Monday, May 31, 2010

Going in Circles-Pamela Ribon

Going in Circles
Pamela Ribon
Downtown, May 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416503866

When Matthew Goodman walked out on his wife Charlotte, she was stunned as in her mind his ending their marriage came of nowhere as she thought she was his “Sunshine” even when she struggled to get out of bed in the morning. Matthew decides to come back home after a few weeks as a bachelor Charlotte struggles with his return.

Fuming with resentment as she had moved on in the phases of grief passed the denial stage to that of acceptance Charlotte walks out on a stunned Matthew. She moves into apartment to ponder whether she wants to remain married to her husband. However, she finds herself panicking over what she logically knows are nothings like weeping over a burrito while sitting on the curb. With anxiety and depression ruling her, Charlotte turns to creating her Plan in order to eliminate having to choose between taco and burrito, and most important no more shocking revelations as a to do list will provide her with security. Her family, her husband, her friends, and her co-workers demand not so subtly she must choose to be married or not to be married. However her new office friend Francesca offers her something different to consider, physical release via roller derby for the soul.

This is an entertaining coming of age character study though the lead protagonist is a thirty year old nonentity. Charlotte is a fascinating protagonist whose lack of confidence leads to crippling anxiety attacks. Her husband never comes across as fully developed nor does his reasoning. The rest of the support cast supports the heroine as she skates around the oval of life trying to learn to get up from the bumps and bruises her skinny butt suffers with every hit she takes for that’s life.

Harriet Klausner

Going in Circles-Pamela Ribon

Going in Circles
Pamela Ribon
Downtown, May 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416503866

When Matthew Goodman walked out on his wife Charlotte, she was stunned as in her mind his ending their marriage came of nowhere as she thought she was his “Sunshine” even when she struggled to get out of bed in the morning. Matthew decides to come back home after a few weeks as a bachelor Charlotte struggles with his return.

Fuming with resentment as she had moved on in the phases of grief passed the denial stage to that of acceptance Charlotte walks out on a stunned Matthew. She moves into apartment to ponder whether she wants to remain married to her husband. However, she finds herself panicking over what she logically knows are nothings like weeping over a burrito while sitting on the curb. With anxiety and depression ruling her, Charlotte turns to creating her Plan in order to eliminate having to choose between taco and burrito, and most important no more shocking revelations as a to do list will provide her with security. Her family, her husband, her friends, and her co-workers demand not so subtly she must choose to be married or not to be married. However her new office friend Francesca offers her something different to consider, physical release via roller derby for the soul.

This is an entertaining coming of age character study though the lead protagonist is a thirty year old nonentity. Charlotte is a fascinating protagonist whose lack of confidence leads to crippling anxiety attacks. Her husband never comes across as fully developed nor does his reasoning. The rest of the support cast supports the heroine as she skates around the oval of life trying to learn to get up from the bumps and bruises her skinny butt suffers with every hit she takes for that’s life.

Harriet Klausner

Going in Circles-Pamela Ribon

Going in Circles
Pamela Ribon
Downtown, May 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416503866

When Matthew Goodman walked out on his wife Charlotte, she was stunned as in her mind his ending their marriage came of nowhere as she thought she was his “Sunshine” even when she struggled to get out of bed in the morning. Matthew decides to come back home after a few weeks as a bachelor Charlotte struggles with his return.

Fuming with resentment as she had moved on in the phases of grief passed the denial stage to that of acceptance Charlotte walks out on a stunned Matthew. She moves into apartment to ponder whether she wants to remain married to her husband. However, she finds herself panicking over what she logically knows are nothings like weeping over a burrito while sitting on the curb. With anxiety and depression ruling her, Charlotte turns to creating her Plan in order to eliminate having to choose between taco and burrito, and most important no more shocking revelations as a to do list will provide her with security. Her family, her husband, her friends, and her co-workers demand not so subtly she must choose to be married or not to be married. However her new office friend Francesca offers her something different to consider, physical release via roller derby for the soul.

This is an entertaining coming of age character study though the lead protagonist is a thirty year old nonentity. Charlotte is a fascinating protagonist whose lack of confidence leads to crippling anxiety attacks. Her husband never comes across as fully developed nor does his reasoning. The rest of the support cast supports the heroine as she skates around the oval of life trying to learn to get up from the bumps and bruises her skinny butt suffers with every hit she takes for that’s life.

Harriet Klausner

A Visit from the Goon Squad-Jennifer Egan

A Visit from the Goon Squad
Jennifer Egan
Knopf, Jun 8 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307592835

Record-company executive Bennie Salazar wonders where the years went as he listens to another horrific band of young untalented egos that believe they belong at the top. Divorced, he feels removed from his tweener son as if he still lives in analog and the kid is digital. Bennie thinks back to the late 1970s in the Bay area when he was young and part of the punk band Flaming Dildos that thought they belonged at the top.

Bennie's former assistant Sasha is a mother hiding out in the desert after a youthful life of impulsive thieving. Her tweener daughter Alison thinks her mom is out of step with the digital world.

Meanwhile Bennie meets Alex who dated Sasha. He later hires him to obtain the services of fifty paid "parrots" to pretend to be fans of a group performing at a concert. His target audience he informs Alexis is the silent future majority who text rather than speak.

The key to the five decades of Bennie and others is what happens to a person when cynical age fueled by addictions and complacencies overcomes youthful rebellious fervor. Character driven with a powerful ensemble cast who all seem fully developed, the loci points anchor the epic story line are Bennie and Sasha. Jennifer Egan is a virtuoso as readers will relish the changes of the information age as music is a terrific milieu as the industry travels from vinyl to cassettes to CDs to DVDs; mirroring society.

Harriet Klausner

Body Rush-Anne Rainey

Body Rush
Anne Rainey
Kensington Aphrodisia, Jun 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758238993

“Secret Desires”. The three BFFs make a sexual bet. Prim and proper legal secretary Lydia detests the pompous suits she works for during the day. Lydia goes to a BDSM hoping to find satisfaction here. Three hood hunks compete for her, but one of them with his heads un-hooded is the star of her nocturnal fantasy seemingly forever.

“Turn Me On“. Neurosurgeon Dr. Roni is smart and sexy. Like in the OR, she dominates in the bedroom; that is until the computer guru teaches her that she does not have to always be in charge outside the hospital.

“Tasty Treats”. The biker shows up at her coffee shop every morning. Owner Jeanette salivates with desire, but he never makes a move. When she notices he seems to hunger for her she decides to offer herself as a dessert menu special.

These three interrelated novellas are heated vivid BDSM erotic tales starring likable women in lust and the men lusting after them. Although the story lines lack plausibility, readers will enjoy learning what the stakes were, who won the wager were and how the winner was decided.

Harriet Klausner

Miranda-M.R. Sellars

M.R. Sellars
Willow Tree, Jul 1 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9780979453366

Annalise Deveraux was the previously unknown half sister of witch Felicity O’Brien. Unlike her half-sibling, Annalise practiced voodoo using blood magic and invited the spirit of Miranda into her body. Miranda died over a century and a half ago; she was a sexual sadist who relished pain and murder. Annalise, at least what is still her as Miranda owns the shared body, are in a mental institution.

Miranda plots to leave the body shell of Annalise and enter the body of Felicity. The only reason she fails so far to enter her new body is Rowan Grant prevents her. Like his wife Felicity, Rowan is also a practicing witch; but unlike her he can also communicate with the dead. He visits Annalise in order to confront Miranda, but she makes him lose control, which causes Felicity to have unnatural desires from her corporal usurper. Miranda jumps out of Annalise’s body and cuts off Rowan’s communication with the dead. She kills enough people to insure she has enough power to retake Felicity’s body as she has done before (see All Acts of Pleasure). She succeeds, but family friends repel her leaving Felicity in a child like state and Rowan willing to do anything to get her soul back into her body.

Rowan Grant stars in another strong St. Louis urban fantasy as the evil Miranda returns to cause havoc (see the Miranda trilogy). Rowan has worked the ethereal plane before, but when it comes to the vicious Miranda, he knows it is personal as he wants her out of his wife’s body and their lives forever. Character driven, the lead couple shares a common belief to do what they believe is right even when it goes against the norm. M.R. Sellars has written another superb magical horror mystery thriller as one of the best villainesses of the last decade co-stars with Rowan and Felicity in a triangle from hell.

Harriet Klausner

Red Hood's Revenge-Jim C. Hines

Red Hood's Revenge
Jim C. Hines
Daw, Jul 6 2010, $ 7.99
ISBN: 9780756406080

As a child, Roudette witnessed the Hunt murder her grandmother. That was the impetus into turning her into the cold calculating assassin, Little Lady of the Red Hood.

Roudette’s current kill is Princess Talia better known as Sleeping Beauty. However, the trail to the royal leads Red to Talia’s two regal pals, Princesses Danielle (Cinderella) and Snow (White). The three royals have come a long way but each vows one for all and all for one as they unite to find the individual who hired Red Hood. Their quest takes them to Arathea where Talia remaines wanted for murdering the prince who awakened her from her slumber.

The latest Hines’ royal treatment of female stars of fairy tale classics (see The Stepsister Scheme and The Mermaid’s Madness) is a terrific fantasy that contains plenty of action and adventure, but also a much deeper look at the desires, motives and mental barriers of the lead trio than previously. Fast-paced, the somewhat thin plot focuses on Roudette’s hunting of Talia who prefers to take the fight to the queen of assassins. Readers will enjoy the latest escapades while wondering who will sleep with whom; as the four ladies know for ever after is found exclusively in fairy tales.

Harriet Klausner

God of War-Matthew Stover and Robert E. Vardeman

God of War
Matthew Stover and Robert E. Vardeman
Del Rey, May 2010, $15.00

Kratos the warrior knows that serving the Gods of Olympus means being a monstrous murderer. He accepted his fate as a slave but feels being labeled by his fellow Greeks as a murderous monster is unfair when Ares or Athena demand you do their bidding; saying no is not an option until now. The chains of the Blades of Chaos that bound him are broken as the Gods apparently abandoned him to his conscience as the Ghost of Sparta.

Hermes taunted Athena with news that her pet mortal was considering entering Hades. She is stunned and upset but believes Kratos’ downfall into thinking of suicide started with the Grave of Ships mission that set sail on the Aegean; leading him to an inferno engulfing Athens. His freedom from doing the biddings of Olympus was to kill Ares the God of War; someone Kratos loathes for atrocities on humanity that the God made him commit. Athena advised Kratos that the Blades of Chaos, the weapon he is bound to, is the only thing that could kill the God of War. He sought to confront Ares; with his goal that one of them will die, which one did not matter to Kratos.

