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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 12 December 2014 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
Richard's Bookshelf Shirley's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf
Vogel's Bookshelf    

Cowper's Bookshelf

Slow Train to Switzerland
Diccon Bewes
Nicholas Brealey Publishing
c/o Intercultural Press
20 Park Plaza, Suite 610, Boston, MA 02116
9781857886252, $19.95, 320pp,

Synopsis: Diccon Bewes is a travel writer. A world trip set him up for a career in travel writing, via the scenic route of bookselling. After ten years at Lonely Planet and Holiday Which? magazine, he decamped to Switzerland. In addition to grappling with German, re-learning to cross the road properly, and overcoming his desires to form an orderly line, he has spent the last five years exploring this quirky country. In "Slow Train to Switzerland: One Tour, Two Trips, 150 Years - and a World of Change Apart", Diccon Bewes follows Thomas Cook's groundbreaking tour from England to the Swiss Alps by using traveler Jemima Morell's diary from 1863 to retrace the trip and explore the revolutionary affect the journey had on both Britain and Switzerland.

Critique: A masterpiece of travel writing, "Slow Train to Switzerland: One Tour, Two Trips, 150 Years - and a World of Change Apart" is as informed and informative as it is solidly entertaining. Very highly recommended for both academic and community library collections, it should be noted that "Slow Train to Switzerland: One Tour, Two Trips, 150 Years - and a World of Change Apart" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99). Appreciative readers should also consider visiting Diccon Bewes web site at

Gender and the Uncanny in Films of the Weimar Republic
Anjeana K. Hans
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814338940, $31.99, 304pp,

Synopsis: The Weimar period in Germany was a time of radical change, when the traditions and social hierarchies of Imperial Germany crumbled, and a young, deeply conflicted republic emerged. Modernity brought changes that reached deep into the most personal aspects of life, including a loosening of gender roles that opened up new freedoms and opportunities to women. The screen vamps, garconnes, and New Women in this movie-hungry society came to embody the new image of womanhood: sexually liberated, independent, and-at least to some-deeply threatening. "Gender and the Uncanny in Films of the Weimar Republic" examines largely forgotten films of Weimar cinema through the lens of their historical moment, contemporary concerns and critiques, and modern film theory to give a nuanced understanding of their significance and their complex interplay between gender, subjectivity, and cinema.

Critique: A seminal work of original research and cinematic scholarship, "Gender and the Uncanny in Films of the Weimar Republic" by Anjeana K. Hans (Assistant Professor of German, Wellesley College) is a unique contribution that should be considered a critically important addition to academic library 20th Century German Popular Culture and 20th Century Cinematic Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "Gender and the Uncanny in Films of the Weimar Republic" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Great Sand Fracas Of Ames Country
Jerry Apps
Terrace Books
c/o University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299300708, $26.95, 272pp,

Synopsis: When the Alstage Mining Company proposes a frac sand mine in the small Ames County village of Link Lake, events quickly escalate to a crisis. Business leader Marilyn Jones of the Link Lake Economic Development Council heads the pro-mine forces, citing needed jobs and income for the county. Octogenarian Emily Higgins and other Link Lake Historical Society members are aghast at the proposed mine location in the community park, where a huge and ancient bur oak - the historic Trail Marker Oak - has stood since it pointed the way along an old Menominee trail. Reluctantly caught in the middle of the fray is Ambrose Adler, a reclusive, retired farmer with a secret. Soon the fracas over frac sand attracts some national attention, including that of Stony Field, the pen name of a nationally syndicated columnist. Will the village board vote to solve their budget problems with a cut of the mining profits? Will the mine create real jobs for local folks? Will Stony Field come to the village to lead protests against the mine? And will defenders of the Trail Marker Oak literally draw a battle line in the sand?

Critique: Jerry Apps was born and raised on a Wisconsin farm and draws from his personal experiences and his cultural surroundings in all of the novels in his Ames County series. "The Great Sand Fracas Of Ames Country" is the latest and perhaps the best in an already outstanding roster of five previous works of homespun fiction. Solidly entertaining and very highly recommended reading, "The Great Sand Fracas Of Ames Country" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted that "The Great Sand Fracas Of Ames Country" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

An Unlikely Vineyard
Deirdre Heekin
Chelsea Green Publishing Company
85 North Main Street, Suite 120, White River Junction, VT 05001
9781603584579, $35.00, 384pp,

Synopsis: "An Unlikely Vineyard: The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir" tells the evolutionary story of Deirdre Heekin's farm from overgrown fields to a fertile, productive, and beautiful landscape that melds with its natural environment. Is it possible to capture landscape in a bottle? To express its terroir, its essence of place (geology, geography, climate, and soil) as well as the skill of the winegrower? That's what Heekin and her chef/husband, Caleb Barber, set out to accomplish on their tiny, eight-acre hillside farm and vineyard in Vermont. But "An Unlikely Vineyard" involves much more. It also presents, through the example of their farming journey and winegrowing endeavors, an impressive amount of information on how to think about almost every aspect of gardening: from composting to trellising; from cider and perry making to growing old garden roses, keeping bees, and raising livestock; from pruning (or not) to dealing naturally with pests and diseases. Challenged by cold winters, wet summers, and other factors, Deirdre and Caleb set about to grow not only a vineyard, but an orchard of heirloom apples, pears, and plums, as well as gardens filled with vegetables, herbs, roses, and wildflowers destined for their own table and for the kitchen of their small restaurant. They wanted to create, or rediscover, a sense of place, and to grow food naturally using the philosophy and techniques gleaned from organic gardening, permaculture, and biodynamic farming.

Critique: Terroir is the set of special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place, interacting with plant genetics, express in agricultural products such as wine, coffee, chocolate, hops, tomatoes, heritage wheat, and tea. Terroir is a French word that can be very loosely translated as "a sense of place," which is embodied in certain characteristic qualities, the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the production of the product. "An Unlikely Vineyard: The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir" is an exceptionally well written and engaging account that is beautifully illustrated throughout with full color photography. An inherently fascinating and entertaining, "An Unlikely Vineyard: The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted that "An Unlikely Vineyard: The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir" is also available in a Kindle edition ($19.25).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Scarlet Ambrosia: Blood Is the Nectar of Life
David Gittlin
Entelligent Entertainment
9780988263529 $3.99

There's a relatively new but rapidly-expanding genre on the market called 'urban fantasy', that has as its older sibling the vampire novel, born of Anne Rice's first book decades ago and now a genre in its own right. And then, there's the classic vampire struggle between darkness and light - a struggle that immerses unwitting victims, vampires, and survivors in a world dominated by blood lust.

With so many vampire novels on the market today, one could wonder at the need for yet another; but Scarlet Ambrosia is a vampire story of a different color, seasoned not so much by the drama of blood-letting as by the more universal themes of self-discovery, human nature, and redemption. Ultimately this is what makes or breaks any genre; especially one such as the urban fantasy or vampire story, which too often tends to eschew self-examination in favor of high drama. And this is just one of the reasons why Scarlet Ambrosia stands out from the urban fantasy genre crowd.

Sure, protagonist Devon's outward battle is against an ancient evil vampire, Egon Schiller - but, it's also against himself. Devon is no stranger to the dark forces within him, after years of therapy - but the darkness he's confronting now proves far beyond his wildest dreams.

Scarlet Ambrosia's inner light shines forth: a light that starts with Devon's inner world and expands to embrace the wider concern of disappearances on the city streets.

This part is predictable as Devon confronts an undercurrent of blood lust and vampires in Miami's underworld. What is less predictable is his foray into the drug world in search of evidence that will support an international investigation into one of Egon's illegal activities, fostered by his encounter with the sly, alluring Mathilde, who harbors her own secret agenda.

There's a suggestion of romance between Devon and Mathilde that's evident from their first encounter but which is suppressed in their growing focus on greater goals, which are developed as the quest progresses, as evidenced in Mathilde's statement: "Vanderling fears what Schiller will do every day he roams the earth more than he fears what might happen to us if we fail." "It's ironic how Schiller's existence can matter more in the scheme of things than yours or mine," he said. "When we first met, I told you I could handle Egon. That was another lie to help you feel more secure in your new situation."

There is acknowledgment of the forces of light and darkness that occasionally rise up, unfettered, to try to take over individuals and the world. And as Devon becomes involved in kidnapping and worse, he finds all facets of his life are called into question with a series of decisions that reach out to affect even his relationship with his beloved parents.

As lies, secrecy, and murders build, Devon finds himself paying for the bad decisions of others, and must come to admit his own inner nature before he can make a proper decision on honing his skills for either greater good or evil.

The web of lies builds and threatens to immerse everything Devon holds dear, eventually spilling over into something greater than he's ever known.

Scarlet Ambrosia is not your usual vampire story. Its intrigue, romance, and thriller writing are all wrapped up in a bigger picture. It offers much food for thought in the course of following Devon's evolutionary process and decisions, and it's not a light-hearted romp through a vampire's realm, as so many such novels provide.

As such, it's especially recommended for readers seeking more depth and undercurrents of philosophy in their literary choices. How does a protagonist not become the evil he fights in the process of battle? The classic vampire struggle between darkness and light just assumed a new cloak of complexity, here - and wears it well.

Passing Through Perfect
Bette Lee Crosby
Bent Pine Publishing
9780996080347 $TBA print / $5.99 Kindle

Poverty may be color blind, but prejudice is not...and what heals one man can tear the heart from another. Passing Through Perfect is not the kind of novel that excels in pat answers, simple characters, and calm progressive events - and this is evident from the first paragraph, which opens with a punch and just keeps on emotionally slugging: "When the heart of a man gets pulled loose he starts dying. I started dying a year ago, and I'm still working on it. I ain't going all at once; I'm going piece by piece."

Benjamin Church opens the story in 1958 with a heart-felt review of why he's dying. But it's not so much a physical death as a spiritual one: he's lost Delia, his love, and the story of this loss makes for a powerful saga in Passing Through Perfect, which goes back to 1946 Alabama where war is ending and Benjamin is returning home with little news of his family's situation.

Benjamin's marriage to Delia was not without its controversy, right from the start: it's a union that causes some to chafe and others to accept them, and it survives birth, death, and the storms that threaten to shake its foundations, until one particular loss changes everything.

When Benjamin comes to realize what his son Isaac is telling him about the tragedy, which is firmly rooted in prejudice and man's inhumanity to man, he embarks on a dangerous journey of confrontation and revenge that exposes the raw underbelly of Southern prejudice running in all circles, from the common man to local law enforcement: "The sheriff recognized Benjamin. He'd done work for Missus Haledon, and he'd done a good job. He painted their back fence and repaired a broken window in the storage shed. He was blacker than most but known for being polite, unlike the smart-mouthed coloreds who lived on the far side of Bakerstown."

Be forewarned: this is Book Three of The Wyattsville series. This reviewer has not read the prior books, either - so also be advised that prior familiarity with the series is not necessary (though, it likely will be desired, after reading this continuation of the saga). This is Southern fiction writing at its best: spiritually infused, warm, and family-oriented - an atmosphere which permeates every chapter with descriptions firmly routed in family tradition and the South: "As he sat at the kitchen table and drank a glass of sweet tea with his daddy, her ghost slid in alongside of them. It was a sadness neither of them wanted to speak of."

Sadness, broken connections, painful memories, and the birth of tolerance in the face of bitterness: all these are powerful themes that course through Passing Through Perfect and lend it an emotionally-charged feel.

Any interested in Southern atmosphere and family ties injected with a dose of spiritual reflection will find this a powerful, moving read.

A Noble Paradise
James Crawford
Privately Published

The curtains part and the scene opens in a hospital waiting room, where an anxious man's anticipation of a positive verdict is stifled by the appearance of a clergyman. The picture on the wall is one of happy children: a stark contrast to the reality hinted at which surrounds his own. And the clergyman's expression - one of compassion and pity - shouts out the news as surely as if they had announced it over the hospital PA system.

All this is deftly achieved through innuendo, expressions, and description of background: devices that James Crawford employs with a practiced hand (powerful ones that too few authors seem to know how to properly wield.)

The next chapter fills in many blanks, returning to a happier period in David's life when his family was together and a sports game and work life envelopes them all in a blanket of comfort and routine. It's happiness with a difference, for although the parents work together, they are divorced, and David is a single parent.

The story progresses as the support David provides to his kids is clearly outlined, from juggling job requirements and dental appointments to turning down inappropriate dating opportunities and creating a stable home life filled with joy and fun. Routines are emphasized (David's daily alarm clock opens with Fats Waller's 'Ain't Misbehavin') on David's part, while his ex only resents anything she has to do: "...sometimes I'd like to tell him, 'You wanted the kids and you get the child support. If you think you can handle it, then handle it.' You know? That's what I'm sending him seven hundred dollars a month for. It's not fair to have to pay that kind of money and still have to run them around to the dentist, the doctor, the school programs, the hockey practices, or whatever."

As Kim gets some bad advice from her manicurist regarding how she can work the system to get one of the kids and more money, Crawford uses her character to outline many real-world problems with the court system and child protection efforts: "But what if he fights it," Kim said, "and it turns out the accusations aren't true? Couldn't you get in to trouble?" The manicurist shook her head and smiled. "That's the beauty of it. The worst that can happen is you don't get what you want. No one's going to come back and investigate whether you lied. The court dockets are too full for that. What've you got to lose?"

When Kim trumps up charges to get the kids, David finds himself facing not only a selfish ex, but a dangerous game indeed: one that holds the potential of, once again, destroying the family he's only just put back together after the divorce.

It's the kids who ultimately suffer in any conflict between parents: this is explicitly portrayed in a series of encounters that places them directly in the middle of an evolving court case that seems to have no end and no handy resolution: "Kim, you stupid, selfish bitch, what have you done? What guilt trip have you laid on our little girl? And to what purpose? As he thought about how Breanna had been acting the last few days, how she must have been struggling with guilt and dread, struggling all alone, his heart broke for her."

A Noble Paradise is at its strongest when detailing all the dynamics of the family's interactions, from an ex's perspective and motivations for lying to broken children and broken lives.

More so than most novels about single parents, divorce, or children stuck in the middle, it offers poignant perspectives from different sides while retaining its ultimate focus on the kids. Add a disaster and the unusual possibility of recovery from an unexpected direction and you have a timeless story made fresh and new by a series of expertly-woven interplays between characters, all cemented by a father with selfless devotion to a family fragmented by divorce and contention.

The First Noble Truth
C. Lynn Murphy
Amazon Digital
ASIN: B00M4YR0R6 $3.99

The first sentence of a book can set the tone for the rest of the story and often lets readers know, in advance, whether the tale will be exceptional or mundane. Take The First Noble Truth as an example of this phenomenon: its introductory sentence - and those that immediately follow - is a powerful portent of things to come: "My father arrived late to my conception. His day had been difficult. His patient was dying. The young man had called the night before, apologizing for the disturbance. My father, a great reader of men, had smelled death over the phone."

It takes a while for one to realize that this story is actually being told from the viewpoints of two very different women: Japanese rural teacher Machiko, whose compulsion to self-injure reflects deeper traumas in her life, and that of Krista, whose life holds equally somber tones of danger and pain.

To further emphasize these differences, one story is narrated in the first person and the other in the third person. This approach succeeds in cementing the characters and making transitions between their lives a smooth and easy read. The unifying link between their experiences is suffering - and this is narrated in chapters packed with insights and impressions that are not easily solved by conventional processes of healing, recovery, and logic.

With slow precision C. Lynn Murphy deftly tells their stories (or, more accurately, lets the protagonists' lives speak for themselves), building reader interest and involvement with each chapter and allowing circumstances and settings to 'leak' through emotional responses.

The successes and failures of psychotherapy are specifically and soundly documented as each character faces her demons: "One session, he asked her to keep a diary...Machiko found that when she kept track of the number of hairs, the times of day, the length the urge lasted, she was ashamed. Humiliated. Why should she record her failures for someone else to read? Why should she make them real? She told Dr. Nishi that the journal didn't work."

Contrast this with Krista's contemplations: "There is no intervention. There is no divine plan. There is no cosmic balancing act. I looked out the window. Everything was clear." for a sense of just how differently the two protagonists perceive and handle their similar adversities and personal struggles.

That these worlds will collide seems inevitable. That these women will come to know each other and, through this knowledge, will find the way to healing and resolution is one of the many pathways The First Noble Truth takes in its long, winding journey to psychological and spiritual recovery.

Is it easier to pretend? Easier to deny? Easier to self-destruct?

Two women, two different cultures, and two different lives intersect in unusual ways in The First Noble Truth. Their parallel paths will change both their lives, and provides readers with a course that ultimately charts the shared end result of their journey in a read recommended not for light leisure pursuit, but for those who seek the gems of literary brilliance in the trappings of everyday lives.

Aurora Affair
Carolyn Haley
Borealis Books
9780988719118 (e-book) 9780988719101 (print)
B00KO9E9O0 (Amazon ASIN)
$3.99 (e), $16.99 (p)

You can tell a lot about a book by its opening: some open with a whisper, some with a hint, and some with a bang. Aurora Affair is definitely in the latter category, presenting a hard-hitting introduction that not only invites, but compels the reader to dive in for what promises to be an invigorating swim: "The universe punished me for doubting its powers by arranging a special demonstration. It dropped me, blindfolded and hamstrung, into a room with locked doors, and gave me four weapons: my paints, my doubts, my figure, and a library. Then it said: "If you can find the right door and open it with the right key, then you can have your heart's desire. Oh, by the way - There's a psychic lunatic running around out there. If you can free yourself before the sands in the hourglass run out, then you can prevent him from corrupting a critical mass of humanity and plunging the world into a new dark age. Have a nice day!"

Many times you can tell what a novel will become by its first sentences, too - but be prepared for something different here, because Aurora Affair embraces elements of paranormal romance, supernatural mystery, and modern fantasy; yet refuses to neatly fit into any formula writing structure for these genres.

How does psychic power work and how does an ordinary protagonist completely unfamiliar with such powers find that they've come to define her life? Madeline believes her new life as an artist will take unexpected paths as she moves away from her supermodel career into the comparatively staid world of the arts. What she didn't expect is a rise of her long-denied supernatural abilities when a call from her twin immerses her in a completely different world with new challenges and demands.

It doesn't matter if one believes or not when facing a whirlwind storm of confrontations and psychic attacks, and Madeline is in this position as she fields unknown enemies, an ex-lover, and a growing power that demands she choose a fitting mate to stand beside her in an evolving war.

In a world where bad dreams don't vanish come morning and a power circle's confrontations force a desperate plan, Madeline finds herself taking charge, taking control, and making some big mistakes in the process. At the center of these storms of confrontation lies doubt: something Madeline struggles with throughout a process that gives her too many choices and too much potential for disaster: "... if Raoul was the source of our psychic troubles, and jealousy drove him, then how did the two connect? Could jealousy alone really take one beyond normal physical limitations? I had long

been jealous of Blanche; and Julia - among many - had long been jealous of me. Yet none of us had gone off the deep end. How ferocious did one's feeling have to be?"

One might expect this emotionally-charged saga to be replete with psychological confrontations and focus, but one big strength of Aurora Affair lies in its ability to step back and smell the roses - or, in Madeline's case, to reflect on the remarkable beauty and events that lie in her path. Her observations of her world pepper the story line and carry readers into a realm of believability and involvement that too many other novels neglect: "Nobody on the planet knew where I was; I could afford to absorb the moon-washed landscape, reminiscent of the lake I'd stood upon to watch the northern lights. No show tonight but still a flat-bottomed bowl embraced by hills and forest, as bright as midday but as if a blue filter hung over the sun. All the colors were there, just more intense and richer, nigh impossible to mix in paint to capture the eerie contrasts."

In a story of karma, the power of love, and the strength of adversity and change, one central point shines: the power of shared effort: "Mere days ago, we had no options. By accepting your influence, I broke our enemies' boundaries - and yours, and my own - and opened new possibilities. And gained worldwide attention, without destroying anything. We can't jeopardize that. So many people are watching, waiting, listening . . . and their reaction will start the domino chain that will bring peace and enlightenment for all."

And in a dangerous world where Madeline is just beginning to test the powers of love and the possibilities of different worlds, it's a connection that holds not only her world together, but offers the reader of Aurora Affair new possibilities as well.

That Aurora Affair continues its mercurial path throughout, refusing to create predicable events or patterns and challenging its protagonist and reader alike to consider the possibility of latent abilities, is tribute to an approach that doesn't just invite readers to take the plunge into another world, but compels readers to drive right in and keep on swimming to a satisfying conclusion that ties all loose ends neatly together and leaves the water as a winner.

Jesse Arnold
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00O2BBLJW $4.99

Alethea is a young athlete destined for good things when a car accident claims her abilities and changes her path in life forever. Now she's crippled, her Olympic dreams are part of a past she'll never regain, and she's facing down nightly monsters and the possibility that her crippled body yet holds some superpower.

As Alethea comes to discover the nature of these monsters and her latent abilities, she becomes cognizant of the fact that a greater struggle than recovery or disability is in store for her; one which places her in the position of a possible savior, pitted against impossible forces.

Alethea is a young adult novel - but it would be a shame to limit its audience to this age group (despite cover art clearly directed to its younger audience): really, it's a pick for all ages with its spunky protagonist, saga of adversity, and journey into supernatural realms.

The path between active, spunky girl and one disabled in body and spirit is a predictable one, and one that's been covered before. Alethea, however, is a notch up from your usual story and adds monsters, supernatural elements, and a mystery to the recovery process.

As Alethea's world becomes increasingly unstable, even the reader is led to question - along with the protagonist - what is real and what is not: "Every night, Alethea had nightmares about her imprisonment and capture. During the day, she would spin little fantasies in her head where she escaped sooner and with her parents, or even better, where she stopped them from being captured. Starting out, these little fantasies were simple things, like the one about dodging the blow that knocked her out and then fleeing to safety and calling the cops. But of course, Alethea's fantasies grew progressively more heroic, until eventually she imagined overwhelming their abductor with a display of superhuman strength."

An intriguing concept - that evolving strength can be associated with heroism - weaves into the story of Alethea's evolutionary process as her life changes from that of an Olympic hopeful to a girl who struggles to either save the universe or preserve her sanity. It's increasingly unclear what is real and what is illusion, and Alethea depicts the inquiry process as a strange world of special abilities evolves.

Is everything that happens being controlled by a force greater than one could imagine? Alethea questions everything - and in so doing, carries readers on a powerful journey in the arms of a protagonist who is realistic, poignant, and feisty all at the same time. Does this sound like a creation just for young adults? Not!

Martin Roy Hill
Amazon Digital Services
9781499201734 $2.99

One doesn't usually associate 'Army' with 'extraterrestrial investigations' (outside of Roswell, that is), but Eden makes this connection and provides a snappy set of circumstances that revolve around an Iraqi sandstorm, a desert secret, and an ancient temple investigated by an unwitting army patrol just beginning to understand that a hidden burial chamber poses more danger than the war itself.

Eden is a novella that takes the usual trappings of a thriller - military confrontations, a centuries-old secret, and cultural clashes - and adds a healthy dose of von Däniken into the mix, with a difference. If ancient aliens really had a hand in human evolution, what's to say that something wasn't left behind to spark further changes?

This is what Captain Adam Cadman and his group of soldiers is about to discover in a secret that not only challenges them but which brings an alien perspective into the sequence of events: "These creatures have no concept of anything but the dirt under their feet. How can you teach them about the origins of the universe?"

It's about the stars, the future, and a decision that will not only change the world but take generations to justify. It takes Adam and Eve's familiar story and adds a twist that may offend solid Christian belief systems, but which will delight any who enjoy a unique turn of plot.

Eden can't be said to be a spiritual read in the usual sense of the word, but it incorporates some of these elements. It's not a standard 'thriller' in that the pace is not relentless, but pragmatic and thoughtful. It's not an 'alien story' in that a far bigger picture evolves, and it's not even a military novel - despite the gun-aiming soldier on its striking cover. So readers anticipating a standard 'genre' read and who seek to place Eden in any of the above boxes will find this novelette defies easy categorization.

Ultimately, it's about how the 'truths' of modern day evolve from a combination of myth, daring decisions, and hope. So, if it's a thought-provoking story with an alternative twist that is desired - and if readers aren't so grounded in Christian belief that they can't be entertained and enthralled by quite a different interpretation of events - then Eden will prove the item of choice, standing well apart from any ordinary genre read.

The Least Envied
Sean Delauder
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9780615728865 $9.99 print / $4.99 Kindle

Andrew has come to the gritty West to find one person: someone who has been ignored by history yet has played a key role in it. But he hasn't come West via the usual vehicles of transport, and this isn't the frontier of textbooks so much as the realm of another world. For Andrew has traveled through time on his latest mission, and his new journey is a blend of fantasy and myth, reality and challenge.

This epic journey is a common device of novels that range from pure fantasy to stories of contemporary struggle; but it offers a difference, here, right from the start, leading readers to believe the West of mention is set in this world - then offering a myriad of clues that indicate that, in fact, it is in another world entirely.

Underlying the saga of Andrew's mythic journey of self melded with a greater purpose is the representation of a true hero who tackles an impossible assignment with courage and passion. In the process of such an exploration, readers can anticipate a highly charged, visually revealing novel packed with engrossing imagery: "A faint jangle of alarm rang in his head. His skin prickled, as it always did

when Luck was about to swell up into a lightning-filled cloud of Peril. Jagged and electric, Peril often proved undodgeable. And Luck, if there was such a thing, was invariably bad."

How does Andrew go about making an impossible search through time and history to identify this special person? And what if there are others also questing with different purposes in mind: to destroy those who would make pivotal decisions changing the course of events? The mechanics of such a search are well outlined as others jump into the fray with different objectives in mind: "I'm looking for something. Someone. The obstacle. The impediment. The great obstruction. Maybe several someones. I'm not sure. Their histories are not here, or altered. By knowing the histories of everyone else, perhaps I can piece together the shape of the world and find their history in the hollow places. If I know where there are gaps, I will know where to look."

From a girl who has lost a father who is possibly "the last hero", whose powers of restoration have been stilled by her loss, to the search for searchers themselves, The Least Envied holds many twists of perspective that keep readers engrossed and on their toes: "Her father had been a hero, the last hero, and she had lost him. She'd become bitter, misanthropic, and ventured out by herself for the singular purpose of being alone. Maybe if she had the chance to save a hero, a hero worth saving, she would come back. Even though coming back would expose her to those searching for her. To find her, he realized, he needed to find those whose mission it was to search for her."

In a world where 'home' can be through in door leading to any time and place, one man can make a difference, one boy can alter events, one girl's courage can change everything, and one song can, ultimately, tie everything together.

In the process of creating doorways and searching through time, Andrew could ultimately find - or lose forever - the one thing he doesn't expect from his lonely journey: love. And that's the greatest lure and attraction of all.

Readers shouldn't pick up The Least Envied expecting it to be your usual time-traveling fantasy. Those who view it as an epic, mythical journey in the manner of the best of new age authors and heroic figures will find it an amazing juxtaposition of fantasy and hero myth: brought to life, entwined, and ultimately more powerful because of these unusual connections.

The Labyrinth of Time
T.W. Fendley
Silent Partner Publishing
9780990756224, $12.99 pbk
9780990756200, $3.99 Kindle
9780990756217, $3.99 Smashwords ebook

Any good fantasy adventure involves a quest - and a good young adult fantasy is no exception. Such a journey, when fueled with strong characterization and injected with a sense of urgency, can also translate to a powerful read for adult audiences as well - but in order to do so, the tale needs to present the 'bigger picture' above and beyond the usual teen perspective of her/his world - and The Labyrinth of Time

achieves this goal with satisfying twists of plot that keep all ages involved.

It all began in 2008 (the origins of this story, not the saga itself) when T.W. Fendley toured Peru and absorbed much of its culture and exotic atmosphere. No ordinary sojourn, this journey was promoted as "a tour like no other", and indeed, a survey of the lesser-known Library of Stone Books of Ica inspired much of the events of The Labyrinth of Time.

One intriguing preface note, before delving into the novel inspired by Fendley's Peruvian trip: "If you Google "Stones of Ica," you will find many people in the Wiki-universe consider them a hoax. If that's the case, kudos to the enterprising farmer who shared his fiction by engraving the story on more than eleven thousand stones."

Teen Jade is spending spring break with her grandmother in Peru: not exactly her idea of a great time, until she hooks up with a museum director's son and discovers they share telepathic abilities that allow them access to a past world. Summer just got a whole lot more interesting - but wait, there's more!

