Monday, January 31, 2011

Keep a Little Secret-Dorothy Garlock

Keep a Little Secret
Dorothy Garlock
Grand Central, Mar 21 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446540148

Charlotte Tucker grew up in her Aunt Louise’s boarding house in Carlson, Minnesota with no one her age. By 1939 with dreams of seeing the world, Charlotte moves to Sawyer, Oklahoma to run her own schoolhouse. She will live on the ranch owned by John Grant. Excited over the prospect of independence, Charlotte adjusts rather easily with becoming a Sooner.

However, questionable accidents start occurring at Grant’s ranch. The prime suspect is Charlotte’s friend Owen Wallace who accompanied by his sister came from Colorado after their mother’s death; he has a grudge against Grant. After their mom died, Owen and his twin sister Hannah searched for their father. They believe that man who raped their mom is Grant. As the war overseas beckons and the weather worsens, Charlotte refuses to believe Owen would attack Grant and remains convinced she is right when someone assaults her.

The sequel to Stay a Little Longer continues the adventures of Charlotte who has relocated to Oklahoma. The story line contains a fully developed cast of characters inside of an exciting suspenseful historical plot. However, it is rural Oklahoma coming out of the Great Depression just before America’s entry into WWII that makes this a winner as readers will “know we belong to the land; and the land we belong to is grand” (“Oklahoma” by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II).

Harriet Klausner

Harvest Moon-Robyn Carr

Harvest Moon
Robyn Carr
Mira, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778329428

In San Francisco Kelly Matlock has a breakdown of sorts as she is unable to handle the stress of working as a sous chef nor deal any long with her relationship with internationally renowned boss Luciano Brazzi when his wife Olivia demands she not sleep with her husband; Kelly says she is not sleeping with Luca though she admits to herself she is in love with her boss. Olivia says Luca sent her to clean up his latest mess. Unable to cope she has an anxiety attack that has her rushed to the emergency room. After being released and suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and flattened molars made worse by a broken heart and by her immediate boss Durant, Kelly flees to hide and heal at her sister Jillian’s home in Virgin River.

Though she knows better, Kelly still under the influence of Valium stops at Jack’s for a courage drink though she knows better than to mix alcohol and medicine. Widower Leif Holbrook the screenwriter rescues her from herself; having practice with his stepdaughter Courtney. Kelly and Leif are attracted to one another, but she remains hurt from her previous relationship and he is fathering a rebel with one cause of no other woman in their home.

The latest trip to Virgin River is an engaging contemporary romance that in spite of a plot used many times feels brisk and fresh due to the strong cast as each of the lead trio has belonging issues. Character driven, readers will enjoy the return to Virgin River as different types of love blossoms in the gardens under a Harvest Moon.

Harriet Klausner

Against the Law-Kat Martin

Against the Law
Kat Martin
Mira, Feb 22 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778329404

Handbag designer Lark Delaney desperately wants to find her niece adopted by strangers as her sister Heather was only sixteen when she gave birth. She pleads with thirty something Devlin Raines at his Arizona ranch to help her. Mentioning that his Army Ranger buddy Madman Monroe sent him saying he owed him, reluctantly as he has retired from field work the Raines Investigation analyst agrees to make inquiries.

Devlin assumes this will be a quick search, but is stunned when his assumption proves false as his friend expert Chaz Denton searches the net only to find Loving Home Adoptions not licensed in Arizona, but gives him a printing clue to begin a search for Mrs. Olcott who arranged the adoption. Following the trail, Dev accompanied by Lark go from Southern California to Mexico with each clue making both fear for the child. The case has turned personal for Dev who cares for the child he has not met fearing she has been sold into sexual slavery and especially for the frantic aunt who begged him to find her.

The third Raines of Wind Canyon romantic suspense thriller (see Against the Fire and Against the Wind) is a terrific tense tale filled with twists and spins as nothing goes according to Raines’ plan. He, like his older brothers, is a strong hero, but has met his equal in Lark who fearlessly stomps on snakes. Timely with the plight of young females being sold, readers will root for the pair to rescue her niece as we fear what has happened to that little girl.

Harriet Klausner

Antiques Knock-Off-Barbara Allan

Antiques Knock-Off
Barbara Allan
Kensington, Mar 1 2011, $22.00
ISBN 9780758234230

Overlooking the Mississippi in the quaint town of Serenity antique expert Brandy Borne begins to understand what the sandwich generation means. As a surrogate mother she is seven months pregnant; at the same time she keeps a close watch on her bipolar mother, Vivian. Brandy is also dating the town’s Chief of Police Tony Cassato.

Someone stabs Connie Grimes in the chest. Vivian confesses to having committed the murder; as Connie used to work for Brandy's biological father, a U.S. senator. Vivian goes to jail where another prisoner might have witnessed the homicide. Brandy, accompanied by Sushi the shih tzu, investigates the case involving the Mafia and a horde of cats surrounding a New Age hypnotist.

Putting aside clever advice on collecting, the latest Trash 'n' Treasures antiques amateur sleuth is the usual zany, eccentric and far from serenity tale (see Antiques Flee Market and Antiques Bizarre) as once again mom is in the middle of an uproar. The brisk story line is fine to follow as the heroine has a more reliable partner (Sushi) this time than she did in Antiques Bizarre (mom). Sub-genre fans will enjoy this entertaining amusing whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

This Side of the Grave-Jeaniene Frost

This Side of the Grave
Jeaniene Frost
Avon, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780091783180

In Ohio Ghouls have been attacking vampires without Masters. There is a fear of a species war exploding unless the assaults ends. Vampire couple Cat and Bones head to the Buckeye State to prevent the deadly combat. Once the notorious half-breed government agent the Red Reaper who destroyed vampires Cat has evolved into a full Undead, but has skills no one has seen since the death in medieval times of Joan of Arc.

Apollyon the Ghoul insists that Cat is proof that the vampires are trying to take over the world starting with his species. Marie Laveau the Ghoul feels yanked in two directions that have friends and foes wondering who she sides with while Cat's mother has turned into a vampire at a time when all hell is breaking loose within her family and across the paranormal communities. Only with Bones does Cat feel comforted, but has little time for that respite.

The Night Huntress urban fantasy (see Destined for an Early Grave) continues one of the better series as the romantic subplot takes a back seat to the prime theme of the likely hellish paranormal species war. The cast that runs the species gamut is fully developed while the lead heroes struggle with preventing a nasty war; as each has come a long way from innocence and uncle dearest. Fast-paced and loaded with non-stop action, readers will appreciate Jeaniene Frost’s aptly titled exhilarating thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Outside In-Maria V. Snyder

Outside In
Maria V. Snyder
Harlequin Teen, Feb 15 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780373210114

Trella led the Scrubs revolt that turned her world upside down as she and her rebels defeated the Uppers who previously ruled the world. After the victory, she and others learn of the existence of the Outside world.

Excited Trella plans to go back to being a quiet citizen living with her Upper, Riley. However, winning at war is not governance as those now in charge learn. Additionally something from Outside wants to enter; forcing Trella out of her short lived teenage retirement to unite her friends to prevent whatever from outer Outside achieving In.

The sequel to Inside Out targets older middle and younger high school students with an intriguing complex story line as the heroine learns what relativity means as Outside meant outside her cube, but now knows there is outside the outside. There is less action than in the previous revolt against the dystopian society, but teen readers still will enjoy this exciting science fiction tale as Maria V. Snyder once again avoids dumbing down her complex premise treating young readers with respect as the author further complicates Trella’s run.

Harriet Klausner

Rogue Oracle-Alayna Williams

Rogue Oracle
Alayna Williams
Juno, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439182819

Criminal profiler Tara Sheridan is an expert forensic psychologist who enhances her abilities with tarot card readings. However her skills failed her when a psychopath nearly killed her. Shaken to her bone marrow, Tara resigns from her position at the U.S. Department of Justice’s “Special Projects” unit.

Recently several of the unit’s former operatives have vanished under strange circumstances. Tara’s former lover Harry Li asks for her help on his investigation partly because he needs her special skills and partly to keep her safe. The clues lead to Chernobyl where the pair tries to prevent a second catastrophe from occurring. At the same time Tara struggles with her dubious relationship with Delphi’s Daughters especially their chief.

This is an engaging thriller due more to the fascinating villain who steals the show because the motives that drive the adversary ring true. In her second profiling appearance (see The dark Oracle) Tara is an intriguing blending of science and pseudoscience as she combines the paranormal with the profiling normal. Although at times the plot slows down and the ending is too low key after a Chernobyl II countdown, readers will find themselves zoning out during long expository passages, and a very anticlimactic ending leaves you with a sense of dissatisfaction. Still, the great villain and good visual descriptions keep this from being a total loss.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Watershed Year-Susan Schoenberger

A Watershed Year
Susan Schoenberger
Guideposts, Mar 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780824948566

Lucy is stunned when her best friend thirty-three year old Harlan dies from cancer even knowing he would die soon. She thinks he will come out of his bedroom any moment to greet her as thirty-three years olds do not die from cancer. She struggles to move on but cannot accept his death especially when he seemed to get better but abruptly ended his experimental treatments in spite of her begging him not to quit. Her biggest regret was never telling him she loved him.

E-mails from Harlan that he arranged to be sent after he died begins to encourage Lucy; especially the one in which he insists she is perfect to raise a child. She ponders motherhood and decides out of homage to her cherished best friend to adopt. Lucy travels to Russia where she meets equally lonely physically and emotionally scarred four years old Mat. She adopts him and brings him back to America. Although he initially is extremely reticent and frightened, Mat and Lucy slowly form (including Harlan through his e-mails, a tape, and his beloved’s memories) seem real. Lucy is a terrific protagonist who holds the entertaining enlightening story line together as she grows from dependency on Harlan (even after he died) to a mothering dependency on Mat to finally becoming a mother when Vasily arrives. With a strong support cast, readers will appreciate this profound look at the convolution and metamorphosis of relationships.

Harriet Klausner

a caring bond as each heals emotionally due to the loving codependence on each other that they forge. However, Mat’s father Vasily arrives from Russia to bring his son home.

A Watershed Year is a warm inspirational character study in which the key players

Who Is My Shelter?-Neta Jackson

Who Is My Shelter?
Neta Jackson
Thomas Nelson, Mar 1 2011, $14.9
ISBN: 9781595548634

In Chicago, Philip Fairbanks changed the locks on their penthouse kicking his wife Gabby to the street and sending their two children P.J. and Paul away; with her mother and a dog, she moved into the Manna House where she worked (see Where Do I Go? and Who Do I Talked To?). Gabby got her act together and now she, mom, the dog and her children live in a small apartment (see Who Do I Lean On?) together.

