Sunday, January 31, 2010

Spring Break-Kayla Perrin

Spring Break
Kayla Perrin
St. Martin’s Griffin, Mar 2 2010, $14.99
ISBN 9780312547288

On Artula, following a break up with her boyfriend Ryan Sinclair, college student Ashley Hamilton vanishes. Her disappearance occurs just after she meets New York editor Jason Shear who had come to the Caribbean island to investigate human trafficking; his sister had disappeared without a trace while on spring break here in 1987. Jason finds out that nineteen women have disappeared in the last seven years.

Ashley’s best friend Chantelle Higgins searches for her after the local authorities ignore her plea for help. On the other hand Jason agrees to assist her in her investigation into what happened to Ashley. At the same time Ashley’s frantic family arrive on the island; someone murders an informant willing to talk to Chantelle.

This is a superb romantic suspense that looks deeply into human sexual trafficking through the constant questioning by the courageous Chantelle who refuses to stop asking the why. The story line is fast-paced throughout as the frantic desperation of the heroine and the family of the abductee turns into a frenzy of extreme anxiety due to hopelessness as what increasingly looks like a lost cause. Although several late twists detract from an otherwise strong thriller, fans will enjoy this cautionary tale of being smart and safe while on Spring Break.

Harriet Klausner

A Different Light-Mariah Stewart

A Different Light
Mariah Stewart
Pocket, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439155103

In Woodside Heights, New Jersey, although she tries to put on a good pretense for her daughter Callie’s sake, Athena Moran has not been able to move on past the death of her police officer husband John; killed in the line of duty. Nothing seems to turn her on anymore although she hides her grief and lethargy for the sake of their child and their friends who see the grieving widow as a reminder of what could happen to them.

Since she is the daughter of a former councilman and the wife of a slain cop, Mayor Dante Rossi offers Athena work in his office. She accepts. However, Athena is stunned when Dante asks her to run as his replacement. Although she wins, Dante still runs the city. Reporter Quentin Forbes is attracted to Athen, but detest that she is just Dante’s puppet. He attacks her in the paper, which hurts her as she cannot understand his vendetta. Everything changes when Her Mayor meets Ms. Evelyn, who mentors Athena on redevelopment and living with gusto, which angers her puppeteer and his cronies.

Although this is a reprint of a Clinton Era political romance, A Different Light remains relevant with its simplistic instead of Mr. Smith goes to Washington, Ms. Moran remains in New Jersey. Initially blind to the corruption that surrounds her, Athen matures in political savvy without losing her idealism as she sees the town in A Different Light. Fans will enjoy this fun tale even if there are no instant blogger twitting on everything.

Harriet Klausner

Warrior Ascended-Addison Fox

Warrior Ascended
Addison Fox
Signet, Mar 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451229380

Enyo the Goddess of War plans to steal five Egyptian Summoning Stones that will enable her to rule the world. Themis the Goddess of Justice to abate the mass destruction that Enyo has set in motion creates immortal warriors to fight for her cause of balancing the scales.

One of Themis’ fighters Leo warrior Brody Talbot is assigned to protect museum curator Ava Harrison. She is grieving her father’s murder, but excited over running his exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan where the ancient summoning stones her dad found are going to be displayed. Her only concern besides her father’s death is the hunk of an archeologist Brody working with her. As they fall in love, she has horrific visions that she believes are stone induced.

The first Sons of the Zodiac saga is a superb urban fantasy romance starring an eons old warrior and a mousy curator. The story line is action-packed as the Goddesses battle through minion over possession of the stones. Fans will enjoy the Fifth Age of Man as the Leo Warrior Ascended with the mortal he protects to fight the forces of Enyo.

Harriet Klausner

Bride of the Wolf-Susan Krinard

Bride of the Wolf
Susan Krinard
Harlequin HQN, Mar 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774777

In 1881 in Pecos County, Texas, Holden Renshaw finds his boss, owner of the Dog Creek Ranch, dead in what looks like a riding mishap. Holden has doubts about it being an accident as Jedediah McCarrick was a superb rider. He finds the bags that Jedediah hid as if the man knew he was going to be killed. Inside the bags are his three wills with the unsigned last one giving the ranch to a mail order bride Rachel Lyndon coming from Ohio. The first dated will gives the spread to Jedediah’s nephew Sean while the last signed will bequests all to Holden.

Rachel arrives and insists she is Jedediah’s wife; Holden knows that is a lie, but says nothing. Holden and Rachel are attracted to one another, but distrust each other. However, she proves to be really good with his baby recently dumped on him by a dying prostitute. Each has secrets as she was kicked out of her home by her grandma and rejected by her lover, but a miscarriage left her barren. He is wanted as the dangerous Heath Renier and can change into the wolf without blinking. Neither expected how far Sean will go to manipulate everyone to do what he wants.

This is an exciting werewolf historical romance starring two likable but fragile (mentally that is) individuals who feel love arrived at an inappropriate moment. Ironically, Sean, in spite of being over the top of the Guadalupe Mountains, is the most fascinating character in the fast-paced story line. Although a late Ranger twist seems wrong even considering paranormal justice, fans will enjoy this fine tale while wondering what will happen when everyone learns Jedediah is dead.

Harriet Klausner

The Heavenstone Secrets-V.C. Andrews

The Heavenstone Secrets
V.C. Andrews
Pocket, Dec 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439154953

The two Heavenstone sisters live with their parents in an old Kentucky mansion. The older sibling Cassie is the perfect Heavenstone as she behaves properly everywhere. The younger sister Semantha is prettier, but somehow pales next to her accomplished older sibling.

It is hard to live up to the perfect definition of her parents when everything frightens you which is what Semantha feels. Her biggest fear is that of Cassie who always orders her around when their parents are not there to see the other side. When mother becomes ill and hospitalized, Cassie takes over her role in the household. She scares Semantha even more as the younger Heavenstone feels like a criminal under interrogation by her sibling and fears what her sister is doing to her and her father even as she conceals something that will be obvious in a few months.

The concept of good seed bad seed has been a round a long time (Bette Davis in Dead Ringer, Whatever happened to Baby Jane? and Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte). However, V.C. Andrews keeps it fresh due to Cassie as the perfect teen Machiavellian manipulator though it helps that her pathetic parents prefer not to dig below the surface. Semantha overkills the victim defense as much of the story line she whimpers about her fear of her sister and just about everything else. Although entertaining as readers will wonder if hormones running wild will bring a backbone to Semantha The Heavenstone Secrets contains no Flowers in the Attic.

Harriet Klausner

Term Limits-Vince Flynn

Term Limits
Vince Flynn
Pocket, Dec 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 9781439148105

In Washington DC everyone demands favors or else will take their money and influence to someone who will grant that favor. The American system is built on trading favors, not stock. Senator Fitzgerald was in DC for over four decades; his job as he knows it is to get reelected. However that will never happen as an assassin breaks the senator’s neck in his home. Next stop for the Johnson’s Brothers Plumbing van is putting a bullet through the head of Congressman Koslowski. The final victim of the night is Senator Robert “Prince of Pork” Downs.

Everyone in DC is frightened from the military like precision of the assault. The FBI finds no clues to the murdered Congressman though the Fitzgerald’s homicide differs in means from the other two. Quoting Jefferson, the killers announce a plan to form a new perfect union since the leaders of the present United States chose corruption and reelection over ethics and what is good for the people. Everyone points at everyone else in the usual blame the donkey game. Only fed up first term Congressman Michael O’Rourke, a former marine planning on not rerunning, begins to put together who is behind the assaults.

This is an exciting thriller from the onset and never slows down as Vince Flynn makes the case that party affiliation or political philosophy of those in power is irrelevant as only reelection matters. Although originally published during the Clinton era, the underlying premise holds up through the Bush administration and looks likewise for Obama. Congress is worse as it is has career participants who even when they leave still hold power as lobbyists, etc. The recent Supreme Court decision on election funding will exponentially increase peddling, which adds to the timely reprinting of Mr. Flynn’s cautionary political thriller. Perhaps the only Rapp on Term Limits is Rapp never shows up.

Harriet Klausner

Frame-Up-John F. Dobbyn

John F. Dobbyn
Oceanview, Mar 1 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781933515632

Best friends John McKedrick and Michael Knight graduate from Harvard Law with each accepting a professional position with a legal Bostonian legend. Michael works for his mentor trial attorney Lex Devlin; John becomes an associate of notorious mob lawyer Benny Ignola.

Michael is worried about John as the longer one is associated with the lawyer to mid mob management, the more difficult it would be to practice law in cleaner circumstances. Michael’s fears for his buddy prove underestimated when he awakens in the hospital having survived the car bomb blast that killed John, mob style. The police arrest Peter Santangelo, son of the Mafia chief Dominic. Lex asks his junior partner to defend Peter as the former muses how three friends four decades ago, (Lex, Dominic and Father Matt Ryan) chose diverse paths, but are brought back together due to two friends choosing different paths.

Mindful of Cagney-O’Brien in Angels with Dirty Faces, Frame-Up is a terrific character driven legal thriller that is at its best when the focus is on two generations of best friends going down diverse paths. The story line remains exhilarating, but loses some of the profundity of comparing decisions of seemingly similar people when Michael follows clues re illegal art sales to Amsterdam. Still fans will relish John F. Dobbyn’s superb tale with plenty of dirty rats, beautiful women, but no grapefruit.

Harriet Klausner

Occupied City-David Peace

Occupied City
David Peace
Knopf, Feb 2 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307263759

On January 26, 1948, in the Occupied City of Toyo, a man claiming to be Dr. Yamaguchi Jiro of the Ministry of Health and Welfare arrives at the Taikoku Bank at closing to explaing to management that dysentery has broken out in the neighborhood. He claims the Occupation sent him to provide medication to those most likely exposed to the disease. They take the medicine, but rather quickly after taking it, twelve die and four fall into a coma.

Dr. Jiro, if that is his name, leaves with all the money. He is a mass murder because he has poisoned his victims. The lead detective is frustrated with the descriptions of witnesses that vary while the media and others claim the incident was a biological weapon experiment by the occupiers but an American Occupation doctor scoffs as that thinking the idea is inane.

