Sunday, August 31, 2008

Feast of Saint Bertie-Kathleen Popa

Feast of Saint Bertie
Kathleen Popa
David C. Cook, Sep 2008
ISBN: 9781434799876

In Saratoga, Roberta “Bertie” Denys buries her famous in Silicon Valley husband Larry who suffered from Parkinson ’s disease. Her only regret is their adult son Garrett failed to show up at the funeral; Garrett vanished four months ago. After the burial, Bertie comes home to find her house on fire; an arsonist struck. Her neighbor Suzanne takes her into her home.

Bertie moves into a rural shed where she plans to pray every three hours and learn what her visions mean. There she meets pregnant general store owner pregnant and single India, Russ, his ex wife Brenda and his ex partner Gil who is Brenda’s second husband. Russ and his former father in law Boyd repair Bertie’s roof. Bertie also helps at a food kitchen for the homeless where she sees Garrett who came in for a meal. He promises to visit her soon even as letters from her late spouse begin to arrive once a week to help her move on.

This inspirational character study stars a strong female protagonist trying to move on after the death of her beloved spouse who suffered for quite awhile with his debilitating illness. Part of her adjustment is from taking care of her late husband. As she seeks an inner peace through prayer, Bertie wonders if she can find this need for “all shall be well” without first finding her son. With a strong eccentric support cast, fans will enjoy Kathleen Popa’s fine contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

The Secret's in the Sauce-Linda Evans Shepherd and Marie Everson

The Secret's in the Sauce
Linda Evans Shepherd and Marie Everson
Revell, Sep 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9780800732080

In Summit View, Colorado following the wedding of Evangeline and Vernon catered by the Potluck Club members, the women believe they have proven how good they are as everyone enjoyed the food. They decide to open up a catering business.

They find success preparing meals for galas. However, while their cooking and catering are proving triumphant, each has personal issues to face. One of the members turns to alcohol; another’s torrid ancient history affair surfaces; a third just lost her beloved parent; and finally a fourth must choose between two lovers. They turn to one another for solace.

The Potluck Club crowd decides to become professional caterers at a time when each of the members have personal issues. The rotating lead never gets deep into anyone’s particular woes so their problems are minimized; almost trivialized. Still fans of the series will enjoy the latest optimistic entry as the Potluck Club turns professional.

Harriet Klausner

Blinded by the Light-Morgan Hunt

Blinded by the Light
Morgan Hunt
Alyson, Books, Aug 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 1593500858

After battling cancer, nothing bothers Tess Camillo because she realizes the only thing that matters is the cliché of living life to the fullest. Of course she would like a job since the firm she worked for downsized her. When her friend Beth Butler offers her work refining software for her company in New Mexico Tess grabs it.

After Tess is through working at the Bryce Corporation she and Beth decide to visit the Lightning Field; conceptual art that at dawn and dusk turns into a masterpiece and during a storm is incredibly beautiful. They stay at a cabin shared with four other people; they begin to bond after witnessing the Lightning Field at night. However, the next morning Tess sees a body of one of the other guests in the field. The medical examiner decides it is a homicide from an electrical gadget like a taser of cattle prod. Beth has a taser and her fingerprints are the only ones on it. When Beth is arrested, Tess investigates because she knows her friend is innocent.

Morgan Hunt has written an excellent amateur sleuth tale filled with plenty of red herrings and surprising plausible twists. A subplot involving a bit of romance eases some of the tension, but the methodical investigation by Tess is what the tale is all about; in fact the kind hearted woman should consider going professional as she does a great job seeking the real culprit. Ms. Hunt is a great mystery writer
Harriet Klausner

Misspent Youth-Peter Hamilton

Misspent Youth
Peter Hamilton
Del Rey, Sep 16 2008, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345461643

In the near future former RAF pilot Jeff Baker invents the memory crystal that led to the datasphere, which replaced the Internet. Jeff Baker made his creation available to everyone placing him on a par with Mother Teresa for altruistic adulation.

In 2040, the European Union scientists make an incredible breakthrough in genetics; they developed a new biotechnique that enables them to replace aged genes. Jeff is the chosen one because of what he did with his memory crystal and the theory that his brilliance could solve the home energy crisis. The conversion works as Jeff goes from a septuagenarian to a twentyish person. Only Jeff finds his sex drive supersedes everything and everyone else including his used to be much younger wife and his teenage son.

Discounting some unnecessary English terrorists detracting from the fascinating thriller, MISSPENT YOUTH is an interesting look at the unintended consequences of science finding a Fountain of Youth. The story line focuses on out of control Jeff who finds his former peers ancient and only sex matters. In terms of relationships he succeeds as a born again sex machine, but the only intelligence he brings back from his years of experience is sex; thus narrowing the scope of an intriguing premise.

Harriet Klausner

Under the Blood Red Moon-Mina Hepsen

Under the Blood Red Moon
Mina Hepsen
Avon, Oct 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061373251

In 1871 half Russian Princess Angelica Belanov detests going to parties, events, or anything with crowds because of her ability to hear what people think. The chatter is overwhelming her mind; her preference is to avoid society and hide at her Russian father’s English estate reading a book. However, with the family fortune in jeopardy with the disappearance of three ships they own, she is in London with her brother Prince Mikhail seeking a wealthy spouse. However, the silent noise from others is driving her crazy.

Also in London is the head of the Eastern Vampire Clans Prince Alexander, who is on the trail of a serial killing vampire Sergey; he and his clans and those of the Northern Clans worry about their species dwindling numbers and Sergey exposing them to humans. When Alexander meets Angelica, they telepathically communicate. He assumes she is a vampire like him, but soon realizes she is a mortal. As she learns he is vampire, they fall in love with Servey and an ally stalking them.

Readers will fully enjoy this exciting paranormal Victorian romantic suspense thriller as Mina Hepsen makes vampires living in Europe seem genuine and even more so Angelica’s ESP skills as the supporting details are wonderfully interwoven into a strong tale. The lead couple is a strong pairing and the support cast enhances the belief in the supernatural as natural. Sub-genre fans will welcome Ms. Hepsen with accolades and look forward for more exhilarating novels from her.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Memories-Barb Hendee

Blood Memories
Barb Hendee
Roc, Oct 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 0451462297

Youthful looking beauty Eleisha Clevon seems vulnerable and helpless, but in reality she is a survivor; being two hundred plus years old vampire. She easily lures human predators into being alone with her before ripping open their throats to dine on their blood. When she eats a mortal’s blood she also sees their lives mentally flash passed her. Eleisha also is the prime caretaker for a senile vampire.

After being seen by cops when the vampire Edward killed himself, Eleisha accompanied by William flees Portland for Seattle. They move into the home of Maggie also a vampire. Meanwhile a vampire who has gone rogue is killing vampires with Eleisha and her friends on the undead death list.

BLOOD MEMORIES is a terrific vampire stand alone thriller that fans will enjoy but ironically when compared to the classic Barb and J.C. Hendee’s Noble Dean saga it somewhat pales; in fairness few supernatural novels attain that quality level. The story is filled with action, but also contains a strong cast who insure vampirism in the Northwest seems real as readers learn the back-story of several of them through the characters practicing mental telepathy. The heroine especially is an intriguing person; she detests killing humans although she knows she must yet limits her attacks to the dregs of society. Still it is serial killing villain murdering his own kind who makes this a fine tale that the vampire crowd will appreciate.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Broken-Daniel Clay

Daniel Clay
Harper, Sep 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 0061561045

In Southampton eleven year old Skunk Cunningham lives with her father, brother and au pair. Skunk watches bully Bob Oswald batter teenager Rick Buckley; a few minutes after beating Rick up badly, Bob reports to the cops that the nineteen years old Buckley raped his thirteen year old daughter Susan. No one messes with one of Oswald’s five daughters as the patriarch is not concerned with the truth; in this case the police Dr. Mortimer affirms Susan is a virgin. Charges were dropped.

Skunk avoids the Oswald girls like they have the plague as they are as insane and violent as their dad. Meanwhile Rick is afraid to go outside because he knows Oswald is not through with pummeling him. Finally unable to remain self incarcerated as he is going crazy, Rick reenters society looking for someone to beat up.

Although the plot is skeletal, this is a dark bleak character study. The Oswald brood is a fascinating family as Bob’s argument that Rick harmed his daughter is based on fear she overtly displays; he is unable to take responsibility that her fear is of him. However, it is the metamorphosis of Rick from frightened shadow to avenger against those he feels affronted him like the female his age who told him his pecker was microscopic as well as the Oswalds. Not for everyone as the desolation and hopelessness oozes throughout, fans who appreciate the dark side of human interactivity will want to read aptly titled BROKEN.

Harriet Klausner

The House Of Allerbrook-Valerie Anand

The House Of Allerbrook
Valerie Anand
Mira, Oct 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 0778326012

In 1535 unmarried Sybil Sweetwater is unable to take her post at court because she is carrying the child of married tenant farmer Andrew Shearer. Her parents send Sybil into family exile and their sixteen year old daughter pragmatic Jane is to serve at the court of King Henry VIII. Jane enjoys her time there especially as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne of Cleves but, her monarch’s persistent sexual assaults frighten her so she flees the court for Allerbrook assisted by Peter Carew.

Jane’s brother Francis, now the family patriarch, is irate with his sibling’s failure to appease the appetite of the king and bring acclaim not disdain on the Sweetwater family. Additionally, a witness at the court fabricates what occurred. To punish Jane and appease King Henry, Francis forces Jane to marry much older farmer Harry Hudd. Although not used to the hard working of the land, Jane adjusts in part because of their son Tobias. When her brother suddenly dies, Allerbrook becomes Jane’s; she plans changes in the lifestyles of her and her child.

This engaging sixteenth century historical tale pulls no punches when it comes to the plight of women of all walks of life in England as females are less valuable than cattle except in terms of bearing an heir. Told over five decades, fans who enjoy a sweeping saga will appreciate the impact of royal intrigue on the HOUSE OF ALLERBROOK.

Harriet Klausner

The Private Concierge-Suzanne Forster

The Private Concierge
Suzanne Forster
Mira, Oct 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0778325458

In Los Angeles, the rich and famous go to Lane Chandler to discreetly handle their whims and desires. Lane’s firm THE PRIVATE CONCIERGE has earned a superior reputation for subtly and tastefully taking care of the legal needs of the elite.