Meanwhile Philip recovers in a hospital after receiving a beating for non payment of his exorbitant gambling debt. His business partner is irate with him and his father disappointed with him. However, the biggest hammer to his gut is when Gabby and the kids visit him. Philip meets Will Nisson whose grandma is at the hospital. Will tells him that his grandma has been looking for her older sister for six decades, but has not given up hope. Philip misses Gabby and realizes how much he truly lost when he kicked her out. He wants her back, but she has moved on with a purpose at the House of Hope shelter for homeless mothers and kids.

The fourth Yada Yada House of Hope inspirational series is a wonderful tale in which Philip and Gabby ride separate escalators going in different directions, as she never lost faith even when he kicked her to the street and he never had faith even before he dumped her. Fans of the series will appreciate this fabulous story line as other subplots involving Will and his grandma, and Harry the cop, etc. add depth to a terrific entry. Perhaps the only caveat is that newcomers read the previous novels to understand how far Philip and Gabby have come.

Harriet Klausner

Treasure Me-Robyn DeHart

Treasure Me
Forever, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780446541985

In 1881 Scottish Duke Graeme Langford relishes adventure as he hunts down legends. His current thirst is to locate a rumored ancient stone near Loch Ness that allegedly possesses great power. He must complete his mission before the foolish American who bought the abbey nearby begins a renovation project.

Vanessa Pembrooke has come to Loch Ness to prove the legendary monster exists by finding fossilized proof. She and Graeme meet with both attracted over the fact that the other is a knowledge hunter. As they team up on their two quests, their attraction grows. However, neither anticipated an evil plan to find and misuse the stone by willing to murder anyone who gets in the way.

The latest Men of Solomon Legend Hunters romantic thriller (see Desire Me and Seduce Me) is a fabulous tale that grips the audience from start to finish as if Indiana Jones was working Victorian Scotland. The story line is fun with the hunt for the powerful biblical era Stone of Destiny enhanced by the search for the Loch Ness monster. The romance between Graeme and Vanessa enhances a wonderful late nineteenth century adventure.

Harriet Klausner

A Lot Like Love-Julie James

A Lot Like Love
Julie James
Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240168

In Chicago, heiress Jordan Rhodes owns the high end DeVine Cellars wine store. She is invited to all the elite soirees and besides her father ranked in the top ten of wealth by Forbes, she is beautiful and charming; ergo men desire her. Jordan’s only down is her brother Kyle’s incarceration.

FBI Agents Seth Huxley and Nick McCall need to attend the annual Valentine’s Day party tossed by Xander Eckhart so that one of them can plant bugs in his office to find information on the man’s link to notorious Roberto Martino. The feds visit Jordon at her store where they offer her a get out of jail card for her computer geek sibling in exchange for allowing Nick to escort her to the Eckhart gala; she agrees. However, the scheme goes awry leading to Nick becoming Jordan’s escort to keep her safe; however they continue the charade that looks like the real deal perhaps because they are falling in love.

This is a throwback police procedural romantic suspense in which Hepburn-Tracy need to star. The tale combines danger with light humor such as McCall’s revelation as to why men watch Dancing with the Stars. Although the bodyguard gimmick has been used a lot in books and movies (see the Costner-Houston film The Bodyguard) sub-genre fans will enjoy the fast-paced story line as the beautiful bodacious billionaire and the fearsome Fed fuss, fight and fall in love.

Harriet Klausner

Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240168

In Chicago, heiress Jordan Rhodes owns the high end DeVine Cellars wine store. She is invited to all the elite soirees and besides her father ranked in the top ten of wealth by Forbes, she is beautiful and charming; ergo men desire her. Jordan’s only down is her brother Kyle’s incarceration.

FBI Agents Seth Huxley and Nick McCall need to attend the annual Valentine’s Day party tossed by Xander Eckhart so that one of them can plant bugs in his office to find information on the man’s link to notorious Roberto Martino. The feds visit Jordon at her store where they offer her a get out of jail card for her computer geek sibling in exchange for allowing Nick to escort her to the Eckhart gala; she agrees. However, the scheme goes awry leading to Nick becoming Jordan’s escort to keep her safe; however they continue the charade that looks like the real deal perhaps because they are falling in love.

This is a throwback police procedural romantic suspense in which Hepburn-Tracy need to star. The tale combines danger with light humor such as McCall’s revelation as to why men watch Dancing with the Stars. Although the bodyguard gimmick has been used a lot in books and movies (see the Costner-Houston film The Bodyguard) sub-genre fans will enjoy the fast-paced story line as the beautiful bodacious billionaire and the fearsome Fed fuss, fight and fall in love.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Lies- Cynthia Eden

Deadly Lies
Forever, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780446559256

A predatory psychopath devastated FBI Serial Service Division Special Agent Samantha Kennedy. The Fed slowly heals mentally while her superior Hyde has doubts with her being on the Jeremy Briar vicious murder case as he sent her into that Phoenix fiasco. Although she conceals her trepidations behind a badge of confidence that she knows is false; Hyde remains hesitant that she is capable of performing her field work at this time.

Sam meets and is attracted to Max Ridgeway. She uses sex with Max to regain her self esteem. However, she keeps vanishing almost immediately after and refuses to tell him anything about herself. When someone kidnaps Max’s younger brother for ransom, Sam gets involved; leaving Max to wonder who his beloved truly is.

The third Deadly SSD police procedural romance is a powerful thriller due to the spotlight on Samantha, a secondary player in the previous entries (see Deadly Fear and Deadly Heat) whose teammates and superior worry she does not have what it takes anymore; she uses sex to keep the demons away. However, though she struggles with trepidation, this time Max who refuses to allow her to run away from him is her impetus. With an unexpected potentially deadly twist enhancing the suspense, this is a great entry in a fantastic series with Monica on deck.

Harriet Klausner

Bad Bird-Chris Knopf

Bad Bird
Chris Knopf
Minotaur, Feb 1 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9780312551247

Southampton. Long Island attorney Jackie Swaitkowski leans on a fence watching show horses run around in a field when she notices a small plane out of control. She calls 911 as a metal camera case flies out of the pilot’s door. The plane crashes moments later. Jackie retrieves the case and removes a memory card from it as if the pilot was tossing that to her. First responders from around the Hamptons arrive at the scene, but the Cessna female pilot is dead.

Having met a man claiming to be the husband of the pilot before he fled the crash scene, Jackie Googles for names of female local pilots and finds Eugenie Birkson owner of a Cessna taxi service; her husband Ed is a mechanic. The memory card contains strange photos in which she recognizes some of the people in them including a few to close to home. Ed hires Jackie to defend him when the National Transportation Safety Board ill mannered agent investigates. Jackie soon learns the near fatal way that someone wants that memory card destroyed and is willing to kill again to achieve that objective.

The latest Swaitkowski thriller (see Short Squeeze) is an engaging tale that starts off with quite a bang and never slows down. Once again (as Police officer Sullivan knows from his experiences with her) Jackie ignores the law when she takes the memory card. Fast-paced throughout, readers who enjoy their lawyers to be different will appreciate the pot smoking and hard drinking Swaitkowski.

Harriet Klausner

Living on the Edge-Shannon K, Butcher

Living on the Edge
Shannon K, Butcher
Signet, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451232748

Lucas Ramsey left the military due to a severe injury. However, when his former superior officer The old man orders him to protect Sloane Gideon with his life, he asks no questions and begins his duty. However the Old Man omits two pieces of key information when a shooting occurs at a gala where Lucas planed to meet Sloane who marked him as Mr. Tuxedo. First her occupation is personal protection as she works as a bodyguard for the Edge; and second she is the Old Man’s daughter. It is the latter that shakes Lucas as he cannot picture the cold logical General with an offspring.

Columbian drug cartel leader Lorenzo Soma abducts Sloane’s friend Gina who called last night explaining her frightening predicament before the phone was taken away. Mr. Tuxedo tries to stop Sloane from boarding a plane, but she knocks him out with a blow to his temple. Having underestimating Sloane, he follows her to Colombia with the Old Man’s warning him to play hardball with his daughter. The former Ranger catches up to her in South America where she accepts his offer of assistance as she wonders why Soma kidnapped her best friend and how will she extract Gina from this cold blooded killer; Lucas wonders how to extract Sloane from Columbia when she insists on a jungle expedition.

This is romantic suspense at its exhilarating best from the start at the gala and to the final confrontation. Fast-paced and filled with action, readers will enjoy the trek to Columbia with the capable independent kick butt (and temple) heroine and her sidekick while demanding more thrillers over the Edge from Shannon K. “Sentinels Wars” Butcher.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sweet as the Devil-Susan Johnson

Sweet as the Devil
Susan Johnson
Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240410

In 1893, Scottish Baron James Blackwood is a lover of renown, but takes his day job seriously as a guard protecting the Duchy of Dalmia Prince Ernst. When someone assassinates the heir to Dalmia, Prince Rupert, James swears he will find the traitor who killed his friend.

Instead Ernst asks him to keep safe his other offspring, Sofia Eastleigh. James recently met Sofia during one of his trysts, but resisted the temptation of seducing her; which now that he knows who she is he is grateful for his self control. However, Sofia and James are shocked by their desire for one another as both have always controlled their passions. As they fall in love during several gender skirmishes, a predator stalks Ernst’s offspring.

The latest “as” heated Victorian romance (see Gorgeous as Sin and Sexy as Hell) is a fun erotic thriller. The boudoir scenes are scintillating; slow and steamy while overwhelming the prime plot of exposing the killer. Still fans of Susan Johnson will appreciate the escapades of the devil and the daughter especially in the bedroom (and a few other places).

Harriet Klausner

Pleasure Me-Monica Burns

Pleasure Me
Monica Burns
Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425238790

In 1897 London, Marston kindly tells his mistress forty-one years old Lady Ruth Attwood that he has formed a tender with Ernestina Fitzgerald. Ruth knows he is being kind as the tendre is because Ernestine is much younger than her until she asks for the money he promised her. He becomes a sanctimonious pig telling her to sell the jewelry he gave her; she knows that will bring in a paltry sum considering her loyal servants Simmons and Dolores and the orphans at St. Agnes she funds. She knows her career as a prime choice courtesan is over.