This is a super historical whodunit as twelve different people including one of the dead with various perspectives explain how they see what happened while providing a profound look at Tokyo just after World War II as that is how they filter the homicides. Each “lights” a candle for a city weeping, but brings their baggage and psychological defense mechanisms to cope with the horrific mass murder at a time when the country struggles with esteem having lost the war.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I'm Still Standing-Shoshana Johnson with M. L. Doyle

I'm Still Standing
Shoshana Johnson with M. L. Doyle
Touchstone, Feb 2 2010, $23.99
ISBN: 9781416567486

In 2003 in An Nasiriyah, Iraq, six soldiers (including Jessica Lynch who became the prime celebrity of the incident) assigned to the 507th Maintenance Company were captured by the enemy during an ambush. One of those taken in the firefight was unit cook Shoshana Johnson, who became the first ever African-American female POW. After three plus weeks as a prisoner, moving from place to place, the marines rescued her and the others (except Lynch previously rescued).

The key to this memoir is how profound Johnson describes her ordeal during captivity and even more so as a sudden celebrity of sorts. She makes the case that her abductees were kind giving her medical aid to her ankles hit by bullets and fed and clothed her. Yet throughout she lived in fear as a Black woman POW in a country in which gender and race matter. After being freed, her fame left others angry and resentful so she left the military. With a strong conviction, Ms. Johnson and M.L. Doyle tear into her accusers that she and the others deserved being prisoners and were no heroes as they simply made a wrong turn. Well written with the predominance of the memoir being her POW 22 days and her PTSD that still haunts her since becoming free; fans of military chronicles will want to read I’m Still Standing.

Harriet Klausner

Slow Motion: A Memoir of a Life Rescued by Tragedy

Slow Motion: A Memoir of a Life Rescued by Tragedy
Dani Shapiro
Harper, Jan 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061826696

Raised by Orthodox Jewish parents in the New York City suburban part of New Jersey, Dani Shapiro gave up Sarah Lawrence to be a trophy girlfriend to an older married attorney though Lenny Klein is the stepfather of her BF. One call while she enjoys a San Diego spa changes everything into before and after. Aunt Roz tells her that her mom and dad were in a car accident; both are in ICU at Overlook Hospital in Summit; no one has called her father’s other daughter from his first marriage while a blizzard shuts down the airports. Uncle Hy tells has that her dad is in a coma and her mom may never walk again. Adding to her fears and suddenly found maturity is the blizzard has shut down the New York airports.

This is a fascinating heart wrenching memoir because the tragic incident proves a revelation for Dani Shapiro as no miracle saves the day yet she rises to the occasion with a maturity her family would not have believed she possessed prior to the accident. Readers will cry on at least two occasions re her father seeing her mother for the first time after the accident and her chat with her father in the cemetery obviously after his death. She realizes what her parents taught her about what matters in life and death is the truth.

Harriet Klausner

A Stain on the Silence-Andrew Taylor

A Stain on the Silence
Andrew Taylor
Hyperion, Feb 16 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9781401302849

Lily Murtheston calls twice asking to speak to Jamie. Since he turned sixteen, everyone calls him James except for one woman back two decades ago when he was in his twenties; so he is taken aback but decides to learn what Lily wants. He muses about being thirteen when he met Lily through her marrying Hugh, the father of his best friend in school Carlo. Dying Lily is in a hospice in Wembley. He goes to see her; Lily informs Jamie that he fathered a child with her years ago; a daughter in trouble needing her father. He insists Katie’s father is Lily’s husband Hugh, but Lily says Jamie owes her.

James meets his daughter Katie just before he leaves the hospice for his home where his wife Nicky is leaving for her book club meeting. Pregnant Katie expects to be arrested for the murder of her former fiancé Sean. She demands her biological father help her; James is confused what to do as his perfect life has been nuked but also fears telling his wife.

This is a fascinating character study of a man who seems to have his life together only to find it collapse with the first troubling intrusion, the knowledge of a daughter he sired during an affair over twenty years ago surfaces. Readers will be stunned by how far James will go to avoid confrontation even not telling his wife; though he fails each time he chooses dodging an altercation behind a denial of responsibilities as a defense mechanism to reduce his anxiety, which never works. Although suspense comes extremely late with a clever Hitchcockian psychological twist, fans will enjoy the aptly titled A Stain on the Silence

Harriet Klausner

Sherlock Holmes: The American Years

Sherlock Holmes: The American years
Michael Kurland (Editor)
Minotaur, Feb 2 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312378462

This is a super ten story collection that cleverly chronicles young Holmes in America and Mexico where he meets famous luminaries and solves cases before he becomes the great Baker St. sleuth.

“Inga Sigerson Weds” by Richard A. Lupoff. In 1875 Holmes and his sister arrive in New York for a family wedding.

“My Silk Umbrella” by Darryl Brock. Holmes and Mark Twain meet in Hartford at a baseball match.

“The Old Senator by Steve Hockensmith. Young actor William Gillette and Holmes meet years before the former plays the latter on stage.

“The American Adventure” by Gary Lovisi. In 1876 Holmes meets Dr. Joseph Bell before falling in love with vivacious married Diana Strickland.

“The Sacred White Elephant of Mandalay” by Michael Mallory. In Connecticut, Holmes and P.T. Barnum discuss fooling the public.

“The Curse of Edwin Booth by Carole Bugge. Booth the stage actor hires Holmes to help him with a “curse”.

“The Case of the Reluctant Assassin” by Peter Tremayne. Holmes travels to an Irish town in Nebraska to solve a mystery.

“Cutting for Signs” by Rhys Bowen. On a stagecoach in the New Mexico Territory, robbers make the mistake of holding up Holmes.

“The English Senor” by Marta Randall. Working a case in Mexico, Holmes learns a key lesson that the cold detailed facts are critical, but as significant is the heart behind the details.

“The Stagecoach Detective” by Linda Robertson. In Lakesport, Holmes works the case involving “The Royal family of Silverado”.

Harriet Klausner

Slow Fire-Ken Mercer

Slow Fire
Ken Mercer
Minotaur, Feb 16 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312558352

Knowing he needed a change in location to kick his heroin addiction, narcotics detective Will Magowan leaves LAPD to take the position of police chief in Haydenville, California. His wife chose divorce rather than accompany him to the northern rural part of the state to reside in a trailer.

Will almost immediately needs to apply his homicide detecting skills when the corpse of Caitlyn Johnson is found near a kayak. Soon afterward, Will gets involved in a bar shooting, other violence, and an incident with former Hell’s Angel convicted killer Frank Carver who has become a writer and philanthropist. He also struggles with the town’s greatest growth industry, meth production; the reason Mayor Bonnie Newman hired him but threatens to fire him as instead of abating the flow, it has increased. Will finds a meth stash at the cabin of Henry Bell, but the mark suicides rather than provide Will with information. The police chief believes good citizen Carver is the drug king, but proving it is difficult as nothing works to catch him.

Slow Fire is a fast-paced rural police procedural that shines a spotlight on the small town meth problem that has not felt the impact of the recession; in fact is a growth industry. Will is a fascinating hero who struggles with addiction, his wife leaving him, and the threat of losing his last chance job. Fans will enjoy his stressed out life although some spins seem a bit over Mount Shasta.

Harriet Klausner

Let It Ride-John McFetridge

Let It Ride
John McFetridge
Minotaur, Feb 16 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312599485

Sunitha Suraiya dreams of leaving depressed Detroit, but to achieve her goal she needs money. Working at massage parlors is petty cash; robbing them is just a little more petty cash as is holding up better spas with its white wealthy women. So Sunitha is planning a major heist.

After spending time playing soldier in Afghanistan, Vernard "Get" McGetty is back in the Motor City selling drugs. His contact is JT, chief of the Ontario Saints of Hell biker gang, who dreams of being the druglord of the province and eventually the Dominion. They met in Afghanistan where a drug partnership was formed. Sunitha realizes Get is her mechanism to leave town as he has access to JT who owns a ton of gold bullion he plans to use to buy drugs and she plans to steal from him while cops on both sides of the border salivate over dreaming of a drug war.

This is a wild crime caper starring people with a different moral take than most American-Canadian residents. The exciting Noir story line is character driven especially by Sunitha, Get and JT. Although there is too much going on at times, fans will appreciate this zany tour of Detroit and Toronto with everyone answering whom do you trust with the answer no one not even the person staring back at you in a mirror or worse a person you may love.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Stormlord-Glenda Larke

The Last Stormlord
Glenda Larke
Orbit, Marc2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316069151

In Scarcleft City in the Scarpen Quarter, her father sells his twelve year old daughter Terelle to Opal's snuggery where she picks up dirty plates and mugs to be reused in the kitchen. Terelle knows that if she fails to escape shortly she will become a courtesan handmaiden just like her older half-sister Vivie who counseled her to accept the inevitable. However, the water painter gives her hope.

At the same time that Terelle considers how to escape, the Stormlord is dying and no one seems capablee of taking over his critical duties. Shale the low life has the gift, but lacks the training and being an outcast means he will never receive the training to control being a Stormord bringing the needed rain to the desert. As he wanders around while the current Stormlord nears death, the son of Granlon the Cloudmaster Nealrith Almondine and Kaneth Carnelian check levels at water cisterns to find each one at dangerous low drought levels. They discuss moral options while Taquar leads the tribes to return to the Time of Random Rain; to achieve his goal he must kill anyone who displays the watergiver talent.

This is a terrific fantasy that uses a dangerous drop in water levels to set up the excellent opening act of what looks like will be a superb relevant thriller. The ensemble cast is incredibly deep so that even secondary characters like Kaneth and the water talented female Ryka that he should marry come across as fully developed enhancing the plausibility of the story line of doom. In fact Kaneth explains the two extreme choices between allowing everyone to die slowly and mass murder to enable a chosen few high up in the water hierarch to live. Fans will enjoy Glenda Larke’s terrific relevant tale as the water wars seem imminent in the Quartern.

Harriet Klausner

The Folding Knife-K.J. Parker

The Folding Knife
K.J. Parker
Orbit, Feb 22 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780316038447

Bassiamus “Basso: Severus was born to an aristocratic family in the Republic of Vesani. His father was First Citizen, but lost his position in the next election to an offspring of a sausage worker. He decided to buy up a bank’s outstanding shares. When Basso grew up he married the woman his parents chose for him. When Basso comes home one day, he sees his wife and brother-in-law having sex; he kills both of them.

His sister who Basso loved more than anyone else turned her back on him. However, he is the First Citizen of the Vesani Republic and owns the bank so still does his best for her. The only demand she made of him that he could not fulfill was to cut all ties with his son Bassano. The people love Basso and the House passes all the bills he presents to them. He knows the Republic must annex their neighbors to become an empire because he fears the Empire of the East, once it stops rebuilding, will look westward to places like Vesani. His first invasion is mineral rich Mavortis which has no central army, but a traitor insures his plan fails to execute properly.

