Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rapture Becomes Her-Shirlee Busbee

Rapture Becomes Her
Shirlee Busbee
Zebra, Jun 28 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9781420118421

American Viscount Barnaby Joslyn has no idea how he ended up in the Channel. Sea Captain Jeb finds Barnaby and brings him to the Crown tavern owned by Widow Mrs. Gilbert. Dressed as a man, very tall Emily Townsend knows the guest interrupted their smuggling that keeps her beloved great Aunt Cornelia and Widow stepmother Anne safe from their cousin Squire Jeffery Townsend. Jeffery wants the three women out of his house with his plan to wed pliable Anne to his odious business partner Ainsworth who needs a wife immediately or lose a fortune as his inheritance has a stipulation.

Barnaby knows something is not right with the tall boy near his bed while Emily realizes he is the American. Jeffery arrives raging so Emily escapes through a closet as the five Gilbert daughters delay him before he rushes into the room occupied by Barnaby. The patient gives Jeffery a hard time. Barnaby knows they are smugglers but he owes all of them his life. He will find a way to pay then back though Mrs. Gilbert demands his silence as the only remittance. Meanwhile he wonders who wants him dead besides Mathew and considers his other cousins Thomas and Simon. Barnaby finds Emily and Anne in distress having been run off the road. Barnaby protects the three females while attempts on his life occur even as he and Emily fall in love.

The lead couple is atypical of the sub-genre while the ensemble cast enhances a strong story line. The story line is loaded with action but though there are a couple of other possible suspects, the villain seems obvious relatively early. Still historical romance readers will enjoy Shirlee Busbee’s exciting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Naperville White House: How One Man's Fantasy Changed Government s Reality-Jerome Bartels

The Naperville White House: How One Man's Fantasy Changed Government s Reality
Jerome Bartels
Bancroft, Dec 31 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9781890862916

In 2019 former White House press secretary Jerome Bartels seeks the truth as to what happened last year as too many anomalies have surfaced. The part time Radio Shack employee looks back to what occurred last year to set the record straight though he fears his manuscript will be censored.

In Naperville, Illinois insurance adjustor Jay Weise works during the day for NetHealth. At night and weekends Jay is POTUS. He and people around the world belong to The International Organization of Fantasy Governments with Jay being the President of the United States. Chief of counterintelligence John Sykes informs his boss that someone in his cabinet is a terrorist with plans for abducting other members. Weise worries that Sykes is mixing reality with gaming so he fires him, but everything his counter intelligence chief said turns out to be real as Al Qaeda terrorists hold hostage several Americans. They demand information on an alleged anti-terrorist biological weapon. Weise may have been roll playing but the enemy is not. While the other White House and Congress act impotently, Weise takes charge he and his cabinet try to stop the terrorists.

This whimsical political parody is an engaging thriller that will grip the audience once we readers adjust to the format and the concept. The role playing cast to include Weise and his middle class working cabinet seem like real gamers who adjust their role playing from virtual Nationizing to real recue the hostages. Mr. Bartels’ journalist account is a complicated tale that condemns DC power brokers as the role players pretending or divergent action (think of Contract with American – one passed and that was unconstitutional) rather than real solutions.

Harriet Klausner

The Samaritan-Stephen Besecker

The Samaritan
Stephen Besecker
Bancroft, Jul 14 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9781610880091

When half Seneca Kevin "Hatch" Easter was nine years old, his parents died. He moved into the home of his shaman grandfather on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation. Hatch never felt at home until as an adult he met and married Karen. Hatch took a position with the Central Intelligence Agency and became a highly regarded Tracker

He died figuratively when his wife and her sister Patricia Durante were murdered in a mob collection hit at Rudy’s Tavern in the Bronx. Boss Tony D knows the stupidity of murdering two innocent sisters and a paying customer over 15 K, but worse his nephew collector Cercone left fingerprints on the throat of Easter. To satisfy the media and NYPD, he assigns Cercone to kill his triggerman Taliaferro to close the case. However, someone refuses to accept case closed. That individual like a ghost hunts down anyone remotely associated with the murders in the Bronx as this stalker feels an infinite degree of connection for those who must die. The police detectives Montroy and Philips worry about being killed; New York Post reporter Butera gleefully sees homicide as his path to superstardom; while the CIA fears one of their own has gone vigilante.

This is a terrific New York thriller that grips the audience from the moment the mob enters the tavern and never slows down as the corpses including collateral damage pile around the city. Although at times the action seems implausible, the suspenseful story line is fast-paced with a nod to the movie Die Hard, but also contains strong twists. Readers will appreciate this entertaining murderers’ row.

Harriet Klausner

Long Gone-Alafair Burke

Long Gone
Alafair Burke
Harper, Jun 21 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061999185

In Manhattan, Drew Campbell hires thirty something Alice Humphrey to manage his new Highline Gallery. Unemployed for months Alice loves her job. However, a few weeks after starting Alice arrives at the gallery to find it empty except for Campbell's corpse. NYPD suspects she murdered her lover and has proof of a picture of them together in a very friendly pose. Furthermore they think she used the gallery that is in her name to her shock to distribute child porn.

A stunned Alice seeks information on Drew and the gallery, neither seems to have existed. At the same time a PTSD FBI agent unofficially investigates the death of his sister while a teenager in Upstate New York vanished without a trace. Alice, the fed and a small town cop will cross paths as each investigate seemingly unrelated crimes.

The three prime subplots are at times overwhelming; the Alice in the rabbit hole can definitely stand alone while the other two cannot. However each is an intense psychological suspense as someone struggles with what is going on whether it is Alice, the Fed or the teen’s mom. Alice owns the tale as she learns identity is not as simple as it may seem.

Harriet Klausner

Hotel Bosphorus-Esmahan Aykol

Hotel Bosphorus
Esmahan Aykol
Bitter Lemon, Jun 3 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781904738688

Forty three year old German expatriate Kati Hirschel was actually born in Istanbul, but moved away with her parents when she was seven years old. However, Turkey felt like home for the single woman so she returned thirteen years ago and remained there since as the owner of a crime bookshop.

Kati’s friend from university Petra Vogel the movie star is in town as the star of a film. They have not seen each other in about fifteen years but look forward to the reunion. When they meet once the Ministry approves the project, both are excited. However, someone murders the film director Kurt Muller. The police suspect Petra killed him as this homicide was allegedly the end of a romantic tango. Petra denies being the victim’s lover or killer. Kati has doubts about her friend’s innocence but investigates the murder at the hotel

This is an engaging Turkish amateur sleuth in which the local culture and the city on two continents own the story line. Readers will need a leap of acceptance wider than the Bosphorus Strait that Kati makes inquiries and more so that the local cop shares his information with her. With the clues to the murder back in Germany, fans will appreciate Kati’s witty tour of Istanbul to include her mental male stripping as she works the case.

Harriet Klausner

The Vault-Boyd Morrison

The Vault
Boyd Morrison
Touchstone, Jul 5 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9781439181829

Gordian Engineering Special Operations Chief Dr. Tyler Locke was ten minutes into his commute on a ferry from Seattle to Bremerton when his cell phone receives a text message from an unknown caller whose words are answer his phone or die in twenty eight minutes. Locke responds to the person’s next call when he says he planted binary explosives on the ferry and wants Locke to defuse it as a test to prove whether he can handle a special job; failure means death for him and the rest on board. He heads to a truck where he finds waiting for him is Chasing the Past TV host and classical languages expert Stacy Benedict who interprets the Greek instructions so he can defuse the bomb that he created from Archimedes’ geolabe for Jordan Orr and save her kidnapped sister Carol and those on the ferry.

Solving the puzzle with seconds to spare, they learn this pretest is to prove they have a reasonable chance to find King Midas’s lost treasure. To do so the pair will need to interpret the arcane Antikythera Mechanism’s cryptic clues; another puzzling deadly device created by Archimedes over two millennia ago. Failure to find the loot in five days will result in loved ones like Carol being brutally murdered; success will save Carol, but cause mass destruction to others.

The above is just the opening act of an exhilarating action-packed thriller that hooks the audience from the first text message to the confrontations in New York and elsewhere. Readers will never look at the Hudson sediment in the same way as Boyd Morrison provides a taut thriller that never allows the heroes or fans to take a respite.

Harriet Klausner

The Knowledge of Good and Evil-Glenn Kleier

The Knowledge of Good and Evil
Glenn Kleier
Tor, Jul 19 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780765323774

Survivor guilt though he was only a child when his parents’ died in a tragic plane crash years ago, Ian Baringer has spent the next couple of decades trying to contact them. Currently the former priest skeptically believes in the afterlife though his hope is weakening with years of failure to achieve his obsession. He works on the talk show Probing the Paranormal as an investigator while his lover agnostic psychiatrist Dr. Angela Weber is the show’s host.

Finally reaching a breaking point where he needs to know either way, the OCD Ian decides to prove the soul survives the body dying by experiencing a near death incident. A shocked Angela who loves the troubled Ian pleads with him to no avail. Determined, he will prove the theory either way, but soon finds the secretive Ordo Arma Christi brothers want him dead before he conducts the experiment as this Order believe they must prevent Ian from biting the apple.

This thought provoking exhilarating thriller asks many questions about religious dogma, but is not limited to the afterlife as Glenn Kleier questions contradictions for instance between free will and forbidden fruits of knowledge. Ian is the key to the plot, as he suffers from survivor induced obsessive compulsive behavior that has worsened in reaction to his beliefs shrinking. Angelia is a loyal wonderful person who refuses to give up on the man she loves although she fears he is losing his mind to his obsession. The story line is fast-paced as the lead pair abruptly finds themselves being hunted by a cell who rejects the concept that man has the right to know anything about the afterlife.

Harriet Klausner

The Paradise Prophecy-Robert Browne

The Paradise Prophecy
Robert Browne
Dutton, Jul 21 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9780525952237

At Trinity Baptist College in Harrison, Louisiana, Professor Sebastian “Batty” LaLaurie teaches Religious Studies and Rhetoric, but is on administrative leave due to a lecture that condemns God. A widower, he suffers from nightmares and has turned to alcohol to abate the pain of his wife Rebecca’s death while acknowledging his beliefs were shattered when she died.