Considered a stud Baron Garrick Stratfield learns like the rest of the Ton that Marston cut off Ruth. Being the son of a mother who abandoned him and his sister and a father who committed suicide masculine Garrick is extremely discreet. However even after bashing in a lord who insulted his sister, he has a secret that has left him a virgin. Garrick hires Ruth to teach him how to make love with a woman. As they begin their tryst, they shockingly begin to fall in love though he is so much younger than she. However, a serpent wanting to blackmail one of them and bury the other begins using insider knowledge to tell lies.

Pleasure Me is a refreshing late Victorian erotic romance starring two unlikely lovers in a May-September relationship. Ruth is a rare protagonist as an experienced woman “passed” her prime falling in love; Garrick is as rare male lead as a virgin. Although the villain’s actions detract from a profound gender bending character study, historical romance readers will appreciate the love story of the older courtesan and the very virile virgin.

Harriet Klausner

Wicked Seduction-Jade Lee

Wicked Seduction
Jade Lee
Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240151

Due to a betrayal, Kit Frazier spent seven years enslaved on a pirate ship. All that kept him going was simply a soul-burning need to avenge the atrocity inflicted on him. Thus when he finally escapes and makes it back to England, Kit immediately deploys his vengeance plan that he worked on in his head for those seven horrific years.

However, the best laid plans of mice and men go astray when a woman gets involved. Kit and Madeline Wilson meet and his perfectly laid out scheme is put on hold by their attraction. Maddie needs a good match, which the uncivilized boorish Kit is not. However, she sees passed his beastly demeanor to the tortured soul that she wants to heal with her love. Kit has a new goal to make himself into the man his beloved believes he is. As they help each other, a fresh betrayal threatens their relationship.

The sequel to Wicked Surrender stars a fresh male protagonist and the woman who brings him out of his mental hell with her love. The support cast is solid whether they are villain or good guys while the story is fast-paced from the start to the final climax. Readers will appreciate Jade Lee’s strong late Victorian romance as the problems faced by the lead couple seem unmanageable and eternal without love bonding people.

Harriet Klausner

Hidden Away-Maya Banks

Hidden Away
Maya Banks
Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240175

Marcus Lattimer made a fortune that has people doing whatever he demands; he pays for loyalty. He lives by one code only: His Honor. No one dare cross Lattimer, but Allen Cross of Cross Enterprise did. Thus, his honor impugned by an A-hole, Lattimer visits this creature of habit Cretan at the man’s office; takes out a gun and fires between the eyes. However, Marcus failed to consider that his Achilles Heel, his beloved half-sister Sarah Daniels will arrive trying to prevent his killing her former employer ; only she witnesses the murder of Allen. She flees when repulsive Stanley Cross snarls at her.

CIA Agent Adam Resnick visits Kelly Group International (KGI) because he believes Lattimer finally screwed up with what appears to be a personal vendetta; he wants injured KGI operative Garrett Kelly, who lost a team due to the man’s betrayal, on the job. He explains the Cross murder gives them the ability to bring down Lattimer through his sibling. They send to Garrett to keep Sarah safe while using her to catch her half-brother. However, he never anticipated that he would fall in love with the woman he earned her trust through lies.

Few romantic suspense thrillers start stronger than Hidden Away does as the players are introduced through the homicide. However, part of the island tryst slows down the otherwise action-packed story line as Garrett tactically seduces Sarah. Still they are a wonderful pairing as each sees Lattimer differently, which makes the cold killer the match-breaker. Readers will appreciate this tense tale as the audience anticipates two High Noon confrontations in paradise.

Harriet Klausner

Rock Bottom-CJ Lyons and Erin Brockovich

Rock Bottom
CJ Lyons and Erin Brockovich
Vanguard, Mar 1 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781593156251

Angela Joy Palladino left Scotia, West Virginia as a pregnant teen with no future there. She gave birth to physically impaired David who she has raised as a single mom; yet also went to school while holding a job. Finally AJ becomes an on the air radio celebrity as an environmental activist that People magazine dubbed “The People’s Champion”. However, her efforts to end polluting by Capitol Power led to their declaration of bankruptcy; an irate former employer calls her on the air blaming her for losing his job, his home and his dignitary as he and his family reside in a tent; the gunshot ended their one sided discussion; turning her from crusading heroine to widow-making pariah.

Litigator Zach Hardy hires her to help end the coal mining firms’ practice of mountaintop removal in Scotia. However, nothing goes right starting with her boss is dead. Her parents demand she leave while they make her and their nine years old grandson stay at her Gram Flora’s house as they do not want her under their roof. Finally Cole the father of her son is angry with what AJ did to him.

This is a character driven environmental-family drama that grips the audience from the opening gunshot until the final confrontation. The key to this strong story line is that though saving the environment is the theme, the authors insure readers understand opportunity costs like less fuel and potentially less jobs. AJ is a terrific heroine who has taken life’s gut punches but keeps on going with gusto; that enthusiasm for life is what she has given to David. With several tense subplots that tie together into a powerful taut thriller, fans will demand more similar tales from CJ Lyons and Erin Brockovich.

Harriet Klausner

Accidentally Catty-Dakota Cassidy

Accidentally Catty
Dakota Cassidy
Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425239605

Fortyish divorcee Katherine “Katie” Woods, DVM moves her veterinary practice to Upstate New York to begin her life anew as the new forty is thirty for the most part. However, if she knew her patient would be an unconscious cougar her staff brought in from a nearby exotic animal park, she might have reconsidered relocating.

The cougar scratches Katie who soon finds some odd bodily modifications such as her trimmed nails and the rest of hand has changed into something a bit more beastly needing a manicure; while the animal she caged over night is now a naked man suffering from amnesia. Wanda Schwarz Jefferson (see the Accidental Human) and the OOPS unit arrive to assist Katie with her transformation. However, even with her own zoo crew and the OOPS squad at her side investigating the mystery of the shapeshifting were-cougar, no one can help Katie with her animal need to make love with her patient; a taboo for a veterinarian.

.The latest “Accidental romantic urban fantasy (see Accidentally Demonic) is a lighthearted frolic that will remind readers of the 1930s screwball comedies. The story line is fast-paced but never quite gels as everyone wants to be co- stand-up comics performing at the Improv Comedy Club in front of the in crowd. Still readers will enjoy the fifth paranormal conversion.

Harriet Klausner

Lady-Protector-L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Tor, Mar 15 2011, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765328045

Mykella had never expected to replace her father Feranyt as the Protector of Lanachrona because she had no psionic talent and several males including her uncle and cousin, and her brother were in line before her. However, with her father’s death due to poisoning by his brother and nephew during a failed bloody coup, her latent psi skills surfaced. She has become the first Lady-Protector since the legendary Mykella the Great created the position. The new Protector knows she can depend on only her sisters Rachylana and Salyna, as traitors are everywhere.

However besides the family seditious deadly activity, Mykella learns that Lanachrona is bankrupt. Additionally she immediately must prove her worth to the Arms Commander Areyst starting with no honorable funeral for the deceased traitors. However, she has no time for her country’s healing and economic recovery; her military leaders warn her that neighbors like Midcoast or Northcoast see an opportunity to invade with a tyro female running a devastated divided nation. An ancient magic arises within her that gives her hope to save her people and fear that the ancient enemy will also arise.

The latest The Corean Chronicles is an exciting political-military fantasy starring a strong heroine and a sold cast especially Areyst. The story line overall is fast-paced though L.E. Modesitt, Jr. somewhat mutes the pace with interwoven references of the back story (see The Lord-Protector). Still with a touch of romance, plenty of political intrigue and loads of life twisting lethal magic, fans of the saga will enjoy Mykella as the Lady-Protector even if she takes over a role too easily that she never trained for as she never expected to sit in the power seat.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 28, 2011

An Unlikely Countess-Jo Beverley

An Unlikely Countess
Jo Beverley
Signet, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780451232717

In 1765 in Yorkshire, Prudence Youlgrave lives in poverty. She knows her only hope to escape is to marry wealth above her social level. However, meeting someone with money is difficult for someone in her economic straits.

Catesby Burgoyne rescues Prudence from robbers. Shocking himself though he knows his intoxicated state keeps him from remaining logical, he asks her to marry him; shocking herself she accepts. When sober he regrets his fight with his brother the Earl of Malzrad and not because he has no money being cut off. Resigning from the military, he and Prudence are further shocked with what fate spins next. Cate's older brother dies unexpectedly, which makes the remorseful spare an Earl and his wife Prudence the Countess. As they fall in love, her former fiancé arrives to stake a prior claim on Prudence.

The class distinctions come across very powerful in this super Georgian romance as the support cast of aristocrats could make or break the new Countess. Although the ending with Prudence’s ratty fiancé seems unnecessary and a bit weak, this fast-paced tale will thrill fans of Jo Beverly’s Malloren saga as the engaging historical romance contains combat on two fronts: gender and class warfare.

Harriet Klausner

Playing for Keeps-LuAnn McLane

Playing for Keeps
LuAnn McLane
Signet, Mar 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN 9780451232762

Former Major League baseball pitcher Noah Falcon turned actor has been fired from the soap opera he performed on. Decided a respite is in order Noah goes back to his old Kentucky home after two decades away.

Olivia Lawson attended Cricket Creek High School with Noah; she never forgot that the star athlete ignored the bookworm except when she tutored him. He does not want to ignore her now as he thinks the schoolteacher is beautiful and her voice sexy, but she knows from the tabloids he is a playboy. As their attraction grows, they perform together on stage in a local production where she realizes he cares about the play, the people and the town. The audience can see that love flows between them, but she still she fears his rejection once he goes back to Hollywood.

This Cricket Creek contemporary romance is a fun tale due to the brisk banter between the lead couple. With a strong secondary cast mostly the townsfolk who encourage the protagonists as they fuss, fight and fall in love, fans will enjoy LuAnn McLane’s mantra that “There’s no place like home.”

Harriet Klausner

A Creed in Stone Creek-Linda Lael Miller

A Creed in Stone Creek
Linda Lael Miller
Harlequin HQN, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373775552

Wanting a safe place to raise five year old Matt St. John, guardian Steven Creed an attorney moves to Stone Creek, Arizona where he buys a dilapidated ranch. He hopes the small town with his McKettrick kin nearby is the right atmosphere for Matt, whose parents Zack and Jillie recently died. Zack being Steven’s best friend asked him to take care of Matt if he should die as Jillie already had passed away from breast cancer.