Based on Ancient Rome, The Folding Knife is a work of exciting speculative fiction. The fascinating story line focuses on idealistic Basso the Magnificent who is a brilliant pragmatic strategist. He knows his decisions will cost lives, but though he grieves what will occur, Basso feels this is only way to save his beloved Republic. What his idealism concealed from him is that it only takes one mistake to devastate even the greatest person.
THE FOLDING KNIFE is excellent because of the great storyline, well crafted characterizations and a look into a fascinating culture.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 29, 2010

Stephenie Meyer: The Unauthorized Biography of the Creator of the Twilight Saga

Stephenie Meyer: The Unauthorized Biography of the Creator of the Twilight Saga
Marc Shapiro
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jan 2010, $12.99
ISBN 9780312638290

With the popularity of the Twilight saga - books and movies (aside to my niece Ashley – how many times have you read and seen Twilight?), it is not surprising to find an unauthorized biography of the author Stephanie Meyer. As he did with his J.K. Rowling bio, Marc Shapiro researches the literature and conducts interviews of peripherals associated with Stephenie Meyer. Although well written and fun to read, no major new revelation surfaces as most fans know that for instance the Twilight concept was created during a dream and the impact of the saga on Forks, Washington. Somewhat less known is the religious beliefs of this wife and mom writer. Still those fans ready to travel to Forks will enjoy this bio-lite.

Harriet Klausner

Petals From The Sky-Mingmei Yip

Petals From The Sky
Mingmei Yip
Kensington, Mar 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758241818

Thirteen year old Meng Ning fell into a well. She survived her ordeal, but also had a revelation that she was fated to be a Buddhist nun. Now an adult Meng has not yet taken her vows as her mentor encourages her to take some time and study abroad, which she does in Paris while her mother is horrified with her daughter’s decision.

At the Summer Buddhist Retreat, a fire places Meng in jeopardy until American Dr. Michael Fuller, who rescued her when her black-market monetary exchange proved counterfeit, carries her to safety. They become friends and companions. However, that ends when he proposes and she refuses as her dream is to be a nun not a wife. Although she changes her mind and accepts, she still wonders if she is making a mistake until a car accident opens her eyes.

This is an intriguing look at Buddhism in mostly Paris and Hong Kong; so there is a western flavoring. The story line is profound as Meng must choose between spiritual and mortal loves; while coping with pressure from others trying to influence her selection. Although Michael seems more like a stereotype of a westerner involved with an Asian woman whose belief system differs from his, fans will enjoy Petals From the Sky as Meng must determine the path her devotion leads her to.

Harriet Klausner

The Endless Forest-Sara Donati

The Endless Forest
Sara Donati
Delacorte, Jan 2010, $27.00
ISBN: 9780553805260

In 1824 the Sacandaga River overflows its banks flooding what had been Paradise, New York. The devastation is everywhere with no family immune from what is described as the hundred year flood. However, after the storm comes calm as people go about the business of surviving, caring for one another and hopefully rebuilding.

Elizabeth and Nathaniel Bonner are sad about the destruction but euphoric that their thirty years old daughter Lily accompanied by her husband Simon has come home from Italy. Also adding to their elation is their adopted daughter Martha is back in town too. However, following Martha to Paradise is her biological mother Jemima, who abandoned her daughter over a decade ago. A cruel woman, she apparently caused the end of her daughter’s engagement to Peyton. Lily’s twin brother Daniel offers to marry Martha, but though she no longer sees him as a sibling but much more she does not want a pity marriage. He does not either as he sees her as a wife not a sister. Neither does his brother Ethan who proposes to family friend Callie.

The final Bonner family historical saga is an interesting tale that provides readers with a glimpse of Upstate New York around the time James Fennimore Cooper was writing the Leatherstocking classics. The story line ties up major loose ends, but the key cast next generation pale next to the villainess who steals the show from the Bonner brood who seem two dimensional in comparison. Still fans will enjoy The Endless Forest.

Harriet Klausner

The Weight of Heaven-Thrity Umrigar

The Weight of Heaven
Thrity Umrigar
Harper, Feb 2 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061472558

Following the death of their seven years old son from meningitis, psychologist Ellie Benton persuades her spouse Frank that he should accept a position to run a HerbalSolutions factory in Girbaug, India as it will be easier to move past their grief if they leave Ann Arbor. He agrees.

In the small village, Ellie adapts rather easily working at a clinic while Frank remains filled with grief and drifts away from his wife. His only solace is tutoring his housekeeper’s son Ramesh, which is resented by the lad’s father Prakesh. Meanwhile Ellie and Frank are on different sides of the issue of the trees as she defends the locals’ use and he claims his company owns them under a lease agreement with the government. Investigative reporter Nandita meets Ellie and they become friends, which further alienates the American woman from her mate. Tragedy seems imminent as hostilities in the village over the trees grow.

This is an entertaining tale of two kindhearted caring people whose outlook is different; as one adjusts while the other turns into the Ugly American who can only buy friendship with a replacement local child. The story line is fast-paced for the most part although a flashback to the Benton courtship feels like unnecessary padding as it adds nothing since the audience knows the couple is educated and liberal until a year or so passes in India. Still readers will appreciate this fine tale as the Benton couple serve as a microcosm of capitalist interests with opposite directions in how each adapts to residing in Girbaug.

Harriet Klausner

Crazy Heart-Thomas Cobb

Crazy Heart
Thomas Cobb
Harper, Feb 2 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780060915193

At one time Bad Blake was a country-and-western superstar, but years of alcohol have taken its toll. In his late fifties, his best has long passed. Even his personal life has been a failure with four broken marriages and a son he has not seen in decades.

Bad once got Tommy Sweet gigs, but now the roles have reversed with the young superstar having Blake open for him. Reporter Jean Craddock meets Bad Black for an interview and they are attracted to one another. As they fall in love, her young son Buddy is the impetus for Bad to look up his son. That reunion like his entire life goes bad, but Bad moves on. Alone with Buddy, he loses his girlfriend’s son when he stops for a drink, which will cost him much more.

With a nod to A Star Is Born, this is a character study of a self-destructive person who failed to cope with fame and fortune. The slight story line focuses on Bad, whose irresponsible behavior adversely impacts those who care about him, but learn quickly the cost is too high as he drives them away with his out of control actions. Fans will enjoy Thomas Cobb’s bittersweet look into a Crazy Heart.

Harriet Klausner

Revenge for Old Times’ Sake-Kris Neri

Revenge for Old Times’ Sake
Kris Neri
Cherokee McGhee, Mar 10 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9780979969454

Opposites attract is proven with free-spirited Tracy Eaton and her straight-laced husband Drew. They are yin and yang balancing each other while fulfilling the needs of one another. That is why Tracy is shocked when she literally sees her husband fighting with his fellow attorney Ian Dragger in the garage of their office building. Drew insists to Tracy they attend the party celebrating their getting Skippy Sullivan off of a variety of charges that the two lawyers worked on together. At the gala, Skippy introduces Tracy and Drew to juror Riley who persuaded the other jurors that he was innocent.

The next day, they find Ian dead floating in the Eaton swimming pool. The picture of the fight is in the tabloids. Obviously Drew is the prime suspect. Drew’s mother Charlotte calls his former fiancée attorney CeeCee Payne to defend her son. Through her connections, Tracy learns that a hit is put on Drew. With her mother, mother-in-law Charlotte and others allied with helping her, Tracy busts her Drew out of jail. She begins her own investigation so that the worst case scenario that her spouse is murdered doesn’t happen. This leads Tracy and Drew in danger from a killer who is watching their every move.

The third Tracy Eaton revenge mystery (see Dem Bones revenge and Revenge of the Gypsy Queen) is as always a tremendous amateur sleuth mystery as the heroine is a courageous free spirit acting like a bloodhound on the scent of suspects. The scene in which a second corpse is found in the pool is humorous as the Tracy and Her mother and Charlotte struggle with what to do with the body. It is scenes like this that make Kris Neri one of the best whodunit writers as she takes her story line serious, but includes plenty of humor that fits in nicely to the main storyline while entertaining the reader. Fans will enjoy Revenge for Old Times Sakes as we, along with the heroine, wonder if that is CeeCee’s agenda with her erratic defense.

Harriet Klausner

The Devil's Star-Jo Nesbo

The Devil's Star
Jo Nesbo
Harper, Mar 10 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061133978

Oslo police detective Harry Hole drowns his greatest professional and personal failures with alcohol. He tried to persuade his superiors that Detective Tom Waaler killed Harry’s police partner Ellen Gjelten (see The Redbreast), but no one believed him; Harry also believes the dirty cop sells weapons on the streets. On the personal front, he has been inept in connecting with his girlfriend and her son.

Ironically, Chief Inspector Bjarne Moller teams up Hole and Waaler on the murder investigation of Camilla Loen whose finger was removed and a devil’s star shaped diamond jammed under her eyelid. Harry is assigned a missing person’s case that soon ties back to the Loen murder. Those corpses are followed by similar bodies as Hole realizes a serial killer is on theloose.

The third Hole Norwegian police procedural is a great whodunit as the hero struggles to sober up in order to work the case ALONG side his Nemesis. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as Harry struggles in all aspects of his life except investigating a homicide. Sub-genre fans will relish his latest caseload on and off the job.

Harriet Klausner

Black Hills-Dan Simmons

Black Hills
Dan Simmons
Little, Brown, Feb 24 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780316006989

In 1876 following the battle of Little Big Horn, ten years old Sioux warrior Paha Sapa collects coup from the dead. However, on his last breath, the spirit of General George Custer leaves his dead body to enter that of Paha.

For the rest of his life, Paha heard Custer speaking to him inside his head. He also gained the uncanny ability to know someone’s past and future by simply touching them. For himself he has remained patient having seen what will occur to the sacred Black Hills in the 1930s. Thus in 1936, the septuagenarian who worked on the monuments begins his final days of atonement and exorcism with plans to blow up Mt. Rushmore as FDR arrives on a visit.

This is a refreshing super paranormal historical thriller that grips the audience from the opening battle locale until the final confrontation inside and outside of the lead character’s head. The story line is driven by Paha=Custer, but filled with plenty of action as events lead from Little Big Horn to Mt. Rushmore. Dan Simmons effortlessly switches from Ancient Greek and Dickensian mythologies to an American legend with this superb incredibly creative tale.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What Mother Never Told Me-Donna Hill

What Mother Never Told Me
Donna Hill
Kimani, Mar 1 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373831432

Wanting to become a professional singer, Cora leaves her hometown Rudell, Mississippi for Chicago. There she obtains work for an affluent Caucasian family. However, their son rapes her so Cora fled for Rudell unaware she is pregnant.