The State Department Section unit sends agent Bernadette Callahan to Sao Paulo, Brazil to investigate the burning death of Christian singer Gabriela Zuada. The locals swear the devil murdered Gabriela, but the American thinks a serial killer added her to the list of the dead. Needing expertise into the occult and Milton, Bernadette contacts Batty whose nightmares come from surviving a trek beyond. She shows him Gabriela’s picture and he reacts stunned as she stars in his dark dreams with her death mirroring that of his late wife. The professor and the agent follow the homicides to Istanbul, but the potential Armageddon is in Los Angeles where Michael the Archangel walks the earth hunting down rogue angels harming the offspring of Adam and Eve, and Beliel and her three Fallen teammates meet.

With nods to Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, and to the Walken Prophecy movies, The Paradise Prophecy is a superb rendition of good and evil as the agents of God and Satan battle for the souls of mankind. Action-packed from the onset, Batty the “fallen” Milton scholar and Bernadette the pragmatic doubter make a delightful pairing as they argue over the clues starting with the toasted corpses that he insists come from agents of Hell and she insists the one doing the killing is a psychopath. Fans will appreciate Robert Browne’s excellent thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 30, 2011

Married by June-Ellen Hartman

Married by June
Ellen Hartman
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jun 7 2011, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373717118

As he struggles with writing his wedding vows political speech writer Cooper Murphy decides instead to end his engagement to wedding planner Jorie Burke. She is heartbroken at a time her business is tanking though she admits herself she would have learned to love him even if it was her late mom’s initial doing.

His parents demand a seat in the US Senate, which his brother Bailey held from Pennsylvania. However, Bailey has a newborn out of wedlock, which make him poison to his constituents. “Saint Cooper” as Bailey calls his brother will replace as the senator for the remaining few months to the term; heir apparent cousin Theo will be thirty and run in the election. To hold the “family” seat, Cooper needs Jorie as his fiancée because word of his dumping her on top of his sibling’s indiscretion would lose the governor’s support. Jorie accepts a new engagement only if they work on their relationship.

This refreshing political romance works because the audience will believe in the emotions of the lead couple. Fans will accept the tenet that politics is a contact sport played by amoral opportunists (no wonder Congress has such a low rating). Character driven especially by a strong cast (his father, uncle and the state governor are something else while Bay’s logic for the affair is a stunner) readers will enjoy a look behind the scenes of DC power brokering.

Harriet Klausner

Twice the Chance-Darlene Gardner

Twice the Chance
Darlene Gardner
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jun 7 2011, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373717149

While jogging in Ashley Greens Park near Charleston, South Carolina, Jazz Lenox notices the redhead with the right shade of color. Although she has seen the tint a dozen times since moving here three years ago, this preadolescent is the first that is the approximate age of the twins she gave up for adoption eight years ago when she was behind bars convicted of armed robbery. She sees a boy who could be her other child and with them is a man she assumes is there father playing soccer with them. Because she was bleeding from a fall and the ball came to her, Uncle Matt Caminetti accompanied by Robbie and Brooke asks if she is okay.

Matt invites her to stop by every Sunday at the park. Jazz knows she should not, but she is attracted to him and wants to know more about her offspring. When Matt and Jazz begin going out, she knows she owes him the entire truth, but fears that will end their relationship as well as her time with the kids since he will never allow harm to his nephew and niece.

Although the initial coincidences are a bit of a stretch even with Jazz checking every redhead for three years and having a somewhat unique coloring, fans will enjoy this family drama as Jazz knows the twins have wonderful parents. The key to this engaging well written contemporary is the heroine, whose torment feels real and makes for a complex romance.

Harriet Klausner

Honor Bound-Julianna Morris

Honor Bound
Julianna Morris
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jun 7 2011, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373717132

In Sand Point, Oregon, eighteen year old Kelly James wonders why her relationship with Ben Santoni ended. Kelly is also worried about her single mom Shanna who falls in love all the time and expects them to marry her like this Nate guy she is seeing. When Shanna crashes the car killing herself, Kelly as the passenger expected Ben to rescue them, but another first responder Mitch Lawson arrived instead.

Fifteen years later, Ben is the police chief and widower Kelly Lawson is the city hall public relations specialist. She is also a mystery writer under another name whose novels have been donated by her publisher to the town library. However two men were recently murdered as described in her books. When he learns the identity of the author and that someone is conducting surveillance of her home, Ben tries to protect the woman he never stopped loving.

Although the heroine holds Ben in contempt for not being there for her during the tragic accident fifteen years ago seems over the top of Mt. Hood even factoring in shock and grief, fans will enjoy this second chance police procedural romance. The investigation is fun to read as fact follows fiction.

Harriet Klausner

Revenger-Rory Clements

Rory Clements
Bantam, Jun 21 2011, $25.00
ISBN 9780385342841

John Shakespeare retired from field work to be with his wife Catherine and their four years old daughter Mary. He teaches at a small school and finds his two females superseding the excitement he had working for Queen Elizabeth.

Since he has been a family man since leaving the intelligencer field, John is surprised when the Earl of Essex asks him to investigate the disappearance of the Roanoke colonists who are rumored to be safe and sound in London. Essex’s rival Queen Elizabeth's Privy Councilor spymaster Sir Robert Cecil does not trust the Earl who he thinks might have seditious schemes. As such, Sir Cecil orders Shakespeare to serve the Queen as he did five years ago (see Martyr).

Revenger is a great Elizabethan mystery as readers will feel they are in London during a tumultuous period in the Queen’s reign with the Spanish war on-going, a plague devastating London, and intrigue inside her royal court. The mystery of Roanoke is handled deftly while Shakespeare proves worthy as he holds the plot together while not shocking to him finds strange even perverted bedfellows on both sides of the argument between Cecil and Essex.

Harriet Klausner

Killing Frost-Patricia Wynn

Killing Frost
Patricia Wynn
Pemberley, Jul 1 2011, $29.95
ISBN 9781935421016

By January 1716, the winter is so cold the Thames has frozen. As is the custom when the river freezes over, a Frost Fair is constructed. However, one early morning, a body garbed in a coronation suit is found against a wood booth. The frozen corpse is Sir Walter Tatham, who officials affirm was brutally murdered.

Lord Harrowby Hawkhurst had recently been visited by the deceased so he asks Hester Kean, who know the dead man and has solved homicides before (see The Spider’s Touch and The Motive from the Deed) to make inquiries into the victim’s recent dealings. Though she asks why he is interested, he offers no explanation even as he looks sickly panicked. Hester, in turn, asks her friend, Viscount St. Mars who also earns a living as the highwayman Blue Satan, to assist her. Although he already has a difficult mission to liberate a Jacobite from Newgate, he agrees to join her on the investigation.

Historical mystery fans will wear mittens and a woolen hat while reading this terrific early Georgian era whodunit as the worst winter in over a century makes it dangerous to be outside. The story line brings to life early eighteenth century London and nearby towns as well as the political enmity that has divided the country during the reign of the first Hanover opposed by supporters of the Stuart “Great Pretender”. Since the Birth of the Blue Satan, this series has been a winner with each entry.

Harriet Klausner

Blood of the Reich-William Dietrich

Blood of the Reich
William Dietrich
Harper, Jun 28 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061989186

In 1938 Berlin, Reichfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler sends Kurt Raeder to Tibet to investigate rumors of a secret force that allegedly brings eternal life. At the same time Museum of Natural History zoologist Benjamin Hood, and pilot Beth Colloway need to prevent the Nazis from obtaining the substance.

In present day Seattle, a journalist saves software peddler Romminy Pickett from certain death when her car explodes. He explains he is writing an article on Tibet and that her heritage may save the world from evil. Sam Mackenzie and Romminy team up starting with investigating her birth and following up with what happened in Berlin, New York and ultimately the Himalayas just before WWII exploded as neo-Nazis try to capture them for nefarious malevolent reasons.

This is a great gripping thriller that will be on the year’s short lists for action packed adventure tales. The two subplots rotate with each exciting yet nicely paired before converging into a super climax mindful of Indiana Jones that Spielberg should consider filming. Fans will appreciate the globetrotting escapades in 1938 and today as they meet at the top of the world.

Harriet Klausner

Green-Eyed Envy-Kasey Mackenzie

Green-Eyed Envy
Kasey Mackenzie
Ace, Jun 28 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 978-0441020492

In Boston, someone murders a Bastai cat shapeshifter. Leading the investigation is the city’s magical investigator chief Marissa Holloway the Fury and her BPD mortal partner Trinity LaRue. Riss struggles with why the victim who has nine lives fails to come back from the dead. The corpse of the Bastai as other such victims share in common three things: they are Bastai with lives to spare; yet they are dead and not resurrecting; and each was a former boyfriend of cat shifter FBI agent Harper Cruz, who has announced her engagement to Hound shifter Penn Banoub.

Riss and Trinity know a serial killer is on the loose. They fear the next victim could be Riss’ lover warhound shifter Scott Murphy who is a Harper’s one night stand past conquest. While she struggles with Fury politics, a deadly game that makes DC look like kindergarten kids at play, someone tries to kill her and her family.

Following up Red-Hot Fury in which Riss prevented war between the paranormal, her second police procedural urban fantasy is more personal but just as mega nasty. Besides a superb investigation into who is murderously Green-Eyed Envy, she must uncover the identity of the betrayer amongst the Fury or her family. This is a great tour of Boston’s paranormal underground (and not the Green Line).

Harriet Klausner

Dragon’s Time-Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey

Dragon’s Time
Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey
Del Rey, Jun 28 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345500892

On the planet Pern, plague was killing the dragons just as the deadly Thread began falling from the red orb. Lorana found a cure at the cost her beloved queen dragon, but the toll is devastating as the surviving dragons cannot even fill up a weyr. Since all the dragons and their riders of Telgar Weyr were lost in between, Fiona and T’mar become the new Weyr leaders. Understaffed and under-skilled, each time they go out to fight thread, more die or are crippled. Unless they come up with a solution soon, human and dragon life on Pern will be extinct.