Steven and county prosecutor Melissa O’Ballivan meet and are attracted to one another; feelings neither want at the moment. He needs to focus on fixing up the ranch and insuring Matt adjusts well; while she has not had a male in her life except in court in two years ago. As the adults fuss and fight, they begin to fall in love, but both remain stubborn. So a little sad-faced matchmaker, encouraged by senior citizens, abetted by Elvis the dog who demanded adoption and much more want Melissa in the extended family as the child’s mommy and the guardian’s wife.

The latest return to stone Creek is an enjoyable angst-laden contemporary romance starring a likable lead couple, Elvis, a pony and a confused grieving orphan serving as the catalyst of love. The story line is character driven from the moment Steven stops at the motel with his grieving ward and never takes an emotional respite. Fans of the McKettrick-Creed crowd will appreciate stopping in Stone Creek.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Vow-Brenda Joyce

Deadly Vows
Brenda Joyce
Harlequin HQN, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373775514

In 1902 in New York, Francesca Cahill and Calder Hart are getting married in a few hours. However, before the ceremony, Francesca sneaks off to a gallery to see a portrait Hart commissioned. She is locked inside, but by the time she escapes from the gallery, everyone including Hart believes she jilted him. Francesca knows someone set this up, but not who or why.

Hart refuses to listen to her explanation as he is hurt and humiliated; raging he ends their engagement. Stunned and hurt too, Francesca turns to Hart’s half-brother Police Commissioner Rick Bragg for solace at a time when his marriage to Leigh Ann is crumbling. As Francesca ponders who owns her heart, she and Bragg search for who “framed’ her and is trying to blackmail her and soon a killer is after her too.

Though the roller coaster ride for the heroine’s relationships and affection continues to the point it feels sort of inane yet due to Brenda Joyce’s talent very entertaining as Cahill and the crew work two mysteries as well as the enigma of her heart. Filled with action, dysfunctional relationships (a common thread) and a sense of being in Manhattan at the start of the previous century (once again a fabulous recurring theme), fans will enjoy Francesca’s latest escapades in maybe (nor not) making it to the altar.

Harriet Klausner

The Breath of God-Jeffrey Small

The Breath of God
Jeffrey Small
West Hills, Mar 1 2011, $15.95
ISBN 9781933512860

Emory University doctorate student Grant Matthews knows he is running out of time on submitting his thesis. His topic focuses on the impact other cultures had on the early development of Christianity. In particular over the objections of the school’s advisory board, he pursues a legend of an Asian boy traveling fourteen-fifteen centuries before Marco Polo went the other way.

In Asia, he learns from Buddhist monks that what he seeks might exist in one of the monasteries in Bhutan. He journeys to the Himalayan nation where his guide is a former Buddhist monk working to feed his family. He learns more about Issa and the lad’s spiritual journey that affirms his subject loved and wrote down his travels. Grant meets Kristin Misaki and soon finds the treasure he sought. However, what happened to a Russian late in the nineteenth century when he made the same discovery soon proves history repeats itself. Christian fundamentalists are willing to kill, destroy or hide to prevent anything heretical that affirms that the early founders were in touch with other cultures for some of the religion’s critical foundations coming east to west.

This is a super Brownian thriller that is at its best when the beleaguered hero is in Asia pursuing the Issa documents amidst Buddhist monks. The Christian conspiracy to shut down the heresy feels more like a sub-genre requirement and detracts from a powerful insightful novel. Still, based on a real Russian Notovitch was condemned as a heretic for publishing his finding of the Saint Issa scrolls in Himis, India, as those ancient documents explained the “Lost Years of Jesus”, overall The Breath of God is a terrific tale.

Harriet Klausner

Under Wraps-Hannah Jayne

Under Wraps
Hannah Jayne
Kensington, Mar 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN 9780758258922

In San Francisco, beneath the police department is located the Underworld Detection Agency. Their mission is to conduct investigations and negotiations especially involving humans for their paranormal clients. In fact, the only “Breather” human working for UDA is administrative assistant Sophie Lawson.

Recently, the supernatural crowd is shocked when a serial killer begins a deadly murderer’s spree of the paranormal. Sophie becomes worried when her nice boss Peter Sampson the werewolf vanishes without a trace as she fears he may have been a victim of the predator. Never working the field, Sophie tentatively investigates her employer’s vanishing, which leads her to police detective Parker Hayes. Though attracted to the cop, she begins to realize that he is not telling her something critical either about Peter or himself, so she distrusts him.

This is an engaging investigative urban fantasy that takes a while to get the elements in place, but once that occurs (about a fourth of the novel) turns into a delightful thriller, extremely diffuclt to put down. Sophie the token breather keeps the story lien focused while her relationships to her werewolf boss and a vampiress roommate make the paranormal seem normal. Fans will appreciate her adventures on and under the streets of San Francisco as she and the cop she desires with her heart but distrusts with her head search for the lost lupine shifter.

Harriet Klausner

Primal Bonds-Jennifer Ashley

Primal Bonds
Jennifer Ashley
Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780425240786

Humans keep shapeshifters in run down squabble. They also insist the beasts wear fae created collars to insure these monsters are unable to use their animal nature.

Half-breed fae-lupine Andrea Gray flees from a potential mate who insists she belongs to him. She arrives at the Shiftertown section of Austin where she hopes to find protection. Feline shifter Sean Morrissey, who possesses the powerful shifter soul release sword, claims her as his mate though he does so in name only to keep Andrea safe. As the two alphas begin to investigate their desire for one another, they fall in love, but each fears to raise the issue of being true life mates as he expected no one due to his sword’s skill and she has always detested the concept of belonging to any mate even as she knows he is not just any mate.

The latest Shifters Unbound urban fantasy (see Pride Mates) is an enjoyable thriller as the Ashley mythos is further developed with a sense that shifters exist and what happens in Austen is genuine. The story line is fast-paced with the sexual taut relationship between the feline and the lupine cutting across the action packed tale. Readers will enjoy the Primal Bonds between two alphas who mate at the drop of a page to the delight of fans.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Good Man Is Hard to Find-ReShonda Tate Billingsley

A Good Man Is Hard to Find
ReShonda Tate Billingsley
Gallery, Mar 22 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9781439183502

Investigative journalist Ava Cole feels like she fell through the rabbit hole when the news magazine she works for shuts down. Instead of seeking a job, Ava is assigned to work for a sister publication, the National Star; a tabloid in which the story always comes first even before the safety of the reporter and the subject of the exposé.

Ava admits to herself she appreciates the upbeat accommodations her new position provides, but hates wallowing in the dirt. Her current assignment has her in Aruba to cover pop superstar India Wright's wedding. Her editor expects Ava to find the sordid filth on the bride and groom. However, Ava also finds romance with photographer Cliff and with India’s manager Julian; while hoping she is below the radar screen of some tabloid reporter exposing her triangular tryst.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find is an entertaining look at tabloid reporting of scandalous behavior’ which ironically as Ava knows she could be the story. The cast is solid especially Ava struggling with how far she feels she fell in the journalism world and the rejection of her long time former boyfriend. However, as she learns sex scandals sell while other investigative reporting apparently does not and that she needs two hunks to move passed her former hunk. Readers will enjoy Ava’s revelations as she fully comprehends the true meaning of A Good Man Is Hard to Find and even harder to retain.

Harriet Klausner

A Light at Winter's End-Julia London

A Light at Winter's End
Julia London
Pocket, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9781439176498

Heartbroken Wyatt Clark watched his wife Macy leave him to return to her first husband Finn Lockhart, who had been mistakenly reported dead by an IED in Afghanistan (see Summer of Two Wishes). Wyatt spends the next two years moving back and forth between anger as he brought Macy back to life after she learned her Finn died and self pity as he believed Macy owed him. He remains in isolation on his Texas ranch.

In Austin, Texas Holly Fisher has dreamed of being a songwriter for a long time. Now the time is right to begin her career. However, her aspirations are put on hold when her estranged sister, Hannah, a drug addict, arrives with a baby. She dumps Mason on Holly before leaving to enter a rehab program. Holly takes Mason with her as she goes to the Fisher family spread, next door to the silent sourpuss Wyatt. As she falls for Wyatt and Mason, she wonders whether a love song can do her feelings justice only reality turns her lyrics to How can You Mend a Broken Heart (BeeGees).

This sequel is a super character driven Texas romance starring a mentally wounded rancher who understands Nazareth’s Love Hurts so refuses to go back on the horse that threw him and a nurturing woman who puts her aspirations aside to care for her one year old nephew. Filled with angst due to realistic characters, readers will enjoy A Light At Winter’s End though it helps to understand Wyatt better by reading his previous heartbreaking appearance in Summer of two Wishes.

Harriet Klausner

Bound by Guilt-C.J. Darlington

Bound by Guilt
C.J. Darlington
Tyndale, Mar 1 2011, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414340128

She has spent her young life as a serial foster child moving from one home to another. Roxi Gold dreams of belonging to a loving family permanently, but each new home makes her feel this will never occur though she tries too hard to belong.

Currently, Roxi travels the country with her foster parents stealing rare books in order to remain in her current home; if she refuses she will be kicked to the street though she is disturbed by her criminal activity. Police officer Abby Dawson feels worn out by a job she once cherished as her work was used against her in the custody fight with her ex. She wishes she could turn to her dad for solace, but they are estranged. Roxi and Abby meet when blood flows over a first edition of the Great Gatsby.

Roxi makes for a strong tale as her odyssey will reach inside to the souls of the readers. She makes the tale seem real as her desperate need to belong leads her to criminal activity to keep her guardian pleased with her. Bound by Guilt is a terrific Christian contemporary due to the protagonists and a powerful support cast.

Harriet Klausner

Late Eclipses-Seanan McGuire

Late Eclipses
Seanan McGuire
Daw, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406660

Half-breed private investigator Toby Daye finally believes she belongs in Faerie after leaving the land two years ago for San Francisco. She even has made a shaky peace with an adversary Tybalt the Cat King. However her serenity abruptly ends when her close friend the undine Lily the Lady of the Tea Gardens was recently poisoned and is dying. She becomes further shocked when Luna the wife of liege lord Sylvester Torquil becomes ill. Toby believes someone is targeting her through people she cares about.

At the same time Oleander de Merelands has returned. She was a key part of a group that kept Toby trapped as a fish for years. No one else believes Oleander is back as only Toby can see her, which leaves her friends wondering if the changeling has become insane. Crazy or not, Toby investigates before something else horrific occurs to someone else she cares about.

