Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Lord Of Illusion-Kathryne Kennedy

The Lord Of Illusion

Kathryne Kennedy

Sourcebooks, Feb 7 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9781402236549

In 1774, hybrid Lord Drystan Hawkes wants to free England from the vicious Elven lords, which includes his despicable sire. To do this he must open the portal to Elfhame that will force these evil abominations from his country; and he believes he finally has the key.

In Elfhame, Camille Ashton the slave possesses the means to open the portal. Drystan also realizes she is his soul mate, which makes him wary of placing her in danger. Drystan goes to rescue his beloved and obtain the key. When they meet, she finds her attraction to him enhanced by her first encounter with a pure soul while he realizes somehow his magical skills are enhanced by his mate. As they fall in love while risking their lives, Camille and Drystan fight the malevolent elf lords.

The latest Elven Lord historical romantic fantasy (The Fire Lord’s Lover) is a wonderful tale as the heroic protagonists are prepared to die for their noble cause while each is willing to sacrifice themselves for the other. The story line is fast-paced throughout as love exponentially amplifies the skills of the lead couple, but that may not be enough to overcome the wicked elf lords in an engaging good vs. evil battle.

Harriet Klausner

King Of Darkness-Elisabeth Staab

King Of Darkness

Elisabeth Staab

Sourcebooks, Feb 7 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9781402263156

Isabel Anthony lacked any power so she was ridiculed by her vampire peers as a nonentity freak until she left. She masquerades as a human; becoming the last shift DJ at Club Insomniac in Orlando. As she takes a bite out of Venus, Thad Morgan and his bodyguard Lee arrive seeking the female who will help the former meet the prophecy that will save his periled race from extinction. He realizes she has the mark of his destined mate as described by the oracle, but neither Thad nor Lee expected her to be in to females. However, instead of welcoming her king, Isabel flees.

Thad catches Isabel and explains they are destined mates who share a common mark that when they mate will release powers to save their species from the insidious wizards. In combat, she becomes a believer when her latent skills surface. As Isabel ponders her changing situation, she vanishes, which has her beloved mate and his subjects panicked that the vicious wizards have taken their queen.

This is a complex superb romantic urban fantasy in which the first venture into the Staab mythological universe seems genuine due to anchoring places like Orlando and the fact that innocent humans are collateral damage in the cross-species war. Filled with action from the moment a stunned Thad enters the late night human bar and never slowing down, readers will enjoy the vampire king seeking his soul mate in order to save his species from the wrath of the wizards.

Harriet Klausner

The Cat Star Chronicles: Stud-Cheryl Brooks

The Cat Star Chronicles: Stud

Cheryl Brooks

Sourcebooks, Feb 7 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9781402251689

Though the species is near extinction due to ethnic cleansing, throughout the galaxy, Zetithian males are renowned for their sexual prowess of giving pleasure to females of all races. The legendary king of sexual pleasure is Tarq Zulveidinoe; women cherish his special touch. Ironically he lacks esteem outside of sex; so his mission to save his race is to take care of females everywhere.

On Talus Five, Lucinda Force has lived a lifetime being told by her selfish family that no man will ever desire a plain looking woman like her. Working at her father’s Mediterranean-style restaurant, Lucy wants romantic love, but expects to live and die alone. Tarq smells her before entering the restaurant. When she asks what he wants, he says a “full order of you.” She recognizes him from his TV commercial of offering to service human females in order to repopulate his dying species. However, he knows he can no longer get his double joint up for other clients since he smelled his Lucy.

The latest Cat Star Chronicles Zetithian science fiction romance is an exhilarating entry that reads like a gender twisting of the previous tale Virgin. Since the overarching theme of the early chronicles involving who committed the atrocity of the pandemic destruction of a race and their planet was resolved in Hero, this Zetithian focuses on the relationship between a Stud who as the hero knows Colonel Sanders' secret formula and a Virgin who knows Greek and Italian cuisine. Series fans will enjoy the latest sexcapades in the Brooks galaxy.

Harriet Klausner

Deliver Me From Darkness-Tes Hilaire

Deliver Me From Darkness

Tes Hilaire

Sourcebooks, Feb 7 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9781402264344

After God created the earth, several angels volunteered to live and protect humans from the Fallen led Lucifer. However, over the millennia, the purebred Paladins have dwindled with no females left. Still there remains their offspring with humans fighting with less power to defeat the evil demons and vampires.

Nine decades ago, Roland the Paladin was changed into a vampire, which means execution. For ninety years he has struggled to retain his essence but each year has become increasingly difficult in spite his best friend and former partner Calhoun’s help. In New York City when he meets a previously unknown female Paladin Karissa who is unaware what she is as she comes to his door, Roland feels God is punishing him as she is his soul mate but he is no longer worthy to have her as his. Meanwhile paladins, demons and vampires stalk Karissa with Roland vowing to die to keep this naive female he cherishes with what is left of his soul safe. She instinctively knows vampires are wicked, but only with Roland at her side does she feel safe.

The first Paladin Warrior romantic urban fantasy is a wonderful thriller in which the paranormal Hilaire world is firmly established so that readers understand who’s on whose side of the war while believing that demons, vampires and paladins walk the streets of Manhattan. Fast-paced, fans will enjoy the star-crossed romance between the female paladin and her vampiric soul mate.

Harriet Klausner

Grey Expectations-Clea Simon

Grey Expectations

Clea Simon

Severn House, Apr 1 2012, $27.95

ISBN: 9780727881342

After the traumatic events of last year (see Grey Zone), Harvard graduate student Dulcie Schwartz feels her life has calmed down as she works on her dissertation on the anonymous British author of an unfinished 1790 gothic novel The Ravages of Umbria. Her tranquility is shattered when her friend Trista calls her; crying while saying she is a person of interest in the death of student Roland Galveston.

Soon after Trista’s hysterically call, she vanishes and her boyfriend is frantic. Dulcie goes to Trista’s place in the Cambridge Campus where her friend liked to go when she wanted to be left alone. Trista is not there, but Dulcie notices a ticket admitting her to the Mildon special documents. Stunned as Dulcie knows she never went there on that day; she thinks she is being framed by someone for stealing the medieval manuscript the Dunster Codex. She finds her life in jeopardy from a person masquerading as a cop; however, she has her beloved late Mr. Grey, Esme and Chris watching her back.

Once again, Clea Simon writes a wonderful Dulcie Schwartz cozy in which the heroine is an intellectual star of the Perils of Pauline. Her heroes are Mr. Grey who she still communicates with her, Esme the playful kitten and Chris; though the protagonist wonders how fickle felines alive and dead are though they have her back and keep her spirits up. The mystery is clever with red herrings and unexpected twists and readers will appreciate this engaging amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Exogene-T.C. McCarthy


T.C. McCarthy

Orbit, Mar 1 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780316128155

As the war between Russia and America continues unabated, both sides use genetic warrior exogenes. Imprinted in these lab-created teen killers is strict adherence to "faith and death". These soldiers know deep in their DNA that death is their only path to honor and salvation.

Sixteen and half years old Catherine is a killing machine; the greatest lab produced soldier made in America. However, Catherine begins to doubt her suicidal mission as she wants to live. Her phobic fear of dying appears to be early ramifications of the "spoiling" that exogenes suffer when they reach their eighteenth birthday. Catherine flees her sisters in arms and takes a chance she will survive the spoiling though her creators insist that is impossible. She encounters Russian male genetically created soldiers, learns of the Russian Exogenic Enhancement and observes firsthand the folly of armchair warriors when she looks at the North Korean nuclear wasteland. As she struggles to control flashbacks of her violent past that leaves her vulnerable, Catherine wonders if her only choices are death, the Americans or the Russians; she loathes all three options.

Though filled with plenty action especially combat, the superb second Subterrene War military science fiction (see Germline) is a great character study as readers get inside the mind of a former zealot born again as a doubter. Ironically Catherine’s doubts are not about killing as that is wired into her brain; but instead she questions killing as a weapon of mass destruction deployed by fat cats rather than her selecting who her enemy is. With a profound look at organized governments and religions tenet to kill in God’s name as a stairway to heaven for expendable soldiers, readers will relish learning who Catherine is.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Difficult People: A Gateway to Enlightenment-Lisette Larkins

Difficult People: A Gateway to Enlightenment

Lisette Larkins

Rainbow Ridge, Jun 2011, $17.95

ISBN: 9780984495566

Most people prefer to avoid difficult people who tend to make one’s life miserable. However, Lisette Larkins makes a strong case that dealing with a DP strengthens a person. Ms. Larkin states she learned a lot about her strengths and weaknesses while being a care provider to a late-stage Alzheimer’s patient that forced the author to look at her own reactions. This SWOT led Ms. Larkin to find a spiritual awakening as she realized that everyone is a DP to someone. Seeing an opportunity to turn a weakness into a strength; she gained an inner peace that enables her to act appropriately with any DP; but especially her most adversarial DP - herself. Although some readers will object to mystical experiences as part of the path like what occurred on the drive on the Pacific Coast Highway, the concept of understanding and acceptance over denial is well written and enlightening as Ms. Larkins provides an interesting method in how to deal with the most DP mindful of the Grass Roots song Lets Live For Today, but much more.

Harriet Klausner

Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the Monarchy- Helen Rappaport

Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the Monarchy

Helen Rappaport

St. Martin’s, Mar 13 2012, $26.99

ISBN: 9780312621056

This fascinating biography focuses on a pivotal event “that changed the monarchy”; the death of Prince Consort Albert and its subsequent impact on his grieving widow, which in turn affected the Empire. Helen Rappaport makes the case that Queen Victoria not only loved her spouse, she needed him as a mentor and friend. Detested by her subjects, the country mourned alongside their queen his death. The Queen had replacement advisors but none came close to Prince Albert as her partner over the last four decades of her reign. Whereas Victoria concluded that Albert’s trepidation over their son "poor Bertie" led to his death; Ms. Rappaport offers alternative possibilities. Queen Victoria never came out of mourning nor did she allow the country to move through the phases of grief as the nation lingered along with their monarch in a forty years mass depression.

