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Sue Ann Bowling
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450213158, $19.95, www.iuniverse.com
The future of humanity leads to other worlds and other species. "Homecoming" is a novel set in the far flung future where humanity has merged with the "R'il'nai" race. Three individuals, of varying compositions of humans and R'il'nai, face their own plight as they follow their lives while still trying to live up to their responsibilities of the merged Confederation. Fascinating science fiction with many fresh ideas, "Homecoming" is not a read to be missed.
Quick Fall of Light
Gray Dog Press
2727 So. Mount Vernon, #4, Spokane, WA 99223
9781936178186, $16.95, www.graydogpress.com
As humanity spirals towards extinction, mankind's fate lies in hands other than its own. "Quick Fall of Light" tells the story of the search for a small bird who may have the vaccine that can save mankind from the disease that will kill millions. A novel of science and a frightening pandemic, "Quick Fall of Light" is a riveting and very highly recommended read, not to be missed.
Her Candle Burns at Both Ends
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450255103, $14.95, www.iuniverse.com
No one wants to face losing their child. "Her Candle Burns at Both Ends" is a memoir from Ann Costello of her facing the disappointment of her own child's challenge against leukemia and how the long battle with the disease ravaged her life and took her on a roller coaster she wished no mother would ever have to face again. "Her Candle Burns at Both Ends" is a poignant and powerful read, very highly recommended.
The Venom of Vipers
K. C. May
9781453802748, $9.99, www.kcmay.com
A virus has nearly wiped out humanity, and one young woman may have to force evolution's hand. "The Venom of Vipers" tells the story of Katie Marsh, a young scientist who has created a new humanoid species which is resistant to the virus that has nearly wiped out humanity. Faced with those who resist such a development, Katie's research is under constant threat, as is Ryder, the first of this newly resistant species. "The Venom of Vipers" is a unique and intriguing work of science fiction, highly recommended.
9780982518403 $25.95 www.exaltpress.com
Semper Cool: One Marine's Fond Memories of Vietnam is the true-life memoir of a Vietnam veteran. Author Barry Fixler enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as a teenager; he experienced terrible violence and hand-to-hand combat at the Siege of Khe Sanh, and gives the reader a boots-on-the-ground view of war. Yet he had positive as well as negative experiences, and ultimately the hardships he endured shaped him into a patriotic American. His story is captivating, inspirational, and unflinching in its chronicle of the good, the bad, and the ugly of war. Through the Barry Fixler Foundation, the author seeks to raise at least one million dollars to benefit physically wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan - one hundred percent of the author's royalties from "Semper Cool" will be donated to this worthy cause.
Memoirs of a Life Insurance Icon: Khuda Buksh
Compiled by Muhammad Rahim
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781450051682 $19.99 www.xlibris.com
Compiled more than 35 years after Khuda Buksh's passing, Memoirs of a Life Insurance Icon: Khuda Buksh is an extraordinary true-life chronicle of how Buksh helped change the world, by spreading awareness of the value and industry of insurance in the countries of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Buksh faced enormous obstacles in his chosen career and mission: religious and cultural prejudices against the concept of life insurance, political turmoil, institutional barriers and more. His charm, passion for understanding, business savvy, and all-around genius in the field were the stuff of legends. Memoirs of a Life Insurance Icon is drawn from interviews with dozens of Buksh's contemporaries, painting the portrait of a determined and unforgettable pioneer. An amazingly absorbing life story, recommended especially for its inspirational value to bold entrepreneurs everywhere.
Light Out for Freedom
Joseph M. Callewaert
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741460479, $15.95, www.infinitypublishing.com
Everyone has their own story, forming a piece of the larger puzzle of World War II. "Lights Out for Freedom: Four Years Under the Nazi Boot" is a memoir of Joseph M. Callewaert as he reflects as a Belgian teen under Nazi occupation. Thoughtful with a blend of teenage pressures combined with the war time dread, "Lights Out for Freedom" is a choice pick for any library seeking World War II memoirs.
They're Coming for You 2
You Come Too Publishing
9780981683645, $6.99, www.jospehkehoe.com
A good scary story is something hard to beat. "They're Coming for You 2" is a collection of twenty five scary stories from O. Penn-Coughin designed to give the jitters and give the jumps in the night that we all enjoy but may not admit to. "They're Coming for You 2" is a riveting and fun read, very highly recommended for youth short fiction collections.
Tell Me About Your God!
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
God is not a universal thing, as everyone has heir own perspective. "Tell Me About Your God!: Interviews with ordinary People Revealing Extraordinary Personal Thoughts on Religion, Spirituality, and the Nature of Existence" is a collection of thoughts and opinions on the nature of God and the individual viewpoints we all have. Interviewing many people and gaining their own understanding of faith and God, "Tell Me About Your God!" is a fine pick and a very highly recommended one.
The Umbrella Race
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432760069, $25.95, www.outskirtspress.com
When the rain comes down, the umbrellas come out to play. "The Umbrella Race" tells of magical umbrellas who come to life when it rains. They hold a race of their own and turn a gloomy day into something truly special for those involved. With a charming art style and plenty to enjoy for younger readers, "The Umbrella Race" is a fine pick and highly recommended.
355 Hancock Street, Bangor, ME 04401
9781609105556, $7.95, www.booklocker.com
Millions of dogs face death every year, and it's hard to imagine the dogs being okay with that. "Tailspin" is a unique novel surrounding the political career of Dorothy, a dog who sets out to better the lives of both the canine and human races as she waddles through the chaotic and corrupt world of politics. Thoughtful, humorous, and charming reading, "Tailspin" is not to be missed, highly recommended.
Once More Into the Breach
Mark Brian Swart
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432763862, $14.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Re-enactors are more than just guys in funny costumes, there's a dedicated love in there. "Once More Into the Breach: A Personal Account: Reliving the History of the Civil War" explains the thrill of the civil war re-enactment and why these people do what they do. It's a reverence of history and a good time with other like minded people who also love history that brings these people together. With tips on how to get involved for those who also have a love of history, "Once More into the Breach" is a top pick for those who want to understand re-enactment as a hobby.
Put on Your Parky Face
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607
9780557848515, $15.00, www.lulu.com
Parkinson's disease can strike many, and it changes the way you live your life. "Put on Your Parky Face: Masked Facies in Parkinson's Disease" is a memoir for Bill Schmalfeldt facing his own troubles with Parkinson's disease, as he struggled to get the diagnosis so he could get the help, he's critical of the lack of diagnosis that many across the country could be facing. Telling his own story of facing the disease and what he's done to try to make the most of it, "Put on Your Parky Face" is a thoughtful take on the side of Parkinson's disease rarely heard.
Robert A. Shaines
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432750688, $26.95, www.outskirtspress.com
The military has a whole new law system of its own. "Command Influence: A Story of Korea and the Politics of Injustice" is a criticism of the failure of the court martial system and how it led to what he believes an unjust conviction in the years following the Korean war. Discussing the plight of George C. Schreiber in the early 1950s where he faced a court martial for premeditated murder. Believing military politics and other things ultimately decided his fate instead of the law, "Command Influence" is an intriguing and tragic read about the extent of the chess game that is the command in military.
9780981982120,$ 19.95, www.aaronsjourney.com
With such cruelties constantly met upon you, vengeance can easily be the only thing on your mind. "Aaron's Journey: From Slave to Master" is a unique memoir of the Holocaust as an oppressed Jew finds himself with control over a Nazi town after escaping and joining the Russians. He hopes to bring a new take on the psyche of the Holocaust victim and why many Jews did what they did. "Aaron's Journey" is a fascinating read that should prove hard to put down.
The Anatomies of God, the Bible, and Religion
Donald R. Nuss
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450250122, $33.95, www.iuniverse.com
What was the historical role of events four thousand years ago? "The Anatomies of God, the Bible, and Religion: Decoding the Old and New Testaments" is a thoughtful dissection of the truth behind the gospels from Donald R. Nuss and offers many intriguing observations as he looks at the four major gospels and tries to draw the history out of it, in a time littered with myth and legend. With a strong reverence of faith, "The Anatomies of God, the Bible, and Religion" is a fine and educational read, highly recommended.
Don't Call Me Michael
Joyce Holton Crawford
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781607998525, $11.99, www.tatepublishing.com
Behind most bullies lie kids with their own problems. "Don't Call Me Michael" chronicles the story of young Christopher and his troubles with his constant bully Mike who seems to be out to ruin every aspect of his life. But when they are forced to work together, Christopher finds that Mike's ways are odd, but there is a reason why he has made his life's goal to torment him. "Don't Call Me Michael" is a fine pick and will resonate well with younger readers.
9780615415772, $24.95, www.azzarellogroup.com
Success can have a soul. "Rise" is an inspirational business book for those who want to succeed father in their life and career but don't live a soulless existence with a go-no where status where they hate themselves every step of the way. Encouraging readers to realize how to deal with the minimum amount of obstacles, make the right connections, and much more, author Patty Azzarello equates success to a rise in happiness. "Rise" is the success guide for those who want to like their jobs, no matter what they do.
Track of the Jaguar
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432763602, $12.95, www.outskirtspress.com
When someone is gunning for you and your family, the only answer is to fight. "Track of the Jaguar" follows Samantha Connor as she finds her office and home shattered and her father murdered. Delving into South America to find those responsible, the pilot finds there may be more than money and drugs involved in the bigger picture of it all. "Track of the Jaguar" is an exciting and fast paced thriller, highly recommended.
Once in a Lifetime Dog
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432754594, $18.95, www.outskirtspress.com
A dog is more than something that smiles as you walk into your home. "Once in a Lifetime Dog: My Borisangel" tells Chantelle Hildreth's remarkable journey of life with her beloved dog Boris. Through all of her rough times in life, Boris remained the one constant, giving her comfort and strength she would have not been able to get elsewhere. With simple inspirational prose, Hildreth shows the impact a good dog can have on one's life. "Once in a Lifetime Dog" is a read not to be missed for dog lovers.
Kiss At Your Own Risk
1935 Brookdale Road, #139, Naperville, IL 60563
9781402241956, $7.99, www.sourcebooks.com
It is one week and counting before Trinity Harpswell will finally break the Black Widow Curse. Nothing will stand in her way as she feels a sense of relief with the countdown occurring.
Blaine Underhill and three friends (Nigel, Jarvis and Christian have been tortured in the Den of Womanly Pursuits by Death's evil Granny Angelica the witch for a century and a half. They escape, but Christian fails to get away as his lover betrayed him to the malevolent witch. Believing the motto no comrade left behind and fearing the level of torture Christian will face, Blaine wants to mount a rescue, but he knows for him and his comrades that is suicide. They turn to Trinity to balance the odds. Trinity wants to say no as this is a bad time for her; worse she is attracted to Blaine, which she knows activates the curse that leads to her murdering her beloved and joining Angelica on the dark side; that is if she doesn't kill the evil witch too.
The first Soulfire jocular urban fantasy is an over top satire that hilariously lampoons the sub-genre (including Stephanie Rowe's own comedic Goblet of Eternal Youth tales - you will never look at a pretzel the same way) with amazing cross-breeding species, killing star-crossed lovers and trained killer warriors relaxing with knitting. Fast-paced readers who appreciate humorous urban fantasy will know already Ms. Rowe is one of the best as affirmed by her latest tale of love and misdeed.
I Dream of Genies
9781402241895, $7.99 www.sourcebooks.com
Her three thousand year anniversary of confinement is arriving soon with no end in sight. Eden has begun feeling more than just claustrophobic living inside a bottle for almost two millennia though her abode is quite comfortable. Her problem is watching the hunk run past her everyday from the window of Murphy's Antiques as she wants him with an uncontrollable lust.
Matt Ewing is a nice person who believes his perfect brother has all the Luck of the Irish; whereas Matt, irritated by the comparison, lives under a dark cloud. Eden wishes to escape at the same Matt wishes his luck changed. When she lands in his lap unconscious, he thanks the Lord for dropping the lovely miracle on him and considers receiving her with a kiss. However, he soon believes his luck remains twisted; as the woman he now cherishes turns out to be the world's most incompetent genie, but in his mind the world's greatest lover.
I Dream of Genies is a terrific romantic fantasy that pays homage to the TV show that made belly buttons in NASA. The story line is brisk lighthearted fun with seemingly incompetent boobs as the lead couple who prove that a minus times a minus equals a positive. The support cast (including her BFF Wilson the tree outside named after a stowaway volleyball) adds to the endearing romantic comedy.
Save The Date
Jenny B. Jones
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781595545398, $14.99, www.amazon.com
Lucy Wiltshire thought her boyfriend Matt Campbell was going to propose. However, instead he ended their relationship by taking a job in Dallas. He blames her insisting she has no time for anyone except her clients at her shelter. Stunned she says Saving Grace is a not for profit residential home.
Two years later, even more dedicated to Saving Grace, Lucy struggles with the recession as her prime benefactor Sinclair Hotels will reduce their funding by forty percent. That cut will close her residential home. She will be at the annual gala where she hopes to speak with former NFL quarterback Alex Sinclair who runs the hotel chain. Lucy knew him at college where he treated her and other size tens like her with scorn as the big man on campus could have anyone. She prays for a miracle before the dinner. Although they have disdain for one another, he makes a proposition. She pretends to be his fiancee as he runs for Congress and he will provide her the money. Reluctantly she agrees as Saving Grace comes before saving her integrity and ultimately her heart.
Save the Date is an engaging contemporary inspirational romance with plenty of jocularity and social issues to enhance the changing relationship between the lead couple. The engagement of convenience story line is character driven, but not just by the lead protagonists; as support cast like Marinell and Jose adds depth to a string tale.
Visions of Magic
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451232465, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Although not at fault as it was an avaricious coven that almost destroyed the world in their power grab centuries ago, Torin the Eternal Guardian and his peers were forced to wait centuries impatiently for the magic to reawaken so that he would finally be with his reincarnated witch. Like a cosmic joke the Reawakening has begun a decade ago in Long Beach, California. A warrior he seeks his mate.
The power seekers use the reemergence of witches as a social divide issue. Witches are hunted and burned as obscene pariahs. Lincoln Middle School teacher Shea Jameson's aunt was executed as a witch, so her niece scampers from one locale to the next. Upset by what one of her students said happened to her mom, when a mugger tries to steal her purse using a knife, she reacts by calling for fire. Immediately, those in the school parking lot become a mob calling her witch. Torin saves her but she is now hunted. He knows she is his destiny, but as they team up with other such pairings, they must erect a potentially lethal artifact while the government leaders send mercenaries to hunt them down.
The first Awakening urban romantic fantasy uses the premise that government and other patriots act by ignoring the First Amendment rights under the guise of national security; which in real American history has occurred. Using that theme of a race hunted down i.e., Japanese-Americans sent to camps during WWII), Regan Hastings provides a powerful but dark thriller. The story line is fast-paced with deep characterizations that make the Awakening of magic seem real. However, it is the underlying social issue of burning the Bill of Rights that makes this a terrific cautionary tale; mindful of Benjamin Franklin's warning: "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security".
In Constanza, Romania the sailors load the cargo on their ship. They sail to London but many become sick and all live in fear. The Czech-Romanian crew is relieved as if they dumped the devil when the cargo is placed on an aircraft for delivery to Crowmoor Hall near Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire where Seymour Finch awaits.
Not long afterward, Declan follows his angry girlfriend Kate who runs off to Crowmoor Hall. There he sees two vampires arguing over who drinks Kate's blood. He informs the cops who think he is a lunatic except for Detective Inspector Joel Solomon who believes the undead live amongst humans. Soon the first grisly homicide occurs. More murders as horrific as the first follow.
The World Vampire Federation's Vampire Intelligence Agency undercover enforcer Alex Bishop travels from the Carpathian Mountains to England to kill the rogue vampires. However, the VIA agent finds herself caught in the beginning of a vampire civil war as conservatives want a return to the tradition of stalking and killing humans rather than the fear driven "must never" rules. The rogues insist vampire is the dominant species, but the WVF says surveillance technology has changed the world order. Alex teams up with enlightened Joel. They try to prevent the war of the Undead.
This is an exhilarating vampire investigative thriller as increasingly vampires who hid in plain sight are coming out in a bloody way. The lead law enforcement pair is a delightful coupling as they work a ghastly serial murder case and ignores their mutual attraction as she knows the three "must never" rules make anything but a professional relationship a WVF law breakers. Fast-paced with a wonderful opening nod to Stoker, readers will appreciate the first act of the Vampire Federation saga because Sean McCabe makes his undead realm seem genuine.
Lily Parker attends St. Sophia's School for Girls in Chicago after her parents recently dumped her there while they conduct research in Europe. At the school, Lily discovered her paranormal ability to use the Firespell. Although she has improved at controlling this power, she knows she has a long way to go before she is comfortable using it if ever. Her biggest fear is becoming a Reaper who abuses their magical gifts. Lily's roommate and BFF Scout, who fights the otherworldly beasts, helps her stay anchored while her relationship with Jason is becoming more intimate.
As Lily trains to be an Adept, she fears the immortal words of Lord Acton ("Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.") and Darth Vader ("Give yourself to the Dark Side"), so she wants to go slow. However, when she observes strange creatures wandering around St. Sophia's, Lily realizes slow is no longer an option for her. With Scout at her side, she vows to learn who they are and what they want. Although she admits to herself she has made the same pledge re the enigmatic behavior of her parents and adversary Sebastian.
The second Dark Elite (see Firespell) young adult fantasy continues Lily's training in the paranormal as she learns more secrets, especially about her parents and her abilities, but is also is caught up in some sort of otherworldly "turf" war. Fast-paced and mindful of the Casts' House of Night saga and Claudia Gray's Evernight series, readers will enjoy Lily's dilemma. She would prefer to ignore the impossible and hang with the hot hunks rather than joining Scout and friends in mortal combat, but feels Hexbound to learn her craft expeditiously to keep her school, Chicago and the world safe from the others.
Gwen Lonike rejected her mermaid heritage as she prefers to run her By the Sea Hotel in Port Rock, Maine though she laments to the Goddess over the lack of good help. FBI Special Agent Blake Whitaker arrives as a guest for at least one night. The Boston based Fed was obviously a local at one time as he wants to get to Little Mer Island where Gwen's sisters and one brother-in - law Ken Randall reside. Following a seemingly paranormal lead, Whitaker wants to question Randall over the disappearance of archeologist Jake Massey leading an undersea expedition and what happened in the Mediterranean last month (see Siren's Call).
Jake survived his former fiance Tessa Lonike's attempt to kill him. He seeks revenge ignoring what he planned for her and her sisters that led to her assault. Instead since Tessa accidentally opened the sea-gate, Queen Magera has crossed over. She wants the gate reopened so her army can cross when she takes over the Mediterranean, but only Tessa can do that. Gwen knows she must help her siblings with the threat while also preventing Whitaker from knowing what they are.
The second Dark Tides romantic fantasy is a terrific thriller that will have readers heeding the Siren's call. Although Jake remains a weak caricature of a villain, the regal demanding Queen brings counter depth to the strong lead couple and her family. Readers will relish this engaging coastal Maine tale as besides the action, the romance seems doomed as each has issues with his relationships with his ex and his son at the forefront.
Blood of the Rose
In 1530 Rosalind Llewellyn is part of a Druid family of royal loyalists protecting King Henry VIII from the vampire threat. Her actions on their last mission to kill a rogue vampire led to her engagement to Druid slayer Lord Christopher Ellis (see Kiss of the Rose) over the ire of her companion Rhys Williams and others in her clan.
She planned to avoid the court where she almost died and to stay away from her betrothed as she has succeeded for a year, but is called back as a new more seditious threat to the monarch has arisen. Anne Boleyn has bewitched King Henry and shockingly Christopher too. Rosalind fears that the two powerful men are enchanted by a vampiress. She must act to break the spell out of loyalty to her King and out of love to her man, but must proceed with caution as she has no proof whether the apparent next Queen is a social butterfly compared with the pious Spaniard she apparently will replace or Undead.
The latest Tudor Vampire Chronicles is an engaging second chance at love historical thriller. The story line is driven by the heroine who is pulled into two directions by her Druid dallying beloved and her Druid family. However, the fresh entertainment comes from the real personage as the lead couple, her family and readers will wonder whether Anne and her brother George are vampires and if yes will she be staked or crowned.
On the Hunt
Gena Showalter, Shannon K. Butcher, Jessica Anderson, and Deidre Knight
"Ever Night" by Gena Showalter. When she turned eighteen, Rose Pascal magically leaves her bedroom with its electronic gizmos for a world of thicket woods. There she meets nasty Vasili who calls her a mouse before explaining she is a Dimension Walker. He sends her home though he normally kills Walkers. Over the years on her birthday she returns while her parents think she is crazy. Eventually his little mouse becomes a roaring lioness that Vasili falls in love with; but he and his people hunt her kind.
"The Collector" by Shannon K. Butcher. In St. Louis, demon Hunter Neal Etan meets antique dealer Viviana Rowan when she agrees to give him an artifact that allegedly will cure his friend's paralysis. They touch and each feels the attraction. However, her life becomes threatened when the artifact vanishes.
"Crystal Skull" by Jessica Anderson. In the Mexican rainforest, archeologist Natalie Albright finds her excavation abruptly stopped by officials because they fear she has demons. She is stunned by what she considers superstitious inanity until strange beasts arrack her after she and her team find the crystal skull. Only her ex husband JT can possibly keep her safe from the ancient evil that stalks her.
"Red Angel" by Deidre Knight. Nightshades demon team leader Jamie Angel has had problems with his family's acceptance of Kate Rabineau, a freaking vampire, who is now engaged to Dillon Fox. Thus when he falls for Kate's best friend Sunny Renfoe, Jamie is aghast because he knows she is not human, but what "Sunshine" is he has no idea.
These are four well written exciting romantic fantasies though the novella format limits lead couple development.
Here to Stay
At Bronco Bart's watering hole in Crystal Falls, Oregon, Zach Harrigan surveys the females who all look identical with breast implants and bleached hair as if a virus struck. A ruckus occurs when a cowboy tries to pick up a thin brunette who is with a blind man. The cowboy trips up the blind person. Zach calls the man a moron, so the brute punches him in the face; Zach kicks back. The cops arrest Zach who thinks of a magazine article about training tiny horses though if he decides to do so he will have to do it quietly to avoid ridicule from his older brothers.
Two years later, Zach has trained Rosebud the miniature horse to serves as guide for the blind. Twenty-eight year old Mandy Pajeck wants Rosebud to help her nineteen year old blind brother Luke. Zach agrees if Luke and Rosebud come together as a team. Instead Luke is petulant and only his attraction to the teen's sister has kept Zach from pulling the plug. Zach begins to learn the childhood traumas that shape the relationship between the siblings, he knows he loves Mandy, but she has vowed to never marry.
Here to Stay is an engaging Harrigan contemporary romance (see Star Bright) starring a former hellion and a woman loaded with phobias from her childhood. The support cast is powerful especially Luke and Rosebud, but also Zach's extended family. A cold case investigation into what happened to the siblings' mom years ago adds tension, but the freshness comes from training guide horses (even with Rosebud pooping in the pharmacy) as Catherine Anderson provides a profound look at training including the link between the steed and the person. This is a special work by a talented author.
c/o The Random HousePublishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440246107, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Six years ago, Special Defense Force soldier J.T. Chronopolous died during a field operation (see the Crazy tales). His SDF team mates stunned by his death, still grieve their loss as that is the only dark mark on their illustrious record. Recently they are further shocked to learn J.T. lives (see Breaking Loose); using the name Conroy "Con" Farrell; his mission destroy SDF.
A black ops group captured and experimented on J.T. in order to turn him into a supersoldier. Desperate to bring him in, SDF operatives capture Scout, who Con tenderly treats like his daughter, to use her as bait to lure in their agent. Their trap works as Con is coming for Scout. However, a woman from his amnesiac pre torture days Jane Linden is caught in the middle of the pending hostilities between SDF and the supersoldier. He does not recall his catching her pick his pocket when she was a teen though she seems familiar. With her in a '67 GTO, Con's memory begins to return as desire is a strong impetus to the brain. Neither, he, Jane or SDF realizes someone else was also a test dummy, but that victim turned into a killing psychopath who is coming to complete the mission.
The apparent last romantic suspense SDF thriller (see the six Crazy tales and the previous five Loose novels) is a great finish that ties up major threads including one that the saga fans will go gaga over. Fast-paced and loaded with action, some over the top, what makes the SDF thrillers so good is the great characterizations; this one may contain the best yet. Not only is Con/J.T. fully developed so is Jane and several remorseful SDF buddies like Hart and Kid who know never to leave one behind. This is a super finish to two strong series.
Tales from the Treasure Trove Volume VII
Carrie S. Masek, Jane Toombs, Janet Lane Walters, Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek Press
PO Box 51052, Casper, WY 82605-1052
9781603133944, $18.95, www.amazon.com
"Topaz and the Lucky Seven" by Carrie S. Masek. Zaida the Seven has always kept safe Princess Alma. However, she falls in love with Tarik the bodyguard to one of Alma's suitors Prince Dale. When almost everyone succumbs to food poisoning, Zaida must decide who gets the lone antidote. A great tale..
"The Turquoise Gown" by Jane Toombs. Obese with poor skin, Theodora expects to remain single. Her stepmother promises her that a magical gown will lead to true love. Theodora visits her Great Aunt, who catches typhoid. This leaves Theodora running the estate, which brings confidence and much more to her. Delightful.
"The Amber Tower" by Janet Lane Walters. The witch enchants Prince Rafel before bringing him to Lamau. He learns his only escape from the amber tower is to marry one of the kingdom's two princesses. Pragmatic, honest but reticent Jalese competes with beautiful, flirting but treacherous Cyna for the imprisoned prince. Magical.
"Moonlight Becomes You" Karen Wiesner. Lance Shaussegeny rejects his mate Heather who gives birth to their son. She struggles to regain her health while their baby becomes ill too. To save their child's life, Heather believes she must travel to Woodcutter's Grim where the strange world of the Shaussegeny clan darkly differs from what she has experienced. A wonderful story.
These are very imaginative refreshing romantic fantasies. Well written and entertaining in spite of the novella format limiting somewhat the impact of the setting, readers will enjoy finding true love in the Jewel of the Quill realms.
Love Is Blind...And It Don't Pay the Bills Either
Whiskey Creek Press
9781611600018, $18.95 www.whiskeycreekpress.com
Briar's Point Police Department Detective Orlando Bateman has not moved passed private investigator Sylvia Price's rejection of his proposal as she said he is her brother in Christ. Instead she married his rival for her affection private investigator Den McHart. Still he knows his belief in the Lord will help him though he also prays he did not destroy their friendship that began when she was a cop on the force too; yet he has not answered the wedding invitation.
Den accompanies Keeya Nilson and Blair Sayer to the station to talk with Orlando and his partner Ty Shaw. The unpublished works of Keeya's famous Blues grandfather Old denim Blues has gone missing as has, $1200 withdrawn from an ATM. Additionally Keeya's boyfriend Lance Smith vanished two weeks ago. Orlando sends Ty off on his fishing weekend. Thirteen years ago the two females survived a plane crash that killed her parents and Blair's dad; and left both women disfigured and Keeya visually impaired; her recently deceased granddad, her Uncle Pax and Blair were there for her. However she distrusts God and males except for her family, as each beau has used her.
This is a super romantic Christian police procedural starring two people who if they can let go of recent relationship hurts can have a wonderful future together. Orlando is shocked by his attraction to Keeya as he ponders how the Lord works in mysterious ways. Keeya is more complicated as she feels fickle that she is attracted to the police detective, but has only Blair to remind her of men she liked who let her down; in Keeya's mind this includes God. With a delightful late twist, readers will appreciate the second Denim Blues Mystery (see Retired and on the Rocks).
Leslie Esdaile Banks LLC
P.O. Box, 42225, Philadelphia, PA 19101
9780615421506, $16.95, www.amazon.com
Neterus Carlos and Power Angel Damali Rivera kill, with the help of the Guardians, everyone in hell besides Lucifer the Anti-Christ. When the rapture occurred, the Neterus and the Guardians were left behind; not because they were rejected, but due to earth needing them. It is up to the next generation of Guardians and Neterus, Sarah and Alejandro Rivera and their team to battle the devil and Anti-Christ. To succeed they need training. Thus the Rivera twins attend Temt Tchaas Academy better known as Neteru Academy in Appalachia where they learn to be Guardians of the Light.
Everyone assumed extrovert confident Al would be the stronger warrior, which is fine with Sarah who since early childhood has watched Shadows that no one else apparently sees; she not only does not want to be a warrior, she fears the dark. This in spite of her roots with her mom a Neteru Warrior Angel and her dad a Hell Council Vampire. The only shadow she likes is hiding behind that of her brother. However, fears, fangs and friends force her into the light when students vanish and only the hesitant Sarah can sees the Shadows in the dark that show where the missing might be if she can get past agents of the Dark.
This is the last group of Neterus and Guardians to be trained by their parents as the battle is coming that will determine the final outcome between light and dark. At school, the sacred students and frightened faculty prepare for Lucifer's next move knowing some will not make it. Besides that angst, Sarah's unique power adds to her queasiness as she prefers not to battle the Shadows, but cannot idly stand by while friends and perhaps her family will die. Although paranormals attending school is so Potterish, targeted young adult readers and older fans who enjoy the works of Rowling and Sabin (see a School for Sorcery) will want to enroll in the Neteru Academy.
We Are Not Eaten by Yaks
C. Alexander London
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, NY, NY 10014
9780399254871, $12.99, www.amazon.com
The eleven-year-old Navel Twins (Oliver and Celia) prefer armchair traveling rather than physically explore the world. However the tweeners are the offspring of the Lower east Side Explorers Club's top guns; who drag them around the globe for smelly adventures in Mongolia and Africa, and islands not found in an atlas. In fact, the pair is the only children who attend the annual club gala.
Recently their mom disappeared and their dad wagered with evil rival Sir Edmund S. Tithletorpe-Schmidt III that he will not only find her but they discover one of the greatest finds ever. He anteed with his fifth graders, who if their dad fails, will be Sir Edmund's servants until they graduate high school. However, when dear old dad becomes ill in Tibet after meeting poison witches; sneering Sir Edmund demands remittance. Thus the kids now know a fate worst than adventure awaits them; so giving up TV and other electrons, they fly to Tibet to rescue their dad and then their mom and by the way discover that great historical find. If they save the world and not get chewed by a humongous yak that would be wonderful but only if the cable is working in the Himalayas.
Targeting the middle school crowd, We Are Not Eaten by Yaks because they are herbivores while yetis are not is an exciting adventure thriller filled with satirical lighthearted humor. The stars are couch potatoes who are forced into the wild without a remote as they now know is a fate worse than an Accidental Adventure.
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452296732, $15.00, www.amazon.com
On the San Juan Island in Puget Sound, single mom Jenny Alexander raises her two daughters, seventeen years old Lilly and thirteen years old Frankie. Jenny left her physically abusive husband Monroe while still nursing her youngest. She does need a man permanently in her life; though local carpenter David would like her to reconsider, as Monroe's beatings still linger in her mind.
Every year the Islanders host a summer theater festival. This year The Tempest is the main event with a cast of professional actors from New York, Los Angeles and Ashland, Oregon. Jenny and Lilly are attracted to Andre the New York actor. Frankie has her own issues, but is tired of the family version of the Tempest. She runs off to Seattle, which turns the Alexander raging storm into a monster.
With super interwoven nods to the Bard, Juno's Daughters is an excellent family drama that explores some of the themes of the classic play in a modern context. For instance, the relationships between mom and daughters are brilliantly scrutinized with each holding certain power over the other, but Jenny as the adult rules. The cast makes the tale as the Alexander family star in a terrific contemporary as a "tempest in a teapot" is brewing.
Down the Road
9781439180693, $15.00, www.amazon.com
The illness struck New York City first then quickly spread to the entire country. Everyone who contracted it died but the latest rose up as undead zombies eating human flesh and spreading the disease through bites. George Zaragosa is determined to leave Austin and return to his hometown of San Uvalde to be with his family, but getting out of town isn't easy as he has to avoid and kill the zombies by smashing their brains in; that's the only guarantee that they don't rise again.
In addition to avoiding the criminals who add to the chaos, George must also avoid Homeland Security and FEMA who are forcibly putting the disease free people in camps where rape, murder and enforced segregation is the norm. He is caught and put in a camp but he escapes when the zombies break through. He finds refuge in a makeshift shelter run by a drug lord and his police allies. Escaping means more killing but when George finds out what the leader of the group did, he feels it is his mission to take him out. In a world gone mad, it is not only zombies that are killers but humans exterminating one another.
Horror fans who want a real zombie killer thriller that pulls no punches, is full of action scenes, blood and gore, and violence that fits easily into the plot will want to get a copy of DOWN THE ROAD. The FEMA Camps are not so far fetched as many victims of Hurricane Katrina who stayed behind know first hand. The protagonist is a passive young man who reacts to events but never really takes charge and that character trait leads him into more trouble.
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446558952, $7.99, www.amazon.com
In 1737 caring kindhearted sister to a duke, Lady Hero Batten, believes her prim and proper fiance Thomas, Marquis of Mandeville is her ideal mate. However, she is stunned when she meets the brother of her intended Lord Griffin Remmington in St. Giles.
Hero is not shocked to see financial genius Griffin in the worst part of London as she knows he conducts business there and that he is a man with Wicked Intentions; her reaction to seeing him is out of character for her. On the other hand Griffin is flummoxed by finding any Lady in St. Giles, especially his future sister-in-law. He escorts her to the orphanage she supports. On the way each enjoys their witty battle of words, but he believes she is too good for him or for that matter his family; and she is engaged to the right brother in temperament at least that is what her mind says, but her heart differs.
The latest Maiden Lane Georgian romance is an enjoyable historical because of the strong passionate lead couple. Thomas is jealous of his brother's high esteem in their mater's eyes and some rivals of Griffin add tension, but the bottom line is this exciting story is a tender gender war between Hero and Griffin.
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780307379214, $27.95, www.amazon.com
This engaging twenty story collection from one of the best authors of the short format includes seven new tales and sixteen entries from his previous anthologies. The tales all look closely at ordinary people living mundane lives yet each character possesses a jocular quirkiness that sets him or her just outside the norm. The entire compilation contains all solid tales with a few of the reruns being super and new tales for the most part excellent. "Gryphon" (see Through the Safety Net) stars a fourth grader musing about a substitute teacher providing special reading and times table lessons. The art dealer knows 9/11 changed him forever in enigmatic "Royal Blue" (see The American Scholar). The stranger enters her house and announces to the frightened woman they are soulmates, but she will soon learn what soulmate means to him in "Ghosts" (see Ploughshares). "Fenstad's Mother" lectures him when he visits her adamantly insisting that he just tries to be good, but his daughter Sharon is the real thing. The "Poor Devil" is actually a couple beyond the edge of divorce. As always Charles Baxter provides a strong insightful look at everyman; often through a surreal Dali like eye.
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373618521, $5.25, www.amazon.com
With her two sisters missing Gemma (see Shadow of the Sheikh) and Gillian (see Lord of the Desert), a desperate Josslyn Haliday charges into the last known place they were seen, the underground stronghold Khepesh. This is the bastion of vampiric demi-god Seth-Aziz.