The fourth October Daye urban fantasy whodunit series (see An Artificial Night, Rosemary and Rue, and A Local Habitation) is a fabulous thriller as the heroine burned by both sides of her DNA has a lingering distrust of everyone so her paranoia kicks in and she does what she does best: investigate. Fast-paced, the case is personal as friends are dying; she is the accused; her enemy has surfaced; and her mom is somehow in the middle of what the heroine believes is a concerted effort to destroy her. No one provides better Noir tours of San Francisco and Faerie than Ms. Daye does when she resolutely works an investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Blackout-Rob Thurman

Rob Thurman
Roc, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463869

Hybrid human-Auphe Cal Leandros awakens on a beach with no idea how he got there or why he is surrounded by dead spidery monsters. Although his memory is gone, Cal believes in his gut he is a natural born killer as he heads into Nevah’s Landing, South Carolina.

Two men he does not recognize arrive claiming they are here to help him. One of them says he is Cal’s purebred brother Niko and the other insists he is their friend Robin Goodfellow. Niko explains they are BFFs also and run a private investigator business together. He distrusts both of them as his instincts, especially his Auphe side, insist he do so. That changes when more spidery monsters attack and they have his back as other enemies surface.

The latest Cal Leandros thriller is an exciting tale enhanced by a realistic modification in the relationship between the siblings. While Niko is hurt by his brother’s behavior towards him, Cal continues to struggle between his dueling dual natures as Cal fears what he truly is since he has no memory of who he is. Filled with action, Rob Thurman provides a terrific twist to the protagonist in the angst-laden Blackout (see Roadkill and Deathwish to fully understand the spin).

Harriet Klausner

The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse

The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse
Steven C. Schlozman, MD
Grand Central, Mar 25 2011, $19.99
ISBN: 9780446564663

A zombie plague has been turned loose upon the earth, but the disease is not natural as it is man made. The research has turned people into NGH, No Longer Human. This leads to medical researchers on a remote island dissecting and experimenting on captured zombies seeking a cure with the belief that NGH types are classified as monstrous beasts who live to feed endlessly on human flesh.

Nuclear bombs fail to end the spread of the epidemic. Meanwhile on the coral atoll Bassas de India between Madagascar and Africa, a research center has been established to find a cure. Led by renowned zombie expert Dr. Stanley Blum and Dr. Blanca Gutierrez, volunteers have come to help. They conclude that the disease works similar to catching the flu with prions playing a key role. They believe they are closing in on a vaccination, but abruptly they seem to have vanished. However, Dr. Blum’s The Zombie Autopsies’ journals have been found and under review by the World Health Organization; as time runs out on Homo sapiens remaining the dominant species on the planet.

As Z books go, The Zombie Autopsies is a truly gruesome horror medical thriller; not so much due to someone creating the disease, but more because of the inhuman experiments on humanoid bodies by scientists mindful of Dr. Mengele and the Nazis. Although the reader will understand the despite attempts to save humanity, the scientific saviors lose what makes a person human while conducting their research. Dr. Blum and the Z crew put the faces to the tale as he knows he will never leave the island as he regrets what he believes he must do while fans will have to decide whether the zombie is a monster or sick grandma as this is a chilling, vividly gory thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse

The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse
Steven C. Schlozman, MD
Grand Central, Mar 25 2011, $19.99
ISBN: 9780446564663

A zombie plague has been turned loose upon the earth, but the disease is not natural as it is man made. The research has turned people into NGH, No Longer Human. This leads to medical researchers on a remote island dissecting and experimenting on captured zombies seeking a cure with the belief that NGH types are classified as monstrous beasts who live to feed endlessly on human flesh.

Nuclear bombs fail to end the spread of the epidemic. Meanwhile on the coral atoll Bassas de India between Madagascar and Africa, a research center has been established to find a cure. Led by renowned zombie expert Dr. Stanley Blum and Dr. Blanca Gutierrez, volunteers have come to help. They conclude that the disease works similar to catching the flu with prions playing a key role. They believe they are closing in on a vaccination, but abruptly they seem to have vanished. However, Dr. Blum’s The Zombie Autopsies’ journals have been found and under review by the World Health Organization; as time runs out on Homo sapiens remaining the dominant species on the planet.

As Z books go, The Zombie Autopsies is a truly gruesome horror medical thriller; not so much due to someone creating the disease, but more because of the inhuman experiments on humanoid bodies by scientists mindful of Dr. Mengele and the Nazis. Although the reader will understand the despite attempts to save humanity, the scientific saviors lose what makes a person human while conducting their research. Dr. Blum and the Z crew put the faces to the tale as he knows he will never leave the island as he regrets what he believes he must do while fans will have to decide whether the zombie is a monster or sick grandma as this is a chilling, vividly gory thriller.

Harriet Klausner

After the Golden Age-Carrie Vaughn

After the Golden Age
Carrie Vaughn
Tor, Apr 12 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765325556

In Commerce City, Celia West the forensic accountant is fortunate that the Olympiad superheroes protect her because she keeps getting kidnapped. She is the daughter of the group’s leaders Suzanne known as the Spark because of her ability to create and control fire and Warren endowed with super speed and strength. However, Celia is estranged from her parents as she wants to live a normal life working assets and liabilities that are numbers and not fighting supervillains with masks and powers.

Currently she is looking into the records of supervillain Destructor seeking proof of tax fraud. When his case comes to court, her relationships through her parents to the alleged felon are exposed. This costs her the job and her friends while widening the rift with her parents. As a crime wave hits the city and with too much idle time on her hands, Celia sees a pattern that ties all the felonious activity to one person. She uses the supercomputer at the Olympiad headquarters trying to uncover the identity of this diabolical mastermind, but also learns much about the yin yang births of superheroes and supervillains.

Carrie Vaughn is a superhero of an author as she deftly switches voices and worlds with her different series (see Kitty the werewolf tales). The story line obviously pays homage to the Golden and Silver Ages of comic books with the twist of an accountant working the numbers to bring down supervillains. Readers root for Celia who they hope reconciles with her parents and obtains self-esteem as she fears she can never live up to the legends her parents are. Filled with pathos and a touch of romance as well as plenty of POW! And AM! Fans will enjoy the silver adventures of the offspring of two Golden Age heroes.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts-Lucy Dillon

Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts
Lucy Dillon
Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9780425238875

At about the same time her decade long relationship ends, thirty-nine year old Rachel inherits her aunt's home, dog, and kennel. Not sure what to make of the will as she never expected the bequest, Rachel decides to move to her aunt’s home on the London outer perimeter.

She finds the kennel overwhelmed with rescued canines and her aunt’s neighbors to be friendly with each other and welcoming to the newcomer. Rachel decides to run the kennel as best she can though she knows nothing about dogs and sees good homes for her wards. Rachel meets divorce veterinarian George who is over the edge with his former wife who gave their children a puppy. Rachel befriends married Natalie who wants a baby but for now settles on coddling their “foster” dog. The kennel owner finds other nice people as she explains a house is not a home without a dog sharing the digs.

Mindful of the Groucho quip “Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend; Inside of a dog it's too dark to read”, this is an enjoyable second chance at life as the beleaguered but happy heroine finds rescuing canines ironically saves her. This is Rachel’s makeover but the strong cast; canines included especially her roommate provide a warm contemporary tale that encourages the audience to learn what makes you happy and risk seeking it.

Harriet Klausner

Someone's Watching-Sharon Potts

Someone's Watching
Sharon Potts
Oceanview, Feb 7 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781608090136

Once a corporate suit, Robbie Ivy works as a bartender in Miami’s South Beach section. Her estranged father arrives at the club where she works to ask Robbie for a favor. His other daughter Kaitlin "Kate" Brooks and her BFF Joanne Sparks are missing somewhere in the concrete South Florida jungle; he wants Robbie to help find her.

Robbie is stunned to learn she has a sibling as she had no idea until her dad’s visit that she had a half-sister. Not knowing how to start, she asks her former boyfriend, Jeremy Stroeb for advice. He suggests she speak to Detective Judy Lieber who cautions Robbie to watch her step as coeds like Kate are targets of nasty predators especially when Joanne is found dead. Her amateurish inquiry turns deadly as Robbie realizes time is running out on her meeting her younger half-sister alive.

Relationship damaged Robbie makes a terrific protagonist as she hopes to make it with Jeremy, reunite with her father and become friends and sister with her sibling. Thus she has a major impetus to find Kate. Mindful of the exhilarating mindless action movie Taken (even though the heroine is an amateur while Neeson’s character Mills is a former CIA field operative). Filled with spins and stunning red herrings, readers will appreciate this engaging, timely but sordid tale of kidnapping teens and forcing them into prostitution (right out of the headlines).

Harriet Klausner

Heresy -S.J. Parris

S.J. Parris
Anchor Books (Random House), Feb 1 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9780767932523

In the late sixteenth century the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated Monk Giordano Bruno for his heretic belief in the Copernicus theory of a heliocentric system. He has no safe haven as the Inquisition hunts him in order to burn him at the stake for daring to espouse that the sun is the center of the universe. Still he flees his Naples monastery just before the Father Inquisitor comes for him heading to Paris and then London where he prays he will find respite in Queen Elizabeth’s anti papal reign.

In 1583 the queen's Secretary of State Sir Francis Walsingham asks Bruno to visit to Oxford to look for treasonous Catholic scholars. He agrees as he wants to go to Oxford but in search of the fifteenth book of Ancient Egyptian High Priest Hermes Trismegistus who wrote in this tome his understanding of the “Divine Mind". However, the defrocked monk never expected to be the hub of gruesome homicides.

The real life intelligent elucidate Bruno tells the tale mostly of his time in Oxford in 1583. He makes the story line fun as a wonderful historical thriller. The serial murder mystery engages the reader also, but takes a back seat to the divided deadly dogma of religious loyalties during the Elizabethan Era as portrayed by the excommunicated enlightened monk.

Harriet Klausner

The Raven Queen-Jules Watson

The Raven Queen
Jules Watson
Spectra, Feb 22 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780553384659

Her father King Eochaid of Connacht married Maeve to two lords as political alliances, but broke off both. She hoped to remain home, but her dad arranged another marriage for her to the King of Ulaid Conor.

Two years later, desperate not to be a political pawn of the male rulers, Maeve concludes her only way out of marital hell is to replace her father when he dies though he has a son still living, her older brother Innel, as his heir. She flees Conor offering her knowledge of his Red Branch warriors for her freedom, but her dying father and ambitious brother call her traitor. Maeve knows if miraculously she becomes the Queen of Connacht she has less time than a man would have to insure affluence comes to her kingdom. To do that she must overcome her sibling, his rivals, the clan’s anti female bias and her husband; thus to succeed she needs to convince Ruan the Lake wanderer and the Fae to support her claim. If she fails almost from the onset the Druid priests will sacrifice her to the Fae in exchange for their providing wealth to the kingdom.