However someone must have either hacked into her client database or is a TPC employee because in a short time customers have been exposed to scandal and one is murdered in a scandalous way. LAPD investigates the homicide suspecting another TPC client Ned Talbert. His friend former cop Rick Bayless thinks otherwise and begins to investigate starting with TPC and its owner whom he recognizes as arresting back in 1993 when she was the juvenile Lucy Cox. She was innocent then and innocent now, but being innocent means nothing when it comes to the criminal system where money and power enable Lady Justice to look away. Although she loathes cooperating with the man who forced her to change her name, Lane has no choice as Rick is her only hope to end the reign of terror.

This is a fascinating investigative romantic suspense as the beleaguered heroine knows her options are limited to working with a man she detests though to her chagrin is attracted to him. The story line is action-packed from the opening salvo and never slows down as the predator assaults TPC with insider knowledge. Nick is a unique protagonist who regrets what he did fifteen years ago as he falls in love with Lane; however what makes him refreshing (pun intended) is he a slob who leaves dirty plates on the floor for a mouse to clean. Fans will enjoy Suzanne Forster entertaining tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Appearing-Kristen Wisen

The Appearing
Kristen Wisen
Credo House, May 2008, $24.99
ISBN: 9780978762087

Not to far in the future Homeland Security establishes the Domestic Investigations Unit to spy on churches and close them down if they break any of the anti-intolerance laws. In Russia, Russian Preident Alexander Magorum has formed the Federation of World Powers and gets the Arabs to let the Jews build a new Temple. He is working towards a a one currency and one religion in his new world order; taking advantage of corruption to bring all nations under his command. At the midpoint of what some call the Great Tribulation, Alexander holds a news conference in his Jerusalem Temple; he reveals himself to be Hitler who was rescued by Lucifer after being in Hell for 666 months.

He wants the people who believe in him to wear his mark and those that refuse will die. At Gracee Church, the elders who studied the end of times know the world is entering a period of extreme violence and injustice. They move to caves in the North Carolina Mountains hidden by God’s angels so that the authorities cannot kill them. They are all true believers except for one who spies on them; this modern day Judas gives photos and other incriminating evidence to the authorities. Only God can protect them if he sends his son again.

With some overall nods to obviously the bible and to the Tom LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins Left Behind saga, this is a fascinating tale of the rise of the Anti-Christ with billions joining him; as few recall what he did in WWII and will again because he has pandemic plans to eradicate non-believers. The Rapture comes at the beginning of the Great Tribulation but differs from Left Behind in several key ways; this refreshes the religious thriller. There is plenty of action and no wisely preaching yet Kristen Wisen makes her beliefs known.

Harriet Klausner

Angel's Pain-Maggie Shayne

Angel's Pain
Maggie Shayne
Mira, Oct 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 0778324982

Briar the Vampiress vows to never forget the cruelty of her former instructor in the ways of their species. She initially accepted his brutality as drinking blood is not an herbivore lifestyle. However when Gregor betrayed her she pledged to get even; when he tortured her she became preoccupied with the need of vengeance flowing through her blood starting with her odious stepfather Martin and then Gregor.

However, she is realistic that she cannot defeat Gregor and his minion by herself. Brian reluctantly joins Reaper and his warriors (vampires, Chosen and humans) based on the theory that Gregor’s enemies are her friends. Once Gregor and Rose are dead, Brian plans to leave though she is attracted to her charismatic leader who shares a blood bond to child vampiress Crisa. When Gregor captures Crisa, Briar knows she must save her little “sister”. Reaper risks all to help her succeed.

The latest Maggie Shayne vampiric thriller (see LOVER’S BITE and DEMON’S KISS) is a superb paranormal romantic suspense tale. Briar appears more thorn than Rose, but Reaper sees past her pain and her bravado to the inner person he desires even if she keeps singing the refrain from “I’m not in love”. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as Briar needs to be the one to kill Gregor until Crisa is taken; her priorities change. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Ms. Shayne's fine vampire tale especially those who soar with the author’s “Wings in the Night” saga as several players take a bite or two in ANGEL’S PAIN.

Harriet Klausner

Come The Night-Susan Krinard

Come The Night
Susan Krinard
Harlequin HQN, Oct 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9373773153

In 1927 Ethan Warbrick comes from England to New York City to warn fired and disgraced former NYPD cop Ross Kavanaugh of a visitor he will soon receive. During the war, Ross met and fell in love with English werewolf Gillian Maitland, but though she reciprocated her prejudicial dictatorial father declared him unfit as only a purebred was acceptable. Fearing her abusive dad would harm or kill her beloved Yank, Gillian ended their relationship and she became Mrs. Delvaux to insure the family line remained purebred.

However, she was too late and now her son Tobias who assumes Ross is his sire is coming to meet him. Gillian, whose husband died in the war, follows her offspring to New York to bring him back to Cambria before his paternal grandfather does something despicable to them; which means mother and son must be home to attend the upcoming werewolf convocation. When his preadolescent son followed by Gilliam arrives, Ross, a quarter-werewolf, knows he wants both of them as his beloved family. He follows them to England in time for a serial killer to begin a murderous campaign that leaves the ex American cop as the prime suspect.

This cross Atlantic paranormal romantic historical suspense works on all levels because the audience will believe that in 1927 Anglo-America the werewolf hierarchy is based on racism depending on the amount of “impurities” in one’s blood. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Ross has the visitor followed by his police pal calling him to tell him an eleven year old English lad claims him as his father. The tale never slows down from there even as the lead trio (and readers) crosses the ocean. Susan Krinard provides a strong paranormal private investigative 1920s thriller.

Harriet Klausner

City of Jade-Dennis L. McKiernan

City of Jade
Dennis L. McKiernan
Roc, Oct 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780451462312

Legend talks of a City of Jade hidden in the jungle. Probably more likely myth than a real lost city, as no one has ever returned from the quest of finding this fabled locale though many have tried across Mithgar.

In the Final Year of the Fifth Era, with the Dragonstone War ended when the Black Mage God Gyphon was slain by the elf, passages have opened between realms while wards have been used to close those leading to and from the the creations of the late Dark God. In that seemingly peaceful environment, Elven Captain Aravan learns of the City of Jade and wants to find this precious legend. He brings together a crew of elves, dwarfs, men, and other species to sail into the sunset on the fabled Eroean. Accompanying him on his quest is his beloved mage, Aylis the seer. Even without Aylis’ predictions all of the crew of the Eroean knows the journey will be dangerous and many if any will not return; they volunteer because the lure of adventure is greater than their safety; most are used to a world at war. Few perhaps would have signed on if they knew the dark necromantic sorcerer Nunde seeking vengeance is lurking everywhere they are sailing.

As explained in the “afterword” to this engaging fantasy, the events in the CITY OF JADE occur at the end of SILVER WOLF, BLACK FALCON and the beginning of the RED SLIPPERS: MORE TALES OF MITHGAR anthology. The thriller starts off as more of an interrelated anthology catching up with what has happened to the good, the bad, and the nasty since the demise of the Dark God. Once the crew is set and prepares to sail, the story line converges into an entertaining adventure tale with a fuming vengeful Nunde stalking the Eroean over each horizon. Fans will relish this terrific tweener while new readers should first peruse SILVER WOLF, BLACK FALCON to better comprehend the citations to the war.

Harriet Klausner

Acheron-Sherrilyn Kenyon

Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin’s, Aug 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 0312362153

In 9548 BC Katoteros, based on the prophecy of three of his bastard daughters, an irate Archon angrily directs his horde to kill their unborn child. Archon’s wife of several centuries Apollymi and her Charonte demons flee as she refuses to allow him to murder her baby. Feeling betrayed by her spouse as she always remained loyal, Apollymi and her followers kill any in the Pantheon that get in their way. The baby she names Apostolos is lifted from her and hidden inside a pregnant Queen Aara having his essence merged with the baby inside. Apollymi gives her spouse a stone baby and warns him that when the time comes her son will return to destroy him and his followers; he vows to find and kill his offspring.

By the time he is seven years old Acheron knows his parents hate him though they know from an oracle to prevent his death or else; only his sister Ryssa cares about him. However, she cannot understand why he is treated so badly over the next few years.He concludes the Gods cursed him but has no idea why as everyone except Ryssa loathes and fears him. In his death, the horror comes to devastate the world; only he can save humanity but he does not want to return to save those who spurned him when he lived; besides which he knows who will come for him if he returns.

Throughout the extremely well written Dark Hunter saga, readers have waited for Acheron’s tale to be told. The pressure on Sherrilyn Kenyon must have been immense, but like the Redeem Team she comes through with a great tale. From the opening sequence when a desperate Goddess tries to save her unborn from his father to New Orleans fans will relish the “biography” of the titled character. In a sense two related novels with over four hundred pages each occurring eleven millennium ago and about three hundred in New Orleans, Ms. Kenyon’s excellent thriller will be on most fans’ short list for fantasy of the year.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Cedar Cove Christmas-Debbie Macomber

A Cedar Cove Christmas
Debbie Macomber
Mira, Oct 2008, $16.95
ISBN: 0778325911

On Christmas Eve, pregnant Mary Jo Wyse comes to Cedar Cove, Washington seeking the father of her unborn David Rhodes. There are no commercial accommodations available in town, but Grace and Cliff Harding allow Mary Jo to sleep in the loft of their stable.

When Mary Jo goes into labor, paramedic Mack McAfee attends to her. The three Wyse men, her bumbling brothers (Linc, Mel and Ned) arrive to help their sister. Meanwhile Mary Jo has decided that instead of confronting David, who she has not found, she would prefer to be held by kindhearted Mack. However she doubts even this nice EMT would want to get involved with a woman who has just given birth.

A CEDAR COVE CHRISTMAS is an amusing and angst account of the Christmas saga with Puget Sound serving as the locale instead of Bethlehem; as a stable is still a stable when it comes to hospitality for a pregnant woman. The cast is solid but it is the visitor Mary Jo who provides the anxiety, focus and equilibrium to the plot. Fans will relish Debbie Macomber’s latest very Merry Christmas romp.

Harriet Klausner

Risking Her Heart-Liz Allison & Wendy Etherington

Risking Her Heart
Liz Allison & Wendy Etherington
Harlequin HQN, Oct 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0373773196

Parker Huntington is attracted to Rachel Garrison and believes she reciprocates. Thus the sponsor of her family’s Garrison Racing NASCAR team cannot understand why she rejects his advances.

