partner, federally funded trainee Florida Deputy Sheriff Perci Piper what she notices at the crime scene beyond the obvious. She says the dead Cleeve College President Sam Spatz is tied to a tree with his hands stretched in a crucified position. She wonders if someone reacted angrily to the victim's antiabortion tirade that many connect to the recent death of student Alice Umber from a self administered abortion.

Haskell Paine, brother of Sam's widow Claire and Assistant to State Majority leader George Edison, demands Perci be taken off the case because of her intrusive inquiries into the Umber death that she tied to college superstar quarterback Vinnie Milano. She is left on the case, but told to be cautious as she interviews the locals. Under Sam's tutelage, Perci begins to tie Vinnie with Claire, but the connected almost always get away with crime even a homicide.

This superb police procedural provides the audience deep insight into what a detective seeks in an investigation via Sam's mentoring of Perci who wants to learn. They make a wonderful pairing with Sam more like a father and she the daughter; her enthusiasm to learn is catchy and leads to his vigorous teaching her. The case is well done and fun to follow, but it is the Webb-Perci relationship that makes for a fine whodunit in which the audience will want more teacher-student inquiries from this dynamo pair.

The Mystery of Hamlin Square
Chet Cunningham
Five Star
1594146691 $25.95

Cal Winters arrives in Hamlin Springs, Tennessee with no money. He obtains work at Hamlin's General Store owned by ninety-three year old former U of T professor Madelyn Housefelter; she also provides him with a place to sleep. He hides from her and the other townsfolk his real reason for coming to this remote mountain village. His recently deceased grandma pleaded with him to learn what happened to his relatives who owned property here only to vanish without a trace in 1919.

Although the vanishing occurred eight decades, his name upsets several local people who know what happened back then and how they gained from it. Three men harass him and he is accused of setting two fires. However, he soon realizes one of the men giving him trouble is running a child porn operation. However Cal makes some progress on his quest, but will need cooperation from the leading families to solve what happened.

THE MYSTERY OF HAMLIN SQUARE is superb when the mystery focuses on Cal's inquiries into what happened to his ancestors; when the plot tries to make Cal look guilty as an arsonist and his involvement in uncovering a child porn ring, it subtracts from the strong core tale of what occurred eighty years ago. Still this is an entertaining look at how the residents of a small town react to the stranger with the surname that haunts the founding families.

The Case of the Deceiving Don
Carl Brookins
Five Star
1594146772 $25.95

Twin Cities private investigator Sean Sean is going home in suburban Roseville, but cops are everywhere on his street. He learns that an elderly resident of the nearby Lakeland Homes retirement facility died when his wheelchair exploded. Over a foot taller than the short Sean, lead police investigator Helen Lasker informs Sean the victim was Augustus Molinaro, a resident of the home for fifteen years; his companion Martin Levy is missing.

Two big guys from a set of the Godfather hire Sean to investigate the murder of Augustus, who turns out to be a former mobster, Greasy Gus from Pennsylvania. Sean makes inquiries that break the law with the help of an elderly resident of Lakeland Homes and someone tries to kill him while the Feds warn him to back off from inquiring about Levy.

This Twin Cities cozy is a pleasant private investigative tale starring an amiable ethical lead protagonist who does not let his short stature prevent him doing tough detective work or dating much taller Catherine Mckerney who he knows can bench press him. Although the subplot involving attempts on his life intrudes on the prime CASE OF THE DECEIVING DON, fans will enjoy this whodunit with a terrific unique motive starring a soft boiled sleuth (see THE CASE OF THE GREEDY LAWYERS).

Blood At The Bookies
Simon Brett
Five Star
1594147582 $25.95

In Fethering, England, Jude takes the bets of flu ailing nonagenarian Harold Peskett to the local betting shop. While there she notices a young man stumbling before he leaves the parlor. Soon afterward, she finds him lying dead in an alley. She later learns the victim was Polish immigrant Tadeusz Jankowski who was in town studying music at nearby Clincham University.

Jude tells her stuffy but sick neighbor Carole Seddon, who is recovering from the flu. Unable to resist they begin to investigate as "amateur sleuth old biddies". When his sister Zofia arrives from Poland, she encourages Jude to keep looking into who killed her brother and why; she does think Tadeusz was in love, but she does not know with whom. With no clues, the pair keeps on digging while the killer watches their every move.

The Fethering amateur sleuths are consistently some of the most entertaining (see latest Fethering caper (see DEATH UNDER THE DRYER, THE BODY ON THE BEACH and THE STABBING IN THE STABLES). The latest one holds up that tradition as an enjoyable whodunit that showcases the social world of the betting club and somewhat the non acceptance of foreign students in England. Carole is at her best as she struggles with just entering the bet shop and with seeking her new granddaughter if that means seeing her ex. Jude escorts Carole to places she would never dared go before. Cozy fans will appreciate the newest tour of Fethering.

True Blue
Bernadette Pruitt
Five Star
1594147019 $25.95

In Denver, widow graphic designer Hadley Spencer is driving with her infant son Nicky in his child restraining seat in the back when a sharp pain rips her abdomen. Noticing a police station, she pulls in just as detective Drake Matthieson is leaving for his fishing trip vacation. Drake calls for an ambulance; Hadley has an emergency appendectomy with no one around to watch Nicky; so Drake does.

Drake continues to be there for mother and son especially when he learned her spouse died in the line of duty in Dallas. His boss hires Hadley to design new markings for the police cars, which brings her and Drake into further contact. As she is his date at a gala, she recognizes the art work of a cold case artist who vanished that he never solved when he worked on the suburban Mountain Springs PD. As they fall in love, she admits it to herself, but is not sure she can cope with being a cop's wife a second time; he holds on to his vow of being a good cop, catching trout, and never getting married although he is reconsidering the latter and not just because of the mom as he cherishes the little "big guy" too.

TRUE BLUE is an entertaining contemporary romance in which the relationship between the adults begins with an emergency that leaves the ailing mom with no one to care for her baby due to circumstances of her being new and her aunt and babysitter out of town. This premise raises the issue of single moms in an emergency with no real support system for their kids. Drake is too perfect as he barely mumbles his frustrations of giving up his vacation to become a temporary dad, who needed a bit more spit, vomit, and pee on him. Hadley is a wonderful caring mom who puts Nicky ahead of her needs. Readers will enjoy this fine Colorado romance between the cop and the cop's widow.

Dark Waters
Sibylle Barrasso
Five Star
159414639X $25.95

They find the corpse of AIDS researcher and Wadsworth professor Mitchell Browne in the Charles River. The Boston police look at his petite widow Evelyn as the prime suspect. She hires attorney David Silverman; he in turns employs private investigator Macy Adams, juts fired by Investigative Enterprise as part of a management take over, to investigate.

Macy learns that Evelyn and Mitchell had dinner at the Hyatt before going home; his corpse was found later that night near the Hyatt although his car was in his driveway. When the autopsy shows he has valium in his blood, the police arrest Evelyn; two years ago when he was cheating on her she drugged him with valium. His mother insists her son was going to divorce Evelyn leaving her with nothing; so she killed him for the $2 million insurance police she paid premiums on. Evelyn's son Tommy and Mitchell's estranged brother insist Evelyn is innocent. Macy's inquiries take an odd spin into BioCorp Genetechnology firm, but though she believes her client is innocent the evidence continues to mount that Evelyn killed her husband who had plenty of enemies in the science business, and family.

This is an entertaining Massachusetts whodunit with plenty of people having motives to kill the victim, but the solid evidence keeps pointing at the indicted Evelyn, who is actually very popular with her in-laws except for Mitchell's mother. The investigation is superb, but Macy's asides fail to come across as either hardboiled or amusing; instead they seem off kilter for a professional working the Dirty Water of the Charles.

Lord of Shadows
Mary Lennox
Five Stars
1594146977 $25.95

In 1843, Lord Devlin Charmichael is a half-breed; having an English mother and a Zaranbad father, but he feels he belongs to neither world. His brother Ari, the King of Zaranbad, which is on the western border of India, is in London negotiating a treaty with the English Queen. He saves his sibling from a United Band terrorist's attempts to poison his Highness, but his sibling is spiteful rather than grateful.

Due to her mom's affair, Lady Caroline Berring is ostracized having been born as a result of scandal. When Dr. Ram Bass arranges for Devlin to dance with Caroline, she becomes suddenly popular. Devlin introduces Caroline to the brother and his blind sister-in-law Queen Janisher. The women become friends while Ram works to uncover the head of the terrorists and Devlin continues to court Caroline although he knows he can never have her; besides which he promised a friend to help him court her. Caroline feels fickle because she is falling in love with Ram and Devlin, but soon reconciles her feelings when she realizes the truth.

This is an engaging historical romantic suspense starring two likable lead protagonists and a solid support cast. Caroline and Janisher steal the show from their protective men with their courage and refusal to hide from danger. Although readers will need to accept a free nineteenth century Christian kingdom bordering on India, fans will enjoy this superb early Victorian thriller as the two females risk their lives to prevent the assassination of their loved ones.

The Long Look
Richard Parks
Five Stars
1594147043 $25.95

He is thought to be a demon, a dark magician, a sorcerer who practices the blood arts, but the truth is both much simpler and much more complex than the rumors. Tymon the Black has what is called THE LONG LOOK as he can see future tragedies with the knowledge some can be changed even prevented; he works to do so. One of his Long Look makes him kidnap the Ashesa, the princess of Morushe, whose future husband he must lure him to Tymon so he can kill him and prevent a war.. Instead the princess appeals to him to let the prince live. He heeds her request leading to leading her to see her future husband will plunge them into war. She ends up killing him.

The dark prince's brother Galen wants to marry Ashesa because he loves her; she agrees to their state marriage. Galen's enemies are planning to kill him and place a puppet on the throne. While Tymon sees their plot, an advisor to Duke Laras wants to push his lord into claiming the throne as he has a legitimate argument that he should be the ruler. Galen in a quest for revenge and brings something dark and evil into the realm to destroy Tymon. However he loses control of the darkness. Tymon is capable of saving the world by dying and his various enemies are planning to just that in a confrontation at the Black Pits.

Tymon is eyed as a vile villain, but ignores the monster label to do what he believes is right to include killing someone in order to prevent a greater catastrophe (mindful of the Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever"). He hates killing, but knows he must do what it takes for what he perceives is the greater good. Richard Parks has written a fascinating fantasy with a deep morality question of when is it okay to kill an innocent and then there is the question of the time paradox in which changing the future with one death may lead to unforeseen consequences worse than what you prevented as the hero learns to his dismay.

Finding Fiona
Mary Fremont Schoenecker
Five Star
9781594146947 $25.95

In 2005 in her hometown of Biddleford Pool, Maine, Maddy Fontaine obtains an eighth grade teaching position. With her widower father remarried, Maddy moves out of the only home she has known to share an apartment with her best friend Clare Chamberlain. She has also found herself attracted to artisan Patrick Donovan, the older brother of her student Rosemary and believes he reciprocates her feelings.

However, though she has problems with accepting her new stepmother Kathleen and has ended a relationship with a local lawyer, Maddy hopes to begin one with Patrick. He makes it obvious he desires her, but keeps a distance as his family is full. His father recently died and his other sibling is unmarried and pregnant and Fiona is missing having left home following a dispute with her dad. When Clare's Tante Margaret informs Maddy that an accident occurred at Patrick's workshop during a hurricane, she rushes over there. Falling debris hits her in the head; when she awakens she is in 1905 and quickly helps the town's ancestors, but vows to return to her time to persuade Patrick they belong together, to accept Kathleen as part of her family, and to especially find Fiona.

Although the time travel and a to a degree the paranormal feel unnecessary as there is plenty of angst and anguish for each of the lead couple to cope with starting with FINDING FIONA, fans will enjoy this fine Maine Shore Chronicles. The story line is predominantly driven by Maddy who finds 2005 a year of major change for her; even more than 1905. Fans will enjoy the romance as her dad sums up love and this fine tale with a quote from Jeremiah "More torturous than all else is the human heart".

Nox Dormienda
Kelli Stanley
Five Star
9781594146664 $25.95

In 83 AD Londinium, doctor Julius "Arcturus" Favonianus learns from widow Claudia "Gwyna" Catussa that his prime employer and friend Britannia Governor, Agricola is in trouble with Roman Emperor Domitian. Apparently the Emperor has sent fat avaricious Syrian Vibius Maecenas with papers demanding Agricola to resign. Gwyna further explains that the odious Syrian freeman is her sponsus. It was arranged by her dying father for her to marry the pig; she will kill herself before she allows him to impregnate her.

After she leaves, Arcturus sends his servant Bilicho to follow her. Not long after that, the Romans arrive to escort Arcturus to a hidden forbidden temple where Maecenas is dead looking like a ghastly imitation of Mithras slaying the bull. Arcturus with Bilicho to assist investigates the homicide that could lead to civil war between the Roman legion and the British even as he is attracted to the prime suspect Gwyna.

Although the resolution is weak; fans of ancient historical mysteries will enjoy this entertaining Britannia Noir as Arcturus escorts the audience to places not normally found in Roman Empire whodunits. Little things like a Roman name and a native name enhances a sense of time and place. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the soldiers take the lead character to the crime scene and never slows down as he investigates the homicide while fearing if he takes too long to resolve, hostilities will turn ugly. NOX DORMIENDA is an enjoyable first century amateur sleuth.

Brian McGilloway
9780312384067 $23.95

A lucid example of politicians and bureaucrats who never visit the outcome zone before making decisions is the border separating Northern Ireland and Ireland drawn in 1920 without regard to geography or property rights. The imaginary line cuts through farms. When a corpse is found on both sides of the demarcation, the Garda Siochana and the Police Service help one another solve the case; juresdiction is based on either which side has more of the body or in dispute which country the deceased belonged to; don't even bother to figure out third country residents.

Thus when the body of fifteen years old Angela Cashell is found lying across the border, jurisdiction is resolved by Garda Police Inspector Benedict Devlin who insists he knows the teen as a citizen of Ireland. No one argues as he leads the investigation into her homicide. At the crime scene, Angela was wearing a gold ring that her family members deny ever seeing before as none recognize it. Local mourners leave flowers where she died honoring the victim, but someone left amongst the foliage an old photograph that seems out of place. Devlin focuses on teenager Whitey McKelvey, a member of the itinerant "Travelers" as the prime suspect until a second murder with that same old photo occurs that exonerates the lad. Devlin knows the case is much deeper than the River Shannon, but not who or why.

The key to this strong Irish police procedural is the background at the BORDERLANDS where an informal cooperation between the cops was forged eight decades ago that remains in effect and a more tenuous peace between the local residents and the "Travelers". Benedict is a solid lead character as he has some personal issues that make him human, but not enough to overwhelm the prime whodunit story line. Brian McGilloway writes a strong opening investigative tale that sub-genre fans will welcome.

The Borrowed and Blue Murders
Merry Jones
9780312356231 $24.95

After postponing the wedding due to a high risk pregnancy, art therapist Zoe Hayes is in the final countdown to saying I do. Although she is run off her feet, she remains relatively calm as she deals with an upset hyperactive wedding planner and dodging her boss at the Psychiatric Institute. Her home is taken over by her fiance's two brothers Tony and Sam, who look almost exactly like her beloved. She does not mind them monopolizing her home and her fiance Detective Nick Silver, but she wishes they would include her in their discussions.

Zoe's tranquility is shattered when she discovers a gutted woman on her patio. The police think it was a drug deal that turned hideous as the suppliers worked her over to get to illegal contraband inside her stomach. That theory goes down in flames when the victim is identified as a Homeland Security Agent who Tony recognizes as the woman who bumped into him.

The forth Zoe Hayes mystery is hilarious as it is fun to watch the heroine jump from one crisis to another while also dealing with post partum depression, bridal anxiety disorder, caring for a disorderly baby, and trying to fit in with Nick's eccentric family. Readers are interested in the goings on of the cast as it seems everyone seeks something from everyone else even the dead agent. Chaos is the norm for Zoe and the guys while humor and excitement is the norm for readers.

Indigo Christmas
Jeanne M. Dams
9781880284957 $14.95

In 1904 South Bend, Indiana, recently married Hilda Johansson Cavanaugh struggles with her adjustment from being a servant to that of the wife to the affluent Patrick. She knows you can take the woman out of serving, but not the serving out of the woman as she is used to answering the bell not pulling the bell cord. Worse she finds herself isolated from her spouse's upper crust family and friends while her former working class peers snub her.

Hilda's only remaining friend Norah O'Neill rushes into the house despondent shouting near hysterically that the police arrested her husband Sean accusing him of murder and arson to hide a theft gone bad. Whereas Aunt Molly tries to calm the distraught woman down reminding her of the baby she carries, the other visitor Dorothy Elbel is appalled by the crass behavior she witnesses. Hilda says she will help Sean while with Aunt Molly's encouragement she joins a committee of the well to do wives planning a Christmas Party to launch their Boys Club for lowlife street kids. Some of the boys targeted for the club become paid "Baker Street irregulars" consultants of Hilda as she investigates the homicide.

More of a historical look at social and religious dysfunctional relationships between groups than a turn of the century mystery, INDIGO CHRISTMAS is a strong Hilda Johannson entry. The story line uses class conflict to provide insight into Middle America in 1904. For instance Hilda's Swedish Lutheran relatives and Patrick's Irish Catholic kin do not get along , and the gap between working class and the "aristocracy" is accentuated by the heroine's not belonging to either and by the chasm between the upper crust charitable Brahmin's and the poor kids they target as their cause. Although the amateur sleuthing is kept more as a backdrop than usual (see CRIMSON SNOW) to the vivid look at 1904 Indiana, fans of the series will enjoy the escapades and trials of Mrs. Cavanaugh.

Good-Bye And Amen
Beth Gutcheon
9780060539078 $24.95

Still reeling and grieving the tragic deaths of their parents Laurus and Sydney, the three adult Moss children arrive for the middle age mourners' lottery; in other words what to do with their parents' possessions. Each comes to the house with differing desires and needs, but it starts off wrong when the youngest and only son Jimmy takes the baby grand piano that the middle offspring Monica wanted. War has begun between the Moss orphans.

The oldest Eleanor Applegate wants things for her four children so will fight for them, but raising four kids makes her believe in fair and share. Monica Faithful wants whatever she can get, but also needs to play fair with her siblings in the Lottery while she struggles in a bad marriage just like she struggled in what she thought was a bad childhood due to her officious snobbish mom. Jimmy Moss has been estranged from his family seemingly forever, but though he is not sure he wants a reconciliation he wants to be fair with his older sisters. Coming into the Lottery fair play is what each wants; now comes the practice as the summer house and the concert Steinway and much more become debated.

The sequel to LEEWAY COTTAGE is an interesting well written extended family drama as the three siblings encouraged by their respective loved ones struggle with the orphans' lottery while saying GOOD-BYE AND AMEN to their parents. Each of the Moss offspring had issues with their overbearing mother that shapes their thoughts. Superbly written, each character including the extended family members is unique and complete. However, after a while the reiteration of past transgressions turns into whining as the audience will demand the trio complete the task. Still this is a solid look at families at a time of grief and asset divisibility.

Neal Stephenson
9780061474095 $29.95

In the future on the planet Arbre, great thinkers are clustered behind the "Concent" walls where they control knowledge from the illogical thinking "Saecular" masses. Preadolescents who show a strong logical ability for rational thought are taken away from the masses to be educated as logical scientists or pragmatic mathematicians inside the cloisters. They learn early on their responsibilities as knowledge is power and knowledge used unwisely is dangerous; thus must be coveted and protected.

Nineteen year old Raz showed signs of brilliance when he was eight, he was collected to be trained as a muse. He has become a "Tenner" over his decade plus of intense learning. Thus his time to go outside amongst the low life Saecular is coming; an event he is allowed once every ten years hence a Tenner. However, the cloistered soon realizes a pandemic catastrophe from outer space is coming soon. Much of the older Concent members feel strongly that physical intervention is prohibited as they debate what to do. However, teens like Raz and those he associates with have not lost their need for adventure. Foolishly perhaps without adult supervision and some would say in violation of their elders, they set forth to save Arbre.

This is a fascinating tale mindful of Gulliver's Travels to Laputa, the flying island of scientists and mathematicians. The debates and discussions on history and the upcoming calamity are enjoyable to follow, but can turn tedious as long stretches purposely lack action; those behind the walls are reflective thinkers not necessarily doers except perhaps the teens. Fans who appreciate a cerebral science fiction thriller with as much philosophizing as action will want to read Neal Stephenson's brilliant, interesting but different ANATHEM.

The Lace Reader
Brunonia Barry
9780061624766 $24.95

She left her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts when she was eighteen years old due to a tragedy she believes she caused. Like all her female relatives Towner Whitney can read the future using lace. However, she vowed never again when her lace reading led to her twin sister Lyndley's death and put her mental well being on the brink of collapse with selective amnesia perhaps keeping her somewhat sane.