Although pregnant and without her dragon, Lorana borrows the Bendon weyr dragon to go to the future to plead for help. The Brendan Weyrwoman provides her with coordinates as to where she should land. When she arrives at the location she meets Trader Tenniz who is dying. She remains at his side until he passes, but now knows she must figure out what he hinted at. Lorana returns to Fiona two times from her location and she brings F’Jan to be with Terin in her hour of need butt F’Jian does not explain how or why since he was killed fighting Thread. As they put together the clues, they begin a plan to save the planet by hopefully cheating time

In this final of the latest Pern miniseries (see Dragon Blood, Dragonheart and Dragongirl the threads (no pun intended) come together to create a stirring exciting sci-fi thriller. Readers will admire the characters especially Fiona, a natural leader lacking experience and firepower at a time of dire straits yet gets riders to follow her in spite of what appears is a suicide mission. McCaffrey mother and son team up smoothly wit the latest entry in a classic epic saga.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Summer Rental-Mary Kay Andrews

Summer Rental
Mary Kay Andrews
St. Martin’s, Jun 7 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312642693

The three BFFs for over two decades rent a summer house in Nags Head on the North Carolina Outer Banks. Now in their thirties each has major decisions to make that they need their two buddies to be there for them. Ellis Sullivan drives down from Philadelphia where she just lost her job at BancAtlantic that meant her life to her. Maryn Shackleford flees her abusive spouse Don in New Jersey before he finally buries her; deciding to hide in Nag’s Head where her parents once took her seemingly a lifetime ago. Ty Bazemore owns the Ebbtide beach house he has rented to the thirty-something trio under his alter ego Mr. Culpepper; his first encounter with Ellis is a disaster at a time he is distracted about losing the house. The other BFFs Julia and Dorie arrive; Julia the model was living with Booker the photographer, but he took a DC job and wants more from their relationship. Dorie hides in shock that her beloved husband Stephen betrayed her. All five converge in a summer month of change at Ebbtide.

This is an entertaining character study of three females each at a major fork in their respective lives. Although Maryn brings suspense to the mix as an abused wife on the run from her husband, she changes the relational dynamics of the other trio too much. Filled with pathos, humor and romance, fans will enjoy the three musketeers seeking their groove in the Outer Banks.

Harriet Klausner

The Blackberry Bush-David Householder

The Blackberry Bush
David Householder
Summerside, Jun 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9781609361167

On November 9, 1989 as Germans are shouting “we are one people” as the Berlin Wall comes tumbling down. At the same time in Elisabeth Hospital in Bonn, Linda from Rotterdam gives birth to Katarina as the father German Konrad is euphoric. In Zarzamora, California also at the same moment at a mountain hospital in Los Padres Forest, Janine gives birth to Michael’s son Joshua.

As years pass, Josh becomes a talented skateboarder trying to find a purpose in life. His frustrations with failing to do so make him angry as he believes he is a failure. Kati loves looking at old stuff, but meanders without purpose. Her frustrations are fueled by feelings of never pleasing her mother or anyone else except her grandfather. In 2011 they meet off Huntington Beach in what Angelo would have said is a soul cleansing transformation.

This is an entreating inspirational allegorical epic over several decades follows two people linked by the birth of freedom when the Wall came down. Character driven to include Angelo with his Behind the story asides, fans will relish this strong parable as The Blackberry Bush snares those filled with crippling phobias, fears and remorse in which heroic good deeds is the only escape. David Householder provides a wonderful thought provoking story line encouraging readers to go for their freedom from our personal mental cages.

Harriet Klausner

Falling for the Nanny-Jacqueline Diamond

Falling for the Nanny
Jacqueline Diamond
Harlequin American Romance, Jun 7 2011, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373753628

Alec Denny fled Boston with his four years old daughter Fiona after her mom Sabrina endangered the child. He took her to his hometown Safe harbor, California where her maternal grandma can provide her loving stability.

His high school girlfriend Patty Hartman, a former cop, is in town too working as a private investigator. He knows he hurt her when he broke up but they were teens in love and his studies to become a doctor took precedent. When Sabrina threatens Fiona’s safety, Dr. Alec, who vowed never again regardless of inane court rulings that jeopardized his little darling once before, hires Patty to keep his beloved child safe. However, the former sweethearts soon realize their heated attraction is much more.

This second chance at love romance is a wonderful contemporary starring a terrific lead couple and a string support cast. The Safe Harbor Medical story line (see Officer Daddy) is for the most part amusingly fast-paced, but fills with taut suspense when Sabrina surfaces. All though her scheme seems insanely over the Sierra Madres, fans will enjoy father and daughter Falling for the Nanny.

Harriet Klausner

A Cowgirl’s Secret-Laura Marie Altom

A Cowgirl’s Secret
Laura Marie Altom
Harlequin American Romance, Jun 7 2011, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373753635

A decade ago, pregnant teenager Daisy Buckhorn fled Weed Gulch, Oklahoma leaving behind her heartbroken family and a despondent boyfriend Luke Montgomery. She settled in San Francisco as Julie Smith and went to school until now the single mom is a practicing attorney.

Luke finds her in San Francisco as she battles a fever. She wants to explain why she fled Buckhorn Ranch by still feels shame from when popular family friend Henry Pohl molested her. When her BFF Heidi arrives with Kolt, Luke is shocked and irate as he knows the ten years old is his son. He rips into her for being a coward by running away with her teen pregnancy. Kolt believes his father never loved him, but the truth makes him question his mom for the first time. Still in love with her while also detesting her, Luke wants the full truth even as he forces a reluctant Daisy accompanied by Kolt to return to Weed Gulch, site of her nightmare.

Besides a second chance romance, this contemporary family drama contains a powerful child/teen molestation subplot. The cast is fully developed including returning Buckhorn Ranch characters (see The Rancher’s Twin Troubles and The Bull Rider’s Christmas Baby). However, a late suspense subplot detracts from an otherwise deep tale.

Harriet Klausner

Watch Me Die-Erica Spindler

Watch Me Die
Erica Spindler
Minotaur, Jun 21 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312363949

In New Orleans, Mira Gallier loves her caring husband and her vocation as a stained-glass restoration artist. However Katrina changed everything for the woman with a seemingly perfect life when her spouse was washed away and much of her work ruined.

It has been several years of grief since The Hurricane destroyed her life but finally Mira begins to move on emotionally. However, she is shocked when someone breaks the church windows she has restored. That is terrible but the vandalism does not compare with the murder of a priest near one of her restoration projects; the culprit left behind a graffiti message from the bible sprayed on the window. More homicides with biblical references left behind and seemingly tied to Mira and her work occurs. NOPD homicide detective Spencer Malone leads the investigation in which the prime suspect is Mira.

With a nod to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, readers will feel Mira’s angst and fears as she has only recently recovered from Katrina turning her into a widow and now those close to her are being slaughtered by a maniacal believer. She is so distraught she fears for her mind. With post Katrina New Orleans as the backdrop, Erica Spindler provides a taut psychological suspense.

Harriet Klausner

If He’s Dangerous-Hannah Howell

If He’s Dangerous
Hannah Howell
Zebra, Jun 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781420118780

In 1790 England, Lorelei Sundun blinks several times to find a naked man gaping at her in her father’s garden. She remains calm but appreciative as he introduces himself as Sir Argus Wherlocke; and further explains he does not want to be a duke’s rose garden. However, their fascinating discussion ends in the blink of an eye when her nude guest vanishes.

While Lorelei ponders what happened including why she feels she fell in love at first naked sight, Angus wonders how his mental projection ended up in the Sunden estate rather than his clan who he needs help from as government agents plan to use his otherworldly skills for their benefit. When they meet again in person, as she and her cousins rescue him from incarceration, Lorelei affirms what she knew that they are life mates. However, though he wants her, Angus hesitates as the model for marriage is his parents’ failed one so he tries to use his skills to control her feelings but love proves stronger than his potent paranormal power.

The third Wherlocke Regency fantasy (see If He’s Wicked and If He's Wild) is a terrific paranormal historical romance from the opening scene when the duke’s daughter and the naked lord meet and never slows down until the final “confrontation” with her father. Fans will relish this charmer as another eccentric Wherlocke finds love.

Harriet Klausner

The Violet Flash-Mike Mason

The Violet Flash
Mike Mason
David C. Cook, Jun 1 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9781434765253

While their dad Reverend Cholmondeley lies in a coma, Chelsea the amateur sleuth tells her brother Chesterton that the excessive wind is being caused by a hole in the sky and not just Porter’s Store where Sky Porter makes deliveries. Zac Smith arrives with the newspaper whose headline is a plane crashed caused by a missing second; at least that is what Dr. Stromway insists occurred; a phenomenon that happens every 1,400,000 years. Iris and Sky join the siblings Zac. When a tear occurs in the Blue Umbrella, a horrified Ches watches his pain in the butt sibling vanish inside the canopy.

Ches learns that the atomic clocks stopped beating for a second three days in a row. In those flash moments accidents have happened around the globe; some deadly. Ches wonders if his sister’s disappearance and the missing seconds are related. On a quest to rescue Chelsea, he needs to better understand time so he visits Myron Stinchcombe the clockmaker and Sky the world’s greatest authority on anything at least in Ches’ opinion. However, instead of comfort from what he learns, Ches pieces together clues of a plot to destroy the world; to save the planet may cost him the return of his sibling.

Though Ches has recovered emotionally from Evil Dada stealing his years, he remains ignorant on so much taken for granted by his friends like Grand Central Station. That naivety he brings to the story line makes the sequel to the Blue Umbrella a terrific whimsical thriller as he tries to make up for lost time in a search for Chelsea. With a super support cast adding to the fun, young adult readers will enjoy The Violet Flash as the hero knows time is running out.

Harriet Klausner

City of Ruin-Mark Charan Newton

City of Ruin
Mark Charan Newton
Spectra (Random House), Jun 28 2011, $16.00
ISBN 9780345520883

At a time when the Jamur Empire needs to be united to combat an outside intrusion, the nation is divided. In Villhamur, Chancellor Urtica sits on the throne while Empress Rika is forced to flee the capital for Villiren; where she hopes to gain the support of the Night Guard though she is unsure whose side Commander Brynd Lathraea is on. The Empress is accompanied on her trek north by her sister Eir and their protector Randur.

Across from Villiren, the Okun have massacred the local populace on Tineag'l Island. These ruthless foes prepare to cross the strait to invade Villiren next even as the Jamur military led by Brynd prepare to defend the city knowing that defeats will mean the slaughter of every person. However Brynd has non military problems too from an extortion scheme while Inspector Rumex Jeryd does his duty regardless of the pending disaster by investigating the recent disappearances of dozens of locals.