The message they uncover from an ancient Earth leads them on an unexpected journey through the Labyrinth of Time in search of a mysterious red crystal that could change the world. Jade's mission is to rescue and restore the Firestone before it's too late.

All this is narrated in the first person, which allows readers to absorb, from a personal perspective, the events which transpire; from Jade's revelations about her grandmother's spiritual beliefs and their unusual origins in heritage and circumstance to her own newfound task to bring enlightenment into the world before the second Light returns to correct the growing imbalance between Earth and the heavens.

Mind you: this isn't a task involving all humans. Jade learns that in such a scenario even one can make all the difference: "If even one person's vibration is sufficient to join us, all will be spared. Otherwise, this world must be destroyed."

Readers will admire Jade's ability to persevere and overcome against all odds, and in the process the girl that Jade was at the beginning of summer is tasked with changing, also. New bonds are formed, new goals are created, and Jade ultimately finds newfound purpose in life as a result of the choices she must make.

To call The Labyrinth of Time a 'young adult read' may be accurate - but to limit its audience to such would be a shame. Many an adult will find Jade's feisty personality and perseverance in the face of much adversity just the ticket for a rainy day, and will realize that Jade's evolution embraces all the facets of a life well lived: spiritual concerns, a touch of romance, family connections, and struggles with outside forces beyond one's control.

Readers with a touch of New Age spiritual inclination will especially find that the story reaches out and touches them, and while Christian-based readers may struggle with some of the concepts, ultimately it's a thought-provoking, enlightening, and entertaining read all in one package, tailored for teens but holding the ability to reach through time, space and age groups for much wider audience. The Labyrinth of Time keeps its eye firmly on the bigger pictures of life - and that's what makes it a stand out.

The Women of Skawa Island: An Adam Saint Book
Anthony Bidulka
Insomniac Press
9781554831241 $19.95

What can three women, shipwrecked on an island, have to do with world security and the actions of a powerful man entrusting a staggering secret to someone else? Plenty, as former Canadian Disaster Recovery agent Adam Saint is about to find out in the hard-hitting international thriller The Women of Skawa Island.

Saint is used to having high level resources at his beck and call - but, not on this mission.

He's used to the support of an international intelligence agency with all the bells and whistles that come with it ... but all that's gone.

And he's used to professional abilities that streamline his investigations and result in swift resolutions - but, not this time.

Add the unusual family sidekicks of a sassy sister and a misfit nerd nephew with a penchant for computers, then open the story with a Titanic-like shipwreck scenario in which the inhabits of a cruise ship party on in placid waters while the klaxons chime warnings of disaster and you have a gut-punch opening and scenarios that dance around one another like boxers in the ring.

Descriptions throughout are tightly woven and intricate, imparting a 'you are there' feel: "The passengers' chatter, growing increasingly rapid and agitated, was drowning out the ship's incessant alarms. As they passed their shipmates, Darren was reminded that most spoke a language he'd never heard before. Until this minute he hadn't thought it was a big deal. Now he wondered if understanding each other was about to become the biggest deal ever."

When a mysterious order from Australia for all ships to take cover interrupts festivities, chaos abounds, leaving readers to wonder: what would you do if an Earth-changing cataclysm or terrorist attack were to strike while you were far from home?: "A cataclysmic event has been forecast, and this event," Smith continued, "is massive in scale, with the potential to affect every continent on earth." "Let's go home! I want to go home!" someone cried out, quickly followed by others. "We can't go home," Smith responded firmly. "All we can do...all we can do is hide and hope for the best."

Scroll forward to the first-person story of Adam's investigation of an increasingly-bizarre secret. Who is behind it? CDRA's new head honcho, Shekhar Kapur? Or the most powerful woman in the world of clandestine operations, Maryann Knoble? With high-level hacking and deadly games being played at every level, from interpersonal emotional to high-level intelligence, and you have a plot fueled by passion, emotion and the drive for excellence and power: all ingredients for hard-hitting action.

As Adam's probe reveals an unimaginable atrocity in the South Pacific world the three women call home, his conflicting vision of himself as healer/saint and high-order investigator collide. The women of Skawa Island are about to start talking - and when they do, their revelations will cause widespread destruction, leaving Saint standing alone against an overwhelming enemy who will do anything to prevent that from happening.

It's one man - and his sidekicks - against the world; and at the heart of it all are three women with a long-held secret to tell.

The Women of Skawa Island does what any good thriller should do: builds intrigue around character motivations, paints a path that eventually becomes crystal clear but throughout seems mired in moral and ethical issues, and, in the end, comes full circle as it addresses family ties, responsibilities, misconceptions, and warped purposes - all packaged in a cloak of unpredictability and fast-paced, well-wrought action.

What thriller reader could ask for more?

It's Your Party - Make It Epic
Robyn C. Scates
Privately Published

Socrates once said: "The unexamined life is not worth living" - and even in his time, he found that too many don't actually live their lives; they merely exist. There is a difference, as Robyn C. Scates also points out for more modern audiences in It's Your Party - Make It Epic.

This reviewer wonders how many people will fall into this book accidentally, while searching for a title on how to throw a better party. And, of those who anticipate a party planning guide, how many will find its words resonate with feelings already being felt or considered?

No matter why it's chosen, It's Your Party is fruitful reading for any who would inject a sense of joie de vivre and purpose into life. It's a blue print of just such a process, and bypasses the usual admonitions from self-help and spiritual circles to cut to the chase of what constitutes a life worth living.

The first chapter begins with the basics of how to examine one's life: a concept that should be simple but which, in fact, is often the first barrier to identifying and tackling reasons why life often feels chaotic and out of control. It asks whether readers allow others to steal the joy from their lives, it invites a closer look at how one chooses to spend time (and, with whom), and it reveals how to hone in on what is desired from life, and how to get there.

The groundwork has been laid: proceeding chapters explore the 'how to get there' piece with practical advice that goes beyond admonishments to consider not only how to get to a difference place, but how to address the challenges of doing so - such as letting go of toxic relationships that are limiting at best and deadly at their worst, how to let go of emotional 'baggage', and how to accept nothing less than authentic, supportive relationships and approaches to self and world.

It's this juxtaposition of the fine line dividing both (and, most importantly, how to get there) that's the heart of It's Your Party and the foundation of 'a life examined'.

Now, this could have been achieved in the form of philosophical and psychological admonitions. The fact that all approaches receive examples from real life and the author's own growth process makes for a much more powerful and accessible formula than other self-help 'change your life' titles offer: "After a while, I noticed that sleeplessness and incessant mind chatter seemed to coexist on those endless, restless nights. In an attempt to determine where all the mental noise was coming from, I decided to create a master to-do list, writing down all my commitments and responsibilities. After writing for several hours without even coming close to completing my list, I realized that my many duties were haunting me in the worst way. It was simply overwhelming. I noticed that most of the items on the list were favors I had committed to."

From learning how to recognize miracles in life to mirroring in one's life the kindness and compassion of the Divine, Scates provides a virtual road map to freedom and more effective living - something Socrates, with all his philosophical insights, never achieved.

It's all about direction and throwing the kind of party that makes everyone want to come back for more. It's Your Party is more than a simple road map: it's a celebration, in and of itself, injecting enthusiasm and clear insights into a process too often muddled by complexity in competing books that use Socrates' approach but leave their readers in the dark about the process itself.

Metal Horses
Ron Ames
Amazon Digital Services
9781621374770 $9.99

Amidst cultural turmoil and strife, the promises of enchantment in everyday life are often lost, warped, or repressed. America in the 1970s was such a decade: an era of war protests, bell bottoms, afros, and muscle cars, among other things. It may be a decade long past; but it comes to life with an unusual dual focus on muscle cars and memories in Metal Horses, a nostalgic reflection on love and identity amidst social disorder.

But protagonist Jason isn't the one doing the reminiscing; he's just an ear attracted to an aging woman who holds some answers to his past and owns a mysterious car in a shed, which he unwittingly finds to be the vehicle for not only car culture insights and an American obsession, but his own roots.

As his unwitting comment about his father unlocks long-barricaded doors in fifty-something Ruth's heart, Jason finds far more than he bargained for as he listens to a saga of love, redemption and loss: a tale immersed in America's muscle car community.

Metal Horses holds the potential for appealing to a primarily- male audience, with its car focus - but this is offset by the reflections of a woman. It holds the potential of being mired in 70s politics and social change - but it doesn't stay there, because this outer layer of time and place is merely the coat covering the psyches that interact with one another and fulfill dreams for different reasons: "When I was in Nam, I dreamed of owning a '55 Chevy. I made a pact with myself that if I lived, I'd have one. I don't need to drive it, 'cause you see, I was able to fulfill that dream. I had buddies who didn't get that chance."

The fact that Jason's father Andy was at the heart of a culture Jason is only beginning to understand - and that his death in a crash has left Jason with many questions only a strange former flower child woman can answer - makes for a story that winds around muscle car culture to arrive directly at matters of the heart.

The Vietnam War drove rebellion into the hearts of the young and those who were threatened with the draft. It painted stark differences between right and wrong, moral and unethical behaviors, and it drove a wedge in the heart of the American public that some say remains unhealed today.

Metal Horses doesn't seem like a coverage of such events since its opening chapters revolve around cars - but, ultimately, it's part of a wider legacy that Jason has inherited - and one which is America's bequest, as well.

And in the heart of revelation comes the ultimate goal - freedom - as Jason's discoveries change his perspective of who he is and where he's come from, and why the truth has been such a close-held secret for all these years: "Andy never told you about the past. In some lives, it's too great to bear. So people just forget."

Can cars be enchanted, and can lives be charmed despite turmoil and change? Metal Horses is a testimony to the lasting effects of good and bad decisions, and is recommended far beyond the usual reader of either hot rod stories or novels of 1970s America.

It's Not the Cans! The Best Nutrient Balance for a Stronger and Healthier You
Bryant G. Lusk
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9780692028780 $TBA

It's not another diet plan - it's much more. Nor is it a treatise on canned goods and their detriments (although that's included). Instead, It's Not the Cans! The Best Nutrient Balance for a Stronger and Healthier You provides what no canned production will: an in-depth survey assessing how nutrients actually work in the body to promote better health, and a specification of exactly which nutrients work to improve different conditions.

It's not a diet plan in the conventional sense in that its broader purpose is to help readers not only identify nutrient deficiencies that often go undiagnosed, but where nutrients may be found, whether they be in pills or in foods. It also includes the dangers of having excessive amounts of a particular nutrient in a diet: as with all good health plans, the focus is more on restoring balance than overload.

Generally nutrients are covered in school and easily forgotten about by non-athletic, average adults who go to work and come home to lead a life where good health may be taken for granted until something goes wrong; but, in fact, attention to nutrients and understanding of their function and acquisition should be a life-long process.

One would expect that such an in-depth coverage would come from someone already working in the health or culinary profession; but Bryant G. Lusk worked in aviation technology for nearly thirty years, and nutrition was the last topic on his mind for a book - until sudden but relatively small medical issues (racing heart and foot cramps at night) prompted him to consult a physician who found 'nothing wrong' and dismissed him.

Plagued by increasing symptoms, Lusk undertook his own investigation - and his perseverance revealed a lack of potassium and magnesium in his diet. Despite physician tests that said everything was nominal, Lusk undertook his own program - and healed himself.

Thus began an intensive study of nutrients, backed by an expertise in performing extensive research and analysis (albeit on aviation systems). As he introduced nutrient-rich foods back into his diet, many of his underlying health concerns (obesity, asthma) began to vanish as well.

The importance of his investigation for everyone else is stated in a simple opening sentence ("...key nutrient deficiencies that are often misdiagnosed - and never addressed") and with that in mind, readers are invited on a journey to learn more about nutrients and specific bodily interactions, and improve their own health through a combination of diet and supplements.

Obviously, such a process involves a reader willing to make changes and consider new patterns of involvement. The focus on 'how much and how often' isn't an easy one; nor is it as easy as popping a few pills at breakfast or setting in stone a routine that never changes. We're talking lifestyle change here - something that's a pre-requisite for effectively using the information packed into It's Not the Cans - so readers should be forewarned that an effort needs to be made (aside from reading this book) to incorporate its lessons into life routines and eating habits.

No miracles are promised, so readers looking for quick fixes are advised to turn elsewhere. This is a serious nutrition book that requires the attention of readers interested in absorbing its wealth of information on how nutrients actually work and what methods achieve balance. Discussions include synthetic and natural forms of supplements and their pros and cons, the task of gaining enough nutrients from a diet plan whether the consumer be vegetarian or carnivore, and when to be cautious ("Maintaining proper levels lowers the risk for developing diabetes. However, individuals with diabetes may develop unsafe, high-levels of potassium due to impaired kidney function and therefore should consult with their physician.")

It's not another diet plan - it's much more. Nor is it a treatise on canned goods and their detriments. It's Not the Cans packs two punches: understanding the role of nutrients in health, and understanding where they come from and how to restore balance with a nutrient-rich program. It IS that simple - and something health readers tired of weighty tomes, impossible promises, or quick-and-dirty diet plans will welcome as a refreshing breeze of lasting practicality and information in a genre overloaded with unproven 'miracles' and fads.

Sceadu, Your Shadow Holds a Secret
Prashant Pinge
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00NVCV0I0 $3.99

Nine-year-old Matilda has a problem: her shadow has been growing - and she hasn't. What happens when something grows unfettered? It eventually consumes - and that is what happens to Matilda. End of story? Not on your life: it's only the beginning!

Sceadu, Your Shadow Holds a Secret holds unusually captivating cover art - a looming, evil mask/face - and is slated for young adult audiences despite its pre-teen protagonists. That's a good thing; because between a scary cover and a fantasy based on an end of the world prophecy that looms as a possible reality, the story line is recommended for mature teens into adult readers.

Can children embark on an epic, world-saving quest that involves confrontation with monsters in another world? It's a scenario done relatively often in young adult and adult reads (and sometimes in a less complicated manner in titles for pre-teens) - but don't let its frightening countenance and complicated-sounding story line fool you. Sceadu, Your Shadow Holds a Secret is also a pick for selected mature pre-teen audiences as well, though it does open with some trappings this audience doesn't usually receive, such as the specter of a mysterious man who has special interests in a ravaged world: "The man could feel the ivy swaying gently behind him on the ruins, part of a world where time no longer had any meaning. But it did to him. He pressed his taut fingers against the crumbling plaster. When would his wait be over? He raised his hand once again, almost mechanically, but stopped. Would the old fool even find the building? Or had he changed his mind? Perhaps he was lying dead in a gutter in some dirty alley. No, the man thought fiercely. The money would bring him here. It would mean at least a few days booze."

The device that ultimately proves the most successful, setting Sceadu apart from other fantasies, is the juxtaposition of children working within the context of a very adult world.

Dialogue often includes slang and local lingo ("Jest took me a few swigs," the old man mumbled, swaying like a reed. "To give 'ol Marcus the guts to break in."), offers an inviting black and white map, and introduces young Matilda, a girl with a problem: "It was her shadow, trying to drag her into itself."

One is reminded of the young protagonists of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, between the vivid descriptions of setting, the focus on young hearts and minds confronted with the growing evil of a very adult world, and an adventure quest undertaken to thwart its life-changing influences. Perhaps this is the heart of the proper audience for Sceadu: with those Bradbury fans who have not seen a satisfying young protagonist's ability to reach into adult hearts through a maze of horror since The Halloween Tree.

As the story proceeds, all the trappings of high fantasy are present: imps, faeries, kings, goblins, and a growing circle of young people determined to meet prophecy head-on and thwart deadly forces against all odds.

From King Resolutus, who moves ever-closer to his evil goal, fueled by a band of loyal goblins and a host of dark forces, to how Steve and Patrick ultimately underestimate their foe and confront a shattered crystal ball's secrets and promise of help, Sceadu is an action-packed adventure steeped in myth, reality, and the fine lines that separate these worlds.

Can an ages-old prophecy inevitably lead to dark times? Can the creatures of Sceadu claim another world? Or can a band of determined children beat them back?

Though billed as a young adult read, Sceadu, Your Shadow Holds a Secret will easily reach into adult circles as well (despite the ages of its young heroes and heroine), and promises as thrilling, unpredictable a read as any an adult fantasy.

The Valkyrie
Deborah L. Davitt
Amazon Digital Services
9780692296288 $5.99

The Valkyrie (The Saga of Edda-Earth Book 1) is a long, epic fantasy, suitable for readers who like their stories sweeping, their protagonists believable and compelling, and their fantasy worlds well-detailed and intricate. It's based on two historical concepts: what if Rome never fell, and what if magic was a real part of human experience?

With just these two simple ideas, Davitt's story is off and running as it presents the world of an alternate 'Edda-Earth' where both circumstances are true and where all gods only imagined in our world are real.

Against such a backdrop is, predictably, the specter of war - and also within such a scenario dance a cast of characters who represent interplays between magic and science: Trennus, the son of a king; valkyrie Sigrun, scientist/magician Minori; and a cast of military, spiritual and political figures steeped in the aura of ancient Rome - but with a difference.

All believe their world is about to end: but is that a final ending, or a transition? The two concepts intersect as desperate times produce desperate people who even consider human sacrifice as a method of keeping the lions at bay.

Be forewarned: this is no light, easy read. It takes a few chapters to fully absorb a cast of characters with different names and purposes, and a setting that is at once quite different from our world yet replete with similarities, right down to the blue jeans: "His female companion might have been Cimbric or Frisian. It was certainly possible; the greater metropolitan area of Ponca was situated between the provinces of Nova Germania and Novo Gaul, and in the close vicinity of several smaller petty kingdoms. The woman had tossed her cloak beside her in the booth, revealing a brown leather bodice currently worn without an undershirt. She'd laced it tightly, showing the clean strength of her long arms and pale skin. But like the man beside her, she also wore blue jeans. No earrings, which could be pulled or twisted or torn from her lobes by an assailant."

Within simple conversations are a wealth of insights into setting and characters which neatly set the stage for future motivation, actions, and reactions: "Everyone in existence is an egotist. Figure out what a given woman's interested in, and adopt her concerns. Just don't talk about magic to a non-mage. You'll confuse them and make them feel inferior and angry. It just never goes well." He went out of his way not to talk about his work with his own wife. She knew he was a technomancer. She knew he was a Praetorian. Past that, his work didn't come in the front door. There were reasons why there were so many collegia for magic practitioners. Magic that hadn't been state-sanctioned or controlled by the priests, centuries ago, had gotten sorcerers and summoners persecuted, until they'd banded together, and managed to convince society to give them the respect due to all professionals - such as doctors and magistrates - and equal rights under the law."

As protagonists travel into different lands and interact with different peoples, the story creates several winding plots that intersect and then move apart like a living, breathing entity reflecting the flow of life: "1955 had fleeted by, as if propelled by wings. At least three more trips to various locations to meet with Chaldean and Median envoys - always different people, so as to throw off detection. As a result, Livorus noted that he constantly felt as if he were starting the negotiations from scratch every time he met with someone new."

Readers who look for sweeping sagas embracing political, historical and social change will welcome Davitt's approach to creating a more complex set of scenarios than the usual fantasy story offers. Think 'Tolkien' when placing her works into a similar category; because her attention to details of place, time, and the politics behind confrontations is just as well-wrought.

By including demons, gods, and more within her story, however, Davitt's story takes on a decidedly more complex approach as it builds an alternate timeline of events supported by appendixes of information on world geography and more.

The Valkyrie is world-building at its highest level: as such, its readers shouldn't be ones looking for a light fantasy adventure, but those who root out the few Tolkien-like epics in the fantasy genre, there to live amongst gods, monsters, and brave adventurers who traverse a dangerous world with purpose, courage, and visions of creation, recreation, and change.

It's this audience who will love what Deborah L. Davitt has achieved with The Valkyrie - and who will await further developments.

The Laced Chameleon
Bob Rogers, Inc.
5726 Cortez Rd W, #349, Bradenton, FL 34210
9780991296118 $16.99

Francesca Dumas is a New Orleans belle who leads the lavish life of a lady of high society, until her love is shot dead and she declares revenge. Her determination to find his killer changes her life of parties, riches and high society and brings her into a world replete with danger - but this is only a piece of the real story in The Laced Chameleon.

The novel is set in 1862 New Orleans during the Civil War, when the Union Army occupied New Orleans, and delves into the social and racial structure of the city by presenting the life of a 'quadroon' (a person resulting from biracial sex, with three white grandparents) who moves in the world of rich white men. In an arranged union between women of color and white men in antebellum New Orleans, Francesca is the product of such a union, and her place in society and her abilities to move within it are strictly regulated.

Through her eyes and the author's attention to historical detail readers are treated to insights on the intricacies of such a world.

But it's not just a historical novel, though its setting is firmly rooted in historical fact - it's a mystery, as well, and Francesca proves a fitting investigator of a murder.

Part of what makes The Laced Chameleon such a well-done approach is that Francesca's world is vividly portrayed. She doesn't just fall into the role of an investigator - she's pushed in. Her skills at surviving her world will serve her well in her new role, because life just got a lot more complicated.

And the attention to small details - such as the appearance of monies bearing separate images of George Washington and enslaved black cotton pickers, or the question of what kind of currency - Confederate or Northern - is acceptable payment - are little points that serve to reinforce the bigger picture of 1800s New Orleans.

Facing a mortgage from her father, a notorious gambler, and the possibility that her lover's murderer is the same man who stole her friend Emily, Francesca has even more reason for pursuing the truth; only the truth proves not as simple as tracking down a single killer nor uncovering a singular motivation for murder, and her choices at every turn hold implications for independence, changed status in society, and a journey that will change her world.

It's rare to find a historical mystery so well-grounded in the flavors and atmosphere of the antebellum South, and one which so thoroughly injects New Orleans atmosphere into every chapter. This backdrop strengthens the character of Francesca, her life, and her purposes and helps identify the source of her tenacity, creating a believable, living protagonist whose concerns and approach to life is well grounded in the politics and social mores of her times.

The characters she encounters are equally believable, equally logical in relation to the society atmosphere of the times, and are powerful adjuncts to Francesca's world, which is overrun by Union soldiers, lawyers, high society and politics.

From links between deaths of friends to the involvement of policemen and doctors, this is an engrossing saga that depends on one woman's cleverness and ability to delve into close-held secrets and associations for answers that will ultimately return her life to a semblance of normality.

Any who look for a historical murder mystery that's more than light reading will find The Laced Chameleon a top, winning recommendation.

Breaking With Dyslexia: Add/Adhd Aphasia Autism Stuttering Hearing & Sight Problems
Dennis Brooks
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781483415048, $16.95 sc
9781483415055, $TBA ebook

Those with dyslexia struggle mightily with school in particular and the world in general, and thus there have been many, many books directed to educators, parents, and others on how to help. What has largely been lacking (until now) is a self-teaching course specifically for people who have problems learning to read. Both children and adults can teach themselves to read after learning the alphabet and the phonetic alphabet.

Dennis Brooks has a workbook for this group - and quite simply, its only prerequisite is for readers to be willing to do the work. Ordinarily that's not asking a lot - but for those with dyslexia, it's a daunting task that requires commitment and hard labor.

His 'course in a book' consists of a combination of approaches that include phonetic decoding, pronunciation drills, visualization and memorization, syllable stress, handwriting, and reading out loud. All this uses phonics to buttress the sounds and images of words, reinforcing basic phonics with 'read aloud' support.

Words are broken down and emphasis provided in bold, while words are presented in large type to help the eye follow and the brain understand.

The concept acknowledges that English-speaking natives with dyslexia have the most problems reading - and it provides a relatively simple process of breaking down and decoding words and converting them to phonics, then reverse 'encoding' spoken words back to visuals. Stress marks for syllables solve the common problem of pronunciation and tone in read-aloud efforts.

Scientists define and analyze dyslexia: they don't often produce remedial approaches. Textbook publishers produce texts geared to a combination of state standards and school reading curriculum. And so teachers are often forced to adapt such materials to the non-reader, whether or not it ultimately works for the dyslexic.

Breaking with Dyslexia offers an alternative that is based on the condition of dyslexia and the shared processes of dyslexic learners, and is a breath of fresh air in the world of forced standardization.

Natalie's Art
Susan Fleet
Music & Mayhem Press
9780984723577, Print: $15.00 / ebook: $2.99

Website page for the book:

Ordering link-Amazon:

To call Natalie's Art a 'mystery' would be to do it a disservice, though mystery is certainly one of the elements of its story. To call it a 'thriller' would be too vague: there's no international intrigue involved - but there are plenty of twists and thriller-style devices employed that would certainly appeal to fans of this category. But to deem it a 'psychological suspense drama' - now, that's a much more accurate descriptor; though even this doesn't begin to scratch the surface of complexity that is Natalie's Art.

Natalie's Art is actually Book 5 of the Frank Renzi series (prior books not read by this reviewer) and it's evident early on that there's far more involved than a singular plot. If this sounds like a challenging read, be advised: Natalie's Art is not for the reader of light whodunits or espionage tales, but for readers who enjoy psychological depth and complexity.

The saga of Natalie's involvement with a ruthless art thief whose ultimate plan is to use her to steal a final, priceless piece before he kills her takes a different approach than your usual mystery or thriller and presents events from the viewpoint of a young woman who inadvertently falls into an association with a deadly character and a dangerous career.

Detective Frank Renzi is no stranger to danger - he's tackled homicides in prior books. But he is also a dark warrior, fighting demons of his own - not your usual cut-and-dried investigator, but a personality of his own right whose checkered background leads to both his gritty powers of determination and, sometimes, his downfall. The lasting effects of his prior investigation of Natalie are revealed in the first chapter - "It had been two years since Natalie Brixton shot him and he was still having flashbacks." - giving readers a compelling reason to read on and find out why.

Natalie is involved in heists right up to murder, which is her moral Maginot line: "Stealing a painting was one thing. Murdering a man in cold blood was another." Her entrapment in a world of heists demonstrate that there is no honor among thieves, and no easy way out from a chosen path of crime. As a series of double-crossings evolves, Natalie comes to realize that two thieves have placed her in the middle of their very dangerous game.

Who is really in control? The driver holding the steering wheel keeps changing between Natalie, Detective Renzi, Gregor, Nicholas, and others - and that's part of the real appeal of Natalie's Art: nobody is clearly in charge for much of the story line. Where are the stolen paintings? Who will die? Can Natalie truly be free from the directions she has chosen in her life? There are many questions in Susan Fleet's Natalie's Art: so many that at times strings of intention seem to fly in all directions. Surely there are too many to neatly mop up at story's end?

The real tests of a superior thriller, mystery or novel are enough characterization to make protagonists feel real, and enough compelling, unpredictable twists to keep readers interested right up to the end. Natalie's Art embraces all these facets and steers readers directly to a logical, yet surprising, conclusion. And that's fine art, indeed.

Fallon's Orphans
Bill Kroger
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781612964157 $16.95

Murder, terrorism, unfair death: all these often beget thirsts for revenge; and so the cycle continues. Such is true with Fallon MacEwan, the hero of Fallon's Orphans, whose lover has been killed by Islamic terrorists; so when an Orthodox Christian group places the opportunity for revenge in his hands, he gladly enters into a hitherto-unknown world of battle and espionage.

And that's just the opening act in a nonstop battle that centers around an inexperienced vigilante group's determination to bring justice to the world by tackling terrorist groups the government can't handle. Its members are all orphans - and that's both a literal and a figurative label; because the one shared attribute between them is their sense of loss and conviction that they're doing the right thing by crushing a dangerous enemy who kills innocents in the world.

And here's where things get interesting; for the real war against terrorism isn't fought with guns and artillery, as the enemy well knows - it's fought with hearts, minds, and an ingenuity which takes into account local customs, concerns of villagers mired in poverty, and local pictures. Thus Fallon's band of orphans plan their attacks on terrorism alongside the targets themselves: in an Indian village where a small sit-in has the potential (with the right financial backing) of becoming a media sensation; in Egypt, where a mother and daughter team play out a dangerous game, and even in Paris, France, where enemies threaten to uncover a deeply held secret.

It's truly an international setting, it's truly a wide-reaching force competing on many levels, and at each turn of the page these different worlds and their concerns come to life through touch, smell, and visual description: "Dinner was simple, with phuchkas, or bite-sized balls of potato, chickpeas, onions and spices, along with rice mixed with small bits of lamb and cucumber in a yogurt sauce...The temperature at nine o'clock had dropped into the low eighties and was comfortable. The smell from the tanning factory continued to be disgusting."