Now years away from Salem and the memory of that trauma, Towner returns home because her beloved Great Aunt Eva vanished. Soon afterward the drowned body of the first Lace Reader is found. Towner has no doubts some anti-paranormal fanatic like born again former alcoholic Preacher Cal killed Eva; everyone else assumes she is off her rocker again. Still she plans to learn who murdered her aunt even though it means reading the Lace for the first time since Lyndley died. Ex NYPD Detective turned Salem cop John Rafferty officially investigates the case though he is increasingly convinced an accident happened even as he is attracted to the enigmatic Towner.

THE LACE READER is a fabulous whodunit that cleverly uses differing perspectives of the same events to keep the audience somewhat off-balance, but totally engrossed. The story line is character driven especially by Towner and John, but also by secondary players like Cal and Towner's reclusive mom. Each sees the death through the relative personal bias. Brunonia Barry provides a deep Salem thriller in which readers will keep pondering that truth is in the eyes of the beholder.

Lisa Black
9780061544453 $24.95

In Cleveland, the police investigate the brutal murder of Federal Reserve Bank executive Mark Ludlow is in front of his home. The official inquiry is led by homicide detective Paul Cleary with support from his fiancee forensic pathologist Theresa MacLean.

Whereas Paul heads to the Bank to conduct 360 degree interviews, Theresa works the crime scene. However, at the bank Lucas Parrish and Bobby Moyers hold hostages while demanding four million dollars and a getaway vehicle, but hostage negotiator Chris Cavanaugh delays acquiescing and insists he needs some acts of good faith. Angry the two felons shoot Paul in the leg to accentuate their demand. Theresa arrives at the scene and over the objection of Chris who is in charge of the situation persuades Lucas to allow Paul to leave so he can obtain medical attention in exchange for her. Now a hostage Theresa tries to uncover the motive to the robbery and its link to the Ludlow homicide as she rejects coincidence.

This is an exciting police procedural however Theresa acts more like Clint Eastwood than Kay Scarpetta. She does little forensic science and breaks every protocol rule while turning into a superhero. Still the story line is filled with stratospheric suspense and refreshed by having the female be the testosterone bravado who risks her life to rescue her man. TAKEOVER is fun just over the top of Jacobs Field.

Vi Agra Falls
Mary Daheim
9780061562716 $23.95

In Seattle, Judith McMonigle Flynn owns and manages the Hillside Manor bed-and-breakfast. However, domestic tranquility and bliss vanish rather quickly when Joe's former wife "Her" with the ample cleavage as always openly on display, nouveau riche Vivian, arrives. Accompanying her is her much younger boy toy spouse, former minor league baseball player Billy "Blunder" Buss.

However the Heraldsgate Hill cul de sac residents including Judith, her cousin Remy, and Joe are horrifically stunned when Vivian announces plans to build an ostentatious condo complex amidst their homes. Adding to the growing fiasco is the arrival of Billy's brother Frankie and his wife Marva Lou who stay at the B&B. Frankie is irate that his late father left a fortune to his trophy wife Vivian. When a corpse is found behind Vivian's new home, Judith can't help herself. She starts investigating though she denies to Remy every sleuthing step of involvement she takes.

This long running cozy keeps its freshness with the interrelationships, many dysfunctional between the cast including the cousins. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as an eccentric horde invades the Heraldsgate Hill neighborhood causing havoc to the residents and amusement for the reader. The investigation is cleverly handled to add to the overall fun of exacerbation as Judith reconsiders her second time with Joe due to his eccentric people invading their of people.

Red Sky in Morning
Patrick Culhane
9780060892555 $24.95

When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Miller's Grove, Iowa resident Peter Maxwell tells his beloved wife Kay he enlisting. She encourages him to join and he signs up with the US Navy. He is sent on to the USS Liberty Hill, along with his friends Rosetti, Driscoll, and Connor; the vessel carries armaments throughout the Pacific, and is crewed mostly by blacks with the few whites being officers for the most part.

The ship has all sorts of issues with horrific weather and kamikaze attacks, but the worst is the tension between the two races; and is made worst by the captain. Maxwell becomes a close friend with black former Chicago cop Ulysses "Sarge" Grant Washington. When someone kills a white Ivy League grad and a gay black seaman, Maxwell and Washington agree to investigate hoping to uncover the murderer before someone else dies.

This is an engaging historical tale which cannot decide between being a WWII thriller or mystery. The story line uses hyperbolic stereotypes (at times overkill as we got the point) to lay out the 1940s military structure and relationships, but turns into a investigation led by the experienced police detective and supported by the former high school Iowan quarterback. The story line is at its best when the focus is on the on board interactions in limited space between individuals and groups at sea; many of which are dysfunctional fueled by bias and misunderstanding. The murder mystery feels unnecessary and too standardized subtracting from the overall theme of racism due to skin color or religion on board a US Navy WW II vessel.

The Laughter of Dead Kings
Elizabeth Peters
9780061246241 $25.95

The "Inspector of Antiquities for all Upper Egypt" Feisal arrives at the Munich National Museum to visits assistant curator American expatriate Vicky Bliss. She welcomes her friend who has come so far since THE NIGHT TRAIN TO MEMPHIS caper, but is shocked to see him so far from his beloved Egypt and coming to Germany without telling her. He asks to see her lover antiquities dealer John Tregarth.

Feisal informs John and Vicky that someone stole King Tut's mummy from the tomb in the Valley of Kings pyramid. Based on evidence, the Egyptian police believe strongly that notorious art thief Sir John Smythe is the thief. Stunned as Tregarth was once Smythe, but no longer steals anything; they begin investigating knowing they will risk Egypt to find the real culprit and return Tut to his resting place.

After too long a wait, Elizabeth Peters fans will welcome the return of the statuesque amateur sleuth who along with her British lover and their Egyptian friend try to prove Sir Smythe is retired and someone else is imitating his M.O. The story line is fun to follow as the connection to Amelia Peabody is obvious with the tour of Egypt that follows in her historical footsteps, which in many ways dominates the plot over the investigation. Readers will enjoy the blissful return of Vicky and John as they struggle to stay alive and out of jail long enough to prove his innocence.

The Shack
William P. Young
Windblown Media
9780964729247 $24.95

Mackenzie Allen Philips married up when Nanette Samuelson said yes over three decades ago in Oregon. They had three boys and two girls. The two older boys have left the nest while Josh remains at home along with the older daughter Kat. The youngest child Missy was abducted four years ago during a family vacation; evidence found in an isolated shack led to the conclusion she was brutally murdered.

Since her death, Mack has lived in a fog state, The Great Sadness as he accuses that Great Interferer God for letting an innocent die. Now during a nasty ice storm while his wife and the two at home kids visit relatives in Washington State, Mack receives a strange letter in the family mail box not delivered by the post office. "Papa" asks him to meet him at THE SHACK. Although his entire essence says to ignore the missive, he heads towards the aptly named Hells Canyon National Recreation Area to confront this Papa and hopefully gain closure; Mack will learn more than he bargained for from Papa who vows to always wipe away the tears as more will occur over the years.

This is an interesting contemporary inspirational tale in which a still grieving father learns the truth about his late daughter and why bad things happen to the innocent. Mack confronts Papa asking him why while Papa responds without the philosophical babble of free will by saying his dead child will be in his heart for eternity. A fabulous twist enhances the plot as Mack learns he used the Great Sadness to repel his family when they need him most. Fans will appreciate this strong character driven tragedy as William Young provides a deep angst laden story line in which Mack and the audience understand God is there for us at our gravest moments when we feel most abandoned to help us through the dark into the light.

Sharon Carter Rogers
9781416566496 $12.99

A West Virginia police detective is kidnapped by the cult memebrs of the Michelangelus Movement, who perform macabre experiments on people based on the work of the Renaissance artist. Soon after that abduction, a psychopathic serial killer visits the Collins Galleria of Books where he thinks the exhibition of Michelangelo's work in a surrealistic display is being held. The owner Hummingbird Collins notices him and directs him to the Conklin Art Gallery and then she escorts him there. She sees him enter and when he leaves minus his coat a bomb blows up the gallery.

She is injured and rushed to the hospital; when she gets out she isolates herself from her friends and family. Finally she informs her brother that she saw the bomber who calls himself Number Twenty-Six, who has warned her to remain silent and not go to the police or he will insure her family will die horrifically. Believing her phone is tapped, her bother asks a cleric friend to go to the police with a picture she drew of the killer. Attracted to her and furious she went to the authorities, Number Twenty-Six kidnaps her while the cops remain clueless as to whom he is. Only a physically injured young person suffering from multiple personality disorder might with luck save Hummingbird's life, but more likely will die too as part of the Last Judgment.

This is a fast-paced thriller filled with plenty of action and more action; in fact things occur so fast from the onset it takes readers some time to comprehend what is going on especially in the mindset of the cult; the audience never quite learns the where all of an urban monk, who serves as the link between the police, Hummingbird, and the cult. Fascinatingly the monk Ready Robinson and the violent Michelangelus Movement steal the show from the beleaguered heroine.

A Matter Of Wife & Death
Ginger Kolbaba & Christy Scannell
9781416543886 $12.99

The five pastors' wives of Red River, Ohio meet every Tuesday at Lulu's Cafe, forty miles from their churches in order to nosh and commiserate. They share their woes that they cannot tell anyone else even their husbands.

Mimi Plaisance left teaching to be a stay at home mother to her four preadolescent children, but the newborn Milo is driving her insane as he always cries. Mimi never sleeps except when driving as she feels like his personal 24/7 slave.

"Golden" Kitty Fleming remains a snob as her spouse pastors the largest congregation. She is the self anointed Queen of the Southwest Pastors' Wives fellowship society, but fears being on top means others want to displace her.

Jennifer Shores is the church secretary where her husband Sam is the pastor, but she wants children and has none after a decade of marriage. She is even jealous of the single moms she councils at the crisis pregnancy center even though she knows their lives are hard.

Lisa Barton is a stay at home mom to her two teens. She has the DNA for being a pastor as her parents are the pastors of a nearby church. However, her daughter Callie is rebelling and causing problems for them at the church with her behavior.

Public relations guru Felicia Lopez-Morrison came with her husband and their now four year old child from Los Angeles two years ago. She worries that her firm will close the Cincinnati office where she works and that her son has reverted back to his terrible twos biting people.

Although rotating the story lines of five lead characters is a bit overwhelming (novellas seems more suited), each of the wives seem real and their woes genuine. Each has problems that they handle differently with Mimi's proving quite a stunner. Fans will enjoy dining and gossiping at Lulu's cafe with the pastoral quintet (see Desperate Pastors' Wives).

Everything But A Bride
Holly Jacobs
9780803499041 $23.95

Back when she was young and in love in her native Hungary Nana Vancy said the "curse" when her beloved Bela Salo failed to show up their wedding. She knew words had power and felt guilt and happiness when he arrived to exchange I do; he had been delayed due to an accident. However it was too late to pull back her angry mutterings about big weddings, Bela and his relatives.

In Erie, Pennsylvania, Nana's grandson Noah Salo is being toasted with a stag party before he marries Juliana. However, at the gala, Juliana ends their engagement. At about the same time that Juliana informs Noah it is over, her younger stepsister Callie breaks up with her boyfriend. Commiserating together, Callie and Noah go to Hungary on what they facetiously dub a "non- honeymoon trip together. As they get to know one another, they begin to fall in love, but she has doubts that she can step in Juliana's larger shoes and besides she refuses to be a rebound.

Returning to Erie, site of her WLVH Radio Romance saga (see LAUGH LINES, NIGHT CALLS, LOVE HANDLES and PICKUP LINES), Holly Jacobs provides a warm contemporary romance starring two likable characters, a strong support cast, and the "curse". The relationship between the stars starting at the stag party through the non-honeymoon and the aftermath in Pennsylvania is well written and fun to read while the secondary players strengthen the story line. As always Holly Jacobs entertains her fans with a fine tale that has everything.

Jill Marie Landis
Steeple Hill (Harlequin)
9780373786244 $6.99

In 1873 Texas the Bluecoats came and killed her companions; she expected and wished to die with her Comanche, but instead they took her with them. Eyes-in-the-Sky anticipates multiple rapes, but knows she can do little to prevent it. Shockingly the soldiers leave her with Hattie Ellenberg and her adult son Joe. They name her Deborah, but the biggest stunner is seeing her self in a mirror; she was not Comanche, but instead white like her hosts.

Hattie opens herself up to the confused young woman who she treats like her daughter. However, Deborah knows only one life and wants to return to it. Joe, who has suffered anguish and heartbreak starting with the deaths of his father and sister, admires her courage and spunk. Still, unlike his mom who turned to the Lord for solace following the killings, Joe remains bitter and angry blaming God until now; somehow the newcomer he did not want in their home has begun to melt the ice frozen around his heart. As they fall in love, which confuses her further as she is unsure what world is hers; Deborah's white family from the east comes for their cousin Rebekiah.

Although the basic premise of Eyes-in-the-Sky's background has been done numerous times before, Jill Marie Landis provides a fresh read due to the heroine's reactions to herself, the Ellenbergs, her white family, and her former tribesmen. For instance to survive amongst the Comanche she repressed her previous memories; thus she makes the tale work as a strong Reconstruction Era tale in which everyone needs to feel they belong somewhere preferably with those who they share love.

Always a Knight
Wayne Jordan
Harlequin Kimani
0373860781 $5.99

While he misses his beloved family who live in the Barbados and at times feels so lonely he wants to go home, reporter Russell Knight heeds Sonata's advice about making it in New York and remains dedicated to succeeding as a journalist. The New York Times reporter accepts an invitation to a club owned by his friend Rachel Allen to watch a singer and her band perform; Rachel raves they are excellent and he loves music.

From the stage singer Tori Matthews sees Russell talking to her boss and for the first in her life falls into instant lust. To his shock, Russell upon seeing the singer for the first time falls into instant lust. Both have to have the other. As their lust grows into friendship and love, he demands she give up her career while she refuses to give up on her dream. Unable to reach consensus as neither would budge, they split up proving love is not enough.

The only negative to ALWAYS A KNIGHT is that this is the final book in the Knight Family trilogy (see ONE GENTLE KNIGHT and TO LOVE A KNIGHT). The lead couple is a passionate pairing of likable protagonists whose life goals appears to supersede their love for one another as neither quite understand compromise as his wise sister explains that live is selfless placing the other's needs ahead of yours. Fans of contemporary romances will enjoy this fine tale of two people in love, but unable to try on let alone walk in their beloved's shoes.

Barbara Dunlop
Harlequin NASCAR
9780373217922 $5.99

Truck driver Crystal Hayes loves her job as she drives for her family's firm. As she listens to Creedence Clearwater Revival, Crystal muses how much the open road may be gender specific but is the life for her as she definitely has no desire for a man in her life; one was enough.

The Grosso family is one of NASCAR's royals. However, the black sheep is Professor Larry Grosso, who as an academia is sort of an outside nerd as if he fell out of the family tree. When Crystal delivers her latest truck load to the Grosso NASCAR team, they meet. In spite of his being two decades older than she, the attraction is stratospheric. He wants her although his family fears she is only after his money; whereas she was married once so has doubts about a second time around the track.

Racing takes a back seat as two at best NASCAR peripherals fall in love. The story line focuses on how age does not matter but pasts do as each has ghosts that make them hesitate to forge a loving relationship. Readers will enjoy Barbara Dunlap's second chance at love starring two OVERHEATED protagonists who fear risking their hearts.

Teaming Up
Abby Gaines
Harlequin NASCAR
9780373217939 $5.99

Part of the famous Murphy NASCAR family, Kim became a highly regarded research scientist working at Booth Labs. However, her doctor tells her she has kidney problems that she must not ignore.. Feeling healthier than the horse that won the Derby, she plans to do nothing until she finds her list of 10 things to do before she dies in her family's Charlotte home.

Kim decides to complete the list which includes dating and dumping a jock. She chooses NASCAR Crew chief Wade Abraham to help her complete those items. He is more than willing to accommodate her. As they fall in love, he remains in the dark as does her family as to why she implemented her dying list of ten.

In spite of her family and his job, NASCAR plays a minor support role in this angst laden contemporary romance as Kim facing death decides to complete her list with Wade being her chosen one. The story line is driven totally around the oval by Kim as she engages the audience who pray that a compatible kidney is found in time. Abby Gaines provides a deep tale starring a young brilliant woman living her life to the fullest as begins counting down.

Cutting Loose
Susan Andersen
9780373773046 $7.99

In Seattle, when elderly Miss Agnes died, she left the Wolcott Mansion to her three much younger friends, Jane, Poppy and Ava, whom she met eighteen years ago. They became sort of a family meeting every month at the mansion for tea until Miss Agnes passed away.

The trio knows they cannot afford the upkeep so they plan to sell the mansion once the renovation is done. They hire Bren, head of Kavanagh Construction, but he is receiving medical treatment so his brother Dev will lead the project. However Dev seems drunk although jet lag from flying from Greece to the Sates adds to his stupor. Jane objects to his leading the renovation while he finds her uptight. As they work together, their first impressions change to attraction and lust and ultimately love. However he is east coast and she is west coast so a permanent relationship seems out of the question.

This is a lighthearted fun contemporary romance in which first impressions are proved wrong. The lead couple is a terrific pairing as neither initially is very pleased with the other, but working together soon see the complete package and cannot help but fall in love (it is a romance- duh). The support cast, who will star in future tales, add depth to a warm character driven tale.

Just One of the Guys
Kristan Higgins
9780373772995 $7.99

In Upstate new York as Chastity chokes on a mushroom, her boyfriend of three weeks Jason dumps her; he insists she is not attractive enough for him especially her broad muscular shoulders. He is also embarrassed that she gave him a piggyback ride for a mile and a half while the best he could muster is to throw like a girl. Upset but not hurt, Chastity wants a husband who will relish female muscle as she refuses to give up rowing for any man. Making it harder to find the One is that her family consists of testosterone superheroes, which limits the male dating pool to idiots or fools as they must brave her father, four brothers, and an extended assortment of others.

She has one other wish on her card. She wants to be able to deal with the sight of blood, which makes her faint. She decides to conquer her phobia by confronting it; she signs up to attend an EMT program. Although Trevor whom she has known sine elementary school would be the One if the firefighter could get past seeing her as a kid sister. Ryan does and she becomes engaged, but Chastity dreams of her unrequited love.

JUST ONE OF THE GUYS is an engaging contemporary tale as Chastity falls in one failed relationship after another until she agrees to marry Ryan. Fans will appreciate her efforts to deal with blood and finding a husband even one she does not love. Fans will appreciate Kristan Hannah's fine story starring a likable heroine who rows when she is upset.

Scandalous Deception
Rosemary Rogers
Harlequin HQN
9780373772506 $7.99

In 1820 adviser to Czar Alexander English Lord Edmond Summerville learns his twin brother Stefan, the Duke of Huntley, is in danger as someone wants him dead. Used to the lethal contest of Russian politics, Edmond leaves his mother's homeland to go to England, the land of his father, to help his sibling. Edmond insists on being bait to draw out the killer by pretending he is the Duke.

Fearing her stepfather's depraved assaults are getting worse, Brianna Quinn turns to her childhood friend, Stefan for safety; as a Duke he can keep her odious relative away from her. However, she realizes immediately that the duke who greets her is not Stefan, but his brother Edmond. They are attracted to one another so when the Czar needs him she accompanies him back to Russia. As they fall in love, someone threatens his beloved forcing Stefan to choose between his beloved and his beloved Russia.

This terrific historical romance is at its best when the hero is in Russia as the audience obtains a powerful taste of Czarist intrigue a century before the Revolution. The segment in England is well written also especially as the lead couple get reacquainted, but does not possesses the uniqueness of the Russian chapters. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as heroic Stefan risks his life for his brother, the Czar and especially for Brianna. Rosemary Rogers provides an exciting early nineteenth century romantic intrigue thriller.

Sweet Spot
Susan Mallery
9780373773145 $7.99

In Seattle, Nicole Keyes still recuperates from her gall bladder surgery and the reappearance of her estranged fraternal twin sister Claire in her life. Complicating her emotional state is that Claire and her best friend Wyatt are a loving entry with her sis pregnant three months while her other estranged sister Jesse slept with Nicole's ex husband Drew and may also be carrying a baby.

At the bakery, a Pacific High School teen starts to walk out with a box of donuts without paying. She has her employee Maggie call the cops while the kid just stands still. Pacific High School coach Eric Hawkins arrives instead of the police. Nicole is nasty to the hunk while Raoul the star quarterback apologizes. A widower Hawk returns to the bakery as he is intrigued with the woman who sacked him earlier. As he and Nicole fall in love, a feeling she hates, his teenage daughter Brittany does not want a new mom in her life, but is sure of having Raoul in her life.

The battling Keyes sisters remain somewhat dysfunctional although Nicole and Claire have reconciled while an ashamed Jesse has vanished. This time the war is between the two women in Eric's life but Nicole knows she cannot win that fight. Once again the relationships beyond just that of the lead pair makes for a tense character driven contemporary tale.