This is an excellent refreshing biography with the focus on the impact of the death of Prince Albert in 1861 on his wife and their Empire. Ms. Rapport makes a strong case that Prince Albert’s death is one of the key moments in British history. The tone reminds me of The Taylor File: The Mysterious Death of a President by Clara Rising, who makes a case that the one person who may have prevented the Civil War died mysteriously; though her theory arsenic poisoning proved false. Readers will appreciate this profound look at why the Queen needed her mate and a strong argument that his death was the first major step for the sun beginning to set on the British Empire.

Harriet Klausner

Moonlit Desire-Carolann Camillo

Moonlit Desire

Carolann Camillo

Camel Press, Mar 16 2012, $14.95

ISBN: 9781603818728

In 1759 Catherine Bradshaw leaves London to marry wealthy Jeremy Flint in the colony of New York in an arranged marriage. As soon as she steps off the ship, he weds her immediately. His behavior frightens her as they travel by coach to his Tarrytown estate. However, French Army Captain Rive St. Clair and his associate stop the coach. Rive abducts Catherine after informing Flint who he is and where he can collect his wife.

Sixteen years ago, Flint made his first killing when he stole pelts after arranging for a massacre at an Indian village. Rive has waited for the right moment to lure back this sleaze to that village as he knows the coward will follow as he cannot accept such an affront to his reputation. Flint behaves just as Rive expected, but Catherine is nothing like he anticipated. As they fall in love, the honorable and loyal Rive escorts her to Quebec City as the British army begins to take the last major North American French stronghold; she will soon know what it means to risk one’s life for someone you cherish.

This is an exciting late Colonial Romance starring an intrepid hero and a woman with plenty of mettle as she adjusts to a life far different than what she had in London or expected with Jeremy. Fast-paced from the moment of the kidnapping and never slowing down, sub-genre fans will appreciate this engaging tale though Flint proves an unworthy opponent with more than half the historical storyline left after his cowardly failed attempt at retrieval.

Harriet Klausner

Summer Rose-Elizabeth Sinclair

Summer Rose

Elizabeth Sinclair

Bell Bridge, Jan 2 2012, $12.95

ISBN: 9781611940893

Registered nurse Rose Hamilton agreed to be a surrogate mother to her foster care friend Beth and Patrick. She carries twins, but is now responsible for them as Beth and Patrick died in an accident. In Carson, West Virginia she applies for a position at Paws & Claws Animal Clinic. Dr. Hunter Mackenzie hires her when she manages to get an orphaned lion cub to eat. This is the first time she touched an animal not counting a cricket that her foster mother stepped on years ago. Her only concern is the health insurance will not cover her prenatal care

Hunter and Rose are attracted to one another from that first interview and their attraction grows though she hides her delicate condition from him. She assumes a man in love with the wild does not need three dependents; besides which she knows her employer has issues with Mayor George Collins over his lion cubs and wolf. The vet wonders why he has a constant urge to kiss his new employee.

The return to Hawks Mountain is a warm regional romance. The support cast is strong as people like Granny Jo brings a local flavor to the mix while the animals add compassion. The lead couple is a tender pairing of two people fearful of relationships falling in love as he recognizes her as a natural and she realizes he is her hero.

Harriet Klausner

Stuck With You-Trish Jensen

Stuck With You

Trish Jensen

Bell Bridge, Jan 2 2012, $13.95

ISBN: 9781611940862

Paige Hart practices law in Macon, Georgia. She is always there for her crazy large family though that leaves her more often than not in some sort of trouble.

Ross Bennett practices law too. He does not have the large family that Paige does, but he devotes plenty of time to charity and avoids slimy clients.

Paige and Ross respectively represent a divorcing couple, Jasmine and Carmon Carbone arguing over ownership of Doodles the poodle. However their snake shrew labels explode when a bomb ignites inside the courthouse. They are rushed to a hospital in an ambulance contaminated by the Tibetan Concupiscence Virus which leads to intense sexual desire. CDC quarantines the pair who turns to one another for relief and perhaps much more.

Mindful of Monkey Business starring Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers, Stuck With You is a zany lighthearted courtroom-hospital romance starring two likable combatants. The support cast from the medical to the court to the You Can’t Take it With You (by Hart and Kauffman) Sycamore family adds humorous lunacy to the mix. Fans will relish a wild gender war between a snake and a shrew in viral lust and maybe love.

Harriet Klausner

The Expats-Chris Pavone

The Expats

Chris Pavone

Crown, Mar 6 2012, $26.00

ISBN: 9780307956354

Washington, D.C. based financial systems security expert Dexter Moore accepts a terrific job in Luxembourg. As he, his wife Kate and their kids prepare to cross the Atlantic, Dexter is unaware that his spouse was a CIA operative for fifteen years, who resigned to accompany her husband and their two children to Europe. Her plan is to be a caring wife and nurturing mother.

In Luxembourg, Kate struggles to adjust to a passive lifestyle. However she awakens from the housewife blues when a stunned Kate learns the FBI and Interpol investigate her nerdy husband for allegedly stealing fifty-million euros in an illegal online banking deal. Needing to know the truth about her spouse, while wondering whether she erred in giving up her espionage career to be a housewife, Kate investigates Dexter’s allegedly felonious activities.

This is a great espionage investigative thriller filled with red herrings, and super twists that keep the audience wondering what next. Fast-paced, fans will appreciate Kate’s inquiry with fervor as she ponders the ennui and lack of satisfaction in being a housewife. Although the relationship between Kate and Dexter never quite gels, The Expats is a terrific thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 27, 2012

Worlds Collide-Karen Wiesner

Worlds Collide

Karen Wiesner

Whiskey Creek, Mar 2012, $17.95

ISBN: 9781611600193

For twelve years Dr. Marcus Samuels has worked as a pediatrician at Nagasaki’s Children’s Christian Hospital, but feels as he turns forty it is time to go home to Chicago. He has missed family events like the death of his sister-in-law and his widower brother finding love again (see Foolish Games) and the rape of his sister and her finding happiness (see Glass Angels). He prays his return will end his severe anxiety attacks that only kept in check by his belief he does God’s work and his close friend Dr. Keiko Oichi.

When he learns his mom suffered a heart attack, Marcus has one more compelling reason to go home though he knows he will miss Keiko and her older brother Haruki who as foreign exchange students in the States converted to Christianity. However, he is shocked when Keiko informs him she is accompanying him back to the States as she is engaged since she was seven to older Ryu a porno manga superstar. She is attracted to Marcus who held back because of her engagement. As they recognize their love, her family patriarch demands she honors her commitments in marriage and faith.

The latest Family Heirlooms Christian family drama (see Shards of Ashley) is a fabulous tale as two cultures collide with the focus on Keiko. Readers will relish this fine entry as traditional Japanese collides with modern day American while Marcus fears he is casing a rift between his beloved and her family; failing to understand he is not the cause as she chooses.

Harriet Klausner

Blazing Bedtime Stories, Volume VI-Tori Carrington & Kate Hoffmann:

Blazing Bedtime Stories, Volume VI

Tori Carrington & Kate Hoffmann:

Harlequin Blaze, Mar 20 2012, $5.25

ISBN: 9780373796793

“Maid for Him” by Tori Carrington. Off the coast of Southern California, Kieran Morrison is taken aback when he finds Daphne Moore on his ship. She came out of the Pacific and is a mermaid, but that species only exists in movies. Daphne is attracted to the human, but knows that always ends badly for her race. When they meet on shore, they make love. She must decide between love of this landlubber and her love of the sea.

“Off the Beaten Path” by Kate Hoffmann. They met seven years ago at work at Johnson-Jacobs Advertising; Alex Hansen and Greta Adler became best friends. He invites her to join him at a cabin owned by his top client Thea Michaels. However, Thea is also there with plans to take Alex. Instead Alex persuades Greta to pretend to be his lover; only in his case he has wanted that since they made love four years ago while drunk. Greta fears relationships having watched her parents’ marriage collapse as a child. However, Alex’s kisses make her forget her commitment phobia.

The latest “Blazing Bedtime Stories” contains two well written romances with engaging characters; although the fun storylines are somewhat linear and the sub-genres different.

Harriet Klausner

One Man Rush-Joanne Rock

One Man Rush

Joanne Rock

Harlequin Blaze, Mar 20 2012, $5.25

ISBN: 9780373796823

The client Phil Goodwell placed Philadelphia Phantom hockey star Kyle Murphy on the top of his list for those he considered as a match for his twenty-four year old daughter Stacy. Matchmaker Marissa Collins attends a Phantom event at the suburban Normandy Farms Hotel to arrange an introduction between the client’s daughter and the hunk on ice. However, when Marissa sees Kyle and him her, the sparks between them destroy their respective professional goal; as she loses sight of the needed lucrative fee and he loses sight of the Stanley Cup.

However, as Kyle and Marissa fall deeper into lust and god forbid love, the team makes a strong run towards making the playoffs, but the couple has problems as she panics over her need to earn money to take care of her ailing mom. Phil is upset with the matchmaker and with his daughter who is attracted to non-athlete graphic chips maker Isaac Reynolds.

This delightful “Double Overtime” sports romance is an entertaining contemporary as two couples fall in love though the hockey player and the matchmaker are the prime lead. The protagonists are a wonderful pairing with their fears keeping their relationship in peril; while the support cast is solid especially the other couple, his “Wrong Bed” family (see Riding The Storm), his teammates (especially his foster brother Axel –his tale to come) and her mom. Readers will enjoy Joanne Rock’s engaging tale.