Rachel is attracted to Parker and believes he reciprocates. However, she refuses to have anything to do with him outside of racing as he is known for his love them leave them attitude; besides she firmly believes in not mixing pleasure with business. Instead she begins dating someone else; although when she believes someone is stealing from her family’s business she asks Parker to help her determine who.

The second Garrison sibling NASCAR romance (see NO HOLDING BACK) stays off the track for the most part focusing more on the business aspects of racing. The story line can stand alone, but is clearly enhanced by reading the first tale as the overarching plot moves forward. Those who read both tales will appreciate the forming of the balanced scorecard as first there was the mission perspective and now the finance view. In each novel Liz Allison & Wendy Etherington insures their characters are solid so that fans will enjoy watching whether Rachel and Parker risk their heart.

Harriet Klausner

Lucky Charm-Carly Phillips

Lucky Charm
Carly Phillips
Harlequin HQN, Oct 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 0373773315

In Stewart, Massachusetts, they were in love with one another through high school. However, upon graduation, Derek ended his relationship with Gabrielle though he still believed she was his soul mate. He dropped her out of fear of the Corwin Curse that has haunted all his male ancestors since witch Mary Perkins cursed the family in the nineteenth century when a member eloped with the fiancée of her son; Mary declared the Corwin males would lose their beloved and their fortune.

Derek did marry, but not to Gabrielle. His marriage and his business failed even though he ran from love; however, he also has a tweener daughter, Holly, who he loves very much.

Gabrielle never mended her broken heart; instead as a psychological defense mechanism she turned to writing and avoided any relationships. She debunks myths and curses, but has returned to Stewart to use her skills to prove the Corwin Curse is a sham.

This is a charming lighthearted romantic romp starring two likable protagonists; some might say antagonists. The second chance story line is fast-paced and filled with humor and angst due to deep characters, but although the plot is slim. Carly Phillips fans will enjoy visiting the town 1.5 miles west of Salem.

Harriet Klausner

Gilding Lily-Tatiana Boncompagni

Gilding Lily
Tatiana Boncompagni
Avon, Sep 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 0061451010

Lily Grace moves from Nashville to New York with plans of taking Manhattan by storm. She becomes very popular amidst the elite social class and meets educated wealthy charmer Robert Bartholomew. They marry.

When Lily becomes pregnant, Robert loses interest in her as she gains weight and is no longer the it “Girl of the moment”. He quits his job as a lawyer and begins spending time with his socialite mother who never wanted the southern belle as her daughter-in-law. Lily begins writing lifestyle articles that allows her reentrance into the high society world her pregnancy kicked her from, but she is treated with distain led by Robert’s mother.

Using hyperbole as an amusing saber, Tatiana Boncompagni provides a fascinating look at what people will accept in order to belong to a group that treats “outsiders” as pet rocks. Lily holds the tale together with her need to be part of the upper crust elitist crowd whose motto ought to be “Let them eat cake off our Persian rugs”. Humorous yet somewhat sad as the human need to belong supersedes self actualization even when the members disdain you as inferior. This is a well written insightful contemporary tale in which readers will like the desperate Lily and root for her to find the grace of telling her spouse, her in-laws and the wealthy in crowd to pound rocks although at the same time the audience knows her inclination is in the opposite direction.

Harriet Klausner

The Outsider-Ann H. Gabhart

The Outsider
Ann H. Gabhart
Revell, Aug 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 0800732391

In 1812 twenty-year-old Shaker Sister Gabrielle Hope has visions that enable her to see the future. Still she is steadfast to her commitment she and mom made in 1807 when they moved to Harmony Hill and adheres to her religious beliefs.

However, a kiss from visiting widower Dr. Brice Scott makes her wonder if the Shaker life of celibacy that she and her mother have vowed to follow is for her. As Brice’s kind gentle words stir a passion of forbidden love inside her, she begins to reconsider her vows especially since the community separates moms and daughters leaving her no one to consult with about her feelings.

Using a potential taboo romance more as a mechanism than as the prime plot theme, Ann H. Gabhart provides a deep look at the Shaker Movement during the War of 1812. Well written, historical fans learn about the impact of celibacy on the Shakers including some who fail to adapt and commit suicide. Although none of the characters including Gabrielle display any deep passion about anything even death, which in fairness fits in some ways the Shaker society expectations of the flock, fans will enjoy this interesting War of 1812 tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Blessed-Lisa T. Bergren

The Blessed
Lisa T. Bergren
Berkley, Sep 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780425223420

The Gifted are a group of thirteen men, women and children from all walks of life; each endowed with a gift from God who sends them on a mission. According to a glass map they must travel to Avignon where the papacy is headquartered. They have a message to deliver to Pope Cornelius, but the evil men endowed with the Dark One’s powers try to prevent them from reaching him. Vincenzo de Bruce and his mentor Abramo fail n their attempt to kill them.

Daria D’Angelo who was betrayed by her Uncle Vincenzo is a healer who when demonstrated God’s powers she seems to convert most who observe her. The defection of her uncle hurts her badly and she hates Abramo who held her prisoner doing horrific things to her. She and the other Gifted know what awaits them in Avignon; corruption of the Cardinals by their enemies and influencing the pope byf the Gifted who now have a loyal following from believers. A showdown is coming with the Gifted praying they are victorious.

The third tale in the Gifted trilogy (see BETRAYED and BEGOTTEN) comes to a glorious finish. The de facto leader of the group is Daria, a strong independent woman who willingly suffers for God, but remains steadfast in her love and worship of Him. Besides wanting to clean out the depraved at the papal Court, the Gifted believe that the Word needs to be spoken in the native dialect and a worshipper do not a middle man priest to pray to God. This religious thriller is enthralling, filled with action and fascinating characters, and many messages, not all subtle, for the reader to ponder.

Harriet Klausner

Exposed-Alex Kava

Alex Kava
Mira, Oct 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0778325571

In Quantico, Virginia FBI special agent Maggie O'Dell and her boss Assistant Director Cunningham receive a note from “God” telling them not to miss a crash at 13949 Elk Grove. They race to the site where they find a dying woman from what appears to be a deadly contagion; also there is a frightened young girl Mary Louise who vomits all over them. They quickly take the pair to the secret U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Ft Detrick. Maggie and Cunningham are quarantined there to insure they were not exposed to hemorrhagic fever virus.

Maggie’s partner, Agent R.J. Tully investigates the case based on the little information the frustrated O’Dell provides while she remains in a secure area. The culprit seems to be working randomly across the United States using the murderous signatures of infamous serial killers, but no pattern has emerged linking the victims even as the body count rises.

This is a terrific entry in the O’Dell FBI cases as the heroine, probably EXPOSED, is forced to help from the sidelines while her partner works the field. The story line is fast-paced but as always character driven from the moment Maggie fears she ate a poisoned donut and never slows down as “God” threatens the children. Although the scenario with taunting bragging serial killers has been done before; merging it with possible biological terrorism refreshes the theme. Alex Kava writes a winning thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sunset-Karen Kingsbury

Karen Kingsbury
Tyndale, Sep 23 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 0842387587

Dayne and Katy Matthews leave the bright lights of Hollywood to begin anew their life in Bloomington, Indiana where they plan to raise a family and to run the local Christian Kid’s Theater; their first production is coming soon. While Cody Coleman fights in Iraq, Bailey Flanagan tries out for a role at the CKT while struggling with her feelings for the deployed soldier.

The family patriarch widower John Baxter and Elaine Denning are getting married. He knows he must sell the family home that ahs meant so much to everyone. However as endings occur with new beginnings, faith, love and friendship guide everyone through the dramatic upheavals of radical change.

As with the previous books in the Baxter family saga (see SOMEDAY, SUMMER and SUNRISE), redemption and faith are recurring themes inside an engaging character driven tale. The Baxters are moving on but it is not easy to leave behind the evidence of their memories though they each know the time is right to do so. Sub-genre fans will want to read Karen Kingsbury’s Baxter family tales as love and faith are powerful twin engines in the hands of this superb author.

Harriet Klausner

Company of Liars-Karen Maitland

Company of Liars
Karen Maitland
Delacorte, Oct 2008, $24.00
ISBN 9780385341691

In 1348 England, many believe the devil is everywhere as the plague has killed numerous people and torrential storms seem endless. Hope is gone whether one is aristocratic or peasant as are crops adding to the vicious cycle of death.

Nine desperate travelers with no connection except fear band together on a journey to the south where it is reported the devil has not landed. As they make their way across a pestilent land, none reveal who they are especially their most precious deadly secret yet each has a tale to tell. Increasingly it appears none will make their destination and if they do are they bringing the devil’s Black Plague with them.

With obvious homage to the Canterbury Tales, Karen Maitland paints a dark grim historical as the nine travelers expect death to greet them every step of the way. The story line offers no hope except for the Grim Reaper and undertakers as England is hammered by the pandemic plague and horrific weather making life for the survivors miserable as no one is safe from pestilence, famine, and exposure. Not an easy read as every page oozes with despondency and death, the COMPANY OF LIARS is a powerful look through he travelers at the year England almost died.

Harriet Klausner

This Year's Model-Carol Alt

This Year's Model
Carol Alt
Avon, Sep 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061366246

Trying to earn some money before going off to the University of Penn; tall Melody Ann Craft works as a server at the Porter House in Morristown, New Jersey. On his way back to civilization after visiting family in Cleveland, photographer Jonathan Novak stops on the barbaric side of the Hudson to grab a bite to eat. Melody Ann is his server and he thinks she is a beauty who displays decorum and cool calmness with a nice smile. He says he is not a stalker, leaves her with his business card and tells her to call the Manhattan model agencies using his name as a reference. He leaves her a nice tip before finishing his drive back to what he considers the real world.

Although cynical Melody calls and soon finds herself in Manhattan learning what it takes to be a supermodel. She is sent on shoots with photographers who must have been part of the Spanish Inquisition in a previous life and finds her peers detest rivals. However, Mac struggles with the male model hunks and huggable who are temptation. Still she wants to make it in Manhattan, but remain an ethical Jersey girl; a seemingly impossible mission.

THIS YEAR’S MODEL is an exposure of what happens behind the scenes in the world of modeling as seen through an increasingly former innocent turning cynical gilded. Character drive the story line especially the Jersey teen who tries to avoid the drug scene, the hunk scene, and the cat fight scene; which leaves her somewhat remaining as an outsider. Although nothing new, Carol Alt provides a deep look “beyond the glory”, glitter and glamour to the ugly underside of super modeling.