In Rudell, she marries her childhood sweetheart David, but hell breaks out when their offspring is white. That girl Emma learned to pass as white to gain acceptance. In New York, she marries a Caucasian soldier, Michael who soon afterward is deployed overseas. Emma gives birth to a baby with black features. She sends her daughter Parris to Mississippi to be raised by her mom while fleeing for Europe. However, as an adult, her dying grandma informs Parris that her mom lives so she travels with her Nick to France in search of her biological mother.

Though the saga of an African-American passing as white has been done many times, What Mother Never Told Me is a fascinating tale that focuses mostly on the third generation’s search once she knows her “white” mom is alive. The cast is three dimensional as the three generations seem genuine especially their motives even if a reader disagrees with choices. Well written, the character driven story line grips the audience as Emma seeks her mom and she hopes her dad too.

Harriet Klausner

The Irish Duke-Virginia Henley

The Irish Duke
Virginia Henley
Signet, Mar 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451229205

As the Dowager matriarch of her family, in 1894, octogenarian widow Lady Louisa Jane Russell holds court as she always has while looking back over the decades of her life. In 1819 Lady Louisa loves her position in society, which allows her to enjoy life to the fullest. Irish nobleman James Hamilton went so far as to propose, but she ridiculed him for being Irish with a speech impediment; of course he was nine years old at the time and she was his age.

In spite of her putting him down, they become friends though he never has given up marrying his Lu. Other men want her too, but though she adores them, she prefers her independent gaiety more so. However, over a decade later, a family scandal leaves Lu with the choices of marrying her kindhearted Irish admirer, someone else, or face scornful disgraced exile.

Few if any writer can interweave historical information to enhance a story line as deftly as Virginia Henley can and does with the enjoyable The Irish Duke. The story line is driven by the heroine who tells her great-granddaughters about her life with her late beloved Irish Duke who to his death insisted B is pronounced as a V. Fans will relish Ms. Henley’s fine nineteenth century historical romance as the exhilarating plot with its strong lead protagonists brings the era to life.

Harriet Klausner

In Bed With The Duke-Christina Dodd

In Bed With The Duke
Christina Dodd
Signet, Mar 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451229335

In 1849 in Moricadia Michael Durant seeks revenge so as the missing heir to the Duke of Nevitt, he chooses a different way than the aristocracy would expect to enact his goal of justice. He becomes the grim Reaper riding at night while going after those who caused injustice.

Lady's companion Emma Chegwidden is unfairly fired from her position. She is in deep trouble until the Reaper rescues her. However, though he knows he must walk away from her, Michael cannot as he wants her. However, Michael especially gets involved with Emma when the malevolent Prince Sandre chooses her as his regardless of how she might feel.

This is an action-packed Victorian Era romance that takes place on the continent. The story line is fast-paced throughout as the Reaper brings havoc to the Moricadian aristocracy. Christina Dodd is at her best with this return to the Governess bride saga (See My Fair Temptress, My Favorite Bride and Lost in Your Arms) as no reader will ever think of roast pig the same way.

Harriet Klausner

Revenge Wears Rubies-Renee Bernard

Revenge Wears Rubies
Renee Bernard
Berkley, Mar 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425233375

In 1857 he survived imprisonment in Bengal, India. Now two tears later, Galen Hawke is in England still suffering nightmares only to find the fiancée of the late John, one of the other seven English prisoners, enjoying her first season rather than grieving his death. He vows to teach Miss Haley Moreland, engaged to Herbert Trumble, a lesson she will never forget.

Haley is ignorant that her childhood friend John felt they were engaged; as he never asked and she never had to respond. Her biggest issue is to keep her family from poverty, which means marrying wealth. However, upon meeting Galen, she is attracted to him while he wants to seduce and ergo destroy her. As he begins to reassess what he thought he knew about Haley, she ponders whether to marry for love or money that is if Galen even considers marrying her.

This terrific Victorian romance grips the audience with the opening nightmare as an enthralled audience watches how the vendetta of a Jaded Gentleman plays out. Fast-paced throughout as her sly father observes, fans will appreciate Galen’s thirst for vengeance turn to admiration and love, but might prove too late. With “Sapphires” to follow, sub-genre readers will enjoy the first of the Jaded Gentleman tales.

Harriet Klausner

Don't Kill The Messenger-Eileen Rendahl

Don't Kill The Messenger
Eileen Rendahl
Berkley, Mar 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425232569

When Melina Markowitz was three years old she died. However, that was not the end of her life as she returned as a Messenger who made deliveries between the paranormal. She tries to stay away from her clients as her motto is to just pass on whatever.

However, in Sacramento her don’t get involved mantra is devastated when her package given to her by a vampiric physician is stolen from her. Trying to retrieve it to finish her delivery, Melina heads to the Taoist temple where she was to hand over the envelope. There her don’t get involved policy is bloodied when seemingly out of control Chinese vampires kill rival gangbangers while not caring if innocent civilians die. Police Officer Ted Goodnight struggles with the deadly chaos and how Melina somehow is constantly caught in the center.

This is an amusing urban fantasy in which the sardonic cynic wonders why her and to her chagrin her support cast responds with why not. Fans will enjoy this fun tale as the cop is attracted to the messenger who likes him, but fears any mortal involvement as breaking cover. Don’t Kill the Messenger is a fun lighthearted formic even with blood flowing freely on the California streets.

Harriet Klausner

Catch Of A Lifetime-Judi Fennell

Catch Of A Lifetime
Judi Fennell
Sourcebooks, Feb 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402224287

Mermaid Angel Tritone wants to be an advisor to her brother Rod the High Councilman on the Mer Council. However, he rejects her dreams of joining the ruling Council as he insists her safety is paramount. Upset, she goes on a swim by herself to get her thoughts straight.

Breaking the truce between their species Hammerhead Harry the nasty shark attacks her, but Angel escapes by climbing onto Logan Hardington's fishing boat. She claims to be a “maritime biology” student, but the single father is flummoxed by her arrival as the beautiful young lady is stark naked. He agrees to employ her as a babysitter since his son Michael likes her and he would do anything to make his child feel wanted by him as he only recently learned of his existence. Michael vows to keep Angel’s secret that she is a mermaid from even his dad yet also believes she is the mermaid he wished for his birthday. As they fall in love in between arguments with his offspring matchmaking them, the duo rescues Michael from horrible Harry, but also must battle an evil sea monster with oceanic-forming world domination plans.

The third Tritone sibling Mer urban-oceanic romantic fantasy (see Wild Blue Under and In Over Her Head) is a terrific tale of the tail as the female sister takes the lead with her mission to save the world. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down for even ebb tide; as the unity of a father, a son and a mermaid who helps being the two males together while saving the earth makes for a fun Catch of a Lifetime.

Harriet Klausner.

Dust of Dreams-Steven Erikson-

Dust of Dreams
Steven Erikson
Tor, Jan 19 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780765316554

East of the Letherii Empire lies the Wastelands and the Glass desert where Malazan 14the Army Commander Adjunct Tavore leads her troops, the Bonehunters into exile. Joining them on their excursion is the Letherii imperial legions under the command of Brys Beddict. Expected to meet them are the Perish Grey Helms and Khundryl Burned Tears, but they are betrayed as they try to cross the Kingdom of Bolkando at the same time on the Ar'kryn plains while the Barghast White Face clans deal with treachery from within also. While all this military movement and treachery occurs, the Shake seeks their ancestral home the First Shore, which will cause an ancient reawakening.

As these various races of mortals and ascendants come together, the sky is on fire. Also as the heavens seem under a growing inferno, a god has escaped imprisonment to return to regain his lost power spreading Darkness over the continent. The allies know they go to war to die as the enemy is much more powerful, but ironically though they bravely face their mortality, each knows they fight to protect an empire that has exiled them.

This is the first of the a two part climax to the Malazan Book of the Fallen saga and though much of reaching the finish line will be in the last half, Dust of Dreams has plenty of action including a superb cliffhanger. There is the usual too much internal introspection by seemingly a zillion of the quadrillion cast, which makes keeping score as always complicated and convoluted. Still fans of the saga will enjoy the set-up as Steven Erikson seems ready to end the epic on a high note if the quality level of first part of the final duology is held up in part two.

Harriet Klausner

Shadowrise-Tad Williams

Tad Williams
Daw, Mar 2 010, $27.95
ISBN: 9780756405496

Southmarch Castle is eyed by two opposing groups while its rightful ruler King Olin Eddon is taken hostage by the ruler of Hierosol. Hendon Tolly has become de facto ruler of Shadowmarch, but he failed to trap Olin’s twin children Barrick and Briony The Autarch of Ixix kidnaps King Olin and they travel to Shadowmarch Castle for his own diabolical purposes.

Barrick is entranced by the fairy (Qar) Yasammez and goes behind The Shadow Line where the Qar live in perpetual twilight. He has a mission to perform for her but he has many obstacles to overcome and enemies to deal with as he travels across the fairylands. Briony travels to Syan where she is treated as a royal. She hopes to obtain enough support to return home with an army in order to dispose Tolly. Prince Enas is enchanted with Briony and she starts to have feelings for him which makes it impossible to use him and his army in to further her schemes.

The Qar surround Southmarch Castle until Yassammel orders the attack. Under the castle lies the city of Funderling Town populated by humanoid beings that are cousins to draws who live with and fight for the Qar. Briony is accused of treason, but escapes while the Autarch of Ixix reveals his plans for King Olin which if they come to fruitation will allow him to be a god but he must he triumphs over the Qar, the Funderlings and an unexpected army friendly to Shadowmarch. Several warring forces converge all claiming a kingdom as theirs.

The third Shadowmarch saga (see Shadowplay and Shadowmarch) continues where SHADOWPLAY leaves off so it behooves newcomers to peruse those tales first even with a strong synopsis to remind readers what previously happened. Tad Williams has created a great storyline that adds much to his enthralling epic fantasy as several rivals are going to Southmarch Castle. Yet with plenty of sprawling action, the characters, especially the twins, drive the story line forward to the cliffhanging ending to be continued in SHADOWHEART.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Leisure Seeker-Michael Zadoorian

The Leisure Seeker
Michael Zadoorian
Harper, Feb 9 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061671791

John and Ella Robina have few regrets, but know there time together is counting down. She suffers from cancer and he from Alzheimer’s. Over the objection of their respective doctors and their adult children Cindy and Kevin, they decide to go on a final fling together.