The second Legends of the Red Sun dark fantasy (see Nights in Villjamur) is a terrific military, political and social epic that provides a deep look at a city anticipating with some deniers the encroachment of the enemy. The story line is action-packed and loaded with fully developed characters especially those inside the beleaguered city although there are too many subplots that cause the minor ones to effect the flow of the critical themes. Still City of Ruin is an engaging tale as the vicious Okrun come to Villiren with their scorched earth blitzkrieg war machine.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 27, 2011

Break the Skin-Lee Martin

Break the Skin
Lee Martin
Crown, Jun 14 2011, $24.00
ISBN: 9780307716750

In Mt. Gilead, Illinois, police officers question skinny teenager Laney Volk who lives in a trailer with fellow Wal-Mart associate thirty-five-year-old Delilah Dade and Rose MacAdow. This is the second time they interrogate him over the course of a few months. While Delilah and Rose competed for the attention of singer Tweet, Laney liked band member Lester Stipp. When Tweet chooses Rose, Delilah rages.

In Denton, Texas, lonely tattoo artist Miss Baby hates men for using her but fantasizes that one day her prince will come. Although she knows better having been hurt frequently by strays, she takes in a stranger who says he suffers from amnesia. However, Lester could be lying about knowing his name as mendacity and lonely desperation link Texas and Illinois.

Break the Skin is a terrific tale that rotates between the women in Illinois and the woman in Texas; their bond is a deep Eleanor Rigby level of loneliness. Character driven by the four women whose catalyst for their respective behavior is the two band members, fans who relish an atmospheric thriller will want to read this dark ballad of human foibles.

Harriet Klausner

Pie Town-Lynn Hinton

Pie Town
Lynn Hinton
Morrow, Jun 7 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9780062045089

Pie Town, New Mexico is a small melting pot in which resides three races intermingling as if everyone is family; this is especially so in support of wheelchair bound young Alex who suffers from spina bifida while his grandparents raise him.

One thing the locals detest is change as tradition means a lot to the residents. Thus the townsfolk do not greet their new parish priest Father George Morris with friendship; especially since he brought a hitchhiking female Trina with him. However when Alex openly welcomes them, the townsfolk consider him a barometer of people do like wise. The welcome mat is removed when tragedy strikes that even an angel could not prevent; as the townsfolk hold Trina culpable.

This is an engaging look at the three predominant subcultures that make New Mexico the Land of Enchantment. The lead triangle plus Alex’s grandfather the sheriff are solid protagonists but the plot is thin and the direction straighter than the Bonneville Salt Flats. Still fans will enjoy Lynn Hinton’s whimsical slice of life in the Southwest.

Harriet Klausner

The Reservoir-John Milliken Thompson

The Reservoir
John Milliken Thompson
Other Press, Jun 21 2011, $15.95
ISBN: 9781590514443

In 1885 Richmond, Virginia, the body of a pregnant white female is found in the city reservoir in what seems to be a suicide. However there is some counter evidence nearby so the police investigate beause there is pressure to solve the homicide of Lillian Madison.

Nearing retirement, Police Justice Daniel Cincinnatus Richardson heads the inquiry at the same time Detective Jack Wren coerces potential witnesses. Looking into Lillie’s relationships leads the cop to the Cluverius brothers, Tommie the ambitious lawyer and Willie the steadfast farmer. Due to temperament Richardson believes Tommie the hothead killed his mistress in a fit of rage over the entangled triangle, but it is Willie who is caught in the trial’s crosshairs.

Based on a true trial, this exciting historical thriller grips the audience once the players, time and place are established. The story line uses flashbacks to tell the tale of the triangle while also providing a strong inquiry and trial. John Milliken Thompson will have readers pondering the issue of love of family as the author deftly examines how far a person will go to protect a loved one.

Harriet Klausner

Telling Lies-Cathi Stoler

Telling Lies
Cathi Stoler
Camel Press, Apr 11 2011, $17.95
ISBN: 9781603818438

Magazine Editor Laurel Imperiole and NYPD Identity Theft chief Aaron Gerrard are on vacation in Florence, Italy. At the Uffizi Museum, Laurel accidently bumps into a man she assumes is an Italian. As she apologizes in Italian and English, she realizes he is Jeff Sargasso who died in the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Although Aaron and the museum Dottore security chief thinks she lost her mind but Laurel knew Jeff for a decade and was with his grieving widow Monica when the authorities presumed her husband was dead. Laurel recalls that Sargasso, an art dealer, was working on a nine-digit dollar sale of a masterpiece lost during World War II between CEO Alfred Hammersmith who also died in the WTC terrorist attack and billionaire MMJapan Corporation CEO Miayamu Moto. Laurel meets and pairs up with private investigator Helen McCorkendale; as they follow leads back to New York while dealing with Mossad operative Lior Stern and unscrupulous collectors. Aaron warns her to back off, but Laurel and Helen continue the hunt for Sargasso and the painting.

This is an exhilarating art investigative thriller with several neat twists. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jeff and laurel bump into each other and never slows down. Filled with action, but containing a strong cast, readers will want to know why Jeff decided to be dead while Laurel obsesses over the case to the point that trust becomes an issue. Readers will relish Cathi Stoler’s taut tale of deception.

Harriet Klausner

Farnham’s Freehold-Robert Heinlein

Farnham’s Freehold
Robert Heinlein
Baen, Jun 7 2011, $13.00
ISBN: 9781439134436

Hugh Farnham expected a nuclear war was coming. Thus he built a bomb shelter while people including his adult son ridiculed him for Farnham’s folly. However, as the news begins reporting of the threats of war growing hotter, he persuades his alcoholic wife, their son and, daughter, a friend and Joseph the servant to enter his silo. The bombs are sent while Hugh and his retinue remain safe.

When they finally exit the bomb shelter, they have been somehow been forwarded centuries into the future with no other person around as if humanity has become extinct except for their small circle. The group struggles to survive when the descendants of survivors of the apocalypse find them. Except for Joseph, the rest of Farnham’s party are held guilty by the color of their skin causing the pandemic holocaust. Hugh knows that for him and his family to survive, they must go back to prevent the bombs from causing the end of the world.

This reprint of an engaging 1950s futuristic science fiction tale makes a case against de jure and de facto racism. The story line is fast-paced once the bombs explode and never slows down as Farnham’s family is held in contempt. Although the characters are one dimensional stereotypes, readers will enjoy Robert Heinlein’s argument against racism.

Harriet Klausner

Deadline-Mira Grant

Mira Grant
Orbit, May 31 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 97803916081061

In 2032 Georgia Mason became infected with the zombie Kellis-Amberlee virus (see Feed) that has run wild for decades. Humans have survived by following specific safety guidelines like extremely tiny windows in which a gnat would not find easy egress. However with all they did, the co-blogger of Postcards from the Wall caught the disease due to CDC infecting her and is now dead. Though almost a decade later, her blogging bother Shaun believes he might as well be too though what keeps him alive is talking inside his head to his dead sister; which he knows makes him certifiable even in a land filled with zombies.

CDC Dr. Kelly Connolly visits Mason. He muses the last time they met was when she delivered his sister’s ashes to him and the time before that was when the siblings were accused of amplification. George tells him to ignore history and talk with her. Kelly wants his blogging crew to investigate a new development in the Kellis-Amberlee; research as scientists are dying at an alarming rate. She faked her death to get to him and his news crew. As George orders him to lead the inquiry, Mason thinks his sister is unfair as he just wants the cause of death for CDC being Shaun Mason.

The second futuristic Newsflash Mason Zombie thriller is a fabulous suspense tale that grips the audience even before the prime story line begins. Aptly titled, Deadline contains a super twisting plot and a strong cast including the late Georgia. Readers will enjoy this dark biting thriller as readers wonder what the truth is when the media and the agencies charged with protecting the public manipulate, omit and often lie.

Harriet Klausner

Spectyr-Philippa Ballantine

Philippa Ballantine
Ace, Jun 28 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441020515

In the land of Vermillion, the beings of the Otherworld are separated from the mortal realm by a barrier; the Order of Deacons insure the two groups remain apart. They are tasked with sending the geists back to the Otherworld.and Deacons Sorcha Faris and Merrick Chambers are investigating rumors of malevolent ghosts after the dangers they faced in their last mission as a punishment to not work independently of the Order. When the pair are given the chance to escort the Chioman delegation home to discuss the Emperor’s marital negotiations they eagely accept the chance to get away from make work.

Sorcha is ecstatic to reach the Hive city of Orithal because that is where her lover the Young Pretender Raed resides. He carries within him a geistlord so much of the time he is in the water where the parasite is relatively helpless. The people of Orithel are afraid due to a series of ghastly deaths. They need the talents of Sorcha, Merrick and Raed to investigate and catch the killer. The trio finds themselves in the middle of a war between the geistlord and the Goddess Hatipi who the Emperor's sister Zofiya summoned. However to catch a killer means dealing with the Otherworld and a Goddess.

The opening act in Philippa Ballantine’s Book of the Order (see Geist) is a great fantasy, but the second tale is even better. The three protagonists have bonded; this link embellishes their powers and enables them to deal with (and hopefully survive) the geists and Otherworld. Raed is the most sympathetic of the trio because he fears 24/7 that the geistmaster inside of him will overcome his sense of being and identity. Spectyr is a fantastic fantasy due to the unique relationships between individuals, species and worlds.

Harriet Klausner

Everlasting-Alyson Noel

Alyson Noel
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jun 7 2011, $17.99
ISBN: 9780312642075

Ever and Damen have one mission left before they can spend eternity as immortals in love. To save Ever’s life; Damon changed her into an Immortal and contains lingering poison in his body. Thus they cannot touch one another as has an allergic reaction to his beloved.

Their quest is to find the cure to the toxin. They also have to resolve a difference on location. Ever wants to complete her destiny and unravel the remaining secrets including why something seems to want to keep her and her beloved apart. To do this they must enter the darkest region of Summerland; while Damen prefers to continue his current lifestyle that her trek would end.

Everlasting is a strong finish to the Immortals saga (see Shadowland and Dark Flame) after a slight letdown with Night Star’s earth shattering secret. The story line combines a wonderful story line re the heroine’s destiny with the continuation of the relationship issues between her and Damen. Series fans will enjoy the end to the Ever tales as Alyson Noel soars with this one.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Mistress's Revenge-Tamar Cohen

The Mistress's Revenge
Tamar Cohen
Free Press (Simon and Schuster), Jun 7 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9781451632828

For five years Sally Islip and Clive Gooding had an affair until he broke it off. Upset, she begins to keep a journal addressed to Clive. To his chagrin she publishes her musings anonymously though all know who the overweight egomaniac male is.

As Clive is frustrated with his ex, he takes another blow to his portly gut when Sally becomes friends to his wife and adult children. Over the top Clive vows revenge. Meanwhile despondent Sally seems even gloomier each day while someone hacks into her email and sends ugly notes to her employers. Though it costs her a living, her dark depression keeps her fueled in her assault on Clive.