Harriet Klausner

Treasure of Eden-S.L. Linnea

Treasure of Eden
S.L. Linnea
St. Martin’s, Oct 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0312942168

Army chaplain Jaime Richards arranges for him to do occasional special projects for Eden where she spent three years learning eternal secrets. Her current task is to escort to safety Edenite Dr. Andrea Farmer to the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland in time to prevent fiscal subversion destroying the international monetary system.

Corrupt CIA Political Officer Frank McMillan, a member of the Geneva Terrorism Task Force, believes the Garden of Eden exists and has some circumstantial evidence that ties Jaime to the biblical Garden. When the legendary Treasure of Eden surfaces with an artifact put up for bid on eBay, he no longer has doubts about either of his assertions. He plans to kidnap Jamie and torture her if need be into telling him everything she knows about Eden.

The latest frenetic action packed Eden thriller (see CHASING EDEN and BEYOND EDEN) is a terrific tale that combines biblical references with modern day intrigue. The story line grips the audience from the onset as McMillan’s plans are revealed to the reader and never slows down as an incredible amount of escapades occur in an extremely short time span. Jaime is a fabulous protagonist holding the plot together as S.L. Linnea puts her through enough adventures to turn Job into a doubter. This is a superb entry in a fascinating saga.

Harriet Klausner

Magic and the Modern Girl-Mindy Klasky

Magic and the Modern Girl
Mindy Klasky
Red Dress Ink, Oct 2008, $13.95
ISBN 9780373895779

In Washington, D.C. reference librarian Jane Madison left the coven because she was unhappy with the attitudes of many of her witch peers. She also decides to take a hiatus from spell-casting.

Six months later, Jane tries her bewitching power only to be shocked as she has none. Adding to her dismay is someone destroyed her witching accouterments. Jane questions her feline familiar openly gay Neko and her best friend Melissa White, but learns nothing new except she is under a witch assault. Desperate she turns to David Montrose, her protector and astral bodyguard before summoning Ariel to restore her magical powers. Instead nothing goes right with the enchantment as Ariel has become an artsy celebrity with a little more than fifteen of almost famous. Soon Jane, her grandma and Neko are in trouble by an unknown assailant who wants her magically deboned while she goes out with archtiect Will Becker but wants instead her astral defender.

The sequel to SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL continues the misadventures of the chick lit witch librarian as this time she loses her power. The story line is lighthearted fun as readers, her familiar, her grandma and her astral bodygaurd wonder what happened to Jane. Althouhg the plot is thin, fans and jane will want to know the answer to that key magical question.

Harriet Klausner

Lucinda’s Web-Dorothy Morrison

Lucinda’s Web
Dorothy Morrison
WillowTree, Oct 2008, $16.95
ISBN: 0979453321

When High Priestess Tess Logan moves into a house near a cemetery she experiences visitors; she later learns in a former life as Lucinda she was wife to Jonah. They lived on a plantation which would be passed down to Lucinda’s daughter by her first husband.. Her first husband Emmer took slave Belle though Lucinda’s second husband Jonah would marry her and in a jealous rage she creates a trick spell that is not completed. Another slave Mattie conjures up a trick that binds Lucinda and Jonah together for eternity.

In the present Luke and Tess fall in love, but she refuses to give in to her feelings until the trick is broken. Only then will she know whether she truly loves Luke or is tricked into believing she loves him. Tess’ best friend Chloe, an apprentice witch, tries to break the spell with the help of a ghostly assistant; at the same time the spirit of Belle possesses Luke’s sister Liza. She kidnaps Tess with plans to kill her as Luke belongs to her. Luke and Chloe’s police officer husband search for Tess while a ghost, who cares for Lucinda, watches over Tess while hoping to free her from Liza’s grip.

Though the cast can be a bit confusing in terms of who’s who past and present, fans will enjoy this entertaining reincarnation ghost tale wondering whether Tess will be freed of the curse and if yes will love turn bitter or remain sweet. Mindful of the Branagh-Thompson film Dead Again, the premise of a love triangle in a reincarnation scenario is cleverly executed by Dorothy Morrison as the audience will not know how LUCINDA’S WEB will play out.

Harriet Klausner

Heart Fate

Heart Fate
Robin D. Owens
Berkley, Sep 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425223673

In Druida City Lahsin Yew and Tinne Holly belong together, but both know that will not happen. When she was fourteen years old, she was forced to marry an abusive older GrandLord T’Yew; Tinne knowing he cannot wed his heartmate marries Genista.

However, to his shock and that of the nobility as there is no precedent, Genista is going to divorce Tinne. Three years into her marriage from hell, Lashin is entering her second Flair passage that will proclaim her as an adult; that is if she lives. She plans to divorce her odious mate, but first hides from him knowing he will kill her before she completes the passage. Tinne risks what is left of his reputation by vowing to keep his heartmate safe; though he fears once she survives passage she will be upset to learn he is her heartmate.

Although somewhat similar in tone to the previous Heart tale, the tangled relationships of the heartmates to others make for a much deeper compassionate and fresh entry. Readers will feel for the star crossed heartmates but fate in terms of her dictatorial father and her abusive husband make their mating impossible. Although T-Yew has no seemingly redeeming qualities, Robin D. Owens provides a suburb romantic fantasy filled with heart.

Harriet Klausner

Foundation-Mercedes Lackey

Mercedes Lackey
Daw, Oct 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756405243

The Pieter family takes into their home infant orphan Mags, but not out of the kindness of their hearts; they see the lad as labor toiling long hours in their dangerous gemstone mine seeking sparklies. They abuse the child as they do other strays that have no champion to protect ragtag nothings from horrific conditions. However, Mags is even lower than these pathetic strays as he is the Bad Blood offspring of dead outlaws according to the family since he was found in a cradle in a camp.

Everything abruptly changes for Mags when men on white horses ride into the Pieter compound; they take the lad with them so he can train to become a Herald Trainee. However, the adjustment proves nearly impossible as Mags is unable to deal with, comfort or attend classes at the Herald's Collegium; as his world was bread, water and the mine. However his companion Dallen helps him somewhat adapt, but this may prove too late as Mags is pulled into dangerous political intrigues by the Heralds divided in many ways but especially between tradition of one on one training vs. a classroom; however the former mine worker finds the schism beyond his understanding except he is an expert on survival.

This is a great Valdemar tale due to Mags who may not comprehend the ways of the Heralds or their dispute, but knows how to live through anything. The story line is especially fascinating during Mags’ time with the Pieters as ignorance is bliss since he does not know of anything but mine living. When the Heralds take him away as a student, he is shocked to have a consistently filled stomach and a new reason to survive. Although the story line is a bit thin in comparison with all the action of previous saga entries, fans will relish Mercedes Lackey deep fantasy character study with its analogy to winning in Middle East starts with first feeding people, then teaching them to fish in order to win their stomach, mind and heart in that order.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Going Under-Justina Robson

Going Under
Justina Robson
Pyr, Sep 2008, $15.00
ISBN 9781591026501

Males are a pain in her metallic butt so special agent Lila Black thinks, but women even ones with robotic gizmos inside her body needs these blackguards though she is not sure why at the moment. Still Lila wonders if two spouses is one, two or three too many as she and her mates Zal the elf-lord and Teazle the demon argue with her; while inside her chest resides whatever is mentally left of the deceased elven necromancer Tath also bickering with her.

Dispatching the assassins as a side activity, Lila and her horde travel to the land of the fae on what she assumes is a simple mission though anything involving fairies is by definition convoluted. She soon finds herself digging deep past the best beer in the world into the ooze of the realm where only hideous blood thirsty charlatans reside. To complete her mission and escape alive, she must navigate the ruses and pranks of those who abet her by trying to kill her and her retinue.

Although the heroine’s whining about males causing her hemorrhoids (does prove artificially intelligent beings understand men) is overly extended, fans of the third Quantum Gravity saga (see KEEPING IT REAL and SELLING OUT) will enjoy Lila’s latest escapades. The story line picks up about a third of the way in when the lead protagonist begins her quest into a realm no one escapes from. Readers will relish the twisted mission as the fairy glamor realm gives way to a dark despairing repulsiveness.

Harriet Klausner

Last Argument of Kings-Joe Abercrombie

Last Argument of Kings
Joe Abercrombie
PYR, Sep 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9781591026907

With war on two fronts, the Union is in jeopardy; from the south come the violent Gurkish horde while from the north the even more brutal Northmen continue their invasion. However, the real virus to survival resides inside the capital, Adua where sedition and betrayal are rampant and the king is apparently dying.

Loaded down with guilt and doubt berserker Logen Ninefingers knows he must go home to fight his dearest friend but now enemy King Bethod of the Northmen. Drained to the bone from the constant fighting and sending good people to their deaths Union officer Colonel West wants out but prepares for one last battle in the North where he gains allies from questionable sources. Jezal dan Luthar no longer yearns for glory and adventure as he has tasted how bitter that is, but may be too late to settle down with his beloved. Superior Glokta uses his greatest weapon that of torture and its threat to obtain acquiesence from the Union leaders. Finally amazon warrior Ferro seeks revenge and is not concerned about collateral damage to her so-called allies. In this mix, the mage Bayaz has returned to the Union, but as friend or foe iis hard to tell. Together they may be able to repel the enemies, but this team has always at best been dysfunctional when they are not fighting one another.

The aptly titled LAST ARGUMENTS OF KINGS may be the best final book to a fantasy trilogy I have read in years. The exhilarating story line hits on all notes as the major threads from THE BLADE ITSELF and WHEN THEY WERE HANGED are resolved in a reasonable manner with the key ensemble cast remaining true to their respective essences. Joe Abercrombie is at his brilliant best with this excellent powerful climax that entertains throughout yet has readers pondering the implications of how far do you go when the debate turns to using the taboo First law of magic.

Harriet Klausner

Back to Life-Kristin Billerbeck

Back to Life
Kristin Billerbeck
Avon, Sep 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780061378775

Although one year has past since her fiftyish husband Ron died, thirty-five year old Lindsay remains stunned and unsure of what she wants in life. Residing in a senior citizen condominium, Lindsay still grieves as she feels her life is rudderless.

Ron’s first wife Jane arrives at the condo. She is the executor of his estate and needs to complete the documentation to distribute the assets in accordance to the will. Accompanying Jane is their adult son Ron, Jr. whom the first salad days wife insists to the second trophy wife that he is actually someone else’s junior. The two wives loathe one another yet to their mutual shock soon begin to understand what the other brings to the table and brought to Ron.