When she meets Seth-Aziz, she offers herself up in exchange for the freedom of her siblings. He finds her amusing as if she could just walk away if he says no. However, he is bewildered by the strength of character she shows as humans normally fear him, but she shows no trepidation though she trembles at his touch. Meanwhile Joss is confused by her attraction to the beast who she knows took her siblings. When rival vampire demigod Haru-Re abducts the pair, Seth-Aziz admits to Joss he has fallen in love with her.
Though somewhat similar in tone to the previous Immortal Sheikhs vs. the Haliday sisters, the third desert romantic fantasy is loaded with action, sexual and otherwise, as Joss takes on Seth in a paranormal gender war. Fast-paced throughout, readers will enjoy the final tale of modern day Americans taking the respective hearts of Ancient Egyptians.
In Jericho City, Sophie Wilson is a free woman though her abusive ex husband Mark still refuses to accept the divorce as he stalks her. Her BFF Lucy persuades her to go to a club. However, something kills Lucy and forces Sophie on the run with vampires pursuing her. She fears her fate will be like that of her murdered friend until the Carcajou shapeshifting werewolves take the purebred human under their protection; keeping her safe from the blood sucking Upir who killed Lucy.
The Carcajou believes Sophie is their shaman who will save them from becoming wild animals. One of the pack members Zach realizes Sophie is his life mate. He vows to keep her safe. Meanwhile the vampires dispatch a new convert to kill her; he was chosen because he knows Sophie's weaknesses being her abusive former husband who manipulated her vulnerabilities.
Readers will be taken into the exciting world of Lilith Saintcrow with this fast-paced urban romantic fantasy. The story line is non stop action from the murder of Lucy until the final anticipated confrontation. Although the plot is somewhat linear, readers will appreciate the transformation of Sophie.
His Valentine Surprise
In Braeden, North Carolina widower Mark Hathaway's six year old daughter Vicki wants a mommy by Valentine's Day. She is angry at Santa, as he recently failed her when she asked him at the mall for a mommy for Christmas. She knows her dad will not pursue dating so she must act to achieve her objective. Her eleven year old cousin Bobby suggests they find someone to date his uncle. Using her Aunt Dee's computer, Vicki sends an email to all the members of the Woodside Elementary School PTA asking for someone to date her father on Valentine's Day.
Mark is upset and humiliated by his daughter's email. He feels it is hard enough being a single dad. The principal Shay Morgan finds the incident humorous. She informs Mark that he needs to spend some quality time with his precocious offspring. At the Up A Creek store Mark manages, owner Bennett Coleridge informs him he may close it if profits fail to increase; he also offers Mark a position in his more successful Colorado store. Besieged on all sides, Mark knows the worst of all is falling in love with the principal.
This is a fun amusing Valentine contemporary romance with a solid cast anchored by a lead couple with professional and personal issues that seemingly will keep them apart. The story line is brisk and jocular as Vicki makes the tale with her obsession that surface with the first line when she says she hates Santa. Although she is too precocious, fans will not care as the little matchmaker works on obtaining a mommy for Valentine's Day.
In Safe Harbor, divorced Dr. Nora Kendall and police officer Leo Franco meet at his brother's wedding. He assumes she is high maintenance, which he loathes in a woman, and she has doubts about any man even the best man after her ratty ex Reese dumped her for a younger model. Still they share a great night after the ceremony.
However, she concludes he would be a keeper except he is not ready for a long term relationship. Nora files Leo away as a wonderful one night. However, the obstetrician is pregnant carrying Leo's child. He admits he is attracted to her, but not ready to commit to a family. Besides, he spends all his energy on obtaining a promotion at work. Nora goes back to her first assessment of Leo that he rejects commitment; yet he wants to be a responsible daddy.
This is an engaging Safe Harbor Medical contemporary romance (His Hired Baby and The Holiday Triplets) starring a wonderful doctor and a respectable ambitious cop. Although the story line contains too many subplots with some not needed, the prime theme is a charmer as he goes from commitment phobia to desperate to get his beloved to commit. Even with a too quick sudden wrap up, fans will enjoy this fun tale.
The Wild Card
He says goodbye while playing poker with his mom while she dies and tells him her final wishes., Seth McCutcheon leaves the military he loves to be there for his abandoned sister and nephew. He obtains a job at Ranger Security providing personal protection.
On his first assignment he masquerades as a boy friend to Atlanta based wedding planner Penelope Hart in order to protect Orlando Mustangs football player Trent McWilliams from a stalker who has threatened to wreck the star quarterback's wedding ceremony to Nella Francis. He obviously does not want to be here, but he made that death bed pledge and vows to do the new job right. However, his biggest fear starts with the photo of his "girl friend" he has not yet met.
Seth and Penelope are instantly attracted to one another though each understands their feelings must not interfere with the mission. However, though both comprehend the rule of taking care of the client first, each has a problem keeping their hands to themselves as love blossoms between them.
This is an entertaining family drama that starts off with the gripping scene of Seth and his mom playing cards. The support cast especially his family, her partner and the wedding party (and crasher) enhances a fun tale. Although the romance is slow to boil, that enhances the relationship as the audience will believe in the attraction between the wedding planner and the security specialist.
Turn Up The Heat
In Milwaukee Event planner Candy Graham has enough trying to make it in her chosen vocation so has no time for her former boyfriend Chuck's crap. In spite of their dating for five years, she hangs up on him. Her three BFFs at a Women in Power lunch insist she needs to date again.
Not wanting to be alone on Valentine's Day, Candy signs up on her friend Marie's milwaukeedates.com, a dating website. She creates four profiles emphasizing a different aspect of her personality. Reporter Justin Case believes the four profiles add up to a con artist. He asks her out planning to expose her. Instead he falls in love with the complete Candy who reciprocates Justin's deep feelings.
This is a warm romantic comedy that in spite of the internet matchmaking has a throwback quality to the amusing 1930s Cary Grant movies. The jocular story line is filled with and thruway puns as this sharp tale in deed turns up the humor and heat for Valentine's Day in Wisconsin or wherever the reader is.
Once Upon A Scandal
In 1824, teenagers Viscount Jonathan Pierce Thatcher and Lady Victoria Jane Emerson were in love. Both wanted to marry, but were too young. He proposed anyway but he left for Venice before she could say yes. Over the next few years they exchanged letters when abruptly he stopped sending them though she continued for a while longer until heartbroken she also stopped.
In 1829 Victoria Jane needs a husband to protect her and help her take care of her father who is going mad. Three men are chosen to court Victoria Jane, including Jonathan who has just come back to England after years away. He realizes he hurt her so badly that her heart has turned to stone. He tries to reach her, but she rejects his attempts; so Jonathan turns to seducing his beloved's mind, body and soul. However, Jonathan realizes even if he succeeds at that he still has to overcome his neglect.
The latest marvelous Regency Scandal (see Prelude to a Scandal) is a super second chance at love tale starring two protagonists in love as teens and still in love five years later. Jonathan is a romantic at heart so when he stops corresponding he hurts his beloved even more because Victoria Jane knows he is. This makes his effort to re-win her that much more complicated as he already owns her heart, but not her trust.
Detesting working for the corrupt Council who he no longer trusts, Protector wolf shifter Anton Beck decides to get away for respite and pay homage to his late sister Juliet. He visits the location in the Big Bend Mountains of Texas where his beloved Juliet died. However, the pack leader is unable to grieve in peace when thugs assault him before taking him to a cave. There he finds Juliet's best friend, vampire huntress Marika Tarus, who he was making love with when his sibling died.
Marika explains to Anton that evil want their daughter Dani. Stunned by what she tells him because he had not known he sired a child and besides he knows genetically a vampire and a shapeshifter cannot reproduce an offspring. Yet he knows Marika is telling the truth that the impossible somehow proved possible. Now he must get his beloved family free from the beast who abducted their child; an invincible ancient vampiric priestess, but then again he muses having that child was impossible.
This is a super romantic fantasy due to the strong lead couple who will have readers believe vampires and werewolves live in Texas; a trademark of Karen Whiddon (see her Wolf tales - Cry of the Wolf and Touch of the Wolf, etc.). There is an interesting concept of a bi- species paranormal baby in distress. Fans will root for Beck and Tarus to rescue their child and save perhaps the world from what the malevolent one wants to do through the infant.
Janet Elizabeth Jones
He agreed to the radical medical experiment in hopes of saving vampire-kind from extinction. The alchemist changed vampire Meical Grabian, but not in ways he wanted. When he awakens several months after the transformation was performed, Meical finds he has become an incubus who needs extreme levels of passion for sustenance.
Meical saved Caroline Bengal the empathy from a psychopath just as he began the experimental conversion. In the Poconos he does not remember doing this, but feels an urge to reach out to her. Caroline is confused by her attraction to the incubus, as she feels this obsessive need to help Meical; he, in turn, feels a deep gut need to have her by his side. However, a third party wants Caroline and is willing to kill to take her.
The strength to this deep romantic fantasy is the yin and yang interpersonal connection between the lead couple. The other member of the triangle adds tension to the exciting story line. However, the relationship between Meical and Caroline brings profundity to the entertaining plot as each wonders if his need for her is chemically induced or heart felt.
A Chronicle of Endylmyr: The Witches of Endylmyr
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432750282, $27.95 www.outskirtspress.com
The Eastern Khan plans to possess all known magical relics as the first step in world domination. He already owns some of these ancient arcane artifacts. The Khan knows that others are owned by Endylmyr. Obsessed with obtaining them, he sends his feared legions to Endylmyr and the other small communities to the north and west of his empire. His orders are to kill anything that moves.
Those under attack form an alliance while also deploying the gizmos that have been dormant for centuries. Former mercenary Gylfalin is coaxed out of retirement to lead the counter forces alongside his cousin Pendaran the Archer with his companion Peregrine the magical falcon. Their side faces overwhelming odds against a brutal experienced army. Their hope lies with magical crystals that allow stealth movements in time and place, but no one knows how to deploy these artifacts. As time runs out and the slaughter begins, Angmere the wizard historian finds a clue in an ancient tome that implies three witches are the key to deployment. The scholar's daughter Gwynyr unites with Hellwydd and Hilst as the Endylmyr witches in a last ditch attempt to save their people.
A Chronicle of Endylmyr is an entertaining epic fantasy that will remind readers in some ways of Raymond E. Feist's Riftwars. The story line is fast-paced as the western alliance struggles to survive against a more powerful enemy; their only hope is three women who must figure out how to safely use the crystals with no time to spare. Charles Hall provides an exciting thriller as from the north the witches try to save the city of Endylmyr from the siege of Khan and his vast lethal horde.
His Daughter ... Their Child
Karen Rose Smith
Silhouette Special Edition
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373655809, $4.99, www.amazon.com
In Miners Bluff near Flagstaff, Clay Sullivan knows what his former sister-in-law Celeste Wells wants. She has come to town to spend time with her three year old niece Abby. Clay refuses as he was burned by her twin Zoie who is traveling in France and not the least bit interested in her daughter. In fairness to her, Clay knows that Celeste is the more understanding caring of the siblings, but he still rejects her plea as she distrusts the Wells.
Making matters worse for Clay is that he is attracted to Celeste; she has loved him forever but he chose her extroverted sibling over her. He assumes that is because she looks like Zoie though her demeanor is different. He allows her to see his daughter, but expects her to go back to Phoenix and leave him and his societal mother to raise his "Ladybug". Instead she proves kind to the child, staying even when Abby is ill to comfort her; his baby hugs her. Clay knows he owes Celeste as she was Abby's surrogate mom, but fears when she leaves she will hurt his child and break his heart; besides he thinks Zoie was enough of a Wells for a lifetime.
The lead trio makes for an engaging family drama as stuffed animals enable Clay to see how different Celeste is with Abby than Zoie or his mom. Character driven by the trio, no one writes infant and toddler characters that seem genuine better than Karen Rose Smith consistently does. Fans will relish this strong tale of different types of love and need.
F. J. Lennon
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439184448, $24.99, www.amazon.com
Reporter Eva Kellis thinks there is more to Kane than just being another twenty musical wannabe. She is right as musician Kane Pryce enjoys partying as a means of forgetting his day job. His late father found the soul trap, which enables Kane to rid facilities of ghosts, helping the spirits leave earth; though his efforts do not always end happily.
In a Lompoc, California church Kane captures six years old Ollie Lonzi, an impish ghost. However, Kane does not stop with the catch. He investigates what happened to Ollie. Fifty years ago, Ollie and his mother an actress died in a car crash. Kane realizes the child spirit is nice but lonely. He digs deeper into the death, which leads the investigator to Las Vegas. Feeling the child needs his mother Kane searches for the ghost of Ollie's mom. When he finds her, he falls in love. To keep Ollie safe she traded her soul to a demon who has marked Kane.
This Ghostbusters paranormal thriller stars an intriguing dispirited individual (he is the anti Dr. Venkman) who due to his profession distrusts people in general as knows from the testimony of spirits how evil even family can be, Music is his outlet, but at times the hip scene intrudes on the exciting saga of Ollie the imp. With an odd unexpected climatic spin, readers will enjoy Kane's Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore's version) efforts to help ghosts.
A Special Relationship
American journalist Sally Goodchild and British reporter Tony Hobbs meet on a Red Cross helicopter flying over the flooded Juba River Valley in Somalia. They are immediately attracted to one another. When they escape a harrowing near death incident, their desire for each others grows; she especially believes he saved her life. The two reporters begin a tryst while continuing their coverage.
When Sally becomes pregnant, the duet agrees to move to London to raise their offspring together. Her pregnancy contains health problems and not long afterward Sally loses her job. Sally struggles emotionally too, but Tony is not there for her. After their son Jack is born, Sally suffers from a severe case of postpartum depression that leads to her placement in a psychiatric ward. Finally released from the hospital, Sally learns of Tony's duplicity as he concealed key elements of his life from the mother of his son. With no place else to turn as a stranger in a strange land the alienated American seeks relief in the alien British courts.
Told from Sally's perspective, A Special relationship is a special contemporary drama as two individuals used to working the foreign beat try to adapt to family-hood in Hobbs' home front as Douglas Kennedy captures the major differences between British and American societies. Insight into the British law enhances an engaging character driven medical-legal thriller.
c/o Perseus Books Group
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
9781593156282, $19.95, www.amazon.com
Nicole Whitcomb came from the San Jose area to attend the wedding of her friend in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Since the meteorologists said the weather would remain fine, she decides to stay for an extra day of skiing. When she leaves for the Denver Airport, the weather remains okay, but soon snow begins to fall. The precipitation turns heavy and her rental fishtails out of control. She cuts her head and honks her horn hoping someone will rescue her.
Michael Tyler was cleaning off his driveway when he saw the idiot crash. He has never let anyone into his home so considers leaving the driver to die, but cannot. He reluctantly brings Nicole into his isolated house. They are attracted to each other from the first meeting. However, she senses something wrong about her host as she knows in her gut he thought he made the wrong choice bringing her into his home. Nicole also wonders why a hunk like Michael resides alone. Other signs seem to make no sense, but she ignores their warnings as Nicole quickly falls in love with a man who seems to know her better than she knows herself. He knows he cannot love anyone and never has; yet this is different as he falls hard for Nicole, a new undesirable feeling for him. However, he struggles to control the beast inside while also needing her to want him with all her soul.
This is an engaging star-crossed romance as the Rocky Mountains' blizzard isolates the pair in his home. Nicole finds clues to as who her host is and why he chose to live as a hermit, but her logical mind rejects her conclusion until perhaps it is too late. Readers will relish this strong romantic suspense thriller wondering how this relationship will end.
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
9781590204467, $25.95, www.amazon.com
In London, Italian Immacolata Borelli attends school for a degree in accounting. When she learns of the death of her best friend Marianna Rossetti from leukemia, Immacolata flies to Naples to attend the funeral. However, Marianna's grieving raging parents treat her with scorn even spitting on her. They blame their daughter's death on the Borelli crime family that belongs to the vicious Camorra network of families; her kin controls Naples whose trucks dumped toxic material in the fields and waters.
Immacolata is traumatized by the experience and believes redemption is in order for her implicit failure to acknowledge the harm her family causes. She returns to London where she calls the Palace of Justice in Naples offering her services as an informant turning in her family. Speciale Investigator Mario Castrolami works the Camorra case; he understands the danger Immacolata will face as the mob will kill anyone who betrays them; collateral damage being acceptable. On the other hand Immacolata failed to consider her English boyfriend Eddie Deacon a teacher; as ruthless "Il Pistole" enforces the mob rules, which means killing any informer even the daughter of a cherished leader.
This is a great suspense thriller as the reader anticipates with each spin an OK Corral confrontation on the streets of Naples and perhaps London. Fast-paced with a strong cast on all sides of the law, Immacolata makes the tale as the title character who expects to die but believes she is finally doing the morally correct thing.
Someone Else's Garden
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062000354, $13.99, www.amazon.com
In the rural part of India where family tradition is strictly observed, Mamta is sold by her family in marriage. Soon afterward, her depraved husband sells her kidney to pay for his hookers. When that money runs out he plans to sell her other kidney. Mamta learns of his deadly plan so she flees. With no place else to go she returns home where her father and brother help her escape to another part of India.
Mamta finds employment and sends money home, but her mother considers her dead for leaving her husband as that is an unacceptable breach of custom and religion. Her brother-in-law Lokend arrives trying to win a public office election, but a worker of his rival severely batters him. Mamta nurses Lokend back to health. They fall in love before returning together to their village.
This is not an easy read as Dipika Rai displays a dark gruesomeness in rural India. Not only are female rights ignored as Mamta is sold into marriage and her kidneys and other organs owned by her spouse, but her mother and son-on-law accept that as a husband's right. A late spin to bring some hope into the gloomy plot feels like an unneeded Americanized addition to an otherwise strong grim look at the ugly side of humanity. Timely with today's headlines as the House of Representatives Republicans and nine Democrats who voted against the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010 would change their vote if they read Someone Else's Garden.
Genevieve "Evie" Scelan knows she faces growing troubles, but is not sure what she can do about it. She took possession of the horn of the Wild Hunt without permission and had the audacity to use it though she did it for a good cause (unless you are a Damn Yankee fan - aside from this former Bronx resident); the Fiona Cabal prevented the Red Sox from winning the World Series for decades (see Wild Hunt). Lately, Evie feels lethargic struggling to do anything. Although not exactly sure, she believes her feebleness started when she rescued Nate from the quarry spirit. Finally her critical sense of smell that made her the Hound and a major part of who she is has vanished without an olfactory trace.
Evie knows time is running out on her. In two months the Wild Hunt will come after her as she owes a soul debt to an essence that she thinks of is more it than a strange species. She must learn what is happening to her, why and how to reverse it or face dire consequences when the collector comes for her. A desperate Evie begins looking inside herself and at her family for answers
The third Hunt Red Sox nation urban fantasy (see Spiral Hunt) is an engaging thriller as the heroine learns the cost of her recent success. Fast-paced, readers will be enthralled with this action-packed yet character driven tale as Evie has lost much of her other sensory prowess at a time when the bill collector demands remittance.
Much Fall of Blood
Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781439134160, $7.99, www.amazon.com
The Byzantine Empire shuts down the trading route between the Mediterranean and the east by closing the Dardanelles. Golden Horde leader Jagiellon invites the western states to use a Roman land route. Accepting the invitation, Prince Manfred with his bodyguard Eric of Iceland leads diplomats from the Holy Roman Empire and the Venetian city-state to meet the Golden Horde leader. On the trip they encounter exiled Khan Mongol and his warrior sister Bortai.
Countess Elizabeth Bathody pretends to befriend Prince Vlad of Valhalia after liberating him from his incarceration by King Emeric of Hungary. However, when the opportunity is right, she plans to use his blood to enhance her already vigorous demonic power and as bait to capture the inhuman beasts lurking nearby. Instead these werewolves enable Vlad to escape from the malevolent female who he rejects as evil. Vlad and his dragoons unite with Manfred and his Knights of the Holy Trinity, and Bortai and her Mongol horde to fight Jagiellon and his Golden Horde; while immoral Hungarian King Emeric and his magical forces wait to take out the winner. The demon god Chernobog encourages deadly chaos with the only hope for Manfred and his allies rests with blood magic that Vlad fears though is enticed.
The third Heirs of Alexandria alternate historical fantasy (see The Shadow of the Lion and This Rough Magic) is a terrific entry as humor and romance enhance the magic and military prime themes. The story line is fast-paced with multiple subplots that deftly come together over the course of the tale although to much good luck happenchance on the hero's side as the continent seems very small detracts from an overall fine entry in a wonderful saga.
The Agent Gambit
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
"Agent of Change." The Department of Interior recruited First Scout Val Con yos'Phelium of Clan Korval as an Agent of Change. He became a covert assassin with no feelings. Completing his current mission with a bang, Val Con does the unthinkable for a brainwashed soulless agent. He rescues former Terran mercenary Miri Robertson from five Juntavas interstellar crime syndicate assassins; ignoring his implanted Loop that warns him to dump her. She mashes his head in remittance, but Val Con saves her life again. They are attracted to one another, but distrust each other even as the Juntavas mob wants both dead. As she keeps dumping him, he keeps finding her.
"Carpe Diem." The Juntavas mob calls off the hits of lifemates Val Con and Miri. However, they are given a crippled ship in the middle of the Yxtrang who want them dead. The pair fixes the vessel enough for one jump to nearby Vandar; a planet that is so primitive the sentient race thought they were alone in the universe. Val Con and Miri know they are stranded so they make the best of it. Val Con's family and close friends search for him. On Liad, his sister Nova interprets a message from Val Con that informs the Korval Clan their heir lives and that the Department of Interior searches for him too. Their involvement leaves Nova suspecting the worse.
This is a reprint of two of the early Liaden thrillers. Both tales are exciting romantic science fiction loaded with hi and low tech action, a strong lead couple, and a belief in the Lee-Miller outer space, as well as a sense of family. Fans will enjoy this pairing, but though unnecessary to enjoy this duet, newcomers will better understand Clan Korval and planet Liad by reading Local Custom first.
Back to the Moon
Travis S. Taylor and Les Johnson
The second race to the moon has begun between America and China, but also trying to beat the big nations to the earth satellite is the private sector firm Space Excursions. NASA selects astronaut Bill Stetson as the mission commander of the first American flight to the moon since Apollo ended four decades ago. Space Excursions CEO Gary Childers selects Paul Gesling to serve as chief pilot of Dreamscape to orbit the moon with wealthy clients.
However, during test runs nothing goes right for the Space Excursions flight or with the NASA launch. Bill takes control and soon realizes the same defective circuit board caused the problems; a circuit board made in China. At the same time a malware Trojan horse sends Space Excursions hardware and software information to China. As NASA counts down to the moon launch, China sends a ship into space while the Dreamscape leaves earth with five passengers on board. They soon find a shocker waiting for them that changes NASA's lunar landing plan.
The two authors bring their NASA experience to this exciting entertaining space race science fiction thriller. Their background in propulsion technology serves well for this fun thriller as the audience learns much about the science of rocketing into space while also feeling as if we are part of the crew. Though the cast is not as developed beyond heroism, readers will relish this exhilarating Back to the Moon as the space race returns with two new contenders including a private sector entry challenging America for supremacy beyond the troposphere.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451463838, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Cassiel and Luis recently saved his niece Isabel from her murderous djinn sister Pearl (see Unknown). However, both are concerned with what they learned during the rescue. First Isabel is too young to display her otherworldly power yet she has. Second there were a horde of other abducted kids with her.
Pearl and her followers have kidnapped the offspring of deceased Wardens. They brainwash their prisoners before raising the powers of the children. Cassiel and Luis fear what will happen to the kids as obtaining power before puberty leads to a significant chance of dying. Wanting to prevent Pearl's plans from fruition, Cassiel infiltrates one of her compounds hoping to uncover her sister's diabolical scheme. However what she learns frightens her with what her evil sibling has set in motion.
The latest Outcast Season (see Unknown and Undone) thriller is an entreating Warden fantasy. The story line focuses on the collateral damage caused by the misuse of power, but loses the opportunity to profoundly dig into why and how the sisters mentally and emotionally traversed different roads (nature vs. nurture). Still the story line is fast-paced and filled with action as readers anticipate round three between Cassiel and Pearl.
Rising Tides: Destroyermen
WWII USS Walker Navy destroyer Captain Matt Reddy leads his crew to Hawaii. They and his new friend New British Imperial Navy Commander Jenks face a difficult task of rescuing two women from a traitor. For Reddy and Jenks the abductions are personal as Nurse Tucker and Princess Rebecca are the victims. However, their effort to obtain help from the Honorable New Britain Company fails. The pair realizes the New Britain Company is dishonorable and must be destroyed before a velvet coup d'etat occurs. Reddy also must forge the Grand Alliance with the New British Empire; though he loathes the latter's slavery policy as an inhuman abomination.
The pact with the Empire angers the displaced Holy Dominion colonial Spaniards. Worshippers of a blood sacrificial form of Catholicism, they vow to slaughter Matt and his crew. Meanwhile Reddy's junior officers are delegated to having responsibilities that lead to unfortunate and in some cases avoidable deaths. The leaders learn under this under the baptism of fire, but face the moral aftermaths of sending people to die.
As the war remains heated in this parallel Destroyermen universe, the officers of the USS Walker obtain a taste of decision making in combat when they know they will send young people to their deaths. Adding to that gut wrenching horror is inexperience leads to errors compounding the deadly count. Eisenhower understood this when he ordered D-Day knowing thousands of young men would never go home and as president carefully used the military something his successors never learned. Besides the anguish of sending people to die even for a worthy cause, Taylor Anderson provides an incredible battle at sea that will have readers in awe rereading it and ponder nature's involvement in the war with the destruction of Talaud Island.
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439138656, $26.00, www.amazon.com
In Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, U.S. marine sniper team Whiskey 2-2 is deployed on a covert operation to kill Taliban commander Ibrahim "the Beheader" Zarzi. However, someone betrayed the unit leaving them massacred by professionals in the tribal area.
Several months later, Zarzi quits the Taliban. He travels to America where he meets the president and congressional leaders. The State Department believes he is the best choice to bring a corrupt free stable government to the war torn nation. At the same time, apparently Marine Gunnery Sergeant Ray "the Cruise Missile" Cruz, thought dead in the Zarzi massacre especially with the crater remains of the unit as proof, has reported by radio using last years codes. He resolutely will complete his final mission. The FBI deploys retired Marine sniper Bob "the Nailer" Lee Swagger to prevent Cruz from beheading the Beheader while someone in the shadows tracks Bob in order to kill Cruz before he can be debriefed.
The latest Swagger thriller (see I, Sniper and Night Thunder) is a fabulous entry with a strong cast especially the lead male trio. Besides non-stop action, the story line contains an insightful look at political strange bedfellows in which yesterday's most wanted for assassination becomes today's most wanted ally or visa versa; think of Reagan-Bush 41 befriend Hussein in the 1980s becoming public enemy number one for Bush 41 and Bush 43. Swagger understands this as his mission is to do whatever including kill a fellow marine to protect an Afghan who probably led the slaughter of Whiskey 2-2. Fast-paced, fans anticipate the collision as The Cruise Missile targets the Beheader with The Nailer targeting the Cruise Missile while someone waits in the shadows to clean up the mess.
Dreaming in English
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451232144, $15.00, www.amazon.com
Twenty-seven years old Iranian expatriate Tamila Soroush knows how fortunate she is when American Ike Hanson married her in Vegas as she was able to remain in the states (see Veil of Roses) with the Prince Charming she loves. Instead of Teheran, Tamila joyfully goes to Tucson, Arizona where her hostile mother-in-law wants the marriage annulled and Tamila deported.
Law enforcement watches her marriage to Ike closely to determine if it is real or a Green Card sham. Tami realizes she must shed her Tamila upbringing in which women accepted their fate and defend her self from the deportation-arrest first and ask questions later government (that reminds her of home) and her enemy mother-in-law.
This is a direct sequel to Veil of Roses so to understand how far from Iran to Nevada seemingly naive Tamila has traveled, readers need to read her first fairy tale of going after what she believes is America. Her new American family led by her angry mother-in-law push for her deportation based on a phony marriage. Ike is caught in the middle between the combatants, his relationship combat experienced mom and his naive immigrant wife. However, this proves no contest as the entertaining story line follows the anticipated path even with detours.
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345513915, $7.99, www.amazon.com
FBI Agent Jack Blackmore, assigned temporary to lead New York's Occult Crime Unit, has battled paranormal serial killers including demons, but working along side the obstinate Sibyls is much more difficult. He especially finds his blood boiling whenever he thinks of former NYPD cop turned tidal wave Andy Myles as he wants to drown her though he is not sure whether he would use waterboarding or kisses.
Andy, a water sibyl, is unsure whether to drown the Fed in a tsunami as she has almost done twice or with kisses though she still grieves the death of her lover. She is part of a fighting sibyl quartet who recently defeated the horrific Rakshasas, but also is the only trained water sibyl who works with creating a Motherhouse to mentor rookies.
Samuel Griffen and his coven experiment with Rakshasa blood and DNA in order to create supervillains. Griffen and his sister Rebecca have conducted successful tests on powerful eastern Europe mobs. Jack needs Andy so is in Greece he beg her and her quad mates to help end the horrific plan that would destroy the world as the Fed and ex cop know it including the reemerging sibyls.
The third Dark Crescent Sisterhood tale (see Captive Soul and Captive Spirit) is fast-paced from the moment Jack and Andy meet in Greece with thoughts of drowning in each other's head and never slows down until the final confrontation. Loaded with action yet driven by the water sibyl and the cop, fans will appreciate this enjoyable romantic fantasy that uses the classic boy meets girl; boy and girl loath each other; and boy and girl fall in love as a backdrop to a global science fiction induced paranormal threat.
Love Me To Death
Six years ago, Lucy Kincaid met a seemingly nice man on-line. When they finally met in person, he proved to be a psychopath. He attacked her, but she survived while her molester died.
Since the assault, Lucy dreams of becoming an undercover FBI agent. In the meantime in DC waiting for the feds to call, she works obsessively as a volunteer for Women and Children First! Her role is to lure web predators and other sex offenders into traps. However, Lucy becomes concerned with her endeavor when she realizes several of those she busted have been executed since leaving prison. A friend and business cohort of Lucy's concerned brothers, private investigator Sean Rogan, tries to keep her safe. They are attracted to one another, but are hesitant to act on their feelings. Meanwhile Lucy probes the connections that seem chaotic, but at the same time the FBI is scrutinizing her actions as she is more than just a person of interest in what is believed a serial killer's vendetta.
Love Me to Death is a taut "FBI" romantic suspense thriller starring family members from Sudden Death and Cutting Edge. The story line is fast-paced but driven by obsessed Lucy who is stunned to realize someone is following up on her efforts to capture sex predators by killing the psychopaths. Although purposely serpentine with surprising but fun chaotic misdirection and red herrings that confuse the heroine (and readers), this approach enhances the investigation that Lucy and Sean conduct. There are also a ton of support characters who can overwhelm the reader at times trying to remember who's who, but this also adds to the fog of a convoluted inquiry as Allison Brennan provides a tense twisting thriller.
To Desire A Wicked Duke
In 1817 in Richmond, England Tess Blanchard has begun to move passed the death of her fiance in combat two years ago. However when she and Patrick Hennessy, who has been assigned to keep her safe, kiss, she finds it insipid. Worse her long time adversary, the Duke of Rotham Ian Sutherland catches her and rips her up and down for her scandalous behavior.
Tess' godmother Lady Wingate stuns her when she insists she marry Sutherland to avoid a scandal; failure to do so means Wingate will withdraw her support financially and titled. Tess reluctantly agrees, but vows their marriage will be in name only as she loathes the arrogant way Sutherland mocks her. However, Ian has other plans for his wife who he protects and mentors in the art of the bedroom. She begins to fall in love with her husband until she uncovers horrible secrets her spouse concealed. Despondent and irate, Tess flees to Sutherland's Cornwall estate where something otherworldly haunts the castle. Ian follows her hoping his wife will forgive him as he loved her long before they married.
The latest Courtship Wars Regency romance (see To Pleasure A Lady, To Romance a Charming Rogue and To Seduce a Bride) is an enjoyable entry to a fun series. The dysfunctional yet loving lead couple's behavior towards each other mirrors that of the stars of To Tame a Dangerous Lord. However, the entertaining story line is made fresh by a mutual third party and the haunting. Filled with secrets, misunderstandings and distrust, To Desire A Wicked Duke is an entertaining historical.
Jane Goes Batty
Michael Thomas Ford
In Brakeston, New York owner of Flyleaf Books, Jane Fairfax now understands being careful what you wish for as you may get it. She has raged for years as her Austen books and their rip-offs sell without her receiving a royalty check having written them two centuries ago before Byron changed her into a vampire. Adding insult is that her last manuscript as Jane Austen, Constance, was rejected a zillion times. That has changed as Kelly Littlejohn of Browden Publishing of New York buys the rights and Constance is a colossal bestseller.
The world wants more from Jane Fairfax bookstore owner and bestselling author. She struggles with concealing her vampire condition and her birth identity though Byron tries to mentor her. Jane fears another biting engagement with a jealous Bronte. Meanwhile a suspicious editor believes the plot was stolen from a lost Bronte novel. Hollywood and groupies have invaded the small village, and her boyfriend Walter's mother Miriam arrives expecting Jane to convert. As the writer struggles with a new novel after not writing for centuries, she also wonders whether a vampire can be Jewish, Miriam carries a big stick.
The second Jane the contemporary vampire tale (see Jane Bites Back) is an amusing satire that spoofs the Austen sub-genre including the novels by Michael Thomas Ford. The story line is fast-paced as Jane fears she will be exposed as a modern day fraud, a biting vampire, a great Regency author or simply batty. With references to literature that are fun, the Austen crowd will enjoy her escapades as she now knows the tsuris of what she now hopes is fifteen minutes of fame.
The Omega Theory
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416595342, $24.99, www.amazon.com
Iran tests a nuclear device; a Columbia University physicist, based on readings from scientific instruments, claims that for a nanosecond the test ripped asunder the universe as if the Big Bang was about to explode. On the same day, the Upper Manhattan Autism Center informs science historian David Swift and his physicist wife, Monique Reynolds that their nineteen years old autistic adopted son Michael Gupta was snatched.
The True Believers cult kidnapped Michael, whose ancestor is Einstein and who has memorized his late relative's little known Unified Field's Final Theory. Worried for their son, FBI special agent Lucille Parker joins Swift and Reynolds on the rescue quest because the True Believers plan to deploy the Omega Theory as those who know the Big Bang of alpha creation also know the Big Crunch of omega nothingness.
From New York to Jerusalem to Turkmenistan, the chase is on as the good guy scientists (angels) battle the bad guy cultists (devils). Although none of the cast is developed beyond their role in the potential apocalypse final war, fans will enjoy the non-stop action as Mark Alpert provides an exhilarating Big Crunch thriller.
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385344128, $26.00, www.amazon.com
Family matriarch Iris Stern feels she has had a happy marriage and a great late career as a college professor. When her husband Theo suffers a massive heart attack, Iris knows she loves her spouse and her adult children, but the needs of her kids are not hers and their decisions are definitely not hers.
In California Robby McAllister loses his college teaching job due to cutbacks. He and his wife Laura, Iris' daughter returns to New York to be near her family. As he fails to land a position, she thrives with a fixer upper Victorian and a catering business. An upset Robby flees to his family home and store in Ohio, but Laura remains in New York with their daughter and meets Nick. Iris has her own issues with an ethical question of what is right in accordance with her deep Jewish faith vs. what Theo desires as well as how to handle a secret he concealed from her.