Clearly intended for fans of the fantasy game, God of War provides an intriguing mythological thriller with an underlying message to watch what you wish for as sometimes you get what you asked for. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Athena thinks back to the adventures that led to her mortal pet being depressed and suicidal. Game players and Greek mythos readers will especially appreciate Kratos’ “final” (if he survives the Gods are a capricious crowd toying with their inferiors) quest.

Harriet Klausner

Veil of Justice-Regan Black

Veil of Justice
Regan Black
CreateSpace, May 2010, $11.99
ISBN: 9781452828138

In 2096 in Chicago, undercover agent Nathan Burkhardt is captured and held in solitary confinement as prisoner B-21187 by Dr. Leo Kristoff, whose illegal genetic experiments have him believing he is the Creator. His guards are assigned to break B-21187, but they are ignorant of his link to sanity. He has telepathic trysts he dreamingly shares with Kelly when she sleeps. However, she has severed their ties and without them he has no hope

His sisters Petra Callahan and Jaden Thomas search for him by searching for Petra’s missing assistant Kelly who is “dead” from any one’s radar. Kelly had disappeared with Nathan’s Mustang six months ago and her history goes back only five years. The target of the two siblings wants to die since the tragedy that engulfed her family resulted in the deaths of her father and six brothers. Meanwhile the growing power of the demon goddess Nin continues unabated as she is the one who sent her minion who killed the Guardian- family but failed to retrieve the ancient artifacts they protected and she covets. One adult Guardian remains; Calisto the sister-daughter sent away because females are never Guardians, but she changed her identity five years ago.

The third Shadows of Justice recurring late twenty-first century fantasy thriller is a great entry that moves the lead from Jaden and Brian the cop (see Judge Incarnate) and Petra with Gideon the cop (see Invasion of Justice) to their brother’s undercover tale. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that a desperate Nathan fears his mind will wither until he goes insane if he fails to reconnect telepathically with his sanity link Kelly who has her own deity issues. Readers will relish this terrific tale that stands alone; as the Shadows of Justice series is one of the best futuristic urban fantasies on the market today

Harriet Klausner

Discord's Apple-Carrie Vaughn

Discord's Apple
Carrie Vaughn
Tor, Jul 6 2010, $23.99
ISBN: 9780765325549

With her dad Frank dying, Evie Walker leaves Los Angeles for his home In Hopes Font, Colorado, to take care of her father. She moves in with him, but is stunned by the attitude of the visitors who ignore her and barely greet her dad. They insolently enter the basement and leave with hardly a farewell salutation toting out strange junk. A comic book writer, Evie reflects on how the strangers are stranger than her characters.

In Troy, with the help of Odysseus, Sinon the “Liar” gets in the walled city. He persuades the doubting Trojans that Greeks gave up their siege and left behind a large wooden horse. His ruse enables the Greeks to win the war, but also angers Apollo with the dishonorable deception. He ignores Odysseus holding the Liar culpable. A furious Apollo kidnaps Sinon, forcing the Liar to become his cupbearer.

In Colorado, with the death of her dad, Evie takes over shielding the basement from those who have no business there. Hera orders Evie to give her the golden apple that causes discord and actually began the Trojan War though some say that the affront by Helen’s stepfather to Aphrodite is where it began. Evie fears what the Goddess will do with Discord’s Apple; her prime ally in refusing Hera is a stranger Alex, who conceals his agenda from the mortal he is falling in love with.

This is a wild super Rocky Mountains fantasy as Carrie Vaughn departs from her DJ werewolf novels to tell an intriguing epic adventure that includes a hodgepodge from Camelot, Greek mythology and even someone who claims to have known Jesus in his heyday. The cast is strong including the basement storage facility and the fascinating artifacts as Evie and readers learn that the victors write the mythos of history.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Queen of Sinister-Mark Chadbourn

The Queen of Sinister
Mark Chadbourn
PYR, Jun 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 978161642001

The Dark Age of magic has rendered technology useless; the world we know vanished overnight with Beasts sending fire from the skies and creatures stalking humans across the British landscape. Deadly chaos is the norm with most humans believing it could not get any worse; they are wrong.

A pandemic plague attacked Britain. No one knows the source only those who catch it die violently and painfully. Dr. Caitlin Shepherd tries her best, but the twenty-eight year old mom feels overwhelmed as she is too young to be in charge, but out of default is. feeling helpless. She is hammered further when her beloved husband Grant and their son catches the deadly infection at a time the town is invaded by a horde whose purple mist causes incredible depression and despair. Caitlin feels helpless between the plague killing her family and these Whisperers mentally destroying anyone unfortunate to get in their way. However her friend witch Mary Holden introduces Caitlin to Professor Crowther; he insists the GP is a Sister of Dragons and the only hope to curing the plague. All she has to do is enter the Otherworld is to find the magic elixir. Caitlin and Crowther begin the quest accompanied by the female teen Magalia , the young male mute Carlton, , and Matt seeking his daughter he insists Faeries carried away.

This entertaining tale is not on the epic proportions of the Age of Misrule trilogy or this saga’s predecessor The Devil in Green. Still The Queen of Sinister is an intriguing fantasy as the heroine and her teammates cross into the Otherworld on a quest with little hope of success. Filled with action throughout and an incredible twist, fans of the author will want to join Caitlin as she treks across a realm from Celtic mythos to save what is left of her local world starting with her two loved ones.

Harriet Klausner

Imperial Bedrooms-Bret Easton Ellis

Imperial Bedrooms
Bret Easton Ellis
Knopf, Jun 15 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307266101

Twenty-five years ago, they were Less Than Zero hipsters who thought they owned Los Angeles. Time has been cruel to those who survived the Hollywood scene of the mid 1980s.

Clay the screenwriter returns from New York to California where he does what he does best, party-hopping while seeking to sell a script he wrote. In his mind nothing has changed in two and half decades; perhaps that is because he parties in a purple haze of alcohol. As he makes the rounds, he runs into some of his hip playmates. His former wife Blair is married to Trent the producer. Julian owns and manages an escort service while Rip the dealer is more plastic than flesh. However except for a deal, Clay ignores the old crowd as his attention is on wannabe actress Rain Turner, who is 200 proof looks and zero talent. Julian warns him to be careful with Rain as she may seem like his submissive, but that might prove an alcoholic allusion as Clay begins to investigate deadly text messages and lurking cars.

With a nod to Elvis Costello, this is an interesting character driven thriller that though the story line is somewhat limited to the party-hopping it hooks readers with a need to know whether Clay as the narrator is a hallucinating paranoid from too much alcohol and drugs or a stalked victim. The support cast, as seen through Clay’s hazy lenses, enhances understanding of the lead protagonist. Although the plot deliberately turns cerebrally interpretively slow, fans, especially those of Less Than Zero, will appreciate Clay’s return as he hops the Imperial bedrooms of Los Angeles.

Harriet Klausner

Betrayed-Robert K. Tanenbaum

Robert K. Tanenbaum
Gallery (Pocket), Jul 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9781439149232

The first charges of terrorism for the NYSE explosion filed against Harlem Islamic mosque leader Sharif Jabbar were dismissed in Escape. However, determined New York District Attorney Roger “Butch” Karp has filed new charges insisting new allegations have surfaced. As Jabbar waits trial in the Tombs, activist attorney Megan O’Dowd believes NYPD has a fake case against the Islamic Inman and plans to prove her assertion of fabricated digital information and harassment.

Karp’s wife Marlene Ciampi investigates the murder of socialite Michelle Oakley; the police arrest destitute kiosk owner Dirty Warren in the homicide of an escort owner. No one joins her crusade except David Grale, the insane religious leader of the tunnels Mole People sect. Her inquiry leads to another debutante vanishing in an underground of the influential affluent and their high priced call girls.

This is an exciting Karp-Ciampi (and the rest of the family) Manhattan crime fighting thriller. The story line starts slow as the back-story is provided for the audience. Once the two subplots take control, the story line accelerates as Butch makes the case against Jabbar and Ciampi makes the case for Warren.

Harriet Klausner

Damaged-Alex Kava

Alex Kava
Doubleday, Jul 13 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780385531993

Hurricane Isaac has not reached the Florida peninsular yet, but impacts the waves in the Gulf. Off of Pensacola, Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Wilson orders AST 3 Liz Bailey to investigate what looks like a floating fisherman’s cooler. Although she is allowed to decline the dive as her mission is to rescue people not artifacts, she dives into the rough water. She completes the dangerous mission; inside the large container is a human foot.

FBI profiler Maggie O'Dell is sent to the Gulf to investigate the foot; Department of Homeland Security deputy director Charlie Wurth joins her while a forensics team matches the limb to missing Vince Coffland, who disappeared from Port St. Lucie during a hurricane. At the same time O’Dell works the foot case, her boyfriend, Colonel Benjamin Platt is also in Florida investigating a deadly bacteria killing soldiers in hospitals. The cases collide at the funeral parlor owned by O’Dell’s brother-in-law Scott Larsen whom Joe Black pays to preserve harvested body parts.

This is a terrific law enforcement thriller in which the scenes of the sea rescues occurs while a hurricane is bearing down (mindful if Irwin Allen TV movies) on the coast supersedes the actions of the heroine and her two investigative hunks. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Bailey dives into the water and never slows down, as she and her teammates steal the show. Readers will enjoy this exhilarating confrontation with Hurricane Isaac and a body parts harvester as the entreating thriller ends with a strong stunning twist.

Harriet Klausner

Hostage Zero-John Gilstrap

Hostage Zero
John Gilstrap
Pinnacle, Jul 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN 9780786020881

In Virginia, former marine now homeless Harvey Rodriguez finds the kid near death and tries to help Jeremy Schuler survive as he had been left for dead; his roommate Anthony at the school for children of jailed parents remains kidnapped. Not far away, posing as FBI Agent Leon Harris, freelance hostage rescuer Jonathan "Digger" Grave questions nineteen year old jailed prisoner Jimmy Henry while his associates Boxer and call me Ven-ee-chay” watch his progress and his back from different milieus. He tells the teen the associates who hired him they do not want any information re the kidnapping or shooting to get out so he will bust him out, but if betrays him he will kill him.

