Sunday, September 30, 2012

Finding Mercy-Karen Harper

Finding Mercy

Karen Harper

Mira, Oct 16 2012, $14.95

ISBN: 9780778313977

Thirtyish Alex Caldwell detests what has happened to his life ever since he turned witness against his ex-boss Marv Boynton who conducted illegal deals with the Chinese. Alec rejected the witness protection program while waiting for the trial to begin. He knows his career on Wall Street is dead as is the firm SkyBound he worked for but hopes to start over soon. In Atlanta while his bodyguard Jake sleeps, Alec steps out only to have someone shoot at him.

The hit attempt leads to Alec placed in WITSEC where he is hidden amongst the Amish in Home Valley, Ohio. Alec meets Ella Lantz, the daughter of his hosts. They are attracted to one another though she knows he is not Amish even if the elders imply otherwise that his difference comes from being a Pennsylvania cousin. As they fall in love, the outside world intrudes with hit men trying to kill Alec; collateral damage being acceptable. As the couple flees Eden County, accompanied by her grosmamm, the enemy pursues them.

The third Home Valley Amish romance (see Return to Grace and Fall From Pride) is an exciting rendition of Witness with the twist that the lead couple flees Amish country. Fast-paced and filled with action, readers will this love on the run romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

The Five O'Clock Follies: What's a Woman Doing Here, Anyway?- Theasa Tuohy

The Five O'Clock Follies: What's a Woman Doing Here, Anyway?

Theasa Tuohy

Calliope Press, Oct 15 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780984779918

In 1968 freelance writer Angela Martinelli arrives in Saigon as a rare female war correspondent. Her male counterparts ridicule the tall classy looking Angela in her high heels and long red hair as out of place in Vietnam. Only Chicago journalist Nick O’Brien gives her a chance to prove herself if she acclimates to life without American upper middle class “luxuries” like a lovely summer dress.

Angela adapts to the ups and downs of war reporting. She bravely covers a covert operation in Cambodia and escapes from the Viet Cong while the military deny any breaching of the boundaries. Her male counterparts continue to scorn her as they reject her accounts as female fanciful fabrications except for Nick.

This is a powerful military historical thriller that focuses on journalists covering the Vietnam War especially a feisty courageous woman crashing through the glass ceiling. The excitement occurs during the major events like the Tet Offensive and the insight into the psychological and physical injuries sustained by the soldiers and reporters. When the storyline concentrates on the mundane between the key war moments the plot slows down yet is even more discerning as the audience observes the journalists (and soldiers) dealing with ennui yet anticipating the next bipolar explosion to report on. The Five O'Clock Follies answers “What's a Woman Doing Here, Anyway?” with reporting the news.

Harriet Klausner

Strong Poison: Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane

Strong Poison: Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane

Dorothy L. Sayers

Harper, Oct 16 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780062196200

In 1929 mystery writer Harriet Vane stands trial for the arsenic poisoning of her fiancé, author Philip Boyes. Everyone knows she murdered Boyes as she had the means having purchased strychnine, prussic acid, and arsenic just before he died; the opportunity as he was her fiancée though she left him after a spat heard by the neighbors; and the motive as her intended was an advocate of free love, which may have been why that argued.

Unable to resist the lure of the most scandalous murder cases in years, Detective Lord Peter Wimsey attends the trial expecting to find a killer. After hearing the evidence and observing the accused in the dock, Peter explains to Chief Inspector Charles Parker that the latter erred as the accused is innocent. The jury shockingly reports they failed to reach a unanimous verdict as three holdouts refuses to bow to the pressure of the other members. He gets Sir Impey Biggs to add him onto the defense team as he investigates the murder with intensity as he has fallen in love with the accused. After being the forty-seventh person to propose to Miss Vane, Wimsey investigates.

The reprint of the first Wimsey-Vane mystery is a terrific period piece that brings to life 1920s England. The whodunit is entertaining as time is running out on identifying who killed Boyes. The whimsical fun in this tale comes from Wimsey’s serial proposals and vane’s serial refusals. Fans will relish this strong entry as Dorothy L. Sayers shows why she remains relevant with her ability to provide a slice of a bygone era to the reader.