The late Belva Plain takes her readers back to where it all began with Evergreen as she provides a profound look at the Stern family. The cast is strong, but remains true to their personalities yet the character driven story line can stand alone. Ms. Plain, who died in October, pays homage to herself with a depth few authors ever achieve.
A Red Herring Without Mustard
In Bishop's Lacey, England the Gypsy looks into her crystal ball to inform eleven year old chemist and amateur sleuth Flavia de Luce her future. However, the hag tells her she has never in her life seen a darker future. Flavia is not one to be concerned as the child deals with an odd household on their Buckshaw Estate. Her widowed father the Colonel lives for his philately collection; her oldest sister Ophelia "Feely" loves her music; and the middle sister thirteen years old "Daffy" Daphne hides in her books. Flavia, who never met her mother Harriet (outside the womb that is), uses her late great-Uncle Tarquin's fully loaded chem lab as her escapism into the savory world of poison.
Soon after the dark reading, Flavia finds the corpse of the ancient Gypsy. Someone stabbed the woman to death in her wagon. Flavia on her bike Gladys investigates the homicide while she contemplates that the murder appears to be one of passion perhaps vengeance; similar to what she thrives for against her older siblings though not with murderous malice. Instead of solving this killing, Flavia finds a second body. Her inquiry leads to an intriguing clue to what she considers the key mystery.
This is a terrific post WWII whimsical amateur sleuth as Flavia follows the murder clues while eluding the demands of her older sisters and her father is to busy with his stamps. As with her previous cases (see The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag), the tweener keeps the story line focused as she investigates two homicides in which the clues twist into something personal.
The Fates Will Find Their Way
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061996054, $22.99, www.amazon.com
On Halloween night, sixteen years old Nora Lindell fails to come home. The next morning, her worried father, realizing his daughter did not come home, begins the phone tree with the Boyd family. As he breaks tree etiquette, Mrs. Boyd begins the orderly tree system.
The boys her age begin telling each other what they know about Nora. Over the next few months with nothing new on Nora, the teen males focus on her sister Sissy who is still in town. The years go by and the boys are fathers, but Nora never returned. Instead her legend in the small town is like Elvis sightings everywhere, but beneath their macabre musings that their wives accept as imprinted on their brains when two of them get together, each wonders what happened to Nora on Halloween years ago that haunts each of them?
This is a terrific low-key suspense thriller that hooks readers as much as the boys with a need to know. Nora's legend grows with each passing Halloween as none of the boys even as adult fathers can let the mystery go. Readers will appreciate this entertaining mystery that uses everyday normal family living over the years to tell the myth of missing Nora.
The Fire in Ember
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310412397, $14.99, www.amazon.com
In 1888 Colorado, Wide O ranch hands grab Bert. They argue with one of their party Ted Hawkins whether a boy, even a horse thief like him, should be hung. As blood flows in her mouth and one eye is shut from the beating, Bert thinks "A hanging is no place for a woman". She especially wonders about doing the right thing by returning a horse her brother Simon stole months ago from Victor Oberlander owner of Wide O. Upset Ted tells the others they are wrong before leaving
The oldest of five brothers, 5T rancher John Timmons likes working the land. Ted tells John about the hanging. A deputy marshal as well as a rancher, John, with Ted at his side, prevents the hanging. John and Victor negotiate a deal in which the 5T rancher gets the kid and the Wide O owner gets, $100 and breeding rights. Frustrated with an unwanted mouth to feed, John reads the eleven years old boy the riot act and how he will behave while paying off his debt to John. A needed bath after mucking leads to the gender truth and Bert is seventeen years old Ember who works at the house with the Timmons' matriarch Leah. Ember prefers to leave, but the family will not allow her to go. Meanwhile the second oldest sibling Evan can't take his eyes off her while John and Ember fall in love. However, besides his sibling problems, her sibling problems will soon arrive.
This is a great western romance starring two wonderful protagonists and a strong supporting cast. Fast-paced from the opening hanging line and never slowing down as family troubles brew. Readers will appreciate the first Timmons tale and look forward for more action and romance starring John's younger brothers.
James J. Kaufman
1908 Eastwood Road, Suite 324, Wilmington, NC 28403
9780982587300, $14.95, www.amazon.com
The son of Manhattan high society Preston Wilson grew up with a platinum spoon. On the other hand orphaned as a child Joe Hart was raised by his working class Uncle Howard and Aunt Lettie with a sterling silver spoon. Whereas Preston has an extremely easy path to success; Joe works his way through the US Navy, college and law school.
They met as teens when Joe saved Preston's life in the Adirondacks. Years later, a distraught Preston is in deep financial trouble and needing a lawyer. He asks Joe to represent him; Joe agrees on the stipulation that Preston owes him a debt that one day he will collect. Preston accepts the strange terms. Not long after reluctantly agreeing to help, Joe saves his client from financial ruin. The attorney demands remittance. He directs Preston to obtain the trust of Joe's friends "The Collectibles"; as he expects Preston to care for these troubled people when he soon cannot. He explains he helps them as homage to his uncle helping him. Johnny is a mentally challenged dishwasher; Missy is a domestic abuse victim waiting tables; Tommy is a gambling addict; Harry is a bipolar photographer and Corey is a carpenter suffering from early Alzheimer's.
This is a character driven inspirational tale that makes a case for people to select and help "Collectibles". The key to this strong message is that each of the Collectibles contains different personalities and woes. Joe shows first hand by example to Preston that life has no meaning if you fail to, as his uncle said,"...help the other fella". This work is si thought provoking, readers will reflect on who their "collector" is and who their "collectibles" are.
Fire Raven Press
9781450557528, $16.95, www.fireravenpress.com
On Atlantis, Artemis arranges a hunting party to initiate her friend Hera as a Huntress. Hera's parents do not believe in hunting as a sport or ritual. However, her mother has one of her dreams that are taken seriously by anyone who knows her; in reaction to the vision Hera's father gives their daughter a knife to use in defense. Hera performs the ritual that ends with going after the boar. Instead the creature is full grown and charges at her until Artemis' arrows distract the humongous beast. The boar hammers Artemis but Hera leaps on the creature with the knife. Artemis is gravely injured while Hera blames herself as the animal was too big and she should have led it to Apollo. Hera and her Mother begin healing the seemingly dying Artemis.
In the dream realm Hecate escorts Hera to the Emerald Temple High Priestess Rhea. However, Rhea is stunned to find Hecate has brought her the daughter of her beloved Sofia to protect and train. Her destiny lies in her past and future bones as her awakening awakens Zeus' knowledge of her since she will birth the heir just like Sofia did.
Hera narrates her exhilarating Book One of the Goddess Chronicles. The above paragraphs are just the opening of a strong rendition of the Greek Mythos from the perspective of Hera. Julien Longo reminds readers that those in power write the history books (and mythologies) so that this insightful, fast-paced winner enables the reader to see the female side of the saga. Especially fascinating on Hera's journey to being the Queen is how she perceives over time her relationship with Zeus. Mythology readers will relish this strong entry as Hera pulls no punches on her journey from being a dutiful daughter to the queen of Mt. Olympus.
DAW Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756406608, $25.95, www.amazon.com
On the surface Sacoridia seems like a powerful country ruled by the just benign King Zachary. However, appearances can be deceiving because there is danger from within and without. To the north in the lands not occupied by Sacoridian troops, descendants of Arcosia led by Mornhavon the Black invade as a first step in preparation for their war on Sacoridia. They now call themselves Second Empire.
The D'Yer wall has been breached, enabling the evil denizens from primordial Blackveil Forest to enter Sacoridian. Before the Long War Blackveil was once known as Argenthyne, home to the immortal Eletians who now live in Eletia. Besides kingdom headaches, Zachary and Green Rider messenger Karigan G'ladheon love each other, but know they have no future as he must marry his betrothed Lady Estora out of duty to his county.
Six Eletians want to return to the Blackveil to see their former home. Zachary wants six Sacoridians to accompany them; Karigan is one of the chosen. The Eletians are on the same mission that Second Empire is on; it will be a disaster if their leader Grandmother prevails. Meanwhile the King is poisoned and a conspiracy begins by someone close the throne.
The latest Kariagan epic fantasy (see Green Rider, First Rider's Call, and The High King's Tomb) is a terrific entry loaded with subplots that provide the reader with both the big picture of the world of Kristin Britain and the small scale happenings that impact the larger scope. The key to this grand epic is the movement back and forth between the Second Empire threat, the Eletians, the danger to the Sacoridians in Blackveil and to the king is done smoothly although few of the subplots are completed. With a strong diverse cast (a trademark of Ms. Britain), fans will welcome the return to Sacoridia as the focus is on evil oozing Blackveil.
Forest Moon Rising
Fantasy writer Tess Noncoire a Celestial Blade Warrior, her personal imp Scrap and their allies plugged the faery leak (see Faery Moon). However, something new is in Portland committing violent crimes against women. Tess vows to take down the evil psychopath who has crossed over but the Celestial Blade Warrior is unsure of from where as the leaks seem to be everywhere.
At the same time Tess finds herself overwhelmed with other issues. First she feels like a babysitter responsible for a horde of half-breed demons who are attending a local convention. Second she is the backup for renowned Celtic-folk singer. Third she needs to write a book. Finally she needs time to persuade her beloved they are fated; but is it Gollum or Donovan?
The latest Moon over Portland urban fantasy (see Moon in the Mirror) is an entertaining sword and sorcery thriller. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as Tess and Scrap take on a malevolent dangerous chauvinist. Although the heroine at times seems to be the star of a fantasy game in which whenever she needs a new skill she obtains it seemingly instantly but also uses her new talent as a seasoned veteran rather than struggling to understand what she newly possesses. Still this is a fun entry as Tess the Celestial Blade Warrior and her sharp "sidekick" Scrap fight evil doers.
Finding the Way and Other Tales of Valdemar
Mercedes Lackey (editor)
As with previous anthologies set in the Valdemar realm, (see Sword of Ice and Other Tales of Valdemar, and Crossroads and Other Tales of Valdemar); this fifteen story collection targets fans of the Mercedes Lackey world. Each tale is well written as the focus is predominately on heralds and Companions. The bar of excellence opens high with "Finding the Way," by Ms. Lackey and Larry Dixon as the unique Shera the Hertasi uses her pathfinder skill in the treacherous Gripping Mire swamp. At the coronation of Queen Alliana, King Nabeth of Karse sends his envoy with an offer to join them in worship of Vikandis Sunlord and then she can marry his heir; a year later his army invades the heathen Valdemar from the east ("In Burning Zones We Build Against the Sun by Rosemary Edghill and Denise McCune). In the "Education of Evita (by Mickey Zucker Reichert) and in "The Groom's Price," (Michael Z. Williamson and Gail Sanders) the leads must learn to use their magic properly. "A Bard by Any Other Name" (Fiona Patten) and "Healing in White" (Kristen Schwengel) showcase bards and healers as Finding the Way and Other Tales of Valdemar is filled with plenty of heart that fans of the Lackey realm will relish.
The Second Son
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
18 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9780374299132, $26.00, www.amazon.com
After years of dedicated police work, Berlin Chief Inspector Nikolai Hoffner is forced to quit the Kriminalpolizei. Some believe he lasted longer than a stinking half Jew should. Others will miss his professional diligent work.
With no where to go in Hitler's Olympic Germany, Nikolai decides to search for his missing second son Georg; sadly he knows he has written off his oldest boy Sascha who salutes wholeheartedly the Nazis. Nikolai travels to Barcelona where the heat melts his bones while the Civil War has ignited as fascists, communists, anarchists and foreign agents compete in deadly combat. The former German cop fears his second son like his first son is ideologically trapped by one of the extremists.
The third Hoffner between the world wars noir (see Rosa and Shadow and Light) is an exhilarating bittersweet thriller that brings to life Spain during the violent civil war. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Nikolai is downsized due to his religious heritage and never slows down although the climax is overly difficult to follow. Still fans will appreciate this entertaining historical as Nikolai prays he can save at least the soul of one of his offspring.
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781448918, $14.99, www.amazon.com
In Casper, Ohio, luminary twenty years old Nellie Monroe is an eccentric genius whose burnt orange Afro alone would maker her a stand out in much larger Cleveland as Irish-Americans do not have curly hair like she has. However, it is her brain power that makes her an odd duck. While her parents tour golf courses everywhere, she stays home to take care of her octogenarian Nona while working for Tank at the local club. She wants to be a private investigator, is taking on line classes and has a business card with her full name of Nellie Augusta Lourdes Monroe inscribed on it. However, she also believes she will need to relocate as the divorce rate in the country hovers around fifty percent while in Casper it is under twenty-five percent.
Tank hires Amish dropout Amos Shetler. Nellie meets Amos by punching him in the stomach. Hurting, he admits she does not hit like a girl. She warns him not to sneak up on someone. A few days later he hires her to conduct surveillance on the Amish girl he considers marrying Katie and his rival John. Amos tells her no pictures just listen to what she says. Nellie brilliantly sets in motion Operation Bonnet only to alienate her BF Matt, her professor, her family, her client, the Amish community, and perhaps everyone residing in the Buckeye State.
This is an intriguing coming of age "student" investigative tale told by Nellie. Her side commentary is amusingly acerbic, but also slows down the prime exciting subplot of her going undercover causing havoc for seemingly much of Ohio and locked lips with one male hunk. Fans will enjoy Operation Bonnet as Nellie learns about people from the tsuris she caused with her first case.
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373605521, $14.95, www.amazon.com
The despondency of those at the Unseelie Court grows exponentially as the hopelessness is like a shroud burying the dark fey. The only chance anyone of the condemned Fey has is for their virtue to free them from their sin.
Thane the Dark Fey knows his wickedness is lust. He has no hope of ever overcoming his depravity. That is until he is riding when he meets his virtue hope, Chastity. Stunned Thane knows upon first sight who she is and what she means to him. However, her father the Duke "sold" his daughters' virtues to the Seelie Court. When she meets Thane, she has the same heart-felt reactions as he does; a deep desire that he is it and a fear that he is it.
The Sins and the Virtues erotic romantic fantasy is a fabulous tale starring a wonderful lead couple filled with Lust and love. The keys to the story line are the fully developed cast and the powerful interrelationships between them as this brings depth to a cross-fey romance. Sub-genre readers will appreciate Thane who has found his groove, but now has to find a way to keep her with him.
Bonded by Blood
For a living motorcycle riding Mackenzie Foster-Shaw searches for appropriate off-set movie locations. The film scout currently is in the Pacific Northwest seeking a special old looking cemetery. After four previous locales that seemed wrong, she reaches the remote Bear Creek Pioneer Cemetery. Kenz thinks this is the right spot, but as she takes her first of several photos, she notices the stone has no name. Thinking of Munch's painting she hears a noise and searches for the animal that appears hurt; only to find a wounded man.
Human predatory Darkblood vampires shot Guardian Dominic Serrano with a silver bullet. Dominic realizes that the photographer is special due to her rare sangre dulce blood type that is like cat nip to vampires. Dominic ponders how to keep his healer safe from vampires and his enemy Lord Pavlos who plans to use those whose veins flow with sangre dulce. He knows he must also keep his distance since they are Bonded by Blood but takes her to his team's Underground Seattle headquarters.
Vampire romance readers will embrace author Laurie London with her first Sweetblood urban fantasy as the audience will easily believe in the paranormal living under Seattle. Action-packed with two strong protagonists and a solid support cast especially the villain; fans will enjoy a trip to London realm as this is a sensational opening act.
In 1837 the scandal in Somerset rocks the Ton in London and elsewhere as the adult children of the dying duke of Parford turn out to be illegitimate. Instead of an offspring, a distant cousin formerly Mr. Ash Turner found the proof that he now Lord Ash Turner is the legitimate heir. His younger brother Mark begs Ash not to do what he has wrought to the Duke's children Richard, Edmund and Anna Margaret Dalyrmple who have become social pariahs, but they also file a countersuit asking parliament to pass a bill making them the legitimate heirs.
Parford's shunned daughter Anna Margaret goes undercover to spy on the upstart Ash by pretending to be the dying Duke's Nurse Miss Margaret Lowell. Her brothers want their sister to find proof to support their request for a royal proclamation of legitimacy. Ash and Margaret are attracted to one another from their first meeting. This tears her heart asunder as she falls in love with the kind enemy but wants to remain loyal to her brutish siblings.
This is an engaging early Victorian romance starring an obstinate lead male who vows vengeance against the Dalyrmple brothers for what they did to his siblings. However, Margaret's emotional predicament makes the historical entertaining as she brings intensity to the storyline. Her brothers are rude and shallow, while Ash's relationships with his family except somewhat with Mark are ignored for the most part. The Dalyrmple efforts to persuade Parliament to act on their behalf are a refreshing concept though if enacted is an abuse of power. Sub-genre readers will enjoy this intriguing nineteenth century tale.
Former FBI Agent turned New Mexico private investigator Laura Perry visits her childhood BF but not forever Nancy near Flagstaff, Arizona. She arrives as a man stumbles out of Nancy's home. Inside she finds Nancy naked and dead. Laura vows to catch Nancy's killer who she assumes is the man who left as she arrived; he mumbled she was too late for herself as well as her friend.
Detective Travis Blacksheep works the serial case that Laura has become personally interested in. They were teen buddies watching each other's back. Now she offers herself up as bait though unaware she needn't do so as the killer already has focused on her; while Travis and his big dog Crusher watch her back.
The second exciting Long Mountain Heroes (see Alpha Warrior starring Travis's older brother Nick) is an engaging investigative serial killer thriller. The key to this entertaining and powerful tale is the realism of the relationship between the lead couple outside of the case which remains mostly in the background as ending a reign of terror comes first. Aimee Thurlo fans will relish her latest romantic mystery.
Solid as Steele
Baltimore private investigator Mack Steele has loved Jamie Shepherd from the moment he'd met her, but she was married to his partner Craig. Now a widow, Mack still keeps his distance from Jamie though is there for her if she needs anything.
Jamie suffers a frightening nightmare in which a woman Lynn Vaughn trapped in a deadly funhouse needs help immediately; her gift has returned in the one place she preferred not to be, her home Gaptown. She calls her late husband's place of work Light Street Detective Agency wanting to speak with her friend Jo O'Malley. Mack responds instead. Jamie and Mack drive to Gaptown where her estranged mom Gloria and her mother's boyfriend Clark greet her with contempt and deny sending a letter to her. As Jamie falls in love with the protective Mack, a killer has already set in motion her death plot to add to those already murdered by this diabolical psychopath.
The latest 43 Light Street thriller (see Guarding Grace) is a terrific paranormal investigative mystery starring two likable leads and a powerful support cast. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jamie calls the agency and never slows down as a serial killer stalks Gaptown. The key is the romantic subplot is developed enough, but never intrudes on the prime story line of a predator murdering people with the two Baltimore residents on the top of the killer's list. Solid as Steele is a solid psychological drama.
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061706547, $24.99, www.amazon.com
In 1852 their four respective owners took the wenches with them while they vacation at Tawawa House in Ohio. The four females accompanying these men are slaves, but though limited in time to meet with each other, they forge a friendship. Lizzie, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu are slaves who are their master's mistress.
Ohio opens their eyes when they meet free blacks and learn of the abolitionist movement from Glory the white female Quaker who speaks to each of them as equal humans. Ironically these free blacks are uneasy with the slaves amidst them. Reenie belongs to her half-brother who is far from a protector of his sibling; she relishes freedom. Sweet is pregnant and frightened, but still wants her liberty. Mawu covets the idea of belonging to herself especially since her owner is a cruel sadist. Lizzie considers the concept but in her way she loves her kind Master and does not want to leave him; however she wants him to free her children. Her fellow slave Phillip likes the idea of freedom too. They discuss running away, but a frightened Lizzie betrays them to her Master.
Wench is a super historical thriller with a powerful cast whose personalities develop for the reader over the insightful but at times meandering story line. Each key player, especially the four titled characters, are unique with different needs and wants. It is easy to diss Lizzie, but once the reader knows her, they will understand why. Fans will appreciate this strong antebellum tale of life as a mistress-slave in the decade prior to the Civil War.
The Amish Midwife
Mindy Starns Clark & Leslie Gould
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736937986, $13.99, www.amazon.com
Just outside of Aurora, Oregon, three weeks after baby number 244 is born, her dying widower adopted father informs twenty-six years old midwife Lexie Jaeger with the rest of the truth that he and his late wife concealed from her. He tells her to never forget how he and her adopted mom loved her and finally admits his Montgomery County, Pennsylvania biological maternal grandma sent her a carved box. When her beloved dad dies, Lexie looks inside the box.
After helping 245 enter the world, Lexie decides to travel to Pennsylvania to meet her birth family and learn why she was given away. She leaves behind James who she has been seeing for several years as she obsesses with a need to know her kin. In Pennsylvania, she meets the family and assists Aunt Melia the lay-midwife accused of manslaughter when her Amish patient and baby died during delivery. However, as Lexie begins to learn about her roots, she finds secrets that her biological family feels are An Inconvenient Truth. She considers leaving for home, although she knows God would expect her to forgive those who let her down as a baby.
The first Amish Clark and Gould collaboration is a strong family drama that focuses on a person's bone-marrow deep need for a specific identification in which he or she believes they belong. With action provided especially by midwife responsibilities in light of the manslaughter charge and a supporting romantic subplot, The Amish Midwife is a terrific character driven tale as Lexie learns you can and cannot go home.
When All My Dreams Come True
In 1872, nineteen year old cowhand Bobbie McIntyre leaves the Simms Ranch after her father died and she became too comfortable there as she wants to own her owniko spread one day. Owner Roy Simms recommends her to his former protege Jace Kincaid, who is stunned to learn Bobbie is female. Bobbi proves she is capable so he hires her.
Jace's sister Anne, her banker husband Pete and their two kids adore the new wrangler. The rancher has issues as someone is stealing his cattle at the same time neighbor Hank Willet pressures him to sell. As the incidents mount and turn increasingly dangerous, Jace wonders why the Lord is testing him and how he can persuade Bobbie to return to God who she abandoned when her mom died. As Bobbie discovers her feminine side and also begins to reconnect with God, she and Jace fall in love. However, as the rustler's actions turn ugly, Jace feels like Job as he knows he must end the terror or lose his beloved, his ranch and his esteem.
Although Bobbie returns to the Lord too easily, fans will relish this enjoyable Christian western romance due to the strong cast especially the lead couple, his family and several of the cowhands. The story line is filled with action from the moment that Bobbie and Jace meet yet it also contains humorous situations like her giving him a haircut, oops. When All My Dreams Come True is a warm tale of hope and faith even when you feel like a pariah or Job.
The Warlord's Legacy
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780553807776, $26.00, www.amazon.com
Corvis Rebaine earned his name as the Terror of the East though he insisted what he did when he slaughtered countless innocents as collateral damage was justice. Others who watched helplessly the massacre of beloved to the black armored, skull helmeted Rebaine and his army thought he was the devil. Rebaine with his cutting words would disagree, but no one would argue against his demon axe as he has twice destroyed Imphallion claiming each time he pursued a better society.
Rebaine lives alone after his wife Tyannon and their two children Lilander and Mellorin left him. He has learned violent change fails so he works from within the Guild system that he loathes. However, he watches with disdain as Cephira invades Imphallion while the Guilds fail to respond to the assault. Rebaine is tempted to pick up his axe, but fears history will repeat itself. While he hesitates someone, apparently wearing his infamous warrior garb, leads a bloody counterattack that makes Rebaine's actions look tame. Also two enemies seek his death. First his children's Uncle Jassion abetted by Kaleb the sorcerer stalks him and second his most dangerous foe of all his estranged daughter Mellorin apparently wants to kill him. His choices are death or the Terror of the East.
Containing the same overwhelming but keen cynicism as the antihero's first engagement (see The Conqueror's Shadow); The Warlord's Legacy is a timely amusing epic fantasy. The jocular story line is action-packed yet raises questions about a country's homeland security values. Corvis and his entourage make the tale as they are sly, slick and stalwart although he ponders whether another turn as the Terror will return his family to him. Sub-genre fans will appreciate Rebaine's efforts to go home.
Heart of the Exiled
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345503862, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Having been betrayed by her lover after a cup bonding, Alpinon Guard warrior Eliani meets Turisan while each is on a mission; their ability to mindspeak to each other stuns both as that is rare. However, after helping the aelven tribes defeat the renegade vampire clan Darkshore led by Queen Shalr (see the Betrayal), the pair wed.
Meanwhile the Bitter Wars left weakened the aelven tribes. A Council convenes at Turisan's home in Glenhallow to discuss the rising threat from the brutal berserker Kobalen who are behaving out of character as the normally brainless beasts are using rational thought out plans to gather their forces. The enemy's numbers are astronomic while the Governor of the Fireshore tribe has failed to attend the council meeting. Because of her mindspeak link with her beloved mate, Eliani is assigned to learn why. However, the source behind the Kobalen will stun Eliani who mentally must be severed from her beloved so that the Heart of the Exiled can reclaim what she knows is her right.
The second Blood of the Kindred epic fantasy is an engaging thriller that grips those who read The Betrayal from the moment just after Eliani and Turisan "marry" as she says goodbye to begin her mission. Newcomers will be confused as to the cultural differences and similarities within the aleven tribes as they seem interchangeable; this is critical to understand what is going on in Fireshore, with the Kobalen and the third party behind the latest acrimony. Eliani keeps the exciting story line focused with able assistance from her mindspeak beloved as Pati Nagle provides an exhilarating tale.
Because rookie British police officer Peter Grant can see ghosts, his superior at the Metropolitan Police Department, Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, switches him from the tedious clerical Case Progression Unit to assist on paranormal cases. Thus he sends the probationer new kid on the magical block to school for wizard training.
Nightingale investigates a horrific serial assault case in which the violent attackers usually have their face fall off, but he has made no progress. The violence expands with fears that an epidemic will overwhelm the city and ultimately the nation. He knows he needs Grant who accelerates his formal magic education so he can help solve an ugly case that has it roots in the nation's rivers.
This is a terrific urban fantasy police procedural in which the two cops make the unbelievable believable; especially the inexperienced Grant. The fast-paced yet meandering story line is loaded with action from the onset as the mentor and mentee work a challenging investigation in which an ancient has arisen to stir the troubled waters. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Ben Aaronovitch's view of London in this witty well written riot.
Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures
Robert E. Howard
These eighteen historical short stories and poems display a different Robert E. Howard than the sword and sorcerer fame. The entries are enhanced by a terrific introduction (Scott Oden) and an insightful article (Howard Andrew Jones) that provides the audience insight into the depth of the late great author. The tales bring alive several centuries and locations in the medieval Mediterranean. During the crusades, Cormac FitzGeoffrey follows Richard the Lion-hearted into battle as "Hawk of Outremer". Having cut short her unwanted wedding vows; title character Dark Agnes de la Fere turns to the sword in "Sword Woman" and "Blade for France. In eleventh century Cairo, Spaniard Diego de Guzman thirst for vengeance but to achieve his quest he must pretend to be a Muslim in "Hawks over Egypt". Whether it is "The Road of Eagles" in the year of our Lord 1595 at the Black Sea or traveling on "The Road of Azrael" as Kosru Malik chronicles the road of death, these are terrific historical sword adventures that showcase the late authors depth and width. Artist John Watkiss provides B&W illustrations that enhance the tales. This collection contains entertaining escapades in the half of the previous millennium.
Light Unseen Media
PO Box 1233, Pepperell, MA 01463-3233
9781935303114, $26.00, www.bylightunseenmedia.com
Raging Justine Kroft vows vengeance against those who gang-raped and murdered her teenage daughter, Justine's first attack on one of the perpetrators fails. In fact the culprit is about to kill her when French vampire Simone Gireaux intercedes and saves her life.
Realizing she will never avenge her daughter in her present body and envious of her savior's strength and speed, the distraught Justine begs Simone to convert her to an undead. Reluctantly, understanding first hand the angst, she agrees. Changed she begins her vendetta while also praying she can find the missing daughter of her mortal BFF Teresa Diaz and ignoring the sad loving eyes of detective Harry Frazier. With Simone at her side, she murders a few miscreants, but their actions make them known to evil vampire Stephan Sinakov Master of the Sinakov Family who sees an opportunity to set in motion a greater power grab.
Blood Justice is a super amateur sleuth urban fantasy with a strong cast especially the raging single mom. Fast-paced, sub-genre fans will appreciate Justine taking a bite out of crime though she is more a rabid dog than she is a fan of McGruff. Although the villainous vampire is stereotyped, readers will cheer on Justine who turns immortal yet has a Death Wish to rival Bronson's character Paul Kersey.
Cat the Vamp
Light Unseen Media
PO Box 1233, Pepperell, MA 01463-3233
9781935303015, $12.00 www.bylightunseenmedia.com
With the death of her grandmother, the parents of teenage Catherine Taylor explain her heritage that they concealed from her. They and Cat are vampires, a species that lives in secret amidst the humans.
Her parents take the stunned Cat to Blacklune Castle since she is old enough for initiation into the species. They leave, while she and others her age receive ethics training as well as use of their powers. Cat is shocked to meet Morgan, who has starred in her dreams. They become close but they also struggle with their formal education as each feels the glamour of their powers and a thirst to taste human blood. Cat and Morgan flout adult authority including admonitions from their instructor River while paying no heed to what their actions do to others especially their classmates. When they go too far and harm another, the pair finally learns what others had been telling them, but it may be too late.
This exciting urban fantasy places a wonderful conceptual twist on the vampire sub-genre by having the lead teenage pair behaving as juvenile delinquents. That fresh approach comes across as a two edged sword; the pair causes all sorts of rule breaking havoc which gets increasingly worse and nastier while teachers and administrators do little even when a major violation that borders on criminal activity of assaulting a human donor of their blood occurs. Still this brisk updating of Evan Hunter's Blackboard Jungle into an urban fantasy landscape makes for a brisk unique thriller.
Autumn: The City
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312570002, $16.99, www.amazon.com
In a matter of minutes people fall down and die without any apparent cause. A few days later, many of those who died start walking; aimlessly shuffling as mindless decaying corpses. Almost one hundred percent of the population died from the unknown cause; those who revived have one goal to kill the survivors even if that destroys their bodies.
On the outskirts of the city those humans still living make their way to a college building that seem relatively safe enough to keep the walking dead out of their retreat for now. Weeks pass and supplies are dangerously low as the haven has become a prison. Foraging outside is extremely dangerous since the walking dead have started to regain their cognitive skills. An underground bunker is filled with soldiers. They go outside to see what the world looks like. One of the group is separated from his comrades and finds his way to the survivor hideaway. They hope the soldier will take them to the military bunker. He agrees, but they ponder how to cut though hundreds of thousands of walking dead who want them dead ad who encircle their building.
Although this fabulous urban horror thriller clearly enables the audience to know what the monsters are, David Moody never uses the Z word nor is there much blood and gore. The key survivors including the soldier are interesting as their lives have turned upside down with survivor no longer a reality TV show but a way of life in this terrific Byzantine story line.
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439190227, $23.99, www.amazon.com
In the summer of 1978, fifteen year old Samantha Bonti of Bensonhurst dreams of becoming a writer living on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Being half-Jewish and with no father in the household since her Italian dad abandoned her and her mom, Sam is treated as a pariah by the Italian Catholic neighbors. Her Jewish mother Joan is filled with rage at humanity including her daughter and alcohol fuels her bitterness; while Grandma Ruth is her cheerleader encouraging Sam to go for it. Sam's BFF is fellow outcast Janice Caputo who loathes her heritage that she sees as stifling crap in which males thrive to be the next great gangster.
Sam's world spins out of control when she meets half-Sicilian, half-Dutch Tony Kroon, a mobster in training. She falls in love with him as she believes he understands her dual heritage. However, Tony warns her to never question his work. Her mom normally ignores her but tells her to dump him as he is no good; Grandma Ruth tells her bubelah to drop him before she loses her dream and becomes her mother's clone.
This is an entertaining character study of a teen seeking to belong while also dreaming of escaping to that other island across the water. Sam makes the tale work as readers will dream a little dream with her (paraphrasing Mama Cass) while also wondering whether she will cross the East River to truly go after her desires or remain in Brooklyn with Tony who climbs the ladder of his chosen vocation.
The War of the Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies
H.G. Wells and Eric S. Brown
Mars is dying, but the inhabitants see earth as their next home. Knowing they are a thousand rimes smarter and even more advanced than humans, they expect no problems conquering the third planet.
He sees an odd green light pass near his residence. He goes to look and finds a spacecraft. The inhabitants are mostly brains with tentacles using mechanical bodies for locomotion. More space ships follow as the invasion of earth has begun.
When the Martians kill a human, the latter do not stay dead; instead they return as mindless carnivores seeking live human meat. The Martians did not expect this second order effect and their scientists struggle to find a way to kill the rising reanimated dead. The observer watches much of the invasion and the zombie counter insurgency. Just when it seems the angry red planet expatriates conquered earth, bacteria attacks the Martians.
Eric S. Brown adds a relatively smooth major "Blood, Guts and Zombies" subplot to the original War of the Worlds. Though purists will ask why the Z treatment to this classic, the story line is lighthearted fun; unless you happen to be trapped between zombie and Martian fevers. The blending works for an enjoyable science fiction horror thriller though with Austen, Twain, and Lincoln fighting zombies in a sub-genre losing its freshness, who is next, Darth Vader?
Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?
You the reader realize people are turning into zombies because you saw it on TV news. Zombies apparently have taken over much of Manhattan. You ride a train to Brooklyn you observe a zombie in your car dining on some poor victim. You must choose between intervening or move your butt to another car. Your adventures in the Zombie Apocalypse has begun as the reader makes moral choices in which being a hero may have the second order effect of becoming a zombie (remember as my nephew once told me John Wayne dies at the Alamo). Staten Island is rumored to be a non zombie zone, but to get there means riding the ferry where zombies seem to patrol the Manhattan side. Do you remain behind to help humanity fight the zombies, help the zombies raise awareness that they have rights too or do you move your butt to the free zone?
This is an adult version of the Choose Your Own Adventures (Max Brallier includes profanities and vivid gore especially if you choose wrong). Fans of this genre will enjoy Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? there are numerous possibilities so if you end up zombie food, you can always back track and start either over in entirety or just take the other fork. Though zombies have starred in this genre (see Anson Montgomery's Your Grandparents Are Zombies that targets young readers) this is lighthearted escapist fun for adults only.
At Hidden Falls
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439176498, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Isabella Silveira, sister to the Angel's Bay, California police chief Joe, drives to town only to be in a car accident. Nick Haley saves her from certain death when her vehicle began sliding down a cliff. However, the accident is not as disconcerting to her as seeing Nick in person for the first time. He is one of the stars in her dreams in which her sibling is in trouble. She came to town to warn Joe.
Not quite as stunning to Isabella is her attraction to Nick; he reciprocates which he loathes at this time. Nick is trying to reconcile with his teenage daughter Megan who he had not seen in years. Joe investigates a missing mother who left her newborn behind and hopes to identify the father too. When Isabella helps at the theater, the puzzle pieces begin to come together, but may be too late for the people she cherishes.
