Friday, July 31, 2009

The Arms Maker of Berlin- Dan Fesperman

The Arms Maker of Berlin
Dan Fesperman
Knopf, Aug 4 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307268372

WWII history professor Dr. Nat Turnbull specializes in the German resistance movement. He is shocked when he learns his former advisor octogenarian Dr. Gordon Wolfe was arrested by Pennsylvania police for possessing stolen archival information from the 1940s.

Nat sees some of the findings and realizes what Gordon had squirreled away is incredible as none of the documents can be found elsewhere as far he knows. However, he also finds a gap in what the police took and assumes Gordon, for whatever reason, hid part of the cache of data. When Gordon is found dead in his cell, the FBI asks Nat to investigate Gordon’s strange clues. As he begins to uncover the secrets of the White Rose Resistance buried for decades, Berlin's Free University Professor Berta Heinkel offers to help him. He soon distrusts everyone including the German visitor and the FBI as the evidence point towards a cover-up to protect a German weapons manufacturer, Bauer, who apparently hid his WW II activity so that he could keep his Jewish family members from the camps.

This should be must reading for ideologues as family motives easily supersede everything is this poignant clearly timely and profound thriller. Although Turnbull is the superstar of the tale from the opening shocker to the final denouement with five survivors at his side, Bauer owns the story line then and now. He did what he had to for his beloved ones to survive war and the Final Solution; choices are not simple Bushian for or against as the Neocons proclaim and Congressman Tim Ryan has recently affirmed, but instead complex and complicated as Bauer made choices that has haunted him in life and will do so until he dies.

Harriet Klausner

Slow Burn-Pamela Britton

Slow Burn
Pamela Britton
Harlequin HQN, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774005

Dana Johnson was about to marry Stewart until she learned he was taking credit for her work. She quickly ended that relationship. Her friend and co-worker at Steele and Steele Alysa takes her to a NASCAR race; an event she has never attended before.

However, Dana is appalled to learn that Alysa entered her name in a win a date with driver Braden James contest; and she won. Dana says no, but Braden persuades her to go through the dating ritual as his sponsor,, demands they do. She reluctantly agrees though she doubts a rebounder like her will be any fun. To her shock she begins to fall in love with the hunk; not the macho image, but the sensitive former foster child. Shockingly Alysa, who sets them up, is jealous with rage.

SLOW BURN is a tender warm contemporary NASCAR romance in which her stepfather puts perspective when he wishes her the best in life and love, but with a quarterback. Fans will enjoy this engaging tale although the villain has sniffed too many racing car fumes. Still Pamela Britton provides a wonderful ride to the winner’s circle with the help of the pit crew (and not just those at the track).

Harriet Klausner

How To Tempt A Duke-Kasey Michaels

How To Tempt A Duke
Kasey Michaels
Harlequin HQN, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373773718

In 1814 after fighting for several years on the continent, Captain Rafael Daughtry is coming home to begin his duties as the Duke of Ashurst since his uncle and his cousins mysteriously died while he was fighting Napoleon. Family friend Charlotte Seavers is a bit aghast with Rafe’s younger out of control sixteen years old twin sisters, Nicole the ring leader and Lydia for the stunt they pulled on letters to and from Rafe, but is elated her childhood buddy is finally returning home safe and sound.

Neither Rafe nor Charlie initially recognizes one another as childhood memories overwhelm adult senses. However, he needs her to help him somewhat control and chaperone his siblings. As he falls in love with Charlie, she has always loved him; but conceals her secret as to why she distrusts men even her beloved Rafe.

This is an engaging amusing Regency romance starring two likable lead characters and a terrific support cast starting with the irresistible impish sisters. The breezy brisk story line also contains a serious mystery subplot as well as Charlie’s related secret. Fans will enjoy this witty historical and want a future tale or two (in a few years hence) starring the terrible terror twins.

Harriet Klausner

Royal's Bride-Kat Martin

Royal's Bride
Kat Martin
Mira, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326427

In 1854, Royal Dewar comes home after spending several years in foreign countries to pay his respects to his dying father, the duke of Bransford. His dad insists Royal make a death bed promise to marry an heiress to restore the family’s dwindling fortune that was devastated by a con artist. Unable to say no or even ignore the plea Royal acquiesces.

Although he knows no one but himself is aware of his pledge, the honorable new duke proposes to wealthy snooty Jocelyn Caulfield; she accepts. However, he falls in love with her impecunious feisty cousin, Lily Moran, who has a criminal history when they team up to recover the money his father lost. While Jocelyn also falls in love with Christopher Barclay, Lily is abducted by their adversary; Royal vows to rescue his beloved and find a way to marry her.

This is a terrific Victorian romantic suspense starring a strong lead pair and a solid support cast especially the heroine’s arrogant cousin and the villain. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Royal comes home and never slows down. Although the post game show is too perfect, fans will enjoy the tense game. Kat Martin always entertains the audience with her fantastic romances.

Harriet Klausner

Soul Murder-Andrew Nugent

Soul Murder
Andrew Nugent
Minotaur, Aug 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312536565

In North Kerry, Ireland the students of St. Isidore’s boys boarding school sneak out of the dorm late at night for an impromptu midnight barbecue. Following their midnight soiree, the seven pupils sneak back into their tower only to be met by housemaster Maurice Tyson lying in a bloody mess with his throat cut.

The Garda Síochána send Dublin based sexagenarian Superintendent Denis Lennon and youthful Sergeant Molly Power to lead the investigation into the gruesome homicide. Fisher, the headmaster of St. Isidore’s, insists Tyson was the victim of kidnappers trying to abduct French student Bertrand Laporte, the son of a wealthy family. The two cops believe that suggestion is ridiculous until Bertrand is kidnapped when he returns to France, but Inspector Quilligan (and the Surete) rescue the lad. However, the police look at a different motive; that of a former student accusing Tyson of abuse.

The third Lennon-Powers Irish police procedural (see SECOND BURIAL FOR A BLACK PRINCE and THE FOUR COURTS MURDER) is an exciting boarding school whodunit. The insight into the goings on including pranks at a boy’s school seems real while the official investigation is well done and entertaining. Although the final solution appears weak especially by the standard of excellence for this series, fans will appreciate Andrew Nugent’s thrilling murder investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Vengeance Road-Rick Mofina

Vengeance Road
Rick Mofina
Mira, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326380

Buffalo Sentinel veteran reporter Jack Gannon hears the buzz over the scanner and knows something ugly is going down in a park. He knows he is ancient history with his highlight film in the past and his work on a daily print newspaper a dinosaur nearing extinction, but he goes to cover the story.

Someone murdered former nursing student Bernice Hogan. Jack is told by someone inside the investigation whom he trusts but cannot name that the prime suspect is highly regarded cop Karl Styebeck, the head of this murder inquiry. Jack writes the story, which leads to fiftyish Mary Peller informing him her twenty six year old daughter, a single mom of a three year old child, is missing and connected to Bernice. Jack’s editor demands he give up his source, but he refuses; he is suspended. However, though he is about to be unemployed he keeps digging because he knows Jolene will be next.

This is a super journalistic investigative suspense thriller with several great plausible twists. Jack is a throwback reporter to those 1940s movies who as his missing sister and Mary noted he never gives up. Fans will relish his exploits in Buffalo and elsewhere as he may be unemployed but has a save a stranger driving him onward.

Harriet Klausner

Air Time-Hank Phillippi Ryan

Air Time
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Mira, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327196

TV reporter Charlotte McNally is with her producer Franklin on a plane on the tarmac in Charlotte when she realizes an incident occurred at the airport, but it turned out to be nothing except that the nothing caused her to miss her flight to Boston where she is to meet the Prada P.I. However, she helps some young woman in gigantic heals lug her luggage off the conveyor belt. Regine gives Charlie a business card for Double Designers. Charlie thanks the Gods for now she has a lead.

Charlie goes undercover attending a party thrown by Double Designers. Her work upsets her boyfriend English professor Josh Gelston, as they spend no time together so he implies he should move in with her so they can spend some time together. Meanwhile those selling the fakes do not appreciate investigative reporters.

The third Charlie McNally investigative thriller (see PRIME TIME and AIR TIME) is a terrific action-packed tale as the heroine provides her unique often humorous and biting commentary to the reader. Fans will enjoy her adventures as her undercover work is dangerous in terms of the sham makers and her relationship with the professor. Once again Charlie turns the latest “Time” suspense into an enjoyable read.

Harriet Klausner

The Phoenix Transformed-Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

The Phoenix Transformed
Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
Tor, Sep 2009, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765315953

Once Harrier Gillain and Tiercel Rolfort thought they would spend their entire lives in Armerthalieh, but that was prior to the latter receiving the power of high magic and visions of the Dark returning. Harrier had doubts about his best friend’s sanity, but not since their trek into the Elven lands where they learn that Tiercel was chosen by the Light to fight the Dark. Harrier leaves the lands of the elves a Knight-Mage.

Wildmage Bisochim believes the Dark must enter the world to bring balance. Through experiments, he creates the body of a woman imprisons the dark demon Aharin, released from the dimensional prison where her fellow demons reside. Her goal is to find a mage and create a new race of demons and release her fellow demons where she was imprisoned. Bisoschim used the trust of the Isvaieni trines of the Isva desert to kill the people in the border cities because he believed falsely they have given themselves over to the Dark thus creating the Unbalance. Once he realized he was manipulated by Aharin, he repents and does all he can to save the tribes with the help of Harrier and Tiercel. They travel the land seeking the demon in order to prove to the armies that demons walks the earth again. Aharin sends her walking dead Isvaieni, goblins and other magical beasts to destroy the Isvaieni .Harrier and Tiercel use their power to try and stop her and prevent the dark from coming bacl.

THE PHOENIX TRANSFORMED is an exciting sword and sorcery epic which will remind the audience of the Jews in Exodus as the Isvaieni tribes roam the desert hoping to find the way home by defeating the Dark. Harrier and Tierce are great characters and buddies who have matured considerably since THE PHOENIX UNCHAINED and THE PHOENIX ENDANGERED; each understands they may die for the better good. Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory provide adult and teen readers a strong epic fantasy. That is enthralling and a joy to read.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Never Love a Lawman-Jo Goodman

Never Love a lawman
Jo Goodman
Zebra, Sep 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420101757

In 1882 in Reidsville, Colorado, Sheriff Wyatt Cooper takes his job seriously to protect the townsfolk. He insures everyone is safe including newcomer Rachel Bailey, who he knows is a creature of habit as every male in town knows when they watch her walk the street to her establishment early in the morning. However, no one was prepared when Clinton Maddox dies and shockingly leaves the valuable railroad spur to Rachel, which places her in danger as others want the town’s lifeline.

