Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Wolf in the Parlor: The Eternal Connection Between Humans and Dogs

The Wolf in the Parlor: The Eternal Connection Between Humans and Dogs
Jon Franklin
St. Martin’s Griffin, Oct 12 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312662646

Humans and canines have a special bond that is unique in the animal kingdom. That is the hypothesis of Jon Franklin’s insightful look at how that loving tie formed. Using several sciences to support his theory, Mr. Franklin takes the audience on a wonderful tour of evolution going back twelve millennia as wild wolves were tamed into followers and further tamed into domestic obedience. Exploring human and animal behavior to include ethics, Mr. Franklin concludes evolutionary the dog gave up on a fifth of his or her brain power to allow humans to do the hard lifting thinking; he insists we gave away one tenth of ours too as dogs provide us unrequited loved as our best friend. Finally, the author also brings in anecdotal support to his belief of the symbiotic relationship between man and dog when he discusses his beloved Charlie; these are my favorite entries while my husband says my significant other was Max the dog. This warm, well written nonfiction is filled with scientific information as much as personal tales that showcase the Wolf in the Parlor goes back to the ancient caves as well as the modern day abodes.

Harriet Klausner

The Sleepwalkers-Paul Grossman

The Sleepwalkers
Paul Grossman
St. Martin’s, Oct 12 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312601904

In 1932 Berlin police detective Willi Krauss solves the notorious Child Eater serial killer case, which brings him a modicum of fame though the power hungry Nazis are unhappy about this as he is a Jew. On his next assignment Krauss investigates the strange death of a woman floating in the River Spree. The victim’s head was shaved and her fibula surgically removed from one leg only to be replanted in the other limb.

Because of his recent fame, Weimar Republic President General Paul von Hindenberg assigns Krauss to look into the disappearance of a young Bulgarian princess who went out to purchase cigarettes, but never came home. At the same time as his workload grows, he has no time to sit Shiva for his recently deceased wife nor spend time with their children who are staying with their aunt. Between von Hindenberg and the Nazis, Krauss struggles to solve his difficult cases.

This engaging German historical police procedural contains a strong sense of how much enthusiasm the Nazis felt and the fear they placed in their rival, adversaries, and chosen scapegoats. Krauss is a strong lead character whose religion places a scarlet letter on him as far as the Nazis are concerned as they would rather have the Child Eater still terrorizing people than have a Jew solve the case. Although some of the key support characters are stereotypical and unnecessary (including an apparent love interest) as they detract from the entertaining plot by causing questionable character contradictions, fans will enjoy visiting Berlin at a pivotal wind of change sweeps Germany.

Harriet Klausner

South Austin Vampire-Russ Hall

South Austin Vampire
Russ Hall
Five Star, Oct 15 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148668

In Austin, Devil’s Due music scene owner Owen Peasey hires private investigator Travis Treegrow to learn what is bothering his star attraction, singer-songwriter Lola Pillaccherosi. However, before Trav gets very far he finds the local star dead; eerily her body contains no blood and her neck has two puncture teeth marks that remind him of a Jose Doe corpse lying pale in the morgue.

Putting aside somewhat his volunteer inquiry into several thefts that Trav is doing for Sister Consuelo he and his former girlfriend Texas Hill Country peace officer Cassie make inquiries into the homicide. They soon begin to uncover a trail of avarice in which the clues lead to vampire cult leader Levi Damocles with lethal connections to the drug and human trafficking mobs.

The second Blue-eyed Indian mystery (see Bones of the Rain) is an engaging Austin whodunit in which the city’s music scene and the accompanying underbelly make for a fun atmospheric investigation. Although the vampiric angle never quite seems blood harrowing enough as it pales in comparison to the city tour, fans will enjoy Trav’s Texas two-step turf trot.

Harriet Klausner

Fatal Error-F. Paul Wilson,

Fatal Error
F. Paul Wilson,
Tor, Oct 12 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765322821

Repairman Jack feels like he is caught in some sort of cosmic middle between the Ally and the Otherness while also fearing that the Septimus Order united with the Kickers to kill the Lady in order enable the evil Otherness to enter earth reality. However, even as he resents being the bodyguard of the lady, Jack is caught in a local scenario when a desperate Munir Habib pleads with the mercenary to save his family.

The Septimus Order and their nefarious allies plan to shut down the Internet. Mr. Osala quietly encourages these cult terrorists to do so while he also prepares a newborn infected by the Otherness that he had abducted from the baby’s stunned mother Dawn Pickering to bring his prime adversary Jack to his knees.

The latest Repairman Jack thriller is a great refreshing entry in what consistently has been one of the best sagas over the past two decades (ancient history of Reagan was in the White House when he first appears). The story line is fast-paced and filled with twists as several of the mercenary adversaries seem to have united with a common cause that starts with his death. However though they have battled before and this is his penultimate tale, they still don’t know Jack.

Harriet Klausner

Factotum-D. M. Cornish

D. M. Cornish
Putnam, Nov 11 2010, $19.99
ISBN: 9780399246401

A Foundling, Rossamund Bookchild wants to know something about his roots as currently his knowledge about his parents is zero. He leaves behind his home and in many ways his youth as he sets forth on an adventure to find out just who he is.

As he treks the Half-Continent, he faces danger but never quits his quest. As he continues his march, he faces frightening truths; of which the worst remains not knowing anything about who he is. Naimes Duchess in Waiting, Europe the monster hunter, “adopts” Rossamund as her Factotum and friend while teaching her protégé that evil comes in all shapes and forms including human packaging, but his quest for his identity has already aroused the long time dormant Monster Lords.

The third Foundling’s Tale (see Foundling and Lamplighter) is a great final fantasy as Rossamund learns more truth than he would prefer. Fast-paced with a sort of ancient feel to the vernacular and enhanced by drawings and maps, teen readers will want to join the Foundling and they aristocrat as they hunt monsters including people and seek clues to who Rossamund is especially since his search has awakened the most hideous lethal Monster Lords.

Harriet Klausner

The Wolf Age-James Enge

The Wolf Age
James Enge
PYR, Oct 5, 2010, $17.00
ISBN 9781616142438

By nature an extreme pessimist who in spite of his adept skills knows he cannot live up to the legend of his father except when he is intoxicated. Enchanter Morlock Ambrosius wonders what else could go wrong as nothing seems to be going his way. In the werewolf city-state of Wuruyaaria, he figures he hit rock bottom when he is confined in a prison inside Vargulleion, a werewolf fortress. Morlock soon learns he has not bottomed out when he is forced to kill another inmate who attacked him.

His new cell mate is Rokhlenu the werewolf, whose life he once saved. They become friends watching each other’s back in the dangerous dungeons. However, Morlock also struggles with his sanity as the glass spike pounded into his head blocks his Sight leading to out of control paranoid rages. Working together, the pair escapes, but being on the outside in a city boiling over with angry werewolves divided in strife during an election year proves more dangerous than lock up.

Making last summer’s Tea Party look like tea partiers, The Wolf Age is an excellent political fantasy as James Enge paints balloting skewered by the sword and claw; making Wuruyaaria seem worse than 1850s Bleeding Kansas and that of 2008 violent Kenya. The taut story line is character driven by the honor of blood werewolf voters as democracy proves deadly. With morose Morlock as the guide (see Blood of Ambrose and This Crooked Way), readers will appreciate the dark, grim and gloomy portrayal of democracy.

Harriet Klausner

Poisoned Kisses-Stephanie Draven

Poisoned Kisses
Stephanie Draven
Harlequin Nocturne, Oct 1 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618453

“Poisoned Kisses”. The Underworld Nymph Kyra fears what her father Ares plans to do. Ares wants to use toxic blood to change a man into a deadly hydra. His choice is weapons dealer Marcos Kaisaris. Marcos believes he can save the world from the madness of weapons of mass destruction by arming the oppressed. Like her sire, Kyra seeks Marcos out with her plan being to kill him so her father cannot capture him. When they meet, Marcos’ tainted blood burns Kyra, costing her immortality. Still she refuses to quit although now she considers locking him away from her dad. In their second battle, they fall in love so she plans to keep him safe or die in the attempt.

“Midnight Medusa”. As a child in war torn Bosnia, Renata saw first hand humanity’s cruelty. She escaped to New York City where she became a sculptor who made pieces of the war criminals she witnessed performing their horrific cleaning. Once she completed a work, the “model” died horrifically. The son of Ares, Damon kidnaps the artist and informs her who she is and why her art kills.

The romantic fantasy Poisoned Kisses is a terrific tale that grips the audience from the moment lead couple meet and never slows down as natural enemies fall in love. Readers also receive a wonderful romantic urban fantasy short story Midnight Kisses with a great paranormal twist though the lead couple is obviously less developed; this was previously an e-tale. With two offspring of Ares entries, Stephanie Draven provides fans with a joyous trip to “Mythica”.

Harriet Klausner

The Keepers-Heather Graham

The Keepers
Heather Graham
Harlequin Nocturne, Oct 1 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618446

In New Orleans, Fiona MacDonald is one the Keeper sisters who watch over the city’s vampire, shapeshifter and a few unmentionables population though her focus is the bloodsuckers. Her job is to resolve conflict as quietly as possible and to insure the species behaves themselves so as to keep the humans ignorant that the otherworldly reside in their midst.

A serial killer who apparently is a rogue vampire strikes the city. The psychopath drinks blood dry of blond females before dumping their corpses on cemetery crypts. Fiona and vampire detective Jagger DeFarge work together to end an undead reign of terror while her Keeper peers and her siblings warn her not to trust a bloodsucker.

This exhilarating romantic urban fantasy is an otherworldly police procedural that grips the reader with Heather Graham’s vividly dark view of New Orleans. The story line is fast-paced and filled with twists. The investigation makes for an interesting paranormal whodunit in which the Keeper and the Vampire try to ignore their attraction as they are natural enemies and critically understand ending the fiend’s murderous terror supersedes all else.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Perfect Love Song-Patti Callahan Henry

The Perfect Love Song
Patti Callahan Henry
Vanguard, Oct 12 2010, $15.95
ISBN: 9781593156169

Jimmy Sullivan writes a beautiful Perfect Love Song for his beloved girlfriend Charlotte Carrington. The lyrics are so well received; he leaves Palmetto Pointe, South Carolina to go on tour with his brother Jack, their band The Unknown Souls and a who’s who of country music. He enjoys the glitter of the bright lights, the fame of people remembering his name, and the side benefits of being with the legends.