This is a very dark relationship drama that makes Fatal Attraction seem tame as obsessive compulsive disorder turns the loving obsession into the loathing obsession. Sally cannot stop herself while Clive has been hooked with a need to avenge what she has done to him. However, the cost to their respective extended families will soon come home to roost. Not for everyone, readers will wonder what the boundaries of revenge are.

Harriet Klausner

East on Sunset-Ken Mercer

East on Sunset
Ken Mercer
Minotaur, Jun 7 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312558376

Fired from LAPD ironically due to drug use as he was a narcotics detective, Will Magowan has turned his life around in the past few months. He has reconciled with his beloved wife Laurie and they are expecting a baby. He has obtained employment as a security guard for the L.A. Dodgers, which is great for a baseball fan like Will.

Erik Crandall was arrested and convicted on a drug charge; he spent five years in prison but is free. He believes Will stole the stash during the bust and plans to collect for the drugs with interest. Crandall demands Magowan give him his fair share, but Will insists he never stole the drugs. However, the raging ruthless ex convict increases the pressure, which Magowan counters in order to keep his pregnant spouse out of harm’s way.

Magowan’s latest thriller (see Slow Fire) is a terrific tense suspense as the audience anticipates a final confrontation. Crandall is obsessed over the stolen drugs but only focuses on the ex cop; Magowan is as obsessed but his focus is on keeping Laurie and their unborn safe. Readers will enjoy High Noon East on Sunset as Will’s unsavory past has returned to haunt him and his beloved.

Harriet Klausner

Highway 61-David Housewrigh

Highway 61
David Housewrigh
Minotaur, Jun 7 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312642303

In the Twin Cities, former cop, affluence Rushmore McKenzie has doubts about helping the ex husband Jason Truhler of his current lover Nina. However, he cannot say no to Nina’s eighteen years old daughter Erica so he agrees to see what he can do.

Jason attended the Thunder Bay Blues Festival in Ontario. He met a girl on the way, but woke up the next day in a dumpy motel on Highway 61 with the corpse of his new companion on the floor. He quietly left without notifying the authorities. Truhler insists he has no memory after picking up the female until he awakened to the horror, but someone obviously does as he is being blackmailed with photos. McKenzie begins to unravel a clever scheme, but soon learns his client has not been honest as he finds himself in the crosshairs of nasty individuals like Big and Little Joe, and Backdraft and Bug, as well as the Twin Cities’ most influential.

In his latest favor (see The Taking of Libbie, SD), Rushmore McKenzie is at his best as he muses over the outcome of good intentions in a caper that is too close to home. The story line is fast-paced as the hero figures out the motel game, but unprepared for the truth about Truhler. Instead of case closed, McKenzie finds deadly felons with ugly intent and even more lethal powerhouses with uglier intent targeting him. Readers will think twice before venturing on Highway 61.

Harriet Klausner

Paradise Dogs-Man Martin

Paradise Dogs
Man Martin
Dunne, Jun 7 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312662561

In 1965 Florida, realtor Adam Newman dreams of one thing, a person he once had as his wife Evelyn but no more. He muses about how happier he was when he and Evelyn managed legendary Paradise Dogs roadside hotdog diner. He is successful but knows that is nothing without Evelyn.

Ironically only Adam would want a second chance with one woman while engaged to another. He tries to help his son Addison compete for a coed against his older half brother while also searching for $250,000 in diamonds not belonging to him that he misplaced. However before he assists his offspring, finds the diamonds, delivers a newborn, works a land deal, loses his Evelyn again (though he never actually had her for the second time),and more involving the Russians are coming; he needs a drink.

Paradise Dogs is a fun Florida tale although there is too much frenzied humor that overwhelms at times the thin plot. With a nod to It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, fans who enjoy an out of control nostalgic thriller will enjoy Adam’s strange sense of second chances as he recalls his happiest moment was selling dirty dogs but ignores the grease burns.

Harriet Klausner

The Borgia Betrayal-Sara Poole

The Borgia Betrayal
Sara Poole
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jun 7 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312609849

In 1493 Alexander VI has sat on Saint Peter’s chair for a year though there are plenty of adversaries and rivals who want him removed preferably dispatched to hell. His employee Francesca the Poisoner continues her vigil to keep the formerly named Rodrigo Borgia alive as the Pope. Francesca owes it to her late murdered father.

However, her killing rivals have left her suffering nightmares and visits from ghoulish phantoms of those she has murdered. Her only solace is her affair with her boss’ son Cesare. Alexander’s other son Juan protects the priest who Francesca owes a death debt to.

The sequel to Poison continues the deadly fascinating escapades of Francesca at the beginning of the Renaissance as her life is totally intertwined with the Borgia family. Although attempts to use fifteenth century dialect adds a sense of time and place, the speech patterns feels forced and slows down the pace. Still fascinatingly feisty Francesca is a great character as she poisons the enemies of her employer, her lover and herself though she waits impatiently to provide her form of justice to the priest and perhaps to his host.

Harriet Klausner

The Return of Captain John Emmett-Elizabeth Speller

The Return of Captain John Emmett
Elizabeth Speller
Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt, Jul 5 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9780547511696

In 1920, Laurence Bartram still struggles though three years have passed since he saw combat on the continent. The war and a family tragedy have left the widower a shell of his former self. He hides in London not wanting to see anyone.

A former girlfriend Mary Emmett sends him a note informing him that her brother John who served as an officer committed suicide at a veteran’s hospital. She wants to know why her sibling killed himself. Thinking of Mary and John, Laurence accompanied by his only friend Charles Carfax investigates the death of John. They quickly learn Emmett was involved in the execution of an officer who was court martialed for desertion. More clues follow as the daunting duet deduce what happened, but more regiment deaths follow.

This is a terrific post WWI thriller starring a hero who suffers from battle fatigue, but regains some equilibrium when he receives Mary’s message. The deadly investigation forces Bartram to look inside at the demons from his combat experiences that haunt him. Although the inquiry depends on luck at key moments, fans will appreciate the two amateur sleuths seeking the truth as to whether Emmett was murdered or committed suicide.

Harriet Klausner

The Good and the Ghastly-James Boice

The Good and the Ghastly
James Boice
Scribner, Jun 14 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416575443

It took centuries but the world has somewhat recovered from the global nuclear war. Now the thirty-fourth century has caught up to life in the early twenty-first century though there are some differences; for instance history and science texts praise Sarah Palin for her theory of natural selection and deer is the pet of choice.

However, in spite of the heritage of mass destruction wars back in the twentieth and twenty-first, hate remains a viable option. While VISA owns the world now as it did then, Adoranso Horater pushes for the final solution as he blames the Jews for the nuclear holocaust. At the same time Alvarez rules the mobs with an iron fist, a victim’s mother stalks and murders gangster and human sacrifices to the statue of the cat God Garfield is practiced. Soon the former Good and the forever Ghastly will confront one another.

The Good and the Ghastly is an engaging satire that rips into twenty first century values by extrapolating how the future will look at this era of phony hypocritical compassion. The story line is overall fun but the mocking of present day decisions by sound bites keeps the plot thin. Still readers who relish thought provoking lampooning will want to read the thirty-fourth century equivalent to Bill Mahler’ “New Rules” interpretation of Palinism.

Harriet Klausner

The Night Circus-Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern
Doubleday, Sep 13 2011, $26.95
ISBN: 9780385534635

Five years old Celia is an untrained psychokinetic. Her father Hector Bowen who performs for Le Cirque des Reves as Prospero the Entertainer is unaware of her existence until his daughter is dropped off. He realizes his daughter has incredible innate magical skill and decides to deploy her ability in a death match against an adversary: Alexander’s tyro magician Marco. The loser will die.

Celia and Marco are unaware that the outcome of their contest is death. However, their respective handlers failed to anticipate the two young mages as they grow up will fall in love. All bets are off as to how this power game will end as the puppeteers struggle to get their marionettes to perform the death duet not the love tango.

This excellent gripping historical thriller is a character driven tale with a paranormal element. The four participants in The Night Circus forge a fighting rectangle that turns into a perilous perfect square as the avaricious handlers want power and domination while the mentees want love. Fans will enjoy a night at the Erin Morgenstern’s circus wondering whether years of negative nurturing overcome tender naturing.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Desert Gift-Sally John

Desert Gift
Sally John
Tyndale, May 18 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9781414327860

Married for almost a quarter of a century to her husband Jackson, Jillian Galloway feels they are the epitome of a strong healthy Christian marriage and family with a healthy adult son. She has become a popular speaker on the subject of healthy marriages and has written a book as well. Jill prepares for a book tour when Jack informs her he is tired of their relationship and wants a divorce.

Jill is stunned and in denial as she cannot believe he is unhappy and leaving her. She considers canceling the tour and spends time with her parents and her married sister and brother-in-law. Both couples seem contented leading Jill to look inside at herself and her relationship with Jack.

Desert Gift is an enjoyable family drama starring two caring individuals. He is a kind physician and she is a nurturing expert on marriages until her own implodes. Character driven, fans will appreciate this fine story as Jill goes through the phases of grief until she finally wonders what she did and could have done differently to nurture her relationship with jack before they tumbled down.

Harriet Klausner

She Makes It Look Easy-Marybeth Whalen

She Makes It Look Easy
Marybeth Whalen
David C. Cook, Jun 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780781403702

In Essex Falls Ariel Baxter is the mother of three rambunctious sons (eight year old Donovan, six year old Dylan, and four year old Duncan). She works hard at her family photography business while her husband's work schedule leaves them with little time between them. Her prime pet peeve is how cheap her spouse is as he saves for a monsoon.

The Miller family is the next door neighbor to the Baxter brood. To Ariel they are perfect. The matriarch Justine always dresses to perfection, the husband Mark insures the lawn is mowed and nice looking; the two daughters (Cameron and Caroline) are well behaved. Also neighbors are Betsy and Tom; he is Justine's former boyfriend. Ariel ignores single mom divorcee Erica as being impaired by not having a husband-father. Instead she emulates Justine the great organizer.

Intriguing, readers will relish this fine neighborhood tale as Ariel learns perfection is not quite easy to achieve especially usually at exorbitant personal costs. The ensemble cast is fully developed so that readers can compare their traits just as Ariel did when she concludes Justine makes it look easy. However, as she learns more about her perfect neighbor Ariel begins to appreciate the brown patchy grass seems greener in her yard. This is an entertaining look at images and role models as nobody’s perfect.