Wyatt and Rachel agree to wed in a marriage of convenience so he can keep her safe. However, the townsfolk are euphoric and want to celebrate the nuptials. The only ones not ecstatic are Wyatt and Rachel. When her past arrives with two goals to destroy Rachel and claim the spur, Wyatt realizes protecting her has become personal.

This is an entertaining Americana romance starring an intriguing heroine and a wolf of a sheriff who sings the refrain from I’m Not in Love. The exciting story line contains a strong cast who bring to life the small town that would die without the spur. Jo Goodman provides an enjoyable western romance.

Harriet Klausner

Seduced by a Stranger-Eve Silver

Seduced by a Stranger
Eve Silver
Zebra, Sep 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780821781302

All her siblings died in childhood leaving Catherine Weston lonely and macabre thinking and dreaming all the time of death. Her only friend is Madeline St. Aubyn, but she is very ill and needs help. Worried about her friend, Catherine travels to Cairncroft Abbey, notoriously known for its evil past.

Catherine is shocked with what she finds at the onerous estate. Anytime Madeline seems comatose, her cousin Gabriel appears. Catherine is attracted to Gabriel, but she is confused by the so called curse that haunts him and his family. Gabriel is stunned with his deep feelings for the visitor, but fears to act on it. When a woman is murdered, Gabriel is the prime suspect; even Catherine wonders if the man she loves is a killer as she has heard.

SEDUCED BY A STRANGER is a terrific frightening Regency gothic that grips the audience from the opening scene of being buried alive near your four interred brothers as the readers wants to know what next to haunt the protagonist. The story line is fast-paced, but contains all the gothic elements as the heroine wonders if her beloved is a killer like everyone else claims. Eve Silver provides a tense historical romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

With Seduction in Mind-Laura Lee Guhrke

With Seduction in Mind
Laura Lee Guhrke
Avon, Sep 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061456831

In 1896 London, Daisy Merrick is fired from her typist job for her unbecoming behavior when the boss tried to fondle her and she refused him. Soon afterward, Social Gazette critic George Lindsay writes a sarcastic mocking review of Sebastian Grant's new play calling it “rubbish”. The duke is irate and goes after Lindsay who called him “a second rate Oscar Wilde” only to learn Lindsay is Daisy Merrick and his publisher demands he work with her on completing a novel that is past deadline. She agrees under the condition her book be considered for release too.

Sebastian tries to hide from Daisy that since he stopped using opiates, he suffers from writer's block. He decides to seduce her, which he hopes will lead to his writing again. However, his plan is to use her as a one-time muse before ending their partnership. However, though they argue like cats and dogs they fall in love, but will he realize she is his permanent muse.

This is an amusing late Victorian romance starring two likeable enemy combatants in a gender war mindful of the 1930s screwball comedies. The story line is a series of back and forth bantering as Daisy becomes the new cocaine for Sebastian. Fans who enjoy a humorous historical romance will want to read the war of the authors.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Haven-Gail Z. Martin

Dark Haven
Gail Z. Martin
Solaris, Mar 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781844165988

Three months have past since King Martris "Tris" Drayke defeated his brother, Jared the Usurper, and his ally Blood Mage Arontala (see THE BLOOD KING). Winning a war seems easy to Tris in retrospect. Now he must move on and rule a devastated kingdom. Apprehension remains high as some forces loyal to the Usurper continue to fight with enemy Lord Curane and his troops trapped at Lochlanimar and rumors spread that to the south a child has a legitimate claim to the throne. With all that Tris must find a way to feed and shelter his displaced refugee population especially with winter coming to freeze the lands to the north. Meanwhile Tris also prepares for his wedding ceremony with Princess Kiara.

He appoints his protector best friend Jonmarc Vahanian to take over as Lord of Dark Haven, a key estate to the north. Finally as the lord of their realm Margolan, Jonmarc negotiates with the Blood Council of vampires the Vayash Moru at a time when some of the vampires believe the mortals are unworthy of ruling especially since the Flow of magic The Flow is unbalanced, which means the blood magic of vampires is stronger than the light magic of the SUMMONER.

This is a super third tale that fans of the Necromancer fantasy saga will enjoy. Tris and Jonmarc learn how complex it is to change from rebel to ruler as they struggle to insure the kingdom’s subjects don’t starve to death or are further victims of war. Although well written, DARK HAVEN is a middle book that sets up the next entry as no major plot line is completed. Still exciting and well written, Gail Z. Martin provides a deep tale that makes the case that John Milton’s “Better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven” omits how much more difficult to rule is than to serve.

Harriet Klausner

Desolation Road-Ian McDonald

Desolation Road
Ian McDonald
PYR, Sep 2009, $15.98
ISBN 9781591027447

Earthlings have colonized a small patch of Mars by terra-forming the planet. Amongst the settlements is a shabby locale with a few buildings on what is called Desolation Road. It is a weird place not so much because it look like it lives up to its name, but because of the people who reside there or periodically pass through there.

At one time it was the center of ROTECH and the Bethlehem Ares Corporation. Now that is a distant memory. However, folks like Catch the super snooker star and Adam Black with his Traveling Chautauqua and Educational 'Stravagana showcased the fallen angel always makes stops here. However, perhaps the most fascinating and weirdest is the founder Dr Alimantando, who leaps in and out time and place. This is a town that may be the center of weirdness in the galaxy.

This is a reprint of a 1988 super but strange science faiction that changes direction rather sharply yet somehow smoothly. The story line uses a deep focus into the ensemble cast to tell the vivid story of DESOLATION ROAD and in a sense earth’s colonization of Mars. There are many more characters than the few above as the town’s founder Dr. Alimantando leaps through time observing what is happening over three decades to his DESOLATION ROAD.

Harriet Klausner

Stalking the Dragon-Mike Resnick

Stalking the Dragon
Mike Resnick
PYR, Aug 4 2009, $15.98
ISBN: 9781591027454

In Manhattan, many folks look forward to the Eastminster Dragon Show. The favorite to win the Best in Show award at the competition this year is Fluffy the toy dragon. However, on the eve of the event, someone abducts Fluffy.

Private investigator John Justin Mallory still struggles with adjusting to a New York City unlike the one he comes from as the mythos do not live in his birth Big Apple. He is hired to find and rescue Fluffy in time for the show. Accompanied by his staff Felina and Jeeves, Mallory investigates the snatch even as time is running out on Fluffy making an appearance let alone be ready to win

The third Mallory in a rather different Manhattan is a jocular urban noir (see STALKING THE UNICORN and STALKING THE VAMPIRE) because of Mike Resnick’s lampooning of the city starting with the Eastminster Dragon Show and a trip to “Greenwitch Village”. The investigation is a lighthearted and engaging tour of an alternate Manhattan. Although the plot is lighthearted Fluffy fun thin, fans will enjoy Mallory and his team as they are STALKING THE DRAGON to rescue the toy dragon in time as the show must go on with or without the star.

Harriet Klausner

To Crave a Blood Moon-Sharie Kohler

To Crave a Blood Moon
Sharie Kohler
Pocket, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 1439101582

In Turkey, lycan hunter Sebastian Santiago chases after a pack, but instead is caught by them. They torture him while the Alpha leader Gunter plans to mate Sebastian with a female of his choice to form a master race. He starves Sebastian and locks him with a female to force his beast to surface leading to his killing the woman located in his cell with him

Weird loner Ruby Deveraux chaperones teens only to see the girls sneak out of their room at night. Ruby pursues them only to be caught in a lycan massacre with her as the only survivor. They toss her into a dank dark cage with a male who seems over the edge. Thus Ruby meets Sebastian who seems weirder than her; they need to team up to find a way to escape before he loses his ebbing control.

The sequel to KISS OF A DARK MOON (starring Sebastian’s sibling) is an enjoyable werewolf romantic urban fantasy. The key to the tale is the suspense starting when the lead couple meets in the cell as he struggles not to attack her. Fans of the sub-genre will appreciate Sharie Kohler’s character driven tale

Harriet Klausner

Highland Beast-Hannah Howell, Heather Grotaus and Victoria Dahl

Highland Beast
Hannah Howell, Heather Grotaus and Victoria Dahl
Kensington, Sep 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780758235091

"The Beast Within" by Hannah Howell. In 1513, when Gybbon MacNachton of a clan of vampires rescues Alice Boyd, neither can believe the attraction.

"The Vampire Hunter" by Heather Grotaus. In 1104 Beatrix is the last white witch in the Highlands, but is accused of the misfortune that has hurt nearby villagers, who soon attack her. Only Alder can keep her safe, but his clan of vampires killed her ancestors a century ago.

"Laird of Midnight" by Victoria Dahl. In 1595 Finlay, the only survivor of clan Maclain, seeks to kill the vampires who destroyed his family and converted him five decades ago. He has no plans to live after he kills the last vampire until he meets tavern serving wench, Kenna whose life he saves from a deadly assault.

These are three enjoyable vampire historical romances starring strong lead characters.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Beauty And The Duke-Melody Thomas

Beauty And The Duke
Melody Thomas
Avon, Aug 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061472671

When they were young, Erik and Christine were once lovers, but that ended with both still attracted to each other. She went off to see the world of fossils while he did his ducal duty and married twice.

In 1840 while London is swamped with tourists including a horde of unkempt children, fossils are found on Erik’s Scottish estate. Erik asks Christine to lead an excavation of the dinosaur remains. Fearless Christine travels to Scotland looking forward to the dig and seeing her former lover who has buried two wives. When they meet, both know they still love one another, but at the dig site a female human bone is uncovered that places suspicion on the Duke; already rumored to have done away with two spouses.

This is an excellent second chance at love Victorian romantic suspense with the most fun being logical Christine’s archeological skills as she carefully leads the Scottish dig while also not carefully gives away her heart. The whodunit enhances the fine tale as the pair investigates an apparent homicide. Fans will enjoy the escapades of the female paleontologist and the duke as they fall in love over bones.

Harriet Klausner

The Infamous Rogue-Alexandra Benedict-

The Infamous Rogue
Alexandra Benedict
Avon, Aug 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061689314

In 1825 Sophia Dawson hopes money will bury her past as the daughter of a pirate and as the mistress of Black Hawk, the terror of the sea. She comes to London to see who is selling a title and preferably can be controlled by her.