Dark Light
Jayne Castle
9780515145199 $7.99

Earth has colonized the world of Harmony but they were not the final sentient species to do so. A mysterious alien race built underground catacombs filled with psi energy that over time manifested among the earthy colonists with each generation growing is psi skill. The mysterious aliens are gone leaving only their infrastructure.

Tabloid reporter Sierra McIntyre is interviewing new Ghost Hunter Guild Chief John Fontana, who can manipulate psi energy so that it doesn't hurt anyone. Sierra is worried about former and homeless Guild member addicted to ghost juice and believes Fontana should tale care of the problem. She is also concerned that former impoverished hunters have disappeared without a trace and demands John investigate. Less than an hour after they meet, John proposes a marriage of convenience so they can combine their resources to investigate the issues that he feels generate from within the guild and to protect Sierra who is in danger from those shadows behind the disappearances. On their first night as husband and wife, someone using an alien artifact breaks into John's property with nasty intent. They escape into the catacombs for now, but traps and danger await them on every turn as the conspirators need to kill Mr. and Ms. Fontana to avoid discovery and disclosure.

It is always great to visit Harmony where Jayne Castle escorts readers through great romance and compelling mystery in an alien combo sci-fi fantasy world. The latest thriller is exciting and fast-paced as the alien objects are used by avaricious people to gain more power. The pairing of Sierra and John enhances their inquiry into what is going on inside the Guild as fans of the saga will relish this strong paranormal romantic whodunit.

Turbulent Sea
Christine Feehan
9780515145069 $7.99

Rock and roll superstar Joley Drake loved the band she called her "boys" and relished singing, but hated touring where she saw first hand what the women, drugs and alcohol was doing to the boys. She could not partake because of her other talent as a magical Drake requires no poisoning of her body so she quit partying, but it is the stalkers that concern her now.

She attends a party for the first time in a long time when she learns a teenager she saw at the gala vanished. She begins to ask questions that concern her Russian bodyguard Ilya Prakenskii who believes that his client might be in danger. He offers to use his paranormal skills to keep her safe, but the price he demands may be too exorbitant for the rock star to pay; he wants her heart and soul and will accept nothing less.

The latest Drake sister "watery:" romantic suspense thriller (see SAFE HARBOR and OCEANS OF FIRE) is a terrific entry that the audience has been waiting for as this relationship has been stirring for a while. The story line is action-packed with an unknown stalker starting to kill and Joley is the ultimate target. However, though the plot is thin, the tale remains gripping due to the turbulent relationship between the Drake sibling used to swimming in a sea of love and the enigmatic lone ranger Ilya used to going solo in an empty ocean of distrust.

Shadows of Colossus
T. L. Higley
9780805447309 $14.99

By 227 B.C. on the island of Rhodes, Tessa of Delos has reconciled with the belief she will never be free. Instead for the past decade she has been an enslaved hetaeira courtesan to affluent politician Glaucus. Now on the anniversary day, she decides the only escape is suicide. However, fate intervenes when her owner dies violently.

She sees an opportunity to escape by hiding his death from authorities. She also knows the risk of being caught is probably execution. Others, hoping to develop a kinder society based on democracy, take chances by abetting Tessa on her quest to escape bondage.

Starting ten days before the "quake" that leveled the five decade plus old statue, this is an engaging inspirational ancient historical thriller. The story line is fast-paced with a fascinating "Christian" message two plus centuries before the Christ as told by Jews and compared with local Hellenistic paganism adding depth to the overall visit to this Greek island. However, because of the fascination with the overall theme, more background into this particular one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World would have made this fine tale into a colossal thriller; yet this is still a terrific look at Greece over two millennia ago.

April Fool
John Neufeld
Grey Swan Press
9780980037739 $16.95

In affluent Connecticut semi retired political campaign consultant George Willett envies his late dad; his father remarried late in life after his first wife died. Hypochondriac George, who rushes to emergency rooms and doctors as a way of life though he is physically healthy, is bored with his spouse dutiful Peg and even considers hiring a hit man.

He especially wants to rid himself of his wife when he meets author and writing instructor Valerie Herrick in New York City. They begin exchanging warm emails as she lives in Arizona. He also considers coming out of retirement to work the California recall governor initiative though his memory of the odious Bushwhacking of the Cleland campaign in Georgia still leaves a bitter aftertaste. However, first before he can regain his lost youth this Boomer needs to rid himself of Peg.

This odd contemporary character study focuses on an aging eccentric boomer who lives comfortably, but regrets his major choices in life starting with Peg. After meeting Valerie, he decides she is the person who will make the rest of his life worth living, but he understands he must rid himself of Peg. An incredibly developed character somewhat at the expense of the overall plot, fans will not like George, but will empathize with his disappointments in himself that he manifests with his anxiety attacks and his projection of blaming Peg. George's political work cleverly sets the time just before the California recall ballot in this deep well written but difficult tale that sets a high quality bar as the boomer books begin.

Faking Grace
Tamara Leigh
9781590529294 $12.99

In Nashville, part time Seattle Sound reporter Maizy Grace Stewart is financially struggling. When Steeple Side Christian Resources offers her a job, Maizy applies and is hired. However, there is one prerequisite to the job; one must be a practicing Christian. Maizy barely can spell the word Christian, but figures she can fake piety as good as anyone in the flock, starting with dropping her first name and heeding the guidance of the "Dumb Blonde's Guide to Christianity" reference book even if she is not a blonde or much of a Christian.

She actually pats herself on the back with her Oscar winning performance until her newspaper editor Linda Stillwater asks her to research drug use among church going Christian teens starting with her church. Then there is Jack Prentiss who works at the paper and goes to the same church. He knows she is a sham and has doubts about her investigation into Steeple Side for an article that exposes their sins. Although uncomfortable with the assignment, Maizy knows this is her opportunity, but she is attracted to Jack who seems to know her too well.

The author uses humor as a device to lighten the tale and strengthen the message of everyone needs to forgive and receive forgiveness from their transgressions. Maizy's guide book brings amusement to the mix as she applies it as her Gospel although at times it leaves her in odd situations. Jack is a wonderful counterpart as he is not sure whether to strangle or kiss his amazing Grace. Fans will appreciate Maizy's FAKING GRACE inspirational romance.

A Lady of Secret Devotion
Tracie Peterson
Bethany House
9780764201479 $13.99

In 1857 Philadelphia, Cassandra Stover is elated when a kind wealthy society lady Mrs. Jameston hires her as her companion as her family needs the money. Cassie moves in to her employer's home. Whereas Mrs. Jameston treats Cassie as if she is her daughter, her son Sebastian is odious and always seems stalking her ,waiting to get inside her pants; worse in Cassie's mind is he is abusive towards his mother.

Widower Mark Langford has arrived in town from Boston to investigate the murder of his best friend Richard. He believes Sebastian killed Richard, but has no proof to affirm his belief. Needing to get closer to his prime suspect, Mark pretends to court Cassandra in order to find the evidence and to keep the two women safe because he thinks Sebastian will kill the females. Their fake courtship turns real as they fall in love, but stopping Sebastian from another two homicides remains Mark's priority.

This third Ladies of Liberty tale (see A LADY OF HIDDEN INTENT and A LADY OF HIGH REGARD) is a fabulous pre-Civil War historical romantic suspense. The story line contains a strong cast especially the lead couple. She has faith in God, country, family (including Mrs. Jameston whom she loves as a grandma) and Mark; he thanks the Lord for a second chance as his beloved late wife died seven years ago from cholera. Although the villain has no redeeming qualities, fans will appreciate this fine mid nineteenth century Americana romance summed up by Mrs. Jameston who will always love her son even though she knows he will always hurt her.

Robin Parrish
Bethany House
9780764201790 $19.99

From beneath the Taurus Mountains in Turkey, he climbs upward taking the DarkWorld with him. He is aware of his bloody future and the human sacrifices by the Secretum of Six, but is indifferent. His container awaits him on the surface; Grant Borrows will serve fittingly as his vehicle just like the naive Dominion Ring wearer's late sister was once used. Oblivion will soon surface and the end of days, not that fake propaganda found in Christian literature misinterpreting Armageddon, will begin when time stops.

Oblivion reaches the acme of the Hollow to the euphoric rejoicing of his Bringer, the Secretum of Six, who ensured the Millennia aged prophesy of the end occurs. His body denotes instant death when excited Angela upon seeing her God reaches out to touch him. Oblivion begins his MERCILESS final trek to fulfill his destiny. However for the first time Secretum leader Devlin has doubts as Oblivion did not even notice his touch killed Angela and his comment of unworthy frightens the human. Still they follow their prophet, who says the DarkWorld has surfaced with him. Only the Ring of Dominion Bearers might be able to prevent the end of the world, but they feel like doubting David without a slingshot as each realizes the earth has changed for the worse as he is coming causing chaos and death in his wake.

Though there is a one page recap and this final tale can stand alone, to fully appreciate this excellent different Christian end of the world thriller, it behooves the reader to first peruse RELENTLESS and FEARLESS. The story is action-packed from the opening climb until the final confrontation between good and evil; but this is no Jesus arriving to save the day from Lucifer climax. Few if any villains are as amoral as Oblivion the MERCILESS is as humans are not even roach level to him. Robin Parrish, with this superb exciting trilogy, has brought freshness to a genre which suffered from a smug sameness to the biblical end of days' saga.

Unbridled Dreams
1. Stephanie Grace Whitson
Bethany House
9780764203275 $13.99

All seventeen year old Irmagard Friedrich dreams of is riding a horse as Liberty Belle at the Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show. However, her mother insists Irmagard behave like a lady and attend Brownell finishing school.

On her journey east to attend school, her father arranges for Irmagard to slip away to audition for the Buffalo Bill gala. She obtains the position of Liberty Belle, horse-rider, but touring the country proves difficult as she expected accolades not mud. Meanwhile the troupe's superstar Shep Sterling tries to court Irmagard, but she ignores his attention as she focuses on being the best trick rider the Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show has ever had, while knowing the estrangement of following her dream is causing with her mom.

UNBRIDLED DREAMS is a wonderful late nineteenth century Americana romance starring two likable lead characters and a strong support cast including the horses. The story line is filled with subtle messages interwoven into the exciting often amusing plot. Besides the obvious believing in oneself to chase your dreams, parents should encourage their children to pursue their dreams (sort of Crosby Stills, Nash and Young's Teach Your Children blended with Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet in a western setting). Stephanie Grace Whitson provides her fans with a wonderful historical.

The Jewel of Gresham Green
Lawanna Blackwell
Bethany House
9780764205118 $13.99

Fearing for the safety of her daughter though she too is in danger, Jewel Libby flees her home; heeding the advice of trusted friends she journeys to rustic Gresham to ask the Vicar Andrew Phelps and his wife Julia Hollis for sanctuary for her and her child. They take the newcomers into their home.

Meanwhile Andrew and Julia are concerned about their relationship with her two adult children. Aleda the writer has become a hermit who wants nothing to do with anyone even her mother. Philip the surgeon is being pulled into opposite directions as he his wife loathes his closeness to his extended family and makes efforts to pull him away from them. When Andrew becomes ill, he needs Philip's medical skills, but efforts to help his stepfather angers his spouse. Meanwhile, Aleda inadvertently abets a nasty individual causing problems for the Gresham villagers especially her mom and ailing stepfather. Ironically fearful in hiding Jewel becomes a gem as she brings compassion and caring to a family in trouble.

Fans of the Gresham Chronicles will relish this jewel of a tale as Lawanna Blackwell continues the account with more of a focus on Aleda's two adult children. The story line is character driven by the extended family which also includes Jewel and her daughter. Ironically they provide the lesson and inspiration to the extended Phelps-Hollis households of second chances and everyone needs someone who cares them and who they can care about too. THE JEWEL OF GRESHAM GREEN is a strong addition to a great saga.

The Druid Made Me Do It
Natalie Stenzel
Love Spell
0505527774 $6.99

Eight years ago Dr. Janelle Corrington met Kane. They had a heated one night stand and she suddenly believed in love at first sight as she thought she finally met her soulmate until he suddenly vanished in the morning.

However, Kane recently committed a bad error in judgment; for that misdeed Faerie King Oberon punishes his once favorite son who he knows as Robin Goodfellow, magical seducer of women. He names Janelle as his guardian while she is also granted special mental healing skills to compensate for her time. Kane's punishment besides having to bow to a woman is to atone for his sins with all his victims. To his shock, Kane, who has always been a 4F kind of guy falls in love with Janelle; but he sadly knows they have no future together.

The sequel to PANDORA'S BOX is as wacky as that tale was as Robin makes a return engagement, which means Janelle is in for plenty of "Pandemina". The amusing story line is fun to follow as the lead couple has plenty of tsuris especially with their apparent no future together. Fans of romantic fantasy will appreciate THE DRUID MADE ME DO IT as Robin Goodfellow learns a lesson about the real magic of love.

The Daughters Grimm
Minda Webber
Love Spell
0505527715 $6.99

In spite of her husband being a baron, the Grimm family matriarch is concerned with the prospects of her children as they lack funds. She pushes her oldest daughters to make a good match, which means title and wealth not love. However, every Tom, Dick and prince who comes by, all prefer blonde heiresses as none choose either Greta or Rae. Even the frogs they find dumped in their beds alas remains amphibians.

Their Prussian bully Aunt Vivian invites Rae and Greta to visit her at her barony Snowe Manor in the Black Forest, which they do. Rae meets a widowed Baron and his horde of children and Greta falls in love with an obnoxious Prince not charming. However, with their aunt acting amorally abhorrent, each sister still wonders if they found their fairy tale romance or are they going to end up like the ogress in a nightmarish fable.

The latest fractured fairy tale romance from Minda Webber Here (see THE REINVENTED MISS BLUEBIRD, THE REMARKABLE MISS FRANKENSTEIN and THE RELUCTANT MISS VAN HELSING) is an amusing historical. The story line is lighthearted fun with most of the amusement coming from Aunt Vivian. Fans of Ms. Webber will enjoy her latest jocular jaunt as THE DAUGHTERS GRIMM seek happily ever after.

The Accidental Demon Slayer
Angie Fox
Love Spell
9780505527691 $6.99

Adopted as a child, Happy Hands Preschool teacher Lizzie Brown lived the normal American life until the day she turns thirty years old. That is the day an older woman wearing a "Kiss My Asphalt" T-shirt and driving a pink Harley arrived at her Atlanta home. The woman who called her the day before claims she is her biological grandmother and that her coven is on the run. The tattooed stranger Gertie insists they need Lizzie, a genetic demon slaying witch, whose powers are about to erupt like Old Faithful; counting down the final seconds like a space mission as Lizzie becomes the Exalted Demon Slayer of Dalea. Fearing more for her Jack Russell and her floor as Pirate senses trouble, Lizzie assumes she let a nut in her home until she goes to the bathroom. Sitting on her throne is an ugly demon.

To her shock Pirate not only adapts quite well, he becomes an eloquent English speaking terrier. With grandma and her dog at her side, Lizzie flees before all hell breaks loose. Joining the trio on the lam, as she learns to use her sudden bewitching skills is her self-proclaimed protector shapeshifting first class hunk (in human form) griffin Dimitri Kallinikos.

From the moment that Gertie meets Lizzie, the atmosphere in Atlanta changes as she brings with her eccentricity, humor, and an odd mentoring as she claims Lizzie is the next generation in the DNA demon slaying pool. She also brings her coven and a horde of demons with her who all shares an identical focus for varying purposes: Lizzie. This sudden invasion turns Lizzie dizzy as her chick lit perspective provides urban fantasy fans with a frightening yet courageous superhero; fans will know one thing as Lizzie kicks demon butt: she has Grandma's warped sense of humor. Somewhat on the surface similar to Julie Kenner's demon slaying soccer mom, Angie Fox provides her bewitching spin with her preschool teacher.

The Bride of Time
Dawn Thompson
Love Spell
0505527286 $6.99

In 1903, London scullery maid Tessa La Prelle lives a hard life as her job is not an easy one. However, adding to her drudgery is the shock that everyone recognizes her as the model who posed in Giles Longworth's portrait, THE BRIDE OF TIME. The only problem with the assumption that she sat for the artist is that the painting is a century old.

While walking in a pea soup thick fog in London, Tessa suddenly finds herself at the Longworth's home in Cornwall with no idea how she got there and quickly hired as governess to his nephew; as no one except desperate people accept employment there. Almost everyone fears Longworth, who is rumored to be a shapeshifter who mutilates humans. Tessa knows Giles would never kill anyone; she is not quite as sure about his strange behaving nephew. As Tessa falls in love, she wonders if her heart is coloring her mind from evil.

As she has consistently done over the years, the late great Dawn Thompson provides an entertaining paranormal historical "bridal" romance in which she combines elements she has used before into an exciting tale. The author employs time travel (see THE FALCON'S BRIDE) with a werewolf saga (see THE RAVENCLIFF BRIDE) to provide her fans with a delightful gothic romance in which the suspense and the comparative historical eras enhance a fitting tribute.

The Gypsy Morph
Terry Brooks
Del Rey
9780345484147 $27.00

The world as we know it is long gone. The pendulum for evil has sung forward and demons have come into the open preying on humans. Those people who allied with the demons have become not-men; more predatory beast than human. The bombs fell and plagues followed. Finally the demons destroyed the compounds where mankind tried to survive. The toxic atmosphere led to mutations turning people into monsters. However in this dark dismal planet called earth there remains a small feeble light of survivors of the Word trying to keep humanity from extinction.

The Lady tasks Knight of the Word Logan Tom (not the great volleyball player) to protect the Gypsy Moth, a being born of wild magic. Hawk's magic is going to lead the rest of humanity and the elves to a land where everyone can live in harmony. Elf Kirisin Belloruus is entrusted with the Elfstone to lead and protect his people from the demon horde and their monstrous allies. Hawk agrees to lead the caravan, which picks up travelers on the road as all seek a haven.

The last book in the Genesis of Shannara saga is as magical and enchanting as the entire Brooks mythos is with recurring characters and new protagonists banding together in a last ditch effort to save humanity. All the major questions from the previous fantasy tomes (see THE ELVES OF CINTRA and ARMAGEDDON'S CHILDREN) are answered with no loose ends that matter and an incredible climatic revelation. Though not a stand alone, Terry brooks delivers an outstanding finish with action, intrigue, battles, species that seem real in a time when mankind's time is ticking away.

Kiss of Fury
Deborah Cooke
9780451224767 $6.99

The dragon war continues between the Pyr and Slayers over saving or destroying humanity. Both sides know of the legend that one day a wizard and warrior will change the stalemate; each has a need to find the legend.

Human research scientist Alexandra Madison believes she is about to make a major find only to have her lab destroyed in an arson assault and her partner killed. Pyr dragon Donovan Shea is sent to keep Alexandra safe. To his shock and chagrin, the frail human ignites his firestorm; a desire he thought died when love betrayed him. Meanwhile Alex is attracted to Madison in his human form even as they are under assault from stalking Slayers.

The second Dragonfire paranormal romantic suspense (see KISS OF FIRE) is a terrific thriller that enables the audience to believe in the world this author Cooked up. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action yet fans will believe in the firestorm destined soulmates romantic subplot so critical to the tale. KISS OF FURY is a superb romantic fantasy starring two wonderful lead protagonists and a horde of nasty Slayers assigned to kill both of them.

When Twilight Burns
Colleen Gleason
9780451224750 $7.99

Following a vicious attack by the dangerous vampire Beauregard, Venator leader widow Victoria Gardella Grantworth de Lacy comes home to recuperate. However, before she can determine whether the odious Beuregard tainted her, she learns of the impossible; a vampire attacked a woman in daylight.

Apparently someone has discovered a remedy that enables vampires to walk in sunlight. This frightens Victoria as these are deadly foes at night; to fight them when they go undetected in the sun is an abomination with odious consequences especially with the Prince Regent's coronation coming shortly. Victoria accompanied by friends and occasionally lovers Sebastian and Max investigate; to their chagrin all clues confirm Victoria as the prime suspect although others exist such as her deceased husband's heir, a royal, an opera singer and her lover.

The latest Gardella Vampire Chronicle continues the level of excellence set by its predecessors (see THE REST FALLS AWAY, THE BLEEDING DUSK and RISES THE NIGHT). The story line remains fresh partly because of its Regency setting, but mostly due to the heroine who not that long ago dreamed of her debut season delayed for the last two years due to the deaths of her grandfather and father as she went from galas to tyro vampire slayer to veteran Venator leader. WHEN TWILIGHT BURNS is fast-paced from the opening vampire assault until the powerful finish, but as always in this excellent vampire wars saga Victoria turns the thriller into a victory for sub-genre fans.

Into the Flame
Christina Dodd
9780451224668 $7.99

At Seattle's Swedish Hospital, genetic disease expert Dr. Mitchell informed her patient Firebird Wilder that there is no way she is biologically linked to her parents or her three brothers Jasha, Rurik, and Adrik. The blood types are irrefutable proof regardless of what everyone insists. Twenty-three years ago, apparently two babies were born; one a boy and the other Firebird who thought she had given birth to a son, but accepted her husband's explanation of drug induced confusion. Now they realize a switch occurred, but everyone loves Firebird and she knows they do.