The second Trophy Wives Club is an engaging tale that enables the audience as well as the two wives to see deep into the souls of Jane and Lindsay. The chapters rotate their points of view, which initially focuses on amusing scorn as both feel the other is an irritant, but slowly turns to respect. Readers will appreciate this fine inspiring tale as each of Ron’s wives learn much about themselves through understanding the other spouse.

Harriet Klausner

Woman of a Thousand Secrets-Barbara Wood

Woman of a Thousand Secrets
Barbara Wood
St. Martin's, Sep 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 0312363699

Her parents adopted Tonina as an infant although her much lighter skin meant she came from another land. She grew up tall, much taller than all the women and most of the men. Tonina was also competitive; rather than allow a potential suitor to defeat her in athletic contests; she participated and usually won especially in swimming. Finally her family worries that she has no man so they believe she must go from their tiny island to the nearby mainland seeking people just like her.

Her journey takes her to the Mayan Empire where she meets a barbarian outsider Kaan. They are attracted to one another, but he is married. When his wife dies, he begins the quest to insure her soul is cleansed. Soon Tonina joins him as they travel together to Mayapan bringing along an entourage of followers. However, Mayan Prince Balam has raised an army of many people with one battle in mind; destroy Kaan, who he holds culpable for all that has failed in his life. That means killing every follower who are both genders and all ages including elderly and children, but few soldiers.

WOMAN OF A THOUSAND SECRETS is a superb pre-Columbus Central American tale. The story line brings to life several cultures especially the Mayan, but to a lesser degree the islanders. Tonia is a fabulous central figure who holds the insightful plot together from the island to the mainland. Barbara Wood provides an entertaining Mayan Era historical.

Harriet Klausner

Game for Seduction-Bella Andre

Game for Seduction
Bella Andre
Pocket, Sep 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 1416558527

Melissa McKnight is determined to prove that she is more than just the daughter of a superstar sports agent; her goal to make it in the male exclusive world although she recognizes her surname brings recognition but also doubters.

Melissa’s biggest problem is her desire to perform unprofessional sexual trysts with one of her dad’s top clients Dominic DiMarco. She hides her feelings until she and Dominic pose for a photo shoot. Dominic has been very careful to avoid scandal, but when it comes to Melissa he is unsure he can keep himself in line as he wants. He especially understands she is taboo as the daughter of his agent, but making love to her would be like winning the Superbowl, World Series, Stanley Cup and NBA title in one passionate relationship. Being together, though, may end both their careers.

The latest Bad Boys of Football contemporary romance is a fun tale starring two individuals who put up strong offensive lines around their respective hearts to avoid love sacking what each considers their well-being. Dom and Mel are fully developed although his concerns for dodging love (he is more elusive than Fran Tarkenton was eluding tacklers) seem trivial while hers is understandable. Fans will appreciate this hot sports romance as Bella Andre throws another touchdown (see GAME FOR ANYTHING).

Harriet Klausner

The Firemaster’s Mistress-Christie Dickason

The Firemaster’s Mistress
Christie Dickason
Harper, Sep 2008, $14.95
ISBN 9780061568268

In 1605 in London with plenty of circumstantial evidence abounding, the Earl of Salisbury worries about an insidious plot against King James I. He needs someone to get inside the traitors’ inner circle to learn what they are plotting so they can be stopped; that volunteer must have a special skill the conspirators would need to succeed in their plot or he would never be accepted.

Explosives expert Francis Quoynt accepts the dangerous undercover mission in which he will act as if he is against the King. Francis understands the risk. If he caught by the Royalists too soon he will hang as the counter attempt must be kept secret; if the plotters uncover his loyalties they will torture and kill him.

Francis’s former lover Kate Peach happens to be in the capital; she is a Catholic at a time when the religion is not visibly practiced in London and she is alone having lost her family to the plague. Her current lover merchant Hugh Taylor is abusive so she earns money by pretending her dad still lives so she can make gloves to illegally sell to his customers; money she saves to leave London soonest while she remains alive and not incarcerated. When she and Francis meet, their desire for one another is as strong as ever; but their trust is as weak as ever.

This is an exciting historical intrigue that retells the events of the Gunpowder Treason plot. The lead couple is a terrific pairing as their emotions seem real while the support cast is strong whether they were real like Guy Fawkes or fiction. Although at times it seems half of early sventeenth century London appears (the scorer’s sheet of characters helps) they add depth to a complex thriller that will leave grateful fans demanding more historicals from Christie Dickason.

Harriet Klausner

Insatiable Desire-Rita Herron

Insatiable Desire
Rita Herron
Forever, Sep 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0446199478

In Eerie, Tennessee psychic Clarissa King is desperate to end the screams she hears and the bloody graphic visions she sees every time the brutal killer murders a woman; two dead and counting. The police assume a serial killer has begun a reign of terror. The police use Clarissa to assist them. She knows the killer is a demon Zion of hell.

Since the besieged town is his birthplace, FBI agent Vincent Valtrez is sent to investigate the serial killings. He knows Clarissa from childhood and scorns her so called psychic gift. However, two decades ago Vincent understood beasts as his father was one while his mother was an angel of the light; all changed when dad killed mom. Dad needs his offspring by his side while Clarissa knows exactly what Vincent and his father are; she prays her love for him keeps him from turning to the dark side of his dad.

This is an exciting dark horror thriller filled with characters who personify good and evil. The story line is graphic as readers through Clarissa see and hear the dying thoughts and actions of the victims. Inappropriate title aside, as the romance rightfully so takes a back seat to the killing malevolence as Rita Herron provides an exhilarating horror tale with a sequel coming.

Harriet Klausner

When Duty Calls-William C. Dietz

When Duty Calls
William C. Dietz
Ace, Oct 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441016327

The war between the Confederacy of Sentient Beings and the Insecticide Ramanthian Empire continues. By order of their Queen, the Ramanthian military is going to invade Gamma- 014 rich in iridium. The planet belongs to the Clone Hegemony, a group of worlds in which sex and childbearing are prohibited; from birth the clones know what work they will do. The Confederation warns the Clone Hegemony even as the mutual enemy piles up victory after victory while the CSB shrinks with planet after planet being lost.

Commanding Officer of the Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st REC Captain Antonio Santana is ordered to go to Gamma- 014 to fight under the command of a Clone Hegemony General. This should cement the alliance between the two groups battling the Ramanthians. Antonio’s lover diplomat Christine Vanderveen is on Hegemony planet Alpha 001; she is attracted to the leader of the rebellion there, who wants to replace the present government in order to allow people to have freedom of choice. On Planet Gamma 014, Santana and his bio bod and cyborg troops fight for their lives as the enemy badly outnumbers them and accepts deaths easily as a part of the hostilities. He knows it will take a miracle to leave this orb alive.

Fans of military science fiction on other worlds will thoroughly enjoy WHEN DUTY CALLS, the latest Legion of the Damned space opera thriller. When the Ramanthians invaded earth, they are stunned by the sentient animals they encounter who not just resist, but operationally fight back even as much of the military is dying on Gamma 014. The resistance fighters are organized under an unusual leader and the enemies’ casualties run much higher than the most pessimistic Ramanthian predict. William C. Dietz keeps his long running saga fresh to the delight of military science fiction fans.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Border Lass-Amanda Scott

Border Lass
Amanda Scott
Forever, Sep 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446197991

In 1389 at pre-wedding festivities celebrated by about a thousand revelers at Dunfermline Abbey in Scotland, Amalie Murray senses Sir Garth Napier watching her. She assumes he wants her, but though attracted to him she vows to never wed as marriage is servitude for a woman.

In 1390 on Cornonation Day to annoint John Stewart as High King, Garth becomes concerned with Amalie’s safety as he believes she overheard seditious discussions to assassinate the new monarch. Garth is working undercover to expose and capture all the conspirators. He grabs Amalie and kisses her with a passion like he has never tasted before; she melts deeper into his arms. He claims her as his wife over her objections and rationalizes his actions as keeping her safe; however his heart knows otherwise as does hers.

The sequel to BORDER WEDDING is an excellent fourteenth century Scottish romance starring two strong individuals. The support cast includes real personna which enhances the sense of time and place, a trademark of an Amanda Scott historical. The romance and the investigation subplots cleverly intertwine together so that the audience obtains another terrific tale from one of the best Scottish historical romance authors writing today.

Harriet Klausner

The Glass of Time-Michael Cox

The Glass of Time
Michael Cox
Norton, Oct 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0393067734

In 1876, her Parisian guardian Madame de L’Orme directs nineteen years old orphan Esperanza Gorst to obtain work as a lady’s maid at the home of widow Baroness Tansor. The teen succeeds though she remains ignorant of what the “Great Task” is all about. Still she tries to masquerade as a maid at Evenwood.

However, everyone can see through her disguise as she has all the qualities of a lady and none of a servant. The two Tansor sons, Perseus and Randolph court her while Esperanza becomes closer to her employer. Shockingly Esperanza realizes the Baroness still grieves the death of her fiancé Phoebus Daunt murdered by Edward Glyver over 20 years ago. While still putting on a pretense though all know otherwise, Esperanza still wonders why Madame sent her undercover inside of Evenwood.

The irony of the well written exciting Victorian thriller is those who read the first tale (see THE MEANING OF NIGHT) will know a lot more of what is happening than the bewildered Esperanza as that previous tale serves as a key to the GLASS OF TIME. Michael Cox displays his skills with that clever spin, but newcomers will enjoy THE GLASS OF TIME too because of how the author intertwines the previous plot into this story line. Readers will enjoy a great historical brilliantly enacted.

Harriet Klausner

The King of Ragtime-Larry Karp

The King of Ragtime
Larry Karp
Poisoned Pen, Oct 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590585269

In 1916 in Manhattan a dying Scott Joplin knows he is running out of time to insure his wife Lottie is financially set and to gain his place in the music pantheon. It deeply disturbs him that he believes Irving Berlin cheated him from credit for some work stolen from him; still he has written a musical that he hopes Waterson, Berlin, and Snyder Music Publishers will want to use. Piano student Martin Niederhoffer offers to bring the two men together as he takes lessons from Joplin and works for Berlin.

The meeting proves futile as Joplin accuses Berlin of stealing his work. Soon afterward Martin finds Joplin holding a straight razor while standing over the murdered body of Martin's peer Sid Altman.. Joplin claims his innocence and Martin needs to believe him. Nell Stanley, daughter of a former Joplin publisher, hides him while the cops want him for questioning. Martin hires hit man Footsie Vinny to pressure Berlin into giving up the musical play Joplin says he left with him, but Berlin denies it. Things turn uglier when thugs kidnap Martin’s girlfriend.