Digger and his team seek to save the lives of Jeremy and Anthony. The rescue expert is confused why these kids and others are being snatched as there is no ransom money available to make it worth kidnapping them. Thus they begin the quest with the only one caught: Jimmy Henry. However, though not one to put anything passed those in power, Grave is shocked when he realizes a connection between the government and the mob is behind the abductions.

This is an exciting thriller as the audience learns why the abductions occur, who the victims are, and what choices the older lads have between slave, overseer, or death. Fans will be hooked from the moment Digger goes after Jimmy and then his associates in what is a fast-paced action-packed tale as the hero and his teammates learn the hard way that the enemy kills with No Mercy to the innocent.

Harriet Klausner

The Witness-Josh McDowell

The Witness
Josh McDowell
Tyndale, Jul 1 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781414334127

In Monte Carlo, septuagenarian Rafeeq Ramsey is frightened for his life and that of his kidnapped wife Claudette especially since the abductees killed their twelve year old daughter. He paid their first of eleven million Euros ransom demand, but now they want twenty-five million or she dies and he will as well two days afterward. Having sold his firm Blue Nile to a French conglomerate he has the money and is willing to pay again, but believes his adversaries will kill Claudette and him anyway. Desperate the wealthy Egyptian hires Muslim Marwan Accad, who runs an executive security business.

Marwan shows a photo of Claudette withdrawing money from the bank in Sao Paul where the eleven million was deposited. Before the stunned elderly man could respond to the betrayal a sniper fires two shots through the window killing him. As Marwan wonders how the enemy knew that Ramsey hired Accad and Associates, they hunt him. He flees for North Africa with assassins and police from Europe and Africa stalkong him as he is the suspect in the homicide. Morocco proves unsafe so he heads to Cairo; the enemy keeps coming and they do not care about collateral damage. He also fears for Dalia Nour, a woman he has just met who by associating with him is in danger. Additionally with mortality chasing him to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East, Marwan ponders eternity and increasing evidence that the Christ is genuine.

The Witness is an exciting Christian conspiracy thriller that is at its best when the enemy chases after the hero as he overcomes overwhelming odds in various locales. The story line at times turns preachy especially at moments when Accad understands the maxim that there are no atheists in the trenches. Fans of international conspirator Christian thrillers will enjoy Marwan’s efforts to obtain the gift of salvation as he is the witness not the killer.

Harriet Klausner

Pathfinder-Laura E. Reeve

Laura E. Reeve
Roc, Jul 6 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463449

Ariane Kedros is not her real name, but she is a partner of Aether Exploration as well as a Reserve Major in the Consortium of Autonomous Worlds. The Terran Expansion League wants her dead as a war criminal who killed everyone residing inside the Ura-Ginh solar system. Her deadly effort ended the war and led to her new identity enhanced by modern technology.

Now she is considered a hero for saving G-145 by sending a temporal distortion weapon into N-space. The Minoans, the only other known sentient race, is to humans what humans are to horses. They know of her past and the speeded up metabolism that make her the perfect candidate to go to and explore the Builder’s home world; none of them can perform the mission as it would kill them. Wanting to explore the world of another sentient race even one that faded into oblivion Ariane volunteers; that is if the implant proves compatible to her body. However, even in deepest space Ariane cannot elude her enemies as one still stalks her.

In the distant future, mankind has reached the stars, but instead of fighting over a dying ice aged earth, wars are in space and on populated planets. Fans of military science fiction will enjoy the Kedros saga though Pathfinder has fewer battles than previous entries (see Peacekeeper and Vigilante). Courageous yet filled with remorse for the outcome of killing a billion people doing her duty, Kedros still seeks redemption. Pathfinder may not provide that for her, but she hopes it allows her to run from her past of what is acceptable as espionage and civilian deaths if you are with the victors and war crimes if you lose. Though she has doubts re her war time actions, she raises the fairness issue of the grunts take the blame as “rotten apples” for atrocities while those who give the orders receive medals and promotions (think Abu Ghraib).

Harriet Klausner

The Devil in Green-Mark Chadbourn

The Devil in Green
Mark Chadbourn
PYR, May 25 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616141981

One year has passed since the new dark Ages began with the Fall. Technology has vanished and is all but forgotten as mankind cowers in corners with the food chain altered as the supernatural roam and hunt humans.

Britain no longer claims the last successful invasion was William as the ancient faerie and the deadly demons stalk the blood of Englishmen and their compatriots. A slim hope flickers at Salisbury Cathedral, where Christian Knights Templar prepare for combat against the immortal while spreading the Lord’s Word amongst the faithless. Even with these volunteers, belief is nonexistence. For instance Mallory, who is fleeing his past, assumes there is no God but works diligently to become one of the Brothers of Dragons.

In the countryside, Paganism is entrenched as the Celtic Nation has formed that includes Sister of Dragons Sophie Tallent the witch. Mallory and Sophie meet, but before they can explore their feelings, his unit deploys on a search and rescue mission that fails. He survives, but after barely making it through a supernatural landmine he arrives at Salisbury to find a demonic army of occupation outside while inside a paranormal serial killer terrorizes the residents. Mallory now knows he can run but never hide as no place is safe.

The first stirring Dark Age’s thriller wastes no time to get the audience inside the beleaguered world as Mallory on his way to join the human army rescues a man Miller who becomes his brother in arms. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action as the paranormal attack mortals throughout. The human cast is solid while the supernatural seem genuine as Mark Chadbourn manages to make his Dark Age’s world seen frighteningly genuine. Fans of his Age of Misrule and those who relish a post-apocalyptic thriller will want to join Mallory’s escapades in a world gone mad.

Harriet Klausner

Kraken-China Mieville

China Mieville
Del Rey, Jun 29 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345497499

In London's Natural History Museum, curator Billy Harrow escorts a tour into the Darwin Center where a giant squid resides in a special tank prepared by him. Billy is proud of what he and most experts consider the top attraction of the Darwin center and perhaps the entire museum. When he and the tour group reach their destination, Billy is stunned to find it empty as that is not possible. What is more eerie is that not just the squid is gone, but the tank and preservative too.

Investigating police officer Kath Collingswood explains magical teleportation to a shocked Billy. He has now entered the realm of sorcery where Kath explains the only way to fight back is with sorcery. As Billy learns more about a part of London he and most residents never knew existed, the Congregation of God Kraken worship the giant squid while one of their flock Dane Parnell tries to keep curious Billy safe from two nasty wizards who get off with torture. Sent by their leader Tattoo the insane gangster survived sans body of his own as a tattoo put on the flesh of a wretched soul thanks to the greatest dead wizard. As the curator becomes more acquainted with the other London, city's familiars are refusing to perform as they picket for better pay, improved working conditions and health care.

Kraken is a wild over the top of Big Ben urban fantasy starring a likable curator, a fascinating dedicated cop-mage, and a vision of London that feels like something from Alice in Wonderland or Simon R. Green. Although the plot meanders much more than a Hyde Street Park speaker, and at times is overwhelmed by the paranormal antics throughout the city, fans of China Mieville will enjoy his jocular lampooning of the police procedural-amateur sleuth in an urban fantasy environs.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 29, 2010

My Ultimate Sister Disaster-Jane Mendle

My Ultimate Sister Disaster
Jane Mendle
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jun 8 2010, $8.99
ISBN: 9780312369040

A year older than her sister Franny, Zooey has become a prima-ballerina performing at Lincoln Center. Franny envies her sibling as her parents ignore her focusing somewhat on the talented offspring; though in fairness mom is doing it from Africa and dad from his boutique. Not that Franny is a failure as she is tall, pretty, and obtaining high grades in her first year at prep school.

As Franny’s grades fall, the dynamics at least between the sisters change when Zooey suffers a broken leg that jeopardizes her career. They begin to come together as Franny realizes how much her sister sacrifices for her love of dance. Her desire reminds Franny of her own goal to become a journalist. However, their burgeoning friendship has one major divider; both want a certain awesome school editor.

With a nod to the late J.D. Salinger (worth reading Franny and Zooey), young adult readers will enjoy the bond of sisters are strongest when necessity arises. Franny and Zooey are fully developed characters as their need to be there for one another during a difficult period in which their parents are not truly there for them overwhelms their rivalry. Fans will relish Jane Mendle’s insightful look at the disasters and triumphs of two sisters navigating Manhattan together.

Harriet Klausner

Misconceptions-Avner Hershlag

Avner Hershlag
iUniverse, Feb 2010, $18.95
ISBN: 9781440183874

Fertility expert Dr. Anya Krim has DC’s leading women as her patients. Currently she is working with the First Lady Janet Cartwright trying to keep her client’s embryos safe from DNA alteration and from anything else, natural or otherwise that could harm them.. However, the case that intrigues her most besides her own desire for a child is that of the senator’s comatose daughter Megan Tanner; the woman still in a coma for the last two years is pregnant.

Ethical and legal pressure mounts on Anya as her patients are reading about new unapproved techniques and making demands of her while the extremes of the political spectrum want to use her as a scapegoat to further their personal agendas. She understands the feelings of her patients as she too considers using some of these new untested medical breakthroughs on herself.

The key to this timely exhilarating medical thriller is that Dr. Avner Hershlag provides an insightful look at cutting edge fertility medicine without dumbing down or selecting a political agenda. With a strong lead character and a powerful support cast, aptly titled Misconception condemns the left and the right cherry picking information to defend their moral stance regardless of the victim of their so called ethnicity; the end defines the meanness of the means. Dr. Hershlag provides a winning profound look at what the health care debate ignored; the pressures a doctor faces in choosing the best care for a patient.

Harriet Klausner

Murder In The Hamptons-Danita Carter

Murder In The Hamptons
Danita Carter
Strebor (pocket), Jun 8 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781593092528

Detective Theodora Pratt knows the Hamptons have not seen a killing in quite awhile, but loathes all the spectators ruining the murder scene. The yacht near the floating corpse is owned by old money Liza Lord who explains to Pratt she provided a venue for newcomer Donovan Smart to throw his White and Platinum party introducing himself and his sister Reece and their friend Chyna to the neighbors of exclusive Coco Beach. Most of the snobs detest the nouveau riche rapper TuSmArt from the hood invading their turf; he just wanted them to know he and his sister are housetrained

Although the party was successful until the floater was found, most of the stuck-up locals are elated that the undesirables will be forced to leave in police custody. However, stereotyping the rapper is a mistake as Donovan is Einstein brilliant; he also unlike the notorious rappers prefers less dating because he wants a woman with the 3 Bs (beauty, body and brains). As Pratt hones in on the outsiders as suspects as well as flirty restaurant owner Troy, she also begins to revise her theory when the autopsy revealed in the body excessive Oxycontin, a prescription drug.

