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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 10, Number 10 October 2011 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Donovan's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf
Greenspan's Bookshelf Helen's Bookshelf Klausner's Bookshelf
Laurel's Bookshelf Lorraine's Bookshelf Micah's Bookshelf
Shelley's Bookshelf Shirley's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf
Vogel's Bookshelf    

Cowper's Bookshelf

The Canadian Battlefields in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany
Terry Copp & Mike Bechthold
Wilfrid Laurier University
Waterloo, ON N2L 3C5, Canada
9781926804026, $39.95,

The contributions of Canadians in World War II should never be forgotten. "The Canadian Battlefields in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany" explores the memorials for Canadian soldiers throughout the fields of these three European nations, paying tribute to the sacrifice given to fight against Nazi tyranny. A fine addition to others in the series of Canadian battlefield memorials throughout Europe, "The Canadian Battlefields in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany" is an excellent addition to any military history collection.

Good Bandits, Warrior Women, and Revolutionaries in Hispanic Culture
Gary Francisco Keller, editor
Bilingual Press
PO Box 875303, Tempe, AZ 85287-5303
9781931010719, $17.00,

When there is no justice, those who live outside it may not be the enemy. "Good Bandits, Warrior Women, and Revolutionaries in Hispanic Culture" is a collection of legends of Hispanic culture both historical and fictional who made their mark in the Hispanic world's culture and will continue to have an impact for years to come. Presented in both English and Spanish, "Good Bandits, Warrior Women, and Revolutionaries in Hispanic Culture" provides a unique and recommended read, covering figures from Don Quixote to Pancho Villa.

Improve Your Spoken English and Pronunciation
Jolinda Osborne
Privately Published
9781461136835, $39.95,

English has become the de facto business language of the world. "Improve Your Spoken English and Pronunciation" is a helpful guide for helping perfecting English pronunciation to make a better first impression. Discussing the stresses of certain words, dealing with troublesome sounds when learning as a native speaker of another language, and enhanced with an audio download to help for a more comprehensive study. "Improve Your Spoken English and Pronunciation" is a strong pick for anyone who wants a more complete mastery over the English language.

The Man From Somalia, Citizen of the World
Ivan Scott
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533163502, $24.95,

Politics are a touchy issue, and some express their views in very different way. "The Man from Somalia, Citizen of the World" is a political novel from Ivan Scott, as he tells of his own version of the first black president of the United States, using his story as a vehicle for his own political opinions and the ideas of America's future in conflict with much of the rest of the world and itself. "The Man from Somalia" is a fine read with some intriguing ideas, recommended.

Lonely Deceptions
D. R. Willis
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450281331, $14.95,

Secrets can turn deadly all too quickly. "Lonely Deceptions" follows Nick as he becomes embroiled in a conspiracy surrounding machine blueprints that he truly doesn't understand, and finds himself being gunned at from seemingly everyone, unsure of who to truly trust. "Lonely Deception" is worthwhile and recommended reading, not to be overlooked for fiction collections.

The Red Skirt
Patricia O'Donnel-Gibson
Privately Published
9780983611202, $14.99,

The life of the nun is not for everyone. "The Red Skirt" is the memoir of Patricia O'Donnel-Gibson as she recalls how she chose to enter covenant life at the age of seventeen, she recalls the triumph and pain of her choice, and what she learned during that time about people, about God, and about herself. "The Red Skirt" is a thoughtful and very much recommended read for anyone who wants to understand the modern choice of a life dedicated purely to faith.

Girls Who Bite
Delilah Devlin, editor
Cleis Press
2246 Sixth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781573447157, $4.95,

The vampire is an enduring icon of popular culture. In "Girls Who Bite: Lesbian Vampire Erotic" new twists have been added to the notion of undead immortals requiring human blood as a fundamental requirement for their existence. This 256-page compendium consists of fifteen original and imaginative stories by fifteen writers who have crafted outstanding tales that take this particular aspect of the horror genre to new and innovative heights of entertainment and vampire lore. From Vivi Anna's 'Bloody Wicked', to Myla Jackson's 'The Gift of Lilith', to Victoria Oldham's 'Red Horizons', each of these fifteen carefully crafted stories by their individually gifted authors brings with them the added bonus of erotic elements that are unique to this particular anthology. "Girls Who Bite" is an extraordinary entertainment and highly recommended for adult reading lists.

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

The Geisha and The Monk
Julian D. Bound
SOL Publishing
1 Old Chapel Court, English Walls
Oswestry, Shropshire, SY11 2PD, UK
B00526P4XA, $1.20,

The Geisha and The Monk opens beautifully: with the sights, smells and sounds of a Japan replete in cherry blossoms, and with acknowledgment of the shortness of life and the birth of a girl offering much promise to the world.

Momoko is born in 1876 Kyoto and at a young age becomes a renowned Tokyo Geisha, traveling to America in her twenties to become a wealthy American's companion. Therein lies her first encounter with Tibetan Buddhist monk Tenzin, who is making his own journey to American to join fellow monks in San Francisco.

The two are drawn to one another - strangers in a strange land - but keep their distance only to find their initial quick attraction brings them back together to share their lives and choices.

By telling the story in three parts, Julian D. Bound allows for far more depth and description than a singular approach could cover. One part is told in the female narrative, the other in the male - so different perspectives on love, life, and living receive different approaches, and yet the meeting point for understanding between two very different worlds is emphasized.

Insights abound, from a young daughter's initial fascination with the geisha lifestyle to a mother's vivid worries about her daughter's choices ("Miyako remembered how Momoko's eyes had sparkled on first hearing of the bright silks,

elaborate hairstyles and makeup which were part of that life. Hesitating outside her door, Miyako tried to shake her feelings of impending loss, aware her daughter was already slipping from her grasp.")

Dialogue is heartfelt and realistic, characterization slowly builds and is well drawn, and the clash of different cultures is winningly described: "Fear gripped Tenzin as he looked to the sea of blonde hair surrounding him. It was then he realized the enormity his trip entailed and he stared up to his ships other travellers in hope of finding the same almond shaped eyes he was accustomed to."

The very different worlds of Buddhist teachings and a Geisha's life includes details on Buddhist and Geisha training like - and their ultimate impact on the lives of those who choose those paths.

The Geisha and The Monk is an outstanding cross-cultural romance - and a novel about two very different worlds that come together to compliment and change experience. A highly recommended novel!

Martyrs and Traitors
Marina Julia Neary
All Things That Matter Press
9780984651740, $19.99,

Martyrs & Traitors opens in early 20th century Ireland, where the Gaelic Revival is changing the face of the country. While Europe is bracing for the Great War is brewing on the continent, the Irish are busy preparing to strike against England.

An exquisite opening sets the spirit and tone of a lively novel hard to put down: "Dublin is a grand place for an Ulsterman to get executed....Bulmer Hobson doubted that the gun pointed at his chest was even loaded. Nevertheless, he wiggled his fingers in the air to create an illusion of alarm, if only to humor his captors."

With such a vivid introduction the reader is off and running. Bulmer Hobson, an Irish patriot, was a real person who tried to stop the Irish Uprising.

Real history permeates Marina Julia Neary's novel but adds realistic background and meat to high drama without sounding either 'canned' or heavy-handed with historical facts. Hobson saw his world careening towards tragedy with the uprising and found himself in direct conflict with idealist Patrick Pearse, who was determined to be a martyr for his vision of Ireland's future.

Bulmer becomes immersed in personal and political challenges throughout the course of Martyrs and Traitors, from brainwashing and changed alliances to Irish pride, requests for spying tactics, secret meetings and underground recruitment methods, and much more. From changing social scenes to the plague Bulmer deftly navigates his world and its many complex associations, contemplates marriage, and struggles with loyalty and his legacy to his family and country.

His many complex relationships with the women who influenced his life and perspective are well outlined, including the disparity between being raised by an early feminist who taught him to respect women's powers and his basic confusion over the female psyche.

It's a pleasure to see a novel rich with political and social complexities, detailing Irish history far beyond the popular vision of the Irish experience as that of the poor drunken Catholic stereotype.

While some of its characters and their relationships were established in her prior novel Brendan Malone: the Last Fenian, Martyrs & Traitors needs no prior introduction to stand alone as a fine historical novel for newcomers to Neary's Irish world. Martyrs is a sequel that includes only some of the same historical figures and settings, creating its own approach and characters and complimenting its predecessor.

In the end we are left with a fiery life and passion and a country that careened towards disaster despite the efforts of one man - and a novel that comes packed with action, emotion, facts and key moments in Irish history and cultural changes.

Adamant Aggressors
Bruce D. Thatcher
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781462891931, $19.99,

ADAMANT AGGRESSORS: HOW TO RECOGNIZE AND DEAL WITH THEM provides a fine historical survey of aggressive obsessions with power which are rampant in political circles and combines a historical overview (representing Book One of the author's History Speaks Today series) with a detailed analysis of five selected circumstances of aggressor actions.

College-level collections strong in historical analysis that goes beyond the usual recitation of facts will find Adamant Aggressors considers a range of issues, from circumstances of aggression and the leaders who fostered aggression to different methods of handling aggressors from negotiation to accommodation.

Five adamant aggressors (Mehmed the Conqueror, James K. Polk, Adolph Hitler, Chaim Weizmann/David Ben-Gurion, Joseph Stalin) are profiled in sections that consider their affects on Zionism, Stalinism, the Ottoman Empire, Europe, and the rise of the U.S.

Each section opens with a summary of events, provides an overview, and then analyzes both the individual's approach to aggression and his various tactics. Extensive quotes from source materials cite materials from personal aggressor writings to newspaper and other documentation. Discussions include international reactions, approaches to handling aggression, and lessons for modern times.

Ongoing attention to identifying specific acts of aggression make ADAMANT AGGRESSORS an investigation that goes beyond recounting common historical facts to move into the realm of discussing why earlier recognition of aggressive approaches might have changed history.

Any history collection serious about analyzing historical trends for modern applications should consider this a top pick, especially recommended for sparking classroom discussions at the high school to college level.

The Famous Union
Michael Meyer
Amazon Kindle
B005FZMVB6, $2.99,

The Famous Union provides a fine novel revolving around two very different professors starting their first year teaching at Famous Union College, a small "pretty college, with pretty buildings and pretty coeds and a lot of trees."

The entire faculty at Famous Union is unexpected, from an overworked Chaucer expert who has become obsessed with literature after failed love to one "Bill, the hybrid", whose life changes after he's mistakenly accosted by a polite gunman.

Add an unexpected run on the Chaucer course, an exhibitionist school secretary, and a host of other crazy academics and you have a whimsical spin through a college that can best be described as 'quirky and off-beat'.

The coach's wife Bertha is a case in point: a writer by trade, she sees fit to hand her temperamental husband a loving 'script' for togetherness which he dutifully reads: until the canned last too-loving line drives him into swearing and sends her away in tears (""F...U...C!" he shouted out to the world, using the forbidden acronym that perfectly suited his current frame of mind...It isn't fair, she was thinking. I worked so hard on it this time just to insure that it would be short and sweet, and now this. She quickly ran off to the back bathroom in order to have a good cry.")

One of the lines in The Famous Union says it all: "life is absurd" - and so are the hilarious characters that keep entering and making impressions on the reader.

Any with a background in academic circles will recognize the zany politics and personalities that often revolve in upper echelon education - and will find the whole concept filled with fun; particularly when the entire football team gets behind a coach who wants to oust wayward English teacher Bill to get more school money for his team.

The Famous Union is a comedy romp through the halls of academic insanity - and presents a school whose motto is "just wait till next year". Readers - especially those familiar with academic ironies - will find it filled with fun!

Free Software, Free Society
Richard M. Stallman
GNU Press
c/o Free Software Foundation
51 Franklin St., Suite 500, Boston MA 02110
9780983159209, $20.00

Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman, Second Edition details the GNU Project and Free Software, making a case for why software should not have owners and discussing who should control code.

It provides a fine blend of technological and philosophical discussion highly recommended for social issues and computer readers alike, discussing the importance of keeping code accessible to all and contending that transparent software - and the right to change and modify it - is intrinsic to a free-thinking society.

Who owns software - and who controls it - ultimately defines freedom and affects accessibility and creativity. The contention here is that "If you use and adapt a free software program, and then release that adapted version to the public, the released version must be as free as the version it was adapted from."

The notion of 'free software' has enemies in predictable places - notably Microsoft Corporation - and Richard Stallman's essays address all these issues, discussing the history and evolution of the free software movement, its political and social effects, and basic issues of copyright in a digital world.

This second updated edition updates essays from the first edition to reflect the latest changes in copyright and free software issues and adds more new articles. Discussions of GNU public licensing in general and updates to Version 3 of the GNU General Public License are presented.

There is no better discussion of the history and purposes of the GNU Project than these essays: "In the GNU Project, our aim is to give all users the freedom to redistribute and change GNU software...instead of putting GNU software in the public domain, we "copyleft" it. Copyleft says that anyone who redistributes the software, with or without changes, must pass along the freedom to further copy and change it. Copyleft guarantees that every user has freedom. Copyleft also provides an incentive for other programmers to add to free software."

One can see why these concepts would prove threatening to big money interests that have a vested interest in the concept of controlling code and copyright in the digital realm - and why FREE SOFTWARE, FREE SOCIETY is so important a rebuttal to these special interests.

From methods business interests have used to clamp down on software availability to the proper way to decide copyright policy, this is packed with articles geared to discussion and debate - and perfect recommendations for any college-level collection surveying civil rights and freedoms in the digital age! Quite simply: a 'must' for such audiences.

Free As in Freedom 2.0
Richard Stallman and Sam Williams
GNU Press
c/o Free Software Foundation
51 Franklin St., Suite 500, Boston MA 02110
9780983159216, $20.00

Free As in Freedom 2.0: Richard Stallman and the Free Software Revolution provides a fine history of GNU Project founder Richard Stallman and the evolving history of the 'free software' movement as a whole, blending biography with the progress of a movement that still is affecting perceptions of copyright, software protection, and freedom of information as a whole.

It corrects comments made in the first edition with revisions by Richard Stallman himself, follows its own advocacy for freedom in asking for "changes and contributions from any reader wishing to improve the text.", and offers a hard-hitting analysis that goes beyond discussion of software and information sharing and probes the very foundations of democratic thought.

The GNU GPL has generated strong discussion and debates and many case history examples are to be found in Free As in Freedom 2.0. Arguments about legal protections, ethical issues involved in free versus proprietary software, and the evolution of copyright over the last few decades make pointed comments about freedoms and liberty in the software world as a whole:

"Rare was the program that didn't borrow source code from past programs, and yet, with a single stroke of the president's pen, the U.S. government had given programmers and companies the legal power to forbid such reuse. Copyright also injected a dose of formality into what had otherwise been an informal system. Simply put, disputes that had once been settled hacker-to-hacker were now to be settled lawyer-to-lawyer."

The methodical erosion of free copyright and its effect on the movement as a whole throughout the 80s and 90s is documented in chapters packed with case history examples and pointed commentary.

The GPL's expanding popularity makes this survey of its concepts, history and evolution of key interest to a wide range of collections; from computer topics to collections revolving around social change, liberty and freedom. Any interested in free or open source software's history and ethics simply must have this!

Richard Puz
74th Street Press
9780979960444 and 0979960444, $3.99,

AVENGE is part of the 'Six Bulls Series', which uses family tales passed down through generations to add life to history. While each novel in the series draws on historical background and facts to recreate the historical era of the 1800s West, working as a fine uniform history when taken together, AVENGE stands well on its own as a powerful account of frontier violence, justice, and motivation for embarking on life-changing journeys.

AVENGE is set in 1853, when outlaws steal Curtis Sommer's prized horses. Curtis sets out for revenge and finds himself on a journey for justice that pits him against savage men and a wild American frontier land. The rustlers flee for Indian Territory, and Curtis borrows his father's horse to chase them down.

Excellent dialogue captures not just interactions between individuals but explains frontier justice and injustice: "Things happen on the frontier. Besides, our government has a poor record of keeping the white man's end of the bargain. Soldiers make treaties out here and send them to Congress, where they get stuck. Those folks are always adding this or changing that. And then the treaties go to the Injun Affairs folks in the War Department, and, before you know it, we've reneged on the deal or, at least, parts of it. Get my meaning?"

Through excellent action, the Native American experience as well as the western frontiersman's concerns are brought to light, and explored, with protagonist Curtis's focus on vengeance ultimately affecting friendships, romance, and even his ultimate purpose in life: "My closest friends - my brothers have gone west and no longer share my life. Final punishment has come to the devil-man who did harm to Marion and Ella Mae, yet I can't give them back the lives they wanted. With this gun, God, I've delivered justice by becoming the grim reaper."

But did Curtis ultimately avenge his family's honor by changing his life, the lives of those around him, and affecting the course of history?

A fine novel capturing vivid history, this is powerful in setting, characterization, and its explanation of the course of not just events but individual choices.

Last Stop Freedom
Ann Nolder Heinz
Write Words Inc.
2934 Old Route 50, Cambridge MA 21613
1594319251 or 9781594319259, $6.50,

Last Stop Freedom tells of two women - one black, one white - who are trapped in oppression on a South Carolina plantation in 1850s America. Bound by shared experience despite their color, they both turn to the Underground Railroad for a ride to freedom.

The novel opens in 1852 where Julia and her friend Fanny are being hunted through the swamps. Struggling not just for freedom but survival, Julia recalls the beginning of her struggles in 1851, where a cousin's letter will set in motion events that will carry her on a journey away from comfort and all she knows.

Her encounters of different attitudes of Northerners and Southerners on the subject of slavery, her realization that her uncle holds passionate Abolitionist views, and her tendency to be smart, bold and outspoken paint the picture of a strong woman; but what happens when she goes to a ball and encounters trouble is anything but Cinderella in its outcome.

The underlying social helplessness of women is observed early on as she awaits the results of her suitor's proposal to her father: "She knew the next moments would determine the course of her life from this time forward. That she was helpless to influence the outcome was nothing new but nonetheless terrifying."

At the same time Fanny is also embarking on romance with its very different approach for slaves when she's courted by a blacksmith: "On the previous Sunday, Jacob had made it clear he hoped to see her at the corn shucking. It was as close as any slave could come to asking a girl to step out with him. Her assurance that she would be there was the same as a written acceptance. She was being courted."

Julia determines to leave her husband - and her decision along with Fanny's loyalty and own escape will change both their lives as they encounter members of the Underground Railroad who struggle to lead them both to freedom: "I knew from our first meeting you did not belong at Rocklands. You are much too intelligent to embrace the role of southern matron in our deluded culture. But I would never have guessed that you had such courage as this."

Southern culture, women's courage and challenges, and the different forms slavery takes in white and black cultures makes Last Stop Freedom a vivid chronicle of change. Add social and religious conflicts and insights and you have a novel steeped in struggle, tradition and the courage of two very different women who make decisions that go beyond their traditions and training.

Diane C. Donovan
Senior Reviewer

Dunford's Bookshelf

Joseph Franz
Jo F. Humphrey, editor
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
0595360467 $18.95

A biography compiled from resources and research by Franz's children and edited by Jo F. Humphrey, Joseph Franz: A Renaissance Man in the Twentieth Century is a biography of the extraordinary Joseph Franz (1882-1959), who immigrated to America in 1897 as a teenager and put his drive to work making history. As an electrical engineer, Franz dared to break with established professionals in the field such as George Westinghouse and experiment with untested means of producing electricity; as an architect, Franz designed and built two notable cultural buildings in the Berkshires that are still in use today. Black-and-white photographs illustrate this excellent life story of a resourceful, talented, and all-around exceptional American.

The Bridge
Jackie Carpenter
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140
Longwood, FL 32779
9781615796847, $11.99,

When faced with serious crisis, it can be difficult to truly find one's calling. "The Bridge: Between Cell Block A and a Miracle is Psalm 91" is a story of faith from Jackie Carpenter as she shares her own religious journey with coming to terms with the pressures of her son's accusations of murder. She strengthened her faith to find her way, and shares her story with "The Bridge" a follow up and companion to her previous "Georgia Justice".

Leo's Fairway Lies
Leo A. Sielsch
Trafford Publishing
1425149324, $21.95,

The golfing world has its own twists and turns along the way to success. "Leo's Fairway Lies" is a humorous and entertaining adventure through the golfing world in Leo A. Sielsch as he uses his own entertaining experiences on the green for a unique and highly entertaining story of the golf world. "Leo's Fairway Lies" is worth considering for any golf fan.

Tom's Wife
Alana Cash
Privately Published
9781449996321, $12.95,

Under the pressure of despair, we look for a better way to live. "Tom's Wife" is a novel from Alana Cash, a novelization of sorts of her 2004 movie of the same name. Following the despair of Annie as she hates her marriage to Tom, she finds Jake who may offer happiness after all. But in rural 1930s Arkansas, changing one's life does not come so easy. "Tom's Wife" is a choice pick for anyone looking for a moving period novel, highly recommended.

Wrestling with Life
Phil Nowick
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781456758202, $16.95,

Freestyle and Greco-Roman inspired wrestling is a sport that pushes one to the limits with only the self to rely on. "Wrestling with Life: Stories of my Life Immersed in the Sport of Wrestling" is a memoir from Phil Nowick as he writes on how his time in wrestling helped him for the rest of his life. Speaking of the virtues of the sport, "Wrestling with Life" is a very much recommended read for anyone who wants to understand it better.

Gangster with a Heart of Gold
Harold Ward
Privately Published
9780977438884, $14.95,

Even when a gangster goes legit, they rarely forgot what they learned on the streets. "Gangster with a Heart of Gold: The Noonie G. Story" is a memoir of Harold 'Noonie' Ward who worked himself up from being a member of the Gangster Disciples, who worked his way up to the top to become a major player in Chicago's legitimate businesses and working as a philanthropist. "Gangster with a Heart of Gold" is a thoughtful look at how one man can a make a difference no matter where he comes from.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Alpine Weight Loss Secrets
Stefan Aschan
Privately Published
9781452857923, $14.95,

Aiming for health is aiming for youth. "Alpine Weight Loss Secrets" is a weight loss guide from Stefan Aschan as he gives plenty of advice on looking and feeling younger, getting into better shape, and getting the more complete package of health. "Alpine Weight Loss Secrets" is an excellent pick for anyone looking to try new strategies in their own quest for better health.

Theater, Stories of Scenes of a Forgotten People
Mariano Morillo, Ph.D.
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159307, $11.95,

Forgetting is so easy to do, we often do it without even thinking about. "Theater, Stories of Scenes of a Forgotten People" is an anthology of thought and writings from Mariano Morillo as he presents short fiction, plays, and more, with a focus on the very human and the struggles we face throughout our lives. "Theater, Stories of Scenes of a Forgotten People" is worth considering for those seeking a collection of fictional work.

Widowhood Happens
Gene K. Garrison
Privately Published
9781460953945, $20.00,

It's terrifying but it happens everyday and life goes on. "Widowhood Happens" is a collection of memoir as Gene K. Garrison gathers discussions from many individuals who have lost a soulmate and the terror that comes from losing everything that meant anything to you in life. "Widowhood Happens" is inspirational and poignant, worth considering for anyone trying to cope with a world that took love from you.

C. M. Reber
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781456735258, $23.28,

You can't keep tragedy locked away forever. "Chosen" follows Katie as the tragedy of her father's murder when she was a child comes to her nightmares as a teenager. But her nightmares turn into something more, and finds that her fate is not of this world, but another entirely. Facing her fate in something fantastic and finding much truth about what has been happening along the way, "Chosen" is a fine read, very much recommended.

London Frog
Joseph Pittman
Vantage Press
419 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016
9781936467167, $14.95,

Some people are just asking for conning. "London Frog" follows Todd Gleason, confidence man who, appalled that a filthy rich couple wins the lottery, sets out to gain a piece of the pie himself. With a strong dose of humor and a tale that spans the Atlantic, Todd's adventures bring in plenty of characters, both human and amphibian. "London Frog" is a choice pick for anyone who loves a good crime novel, highly recommended.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Lorna Dee Cervantes
Wings Press
627 E. Guenther, San Antonio, TX 78210
9780916727840, $16.00,

Poetry is the music of the soul, and romance is the great inspiration. "Ciento: 100 100-Word Love Poems" is a collection of form poetry from Lorna Dee Cervantes as she creates verse within the 100 word restriction, dedicated to the history of love through the eyes of Native American and Latina culture. "Ciento" is an excellent addition to international poetry collections. "100 Words to Your Feet": Walk with me. I want/to wet your feet/in a field of a million/wild iris, our willing hearts/as rare as that, a/loving mass under the earth,/there among the worms and/ crystals. Purple blushing into pink/for the bee. Our buzz/at the reeling touch./I want you, at the foot/of my mile, my miracle/of you stunning over bog,/a zillion blades of green/glee over the murky bottom./You, your feet in mud,/the clay of you melting/into me after the fact,/I want you, your feet,/your act. Step to me.

Sub Nine: History's Fastest Ironwomen
Timothy Moore
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781460907641 $14.99

Sub Nine: History's Fastest Ironwomen is an anthology profiles of the fastest known female triathlon participants, each of which completed the grueling course in less than nine hours. A handful of pages offer a brief summary of the life and training of each woman, recorded highlights of her career, and her comments in her own words if possible. An extraordinary and inspirational reckoning of women's athletic excellence, Sub Nine is an excellent contribution to collections focusing on women's accomplishments in sports.

Amazing Grace as Christ Walks By
Carol Cline
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432769949, $14.95,

A bit of faith can lift the lead weight of guilt from one's life. "Amazing Grace as Christ Walks By" is a Christian spiritual guide from Carol Cline who advises readers to find their connection to Christ and use his guidance to come over any crisis in one's life and shine their life through it all. "Amazing Grace as Christ Walks By" is poignant and recommended reading for any looking for enforcing Christ back into their life.

The Church History
C. Stewart
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452028217, $12.84,

Martin Luther was a devout Catholic. He intended to stay that way, but fate had other ideas. "The Church History Catechism: The German Revolution" explores this world changing event through a collection of ninety five questions and answers that look into the life and work of the man who would give birth to Protestantism. "The Church History Catechism" is an intriguing and very much recommended read for anyone who wants a greater understanding of the founding of Lutheranism and defiance of the Catholic church.

Teenie and Bobbie and Bobbie's Poems
Millicent Evans Clapp
Vantage Press, Inc.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533160631, $10.95,

From childhood, we remember the experiences that shaped our life. "Teenie and Bobbie and Bobbie's Poems" is a collection of growing up through the Great Depression and outbreak of World War II, in the mountains of New Hampshire in particular. Poignant and touching, Millicent Evans Clapp explores the childhood innocence and the knowledge of the world that breaks it. "Teenie and Bobbie and Bobbie's Poems" is intriguing and thoughtful, recommended.

The Light of Sex
Maria de Naglowska
Inner Traditions
PO Box 388, Rochester, VT 05767
9781594774157, $16.95,

Sex is a powerful force in our lives. "The Light of Sex: Initiation, Magic, and Sacrament" is a reprinting of a spiritual sexuality book from Maria de Naglowska who in the 1930s caused a bit of stir with the first printing of this volume. Sating that the Holy spirit of the trinity should be viewed as the divine feminine, she speaks with a sensible yet unique view of the world. "The Light of Sex" is worth considering for anyone who wants to understand another angle to the spirituality of sexuality.

Murder in Burnt Orange
Jeanne M. Dams
John Daniel & Company
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745033, $15.95,

Justice can come in the strange form of a bored, pregnant woman. "Murder in Burnt Orange" is an entry into the Hilda Johansson mystery series as Hilda, with not much else to do during a particularly nasty Indiana summer. Driven by ennui and determination, she turns her eyes on local crimes and unrest, and the fires of boredom only grow stronger as the crimes in question begin to target those closest to her. "Murder in Burnt Orange" is a fun and riveting work of mystery writing, highly recommended.

Tasting Rain
Kim Malchuk
Five Star Publications
PO Box 6698, Chandler, AZ 85246-6698
9781589850781, $16.95,

When smacked in the face with mortality, you learn what's important very quickly. "Tasting Rain" is an inspirational memoir from Kim Malchuk, who after losing her husband to cancer, she picked up on her studies of life quickly and was spurred to follow her dreams because there's no tomorrow, because there might not be. "Tasting Rain" is a moving read with plenty of solid wisdom about how one tragedy spurred one woman into living for the moment.

Helen Dumont

Klausner's Bookshelf

Laurel Dewey
The Story Plant
c/o Perseus Distribution
387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 1001
9780984190553, $17.95,

In Denver, the multi-syllable medical babble denotes one scary world to thirty-something police detective Jane Perry: cancer; cervical is very nasty but she rejects the doc's happy pills. She asks her boss Sergeant Weyler for a week off, but fails to tell him why so he says no. Instead they will work a case in nearby Midas whose police chief is Weyler's buddy.

Fifteen year old Jake Van Gorden attempted suicide by jumping off a bridge, but instead was abducted. The family has received notes from the kidnapper that imply Jake lives but none demand money or anything for that matter. Jane knows time is of the essence in a kidnapping so though she thinks the teen has set the scenario up she heads up to Midas to investigate the prime suspect, fifty-nine year old Jordan Copeland, who was released from prison seven years ago after spending over three decades behind bars for abducting and murdering a retarded boy in New Jersey. However the more she learns about Jordan, the less she believes he is guilty; but if not him who?

The third Jane Perry police procedural (see Protector and Redemption) is an excellent tale that contains two strong subplots. The obvious first is the kidnapping as Jane follows clues that take her in odd directions away from the only suspect (besides in her mind the victim). The second focuses on Jane's personal life as she struggles with her health scare (her mom died at an early age from cancer), her attraction to bar owner Hank, and Revelations that shake her core foundation. Laurel Dewey writes a super investigative thriller.

The Bible Repairman and Other Stories
Tim Powers
1459 18th Street #139, San Francisco CA 94107
9781616960476, $14.95,

"The Bible Repairman". Torrez knows the cost of his blood as his soul has dwindled to almost nonexistence. His descent started with a murder leading him to find the spirits of the restless dead and cleansing bibles of evil verses, but he could not save his late daughter or his marriage. Now a wannabe client wants what is left of his tainted blood.

"A Soul in a Bottle". George meets highly regarded dead poetess Cheyenne who demands a second chance at life. He will learn verses change as circumstances change.

"The Hour of Babel". It has been forty years since the angel fell into the pizza parlor leading to a tragedy that still haunts the survivors. One of whom wants to go back to 1975 to alter the past and subsequently change the time line.

"Parallel Lines". Septuagenarian Caroleen struggles with the return of her twin sister BeeVee who committed suicide when the cancer pain overwhelmed her. Now Caroleen fears BeeVee wants to add the second date etched in her sibling's stone.

"A Time to Cast Away Stones". With Byron and Shelly free of the succubus's control (see The Stress of Her Regard), Edward wants to help the Greeks deal with the Nephilim.

"A Journey of Only Two Paces". As the executor of the late John Ranald's will, Kohler meets his Widow Mrs. Hathaway to complete the Letter Testamentary Kabbalah soul transmigration.

Although the six super selections have previously been published in diverse small prints, this is the first time together in one book to the delight of fans of Tim Powers, who provides exciting dark looks at the hearts of people forced to select between soul sapping evils.

When Love Gets In The Way
Janelle Mowery
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North
Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736928083, $13.99,

In 1873 in Pueblo, Colorado Territory, following her mother's funeral Grace Bradley runs away from home as she fears the vile man Frank Easton, whose first wife vanished, the one her widower father chose for her to marry. She pleads with family friend Cade Ramsey, who attended her mom's funeral, to take her with him when he goes home. Grace insists she can help his mom Ella recovering from an injured hip. He tells her no.

She sneaks inside his wagon, but by the time he discovers his stowaway he ignores his inclination to return her to her dad and instead takes her to his family Ranch near Rockdale. He arranges for her to work as a housekeeper at the ranch of his friends Bobby and Jace (see When All My Dreams Come True). Meanwhile a gang of four keeps robbing prospectors in the area while Grace's "fiance" is coming for her.

The amusing charming second "Colorado Runaway" western romance stars two delightful protagonists as he needs full body armor to protect him from his klutzy beloved. The villains are nasty but the warm Grace makes the tale work as a unique lead. First is her love for Cade and his family and friends; second are her demands of God to explain why he allows bad things to happen to good people; and finally the comic relief of all the bruises Cade receives from his dangerous beloved. Sub-genre fans will obtain immense pleasure with this humorous historical.

No Proper Lady
Isabel Cooper
1935 Brookdale Road, #139
Naperville, IL 60563
9781402259524, $6.99,

The demonic horde is winning the war against humanity. Desperate, the human forces decide to send back several centuries Joan the warrior assassin to kill Alex Reynell the evil wizard and destroy his arcane book of spells before the malevolence conjures up the demons to this plane.

Joan arrives in 1888 England where she immediately rescues Simon Grenville the magician from attacking cerberi. She explains her mission to him even as Joan cannot believe there are birds flying in the air and the landscape is green. Simon takes Joan to his home while concealing from his guest that he plans to use her to enact revenge against his former best friend Alex who nearly killed his sister. As he teaches her how to behave in proper Victorian society, they fall in love, but she knows the mission comes first while he changes his mind and believes her safety is more t important than anything else.

No Proper Lady is a refreshing romantic urban fantasy starring a female Terminator in Victorian England. The story line is loaded with action whether the heroine is fighting the Alex and his minion or struggling to understand the restrictive rules of High Society in which she wonders how a warrior can hide a sword while dancing and wearing tons of uncomfortable clothing. Part of the fun is the reactions by the heroine to the environment (no Dickens anti Industrial Revolution descriptions) and to love. Fans will enjoy going back in time with Isabel Cooper as our guide.

Elisabeth Naughton
1935 Brookdale Road, #139
Naperville, IL 60563
9781402260469, $7.99,

Atalanta arranges the abduction of Argoela Princess Isadora. After using a fertility spell on her prisoner, the evil Atalanta sends Isadora to Pandora Island. She next manipulates her son Demetrius the Eternal Guardian to go to Pandora Island expecting to rescue his beloved; but his mom has different "matchmaking" ideas for her son. She expects the pair to produce her grandchild who will have blood ties to goddesses for her use.

Isadora and Demetrius are attracted to each other as they are soul mates due to a Hera curse. He tries to avoid her and conceal his passion for her behind a face of scorn; however, she refuses to accept his dark brooding nature and goes after his love.

Once the players are set, this Eternal Guardian romantic fantasy (see Marked and Entwined) is a fast-paced twisting Elisabeth Naughton original Greek mythos. The lead protagonists struggle with outside interference and worse love as each wonders if their feelings are real or Goddess driven. With the mother from Hades adding evil to the mix, series fans will enjoy this exciting entry.

The Beads of Lapis Lazuli
Doris Kenney Marcotte
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432760540, $12.95,

Cincinnati housewife and mom Katheryn Marshall was on vacation with her husband Dan in Crete when she purchased an ancient strand of lapis lazuli. They went back to Ohio, but for the next two years she obsesses over returning to Greece to visit Dhia Island in order to complete the ancient historical romance she is writing. Her husband Dan objects, but though rare in their marriage she informs him she is going anyway.

Accompanied by psychic archeological hunter Jake Deupree, she goes to Greece without her family. There she begins to examine the three and half millennia Minoan mythos of Theseus and Ariadne. She finds anomalies with the legend so she digs deeper seeking the truth.

This is an entertaining look at the Minoan ancient culture mostly through the historiographical lenses of twenty-first century interested parties but with a neat twist enhancing the glimpse through time. The cast is solid but the conflict even between the married couple is muted. Still this is an interesting tale as a Buckeye housewife obsesses over looking beyond the legend of Theseus and Ariadne.

Christmas Gems
Christine DeSmet, et al.
Whiskey Creek Press
Box 51052, Casper, WY 82605-1052
9781603135108, $17.95,

"The Christmas Magi of Birch Bay" by Christine DeSmet. In Birch Bay, Wisconsin war widow Vienna runs her grandma's gift shop. When she's evicted from her rental due to owning pets, her nerdy school days rival Joseph offers her a gift that would solve her problems but what does she owe him. Whimsical

"Wings of Love" by Karen Wiesner. In Fever, Texas Mac falls in love with interior designer Amanda and asks her to join him on his ranch. However, he finds himself frequently working away from home until an injury forces him back on the ranch only Amanda gave up on him. Exciting.

"A Christmas Surprise" by Jane Toombs. Penelope watches her two years old brother Sammy. While he sleeps, she goes on a bike ride with Hank. When she comes back home, Sammy is missing. She tells her parents. Believing her parents would be better off without her, Penelope leaves. She meets Ben the cop and soon after a three year old boy who might be her Sammy. A poignant tale.

"Mistletoe and Holly" by Carrie S. Masek. Matt Potter says bah humbug to Christmas. His spirits is worsened on Christmas Eve when he almost runs over an abandoned pet rabbit. In a blizzard he takes the animal to a nearby vet. Veterinary assistant Holly Welsh loves Christmas. Matt arrives raging with the bunny. When the storm strands them together, the matchmaking bunny and her spiked Eggnog helps Matt enjoy Christmas Eve with Holly. Whimsical.

These are four enjoyable Christmas Gems as each author contributes a warm family drama starring fully developed protagonists.

Terry Pratchett
10 East 53rd Street, NY, NY 10022-5299
9780062011848, $25.99,

Ankh-Morpork City Watch Commander Sam Vimes faces his most difficult assignment in years. His Grace Sir Samuel, the Duke of Ankh, will spend two torturous weeks rusticating with his wife Sybil and their six years old son Young Sam at her family's estate. Sam loves the idea of spending time with his beloved spouse and son, but his in-laws make a boring vacation worse and not worth changing from his cardboard soles.

However, life picks up as Vimes quickly gets involved with the locals when someone brutally murders a female goblin. Feeney the inexperienced local copper and Willikens the gentleman's gentleman assist Vimes as he works vacation time for no pay investigating the homicide.

The latest Discworld satire (see I Shall Wear Midnight) is a wonderful entry that looks deeply at inalienable human (and other species) rights and bigotry to take away those accepted rights. Fast-paced Vimes is at his cynical best as he learns life in the country means a female woodcutter works with woodies and that rural does not mean crime free; as he leads the inquiry into the vicious murder of the Goblin Girl. Terry Pratchett provides a strong entry filled with social commentary intertwined into an exciting thriller.

Blood Rights
Kristen Painter
Orbit Books
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, NY, NY 10017-0010
9780316084772, $7.99,

Chrysabelle the human was bred to be a comarre blood slave to Lord Algernon the vampire. She dreams of freedom but knows the fate of an escaped slave. However, someone murders her master, which leads to a frightened Chrysabelle fleeing for her life. The authorities suspect the ungrateful slave killed Algernon as she ran away and took an artifact ring with her.

Ruthless vampiress Tatiana wants that ring to give to the Dark One that will cause destruction of the innocent; she will kill the comarre who took it. Chrysabelle meets Malkolm the vampire exile who refuses to drink human blood because he is cursed to kill those he dined on. She also meets his two friends Fiona the ghost and the preacher. As Mal and allies protect Chrysabelle from the vile Tatiana, he wonders who will protect the blood slave from him as he obsesses over wanting to taste her.

This is an exhilarating futuristic urban fantasy that deftly focuses on the vampire society and the slaves who are sustenance to them. Chrysabelle is a fascinating protagonist who has no rights until she flees in hopes of making it to the human sector. Her support crew starting with Mal and his buddies as well as others are fully developed as is the villainess, but this is Chrysabelle's tale as she takes a chance on freedom knowing what happens to caught runaway slaves especially whose master is dead.

Jack Bruen
The Mysterious Press
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780802126009, $24.00,

In Galway, Ireland young punks calling themselves the Headstone batter Father Malachy. The elderly priest is in intensive care at the University Hospital. The next victim of the vicious Headstone gang is Tom Reed, a Downs Syndrome child, whose throat is slashed before they rob him.

Former Garda Jack Taylor has met some amoral brutal predators but none like the Headstone whose objective is to cleanse society of misfits like gays, recovering alcoholics, special people, and those they dislike. He knows he is a target as are his friends Ridge the Garda and Stewart the former convict when they receive headstones in the mail. Not one to avoid violence and knowing anyway there is no Sanctuary from this insane fringe, Jack and his buddies take the fight to the Headstone members.

The latest Taylor thriller is an exhilarating but gorier than usual tale, which says a lot as this series is known for the flow of blood and guts. Jack struggles with his ugly past though the American he recently met has given him some hope for redemption of sorts. Ironically Jack concludes the Headstone's lunatic homicidal actions make his transgressions seem like virtues. Although the plot is thin, Taylor fans will anticipate the Galway confrontation.

Mack Dunston's Inferno
Paul Collins
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462032761, $12.95,

Mack "Max" Dunstan the actor dies. He will be remembered for his starring roles in The Ten Commandments, Planet of the Apes and Ben-Hur, etc. but also for his rigid stand on gun rights as an NRA spokesman and president.

He enters the spirit world where the "Supreme Court" rules him unworthy though he has problems understanding why. He meets the ancient Roman poet Virgil who will serves as his tour guide of Hades before Max's day in Judgment Court overseen by Judge Satan. Max's journey introduces him to a capitalist loan shark and other burning traveling sinners ranging from the infamous like Manson, Dahmer and the Ripper to the sex revolutionaries like Heffner and Flynt to the holier than God pseudo religious like Swaggert, Robertson and Graham. The dead actor also encounters those who died because people like him and his NRA cronies blocked gun control. This group condemns him for enabling violence as people may kill people but guns is an easily available enabler.

Modernizing Dante's Divine Comedy while also mindful of Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire" with Max as Heston and other twentieth century personal like General Powell and Rowlings making appearances in Paul Collins' powerful satirical lampooning of righteous American society. The journey into the inferno is filled with mockery and biting humor as Max meets the obvious infamous and a horde of the famous he never would have guessed would be inside the fires. However, it is the victims of guns who bring the poignancy to the parable as they never got to speak when alive; but the muffle of the Second Amendment advocates no longer applies (except as a condemnation) inside of Mack Dunstan's Inferno.

The Affair
Lee Child
Delacorte Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385344326, $28.00,

In 1997 in Carter Crossing, Mississippi someone slashes the throat of twentyish Janice May Chapman by an isolated railroad track. The Pentagon is concerned that evidence points to a Ranger training in nearby Fort Kelham committed the homicide as Captain Reed Riley has connections as his father Carleton is chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Colonel Garber assigns military police officer Major Jack Reacher to go undercover to learn the truth and keep the local sheriff Elizabeth Deveraux under control without her knowing it. Each distrusts the other but soon need to protect each other's back from a dangerous cover-up as the military are uninterested in the facts; their preference is for a local hillbilly to take the rap. However, Reacher becomes incompliant when he learns Janice is the third female to have been killed by this slasher.

The latest Reacher thriller (see Worth Dying For) is an exciting throwback tale to when the heroic vigilante was still in the Army. Ironically though going back to the case that led to his leaving the military, there is not much new added to the Reacher mythos. Still the story line is fast-paced and filled with action as Reacher learns what happens to officers doing their duty with personal courage vs. those with DC connections.

Bad Weeds Never Die
Christopher Valen
Conquill Press
c/o Partners Publishers Group
2325 Jarco Drive, Holt, Michigan, 48842
9780980001730, $15.00,

In St. Paul's Lowertown, at four in the morning patrol cop Palmer found a Mercedes splattered with blood left as the only vehicle still at a park and ride lot. The owner Teresa Blackwood is missing. Homicide Detectives John Santana and Kacie Hawkins lead the investigation. Kacie thinks the missing owner might be the daughter of child psychologist Jonathan Blackwood whose TV show was pulled off the air for reasons other than low ratings.

They go to her condo and meet her frightened reluctantly cooperative live in lover Steven Larson the veterinarian who has a woman from work in his bedroom. The two detectives meet her anxious father and her estranged twin Maria who chose drugs over work. Jonathan explains that his daughters will inherit a million dollar plus a trust fund in two years, but if one dies before that the other inherits half the other's money now. Maria's alibi is the family's married lawyer Daniel Calloway and says her father is dating the cops' boss Rita Gambolini. They also learn that the twins' biological mother came from Colombia where John fled when he was sixteen leaving behind his sister Natalia. The suspect list grows and the case takes deadly ominous paths in Minnesota and Columbia.

The latest John Santana police procedural (see White Tombs and Black Minute) is an excellent investigative thriller as the two detectives methodically work a case that spins out of control with homicides. Readers will enjoy accompanying Santana and Hawkins as they follow twisted leads in Minnesota while John learns you can't go home in a world filled with violent predators.

Sharon Kay Penman
Marian Wood
c/o G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157851, $28.95,

Though he was born a spare to King Henry Plantagenet and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, his older brother's failed revolt and subsequent death made Richard the heir. When he became king with the death of his sire, Richard began the Third Crusade to take back Outremer, the Holy Land after a brief stop in Sicily to rescue his sister. He has as much trouble with his alleged French allies as he has with the Saracen forces led by capable Saladin. In fact he and his adversary form a mutual admiration society of two as they respect each other's skills. Finally Richard knows it is time to go home as he hears rumors that his youngest brother John betrays him while he fights in the Holy Land.

This is an exciting opening biographical fiction that humanizes the legendary Lionheart with little tidbits like his side trip to Sicily and his ignoring his wife Berengaria. Especially emphasized is the political intrigue within the Plantagenet family as his late oldest brother tried to take the throne form his father and his youngest brother has seemingly taken the throne from warring Richard. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this insightful well written medieval tale but will impatiently away the King's return.