Harriet Klausner

The Sweetness of Tears-Nafisa Haji

The Sweetness of Tears
Nafisa Haji
Morrow, May 17 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061780103

The family of high school student Jo March is Evangelical Christian. However, she has doubts. Adding to her concerns is that she only recently found out who her biological father is. Her dad Sadiq is a Pakistani who met Jo’s mother Angela when she went on a soul searching trip years ago.

Now Jo seeks the truth and she hopes inner solace. Following in her mother’s footsteps by leaving home, she begins a sojourn to find her roots. This soon means also traveling to the Middle East for her paternal heritage.

The Sweetness of Tears is a complicated family drama that focuses on the convergence of religion, not all in a positive way as clashes and conflict occur in the name of God. The multifaceted story line is diverse as Nafisa Haji looks at the Iraqi War from various strife viewpoints. Yet Jo keeps the multiple plots focused in her quest to learn who she really is as she is the metaphor of peace between religions, cultures, genders and people of all types of backgrounds.

Harriet Klausner

Do You Remember Me Now?-Karen Hanson Stuyk

Do You Remember Me Now?
Karen Hanson Stuyk
Five Star, Jun 8 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594149580

“The Six” were the bullies at high school in Houston fifteen years ago. Nobody crossed them as the retaliation was always extreme.

In the present in Chicago, married Todd, one of the Six, picks up a woman at a bar. The next day he is found dead in his hotel room.

At the same time, divorced Chicago plastic surgeon Dr. Kate Dalton attended the same school where the sextet treated her nastily as “Plain Jane”. In fact Todd date raped her, left her pregnant, but her baby died at birth and she had to have her uterus removed. She moved past them, lost weight, had her face fixed, and kept her married name. Kate is back in Houston to tend to her critically ill mother suffering from Leukemia. At the time her former school is hosting the fifteenth anniversary gala that she does not plan to attend. However, someone else has a different idea for fun; which focuses on killing the Six and since she was a victim who was in Chicago when number one died, police detective Sam Wolfe suspects Kate, but is also attracted to her.

Karen Hanson Stuyk makes a strong case that teen bullying not dealt with at the time lingers with those who were the victims. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Todd meets his fate and never slows down as other members of the Six are killed too. With the exception of the former quarterback, the rest of the Six come across as stereotypes of high school icons who never changed as adults and the killer seems obvious relatively early. Still this is an entertaining romantic police procedural that cautions readers to be aware of and deal with bullying.

Harriet Klausner

Fallen Angels-Alice Duncan

Fallen Angels
Alice Duncan
Five Star, Jun 8 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594149597

In Los Angeles, Boston Brahmin Mercy Allcutt works as a secretary for former police officer turned private investigator Ernest Templeton. Mercy’s duties are supposed to be strictly office, but she sometimes gets involved in field work.

Currently she searches for her boss who has been hired by Persephone Chalmers to recover stolen jewelry. The secretary enters the Chalmers’ residence only to find the client dead. Searching for her employer, Mercy locates him tied up and gagged. She frees him, but the cops believe Mercy is covering for Ernie who is the only murder suspect. Mercy investigates by following the money trail as Ernie always suggests; this includes donations by the victim to the Adelaide Burkhard Emmanuel School of Religion.

Readers will enjoy Mercy’s latest 1920s Los Angeles mystery (see Angel's Flight) as the fascinating heroine is a sheltered courageous young female who works the investigation. Besides the deep time and place that readers will feel they are visiting inside a fun whodunit; it is the comparison between the gentle aristocratic Mercy and the kick butt street wise Ernie that makes the tale. She is cozy and he is nor.


A Stranger Like You-Elizabeth Brundage

A Stranger Like You
Elizabeth Brundage
Plume, May 17 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780452297098

Gladiator Films producer Hedda Chase rejects the script of The Adjuster that her late predecessor approved. The scriptwriter New Jersey insurance underwriter Hugh Waters rages. His violence against women script contains no hint of a redeeming quality. Leaving his wife behind, a fuming, in spite of being paid for his script, Hugh goes to Hollywood to confront Hedda.

In her driveway, he demands she explain why she said no. He ignoring her response as nothing she says will appease him. Instead Hugh drugs Hedda and dumps her in the trunk of her BMW. He drives her car to A Los Angeles Airport parking lot and leaves. He next meets and becomes friends with Hedda's married boyfriend documentary filmmaker Tom Foster. Hugh begins a reinvented life in California while Hedda struggles to survive as her car is stolen by war veteran Denny and Daisy a runaway heading to Vegas.

This is an exciting psychological thriller that deftly follows the thoughts and escapades of the lead trio (Hugh, Hedda, and Denny) though the viewpoints applied differ as for instance the producer is from a second person POVand almost seems like a camera perspective; the others are more first and third person. Entertaining, fans will enjoy this fine tale in which Hollywood considers going Abu Dhabi.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Joy for Beginners-Erica Bauermeister

Joy for Beginners
Erica Bauermeister
Putnam, Jun 9 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399157127

In Seattle having won her battle with breast cancer, Kate tells her six friends that she plans to go whitewater rafting though she admits to figuratively needing rubber underwear. She challenges them to try something that they would not want to do; she assigns each of them a specific task. As each woman looks at achieving their respective daunting objective that forces them to look deep inside their fear zone, Kate believes they will gain much by overcoming their trepidations as she learned that life is persistently filled with challenges. Caroline, Daria, Marion, Sara, Hadley and Ava have great doubts about what their friend is demanding from them, but none wants to be the first to say no.

This is an entertaining inspirational tale in which purposely none of the seven women (and family members) including the catalyst Kate are developed beyond their particular quest and their relationship with others. This enables the message of conquering your fears by swinging the bat rather than not playing to remain the prime focus as the legitimate effort is in some ways more important than the achievement. Readers will enjoy this fine tale while pondering what demon we need to take on.

Harriet Klausner

Broken Wings-Carla Stewart

Broken Wings
Carla Stewart
Faith Words, Jun 3 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446556569

In Tulsa, Gabe and Mitzi Steiner have been married for six decades and enjoyed a wonderful singing pair during most of their time together. Recently Alzheimer’s has struck Gabe so the jazz duet no longer performs together.

To fill her time so as to avoid the anguish of watching her beloved Gabe slowly vanish under the weight of his illness, Mitzi volunteers as a "Pink Lady" at Tulsa County Hospital. She becomes upset when paralegal Brooke Woodson arrives at the ER; as she recognizes the signs of domestic abuse from when she was a victim of her papa’s rage as a child. Mitzi and Brooke form a sisterhood of sorts as each has suffered abuse with the younger woman the victim of the rages of fiancé.

This is an engaging tale held together by a strong female protagonist who knows first hand the ups and downs of life. The story line is terrific when it looks at the past and present of the Steiner couple who loved each other for six decades but now struggle with crippling Alzheimer’s. The plot loses some of its emotional potency when it turns to contemporary abuse as that segue feels forced, adds too much angst, and detracts from the super profound biography of Gabe and Mitzi as she understands the final curtain call is coming soon.

Harriet Klausner

One Summer-David Baldacci

One Summer
David Baldacci
Grand Central, Jun 14 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780446583145

In Ohio terminally ill Jack Armstrong prays to God that he lives to Christmas to be there for his wife and their three young children. However, his wife Lizzie dies in car accident on Christmas Eve picking up Jack’s medicine.

Lizzie’s mom Bonnie ships her three grandchildren to the separate homes of her adult children, sells her late daughter’s house and directs Jack to enter a hospice. Jack somewhat recovers his health as his illness goes into remission and picks up his kids. He moves to South Carolina where years ago Lizzie’s twin died; there he plans to raise his children as a single dad. Bonnie sues for custody.

This interesting family drama is insightful when the story line focuses on an ailing widower battling to keep his children with him. Bonnie is too much a villainous instead of a concerned grieving grandma worried about the well being of her late daughter’s children; while a romantic interest detracts from the tale of battling relatives. Still fans will root for Jack and his three children to make it in a world in which they learn the twists of life and death.

Harriet Klausner

Ten Thousand Saints-Eleanor Henderson

Ten Thousand Saints
Eleanor Henderson
Ecco (HarperCollins), Jun 7 2011, $26.99
ISBN: 9780062021021

In Vermont, Les grows pot and his significant other Harriet creates paraphernalia. The pair adopts Jude who shows signs of fetal-alcohol effects. When Jude is nine years old, Harriet catches Les cheating on her and kicks him out of their home. He vanishes.

In Vermont, Teddy’s white mother insisted his Indian father is dead. Now she deserts Teddy too. Teddy and Jude are best friends who enjoy skateboarding while high. On December 31, 1987, the two teens crash a party with fifteen year old coke head Eliza. They share cocaine and Teddy has sex with her. Afterward the two males try Freon, but Teddy dies from it. Meanwhile Eliza is pregnant. Jude moves to run down Alphabet City in Manhattan where Les arrives to take his adopted son with him. Teddy's 18-year-old brother Johnny though gay offers to marry Eliza so that the baby can remain with her mom and not discarded for adoption as demanded by the maternal grandmother of the unborn.

This is an engaging look at the late 1980s mostly from the perspective of the teens, but deftly avoids a nostalgia return through the amused adults who are awed, horrified and stunned by the beginnings of rapid change that will take the country into the virtual world. The characters are fully developed and different as the young come of age with Teddy’s death and Eliza’s pregnancy, and their parents struggle with what is right for their offspring who learn how fragile living is whether it’s in Vermont or Manhattan.

Harriet Klausner

The Little Women Letters-Gabrielle Donnelly

The Little Women Letters
Gabrielle Donnelly
Touchstone, Jun 7 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9781451617184

The Atwater sisters (Emma, Lulu, and Sophie) are descendants of Jo March (whose siblings are Beth and Amy). The trio believes they are radically different in personality. Emma the oldest is marrying soon while sassy Lulu feels lost and Sophie the youngest hopes to be an actress. Sophie moves in with Lulu and her roommate Charlie, who the siblings consider the forth sister.

In the family attic, Lulu finds Jo's letters. She reads them and is stunned how similar in attitudes and relationships she and her two siblings are to their great-great grandmother Jo and her two sisters. Lulu always thought she and her siblings were so different in outlook yet over a century and a half between the generations there is sameness in attitude between each of the two sets of sisters, as each one is feisty, independent and desiring love.