The latest entry in the Watson mythology (see the superb Swan Maiden), The Raven Queen is another terrific Ancient Eire mystical thriller. Filled with action but driven by courageous Maeve and supported by a strong secondary cast, fans will relish this lyrical Irish mythos as Jules Watson brings to life ancient Eire with this exciting tale.

Harriet Klausner

Etched in Bone-Adrian Phoenix

Etched in Bone
Adrian Phoenix
Pocket, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439137307

He has his feet in three worlds though he wants none of them. Vampire Dante Baptiste is the Fallen maker and the Great Destroyer who wants neither role. However, he wants a future with his beloved FBI agent Heather Wallace who shares his love and anguished tortured soul (if he has one that is) that often teeters towards insanity.

The vampires of nightkind want him as a means to take control of the planet. At the same time, the human Shadow Branch agents seek to control him by using enhanced psychological persuasion of him and if needed his love Heather. Finally the Fallen followers are growing impatient with their leader’s refusal to lead them to the Promised Land as expected by his “offspring for over a thousand years. These three diverse groups hone in on Dante and Heather.

The fourth Maker's Song (see In the Blood, Rush of Wings and Beneath the Skin) is a taut thriller in which the reader continues to empathize with the beleaguered hero and his beloved Fed. Although there are too many subplot start-ups with a horde of new mostly antagonists that make it difficult to follow the Dante (and by association Heather) assaults and where they will lead as Etched in Bone completes the transition of the overarching theme from a paranormal police procedural into a grim urban fantasy.. Still fans of Adrian Phoenix will enjoy stepping into the author’s dark world.

Harriet Klausner

Serpent’s Storm-Amber Benson

Serpent’s Storm
Amber Benson
Ace, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441020096

Calliope Reaper-Jones has a unique DNA as she happens to be one of Death’s Daughters. She just wants to be a normal New York City yuppie, but with her genetics normal is not a term Calliope expects to ever find.

However even she is unprepared when her sister Thalia united with the Devil commits patricide killing their father Death. Complicating matters for Calliope is she is unsure whether she should grieve or not for her dad or herself as she is now Death. She must accept this position she never wanted starting with the need to kill her new lover Daniel the former Devil’s protégé turned soul-saver; for if she abdicates her duty, chaos has entered the Hall of Death, which will swarm all over the universe including heaven and hell but especially earth. Then she must pay the death debt with the Ender of Death for what occurred to her family especially her widowed mom.

No longer the heir apparent thanks to her sibling, the Reaper Jones must embrace her heritage or watch the universe implode. Fast-paced but filled with humor and pathos, readers will embrace the heroine as accepts Manhattan is no longer home if it ever truly was. Serpent’s Storm is Cal’s fantasy as she with a strong support cast make for a powerful action-packed thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Demon Song -Cat Adams

Demon Song
Cat Adams
Tor, Mar 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN 9780765324962

Bodyguard Celia Graves knows her inner self battles between being a siren by birth and a vampire by mistake. She struggles with managing her new thirst for blood with the emotional fallout from her recent battles with a demon and a siren queen (see Blood Song and Siren Song). On top of all that turmoil she regards herself as human.

However, instead of R&R adjustment to her new skills and a chance to lick her wounds, Celia finds out that an ancient portal closed when Atlantis died is tearing the dimensional barrier asunder. If so demon hordes will invade the mortal world killing and enslaving humans. She needs to interpret prophesies left behind by a dead friend and obtain allies, several prejudiced against vampires and others against her in particular, to reseal the widening gap before it is too late.

The latest Adams urban fantasy (see Blood Song and Siren Song) is a great entry that moves forward on two interacting fronts. The heroine copes poorly with her mental adjustment to the changes made worse by Posttraumatic Stress Disorder while the demons are coming, the demons are coming. Fast-paced and loaded with action, readers will relish Celia’s latest grave crisis when all she wants to be is a human woman and not siren-vampire save the world heroine.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

On Borrowed Time-David Rosenfelt

On Borrowed Time
David Rosenfelt
Minotaur, Feb 15 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780312598365

Manhattan based reporter Richard Kilmer and his lover Jennifer Ryan drive from their apartment on the Upper West Side to her hometown to meet her family in Kendrick Falls. He plans to ask her to marry him. However, they have an accident, but eerily somehow before they finish the two hour drive, Jen vanished.

Stunned with no clues as to his beloved’s whereabouts, Richard meets the family he thought would be his in-laws. Shocked further after meeting her family when they insist she is not their kin; her friends deny knowing a Jennifer Ryan. Finally even his friends claim they never met her. As a catharsis, Richard writes articles for a magazine about his recent trauma. Allison Tynes comes from Wisconsin to New York to meet Richard as she insists she is Jen's identical twin; leaving the journalist further bewildered.

This suspense thriller grips the reader once the car accident occurs and never let’s the audience go even after the climax as the audience will ponder what happened to the key characters especially the beleaguered protagonist who sadly muses that he entered the Twilight Zone. To David Rosenfelt’s credit and writing skills he never ventures in to the Serling realm. With Andy Carpenter on respite, fans will still relish this taut thriller as like Kilmer will wonder what is going on.

Harriet Klausner

The Night Season-Chelsea Cain

The Night Season
Chelsea Cain
Minotaur, Mar 1 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780312619763

Portland, Oregon police detective Archie Sheridan feels he can finally move on with his life as his nemesis serial killer Gretchen Lowell is incarcerated. However, he also knows she has been locked away before, but escaped like a magician.

As the Willamette overflows its banks, a body is found at an amusement park. Archie assumes it is another misfortune drowning victim until the coroner reports the cause of death being from a puncture wound. Other corpses turn up with the same trauma. At the same time reporter Susan Ward is writing an article on a skeleton found in the ghost-town Vanport, destroyed by the 1948 flood. Archie allows the journalist to join his team as they search for a serial killer using a strange toxin.

The fourth Sheridan police procedural (see Heartsick; Sweetheart; Evil at Heart) is a refreshing tale though the hero deals with another serial killer but this time Gretchen is limited to a few moments when Archie agonizes over his mixed feelings towards the black widow. The key to the superb whodunit is the real Vanport flood of over six decades ago that will remind the audience of Katrina as Chelsea Cain brings this disaster alive to readers. Fans will enjoy Sheridan’s brisk investigation of a present day psychopath and the deep look at the Vanport Flood calamity.

Harriet Klausner

Finding Jack-Gareth Crocker

Finding Jack
Gareth Crocker
St. Martin's, Feb 15 2011, $23.99
ISBN 9780312621728

In 1972, the family of twenty nine year old Fletcher Carson dies in a plane crash. Distraught and filled with survivor grief, Fletcher enlists in the army. After basic, he is sent to Vietnam.

As the war winds down, Fletcher and his platoon complain about the uselessness of the combat, which has left so many of their comrades in arms dead and others mentally and physically destroyed. Yet though Fletcher and the other men know the war is lost they diligently still patrol the perimeter and perform secret missions. When they find a trained wounded scout dog, they bring the K9 back to camp. Calling him Jack, they help him heal. Jack joins them as a key member of the unit by locating deadly traps and ambushes. When Fletcher is assigned to go home, he wants to take his best friend Jack with him. Knowing he cannot do it through official channels, Fletcher deserts taking Jack on a three hundred and fifty mile trek through hostile territory hoping to reach Thailand.

Finding Jack is an interesting Vietnam War thriller starring a mentally wounded warrior who was hurt with grief before he joined the army and the canine who becomes his family while saving his life by giving Fletcher a cause and subsequently a reason to live. Although some of the scenes the soldier and the dog get into seem over the top of Mt. Fansipan, fans who enjoy something different in their brothers of arms tales will want to accompany Fletcher and Jack as they run a deadly gauntlet.

Harriet Klausner

Fade to White-Wendy Clinch

Fade to White
Wendy Clinch
St. Martin's, Jan 4 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312593278

Hollywood Harper Stone arrives at Spruce Peak, Vermont to film a mouthwash commercial. Once a star, this is the only gig he can get though he does not hide his rage over how far his fame has fallen.

Avid skier Stacey Curtis looks forward to a turn on the slopes before going to work at the Broken Binding bar. However, the lift is closed due to the filming directed by Stacey’s former boyfriend Brian Russell. Still the Ski Diva and her friend ski patrol operative Chip Walsh ski together until they run into a corpse. Someone murdered Harper with the last person to see the actor alive being Brian, who is known for his jealousy and anger. Stacey knows to stay out of the homicide on the slopes, but investigates anyway

The second Ski Diva amateur sleuth (see Double Black) is an engaging tale that focuses more on skiing than on the whodunit. Stacey is a wonderful protagonist whose theme is Let it snow; let It snow; and let it snow. Although the mystery takes the backseat on the lift, fans will enjoy going downhill with Stacey who brings enthusiasm and energy to the slopes.

Harriet Klausner

The Road to Rome-Ben Kane

The Road to Rome
Ben Kane
St. Martin's, Mar 29 2011, $26.99
ISBN 9780312536732

Twins Romulus and Fabiola have come a long way from their days as slaves. He has become a legionnaire in Caesar's army and she has become Brutus' lover. Whereas Romulus knows better than to display open hostility towards Caesar even though the man destroyed his family, his sister cannot hide her hatred towards the Emperor.

While Romulus and his friend Tarquinius are involved in a vicious war in North Africa, Fabiola begins a scheme to assassinate Caesar. Having survived the deadly Egyptian campaign, Romulus and Tarquinius return to Rome where the former learns of his twin’s insane plan to kill the Emperor on the upcoming Ides of March.

The third ancient Rome Forgotten Legion thriller (see The Forgotten legion and The Silver Eagle) is a super tale that provides a vivid look at first century BC through a military unit slashing, clashing and smashing their way in the battlefield on the road to Rome. The excellent story line is fast-paced from the first sword blow to the last, but is much more than an ancient military historical thriller as the politics of spear assassination thrives yet shakes Rome with beware the Ides of March.

Harriet Klausner

Devil’s Slew-Darryl Wimberley

Devil’s Slew
Darryl Wimberley
St. Martin's, Mar 1 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780312649494

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agent Barrett "Bear" Raines attends a little league game when duty calls. In the Devil’s Slew swamp, Afghan vet Quentin Hart has taken his girlfriend prisoner. Bear and Sheriff Smoot Rawlings arrive at the scene hoping to talk down the angry former combat soldier with no body getting hurt. Instead, Quentin races out of his home holding his automatic rifle pointed at the cops. They kill him as each knows the veteran committed suicide by cop.