Most stories of terrorism and espionage don't take the time to properly build atmosphere. Most don't take into account the hearts and minds - not just the artillery and fighting power - of ordinary people. Not so Fallon's Orphans, which is meticulous in its attention to setting as well as plot, and to creating insights on how terrorism really works in worlds replete with poverty.

Another 'plus': there's no traditional 'bad sect' here, as one might anticipate: just insights into what influences good and bad choices in the world: "...he deplored the tactics of the people who own and manage the tanning factory to take over the village. "Killing people for financial gain is not the way of Allah," he commented."

As Fallon manages his team, he comes to find romance and also the certainty that in the process of actively addressing evil in the world, he has actually found and formed his 'family of choice'. And their success or failure holds the potential to change the world for better or for worse.

Fallon's Orphans provides the depth and attention to detail that's lacking in many modern stories of terrorism. It's action-packed, but its attention to motivation, logic, and larger concerns than killings makes it a standout among thriller genre reads - and highly recommended.

Spirit Tale Nine: A Miracle Is On Its Way
Rabbi Sipporah Joseph
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781501032127 $15.50


Barnes & Noble



Messianic Yeshive (MYTTI)

Ganxy (E-Book version)

Spirit Tale Nine: A Miracle Is On Its Way is Book Nine of the 'Spirit Tale' series of fables - but you don't have to be Jewish to appreciate these stories.

It's Channukah, and time for the Festival of Lights. Family members are gathered to celebrate (and a welcome prologue neatly defines their relationships and connections to one another, leaving nothing to puzzle.)

From why the men choose to honor their women by serving the meal women have so carefully prepared to miracles of marriage affirmation, family connections, and an aura of happiness that permeates all, Spirit Tale Nine successfully captures and embodies the essence of celebration and neatly defines the basic concept of miracles as "... unexpected pleasant events that defy all logic and reasoning."

In this case, the miracle of family is explored as each family member considers their blessings in being part of a supportive, close-knit system...but as always with Rabbi Sipporah Joseph's approach, there's a story, and Yonathan uses family experience to provide yet another fable offering enlightening insights into the wider meaning of 'miracle': "...we indeed do not always recognize miracles when they present themselves. Sometimes they even irritate us before we begin - perhaps only slowly - to understand their hidden meaning and lesson," Yonathan stated."

Now, one might not expect a story about miracles to be connected to "true freedom" - but all of the Spirit Tales hold wider implications, and that is one of their strengths.

A short song introduces the story of 24-year-old professional actor Nathan Rubylionstein, who along with his Jewish troupe reflects on gatherings, celebrations, marriage, the way of the Torah, and the roots which led to his success.

Insights for readers take the form of a series of discussions and debates between protagonists which brings to light such diverse considerations as evolution and different Jewish perceptions of miracles and life: "Not all Jews are religious, John, which by definition gives rise to a plethora of views

on biblical narratives in general, including Genesis. "By the way, Zalman, could it be that those Jews who do firmly believe in the theory of evolution concerning the origin of human beings, do so because of a tangential subject - reincarnation?"

When disaster strikes and a Voice once again speaks to Nathan, he comes to realize new truths about his path in life the meaning behind world events: "The Voice: "Look at the chess game, Nathan!" "All these pieces have their part to play, just like you. Life is a game of chess. Can you name the pieces?"

How can there ultimately be revelation and happiness even in the face of a disaster and Nathan's possible demise? Survival of the spirit is even more important than bodily safety, and as Nathan embarks on a surprising journey, so those around him are changed.

Spirit Tale Nine: A Miracle Is On Its Way is about all kinds of miracles: the miracle of God, life, the spirit, and various forms of survival.

Its prologue and epilogue are perfect introductions and conclusions to the story's wider meaning, and though Rabbi Joseph's inclusion of family member ages on every paragraph is somewhat disconcerting at times, the overall story is beautifully done and easy for any reader to digest.

All that's required is an interest in moral questions, spiritual reflection and a fable format which takes one man's life and examines its underlying meaning. Readers who love parables, fables, and especially Jewish-based stories will find Spirit Tale Nine: A Miracle Is On Its Way stands well on its own in addition to supporting the series as a whole.

10,000 Promises
Billy McCoy
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00OYBV18G $3.88

Marriage between a man and a woman typically translates to very different perceptions of how life will be shared: at least, it certainly is that way for Erica, who thinks her marriage to the older, wiser Mitch will lead to a passionate and lazy life.

How she could think that the quiet, intellectual Mitch will give her zestful love and an rich life is a puzzle; but when the inevitable disappointment happens, Erica is prompted to take a young lover - and when she does, life becomes even more riddled with questions, challenges, and conflict.

Billy McCoy is a master at creating romances that sparkle with passion as well as disappointment. The foundation premise is stated early on as Erica engages in an intellectual debate: "I think," said Erica, playing with the scarf she had taken off, "I think there so many kinds of love." and it's one that remains supported by events that play out from her decisions based on this ideal.

Another premise: something that is so prized and coveted can also become something one dares not dream of: "Love," she repeated slowly, in an inner voice, and suddenly, at the very instant she finished the buttoning her coat, she added, "Why I don't like the word is that it means too much to me, far more than you can imagine," and she glanced into his face."

Don't expect a linear read, here: from Marcel's descent into a dangerous world to Erica's amazing capacity to deny the impact of her choices until it's too late, and intellectual debates between key protagonists, 10,000 Promises assumes many guises and offers up many unexpected moments: "The slow drifting apart of her marriage, alarmed Erica; it was as though their once happy life had taken a route for which she didn't understand, strange and dark, where she lost her bearing."

It's almost as if characters operate in two worlds: one of dreams, and one of uncertain realities; in the process finding that one world undermines the other and inflicts pain and illusion into the process of making life-changing choices.

And that's one of the strengths of 10,000 Promises: its ability to neatly wind up the worldviews of three very different protagonists who circle one another much like planets held in place by the sun's gravity.

Also intriguing is the process whereby characters build their illusions of character to justify their lives and choices: "For a long time, Erica told herself that she had tried being the good wife, pushing aside her life to satisfy Mitch; and feeling like a non-entity when she tried being fair by asserting her little hopes and dreams, and when Mitch balked she relinquished all her wants for his."

Some minor editing changes would make for an even better presentation, so this could benefit from a professional editor's touch. This note aside, 10,000 Promises is a solid, involving piece of women's literature that attracts with a succinct, involving story.

The Space In Between
Jen Minkman
Dutch Venture Publishing
ASIN: B00N778O0Q $.99

While, for categorization's sake, The Space In Between

is categorized as a 'paranormal romance', don't let that assignment fool you: it's much more, and readers anticipating a breezy, light, supernatural love tale might find themselves quite pleasantly challenged by a story line that defies quick and dirty categorization or a fast leisure read.

This is partially due to its setting - Wales - and the fact that in such a wild and woolly world, woods wiccans and mysticism practically oozes from the trees and the long history of a people with close ties to the land.

It's also due to the efforts of Jen Minkman to provide more than the usual one-dimensional protagonist too often seen in 'paranormal romance' stories: for Moira is Welsh through and through and represents many of her people's real personas, from her bilingual ability to speak Welsh at home and English outside of it to harsh language, as evidenced in the very first sentences, which may prove startling to those anticipating circumspect speech: "Just work, you miserable thing!" Moira angrily slammed down her fist on the wheel, taking a deep drag of her cigarette and almost choking on the smoke. Halle-fucking-lujah - this was all she'd needed after a long, shitty day."

While this might put off some readers, it will be a breath of fresh air to those who will immediately perceive that what follows will be anything but predictable and smooth.

When a dark, handsome stranger enters Moira's world as she's in a trance at a Halloween wiccan ritual, she at first believes he's an illusion - but after he returns again and again, she slowly becomes convinced that her dreams and nightmares in fact hold an element of truth and a reality that eventually runs headlong into her own world.

Between an accident, struggles with new ADHD medicine, wiccan rituals, and falling in love with a man who is literally of her dreams, Moira has her hands full - and so does the reader, as satisfying twists and turns of story are presented in a labyrinth of events combining supernatural and real world influences.

The addition of Moira's struggle with ADHD is perhaps one of the strongest pieces of the story, curiously enough. It lends an authenticity and a vulnerability to the main protagonist that's not often seen in your standard paranormal or romance story, and it invites readers to learn more of yet another world: that of the ADHD sufferer and their choices: "Patrick put down his knife and fork and shot her an incredulous look. "Tell me you're not serious. Moira, don't be ridiculous. You're like a pinball without those pills." "Yes, I am serious. There must be other ways to control my ADHD. Ways that don't make me feel like shit all the time."

Above all, Moira's humanity and very real concerns come to life: "Opening Google, she stared at the search box and hesitated for a few beats before typing in 'alternative treatment ADHD'. And then she scolded herself for even hesitating. Why would she? She could stop taking her meds tomorrow and try something else. She could leave her Metallica posters on her walls for the next ten years if she wanted. She could do whatever came to mind, and she wouldn't have to be afraid of doing things wrong. All of sudden, the burden she never realized she'd been carrying had fallen away completely."

And, after all - isn't this the heart of a good romance: the ability to care not just about the protagonist's evolving love for others, but her evolving love and acceptance of herself? If there's any doubt about Moira's ability to think clearly despite her ADHD, these are dispelled in a story that chronicles her struggles, achievements, and ultimate revelations both in paranormal and 'real' worlds.

For categorization's sake, go ahead and call The Space In Between a 'paranormal romance' - but really, it's so much more. It's about finding amazement and personal power in life, and about making choices that lead to new connections. Add in the Welsh cultural insights and you have a 'paranormal romance' that's a cut above your usual love story.

A Dead End in Vegas
Irene Woodbury
9780744321470 $4.88

Dave is about to go to the airport to pick up his wife, who has been in Phoenix for a week at a teachers' conference, when he gets the phone call: it's the Las Vegas police - and she's been found dead in a casino hotel room.

Tragedy often comes in 'threes', and thus what follows is a virtual onslaught of deaths and discoveries that rock Dave's world as his wife's death shatters other lives and, like a house of cards, causes more falls in return, from a terrible accident to a best friend's marriage cracked apart by grief.

As Dave comes to find out about his wife's secret life, her passion for an Internet stranger, and the illusions of his own world, he becomes increasingly involved in a hunt that comes full-circle to probe his family, friendships and psyche.

Two families find their hopes, dreams, and illusions entwine and spark deadly connections. Two families discover that one woman's choice will change their lives forever. And two families test the brink of possibilities and versatility as a loving husband seeks revenge, a loving friend seeks answers, and spouses find that nothing is predictable - not even love and commitment.

If you're expecting a light 'whodunnit' type of mystery filled with entertaining twists, then A Dead End in Vegas might not be your cup of tea. Its intent is to wind emotional impact and high drama into its saga and it packs this into chapters steeped in tones of inevitability and despair as readers learn just how deeply poor decisions affect every life involved: "I guess Tricia lied a lot that day. But how could I have known? Yes, she seemed different, a little distracted. But in my wildest dreams, I never would have guessed she was running off to Vegas in two days to meet an Internet lover, or that she had an artery problem in her heart that would kill her in a week... She was turning herself inside out for him, and the bastard never even showed up. It burned me up inside, made me hate the guy with a passion. Whatever the reason, bogus or not, he should have gotten there. He should have made the effort. Tricia was worth it, so worth it."

Irene Woodbury's use of the first person is to be commended: through best friend Sally's eyes and impressions events sparkle and come to life; and observations, motivations, and emotions are clearly explored.

Also to be commended is a story line that weaves an intricate dance between personalities, change, and observation. It's almost as if A Dead End in Vegas intended to shock, amaze, and awe by probing with a surgeon's skill each facet of a character's rationale for living on without Tricia in their world: "The success of his scheme fired Dave up and infused him with new vigor. As I listened to him that night, I feared he would revert to his old, vigilante ways. Sure enough, over dinner at Marigold the next week, Dave shocked us with an even more brazen plot to wreak havoc on Al Posey's marriage. In a quiet, methodical tone, he informed Mike and me that he was now thinking of going to Vegas himself to seduce Al's wife."

It's all about making sense of a world turned upside down (which any reader will relate to) and formulating a new plan (even a new persona) to handle this changed world: "Not much. Just lying here thinking about Mike and me, Mike and her, what I did right, what I did wrong, and how and when it all started." "Sounds familiar," Dave admitted. "That's what I did when Tricia died and I found out about her and Daggett. You keep trying to find some answer, some way to make sense of it, but you never quite do."

As seems inevitable with all good reads, the ending arrives all too soon. It feels abrupt: like the reader's been led down a garden path of complexity only to have everything snap to logical attention within a few short chapters. But that can be said of many a good book where readers might wish for as long and drawn-out an ending as in the rest of the book. Sometimes it's just hard to say 'goodbye'.

Pair gritty psychological depth with an investigation of illusion and what this does to everyone in a circle of love and you have a gripping narrative that is recommended not so much for light 'whodunnit' readers, but for those unafraid of getting their hands and thoughts 'dirty' with wrenching emotional twists and considerations of romance, appearances, and, ultimately, a different kind of love.

Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer

Dunford's Bookshelf

Safe Science
National Academies Press
500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001
9780309300919, $45.00, 128pp,

Synopsis: Recent serious and sometimes fatal accidents in chemical research laboratories at United States universities have driven government agencies, professional societies, industries, and universities themselves to examine the culture of safety in research laboratories. These incidents have triggered a broader discussion of how serious incidents can be prevented in the future and how best to train researchers and emergency personnel to respond appropriately when incidents do occur. As the priority placed on safety increases, many institutions have expressed a desire to go beyond simple compliance with regulations to work toward fostering a strong, positive safety culture: affirming a constant commitment to safety throughout their institutions, while integrating safety as an essential element in the daily work of laboratory researchers.

"Safe Science: Promoting a Culture of Safety in Academic Chemical Research" takes on this challenge. This report examines the culture of safety in research institutions and makes recommendations for university leadership, laboratory researchers, and environmental health and safety professionals to support safety as a core value of their institutions. The report discusses ways to fulfill that commitment through prioritizing funding for safety equipment and training, as well as making safety an ongoing operational priority.

A strong, positive safety culture arises not because of a set of rules but because of a constant commitment to safety throughout an organization. Such a culture supports the free exchange of safety information, emphasizes learning and improvement, and assigns greater importance to solving problems than to placing blame. High importance is assigned to safety at all times, not just when it is convenient or does not threaten personal or institutional productivity goals. "Safe Science" will be a guide to make the changes needed at all levels to protect students, researchers, and staff.

Critique: An exceptionally well written, organized, presented and documented report, "Safe Science: Promoting a Culture of Safety in Academic Chemical Research" is a critically important acquisition for all academic library Science & Research reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. An impressive and collaborative effort, "Safe Science: Promoting a Culture of Safety in Academic Chemical Research" should be considered "must" reading for anyone charged with the responsibility of teaching or conducting research in a laboratory setting whether it be corporate or academic.

The Family Hightower
Brian Francis Slattery
Seven Stories Press
140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013
9781609805630, $27.95, 336pp,

Synopsis: In 1968 two boys are born into a large family, both named for their grandfather, Peter Henry Hightower. One boy (Peter) grows up in Africa and ends up a journalist in Granada. The other (Petey) becomes a minor criminal, first in Cleveland and then in Kiev. In 1995, Petey runs afoul of his associates and disappears. But the criminals, bent on revenge, track down the wrong cousin, and the Peter in Granada finds himself on the run. He bounces from one family member to the next, piecing together his cousin's involvement in international crime while learning the truth about his family's complicated history. Along the way the original Peter Henry Hightower's story is revealed, until it catches up with that of his children, revealing how Peter and Petey have been living in their grandfather's shadow all along. "The Family Hightower" takes a look at capitalism and organized crime in the 20th century, the legend of the self-made man, and what money can do to people. Like Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex, "The Family Hightower" stretches across both generations and continents, bearing the weight of family secrets and the inevitable personal toll they take on loved ones despite our best intentions.

Critique: With "The Family Hightower", author Brian Francis Slattery demonstrates an impressive literary talent for creating memorable characters and then deftly weaving them into a complex and riveting plot with unexpected twists and surprising turns. A solid entertainment from beginning to end, "The Family Hightower" is a superbly executed novel and very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted that "The Family Hightower" is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.37).

Dialectical Theology and Jacques Ellul
Jacob E. Van Vlett
Fortress Press
P.O. Box 1209, Minneapolis, MN 55440-1209
9781451470390, $34.00, 284pp,

Synopsis: "Dialectical Theology and Jacques Ellul: An Introductory Exposition" argues that the work of Jacques Ellul is frequently and deleteriously misread on account of inattention to the theological underpinning that governs Ellul's thought. In a penetrating analysis, the first of its kind, "Dialectical Theology and Jacques Ellul" provides a substantive account of the theological structure of Ellul's work and demonstrates the determinative role that theology, especially dialectical theology, plays in a proper understanding of Ellul. "Dialectical Theology and Jacques Ellul" offers a major introduction to Ellul's thought, his contribution to theology and philosophy, and how his philosophy of technology is both theologically informed and culturally relevant. As well, this work situates Ellul's theological and philosophical thought within an important genetic context, from Kierkegaard to the dialectical theologians of the twentieth century.

Critique: The late Jacques Ellul (January 6, 1912 - May 19, 1994) was a French philosopher, law professor, sociologist, lay theologian, and Christian anarchist. Ellul was a longtime Professor of History and the Sociology of Institutions on the Faculty of Law and Economic Sciences at the University of Bordeaux. A prolific writer, he authored 58 books and more than a thousand articles over his lifetime, many of which discussed propaganda, the impact of technology on society, and the interaction between religion and politics. The dominant theme of his work proved to be the threat to human freedom and religion created by modern technology. Among his most influential books are "The Technological Society" and "Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes". "Dialectical Theology and Jacques Ellul: An Introductory Exposition" by Jacob E. Van Vlett (Lecturer in Humanities and Philosophy, Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hills, California) is an impressive work of seminal scholarship. Enhanced with fourteen pages of References and a comprehensive Index, "Dialectical Theology and Jacques Ellul: An Introductory Exposition" is an important contribution to academic library Christian Philosophy collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "Dialectical Theology and Jacques Ellul: An Introductory Exposition" is also available in a Kindle edition ($18.35).

Thomas Locke
c/o Baker Publishing Group
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
Edify Media Public Relations
9780800724474, $19.99,

Synopsis: Hyam is a likeable lad who will make a fine farmer someday. But he carries a burden few can fathom. As his mother slips toward death, she implores him to return to Long Hall, where he spent five years as an apprentice. It was there that Hyam's extraordinary capacity for mastering languages came to light--and soon cast him into the shadows of suspicion. How could any human learn the forbidden tongues with such ease? When Hyam dares to seek out the Mistress of the Sorceries, her revelation tears his world asunder. He has no choice but to set out on the foreboding path--which beckons him to either his destiny or his doom. An encounter with an enchanting stranger reminds him that he is part hero and part captive. As Hyam struggles to interpret the omens and symbols, he is swept up by a great current of possibilities--and dangers.

Critique: The first volume of a proposed trilogy, "Emissary" by Thomas Locke is a superbly crafted fantasy adventure novel that engages the reader's total and rewarded attention from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library science fiction and fantasy collections, "Emissary" is also available in a paperback edition (9780800723859, $14.99) and a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Beckoning
Michael Minot
Morgan James Publishing
4410 E Claiborne Square, Suite 334, Hampton VA 23666-2071
Campbell Public Relations
9781630471262, $39.99, 200pp,

Synopsis: Michael Minot felt he was living the American dream. For a number of years he'd been reaping the professional and financial rewards of being a commercial litigation attorney. To him, life was great and getting better all the time. He first gained notoriety around his hometown as a nationally ranked tennis player. But now, years later, he was becoming known for his skills as a lawyer and as the youngest elected official in the area. And then, in his late 20s, Michael unexpectedly discovered something that turned his world and his entire idea of life upside down. In response to a challenge from a friend, Michael agreed to investigate issues relating to science, philosophy, and the Scriptures. Comfortable with his life as an atheist, he began reading with an indifferent attitude. But what started as a casual inquiry soon turned into a time of intense research. What follows is the story of Michael's journey, his thoughts and reactions to the evidence he discovered, and the new life that soon followed.

Critique: "The Beckoning: Examining the Truths That Transformed an Atheist Attorney Into a Believer In God" is written with commendable candor and proves to be a thoroughly engaging read from beginning to end. An extraordinary story extraordinarily well presented, "The Beckoning: Examining the Truths That Transformed an Atheist Attorney Into a Believer In God" is very highly recommended reading. It should be noted that "The Beckoning: Examining the Truths That Transformed an Atheist Attorney Into a Believer In God" is also available in a paperback edition (9781630471248, $16.99) and a Kindle edition ($7.99).

The System Has A Soul
Hunter Baker
Christian Library Press
94 East Fulton Street, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Bob Todd Publicity
9781938948947, $14.95, 168pp,

Synopsis: "The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life" addresses the basic question of what relevance does Christianity have in our contemporary societal system? What place does the church have in a system that so often seems to be ordered only by the ultra-complex machinery of state power and corporate strategy? The essays comprising "The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life" address these questions by considering the relationship of the church to liberty, government, commerce, and education. These reflections reveal that we cannot allow the system to run according to its own internal logic. Rather, it is important for the church to act as a conscience. The church (and the people in it) should provide a living reminder of the God and of the good that transcends our worldly instrumentalities and principalities. The church is the soul of the system.

Critique: An extraordinary collection of articulate essays by Hunter Baker (Associate Professor of Political Science and Dean of Instruction at Union University), "The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life" is an informative and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Very highly recommended for seminary and academic library collections, "The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99) and ideal for non-specialist general readers wanting to understand today's relationship between the Christian community and the broader public order.

Hoosier Public Enemy
John A. Beineke
Indiana Historical Society
450 W Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202
9780871953537, $17.95, 281pp,

Synopsis: During the bleak days of the Great Depression, news of economic hardship often took a backseat to articles on the exploits of an outlaw from Indiana John Dillinger. For a period of fourteen months during 1933 and 1934 Dillinger became the most famous bandit in American history, and no criminal since has matched him for his celebrity and notoriety. "Hoosier Public Enemy: A Life of John Dillinger" delves into Dillinger s life from his unhappy days growing up in Indianapolis and Mooresville, Indiana; his first unlucky brush with the law; his embracing of a life of crime while behind bars at the Indiana Reformatory; his exploits as the leader of a gang that terrorized banks and outwitted law enforcement in the Midwest, earning a reputation as a Robin Hood-style criminal,; and his headline-grabbing death in a hail of bullets on July 22, 1934, at the Biograph Theater in Chicago.

Critique: Even some 80 years after his death, John Dillinger still lingers in the American psyche as one of the country's more colorful and charismatic criminals whose escapades (and escapes) continue to capture the public's imagination. Informed and informative, "Hoosier Public Enemy: A Life of John Dillinger" is a deftly written and compelling read which is very highly recommended and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library 20th Century American Biography collections. It should be noted that "Hoosier Public Enemy: A Life of John Dillinger" is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.25).

Berit Olam: Isaiah 56-66
Paul V. Niskanen
Michael Glazier Books
c/o The Liturgical Press
St. John's Abbey, PO Box 7500, Collegeville, MN 56321-7500
9780814650684, $29.95, 136pp,

Synopsis: The last chapters of the book of Isaiah offer a vision of new hope at the dawn of the postexilic period. The dense and complex imagery of light, espousal, and victory gives expression to the joyful reality of a return to Jerusalem and to the as-yet-unrealized dreams of rebuilding and repopulating what has been laid to waste. Trito-Isaiah's proclamation of God's salvation or victory appears both as a brilliant light and a terrible darkness in these chapters. For while Yahweh's triumph means rejoicing for his righteous servants, it portends unspeakable horror for those who rebel against him. Far from a remotely related appendix tacked on to the prophetic text, Paul V. Niskanen examines Isaiah 56 - 66 within the broader context of the entire book of Isaiah, revealing the stylistic and thematic connections between these and earlier chapters and the significance of the poetical structures and imagery employed in Isaiah 56 - 66.

Critique: Academician and theologian Paul V. Niskan teaches Old Testament at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota so it is no wonder that "Berit Olam: Isaiah 56-66" is a masterwork of theological scholarship from beginning to end. Enhanced with the inclusion of a list of abbreviations and an index of biblical references, "Berit Olam: Isaiah 56-66" is an informed, informative, and very highly recommended addition to seminary and academic library Biblical Studies reference collections, as well as Hebrew narrative and poetry supplemental studies reading lists.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

The Memory of Stone
Erv Schroeder
University of New Mexico Press
1312 Basehart Road SE, Albuquerque NM 87106-4363
9780826354860, $34.95, 104pp,

Synopsis: "The Memory of Stone: Meditations on the Canyons of the West" is an intimate portrait of the Colorado Plateau celebrates the landscape in black-and-white photographs and prose poetry commentaries. Erv Schroeder's photographs bear witness to the primordial forces of the earth--the raw power that moved and shifted huge hunks of rock to form natural stone sculptures. Schroeder's prints engage the viewer on an intimate level, acting as portals to contemplative worlds, inviting the viewer on an inner journey. As further guides to the landscape and its significance, he has invited indigenous writers Natanya Ann Pulley, Rainy Dawn, Esther G. Belin, Orlando White, and Tacey M. Atsitty to contribute poems that speak about these places. Celebrated Acoma storyteller Simon J. Ortiz introduces the photography and poetry with his musings on stone. In addition, an essay by geologist Marcia Bjornerud explores the geology of the region.

Critique: This stunning blend of images made from words juxtaposed with images made from a camera's lens is simply outstanding. "The Memory of Stone: Meditations on the Canyons of the West" is one of those compendiums that will linger in the mind long after the book has been closed and set back upon the shelf. Indeed, "The Memory of Stone: Meditations on the Canyons of the West" could well serve as a template for others to emulate with other natural world phenomena. Simply stated, "The Memory of Stone: Meditations on the Canyons of the West" is very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted that "The Memory of Stone: Meditations on the Canyons of the West" is also available in a Kindle edition ($25.34).

Making History: Have a Blast with 15 Crafts
Wendy Freshman & Kristin Jansson
Minnesota Historical Society Press
345 Kellogg Boulevard, West, St. Paul, MN 55102-1906
9780873519199, $17.95, 144pp,

Synopsis: The past comes alive through craft projects celebrating Minnesota's history and people. Imagine soldiers on the Civil War battlefield as you assemble a "housewife" sewing kit like those made by wives and mothers. Re-create the drama of a Midwestern tornado when you build an automaton that actually spins, and celebrate the invention of water-skiing with a boat and skier that really glide. Step-by-step instructions carefully guide you to make your own marionette, but it's up to you to stage the puppet show. The playful miniature scene of a Day of the Dead nicho offers a way to honor a loved one. A woodland hike will provide the twigs and leaves to make a troll. A walking stick in the tradition of folk artist Maurice Carlton inspires you to create art out of what you can find. These projects and more generate hours of fun, not to mention useful pieces you'll want to share with your family and friends.

Critique: Ideal for parents wanting to work with their children doing creative pastimes together, or for classroom teachers seeking to engage young students in creative projects, "Making History: Have a Blast with 15 Crafts" by the team of Wendy Freshman (Program Specialist for Family Audiences at the Minnesota history Center) and Kristin Jansson (freelance prop and prototype designer and former costumer with the Children's Theatre Company) is an ideal resource for do-it-yourself craft projects for children ages 8 to 12. With profusely illustrated, step-by-step, 'user friendly' instructions for each craft activity, "Making History: Have a Blast with 15 Crafts" is an ideal instruction manual and very highly recommended for both school and community library collections.

O Canada Crosswords: Book 15
Gwen Sjogren
Nightwood Editions
c/o Harbour Publishing
PO Box 219, Madeira Park, BC, Canada, V0N 2H0
9780889713048, $12.95, 232pp,

Synopsis: With eighty-five all new crosswords, Gwen Sjogren's O Canada Crosswords Book 15 features plenty of puns and challenging wordplay for Canadian solvers from coast to coast. The specifically Canadian-themed crosswords cover writers, landmarks, music and cities, and include puzzles called Shining in Sochi, Leading Canadian Men, National Parks and Playing for Keeps (about hockey stars who never left their teams). This cornucopia of Canadiana covers new ground with themes on music, awards, tennis and exports that require a certain measure of Canuck knowledge. Gwen Sjogren has garnered the respect of her devoted crossword fans by crafting clever clues and thoughtful themes, wordplay, puzzle design and trivia. In addition to the favorite layouts, Book 15 contains ten puzzles that have no fill-in-the-blank clues. For people who love witty brainteasers, O Canada Crosswords 15 is the ultimate collection.