At about the same Sophia arrives amidst the Ton with wealth to spare in London, Captain James Hawkins also appears in high society. Sophia knows James is the one man who could ruin her before she gets started as they were lovers on the high seas. James remains outraged by her abandoning him; Sophia remains outraged by his refusal to marry her. These two enemies are ready to duel to the scandal except that in between the halfhearted feints, each knows they remain in love.

This is an enjoyable second chance at love Regency romance starring two infamous rogues. Sophia and James battled at sea and now battle on land as each has an agenda, he wants vengeance for her ending their affair while she wants a marriage of respectability. Fans will appreciate this fine historical gender war and look for the prequel e-book novella Mistress Of Paradise (at HarperCollins web site).

Harriet Klausner

The Riesling Retribution-Ellen Crosby

The Riesling Retribution
Ellen Crosby
Scribner, Aug 4 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416551683

In Virginia, Montgomery Estate Vineyard Lucie Montgomery visits her parents’ graves when a tornado strikes. The twister destroyed some vines, but also uncovered relatively recently buried human bones where none should be. The timing is exacerbated by reenactors arriving for the 1861 Battle of Ball’s Bluff. At the same time her winemaker Quinn Santori and her field manager Chance Miller are dueling over the vines and her.

The remains belong to Beauregard Kinkaid, who had a fight with Lucie's scoundrel father. When the murder weapon is found and belonged to the late Leland, the police declare the case is solved and Lucie’s late father is the killer. Lucie knew her dad was a rogue but not a murderer. She tries to investigate but the second spouse of Beauregard’s wife, powerful Summer Chastain, will not allow anything to interfere with the official verdict.

The latest wine mystery (see THE BORDEAUX BETRAYAL, THE MERLOT MURDERS and THE CHARDONNAY CHARADE) is a charming amateur sleuth in which readers will toast elegant entertaining Ellen Cosby for this fun entry. The heroine is harassed on all fronts as she struggles with the internal war between two key employees in which she is attracted to both of them, the arrival of the horde of reenactors, and the belief her late rogue of a dad killed a rival. Although the whodunit is entertaining unlike the previous three tales, Lucie’s inquiry shares top billing with the feud and the Civil War buffs; still fans will enjoy future wine tasting awesome alliterations.

Harriet Klausner

Sister Pelagia and the Red Cockerel-Boris Akunin

Sister Pelagia and the Red Cockerel
Boris Akunin
Random House, Aug 11 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780812975154

St. Petersburg's Chief Procurator of the Holy Synod is outraged with the behavior of Sister Pelagia; he questions whether she should be allowed to wear the veil. Not long after her censuring, Sister Palagia is sailing on the steamboat Sturgeon when someone kills Manuila, the messianic leader of the Jewish sect Foundlings. Though she knows she should keep her opinions to herself she offers advice to the Inspector Dolinin.

Not long after Manuila was murdered, someone tries to kill Sister Palagia several times before she flees Russia and heads to the Holy land where she continues to investigate the homicide on board the Sturgeon. While she is in Palestine, back in Russia friends and foes debate the merit of Sister Pelagia who continues her sleuthing instead of doing her sisterly duties as befitting a bride of Jesus.

The third Sister Pelagia amateur sleuth (see SISTER PELAGIA AND THE WHITE BULLDOG and SISTER PELAGIA AND THE BLACK MONK) is a super historical although there is a lot less detecting than in the previous entries. The story line is fast-paced as the heroine has to get out of “Dodge” (at least St. Petersburg) because she is unable to investigate freely why someone wants her dead and the church leadership wants her banished. Her adventures in the Holy Land continue as Sister Palagia cannot resist a mystery. Fans of the saga will relish Boris Akunin third late nineteenth century thriller as Tsarist Russia and Palestine come alive though the beleaguered nun’s eyes.

Harriet Klausner

My Soul To Take-Rachel Vincent

My Soul To Take
Rachel Vincent
Harlequin Teen, Aug 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 9780373210039

Though underage, Kaylee Cavanaugh sneaks into the Taboo club for people eighteen and over thanks to the voluptuous statuesque Marshall sisters. The teen feels great especially when Eastlake High School hottie Nash Hudson dances with her instead of beautiful Emma. However, abruptly she senses someone is about to die and when that happens to her she has a deep need to scream at the top of her lungs. Nash calms her down, but a humiliated Kaylee cannot understand what is happening to her; as this is not the first time she had this deep urge.

She tells Nash that a nearby strawberry blond is “darker” than everyone else and will soon die. The next day she is dead. Nash explains to Kaylee that banshees love to scream when someone is about to die and she is a banshee. He also explains who he is or at least his species. They begin dating and the kisses have Kaylee screaming louder than a banshee. However, the pair also has to stop a serial killer as the grim reaper seems t be focused on Eastlake High School. Of course there is still trig.

The “second” Soul Screamers teen urban fantasy (see My Soul to Lose novella prequel that can be downloaded for free from the net) is a fun tale starring a bewildered heroine and the hunk who helps her adjust thanks to his soothing voice while also displaying his attraction to her. Fast-paced from the opening club scene and filled with twists, fans will enjoy Rachel Vincent’s strong entry due to Kaylee who saves a soul and a life, falls in love, but has to study for her history exam.

Harriet Klausner

What A Dragon Should Know-G.A. Aiken

What A Dragon Should Know
G.A. Aiken
Zebra, Sep 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420103755

As the third born dragon son Gwenvael the Handsome knows his family thinks he is a fool though the women fall all over him. Thus he is taken aback when his seven months pregnant sister-in-law Queen Annwyl assigns him to a key mission. Because of her delicate condition, she cannot travel to negotiate a treaty with the Northlanders and the Beast; she orders him to go in her place; especially after his crack that she is big. Gwenvael would do anything for Annwyl, so he agrees. He revels in her confidence in him but accepts the mission mostly to escape her wrath and her husband his older brother Fearghus the Destroyer and his adopted sister Izzy the muscle queen before they beat his face into a bloody pulp for upsetting the pregnant queen.

He arrives at his destination only to learn that the most feared warrior in the world the Beast is a brilliant human female Dagmar Reinholdt, whose ingenious plots have protected her father the warlord Reinholdt and their people. An even bigger shock than learning who the Beast is (to Gwenvael the Handsome) is that Dagmar with her glasses and plain robes on seems to ignore his beauty; women jump his bones and scales not scorn him. Instead to his greatest shock, she appreciates his intelligence, a first for a dragon who lives by his charm and looks. As Gwenvael tries to win Dagmar's heart, treachery from within threatens both their families.

This is a super hysterical romantic fantasy starring a sly vainglorious dragon and a clever fraudulent human falling in love though she verbally rips off a few pounds of scales from his skin. Fans will laugh loudly at the gender war as Dagmar takes the handsome out of Gwenvael and Gwenvael takes the beast out of Dagmar. G.A. Aiken has written a tremendous irreverent tale that amusingly turns sexually changes Beauty and the Beast.

Harriet Klausner

The Strangely Beautiful Tale Of Miss Percy Parker-Leanna Renee Hieber

The Strangely Beautiful Tale Of Miss Percy Parker
Leanna Renee Hieber
Leisure, Sep 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780843962963

In 1888 an albino with hair as white as snow and living in London, reticent Miss Percy Parker has a special gift when it comes to communicating in languages and a skill to see the future through visions. Though a female and extremely timid at that, Professor Alexi Rychman has invited Percy to study at the Athens Academy; serendipitously hidden in plain sight in the big city; he sees her as powerful and passionate while she sees herself as frightened and different

Percy is a super student grasping her studies rather quickly and easily; everything that is except math. Professor Rychman is not just proud of the best pupil at the academy, he has plans for Miss Percy Parker when he deems her ready to join his secret organization (too secret to even mention their name) struggling to keep the world from destruction from the likes of Ripper. The Professor underestimates Miss Percy who begins to uncover what is going on inside the Athens Academy and also inside their respective hearts.

This is a terrific Victorian urban romantic fantasy with a nod to My Fair Lady that will hook the audience from the moment Alexi invites the uncanny Percy to attend the Academy. Although Percy overbites with her self-deprecating commentaries about being different, fans will relish alongside Alexi her adventures against the paranormal like Ripper and with teaching the professor that love is the most powerful magic under heaven to battle those from hell.

Harriet Klausner

The Sword Of The Lady-S.M. Stirling

The Sword Of The Lady
S.M. Stirling
Roc, Sep 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780451462909

Rudi Mackenzie continues his dangerous trek across what was once the United States in his quest to learn more about the Change that crippled the superpower turning the world into literally a darker neo Dark Ages in which electricity ceased. His goal is to go the source in Nantucket. Along the way, he has made friends, several of whom are traveling with him, and many enemies.

He attains his destination only to find a stranger world that makes what he seen before seem normal. Nantucket Island is totally woodland with no more than two hundred confused people who insist they come from other eras, but somehow were transported to the center of the Change. Nothing makes sense to the wary and weary Rudi as Nantucket offers no answers that he can fathom. However, there is one house made of stone still standing. Still searching for clues to what caused the Change over two decades ago; Rudi enters and immediately is drawn to a sword that he picks up as if the weapon was calling him. What he thought he knew will be sliced and diced forever.

The third Change post apocalyptic thriller (see SUNRISE LANDS and THE SCOURGE OF GOD) continues Rudi and company’s trek across the battered dying land trying to come back to life two plus decades later. The troupe has reached their destination, but Nantucket is nothing like what they or the audience expected when they set out; for that matter the trip across the country was also filled with inexplicable unexpected happenings as the gods intruded along the way. Although it is imperative to have recently at least read THE SCOURGE OF GOD, fans will enjoy this excellent epic that will stun the reader with the direction S.M. Stirling spins as Rudi has come a long way to grab the sword and apparently has a long way still to go.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Palace of Strange Girls- Sallie Day

The Palace of Strange Girls
Sallie Day
Grand Central, Sep 2009, $13.99
ISBN 9780446545860

In 1959 in England, the Singleton family of four goes on vacation at the seaside town of Blackpool. There the father, WWII vet Jack has a difficult decision to make between job offers as manager of Prospect Mill or being a union representative. He conceals his concerns from his demanding wife, Ruth who wants them to buy a new house. His sixteen year old daughter Helen hopes to find a boyfriend soon, but believes to do this she needs the latest fashion and freedom from her mom’s strict control. His other child seven year old Beth has health issues having just been released from the hospital, but just wants some free time to enjoy the shore, fill in her “I-Spy” book as she tracks everyone and most important escape from her demanding mother’s diligence.