The latest Angel's Bay paranormal romantic suspense (see In Shelter's Cove and Suddenly One Summer) is an exciting thriller that enables the reader to learn much more about the founding families especially through degrees from the lead couple. The story line is entertaining from the moment Isabella recognizes her rescuer and never slows down as each takes turns saving the other (and his daughter). Although the villain proves pitifully pathetic, fans will enjoy the latest adventures in Angel's Bay.
A Brush of Darkness
Six months ago, Abby Sinclair's life changed when her mother died in an accident. Instead of grieving her loss, Abby manages a magical mall and has a unicorn using her underwear as bedding inside a drawer. Adjusting to that was easy thanks to her special enchanted gizmos that Apple would envy. More complicated is when Moira the Faery Protectorate informed Abby. She will replace her mother as their Touchstone; the mortal needed to enable the others to cross realms.
However all hell breaks loose when Moira vanishes. Abby is abruptly in charge of trying to hold the gate in place while finding her boss in OtherWorld. Brystion the incubus penetrates her dreams as he investigates the disappearance of his succubus sister. His intrusion angers Moira's number two Robert whose rage shocks Abby. However, complicating the potential disaster is demons for hire. She believes she can handle incubus, daemons, angels and other ilk; anything except cat piss and whatever the unicorn is doing to undies.
Pang's OtherWorld comes across as real due to Abby who is a sort of caustic Alice in a not so Wonderland. Her acerbic asides add humor though at times the jocularity feels out of place. Still fans will enjoy Abby's awesome adventures as she mounts a rescue of her boss and of her heart (she learns what everyone knows form puberty to never give your heart to an incubus) as Allison Pang provides a fun urban fantasy.
How To Woo A Reluctant Lady
In 1806 nine year old Minerva Sharpe fell in love with Giles Masters when he held her hand as she struggled with the funerals of her parents; the papers insisted her father murdered her mother before he killed himself. Ten years later, Minerva still loves Giles, but he rejects her overture. She vows to never marry.
In 1825, on the shelf, Lady Minerva refuses to wed anyone because she knows no respectable husband will accept her profession as a gothic novelist. However, the writer has a major problem. Her grandmother demands her Hellions of Halstead Hall grandchildren marry or face disinheritance.
Barrister Giles Masters has loved Miranda forever though he knows he fumbled badly when she came to him almost a decade ago. He proposes, but instead of saying yes or no, Miranda concocts a scheme for them to pose as an engaged couple to trick her grandmother. Giles agrees as he sees an opportunity to court and win the heart of his beloved. However, although Minerva falls in love with her fake fiance, his secret life and her obsessive need for honesty smash their relationship to bits in Calais; even as they become entangled in a dangerous seditious plot due to his clandestine activities.
The third Hellions of Halstead Hall Regency romance (see The Truth About Lord Stoneville and A Hellion In Her Bed) is a wonderful pairing of a couple who has a two decade history. Fast-paced with a strong support cast, fans will enjoy the female Hellion finding, losing and re-finding love.
Although witch Persephone "Seph" Alcmedi and her boyfriend werewolf rock musician Johnny Newman defeated the Fairy (see Fatal Circle) insuring the monsters did not devour Cleveland (paraphrasing Maynard G. Krebs again), the cost remains high. Seph gets veterinarian Dr. Geoffrey Lincoln to help Johnny who had his chest ripped apart in his wolf form that fails to heal as normally occurs when he is hurt. Dr. Lincoln explains the wound came from magic; he uses salt to cleanse the wound.
Johnny announced to his pack that he is the werewolf Domn Lup. If he was not, the phoenix's claw would have killed him. His magic resides in his tattoos, but the one on his chest was ripped in the attack. His number two informs Johnny the world wide werewolf ruler the Rege is coming from Romania to determine if he who he claims. With his magic muted from the assault, he has to find a way to access his inner talent or face a painful execution. Seph plans to assist him, but has a horde of paranormals camping out on her farm; requiring basic human needs even if they are not human. Seph also is throwing a tenth birthday party for her foster child Beverly.
The fourth Circle urban fantasy (see Vicious Circle and Hallowed Circle) is an exciting entry that is low-keyed as the major foe from the previous entries has been vanquished, but now the lead couple deals with the aftermath. Johnny knows that no one lives wasting a nanosecond of the Rege's time; if he proves a false prophet because he cannot generate the magic from a key tattoo, the Zvonul will rip him apart. Sub-genre readers will appreciate the Arcane thriller.
Diana Pharaoh Francis
The Guardians of the Earth declare war on humanity. Witches are warned that neutrality is unacceptable as you are with them or the enemy. Giselle is the witch who enslaved Max years ago by turning her into her personal Shadowblade. They reach a tense agreement in these troubled times. As part of that deal, Giselle gives bitter Max permission to bring her human family to Horngate so they can remain safe from the Guardians. Max has not seen her family in three decades ever since Giselle enslaved her.
Max knows the trek to her family will be dangerous. Her new Shadowblade ally Alexander has her back, but that may not be enough as he offers much more and she wants what he covets. However besides the Guardians stalking enemies, Giselle sold her rights to Max's life to the powerful Scooter, who impatiently demands she come to him immediately.
The second Horngate Witches urban (and mountainous) fantasy (see Bitter Night) is an exciting thriller as Max remains raging with fury towards Giselle who betrayed her friendship years ago, but for the sake of Horngate and her family, knows she must set aside her acrimony. Danger seems everywhere as the Guardians release the forces of nature. With an incredible ending to an action-packed tale, readers will clamor for the third book in Diana Pharaoh Francis' excellent epic saga.
For twelve centuries William Killkenny was a dragon. However, recently he regained what he thought was lost forever; he has become human again (see Moonlight Warrior).
In Maine, single mom River Run Nursing Home Nurse Maddy Kimble raises her troubled younger brother and her nine years old daughter Sarah. William likes Maddy but she rejects his efforts for them to date as she considers him uncouth after he threatened to spank her and he was naked when he kissed her in front of the town. Desperate and out of the human dating business for twelve hundred years, William asks her elderly patients for advice. Maddy watches in amazement as the arrogant beast acts so gentle and caring towards her patients and daughter. However, having one bad marriage already Maddy has major doubts about a courtship especially with a hunk concealing who knows what from her; especially one born in 1047. William believes his time as a beast cost him his heart though he risks his new found mortality protecting Maddy from a magical attack.
The latest Midnight Bay romantic fantasy continues the whimsical saga with a delightful tale as William the grouch dragon has become William the desperate human. Readers will appreciate this humorous yet poignant thriller as the former grumpy soul warrior woos the reluctant damsel in distress (initially from family problems until the magic attack) while he obtains illegal citizenship papers including an authenticate birth certificate dated 1977.
The Fallen: Raziel
Allegra "Allie" Watson wrote sassy biblical murder mysteries. However her career as a novelist ends when she dies in a bus accident.
Because of her saucy biblical tales, Allegra is slated for hellfire. However, Raziel, one of the twenty-Fallen that Enoch with bias mentioned, violates the afterlife operating procedures. Instead of guiding her soul to her final destination, although unsure why he reacted like he did as he has ferried countless lost souls, Raziel changes her destination saving her from eternal damnation. He is injured in the process. Sparks fly between this blood drinking Fallen and the damned he temporarily rescued. His peers take the pair to safety in Sheol. However by doing what he did and what the other Fallen did for the condemned duet, they enable God's last remaining archangel Uriel the "unfallen" to break the millennia old armistice sending the flesh eating Nephilim swarm to attack Raziel and the other Fallen.
Although the opening acts take a bit of adjustment to understand who's who and what is going on in the Kristina Douglas pantheon, fans will believe it is worth the time as the story line turns into a fast-paced angelic war with an intelligent obvious jab at the hypocrisy of organized religions. Cleverly designed so that heavenly decree is deigned by bureaucrats, fans will enjoy Raziel's (and Allie) tale as the Nephilim led by one who takes pride that he never fell attacks the Fallen using the rescue of a condemned as the excuse for open war.
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780553386875, $15.00, www.amazon.com
In New England, while driving in a blizzard, the woman drives off the road. When she awakens she finds herself in the home of financier Vincent James. She has a bump on her head and suffers from amnesia. Vincent is stunned when his mute daughter Jadie begins talking to the stranger as she has not spoken in two years since her sister died from cystic fibrosis and her mother abandoned her surviving daughter in her grief.
A couple of neighbors help Kate as they call her as she tries to recover who she is and how she ended up at the James home. She also makes inquiries into the James family as Kate begins to fall in love with her host and Jadie who insists she is the angel her sister promised to send to her.
This is an engaging contemporary romance starring a fascinating cast to include, besides the live trio, the deceased sister, her ghost (at least that is what Jadie claims), and their missing mother. Putting aside the support seemingly required romantic subplot, the wonderful story line focuses on Kate's slow recalling her past, but the memories feel wrong as if they belong to someone else. Fans will enjoy this fine paranormal low-key thriller while wondering Could It Be Magic in the cold New England air?
Century old vampire Raylene "Cheshire Red" Pendle is a thief who steals valuable items. The cops assume the brazen crook is a man as she does nothing to change their bias. Instead, the Seattle resident lives sort of alone with a couple of street people in an abandoned warehouse where she hordes much of her values.
Blind wealthy vampire Ian Stott hires Raylene to steal top secret government documents detailing inhuman black-op military experiments on vampires and other illegal aliens. Their testing on Ian took away his eyesight. She kills an intruder before going to Atlanta to follow up on a clue to another experiment victim. Raylene meets the brother Adrian, a former SEAL turned drag queen with no obvious place to tuck in his lower head. However, her inquiry takes a nasty spin as she learns Project Bloodshot still exists even if officially it was shut down years ago. This group's private sector backer also has goons ready to turn anyone into a test tube especially those making inquiries.
This is an enjoyable urban fantasy made fresh by the interesting support characters who provide insight and action while also lampooning the sub-genre. The experiments are somewhat unique with the military tests on vampires, but will remind readers somewhat of Lora Leigh's Breed series. Raylene is a kick butt loner who finds herself working for a sightless vampiric client with a humongous drag queen as a sidekick while the Men in Black and a scientific lunatic give chase; what more can a reader want from the cast? Although nothing major is wrapped up, Cheshire Priest opens Chesire Red with an exciting tale.
The Dangerous Edge of Things
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590588178, $24.95, www.amazon.com
Tai Randolph recently moved from Savannah to the Atlanta area as she her brother Eric inherited a gun store in the northern suburb of Kennesaw. Her sibling the psychologist goes on a cruise so she house sits his home. However, she notices a woman in a parked car across the street from the house. Tai goes to see if the woman is okay only to find her dead as someone shot the victim who also has Eric's business card.
She calls the police who place the siblings on the top of their list of suspects due to the gun store and Eric's departure. Not one to sit idly by, Tai investigates at the same time experienced rivals from APD and private security detective Trey Seaver, hired by Eric to protect his sister, make inquiries. Trey has no long term memory since he had an on the job as a cop injury. Meanwhile Tai concludes she and her brother, when he comes home, are in trouble from an unknown adversary who may be willing to kill the siblings and she figures the cops and the private sleuth could not care whether she and Eric live except if it muddles their respective "lucid" case.
The first Tai Randolph amateur sleuth is a terrific suspense thriller due to the cast especially the two terrific T, Tai and Trey. Each has personal issues that enhance a strong whodunit. Eric's exit adds to the fine Atlanta tale as his sister and his hired gun want to know why he suddenly left town; while the cops believe they know why he fled to the Caribbean. This is a winning murder mystery.
In 1915 Oklahoma, Shaw Tucker, accompanied by his dog Buttercup, is hunting in nearby woods when his canine finds a human skeleton with a bullet hole between the bones of the eye sockets. Shaw knows he has found the remains of a murder victim.
A few weeks later, Shaw caches a teenage boy on his ranch. The lad explains he is Crying Blood searching for those who murdered his brother. Not sure what to do with Crying Blood, Shaw locks the adolescent in his barn before going to sleep as he will decides in the morning. The next day, Shaw finds the youngster dead with a lance protruding through his heart. Feeling guilt and a belief he owes the siblings, Shaw and his wife Alafair investigate the two homicides.
The latest Tucker historical mystery (see The Drop Edge of Yonder and The Sky Took Him) is a terrific entry that provides readers with a deep look at Oklahoma inside of the two mysteries that haunt Shaw. The story line starts a bit slow, as the time and place as well as the cast and the homicides have to be set, but once done accelerates rather quickly. Armchair traveling readers will appreciate a visit to the Sooner State just a few years after the Oklahoma and Indian Territories were consolidated into a state.
Comes a Time for Burning
Steven F. Havill
In 1892 in Port McKinney, Washington, healthy twentyish Lucy Levine, who works at the Clarissa Hotel, becomes very ill. Clinic Dr. Lucius Hardy asks his former medical school crony Dr. Thomas Parks to join him. Parks is confused by Lucy's her symptoms and the speed in which her condition worsens. They are distraught when everything they try fails as Lucy dies. A second female Flora Snider has the illness and others like Lucy's boyfriend logger Ben probably do too.
Hardy and Parks inform Constable Aldrich that the Asian Cholera has attacked the village and that tClarissa must be quarantined. The disease spreads like a wildfire overwhelming the helpless doctors. Parks panicked over the safety of his wife and newborn; yet curious as to the origin.
The second Parks historical medical thriller (see Race for the Dying) is a great tale that focuses on the state of medicine in rural Puget Sound in the last decade of the nineteenth century. The cast makes the tale as the doctors struggle to contain an epidemic that threatens the village and nearby towns, but the impact on everyone is deeply felt by the audience. Steven F. Havill's series is a strong saga worth reading.
To Tempt A Rake
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446541305, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Having sailed around the world for her vocation, American botanist Katharine Woodbridge travels to England to end her estrangement from her grandfather, the staid Duke of Cluyne. Kate's biggest fear upon arrival amongst the shocked Ton (re her behavior) is not with reconciliation with her relative, but from the Italian Conte of Como, Marco Ghiradelli, who might expose her.
Marco enjoys baiting Katharine as they have witty word wars. However, he cannot understand why he thinks he knows her though he cannot fathom from where or when. His work disallows what he wants to do, make love with the frisky intelligent American. All bets are off when someone frames Kate for murder and an assassin threatens the Vienna peace conference. As Marco works both with Kate at his side, a traitor sets in motion a deadly counter plan.
The third Circle of Sin thriller (see To Surrender to a Rogue and To Sin with a Stranger) is an exhilarating historical romance starring a serious scholarly scientist and a seemingly worthless wastrel. Their pairing make for a fast-paced tale especially when the local switches to Vienna on the eve of a historical conference. Although the traitor seems inept except for hiding behind a veneer of aristocratic polish, readers will enjoy dancing at this waltz.
In 1401 Scotland, Lady Catriona Mackintosh accompanied by her dog is hunting. Instead of game, she finds wounded Fin of the Battles. She takes the injured warrior home while assuming her odious neighbor Rory Comyn attacked Fin. Catriona has her own issues with Rory who demands she marry him or else.
Her grandfather Chief of Clan Chattan realizes Fin is the sworn man of the wild Prince Rothesay. Comyn prefers Rothesay's rival, sneaky Prince Albany, as he can gain favors with someone who is devious like he is. However, they have a history as her father led their clan in a slaughter of his clan including the death of his father. Loyalty by him to his prince and his late father, and by her to her family forces Fin and Catriona to undergo a deadly mission.
This is a strong medieval Scottish romance as Fin and Catriona in order to survive their quest must work as a supporting team, which they do. Fast-paced, the couple is dynamic in achieving their objective, their fierceness to protect the other, and their deep love. Amanda Scott proves once again she is the Highland Master when it comes to a thrilling tale starring Scottish Knights (see Tempted by a Warrior); in this case star-crossed lovers whose historical ties are a battle where blood flowed.
Treachery In Death
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157035, $26.95, www.amazon.com
In the summer of 2060, NYPSD Eve Dallas assigns her partner Peabody to look into the death of a shopkeeper by apparently stoned young men. Detective Peabody takes them down and puts them in the cage. Eve tells Peabody she did well but she was a bit slow in physically fighting them knowing it was her first time for the detective to take the lead. Peabody know to get in shape she must exercise three days a week.
While Peabody showers after a workout in the police gym, two cops enter the room. She overhears Chief of Illegal Squad Lieutenant Renee Oberman and her subordinate Detective William Garnet discuss crimes they are going to commit including murder. Peabody tells Dallas who wants to take out the pair and other corrupt officials under Renee's control, but has to be careful as she has no idea who the others are.
As expected from J.D. Robb, the great author has written another fabulous futuristic police procedural. Much of the fun is watching Eve, who loves her job, work a case as even when it comes to internal affairs she diligently seeks clues to support the truth. Recurring characters add to the sense of continuity and enhance the suspense (Roarke brings the romance) as Eve obstinately leads the internal affairs inquiry.
The Winter Ghosts
Over a decade ago in WWI George Watson vanished while serving on the Western Front. His younger brother Freddie has not been able to move on having found no closure. His grief so great, Freddie spent time in an asylum.
Ten years have passed since the Armistice ended the combat. Freddie works for the War Grave Commission which enables him to seek clues to his sibling. He drives a motorcar in the French Pyrenees still seeking solace. During a snowstorm, he crashes his vehicle near the remote village of Nulle. At the small mountainous hamlet Freddie meets Fabrissa. That evening, Fabrissa tells him her tale of harassment and death. The next day, Freddie cannot find Fabrissa, but his inquiries for her lead him to a six century old mystery.
The Winter Ghosts is a fascinating 1928 tale of two individuals who come together for one night; each seeking solace over what was lost of their respective souls due to war. The story line starts extremely slow as Kate Mosse takes her time to set time, place and Freddie's angst. Still readers will enjoy the cost of war still being paid by survivors years, even centuries, after the hostilities end.
The Chasm: A Journey to the Edge of Life
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601423399, $14.99, www.amazon.com
He entered a cave, but when he left it American businessman Nick Seagrave is bewildered because he doesn't know where he is. In the distance he sees a glitter of light as he walks with other travelers on the Red Road. One of his caravan members elderly Shadrack mumbles Charis is the City of Lights on the other side of the Chasm. Malacki the African claims to hear music. Tired of his companions on the seemingly endless trek, Nick leaves with benign Joshua who promises to show him other roads where he can learn the truth.
On a Gray Road, Nick is stunned to see his wife and two kids who watch him cheat with another woman. Ashamed by his mistreatment of them, he finds his daughter swaying on stage disconcerting. On another Gray Road, he watches a battle between two armies. A bird grabs him and dumps Nick in the midst of the hostility. One of the Commanders slices off Nick's arm and prepares to kill him, but he survives the hidden battle that has opened up his eyes. Nick now sees Joshua for what he really is and yearns to return to the Red Road so he can reach the Chasm hoping to cross over to the City of Lights on the other side.
The Chasm is difficult to comprehend at first but is a well written parable as Nick seeks eternal truths. Much of what he learns about himself he does not like; he drifts away from the Red Road and fears never crossing the Chasm to the light beyond. A readers' guide with questions for each chapter enables the audience to better understand the journey by encouraging readers to wear Nick's shoes on a self discovery trek into our own souls. Complex yet in many ways simple; Randy Alcorn provides a terrific allegory of the journey of life.
In 1987, Dr. Charles Harper is killed near Orlando while his seven years old daughter Lisa is abducted. Not long afterward Lisa escapes and manages to return home to her mom Annie in Seagrove Village, Florida. Grieving and worried for her daughter's future, Annie hastily marries kindhearted Dutch Hauk, but quickly realizes she made an error as he is an abusive control freak instead of the nice man she thought he was. Her religion will not allow her to divorce this beast, but Annie protects her daughter eventually giving custody to a family friend.
Years later, Lisa is about to obtain her medical degree. She looks forward to liberating her mother who she rarely speaks with except through the efforts of Seagrove Village Security Chief Mark Taylor. Lisa and Mark are attracted to one another.
NINA operative Lone Wolf attacks Annie leaving her in a coma and Lisa is abducted from the hospital where her mom rests. Mark, brought his former comrades in arms the Shadow Watchers to keep the two females safe and now he blames himself for not doing a more diligent job. He soon realizes NINA is involved when killer Lone Wolf is spotted nearby, but remains unsure how Dutch fits in on the attacks.
The latest Crossroads Crisis Center inspirational thriller (see Forget Me Not) is an exciting action-packed suspense novel that is enthralling. The fast-paced story line focuses on female trafficking in which Lisa's beliefs sustains her and give hope to the other three captives through the ordeal. Although OCD Dutch has no redeeming qualities while even Lone Wolf shows his humanity with his Angel and saving Annie's life (after he took it), fans will relish Deadly Ties; as Lisa's beliefs in prayer give her hope and Mark's beliefs in his beloved gives him hope.
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061997129, $16.99, www.amazon.com
In San Francisco, Lacey Lancaster knows she is in the midst of a self pitying and self cursing fit for being a coward afraid to tell her boss Mr. "take credit for her designs" Sullivan she deserved a raise and accolades. Her listener is her Abyssinian cat Cleo who understands abandonment as her two siblings were bought two weeks before Lacy saw her look pitiful in the pet shop window. Unlike her cheating lying ex Peter, she knows Cleo would not hurt her. Still though her dream of a family is temporarily shattered, Lacey, thanks to her feline friend, remains hopeful that one day she will meet her mate, an honest soul.
The other irritants making her life miserable are the man in the next door apartment Jack Walker and his rogue womanizing cat Dog. Jack drives Lacey crazy with his non-stop insistent raging at his beautiful girlfriend; demanding she move in with him. His beast is the neighborhood's worst womanizer trying to get into Cleo's purr. When Lacey realizes Cleo is off her feed, she learns why. Her cat is carrying and the absentee dad lives next door. Lacey goes next door confronting Jack and Dog; both listen with exasperating male bonding grins. Confusing Lacey further is when she learns who his girlfriend Sarah is and what their fighting like cats and dogs is about.
This is a fun throwback contemporary romance in which boy meets girl; girl dislikes boy; girl and boy fall in love. The entertaining novella stars two delightful protagonists supported by their cats and Sarah as love is in the San Francisco air.
The Girl in the Green Raincoat
Baltimore private investigator Tess Monaghan requires plenty of bed rest due to her high risk pregnancy as she has signs of preeclampsia which can lead to life threatening seizures. Sleuthing is out of the question, but resting proves more difficult than a tedious surveillance for someone as hyper as Tess is. She needs something to occupy her mind, but finds nothing of interest.
That is until she watches from her window a female stranger in a green raincoat walking an Italian greyhound wearing green also. Playing a mental game about the woman helps pass time. However when Tess notices the woman's dog running loose, she fears something happened to the owner who has been very careful with walking her canine on a leash. Tess persuades her support crew - her boyfriend Crow, best friend Whitney Talbot, middle-aged assistant Mrs. Blossom, and researcher Dorie Starnes to seek clues as to what happened to The Girl in the Green Raincoat that they are to bring back to her to analyze.
With nods to the films Rear Window and the teen remake Disturbia, the latest Tess Monaghan mystery is a wonderful sort of family affair as she directs her team with assignments; some being comical. Tess is wonderful working the convoluted case through her agents who doubt there is any wrong doing but humors her as she struggles with prenatal trimester mental and physical issues; pity Crow with the postpartum blues. This is a great novella that has Tess at her best even at rest in this life changing novella.
To Have and to Kill
Mary Jane Clark
No longer getting acting roles after her two year part in the soap A Little Rain Must fall ends with her character's death, having her romance implode and worried about her mom's heath Piper Donovan crosses the Hudson to return to her hometown of Hillwood, New Jersey. The late twentyish Piper works with her mom at the family owned bakery, Icing on the Cupcake, but uses social networking to stay in touch with her friends and fans.
Her acting friend Glenna Brooks, a star of A Little Rain Must Fall, hires Piper and her bakery to make her wedding cake. However, the homicide death of A Little Rain Must Fall cast member Travis York shakes up everyone associated with the TV drama. Soon more murders occur, so Piper asks her friend FBI Agent Jack for advice on conducting an investigation.
This is a warm fast-paced cozy starring a likable heroine who fears she may be on a sort of soap opera List of Adrian Messenger. The whodunit is lighthearted fun as Piper knows the culprit must be associated with the show but it is her parents, the family dog and Jack who enhance the mystery by providing poignant Icing on the Cupcake.
Jerry B. Jenkins
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414309224, $14.99, www.amazon.com
Chicago police officer Boone Drake feels his life is perfect. He loves his family which includes his wife Nikki who stays home with their child Josh. Boone enjoys his work as he has a great partner in Jack Kelly and his superiors think the world of him. Boone lives his ideal of Eden mowing the lawn while caring for his loved ones and thanking God for all he has and the trio attends church led by Pastor Sosa regularly.
A home fire kills Josh and leaves Nikki more dad than alive. Dr. Sarangan who goes to the same church tells Boone that he does not believe in euthanasia, but Nikki would be better off dead with the injuries she suffered. He lies to her about their son, but she knows and soon joins him in death. Boone is over the top in grief as he wonders how God could allow such a tragedy to two innocent caring people. His family, Pastor Sosa and Jack are there for him. He begins to leave his hell raging at God when he meets two new people, single mom Haeley and dynamic vicious gang leader Pascual Candelario.
Though an exciting action-packed Precinct 11 thriller from the moment Jack takes the phone call in the squad car (the radio is inappropriate), The Brotherhood is also a reflective tale as God allows free will, but is there for us while we heal from tragedies. The secondary characters in many ways set the overarching theme with their respective relationships with the protagonist. Perhaps the most interesting player is the gangbanger as the cops, the gang members and readers wonder if he seeks redemption as the Lord gives second chances or setting up an ambush so he could sing The Day Chicago Died. Blending police, gangs and God, this is a strong inspirational thriller.
Journey to Riverbend
In 1878 in front of a small crowd twenty-two year old Ben Carstairs insists he is innocent, but is hung anyway. Only Sheriff Gideon Parsons and Preacher Michael Archer believed the lad was telling the truth but had no evidence to persuade the judge to delay the execution. Just prior to his hanging, Ben asked preacher Michael Archer to find his estranged dad Sam so in death father and son can reconcile.
In Riverbend, Michael learns Sam is an avaricious affluent businessman who has made a zillion adversaries with his cut-throat deals. Someone took exception to being ruined by Sam and kidnaps the mean-spirited mogul. Michael and Rachel Stone meet and to their surprise and consternation are attracted to one another; however both have a sordid history that makes them feel unworthy of the other. Meanwhile Michael joins a posse intent on rescuing Carstairs.
This is a terrific inspirational western romance told mostly by the lead male including when he rides with the posse. The story line is character driven more so by Ben seeking redemption for what he did yet and in regards to Rachel he feels unworthy of her; she has her haunting demons too. Henry McLaughin provides a strong faith-based historical in which one must confront personal demons with prayer, belief, and love.
Beneath the Night Tree
Six years ago Patrick "Parker" Holt left his girlfriend Julia DeSmit in a parking lot at their college. Stunned by his desertion, Julia raises their son Daniel without him while also serving as mom to her ten years old half-brother Simon who was abandoned by his biological mother. Julia and the two young boys live with their grandma.
Julia works at a grocer while also taking night classes to obtain an associate degree. She has a caring boyfriend Michael Vermeer who is nice to her and her family and wants her and the boys to move with him to Iowa City. Parker sends her an email wanting back in her life and wondering if he sired a child with her. She knows she needs to let him meet his son, but has doubts about giving him a second chance.
This is a heartwarming inspirational family drama with a strong cast as each of the unorthodox DeSmit household and the two men in Julia's life have different personalities and fears. Rejection and redemption are the common threads that run though the well written story line, but Julia holds the plot together as she must choose between the two adult males who want her or neither of them, but it is observing her two "sons" with each that helps her select. This is a terrific character study that defines family as a team of loved ones.
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062018953, $7.99, www.amazon.com
After vampires murdered his brother Rap, Utah vowed vengeance. His quest is to kill many vampires. His vendetta has caused serious problems for Fin and the Eleven as he was one of them and his vigilantism has left a strain with the local vampires they need on their side in order to prevent Zero and his minion from destroying Portland.
Lia yells at Utah who she considers a prehistoric beast. She is also his human contact. Before her death Lia's mother Katherine was the chief of the Northeast vampires. Although she detested many horrific decisions her mom made as Katherine thought humans were lower than vampires on the food chain, Lia still plans to convert to being a vampire soon. Utah and Lia soon find convoluted loyalties, betrayals, and broken alliances interfere with their attempt to stop Zero.
The exciting third Gods of the Night Mayan urban fantasy (see Eternal Pleasure and Eternal Craving) continues the count to the 12-20-12 meltdown. Utah is a distraught berserker who meets his match in more ways than one in courageous Lia. Fast-paced, fans will believe in the Big Bang universe as Zero time is fast approaching.
666 Park Avenue
For the past two years in Paris, Jane Boyle works at Atelier Antone boutique architectural design. A month ago she and affluent Malcolm Doran meet while bidding over the same vase at an antiquities auction. They quickly fell in love; he proposes and accepts.
Jane takes him to meet her grandmother who raised her in fear and isolation of losing her after her daughter and son-in-law died in a North Carolina car crash that left the little girl an orphan. When they arrive, they find Gran dead. She left behind for her granddaughter a ring and a note explaining they are witches who must trust no one. She also apologizes for not telling her beloved granddaughter earlier, but promised Jane's mother she would not. Jane believes her as she looks back on her luck. Still she accompanies Malcolm to New York where she meets his family only to find hostility from her in-laws who covet her magical powers just like Gran warned her in that au revoir note.
Though 666 Park Avenue starts slow, once the lead couple go to Manhattan, the story line accelerates faster than a jet. Character driven, Jane faces the mother-in-law from hell who has plans for her power. Gabriella Pierce provides a strong urban horror thriller as readers will wonder or bewitching wife.
Scandal of the Year
Laura Lee Guhrke
In 1903 in a London court, Lord Yardley is suing for divorce from his wife Julie on the grounds of adultery. When asked whether she had sex with Aiden Carr, Julie says yes though she knows she hurt him as she took away his self-respect. The court grants Yardley his divorce.
As part of his Ducal responsibility, Aiden needs a wife and an heir. He has money and looks, but has been jilted twice. Trix left him for her archeologist and Rosalind due to Julie. When he and Julie see each other at a ball, she expects his scorn, but instead Aidan acknowledges her before he leaves. Julie feels guilty with what she did to him. Later Aidan accuses her of using him to obtain the divorce. Julie does not deny it and pleads with him to marry for love. Julie asks Aiden for advice on getting a job as she needs to pay her debts and he is successful in business. Aiden hires her as his social secretary to help him find a wife. As she begins to find him suitable women, he rejects all of them as only one woman ever mattered to him ever since they met as teens in 1891.
The sequel to Wedding of the Season stars key support characters from the first historical Abandoned at the Altar romance. The lead couple is a fun pairing of seemingly enemy combatant opposites who were attracted to one another from that first meeting when they were teens. The support cast is solid, but not as critical to the story line as in the first tale. The serious undertone of the lack of rights for married women is the critical element to a strong Edwardian tale although the climax feels a bit stretched.
Sin and Surrender
Following the deaths of their parents, the League of the Blade rescues the Hilliard brothers. A Blade member raises the siblings. Years later, as adults they join the Blade. However, one of the brothers Paul is stunned when he overhears a discussion between Blade members that insists the end justifies the means; even when an innocent is hurt as collateral damage. No longer a believer, he quits the Blades in anger disgust and immediately afterward leaves England.
In 1487 Paul returns to England. His adopted father asks him to help the League by protecting the king against an assassination plot. On the mission with him is his former student Juliana Gresham, who is assigned to keep Paul safe. Stunned by the surprising revelation of her role, Paul is further shocked by his wanting his former pupil who shares his attraction. As they work closely together and fall in love, the pair remains unaware a traitor watches their steps.
Sin and Surrender is a terrific League of the Blade - Hilliard brothers (see Taken and Seduced) medieval romantic suspense. The story line is loaded with action, but held together by the strongly moral lead couple bonded by love and their mission. Julia Latham writes an exiting late fifteenth century thriller that grips the audience from the moment Paul returns home and never slows down until the final exhilarating altercation.
Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780441019267, $15.00, www.amazon.com
Obtaining his business degree, Griffen McCandles accompanied by his sister Val preferred to not choose sides in the magical war. Instead the near purebreds fled from his Uncle Mal for New Orleans (see Dragons Wild) where he felt his Dragons Luck should prove lucrative. He quickly became owner of a gambling operation and a leader of the local dragon society.
In fact he has moved up so fast that the Krewe of Fafnir-dragon society selects him to serve as the king of the Mardi Gras parade. He has mixed feelings about leading the parade, but the honor is too big of a thrill for him to ignore as his ego is ready to explode with pride. However, he may have crapped out as fuming dragons loathe the newcomer's rise, which means he clawed them out of the way. They form a cartel to bankrupt his casino and other businesses. His superego blinds him to the internal threat until an employee is killed leading to NOPD Detective Harrison investigating and Griff realizing the raging dragon fire could destroy him, his sister, their friends and their adopted city as all hail the king but some want to hail a new ruler.
This is an enjoyable lighthearted entry in the Griffen McCandles urban fantasy as the lead character's ego gets out of control with the honors bestowed on him so he fails to see the danger from jokers within. Not as humorous as Robert Asprin, who died in 2008, was known for in his tales, Jody Lynn Nye has taken control of the series. Griffen continues his coming of age growth; finally he understanding that with great power comes great responsibility and as his business degree reminds him also great accountability. With a wild family affair final twist setting up the next thriller, Dragons Deal is a fun fantasy frolic.
The Griffin's Flight
K J Taylor
As the victim of de facto racism Arren Cardockson knew first hand being the son of a Northerner slave, his "peers" who rule Cymria would never accept him as their equal in spite of his bonding with Eluna the griffin. Eluna dies while on a mission, but grieving and filled with guilt Arren still bonds with the rogue Dark Griffin. However those who loathed the upstart slave betray him by arranging his death.
Stunningly he returns from the dead though Arren cannot understand how. He knows staying means suicide, but he needs to avenge his death before fleeing the area. With the human-eating Skandar the Dark Griffin helping Arren, he murders those who murdered him. Dubbed the serial killing Mad Northerner, the griffiner-powers who run Cymria hunt for him declaring Arren an outlaw sentenced to immediate death. The rogue pair flees for Arren's homeland in the northern tundra where he hopes to learn more about his ancestry and a cure for his heartless curse. He meets Skade, who portrays a less than rosy view of his countrymen.
This is a strong complex fantasy thriller that still focuses on one man's rise and fall as did the previous Fallen Moon saga, The Dark Griffin, but filled with more viewpoints and a vaster deeper look at Cymria. For instance Skade paints a radically different Northern lands in which amoral killers exist like in Cymria. Adding to the sense of soaring over the Taylor landscape is the emotional separation the fully developed protagonist and his equally complete comrade are from the audience affirming his frozen roots yet readers will believe in humans riding griffins. Complicated with several terrific twists that turn the story line and ergo Arren (and the reader) upside down, The Griffin's Flight is an entertaining plot driven tale.
In Boston's Deadtown quarantined zone, Vicky Vaughn is the only local professional demon exterminator amongst a horde of paranormal Americans. After her recent banishing of a Hellion demon, Vicky figures she can take the advice of her sister dormant shapeshifting wife and mother Gwen who tells her to get a life by enjoying her time with her First Amendment rights lawyer boyfriend Kane the werewolf.