This is an entertaining contemporary rendition of Little Women as Gabrielle Donelly contends that modern female siblings are similar in outlook to the March sisters in spite of social networking and other advances in communication. The story line is extremely well done in the present and past although the transitions back and forth feel abrupt and bumpy. Even with six diverse personalities that can be difficult to keep track of who’s who, it is definitely worth the time reading The Little Women Letters as the Atwater sisters have much in common with their March ancestors.

Harriet Klausner

Wish You Were Here-Phillipa Ashley

Wish You Were Here
Phillipa Ashley
Sourcebook, Jun 1 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9781402241444

While holidaying in Corsica, eight years ago Beth Allen met and fell in love with Jack Thornfield. He apparently felt the same way as he proposed and she accepted. Only he vanished without a word. Heartbroken, Beth returned home to England’s Lake District.

Beth obtains a position running the European Sector of Big Outdoors travel agency. She is euphoric as the job seems great and her family needs the income ever since her father was injured in an accident. However, her excitement collapses when she meets the CEO, Jack. Stunned Beth agrees to work there only if Jack agrees never to mention dumping her and their relationship is to remain strictly business only. Beth and Jack still have the deep feelings but he tries to adhere to her stipulations until she heads to Corsica. Jack accompanies her hoping the magic will give him a second chance.

This is an entertaining second chance contemporary romance starring a strong cast to include the lead antagonists, her family (her dad and sister Lou) and the office. Readers will want to know the reason he dumped her although the cause of Jack’s vanishing without a regard to Beth’s feeling as he owed her an explanation is weak for such a strong person. Still, fans will enjoy his attempts to regain the trust he nuked in vividly described Corsica.

Harriet Klausner

Star Wars: Choice of One-Timothy Zahn

Star Wars: Choice of One
Timothy Zahn
Del Rey, Jul 12 2011, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345511265

Months have passed since Luke Skywalker blew up the death Star (see A New Hope), but he diligently practices to become stronger in the force. The war between the Empire and the Alliance continues with the former seeking to strike back at the rebels who desperately need allies, equipment and supplies. Empire Officer Thrawn warns Emperor Palatine that they are threatened by more than just the rebels. Nusoesva, a powerful warlord in the Unknown Region is conquering worlds in Wild Space and looks like he will soon make incursion into the Imperial sector. Palatine ignores the concern because the warlord is just an alien.

The rebels are offered a base on Poln Minor in the Outer Rim. Since the Empire won’t help them fight Nusoesva, the leaders of the planet turn to the Alliance asking for protection. The Emperor learns of two possible treasonous acts and deploys his Hand Mara Jade to determine the truth; if affirmed she is to kill the Governor of the Candoras sector, Bider Ferrouz and his accomplices. Han, Leia, and Luke head to Poln Major to find out if the governor’s offer is authentic or a trap. Also on the planet are the disgruntled Hand of Judgment storm troopers who work to root out evil in the Empire. All will converge with betrayal and death the common denominators

It is amazing to see caring good people like Mara and the storm troopers Hand of Judgment believe that the Emperor is a kind person who cares for his subjects. That soul searching element enhances an action-paced space opera. Readers will praise Timothy Zahn as he captures the original essence of the Lucas pantheon; not an easy mission to achieve since this would make a fine movie number 4.5 (in between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back).

Harriet Klausner

Mind Games-Taylor Keating

Mind Games
Taylor Keating
Tor, May 24 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780765365484

Game designer River Weston escaped the video prison of the Dark Lord along with another cell mate Chase "Hawk" Hawkins (see Game Over) but if she thought her troubles are over, she is wrong. Reality proves just as damning as virtual as she is wanted for the murders of her fellow game makers.

Hawk uses the dead body of River’s ex Nick as the pair investigates what her parents wrought and how to liberate their souls incarcerated for three decades in a hellish lab. Having been locked away much longer than his companion and determined to be her Guardian, he trusts no one as he tries to persuade her to allow him to escort her to the realm of her Fae mother before Nick’s soul reclaims the body.

Although this is a direct sequel so it behooves newcomers to read Game Over first, the focus is more on reality earth than in the virtual realm of the previous book. River made the first thriller work, but this time Hawk brings the freshness as he fights external demons and his adulation for his partner. That intense attraction is key as Hawk is unsure whether it is his heart or the remnants of the soul of the previous body owner. Loaded with excitement, fans will enjoy the game maker and her cell mate as they battle their deadly diabolical adversaries in an exciting amateur sleuth dark urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bridge to a Distant Star-Carolyn Williford

Bridge to a Distant Star
Carolyn Williford
David C. Cook, Jun 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9781434767035

At night in the Tampa Bay area during a horrific storm, the Wilder Wanderer freighter crashes into the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Soon afterward drivers failing to see the break to the bridge, drive into the tumultuous bay below. Families like those below will be impacted at what happened in Tampa Bay on that fateful stormy night.

Maureen Roberts, mother of two daughters, struggles with her oldest teenage Colleen. She also has issues with her spouse Bill and her belief in God. Needing time away Maureen tells Bill she will take their nursery school aged daughter Aubrey with her while her spouse and Colleen spend time together.

Charles and Fran Thomason are proud of their child, Charlie although their attitudes differ when it comes to him. When Charlie’s leg collapses during a soccer game, the trio struggles with what the Lord has brought to them.

While her parents are in Ethiopia, on a missionary visit, Michal McHenry attends biblical college. She is divided between keeping up the family missionary mission and doing something else. Michal visits her Aunt Sue in Florida seeking solace and advice after two incidents at school has shaken her foundation.

Based on the real “day the bridge fell” the author’s late son’s belief in God and with a nod to The Bridge of San Luis by Wilder, Bridge to a Distant Star is a poignant inspirational tale that focuses on three families struggling with what happened. Touching and tense even before the tragedy strikes, readers know what to expect yet are gripped by Carolyn Williford’s intense character driven tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Darkest Sin-Caroline Richards

The Darkest Sin
Caroline Richards
Kensington Brava, Jun 1 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758242778

Rowena Woolcott suffers from partial memory loss and horrific nightmares of her brutal imprisonment and being rescued from a near drowning. Not one to sit and wait for her unknown adversary to attack her and her family again, Rowena decides to find the culprit and confront him.

She knows she lacks the skills and experience to investigate, so she decides to ask the assistance of Lord James Rushford, who has solved at least a homicide case. He refuses until she forces his hand. Using her ploy, he demands that she pretend to be his mistress as he needs her to uncover the identity of the perpetrator and the motive. Soon as the threats to Rowena’s well being rises, the play acting between the pretend mistress and her benefactor turns intensely real.

The latest Woolcott Sin Victorian romantic suspense (see The Deadliest Sin) is a taut investigative thriller in which the lead couple makes inquires into who haunts the heroine and her family. The secondary characters anchor time, place, and a sense of pending doom. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Caroline Richards’ taut thriller as Lord James and Lady Rowena work the case and keep her safe while falling in love.

Harriet Klausner

Concrete Savior-Yvonne Navarro

Concrete Savior
Yvonne Navarro
Pocket, May 31 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439191972

Brynna Malak the Fallen Angel wants to go home, which in her mind is Heaven. Thus, she goes out of her way to save mortals. However, her miraculous rescue efforts prove futile because everyone she saves is brutally murdered by Lucifer’s minion who wants her to return to their side.

Brynna realizes she needs help so she turns to her human boyfriend Chicago police detective Eran Redmond though she has doubts about turning to him. She trusts no one except perhaps the Creator, but especially a male of any species; as men cannot control themselves when she, even in human garb, is near them. As Eran demonstrates restraint and a willingness to help her, they investigate who is murdering her saved ones.

The latest Dark Redemption urban fantasy (see High Born) is a terrific tale that contains much more than just Brynna’s efforts for redemption though she is the focus of the Navarro mythos filled with angels, demons, nephilim and humans (some are Quislings). The whodunit is clever and the cast powerful as fans will relish a walk on the dark side of Chicago.

Harriet Klausner

Dead on the Delta-Stacey Jay

Dead on the Delta
Stacey Jay
Pocket, May 31 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439189863

After being a mosquito size harmless species that adults assumed were mythological, the fairies changed. They became human blood seekers biting mortals. The Fey toxin leaves 75% of the humans insane; 10% physically misshapen before dying; and another 10% instantly dead. The remaining populace contains immunity, but so far no one knows why.

Following Katrina, New Orleans has become a breeding ground for the fairies. This does not prevent Fairy Control and Containment evidence collector Annabelle Lee from riding her bike and doing her job at often horrific crime scenes. Annabelle is one of lucky ones who are immune to the fairies toxin. She works with police detective Cane Cooper on the murder of a six year old girl just outside the fairie levees surrounding her town of Donaldson. Also inexplicably on the case is her former boyfriend and FBI Agent who should not be involved.

This is a super urban fantasy police procedural that intelligently extracts from real life to make the case of a Fey infestation. For instance, the Louisiana Governor is running for reelection on his hard on Fey crime platform. Although readers never learn what caused the Fairie plague, the fast-paced story line is action-packed as Cooper and Lee supported by others investigate gruesome murder on the Bayou.

Harriet Klausner

Demon-Kristina Douglas

Kristina Douglas
Pocket, May 31 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439191934

Fallen angel Azazel mourns the death of his wife Sarah, a murder victim. Still in spite of his grief, he seeks Lilith the demon with plans to kill her to prevent the fulfilling of a prophecy that has them wedded.

When he finds her, she has no memory of being evil Lilith. Instead she insists she is Rachel Fitzpatrick who admits she has Grand Canyon size holes in her memory. He leaves allowing her to live for now. However, he comes back to Rachel-Lilith because the Fallen Angels like him need to find imprisoned Lucifer before Uriel does. If the latter gets to the former first, the Lord’s archangel will judge mankind as sinners and release his wrath on humanity; which in his narrow perspective means the extinction of mankind.

The exciting second Fallen Angels urban fantasy (see Raziel) is character driven though loaded with non stop action as readers anticipate the archangel and the fallen angel confrontation. Rachel is the focus between them as her memory is the key to locating Lucifer. Readers will appreciate the tale of the Fallen: Demon seeking to save the world.

Harriet Klausner

The Vampire Who Loved Me-Theresa Meyers

The Vampire Who Loved Me
Theresa Meyers
Harlequin Nocturne, May 24 2011, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618606

After vampires converted her loved ones, Dr. Rebecca Chamberlin hated the vile creatures. She works diligently on a vaccination in order to cure what she believes is a disease. When she is changed into the beasts she detests, she increases her efforts to find a cure.