Harriet Klausner

Master Of Sin-Maggie Robinson

Master Of Sin

Maggie Robinson

Kensington Brava, Mar 27 2012, $14.00

ISBN: 9780758251053

In 1820 on Duca Alessandro’s yacht is the owner, his wife Giuletta, their baby Marc and Andrew Rossiter. Duca paid Andrew an exorbitant stud fee to sire a baby with his spouse. Alessandro’s former heir Gianni and a thug invade the yacht killing Alessandro and Giuletta. Andrew is injured but kills the hired hand before escaping with his baby.

Andrew changes his name to Ross. Through the husband of a friend, Andrew buys a house in the Western Isles where everyone speaks Gaelic except him. He meets his son’s governess Miss Peartree. Andrew fires her but instead she takes care of feverish Marc, which leaves Andrew jealous as she has hooked the toddler while he failed. A few days later, Andrew sees the skinny Peartree leaving a bath. Having been a prostitute to men and women, he is stunned by his reaction as he is hard with desire. He realizes his son’s governess must leave. She wonders why her employer hides on this isolated small island. In love, she reveals her real name and sordid past while Andrew denies he feels the same way. Meanwhile Gianni continues his search for the child.

The entertaining Regency romance is wonderfully developed as the lead protagonists are refreshing characters with what each conceals though Andrew remains in denial too long. The suspense enhances the plot, but the villain’s search seems inane even if he fears the baby showing up in two decades with a claim. Still readers will enjoy Maggie Robinson’s delightful historical with ties to the “Mistress” Courtesan Court saga; as love brings hope to a pair who gave up on life.

Harriet Klausner

Cats Can’t Shoot-Clea Simon

Cats Can’t Shoot

Clea Simon

Poisoned Pen, Apr 3 2012 $24.95

ISBN 9781590583256

In Beauville in the Berkshires, Police Officer Jim Creighton explains to pet behaviorist (and psychic) Pru Marlowe that the Persian is a “killer kitty”. Apparently she accidentally fired the gun that killed Donal Franklin. The feline’s prints are on the weapon as are feline fur. Pru looks the Persian in the eyes and asks if she did it; however, instead of “hearing” what the cat was thinking, the feline’s brain is silent as she hisses at the behaviorist before being removed.

Pru accompanied by Wallis her cat, turns to the other animal residents of Beauville for information as she is increasingly convinced the Persian is traumatized by what she saw and is not guilty of homicide. Creighton and his support team disagree so Pru knows she will need hard evidence, but Wallis becomes frustrated with her failure to truly listen; while her ex NYPD cop Tom Reynolds is in town allegedly working a case.

The second Pru Marlowe Pet Noir is an enjoyable whodunit that is similar in plot to its predecessor (see Dogs Don’t Lie) in that a traumatized pet is accused of a homicide and the heroine investigates by chatting with the animals. However this time the heroine is not the prime human suspect and Wallis refreshes the mystery with his mounting frustrations with Pru. .Fast-paced from the moment Pru drops her ire when she learns a kitty shooting literally meant a kitty shooting an owner rather than visa-versa, readers will relish this fun caper.

Harriet Klausner

Bear Meets Girl-Shelly Laurenston

Bear Meets Girl

Shelly Laurenston

Kensington Brava, Mar 27 2012, $14.00

ISBN: 9780758265203

NYPD Detective Lou “Crush” Crushek the polar bear shifter wakes up after eating too many shots of Jell-O pieces made with alcohol only to find a she-tiger in the bed with him. Smith Wolf Pack (New York) Marcella “Bare-Knuckles” Malone is a hockey player known for her belligerent style. Whereas he turns red, she smirks.

Cella blackmails a mortified Crush to pretend to be her boyfriend so her family leaves her alone. He investigates a serial killer who is murdering the punks he planned to get locked away. She investigates the predator hunting her species. They team up in a bare knuckles relationship as the pride of New York, the bear and the tiger fall in love.

The latest amusing kick tail Smith Wolf Pack and Friends romantic urban fantasy (see Big Bad Beast) is an engaging police procedural starring two opposites in demeanor falling in love; though at first both would rather be dead. The storyline makes the shifter species seem genuine but also has too many subplots detracting from the main bare knuckles crush plot. Still fans will enjoy a visit to the world of the Laurenston mythos.

Harriet Klausner

The Seduction of Phaeton Black-Jillian Stone

The Seduction of Phaeton Black

Jillian Stone

Kensington Brava, Mar 27 2012, $14.00

ISBN: 9780758268969

In 1889, Scotland Yard uses Phaeton Black to investigate those cases that defy logic as he is the best at solving the impossible. Known for his sex skills even in the brothel where he resides, Black uses opium and absinthe when the call of the paranormal overwhelms his brain.

A serial killer is stalking London. The predator drinks the blood of his or her victims leaving behind fang marks. Black thinks these murders are tied to the Ripper killings; but that the beast is an Egyptian goddess vampire. While investigating he meets America Jones several times. The daughter of a powerful Cajun witch, America is in London searching for the pirates who stole her sea merchant father’s ships. They team up on both cases as they need each other if they are to survive the supernatural and the natural monsters.

The first Black-Jones late Victorian romantic investigative fantasy is a lighthearted fun thriller that combines a tongue in cheek steampunk venue with an exciting paranormal whodunit. With a nod to Sherlock Homes: "When you have eliminated the impossible , whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth", the Devil and Muss Jones make a wonderful pairing as they battle pirates, mummies, Ripper and the vampire, but their biggest adversary is the Scotland Yard brass.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Needle In The Blood-Sarah Bower

The Needle In The Blood

Sarah Bower

Sourcebooks, Mar 6 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781402265914

A few weeks after his half-brother William of Normandy conquered England, Bishop Odo of Bayeux Odo decides to celebrate the victory over Harold with an embroidery like none before. He assigns his sister Agatha, known as Sister Jean-Baptiste of the Convent of Saint Justina The Virgin, to oversee the project. She employs several Saxon women to embroider the glory of the Battle of Hastings including Gytha, a lady-in-waiting to Harold’s Queen Eidth, but now a whore as like her Highness, William’s conquest ended her position at court.

She accepts Sister Jean-Baptiste invitation to work the commemoration, but plans to use this to kill Bishop Odo who schemes to become the Archbishop of Canterbury for what he and his odious Normans did to her Saxons especially Eidth. Instead she cannot plunge the knife into her avowed adversary. They fall in love, but his many enemies see his mistress as his Achilles heel that they can use against him.

This is an engaging biographical fiction that sub-genre fans will enjoy based on real persona and the theory that the Bayou Tapestry was commissioned by Odo for his new cathedral. The engaging storyline contains a passionate love subplot as Sarah Bowers reflects the essence of the brutal transition of power starting just after the Conquest and for the few years.

Harriet Klausner

A Rural Affair-Catherine Alliott

A Rural Affair

Catherine Alliott

Sourcebooks, Mar 6 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781402260117

A recent widow, Poppy Shilling concludes she erred when she married Phil who died when blue ice hit him as he biked. Poppy came to her belief upon learning of Phil’s clandestine other life. Poppy calls her neighbor Jennie who along with Angie and Peggy arrives quickly. Besides feeling guilt over wanting Phil dead, she worries how their two young children (Clemmie and Archie) will cope. Poppy hopes to have fun dating men but not committing.

Jennie struggles with the behavior of her spouse the Toad; while Angie has separated from her husband; and Peggy smokes to hide her loneliness. While her friends commiserate with her loss, Poppy is attracted to a man who has a glamorous woman in his life that a mother of two cannot compete with, but also has a secret admirer.

This is an amusing British character study that sets the tone with the discussion on dreaming of dead husbands between Poppy and Jennie. The breezy storyline is fast-paced though the dark humor supersedes plausibility starting with the sixth death in decades from the friendly skies. Readers will enjoy the mother of two seeking A Rural Affair, but relearning how convoluted relationships are.

Harriet Klausner

Death Comes Silently-Carolyn Hart

Death Comes Silently

Carolyn Hart

Berkley, Apr 3 2012, $24.95

ISBN: 9780425245705

In Broward’s Rock, South Carolina, Death on Demand bookstore owner has a scheduling conflict between an author signing and her volunteer work at Better Tomorrow charity shop. With business slow due to the wintry weather, she needs to be at her store so she enlists Gretchen Burkholt to take her place at Better Tomorrow.

Anxious Gretchen calls Annie several times claiming the charity’s handyman Jeremiah Young is dangerous and that she found an enigmatic note inside the coat of deceased Everett Hathaway. Although concerned over Gretchen’s anxiety, Annie assumes she is safe so she completes the signing before racing over to Better Tomorrow. However she feels guilty when she finds Gretchen dead from Jeremiah’s ax. Police Chief Billy Cameron believes Jeremiah killed the woman as he is an ex con; the murder weapon belonged to him; and he fled the crime scene. Annie and her best customer Henny Brawley thinks otherwise.

The latest Death on Demand cozy (see Laughed 'Til He Died and Dead by Midnight) is a superb entry that keeps the series fresh by introducing new players and new books into the engaging January South Carolina barrier island setting. The whodunit is deftly handled as the amateur sleuth mystery aficionados think Gretchen’s homicide ties back to Hathaway’s drowning; while Cameron has no doubt who the killer is. Carolyn Hart has written another strong whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

A SEAL In Wolf’s Clothing-Terry Spear

A SEAL In Wolf’s Clothing

Terry Spear

Sourcebooks, Mar 6 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9781402258909

(Werewolf SEAL) Hunter and (human wildlife photographer) Tessa Greymere (see To Tempt The Wolf) are on a honeymoon; which his twin sister Meara feels liberating as seemingly forever her sibling focused on find her mate instead of his. Her plan is to rent the Oregon cabins her brother and her own to alphas in order to search for her mate.