They leave Madison Heights, just outside Detroit, to head west on Route 66. Their destination is Disneyland. On the trek they stop at inane attractions, eat cheeseburgers, and meet friendly and not so nice Americans. As a show of defiance, Ella tosses her wig away. When his mind is lucid they look at slides of their life together. When his mind is fogged, he drives while Ella has a mission for them in Anaheim.

Although the readers will anticipate the climax, this is a deep look at the near end of life for a loving couple. Ella knows it is a matter of time before she leaves John alone, but what she wants to hear one last time from her soul mate is he calling her name. Using humor and an eccentric support cast met while traveling in their RV westward to avoid overly melodramatic inanity; fans will appreciate this elderly couple on their final leisure fling together.

Harriet Klausner

Secrets Of A Scandalous Bride-Sophia Nash

Secrets Of A Scandalous Bride
Sophia Nash
Avon, Feb 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061493300

In 1814 to hide from the person she believes destroyed her father and consequently her, Elizabeth Ashburton pretends to be a widow. However, escaping from her unwanted suitor only leads her to General Leland Pymm wanting her.

Escaping from the Ton’s current favorite male, Elizabeth dives into a carriage. However, her latest flight leaves her with scandalous illegitimate Rowland Manning; whom she feels safe with unlike the General or the alleged killer of her dad. Rowland hides her from the blackmailer who threatens to ruin her; the lord who wants to marry her; and himself who wants to bed her. However, as they fall in love, he revises his options to include her forever if he can save his business and keep her safe.

The key to the freshness of the latest Widows Club Regency romance (see A Dangerous Beauty, Kiss, and Love with the Perfect Scoundrel) is that the heroine has never wedded so she shams her marital status as a widow for protection amidst the Ton. That ploy works to a degree, but not as much as Elizabeth would like as she remains in trouble while wondering if she jumped into the fire (of love) with the most "unchivalrous blackguard" in England. Although the plot is somewhat as expected, fans will enjoy the scandalous secret of this widow.

Harriet Klausner

Her Last Chance-Michele Albert

Her Last Chance
Michele Albert
Pocket, Feb 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781416531401

Claudia Cruz was forced to resign from the Dallas Police Department when the brass failed to back her against an excessive force claim after she killed a rapist. Considered Tough Enough to be one of their operatives, Avalon art recovery agency hires her.

FBI agent Vincent DeLuca works art theft cases. He and Claudia clash when they become involved on the same case in Philadelphia where an ancient Greek Corinthian helmet was stolen in spite of tight security at Champions and Stone’s. However, as sparks fly between them, she soon believes the felon for some reason is targeting Vincent though he rejects her premise. Soon afterward, he will regret his dismissal as the prey becomes the predators.

This is a terrific art theft romantic whodunit starring two beloved enemies who enter into instant verbal combat from the onset and never take a breather break except for kissing. With a throwback feel to the 1930s Hepburn-Tracy wars inside of a modern investigative thriller, fans will fully enjoy the latest Avalon tale as Vincent wonders if he is Touch Enough to not just compete with kick-butt Claudia, but to loosen his tie around her.

Harriet Klausner

Montana Legacy-R.C. Ryan

Montana Legacy
R.C. Ryan
Forever, Mar 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446548618

Coot McCord spent his life seeking gold lost on the family ranch. His endeavor destroyed the family, but in death his three grandsons, first cousins, return to the spread to pay their respects to the old Coot. His will simply states that the trio will earn a share if they remain on the ranch to search for the missing gold.

Jesse McCord remained on the ranch though his beloved Amy Parrish broke his heart when she left without a word. Besides his two cousins (Wyatt and Zane) who left years ago, Amy is also back in town caring for her sick father. To his chagrin he still loves her, but needs to know why she left and how she truly feels. He may not have time to learn what he wants to know as someone has plans for the ranch and eliminating a cousin or a girlfriend is no problem.

The opening act of the McCord cousins’ trilogy is an enjoyable contemporary ranch romance with suspense coming in the second half of the story line; once the reader meets the key cast. This second chance at love is character driven with solid secondary protagonists and a wonderful lead pair although fans will think Jesse is using his wrong head with how fast he forgives his beloved Amy. Still that aside, the audience will appreciate this Big Sky Country opening act with Wyatt’s Destiny and Zane’s Glory to soon further enjoy R.C. Ryan’s Montana tour.

Harriet Klausner

Fall Into Me-Pauline Trent

Fall Into Me
Pauline Trent
Zebra, Mar 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780821781425

In Lambert Falls, South Carolina Sheriff Bobby Granger is euphoric to learn a favorite author Howard Michaels is coming to town to write a book on the law enforcement official’s ancestor. When Michaela Howard arrives to conduct research on her next novel, Bobby is stunned not so much that he is a she, but how attracted he is to the big city author.

The widower knows not to get involved as he has his nieces to care for even with one getting married soon and the other attending community college; besides he has a lifestyle of being by himself except for the kids since his wife Abby died almost two decades ago. Finally he fears risking his heart because he expects Michaela to leave once she finishes her work here. Yet Granger cannot stop himself from wanting her though he doubts he has anything to offer her.

This is an entertaining second chance at love romance starring a nurturing widower and a nice successful writer. The support cast wants the best for Bobby, especially the nieces he raised, even as he blunders his way to love. Although a final airport spin should lead to firings and reprimands, and the overall plot is thin, fans will enjoy the return to Lambert Falls (see Falling in Love).

Harriet Klausner

Serpent Moon-C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp

Serpent Moon
C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp
Tor, Mar 2 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780765364258

The Sazi still struggle with understanding alpha werewolf Eric Thompson’s howling skill that somehow interferes with airwaves; his problem is though he can do it, he is unable to control his howling talent. Recently converted by a horrific assault into a Sazi, Holly Sanchez becomes a healer and is sent to the Outback to find Eric by Wolven

However, she has learned that a Sazi relatives support group plans to use an elixir on the werewolves that will return them to Homo sapiens. At the same time the scheme to resurrect Marduc the snake goddess is nearing fruition. Holly and Eric team up to prevent two probable tragedies from occurring.

This is a great entry in the Tales of the Sazi mythos as Marduc arrives on the scene seemingly invincible. The story line is fast-paced and filled with non stop action as previously secondary character Holly proves she with the Canadian wolf can hold an exhilarating story line together in Colorado. With no time to catch a breath once the lead couple meets in the Outback, readers will fully relish the latest Sazi romantic urban fantasy as nothing less than love and saving the world at the same time is at stake.

Harriet Klausner

The Vampire And The Virgin-Kerrelyn Sparks

The Vampire And The Virgin
Kerrelyn Sparks
Avon, Mar 9 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061667862

Vampire Robby MacKay heads to the Greek isle of Patmos to recover from his captivity by the Malcontents before seeking vengeance on those who held him prisoner. At the same time, FBI psychologist Olivia Satiris travels to Patmos to spend time with her grandmother and avoid a stalker.

Olivia and Robby meet with her stunned that her psychic skill of sensing emotions fails with him and he shocked to fall in love at first sight. However, her stalker has followed Olivia to Greece, which makes her wonder if Robby is her predator. As he vows to keep his true love safe, Robby knows he must reveal what he conceals from her though once he does he assumes she will flee from him out of fear of love at first bite.

The eighth sparkling Love at Stake urban fantasy romance is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action, but belongs to the PTSD embittered Robby. He refreshes the story line from the onset with his need to avenge his torture by the Russians and with his falling in love with the virgin shrink. Fans will enjoy the latest entry (see Forbidden Nights With a Vampire and Secret Life Of A Vampire) though readers will wonder why Dr. Satiris as a shrink and a Fed so easily assumes the worst re Robby.

Harriet Klausner

Secret of the Dragon-Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Secret of the Dragon
Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
Tor, Mar 16 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765319746

The power of the old gods led by Torval is waning and new gods led by Aelon and worshipped by the Sinarians and the Gods of Raj are challenging them for power. To regain their supremacy, the old gods must have the Five Bones of the primal Vektia Dragons, hidden and scattered across the world by the dragon goddess Vindrash during creation. One is owned by the Sinarions; one in the land of the ogres; and three are unknown. Whoever has the bones possesses the power of creation.

On the mortal plane, Skylan Ivorson and his sea raiding crew inclding the Bone Goddess Treia, and her sister Aylean are betrayed by Raegar, a Vindraisi turned warrior priest of Aelon who leads the enemy Sinarians to them. The crew is captures and sold into slavery while Treia who is Raegar’s lover will do anything for him. They become the slaves of Lord Acronis and are expected to battle in Para Dix games in an arena especially built for the warrior battles. Skylan discovers how deep Raegar’s treachery goes and luckily he finds where the dragon bone is interred foils his plan. Unfortunately Skylane may not be able to do anything to stop him permanently even with his knowledge because he needs the aid of the vanished dragon Kahg and the gods.

This book picks up where Bones of the Dragon ended so it behooves the audience to read the previous tale first, but also be aware that the climax of this thriller is a cliffhanger too that will require the next entry to resolve how the hero gets out of his predicament; if he does. Skylan is a sort of Indiana Jones character landing in one dangerous escapade after another with no chance to breath in between his adventures. He relies on his instincts and his crew to achieve their mission and stay alive. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman provide another superb Bones epic fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Kindly Ones-Jonathan Littell

The Kindly Ones
Jonathan Littell
Harper, Feb 2 2010, $16.99
ISBN: 9780061353468

In France, Dr. Maximilien Aue decides to write his memoir focusing on his war experience years ago. Now with a family, Max muses about when he was SS, not only did he oversee and report on the mass murdering of Jews in the Ukraine, he proudly and gleefully participated. He gave tours pf Auschwitz and Birkenau and survived Stalingrad and Hitler's final bunker. His big philosophical spin back in the early days rivals the middle ages how many angels on a pin as he mused how many bodies makes a grave mass?

Looking back at what he considers his only failure, his tormented love for his twin sister, Una, who wants nothing to do with her Herr Doktor brother. Like much of his peers, he anticipated the end of the Third Reich so now what. He knew the Russians make the SS look gentle so he chose the West as Berlin burned.