Murder in the Hamptons is a terrific police procedural that takes a deep look at whether money can buy class and social status; as Danita Carter makes a strong case that social status does not define class. Fast-paced with a nice twist, fans will relish Theo’s homicide investigation into a rapper who just wanted to take his sister and their BFF out of Brooklyn.

Harriet Klausner

Candlesticks-Sharon Ervin

Sharon Ervin
Five Star, Jun 16 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148767

In San Diego, American Wire Service chief Duke Mallory allows his enthusiastic intern Jancy Dewhurst to cover the South Beach burglaries; the fourth break-in when the family was not home. Police Detective Thad Bias tells her he is frustrated as his Captain O’Brien devastates crime scenes with his desire for TV appearances. Jancy soon realizes the oddity of the serial robberies is besides valuables, the thief takes candlesticks.

After writing a couple of articles that are published with her by-line, Jancy receives several threatening phone calls. Her fiancé Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent Jim Willis takes time off to be with Jancy to insure she is safe. Jim and Jancy marry as planned and go on their honeymoon when she reads in the Denver paper that robberies similar to those in San Diego with the candlesticks stolen have occurred. Soon their lives are threatened by a dangerous culprit obsessed with candlesticks and more.

The third Jancy journalist investigation (see The Ribbon Murders and Murder Aboard the Choctaw Gambler) is a superb sleuthing thriller that also moves forward the relationship between the heroine and her Fed who marry and honeymoon during this storyline. Fast-paced throughout, fans will relish this enjoyable thriller with a terrific twist although the thief once identified comes across too deranged even while that moved the plot from California to Colorado. Still fans will enjoy Jancy’s jaunt into marriage and her latest whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Bride of the Living Dead-Lynne Murray

Bride of the Living Dead
Lynne Murray
Pearlsong Press, Jun 2010, $18.95
ISBN: 978159719026

San Francisco Indie Film Edge critic Daria MacClellan sort of attends her perfect sister Sky’s perfect wedding. Sky’s perfect plan excludes her overweight sibling as only size 5 is acceptable at her nuptials to Richard the perfect husband.

At the Camera Obscura Digitalis film festival showing of Top Soil Despair, Daria and Oscar Winslow meet when both find the inane flick amusing. They begin seeing each other, fall in love and plan to marry though her ex boyfriend, his ex girlfriend and his mom who would prefer a serial killer for a daughter-in-law. His teenage sisters on the other hand root for her. However, the worst intrusion comes from Sky, whose perfect happily perfect ever after has fallen apart. She becomes her sister’s wedding planner from hell.

This is an entertaining jocular romance of a big woman with doubts that she can keep a hunk like Oscar until he admits he went to the movie in which they met when he saw her outside and followed her in to the theater. Character driven, Daria learns a lesson about the perfect perception caused by envy would have pleased tutor Pangloss of Candide with a nod to Joe. E. Brown as Osgood’s final comment in Some Like It Hot. Living life large to some people is natural and they feel good in their own skin which is why Lynne Murray provides such an interesting tale of a picture perfect wedding.

Harriet Klausner

Galveston-Nic Pizzolatto

Nic Pizzolatto
Scribner, Jun 15 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781439166642

In 1987 forty year old tough guy mob enforcer Roy “Big Country” Cady had always believed nothing could harm him. He grew up in Texas only to watch his father fall to his death and his mother commit suicide. He took a job with his late dad’s boss as a local enforcer and moved on to New Orleans. Now he learns differently as he finds out he has lung cancer.

Before he can cope, Roy’s boss mobster Stan Ptitko assigns him a simple task; however Big Country senses something is not right and cautiously assumes he is being set up for a hit. His hunch proves right and so does his vigilance. Roy took out the hitmen the old fashion way by killing them while rescuing teenage whore Raquel “Rocky” Arceneaux. He takes her with him as he leaves New Orleans for his hometown Galveston. On the way Rocky convinces Roy to pick up her three years old sister Tiffany in remote Orange. He takes the two girls to Galveston where he puts them up in a motel while he becomes a one man crime wave who plans to finish by extorting money from his former fuming employer.

This is a terrific redemption tale as Roy the hard boiled killer tries to become the savior of two young females. The story line is filled with vivid gory action but character driven by mostly Roy, but to a lesser degree Rocky who the hitman hopes to save so that he has some solace before he dies. Although the segue involving two decades into the future take away from a powerful end of life effort to do the right thing one time in one’s life, fans will relish the visit to Galveston.

Harriet Klausner

Transformers: Cybertron-Alex Irvine

Transformers: Cybertron
Alex Irvine
Del Rey, Jun 22 2010, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345519856

The planet Cybertron is populated by sentient mechanical beings; a place so stagnant that they know what they will be doing every moment of the day. Once put in a job, the bot gets the position for life. In the gladiator in the underground a champion arises who calls for freedom from the tyranny of the caste system that destroys freedom of choice and encourages the bots to work under a rigid schedule.

Data collector Orion Pax hears Megatronus (later named Megratron) call for the end of the castes and a return to the glory days of Cybertron when freedom and the arts flourished. Megatronus incites a rebellion that splits the rebels between those supporting Orion Pax while some feet that Megatronus’s methods will work. The two meet and form an alliance to visit the High Council in strength to state their opinions. When Orion Pax is named Optimus Prime and is given power tat comes with the title Megatron feels betrayed and declares war on those who support his former ally and the autobots who want their freedom. The war leads to a nasty stalemate as each side destroys the land; Megaton now a tyrant longer no longer about the Cybertronians and he is the one Bot who could destroy all life on Cybertron.

Watching a gladiator rise to power by pretending to be a spokesman for freedom and a data collector turn into a planetary leader turns this Transformer tale into a good vs. evil war to control Cybertron. Optimus Prime is a born leader who proves the caste system fails as that society prevents talent fro rising above their birth spectrum. The characters are developed with feelings and thoughts that make sentient machines seem genuine. Fans of the saga will enjoy the Autobots vs. the Deceptions in “the official history of the war for Cybertron” for the right to choose as Alex Irvine captures the essence of the mechanical species, before they became movie stars.

Harriet Klausner

Imager’s Intrigue-L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Imager’s Intrigue
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Tor, Jul 20 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765325624

Rhennthyl has come a long way since his time as an apprentice portrait artist when a fire unveiled his talent as an Imager. In L’Excelsis, Solidar he has become Captain, Third District of the Civil Patrol; Rhenn is also ranked as a Maitre D’Structure of Collegium Imago of Solidar; he has been married for five years to Sellora though they never sleep the night together due to his Imager nightmares that could burn down a room; and finally the pair has a delightful daughter Diestrya.

While war looms again between Ferrum and Jariola, an arsonist torched the grain warehouse of a Freeholder; the latest to be burned down almost all owned by Freeholders while High Holders seem suspiciously immune. Finally an explosion near Place D’Opera in the Second District left several dead including Factor Broussard D’Factorious and his family; who was the target of terrorists Workers for Justice. Commander Artois says be vigil. Rhenn is soon caught in the crosshairs as his work as an apprentice painter (see Imager) and as a liaison to the law (see Imager’s Challenge) makes him a target from a powerful adversary. This enemy knows Rhenn’s skills from their previous confrontations and needs to insure the Imaging Captain is neutralized to prevent his interference with a diabolical plot; killing him and his family is the only way to eliminate him.

The third Imager Portfolio is an exhilarating thriller that reads like a Victorian French fantasy, which stands alone, but is enhanced, by reading the previous two entries especially when the past comes home to roost. The story line is fast-paced while the locales are vivid; as expected from a former artist turned Imager. Readers will relish the latest entry as L.E. Modesitt, Jr. entertainingly ties the news together in a strong tale in which the hero knows he has come a long way, but learns how fast you can go in reverse.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 28, 2010

No Less Than Victory: A Novel of World War II-Jeff Shaara

No Less Than Victory: A Novel of World War II
Jeff Shaara
Ballantine, Jun 1 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9780345497932

With the great success of the Normandy invasion, Allied Commanders all the way up to Five Star General Eisenhower feels strongly that the European theatre of Operation would soon be over. The German army battered is in full retreat.

Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt knows the war is over unless they can somehow turn around the blitzkrieg allies who are racing across France into Germany from the west and the Russians from the east. He decides to draw the last line in the icy mountainous Ardennes where he plans to isolate the Americans and from there seize Antwerp. If this Hail Mary desperation fails, the Field Marshal knows it is a short matter of time before Berlin goes Russian as the Eastern front is collapsing also.

This is a terrific action-packed WWII fictional account of the end of the European part of the war starting with the last German counteroffensive at the Battle of the Bulge; for the earlier parts of the war see The Steel Wave and The Rising Tide. Ironically real life persona like Ike never comes across as breathing especially in his case since the audience never learns how he felt knowing he sent so many to die at D Day and more to follow in the Ardennes even with a just cause. Military fiction readers will enjoy the fall of the Third Reich, but this tale is limited mostly to the western front as if the Russians were not coming.

Harriet Klausner

Boadicea’s Legacy-Traci E. Hall

Boadicea’s Legacy
Traci E. Hall
Medallion, May 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781605420783

In 1200 Ela Montehue the sorceress knows her paranormal healing skill comes from having Warrior Queen Boadicea of the Iceni as her ancestor. However, Ela also knows that Boadicea placed a stipulation on her even before she was born. To continue to be a healer, Ela must marry for love; if she settles for anything else she will lose her ability that is a deep part of her soul.

Her family wants Ela to marry affluent but odious Lord Thomas de Havel. If she agrees her beloved family will gain wealth and power as de Havel has King John’s support; however the cost is her power as she loathes the vicious Thomas. Ela cannot go through with the wedding to the abusive de Havel so she says no. No one rejects Thomas so he kidnaps Ela and attacks her father and the people in his holdings. Knight Osbert Edyvean searches for the legendary Boadicea spear, but instead liberates Ela from her captivity. He wants to dump her on her family soonest so he can continue his quest and even more so to ignore his attraction to the feisty healer he is falling in love with.