However, assassins with insider information target Hunter, his SEAL mates and anyone they cherish. SEAL Finn Emerson arrives to keep Meara safe to her chagrin as she does not want a clone of Hunter interfering with her quest. However, instead of counting potential mates, corpses pile up. As he vows to keep his friend’s sister unharmed, he wonders who will keep Meara safe from his desire.

The latest Heart Of The Wolf werewolf romance is an engaging thriller as the protagonists sing I’m Not In Love” (by 10Cc) while also trying to prevent either joining the kill rate. Fast-paced, with a surprising villain and an unlikely hero refreshing the series, fans of the Terry Spear Lycan saga will want to read the twin falling in love with A SEAL In Wolf’s Clothing.

Harriet Klausner

Assassins In Love-Kris DeLake

Assassins In Love

Kris DeLake

Sourcebooks, Mar 6 2012, $6.99

ISBN: 9781402262821

Rogue Assassin Rikki struggles to toss dead Elio Testrial out an airlock when Guild Assassin Misha intrudes by taking charge of the situation but sets off alarms while disposing of the corpse. He pretends to be intoxicated and takes her with guard escort to the B Deck where he has a room.

He thinks she is an out of control amoral person; she thinks he is fool for adhering to the Guild’s rules. His goal is to get her to join the Guild; her goal is to get away from him. Rikki soon concludes the lone wolf is very ethical as she only hunts down those who are evil; Misha soon concludes he may be by the book, but stretches the rules with his antics. They begin to fall in love until she realizes who her fellow assassin is even as they get entangled with the Guild

The key to this entertaining Assassins Guild romantic science fiction tale is the generally accepted concept by society that assassinations are normal. The storyline is fast-paced and the diabolical scheme to set up Rikki brilliantly deployed. Readers will enjoy a visit to the Assassins Guild as Kris DeLake provides a fun thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Warrior Rising-Pamela Palmer

Warrior Rising

Pamela Palmer

Harlequin Nocturne, Mar 20 2012, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373618811

In DC, computer company CEO Harrison Rand prepares for the war against the hated Esri Kingdom now that the Dark Gate and other portals between the realms have been breached. The few Sitheen humans with Esri blood are the last hope for mankind to prevent becoming enslaved by ruthless King Rith. Harrison has doubts he belongs with warriors like his brother Charlie who went through a gate to rescue Princess Ilaria (see A Warrior’s Desire) or Kaderil the Dark Esri who joined their side due to loving a human (see Dark Deceiver).

In fact the divorced Harrison prefers to protect his children, but his sibling needs someone he trusts to protect Ilaria. Although he loathes the Esri, Harrison finds himself attracted to the exiled royal and soon realizes she is caring and kind towards humans and worries about her people like he does for his. She seeks two stones to prevent Rith from completing the destruction of two worlds.

This is a terrific finish to a strong romantic urban fantasy saga as Harrison learns not to be a racist profiler when the Princess destroys his beliefs about her people. Fast-paced and filled with action and romance, fans of the Esri series will appreciate the wonderful magical ending.

Harriet Klausner

The Werewolf’s Wife-Michele Hauf

The Werewolf’s Wife

Michele Hauf

Harlequin Nocturne, Mar 20 2012, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373618804

Near the Twin Cities, werewolf Ridge Addison the lumberjack is the Principal of a dwindling pack. He and Jason are the only ones left on the compound while two pack members live with their spouses nearby. The rest of the pack died or fled after Ridge’s predecessors caused a war with the vampires.

Ridge needs a real wife to start a family so he decides it is time to divorce Abigail Rowan the witch he married thirteen years ago while intoxicated in Vegas. In Minneapolis he seeks her out only to learn she is on a desperate hunt to save her twelve year old son Ryan, who was abducted at the Detroit Airport while on his way home from Switzerland by a person claiming to be part of the Light. The kidnapper uses the tweener as a hostage chip to force his mom to rescue a vampire being used in a blood sport in exchange for her child. The werewolf agrees to help his spouse, who he claims placed a spell that has left him unable to procreate, as long as she signs the divorce papers.

Fast-paced from the moment Abigail receives the nightmarish call and never slows down until the final marital confrontation, fans will relish this engaging romantic urban fantasy. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as they argue, fuss and fight on their way to a second chance at love. Most women would cherish Abigail’s below the belt skill while men would cringe. Brilliantly refreshing common romance tropes, Michele Hauf provides a wonderful visit to the “Land of 10000 Lakes.”

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Grace-T. Greenwood


T. Greenwood

Kensington, Mar 27 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758250926

In Two Rivers, Vermont, the father points his rifle at his son. Not long before this confrontation, thirteen year old Trevor Kennedy finds comfort from his dysfunctional family with photography. His father Kurt struggles with a failing business. His mother Elsbeth is a serial ship lifter who only cares about her five year old daughter Gracy. Trevor’s grandfather has become an obsessed hoarder.

At school, bullies taunt Trevor, but he is starting to push back. At home he feels increasing isolation except with his younger sister. Only teenager Crystal, who gave up her baby for adoption, understands the hauntong suffered by Trevor through the photos he brings to be developed at the store where she works. As the schism widens, Kurt points his rifle at his son.

Grace is a powerful character driven tale of a family in trouble. The viewpoint rotates between the members of the Kennedy clan and Crystal as each deals poorly with demons eating away their innards. Fans will appreciate this deep look at despondent disturbed individuals while wondering whether the dad will kill his son and how it got to that moment.

Harriet Klausner

Imperial Scandal-Teresa Grant

Imperial Scandal

Teresa Grant

Kensington, Mar 27 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758254245

In 1815, the excitement of Vienna pales when the news that Napoleon escaped sends chills amongst his enemies. Wellington prepares for the battle near Brussels that will shape the future of Europe. British attaché Malcolm Rannoch and his wife Suzanne had enjoyed the galas, but he must return to work as a spy for the crown since the Emperor returns.

Malcolm meets with French agent La Fleur who is selling information when Colonel Harry Davenport, aide de camp to Wellington, arrives to warn them. Shots are fired killing La Fleur. In the garden, Malcolm finds the murdered corpse of Harry’s sister-in-law highly regarded Lady Julia Ashton who should not have been there unless she was spying. As the city is gripped by the nearby hostilities, Malcolm and Suzanne, trusting no one as they fear an insider betrayal, investigate who murdered Julia and why.

The latest Rannoch Napoleonic Era amateur sleuth (see Vienna Waltz) is an entertaining whodunit that uses the real suspense of the pending battle at Waterloo to serve as a powerful backdrop to the investigation. The murder mystery is cleverly devised as super red herrings and terrific twists make for a fabulous early nineteenth century thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary-Susan Elia MacNeal

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary

Susan Elia MacNeal

Bantam, Apr 3 2012, $15.00

ISBN 9780553593617

In 1940 London, someone murders Diana Snyder, a typist in Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s office. American raised British citizen Maggie Hope remains bitter over not being offered a more prestigious position in the Intel community as a code breaker as fitting a mathematician; she knows sexism kept her from obtaining the job. Still she agrees to replace the late Diana.

The Snyder stabbing case is solved rather quickly while Diana adapts to her work and living in Nazi and IRA bombed London as opposed to MIT. However, Maggie begins to uncover a plot to cripple the leadership with assassination at a critical moment when the Battle for Britain is being fought in the skies. The intrepid Maggie seeks the identity of those involved, which places her at risk.

The first Maggie Hope WWII mystery is an engaging tale that vividly brings to life a grim London in May 1940 at a time when everyone anticipates the blitzkrieg to cross the Channel. The amateur sleuthing is fun to follow as the heroine is an intelligent person, but also contains too many happenstances to bail her out of dire straits. Still readers will enjoy Maggie’s marvelous mystery tour as she escorts armchair time travelers around besieged London.

Harriet Klausner

One Hoof In The Grave-Carolyn McSparren

One Hoof In The Grave

Carolyn McSparren

Bell Bridge, Dec 15 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9781611940176

In Georgia, Merry Abbott and her friend Peggy Caldwell are driving the first cross country carriage during a fog when a bull horn and a banner spook their two horses Golden Boy and Ned. Their carriage ends into nearby water, but they and the horses are rescued. Since nasty bully Giles Raleigh and his victimized daughter Dawn were to be first, the assumption is he was the target. Soon afterward, Merry sees Giles’ four horses pulling his carriage without a driver. She quickly finds his corpse with a cable spike in his neck. Sheriff Stan Nordstrom leads the investigation in which Merry is a prime suspect. Peggy calls GBI agent Geoff Wheeler, who worked the homicide of Merry’s dad (see The Merry Abbot Carriage-Driving Mystery). Attracted to Merry, Geoff rushes to the crime scene where Stan welcomes him.

On the way back to their farm near Missy Creek, someone runs Merry and Peggy off the road. When she checks on her horses, someone tries to kill Merry. She and Geoff realize that Giles’ killer thinks she can identify him or her. As Merry hosts an event, a predator stalks her.

Although the killer should have realized Merry could not identify her as the cops would have arrested the culprit, the latest Merry mayhem is an enjoyable investigative whodunit. The fun storyline is leisurely–paced with insight into the cross country carriage shows nicely enhancing the mystery. Readers will enjoy this warm lighthearted romp (unless you’re the victim) as Carolyn McSparren continues to spin Mossy Creek into a radically different direction yet contains the elements of friendship that make the community a delightful place to visit.

Harriet Klausner

Caine's Law-Matthew Stover

Caine's Law

Matthew Stover

Del Rey, Apr 3 2012, $16.00

ISBN: 9780345455895

Professional Simon Faller begs Badlands Facility Director Administrator Gayle Keller to not make him do the mission as he is very afraid. Faller has seen first-hand what prisoner Chairman Hori “Caine” Michaelson can do to his enemies. Keller is scared even knowing that Caine is held in check by the Studio, but tells Faller their roles is to get Caine to try to kill them than those outside the facility. The two frightened men visit Caine in his cell. They inform him that the Board rejected his proposal on access to the Overwold in exchange for amnesty. Instead they counter with a fried brain wiring or accepting the oily elixir that insures total loyalty. With no real option especially after seeing what happened to a dedicated follower of his, he takes the chemical.