This is not an easy read as Aue is all over the place with his wandering dialogue that at times meanders more than the River Mosel and often feels like a particular sequence is eternal. Adding to the difficulty of perusing his account is that Aue is not likeable and does not seek redemption; in fact his dissertation is a matter of fact chat of a brutal way of life and death. In other words he is still a cold psychopath concealing his past inside a middle class family. Throughout readers will ask how a culturally aware doctor could commit atrocities but Aue never responds beyond his casual that’s life, death and all the torture in between philosophy. Not for everyone, The Kindly Ones is a convoluted hard to follow essay that argues life is brutal, vicious and expendable with human predators hunting and torturing human prey.

Harriet Klausner

The Summer Hideaway-Susan Wiggs

The Summer Hideaway
Susan Wiggs
Mira, Feb 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327998

Medvac helicopter pilot Ross Bellamy comes home after two years deployed in Afghanistan. His beloved grandfather, George, has terminal cancer, and refuses to receive any more medical treatment. Instead George has gone to Willow Lake in the Catskills to reconcile with his brother Charles before he dies; George’s three sons had no idea he even had a brother.

George hires private-duty nurse Claire Turner, whose specialty is palliative care for the terminally ill, to accompany him. His family thinks Claire is using George and has the local cops thinking she kidnapped him. However, Ross observing very carefully knows otherwise as she is a caring professional. What he does not understand is why the beautiful Claire has buried herself with the Bellamy brothers and their kin in Avalon, New York; not that he is complaining as he is attracted to her. She reciprocates, but romance is not in the cards of someone in hiding having seen a murder but is ineligible for the witness protection program as the homicide was not a federal offense.

Although Claire’s teenage past as a homicide witness is over the Catskills, fans will relish the return to Willow Lake starring a feisty dying Bellamy, his family especially his grandson, and a brave heroine fearing who may find her in rural New York. The character driven story line grips the audience when the Auburn cop pulls over Claire and George because his daughter-law from California hysterically convinces the police he is a kidnap victim. Fans will enjoy The Summer Hideaway as love grows with the Bellamy brood.

Harriet Klausner

Out of Body-Stella Cameron

Out of Body
Stella Cameron
Mira, Mar 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9780778327622

Marley Millet is a psychic just like generations of her family before her. Lately she has suffered from a horrific nightmare; the underworld Embran torturing young women. Marley knows the Embran loathes her for what her ancestors did to the loathsome beast.

In New Orleans fearing for women, Marley visits NOPD Detective Archer who treats her like she is a crazy lady though much of her rumbling proves true. Meanwhile the Ushers inside her head mock her failure. Only reporter Gray Fisher, a retired cop, who talked with several of the surviving torture victims, believes her. As Gray and Marley team up to prevent the Embran from harming anyone else, they fall in love, which stimulates his previously unknown psychic skills.

This is a terrific paranormal romantic suspense starring a wonderful heroine, her distracting dog Willow and a former cop who finds her amusing and attractive as the colorful sparks they make confuse him and surprise her. The cast is fully developed to include the predator from beyond. Fans will enjoy this exciting fast-paced thriller as the crazy lady, Willow and her beloved reporter battle a nasty underworld serial killer.

Harriet Klausner

Moonlight Road-Robyn Carr

Moonlight Road
Robyn Carr
Mira, Mar 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327684

Although never a mom, attorney Erin Foley feels the empty nest syndrome as the younger siblings she raised have moved on. Taking a time out to reassess her life, she plans on a summer vacation in Virgin River.

After fourteen years with the Navy, Dr. Aiden Riordan has left the military. He comes to Virgin River to visit family with plans to stay around until his sister-in-law Shelby gives birth.

When the two visitors meet, sparks fly and not just from heads clashing into inanimate objects. Still she prefers some alone time and he never moved past his horrific former marriage to Annalee. When his ex wife demands reentry into his life and much more, Aiden goes back into his solitary confinement.

The latest return to Virgin River is a pleasant tale filled with humor and poignancy as neither the lawyer nor the doctor are ready for love, but love is ready for them. The support cast as always is solid with everyone except Annalee rooting for Erin and Aiden to find happiness with one another. Although Annalee and her antics are over the top of Mount Tamalpais, fans will enjoy the latest visit to Virgin River.

Harriet Klausner

An Impossible Attraction-Brenda Joyce

An Impossible Attraction
Brenda Joyce
Harlequin HQN, Feb 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774609

Alexandra Bolton became a seamstress to bring in needed money for her family. However, in 1845 her wastrel widower father informs her he needs funds to pay debts so she will marry either wealthy middle aged Squire Denney or some other affluent member of the Ton. She reluctantly agrees to sacrifice her desires because of a death bed pledge she made to her mom to care for her two younger sisters.

Bolton and his three daughters attend a ball at the home of Sir Rex de Warenne and Lady Blanche. Alexandra realizes her arrival is a blunder as her friends treat her like hired help since she has been doing their sewing. When her father becomes too drunk, she tries to take him home. On the way out, Alexandra meets thirtyish wealthy Stephen, the Duke of Clarewood. They are attracted to one another until he has her. Her father tosses her to the street as a fallen woman and her Stephen rejects her believing she was trying to trap him.

This is a superb early Victorian romance starring a courageous woman and the man she loves who is in denial. The story line of a good woman “falling” to the street in rejection is not new (see Cheryl Holt’s Spinster Curse saga), but incredibly refreshed by Brenda Joyce with her strong casting and not just the lead couple. Fans will admire Alexandra's moral fortitude while knowing she will survive her ordeal but wonder if she will be with Stephen or a new beau Owen. Brenda Joyce is at her best, which says something about this novel, as her historicals are always excellent.

Harriet Klausner

The Cold Room-J.T. Ellison

The Cold Room
J.T. Ellison
Mira, Mar 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327141

Nashville homicide detective Taylor Jackson arrives at a murder scene in which her fiancé FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin is stunned by how similar the corpse is to that of an Italian serial killer, Il Macellaio, a case he has consulted on with New Scotland Yard Inspector James Highsmythe. In the Tennessee case and those throughout Europe, the Butcher starves his victims inside a glass coffin before strangling and finally having sex with them. He completes his horrific act by duplicating masterpieces of art with his dead.

When a second corpse is found similar to the first yet somewhat different than that of the Italian Butcher, the Americans wonder if there are two psychopaths loose. To verify their revised assumption, Taylor and Baldwin travel to Europe to join Highsmythe to uncover the truth they fear of a cross Atlantic contest of sorts.

The Cold Room is an exciting frightening serial killer thriller that grips the audience with the glass coffin scenario; a sort of Sleeping Beauty, but the Prince is Darkness not Charming; the artistic posing of the corpse adds to the eerie aura of the plot. The story line is fast-paced as cops on two continents struggle to prevent the next rape-murder, but are unsure if they are dealing with one or two psychopaths. Readers will be spellbound throughout, but don’t snack as Jackson and Baldwin return for another gripping police procedural (see Judas, Kiss, All The Pretty Girls and 14).

Harriet Klausner

Shift-Rachel Vincent

Rachel Vincent
Mira, Mar 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327608

The civil war between Werecat clans seems imminent. Malone has challenged Sanders for the pivotal Chair of the Territorial Council. Although Sanders and his daughter Faythe wants to grieve the death of his son Ethan (see Prey), she will be there for her dad; as will the rest of their Pride.

As the other council members try to prevent clan war, the Sanders Alpha sends their tabbies (Faythe, Manx and Kaci) to safety. However, instead of reaching the haven, the thunderbirds catch the trio. To save Kaci’s life, Faythe cuts a deal that sends her, her mate Marc Ramos and Calvin’s stepson Jace, whom the two lovers do not trust, into Malone territory with no guarantees.

Though the plot is a bit thin, this is an exhilarating werewolf thriller as Faythe is at her best with her first person account of the seemingly inevitable civil war, her capture with the younger tabbies and her venture into enemy territory with her mate and the stepson of her dad’s rivals. Fans will appreciate her latest escapades while newcomers will seek the backlist (see Pride, Rogue and Shift) as the former student knows werewolf blood will flow unless she and her two traveling hunks pull off a miracle.

Harriet Klausner

The River King's Road-Liane Merciel

The River King's Road
Liane Merciel
Gallery Books, (Pocket), Mar 9 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9781439159118

Once Oakharn and Langmyr were provinces of the same empire, but when the empire collapsed, both became kingdoms on opposite sides of the Seivern River. War has been a constant between the two countries with many dying on both sides. Sir Galefrid of Bull’s March in Oakharn travels with his wife and infant son to Willowfield in Langmyr hoping to broker a peace. While they attend church, they and the locals are attacked; the only survivors of the atrocity are the infant Winston, son of Galefrid and brother to Leferic. The mercenary knight Brys Tarnell takes care of Winston until he can get him to safety.

The massacre is just the beginning as a red mist appears in the village killing everyone. Brys knows it is a Thorn’s doing. A Thorn is a maimed witch, acruel sadistic killer; void of human feelings. What he is ignorant of is that Galefred’s acrimonious brother Leferic, coveting power, made a deal with evil. Leferic is now the lord, but learns Winston lives; he makes another deal with the devil to eliminate the heir. Brys and peasant woman Odosse seek a safe place for the baby as Leferic’s hired Thorn gives chase. Every step is dangerous as Leferic needs Winston dead.

This is a delightful epic fantasy that will remind readers of the movie Willow in a Terry Brooks’ early Shannon saga. The good guys and gals are likable and admirable as they sacrifice their safety to keep the infant safe. A key element is that the audience will understand Leferic whose sibling rivalry and jealousy has turned him into a sociopath with ambition and willingness to cut any Faustian deal to achieve his goal of power. Although more infant issues would have been a terrific addition, fans will root for the mercenary, the peasant and the baby as they try to stay alive.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 25, 2010

Once Bitten, Twice Dead-Bianca D’Arc

Once Bitten, Twice Dead
Bianca D’Arc
Kensington Brava, Mar 2010, $14.00
ISBN 9780758247292

Police officer Sarah Petit investigates a routine call in an abandoned building that she assumes is being used by the homeless or teens drinking. Instead zombies assault her. She survives the assault, but is stunned by these B movie attackers.

She goes to a nearby hospital for treatment. Green Beret Captain Xavier Beauvoir visits Officer Petit at the hospital where he explains to her the zombie disease was accidentally created by the military and that Sarah is one of few people with natural immunity. He further elucidates that her immunity may prevent further mass calamity from occurring though the enemy continues to create more of these monsters.

This is a fun zombie romance in which the love subplot is shockingly between two humans. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of zombie action. Although the prime villain comes across as a Hollywood B level stereotype, readers will enjoy the cop and the soldier battle the paranormal, the brass (his and hers) and love in Bianca D’Arc’s exciting supernatural military romance.