Vampire clan security commander Achilles Stefanos watches closely the scientist in order to keep his species safe. Her financial supporters inject Beck with her serum only to find it fails. Achilles knows he must complete her transformation or Beck will die. As the pair begins to fall in love, someone modifies her vaccine in order to change vampires to their actual chronological age; which means vampire like Achilles an Ancient Greek will turn to dust.

The pairing of an ancient Greek warrior vampire and a modern day scientist make for a great tale as neither wants to love the other, but each learns you can’t always get what you want. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Achilles fears the newest fledgling is archenemy Dr. Chamberlain and never slows down as the heroine seeks the cure for vampirism.

Harriet Klausner

Déjà Vu-Lisa Childs

Déjà Vu
Lisa Childs
Harlequin Nocturne, May 24 2011, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618613

FBI agent Alaina Paulsen investigates serial killings. She suspects recluse bestselling horror author Trent Baines is the psychopath as he writes detailed books on homicides that are three decades old as if he was a witness to the murders.

Alaina and Agent Vonner meet with Trent to interrogate him and recognize they were once a married couple in a past life together. When an apparent copy cat begins killing, Alaina fears history repeating itself as she loved the killer and cop back then. However, her biggest consternation comes from her growing belief that the writer she loves today was the murderer then and is the psychopath now.

With a nod to Kenneth Branagh’s movie Dead Again, Déjà Vu is an exciting reincarnation romantic suspense. The fast-paced story line places the emphasis on the psychological tension that has Alaina wound tight; as she prays that her beloved Trent is not a serial killer although the evidence strongly affirms he is. The romantic subplot serves more to add to the Suspicion that Trent is the killer as Lisa Childs provides a taut paranormal police procedural thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Heartbreak Trail-Shirley Kennedy

Heartbreak Trail
Shirley Kennedy
Camel Press, Dec 3 2010, $18.95
ISBN: 9781603818315

In 1850 Boston, twenty-six years old Brahmin Lucy Parker knew there was no place for her in the mansion of her widower father when he married Little Napoleon. When she and widower father Jacob Schneider meet at her younger sister Sarah’s wedding, they are attracted to one another and marry three months later.

However, Lucy is unprepared when Jacob informs her that they, accompanied by his five years old son Noah and his brother Abner will head to California seeking gold. On the wagon train heading west, Jacob dies leaving behind a pregnant wife to raise her stepson and their unborn. Train leader Clint Palance, who met Lucy in Boston, protects her and her child while Abner is scornful of her and his nephew.

More a historical tale with a romantic subplot, readers will feel they are part of the harrowing wagon train heading west. Although a different trail the deep detailed descriptions reminded me of the Oregon Trail game. The trek is dangerous for a seasoned scot like Palance, but even more difficult for a pampered miss like Lucy. The audience will enjoy riding along Heartbreak Trail as gold fever strikes the country.

Harriet Klausner

Striking Back-Mark Nykanen

Striking Back
Mark Nykanen
Bell Bridge, May 10 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781611940169

Over twenty years ago someone killed Gwyn Sander’s abusive stepfather. The policed assumed the teen having had enough killed him, but whether it was a blue decision that justice was served there was no evidence to arrest let alone convict Gwyn or anyone for that matter.

For the last decade therapist Gwyn Sanders has run a spousal abusers group. However, she was unprepared for the savage murder by Alfred Croce of his wife who attended Gwyn’s sessions. Not long afterward an avenger begins killing the male abusers whose wives belong to Gwyn’s group. The culprit knows insider information as each murder is customized to mimic the victim’s brutalization of women. The circumstantial evidence points to Gwyn with one theory being the Croce homicide triggered her dormant anger at violent men as she assumedly did to her stepfather.

This is a terrific amateur sleuth-police procedural as the beleaguered heroine refuses to be a victim again. Although the story line goes down the path anticipated, the key to making this a strong thriller is the diabolical villain who cleverly remains in plain sight and has the ability to change plans when needed. With an underlying plea to victims to get help, readers will relish Striking Back as Mark Nykanen provides a gripping whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Lion-Nelson DeMille

The Lion
Nelson DeMille
Grand Central, Jun 7 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780446699600

Years ago Asad the Libyan “Lion” Kahil fooled the Americans into believing he was defecting only to begin a Jihad avenging vendetta for the 1983 deaths of his family by Reagan; he was somewhat stopped by then NYPD Detective John Corey and FBI Agent Kate Mayfield (see The Lion's Game), but escaped. A lot has happened in the ensuing years as 9/11 changed the security landscape, and Kate and John are married though she remains with the FBI and he is retired from NYPD. Both work for the Federal Antiterrorism task Force.

Khalil has returned to America using an Egyptian passport granted to a Hasheem. The outcome of his objective is either home or paradise as he begins round two of killing Americans in the United States for what they did to his family. In the Catskills, he attacks John and Kate while they were skydiving. Kate is severely hurt by a hard landing while John vows the family vendetta between Kahil and him has just been raised with one of them seeing their maker rather soon.

This exciting sequel hooks the audience starting with the skydiving incident and never releases us until the climax. Readers anticipate a final confrontation between two super heavyweights whose first match ended in a draw. Although the Corey wisecracking asides remains humorous, it feels out of place as the body count grows. Still fans will enjoy the rematch as Nelson DeMille writes an entertaining but very linear thriller that asks did the billions spent in security money make us safer.

Harriet Klausner

Demons Prefer Blondes-Sidney Ayers

Demons Prefer Blondes
Sidney Ayers
Sourcebooks, Jun 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402251740

Dominic Duvane of the Fore Demon Council informs senior demon Rafael Deleon that Hell’s northern region Prince Belial’s Infernati warriors attacked the guards protecting the chest. Belial captured Rafe’s sister Coby, but she bravely sent the chest to earth to buy time in order to prevent the enemy from obtaining it. Dominic orders Rafe to retrieve the chest while he rescues Coby from their adversary’s dungeon.

Cosmetologist Lucia Gregory has the chest; with her friend Serah Bear she attempts to open it; unaware that she would be freeing some nasty demons of the damned. Rafe arrives and realizes that Lucy is a succubus and that he wants her. Both are stunners to him as he never expected to meet a succubus or desire her. As a war begins, Rafe and Lucy fall in love. Each understands they must return the demons to their hell so he brings in his allies and she brings in her circle.

The opening Demons Unleashed romantic fantasy is a terrific often humorous thriller. The characterizations are superb and the Ayers universe deftly created inside an exhilarating story line. Sub-genre readers will appreciate the amusing romance between the demon and the succubus who also have a world to save.

Harriet Klausner

Heart of the Highland Wolf-Terry Spear

Heart of the Highland Wolf
Terry Spear
Sourcebooks, Jun 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781402245527

Julia MacPherson and her friend movie assistant director Maria Baquero are staying at Baird Cottage just a short walk from Argent Castle where a movie is being shot. Better known at least back in the States as Julia Wildthorn, author of Highland werewolf romances, she expects her trip to Scotland will end her writer’s block and she hopes to find an ancient secret box her grandfather says the family hid there. The castle laird Ian MacNeill has been a pain in the butt but that is Maria’s problem muses Julia.

However, starting with flight delays, the trip goes awry. A car accident leads to Ian carrying Julia into the castle. MacNeill realizes the American he holds is a wolf just like he is. Since she hid her heritage, he distrusts her but to his chagrin the wolf wants her. She wants to reveal the truth though she is unsure what that is to her mate, but fears he will kick her back across the ocean.

This is a fun werewolf romance starring two likable leads and a strong support cast; mostly his clan. The story line is fast-paced yet the refreshing scenes occur when Wildthorn goes into writer’s mode. Fans will appreciate Terry Spear’s entertaining tale even though the wolves are more in the background than usual, but the romance between the writer and the laird is an enjoyable contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Cat Star Chronicles: Virgin-Cheryl Brooks

Cat Star Chronicles: Virgin
Cheryl Brooks
Sourcebooks, Jun 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781402251658

On Luxaria Twelve, Captain Jack lectures starship pilot Daxtronian "Dax" Vandilorsk, a Zetithian like her spouse, for remaining “The Great Virgin”. Dax understands the need to sire the next generation after the near extinction caused by the treacherous Nedwuts, but has found no one who entices him. That is until now. The waitress at the bar has Dax thinking erotic thoughts. However her abusive boyfriend Lars notices Sax staring at Avondia "Ava" Karon and warns the cat to stay away or else.

Sick of Lars who beat her and the dead end job on a backwater planet, Ava decides to go home to Acquerei where boring (Russ) supersedes vicious (Lars). She buys a one way ticket on Dax’s vessel. The Zetithian is euphoric as he now has the opportunity to smell his passenger and determine if she is his one.

This entry focuses almost entirely on the relationship between the lead couple as he is sort of like the Forty Year Old Virgin and she has become relationship-phobic. There is a secondary plot involving the heroine’s father, but that is minor in comparison to Dax’s amusing clumsy courtship of Ava assisted by his sidekick womanizing Waroun and Kots the droid matchmaker. Series fans will enjoy this heated Cat Star Chronicles (see Fugitive and Hero).

Harriet Klausner

The Nebula Awards Showcase 2011-Kevin J. Anderson (Editor)

The Nebula Awards Showcase 2011
Kevin J. Anderson (Editor)
Tor, May 24 2011, $17.99
ISBN: 9780765328427

This Nebula Award Showcase takes a different focus than previous collections as the six short story and six novelette nominations for the 2009 ballot are included in their entirety; while only the winning novella and a brief paragraph on the winning novel are included. Also included are SFWA Author Emeritus Award fro Neal Barrett, Jr. (and a short “Getting dark”), a SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master to Joe Haldeman includes his short “A !Tangled Web”) and Rhysling Awards to Amal El Mohtar (“Song for an Ancient City”) and Geoffrey A. Landis (“Search” and Fireflies”).

This reviewer appreciated reading all the short story and novelette finalists as voted on by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America; as this allowed me to decide whether I agreed with the winning selections of “Spar” by Kij Johnson (short story) and Eugie Foster’s “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” (novelette). I also appreciated that the novel winner “The Windup Girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi only had a brief description rather than a chapter or two extract; on the other hand the other novel nominees deserved a short write-up too. Finally the novella winner is fitting homage to the late Kage Baker (“The Women of Nell Gwynne’s”), but excluded the other nominees. There are also additional listings of lesser known award categories that round out a super collection especially for fans that may have missed the shorter writings.

Harriet Klausner