Shock Wave
John Sandford
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157691, $27.95,

Three weeks ago a bomb at the Michigan headquarters of the chain PyeMart left Executive Assistant Kelly Brown dead although CEO Willard Pye escaped unscathed. In Butternut Falls, Minnesota, townsfolk are angrily divided over the superstore company setting up shop there. Environmentalists know the poor record of the firm when it come to anything interfering with the bottom line profits while the small town's storeowners know they will be driven out of business as has happened elsewhere.

A bomb ignites at the superstore's construction site killing construction superintendent Gilbert Kingsley. ATF investigates both explosions that have left PyeMart's leadership shaken and behind on the Minnesota project. Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Agent Virgil Flowers also looks into the homicide at Butternut Falls, but finds many townsfolk remain defiant and hostile towards the company's "invasion", but who would take the opposition to such deadly lengths remains hard to determine.

The fifth Virgil Flowers police procedural (See Rough Country and Bad Blood) is a great whodunit as the state cop makes inquires using modern technology and inductive reasoning to try to solve a case with too many suspects. The town already tense before the deadly explosion brings a profound look at development vs. preservation/environmentalism, but does it inside a well written investigation starring the amusingly self deprecating Minnesota cop.

Death Island
Joan Conning Afman
Camel Press
c/o Coffeetown Press
PO Box 70515, Seattle, WA 98127
9781603818490, $16.95,

In 2020 Congress passed a law that created the ultimate prison for those convicted of capital punishment offences: a one way ticket to Death Island. No one escapes from this rock as the masses of TV viewers can tell who watch each week this true reality show.

A jury of his peers convicts Danny Manning of being the notorious serial killer Axe Murderer. He insists he is innocent having murdered no one, but he is sent to Death Island for killing five women including his wife Katie. Danny is dropped from a copter along with obese fiftyish financial thief Tom Koranda. He survives the aptly named island for now due mostly to psychopath Martin Sicilia adopting him and an obsession to escape in order to find the real killer; Tom is murdered in less than a week.

Danny's next door neighbor in Northington, Connecticut Charlie Adjavon believes he is innocent especially when a sixth victim is found in New Haven. She would like to help him, but has no idea how. Besides she believes her husband Reverend Paul is having an affair with her very tall married friend Heather Waverly, but begins to wonder whether her BFF who threw the first stone at very tall Heather is the other woman.

Death Island mixes together an adult Lord of the Flies and Roman Coliseum premises with Survivor rules inside of the Schwarzenegger movie The Running Man. The story line is at its best on the island where plants and animals, especially two legged, stalk. Although suddenly emotional Charlie trying to help Danny (not the retired basketball star) seems over the top of Mount Frissell, fans will enjoy wondering whether the protagonist will escape from Death Island.

Black Light
Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Stephen Romano
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316196710, $25.99,

Years ago when he was seven Buck Carlsbad lived a normal happy childhood until the Horrible evil murdered his parents and left him dead too. Instead he came back but with a skill from the beyond that enables him to be the exorcist of last resort. However, in spite of his success at ingesting malevolent spirits like normal people eating candy, Buck remains obsessed with finding the Horrible who ended his childhood; so far he has failed at the one objective that keeps him alive.

In July 2012, Buck and the voices only he hears are disturbed by a high speed rail from Los Angeles through the California desert to Las Vegas in under an hour. The train will go through a spot at over four hundred miles an hour where Buck knows personally how paranormally dangerous it is. He prefers not to ride the Jaeger Laser on its maiden voyage, but Buck feels he has no choice but to return to where his parents were murdered and he changed. Thus he agrees to keep the evil away from the Jaeger Laser as top celebrities and politicians take to the rails.

Black Light is an exciting noir urban fantasy horror novel starring an intriguing yet somewhat underdeveloped hero. The story line is as fast as the speeding Jaeger Laser while the audience anticipates the desert devastation as Buck battles some vicious opponents. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this entertaining thriller as Buck learns you can go home but do you want to risk that as the screenwriters of some of the Saw movies provide an engaging tale.

Cosmic Forces
Gregory Lamberson
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N
St. Charles, IL 60174
9781605424088, $14.95,

Private investigator Jake Helman has successfully fought against the darkest Cosmic Forces. Mrs. White better known as Marla Madigon wife of the corrupt New York City mayor, wants to hire him to prove her spouse Myron is cheating on her. His NYPD time tells him to stay out of a domestic dispute, but she tosses the kids card at the softy and besides her spouse is a vindictive vicious piece of trash so he accepts the case. That inquiry leads to influential Karlin Reichard.

Joyce the girlfriend of his former partner Edgar the Raven asks Helman to speak with her angry teenage son Martin. He follows a raging Martin to the Dreamers Castle. Helman investigates the Dreamers only to find the trail leads to abuses of power. Meanwhile his late wife Sheryl Agent of the Sphere of Light asks Helman to do her a favor. She wants him to locate the Destroyer of Souls who may be involved in her missing boyfriend Abel of bible fame.

The third Helman hard-boiled urban fantasy horror tale (see Personal Demons and Desperate Souls) is an exciting entry as the tough sleuth with a heart fights monsters from the otherworld and from this plane. Readers will enjoy his three investigative cases as all roads lead to those who abuse power whether they are from hell, earth or otherwise. With a nod to Dresden, readers will appreciate the case load of kick butt softy Jake Helman.

Floating Staircase
Ronald Malfi
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N
St. Charles, IL 60174
9781605424361, $14.95,

With the success of The Ocean Serene, bestselling horror writer Travis Glasgow and his wife Jodie buy a house in rustic Westlake, Maryland near where his brother Adam resides. Travis feels good to reconnect with his sibling and believes he will finally move past the guilt he has felt since he was thirteen and his other brother Kyle, the actual star of his novel, drowned.

Travis learns that a previous resident's son Elijah Dentman drowned in the nearby lake. The tragedy reminds him of what happened to Kyle; that and other clues lead the author to conclude the death is being covered up. Feeling an obsessive need to learn the truth and a sense of something, perhaps the essence that wakes him with bumps in the night, is prodding his out of control need. Thus, Travis investigates what happened to Elijah believing the truth will set him free of his compulsion.

This is a super haunted house ghost story starring an interesting protagonist and a great final turn of the screw twist. The story line is fast-paced as tension mounts while Travis begins to learn much more than he expected. This is a must read for horror fans.

Sweet Money
Ernesto Mallo; translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver
Bitter Lemon Press
37 Arundel Gardens
London, W11 2LW, United Kingdom
9781904738732, $14.95,

Jorge Turcheli is euphoric when he is named the new chief of the Buenos Aires police department. He asks his associate Superintendent Lascano, still recovering from a bullet, to return to the force. However, once an honest dedicated cop, Lascano wants to leave his homeland. However, on his first day in his new job in his office, the Apostles drug-selling cops assassinate Jorge as they plan to put one of their own in charge. The Apostle knows the next to kill is dedicated honest Lascano.

Meanwhile, Mole Miranda is released from Devoto Prison after spending one thousand four hundred and sixty one nights there for intellectual crimes. He finds his family rejects him and his best friend spent much of his money. A desperate Mole decides to rob a bank, but that goes ugly. Lascano sees an opportunity to leave Argentina with the bank robbery loot before the Apostles provide him with a funeral.

The second translated Lascano 1980s Argentina police procedural (see Needle in a Haystack) is a dark gloomy thriller in which corruption controls all aspects of the country. The two leads appear as polar opposites but share in common how far they have fallen in a system that destroys the honest. With plenty of fascinating metaphors to highlight the broken society, readers will appreciate this grim look at brutal Argentina less than three decades ago.

Joan Frances Turner
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780441020706, $24.95,

Zombie was always a part of the population, but unless there was a significant outbreak, normal humans assumed these creatures were a George Romero Pittsburgh myth. These reanimated corpses exist filled with maggots and rotting leaking flesh. One bite of a living human changes the victim into a zombie.

The Feeding Plague turned America to Dust changing humans and zombies into something else. Amy is one of the humans in post-apocalyptic America who did not catch the Feeding Plague. In fact in her small-town, Amy is the only pure Frail human left. She befriends an Ex, Lisa, who like all of her species is invulnerable; as the Ex populace is stronger, faster, and deadlier than the two groups they evolved from. The pair is kidnapped and taken to a community run by Exs who enslave the Frail. Lisa protects and constantly saves Amy from the masters until she is brought to a scientific lab run by an Ex. There she learns about the Frails and Humans, a place where both groups are treated equally.

Frail is an incredible horror thriller that contains plenty of post-apocalyptic action while also asking what makes a sentient being human as readers will consider Descartes: "I think therefore I am." and Sartre's "I am, therefore I think." Amy is a courageous human who is very afraid but uses her fears to escape from essences who want to harm her. Her relationship with Lisa affirms that diverse beings can become friends. Joan Frances Turner provides a tense thriller that readers will devour.

Sins of the Angels
Linda Poitevin
9780441020911, $7.99

When Toronto Homicide Detective Alexandra Jarvis was nine years old her insane mother murdered her father in a violent slashing rage. She is currently working a serial killer case in which the violence at the crime scene reminds her of the violence in her family home on that fatal day. The latest victim had his chest ripped open and his throat sliced while posed in a seemingly ritual way.

Working on caffeine, Alex is unaware that the brutal culprit is Caim the fallen angel who escaped from Limbo incarceration. His motive is Apocalypse now to include the immediate capture of Alex's soul. Aramael the Guardian Angel teams up with Alex to prevent his brother from ending the world. Neither the angel nor the confused mortal (from glimpsing what looks like wings) is prepared for an attraction that shakes heaven, hell, and earth.

Although not to read on an empty stomach due to extremely graphic murder scenes, Sins of the Angels is an exhilarating serial killer urban fantasy. The investigation and the Armageddon compete for top billing as the two subplots do not fully merge until late. Still sub-genre fans who enjoy a police procedural fantasy will want to read the teaming up of the cop and the angel as she wants to end the terror reign of a vicious serial killer while he tries to prevent the final war between heaven and hell on battlefield earth.

Nancy Holzner
9780441021000, $7.99

In Boston shapeshifter Victory Vaughn is the only professional demon exterminator in town. After dispatching a particular nasty Peccatum 24/7 sinful demon, with permits Victory and her boyfriend Kane the werewolf lawyer head from Deadtown to her sister Gwen's house in Needham through check points manned (loose definition) by zombies who accept junk food bribes and humans who accept nothing from the paranormal especially if the guard is a Human First zealot.

Her niece Maria is starting to have the pre-shifting dreams, which alienates the two sisters as one is forced to live in Deadtown while the other resides in the human burbs. Meanwhile Victory worries about her roommate Juliet on the run from The Old Ones and the action of the South End Reaper serial killer has the paranormal and the normal on the edge of vigilante justice and rioting. If that is not enough to take her off her food, Kane becomes stuck in his wolf persona.

The third Deadtown urban fantasy (see Deadtown and Hellforged) is a terrific thriller in which Vaughn's personal and professional lives deftly intertwine. The fast-paced story line grips the audience but also makes a strong case against a prejudicial society that uses de jure and de facto means to keep a group locked away as second class citizens. Filled with action even when waiting to get through ID card checkpoints, Bloodstone is a terrific taut thought provoking thriller.

Matthew Costello
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312680077, $24.99,

NYPD police officers Jack Murphy and David Rodriguez work a Brooklyn beat. The global drought and food shortages left the planet on the brink of pandemic disaster; that was until a miraculous manna was distributed. However, soon afterward the feral cannibalistic Can Heads began appearing. Politicians, refusing to accept blame, insisted to the human masses that a survival war between us and them requires patriotic measures. This night the Can Heads attack the two patrol cops; leaving David dead and Jack injured.

Needing to heal, Jack, his wife Christie and their two kids (Kate and Simon) go on Vacation to the Upstate fortified Paterville Family Camp where people eat old fashion real food, drink pure water, and have fun. When Jack helps with preventing a Can Head assault, he is rewarded with a job offer and a permanent move into Paterville with his family, who all vote yes. However, Jack will soon learn the truth about the miracle of Paterville.

In an already bleak world in which the Yankees are no longer in the Bronx as the Can Heads own the borough, the atmosphere turns brighter in Paterville when soon afterward it drops to its darkest. Readers will think trice about vacationing in idyllic rural areas as Jack and his family learns that Paterville has a nasty side under the glitter of a Vacation oasis as it is the Eagles Hotel California with a gruesome addition. This is a gripping post apocalyptic horror thriller.

John Ajvide Lindqvist
9780312680275, $25.99

In 2004 Sweden Anders and Cecilia take their six years old daughter Maja from their home in Gavasten to tour the nearby icebound lighthouse off the archipelago Domaro Island. Precocious Maja likes to lead but she vanishes as her parents lose sight of her. The frantic adults search everywhere for their precious child, but fail to find her. The conclusion they make is somehow she fell under the thin but solid iced channel, but no evidence of holes or weak spots are found.

Though they have been an entry since being young teens twenty years ago, their marriage falls apart as Cecilia tries to move on passed her grief while Anders becomes an alcoholic who is unable to let go of his guilt for not watching his offspring closer. Two years since the tragedy, Anders returns to Domaro believing he will find his beloved Maja. Instead he begins to hear whispers of ritual sacrifice by the indigenous islanders including his mother to the nearby sea.

Harbor is a dark thriller in which the audience will wonder whether the sacrifices are to a supernatural being or just superstitious island mythos induced murders. The fast-paced story line is character driven by the seemingly insane Anders, but owned by the villagers; similar in tone to Anthony Shaffer's The Wicker Man. Though one must wonder why he (and Cecilia) had not thought of what seems to be common knowledge, readers will relish this tense suspense.

The Rift Walker
Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616145231, $16.00,

In 1870, vampires came out of the coffins to attack western civilizations in the northern temperate zone. Instead of leading a counterinsurgency, human leaders fled south while their former subjects became food for the conquerors. A century and a half later, the world remains divided between the vampire and human zones.

The two human superpowers seek an alliance between the American Republic, which recently took back St, Louis from the vampires, and the Equatorian Empire. To cement the alliance, Senator Clark and Princess Adele marry. The human plan is to turn back the clock to over a century ago when vampire clans were myths by cleansing the north from this insidious species. However, Adele is horrified with the genocide which includes her as the key because the geomancers believe she can tap into the earth's power pulsing through ley lines, which used correctly would end the blight but also kill her beloved Greyfriar. Princess Adele flees her marriage, ending the compact between the two super human powers and turns to Greyfriar who saved her life when British Vampire Clan Lord Prince Cesare threatened her. Taking advantage of the human alliance collapse, Prince Cesare leads an assault on Equatoria while insulted Clark considers likewise.

The second Vampire Empire fantasy (see Greyfriar) is a terrific alternate history and future thriller in which Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith deftly merge politics and war with a touch of romance. Fast-paced from the moment an unhappy Adele flees with a strong cast (human and vampire); The Rift Walker is a fabulous tale as readers will believe vampire clans exist and control vast areas.

K.V. Johansen
9781616145217, $17.00

In Lissavakail located in the Pillars of the Sky near a red coppery looking lake of the same name, blood flows as a massacre occurs. Caravan guard Holla Sayan starts to sneak out of the town, but stops when he sees a little girl and her obviously dying dog. He rescues the child while her dog, no longer needing to keep her safe, dies.

Holla was unaware that he recued the powerless Goddess Attalissa. As they flee the devastated town, Holla struggles with his sanity due to the Blackdog guardian spirit who was once a devil residing inside of him. Still he guides her onto the road heading to the Red Desert while mad Gods, traitors and necromancers pursue.

Blackdog is a fun fantasy due to the Johansen's fantasy realm coming across as real even with some powerful and other powerless Gods walking amongst the commoners. The story line is complex as treachery threatens the lands while the lead protagonists are fully developed with the Goddess being a child without power and the warrior being possessed. Readers will enjoy this strong tale.

The Restoration Game
Ken MacLeod
9781616145255, $16.00

Her CIA asset mom Amanda who wrote the definitive mythology on Krassnia asks her game designer daughter Lucy Stone to create a special interactive multiplayer game based on their heritage. Lucy who has not been back to Krassnia, the former Soviet Autonomous Region since they left when she was a small child, looks forward to going "home".

Amanda's objective is to enable the country's revolutionaries to use the game clandestinely to communicate and cohesively organize. As she readjusts to the locality's language, Lucy hears tales about a power source high in the mountains that the Soviets never could replicate, but has renewed interests from outside parties not concerned about collateral damage.

Starting with Newton's Laws of Motion combined with Murphy's Law, The Restoration Game is an insightful satirical espionage thriller. The story line contains an incredible amount of information on Krassnia such as how the Soviets converted a nation filled with literates into illiterates with a stroke of a pen and the Post-Soviet government turned a nation filled with literates into illiterates with a stroke of a keyboard. Although there is so much going on in terms of culture, mythology and the power source, the story line rarely accelerates. Readers who appreciate a deep cerebral thriller will enjoy a visit to Krassnia.

Down to the Bone
Justina Robson
9781616143794, $16.00

Former espionage agent Lila Black fears the world's end of days has begun, but is frustrated over what she should do or not do. The dead are reanimating leading to mob law running rampart with the re-killing of the deceased so they cannot come back again and the murders of some living.

Lila has turned into an urban fantasy machine. Her rock star husband Zal the elf no longer hears music as he become an animated demon soul. Her other spouse Teazle the demon is murdering his kind to win back his lost relationship with his Lila though he might become an angel first. However as they all expect something supernova bad to incur, Lila trusts no one not even her spouses or those from her former agency as she thinks she may have caused the Armageddon doom as collateral damage in one of her previous endeavors. Though she believes the world does not deserve to live, she vows to save it and all worlds anyway though that means fighting ancient evil on their turf or inside her head.

The fifth Quantum Gravity fantasy is a terrific finish to a strong saga. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the odd lead triangle as each has radically have evolved over the series. Although it behooves newcomers to start at the beginning (see Keeping it Real, Selling Out, Going Under and Chasing the Dragon) as diving into the finish will leave you lost, readers will appreciate the exhilarating complicated (and convoluted) end state.

Pay Me In Flesh
K. Bennett
Pinnacle Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780786026241, $6.99,

One year ago lawyer Mallory Caine was murdered. She returned as a zombie but obviously does not smell of rotting flesh as Judge Darnell hits on her though she thinks of him as a potential sick meal and chooses contempt. Mallory knows she must find the person who killed her before she dies again or her missing soul will end up in hell. LAPD has filed it as a cold case.

Her former law school boyfriend who broke her heart years ago Aaron Argula has come home from San Francisco where he works for the Office of the District Attorney. He pays her contempt fine and admits he made a big mistake dumping her and wants to start over, but she has doubts though he is good for her zombie image.

Etta Johnson calls Mallory, Zombie at Law, to represent her granddaughter Traci Ann; Detectives Richards and Strobert arrived to arrest Traci Ann on a murder charge. The evidence is overwhelming that Traci Ann burned to death a cop in his car. Though there is a slight conflict of interest, Mallory defends her vampiric client while Aaron prosecutes the case.

This is an entertaining dark urban fantasy starring a delightful zombie who retained intelligence and her thirtyish looks though she dines on fresh human flesh. The story line is action-packed but with plenty of humor. Using the law to defend a vampire makes for a fun legal thriller as the defense demands night court and challenges the arrest of a corpse. Readers will relish this grim yet jocular opening tale of the zombie lawyer.

Dead Mann Walking
Stefan Petrucha
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451464217, $7.99,

When Hessius Mann was a Liveblood he was a cop, but was executed by the state for murdering his wife Lenore after learning she was having an affair with his superior Chief Detective Thomas Booth. After he died, DNA evidence that was suppressed surfaced so to make amends the state using recent medical technology reanimated him as a Chak with a so sorry and no more. Though his memory stinks, he opens up a private investigative firm and hires former crack-head Liveblood Misty as his office assistant.

Attorney William Turgen hires Hess to find him a missing Chak Frank Boyle. Frank's father just died and left him millions while cutting his two Liveblood children out of the will. The client says he has until tonight to bring Frank to the office before his siblings get rid of him. Hessius learns from his pal turning feral Jonesey that the target is not in the Bones section but in Fort Hammer's Bedland dead zone. They meet the intelligent Frank and his young sidekick just before the nasty Hakkers assault the compound; this is just the start of another day in hell for a Dead Mann Walking.

Dead Mann Walking is an engaging allegorical satirical urban fantasy that lampoons society for bigotry and for the obsession by some to save the unborn until they are born when they become discards. The amusing story line is fast-paced, which is not an easy condition for a Chak. With a zombie noir feel to the tale, readers will enjoy the escapades of Hess, private investigator.

In Memories We Fear
Barb Hendee
9780451464224, $7.99

Many vampires remain in hiding afraid to come out in the open out of obedience to the first commandment that thou shalt not kill a human though thou can dine on one. Thus vampires remain concealed so they can take human blood with impunity by erasing the encounter from the mind of their prey.

Eleisha offers a safe haven for her Undead peers to reside in once she finds them. Portland based vampire lovers Eleisha Clevon and Philip Brante and Wade Sheffield the human try to find the lost vampires and bring them to their new home. Elisha adheres to the first rule and mentors others to do likewise. When she finds a lost soul she tries to persuade him to move to the sanctuary but Jeremy wants to kill him just like he committed genocide on his own race. His desire is to drink and kill those he drinks from. They learn of an apparent feral rogue vampire killing humans in England. The trio travels there where they meet centuries old Maxim living in a forest with no memory of human skills. She wants to bring him in safely, but Julian wants him dead.

The Vampire Memories urban fantasy novels (see Blood Memories and Hunting Memories) is a strong series that enable the audience to believe that vampires live amongst us in places like London and Portland. Elisha and Philip are an interesting pair of lovers as he is her protector but he becomes frustrated with her obstinacy that she can save Maxim who he believes should be executed. Barb Hendee provides a spellbinding vampire thriller with a touch of romance and a lot of intrigue as the undead rescue squad disagrees on what to do with the latest Lost Vampire found.

Deadly Defiance
William Manchee
Top Publications Ltd.
12221 Merit Drive, # 950, Dallas, TX 75251
9781929976768, $14.95,

In 1995 Dallas, hairdresser Maureen Thompson rollerblades several miles to Turner & Waters law firm as her husband Rod, owner of Thompson Construction, left her a large debt including one to the IRS and her car is repossessed. The mother of two tells Stan Turner she wants to kill Rod. Stan asks his partner Paula Waters to handle the case as his wife Rebekah is ailing and he is doing a pro bono probate involving the estate of the late Herbert Wolf.

Pandora Alvarez and her five children arrive at the law firm. She wants to sue Icaro Melendez, owner of a sweat shop where her fiftyish late husband Romildo worked; he died from an overdose but she insists he did not do drugs. Stan assigns his former secretary but now law degree associate Jodie Marshal to handle the case in which DPD closed the case due to a lack of evidence.

The Thompson case takes a deadly spin when Rod's corpse is found. The murder weapon is an ice pick just like the tool that killed their client's first husband Randy Rhymes. The Alvarez case proves more dangerous as Melendez has ties with a Mexican drug cartel helping to eliminate anyone who gets too close to his business.

The tenth Stan Turner legal thriller (see Black Monday and Civil War) is fabulous tale with Paula and Jodie sharing the lead with the main star. Though mostly in the background, empty nester Rebekah's health issue enables the modification to the lead role. This change brings freshness as female attorneys work the law differently from Stan, but share his ethics. With three intriguing cases, sub-genre readers will enjoy William Manchee's aptly titled Deadly Defiance as underdogs with counsel defy the "norm".

The Urban Fantasy Anthology
Peter S. Beagle & Joe R. Lansdale, eds.
Tachyon Publications
1459 18th Street #139
San Francisco CA 94107
9781616960186, $15.95,

The Urban Fantasy Anthology is divided into three sections: Mythic Fiction, Paranormal Romance and Noir Fantasy. Each contains an introduction essay defining the section and several stories.

In his essay on Mythical Fiction, Charles De Lint defines the category as having mythological and supernatural beings in modern day society. His entry "Make a Joyful Noise" stars a shapeshifting Native American spirit helping a depressed ghost. "On the Road to Egypt" by Jeffrey Ford has Jesus, smoking a camel, and a companion traveler stopping at MacDonald's for a burger and shake.

Paula Guran defines Paranormal Romance as key characters possessing special powers; females typically kick butt. Suzy McKee Charnas' "Boobs," stars a teenage girl dealing with the changes of her body due to being a werewolf in puberty. "Farewell, My Zombie" by Francesca Lia Black's protagonist opens with that Attitude when she asks what to call a female investigator if a male is called a private dick. Two lovers, one recently reanimated, star In "She's My Witch" by Norman Partridge.

In defining Noir Fiction, Joe R, Lansdale states not to categorize tales as a "club", but instead makes the case that the Noir is the link not the fantasy/paranormal background. His short contribution "On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks" stars a bounty hunter working with the reanimated dead.

The essays are interesting attempts to define three subcategories, but come across more like a Venn diagram. The collection includes nineteen reprints and one new tale ("Talking Back to the Moon" by Steven R. Boyett). The anthology is fun to read with no clinkers, but few are excellent; as Ms. Guran says novels are the prime method of Paranormal Romance.

Postcard Killers
James Patterson and Liza Markland
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446569941, $14.99,

The two twentyish charming Americans tour Europe, but are uninterested in the sights. Instead the pair selects nice looking victims to butcher with knives. They send postcards warning the police they are coming to kill and afterward send pictures of their gruesome endeavors.

For six months NYPD Detective Jacob Kanon hunt the pair though he is always a few steps behind them. He lives for his obsession to butcher the two punks who murdered his twenty-one years old daughter Emily and her husband Clive. They send a postcard to reporter Dessie Larsson implying Stockholm is next following Berlin's homicides. Police Superintendent Duval refuses to protect Larsson, but unshaven Jacob arrives feeling this time he will find the pair who ended his life when they ended his daughter's life.

The serial killer cat and mouse game starts off with a powerful suspense but the latter half of the thriller feels padded. The killers are a frightening amoral pair while compulsive out of control demanding Jacob should have been deported for his behavior; though readers will empathize with his loss he is not likable as he seems to be a pale imitation of Liam Neeson's Mills in Taken. Still his is an entertaining tale as the audience anticipates the confrontation between the reporter and the crazed cop vs. the Postcard Killers.

Safe Haven
Nicholas Sparks
Grand Central
9780446547604, $14.99

Katie fled her abusive alcoholic husband Kevin the cop who kept her a prisoner in their home and battered her constantly; she left when he put a gun to her head as she knows he will one day pull the trigger or break her skull. She rents a cabin in Southport, North Carolina and obtains a job at Ivan's restaurant.

As a little time passes since her last battering, Katie relaxes her vigil somewhat though she remains an enigma to the townsfolk. Widower father of two (Kristen and Josh) Alex the shopkeeper is attracted to the mystery woman. His kids feel the same way about her and she does likewise towards them. As she falls in love with the father and his children, Katie dreams of a happy family with her as the wife and mother. Humiliated by his wife running away, raging Kevin hunts her with plans to kill Katie and this man she is with who enabled her to escape.

Obviously the theme of a psychopath husband and a victim wife is not new (see Don't Tell by Karen Rose - the spouse is a cop too), Nicholas Sparks provides an exciting romantic suspense with a touch of the paranormal. The cast is solid as kind Alex is the polar opposite of brutal Kevin; ironically both insist they love Katie but display it differently.

Secret Obsession
Kimberla Lawson Roby
Grand Central
9780446572422, $19.99

Paige Donohue hides her disdain of her parents for extreme favoring of her sister Camille; in fact Paige believes they gave all their love to Camille the perfect chosen seed and none to her the anointed bad seed. She loathes her sibling even more as Camille has what she covets: a loving husband Pierce and two charming children living in a luxurious lifestyle. She obsesses over exceeding Camille the great. Her plan to make Camille envy her is to steal her sister's family from her.

Paige fakes a rape, which leads to Camille and Pierce taking her into their home while she emotionally heals. She works on Pierce's head with hints that Camille is cheating. However, her manipulative scheme to steal the perfect spouse from the perfect wife fails as Paige never quite grasped the trusting relationship between her targets. Undone and feeling ever more inferior to her sibling, Paige's mom tells her why she detests her. Camille still welcomes her sister with love.

Although the story line seems improbable to have gotten as far as it did and a late revelation detracts from an intriguing look at mental illness including the impact on others. OCD Paige loathes her family for what she perceives they did to her; her anger leads to her ignoring those who care deeply about her. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this entertaining family soap opera, just leave your plausibility meter in the draw.

Romancing the Countess
Ashley March
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451234513, $7.99,

One year ago Leah George's husband and Sebastian Madinger's wife died in a carriage accident. The twenty years old widow knew her late spouse was cheating with his best friend's wife. On the other hand the Earl of Wriothesley thought he married the perfect woman until the tragedy in which the pair was running away together. The upset widower does everything to inter the truth with his spouse and her lover for the sake of his son.

Leah is sick of society blaming her while demanding she behave like a grieving widow. She decides one year of a lie is enough. Sebastian wants to keep her from affirming the rumors are true. He decides the only way to keep her mute is to marry her.

This is an engaging Victorian romance starring two cuckolded aristocrats forced by society to pretend grief for the spouses who did them wrong. The story line is fast-paced but loses some momentum with the sudden out of character odd behavior of the lead couple. Still this engaging historical stars two fascinating protagonists who fall in love while arguing to scandalize or not to scandalize that is the question.

Mark of the Rose
Kate Pearce
9780451234520, $6.99

In 1537 lady-in-waiting to Queen Jane, Widow Verity Llewellyn is at Richmond Palace, the court of Henry VIII. She fears her Queen is dying, but her brother Jasper the Druid vampire slayer ridiculed her feelings. With him away healing from injuries, she protects the monarchs from rogue vampires. She sends a note asking for help from her excommunicated cousin Rosalind for help; because of her grandfather's shunning of her relative, she sends it through mutual acquaintance Rhys Williams a slayer healing from a vampire ambush at Rosalind's home. Neither pregnant Rosalind nor her husband Christopher Elias (see Kiss of the Rose for their story) can go as he must keep their special six year old son safe while she is growing.

Meanwhile Vampire Council representative at the King's court Christopher's brother Elias affirms to Verity the queen is dying. Rhys arrives at court to forge an alliance neither desires but explains to the tyro slayer that it is him or no one. To save the queen and the child she carries, they must uncover who is serendipitously drinking her royal blood. While hoping to not make obvious their sleuthing, they fall in love.

The latest Tudor Vampire Chronicles historical romance is a fabulous investigative thriller as the lead couple follow clues while also falling in love. As in the previous entries (see Blood of the Rose), the alternate Pearce world seems real as the author deftly creates a King Henry VIII realm filled with Druid slayers and vampires. Readers will enjoy this complex political deadly saga as Kate Pearce provides a taut sixteenth century whodunit.

The Dark Earl
Virginia Henley
9780451234643, $15.00

In 1842 Staffordshire, England, the Lichfield family is selling the contents of Shugborough Hall at auction to pay off the gambling debts run up by the patriarch Earl. Nine year old Harriet "Harry" Hamilton accompanies her mom the Duchess of Abercorn to the estate. She loves houses but especially when she sees this one as she tells herself: "I wish you were mine." She and the owner's son Thomas Anson meet and argue. However, he has bigger concerns as his odious father burns down his insured other estate Ranton; Thomas vows to restore his beloved Shugborough Hall to its glory when he inherits.

In 1854, Harry and Thomas know each other socially but each conceals a deep attraction to the other. Harry has suitors who fall in love and marry her sisters with her blessing. Thomas must marry an heiress or lose his rights to Shugborough Hall. He proposes to Harry who accepts. The couple is happy together until she learns his reason for a hasty marriage; though true he asked her because he loved her before they married and plans to prove he still does.

Virginia Henley is perhaps the best author over the passed decade when it comes to bringing alive the Historical aspects in a historical romance. Her latest is made fresh by the matchmaking House that the lead couple cherishes. Bringing alive the early Victorian era, Ms. Henley provides another strong tale that her grateful fans will appreciate.

Bonnie Nadzam
Other Press
2 Park Avenue, 24th Fl., NY, NY 10016
9781590514375, $15.99,

Near Chicago, fiftyish David Lamb's wife Cathy left him. Soon after that his father dies. Depressed and grieving, David no longer cares about his job.

In a strip mall convenience store lot, seventh grader Sydney persuades her friend Tommie to bum a cigarette off of David. He lectures the eleven years old girl for her foolish behavior, but gives her a cigarette. David convinces Tommie to teach her friends a lesson. They pretend he is abducting her, but instead he takes her home. Tommie is stunned as Sydney and the others act indifferent to her kidnapping. David and Tommie begin to see one another as friends until they take a ride to his empty family house in Colorado.

With a loose nod to Lolita, Lamb is a terrific character study of a lonely middle age adult and the tweener he "mentors". David use of the defense mechanism rationalization that he's providing her a wider experience to defend his time with her enhances the deep look at a very disturbed person. The Colorado neighbors snoop on the odd couple, but readers will wonder whether they will contact authorities or just satiate morbid curiosity. Although David's adult girlfriend's behavior appears almost as odd as that of her boyfriend, fans will appreciate a profound look at a mentally ill person.

Calling Mr. King
Ronald De Feo
Other Press
2 Park Avenue, 24th Fl., NY, NY 10016
9781590514757, $14.95,

John Cole's father lived 24/7 in a state of rage; his only passion was shooting anything. John loathed his angry bitter old man, but became an expert at shooting long distances. John left home before he and his dad had a Wild West gunfight overlooking the Hudson. John becomes a paid assassin. He quickly proves to be the top gun at his profession as his hits are surgically clean. Working for the Firm under the alias Peter Chilton, he has a perfect record of successful kills for over a decade.

Now in his early thirties, Peter's last assignment in Paris should have taken a few hours, but he needed a week. His newest kill in the English countryside forced him to also take out an innocent bystander witness; the first time he broke the rules of international assassins. John dreams of retirement in the Georgian style home of his last victim. The Firm sends Peter to the Hudson to rusticate until the heat of the second kill cools off. John studies European architect until the Firm assigns Peter to Barcelona for his next hit.

This character driven engaging thriller stars a fascinating schizoid protagonist who begins to fantasize about retirement and reinventing himself. The story line is at its best when Peter stars at the beginning and the ending as he brings the dichotomy of precise killing and dreaming of a sedate future; the plot becomes less insightful and slower towards the middle when John studies architectural design while hiding in New York. Still overall this is a strong look at a person using denial as a defense mechanism while considering his options when he retires from a violent illegal profession.

Nikolai Grozni
The Free Press
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781451616910, $24.00,

In 1987, residents of Sofia, Bulgaria know first hand the oppression of the ruling elitist Communist Party. All they have to do is look out their windows at the sky, which is gray in the morning, grayer in the afternoon and pitch black with a slight ruby red at night; the sun never shines behind the Iron Curtain except for those inside the party.

Teenager Konstantin is a gifted pianist who attends the Sofia's Music School for the Gifted where he stays most of his time playing and drilling as if he was training for war, which to the Columnists, is exactly how they perceive the talented. Although he spends hours every day doing repetitive drills Konstanine learns one lesson that the overarching rule is that talent is superseded by those who parrot the party. Although stifled, the fifteen year old prodigy rebels when he can through western vices like drinking, smoking, and sexing, but is also obsessed with being the best as he finds a mental haven from his dumbing down teachers in the classics.

In some ways a coming of age tale, Wunderkind is a super look at oppressive Bulgaria in stark contrast to the lyrical passages lovingly expressed by Konstantin when he performs the works of the musical greats like Debussy and Bach. The story line focuses on one critical year in the life of the conflicted protagonist as he trains for a competition he scorns but is his ticket to the free world. Readers will appreciate this cerebral glimpse at late Cold War Bulgaria as the children with talent are "indoctrinated" soldiers in the battle with the West.

Paul Levine
Bantam Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780553806748, $25.00,

Amy Larkin accuses former bench-warming linebacker turned lawyer Jake Lassiter of abetting her then teenage sister Krista into running away from home. Jake knows more than he lets on as to what happened eighteen years ago when Krista vanished into the South Florida sex business and eventually became a porn star.

Jake feels a Krista inquiry could prove redemptive so he begins a cold case investigation. He soon finds Miami's affluent involved in what happened to Krista. As he learns more of the truth, Jake fears she was murdered while those rich males once involved with Krista refuse to cooperate with the lawyer. When one of the men he considers as a prime suspect is shot the Miami police charge Amy with the homicide. Lassiter defends Larkin in which client and attorney distrust one another while the State of Florida has an eyewitness to the lethal shooting.

Before Solomon vs. Lord, Paul Levine had Jake Lassiter as his star protagonist (see Flesh and Bones and Night Vision); now after a decade away, the second stringer has a first seat case. The story line is fast-paced and fun to follow, but turns superb in the courtroom as client-attorney privilege means nothing since nether trusts the other. Lassiter's return is a reason for legal thriller fans to rejoice.

Jane and the Canterbury Tale
Stephanie Barron
9780553386714, $15.00

In 1813 Jane Austen stays at the estate of her brother First Magistrate Edward in Kent. At the same time, Widow Adelaide Fiske marries Wellington's staff member Captain Andrew MacAllister. However, on Pilgrim's Way in Canterbury, the corpse of Adelaide's first husband Curzson Fiske is found; the problem is he allegedly died several years ago.

Edward leads the investigation into the murder of a "dead man". However, it is Jane who finds clues while pondering why the first spouse came to the wedding of his wife to another man, but said nothing but he left something behind for his widow. While Edward frets one of his friends is the killer, the culprit observes Jane getting close to solving the Canterbury Tale homicide.

The latest Jane Austen mystery (see Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron) is a great entry that combines a strong amateur sleuth with insight into the relationships between the extended Austen family members. Part of the fun in this wonderful series is trying to match up the support characters with the novels. The story line is fast-paced from the moment a stunned bride learns of a strange commoner visiting her nuptials and never slows down until Jane and the killer confront one another.

Children of Paranoia
Trevor Shane
c/o Penguin Putnam
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780525952374, $25.95,

For seven years, twenty-five years old Joe has fought in the secret war. The adversaries conceal the combat from the public through supposed horrific accidents or inexplicable violent acts. Thus civilians remain ignorant. A dedicated assassin, Joe believes he fights on the righteous side of good though he does not understand the underlying cause of the war only the other side is evil. He adheres strictly to the rules of engagement that he is not to kill an innocent bystander as collateral damage is unacceptable and he is not to kill anyone under the age of eighteen as assassinating a child is unacceptable too. Joe knows if he breaks the commandments he becomes the enemy of his side.

His last assignment went terribly wrong so his handler punishes Joe by tasking him to perform a dangerous kill in Montreal. However, Joe's frozen heart melts instantly when he meets Maria. He no longer can kill at random. To stay alive and keep his beloved safe, Joe flees as his former associates hunt him as he is now considered an evil traitor. In his attempt to escape Joe learns the third rule of engagement on his side of good is agents retire only in body bags.

Although the premise seems over the top of the St. Joseph's Oratory; fans will enjoy this exciting twisting thriller while pondering who is good and evil in terms of alleged patriots and terrorists. The story line is fast-paced from the first kill to the final confrontation. Though a lack of how Joe became indoctrinated to believe his side is the good killers would have helped anchor reader support of him, Trevor Shane provides an engaging thought provoking tale.

Black Diamond
Martin Walker
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307700148, $24.95,

In quiet quaint St. Denis, France, Police Chief Bruno Courrèges and his companion Gigi the basset hound enjoy searching for truffles. Sometimes Bruno's investigative teacher Hercule the retired intelligence agent join the pair.

However, lately the Perigord village has seen a rise in violent crimes related to the multimillion dollar truffle trade. Attacks on Vietnamese vendors and arson at an Asian restaurant shake the tranquility. Additionally rumors fly that substandard Chinese truffles were flooding the market place. Finally, someone brutally murders Hercule. Bruno investigates with leads taking him to the deadly convergence of Vietnamese French and Chinese immigrants.

The third Bruno French police procedural (see Bruno, Chief of Police and The Dark Vineyard) is a delightful whodunit in which readers will smell the aroma of the food in what in some ways is a cozy as the chief investigates the crime wave. Bruno is superb as he tastes and drinks his way through a wide variety of starred restaurants related to the case. Entertaining Martin Walker toasts the Perigord region (see The Caves of Perigord) with this fine timely whodunit as Bruno learns the trouble with truffles is not trifling.

Girls in White Dresses
Jennifer Close
9780307596857, $24.99

This seventeen short stories anthology amusingly and intelligently follows the lives of three BFFs (Isabella the account manager turned publishing assistant, Mary the lawyer, and Lauren the realtor) and their buddies in New York City. Isabella opens the anecdotal collection when she was twelve and her older sister was getting married as the tweener learns "The Rules of Life". In "Summer Sausage" the trio and others know Ellen's mantra is she dates ugly guys culminating in Louis who dumped her several times. Isabella and her boyfriend at the time Ben always fought until they broke up, but she recalls the wedding of his friend Mike to a Jon-Benet look alike in JonBenet and other Tragedies". The best tales are "Blind" as Isabella who has not dated since Ben left her to survives job switches and bad bosses; the profound "The Peahens" in which Abby describes her odd family; and the deep satirical "Hope," in which Shannon's boyfriend Dan informs her that the Candidate is the next president. Though some of the entries have similar themes told elsewhere, this is a strong chick lit sex and relational tsuris in the city summed up nicely when Mary gives birth to Henry to the joy of Ken and his widow mom Grandma Button who would never interfere between a mom and her baby like her late mother-in-law did when she terrorized her; instead she sweetly orders her daughter-in-law to do this and do that.

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307887436, $24.00,

In 2044, the real world is an ugly place to live, but those who do not want to die like high school student Wade Watts escape a high rise Lego like stacked trailer park via going virtual inside of the most popular online game, OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation). The late James Halliday constructed the electronic puzzler filed with riddle and games that has been home to billions of "gunters" competing for years to find the three magical keys to open the gates and therefore win the ultimate prize: ownership of the extremely successful and affluent OASIS Company.

Inside OASIS Wade's character is impoverished Parzival. When Parzival finds the copper key and opens the first gate, other gunters chase after him. Worse are the ""Sixers"" working for IOI corporation led by Sorrento; their job is to prevent anyone from succeeding. Their agents are searching for the egg are called Sixers. As Sorrento plans to charge a fee for participating in the game, his agents hunt Parzival and his allies on line and Wade in reality.

Nostalgia 1980s fans will enjoy this futuristic Tron, as many of the games and other pop icons from that era appear inside of OASIS. The story line is at its best when Parzival works the clues while others stalk him; it slows down somewhat with overkill description of the games employed inside of OASIS. Still fans will enjoy this entertaining tale as virtual reality is the only thing keeping social reality from total splintering.

Darkness, My Old Friend
Lisa Unger
9780307464996, $24.00

Following her divorce from her egomaniacal spouse bestselling author Bethany Graves and her fifteen year old daughter Willow move from Manhattan to The Hollows in Upstate New York. Bethany hopes the small-town will end Willow's tendency to prevaricate. Used to the bright lights of Broadway, Willow finds rusticating boring. Bethany begins her next novel while also dating nice high school Principal Henry Ivy.

Willow observes Michael Holt dig what the teen believes is a grave. Michael tells Bethany that his mom vanished over a quarter of a century ago when he was younger than Willow is; now with his dad's death, he wants his mother's cold case revisited. Retired police officer Jones Cooper supplements his pension helping his neighbors while they work; for instance letting repairmen into homes so people do not have miss work. The cops ask their former colleague to investigate while psychic Eloise Montgomery warns him that making inquires into the missing Cooper case would end tragically for him.

Darkness, My Old Friend, the sequel to Fragile, is a fabulous investigative psychological thriller. The myriad of characters bring to life small-town living where refreshingly everyone knows everyone has secrets, but not what they are. Clues are all over the exciting story line so the climax is anticipated, which adds to the fun as fans can solve the case. Though better to have read Fragile as there are references to the previous novel, readers will enjoy joining mother and daughter as they acclimate to their new dangerous home.

The Burning Soul
John Connolly
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781439165270, $26.00,

In Pastor's Bay, Maine Randall Haight consults with attorney Aimee Price over unsigned threatening letters he receives in the mail at a time when fourteen years old Anna Kore vanished from a strip mall. The anonymous author knows who Randall was. When he was fourteen years old William Lagenheimer and a buddy raped and killed a teenage African-American girl. He was convicted and did time. Upon his release, the state court granted him a new identity.

Aimee persuades private investigator Charlie Parker to look into who the pen pal is and if the timing is deliberate to make Haight the suspect in the Kore case. Although Charlie detests doing anything for a rapist-killer, he begins his inquiry into Haight's claims of being a victim, a town without pity, horrific heritage, and the Kore clan's bloody secrets.

The latest Charlie Parker investigation (see The Whisperers) is a superb mystery as readers will understand troubled Parker's self flagellation as he realizes perhaps too late his arrogance could harm the abductee. The story line starts slow but a few chapters in accelerates into a terrific running out of clock thriller with a great late twist as Parker and law enforcement know each hour a kidnap victim remains a captive means it is less likely finding the person alive. Readers will appreciate Parker's doubts as he wonders if he is doing more harm than good.

The Dog Who Knew Too Much
Spencer Quinn
9781439157091, $25.00

Autumn suggested Anya Vereen asks always broke private investigator Bernie Little to accompany her to parents' weekend at Big Bear Wilderness Camp, where her son, Devin, is a camper. Anya fears her former husband Guy Wenders will cause a stink at the event; so she hopes having Bernie with her will keep the louse in line. As he needs money, he and Chet accept a gig that he prefers to avoid as he loathes the mountain air although his partner looks forward to the smells.