The second Joplin historical mystery (see THE RAGTIME KID) is a fascinating look at the Manhattan music world during WWI. The story line is a bit loose, but readers will enjoy the wild ride anyway as real figures like Joplin and Berlin come to life beyond the legend. The amateur sleuthing is fun to follow but it is the obsessed with insuring for Lottie’s future and how history recalls him Joplin who turns this whodunit into a concerto performance.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Moon-M.R. Sellars

Blood Moon
M.R. Sellars
WillowTree, Oct 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780979453335

Pagan witch Rowan Gant and his wife Felicity are there when their special friend FBI agent Constance Mendility is shot by Felicity’s half sister Annalise Devereaux. She was the host for the evil spirit Miranda and taking advantage of the fact she and Felicity look so much alike she made it seem like her sibling was the killer and the one into BDSM. Miranda wants to leave Annalise to ride Felicity, but Rowen prevents the switch from happening. In fact both witches need a holiday from all the trauma they have been intwined in lately. Rowan, a medium who communicates with the dead, vows not to listen to them anymore because his efforts only lead to trouble for him and his wife.

Unfortunately Rowen misunderstands communication is two way and the deceased refuse to honor his wishes. One particularly insistent spirit wants to talk to Rowan. Detective Ben Storm thinks it is a young woman who wears a puncture mark on her neck and the blood from her body drained. Rowan relcutantly acqueices and learns another body with the same markings is waiting to be found. When a third woman vanishes, the niece of Christian fundamentalist Captain Barbara Albright, who insists Rowan is a devil worshipper, she pulls strings to get him to search for her relative. Rowan places himself in danger in an attempt to end the serial killings.

As usual, the Rowan Gant paranormal mystery is a thrill to read as psychic and magical powers play key roles in polcie investiagtions. Rowan wants to walk away from his responsibilities which physcially shows up with blinding headaches and bleeding, but knows he cannot as he is needed. With a bit of humor mostly to ease the stess levels of readers, , BLOOD MOON is another superb paranormal whodunit. This great Gant novel is a must read.

Harriet Klausner

The Bride of Casa Dracula-Marta Acosta

The Bride of Casa Dracula
Marta Acosta
Pocket, Sep 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9781416559634

Milagro De Los Santos and Dr. Oswald Grant are engaged to be married. However the bride is frustrated with the rules that she must agree to in order for his side to accept her. Upset, Milagro wants to tell the bloodsuckers to go to hell, but he loves Oswald so he bites her tongue and agrees to adhere to the Vampire Council's strict code of conduct to include no sharing of the same bed until they marry twice; first a public exchange of I do’s and a second a vampire blood exchange ritual as her intended and his family have a slight genetic abberation; they need blood to survive.

Besides her future in-laws loathing her, the marriage plans are taken away from her. Her friend Nancy takes over the public ceremony and the Vampire Council assigns Cornelia to run their rite of passage. Nancy is over the top and Cornelia has designs on the groom whom she has shared a bite or two with before Milagro intruded; with Cornelia comes her brother Ian whom Milagro has shared a bite or two too. As Milagro ghost writes a book for a maniacal self preclaimed shapeshifting cleint, accidnts begin to occur that makes Oswald wonder if his beloved cannot handle the pressure; Milagro knows someone wants to prevent their marriage and plans as always to kick butt.

The latest satirical visit to Casa Dracula is as always an amusing take no prisoners “vampiric” romance. The story line lampoons the sub-genre from werewolves to vampires and their extended packs and families as well as wedding planners. Filled with twists including a great final spin, readers will appreciate Milagro’s escapades as her world is crumbling when she should be at her happiest; either way she knows what will occur will be toasted with a few pints of blood – mostly she fears hers.

Harriet Klausner

The Company-K.J. Parker

The Company
K.J. Parker
Orbit, Oct 29 2008, $24.99
ISBN: 9780316038539

The war ended seven years ago. Many soldiers left the military to return to civilian life. This includes four friends who never see one another anymore as that reminds them of comrades who died when the Confederation needed them; now stoic over being alive but struggling with adjustment as many other vets are doing too.

Their former commanding officer General Kunessin visits the quartet to remind them of the pledge they made while still uniform. They honor their vow to settle on a peaceful utopian island that Kunessin has found for them. He will fund their colonization. The men find wives financially desperate enough to willingly marry them in a group exchange of vows and accompany them to Kunessin’s paradise. Everything is fine until gold is discovered.

THE COMPANY is a dark gripping military fantasy that is a parable on the life of vets when the war is over. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as the audience gets a taste of how society turns its back on those who risked their lives when they are no longer needed for combat. The island is their escape from a reality they cannot readapt to, but even there society intrudes once gold is found as once again they are expendable. K.J. Parker will have readers pondering whether we are truly doing all we can for vets and their families.
Harriet Klausner

The Hero of Ages-Brandon Sanderson

The Hero of Ages
Brandon Sanderson
Tor, Oct 2008, $27.95
ISBN: 0765316897

As with their first success in defeating evil (see MISTBORN) Emperor Elend Venture and his mage wife Vin thought they were bringing peace to the reign, but they are proved wrong when the foreign armies invaded and opened up the WELL OF ASCENSION. Once again they thought they triumphed over evil, but they are proved wrong again.

To close THE WELL OF ASCENSION, they inadvertently liberate Ruin, the malevolent spirit who simply wants to destroy the world. Elend and Vin struggle to prevent this from happening, but also must contend with other evil killers allied with Ruin. They must defeat the lethal Inquisitors, the Deepness deadly mists and the black ash inundating the land and suffocating the crops. Even more desperate than ever, the duo knows their only hope is to find the cache of Mistborn energies atium; brilliantly hidden by Elend’s late predecessor as emperor.

For every action there is a reaction with the latter at times leading to unintended consequences is the basic underlying principal of the superb Mistborn fantasy trilogy. The story line is fast-paced, filled with stunning plausible twists and an incredible unexpected finish. Readers will appreciate the entire saga as Brandon Sanderson will have his audience applying the overarching theme to the real world.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hometown Favorite-Bill Barton and Henry O. Arnold

Hometown Favorite
Bill Barton and Henry O. Arnold
Revell, Sep 2008, $19.99
ISBN: 9780800719142

Although their team lost the Mississippi state championship game, the three stars remain heroes in Springdale as they go off to college. Wide receiver and linebacker Dewayne Jobe gores to USC; quarterback Sly Adams to Miami; and linebacker Jesse Webb to Mississippi. Dewayne and Sly become superstars contending for the Heisman while Jesse’s career ends with an injury. At school Dewayne meets affluent Rosella Caldwell; they fall in love and marry.

Dewayne and Sly go to the NFL as stars while Jesse dies in a drunken driving incident. Dewayne, Rosella and her parents rescue her nephew Bruce and her niece Sabrina from their addicted mom Bonita. Rosella gives birth to their child. Dewayne is on top of the world and thankful to the Lord, his widowed mom, and his wife until a tragedy, a personal life threatening health issue and betrayals by loved ones leave him to understand how Job felt.

Using football as a mechanism Bill Barton and Henry O. Arnold modernize the story of Job as several traumatic incidents in a short time leave Dewayne in all sorts of anguish. Will he blame the Lord for deserting him or will he seek solace in the Lord while going through incredible layers of traumas? Young adult fans will appreciate this inspirational tale of the football star sacked several times until his life seems fumbled away.

Harriet Klausner

Hungry for More-Diana Holquist

Hungry for More
Diana Holquist
Forever, Sep 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446197045

Amy Burns loves her skill of being able to tell someone the name of their true love. She also knows the stipulation she must adhere to if she wants to keep her precious paranormal gift; the gypsy must never fall in love.

However, she is stunned when the voice in her head turns silent. Amy knows she has not fallen in love so wants her voice back. She tracks her missing muse to Chef James LaChance's restaurant. James knows his inspiration comes from women so when Amy kisses him, he believes he will create a masterpiece. Whereas he wants her in bed and in his head, she wants her voice back; neither want love, but the voice has a mind of its own when it comes to one’s true live.

This is an engaging contemporary romance with a whimsical thread of fantasy as the heroine seeks her “voice” and the hero finds his “muse”. Fans will enjoy the third Burns’ sister tale (see MAKE ME A MATCH and THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE) as Diana Holquist continues her fabulously jocular spin on the twisted paths of true love in which fate causes detours, wrong turns, and tsunamis of the heart..

Harriet Klausner

The Bone Box-Bob Hosteler

The Bone Box
Bob Hosteler
Howard (Simon & Schuster), Oct 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 1416566473

As he works in Israel with his long time friend Yigal Havner, archeologist Randall Bullock continues to grieve the death of his wife; killed by a drunken driver. Nothing interests him until Yigal informs him of a cave in at a park project in Jerusalem. The authorities need an expert to evaluate and evacuate the site. The widower agrees to lead the dig.

Israeli Antiques Authority agent Miri Sharon works alongside the American when they uncover an incredible find; a stone casket etched with "Joseph, son of Caiaphas" on the outside containing scrolls that document the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While the pair is euphoric his estranged nineteen year old daughter Tracey, expelled from Rothan College in Ohio, arrives in Jerusalem to join her dad who was never there for her; not even at her mom’s funeral as he came too late. Soon the trio is on the run from those who want their discovery interred. At the same time they are fleeing the threesome also tries to confirm their find even as the agnostic American archeologist begins to question his personal belief system.

This is an exciting religious thriller that puts a different spin to the typical Brownian theme. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the troubled Randall and Miri make their find and never slows down. Having Tracey join them adds to the deep look at the obsessive disturbed hero; but one must wonder why she was expelled rather than counseled especially since she is grieving while another student involved was allowed to remain in school because her dad showed up to defend her. Still, minor quibbles aside, readers will enjoy this fine thriller as the find has Randall questioning himself even while many want their proof buried along with the archeologist and his female partners.

Harriet Klausner

The Storm-Jean Johnson

The Storm
Jean Johnson
Berkley, Sep 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425222171

Rydan, the Guardian of the Nightfall Fountain, is a loner. He hates crowds, which to him is more than one other person near his space. Thus he is unhappy when the twins Arora and Amara are shipwrecked on Nightfall Island even as he is attracted to the former while his brother Trevan desires the latter (see THE CAT).