This is an enjoyable historical family drama that stars four fully developed characters; all with differing needs and desires that come to a head during the four day vacation. The interrelationships ring true though the solutions at the end of the Singleton family vacation seem to quick and unlikely. Ironically the father and the two kids blame all on the mom due to her demanding manner though she uses her martinet orders to hide her fears from her loved ones. Fans will enjoy Sallie Day’s fine trip back to 1959 England.

Harriet Klausner

A Quiet Belief in Angels-R.J. Ellory

A Quiet Belief in Angels
R.J. Ellory
Overlook, Sep 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9781590202500

In 1939 in Augusta Falls, Georgia, someone rapes and murders a twelve year old child. The classmates are stunned but especially affected is Joseph Vaughan. When he turns fifteen raised by his widow mom, he remains haunted by the incident and violent death in general. He persuades other boys his age to form the Guardians to prevent future assaults.

Over the next few years, the Guardians fail to stop brutal attacks as kids are abducted. A depressed Vaughan leaves Georgia relocating to Brooklyn, where he hopes to make it with his other goal to become a writer. However, a murder in the Big Apple ties back to Augusta Falls bringing him full circle.

Although there are too many minor subplots over complicating a fabulous character study of a seemingly OCD youth; A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS is a terrific tale of a Georgian fixated for decades with brutal killings especially by serial killers. Fans will appreciate how deep author RJ Ellory takes the reader inside the mind of Joseph without slowing down the narrative. He is the key holding the tale together as the focus of the story line. As a as a senior citizen he connects the deadly dots between New York and Georgia but even then Mr. Ellory continues digging through the layers of the soul of his beleaguered frustrated hero. This is a super look at a caring person struggling with his inability to prevent violence.

Harriet Klausner

The Scoop-Fern Michaels

The Scoop
Fern Michaels
Kensington, Sep 2009, $13.95
ISBN 9780758227188

In Charleston, South Carolina the four sexagenarian BFFs gather for the funeral of the millionaire husband of one of them Teresa Amelia “Toots” Loudenberry; this is her eighth spouse she has buried. She informs her buddies that the mourning period will be one week before they dash to Hollywood.

Obsessive-compulsive Disorder centerfold Ida, overweight Mavis accompanied everywhere by Coco the Chihuahua and smoker Sophie agree to go with her to California. Toots plans to buy the near bankrupt tabloid the Informer where her daughter Abby Simpson works as a reporter. . However, the ten million dollar deal collapses when newspaper publisher Rodwell Archibald Godfrey III takes the money and runs to the Cayman Islands. V

THE SCOOP is a zany over the top of the Hollywood Hills starring the Golden Girls who go after Godfrey. Each of the four musketeers is different, while the ringleader is Toots. The story line is amusing and irrelevant as even the opening funeral services affirm nothing is sacred in life when it comes to eternity. Fans will enjoy this madcap comedic tale as the escapades keep on coming when the four BFFs go after their man.

Harriet Klausner

Devil's Trill-Gerald Elias

Devil's Trill
Gerald Elias
Minotaur, Aug 2009, $25.99
ISBN 9780312541811

Every thirteen years the Grimsley Competition is held for prodigies under thirteen years of age at Carnegie Hall. The winner receives money, appearances with the New York Symphonic and use of the renowned seventeenth century Piccolino valued at $8 million for a Carnegie Hall performance.

Blind Daniel Jacobus was once a losing participant, but since feels strongly that the competition and similar music venues destroy the gifted young. Child prodigy Kamryn Vander is this year’s winner, but to the shock of the members if the Music Arts Project responsible for the gala, someone stole the revered Piccolino, the only known three-quarter-size Stradivarius. The police blame Daniel, who was at the scene of the crime when the locked door was opened and found empty and has voiced a loud motive to end the competition by breaking the violin. Encouraged by insurance investigator friend Nathanial, grumpy Daniel accompanied by his current student Yumi, whose green eyes are his vision, searches for the missing Piccolino. Murder has the almost maestro and his protégé fleeing to Japan before they become the second act of the killer.

This is a super amateur sleuth tale with a musical twist as Daniel with the help of Yumi tries to track down the missing Piccolino. Fans will enjoy the blind teacher turned detective as the almost famous but now infamous Daniel understands the irony of his predicament; he wanted to end the competition that he feels harms children yet now must find the instrument that is the prize of the contest if he is to prove his innocence. Fans will enjoy his profound cantankerous view of the state of classical music in this engaging mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Hell's Kitchen Homicide-Charles Kipp

Hell's Kitchen Homicide
Charles Kipp
Scribner, Sep 15 2009,
ISBN: 9781439127902

The corpse is found in Hell’s Kitchen overlooking the Hudson. NYPD Detectives Conor Bard and Ralph Kurtz have the lead though the latter is retiring in a week. The corpse is criminal defense attorney Walter Lawton with mob ties, who has freed many obvious felons from incarceration.

The obvious prime suspect is the victim’s wife Holly who will inherit millions. The cops learn her lover is a professional hit man running a Brooklyn kennel Salvatore Zeffel and they fish the murder weapon a 22 out of the river; Sal’s choice of guns. The case takes several spins with almost all having an Albanian connection, but none quite making sense. Adding to Bard’s confusion is four women in his life: his boss who never leaves the station; his former lover who is seeing jealous Captain Reynolds; Holly who calls him all the time, and Albanian visitor Monica who he calls. He is attracted to the latter two while he wants Reynolds off his back as the case seems to go nowhere.

This is a terrific New York police procedural as nothing is quite what it seems. The banter between the partners is fun and Conor’s female problems add depth to him, but it is the whodunit that makes this an entertaining tale. Every clue leads to the Albanian community in the Bronx, but every step forward also leads to a seemingly dead end. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this fast-paced thriller as the streets of Manhattan seem dirtier than usual.

Harriet Klausner

Drawn into Darkness-Annette McCleave

Drawn into Darkness
Annette McCleave
Signet, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780451227805

Centuries old and counting, Father Lachlan MacGregor gathers souls to deliver to heaven before the demons can suck them dry, for Lachlan this means penance as he is the Soul Gatherer. At the same time he insures his downstairs neighbors, artist Rachel and her fourteen years old daughter Emily are safe; he is especially keeping a wary eye on the teen.

Rachel is taken aback by her attraction to the handsome hunk upstairs as he is forbidden fruit being a priest. Lachlan reciprocates her desire, but he has some supernatural wars to contend with. As they fall in love, they team up to keep Emily safe from an especially evil essence who wants the teen to fulfill an ancient prophecy while also using the child as a pawn to get at Lachlan. What the Soul Gatherer hides from his beloved mortal is her child is his next transfer to the beyond.

This fast-paced urban romantic fantasy will grip readers with the first sword duel and never slows down until the final confrontation as everyone from beyond want to know the way to San Jose. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the relationships as the hero falls in love with the mother of his next delivery and the rebellious daughter is enticed by a charming demon. Annette McCleave provides a terrific thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Secret of the Dragon’s Breath-Derek Hart

Secret of the Dragon’s Breath
Derek Hart
iUniverse, 2009, $16.95
ISBN: 9780595480951

In 1941 Crackeston Haven in North Cornwall, England continues to have rationing in support of the war with the Nazis. Gavin Kane feels the impact as his thirteenth birthday party as there is no eggs or sugar to make a cake. His friends Emily Scott, and “evacuee boy” Bunty Digby accompany him to see the wise ancient dragon Sir Thaddeus Osbret the dragon who loves sweets when he is not pretending to be a fireplace. That night Bunty draws a picture of a castle that he fears contains an evil threatening the world

In Shloss Wewlesburg Castle in Germany, Herr Himmler learns his top scientist evil Deiter Gortz is missing, but has somehow created a dragon that the Nazi calls Black Wing. He is unaware that Deiter is the dragon. Also in residence is Reinhard Heydrich as Himmler knows to keep his most vile rivals nearby. He is also unaware that something beneath the castle has begun to control Heydrich who has come up with the “Final Solution”.

The dragon Council meets to discuss humans and their propensity for war and global destruction. Thaddeus makes a pitch in favor of the humans, but several have doubts the species should be allowed to live. Korbin the dragon warns his friend an evil is coming that could take the “Final Solution” out of their hands.

Besides the fantasy elements, which ring genuine, it is the deep look at life in coastal England during WWII that makes SECRET OF THE DRAGON’S BREATH a super read. The birthday cake is a great example of how rationing impacted people throughout the country. The tale is fast-paced and exciting as the danger to England mounts with the human friendly dragon and the three teens on one side while enemies human and supernatural mount on the other. The sequel to SECRET OF THE DRAGON’S EYE is a super historical military urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Servant of a Dark God-John Brown

Servant of a Dark God
John Brown
Tor, Sept. 2009 $25.99
ISBN: 9780765322357

In the New Lands, the Koramites awho have settled on the land are vassals to the Mokaddians. There is danger in this mostly unexplored place; the least of which are Bone Faces who attack the colonists from the south. They cut off a person’s pinky and use black magic to bind that individual to them. More dangerous are the Sleths who use Fire (another person’s life force) to give them incredible strength and speed. Only the Divines are allowed to use Fire because they feel anyone else would over use and over time would tirn into something evil. A monster nesting amidst the colonist has turned others into monsters.

Charity has come to the attention of authorities when her dead baby with parts of a stork and a stork with body parts of a human were found when the rains washed up the casket. Her husband was killed but her children blind Legs and Sugar seek shelter at the home if a member of the Order who use magic for good purposes. Talen, the man’s son wants to turn them in but his father refuses. The monster Hunger seeks Charity and brings her to his master. Soon many members of the Order are trapped in the monster’s monster’s cave and only a miracle can save everyone.

This is the first book in the Dark Gods series and it uses action to introduce the reader to the dangerous New Lands in which life is not precious. Readers get a sense of the differing species competing for power. For instance the Divines want more power to strengthen their hold at the top of the food chain. The monster who creates monsters out of humans wants to go back to where humans were herded like cattle. The Order is mankind’s only hope for a free life, but many doubt the lords and the commoners will believe in their cause due to prejudice against magic users who are not Sleth. John Brown has written a compelling but bleak fantasy world filled with a complex and convoluted social structure that will grip readers from the onset.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 27, 2009

Honor in the Dust-Gilbert Morris

Honor in the Dust
Gilbert Morris
Howard, Aug 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781416587460

As he struggles with achieving acceptability and affluence amidst the aristocracy, Stuart Winslow adheres to his vow to never do what his father did. Stuart loves his mom, but his dad chose her and abject poverty over his aristocratic family’s wealth; his steadfast goal is to obtain what his father threw away. He works hard at weapons design and shows a natural propensity for falconry. These two skills obtain him a position in the court of King Henry VIII. Stuart feels great that he achieves the first step in his strategic life plan. However, he finds the court frighteningly wicked and enticingly tempting as vice is the norm; he also learns the hard way to trust no one as backstabbing is the other norm.