A single mom Firebird concludes that her own son's questions about his dad means she should find her college lover Doug Black, who sacred her when she saw him shapeshift into a cougar. She fled assuming he was a Varinski like she. Doug also seeks his beloved Firebird, who left him abruptly thee years ago when they attended Brown. When these two soulmates reunite, the millennium war with the devil over who owns the Wilders nee Varinski souls ignites too.

The final exhilarating Darkness Chosen tale (see INTO THE SHADOW, A TOUCH OF DARKNESS and SCENT OF DARKNESS) is a superb paranormal romantic suspense thriller that grips the audience throughout starting with the shocking opening sequence. The cast is strong especially the lead couple and though one twist can be seen early on (purposely by Ms. Dodd); fans will fully relish this terrific conclusion to an overall enjoyable urban romantic fantasy.

Trial by Fire
Jo Davis
9780451224774 $6.99

House-sitting school teacher Kat McKenna is in shock when the home she watches is set on fire. Firefighter Lieutenant Howard "Six Pack" Paxton tries to calm down the distraught woman who literally falls into his arms. Soon afterward, a corpse is found inside.

Arson investigators and police conclude the fire was set to conceal a homicide. They also believe Kat inadvertently might have seen the killer. Howard is concerned that the culprit may come after Kat; so he vows to keep her safe. However when a second fire and murder occurs, he reassesses his position as he new thinks the killer is targeting him in some deranged way; but that frightens the normally fearless firefighter who fears the arsonist-killer may target the woman he loves.

Not just the fires are hot in this exhilarating romantic suspense thriller as the relationship between the lead couple is pure heat. The cast makes the tale work as Howard has relationship issues going back to his childhood; Kat is a courageous person; while the villain, whom readers learn his motive from his musings, is obviously deranged; and the rest of the key players are fully developed. Readers will appreciate Jo Davis' strong tale due to the powerful characterizations making TRIAL BY FIRE a terrific action-packed tale.

Southern Poison
T. Lynn Ocean
St. Martin's
9780312383466 $24.95

Jersey Barnes left the military SWEET (Special Worldwide Unit for Entertaining and Exterminating Terrorists) to open up the Barnes Agency, a personal security firm. She still owns the security firm, but never does field work anymore. Instead she focuses on a bar she owns in Wilmington, North Carolina with her hunk of a partner Duke "Ox" Oxendine, whose former wife and teenage daughter have arrived.

However, Jersey becomes irate when her former military handler Ashton informs her that he invoked her retirement contract clause of calling her back to active duty. Internet chatter evidence points towards a terrorist plot to disrupt the Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point, North Carolina, the largest Ammo plant. She will go undercover working at the roach coach selling sandwiches in an attempt to uncover who is behind the planned attack, when and how.

When the military drafts former soldier Jersey as a temporary part of the "all" volunteer army, the brass did not understand the SWEET deal they got; instead of just Jersey, they get her and her eccentric crew. Readers will enjoy their antics as they struggle to prevent a terrorist incident at strategic Sunny Point port. However, as with SOUTHERN FATALITY, the key to this amusing yet serious regional thriller is the crew. Fans will appreciate Jersey's personal moralist Ox, his even deeper moralist daughter, former Federal IT guru Soup, and the heroine's bluffing dad Spud in this fast-paced Carolina caper; just don't eat from the roach coach when Jersey makes the sandwiches.

P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
St. Martin's
0312379838 $8.95

When the Goddess Nyx marked Zoey Redbird she was moved to the House of Night School where as a fledgling vampire she studied what would happen to her including the changes to her body. She understands that some fail to make it through the change; as evident by her best friend Stevie dying in her arms. However, Stevie did not remain dead as the High priestess Neferet, who turned on Nyx and took the dark path, changed him into an Undead. With Zoey's help Stevie regained her humanity as did other fledglings.

With the death of two teachers, Neferat has declared war on the human race, but Zoey knows her for what she is and intends to stop her. She does not realize that Neferet has awakened an ancient evil; the fallen angel Kalona who will soon be freed once the ceremony is completed along with his children Ravenmockers. Zoey tries to prevent the ritual from succeeding knowing that if Kalona and his children walk the earth again, no one will survive who crosses the path they take even with the Gods on their side.

UNTAMED is the fourth House of Night urban fantasy (see CHOSEN) in which the forces of good an evil have come out into the open to battle for supremacy. Zoey is terrific as she prepares for war in which she feels inadequate but knows no other option except to fight as flight is impossible against this opponent. Zoey's powers grow and her confidence with that. Fans of the series will particularly relish this entry as the fledgling is beginning to take wing and soar, but her flight to join the fight is lethally dangerous.

Paint the Town Dead
Nancy Bell
St. Martin's
0312362811 $23.95

In Post Oak, Texas, someone executes realtor Tom Delgado, whose corpse is found by his office desk with a bullet to his head. The police believe Tom's wife Dovie killed him when they learn his will leaves his vast estate to Dallas evangelist Sister Mary Dobbs McDermott; Dovie received almost nothing.

However, Judge Jackson Crain has some doubts that the motive was the will and wonders if business dealings could have been the motive for the homicide; Delgado as the king of local real estate had many enemies amongst the pretenders to his throne, especially those who felt he cheated them. The Judge begins his own brand of southern fried chicken investigation along side the police while also dealing with the strange behavior of his teenaged daughter Patty and starting a tryst with artist Roxanne Kruger; in town to spend time with her dying mother.

The third Judge Jackson Texas cozy (see RESTORED TO DEATH and DEATH SPLITS A HAIR) is an entertaining small town regional mystery that brings to life the townsfolk mostly through their relationship with the lead character. Jackson is a delightful main character as his personal life seems ready to engulf him with tsuris, but his calm sense of humor helps him cope and provides the audience with amusing asides. The whodunit pales next to the Judge and the colorful support cast, but sub-genre fans will not care as they will enjoy this funny Texas tale.

Being Elizabeth
Barbara Taylor Bradford
St. Martin's
0312354630 $27.95

With the death of Mary Turner, her estranged daughter Elizabeth inherits Deravenel's due to her late father's will. However, the Board has issues with Elizabeth being in her twenties and with the poor stewardship of her mother. Mary has left the company in financial trouble having removed profits needed for capital reinvestments to assist her husband, Philip Alvarez instead.

However, her influential childhood friend Robert Dunley throws his support to Elizabeth, who he believes is more than capable of turning the company around. As they work together to save Deravenel's, they initially try to ignore their attraction to one another. However, that proves more difficult than dealing with the Board of Directors as love is more complicated than business relationships.

The latest Deravanel's family drama continues the saga (see THE RAVENSCAR DYNASTY and THE HEIR) with a fabulous cute twist taken from sixteenth century England and brought to contemporary times. The story line is character driven, as always is the case of a Barbara Taylor Bradford' sweeping epic. Fans of the author will fully appreciate this fine contemporary in the boardrooms and bedrooms as BEING ELIZABETH is a novel of substance.

Breaking Cover
J.D. Rhoades
St. Martin's
0312371551 $25.95

In Pine Bluff, North Carolina, undercover FBI agent Tony Wolf using the name Sanders faces a morality issue. He has infiltrated the meth dealing vicious Brotherhood, but just saw one of two young brothers Evan and Earl Powell, whose posters with their faces on it begs "Have you seen us?" If he follows the van to rescue the child four years of hard dangerous work vanish and he becomes an open target and perhaps his wife too of the brutal Trent trio who lead the Brotherhood who are after him already; if he does not the kids are probably dead after suffering from abuse.

However the decision is easy; Wolf follows the vehicle and rescues the kids from their abductor. Now he has surfaced due to a TV reporter; the Trent brothers who loath him for what he did to their empire already send their minions, which includes Feds, after him. Trusting no one except himself, this lone wolf prepares for war.

While Jack Keller takes a SAFE AND SOUND breather, J.D. Rhodes provides a an action-packed Carolina thriller that grips the audience from the opening scene and never lets go as readers will find their adrenalin levels off the charts. Wolf is terrific as he does the right thing with an understanding that the road to hell is paved with good intentions; in his case a good deed means he will spend more than just A GOOD DAY IN HELL as the devils will come after him. Although the story line requires disregarding the logic gaps, the enthralled audience will relish this action-packed thriller (Governor Arnold has his next role).

St. Martin's
0312375832 $14.95

Newlywed and recently appointed to the Supreme Court Justice Preston Hendricks still recovers from the stroke he suffered as his memory of the seventy two hours prior to his illness has not yet returned. His wife, Yates Gilchrist partner attorney Ariel Vaughn and his son New York BLACK DOOR erotic club owner Trey Curtis worry if he does. They had a heated tryst before knowing who the other was and each still wants more; in fact it was a drunken Ariel mumbling about f-ing with Trey just before Preston collapsed from his stroke.

Desiring to move amidst the DC A list of celebs, Preston's assistant Michele Richards plots to replace Ariel as her boss' wife though she would not mind a tryst with Trey. Married sexagenarian Congressman Laird Forester also wants to make it with Michele. Meanwhile Trey and Ariel still want each other, but feel guilt as he knows better than to violate the "Man Law" especially with his father as the victim and she loves her spouse and not wanting to hurt him; Preston believes his wife is cheating so he considers an affair with Michele.

The third Black Door contemporary tale (see SEDUCTION) is an intriguing entry as the prime players come across as fully developed with flaws that will have readers waiting for a Shakespeare (or at least Peyton Place) tragedy to occur. The story line is driven by the cast; all selfish in some way, as each seeks sexual satisfaction. Soap operatic in design, BETRAYAL is an enjoyable novel that stands alone; but to better understand the history even as Velvet cleverly works in the past into this complicated plot, fans should read the previous two books.

The September Society
Charles Finch
St. Martin's
0312359780 $24.95

In 1866 having solved A BEAUTIFUL BLUE DEATH, Charles Lenox considers himself a competent sleuth; though an amateur since he does not accept a fee. Because he is well to do and highly connected, Charles can select when he chooses to go detecting. When widow Lady Annabelle Payson, whose husband mysteriously died in India in the 1840s, pleads with him to find her son George, a student at Oxford's Lincoln College who vanished, he agrees.

At the student's room, Charles finds some odd clues starting with a dead cat, garage spewed everywhere, enigmatic notes that make no sense, and a card from some group called the SEPTEMBER SOCIETY. However, the biggest clue is George's friend Dabney is also missing. Fearing foul play, Charles calls in favors to assist him as his concerns over George's safety multiplies when a corpse is found and signs point back two decades to India.

Charles' second investigation is a fun Victorian mystery that has the hero running back and forth between London and Oxford trying not to just solve the case, but to do with his client's son alive. The inquiry is rather straightforward in spite of Charles treks either to obtain assistance or follow a clue, but historical mystery fans will enjoy his efforts and his realization he needs help to crack the case. Fans will enjoy this fine pre Holmesian nineteenth century English tale mostly because of the lead character.

Hell Hole
Chris Grabenstein
St. Martin's
0312382308 $24.95

He place is Sea Haven, New Jersey where young police officers Danny Boyle and Sam Starkey respond to a complaint. They arrive at the scene to find several Iraq War veterans noisily celebrating. The cops ask Sergeant Dale Dixon to keep it down. However, before they can leave, Dale receives a call that one of his men Corporal Shareef Smith is in trouble. Shareef's corpse is found in a rest room on the Garden State Parkway; his brains blown out and evidence of drug use everywhere.

Iraq War veteran Detective John Ceepak leads the official investigation with Danny as his junior partner. Almost immediately Ceepak tears apart the suicide theory, which leads to a squad of suspects amongst the deceased's brothers in arms and a couple of local chop-shop punks. As they work the case, Dixon warns Ceepak to solve it now or he will lead his unit on a rampage against any one he suspects is the killer.

This engaging police procedural contains an ensemble support cast besides the cops and the vets to include the standard bombastic senator running for president, thieves, drug dealers, and half of New Jersey making for a slack but entertaining story line. As with WHACK A MOLE and TILT A WHIRL, the comparisons between Ceepak and Boyle make the tale fun though at times that is overdone; so different in attitude yet have forged a special camaraderie. Readers will appreciate their latest effort as Ceepak struggles with the case and the abrupt arrival of his dad while Boyle whines to solve it so he can chase a skirt instead of a killer.

Tiny Little Troubles
Marc Lecard
St. Martin's
0312360223 $24.95

In the North Beach section of San Francisco, Pablo Clench manages the Honeybuzzard bar, but in spite of naked female butts every night, he is bored with this excellent paying gig. His fantasy is to use an electric cattle prod on one of the erotic dancers Aphrodite Anderson, but being a realist he knows if he made any play, his boss Jimmy Cacapoulos would turn him into a eunuch. So he does his nightshift and waits while hiding his lust.

His sexual surveillance provides Pablo with a shocking opportunity. Cacapulous' mistress Aphrodite has another lover, Aaron Rogell, a husband and new father whose company Rogeltech has done some major work in nanotechnology based on a trade secret that he refuses to divulge to anyone. Pablo follows Aaron and realizes the man's sex addiction is a ticket to the big score. Clench bullies his way into the company and tries blackmail with the threat of divulging his addiction to his wife Amanda and to beat the crap out of Rogell if he fails to give him the trade secret. Aaron refuses, but Amanda learns of his womanizing with prostitutes; she hires private investigator Tony Baloot to obtain proof. The three testosterones will soon collide.

As with the dark humorous VINNIE'S HEAD, Marc Lecard writes an even darker amusing satirical thriller starring for the most part two men who think with their wrong heads that in some ways will remind the readers of John Ritter's film Skin Deep. The story line is fast-paced while humorous with purposeful hyperbole over the top of Nob Hill, make that Twin Peaks. TINY LITTLE TROUBLES is laugh out loud fun as each male has a big head so much so the audience will keep expecting the "glowing in the dark" dueling penis scene from Skin Deep to appear except as a menage a trois.

Wages of Sin
Jenna Maclaine
St. Martin's
0312946163 $6.99

In 1815 England, witch Dulcinea "Cin" Macgregor Craven loves her parents. So when they are murdered she is distraught with grief. However, she has no time to mourn her loss as an evil unwanted vampire stalks her; ultimately biting her.

Cin knows she cannot fight off her adversary alone. She has heard myths about The Righteous Vampires; a trio who resolved to do the honorable thing righting wrongs if they can when their species does harm. Cin conjures up a spell that brings them to her. They agree to help her, but quickly realize they are not dealing with just a vampire; her monster is in servitude to a powerful demon. One of her three protectors, Michael, who is attracted to the witch, vows his undead life to keep her safe.

This is the first act of the Cin Craven romantic fantasy saga and if it is any indication of the series, sub-genre fans are in for quite a treat. The story line is filled with action from the moment "Dulcie' as her beloved mom called her realizes her parents are dead and she is under supernatural attack. Cin is terrific as she tells her story in a first person account that brings to life the undead, the witches, and the undead witches. Jenna Maclaine provides an entertaining opening entry that will thrill readers who wonder what GRAVE SINS is coming next to Cin.

Peter Steiner
St. Martin's
0312373422 $24.95

After leaving the CIA former field agent Louis Morgon lives with his beloved Solesme Lefourier in rustic Saint-Leon sur Dême, France. However his contentment is shattered when the love of his life informs him the cancer is back, terminally this time. A break-in to their house is easily resolved by Louis' friend police officer Jean Renard who arrests petty incompetent criminal Pierre Lefort for the burglary.

Pierre is easily convicted as he left enough evidence for an amateur sleuth to find, Louis ponders whether the thief purposely did so and if yes, why. Although he suspects a greater game afoot, Louis remains ignorant of what is going on partially because he is emotionally distracted by Solesme's cancer. However former U.S. Secretary of State Hugh Bowes is aware of everything. The break-in is the beginning of a diabolically clever scheme to get at Louis initially through people he cares about, his best friend the cop and the love of his life to help set up the bigger scene. Revenge is such sweet sorrow for the victim as Bowes arranges for Louis' former associates to find solid proof that Morgon now works for bin Laden.

This direct sequel to A FRENCH COUNTRY MURDER is a top rate thriller as the brilliant wicked Bowes works his revenge for Morgon's destruction of his seditious successful life at a time when his enemy is emotionally distraught. Fans will relish this exhilarating clever cat and mouse game as Bowes manipulates the anti terrorist crowd even better than Karl Rove could ever accomplish; insuring that the CIA and their espionage cohorts to go after his chosen target. This is a one sitter thriller as the hero is the mouse that roared, but the odds remain he will be rendition.

The Green Revolution
Ralph McInerny
St. Martin's
031236458X $24.95

Fans of the Notre Dame University Fighting Irish football team expect nothing less than competing for a national title; playing in a BCS bowl that is not the championship game is barely tolerable. After a strong 2005 campaign and an okay 2006 season, in 2007 in his third year as head coach, Charlie Weis is in trouble with the alumni as the team suffers through an ignominious season of defeats; unheralded in the history of the school.. Many want him fired as defeat after shocking defeat occur;s even Navy ended the ended the longest losing streak in college football after forty three straight losses.

However, some angry fans go further with their desire to see the multimillion dollar Coach Weis follow Whittington his predecessor while academic purists want the sport dropped referring to the once great football power the U of Chicago as a precedent. However, the battle between the fire the coach and end the sport turns lethal with non football fan Professor of Catholic Studies Roger Knight caught in the middle of the battle. Meanwhile his brother major football fan private investigator Philip investigates a "love" triangle that may be using The Green Revolution to hide a much more convoluted conspiracy than the Notre Dame football civil war.

The mystery comes very late in this fascinating look behind the scenes of the impact of the worse football season at Notre Dame; thus the latest Knight brothers investigation is more a sports thriller than a whodunit. THE GREEN REVOLUTION is at its best when the focus is on the reactions to the losing season; when the tale switches to the investigation it remains fun, but loses much of the uniqueness of Ralph McInerny's interesting look at what matters to various interested parties at a university.

Lie Down with the Devil
Linda Barnes
St. Martin's
0312332890 $24.95

Boston Private Investigator Carlotta Carlyle remains engaged to her mob-tied fiance Sam Gianelli, although she has humongous doubts about his recent activity; Sam vanished rather than confront rumors tying him to a dead female (see HEART OF THE WORLD). While Carlotta considers ending their relationship, Jessica Franklin shows her a picture of Sam in a compromising position. Carlotta knows how easy it is to fix a photo, her doubt meter rises stratospherically.

Soon after their encounter, Franklin is killed in a hit-and-run incident. The police investigate with Carlyle as the obvious prime and only suspect; especially when they learn Jessica Franklin is a fake ID and the victim is connected to the Cape Cod homicide that raised the sleuth's marital hesitation antennas. Like a smart lawyer in trouble, Carlyle knows a sleuth likewise needs to get outside representation; she asks her former boss and mentor at BPD, retired Joseph Mooney to help her. Like old times they head to Cape Cod to unravel the simple yet increasingly convoluted truth.

The direct sequel to the superb HEART OF THE WORLD is an excellent tale as the beleaguered heroine initially struggles with answering to marry or not to marry, but soon finds herself in deep trouble. The story line is fast-paced and impossible to put down, but especially entertaining is the teaming up of Carlyle and Mooney. LIE DOWN WITH THE DEVIL will be on the short list for best mystery of 2008 by most detective novel fans as Linda Barnes provides a powerhouse.

Debra Webb
St. Martin's
0312942249 $6.99

Fifteen years have passed since the senseless slaughter of his family in Alabama, but in spite of his current position as a Deputy District Attorney, Carson Tanner has not received any closure; the case went cold a long time ago. He still thanks his girlfriend's father Senator Drake for taking care of him back then when he was a teenager suddenly alone with tragedy and trauma; however putting it behind him remains impossible. That is until apparently now when serial killer John Stokes confesses that he killed the Tanner family.

Carson does not feel like his nightmare is over. When he meets Annette Baxter, they fall into each other's arms for one wild night. However, he soon learns she is a problem fixer for the affluent, including someone under investigation by Tanner's office. Soon afterward, leaks suddenly appear re the Tanner family homicides that lend credence to a rumor of a false confession. Carson begins to wonder what role Annette has played while she understands the only survival to the threats to their lives means escorting the ADA into a world of dishonesty.

This is a fascinating investigative romantic suspense thriller starring two opposites at least on how each sees justice. Carson was shaped by the deadly traumatic incident and goes out of his way to stay legal as he feels the law is above reproach; Annette has no qualms gleefully going outside the law and is proud to do so. They make the tale as together they might swim out of a small-town cesspool polluted with toxic corruption and murder; separately they will be the next two statistics.

Scandalous by Night
Barbara Pierce
St. Martin's
0312947976 $6.99

In 1799 his stepmother Lady Worrington arranged his betrayal abetted by her ten year old niece Maura Keighly that left Viscount Everod near dead with a wound to his throat given to him by his dad who wishes he was dead. His younger brother Rowan sides with his father. Over the next decade he lived for vengeance though his reputation for wickedness as a les sauvages nobles comes with his seemingly zillion different women. Now in 1811; he believes he finally has the opportunity. He will seduce and ruin Maura to get back at those who betrayed him.