However, his family and that girlfriend who he wrote his original song for are upset with Jimmy. Indifferent to their pleading, he chooses to perform on Christmas Eve at Radio City Music Hall instead of being the best man at his brother’s wedding. Will success spoil Jimmy Sullivan as he wanders alone in Manhattan on Christmas Eve?

The Perfect Love Song is an entertaining character study that modernizes the movie Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Jimmy is an intriguing lead protagonist who chose career over love so we naive romance fans will feel no empathy for him though logically we understand his opportunity choice. Fans who enjoy a warm relationship drama will want to read Patti Callahan Henry’s tender tale.

Harriet Klausner

A Perfect Scandal-Tina Gabrielle

A Perfect Scandal
Tina Gabrielle
Zebra, Oct 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420108491

In 1814 London Lady Isabel Cameron wants to cross the Channel to study art in Paris. To achieve her goal once the Napoleonic wars end, she knows she must never marry. Her father believes a lady needs a husband so he plans to arrange a marriage for his daughter before she becomes comfortable on the shelf. Thus the earl plans to give her to a man over three decades older than her and even older than him.

Desperate Isabel needs to find the right man quick. She meets scandalous Lord Marcus Hawksley, who is her age and a younger son of an earl; however, he is unacceptable by the Ton because he earns a living as a stockbroker. Isabel chooses Marcus as ideal for her; not to marry but to destroy her reputation so no one will wed her. Without a companion, she goes to see him to ask for his assistance, but when he is accused of stealing she is his alibi, but also his scandal. They agree to a short term marriage of convenience, but an inconvenient truth surfaces when they fall in love.

A Perfect Scandal is a perfect Regency romance due to the lead characters, who bring refreshing new ideas to the entertaining story line. Whereas she wants to study art while embracing spinsterhood; he breaks a social taboo by working as a stockbroker. Readers will enjoy the relationship between these ducal offspring; as Tina Gabrielle proves that the whole formed by love is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Harriet Klausner

A Knight and White Satin-Jackie Ivie

A Knight and White Satin
Jackie Ivie
Zebra, Oct 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420108842

In 1540 Scotland, Dallis “White Satin” Caruth has no choice but to wed a man she loathes. She is informed without her feelings considered that she will marry the King’s champion, Payton Dunn-Fadden; who in her mind is a beast. They marry, but she has one other secret vow; somehow someway she will destroy her brute of a husband who is beneath her station. He, on the other hand, knows her scorn yet plans to tame the shrew he calls wife.

However, as Dallis and Payton live as man and wife, she sees a kinder gentler person than she imagined. She begins to fall in love, which supersedes her thirst for vengeance. Now she wants her husband’s love and perhaps more important his trust.

This is an engaging sixteenth century historical romance starring two enemy combatants falling in love. Each comes to the marriage with a personal agenda that quickly becomes superseded by desire, attraction and love. Although the relationship between the pair for the most part is dysfunctional making the anticipated ending a bit abrupt, fans will enjoy the Beauty and the Beast; Jackie Ivie style.

Harriet Klausner

Hull Zero Three-Greg Bear

Hull Zero Three
Greg Bear
Orbit, Nov 22 2010, $19.95
ISBN: 9780316072816

Millenniums into the distant future, Sanjay wakes up without any memories. He has no idea who he is or how he got where he is. He also is confused by his guide, a small girl who seems aware of what is going on.

As he somewhat gets his bearing, Sanjay learns he is on a starship sailing through space. The vessel contains generations traveling to a new home, but he soon learns an internal dispute threatens the safety of the ship and its passengers at a time when they enter a dangerous supernovae sector. Sanjay is beginning to learn why he is awake during this crisis as he is not what he thought he was.

Hull Zero Three is a fun science fiction thriller that adds very little new to the generational ark in space sub-genre as the reader will know what follows in this frequently used theme (see the movie Pandorum and Baxter’s Ark). Still filled with non stop action and starring an intriguing confused hero and several support characters adding to his bewilderment by their divided commentary, fans will enjoy disasters strike the starship of Hull Zero Three.

Harriet Klausner

The Broken Kingdoms-N.K. Jemisin

The Broken Kingdoms
N.K. Jemisin
Orbit, Nov 3 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780316043960

A decade ago in the city of Shadow, the world tree sprung up after an incredible amount of magic was released. Blind artist Oree works in the shade of the world tree by selling junk to tourists visiting the city to see the tree.

Oree conceals her real talent as a painter from everyone by drawing only inside her home. When she finds a homeless man living inside a muck bin, Oree feels sorry for him. She takes him to her home only to learn what happens to Good Samaritans. A God is murdered in plain sight and anyone who Oree cherishes is harmed forcing the artist to come out of the shadows of her house to defend those she cares about.

The second Inheritance fantasy is a terrific tale held together by the fascinating Oree who has come a long way in the decade that has passed since the events of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Oree is super as she defends weaker people from bullies in a realm that believes only the strong survive. Although The Broken Kingdoms can stand alone as a deep character driven thriller, fans will want to read its excellent predecessor The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms as a great fantasy opening act but also to see how far the intrepid reclusive blind artist has come to be a champion of the downtrodden as she can see the Distance.

Harriet Klausner

Cryoburn-Lois Bujold

Lois Bujold
Baen, Oct 19 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781439133941

Residents of the planet Kibou-daini believe strongly in putting off death preferably forever. At the direction of Barrayaran Emperor Gregor to investigate the planet’s cryo-corporations, Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan arrives on the planet to attend a cryonics conference. However, he is a few days on the orb when someone drugs the interplanetary diplomat. Miles escapes from his wannabe kidnappers, but his mind is hazy from whatever was given to him.

Jin Sato rescues a dazed Miles. Jin’s mother led a cryo reform movement until she was declared incompetent and frozen. Living amidst the impoverish masses, Jin runs a cline for the poor. As Miles learns about the cryo war over heirs and inheritance, he begins to meet the natives inside and outside of frozen coffins.

This is a great addition to the Vorkosigan diplomatic science fiction thrillers. Following regal orders, the hero investigates a convoluted series of events that appear only loosely tied by a cryo theme. Vorkosigan finally connects the dots only leading to greater peril; by those who do not want to come in from the cold. Simply put, Cryoburn is a timely super entry as the Imperial Auditor uncovers the stunning truth and he also learns Diplomatic Immunity will not keep him alive.

Harriet Klausner

Wolfsbane-Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs
Ace, Nov 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019540

A year has passed since Geoffrey ae’Magi died, but his impact still lingers. Aralorn learns her father, the Lyon of Lambshold, has recently died. Although the shapeshfting mercenary has been away from home for over a decade, she returns home to honor her aristocratic father. She and Wolf travel to Reth to say goodbye to her father.

However, in Reth, Aralorn and Wolf are stunned with what greets them. Her dad is sort of dead and sort of not dead. They investigate what happened to her sire. What they find out has both panicking as evidence mounts that Geoffrey ae’Magi lives and her father is spellbound by an evil sorcery trying to trap Aralorn.

Wolfsbane is a delightful follow-up to the exhilarating Masques. Aralorn is terrific as she learns the lesson you can’t go home even for a funeral as nothing is the same as she remembers it. Wolf matures considerable as he starts to reconcile his past with his present especially his need for a long term relationship with his beloved companion. Although the well written story line is somewhat typical of the genre, fantasy readers will enjoy Patricia Briggs’ wonderful tale due to the stunned lead couple finding the last thing they (and fans) expected when they go to her hometown.

Harriet Klausner

Ghost Town-Rachel Caine

Ghost Town
Rachel Caine
NAL, Oct 26 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780451231611

A very old vampire Amalie founded Morganville, Texas as a refugee where vampires and humans can live together, but the Undead are at the top of the food chain. After a battle, the safeguards that protect the vampires are broken and humans can leave the town with their memories intact because the machine hooked to a brain was destroyed.

Myrnin the semi-sane vampire who built the first bio machine has to reconstruct a new one from scratch. His assistant Claire refuses to use a brain to power the gizmo, but she helps her boss create one. The problem is that the machine is making humans and vampires forget the last three years of their lives. Myrnin’s password protects the machine so Claire can’t unplug it. Although she is human, Claire feels strongly she must find a way to pull the plug before Morganville is destroyed.

Rachel Caine’s latest Morganville vampire thriller is awesome as the Undead are held in check by Amelia’s rules until the machine breaks down leading to a leadership challenge of the matriarch. However although that is powerful theme enabling fans to look closely at what happens to a culture when a key control fails, the action focuses more on the traditional vampire stalking humans for psychological reasons. Young adult fans will enjoy this entry and the entire series as this time local vampire civilization loses a primary restrictive barrier leading to over indulgence.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sloane Hall-Libby Sternberg

Sloane Hall
Libby Sternberg
Five Star, Sep 15 2020, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594149177

In 1929 in Los Angeles, John Doyle becomes a camera operator who works both silent and talkie movies at Canfield Studios. However, a dumb thing he did costs him his job at the studio and a fight his room. . His camera mentor Leo Barkenstein gets him a job as a live-in chauffeur to silent film star Miss Sloane. John heads to SLOANE H LL.

An alcoholic with a mercurial personality, Pauline Sloane is attracted to John. He reciprocates as she finds her vulnerability touching. However, he never loses sight that he is a servant and any future with Miss Sloane nonexistent beyond being her driver. Besides John wants back behind the camera while Julia the chef and Marta the housekeeper want to influence their relationship; her agent Robbie prefers torpedoing their affection..

John, filled with anger and loneliness, makes for an entertaining historical tale as he reacts rather than thinks. The rest of the cast are stereotypes of an age of transition in Hollywood to include a fading star, her loyal staff, her acrimonious agent and John’s mentor. Fans will enjoy this strong look at Hollywood circa 1929.

Harriet Klausner

The Lost Art of Gratitude-Alexander McCall Smith

The Lost Art of Gratitude
Alexander McCall Smith
Anchor (Random House), Sep 21 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780307387080

Feeling a bit paranoid investment banker Minty Auchterlonie fears someone detests her so much that they are trying to harm her. First government tax agents are investigating her though she has no idea why suddenly they are doing it unless someone tipped them off. Second she received a funeral wreath from an unknown sender.