When Devin disappears from the Big Bear Wilderness Camp, Bernie, Chet and wilderness guide Turk Rendell search for the missing child in what looks like a parental abduction. When Turk is murdered the Laidlaw clan enforces the law arresting Bernie. Chet continues to investigate with only trusting Suzie, who smells good, to assist him.

The fourth Chet and Bernie mystery (To Fetch a Thief and Thereby Hangs a Tail) is once again a superb whodunit as the canine provides a unique perspective on human and canine culture. Chet works the case alone and Dog Gone It makes an entertaining sleuth. Meanwhile criminal Dylan McKnight, the former boyfriend of Bernie's sort of girlfriend Valley Tribune reporter Suzie Sanchez and a puppy that looks like Chet add depth to an exciting canine criminal caper.

Northwest Angle
William Kent Krueger
9781439153956, $24.99

On the Canadian border in the Northwest Angle of Minnesota, former sheriff turned private investigator widower Cork O'Conner and his adult child Jenny go on a houseboat vacation together in the Lake of the Woods. When a major storm strikes the remote area the pair seeks safer shelter on an island in the middle of the Ojibwa reservation. The torrent separates father and daughter.

Jenny finds a naked female Native American corpse and nearby the body is her dehydrated baby. The victim obviously was tortured before being executed with a bullet to her head. Cork catches up with Jenny and the infant, but the trio is on the run from someone deadly. They obtain help from their Ojibwa family, which enables Cork to investigate who killed Lily Smalldog as he knows his daughter and the baby are safe?

The latest Cork O'Conner whodunit (see Vermilion Drift) is a terrific entry as William Kent Krueger uses the murder mystery to enable the audience to see deeper inside the hero. The story line is action-paced starting with the storm and never slows down as a cat and mouse hunt takes center stage. Series fans will welcome the return of Cork in a fabulous thriller just north of the 49th parallel.

Dangerous Mercy
Kathy Herman
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781403412, $14.99,

Octogenarian Adele Woodmore left her large mansion to move to Les Barbes to be near her friends, the Broussard clan. She especially enjoys her time watching two years old Grace. Adele hires homeless patrons from Father Vince's halfway house to do handy work for her. She is satisfied with Noah who does her lawn and Murray who is renovating the inside of her new home. Only Flynn makes her uneasy but she knows God would want her to give him a second chance.

The serene Saint Catherine parish hamlet is shook when someone murders banker Darveau by drugging him before drowning him in his tub with him unable to move but alert to what was happening. He was # 1. Soon afterward CEO Gautier became the number 2 victim of The Bathtub Killer. Sheriff Prejean struggles with the case that lacks any concrete evidence but implies more homicides will follow; his assumption is the killer is on a vendetta connected to the recent economic downturn. The Broussard and other townsfolk suspect one of Father Vince's homeless is the killer with Noah being a person of interest. Fearing for her safety, her friends begs Adele to stop hiring Father Vince's homeless, but she refuses as she believes God wants her to help these men find their way to the Lord.

The second Secrets of Roux River Bayou (see False Pretenses) is an exciting serial killer thriller with the townsfolk in a panic, the sheriff and Police Chief Norman frantic, and Adele calmly doing the Lord's mission. Her warm tenderness in the midst of a raging deadly storm makes for a strong inspirational whodunit. Once again readers will appreciate visiting the Bayou with Ms. Herman as our guide.

Unexpected Dismounts
Nancy Rue
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434764928, $14.99,

In Saint Augustine, Harley-Davidson rider Allison "Miss Angel" Chamberlain found Jesus seven years go, but finally understands what he expects from her a few months ago. Big Al keeps telling God he needs to find a more pious prophet, but the Lord keeps chatting with her as if she is the new Moses but is unable to foretell the future as her friend Hanks says she is a "forthteller". She currently runs the Sacrament House shelter for prostitutes with five in residence and wants to adopt seventh grader Desmond.

Nothing goes right as Allison feels like a modern day Job dealing with Unexpected Dismounts in life. A relative of Desmond has surfaced and wants the teen. An affluent businessman wants her ministry ended. Finally her Chamberlain upper crust past has bit her butt. Chief wants their relationship to turn from friend and respect to more. All Big Al desires is for God to stop with the nudges and either show her what he wants or back off.

The second Reluctant Prophet tale is a wonderful whimsical contemporary thriller held together by Big Al. The ensemble support cast contains fully developed individuals with flaws whose actions pull Big Al in mysterious ways. The trials and tribulations of the kick butt (including that of Jesus) bike rider make for a strong inspirational tale.

Lisa T. Bergren
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434764294, $9.99,

For years teenagers Gabriella and Evangelia Betarrini accompanied their parents on archeological digs. However recently the pair has seen the ruins in their original state as they have traveled back on the River of Time to a few years ago in which they saved their father's life (see Waterfall) and to 1332 Siena, Italy (see Cascade).

Gabi loves Lord Marcello Forelli and Lia loves Captain Luca Palmucci. As such the Betarrini family of four returns to 1333 Siena in which the war continues even with Rossi exposed as a traitor and Marcello now a member of the Nine. The family from the future also knows the plague is coming soon to Siena and the rest of the Italian Peninsular. If they find their men alive, Lia and Gabi have decisions to make about their future; if not they consider going back a year to intervene.

The final tale in the entertaining young adult River of Time allegory is a superb entry as decision time is upon the teens. The story line is cleverly anchored in the past with little things like when dad tries to understand how and when his pacifist wife became a warrior and his first awkward meeting with Marcello. There are also big events from the annals of history as well. The cast is strong especially the three prime couples and Father Tomas as Lisa T. Bergren provides a suspenseful taut thriller in which she makes a case that time flows like a river gently soothing even when turning into a Cascade or a Waterfall, but that same mild flow can become violent when it turns into a raging Torrent.

Here's To Friends
Melody Carlson
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434764911, $14.99,

In Clifdon, Oregon, the fifty-something four Lindas continue to be there for one another since they recently reunited after decades apart (see Hometown Ties). Christmas time brings new problems to the quartet.

Abby still worries about her husband Paul who has recovered from his heart attack but is acting weird. She also fears her new B&B is heading to failure as her first guests criticize her establishment.

Janie was exercising so she missed the nasty call from her adult daughter Lisa. Her son Matthew says his sister insists she is not doing drugs, but Janie prays this is true but refuses to give anymore money to her. She expects to be alone for the holidays as Matthew has a new girlfriend. Abruptly Lisa arrives to nuke her mom's relationship with Victor.

Caroline grieves the death of her mom (see All For One) while her boyfriend Mitch pleads with her to go away with him. Her excuse before was her mom suffering from Alzheimer's; her excuse now is she hired Paul to renovate her home.

Marley the artist enjoys her time with gallery owner Jack and his granddaughter Hunter. However; lately she struggles to paint as Jack's daughter Jasmine ran away with her latest lover Floyd the rolling stone leaving behind her child Hunter.

The final of the Four Lindas saga is an engaging tale as three of the quartet of prime subplots move forward as expected while one has a surprising spin. All are engaging Christian contemporary dramas that focus on several modern day social issues confronting society. As with the entire series, Melody Carlson provides a strong character driven tale.

Composing Amelia
Alison Strobel
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434767738, $14.99,

In Los Angeles, recent college graduates of LA Bible College and newlyweds Amelia and Marcus Sheffield look forward to the future. She dreams of being a pianist while he wants to become the pastor of a megachurch. They work at odd jobs bringing in income while searching for their respective break.

Amelia feels upbeat when she obtains a resident pianist position with a new theater group in the city. However, Marcus hits her with a gut blow when he informs her he has been offered the position of senior pastor at the small New Hope Church in Wheatridge, Nebraska. He tells her if she doesn't want to go, he will decline; but soon after informs her he accepted the position. Marcus goes to Nebraska while Amelia stays in California. As they live separate lives, Amelia becomes dangerously depressed over the separation and the unwanted touching of a business associate; while Marcus struggles with what his role means for his flock and misses his Ams though he hides behind God's plan.

This is a great Christian family drama that looks deeply at faith and mental illness through mostly the lead couple. They are still in love but seem way apart with no hope for the future. Whereas she feels he uses the God card with righteous impunity, he believes she lost her faith in the Lord, him and herself. Alison Strobel provides a refreshing contemporary character study.

The Bone House
Stephen R. Lawhead
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781595548054, $25.99,

Kit Livingstone no longer has the life of ennui since recently going back in time where he met his late great grandfather Cosimo who explained reality and its illusion variations to his future descendent. Since their family encounter, Kit has begun Cosimo's quest to obtain the Skin Map that enables users to time travel on ley line and hints at the Well of Souls. To his amazement, Kit succeeded in gaining his first section (see The Skin Map) though he met and eluded so far a brutal berserker Burley Man and alienated his girlfriend Wilhelmina Klug by being late for a London shopping trip.

Currently Kit traverses an alterative realism in nineteenth century Egypt home to cavemen in the still-incomplete quest for the Skin Map, which holds the secret of the ley lines that make time travel possible and is the key to a further mystical secret involving the mysterious Well of Souls. While Kit fumbles his efforts, Mina sets up shop on seventeenth century Prague. She actually becomes proficient at time travel and keeps popping in and out of her placid boyfriend's life to encourage and advise him. Soon they find time anomalies as different epochs converge.

The second Bright Empires time-travel alternate historical thriller is an exciting, but convoluted tale as too much occurs in the ley lines. The lead couple is a nice pairing as Mina is the aggressor ready to take the hill while Kit is the mellow one ready to take a nap on the hill. Although there are too many secondary characters with an overabundance of open threads, readers will still enjoy Stephen R. Lawhead's complex theory of relativity.

The Realms Thereunder
Ross Lawhead
Thomas Nelson
9781595549099, $15.99

Thirteen year olds Daniel Tully and Freya Reynolds went missing and are assumed dead. Seventy-two days later, they reappear in shock in East Ayreshire, Scotland.

Over the next eight years, on the surface the pair reacts differently to their ordeal never adequately explained. He became a homeless person carrying a sword he swears he earned when he vanished while she became an Oxford student studying folklore. However, both still suffer from the trauma of what they saw and did with denial their defense mechanism of choice. Eight years ago, they visited a church only to be abducted by knights who escorted them to an ancient underground city in the realm of Nidergeard. There lives the protectors of the surface dwellers from the evil that wants to permeate the outer realm. Now both are kidnapped in diverse ways, but when they unite they agree the time has come for them to engage in the second battle of Nidergeard.

The first Ancient Earth quest fantasy is an exciting thriller with an intriguing underlying premise that defeating evil is not "good" enough because evil will fester in a nurtured vacuum unless good remains diligent by performing good deeds. The lead protagonists are a strong duet while the support cast especially underground enhances the war. Although crawling through the underground maize slows down the plot, fans of Tolkien and Brooks will want to join the pair as they enter the below the surface war zone.

Bye Bye, Baby
Max Allan Collins
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765321794, $24.99,

In the summer of 1962, private eye Nathan Heller is in Hollywood enjoying his time with the famous and infamous. He meets Marilyn Monroe, who hires the Chicago sleuth to wire tap her phone. Her studio blames her erratic behavior for the shutting down of a film in production. She believes the tapes will prove otherwise.

Heller figures this is an easy assignment with fringe benefits. However, he finds a horde of celebrities interested in Miss Monroe; enough to fill the Hollywood Bowl. Beside the president and his brother, her former husband the retired ballplayer, Frank, the CIA, the Russians and Hoover; there are also mobsters. They all fear what she might do next. When she dies from a reported overdose, Heller believes his occasional lover-client was assassinated.

The first Heller hard boiled noir in years (see Chicago Confidential) is an exciting look at the demise of Marilyn Monroe. Although nothing new is added to the conspiracy theory behind the legend's death, the story line is fast-paced even with a real persona cast seemingly out of a Cecil B. DeMille movie as Heller works a case he personalizes.

Emory's Gift
W. Bruce Cameron
9780765327819, $22.99

In 1974 Idaho, thirteen years old Charlie Hall loses both his parents. His mom died from leukemia and his grieving dad George is not there for his runt of a son when the lad needs him most. Charlie is a loner who has no friends at school. In fact his former best buddy Dan wants to beat the snot out of Charlie to prove his toughness as a man.

A cougar attacks Charlie but a grizzly bear saves his life so to thank his savior the teen gives the animal the fish he caught. The bear and human seem to understand one another so the former writes his name in the dirt and his new friend does likewise: "Emory." On a barn wall Emory scribes he was once a civil war soldier with a message to tell. The shrinks assume Charlie uses the bear as a grief stricken coping device until his father gets hurt in a ranching accident. When the townsfolk try to put Emory to sleep, Charlie, seventh grader Beth Shelburton the daughter of his father's partner and George protect the bear.

This is an entertaining fable starring a boy all alone in trouble with a deep loss at a time he is undergoing adolescent changes. Emory's reincarnation personification never quite seems real while Charlie does. Fans or reincarnation tales would be better off with W. Bruce Cameron's whimsical A Dog's Purpose, but those readers who enjoy a tender sentimental coming of age historical will appreciate Emory's Gift to Charlie and others.

Desire's Edge
Eve Berlin
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425241400, $15.00,

In high school, senior Dante DeMatteo beat the crap out of junior Kara Crawford's cheating boyfriend for bruising her. Already having a monster crush on her hero that went stratospheric with his intervention, she regrets she never got to thank him as he was taken to the office by two teachers and then left for college.

Several years later at Lucie's housewarming party, Dante and Kara see each other across the crowded room. With one glance, each feels the heat, but has doubts as he needs to be her dominant and she wants to be his sub. As they start a spanking relationship, he joins the law firm where she works. When each falls in love, they fail to come together as Dante and Kara fear going over the Pleasure's Edge of loving a relationship filled with desire.

The key to this superb erotic romance is the fear factor as the protagonists are frightened to death with how deeply they love one another. This relationship anxiety leads to Dante and Kara confused as to what they want. Eva Berlin provides a heated but poignant BDSM romance.

Never Enough
Lauren Dane
9780425243008, $15.00

Thirteen years ago her older sister Tina called Gillian Forrester to tell her she is at a hospital giving birth. Gillian rushed over to be with Tina and her newborn nephew Miles who she adopts and raises as her own.

Just before dying ironically at the same hospital she gave birth to Miles, Tina makes her sibling give a death bed promise to her. Gillian fears performing her late sibling's request as she does not want to lose her beloved teenage nephew. Still, she informs rock star Adrian Brown that he is the father of a thirteen years old son. He has doubts but is attracted to the prim and proper Gillian. She feels the same way about him but after her abusive childhood trusts no one. Adrian's oldest brother Brody (see Coming Undone) intervenes when he informs his sibling that if he fails to get his act together he will lose a chance to spend time with his offspring and with the woman the father and son love.

The latest Brown heated family drama (see Laid Bare) is an engaging contemporary that refreshes the ploy of a man not knowing he sired a child. The Brown family plays support roles with the patriarch Brody the key support. Miles is a confused teen excited to learn of his extended family especially a rocking dad. However, the erotic story line belongs to the protagonists who distrust relationships.

Sage Creek
Jill Gregory
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780425244470, $7.99,

Following her divorce from her cheating spouse, Sophie McPhee sells her San Francisco bakery to return home to Lonesome Way, Oregon. Her mom welcomes her warmly while her late dad never thought much of his offspring.

Sophie visits her pregnant BFF Lissie. She once had a crush on Sophie's older brother Rafe. A divorced Rafe and his twelve year old daughter Ivy arrive. When she learns Ray's Diner is closing as the elderly couple is retiring, Sophie decides to open a bakery there. Her former teacher Doug Hartigan says he and her mom are dating. Sophie hates Doug for verbally abusing her as a student.

Sophie enters the Double Cross Bar & Grill to meet her other BFF Mia when a fight breaks out. Rafe keeps her from being hurt. He is attracted to Sophie, but will not act on it out of respect for Lissie and not to confuse his daughter who is still hurting four years after her mother deserted her. Sophie feels the same way as he does. She has no time for romance as she is busy trying to get her A Bun in the Oven bakery to open up. Meanwhile someone wants to hurt Sophie who has no idea who or why. Rafe vows to keep her safe as he and his daughter have fallen in love with his sister's BFF.

The lead couple is a nice pairing whose issues are external and mostly due to family problems. The strong cast anchors the small town location and many residents play matchmaker involving Sophie and Rafe so they can see how they really feel about one another. Although the villain is over the top of Mt. Rainer and his daughter goes from confused tweener to mature adult, readers will enjoy Sophie's choice to come home to start over.

In Blood We Trust
Christine Cody
9780441020874, $7.99

The Monsters have won the war over humanity in spite of the horrific efforts of the specially chosen and trained Witches, whose numbers dwindled dramatically during the hostilities, to prevent the latest calamity from occurring. However, the two prime factions who make up the Monster alliance distrust one another as their physiological needs radically differ. The Reds drink blood for sustenance while the Civils do not.

Tension is great between the two groups, but the shot heard round the Bloodlands happens when young vampires kill a Civil. Neither side cares who provoked whim; instead as a monster war ignites, Mariah the shapeshifting legend helps her vampiric bond mate Gabriel escape.

The third drought-laden Bloodlands post-apocalyptic thriller is an exciting tale that for much of the story line focuses on the big picture monster in-fighting, but later takes a sudden disruptive narrow perspective by concentrating on the lead protagonists of the previous two fantasies (see Blood Rules). Still fans will enjoy the war between the monsters that forces beleaguered Mariah and Gabriel to flee for their lives from lethal unruly mobs as their heroics becomes yesterday's news.

Death in a Difficult Position
Diana Killian
9780425243817, $7.99

In Stillbrook, fire and brimstone Reverend David Goode proclaims in his sermons that yoga is a demonic practice and those participating are heading to hell while the instructors are the devil's ignorant agents. Reverend Goode specifically attacks two studios: Sacred Balance yoga studio owned by A.J. Alexander and Yoga Meridian manager Lily Martin. Rivals A.J. and Lily try separately and together to reason with the Reverend; but he reacts with a warning for them to stop their evil ways. Lily threatens him in public.

When John Bauman's cows are slashed in a nasty demonic ritual, Reverend Goode attacks sin fostered by places like the yoga studios. The Reverend also blames A.J. for tempting his wife who uses free passes to attend the classes at Sacred Balance. Soon afterward someone kills Goode. The police arrest Lily who had motive and opportunity. Having solved homicide cases before (see Murder on the Eightfold Path) A.J. and her Hollywood mom Elysia and her Golden Gumshoes TV cast investigate by looking into who else had a motive to kill the good reverend, but quickly finds a horde of suspects as this pious soul proves to be a hypocrite with his application of the Golden Rule being he gets the gold and makes the rule.

Putting aside that the Hollywood contingent wanting publicity for their TV detective show seems a stretch of a motive for conducting an inquiry, readers will enjoy the latest humorous Mantra for Murder amateur sleuth. The story line starts out a bit slow though amusingly so as the payers and their relationships are set, but accelerates once the homicide occurs. Fans will enjoy the mother and daughter team as they investigate the murder.

Must Love Lycans
Michelle Bardsley
9780451234506, $7.99

After a near death experience with mommy dearest, empathic psychotherapist Kelsey Morningstone tries to start over at the Dante Clinic in Broken Heart, Oklahoma. However, her latest problem in counseling patients is that the well endowed hunk is naked. She wants this Damian, but prides herself over no personal involvement especially of the sex kind with a client.

Damian cannot sit still as he struggles with amnesia having been hurt during an incarceration. He also insists he is a werewolf and his shrink is his mate. Still salivating though she thinks Damian is a lunatic, Kelsey changes her opinion when he marks her as his life mate as she discovers paranormal activity in the Sooner State is the norm. As the hero regains his memory, he knows he must protect his beloved as those who captured him still stalk him and now his soul mate.

As the original characters and their offspring have gotten older over the eight years of Broken Arrow time, Michelle Bardsley keeps her saga fresh with a jocular werewolf (and more) entry as readers learn much about the Lycan culture. The story line is fast-paced even with Kelsey in a perpetual state of heat that Damian makes even hotter. As Marisol says "he's one taco short of a combo plotter" yet Doc loves him.

To Seduce an Angel
Kate Moore
9780425243695, $7.99

His acrimonious grandfather the Duke of Wenlocke arranged for Kit Jones to be kidnapped by thugs because he loathed the "Living Sin" son of a courtesan Sophie Rhys-Jones being his heir. Kit survived the streets of London but never came home in order to keep his brothers safe. However his siblings Will Jones (see To Save the Devil) and Alexander Jones (see To Tempt a Saint) find him and have him declared the duke's heir.

In 1824, the Duke is dying and wants his odious pureblood nephew the earl of Aubrey as the next duke. They force accused murderess Emma Portland, hired as a teacher to Kit's street urchins, to spy on him. As Emma and Kit fall in love, his grandfather, second cousin and a corpse in Reading stand in their way.

The third "Sons of Sin" tale is a great finish to a delightful Regency trilogy. The vile villains plot to destroy the heroic heir who is a bad penny they cannot get rid of so turn to blackmailing the tutor in their latest attempt. Fans will appreciate Kate Moore's exciting historical.

Definitely Not Mr. Darcy
Karen Doornebos
9780425243824, $15.00

Though she thought she signed up for a documentary, not fortyish single mom of a young daughter, Chloe Parker leaves Chicago to join a reality show set in Jane Austen's England because she needs the, $100,000 prize money as her antique letter press business is failing. The participants are eight bachelorettes who accept the conditions of Regency England in order to win the heart of Mr. Wrightman. Chloe gives up indoor plumbing, central heating, phones and much more in anticipation of men in tights.

However, Chloe finds she fails nineteenth century activities as sewing is a foreign skill and the use of a fan seems inane. Her odious rival Lady Grace makes it worse as her shenanigans are to get Chloe kicked off the show by setting up the ancient moron to look even more like a loser. Her other rivals are just as young, beautiful and shark-like as Grace is. Then there is the prize.

Just when a reader would think that there is no knew take on Jane Austen, Karen Doornebos provides a fresh amusing spin by combining 1812 Regency England within a modern day reality show. The story line is amusing as Chloe competes with women younger, prettier and nastier than she could ever dream of being. With a nod to the 1900 House reality show, fans will agree that Mr. Wrightman is Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, but to Chloe he may be the right man.

The Lost Wife
Alyson Richman
9780425244135, $15.00

In 1934 in Prague Lenka Maizel and medical student Josef Kohn fall in love. They marry as the German troops enter Prague. He pleads with her to leave the country but she refuses as she needs to be with her family. Josef manages to get to New York while his wife and in-laws are sent to the Terezin concentration camp.

In 1947 Josef the obstetrician meets Amalia from Vienna at the public library. Like him she is a war refugee who lost her family to the Nazis. Believing he is a widow they marry. However, Lenka survived the Nazis by thinking of her Josef waiting for her every day. After being freed by the allies, Lenka married twice and had one child. Thirty eight years of marriage ends for Josef when Amalia died but he knows his love lives for a ghost who died decades earlier. Several years later, Josef's grandson is marrying another war refugee Lanie's granddaughter.

This is a great historical thriller that focuses on the long term cost of WWII on the innocent. The story line rotates perspective over six decades between Lenka and Josef. The changes of life brought on by Nazis is harrowing as Jews lived in a wonderful Prague Spring only to either escape to America or sent to the camps. Alyson Richman makes a strong case that even Hitler cannot kill true love.

The More the Terrier
Linda O. Johnston
9780425243794, $7.99

Dante De Francisco owns national HotPet Stores. He hires Lauren Vancouver to be the director of HotRescues no kill animal shelter. The complex will be one of the biggest of its kind once construction is completed. When Lauren's former mentor, Mamie Spelling, frantically calls her; Lauren is concerned and rushes over having not seen her friend in a long time. Lauren is appalled at the condition of Mamie's house, and poor quality of the animals from overcrowding as if this is a run down ghetto. Mamie fears she faces prison time for animal cruelty; something that would not have occurred if Bethany Weber, CEO of The Pet Shelter Network, had not tried to blackmail her.

Bethany made a lot of enemies inside the industry with practices including blackmail and extortion of other shelter owners. The police believe Mamie killed Bethany as she had the motive and the opportunity having been at the victim's home when the latter was dead. Other evidence condemns Mamie further. Lauren does not believe her mentor would kill, so she doggedly investigates the homicide; unaware the killer watches her every move.

The second Pet Rescue Mystery (see Beaglemania) is an exciting cozy that sub-genre readers, especially animal lovers, will enjoy. Dante and his lover Kendra make cameo appearances that connect this series to the author's Pet Sitter amateur sleuth novels. There are plenty of suspects as the victim was almost universally loathed. Although having an amateur sleuth investigate the murder of a queen of mean while the killer observes her actions is an overly used technique, readers still will enjoy the entertaining The More the Terrier.

Real Vampires Don't Wear Size Six
Gerry Bartlett
9780425241356, $15.00

In Austin, the Vampire Council wants vampire Glory St. Clair to leave town as she has caused issues for the secretive species. First her Vintage vamp's Emporium puts a light on vampires and worse a demon possessed her. Ancient vampire Damian "Casanova" Sabatini, brother to Glory's BFF recently married artist Florence da Vinci, offers her a chance to redeem herself. Since the shapeshifter Rafe Valdez has moved out of her place but not before her angry boyfriend Jeremy Blade ended their relationship, Damian suggests she mentor a rookie vampire like she did rock star Israel "Ray" Caine.

She agrees to take on Penny Patterson though her first impression of the scowling brilliant female makes her want to leave Texas. Meanwhile Lucifer wants Glory and her special blood collecting souls for him in exchange for a size six figure and Ray needs her to help him deal with addiction. Finally there is Jeremy and a killing goddess for her to deal with.

Although the heroine's centuries' old obsession over her weight has become a bit weary, fans of the real Vampire adventures of Glory (see Real Vampires Have More to Love) will enjoy her latest Texas tornado as she is the epicenter of paranormal tsuris. The fun tongue in cheek story line is loaded with action from the visits of Lucifer, Damian, Ray and Penny to Glory hoping to start anew with Jeremy.

Virtue and Vice
Megan Hart
9780425242988, $15.00

New King Jarron Bydelay of the Second Province, requests the Order of Solace send him a Handmaiden. The Order assigns Sister Redemption to bring solace to him.

The royal fails to recognize the Handmaiden but she knows who he is. A decade ago, Sister Redemption was Notsah a kitchen maid who was caught stealing by the Captain of the King's Guard Erekon. To escape she ran into the chambers of the then prince who showed her mercy. Erekon recognizes her as the ragged thief and plans to use her to further his agenda with the new monarch. Meanwhile Redemption falls in love with her regal client, but Jarron, who is also in love, has bigger political intrigue issues to cope with than that of his heart.

The latest Order of Solace (see the Pleasure And Purpose three novellas, Selfish Is the Heart and No Greater Pleasure) is an engaging erotic thriller. The heated romance is more of a support subplot as the political intrigue and the unique culture of Hart's world take center stage. The lead couple is a fabulous pairing of a king and a Handmaiden who were once the "prince and the pauper". Love may not be enough to keep them together.

Liver Let Die
Liz Lipperman
9780425244043, $7.99

After her boyfriend dumped her, Jordan McAllister moved to Ranchero, Texas where she works at the Ranchero Globe writing personal ads as she waits for a better position to open up especially as a sports reporter. When food columnist Loretta Mosley breaks her hip and right arm requiring at least six weeks of rehab, the editor Dwayne Egan offers her the position temporarily without more pay and with her still doing the ads. Though she can't boil water without burning it, she accepts the job that will enable her to see her name in print.

She reviews the new Longhorn Prime Rib Steakhouse. However, afterward, her waiter that night is found dead under her steps. One of her kitchen knives is missing and presumed to be the murder weapon. The police suspect her as the killer while she knows someone is setting her up to stew in prison or shish kabob her. Undercover FBI Agent Alec finds his thoughts are far from lucid because his attraction to the prime culprit muddles his brain. Jordan puts to use her journalism education to investigate the homicide in order to prove her innocence as her state is known for executions. She believes Alec his concealing something significant and hopes it is not tied to the murder as she is attracted to him.

Liz Lipperman has written an entertaining journalistic investigation (though the heroine's lack of experience might better classify her and the whodunit as an amateur sleuth). The dialogue between Jordan and the men in her life is witty and humorous while the reporter finds herself in one hot water scenario after another. She holds the enjoyable plot together as a likable person refusing to allow someone to marinade her with murder.

Kissing Comfort
Jo Goodman
9780425243909, $7.99

In 1870 San Francisco, womanizing shipping mogul Bram DeLong announces that he and Comfort Elizabeth Kennedy are engaged. She is shocked by his announcement but Bram says to her afterward they will end their engagement soon. Comfort has not yet accepted.

Bram's older brother Bode comes home injured after an attack by the Rangers gang of thugs. Comfort helps him with his injuries but when he learns the woman he cherishes is marrying his brother, Bode leaves. She is disappointed in him and accepts Bram's proposal. However, Bode will not walk into the sunset without fighting for the woman he loves especially when her unknown heritage before she became a mute foundling begins to surface culminating with the Rangers kidnapping her.

Kissing Comfort is an exciting Americana romance starring two likable protagonists and an overall wonderful cast especially family though there is some stereotyping of tertiary characters. The intrepid title heroine makes the tale as her shrouded past may prove deadly while her hero would die for her. Fans will enjoy this fine historical as Bram's proposal sets in motion a comedy of errors that turns uncomfortably dangerous to the lead female.

Shoe Done It
Grace Carroll
9780425244036, $6.99

To Rita Jewel the best part of working at Dolce's Boutique in San Francisco is neither the wages nor dressing up high society. The jewel of working here is the steep discount her employer gives her that enables her to purchase some of the high end merchandise. Dolce sends Rita to pick up a pair of hand-made silver stilettos in Florida for her to have in time for fashionista MarySue Jenson to wear at the Golden Gate Garden Benefit, which is tomorrow. Rita picks up the shoes in South Beach and returns in time, but the customer confesses she does not have the money to pay for them and Dolce refuses to extend credit.

MarySue steals the customized footwear from Rita. Dolce and Rita want them back so the employee goes to Mary Sue's house, but the shoe thief refuses to allow her entrance. Rita uses a ladder to try to enter the home, but the next thing she knows she is in a hospital being treated for injures. Dolce and Rita learn someone murdered MarySue and the stolen solver stilettos are missing.. Rita searches for the killer and the shoes only to find a horde of suspects hiding behind upper class respectability.

Shoe Done It is a fun somewhat satirical amateur sleuth tale that mocks at the compulsive obsessive behavior of fashionista as a stiletto by any other name is not just footwear. The first Accessories Mystery stars a heroine who is the Einstein of fashion and uses her knowledge of clothing to investigate who would literally murder to possess customized stilettos. Cozy readers will enjoy this entertaining San Francisco treat.

Ecstasy Wears Emeralds
Renee Bernard
9780425243725, $7.99

In 1859 in London, Gayle Renshaw wants to become a doctor but females are not accepted as trainees. She extorts Dr. Rowan West to accept her as his apprentice-assistant or she will expose secrets of his that will destroy his practice. He had originally thought she was a man when they corresponded but reluctantly agrees to train her in return for her silence over the matter of the death of his fiancee.

Rowan plans to run off the feisty female by overwhelming her with work and study as he treats her like he would a male assistant. Instead of driving her out of the city as he refuses to ease off of her because of gender, she thrives. Soon Rowan respects his diligent conscientious assistant while she admires his treatment of her as if she was a man. However, she is also attracted to her mentor and him to her. When his enemies threaten his beloved Gayle, he tries to drive her away, but she is even more obstinate than when they first met as now she is a woman in love.

The third Jaded Gentleman Victorian romance (see Revenge Wears Rubies and Seduction Wears Sapphires) is a superb historical that showcases a suffragette pursing her professional ambition while falling in love. Rowan is ahead of his times as he treats her as if she is a male apprentice; that is until his admiration turns to attraction and desire. Gayle walks the thin line between career goals and love. Fans will enjoy this deep, still timely today, nineteenth century romance as the mentor and the mentee find respect and love.

Mind Over Murder
Allison Kinglsey
9780425243770, $7.99

In Finn's Harbor, Maine, Stephanie Quinn Dowd persuades her cousin Clara Quinn to manage a shift at her The Raven's Nest bookstore. Clara has the family Quinn Sense; a psychic gift that her cousin wants and she would like Stephanie to have inherited it instead of her. Clara meets store employee Molly Owens who was yelling at the crazy old bat Ana Jordon owner of the shop next door Jordon's Stationer.

Clara finds Ana's murdered corpse in the storage area of the Raven's Nest. Police Chief Dan Peterson and Officer Tin Rossi investigate the homicide in which Poe's bust busted open the head of the victim. The only suspect is Molly. Stephanie encourages Clara to use her Quinn Sense to find out who killed Ana. However, someone tries to frighten her off the case while she also has doubts about her psychic curse.

Mind Over Murder is a fun paranormal amateur sleuth in which the homicide occurs immediately after Clara agrees to temporarily work at the bookstore. Readers will enjoy the escapades of the two cousins who are BFF "sisters". The story line is fast-paced throughout regardless whether the plot focuses on the whodunit or the men wanting to date lofty Clara. It is a sure bet that fans will want to return to the Raven's Nest Bookstore for more Quinn Sense sensational stories.

Archangel's Blade
Nalini Singh
9780425243916, $7.99

Archangel Raphael and Elena are visiting Japan. In his absence his lieutenant the millennium old Dmitri the vampire runs the New York operation.

The head of a rookie vampire with a strange tattoo is found. Dmitri visits the Hunter Guild asking them to translate the language. Guild Hunter Honor St. Nicholas is the language expert of ancient archaic languages. However, she fears vampires having been held captive and tortured by rogues for two months. Still he admires her grit as she refuses to allow her trepidations to cripple her efforts or ignore her attraction to Dmitri. As their inquiry leads to those who battered her body and soul, Dmitri vows vengeance for what they did to this human he cherishes.

Dmitri who has been a kick butt (Elena can affirm that) support character in the Archangel saga (see Archangel's Kiss, Archangel's Consort and Archangel's Blade) takes center stage as the co-star and proves he can be an exciting lead male with a female partner. The romantic urban fantasy story line is action-packed but character driven by the pairing of a dangerous vampire and an emotionally injured hunter. This is a great entry in a strong series.

Dark Warrior
Rebecca York
9780425243701, $7.99

After attending a late meeting of the Sedona Business Association, Sophia drives home to the Seven Sisters Spa where she and her Ionian sisters live. Something comes out of the dark at an incredible speed causing Sophia's car to land in a ditch. Her cell phone fails to work. Her clan's enemy, a Minot shoots a vapor into her face, which freezes her and begins to assault her when another male intercedes. The first flees while the second mentally tells Sophia he is a friend. Jason wants Sophie the way his late Ionian mother and deceased Minot father wanted each other.

Sophia explains to the leader Cynthia and the others what happened. She shows mental pictures of her attacker and rescuer. Cynthia insists both males are enemies and that the rescuer could not have shared a mental thought with Sophia.

Wealthy Minot, Rafe wants a child with Sophia's biological sister Tessa. Sophia interviews Jason for a veterinary position at the spa. She is shocked as he is her rescuer, a Minot who got passed their wards. They have sex in which he names her mentally. At the same Rafe knows only one other Minot to ally with him in his quest as that man loathes the Ionians. Cynthia is right as trouble has arrived at Seven Sisters Spa.

The key to this fast-paced enchanting New Mexico fantasy is that the Ionian and Minot races seem genuine. Although the Minot seems to have easy access to the impregnable compound and no thinning of the Ionian or Minot blood after two millennia with human sex partners, fans will enjoy this star-crossed romance as her Sisters object to their match even if he has proven a hero.

Ellen Connor
9780425242995, $15.00

Near Valle de Bravo, La Jefa Rosa Cortez leads her Bravos on an attack of a truck. They succeed in hijacking needed supplies for their town where males greatly outnumber females. Rosa thinks of before the Change when she fed her brother by selling her body. Now she runs a small town. Watching the action is Dr. Chris Welsh who has traveled since he lost the mother of his child just after the Change. He offers medicine and medical care to the Bravos in exchange for food and a few days of sleep in the first community Chris has seen in over two years.

As town leader Rosa says they should test Christo see if he is a skinwalker as none are allowed. He is left alone in the dark for eight hours as skinwalkers cannot deal with this type of stress. Chris dreams of Rosa as he knows the test is inane superstition. The next morning Chris says he slept through her test. When Hellhounds arrive, Chris helps kill the monsters. He explains to her not all skinwalkers are evil, but she saw what they did to her brother. Though not a medical doctor, Chris agrees to help pregnant Tilly while Falco who wants to take charge does not trust the newcomer.

The second Dark Age of Dawning (see Nightfall) is an excellent futuristic post-apocalyptic fantasy with an intelligent introduction followed by an action-packed story line. The town and its residents seem genuine and is enhanced by good people dying while the romance stays somewhat abated as the danger remains front and center. Although a radical change in the heroine's bias seems unlikely, readers will enjoy the bleak 24/7 Midnight world of Ellen Connor.

Carly Phillips
9780425243831, $7.99

In Serendipity, New York, former wealthy Faith Harrington disowned her father Martin when he accepted a plea bargain after a Bernie Madoff level financial fraud; she also divorced her womanizing husband Carter Moreland who knew all before dumping her. She and her family are broke having to sell everything including the mansion on the hill through an SEC auction to pay back investors.

After a decade away Ethan Barron returns home too. He owes his younger brothers Nash and Dare having deserted them to foster care when their parents died and he couldn't cope; he knows he will need to be patient to win them over as they no longer need him like they did when he ran. Although the victim of her father's crime the townsfolk refuse to hire interior designer Faith; that is until Ethan hires the Princess on the hill to renovate his new purchase, her family's former mansion. Back in high school, they had a heated moment, but that seems tundra compared to how the former princess and the entrepreneur feel today.

The first of the Barron brothers' contemporary romances is an entertaining tale starring two strong obstinate protagonists and a powerful mostly extended families' support cast. The lead couple and their siblings have realistic issues including family dynamics that may keep them apart. With a nod to the headlines and some late suspense, Carly Phillips opens her upstate New York tale with a strong entry.

The Perfect Suspect
Margaret Coel
9780425243480, $25.95

Police detective Ryan Beckman and married gubernatorial candidate David Mathews are having a secret tryst. However, knowing exposure would end his political ambitions just when he is the frontrunner, David ends their affair. In a crime of passion, raging Ryan kills her lover.

Beckman leads the investigation into Mathews' murder. She sets up the cuckold wife Sydney to take the fall. However, Beckman knows she must eliminate the witness who she saw watching her leave the Mathews' home. Once that is done Sydney will be convicted of her spouse's homicide. That frightened unknown person anonymously calls Denver Journal investigative reporter Catherine McLeod who was covering the campaign and now the homicide; the person insists Beckman killed Mathews. While McLeod seeks witnesses who can tie the deceased and the cop together, Beckman plans to eliminate those who can do so.

The second Catherine McLeod journalist investigation (see Blood Memory) is an entertaining cat and mouse thriller, as two determined females hunt the same population with different intent in mind. The story line is action-packed though somewhat over the top but that also makes the tale fun. Readers will enjoy the chess match between the pair of feisty females.

Quickstep to Murder
Ella Barrick
Obsidian Mystery
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451234544, $6.99,

In Old Town Alexandria engaged couple Stacy Graysin and Rafe Acosta own Graysin Motion ballroom dance studio. Anyone watching the pair of dance instructors performing the quickstep would conclude they are so in synch with the foxtrot Charleston mix they must be in love. However four months ago Stacy ended their two-year engagement tango when she saw her Rafe doing a horizontal number with Solonge Dubonnet.

They remain business partners teaching ballroom dancing. However, Rafe wants Stacy to take him back in her personal life as he insists his mambo with Solonge was money driven. Having inherited the building (with her sister) from her late aunt, Stacey lives downstairs from the studio. At night she hears a thump upstairs and investigates only to find Rafe's corpse. Alexandra Police Department Detective Troy and Lissy suspect Stacy killed her partner and former fiance in a fit of rage. Solange arrives using a key Rafe gave her and accuses Stacy of killing her almost fiance. Leon Hall comes next and accuses Rafe of getting his daughter pregnant. Finally politician Sherry Indrebo asks Stacy to look for some items of hers that Rafe had. Octavia Acosta arrives from Argentina following the police notifying his father that his son died and sent his "like brother" to bring the body home. Tav inherited Rafe's half of the studio. Not trusting the police to look anywhere else but her, she and Tav team up to investigate who pulled the curtain on the ballroom dance instructor.

The first Ballroom Dance Mystery is an engaging debonair amateur sleuth that will have readers dancing the Lindy. Stacy is terrific as her sophisticated world collapses thanks totally to Rafe who is a bigger pain dead than he was alive. Readers will enjoy the heroine's dancing with the stars of suspects.

How To Party With a Killer Vampire
Penny Warner
9780451235015, $7.99

Party planner Presley Parker lives in a condo and has an office on San Francisco's Treasure Island. Also working there is CeeGee Studios' movie producer-director Lucas Cruz. He hires Presley to plan a "wrap party" at Lawndale Cemetery signifying the end of his latest film Revenge of the Killer Vampires. The night before the gala, three extras (Spidey, Trace and Lark) make a noisy exit practicing the sport of Parkour that her don't call him boyfriend Brad knows even the shoes to wear. The trio is upset that they were not invited to the event so plan to get even for this affront.

The next morning, Presley discovers Spidey is dead. The police initially assume it was an accident as the he practiced dangerous gymnastics. However, later they realize he was murdered. The night of the party has paparazzi Bodie Chase crashing the festivity, but was escorted out. Later he is found dead in open grave in the pet section of the graveyard, Presley, who has solved murder cases (see How To Survive A Killer Seance) and former cop Brad a crime scene cleaner investigate as they believe the two homicides are connected, but lack a linking motive and too many suspects.

The latest Party-Planning Mystery is a cleverly constructed whodunit with false leads, red herrings, and twists that hook readers who like the lead sleuths struggle to determine the identity of the killer. The perils of Presley makes her endearing as she goes from one fright to another, which keeps fans on the edge of their seat wondering what next at "Peaceful Kingdoms". Penny Warner provides a superb murder mystery.

Thread Reckoning
Amanda Lee
9780451234551, $7.99

Marcy Singer left California when her fiance David Frist jilted her on their wedding day without telling her he got cold feet. She moved to quaint Tallulah Falls, Oregon where she opens up The Seven Year Stitch embroidery specialty shop.

Cassandra Wainwright enters the store wanting Marcy to add embroidery to her wedding dress that would include fake jewels given to the bride by her future mother-in-law Francesca Ortega. Marcy's boyfriend police officer Ted Nash awakens her late at night with news of a dead female outside her establishment. Marcy identifies the body as Francesca. She explains about the dress and the jewels; the police confiscate the gems as evidence only to learn they are genuine. The victim's son Francisco insists he has no idea how his late mom possessed real jewels, but that it might have involved her job at former job at Santiago, Inc. The matriarch of the Santiago clan reported her jewels stolen, but her son Frederic knows his mom was not a thief. Experienced in solving homicides (see Stitch Me Deadly), Marcy investigates one stitch at a time so that she can figure out what led to Francesca's murder.

This charming cozy contains a difficult to solve homicide because no one seems to have a viable motive. While the protagonist investigates (a sub-genre hazard of amateur sleuthing for no reasonable reason) she deals with David who obstinately wants her back and refuses to accept no. His arrival and desire has his ex musing whether he is connected to the murder, the theft or both as he worked for the Santiago family. Readers will enjoy Amanda Lee's likable whodunit.

Murder of a Creped Suzette
Denise Swanson
9780451235008, $7.99

Music promoter Rex Taylor accompanied by his Country Roads company staff and some of his most popular clients descends on Scumble River. Rex wants to gain local support to build a country western music theater in town. The visitors give a free open air concert attended by most townsfolk including school psychologist and police consultant Skye Denison. She ducks into an RV to go to the bathroom and hides whens Rex and his top superstar Flint Jones come in.

Aspiring C&W singer and Rex's gopher Suzette Neal is late to perform as the opening act. Rex asks Flint who refuses as he is the star attraction. Suzette finally arrives and performs. Afterward she asks Skye to investigate the suspicious death of her mother in an accident in which Suzette swears she heard a stranger's voice. Skye agrees to look into the death of the performer's mother. The shrink goes to the site where the music theater is to be built. There she finds Suzette's body under a steamroller. Teaming up with her fiance, Police Chief Wally Boyd, they investigate the homicide of the daughter and relook the alleged accidental death of the mother.

Reading a Scumble River police procedural is always a treat as the audience tries to solve a convoluted murder. Fans will want the killer caught not just for legal justice but also for karma as the victim was a nice person. With a touch of romance and a bit of family drama to round out the whodunit, Murder of a Creped Suzette is a compelling cozy.

One Grave at a Time
Jeaniene Frost
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061783197, $7.99,

Fabian the friendly ghost introduces his buddies to his peer Elisabeth. She explains that in 1489 when she was twenty-seven years old, a magistrate and Heinrich Kramer accused her of witchcraft; though she was not a witch only a midwife, the zealous lunatic burned her at the stake. As a ghost she spooked his horse which led to the "Hammer of Witches" being tossed to his death. However, the story does not end there as Heinrich became a ghost who over the centuries every Halloween when he gains a body he continues his inferno homicides. She wants to execute this vile ghost.