Maura is considering strongly accepting the marriage proposal from Rowan. When she meets Everod she hesitates saying yes to Rowan as she feels both guilt for her part in the duplicity and is also attracted to him even before he begins his seduction. However, Everod finds himself caught in his own trap as he begins to fall in love with the expendable chip. He soon realizes his nefarious scheme worked too well as someone, whom he suspects is in the bosom of the Worrington family, apparently is willing to finish the job of a dozen years ago and kill Maura too.

Readers will enjoy this entertaining Regency romantic suspense as the near death experience turns Everod into a rake, but a taste of strawberry jam and other fruits change him into a hero. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this tasty treat as Maura is pulled by her love for the rogue she knows is trying to destroy her, her duty to the aunt who took her out of poverty, and to her beloved's brother who has been her best friend. Few writers combine romance and suspense inside a historical as well as Barbara Pierce consistently does.

Black Ship
Carola Dunn
St. Martin's
9780312363079 $24.95

In 1925 with the death of his great uncle, Scotland Yard detective Alec Fletcher inherits a fixer upper home on the outer rim of London. He and his wife Daisy Dalrymple are excited by the size of the large house as they feared space for their growing family; although neither is pleased with their neighbors. Still with their babies, who Daisy enjoys spending time with, the house came to them at the right time; not that either wanted up in the relative to die.

Soon after moving into the Hampstead Heath house, their maid finds a corpse in the garden. Alec begins officially investigating while Daisy sleuths too starting with who he is. Soon the married couple find the case focuses on bootlegging of rum on black ships in which American mobsters are muscling their way into a piece of the action.

Fans of this strong historical mystery series will appreciate the latest entry as the English gentry and servant class perspective to the American inanity called Prohibition makes for a roaring twenties tale. The whodunit is fun, but as with the entire Honorable Daisy Dalrymple saga it is the sense of time and place that brings enthralled readers to a bygone era.

Shortie Like Mine
Ni-Ni Simone
Kensington Dafina
9780758228390 $9.95

In Newark size fourteen sixteen years old Seven "Big Mama" McKnight struggles somewhat with self esteem as the thickest person on her clique, but being bigger also makes her feel she is fly. However, she is worried about her twin sister Toi who sneaks out of the house to be with her hood of a boyfriend. She also hides her feelings for the school's star baler Josiah, who is seeing her friend Deeyah.

When Melvin "Big Country" arrives from Murfreesboro, North Carolina, he likes Big Mama whom he calls "Shawtie", but she rejects his passes. Instead her best friend Shae begins seeing him. Meanwhile Deeyah starts playing with Josiah's enemy Dollah; so Josiah dumps her and begins trying to get Seven to go with him. Seven wants to fly with Josiah, but also fears destroying their clique, but that may be too late as she and Shae are on one side of the divide and Deeyah with Ki-Ki and Yaanah on the other.

This is an entertaining character driven urban teen relationship drama that brings alive an inner city extended clique. Seven holds the story line together as the 360 degree focus with her struggles between loyalties pulling her in differing directions. She wants to do right by her friends, her family, Josiah; and others, but realizes someone probably her will be hurt regardless of what she does even doing nothing. The hip hop vernacular adds freshness that enables the young adult reader to feel even closer to the strong cast especially the superstar Seven as fans will say yeah-yeah to Ni-Ni Simone's superb in the hood teen tale.

Going Down
Vonna Harper
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758222181 $12.95

Reeve Robinson and bondage model Saree McKeon meet on line and agree to meet in person over dinner. They share a pleasant evening until Saree realizes Reeve drugged her and made her his prisoner. She is tied up fearing the worse.

The Clan has assigned operative Reeve to penetrate the Slavers, who capture, sexually abuse and kill women. He believes Saree is the tool to infiltrate and stop these odious beasts. He videotapes their BDSM trysts that have her begging him for her sexual release and places them on the net knowing the enemy will see it and fall for his lure. His biggest problem is he has fallen for his lure.

Few writers if any do S&M romantic suspense as well as Vonna Harper consistently does. Her latest is a fascinating tale of an agent using a woman as an expendable pawn based on for the better good philosophy except for one problem; she ties up his heart. The story line is fast-paced with plenty of darkness as the Slayers emphasizing a real world problem are nasty sexual slave abusers and traders. The lead couple is a strong pairing with each going from desire to lust to love to battle personal issues while the Slayers stalk them. This is a superb erotic romantic suspense thriller based on a major international issue, the sexual slavery of females (and young boys) of all ages.

Lucinda Betts
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758222157 $12.95

The most powerful book known to mankind and watched over with diligence for two centuries The Canticles of Al Farasakh has vanished from under his care. Virginal warrior mage Blaze Williams is frantic and despondent because he understands misuse of the tome means evil has entered the planet. He vows to find the ancient book or die trying.

Ivy, guardian of the woods that protect the sacred Heart Of The World gemstone, source of all magic, is frightened as she realizes for the first time under her watch a viable threat has surfaced. Apparently an evil wizard who with a recent theft has become extremely powerful has plans for the stone.

Realizing she cannot do her job alone, Ivy needs magical assistance. She knows who would be perfect as a complement to her power, but he rejected her in high school. Still pride aside, Ivy begs Blaze to help her protect the stone. He agrees because he thinks her adversary stole his book and besides he always was attracted to Blaze as a teen and now as an adult human and unicorn.
This is a romantic fantasy thriller that though well written is outside the scope of the imprint as the sex comes late. Still this is an interesting tale as the two mages must merge their magic and souls to defeat a powerful amoral enemy. Readers will enjoy this fine thriller as Lucinda Betts provides an engaging tale unlike THE SUPPLICANT and MOON SHADOW; sans erotica.

Italian Stallions
Karin Tabke and Jami Alden
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758225598 $12.95

"In His Bed" by Karin Tabke. In San Francisco, following the death of her father reticent Gianna "Gia" Cipriani feels her shyness is allowing life to pass her by. She decides to change her image and go after hunks rather than pray Prince Charming finally arrives. She chooses Gabe LaMotta as her first subject. However, he is an undercover FBI agent investigating her father's death and quickly realizes he needs to go under the cover with Gia permanently but first wants her help on what he believes was a mob hit on her dad.

"Will That Be All?" by Jami Alden. Gia's cousin Theresa returns to San Francisco knowing she will receive scorn and I told you so from her family. She obtains work as a waitress at Gia's neighborhood Italian restaurant Ciao Bella where hedge fund millionaire Vince Mattera dines frequently. They lust after a breast encounter that soon turns to love, but neither is ready for a relationship beyond a tryst or two; yet neither can resist one more sexual fling after another.

Both tales are well written erotic romances. The title characters are engaging and the angst laden Theresa is well rounded. However, Gia seems out of character when she turns from a good girl into an obtuse reprobate. Still these are two hot novellas.

A Catered Halloween
Isis Crawford
0758221924 $22.00

Amethyst Applegate receives a blackmail letter from deceased Bessie Osgood, who died years ago when they attended school together. Unshaken Amethyst plans to take care of the blackmailer as she took care of Bessie.

The Simmons sisters, Libby and Bernie, owners of A Little Taste of Heaven, are ecstatic to cater the Halloween festivities at the Peabody School, a place rumored to be haunted. Businessman Mark Kane is going all out to include construction of a haunted house with high tech special effects that a Hollywood horror move would envy. Everyone is stunned when they see a torso on a table with the severed head of Amethyst nearby.

Finding the killer will not prove easy as everyone has a motive to murder the universally loathed Amethyst whose list of enemies exceeds the Longley phonebook. Libby thinks she sees the ghost of Bessie, but rationalizes that her imagination got the best of her rather than her intuitive powers. Bob Small who is working at the haunted house has a strong reason to kill Amethyst because he spent jail time due to a stunt she pulled. Inez Colley hated the female abomination for stealing her husband and her wealth by seducing and blackmailing her weak spouse. Zachary Timberland held Amethyst culpable for ruining his daughter Zoe. The list goes on. However, the police arrest Bob as he is the only one with opportunity. The Simmons siblings think otherwise so with their father along they investigate the murder of an odious witch.

Isis Crawford outdoes her usual superb catered amateur sleuth novels with A CATERED HALLOWEEN as ghosts and Libby's visions enhance a whodunit in which the townsfolk, the sisters, and the readers agree beheading is befitting the odious ogress. The two sisters are total opposites yet best friends as each is always there for the other. Due to Libby's paranormal skills they feel obligated to unmask the real killer as they believe strongly the cops got the wrong person. With euphoric ghosts and plenty of eccentric suspects toasting the killer, solving the case of the murdered witch may prove a recipe for failure for the Simmons, but catered entertainment for series fans.

Project Jennifer
Jill Amy Rosenblatt
9780758223586 $14.00

Joan knows Nietzsche the late nineteenth century philosopher is at fault that her former fiance Michael, whose relationship skills are shallower than a wading pool, married the "Jennifer", super person taking what she wants from the weak and meek. On top of losing Michael to a stronger predator, Joan's boss Fred Lutz, who attended the infamous wedding, fires her as she got the cushy job as a favor to Michael; he needs to give the job to a friend of Jennifer. Finally affirming bad things come in three, her landlord Christine kicks her out of the apartment because she needs it for her recently married niece.

Joan is sick of being kicked to the curb. She vows to become Nietzsche's superwoman a Jennifer. However as she asserts herself, her friends and her widow mom thinks she is turning into an aggressive bitch. After interviews with Attila the Hun, Felix Unger and Madam Van Winkle, she obtains a new personal assistant position to Tim Wells while Project Jennifer succeeds.

This is an engaging chick lit tale with a deep message of "to thine own self be true", which fascinatingly mirrors the tale; the heroine is at her most interesting as confused, flawed but likable Joan and at her least when she becomes a Jennifer clone. The support cast is solid especially her ex, her two best friends, her mom, and of course her image of the Jennifer. Although the tale loses some steam when Joan becomes superwoman Jennifer, fans will enjoy her metamorphosis while wondering will she revert back to being Joan who everyone admires.

That's What's Up!
Paula Chase
Kensington Dafina
0758225822 $9.95

At Del Rio Bay High School in Maryland, Mina Mooney is euphoric as she has achieved her dream of making the varsity cheer squad that is competing in the Extreme Nationals at O.C. (Ocean City). She knows that being a cheerleader means hanging out with the in crowd, the Upper Circle at DRB. Mina also looks forward to spending more time with her boyfriend Brian.

However, not everyone welcomes Mina to the top social rung. The reigning queen Jessica Johnson plans to make trouble for Mina when they are in O.C., but puts on a facade of welcome. Her friends have issues too starting with the feeling Mina dumped them to enter the Upper Circle as they do not have a ticket. Lizzie has met Todd, the first boy to distract her from schoolbooks; Kelly is giving ex-hustler Angel a second chance though she has doubts; and Jacinta is thinking of ending her relationship with Raheem for slapping her. Finally Mina finds Craig hanging around her though she wants Brian. The four best friends need each other, but each member of the Del Rio Bay Clique is distracted.

The latest DBR Clique tare (see SO NOT THE DRAMA and DON'T GET IT TWISTED; neither read by me) is a fascinating look at the teen lifestyle in a Maryland high school. The cast is sold though purposely stereotyped to bring out the message that diversity in friendships is good. Readers will see how different the Clique sisters are from one another and yet in spite of their differences and recent spats remain bonded friends. Paula Chase provides a fascinating young adult relationship drama as the quartet struggle with boy problems.

Noelle Mack
Kensington Brava
0758222769 $14.00

In 1816 London, the members of the Pack of St. James are concerned with the recent murders of two women who were seen with the Pack's men. The Pack also received a heinous message warning them more fallen women who are seen with them will die. Since leader Kyril Taruskin and his be loved Vivienne are in the WILD of the Russian port of Archangel, his brother Marko investigates.

His inquiries lead Marko to Severin, whose half-sister was a victim. She seems to know too much intricate details to satisfy Marko of her innocence. However he knows immediately she is clever and brilliant, and her allure is overpowering. Still he is not a Pack leader, who succumbs easily to a siren. When he tries to use his sensual skills to gain the upper hand and learn the truth, she turns up the heat. Soon he realizes to keep her safe he must not be seen with this scandalous woman whom he loves.

This WANTON tale starts off WILD, hot and sexy as Marko and Severin are in instant heat for one another. However, the whodunit takes over the story line rather quickly; as it should with lives at stake including that of Severin. Thus fans will appreciate this fine historical mystery with the right amount of romance enhancing Marko's desperate inquiry to catch a serial killer so that he and his soulmate can love one another for a long lifetime.

The Black Sheep and the English Rose
Donna Kaufman
Kensington Brava
0758217293 $14.00

In New York City, Finn Dalton sneaks into a hotel suite only to find jewel thief Felicity Jane Trent tied naked to the bed. They have a history competing for precious jewels, but have not seen one another since Prague two years ago. Finn offers to team up with Felicity Jane to retrieve the Byzantium gem that both want; she asks how to split one stone and he says he is not sure, but there are other things he desires. She explains that artifact dealer John Reese caught her looking into his things. He tied her up and left with the stone. He is meeting his buyer's contact. Finn asks Felicity Jane why steal when she is wealthy and runs a renowned charity. She will not respond, but he assumes it is the thrill.

Finn and Felicity Jane join Reese and his client Andreev, who is buying the gem for octogenarian collector Chesnokov. Andreev leaves followed by Reese. Finn and Felicity Jane go to Reese's hotel room where they know an unknown woman had been there. They take a glass that might have her fingerprints on it. At his Manhattan sanctuary he learns the prints belong to Julia Forsythe, a San Francisco art dealer; they find her itinerary on the net. They believe Reese went to California with her so they follow them. Finn and Felicity Jane want one another, but he insists she stop stealing; she refuses.

The lead couple is terrific as they share an odd confrontational loving history filled with sexual innuendos while the return of the lead characters from the previous "Black Sheep" tales adds depth as they perform critical but minimized support roles. The mystery of what is truly going on is cleverly disguised; however, the "villain" never makes a first person appearance leaving the audience somewhat dissatisfied. Still this is a fine romantic suspense.

The Midnight Man
Charlotte Mede
Kensington Brava
0758223676 $14.00

In 1860, recently widowed Helena Hartford is infamous for her scandalous paintings. However, it is not her art that has her in trouble; it is her wealth she inherited that others covet and plan to use her paintings as proof she needs to be committed to an asylum. Bedlam would kill this young woman who relishes freedom.

Even more affluent than her, Nicholas Ramsay orders Helena to trust him as he will keep her safe and free. However, he hides from her his real agenda as she is his pawn to reap revenge. Instead he finds himself falling in love and takes her to South America on a science expedition and to keep her truly safe; however, those after her money follow as she must be removed either into an asylum or a coffin.

This EXPLOSIVE historical romantic suspense grips the audience from the moment the suspicious Helena (and readers) distrusts Nicholas when he says trust me. The story line is fast-paced with Darwinism used to anchor the era. The lead couple is a fabulous pairing as love supersedes hate in Nicholas' case. Fans will appreciate Charlotte Mede's strong thriller as the tension continually mounts until the final confrontation with a fascinating low key villain.

Doggie day Care Murder
Laurien Berenson
0758216041 $22.00

Even though she moved out of her neighborhood after she married Sam, Melanie Travis remains in touch with her good friend Alice Brickman, who is returning to work after being a stay at home mom for years. Worried about her Golden Retriever being alone in an empty nest, Alice asks Melanie to investigate the Pine Ridge Canine Care Center to see if it would be a good place for her to leave her beloved dog Berkley while she works.

When Melanie goes to inspect the doggie day care center, she is taken aback to see the canines enjoying a luxurious lifestyle watching TV while sitting on couches and chairs and playing with toys. When she and Alice go to sign up Berkley, they find the co-owner of the facility Steve Pine shot to death. Melanie learns that Steve's partner his sister Candy inherits the doggie day care center. She also learns an irate neighbor Adam Busch loathes the Pine siblings blaming them for ruining their neighborhood. Finally the victim was a womanizer who hit on his female clients and Lila Bennington who is suing the facility. Suspects are everywhere.

Although Melanie's plate is full with her Aunt Peg and her newborn Kevin, and with a dog show coming up she cannot resist investigating the homicide; why she does so beyond the Nancy Drew obsession syndrome is an unanswered question. The number of suspects is enormous, which in turn makes this a great entry in the caper canine series. Fans will enjoy this fine cozy while wishing their lives went to the dogs, at least those pampered at Pine Ridge.

Riders of the Storm
Julie E. Czerneda
9780756405182 $24.95

On the planet Cersi lives three very distinct sentient species. The Oud reside under the earth tunneling to where they want to go and have the ability to restore clan lands; the impoverish Om'ray can pass as human and have psi power so that all in a clan are interconnected; finally the Tikitik are by far the most feral. All three species adhere to the Agreement, which demands they keep their society stagnant and stay inside their assigned areas except during the Passage if they are to have peace. Aryl the Om'ray is a person with tremendous power, but was exiled by her Yena clan for developing a new talent that upset the delicate balance and broke the Agreement and almost the clan.

Her followers left with her hoping she would start a new clan. They travel to the mountains and settle in the place where the ruins of the village of Sona are. Aryl's people want to settle here and begin a new clan with her as their leader. While people are forced to come to Sona by the Oud leaders, Enris Mendolar of Tuana clan learns of a new clan in the wilds of the mountains. However when he finds them he learns they discourage visitors and he barely escapes with his life. He is the man Aryl wants, but first she must set guidelines for her new clan so that everyone is treated better and know how to live free of the rule makers.

Julie E. Czerneda is a first class world builder as she creates the earlier years on Cersi with characters from three differing species and diverse cultures living in peaceful coexistence when the Trade Pact humans arrive. RIDERS OF THE STORM is filled with plenty of action and deep characterizations so that the audience will feel the author is a tour guide showing off a real world with genuine races and cultures. However, the bottom line in the Stratification "pre" saga remains Aryl who was coming of age in REAP THE WILD WIND when she shook the foundation of the Agreement, but now is coming of power as she tries to do the right thing for her people.

King's Shield
Sherwood Smith
9780756405007 $25.95

Inda left in self imposed exile as a preadolescent to preclude a monarchy crisis. In the nine years of his absence, his friend Evred became the King instead of Inda's older brother who was murdered and married to Inda's sister Hadand. Meanwhile Inda learned naval warfare while spending time with prates and has become a military hero after winning a major sea battle.

Inda accompanied by his beloved Dag Signi, a Venn sorceress, comes home to warn his ruling family that the Venn plan to invade. He is stunned to find Evred as the ruler, but also shocked that he is the heir to Choraed Elgaer and must marry his childhood friend Tdor; both have loved one another, but he also is committed to Signi. However, working through his feelings and what is good for his people are on hold as Evred asks Inda to lead their army. Though a naval expert, Inda agrees even if he feels like a fish out of water.

The third Inda military fantasy (see INDA and THE FOX) is a fabulous thriller, which ironically takes an anti-war stand; as Edwin Starr's song War asks "what is it good for?" Signi answers with her scornful legalized murder argument. The vivid story line is fast-paced even when chapters are devoted to preparation as Sherwood Smith also responds to the question "What is it good for?" with a resounding "absolutely nothing". This is an excellent military fantasy that pulls no punches in openly describing the horrors of war on everyone; not hiding the consequences from her readers.

The Dimension Next Door
Martin H. Greenberg & Kerrie Hughes
9780756405090 $7.99

Although readers would expect the thirteen contributions by a strong group of authors would be so similar the tales would trip over each other; as how many thin veils and portals can there be. Instead the writers provided numerous "gateways" with many interpretations to what is and how to enter THE DIMENSION NEXT DOOR. Donald J. Bingle uses the net; Lillian Stewart Carlisle's protagonist travels into the past; Fiona Paton's young hero serves two Queen Elizabeths; one in the sixteenth century and the other starting in 1953. Whether it is a different Ben Franklin (by Anton Stout) or just "Unreadable books by Steven Schend, the path next door varies. Thus this themed anthology turns into a fresh enjoyable collection as the authors escort readers through thirteen different doors; the right number of tales for a collection based on unexplained phenomena teasing and frightening our senses probably leaking from across the other side.

Enchantment Place
Denise Little (editor)
9780756405106 $7.99

The in spot for shopping in Chicago is ENCHANTMENT PLACE, a mall opened 24 hours 364 days a year. This is the place where the vampires, shapeshifters, and other paranormal go shopping. The only day the mall closes is for that most sacred of holidays, Halloween. With that Introduction and whimsical kudos to her sister who's let them have a mall comment which led to this anthology, Denise Little brings out the ship 'til you drop supernatural crowd.