However, everyone underestimates the ruthless Caine; as he understands acting is to build off the sh*t that motivates you. His allies enable Caine to escape to the Overwold’ which he once saved from genocide by the ruling elite of Earth. Caine begins a time and space odyssey that will either bring him what he lost or eradicate the universe.

The latest Caine speculative fiction thriller is a gory yet intelligent and entertaining tale. The storyline is convoluted as time proves liquid (as Matthew Stover notes) with this entry in the Act of Atonement saga coming before, during and after the events of the previous novel Caine Black Knife; to further complicate matters, incidents that were real at one time vanish as if they never happened. Readers will appreciate this exciting complex thriller while wondering if the universe ended would anyone notice.

Harriet Klausner

Timeless-Gail Carriger


Gail Carriger

Orbit, Mar 2 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780316127189

In London, the parents, friends, clan and servants of Prudence suffer from the wrath of the terrible two’s. Making matters more difficult for others the toddler can “borrow” the supernatural powers of people by touching them until her soulless mom releases the stolen skills. That is why her parents, Alpha of the Woolsey werewolf clan Lord Conall and Lady Alexia, use mostly drones as servants as well as their friend vampire Lord Akeldama, who actually adopted the baby to help. Still the doting mama and papa relish their domestic lunacy.

The Queen of the Alexandria Hive orders Alexia to come to her city. Knowing you never refuse a royal summons, Alexia, Conall, Prudence and actress Ivy Tunstell head to Egypt by steamer. However, in Egypt the God-Breaker Plague has erupted. The mysteries of the summons and the plague pale compared to how the world’s worst actress Ivy is an overnight sensation as the most popular actress in the British Empire.

The Parasol Protectorate Victorian fantasy ends with a great globetrotting fast-paced thriller. Once again, Gail Carriger combines humor with tense action while tying up the major threads from the previous entries in the series (see Soulless, Changeless, Blameless and Heartless). The females are superb while Conall looks foolish as he remains doubting Thomas (after all that has occurred including three years of marital bliss, you would think he would trust his wife). Still Alexia and her troupe provide a strong final curtain performance.

Harriet Klausner

The Shape Of Desire- Sharon Shinn

The Shape Of Desire

Sharon Shinn

Ace, Apr 3 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9781937007171

For over a decade Maria Devane has loved Dante Romano and believes with all her heart that he loves her too. She accepts that he holds back his feelings out of fear that he would lose control of the beast and harm his Maria; especially when he has no control over his monthly change into the beast. Dante also fears the animal is taking over his soul as he spends longer time as a beast and wanders wider areas.

Although Maria knows she sees her mate through rose colored glasses, she believes he would harm no one. However, she becomes fearful that the animal has won when brutal assaults by a feral beast begin occurring in nearby parks. She needs to report him to the law, but her heart has been shattered as if claws ripped it into strips.

This is a great urban romantic fantasy as love seems not enough for this couple struggling with an increasingly dysfunctional relationship which also makes shapeshifting seem genuine. The protagonists are magnificent as each goes through their customized version of grief as if they buried what they have had for the last fifteen years. The mystery of the attacks engages the reader further as Maria knows all the evidence points to Dante, which leaves her in hell as Sharon Shinn provides another super paranormal thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 24, 2012

When the Night-Christina Comencini; Marina Harss (translator)

When the Night

Christina Comencini; Marina Harss (translator)

Other Press, Apr 24 2012, $15.95

ISBN 9781590515112

Feeling like she cannot breath or do anything right, Marina struggles with her husband’s obsessive probing. Needing to escape the glare, Marina, accompanied by her two year old son Marco, goes on a month-long vacation in the Dolomites. Her landlord Manfred, whose wife just left him, prefers a local renter of his upstairs apartment, but in July he settles for the only interested party, the mother and toddler.

Following an accident, Manfred rescues the pair. He intervenes when her son refuses to eat or behave as the misogynist, who detests all women, thinks she is a lousy mother. Yet the two adults have a n attraction to one another in spite of his harsh treatment of her. Fifteen years later, she returns still obsessed over what she dreams should have been.

When The Night is a deep psychological tale that looks into the souls of two mentally wounded warriors who fear relationships because they have failed at them. That profound scrutiny into the minds of the adults is two edged as it brings a powerful focus on motives especially phobic, but also lingers too long keeping the storyline’s pace rather slow. Still fans who enjoy a pensive glimpse into the hearts and souls of the protagonists will want to read Christina Comencini engaging drama while wondering if the memory matches the second time encounter.

Harriet Klausner

Beside a Dreamswept Sea-Vicki Hinze

Beside a Dreamswept Sea

Vicki Hinze

Bell Bridge, Dec 23 2011, $15.95

ISBN: 9781611940855

New Orleans widower Bryce Richards takes his three young children to Seascape Inn hoping that the B&B will help them move on from the death of their mother photojournalist Meriam. He and resident ghost Tony Freeport especially worry about nine years old Susie suffering from nightmares that has her dad sleeping outside her room and the spirit entering her nasty dreams to help her survive them. Their father is less concerned with his son Jeremy and his third child Alyssa the baby.

In Biloxi, Caline Tate, divorced emotionally abusive Gregory, feels an abiding obsession to visit Seascape Inn. There she meets her former husband’s lawyer Bryce. Though attracted to each other, neither embraces relationships love after their dysfunctional marriages. Tony and innkeeper Hattie Stillman agree Cally is perfect to nurture three children in need of maternal love, and the adults are a terrific couple if they only moved on passed their previous relationships.

The reprint of the third Vicki Hinze (written as Victoria Barrett) Seascape contemporary Maine romantic fantasy is a whimsical engaging tale as the paranormal matchmaker and his human partner must do much more than just work their magic on the commitment phobic couple. Susie draws Tony’s attention as he fears for her life and she brings to him something he has not felt in five decades. Although the story line stands alone thanks to a strong cast, fans will want to read Ms. Hinze’s entertaining previous entries (see Upon A Mystic Tide and Beyond the Misty Shores – both written as Ms. Barrett) and The Perfect Stranger and other Seascape novels by Rosalyn Alsobrook to enjoy the magic of this coastal Maine B&B.

Harriet Klausner

With Full Malice-Brenda Hill

With Full Malice

Brenda Hill

Five Star, Apr 11 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9781432825720

In Yucaipa, California, food reporter Madison Young knows the tragic event that turned her into a frightened woman afraid of her own shadow. When she was six years old she watched a man murder her parents and warned her he would come back for her one day as San Bernardino County Homicide Detective Dexter Quinn arrived. Thus Maddy limits her time outside her home as her phobia controls her life.

Maddy is covering Jimmy’s Steakhouse when a woman executes paroled murdering pedophile Hawley at the location. Yucaipa Tribune editor Marie Campbell calls Madison to interview the witnesses as the other reporters are tied up and she is caught in traffic. Using the 5 W’s and an H, Maddy questions those at the steakhouse until her fears take control; Dexter pulls her aside to go home. The case takes a spin into an avenging underground club that Maddy finds ties to the incarcerated beast who killed her family. However, when Marie dies, Maddy needs to know the truth before her or her beloved grandma become next.

This is an excellent investigative thriller due to the strong cast especially Maddy whose childhood trauma haunts her years later. Fast-paced and with a nod to James Coburn’s Vengeance Unlimited, the key to this engaging tale is the fascinating heroine who proves she is stronger than anyone including herself realizes; though her proof may prove deadly.

Harriet Klausner

Burnt Offerings-Michael Lister

Burnt Offerings

Michael Lister

Pulpwood Press, Apr 19 2012, $26.99

ISBN 9781888146899

Daniel Davis and Ben Greene are running in the North Forest Wildlife Preserve. Ben takes a breather while Daniel finishes the run until he finds the burned remains of a human. A retired profiler, Daniel struggles with a panic attack while near the old depot for law enforcement.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent Samantha Michaels leads the investigation. She and Daniel have worked together on cases before the academic retired as a hermit hiding in the woods. A second body is found with the same M.O. of being burned alive. Daniel believes the psychopath is performing a fiery sacrificial ritual. As the residents of nearby Bayshore and Pine Key Island panic, the predator continues the fiery deeds with Daniel and Sam trying to end the Burnt Offerings to the God of fire.

While John Jordan takes a respite from bloody inquiries (see The Body and the Blood, Flesh and Blood, Power in the Blood and Blood of the Lamb), Daniel and Sam prove more than competent to run their own superb investigation. Action-packed, the killer’s commentary enhances the gripping storyline with insight into the stunning motive. Fast-paced from the first Burnt Offering, fans will relish this strong serial killer thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Innocent-David Baldacci

The Innocent

David Baldacci

Grand Central, Apr. 17 2012, $27.99

ISBN 9780446572996

Will Robie has a unique position; he is an America “sanctioned” assassin who takes on those who the Feds (civilian and military) for whatever reason cannot eliminate. A sniper of immense talent, Will always accepts the job without question even understanding his agency’s mantra is the opposite of the marines with “left behind”.

His work is normally outside the country in places like Tangier, but his current assignment is in Washington, D.C. The hit feels wrong to Will, but obeying orders is deeply entrenched in his soul. Perhaps it is his attraction to Annie Lambert, but for the first time in his killing career, he refuses to pull the trigger on the target a mom with her little boy. The fail safe sniper kills both of them while Will snaps photos of the victim’s information and moves her baby to another apartment before fleeing. However, by failing to do the job, the forty year old hit man becomes the target of his peers. On the lam by bus to New York, he recognizes a peer and intervenes rescuing fourteen years old Julie who witnessed a man murdering her parents. Though he knows it is inane, Will helps the endangered teen unaware of a conspiracy high up the power chain ready to snuff out anyone in their way.