Critique: So much more than just another crossword collection, Gwen Sjogren's "O Canada Crosswords: Book 15" combines the fun of crossword puzzles with the pleasure of learning little facts about Canadian popular culture, making it very highly recommended for all crossword puzzle enthusiasts -- Canadian and non-Canadian alike!

Cinderland: A Memoir
Amy Jo Burns
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807037034, $24.95, 216pp,

Synopsis: Amy Jo Burns grew up in Mercury, Pennsylvania, an industrial town humbled by the steel collapse of the 1980s. Instead of the construction booms and twelve-hour shifts her parents' generation had known, the Mercury Amy Jo knew was marred by empty houses, old strip mines, and vacant lots. It wasn't quite a ghost town - only because many people had no choice but to stay. The year Burns turned ten, this sleepy town suddenly woke up. Howard Lotte, its beloved piano teacher, was accused of sexually assaulting his female students. Among the countless girls questioned, only seven came forward. For telling the truth, the town ostracized these girls and accused them of trying to smear a good man's reputation. As for the remaining girls - well, they were smarter. They lied. Burns was one of them. But such a lie has its own consequences. Against a backdrop of fire and steel, shame and redemption, Burns tells of the boys she ran from and toward, the friends she abandoned, and the endless performances she gave to please a town that never trusted girls in the first place. "Cinderland" is the story of growing up in a town that both worshiped and sacrificed its youth - a town that believed being a good girl meant being a quiet one - and the long road Burns took toward forgiving her ten-year-old self. "Cinderland" is an elegy to that young girl's innocence, as well as a praise song to the curative powers of breaking a long silence.

Critique: As skillfully written as it is brutally candid, "Cinderland" is a critically important story that merits as wide a readership as possible. Strongly recommended for both community and academic library American Biography collections, it should be noted that "Cinderland" is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.99).

Helen Dumont

Klausner's Bookshelf

Closer to Home
Mercedes Lackey
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756408992, $25.95,

In Haven, Valdemar, Mags the Herald is with his Companion Dallen when he hears the Mindvoice shriek of the King's Own Nikolas. Using Mindvoice he tries to contact Nikolas but his mentor fails to respond. Dallen and Mags see Nikolas floating in the nearby river. On top of Dallen, Mags pulls Nikolas onto the shore, but he is not breathing. Using the Breath of Life technique Bear taught him, Mags saves Nikolas' life.

Rolan the Companion selects the incapacitated Nikolas' panicked daughter Amily to replace him as the King's Own though the monarch Kyril fears having an untested young female in such a critical position. Complicating matters for the new King's Own and the monarch is a treasonous coup to extinguish the Heralds and fill the power void. With unprecedented Mindspeech skill, Mags assists Amily in an attempt to uncover the traitors before the Collegium is shattered, its Heralds eradicated and King Kyril loses the throne.

The first Herald Spy Valdemar fantasy is a fabulous opening act as Mags (no longer a stranger in a strange land) and Amily face impossible odds. Both fear they're not ready for the big leagues without adult supervision (Nikolas), but they bravely team-up to do the right thing with so much at stake. Fast-paced throughout, yet vivid Valdemar and the key cast (particularly the protagonists and their companions) seem genuine. Genre readers, especially series fans, will delight in returning to Valdemar.

Blood Debt
Tanya Huff
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756408503, $15.95

Henry Fitzroy the vampire who saved former Toronto cop Vicki Nelson from certain death when he converted her. He mentored her for a year in Vancouver before his fledgling left to be on her own in her hometown where her police partner and lover Metropolitan Toronto PD Detective-Sergeant Mike Celluci is ecstatic to have her back.

Henry asks Vicki to return to Vancouver to help him deal with a ghost who constantly is there when he awakens. Accompanied by Mike, she goes to the Pacific Northwest. Henry further explains that his restless spirit allows him to ask a yes or no question; if the response is positive the ghost leaves, but if not a scream in anguish occurs as if a chorus of the dead howls until a nearby hysterical mortal dies. As the vampires reluctantly team up to end the ghost's deadly torment, Mike and Henry's human ward Tony Foster try to keep them from tearing into each other as vampires need distance.

This reprint of the mid 1990s fifth Vicky Nelson Blood urban fantasy is a thrilling "final" entry though the return of the triangle after a year of separation lacks the ardent intensity of the previous novels (see Blood Price, Blood Trail, Blood Lines and, Blood Pact). The vamps act for much of the storyline as feral adversaries in a pissing contest with the two humans serving as the necker-checkers. Still series fans will enjoy this tale wondering why an anguished ghost haunts a romance writing several centuries old vampire.

The Tess Noncoire Chronicles: Volume I
P.R. Frost
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756410247, $8.99

"Hounding The Moon." Scrap the Imp enters the human realm to infect Tess with the virus and meld with her. The Sisterhood of the Celestial Blade Warriors heal her from the virus; train her how to fight demons; and toss her out because she failed to fit in with their order. Tess meets Cynthia Walking Moon, who along with her friends, is attacked by a dog Tess dispatches. She later learns the canine seeks the new Weaver who creates the tapestry of life; each night the dog undoes some of the work to prevent it being finished, which would end the world. Two men come into Tess' life; one who she is attracted to but is wary of; and one who knows far too much about her magical life. Meanwhile Demons enter this realm to steal the tapestry.

"Moon In The Mirror." Warrior of the Celestial Blade Tess, assisted by her bound partner Scrap, insure demons don't enter this plane; if they do, she returns them to their realm. Allie tells she saw a woman emerge from empty space with sharp teeth garden gnomes chasing her. Tess goes to fix the problem and learns the victim is WindScribe, a witch who disappeared to faery with eleven other witch-felons three decades ago. The Orculli gnomes seek to imprison her once again. Besides dealing with a vengeful witch; the ghost of Tess' late husband haunts her; she keeps Donovan at arms-length because though he is not a demon, he is something else; and fears for her mother recently married to Donovan's demonic father Darren who wants something Tess possesses.

This omnibus reprint contains the first two action-packed spellbinding Tess Noncoire urban fantasies. The heroine is a strong person dealing with a unique triangle and bonded to impish Scrap while deporting illegal demons.

Slow Bleed
Trey R. Barker
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432829124, $25.95,

Now in her twenties, Jace Salome was raised by Gramma at the older woman's motel after her mother vanished. Nervously, she starts her first night as a Deputy at the Zachary County Jail. At her initial meeting presided over by Sergeant Dillon, Jace meets Deputy Rory Bogan. While on her first shift in A Pod, Deputy Reynolds and inmate Thomas get into a fight. By the time Jace arrives, Thomas is dead.

The Texas Rangers investigate but find nothing wrong though Jace feels this was a setup to get away with murdering a prisoner. She and Rory make their own unofficial inquiry only to find a very high frequency of inmate deaths at the hands of correction officers. As she obtains more information, Jace realizes if she continues to dig, she could become a prison death statistic.

Slow Bleed is a tense dark law enforcement thriller that spotlights good, bad and fence-straddling prison guards. The fence sitters especially add a fascinating Typhoid Mary-like ends justify the means moral issue as they insist they perform a public safety necessity by insuring deviants like pedophiles can never torment a child again. Filled with blood and gore, the naive but dedicated lead struggles between getting along by ignoring what she observes and learns, or continue her dangerous probe. Not for those with a squeamish stomach, Trey R. Barker provides his audience with a gritty Texas prison drama in which we will want more Salome novels.

Duck The Halls
Donna Andrews
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250028778, $24.99,

In Caerphilly, Virginia, merry pranksters leave angry caged skunks inside the New Life Baptist Church. The subsequent odor leads to relocating the annual Yuletide concert to Trinity Episcopal Church where a Boa joins the festivities. At St. Byblig Catholic Church someone releases a flock of ducks.

Local blacksmith Meg Langslow struggles to find new sites to host the holiday events while Police Chief Henry Burke struggles to find the culprits. However the pranks turn ugly when a fire occurs in the woods near Temple Beth-El followed by arson at the Trinity Episcopal Church. Volunteer fire chief Jim Featherstone investigates both blazes. Not long afterward, Trinity Episcopal Church Vestryman Barliman Vest is found dead in the furnace room with the pranksters considered the prime suspects. Believing they did not commit murder, Meg works the homicide to find out who did.

The sixteenth Meg Langslow mystery (see The Hen of the Baskervilles and Some Like It Hawk) is an amusing amateur sleuth that brings plenty of cheer to series fans. The brisk upbeat storyline hooks the audience with one zany prank leading to another at ironically sacred religious edifices until a clever killer uses the incidents to cover murder.

Gossamer Ghost
Laura Childs
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780425266663, $25.95,

In New Orleans, as she shuts her Memory Mine Scrapbook shop for the night while thinking what costumes to wear for the upcoming Halloween week, Carmela Bertrand hears strange noises at next door Oddities. She enters the antique shop, but trips over items and knocks things down until Carmela pushes over a wooden curio cabinet. This leads to the bloody body of Oddities' owner Marcus Joubert falling into her arms. Instead of 911, panicked Carmela calls her boyfriend NPOD Detective Edgar Babcock followed by a call to her BFF Ava Gruix.

The victim's assistant (and fiancee) Mavis Sweet checks inventory and insists the only missing item is an expensive French death mask; apparently making robbery the motive for murder. The police and Carmela wonder how Marcus obtained the valuable Napoleonic era antique while a second long-shot motive surfaces involving people desiring to take over the excellent store location. As Babcock investigates and warns Carmela not to, she ignores him and with Ava conducts an inquiry.

The twelfth overall lighthearted (except for the homicide and murder attempts) Scrapbooking mystery (see Gilt Trip and Postcards From The Dead) provides fans with a wonderful tour of the Big Easy just before and during Halloween week. The whodunit is cleverly disguised by the week of revelry which includes the innocent and a killer wearing masks.

Strong Darkness: A Caitlin Strong Novel
Jon Land
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765335111, $26.95,

After confronting religious fanatics with a bulldozer at a funeral for a fallen warrior, Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong and her boyfriend Cort Wesley Masters are in Providence where his son Dylan Torres lies in a hospital in an induced coma due after suffering a blunt force trauma. PPD Detective Finneran leads the inquiry, but objects to Caitlin's involvement having dealt with her previous visit to Brown University (see Strong Rain Falling). At about the same time, San Antonio College Professor Guillermo Paz envisions Strong needs him. As Masters and Strong investigate the assault, they find a link to Chinese businessman Li Zhen managing the construction of a new 5G network in Texas and missing hooker Kai whose clues to her whereabouts are corpses. Strong heads home where Paz joins her to look into Li's empire and Masters goes to New York following a lead re his son's attack.

In 1883, Caitlin's great-grandfather Texas Ranger William Ray Strong and Judge Roy Bean find evidence of a different type of killer than any either has seen before. They follow the murdered bodies alongside of the railroad tracks in an effort to end a serial killer's relentless slaughter. Ironically William's case and that of his great-granddaughter mirror each other; as the twenty-first century psychopath's M.O. apparently copies that of the nineteenth century maniac.

The sixth Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger thriller (see Strong Vengeance and Strong at the Break) is a fantastic police procedural that grips the reader whether it is 1883 or the present. The key to this exhilarating entry is Jon Land's ability to effortlessly switch between the three subplots; which makes for a fabulous fast-paced mystery.

A Sudden Light
Garth Stein
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439187036, $26.95,

As he nears his fortieth birthday, Jones Riddell separates from his wife Rachel. For the first time since his father exiled him after the teenager's mother Isobel died over two decades ago back in 1967, Jones, accompanied by his fourteen years old son Trevor, heads to his family mansion, Riddell House in Washington State; Trevor arrives for the first time. Financially strapped Jones and his sister Serena want to sell the estate, but first they must remove their uncooperative father Samuel to a nursing home. Though he is not mentally what he once was, Samuel refuses to leave his home where generations of Riddell's have resided since they made a fortune in timber.

Trevor hopes his parents reconcile as he misses having both parents. Meanwhile, fascinated by the estate and his ancestry, the teen learns about his paternal family when he finds the diary of his late great-Uncle Ben's lover Harry and of the curse that began with Samuel's avarice grandfather Elijah.

A Sudden Light is a fascinating family drama that looks closely at several generations of Riddell's still residing, some as ghosts, in the mansion as told by Trevor assisted by timely spirits' soliloquys. At times Trevor's narration seems to mature and accepting for his youth (in spite of a coda explanation) and more insight into the hauntings would be welcome. Still this is an intriguing epic.

Chained By Night
Larissa Ione
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476700182, $7.99,

In the Seattle area, the ShadowSpawn and MoonBound vampire clans have been at each other's throats for centuries; as each possesses polar opposite philosophies of life. However, recently the respective leaders agreed to a marriage of convenience pact. MoonBound chieftain Hunter will wed the ShadowSpawn leader Kar's daughter Rasha in exchange to the latter returning the captive wife of a member of the former's clan (see Bound by Night) and other peaceful considerations.

Though he detests what he must do as he knows of the brutal reputation of his fiancee, her father and her clan adhering to violence, stoic Hunter accepts an eternity with her. That is until he meets her gentle rejected twin Aylin; his heart knows who he should be engaged too. Soon afterward, Rasha refuses to join her future mate on a trial quest, but Aylin offers to go. As the couple fall in love, each realizes that a marriage between them means a return to the clans' hostilities that remain boiling just below the surface.

The second Moonbound Clan Vampires paranormal romance (see Bound by Night) is a fabulous action-packed star-crossed urban fantasy. The diversity between how the two clans survive amidst the humans makes for an intriguing drama as readers will accept the existence of vampires in the Pacific Northwest. Additionally there is also a terrific forbidden love story.

The Terminals
Royce Scott Buckingham
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250011558, $18.99,

Nineteen years old Cameron Cody lies in a hospital bed in disbelief while thinking how much changed in a short time. He reflects on how was about to take Kristi Banks to the ultimate party house and soon afterward start on Western Washington University soccer team. Instead according to specialist Dr. Singh he has one year to live because of some freaking brain tumor. While his parents are devastated and his friends awkward; his BFF Mason reminds Cam that he may be dying, but he always was a doer, so do. A stranger offers Cam an exciting exit strategy as a hero, but starting with his immediate fake death; Cam accepts.

Not long after he "dies", Cam meets the other nine teen teammates who also share with him the one year death sentence. As the original ten Terminal teens work dangerous missions around the globe, some die during the execution while others prematurely perish under questionable circumstances that Cam and the others still alive choose to ignore. That is until Siena, who faked her death as the lone survivor of the previous team, arrives to paint an ugly picture of their handler and his associates to Cam and company.

The Terminals is an exciting action-packed tweener-young teen thriller. Although the key cast is underdeveloped, the young audience will appreciate these Teen Titans (nod to DC comics) globetrotting escapades; stealthy expanded by those dwindling still alive investigating the organization that recruited them.

The Covered Deep
Brandy Vallance
Worthy Publishing
134 Franklin Road, Suite 200, Brentwood, TN 37027
9781617953750, $14.99,

In 1877, Bianca Marshal fears she is doomed to be a spinster as the book she reads claims women between eighteen and twenty-four years old have a 52% chance of marriage; twenty-five to thirty the odds drop to 18%. Bianca is about to turn twenty-five and realizes her prospects of finding a husband who meets her seven criterion in Portsmouth, Ohio are much less than what the book states.

When she wins a contest that includes a trip to the Holy Land, Bianca's mood dramatically improves as she believes Jesus steers her towards her soul mate. At the London home of her host, Sir Adrian Hartwith, Bianca meets another contest winner British historian Paul Emerson; both immediately feel they met their life-mate. They have fun in the city together before they journey to the Holy Land. All seems perfect until Paul confesses his sins to his beloved Bianca; she eliminates him as a husband due to his violation of her number one consideration.

This is an entertaining Christian historical romance based on the premise that a deep faith in Jesus includes forgiving sinners as "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." The 1870s in the Holy Land is vividly described to armchair readers delight and the stopover in London amusing. Although rigidly religiously moralistic Bianca's desperation for a husband seems to contradict her belief in the Lord (though I may be committing historiographical sin by bringing twenty-first century values to the late nineteenth century), fans will want the heroine to learn in time Alexander Pope's admonition: "to err is human; to forgive, divine."

Desert God
Wilbur Smith
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062276452, $28.99,

After a century of civil war, the adversarial Egyptian kingdoms face a deadly invasion from the Steppes. The Hyksos horde defeated the Northern Kingdom and begun the assault on the Southern nation driving the people away from the Nile into the wilderness. At Thebes, the Egyptian army defeated the Hyksos stopping further incursion, but the invaders occupy all of the North and parts of the Southern Kingdom preparing for King Salitis to renew the conquest.

Desperate Pharaoh Tamose turns to his top advisor, former slave Taita the eunuch, for guidance. The geographical edge resides with the enemy as Taita realizes his kingdom controls no Great Sea ports. Thus he informs the Pharaoh that the only way to beat the enemy is an alliance with the Sumerians and Cretans; though the latter already is allied with the Hyksos. To anchor the pact, Taita persuades Tamos to offer in marriage his royal daughters, sixteen years old Tehuti and her fourteen years old younger sister Bekatha, to Crete's Supreme Minos. Accepting the plan, Tamos assigns Taita to safely escort the princesses to Crete. As they travel the dangerous bloody trek with external and internal threats assaulting them, Tehuti informs Taita that there is a slight problem.

Desert God continues the engaging adventures of Taita (see River God and Warlock, etc.) in a fast-paced storyline that combines a strong sense of time and place with plenty of gory action. The lead eunuch and princesses are fully developed with Taita somewhat a father figure to the royals; while he ironically misses the obvious that the audience will anticipate. The well-written ending is a fine mystical finish to another pleasurable Novel of Ancient Egypt.

Crooked River
Valerie Geary
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062326591, $25.99

Their parents separated almost a decade ago with their mom staying in Eugene while their bee-keeper dad rusticated near Terrebonne. Each August, the older daughter Sam stayed with her dad Bear while the younger child Ollie remained home with their mom.

In 1988, without any warning their mom died. The grieving sisters, fifteen years old Sam and ten years old Ollie, move in with Bear, but the tweener has been mute since the tragedy occurred. As the siblings struggle differently with their loss, they find a dead woman floating in the nearby Crooked River. Sam tries to pull her ashore, but fails. She obsesses over the death as she fears the law will come after Bear and consequently end her family; so Sam desperately tries to identify who murdered the woman in the river. Meanwhile silent Ollie sees the Shimmering haunting her that no one else notices.

This is a mesmerizing coming of age supernatural whodunit starring two wonderful sisters struggling with death, change and a bone marrow foreboding trepidation more ugliness is coming to haunt them. Except for Bear (especially his lack of parenting skills) and the mysterious Shimmering, the support cast comes across as eccentric over the top of Smith Rock. The amateur sleuthing adventures of Sam and the wonder of whether the Shimmering are a grieving frightened tweener's psychological crutch or really stalking her make for a fine family drama.

Agatha Christie The Monogram Murders
Sophie Hannah
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062297211, $25.99

In 1929 London, Belgium refugee Hercule Poirot enjoys a late supper as the only patron at the Pleasant's Coffee House. A distraught woman enters the restaurant allowing wintry air inside. Employee "Flyaway Hair" knows this troubled female Jennie who orders tea. Introducing himself as a detective, Poirot offers to help her; but Jennie insists it is too late as she is dead and no one should look for the culprit before she makes a rushed exit.

Scotland Yard Inspector Edward Catchpool investigates the murders of three people at the Bloxham Hotel. Two women and a man died from poisoning and inside their respective mouths is a monogrammed gold cuff link. Due to Jennie's lament not to open their mouths, Poirot believes the mass murders and the disturbed female who ruined his mellow dinner are part of the same case.

The enjoyable Monogram Murders is a pleasant Poirot mystery in which for the most part Sophie Hannah captures the essence of Agatha Christie's classic sleuth and the era he did his mojo. Readers will like the Depression Era English whodunit though purists will miss Hastings since Catchpool replaces him as the narrator; personally I do not like either of these Dr. Watson wannabees.

A Call to Duty
David Weber and Timothy Zahn
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476736846, $25.00,

Seventeen years old Travis Uriah Long knows life changed when his dad died as his mom seems lost and inattentive to him. Though some teens would relish all that freedom, Travis misses some adult supervision. Thus Travis enlists in the Navy. After surviving boot camp, Travis attends advanced training school before being assigned to a battlecruiser.

Travis' older half-brother, Baron of Winterfall Gavin Vellacott listens to Chancellor of the Exchequer, Earl Breakwater argue to disestablish the Navy; as the impoverished Star Kingdom of Manticore has better uses than funding a horrible defenseless fleet. Defense Minister James Mantegn, the Earl of Dapplelake, disagrees though accepts the assessment that the vessels should have been mothballed and replaced, and the corrupt lazy officers dismissed. Gavin offers a compromise that methodically reduces the Navy while assessing the impact on security. The Crown Prince Edward Winton, an officer in the Royal Manticoran Navy, wants to modernize the fleet and remove the freeloaders while much of Parliament wants to reprogram the naval budget for other purposes.

Occurring several centuries before Honor Harrington began breathing; the first marvelous Manticore Ascendant science fiction thriller focuses (through the subplots of the half-brothers) on a critical political-military budget debate (guns or butter). Fans, especially armchair historiographers, will relish A Call To Duty as what is ancient history (and legend) in the Harrington saga is new or relatively recent in this winning outer space drama; and at times differ in what each era believes happened.

Beyond This Horizon
Robert A. Heinlein
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476736860, $15.00

Due to his ancestors' need for the perfect human, millionaire entrepreneur and government spy Hamilton Felix is the product of generations improving the DNA until he is near the original paragon objective. However, his late kin failed to consider one nagging problem: ennui and disinterest especially in siring let alone improving his family's genetic makeup.

He and Monroe-Alpha Clifford dine on a restaurant's balcony, when his friend clumsily drops a crab leg into a drink on the table below, which in turn wets a woman. Appalled Monroe-Alpha apologizes, but another patron takes him to task leading to a duel between the stranger and Felix who shoots him in the shoulder. However, unbeknownst to Felix or Clifford, the wounded man believes, unlike the vast majority of society, that utopia has not been achieved because of a lack of an upper class in charge' he and his associates plot insure this happens soonest with his group in charge. Felix is the star they need to achieve their goal.

This reprint of a 1940s science fiction seems relevant with the debate on income distribution and other related societal issues. Robert A. Heinlein makes a strong case that a Utopian society fulfills the lowest two levels of Maslow's Hierarchy (published at around the same time) but once physiological and safety needs are satisfied humans require much more (love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization). Although at times the pace slows down, overall this is an engaging thought-provoking thriller.

The Chaplain's War
Brad R. Torgersen
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476736853, $15.00

In the middle of the twenty-second century, the alien Mantes cyborgs invaded human space with one objective: total genocide. The humans fought back but the enemy proved superior. Five years ago the Mantes defeated an invading force and captured Chaplain Assistant Harrison Barlow and many other soldiers on a planet the POWs call Purgatory. With the Chaplain dead, Harrison helps his fellow prisoners keep the faith though he avoids any specific religion. Two years ago he completed a chapel for those who want to pray alongside him to God for deliverance.

A Mantis, who tells Harrison he is equivalent to a Professor, visits him constantly to learn more about the Holy Man's belief in an invisible God. The Professor explains humanity is the third essence the Mantes have met that believes in an indiscernible guiding spirit. When Harrison asks the Mantis what his race believes in; the Professor responds "nothing". While Harrison teaches the Professor about human spirituality, some of his race feels he betrays them while some of the Mantis' race insists it is insignificant what the enemy thinks.

This intriguing science fiction is told in three parts (with one and two modifications of previously released "The Chaplain's Assistant" and "The Chaplain's Legacy") and the third section ("The Chaplain's War") totally new. The expansion enhances the fascinating focus on two species at war with differing social values especially highlighted by a to believe or not to believe in a deity; ironically most members of each race share in common the competitive drive for all out victory. Thus the Chaplain Assistant and The Professor are outliers as they thrive for understanding of each other's respective species, which is a step towards all out peace.

Chase Novak
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316228008, $26.00,

Manhattan residents Alex and Leslie Twisden lived a great lifestyle until they went to Slovenia for illegal fertility treatments. The procedure worked and they had twins Alice and Adam, but also turned the nice couple into malevolent ogres (see Breed).

Moving into the renovated Upper East Side townhouse that Alex and Leslie turned into a monstrosity, antiques dealer Cynthia Kramer becomes guardian to her troubled niece and nephew. She hopes to nurture them into a good mental state through love. However, the youngsters fear puberty will make them a chip off the cannibalistic block and especially do not want to harm their caring aunt. Alice and Adam flee to Central Park where evil greets them with a scheme to use the siblings.

The efforts to prevent what seems inevitable turn this sequel into an exciting urban horror though Mother Cynthia's constant anxiety panic attacks detract from an otherwise electrifying family drama. With a stunning climax to an overall tense tale (mainly when the twins rule the storyline), this is a winning read particularly when the Twisden brother and sister invade Central Park.

The Daughter Of Highland Hall
Carrie Turansky
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601424983, $14.99,

In 1912, sponsored by her autocratic Aunt Louisa, eighteen year old debutante Katherine Ramsey comes to London to reside with her relative. Also living in Louisa's home is the brother of Kate's last governess, medical student Jonathan Foster. He soon must decide between being a doctor in India as expected of a missionary's son and helping the squalid in London.

Kate initially enjoys her debut until a scandal devastates the equilibrium of her upper class world. She begins to question the aristocracy's ethics and her family's morality. Also Kate is attracted to Jonathan and extremely interested by the work he is doing to help the impoverished, which Aunt Louisa insists makes him unacceptable.

The second Edwardian Brides romance is an enjoyable leisurely-paced inspirational historical. A family affair since readers met much of the cast including the leads in The Governess of Highland Hall (Jonathan's sister and orphaned Kate's guardian were the protagonists). With a 360 degree look at pre WWI poverty through the poor and the filters of the aristocracy, the servants and the missionary doctor enrich an engaging Upstairs-Downstairs Edwardian.

The Phantom of Rue Royale (Nicolas Le Floch 3)
Jean-Francois Parot; Howard Curtis (translator)
Gallic Books
59 Ebury Street, London, England, SW1W ONZ
9781906040154, $15.95,

In 1770 Parisians celebrate at Rue Royale the Dauphin's soon to be wedding. Watching the fireworks gala from nearby Place Louis XV is Châtelet Police Commissioner Nicolas Le Floch as a civilian. The King rejected his superior Lieutenant General of Police Sartine's request to work crowd control in order to avoid repeating the disaster that occurred at his Majesty's wedding festivities in 1747.

When Monsieur Ruggieri's pyrotechnic launches causes an out of control inferno, the crowd panics. Over a thousand people die with the city outraged by the disaster. Le Floch finds one victim's death seemingly different from all the others who died from the fire or the crush to escape the blaze. This twentyish pregnant female had neck bruising that occurs when someone is strangled. He wants to investigate the homicide, but understanding police politics especially during a Royal calamity, Le Floch does so under the guise of an inquiry looking into the entire tragedy.

The third Nicolas Le Floch French historical police procedural (see The Châtelet Apprentice and The Man with the Lead Stomach) is a great entry due to Jean-Francois Parot's skill in transporting armchair readers to Paris two decades before the Revolution. The whodunit is terrific, but it is the deep look into 1770 French society that makes this novel tres magnifique.

Eat Him if You Like
Jean Teule, Emily Phillips (translator)
Gallic Books
59 Ebury Street, London, England, SW1W ONZ
9781906040390, $12.95,

In 1870, Beaussac, France Deputy Mayor Alain de Moneys soon will join the French army at the not so quiet eastern front in the war with Prussia. However, today he plans to enjoy the day in spite of the unbearable August heat and the relentless drought. Thus Alain rides his horse towards the Saint-Roch Fair in Hautefaye.