In spite of the cutesy gimmick, the authors are a who's who of fantasy to include Sarah Hoyt, Deb Stover, Esther Friesner, Laura Resnick and Diane Duane; etc. Special acclaim goes to Peter Norwood who aptly titled his well written entry "And into the Fire" as he is the sole male contributor; Ms. Little must have settled on author realism even with an enchanted mall as finding men to admit they chose the mall over football would be too surrealistic. Surprisingly none of the tales are weak as each contains a bit of whimsy as if the writers truly enjoyed doing these tales. Where else could one shop for a familiar, watch the IRS audit a Wiccan supply store owner, observe I'm a unicorn watcher (apologies to the O'Kaysons), and of course trolls arguing over taxes. Readers will be enchanted from start of finish when Carman the untalented offspring of two mages deals with the enchanting "Poop Thief"; that sums up a lighthearted fun collection.

Seducing Mr. Darcy
Gwyn Cready
1416541160 $6.99

Although she loves the romantic novels by Jane Austen, ornithologist Phillippa "Flip" Allison believes true love is only found in fairy tales or novels and not for someone pragmatic like her. Her recent divorce affirms her belief. Besides who wants such a prim and proper male like Mr. Darcy even if he reads like quite a man.

At a masseuse, Flip fantasizes that she and Darcy had a fling prior to his meeting Elizabeth. Thinking it was just a nice dream; Flip is stunned when she realizes somehow her fantasy trip to Regency England resulted in her changing Pride and Prejudice. Knowing she must fix what she wrought, she turns to Austen scholar Magnus and several of the author's finest characters.

Mindful of Jasper Fforde's zany Thursday Next tales, SEDUCING MR. DARCY is a fun satirizing of the zillion Jane Austen novels and movies of the last decade. The story line is fresh with irreverent chick lit modifications to the classic Pride and Prejudice. Although at times the irony ironically turns inane, fans who enjoy lampooning the modern romance novels love affair with dissecting Jane Austen will enjoy Gwyn Cready's flippant SEDUCING MR. DARCY, literally that.

Dark Warrior Unleashed
Alexis Morgan
1416563423 $6.99

Grand Dame Judith has led the warrior Talions policing the Kyth. For a millennium and more she and her band have hunted and killed rogue Kyth, who feed off human energy without normally causing harm; however some turn into killers.

Ranulf "Enforcer" Thorsen has been under Judith's command for centuries, but lately has started to embrace the darkness. Still he does his duty hunting a rogue killer. In Seattle he meets Kerry Logan, who is ignorant of the inherited power she possesses even after she saves those victims a rogue has used and tried to kill by setting a nightclub on fire. Her efforts bring her to the attention of this deadly arsonist rogue; Ranulf, who helped her at the inferno realizes he more than admires her courage; he plans to keep the woman he loves and whom he believes will save his soul safe from a particularly deadly Kyth.

Alexis Morgan, highly regarded for her Paladins universe, starts a new urban romantic fantasy saga with an excellent opening act. DARK WARRIOR UNLEASHED star two fully developed lead characters as the hero finds the light to save him from going dark, but needs to persuade her she is Kyth too before it is too late for them. Ms. Morgan is a master magician as she not only unleashes the necessary background to her new series, but does so inside of an exhilarating fast-paced story line starring two wonderful Kyths.

Never Romance a Rake
Liz Carlyle
9781416527169 $7.99

Comte de Valigny and Baron Rothewell play cards with the stake being the former's beautiful daughter Camille Marchand. However, neither rake factored in the reaction of the stakes. Camille loathes her father who had no use for a female offspring until she turned into a rare beauty he could peddle amidst the Ton. She knows the Baron's reputation as a scoundrel who prefers spending time with his mistress than any Ton social event. However, he is shocked when his winning comes willingly as she sees the rogue as the lesser of two evils.

As they spend time together, Camille finds herself attracted to the tender caring Kieran. She is able to somehow see past his facade into his soul yearning for more but expecting less. Kiernan is shocked how much he cares for Camille as he sees inside her heart to find the identical darkness covering a yearning for love. However, her father ruthlessly plans to use her as a tool to harm Kieran with a secret about his daughter that she is unaware of; but dear old dad placed his bets against love.

This is an engaging Regency romance starring two likable protagonists who readers will bet against them forging a permanent relationship; he is a true blood rake and she distrusts aristocratic males as her father taught her well. Sub-genre fans will enjoy their battles as love has left both bewildered and frightened while her opportunistic vile daddy dearest sees a chance to win a pot with this pair. Liz Carlyle deals three of kind with this fine NEVER ROMANCE A RAKE (see NEVER DECEIVE A DUKE and NEVER LIE TO A LADY).

In Her Wildest Dreams
Kimberly Dean
141655114X $14.00

Research scientist Shea Caldwell is afraid to go to sleep as she wakes up in strange places. She fears the sleepwalking problems she had as a child that she thought she outgrew is back. Besides not sleeping properly, Shea believes someone from inside is stealing research from her company and consequently destroying her firm.

Security executive Derek Oneiros is attracted to Shea; in fact he believes he is in love with her, a unique experience for him. However, although she wants Derek, Shea refuses to follow up on her feelings. Besides being embarrassed; she fears his reaction if he learns of her disorder that goes directly to a childhood trauma that recently was re-triggered subconsciously. She is ignorant to the essence of the male she loves; as he is a Dream Wreaker who already knows her fiery nightmarish secrets having visited her nocturnally.

IN HER WILDEST DREAM is a terrific suspense thriller with a touch of heated romance and the paranormal. Readers will be captivated by the beleaguered lead character with a need to know what happened to her as a child that haunts her now. The Dream Wrecker is an interesting individual, but falling in love takes away somewhat from his nightmarish vocation. Still fans will appreciate this fine tale as we want to know what is happening now and then in the life of Shea.

South of Hell
P.J. Parrish
1416525882 $7.99

Private detective Louis Kincaid receives a phone call concerning a case he was involved in a decade ago. Louis found the car that belonged to Owen and Jean Brandt; she took the vehicle and left her spouse and their child never to return; he went to prison but has since been paroled. Ann Arbor police detective Jake Shockley, who loved Jean, tells Louis new evidence has surfaced and asks Kincaid to come to Michigan. Louis cannot resist and leaves immediately as the cops plan to reopen the cold case disappearance while fearing for Owen's new girlfriend.

Owen and his girlfriend go back to his former house waiting for the life insurance check that his girlfriend expects soon. When Owen finds out his daughter Amy is in town he tries to get her back but fails as Joe, Louis's girlfriend has legal custody of her. Amy is determined to find out what happened to her mother while her father is wondering what really happened to his wife. The child visits a hypnotist hoping the expert can help her retrieve her buried repressed memories. Wanted for attacking Louis, Owen heads back to the farmhouse at the same time Amy arrives there to see if she can prompt her memories. Louis, Joe, and Jake also come to the farmhouse for the inevitable High Noon confrontation.

The antagonist is a sociopath who uses violence to get what he demands, which leaves many people afraid of him and his abusive bullying tactics. Louis, already involved before his arrival, becomes almost obsessed with solving the case and protecting the innocent two females who he fears will not survive associating with him. Ann Arbor also contains a personal shocker to Louis as he meets his daughter and has no idea how to be a father to her. P.J. Parrish has written a fascinating thriller in which the case is too personal to Kincaid's liking; but not to his appreciative fans.

Brendan McNally
Simon & Schuster
1416558829 $26.00

By March 1945, Albert Speer knows the end of the Third Reich is near. His immediate future is bleak as he and Herr Hitler have had a falling out as Speer sees no miracle to save Germany while the Fuhrer insists victory is soon. If he survives Hitler's final days, Speer has hopes as the Foreign Ministry believes he will be selected by the allies to run Germany as a technocrat untainted by the atrocities; if not he plans to hide in Greenland. He expects his prime rival will be propaganda genius Heinrich Himmler, who believes he will stand with Ike to repel the Russians out of Europe.

At the same time the Nazi leaders work to spin their recent past into patriotism and fear of the Fuhrer, the Jewish Loerber quadruplets, at one time called the Flying Magical Loerber Brothers before the Nazis broke up the act, have their own personal issues in surviving the war. Manni the assassin uses his mental skills to bend people to his needs. Sebastian can send dreams to multiple people at the same time faked his death to go underground as an operative for the Blood of Israel movement. U-boat captain Ziggy can hear peoples' thoughts and can bend their thoughts to his wants. Finally Franzi is Himmler's personal psychic consultant, but also works occult experiments. He, because of his Himmler connection and his counter espionage, is in trouble and his siblings mentally know it; the trio is converging on Franzi inside of beleaguered Germany to rescue him before the fall.

GERMANIA plays out on two levels: that of the siblings trying to rescue one of them and the final days "fantasies" of some of the Nazi's top leaders. Both subplots are well written and merge quite nicely. However, the fascination is with men like Speers, Himmler, and others who believed strongly they will thrive once the ally occupation began. Readers will appreciate this strong end of WWI historical fiction with its paranormal aspects and the deep look into what some of the German leaders believed was their fate.

The Bell Messenger
Robert Cornuke with Alton Gansky
Howard (Simon & Schuster)
9781416549819 $12.95

In 1865 Virginia Union Army Lieutenant Jeremiah Tate and his men met and killed Confederate soldiers. The Northern military officer also killed a fundamentalist Confer date preacher holding a bible; the victim was known locally as THE BELL MESSENGER for he spread the Lord's Word to the soldiers. Before he died the preacher gave his bible to Tate along with a letter to his mother stating that a man will come delivering his bible to her. Tate brings the bible to the preacher's mom, who explains her son wanted him to keep his most precious possession.

Tate keeps the bible and saves a little girl's life. Ruth's father is grateful and in Tate's debt forever. Tate meets a Chinese man and saves his life and then gives him the bible. Over the next century, the Bell Messenger's bible passes through many lives helping people know God blesses everyone as each has a chance at redemption. Now it resides in the present with recent college grad John Brandon, who is fascinated with learning the century and half history of this particular bible.

The Messenger Bell bible is actually the star as it fascinatingly passes from person to person; starting with its Confederacy origins; to San Francisco; to Egypt; to an English WWI solder who finds peace and quiet with the Word on the western front; to Egypt again; and to a Saudi Arabian cave; to the present. Readers get to know each owner reasonably well as their motives, thoughts, and beliefs are presented as much as their actions. Although the concept of telling the vignettes of those owning an item over time has been used before (for instance, THE YELLOW-ROLLS ROYCE) THE BELL MESSENGER is an interesting memorable work.

Odd Girl Out
Timothy Zahn
9780765317339 $24.95

Two hundred years into the future, following his harrowing but successful mission on the interstellar quadrail (see THE THIRD LYNX), gun for hire of the mysterious Spiders and their ever more enigmatic masters the Chahwyn; Frank Compton goes home to rest. However, upon entering his New York apartment, the former whistle blowing government agent turned mercenary is greeted by a woman with a gun who demands he work for her. Lorelei Beach explains her preadolescent sister Rebekah was kidnapped on New Tigris by the same Modhri agents he just defeated. He takes her gun and tells the gaunt woman to take a hike to the cops. He is on R&R and some kid is not one of his money making missions.

Four hours of sleep following the departure of a distraught Lorelei, NYPD Officer Bagler arrives at Frank's apartment to escort him downtown as a handgun registered to him was involved in the murder of Lorelei; he is the prime suspect for obvious reasons. Frank feels some guilt and needs to clear his name as whoever framed him painted a masterpiece. He and retired Marine and former bounty hunter Bruce McMicking ride the Quadrail to rescue Rebekah and uncover who is the mastermind behind the murder of his "client".

Compton's latest futuristic science fiction hard boiled mystery (see NIGHT TRAIN TO RIGEL) is more personal than his previous efforts as he feels obligated to rescue the sister, but also does it as the first step to find proof that he did not kill Lorelei. When the story line focuses on Frank's present fiasco, the action is fast-paced and never slows down as he and Bruce leave a trail of mayhem and death on the rails. However, when the plot uses the current mission to provide the back story, the tale turns sluggish and confusing especially to newcomers. Still a solid twenty third century Noir, fans will appreciate riding the Quadrail alongside Frank and Bruce.

The Scourge of God
S.M. Stirling
0451462289 $25.95

It has been twenty-three years since the Change when earth plunged into a pre-electric era. Mankind scrambled to survive as over ninety percent of the population died. Clan Mackenzie led by High Priestess Juniper and the Bearkillers thrived on the land while the dictator who wanted to rule perished (see THE SUNSET LAND). However a new danger has arisen; the prophet Sethaz and his flock slowly infiltrate the people surrounding Juniper and her people; he and his followers recruit or kill based on their cause being godly.

Meanwhile Juniper's son Rudi and other friends and warriors from home journey east across what was once the proud United States of America towards Nantucket where he hopes to learn more about The Change. The Lady sent a messenger Ingolf from Nantucket to pick up The Sword and bring it home. The prophet knows of Rudi's quest and sends his best assassins to prevent him from succeeding. At the same time the President of the United States of Boise, who got the job by committing patricide allies with the prophet because he wants to expand into Pendleton with Mackenzie's Western Oregon after that but they go to war to stop him.

This second tale in the second saga switches from the post apocalyptic thriller to a "Greek" Tragedy as the Gods manipulate and guide their followers and sinners. Readers observe dark demonic possessions and frightening futuristic visions while scrying and other magic takes the saga in a new direction. Fans will remain enthralled once the shock lets up as the tale is filled with action, strong characters in conflict, vivid descriptions of a battered dying land trying to come back to life two plus decades since the Change, and a great cliffhanging climax.

The Phoenix Endangered
Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
9780765315946 $27.95

No one in the Nine Cities for almost one millennium cast a High Magick spell until Tiercel Rolfort did it in the Moonturn of Flowering (see THE PHOENIX UNCHAINED). Stunned by his undesired by him accomplishment, the apparent Knight-Mage has begun "seeing" a beautiful frightening Fire Woman emerging from a fiery lake. The vision scares him so he seeks help from a mage, but none have been seen in civilization since the end of the Endarkened; he goes into the wilderness to find a Wild Mage.

However, the two teens and their non-human companions learn of the Wild Mage Bisochim Bluerobe, who they would like to discuss Tiercel's situation with. However, the Wild Mage is the out of control general of an army of deadly desert warriors destroying anyone in their path. Nomad leader Shaiara leads her people on a risky venture to find the mythical oasis Abadshar, where legend states alien technology exists that will battle the darkness led by Bisochim.

Though very similar in its coming of age tone as the first Enduring Flame tale, young adult readers will enjoy the action-packed THE PHOENIX ENDANGERED. The exploits of the teen heroes (including youthful Shaiara) and their camaraderie especially the bantering and teasing are fun to follow. Additionally, the two male buddies learn the destructive nature of unchecked or balanced power abused by witnessing the collateral damage of war and the impact of explicit and even implied bigotry. Not quite as refreshing as THE PHOENIX UNCHAINED, the second tale remains a save the people of the Light enchanting quest fantasy.

The House of Stag
Kage Baker
9780765317452 $24.95

The Yendri are a gentle innocent people living in contentment in their valley protected from outsiders by mountains until the Riders showed up. They viciously enslave the tranquil Yendri, working them in the fields until they die. Their spiritual guide promises them their freedom from bondage to a new land led by the Promised Child. Meanwhile Gard, a half demon foundling who was banished from the tribe for his violence, keeps attacking the invaders. A baby is found and brought to the Yendri to raise; they assume she is the Promised Child.

Gard gets frozen while trying to climb the mountain and believes he is going to die. Instead he is found and made into a slave by the mages who are bound by magic to live in the mountain.. The mages are evil and decadent and love seeing slaves kill each other in the arena. Gard quickly learns how to maneuver his hosts so they will trust him while he plots his escape. He and the Promised Child known as the Saint are fated to meet and their relationship will change both their worlds.

Kage Baker, author of the Company series, returns to her, THE ANVIL OF THE WORLD realm with a dark fantasist parable. THE HOUSE OF STAG is character driven with the spiritual guide and the Promised Child having differing parallels to the Bible. There is plenty of action, the usual trademark wry but desert dry humor, and tons of intrigue. Gard is the prime star as the half demon shows with his risk taking actions he has a heart of goodness in spite of his nasty reputation. The Saint incongruously has the goodness PR spin, but ironically fans will observe some noted discrepancies in her lifestyle. Biblical references aside, readers will enjoy this magnificent tale.

Too Many Curses
Lee Martinez
9780765318350 $14.95

Margle the Horrendous is an arrogant evil wizard who relishes his collection. His castle is loaded with his defeated foes who he has transformed into all sorts of shapes. His housekeeper Nessy the kobold detests the clutter since she wipes the dust off of her master's precious ensemble. She likes her job though some of the losers are pests, but would like a little adventure of her own.

However sometimes you get what you wish for; all hell breaks lose inside Margle's castle when he dies from one of his incantations. Suddenly his entire collection is free, but they are made up of monsters with a grudge; only Nessy is around as a target for their frustrations although they admit she was kind to all of them. Nessy the pragmatic struggles with lifting curses when she has no magical skills but has some insubstantial cursed allies who in lucid moments try to help her. Adding to her inability to clean up the growing mess is Tiama the Scarred wizardess has come calling initially to make Margle her slave, but now to take over his life's work.

This weird fantasy is reminiscent of Howl's Moving Castle is a fun tale containing a wild bunch of support characters although too many so that few get explored beyond a brief description; even those who assist Nessy are never deeply described. The angst of consciously having a few body parts exist in a jar must be harrowing, but Lee Martinez never explores it. Still this is a fast-paced tale starring a likable competent housekeeper, Margle's damned, and the despicable new wizard trashing the castle. Young readers will especially enjoy Nessy's efforts to clean up her late employer's latest mess.

The Vampire Tapestry
Suzy McKee Charnas
Tor Orb
0765320827 $14.95

Anthropology Professor Dr. Edward Weyland is a vampire who is considered by his peers as a genius on dream therapy. He conducts experiments testing whether dream therapy can help people with their psychological issues. So well-liked is he with the students, there is a popular T-shirt "SLEEP WITH WEYLAND, HE IS A DREAM". However, Weyland's brilliance is not with human psyche, but using his scientific tests as a cover that enables him to hide his biological evolutionary condition from the cattle he teaches while also satiating his need for human blood.

However, early stroller Katje witnesses the star professor sucking blood from a student just outside the Cayslin Center for the Study of Man. Not long afterward she shoots Edward, which leaves the wounded professor at the unkind mercy of an abusive avaricious Satanist Reese and his followers. Human teenager Mark risks his life to save the professor who struggles with the lad's kindness. As difficult to deal with if not more so is psychiatrist Floria's misplaced love for him and the friendship of disturbed Professor Irv, as Weyland finds human passion is part of his soul even if he feels he is Homo Superior.

Though more five interrelated vignettes focused on a relatively short time span of one person rather than a novel, this reprint of the classic 1980s vampire tale remains a strong character driven tale with limited action. The cast is solid as the five prime people (and a few others) in Weyland's life force the overall unlikable with his air of superiority lead protagonist by their negative or positive relationships to reconsider how complex humans are and how he treats them. The action is limited as this is more a character study of how the next evolutionary line interacts with the current (sort of the first Cro Magnan amongst the Neanderthals). Readers will enjoy Suzy McKee Charnas' interesting scientific vampiric mythos (no supernatural).

Touch of Darkness
C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp
0765359626 $6.99

In Colorado Kate Reilly feels fortunate to still be alive; having survived seemingly endless waves of attacks by the local vampiric Thrall (see TOUCH OF EVIL and TOUCH OF MADNESS). She and beloved werewolf Tom Bishop plan to marry although his pack is not pleased with his choice of a bride from outside the pack. Though he still needs approval especially by his Alpha, Tom assumes no one will prevent his nuptials in a couple of days; now that Kate's apartment building collapsed due to a blizzard and she needs a home he plans to provide her.

Tom failed to consider Janine his former lover, who swears Tom is her soulmate. At the same time the loved birds struggle with getting the blessing of his pack, her brother Brian, a former Eden drug addict, is undercover at New Dawn Thrall halfway house in Texas where he learns more of their conspiracy to take control from the humans. The media fails to see beyond the Thrall manipulation of them in which they are the good guys and Kate is a baby killer.

The final entry to the delightful Thrall trilogy is a superb urban romantic fantasy as Kate and Tom have extended family/pack issues that make her as the vampire slayer and him as a werewolf seem real. Interestingly, instead of being a hero, the manipulated media paint Kate as a baby killer while the Thrall are described as innocent victims (Karl Rove would be proud of that swiftboating). Fans of the miniseries will appreciate the climax while newcomers will want to "touch" the previous two books first.

An Evil Guest
Gene Wolfe
9780765321336 $25.95

A century from now, the President of the United States makes a fervent request of academia private detective wizard Gideon Chase, known for solving problems no one else can. He wants the wizard to figure out how Bill Reis gets past sensitive secure gates. Reis was the ambassador to the alien planet Woldercan, where he learned how to perform things that appear to defy the laws of physics. He can convert base metals into gold and can turn invisible.