Harriet Klausner

Taming the Moon-Sherrill Quinn

Taming the Moon
Sherrill Quinn
Kensington Brava, Mar 2010, $14.00
ISBN 9780758231918

Holding six years old Zoe as hostage to force her mom to perform a deadly deed, New York werewolf pack alpha Eddy ordered omega Olivia Felan to kill Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Rory Sullivan or else have her daughter returned in a body bag. Olivia is attracted to the cop and instead of killing him, accidentally turned him into a furry shapeshifter like she is (see Seducing the Moon) though he is unaware she was the one who changed him.

However, crazy Eddy still holds Zoe so she warns Olivia to complete the mission before his patience runs out. She heads to the Southwest United States where she confesses everything except one biting mission to Sully; he persuades her to team up with him to rescue Zoe and kill Eddy; as well as for some wolfish sex. Once that mission is done, Sully plans to find the werewolf who converted him and kill the beast.

This is an entertaining werewolf romantic suspense starring a beleaguered omega who can turn lioness when it comes to her cub. The story line is fast-paced, but a bit thin especially for newcomers as the previous Sherrill Quinn Moon howlers (see Daring the Moon and Seducing the Moon) provide the depth as to how Olivia and Sully got to the point they have reached. Fans will enjoy this fun tale of an omega turning alpha to rescue her daughter.

Harriet Klausner

To Sin with a Scoundrel-Cara Elliott

To Sin with a Scoundrel
Cara Elliott
Forever, Feb 23 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446541299

Single mom Lady Ciara Sheffield loves two things: her eight-year-old son, Peregrine and chemistry. The inquest into her husband's sudden death determined Sheffield died of natural causes. However, her in-laws insist he was poisoned by her and the rags initially call her a witch but soon accuse her of scientific homicide. Sheffield’s sister and his nephew Arthur Battersham demand a new inquest as they spread the word Ciara used her brilliant chemist’s mind as the “Wicked Witch of Pont Street” to kill her spouse.

Since the Battersham duet is big shots, they have a great chance of a second inquiry. Ciara knows why the Battersham want her declared unfit to raise her son so they can have access to his fortune as his guardian and consequently pay off Arthur’s humongous gambling debts. Her close friends, the Circle of Scientific Sibyls, also known as the Circle of Sin decide Ciara needs a fiancé with connections to shut everyone up with one aristocratic stare. They choose Lucas “Mad Bad Had-ley” Bingham, who cares about no one except his beloved Uncle Henry Phelps, confined to a wheelchair. Henry has found a manuscript allegedly written by Hippocrates and asks Lucas to visit Ciara to translate it. They cut a deal with her working on the manuscript and he escorting her. As they fall in love, accidents begin to occur too frequently to be accidents.

The Circle of Sin historical romance is a fun tale starring a beleaguered heroine, a rakish antihero, the Scientific Sybils, the wealthy child, the uncle and razor thin villains. The story line is fast-paced though it remains somewhat by the subgenre book in spite of the overall strong cast. Still fans will appreciate Lady Ciara as she challenges her in-laws, the Ton, and love with the incorrigible Mad Bad Had-ley at her side.

Harriet Klausner

The Dead Travel Fast-Deanna Raybourn

The Dead Travel Fast
Deanna Raybourn
Mira, Mar 2010, $13.95
ISBN 9780778327653

In 1858, writer Theodora Lestrange hates her life in Scotland as everyone she knows wonders why she remains a spinster though she enjoys writing spirited books under the pseudonym T. Lestrange. Needing to escape the misery, she heads to Transylvania to attend her best friend Cosmina’s wedding in Hermannstdat, Transylvania.

Theodora is put up in a dilapidated castle that the locals whisper about in fearful ominous tones. She finds herself feeling different about the castle; perhaps because she is attracted to the owner Count Andrei Dragulescu. However, though he reciprocates her deep feelings, he has a secret that if she learns he will have to leave her dead.

This is a terrific gothic romance starring a wonderful courageous heroine who while in seeming danger reflects back to her last comment in Edinburgh: “What could possibly happen to me in Transylvania?”, obviously everything. The story line is fast-paced as Theodora and readers unravel the truth behind the local legend of the vampire and of her enigmatic host. Although Andrei never seems quite worthy of Theodora, fans will root for the brave woman as she learns that The Dead Travel Fast when the heart is involved.

Harriet Klausner

Hazard-Gardiner Harris

Gardiner Harris
Minotaur, Mar 16 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312570163

In Hazard, Kentucky, the Blue Gem Mine is flooded trapping several coal miners. Amos Blevins tries to rescue his peers in a frantic effort. However, in spite of his attempts, nine men die before the surface help can reach them.

Although his older brother Paul owns the Blue Gem Mine, Mine Safety and Health Administration inspector Will Murphy investigates the tragedy. Everyone assumes a whitewash, but Will detests his sibling so he digs much deeper than anyone expects. He finds problems that are beyond typical management neglect, which could close the mine; leaving his brother bankrupt and the town unemployed; but to do nothing condones unsafe conditions.

This thriller grips the audience from the opening sequence inside the mine and never slows down as the tragedy occurs, the media goes ballistic, and the inspector investigates. Readers will meet a vast cast but besides the brothers it is the surviving miners, their families and those who lost loved ones inside the Blue Gem who make the tale poignant. Will has a difficult choice to make as closing the mine destroys Hazard, but leaving it open destroys families when the next disaster occurs. Gardiner Harris hooks readers with a strong character driven relevant tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Life of O’Reilly-Brian Cohen

The Life of O’Reilly
Brian Cohen
Rising Star (iUniverse), Aug 2009, $17.95
ISBN: 9781440150258

Because of the media brouhaha over bringing in millions and doing nothing for the community, Wall St law firm, Williams, Gardner & Schmidt decide to do some Pro Bono cases. They choose NYS Bar Associate Trial Lawyers Section Chairman and company junior partner Nicholas O’Reilly to handle their first case.

His client is twenty-six year old Dawn Nelson, a mother of not quite three year old Jordan. She wants a divorce and a restraining order to keep her abusive spouse Jimmy, a stockbroker, away from them. Nicholas meets mother and son at the offices of the NYC Legal Services. Though his expertise is corporate law and not family law, Nicholas pledges to do what is best for his client. At their first meeting, he gives Jordan a Thomas truck to play with, which Dawn appreciates. As they work close together, Dawn reminds Nick what matters in life as he finds no satisfaction helping odious fat cats get off from situations they earned. Instead he finds himself working so much harder with so much satisfaction for the indigent mother and child.

The Life of O’Reilly is a deep character driven legal thriller starring a man who learns what life is all about when he takes on his first pro bono case as he has a client with a human face as opposed to a corporate mask (recent Supreme Court decision aside). The story line focuses on the changing attitude of Nick who begins to question is that all there is once he realizes how beautiful a person Dawn is and how precious Jordan is. Readers will appreciate the gift the Nelsons give Nick when they replace his cynicism with hopeful idealism.

Harriet Klausner

Jordan-Susan Kearney

Susan Kearney
Forever, Feb 23 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446543330

The Tribes destroy any planet in the galaxy who defies their edicts. Their current plan is to devastate the earth for rebelling as no one defies the Tribes.

Vesta Corporation CEO Vivianne Blackstone works on a spaceship to protect earth from the venomous Tribes. When she realizes her chief engineer, Jordan McArthur, submitted a phony résumé, she confronts him with the evidence. Instead of denying what she shows him, Jordan sends the spaceship Draco into space with him, Vivianne, some workers and a dog on board. Jordan has a vendetta that goes back centuries when Trendonis of the Tribes destroyed his world. Once known as Merlin, he uses his Staff as the fuel source to propel the Draco, but he and his crew must obtain the three Keys of Space, Wind, and Soil to power up his Staff in order to link it with the Holy Grail or watch earth face annihilation. He is falling in love with Vivianne, but Jordan conceals his feelings because if he succeeds in saving the earth and beyond by destroying the Tribe, he dies too.

The third Pendragon Legacy (see Lucan and Rion) is an excellent finish to a strong romantic science fiction trilogy with a terrific Arthurian magical link. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing of two strong personalities who are in conflict as she wants to save her planet while he wants to save a universe. Fans will enjoy this exciting thriller in which the courageous heroes know that if they succeed in defeating the Tribe, he expects to die but harder on his soul, he fears she will too; a risk she willingly takes.

Harriet Klausner

Star Wars: Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth-Karen Miller

Star Wars: Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth
Karen Miller
Del Rey, Feb 23 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345509024

The Galaxy is at war with the Republic fighting the Separatists Alliance led by Count Dooku who has an unknown Sith master. They are using the dark side of the Force with planets falling to them. Their latest assault is at Kothlis and its strategic Spy-Net Facility. Jedi knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker lead the land and space battle that leaves countless dead and injured while both Jedi know their side is losing the war even though they won this battle.

When they return to the homeworld of the Jedi Order and the political center of the Republic, Senator Organa tells the two Jedi Knights that the Separatists conquered the impoverished world Lanteeb, a place so isolated in the outer rim no one can fathom why the Seps went there. The senator knows their must be something of value on that remote orb, but what is unknown. Anakin and Obi-Ben travel to Lanteeb and learn why the Seps’, led by General Durd, conquered Lanteeb and it is critical they stop him or billions will die.

This is the first of a duology starring two of the more fascinating Star War characters. The story line is fast-paced from the opening battle sequence and when the two Jedi are caught behind enemy lines on Lanteeb. The battles as always on screen and in books are vivid enhancing the non stop action. Anakin is a fabulous protagonist whose doubts abut the Jedi and their cause grows with the defeats. Fans will enjoy the opening of the Clone Wars Gambit and look forward to the continual adventures of Anakin and Ob-Ben trying to survive yet also must prevent Durd’s plan from occurring as the setback would be impossible to overcome.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Brigid of Kildare-Heather Terrell

Brigid of Kildare
Heather Terrell
Ballantine, Feb 9 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345505125

In Ireland desperately in need of money, the Sisters of St. Brigid plan to sell valuable ancient relics. They hire art appraiser Alexandra Patterson to evaluate their collection. Exhilarated with the assignment, Alex begins to catalogue the collection. However, she is stunned when she finds a beautifully scribed tome from apparently the fifth century. She wonders if this illuminated text could be the legendary lost Book of Kildare. Her colleague and former lover Trinity College Professor Declan Lamb supports her belief.

Apparently the Church, fearing the imminent collapse of the Roman Empire could take them down too, turn aggressive against anyone who may cause dissension. In that regard, Brother Decius travels to Gael to accuse Abbess Brigid of heresy. Once there he finds her faith as inspiring and asks her to let him scribe her tale to convert the Gael pagans.