Bear feels depressed over the incident though he knows he and Smoot did the right thing. He investigates Quentin’s last days trying to understand why he snapped. Aided by other law enforcement officials he soon uncovers a connection to vets involved in counterfeiting and money laundering. The FBI believes they kidnapped and beheaded one of their agents in New Orleans. As the evidence mounts that this is a dangerous gang based in Florida but working in Mexico and Afghanistan, someone is targeting these vets for death.

Devil’s Slew is a fascinating police procedural in which the chaotic story line showcases how convoluted an investigation can become. Fast-paced from the moment Bear and Smoot arrive in the aptly named swamp and never slowing down, readers will appreciate Darryl Wimberley connecting dots between Florida, Mexico and Afghanistan in Bear’s latest thriller (see Pepperfish Keys).

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 24, 2011

Life From Scratch-Melissa Ford

Life From Scratch
Melissa Ford
Belle Bridge Books, Nov 24 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9781935661986

In her tiny New York apartment, she writes in her blog that June Cleaver, Martha Stewart and Mrs. C, etc. can cook while she can’t. Divorced from lawyer Adam the “stranger” she still loves, Rachel Goldman decides to learn how to cook in her small kitchen. Boiling and microwaving pre-fixed items do not count as Rachel plans to fry an egg without breaking the yoke.

As she writes in her blog about her failures that would have Cleaver hammering her with baking pins and her tiny successes, her blog becomes popular not as Best Kitchen or Best Food Blog but as Best Diarist. Still she focuses on one meatloaf casserole cooked evenly throughout instead of burnt to a crisp on the outside and so raw as to be dangerous to eat on the inside. She continues to teach herself with hopes that one day mom will allow her to cook the Seder and that Adam will learn what he lost especially since a man has shown interest in her.

Life From Scratch is an intriguing character driven tale of a woman needing to find something to affirm her self-worth; her choice is cooking as she starts from a zero base and uses her blog as a means to release her frustrations (and add humor to the recipe). Readers will enjoy the insightful yet jocular story line with its underlying message that Polonius advices his son Laertes (Hamlet) To thine own self be true"; especially telling loved ones your hopes and aspirations, but even more so your fears. Rachel learning to cook is a metaphor for readers to live even if it means beginning over Life from Scratch.

Harriet Klausner

Bless the Bride-Rhys Bowen

Bless the Bride
Rhys Bowen
Minotaur, Mar 1 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312628109

In 1903, the marriage between private investigator Molly Murphy and NYPD Captain Daniel Sullivan is coming soon. He expects her to behave like a wife and not a detective; his mom also implores her to act accordingly. Shockingly Molly seems to acquiesce.

Wealthy Chinese businessman Lee Sing Tai asks Molly to help him find a missing valuable jade. Although she believes her client is omitting much of the story, she agrees as she rationalizes her promise to no longer sleuth begins after the marriage though she hides her activity from Daniel. Molly thinks Lee is actually seeking his missing bride who ran away. However, she has no idea how a Chinese female who does not speak English hides in plain sight in New York when Asian women are not allowed outside without a chaperone. As Molly searches for the young runaway, she fears she will bring further harm to the bride Lee bought in and brought from China.

This is a strong entry in one of the best historical mystery series on the market. The investigation is top rate as Molly goes from searching for a runaway bride that has her pondering the parallels to her own fate as a wife in which she is expected to give up her freedom to detect. As the heroine conceals her case from her fiancé while wondering whether marriage means being The Last Illusion living In a Gilded Cage, her case turns lethal. Rhys Bowen provides a great early twentieth century Molly Murphy mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Trinity Six-Charles Cumming

The Trinity Six
Charles Cumming
St. Martin's, Mar 15 2011, $24.99
ISBN 978-0-312-67529-5

During WWII and immediately afterward the "Cambridge Five" Trinity spy ring betrayed Britain by providing secrets to the Soviet Union. Once the ring was broken, rumors abounded for years that a sixth person was involved, but had escaped justice.

In 1992 septuagenarian Edward Crane dies in London. Fifteen years later, a reporter Charlotte Berg asks her friend Russian scholar Sam Gaddis to help her investigate rumors that the sixth person was Crane who allegedly did not die in the hospital, but instead lives and plans to tell his tale. Sam needs money to pay alimony and child support so he agrees because he believes he can write a book on what he learns if true. However, someone wants the news to remain interred as those involved with learning the facts like Charlotte allegedly died from a sudden heart attack; Sam believes she was murdered.

This is a terrific espionage thriller, which makes the case that the Cold War participants spent plenty of efforts on propaganda with disinformation and misinformation a normal spin (inductively supported though not Cold War era material by the recent WikiLeaks’ government entries of recent years). Fast-paced from start to finish, readers will relish Charles Cumming’s tale of whether the Cambridge Five was actually the Trinity Six.

Harriet Klausner

State of Mind -Sven Michael Davison

State of Mind
Sven Michael Davison
Bedouin Press, Mar 1 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 978-0966614923

Jake Travissi lived and was willing to die as a Los Angeles Police department homicide cop especially since Andrea and Jade were gone. However, he never expected to be kicked off the force and banned from law enforcement as occurred in 2030 following the Governor Pacheo’s son fiasco. Like an addict going cold turkey he feels cut off from what he needs. Only his two years old Lakshmi and “Auntie” Gene matter. Thus when given a second chance to return to the force, he readily agrees; ignoring the stipulation that he and two other cops will be implanted with the P-Chip. The trio will belong to LAPD, but work for the Department of Homeland Security.

Jake commands the Enhanced Unit field team consisting of himself, Detective Joaquin Parks and Homicide Lieutenant Alexander Koren. He takes orders from Homeland Security Director Sanchez. However as Jake begins to see odd visions, he realizes Sanchez and others envision an American caste system of those chipped and the few controllers of the implanted. Besides fighting his superior and Senator Crennan, Jake battles to control his P-Chip as he no longer can delineate what is his while wondering if Andrea and Jade were real of machine induced.

This is an exciting 1984 futuristic thriller that extrapolates current advances in medical, biological and technological fields to form a vision of a Big Brother society. Although somewhat simplistic in terms of the good and the conspiratorial; the story line is filled with action mostly driven by the P-Chip that helps people control their cravings and addictions, but few understand at the price of giving up control of Live Free or controlled. Jake uncovers the high level conspiracy to change America, but struggles to prevent it from happening as his controller uses the P-Chip to make him dance like a puppet on a string.

Harriet Klausner

Green-Eyed Demon-Jaye Wells

Green-Eyed Demon
Jaye Wells
Orbit, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780316037778

Vampire mage Sabina Kane learns someone kidnapped her twin sister Maisie. Fuming especially with the photo of her battered sister, Sabina vows to rescue her sibling and kick abductor butt. With her demon servant Giguhl and Adam Lazarus the mage at her side, she kidnaps Tanith the Dominae though she intended to snatch Persephone to extract information. However, the Dominae makes a deal with the Queen of the Fairies, leaving a raging Sabina seemingly on the out again.

Still Tanith who plans to rule the vampires provides information that sends Sabina to New Orleans. There she confronts her psychopathic grandmother Domina Lavinia, the vampire queen and her horde of Caste of Nod Undead. Sabina knows only one side might get out breathing; and she plans that to be her with her sister. Voodoo priestess Zenobia and Brooks the changeling drag queen assists Sabina who knows she cannot afford to alienate either of them if she is to successfully overcome her homicidal relative who she assumes is behind the abduction.

This is an exciting Sabina Kane urban fantasy with the return engagement with grandma dearest (see The Mage in Black for their previous family reunion). The somewhat convoluted non linear story line is loaded with action as the heroine does not have a straight path to granny’s house of pain. The discussions between Sabina and Giguhl add jocularity as she fumes over her unwanted feelings towards Adam and he muses over her fuming. Readers will enjoy the Red-Headed Stepchild after an interlude with Tanith heading to grandma’s house.

Harriet Klausner

Unholy Embrace-Neil Benson

Unholy Embrace
Neil Benson
Night To Dawn (NTD), Apr 8 2010, $13.50
ISBN: 9780982679500

Human Frank Thornton and vampire Nessa Harcanu hold hands as they walk together at night in Manhattan. He knows his beloved is a centuries old vampire, but has not witnessed at all what that means until this evening. Werewolves attack them, but Nessa overpowers them; shaking Frank with her abilities.

They met three weeks earlier with both attracted at first sight. Now he needs to know why the assault. Nessa honestly thinks a serial killing demon she hunts sent the horde. He thinks about leaving her, but cannot as he loves her though he wonders if she is using her vampiric enchantress skills to manipulate his desires. Still Frank tells her he cannot convert, but wants to be with her. She explains the demon is not her worst nightmare. Her sire, who she killed back in 1627 after he converted her and sucked dry her husband, left behind a raging predator the “widow” Narice who wants to destroy her for killing the Master; Frank is her Achilles Heel.

This is an exhilarating urban fantasy filled with demons, werewolves and vampires; oh, my! Frank is a terrific human who feels as if he fell through the rabbit hole when he fell in love while Nessa is an honest vampiress who tells him the truth. Although there is too much going on with the lead couple as the demon hunters and as the Narice hunted, sub-genre fans will enjoy this tale of blood and romance flowing on the streets of Manhattan.

Harriet Klausner

Daybreak Zero-John Barnes

Daybreak Zero
John Barnes
Ace, Mar 1 2011, $26.95
ISBN: 9780441019755

Almost a year has passed since Daybreak made itself known, but those aware of its existence remain clueless as to what it is though its purpose appears to be the extinction of the human race. Fusion bombs explode and fourteen EMPs strike the United States causing the massive black-out and billions of deaths. Nanoswarm attacks destroy petroleum products including plastic leaving more people dead. On the moon, a gun appears that shooting rays at earth so that there is no radio or television; Daybreak is behind the assault.

In America much of the land has been devastated by the Daybreak attacks. President Graham Weisband and his provisional Constitutional Government in Olympia, Washington and Cameron Nguyen-Peters of the temporary National Government in Athens, Georgia argue over how to get the country back on its’ feet.. In Pueblo, Colorado, Heather O'Grainne head of the Reconstruction Research Center prevented a civil war (see Directive 51) and hosts conferences for the candidates wanting to become the next president with the Constitution serving as the basis for a new government. She also wonders how the Tribals are linked to Daybreak who seems to be able to kill anyone in opposition at any time.