Although somewhat similar in tone to Beauty’s Curse especially with a legendary quest, the latest Montehue historical romantic fantasy (see Love’s Magic) is an exciting fast-paced tale from start to finish. Fans will enjoy the triangle as the two males act and react differently when it comes to Ela; both in their way want her. Fans of the Boadicea descendents saga will relish Traci E. Hall’s engaging entry as a three way confrontation seems inevitable.

Harriet Klausner

Anna’s Return-Marta Perry

Anna’s Return
Marta Perry
Berkley, Jun 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425234266

Three years ago Anna Beiler left her Amish home in Pleasant Valley, Pennsylvania to live with the English. However, when she comes home she doesn’t return alone. Instead she is accompanied by an under one year old baby, Gracie who she claims as her daughter.

The Plain People are stunned that unmarried Anna had a child out of wedlock and some want to shun her. She conceals from everyone even her loved ones that the baby is not hers; she took the infant after her friend Janni, the child’s mother died, to keep the little girl safe from her abusive father Pete. Anna prays that hiding amongst the Plain folks will keep the baby safe., but fears what she might bring upon her family as she moves in with her brother Joseph and his wife Myra and is welcomed by her father, her sister Leah (see Leah’s Choice) and her brother-in-law and his family. Anna also finds herself attracted Joseph's machine shop partner, Samuel Fisher, who seemed like slow learner to her as a child but now she appreciates that he is not simple but a reflective thinker. As she feels welcomed and her baby accepted, Anna looks back at her reckless behavior praying that her community will forgive her.

The third Pleasant Valley Amish romance (see Rachel’s Garden) is an interesting look at a young woman who left but has come back apparently tainted. Although Samuel and the lead female protagonist’s family and community play major roles and Gracie’s father a minor but key part, the title is accurate as this is clearly Anna’s Return. She holds the well written entertaining story line together as Marta Perry provides a charming second chance at life romance with a bit of late suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Stork Raving Mad-Donna Andrews

Stork Raving Mad
Donna Andrews
Minotaur, Jul 6 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312621193

In the last few weeks of her pregnancy, Caerphilly College Meg Langslow is struggling with finding adequate housing for recently displaced students (due to a heating plant problem). This includes one of her husband associate professor Michael Waterston’s grad students Ramon Soto. In fact their home is housing several students including Ramon

Besides a housing issue, Ramon is upset after the English Department’s nasty Dr. Jean Wright accompanied by admin services Dr. Enrique Blanco arrive to inform him his dissertation proposal a play is rejected. They explain his topic the performance of an obscure anti-Franco play is not acceptable as it contains offensive material. Soon afterward, someone kills Jean in the Langslow library. Meg investigates as only she can.

Although carrying twins and about to give birth in two weeks, Meg waddles her way through an amusing investigation. The key to this jocular jaunt is the heroine as she works on two difficult issues: how many people can you fit into a room and who killed the odious Wright. Readers will enjoy the best pregnancy whodunit since Fargo.

Harriet Klausner

Unspeakable-Laura Griffin

Laura Griffin
Pocket, Jun 29 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439152959

All her life, Elaina McCord wanted to be a profiler in the B.A.U. unit of the FBI like her father did. She is assigned to the Brownsville, Texas Branch of the agency, but her boss SAC Scarborough makes it clear he does not respect her or want her on his team. Elaine believes that without a miracle, her probation will end with her firing.

On Lito Island, Texas, two women have been killed in gruesome ways that make even veteran officers used to ugly homicide scenes need to puke. Elaina is assigned to the case because her chief figures she will quit once she sees the corpses. Her profiles are to be given to Police Chief Matt Branch. He dismisses her as a loser; saying she is out of her league. When a third female goes missing, they lack proof they are dealing with a serial killer. True crime writer Troy Slaton wrote a book re a killer who certified killing one of the victims from another series of murders that happened five years ago, but the author now believes that psychopath lied. He teams up with Elaina to find the real murderer. Elaina links the homicides from five years ago to those happening now and she receives help from the San Marcus police officer who worked the previous cold case. The killer contacts Elaina who sees a butterfly design on two of the victims and traces that to an online game. She begins to figure out who took the web game from virtual reality to reality.

Laura Griffin’s fantastic romantic suspense will be enjoyed by fans of Nora Roberts and Andrea Kane. Elaina is hurt by the sexist treatment of her superiors at the FBI, but she is also is not a quitter; instead she is obsessed to prove her worth and is determined to help solve the case. Her bull dog tenacity to demonstrate she is more than equal to the law men putting her down and almost out enhance a strong investigative thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Fuller Memorandum-Charles Stross

The Fuller Memorandum
Charles Stross
Ace, Jul 6 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441018673

Needing to come in from the cold to update the paper work, demonologist Bob Howard is stunned when the top secret The Fuller Memorandum vanishes. As shocking, his dedicated boss Angleton, who could scare the sh*t out of God if there is one, also disappears at the same time. The management of Laundry assumes Angleton stole the highest classified dossier.

Bob knows he must go back into the field to find the missing Fuller memorandum and what happened to his boss. He soon runs into angry Russian espionage agents, even angrier demons, and the moronic cult followers of the Eater of Souls who if they raise the evil one they will learn life lesson 101 that when it comes to the malevolent; they owe no favors as they will dine on the followers before moving on to the rest of mankind.

The latest Laundry Files (see The Jennifer Morgue and The Atrocities Archives) is a terrific pull no punches paranormal espionage thriller as the action starts from the onset even with Howard musing about Jesus, Moses and the Dalai Lama in his usual irreverent scornful way. Fast-paced as Howard makes his inquires into the missing Fuller memorandum and his boss, and the lunatics who are trying to bring the end of the world to the world. Bod and Bourne never faced the adversaries Howard confronts; as he fears finding and not finding Angleton, and wants to avoid becoming the Eater of Souls’ dessert.

Harriet Klausner

LegaciesMercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill -

Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill
Tor, Jul 6 2010, $18.99
ISBN: 9780765327079

The car accident killed her entire family; only teenage Spirit White survived. She has little time to grieve and barely enough to heal as she is informed she will live at Oakhurst Academy where she will attend school.

Spirit is shocked to find Oakhurst is a school for orphans with magical skills. They are being trained to fight in a war against an alleged evil. As she makes friends with Burke, Lachlan, Muirin and Adelaide, Spirit begins to question the accident that left her an orphan and the intentions of those running Oakhurst Academy when it comes to the students who have no parental protection.

Putting aside the obvious comparison to Potter, the first Shadow Grail teen fantasy is an exciting thriller in which the locale, creepy Oakhurst Academy brings the freshness with its foreboding sort of gothic ambience. Spirit is a terrific lead protagonist while the rest of her inner circle of BFFs comes out of the DC Teen Titan handbook. Still with a bit of romance, a lot of suspense and a young adult investigation into missing students, teenage fans will want to attend the dances at eerie Oakhurst Academy.

Harriet Klausner

Close Contact-Katherine Allred

Close Contact
Katherine Allred
Eos, Jun 8 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061672439

Genetically enhanced person Echo Adams is not a typical GEP. She was gifted with a rare Psi ability, which makes her perfect on her current diplomatic assignment as an emissary in the Alien Affairs office.

Echo is disturbed when she is ordered out of the office to perform field work; as she does not do stinky outdoor work; especially when others might shoot you. Still she is considered the only person capable of handling the powerful Daughter Stone of the Limantti species that has been stolen. Accompanied by Peri the dragon bird and using her Psi skills to follow the thieves’ trail leads Echo to Madrea; a planet in which the ruler has severed all relationships with the Federation and outlawed technology. Echo understands the mission is to retrieve the Daughter Stone, get out alive and not cause a King to ignite in fury. Her only hope of success is with Royal Commander Reynard.

The second Alien Affairs science fiction romance (see Close Encounters) is a jocular affair that satires the kick male butt heroine phenomena as this lead female prefers the air conditioned office in which choosing what to eat for lunch is an adventure rather than off planet field encounters of a deadly kind. Fast-paced, fans who enjoy a fun somewhat simplistic lampooning of the super heroine sub-genre will want to read Close Contact as Echo Adams is promised a lot, but nothing until the end is met; as her amusing asides throughout will attest.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hot Southern Nights-Dianne Castell

Hot Southern Nights
Dianne Castell
Kensington Brava, May 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758223630

Librarian Churchill McKenzie is run out of New Jersey after her classic 1956 Chevy Bel Air was stolen as no one who does not want to float face down the Hudson questions the mob. She returns to her hometown of Savannah where she obtains a library position.

After three years in prison Cal Davis is free. He comes home to Savannah where he plans to avoid his former girlfriend Ace, whose testimony sent him to jail for a crime he did not do.

Cal’s grandmother Miss Ellie is the only person besides him who believes he never committed that crime. Cal finds a key inside his vintage 1967 Mustang that apparently someone wants bad enough to steal. When he hooks up with Ace who was run out of Jersey, all hell breaks loose in Georgia as he still wants her, but Churchill as she insists he call her begins to believe her beloved bad boy make that man did not do the felonious deed and wants to make amends while that unknown somebody raises the already heat of Hot Southern Nights..

The third “Hot” Savannah tale (see Hot And Bothered and Hot And Irresistible) uses humor mostly brought by battling Churchill to bring freshness to what is a heated yet somewhat conventional story line. Readers will root for the Steel Peachtree Ace as she remains feisty, fiery and fighting in spite of the mob kicking her out of the Garden State. She and Miss Ellie as a powerful amateur sleuth team set out to prove Cal is innocent and to uncover who is behind his conviction and bidding for the key (you will have to read to what).

Harriet Klausner

Mistress By Mistake-Maggie Robinson

Mistress By Mistake

Kensington Brava, May 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758250995

In 1820 Sir Michael Bayard attends the funeral of his grandmother. After paying his respects, Michael travels to London to be with his mistress Deborah. However, his woman has run away with Arthur Bannister taking with her a necklace and money that does not belong to her.

Deborah’s sister Charlotte is at Michael’s abode waiting for his return to tell him his mistress has eloped. Irate as he lent Deborah the purloined necklace, he orders the sibling to stay as his substitute mistress. She will be freed when his necklace is returned to him. He further explains to Charlie that their relationship will be a short lived tryst. Thus both are shocked by the intensity of the passion, but his ex wife Anne wants him back and Deborah hovers between Michael and Charlie.