Chase starts off by searching for Reis asking actress Cassie Casey to help him. He offers her money and fame as he sees a natural talented beauty inside her that should entice Reis. Chase takes Cassie to a magic mountain where he performs a makeover enchantment that brings her beauty and talent to the surface. Cassie begins her performing to lure to bring Reis out of hiding. He becomes her angel backing a play, "Dating the Volcano God", that she is in and begins to fall in love with her. Cassie feels pulled in opposite directions by Chase and Bill. As people around her get killed, survivors starts looking at her relationship with Chase who now works for Bill. Chase takes her to a South Pacific island group where Reis is king and leaves her so she can learn whether she has a future with the monarch. Cassie learns many lessons on the island while waiting for Chase to return.

Gene Wolf has written an interesting but weird fantasy that should be read in one sitting to fully understand what is going as so much happens in non linear ways to the heroine with two strange men of magic in her life. Cassis is a terrific protagonist who somehow holds the plot together although the audience will not realize that until the end. She deals with the two wizards and a host of supernatural beings with aplomb and charm. The publisher says "AN EVIL GUEST is a novel in which Lovecraft writes Blade Runner" inside the Twilight Zone which is as good a description as any.

The Darker Mask
Gary Phillips and Christopher Chambers (editors)
0765318504 $25.95

This eighteen tale collection focuses on both the superpowers and personal issues confronting superheroes in their everyday lives. The tales are well written and fun to read as family troubles, economic woes, and ethics become front and center as the mask to hide one's secret identity so one can have a life is treated much darker than most comic books do. Especially strong are L.A. Banks' "Dream Knights" that brings a different reality to Manhattan; "Switchback," by Ann Nocenti starring teenager Mimi learning to restrain her mental powers that she desperately wants to use to manipulate her dysfunctional family members to behave like the Nelsons; Walter Mosley's "The Picket" who takes his alterego name from his mom. Perhaps the most insightful is "Vino, Veritas" by Peter Spiegelman in which superheroes face the truth of their decision processes and the outcome. With drawings enhancing the angst of the superheroes (one look at Gar Anthony Haywood's "Heatseeker" explains why a picture is worth a thousand words as no one will want to mess with that man), this is a strong anthology with no clinkers as all the contributors provide interesting darker looks at those behind the masks struggles with questions of ethics.

Off the Menu
Christine Son
9780451224170 $14.00

A decade ago in high school in Houston, the best friends (Hercules Huang, Whitney Lee and Audrey Henley) encouraged each other to succeed; they did and share valedictorian honors. Over the years the three Asian-Americans remain close friends; meeting once a month to share their latest achievements, their secrets and concerns except for one; none of the trio wants to fail especially in front of their best friends; that fear is so phobic, each rejects their respective dream.

Successful high powered Whitney wants to be a singer; Hercules fears opening a new restaurant; Audrey is frightened that she cannot live up to her adopted parents' expectations or for that matter that of her friends. They cannot tell the others until that getaway weekend together when each of the late twentyish women reveal their innermost desires only to find their "sisters" encouraging them as they always have done for one another.

The key to this warm contemporary fiction is the three protagonists are different yet similar as each is driven to be perfect" so that their bond seems genuine. Readers will appreciate the support each gives to one another while also accepting the underlying premises that to be human means being imperfect and no matter how close people get to one another there remain hidden aspects. Although there is no action to speak of, fans will enjoy this realistic uplifting character driven sisterhood tale.

Dangerous Pleasures
Bertrice Small
9780451223975 $14.00

In Egret Pointe, fortyish Widow Annie Elizabeth Miller raises five children by herself with no social life since her husband died in London. When her mom calls whining that her dad ignores her for golf, Annie knows this is an omen. Soon the high school calls to inform her that her two oldest Nathaniel and Amy are on detention; that is followed by the middle school informing her that her twins Lily and Rose are suspended. Finally her youngest stay at home Wills rejects the nap that Annie desperately needs.

Her corporate litigator sister Lizzie who knows Annie's "strength" facade hides a depressed miserable person, submits her name to a contest sponsored by Channel, a spa catering to female desires. Annie wins a week at the spa. She has the time of her life sexually and otherwise. Shockingly she is offered a position at the spa, which would eliminate her financial woes and her sexual abstinence, which she accepts. However, her family, especially her kids who depend on her, wonder how far will success and pleasure spoil Annie Elizabeth Miller.

The sequel to PRIVATE PLEASURES is a pleasurable erotic tale starring a fortyish mother of five who has no life of her own with the only person interested in her well being her sister. The transformation of Annie from only raising five kids to sex siren works; she classically displays defense mechanisms defending herself psychologically with initially altruistic and suppression states to altruistic rationalizations. She defends her changed behavior from a stay at home mom to BDSM and multiple-partners. Fans will enjoy Bertrice Small's fine character study while pondering the wise wisdom of teenage philosopher Amy that eventually you reach an age that sex does not matter (not).

Land of a Hundred Wonders
Lesley Kagen
9780451224095 $14.00

In 1970 the car accident that killed her parents left Gibby McGrew with a brain injury that caused some damage that her grandpa calls not quite right (NQR). Three years later, the twenty something Gibby lives with her grandpa and works at his Top O' the Mornin' Diner and Pumps in Cray Ridge, Kentucky. Her dream of becoming a big city investigative reporter was smashed when her brain was dented on the day she became an orphan.

However, Gibby refuses to totally give up on her goal. She produces the weekly Gabby's Gazette that patrons of her grandpa's diner can pick up a copy on Fridays. However she sees an opportunity to prove to her grandpa that though she will never be quite right, she can function quite nicely. Gibby has found the murdered corpse of the alleged next state governor, Mr. Buster "Butter" Malloy. She plans to solve the case.

Gibby hooks the audience from the onset and keeps our empathy throughout with her NQIR chick lit asides. Her commentary along with a strong support cast make for a delightful historical regional investigative tale. Fans will appreciate LAND OF A HUNDRED WONDERS due to the guide displaying an appreciative outlook for life more so than most people who are allegedly quite right. She is a "shoe-in" to gain reader admiration for her can do lifestyle.

Ann Aguirre
9780441016273 $7.99

The Farwan Corporation "Corp" s is dead after the revelation that it deliberately destroyed the ship the Sargasso carrying hundreds of passengers. The Conglomerate rushes in to fill the power vacuum and be in charge of controlling tariffs and jump-traveling voyagers. Sirantha Jax, who played a role in revealing the Corp treachery, is made ambassador to the Ithiss-Tor world where she is to convince the inhabitants known as the "Bugs" to join the Conglomerate. If they fail to do so, they will be subject to "jumping" bans and a stiff tariff.

Jax navigates through several conspiracies and jumps because she contains the J-gene. She takes on two passengers one being pregnant and near giving birth, which she does in the spaceship. They travel to Emry Station to drop off the new family, but all are dead there; killed by Marguts. They escape the station only to land in the middle of a clan war on Lanchion. Jax and some of her crew escape again, but are kidnapped; her only hope for freedom lies with her and her crew's ingenuity.

WANDERLUST is a great space opera starring a crew who looks human, talks human, behaves human; but Jax knows there is a breed on board (a bio-experimental engineered intelligent being). The other non-human is a "Bug" who acts more human than humans do. The heroine remains brave though a little strapped for cash after losing her job by exposing the Corp's atrocity (the fate of whistleblowers has not changed). Sci fi fans will enjoy her roller coaster thrill ride as the turns, twists, and upside down spins make for an exhilarating outer space voyage.

Jeanne C. Stein
9780441016266 $7.99

Bounty hunter Anna Strong has been a vampire for six months since she was attacked and changed against her will by the evil vampire Avery, who obsessed over her. She killed him and struggles to adapt to being a creature of the night in a human world especially since she refuses to kill for her sustenance.

As a bounty hunter her partner is the mortal David, who remains blissfully ignorant of her supernatural world. Anna finds herself willing to help his girlfriend Gloria beat a murder rap in exchange for her keeping away from David. With the help of Gloria's stepson who hates his stepmother, he allows Anna access to his home where she finds evidence to give to the police so they can capture the real killer.

Anna meets and is attracted to werewolf Sandra, who asserts she is Avery's widow. She is contesting Anna's claim to his estate. Anna is uninterested in Avery's estate but Sandra warns Anna that the holdings belong to her and her pack. Anna realizes those she cares about like David could be in danger from an apparent scorned female demanding her blood as much as the estate.

Readers will enjoy the latest Anna Strong urban fantasy in which the paranormal world and its species seem natural especially living alongside humans. Anna is a ferociously independent individual used to fighting her own battles even when she was a mortal and with her vampiric skills more so. Even she knows life as she knew it is dramatically changing and her loved ones are in danger from whom and what she is. Fans of Kelly Armstrong and Kim Harrison will appreciate Anna's dispute with a female werewolf as alpha as she is.

Break of Dawn
Chris Marie Green
9780441016297 $14.00

Deep below the paved streets of Los Angeles lies the lair of master vampire Beneditke. There they wait living the life of luxury while biding time before coming above ground as performers as they were in a previous life thanks to plastic surgery helping them modify their appearances. Eva, once the Master's favorite, kidnapped her husband Frank and turned him into a vampire while their daughter Dawn Madison has become Beneditke's new obsession.

Jonah's mission is to destroy the Undergrounds and their Masters, but Dawn has misgivings whether she can trust him any longer. Unknowingly she is already attached to the Master who is wearing a human guise. A betrayal forces Dawn out of her refuge at Jonah's hiding place while her mom and another vampire trick her into going to the Underground. Circumstances put Eva Dawn in a tenuous spot regarding Dawn, but she eventually helps her daughter escape. Dawn returns to Jonah, who has located the underground and intends to kill all its monstrous occupants. Dawn feels pulled in two directions, but must choose which side she is on.

This ends the Vampire Babylon trilogy (see MIDNIGHT REIGN and NIGH RISING), but though complete also sets the stage for a second set of novels in the urban fantasy saga. Chris Marie Green has written a powerful character driven thriller that keeps the audience riveted from start to finish with a need to know what happens next as there is always a shocker every few chapters. The reason this tale and its predecessors are so good are the belief that vampires live in and under Los Angeles and in this case the Underground seems like a real place based on a different perspective of the vampiric mythos. However, from the first page of the first novel to the climax of BREAK OF DAWN, the heroine with her trials and tribulations makes this trilogy well worth reading.

The Bell at Sealey Head
Patricia A. McKillip
9780441016303 $23.95

The small fishing village of Sealey Head is not quite the quiet quaint place that visitors believe they see. Everyday at the last moment of sunset, a bell rings out but no one knows its origin or who is ringing the bell. Lady Eglantyne inhabits the grandest home Aislinn House in the village; she knows her days are ending soon and there is nothing the healer or herbalist can do that can prevent her demise.

The herbalist's daughter's maid Emma knows there is another Aislinn House within the one in the mortal realm; that resides in a realm filled with knights and rituals performed everyday. Emma has seen glimpses of this medieval world when she opens a door to find the Princess Yarbo inside the room; yet her highness cannot cross into the mortal realm.

Scholar Ridley Dole comes to the village fascinated with Aislinn House as he believes the place is under a spell where the inhabitants are regimented like puppets whose strings are being pulled. Ridley's ancestor Nemos Moore used magic to link the Aislinn Houses; he hopes to undo his work to save the people, but is unsure how and remains ignorant to a malevolent person hiding in plain sight who will kill him to insure the status quo remains.

Patricia A. McKillip is a brilliant fantasist who makes her two Aislinn Houses and their connection seem real. There are many interesting characters, not all human for instance the titled Bell, in this ensemble tale. Readers will ponder the source of the bell and what it means to both sides of the portal especially if it fails to ring. Somewhat a high fantasy with a minor romantic subplot, THE BELL AT SEALEY HEAD is a fabulous thriller that grips the audience from the first time the bell peals as fans will wonder "For Whom the Bell Tolls" if the ringing stops.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Peace / La Paix
Ballades et contes en quete de verite
Hugh Fox
Higganum Hill Books
P.O. Box 666, Higganum CT 06441
9781605851815 $12.95

Hugh Fox is an icon in the small press literary community. His poetry, reviews, and commentaries are as diverse as his life experience and personality. Any new work by Fox is eagerly anticipated by his devotees around the world. This latest book, like those before it, won't disappoint. In it, the many dimensions of peace are layered like a rich baklava, sweet and crispy, thick and chewy. Represented here are the desires and fears of humans of every color, young and old, rich and poor. No matter what our station, these translations in English, French and Spanish reach out to us all with the accumulated wisdom and compassion of Fox's life experience. Through his words, "Suddenly everything becomes hair in the wind…"

Human history is fleeting. Still, too often, we waste our precious moments. Fox reminds us of our impermanence in this excerpt from "Here:"

history, the clouds that disappear in the whispering

It's a universal truth that true peace often comes only in death. Fox thinks beyond the usual parameters in "Tribes" and takes readers along on the journey. Everything that seems so important in life equals out in death:

The Irish tribes, English, German, Brazilian,
from Sao Paulo, Santa Catarina, Illinois against
Indiana, the south against the north, the hassidic
Jews against the liberal Jews, finally

all the tribes
in their tombs,

Hugh Fox dedicated this book to his Czech grandmother, who loved and accepted him unconditionally. No matter how old she became, she always had the energy to support and encourage her grandson to pursue his dreams:

….Spring comes,
and the apple trees and lilacs bloom,
perennials always perennial inside
me, although I was supposed to be
Irish Catholic always passovering
me into wine and matzahs as I
moved toward where I should
be / have (shalom) been.

In the long poem "Immortality" the poet ponders life and death, the living and dead, man's joys and despairs. Everything from a dead sparrow to fatalities in Iraq take on new meaning through Fox's contemplations:

Autumn comes, fruits, flowers, trees that remember
other lives thousands of years in the past, celestial birds,
wild oranges, I stay sitting on the bank of the river
and let the present moment become the temporal / material
size of the universe.

Today we live in a fractured world of political and economic turmoil. In Peace, Fox takes the long view as he melds past, present, and future with grace and perspicacity. Highly recommended.

Bye Bye Bertie: An Ivy Towers Mystery
Nancy Mehl
Heartsong Presents
An Imprint of Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 721, Uhrichsville OH 44683
9781597897662 $6.95

Ivy Towers is back with the second in this exceptional series of cozy mysteries. Spring has come to Winter Break after a lingering winter. On hand again are the same delightful town characters, and Ivy's Bygone Bookstore is in the black. Her life is back on track. And with the first thrall of Spring, Ivy is beginning to think she might be in love with childhood friend turned Sheriff, Amos Parker. Will their budding romance survive Ivy's latest investigation and the unexpected arrival of her parents in Winter Break?

When Ivy discovers a map hidden in an old music box, the legend of gambler's gold resurfaces. The legend of hidden gold has been a topic of interest in Winter Break for more than a century. Does the faded map represent hidden gold, or something far more sinister? Ivy simply has to know, of course, despite Amos's warnings and concerns. Mehl scatters enticing hints for readers to relish as Ivy investigates and the plot thickens. Someone tries to burn down the bookstore. Who and why? The arrival of Ivy's parents -- especially her mother -- complicates an already difficult situation. Why did her missionary parents suddenly leave China and head for Winter Break? Helping Ivy dig for answers is entertaining, and great fun.

Mehl's plot and character development makes for a satisfying read. Even the brief appearance by a passing character becomes memorable and adds an interesting dimension to the story when Nancy Mehl spins a tale. Winter Break resident, Mavis Baumgartner, is the perfect example:

"Mavis Baumgartner was a force to be reckoned with, and she ran her family like a drill sergeant cursed with an unruly command. Although all our volunteers had been given firefighters' outfits by the Stevens County Fire Department, only the men had them on. Mavis was so massive she couldn't fit into hers. Instead, she wore a big, bright yellow rain poncho over her long flannel nightgown. As she clomped around in enormous black rubber boots, with her poncho flapping in the breeze and her overly bleached bun beginning to come loose from the hairpins that were trying valiantly to keep it secure, she looked like Big Bird with an attitude and a bad dye job."

We have two more books remaining in the Ivy Towers mystery series. Readers who enjoy cozy mysteries with intriguing plots and delightful characters won't want to miss even one book in this series. Ivy Towers and the gang from Winter Break will be back soon in book three, For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls. I wonder if Ivy gets married in this one or if that tolling bell signifies a mystery? We'll have to read the book to find out.

Icarus Dreams
Kathleen Browning
Shadows Ink Publications
1209 Milwaukee Str., Excelsior Springs MO 64024
9780981764801 $10.00

The poems in Icarus Dreams are offered up by Ms. Browning like precious burnt offerings to her fans. These are poems of grace, love in all its forms, and longing for brighter, better, or bygone days. Whether life dazzles like the "silver chill of a fledgling morning" or devastates like "a trail of ravages" Kathleen Browning captures the moment through her skillful use of words.

"Blind Eye" is the perfect example of an emotion Ms. Browning knows intimately -- blithe, mercurial, unpredictable love:

Love is not blind.

I've seen love blink,
square its shoulders and
decide to go elsewhere,
departing swiftly to keep
from entertaining
second thoughts.

"Broken" reflects lost love to perfection. I read and reread this one several times, and finally chose one excerpt that demonstrates the poet's skillful use of imagery:

this fissured heart
has loosed
a fragile feathered
baby bird, crying
wildly as it
circles a world
gone broken
in it.

"Unraveling" is, again, free form poetry perfection because it has an ideal blending of pitch and cadence. This is the sort of poem I like to read aloud:

There will
be no peace
in this unraveling
no gentle words
to cushion the
divide. Each day
another wound,
a deeper rend
to soldier through
and there will be
no peace
in this unraveling.

The poems in Icarus Dreams represent one woman's life, her feathers "scorched in freefall" as she soars and plummets through emotions beautifully expressed in poetry. In gentle, exceptional ways, she makes no excuses and gives no quarter.

Dancing the Unicorn
Lyrical Blooms 2
Andrea Dietrich
Shadows Ink Publication
1209 Milwaukee Str., Excelsior Springs MO 64024
9780981764818 $10.00

In the days I discovered poetry in high school and college, we studied Wordsworth and Longfellow, Burns and the Brownings, Chaucer, Keats, Yeats, and Shakespeare. Back then, the Beat generation poets were still struggling in anonymity in San Francisco and New York. The poetry I studied in my youth had distinct cadences, rhythms, and rhymes, crafted by master poets who became the icons of their generation and each generation that followed. Andrea Dietrich's poetry is reminiscent of that fine age when poetry flourished. Through sonnets and triolets, rondeaus and kyrielles, she illuminates the world with lyrical skill.

This excerpt from "The Weaver" demonstrates clearly the skill needed to construct classic poetry, in this case a sonnet:

In dreams that drift as surely as the sand
along the banks of oceans in my mind,
he wanders in, and with his skillful hand
adds shape and hue to scenes yet undefined.

Classic poetry forms can be exciting, humorous, touching, and alive with metaphors that pique the imagination. For example, consider this excerpt from "A Cowboy's Love:"

His dallying was more than she could bear.
Each time he came around and tossed his love,
as if it were a lasso, in the air,
the sudden swirling loop it made above
her caught her quite off balance every time.
Entwined, not fighting it, she'd weakly stand,
but nothing was so utterly sublime
as being tied up in that glorious strand!

The excitement about poetry, the optimism and confidence Ms. Dietrich demonstrates in her work is evident in "The Sanguine Poet." Everything becomes extraordinary when she writes:

The ordinary water that he sips
transforms into a sparkling crimson juice
Of cherries, cold and sweet, upon his lips.

The fog is lilac mist and he's a kite
that climbs the sky, while losing mundane fears.

Half Pegasus, on wings of beauty borne,
his other half alights, a unicorn.

These are, indeed, words on wings of beauty borne. If you enjoy classic poetry in all its forms, Andrea Dietrich's work is masterful and imaginative.

After Eighty
Emily Romano
Shadows Ink Publications
1209 Milwaukee Street, Excelsior Springs MO 64024
9780981764825 $10.00

All the poems in this book were written after Emily Romano's eightieth birthday. Romano is a prolific, award winning poet who springs from rugged ancestors and writes about life with enthusiasm. Whether memorializing people and places or butterflies and bumblebees, her youthful zest is infectious.

As we age, our memories become more precious than money or possessions. Romano captures and shares memories simply and beautifully, as in this excerpt from "Another Time:"

So many stories I could spin
From childhood, now that I am old;
The veil between worlds growing thin,
I treasure memories, like gold.

Her memories bring with them scents and sounds, soothing sights. Nothing expresses the comfort of memories better than this excerpt from "Sometimes:"

Wisteria with bumblebees,
And lilac-scented velvet breeze;
Skies flushed pink at early dawn,
And robins running on the lawn;
Tall tiger lilies burning bright;
White dogwood in a full moon's light.
Sometimes when my heart is breaking,
Memories can soothe the aching.

Those of us who've reached a certain age can empathize with Ms. Romano's journey and her devotion to memories stored along the way. This poet is a woman who celebrates the times of her life, the good and the bad. "Rainbow Journey" is a legacy of sorts, and so I quote this powerful poem in its entirety:

I've traveled ridges of red…
Woman's blood:
Menstrual blood, birth blood.