He rejects the concept that Rora is his destined mate. However she sees inside his soul and knows why he runs from emotions; feelings are painful to her beloved. She plans to heal him, but first must deal with the trouble that followed her and her sister to Nightfall Island.

Although readers know much of the events having read them in THE CAT, Jean Johnson keeps the tale fresh as the perspective of the other twins are different from those of Trevan and Amara. The story line maintains the fast pace, but new revelations occur as Rydan keeping with his overall loner persona meets his fate as one of the Sons of Destiny in the aptly titled THE STORM. Ms. Johnson keeps her romantic fantasy saga at the top bar of excellence.

Harriet Klausner

Beyond Magic- Susan Kearney, Elaine Cunningham and Kassandra Sims

Beyond Magic
Susan Kearney, Elaine Cunningham and Kassandra Sims
Tor, Sep 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780765355270

"The Shimmering" by Susan Kearney. Reporter Sandra Lowell tests an astral projection gizmo only to be sent to another planet light years from earth. She ends inside the body of the wife of warrior Daveck Gorait, who has a world to save. With her memories in tact she wants to go home, but is falling in love with the hunk who insists their marriage is a political necessity.

"Beyond Dreams" by Elaine Cunningham. In Providence Nick Romano keeps having nightmares of murdered women. Although he does not believe in ESP, desperate to end his restless sleep, he visits psychic Cassie O'Malley.

"Hill and Sky" by Kassandra Sims. Although she loves her family, Annika Madsen moved to Nashville to escape their constant hovering. Her mother begs her to come home insisting the family needs her; she implies the magic is dying. Finally mom sends Tommy Brennan to help her with an investigation.

“The Shimmering” starts as a science fiction but moves into fantasy on another world; while “Beyond Dreams” is an urban mystery fantasy; and “Hill and Sky” is similar as an urban mystery fantasy, but much more introspective. Fans will enjoy these three well written novellas.

Harriet Klausner

Slow Train to Arcturus-Eric Flint and Dave Freer

Slow Train to Arcturus
Eric Flint and Dave Freer
Baen, Oct, 2008 $24.00
ISBN 9781416555858

When the humongous weird looking vessel entered their system, leaders of planet Miren become concerned. They send a ship filled with scientists and other researchers to investigate the encroaching craft with its strange massive bubble-like habitats.

Upon entering an orb, humans inside attack the alien visitors from Miren. Most of the outsiders are killed as they are not soldiers and the ship's residents are insane berserkers. Miren xenobiologist Kretz escapes the slaughter by entering a different biosphere containing other humans, friendlier but unhelpful as they do not have the means to get him to his vessel. Kretz realizes quickly to get back to his ship and eventually Miren, he must pass through several of these contained circular environments filled with humans at different stages of development; many hostile towards his species.

This is a fun often humorous outer space opera. The story line is hyper fast and filled with non stop action, but that is a two edged sword because the plot never goes deep into the various groups that the Miren meet or the purpose of the multi habitat spacecraft. Still this is an engaging tale with the neat twist of the humans entering the alien specie sector with hostility that pulp space opera fans will enjoy.

Harriet Klausner

The 731 Legacy-Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore

The 731 Legacy
Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore
Midnight Ink, Oct 2008, $15.95
ISBN: 9780738713175

A very ill man bleeding from many orifices goes to SNN Television network to talk to Nephilim Cotton Stone. With his last dying breath he mutters " Black Needles". His body disappears before an autopsy occurs; the mortuary that picked his corpse up is nowhere to be found.

A woman in West Virginia dies from the same virus and her body also goes missing. In the Brazilian Rain Forest a woman of the Yanomomo tribe contarcts the virus.

Cotton begins to notice the pattern, but is diverted from pursuing the story when the man she loves is kidnapped in an Eastern European country. With the help of former KGB agents, Stone rescues Priest Father John Tyler. During the return she overhears the Father and the Nephilim discuss the abduction as a diversion because Cotton was getting to close to the truth. In North Korea a scientist has found a way to activate a dormant retrovirus that harms humans. She and the country’s “Dear Leader” plan to spread this lethal virus around the world; decimating the globe and leaving North Korea as the superpower. When Father John gets the disease, the Son of the Morning gives Cotton a choice.To save him she must surrender to the darkness.

THE 731 LEGACY is an enthralling thriller in which a woman with the blood of angels must decide whether to fall to the Nephilim to save her beloved Father John. Cotton knows anyone can be trapped by the darkness, but is prepared to do so willingly by joining the “Old Man” to save the priest. The plague seems plausible which adds to the tensionthat the readers feel. The protagonist is strong willed chip off of her fallen angelic father’s DNA. Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore provide another entertaining, enthralling and creative Stone thriller (see THE HADES PROJECT, THE LAST SECRET and THE GRAIL CONSPIRACY).

Harriet Klausner

Cast in Fury-Michelle Sagara

Cast in Fury
Michelle Sagara
Luna, Oct 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373802692

The abnormal size and intensity of the tidal wave that almost destroyed the city has ignited racial tension. Many in Elantra assume the Tha’alani deliberately caused the disaster as they were seen going to the water and almost immediately the water rose in what appeared to be a cause and effect. Though the Emperor wants to ease the tension before a race war explodes, the Swords have replaced the Tha’alani at key security posts and are stationed near the Tha’alani sector albeit to keep mobs out yet also to contain the accused.

To calm things down the Emperor commissioned royal playwright Richard Rennick to scribe a play about the Tha’alani. Lord Sanabalis orders Private Kaylin Neya and Corporal Handred to insure Rennick remembers his mission is to ease tension not enflame it. At about the same time Hawks Leontine Sergeant Marcus is arrested on the charge of murder. Kaylin is told to ignore her “Pridelea” superior officer’s plight and stay focused on the bigger issue; she believes in Marcus so she investigates not realizing the dark terror that awaits her and the Elantra Empire.

The fourth Cast in … fantasy (see SHADOW, COURTLIGHT and SECRET) is a superb investigative thriller as the heroine uses her special magic to prove her military mentor his innocent and to help abate the racial divide that looks almost certain to turn deadly. The story line is fast-paced yet focuses on the destructive nature of de facto (and to a lesser degree de jure racism) in a Rovian way of abusing the strengths of the Tha’alani and using them as a negative to emphasize their differences. Kaylin is at her best in this thought provoking cautionary tale.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 24, 2008

In Hot Pursuit-Wendy Etherington

In Hot Pursuit
Wendy Etherington
Harlequin NASCAR, Sep 2008
ISBN: 9780373217953

Four years may have passed since her policeman husband died in the line of duty, but Kylie Palmer has not had time to fully mourn her loss as their child now ten year old Ryan needed her then and now. Her bossy widow mom Madeline “Honey” Richardson ordered Kylie to move into her lake house in Moorseville, North Carolina so that Ryan’s maternal grandma could help her raise him; Kylie acquiesced and she and her son moved from the Charlotte suburbs.

Kylie works as PR for the Motor Media Group; her prime job being to promote NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver Will Branch, whose father Hilton vanished after apparently absconding with family and bank money. Kylie takes Ryan to soccer practice; something Honey has always done. She meets his single with no kids coach Arthur Treadway. They are attracted to one another over changing a tire; but as he tells her to call him Sean and learns he works security, she thinks four years five months and eighteen days and counting since her eight year marriage ended in death.

NASCAR plays an extremely minor role in this superb second chance at love romance. The support cast is solid and the racing car game in which Honey is the champ adds depth. However, this is Kylie’s story even though Coach is a fully developed strong protagonist. She must decide to chance on love especially with his line of work or remain cocooned by fear.

Harriet Klausner

Tailspin-Michele Dunaway

Michele Dunaway
Harlequin NASCAR, Sep 2008
ISBN: 9780373217946

The asphalt company was at fault for wrecking her truck. Rocksolid Insurance offers to provide Charlotte based personal trainer Terri Whelan with the market value of her vehicle; she rejects their offer; demanding they fix her customized special NASCAR race fan truck that she and her dad upgraded. A beleaguered customer service employee forwards Terri’s call to Max Harper, a Rising Stars program trainee; he accepts the call because he believes a real customer complaint would prove more beneficial in his training than the tapes he has been given. He agrees to look into her demands.

Terri meets Max and his twelve year old daughter Mandy over a commercial the adults are both indirectly involved in. Terri and Max are attracted to one another, but his first interest remains rightfully so his tweener. Besides Mandy’s mom, Los Angeles drama queen Lola knows that what Lola wants Lola gets and she wants Terri gone; not that she wants Max back.

This entertaining contemporary romance stars two likable lead protagonists, a strong positive support cast, and a mom who offers no redeeming values. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing from their first telephonic encounter. However his ex-wife trying to destroy their relationship fails to come out of the starting gate let alone make it around the oval to the finish line. Still overall TAILSPIN is a fun second chance at love for him and first time for her tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Way You Love Me-Francis Ray

The Way You Love Me
Francis Ray
St. Martin’s, Sep 2008, $$6.99
ISBN: 0312946848

Shane Elliott and Paige Albright first met in Dallas; the former Ranger has not forgotten her though neither acted on their first encounter. Still when he sleeps he is DREAMING OF YOU, Paige. Not long after that about a hundred miles from Dallas, Shane, handling security at Sierra and Blade Navarone’s estate on the Riviera Maya, catches an intruder, Paige. He warns her to leave town or else, but knows the only woman who moves his soul thinks he is disgusting.

Joann Albright arrives at the estate as a guest. She asks Shane to investigate Russell Crenshaw who has been dating Paige since her father died several months ago from a stroke. Joann believes Paige is seeing Russell to honor her beloved late father as his dad was her dad’s business associate; Joann does not trust the man as she thinks he is interested in her multimillion dollar estate. He reluctantly agrees to watch over her though he wonders who will protect her from a relationship cynic like him.

Just when readers thought the Grayson brood was finished with ONLY YOU , Francis Ray widens her saga with the a new series the Grayson Friends. The opening act is a terrific contemporary romance even as the lead couple’s attitudes mirror Sierra and Blade. As they fall in love, an Albright family secret threatens their relationship, but the resolution seems too fast. Still this is an engaging tale as fans will appreciate the opening act of the extended New Mexico clan.