This is an exciting over the top of the Washington Monument thriller starring a man who lived by the code “My Country, Right or Wrong” until the American mother and her kids incident. Filled with betrayals, David Baldacci hooks readers with this fast-paced tale from the moment the protagonist just said no until the final confrontation.

Harriet Klausner

Forerunner-Andre Norton


Andre Norton

Baen, Mar 6 2012, $12.00

ISBN: 9781451638080

Forerunner. On Kuxortal, Sims worked as a scavenger for Ferwar until the old woman dies. She, like many of the Guild, lives off the ancient ruins and burrows of the Forerunners. However, she is unique with her blue-black skin coloring and with her telepathic connection to Zass the zorsal and her children. Off-worlder Thom arrives from space seeking his missing brother. He realizes Simsa is more than just different. They explore the Forerunner caverns where she was first found as a baby. However, neither is prepared for what they discover.

Forerunner: The Second Venture. Simsa escaped Kuxortal, but now the off planet scientists imprison her as a “guest” but she feels more like a lab rat as they want to extract what she knows about the highly advanced technology of the Forerunners. Her companion Zass the zorsal enables her to escape, but Simsa crashes on another world in which the Forerunners impacted. While sentient natives want the outsider dead, something inside her wants control of her. However, neither understands how resolute Simsa is to live free.

This reprint of the entertaining first two Forerunner science fiction thrillers is a fun collection. Simsa is a great protagonist surrounded by a horde of villains (too many) in both novels as ethics mean nothing to the interchangeable Guild, archeologists and scientists. Still readers will appreciate these exciting outer space tales as Simsa refuses to sit idly by while others use her for their personal gain.

Harriet Klausner

The Star Beast-Robert A. Heinlein

The Star Beast

Robert A. Heinlein

Baen, Mar 6 2012, $13.00

ISBN: 9781451638073

Generations ago, a starman ancestor of John Stuart Thomas XI brought Lummox back with him from space. Over the decades in Westville, Lummox has grown from cute to humongous. Everyone assumes Lummox is a moron as he speaks at the skill of a child. People would be partially right with their assessment of the eight-legged beast as in terms of his species he is a child and sounds ignorant because English is a light-years different second language.

John is with his friend Betty Sorenson arguing over college. To battle ennui and hunger, Lummox takes a stroll that destroys property. Police Chief Dreiser sends Sergeant Mendoza to get John to control his pet. The Department of Spatial Affairs Permanent Under Secretary Henry Gladstone Kiku sends his top aide Sergei Greenberg to take control. Not trusting the Fed or any authoritative figure, John and Betty vow to keep Lummox from becoming a lab rat. They flee Westville though hiding their trail might prove difficult; while aliens arrive demand the return of an infant abducted by an earthling decades ago or face planetary annihilation.

This reprint of a 1950s satirical science fiction is a fun young adult read as Robert Heinlein mocks know-it-all political appointees running agencies they cannot spell (that is why we use acronyms) and the teen eternal revolt against former teens. Lummox challenges the neurotypical definition of intelligence in a comedic slapstick way; while the rotation of lead perspective among four characters remains sharply relevant (Mr. Heinlein would have enjoyed mocking vagina politics). Although the storyline never quite settles on an overarching premise between incarceration of ET and lampooning the socially correct determinants, fans will enjoy The Star Beast.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 23, 2012

American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee-Ken Abbott

American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee

Ken Abbott

Random House, Mar 13 2012, $17.00

ISBN: 9780812978513

Mama Rose took her two daughters on the Vaudeville circuit. However, her focus was on the younger cuter breadwinner, June. Her older offspring Louise lacked talent and was built boyish. While June struggled with the demands, Louise grew emotionally and intellectually, while also developing a wicked sense of humor. When June finally mentally collapsed, Mama Rose turned to her older child, who proved harder to control. Louise used her intelligence and incredible instincts to become legendary Gypsy Rose Lee, the star performer at the Minsky Brothers’ New York burlesque house and eventually the centerfold of burlesque. She wrote novels and a haunting memoir (became Broadway’s Gypsy) and started in films.

This is an excellent fresh biography with insight from nonagenarian June who only recently died. Besides a deep look at Rose, readers also obtain a powerful glimpse of the world she lived from 1911 until her death in 1970. Ironically, the ultimate horrible stage Mama Rose is more fascinating than her famous daughter as she relished dominating her children with a sinister frightening gleefulness; besides being a thief con artist, and maybe worse. This is a wonderful look at a “Nation Laid Bare” by a legendary American Rose.

Harriet Klausner

Taking a Stand-Ken Casper

Taking a Stand

Ken Casper

Bell Bridge, Dec 23 2011, $13.95

ISBN: 9781611940879

In Coyote Springs, Texas, developers Winslow Carr and Burton Hazlitt plan to tear down the slummy barrio and replace it with an affluent resort. The only roadblock is local resident Jesse Amorado, owner of a construction company and six houses in the designated zone. He could use the money offered by Carr and Hazlitt and understands his neighborhood needs desperate renovation, but he rejects their offer on principal that his friends and neighbors will have no place to live once their homes are bull-dozed.

Winslow’s daughter Tori resigns her Air Force officer commission to fly home. She agrees to help her father with his business until she obtains a pilot’s position at an airline. While, Burton wants to renew their relationship, she says no. Meanwhile, Tori learns of Jesse’s plans and seeks a way for her father and the local builder to each have their dream met. However, as they fall in love, someone makes Jesse look dangerous and felonious while his family, having survived the tragic drive-by murder of his brother, but even when they live on a nearby ranch they are threatened.

The latest Coyote Springs romantic suspense (see As The Crow Dies) is an exciting action-packed thriller starring a strong cast who bring to life real urban development issues re the poor. Although the villain is obvious from the start, readers will relish this engaging tale as tenacious caring Tori seeks a viable solution to the problems keeping the two men she loves from reaching an agreement.

Harriet Klausner

Nightfall-Stephen Leather


Stephen Leather

47 North, Mar 20 2012, $13.95

ISBN: 978-1612182292

Metropolitan Police CO19 armed response unit Negotiator Inspector Jack Nightingale works a crisis at Chelsea Harbor. Apparently nine year old Sophie Underwood sits on a locked thirteenth floor balcony talking to a doll while her father works at a bank and her mom shops; Inga the Polish au pair called for help. He talks to her to try to get her inside, but she jumps anyway as the only means to escape her pedophile dad. Raging he visits Mr. Underwood who falls through a twentieth floor window to his death. Refusing to defend himself or for that matter speak with anyone, Jack leaves the force.

Two years later, Jack is a private investigator who works cheating spouse cases. His office assistant is Jenny McLean though he has no idea why this beautiful brilliant woman stays with him. Solicitor Mr. Turtledove informs Jack he inherited his late father’s estate, which confuses him since his parents died a decade ago. The solicitor explains that the Nightingales were his adoptive parents, but his biological dad is the late Ainsley Gosling. His father leaves Jack a DVD in which he explains he sold his son’s soul at birth and a demon from hell will collect on his upcoming thirty-third birthday. As he follows the enigmatic mystical trail, he finds out Gosling committed suicide and rhere is useful information in a new mansion’s customized library. Meanwhile; death pursues people he knows.

This is an exciting horror noir starring an unlikable individual who inherits a place in hell. Fast-paced from the moment the little girl leaps and never slowing down, readers will enjoy Nightingale’s nightmare as he realizes chain smoking will no longer be the death of him.

Harriet Klausner

Magic Without Mercy-Devon Monk

Magic Without Mercy

Devon Monk

Roc, Apr 3 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780451464484

In Portland, Hound Allie Beckstrom always was proud that she and her team rigidly adhered to the strict rules of the overseeing of magic Authority even when risking their lives and souls in support of the practitioners (see Magic at the Gate and Magic at the Hunt). However, to prevent a magical plague from spreading and end a serial killer’s reign of terror, Allie Beckstrom shot the new Authority Chief Bartholomew Wray (see Magic On The Line). Her dead dad keeps reminding her inside her head that she had no choice, but filled with Shame, Allie, her lover Zayvion Jones, and other friends have been declared outlaws for violating the rules even if their cause was just as the end never justifies the mean.

As Allie struggles with the Shame of the killing, she and her team elude the Authority and the cops while seeking a means to cleanse the poisoned magic and finally end the plague; the answer seems to rest with a lunatic. At the same, they must cope with the Veiled murdering people.

This is a great entry in a superior urban fantasy series, as conscientious Allie knows logically she did the right thing with Wray, but emotionally feels Shame as she broke the Authority rules, which run deep in her brain. Fast-paced and loaded with action, fans will relish this direct sequel (need to have read at least Magic On The Line) as guilt wracked Allie and her cohorts struggle with doing the right thing as hostilities turn heated with the doomsday clock striking the midnight hour.

Harriet Klausner

Alien Diplomacy-Gini Koch

Alien Diplomacy

Gini Koch

Daw, Apr 3 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780756407162

Newlyweds Jeff and Kitty Martini resign their positions as Centaurion Division exterminators-commanders to raise their infant Jamie. The family moves to Washington DC as head diplomats at the recently formed Centaurion Embassy.

However, they find the American capital as dangerous as some of their extermination missions were. A bomb blows up the limo that the Martini pair were supposed to be in. Additionally, Kitty learns of a major assassination plot planned at the upcoming Presidential Ball. Though POTUS is the most obvious target, Kitty has doubts though she remains clueless who else or why, but believes aliens are involved. Jeff, Kitty and their crew hunt for a killer and for a killer dress.