Daybreak Zero is an exciting thriller starring a force that can either kill or control mankind. The story line contains several mysteries re Daybreak as to how it works and who is the powerful wizard behind the curtain. Readers wonder whether Quislings are selling out the government and consequently the people as some of those insiders remain avaricious power hungry addicts. Although a middle book feel as more questions surfaced and no major ones answered, John Barnes shows his talent as somehow the author continues to pique reader interest in his latest super Daybreak chronicle.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Year She Fell-Alicia Rasley

The Year She Fell
Alicia Rasley
Belle Bridge Books, Nov 15 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9781611940008

In Virginia at the second Rushmore Presbyterian Church, Brian Warrick shows Minister Ellen Wakefield O'Connor his birth certificate, which states the mother of Adam Paul Wakefield is Ellen. He explains further he was adopted by the Warrick couple. Ellen says she cannot be his biological mother as she was in Washington pregnant with her child Sarah, born only a few moths after she allegedly gave birth to Adam. However, she looks at a photo she has and though not knowing who the mother is, she knows who the father is; her husband Tom.

Confronted by his wife and his biological son, Tom refuses to divulge anything. The truth lies back home in Wakefield, West Virginia where Ellen, her sisters Cathy and Laura and their adopted sibling Teresa grew up in affluence surrounded by poverty. There is where Brian’s letter never made it to Ellen and there is where the mystery of how Cathy died that haunts her surviving siblings might be solved.

This is an engaging regional family drama in which keeping secrets cause more harm than revealing them would have done. The key cast members have diverse personalities especially the three surviving sisters (and to a lesser degree Cathy though her family filters). None of the secrets are difficult to figure out before the story line fully reveals them, which leads to a somewhat linear tale. Still fans will enjoy Alicia Rasley’s The Year She Fell as the Wakefield clan struggles with inconvenient truths.

Harriet Klausner

Drinking Closer to Home-Jessica Anya Blau

Drinking Closer to Home
Jessica Anya Blau
Harper, Jan 18 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061984020

In Santa Barbara, fifty-something Louise suffers a massive heart attack. She remains in a hospital in critical condition with her prime complaint being the lack of a cigarette or two hundred. Her husband Buzzy the lawyer promised Louise he would conceal her condition from their three adult kids, but could not as he needs them near for his sake.

Anna flies in from Vermont; leaving behind a spouse she cheats on due to a sex addiction to run their florist business and their infant. Portia, separated from her cheating spouse Patrick, arrives alone since their daughter Esme lives with her father’s lover. TV producer Emery and his boyfriend Alejandro also come from the East Coast; they hope to persuade his older sisters to donate their eggs so that they can raise a baby; they already have selected the chosen female bearer. The bickering horde invade Louise’s room causing havoc to the hospital’s rule keepers, which in turn elates Louise still a renegade hippie after all those years.

The insightful story line rotates focus from the present mostly at the hospital and the past in which each protagonist recalls incidents differently. Louise is the prime player who holds the strong quirky family drama together. Buzzy and the children have flaws that make each seen real and lead to fans empathizing with them; especially Portia who as the middle child became the mom when her older sister and their mother abdicated the role yet her daughter rejects her.

Harriet Klausner

How to Knit a Heart Back Home-Rachael Herron

How to Knit a Heart Back Home
Rachael Herron
Avon, Mar 1 2011, $13.99
ISBN 9780061841316

In Cypress Hollow, California, thirtyish Book Spire bookstore owner Lucy Harrison volunteers as a fire brigade fighter. However, she is also a serial knitter who cherishes the work of famed late knitter Eliza Carpenter, who was a friend of Lucy’s grandmother and of Alzheimer’s victim Irene Bancroft.

Irene’s son retired SFPD police officer Owen returns home due a duty related injury. Lucy is euphoric as she loved unrequitedly Owen during their days together in high school. She hopes the second time is the charm as she considers How to Knit a Love Song. Adding to her delight is that he moves in next door to her bookstore. He is as attracted to her as her to him. Lucy helps him with his mother’s items since Irene moved into an assisted living facility. Doing so enables Lucy to find a wealth of material on her idol and writes a biography. When Irene runs away from the home and moves into an unsteady shut down lighthouse, Lucy has to retrieve her as Owen’s injury does not allow him to do so.

This is a warm knitter romance in which Rachael Herron’s love of the craft shines throughout the enjoyable story line. The Cypress Hollow cast makes for a fun time especially for the knitter crowd; though we civilians will appreciate the wonderful second chance at love prime plot and the loving lore of the craft. One last aside to Knitters: there is a wonderful end that in my opinion is worth a first look.

Harriet Klausner

Seasons of Death-Marlene Mitchell and Gary Yeagle

Seasons of Death
Marlene Mitchell and Gary Yeagle
Black Wyrm, Dec 18 2010, $15.95
ISBN: 9780982006757

In the Smoky Mountains, the stranger accosts a drugged Asa Pittman. He explains to Asa that he has no friends nearby to help him and the Novocain can do to numb the body. The stranger methodically and calmly begins slicing off Asa’s fingers and punishing him elsewhere. Explaining he loathes the way Asa and his drunken buddies treat animals they hunt he leaves the dying man for the coyote and other animals and insects to dine on.

Photojournalist Doug Eland finds the corpse and informs Jack at the National Park Service. Soon afterward, Townsend Police Chief Axel Brody and Officer Grant Denlinger arrive to look at the body on Thunderbird Trail. The coroner Jeff Bookman arrives and quickly concludes the fingers were deliberately sliced off. No one is aware yet that Asa was first with his buddies to follow. Next is realtor Mildred Henks, puppy mill owner. The avenging stranger vowed to get even for what Asa and his comrades did over two decades ago back in 1969 when they killed Farmer Pender and his wife and several animals in what is no longer a cold case. The two Pender sons escaped, but would one or both of them be the predator after all these years?

This is a dark vivid police procedural with an avenger whose calm almost detached discussions with the victims adds to the sense of horror as this killer gives animals a chance for an eye for an eye against those who tormented them. Fast-paced and filled with action, the killer is in plain sight yet not easy to pick out. Readers will enjoy this fine thriller with an intriguing climax that simplified matters for Denlinger yet also weighs heavily on his conscience.

Harriet Klausner

Autumn: The City-David Moody

Autumn: The City
David Moody
Dunne, Feb 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312570002

The pandemic virus was so contagious, over 99% of mankind died in under twenty-four hours. Civilization was over and the few humans to survive had no time to mourn their losses as a few days later the dead began to ruse. Some fortunate people escaped the city (see Autumn) though unsure where to go.

However, not all were able to leave. Those trapped inside the city have little hope as the streets swarm with the walking undead who “live” to rip human flesh apart. Donna York hid under a desk during the brutal first forty-eight hours. Jack the warehouse worker stayed home after he observed oddness on the bus and saw his elderly neighbor. Clare the student meets Jack when she enters his home seeking shelter. Paul hid in the music store where he worked. They begin to meet other survivors like Michael and Cooper. These few unfortunate knows their only prayer is to run a gauntlet through aggressive killers in order to reach an underground military bunker that Cooper says is their salvation; not knowing whether the military remains in control inside of it.

This is an action-packed exciting Z thriller (don’t use that Z word with the Autumn tales) as the few remaining humans trapped inside the city struggle through a deadly path to reach their only chance to survive. The story line is fast-paced with the early chapters before everyone converges displaying some of the fears each possesses of the unknown and more so of the known. Although David Moody never digs deeper into the emotional defense mechanisms mentally deployed to control a wide variety of psychological issues such as survivor guilt and seeing friends and family change into mindless killers, fans will enjoy the escapades of those fleeing for their lives with the Undead everywhere ready to pounce.

Harriet Klausner

The Radleys-Matt Haig

The Radleys
Matt Haig
Free Press, Dec 28 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 978-1439194010

Dr. Peter and Helen Radley, accompanied by their teenage children Clara and Rowan, move from swinging wild London to quiet sedate Bishopthorpe. Believing blood thirst is a simple addiction, the parents adhere strictly to The Abstainer's Handbook rules that strongly suggest living like a human while living amongst humans. However, they have also neglected to inform their fifteen years old daughter and seventeen years old son that they are purebred vampires.

The offspring suffer form nightmares that each conceals from their parents. However, everything changes when an intoxicated Stuart Harper attacks Clara a vegetarian. His assault causes the dormant thirst for blood (and meat) to arise in his female classmate as her fangs surface. Peter asks his brother Will an overt vampire to help them with their problems.

This is an entertaining dark vampire family drama with a powerful twist to the relationships. Character driven, the cast makes the tale fun to read as none of the extended Radley family come across as vampiric stereotyped; instead ironically the four Radley suburbanites are stereotypical: repressed and must behave in accordance with the middle class rules of order while Uncle Will prefers the bloody life of a swinger. Intelligent this is a witty satirical spin to the recent vampire lives amongst us craze.

Harriet Klausner

ShadowFever-Karen Marie Moning

Karen Marie Moning
Delacorte, Jan 18 2011, $
ISBN: 9780385341677

MacKayla “Mac” Lane continues her quest for the magical book of the dark Sinsar Dubh that has the power to eradicate worlds. She is no longer the frightened Irish-American exile although she still grieves for her late sister Alina; Mac enters the forbidden White Mansion of the Unseelie King who wrote the tome of evil she seeks that she believes has answers to what she truly is and may provide a light to Alina’s homicide.

She remains inside the abode with the Unseelie King much longer than she anticipated, but finally returns to Dublin with a new outlook as she now understands the essence of evil as “bad thinking it is good”; the remaining Americanized tenderness has been expunged from her soul. Mac will do what it takes to achieve her goals. If friends die, so be it; if she seeks strange bedfellow enemies as allies so what; yet Mac remains off kilter with each revelation she discovers about her sibling, herself and that dammed tome that is hunting down Mac and her allies.

This is an excellent finish (not sure about whether this is truly the end as major questions remain including new ones) to a strong urban fantasy (see Dreamfever and Faefever). The fascinating story line shows how much Mac has evolved from that naïve caring American coming to find her sister’s killer only to find monsters around ever corner; thus her travails and tribulations including grief has hardened her heart and turned her tundra colder with an absolute belief that the end justifies the mean. Exciting though there appears room for another book (re Barrons and another key player) to tie up the loose ends and an adjustment is needed to accept the evolved Mac, fans of the Fever fantasy saga will enjoy the heroines search.

Harriet Klaussner