He comes across his arrogant cousin Camille de Maillard, who mocks the Emperor and the Minister of War for their claim Berlin soon will fall as he points to the recent massacre loss at Reichsoffen and the need to retreat. Someone in the angry patriotic crowd replies no retreat as the Prussians will fall just like the Austrians in Italy and the Russian in Crimea before. As the crowd grows increasingly hostile accusing Camille of being a Prussian sympathizer, Alain intervenes explaining his cousin's comment but terribly misconstrued. Suddenly Alain's friends and neighbors who he just exchanged salutations with pummel him before burning and eating him while the authorities fail to intervene.

Based on a real event that seems surreal, Eat Him if You Like is a cautionary historical novella that hooks the audience with how quickly a group of friends turn into vicious out of control monsters. Mindful of Walter Van Tilburg Clark's classic The Ox-Bow Incident with its thoughtful yet exciting look into the mob mentality when civil society breaks down. This is not an easy read as friends and neighbors not only batter and lynch the victim, they roast and eat him.

The Corpse With The Platinum Hair
Cathy Ace
TouchWood Editions
103 - 1075 Pendergast Street, Victoria, BC, Canada, V8V 0A1
9781771510875, $14.95,

On the Vegas Strip, Tsar! Casino and Hotel majority stockholder Miss Shirley invites several people to join her for dinner at the owner's private dining room. While enjoying the meal, the lights go out. When the emergency lights turn on, hotel legal head Julie Pool screams in horror as she sees someone skewered with a Russian Saber Miss Shirley to her chair. Attendee Professor Cait Morgan remarks to her boyfriend retired homicide detective Bud Anderson that wherever she goes corpse follow (see The Corpse with the Golden Nose and The Corpse with the Silver Tongue).

Julie enters the codes to prevent a twelve hour security lockdown of the room as occurs when the lights go out; but her effort fails in spite of her doing it recently twice. While LVPD cannot enter, Cait and Bud investigate the homicide and soon other deaths with several in the room having strong motives to kill Miss. Shirley.

The Corpse with the Platinum Hair is a classic-style (no CSI forensics available), yet modern day (brilliant use of an electronic shutdown) locked room whodunit. As we meet the trapped suspects and the deceased through the inquiry by Cait and her sidekick, readers will relish this wonderful investigation by the dynamic Canadian couple.

Changing Michael
Jeff Schilling
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610881227, $21.95,

Alexander High School student Matthew is a hedonist who enjoys challenges as long as the adventure proves fun for him and avoids relegating him to the social outcast status of the bad weird lowlifes. His brilliance lies in his ability to project friendship by faking interest while caring for only one person, himself; even his mom falls for his seemingly compassionate facade.

While his friend and peer at the highest plateau in the teen hierarchy, Jack thinks he is crazy speaking to a nonentity; as an act of kindness Matthew decides to mentor Michael on being in and how to get others like parents to do your bidding as if it is their idea. As Matthew befriends his subject's estranged dad and younger half-sister Chrissy, his Changing Michael project seems helpless.

This is an intriguing teen character study of the changing relationship between a king of the hill BMOC and the beneath the food chain cesspool dweller. Unlikable Matthew comes across as a poor cross between Bueller and Cher (of Clueless) because he lacks their good-natured charm; while Michael is cleverly captured as an apparent pathetic loser who looks forward to getting out of Alexander HS prison.

Falling Sky
Rajan Khanna
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616149826, $17.00,

The Bug virus went pandemic leaving much of the surface of the world to its "victims" the Ferals. Most of the dwindling non-plagued humans either reside in fortresses or live in the sky to avoid the Bug; which is easy to catch through the exchange of bodily fluids.

Cherub airship scavenger Ben Gold supplements income with occasional taxying research scientists studying the disease until he refuses to transport them when they request the captivity of a Feral to conduct live experiments. However, he likes one of them Meredith, so when pirates threaten her and her peers, Gold ignores for the first time his father's rules of survival of the smartest in a hostile environs to especially take care of one's self at all times. He mounts a rescue only to lose his vessel to the brigands. Thus with allies, Gold enters the pirate-controlled sky high city Gastown to retrieve the Cherub; only to learn his adversaries have a bigger agenda.

Falling Sky is an exhilarating timely post-apocalyptic thriller in which the Khanna world is desolate and antagonistic on the ground and not much better in the air. The hero reluctantly gets involved with the scientists due to his attraction to Meredith and what he learns in the city. Though the pace decelerates at times due to the deep descriptions of a world gone mad leading to tsunami societal survival changes to the once accepted norm; this remains a remarkable first act.

Joe Clifford
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608091331, $25.95,

In the frigid weather near Lamentation Mountain, New Hampshire, Jay Porter clears out the two-hundred year old unheated farmhouse of recently deceased Ben Saunders while thinking back two decades to the tragedy that changed his life and that of his older brother Chris; the deaths of their parents when their car ended in Echo Lake. Jay tries to finish the job so he can see his son Aiden before his former girlfriend Jenny puts the toddler to sleep.

His boss Tom Gable informs Jay that Rob Turley wants to see him because Chris is being held at the Ashton Police Station. Expecting the usual drug addicted village idiot scene, Turley explains Chris had a fight with his e-recycling Computer Solutions store partner Pete Naginis whose mama Betty says her son vanished soon afterward. Losing his chance to see his child, Jay calls Jenny who rips him for once again putting up with Chris' crap. When Pete is found dead, the police suspect Chris; but he insists to his sibling he is innocent and a throwaway hard drive contains proof of wrong doing by a town icon who he believes either killed or arranged Pete's homicide, and wants him disposed of too. Jay assumes the drugs finally fried Chris' brain.

Lamentation is a dark relationship crime drama starring an incredible protagonist struggling with a helpless depressed life in which his brother is the prime cause of his lament. The keys to this riveting bleak storyline are the cast starting with Jay whose life has been flushed down the toilet by his constant cleaning up his addicted relative and the unexpected but realistic climax. Not for everyone, Joe Clifford provides a powerful New Englander.

Cattle Kate: A Mystery
Jana Bommersbach
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464203022, $24.95,

On July 20, 1889 in the Wyoming Territory, a mob led by her accuser affluent rancher Albert J. Bothwell ignores Ella "Cattle Kate" Watson's claims of innocence. They lynch the almost thirty year old homesteader for rustling cattle. As she dangles towards certain death, Ella tries not to die, but her efforts are hopeless unless someone intervenes, which increasingly is unlikely.

As she nears death, Ella thinks back to 1877 when her parents left Ontario for Kansas with a horde of kids including her. Almost a decade later, she came to the Wyoming Territory where single women were welcomed. She worked hard and married postmaster Jimmy Averell and soon afterward became a homesteader who alienated the big ranchers leading to a rope around her neck.

This is a tremendous biographical fiction that provides readers with an interesting glimpse at an "outlaw" never accused of any crime in what Jana Bommersbach argues is an injustice perpetrated by the rich and powerful. The storyline opens with a gripping first scene and never let's go of the captivated audience whether the plot occurs during the heroine's childhood in Canada, the teen years on the Great Plains or as an adult in The Equality State.

Sons of Sparta: A Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis Mystery
Jeffrey Siger
Poisoned Pen
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464203169, $24.95

When his father's brother asks Special Crimes Division Detective Yianni Kouros to come home to Mani in the Peloponnese, he does so immediately. The family greets him as "Athens Yianni" except Uncle who hugs him warmly. Soon after Yianni's return, his Uncle informs him he has a land deal to end a long standing feud and make everyone rich. However, instead of a glorious reconciliation, Uncle drives his car off the mountainous road. Stunned like the rest of the family, Yianni cannot believe Uncle lost control as he witnessed the euphoric energy of his elderly relative just before the crash.

As the family feud's cease fire is on the verge of exploding into a deadly war, Yianni investigates what he believes was a homicide with he assumes the motive being to end the land deal from happening. His inquiry leads back to high level government corruption in Athens and a nebulous connection to mob chieftain Orestes, a personal friend of Yianni's supervisor Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis.

The sixth Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis Greek police procedural (see Assassins Of Athens and Mykonos After Midnight) is a fabulous mystery enhanced by a picaresque tour of the ancient historical Peloponnese region and freshened by Yianni's overall lead. Mindful of Scottish clan wars and Mafia battles, the Greek family feud intensifies a tremendous whodunit.

Desert Rage: A Lena Jones Mystery
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464203107, $24.95

In Scottsdale, Arizona, fourteen year old Ali Cameron and her boyfriend Kyle Gibbs confess to the cops that they committed the violent murders of her parents and her tweener brother with a baseball bat. Scottsdale PD closes the bludgeoning violent case.

However, Congresswoman Juliana Thorsson has a personal interest in the Cameron mass murders. She hires Desert Investigations detectives Lena Jones and Jimmy Sisiwan to learn what led to the teen rage as she admits she is Ali's biological mother having donated an egg. The Representative also makes clear she prefers the PIs find evidence to exonerate her "offspring" even at the cost of burying Gibbs. As Lena investigates she finds other people with stronger motives to kill the Dr. and his wife though the son probably was in the wrong place at the wrong time; and she also feels a foster care kinship to Kyle who the sleuth prefers to exonerate.

The eighth Lena Jones Desert mystery (see Desert Wives and Desert Wind) is a tremendous whodunit that adds freshness by providing the viewpoints of egotistical Ali and troubled Kyle; as well as the star who revises her definition of what a mother is from what a MOTHER is. Action-packed but character-driven Desert Rage is a fabulous investigative tale.

Prodigious Savant
J.J. White
Black Opal Books
9781626941878, $12.99,

While JFK occupies the White House, in Burlington, Vermont, high school friends Steve Simpson and Gavin Weaver chat by the nearby I89 construction site. Steve fires at what he assumes is a skunk; but seemingly minor events started by an errant toss of a banana peel before his shot leads to a massive explosion. Steve is decapitated, Gavin suffers a head injury and Dennis Daley far from the explosion dies from falling debris. The crater becomes the most popular tourist attraction in the state.

Dr. Adams performs emergency surgery on Gavin. After weeks in a coma, Gavin begins to recognize visitors through color patterns before finally awakening. Gavin's knowledge of the previous few days surprises Adams; as does his obsessive need to bring order to things. Brain trauma expert Dr. Weir tests Gavin and concludes the teen is a unique high-functioning savant with expertise at chess, speed reading, math, copying classic paintings and playing the piano like a maestro. However, while Gavin becomes the media darling "Whiz Kid", he also struggles with a violent side as his sister Judy and his new girlfriend Sharon Bennett learn first-hand.

This is an enthralling 1960s medical thriller in which J.J. White deftly uses real events (for instance, the interstate highway construction) and societal acceptable norms (i.e., Dr. Adams smoking in Gavin's hospital room) to set the era. Gavin's adjustment struggles make for a taut character-driven drama though the edginess somewhat abates late in the plot when Prodigious Savant veers towards a more typical suspense; even with magnificent late Texas and WWII spins. This is an enjoyable read.

Ho-Ho-Homicide: Liss MacCrimmon Scottish Mystery
Kaitlyn Dunnett
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758292834, $24.00,

In Moosetookalook, Maine, Gina Snowe asks her high school BFF Liss MacCrimmon Ruskin to look at the Christmas tree farm in New Boston she inherited from a late great-uncle to see if it is a feasible money-making enterprise. Owner of the successful Scottish Emporium, Liss agrees to help her Chicago-based lawyer friend though they had drifted apart several years ago. She and her husband Dan decide to check out the farm that is a couple of hours west of their home with a one week pre-holiday paid vacation.

However, the town and the farm residents lack the Christmas spirit as seemingly everyone demands the visitors leave. Liss learns of a corpse buried amidst a delivery to New York and the farm's owner vanished. As Liss investigates the cold case incidents, the uncooperative locals, especially the cops, resent her inquiry, but one of them has a deadly vendetta.

The eighth Liss MacCrimmon Scottish Mystery (see Vampires, Bones, And Treacle Scones; and Bagpipes, Brides, And Homicides and Scotched) is a pleasurable twisting Yuletide amateur sleuth. Although the Ruskin relationship is not quite as cozy as the detecting into the farm and town, this is a Merry Christmas tale.

A Crafty Christmas
Mollie Cox Bryan
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758293565, $7.99

After winning a design contest, Sheila Rogers accompanied by her Cumberland Creek Scrapbook Crop BFFs (Vera with her boyfriend Eric and Paige with her son Randy) enjoy a ten-day Caribbean cruise though instead of sun a storm batters the area. While doing her daily run, Sheila stumbles over an apparent drunk lying in her path. A crew member arrives and checks the body before pronouncing the person dead. Sheila faints.

After the doctor sees that she is okay Sheila asks for her glasses as the ones she has on her is not hers; the deceased was wearing hers. Ahoy Security Matthew Kirtley says a murder occurred and no one not even the killer can leave "town". As Kirtley investigates the homicide, Sheila's family and the Cumberland Creek Scrapbook Crop at sea and on land (in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley) worry the intended victim was Sheila who thus remains in harm's way. Not waiting for another murder especially of one of them, the two groups coordinate an inquiry into those on board.

The latest Cumberland Creek Mystery (see Scrappy Summer and Death Of An Irish Diva) is a super cozy that adroitly rotates the amateur sleuthing between on the ship and Virginia in a precise coordinated effort that our military would envy. The storyline entertains subgenre fans who will appreciate the multigenerational Croppers, families and friends coming together to protect one of them while making their unofficial inquiry.

Death Of A Christmas Caterer
Lee Hollis
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758294517, $7.99

In Bar Harbor, Maine, Island Times food and wine columnist single mom (of teenagers Gemma and Dustin) Hayley Powell gets a promotion from office manager to senior office manager with no pay increase or any staff. Her boss Sal says her new duty includes hosting the office Christmas party, which is tomorrow.

Haley commissions Garth Rawlings to cater the affair only to find from Sal that the budgeting this year is one fifth of last year. Garth hangs up on her, but the next day he hires her; paying her for a thousand dollars to help him for two days with Midnight Madness after he learns her column is blowing up on Twitter. When Haley arrives to deliver food, she is horrified to see Garth's place on fire and him dead. With too much on her plate, Haley needs to ignore the death of her new employer, but a Grinch wants her obituary in the next edition of the Island Times.

The fifth Hayley Powell Food & Cocktails mystery (see Death of a Country-Fried Redneck and Death of a Kitchen Diva) is an amusing cozy starring an overworked protagonist. The whodunit is lighthearted fun as Lee Hollis nicely combines humor and suspense within a zany amateur sleuth.

A Fantastic Holiday Season: The Gift of Stories
Kevin J. Anderson and Keith J. Olexa, editors
c/o Trident Media Group, LLC
41 Madison Ave 36th Floor, New York NY 10010
9781614752028, $16.99,

Living up to its title, this is A Fantastic Holiday Season fantasy anthology. The fourteen superb stories are anchored by five entries from popular series. "Naughty & Nice" by Kevin J. Anderson stars Dan Shamble helping Santa Claus. "The Longest Night" by Mercedes Lackey occurs at a gifted school in the Secret World. Married Krewe of Hunter agents work a ghost case in "Santa's Mortuary". In Chicago, Harry the Book enjoys "Christmas Eve at Harvey Wallbanger's". Patricia Briggs has a werewolf in Missoula on an email blind date in "Unappreciated Gifts".

Occurring in the future, two entries ("Yes, Virginia2097c, There Is a Santa Claus" by Sam Knight and "Astronaut Nick" by Brad R. Torgersen) focus on whether there is a Santa. Another pair occurs in the nineteenth century; as David Boop's "The Atmosphere for Miracles" takes the audience to a cursed 1890 Arizona Territory town and in 1868 the lad is in trouble for fricasseeing chickens in Quincy J. Allen's Jimmy Krinklepot and the White Rebels of Hayberry, Missouri". Separated Leo wants to spend Christmas with his family but his magic fails him in "Close Knit" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman. It started with the pig in Ken Scholes' "A World Done in by Great Granny's Grateful Pie". The lonely American takes the "Midnight Train" (by Kristine Kathryn Rusch) to the ghost station on Christmas Eve. The man and boy are hungry, cold and scared as they avoid the dead until they reach Santa's house to find "A Christmas Feast" by Jonathan Maberry.

Blond Cargo
John Lansing
Gallery Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476795515, $5.99,

Retired NYPD narcotics chief, Jack Bertolino, left the city for Los Angeles where he gardened, drank expensive wine and drove a Mustang. However, when Jack worked a homicide of an informant he knew back home, his efforts led to a Columbia Cartel retaliating against his Stanford University baseball playing son Chris. Mafia chieftain Vincent Cardona provided Jack with key info and protection for his hospitalized (and still recovering) offspring.

Expecting Vincent to call in the debt in the future, Jack is surprised how soon the mobster does. Fearing his daughter, if not dead, may be in trouble from a killer who murdered two look-alikes, Vincent explains Angelica recently vanished apparently from the Club Martinique. He wants the former cop turned P.I. with a bad back to find his missing daughter. Jack follows clues that lead him to an affluent Iraqi with deep connections in Southern California selling females at auction to wealthy patrons.

The second Bertolino investigation (see The Devil's Necktie) is an adrenaline pumping over the top of the Hollywood sign thriller that will remind readers of Liam Neeson's Taken except for brief interludes when the hero tries to get still hurting Chris to forgive him and scenes with his GF. Incredibly action-packed but with a stereotypical support cast (especially the villain); readers will root for Jack to pay off his debt his way.

Every Tear A Memory
Myra Johnson
Abingdon Press
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426753725, $14.99,

In 1919 France, Joanna Trapp worked for the U.S. Army Signal Corps as a "Hello Girl". There she met and fell in love with Walter, but he died in combat near Saint-Etienne-a-Arnes. After visiting the site of Walter's death, Joanna opens up a letter from her brother Jack informing her that their mentally unstable widow mother died three weeks ago back home in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Jack begs her to come home as he cannot raise their younger sister Lily alone.

Joanna returns to the States to help her family. Arlington Hotel manager Thomas Ballard hires as a switchboard operator. Though the boss and the employee are attracted to each other, she pledged loyalty to Walter; and he feels as her unworthy inferior having been medically rejected by the military; unlike his brother a hero in the Great War.

The third Till We Meet Again WWI era drama (See Whisper Goodbye and When The Clouds Roll By) is a fabulous tale of opposites in love. The gender-bending lead couple is a wonderful pairing of an adventuress who finds civilian life in Arkansas exceedingly boring and a businessman who prefers the constant "tedium" of staying at home to raise a beloved family.

Quilted By Christmas: Quilts of Love
Jodie Bailey
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426796142, $13.99

In Hollings, North Carolina, middle school teacher Taryn McKenna deeply believes that only her grandma Jemma loves her; the dumping by so-called loved ones, her parents and her high school sweetheart Justin Callahan, prove her assertion. Expecting nothing from others except her unconditional love showered on her by her grandma, Taryn's life goal is for her students to remember how much she helped them.

When Jemma suffers a heart attack, tests show she is dying. An upset Taryn will do anything to comfort her grandma even as she fears being totally alone. Jemma's only request is for her granddaughter to help her complete an Irish chain quilt that tells a family history. Having returned from the military, Justin wants a second chance with the woman he left behind so he assists Taryn with learning the story of the quilt and showing her how much he, Jemma and much of the townsfolk cherish and adore her, and that God never left her.

The latest Quilts of Love inspirational (see Hidden In The Stars by Robin Caroll and A Grand Design by Amber Stockton) is a charming contemporary. Taryn's attitude about how others perceive her will remind fans of James Stewart's George Bailey (surname coincidental?) in It's A Wonderful Life. With a strong support cast and a likable troubled lead, this second chance regional romance affirms once again that this is a stupendous series.

The Color Of Justice
Ace Collins
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426796128, $14.99

In 1964 Mississippi, Justice HS senior Frank Baird persuades his sixteen year old date Wendy Adams the Homecoming Queen to leave the VFW dance for a big surprise. She becomes upset when he takes her to Lovers Park and demands he take her home. While he fumes over wasting his money, Wendy stares at Becky Booth's bloody corpse.

Fifth generation Justice resident Cooper Lindsay took over his dad's law practice several months ago. Now a black person enters his office for the first time. His father's former maid Hattie Ross begs Coop to represent her grandson Calvin in court. The police arrested Calvin for the murder of Becky, a white female from a prominent family. Coop takes on the case, but immediately confronts the racial divide as blacks refuse to trust him and his own race threatens to harm him, his wife Judy and their small children. Driven by a sense that Lady Justice should be colorblind, he adamantly and bravely seeks the truth, but he fears most that victory will prove hollow.

Five decades later in Justice, Coop's grandchild Clark opens up a practice. He works a racially divisive case in which the victim is African-American and the accused white while he also looks back to 1964.

With a nod to Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, The Color Of Justice is a profound well-written legal thriller that provides readers with a mesmerizing look at the racial divide during the Civil Rights era and compares it to today. The audience will appreciate the contrast between the two periods but as Otis Redding's Dock of the Bay claims: "...Looks like nothing's gonna change everything still remains the same" but with a twist.

To Everything A Season
Lauraine Snelling
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
9780764211041, $14.99,

In 1905 Blessing, North Dakota, Ingeborg Bjorklund worries about her husband Haaken (see An Untamed Heart). She would like her daughter Astrid or her daughter-in-law Elizabeth to check him out. Elizabeth says her father would not allow a female especially offspring to give him a physical.

Trygve Knutson considers quitting his traveling construction job to come home to Blessing to help his family though he takes pleasure in new experiences that his work provides. Chicago-based student nurse Miriam Hastings comes to Blessing for on the job training before she leaves to work at a hospital. Neither Trygve nor Miriam wants to be in Blessing, but family needs have both in town. When the nurse- in-training and the driller meet, each feels the attraction. As they fall in love, both struggle between pursuing their dreams and revising them.

Meanwhile a failed bank robbery leads to a band of brother outlaws captured with the youngest Manny suffering a broken leg. Instead of jail, the tweener moves in with Ingeborg and Haaken.

Lauraine Snelling returns to her Red River Of the North roots with her first delightful Song of Blessing historical. The ensemble cast is solid as they enable the audience to understand life on the northern Great Plains circa first decade of the twentieth century. Even with an amazing Bjorklund family tree, newcomers will be lost with the Return to Red River (location of four previous series and a prequel). On the other hand longtime fans will celebrate the opening act of Song of Blessing.

Snowfall: A Days of Redemption Christmas Novella
Shelley Shepard Gray
Avon Inspire
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062204547, $12.99,

Twentyish Ruth Stutzman enjoys being a care provider to retirees at a nursing home. When her position is abolished and Ruth let go due to budget cuts, she is despondent because she likes being with the elderly.

When sexagenarian Lovina Keim quits as nanny to widower Martin Rodes' six horrible children, she recommends he hires Ruth to take care of his kids whose ages range from four to nine. Initially Ruth feels overwhelmed but sympathetic towards her six motherless wards since she lost her parents as a young child. The preadolescents slowly warm up to her cheerful enthusiasm; but perhaps not as much as their concerned father who keeps his distance out of guilt and memory of his late wife, and for the sake of his brood though attracted to his new employee. However, when Ruth is offered her former position, she feels pulled in two directions as she loves and adores Martin and his munchkins while they cherish her for bringing a Ray of Light back into their grieving lives.

The latest Days of Redemption entry is an engaging Amish Christmas family drama. The ensemble cast includes returnees from previous novels (see Eventide and Daybreak); while the two nurturing adults try to help the six troubled children as they struggle to accept being without their beloved mother. Shelley Shepard Gray authors a delightful holiday story that needs a miracle delivered by six impish elves.

Buried Under Clutter
Jan Christensen
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781499165661, $11.99,

Twenty-nine year old psychologist Tina Shaw gave up her practice after a patient she thought was improving committed suicide. She returned to her family home in Newport, Rhode Island where her mom Laura and Uncle Bob with his dog Princess welcomed her back. Vowing never again to counsel people, Tina became a professional organizer.

When she hears a scream at the house of the next door neighbor elderly Mrs. Blackwell, Tina calls 911 and rushes over to help. A woman runs out the door knocking Tina over; shocked Jenny Tinsdale says her Aunt Olivia is dead inside. NPD Detectives Lisbeth Dotson and John Smith arrive at the scene and notice Tina whom they met on a previous case (see Organized to Death) before they enter the awfully smelling and astonishingly cluttered house. Meanwhile Jenny, after consulting with her agoraphobic but extremely neat mother in Quincy, hires Tina to clean out the clutter of her hoarding multi-millionaire late reclusive aunt. As Tina works through the horrid mess, she finds clues to what turned Olivia into an antisocial hoarder and who might have killed her especially after an assault in Quincy; the police suspect Laura, the victim's family (her siblings, nieces and nephew) and two hired hands.

The second Tina Tales mystery is a clever whodunit that not only enables the audience to better understand how a person becomes an extreme hoarding hermit, but also uses the clutter to provide the ex-psychologist clues to the victim's personality and the culprit. Leisurely-paced with an interesting cast, Jan Christensen authors an appealing amateur sleuth.

Neurotic November
Barbara Levenson
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781500519452, $11.99,

After spending a vacation in Vermont with her lover Carlos Martin, lawyer Mary Magruder Katz returns to Miami where she notices her always reliable paralegal assistant Catherine Aynsworth acting distracted. Meanwhile Mary worries about her hospitalized father Abe recovering from a heart attack and her mother Hope wanting them to move back to Miami from Boynton Beach; Thanksgiving with her parents and brothers should be quite a family affair.

Lorena Lincoln wants to hire Mary to represent her son, University of Miami quarterback Jay Lincoln, accused by high school student Jennifer de Leon of statutory rape. The college assigned Mary's former boss Franklin Fieldstone to represent him; he insists Jay accept a plea bargain as circumstances do not matter when it comes to an underage girl made worse by the race card.

Carlos' father J.C. faces SEC and Justice Department probes into money laundering at the Seaside Bank where he is Vice President. Mary advices J.C. on how a Grand Jury works as lawyers are not allowed inside the proceedings.

Catherine former husband Brady demands back in her life and their two frightened young children. While he batters Catherine, Carlos arrives with a gun and soon afterward the cops. Mary files a restraining order, but someone kills Brady; the prime suspect is Carlos

The fourth Mary Magruder Katz legal thriller (see Fatal February, Justice In June and Outrageous October) contains three entertaining diverse cases enhanced by the heroine's personal issues. The lead lawyer provides captivating advice to clients interwoven into the storyline; i.e., Grand Jury hearings and ethics rules re replacing an attorney, etc. Subgenre fans will appreciate the latest Mary Magruder manic caseload.

Dead Don't Lie
L. R. Nicolello
Harlequin HQN
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373785001, $7.99,

In Europe, eighteen year old model Evelyn Maslin returns home to find a DVD apparently sent to her by her family in Seattle. When she plays it, she observes the vicious slaughtering of her parents and her fourteen years old sister. Numb but she prays this is a cruel prank until Police Detective Nikols calls to inform her that her family is dead.

Fifteen years later, having changed her surname and motivated by the slaughter of her family, Seattle Detective Evelyn Davis now is considered the top profiler in the department, reinforced by the horrible Langdon homicides. She keeps her distance from everyone, but her partner Ryan O'Neil, his wife Kate and their children welcome her as a favorite "relative". Dinner with the O'Neil brood ends when their supervisor Captain Kessler tells them Chief Diaz wants them working a family annihilator case on Mercer Island, the second in two weeks there. Due to the mayor's request, FBI Special Agent Marcus Moretti joins the investigative team. He provides information on the deaths of the Garland and Middleton family who both had two young daughters. Marcus conceals one thing from Evelyn; that he wants her on his special task force. As they work the case that turns Deja vu personal, the Fed and the local officer fall in love.

Dead Don't Lie is a taut police procedural that grips the audience from the first family invasion until the final confrontation. Readers will respect Evelyn and admire caring Marcus even while the serial killer pushes the heroine's buttons into mental freefall. Although the love subplot is unnecessary, this is a tremendous romantic suspense.

The Mighty Quinns: Ryan
Kate Hoffmann
Harlequin Blaze
9780373798254, $5.50

Hollywood based Greenmoor Studios chief Thom Perry hires Ryan Quinn to keep his soon to be star Hollywood actress Serena Hightower out of trouble until she marries; as bad publicity just before the release of a blockbuster movie could prove devastating. The New Zealander assumes his latest gig will be R&R while his brother Rogan says Ryan is lucky as a baby-sitter to five hens including the soon to be bride Hollywood actress Serena Hightower at her bachelorette party in vacation paradise Fiji.

As soon as Serena leaves the plane, Ryan knows he is in trouble. He wants her and she feels the same way; but he will not poach on someone else's woman. That changes when he learns Serena plans to end her engagement to Ben Thayer. They head to New Zealand to determine whether they can make it at the risk of her career and for him to tell his family what he desires in life before he and his two brothers accompanied by their father climb Mt. Everest.