Harriet Klausner

A Grid For Murder-Casey Mayes

A Grid For Murder

Casey Mayes

Berkley Prime Crime, Oct 2 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425251645

Savannah Stone drives into nearby Asheville, North Carolina when she stops for tea at Café Noir. She would have headed straight home in Parson’s Valley if she knew obnoxious Joanne Clayton was there. Joanne shows Savannah a puzzle she created that was bought by the Asheville Alternative newspaper. Savannah, who is a nationally syndicated puzzle creator, congratulates her. Two other residents of Parson’s Valley Laura Moon and Sandra Oliver join them.

When she gets home, her husband retired Charlotte police chief Zach tells her that someone poisoned Joanne. Savannah tells her spouse about having distasteful tea with Joanna. Zach takes her to the Asheville police where State Police Captain North temporarily runs the office. Savannah tells her story to North and Zach offers his services. Back home, Savannah, worrying about her reputation as a relative newcomer, and her widow friend hardware store owner Rob Hastings draw up a list of suspects as they investigate the murder.

The third Mystery by the Numbers (see A Killer Column and A Deadly Row) is an engaging amateur sleuth as Savannah and Rob work their inquiry. His reason for investigating seems possible though unlikely; while hers seems improbable. Still the whodunit is clever as Savannah works her suspect list by the numbers.

Harriet Klaussner

Mrs. Malory and a Necessary End-Hazel Holt

Mrs. Malory and a Necessary End

Hazel Holt

Obsidian, Oct 2 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780451415387

Monica’s daughter Julia needs her after giving birth prematurely while moving. She asks her friend Sheila Malory to replace her three days a week over the next few weeks as a volunteer at a charity shop in Taviscombe. Initially greeted by dreadful Norma Stanley, Mrs. Malory finds the work interesting. However, she also dislikes her controlling egomaniac supervisor the unpleasant Desmond Barlow; a pain to work for as he always criticizes the staff and bullies his wife Wendy; even Norma bows to his tyranny.

Someone must have agreed with Mrs. Malory’s assessment just more sharply when the murdered corpse of Desmond is found in the shop. Inspector Bob Morris leads the inquiry while Mrs. Malory gossiping with friends and other townsfolk begins to uncover pertinent information about a man universally disliked.

The latest Mrs. Mallory English village cozy (see Mrs. Malory And Any Man’s Death) is a fascinating leisurely paced whodunit. Mrs. Malory’s guided tour of Taviscombe enables the armchair reader to see the town through her eyes. Well written and fun to read although fans will quickly boil down the killer to one of two people.

Harriet Klausner

Murder She Wrote: Domestic Malice-Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

Murder She Wrote: Domestic Malice

Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

NAL, Oct 2 2012, $23.95

ISBN: 9780451238030

In Cabot Cove, Maine, mystery writer Jessica Fletcher volunteers at the Cabot Cove Women’s Shelter. She and the shelter’s head Edwinna Wilkerson are chatting at the facility when battered Myriam Wolcott arrives. The mother of two (sixteen years old Mark and twelve years old Ruth) rejects medical attention, rejects filing a police report and refuses to remain at the facility. She goes home though she fears her spouse Josh, a financial planner, will harm her again.

The next morning Edwinna shocks Jessica with the news that someone murdered Josh just outside his home. Myriam’s brother and sister-in-law arrive followed by her martinet mother Mrs. Caldwell who threatens legal action if either Edwinna or Jessica mentions her daughter’s visit to the shelter. Mrs. Caldwell warns the sheriff as well while demanding her late son-in-law provide her with the will. When Myriam confesses, Jessica begins an investigation though she vowed not to.

The latest Murder She Wrote mystery (see Trouble at High Tide) is a terrific whodunit that highlights family abuse and to a lesser degree environmental concerns. The whodunit is clever with a stunning twist on top of an “obvious” spin as Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain provide a super mystery that leaves the heroine questioning whether the truth is always the right thing.