William Tyndale proclaims for all to hear that he will translate the Bible from Latin into the language of the commoner. Henry VIII declares that is heresy, arrests William and sentences him to death. Anyone who speaks out for William, his project or against his sentence will also be executed. Stuart finds himself in a dilemma as he believes in William’s project that will bring Jesus to the masses. If he chooses the King’s world as represented by Nell his soul will probably die; if he chooses William’s world as represented by Heather; his life will probably end.

Over several decades mostly in the early sixteenth century, Gilbert Morris compares the overindulgences of the materialistic Tudors starting with the monarch and the courageous pious actions of those who risk their lives for their beliefs like real person William. Thus Stuart desires to be accepted by the former as one of them though he disdains their behavior and admires the latter. Fans will enjoy this well written historical drama as Mr. Morris captures the essence of the era of the first Tudor monarch while inspiring his audience to not let material desires for more than one needs supersede faith.

Harriet Klausner

31 Hours-Masha Hamilton

31 Hours
Masha Hamilton
Unbridled, Sep 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781932961836

At three in the morning in Manhattan, Carol abruptly wakes up with a premonition that her son Jonas is in trouble. She thinks about it and realizes he has not called her in several weeks. Carol goes back to feeling uneasy as only a mom can understand. The next day she tries his cell phone and visits his apartment, but neither proves fruitful. She visits his girlfriend Vic, who informs her Jonas has not returned her calls nor has she seen him lately, but she has no idea what she did to make him so angry that he cut off communication to her. Vic’s response sends Carol into a deeper panic.

Jonas Meitzner is the son of an atheist mother and a Jewish father Jake whose parents were Hasidic. His parents split when he was young, but that did not matter as he grew up faithless, but recently discovered Islam. His spiritual guide Masoud believes that American society needs change from within violently; Jonas is an expendable tool to do so.

31 hours until he puts into place what he learned while secretly sequestered in Pakistan; 31 hours before he commits an act of terrorism on the trains; 31 hours before his letters reach his loved ones; 31 hours before he breaks many hearts including that of his mom.

Mindful of the young Minneapolis Muslims that apparently has concerned the community and the Feds, 31 HOURS is a timely thriller as loved ones increasingly become concerned when they lose contact with Jonas. Fans will feel the anguish of his mom, the concern of his dad; the bewilderment of his girlfriend; the disassociation of guilt by his guide; and finally him, the focus of those who care about him in varying ways as he knows if one of them besides Masoud reaches him he will falter with his beliefs. Fans will be hooked into this one sitting as a nice young man walks a deadly final 31 hours unless a miracle intercedes.

Harriet Klausner

Tears of Pearl-Tasha Alexander

Tears of Pearl
Tasha Alexander
Minotaur, Sep 2009, $24.99
ISBN 9780312383701

Newlyweds Lady Emily and British intelligence agent Colin Hargreaves honeymoon in Constantinople. They are looking into the mugging of Sir Richard and papers stolen from him when a half-English harem girl is murdered. Sir Richard recognizes her as his daughter Thedore stolen from him two decades ago. He pleads with Colin to lead the investigation. The crown’s representatives with the cooperation of the Ottoman Empire also reluctantly agree to allow Emily toquestion the women and eunuchs inside the harem.

However, Emily is not known for following orders to do no sleuthing outside the harem. Instead she follows leads that take her to victim’s family; her father the diplomat and her brother the archeologist. As Colin struggles to keep her in line, Emily interrogates the previous sultan who ruled when Theodore was abducted and the current sultan. Nothing including her spouse, the English throne, the Ottoman Empire Sultan and not even a probable pregnancy stops Emily from her inquiry.

The latest Lady Emily Victorian mystery (see AND ONLY TO DECEIVE and A FATAL WALTZ) is a fun whodunit (except if you are Sir Richard) though filled with numerous seemingly improbabilities. The story line provides the audience insight into the late nineteenth century teetering Ottoman Empire and British diplomacy. However, the plot belongs to the married couple whose relationship in some ways will remind the audience of Nick and Nora of Thin Man even with a different time and place.

Harriet Klausner

Faces in the Fire-T.L. Hines

Faces in the Fire
T.L. Hines
Thomas Nelson, Jul 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9781595544537

Truck driver Kurt Marlowe goes to estate sales to buy the clothing of dead people. Kurt has a special paranormal talent as clothing communicates with him, which leads to him creating metal sculptures from the images the clothing transmit to him.

Kurt has no memory of his past so he is pleased to meet lymphoma sufferer Corrine who has a catfish tattoo that was given to her by Grace who has a tie to Stan the assassin. These four begin to interact with one another while dealing with a set of numbers on a napkin that make no sense to any of them, but keeps reappearing. Together they may break this code; separately the code will break them.

Character driven by the unlikable quartet, FACES IN THE FIRE is a haunting thriller as readers (and the foursome) wonder what is gong on and what next until the climax brings everything together; sort of. In many ways the story line feels like a surreal mystery that though in content different kept reminding me of the movie The Cube. Fans who prefer something radically different but refreshingly unique will relish reading T.L Hines’ novels like THE UNSEEN and his latest psychological perhaps even supernatural thriller.

Harriet Klausner

To Grandmother’s House-Glen Ebisch

To Grandmother’s House
Glen Ebisch
Five Star, Aug 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147647

Laura Magee was the art writer at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts until she lost her position and her boyfriend painter Owen Reynolds. Leaving Boston, she moves in with her grandma in the nearby college town Ravensford. When the Ravensford Chronicle’s most popular columnist, Auntie Mabel dies after over three decades of advice, the owner Roger St. Claire hires Laura to continue the column as few people knew that Mabel was Ann Rickdorf.

Ravensford College head of security Keith Campbell charges into the newspaper’s office demanding to see Auntie Mabel for the column she wrote yesterday. Apparently her advice persuaded his Amazonian girlfriend, college art teacher Heidi Lipton, the renowned “Pottery Princess”, to dump him. Laura hides her alter ego from him, but offers to go out with him to make Heidi jealous even though she is attracted to the handsome Keith. At a gala, art department chair Jack Proctor is found dead when Laura accidentally falls on him at the bottom of some stairs. Heidi’s bracelet is found with him. As Police detective Michael Farantello tells her to stay out of his inquiry as she has compromised the crime scene already; Laura helps him anyway.

This is a fun lighthearted whodunit as the heroine goes from no men in her life to three men (Keith, Frank and Owen who has come to the college) to maybe one man. The mystery is cleverly designed so that the beautiful but clearly strong Heidi seems to havs committed the crime as she and the victim had issues, were arguing, and her bracelet was found on him; strength, size, and height being a key reason why she is a prime suspect and Laura is not. Fans will enjoy this entertaining Massachusetts frolic as the art of the heroine’s late grandfather becomes the center of the conflict.

Harriet Klausner

Kitty Hitter-Andy Straka

Kitty Hitter
Andy Straka
Five Star, Aug 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 1594148120

Eagle Eye private investigator Darla Barns asks former NYPD police detective Frank Pavlicek to help her on the case of the stolen kitty. The Charlottesville, Virginia private eye agrees to come back to Manhattan accompanied by his daughter Nicole. In exclusive Manhattan co-op Grayland Tower, several people have complained about a bird of prey the Great Horned owl attacking their pets. The client is animal rights activist Dr. Korva Lonigan who claims her cat Groucho was abducted and probably killed by the predatory bird.

Darla and the father and daughter team are attacked at the airport. Clues lead to Central Park and Westchester. Further digging connects Korva to the affluent Egyptian-American developer she accuses of being behind the assaults. Complicating the inquiry is the shooting deaths of two gangbangers, right where the Virginians are following leads in Central Park that with each clue seems increasingly sordid and focused on a young Falconer and a bird of prey.

This is a terrific whodunit as what seems no more than an amusing minor tenant dispute with a landlord turns into a dangerous inner city mystery. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but it is the twists that keep on coming yet seem plausible that will hold reader’s attention throughout. Andy Straka as he received with Frank’s tale COLD QUARRY will obtain plenty of accolades for KITTY HITTER (except for the too clever title).

Harriet Klausner

Prospero Lost-L. Jagi Lamplighter

Prospero Lost
L. Jagi Lamplighter
Tor, Sep 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765319296

Contrary to how that Elizabethan author distorted the truth with his Tempest in a teapot drama, Prospero the Sorcerer did not burn his tomes or shatter his staff. He has nothing against the Bard as truth does not set you free; it gets you executed. Instead Prospero lived; having more children besides his famous daughter Miranda (that Shakespeare is worse than a tabloid writer as he cannot keep the family out) even if he made his daughter the heroine of his outrageous popular fabrication.

They live in modern society quite comfortably as the family patriarch formed Prospero Inc. whose corporation mission is to negotiate deals with elementals to prevent natural disasters; Miranda is the overworked CEO never taking a break. However, their idyllic lifestyle is disturbed when Miranda realizes her father has vanished into Hell and the Three Shadowed Ones are after the family magic. Miranda, Mag the air spirit possessing a hard-boiled private eye, and her certifiable brother Mephistopheles begin a quest to rescue Prospero and warn her dysfunctional siblings to beware the Three Shadowed Ones while she also fails to avoid Ferdinand the jilted one.

Using humor, L. Jagi Lamplighter cleverly pays homage to Shakespeare and to a degree John Milton’s Paradise Lost and maybe Found in this wonderful modern day satire. Miranda tries to play the heroine by warning her siblings, but they loathe her for being the Bard’s pet and jealous for her fame treating her as a pariah. Their mistreatment of their renowned sister makes none of the siblings likable even as she once again is the responsible one trying to save their lives. Ironically they assume some new Bard will write her story. Fans who enjoy a comedic urban fantasy will relish the return of Miranda the workaholic as she attempts to battle the Three Shadowed Ones, rescue her dad and warn her family who ignore her as they believe she is just a glory hound.

Harriet Klausner

City of Fire-Laurence Yep

City of Fire
Laurence Yep
Starscape (Tor), Sep 1 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765319241

In 1941 twelve year old Mistress of Kles Scirye is angry to learn her older sister Nishke was killed trying to prevent a treasure from being stolen from the Hearn Museum in San Francisco. She plans to regain what was taken and kill her sibling’s murderer Badik the evil dragon though she is ignorant of the plan of the dragon’s even more evil partner Mr. Roland to possess the five Lost Treasures of Emperor Yu in order to change existence as Scirye knows it.