The third New Zealand branch of the Mighty Quinns (see Rogan and Malcom) is an enjoyable contemporary romance as a Hollywood starlet and a rugged outdoor guide fall in love. The two leads mature as their relationship intensifies with each learning the meanings of family and commitment. There will not be a dry eye with the climax at the top of the world.

Oh, Naughty Night!
Leslie Kelly
Harlequin Blaze
9780373798247, $5.50

After an internship in Rwanda, twenty-six year old Lucille Vandenberg settles down in Washington. Her first month in D.C. was getting used to her job and the city. Now, Lulu is on the prowl for a superman (in bed that is).

At a Halloween Party, Lulu and her two friends (Amelia and Viv) salivate over a hunk when she recognizes him as journalist Chaz Browning; whom she has not seen since high school, almost a decade ago. She is stunned that the scrawny nerd she tortured when they were teenage enemies has become a stud. Chaz fails to recognize Lulu as they enjoy the night together before she vanishes. Chaz and Lulu meet as neighbors, but he fails to realize his teen queen of mean adversary is the Halloween beauty he craves and she omits informing him that she is the star of his wet dreams; confusing him further is his desire to make it with Lulu.

The premise is terrific with one protagonist aware and the other not; while the execution is excellent. Oh, Naughty Night! is a heated jovial contemporary made stronger by some of the ways Lulu irritated besieged Chaz as youngsters. Readers will toast Leslie Kelly with a Capri Sun for this beguiling blazing romance.

Boneyard Ridge
Paula Graves
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373697960, $5.50

In Purgatory, Tennessee event planner Susannah Marsh hosts a law enforcement conference. However, unbeknownst to Susannah, the Blue Ridge Infantry anti-authority fanatics have a deadly plan for the attendees; but first must rid themselves of Marsh in order to deploy their scheme.

Gates' employee Hunter Bragg has worked undercover as a maintenance man for three months to get inside the militia. He informs his Gates superior Alexander Quinn that the assault starts tonight; the former CIA agent tells the Army veteran with a bad leg and anger management issues he needs to go it alone until reinforcements can arrive. Thus he becomes Susannah's mule carrying the reluctant planner away from those shooting at her. However she also conceals a dark deadly secret involving the local crime family who also pursues Susannah.

The third Gates romantic suspense (see Crybaby Falls and Dead Man Curve) is a high-octane thriller starring two seemingly opposites; though scratch the heroine's present persona to her past reveals how similar the pair really is. Fast-paced, readers will root for the protagonists as they try to stay alive while a couple of hordes target the perfectly polished planner and guilt by protective association the medically retired sergeant.

A Christmas Celebration
Nancy Robards Thompson
Harlequin Special Edition
9780373658503, $5.50

When his best friend Greg Thomas and his BFF's wife Rosa died in a car crash, Celebration Memorial Hospital Chief of Staff Dr. Cullen Dunlevy takes in their four young mourning children (ranging in age from five to ten). Rather than let the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services divide the quartet, Cullen plans to keep them with him until he finds a suitable family who will raise the fearsome foursome. However, he works sixteen hour days and his housekeeper quits as the growing blue foam was the last straw.

After explaining to Lily Palmer the kids act out of grief and she replies they seek attention; he hires the second grade schoolteacher as their nanny not just because he is desperate, which he is, but he sees how gently she reached out to the youngest Hannah through Franklin the dog. He also admires how well Lily deals with the oldest Megan, the only boy George and the second youngest Bridge. As the six bonds into a warm family, "Uncle" Cullen struggles with his desires to adopt the kids while falling in love with the nanny because he is married to his job.

The fourth Celebrations, Inc. Texas romance (see Celebration's Bride, Celebration's Family and Celebration's Baby) is an uplifting Yuletide family drama. The lead couple is a nice pairing whose plans are nuked by the needy grieving youngsters. With a nod to Nanny McPhee (sans the magic except inside the hearts of all of them) and mindful of W.C. Fields' admonition: "Never work with animals or children" the troubled kids steal the show from the adults.

The Hunk Next Door
Debra Webb and Regan Black
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373697953, $5.50

Belclare, Maryland Police Chief Abigail Jensen led her team in a recent bust of a drug ring that funneled profits to a terrorist group. Believing the intrepid cop, who makes to clear her town is and will remain drug-free, is a retaliation target, CIA Specialists Director Thomas Casey (see Colby Agency: The Specialists - Bridal Armor by Debra Webb) assigns agent Riley O'Brien to go undercover in order to protect Abigail from an unknown threat.

Riley poses as a handyman who moves in next door to the chief. The cop and the undercover cop are attracted to each other, but he especially knows the futility in a relationship between them as the protocol of don't get romantically involved with the protected sounds alarms in his head that fight his heart (and other body parts). At the same time Belclare Historical Society President Martin Fillmore objects to Jensen's additional security measures that he believes will ruin the annual Christmas event while she insists will save it from a tragedy.

The first Specialists: Heroes Next Door is a thrilling spinoff from Ms. Webb's Colby Agency: The Specialists series (see Would-Be Christmas Wedding and Ready, Aim...I Do!). The storyline starts slow, but accelerates towards the middle until the climatic confrontation with a villain that readers will know long before the dynamic protagonists realize seemingly too late.

The Agent's Surrender
Kimberly Van Meter
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278916, $5.50

In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary CIA special skills officer Holden Archangelo rejects agent Jane Fallon's contention that his dead twin brother Miko betrayed his country and murdered several people including his superior at the Department of Informational Development. Holden insists his sibling would never commit treason or suicide. He claims to his Military Affairs Department boss Reed Harris that he has new evidence, but his supervisor says the matter is closed. After Holden storms out, Jane and Reed chat and he agrees to give her one week with Archangelo as her sidekick to follow his alleged lead.

As they investigate the seemingly open-and-shut case that affirms Miko's guilt, the pair finds an oddity that fails to fit the narrative. As the two bickering agents fall in love, family matters drive each of them, but with radically different motives. While the clock ticks, an unknown adversary observes their progress.

The lead pairing make for an enjoyable romantic suspense mostly due to Jane proving to be as tough, courageous and mouthy sarcastically humorous, if not more so, as her male partner is. Following up on Moving Target and The Sniper, the action-packed inquiry grips the audience from the moment Harris teams them up and never lets up until the heroine mocks her beloved for entertaining another female in his apartment.

Snowstorm Confessions
Rachel Lee
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278893, $5.50

Brianna Cole is astonished to see her ex-husband Luke Master arrive at her house in Conard County, Wyoming instead of his being home in Chicago. Luke explains he will be in the area on a skiing development project for a few weeks so thought he better tell her in person before she sees him. He also has a hidden agenda that means the world to him; Luke needs his beloved to believe that he never cheated on her when they were married.

Her obsessed neighbor Jack Milkin appreciates Bri's niceness towards him as he feels visible for a change. His plan for a different relationship suffers a hit when the stranger arrives.

While studying the mountain for his work, Luke suffers a horrible accident leaving him with a concussion, several broken bones and numerous bruises. Bri takes him in to help Luke while he heals. Though the incident is vague, Luke insists someone pushed him and believes that his unknown adversary will come after Bri next; thus he vows to keep her safe. As a snowstorm traps them in her home, Bri knows she still loves her ex-spouse but fears he will cheat again; while Luke prefers her back in his life but not before she acknowledges he never wandered.

Snowstorm Confessions is an exciting second chance romantic suspense though Bri's behavior seems irrational; she sees the goodness in all others (including her over the top of Gannett Peak disturbed neighbor) except for the man she loves who she accepts cheated. Still This Conard County: The Next Generation (see Defending the Eyewitness and Deadly Hunter) is a tense deranged cat and loving mice thriller.

Jake's Biggest Risk
Julianna Morris
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373608751, $6.75

In the Arctic, Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Jake Hollister and his assistant Toby Mahoney work a dangerous shoot from the air of a polar bear and her cubs. Suddenly the pilot Gordon complains of chest pains before he dies as the plane crashes leaving Jake severely injured.

Toby tells him no more treks for him into the wild. Needing a year to recover, Jake leases Huckleberry Lodge in Mahalaton Lake, Washington from teacher Hannah Nolan. While he heals, the photographer plans to work on a wildlife book in the area. When Hannah and Jake meet, he is rude even towards her young son Danny. Not long afterward Hannah and her dog Badger arrive at the lodge to clean it; to her surprise he welcomes the canine and asks her questions about the Cascades. Considering himself a dog person, Jake is shocked when Louie the kitten moves in and is further stunned when he enjoys his time with Danny whose father abandoned him. As he and Hannah fall in love, Jake fears his wanderlust dooms their relationship since he normally stays home two weeks of a year; and her doubts about trusting a man makes her hesitate.

This is a terrific Pacific Northwest contemporary in which Julianna Morris' tour of The Cascades Across Four Seasons is incredible; as the hiking romance enhances the vivid descriptions. The lead couple and the key secondary players add depth to Those Hollister Boys' entry (see Challenging Matt and Winning Over Skylar), but it is the trips that the protagonists make together into the mountain wilderness that grips the audience.

His Reluctant Cinderella
Jessica Gilmore
Harlequin Romance
9780373743117, $5.99

In London suburb Hopeford, Rafferty's Stores vice-CEO Castor Rafferty demands Clara Castleton tell him where his missing twin sister Clara is. Castleton Concierge Consultancy owner Clara coldly informs him that she has no idea and besides if she did would not reveal her client's location to anyone without permission. His 10,000 pound bribe offer makes her react even icier. Desperate, he does not want to take over running the business that his sister has managed for four years while he did various around the world charitable work.

After dumping him off at the house where Clara lived for three years with an admonition about cats, Clara goes home where her ten years old daughter Summer greets her by saying she is late again. While Raff takes over the firm and constantly prays for Polly's immediate return, he also finds himself attracted to the queen of ice especially after seeing the single mom so nurturing with Summer. As they fall in love, he fears losing his independence and feels inadequate to become a tweener's stepdad; she also feels inadequate to being an upper class spouse and her child comes first so rejects a second chance at a broken heart.

The first Rafferty romance is a charming contemporary due to the engaging (to us fans but not the protagonists) undesirable attraction between the working class single mom and the globetrotting millionaire. A fun read, the audience will look forward to Polly's lead (see The Heiress's Secret Baby in Feb 2015).

Tempted By A Cowboy
Sarah M. Anderson
Harlequin Desire
9780373733460, $5.25

Jo Spears drives from Kentucky to her new job as a horse trainer at Beaumont Farms near Denver where she will work her mojo on Kandar's Golden Sun. She knows she has come a long way from her addictions to alcohol and sex with body scars to remind her and plans to remain vigilant to insure she stays clean. Her boss millionaire rancher Phillip Beaumont also is an alcoholic and serial womanizer who uses his prominent family name as a facade for his despicable behavior.

When the employee and the employer meet, she keeps an emotional distance while he struggles to accept a woman not jumping his bones. As Phillip observes her passion for his horses, he feels confused as he wants more than his usual quick tryst while Jo mentally battles a potentially new addiction: her boss.

With a nod to The Lost Weekend, this Beaumont Heirs (see Not The Boss's Baby) tale is an awesome drama that looks deeply at the impact an addict has on their family. For the most part, the reluctant (on her part especially) relationship enhances the profound effect of addiction on the user and loved ones. That is except for a final forgiveness that we ironically root to happen and expect in a romance, but feels wrong anyway after we got to know the good, the bad and the ugly motivators of both of this fully-developed couple. Still this is a potent contemporary.

A Rancher's Redemption
Ann Roth
Harlequin American Romance
9780373755417, $5.50

Since they became friends attending high school in Prosperity, Montana over a decade and half ago, Nick Kelly and Dani Pettit have relied on each other when things go wrong especially in their love life; although this happens to her (several times a years) than him (once). The rancher and the heir to Big Mama's Cafe know a shared brick of ice cream goes a long way to mend a broken heart.

However this is the first time that each has need of a pity party at the same time. When they snuggle and kiss, Nick and Dani are stunned by their respective reactions and an abiding fear that they risk their friendship if they pursue romance; yet not to try leaves the elephant in the room.

The second thirty-something Prosperity, Montana romance (see A Rancher's Honor) is a likable contemporary as the leads struggle to adjust to a new paradigm of becoming Friends and Lovers that each prefers never happened. Although Dani's behavior seems more like a young teen in first love rather than a mature adult, readers will enjoy this drama; as the stars learn " our hearts we agree; We don't have to be one or the other, Oh no we could be both to each other" (Days of Our Lives' Gloria Loring and Carl Anderson song Friends and Lover).

Lying With Wolves
Cynthia Cooke
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373009312, $5.75

In the Cascades, shapeshifter Celia Lawson fell in love with the Colony's leader Malcom Daniels. However, Malcolm constantly chose his ambition over her. Unable to cope with his latest power grab when he rejected her for a former chief's daughter Shay Malloy (see Running With Wolves), Celia leaves the relative safety of her Pacific Northwest pack for the danger of exposure while shifting in Arizona to live by herself.

When the crystals protecting the Colony from Gauliacho demons begin to wane and Celia's mother Jaya, who possesses the recharging magic, accidentally killed, Malcom travels to the desert to bring the Keeper home to revitalize them. In the desert he defeats an Abatu soulless one though hurt in the encounter, but his bigger challenge remains in persuading Celia to come back with him. She is not the same kindhearted compliant person he hurt when he chose to marry Shay. As they return to the Colony, Malcom prays for a second chance with the woman he loves but kicked aside for power while Celia's cousins (Ruby and Jade) head to her to keep her safe even as an adversary stalks them.

This Colony novel is an exhilarating romantic urban fantasy as once again Cynthia Cooke's world filled with shapeshifters, demons, soulless humans and magic comes across as genuine. Loaded with action from the opening desert scene to the Cascades final confrontation; yet filled with a strong support cast, a wonderful heroine who has gained backbone since she left the pack, and a desperate male seeking redemption after his out of control ambition placed his pack in peril.

Ghost Wolf
Michele Hauf
Harlequin Nocturne
9780263914092, $5.75

Raging and grieving, Beckett Severo seeks vengeance against human hunters after he witnessed one of that pathetic species shoots and kills his father, and worse had to break the news to his hysterical vampiress mother. Two months later, Becket runs into a female wolf shifter near Tangle Lake who impressively leaves him with a mean right to his jaw.

Daisy-Blu Saint-Pierre hopes to obtain the Tangle Lake Tattler reporter internship by doing an article on the Ghost Wolf, who has been seen recently in the vicinity twice by frightened hunters. She plans to ask Beck if he knows anything about the Ghost Wolf when she runs into him again. Meanwhile Beck finds each shift increasingly drains him to the point he fears he soon will die from what was once natural but not since fairy magic changed him into the Ghost Wolf. As he and Daisy Blue bond, she learns his secret. If she reveals what she knows in the Tattler, she would surely get the position she covets seemingly more than her wolf; while his craving for revenge leaves their love teetering.

The first Saint-Pierre werewolf romance is a pleasing frolic starring two appealing protagonists whose youthful enthusiasm makes the tale, but also leaves something permanent between them doubtful. Readers will appreciate their energetic romp even as danger threatens the two shifters.

A Love Undone: An Amish Novel of Shattered Dreams and God's Unfailing Grace
Cindy Woodsmall
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780307730008, $14.99,

In Winter Valley, Pennsylvania, Old Order Amish Jolene Keim looks forward to marrying Van Beiler in three weeks though moving to Ohio means leaving behind her beloved family. However, instead of wedding bells, Jolene and her siblings bury their parents who die in an accident. Her engagement over and though only nineteen, as the oldest Jolene raises her younger brothers and sisters.

Now in her thirties, Jolene feels good about her personal sacrifice, but also wonders what her life would have been like married to Van. When she meets rescue horse trainer Andy Fisher, she thinks the widower is handsome and appreciates how caring he is with his tweener son Tobias and the hurting steeds he works with. As they fall in love, Andy believes Jolene knows his marital status forbids him from marrying.

A Love Undone is a charming Amish romance starring two nice responsible leads and solid secondary characters. Although the storyline goes as straight ahead as the Bonneville Salt Flats, subgenre fans will enjoy this contemporary.

Black Dog: Hellhound Chronicles
Caitlin Kittredge
Harper Voyager
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062316912, $14.99,

Ava the hellhound collects a debt owed by Bob Dobkins to her employer Gary the reaper who sent the miscreant's soul to Hell. Ava is lonely as she has been for the past century in which Gary has owned her; as no one human or otherwise with an ounce of sanity, wants coffee with a hellhound; except her vicious boss when he makes demands of her that she knows she better fulfill.

Gary's boss Lilith orders the Reaper to send his Hellhound to look into the increase in deadhead activity in the Mohave near the locale of Alex Ivanoff and kill the human for dabbling in necromancy though his debt is not due. In Vegas, a deadhead juiced by a necromancer attacks her; only he is not an Alex convert; he is Alex. Instead of killing Ava, Leonid Karpov the necromancer kidnaps her. Leo explains she is his third captured hellhound, but the first two died snarling at him; that he still owns his soul; and that with her help he will kill Gary starting with Ava stealing her reaper's scythe.

The first Hellhound Chronicles is an exciting urban fantasy starring a sympathetic repo hellhound who muses on how far she has fallen since she fled as a teen Bear Hollow, Tennessee for New Orleans during Prohibition. However, the Cecile B. DeMille sized support cast and especially an inordinate number of supernatural species are difficult to follow and keep track of without a paranormal classification similar to the Linnaeus seven-category hierarchical biological system. Still subgenre fans will want to tour the USA with Ava as our snarling badass guide.

By Winter's Light: A Cynster Novel
Stephanie Laurens
Harlequin MIRA
9780778317470, $16.99

In 1837, the six Cynster families, their servants and others in their circle like tutors come to Casphairn Manor in Scotland to enjoy the holidays. Attracted to each other, Daniel Crosbie (tutor to the sons of Lucifer and Phyllida) and Claire Meadows (governess to the daughter of Rupert and Alathea) especially look forward to the extended family gathering as this gives them an opportunity to see each other.

Daniel patiently waited until he is on sound financial footing before he asks Claire to marry him. Though she believes she loves the kind honest tutor, the widow refuses as being married once was one time too many for her. However, Daniel knows who he wants to spend his life with so he continues to court his reluctant Medy.

The second Cynster Christmas special (see The Promise in a Kiss) is a pleasant holiday historical with a large cast (a listing helps with who belongs to whom) that includes the romance between the two likable employees, the return of leads from the previous twenty novels and the introduction to the Cynster offspring who will probably lead in a new Victorian series. Targeting her fans, Stephanie Laurens authors a warm (even in snowy Scotland) Yuletide treat.

The Last Breath
Kimberly Belle
Harlequin MIRA
9780778317227, $14.95

In 1994 Rogersville, Tennessee, Ray Andrews is convicted of murdering his second wife Ella Mae. Ray's family and neighbors react with horror to the crime of passion, but soon the residents of the Appalachian small-town somewhat moved on with their lives; while Ray went to prison and his daughter Gia fled Eastern Tennessee to become a globetrotting humanitarian aid worker at disaster sites.

Sixteen years later, an ailing Ray leaves prison wearing an electronic monitoring device to die in his home. While many including his two other adult children (Lexi and Bo) object to his humane release and some actively protest near the house, Gia returns to Rogersville to help him in his final weeks. However, she also has nagging doubts about her father murdering her stepmother, but her efforts to learn what happened on that fatal night are stonewalled even by Ray and his three-piece suit lawyer relative Uncle Cal. Her only solace is the neighbor Jake the bartender.

The Last Breath is a taut twisting romantic suspense as the truth may not set Gia free. The vivid setting and the support cast (especially the family) enhance the tension. The present day Gia inquiry and the Ella Mae 1994 final days are terrific subplots; while the well-written Jake romance distracts from the otherwise superb family drama.

The Renaissance Of Aspirin
Glenn Parris
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781483633022, $18.99,

At the Nordstrom Clinic's Crawford Research Center in Cambridge, medical researcher Dr. Anita Thomas leads a Phase II test of a drug to help Fibromyalgia sufferers. The volunteer patients are divided into groups based on odd and even identifiers with some getting the drug and others the placebo. All those with this painful illness pray they receive the real thing and that it helps. Test subjects 328 and 329 become friends though seemingly total opposites even as both are sexagenarians; Helen is a Georgia Peach from Marietta while Annie is an African-American from Roxbury. They break protocol by sharing the shots and more. However, as Annie drives to her nearby home, she suffers a seizure and dies.

Dr. Thomas is fired just before she was to announce a major success and someone targeting Annie murders instead an MIT student interested in her work. Homeland Security changes her identity and places her under Dr. Jack Wheaton at Hamilton Medical Center, but death follows.

The Renaissance of Aspirin is an exhilarating medical thriller that provides the audience with a lot of info on FMS, research and Big Pharma inside an action-packed plot. Although the overarching premise is not new, readers will enjoy the drug war due to a strong cast with a deep bench; as the conflict focuses between helping the patient improve their health and helping the health industry improve their bottom line.

Danger by Design
Helen Macie Osterman
Dark Oak Mysteries
c/o Kerlak Enterprises, Inc.
1779 Kirby Parkway, Suite 1-373, Memphis, TN 38138
9781610091428, $15.95,

The Watkins brothers are concerned with the health of their elderly mom. She calls her son George while he is on business in New York to tell him she changed her will back to bequeath all to her family and that she fears someone is watching her. Used to her recent erratic behavior, he waits until he gets home, but before he does she dies from a heart attack.

Filled with guilt, George visits the new owner of his mom's gated retirement community home, widow Antoinette Petrone who is recovering from knee surgery. He mentions the missing will; if not found soon the Society for Fifth Beneficence inherits one million dollars rather than the family who need the funds to help care for George's disabled nephew. Net and her BFF Ruth Borden search the house for the lost will, but fail to find it. They take a genealogy class taught by Professor Marcus and soon after receive an invitation to attend a Society for Fifth Beneficence lecture provided by Brother Rupert, which Net goes to alone. Feeling compelled to find the missing will; Net fears a sinister scheme targeting the elderly who name the Society for Fifth Beneficence as benefactor of their estates; while someone breaks into her home she assumes searching for the will.

Danger by Design is an entertaining leisurely-paced cozy starring a likable, obstinate hobbling heroine and a strong support cast that run the gamut from the good (family and friends), the maybe bad (Marcus) and the ugly (Rupert). Although Net's loving crew and George are too kind; readers will enjoy the caring geriatric amateur sleuth reluctantly investigating a deadly scam (mindful of Leverage's The Grave Danger Job).

Dreaming On Daisies
MiraLee Ferrell
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781408103, $14.99,

In 1861 at the family ranch just outside Baker City, Oregon, irate Leah Carson cannot believe her widower stepfather Charlie Pape fell off the wagon again. She and their aging help (Buddy and Millie) struggle to keep the spread afloat, but Leah knows they are in trouble. When a stranger arrives in a wagon with her dad, Leah sarcastically thanks him for buying him drinks. Banker Steven Harding wants to correct her misconception as he met her Pa when he may have ran him over, but instead leaves to escort his mom and sister Beth to the latter's wedding ceremony (see Wishing on Buttercups). At her nuptials, Beth introduces her friend Leah to her brother Steven.

Leah comes to town to obtain a loan from the bank, but Steven rejects her application. Still he wants to help the troubled damsel in distress so he volunteers to work on her ranch as he once owned a spread. As the couple works together, they fall in love. When Leah's past materializes, she could lose everything. She needs to trust in God, herself and her beloved Steven, but has doubts about all three.

The third Love Blossoms in Oregon western romance (see Forget Me Not) is an engaging historical due to the respective personal issues the lead couple confront. Steven struggles with no longer being the sole caretaker of his mom since his sister came home as he feels himself drifting due to lacking a purpose as he had for years; while Leah deals with an alcoholic parent and the surfacing of her past. Although at times the storyline gets too melodramatic, Dreaming On Daisies is a delightful Americana.

Finding Mercy
Michael Landon, Jr. and Cindy Kelley
David C. Cook
Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781408707, $14.99,

In 1866, needing to know who she is, amnesiac Mercy leaves the safety of Captain Elijah Hale in search of her past; as even her name, given to her by Mother Helena at the Little Sisters of Hope in St. Louis because of the medallion she wears (see Traces Of Mercy), is not truly hers. Bounty hunters pursue Mercy to bring justice for her alleged treasonous activity though a judge exonerated her. While Mercy hides inside her boardinghouse's chimney, one of the four pursuers falls off a roof. His dad Gus has a stronger motive to hang Mercy as he stares at his dead son. She escapes by going down a fireplace to pick up her journal and face the wrath of her landlady Mrs. Kline who read the entries.

Captain Hale also seeks Mercy to bring her home. However, as she eludes her raging adversaries, Mercy also dodges her protector. Meanwhile she follows clues that take her into the middle of Klan country as she has a new mission to right a wrong she did before she became a confederate soldier.

The second Mercy Medallion Post Civil War drama is a profound Americana that provides readers with the immediate aftermath on people from the recent hostilities; for instance Mrs. Kline in a few paragraphs remains acrimonious towards the Confederacy for what it caused to her marriage. The cast enhances the plot while amnesiac yet three-dimensional Mercy having more layers added to what we previously knew of her from the first book. Michael Landon, Jr. and Cindy Kelley collaborate on a powerful historical.

The Action Bible: The Battle Begins - The Story of Creation
Caleb Seeling and Sergio Cariello (illustrator)
David C. Cook
Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781411424, $12.99,

Michael and Lucifer agree that his plan is brilliant. Both look forward to the creation of a new creature, but Lucifer has trepidations that the Lord may no longer love his Bright Ones. The two angels watch him as he creates the earth filled with flora and fauna, and finally mankind in his image to rule the planet. He assigns Lucifer to be their guardian. However, Lucifer becomes increasingly upset and jealous as God spends all his time with the new species while ignoring them. Though he insists to Michael that God's work is perfect, he wonders to his friend how the Lord would react if they enriched the plan.

Targeting middle school students, the first Action Bible graphic comic provides an entertaining interesting adaptation of The Story of Creation. Enhanced by Sergio Cariello's wonderful illustrations, Caleb Seeling brings to life the all-male quintet and their reactions to what happened in the beginning when God created humanity.

Night Of A Thousand Stars
Deanna Raybourn
Harlequin MIRA
9780778317753, $14.95

In 1920 London Poppy Hammond jilts her fiance Madderley, but has not fully thought out her escape from the church except to dodge her mom, stepfather and her no longer future mother-in-law. She persuades Curator Sebastian Cantrip to drive her in his motorcar to her father Plum March's country estate in Devon. Soon afterward her hero vanishes even as the scandal of the runaway bride explodes.

Returning to London once a new scandal replaced hers, Polly learns her curator is in the Middle East. Attracted to Sebastian while fearing he needs rescuing, and with an obsession to know who he is and why he was in the church, she heads to Damascus. In Syria, Poppy becomes the focus of a dangerous search for ancient treasure and from deadly conspirators with a scheme for the sun to set on the British Empire at least in this part of the world.

Deanna Raybourn's return to post WWI (see City of Jasmine) stars a pleasing over the top of Big Ben Perils of Pauline like heroine who dives head first into trouble starting with her unlikely journey to Damascus. Still her escapades with and without her beloved Sebastian make for an adrenaline pumping historical that armchair adventurers will want to join.

The Wonder Of All Things
Jason Mott
Harlequin MIRA
9780778316527, $24.95

At the Fall Festival in Stone Temple, North Carolina, former resident Matt Cooper entertains the locals with flying stunts when his plane sputters and crashes. Cooper dies, but the crowd miraculously survives. Sheriff Macon Campbell finds his thirteen year old daughter Ava and her BFF Wash trapped under rubble. Ava touches Wash's severe wounds and a second miracle occurs when the teen heals instantly while someone records the event on a cell phone.

The recording goes viral leading to hordes arriving in Stone Temple to glimpse the "Miracle Child" or obtain a cure. However, the physical cost to Ava begins to appear as each miracle weakens her until she is hospitalized. Trying to avoid any more damage to her body, Ava soon has a Hobson's choice when Wash learns he has leukemia.

Once again dealing with the impact of divine miracles on a small-town (see The Returned), Jason Mott provides a poignant novel that looks deeply into the responsibilities towards others and the rights of one vs. the needs of the many. The sidebar focus on the woes of support characters detracts from the otherwise fabulous storyline; as Ava is a great protagonist who wants to do the right thing to help those suffering especially her Wash; but the cost she pays for being the Good Samaritan increasingly seems to be her life.