Harriet Klausner

The Trial of Fallen Angels-James Kimmel, Jr.

The Trial of Fallen Angels

James Kimmel, Jr.

Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, Nov 8 2012, $23.95

ISBN: 9780399159695

Brek Abigail Cuttler arrives at abandoned Shemaya Train Station bloody and is somewhat confused about how she got here and what her ten month old daughter Sarah looks like. Luas arrives to inform her that she died when she stopped to pick up milk. The lawyer thinks he is her first legal mentor the late Bill Gwynne. She rejects the notion that she is dead though she misses her child and her spouse Bo.

He escorts her to her to her beloved deceased Nana’s house to prepare her for her afterlife as a defense attorney for souls going before the all mighty Judge. Nana tells her granddaughter that the souls she meets will help her deal with what happened to her on the mortal plane and prepare her to continue her celestial journey. Brek begins her passionate defense of her clients but wonders whether one can receive a fair trial without a jury of your peers when God is sitting in judgment and oversees the procedures.

This exciting allegorical tale uses the Albert Brooks’ “Defending Your Life" premise enhanced by God sitting in judgment of the souls before the celestial bench. The storyline engages the reader while Brek keeps the plot focused as she raises questions of fair play, redemption and forgiveness. Although the key celestial cast is underdeveloped, fans will enjoy Brek’s look at most people who are saint and sinner as she appeals that the judgmental procedures are biased towards the wicked deeds superseding the good ones.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Choices-Galia Ryan


Galia Ryan

Fanny Press, Oct 15 2012, $12.95

ISBN: 9781603815147

After years of exorbitant spending on luxurious fashion that she rarely if ever uses, Anna faces personal bankruptcy; which is a horrible scenario for anyone, but exponentially worse for a banker. She no longer can use her credit cards as they are maxed out due to her spending addiction. Her efforts as a born again miser trying live frugally in order to pay off her debt barely have an impact as the accruing interest continues to overwhelm her. Anna needs an additional revenue stream, but ponders what part-time occupation would pay enough to reduce her bills.

Like many financially strapped females before her, Anna knows of only one job that could prove lucrative; she becomes a private escort with plans to retire once her cards are cleared. However, though Anna makes plenty of money enabling her to pay off her debt, she finds a new addiction especially with Jake and Adams.

Anna’s apparent addictive personality makes for a strong character driven BDSM tale as she goes from the ecstasy of serial shopper to the ecstasy of serial sex. The two men she likes enhance reader understanding of Anna as they are opposite sides of the same coin. However, this is Anna’s awesome adventure with her bouncing from one decision to another only to find new daunting options await her while she learns life is a series of Choices.

Harriet Klausner

Double Blind-Brandilyn Collins

Double Blind

Brandilyn Collins

B&H Books, Oct 15 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781433671647

The past two years of constant traumatic events has destroyed twenty-nine year old Lisa Newberry. She suffered three miscarriages followed by the death of her husband Ryan in an accident and finally five months ago was nearly murdered by a robber in a parking lot. Feeling all alone and abandoned by God, Lisa is severely depressed.

Desperate and unable to live a normal life, Lisa applies as a guinea pig in a medical research experiment in which a chip implanted in the brain emits electrical pulses to heal severe depression. She is accepted as a participant but now fears the concept of brain surgery going awry and perhaps worse being a placebo in the double-blind study. Though nearly mentally paralyzed by her bone marrow deep trepidations, Lisa becomes a study subject.

This is a great refreshing psychological thriller that grips the audience from start to finish. Fans will feel empathy for Lisa who has suffered from one tragedy after another until she no longer functions. Filled with stunning plausible twists, readers will appreciate Brandilyn Collins’ intense tale as we wonder whether Lisa is live pulses or the placebo effect.