However her respite ends when she realizes she is the connection between the recent horrific murders of several now twice deceased zombies. Her concerned Aunt Mab demands her slayer niece go to Wales to obtain training on fighting a Hellion demon. She also tells Vicky she must read The Book of Utter Darkness to understand her part in the prophecies; although when she was a child her touching the forbidden despicable tome led to her father's death. A stranger arrives insisting he is Pryce her cousin who knows her destiny and plans to use Vicky's role to bring hell on earth.
With the Human-Paranormal Joint Task Force "Goon Squad" watching her every move, Vicky already feels paranoid, which will exponentially grow as she begins to understand her destiny. Demons, demi-demons and other ilk try to manipulate her, but Vicky is an exterminator; so she begins to fight back with Kane and her teenage zombie apprentice Tina having her back as the action goes global including "to hell and back" (late Medal of Honor winner and actor Sergeant Audie Murphy would understand).
In a Cowboy's Arms
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9781420106596, $6.99, www.amazon.com
Maggie Sutton met Daisy Logan on the orphan train years ago. Now, not wanting to marry though having no choice if she stays, Maggie flees using Daisy's identity as a cover.
In 1895 Colorado, Sheriff Dade Logan meets "Daisy" but she fails to recognize him. He quickly concludes she is not who she claims to be though he has not seen his sister Daisy in two decades when as siblings they were separated. Dade gets her to admit she is Margaret Sutton. To her consternation she is also attracted to the lawman-rancher; Maggie agrees to help him find Daisy. As they search for Daisy, an unscrupulous bounty hunter stalks Maggie and his outlawing relatives cause them havoc.
This is a terrific western romance starring two strong characters and like its predecessor (see A Cowboy Christmas) leaves the audience believing they are in 1895 in the wild west (Colorado in this case, Wyoming previously). The story line is fast-paced with a strong lead couple and powerful support cast. With a solid fine overarching mystery and knowing at least one more "Foster Brothers" cowboy romance will be published, readers will appreciate this delightful entry.
Jared St. John escapes from jail and an obvious execution for the murder of his brother. He has no time to grieve his sibling as he must find a way to prove his innocence beyond a shadow of a doubt and uncover the real culprit before he is killed. However, he fails to reach home because someone abducts him after drugging him. He is forced to marry Gwyneth of Windrose, whom he met years ago and was attracted to her back then.
Gwyneth was given a choice between a husband and poverty; as remaining unmarried meant losing her lands. She selected Jared as he reminded her of a kind monk who gave to her a book several years ago. Jared rages in hopelessness not just because she kidnapped him and married him, but because he is attracted to her and admires her grit. As they fall in love working her land together, she continues her efforts to help accused innocent women from being sentenced into slavery. However, when he perceives his beloved betrayed him, he wants nothing more to do with her. His rejection puts his wife in peril.
This is an enjoyable medieval romance with a great twist that brings a uniqueness rarely seen in the sub-genre. Fast-paced from the moment Gwyneth ties Jared to her cot and never slowing down, fans will enjoy the love story of the defiant ones as each understands imprisonment and the craving for freedom as well as each other.
In 1875 Chicago newspaper reporter Gemma Murphy overhears three people discuss saving the world from some affluent British Heirs. Fascinated with what she heard, Gemma makes inquiries into the trio especially the mysterious inventor Catullius Graves. She asks him for an interview.
Catullius knows his first loyalty must be to the Blades of the Rose, but he also feels a kinship to Gemma as he is an intense outsider who knows no one understands him; while he senses she must prove her worth every day to the good old boys' network at her paper where she is an outsider there. They are attracted to one another but in spite of his efforts to keep her out of his undercover work, Gemma joins her loved one and his Blades to prevent the Heirs from obtaining and using the Primal Source to reanimate King Arthur as the first step in making England the depository for all of the magic in the world.
The Blades of the Rose (see Rebel, Warrior and Scoundrel) is another super thriller as the suspense never slows down while the romance simmers in order to first save the world. Loaded with action as Camelot appears coming to Reconstruction Era Chicago, Zoe Archer scores four consecutive bulls-eyes with this great finish to this terrific saga.
Biting the Bride
Thirty-two years old Sunni Marquette the dhampir (half-breed human-vampire) knows she will always owe the LaForge family for fostering her as a teen with love. They gave her a chance to make it after her horrific childhood. Perhaps the only thing she does not like about being part of the LaForge brood is the weddings, which means ugly dresses and standing a head shorter than the other bridesmaid (she is always carded), but out of loyalty to her beloved foster parents she diligently attends.
At the latest nuptials, she sees a man she thinks is her guardian angel. Stunned soon afterward a drunk attacks her in the bathroom, but to her shock Sunni easily outmuscles the attacker. However, the bigger shocker, perhaps the greatest in her life occurs, when soon after the assault her guardian angel, who saved her years ago from a mugging, talks to her. Jacob has kept Sunni safe for years as he has kept her concealed from rouge vampires who would drink her special blood to gain her power. Jacob fell in love with her years ago, but knows if a rogue finds her he will accomplish the dark side of his mission by killing her. Now a rogue knows of her and attacks by going after her beloved LaForge family.
This exiting action-packed urban fantasy grips readers from the moment Sunni sees her guardian and never slows down until the final confrontation. The Willis universe seems genuine as miscegenation laws cause all sorts of complicated societal issues. However though Sunni is terrific as she holds the plot together and the villain is a nasty power grabber, Jacob makes the tale work with his angst of knowing he will kill his beloved if the rogue has a reasonable chance of taking her.
The virus continues unabated as no preventative inoculation or cure has been found to stop victims from becoming maniacal vampires seeking fresh blood. Ironically some other humans hit by the same virus become immortals dedicating their souls to protect mankind from the vampires.
Human music Professor Sarah Bingham intervenes in an assault on immortal Roland Warbrook saving his life. He is grateful for her act of courage, but is also attracted to her. She reciprocates, but a relationship between and immortal and a mortal has no chance due to the diverse life spans. Thus it is up to Sarah whether to risk exposure to become an immortal like her beloved.
Although neither Sarah's dilemma nor immortals protecting mortals from other immortals are not new concepts (for instance Lynsay Sands' Argeneau vampires), Dianne Duvall makes it fresh with her underlying premise of the virus breaking humanity into three different species. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Sarah the human and Roland the immortal meet in a dire scenario. Post apocalyptic urban fantasy readers will enjoy entering the Duvall realm as the good immortals and the bad vampires fight over the ugly humans.
The Perfect Mistress
In 1885 Widow Lady Julia Winterset plans to release her great-grandmother's kiss and tell manuscript titled - The Perfect Mistress: The Memoirs of Lady Hermione Middlebury. The Earl of Mondale Harrison Landingham learns of Julia's intention, but becomes horrified to find out his father is one of those featured as a lover of Lady Hermione.
Harrison is determined to prevent the scandal using any method imagined. Julia needs the money, but it is Lady Hermione's ghost who encourages her to publish the tome. Having read the first escapade, amoral publisher Benjamin Cadwaller wants the manuscript and will do anything even criminal activity to obtain it. Finally there is the author wanting to claim writing the manuscript and will do anything even criminal activity to obtain it. Julia diligently navigates through a maze of plotters to help her ancestor.
This is a great Victorian filled with twists and spins as Lady Julia navigates the dangerous world of publication. Her efforts make for a fun time while enhanced by extracts from the "memoirs of a woman of pleasure" (nod to Fanny Hill by Fielding). Fast-paced and charming, sub-genre fans will enjoy the amusing The Perfect Mistress.
He diligently selects them; he cleverly kidnaps them; he hedonistically tortures and rapes them; but he leaves it to the Other to make the final kill. A group of boys in Angel Park find her bones nearly arranged on a table. Detectives Malcolm Kier and Deacon Garrison lead the official investigation. After scrutinizing missing person's reports, the cops identify the victim as actress Sierra Day, who was a client of defense attorney Angie Carlson and a patient of plastic surgeon Dr. Dillon Dixon who the lawyer recently got the doctor acquitted of a charge of assault and torture of a hooker.
A second victim appears; she was the prostitute who testified against Dixon in court. The two deceased are connected by Angie, who Kier believes is the next target of the killer who seems to be cleansing those women who were in court. However, neither Kier nor his partner knows there are two predators involved; both want Angie dead.
Known for her exciting suspense thrillers (see Senseless starring Garrison), Mary Burton provides another taut police procedural with a romantic subplot enhancing the tension. Perspective changes between Kier, Carlson, and the two culprits. The killers' viewpoints provide insight into deranged minds as this dark story focuses on people who know right from wrong intellectually but are so amoral they could not care less about others; reminiscent of Compulsion and Murder By Numbers.
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758250896, $14.00, www.amazon.com
On the Scottish island of Kinloch (see Some Like It Scot) businessman Roan McAuley cannot understand why he agreed to pose in the monty as he must drop his kilt for the 'Men of the Highlands' calendar even if the cause is worthy; he muses that he should have donated money not nudity. Adding to his displeasure is the irritating iceberg photographer Tessa Vandergriff who he assumes is a centerfold fluff taker until he learns she is a highly regarded award-winning war coverage photojournalist who volunteered her time to raise money.
Tessa suffers from post traumatic stress disorder from the cruelty she witnessed while covering war. She thinks Roan is a jerk until he shows his caring other side to her. As they fall in love, although he has personal issues too, she must overcome her fear of death that began as a child and affirmed as an adult if they are to forge a permanent relationship.
The romance plays second fiddle to the strong character study of a shell-socked woman healing due to the patience of a kind hearted man. Readers will enjoy the relationship drama as first impressions prove false as Roan revises his re the cold photographer and Tess alters her re the philandering hunk.
In Massachusetts, software engineer Charlie Giles, who works at SoluCent, develops InVision, a quantum technical leap ahead in automobile entertainment systems. Charlie is excited as the firm's top management arranges to meet with General Motors on a deal to standardize InVision in their cars.
However, he is stunned when a SoluCent employee Anne Pedersen informs Charlie that his boss Jerry Schmidt will nix the GM deal. Fuming and out of control, Giles crashes into an executive meeting where he confronts Schmidt. Thinking his employee is insane; Schmidt insists he supports the deal with GM. Giles apologizes but explains marketing employee Anne Pedersen fed him the crap. Charlie is shocked when he learns no Pederson works for the firm. In spite of his creative skills, he is fired. Meanwhile Giles fears he suffers from mental illness just like his father and brother. His trepidation being besieged by his failing mind is further exasperated when he finds a note written by him naming those SoluCent executives who must die. He wonders if he needs to join his sibling in a ward lock up before he hurts someone; that is if has hasn't already.
This is a super psychological thriller that enables the reader to get inside the apparent sick mind of a brilliant technician who fears he has become as Delirious as his family and ergo a dangerous threat to others. The story line focuses on Giles' deteriorating mental state leaving the audience to wonder what is real and what did he imagine as real. Although the climax is a major let down for such an otherwise strong thriller, mindful of the Hoffman movie Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? fans will appreciate Daniel Palmer's exciting spotlight on mental health.
Pride and Pleasure
Eliza Martin prefers staying on the shelf rather than marrying some bonehead only interested in her money. In fact the heiress prefers rusticating alone than partying with the Ton. However, her guardian uncle keeps introducing Eliza to suitable suitors who want to control her fortune. She keeps rejecting these fortune hunters.
Recently Eliza has been a victim of a series of accidents that the intelligent woman suspects is not coincidental. She hires thief-taker Jasper Bond to go undercover as another suitor in order to protect her and to expose who she is trying to harm her and why. She is attracted to her bodyguard, but believes he is too big and handsome for her. Jasper conceals he is another member of the Ton wanting her though he wants to steal her heart not her money.
This is an exciting Regency romantic suspense as the lead couple falls in love as they investigate the incidents. Fast-paced, Jasper tries to never ignore his client's safety while also hoping to win her love. Although the motive for the accidents seems preposterous, readers will enjoy Pride and Pleasure as the hero not only vows to keep his beloved safe, but overcome her prejudice towards him.
To Serve a King
Donna Russo Morin
In the sixteenth century, King Francis I of France killed the parents of Genevieve Gravois. Her acrimonious aunt raised the orphan with one thought: how to hate the monarch across the Channel. She loathes the French ruler, which fuels her thirst for vengeance by training in male activities like using a bow.
King Henry VIII of England believes the girl is a perfect tool to assassinate a rival across the Channel. He encourages her to be the best agent and she swears her loyalty to her liege. Believing the time is right, he sends his top trained spy to France to preferably kill his royal rival or if that is not possible to provide valuable information to the English ruler. However, instead of an amoral despot, Genevieve, who obtains a position as maid of honor to the royal mistress Anne de Pisseleau, finds the French king honest, fair and pushing the renaissance across a court filled with art and artists. The king feels the Renaissance movement will be good for all of France. The English spy feels a dilemma as the king she pledged loyalty to turns out to be an immoral beast while the king she vowed to murder is a benign ruler.
This is a fascinating look at a rarely seen Tudor rival, King Francis (Francois) of France who pushes the Renaissance to enlighten France. The glimpse at his court is refreshing as sixteenth century focus is normally on the Tudor monarchs (see Robin Maxwell's Mademoiselle Boleyn). However, Genevieve's conflict between royals is not on a par with the French court background; as the King of France comes across as a heroic enlightened ruler while the King of England comes across as a villainous avarice despot.
Jenna Fallon is driving to her sister's wedding on the coastal California highway to Vancouver. When her car breaks down she needs a ride. She stops at a diner where she meets Dr. Mark Chambers. They have a lot in common when it comes to their families, but not with each other. He wants to save the planet and works out of his camper to do so one tiny spot at a time; she prefers being a carefree wanderer with no responsibilities. He agrees to drive her north.
Jenna enjoys teasing the straight laced scientist as she takes no one or anything seriously. He knows she ridicules his adherence to rules attitude, but laughs at her throwback hippie lifestyle. While she teaches him to stop and look around beyond the data he collects, but she fails to see the one majestic tree in the forest. He knows they have more in common than she realizes, but also believes she has to come to that conclusion too if they are to be more than a series of one night stands.
The latest Fallon sister contemporary romance (see Love, Unexpectedly) is a charming tale of two seemingly total opposites falling in love. Although the story line contains numerous environmental warnings, even industrialists will enjoy the road show as love may not be enough for this couple, especially with Jenna, to remain together once the drive ends.
Wolf Tales 11
The kidnappers planned the assault perfectly with a precision rarely seen outside of the military or the Chanku. They abduct two Chanku females, Lisa and eight-months pregnant Tala. The entire Chanku clan is outraged and feels helpless.
The kidnappers notify the pack leadership as to their ransom demands. They want the Chanku special ops firm Pack Dynamics to assassinate the president of the United States. Failure to do so means getting the women back in pieces. Not one to allow extortion or an abduction to be ignored, Anton plans to save the two females without endangering the president. To do so will change him, which he conceals from his Chanku; while the support he needs from his clan is for each pack member to orgasm at the identical super moment.
Fans of the long running Chanku exciting erotic thrillers will appreciate the latest saga as the spins keep coming; cubs will need the scorecard provided by Kate Douglas to keep track, but should consider earlier entries in this excellent series. Fast-paced as always throughout yet character driven (another trademark), Anton believes he knows the second hand consequences of a super pack-wide orgasm but conceals from his beloved people the cost. Instead he chooses to save the women and the unborn as that is paramount preferably without the Chanku losing their species' values.
Like his brothers, Rory Rayborne is a legend amidst the Ton for his sexual prowess. Rory enjoys his encounters and trysts, but is also a realist. He is well aware that his free womanizing days are nearing an end as like his siblings he needs to marry for money as his Mother Betsy threatened to cut off her three out of control rakehell offspring. He hopes to find someone who can also match him in the bed.
In a duel over a woman, Rory is severely injured. His seconds take him to his brother's home where maid Shannon O'Connor is assigned to take care of him. Unable to resist the mysterious aura she emits, Rory seduces Shannon in an attempt to find out what dark secret she hides. Shannon fears she and her brother have been discovered by a homicidal relative who wants both of them dead at the same her heart belongs to her seducer whose mother has a widow in mind for her last bachelor son.
The final Rakehells of Rochester Regency romance (see Sinjin and Victor) contains a strong erotic undercurrent from the first time the nurse and the patient meet. This work is fast-paced and readers will enjoy the erotic scenes because they are part of the storyline. Fans will enjoy the youngest brother's sexploits as Rory finds love in his most comfortable frequented habitat, the boudoir.
A Royal Likeness
In 1803 Marguerite Ashby, heiress to the renowned Laurent Fashion Dolls and a former student of the late great wax artist Monsieur Curtius who died years ago, escapes Paris for London. She becomes a renowned London doll maker. However, rabble attacks her shop because of her Franch lineage. Her husband Nicholas dies during the anti-French assault. Marguerite escapes the city for Edinburgh.
Her friend and fellow French expatriate Madame Tussaud hires Marguerite to work with her waxworks exhibit. Tussaud proves an artistic genius but a financial failure at the mercy of her amoral business partner Paul de Philipsthal. When Paul dies, Marguerite opens her own waxworks. Meanwhile the Crown asks for her help with creating decoys just prior to the engagement at Trafalgar.
This is an engaging Napoleonic Era historical though there is some romance as two men (not counting Police of Chief Joseph Fouche) chase after the widow. The story line starts very slow as Christine Trent sets the stage in France, England and Scotland. Once established, the plot accelerates into a fun early nineteenth century tale culminating with an intriguing look at the Battle of Trafalgar.
A Decadent Way To Die
In Southern California legendary for her designing the Helene doll, octogenarian Helene Strauss owns a doll manufacturing company. However, recently there have been incidents that one cannot write off as an elderly person's accidents; at least that is what her granddaughter Emma Strauss believes while her niece Ada, who runs the business, thinks otherwise.
Emma hires plus-sized private investigator Savannah Reid to uncover who is out to harm her grandmother. She explains she saw the news clip in which Savannah and her visiting grandma from Georgia solved a homicide case so she thought Reid would be perfect for her Oma Helene. The client also mentions that Helene hates Ada who wants to run her life too. The simple case proves convoluted so Savannah lines up help from San Carmelita Police Officer Dirk Coulter who owes her for being at his side during the Murphy brothers' case and from her office assistant-investigator in training Tammy Hart. All hell breaks loose when a double murder occurs on Helene's estate.
This is a deep Reid tale that focuses on domestic abuse and contains an afterward with a short analysis of what is abuse and where to get help. Action-packed from start to finish, A Decadent Way To Die is a poignant mystery that grips fans from start to finish with its powerful emotional story line whether it is Reid's early childhood or Helene's in Nazi Germany (her short discussion about her best friend Esther is heart-wrenching yet less than a page). This is a winner that well be on everyone's short list twelve months from now.
The Devotion of Suspect X
Keigo Higashino, author
Alexander O. Smith, translator
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312375065, $24.99, www.amazon.com
In Tokyo, mathematics teacher Ishigami worships recently divorced beauty Yasuko Hanaoka. He decides to do something for his perfect fantasy and for himself by changing his perceived triangle (with his idol and her ex as the other cortexes) into a straight line by eliminating one of the angles. Thus, lonely Ishigami strangles to death Yasuko's abusive former husband Togashi who threatened his paragon using their daughter Misato as an extortion pawn. No one will mess with his beloved and live.
Police detective Kusanagi leads the homicide investigation. Yasuko finds herself mentally confused by the deranged mathematician's perfect logic to keep her safe from the arrest for the murder of her ex. Meanwhile Kusanagi literally plays chess with the mathematician's schoolmate physicist Yukawa and figuratively with Ishigami, who he suspects may be the killer. However, Yasuko repairs the triangle by adding the third angle wealthy Kudo; which leads to Ishigami to become obsessed with eliminating one third again.
Once the reader adapts to the Japanese names, this deep dark thriller grips the audience as the logic of adulatory worship is used to justify murder. This grim tale is character driven by caring people including the deranged lonely mathematician. The Devotion of Suspect X is a fabulous psychological thriller as everyone plays the game of relationships, but no matter what one does to simplify the equations of life ultimately everyone shares in common being checkmated.
The Attenbury Emeralds
Jill Paton Walsh
In 1951, Harriet Vane and her husband Lord Peter Wimsey leisurely eat breakfast while reading the newspaper. Harriet peruses Lord Attenbury Arthur Abcock's obituary, which mentions the Attenbury emeralds.
Peter knows first-hand about the infamous emeralds that was the motive of his first detective investigation. He and his manservant Mervyn Bunter tell Harriet what happened in 1921 when the Attenbury emeralds vanished and Lord Peter solving the case. As they complete their tale of exotic thievery, Lord Attenbury's grandson Edward arrives. He asks Lord Peter to help solve a new problem involving the family emeralds. Peter accompanied by Harriet and of course Bunter, investigates as thefts and murder abound.
Jill Paton Walsh's latest Wimsey-Vane (see A Presumption of Death) captures the essences of Dorothy L. Sayer's great detective while bringing her own spin to the story line; in other words this is not Sayer's light, but instead a homage to the great writer in Ms. Walsh's style. The story line captures two historical post world war eras in Great Britain that enables the audience to compare how society adjusted to peace in their times. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy the doting father of teens on an investigation accompanied by his wife and his manservant.
In the latter half of the first century, the Roman Governor of Britannia Agricola's physician Arcturus goes on a needed vacation. However, the thirtyish Arcturus is called back to work rather quickly when a homicide occurs; as his other job is investigating crimes that might impact his employer.
Someone strangled scribe Rufus Bibax, who mostly wrote down curses. His corpse was found floating in a reservoir in Aquae Suli. Inside the victim's mouth is a piece of lead etched with the inscription Ultor (the Avenger). Arcturus quickly learns of other unsolved recent murders and soon more people die by what the physician begins to believe is a second killer. The cases seem to focus on a nearby mine, but who the Avenger or Avengers are remain unsolved.
The second Ancient Britannia mystery (see Nox Dormeinda) is a superb whodunit that provides readers with insight into the use of curses, apparently a thriving business of the times. The engaging investigation is fast-paced once Arcturus is on the case or as he fears and curses cases; he understands two killers is not twice the fun. Armchair travelers will enjoy feeling a sense of being in first century Roman Britain with Arcturus as the tour guide.
One True Sentence
In 1924 in Paris, a serial killer targets the editors of small literary magazines. The culprit's M.O. is never the same with each murder more gruesome than any of the previous ones. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas order mystery writers and potential lovers Hector Lassiter and Brinke Devlin to solve the case before someone else dies.
The pair finds clues that point towards Ernest Hemingway. However, the writing sleuths believe that is too simple of a solution for a clever predator so they assume it is a set-up. They make further inquiries that lead to occultist Crowley and a Satanist, but nothing quite comes together as time seems to have run out on Lassiter after a brothel bloodbath.
The latest Lassiter 1920s mystery (see Print the Legend) contains more twists than Lombard Street in San Francisco, but all that spinning makes for a difficult to follow the somewhat non-cohesive story line. Still this is an enjoyable historical amateur sleuth as readers meet a who's who to include Hemingway as well as the two grand dame authoresses ordering Lassiter, Devlin and other crime novelists to find the killer before someone else fall off the Left Banke dead.
World's Greatest Sleuth
In 1893 the Amlingmeyer brothers, Gustav "Old Red" and Otto "Big Red, travel to Chicago to participate in a detectiving contest to determine who the world's greatest sleuth is held at the Exposition. Internationally renowned detective William Pinkerton will lead the competition.
The siblings are not that interested in meeting the legend though they wonder why he gave his name to this challenge. They attend the Chicago Exposition of 1893 for one purpose to meet Diana Corvus, the woman of a thousand faces. However, the games turn macabre when someone shoves contestant Armstrong Curtis into a vat of cheese. The homicide and the contest mean less to the Reds who prefer solving whether the relationship between Diana and her boss Colonel Crowe is purely professional, but follow clues throughout the city seeking the killer.
The latest Holmes on the Range historical mystery (see The Crack Lens) is a super late nineteenth century spoof mindful of the movie Murder By Death. The novel needs a warning label not to read in public as your hysterical laugher will have anyone nearby wondering. The Reds are as usual over the top, this time, of the Ferris Wheel especially Big Red who has a lot to say about anything. Outrageously humorous yet interwoven with detailed historical tidbits that bring Chicago alive, readers will wonder who will win the prize as the World's Greatest Sleuth.
Cold Shot to the Heart
Her beloved "instructor" is up for parole, but that costs under the table money to grease the skids in order to insure a positive outcome. Crissa Stone does not have that sum of cash, but wants her mentor free. Thus, loyal Crissa signs onto a robbery worth millions in Fort Lauderdale with her cronies though she is concerned about the skill level of her partners in crime. Nothing goes right with the heist of a high stakes poker game with the worst element being the shooting of a New Jersey mob connected Lou Letteri.
Hit man Eddie "the Saint" Santiago has just been let out of jail. Since he has no cash, he needs to find some easy money fast. He knows of the shooting from the mob who hires him to kill the culprits ending with the person who has the money Crissa.
This tense crime thriller pits a cold hearted professional killer stalking a kind hearted thief, one partner at a time. The story line is linear with each step of the way that The Saint takes being one closer to the confrontation. That High Noon climatic altercation that readers anticipate lives up to the expectations that the preliminary lethal encounters provided. Cold Shot to the Heart is a terrific taut tale.
Though Not Dead
In Alaska octogenarian Samuel "Old Sam" Dementieff dies. His friends like his niece and one time ward private detective Kate Shugak assumed "Old Sam" would live forever. Kate still believes her beloved foster father will live forever in hearts likes hers.
His death also ignites a deadly treasure hunt frenzy. Just a few years before Sam was born a flu epidemic devastated Alaska and much of the world in 1918. Years later, Sam was part of a party who found the state's biggest gold mine, the Suulutaq which produced a legendary gold nugget that everyone seems to want to own and some are willing to kill to possess it. However, gold fever is not the only value, the survivors want with Sam's demise. From when Sam met Dashiell Hammett, rumors spread that the writer left behind in the Aleutians an unpublished manuscript. Finally he also served in WWII as part of the Army's Castner's Cutthroats unit while a shocked Kate learns of his many trysts. All these major events in the late Sam's life converge with a rash of lethal crimes as Kate wonders what her cherished Old Sam meant in his will to find his father.
This is a great Alaskan mystery that fans of the Shugak saga (see A Night Too Dark) will thoroughly enjoy. The story line is fast-paced even when the plot goes back in time to key moments in Old Sam's life that cleverly parallel major events in twentieth century Alaska. The crime frenzy makes for a fine whodunit, but the interweaving of the past makes for a great novel that readers will appreciate.
Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs
In Siesta Key, Florida, former police officer turned pet sitter Dixie Hemingway goes to the vet to pick up Big Bubba, a fan of TV police dramas who shouts at the screen. While in the reception area Dixie meets hysterical teenager Jaz who brought in an injured wild rabbit. A man with her claiming to be her stepfather says he accidently hit the rabbit with his car.
Dixie's gut screams at her that something is not right with this pair. Soon afterward three punks assault Dixie demandong she tells them where Jaz is. Dixie consults with her boyfriend homicide detective Jean-Pierre Guidry, who says the trio is the prime suspects in the murder of an elderly man. The pair now fears for Jaz's life and begin a search for the girl before the street thugs find her.
The fifth Dixie Hemingway pet sitter mystery (see Even Cat Sitters Gets the Blues and Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof) is a wonderful tale as Dixie knows Jaz is not her responsibility but once a cop always a cop. The story line engages the audience from the moment Big Bubba the African parrot gives Dixie and others a mouth full. Combining humor with a serious missing person's search, Blaize Clement provides a strong tale.
Dead Like You
Brighton, England Detective Superintendent Roy Grace and his major crimes unit investigate two brutal rapes in which the predator used the woman's shoes to penetrate. The cases are horrific but more so to Roy as the shoes are the same M.O. as the unsolved 1997 serial rapes of five known victims by the "Shoe Man."
As he is engaged to his pregnant girlfriend, this case sends Roy also back to a time of his most haunting personal tragedy; the disappearance of his wife during that same period. Roy is disturbed by his memory of who he assumes was the sixth female victim twentyish Rachael Ryan but her body was never found; the DS believes she was the only one the rapist murdered.
This is a great British police procedural due to the various viewpoints from obviously Grace, but also other cops, victims and potential rapists. The story line is fast-paced throughout and most harrowing when a rape victim explains her feelings of violation; yet Peter James keeps these revelations flowing within the strong investigative plot. Readers will relish the latest "dead" Grace thriller while seeking his previous works published on this side of the pond (see Dead Tomorrow and Dead Man's Footsteps).
Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Sausages
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316080026, $13.99, www.amazon.com
Real Estate solicitor Polly Mayer fears she is losing her mind. First there is her coffee that someone else apparently drinks. Then there is her party dress at the dry cleaners; only problem is that the dry cleaning store is no longer at the spot where she swears she dropped off her dress. At work, someone has been counseling her clients and keeping her files current.
Desperate Polly talks to her brother Donald the jingle writer who boiled water for pasta but has an empty box. After wishing his neighbor upstairs would leave, the pest abruptly goes away. He next meets chickens arguing that they are human and a sow searching for her missing offspring, Donald muses like Sherlock Holmes until he concludes magic exists, but has run wild. With his stunned sister, he investigates the pasta fiasco only to find experts trying to control the chaos as if pigs could fly; chauvinist sows and porkers attending Harvard or Oxford are attainable except the species is so picky as to the company they keep.
This is an engaging irreverent slice of beef (don't say slice of pork, sausage or bacon unless you are in Congress) satirical fantasy. The story line contains too many subplots that fail to gel into a cohesive tale; yet readers who appreciate something different will enjoy the insanity of Tom Holt's chaos. Placing Gulliver's Travels in Animal Farm, Mr. Holt provides a Theater of the Absurd as the siblings learn pigs might fly.
Union commander Lord Marshal Kroy knows his direct reporting officers are incompetent mostly political appointees who believe they will be the hero of the upcoming combat. None of these egomaniacs has any real combat experience. However, you must play with the deck you are dealt.
The much smaller opposing force of Northmen is led by Black Dow, who has quite a kill rate. His throne is shaky as his brutal reign is built on his citizens' fear of him and the Union King wants no deadly rival as his neighbor. On top of that Calder wants to replace Black Dow as the ruler arguing for peace in our time. Soon all will converge in a battle for the ages as all of the North land will feel the epic impact for centuries to come.
Though located in the Abercrombie world of the First Law thrillers, this terrific saga can be read without the trilogy. War enables ordinary people an opportunity to perform heroic deeds (think of the medial of Honor winners). Joe Abercrombie pulls no punches when it comes to combat as masses are fodder for the glory of a general, a king or a country. Yet like U.S. Army staff sergeant Guinta and those listed on the Vietnam Veterans Wall (included in the Mall and Virtual at www.virtualwall.org) these are the real heroes of battle that Mr. Abercrombie honors when the avaricious leads to insanity by leaders seeking empires.
Gail Z. Martin
Between the civil war, the famine and the plague, the Winter Kingdoms remain in deep trouble. No one can handle another catastrophe. Yet that is exactly what beleaguered Summoner-King Martris Drayke faces.
The Dark Mages using blood magic have invaded at a time when the Winter Kingdoms still teeter on the brink of imploding. King Tris needs allies immediately as the enemy begins it feral assaults, but his mostly likely sources are new monarchs lacking combat experience especially with the enemy being ruthless killers. Adding to his fears is rumors that the Dread are rising from their millennia dormancy, but who is raising them is the actual concern as the King believes the Blood Mages are behind this awakening and may have control of them. His only hope to save the Winters Kingdom reside with the Sworn nomads whose mission for centuries has been to protect the Dread. As Tris tries to gain the support of the Sworn he also wonders if they might betray him out of their oath to protect the Dread who might serve the Blood Mages.
Returning to the realm of The Chronicles of the Necromancer (see The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven and Dark Lady's Chosen) Gail Z. Martin starts a new exhilarating epic fantasy, The Fallen Kings Cycle. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action as well as sets the conflict and establishes key players. Fans of the previous saga will find the opening of the second act at the high level of excellence expected from Ms. Marin.
Leviathans of Jupiter
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765317889, $24.99, www.amazon.com
Two decades ago physicist Grant Archer and his team encountered the Leviathans of Jupiter in the worldwide ocean (see Jupiter). When one of these beasts saved his life and that of his crew as their ship sank, he knew they had to be sentient. However, one anecdotal incident does not prove scientifically his assertion as true.
Now as director a research station on Jupiter, Grant plans to prove his hypothesis that the city-sized oceanic leviathans are intelligent. His supportive crew includes biologist Deidre Ambrose; deep brain expert Andy Corvus; Dorn the cyber who fought in the Asteroid Wars; and engineering physicist Maxwell Yeager. Meanwhile International Astronomical Authority expert Katherine Westfall heads to Jupiter. Her mission is to shut down Archer and his team by concealing her motive behind finances.
Fascinatingly, the leviathans easily steal the show as Ben Bova brilliantly gets inside their head displaying their perceptions of reality. Comparative anthropology leaves the humans flat especially a forced romance that feels more like a requirement than a key subplot. Still fans of the Grand Tour will relish the entertaining Return to study the Leviathans of Jupiter.
Storm of Reckoning
Reckoner Lisa "Garrie" McGarrity knows her crew (Lucia Reyes the spiritual empath, Drew Ely the ethereal historian and Quinn Rossiter the supernatural researcher) will be there for her through thick and thin especially when encounters from beyond occur. She believes that even with Drew leaving the team to work with his new girlfriend in San Diego.
They travel to Sedona, Arizona to deal with out of control spirits, but humans interfere with their investigation. However, also Garrie wonders about the odd bounty hunter Trevarr who is in Sedona and his even more curious Abyssinian cat Skylane. She thinks he conceals something from her. She wonders why he refuses to leave especially when he has to know how obstinate Garrie can be on an inquiry. Yet he remains with her and her BFFs.
Ironically Garrie has been in the haunting business for over fifteen years (see The Reckoning for more background), but is still learning on the job especially what she cannot do. Part of her doubts comes from recent assignments but also Trevarr from entering her life. Her teammates are fully developed especially Lucia as this exciting energetic cavernous fantasy leaves the audience breathless with the heroine and her crew struggling with a paranormal battle when they need R&R while she is somewhat distracted by Trevarr. Stay tuned for there is more to come.
For five decades the theocratic Holy Empire of Mann has conquered the countries on The Heart of the World. Their ruthless dictator, Holy Matriarch Sasheen remains in control of her vast empire due to her specialty trained Diplomat Corps of diabolical vicious priests.
Ash the Roshun belongs to an assassin group who provide a protection to clients by meting out revenge on anyone who murders one of their customers or a family member. He has been ill lately so has taken on a mentee Nico from the streets of Bar-Khos, an island under a decade old siege by the forces of the Holy Empire of Mann. When Sasheen's heir Kirkus kills the daughter of a priest who has paid for Roshun's protection for himself and his family, the assassin knows he and his apprentice must complete a vendetta against the "sacred".
This is an engaging "historical" that looks closely at the impact of a long war on individuals representing different groups caught up in the conflict. The intriguing story line is driven by a moral undercurrent as the values of the Holy Empire of Mann and of the Roshun conflict when Kirkus committed murder. Readers will want more tales set in the Col Buchanan's Heart of the World as the author brings to life his realm through a murder requiring contracted retaliation against a protected VIP.