Cat agrees with Elisabeth's assertion that this abomination needs total extinction as Kramer selects three females to haunt as a ghost before he tortures and kills them when he obtains his annual body. Cat and Bones work up a plan to destroy the medieval ghost and his human sidekick, but also still must deal with her dead Uncle Don hanging around at the Lasting Peace Cemetery in Garland, Texas and Jason Madigan's plans for them and their team.

One Grave at a Time continues the fresh exciting adventures of Cat and Bones. This time in the Jeaniene Frost Night Huntress urban fantasy realm, the protagonists work on killing a dead spirit as well as her Uncle who remains on This Side of the Grave. As always in this strong series, there is plenty of action while Cat evolves further as now she is full "blooded" vampire. Readers will want to join the dynamic duo as they cope with the good, the bad and the ugly ghosts and Jason.

The Deed
Lynsay Sands
9780062019707, $7.99

In 1395 England, her cousin regal favorite Duke Rolfe arranges for Lady Emmalene Eberhart to meet with King Richard II as she wants to be a good wife to Lord Fulk her husband of two years. Though she hesitates she blurts out that her spouse has not bed her and she wants a royal decree ordering him to consummate their vows as she wants children. Fate intervenes as her husband dies on his way home to do The Deed, leaving her still a virgin but with a large dowry and estate.

The monarch rewards loyal landless knight Amaury de Aneford with marriage to Lady Emmalene. However, others want control of her vast estate and are willing to kill her betrothed and take her virginity. As she remains ignorant of the boudoir and he ignorant of anything unrelated to war, this couple needs a primer if they fail to allow love to train them in a marital relationship.

This is a reprint of the humorous first Lynsay Sands romance. The story line employs hyperbole as the faults and ignorance of both protagonists are amusingly exaggerated. Though an external threat adds suspense, this subplot detracts from the virgin bedding as the crowd asking whether the Deed is done is the medieval equivalent of the movie Are We There Yet

Star Crossed Seduction
Jenny Brown
9780061976063, $7.99

In 1820 Dragoon Captain Miles Trevelyan has just returned home to find a proper "military" bride after a decade stationed in India. One week in London and the bored Miles wants to go "home" as he was only fifteen when he enlisted following his father's death.

A tiny girl sells Miles a poorly drawn picture of a broadsword while all in black Temperance "Tem" Smith picks his pocket. However, Miles catches her in the act, but is frozen when he sees her. She flees knowing he saw her.

Miles cannot forget the woman in black and searches for her. She loathes herself for feeling passion for a dragoon as his unit killed her lover. While his mom seeks advice for her son's marital hunt from an astrologer who runs a homeless shelter for young women, Tem learns her dead lover lives in America. Trev finds her and persuades her to be his mistress. As lust turns to love, trust remains difficult for this pair of Scorpios to accept.

The second astrological Regency romance (see Lord Lightning) stars an intriguing pair who meet when she steals his wallet. The story line starts slow until the second encounter speeds up the pace as the two Scorpios battle one another and their respective hearts. Anchored by real historical tidbits interwoven into the plot, readers will enjoy this fun nineteenth century tale as love is in the stars.

A Night to Surrender
Tessa Dare
9780062049834, $7.99

In 1813 in Spindle Cove, Sussex, women run the seaside town as their personal sanctuary. Men for the most part especially militia are unwanted as the male dominated army takes over everything. Lieutenant Colonel Victor "Bram" Bramwell leads a troop heading to the town to set up an encampment as French forces are rumored nearby. However, sheep block their passage so he has his squad use explosives to move the flock. Susanna Finch happens to be walking nearby, but Bram saves her by knocking her from harm's way.

Susanna and Bram are attracted to one another, but he has three strikes against him even before they can relate. First he is titled; second he owns a dilapidated castle; and third he is military. Still as the couple intelligently debates what protection the women of Spindle Cove need, they fall in love.

The first Spindle Cove Regency romance is a delightful historical starring two stubborn strong battling protagonists with conflicting needs supported by a deep secondary cast. The enjoyable story line is fast paced with a nod to Lysistrata. Sub-genre readers will appreciate this brilliant early nineteenth century gender war as love may not be enough.

One Night In London: The Truth About the Duke
Caroline Linden
9780062025326, $7.99

Affluent widow Francesca Gordon desperately needs to gain custody of her orphaned niece Georgina from her wicked stepmother. She goes to hire the most highly regarded solicitor, but is too late as the Lord Edward de Lacey has retained the man to defend the inheritance of him and his brothers as a rumor spreads that they may not be the legitimate heirs.

Thus Francesca and Edward meet at the solicitor's office. She offers the aristocrat a deal he accepts. She will counter the gossip in exchange for his support of her effort to legally raise Georgina. As they work together, they fall in love though she is passionate heat and he is cool logic.

Starting with the fresh first encounter, the lead couple makes One Night In London an enjoyable historical reading experience. Fast-paced throughout although the two legal cases never quite sustain their early momentum, fans will enjoy the lead couple as each feels their issue takes precedent over the other's so that love may not be enough to cement their relationship once the legal matters are done. With two brothers to follow to the delight of Regency fans, Caroline Linden provides an engaging nineteenth century legal romance.

In the Arms of a Marquess
Katherine Ashe
9780061965654, $7.99

In 1812 teenage Octavia "Tavy" Pierce arrives in Madras, India from England during a monsoon. She lives with her older sister and brother-in-law. Tavy and her sister's neighbor Ben Doree meet and fall in love, but her family rules him unacceptable as a hybrid third son.

Just under a decade of residing in India, Tavy relishes her time there as she loves the culture. Now five and twenty years old she turned into a beauty. Thus in 1821 Tavy goes back to London where she is expected to make a match. Ben also lives in England as he has become the Marquess of Doree, which makes him acceptable by her family. The pair remains in love, but Lord Marcus Crispin also wants to marry Tavy. As the two male aristocrats compete for Tavy's hand in marriage, someone stalks them.

In the Arms of a Marquess is an exhilarating Regency romantic suspense that uses early nineteenth century India to refresh the mostly in England plot. The cast is solid while readers will enjoy this fine fast-paced, historical thriller while wondering who the villain is. Note that a portion of the sales will be donated to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

The Seduction of Scandal
Cathy Maxwell
9780061772122, $7.99

In 1811 the Duke of Banfield decides his daughter Lady Corinne will marry Lord Freddie Sherman. Although the Ton insists he is the catch of the season, she loathes the repugnant Sherman. Thus Lady Corinne decides to run away until the wedding day passes without her.

Thorn the infamous highwayman catches Corinne. She makes a deal with him to keep her as his prisoner until after her wedding day and in return she will not reveal his secret identity. However, as the highwayman and the runaway fiancee fall in love, Sherman and her father seek Corinne while others seek Thorn to hang him.

Although a Robin Hood hero has been used before, Cathy Maxwell keeps her enjoyable Regency romance fun due to the strong quirky support cast. The lead couple is a nice pairing of an unlikely duo falling in love, but it is those pursuing the fleeing twosome who brings the action to them (and the novel). Sub-genre readers will enjoy the escapades of Thorn and Corinne as they elude a horde of pursuers. Note that a portion of the sales will be donated to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue
Stephanie Laurens
9780062068606, $7.99

In 1829 unmarried twenty-five year old Heather Cynster decides to no longer wait for her hero to sweep her off her feet or for her to be declared an on the shelf spinster. Instead she chooses to sweep the man of her dreams off his feet.

Heather crashes a non-sanctioned gala only instead of her dream mate, notorious rake Viscount Breckenridge, Timothy Danvers, intercepts her. Timothy charmingly in a rage kicks her out of the party before she becomes the subject of scandal while Heather declares he is too old for her. However, hooligans abduct Heather, but once again Timothy comes to her rescue by pretending to be a clerk who seems to help her captors only to free her when the opportunity arises. This time he stays near her to keep her safe though he wonders who will keep her safe from him.

Readers will relish the action packed first Cynster Sisters historical romantic suspense due to a strong lead couple and the villains whose motive for the abduction rings true to followers of the saga. Fans will enjoy this fun tale as the rake and the spinster fall in love but he must convince her that he is her hero.

The Survivor
Shelley Shepard Gray
9780062020635, $12.99

In Jacob's Crossing, twenty-something Mattie Lapp has survived her war with cancer that took over her life for the past few years. On a Geauga County Hospital elevator, the Amish Mattie asks her best friend Graham Weaver to help her find a husband as she was fighting for her life when other girls her age like her cousin Lucy found their mates. Graham reluctantly agrees.

Mattie's personal preference is for Graham to court her, but he treats her like an invalid best buddy. Worse is the rumor that he sired the baby single woman Jenna Yoder carries. To Mattie, the gossip is false as she knows her Graham would never ignore a child or an unborn of his. However, the destruction of his reputation bothers Graham just like the gossip that she was dying disturbed Mattie. She vows to be there for Graham like he was for her.

The third Families of Honor Amish romance is a terrific drama that focuses on anyone surviving the cruel frightening darkness even a baby bunny for God's light is always nearby. Fans of the series will relish Mattie finding love as she is a cancer survivor who has been very sick through the previous two novels (see The Protector and The Caregiver). Shelley Shepard Gray provides a strong entry in a great inspirational Amish saga.

Ripe for Scandal
Isobel Carr
Forever Romance
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446572736, $7.99,

In 1784 as the spare Gareth Sandison belongs to the secret League of Second Sons. He does not mind playing second fiddle except he knows his station is far below the one woman he adores, his best friend's sister, Boudicea "Beau" Vaughn. Unbeknownst to Gareth who has become a notorious rake, Lady Beau misses him since he stopped teasing her.

When Lady Beau steps out of the Pall Mall circulating library, Mr. Nowlin grabs her and tosses her inside his coach. He plans to take his victim to Gretna Green. She expects her father and brothers to rescue her. Gareth stops at an inn and notices Beau eloping. Unable to stop himself he gives chase. He rescues Beau from her irate kidnapper. They flee the angry Nowlin and his apparent allies over the next few days before reaching her family. Gareth proposes as he knows his beloved has been compromised and she accepts though she distrusts the motives of the man she loves. She agrees to a marriage of convenience while he is accused of siring a child Jamie.

Ripe for Scandal is an enjoyable Georgian romance starring a couple who love but seem to be drifting further apart as outsiders take advantage of the mistrust between the protagonists. With an intelligent marriage of (in) convenience plot, the second League of Second Sons (see Ripe for Pleasure) is a fabulous tale as love may not be enough for this couple.

Home At Last Chance
Hope Ramsay
9780446576109, $7.99

Tulane Rhodes left his home Last Chance, South Carolina to become a racing car driver. He has been successful, but currently is angry at Bostonian public relations specialist Sarah Murray. She painted his vehicle sissy pink with a bunny. Her rational is that Jim Ferguson Racing Team's sponsor Cottontail Disposable Diaper uses pink as the official color. Her marketing has gone viral with sales leaping. To add insult she wants him to wear a girly pink racing outfit.

Though he wants to ring her cute neck, Tulane goes pink as he has no choice without a win this year and is in trouble because of his temper. The pair is in Last Chance for a race. He knows the Ladies Auxiliary at Cut & Curl will intrude on his life and that of the New England pink imp. To Tulane's chagrin his predictions about Sarah prove true as the ladies including his mom Ruby adore her and she likes them too. The matchmakers decide the good preacher's daughter Sarah and Reverend Ellis is a match made in heavenly Last Chance, Ruby thinks her devilish son is the one.

Readers will feel once again the warm Welcome to Last Chance by the quirky Ladies Auxiliary crew in a fun around the oval romance. The entertaining tale stars stereotypes with a good girl-bad boy falling in love theme that Hope Ramsey makes fun to read. Contemporary fans will enjoy the homespun regional race to the finish line.

Knight's Curse
Karen Duvall
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373803408, $14.95,

In Lebanon, Gavin Heinrich arrives at a monastery to honor his late wife Felicia's wishes. She had died in a plane crash thirteen years ago but not before giving birth. Brother Thomas and the other Maronite monks raised Chalice who has extrasensory skills and no friends her age. Chalice has no idea her mom left her a letter, but she distrusts Heinrich who she believes is acting as a grieving angst laden man who claims to be her father. Before forcing her to leave with him, he kills the monks using green lightning shot from his fingers.

In the United States for the next dozen years, the Vyantara train and use Chalice as a thief. Undercover inside the Vyantara, Aydin the immortal has been bringing back together the Hatchet Knights, but has one more to recruit; a person he protects. The problem is not that she is a thief which she is but that she has no earthly idea of her heritage. Chalice must choose as her sorcerer kidnapper now orders her to steal something powerful; failure to do so will mean death as she is cursed.

The opening venture into the Duvall urban fantasy realm is an exhilarating tale once the background world is established as there is a seemingly early overload of information. The beleaguered protagonist is a confused adult who is unsure what to do though Aydin mentors her. Filled with sorcerers, angels and the fallen, fans will enjoy this complex thriller as the heroine learns good and evil are not polar absolutes.

Neal Stephenson
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061977961, $35.00,

Peter saw an opportunity to make some fast cash. However, he handed the Russian mafia a virus infected thumb drive that was destroying their encrypted data base. Ivanov the customer is unhappy but wants more than just his money back and his files freed; he wants to scatter Peter's remains across the states before his comrades learn what happened and scatters his.

His girlfriend Zula takes him from their home in Seattle to her black sheep Uncle Richard's farm in Iowa. When Nixon was president, Richard fled to British Columbia to avoid the draft; there he became a millionaire smuggling marijuana into Idaho. Years later with Carter amnesty, Richard used his money to create his remote "farm" in which his niece and her boyfriend visit him. However, his biggest success since he stopped trafficking is T'Rain multiplayer virtual game; that is until now, as hackers in China have deployed the REAMDE virus that encrypts a player's electronic files until remittance is made to release them.

This is an exciting international thriller starring two black sheep and the woman who connects them. The story line travels the globe while containing engaging spins and a horde of characters from many points around the world. Although at times the subplots go seemingly forever nowhere, overall readers will enjoy the adventures of Zula and the two rogues in her life.

The Year Everything Changed
Georgia Bockoven
9780062069320, $14.99

In March 2000, attorney Lucy Hargreaves sends letters to four women. In the note, she says she represents Jessie Patrick Reed, who claims to be their biological father that none of them ever met or new existed. He is dying and would like to meet them in his home in Sacramento.

Ginger Reynolds and Marc Osborne are divorcing but he will not leave until their two children understand he is not leaving them, but is stunned to learn her loving caring parents adopted her. Twentyish filmmaker Christina Alvarado slightly remembers him but never understood why he left her; her mate Randy wants her to go in case Jessie is rich so they can fund a project in Los Angeles. Rachel Nolan learns her husband Jeff is having an affair with Sandy on the same day she finds out that a Jessie Reed claims to be her father. Elizabeth Walker loves her husband Sam, her younger sister Stephanie and her mom Denise, but though years have passed she never understood why her dad Jessie deserted her; now he wants to see her but she does not want to see him though she wants to confront him. Now four stepsisters meet for the first time when they visit their dying biological dad.

This is a discerning extended family drama that focuses on how much society changes over the decades as some taboos become acceptable and others not. This book is character driven by the four stepsisters; each having widely different personalities, family issues and diverse reasons for wanting to know why he left them. The support cast especially Lucy and Jessie enhances an epic thought provoking look at how societal customs change over time.

Little Black Dress
Susan McBride
9780062027191, $14.99

Owner of Engagements by Antonia, Toni Ashton diligently works as a party planner who focuses mostly on weddings. She meets her boyfriend Greg McCallum for dinner hoping he asks her to marry him. Instead he points out she is late, ordered for them, and he gives her a key to his place so they can have a trial run. She is disappointed, but before she reacts, her cell phone rings; a Blue Hills Hospital nurse informs her that her mother Evie suffered a crippling stroke.

Without a goodbye, Toni heads to her hometown of Blue Hills, Missouri for the first time since her dad died. Toni moves into the family house she grew up in and begins to organize her mom's affairs amidst the crammed home. Thinking her mom was a hoarder, Toni finds clues and truths about her mom and her maternal Aunt Anna, who vanished long before she was born back in the 1950s after the purchase of a Little Black Dress in which the siblings both put on and saw their respective futures.

Little Black Dress is a whimsical drama that looks deeply at relationships especially broken ones between loving family members. The story line contains two subplots as readers follow Toni in the present and the two sisters five decades ago. The Eisenhower Era segue is especially fascinating as the siblings are polar opposites who will have the audience wondering what each saw. This engaging tale will leave the reader looking at their relationships especially the troubled ones as time is short to mend estrangements.

Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship
Tom Ryan
9780061997105, $25.99

Newburyport, Massachusetts Undertoad newspaper editor Tom Ryan hiked several New Hampshire Mountains with his brothers. When his friend Vicki Pearson died from cancer, Tom felt a need to honor her. He closed his paper and decided to climb all forty-eight peaks in the White Mountains to raise money for charity in Vicki's name. When his schnauzer Max died, Tom obtained an unwanted schnauzer pup Atticus Maxwell Finch who joined him on the trek of climbing the 48 in 90 days.

This is a fascinating poignant memoir that passionately focuses on much more than just a man and a dog in booties bonding while climbing mountains. Instead Tom Ryan discusses his estrangement with his late opinionated dad that has left him feeling regret, but between the mountains and his heroic canine, he felt a spiritual enlightenment that has given his pre climbing tortured soul tranquility. This is a super biography of a troubled man finding solace by Following Atticus' lead to nirvana.

The Dark Glamour
Gabriella Pierce
9780061434907, $13.99

Recently married Jane Doran buried her beloved grandma and learned she was a witch. She hides from the mother-in-law from hell Lynne the witch in a Manhattan dump near the Port Authority using the guise of Caroline Chase. Jane knows Lynne's plans for her involve a witch granddaughter to replace her late heir six years old daughter Annette who died two decades ago. Lynne offers three million to anyone who brings them home safely; while NYPD names the newlyweds as persons of interest in a cab accident in which the driver vanished.

She wonders whether Malcolm who has vanished is as evil as his mother as she assumes he murdered her grandma but also gave Jane access to a special safe-deposit box filled with seemingly endless cash and a glass unicorn that belonged to his Annette. Jane uses the unicorn to learn Annette lives in wretched conditions, but loses the connection when the unicorn breaks. She needs access to other Annette items that can only be found in the den of her enemy at 666 Park Avenue. With the help of Wiccan like Dee, Jane turns into a Brazilian sexy baroness Ella. Andre Dalcascu arrives from Romania seeking an alliance with Lynne and her horde. Ella is attracted Andre.

The sequel to 666 Park Avenue is an entertaining chick lit urban fantasy starring a woman in peril from malevolent witches led by a matriarch who needs the birth of the next generation replacement. The story line is fast-paced while Jane wonders what happened to her life ever since she married the offspring of a she-demon. Although the asides while in trouble seem unlikely semi-noir for a kick butt rookie, readers will enjoy The Dark Glamour.

Loose Diamonds
Amy Ephron
9780061958748, $19.99

These eighteen short memoirs are entertaining well written fluffs that are fun to read. The first entry title story "Loose Diamonds" starts when the author is eight living next door to The Secret Garden and closes with the recovery of stolen loot. She was a child drawing on the sidewalk when Marion asked her to meet her ailing employer who the child thought was Mr. Samuel Clemens in the "Birdman". Amy Ephron was tossed out of the exclusive Isabelle Buckley School for violating the dress code with her new red "Expensive Shoes"; there she met her first attraction Lenny Footlick. In 1971, teenage Ms. Ephron discusses "My Afternoon with Squeaky Fromme at the "Manson" Family ranch. The author spent "Labor Day" sharing a hospital room with one of Elizabeth Taylor's daughter-in-law as both give birth while criticizing the actress' gaudy diamonds. Although the compilation is shallow with none of the entries containing profundity, fans of the author will enjoy her look back at her life in Los Angeles and New York.

Simon Toyne
9780062038302, $25.99

Near Ruin, Turkey, high on the side of a mountain is the Citadel Church where the Sancti monks guard "the Sacrament" as the sect has done for millennia. Brother Samuel escapes from a cell in this oldest known abode still in use. He climbs a ledge and leaps to his death while civilians and the media catch his suicide.

American newspaper reporter Liv Adamsen is shocked to learn the dead monk learns that her phone number was found etched onto a leather strap inside Samuel's stomach. She realizes that Samuel is her brother who she lost contact with years ago when he abruptly vanished. Needing to understand why he disappeared to become a monk and killed himself, Liv travels to Ruin. She and others will find out that the Sancti will kill to protect the "Sacrament".

This exciting Brownian thriller hooks the reader from the moment Samuel begins his escape from the Sancti knowing there is only one way out and never slows down as the religious sect risk all to keep the secret safe while the outsiders demand the truth. Fast-paced with several stunning twists, readers will wonder whether the monks are truly evil as they die for the Sacrament; just like Jews did to save Torahs from the Nazis.

A Bitter Truth
Charles Todd
9780062015709, $24.99

In 1917, battlefield nurse Sister Bess Crawford leaves the front in France to spend Christmas with her family in Somerset, England. Bess stops at a London boarding house for the night with plans to complete the journey home the next day. Instead she finds a battered, cold and wet woman curled in a fetus like position at her door. She brings twentyish Lydia Ellis inside.

The next morning Lydia tells Bess she is leaving her abusive husband Roger for hitting her. Lydia persuades Bess to come with her to her home Vixen Hill in Sussex so she can confront her spouse. At Vixen Hill, family friend George Hughes swears he saw a child in France who looked like Juliana, Roger's late sister who died as an infant. Everyone including Roger's mother and grandmother assume he sired a child while he was on the continent. Someone murders George with the police suspecting Lydia. Bess returns to France looking for the child and soon with the help of an Aussie finds Sophie who she brings to Sussex as another homicide occurs.

The latest Bess Crawford WWI amateur sleuth (see An Impartial Witness) is an exhilarating multilayered mystery. Kindhearted Bess cannot stop herself from helping someone in need, a trait readers will admire. France and England seem geographically small considering the state of transportation in 1917 and especially since nothing is quiet on the western front as Bess runs into others too frequently. Still Team Todd once again provides the audience, as he does with the Inspector Rutledge police procedurals, a tale that deeply condemns war.

The Most Dangerous Thing
Laura Lippman
9780061706516, $25.99

In 1977 in the Baltimore suburb Dickeyville the three Halloran brothers (Gordon aka Go-Go, Tim and Sean), and their friends Gwen and Mickey did everything together especially in playing in Leakin Park. Go-Go the youngest of the siblings dominates his older brothers. Mickey the tomboy loved being outside perhaps because her mom has a propensity for nasty men. Overweight Gwen feared she will be ugly but also is scared that if she becomes a beauty like her mom she will be depressed and melancholy also like her mom. However, a violent tragedy in the woods ends their camaraderie.

Three decades later, a recovering alcoholic, Go-Go is intoxicated when he drives his car into a wall. Tim lives nearby with his with his wife Arlene and his widowed mother Doris. Sean married to Vivian arrives from Florida. Mickey the flight attendant comes home for the funeral. Finally Gwen the reporter, as she is about to be divorced, forces the survivors to look at their childhood bond and what shattered it.

The Most Dangerous Thing is a super look at the child is the adult as the incident in the woods is the final shaping of the quintet. Character driven as the five and other family members have diverse personalities, Laura Lippmann writes a deep look at childhood and adulthood. Tess Monaghan makes a cameo appearance, but her fans will still appreciate this strong glimpse at adults whose memories of childhood in 1977 make for a fascinating thriller.

Season for Temptation
Theresa Romain
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9781420118957, $6.99,

In 1817 Lord Oliver approves of James Matison's suit of the former's daughter Louisa. James arrives in Kent to meet Louisa's family when he hears a women curse. He thinks Louisa's half-sister Julia is impulsive and cute. She introduces him to her three younger sisters and brother while she eats the better snacks.

James and Louisa met in a library at a party. She was hiding amidst the books as she loves to read while he sought a bathroom. He feels awkward as he now realizes he is attracted to her sister and enjoys the impish play between his fiancee and Julia. Louisa's parents arrive after a calf is born. Dinner proves as lively; reminding him of his mother's need for no scandal since his late brother-in-law died in his mistress' arms. James feels welcomed. The next morning he is late for breakfast, but Julia sees he has a nice meal while he coaxes her to join him, which she does. Feeling distraught as he wants to kiss Julia, he asks Louisa to set a date. She acts skittish trying to delay him while also backing away from his attempt to kiss her. Louisa explains she will come to London with Julia being sponsored by their Aunt Estella. They will wed after that; he agrees though his attraction is to her sister.

A strong unique cast, especially Julia's eccentric family, anchors this engaging romantic triangle between the two sisters and the Viscount. Each adores and respects one another, which adds depth as not one of them deserves to be hurt. In fact James's mom is the villain, but comes across as inane and selfish while causing unnecessary conflict to an otherwise wonderful fresh Regency romance.

Knight Everlasting
Jackie Ivie
9781420108859, $6.99

In 1297, during combat, Highlander laird Aidan MacKetryck rescues English Lady Juliana D'Aubenville from the battlefield. She conceals her identity from her savior out of fear because her family is under a deadly assault from an unknown vicious adversary. Instead Juliana asks Aidan to let her go, but he refuses to comply with her request.

Aidan, who was cursed at birth, vows to uncovers her secret and make the enigmatic female his. She has escaped captivity before and plots to do so again. However, she unprepared for his need to keep her safe while she also feels a necessity to cover his back as he has traitors within his clan plotting to replace their laird as leader.

The latest Knight medieval romance (see Tender Is the Knight and Lady of the Knight) is a wonderful late thirteenth century tale. She is the Houdini of the era while his superstitions enhance the entertaining story line with a refreshing lead. Although the tale starts slowly after the first encounter in which the couple arguing over whether he saved her life or nearly killed her, the pace accelerates as readers will enjoy the gender war between two cursed souls.

Tis The Season to be Sinful
Adrienne Basso
9781420111910, $6.99

In 1858 England, American businessman Richard Harper arrives at Highgrove Manor to buy the place. He explains to widow Juliet Wentworth, mother of three young children he needs it for a short time. He offers her a deal she cannot refuse since this enable her and her family to no longer remain impoverished as they are now since her brother-in-law Hastings gives them very little money. Juliet tells her sons she sold the estate. Hastings yells at Juliet that as co-guardian he will not allow the sale to occur. Richard tells Juliet her joking comment when they met is the answer. Thus they agree to a marriage of convenience with Richard's stipulation being no future kids and her point that the estate belongs to Edgar.

He meets the kids and knows Edgar is hostile; James is curious; and Lizzie is guileless. After they marry, they make love. He asks her to redesign the house as he leaves on extended business. While he is away they exchange letters in which he begins to open up and trust her opinion. As the married couple falls in love and his new sons prank him, he wins over the children when he defends them at the cost of a business deal.

The lead male is a refreshing character as he is all business even in marriage until he falls in love. His stand re his stepsons vs. a business partner is terrific. The secondary cast including the nice late first husband enhances the story line. Although the odious brother-in-law is the negative matchmaker, he vanishes from the story line. Still in spite of no major villain and muted conflict, this is an entertaining Victorian romance.

A Texas Christmas
Jodi Thomas, Linda Broday, Phyliss Miranda and DeWanna Pace
9781420119664, $6.99

"One Wish: A Christmas Story" by Jodi Thomas. In December 1887 in Kasota Springs, Texas, Sam the farmer wants to go home but waits in a cold alley watching the mercantile across the street as he fears for the life of Maggie who he has cherished since they met as little kids. He knows his bloodline is not good enough, but she persuades him otherwise when he recues her from robbers.

"Naughty or Nice?" By DeWanna Pace. In December 1887 tired of the scorn by the townsfolk of Kasota Springs, saloon owner Anna Ross returns from a supply run as a snowstorm assaults the Texas Panhandle. There she saves the life of greenhorn James Elliot III caught in the blizzard.

"The Christmas Bell" by Linda Broday. In December 1887 the blizzard strands the train on the Texas Panhandle as it headed to Kasota Springs. On board is spoiled Tess Whitgrove the banker's daughter coming home from Boston. Sloan Sullivan, who she disliked when they were children, arrives with a sled to rescue the stranded passengers and workers.

"Away in the Manger" by Phyliss Miranda. In 1887 on the Texas Panhandle Randall Humphrey looks forward to solitude during the Christmas season. Instead the Kasota Springs blacksmith finds Edwinna Dewey yelling at him over his half brother failing to arrive with her family. Her niece Sarah Callahan arrives with three years old twins Damon and Addie Claire at the blacksmith shop.

The latest western romance anthology by this quartet (see Give Me A Texas Outlaw) is a terrific somewhat interwoven but mostly separate tales of couples trapped by a snowstorm falling miraculously in love.

Born to Die
Lisa Jackson
9781420102789, $7.99

The last thing aging actress Shelly Bonaventure saw was the hate on the face of her killer. Though her death appears to be a suicide, LAPD Detective Jonas Hayes notices some anomalies. The killer had murdered others similar in shape to the least victim, but now targets Dr. Kacey Lambert who is no longer married or in Seattle. Instead she went back to Grizzly Falls, Montana.

A homicide of a teacher has Detectives Selena Alvarez and Regan Pescoli believing a serial killer is loose. The victims are females between 25 and 35 with similar body types and hair coloring. All in some way is connected to Grizzly Falls and have ties to Trace O'Halleran. Kacey Lambert fits the profile of the victims as she and Trace are attracted to one another.

The third Montana To Die serial killer police procedural (see Left to Die and Born to Die) is a tense thriller with a strong romantic Suspicion (Grant-Bergman movie) subplot enhancing the investigation. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the actress dies and never slows down as others die too. Although the motive is obvious early on, fans will enjoy Lisa Jackson's entertaining taut tale.

Bound by Night
Amanda Ashley
9781420104455, $6.99

Drake the vampire purchased Wolfram Castle four centuries ago. Although he has modern devices like an IPOD and better facilities to stay at he never modernized the rundown castle; he comes here when he needs quiet time alone.

After her parents died, Elena Knightsbridge moved in with her Aunt Henrietta, her Uncle Alfred and her cousin Lucinda. Henrietta has since died and Lucinda eloped. She fears her uncle who has been caressing her and insists they marry as they are not blood related. Elena flees to the haunted castle as ghosts are better than her uncle. Elena falls asleep on the couch. Drake knows a human female is inside. He tastes Elena and decides her blood is sweet. While Alfred searches for his niece, Elena wakes up in a bed near naked. Later she meets Drake who invites her to stay. Elena asks Drake to marry her in name only and he accepts her proposal. His brother Stefan informs him their sire demands he return to the Fortress for the first time in centuries. Drake tells Elena she will be safe at the Fortress though he will be punished as vampires do not marry humans.

The Ashley vampire world is fascinating though with today's social networking I have doubts a community of human sheep and drones could be hidden from society though one could argue cults do that very well. The lead couple is a solid pairing even with her being a victim of her uncle, her host, and her husband's family. The support cast is excellent as the sheep are unsure what freedom is. Although the lead couple pulls several Houdini tricks to stay out of trouble too easily, readers will enjoy Bound by Night.

Erin Kellerson
9781420118964, $6.99

The Shadowman as a dark fae resides in the Twilight between mortal life and the Afterlife. As a watcher he cannot enter either locale. He diligently remains at his lonely outpost as an observer who can watch but not leave.

However though a shadow fae, he is still a man. When he falls in love with human Kathleen O'Brien he would move heaven and hell for her. She reciprocates and becomes pregnant carrying his hybrid daughter. When Death comes for her even as she gives birth to Talia whom she cannot hold, Kathleen vows to find a way back to the two loves of her life while her weeping sister Maggs vows to take care of her newborn niece. However, their breaking of the rules with their forbidden love and his trespass rips an opening in the veil allowing evil creatures to enter realms banned to them.

The third dark fae Shadow romantic urban fantasy (see Shadow Fall and Shadow Bound), Shadowman is a superb thriller as the refreshing different look at the paranormal laws of physics makes for an entertaining read. Fans will learn a lot about Shadowman obsessed with love and the woman he cherishes who obstinately refuses to blithely cross over as she fixates over remaining because she needs to be with the fae and hybrid she loves with all her soul. Shadowman will be on the short list of best romantic urban fantasies of the year.

Larissa Ione, Alexandra Ivy, Jacquelyn Frank and G.A. Aiken
9781420109887, $7.99

"Vampire Fight Club" by Larissa Ione. In Demonica, shapeshifting nurse Vladlena goes undercover inside a vamp fight club to end a wave of violence, but meets the owner Nathan the vampire.

"Darkness Eternal" by Alexandra Ivy. In the Guardians of Eternity realm, four centuries of incarceration by a vampire left recently freed Kata wary of the Undead, but her vampiric sister leaves her no choice but Uriel the vampire is her only hope to save her soul.

"Kane" by Jacquelyn Frank. Nightwalker demon Kane knows Corrine the human is his soulmate but she is forbidden fruit.

"Dragon on Top" by G.A. Aiken. Dragon Warrior Ghleanna detests escorting royal diplomat Bram of the Dragon Kin through deadly Sand Dragon territory as he is a pain in her cute butt who she wants to share fire with.

The four fun romantic fantasies take place in the respective author's world so fans will want to join the quests with the polar opposite Demonica and Dragon Kin entries superb while the Guardians of Eternity and the Nightwalker entries somewhat thinner.

Highland Hunger
Hannah Howell, Michele Sinclair & Jackie Ivie
9780758261526, $15.00

"Dark Embrace" by Hannah Howell. Railbeart heads to a cave before the dawn when he hears men yelling witch. He rescues Una who says she was locked in a cage with three others. She explains the Laird took their blood, which healed injuries, and raped the women. He informs her she is a Lost One and will take her to his clan to get help to rescue the others. Rai tells Una he will woo her.

"A Knight Beyond Black" by Jackie Ivie. Iain explains to Tira she is his betrothed. He conceals he has waited three centuries for her to arrive. Her dad sold her marital status when she was born so the family could survive. Iain and Tira wed and head by yacht to his estate. Iain needs blood but only wants that of Tira. He gives her his blood and tells her he loves her. She becomes upset when she realizes what he did to her.

"The Guardian" by Michele Sinclair. Moirae Deincourt has a limp from an assault that killed her grandparents. The gossips tell her the Guardian of Badinoch rescued a family from demons. She is surprised since she is the Guardian. Dorian learns his enemy Ionas seeks the white haired woman. A dozen men chase Moirae who kills several with her arrows, Dorian rescues her. As they fall in love he fears her blood will lead to war.

These are three entertaining historical romantic fantasies starring strong lead couples. Though I find it distracting, the Scottish accents add to the sense of authenticity. Although the support casts including the villains are weak as the format does not allow full development, sub-genre fans will enjoy these fun paranormal historical tales.

Our Daily Bread
Lauren B. Davis
Wordcraft of Oregon
P.O. Box 3235, La Grande, OR 97850
9781877655722, $15.00,

The people of Gideon ignore the Erskine clan that lives nearby on North Mountain. They see their neighbors as beyond redemption who fornicate like beasts and perform sexual depraved acts on children; most of whom are the offspring of incest. The elders used to sell moonshine, but find meth more lucrative though that turns them even more violently abusive.

Albert Erskine is the only adult who turns his back on the mountain. He lives as a hermit in an isolated cabin. His dream is to leave, but Albert knows if he does his family will kill him because nobody leaves the clan and the children need the little protection he can give.

In Gideon fifteen year old Bobby Evan's mother ran off with a man leaving her teenage son angry and bitter. His father Tom drowns himself in alcohol while his sister Ivy fled to the haven of Widow Dorothy Carlisle and Albert offer his friendship to Bobby. Danger stalks the mountain residents when Albert tries to help Bobby and himself.

The God-fearing Gideonites fail to act to prevent child abuse including rape and incest but though they feel shame for not living up to the Lord's expectations they rationalize that intervention is not their problem as "we' are pious and "they" are sinners. Albert forces everyone to look deep into their soul as he protects the clan's children and though he befriends Bobby he also tries to keep him safe from self destructing as best as he can. Timely with the Jeff's trial in Texas and based on a true story, readers will appreciate this dark family drama that asks everyone not what God can do for you, but what can you do for God.

The Pub Across The Pond
Mary Carter
Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758253361, $15.00,

In Ballybeog, Ireland Ronan McBride, his six sisters known as the half dozen and his widowed mom own Uncle Jimmy's. Next door to their pub is their Uncle Joe's market. During a poker game, Joe tosses in his store while Ronan does likewise with the pub. The players agree to a fall back position for the loser to buy back their establishment. Though he has four of a kind, Ronan loses the pub to Joe's royal flush. Ronan informs the ladies he lost the pub. The Half Dozen host a raffle in America with the winner owning the pub. In Ohio, Carlene Rivers wins the raffle. She leaves her agoraphobic father and the fight gym he owns for Ireland.

Ronen meets Carlene at Galway, but takes her to the racetrack instead of the pub as he says she is lucky. She wins the first race but loses the rest. Everyone welcomes the "Fecking Yank" with a party. She gets drunk and Ronan takes her to bed. Joe offers to buy the pub but Carlene says no. Though attracted to Ronan, Carlene assumes he is fickle. Meanwhile someone wants the Yankee Doodle Dandy to go home and with Ronan's rejection as wells as the townsfolk divided about her, she thinks it is time to return to Ohio.

Mindful of a cross between Irish Jam and Leap Year. the American in Ireland is a strong character who keeps the story line focused. The secondary cast, almost all Irish, immensely enhance the story line. Putting aside the poker hands, this is a warm contemporary as Ronen meets his match in the Feckin Yank but may fail to recognize how he feels before she re-crosses the Great Pond.

Aftertaste: A Novel in Five Courses
Meredith Mileti
9780758259912, $15.00

When she was seven months pregnant, Mira Rinaldi hired Nicola as the Maitress d'hotel at her Manhattan Italian restaurant, Grappa. Two months later she gives birth to Chloe. However, Mira begins to think her spouse and restaurant co-owner Jake is having an affair with Nicola. When two months old Chloe wakes her up in the wee hours of the morning, she finds her spouse not home. Mira with Chloe walks to nearby Grappa; there she finds Jake and the Maitress d'hotel having sex. She explodes attacking Nicola. Later Judge Wilcox places Mira on probation and makes her attend an anger management seminar.

Mira files for divorce and flees with her baby to her family in Pittsburgh. She knows she may lose her beloved Grappa but Mira refuses to retreat. Instead as her family and friends surround her with love she seeks a revised gourmet five course meal while Jake betrays her again even after their divorced.

This is a terrific drama due to the mercurial Mira's reactions to life changes (having a baby, a cheating husband, a divorce, a potential move and much more). Mindful of No Reservations but with its own five course story line, fans will enjoy Mira's heartfelt love of cooking as she seeks a new way to balance the loves of her life.

Elvis and the Tropical Double Trouble
Peggy Webb
9780758241412, $23.00

Wanting to escape her man problems back home hairdresser Callie Valentine Jones accompanied by Elvis the reincarnated basset hound flees Mooresville, Mississippi to join her family at an archeological excavation dig near Cozumel, Mexico. Her cousin Lovie's boyfriend Rocky leads the work at the site.

Almost immediately upon arrival, Elvis finds human remains that are too modern to be ancient Mayan. Even Callie's inane mom recognizes a homicide when she sees the bone Elvis possesses. Callie wants nothing to do with sleuthing as she hates getting involved, but feels she has no choice when Lovie and Elvis vanish just as her hopefully soon to be former husband Jack arrives like the cavalry at the crime scene

The fourth Southern Cousins mystery (see Elvis and the Grateful Dead, and Elvis and the Memphis Mambo Murders) is a zany intelligent cozy starring the extended eccentric Valentine brood. Callie holds the story line focused as she reluctantly investigates her missing loved ones and by default the murder while she knows Jack will have her back. Though Elvis is less of a hound dog than usual, fans will enjoy his (and Callie) Mexican adventures

Rough Play
Christina Crooks
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758261373, $14.00

Charlotte left her now ex-husband Corey aka Kartane because he took their dominant-submissive relationship to abusive extremes. Planning to avoid any SM relationship, she opens up a consulting business the Dating Coach.

A client Gail considers joining a popular Subspace BDSM club. Gail meets the owner Master Martin and Kartane. Charlotte becomes concerned when she fails to hear from Gail. She reluctantly goes to the club. Although she vowed to stay away from the underground fetish community, Charlotte feels she owes it to Gail to learn what happened to her. At Subspace, Charlotte meets Master Martin and sees her former spouse. As she falls under Martin's dominating spell, Charlotte fears for Gail and for herself.

This is an engaging BDSM romance in which Martin must prove to Charlotte that a dom-sub relationship does not have to become abusive. However, their changing relationship is not explored deep enough for readers to accept her trying again with a new master while her client may be in peril. Still sub-genre fans will enjoy the erotic adventures in Subspace.

Raw Desire
Kate Pearce
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758241405, $14.00

A decade ago, Ally Kendal and Rob Ward were engaged with plans to marry right after their high school graduation. However, their relationship imploded when she cheated with their best friend Jackson Smith and the latter's girlfriend Susan, is found dead in Ally's home. Heartbroken and filled with remorse, Ally leaves town.

Ally comes home for the first rime since she left in disgraceful scandal. She is selling her mother's house. Although she has never forgotten the man she still loves, her plan is to say low, finish the mission and get out of town. Rob has moved past the betrayal but when he sees his Alex, he knows he still wants her. His plan is to drive her wild with Raw Desire and need for him.

This is an engaging erotic second chance at love starring two interesting characters whose past is tied to love, betrayal and death. The relationship between the older lead couple is fun to follow though they too easily ignore what broke them up in the first place to reconnect sexually; but emotionally they never connect as the past never is quite put to rest.

So I Married a Demon Slayer
Kathy Love, Angie Fox and Lexi George
Kensington Brava
9780758263155, $14.00

"Hot!" by Kathy Love. Wannabe photographer Charlie Brown joins the mailroom of At Hot! Magazine with hope to show his work to the professional staff. However, he is unprepared for the dynamics of a demon CEO, a mailroom of undercover demon slaying Feds, and supermodel Ava Wells whose soul belongs to the devil and whose heart belongs to Charlie.

"What Slays In Vegas" by Angie Fox. In Vegas Damien the demon slayer targets the employer of hybrid succubus Shiloh. Instead the slayer and the succubus break a prime taboo when they end up married.

"The Bride Wore Demon Dust" by Lexi George. Sweet Home Alabama native Bunny the librarian is irate when demons controlling guests wreck havoc on her wedding. Her new husband is a slayer, but she is not one to sit idly by while he throws out the unwanted gatecrashers.

These three lighthearted paranormal romances star male demon slayers and the females who possess their hearts. The storylines are emaciated even considering these are novellas, but the lead characters in each entry brings marital bliss to the tales.

Dead Alert
Bianca D'Arc
Kensington Brava
9780758247339, $14.00

Although zombies ripped his skin, Green Beret Lieutenant Sam Archer survived the conversion infection due to an experimental vaccine. With the zombie threat somewhat muted, at Fort Bragg, unit Commander Matt Sykes (see A Darker Shade of Dead) assigns Sam to go undercover as a pilot at Praxis Air; Sam is to investigate whether the charter airline is trafficking in the black market sale of the zombie virus to foreign interests.

Pilot Emily Parkington co-owns Praxis Air. She loves her airline with a passion. The newcomer assumes she is party to the moving of questionable cargo though he prays not as he is attracted to her. When he is exposed as an agent, Sam, trusting his heart, turns to Emily for help to end the illegal zombie virus trade. Emily is stunned with what she learns as Praxis is her life.

This is an exhilarating romantic urban fantasy (see Once Bitten, Twice Dead) though the threat has diminished due to the anti zombie virus drug. The story line is fast-paced as the lead couple fall in love while fighting an insidious scheme to use her charter to spread the virus elsewhere. Like Sam, readers will wonder how the heroine could not know what is going on her airline even accepting she did not want to know. Readers will agree Wichita will never look the same after reading this entertaining thriller.

Spirit of the Wolf
Vonna Harper
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758242266, $14.00

In Oregon, ranch owner Matt Yaye grieves the loss of his friend Santo who along with his wife Addie took him in under their wings. Cat Alward trains horses and people to ride them. When Matt and Cat first met in a bar, they could not keep their hands off one another. That attraction remains intense though neither wants to explore why.

Meanwhile the Fish & Wildlife Commission has begun repopulating the desert area with wolves in an attempt to balance the shaky ecosystem. The Feds are unaware that the packs are led by angry Ghost Wolf, the spirit of a Paiute Indian who wants to kill all the whites who have destroyed the land. As Ghost Wolf sends his wolves to attack of humans while Matt, Cat and others hunt the alpha.

Spirit of the Wolf is an exciting erotic romantic fantasy built upon a Native American legend. Although the story line is at times difficult to follow with abrupt changes, readers will enjoy the adventures of Matt and Cat as they deal with something they don't quite believe exists, raging Ghost Wolf.

Temptation Island
Lorie O'Clare
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758261380, $14.00

Jenny Rogers wins a free trip to Hawaii by answering correct the question of what happened on August 16, 1977 on the TV show Last Chance for happiness. However, she is delayed at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, which leaves her reservation on the islands in jeopardy of cancelation and the show is uncooperative. Having met while waiting for flights to take off, wealthy widow Samantha Winston offers her a trip on her private jet in exchange for Jenny to make the Winston Enterprises CEO's appointments. Mrs. Winston likes the idea of fresh eyes.