I've traveled the orange trail…
Sunrise, sunset;
Warmth of fire.

I've traveled the yellow brick road…
The road of fantasy,
Fueled by imagination.

I've traveled the green causeway…
Lingering beside the still waters
Of introspection and reflection.

I've traveled the blue highway…
Where nights were long,
And filled with sorrow.

I've traveled the purple spirit-path…
Communing with poets
And passionate creators.

It's been a long journey…
But finally, near the rainbow's end,
All colors blend.

Through her art and poetry, Emily Romano shatters all pre-conceived ideas of age limitations when it comes to creativity. Her voice is as strong, or maybe stronger, now that she's in her eighties. Romano is a woman who savors life and shares it through her gifts.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Lethal Legend
Kathy Lynn Emerson
Pemberley Press
PO Box 1027, Corona del Mar, CA 92625
9780977191352 $17.95

Kathy Lynn Emerson has authored thirty-five books and numerous short stories. Her Diana Spaulding series, of which LETHAL LEGEND is the final installment, is in good company with her Face Down mysteries; romance novels; non-fiction; and young adult literature. She has also published a "how to" book entitled HOW TO WRITE KILLER HISTORICAL MYSTERIES: THE ART AND ADVENTURE OF SLEUTHING THROUGH THE PAST. She also writes under the name of Kaitlyn Dunnett. Ms. Emerson lives in Maine with her husband and three cats.

Set in 1888, the Diana Spaulding mysteries appeal on many levels, including as historical mysteries and the era of "yellow journalism," which also featured writing by William Randolph Hurst. Diana Spaulding is a reporter set to marry Dr. Ben Northcote, when his childhood buddy, Graham Somener, summons him to Somoner's island to look after a case of poison that affected four men. Diana's curiosity and a little nudge from a mysterious private eye compel her to follow her fiance to Somener's island, where a murder takes place before Diana's eyes. The wealthy Somener is set to marry an archaeologist, who could or might not be a con woman. A visit to an eminent scholar sets Diana and Ben's suspicions on fire:

"'I may be wrong,' Winthrop said, 'but I believe that's the young woman who caused such a ruckus at the Peabody Museum a few years back. I never met her myself. I was working in Nova Scotia at the time. But the name…yes, I am quite certain it was Dunbar.'

'What did she do?'

'Attempted to gain admission as a private student. Kicked up a fuss when the graduate school rejected her. Well, what do you expect? No woman has the educational background to qualify.'

'She claims to have been a student at Harvard.'"

Emerson is a knowledgeable and experienced writer, which gives LETHAL LEGEND authenticity. Emerson also writes with a romantic and prim style, which translates well to a Nineteenth Century novel. Emerson has the ability to put herself into the past, which also draws the reader into this entertaining character driven whodunit. Excellent!

Death on Diamond Head
John Madinger
Watermark Publishing
1088 Bishop St., Suite 310, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
9780979676963 $7.95

John Madinger is a Honolulu native with thirty years of law enforcement under his belt. He also has experience as a criminal investigator with the U.S. Treasury department, where he wrote textbooks and money laundering and informants. He lectures worldwide on financial crimes and investigation techniques. DEATH ON DIAMOND HEAD is his first Kimo Rigg mystery.

Kimo Rigg is not unlike the Mel Gibson's hilarious Riggs character in the Lethal Weapon movies. Rigg is a good cop who drives those around him crazy with his wise-cracking comments. Rigg has been relegated to basement quarters of the police station after he won a million dollar lawsuit against his supervisor. Serial Killings dubbed the "Double-Crosser" case have taken many young female lives, and the police thought the perp was dead. But another case crops up, and this time there are similarities to the modus operandi with two important differences: the victim died of heart failure, and the body turned up outside Rigg's new home. This puts Rigg in the unenviable position of having to prove his innocence before his supervisor can enact the ultimate revenge of pinning the murder on Rigg himself:

"'Yeah, but this ones goes deep into Paranoia-ville. Let's say there's somebody who really, really doesn't like me. They need to discredit me, but whatever they try has to be so strong it'll get past this legal shield I've got. Murder would do it, for sure, and they set it all up. I'm not the only one in the department who knows the Double-crosser's M.O., but I'm the one who lives 20 yards away from the body dump. Then all they have to do is a regular murder investigation with me as the suspect, do a warrant, find something of Stella's or a weapon in my place, and I'm toast.'"

John Madinger is in a unique position to construct the perfect police procedural sting murder on one of the department's own. Human emotions like jealousy and revenge are Madinger's vehicles for this excellent whodunit. Not only does he fool the reader until the very end, but he manages to create a character the reader can relate to and thoroughly enjoy. Kimo Rigg is a combination of the bad guy girls love with a sensitive soul.

The Case of the Deceiving Don
Carl Brookins
Five Star Publishing, A Part of Gale, Cengage Learning,
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
1594146772 $25.95

Carl Brookins has engaged in freelance photography; directed and produced public television; and has been a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a mystery fiction reviewer and also writes sailing a sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. He has sailed all over the world and is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He is a member of the Minnesota Crime Wave group.

Sean is a diminutive private eye who packs a wallop that can take down men much larger than himself. He has a successful business with many contacts, both in and out of law enforcement. He lives in a quiet neighborhood in St. Paul, which is shocked when one of the neighborhood nursing home residents is blown up in his wheelchair. Besides the two thugs who enter Sean's office and demand his services (or else), Sean himself is suddenly in someone's sights. A ice-blue Audi figures prominently in the case, and it is up to Sean to figure out how:

"I went to the window and put my little finger in the hole in the glass pane where the rifle bullet had struck. It wasn't that I hadn't been shot at before, although it wasn't a frequent thing. But those times were always in the heat of the chase. I was sometimes shooting back. This shooting incident, as one cop had called it, was a case of cold, plotted, assassination. That's a whole other thing, and I don't mind admitting it shook me a little. So I stuck my finger in the hole to sort of remind myself to be careful. I didn't stand in front of the window while I did it, either."

Brookins creates a fresh new plot, with an elderly Mafioso type who ends up paying for his crimes. Sean Sean is a smart little detective who is cute and resourceful. He uses his considerable brain to the best advantage, as well as turning on the charm to anyone who is either a friend or could be useful. The backdrop of sleepy Roseville, Minnesota (close to where this reviewer went to college) provides a calm backdrop to crimes that are nefarious and mysterious. Brookins engages the reader in this whodunit while keeping us entertained and mystified as to how this interesting plot will play out. A big thumbs up!

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Crazy Fool Kills Five
Gwen Freeman
Capital Crime Press
PO Box 272904, Ft. Collins, CO 80527
9780979996009 $14.95

Fifi Cutter is rather down on her luck and is busy doing odd jobs for the law firm of Reginald Wong. However, she didn't realize that an odd job was going to be one that may well cost her her life. In helping her friend, attorney, VJ, she becomes involved in the players of a case that involves a wrongful death suit against an airline. It seems that their ex-employee hijacked a plane, and five people were killed.

However, there is more to this than meets the eye and as Fifi investigates she is right in the middle of kidnappings and murder.

This book is at times humorous, especially with our abrasive character ,Fifi ,who usually doesn't know when to keep her mouth shut. Her half-brother ,Bosco is certainly another character who adds some spice to the read as he and Fifi try to work out their lopsided relationship while trying to stay alive.

There is mystery and adventure, plus some out of the box relationships going on that definitely add the zip in this over-the-top book. A different read that is both free and intense, merging the two quite nicely, making for a interesting story.

The Last Plague
Glen E. Page, MD
Synergy Books
PO Box 80107, Austin, Texas 78758
9781933538969 $14.95

I love when a book opens up with a dark mystery stirring your thought life before you even finish the first chapter. That is what I found in this outstanding novel by, Glen E. Page. A young girl is brought into the ER covered in blood. Dr. Douglas Hunter finds that one of her ovaries is gone and the other is hard and black. When other young girls are discovered with the same Dr. Hunter realizes something sinister is going on. Our caring doctor does not understand at first the danger that he is putting himself and his entire family in. As he probes deeper into this mystery he uncovers things that send tremors in every area of his life.

The box that is opened concerning this mystery is full of vile, and shrouded in deception, mystery and secrets that dare not even be whispered. From family history to war crimes in Nazi Germany, supernatural beings, and military intervention, the answer to what is happening to these young girls is far more sinister than anyone could possible imagine. What a ride.

I really enjoyed this book. Our author did an exceptional job of layering mystery upon mystery. He craft fully introduced each player and the role they had bringing with them more mystery and questions, giving just enough answers to keep you reading. The characters were both intriguing and sinister, loveable and detestable, but all needed to fulfill the drama that was playing out.
Of course we are left with a cliff-hanger here and have to wait until the next book to see what will transpire, but Dr. Page definitely gives you more than enough storyline to leave you wanting more. Is this truly the beginning of the end and why were young girls ovaries stolen? I have to know, and you will too after completing this read.

Well written, page turning read. One you do not want to miss.

Sisters of Misery
Megan Kelley Hall
Kensington Books
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
9780758226792 $9.95

I believe every young girl dreams of being a member of the 'in-club' in school. You know the one that all the pretty girls belong to, the girls who have the best clothes, the most popular friends. But for fifteen-year-old Maddie it never felt right, even though she had 'hung' with this group all of her life. After all, her mother worked hard to make sure Maddie belonged, pushing her daughter to fit in, but something inside of her just didn't click. Something was always wrong.

When her beautiful cousin ,Cordelia, and her mother came to live with the family things started to get really strange. Maddie knew the group would never accept her cousin, after all, she was different and Maddie knew they would be jealous of her beauty and her free spirit. She was right. After the girls spent Halloween night on Misery Island, Cordelia disappeared. The town pretended that Cordelia merely ran away from a place she considered boring, but Maddie knew better. She knew something evil was behind her cousin's disappearance, but she didn't know what. Was she dead or alive, and if she were alive where was she?

This book is quite a read. It is full of mystery, and magic, secrets and unanswered questions that only loom larger as you continue on with the story. Who is the enemy, or is there even one?
What are the many secrets that are barely being unfolded in Maddie's family and where does she and her cousin fit in? If Cordelia is alive and well why has she decided to hide herself, and is Maddie the one who is really in danger? So many questions and so few answers.

"Sisters of Misery," definitely stirs your soul and keeps you reading hoping to find some conclusion to so many mysteries. However, many questions are left unanswered and the mysteries are piled one on top of another waiting for yet another time to be revealed. Interesting! Sisters of Misery is a story that will grab you and not let go. You will be anxiously awaiting the next book in hopes that many of your questions will be answered. We will have to see. Good job.

The 12th Demon: Jonathan Steel Chronicle
Bruce Hennigan
Synergy Books
PO Box 80107, Austin, Texas 78758
9781934454091 $13.95

Jonathan Steel now has a new charge, Josh Knight, a young Christian whom he has promised to take care of after they had killed the 13th Demon, and his mother lost her life. As they are having a meeting with the attorney who is representing Josh, someone attempts an assassination. This someone is none other but a woman named, Raven, who was sent by the 13th Demon's wife, Vivian. This woman, if I may call her that, is trying to take over her husband's company and of course his demonic status. Right in the middle of this the 12th Demon, Rudolph Wulf comes into the picture. As one would expect he is a cruel being set on destruction and control of mankind. Now we are placed in the midst of darkness versus light, humans and demons clashing and plotting to win the ultimate prize, mankind. Add to that mix Vampires, and would be Vampires, and detectives that only want to solve their case without believing they are dealing with the supernatural, and Christians who are well aware of the evil powers, and you will see you are in for quite a ride in this read.

This novel keeps moving like a freight train. It's fast paced and mind challenging, as you become one with the battle set before you..The characters are extremely well-defined, realistic, with just the right amount of good and evil to bring forth the nectar of the story. It's a thriller and a Christian read all wrapped up on one. I liked that. I recommend this read if you want a real page-turner thriller where you will definitely be rooting for one side or the other before the book is done. Great job, Mr. Hennigan, we need more books such as yours.

It Starts With You
Julia J.Austin
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd, Parker, Colorado 80134
9781432713591 $15.95

In this work by author, Julia J. Austin, we are given some down to earth advise on relationships, Our author reaches inside herself and her own short-comings in this area from the past and shares her own resurrection, if you will, to victory to help the reader in their quest. She breaks down her book, first asking the reader to self-evaluate and truly see themselves as they are. This allows for correction and really can be an eye-opener to the person we are. She than focuses on finding the right person for you and how to go about doing that. Her book allows you to interact, gives you a quiz and many practical tips for keeping your marriage exciting once you have crossed that threshold.

I read and review many self-help books. Some truly give insight and others leave me dry.

This work by author, Julia J. Austin, was extremely drawing. I was impressed by the free-spirit in which I felt this author wrote. You could tell by her words and expressions that what she was saying truly came from the heart with a sincere desire to help others. I liked that. If you are searching and wondering why your relationships are going flat and want some down to earth practical advise from a caring heart, this book is for you. I am proud to give it my recommendation. Well done.

Ancient Laws
Jim Michael Hansen
Dark Sky Publishing, Inc.
Golden, CO 90401
9780976924326 $14.95

In this new book of author, Jim Hansen's Law series, we find our beloved Denver homicide detective, Bryson Coventry in France. Coventry desperately seeking a killer, one who through a blunder of his own, has taken another young girls life. making this personal. He only hoped the police in Paris would cooperate with him.

We meet Jade Lafayette, a 23-year old beauty who works for France's largest law firm. At least she does until she is pulled into a quest to help uncover the secret her uncle had found. This is when she meets the beautiful Alexandra and her life is changed forever. Her uncle, Remy, an archeologist has been murdered and buried with him is the answer to a find worth an incredible amount of money and historical value. A find that many would kill to have,and do. Nicholas Ringer is introduced to us, a man with money, a man with power, a dangerous man. One who will play a cunning part in this adventure.

Fallon Le Rue is a beautiful woman, and is the detective that our beloved Coventry is put in contact with in Paris. Sparks fly between them from the beginning. Together Coventry and Fallon piece together information from the murders in America and the ones happening in Paris to see if the killer has come to France. It appears he has. One girl is missing and the hunt is on to find this invasive killer. Coventry and Fallon come up with a plan to use Fallon as bait, but will that also cost her her life, as it did with another young woman? The plot thickens.

We meet other unsavory characters such as Marcel Durand, a private investigator, but one who appears to have many dark secrets. What part does he play in the darkness that is weaving its web. Our author takes us to Egypt where Jade and Alexandra search out the secret that Remy had found, but they are not alone and they battle man and reptiles for their very lives. Creepy. What a ride.

Mr. Hansen, in only the way he can, pulls the events happening with Jade and Alexandra into the killing of young Amanda Peterson and Tracy White. It is amazing how expertly our author is able to weave together so many characters, so many events in so many places, and keep the story flowing. You find yourself whirling around trying to piece together the information given to you to solve the layers of mysteries that are within this read. Just how do they connect? Where and what are the missing links? As always, I found this to be a top-notch read, with characters that lure you in, mysteries that run deep, and romance over the top. Definitely a book you do not want to miss reading. Thanks Mr. Hansen for another one of a kind.

Fire Fish
Davy Liu
Kendu Films, Inc.
3275K Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
9780615192338 $19.95

Fire Fish is an absolutely amazing book for young and old. We meet three adorable fish whose names, Sarai, RaaOn and Sesom. The fish have a race where the biggest, fastest, smartest fish always participate, the winners disappear into the Bright Beyond, a very special place of lovely food. Sarai never missed the race, her hearts desire was to go to the Bright Beyond.

As the story progresses the fish are in grave danger by vicious sharks, and they call upon the Finmaker to help them. Will this be their end? An amazing turn of events takes place that is sure to please every reader.

I am truly impressed with this book. First the story is one with a religious theme, yet it is so craftily woven that one is drawn into it before that realization ever takes effect. Second, the illustrations are outstanding, colorful, detailed, allowing each characters personality to shine forth and each emotion is played in each vivid page. Great job. The underwater background is well done with just the right amount of scenery and water life to bring the total picture forth.

All in all this is a book that I am very proud to recommend. Story and illustrations are top-notch. This truly is a beautiful book, inside and out.

Thursday Next: First Among Sequels
Jasper Fforde
Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780143113560 $15.00

I really enjoyed this book, however, I doubt that I can convey in a short review exactly what it is about. There is just so much going on inside its pages. It is a story of a middle-age woman, her husband, and children living in our world in the future, and what takes place there will truly make your head swim.

Her world is strange, at least it is coming from where we are in time right now. Thursday has her hands full trying to raise her children, keep secrets from her husband as to exactly what she is doing, and fight crime that is beyond weird. To top it off she travels into the world of books, and must deal with all the problems that they encounter. I loved this part. Hearing the characters talk and actually be brought to life from several of the books that I have read was fun. I was also quite taken back by all the 'problems' they encounter as books. What an imagination our author has.........really.

This book goes everywhere from characters in book land, to weird ghosts, time travel, the end of time, family life, and dangerous killers, to name a few of the adventures. The strange part is somehow our author pulls all of these together to make one interesting and really fun read. I liked this book. It was different and enjoyable, almost like taking a wild ride at a favorite amusement park and coming off a bit dizzy, but happy nonetheless. I recommend it for anyone who wants something different, fun, and entertaining. Thursday Next is quite a lady and one I hope to enjoy other reading adventures with.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

One is Infinity
Robert A. Granger
Vantage Press, Inc.
419 Park Ave., South, New York, NY 10016
9780533157228, $11.95,

It's not rocket science – a commonly uttered phrase to dismiss something as simple. "One is Infinity" tells of one rocket scientist who finds that what is dismissed as such can be seen as far more complex. David Whink's family begins to fall apart, and now he looks to reassemble his family, while dealing with the potential apocalypse that has spawned from his work – the sum which may be too much for even a Nobel prize winner. "One is Infinity" is a solid blend of traditional romance and science fiction, highly recommended.

Troyuan Chronicles, Book Four
Ernest Velon
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434343772, $18.49,

A person's personal upbringing is what is a major factor in their world view. "Troyuan Chronicles" is the fourth book in the series, following the story of Alack Troyus, one who wanders the galaxy trying to keep the peace and drive away those whose viewpoints have been corrupted and would therefore do harm to others. A Sci-Fi adventure novel with a bit of a look on the psychology of life, "Troyuan Chronicles" may be of interest to fans of the genre.

Flash Fiction II
Craige Reeves
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave., South, New York, NY 10016
9780533154319, $8.95,

Flash Fiction takes a unique vibe to pull off – a cohesive story in fewer words than most poetry. "Flash Fiction II" is Craige Reeve's latest anthology of Flash fiction, telling the stories of the random situations we run into everyday life and events are not so common in every life – such as awakening seconds from bleeding to death due to a knife in the throat. Exploring human nature in easily digested chunks, "Flash Fiction II" is highly recommended to readers everywhere who want a quick serving of story time.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Science Plus Religion Equal God
Doris Davis
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434363572, $9.00,

Science and religion, immortally split apart, but do they have more in common with each other than one would think? "Science Plus Religion Equal God: The Average Person's Guide to the Workings of the Universe" is a pondering of science and religion which tries to explain the very nature of the universe in terms. Arguing that science simply explains God's methods and how he exists, "Science Plus Religion Equal God" is an intriguing and enlightening Christian book with a unique message not found elsewhere.

The Image and Likeness of God in Bernard of Clairvaux's Free Choice and Grace
Luke Anderson
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
1420815687, $17.50,

What is the Christian Love that Jesus desires that his followers spread throughout the world? "The Image and Likeness of God in Bernard of Clairvaux's Free Choice and Grace: Reflections both Philosophical and Theological" by Luke Anderson is a scholarly writing on the work of Bernard of Clairvaux, a sainted Roman Catholic monk from centuries from centuries past. A deft treatise on Christian love and how it should be applied according an august and highly regarded theologian, "The Image and Likeness of God in Bernard of Clairvaux's Free Choice and Grace" should be read by anyone seeking a better understanding of the Christian concepts of God's Grace and humanity's free choice.

Getting Dressed from the Inside
Christopher Johnson
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434353993, $17.99,

The finest clothes in the world won't necessarily protect one from being completely miserable. "Getting Dressed from the Inside" is a guide to mending one's soul to better deal with life by recognizing the grace of God, who created all of humanity and gifted each individual with a unique talent. With chapters focusing on raising self esteem, overall self improvement, and useful advice in general to become a better person, "Getting Dressed From the Inside" is a must for any Christian who needs to turn their life around.

Courage Was My Only Option
Roman Kent
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave., South, New York, NY 10016
9780533156535, $26.95,

The voices of the past are expressions of wisdom articulated from another time, with a reminder that humanity should not forget its mistakes. "Courage Was My Only Option" is an autobiography of Holocaust survivor and spokesman for its victims Roman Kent. He tells of his tale of trying to evade the cruelty of the Nazi's fervent desire to exterminate the Jewish people. He flees to the United States and must work his way into a life he can be proud living. "Courage Was My Only Option" is a must for readers looking for an inspiring tale of survival and becoming something in spite of the odds.

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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