In Wales their single mother's spell goes terribly wrong when her daughters interfered by trying to thwart the incantation. Teen Morwenna survives but is severely hurt; her twin sister was not as fortunate as she dies.
Mori flees her raging mother's wrath seeking shelter with her father in England. He welcomes his daughter by immediately shipping her off to a boarding school. Feeling alone, Mori employs a spell seeking souls like her own who escape their troubles with literature. This leads her to a science fiction readers club, but Mori has no time to make friends. She senses her irate mother searches for her to kill her. Mori concludes she has no way to elude her mother much longer and has no place to hide; as her father made his feelings perfectly clear when she first arrived at his home seeking shelter and protection.
Mori makes the tale with her journal focusing on her loneliness and her obsessive need to belong especially since her only friend, her twin, is dead. The teen is realistic and believes she can never truly belong though she yearns for such; as anyone who befriends her becomes instant fodder for her insane mother's wrath. That is why books are her friends. Readers will be hooked by Mori's lament that she will never really belong Among Others though that is her strongest need (Dr. Maslow would have loved to interview Mori, but her insane mom better had not found out); in many ways more so than surviving the anticipated showdown with her mother.
Due to an interstellar military duty, affluent attorney Skip Grison is now two decades older than his contracted paramour Chelle Blue though they were the same age when they met at college. Her time in outer space was months, but years in North America where he waited for his wife to come home from serving in the combat. Skip seeks a special present for his beloved who came home early due to war related injuries; he thinks he may have one. Skip arranges for Chelle and her estranged mother Vanessa, whose essence has been loaded into a new body, to see one another.
Soon after the mother-daughter reunion, Skip takes Chelle and her mom on a cruise that circles the globe. However, the vacation proves anything but relaxing as hijackers, assassins, and others of their ilk come after someone on board with collateral damage acceptable.
This is a terrific science fiction mystery with the whodunit and why-do-it thriller themes up front as the prime thread, and the futuristic SF elements serving as background enhancement. The fast-paced story line grips the reader from the moment Chelle and Skip reunite with her so many years younger than him chronologically but in many ways her military experience makes her seem older than him. Red herrings abound in this exhilarating character driven thriller.
Songs of the Dying Earth
George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, editors
Sixty years ago Jack Vance issued the classic Dying Earth saga in which magic practitioners, demons, other hostile paranormal and normal species fight for power when the red sun ebbs towards solar system extinction. This volume consists of twenty-two mostly famous authors paying homage to the great Mr. Vance by providing tales that occur on the Dying Earth. The quality level differs slightly as there are no clinkers, but a couple of well written disappointments because they attempt but fail at tying up some lose threads. Most of the entries capture the essence of Mr. Vance's timely dark vision of the future. Especially entertaining are "Grolion of Almery" by Matthew Hughes who seems like a Vance clone with a the person obtaining shelter in the wrong house and Terry Dowling's "The Copsy Door" in which cursed Amberlin the Lesser stumbles into a magical contest. Mike Resnick's "Inescapable" affirms the axiom don't lose your head to a female because she may take a literal connotation. Other strong contributions include "Abrizonde" by Walter Jon Williams, Dan Simmons's "The Guiding Nose of Ulfant Banderoz", Paula Volsky's "The Traditions of Karzh", "Caulk the Witch-Chaser" by Liz Williams and "The Green Bird"' by Kage Baker. This entire anthology is a great tribute.
Sixteen years old Therez Zhalina loathes her home life even though it comes with a silver spoon in her mouth. Her businessman father and her grandmother are at constant war while her mother fears her husband's rage. Her brother has simply withdrawn into himself; emotions that Therez envies and worries about.
Her father makes an economic power deal with a ruthless man in which Therez will marry this abuser. Not wanting to be like her mother living in fear she flees in fear. Changing her name to Ilse she struggles to survive on the street in poverty after a life of affluence until she meets Raul Kosenmark who protects and mentors her in the use of magic. Raul, an exiled prince, wants to save the same people, who forced him to leave from a terror.
This is an engaging romantic fantasy that has a historical, fifteenth or sixteenth century, feel to the story line. Raul seems to be a dedicated individual who has a cause that will have readers admire him as he has reasons for turning his back on his people. Therez comes a long way when she becomes Ilse in a coming of age arc. Although nothing is resolved, fans will enjoy this entertaining thriller.
The Perfect Prey
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780786022168, $6.99, www.amazon.com
Detective James Stalling is in a very bad place at this time in his life. His then sixteen years old daughter disappeared three years ago, which leaves him to wonder if she still lives, and he is separated from his wife. John also remains raw from his last case involving the capture of a nasty serial killer (see The Perfect Woman). The last thing he needs at this time is another high profile investigation, but he cannot say no to a young adult or child missing person's case.
The predator selects blonde hair blue eyed females who are in Florida during mid-term break. He gives them ecstasy and has sex with her before The Other kills her. When college student Allie Marsh vanishes, her mother knows people in high places so the Jacksonville police department makes her disappearance a top priority. John and his partner Patty Levine learn of several young women with ecstasy in their system who were found dead. They realize these females did not commit suicide or overdosed. They conclude a predatory serial killer is on the prowl, but knows how to hide by blending into the youth scene.
James Andrus has written a very exciting police procedural that for the most part leaves readers breathless with the faster than the speed of light story line. Fans will feel they are part of the investigative team as they will feel the frustrations of the lead cops; although that also leads to some repetitiveness on the part of how the detectives feel, and to a lesser degree the euphoria of the killer, who is front and center in several chapters. This is a winning thriller.
Curiosity Thrilled the Cat
c/o The Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451232496, $6.99, www.amazon.com
Her boyfriend leaves Boston for two weeks without her only to return married. He informs her she is not spontaneous enough for him. Angry and hurt, Kathleen Paulson leaves her home and job to move to Mayville Heights, Minnesota where she is hired to oversee the renovation of the library. The townsfolk welcome her and Kathleen makes plenty of new friends; especially two stray cats, catnip addict Owen and Barry Manilow fan Hercules. Her only problem is that contractor Will Redfern has the knack of vanishing when needed.
Kathleen goes to the Stratton Theatre where she finds the body of guest conductor Gregor Easton on the piano seat. He died from a blow to the head. The lead detective makes Kathleen feel she is a suspect in the homicide case. So she decides not to wait for this idiot to continue to target her; she investigates the murder. She has unusual helpers including her new feline friends who appear and disappear as if they walk through walls and any solid surface. Her allies give her clues, but they remain enigmatic as she struggles to figure out who killed Easton before the cop busts her.
Curiosity Thrilled the Cat is a whimsical charming cat caper starring a determined intrepid amateur sleuth and two magical cats who affirm WC Fields' comment on never performing with animals as they steal the show; except in this case Kathleen needs their help. Readers will appreciate this fun murder mystery as the librarian and her magical meows seek who killed the quiet artist before that insistent cop arrests Kathleen.
Mr. Monk on the Road
Adrian Monk suffers a severe case of obsessive compulsive disorder so intense that he is a walking encyclopedia of phobias that makes it impossible for him to operate in the outside world without assistance. With Natalie's help, Monk, a former cop, earns a living as a consultant to the police mostly SFPD. He actually has recently found relief because the murder of his wife Trudy back in 1997 has been solved. To celebrate, Monk decides to visit his agoraphobic brother Ambrose for his sibling's birthday.
Monk wants to show the world to Ambrose who has not left his home in years. He puts sleeping pills in the cake and places a knocked out Ambrose in his RV camper. Shockingly Ambrose awakens and is not raging at his brother. Along the highway, Monk finds crimes that he cannot ignore though Natalie refuses to allow him to solve them because this is Ambrose's time. Instead Monk silently works the puzzles in his head until he finds a frightening pattern of a serial killer in the area.
Lee Goldberg is the grandmaster of capturing the essences of TV mystery shows' personalities as he has done with Monk through eleven novels and Diagnoses Murder. He does it again with this brisk Monk road show as the multi-phobic hero hits the highway with his agoraphobic sibling and his assistant Natalie. On the road, Monk solves crimes as Natalie pleads with him to take a respite and enjoy the scenery, but though she keeps them moving so he cannot narrowly focus on a crime rather than the trip she ends up also assisting him when she can no longer ignore him. Fans will enjoy the brisk ride as the siblings (and Natalie) get out of the house, sort of.
Stitch Me Deadly
In Tallulah Falls, Oregon, Marcy Singer proudly owns the Seven-Year Stitch, a very popular crochet store. Her best friend Sadie works next door with her husband Blake, who own Mackenzies' Mochas. Sadie persuaded Marcy to move to Oregon after her San Francisco boyfriend dumped her.
Elderly Louisa Ralston comes into Marcy's shop for the first time. She asks her to find ivy, but while waiting she falls down and dies. At first it was assumed she had a heart attack, but the police learn she was murdered by someone who gave her the drug Halumet. The cops come to Marcy's store asking to search the Seven-Year Stitch and her home. She allows them and they find the drug in her home. Marcy insists she never saw it before although her mother swears she left it there. Marcy remains a suspect. Her situation turns dire when she visits Louise's husband and he dies with the same drug in his system that killed his wife. Desperate to clear her name before she gets arrested, Marcy investigates.
As occurred in The Quick and The Thread, the heroine is under suspicion of murder again and as she did then Marcy methodically seeks clues one stitch at a time in search of the real killer. Amanda Lee's deft use of her small-town cast keeps the intelligently crafted story line fresh as Marcy works her inquiry finding one viable suspect after another.
Shot Through Velvet
LaceySmithsonian writes her column Crimes and Fashion for the Washington DC based Eye Street Observer. The columnist is a murder magnet (see Grave Apparel, and Armed and Glamorous) so sometimes she writes about a homicide investigation. However murder is the last thing on Lacey's mind when she attends the Dominion Velvet Plant's closure due to the imports arriving from China and India.
Everyone is horrified to see a corpse tied to a roll of blue velvet in a vat of dye. The section worker recognizes the victim as part owner Rid Gibbs. Listening to chatter, Lacey learns Gibbs made enemies in his personal life including his wife and at the firm when he cheated people and fired them without cause. To complicate the case, Lacey's boss is a part owner too. A strip of blue velvet is sent to her boss and at Gibb's funeral there is a strip in his hand. Lacey visits board member Walt only to find him dead and holding that same blue velvet strip in his hand. The killer targets the publisher while Lacey, knowing the danger she places herself in, targets ending the killer's reign of terror.
Ellen Byerrum writes a clever, complex and obviously colorful journalist investigative tale that will have readings singing Bobby Vinton's tune Blue Velvet every time the protagonist trips over a murdered body. With a humorous romantic subplot to enhance the whodunit and filled with action, but character driven by Lacey, fans will enjoy her latest murder investigation.
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765325440, $24.99, www.amazon.com
On the Vegas Strip, the Babylon Resort and Casino is perhaps the glitziest of the glitzy. Customer Relations chief Lucky O'Toole understands where she works attracts people who "Wanna Get Lucky?" However, even Lucky is unprepared for the honeybee horde just in front of the hotel caused by a truck tipping over as a fight weekend begins. O'Toole cannot remember the last time the Strip shut.
The next morning O'Toole learns the county District Attorney hides in a closet after becoming the third wheel in a tryst. That same morning, private investigator Jeremy Whitlock argues in public with ruthless bookie Evelyn Wabash "Numbers" Neidermeyer. Later that day, Numbers' number is up in Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino's shark tank; cops suspect Jeremy as the murderer. On a more normal note, Lucky's mom the Madame plans a "virginity auction" and Lucky's songwriting lover Teddie Kowalski is in Los Angeles on a recording deal. Musing O'Toole knows life in Vegas is never dull.
This is an amusing Vegas thriller in which the heroine feels she crapped out as one hell of a night has become one hell of a day. The jocular story line is character driven with Lucky the hub of the zaniness and the support cast like her mom, her lover, her P.I. hunk and the unlucky stiff the speaks to. Although there is a similarity in the glitzy lampoon tone and its Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes Bad Luck lyrics to the first tale and over the top of the tower of the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower; fans will enjoy this casino caper.
In 1941 in Manhattan, Joey El Bueno is a seventh grader at St. Stephen's School. He cherishes comic books and movie while somehow safely eludes the nuns and bullies who run the school with iron fists. Joey meets new student nutty Jane Bent as both relish the movie Gunga Din. He realizes he appreciates people with a touch of lunacy as a super attractive trait; Joey especially enjoys her mangling metaphors of what apparently is history and what confusingly seems to have not yet happened.
One day after a movie, Jane vanishes. Joey is confused by her vanishing, but more bewildered by everyone at school looking at him like he is Crazy because no one else will confess they met or even saw Jane. He begins to wonder if they are right; as time passes with no clues to prove she lived or what happened to Jane; if he is not insane than Joey turns to his comic books for solutions as there the supernatural and paranormal are the normal.
This is an intriguing look at 1941 New York City though the eyes of a tweener who may be crazy. Ironically, the elongated sentences imply that Joey is crazy or that Jane is a strange essence; however those same significant seemingly endless sentences are difficult to follow requiring at times re-reading. With a nod to Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire though the novel occurs two decades earlier than the song, fans will enjoy this offbeat character study of a person who may be crazy, but then again who is not at least just a little bit insane.
The Left-Handed Dollar
Loren D. Estleman
The car bombing left Detroit investigative journalist Barry Stackpole disfigured and still healing from his injuries. The police arrests mobster Joseph "Joey Ballistic" Ballista on charge of attempted murder as the bombing has his "DNA" trademark and a "witness" has stepped forward. A jury convicts Ballistic known for his rage and his pleasure in blowing up things.
Ballista's lawyer, Lucille "Lefty Lucy" Lettermore hires private investigative Amos Walker to find evidence that her client did not bomb Stackpole's car. Although he knows his only friend Stackpole will be livid, Walker takes the case as the attorney persuades him her client is innocent. Instead of tracking Ballista's steps right before the car bombing Walker interviews lying former wives and probes into what the informant who accused Ballistics of the crime was doing at the time of the explosion and what his or her motive is. His efforts do not prevent more murders from occurring; it probably is the catalyst.
The latest Walker hardboiled Motor City private investigative thriller (see American Detective) is a great entry that plays out on two interrelated levels. First there is the usual kick-butt Walker inquiry; and second is Stackpole's feeling betrayed. Fast-paced with several terrific twists, The Left-Handed Dollar is a great Michigan mystery.
3A Exmouth House, Pine Street, London, England, EC1R 0JH
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 West 108th Street, Suite 901, New York, NY 10025
9781846687327, $14.95, www.amazon.com
In New England software engineers Dan and Shrini are fired when their positions are outsourced to India. Middle aged Dan worries for his family as he only brings small change as a freelance contractor and his wife Carol works as a legal assistant though her hours have been cut. He also knows he needs health insurance as he is going blind unless he has surgery. Shrini finds it ironic that he cannot score work in the States, but once home in India will receive outsourcing offers from the same companies who rejected him.
After working on a bank security program in which the safety protocols were developed extremely poorly overseas, Dan sees the major flaw. He and Shrini work on a plan to rob the bank. Dan asks his former mentor out of work Joel to join the team, which he reluctantly does, but insists on Eric be on their heist unit so the latter can supply untraceable weapons. The final player is strange Gordon. The scheme is perfect on paper but the execution not so as people die. As the Feds, local cops led by Detective Resnick, and former KGB turned mobster Petrenko search for the money, the thieves struggle with each other and their fears that their families will learn of their crime caper.
Dan is the center of this crime caper as an upper middle class good citizen whose life has imploded due to Outsourcing of his job. Ironically the quality of work is irrelevant to the software companies as that takes away from the bottom line leading to the middle aged men (and the younger Shrini) being fired and able to draw up the perfect plan. Readers will feel for Dan. Although Petrenko and several of Dan's cronies are more caricatures seemingly employed to enable the protagonist's woes to stand out further, fans will enjoy this exciting amateur criminal Noir with a powerful poignant coda while the body count will remind readers of the line "War, friend only to the undertaker" from Edwin Starr's War.
The Demon Trapper's Daughter
Jana G. Oliver
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312614782, $9.99, www.amazon.com
In 2018, Atlanta is like much of the country and the world in economic ruin. The residents follow the Golden Rule of do unto your neighbor before they do unto to you as survival is the only game in town. Adding to the misery index is Lucifer's demonic minions are everywhere causing pain and suffering.
Seventeen years old Riley Blackthorne understands how miserable life has become. Her mother died from cancer while she and her dad Paul owe so much they have no chance of escaping their debts. However, like her father, Riley becomes a demon trapper joining the guild as an apprentice (while also attending school); as a way of bringing in income though from her hard childhood she always wanted to join her dad on the job. However, when a demon kills him, she has no choice but to keep working handling Grade One demons. However a Grade Five hellish killer attacks her as Lucifer targets Riley when she is most vulnerable while she grieves her loss.
This is a great opening urban fantasy as Jana G. Oliver deftly blends the creation of her mythos with non-stop action. The fast-paced story line starts at an incredible pace and never decelerates as the armchair audience needs to wear seatbelts. However, even with this faster than light speed, Atlanta and the heroine are fully developed while the support cast (a peer she romantically likes, her father, other trappers and demons) enhance the setting or the star. Readers will enjoy a joy ride around Atlanta escorted by The Demon Trapper's Daughter.
First Grave on the Right
Private investigator Charley Davidson knows she cannot quit her haunting 24/7 job as her potential clients will never go away. That is the plight of being the Grim Reaper, who helps dead people complete their business on earth so they can move on. Most of her deceased customers died due to ugly causes like murder and want their perpetrator skinned alive though they will settle for them being brought to justice; thus they turn to Charley who tries to resolve the issue so they can go into the light. Her recent dreams are XXX rated starring a paranormal Entity, who has been in her life forever only lately it has been different; she has no idea why or how; nor how to find out.
Three people killed in a triple homicide ask her to investigate the crime. At the same time she learns who Entity is the offspring of, and his claim they are ironically soul mates.
Charley is the queen of humorous biting sarcasm even when in the heat of sex (live and dreaming) and never lets up on her mocking the living and the dead summed up by the heroine at the onset with her comment about her wet dreams being "death by divine pleasure". In other words a ghost in need is a pest as she makes or breaks the tale depending on your tastes. Fans who appreciate an acerbic heroine will relish this strong investigative urban fantasy; otherwise need to pass. The Jones mythos is set nicely so the reader will believe in the mocking Ghost Whisperer who is not a tender Jennifer Love Hewitt but still solves homicides enabling dispirited spirits to cross into the light.
Secrets and Shadows
St. Martin's Griffin
Jessie Gillmansen struggles to adapt to all she has recently learned about what she thought was were beings from horror movies and novels being real. This new reality occurred when she discovered werewolves exist. She and Pietr Ruskova are apparently a mated pair but she has no time to pursue what that means as she has bigger issues than howling male hunks to contend with.
Jessie tries to negotiate a deal between the Ruskova werewolf pack and the CIA. Her efforts seem futile, as progress is snail slow. However, she is taken aback when Pietr begins behaving as if he no longer wants her. Not one to be left out in the cold, Jessie debates whether to give Pietr one more chance or turn to Derek. She is soon in danger when the CIA apparently betrays her with only one male protecting her.
This is an engaging fast-paced young adult werewolf urban fantasy starring a heroine who has come a long way since entering Pietr's world (see 13 to Life). Though with all that has happened to her readers would expect a besieged Jessie to show more moxie rather than the Perils of Pauline. Yet she still holds the entertaining tale together as she feels pulled from all sides with no one to turn to while dealing with agents, beasts and a boyfriend.
American President James Allaire begins the annual State of the Union address. Small containers explode releasing a viral WRX3883. Over seven hundred people inside the House Chamber are infected by the toxin. The impact is disastrous as those hurt include the President, leaders of Congress, the Vice President, the Supreme Court judges, and cabinet leaders. Allaire takes charge of inside the chamber, locking it down.
The Director of the Department of Homeland Security is the selected "survivor" who remained in Minnesota during the calamitous speech. He is the leading government official outside of the quarantine zone. As the country seeks a cure for the infections disease, a domestic terrorist group Genesis on the "Fourth Day" demands the repeal of the Patriot Act and the end of surveillance on Americans or further terrorist acts will follow. Allaire led the WRX3883 virus development team and knows who he must turn to for help. Virologist Griffin Rhodes who is designated as a terrorist under the Patriot Act was placed in solitary confinement although he has no idea why he was locked away in a maximum federal pen.
Though over the top of the Capital Building as the Genesis motive along with their insiders seem inane for even an extreme group, Heartbeat Away is an exciting action-packed biological terrorist thriller. Fast-paced, readers who can ignore the plausibility of key events and linear characterizations will enjoy Michael Palmer's entertaining State of the Union.
Lucy Valentine knows she is the odd duck in her family as everyone else has the ability to play Cupid matching people up. Her talent is to find lost things. Lucy's current task is to locate a man who may be near death if he even still lives and to find a former criminal for a client of her family's firm Lost Loves.
Lucy and her private investigator boyfriend Sean Donahue work on both cases. However, their efforts are turned complicated by the masked Lone Ranger who at the Commons throws money into the air before vanishing. As Lucy and Sean conduct inquiries, she has an attraction to the masked hombre until she suffers a horrifying vision of her boyfriend lying lifeless on the street.
No one will care that the third Valentine tale is similar in tone to Truly, Madly and Deeply but, Kemo Sabe brings freshness to the mix. Though over the Green Monster yet filled with quirky family humor and a touch of the paranormal readers will Absolutely, Positively find Lucy's latest bodacious Boston brouhaha desperately zany yet truly scrumptious.
After Dark with a Scoundrel
In 1823 Lord Hugh "Dare" Mordare, the second son of a Duke, is a close friend of Frost Bishop. Through him he has known Frost's sister Lady Regan for years, who is an honorary member of Nox's Gentlemen's Club. All changes when Dare and Regan kiss as both are stunned by their reaction; that is far from sibling-like.
She is shipped off to Miss Swann's Academy for Young Ladies boarding school while he returns to being a rogue. Five years later Regan comes back to London with plans to drive Frost crazy and to seduce Dare. Frost is ready to pull his hair out with his sister's antics while Dare remains resolute to keep Regan away from the Lords of Vice like he is. However, she proves a worthy adversary and soon they marry. As she learns of his dark secrets, she finds herself in the midst of madness.
The latest Lords of Vice (see Till Dawn with a Devil and All Night with a Rogue) is an engaging Regency gothic romantic suspense as the brave heroine finds herself in peril; perhaps from the man she loves. Fast-paced from the moment they kiss even before she is exiled, After Dark with a Scoundrel grips the reader as Alexandra Hawkins' fans will think of Hitchcock's Suspicion placed in an early nineteenth century milieu.
Heaven is High
After leaving her father's high pressured legal firm, Barbara Holloway works out of her home in Eugene, Oregon handling minor legal problems for her neighbors. Former pro football player Martin Owens and his wife Binnie come to her for help. He insists Binnie who is mute was with her mother at sea when pirates kidnapped her mom and forced her into prostitution in Haiti.
When Binnie sees Martin, she swims to his boat and he hides her. The Coast Guard was looking for her because the man who pimped for her mother is saying he is her father and wants her back. Barbara finds a paper in an item that links Binnie to her mother and in it Binnie's background is explained. The INS wants proof that Binnie is not a Haitian citizen and the man looking for her is not her father. They consider deporting her back to Haiti. Needing documents to prove she is a citizen of Belize, Barbara goes to Haiti and eludes a kidnapper who does not want her to go on to Belize. DEA and drug cartel agents go after her too. Barbara realizes even if she obtains proof, which looks nearly impossible, she still has to come home with her evidence while adversaries, including some busted out of jail, want her stopped at any cost.
Heaven is High reads more like a thriller than a whodunit as reader will have trouble trying to figure out the good guys from the bad guys. The protagonist is similar to Joan Wilder in the movie Romancing the Stone as she goes from one peril to another with no respite in between her harrowing escapades; Barbara never expected an attorney's quest in the Caribbean would be such a frightening and dangerous time like the one she has had.
Somebody Pick Up My Pieces
Almost three decades ago the worst day in her life occurred. Her Uncle Lamont Williams killed Charlotte Rodgers's lover and beat her to a pulp. She survived the brutal hammering while he went to prison.
Now twenty-seven years since that horrific day, Lamont has been released from jail and wants to rejoin his family. His niece, now the family matriarch, wants nothing to do with the relative who also paid off a debt with Charlotte as the remittance.
Her three adult children have left Charlotte isolated in Murphy, Kansas as they are frustrated with their acrimonious mother who abandoned them as children years ago and now struggle with their own problems. Her daughter Cammy lost her child in a car accident. She cannot move passed her grief so she leaves her husband. She moves to Denver where her two older sisters, Connie and Clarice "Reesy", reside. Connie loves her newborn. She and the baby's father John seem ideal for one another until he learns his father is dying. The third sister Clarice remains angry at her spouse Justin for cheating on her.
The latest Rodgers women saga once again makes the same case that the child is the adult. The four females have new tsuris to compound their psychological defense mechanisms caused by more traumas than Job faced. The impetus this time that exponentially spirals the unhappiness of the foursome is the return of odious Lamont who demands retribution from his niece who he blames for his imprisonment. Although somewhat feeling repetitive to the previous tales (see One Day I Saw a Black King and You Gotta Sin to Get Saved) in spite of the latest tragedies, ironically there is a sense that finally somebody is picking up the pieces of her soul.
The Tudor Secret
St. Martin's Griffin
In 1553 the affluent influential Dudley brood dispatches servant Brendan Prescott to serve their cruel son Lord Robert at young King Edward's court. The young orphan knows that the Dudley family own King Edward who has been gravely ill and unable to rule.
The Dudley patriarch fears intelligent survivor Princess Elizabeth more than the heir to Edward's throne Princess Mary. William Cecil, protector of Princess Elizabeth, enlists Prescott to spy on his employer. However, the more the lad learns about those surrounding the royal siblings, the more he believes competing and overarching conspiracies abound, but is unsure what she should do with what he learns because she trusts no one.
The key to this Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles tale is ethical Brendan who believes in loyalty, but unsophisticated in the ways of court intrigue as he is caught between his duty to the Dudley clan and to the princess. He and vicious Lord Robert bring freshness to the entertaining Tudor historical as the rest of the latter's family and much of the court is stereotyped. Still C.W. Gortner (see The Last Queen) reveals the secrets behind those playing for power on a life and death royal stage through the only transparent participant who participates in a parallel play way.
The Seduction of His Wife
Lord Richard Mansfield married Lady Emma Hallaway when she was fifteen years old in a marriage of convenience. They shared one night together before he left England to travel the world.
A dozen years later, Richard is back in London on business. He runs into his wife at the last place he expected to meet her, a brothel. She is there as an artist painting nudes secretly. The Earl is stunned with his desire for his now adult countess. However, though he makes it clear he wants her and she detests her body for reciprocating, she hates her husband for deserting her when as a teen she needed him most. Richard begins a courtship to win the mind of his wife; he already owns her heart and her body.
This is an entertaining early Victorian second chance at love romance in spite of the marriage of convenience desertion theme having been used frequently before (see The Phantom Husband by Alana Clayton). Richard's courting of his spouse and a strong secondary cast especially her kick butt sisters makes for a fun historical; but like Elena's profession in The Surrender of a Lady, Emma's vocation provides freshness to this brisk tale.
St. Martin's Griffin
BFFs Didi Randall, Roxanne Miller and Jolene Martin go on a Caribbean cruise during winter break stunned by what has happened on their Lancaster University in Pennsylvania campus. Apparently students Rachel Jepson committed suicide and Natalie Laymon was raped. The Lan-U's Gossip Hour blog claims Didi's boyfriend Drake Shaw is the rapist.
Drake and Natalie are on the ship too with the latter having an incredible makeover from geek to glamour queen. With their four year relationship in jeopardy, Didi's hopes to save what they had but he vanishes before she wakes up on deck totally confused. When she learns Drake is missing Didi investigates his disappearance; finding shocking clues that imply he was dumped overboard by someone with ties to her high school past.
Although this exciting thriller lacks the cautionary elements of being smart and safe while on a college break and the sense of dread and doom that made Spring Break ominous, this is an exciting well written amateur sleuth as the heroine's inquiries lead her to wonder if she is the next victim. Still armchair readers, especially high school and college aged, will want to accompany Didi on her deadly Winter Break Caribbean cruise.
Heart of the Falcon
In Houston, Madelyn Taggart works as a production engineer at an oil firm. She has no interest in dating as her career comes first. The only man she has found interesting is African American- Native American Daniel Falcon, who she has never met but seen in a photo with one of her brothers as she learns the meaning of a picture is worth a thousand words.
CEO of Falcon Industries, Daniel is relocating to Houston. They meet and fall in the sack together. When Madelyn becomes pregnant, she only thinks of not repeating the unhappy marriage of her parents. Reluctantly Daniel proposes, but though she is in love with him, she says no. This stuns him as no one says no to him.
This is a reprint of a warm romance released a decade ago. Although Madelyn's morals are critical to what happens in her relationship with her beloved, the key to this engaging tale is Daniel who learns the importance of love is not just the head bending sex, but the hug with your huggable and the spoon with the one you cherishes. With little action, fans still will enjoy character driven Heart of the Falcon and look forward to the re-release of his sister's reprint soon (see Break Every Rule).
Marrying Daisy Bellamy
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778329251, $7.99, www.amazon.com
In Avalon, New York, wedding photographer Daisy Bellamy continues, as she has for years, strugglling to choose between two wonderful men who love her. She adores both hunks. Julian Gastineau could never live by Willow Lake while Logan O'Donnell could.
However, everything changes between the trio when Daisy gives birth to Logan's offspring Charlie. Yet nothing changes as in spite of having a child with a man who wants to raise a family with her, Daisy still has wet dreams involving Julian. She knows one day she will have to select between two lovers; one safe and nurturing while the other is wild and carefree.
The latest Lakeshore Chronicles (see Snowfall at Willow Lake and Summer at Willow Lake) is a profound character study that looks deeply into the souls of three protagonists. Daisy understands responsibility but desires running around the world as a crisis photojournalist. Julian offers her the freedom to soar anywhere; Logan offers her a safe haven to raise their child. Readers will enjoy this complicated relationship drama summed up by the Roy Orbison and Joe Melson song Running Scared.
Every Little Thing
In San Francisco, although she loved her mom Britt dearly, Mason McDonald knows her notorious late mother's scandalous newspaper column was a constant source of embarrassment. Still in spite of feeling abashed, she knows she will miss her beloved mom who left everything to her cherished daughter.
Mason goes home to attend her mom's funeral and grieve her loss. However, her two stepbrothers Aaron and Edgar, who were part of her early childhood in Sonoma when their dad married her mom, want to renew their acquaintance with her. Instead of mourning her mom's death, Mason inadvertently steps into her shoes as the step-siblings' actions lead her into a scandalous fiasco that probably has Britt the "scandal whore" smiling at her daughter. However, they also have a more significant second order effect when she vows to take charge of her life just like her mom did.
Every Little Thing is a big thing entertaining chick lit tale starring a somewhat caustic pathetic woman finding herself when she steps into her late larger than life mom's high heels. In many ways the deceased Britt brings the freshness with her loved ones looking back at her crude, rude and lewd lifestyle; a sort of outrageous Auntie Mame. Readers will enjoy Mason seeking her groove as she begins to believe scandal is just another gene in her DNA makeup.
In Montana, the three Shade sisters bury their rancher dad Andrew. Their late dad's lawyer gives them a video to watch. Andrew explains that he loved his three daughters but that none of the trio is his offspring and they are not sisters by blood.
The deceased rancher informs Maria he adopted her when she was four years old after she witnessed her prostitute mother's murder; Maria heads to Tulsa in search of justice for her mom. In Oklahoma, Maria meets detective Bodie Scott, who agrees to help her solve the two decade old homicide. Neither is aware that the killer knows Maria is in town and preparing to have the daughter join her mother.
Although once the three Shade siblings learn the truth about their respective ancestry, the linear story line focuses on Maria's attempts to uncover who killed her mom. She and Bodie make a wonderful pairing as they fall in love while investigating the cold case homicide. Though there are no twists or stunners in this entertaining romantic suspense, fans will look forward to the next Searchers seeking her Blood Ties.
Against The Fire
In Texas Gabriel Raines is a successful businessman who knows he has made enemies. However, he is unsure what has triggered a serial arsonist targeting his new real estate development firm. He feels relief when he and his friend separately pick out seventeen year old Angel Ramirez from a line-up as being near the arson scene; the teen has a record for setting a fire. The police arrest Ramirez for the crime while Gabe assumes his life will go back to normal.
He will quickly learn how wrong he was when it comes to normal. Architect Mattie Baker knows Angel from her volunteer work at the Family Recovery Center for abuse victims. She rejects the notion the teen is the arsonist. Instead she challenges Gabe who reluctantly agrees to investigate the fires with her. As they begin to fall in love, which she ignores as she wants no man in her life, evidence begins to mount that Angel is innocent but the unknown guilty person remains elusive as does the motive.
The second Raines of Wind Canyon (see Against the Wind) is a terrific entry as another of the no account siblings proves his worth. Dedicated Mattie is Gabe's equal as she lights his fire. Together they make a dynamic team inside a fast-paced thriller; as Kat Martin is two for two with her no account Raines boys' trilogy.
Wild Man Creek
The helicopter crash left Colin Riordan severely injured. While his body heals, he paints wildlife scenes to help his mind mend too. Seeking inspiration he wanders onto property rented by public relations expert Jillian Matlock, who is also healing but her pain is from a broken heart and a probable second order effect of a broken career. To heal, she is working a garden.
Jillian and Colin are attracted to each other and agree to a tryst while they heal in Virgin River. Once either returns to their previous world, the affair is over. However, as they spend time together each learns the answer to How To Mend a Broken Heart (Bee Gees) is love that could let them live again if they take a chance.
The latest Virgin River romance focuses on love as a major healer, a theme used in previous series tales like Whispering Rock. The entertaining straight forward story line contains two likable leads needing emotional and mental recovery from recent trauma. The census aside, seemingly the fastest growing area in the country, Wild Man Creek is a fine tale that Robyn Carr's Virgin River readers will enjoy.
In 1981 British guitarist Gavin Firth murders Goth singer Desiree Sommers, the mother of his two years old child Rain. Gavin then kills himself in a shocking murder-suicide. Decades later in New Orleans, their daughter Dr. Rain Sommers hosts the late night talk radio show Midnight Confessions.
FBI Violent Crimes Unit Special Agent Trevor Rivette hunts Dante the Vampire serial killer. The psychopath slashes the throat of his victim before leaving behind a rosary just like that worn by Desiree. This beast has murdered five women across the country. After stops in DC, Atlanta, Memphis and Raleigh, he has arrived in New Orleans where he kills three teenage Goths. His next chosen one is Rain, but not if Trevor has any say.
Although the theme of a "vampiric" serial killer has been used before and not just in urban fantasy (see Violets Are Blue by James Patterson), readers will relish this well written tense thriller. The key trio seems genuine as Rivette knows the stakes are personal when he falls in love with Dante's next intended victim. Romantic suspense fans will enjoy Midnight Caller as the taut tale means leaving the lights on after midnight.