Over the top of the original Westminster clock tower (pre Big Ben), fans of steamy Regency gender wars will relish the sexual combat between Sir Michael and fallen Charlie. The story line is fast-paced from the moment spoiled Deborah informs Charlie she is leaving to marry Arthur and never slows down As Michael makes Charlie his Mistress by Mistake for now.

Harriet Klausner

Forbidden Highlander-Donna Grant

Forbidden Highlander
Donna Grant
St. Martin’s, May 25 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312381233

The McLeod brothers (Fallon, Lucan and Quinn) were descendents from a cadre of warriors created by Druids to repel the Romans from Scotland and England. For three centuries the siblings hid from Deirdre who wants their magic. However in 1603, Lucan meets his soulmate (see Dangerous Highlander), but Quinn was captured by their enemy.

In Edinburgh Fallon meets and falls in love with Lady Larena Monroe. He is shocked to realize she is a warrior; the only female he ever met. She accompanies Fallon to the McLeod estate, a haven for warriors and Druids. As Deirdre assaults the stronghold, Fallon plans to rescue his brother, but first proposes to his beloved. She wants to say yes, but knows she conceals from her beloved a dark secret that will turn his love to loathing.

The second McLeod brother historical fantasy is a terrific tale with a nice twist that readers will know is coming yet Donna Grant makes the spin fun to follow. The story line is fast-paced and is more than just a middle book as Fallon’s fate is decided. With Quinn still held captive by the obsessed Deirdre, sub-genre fans will be impatient for his Dark Sword legend as the audience anticipates his confrontation with his much stronger jailer.

Harriet Klausner

Fall-Colin McAdam

Colin McAdam
Riverhead, Jun 1 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781594484643

At affluent prestigious St. Ebury School in Sutton, Canada, the son of an American diplomat extroverted athletic Julius and the lovely Fallon are an entry. All the guys at school want Fall as their girlfriend, but the most envious is Julius’ roommate the intellectual reticent loner Noel. Still in spite of his coveting Fall, Noel and Julius become buddies.

The administration punishes Julius for a typical teenage stunt; his punishment is confinement to his room. Unable to see Fall, he asks his friend to visit her. Noel’s fixation for Fall intensifies as he has the opportunity to spend time alone with the object of his adulation even if it is only as a surrogate. Soon after he begins seeing Fall, she vanishes.

Told in rotation by the two male roommates, Fall is a profound psychological suspense tale. The audience gets to know the obsessions of both male teens and through their respective reflective lenses somewhat the female each cherishes in their own way. Part of the insight is how different Julius and Noel are in their behavior especially their relationships with others; but ironically how similar they are when it comes to Fall. Readers who appreciate a character psychoanalytical profile will relish Fall as the action including what happened to the girl takes a back seat to the astute look at the rivals who desire her

Harriet Klausner

End of the Line-Mike Manno

End of the Line
Mike Manno
Five Star, Jun 16 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148637

In Dallas County, Special Investigations Unit Detective Sergeant Jerome Stankowski and Deputy Attorney General Parker Noble investigate the murder of disgraced banker Rhett J. Butler; shot to death on a city bus. R.J. as he was called was working insurance claims having been forced to resign from his position as Great Plains State Bank downtown branch president due to $80,000 being missing.

As the pair interviews those who rode the bus, worked with the victim, and his family (first and second wives), Stan meets two women (bank teller Kitty Quinn and Teri Barkley niece of a restaurant owner) who offer to help him with his statistics class. Buffy Cole the reporter who worked with the pair on the Murder Most Holy Case offers to help him on this one too. Stan believes the second wife, cheesecake model Linda and her boyfriend drug counselor Bob Maxwell killed him so she would not be cut out of his estate when they divorced. However, Noble thinks that is too simple as the embezzled money remains missing. Then there is the first wife who hated R.J.

Readers will enjoy the return of Parker and “Cousin Stanley” as they investigate a case that started as bank embezzlement, in which the prime suspect is murdered. Parker is his terrific know it all self starting with the bloodhound hearsay lecture and never lets up with his unique brand of sardonic winking wisdom. Stan is a solid cop who this time has three women in his life, but at the same time none in his life. Ironically Buffy plays a lesser but more pivotal role than in the Murder Most Holy case as she shares second banana billing with a lot of other females. Hopefully this is not the End of the Line for this dynamic trio.

Harriet Klausner

The Sleeping Beauty- Mercedes Lackey

The Sleeping Beauty
Mercedes Lackey
Luna, Jul 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780373803156

Eltaria is an affluent kingdom that its neighbors covet favosr from. Especially of interest is the unmarried Princess Rosamund. Following the death of her mom the shepherdess turned monarch, all anticipate the magical Tradition should soon force her into some sort of fairy tale adventure with her own county’s aristocracy wanting to become her spouse and that of nearby nations hoping to work a pact through her marriage to one of their nobles.

Not long after her mom’s death, Princess Rosa flees from the royal huntsman charged with killing her. Seven dwarves rescue her, but she drinks a poisonous potion that puts her to sleep. Viking Prince Siegfried tries to kiss her awake as heroes do. However, Rosa’s fairy godmother (aside quote from my insightful nephew Jordan: “they don’t make fairy godmothers like they used to.”) throws out the Tradition book when she insists on a contest to win the still top catch in the area. Rosa agrees to the games between contenders to her hand, but insists on setting the rules of the events.

The fifth Five Hundred Kingdoms fairy tale romance is an amusing entertaining tale that obviously follows for the most part The Sleeping Beauty legend but also includes pieces from other fables as Mercedes Lackey spins the original into a refreshingly new Tradition. Fast-paced and very jocular, the plot lacks the passion of previous entries like The Snow Queen, but is still fun as the insider fairy tale puns and jokes mindful of Shrek (with a nod to Puss N Boots for instance) make for a lighthearted frolic; the Three Stooges being Siegfried, Leopold and Luna the unicorn with Rosa playing the straight woman.

Harriet Klausner

The Girls with Games of Blood-Alex Bledsoe

The Girls with Games of Blood
Alex Bledsoe
Tor, Jul 6 2010, $14.99
ISBN 9780765323842

He had survived for ages until 1915 when Baron Rudolfo Vladimir Zginski was staked through the heart. In 1975 pathologist Patricia Johnson withdraws the cross from the mummified corpse, which revives the dormant dead Continental vampire. In Memphis, when he meets some moronic young hippie vamps, he reluctantly takes the kids under his wings (see Blood Groove).

Mentoring vamps is not easy for a vowed misogynist; especially the push for gender and racial equality when he knows he is the superior breed due to his aristocratic heritage, sex and race, yet his sidekick is black Leonardo Jones. However, he has a new passion with the modern age and buys a 1973 Mustang from Zeb Crabtree while Jones wants to bite Zeb’s daughter, Clora. At the Ringside Club Rudolfo owns, his waitress Fauvette meets undead singer Patience Bolade who like her estranged sister Prudence thrives without drinking blood. Zeb wants to bring the battling sisters past their civil war fight to the modern age as he wants to taste both Bolade babes; unaware how nasty a baseball bat can be when it strikes the head of even a vampire when the hitter swings for the fences.

Not for everyone as the Baron may be sophisticate and suave, but he also is a malicious racist, nasty sexist and arrogant elitist. Starting with the opening profound one word profanity at the bar the story line is filled with gore, action, and gore as the Baron goes after sisters of the blood in an entertaining but over the top of the Smokey Mountains historical vampire tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Season of Risks-Susan Hubbard

The Season of Risks
Susan Hubbard
Simon & Schuster, Jul 6 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9781439183427

Ari Montero is a hybrid half vampire who played an instrumental part in finding her mother and bringing her back to her home where she reconnected with her family. Being a hybrid she has yet to find out what powers of a vampire she will eventually have. Like most of the Sanguinist sect of vampire, Ari and her family drink artificial blood; unlike the Colonists and Nebulists who see humans as chattel while the latter believes the species will become extinct.

Although Ari has the body of a fifteen years old, she is twenty-one and involved in a relationship with Senator Neal Cameron who as an independent has a real chance to be elected president; he also belongs to no sect. They keep their relationship quiet because of Ari’s official age. She allows Dr. Roche, a vampire, to inject her with the synthetic growth hormone Septinal. She soon looks like she is older, but someone shows her true birth certificate saying she is only fifteen to the media; destroying Cameron’s election chances. She is unaware that Roche is cloning people and inhabitant them with spirits. Ari and company bring Roche before COVE (Council of Vampire Ethics) to accuse him of illegal experiments but he turns the table around and accuses Ari and her family of heinous criminal activity. He insists they pulled the strings and defending themselves is not easy because they destroyed the evidence,.

Susan Hubbard’s wonderful vampire tale will appeal to fans of vampire lovers who love their vamps portrayed as another species most of whom are good and live like humans except at mealtimes. As a half human who is ignorant of what her extrasensory abilities will be since hybrids rarely exist, Ari must learn them while the heat is on. Her energy is invigorating as she discovers by trial and error what she can do. With a political sexual subplot that is very realistically portrayed, readers will enjoy Ari’s coming of age enthralling and riveting hybrid investigative urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Night She Got Lucky-Susan Donovan

The Night She Got Lucky
Susan Donovan
St. Martin’s May 25 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312366056

The elderly matchmaking widow Mrs. Needleman insists she is a psychic and informs Ginger Garrison that she will soon get lucky as the man of her dreams awaits her. Ginger gently scoffs at the forecasting as she had one selfish mate and so is not interested in another; that is until she meets nature photographer Lucio “Lucky” Montevez; as the tea leaves said she would get Lucky.

Lucio is uninterested in any woman at the moment. Instead he remains singularly focused on regaining his shattered career as a globetrotting photographer of the world’s wild. When he fails to get his career back on track due to bureaucratic ineptitude, Lucio turns to painting portraits of owners with their pets because he needs to eat. This leads him back to Ginger, her twin teen sons, her pet walking crew, her selfish former husband and the frightening Mrs. Needleman.

The aptly titled The Night She Got Lucky is a fun lighthearted contemporary wacky romance starring two individuals who share in common an attraction and a disclaimer re no permanent relationships; though their reasons differ. Fans will enjoy the amusing plot as the wildlife photographer finds picture taking in a cement jungle with ferocious owners and their pets scarier than field work. Susan Donovan provides a warm dog walker’s tale (see Ain’t Too Proud to Beg and take a Chance One me) with a wonderful story line that once again feels like a throwback to the 1930s madcap comedies.