At a child’s birthday party, Minty tells her friend Scottish philosopher Isabel Dalhouse, whose not quite two year old son Charlie is at the bash, that she believes someone is after her. Isabel investigates using skills honed by being the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics. She questions the most likely suspect Jock Dundas, who believes he sired Minty’s son during an affair they had; he wants time with his alleged offspring or he will expose her to her spouse Gordon McCaig. Meanwhile her enemy accuses Isabel of failing to prevent plagiarism at the Review and her lover Jamie asks her to marry him so they and their son Charlie can be a family.

If you seek a bit more action turn to the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency tales. However as with Precious’s detecting, Isabel is a great focus who holds the intelligent slice of life plot together (see The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday). Character driven, readers will enjoy this sage saga as evil comes in many shapes, but never a Dove as Isabel learns first hand The Lost Art Of Gratitude as no one seems to appreciate her efforts.

Harriet Klausner

The Mischief of the Mistletoe-Lauren Willig

The Mischief of the Mistletoe
Lauren Willig
Dutton, Oct 28 2010, $19.95
ISBN: 9780525951872

In 1803, Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh visits his sister Sally at the Climson Select Seminary for Young Ladies, a boarding school she attends in Bath. He meets and his attracted to the school’s new mistress Arabella Dempsey who accepted a position there over the objection of her best friend Jane.

Mistaking Turnip for the Pink Carnation, Arabella persuades the Fitzhugh siblings to help her with a bit of espionage at Farley Castle though he is unaware of why she invited him to join her there. As the trio works their mission, Arabella introduces blundering Turnip to her BFF Miss Austen. Feeling as if he fell off a wagon, Turnip works hard to prove he is worthy of Arabella.

Satirizing the Pink Carnation series (see The Secret History of the Pink Carnation), Laura Willig provides a fresh entry due to Turnip who is a sort of Regency Inspector Clouseau. Although the espionage subplot is secondary as is the delightful Ms. Austen “correspondence” with Arabella and her unfinished novel as anchors rather than leads, fans will want to spend the twelve days of Christmas with Turnip and Arabella at Dovetail estate.

Harriet Klausner

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball-Donita K. Paul

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball
Donita K. Paul
WaterBrook, Oct 5 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780307458995

With Christmas around the corner, lonely Cora Crowder knows she procrastinates in buying gifts. On Sage Street, as such she enters into Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad’s bookshop where she meets also lonely Simon Derrick.

At the store, Cora and Simon receive invitations to attend a Christmas ball. They continue to run into each other around town, which has both wondering what is going on as they never met before they literally ran into each at the WWW bookstore. When Simon mentions he would love to bring his sister Sandy to the ball; Cora gives him her ticket though he insists he was not asking her for it. It will take a lot more magic to bring this pair together for Christmas.

Although readers will anticipate the outcome of the Christmas ball, this is a terrific romantic fantasy with a strong underlying message on trusting the Heavenly Father. Fast-paced and whimsical, young adults and older readers will enjoy Donita K. Paul’s charming holiday novella as The Gift of the Magi is learning to respect and love yourself, others and the Lord while doing the fox trot.

Harriet Klausner

A Butterfly in Flame-Nicholas Kilmer

A Butterfly in Flame
Nicholas Kilmer
Poisoned Pen, Nov 2 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9781590587911

Near Boston, the Stillton Academy has financial woes. However, a scandal also surfaces when instructor Morgan Flower and first year student Missy Tutunjian disappear apparently together from the North Shore art school; she of the bad romantic poetry happens to be the daughter of the largest donor at a time when money is tight and accreditation is critical and on the line.

Two school trustees Abe Baum and Parker Stillton visit art collector Clay Reed to ask for his help. He asks his employee private investigator Fred Taylor to find the runaways. Fred pretends to be Flower’s replacement at the academy so that he can work undercover. He talks with staff and students only to learn the one common theme is a universal loathing of President Liz Harmony. When Liz's predecessor, Rodney Somerfest is found dead stark naked on a nearby beach, Fred interrogates the president who refuses to respond to his questions and the only famous alumni painter Basil Houel.

The latest Fred Taylor “animal” art mystery (see Madonna of the Apes and Man with a Squirrel) is a great entry as the sleuth works an art school disappearance and murder. The story line is fast-paced with a terrific twist. Fans of the series will enjoy Fred’s lectures as he seeks motives beyond inane poetry that would be subpar for bubblegum rock and roll.

Harriet Klausner

The Boy from Ilysies-Pearl North

The Boy from Ilysies
Pearl North
Tor, Nov 9 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780765320971

For centuries the Singers and the Libyrarians were at war with each other over how knowledge should b transported. The former believe in oral storytelling while the latter feel strongly books are the ultimate source. A miracle occurred uniting the adversaries though problems remain between the groups. The hope is to make the dying land surrounding the labyrinth back to fruition with a new crop.

Po, a young man from Ilysies, where males are slaves, is in the field when a fire breaks out destroying the crops. He is blamed though he is totally innocent. To keep Po out of harms way, he is sent with the Chorus of the Word to the Corvariate Cathedral to find Endymion’s Rose, an artifact from the Ancients that may save the world as it was before the terraforming started breaking down. It was lush and fertile and green.

The sequel to Libryinth takes place on a world changed to be a new earth, which is just a fleeting myth like memory for those on the orb. The terraforming is breaking apart mindful of what NPR has just described happens to some orthodontic work. It will take special archivists to learn how to reverse the rapid deterioration that threatens both groups. Filled with action and a deep look at a divided culture battling one another (mindful of DC), young adult readers will enjoy the entertaining thought provoking The Boy from Ilysies.

Harriet Klausner

Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files-Jim Butcher

Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files
Jim Butcher
Roc, Oct 26 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9780451463654

Although the quality of the eleven entries varies to an incredible degree, fans of Dresden will want to read the anthology that is a sort of history of the author. No question, the audience will want to read the novella "Aftermath", which occurs a few hours after the end of the stunning Changes. Many of the tales fill the gaps between the novels especially with a close look at support cast in entries like “Backup” focuses on Thomas and “Warrior” on Michael. Some like the first Dresden unpublished tale, A Restoration of Faith, displays Jim Butcher’s talent, but not experience as the contribution is a bit confusing; that might be caused by knowing so much about the only wizard in the Chicago phone book. Clearly this compilation is for fans of the series; newcomers would be better off watching the TV show or starting with the novels as that is Mr. Butcher’s forte.

Harriet Klausner

Surface Detail-Iain M. Banks

Surface Detail
Iain M. Banks
Orbit, Oct 28 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780316123402

The Culture employs special technology throughout the galaxy that enables humans and aliens to select who they want to be. On the planet Sichult, powerful Veppers assisted by two of his employees, rapes and murders sex slave Lededje Y'breq; but not before she rips some skin off their leader.

The Culture artificial intelligence on a nearby starship resurrects Lededje. She is expected to enact vengeance for her homicide. At the same time, a debate within the Culture leadership continues over what to do about evil sinners like Veppers and his minions. Some insist they should be transported to cyber Hells to suffer punishment until either redeemed or eternity whichever comes first while others insist the more humane response is capital punishment.

The latest Culture space thriller (see Transition and Matter) is an incredible accomplishment as Iain M. Banks shifts effortlessly between reality and virtually so much so the reader will wonder what real is and what fantasy is. Fast-paced from the haunting opening assault and never slowing down, fans of the saga will love this powerful entry while newcomers will be searching for the backlist.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Secrets Sisters Keep-Abby Drake

The Secrets Sisters Keep
Abby Drake
Avon, Oct 12 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061878329

In Kamp Kasteel, New York, Broadway producer Edward Dalton vanishes just prior to the arrival of his four nieces allegedly coming to celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday. The quartet believes Uncle Edward and his significant other Harry have gone to Connecticut to marry. Each fears he will next cut them out of his will.

Historian Ellie Dalton, Park Avenue socialite Amanda Dalton Delaney, and movie star Naomi "Babe" Dalton consult with each other re their missing uncle. The fourth sister, family loser and estranged sibling, Carleen is not welcome by the others, who have long memories of all the tragedies she caused; starting with accidentally killing their parents when she burned their home to the ground. However, the older trio relents and lets her join the search for Uncle Edward.

Although somewhat like a soap opera especially each sister’s relationship with non-siblings and their family history, fans will enjoy the search for the missing septuagenarian as the quest leads each of the Dalton females to relook what matters in their respective lives. They need money but they also realize they miss the empathy as only a sister can provide. The Secrets Sisters Keep is a strong family drama.

Harriet Klausner

A Piggly Wiggly Christmas-Robert Dalby

A Piggly Wiggly Christmas
Robert Dalby
Putnam, Nov 14 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399156779

In Second Creek, Mississippi Laurie Lepanto is concerned with what the new MegaMart by the nearby highway exit is doing to the local small businesses. She initially talks with some of her fellow Nitwitts about her concern before approaching the returning honeymooners, Mayor "Choppy" Hale Dunbar and his new wife Gaylie Girl. The three of them and the other Nitwitts ladies’ club plan a Christmas gala to revitalize the town square in order to bring back the local shoppers and tourists.

However, an electrical fire damages the square, leaving the holiday celebration in jeopardy. Meanwhile Gaylie's son Petey falls in love (again) this time with Meta, the daughter of formidable Nitwitt Renza Belford. Even though tension and depression rise to stratospheric levels, the Nitwitts never ever give up. They need a Yuletide miracle, but if any group could make it happen it is these determined females.

This is a fun regional small town tale that focuses on a major economic-social issue as the corporations replace mom and pop small businesses with big stores. Although series fans know how this will end unless they are a halfwit, readers will enjoy the antics of the Nitwitts and other eccentric residents of Second (to none) Creek.

Harriet Klausner

Shiver-Jo Leigh

Jo Leigh
Harlequin Blaze, Oct 1 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795758

Cartoonist Carrie Sawyer travels to remote Crider Inn near Denver for a week of ghost hunting. Carrie has little interest in the legendary paranormal activity at the inn as she is more interested in remaining wired and unwired with cyberspace.

Carrie finds a new interest outside of the net when she meets the inn’s owner Sam Crider. On the surface they share nothing in common. However, each realizes the attraction includes ironically a skeptical outlook on permanent relationships, especially that con job called love. Sam and Carrie start the week feeling ghosts are more plausible than love, but by week’s end, each reconsiders what a Shiver denotes when every kiss they share leaves both quaking for more.

Shiver is a heated comedic contemporary romance starring two likeable skeptics who believe in ghosts and the tooth fairy much more than in love. Carrie and Sam are a wonderful pairing as each sings the refrain from the 10 CC song I’m Not In Love. Jo Leigh writes a wonderful tale as readers will agree that Halloween should be a national holiday celebrated in a special heated way.