The latest Kitty Katt Alien satirical science fiction thriller (see Alien Proliferation, Touched by an Alien, Alien Tango and Alien in the Family) is a superb jocular entry that is filled with twists, spins and humor. Fast-paced, readers will believe the two species are real (as are other not quite as benign ETs); while the Jamie effect continues to nuke the lifestyle of the parents. With a sort of Mork in Men In Black lampooning, readers will enjoy this amusing action-packed tale in which nothing in alien (as observed by the rest of the country and the Centaurions) DC is sacred.

Harriet Klausner

The Thirteenth Sacrifice-Debbie Viguie

The Thirteenth Sacrifice

Debbie Viguie

Signet, Apr 3 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780451236364

Boston PD Detectives Samantha Ryan and her partner Ed Hofferman arrive at the scene of coed Camille’s homicide in an off campus apartment. On the forehead of the victim is a bloody pentagram, but there is no blood anywhere else on the deceased or in the room. They interview the roommate Katie who claims to be a solitary practicing witch, but Samantha realizes she offers nothing not even emotion; while the victim’s new boyfriend Brad cries. George the coroner informs Samantha that the pentagram was drawn in nail polish several hours after the death.

The two cops head to St. Vincent’s Cathedral where Sister Mary Ellen has a waxed pentagram on her forehead. Next Katie’s former boyfriend Kyle is found dead by his roommates. Samantha believes Kyle’s death is a red herring by a clever killer who wants the cops looking at Katie as the killer. His girlfriend Tina arrives hysterical; which leads to Samantha hugging her. Soon afterward, Samantha loses her cross while subsequently more murders follow; she increasingly believes the vicious witches that she descends from have returned to Salem using sacrifices to embellish their power.

The first Witch Hunt urban fantasy police procedural is a terrific thriller due to a strong protagonist who converted from witchcraft practitioner to Christian believer. The whodunit is clever as Samantha has to return to her roots going undercover to ferret out the serial killer as she believes the motive is power. Readers will appreciate Detective Ryan affirming “You Can’t Go Home Again” (Thomas Wolfe) as she returns to a community she fled several years ago.

Harriet Klausner

Songs of the Earth-Elspeth Cooper

Songs of the Earth

Elspeth Cooper

Tor, Feb 28 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9780765331656

Gair has been a dedicated holy knight who has devoted his life to the revelatory service of the Lady and the Church. However, his loyalty proves insufficient as he breaks the prime law of the Holy City when he hears the music of magic. Declared rightfully as a witch he expects to burn at the stake. Tormented by his taint though keeping his head up and looking at his accusers, Gair knows even if he wanted to escape, which he does not as he must die, the Church Knights led by the Witchfinder would hunt him down like an animal.

However, he is taken aback when Preceptor Ansel changes his death sentence to permanent exile from the parish. Leaving the Holy City to starve to death, a mysterious stranger Alderan of the Guardians of the Veil, who watched the court proceedings, escorts the shocked young man away. However, a dying Goran sends his Knights and a Witchfinder after them, but they escape as they begin their journey to a place where the lad can learn to control his magical skills as he learns that the Guardians of the Veil patrol the barrier that separates this realm from a hell; while being mentored by Aysha the shapeshifter.

This is an entertaining fantasy with several subplots, but mostly the trek, the school (especially the older woman younger man romance) and the search for answers by Ansel and Goran. The fast-paced but somewhat straightforward storyline will remind fans of E. Rose Sabin's "School For Sorcery" saga though the protagonist of Songs of the Earth is older. Readers will enjoy the opening Cooper mythos as a breach in the gate of hell gives a trainee a baptism of fire.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hush Now, Don't You Cry- Rhys Bowen

Hush Now, Don't You Cry

Rhys Bowen

Minotaur Books; Mar 13 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312628116

In 1903, newlyweds Molly Murphy and NYPD captain Daniel Sullivan arrive in Newport for their honeymoon during a terrible storm. The couple is staying at the cottage of New York City alderman Brian Hannan, but they find the gates locked. As they are about to leave, Molly notices a hysterically laughing child in a window of the main house; as apparently their host failed to tell his family of the Sullivan couple staying at the estate. Soon afterward, Hannan is found dead at the nearby bottom of a cliff and the Newport police deem the two New Yorkers are the only suspects though they declare an accident occurred.

The victim’s family wants the pair to leave, but Daniel is ill suffering from pneumonia. Though Molly promises not to investigate, she cannot prevent herself from making inquiries when she rejects the coincidence that an accident occurred as she learns Brian’s granddaughter died in the same way at the same spot.

The latest Molly Murphy historical mystery (see Bless the Bride) is a great entry with a strong solution as the location provides a fresh look at early twentieth century America. The unsinkable Molly seeks the motive, which she assumes is money in what she believes are two homicides done by a family member while her frustrated ailing spouse is bedridden. Fans of the Murphy amateur sleuth saga will relish this particularly excellent whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Terrified-Kevin O'Brien


Kevin O'Brien

Pinnacle, Mar 27 2012, $9.99

ISBN: 9780786021383

In 1996 in Glenview, Illinois, a child finds human body parts in a garbage bag. The police arrest prominent surgeon Dr. Glenn Swann for the murder of his wife Lisa. Following the “garbage bag killing” story in the Chicago Tribune from Seattle, Megan Keeler gives birth to a son Josh while her sadistic husband is convicted of her murder back in Illinois. She rationalizes not coming back home to her belief her abusive spouse would one day kill her and their unborn child.

A few years later, while always looking over her shoulder, Megan begins receiving anonymous threatening emails from someone who knows who she is and what she did. At the same Glenn has been released from prison. Living in total fear of what might happen; Megan is stunned when someone wearing a mask kidnaps Josh. Her worst nightmare has occurred and she has no doubt that Glenn abducted Josh as part of his terror campaign aimed at his runaway wife.

Though the theme of a spouse fleeing for her life by pretending to be dead (see Sleeping With the Enemy) is not new, Kevin O’Brien provides a fresh exhilarating spin by making the child the rope in a deadly tug of war. Lisa-Megan seems genuine with her obsessed fears even before the terror begins anew with the taking of Josh as she makes the exciting twisting psychological suspense storyline work with her personal horror.

Harriet Klausner

Upon A Mystic Tide- Vicki Hinze

Upon A Mystic Tide

Vicki Hinze

Bell Bridge, Dec 8 2011, $15.95

ISBN: 9781611940848

After several years of separation, married couple, New Orleans radio psychologist Dr. Bess Cameron and investigator John Mystic, has their lawyers battle over a divorce settlement. Bess wants nothing while John wants her to have everything. They meet at Seascape Inn in Sea Haven Village, Maine to finalize their divorce.

Though angry at Bess for failing to attend the funeral of Elise, who was like a mother to him, John knows he does not want their marriage to end as he still loves his wife though he remains uncertain why she left him. Bess still loves her husband, but believes he loves someone else as he chose the case of Elise’s missing daughter over her. Resident Tony the ghost not only calls Bess at her show, he speaks to John in the man’s head. To insure Bess can no longer run, Tony disables her car. Tony and his sidekick inn proprietor Miss Hattie plan to make this couple communicate.

The reprint of the second Vicki Hinze (written as Victoria Barrett) Seascape contemporary Maine romantic fantasy is a whimsical engaging tale as the paranormal matchmaker works his magic on the recalcitrant married couple. The storyline is character driven by the living couple and the matchmaking spirit who with his human helper struggles to bring this couple in love back together. Although the story line stands alone, it behooves the audience to read Ms. Hinze’s entertaining Beyond the Misty Shores (written as Ms. Barrett) and The Perfect Stranger by Rosalyn Alsobrook to better understand the magic of Seascape. Regardless, readers will enjoy their visit to this coastal Maine B&B.

Harriet Klausner

The Games-Ted Kosmatka

The Games

Ted Kosmatka

Del Rey, Mar 13 2012, $25.00

ISBN: 9780345526618

The Olympics include the Gladiator blood-sport in which genetically created competitors fight to the death. The only rule is no human DNA is allowed as strict testing will lead to disqualifications and ruined reputations.

Geneticist Silas Williams has led the Americans to the gold in every previous contest and there is no reason to believe he and his team will not do likewise again. However, this year, instead of Silas creating the entry, an AI was programmed to do so with one business rule¨ survive the competition at all cost. However, the new representative proves diabolical, bellicose and amoral as it heeds the prime directive by killing anyone, gladiators and human, in the way. Additionally the out of control monster enjoys dining on humans. Silas and xenobiologist Vidonia Joao must find a way prevent further mayhem by unlocking the American entry’s genome code.

The cast is solid as even the creation seems genuine while the subplots nicely converge into a strong tense finish. Taut throughout, but especially when the AI completes the mission, The Games is a terrific tale even though reader will anticipate the PERT chart path of this exciting cautionary science fiction; as Ted Kosmatka makes his intriguing modernization of Frankenstein a gold medal winner.

Harriet Klausner

A Crown Imperiled-Raymond E. Feist

A Crown Imperiled

Raymond E. Feist

Harper Voyager, Mar 13 2012, $27.99

ISBN: 9780061468414

Jim Dasher and his espionage unit conclude Midkemia appears on the verge of deadly chaos and there seems to be nothing they can do to prevent what looks inevitable as hostilities explode almost everywhere. Meanwhile the Moredhel dark elves fear the arrival of the powerful feral Taredhel elves of the stars. Desperate War Chieftain Arkan enters the realm of man to bring back to the land of elves Pug the Magician, prophesied to save his realm.

Pug, accompanied by Sandreena and Amirantham, asks the Conclave of Shadows for help; but fails to obtain any definitive support and the trio seeks what is behind all the mounting evil that appears the be destroying Midkemia. Demons breach the realm from the outside while various coups in neighboring states leave the Kingdom fractured as unrest grows from within.