Harriet Klausner

Married By Morning-Lisa Kleypas

Married By Morning
Lisa Kleypas
St. Martin's, May 25 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312605384

In 1852 Lord Leo Hathaway is shocked when he learns he must marry and sire an heir within the year or his family will lose their home, Ramsay House. He has only one woman in mind; his sisters’ paid companion of more than two years, the terrifyingly efficient Catherine Marks although she is far from the meek governess that one finds in novels.

Leo knows he loves getting Catherine’s gander up although he fears she loathes him. Still he considers what life with this passionate spitfire would be like. During there latest war of words, he kisses her. Leo proposes, but Cat fears her past would surface making it unsafe for the Hathaway family she loves.

The latest Hathaway Victorian romance (see Seduce Me At Sunrise, Tempt Me At Twilight and Mine Till Midnight) is a wonderful historical as the governess and her employer take their two year spat to new levels to the delight of sub-genre fans. Readers will relish the humorous bantering between the pair as her brave protector Dodger (the ferret) go up against the infamous Ramsay Curse using love in the morning, afternoon and evening as their counter weapon.

Harriet Klausner

The Bohemian Girl-Kenneth Cameron

The Bohemian Girl
Kenneth Cameron
Minotaur, Jun 8 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312538972

After traveling by motor car with his faithful companions Rupert and Harold on the continent for the last six months, tired American novelist General Denton returns to his home in London. He hopes to obtain some respite having spent two months of his time in a horrible Transylvanian jail, but feels the jaunt in the jalopy was worth it.

However, rest will wait when he opens a two month old letter of desperation from Mary Thomason, whom he does not know. She pleaded with him to help her. Denton learns that Aubrey Heseltine delivered the letter that he had found attached to the back of a painting. While Denton seeks to learn more about his potential client, someone is stalking Denton.

This is an excellent early twentieth century mystery that contains two strong subplots in which Kenneth Cameron seemingly effortlessly interweaves them back and forth before tying them together. Fast-paced yet enabling the reader to have a strong sense of time and place, The Bohemian Girl is a terrific historical thriller due to a powerful cast led by General (see The Frightened Man for his previous appearance).

Harriet Klausner

A Bad Day for Pretty-Sophie Littlefield

A Bad Day for Pretty
Sophie Littlefield
Minotaur, Jun 8 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312559755

In Prosper, Missouri Widow Stella Hardesty and Sheriff Goat Jones enjoy dining together with both looking forward to an after dinner snack. However, Goat’s soon to be ex wife Brandy arrives intoxicated and hysterical; claiming she needs protection. Stella leaves frustrated as hurricane Brandy is quite a storm.

Stella stops at her sewing-machine repair shop she inherited from her late husband Ollie. While looking in on her assistant Chrissy Shaw, Stella answers the phone. Former wife abuser and ex Oxycontin addict Neb Donovan has been arrested for the murder of a woman. Apparently a tornado tore apart the demolition-derby stadium snack revealing a body had been interred there. Neb poured the concrete that was ripped open. Stella, feeling she still needs to protect Neb’s wife Donna like she did when her husband was a druggie, investigates.

Sophie Littlefield’s amateur sleuth return (see A Bad Day for Sorry) is a soft boiled crime caper as the heroine balances her inquiry and her desire for “Blue Eyes” in a fun lighthearted whodunit. Sub-genre fans will enjoy cozying with Stella, who could have been a contender except that the inane shenanigans of Brandy and her boyfriend Wil might leave her dead instead.

Harriet Klausner

The Blood Harvest-S. J. Bolton

The Blood Harvest
S. J. Bolton
Minotaur, Jun 8 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312600518

Alice and Gareth Fletcher and their three young children (ten years old Tom, six years old Joe, and two years old Millie) move to remote Heptonclough, England. Soon after their arrival, Tom and Joe dodge a gang of nasty boys at a graveyard and church. Later Tom informs his parents that a girl in the shadows seems to be spying on him. Alice and Gareth assume their oldest is letting his imagination play with his mind. However, when Millie is almost killed in what looked like a deliberate action to her older brothers, Tom and Joe vow to watch her.

New vicar Reverend Harry Laycock also senses something is not right. Psychiatrist Dr. Evi Oliver introduces the Reverend to her patient Gillian Royle, who has never recovered from the death of her toddler Hayley in a fire three years ago. Harry finds out about two other similar deaths of young girls (Lucy and Megan) and begins to fear for Millie, but it is Joe who goes missing.

Readers will appreciate this scary psychological supernatural saga as the locale seems serene yet bizarre deadly events occur in which mostly the newcomers as strangers in a strange setting are the only ones truly seeing the horror. Fast-paced, the audience needs to set aside time because S.J. Bolton’s thriller is extremely difficult to put down as fans will want to know what the Blood Harvest of little children (three dead in one coffin, for instance) is.

Harriet Klausner

The Taking of Libbie, SD-David Housewright

The Taking of Libbie, SD
David Housewright
Minotaur, Jun 8 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312559960

Two men dressed for combat invade the home of former cop turned millionaire Rushmore McKenzie in St. Anthony, Minnesota. They take him to Libbie, South Dakota. Befuddled by the abduction, Mac is taken aback when he learns the townsfolk believe he is a con artist; whose scheme threatens to bankrupt Libbie.

However, he persuades the city council and law enforcement they arrested the wrong man. Apparently someone stole his identity to pull off the scam. Instead of suing for false arrest, he offers to help catch the crook; somewhat out of altruism but more so because city council member Tracie Blake is pretty. As he digs deep into the con, Mac concludes the plot needed insider help to make it happen, but his questioning of townsfolk angers the residents who reject his theory as they believe no local would do such a thing.

This is an intriguing thriller as the townsfolk reject the hero’s assertion that the con artist pulled off the scam with insider information; most of the locals prefer to believe Mac is the miscreant. The investigation he is doing expands as he also looks into a double homicide. The Taking of Libbie, SD is a fast-paced exciting tale that will hook readers from the starting snatch to the twisting finish and seek McKenzie’s backlist (see Jelly's Gold and Tin City).

Harriet Klausner

Buy Back-Brian Wiprud

Buy Back
Brian Wiprud
Minotaur, Jun 8 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312601881

Insurance companies hire recovery expert Tommy Davin to retrieve stolen property; usually the Brooklyn native pays a small fee to the thief enabling the insurance company to receive the item without having to pay out full value.

Tommy has some debt problems since his girlfriend Yvette left for Vegas leaving him with her IOUs to Vince Scanlon. He knows he better pay Vince off even though it is not his debt as Vince believes in extended definitions of relationships when it comes to breaking body parts. Tommy persuades three buddies led by Huey to steal three paintings from the Whitbread Museum so he can collect the recovery fee from the insurance company. The plan works, but as his pals leave the museum with the art, they are mugged by two thugs with guns; the paintings are stolen from Tommy’s thieves. NYPD suspects Tommy is the mastermind while Vince wants his money now. Finally there is the insane Russian who obsesses over Yvette by stealing her abandoned cats.

Brooklyn is becoming too hot for Tommy as he plays dodge ball .with a “debt” collecting mob, the cops, and the cat thieve; the first is deadly; the second is a lock up; but the third is bewildering. All this insanity goes on while he seeks the thieves who stole from his thieves. Buy Back is a superb amusing over the top of the Brooklyn Bridge crime cape in which readers will expect Elmore Leonard to show up.

Harriet Klausner

A Devil in the Details-K.A. Stewart

A Devil in the Details
K.A. Stewart
Roc, Jul 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463432

Jesse James Davidson has extraordinary fighting skills in the job he has chosen to do. Sometimes people make deals with a demon until they want to exchange for their souls and later decide the cost is too high. Jesse bets his soul that he can defeat the demon in a fight and so far he has won every bout. He got into the guardian profession when he risked his soul to rescue his younger brother.

His latest satisfied customer is the President of the United States. He gets a call from a potential client baseball giant Nelson Kidd who made a deal with a demon to restore his ability to be a champion baseball player. He took his team to the World Champions but now wants out of the deal. Jesse charges him a huge fee because he earns it to pay his medical bills from the fight with the demon. Two other champions Miguel and Guy have fallen off the radar and it is assumed they died. Both called the same number before they vanished and both tried but failed to log on to the guardian database. It looks like something is killing the guardians but Jesse has no time to investigate because he has a demon to fight. He is also staying away from Axel the demon who wants his soul and who apparently is stalking him.

K.A. Stewart is a welcome addition to the urban fantasy writers with a strong opening entry. Told in the first person by the laconic hero in a sardonic witty voice, readers get to know Jesse up front and in person. Flawed and courageous, Jesse risks eternity to help those who cut demonic deals although by doing so he shortens his lifespan because one day he will lose a fight.. A Devil in the Details is a dynamic debut.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tempted by a Warrior-Amanda Scott

Tempted by a Warrior
Amanda Scott
Forever, Jun 29 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446561327

In 1377 Annadale, Scotland, for the past two years, seventeen-year-old Lady Fiona Jardine has been married to abusive Will who thinks nothing of slapping and punching her. Her being pregnant with his child does not prevent Will from hammering her; he even targets her protruding stomach. When he hits her she falls hitting her head on a rock. When she regains consciousness Fiona is her bed and Will has vanished.

Will’s nasty dying father Old Jardine demands justice from Kirkhill Laird Sir Richard Seyton, as he insists Fiona killed his son. He names the Laird of Kirkhill guardian of his unborn grandchild with Richard as guardian and trustee for a lad until he turns twenty-five; and to do whatever he wants if another whore like his daughter-in-law is born. Old Jardine insures everyone knows Fiona killed Will and wants her hung preferably before he dies. The odious Old Jardine dies as Fiona gives birth while Richard plans to protect the new mother and her child from those mean-spirited enough to hang a new mom based on an unsubstantiated rumor, but to do so means finding Will.

This is a great medieval romance starring an abuse victim, a kind laird, and a father-in-law who even dying abuses his power to assault the helpless woman about to give birth to his grandchild. Starting with the Scottish version of Rumpelstiltskin and never letting up with a fairy tale feel to this enjoyable historical romance (including the ogre Jardine males), fans will relish the third Dunwythie saga (see Tamed by a Laird and Seduced by a Rogue).

Harriet Klausner

Crazy for Love-Victoria Dahl

Crazy for Love
Victoria Dahl
Harlequin HQN, Jul 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774623

Chloe Turner is stunned how far her fiancé went to end their engagement; he faked his death. She is stunned by the macabre ruse by someone who allegedly loves her; Chloe and her BFF Jenn travel to White Rock Island to get away from everything.