Together for Christmas
Debbie Macomber, Brenda Novak, Sheila Roberts and RaeAnne Thayne
Harlequin MIRA
9780778316572, $7.99

"5-B Poppy Lane" by Debbie Macomber. In Cedar Cove, Washington, Helen Shelton thinks back five decades to WWII when she met her beloved late husband Sam. Her granddaughter Ruth and her future spouse USMC Sergeant Paul Gordon of Seattle began their relationship by exchanging letters while he was deployed in Afghanistan.

"When We Touch" by Brenda Novak. In Whiskey Creek, California, Olivia Lucero and Kyle Houseman are engaged until her sister Noelle insists she is pregnant. Urged by the siblings' mother, Kyle hopes to broker a reconciliation between the estranged sisters, but Olivia distrusts Noelle not to go after her current boyfriend Brandon.

"Welcome to Icicle Falls" by Sheila Roberts. In 1969 in Icicle Falls, Washington, teenager Muriel knows her father expects her to one day run Sweet Dreams, but she hopes to be a writer instead. When she meets Stephen Sterling, Muriel expands her life plan to include him.

"Starstruck" by RaeAnne Thayne. In Cold Creek, Idaho, stuntman Justin Hartford's daughter Ruby loves hearing the story of how her dad and Ashley Barnes overcame their respective negative first impressions.

This anthology contains reprints of sweet holiday romances from each author's popular ongoing series.

Choir Of Angels
Debbie Macomber
Harlequin MIRA
9780778316732, $14.95

"Shirley, Goodness and Mercy." In San Francisco, sexagenarian Greg Bennett has a sinful history of abandonment (his pregnant girlfriend and dying mom) and betrayal (his brother and partner). He wanders into a church where he prays for the first time in decades. No angel wants to help this loser find redemption so Archangel Gabriel assigns the impossible project to his three zaniest subordinates: Shirley, Goodness and Mercy.

"Those Christmas Angels." In Seattle, Anne Fletcher worries about her son Roy, who used to be an outgoing friendly person, but now is an acrimonious workaholic Scrooge. She wants Roy to rediscover what life is all about though a grandchild would be nice so she prays for heavenly intervention. Now Anne might have reconsidered turning to heaven if she knew angels Shirley, Goodness and Mercy were going to answer her prayers. The angelic trio literally tosses Julie Wilcoff in Roy's path. However, when this threesome interferes it means chaos.

"Where Angels Go." Although he expects these three rule breakers to cause him heart failure, Archangel Gabriel realizes they miraculously get heavenly results. He reluctantly sends them to answer Christmas prayers for divine intervention. Mercy tries helping elderly Harry find peace before he dies as he fears leaving his beloved wife behind. Goodness assists Beth in taking a second chance at love ever since her forever marriage ended quickly. Finally Shirley grants a wish to a little boy who just wants to keep his dog, but his family cannot afford another mouth to feed.

This omnibus reprint of three lighthearted tales stars the Murphy of angelic matchmaking; as "anything that can go wrong will go wrong" with this trio's heavenly intervention

Going Gone
Sharon Sala
Harlequin MIRA
9780778316596, $7.99

In Mexico though still hurting from his confrontations, the retired Stormchaser feels euphoric after he slaughtered the FBI agents pursuing him. However, his elation turns to rage when he learns his enemies not only survived but are with women he unsuccessfully tried to kill. This time he targets someone he worked with at disaster relief, Red Cross volunteer Laura Doyle, who survived a plane crash in the Rockies when her fiance FBI Agent Cameron Winger led a rescue.

The Stormchaser begins a killing spree to get him closer to his intended victim, but uses a different M.O. to conceal he's back. However, his setbacks, desperation and injuries lead to mistakes he never made before as the Stormchaser increasingly loses control.

The final Forces Of Nature romantic suspense (see Going Twice) is an exciting thriller as the audience anticipates the confrontation, but not a surprising third party hero. What makes Going Gone a winner is the mental deterioration of the villain from his Going Once diabolical brilliance. Sharon Sala provides a taut finish to this engaging trilogy.

Innocent Prey
Maggie Shayne
Harlequin MIRA
9780778316589, $7.99

Famous self-help inspirational author Rachel de Luca and police detective Mason Brown became connected when he donated his late brother's organs and she received the corneas for a transplant. With sight, Rachel also obtained psychic visions that led to her collaborating with Mason on his cases. The pair also has a heated personal relationship though he also spends time raising his two troubled young nephews since their mom went insane over her late husband's organs (see Sleep with the Lights).

At the End Zone sports bar, Brown meets with his boss Chief Sub and Judge Howard Mattheson. The latter wants the detective to search discreetly and unofficially for his missing twenty year old daughter Stephanie who lost her eyesight recently in a car accident. Rejecting the notion of not ever seeing again, Stephanie was with her therapist Loren Markovich before vanishing. Brown asks de Luca to help him find the troubled young woman. As they make their inquiry, the cop and the author soon learn of numerous missing girls who may be dead or soon murdered.

The latest Brown and DeLuca paranormal police procedural (see Wake To Darkness) is a tense suspense due to the frantic search that highlights the blossoming relationship between the likeable leads. Mason is a wonderful person dedicated to his nephews while Rachel is a delightful foul-mouth cynic. The storyline entertains the readers as the desperate couple seeks to save the Innocent Prey.

The Betrayed
Heather Graham
Harlequin MIRA
9780778316565, $7.99

Hearing the accepting voice of Richard Highsmith, FBI Krewe of Hunters New York branch Agent Aidan Mahoney abruptly awakens to find no one in his room; but knowing his Westchester County friend is dead. Soon afterward, Krewe boss Jackson Crow assigns Aidan to help locals search for the missing Highsmith in nearby Tarrytown.

The police use Maureen Deauville and her companion Rollo the wolfhound to assist them because they have a special knack of locating missing people; usually after they died. In Sleepy Hollow, Mo and Rollo discover Richard's severed head on the top of a wooden headless horseman in front of the Headless Horseman Hideaway Restaurant and Bar. Richard arrives to join the inquiry that has become a homicide investigation. As other gruesome murders occur; Richard, Mo and Rollo team up with the adults reluctantly falling in love.

The latest Krewe of Hunters urban fantasy police procedural (see The Cursed and The Hexed) is an entertaining suspense due more to a diabolical serial killer than the lead trio especially since the romance seems somewhat late and abrupt. The thrilling hunt for a deadly psychopath in Washington Irving's Westchester makes this overall a good Krewe novel.

The Girl In The Woods
Gregg Olsen
Pinnacle Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780786029945, $9.99,

In Port Orchard, Washington, on a nature hike in Banner Forest, an Olally Elementary school sixth grader finds a human foot. Sheriff's Detective Kendall Stark and Kitsap County Forensic Pathologist Birdy Waterman look into what happened that led to a severed body part. The rest of the person is not found nearby and remains missing. Birdy believes an animal ripped the foot off of a probably dead teenage girl.

Meanwhile Birdy's sixteen year old nephew Elan asks to stay with his aunt for a while as he left his home after seeing his mom in his bed with her lover. At about the same time Elan came to Port Orchard, Ted Roberts dies suspiciously with the pathologist thinking his wife Jennifer poisoned him. Thus Birdy heads to Arizona to exhume and test the body of Jennifer's first husband for poison. Extreme Hoarder Tess "The Mess" Montgomery reports her high school daughter Darby missing to the Sheriff's Department; and soon afterward dirt biker and Afghanistan war veteran Marvin Best finds a corpse with one foot missing in a garbage bag. Investigating Darby's homicide, Stark and Waterman follow clues leading to a fired prison guard and an extreme narcissist serial killer convict with raging grudges towards Tess.

The first Waterman and Stark police procedural is a fabulous investigative mystery with a three-dimensional cast involved in several dysfunctional relationships (by far the most positive is the friendship and mutual respect between the two investigators). Filled with twists, especially an astonishing unexpected but plausible climatic spin, readers will appreciate the detective and the pathologist working together on two homicides.

John Lutz
Pinnacle Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780786028306, $9.99,

In Creighton, Maine, former cop turned Q&A Investigative Agency chief Frank Quinn and law enforcement with their dogs in pursuit feel they have the D.O.A. serial killer trapped. As he flees, D.O.A. shoots Quinn in the back near Creighton Lake before taking off in his nearby plane. However, his escape ends abruptly when the plane explodes killing the psychopath.

Two years later in a New York hotel, the NYPD Commissioner Renz hires Q&A to investigate the mass murders of five teenage students and their twenty something art teacher in the Fairchild Hotel. Each of the six victims had the initials D.O.A. carved into their head. Quinn realizes that the victims, on a field trip from Ohio, had the misfortune to meet still alive D.O.A. With the gauntlet tossed, Quinn and D.O.A. make the rematch personal.

The latest Frank Quinn and Associates (though the A plays a smaller role than usual) investigative tale (see Twist) is an action-packed over the top of the Empire State Building big cat and big cat thriller. Although the switching between the present in NYC, two years ago in Maine, 1992 Sarasota and 1940 Dunkirk initially is confusing, readers will anticipate the stratospheric testosterone confrontation.

Real Santa
William Hazelgrove
Koehler Books
210 60th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
9781938467943, $16.95,

Fifty years old and now unemployed after S&G fired him; George Kroenfeldt feels he failed at life. He knows he was not there for his older children (eighteen year old daughter Jamie and twenty year old son Jeremy) from his first marriage and not that much with his youngest with his second wife, tweener Megan.

Ridgeland Elementary fourth grade teacher Barbara Worthington responds to Santa Claus questions from her class as she has for four decades; which leads to her student Megan having doubts. Her friend informs Megan that her older brother insists Santa Claus is not real as their parents pretend otherwise. Megan asks her parents if that is true and when they say no, record him to place on YouTube when Santa and his reindeer land on their roof.

Jamie demands her dad give her an iPhone for Christmas while Jeremy wants a new car and their mom pushes him to sell their tiny home for a new one. George says no to all three demands as money just got tighter. However, he reacts differently to Megan's query. Though his plan will cost a fortune he does not have and he will need many people involved, George as Santa will land on the roof with reindeer.

The actions and reactions of the cast to George's obsession to create a Real Santa in order for his daughter to believe make this a winner. George knows he cannot afford this yet also believes he cannot afford not to do this though the cost in money and relationships is exorbitant. The climax feels logically wrong, but emotionally right as William Hazelgrove authors a wonderful Christmas family drama.

The Madness of July
James Naughtie
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
9781468309614, $26.95,

In stifling hot London, Will Flemyng leaves work as Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to meet out in the open with Sam, a comrade from when they were field agents. Sam vaguely warns his friend that someone from their espionage days is in trouble and though he cannot say whom for certain he believes it is Will. Back at the office, his assistant Lucy Padstowe informs him that Paul Jenner wants to talk to him about an American found murdered in Parliament who had Will's business card in his pocket. Paul also asks Will to spy again.

Knowing Sam is almost always right and feeling paranoid that someone is after him, but also from his field experience trusts his belief; Will heads to cooler Scotland to consult with his brother Abel Grauber, a New York based politico. At the same time a third sibling Mungo has learned a truth that if revealed would destroy the family.

Though the action is somewhat muted and the pacing choppy, The Madness of July is an interesting Cold War thriller that sets the era through nuances (at times too clever); for instance mostly men of power making decisions in smoked-filled back rooms. The storyline focuses on the British side of the hostilities through the three siblings with Will as the prime player struggling to uncover who wants to bury him. James Naughtie writes an entertaining period piece starring a retired spy forced back into the field.

Sweeter Than Sin
Shiloh Walker
St. Martin's Paperbacks
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250032416, $7.99,

Two decades ago, fleeing for her life she left Madison, Indiana after her botched attempt to expose the Cronus Club's pedophiles led to death. Many residents believed she was murdered though her body was never found and there was a lack of proof. Now she comes home to see her dad when the abusive perverts she tried to stop recently became national news.

Adam Brascum kept secret he loved her but thought she died. He became an alcoholic who owns a bar and a serial womanizer. Though he fails to recognize the stranger at first, Adam feels he knows her especially his lower head. Meanwhile Cronus Club members become targets of an angry avenger, and obsessed for years over the loss of his first love Noah Benningfield, engaged to wed single mom Trinity Ewing (see Deeper than Need), emotionally struggles with the revelation.

The latest Secrets & Shadows romantic suspense continues the deep look at the consequences of incest rape of the young in a Midwest town hammered by this horrid scandal that was hidden for decades beneath the veneer of serene moralistic small-town living. Although the avenger subplot rings true, it fails to add much tension. Not an easy read due to the subject matter, Shiloh Walker displays her talent with a fascinating romance between the two wounded warriors in which the audience needs a happily ever after to counterbalance the increased surfacing of depravity.

Burning Desire
Donna Grant
St. Martin's Paperbacks
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250060709, $7.99

When Rhi the Light Fae vanishes in Cork, Ireland, the Dragon Kings become concerned that she may go to the dark side. Dragon King Kiril arrives to gather intel while his peers remain in Scotland.

Her Dark Fae family has locked away Shara for centuries because of her unacceptable embarrassing behavior towards others. Now she has one last chance to prove to be a loyal member though Shara has never felt like she belonged and their demand goes against her nature; failure to do so means her execution and ironically succeeding means being married off to a vicious Fae. Her mission is to lure the visiting Dragon King so that her kin can make him their prisoner when his guard is down. Instead, Shara finds she is attracted to Kiril and does not want to cause him any harm. As she assists her beloved with saving Rhi from Balladyn, Shara becomes this Dark Fae's prisoner inside his fortress leading to Kiril believing his beloved betrayed him.

The latest Dark Kings romantic urban fantasy (see Fire Rising and Darkest Flame novels and Dark Heat stories) is a thrilling entry filled with plenty of action highlighted by an apparently doomed star-crossed romance. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as trust proves fleeting. Although depth is added to the overarching premise, no thread is completed. Yet series fans will enjoy these natural enemies falling in love.

Christmas Brides
Suzanne Enoch, Alexandra Hawkins, Elizabeth Essex and Valerie Bowman
St. Martin's Paperbacks
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250060563, $7.99

"One Hot Scot" by Suzanne Enoch. Lord Bellamy abducts Julia Prentiss and takes her to an isolated part of the Scottish Highlands to force her into a marriage. She tries to escape only to meet naked Duncan Lennox. Taking shelter from a storm, Julia and Duncan fall into each other's arms.

"Once Upon a Christmas Scandal" by Alexandra Hawkins. In 1826 London, to her consternation, Lady Ellen Courtland learns her father offered an enormous dowry for Lord Swainsbury to marry her. However, he has a different reason for making Ellen his wife, but needs to persuade her he wants her not her money.

"The Scandal Before Christmas" by Elizabeth Essex. In 1816 Portsmouth, Viscount Rainesford demands his son Lieutenant Ian Worth marry within a week or else. He chooses Anne Lesley though he expects a distant relationship from his dull bride.

"It Happened Under the Mistletoe" by Valerie Bowman. In 1817 Oliver Townsende escapes London's grizzly marriage mamas for Oxfordshire. He runs into Miss Cerian Blake, who is also on the lam, in her case from fortune hunters. They agree to pretend to be a couple in order to survive the holidays.

These four holiday Regency romances are enjoyable historical novellas. The entries by Suzanne Enoch, Alexandra Hawkins and Valerie Bowman were released last year as e-books while Elizabeth Essex entry is new and ties to her Reckless Brides series.

The Promise
Beth Wiseman
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781401685959, $15.99,

Teen cousins Mallory and Kelsey were more like sisters ever since they were born three days apart. However, Kels is dying and in desperate need of a kidney transplant. Extensive tests prove Mallory is the only match and she plans to donate a kidney to save the life of her BFF.

A dozen years later to fulfill a vow she made to her late cousin, Mallory informs her parents and her boyfriend Tate that she will donate a kidney to save the life of Majida, the daughter of her Pakistani pen pal Abdul. Her three loved ones fear for Mallory's safety in Lahore, but she stubbornly travels to Pakistan. In country, Mallory reluctantly agrees to wed Abdul so Majida can come to America for treatment.

Back in the States, music teacher Tate worries about recently orphaned Verdell, a student who steals things from the bathroom and never practices the piano. Though he wishes he could help the grieving child, he has no idea how; matters turn worse when he becomes temporary guardian.

Mallory's altruistic willingness to travel to dangerous Pakistan and also marry there seems nearly over the top of K2 for a rational person whose late cousin would call her nuts; in spite of the Afterward informing the audience her subplot is based on a real person. The Promise is a fascinating inspirational as Tate deals with a troubled tweener and Mallory struggles to help Majida and escape her own captivity. Both turn to God to guide them through their respective crisis.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Hard-Edged and Childlike
Llyn Clague
Pure Heart Press
Main Street Rag Publishing Co.
P.O. Box 690100, Charlotte NC 28227
9781599485034, $15 paperback, 90 pages

"America's poetry is hard-edged and childlike;
it is passion with critical intelligence -
it is poetry of the spirit."

I've quoted the last three lines of the last poem in Llyn Clague's latest book for a reason, because every word preceding them proves that final point. Brilliantly, he carefully constructs each memory and metaphor with heart and spirit. The results are sassy, sexy, sardonic, and sumptuous.

The poems here are intense and intimate as Clague contrasts ancient and modern sorrows - such as endless cycles of unimaginable poverty and greedy elitists - or casts a critical eye at war, politicians, hypocrites, and himself. For example: "God Resigns" is satirical humor at its best; "America and World Were One" is a sad, nostalgic view of life as it has become; and "The Checkout Girl" is a modern litany of struggle and determination.

Clague pulls no punches here. He poetically pokes and nags at politicians, rips and tears at human foibles large and small, and happily besmirches iconic idols of our day. While reading, my spirit alternately wept and laughed, raged and sighed in tandem with Clague's. This is a modern commentary that poetry lovers will appreciate on many levels. Highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

How Alligator Got His Smile Back
Jayne Moraski, author
Carl Kocich, illustrator
Guardian Angel Publishing
9781616335090, $10.95,

"How Alligator Got His Smile Back" is an excellent storytelling resource for teaching grades K-3 the scientific observation of the development of two different, related species, frogs and alligators. Using a style similar to Native American teaching myths, the wonderful story presents a dialogue between a boastful early frog ancestor and an undeveloped amphibian early alligator ancestor. The show-off frog sings a song: "Frogs are special. We are grand. We live in water and on land." The alligator cannot move on land, so he is very sad and cries salty tears that make the water salty. With the kindly intervention of the plover birds, who are concerned about the alligator's unhappiness, the Great Spirit intervenes to grant the alligator just one wish, on the condition that he will never boast of it. The alligator wishes for legs and feet so he can both swim in the water and crawl on land. His wish is granted, and he enjoys basking in the sun, crawling up out of the water onto the land when he wishes. When the frog sees him, he is amazed, and the alligator is tempted to boast, but he remembers his pact with the Great Spirit. Instead of boasting, the alligator simply smiles, hugely, thereby silencing the boastful frog. This story explains how the alligator got his smile, and why frogs stop singing their loud songs when an alligator is near.

A delightful teaching story characterized by accurate observation of two species in their natural habitat, "How Alligator Got His Smile Back" is further enriched by added pages explaining a coastal habitat, describing and defining species classification, with related activity, and a select non-fiction biography. Colorful, accurate natural portraits of species and coastal habitats in the story are presented framed in Native American reminiscent beaded frames that underline the original model of this particular story's teaching.

Vietnamese Children's Favorite Stories
Tran Thi Minh Phuoc, author
Nguyen Dong and Nguyen Thi Hop, illustrators
Tuttle Publishing
364 Innovation Drive, North Clarendon, VT 05759
9780804844291 $16.95

"Vietnamese Children's Favorite Stories" is a beautifully illustrated collection of fifteen children's stories from Vietnamese traditions. These traditional folktales help to preserve and pass on the morals, faith and ideals of previous generations to future custodians of life. "Vietnamese Children's Favorite Stories" personifies and projects the role of the traditional storyteller, enriching the imaginations and lives of children ages 5 and up, and also transcending cultural gaps or differences.

Each story teaches a revered quality, or teaches a wise moral, using entertainment and humor as well as mystery and intrigue to embroider details. Why the Sea Is Salty teaches that greed is all-consuming, while The Legend of the Mosquito also teaches the futility of loving someone who only values greed. Mr. Cuoi Under the Banyan Tree and The Jade Rabbit are both stories built around the features and aspects of the moon, and perhaps beneficent influences for children in the world, personified by features of the moon. Every story is carefully retold, and illustrated in graceful colored paintings in a Vietnamese influenced tradition. "Vietnamese Children's Favorite Stories" is a rainbow sampling of a rich culture's traditions for children, appealing to children of imagination everywhere.

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold
Joyce Sidman & Rick Allen, author and illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547906508, $17.99,

"Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold" is a delicate union of poem, picture, and natural history. Each two pages present a poem, a fantastic, multi -textured delicate layering of tinted images, and an accurate natural description of the animal, bird, or event in winter. For an example, in "Snowflake Wakes," the incredible complexity of the images leave a haunting, tingling sensation that evokes the sensory experiences of winter, while the delicate, descriptive nuances of the verse personifies even a snowflake, and finally a natural description of the formation of snowflakes is told in expository prose appealing to children. It is easy to see why "Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold" is a Junior Library Guild selection. This is a magnificent book for giving to children ages 6 and up.

The Living Rainbow
Amy LaNeice Stewart, LMT, author
Thinkstock, illustration source
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Bohlsen Group
9781452588384, $16.95,

"The Living Rainbow" is an illuminated exploration of the seven chakras, through gently guiding narrative verse, especially addressed to children. Created from a poem written for the author's young son, "The Living Rainbow" is part of The Living Rainbow Series, writings designed to display the interconnectedness of all life, through union of chakra knowledge from eastern philosophies and other scientific knowledge from western thought systems. "The Living Rainbow" begins with the Root Chakra, color red, first spinning wheel of light at the base of the spine connecting the body with the ground of Mother Earth. It progresses through each of the seven chakras and colors with graceful descriptions of each chakra's ruled functions, until arriving at the final seventh chakra, of violet light, fastest spinning vortex, connecting the body on earth with the heavens. The concluding verses are moving, addressed from parent to child: "My prayer for you is to learn to share this story I've just told./ Live it with others black and white, red, yellow, young and old./ Remember everyone's different. We should respect each person's path. All lakes and rivers lead to the ocean so no judgment should we pass./ Namaste is a Sanskrit word which might sound different and fun. It means there is a Light in you, a Light in me and together we are one./ So pay attention to those feelings that you feel inside yourself. Have a kind heart, do your best Enjoy Abundance, Love and Health!" Vibrant rainbow colored illustrations express the simple core Chakra theory explained in this excellent children's guide.

Coloring Animal Mandalas
Wendy Piersall, author/artist
Ulysses Press
P.O. Box 3440, Berkeley, CA 94703
9781612433509, $10.00,

"Coloring Animal Mandalas" is a collection of thirty intricately designed wildlife mandalas in black and white, ready for detailed, mindful, coloring ecstasy. Drawing fantastic images from nature, each circular design is reminiscent of a kaleidoscope or sand painting. Animal figures such as winged horses, antlered deer, a ring of cats with furled tails, a peacock, multiple clever foxes, a quartet of honeybees, lizards with tails entwined, interlaced owls, and many more are featured in circular, harmonious designs that yearn to be realized in full, beautiful colors. Coloring such patterns can bring associated benefits such as relaxation, an ability to focus, and a higher state of mindfulness or concentration. "Coloring Animal Mandalas" is the perfect gift for anyone who treasures peace, art design, and relaxed but disciplined self expression.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

The Thebaid Of Statius
Patrick Yaggy
Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers
1570 Baskin Road, Mundelein, IL 60060
9780865168190, $31.00, 274pp,

Synopsis: "The Thebaid of Statius: The Women of Lemnos" presents the story of Hypsipyle and the women of Lemnos in a student-friendly reader designed to facilitate the reading, comprehension, and enjoyment of this high-interest tale in the original Latin. Discussion Questions encourage careful reading of and thoughtful reflection on the text, while Connections to the Aeneid questions prompt students who are familiar with Vergil's epic to explore the relationship of the Thebaid to its literary predecessor. This text provides the unadapted Latin text of the Thebaid Book 5.1 637. Special Features Introduction to Statius's life and to the historical, social, and literary background of the Thebaid Same- and facing-page vocabulary and notes Discussion Questions Connections to the Aeneid Glossary of Poetic, Rhetorical, and Metrical Devices and Figures of Speech.

Critique: Author and academician Patrick Yaggy draws upon his fourteen years of teaching high school Latin to produce "The Thebaid of Statius: The Women of Lemnos" which is presented in a perfect format for Latin Studies curriculums and his very highly recommended for academic library Latin Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists for high school and college student reading lists.

Devising Consumption
Liz McFall
711 - 3rd Avenue, Floor 8, New York, NY 10017-9209
9780415694391, $143.00, 212pp,

Synopsis: "Devising Consumption: Cultural Economies of Insurance, Credit and Spending" explores the vital role played by the financial service industries in enabling the poor to consume over the last hundred and fifty years. Spending requires means, but these industries offered something else as well - they offered practical marketing devices that captured, captivated and enticed poor consumers. Consumption and consumer markets depend on such devices but their role has been poorly understood both in the social sciences and in business studies and marketing. While the analysis of consumption and markets has been carved up between academics and practitioners who have been interested in either their social and cultural life or their economic and commercial organization, consumption continues to be driven by their combination. Devising consumption requires practical mixtures of commerce and art whether the product is an insurance policy or the next gadget in the internet of things . By making the case for a pragmatic understanding of how ordinary, everyday consumption is orchestrated, "Devising Consumption: Cultural Economies of Insurance, Credit and Spending" offers an alternative to orthodox approaches, which should appeal to interdisciplinary audiences interested in questions about how markets work and why it matters.

Critique: An impressive and seminal work of painstaking scholarship, "Devising Consumption: Cultural Economies of Insurance, Credit and Spending" by Liz McFall (Head of Sociology, Open university) is enhanced with illustrations, figures, tables, a chronological list of key reports and legislation, notes on terminology, a list of abbreviations, an introduction and epilogue, a fifteen page bibliography, and a comprehensive index. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Devising Consumption: Cultural Economies of Insurance, Credit and Spending" is very highly recommended for personal, professional, and academic library Economics reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "Devising Consumption: Cultural Economies of Insurance, Credit and Spending" is also available in a Kindle edition ($108.00).

To The Stars
L. Ron Hubbard
Galaxy Press
7051 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 200, Hollywood, CA 90028
9781592121755, $24.95, 192pp,

Synopsis: "To the Stars" is set in an uncertain, strife - torn future when the first starships of man are traveling across the galaxy but not without extracting a terrible price from their crews. The novel's thought - provoking opening line, ''Space is deep, Man is small and Time is his relentless enemy,'' powerfully captures the challenges facing the brave men and women of these vessels, people who must give up their former lives to explore space as entire generations and whole societies come and go on Earth, while those aboard remain essentially untouched by the passage of time in a vessel traveling at nearly the speed of light.

Critique: L. Ron Hubbard was one of the most prolific and one of the best of the old 'Golden Age of Puple Magazine' writers who didn't specialize but wrote in just about every pop culture genre there was. But it was with his science fiction that he was arguably at his very best. "To The Stars" was originally written and published more than fifty years ago and in this new edition from Galaxy Press will introduce a whole new generation of appreciative readers to one of science fiction's major storytelling talents. Very highly recommended "To The Stars" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections. It should be noted that "To The Stars" is also available in a paperback edition (9781459655775, $17.95); a Kindle edition ($9.59); and in an audio book download edition ($6.95).

Fat Gay Men
Jason Whitesel
New York University Press
838 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10003
9780814724125, $22.00, 192pp,

Synopsis: To be fat in a thin-obsessed gay culture can be difficult. Despite affectionate in-group monikers for big gay men (chubs, bears, cubs) the anti-fat stigma that persists in American culture at large still haunts these individuals who often exist at the margins of gay communities. "Fat Gay Men: Girth, Mirth, and the Politics of Stigma" delves into the world of Girth & Mirth, a nationally known social club dedicated to big gay men, illuminating the ways in which these men form identities and community in the face of adversity. In existence for over forty years, the club has long been a refuge and 'safe space' for such men. Both a partial insider as a gay man and an outsider to Girth & Mirth, Jason Whitesel offers an insider's critique of the gay movement, questioning whether the social consequences of the failure to be height-weight proportionate should be so extreme in the gay community.