Harriet Klausner

Immunity-Lori Andrews

Lori Andrews
St. Martin’s, Sep 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312352727

DEA Agents Ted Silliman and Castro Baxter are part of a joint workforce with the Las Vegas Police Department investigating the use of the date rape drug “J”; the victims end up in many cases mutilated and dead. Evidence leads to the Fantasy Resort owned by septuagenarian Frankie “The Bayonet” DiBondi, but it makes no sense for him to deal with an illegal relatively minor remittance when his legal brothel brings in a million declared dollars a month and who knows how much of the profit iceberg remains beneath the surface. Still they follow DiBondi onto an Indian Reservation when Ted suddenly goes into convulsions and dies.

The official response is an overdose of cocaine, but Castro rejects it as inane because he knew his partner and knows what a cocaine death looks like. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology Dr. Alex Blake conducts an autopsy and agrees with Castro. She believes Simmons died from his body violently reacting with a hyper-immune response. Soon afterward his corpse disappears and DEA grabs the autopsy results and all related information to the Simmons’ death. Teaming up with Castro, Alex learns of eight other identical deaths on that same night that all tie back to a fountain in a Taos, New Mexico public square. Based on unnamed government sources the media blames Native American radical rights group Red Rights for introducing a new “silent assassin” disease into the drinking water as a widening epidemic seems imminent with new deaths; shockingly Homeland Security chief Martin Kincade demands Blake and Castro back down or else.

This exhilarating conspiratorial thriller will grip readers with the opening prologue when the seemingly healthy but tired Silliman suddenly convulses. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action and strong characters (including the lead duo) with personal agendas; these protagonists represent real groups goals such as denoting Native American issues and signifying Homeland Security leaderships’ self interest goals. Readers will enjoy the latest AFIP adventure.

Harriet Klausner

Pure Blood-Caitlin Kittredge

Pure Blood
Caitlin Kittredge
St. Martin’s, Sep 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0312948301

Threes months on medical leave after killing the former DA Duncan on her last case (see NIGHT LIFE), Nocturne City homicide detective Luna Wilder is finally back on the job. Her fist case on her first day back involves what looks like a male blood witch addict overdosing; a simple street OD case until medical examiner Kronen notices an anomaly. The victim’s eyes show pretichial hemorrhaging, a symptom associated with choking not heroin.

She is not welcomed back to the precinct as a hero. Instead the rookies gawk, the veterans look concerned probably because of the tabloid publicity of an out of control werewolf cop, and her new hostile Captain Morgan informs her she is less than crap. When more witches die, Luna realizes she is investigating a witch gang war. She could use the help of her former lover Dimitri Sandovsky, but his pack forbids him seeing her as they blame Luna for his illness caused by a demon bite.

Luna is the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly rolled into one livid lone lobo werewolf as she follows the clues angering everyone who she meets. The case is fun to follow, but it is gritty Nocturne City that magically owns this dark police procedural urban fantasy. Fans will enjoy walking the mean streets with Luna half logical and half lunatic as she brings to life the gloomy exhilarating world of Caitlin Kittredge.

Harriet Klausner

Pure Blood-Caitlin Kittredge

Pure Blood
Caitlin Kittredge
St. Martin’s, Sep 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0312948301

Threes months on medical leave after killing the former DA Duncan on her last case (see NIGHT LIFE), Nocturne City homicide detective Luna Wilder is finally back on the job. Her fist case on her first day back involves what looks like a male blood witch addict overdosing; a simple street OD case until medical examiner Kronen notices an anomaly. The victim’s eyes show pretichial hemorrhaging, a symptom associated with choking not heroin.

She is not welcomed back to the precinct as a hero. Instead the rookies gawk, the veterans look concerned probably because of the tabloid publicity of an out of control werewolf cop, and her new hostile Captain Morgan informs her she is less than crap. When more witches die, Luna realizes she is investigating a witch gang war. She could use the help of her former lover Dimitri Sandovsky, but his pack forbids him seeing her as they blame Luna for his illness caused by a demon bite.

Luna is the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly rolled into one livid lone lobo werewolf as she follows the clues angering everyone who she meets. The case is fun to follow, but it is gritty Nocturne City that magically owns this dark police procedural urban fantasy. Fans will enjoy walking the mean streets with Luna half logical and half lunatic as she brings to life the gloomy exhilarating world of Caitlin Kittredge.

Harriet Klausner

Bound by Light-Anna Windsor

Bound by Light
Anna Windsor
Ballantine, Sep 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345498557

While his two brothers seem ecstatic over meeting their soul mates (see BOUND BY SHADOW and BOUND BY FLAME) Astaroth demon Jake Lowell feels alone as he just wants to regain his humanity. However, he knows that his fantasy will remain just a dream as the mage experts insist that is impossible. Still in spite of his depression and being manipulated by a malevolent using him as a stalker, he feels good for his brothers and follows the orders to protect the only non-pregnant Sybil triad sister air Sybil Merilee Alexander.

Meanwhile the Old One is leading his Legion on a quest to destroy humanity. This powerful demon knows the time is right as two of the Sybils are in delicate conditions. All he and his minion must do is kill the third one, Melanie. Jake finds his human side surface at the wrong time as he needs to keep the Sybil he is falling in love with safe, but to do that he requires the full power of the demon inside him.

The third Dark Crescent Sisterhood is urban romantic fantasy at its best as part of a stupendous saga. The story line is action-packed as the audience follows the latest confrontation between the Sybils and the Legion. This time the odds are more overwhelming than ever as the good guys are somewhat weakened while the evil ones have their top gun strengthens the darkness. This is a great miniseries that sub-genre fans will relish.

Harriet Klausner

Field of Blood-Eric Wilson

Field of Blood
Eric Wilson
Thomas Nelson, Oct 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9781595544582

After the death of Judas Iscariot in 30 AD, his blood soaked through to the Necropolis just below. In 1989, work crews are performing construction in this Field of Blood when they break though to what lies beneath. The Collector of Souls is drawn to the spot and enters; there the Collector finds boxes of bones in the unholy ground. He calls his cluster who come immediately. They reunite the bones and make them human looking before entering them; thus ending a period in which they had no bodies.

They are free to wreck havoc on mankind; especially eager to begin the Final Days. Keeping them in check and preventing the countdown is thirty-eight men known as the Nistorim who pray for the souls of man so they can be Those Who Resist.. There are other people that keep hope alive. One is an innocent Romanian woman Gina Lazarescu who knows nothing of the spiritual battle, but she will play a major role in the war between the Nistorim and the Collectors.

Although the word demon is never used, the essence is lucid as the reader learns that the Collectors occupied the bodies of the damned.. Eric Wilson’s supernatural thriller is all about redemption by placing one’s life on the line to save humanity. In some ways a coming of age saga as Gina grows while learning who she is and how she relates to the supernatural battle being fought..

Harriet Klausner

Dark Harvest-Lynda Hilburn

Dark Harvest
Lynda Hilburn
Medallion, Oct 2008, $15.95
ISBN: 193383661X

Dr. Kismet Knight is on Denver’s WOW talk radio billed as the vampire psychologist though most listeners assume this is a gimmick. Actually this is the bloody truth in her case. Six months ago she became THE VAMPIRE SHRINK when a serial killing vampire almost murdered her. During her biting ordeal, Kismet met her lover eight hundred year old Master Vampire Devereux; he wants her to be his mate, but she hesitates.

On the air, the most ancient known vampire Hallow calls her and over the phone melts her bones turning her into a shrink in heat. Hallow wants to make Kismet his slave; Devereux vows to protect his beloved from the most evil bloodsucker walking the earth. The malevolent bloodsucker easily circumvents Devereux’s protective efforts; Kismet makes it easier for the wicked one by refusing to lose her independence. Neither is aware that those close to them could become pawns in Hallows game.

This Mile High chick lit urban fantasy will appeal to fans of Laurel K. Hamilton and Lilith Saintcrow as the heroine’s courage and mouth will remind the audience of their respective stars. Kismet is an independent soul who begins to lose her free will as Hallow works his magic to break her. The love between the vampire and the psychologist is beautiful to behold as he painted her portrait before they met. That link and why Hallow obsesses over Kismet are critical to the story line as Lynda Hilburn writes a unique and bewitching vampire in Denver thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cassandra & Jane-Jill Pitkeathley

Cassandra & Jane
Jill Pitkeathley
Harper, Sep 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 0061446394

Cassandra & Jane Austen were more than sisters; they were best friends sharing their desires for a romantic world though depending on relatives for sustenance made romanticism difficult. Neither finds much beyond disappointment as their family is at the lowest rung of the aristocracy; this means they must behave with decorum and obey the rules of the Hampshire Ton, as they are not high enough or wealthy enough to flaunt their standing as the poor relative. Making matters worse, romance proves bitterly disappointing for the siblings who each finds love only to lose love. However, when Jane dies at forty one, a grieving Cassandra destroys the letters from her sister that she always kept.

This is an engaging refreshing look at the life of Jane Austen through the eyes of her older sister. Cassandra and Jane are fully developed characters as the readers through the former’s perceptions learn much about what happened to Jane. Although the facts and the fiction do not always blend together the avid Austen audience will fully relish this biographical fiction as the novel is loaded with tidbits about this wonderful author whose works almost two centuries old remain in vogue today (unless you are Clueless)..

Harriet Klausner

Tuscan Holiday-Holly Chamberlin

Tuscan Holiday
Holly Chamberlin
Kensington, Sep 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 0758214030

Single mom Elizabeth Caldwell is proud of her daughter Marina who just graduated from college. However, she is concerned that her offspring is marrying Boston Brahmin Jotham Grandin for all the wrong reasons. Turning into a pop psychiatrist Elizabeth believes Marina is submissive to her fiancé on everything; and marrying him not out of love or even friendship, but more a reaction to avoid the victim mistake her mom made over two decades ago. As a graduation present, she buys two tickets to Italy. Marina thinks it is for her and her fiancé, but Elizabeth awkwardly corrects her that this TUSCAN HOLIDAY is for mom and daughter.

Elizabeth knows she is not a role model having been unable to fully commit to her lover Rob after thirteen years together, but hopes to reconnect with her daughter and prays Marina finds some passion. In Italy, Elizabeth is ready to give up as Marina behaves like the condemned walking the last mile to their execution. Suddenly the air seems fresher and livelier when Marina meets Luca who brings a zest for life that has both women reconsidering their relationships back home.

This is an entertaining look at relationships especially between a mom and a daughter. The lead pair rotates perspective so that the audience sees the same event at times almost entirely different as the two female Caldwells bring personal lenses to the mix. Fans will enjoy this fine family drama.

Harriet Klausner