Harriet Klausner

Fifteen Tales of Murder, Mayhem and Malice from the Land of Minnesota Nice-Minnesota Crime Wave

Fifteen Tales of Murder, Mayhem and Malice from the Land of Minnesota Nice

Minnesota Crime Wave

Nodin Press, Sep 12 2012, $16.00

ISBN: 9781935666431

The fifteen fine entries that make up the Minnesota Crime Wave anthology are very short engaging stories with each one under 20 pages. All the contributions are well written while varying from jocular to thrilling. In the humorous “This Old House” by Marilyn Victor, wheelchair bound Esther keeps persuading her younger septuagenarian sister to look at various spots where their father hid the family treasure. Though he suffers from PTSD, he knows the Shadow Men come for them unprepared in Richard A. Thompson’s dark “The Dark Under The Bed.” The clever “Desperadoes” (by Michael Allen Mallory) cannot escape since their getaway car broke down so they take a couple hostage. Murder suspect Toni Barre asks her friend statuesque Catherine if the latter’s short private eye boyfriend Sean NMI Sean can investigate the death of Councilman Springfield in exciting “The Horse He Rode In” by Carl Brookins. Kate intercedes on behalf of her BFF Anna when Josh abuses the latter in “Stone Arch Bridge” by Judith Borger. Fans of short crime tales will appreciate this super compilation.

Harriet Klausner

Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels

Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels

John Connolly (Editor) and Declan Burke (Editor)

Atria/Emily Bestler, Oct 2 2012, $29.99

ISBN: 9781451696578

This is an excellent collection of 120 essays based on the premise that a current great mystery writer selects a mystery that they personally enjoy and explain why. The emotional depth of the entries varies but each contribution provides a solid rationale as to their respective selection with the range being cast from Kellie Stanley’s homage to Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express to Chris Brookmyre lauding Douglas Adams' Dirk Gentry’s Holistic Detective Agency to Liza Marklund loving the Nancy Drew classic The Ghost of Blackwood Hall by Carolyn Keene. The anthology includes articles on nineteenth century works by Poe, Dickens, Collins and Doyle and another Doyle classic from 1902 (The Hound of the Baskervilles). Most of the compilations occurs between 1928 and 2008; this providing a wide range. I personally enjoyed reading the 1930s and 1940s contributions as many are books I read years ago and became movies that I saw with my husband years ago in midnight movie theaters though the Cold War and subsequent decades commentaries are also engaging.

Harriet Klausner

Savage Hunger-Terry Spear

Savage Hunger

Terry Spear

Sourcebooks, Oct 2 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9781402266928

In the Amazon Rain Forest drug cartel operatives kill five members of a US Army team and capture the solo survivor Captain Kathleen McKnight who they plan to bring to their chief Carlos Gonzales. Though he knows better and can picture his sister Maya yelling at him for getting involved, jaguar-shifter Connor Anderson intercedes saving her life.

One year later in the Columbian Amazon Rain Forest, Connor still dreams of Kathleen. She returns seeking the man accompanied by a jaguar who saved her life. When they meet while he is the jaguar, Connor knows Kathleen is his mate. Now all he has to do is persuade his woman that the jaguar and the man are the same person sharing a Savage Hunger for her.

Shifting (pun intended) from wolves (see Dreaming of the Wolf and Wolf Fever) to jaguars, Terry Spear provides an entertaining paranormal jungle romance. The lead couple forges a delightful triangle between the beast, the man and their woman. With a strong supporting Spear mythos, fans will enjoy visiting the Amazon Rain Forest and wondering what trouble Maya can get into when she seeks her mate.

Harriet Klausner

Quantum Coin-E.C. Myers

Quantum Coin

E.C. Myers

PYR, Oct 2 2012, $16.95

ISBN: 9781616146825

Summerside High student Ephraim "Eph" Scott found the coin that when flipped seemingly granted wishes. However, the quarter proved much more complex than simple magic as he learns basic multiverse physics since the coin is a cosmic traveling machine that sent him into alternate realities (see Fair Coin).