Critique: An impressive and articulate work of seminal scholarship combined with personal experience, "Fat Gay Men: Girth, Mirth, and the Politics of Stigma" by Jason Whitesel (Assistant Professor of Women's and Gender Studies, Pace University) provides an invaluable perspective on the social interworkings of the contemporary gay community. Informed and informative, "Fat Gay Men: Girth, Mirth, and the Politics of Stigma" available in both a hardcover edition (9780814708385, $79.00) and is very highly recommended for academic library LGBT Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists. It should be noted that "Fat Gay Men: Girth, Mirth, and the Politics of Stigma" is also available to the general public in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Heaven in a Wildflower
Don Smarto
Frontline Press
P. O. Box 764499, Dallas, Texas 75376-4499
978098935792, $ 29.95, 542 Pages,

Breathtaking Photography - Evidence of God's Creation and Intelligent Design

Award winning author and photographer Don Smarto combines breathtaking magnificent photographs with deeply profound writings addressing questions everyone asks: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Do I have a destiny to fulfill? Is God the Creator of the Universe? What happens after death?

"Heaven in a Wildflower" is formatted with five amazing color pictorials and a thought provoking narrative that takes the reader through the Biblical account of creation: of light, water, plants, animals, and man. The book includes biographical sketches of twenty fascinating personalities, illustrations on structure and design, and ends with meaningful insight into questions pertaining to death and resurrection.

Smarto's writing is packed with awe inspiring word pictures, incredibly enhanced by color photos taken from twelve major cities within fifteen different countries which include: flowers from the rain forests of New Zealand and animals from jungles of Africa. His color photos of people from around the world reveal a depth of character and personality through their facial expressions, body language, and background settings. Each theme whether narrative or pictorial provides the reader with another opportunity for an awe inspiring worship experience and exploration into faith, philosophy, the arts and science.

Don Smarto's "Heaven in a Wildflower" has a prominent place on our coffee table. It opens the way for discussion starters for family and friends and as well as with those seeking answers to questions of faith and truth.

Beautifully bound, "Heave in a Wildflower" is ideal for gift giving for any occasion.

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

Stolen Treasures at Pictured Rocks
Mary Morgan
Illustrated by Dawn Baumer
Buttonwood Press, LLC
P. O. Box 716, Haslett, Michigan 48840
9780982335130, $ 7.95, 120 pages,

Sunken Ships, Stolen Treasures - A National Park Mystery Series for Kids

Pictured Rocks National Park was known for its multicolored sandstone cliffs 300 feet above Lake Superior, its waterfalls, hiking trails, a famous logging slide, and sand dunes. It is also known for sunken ships and the many items that have floated ashore after a storm. The Cooper family from Lansing, Michigan had chosen this site for their summer vacation. Ben had visions of finding important treasures, like a cannon ball, a piece of gold, or other historical relics of importance, along the 40 mile shoreline.

Bekka had her camera along and was eager to get scenic pictures of Lake Superior the Park's unique rock formations, wild life, and family memories. It wasn't long before the two met a new friend, Eli, who was on a kayaking trip with his dad. Family fun, campfire dinners, and roasting "s'mores" became a shared adventure.

Plans were made for a visit to the Miner's Castle, kayaking with Eli, and completing the suggested activities in their Junior Ranger book while they learned to preserve nature and observe the many birds and animals throughout the park. A trio of mysterious acting strangers came to their attention and before long the Cooper family became involved in some fast moving action of a serious nature. As the activities of the mystery men heightened Becca, Ben, and Eli, covertly watched from a distance. Soon the family was in danger as the men realized they had been discovered.

Mary Morgan knows how to build suspense, involve her reader, and keep them guessing. Her writing is informative, filled with core values, significant history, and quality family entertainment. Illustrator Dawn Baumer captures the fun and reinforces Mary's delightful dialog, story line, and word pictures.

Readers will also enjoy the added features: Recipes for Hobo Dinners and S'mores, the poem "the Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Semaphore Alphabet, and facts about Lake Superior, with pictures of Maritime artifacts which have drifted on shore from some of the 350 recorded shipwrecks in Lake Superior.

"Stolen Treasures at Pictured Rocks" is an ideal book for gift giving, for family reading, as well as for home schooler's, and for Christian school libraries.

My Yellow Balloon
Tiffany Papageorge
Minoan Moon Publisher
100 Pine Street, Suite 1250, San Francisco, CA 94111
9780990337003, $18.99, 48 pages

Love, Loss, and Letting Go - Helping a Child through the Process of Grief

Disappointment and loss are never easy to accept or understand but to the young child it can be devastating. Tiffany Papageorge helps children work through their emotions of grief through story. "My Yellow Balloon" beautifully offers hope to the child in the midst of loss or disappointment as they share in Joey's blossoming love and friendship, and the healing of time as the dark shadows of loss are replaced with the brightness and warmth of the sun as a reminder of the ever present gift of love, and of his yellow balloon.

Erwin Madrid's illustrations bring Papageorge story to life on the page. The bold colors, expressive facial expressions, bright shining eyes, and his flair for interpretation of the author's intention make it possible for the young reader to identify with Joey, his parents, and young friends.

Papageorge's training at the American Conservatory Theatre and her work with Disney and CBS has provided her with an understanding of how creative stories capture and impact the reader. Madrid's training and experience, his keen sense of visual development and careful attention to background detail add to the beauty and depth of his illustrations. Their collaboration in "My Yellow Balloon" is remarkable.

"My Yellow Balloon" combines the word pictures of the author with the vivid artwork of the artist in a magical way to produce a meaningful message to the young reader.

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

Richard R. Blake, Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis
Carole P. Roman
Create Space Publishing
9781496138705, $9.99, 22pgs

Happy is what I was when another Captain No Beard adventure was placed before me for an honest review. I'll tell you right now, I maybe of the 'older' people in the group of readers, but I absolutely love this series written by author, Carole P Roman. Captain No Beard and his crew are always on an adventure, but this time it is a little different. The Captain is rather quiet about where they are going and what they will do there. But why? When the crew finds out they are shocked and horrified. Why this was not like their Captain at all. What will they do to turn things around? I simply cannot reveal the storyline because that would ruin the read for you, but trust me it is an adventure that will have an impact on your children as far as morals go, and what is the right things to do. It shows that friends can lead someone back to the right path when they sway a little off. That's all I'm telling you. Another great read that I am happy to recommend.

Trivia for Adults
Joe B. Hewitt
JBH Publishing Box
808, Fate, Texas 75132
9781481813419, $14.95, 158 pgs.,

I wasn't quite sure what I would find in this Trivia for Adults read, but I can honestly say I was very happy with my discovery. Author Joe B. Hewitt has put together a Trivia game that is sure to challenge and entertain any that play it. He suggests you play this with a group of people, but I loved just sitting here, reading the questions and trying to remember what the correct answer was. I'm not telling you how I did, not shameful but I didn't make the head of the class. Sigh! However, I loved that each question made me think back and definitely put my mind to work. Our author gives you 620 questions to answers at the end of each game.

I am finding that it is important to challenge our minds and this book gives you the ammunition to do it. You'll find yourself saying, "I know that answer, what is it again?" Great way to keep your mind sharp and a really fun and interesting game to play with family or friends at your next gathering. I really enjoyed this read, and yes I plan to play the game with some family and friends at our next gathering I'm very happy to recommend this book. I would say it is a fun, learning and remembering experience, and I'm proud to highly recommend it. Great read!

The Phony Farkleberry
Michael Scott Miller
Create Space
9781502475985, $12.95, 122pgs,

This is a delightful children's mystery book. In this read, we meet a group of neighborhood friends who believe they are armature detectives. In this read they set out on another 'who done it' adventure. One of the moms works at the local Museum, and the gang finds out a priceless painting is stolen. They have a clue and may know who has taken it, but can they prove they are right without letting their parents know what they are doing? The adventure, mystery and fun begins. Years ago I remember enjoying stories like this one and even watching some on TV. I really got into this read, am I young at heart? perhaps I am. The character development was excellent, and I loved how the author brought in one young friend who was wheel chair bound and gave him quite an important role in the story. It was great. The story will definitely keep the reader's attention as you follow different clues with the group, until the crime is finally solved. I highly recommend this read. Great characters, exciting mystery, and a very good example of friends joining forces to achieve a goal. Very highly recommended.

Essential Social Media Marketing
David Souza
Kindle Amazon
B00OI7NMOW, $2.99, 37 pgs

I was quite interested when approached for a review of this book as I have different products available and I am a member of Facebook. I wanted to know how I could help myself with the information within this read, and I was not disappointed. Our author speaks about two platforms, Facebook and Twitter and how you can use them to forward yourself and your products for more success. He explains in an understandable way how you can connect to potential buyers and reach more people using these two platforms. He gives the information in a very comprehensive way, and explains why certain ideas will work and why others do not. This is a quick read, but one that you will go back to over and over again to check yourself as you begin to use these medias to increase your selling experience, and put to use the information given by Mr. Souza. I definitely plan to put these ideas to work on my behalf, I truly believe the information in this book will help me to move along faster and with more success. Very well done and I'm glad to recommend this read, very happy I received a free copy for an honest review. Well done, chuck full of needed information..

True Tails from the Dog Park
Julie Ann Stickilin
Dog Ear Publishing
4011 Vincennes Rd., Indianapolis, IN 46268
9781457532689, $15.00, 47pgs,

I want to start off this review by saying, "I Love dogs." I should, I have a slew of them, so I was really happy to receive this book for a honest review. As the Title tells you this book is full of helpful information about Dog Parks. I hope you are not thinking Ho-Hum, because it's certainly not a boring bla bla bla book, no way, it's packed full of humor and important information all told to you by two wonderful dogs, Max and Luther. And it is filled with great illustrations that will bring a smile and help bring the information alive

Inside you will be informed of some of the rules at Dog Parks, and some common reminders to follow, like don't bring your lunch if you don't want to share it with a bunch of begging pouches, or don't bring your dogs favorite toy unless their ready to share it and perhaps never see it again. *smile* I'm telling you this was one enjoyable read. Any book that can make you smile while you are learning has to have an A Plus review. If you have a dog, go to Dog Parks, or just want to be informed and giggle as you learn, this book is for you. I really loved reading this book, and will definitely use the information to make a much more safe and pleasant visit next time I go to a dog park. Great read and highly recommended.

Pam Grout
Hay House Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781401945535, $14.95, 248pgs,

When I was given the opportunity to review this book, I took it I wanted to see what this author had to offer in this realm of information. I am a Christian and I believe that now in these times God is showing us a great amount on how our words, actions, thoughts do play a part in how our life goes. Also that our decisions, and what we base them on, also plays more of an important part than we ever realized. That said, I often see what different researchers of this subject have to say. Our author does cover a lot of Quantum, gives examples and I think does a good job at explaining the workings. She gives you different experiments to do to help you understand the information she is giving you in this book, and you are to apply it in your life, hopefully to bring a change. She also gives some quotes from well known people to help backup some of her beliefs and teachings. I liked the one by Joes Osteen. I did think some of the things she tells you to do are a little out there, but who knows, maybe that is just what we need. I'll have to see and report back. There is a lot of information in this read. It is not a 1,2,3 quick read, but one that I feel you will have to take your time with, think and pray about what is before you, and decide if this is something you want to bring front and center in your own life. I'm still testing the waters and will go slowly and prayerfully into the future and see if some of my dreams can well become my reality. Time will tell!

The Spells
Gary L. Morton
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
5800105562077, $2.99 (Kindle), 166pgs,

In this delightful read we meet Charlie and Felicity, who are both fishcates. This delightful pair meet on the river and decide to go on a ride in Charlie's canoe. Of course that is if Charlie can keep his pants on since they seem to fall down a lot. As they travel down the river they share adventures such as encountering a crocodile, dealing with elephants, and getting a large mushroom to stop up the hole in their canoe. It was nice to see them working together to solve problems they encountered. It's a good example for children .

I also really liked the illustrations in this book as well, I liked the size of them and I liked the way Charlie and Felicity were shown. The illustrations truly brought the story to life. I have to say they certainly had a lot of adventure on their canoe ride and it was enjoyable to take it with them. I am sure children will enjoy this read, have some giggles and learn that solving problems together is really a good way to go. Well done.

The Navy Girl Book
Scott Erickson
Azaria Press
9780989831130, $11.00, 140 pgs, 152pgs,

I LOVED this book, period. It doesn't matter to me if you call it a book of Humor, or A Joke Book, whatever, this book made me laugh and for that I am very happy I had the opportunity to read it. You have, "Guy Talk". "Letters To The Editor, "Ask Doctor Love", and tons of other short tidbits to give you at least a smile. Who doesn't enjoy a book like this? I'm going to put this on my coffee table and I'll bet you I hear giggles coming out of my living room. As for me, I love that sound, and anything that can bring it into my world is wonderful to me.. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to take a break, take a deep breath of laughter, and lighten your day. Well done! Recommended

Ted Korsmo
Create Space
9781500769024, $9.95, 186 pgs,

This read took me back to when I would watch different mystery shows with my parents years ago. It was a good feeling for some reason, even thought the story was full of murder, the scenes and people brought back a time that was comfortable. Weird but true. Even the town being small brought memories of long ago. This story is definitely wrapped in mystery, murder, and emotions for the characters. It is more than a 'who done it,' but added to that is 'who done what' and where is the evidence? Quite absorbing. Is our Detective a Detective or part of the crimes? Our author weaves his story in and out like a crafted seamstress, and gives you quite an ending. I liked this read.

Queen Vernita Visits Baja Quail
Dawn Menge
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781481478741213, $9.95, 32 pgs,

Queen Vernita is on another adventure in this excellent read by, Dawn Menge. Our Queen goes for a year trip to discover Baja Quail, and allows us to experience all that she sees and learns about. Each month our Queen is taken to another destination, shares with the reader what she sees and learns. Take the month of April, you will find yourself learning about the Rio Grande River. Travel again in October and you will visit with Kole who will share with you about his school and what he learns. Each month of the year is a new learning adventure, given to the reader in a way that will hold their interest and actually bring them to the point that they will want to know the information given to them. The illustrations are priceless, definitely brining each new adventure to life in the mind's eye. This is an outstanding read for both young and old, and I am happy to recommend it. Please note I received this book for a honest review which I have given to you.

Green and Clean the Ultimate Collection
Martha Green
Authors United Publishing
No ISBN, $5.00, 450pgs

I have to tell you right off that myself and members of my family have suffered for years with hidden allergies causing sickness, and for a while nobody put the pieces together as to what was causing them. It can be very frustrating and cause great depression. I have since learned that many, and I do mean many, products are chock full of ingredients that can kill you, and cause weird symptoms to happening to you, leaving your frustrated and scared, but how are we to protect ourselves? Good question and that answer is knowledge, and that is exactly what this out stranding book will give to you.

Written by a woman who understands what allergies and sensitivity to products or plants or smells, well you name it, can do to a person this book is chuck full of helpful information that can take away so many of the dangers that are present in your home, yard, atmosphere every day, that you are subjected to, and most of us don't even know it. Scary thought isn't it? This book is so full of information I could never list everything in a review, but here are a few that should make you stand up and take notice. Many chemicals contained in ordinary household cleaners are dangerous and toxic. WHAT! Nobody ever told me that and it's sure not on the bottles. Here are a few of your topics, and I mean just a few because there are many given to you.Hidden Toxins in your home; Some natural recipes to get you started; It's amazing the knowledge and information she shares. Our author goes into such detail on so many topics that and she gives you the guidance to turn things around for the well being of your family, in detail. Excellent

Also what surprised me a lot was the use of certain things in your yard to ward off different bugs and pests can do harm to you and your family in so many ways. What about personal products can they cause you harm as well? You bet they can. You have to wonder is everything out to get us? I think it is. Listen this is a must have book at little cost to you. Our author has taken to time to research and knows what she is talking about. If you are suffering and the doctors just can't figure out what is going on, you may just find the answer in this outstanding read. Don't pass it by, it's worth its weight in gold and I am proud to highly recommend.
This is a must have book at little cost to you. Our author has taken the time to research and knows what she is talking about. If you are suffering and the doctors just can't figure out what is going on, you may just find the answer in this outstanding read. Don't pass it by, it's worth its weight in gold and I am proud to highly recommend it.

Charlie and Felicity Go Wild
David Driscoll
Strategic Book Publishing
9781625167422, $17.95, 56 pages,

In this delightful read we meet Charlie and Felicity, who are both fishcakes. This delightful pair meet on the river and decide to go on a ride in Charlie's canoe. Of course that is if Charlie can keep his pants on since they seem to fall down a lot. As they travel down the river they share adventures such as encountering a crocodile, dealing with elephants, and getting a large mushroom to stop up the hole in their canoe. It was nice to see them working together to solve problems they encountered. It's a good example for children .

I also really liked the illustrations in this book as well, I liked the size of them and I liked the way Charlie and Felicity were shown. The illustrations truly brought the story to life. I have to say they certainly had a lot of adventure on their canoe ride and it was enjoyable to take it with them. I am sure children will enjoy this read, have some giggles and learn that solving problems together is really a good way to go. Well done.

Shirley Priscilla Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Bridging the Pacific
C. Fred Bergsten, et al.
Peterson Institute for International Economics
1750 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036
9780881326918, $21.95, 278pp,

Synopsis: The terrain of the world trading system is shifting as countries in Asia, Europe, and North America negotiate new trade agreements. However, none of these talks include both China and the United States, the two biggest economies in the world. In this pathbreaking study, C. Fred Bergsten, Gary Clyde Hufbauer, and Sean Miner argue that China and the United States would benefit substantially from a bilateral free trade and investment accord. In the process, they contend, each country would also achieve progress in addressing its internal economic challenges, such as the low saving rate in the United States.

Achieving greater trade and investment integration could be accomplished with one comprehensive effort or through step-by-step negotiations over key issues. The authors call on the United States to seek liberalization of China s services sector as vital to securing an agreement, and they explain that such contentious matters as cyber espionage and currency manipulation be handled through parallel negotiations rather than in the agreement itself. This is an important study of the benefits and difficulties of a complex matter that could yield dividends to the two economies and help stabilize the security and well-being of the rest of the world.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Bridging the Pacific: Toward Free Trade and Investment Between China and the United States" is strongly recommended reading governmental international trade policy makers in general, and corporate executives contemplating or already doing business with China. "Bridging the Pacific: Toward Free Trade and Investment Between China and the United States" should be considered a valued and important addition to professional and academic library Contemporary International Trade & Economics reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Tolstoy's False Disciple
Alexandra Popoff
Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004
9781605986401, $28.95, 400pp,

Synopsis: On the snowy morning of February 8, 1897, the Petersburg secret police were following Tolstoy's every move. At sixty-nine, Russia's most celebrated writer was being treated like a major criminal. Prominent Russians were always watched, but Tolstoy earned particular scrutiny. Over a decade earlier, when his advocacy on behalf of oppressed minorities angered the Orthodox Church and the Tsar, he was placed under permanent police surveillance. Although Tolstoy was wearing his peasant garb, people on the streets had no trouble recognizing him from his portraits. He was often seen in the company of his chief disciple, Vladimir Chertkov. A man of striking appearance, twenty-five years younger, Chertkov commanded attention. His photographs with Tolstoy show him towering over the writer.

Close to the Tsars and to the chief of the secret police, Chertkov represented the very things Tolstoy had renounced --class privilege, unlimited power, and wealth. Yet, Chertkov fascinated and attracted Tolstoy. He became the writer's closest confidant, even reading his daily diary, and by the end of Tolstoy's life, had established complete control over the writer and his legacy. Tolstoy's full exchange with Chertkov comprises more than 2,000 letters, making him the writer's largest correspondent.

Critique: An impressive work of seminal archival research and scholarship, "Tolstoy's False Disciple: The Untold Story of Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Chertkov" is a profound and invaluable contribution for students of Tolstoy's life and work. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Tolstoy's False Disciple: The Untold Story of Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Chertkov" should be considered a mandatory addition to academic library collections and supplemental studies reading lists for students of Russian history in general, and Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy in particular. It should be noted that "Tolstoy's False Disciple: The Untold Story of Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Chertkov" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99).

Cheese and Microbes
Catherine W. Donnelly
ASM Press
1752 North Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036
9781555815868, $125.00, 350pp

Synopsis: Compiled and edited by Catherine W. Donnelly (Professor of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Vermont), "Cheese and Microbes" provides a scientific overview of the association of microbes with cheese, through the lens of select cheese varieties that result due to surface mold ripening, internal mold ripening, rind washing, cave aging, or surface smear rind development. Over the past decade, there has been explosive growth in the U.S. artisan cheese industry. Professor Donnelly, was involved in developing a comprehensive education curriculum for those new to cheese making, which focused on the science of cheese, principally to promote cheese quality and safety. Many of the chapters in this book focus on aspects of that requisite knowledge. "Cheese and Microbes" explains the process of transformation of milk to cheese and how sensory attributes of cheese are evaluated; provides an overview of cheese safety and regulations governing cheese making, both in the US and abroad, to ensure safety; explores how the tools of molecular biology provide new insights into the complexity of the microbial biodiversity of cheeses; examines the biodiversity of traditional cheeses as a result of traditional practices, and overviews research on the stability of the microbial consortium of select traditional cheese varieties; and is a key text for cheese makers, scientists, students, and cheese enthusiasts who wish to expand their knowledge of cheeses and traditional foods.

Critique: Informed and informative, "Cheese and Microbes" is comprised of twelve expertly written articles that are exceptionally well organized and presented, making it an ideal textbook for agricultural school curriculums and a critically important contribution to professional and academic library cheesemaking and microbiology reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

French Revolutions For Beginners
Michael J. LaMonica
For Beginners
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser/Conari
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781934389911, $15.95, 128pp,

Synopsis: "French Revolutions For Beginners" examines the several bloody revolutions and counter-revolutions throughout the course of the 19th century and the constant upheavals and disruptions in France's ever changing political landscape from 1789-1900. While most people have some familiarity with names like Louis XVI and Napoleon, the details of what exactly happened during the French Revolution--apart from pithy royal pronouncements about cake eating and the ever-falling blade of the guillotine--are often difficult to understand, and for good reason: there were 15 changes of government in less than a century! The legacy of the French Revolutions remains with us today; we see it all over the world when an oppressed people rise up against an authoritarian regime demanding their rights as citizens be recognized. "French Revolutions For Beginners" presents the major political figures, events and hot-button political issues of this extremely violent, chaotic, confusing, but exciting period in a way that is accessible, interesting, and fun to both history buffs and the neophyte alike.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "French Revolutions For Beginners" is succinct, informative, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' from beginning to end. Ideal for school and community library World History collections, "French Revolutions For Beginners" is especially commended to the attention of non-specialist general readers with an interest in French History in general, and the several waves of 19th century French Revolutions that replaced monarchy with anarchic terrorism, and anarchic terrorism with military dictatorship. Highly recommended and informative reading, it should be noted that "French Revolutions For Beginners" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.36).

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Heap House
Edward Carey, author & illustrator
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
9781468309539, $16.99, 416pp,

Synopsis: Clod is an Iremonger. He lives in the Heaps, a vast sea of lost and discarded items collected from all over London. At the centre is Heap House, a puzzle of houses, castles, homes and mysteries reclaimed from the city and built into a living maze of staircases and scurrying rats. The Iremongers are a mean and cruel family, robust and hardworking, but Clod has an illness. He can hear the objects whispering. His birth object, a universal bath plug, says 'James Henry', Cousin Tummis' tap is squeaking 'Hilary Evelyn Ward-Jackson' and something in the attic is shouting 'Robert Burrington' and it sounds angry. A storm is brewing over Heap House. The Iremongers are growing restless and the whispers are getting louder. When Clod meets Lucy Pennant, a girl newly arrived from the city, everything changes. The secrets that bind Heap House together begin to unravel to reveal a dark truth that threatens to destroy Clod's world

Critique: A literary classic, "Heap House" is the first volume of author and illustrator Edward Carey's 'Iremonger Trilogy'. A finely crafted, complex and compelling novel, "Heap House" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "Heap House" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.78).

Germany at War
David T. Zabecki
PO Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911
9781598849806, $415.00, 1797pp (4 Volumes),

Synopsis: Despite having the best military forces in the world, some of the most advanced weapons available, and unparalleled tactical proficiency, Germany still lost both World Wars. "Germany at War: 400 Years of Military History" is a landmark, four-volume encyclopedia that explores in depth and detail how and why that happened, at the same time examining Germany as a military power from the start of the Thirty Years' War in 1618 to the present day. Coverage includes the Federal Republic of Germany, its predecessor states, and the kingdoms and principalities that combined to form Imperial Germany in 1871. The Seven Years' War is discussed, as are the Napoleonic Wars, the Wars of German Unification (including the Franco-Prussian War), World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. In all, more than 1,000 entries illuminate battles, organizations, leaders, armies, weapons, and other aspects of war and military life. The most comprehensive overview of German military history ever to appear in English, "Germany at War: 400 Years of Military History" will enable students and others interested in military history to better understand the sociopolitical history of Germany, the complex role conflict has played in the nation throughout its history, and why Germany continues to be an important player on the European continent as a member of the United Nations and NATO.

Critique: A massive work of extraordinary scholarship throughout, "Germany at War: 400 Years of Military History" is a definitive military history that is impressively well written, organized and presented. Informed, informative, and thoroughly 'reader friendly', "Germany at War: 400 Years of Military History" is strongly recommended as a core addition to community and academic library Military History reference collections in general, and German History collections and supplemental reading lists in particular.

Boobies, Peckers, and Tits: One Man's Naked Perspective
Olaf Danielson
Cable Publishing
14090 East Keinenen Road, Brule, WI 54820
9781934980934, $18.95, 320pp,

Synopsis: To complete his personal lifetime bucket list, Olaf Danielson needed to be a world record holder. "Boobies, Peckers, and Tits: One Man's Naked Perspective" documents Danielson's epic quest, which combined seeing as many species of birds in one year while he was nude. Described as wickedly extraordinary, the never-to-be-forgotten adventures range from being shot at in Texas to a heart-stopping chase by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone, all while trying his best to avoid arrest.

Critique: Eccentricity is in the eye of the beholder -- or perhaps bettersaid, what the beholder eyes! "Boobies, Peckers, and Tits: One Man's Naked Perspective" is a terrifically entertaining read from beginning to end in a kind of personal journal that will have immense appeal for bird watchers, naturalists, and anyone else who has ever aspired to march to the sound of a different drum. Exceptionally well written, "Boobies, Peckers, and Tits: One Man's Naked Perspective" is enhanced with the inclusion of two pages listing references and equipment used, a 'The Bird List' which includes dates and locations. A true celebration of the human spirit, "Boobies, Peckers, and Tits: One Man's Naked Perspective" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should also be noted that "Boobies, Peckers, and Tits: One Man's Naked Perspective" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.95).

Cree Legends and Narratives from the West Coast of James Bay
Simeon Scott, author
C. Douglas Ellis, translator
University of Manitoba Press
301 St. John's College, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3T 2M5
9780887557729, $31.95, 590pp,

Synopsis: "Cree Legends and Narratives from the West Coast of James Bay" is the first major body of annotated texts in James Bay Cree, and a unique documentation of Swampy and Moose Cree (Western James Bay) usage of the 1950s and 1960s. Conversations and interviews with sixteen different speakers include: legends, reminiscences, historical narratives, stories and conversations, as well as descriptions of technology. "Cree Legends and Narratives from the West Coast of James Bay" includes a detailed pronunciation guide, notes on Cree terms, informants' comments, dialect variations, and descriptions of cultural values and customs. The introduction describes and compares the various genres in traditional and popular culture. Written in Cree and English, with full glossary.

Critique: The Cree are one of the largest groups of First Nations/Native Americans in North America, with over 200,000 members living in Canada. The major proportion of Cree in Canada live north and west of Lake Superior, in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories. About 38,000 live in Quebec. "Cree Legends and Narratives from the West Coast of James Bay" is an extraordinary body of information compiled by Simeon Scott that is ably translated into English by C. Douglas that is enhanced with the inclusion of 44 pages of Notes and a 119 page Glossary. Also available in a hardcover edition (9780887551598, $85.95), "Cree Legends and Narratives from the West Coast of James Bay" is an essential and highly recommended addition to academic library Indigenous Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

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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