These Things Hidden
After spending five years in prison for the murder of her newborn daughter, twenty one year old Allison Glenn is released to the Gertrude Halfway House for the next six months. Her parents have disowned her and her younger sister Brynn has ignored her efforts to contact her. Allison has fallen mightily from being perfect in high school. Her lawyer meets her at the prison and takes her to Gertrude House where she meets owner Olene who encourages her.
Bookends owner Claire Kelby and her husband Jonathan adopted their now six years old son Joshua who was found abandoned at a fire station when he was two days old. They heard the unknown teenage mother tried to kill him. Nursing student Charm Tulia likes coming to the bookstore where she buys all sorts of self- help books because she is the one who left Joshua in a safe house in accordance with Iowa law.
Brynn ignores her sister's plea to talk to her. She stays with her granny taking medicine for depression. She attends school enjoying the animal classes. Brynn was with Allison when she gave birth. There were no doctors or hospitals based on Allison's insistence. Olene arranges for Allison to interview for a job at Bookends Bookstore. Charm remembers entering the bookstore for the first time and recognizing Joshua. She comes regularly to see that he is okay. Claire hires Allison. Soon the full truth that connects these women will surface.
The key ensemble cast especially the four prime females is all developed while the connection between the ladies is developed over the course of the wonderful story line. Although there are two key coincidences that feel out of place re the woman involved, readers will enjoy that the truth does not always set one free.
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616142513, $16.00, www.amazon.com
In 1963 at Brookhaven National Lab, physicists open the first Turing Gate into an alternate time line. The CIA sends Cowboy Angels to spread the gospel of the "Real" American way, which included assassination, overthrow of governments, and dirty tricks to implement a cross time Pan America. President Carter shuts down the program over the howling of Manifest Destiny believers.
Former Cowboy Angel Tom Waverly has become a serial killer crossing several alternate time lines as he rejects Peaceniks like President Carter and his quitter former partner Tom Stone who have ended Operation Swift Sword. The Company directs Stone to learn why Waverly's target in each history is mathematician Eileen Barrie if he wants his friend brought in from the cold alive.
Stone searches for his partner entering a variety of Turing Gates following clues. Assassins try to kill him when he enters some of the gates. Even more confusing to Stone is in some universes he is teamed with Waverly and in others he tries to capture his partner. Even more convoluted to Stone is his occasional partnering with Waverly's daughter although he is unsure what side she is on; then he again he no longer knows what side he is on either.
With an obvious nod to Stargate, Cowboy Angels is a convoluted (as the flawed hero learns) science fiction story with a strong why-do-it mystery. Stone holds the complex faster than the speed of light tale focused even as he and the audience wonder what he will find next when he enters a Turing Gate; a sort of Alice falling through the hole. The wonder of this super story is that the Real characters remain consistent with how the history books portray them. This high octane action tale is hard to put down as Paul McAuley provides a terrific thriller.
Thirteen Years Later
By 1825, Europe including Russia continues to revel in peace and prosperity. Napoleon and the French were defeated over a decade ago. Russian Colonel Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov was on the winning side, but in his opinions his true victory was over the dozen Oprichniki mercenary voordalak monsters that destroyed the advancing French and the nearby Russian villagers; he prefers not to ever think about the bloody horror again (see Twelve) as even the thought chills his blood.
Still Tsar Aleksandr I fears for his family and his country as a pledge made in blood was broken a century ago. However, it is not the revolutionary Decembrists that have the Russian ruler trembling; the other party in that blood debt is coming to collect. Aleksandr's only hopes he will be able save his soul, but he fears it is too late for his life, and to keep his family and his fellow Russians safe remains with loyal Aleksei. Worried about his wife, teenage son Dmitry and four year old daughter Tamara, the colonel realizes what he defeated during the Napoleonic War as they returned Thirteen Years Later to collect blood and souls.
The second Russian historical fantasy is a super tale as the hero of Twelve returns to the fray of fighting an invincible amoral beast who believe humans are toward the bottom of the food chain. Overall the story line is filled with action though the protagonist muses on all sorts of topics including his children, the Oprichniki, the new monster he faces, the revolutionaries, and his loyalty to the Tsar. Tied to the Tsar's real mysterious death on December 1 1825 in Taganrog and the confusion that ensued, fans will enjoy this epic saga as the voordalak blood suckers have returned.
Xetesk began the open hostilities when the College assaulted depleted Julatsa, who lost so much in people and treasure during the Wesmen wars (see Chronicles of the Raven trilogy). The other two colleges Lystern and Dordover join the fray as they see opportunities to defeat both rivals, but must figure out what to do with what remains of the Raven, which saved the land and the Colleges.
As the Balaian continent to the west is aflame after a foolish alliance with Xetesk, Lord Tessaya of the Paleon Tribes rallies his Wesmen warriors under a battle cry of avenging their defeat. Lord of the Mount, Dystran knows his Xetesk faces a horrible defeat at the hands of the western barbarians who he believes stupidly ban magic. Desperate, he uses the forbidden horrific dimensional magic as nothing will stand in his way of being world ruler even insanely at the cost of the world. He rips asunder the dimensional barriers leaving his world open for a demonic genocide. With no dragons and not at full strength, Raven is the last hope to prevent soul cleansing by the invading demon horde.
The third Legends of the Raven fantasy (see Shadowheart and Elf Sorrow) is a terrific final tale as grim and eerie as the previous ones. Action-packed and fast-paced, fans will relish this deep tale with a message for leaders to lead for the benefit of all and not just to grab more power at the cost of others (think of the Senator whose sole vision for the country is to defeat Obama in 2012 by fiddling as Nero to stonewall the president). James Barclay provides a great ending to his profound two sagas as all of the books focus on the abuse and misuse of power in what are some of the best political military thrillers in years.
The Buntline Special
In 1881, the leadership of the United States of America still dreams of manifest destiny to the Pacific though the country's western border remains The Mississippi. On the other side of the mighty river is rich land occupied by Indian tribes with powerful shaman whose magic has kept the Americans frustratingly in the east.
The government sends the great inventor Thomas Edison, who has worked with Ned Buntline on a horseless stagecoach, on a quest to determine whether science and technology can defeat magic. The Earp brothers escort Edison to Tombstone, Arizona where a last stand is forming. On one side is the enigmatic Edison, the Earp siblings and their pals Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson. On the other side are two separate deadly foes; the dangerous Apaches led by Geronimo the most powerful Medicine Man and the Clanton gang who are abetted by the once dead Johnny Ringo.
With seemingly none of the real persona purebred human, there is an overabundance of paranormal leaving the Arizona confrontations entertaining, but also never moves out on the larger theme of manifest destiny propelled by science and technology as opposed by magic. Thus fans of steampunk thrillers will enjoy the Buntline Special as a fun exciting Weird West Tale at the OK Corral, but never quite obtains the revolutionary quality of the author's wonderful alternate history Dragon America
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446559263, $7.99, www.amazon.com
In Charlottesville, Virginia, FBI arson investigator Kenton Lake rushes into a burning building to save informer Larry Powell who he was to meet there. A firefighter uses force to make him leave; Lora Spade cannot understand the man's death wish. The firefighters rescue a man who is not the informer. They later find Larry's remains inside a padlocked area. Coroner Heather Jennings informs Kent that Larry was dead before the fire. Lora joins them and Kent identifies himself as Special Services Division who she asked to intercede when the county arson investigator Seth MacIntyre rejected her belief a serial arsonist was lighting the fires. Lora explains to GQ as she calls him the pattern is the culprit kills with the fire. Kent agrees with Lora's assessment.
Kent's chief Hyde sends top profiler Monica Davenport to assist. Hyde tells Seth that Kent is in charge. Monica believes a firefighter is the culprit as the person is extremely knowledgeable. Attracted to each other, Kent and Lora agree to meet at her house after work. They make love and he sees her fire scars. She says she sees Kent in bed with her and not her late lover who died in one of the fires. As the SSD team and Lora work the case, she and Kent fall in love, but disagree strongly as to who the killer could be.
The suspense grips the audience from the moment the brave strong lead couple meets within an inferno. The support cast, including the leads from the first SSD thriller Deadly Fear, plays key but diverse roles. Although the serial killer would have had to pull off an Academy Award performance to be in such plain sight and a major coincidence enables the culprit to continue to hide, readers will relish Cynthia Eden's strong romantic suspense.
Alex Cross's Trial
James Patterson and Richard DiLallo
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446557788, $9.99, www.amazon.com
His grandmother used to tell Alex Cross when he was a child the heroic tale of his great uncle Abraham who battled against the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan in the first decade of the twentieth century in Mississippi. Now Alex as a father tells the same story to his children, but not as an oral saga, but as a novel Trial.
In Washington D.C., Ben Corbett is a crusading attorney fighting in court against the suppression of freedom. President Teddy Roosevelt asks Ben to return to his hometown of Eudora, Mississippi to investigate rumors that the Ku Klux Klan has returned with a fiery vengeance. When Ben meets Abraham Cross and his granddaughter Moody, he asks for their help on achieving his presidential assignment. They introduce him to the terror side of Southern living for people of color with the myriad of burnings and lynching Blacks suffer with. Already considered a traitor by the people he grew up with including his father for his passionate defense of Blacks and other suppressed people, Ben vows to end the terror.
This is a well written timely historical thriller that will remind readers America still has a cross to bear as violent intolerance towards others still remains. The title is misleading on two fronts as Alex has a cameo appearance and Ben is much more the hero than Abraham. Still though no classic Cross or Women's Murder Club detecting, fans of early twentieth century thrillers will enjoy this early twentieth century Mississippi Burning.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, NY, NY 10014
9780425236680, $15.00, www.amazon.com
The Civil War may be over but the unit of werewolf soldiers Shadow Reapers trained to kill and survive has not been able to simply embrace the peace. Reaper Law tries to control these half beasts, but that allows plenty of room for the code of the wolf.
One of the soldiers Isaiah Jones knows he is an unwanted half-breed who is not wolf or man. His sole link to humanity is Adelaide Cameron who his inner wolf desires too. However, Isaiah knows he can never have her as that is taboo but stays near his beloved to keep her safe.
Thus when she is abducted his wolf howls in rage while his human side claims vengeance if she has even the slightest injury. Meanwhile the renegades who kidnapped Adelaide plans to sell her pretty sassy tail. She heeds her cousin Cole's advice to pay attention in order to gather information to give to her family when they find her. Isaiah catches up only to realize one of the bandits is Billings another Reaper, who shockingly helps Adelaide escape. When Isaiah finally catches up to Adelaide, he tries to escort her home. The wolf senses her attraction to him, wants her and will not be denied. However, danger remains from the Council as he broke the Reaper Law with their forbidden love.
This is an exciting post Civil War werewolf romance. The star-crossed protagonists supported by a strong cast including Blade the Reaper who is a friend assigned to hunt them down. Known for her modern day Wrangler paranormal romances Sarah McCarty moves back in time with the same quality as her tales of Caleb and Jared with a strong 1860s Americana werewolf romance.
The daughter of the Wild Hart pub owners, Sinead O'Brien is the only female partner at her law firm. Her parents worry about their offspring who is all work and no play as they dub her ethic as "workalholism"; she insists she is dedicated to her clients.
The New York Blades hire Sinead to defend defenseman Adam Perry who has been charged with a count of assault due to a hit during a game. Her first reaction to her client is that he played hockey without a helmet. She soon realizes he is as dedicated in his field as she is in hers. As an attraction grows between them, she breaks her rule about no dating the clients, but insists they conceal their relationship. Losing sight of his goal the Stanley Cup, Adam wants more than a secret tryst as he wants her skating at his side
The latest Blades hockey romance (see Body Check, Fair Play and Chasing Stanley, etc.) is a delightful entry starring two workaholics falling in love. Adam is the one in this relationship who wants it in the open as he believes they have a future together. However, Sinead hip checks their romance as she prefers to hide what they are doing rather than face a game misconduct for scoring assisted by her client. Sports romance fans will enjoy Deidre Martin's latest run for the Cup.
In San Diego, Jillian Conrad works as an office temp at am investment firm. She is returning to work following a coffee break when a man accosts her; he injects her with a syringe containing serum. Half-vampire Declan Reyes shoots and kills Jill's assaulter.
Jill is so sick she feels like she is going to die. Reyes informs her she has been inoculated with chemicals that make vampires covet her blood though it is also a toxic to the undead. Concerned about Jill's safety and wanting to insure no further public incident occurs; Reyes escorts the ailing woman to a hidden remote lab where purebred human collaborators including scientists work on killing a rogue vampire king. Declan and Jill become lovers during her moments when the nausea and headaches subside and she is not on call as bloody bait.
This is an engaging romantic fantasy starring a bewildered ailing human and a hybrid in heat. The story line is fast-paced with an interesting underlying premise. However, the sex feels gratuitous as Jill is very sick; perhaps puking once or twice on his lower head would have brought realism to the lusty encounters. Still sub-genre readers will enjoy Michelle Rowen's entertaining thriller.
Duplicitous Magnus seizes the Dragon Throne of Numia, killing his royal family in the process. However, his nephew the heir Gallus Lucan survives the vicious assault. Lucan escapes. For the next fourteen years, Lucan prepares for a counter attack to remove his odious uncle from the throne. He has gathered an army of loyal soldiers.
The Raven of Tir na Ban High Branna ta Cattia knows the time is right to free her people from the oppressive rule of malevolent Magnus. Thus, the High Priestess journeys to Numia to meet the stranger who haunts her dreams; and to obtain an alliance to help liberate their respective people. When Branna and Lucan finally meet outside of her dreams, they are attracted to one another, but their goals differ. She wants to free their respective people while he wants revenge at any collateral cost. Their feelings for each other remains concealed as love intrudes with their need to defeat their mutual enemy, an abomination willing to kill anyone to keep his power.
Although the story line is straighter than I-80 through the Bonneville Flats and the villain is out of standard casting for an evil ruler, the lead couple makes for an engaging romantic fantasy as she must persuade her beloved that vengeance will harm his people. Each needs the other in more ways than just the alliance against his uncle, but both has doubts as she believes his heart is overrun with rage while he thinks she is an inane do-gooder without a plan or a prayer. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Anya Bast's exciting tale; previously published in 2004 under the name Joanna King.
In Sunshine, Idaho animal kennel worker Lilah Young believes she will never meet her forever. That is until she backs her animal filled jeep into his parked truck as he watches the fender bender. The owner is a visiting hunk Brady Miller. They are instantly attracted to one another.
A pilot and photographer, just out of the military service, Brady is in Sunshine helping his foster brothers Dell and Adam. He and Lilah agree to a fling while he is in town; both understand once he leaves, their tryst ends. However, their lust grows stronger as they fall in love, but neither is confident enough to offer a change to the original rules of engagement.
There is plenty of sunshine and a few flaws in this fun contemporary romance. Whereas Lilah has begun to believe she is the anti-male stay magnet, Brady knows his reputation even with his two BFFs is that of Dr. Death. The story line is extremely linear, but the fun is walking and flying with the lead couple and their buddies (animals included) as love is everywhere the reader goes in Sunshine, Idaho.
Mortar and Murder
From Waterfield, Maine, Avery Baker and her significant other Derek Ellis sail to the remote Rowanberry Island to renovate their latest fixer-upper, a late eighteenth century Colonial owned by the latter. However, besides being unwelcome on the other side of the barrier island by the "KGB" like caretaker for the away in Florida thriller writer Gert Heyerdahl, they find the corpse of a woman in the water. They call the local police who quickly determine a homicide occurred.
After warning Avery to stay out of harm's way (see Plaster and Poison), Waterfield Police Chief Wayne learns a paper the dead Jane Doe carried contained in Russian. The address of the Realty firm is owned by Avery and Derek. He wants to interview the previous owner Irina Rozhdestvensky and asks Avery to join him when he does though he cautions her not to investigate. Avery, having worked on mysteries before, agrees. Soon a second body is pulled from the water.
Mortar and Murder is an engaging amateur sleuth whodunit as the former Manhattan designer "competes" with the police. The story line is lighthearted fun though readers will wonder why Avery felt an urge to investigate. Still readers cannot help but like her and Derek who make for a fun coastal Maine whodunit.
The Darling Strumpet
In 1660 following a decade of bleak Cromwell gray, thirty year old Charles II is crowned king. In London as the monarchy returns, young Nell Gwynn was beaten by her partially intoxicated mother Eleanor for losing her oyster barrow when the girl was caught up in the royal festivities. She vowed no more beatings and she will find a way to escape from the smell and oil of oysters that Nell believes has penetrated her brain. She flees to her sister Rose the whore who advises her to leave their termagant mother and the Golden Fleece tavern but must get the money first.
Nell turns to whoring, working for Rose's employer Madam Ross though she only recently started her courses. The patrons love her deprecating cheeky humor. She goes to watch the return of The King's Company performing Shakespeare's Henry the Fourth after years of being shut down. There she meets Robbie Duncan who takes her away from the brothel. Soon her bawdy commentary leads to her performing on the stage. When King Charles II sees her act, he makes her his favorite courtesan. Nell understands that she is the Protestant whore of the king, but also is fond of her kind lover while maneuvering the deadly royal courtesan court. She "captures the heart of England and Charles II" as even when he is dying, the monarch wants his beloved taken care of after he is gone.
This historical biography of Nell Gwynn is a terrific tale from the invigorating different perspective of a courtesan who rose from abject poverty and family abuse to become the nation's Darling Strumpet. Decades before Fielding's "lewd" classic Tom Jones, Nell's real life witty ribald comments about herself and the life in the men (paraphrasing Mae West) wanting her make for a fun look at the Restoration.
Brianna "Bree" Winston-Beaufort is a lawyer with two practices; one pays the bills enabling her to conduct her other unlisted work at 666 Angelic St; as the celestial advocate pleading for the souls of her clients otherwise condemned to Hell. She seeks evidence in the celestial records to mitigate or acquit the sentence on appeal.
In Savannah a film based on the life and murder of Haydee Quinn, a stripper who caught a rich man, but his mother disinherited him. Actress Justine Coville hires Bree to get the Bulloch sisters to grant permission her to wear their mother's brooch during the filming; one of the siblings agrees. Mr. Dent is working the client side of the film and he knows the writers believe the movie about the life and murder of Haydee will be a hit. Dent believes that too as he was there all those decades ago he was the detective on the case, but he a drunk too who ran a poor investigation. To make it back home, he had to do the 12 step program and find the real killer not the one who died in the electric chair. When Bree looks at the brooch, she sees the spirit of Consuela Bulloch who begs her to be her advocate at the Celestial Court hearing because she wants to get out of where she is.
The fourth Beaufort and Company legal thriller (see Angel's Advocate and Defending Angels) is an exciting supernatural mystery. The woo-woo elements are a Mary Stanton trademark that adds mysticism to the mix and enable readers to believe that Bree defends condemned spirits in the highest court. Brave Bree tries to do what she believes is the right thing regardless of which court she defends her mortal and otherworldly clients in. The support cast (still breathing, angelic or otherwise) enhances an entertaining mystery.
Two separate assassination attempts on Lupi FBI agent Lily Yu and Ruben Brooks fail, but place the group on the highest alert. Most believe the assaults and other hate actions are due to the recent announcement that Lily and Prince Rule Tanner will marry. They assume Humans First leader Robert Friar sanctioned the attack.
Lupi royal Widower Benedict Turner conducts surveillance of Friar's heavily secured compound. He meets half-breed sidhe Arjenie, who explains she is on a mission for someone forced to assist Friar. Benedict is stunned because his chosen mate died, but he realizes the Lupi goddess has granted him a wonderful rare second chance as he knows Arjenie is his mate. She wants to help her newly found mate, but Arjenie is unable to tell him all she knows due to some sort of spell. Without her information, Benedict and the Lupi will fail to prevent Friar's latest terrorist plan as all hell breaks out in Tennessee.
This is a fresh Lupi urban fantasy as the lead couple in most of the novels takes a back seat to his sibling, a secondary player in the saga. Action-packed with the attacks assumed to be hate crimes until Tennessee turns Lupi bloody, fans of the series will relish meeting Benedict's mate in this exciting twisting thriller, which also moves forward the overarching theme.
Recently the twins Sunny and Rayne McDonald saved the butts of Magnus the vampire and his Blood Coven (see Bad Blood); well Sunny actually saved the day as Rayne was a bit busy being in Vegas. The sisters also learned the truth about their heritage; that they are fairy princesses. Both struggle with the knowledge as they each have vampire boyfriends.
The fairies want the royal sisters to come home. They especially want to crown Sunny as their ruler since Dark Court Agents assassinated their grandma the Queen of the Light Court. Other fairies want the siblings and their mom dead. When fairies attack the family, Rayne saves her mom and sister. For their safety, the girls go to Riverdale Prep vampire Slayer, Inc. in Switzerland, but instead of the school proving a safe-house, the enemy keeps on coming after them.
This engaging teen urban fantasy (see Boys That Bite and Stake That) takes a bloody darker twist, but uses campy humor to lighten the bite. Fast-paced, the twins must choose between complex scenarios knowing regardless of whatever they do someone they care about will be hurt.
In Los Angeles, Jasmine Mistry has not fully recovered from her divorce from womanizing ruthless Robert. She knows she needs a new start and after prayer to Ganesh the Hindu god of new beginnings, she quits her high salary management position and moves to Shelter Island in Puget Sound where her Bengali family resides.
Jasmine takes over managing her Auntie's bookstore loaded with all sorts of artifacts and junk in a rundown allegedly haunted Victorian Queen Anne mansion. From nowhere except she assumes guided by Ganesh and assisted by Jane Austen's spirit, Connor Hunt arrives in Auntie's foyer. Ignoring her parents and her heritage, Jasmine begins to move on past "Robert the dung heap."
This is a superb second chance at love tale with a whimsical mystical element that enhances the delightful character-driven tale that enables the readers to glimpse first and second generation Bengali-American culture. Jasmine holds the entreating story line together as she learns "we love and we lose...", but the experience of love lost can break a person if they cede their soul to their former beloved or make one stronger as "...we can love again". - This is a fabulous endearing romance with a profound underlying concept of get off the floor and dance with the vigor of life again and if necessary again.
Blast from the Past
Toni L. P. Kelner
Freelance reporter Tilda Harper writes articles on the famous and not so famous Hollywood personalities for the entrainment magazines. Don, the owner of a security company, works for the Pharos movie team who are filming outdoors on the Cape. He and Tilda know each other from when she was dating his son Nick. He invites her to interview the star of the movie John Laryea.
She is invited to stay at the hotel and watch the shoot, which she agrees to do as she can sell a lot of stories about the experience. Three days after she arrives she is on the side of the road when a speeding car hits two people the star and his assistant. Everyone but Tildy believes Pete Ellis the chauffeur who works for Don is guilty as his limo killed her assistant. When the police find Pete, he is passed out drunk and taken into custody. Tildy promises to snoop around to exonerate him with the truth at the same time she seeks Leviathan the author who wrote the comic book the movie is based on.
Watching the protagonist conduct two different inquiries is fascinating as each involves a person with a secret to hide. This entertaining journalist investigative mystery is filled with vivid descriptions leading to armchair readers believing they are on location. The movie support cast adds quirky humor to a serious whodunit as like her other blasts from the past (Curse of the Kissing Cousins and Who Killed the Pin-Up Queen, the latest Where Are They Now? Harper tale is a great read.
A Crafty Killing
The town of McKinlay Mill has not had a murder in over four decades. What it does have is Artisans Alley in which artists rent space to show their works. Ezra Hilton owns the majority of stock with Chad Bonner possessing the remaining ten percent. When Chad died in a car accident, his shares went to his widow Katie who wants nothing to do with the place that siphoned away her savings.
Six months later when Katie visits Artisan's Alley she finds Ezra at the bottom of the staircase. The police inform her he was murdered and since she inherited half his shares and his nephew Gerald the remainder, Katie is the majority stockholder. Katie quits her job to manage Artisan Alley hoping to get out of debt so she can sell the place at a profit. A few days later, Peter Ashby, an artist who sells life sized copies of resin statuary Victorian cemetery art is found murdered. The police look at Katie as the prime suspect in both homicides, which spurs her to investigate to clear her name.
This opening tale in a small-town amateur sleuth series is a terrific first act. McKinlay Mill is a place where neighbors know each other on a first name basis so that a homicide in the relatively crime free town becomes personalized by all the residents. The cast especially the artisans enhance Katie's investigation with their eccentricities. However, this is Katie's story line as she is the complete protagonist. Katie takes a risk on running something that not too long ago she loathed, but has problems with vendors, bankers, and a killer while the building needs desperate renovation and guilt lingers for just before Chad died she had left him.
Lily of the Nile
In 31 BC, Roman legions loyal to Octavian defeats married couple Cleopatra and Mark Antony at the battle of Actium. They follow that victory with a successful invasion of Egypt leading to the suicide of the royal opposition leaders. Afterward to insure no more Egyptian uprising behind a martyr and to extinguish the prophesized Golden Age for Isis worshippers, the young Roman emperor takes the vanquished Egyptian queen's preadolescent children in chains to Rome. He incorporates the older twins Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios and the youngest offspring Ptolemy Philadelphus into his household.
Helios is irate as he loathes bowing down to the barbaric Roman Emperor who has taken away his divined destiny. His wiser sister Selene works the court though she conceals her Isis worship from those who scorn her beliefs as primitive. Selene soon learns she possesses inner strengths, outer enticing beauty to rival her mom, and a need to defend her religious beliefs and her people. She refuses to back away from the emperor as she challenges the man who defeated her mother in ways her mom tried to do but ultimately failed.
Mindful of Michelle Moran's delightful young adult targeted Cleopatra's Daughter, Stephanie Dray provides a wonderful adult entry that enhances the first century BC thriller with a touch of magic. Selene is strong as she tries to protect her siblings and her people from the wrath of Rome. Historical armchair readers will enjoy a trip to the Mediterranean escorted by the charming Lily of the Nile.
Town in a Lobster Stew
Candy Holliday moved with her father to the small seaside Maine town of Cape Willington where they work their blueberry farm. It is a town that attracts tourists in the summer starting on Memorial Day when the lobster stew cook-out takes place.
Elderly Wilma Mae calls Candy to ask her to find her missing recipe that won the event thirteen years in a row. Mr. Sedley gave that recipe to Wilma with the stipulation she conceal it in a secret drawer. Candy, who writes the Community Corner for the Cape Crier and is also an unofficial detective agrees to look for it. Before she get very far, the body of Mr. Sedley is found wrapped in a tarp in Wilma's basinet. Candy changes her inquiry into learning who killed Mr. Sedley and why When she figures out who the culprit, the case spins as that person is murdered. Like the Energizer bunny, Candy continues her probe only the killer watches very move she makes
This is a charming cozy (in spite of the homicides) as B.B. Haywood captures the essence of coastal New England as she did with Town in a Blueberry Jam. Candy is sweet except when she stumbles on to a murder mystery; she admits she gets a precarious thrill investigating homicides. Although a carpetbagger of sorts, she nicely fits in with the eccentric townsfolk as she matches everyone quirk for quirk. With seafood and recipes adding to the flavor of a Town in a Lobster Stew, sub-genre fans will enjoy spending early summer in Maine.
The Illuminated Vineyard
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594149344, $25.95, www.amazon.com
In Birchwood, Oregon middle-age Widow Rachel Jarvis hires the young traveling couple Michael Broom and Cara Littleton to make repairs to her home. Rachel's daughter Clarissa disapproves the arrangement. Her other child Brett approves her mom's hiring because he is attracted to Cara.
Someone murders small-time thief Brady Devon at Fargeau Vineyards. Police detective Greg Linsky suspects Michael stabbed Devon as he is a stranger with apparent ties to the vineyard owner Rob Fargeau. Three decades ago, Rachel and Rob had a tryst. Someone tries to poison the late Brady's girlfriend, Vonda Gallard, who vanishes without a trace. Rachel investigates the odd happenings, but cannot prevent a second brutal homicide.
The Illuminated Vineyard is a terrific relationship mystery in which what happened twenty years ago kept secret has roared out into the open in the present. The story line is in many respects a cautionary tale that warns readers that even with good intentions to protect loved ones; not to conceal major occurrences from those you cherish because if they learn the truth from another source the road to hell becomes exponentially much more horrific. Fans will appreciate the trip to Oregon for this winner.
A Gift for Murder
In Washington DC as the Commerce & Market Show Center employees prepare for the always difficult Gift and Decorations trade show, office assistant Heather McNeil finds a corpse in the dumpster. Someone bashed exhibitor Tim Bethel with a crowbar that remains imbedded in the deceased. Heather calls the police.
Police Detective Peter Gilmont investigates the homicide. He wonders who would have had the motive and opportunity to kill the co-owner of Grantwood & Bethel; one of the firms displaying their gifts and accessories at the show. At the same time Heather and her maybe boyfriend new employer as a Center security guard Scott Brandon make their own inquiry ignoring the objections of Gilmont, Heather's superior Janelle Addison and the exhibitors including the deceased's partner Stan Greenwood.
This Market Center Murders tale is an engaging tale that contains competing solid investigations and a fabulous look deep into what goes on behind the scenes to insure a successful trade show. Heather is an enticing protagonist who anchors the story line and the trade show as a cynical stable influence in the midst of chaos. The vivid glimpse at the trade show environs steals the plot from the whodunit whose spins and twists readers will anticipate in this charming cozy.
Beverly Hills matron Samantha Crowley is the forgotten wife of arrogant bestselling author Benjamin Crowley. He wants to rid himself of his spouse for a younger sexier trophy wife. Meanwhile everyday Sam walks in Hollywood Forever Cemetery; where she pays her respects to murder victims, mobster Bugsy Siegel and film director William Desmond Taylor.
Sam helped create her husband's famous character Hunter McCall; since she developed the star, she feels she should kill the star. Associates of Benjamin die soon after they meet Sam. His publicist Peter Perkal was killed in a hit-and-run; someone poisoned his agent Carol Haber, and novelist Jonathon Harley was stabbed to death. Following a phone call with a woman threating blackmail and demanding he meet her, Jack Sharrow heads to the rendezvous Hollywood Forever Cemetery where the only other person is Sam. He assumes she is his blackmailer so he pulls out a gun while considering killing her.
This terrific suspense thriller runs on two strong elements: a twisting murder mystery and references to historical Hollywood. The spins are incredible and plausible in a case of few degrees of separation; as Sam knows this is Hollywood.
Corporate raider Fletcher Wolf sues couturier Cara Fletcher for fifty million dollars claiming her Fletcher's Gear line of menswear infringes on his Fletcher Tool and Gear transmissions. Her lawyer and BFF Annemarie Slye says they can win in court but the cost will prove crippling. Fletcher meets Fletcher with both accompanied by their lawyers to discuss the suit. Both are stunned by their attraction to one another, but he handles his desire smoother than she does.
Meanwhile Cara struggles to connect with her tween daughter Natalie recently dumped on her by the child's no longer wealthy dad who won custody years ago. At the same the designer has been the victim of a harassment campaign that started with nasty phone calls but escalates to vandalism of her workshop and home that costs her money she does not have. Like the wolf he is Fletcher takes control of her firm. As she looks at the books, he realizes someone has been stealing from the firm. He leans towards Cara's assistant Maggie Anderson until she is murdered. In love with Cara, Fletcher vows to keep her safe and to uncover the identity of the culprit although he knows his beloved wonders if he is the perpetrator.
This is an engaging amateur sleuth romance starring two likable lead characters. The story line starts a bit slow as readers meet the key cast members, but once the assault escalates the plot takes off at a fast pace. Readers will enjoy this entertaining tale with a clever late twist as the audience wonders who is behind the attacks and why.
Got No Friends Anyhow
Maxx Maxwell is the lead singer of the Maxximum Blues band. She has big hopes that a CD her boyfriend Rick Schneider is producing for the band will help them with getting gigs in Manhattan. However, when she goes out to his home in Nyack, New York, he is missing. Initial evidence implies he returned to his former girlfriend Brenda Honeycutt, which would break Maxx's heart for the second time; guitar player Sandy being the first.
However, .she becomes concerned when she notices dried blood on the wall in his home. Maxx also wonders what happened to the CD master that should have been in Rick's studio, but is not. Soon after her visit, Rick is found dead executed by a bullet to his head. The cops assume Rick was killed by the mob for selling pirated CDs. However, Maxx has doubts that he would betray her. Wanting her band's master, she starts investigating looking into when Rick played with Meal back in the 1980s; she is stunned to learn two other band members are also dead with two still surviving for now.
The second blues amateur sleuth (see Sweet Man Is Gone) is an enjoyable look at the Manhattan (and Hackensack) music scene in which Peggy Ehrhart describes literally a cutthroat competition with piracy adding to the criminal activity. The story line is fun to follow as the magic of the blues is in murder not music leading to an entertaining gig.
Pecos Valley Revival
In 1923 in Rosedale, New Mexico, nineteen years old Annabelle Blue works in her family's dry-goods store. However she has dreams of seeing the world that she has read about. Her boyfriend Phil Gunderson is a highly regarded rodeo performer, but Annabelle doubts she will see the world with him as to Phil the southwest is the world.
She looks forward to the annual rodeo because she meets interesting people from different places. This year also includes a tent revivalist gala, which means more people from elsewhere. However, Annabelle never expected the revivalist preacher Reverend Strickland's beautiful vivacious sister Esther Strickland would have Phil salivating after her as well as his rodeo rival champion Kenny Sawyer; his fiancee Sarah Molina is as distraught as Anabelle is; each is upset with Esther treating their boyfriends like candy and their boyfriends reciprocating the sweetness. When Kenny is poisoned on the rodeo's second night, the police suspect his jealous fiancee. That changes when a second homicide occurs, in which Sarah has no motive.
This is an enjoyable historical mystery with the emphasis on time and place as the audience will feel Alice Duncan enchantingly transported readers to 1920s New Mexico. The cast is solid especially Annabelle, who tells the tale, although she is not as enticing as Daisy Gumm Majesty is. The whodunit is cleverly devised, but remains in the background to observing life in Rosedale circa 1923.
The View From Here
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781569478714, $24.00, www.amazon.com
In England, Frances and Phillip have been married for two decades. They have no children of their own, but they raised his daughter Chloe, whose mother abandoned her. In her forties, Frances learns she suffers from a malignant tumor. Stunned Phillip leaves London where he worked on his latest marketing book to return to their rural home to help his beloved wife.
However Frances feels betrayed as she has found a romantic letter that ties her husband to his book editor Josee, the London-based editor of his books. Instead of confronting Phillip, Frances follows him to London where she sees him say goodbye to Josee. As she knows she is dying, she looks back to herself in 1976 as a twentyish woman in Mexico eking out a living by teaching English. There she met three wealthy selfish American couples (Patsy and Richard, Bee Bee and Ned, and Sally and Mason) who she initially cannot distinguish between the extender Severance family members. However, she and Mason have an affair; which she rationalized by blaming Sally until she realizes her lover was having sex with Patsy too. As her death looms, Frances relooks at her relationship with Phillip who she knows loved her though he betrayed her.
The View from Here is that this is an engaging insightful character study. The story line contrasts Frances as twenty-two years old who believed she could do anything and selfishly went after whatever or whoever she desires without a care for others; vs. the forty something dying Frances who is no long shallow as she has cared for others like Chloe and forgives her beloved Phillip for his indiscretions. The protagonist will have readers ponder whether the sums of a person's good deeds and bad deeds can be accrued like debits and credits on an accounting journal.