Jenny's first appointment is with Samantha's orphaned maternal grandson Ric Karaka, who wants her to loan him money so he can renovate his paternal family's rundown plantation house turning it into a B&B. Ric must persuade his grandmother's agent Jenny that his restoration is worth the investment. However, each is stunned by the attraction between them as neither has felt this way before.

Readers who ignore the improbable opening in which a CEO, even an elderly tired person, assigns a total stranger, even one who sounds ethical, to take her business trip, will enjoy Jenny's Hawaiian romance with Ric. The erotic story line with its exotic background is fun to read as love comes to the Island Paradise.

My Fair Highlander
Mary Wine
Kensington Brava
9780758242075, $14.00

Lord Curan Ramsden has given his sister Jemma plenty of time to move past the death of their beloved father, but she has not. Instead she is passed the acceptable age of marriage and rides the estate like a wild woman neglecting her duty to the clan. Their neighbor Lord Gordon Dwyre wants to marry the rowdy female and her brother accepts his offer. When Curan informs Jemma of his decision, she become irate and jumps on her stallion.

When English rogues attack her while she is riding the Ramsden estate, Gordon rescues her; taking her to his keep where her English roots are scorned though she trusts the Scots before her own kind. She is as attracted to the Scot as he is to her. They fight, fuss and make love with abandon. However, someone poisons his beloved Jemma; Gordon knows they must find who her dangerous stalker is before this person succeeds in killing Jenna.

My Fair Highlander is an exciting heated Highlander historical romance starring two independent obstinate protagonists who feel they are Bedding the Enemy from just after his rescue of her as she finds herself In the Warrior's Bed. The story line is fast-paced but it is the battling lovers who make Highland Heat to the elation of sub-genre fans.

Improper Gentlemen
Diane Whiteside, Maggie Robinson and Mia Marlowe
Kensington Brava
9780758251091, $14.00

"Talbot's Ace" by Diane Whiteside. In 1875 Wild Laurel, Colorado, fast gun Justin Talbot owns the Hair Trigger Palace. Bostonian transplant Charlotte "Ace" Moreland is in town for a poker tournament, but an adversary is on her tail. Justin rescues her. As they fall in love, she remains in danger in spite of having the fastest gun in the Rockies protecting her.

"To Match a Thief" by Maggie Robinson. In 1820 London, Sir Simon Keith has come a long way from his pickpocketing days. Though he would like forget those activities, he never forgot his only love the late Lucy Dellamar; However, Lucy is the mistress to financially bankrupt Lord Ferguson who sells her home and her to her first and only love Simon who she believes deserted her.

"A Knack for Trouble" by Mia Marlowe. In 1827 in a Bermuda prison Aidan Stonemere and Rosalinde Burke make love though she was a virgin. Three years later in London Lord Adrian wants another round with Rosalinde but first needs to prove he is not a murderer; his mission changes when the killer abducts his beloved Rosalinde.

These are three diverse but fascinating historical romances starring bad boys tamed by feisty foxy females in peril needing their protection and much more.

Joanne Fluke's Lake Eden Cookbook: Hannah Swensen's Recipes from the Cookie Jar
Joanne Fluke
9780758234971, $18.95

Fans of the Hannah Swensen culinary whodunits will enjoy the sweet tooth recipes from nine of the fourteen tales and more (some new ones not in the novels). Hannah, her partner Lisa Beeseman and Grandma Knudsen offer baking tips like the size of eggs in a recipe and the definition of butter. If you live in Lake Eden, Minnesota waking up in winter means room temperature is a bit cooler than the average and baking heats the kitchen. Hannah and Lisa cater Swenson's mom Delores' cookie exchange with Razzle Dazzle Baked Brie and Peanut Butter and Jelly Pie. There is much more like Herb's Wedding Cookie Cake and Boggles (the mind) with many more recipes. With commentary and pearls of wisdom (hide candy to be used in a recipe inside the vegetable crisper as kids never go there) throughout enhancing the fun, readers who bake will enjoy the best of The Cookie Jar.

Succubus Revealed
Richelle Mead
9780758232014, $15.00

Las Vegas would be the ideal location for a succubus as Georgina Kincaid knows she can find what she is looking for to keep her hellish employer Lucifer from bringing her home. However her beloved boyfriend Seth Mortensen, who risked his soul for her, resides in Seattle. Her fiery boss assigns her to Vegas.

Georgina ponders what to do as Seth denotes love and redemption while Lucifer means eternal damnation with all the sex she could desire. However, she wants out of the whoring business but refuses to allow her beloved to risk damnation again. An escape from hell seems impossible but Georgina prefers Seattle over Sin City as even the underground Powers will learn that hell hath no fury like a succubus' wrath (paraphrasing William Congreve).

The latest Georgina Kincaid romantic urban fantasy (see Succubus Bites and Succubus on Top) is an enjoyable action packed tale as Georgina and her friends wonder why the Powers That Be want to split up her and Seth. Fast-paced from the moment she is ordered to leave the Pacific northwest for Nevada, fans of the Succubus saga will relish this exciting entry while newcomers need to start with an earlier tale to appreciate the seemingly star-crossed relationship between the lead protagonists.

Seven Years to Sin
Sylvia Day
Kensington Brava
9780758231741, $14.00

Lady Jessica Sheffield is marrying Viscount Benedict Sinclair. She looks forward to leaving behind her violent abusive father though she worries about her younger sister Hester. She is walking her dog when she sees Alistair Caulfield, an unwanted fourth son, having sex. He notices her and asks her to stay, which she does for awhile. She tells Benedict what she saw and seduces him into not waiting for the exchange of their vows.

Seven years later, Benedict has been dead for a year. His brother Michael arranges for Jessica to travel to the Caribbean so that she can look over the estate Benedict left her. Alistair meets his friend Michael and learns that Jessica is traveling on one of his ships. Excited, he tells Michael he will escort her across the ocean. Alistair explains to Jessica he owns the ship and made arrangements to escort her after talking to Michael. She enjoys the dinner discussion about business as women normally are not privy to such talk. Alastair offers to help her understand the plantation she owns in exchange for her assisting him in his adjustment to the Ton now that two of his older brothers are dead and he is the spare. He hides from her that he loves her and she is why he stayed away from England.

This is a delightful erotic Regency romance starring a unique lead. The heroine's late husband was a caring person and their relationship one of love that Alistair recognized and envied. Although the subplot involving her sister, her sibling's husband and her late spouse's brother is distracting, readers will enjoy this fresh historical as love blossoms on the high seas.

Late Edition
Fern Michaels
9780758227225, $15.00

In Malibu wealthy eight times widow Toot and her three Godmother BFFs hold a seance in which thirteen spirits including Sophie's late husband abusive drunk Walter and Ida's spouse Thomas arrive. Sophie tells Walter to rot in hell while Ida faints. Later on a mirror is "I was Poisoned". They believe Thomas is telling Ida that someone murdered him. Mavis conceals her new business "Good Mourning Clothes" after being the only person to attend the funeral of a stranger.

In Savannah, Toots' friend Bernice welcomes them home. She informs them of the Sweetest Things Bakery failing due to a rumor of a ghost and a customer died on the line. Sophie and Toots wonder what Mavis is hiding as she has packages to drop off at UPS. Toots goes to the bakery and meets the owner Janie; Toots buys a half interest. Mavis explains her new business, but needs a supplier as she has too many customers and no material. Toots calls her banker who says the supplier refuses to sell. The Godmothers break into the warehouse and steal the material as Toots leaves behind, $10,000. At the next seance, they reach Thomas who writes "my daughter". Ida says he had no daughter. Toots fears if he has one and she killed him, she may come after Ida next.

The third Godmothers thriller (see Exclusive and Scoop) continues the adventures of the four best female friends who each possess different personalities. Although the issues are resolved too easily and a key coincidence in Chicago helps resolve one subplot, Fern Michaels's fans will enjoy the terrific camaraderie of the Godmothers, an elderly version of the Sisterhood.

Murder Unleashed
Rita Mae Brown
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345511836, $25.00,

The financial meltdown nuked Mags Rogers' Wall Street career. Humiliatingly, Mags and Baxter the dachshund move onto the ranch of her octogenarian Great Aunt Jeep Reed and King her Shepherd mutt in Reno.

Nevada realtor Babs Gallagher tells her friends Mags and Jeep that several families she knows of live in squalid conditions in foreclosed homes; they have no utilities and if they did could not pay the bills. The three females are appalled that in this day and age in America people survive without running water. Led by Jeep they decide to launch a campaign to help the squatters.

Running for Congress on a tough on personal responsibility rather than government dole, Patrick Wentworth uses the unfortunates as a wedge issue. He plays up a homicide, another death and Jeep's neighbor who was wounded as proof the sinful non taxpayers are destroying the community. However the politico failed to count on the dog-gone sleuths.

The latest Jeep-King canine amateur sleuth tale (see A Nose for Justice) is more a moral condemnation of big business and the political puppets who dance as marionettes to the string pullers than a mystery; though the whodunit serves somewhat as an enhancer into the plight of homeless families. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jeep starts her campaign for sustenance with dignity and never slows down as the women and the dogs investigate crimes that break the law and crimes against humanity (and pets).

In Bed With a Highlander
Maya Banks
9780345519474, $7.99

Mairin Stuart is the illegitimate daughter of King David. She lives in contented seclusion at a monastery until violent Finn and nineteen soldiers arrive. Finn demands Mother Serenity hand over Mairin or die. Mairin steps forward to save the kind Sisters. Her vicious half brother Duncan Stuart sent Finn to abduct her as he plans to use her as a pawn to wrestle the throne from the king. While encamped for the night, the soldiers capture a lad Crispin. Mairin saves his life when she challenges Finn as she knows Duncan plans to marry her and sire an heir so he can claim her keep Neamh Alainn.

The McCabe laird Widower Ewan is upset that his son Crispin is missing. He cannot send his soldiers on a hunt as that would leave the keep vulnerable; the last time that happened eight years ago left his father and his wife dead betrayed by his sister-in-law. Instead he assigns his two younger brothers (Alaric and Caelin) to find their nephew.

Duncan batters Mairin when she rejects his demand she marry him. A woman enables Mairin and Crispin to escape. Alaric finds them and brings them to the keep where Ewan fears she is the enemy as she wears the garb of hated Duncan. As they fall in love father like siblings and son ferociously protects her from a raging Duncan.

The first McCabe brother Highlander romance is an enjoyable tale as brave Mairin and doubting Ewan fall in love. The story line is action-packed from the moment Finn and his men assault the monastery and it never slows down because of a series of confrontations. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Maya Banks' exhilarating good vs. evil opening act.

Linda Howard
9780345506917, $26.00

In rural Montana, thirtyish Angie Powell was operating a successful hunting business when former Iraq war veteran Dare Callahan came home to start up the same business. Three years as rivals has left Angie selling out as she lost this battle. She has one last final client to escort, Chad Krugman and his guest on a bear hunt in the wilderness.

However, the hunt goes ugly when Angie sees a murder and the killer sees her. Before either can react, a humongous black bear who has eaten humans attacks. Dare is nearby thanks to a mutual friend when he hears shots. He races to Angie to insure she is safe. As they flee together and confront their attraction, a killer and a five hundred pound beast pursue them while a storm makes survival more difficult.

Linda Howard provides her usual exhilarating romantic suspense as man, beast, and nature focus on two business rivals falling in love. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Krugman arrives for his trek into the wilderness. Loaded with action and well placed humor especially the banter between the lead couple, fans will enjoy the trek into a remote par of Big Sky Country.

Sweet Justice
Christy Reece
9780345524072, $7.99

Five years ago in Houston Seth Cavanaugh was arrested for the murder of Montgomery Jenkins. He reacted by dumping his girlfriend FBI agent Honor Stone without explanation before vanishing. He hid from her that he was undercover trying to bring down vicious Hector Clemmons.

Five years later, Seth's distraught brother Joel calls; telling him that his daughter Kelli has been missing from college for a week. Though Joel was angry with Seth for the pain he caused the family, he knows he would do anything for his niece including seeing the woman he hurt most in the world. Seth asks Honor who now works for Last Chance Rescue for her help. They team up searching for a chilling serial kidnapper, but she no longer trusts the man she still loves.

The latest LCR romantic suspense (see the "Chance" trilogy and the "Rescue" trilogy) is a great thriller that grips the audience once the vile villains arrive on the scene. With homage to first responders who give up so much for our safety, this fast-paced story will have readers sitting on edge with what happens next.

Alan Peter Ryan
Cemetery Dance Publications
132-B Industry Lane, Unit 7
Forest Hill, Maryland 21050
9781587672330, $35.00,

Married couple Edwin and Henrietta, are on another of his get rich quick schemes in which she dutifully tags along. This time they sail up the Amazon River floating parallel to the shore. On the vessel with them are natives and Crown who persuaded Edwin to go after the Slave Tree which means sailing further into the dark unknown than anyone reported has traveled on the river. Civilization in terms of a small outpost has been left far behind.

Edwin explains to his skeptical wife that Crown insists the Slave Tree grows creatures that they can control as slaves though these abominations have blood that is green and flesh that feels like fiber. She fears her beloved spouse who displays physical signs of stress has been conned by their enigmatic charismatic partner. Crown orders Henrietta to find a way to keep these creatures alive. Every pod Crown opens produces one of them. Edwin dies and Crown vanishes, which leaves it to Henrietta to find a way to keep the oddities alive so she can sell them as slaves and make a fortune; that is if she can return to civilization. She believes if she can not figure out a way to keep them alive she dies.

Alan Peter Ryan writes a dark atmospheric allegorical horror thriller in which the river and the jungle it flows through take on a sort of supernatural presence; mindful of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The tension is thicker than the nearby rain forest as readers anticipate something bad happening to the travelers especially the married couple as nature is violent and non discriminating whether it is race, gender or mentally competent. Adding to the eerie sense of doom is the audience never quite learns what The Slave Tree is; only what it can do.

Lucifer's Lottery
Edward Lee
Cemetery Dance
9781587672545, $40.00

Chaste Hudson Hudson is a good person who plans to attend seminary school once he graduates from college. However his advisor suggests he live in the real world first. Obedient, he travels to Florida and works at a seafood restaurant, but residing in the secular world fails to change his mind of becoming a priest. A week before he is to report to the Seminary, Deaconesss Wilson arrives and informs Hudson he won the Senary lottery sponsored by Lucifer every 666 years since his fall from grace in 4652 BC.

Hudson declines, but the note his visitor left behind says if he is interested in learning more about the Senary he needs to go to 24651 Central in six days. Curious, Hudson goes to what was the Larkin House where a man killed his wife and child. A portal is opened and he talks to Howard who persuades the student to send his spirit into hell to find out what he would receive if he accepts the winnings. Hudson receives the grand tour of Mephislopolis, a megalopolis bigger than all the cities on earth. Hudson witnesses the perversity of the place so at tour's end he still refuses to accept the winnings; he reconsiders when he is shown the rewards.

From the Pol Pot section of the city of the damned to the Corpus Peak made up of a billion dead demons, readers accompany Hudson on a tour of depravity as Mephislopolis owns the entreating story line. Lucifer the evil architect wants Hudson's pure soul as a challenge to turn a true loyal believer from God with temptations that would have Job reconsidering. Hudson is more than a rhetoric believer as he performs good deeds, but ironically is not fully developed until he travels to the inferno. Edward Lee writes a hellish vision as the winner of Lucifer's Lottery is tested.

The Crossing
Serita Jakes
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200
Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400073030, $14.99,

A decade has passed since the horrific murder of Cheerleading coach B.J. Remington. Though the case has gone cold in terms of law enforcement, those on the school bus that day and others who were close to the victim have failed to move on as the homicide remains inside their souls.

Assistant District Attorney Victor Campbell knows his wife Claudia is one of those who remain hunted by her friend's death. Although he has a hidden agenda, for the sake of his wife's emotional state, Victor reopens the investigation. Former high school football quarterback Casio Hightower saw his dreams of the NFL end with a bullet when the shooter killed Remington. Another victim is a resentful cop with anger management issues that he takes out by battering the woman he loves Harper Abbot; he wants closure just like Claudia does. Casio offers to assist Vic.

This is a great Christian investigative thriller with a shocking late twist that makes Serita Jakes tale that much more plausible. The story line is character driven with Claudia the link between the ten years. Loaded with action and avoiding preaching though the message is to turn to God when unexplainable bad things happen to good people, readers will relish this excellent whodunit.

The Scroll
Grant R. Jeffrey and Alton L. Gansky
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200
Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780307729262, $14.99,

After finding Herod the Great's tunnel renowned biblical archaeologist David Chambers quits that discipline. Following the death of his mother and his father's failure to leave a dig to be at her side, David lost his faith and his passion for Israeli digs. When he gave up on the Lord, he also lost his devout archeologist fiancee Dr. Amber Rogers.

In 2013 David considers studying the Olmecs in Mexico when his mentor Dr. Abram Ben-Judah asks him to join a special dig in Israel sponsored by wealthy John Trent. Using modern technology, the team will look for the treasures hidden from the Romans listed in the Copper Scroll. He is unhappy with his teammates Nuri Aumann and especially Amber. As they work in secret and under heavy security, David has doubts especially when some of the crew die in an explosion and those doubts are further enhanced when he learns the hidden agenda of his mentor.

This is an exciting archeological thriller enhanced by security and political concerns. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action in a sort of modern day Indiana Jones way. Although David's behavior at times seems that of a spoiled child which detracts from the dangerous digs, readers will appreciate The Scroll as Grant R. Jeffrey and Alton L. Gansky provide an engaging tale.

The Tehran Initiative
Joel C. Rosenberg
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414319353, $26.99,

In Tehran, CIA agent David Shirazi enables the Islamic Republic of Iran's highest ranking nuclear scientist Dr. Najjar Malik and his family to escape to the United States (see The Twelfth Imam). However Shirazi remains in country undercover as he continues his inquiry into the actions of Muhammad Ibn Hasan Ibn Ali who claims to be The Promised One Mahdi. He has told millions of euphoric Muslims that he will with Allah's blessing re-establish the Caliphate and rule the world with an iron fist in peace.

Shirazi's fears that Iran is going nuclear are affirmed when the country tests an atomic weapon. In Jerusalem, the Americans try to calm the anxiety of the Israeli leaders who fear a nuclear attack followed by a holocaust that will exceed WWII. The debate inside the Knesset is adopting the Bush Doctrine of First Strike by taking out the Iranian nuke facilities. Waiting for the anticipated attack will lead to Israeli annihilation; first strike will lead to a Holy War. Shirazi and his unit must disable the nuclear warheads that Iran possesses before either enemy takes the first strike attack.

The sequel to the frightening The Twelfth Imam continues the alarming premise that The Promised One will unite the Muslim world in a fundamentalist Caliphate that will not remain passive but take the war to the enemy infidels. The exciting action-packed story line grips the audience from the onset and never slows down as Shirazi and his team try to prevent Iran going nuclear. Although the hero's ability to avoid direct fire starting with the Malik scenario is miraculously implausible, fans will appreciate the world on the brink warning story line with a strong subplot involving Shirazi's spiritual awakening.

Forsaking All Others
Allison Pittman
9781414335971, $13.99

In 1858 near Salt Lake City, US Army Colonel Charles Brandon and his men rescue Camilla Fox from a snowstorm that left her unconscious. Her recent memory falters, but she does recall fleeing her Mormon community having lost her faith. Now she needs to return to her children who she left behind in Salt Lake City with her husband Nathan and her sister-wife; this time to take them with her. She also wants to reconcile with her parents in Kanesville, Iowa especially since Camilla learns her father is very ill and likely dying.

Charles wants to help Camilla, but has his own problems with the Mormon faithful. When she is escorted to Salt Lake City, she finds nothing is quite the same as it was when she left.

The sequel to For Time and Eternity is a strong inspirational family drama as Camilla and others, but especially her, have difficult decisions to make that impact others like her children who know one way of life, while looking deeply at their respective belief system. Complex due to individuals like the heroine feeling torn in several directions, readers will obtain a strong mid nineteenth century look at the Mormons.

Night of the Living Dead Christian
Matt Mikalatos
978141433880, $14.99

In "Night of the Living Dead Christian: One Man's Ferociously Funny Quest to Discover What It Means to Be Truly Transformed", Chief Officer of the Neighborhood Watch Matt Mikalatos is on patrol when he encounters mad scientist Doc Culbertson. Doc tells Matt that he constructed a gizmo that gets into a werewolf's head. Matt ridicules the claim insisting there are no monsters until he observes a horde of zombies pursued by a werewolf. Fearing the neighborhood will become unsafe, Matt accompanied by Doc trace the Lycan to the home of Luther Martin whose wife left him a week ago when she noticed the changes.

Luther wants to rid himself of his inner beast so he can become a normal human. He knows transformation to Christianity is the king of conversion, but he is not a Christian having turned away from his father's rigid religious doctrine. Matt and his new friends want to help Luther. They visit a church filled with a flock of zombies, a vampire who like Luther wants to revert to pure human, and a psychiatrist who counsels them. The despondent werewolf asks a pastor for answers. The response is simple, but Luther wonders how he failed to grasp the Word before; as he and his friends comprehend a transformed life starts with faith.

In his follow-up to the Imaginary Jesus, Matt Mikalatos provides a thought-provoking parable insisting there are monsters amongst us disguised as Christians claiming to be faithful yet unable to control their inner beast. Focusing on converting those beastly desires to become the type of person God wants of us takes different paths for different people at different times in their lives. Readers will appreciate Mr. Mikalatos' profound Christian morality tale.

Attracted to Fire
DiAnn Mills
9781414348643, $12.99

Like all the dedicated agents who work for the Secret Service, Meghan Connors hopes to protect POTUS. Her current assignment is one Megan would prefer to not have, but she knows this is the last step before POTUS as the dedicated agent diligently tries to keep the Vice President's daughter Lindsay Hall safe as her father makes a bid for the Oval office. This is not an easy task as Lindsey is a rebel without a cause whose addictive behavior places her in awkward often dangerous situations while also causing harm to her dad's campaign.

To keep Lindsey safe from a viable threat, she is exiled to the remote Dancin' Dust Ranch in Texas. Vice President Hall demands Lindsey accompany his daughter while Agent Ash Zinders is also assigned to the team. However though the ranch is in the middle of nowhere, the attempted assaults on Lindsay escalate with bombings and homicides. Although they are rivals for the opening slot on the POTUS protection unit, Agents Connors and Hall rely on one another as they keep their charge safe while investigating why Lindsey remains a target with her so removed from DC.

This is a tense romantic suspense thriller in which readers learn quickly how dedicated and diligent the Secret service Agents are as they risk their lives to protect their charges. The romance is typical of the sub-genre as a critical grump falls in love with a peer who understands addiction from her sister's issues. Although readers will ironically identify the villain long before anyone else does, the key to this strong taut tale is the whodunit while keeping Lindsay is the prime focus of the story line and the two agents.

The Touch
Randall Wallace
9781414343662, $14.99

Both from Appalachia, Faith Thomas and Andrew Jones fell in love while attending medical school. They lay on the floor of the Sistine Chapel looking at the "Divine Touch" in awe; both Faith and Jones know this moment will be with them forever. Driving in the back roads of Virginia, in an instant Faith was gone as was Jones' faith. Though already regarded as a talented physician with the healer's touch, Jones quits medicine and becomes a teacher; their close friend Luca Manzi offers solace but cannot explain why God allows bad things happen to good people like Jones' Faith.

Chicago based Blair-Bio-Med wants the best to test a new robotic device that duplicates the hands of a surgeon without the human error. Driven to succeed and help people in need, Dr. Lara Blair has turned to the best surgeons in the world, but none have made her tool work properly. She knows the best is Jones with his healing touch. Pleading with him, Lara wants him to be the blueprint of her gizmo. As she bullies him, he thinks what Faith would want him to do with what she considered his divine healing touch.

This is an engaging inspirational second chance at life tale starring two wounded warriors struggling to move on from emotional issues. Ironically the Michelangelo masterpiece is the fullest developed "character" although Jones is not far behind. The rest of the cast including the two women in his life pales in comparison. Still The Touch is a warm entertaining drama.

Done Safely Home
Randy Alcorn
9781414348551, $14.99

In Portland, Oregon, Getz International Executive Ben Fielding believes his firm can expand into the growing Chinese market. He sells the top brass the idea of manufacturing electronic components onside of China using local labor and selling to the 1.2 billion consumers.

Ben travels to China to set in motion his business plan. He stays with his Harvard roommate from over two decades ago Dr. Li Quan. Their chats give Ben a different view of China than that of what he has seen on his previous trips there. However, he rejects much of what Li insists is going on including government persecution of Christians. When Li is arrested, Ben seeks out why while finding Jesus as his guide.

This is the tenth anniversary reprint of a strong look at de jure and de facto religious persecution. The story line engages the reader once Li reunites with Ben. Filled with an emotional rollercoaster, fans will appreciate this deep look at China through the lens of religious persecution though somewhat shallow Ben's return to the flock never quite rings true.

Dry as Rain
Gina Holmes
9781414333069, $13.99

Twenty years ago, Eric informed his date that he just met the woman he was going to marry. He and Kyra began seeing each other and married. They have a son Benji who joined the Navy but recently received a medical discharge.

Now the couple is separated with Kyra filing for divorce. Eric sleeps with young co-worker Danielle, but feels guilty when he calls it making love. Kyra is severely injured in a car accident and has lost her recent memory including their marital problems. Though he knows what he is about to do is wrong, a desperate Eric realizes he loves his wife and will do anything to save their marriage. He pretends they never separated praying she forgives him for his sin if she remembers.

This is an entertaining family drama filled with a fascinating lead couple as Eric learns Walter Scott's warning: "what a tangled web we weave. When first we practice to deceive!" while Kyra recovers her health and begins recalling the truth. The support cast is eccentric as Benji, Eric's BFF Larry and troubled youngster Angelo add tsuris to the mix. The lack of what caused the estrangement and a sudden ending detract from an otherwise interesting relationship story line.

The Lady of the Rivers
Philippa Gregory
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781416563709, $27.99,

In 1430 near Arras, France, in front of her great-niece fourteen year old Lady Jacquetta, Lady Jehanne asks her prisoner Joan to accept parole by reneging her vows from God and remaining at Lord Luxembourg's Castle of Beaurevoir. Though weary that she erred in crowning the king, Joan, still a country peasant at heart refuses. Jacquetta witnesses the execution of Joan declared a witch by the Duke of Bedford.

In 1433 Jacquetta has no say as she is forced to marry recently widowed John, the English Duke Bedford Regent of France. He plans to use her powers to further his ambitions but dies before he can achieve his objective. Still a teen, Jacquetta is now a wealthy widow. The king and her family choose her next spouse, but Jacquetta refuses to obey. Instead she weds Richard Woodville. They have a happy marriage with many children as he serves King Henry VI at the royal court and she serves as the queen's loyal confident while anticipating after Henry the Lancaster dynasty will die too.

The third Cousins' War historical thriller (see The Red Queen and The White Queen) is another interesting look at a strong woman who must conceal her fortitude in order to navigate the treacherous male waters. Lady Jacquetta is a fascinating protagonist as she learns from the execution of Joan and the marriage of the king's mother to a Tudor that being strong but smart is an asset even in a male only world. Genre fans will appreciate Philippa Gregory's entertaining medieval biographical fiction of an intelligent courageous woman who not only survives the War of the Roses; she observes her grandson become King of England.

Dean Crawford
9781451628531, $24.99

In the Negev in Israel, archaeologist Lucy Morgan works an unsanctioned dig in which she tells Bedouin guide Ahmed and University Professor Shevez that she has found remains that are seven millennia old but are not human. However, before they can make their claim to the authorities, she vanishes.

Ex marine and former war correspondent Ethan Warner is known for finding and rescuing people in some of the most dangerous areas of the world. However, when his fiancee Joanna disappeared while working in Gaza, heartbroken he returned to the Chicago as a shell of what he was. However, his former superior officer Doug Jarvis asks him to rescue his missing granddaughter Lucy. The DIA also want Lucy found, but cannot interfere as the peace process has made some small progress recently. Ethan agrees to go to the Negev especially after being shown a photo that proves his Joanna lives.

Washington, D.C Metro Detectives Nicola Lopez and Lucas Tyrell enter a building they assume has been used by crack heads. They find three naked corpses that FBI Agent Cain says are overdoses. Tyrell disagrees but what makes him certain is one of the victims has what appears to be frostbite on his feet in summer DC weather. Soon the DC investigation and the missing archeologist inquiry merge though they are miles apart.

This taut thriller hooks readers from the moment Lucy tells her associate what she found and never looks back until a final confrontation. Fans will especially try to resolve the connection between the desert and the metro, which is not as obvious as it first seems. Filled with twists, readers will enjoy the Covenant wondering what Lucy's find really means to the world.

The Women of the Cousins' War: The Duchess, the Queen, and the King's Mother
Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin and Michael Jones
9781451629545, $26.00

"Jacquetta of Luxembourg" by Philippa Gregory. The ultimate survivor (including giving birth to ten children in fifteen years), Jacquetta the Lancastrian married twice but it was her daughter from her second marriage, Elizabeth who enabled her to live prosperously in spite of reign change and constant war. That is until Warwick accused her of witchcraft and executed her husband and son without a trial.

"Elizabeth Woodville" by David Baldwin. The ultimate commoner, Elizabeth married the king of England as her second husband. She loved King Edward IV in spite of his womanizing and had four children with him (plus two from her first marriage). When he died she risked all to insure her young son Edward V would sit on the throne. Her brother-in-law Richard the Protector sent Edward and his younger brother to the Tower.

"Margaret Beaufort" by Michael Jones. The ultimate matriarch, Margaret married four times, but it is her second marriage to Edmund Tudor that impacted history. Deeply religious yet as deeply ambitious she insists her son Henry was the rightful king of England though his claim was weak. He became Henry VII and started the House of Tudor.

This engaging biographical collection makes a strong case that women played major roles in the War of the Roses leading to the rise of the House of Tudor. The three bios are well written, filled with facts, references, pictures and maps. Although a brief treatise on what led to the Cousins' War would have anchored the scenario that enabled three courageous women to influence the future of England, readers will relish learning the impact of these intrepid females.

Darkness All Around
Doug Magee
9781439154021, $25.00

In Braden, Pennsylvania Risa was married to Sean who became an alcoholic, had blackouts and at times failed to come home at night. In one nasty week, Sean vanished and Risa's best friend Carol was brutally murdered.

Ten years later, Risa is married to Alan who adopted Kevin, her son with Sean, as his. Alan is running for Congress. Sean rocks Risa's world when he calls Statesman reporter Henry to arrange a meeting the next day. He receives a pass from the hospital where he currently resides and Sean heads home to ask the journalist if he ever saw any pictures of Carol's death scene. Henry describes what he saw; Sean now knows for sure he killed Carol on the night he drove to New York as he knew the death scene and the bruises on the corpse before he heard the reporter's description. Sean goes to the local police but Alan has the authorities throw him out of town. Risa considers G.G who was convicted of the homicide is innocent as is she believes her first husband. As Risa risks her marriage, her social standing and her life (and that of her son), Alan does everything to get the one "evil" ex out of their lives.

Darkness All Around is an exciting romantic suspense that grips readers from the moment Sean returns to town. The cast is fully developed so that the audience understands what motivates the key players to behave the way they have now and a decade ago. Doug Magee writes a taut thriller in which the suspense is front and center while the romantic subplot supports the mystery.

Wildflower Hill
Kimberley Freeman
9781451623499, $16.00

In 1989 Sydney, Beattie Blaxland watches her eleven year old granddaughter Emma Blaxland-Hunter dance with euphoria. Afterward, Beattle sadly muses to her beloved Emma that success is not everything. In 2009, prima donna Emma's dance career ends in London at about the same time her relationship with Josh when the doctors declare her knee to brittle to handle the physical demands of dance. Her mom asks her to come home, which she does. She has inherited Wildflower Hall from her late grandma. She plans to sell the place until she finds a photograph of her grandma with an unknown child. Unable to resist Emma investigates her family tree.

In 1929 Glasgow, Beattie's dreams end when she realizes she is carrying her married lover Henry MacConnell's child. Beattie and Henry flee to Tasmania where he deserts her. Supporting her daughter as a single mom, Beattie obtains work at Wildflower Hill sheep farm.

This is a fascinating family drama refreshingly enhanced by local vernacular that has the reader feeling they are in Australia. The story line is very narrowly linear past and present as the audience will figure out the mystery before Beattie does. Still the fun in this tale resides in the complicated two women who bring grit and charm as they reinvent themselves through love and hate; as for the sandwiched generation, she is more an enabler and not on the same developed levels as her mom and daughter. Fans of epic family dramas will enjoy this fine Australian saga.

Sunrise of Avalon
Anna Elliott
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781416589914, $16.00,

Former High Queen Widow Isolde and her intrepid protector Trystan the mercenary are in love and marry in secret following efforts to keep his brutal sire, the Cornwall King Marche from becoming the High King of Britain (see Dark Moon of Avalon). Because of his shame of his ruthless father's heritage and his own activities as a solder, Trystan keeps some of himself apart from his beloved. She, in turn, fails to inform her beloved that she is carrying his child.

Marche and his allies Saxon King of Kent Octa of the "Bloody Knife" and the High King Madoc begin a terror campaign to destroy the opposition. Trystan tries to serendipitously subvert their unholy alliance. Isolde pleads with Madoc to withdraw for the good of the nation, but he informs her Octa captured his son Rhun. Lord Marche recaptures Isolde and demands a second marriage of political convenience as they were briefly married last year and he is unaware she is wed to his son. She and Rhun escape leading to his sire attacking the Saxons in the Battle of Britain.

The final Trystan & Isolde Arthurian mythos (see Twilight of Avalon) is an exciting complicated (at times too convoluted) thriller as betrayal, treachery and broken alliances are the norm. Politics makes strange bedfellows with human hostage being the choice of the times. Although readers will want to smack Trystan on the head for his inability to fully accept Isolde's love of him, fans of Anna Elliot's saga will enjoy the outcome of Arthur's legacy determined by "helpless" women.

Zone One
Colson Whitehead
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385528078, $25.95,

Now known as Mark Spitz, he wanted to live in Manhattan after witnessing the lifestyle of his Uncle Lloyd vs. the boredom of his parents who proved reincarnation exists having done the numbing drill for the zillionth time. He assumed law school was the ticket to New York, New York though his grades were lacking; selling high end coffee to the rich and wannabes is not the way to swim to the gold. Instead the Last Night Plague became his avenue as he joined the clean up crew and became known as Mark Spitz of the Omega Unit.

On orders from the government VIPs in a safe opulent green zone in Buffalo, the army reclaimed Zone One, everything below Canal Street. The leaders push the American Phoenix Rising renewal highlighted by the upbeat song Stop! Can You Hear the Eagle Roar? Spitz and the other Omega Unit civilian volunteers conduct a dangerous building by building search for the infected living dead in Zone One. Three days of search and destroy has left Spitz on the brink of lunacy; that will be dubbed by the psychology department as Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder.

Using the zombie craze as a means, Colson Whitehead writes an intriguing brilliant satire that lampoons Manhattan and by default America. The story line focuses on volunteer exterminator Spitz who over three days goes from gung ho to burn out. Timely with the recent debt fiasco, assault on public workers to pay political tabs and the middle class financial depression, this terrific complicated American allegory is summed up by the protagonist's father: "things will be even worse than they are now."

Low Town
Daniel Polansky
9780385534468, $25.95

Of the Thirteen Cities, Rigus is by far the grandest. However, while that magnificent city shines, a suburb Low Town is the diametrically opposite with violent crime and rampant drug addiction and prostitution on every block corner of the rundown precinct.

Low Town is run with an iron fist by the distrusting Warden. He was once a hero during the Great War only a few years ago and was a member of the Black House police before he was disgraced and sent into exile. An addict Warden has even nastier rivals that he keeps at bay because he expects the worst in people. The Warden has one ally of sorts in Crane the magician. When kids in his precinct disappear, the Warden wants to ignore them. However, the first corpse he discovers alarms him and forces him to ally with his former law enforcement compatriots the Black House to insure a proper investigation occurs.

Although somewhat difficult to delineate the recent past with the present, Low Town is a gritty postapocalyptic investigative noir starring a vicious antihero. The dystopian story line is at it best during the inquiry that besides providing a good murder mystery enables readers to picture the slummy precinct and understand the helplessness of the impoverished. This is an engaging first tale as Daniel Polansky paints a draconian future.

Alex Kava
9780385532013, $25.95

In the Western Nebraska Sandhills, FBI profiler Maggie O'Dell accompanies State Patrol Investigator Donald Fergusson as he shows her mutilated cattle with no blood on rancher leased land in the Nebraska National Forest. However, five miles away in Halsey, teenagers toss a party in which two are electrocuted and a third barely survives; others are also injured or in shock. Fergusson and O'Dell quickly rush to the tragic scene. The survivor Goth loner Dawson Hayes swears he saw a white creature with red eyes as well as a strange light show. However, he was stoned and in shock so his testimony is discounted as drug induced inanity. That is except for the local UFO Network operative Wesley Stotter who stalks aliens.

In Washington, Metro DC Detective Julia Racine picks up her partner's daughter at school when a nasty case of ptomaine poisoning attacks over one hundreds students. Maggie's lover, military Dr. Benjamin Platt, and CDC's Dr. Roger Bix investigate the food poisoning.

The latest O'Dell police procedural (see Damaged) is an exciting thriller in which the two apparently diverse subplots cleverly merge into a tense suspense. The Nebraska alien invasion and the DC poisoned lunches are intriguing scenarios that grip the readers. Although the villains in spite of their results never ironically seem frighteningly developed to matter, fans will enjoy this fine investigative tale.

A Marriage Carol
Chris Fabry & Gary Chapman
Moody Press
820 North Lasalle Drive, Chicago, IL 60610
9780802402646, $14.99,

Two decades of marriage that began on Christmas Eve is ironically ending on Christmas Eve. The relationship between Marlee and Jacob Ebenezer is colder than the wintry weather outside the car they share on their way to see the divorce lawyer to sign the final papers. Both worry about telling their three kids though they agree to say nothing until after the holidays. Driving on the road to the attorney leads to a fight as Marlee feels with the snow and ice they should remain on the main road while Jacob chooses a shortcut. On a curve with headlines bearing down on them, Jacob loses control.

Marlee awakes alone and frozen; Jacob is nowhere in sight; her cellphone fails to work. She leaves the car looking for Jacob but sees lights so heads there. An elderly man Jay opens the door allowing the shivering Marlee to warm up, but he insists no other visitor has arrived. He searches for Jacob but fails to find him. Marlee and the couples' retreat center owner chat while his wife rests upstairs thinking about God and marriage. As her host goes to check on his wife, Marlee sees her past and present through her loving family members, and a future path with two choices.

Paying obvious homage to Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Chris Fabry & Gary Chapman provide an engaging family fantasy that starts off with an emotional question of "When do we tell the kids?" An entertaining parable, the story line focuses on the importance of honesty communicating as the key fuels to maintain loving relationships. Although the cast is never deeply developed beyond relational roles, readers will appreciate this fun contemporary version of the classic.

Lone Star Trail
Darlene Franklin
Moody Press
820 North Lasalle Drive, Chicago, IL 60610
9780802405838, $14.99,

In December 1845 The Fleischer German immigrant family arrive in Carlshafen, Texas but while living in the tent city Ulla becomes ill from the pox and dies. While the family grieves their loss and push forward to Victoria, another daughter depressed Wande wonders whether her fiance Konrad will be in town to greet her. Their wagon breaks down and another driven by Jud Morgan with his mom and sister Marion with him fails to stop over the pleading of the two females.

Wande and Marion become friends over the objection of Jud. He personally loathes the German invasion as an affront to his late dad who died during the war of independence a decade ago. Jud particularly detests the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas as he believes these newcomers want to establish a New Germany deep in the heart of Texas. However, he also admires and likes Wande, whose fiance chose someone else.

The first Texas Trails Morgan Family historical romance is a superb timely antebellum thriller that focuses on discrimination against new immigrants. Jud and Wande are a fabulous pairing as he loves her yet hates who she is. Unless he learns tolerance towards German emigres he has no chance at happiness. Readers will relish this powerful character driven issue dominated tale and will also appreciate the next entry, The Captive Trail by Susan Page Davis.

No Rest for the Wicked
Elizabeth C. Main
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432825041, $25.95,

In Juniper, Oregon, con artist Hunter Blackburn is found dead in the trunk of a rental. Sheriff Arnie Kraft thinks the late Hunter's former wife Wedding Belle Bridal Shop owner Alix Boudreau killed the grafter who targeted the elderly.

At Thornton's Books, Alix's friend Jane Serrano and her Murder of the Month Book Club members think otherwise. One of the group participants Minnie Salter decides to follow her bible citing intuition and investigate. Velda Kubek joins Minnie as an excuse to escape her care-giving of her elderly aunt. Jane, whose daughter works for the prime suspect, knows many of the older Thornton customers and other Juniper residents lost money to Hunter's schemes so while Arnie fumbles she looks in that direction.

The second Jane Serrano amateur sleuth (see Murder of the Month) is a super amateur sleuth as Jane, encouraged by Velda quoting the bible and Minnie wanting to become a detective, leads the inquiry. Filled with humor, fans will enjoy the investigation by Jane and company as they look like amateurs by fumbling on the case but next to the sheriff they look like pros.

A Rhumba in Waltz Time
Robert S. Levinson
Five Star
9781432824976, $25.95

In 1933, LAPD detective Chris Blanchard watches the demise of his police career when he refuses to ignore a peer roughing a prostitute. Forced off the force because he violated the unwritten rule, Blanchard obtains work at the MGM studio. He fixes problems.

In 1938 actress Marie MacDaniels arrives at Blanchard's home drunk and distraught. She claims she shot and killed her spouse, actor Day Covington. She gives her gun to Blanchard. He arrives at the crime scene and finds proof she never shot her husband. While seeking to expedite her from the mess, he hides MacDaniels in a safe place. Soon afterward other homicides occur including Otto Rothman the photographer. Clues lead to Bugsy Siegel and American Nazis.

A Rhumba in Waltz Time is a superb Depression Era Hollywood Noir. Blanchard is a tough protagonist who does not take prisoners as he investigates the Day murder and soon other homicides as an extension of his troubleshooting work for MGM. Readers will enjoy this 1930s thriller as the MGM major and minor leagues star system comes across in living color (even if the movies were mostly black and white).

Senior Moments Are Murder
Mike Befeler
Five Star
9781432825096, $25.95

Octogenarian Paul Jacobson's short-term memory loss has him confused when he awakens to find a strange woman in bed with him. The garage apartment means nothing to bewildered Paul except that he is almost certain this is not Hawaii and his wife Rhonda is nowhere around. He goes outside with his daily journal and learns he is living in Venice Beach with his fiancee Marion Aumiller; and today they are to marry before going on an Alaskan honeymoon cruise.

Paul finds a body in a canal and decides to solve the case because Police Detective Quintana believes he is a serial killer. With the assistance of his tweener granddaughter Jennifer and his fiancee's grandson Austin, he investigates related homicides rocking the homeless and the arts.

Once again the key to the third jocular Geezer-lit cozy (see Retirement Homes Are Murder and Living with Your Kids Is Murder) is the realism of the geriatric hero's memory loss with little nuances to make it seem plausible like relearning who Marion is and what the Internet is. The senior moments' story line is humorously fast-paced as Mike Befeler provides an amateur sleuth version of Fifty First Dates.

Gary Alexander
Five Star
9781432825348, $25.95

Nonagenarian Saburo "Mongoose" Taihotsu was the last warrior fighting WW II after three Japanese sakes caused him to miss the target Pearl Harbor and crash on Kauai. He did not just elude capture by the Americans; the recluse built an incredibly successful business selling consumer goods to the greedy. Allegedly the Mongoose took his fortune with him though in fact he took shame to the grave as well as leaving a strange clue.

In Seattle Rob Weather the Midwest TV reporter shows his only known maybe relation the Last Chance Insurance Agency owner Carla Chance and her boyfriend standup comic Buster Hightower a 26-diit calligraphic numeral puzzle left inside an unmarked envelop. Carla thinks her never married forty-eight year old friend Sarah Hilyer the mathematician would be a perfect match for her only known maybe relation. The quartet work the numerical clue while also trying to locate Buster's stolen 1959 Coupe. Others including Vegas mobsters seek the Mongoose's loot. Soon all converge at the Mayan ruins of Tikal, Guatemala.

From Japan to Hawaii to Seattle to Peoria to Tikal, Zillionaire is an amusing over the top insane thriller. The amusing story line is fun to follow and not just because of Buster's lawyer jokes (needs to turn to financial humor). Readers will enjoy this entertaining zany amateur sleuth which also satires various cultures for their illogical superiority.

Life Studies
Nancy Gotter Gates
Five Star
9781432825294, $25.95

In Greensboro, North Carolina when financial planner Peter Raynor died after a bout with cancer, he left his fiftyish widowed wife Liz economically secure, but the survivor lacks a purpose. Tiny Samantha Graces arrives at Liz's home asking for Peter. The young woman from Wilmington is shocked to learn Peter died and offers no reason why she sought him.

Liz rents a studio at the Sternberger Artist's Center where she plans to paint. She also attends a painting class provided by instructor Jay Kadlacek, a single dad raising a rebellious teen Brian. While working at the Urban Ministry homeless kitchen Liz sees Samantha. A spur of the moment decision has her taking Samantha into her home. Her financial planner steals the funds of Liz and others. As Liz struggles with her lack of funds, she and Jay fall in love; even while both help reclusive Samantha blossom in spite of the small woman breaking her leg and Brian's behavior hindering their relationship.