Fuming she sets out to avenge her sibling’s murder. Joining her on her trek is Bayang the dragon disguised as a human Pinkerton Agent, Leech the orphan, and his best friend Koko. Her three allies have secrets they keep from one another but share a common need to destroy Badik and his associate Mr. Roland. The trail leads to Houlani, the newest Hawaiian island created by magic, but even with Pele the Goddess of volcanoes abetting their cause they are too late to prevent a second theft as they pursue the malevolent duo into the frozen north.

This is a fast-paced alternate historical fantasy as one episode follows another. The story line is loaded with a horde of mythological creatures, beasts, cretins, and Gods, but it is the unlikely teammates led by a tweener who fight the forces of evil. Although at times the discussions between the good guys slows down the plot especially during dangerous incidents, middle school fans will root for Scirye and her squad against the enemy who seems several steps ahead of them; setting up a sequel or two.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Casting Off-Nicole R. Dickson

Casting Off
Nicole R. Dickson
NAL, Jul 28 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451226990

As she waits along with her six year old daughter Rowan for the transport to the island off Ireland’s west coast, textile archeologist Rebecca Moray thinks back sixteen years to Berkley and her BFF Sharon who told her tales of the sweaters and taught her to knit them. Now, Rebecca and Rowan are on Sharon’s island to research the sweaters for a book she is writing. However, while Sharon is in Dublin about to give birth any minute, the islanders welcome the Americans as friends because Sharon has told them about her buddy.

Like all Americans it seems, Rebecca is on a tight clock as her grant runs out in two months; the locals are on a different time schedule as they live a less hectic pace enjoying life to the fullest. Rowan adapts rather easily to the pace, making many friends and especially enjoys the father-daughter closeness of hardened widower fisherman Sean Morahan who is unable to scare off the child. Meanwhile Rebecca fears abusive Dennis, Rowan’s dad, will demandingly arrive to ruin their daughter’s happiness. She also fears seeing Sharon as the memories must be greater than the reality. Rebecca finds herself enjoying the one knit at a time creating a gansey while wondering if she can cast off her past is she is to make it with Sharon’s childhood friend Fionn whom she loves and who loves her and her daughter.

Although the story line goes the way readers will expect fans will enjoy the trip to get there as Rebecca finds second chances. The island support cast makes the tale as they bring to life the “Island”. However, this is Rebecca’s redemption if she casts off her past and walks towards not away from love; as she holds the plot together. Fans will enjoy Nicole R. Dickson’ fine tale of a Yank (and her daughter) finding her life on an Irish island.

Harriet Klausner

The Invisible Mountain-Carolina De Robertis

The Invisible Mountain
Carolina De Robertis
Knopf, Aug 25 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307271631

“Pajarita”. In Tacuaremb, Uruguay on Jan. 1, 1900, a baby miraculously flies from the treetops to her grandmother; her name is Pajarita, the little bird. Years after the miracle, Venetian immigrant Ignazio Firielli joins a touring troupe of magicians. When he meets Pajarita, he falls in love at first sight. They marry and he takes his bride to Montevideo. However, over the years he turns to whores, gambling and drinking while she supports the family with her healing herbal elixirs.

“Eva” When their oldest daughter Eva turns ten, Ignazio removes her from school to work at the shoe shop; the owner assumes part of her duty is being raped until she flees to La Diablita restaurant where revolutionaries plot the overthrow of the decadent. Eva waits tables while writing poetry until she relocates with her friend Andres in Buenos Aires. There she marries Dr. Santos, a close associate of Peron. Eva gives birth to Roberto and Salome while writing poetry. When Argentina turns dangerously revolutionary and counter-revolutionary, she flees with her two kids back to Uruguay.

“Salome”. Whereas Salome heeds her mom’s revolutionary fervor, she also ignores her mom’s enjoyment of the good life. She joins the Tupamaros revolutionaries who try to overthrow the Uruguayan dictatorship, but fail. Salome and others are incarcerated and tortured with no hope for the future until after years of imprisonment she is freed and Montevideo is not the same as her memories.

Using three generations of females in a family, Carolina De Robertis tells a great tale of the twentieth century history of Uruguay and to a lesser degree Argentina. The story line employs pathos and humor to relate the cultural and political changes that swept across Uruguay. The three women are terrific unique protagonists who hold their part of the tres tales together as each in their way believes in a better life for herself, her loved ones, and her country. This historical fiction will be on the short lists of best historical novel of the year.

Harriet Klausner

The Shortest Distance Between Two Women-Kris Radish

The Shortest Distance Between Two Women
Kris Radish
Bantam, Aug 18 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780553805413

In Higgins, South Carolina, the biggest annual event is the Gilford family reunion. The yearly happening is headed by the widowed matriarch Marty as a Five Star general and three of her four adult daughters as Field Generals. However, the youngest daughter forty-three years old Emma is the NCO making sure the gala comes off all right; in fact making sure the lives of her older siblings, their spouses and children, and mom come off all right.

One blast from the past changes everything when Samuel leaves a voice message asking Emma if she would see him. He wants to start over. Emma on the one hand does, but fears he will leave especially after the Higgins chaos; on the other hand she wants him to go to hell. Her family collapses without her helping hand since she now needs a mental helping hand from them but none step forward. Samuel’s return forces her to relook her relationships as the spinster who is the dependable one never gets the hunk because she is too busy.

This is an engaging regional family drama that is fun to follow but clearly over the top of Sassafras Mountain with the Gilford “kick the can” rules; that includes an overwhelming ensemble cast making it at times difficult to recall who’s who. Still this is entertaining tale that reminds the audience to be responsible but take time out to enjoy life with your love ones.

Harriet Klausner

Peace, Love and Murder-Nancy Holzner

Peace, Love and Murder
Nancy Holzner
Five Star, Aug 31 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147753

When Bo Forrester was eighteen, he could no longer reside at the commune his gentle parents raised him in; so he enlisted with the army. Two decades later, he has come home to Rhodes, New York praying they can reconcile, but the commune has been replaced by a sub-division and no one seems to know where his parents went except somewhere out west. He drives a cab while seeking information on his parents.

He is driving Carl and Ronnie to work when Deputy Sheriff Trudy Hauser stops the cab for speeding. Ronnie flees, but Trudy tackles him and finds marijuana on him. When Bo pops the trunk, Trudy stares at a corpse; later identified as history professor Fred Davies. Whereas Trudy believes Bo is guilty and follows him legally and not so legally, he begins to investigate and soon finds a horde of people who loathed Davies; others die, but though suspicion remains even stronger that Bo is the killer, Trudy believes he is innocent and teams up with him to uncover the killer.

This is an enjoyable whodunit starring a fascinating hero who grew up as “Rainbow”, a name he detested, but now misses his loving parents. His relationship with Bo turns from suspicions and distrust to strong attraction and maybe love although the change by Trudy seems too abrupt and ends her Inspector Girard like persistence of chasing the “fugitive” that added freshness to the mystery (even if she should have been suspended). Still fans will appreciate this fine murder who-done-it enhanced by Bo’s past and look forward to a sequel in which he goes west to track his parents.

Harriet Klausner

The Desert Hedge Murders-Patricia Stoltey

The Desert Hedge Murders
Patricia Stoltey
Five Star, Aug 31 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147852

In her mind her brother reclusive clairvoyant Willie Grisseljon, a sexagenarian like she is, conned into going with their octogenarian mom and the other Florida Flippers traveling Miami Dolphins’ fan club to Laughlin, Nevada. The former judge and retired Fed widow Sylvia Thorn wonders what trouble can the Flippers get into on their trip when they find a corpse in the bathtub of a room shared by Sandra Pringle and non-member Patsy Strump.

Sandra turns up missing while the troupe heads off to the Lone Cactus Gold Mine. There they find Sandra’s corpse. Willie has a vision of his sister in trouble so with his dad at his side; they race to Nevada while the FBI Agent Damon Falls investigates the goings on at the Mohave County, Arizona mine though he would not mind investigating the much older Sylvia in a more exclusive luxurious locale. As Sylvia tries to keep the Flippers out of trouble, trouble seems to find them; so with Patsy, her sibling, her parents, the other Flippers, and a six foot plus female dynamo, she leads the inquiry (more like a chaotic retreat) into the death of Sandra that forces law enforcement at all levels to share notes.

Though over the top of Hoover Dam, THE DESERT HEDGE MURDERS is an amusing amateur sleuth tale (though the lead “detective” has experience as a former FBI agent). The story line is as fast as Freda the amazon drives her bike and never slows down even when the seniors are a bit tired. Fans will enjoy this zany Nevada-Arizona whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Predatoress-Emma Gabor

Emma Gabor
Newmedia, 2009
PO Box 546
Montvale, NJ 07645
ISBN: 9781893798571

In 2003 Sopron, Transdanubia in Hungary, the vampyr bit into Emma's neck turning her from a hard working college freshman into a compulsive yet reluctant blood seeking Undead. After dining on a homeless girl, but not wanting to be alone, Emma visits her BFF Kati so that the “forever” becomes real. After converting Kati, they visit Gizi and Eszti to convert them too.

The quartet paint the town red though Emma also feels shame for subjecting people she has known for years to a bloody terrorist attack each night. At a ball at Frakno Castle, Emma meets genetic research scientist Zoltan. For the first time in her life, she understands why her three buddies enjoy the guys rather than the books. As they fall in love, her friends fights with her and each other over their nocturnal desires.

Predominantly told by Emma who speaks to the reader in a sort of memoir format, vampyr fans will enjoy her exploits and that of her three friends. In spite of their conversion into immortality, the four best friends act like the teens they are, arguing who knows best with Emma claiming she is not just their “mom”, but fifteen minutes older and so much smarter when it comes to Vampire 101 and advanced knowledge. Although Emma can over prattle re sidebar related topics like Hungarian history, teen readers will enjoy the battles between the four BFFs who differ on whether they want to go back or not.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Road Rising-P. N. Elrod

Dark Road Rising
P. N. Elrod
Ace, Sep 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780441017553

In 1938 Chicago, Jack Fleming is trying to recover from the worst trauma of his life. Hog Barstow, a sadistic sociopath captured and almost killed Jack; he left his victim with emotional damage that has him frightened of his shadow (which says a lot as Jack is a vampire) and physical scars from the monster’s attempts to skin him alive.