As Heather Terrell did with The Map Thief, the author weaves a past and present duality into a delightful cohesive tale. The Brigid of Kildare subplot is a terrific look at the Church’s efforts to survive the collapse of Rome mostly told through the relationship between Decius and the title Saint. However, the modern day art sleuths fail to attain the same level of caring and passion that the ancient couple possesses especially Brigid’s efforts to bring the Gael to Christianity. Still fans will enjoy this fine thriller starring a woman whose belief was so strong she not just converted the locals, she persuaded the Roman to join her quest and leave readers admiring her.

Harriet Klausner

Conspirata-Robert Harris

Robert Harris
Simon & Schuster, Feb 2 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780743266109

The stage is filled with competitors who know no ethics; the likes of Pompey and that upstart Caesar to name a few. However, as slick as his opponents are, in 63 B.C., Marcus Cicero is chosen as the Consul of Rome though not a good time to take over as ruler with all the unrest further enflamed by his opponents and even his allies.

Two days before the oath of office, a young male slave is brutally murdered with his organs removed in what appears to have been a human sacrificial ritual. Fear spreads through the city and Cicero knows even before he takes over he has issues. As the Empire grows, Cicero concludes the biggest threat to the fall of the Roman Empire is from within by the avaricious seeking personal power. He proves to be right when he is fortunate to prevent an assassination that would turn the Republic into a dictatorship, but his strongest rival Caesar survives the defeated conspiracy proving to Cicero this is his biggest threat.

As told once again by slave secretary Tiro (see Imperum), Conspirata is a superb complex Ancient Rome political thriller with ramifications to modern day America. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action that brings to life Ancient Rome in the first century BC, a place filled with riots, civil unrest, and corruption (could easily be DC). Fans will enjoy this strong saga especially Tiro’s side commentary and observations as to why would anyone with a sane mind want this ruler job when you can read a book or in modern Twitter text watch Rangers’ baseball or Bull’s basketball.

Harriet Klausner

Rogue Threat- A. J. Tata

Rogue Threat
A. J. Tata
Variance, Oct 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781935142096

Having survived the Battle of the Philippines against the Japanese, former CIA field agent Matt Garret heals from his physical wounds, but not mentally. He grieves the loss of brother Zachary who died in the Sudden Threat combat, but also remains outraged by the duplicity in DC that led to his sibling’s death and an unnecessary war.

His new mantra of trust no one is put to the test by Peyton; who comes to his assistance. Meanwhile, effective and efficient terrorist attacks on American soil leave thousands dead. Those directing the assault begin an invasion deployment. Matt leads a counterinsurgency against the terrorists as both sides understand they will die for their cause.

From start to finish, General (Retired) Tata provides an action-packed twisting thriller that grips the audience throughout though the argument of deliberate action on the part of terrorists to suck the Americans into Iraq seems a conspiratorial stretch; a more logical premise is the stupidity of the superiority of the neo Ugly American. The part that feels plausible is the cautionary mantra to trust no one as mass murder on a scale that makes the Twin Towers look like a drive-by will frighten the reader because it seems so possible. Fans will relish this exhilarating military-political thriller as General Tata makes the Pogo case that the enemy is us.

Harriet Klausner

Sudden Threat-A. J. Tata

Sudden Threat
A. J. Tata
Variant, Oct 2010, $9.99
ISBN: 9781935142089

9/11 will go down in infamy, but behind the scenes before, during and after, powerful forces have taken advantage to further secret agendas. Japanese Prime Minister Mizuzawa sees an opportunity in Pacific Asia with the Americans totally occupied with Afghanistan and seemingly Iraq. His New Japan has allies in DC especially with the "The Rolling Stones" who see the terrorist attack on American soil as a chance to redo the world in their image.

In Pakistan CIA Agent Matt Garrett hunts down Al Qaeda top level authorities closing in on bringing home the head of Bin Laden on a platter. As he gets closer to his target working his way through a series on concentric circles protecting Bin Laden; he is abruptly pulled from the region and sent on what seems to him as a minor mission in the jungles of the Philippines. However, once there he finds who should not be there: a dead American soldier. As Matt digs deeper into this anomaly, he begins to realize that Muslim extremism is being used by Japan as a ploy to conceal their ambition to refight WW II with a different outcome.

This is a fast-paced alternate historical thriller that hooks the audience throughout as General (retired) Tata provides an intriguing conspiracy premise. The action never stops coming whether it is in the Middle East, the eastern seaboard or the Asian Pacific. Although readers will feel the New Japan scheme and several inside the White House power moves are over the top of Mount Apo, conspiracy fans and military buffs will enjoy this post 9/11 one-sided tale that clearly shows the American military living up to its values.

Harriet Klausner

A Local Habitation-Seanan McGuire

A Local Habitation
Seanan McGuire
Daw, Mar 3 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756405960

Half Fae changeling October “Toby” Daye has become a private investigator in the world of mortals as she distrusts her Faerie heritage more than that of the sneaky humans. However, though her preference is to say no, Toby knows better than to refuse a request from her Fairie liege The Shadowed Hills Duke Sylvester Torquill. Coming to her abode in San Francisco, he asks her to insure that his niece, the Countess of Tamed Lightening, is okay as she has ceased all contact with her family.

The Countess January O'Leary runs an information management company in which she employs purebred and changeling fae. A serial killer is murdering the staff. Toby investigates trying to prevent more homicides from occurring; not expecting her inquiries to intertwine.

The second October Daye (Rosemary and Rue) private investigative urban fantasy is a wonderful one sitting read that hooks the audience from the first visitation to the last. Toby terrific is tough and spunky as she holds the dual investigations together with her Noir like scrutiny. Fans will enjoy the heroine’s tours of San Francisco and the land of Fairie as she works a deadly whodunit case while wondering if October will survive long enough to see November.

Harriet Klausner

Blood of the Demon-Diana Rowland

Blood of the Demon
Diana Rowland
Bantam, Feb 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553592368

Beaulac, Louisiana police detective Kara Gillian fears for the life of her beloved Aunt Tessa who remains comatose as the cop’s othersight showed her a part of her "essence" has vanished. Having once before summoned demon Lord Rhyzkahl (see the Mark of the Demon) and survived the mystical calling, she considers doing it again to ask for his help with her aunt. Rhyzkahl has reasons for wanting the mortal to summon him again.

Kara realizes the suicide of police officer Brian Roth who apparently murdered his wife was caused by the arcane as her oversight sees evidence that something dined on his essence. She vows to learn what committed this atrocity, but her inquiry leads to FBI agent Ryan Kristoff who does not want her to ask Rhyzkahl for help.

The second Gillian police procedural Bayou fantasy is a great thriller that grips the audience the moment the heroine stops at Roth’s house to wake him up and never slows down as she works the case of the essence eater. Kara holds the arcane investigation together while her convoluted relationships with the demon and the fed enhance the strong saga in which forensics takes quite a paranormal twist.

Harriet Klausner

Chill-Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear
Spectra (Random House), Feb 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553591088

The survivors on board the Jacob's Ladder know they are fortunate to be alive following the supernova destruction of their sun. However, as the injured like Tristen Conn learn from Angel their world dropped to 43 percent intact due to the explosion. There are areas of the space vessel that are beyond repair while the known zone suffers from all types of catastrophic deterioration. Newly appointed Captain Perceval struggles with the remaining rebels led by Arianrhod, who has fled to unknown areas and personal doubts about the right course of action.

Tristen and Benedick pursue Arianrhod through regions of the world they've never visited before. What they observe shakes both of them up while Arianrhod tries to find time to regroup the rebels. Neither pursuer realizes the danger to their way of life that surfaces.

The second Jacobs Ladder parable is a fabulous fast-paced space odyssey that fans of Elizabeth Bear will relish though newcomers must read the previous tale Dust to understand how the populace got to the point of the explosion. The reactions of Tristen and Benedick make the story line fun to read as they visit locations never seen before by either of them; observations that shake their belief system. The audience will relish a visit to the exciting Great Bear universe where the impossible is possible.

Harriet Klausner

Roadkill-Rob Thurman

Rob Thurman
Roc, Mar 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463197

The Auphe are dead and their home a wasteland; no one is more pleased with their demise than hybrid human-Auphe Cal Leandros and his purebred human brother Niko. Best friends as well as half-siblings, they no longer have to run and hide. In the open, they run their private investigation business without worry of an Auphe attack.

Both sleuths are shocked when the ancient gypsy granddame Abelia-Roo wants to hire them to find a coffin stolen from them that contains Suyolak the Plague of the World who if released causes horrific diseases. As much as the brothers prefer doing nothing for the backstabbing gypsy queen, they fear what Suyolak can do so follow the trail of Hevas. Rafferty the healer, his cousin Catcher, a were trapped in wolf form, Robin Goodfellow in between thoughts of monogamy and Cal’s sex buddy Delilah join the Leandros on their quest; albeit though Cal and Niko have doubts about each of their teammates epically Delilah who might be trying to kill them. The trail is filled with death as even a trapped Suyolak can kill.

Readers will continue to feel empathy towards Cal who due to his genetic make up as no friends within the preternatural community. His only loving contact remains his brother as both fears what will happen if his Auphe side overwhelms his human DNA. Only those who have a Deathwish would set out on this trek to capture and deal with a mass murderer. Readers will relish this roller coaster ride filled with danger, sharp Madhouse spins and twists as the unexpected is the norm in this urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Midwife Crisis-Lisa Cooke

A Midwife Crisis
Lisa Cooke
Leisure, Jan 26 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780843963625

In 1898 Wayne County, Virginia, midwife Katie Napier has a major crisis to face. Her family has decided she must be married so they have selected three viable candidates who they feel will make a proper husband. Katie feels like she suffers from battle fatigue disorder syndrome when she realizes three men claim to be her fiancé.

Dr. John Keffer left the big city and tragedy to start anew in Appalachia. Katie asks John how to gently tell the three males no and more important prevent her matchmaking family from sending three new recruits. However John has a different remedy to solving Katie’s problems than she expects: marry him instead.

This is an entertaining Americana romance starring a wonderful cast of eccentric characters. The lead couple is a nice pairing, but it is her family who steal the show as Katie and the audience knows from the onset when the brood sets its mind on something it gets done. With humor, Lisa Cooke bakes a fun lighthearted historical romp as the doctor makes a house call to help the midwife with her crisis.

Harriet Klausner