Although readers will ironically figure out the Peter connection long before the characters do, fans will enjoy this warm romantic family drama. Jay and Liz are caring souls (as her BFF says too kindhearted) people while Brian and Samantha bring issues to the warm story line. Well written and especially enhanced by an inspiring look at Noonan Disorder, fans will enjoy the romance between the older generation hampered by their nurturing of the younger generation.

Me Again
Keith Cronin
Five Star
9781432825034, $25.95

When Jonathan Hooper was twenty-eight years old, he suffered a debilitating stroke while in Chicago. His doctors expected him to die, but instead he remained in a coma for six years in a unit in St. Louis. To the joy and annoyance of his parents, girlfriend Victoria and others who moved on, Jonathan awakens but his memory is gone as he fails to recognize anyone. He does not recognize any of those visiting him at the hospital where he must remain until his wasted body recovers.

Rebecca Chase was a trophy wife until she suffered a debilitating stroke. Her personality changed from spirited to reticent. Whereas she was discrete now she says what she thinks to her husband Big Bob's embarrassment and chagrin.

At the long term facility, the recovering young stroke victims Jonathan and Rebecca feel isolated from their previous respective lives. However, each shares in common a basic human need for friendship, which they find with one another leading to much more between them.

Me Again is an intriguing second chance at life drama starring two relatively young stroke victims and their impact on those in their inner circle who are not nasty people just confused as to what to do. Besides a strong cast and a reminder that stroke is the third leading cause of death that can attack the young, Keith Cronin avoids preaching while providing an uplifting tale made more so by his donating 25% of what he makes to the American Stroke Association.

Amy Kathleen Ryan
St. Martin's Griffin
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312590567, $17.99,

The two ships (the New Horizon and the Empyrean) are the only hope for mankind to find a new earth as the old planet is dead. However, Pastor Anne Mather on the New Horizon wants to establish a theocracy so believes her vessel must land on the new earth first and needs the young breeding females on board the sister ship; as there are none on her vessel. She leads a preemptive attack killing most adults on board the Empyrean and abducting all the breeding age females and younger girls.

Pastor Mather explains to her female prisoners they were rescued to birth the next generation. The young women and girls are stunned but turn to fifteen year old Waverly for leadership; she directs a passive resistance. On the Empyrean rival teenagers, Waverly's boyfriend Kieran and sly Seth, compete for control of the rudderless ship.

The first Sky Chasers outer space thriller is an entertaining young adult science fiction. The fast-paced story line rotates perspective between the twin ships fueled by betrayal (not just by Pastor) being the means of choice to achieve a certain end. Although the male lead teens on the Empyrean seem incompetent with Kieran hesitant and Seth uncaring about others when compared to heroic Waverly who quietly leads her troops in opposition, readers will enjoy Amy Kathleen Ryan's engaging tale.

Wings of Fire
Caris Roane
St. Martin's Press
9780312533731, $7.99

Three months ago the winged Warrior of the Blood Antony Medichi lost his woman who was abducted. He knows she is special as he is her Guardian of Ascension who failed to protect her. Antony realizes his beloved breh haden soul mate Parisa Lovejoy is an anomaly with her beauty, intelligence and power. He vows to find and rescue her from the malevolent Roth, agent of even more evil Commander Greaves.

Antony also continues to hunt down the invading death vampires and other rogue vampires who harm Earth. Meanwhile death vampire Commander Greaves, who kidnaps female mortals to drink their blood, vampire knows his latest captive Parisa is special due to her voyeur skills. Her only hope for salvation and saving other blood slaves resides with Antony if she accepts her Guardian as her eternal soul mate.

The latest Guardians of Ascension vampire romantic thriller (see The Burning Skies and Ascension) is a terrific tale as Caris Roane provides more insight into the divided vampire culture though the actions and reactions of the cast. The three prime characters make a delightful paranormal triangle as the death vampire plans to drink the blood of the Ascension whose soul mate is coming in an enjoyable urban fantasy.

The Towers
David Poyer
St. Martin's
9780312613013, $25.99

On September 11, 2001, unhappy Navy Commander Dan Lenson visits the Pentagon still upset after being passed over for promotion to the rank of captain in spite of his heroic successful efforts; while he considers retirement, the brass detests his stubborn independence. At the same time his wife Beth Blair is at the South Tower on a job interview. Both are impacted mentally and physically when the planes crash the Pentagon and Twin Towers. He escapes the flames but fears for his spouse as he loses phone contact almost immediately reaching her.

While Beth struggles with her injuries, Dan and his SEAL team are assigned to Task Force Rhino whose mission is to capture or kill Bin Laden and his Taliban allies. His unit deploys to Afghanistan but deals with DC, Kabul and Islamabad politics at the isolated mountainous Tora Bora border. At the same time in Yemen, Muslim-American FBI special agent Aisha Ar-Rahim learns the hard way what being a Muslim-American means on September 12 2011.

The latest Lenson military thriller (see The Crisis and The Weapon) is a great tale in spite of the reader knowing the outcome. The keys to The Towers are the harrowing descriptions of death, destruction and survival on 9/11, the racism that ignites starting on 9/12, and the insightful look at how well (or not) the civilian and military elements of the government work together in hostile scenarios thousands of miles away from DC where the leadership resides. This is an excellent glimpse at the immediate post 9/11 world in which crises (real does not matter) are needed to fuel the avenging vendetta.

Scorch City
Toby Ball
St. Martin's
9780312580834, $25.99

In 1950 in the City reporter Frank Frings awakens Police Lieutenant Piet Westermann in the middle of the night. He asks the ethical cop to help him move the corpse of a blonde found on the riverbank near the affluent Uhuru Community. Frings believes if the competing powers learn a murdered while female was found inside the Negro community, all hell would break out. Reluctantly he agrees to move the body though he knows tampering would end his career while he also considers investigating though likewise that could be a career killer too as he is the most loathed cop in the City for his mathematical police deployment System.

The case turns nasty with more related deaths and all sorts of religious and racial bigotry. Much of the media's jaundiced commentary adds to heated exchanges as the Communist scare is played up. However what makes the inquiry particularly ugly is election year politics using the victims as vote getters.

Fifteen years have passed since The Vaults were opened up, but the City remains trapped in a corrupt system that destroys good honest people. Scorch City is an exhilarating police procedural which focuses on the good, the bad and the ugly in a society in which corruption, connections and bigotry are the engines to success. Readers will see parallels to the McCarthy-KKK era as it will not take much for the righteous to turn Uhuru into Scorch City.

The Monster's Corner
Edited by Christopher Golden
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312646134, $14.99

The Monster's Corner is an entertaining collection of nineteen tales in which monsters (in our eyes) tell their respective story as heroes in their eyes (or whatever orbs they have). All the entries are quite good adhering to the Frankenstein legend that asks who the monster is. David Moody's "Big Man" is a well written nod to Mary Shelly's classic while Kevin J. Anderson updates the Frankenstein's to 1938 Germany in 1938 in "Torn Stitches, Shattered Glass". Gary Braunbeck's "And You Still Wonder Why Our First Impulse Is to Kill You" looks deeply and amusingly at what makes up a monster as the other side has nightmares about humans hunting and stalking them. Two centuries of slavery has a "Rakshasi" (by Kelly Armstrong) seeking freedom. Finally Simon R. Green takes a close look at Satan's attempts to recruit Christ in "Jesus and Satan Go Jogging in the Desert" while John Maberry stars Saint John in his entry that even monsters are God's creation. From sexual predators (see Tananarive Due's "The Lake" and David Liss' "The Awkward Age") to the gorgon Sarah Pinborough's "The Screaming Room) to a faerie changeling starring in "The Cruel Thief of Rosy Infants" (by Tom Piccirilli) to Kate Shugak in "Siren Song" by Dana Stabenow, the monsters want their time in court as they demand the media especially authors stop spinning lies about them.

Taken by Passion
Jayme Holland
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312386665, $14.99

In San Francisco, Alice O'Brien lost her secretarial job for failing to understand sucking her boss' penis is major duty number one. She goes home to find her fiance Jon having sex with Min the landlady and Stone the bearded one in Alice's bed. Adding to her shock is Jon is chained as a slave to Min the Mistress and Stone the Master. Alice's twin sister Alexi rushes in from her apartment upstairs as Jon blames Alice for her being too fat.

While Alexi terrorizes the BDSM threesome, a stunned Alice wanders the city in disbelief. She vows to become a one night stand bad girl, but in Golden Gate Park falls through a hole in the ground. There she meets King Jarronn the shapeshifter who wants her to be his submissive queen. Alice's deepest fantasies have just begun in in Wonderland until she learns why her royal dom needed her as his mate.

This is a wonderful reprint of the first erotic Wonderland E-book (by Cheyenne McCray). The story line is character driven by the heroine who finds her BDSM adventure with Jarronn perfect until she learns his motive for luring her to his realm. Readers will appreciate this enticing erotic fairy tale of S&M sex under the city.

Awake At Dawn
C.C. Hunter
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312624682, $9.99

This has been a particular difficult summer for Kylie Galen who recently discovered she had previously dormant special abilities inherited from her biological father. However having been adopted she had no one to mentor her on using these powers. Instead she is learning the extent of her new found skills the hard way through trial and error with an emphasis on the latter.

Shadow Falls Camp caters to those with supernatural powers. The counselors try to determine what Kylie can do, but they are concerned as she keeps manifesting new skills at an alarming unheard of rate. A female ghost haunts Kylie; the spirit insists the teen has the ability to save a friend. Kylie is heartbroken that shapeshifter Derek leaves her but upon his return he wants to pick up where they were as if he did not dump her. She has Lucas the werewolf in her life but he demands she prove she no longer thirsts for Derek. Meanwhile a rogue vampire wants her, but she refuses to have anything to do with this killer and an ancient vampire stalks her with evil plans to use Kylie's skills.

The protagonist is a complicated individual struggling to understand who she is ever since her late dad made an unexpected visit (see Born At Midnight). Her two roommates are a vampire and a witch, but perhaps the heroine's greatest power is her ability to get along with both of them. Kylie uses her innate abilities to help others though that makes her stand out further as new skills arise leaving everyone in her circle and her to wonder what species she is. C.C. Hunter writes an engaging young adult coming of age urban fantasy.

Shadow Highlander
Donna Grant
St. Martin's
9780312533489, $7.99

In 1603 Galen, the Druid-created Highlander warrior is sent to an isolated Scottish loch to find a key powerful artifact that should enable the Castle McLeod forces to defeat their enemy Deirdre, the evil Druid. There instead of the arcane relic he came to retrieve, Galen meets Reaghan the Druid without any magical power.

Both are stunned by their immediate attraction to one another. She and her villagers join Galen as he returns to Castle MacLeod to help defend the Druids from Deidre's malevolent assaults. Her horde attacks the travelers severely injuring Reaghan, the focus of the assault. As Reaghan heals and she and Galen fall in love, they will learn the dark powerful reason Deirdre wants her captive.

The latest Dark Sword historical romantic fantasy (see Untamed Highlander, Dangerous Highlander and Wicked Highlander) is a terrific tale that deftly merges early seventeenth century Highlander tidbits inside of Donna Grant's Druid mythos. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the lead protagonists and their dangerous adversary. Readers will enjoy this strong thriller as Galen and fans wonder if love can overcome insidious evil.

Secret Weapon
Opal Carew
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312674601, $14.99

In Maine wild Janine has two particular tastes. She loves to take off the clothing of men in uniforms and prefers a menage a trois. Her current boyfriend brings Sloan the cop to forge a threesome. Janine is stunned as Sloan was the reason she fled across the continent from Los Angeles. Sloan is not stunned as he relocated from LAPD to be a New England cop so he could have a second chance with the wild woman he loves.

Fearing her feelings for the by the book cop, Janine refuses to have anything to do with Sloan. However, he remains steadfast with his objective to marry his Janine for he believes she loves him as much as he loves her.

This is an engaging erotic gender war starring seemingly opposites. The story line would heat Maine in winter as Janine knows how to please her self and first responders. Although Sloan would do anything for his love including menage a trois with his peers, readers will find his giving up his values in this scenario even for love improbable. Still Secret Weapon is a torrid The Pine Tree State romance.

Cheri On Top
Susan Donovan
St. Martin's
9780312536213, $7.99

BFFs Cheri and Candy left Bigler, North Carolina for. Tampa. There Cheri made a fortune, but currently is broke. Her grandfather asks her to become publisher of the family-owned newspaper the Bigler Bugle. She wants to say no, but instead comes home to face the same family issues that sent her running away from her home town.

Adding to her dismay is that her former brother-in-law and high school unrequited secret love, J.J. DeCourcy is the editor. A forensic accountant, Cheri looks at the books and knows something fails to add up. She continues to dig into the finances even as a body found in a nearby lake takes over the newsroom. As her acrimonious sister warns her that J.J. is a SOB, Cheri knows she still loves him, but distrusts him with her heart and her family newspaper.

Cheri on Top is a fast-paced romantic suspense starring a quirky cast of small-town rural Tar Heels. The journalistic investigations are entertaining while the triangular relationship detracts from the romantic mysteries. Still fans will enjoy Cheri finds her groove in this exciting regional thriller.

Devil's Business
Caitlin Kittredge
St. Martin's
9780312388232, $7.99

Back from Hell thanks to Pete Caldecott, Jack Winter struggles with employment opportunities as he remains the villain in Black London for releasing a deranged Nergal the God who he helped return to lock up. At a store, the checkout girl attacks Jack with an insane fueled strength. He escapes but knows he is unwanted in town.

The Stygian brothers want Jack to rot in hell even though he has been there, done that and has the scars to prove it. Former LAPD turned private investigator Benjamin Mayhew asks Jack to come to Los Angeles to help on a strange case. Jack persuades Pete, the mother of his child, to come with him to California. Ben told Jack that two families were murdered years apart at the same location; each had an unborn baby vanish. In L.A. the couple follows leads that take them to another escapee from hell, Belial the ancient malevolent demon who plans to make Southern California into his hellish image.

The latest dark humorous Black London (and Los Angeles) urban fantasy is an engaging thriller as Jack needs to leave town since everyone wants a piece of his butt. However, they soon realize they left the pot for the frying pan as California proves smoggy with a nasty demon older than dirt hell-forming Los Angeles unless Jack and Pete can stop them on what he believes is a suicide mission and she deems their task.

Cherry Adair
St. Martin's
9780312371982, $7.99

In Tarfaya, Morocco, using his language proficiency to speak in several tongues, Nick Cutter goes undercover as Asim Nabi El Malahmah to help catch diamond smugglers. He is about to reel in Qaseem and Tamiz when tall-legged French speaking Princess Gabriella Visconti interrupts the deal. .She demands he take her on to the Scorpion, but he insists the only way he would escort her is if she was the barter. Nick wonders if the pampered princess works for the smugglers.

Bria wants Nick to return the five million dollars her foolish brother Draven invested in Cutter Salvage. Their parents were assassinated years ago sending the sibling rulers of the kingdom of Marrezo into exile. For two years Draven is back in country trying to bring in needed revenue but the banks will soon own the nation. When a thug attacks Bria, someone kills the assassin. Nick and Bria flee on has vessel as he hunts for treasure. On land or at sea the enemy pursues them

The latest Cutter treasure seeking romantic suspense (see Undertow) is a taut thriller with a neat but implausible late twist. The pairing is fun as he is ice and she is fire except when he is with her and then he is an inferno. Fast-paced and loaded with action, readers will relish this fine tale in which, for the most part, the romantic subplot takes a support role to the adventures.

Second Grave on the Left
Darynda Jones
St. Martin's
9780312360818, $22.99

Although he knows the potential consequence of awakening his BFF is a severe butt kicking, Cookie wakes up grim reaper private investigator Charley Davidson. He is upset because his friend Mimi Jacobs vanished without a trace so he pleads with Charley to find out what happened to her. After a few growls, Charley investigates only to quickly learn that several of Mimi's former high school classmates have recently died.

At the same time Charley works the Mimi case, her frequent protector (though she insists he is a pain in the butt stalker) Reyes "Son of Satan" Farrow informs his sometimes lover from the astral plane that he is leaving his body behind to die at the hands of demons who want to use him to get to her. Charley thinks his suicide scheme is stupid and besides she needs his body to give her the best sex in town as she is not into corpses. She searches for where he concealed his corporal form before the demons get to it.

The second Charley Davidson paranormal private investigator (see First Grave on the Right) is a hilarious yet tense urban fantasy as the heroine works two missing persons' cases in which she fears both will end when she finds the respective dead body. The jocular story line is fast-paced from the onset, but it is the three dimensional cast (including the dead and the astral) especially Charley who makes for a fun butt kicking thriller.

How Firm a Foundation
David Weber
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765321541, $27.99,

The leaders of the five year old Charisian Empire has won many battles at sea against the much bigger Church of God Awaiting that declared Emperor Cayleb, Empress Sharleyan and their supporters as heretics. The hero of the naval warfare, Cayleb understands the impact of the enemy's religious terrorism and the diabolical isolation scheme, but is unsure what his small nation can do to end the reign of terror.

Besides an insidious propaganda campaign that excommunicates critics, the Church deploys assassins to kill the empire's leaders and anyone on the Safehold mainland supporting Charisian. The Inquisitors torture anyone to send the message to those who consider allying with Charisian. In that scenario as the cruel foe tightens the knot around the island, the cybernetic avatar of long dead Merlin believes the answer lies dormant underneath Zion's Temple in the heart of the Church of God Awaiting.

The fifth Safehold science fiction thriller (see By Heresies Distressed and A Mighty Fortress) contains the usual military warfare but at much smaller scale due to the reign of terror campaign. The story line also focuses on the social and political issues facing those in opposition to the Church. Safehold focuses on a theocracy that brutally stomps on individual rights. The fear of freedom that Charisian represents is violently opposed by religious dogma that what the Church does is Godly even sacrificing the innocent. Cayleb remains a strong hero though still somewhat Harrington-light as he is more comfortable at war than at running a country. Readers will relish David Weber's latest powerful condemnation of those who equate their church is the state; or oligopoly dictating society.

Phobos: Mayan Fear
Steve Alten
9780765330338, $24.99

Five centuries ago the Mayan Popul Vul predicted that Michael Gabriel will sacrifice himself to save Earth from an alien invasion in December 2012. The Mayan forecast also included that Michael would sire twin supermen (Jacob and Immanuel) and a third super person Lilith Eve Robinson born at about the same time as the twins. All three come true by 2013 as the female confronted the twins for the souls of mankind (see Domain and Resurrection).

However, just like greed almost led to the extinction of humanity on December 12, 2012, a new threat is caused by scientists reaching for the Tree of Knowledge with particle physics experiments. By 2047, a black hole expanding from within poses a planetary extinction. To prevent the end of the earth, a reluctant Immanuel must go back to the time of his late grandfather Julius at a time when the aliens are coming in order to stop the Big Bang as predicted by the Mayans centuries ago.

Although the death count is overkilled, the third Domain thriller is an exciting fast-paced cautionary tale. That warning also carries a second edge as the supportive science interwoven into the plot along with the zillion disasters lacks depth to defend the dire predictions. Still readers will enjoy this doomsday countdown.

Steel and Other Stories
Richard Matheson
9780765329424, $14.99

This is a terrific collection that wastes no time getting started with the classic Steel, which became a Twilight Zone episode and will soon be a movie. Another oldie but goody is "The Splendid Source" used as the basis of one of The Family Guy shows. Of the fourteen other short stories, most were written in the 1950s but like Steel and The Splendid Source hold up nicely six decades later. Especially good are "The Traveler" who goes back in time to observe the crucifixion and eerie timely "Descent" as sunsets on Sunset Boulevard will be replaced by artificial sunsets. The two more current entries show Mr. Matheson remains a master as "Dr. Morton's Folly" is about a vampire needing fang work and "The Window of Time" in which a widower octogenarian leaves his daughter's Brooklyn home for a retirement home that takes him back to the spring of his life. Mr. Matheson will leave his audience appreciative of his strong wry anthology with works like "A Visit to Santa" by a whining lad and his parents, and "When Day Is Dun" wishing earth a fond but sad goodnight.

Edward Lazellari
9780765327871, $24.99

Married with children NYPD officer Cal MacDonnell loner photographer Seth Raincrest seemingly have nothing in common. Yet both share something critical in which neither can remember anything about their lives beyond the past thirteen years. The past just seem to never exist for either man.

They soon share a second problem when otherworldly essences stalk them. These malevolent seem to know what happened to Cal and Seth thirteen years ago. Leilani the centaur arrives and asks the two beleaguered males to trust her as she will help them learn what they forgot and why. She escorts them to Aandor, where they performed a major duty thirteen years ago before the amnesia curse made them forget and now must begin a quest for the lost heir who can save the kingdom.

This is an entertaining quest fantasy that starts off as an urban fantasy when the two Manhattan residents are being hunted by paranormal creatures on the streets of the city. Part of the fun is the reaction of secondary characters especially in the city like Cal's twenty first century wife Cat having doubts that their Kindergarten aged daughter Bree marrying a minor medieval mindset is reasonable for her. Although Aandor is more typical of the genre, readers will relish the two heroes struggling with remembering what happened on their last visit while dodging some nasty beings who are also searching for the lost heir in two realms.

Cosmic Storm
Dom Testa
9780765321114, $16.99

For a year the spaceship Galahad carries hundreds of teens fleeing a dying earth. The crew heads to the Eos star system where two earth-like planets exist. The plan is to colonize the new world. However the trip through the earth's solar system so far has proven dangerous and difficult as the teenagers have run into a series of trouble. Some like the asteroids was expected though worse other problems arise including sabotage from within and aliens from without were not anticipated by the adults who sent them into space as a last hope to save humanity (see The Dark Zone and The Cassini Code).

Now there is a leadership gap since Council President Triana without consulting others entered a wormhole that closed with her inside. The space travelers need to hold an election to replace her as the assumption is dead or alive she is not coming back soon. Council member Gap is the favorite. However, a second candidate emerges dividing the crew at a time a lethal cosmic storm strikes the Galahad whose radiation shields are failing.

The teenagers run the gamut of personalities, but need cohesiveness during a major crisis compounded by Triana's vanishing leaving a leadership gap at a critical moment. However the election between frenemies divides the crew during a crisis but also allows the teens to worry less about their leader. Gap believes his opponent runs to get back at him for dumping her. There is plenty of action though more inside the vessel than the previous journeys from earth, but it is the strong characterizations that fuel Cosmic Storm as a fabulously exciting science fiction thriller.

Out of the Waters
David Drake
9780765320797, $25.99

In the city of Carse, Senator Gaius Alphenus Saxa sanctions a public religious production of Hercules creating a city on the Lusitania Sea. The play is well received as the audience enjoys the performance especially when a monster arises Out of the Waters and destroys the city.

Saxa's bookworm son Varus and few others know the behemoth was not part of the drama. He believes what everyone at the theater witnessed was a vision of what is to come. Although he prefers his books to combat, a determined Varus, his resolute sister Alphena the Amazonian warrior and their tougher than Hercules stepmother Hedia confront a watery abomination that traces itself to the extinction of Atlantis.

The stupendous second Books of the Elements switches elements. The heroic trio battle water as opposed to fire like they did in the opening act The Legions of Fire. The cast is fully developed as they behave in accordance to their society's culture. Using the Roman Empire as a base but enhancing it with the Drake mythos, David Drake provides a strong quest fantasy starring three kick-butt champions in an action-packed adventure.

The Highest Frontier
Joan Slonczewski
9780765329561, $25.99

Global warming continues terraforming the earth. Botanist student Jennifer Ramos Kennedy knows first hand the impact when the rising sea broke through the New York City wall leaving her twin bother Jordi and others dead. Still grieving and with a heavy heart Jennifer applies and is admitted to Frontera College whose campus is a spacehab tied to the Earth.

The freshman struggles at first to adapt school. However as she becomes acclimated to attending college, she makes friends with her autistic roommate and falls in love. On the other hand, Jennifer finds the downside of being part of an influential political family as some people scorn her and others want to use her. Then there is the terraforming cyanide producing ultraphyte aliens.

Using extrapolations of present trends in science, politics, and society Joan Slonczewski provides an entertaining science fiction satire. Humor is used to mock those in power who prefer bumper sticker pseudoscience over scientific data. The locales are top rate while the cast especially the key students are fully developed in support of the botany student. Readers will enjoy Jennifer's freshman year at school.

The Magic of Recluse
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
9780765331120, $15.99

The world is torn between order and chaos. On the island Recluce, order rules to the absolute degree superseding individual liberties. Teenage Lerris bounces between undesirable ennui and unhealthy questioning. His skeptical interrogation for truth has the Brotherhood black wizards believing he has the potential of becoming a high level wizard or otherwise permanent exile.

Though doubting his skills, he accepts the mission of learning the chaos in the worlds outside of his homeland. Lerris leaves the island content for war ravaged chaotic Candar where in Freetown he is pronounced as a rogue wizard subject to assassination. Antonin the white chaos wizard tries to kill the stunned teen, but he escapes using his black order magic. Justen the grey wizard mentors the lad but he flees when he learns the grey wizards steal souls. He reaches Fenard where he becomes an apprentice to an ailing incompetent but kind woodworker Destrin and takes over making the business successful for his teacher and the family. As his skills develop, Lerris knows he must go home.

This is a twentieth anniversary reprinting of the first Saga of Recluce fantasy. The story line holds up well as the Modesitt magical system remains logical between the whites of chaos, the black of order and the greys of chaos and order. The coming of age adventure stars a young hero who learns life lessons in accountability and responsibility for others. Although an anticipated final wizards' duel between Lerris and Antonin never quite achieves the expected level, fans will appreciate the opening act of order vs. chaos vs. order-chaos.

The Moon Maze Game
Larry Niven and Steven Barnes
9780765326669, $25.99

In 2085 the colonized Moon hosts the latest Live Action Role Playing Game based on H.G. Wells' classic First Men in the Moon. The contest will be broadcast live to the moon colonists and to those living on earth. The chosen ones to participate include famous gamemaster Xavier, Prince Ali of the African Republic of Kikaya whose father is President for Life and the royal's bodyguard Scotty Griffin, and Xavier's competitors Wayne Gibson and Angelique Chan.

However, the Live Action Role Playing Game turns deadly when Shotz leads his ruthless gang on an invasion of the moon landscape. His unit captures game participants killing some and holding others hostage as they demand the President for Life Abdul abdicates. The problem for Shotz and his professional mercenaries is they are gaming on Xavier's turf.

The fourth Dream Park game theory based science fiction (see The Barsoom Project and The California Voodoo Game) is an entertaining thriller that extrapolates present economic and political trends seven decades into the future. The story line starts slow and in some ways repeats its predecessor even with the game base being radically different but fans of the saga will enjoy this action-packed lunar landing.

Prospero Regained
L. Jagi Lamplighter
9780765319319, $25.99

Miranda has successfully run the family business Prospero, Inc. However, though the firm has prevented some major disasters on earth, she is losing her power. She thinks someone in the inner circle has betrayed her and the family.

At the same time Prospero is caught in a hellish tempest in which avenging demons plan to execute him. Though pondering why that hack Shakespeare couldn't find some other character and island for his play, Miranda, estranged from her famous deadbeat dad and her distrusting siblings, knows he needs rescuing. Thus Miranda enters the circles of Hell to gather her family so they can save the pickling of the patriarch in the Pit; ironically they share in common resentment of dearest dad.

The final Prospero's Daughter urban fantasy (see Prosper Lost and Prospero in Hell) is a brilliant finish to an engaging family drama. The story line is fast-paced as the family travels through Hell seeking the salvation of their father and the redemption of themselves as individuals yet a traitor appears to be amongst them. To paraphrase Alexander Pope: to err is human (and fairy), to forgive divine.

The Crystal Variation
Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781439134634, $13.00,

"Crystal Soldier". Jela was genetically created to be the ultimate soldier. He knows the ruthless enemy former human Sheriekas are destroying the universe as his High Command is either treasonous or inept. Fearing he is losing his grip on being human, Jela finds hope when he meets Cantra and her Spiral Dance smugglers. Cantra needs to jettison this unwanted soldier and an escaped slave as they bring enemies in pursuit of them; she has enough of her own. They consider escape to the mythical Liaden universe

"Crystal Dragon". Cantra recalls she is a genetically engineered aelantaza, which allows her to go so deep undercover that she believes that the persona she uses at that moment is truly her. Cantra gains access to Landomist University where she frees Liad dea'Syl. She also forges an alliance to protect her child that will one day shake the universe.

"Balance of Trade". Jethri has lived on the spaceship Gobelyn's Market all his life going wherever the trading takes him. When the ship goes in to dry dock for repairs, Jethri is transferred to another ship. He rejects the ship his estranged mother Captain Iza Gobelyn chose for him. Instead Liaden Master Liaden Trader Norn Ven 'Deelin makes the human an apprentice aboard the Elthorial. As the first Terran to be apprenticed by a Liaden. Jethri has enemies who wish to see him fail

These three tales are the prehistory of the Liaden Universe with the first two entries being a duology while the final story is a separate novel. Each thriller brings home a sense of realism that enables saga fans to believe in the Liaden Universe. However that also decelerates the overarching themes. Still this omnibus collection affirms Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have created an incredible universe.

Into the Hinterlands
David Drake and John Lambshead
9781439134610, $25.00

As part of the Harbinger Project, the three friends (Allen Allenson, Jem Hawthorn and Royman Destry) survey the mostly unexplored Hinterlands to the west of the Cutter Stream Colonies. They meet the barbaric Riders who carry heads as trophies and they take glimpses into the mysterious Continuum. Though the mission is incomplete, the three Brasilians agree to head home but make a slight side stop on Paragon where Destry can see his sister Lynsie and Allenson can say goodbye to her husband his dying brother Todd.

Allenson's sister-in-law Lynsie persuades him to replace Todd as the Inspector General of the colonial militia. With the usual legal bribes given to the Governor, he conditionally has the position but must prove his worth by returning to the Hinterlands. There he will investigate rumors of Terran activity in an area where they are undesirables and renew the trade pact with friendly Rider tribes. Though a rookie at diplomacy and just about everything else; Allenson finds himself checked by various factions playing chess with the winner controlling the Hinterlands.

This is a fascinating clever outer space retelling of the French-English seventeenth and eighteenth century rivalry in North America (and elsewhere like India) ending with the first global conflict, the Seven Years War (known as the French and Indians War in the New World colonies). The imaginative story line is action-packed though stops on Paragon slows the pace but also sets in motion the convoluted confrontations in which the wannabe hero is caught in the crosshairs. Readers will enjoy young Allenson's adventures Into The Hinterlands.

Two for Sorrow
Nicola Upson
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061451584, $14.99,

In the 1930s in London, mystery writer and playwright Josephine Tey is drafting her latest manuscript based on the 1903 state executions by hanging of two midwifes Amelia Sach and Annie Walters convicted of running a baby mill. Tey's former teacher Celia Bannerman was one of the two warders assigned to stay with Sach from the time of her conviction until her execution. Celia assists Tey on her research.

Detective Inspector Archie Penrose investigates the brutal murder of a seamstress. His friend Tey, who he wants as his lover, believes her inquiry into the hangings three decades ago is related to the current homicide. Penrose fears an angry killer has just started and Tey and Bannerman are on the list for a de facto execution.

The third Tey historical British mystery (see An Expert In Murder and Angel with Two Faces) is a taut psychological thriller with a great whodunit investigation. The excellent story line contains a book within a novel in which Nicola Upson smoothly moves back and forth while employing an insightful historiographical look from a 1930s perspective at 1903. With a late stunning twist enhancing the tale, fans will relish this engaging Depression Era thriller.

Aloha From Hell
Richard Kadrey
Harper Voyager
9780061714320, $23.99

Lucifer the Fallen Angel has left Hell for Heaven. His abdication fails to eliminate sin as the monotheistic churches claimed it would, but instead leaves behind an even more dangerous power struggle to sit on his former throne.

Avenging Nephilim James "Sandman Slim" Stark recently killed Mason Faim the magician who exiled him to Hell where he became Lucifer's bodyguard for over a decade. Mason finds he owes his "friend" for sending him to Hell were he plans his new gig to deploy the faithful on an invasion of Heaven. Kissi the demon encourages Mason to take the war to the enemy as his evil essence has plans to take over regardless of who survives the end of days combat.

Stark ponders why God remains on vacation instead of acting to prevent the war that could end the universe. He understands the Lord's free will doctrine, so expecting no divine intervention; he decides to enter Hell on a Heavenly cause; besides which he prays he can bring his murdered girlfriend back with him if he escapes to los Angeles.

The third Sandman Slim urban fantasy (see Sandman Slim and Kill the Dead) is a delightful dark humorous noir starring an antihero who will persuade readers that Los Angeles is as hellish of a place as Hell is. The support cast on all sides of the conflict is developed to enhance an exhilarating violently over the top of the Tower of Babel plot. Fans will enjoy Richard Kadrey's latest contrary satirical spin with his fabulous twisting End of Days.

Ghosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense
Edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers
Harper Voyager
9780061999710, $14.99

In the Introduction, editors Nick Gevers and Jack Dann explain that the premise of this excellent anthology is to explore the "great paradox of the Victorian age" in which the Queen declared the enlightenment yet superstition and paranormal species still held a grip on the people. Perhaps Laird Barron's "Blackwood's Baby" is the best example of that unbalanced scale between enlightened understanding and suggestive fears of the unknown. Thus the Enlightenment is a transition into the modern world. All seventeen entries are excellent examples of "Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense". "The Iron Shroud" by James Morrow opens the superior collection with Jonathan pondering insects and hell as his dead mentor remains interred. Just after Princess Maude married the future Sultan, four men living in a rooming house learn why Turks write down everything even "Music, When Soft Voices Die" by Peter S. Beagle. Margo Lanagan provides an engaging insightful focus on the changing class combat in "The Proving of Smollett Standforth." "The Curious Case of the Moondawn Daffodil Murder as Experienced by Sir Magnus Holmes and Almost Doctor Susan Shrike" (by Garth Nix) pays homage to the great Victorian detective and his sidekick in a razor sharp thriller. All the other entries are excellent as this may prove to be the historical fantasy (and horror) collection of the year climaxing with Jeffrey Ford's gloomy ghostly ruins of "The Summer Palace."

Seduced by Grace
Jennifer Blake
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778312659, $7.99,

In 1497 King Henry VII of England arranges for Lady Marguerite Milton, the youngest of the Three Graces of Graydon sisters (see By Grace Possessed and By His majesty's Grace), to marry Lord Halliwell. As her fiance's man Sir John and his paltry guard escort her, the Golden Knight abducts her.

Ten years ago, Marguerite's beloved David left her vowing to return one day to marry her. He is her abductee who in spite of his love and attraction remains steadfast to his pledge of abstinence to her chagrin and frustration. However, they soon learn they are expendable pawns in the monarchs plot to expose York conspirators.

The final Graces medieval romance is an engaging historical that combines love, honor and intrigue into an exhilarating thriller. The lead couple is a delightful second chance if they survive the machinations of the king and his rivals. Jennifer Blake is three for three as she provides another charming fascinating late fifteenth century tale.

An O'Brien Family Christmas
Sherryl Woods
9780778312703, $16.95

In Chesapeake Shores, Laila Riley ended her relationship with younger Matthew O'Brien but paid the price for what she declared a fling. Her parents condemned her and after a fight with her father she left the greatest position in the world at his bank. Only Trace her brother seems to support her emotionally and with customers as she opens up an office in The Inn At Eagle Point. Matthew is heartbroken as he wanted a permanent relationship with the love of his life, but honors her wishes to stay away from her as he knows she resents him for what their tryst cost her.

The O'Brien clan believes Laila and Matthew are soul mates and plan to act on it while on a two week Christmas vacation in Ireland in honor of the family octogenarian matriarch Nell. Knowing her estrangement with her parents, Laila's friends persuade her to come on the trip as they do not want her alone over the holidays. Although she has trepidations of seeing Matthew who will be going too, she travels to Ireland for an O'Brien family Christmas. Meanwhile Nell sees her pre American marriage Irish boyfriend Dillon.

The latest Chesapeake Shores family drama (see A Chesapeake Shores Christmas) is the usual charming tale. Part of the pleasure is to observe what has happened to former lead protagonists and Nell's second chance romance. However, the main story line is the relationship between the older Laila and Matthew whose game plan is to prove to his beloved they can have more than just the greatest sex he ever has known.

1225 Christmas Tree Lane
Debbie Macomber
9780778312697, $16.95

Three years ago in California, Beth and Kent Morehouse divorced. She and their two daughters Bailey and Sophie move to Cedar Cove on Puget Sound. Beth owns the Cedar Cove Christmas Tree Farm and rescues animals. Currently she needs to find a home for ten stranded puppies left by her door.

Bailey and Sophie return from college for the holidays. Neither understands why their parents split up, but each hopes to pull off a miracle of bringing them back together though their mom is seeing veterinarian Ted Reynolds. Kent arrives to spend time with his daughters but to their disappointment he brings towering Danielle Martin with him. Before the girls are out of the first inning, the game looks lost.

Fans of the Cedar Cove community series will enjoy the engaging twelfth entry; as besides the Morehouse matchmaking, there are several subplots involving other residents. Newcomers will be lost as much of the cast has a history in previous novels (see 1105 Yakima Street and 1022 Evergreen Place). Still Debbie Macomber provides a sweet Yuletide tale

The Kingdom of Childhood
Rebecca Coleman
9780778312789, $15.95

In 1998 in Sylvania, Maryland, fortyish Bavarian expatriate Judy McFarland diligently teaches kindergarten as she has for nineteen years at the Waldorf School. Judy misses her childhood in Germany though she tries to ignore her mom's health and her dad's womanizing; she also hates her husband an ancient A-hole who possesses less intellect than her students. Her light in her dark existence is son who is a high school senior.

This year she mentors sixteen years old Zach Patterson as he completes his required service hours. Although she knows she should not as she understands the consequences of an illegal tryst with her student including being a social pariah as a sex offender, Judy seduces Zach. They begin an affair but with each clandestine meeting, her fears of exposure grows until they become crippling; yet even with her peers cautioning her to put more distance between her and Zach she cannot end her self and family destruction. Zach begins to realize the cost of the actual fulfillment of his sexual fantasies is the loss of teen innocence but he too cannot say no to his teacher.

The Kingdom of Childhood is a stark psychological thriller that rotates the perspective between the sex partners as each transition from the pre-tryst to the climax. Zach goes from clumsy innocence to gilded adulthood too quickly; Judy is more fascinating as she goes from sex predator to insane predator. Although her childhood traumas that apparently made the adult lack development so are tenuous, readers will want to follow the devoted teacher's obsessively driven descent into hell.

Saint's Gate
Carla Neggers
9780778312352, $24.95

At the Sisters of the Joyful Heart, Sister Joan Mary Fabriani asks FBI special agent Emma Sharpe to visit her. An art expert and former novice at the monastery, Emma agrees to see her art conservationist mentor.

The Fed drops what she was doing in Jersey and heads to Maine to learn what troubled Sister Joan who wonders if Mother Linden hid an original Rembrandt for forty years. However just after she arrives with a cold greeting by her host, someone kills Sister Joan and the potential masterpiece is stolen. Emma teams up with undercover agent Colin Donovan who was asked by Father Finian Bracken to learn why a Fed was seeing Sister Joan. They soon follow clues involving art theft to Ireland where her grandfather started Sharpe Fine Art Recovery, but an unknown adversary seems to be one step ahead of them.

This is a fast-paced romantic suspense starring two intriguing Feds falling in love at a time neither can afford the distraction as they work the case. Although the past seems over the top of Mt. Katahdin, sub-genre readers will enjoy the investigation as the bantering pair fuss, fight and fall in love. Reader will enjoy Saint's gate and helpfully have further Sharpe romantic mysteries in Maine and Ireland.

The Bentleys Buy a Buick
Pamela Morsi
9780778329855, $14.95

Tom Bentley learns what love at first sight means when elderly Mrs. Gilford introduces him to Clara. He hated garage calls, but that was before the vintage auto repair shop owner and mechanic came to the San Antonio suburb Leon Valley and met the 1956 Buick Roadmaster. Mrs. Gilford has been the only owner having bought Clara brand new, but the vehicle has sat in her garage for the last decade due to her failing vision. He uses a trailer to take the classic back to his repair shop.

Tom's wife Erica wonders if her husband is having an affair. Lately he has worked late hours and has hidden why from her. Her serial divorced acrimonious mother and her workers insist he is cheating on her, but she wants to trust her spouse. Still she decides to conduct nocturnal surveillance of her husband only to learn he loves Clara with the sleek body.

This is an amusing story line with a strong precaution to not jump to conclusions but instead communicate, communicate and communicate. The lead triangle is nicely set up though a bit slow in anchoring the relationships before the story line shifts into first gear. Readers will enjoy this fun marital tale whiling humorously singing the Genesis' lyrics: "There must have been a misunderstanding; there must have been a mistake."

The Evil Inside
Heather Graham
9780778312536, $7.99

In Salem, Massachusetts attorney Sam Hill hits the brakes of his Jaguar almost hitting a naked boy standing in the road. The lad seems in shock with blood all over his body. He puts a blanket on the young man and calls 911. Two cops arrive, but act weird. Finally Sam's old friend detective John Alden comes to the scene. Alden tells Hill that the lad Malachi just hacked his family to death.

Jamie asks his niece Krewe of Hunters paranormal investigator Jenna Duffy to come to Salem to look into two homicides that occurred a few days before the Smith extended family slaughter. She arrives and the pair investigates the horrific murders. Sam defends Malachi who remains in silent shock. Soon childhood friends Sam and Jenna team up as Malachi's defense unaware that the infamous Lexington House hosts a powerful malevolence.

The latest Krewe of Hunters romantic urban fantasy (see Heart of Evil and Phantom Evil) is a terrific thriller that employs a haunted house as a base for tying the Salem Witch Trials with the present investigation. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Sam almost hits Malachi and never slows down until the final confrontation. Although the romantic subplot never quite gels feeling more like a requirement that goes to expected standard, the suspense is grippingly superb

Claim of Innocence
Laura Caldwell
9780778329329, $7.99

In Chicago, attorney Maggie Bristol asks her friend lawyer Izzy McNeil to help the defense defend Valerie Solara against a murder charger. Valerie is accused of poisoning her BFF Amanda Miller in a crime of passion; the prosecution contends Valerie loves Amanda's husband Xavier known as Zavy, but the defendant denies such feelings. Izzy retains private investigator John Mayburn to look into the homicide.

Izzy works the trial but also has personal issues. Her former fiance Sam wants a second chance; she considers it in spite of her wonderful caring younger boyfriend Theo. Her assumed dead father Christopher wants back in her life too and is willing to investigate the Miller murder; while her mother Victoria is acting strangely out of character.

The fourth Izzy thriller (See RED, WHITE AND DEAD; RED HOT LIES and RED BLOOD MURDER) is an engaging balance between a strong legal thriller and a fascinating relationship family drama. Izzy is the hub of both subplots as she focuses on defending her client while also dealing with the men who want into her life and her mom. Fans will enjoy the first non-"Red" McNeil twisting thriller.

Where Demons Fear to Tread
Stephanie Chong
9780778312475, $7.99

In West Hollywood, yoga instructor Serena St. Clair, the tyro angel, enters Devil's Paradise nightclub. Her celestial mission to protect the soul of notorious Nick "It Boy" Ramirez starts with getting him out of the local hot spot. However, the club's owner Julian Ascher intercepts Serena before she can retrieve her wayward celeb.

Julian is the most powerful demon in Southern California; his mission is to eradicate Nick's soul. He bets the angelic rookie into coming with him for a week in Las Vegas with the stakes being Nick's soul that he currently possesses. In Sin City, Serena struggles with the temptation of the enemy that would cost her soul while Julian struggles with the same enticement that would redeem his soul.

This is an entertaining romantic urban fantasy starring beloved enemies who distrust one another partly because of the taboo attraction. The story line is fast-paced but rather thin with no twists as the plot follows what the audience anticipates will occur during the initial encounter in Devil's Paradise. Still fans will enjoy the trek Where Demons (and angels) Fear to Tread.

Blood Bound
Rachel Vincent
9780778312550, $7.99

The four friends (Liv, Anne, Kori and Elle) swore an oath to never ask one another for help because if requested, the one asked would be compelled to do anything to accomplish the mission. Now despite the written pact Anne burned the document so she can make Liv Warren the bloodhound tracker locate the killer of her late thirty-four year old Asian husband Shen Liang; father of their five years old daughter Hadley.

Liv the lone wolf has no choice due to that childhood blood oath, on which refusal means horrible death. When Hadley goes missing she has a more endearing reason to investigate. Liv and her former boyfriend Cam Caballero team up on the hunt in which his agenda is to learn why she ended their relationship.

Blood Bound is superb first romantic urban fantasy investigative thriller as Rachel Vincent creates a fascinating dangerous world in which people are Skilled or Unskilled. The story line is fast-paced but held together by dynamic Liv whose convicted history impacts her big time today with the oath, her relationship with Cam, and her insistence she is not a blood splatterer anymore. Readers will enjoy the new paranormal Vincent world as fascinating Liv escorts fans around the deadly bloody landscape.

In Seconds
Brenda Novak
9780778312444, $7.99

She has kept her present persona as Laurel Hodges for two years. Laurel and her two children (seven year old Mia and nine year old Jake) have felt safe in remote Pineview Montana. That is as safe as a person can be while running from a vicious prison gang; her brother Virgil joined The Crew while inside of California's Pelican Bay Maximum Security Prison. The Crew blames her when she was Vivian Stewart for the death of a member. The Crew never forgets.