The New York mob sent Gabe "Whitey" Kroun to the Windy City to kill Jack as retaliation for killing one of their associates. When Jack tried to commit suicide his best friend Charles Escott stopped him, but they had a fight and the mortal ends up in the hospital with severe life threatening injuries. Gabe was turned into a vampire but also suffered memory loss; a bullet in his head limits his skills. He learns of his ugly past, which disgusts him. Gabe wants to do no more evil deeds so when he finds Escott dying he gives the man blood, which saves him from certain death. At the same time, an old enemy captures Jack with plans of forcing him into changing him into a vampire. Certain people like Gabe’s brother want him dead for what he did to a young girl; only lucid thinking and a bit of luck will save Chicago’s two vampires.

Time and place are captured through the vernacular though perhaps mobster talk is a bite or two overdone. Still readers will enjoy the escapades of a sensitive vampire whose vulnerabilities make him fresh as he stands out from the supernatural crowd; yet he seems to end up in mob messes that require a hard boiled Noir reaction from him when all he wants to do is spend nights at his club Lady Crymyn. The pathos of the three males will stun the audience as P.N. Elrod follows up SONG IN THE DARK with more dangerous adventures on the mean COLD STREETS of Chicago at a time when Capone was a guest at Alcatraz, but danger remains high.

Harriet Klausner

There Be Dragons-Heather Graham; illustrated by Cherif Fortin & Lynn Sanders

There Be Dragons
Heather Graham; illustrated by Cherif Fortin & Lynn Sanders
Medallion, Sep 1 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781605420714

Once upon the time in the medieval magical kingdom of Calasia, Marina is the only surviving member of her family, .the daughter of the House of D’Or, The Count of D’Artois, her step-father is giving Marina in marriage to the Count Carlo Baristo whom his fiancée loathes. Carlo’s mother Countess Geovana arranged the marriage by ingratiating herself with D’Artois. While wandering outside the castle a concerned Marina meets a wounded falcon who speaks and insists she is the fairy Thomasina.

The fairy grants Marina three wishes. While one of them is an indulgence in which she asks for Carlo to make a fool of himself, the second is for her to spend a day with the love of her life. That man turns out to be Michelo, the son of Duke Fiorelli, engaged to marry her stepsister Daphne, whom he does not like. Marina and Michelo meet and fall in love. When his father hears from the falcon that Michelo should marry the woman nearest to where an olive branch falls; Geovana will prevent that from happening by conjuring up evil to insure the death of Marina.

People of all ages will enjoy Heather Graham’s fine fairy tale enhanced with thirty colorful illustrations by Cherif Fortin & Lynn Sanders spread throughout the novel and a CD of original related Christmas songs. This is a spellbinding tale though like most fairy tales the cast is stereotyped between the forces of good and evil as malevolence can wear the disguise of attractiveness (think of the witch in Snow White) leaving intelligent people to go beyond the surface to the inner beauty.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Concord, Virginia: A Southern Town in Eleven Stories-Peter Neofotis

Concord, Virginia: A Southern Town in Eleven Stories
Peter Neofotis
St. Martin’s, Jul 2009, $19.99
ISBN: 9780312537371

These eleven tales focus on eleven different people (one per story) who live in the small Shenandoah Valley town of Concord between 1951 and 1974, but no in chronological order; for instance the opening act “The Vultures” occurs in 1963 twelve years after Jethro the stone carver artist found the artifact (story III). The stories interrelate with Concord as the prime connection throughout but also something that occurs to one person in a tale impacts another in a different entry; part of the fun is that the cause of an effect sometimes is described in a tale after the impacted person’s story is told (a sort of quantum physicist). Overall the anthology contains several super entries and no clinkers; though some thematic repetition happens so it pays to spread the eleven stories over a couple of weeks. Issues based on bigotry are frequent (see "The Botanist" and "The Builders"). With a nod to Thomas Jefferson, fans will enjoy these engaging short stories filled with some dark twists as Concord, Virginia comes across real and surreal at the same time. This is an engaging refreshing collection.

Harriet Klausner

Gone to the Dogs-Mary Guterson

Gone to the Dogs
Mary Guterson
St. Martin’s, Jul 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780312541798

Brian displayed his guts when he telephoned his fiancée Rena the waitress to end their seven year relationship. Angry especially over his cowardly means of dumping her, an outraged Rena kidnaps his dog Tilly only to learn the canine with a girl’s name is a boy and as an aside her ex (that is Rena’s ex and not the dog formerly called Tilly) has a new girlfriend.

To make matters worse for Rena, her late fifties mom has a new guy Dr. Ron in her life and her sister’s perfect Orthodox Jewish marriage is falling apart. Her family decides to find a man for Rena; their latest selection is kind hearted but ethical Chuck, who tells her, he likes her, but she needs to move forward starting with returning formerly Tilly to Brian. Rena blunders making her conclude that to err may be human, but no one especially the errant one forgives.

This lighthearted chick lit tale is fun to read due to the interaction between Rena the neurotic who expects her family to blind date her with a serial killer and her stereotyped (by her) family, who serve as her straight men and women for her asides. Amusing, fans will enjoy this frolic as Rena wails to no one there Who Let the Dogs Out (nod to the Baha Men) and this is not Cleveland.

Harriet Klausner

Bed and Breakfast-Lois Battle

Bed and Breakfast
Lois Battle
Penguin, Sep 1 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780143116431

Widow Josie Tatternall does not have fond memories of her womanizing dictatorial late spouse, who treated her like he did the soldiers he led. The septuagenarian owns the Point Bed and Breakfast in Beaufort, South Carolina. .Christmas is coming and feeling her age after calling 911 when her bridge playing pal Peatsy collapses, Josie wants her three adult daughters to visit her for the holidays.

As her sister reminds her, that will take a miracle. Her oldest Camilla has not come home in ten years, vowing back then never; however, depressed that her job may be gone, her lover definitely gone, and her period probably gone due to she fears a pregnancy, Cam accepts the invitation.

Her middle child Lila Gadsen of Hilton Head immediately accepts. She hopes seeing mom will allow her to escape for a week from her politician husband and his attitude, and their two teens with attitude that only prescription medicine alleviates the headaches.

Her youngest Evie lives in Savannah where she writes a newspaper column that exposes her family to ridicule as they are often the topic. She also accepts her mom’s invitation.

The four Tatternall females converge on the Point with good intentions to let bygones be bygones. Christmas Eve is a catastrophe in spite of the good intentions. The three daughters are together for seemingly for only nanoseconds and each is ready to run home.

This reprint of a well written regional charmer affirms that the family that gets together fights together, but hopefully also loves together. Josie is the star though her daughters obviously play key roles in the bickering and arguing, and some wise acceptance and consideration of others. Fans will enjoy this engaging family drama as everyone grows stronger with increased perceptive understanding of those you thought you already know.

Harriet Klausner

War Damage-Elizabeth Wilson

War Damage
Elizabeth Wilson
Serpent Tail, Sep 1 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9781846686504

In 1949, ballet critic Freddie Buckingham leaves a party hosted by socialite Regine Milner and begins walking across Hampstead Heath when he is shot to death. The police investigate the homicide.

Detective Chief Inspector Plumer and Detective Sergeant Murray quickly find a horde of people with motives to kill overtly homosexual Freddie. People from his personal life and his professional life with grudges against him seem everywhere. Even the hostess with the mostest is considered a suspect. However, none from the performing arts, the homosexuals, the bohemians, politicians or starving socialites stand out from anyone else. All seem to have in common a refrain of rejoicong that Freddie’s dead.

This is an exhilarating post WWII police procedural that has a Noir feel to it, but no detective is hard boiled; the Noir comes from the atmosphere of the “Heath” and London in 1949 as unexploded bombs remain from the war, buildings are derelict and damaged but people reside in them, and the gritty dark fog enhances every step of the plot. Aptly titled WAR DAMAGE is everywhere. Although the introduction to just about all the party goers seems overwhelming at first, fans will enjoy this fine historical whodunit as Freddie’s death enables Elizabeth Wilson to provide a tour of the war torn city.

Harriet Klausner

America Libre-Ramos y Sanchez

America Libre
Ramos y Sanchez
Grand Central, Jul 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446507752

In El Paso, a cop shoots and kills a Latina youth. The Hispanic community in the border city is outraged and rioting occurs. The Texas Governor calls in the National Guard to quell the riots and prevent looting. Shots are fired and twenty-three Latinas are killed.

Across the country there is horror from many quarters and defense of the use of force from others. However, Latinas explode in outrage. In Los Angeles tensions between Hispanics and Anglos are boiling over with every incident and rumor escalating the tension. Wealthy Ramon Garcia creates the La Defensa del Pueblo to protect Hispanics from the Anglo backlash. Unemployed former Army Ranger Manolo "Mano" Suaraz is one of the veterans who enlist over the objection of his frightened wife as he obtains work as a bodyguard. Soon La Defensa del Pueblo begins to ally with local Hispanic gangs. Civil war seems imminent as the government sets up "Quarantine Zones" and internment camps to isolate Hispanics from the general population.

This is an exciting timely tale that makes a strong warning to beware of the fast growing populace turning angry. The case Ramos y Sanchez makes is supported by the potential backlash to the anti-immigration assault and the Judge Sotomeier attacks. Although no exploration into how other races like Asian-Americans and African-Americans, or foreign countries or terrorist groups react to the American racial civil war, fans enjoy Ramos y Sanchez’s entertaining but admonitory thriller that avers liberty and libre are the same or else.

Harriet Klausner

Heaven’s Keep-William Kent Kreuger

Heaven’s Keep
William Kent Kreuger
Atria, Sep 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416556763

The day before Jo O'Connor boards the charter flight to Wyoming with seven other people, she and her husband Cork get into a fight. The small plane flies through a wintry storm and suddenly vies off course; no longer tracked by radar, the assumption by officials is the plane crashed into the Wyoming mountains. Cork joins the search into the wintry Rockies but after days of fruitless searching hampered by bad weather making a harsh mountainous terrain that much more difficult, the party gives up as there is no sign of the plane; no one could have lived through the cold if they made it past the assumed crash.

Six months later, Rebecca Bodine and her friend Liz Burns show up at Cork’s place in Minnesota. Rebecca claims the pilot of that charter was not her husband as everyone else assumes especially with a wrongful death suit claiming Sandy was drunk when he flew that fatal flight. A reporter digs up what Sandy was doing before the flight: getting drunk in a bar. Cork looks at a video of the pilot and concludes he did not drink but instead poured the liquor into something under his shirt while pretending to imbibe. Although he still believes his wife died, Cork knows something is off about the official conclusion so goes to Wyoming to investigate. The closer he comes to the truth, law enforcement officers, other government officials and drug lords are watching him to see if they have to take action against him.