These Precious Hours
Virtual Bookworm Publishing
P.O. Box 9949, College Station TX 77842
9781602646377, $13.95, www.amazon.com
In this collection of interconnected short stories, Michael Corrigan ponders grief, loss and recovery through fictional characters. The story plots are well-developed and intriguing, the characters so realistic that readers will feel intimately connected to their worlds. Corrigan aptly chose words from Dylan to set the tone for these thirteen short stories: More frailer than the flowers These precious hours That keep us so tightly bound.
In a powerful story with seven scenes, "These Precious Hours", Declan Mulligan revisits Galway as a widower. His wife's death had sucked the life out of him and he struggles with loneliness while traveling through Ireland without her. All he can think about is their happy plans to visit Ireland again, together:
"Declan was grateful for the light mist. He decided to walk into the Jury's Inn Pub and have a drink. He sat down and ordered a small beer. The pub-restaurant seemed too bright and not as interesting as when he and Kate had lunch there four years before. Drinking his beer, Declan wondered again if traveling alone was a bad idea. He had never traveled alone, even as a young man. Now he was learning to live alone. Kate had died on a brilliant September day and he had been a widower for nearly two years. He had reached that point when friends insisted he needed a woman companion, but Declan saw Kate's warm, merry eyes watching him, with perhaps a trace of pity and sadness. He missed her. There was no other way to say it."
In "Paraguay Wedding", amidst the smothering heat and dangers of South America, Sean Dineen and his dying ex-wife attend their son's wedding. The sweetness of young love blends seamlessly with the bitterness of lost love and poignant memories of happier times as Dineen contemplates past, present, and future.
In "Stonehenge", Molly Malone and Susan Finegold are strangers, two very different women visiting the ancient site in an effort to escape their sorrows. The brutality of grief follows them wherever they go.
"The Day the World Blew Up" and "The Wife and the Monk" are two stories connected by continuing characters. Leah and Lester Brown's marriage is in shambles. Far from being Leah's Prince Charming, Lester is loud and clueless, a man who drinks as hard as he works. Father Michaels is a charming monk who made a bargain with a God he doesn't believe in to save the woman he loves.
In "The Wedding", pro gunner James Greene is wheel chair bound with a debilitating disease, but
determined to walk his daughter down the aisle on two legs.
In "If I Had a Hammer", Max Cochrane faces a modern problem. He might be losing his job at a
state university. The economy, university politics, religion, sex, and murder bring campus turmoil to a head.
The death of a friend shocks Dexter Flanagan in "Studebaker Falls". Sometimes one loss closely
follows another, leaving an entire group of people floundering.
Three men connected by loss join ranks in "Voices Echo." Sean Dineen, Declan Mulligan, and
Dexter Flanagan provide support in this riveting unofficial group therapy session.
"SUR 13" is an exceptional tale of triumph and loss. Dexter Flanagan teaches Bannock Shoshone
students and is concerned about Mexican street gangs infiltrating the reservation. Dexter and a
tough Indian sheriff will do whatever it takes to end the violence.
"Never Again" is another powerful tale with Sean Dineen visiting the Holocaust Museum. Despite passing decades, the truths he sees in the museum devastate Dineen.
In "Incident at Gettysburg", Declan Mulligan investigates his ancestors. The past and present
join forces to work a healing of sorts.
In "Return of the Exiles", Declan, Sean, and Dexter meet again at the Hemingway Memorial
in Sun Valley. In this beautiful place, the three acquaintances connected by loss look towards
a hopeful future.
My brief thumbnails of these very well written stories can't do them justice. You have to read them, linger over them. All are fictionalized reality, all helpful stepping stones to lead readers through grief and loss to a hopeful recovery. The prose, characters, and locations are exceptional and highly recommended reading.
Leonard Bernstein At Work
Steve J. Sherman, photographer
James M. Keller, introduction
c/o Hal Leonard Corp.
7777 West Bluemound Road, Milwaukee, WI 53213
9781574671902 $34.99 www.amadeus.com
"Leonard Bernstein At Work: His Final Years, 1984-1990, With Remembrances by Bernstein's Colleagues, Friends, and Family" is a magnificent photo essay of a succession of crowning achievements of America's most renowned classical orchestra director/composer/musician. Towering in stature, the cultural giant known as Leonard Bernstein is revealed as a very human, warm, passionate person, absolutely committed to the total pursuit of his artistic vision. Twenty chapters contain riveting, haunting black and white photos of Bernstein in recording sessions, chatting with fellow artists and friends, rehearsing, directing, in performance, with proteges, backstage, at celebration galas, in magnificent concert venues in America and Europe. These magnificent photos tell a complex tale of an incredibly complicated, gifted man. In addition to the many magnificent photos expressing many sides of this passionate artist and director, Included are interviews and comments by special friends and family members, and professionals who knew him.
His own writings are quoted as well (from "Beauty and Truth Revisited, Part II"), adding further dimension to the portrait of the artist that emerges. Perhaps most moving of all are the series of photos of Maestro Bernstein taking bows at Carnegie Hall after his final concert, a performance of Bruckner's Symphony No. 9. it is about this series of photos, taken during an applauding "Carnegie roar" experience, that Bernstein's daughter, Jamie Bernstein, writes:"..he looks as if part of him has already moved on somewhere else. In the last shot of the series, he looks directly into Steve's camera with a bleak, quiet expression. Looking at this image, I had the sensation that I was eavesdropping on my father's most private discourse with himself - the one he refrained from sharing even with his loved ones: "Thousands applaud me. It means nothing. I am almost gone.(p. xi)."
"Leonard Bernstein At Work, His Final Years, 1984-1990" is a magnificent outpouring and tribute in the form of a vast photo essay with commentary. It deserves the highest recommendation and the widest circulation. No one in America alive today is unaffected by the tremendous legacy of this staggering musical genius. It is a great pleasure and privilege to see a portion of the man in these careful reflections and multiple-faceted mirrors.
The Guitar Grimoire: Beginning Guitar
Hal Leonard Corp.
7777 W. Bluemound Road, P.O. Box 13819, Milwaukee, WI 53213
9781423482994 $17.99 www.halleonard.com
"The Guitar Grimoire: Beginning Guitar" is a self-teaching system designed specifically for the do-it-yourself aspiring novice guitar player that includes four hours of instruction on two DVDs plus a 32-page book containing graphics and diagrams to supplement the audio-visual instruction on the DVD's. Material includes essential basics such as tuning the guitar, basic rhythm, learning the fret board, basic dexterity exercises, learning the first 7 chords, transposing, variations for the 12-bar blues progression pattern and more. Although the goal of "The Guitar Grimoire" is to teach beginners how to play guitar without reading music or tablature, some of these concepts are tangentially addressed or presented. Certainly "The Guitar Grimoire" will help beginners learn to start playing chords and songs quickly, and eventually to begin improvising or composing songs. This tested teaching method has had good results and is quite a useful tool for adults and young adults who are motivated to learn with the self-instruction model of teaching through use of the DVD's.
Phil Trajetta (1777-1854)
Franco Sciannameo, author
Michael J. Budds, editor
PO Box 190, Hillsdale, NY 12529
9781576471876 $58.00 www.pendragonpress.com
"Phil Trajetta (1777-1854): Patriot, Musician, Immigrant" is subtitled "Commentary on His Life and Work in Context With a Facsimile Edition of His Theoretical Treatise and New Editions of Selected Compositions." The monograph (CMS Monographs & Bibliographies in American Music No. 22) is divided into two main sections: Part One, Life and Works in Context, and Part Two, Selected Works.
The author describes original sources as confined to "three small carton boxes containing an array of music manuscripts,... a handful of published material that has survived the rage of time, a modest collection of notices published in contemporary newspapers; and his obituary (10 January 1854) (p. xi)." Given the limitations of research sources available, a significant tribute to an important American immigrant composer/teacher/musician has been amassed. Not only are the exciting, scant details of Phil Trajetta's life history, education and travels presented both fully and succinctly, but also for the first time a facsimile reproduction of the third edition (1873) of Trajetta's theoretical treatise "An Introduction to the Art and Science of Music" is presented. In addition, the second part of the monograph includes new editions of six representative compositions by Trajetta, including "How Long Oh Lord Shall I Complain" solo for soprano and orchestra from "Jerusalem in Affliction." There is also a complete catalog of extant compositions.
Trajetta was instrumental in founding three American conservatories of music, in Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia. He also spent time in Charleston and later in Virginia, doing writing, teaching, and performing. "Phil Trajetta (1777-1854) patriot, Musician, Immigrant" is the only major study of Trajetta in English to date. Beginning with his early life in Venice and Naples as son of famous Italian opera composer Tommaso Trajetta and Elizabeth Sund, a Lutheran Swedish noble lady, Phil Trajetta received an exhaustive music education from arguably the most accomplished music educators of Europe. Fleeing and escaping a dire political imprisonment in Europe following Napoleonic wars, Trajetta was spirited by secret supporters and friends to the shores of America, where he began teaching in Boston, writing the System of Vocal Exercises.
In the language of his obituary, "Trajetta was a thorough contrapuntist, a performer on nearly every instrument of the orchestra, a solo-performer on several, an impassioned and cultivated singer, possessing a baritone voice of great natural ability, trained by severe study to fill the highest tenor part, and an inimitable orchestra conductor."
The publication of the monograph "Phil Trajetta (1777-1854), Patriot, Musician, Immigrant" serves as a crucial resurrection and monument to a nearly forgotten man of immense influence in American music history and development.
Clothing Through American History
Anita Stamper, Jill Condra, authors
P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116
9780313335518 $85.00 www.abc-clio.com
"Clothing Through American History: The Civil War Through the Gilded Age, 1861-1899" is an abbreviated complete dress compendium for American men, women and children's fashions during the two eras included, Civil War and Reconstruction (1861-1876) and the Gilded Age (1877-1899). Also included with photos and illustrations are fashions worn by African-Americans and Native Americans of many different tribes. The book is evenly divided into two sections, one on each era, the first written by Anita Stamper and the second written by Jill Condra. Both halves are essentially complete works in themselves, including an introduction, timeline, chapters on the era, society, culture and dress. plus separate chapters on women's, men's, and children's fashions, completed with a glossary, resource guide, and author thumbnail biography. Studded with photos, illustrations and reproductions of ephemera from the era, "Clothing Through American History" gives a complete overview of both the historical backgrounds and the fabrics, supplies, and industrial and creative arts necessary to clothe Americans of the era. Historical photos of American Indians and African Americans add to the variety of visual sources and materials. The timelines are most helpful in understanding some of the changes and evolving trends in American fashions. "Clothing Through American History" is an excellent resource for fashion historians, costume designers, and students of multiple disciplines. "Clothing Through American History" is also available on the World Wide Web as an eBook. Readers are instructed to visit www.abc-clio.com for details.
Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook
Weight Watchers Publishing Group
Deborah Mintcheff, editor, et. al.
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
111 River St., Hoboken, NJ 07030
9780470614518 $29.95 www.wiley.com
"Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook: Over 500 Delicious Recipes for the Healthy Cook's Kitchen" covers over 500 new delicious healthy recipes that are all calculated for counting in the new Points Plus Program endorsed by Weight Watchers. Divided into 16 chapters, an amazing array of imaginative, healthy recipes for entrees, starters, desserts, breakfasts, snacks, salads, soups, sides and more are presented. Picture-pretty photos in color feature stunning presentations of the recipes' results, and directions are clear, simple, and easy to follow. Each recipe gives the full dietary information per serving at the end, plus the PointsPlus value of the food in one serving. Handy hints are highlighted with a red FYI between recipes. Colored tabs help the cook to choose the section desired, and each section begins with a complete listing of all the recipes presented in that section, from first to last. Care for some Watermelon-Peach Salad with Ricotta Salata? How about Creamy Yellow Squash Soup with Chives, at 3 PointsPlus per serving? Then there's Grilled T-Bone Steak, perfect for New Year's Eve, at 5 PointsPlus per serving. How about Savory Lamb Stew, made in a crock pot? If you are seeking to prepare a meal or recipe and know how many points you have left to use, there is an index of recipes at the end that lists recipes by PointsPlus value, a very helpful tool to the Weight Watcher chef. In all, Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook is destined to become an immediate classic go-to cookbook for weight and health conscious chefs everywhere.
Servants on Horses
PO Box 876, Waitsfield, VT 05673
9780980217544 $14.95 www.distinctionpress.com
"Servants on Horses" is a complex retelling of the author's great-great grandfather's history as mixed blood member of the Muskogee nation in the era of the post Indian Removal Act of 1830. Based on historical records and the writings of memories the author's grandmother, Eva Bailey on the occasions of her 93rd birthday, as told to a local county newspaper). This is the story of Uriah Pearson, of mixed White and Creek/Muskogee lineage, whose survival in a turbulent time in the American South sometimes depended on his ability to pass as either Indian or White. Tribal members fought Whites and Whites enforced unjust laws in the era of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, passed by Congress by just one vote in spite of a Supreme Court decision invalidating it. At stake is the cultural identity of the Creek Muskogee nation as well as many others Native nations, some warring, some peaceful. Also at issue is the ability of the surviving Muskogees and others to assimilate into the White culture, while in the process of either cooperating (by force) with land loss and resettlement and removal or facing annihilation. "Servants on Horses" makes for complicated reading, with the many swift, brutal changes, role reversals, and cultural transformations and betrayals. The title is taken from Ecclesiastes 10: 5-7 "There is an evil I have seen under the sun, an error which proceeds from the ruler. Folly is set in high dignity, and the rich sit in low place. I have seen servants on horses, and princes walking as servants on the earth." No more fitting indictment of the Indian Removal Act and its sponsor and author, President Andrew Jackson, exists. "Servants on Horses" is a new side to this story told from the Natives' viewpoint, as experienced by a survivor and his descendants. It adds immeasurably to the bloody accuracy of accepted histories. Also recommended by the same author is "Selected Letters of General Thomas Woodward's Reminiscences 1857-1859, Regarding the Creek, or Muskogee, Indians of Alabama and Georgia," (9780980217568, $14.95).
Sleep, Little Child
Marc Hoffman, author/composer
Tony Waters, illustrator
543 Hickory Dr., Salisbury, NC 28114
9780615314341 $17.95 www.sleeplittlechild.com
"Sleep, Little Child" is an entrancing lullaby book and CD with both song performances and readings by the author/composer and his wife, Nana. The rhyming lullaby lyrics are gently reassuring to the young child that while he goes to sleep, he is watched and cared for by his heavenly Father, as well as by his earthly father. Pastel illustrations of a sleepy, golden -haired little boy are both appealing and inviting to prepare to embark for Slumberland. Little comical details of the boy's favorite stuffed monkey (whose eyes wake and sleep in sync with the boy's) will be carefully noted and cherished by sleepy toddlers. "Sleep, Little Child" is accompanied by a CD of vocal and instrumental performances by the author/composer of the song with added narration by both Marc and Barbara "Nana" Hoffman. "Sleep, Little Child" is an ideal bedtime experience to offer to sleepy, squirmy children ages 2-7, to help them settle into sound and healthful slumber.
The Employee's Mentor
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781442169210, $15.00, www.amazon.com
Whether entering the workforce for the first time upon graduation, or re-entering the workforce after a sustained absence, the necessity to work well with management while planning an implementing an advancing career path is fundamentally important for long term success -- and the rewards that go with it. That's why "The Employee's Mentor" by Richard LaPalme will prove an invaluable, practical, instructional, and evening inspiring read. Drawing upon his many years of experience and expertise in mentoring and monitoring employees, LaPalme covers ever aspect of professional employment ranging from performance evaluations, managerial task assignments and conduct, 'managing the manager', conflict resolution with management, the value and necessity of skillful communications, and a great deal more. A superbly presented, thoroughly user friendly, 90-page compendium of information and instruction that is occasionally illustrated with real world examples, "The Employee's Mentor" should be considered essential reading for those newly embarking upon their chosen career path.
Essays and Aphorisms on the Higher Man
In our search to mean something, we try many things. "Essays and Aphorisms on the Higher Man" is a discussion of man's search for meaning, as she speaks on the pursuits of morality, art, and religion and what it means to us all. Stating that these pursuits often fail to give us the answers we want due to them being commercialized and that their causes lost, she offers many differing solutions. "Essays and Aphorism on the Higher Man" is a simple and powerful read, highly recommended.
The Black House
Constance & Gwenyth Little
The Rue Morgue Press
87 Lone Tree Lane, Lyons, CO 80540
9780915230686, $14.00, www.amazon.com
Constance and Gwenyth Little were born in Australia in 1899 and 1903. They lived most of their lives in East Orange, New Jersey and published twenty-one mysteries. Their mysteries could be classified as "cozies," as the increasingly gruesome murders generally took place off stage. Their characters were always comedic, and lots of old mansions; boarding homes; hotels; hospitals and the like providing creepy scenery for their whodunits. In their early works heroines were strong women who took to sleuthing to find the real murderer. The Littles had amazing range, considering they wrote most of their mysteries in bed.
THE BLACK HOUSE is told from a male point-of-view, probably because after World War II men emerged as the dominant breed in America. Henry Debbon is the hero, a lawyer going in for a typical day of work. Because he set his alarm incorrectly, he is an hour early. Immediately he senses that something is out of whack in the office when he meets a total stranger waiting in his boss's office. His boss acts downright crazy:
"Claude, chewing on his customary cigar, looked him over. 'I suppose you were so bleary-eyed this morning that you read your watch wrong.' This was so astutely the truth that Henry was more bitterly offended than if he had merely come down early to get some work done.
He said, with remote and frigid courtesy, 'There is a man waiting for you in Your office.'
Claude glanced at the closed door of his office. 'Nonsense, it's too early. You're not awake yet. Have you had coffee?'"
Naturally, the real action takes place at an old mansion owned by Henry's aunt, (the black house) when people in the office start disappearing. Lots of weird, uninvited guests show up, and the weather responds by producing the winter storm of the century. A cast of eccentric characters is stuck together until the storm clears, and bodies keep popping up... and then some of them disappear. Henry has been lured to his aunt's place by duress from his boss, and something stinks about the whole deal. THE BLACK HOUSE is great entertainment best consumed on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate.
The Twinning Murders
The Beckham Publishing Group, Inc.
P.O. Box 4066, Silver Spring, MD 20914
Shelly Frome is an emeritus professor at the University of Connecticut. His credits include the usual articles; books on theater and film; professional acting credits; and writing mysteries.
Set in Lydfied, Connecticut and Lydfield-in-the-Moor in Britain, Frome's story revolves around a threat to the good inhabitants of Lydfield, Connecticut by a corporate developer who plans to invade the town with a condo development. Enter Emily, a rather loosely put-together young woman whose mother owns the B & B in town, one of the targets of the enemy. Emily makes her living taking townsfolk over to their sister city in England for site seeing. Her latest endeavor involves a twinning (whatever that is), which is ostensibly a fair for the locals. Before she leaves, a close friend dies in a suspicious accident involving a fall from a roof in a storm. We're off and running, and strange characters pop up everywhere:
"After voicing her displeasure over any stopovers, Pru returned to her favorite subject. 'Where is it that we're staying exactly, Emily? How close to the moors? Close enough to check out the witch hut? And her stories about tricky Devon pixies? The dreaded wisht hound in league with the Devil? Faithless wives and fickle maidens forced down the banks of the river? You said we could hike there, remember?"
Since Frome is an actor and drama Professor, one would expect exotic backdrops and macabre characters. He doesn't fail to please. In fact, his characters are so bad at communicating with one another that the reader finds himself or herself drawn into this rather schizophrenic world of weirdos. Poor Emily is the only sane one in the bunch, other than her white knight who hangs in the background, and her best friend Babs, who tears around looking for newsworthy craziness to earn her living.
But hang in there... Frome teases us with lots of seemingly disjointed events that are all tied together in a neat little bow at the end. He doesn't forget his denouement, and don't forget to pay attention to all the clues he litters throughout the tale.
THE TWINING MURDERS is good, old-fashioned fun. One minute the reader is in the U.S.; the next in a British mystery on the moors with all the accouterments.
Do Witches Make Fishes
Jason Mayo, Illustrated by: Justin Wolfson
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781452069449, $16.95, www.amazon.com
I think we all know a child who doesn't want to eat healthy and only loves sweets. Perhaps you yourself were that child or still are! In this take we meet a child who does something magical and makes his mother disappear. Why? Because she wanted him to eat healthy food.
The spooky part is this, when mom disappears a creepy witch takes her place. The witch tells the little boy that is he does not eat what she cooks him all sorts of frightening things will happen. The choice is his. He had to think fast, and most important of all he wanted his mom to come back. What will he do?
In this tale our little lad learns that perhaps mom isn't such a bad person to have around and eating healthy food isn't going to kill him. This is a cute little story with big, bold illustrations that light up each page and definitely bring the story home. Told in rhyme this is a tale that children will remember and relate to. After all, who wants to switch their mom with a witch! Well done.
Flashes from the Other World
Julie Ann Weinstein
All Things That Matter Press
9780984621644 14.95 www.amazon.com
I have to say that I have never read "flash" fiction before. I wasn't sure exactly what I would find.
Inside the pages of this book were many short stories, but not the kind I was use to reading. It took me a little bit to sink my teeth into them, but when I did I just let myself go and enjoyed.
The stories are wild and wacky, scary and secretive, magical and free. Many make no sense to the natural realm, yet pull at the imagination within you and beg you to fly away with them. Others tenderly pulled on my heartstrings, and some made me giggle. Yet others held a hint of true sadness. It was like a smorgasbord of many delicious treats that beckons you to partake.
Different, fresh and inviting. Thank you Julie for sharing.
Art by Pete Proctor
Active Spud Press
978084538805, $15.95, www.activespudpress.com
Just about everyone loves a dog, and all dogs are different, that's for sure. However,what happens when you have a super-lazy dog friend? In this delightful tale by author, Steve Ettinger, we meet Wallie, a loveable, huggable pooch. Wallie has so many good traits, why he is loyal, and faithful, and quite cool, but unfortunately he is quite large too. Yes, Wallie needs to lose a few pounds but Wallie has no interest in doing any such thing. What will his friend do to help him see the way?
Just in time they set out on an exercise adventure where Wallie sees first hand other animal friends keeping in shape. The big help and the wake-up call comes from, Edwin, a loveable elephant who gives Wallie just the right amount of advise and encouragement to get up and go.
I liked this book, it was both entertaining and educational. The author uses characters that children will relate to get the subject, exercising, across without being over bearing or preachy. Using a chubby dog was such a cute idea and I loved the illustrations of all the animals doing their 'exercise thing.' Of course my favorite was Edwin, the elephant. After all if an elephant can exercise so can we. Too cute! You are also treated to a section with some instructions to exercises that Wallie now does, and some information as well.
All in all a great learning story, adorable characters, and eye popping illustrations. Well done.
I Want What She's Got
Bette James Laughrun
317 Appaloosa Trail, Waco, TX 76712
9780982666586, $14.95, www.amazon.com
It is strange that I am at the age now that our author was when she decided to live and not wait to die. I can definitely relate to what she said in her book. At 62 you can look at your life and see more time behind you than you know you have before you. That thought alone can make you only exist and wait for death to take you. Sad but true.
I read this book in one evening. The author bears her heart and tells of her turn-around in her life, her past, and the start of a fresh new beginning. She is open and honest with her words, straight forward and often humorous. She gives you insight, direction and purpose and she gives you a shot of faith, deep encouragement in God and the help He can give to you.
There are questions throughout the book for you to answer. They aren't hard questions, but ones that will make you think and search within yourself for the true answers. I also loved her daughters part in this book. She is quite a courageous woman and adds just the right amount of wisdom to round off her mother's words. Interesting, honest, encouraging, and a book that will put you on the road to victory. Very well done, great job ladies. Recommended for anyone who wants a fresh, bright future.
High Heels: Honey Lips & White Powder
Rose Maria McCarthy Anding
127 East Trade Center Terrace Mustang, OK 73064
978616633608 $14.99, www.amazon.com
In this life we can look around us and see many hurting souls. We may not know what is causing the pain but we can sense it, see it in their eyes, watch it in their actions. In this book we meet a woman whose choices led her down some dark and lonely roads and cost her great loss. It is the story of a woman who chose the forbidden fruit that led to devastation until she truly turned to the God who is more than enough to turn her life around.
We are taken with her into the darkness of her nights, share many pains as she unfolds the battles she fought, losing most, but finally yielding her full self to the only one who had all she had been looking for all of her life.
This was a very moving story. The author wrote from her heart with honesty, baring her very soul. I loved the way she gave God the credit for her victory and also how she shares with the reader the steps she took to get there. If you are struggling and you think you can never get out of the life you are living, this book will help you understand there is light at the end of the tunnel, and you too can find victory. Very well done.
North Street Press
PO Box 451, St Cloud, MN, 56302-0451
0878393641, $14.95, www.amazon.com
Strange calling upon strange, deep calling upon deep, creepy calling upon creepy that could very well sum up this book. It is a book that slithers into the dark side of a family in so many ways. Body parts kept in the freezer? Gross! Although I had to chuckle, families can keep some strange memories.
As the family gathers for holiday celebrations, we meet each one, Most definitely have different personalities. I was hoping Karen would bring some normalcy to the family, at first I thought there was hope, but it was soon lost. I did like the Norwegian flare and some of their customs that was interesting, The spirits of dead relations definitely brought some humor but also a big slice of weird. This story delivers what it says it will, entertaining in a different way. I don't think this was easy to write and the author did a good job at bringing forth what she set out to do.
Blue Ocean Bob
Brooks Olbrys, author
Aleksandra Beaucher, illustrator
Children's Success Unlimited LLC
521 Fifth Avenue 27th Floor, NY, NY 10175
9780982961308, $16.95, www.amazon.com
Bob is a young boy who lived close to the sea. He lived on a beautiful island but Bob wanted more. Xena, his very close bird friend, was not happy hearing Bob talk like this, but Bob was seeking answers and went on a quest.
He asked a dolphin named, Al what his secret was to a happy life. He told him to visit his teacher, a wise turtle named, Doc. Once finding Doc, Bob asked him how to really be content in his life. His answer will delight you.
This is a little book but one that packs a bug punch of wisdom. All of us in our lives want to be fulfilled and happy, many never find the way. In this book wisdom is given wrapped in a charming rhyme, upbeat, story. Brought to life with colorful, bold, illustrations. Wisdom indeed will be found that will last your child a lifetime.
Very well done, recommended.
Mubu & Mu-Mu The Little Animal Doctor
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781426938863, $15.05 www.amazon.com
Six year old Mubu, who lives on the edge of the jungle, helps her grandfather take care of animals that he finds injured. When her grandfather finds an injured Gibbon he gives it to Mubu to care for. However, she is instructed not to do three things. One - do not give it a name. Two- do not let it sleep in your bed. Three - do not cuddle. Mubu didn't like these rules. She loved the little animal and broke all three of them and when it was time to release the little animal back to her family, Mubu learned why these rules were important to follow. And as she learns, so the reader does too.
I loved this book. It is simple, yet profound. The story shows the love of children for animals and the acceptance of love between both. It also taught respect of life for all living creatures and that each has their own part to play in our world and their own habitat to live in.
I like the way the author brings out our responsibility as humans to respect other species and their home land, that we as caretakers must understand the importance of every living creature. Good job.
The illustrations were exceptional, big, bold and colorful. The expressions on the humans and animal faces brought forth the emotions of the moment in a very realistic way, very well done. The illustrations definitely brought the story to life.
The add on that was placed in the back I found very interesting. Mubu's Playground makes you want to hop on a plane and go play with the elephants. This is a great book and it is my pleasure to give it my highest recommendation. A must have that young and old will enjoy and treasure.
Credit Card Usury and the Christian Failure to Stop It
Paul Peter Jesep
Jesus's assault on the money lenders jumps out more than ever in today's environment. "Credit Card Usury and the Christian Failure to Stop it: A Call to Social Justice Against the Money Changers" is a Christian-driven call against the abuses of credit and banking and that Christians should be acting to stand against these abuses that bring despair to many, and denying financial aid to those who truly need it. Faith driven and thoughtful, "Credit Card Usury and the Christian Failure to Stop it" is a fine read and solidly recommended.
A Fistful of Rubbers
9781905091584, $14.99, www.logical-lust.com
When blood thirsty vampires are a threat and are not your main concern, you know you have problems. "A Fistful of Rubbers" is the second chapter of the Sid Tillsley Chronicles, telling a different sort of vampire novel. Taking on the job of vampire hunter, he finds getting a girl is still hard, and the internet seems to be his only chance. But as vampires try to take over the world, Sid finds his personal problems and inability to get a good drink to be far more important. Intriguing and offbeat, "A Fistful of Rubbers" is a strong recommendation. Also from LL Publications is "Pillar's Fall: The Legend of Pillar - Book One" (9781905091874, $14.99) following Thomas Pillar as he tries to find whose behind a chain of brutal, raging murders as his own life begins to fall apart around him.
The Gift of Schizophrenia
10940 S Parker Road 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432763565, $20.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Some disorders can crush your life, but it's oh so hard to simply let it happen. "The Gift of Schizophrenia" is a memoir from DJ Cushing as he reflects on the diagnosis of schizophrenia that tore down his life, to the point where doctors believed that he would never make a recovery enough to return to a normal life. A driven memoir of conquering your demons, "The Gift of Schizophrenia" is an insightful read into schizophrenia, recommended.
An Ambassador and a Mensch
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781450558129, $40.00, www.createspace.com
Turkey played a bigger role in saving individuals from the holocaust than most people know. "An Ambassador and a Mensch: The Story of a Turkish Diplomat in Vichy France" discusses the role of Turkey in getting its Jews out of Vichy France as it still accepted ambassadors from them, even as a puppet state of Nazi Germany. Telling the story of how an ambassador went against his own country's policy and the wrath of Germany to do what's right, "An Ambassador and a Mensch" is an intriguing and thoughtful tale of much less heard heroism.
Did Success Spoil Jayne Mansfield?
10940 S Parker Rd - 515, Parker CO 80134
9781432761233, $29.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Success can some very strange effects on people. "Did Success Spoil Jayne Mansfield?: Her Life in Pictures and Text" is a dedicated to Jayne Mansfield, star of film who had gained quite the following for being far more than just another dumb blonde, known for her wit and musical talents as well. A dedicated work done by a lifelong fan done in pictures, "Did Success Spoil Jayne Mansfield?" is a choice pick for fellow diehard Jayne fans.
It's Not Your Fault
10940 S Parker Rd - 515, Parker CO 80134
9781432766641, $29.95, www.outskirtspress.com
There are many things that lead toward obesity, and understanding them is the first step to beating them. "It's Not Your Fault: Weight Gain, Obesity, and Food Addiction" is a guide to understanding obesity and comes with advice that can help readers face their problems and conquer them more effectively. Stating that internal chemicals and other elements are the cause and controlling them will help one on the road to success, "It's Not Your Fault" offers alternative advice and should be consider by those who have tried and failed other methods.
The 1% Solution
Peak Performance Press
1163 South Main Street, Suite 306, Chelsea, MI 48118
9780976950622, $19.95, www.peakperformancepress.net
You don't have to be the best to be really, really good. "The 1% Solution: For Work and Life, How to Make Your Next 30 Days the Best Ever" is an inspirational and business guide from Tom Connellan who comes to readers with a simple and empowering message. You don't have to be number one, aim for being within 1% of number one. Small changes in your life can improve it in every way, and simple, fast ideas make "The 1% Solution" a wise and very motivational read, not to be missed.
c/o PR by the Book
Romance can lead you in some strange paths in life. "After Isaactown" tells the story of one Norm Arnstein, who lusts over what he cannot have, his brother's wife. Wrapping himself in his legal practice as reconciliation, he forgoes romance until he meets a most unusual woman. A novel of love where you never expected it, "After Isaactown" is a thoughtful and very highly recommended read, not to be missed.
Bullets of '71
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452043784, $25.00, www.authorhouse.com
For freedom, there are countless sacrifices. "Bullets of '71" is a memoir of Nuran Nabi telling his story of his own endeavors in the Bangladesh Liberation War, which left millions dead. Stating his own experiences on the political front and as an activist, he tells a compelling story about the triumphs and tragedies of this great conflict that consumed the entire country. "Bullets of '71" is a thoughtful and very highly recommended read, not to be missed.
Harry Leslie Smith
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450254137, $21.95, www.iuniverse.com
To be common means a hard life with little appreciation. "1923: A Memoir" is the memoir of Harry Leslie Smith, a Royal Air Force World War II veteran whose military life rescued him from obscurity. Sharing his families story and how he went from a nobody to being a long serving veteran in the RAF, his story proves inspirational and gives readers much to aspire to no matter where they come from and whatever tragedies they face. "1923" is uplifting and highly recommended.
William P. Crawford
Secrets are sometimes meant to be kept. "The Lake" tells the story of one gentlemen who when he sees a volcano erupt, he comes across a secret. But this is a dangerous secret, one that could change the world if it gets out, and he finds that he must go long and far to keep the lid on it or face a world where youth may be eternal. Fast paced and fun reading, "The Lake" is not a read to be missed.
Construction Project Management
Kirshner Publishing Company, Inc.
405 Davis Court Suite 1202, San Francisco, CA 94111
9780982703496, $42.00, www.kirshnerpublishing.com
With lots of tools and wood flying around, it's easy to let things get out of hand. "Construction Project Management: A Complete Introduction" is a guide for those who are set to manage their own larger scale construction project and what needs to be done to keep it all from getting out of hand. Stating how to manage your staff, manage contractors, the risks that need to be considered, financial planning, and much more. With additional information on dealing with legal issues, the role of technology, and more, "Construction Project Management" is a strongly recommended pick for anyone who is trying to get into the construction industry.
Cosmological Ice Ages
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781425170622, $31.35, www.traffordpublishing.com
Where the earth came from and how we got here is one of the major questions that is asked of us in the modern day. "Cosmological Ice Ages" is the musings from Henry Kroll as he provides his own opinion about how the Earth was formed and life got its start. Stating that a cosmological ice age is the basis the planet's formation and what lies ahead. With some thought and interesting ideas, "Cosmological Ice Ages" is worth considering for metaphysical thinkers.
Representative American Speeches 2009-2010
H. W. Wilson
950 University Avenue, Bronx, NY 10452
9780824211011, $50.00, www.hwwilson.com
A speech has the power to alter the course of society. "Representative American Speeches 2009-2010" looks at the most important speeches of the past two years which have reflected upon America and its course. The speeches, drawing from Presidential speeches around the world, criticisms of congress, the damage control of BP following the serious oil spill, and much more, these speeches are transcribed in their entirety, with context provided by the editor. On the topics of health care reform, disaster management, and concerns for our future, "Representative American Speeches 2009-2010" is a sage addition to any reference collection accumulating modern history.
Is America Falling Apart?
Mahnaz B. Consolver
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781450232685, $14.95, www.iuniverse.com
The American dream seems further away than ever. "Is America Falling Apart?: What Surprised Me About the United States" is a memoir of a modern immigrant whose shining notions of America were broken when she finds something very different from what America portrays it as. Poignant and frank, "Is America Falling Apart?" is a fascinating memoir that looks at America through the eyes of one of its newest citizens.
Paul T. Vogel
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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