Her feelings of security end with the murder of fifty-five years old Pat Steuben. Laurel believes the Crew has come to Big Sky country hunting for her. Her neighbor Sheriff Myles King investigates the homicide that has shaken the townsfolk, but though deeply attracted to her neighbor she trusts no one as the Witness Protection Program sold her out to the ruthless Crew.

The second Bulletproof romantic suspense (see Inside) moves from exonerated Virgil to his still in trouble sister. The story line is action-packed from the moment the local postman announces the murder of Pat and never slows down as more murders occur, which has Laurel believing she is the cause and Myles protecting the woman and kids he loves. Brenda Novak provides a tense thriller.

By Grace Possessed
Jennifer Blake
9780778312543, $7.99

In 1486 England, King Henry VII feels good about overcoming the curse of one of the Three Graces of Graydon sisters when he ordered Lady Isabel Milton and Earl Rand Braesford to marry (see By His Majesty's Grace). Not one to sit on his laurels, the proactive monarch declares that the second cursed Grace sibling Lady Catherine Milton will wed the ruler's Scottish freedom fighting "hostage" Ross Dunbar if the man agrees; as the king cannot force him to do so.

Ross thinks the curse that men who marry the Graces of Graydon die if they fail to love their wife is an inane superstition. Still he has no plans to marry her or any Englishwoman. When Ross is severely wounded rescuing Catherine from his enemy, Henry gives him the choice of dying from his wounds in the Tower or marrying the middle Grace. As a rebellion breaks out, Ross is caught in the middle as he remains loyal to Scotland and to King Henry VII, but mostly to his beloved Cate. Ironically the curse will not kill him as he loves his Grace, but the combat could.

The middle sister's Graces medieval romance is an exciting period piece as armchair readers will believe they are at the court of King Henry VII in the late fifteenth century. Except for her belief in the curse, Cate is a typical historical heroine while Ross is a fascinating protagonist whose loyalty is stretched in diverse directions as he must choose between Scotland (and his father), the English king and Cate.

1105 Yakima Street
Debbie Macomber
9780778312512, $7.99

In Cedar Cove, Washington, pregnant Rachel Peyton leaves her husband widower Bruce and his thirteen year old daughter from his first wife Joleen. Rachel feels unsafe for herself and her unborn from the jealousy of her stepdaughter so she has fled across Sinclair Inlet to Bremerton. Bruce searches for her but no one at the Get Nailed Salon knows where she went and he believes if they did they would not tell him.

Elderly Charlotte and Ben Rhodes have become increasingly forgetful especially her. Her adult children Judge Olivia Lockhart Griffin and gallery owner Will Jefferson worry about the potential for a deadly occurrence.

Sheriff's Deputy Gloria Ashton hid her pregnancy secret from the father Dr. Chad Timmons. He learns that she is pregnant while seeing someone else.

Fans of the Cesar Cove family drama saga (see 1022 Evergreen Place) will enjoy the latest tale with the prime focus at 1105 Yakima Street and by extension Bremerton. The story line rotates subplots with more happening than above like Leonard Bellamy sabotaging his son-in-law Linc Wyse's repair shop. Hence new visitors to the Puget Sound small-town series will struggle to keep score of all the cast even with a scorecard.

Laura Resnick
DAW Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756406875, $7.99,

Struggling actress Esther Diamond dreams of making it big on Broadway, but also knows that mythological and supernatural creatures exist (see Unsympathetic Magic and Doppelgangster). For instance one of her closest friends is bookstore owner Max, a three hundred and fifty years old retired vampire slayer who drank an alchemist elixir that does not make him immortal but he ages very slowly makes him look a normal middle aged man.

Esther performs as the love interest in the off Broadway production of The Vampire starring Daemon Ravel as a man who believes he is a bloodsucker. She dislikes the narcissistic phony Daemon. One of his groupies Jane dresses up like his love interest and attacks Esther. The police find the corpse of Jane drained of blood. Esther's sort of boyfriend warns her she could be in danger as Jane is not the first victim. Concerned and frightened Esther Consults with Max as she believes a real Undead is the serial killing predator.

Vamparazzi is a laugh out loud urban fantasy satire that lampoons the excesses of fandom, paparazzi and the sub-genre. Intrepid Esther is fearless as she chooses fight rather than flight by facing danger. The support cast adds humor or peril while anchoring a New York City where vamps, slayers and retirees reside. Laura Resnick writes an entertaining "bloodless" serial killer thriller starring a delightful kick butt (and other bodily parts) heroine.

Lee Arthur Chane
9780756406790, $7.99

It is Year 776 since the Great Barrier ended the revolt by the masses against the ruthless ruling MageLords. On one side of the barrier the industrial revolution has led to great advances in technology and to a thriving democracy. On the other side the MageLords rule the kingdom of Evrenfels where Commoners are slaves to these brutal masters.

At birth two babies are switched. Prince Karl is actually a commoner who is heir to the throne. Brenna is actually a MageLord who has been raised amongst the masses though she is the rightful heir to the throne. Minister of Public Safety Lord Falk plans to rule over the kingdom as it was before the great barrier was constructed. He must kill the king and the heir to claim martial magical law in Evrenfels. However, no one is prepared for Anton and the Professor to breech the barrier in an experimental airship.

This an excellent epic fantasy with several fabulous twists and plenty of betrayals. Loaded with action, the arrival of Anton and the airship destroy the uneasy social fiber of Evrenfels. Readers will enjoy Anton's awesome adventures in a land in which magic is only a branch of physics.

Legacy of Kings
C.S. Friedman
9780756406936, $25.95

The Wrath of the Gods has imprisoned the Souleaters who devoured the life essences of mortals; causing the empires to dissolve into barbarism. In the present, a breach in the Wrath allows these monsters to return to the world they devastated forty generations ago. However, the Souleaters learned from the errors of their ancestors so these creatures are more cunning and smarter. Nobody knew they are back except for Witch Queen Siderea Aminestas who is linked to her Souleater queen.

The Witch-Queen Siderea intends to sue the Souleaters to destroy the Magister sorcerers who also use the life essence of mortals to fuel their magic. The former monk King Salvator Aurelius senses the Souleaters have entered his High Kingdom; he gets the queen killed, but knows the queen to the south still remains a major threat to all mortals.. Former enemies form an alliance to take down Siderea and her Souleater queen.

The Magister Trilogy (see Feast of Souls and Wings of Wrath) comes to a powerful glorious climax with all the major loose ends resolved while also revealing the origin of the Magisters. The story line of the Legacy of Kings is told from various viewpoints which enable the readers to get inside the heads of the different protagonists and antagonists without slowing down the tale. Filled with many twists, series fans will be shocked and enthralled with some of the subplot endings as C.S. Friedman provides a superb quest fantasy.

The Traitor's Daughter
Paula Brandon
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780553583809, $15.00,

On the Veiled Isles, the eighteen year old daughter of affluent Faerlonnis Overlord the Magnifico Aureste Belandor, Jianna travels to the home of her fiance Magnifico Tribarri. However, she never completes her journey; highwaymen capture the spoiled Jianna and take her to a rebel stronghold.

Jianna quickly realizes she is prisoner to her Aunt Magnifico Onarto. Estranged from her brother the family patriarch, Onarto plans to use her niece to help her take control of the Berlandor fortune and to keep Aureste under her thumb. Though the teen hears horrible tales accusing her father of atrocities, she rejects them as she believes he is a kind person. Meanwhile only rebel sympathizer Falaste Rione the physician is nice to her. As she begins to see her privileged lifestyle though the eyes of the lower classes, Jianna reconsiders what she knows about life on the increasingly treacherous Veiled Isles.

The key to the complex coming of age fantasy is the intricate society that is becoming unglued with one of the cornerstones (magic) beginning to fail. Jianna emulates the changes that are occurring to the veiled isles as open rebellion has begun. With a strong cast including the fully developed Brandon world, sub-genre readers will enjoy visiting the Veiled Isles.

The Black Lung Captain
Chris Wooding
9780345522504, $16.00

It has been a tough year on the crew of the Ketty Jay even with their fame growing from the Retribution Falls' success and failure; much of both their victory and defeat was caused by the dysfunctional relationship between Captain Darian Frey and his former fiancee Captain Tranica Dracken of the Delirium Trigger.

After an embarrassingly failed attempt to rob an orphanage where Crake the tortured (over his niece's death and reincarnation as a Golem) demonologist warned Frey they shoot back, the captain discusses a deal with the Storm Dog Captain Harvin Grist. Explorer Rodley Hodd found a downed aircraft filled with treasure on the dangerous isle of Kurg where killing beasts run amuck. After choking on his beer, Frey accepts the commission as he wisely assumes the lethal monsters in the hostile barrier island's rain forest can't be any worse than orphans who shoot at thieves.

The second Tales of the Ketty Jay pulp fantasy is a terrific quest thriller starring rogues and thieves. Backstabbing and double crossing are survival techniques. The story line continues some subplots from Retribution Falls as readers learn more about the inept crew especially Crake that cleverly tie into the prime theme of The Black Lung Captain. Ironically, all the swashbuckling on land, in the air and at sea brings plenty of exciting action; but also predictable expectations in a sort of Indiana Jones' style. Still fans, especially those who read the opening act, will enjoy joining Frey and his motley crew on their latest adventures; just watch your back as anyone else doing so likely will stab you.

The Cold Commands
Richard K. Morgan
Del Rey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345493064, $26.00,

Warrior Ringil "Gil" Eskiath is an outcast exiled even by his family due to his sexual preference. Recently he has drawn the ire of slave traders as he has raided and freed their merchandise. However, he needs a haven since the slave traders seek his head. Gil goes to Yhelteth where his friend the last remaining Kiriath, Archeth Indamaninarmal serves as adviser to the emperor. Her race stopped the deployment of the dark magic by the Aldrain, but vanished afterward.

A Kiriath built machine falls from its orbit with the message that the Illwrack Changeling sleeps on an unknown island but was raised in the Grey Places where Aldrain was exiled to by the Kiriath. The machine claims the human lad is showing signs of awakening. When the Changeling arises, Aldrain plans to use it so he can return to this world triumphantly. Gil and his only two friends Archeth and Egar the Dragonbane Majak fighter are the only hope to save mankind.

The second Eskiath fantasy (see The Steel Remains) is a fabulous tale as the intrepid trio and other allies venture off to prevent the awakening. None of the threesome wants to go, but each has the other's back and a sense that they could obtain some redemption for deeds they have done. The Changeling is a fascinating "villain" who has spent a short lifetime trapped in the other realm while sleeping in this tone. Loaded with action, award-winning science fiction author Richard K. Morgan shows he a skilled a fantasist with thisgreat character driven quest thriller.

Lord of Souls
Greg Keyes
Del Rey
9780345508027, $15.00

Out of the realm of Oblivion came the floating mountain city Umbriel. Wherever this city in the sky travels, people on the ground below die and rise again to serve their new masters. The rulers of this soul eating place are the decadent Umbria and the immortal lords who are served by the enslaved Skrows and an invincible army of the undead.

Two residents of the deadly floating city are Annaig the human slave working for Tamriel Prince Attrebus to find a way to destroy Umbriel and Glim the Argonian leading a revolt by the Skrows. Attrebus seeks a magic sword which allegedly is the only source to destroy the city of doom. He is working with his friend Sul the mage to evacuate the people in the path of the monstrosity. When Attrebus is captured by the enemy, Sul rescues him. They escape to Oblivion where the roots of the Umbriel crisis actually began and then go to the city in the sky to figure out how to end Unbria's reign.

Based on the Elder Scrolls® video gaming series, Lord of Souls is the sequel to The Infernal City as the events of Lord of Souls occur between the fourth and fifth games. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Greg Keyes resets the parameters of the realm and brings out the three heroic protagonists battling the insidious enemy. Fans of the games will enjoy the action but first should read the Infernal City.

Resistance: A Hole in the Sky
William C. Dietz
Del Rey
9780345508430, $7.99

In 1948, the alien Chimera landed in Russia. A year later Europe is overrun. By 1952, 160 million Americans are dead with survivors living underground. In July 1953, the President of the United States, former Undersecretary of Agriculture, Tom Voss and a small unit are in New York. They need to take out a tower that cools down the atmosphere enabling the ruthless adversaries to acclimate and escort Russian expatriate Dr. Maliken to a safe house as he has created a vaccine against the Chimera toxin that either kills humans or turns them into monsters.

In Deep Home, Colorado, Alvin Locke hires former Army Lieutenant turned runner Joseph Capelli to escort him to his sister's home in Haven, Oklahoma. Considered a traitor for assassinating hero Nathan Hale, Capelli believes he did the right thing as his mentor was turning. However, Hale is inside his mind making Capelli believe he is a head case. Capelli, his dog Rowdy and Locke begin a suicidal journey in which the chimera, their human monsters and humans are lethal.

In the Lucky Buckle Mine, Colorado, inmate 26301 has a plan to rescue other convicts trapped inside a cave in. Her overseer Boss Cooper takes her to the top gun vicious Brewster who tells Inmate Susan Farley to see him after she finishes her rescue mission. Farley plans to kill him and escape.

The novelization prequel to the Resistancetm 3 videogame is a terrific alternate historical thriller that obviously ties to the game, but reads like an independent novel with three major subplots. Besides the clever post-apocalyptic landscape filled with destruction, there is romance that brings hope. Loaded with action, game fans and other readers will relish the Resistance.

The Mandel Files
Peter F. Hamilton
Del Rey
9780345526359, $19.95

"Mindstar Rising". England like the rest of the world struggles to adjust and rebound from the insidious effect of global warming. In that environs Greg Mandel was once a member of the elitist Mindstar Battalion whose soldiers gained telepathic abilities through implanted glands. His enhanced intuition skill told Greg the time to leave the unit. Event Horizon CEO billionaire Phillip Evans hires Greg to investigate why a successful orbit operation is suddenly losing money. Phillip's granddaughter teenage heiress Julia Evans believes amoral financier Kendric di Girolamo and vicious former country leader Leopold Armstrong are behind the failure.

"A Quantum Murder". Two years later Julia Evans assigns Greg Mandel to investigate the brutal murder of Dr. Edward Kitchener. The professor worked at Events Horizon researching quantum cosmology. Julia explains the crime scene was the somewhat paranoid former Cambridge professor's locked lab at Laudne Abbey. Greg learns that the Physics peers of the deceased envied his reputation as the twenty first century Newton, but who killed him and how remains is difficult to resolve.

These reprints of early 1990s futuristic investigative science fiction thrillers remain fun tales that seem timely with the trends in economics, politics, technology and global warming in circa 1990 extrapolated to 2030 or so as much of what Peter F. Hamilton predicted remains on the path he expected. The story lines are entertaining although the endings seem weak while readers will wonder why the last tale Nano Flower is not included (apparently it will be in a volume 2), these Mandel thrillers are enjoyable (now near) future whodunits in the Hamilton world.

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi - Ascension
Christie Golden
Del Rey
9780345509161, $27.00

Father and son Jedi Knights Luke and Ben Skywalker and Sith apprentice Vestara Khai search the galaxy for Aboleth, the most powerful practitioner of the dark force ever. The trio hunt the deadly dark force user amongst the haunting deserted planets that were once homes to the Lost Tribe of the Sith several millennia ago. What they find left behind leaves Vestara shaken while deciding her future.

On Coruscant, the removal of despotic Natasi Daala (see Vortex) has left a fight for control in which the Order of the Knights of Jedi take charge, but other forces of the Galactic Alliance distrust them due to their power grabbing misuse of the Force (see Conviction). At a time when treachery and betrayal split the Galactic Alliance further while Sith undercover operatives work the schism and Daala remains a force, the Jedi try to maintain order.

The eighth Fate of the Jedi moves forward the two prime series overarching but related themes in exhilarating ways while also setting up the finish. The story line is fast-paced whether readers explore the eerie Lost Tribe of the Sith's ghost-planets or the political intrigue on Coruscant. This is a super entry with a great twist that will shake the Force forty-three years after A New Hope Return of the Jedi.

My Soul to Take
Tananarive Due
Washington Square
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781439176146, $13.00,

In 2016 California, Clarion World Health Corporation public relations director John Wright persuades retired musical superstar Phoenix Smalls Harris (see Joplin's Ghost) to let him in her house to talk. When he realizes she is alone he lectures her for allowing a stranger into her home. He explains his employer (Immortal) Fana Wolde wants the singer to heal the world through music rather than just the firm's incredible drug Glow that comes from the blood of immortals. Whereas much of the world has legalized Glow's use, the United States refuses claiming terrorist ties, but many insist the pharmaceutical industry thrives on the sick not the healthy.

A mother of a seven year old son, Phoenix agrees to perform as she still does a rare concert to raise money and awareness like she did for Haiti. She is willing because she knows people are suffering from the Praying Disease that Fana's fiance, Michel deployed on an unsuspecting world. This Immortal believes humans must become extinct to fulfill the Book of Revelation's Apocalypse. Only Fana and her Life Brothers can stop the Immortal she is destined to marry, but his kill rate far surpasses their heal rate.

The latest thought provoking African Immortals thriller (see Blood Colony and The Living Blood) is a powerful poignant tale as mortals with immortal allies battle for their existence with other immortals. The story line is globally loaded with action, but character driven by the key players as well as those caught in the crossfire. Readers will appreciate this tale with clever ties to Joplin's Ghost as Tananarive Due will receive plenty of deserved accolades for her insightful exciting war of species cleansing in the name of God.

The Hour of Dust and Ashes
Kelly Gay
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781451625479, $7.99,

Atlanta Detectives Charlie Madigan and Hank the Siren earn R&R after their successful confrontation with the Sons of Dawn in the Underground. Charlie wants to spend time with her daughter Emma and her sister Bryn, but the battle may have been won, but the war remains heated.

The two sleuthing partners have information that implies the addictive "ash" enables the otherworldly to possess the human host, which has led to deaths that some say are homicides and others insist are suicides. To Charlie she fears for Bryn who is addicted to ash and acts as if a dead Sons of Dawn zealot possesses her. Mysterious Alessandra suggests Charlie seek the sylphs since there is no exorcist is in town. However as she tries to prove her worthy of the sylphs, she realizes in order to save her sister she must go to hell and back; next stop is Charbydon which is easy to enter and impossible to leave.

The third Charlie Madigan urban fantasy (see The Better Part of Darkness and The Darkest Edge of Dawn) is an exciting thriller as the beleaguered heroine and her partner (along with another ally) struggle to save her sister as time runs out. Filled with action inside of the complicated Kelly Gay world, fans will enjoy this strong entry as Charlie makes decisions that she loathes to do knowing the likely outcome of what she chooses. The Hour of Dust and Ashes is an excellent character driven tale.

Blood Sacrifice
Maria Lima
9781451612691, $7.99

Keira the Kelly Clan chief and Adam the vampire king heir to the Unseelie Court throne are hosting a blood-bonding ceremony with a hall filled with supporters. However her uninvited mother Branwen Ferch Arianrhod and her former lover Gideon who is Adam's half-brother break up the gala. Also with them is Gideon's pregnant wife Aoife heir to the Seelie Court throne. Mommy dearest hands a parchment to her daughter an ancient archaic Challenge.

The Dark Fae claim Kelly Clan land and have the backing of Gideon's mother-in-law Seelie Queen Angharad; Adam's father Unseelie High King Drystan and Keira's great-great grandma Minerva support the couple. While gathering the forces in San Antonio to counter Gideon and his deadly allies, hell has broken loose in Keira's home Rio Seco and Minerva has vanished. Keira believes odious slick Gideon is trying to crack her into breaking the blood rules of the Challenge.

The latest Bloodlines feud (see Matters of the Blood and Blood Bargain) takes several dark nasty twists in an enjoyable urban fantasy. Filled with action from the start, series readers will appreciate the spins as ritual Challenge makes for a terrific twisting taut thriller.

Enemy Mine
Karin Harlow
9781439177877, $7.99

L.O.S.T. operative Nikko Cruz is freezing in Siberian arctic conditions at the base of the Tian Shan range in Kyrgyzstan as the frigid temperatures are way below zero. However Nikki knows his heart is even colder than the weather ever since he killed the only woman he ever loved.

Thus when his mission to track hijacked enriched uranium fails with him being ambushed; Nikko is shocked by who rescues him. His dead beloved, half-daemon Selena Guererro injects the only man she ever loved Nikko who is dying with her immortal blood serum even knowing this places her in danger and perhaps their nine year old daughter Marisol who Nikko thought she killed, too. When Nikko heals, he follows her to the terrorists who stole the weapons enriched uranium. His revised plan is first to kill the terrorists and recover the uranium; and then deal with the woman he wants to choke to death at the same time he wants to kiss her.

Readers will enjoy Karin Harlow's latest Last Option Special Team romantic urban (Siberian?) thriller (see Enemy Lover) as the star-crossed lovers meet for the first time since he killed her for killing their child. The story line is action-packed from the moment the hero is left to die and never slows down as he confronts the terrorists and the hybrid woman he loved (and still does) and killed.

Night Falls on the Wicked
Sharie Kohler
9781451611410, $7.99

Darby the white witch can foresee the future, but any time she uses her gift the curse is demons arrive. For three years she fled from demons who want to use her skill for their malevolent master. Sadly Darby has become the wanderer who moves from town to town accepting low paying employment while residing preferably above the Arctic Circle. Currently she resides in Lancaster, Alaska working as a waitress at Sam's Diner. However, she and the other seventeen hundred residents live in fear as they hear the howling of a nearby Lycan pack.

Niklas hunts the feral pack that murdered his beloved mother and changed him. He has killed some of these vicious werewolves, but the alpha has so far survived his hunting them. The Lycan slayer arrives in beleaguered Lancaster and to his shock is attracted to Darby who he knows instinctively is vulnerable; she reciprocates as she feels his protectiveness and his bitter anger. As they fall in love, the Lycan want Darby.

The latest Moon Chasers romantic urban (tundra?) fantasy (see To Crave a Blood Moon and My Soul to Keep) is a superb thriller that makes Northern Exposure look like an equatorial location. The lead couple is a delightful pairing of two lost souls finding a second chance at life with one another though first they must deal with the savage pack. The townsfolk add eccentricity and fear to the tense story line as Sharie Kohler's world is a dark terrible place to live but the light of love brings hope.

Dark Taste of Rapture
Gena Showalter
9781439175781, $7.99

In New Chicago everyone at Alien Investigation and Removal (AIR) laugh at affluent Noelle Tremain who they assume is pathetically weak. However, the so-called spoiled joke Noelle shocks everyone at AIR boot camp training when she handles everything sent her way as her instructors want her eliminated as being too dumb and feeble to be an agent, but the resolute Noelle rejects their Pygmalion Effect.

AIR agent Hector Dean can kill with a feathery finger feels. Thus by default he is a deadly loner. When Nicole is assigned to work with him, he objects as he believes the brass want him to run her off. He is harder on her than the others though that is saying a lot as he roughs all the trainees; but she proves she can handle her 36 Cs as a weapon. Though she promised her BFF Ava that Agent "Mean" Dean was hers, Noelle wants him to see passed her facade while he simply wants her. As the pair team up on investigating the alien murder of Kneeler the businessman, their attraction ignites.

The latest Alien Huntress romantic urban fantasy (see Savor Me Slowly, Seduce the Darkness and Ecstasy in Darkness) is a terrific, perhaps the best entry in a strong series. Noelle makes the story line work as she kicks butt with a tough attitude that uses her feminine assets to win the day. As she and Hector fall in love, both are obstinate with she determined to make them a permanent pair and he determined to remain apart out of fear he will lose control and kill her. This is a character driven action investigative thriller.

Ashes of a Black Frost
Chris Evans
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781439180662, $25.99

Major Konowa knows his Iron Elves' Swift Dragon unit fought valiantly against the elf witch. Those who survived the epic combat need time to heal, but the adversary still comes at them relentlessly. Konowa knows his courageous battered force is in trouble as the Shadow Monarch continues its evil assault though somewhat abated.

Struggling with what to do next, Konowa decides his side has one chance, which is to take the war directly to the enemy rather than retreat. He understands waiting to heal is lethally dangerous so he chooses a seemingly suicidal mission, which ironically will not be appreciated by the people of the Calahrian Empire who his Iron Elves try to protect as the tattoo on them symbolizes their subservience to the enemy that they fight against with their blood and guts. The major will soon learn probably too late the evil enemy he fights against is nothing compared to the real evil enemy lurking in the fog and chaos of war.

Book 3 of the Iron Elves military fantasy (see A Darkness Forged in Fire and The Light of Burning Shadows) is a super entry as the beleaguered Swift Dragon struggle to keep fighting while those they keep safe (mostly humans) loathe them. The story line is action-packed and at its best when the focus is on combat, military readiness and the impact of war on the soldiers and the civilians. When the plot turns romantic it detracts from an otherwise excellent blood and guts thriller.

Killer Sweet Tooth
Gayle Trent
9781451600025, $15.00

After her abusive husband tried to kill her, Daphne Martin divorced the SOB while he went to jail for shooting at her (Murder Takes the Cake); she returned to her hometown of Brea Ridge, Virginia where she opened up Daphne's Delectable Cakes. Daphne has a boyfriend Brea Ridge Chronicle editor Ben Jacobs.

Ben cancels their date so Daphne invites her neighbor sexagenarian Myra Jenkins to come over for dessert. Unfortunately, Maya chips her tooth, but her dentist Dr. Bainsworth tells her to come to the office so he can fix it. Daphne and Myra arrive at Bainsworth's office where they find the dentist dead. They call the police who name the pair as "persons' of interest". When Daphne arrives home, she is met by an Elvis impersonator. He belongs to EIEIO (Elvis Impersonator's Evangelical Interdenominational Outreach) ; a group performing in town while attending a convention. Not wanting to be suspects, Maya and Daphne investigate the dentist's murder; only to learn Bainsworth had plenty of enemies. The pair hopes to solve the case before EIEIO leaves town in order to clear their names.

The latest Daphne Martin mystery (see Dead Pan) is a Killer Sweet Tooth cozy as the police lack proof but the only suspects know they are under surveillance and the town thinks they are not the killers. This is a fun puzzler with an EIEIO member who may be the killer or perhaps the townsfolk with grudges against the late dentist. Maya and Daphne are different generations, but share common traits and each knows the other has their respective back. Gayle Trent has written a charming amateur sleuth.

Secrets of the Tudor Court: A the King's Pleasure
Kate Emerson
9781439177822, $16.00

In 1509, in spite of his efforts Edward the Duke of Buckingham is upset that his brother charged with treason Lord Henry remains confined to the Tower. Edward needs a pawn at the court of King Henry VIII, but his three daughters are too young and one of his sisters is married. He turns to his sibling Widow Anne Herbert whose husband died form a fall; as Edward realizes she is the only one he can barter with.

Edward arranges a marriage to George, Baron Hastings. Lady Anne is pleased to escape her martinet brother and obtains a position as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine. One year after she and George married, she is caught up in a scandalous situation with King Henry VIII's man Sir William Compton in her chambers while the ruler is also sniffing at her with desire.

The latest Secrets of the Tudor Court (see The Pleasure Queen, Between Two Queens and By Royal Decree) is an engaging tale though the lead protagonist lacks the passion and energy (even with three males desiring her and her brother using her) that previous Tudor heroines had. Still sub-fans will enjoy an interesting look at the court of King Henry VIII in which much of the intrigue centers around the value of females on the aristocratic commodity exchange.

The Taker
Alma Katsu
9781439197059, $25.00

At Aroostook County Hospital in St. Andrew, Maine, Dr. Luke Findley works the ER graveyard shift. Sheriff Duchesne brings in a handcuffed young person covered with blood and wearing no coat on a freezing night. The sheriff believes Lanore McIlvrae murdered Jonathan.

In the ER with only Luke present, Lanny insists she is innocent. She explains her family exiled her to Boston to give birth to an illegitimate child in 1817. There she met ancient alchemist Count Adair and his retinue. The Count saved her life when he gave her an immortality potion but at the cost of her becoming his mistress. Lanny accepted what her savior expected of her until now when he went after her true love Jonathan.

The merger of alchemy and love in Maine makes for a strong rural fantasy. The story line starts a bit slow as the key players are introduced directly and indirectly in the present and the past; once done the plot accelerates as skeptical readers and a doubting Luke become hooked believers. The key to The Taker is that the audience accepts as true Lanny's Faustian cautionary tale of evil's eternal energy to remain alive at all costs to others.

The Darkest Surrender
Gena Showalter
Harlequin HQN
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373775811, $7.99,

Fifteen centuries ago, fourteen years old Kaia Skyhawk wants to be known as the strongest harpy. Her only rival at the Harpy Games is Juliette the Eradicator. Juliet captured a male but her new consort remains defiant. Thinking she can make this warrior obey, Kaia, ignoring her mother's admonition about men, frees him. He goes on a rampage killing many harpies. It is fifteen hundred years later and everyone especially her mother blames Kaia the Disappointment for the massacre; she and her sister Bianka have been banned from participating in the games ever since.

For the first time since the disaster, the Skyhawks sisters are invited to the games. Bianka and Kaia know someone is setting them up for something though it could be Juliette or even their mom, but each agrees they must attend. She also tells Bianka that she believes Strider is her soulmate, but he and his demon Defeat refuse to accept their attraction to the notorious harpy. However, he reconsiders his position of keeping his distance when he learns first prize at the games is the dangerous ancient Paring Rod that could kill him and his Dark Lord peers.

The latest Lords of the Underworld romantic fantasy (see The Darkest Secret) is a terrific refreshing entry due to the macabrely humorous yet lunatic Harpy culture. The story line is fast-paced from the opening fiasco and never slows down as Kaia who tasted defeat refuses to accept it again except as the demon accompanying her Strider. Madcap, the zany Harpy Games is fun to attend.

If I Die
Rachel Vincent
Harlequin Teen
9780373210329, $9.99

Following the sudden death of math teacher Mr. Wesner, Eastlake hires Mr. Beck to replace him. He is gorgeous and even his handwriting on the board is gorgeous. All the girls are attracted to the hunk with many coming to school early and staying late just to see him. The only two females not attracted to Mr. Beck are rivals for the heart of Nash the banshee, Kaylee the banshee screamer of death and Sabine the Mara bringer of nightmares.

They realize why Mr. Beck is the fantasy of their female classmates; as he is an incubus whose sustenance is absorbing the desires of humans. Kaylee and Mara believe that if Mr. Beck learns they know his secret, he will come after them. As her current life span draws closer to her final soul scream for herself, Kaylee teams up with her adversary Mara to rescue the females of Eastlake from the handsomest male at school. However, the incubus is more diabolical than Kaylee imagined as he forces her to do his bidding even if it means harming her relationship with Nash to save her friends' souls.

The latest Soul Screamers urban teen fantasy (see My Soul to Keep and My Soul to Save) is an entertaining entry as Kaylee struggles to balance her teen life at school and at home with saving the lives of her schoolmates from the clever incubus. Young adult readers will enjoy Kaylee's exploits as she ponders not If I Die but when I die soon in an exciting twisting (perhaps too many spins) thriller.

The One She Left Behind
Kristi Gold
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373717323, $5.50

She left Placid on the Mississippi Delta when she was eighteen years old to become a big city lawyer. Several years later attorney Savannah Greer returns home from Chicago for her father's funeral and to end the estrangement with her widow mom Ruth. However, Ruth refuses to welcome her prodigal daughter home; instead choosing as much as possible polite avoidance.

When she fled her family's ranch, Savannah also left her boyfriend Samuel Jamison McBriar. She never forgot him while he also never moved passed his first and only love. Savannah plans to leave immediately but finds it difficult to say goodbye to Sam who manages her mom's ranch. He struggles between wanting to make love with her forever and needing her to just leave as he fears he will not mend from another broken heart.

This character driven second chance at love romance is a strong tale, but ironically the key poignant relationship is not with the lead couple but that between mother and daughter. The three prime protagonists turn the entertaining The One Left Behind into a warm regional family drama summed up nicely by Sam's dad when he advises his son to "get the corncob out of your keister".

Winning Over the Rancher
Mary Brady
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373717309, $5.50

Widowed and pregnant KayLee Morgan leaves Southern California for April in Montana in order to win the contract to construct environmentally friendly cabins on the Shadow Range Eco Ranch. She needs the project in order feed her baby once her child is born.

She meets Baylor Doyle and the rest of his ranching family who hope to avoid having to sell the spread with the eco project. Starting with the matriarch Evvy, the Doyle family welcome KayLee as if she is one of them. In turn she works diligently as if this was her ranch. Then there is the attraction between KayLee and Bay as she prays she is Winning Over The Rancher to ask her and her unborn to stay in Big Sky Country with him.

The strong cast and picturesque location enhance a warm contemporary romance starring a pregnant woman who hopes the man she loves not just reciprocates her feeling but can accept her child too. Readers will enjoy the sweet changing relationship between the lead couple encouraged by his living and caring family as Mary Brady provides another pleasant Montana romance (see He Calls Her Doc and Promise to a Boy).

A Father's Name
Holly Jacobs
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373717330, $5.50

In Whedon, Pennsylvania her beloved Pops informs his daughter single mom of teenage Bart, Angelina Tucker that he is retiring after his recent health scare. She wants to run the family business, but Pops stuns Rucker when he introduces their garage's newest employee Tyler Martinez. The former banker was sent to County for six months and remains on probation. He had been a big customer taking his cars to Tucker Garage for years but is back to his youth making his own repairs on a clinker. Pops explains that Tyler is a top rate mechanic who can also be the prime voice with customers.

Tyler becomes guardian of an infant, who ties back to his nolo contendere conviction. Meanwhile the new mechanic and his boss emit sparks between them, but she refuses to consider a fling with an employee as Bart comes first. As they fall in love, he has to prove to his beloved he is in for the long term.

Nobody does Pennsylvania contemporary romance better than Holly Jacobs consistently writes. Tucker who has appeared in support roles in other tales like Unexpected Gifts proves she handle the lead. Her relationships with her son, pops and the mechanics seem real. Tyler's fall from grace hits home as genuine also. Together they grease their way to love at the garage.

Montana Sheriff
Marie Ferrarella
Harlequin American
9780373753734, $5.25

Over six years ago just after high school graduation, Veronica McCloud left Redemption, Montana. Sheriff Cole James thinks he sees a mirage when he notices a woman enter the Livestock feed Emporium as she looks like a mature Ronnie; the woman he never stopped loving even after she left for the big city and failed to come back until now.

He remembers that last night together as the highlight of his life and wants to top that with his Ronnie. However, Ronnie is back from Seattle to help her injured dad and her brother Wayne with the family ranch. She has also brought home with her Christopher, her child from that last night in Redemption.

Although not informing a father that he sired a child is an ancient theme and her motive for doing so extremely selfish, fans will enjoy this Big Sky second chance at love. Cole is terrific as he knows he still loves his Ronnie as he always has, but wonders how to keep Ronnie on the ranch after she has seen Seattle. Sub-genre readers will enjoy this contemporary family drama as Christopher cherishes his grandparents and uncle and worships his hero the town sheriff; making leaving even more difficult for Ronnie who wants to flee town before her secret is revealed.

Stand-In Mom
Megan Kelly
Harlequin American
9780373753758, $5.25

At the James Brothers Hotel in Howard, Missouri, Ginger Winchester attends the Riley and Ross Electronics' Christmas party due to the instance of her friend. Ginger is depressed following a divorce and her still waiting for approval as a foster parent. Ginger and new R&R employee Scott Matthews meet and are attracted to one another. They share what each assumes is a one night stand as neither provides a last name.

The Atlanta transplant takes the older of his two daughters, eight-year old Shelby, to enroll in school. Her teacher is Ginger. Shelby dislikes her teacher, her school and the city. As Scott and Ginger fall in love, he has issues with her desire to adopt and she fears she is just a Stand-in Mom replacing his late wife.

This is an entertaining family drama starring a strong cast that obviously includes the lead protagonists, but also his preadolescent daughters and Horace the ugly dog. With a interesting family tree twist, the story line is well written as the Alabama expatriates struggle to adapt to life in small-town Missouri while still grieving the loss of their beloved mom. Readers will enjoy Megan Kelly's enjoyable tale.

Witness Seduction
Elle Kennedy
Harlequin Blaze
9780373796410, $5.25

Eight months ago Marley Kincaid the nurse met Patrick Grier where she worked as he came in with a knife wound. They dated and became engaged. However, their relationship ended when the cops arrived looking for him; she insisted he was a web designer only to learn he was a drug dealer considered the prime suspect in the murder of a DEA agent. She has not seen him since, but rarely leaves her house.

DEA Agent Caleb Ford conducts surveillance of Marley as he believes Grier will return to her. However, his observation of Marley has him going crazy with desire especially when she does her yoga. He knows to keep his distance but cannot while fearing his lower head may cost the case. After meeting, they are attracted to one another, but he must keep her and her family safe as he knows Grier is coming for Marley. He also knows once she learns who he is she will rank his deception only a notch or two above that of her former fiance.

With a nod to the Richard Dreyfuss character in Stakeout, this is an exciting police procedural romance. The triangle makes for a delightful tale as the audience anticipates several confrontations between them. Readers will enjoy this taut thriller as Caleb knows he is coming for her.

Making a Splash
Joanne Rock
Harlequin Blaze
9780373796403, $5.25

In Chatham, Massachusetts, Keith Murphy worries about his older brother Jack who has just completed his obligation to the Navy. Since returning from Bahrain Jack is very taciturn and refuses to return to his VP position at the family owned Murphy Resorts. Jack even scowled at the party celebrating his sibling Ryan's engagement bash on the Cape. Keith knows his sibling does not have PTSD, but instead has a female woe whose name is Alicia LeBlanc.

Keith has a plan as he has been providing environmental consulting services to Alicia who hopes to open up a B&B in Bar Harbor, Maine. He has Alicia on his boat waiting to meet with him. Instead Keith swaps boats with Jack. As Jack and Alicia see each other for the first time in years, their spark remains equatorial hot. He ran from love once before and she fears he will break her heart again. This time he runs towards love, but must persuade her he will never run away from her again.

This is an engaging second chance at love contemporary romance. The lead couple is a fine duet as he has plenty to make up for in the trust department, but has the edge of believing she loves him. With a strong New England backdrop and a warm caring family for support, fans will enjoy this at sea Wrong Bed Again and Again tale and look forward to Keith sailing Jack's boat to Charleston.

His Country Cinderella
Karen Rose Smith
Harlequin Special Edition
9780373656196, $5.25

Famous country singer Zane Gunther retreats to Thunder Mountain, Montana to elude the persistent pesky paparazzi who accused him of partying while his family grieved; Zane knows he cannot run from a recent tragedy. When he finishes his hike, he is angry to find the cleaning lady still there. He makes a deal with her; she tells no one about him is and he will be silent about her being late. After she leaves his childhood friend from Midland, Texas Dr. Dillon Traub gets Zane to admit he felt a vibe.

Mop and broom Cleaning Service Jeanette Williams fears losing her housekeeping job that she needs to feed her and her four year old son Jonah. The single mom assumes Zane got her canned so when they meet again she is cold to him. He insists he did not complain. Zane tries to get Jeannette to go out on a date with him, but she is too busy with her jobs so after Dillon vouches for him so they have dinner at her apartment. As they fall in love, each has a tragedy haunting them that prevents the two adults from sharing how they feel.

This is a warm family drama starring two wounded warriors in love but doubtful about a relationship between them. The support cast enhances a fun Big Sky romance. No one creates better child characters than Karen Rose Smith who once again provides a wonderful uplifting tale of love's healing power.

Lord of the Vampires
Gena Showalter
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618668, $5.50

In Elden, the Blood Sorcerer conducts a bloody coup killing the nation's rulers. He made two critical mistakes when he failed to prevent the dying king from sending to his offspring an obsessed need to avenge their deaths; and the queen using her last breath of power sends their four children into hiding so they could buy time to complete her husband's vendetta. Thus the Blood Sorcerer failed to kill the Crown prince Nicolai and his three siblings (Breena, Dayn and Micah).

Two Kingdom of Delfina princesses capture Nicolai who they turn into their sex slave. He uses magic to call out for help. In Oklahoma, scientist Jane Parker recovers from a car accident that killed her family. She "hears" Nicolai's plea when she finds a tome by her door and reads it. She arrives but looks like the evil royal he killed. Nicolai plans to use Jane to escape but leave her behind. However he finds he cannot leave the intelligent woman behind even as he laments she may be the death of him.

The first Royal House of Shadows is an exciting romantic fantasy in which the paranormal supersedes the romance. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jane enters the Nicolai universe without blinking. Although her humorous commentary fails to fit in with the sex slave themes (his and hers), fans will enjoy the Crown Prince of Elden's tale while waiting for a sibling starring in Jill Monroe's series entry.

The Shadow Wolf
Bonnie Vanak
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618675, $5.50

The Draicon Council has incarcerated shadow wolves on Shadow Island out of fear of the sub-species skill to turn invisible. Megan Moraine knows she cannot raise her two younger seven years old twin cousins (Jillian and Jennifer) from a prison cell; so using her invisibility power, she escapes with her young relatives.

Draicon Council Enforcer Gabriel Robichaux hunts escapees. Known for killing runaways as much as bringing them back to lockup, he stalks the three female shadows. However, his reputation for assassination proves false as he tries to take Megan and her wards to a safe house, but someone inside his support cell betrays Gabriel and the three females.

The latest Draicon wolf romantic urban fantasy (see The Immortal Wolf) is a terrific thriller due to the traits of the fearsome foursome while on the lam. Gabriel and Megan are falling in love, but most significant to both of them is getting the youngsters to safety. The twins make the tale as they are frightened but intrepid. This is an exciting entertaining read.

Bonus story: Darkness of the Wolf. For killing his Alpha, Guy Laurent was imprisoned for life in the Savage Kingdom Zoo. Phoenix offers him his freedom if he escorts Brianna the young Draicon girl and her guardian Kayla Morris to the youngster's pack. He accepts the job while wondering why Kayla ignores her Draicon background. As the adults fall in love, neither loses sight of keeping their young charge safe from insidious enemies. This reprint of an e-byte novella is a fun Draicon urban romantic fantasy.

Gena Showalter
Harlequin Teen
9780373210381, $18.99

The souls that shared his head are apparently gone since his girlfriend Victoria Tepes the vampire queen brought Aden Stone back from the dead. He has doubts she did the right thing as he was already adjusted to being demised because one of his missing voices Elijah told him he would be stabbed to death.

Aden fears his loss of control having spent a life in a nut house he knows what keeping the beast at bay means. As he increasingly turns feral, he slams his beloved Victoria into a wall and chokes her. His abusive aggression hurts his soul though he fights the animal urges trying to restrain it. Worse, Victoria feels guilt for changing her beloved kind Aden into this nasty individual and lets him abuse her as she believes she deserves it. Her bodyguard Riley and her loyal vampiric subjects with a few stragglers are prepared to kill Aden if he continues on the path he is taking.

The third Aden Stone teen urban fantasy (see Unraveled and Intertwined) is an engaging character driven thriller that fans of the saga will appreciate as more of the Showalter mythos surfaces. Sort of the paranormal Job, Aden struggles with what is happening as he looks back to his loner days when shrinks labeled him a schizophrenic with four bickering voices arguing inside his head; he concludes relationships are so difficult. Although the overarching theme does not move forward until a stunning late Twisted spin, Gena Showalter provides an exciting entry.

Beyond the Grave
Mara Purnhagen
Harlequin Teen
9780373210312, $9.99

Being part of the almost famous Silver paranormal investigative family, teenager Charlotte enjoyed her life though her older sister Annalise was considered the sensitive. All that changed when the Watcher attacked her mom Karen leaving her in a coma (see One Hundred Candles). Her father Patrick has ended his paranormal research spending all his time at the bedside of his wife. Their cameraman Shane, like a brother to her dad, has not been able to get him to move on.

Charlotte whose hand was scarred and still feels guilt over the Watcher incident four months ago has a new concern. Shane has filled in the leadership gap to complete a contract left void by Charlotte's parents. He uses Charlotte's boyfriend Noah to film a reenactment. However, Noah seems different and distant. She is worried about what happened when they were paranormally assaulted as a bruise he received remains though somewhat faded. Charlotte fears her Noah has been possessed perhaps by the Watcher.

The latest Charlotte Silver teen paranormal investigative thriller (see Haunting the Night and Past Midnight) is an entertaining tale with a super late twist. Although similar in tone to One Hundred Candles, fans will enjoy Charlotte's escapades as she struggles in her angst-laden life made worse by what has happened and is happening to her loved ones. Young adult readers will appreciate Marla Purnhagen's teen urban fantasy.

The King's Courtesan
Judith James
9780373775590, $7.99

Her mother always reminded Hope Matthews that she was a whore just like she was. Still Hope has ambition to use her body to socially climb the ladder rather than just allow her clients to climb on her. She has had a pair of protectors, but by 1662 she has become mistress to recently returned to the throne King Charles Stuart as her lover. However with the Queen coming to Whitehall, King Charles must decide what to do with his favorite lover as she understands she is the sacrifice to the monarch's wife.

The Civil War resulting in Charles being back on the throne has left Captain Robert Nichol landless as he fought on the losing side. He is angry at his misfortune. However, his friend recently married Elizabeth de Veres and her husband Will (see Libertine's Kiss) get Charles to agree to give Robert back his land if he marries his mistress as a front to the royal affair. He accepts the term though he loathes the concept of his wife sleeping with anyone; made even more unbearable when he falls in love with his spouse.