Harriet Klausner

Private Sessions-Tori Carrington

Private Sessions
Tori Carrington
Harlequin Blaze, Oct 1 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795727

In Earnest, Washington, an employee at her family’s firm Metaxas Limited, Bryna Metaxas proposes a partnership with business mogul Caleb Payne of Seattle. Whereas she is talking business only, he remains upset that a relative of hers wrecked a deal while also admiring her beauty. He decides to collect on the Metaxas debt by seducing Bryna.

Bryna is attracted to Caleb, but though he enjoys sex with her, his attitude is placing her below his partners and his mom on his pecking order. When he is forced to analyze his desire for her, Caleb realizes what started as a payback has backfired as he has fallen in love. Now he must come up with the deal of the century or lose everything that matters.

Although the relationship between the lead couple never evolves outside of the bedroom (extremely loose definition of boudoir) and the boardroom, readers will enjoy this fun sizzling contemporary romance. Even with plenty of sex seemingly everywhere in the Pacific northwest, the story line will remind readers of the Doris Day-Rock Hudson fluffy comedies like Pillow Talk; with obviously a lot more blaze. Team Carrington provides their fans with an entertaining boardroom romance.

Harriet Klausner

A Christmas Waltz-Jane Goodger

A Christmas Waltz
Jane Goodger
Zebra, Oct 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420111507

In 1894 Lady Amelia Wellesley arrives in Small Fork, Texas from England. Her first impression is go back home to Meremont immediately as this wild frontier is nothing like that described to her by her fiancé Wild West show performer Carson Kitteridge.

Amelia quickly learns that Carson the charmer is a duplicitous person. He fabricated many things including their marriage. Carson’s older brother Dr. Boone Kitteridge is a stable no nonsense person. He has quickly fallen in love with the Englishwoman and offers to marry her. Although she does not love Boone she accepts his proposal. They travel to England where he becomes the village doctor and she his wife. However, doubts leave their relationship tenuous at best.

The latest Jane Goodger Christmas historical romance (see A Christmas Scandal) is warm late Victorian tale. The support cast is solid, but it is the American doctor and his aristocratic English wife who turn A Christmas Waltz into a poignant story; as he is Running Scared (Roy Orbison tune) of the return of his brother in their lives while she fears she will never love her caring husband.

Harriet Klausner

The Christmas Knight-Michele Sinclair

The Christmas Knight
Michele Sinclair
Zebra, Oct 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420108552

In 1154, their father has gone off to escort the new heir to Hunswick Castle. He leaves behind his oldest daughter Bronwyn de Betron to take charge of their home and watch over her two always battling younger sisters (Lily and Edythe).

To the de Betron siblings’ shock and grief, their father dies. The new heir Lord Ranulf de Gunnar arrives at the castle and proves to be a cold despicable boor. Making matters more difficult for the grieving siblings, recently crowned King Henry has ordered Ranulf to marry Edythe. Heeding Lily’s suggestion as she knows her sibling could not deal with such an odious person, Bronwyn impersonates her sibling until they can escape. Instead she falls in love with brusque Ranulf, who hides a warm compassionate heart from his new charges.

This is a super Normandy medieval romance starring two lonely people, who fall in love, but the deception leaves both with no future together; ironically without the ruse they would still have no future together. The lead couple and her sisters make for a strong entertaining historical as fans will wonder if The Christmas Knight will marry for love or duty.

Harriet Klausner

Scandal Of The Season-Christie Kelley

Scandal Of The Season
Christie Kelley
Zebra, Oct 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420108774

Ten years may have passed since Viscount Anthony Westfield spent time with a flower girl on the church steps but he has not forgotten her. He has not seen her since; that is until now in 1817 when he runs into (and almost run over) the girl who has haunted his dreams.

Observing her closely, a disappointed Anthony realizes his fantasy is a pickpocket who he can use on his mission. Anthony blackmails Victoria Seaton into pretending to be his mistress at a holiday house party. Victoria has never forgotten the hunk who took her heart and more a decade ago. As they work together on his dangerous assignment, the greatest peril is to their respective hearts, which knew the truth when they first met.

This is a super Regency romantic suspense as Victoria steals more than just values from the affluent as she takes Anthony’s heart; however, he also possesses hers as he did when they first met years ago and with every mistletoe kiss. Fast-paced with a strong supporting suspense subplot, the pair will become Something Scandalous if they follow the flow of their love. However, with the desertion by his mother years ago still haunting his relationships, readers will enjoy the matching of two people in love with no hope for a future together.

Harriet Klausner

The Damage Done-Hilary Davidson

The Damage Done
Hilary Davidson
Forge, Sep 28 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765326973

Travel journalist Lily Moore is in Spain when she learns that her drug addict younger sister Claudia apparently drowned in a bathtub. She is stunned as this is on the same day their mom committed suicide years ago. Hysterical Lily leaves Europe for Manhattan.

Lily goes to the morgue to identify the body only the corpse is not Claudia. Apparently the dead stranger has impersonated Claudia for months. NYPD detectives Norah Renfrew and "Brux" Bruxton lead the investigation in which the only suspect is the missing Claudia, but anxious Lily searches for her sibling too. Her former boyfriend wealthy Martin Sklar keeps pushing her for a second chance, Lily finds out that Claudia had hooked up with a recently deceased pseudo-psychologist whose tendency was to get unprofessionally too close with his female patients.

Although The Damage Done contains two interrelated strong mysteries, the story line is character driven by mostly Lily. Her need to find her sister brings a humanizing genuineness to the whodunit; especially the amateur sleuth elements as she searches irregardless of her own safety and in spite of the sibling estrangement. Readers will want Moore thrillers like this one from Hilary Davidson.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Smooth Operator-Risqué

Smooth Operator
One World (Ballantine), Sep 28 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345504326

In Holmby Hills, California resides Lyfe, a black hunk who knows he has come a long way from his Crenshaw and UPS delivery days to becoming one of the most powerful business moguls in the United States. Any time his ego gets to super status, his wife Payton reminds him that behind almost every powerful man is a woman as she brought him from street driver to boardroom driver.

Arielle “Arri” Askew is a secretary, but needs to make real money to escape Brooklyn with her five years old nephew Zion who she raises while her sister drug addicted Samara seeks her next hit. To be at home at night with Zion and bring in money, Arri runs the Internet sex show in which she provides live bare skin web performances for her clients. She avoids any male relationship ever since the New Year’s Eve incident with her beloved Ian when she learned he had a wife with a gun. However, Arri meets a real Smooth Operator when she begins working for Lyfe. As they begin an affair and fall in love, Payton plans to destroy both of them and is prepared to use the kid as her tool.

This heated Risqué street Noir proves William Congreve is right when he said in The Mourning Bride: "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned; Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned." Character driven by the relationship between Mr. California and Ms. New York, readers will relish this powerful tense erotic thriller as Arri wonders if love is “déjà vu, all over again” (Yogi).

Harriet Klausner

Blond Run-Jim Michael Hansen

Blond Run
Jim Michael Hansen
Thriller Publishing Group, Nov 15 2010, $13.95
ISBN: 9780981999395

In San Francisco, the SJK serial killer has the city panicked. Thirtyish SFPD homicide detective Trane Ravenwood believes the killer is Condor, but lacks proof. He illegally sneaks into the Nob Hill Victorian home of his prime suspect to find files on the victims starting with Paris Zephyr and the six other females, but no hard evidence. Upstairs in the mansion he sees a telescope, which he looks through only to have his quarter Apache and three fourth other blood boil over with what he witness between two women in a “dungeon”.

As he struggles to take down this serial killer and how to handle what he saw, Trane knows the next SJK victim will be found dead in a few days. Complicating matters for Trane is when his department creates a SNAFU in the Grayson fiasco as the chief and a detective were fired leaving Trane in charge. He has to conceal how he knows Condor is the killer if he does not want to join his predecessor and another detective while he also meets the dungeon mistress, attorney Trance St. Croix.

One of the best police procedural writers on the market today Jim Michael Hansen provides a great Run tale that is so dissimilar from the super Coventry “Law” cases, fans will assume a different author wrote them. Ravenwood does things that Coventry would never do, which enhances the exciting story line. Readers and the cop believe Condor is SJK, but to prove it in court after the Grayson flop is going to be tough. St. Croix adds a refreshing but needed element to what is a fantastic Lombard Street crooked twisted mean streets of San Francisco noir.

Harriet Klausner

Magic At The Gate-Devon Monk

Magic At The Gate
Devon Monk
Roc, Nov 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463623

In Portland, Guardian of the Gate Zayvion Jones lies in an otherworldly induced coma. His former girlfriend Chase and her former soul complement Greyson pushed his soul into the Death realm.

Zayvion’s current love hound Allie Beckstrom is frantic, but knows what she must do to save the soul of her beloved. No one enters the realm of Death twice; as it is impossible to escape once you are there. Yet that is what Allie must do. She enters a macabre perverse looking Portland in which even the air feels dead to find the lost soul of her lover. Accompanying her are Stone her gargoyle and her deceased father Daniel, whose partial essence remains inside her. She trusts the gargoyle but not her deceased sire who betrayed her when he lived. The cost to her soul could prove eternal, but to save Zayvion is worth any price and not just because he is her love though in her heart that is enough; he is critical in the war between the forces of the light and the malevolence of the dark.

The latest Magic Beckstrom romantic urban fantasy (see Magic Storm and Magic in the Blood) is a great entry as readers accompany the heroine, the gargoyle and dad into a hellish version of Portland that screams of Edvard Munch. Allie makes the entry powerful with her willingness to die for love; as she believes death may be a sort of Eagles’ Hotel California. Even if she cannot escape, she must find a way for her beloved to leave as he is needed in the realm of the living though she will miss him perhaps forever.

Harriet Klausner

Geist-Philippa Ballantine

Philippa Ballantine
Ace, Oct 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019618

The abnormal number of attacks has left the Order of the Deacon weak and in trouble. Their mission is to protect the Empire from the barrage of the Otherside denizens; the undead and demons. The Order knows they are over extended and forced to send untested tyros into the field before they are ready. In the capital city of Vermillion has come many hungry refugees from the Empire’s outskirts, making a volatile situation that much deadlier.