At the resort, Chloe and Jenn meet Max and Elliot Sullivan. Treasure hunter Max feels protective of his sibling and vulnerable women; meanwhile Elliot remains in shellshock over a recent divorce and agreeing to go with his brother on vacation as he never leaves work. Max is attracted to Chloe so he keeps trying to rescue her but he believes she only needs rescuing from him and his good intention misdeeds.

This amusing contemporary romance stars a woman distrusting men and a man with a hero complex. The story line is fast-paced as Max needs to rescue Chloe who has no need for rescuing especially from a hunk as her broken heart mends. Fans of lighthearted frolics will enjoy this fun romp as Max tries to control his instinctive impulse to save the day but Chloe is not perilous Pauline except for fear her heart will break again.

Harriet Klausner

Almost Perfect-Susan Mallery

Almost Perfect
Susan Mallery
Harlequin HQN, Jul 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774906

Pregnant teenager Liz Sutton left Fool’s Gold when her lover Ethan Hendrix betrayed her. Five years later and much more mature, Liz went home to inform Ethan that he had a child; she reclieved a letter from him saying he wants nothing to do with Tyler so she raised her son by herself eventually becoming a popular author.

Almost a dozen years later, fourteen year old Melissa informs her Aunt Liz that her father Roy (Liz’s brother) was in jail and their stepmother left. Leaving San Francisco Liz accompanied by now eleven years old Tyler returns to Fool’s Gold to take care of her nieces, Melissa and her sister eleven year old Abby. Ethan learns Tyler is his son; fuming he blames Liz for costing him all those years with his child; refusing to believe her “story” involving his wife Rayenne.

Although the plot device of a man not knowing he sired a son has been used many times, Susan Mallery provides a deep Fool’s Gold second chance at love tale. The support cast is strong from the onset as the audience will feel for the nieces and for the heroine who the townsfolk blame for concealing Tyler from his dad. Readers will enjoy Almost perfect as Ethan believes love is not enough to overcome what he has done to his Liz.

Harriet Klausner

Blind Spot-Nancy Bush

Blind Spot
Nancy Bush
Zebra, Jul 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN 9781420103410

In Tillamook County, Oregon psychologist Claire Norris provides counseling to clients at Halo Valley Security Hospital. She does her best to be there for her patients as she personally never moved on from when one of clients paranoid schizophrenic Heywood Marsden III killed his girlfriend, Melody Stone, in front of her and tried to kill her too.

At a rest stop, someone kills Rafe and tries to remove the baby from Tasha’s womb, but failed; Tasha is left in a catatonic state at Laurelton General’s Hospital. Claire accepts the woman as a patient. The late Melody’s brother Police detective Langdon Stone leads the official investigation. Like herself, he blames Claire for his sister’s homicide. However as their mutual disregard turns ardently heated the cop and the doctor team up to prevent another murder from occurring.

This is a fast-paced thriller with a great late twist, but at times slows down with an extremely deep profound look at a psychopath’s obsessive compulsive behavior; in this case pregnant women and mothers. Claire is terrific as she tries to help her patients even when the law and her bosses warn her to back down or else. Although the romantic subplot seems over the top of Rogers Peak as the lead pair has a tragic history, fans will enjoy this exciting action-packed thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Diva Las Vegas-Eileen Davidson

Diva Las Vegas
Eileen Davidson
Obsidian, Jul 6 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451230751

Former Playmate Shana Stern invites soap opera star Alex Peterson to the annual Halloween party at the Playboy Mansion. Alex escorted by her BFF George comes as Little Bo Peep, but looking at the nakedness surrounding her feels more like a lost sheep. However, instead of a good time, she finds her hostess dead, a murder victim. Unable to resist due to a connection to the victim especially since Shana was telling her she was in trouble and she has had success as an amateur sleuth (see Dial Emmy for Murder) the actress investigates.

As she makes her inquiries, Alex finds there is little progress. However, she works the case in between taping of the TV show and eluding her fans who interfere with her investigation. Alex also deals with her ex Randy who wants custody of their daughter Sarah and her boyfriend LAPD Detective Frank Jakes who wants her off the case and demands more quality time with her.

Diva Las Vegas is an amusing whodunit with the tsuris that Alex seems to step into being the prime story line while the investigation takes a back seat. The sleuthing is pure “luck being a leading lady tonight” (from the cover) as Alex makes no progress investigating the case until she “lucks” into the solution. Still fans of the soap opera amateur sleuth series will enjoy this jocular entry because it takes a talented writer to create a work like this.

Harriet Klausner

Ashes to Water-Irene Ziegler

Ashes to Water
Irene Ziegler
Five Stars, Jun 16 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148606

In 1962, Helen Bartlett, a nurse and mother of two daughters, drowns herself in Widow Lake, Florida near their family house. Her children Leigh and Annie blame their fathered for their mom killing themselves. Annie begins talking and seeing her mom’s spirit as the child believes her mother became a mermaid.

In 1981 DeLeon Deputy Sheriff Raina Salceda calls Annie who resides in Michigan that her father was murdered by his live in girlfriend Della Frome who bashed his head in with an oar. Annie calls Leigh in Atlanta. Engaged to a nice man with a teenage daughter problem, Annie travels to DeLeon where her childhood best friend Pete Duncan meets her at the airport. He is also Della’s defense attorney, but he feels the evidence is so overwhelming that he wants to plea bargain. After seeing her dad’s corpse, Annie visits Della in prison; the woman eerily looks like her mom circa 1962 and insists developer Kingfisher Powell killed Ed whom she says she loved. Annie begins asking questions as her mom’s spirit tells her to stop as does her sister who needs the money due to her abusive boyfriend who insists that they would get it if Della is convicted as they would inherit and sell the land.

Ashes to Water is an intriguing psychological amateur sleuth who-done -it. The murder investigation is well written, but supports a deep look at two sisters who as adults cope differently with their mother killing herself though they share in common holding their father culpable. Whereas Annie “communicates” with her mom’s ghost, Leigh has been involved in a serial string of bad relationships. Readers will appreciate this fascinating thriller as Annie seeks the truth about her parents as much as who killed her dad while Leigh wants to sell the property. Character driven (even from the grave), Irene Ziegler provides a powerful thriller (see Rules of the Lake, not read by me, for Annie’s previous appearance).

Harriet Klausner

Shades of Gray-Jackie Kessler & Caitlin Kittredge

Shades of Gray
Jackie Kessler & Caitlin Kittredge
Bantam, Jun 22 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9780553386325

In New Chicago, Jet and Iridium know their relationship is still changing. Once the pair was the best friends forever; soon afterward they became the best of enemies forever; recently out of desperation they teamed up to defeat the Night (see Black and White) though each believes this changes nothing between them.

However an unintended consequence of their victory over the rogue superhero is in destroying the brainwashing transmitting gizmo that controlled Squadron loyalty has posed a new threat. With no one pledged to Corps-Co any longer since the transmitter failure, the Squadron members are outraged, divided and confused. Extrahumans wants revenge while normal humans are turning catatonic as an old enemy of superheroes Everyman has surfaced with vengeance in mind. While Doctor Hypnotic has escaped incarceration using his mesmerizing power to cause further mayhem for everyone especially the former BFFs who still want to remain on the side of the law though that is increasingly turning impossible as their former allies, their enemies, even a dad, and the humans they pledge to protect are after them.

This is a great work of speculative fiction that rotates past and present through the viewpoints of various characters. Fast-paced with plenty of action as seemingly everyone residing in New Chicago wants to either kill or ate least kick the butts of Jet and Iridium. With a nod to The Watchmen, fans will relish the second Kessler-Kittredge superb superhero world as the heroines learn an inconvenient truth about the past and unintentional second and third order effects.

Harriet Klausner

Tracking the Tempest-Nicole Peeler

Tracking the Tempest
Nicole Peeler
Orbit, Jul 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316056571

In Rockabill, Maine hybrid Jane True struggles with learning she is half Selkie. She also tries to understand her new skill as a magic practitioner. However, Jane is also running out of time as purebreds detest Halflings; preferring the Selkie species to be perfectly pure. On the other hand Nell the gnome, Anyan the dog and Trill the kelpie train her on her new skills; though Jane thinks torture is a mire accurate description of their mentoring her.

Her beloved Ryu the vampire is on her side though he is in Boston on a homicide investigation. When she decides to visit her vampiric investigator, Jane never expected to become part of an inquiry he is making into Conleth the Halfling Ifrit, who escaped from a Dorchester lab that blew up right after he got out. Ryu thinks Conleth blew up the lab and has become a serial killer especially of Halflings, but Jane finds several other suspects who will not mind the murder of a nosy Halfling.

The latest Tempest urban fantasy (see Tempest Rising) is an excellent urban fantasy as the heat is on the heroine (and her lover) in Boston. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the heroine joins her “Impaler” lover in Boston and never slows down as the pair search for a paranormal serial killer. Readers will relish Tracking the Tempest as Jane seems truly to be in the eye of the perfect killer storm.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Rebellion of Jane Clarke-Sally Gunning

The Rebellion of Jane Clarke
Sally Gunning
Morrow, Jun 1 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061782145

In 1769 in Satucket on Cape Cod, twenty-two years old Jane Clarke rejects marriage to the loyalist Phinnie Paine chosen by her father. Outraged by his daughter’s disobedience, he exiles her to take care of her elderly great-aunt Gill in Boston.

Jane enjoys the independence of not residing under her father’s tyrannical thumb and being near the British Custom House, she meets some of the leaders demanding representation in parliament. She becomes friends with Henry Knox and through her brother meets John Adams. As the men she meets become increasingly frustrated with the British efforts to restrain Bostonians, she fears violence will happen as she realizes those fomenting revolt are not interested in truths that detract from their argument of throwing the British out. Finally her premonition turns true when several protestors are killed at what the rebelling colonists call the Boston Massacre.

The Rebellion of Jane Clark is a super historical thriller that through the heroine’s eyes focuses on key participants and others caught in the dispute in the days just prior to the American Revolution. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jane is exiled to Boston and never slows down; yet enables readers to witness how divided the Massachusetts colonists were re revolt vs. allegiance. Sally Gunning’s terrific tale brings to life the prime time players, their impact on others, and life in Boston as rebellion is on the minds of every citizen; with families divided between for, against, and neutral

Harriet Klausner