The second Chaoswar fantasy (see A Kingdom Besieged) is an entertaining Riftwar thriller containing several subplots tied together by Dasher and his crew. Filled with twists and a strong look at political and military intrigue Midkemia and its neighboring lands, this is a fast-paced entry that readers will enjoy. Fans of the long running saga will wonder what darkness next will befall the people of Midkemia and especially ponder how present events tie back to the past.

Harriet Klausner

Taken At Dusk-C.C. Hunter

Taken At Dusk

C.C. Hunter

St. Martin’s Griffin, Apr 10 2012, $9.99

ISBN: 9780312624699

Sixteen years old orphan Kylie Galen desperately seeks understanding about her essence, which can only come from knowledge at a time when her adopted parents are divorcing. She needs to know her biological roots as she was adopted and learns more about her recently activated dormant powers in which she has a new one every few days or so. Even with the spirit of her biological dad Daniel cautioning her, euphoric because a source surfaced, her paternal grandparents, the Brightens thinks she is a troubled youth sight unseen.

Attending the Shadow Falls camp for teens with supernatural powers, she also likes the two campers, hunks Lucas and Derek. While she can’t make up her mind about the boys, Lucas’ werewolf pack makes it for them as she is declared taboo. Additionally an ancient vampire stalks her and her new ghost, suffering from amnesia, haunts her with warnings that death is coming.

The third Shadow Falls young adult urban fantasy (see Awake At Dawn and Born At Midnight) is an engaging thriller Kylie (and readers) begins to learn the shocking truth about her genealogy. The protagonist also finds out that true friendship as she has with her roommates Miranda the witch and Della the vampire enhances ones power by strengthening confidence and self-esteem. Paraphrasing Robin Ward’s song, this is the most wonderful (and frightening) summer of her life.

Harriet Klausner

Sins Of The Son-Linda Poitevin

Sins Of The Son

Linda Poitevin

Ace, Mar 27 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9781937007379

Toronto Homicide Detective Alexandra Jarvis was a key player in ending the serial killing spree of Caim the fallen angel who had escaped from Limbo incarceration (see Sins of the Angels). However, victory came at an exorbitant price as she lost her soul mate. Seth Benjamin the angel, who insisted he is the appointed judge of mankind, saved Alex’s life.

To her shock, Alex sees Seth’s picture on a police bulletin. She knows something went terribly wrong as Seth was to prevent Armageddon but instead suffers from amnesia. Led by Lucifer, the Fallen come for Seth, as do the archangels. At the same time Caim’s exiled brother Aramael the Guardian Angel seeking divine redemption plans to kill the Appointed one before he destroys the Creator’s greatest creation. Alex plans to protect Seth from heaven, hell and anything in between.

The second Grigori Legacy is a great urban fantasy filled with twists, back stabbing and several terrific subplots that converge in Vancouver. Fast-paced from the onset, fans will relish this strong thriller as Lucifer and the Fallen hatch a diabolical plan to cause Armageddon.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dark River Road-Virginia Brown

Dark River Road

Virginia Brown

Bell Bridge, Nov 15 2011, $26.95

ISBN: 9781611940558

In 1987 in Cane Creek, Mississippi, fourteen year old Chantry Callahan lives with his mom, his stepfather, his younger brother Mikey and two older stepbrothers. He believes his biological father died in Viet Nam. His stepfather Rainey hated the two reminders that his spouse was married once before; especially Mike who needs heart surgery and walks with braces. Chantry turned to the family’s black neighbor Dempsey Rivers the gardener as a father figure while he played with the daughter Tansey whose mother was white.

The Quinton family owns the town as they have for generations. Bert is the patriarch who rules as a despot while his spoiled grandson Chris enjoys his status as a future heir by picking on other though he has one chick in his royal armor; his attraction to unacceptable Tansy. Chantry and Bert’s granddaughter Cinda begin dating until her mother ends their relationship and the town patriarch takes it out on the lad’s loved ones. Chantry leaves town, but vows to return to learn the truth. Fifteen years later he is back seeking justice.

This is an entertaining regional drama told in two distinct periods with both eras coming vividly to life as the Mississippi Delta having radically changed in many ways in the fifteen year gap; yet in key ways remain the same as Bert still owns the town. Character driven with several mysteries then and now, fans will enjoy Chantry’s return home that shakes decades of status quo.

Harriet Klausner

The Singles-Meredith Goldstein

The Singles

Meredith Goldstein

Plume, Apr 24 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780452298057

In Annapolis, bride to be Beth Eleanor “Bee” Evans works on placing the singles at a tables who are attending her wedding to Matt Fee. She considers where to seat Vicki, Hannah, Rob, Joe and Nancy.

New York based casting director Hannah is upset as she hoped her first lover Rob would help her through the weekend of seeing her second lover Tom for the first time since he dumped her. Instead she turns to Vicki as Rob is staying in Austin with his epileptic dog Liz. Bee’s divorced with child Uncle Joe knows his sister-in-law Donna does not want him at the wedding; when he sees Rochester based grocery store interior decorator Vicki, he thinks she is the woman he had sex with in Reno; while she carries a guitar case containing her social affective disorder lamp. Widow Nancy sends her son Camden Yards security chief Phil to attend the marriage. The dynamics of the Singles will shake the wedding weekend.

The escapades of the Singles at the wedding reception are fun to follow with an engaging rotating viewpoint. However, the prime ensemble cast is underdeveloped so some of their aberrant behavior like taking a pill from a stranger or jumping the bones of someone you just met is hard to gauge in full context of who they are and prevents readers from caring for the characters. Still the evolution of the Singles over that weekend is an enjoyable character driven tale as each of the quintet begins to move on with their lives.

Harriet Klausner

Enchantments-Kathryn Harrison


Kathryn Harrison

Random House, Mar 6 2012, $27.00

ISBN: 9781400063475

In 1917 hemophiliac Rasputin is found dead in the Neva River. Tsarina Alexandra worries about the health of her son Alexei Nikolaevich Romanov as the late Mad Monk was his healer in the lad’s on-going battle with hemophilia at a time when pressure mounts for her husband Tsar Nikoly to abdicate. Rasputin names the Tsar as guardian to his two teenage daughters. However, the Tsarina has a different reason to send for Rasputin’s oldest child, eighteen years old Masha, as she hopes the child inherited her father’s power so she can tend to her offspring.

Masha and her sister Varya take the train from St. Petersburg to Tsarskie Selo as they journey to The Alexander palace where the former Russian royal family resides. Masha lacks the legendary skills of her infamous sire, but she and Alyosha as she calls Alex become friends. Two months after the sisters arrive, the Tsar and his family is placed under house arrest. The pair shares tales to pass time, alleviate their fears, and not dwell on what is lost.

This is an interesting work of historical fiction that focuses on the last months of the Romanovs through the eyes of Rasputin’s daughter. The tidbits of Tsarist life in the early twentieth century is vivid and insightful as the audience get to know a lot about the family of the last Russian ruler and Rasputin. However, neither Masha nor Alyosha seem fully developed beyond their stories and friendship. Still this is an engaging look at the final days of the Romanov dynasty.

Harriet Klausner

Border Run-Simon Lewis

Border Run

Simon Lewis

Scribner, Apr 24 2012, $22.00

ISBN 9781416596059

Howard takes affluent British youngsters Will and Jake on a special tour of Yunan Province near the Chinese border with Burma. He promised to show them a special waterfall in the forest and introduce the visitors to tribal girls who enjoy sex with handsome young westerners.

However, their dream fantasy turns ugly nightmare when they reach the waterfall and the women. Howard has used the two morons as a cover to his smuggling operation; and the females are hired help. Increasingly in deepening trouble, a customs official challenges the Brits for being near the border. Jake uses a crossbow to kill him, but efforts to conceal the crime sends the pair into even more tsuris. As the BFFs become best enemies forever, their chances of escape seemingly diminishes to zero.

This tense thriller focuses on how easily civilization (and friendship) is stripped away from the affluent when removed from their familiar taken for granted safety net and left in a ferocious jungle to fend for themselves in a reality survival of the deadliest scenario. Fast-paced from the moment the foolish lads meet Howard, fans will enjoy the Border Run as the adage "if it's too good to be true, it probably is" proves lethally valid.

Harriet Klausner

The Ice Cream Girls-Dorothy Koomson

The Ice Cream Girls

Dorothy Koomson

Grand Central, Apr 24 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781455507139

The 1989 Daily News Chronicle contains an article about The Ice Cream Girls (teenagers Poppy Carlisle and Serena Gorringe) standing trial for the murder of their popular history teacher Marcus Halnsey. Both deny torturing and stabbing to death Halnsey who abused both of his students, warned them to remain silent or else; while also saying he loved them. Poppy was convicted of the homicide and went to prison while Serena was acquitted and set free.

Over two decades later, Poppy is released from prison. All this time behind bars she had one goal: to prove her innocence. Poppy seeks Serena to force her to tell the truth as to what happened in 1989, but the girl, who was never her friend in spite of the media lies to the contrary, vanished.

Serena is married to Dr. Evan Gillmaire. They have two children and though she is happy, Serena lives in fear that her notoriety will surface and cost her family as she has never been able to tell Evan the truth even while she believes Poppy was the killer.

Rotating perspective between the title characters in different time periods, The Ice Cream Girls is an exciting psychological suspense that grips the reader with a need to know what happened in the 1980s and what will occur as obsessed Poppy stalks family woman Serena. Both remains haunted by Marcus as neither fully moved on. The media hangs the two teens as Lolita while ignoring an adult in a mentoring position having sex with both of them and the court follows the news frenzied lead seems wrong but feels hypocritically honest. Fans will enjoy this taut thriller while wondering who killed the popular teacher.

Harriet Klausner