In Vermillion, veteran adept Sorcha Faris works with her beloved husband Kolya the Sensitive on an artifact that somehow could read their thoughts including impossible as it seems their Bond. It quickly left her husband comatose. Although she prefers to wait for her spouse to awaken, the Arch Abbot sends Sorcha to Ulrich with a new temporary partner, Deacon Merrick Chambers; a wet behind the ears Sensitive who just left the classroom. Also with them is the Pretender Raed. The trio will soon learn the hard way why the local Priory pleaded for help from something more predatory than a Geist haunting.

The key to this great horror-fantasy is the belief in the magical world of Philippa Ballantine summed up by the Guardian and the Pretender when she says “If wishes were horses,” and he finishes with “I would never have to walk again.” Little touches like this bring alive the prime element of the Bond, which make the realm of Geist seem genuine. Sorcha and her two comrades are terrific characters who keep the story line focused even as the plot entertainingly switches from fantasy to horror. This is a wonderful thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Midsummer Night-Freda Warrington

Midsummer Night
Freda Warrington
Tor, Nov 30 2010, $27.99
ISBN 9780765318701

Just after WW II in the Scottish Highlands, three youths dress up as fey to pull a practical joke on their uncle. However, none of the four blood relatives were ready for the Aetherials to cross over from the Spiral to Cairndonan. The Aetherials snatch one of the youngsters before returning to the Spiral as the uncle drops dead.

Decades have passed since the horrid incident, but time has turned it more into a family myth. Currently, internationally renowned sculptor Dame Juliana Flagg resides at run down Cairndonan, though she cannot afford the upkeep financially but cannot afford to sell emotionally. Now Gill Sharma arrives on holiday to be unwelcomed by Colin the dogsbody apprentice. Soon Dame J and the newcomer will learn first hand of the legend of Dunkelman as the truth without omission will not set the artist or the guest free.

The sequel to Elfland is so much darker as the readers enter the eerie Spiral of the Aetherials and the even stranger Vaethyr magical essences who have a wing (some would say horn) in Spiral and a wing in Earth. Dame J is a fascinating protagonist who cannot leave Cairndonan as if she is mystically tied to her family estate. Haunting, Freda Warrington provides a scary Midsummer Night Nightmare horror thriller as the Aetherial horde play with mankind.

Harriet Klausner

Of Love and Evil-Anne Rice

Of Love and Evil
Anne Rice
Knopf, Nov 30 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781400043545

Malchiah the angel takes former government assassin Toby O'Dare with him on the latter’s second case to right historical wrongs (see Angel Time). This time he is sent back to the era of Pope Leo X in the Holy City of Rome. There he is find out what led to an angry dybbuk spirit haunting modern day Manhattan.

Apparently in the realm of the Medici, a Jew has been accused of devilish witchcraft and murder by poison. He investigates the homicide and the accusations, which to a killing peer like Toby smells so Medici. At the same his mind wanders back to the recent revelation that he sired a son whom he just met in New York. The simple case turns darker and uglier as Toby finds himself in danger from diabolical adversaries back in fifteenth century Rome and twenty-first century Manhattan.

The second Songs of Seraphim is a terrific Christian historical metaphysical thriller. Toby is a stronger protagonist than when he worked the Angel Time case as the audience learns somewhat of his mortal past. Fast-paced in both eras, Of Love and Evil shows Anne Rice at her best as she effortlessly guides readers back and forth between the six-centuries ago past, Roby’s human period, and modern day New York in an entertaining tale.

Harriet Klausner

Full Dark, No Stars-Stephen King

Full Dark, No Stars
Stephen King
Scribner, Nov 9 2010, $27.95
ISBN: 9781439192566

“1922”. Wilfred Leland James loves his Nebraska farm. His wife Arlette hates the spread. When she inherits 100 acres, she wants to sell it and her spouse’s land while he wants to work both. She will learn how he plans to keep her and Henry on the farm after they’ve seen Omaha.

"Big Driver". After a Massachusetts speaking engagement, cozy novelist Tess is given a short cut home by her patron Ramona. While driving the back road, she runs over a nail causing a flat. A man stops to change the tire, but instead rapes her and leaves her dead. However, he failed to kill her so she plots vengeance as only a mystery writer could.

"Fair Extension". Dying from cancer, Streeter talks with Mr. Elvid who offers him a Faustian deal of passing on much of his bad luck to a person he hates in exchange for an annual portion of money. Over the years Streeter and his family enjoy a good life, but his former best friend and his family have one catastrophe after another

“A Good Marriage”. After twenty-seven years of marriage to Bob, Darcy believes they have had a good life together. While he is away on business, she finds in their garage catalogues that he hid from her so she would not order items. She finds a second box, but when Darcy opens it, she learns secrets about Bob that he hid from her; now she must decide what to do with this other Bob she just met.

Noted for his horror novels, Stephen King is also a super novella/short story writer as proven by Different Seasons, which includes tales that were adopted into movies (see The Shawshank Redemption, The Apt Pupil and Stand By Me). This quartet affirms Mr. King’s shorter thriller writing skills as the naturing stranger inside of everyone is masked by nurturing so that even long term partners and in some case the person do not know the inner sanction of their soul.

Harriet Klausner

The Cassini Code-Dom Testa

The Cassini Code
Dom Testa
Tor, Nov 2010, $8.99
ISBN: 9780765360793

Comet Bhaktul entered earth’s atmosphere leaving deadly paticles behind that killed every person over eighteen years old. A desperate mission to save some aspects of humanity sent 251 teens chosen on the Galahad space ship traveling to Eos. The trip has been difficult although the leader Triana and the Council have done overall well by overcoming a saboteur (see The Comet’s Curse) and defeating the first alien race they met, the Cassini on a moon of Saturn (see The Web of Titan).

The Galileo enters the Kuiper Belt where junk revolves around the solar system, making it a dangerous sector to travel. The heating system and the collision warning system fail. Charismatic Merit Simms begins a movement to turn around and return to earth before they all die in space. He has many supporters and new dissidents join him everyday. As the crew divides mostly between the Council and the armband wearing Merit opposition, the Cassini areback.

The third Galahad teen science fiction thriller is super action-packed Wild in the Streets (except in the solar system) tale driven by the cast especially the leadership rivals of Tiana and Merit. Each has strong qualities, but whereas Triana is cautious and caring of others, Merit believes he is right and has no concern about his opponents. The Cassini Code is loaded with action as the crew reacts to a various series of crises; some caused by the schism. Readers of all ages will want to know who won the power struggle and what did it do to the mission.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I Still Dream About You-Fannie Flagg

I Still Dream About You
Fannie Flagg
Random House, Nov 9 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9781400065936

Still beautiful, former Miss Alabama Maggie Fortenberry works for Red Mountain Realty in Birmingham. She is very successful at her job and considers her co-workers as friends. Yet with all she knows she has going for herself, Maggie has problems getting out of bed each day as she wonders what she has worth living. Maggie has made elaborate plans to commit suicide without any of her friends knowing she killed herself.

On the day she decides it is time to deploy her exit strategy, she gets the contract to sell Crestview on Red Mountain. She has dreamed of owning that house all her life and wants to make sure the right people, appreciative of this lovely abode, will buy it. She postpones her departure until she finds two people she likes and trusts to do right by Crestview buy the place. Her time selling the house has given Maggie the will to live.

This is a heartwarming story about a woman who rejected love in pursuit of a dream of becoming Miss America and living on Red Mountain that never materialized. Instead she became a realtor instead, but fails to understand how rich she truly is with friends like Brenda and Ethel, and can eat Krispy Kreme doughnuts without weight gain Like Brenda I just look at one and gain 5 pounds). Miracles can come in many ways as Fannie Flagg merges humor with somberness to tell the passionate tender tale that we are all rich in our own ways if we take the time to learn how.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Spy Running-Jon Stock

Dead Spy Running
Jon Stock
Dunne, Nov 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780312644765

Thirty-five thousand runners are testing for the London Marathon. Two of them work for M16 though Agent Daniel is on suspension at full pay; the other is girlfriend Leila who worries about her lover’s mental health since his father’s death. However, just prior to the start, another operative Myers called Leila with a warning that electronic chatter says something is going to happen at the event.

About fifty minutes into the race, Daniel notices an Asian runner wearing a belt who seems out of place. He further sees two obvious American Secret service agents with another participant who he thinks is the U.S. Ambassador Munroe. He realizes the Asian is wearing a bomb. He learns the Asian is Pradeep from India and terrorists kidnapped his son with the admonition do the mission if you want your offspring to live. The bomb is defused, but Daniel is under suspicion as a terrorist.

Dead Spy Running is a superb espionage thriller, which contains the usual suspects of foreign agents and internal moles. However, what makes the story line super is rivalry between M16 and the CIA, M16 and M15, and the CIA and the Secret Service as each agency fails to work together, but instead prefers front dog status even if it causes problems for their respective country. Fans will appreciate Jon Stock’s strong run.

Harriet Klausner

Negative Image-Vicki Delany

Negative Image
Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen, Nov 2 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9781590587881

Along with the initial arrival of spring in Trafalgar, British Columbia comes renowned photographer Rudolph Steiner. He plans to do a shoot on mountain tourism, but has a hidden agenda. However, whatever his real reason for coming to this mountain resort town, someone shoots him in the back of his head in his room at the historic Hudson House Hotel.

Maid Rachel Kowalski finds the corpse. As soon as the body is identified, Trafalgar City police sergeant John Winters recuses himself from the inquiry as his wife former model Eliza and the victim Steiner knew each other intimately at one time. Under the antagonistic leadership of Royal Canadian Mounted Police Detective Madison, Constable Molly Smith investigates the homicide, but soon finds a horde of visitors with motives including family, employees, and rivals. There is even one local suspect Eliza. At the same time Molly’s dad goes to the hospital for surgery due to an accident, someone stalks her, and Smith considers a job in Toronto.

The latest Trafalgar Canadian police procedural (see In the Shadow of the Glacier, Valley of the Lost and Winter of Secrets) is a great whodunit as Molly works the case with her caring teacher replaced by an odious curmudgeon while facing two personal crises. The story line is fast-paced from start to finish, but the tale is owned by the town and Molly as Vicki Delaney provides a wonderful regional murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

City in Shadow-Evan Marshall

City in Shadow
Evan Marshall
Severn, Nov 1 2010, $27.95
ISBN 9780727869210

Recent Cincinnati high school graduate Patti Fairchild is coming to Manhattan to spend time with her older second cousin sanitation garage supervisor Anna Winthrop. Patti has not made any plans for her future so Anna is excited with her relative’s visit.