This is an entertaining Restoration romance that if loaded with a rich historical background interwoven with an endearing romance. The lead couple is an engaging pairing of independent flawed souls who fall in love while fearing the day the King demands his favorite lover serendipitously rendezvous with him. Historical romance readers will relish this exciting late seventeenth century tale.

Monica McKayhan
Kimani TRU/Harlequin
9780373229963, $9.99

Brooklyn teenage dancer Marisol Garcia is exhilarated to learn the Premiere High School of the Performing Arts accepted her as a student. Mari has worked diligently at her craft and by making it into the highly competitive Premiere High feels it was worth the cost. She still must persuade her Mami that attending the school will not strip away her Mexican-American heritage.

At the school, Mari literally runs into Drew Bishop who teases her about injuring him. He has to choose between basketball where he is a star expected to earn his scholarship and the acting where he loves performing Shakespeare. Meanwhile Mari becomes all consumed with the dance at the cost of her grades, her family and her friends as she competes against her BFF Luz including Drew whose father prefers the courts to the stage.

The first Premiere High is an engaging young adult tale that looks closely at the cost of pursuing an artistic career in which your parents have doubts. Mari and Drew are great leads while the support cast enhances the issues each face in their chosen endeavor. With a nod to Fame, Monica McKayhan goes deep into what motivates a young performer.

Body of Sin
Eve Silver
Harlequin HQN
9780373775927, $7.99

The Underworld god Sutekh brutally killed his youngest son soul reaper Lokan Krayl who allowed his father to torture and kill him to keep his daughter Dana safe. Lokan's stunned three brothers (Dagan, Alastor and Mal) diligently worked to bring their sibling's lost soul back into his body (see Sins of the Heart, Sins of the Soul and Sins of the Flesh). They succeed, but though alive Lokan remains trapped inside of purgatory.

Dana's other parent Bryn Carr fears for her daughter's life. She, like Lokan did with her, hid her paranormal skills from him. Now she needs Lokan to protect Dana from her vicious paternal grandfather. Bryn enters purgatory to escort Lokan through the 12 Gates to earth.

The latest Otherkin "Sin" fantasy continues deftly to deploy the Egyptian mythology that is the base of the superb saga. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Lokan fails to escape purgatory and never slows down. The engaging tale works with multiple subplots pushing to conclusion the overarching theme; whether it is the present in which his siblings work on freeing their soulmates, he and Bryn team up; or the past look at when the lead couple met. Although the romance takes a back seat to the action, fans will enjoy the final brother's epic tale.

Good Girls Don't
Victoria Dahl
9780373775958, $7.99

In Colorado, the three Donovan siblings equally own the Donovan Brothers' Brewery. However, a robbery has the youngest Jamie calling his sister Tessa instead of the oldest Eric. Known for his womanizing, Jamie tells Tessa he gave a tour of the brewery with samples to High West Air Vice President Monica Kendall before taking her home. Tessa understands why Jamie called her as Eric is working a distribution deal with Monica's father Roland, CEO of the airlines.

James college friend Police Detective Luke Asher leads the investigation in which the thieves apparently searched for personal information stored in the computers. Luke and Tessa are attracted to one another, but her two brothers oppose her seeing the cop. Rumors fly that the divorced detective is the father of the baby his partner Simone Parker is carrying.

This is an engaging contemporary romance starring a woman who loathes change at work or in her relationships and a man who's known as either a babe or bullet magnet depending on one's perspective. The brothers bring sibling rivalry and jocularity to the plot while the pregnant partner and the ex-wife seem unnecessary intrusions into the relationship between the lead couple. Although the story line outside of the heat is thin even at the brewery, fans will enjoy the first Donovan family tale.

Veronica and the Vampire
Linda Thomas-Sundstrom
Harlequin Nocturne Bites
Barnes and Noble 2940012882387; Amazon ASN: B0057AI6IQ, $ .99

In Los Angeles, her cubicle mate at the legal firm Annie sends law clerk Veronica Davis to V.A.M.P. Inc. so the latter can choose an escort to take her to her nasty sister Charlene's wedding. The choices of men reside inside coffins, but it is Christopher who she wants. Veronica does not believe Christopher is a vampire, but marvels with how he deals with her shocked sibling and her stunned mother. He is the reason she is not wearing the scarlet letter of L for loser.

However, Christopher wants more from Veronica than a "dead-end date" at her sibling's wedding. As she begins to accept what he is, the vampire must persuade the law clerk they are destined soumatesl.

Veronica and the Vampire is a fun lighthearted paranormal romance starring a woman who find a male that like the Electric Company's Letterman changes the meaning of L from loser to lover. Although the novella format leaves the plot thin, sub-genre fans will enjoy Linda Thomas-Sundstrom's amusing frolic similar in tone to the author's engaging Barbie and the Beast.

Night Born
Linda Thomas-Sundstrom
Harlequin Nocturne Bites
9781459207417, $2.99

Vampires attacked her mother the Slayer leaving her dying in the hospital. Danika Douglas knows when her beloved mom passes she will become the new Slayer though she lacks experience and understanding of her powers.

Seeking revenge Danika believes gallery owner Alexander Kent the ancient vampire killed her mother. She looks at paintings in which he appears including one at his gallery. Alexander sees her staring at the picture and is stunned as she is the first female in ages he desires; the last one tried to kill him. Danika the slayer and Alexander the vampire know they are fated to fight to the death, but he offers her an alternative of love with the elements of passion and support. If she accepts his terms of endearment, Danika fears her mom and their ancestors of slayers will turn in their graves.

Night Born is an enjoyable romantic urban fantasy E-book starring two interesting beloved enemies. Though the novella format limits plot development as Linda Thomas-Sundstrom's focuses on the changing of the lead couple's relationship from antagonists to potential protagonists. Still fans of the Vampire Moon saga (see Golden Vampire) will enjoy this fun Nocturne Bites as she begins to learn the job and he is unlike his species.

Motor City Shakedown
D. E. Johnson
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue,l New York, NY 10010
9780312644574, $24.99,

In 1911 Detroit, it is Will Anderson's family that owns the Anderson Electric Car Company. However, his mind is not on vehicles. Instead he seeks revenge. Seven months ago thugs enabled John Cooper to murder his friend Wesley McRae and turned Will into a morphine addict. He lost or had disfigured several fingers due to sulfuric acid before he and his beloved former fiancee Elizabeth Hume escaped the gangsters (see The Detroit Electric Scheme), but the pain and disuse of his right hand remains constant .

His first break leads to gang boss Vito Adamo's driver Carlo Moretti. However, when Will goes to confront Moretti he is greeted by a dead man whose throat has been cut. The Detroit police believe Anderson killed Moretti in an act of revenge. He sits in jail for several months before being freed when someone else confesses to the homicide. The family company teeters near bankruptcy or unionization. Meanwhile, Will is in the crosshairs of gang warfare with enemies maybe being his allies and friends like Elizabeth back from Europe, Police Detective Riordan, and the Purple Gang on his side.

This is a superb violent historical noir that brings to life the Motor City one century ago. The meet me in Detroit story line is fast-paced but it is the cast who makes for a terrific action-packed tale especially Will. With tidbits of history interwoven to anchor time and place, readers will enjoy riding the Anderson Electric Car driven by D. E. Johnson.

Or The Bull Kills You
Jason Webster
9780312581831, $24.99

In Valencia, Spain dynamic matador Jorge Blanco has brought a fervor reawakening in bullfighting's popularity. However, not everyone is enamored with Jorge or his sport as many locals find it barbaric and cruel. Politicians rant in favor of banning bullfighting as they believe that is a key ticket to obtaining or remaining in office. However, someone takes the opposition to a new level by recognizing the threat by charismatic popular Blanco.

In a bulling, the matador's naked corpse is found with darts in his back, a sword in his ribs, and a Spanish flag pulled tightly around his neck. Nobody on the VPD staff wants the volatile high profile homicide investigation assigned to Chief Inspector Max Camara; his plea of a conflict of interest due to being against bullfighting is ignored. A second similar murder occurs increasing the pressure on Camara to solve the case by the same politicians who also demand the inquiry stay away from their election campaigns.

Or The Bull Kills You is a superb Spanish police procedural starring a somewhat cynical dedicated cop who steps into the bullring, a place he loathes. The country's culture and heritage, the city, the two faced politicians and the sport provide strong pillars to a terrific whodunit as Camara feels the fishbowl effect as he works a case from inside the bullring with figuratively everyone in the stands watching his investigation.

The Burning
Jane Casey
9780312614171, $24.99

In London Parks, the notorious Burning Man has battered four women before setting them on fire. A special police task force has no leads. Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan has two strikes against her in the London police as women and Irish are not very popular. She hopes her work the Burning Man task force gives her the opportunity to prove he worth to her male superiors and colleagues.

Rebecca Haworth becomes the fifth victim but she does not fit the standard set by the Burning Man in his previous homicides though overall the specifics line up. Her supervisor assigns Maeve to investigate Rebecca's background to see why she was killed. Her inquiry leads Maeve to Rebecca's lonely best friend Louise North even as she begins to believe either a copy cat killer or someone concealing the homicide behind the Burning Man facade murdered the woman.

This opening British police procedural is an engaging serial killer investigation due to the diligent Maeve and to a lesser degree the fifth victim and her friend. The inquiry is cleverly done to increase the tension as the count mounts. Readers will enjoy this entertaining cat and mouse game as The Burning is a fast-paced thriller.

As the Pig Turns
M.C. Beaton
9780312387020, $24.99

Near Carsely in the Cotswolds, Police Officer Gary Beach issues a ticket to an angry Agatha Raisin who insists she did nothing. Not long after that he tickets her again stating she was just over the speed limit. Irate and in a rage, Agatha enters a store and proclaims loudly she would like to roast the unfair cop.

In the post card like nearby village of Winter Parva, the parish council hosts a special gala to try to make up the lack of revenue during Christmas. Agatha attends the festivities that include roasting a pig. When she notices a tattoo on the pig being roasted, Agatha stops the gala. Someone decapitated Beach leaving his body to toast on a spit. The cops suspect Agatha who has motive, mean and opportunity just like she said publically. She investigates encouraged by the victim's ex wife.

As the Pig Turns is a delightful whodunit as once again the queen of crankiness allows her mouth that roared to get her in trouble. The story line is fast-paced even with interludes by the men in the protagonist's life wanting to be the man in her life. Although no one observing a human torso instead of a pig about to be roasted feels over the top of Cleeve Hill, fans will enjoy the latest cranky Agatha Raisin British historical mystery (see Busy Body).

The Good Thief's Guide to Venice
Chris Ewan
9780312580858, $24.99

His bad luck in Vegas (see The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas) has the thief-mystery writer Charlie Howard fleeing to Venice after swearing to his agent, Victoria Newbury, he'll focus on writing the next Michael Faulks burglar thriller. He also has vowed no more thieving.

However, saying and acting on his two resolutions prove difficult. He fears he may have writer's block as he struggles to author his next novel. Additionally as Victoria arrives to encourage him, a female cat-burglar breaks into his home and ironically steals his autographed first edition of The Maltese Falcon that he stole. Graziella, as she calls herself to Charlie, gives him instructions on how to get his inspirational book back. It has been nine months since he stole anything yet Graziella wants Charlie to leave an attache case in a strongroom of the Palazzo Borelli on the Grand Canal if he wants the return of his literary muse.

The latest Charlie caper (see The Good Thief's Guide to Paris) has the gentleman thief-writer being manipulated by an agile cat burglar whose cleverness matches the hero and in many ways trumps him. With a nod to "To Catch a Thief" fans will enjoy the jocular chess match between the Good Thief and the Venetian Bella Donna.

Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains
Catriona McPherson
9780312654184, $23.99

In 1926 in Edinburgh, aristocratic private detective Dandy Gilver is the lead sleuth while Alec Osborne is her sidekick. Walburga Balfour sends her a note: "My husband is going to kill me, and I would rather he didn't." She also requests Dandy come to her home masquerading as a woman seeking downstairs employment as a maid. Dandy does and accepts a servant's position in order to protect her client.

However in a strange twist, a murder occurs, but instead of Walburga being the victim, her husband Phillips is dead in a locked room. With the cops spread out dealing with labor unrest and a transit strike, Police Superintendent Hardy by omission allows Dandy to investigate.

Historical mystery readers will enjoy the latest Gilver whodunit (see The Winter Ground) as Catriona McPherson provides a strong sense of time and place starting with the strike inside of a strong locked room murder investigation. The story line is fast-paced, filled with dry humor and somewhat twisting. With a nod to Kerry Greenwood's between the World Wars' aristocratic sleuth, Phryne Fisher, sub-genre fans will relish this entertaining detective story.

Stealing Mona Lisa
Carson Morton
9780312621711, $25.99

Marquis Eduardo de Valfierno is a sophisticated thief whose polite charm enables him entrance to the wealthy while his cunning allows him to lead a team of con artists, forgers and robbers. His crew steals valuable paintings that his forgers reproduce as incredible fakes often better than the original, which Valfierno sells as the genuine masterpieces to his affluent naive customers.

In 1910 in Buenos Aires, Valfierno begins to assemble a team (American pickpocket Julia Conway, his current client's wife Mrs. Ellen Hart, Louvre employee Vicenzo Perugia, and artist Jose Diego Santiago de la Santisima) to steal La Joconde (the Mona Lisa) from the Musee D'Orsay. In 1911 Valfierno and his crew are in Paris during a horrific rainy season as they begin the plan of Stealing the Mona Lisa unaware that Mr. Hart and a dedicated Police Inspector follow their activities.

This is a superb historical crime drama based on the real theft of the Mona Lisa a century ago. The story line is fast-paced with a strong cast starting with the brilliant Valfierno who understands the avaricious egomania of his clients. Even knowing the outcome, fans will relish this taut thriller as Carson Morton paints a dark degenerate look at the Gilded Age in which the affluent bought masterpieces to hang in their personal museums for their pleasure only.

Cross Currents
John Shors
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451234605, $15.00,

In 2004 at Ko Phi Phi Island, Thailand is a major stop for tourists from all parts of the globe. Married locals Lek and Sarai raise their seven month old baby Achata as well as their older children while also running a failing resort since the larger firms have discovered the beauty of the islands. Feeling desperate they agree to give room and board to Patch the visiting American in exchange for his help at the resort.

Patch's brother Ryan and his girlfriend Brooke arrive from the States. Lek is shocked to learn Patch is a fugitive and his presence in their lives places his family in jeopardy. Adding to the confusion is the behavior of Brooke who since their arrival begins to doubt she loves Ryan as she is attracted to Patch. Then without warning two monstrous waves hit the island from both ends before converging in the middle.

Based on the real killing event that hit this island and many other locations, Cross Currents is an exhilarating thriller with an underlying theme to never forget any tragedy but especially one of this mind boggling magnitude. The story line is character driven (by the two extended families) as the audience sees the difference between the Thais from the island and from the mainland cities like Bangkok, and the visitors. All that changes when the tsunami is an equal opportunity killer ignoring ethnicity, religion and culture when it comes to death; those still alive in order to survive the ordeal need to trust and rely on one another or die. This is a great look at the killer tsunami that left behind over seventy times the deaths of the 9/11 tragedy as 230,000 plus died.

A Rather Remarkable Homecoming
C.A. Belmond
9780451234612, $15.00

Following their honeymoon on the Riviera, a stop in New York to visit her friends and family, and a trip to California for him to provide legal advice to an old client and her on a film, Penny and Jeremy return to late Great Aunt Penelope's Victorian they call home in London. Inside is Rupert who has been working the couple's business while they were away and two strangers.

Prince Charles sent Harriet Fieldworthy and her son Colin to engage the services of the couple. With a royal Rather Charming Invitation Penny and Jeremy travel to Cornwall to find a way to prevent a developer from "renovating" a section of the historical picaresque town. Included for devastation in the name of economic progress is the estate of Penny's late grandmother which has sentimental value to the couple as they first met there as children. The only hop to stop the razing is to find something historically significant like proof that Shakespeare or Arthur slept there.

The fourth Rather British charming drama is a fun tale as there is no rest for the weary after their whirlwind tour. They make inquires seeking something that would place the Cornwall area on the protective heritage list but time is short. Ignoring a rather odd kidnapping, with quirky locals adding color to the tale, fans of the series will enjoy the race between preservationists and developers.

The Sandburg Connection
Mark de Castrique
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590589410, $24.95,

The Investigative Alliance for Underwriters hires private investigators Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson to determine whether North Carolina University at Asheville Professor Janice Wainwright suffers the pain she claimed that led to her, $5 million malpractice lawsuit. Wainwright is suing a spinal surgeon, his clinic, and a hospital while his malpractice insurance company believes the plaintive is faking it.

The sleuthing partners follow the professor as she travels to Flat Rock visiting Carl Sandburg's home Connemara and climbs nearby hikes Glassy Mountain. When she falls to her death, her final words to Sam who found her appear to be "Sandburg's verses." Sam believes she was murdered though the motive remains foggy at best. When an autopsy revealed her blood filled with painkillers affirming she suffered great agony, Sam and Nakayla wonder what would motivate an ailing scholar to take such an arduous trek. He feels even stronger about his homicide hypothesis after a theft and when a ranger staying with the deceased's teenage daughter is beaten up.

This is a great literary mystery that cleverly combines Sandberg, the nineteenth century and modern day academic and family wars into a wonderful whodunit. Fans will enjoy the lead detectives as they investigate a potential homicide in their third literary regional mystery (see The Blackman's Coffin and The Fitzgerald Ruse).

Stolen Hearts
Jane Tesh
Poisoned Pen
9781590589373, $24.95

In Parkland, North Carolina, the death of his beloved daughter in a car accident has left twice divorced David Randall in a permanent state of grief. He quits his job at a detective agency to open his own private investigative practice. His office and home is his car until his best friend Camden takes him into his boarding house.

Melanie Gentry hires Randall to prove that her great-grandmother Laura was the only composer of the classic Appalachian folksong collection the Patchwork Melodies. His client believes John Ashford is not Laura's music partner but a thief and killer who murdered her late talenteds ancestor who drowned. Now PBS is filming a documentary on early American folk music and Melanie wants him exposed. Randall finds death and theft as he makes inquiries. Someone is murdering people to conceal something. As he wonders if Melanie hides information from him, Randall turns for help to Camden the psychic and his alleged murderous spirit who demands the sleuth proves his innocence of a homicide six decades cold.

This is an engaging paranormal regional mystery with an intriguing full circle karma twist. David is a complicated individual who is at his best on the case or in his grief' when he falls in love with another boarder he seems fickle and out of character. Still readers will enjoy Stolen Hearts while singing "Oh! Susanna".

A Killing Season
Priscilla Royal
Poisoned Pen
9781590589496, $24.95

Baron Herbert joined the Crusades taking his nephew Leonel with him instead of any of his four sons. Now he returns from the Holy Land but instead of rejoicing he is despondent. When his two of his five sons die in accidents, people question whether God is punishing Herbert for a transgression in the Holy land.

Herbert pleads with his friend Sir Hugh to bring healers to his castle. Hugh asks respected physician Master Gamel, Brother Thomas and Prioress Eleanor of Tyndal to join him at isolated le chateau doux et dour. Eleanor brings her healer Sister Anne with them. Upon arrival, Thomas watches a third son Gervase fall to his death from a high window. Thomas and Eleanor learn the oldest offspring died from a fever and the third born drowned. While many say the deaths are due to the devil or God's wrath, Thomas and Eleanor believe a mortal murderer is killing the sons.

The latest Thomas and Eleanor medieval mystery (see Chambers of death and Valley of Dry Bones) is a great whodunit. The story line never loses its fast pace after an incredible opening act. Readers will enjoy this delightful historical whodunit as the sleuths investigate "a season for everything under heaven, including a time to kill."

A Paradise for Fools
Nicholas Kilmer
Poisoned Pen
9781590589342, $24.95

At Cut-Rate-Cuts hair salon in Cambridge, Massachusetts, manager Kim Weatherall lifts her shirt to show stylist Claire her new but not finished tattoo on her back that she says came from an old painting. Art expert Fred Taylor looks at the elaborate garden display on Kim's body and is stunned. The tattoo looks like something from the work of fifteenth century Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch, as the unfinished tattoo reminds Fred of the masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Fred's patron collector Clayton Reed is out of the country, but he knows his client will want the Bosch if it is genuine. Thus Fred goes to the G Spot in Central Square to meet Arthur Pendragon the tattoo artist and determine whether a previously undiscovered painting by Bosch exists. Instead of a straight answer, Arthur and his colleagues (tattoo artist Kenzo Petersen; exotic dancer Tippy Artoonian; art dealer Lexington Orono and high school art teacher Zoltan "Z" Zagoriski) give him the run around. When Z dies in a hit-and-run, Fred understands the high cost of art, but remains ignorant whether a Bosch exists.

Fred is at his best in this exciting stay at home art mystery (see A Butterfly in Flame), but not just because of this super case for the elusive Bosch; he also shows his first signs of love as he likes Molly the librarian. Readers will appreciate Nicholas Kilmer's New England caper who like the hero will wonder whether a Bosch masterpiece has been found.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Gordon A. Kessler
Privately Published
9780983190516, $12.95,

Take the most exciting action-adventure movie you ever saw, double the adrenaline rush, and you MIGHT be getting close to the thrills in Mr. Kessler's latest book. My mind raced and my heart pounded throughout.

Robert Weller lives a near picture-perfect life in the quaint village of Gold Rush, CO. His hardware store is doing well, his wife Michelle is beautiful and loving. If not for his son Will's accident, resulting in paralysis, life would be ideal. But Will has a very good doctor who believes that Will can walk again using cutting edge technology. Weller is content and hopeful, except for an occasional throbbing headache and a troubling voice inside his mind. Then, one bright, perfect morning, he finds a note tucked under the soap in his shower: Everything you know is lies.

Is anything real? His wife, his business, his sleepy little town? Is Weller himself real? Within the first few pages, Weller is thrown into a techno-nightmare of smart fabrics, wearable computers, psychic assassins, mind control, and black ops that would give Jason Bourne the vapors. Maj. Lionel Jackson and Sunny McMasters try to help Weller, but can he trust them? Or are they a part of a violent and deadly delusion?

Brainstorm is a hair raising read because it's more reality than fiction. I suspect there are Robert Wellers in the world, using their psychic talents for good and evil. There are, no doubt, black ops underway that would make us all shiver if we knew the full extent of their effect. And there is, for certain, modern weaponry out there of frightening capabilities. It's all here in Kessler's book. If you're an adrenaline junkie, a conspiracy theorist, or simply enjoy exciting reads, Brainstorm is highly recommended.

The Cure
T.M. Hunter
9781466239524 $11.95

In a departure from his sci fi action-adventure novels, T.M. Hunter explores the spiritual / moral /psychological /scientific topic of death in The Cure. But don't worry, Hunter fans, there's plenty of action and excitement to be had in this fast paced thriller!

Mila Groso is a Vetrasian scientist whose company finds cures for catastrophic diseases. She's gathered the best and brightest scientists and researchers to further her goals and philosophies, with great success. Mila has more money than she knows what to do with, thanks to her clear vision and work ethic. But being a workaholic has its down side. What good are money and success when you have no one to share it with? Mila's husband and daughter are dead, attacked and killed by muggers. In an effort to survive her grief and loss, Mila focuses all her resources on what just might be her greatest accomplishment: resurrecting the dead.

One problem: Mila's time is no different than our own. Religious and moral codes consider resurrection through science blasphemous. Mila's research team has been hand picked, their work carefully protected and cloaked in secret, and yet word of Project Genesis leaks out. First she's accosted by the Guardians -- Protectors of the Divine Faith -- and told all research related to resurrection must be destroyed. Then she's marked for death as a heretic by religious zealots. And finally, a government operative threatens her with death unless all research related to Project Genesis is turned over to the Vetrasian government.

Mila's one goal is to resurrect her husband and daughter. But can she survive angry mobs of zealots out to kill her? Will she escape the Guardians long enough to accomplish her goal of bringing her family back to life? Is the government operative friend or foe? And who among her trusted team of insiders is leaking information to the world? You'll have to read the book to find out. The plot races to its finale at breakneck speed and I had to restrain myself to keep from peeking at the end. Hunter did a great job holding my interest from first page to last.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Iroquois Supernatural
Michael Bastine and Mason Winfield
Inner Traditions, Bear Company
One Park Street, Rochester, Vermont 05767
9781591431275, $20.00,

"Iroquois Supernatural: Talking Animals and Medicine People" is the latest condensed and edited collection of Iroquois paranormal happenings, historical and current, presented by a talented team including an Algonquin healer and former protege of Tuscarora medicine man Wallace "Mad Bear" Anderson (Michael Bastine) and a supernatural historian/author/researcher, Mason Winfield. Beginning with a condensed history of the Longhouse Folk, including the tribes of Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca (known collectively as the Iroquois), "Iroquois Supernatural" hopes to present an ancient, complex spiritual legacy through external events and stories, stopping short of presenting guarded information about sacred traditions that are inappropriate to share with a wide reading audience, perhaps primarily dominant culture based.

The hope and belief is that "a broader familiarity with Iroquois traditions would help world spirituality... and hence the world (p. 3)." Here are mixed contemporary and traditional stories about such diverse subjects as the witches' craft, the witches' torch, medicine people, the false faces (also referred to in works by Kathleen and Michael Gear and others), supernatural war, the power spaces, the supernatural zoo, talking animals, the little people, and the land of the elders. The geography of history of Iroquois supernatural phenomena is quite fascinating, imposed invisibly on populated areas of today as well as more private or less well known site.

An underlying theme or argument of "Iroquois Supernatural" is perhaps the need to preserve and protect agreed upon sacred sites for future generations' knowledge and inheritance. Even more pressing or perhaps apparent is the need to treat all life, human and animals, compassionately and with respect. A final note in the Songs of Dogs reads: "If you cannot find it in you for the sake of the world to be kind to all life, be kind for your own sake to your animals. You never know when they will be speaking for you (p. 271)."

Each chapter of "Iroquois Supernatural" begins with a mainstream appropriate quotation, such as the following, introducing The Longhouse Folk: "You must forgive me, therefore, for not always distinctively calling the creeds of the past 'superstition' and the creeds of the present day 'religion (John Ruskin, The Queen of the Air).'" The thrust and theme, perhaps is cultural learning, and leaning out of the dominant comfort zone. "Iroquois Supernatural" is the perfect vehicle to transport readers to this shaded and forgotten land to study its treasures of wisdom.

Postcolonial Literary Studies
Robert P. Marzec, editor
Publicity Department
The Johns Hopkins University Press
2715 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218-4363
9781421400198, $40.00,,

'Modern Fiction Studies' was a pioneering journal in the field of postcolonial literary studies. Knowledgeably compiled and deftly edited by Robert P. Marzec (Associate Professor of British and Postcolonial Literature, Purdue University), "Postcolonial Literary Studies: The First 30 Years" is an impressive 504-page compendium comprised of outstanding articles, the very best to appear in the pages of 'Modern Fiction Studies' during its first three decades of publishing. The scholarly contributors and their seminal contributions are organized into four major sections: Paradigms; Postcolonial Africa; Postcolonial India; and New Directions. Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought provoking, "Postcolonial Literary Studies" focuses more upon literary figures and texts that abstract literary theory, making it a very strongly recommended addition to academic library International Literature Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Internationally recognized for its superior scholarship, Modern Fiction Studies was one of the first journals to publish articles on postcolonial studies. Since postcolonialism's inception, scholars have defined, clarified, and enriched its conceptions and theoretical development in the pages of MFS. This anthology collects the best and most important articles on postcolonial literary studies published in MFS in the past thirty years.

Postcolonial Literary Studies brings together groundbreaking scholarship focusing on significant works of fiction by such writers as Chinua Achebe, J. M. Coetzee, Jamaica Kincaid, V. S. Naipaul, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, Bapsi Sidhwa, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and more. The essays feature ideas that helped shape the discipline from its earliest stages to the present and represent some of the finest examples of literary, theoretical, historical, and cultural criticism.

With its focus on literary figures and texts, rather than solely on theory, this volume fills a significant gap in the fields of postcolonialism, global studies, and literary criticism in general. This rich collection of essays by the field's leading scholars will prove indispensable to instructors and students across a broad spectrum of humanistic studies. It not only highlights the development and transformation of postcolonial literary study but also, by mapping out new directions of study, considers its continual significance and expansion.

The Questions Within
Teresa Schaeffer
3120-A Pullman Street, Costa Mesa 92626
9781616517603, $8.95,

"The Questions Within" is an intriguing novelette from the Cutting Edge series designed to appeal to young adults with reading skills at level 4 and up. Dealing with real-life, immediate issues such as questioning sexuality, self acceptance and personal esteem development, "The Questions Within" addresses facts of daily teen life frankly and with no frosting, in a style described as "gritty." However, the thrust is towards encouraging growing responsibility and maturity in teen characters. Constance, the protagonist, is confused about her sexuality and on the edge of deep trouble at school. She meets a friend, Kara, for whom she develops some special feelings. On top of many confusing factors, her mother signs her up for counseling at school. Although she resents this interference in her life, Constance cooperates minimally with her counselor long enough to realize some benefit from the program. "The Questions Within" is not a book about quick, easy solutions to hard problems faced by teens in their school and social lives, but it offers a kernel of choice, a nugget of wisdom, a possibility of creating better lifeways and solutions to complex problems. "The Questions Within" is simply written, brief, (143 pages) and wastes no time getting to the point. Young adults will find this series controversial, attractive, appealing, and readable. Also recommended in the Cutting Edge series are the following titles: "Breaking Dawn (ISBN 9781616517588)," by Donna Shelton, and "Seeing Red (ISBN 97816161517595)," by Peter Lancett.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Live Like a Fruit Fly
Gabe Berman
HCI Communications
3201 S. W. 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442
9780757315695, $14.95,

If things go well, you have a century. That's actually not that much time. "Live Like a Fruit Fly: The Secret You Already Know" is an inspirational book from Gabe Berman as he encourages people not to waste their short life, and embrace the style of the fruit fly, which lives every day of its life as if there is no tomorrow. With humor and wisdom, "Live Like a Fruit Fly" is a must for those who realize their own mortality and want to make the most of it.

Do Something Scary
H. A. Thompson
Privately Published
9780615414683, $8.95,

A bludgeoning of honesty can often do wonders for business. "Do Something Scary: Get Undressed for Business" is a business guide from H. A. Thompson as he presents a fascinating idea for the business world - cut the crap. Speaking out against meaningless pep talks and motivational speakers, he states honesty gets right to the problem and most quickly finds a remedy to it. "Do Something Scary" is a fine work of business literature, highly recommended.

Inside Dope
Rufus J. Davis
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South New York, NY 10016
9780533163137, $12.95,

An addiction is something that wholly dominates your life. "Inside Dope" Rufus Davis's own analysis of addiction as he has experienced it in others throughout their lives, and how these human beings are constantly battling themselves, trying to overcome themselves, trying to succeed, and all too often failing even with help. "Inside Dope" is thoughtful and honest reading, very much recommended.

Last Acts of Kindness
Judith Redwing Keyssar
Privately Published
9781453749234, $15.95,

As one approaches the twilight of their life, it can be comforting to know someone cares. "Last Acts of Kindness: Lessons for the Living from the Bedsides of the Dying" is a guide for those who are dealing with those who are facing the last moments of their life. With good wisdom for trying to bring spiritual link with those facing a fading life, and how to cope with loss oneself, "Last Acts of Kindness" is highly moving and highly recommended reading.

Unconditional Loss
Orrin Lippoff & Mladen Solar
Privately Published
9780615384047, $19.99,

As a vicious flu takes out many people, man's best friend may face extinction. "Unconditional Loss" is a unique medical thriller as Dr. Preston McBride finds his vaccine snatched from him as people die. When a canine illness emerges and kills off thousands of dogs by the day, McBride works quickly to find a cure, and finds that greed knows no limits, even in the death of man and his dog. "Unconditional Loss" is a fast paced and recommended read, not to overlooked for fans of thrillers.

Warriors of the Edge
Katie Bridges
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462002696, $19.95,

The cruelties of war are not to be forced on a twelve year old. "Warriors of the Edge" follows young Tarek Ortzen as the pre-teen joins a war game of Warriors of the Edge. But the game turns all too real for young Tarek, as what was once a game turns into something far too real. "Warriors of the Edge" is a riveting young adult adventure tale, something that should surely be considered.

Micah Andrew

Shelley's Bookshelf

Murder on Punchak Jaya
Charles G. Irion and Ronald J. Watkins
Irion Books
4462 E. Horseshoe Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85028
9780984161843, $19.95

Charles G. Irion wears many hats as an author, adventurer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He has worked in real estate development; started U.S. Park Investments, a company dealing manufactured homes, began a publishing house in 2007; has authored several books, and has participated in a climbing expedition to Kilimanjaro. He holds an M.B.A. in Business Administration.

Ronald J. Watkins is a writer, and has co-written, ghostwritten, edited, and collaborated more than thirty books. He is the founder of Watkins and Associates. He refused to give up sources during an investigation of a murder saga, and won in federal court, helping to establish precedence regarding the rights of writers. His first book, HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, recounted the impeachment of Arizona governor Evan Mecham. He is co-author of the Summit Murder Mysteries.

Climber and adventurer Scott Devion is asked by the government to join and expedition to climb Punchak Jaya, located between the Himalayas and Andes, Puncak Jaya is the highest mountain in Oceania. But it's the location that presents the biggest problems and challenges. Puncak Jaya is situated in the heart of New Guinea, one of the most primitive areas. Filled with scores of tribes, many with cannibalistic tendencies, the group is faced with critical situations from the start:

"'We're just here to climb a mountain,' Jack said, gritting his teeth.
'That's very facile but the reality is that...'
A loud burst of gunfire sounded forward of us. 'Down!' I shouted. A second later bullets racked our truck as it came to an abrupt stop."

MURDER ON PUNCAK JAYA is an exciting, eyes glued to the book read! It is well written, and the action is non-stop. The tales of New Guinea are shocking and give some idea of what the vets of World War II faced.

The Heirloom Murders
Kathleen Ernst
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Dr., Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738727585, $14.95 U.S./$16.95 CAN

Kathleen Ernst worked first as an interpreter at Old World, Wisconsin, an historic site located in Eagle, Wisconsin, then later as a Curator of Interpretation and Collections. She presently lives and writes in Middleton, Wisconsin, as well as running a blog connecting fiction and historical sites. THE HEIRLOOM MURDERS is her second Chloe Ellefson mystery.

Chloe Ellefson is one of those daring young heroines who is trying to establish herself among the antiques and folk traditions of Old World, Wisconsin. Located in the Kettle Moraine area of Wisconsin, Old World presents a museum of the Swiss heritage, which farmed the area and made it what it is today. Chloe is presently trying to rebuild her life after a hiatus in Switzerland, which led to a broken heart. A local police detective is a possible new flame, but the reappearance of her old beau throws the proverbial wrench into that situation. Meanwhile, a close friend has just lost her sister to what the police are calling suicide. But the facts don't add up, particularly when Chloe is the apparent target of attacks on her person:

"Later, Chloe wouldn't be able to say if she was meditating, or communing, or simply resting. In any case, the sense of tranquil peace and warmth was so strong that it took several moments for the unexpected rattling noise to make its way through long-gone steam, and into her consciousness. Once it had, she blinked back to the moment, struggling to identify the Sound. Then she did.

'Oh, shit,' she muttered, scrambling to her feet. In the dressing room, she grabbed the door handle and pushed. 'Nothing.'"

There's nothing as much fun as a historical novel that bounces back and forth, filling the reader with images of bygone eras. Ms. Ernst is especially great at this, delighting the reader with a buffet of visuals as the core of her tale. The murderer is oblique throughout; the sexual tension between Chloe and her Roelke is sizzles; and in the midst sits one of Wisconsin's jewels...Old World Wisconsin. Add to that, Chloe grew up in my hometown of Stoughton, Wisconsin.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Paul McKellips
Vantage Press, Inc
419 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016
9781936467099, $14.95

I wasn't quite sure what I would find in this story as I began the read, but I was soon drawn deeply into it. Our main two characters are "Camp" a Commander in the military who seems to get himself in some serious messes. However, to me, he was a likeable fellow. We also meet Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Raines, a perky young woman who does her job and unfortunately is thrown in the mix with Camp and the challenges ahead. These two become important figures in the tale. Now, I am an animal protector but I also realize that in this world animals are used for food and other necessary items. However, I do think there is way too much animal abuse going on so I read this book with interest. The story really is about Bio-Terrorism, but the animals that are used for testing become a big part of it. We meet animal protectors who take the lives of humans to try and prove their point. Stupid move for sure, but one that gave you the perfect picture of what was happening in this read. As the story continues you find out that there are evil people who are trying to develop very harmful things to release on good people. The story twists and turns, takes you to different lands, lets you share in battles and cringe at some of the things found. It is an intense book, one with a story that may well be being played out as we live our daily lives. Perhaps that is the scary part and one that may make you a tad uncomfortable as the story unfolds.

I enjoyed this book. I liked the characters, the different locals. I thought the storyline flowed nicely and was interesting. It definitely made you think, maybe worry more than a little, and pray a whole lot that something like what was going on in the read never happens in real life. Or is it happening even now? Who knows. Good book.

A Cure To Die For
Stephen G.Mitchell
Creative Artists Publishing
2047 Last Chance Gulch Ste. 338, Helena MT 59601
9780983206002, $15.99

As I began this read I met, Alex, a doctor who needs to find a purpose in life. That may sound strange, but after working in the ER, he saw more of his share or humans trying to end their lives, as he tried to save them. Alex's childhood friend, Maury has asked him to come to Montana because he is in trouble. Alex has not seen Maury for years, but something pushes him to answer his friends call for help. When he arrives there Maury is dead and he meets several very interesting characters. Cyd, a young woman who has been helping Maury with his research and Otis, a funeral director who definitely is not the norm.

As the story unfolds you find that Maury has genetically engineered cures for the common cold and for cancer. As you can well imagine this does not set well with the drug companies and corrupt politicians. So the war is on and the story begins.

I enjoyed this read, it was quick paced and very interesting. The characters were great, each unique and had wide swings in personalities that gave the story depth. Also the author cloaked them in mystery leaving you wondering what was their story and how does it fit into the adventure going on. Good move. I also enjoyed the romance that was laced within the read, just the right touch. All in all this is a well put together story that will hold your interest from beginning to end. It has some twists and turns that will surprise you and the ending is great. Well done! Recommended read!

70 Reasons For Speaking In Tongues
Dr. Bill Hamon
Parsons Publishing House
PO Box 488, Stafford VA 22554
9781602730137, $14.95

I have been a Spirit-filled Christian for over thirty-five years so I am very aware of the power of Tongues...However I never knew there were 70 reasons for speaking in tongues. I was excited to receive this book. I know the author, Dr. Bill Hamon, is a true man of God, giving service to Him for years. I trust what he would say. As I began to read the book I immediately felt the presence of the Lord as Dr. Hamon brought forth much Scripture to back-up what he was saying. I, perhaps for the first time, fully understood that Tongues is definitely a wonderful Gift that God has given to His children to help them in this life. I knew the power of praying in Tongues, but I really didn't know all the benefits until I read this book. Our author gives you detailed information on just what Tongues are and where it shows them in the Bible. His information is presented in a simple way so it is easy to understand and begin to apply to your life. I have to say after reading this book, praying in Tongues took on a whole new meaning for me. This is a wonderful book and I recommend it for every Christian, no matter how long you may have been praying in tongues, I know you will find a dozen more reasons to continue after reading this book. It's excellent, definitely touched by the Lord to enhance all His children's prayers. Enjoy.

The Gift of Job Loss
Michael Froehls, PhD
Peitho PUblishing
54 Rainey Street, Suite 718. Austin, TX 78701
9780983119203 $14.99

To be honest when I first received this book for review I wasn't thrilled. I mean, after all, job loss is job loss, right? What could anyone really have to say about it? I was very surprised. Our author, Michael Froehls, brings together quite a winner in this book. He takes a fresh new look at job loss, all of a sudden all the panic is gone and hope is refilled.

He breaks the book into three parts which are: The Gift of Job Loss; Strategic Use of Time at the Core of the Gift, and The Gift That Keeps Giving. In each of these little packages you will find some real gems of advise that you will be able to use.

Our author shares his own experiences, and that always adds a nice touch to any book. I suppose it is because he has been there and that always helps, doesn't it? He doesn't tell you exactly what to do, but rather gives you ideas, thoughts, facts so you can best fit things into your own situation. After all, not all shoes fit all feet, do they? I liked how he brings forth how to use some of your time to get to know yourself and your family. Seeing that perhaps you now have some precious moments to stop, reflect and appreciate what you never saw before.

Of course it does not stop there, Mr. Froehls gives you many tips to progress and move on with your job search when the time is right. He encourages you to stop and find your true calling. Have you really been doing what you want to do? Were you happy with the work you did?

This book actually makes you stop and think, put fears aside and truly see what is before you. Thus allowing you to make the right decisions and plan for a more beautiful tomorrow. Very well done.

Star Ship Fantasy
Fay Stine
Outskirts Press
Denvor, Co
9781432727031 $10.00

Inside the pages of this book you will meet brother and sister, Jeff and Faye. They visit a space museum and go inside a spaceship, Universe. Without any help from them the spaceship takes off and the children are zoomed to the planet, Hope. There adventure begins as they meed the Rose people and also find two earth children. The book continues on with Jeff and Faye visiting other planets and meeting other creatures, some good, some not so good. The author does do a good job at giving a visual of the characters and different planets. Also different things found on the planets, like very colorful birds that sing to the children. The stories are short and cute and should ignite a child to use their imagination. I believe it would be good for young children.

One problem is that there are grammar errors and incomplete sentences that make it hard to read. It needs to be pulled together more and I feel with a little help Ms. Stine could have a book young readers would truly enjoy.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Misfits & Heroes
Kathleen Flanagan Rollins
Privately Published
9781453755037, $20.00,

No one is cut out for an uncertain journey, yet they must often face it anyway. "Misfits & Heroes: West from Africa" follows Naaba and Asha as they embark on a journey fleeing from captors and facing anything and everything that may be out to put an end to them, learning much about the world along the way. A coming of age tale set in Africa, "Misfits & Heroes" is a worthy and very much recommended read.

Sweet Betsy from Pike
Sam Sackett
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440188336, $14.95,

For love, people will risk anything to get at their happiness. "Sweet Betsy from Pike" is a historical romance as Betsy and Ike defy their parents and head towards California in 1949 to stake their claim in the gold rush. But their journey was not an easy one, filled with hardship and to find something better at the end of it all. "Sweet Betsy from Pike" is an excellent read that shouldn't be overlooked by those seeking a historical romance.

Growing a Better Me...
Lee Ann Hawkins
Privately Published
9780964999541, $9.00,

No one likes a bully. Often even the bully himself. "Growing a Better Me...: Healing the Hurt That Causes Bullying and Being Bullied" is a self-help guide where Lee Ann Hawkins advises readers on how to better cope with the pressures that make one impose on others and be imposed on themselves. With a strong message and solid wisdom, "Growing a Better Me..." is a solid and recommended pick for any trying to cope with old pain.

Songs of My Soul
D. K. Bridges
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159765, $8.95,

We all have our journey through life, hoping not to be alone. "Songs of my Soul" is a collection of poetry from D. K. Bridges as he shares his own journey to remind others they are not alone and to find their love and reason to live through it all. "Songs of my Soul" is an excellent assortment of verse that should be considered. "My Angel": The clouds move with her stride.../The winds whisper her name.../The birds cheer for her presence.../All for my angel...//The sun shines for her face.../The stars glimmer in an attempt to mock her eyes.../The river rise when she speaks.../All for My Angel...

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Margot Peters, editor
Publicity Department
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781456897116, $19.99,

The story has been told before, yet we all yearn to have our own version. "Summers: A True Love Story" is Margot Peters doing as such, sharing her own personal romance and search for love as she spins into creative nonfiction of sorts with the characters of Jennie McAllister and Rob Falkner and their own journey to romance over the years. With humor, "Summers" is a fine romance of the 1950s, highly recommended.

A Mortal Affect
Vincent Standley
Calamari Press
9780983163343, $18.00,

The ability to die is something that is truly unique and shapes our very existence. "A Mortal Affect" is a unique work of fiction from Vincent Standley as he tells the stories of mortal and immortals and the conflict between them. With a good dose of humor and a unique message throughout, Standley tells a tale that will keep readers reading and leave them with fun things to think about. "A Mortal Affect" is an excellent novel for any general fiction collection.

The Shadow of the Rock
Eileen Haavik McIntire
Privately Published
9780983404903, $17.95,

The struggle for freedom and happiness bonds us all together throughout time. "The Shadow of the Rock" is a thoughtful read from Eileen Haavik McIntire as she tells two stories of people struggling for their own freedom. In 1781, a daughter and her father are captured and sold into slavery. With only themselves and their wits, they must find their own way through. Two hundred years later, a granddaughter finds the history behind her grandmother and her torment of the Holocaust, and the links to one girl escaping slavery hundreds of years before. "The Shadow of the Rock" is a riveting story of time and humanity, highly recommended.

Pesky Poems
T. L. Needham
Privately Published
9780578001807, $19.95,

A compilation of life's work, "Pesky Poems" is the dedication to the art from T. L. Needham as he ponders life and its twists and turns, as well as his love of the animal kingdom. "Pesky Poems" is down to earth and quite worth considering. "Born Again": My very soul.../In time suspended,/Did not know/Love's kiss commended.//For life's sweet gift,/Tho not my request,/Was thrust upon me/By love's bequest!//Since birth I have lived,/But is was not true,/This life began -- When I first saw you.

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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