Readers will sympathize with Cork who feels remorse that he and Jo went to bed angry with one another instead of making up while his fuming good bye was his last words to her. As Cork investigates, he and the audience begin to wonder whether Jo is alive but if so how. Filled with action and vivid descriptions of the Wyoming Rockies, William Kent Kreuger has somehow made this strong thriller a personal drama as well in what may be the best O’Connor tale to date.

Harriet Klausner

Sea Glass-Maria V. Snyder

Sea Glass
Maria V. Snyder
Mira, Sep 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778325802

The entire Sitian Council and the three Master Magicians demand apprentice glass magician Opal Cowan report to the Council Hall immediately. Her friends warn her if she goes to the Citadel as ordered she will vanish for quite a long time inside the Keep’s dungeons. To ignore their summons means being declared an outlaw but for now being free; to adhere to their summons means being declared an outlaw and at best be under house arrest, but more likely dungeon duty. Her new powers to take away a magician's power frightens them more than her as they are wary of anyone powerful enough to milk dry any magician.

Opal chooses to travel with her exasperating prisoner Devlen and her easy to goad ally Janco to the Moon Clan’s land where they hope to find Devlen’s body containing Ulrick’s soul so that Yelena the Soulfinder can switch them back. Opal believes she loves Ulrick and will do anything to save him though she fears Devlen is right that her beloved is addicted to the blood magic, which if true would mean she lost him. As she treks across a land in which every mage wants her for her new skill, Opal also thinks about the hunk Kade the Stormdancer who seems repelled by her. However, Opal has no time to explore her desires as her quest remains steadfast.

Although it helps to have read STORM GLASS to understand how far Opal has come and the soul switching magic, SEA GLASS is a fascinating quest fantasy. The heroine makes the novel worth following as she struggles to remain resolute while seemingly every practitioner in Ixia wants a piece of her. Fans will enjoy Opal’s second gem of an adventure as she tries to rescue her beloved, but must at the same time either drain or elude a horde of mages. Maria V. Snyder affirms with the Glass series what the Study trilogy proclaimed that she is a super fantasist.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Slippery Year-Melanie Gideon

The Slippery Year
Melanie Gideon
Knopf, Aug 4 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 978-0307270672

This is a fascinating autobiography by a forty something woman looking at her life as a twin growing up with three sisters; as a wife with a wonderful caring husband; and as a stay at home mother of a preadolescent adorable child. Melanie Gideon in the phases she has lived asks herself what has she achieved as she ponders whether future generations of Gideon’s will know her name; the answer is probably yes due to this amusing memoir that reflects on her life. The best part of THE SLIPPERY YEARS is the self assessment that would please Covey’s Seven Habits. The impetus for the internal review was her spouse buying a vehicle that has no logical place in the burbs where they live. Her conclusion was that she had misplaced or killed her spontaneous gene while her husband still did the occasional inane escapes like they did when they were in their twenties; when they lived life as if there was no tomorrow and ironically also felt immortal. The biggest change that made them cost conscience was the birth of their child; cost conscience until her husband buys the van. As she realizes “the changing from sunlight to moonlight” (Reflections on My Life by Marmalade), Ms. Gideon vows to recapture some of those sun rays as their kid is okay and will not mind her parents doing something silly; or at least the child will get over it fast if she perceives it as embarrassing; as children are resilient. This is a winner that will have the audience reflect on their lives and wonder if that is what they want their offspring to remember about them.

Harriet Klausner

Hugh & Bess-Susan Higginbotham

Hugh & Bess
Susan Higginbotham
Sourcebooks, Aug 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9781402215278

In 1341 thirteen years old Bess de Montacute is outraged and humiliated that she has been directed by her parents to marry Hugh le Despenser. It is bad enough he is twice her age and her breasts remain childishly flat, but the widow (her spouse died when she was eleven) is galled that his heritage is that of the son and grandson of traitors (see THE TRAITOR’S WIFE). She is aghast that her surname will be that of a disgraced family.

Hugh is as outraged as Bess over the arranged nuptials to a child bride, but is more accepting or at least hides his ire better. He knows to regain good standing for himself and his family; he must marry the bratty daughter of the Earl of Salisbury, a close advisor and friend to King Edward III. To him it simply means marrying for duty rather than love. As war and plague devastate England, against all odds Hugh & Bess fall in love.

This is a terrific fourteenth century historical romance starring two people forced into a political marriage who find love. Bess is a reluctant wife as this time she is expected to live with her husband unlike when she previously wed and remained home; High is a fabulous lead male who loathes marrying his young bride, but has no choice if eh wants to remove the stigma. Their changing relationship over a decade as she matures makes for a fine tale of love amidst betrayal, back stabling and war.

Harriet Klausner

Lady Anne and the Ghost’s Revenge-Donna Lea Simmons

Lady Anne and the Ghost’s Revenge
Donna Lea Simmons
Sourcebooks, Aug 2009,$7.99
ISBN: 9781402217920

Although he saved her life (see LADY ANNE AND THE HOWL IN THE DARK), Lord Darkefell could not stop himself form proposing at the same moment. He knows he made a strategic miscalculation, but learns how far when he visits her mom and grandma only to learn Lady Anne Addison is visiting friends in Cornwall. As he rushes to see Lady Anne, her family sends poor relative Mills Lolly Broomhal to chaperone her.

Lady Anne fears her attraction to the handsome Darkefell will cost her independence. However, she is more interested in the goings on at the beach near the home of her host siblings Captain Marcus St. James and his sister Pamela. She sees smugglers in action as well as the legendary Musselman ghost. When Darkefell arrives, she is taken aback by his pursuit but also asks for his help investigating the smuggling activity. He wants her safe so he reluctantly agrees, but murder intercedes and he is the prime suspect.

The key to this apparent middle book is the relationship between Lady Anne and her pursuer. His shouts of love frighten her. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Anne sees the happenings on the nearby beach and never slows down as she and her wannabe paramour work the case of the Ghost’s revenge. Historical romance readers will enjoy the refreshingly unique Lady Anne as she runs head first into dangerous escapades while running away from love.

Harriet Klausner

Since The Surrender-Julie Anne Long

Since The Surrender
Julie Anne Long
Avon, Aug 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061341618

Captain Chase Eversea earned a reputation for heroism during the war, but never forgot the one indiscretion of his life. Five years ago, he met his commander’s much younger wife Rosalind March and had the sexual encounter of his life. However, soon afterward he was transferred to another unit where he displayed courage under fire.

Now back home and out of the military, Chase vows to avoid scandal as he plans to live up to his family reputation, although he knows he will never forget Rosalind. However the best laid plans of men often go astray when a woman begs him to help her. At the Montgomery Museum Rosalind meets with and asks Chase to assist her in finding her missing sister Lucy “The Blond One” Locke, who was arrested for allegedly stealing a valuable bracelet and sent to Newgate; only to vanish. She swears her sibling is innocent just feathery. They investigate following clues that lead to danger and love.

This is an entertaining Eversea historical romance (see THE PERILS OF PLEASURE) is an engage tale due to the hero who wants the facts, just the facts as he and his “sidekick” investigate while each struggles with their attraction. The investigation is cleverly intertwined with the romance in a clever DNA helix way so that fans will relish the search of London to find the missing sister and the misplaced love.

Harriet Klausner

Ghastly Glass-Joyce and Jim Lavene

Ghastly Glass
Joyce and Jim Lavene
Berkley, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425230305

Renaissance Village in Myrtle Beach is for the first time in history is decorated to look like the Faire is Halloween. Renaissance reveler Jessie Morton is apprenticing under various master craftsmen to obtain research for her dissertation Proliferation of Renaissance Crafts in Modern Times. This year she is being trained by Roger Trent, owner and glassblower of the Glass Gryphon. She is also reunited with Chase.

The strong but gentle giant Ross plays Death and is very convincing as he looks spookily like the grim reaper. When someone kills him everyone at the faire except his killer is shocked. On his chest is a note that states “Death Will Find Thee”. His brother Bart takes over the role of death. Someone is also trying to frighten Jessie. When Roger is attacked with the same message left on him as that was pinned to Ross, Jessie believes the latter’s nephew stalks him. Although Henry is arrested, Jessie doubts he is the killer. Instead she believes a village resident is the culprit especially when someone else vanishes.

Jessie provides a unique look at a renaissance faire as she stumbles and tumbles into one adventure after another. Through her eyes, readers learn what happens behind the scenes and into the minds of the performers especially the revelers who relish reenactments. This is a colorful exciting amateur sleuth mystery filled with quirky characters who endear themselves to the reader as Joyce and Jim Lavene write a delightful whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Out Of The Light, Into The Shadow-Lori Foster, Erin McCarthy, and L.L. Foster

Out Of The Light, Into The Shadow
Lori Foster, Erin McCarthy, and L.L. Foster
Berkley, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425230527

“Have Mercy” by Lori Foster. Mercedes Jardine loves Wyatt Reyes and wants to marry him. However, although he loves her he fears a permanent relationship so he refuses to marry her. Her powerful brother Braxton likes Wyatt, but expects him to come to his senses and wed his sister. Brax’s office manager Cameo Smithson tells him to mind his business.

“Deal or No Deal”. by Erin McCarthy. In Vegas, Russian expatriate Nick Stolin protects two young vampire siblings (he changed back the tsarist period) Kate and Pete Stolin. When Kate puts on a family heirloom, Rasputin knows the necklace with the blood of the ancients inside has surfaced. He plans to steal it to strengthen his power. Michael St. Markov also learns the woman he always loved Katie is alive and he plans to keep her safe.

“Total Control” by LL Foster. Brax knows Cameo is the woman for him. He fires her from her job and uses his special power of persuasion to sexually manipulate her. When his Uncle Amos arrives a hurt Cameo does not blink as she helps him. However, the woman who injured Amos is coming for them and using Cam as bait.

“Undead Man’s Hand” by Erin McCarthy. Las Vegas police detectives Jordan Water and Shawn Marshall investigate a serial killer who drains the blood from his victim. They come to Bellagio to talk with thirteen year old Pete, an allegedly autistic teen who witnessed the assault. He offers nothing. Nick asks Jordan out and she accepts as they are attracted to one another although she thinks his family is dysfunctional.

This is a fine collection that readers, especially of paranormal romance, will fully enjoy. This reviewer suggests finishing the two Foster tales back to back and like wise with the McCarthy entries as “Total Control” is a direct sequel to “Have Mercy” and likewise with the two Ms. McCarthy contributions. Fans will enjoy this entreating anthology.

Harriet Klausner