At the same time that Patti is due in town, Anna’s edgy neighbor Nettie Clouchet, the "ghost blogger" is investigating Winthop for a section in her new book on local women of achievement. To make space for her cuz in her small apartment, Anna sells a desk to Ukrainian Grigori Sidorov. Inside Grigori's truck sits a pretty woman who drops a note onto the sidewalk while the desk is loaded. Anna picks up the message, which pleads: "help me". She gets her boyfriend, NYPD police officer Santos Reyes, who agrees the woman, may be in trouble and they should not ignore that possibility. Nervous Nettie can’t either as a journalist. None of them nor Patti who wanders the avenues at night know yet that their separate inquiries involve trafficking as the Kirkmore Apartments is where Death Is Disposable.

The fourth Hidden Manhattan mystery (see Dark Alley) is a gripping urban mystery in which the four “sleuths” learn where all avenues ends, but may be too late by the time they figure out the horror they investigate. Fast-paced, readers will want to journey the streets of Manhattan along side their tour guides as mean is too soft of a descriptor. This is all lights-on after reading thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Dangerous to Know-Tasha Alexander

Dangerous to Know
Tasha Alexander
Minotaur, Nov 1 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312383794

In 1892, Lady Emily Hargreaves heals at her husband Colin’s family estate near Rouen in Normandy from her harrowing time trapped in a cavernous cistern underneath Constantinople (see Tears of Pearl). Her emotional recovery is somewhat thwarted by her formidable mother-in-law Anne, who lucidly yet tacitly insures Emily knows she disapproves of her honeymoon behavior and what soon happens at the estate.

Emily is riding a horse when she finds a mutilated female body. The police are called and Inspector Gaudet leads the inquiry though Emily believes he is incompetent. She later learns the butchered victim is an escaped inmate from a nearby insane asylum and that the knife wounds suggest Jack the Ripper left London for France. Unable to ignore what she saw, Emily investigates but fears for her mind as she keeps hearing a child’s voice but none seem nearby,

Dangerous to Know is a pleasant late Victorian Era whodunit though readers will doubt the company of the inspector and the amateur sleuth. The relationship between Emily and Anne enhances the story line as does the French countryside and the trek into Rouen. Although the detecting never comes across as strong as Emily’s’ efforts before she married (see A Poisoned Season and Only to deceives), fans will enjoy this entertaining historical.

Harriet Klausner

The Twelfth Imam-Joel C. Rosenberg

The Twelfth Imam
Joel C. Rosenberg
Tyndale, Oct 19 2010, $26.99
ISBN: 9781414311630

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the civilian leadership feverishly pushes the nuclear weapons program as the Ayatollah demands Muslims begin the Jihad to destroy Israel, American and the rest of the infidel west. However, this time it is different as citation from Holy Scripture claims the End of Days apocalypse is now as the Twelfth Imam will surface to lead Islam to glorious victory in the name of Allah.

The CIA takes this fundamentalist threat more seriously than the usual babble from President Ahmadinejad because this danger comes from the religious leaders making the proclamations. Soon, rumors fly across the Middle East and beyond that a cleric claiming to be the Mahdi messiah has begun performing miracles. Since the family of CIA operative David Shirazi fled Iran when the Khomeini Revolution occurred in 1979, he fluently speaks Farsi; thus he is assigned to go to Teheran to sabotage the Iranian nuclear weapons program, a key element in Armageddon.

This is a great thriller that uses twentieth century history, present day economics and politics and scripture from biblical holy books to tell a terrific Islamic perspective to the End of Days belief as the Twelfth Imam is the messiah. Fast-paced from the moment David treks to Iran and never slowing down, Joel C. Rosenberg provides a powerful tale that readers will appreciate.

Harriet Klausner

Out of the Dark-David Weber

Out of the Dark
David Weber
Tor, Sep 28 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765324122

Having learned of the existence of hostile humans, The Galactic Hegemony Empire is coming to conquer and colonize Earth. An advanced scouting team witnessed the massacre at Agincourt when King Henry V and his English Army used the longbow to slaughter the French. The Hegemony scout leadership concludes the bloody barbarians are a bunch of "lunatic local sentients". Earthlings are so bellicose they make the bloody Shongairi warriors look docile and thus deserve extinction.

The Hegemony sends their Shongairi warriors to conquer Earth. The military invaders are stunned by the resistance to their assaults. Even more shocking to those who have defeated forces throughout the galaxy is something out of horror novels rises from the grave to unite with the native humans in a counter insurgency.

Faster than the speed of light or an Honor Harrington military science fiction, Out of the Dark is an action-packed thriller that fans of David Weber will enjoy. Over the top of Olympus Mons and with a resistance theme that has been used in many books and movies (for instance, The Puppet Masters), the novel is refreshed with an element from the horror genre. Mr. Weber provides an entertaining tale that requires seat belts with the speed of acceleration from start to finish.

Harriet Klausner

Echo-Jack McDevitt

Jack McDevitt
Ace, Nov 2 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441019243

In eight millennium of space travel, humans met one sentient alien race by 1403 Rimway Calendar. Over the centuries since Melony Brown accidentally met the Ashiyyur when she was measuring solar temperatures her discovery led to many people like Somerset “Sunset” Tuttle, the posterboy for scientific quests, seeking other races, but none have been found since.

However, in 1431, Rainbow Enterprises’ Alex Benedict learns of a tablet with mysterious rune like writings on it, possessed by the late Tuttle’s lover Rachel Bannister. Alex and his assistant Chase Kolpath visit Rachel to ask if they can study the tablet and translate the writings. To their shock, Rachel says no. Both Alex and Chase wonder why she would refuse to reveal what appears to be a genuine artifact from an alien species that survived time and space; this relic would change Tuttle’s place in history from an object of mockery to a successful scientist. The pair also wonders if Tuttle found the historical object as most likely happened; why did he, also like Rachel, choose silence rather than affirm his life’s work.

The fifth Alex Benedict futuristic science fiction novel (see The Devil’s Eye and Seeker) is a superb action thriller. The message of how we twenty first century sophisticates interpret ancient scraps to fit our perceptions is made early on with a quote from Frances Bacon: “Antiquities are … remnants of history which have casually escaped the shipwreck of time”. Fast-paced and filled with action, Jack McDevitt fans will appreciate his latest Benedict tale as once again the author combines outer space futuristic action adventures with a thought provoking look at how we "customize" historical objects to Echo our belief system.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 24, 2010

Keeping Time-Stacey McGlynn

Keeping Time
Stacey McGlynn
Crown, Oct 5 2010, $24.00
ISBN: 9780307464408

In Liverpool, septuagenarian Widow Daisy Phillips knows she has had elderly moments, she wishes her concerned son Dennis would stop pushing her into leaving the family home for a retirement assisted living community. At the same time Daisy is undergoing offspring pressure, her BFF is going away for a few months and the new town librarian informs her and other elderly volunteers that their services are no longer needed. When she finds a long lost watch in her home given to her during WWII by a Brooklyn GI, Daisy decides to cross the pond to the States to find him.

In the United States, Daisy's American relatives have issues too. Her second cousin Elisabeth loathes her job and fears her dart playing spouse the attorney is the notorious "Dart Man," who rides a bike while shooting women in their backsides with darts. Parents of five children; their teenage son Michael overwhelms her with his raging hormonal torment and failing grades. Daisy’s arrival at their Long Island home seems to calm down Michael and gives Elisabeth an escape as she teams up with her English relative in search of the solider.

When the enjoyable story line uses third person grammar it is distracting, however the fully developed cast especially the two female amateur sleuths provide insightful gripping first person dialogue more often. Fans will enjoy harried Elisabeth who feels her world imploding die to her belief her husband has been firing darts are female butts and her son’s anguish while also wondering what her other fearsome foursome is up to. However, this is mostly Daisy’s American adventure even with a coincident over the top of the BQE.

Harriet Klausner

The Next Queen of Heaven-Gregory Maguire

The Next Queen of Heaven
Gregory Maguire
Harper, Oct 5 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061997792

In 1999 in Upstate New York, seventeen year old Tabitha Scales becomes the caretaker to her ultra religious mom Leontina after the latter takes a nasty blow to the head from a statue of the Virgin Mary. A highly pious Protestant who religiously attended the Cliffs of Zion Radiant Radical Pentecostal Fellowship, the three-time divorcee undergoes a radical personality change from someone who thought profanity was a sin to cursing out loud. She is a stranger in many ways to her frustrated daughter and her sons.

Catholic Church music director Jeremy Carr hopes his show in New York City will enable him to flee from Thebes and finally leave behind his beloved Willem Handelaers, who is married with children. Although gay, Jeremy Carr becomes friends with the nuns of Our Lady of the Sorrowful Mysteries monastery. At about the same time, Tabitha falls in love but the object of her affection loves another woman who sings in Carr’s Catholic Church choir.

As the millennium countdown occurs in this small town, religious fever is at a frenzied hight level that most people never see in their lifetime. Thus faith is bandied often with jocular pseudo babbling philosophy that makes St, Anselm’s proof of God seem more deductive valid than most of the cast, who rationalize their belief system to cover their behavior. Readers who relish something different will appreciate a visit to Thebes, New York at the end of days of the last millennium.

Harriet Klausner

Unbound-Kay Danella

Kay Danella
Heat, Oct 5 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425234440

Jamyl Kharym Rashad was forced to abdicate from House Dilaryn; for their safety he took his family off Lomida. His beloved daughter Asrial, no longer a sovreine, became a rim relic hunter. When her cousin Amin, who helped her parents and her when they fled for their safety, crashed his cargo ship on Lyrel 9; she took over some of his more daring missions.

Currently she is flying solo on the Castel searching a remote untouched by grounders area for relics on planet Maj. However, something happens when she enters the planetary atmosphere to her ship sending it off course. She makes it to the surface safe while wondering if it is time to use her name to obtain a corporate job in the inner rim worlds.

Asrial finds a vase containing a djinn. He informs her he is Romir. On the Castel, they make love as they are attracted to one another. However, as he revels in her passion and his first taste of freedom in ages, the vase demands his return as he is locked to his glass prison. To liberate her beloved, Asrial knows she must go home to dangerous for her Lomida, which she has avoided since she and her family became exiles.

This heated outer space romantic fantasy is a wonderful tale due to the relationship between the lead couple; as each risks death for the other (a sort of macabre erotic twist on Gift of the Magi). The story line is fast-paced, albeit a bit thinner than Romir’s third leg yet readers will relish the journey into the unique hotter than the sun Danella universe.

Harriet Klausner

Holiday Affair-Lisa Plumley

Holiday Affair
Lisa Plumley
Zebra, Oct 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420105698

In San Diego, divorcee Karina Barrett wants her three elementary school aged children (Olivia, Josh and Michael) to have a nice Christmas. Their father Eric is planning to spend the holiday at a beautiful Caribbean condo with his much younger girlfriend Chelsea and her parents. Based in the Outback divorcee Reid Sullivan takes his two tweener daughters Alexis and Nicole on his treks to host survival gigs around the world.

Karina’s sister Stephanie asks her to replace her as a mystery shopper for Edgewater Consulting as her son is ill. Karina reluctantly agrees to go with her three kids to Kismet, Michigan to spend Christmas week at the Christmas House B&B. At the same time in Australia Reid learns that his grandparents need him home on an emergency. He drops everything and with the kids flies to Kismet where his family owns and runs the Christmas House B&B.

Reid’s grandparents inform him they are selling the B&B and put a down payment on a home in Arizona. They need him to run the place because they cannot stay. At the B&B, Reid and Karina meet and are instantly attracted to one another. Soon after that initial meeting; Reid and Karina make love and agree to a Holiday Affair. However, their five kids and other family members have different perspectives on the adult relationship starting and ending with his nookie beard.

The ensemble cast seems different and fully developed while the lead couple is a nice pairing of single parents. Although the story line is thin and the kids’ issues resolved too easily, fans who enjoy Christmas holiday romances will want to read Lisa Plumley’s warm family drama.

Harriet Klausner

Voyeur-Daniel Judson

Daniel Judson
Minotaur, Sep 28 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312383619

In 2003 in Manhattan, intrepid private investigator Remer is conducting surveillance of a couple for a client who warned him her spouse is dangerous. While parked, four men corner him; two with guns drawn professionally. A third attacks him with a stun gun shooting 25 K volts into Remer. They take him from his vehicle into their SUV and drive across the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn. They complete their assault by carving Voyeur onto his chest.

Years later, mentally Remer remains emotionally fragile while hiding from everyone; as he runs a liquor store in Southampton. However, his friend from his sleuthing days, police detective Kay Barton finds him and asks him to hire Mia Ferrara to work at his store though she lacks experience. Reluctantly he does, but she stole 80 K from him before vanishing. Kay informs him that Mira is missing and that the woman’s mother Evelyn wants to meet him to beg him to find her daughter. Instead of what he expected from the mom, when they meet, the frightened woman says her daughter’s disappearance is the first step that will end in Evelyn’s death.

This is an exciting character driven private investigative thriller. The story line starts off as a Manhattan Noir, but quickly switches to a Long Island anti-Noir, and soon turns into a hesitant Noir as Remer is unsure he can get back in the saddle. Fast-paced, Remer knows he owes the Frenchman and his thugs, but his chest reminds him what the cost is.

Harriet Klausner

Edge-Jeffery Deaver

Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster, Nov 2 2010, $26.99
ISBN 9781439156353

Henry Loving is perhaps the best "lifter" there is as he can get anyone to provide him the information he requires. He is especially adept at torturing his targets, but what makes him the absolute top gun is his uncanny ability to find the lever that gives him the Edge, which makes everyone he aims at dance to his tune. No one pushes people buttons like he does.

Federal government Strategic Protection Department “shepherd” Agent Corte protects targets from lifters. An intercepted message names Loving as the lifter directed to extract information from DC metro detective Ryan Kessler. Corte is assigned to keep Ryan from harm and his family safe so they cannot be used as pawns. He is also trying to identify who hired Loving. Meanwhile the lifter works on finding the means to get what he needs from the cop.

Though over the top, readers will not care as the Corte-Loving grandmaster chess match is a superb cat and mouse thriller in which readers will keep changing their mind as to who the feline is and who the rodent is in this deadly cerebral contest. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action as each keeps placing the other in check, but checkmate seems just out of reach. Jeffery Deaver is at his entertaining best with this High Noon confrontation between the two best gunslingers in the world.

Harriet Klausner

Tandem-Tracey Bateman

Tracey Bateman
Waterbrook, Oct 5 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780307457172

A half a year has passed since the brutal vampiric homicides stunned the residents of the Ozark town of Abbey Hills, Missouri (see Thirsty). As Lauryn McBride observes the slow torturous death of her father from Alzheimer’s, her family auction house is hosting an estate sale of one of the murder victims, Markus Chisom.

Meanwhile, Lauryn finds letters from the 1870s in the estate addressed to the Dastillion family of New Orleans. Lauryn searches for the kin and learn they still own the same house in which the letters were sent. She informs the family and Amede Dastillion arrives in Abbey Hills allegedly to look at family heirlooms but actually hopes to find clues to her missing sister Eden. At the same time reporter Miranda James believes Markus and Eden were vampires. When a second wave of brutal vampiric homicides occur, the cops look closely at the Bayou visitor as the culprit.

The second Ozark vampiric Christian thriller is an exciting tale in which Tracey Bateman once again effortlessly merges the two sub-genres into a cohesive tale. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Amede arrives in town as she and Lauryn begin to learn the true history of Abbey hills. Although the climax seems weak and rushed, fans will fully enjoy this terrific horror suspense while thirsting for more such amalgams from Ms. Bateman.

Harriet Klausner

Trolls in the Hamptons-Celia Jerome

Trolls in the Hamptons
Celia Jerome
Daw, Nov 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406301

Once upon a time the creatures of myths and legends (except vampires and shapeshifters) populated the land alongside of cavemen. Humans took over the land of the eldritch killing what they couldn’t understand. It became obvious that though was some cross breeding between species, they could not coexist so on the Day of Unity, an incredible degree of power caused the realm to split with a barrier to keep the two earths apart.

Graphic young adult writer and artist Willow “Willey” Tate is a descendent of the half-breeds. She draws a troll Fafhrd who comes to life, but no one can see him except her. People see the troll as trolley, tree and a bus. British Agent Grant of DUE (Department of Unexplained Events) explains to her she is a decendant of a half-breed like many ofthe people of Peaumkack Harbor in the Hamptons; and that she is to be instrumental in finding a young child Nicky stolen from the town by a megalomaniac bent on world domination. The villain needs Willey for his plan to succeed; she reluctantly agrees as an innocent child is involved who somehow is linked to her troll.

This is a fun zany romantic Hamptons fantasy with the lead couple (Willey and Grant) heating up the sheets with enough energy to keep Long island warm in the winter. There is plenty of action off the sheets too as Willey confronts one confrontation after another. However, who makes the tale fantastic by stealing the show is Fafhrd, a ten foot troll who though an illegal alien is child-like except when it comes to protecting his creator. The villain does not make an in person appearance until the climax, but his malevolence oozes throughout the exciting story line as the suspense builds to a final confrontation.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Friday Mornings At Nine-Marilyn Brant

Friday Mornings At Nine
Marilyn Brant
Kensington, Oct 1 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758234629

In the Chicago suburb of Glendale Grove, every Friday morning at nine the forty-something trio (Jennifer, Bridge and Tamara) meets at the Indigo Moon Café. Over coffee, each laments about their boring unsatisfied lives while knowing their friends are always there for them. On one particular coffee session, Jennifer tells her startled two BFFs that she wonders if she married the wrong man.

Each considers that revelation and wonders about the one who got away. Should they find that particular hunk and cheat on their spouses? As the threesome considers affairs, they begin to wonder if that is the only way out from the suburban rut because each knows they are being unfair and selfish towards their family.

This is an engaging look at suburban moms although their response to nuking their way out of the rut is not quite what Palin had in mind with her hockey turned grizzly mommas. Each of the lead trio is different but represents a slice of suburbia. Character driven, readers will enjoy the coffee mommas as they travel similar yet different roads seeking seemingly elusive happiness.

Harriet Klausner

Aching For Always-Gwen Cready

Aching For Always
Gwen Cready
Pocket, Sep 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439107287

The daughter of an internationally renowned map maker, Josephine O’Malley runs the Pittsburgh based Brand O’Malley Map Company. However, technology has cut into the demand for paper maps leaving the business near bankruptcy in spite of her Herculean efforts to keep the firm solvent. Business mogul Rogan Reynolds is the only reason her map business still lives. She is grateful and attracted to her benefactor and considers taking their relationship to the next level; something that he wants.

Joss meets Hugh Hawksmoor, but is unaware that he actually comes from late seventeenth century Scotland. He has traveled to the future to retrieve a map and to kill the ancestor of a person who murdered his brother on the High Seas off Scotland and destroyed countless number of lives including his. Hugh tricks Joss into going back in time to undo what was done.

This is a terrific time travel romantic suspense that grips readers from the moment Hugh (speaking like his acting namesake Grant) arrives in Pittsburgh and never slows down until the final climax. With a great twist, sub-genre readers will salute Gwen Cready for her refreshing exhilarating tale.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Promises-Sherrilyn Kenyon, Laura Griffin, Cindy Gerard, Dianna Love

Deadly Promises
Sherrilyn Kenyon, Laura Griffin, Cindy Gerard, Dianna Love
Pocket, Sep 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439191118

“Just Bad Enough” by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love. CeCe Caprice earns her living by performing as a statue. Her performance is so good, someone assumes she is a statue and hides a revealing recording on her body. Only her next door neighbor, Bureau of American Defense undercover agent Jeremy Sunn might be able to keep CeCe safe from the mob.

“Leave No Trace” by Cindy Gerard. CIA operative David Cavanaugh goes to Myanmar to get American Carrie Granger out of a labor prison.

“Unstoppable” by Laura Griffin. Forensic anthropologist Kelsey Quinn and former SEAL Gage Brewer accidentally end up at a location where a double murder occurred several months ago. The murders have ties to illegal immigration and a terrorist plot.

Although readers will need to ignore believability (big time for the first two entries and somewhat less for the other) romantic suspense fans will enjoy the latest BAD tale and the other two action-packed thrillers.

Harriet Klausner

Bomber Bombs-David Champion

Bomber Bombs
David Champion
Alfred A. Knoll, Nov 1 2010, $
ISBN: 9781888310498

Cal Southern alumni football booster club honcho Clarence “Dixie” Dixon wants to hire the best defense attorney on the West Coast Bomber Hanson to defend ten players accused of rape. Dixie drives to Angleton to explain that the guys put up a hundred each for a stripper to perform. Mimi Parquette persuaded District Attorney Web Granger she is telling the truth. Dixie fears that if the boys are convicted of being boys, the team would lose its national ranking and fire Coach Eddleman.

Bomber assigns his son Tod to do the leg work before deciding to accept the case though he hates football as a barbaric endeavor. At trial, Judge McKorkle clearly shows his favoritism is towards the prosecution who brought a looker to sit at his table. Bomber collapses in court and is rushed to the hospital. The defendants, the judge, the D.A., the paying client, the coach, mom, and his girlfriend Joan expect Tod to take over the defense; everyone that is except stuttering unconfident Tod.

This is an entertaining legal thriller that is taken from the recent headlines (the story line references the Duke Lacrosse team). Tod tells the tale even when the “Bombastic” one takes the lead. The sports cast are three dimensional people though to a degree stereotypical while Bomber’s family, associates, and the other side enhance the differences between father and son. Although a ploy used by Bomber seems inappropriate even with his late rationalization, readers will relish this exciting entry (see Easy Come, Easy Go) as Tod comes off the bench to run the team’s defense with a strong offense.

Harriet Klausner

Busy Body-M. C. Beaton

Busy Body
M. C. Beaton
Minotaur, Oct 12 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312387013

Mircester health and safety board officer John "Grudge" Sunday prevents the annual putting up a Christmas tree atop the Carsely church tower by threatening court action against Vicar Alf Bloxby. This tradition has been part of the holiday season for years in Cotswolds. Two angry groups (Our Ladies Society and Odley Cruessis Society) meet to decide what to do when wealthy fuming Miriam Courtney publicly states what many are feeling when she proclaims she wants to kill the odious Grudge.

When someone stabs Grudge to death near the meetings of two ladies’ groups, the police look closely at Courtney, as she threatened the victim. Distrusting the cops to look for any other suspect though so many had grudges against the dead inspector, Courtney hires private investigator Agatha Raisin to prove her innocence. As Raisin and her junior sleuth Toni Gilmour make inquires, an unknown adversary bashes in their client’s head.

Agatha Raisin is even more cantankerous than usual as her Christmas holiday to flee tradition by visiting Porto Vechhio in Corsica proves so boring, she fled for home with a sore throat that made her even more ill mannered. Soon afterward, the middle aged sleuth works a murder mystery for a client who becomes the second victim. Readers will enjoy the case and how over her ex husband she is, but Raisin’s love life remains a mess. This is a superb entry in a great British investigative series (see There Goes the Bride) as no one tames the shrew.

Harriet Klausner

A Stranger in Mayfair-Charles Finch

A Stranger in Mayfair
Charles Finch
Minotaur, Nov 9 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312625061

In Victorian England, Charles Lenox, son of and brother to a baronet, is euphoric to marry his beloved lifelong friend and new wife, Lady Jane Grey. Since they resided in adjoining houses, they hired an architect to create a larger abode out of the two smaller homes.

His simple life becomes complicated when he responds to the doorbell. An acquaintance Ludwig Starling wants Charles, a private investigator who has solved cases that baffled the Yard, to uncover who killed his footman Frederick Clarke. Although Charles wants to be ready for the next session of parliament as he an active member, he cannot resist the lure of an investigation. Charles finds no dark documents when he inquires inside of his client’s home. Lenox and Starling visit the alley where Clarke was murdered only to have someone stab Ludwig. The butler is arrested but Charles knows he is innocent even when the man confesses. What Charles does not know could kill him as the culprit overtly observes his every move in plain sight.

The newest Lenox Victorian mystery (see the Fleet Street Murders) once again brings history and the culture of the era alive inside a strong whodunit. However, make no mistake the tale belongs to Lenox. The hero understands society’s rules especially limitations, but ignores the prejudicial class aspects. For instance his occupation as a private investigator is considered as lowly trade by high society, but Lenox couldn’t care less as sleuthing gives him special satisfaction. He loves his wife, but is also extremely grateful that in spite of her being a Lady and worried about his safety she encourages her forty years old husband to detect.

Harriet Klausner

Scoundrel-Zoe Archer

Zoe Archer
Zebra, Oct 5 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420106800

Destruction is as human as apple pie; so to protect mankind from self extinction magic is hidden. Still in spite of overwhelming majorities believing magic to be a parlor trick, some Sources contain unexplained power. The Heirs of Albion want to own all the Sources to support their belief that the citizens of Britain are the master race who should dominate the lesser beings of the world. They have found the most powerful object Primal Source of Africa and now are work on learning how to use it. The Blades of the Rose oppose the Heirs.

Linguist London Harcourt is unaware that her late husband, her father Joseph Edgeworth and her brother belong to the Heirs of Albion. Joseph plans to unleash magic so Britain can rule. Thus in 1875 he takes his widowed daughter with him to Athens, Greece as she speaks an ancient dialect that will bring the wrath of the Gods to the earth. Blade Bennett Day meets London who he realizes is ignorant of the threat posed by her father. He also knows the linguist is the key to the Heirs using the Source.

The second Blades of the Rose historical romantic fantasy is a strong adventure tale as the action moves from the Mongolian setting of the Warrior to Greece. A womanizer, Bennett tries every means he knows to persuade the female to his way of thinking, but never met one as intelligent as London is; although some readers will question how smart she is when she failed to realize the nefarious activities of the three main men in her life (before Bennett). Still fans will enjoy the teaming of a refreshing woman who speaks dead languages and the suave operative as they battle her family who employ her as the expendable key to use magic to dominate the world.

Harriet Klausner

Stars and Gods-Larry Niven

Stars and Gods
Larry Niven
Tor, Aug 17 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765308641

The intent apparently is to enable the reader to have a smorgasbord of the works and ideas of award winning Larry Niven over the past six years. Parts of the tome are refreshing; ironically the nonfiction articles especially in Part Three and somewhat in Part Nine are the best inclusions. The extracts highlighting the worlds of the novels (solo or in collaboration) are also well written, but needed more insight as to what led Mr. Niven and partners to come up with concepts like Ringworld. The short stories are also fun to read especially the two from Draco Tavern. However, extracting one or two chapters from ten novels makes no sense even to introduce new readers to one of the greats of science fiction made even less appealing at hardcover prices.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Take Me Home-Brian Leung

Take Me Home
Brian Leung
Harper, Oct 5 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061769078

In 1927, Buckley Orner was the unfortunate chosen one to escort elderly heroine Adele “Addie” Maine home from Los Angeles to Dire, Wyoming as the guest of honor at a gala hosted by Chinese Ah Cheong before he returns to his home country. He insists she saved lives during the Rock Spring riot four decades ago. She only agreed to come back for her brother Tommy, her friend Wing Lee and to give something to Ah Cheong that she kept with her in the orange groves to take with him to bury in China. Addie hoped not to see her spouse the ex miner Muuk, but knows that is impossible to avoid.

Instead of believing she was a hero, Addie believes she caused the riot. She arrived by train as a teen to stay with her sibling, but his farm failed so both took work at the mines. There she met Chinese forced to work at backbreaking labor for “coolie” wages and learned they were not half demons as the schools taught. Her close tie to Wing Lee was the final match to an already volatile situation. Now, ironically instead of the person who ran from rather than confront her spouse, she returns to Wyoming a hero.

This is a terrific historical saga that focuses on intolerance as seen through the eyes of a reluctant heroine looking back to the pivotal moment in her life. With an ingenious twist that anchors the two periods and a strong cast in both eras, fans will relish this engaging tale; as Addie, whose story keeps the two subplots moving, learns you can never really come home.

Harriet Klausner

Dance With The Doctor-Cindi Myers

Dance With The Doctor
Cindi Myers
Harlequin SuperRomance, Oct 12 2010, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716678

In Colorado two years ago, Darcy O’Connor’s husband Pete and their six year old son Riley died in a car crash. Grieving, she donated their organs so others could live.

Now, though she has doubts, Darcy opens a Belly Dancing for Girlz class at a dance studio. She quickly enjoys the session as the eight preteens have a good time. The smiles of small Taylor makes it especially rewarding. Dr. Mike Carter arrives to pick up his daughter Taylor and he asks her if she is okay as she seems a bit flushed. The child says the class was awesome. He quickly interrogates Darcy with questions on children and CPR as his former wife Melissa signed their kid to the class.

Darcy receives a letter form the Colorado Donor Alliance in Denver in which the director informs her that Riley’s heart saved the life of a child and the family would like to thank her in person. After the next class, Mike, Darcy and Taylor realize her son’s heart is beating inside the little girl. As she helps the child with her confidence as much as with dancing, Darcy and Mike fall in love. However though she has doubts as she always will love her Pete; Mike is the wedge as he fears a second chance.

This is a warm Rocky Mountain family drama with a strong cast including memories of Riley. Although the initial two meetings, especially the second revelatory encounter require a bit of acceptance, readers will relish Cindi Myers’ wonderful contemporary second dance at love.

Harriet Klausner

One Lane Bridge-Don Reid

One Lane Bridge
Don Reid
David C. Cook, Oct 1 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781434765086

By 2007 in Hanson, North Carolina, John David and Karlie Wickman have been married for over two decades. Overall they are in harmony except when it comes to disciplining their daughter Angela as Karlie wants rules enforced and J.D. chooses leniency, and spending.

J.D. feels overwhelmed. A waitress is stealing from one of their two Dining Club restaurants. His daughter wants to leave school as she is frightened from an attack on a coed at the library. A nurse at Maple Manor calls to ask him to visit his mother a day earlier than his usual weekly trek.

Finally Karlie tells him to take one of his clear the head rides into the countryside. J.D. does, but has car trouble after crossing a One Lane Bridge so heads to an old farmhouse near the road. There he meets Paul Clem, his ailing bed-ridden wife Ada and their daughter Lizzie. Although obviously very poor, they are friendly. The next day, J.D. and Karlie drive to the Clem farm with groceries, but he cannot find the bridge or their homestead. While, Karlie fears her spouse lost his mind, J.D. keeps searching for answers.

This is an intriguing inspirational thriller that focuses on the miracles the “Architect of Time” God performs. The key cast members are fully developed especially the Wickman and Clem family members. Although there are a few subplots that feel more like cul de sacs that never branch back to the prime exhilarating story line, readers will enjoy the adventures of J.D. as he struggles to understand what is going on; wondering whether his wife is right that he is going crazy.

Harriet Klausner