One year has passed since he stopped an evil version of his best friend Nathan from destroying his loved ones. The coin no longer works as he used its power to repair the evil Nathan’s destruction of the alternate universes. He gave it to his girlfriend Jena as part of a necklace. However, Zoe, a Jena counterpart from another realm arrives needing his help. Nathanial has sent an SOS. Unsure how Zoe got to his plane of existence since his coin died, Eph, accompanied by the two identical yet different girls he likes, investigates. They learn the multiverse is slowly committing suicide.

The second Coin science fiction is a terrific young adult thriller that makes great use of chaos theory and teen romantic angst. At times frantic-paced, yet the key triangle thrives and insures that Quantum Coin stays anchored. E.C. Myers provides a fabulous tale as seemingly heads the multiverse dies and tails the multiverse dies.

Harriet Klausner

London Eye-Tim Lebbon

London Eye

Tim Lebbon

PYR, Oct 2 2012, $16.95

ISBN: 9781616146801

In 2017, the terrorist arrack turned thriving London into Toxic City. The assumption by British citizens outside the great metropolitan is that everyone inside the wasteland died on Doomsday. The Choppers special forces guard the perimeter of the city allegedly to not let anyone enter and unbeknownst to the outside world experiment on surviving Londoners.

Two years later teenage Jack and his younger sister Emily still mourn the deaths of their parents on Doomsday when the siblings, his girlfriend Lucy Anne, their buddy Sparky and true believer Jenna meet Rosemary the elderly healer. The woman calmly says she just came out of London via tunnels as the media and the government lied as to what has happened since the lethal assault. Jenna stabs Jack forcing Rosemary to prove her claim of being a healer. As she heals Jack, Rosemary explains there are other survivors who like her are gaining extrasensory powers. Jack proclaims that since there is a chance his mom lives, he must go inside to bring her out. His sibling and friends insist on going with him while Rosemary offers to guide them.

The first Toxic City dystopian urban fantasy is a superb conspiratorial thriller as Tim Lebbon establishes his wasteland London with its strange denizen as genuine. Making the Lebbon lure seem real are the reactions of Jack and his crew with awe and fear as they trek the city they no longer fully recognize. Filled with action fans will relish trekking the deadly London Eye wondering what wonder will we next meet.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 28, 2012

Eclipse-David Lehner


David Lehner

Daniel & Daniel Publishers, Oct 5 2012, $12.95

ISBN: 9781564745293

Amoral stockbroker Alex Jenkins tells his friend student Tom Jones that the latter’s ex-girlfriend (for one month) Sophia Weston wants to see him. Alex persuades Tom for them to journey to the summer home of Sophia’s parents where the young lady is staying. Before they leave, Alex steals signed first edition copies of works by Wolfe and Woolf from one of Tom’s professors. They sell the autographed tomes to an unscrupulous bookseller who will tear the pages apart to sell to collectors wanting a piece of the classics.

They head to the summer house, but no one is there though Alex breaks in. The neighbors see them and knowing Tom invite them into their home where Alex sleeps with the daughter to Tom’s horror. As they party hop while desperately seeking Sophia, Tom feels disgust with the debauching and lying of his compatriot. Soon he learns his image of virtuous Sophia is a lie as he is the only who has not slept with her. With his life in ruins as the professor threatens to destroy him for the thefts, Tom struggles with the temptations of amorality.

As noted on the back cover, David Lehner modernizes Petronius's The Satyricon (and pays homage to other classics) with this over the top morality drama starring two friends with opposite value systems. Alex is a hedonistic amoral rogue while Tom is an ethical individual with the dilemma that his accompanying his buddy on an out of control odyssey makes him guilty of association and omission. Although fans will find it difficult to accept Tom’s innocent naivety, Eclipse is a wild affair.

Harriet Klausner

The Gemini Virus-Wil Mara

The Gemini Virus

Wil Mara

Forge, Oct 2 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9780765324313

In Ramsey, New Jersey, Bob Easton dies in horrible agony from an unknown illness that had him suffering from large pustules on his entire body and total delirium,. However before he passed away, Bob spread the disease to others. Six more people are dead while the local health responders are overwhelmed with the sick.

Centers for Disease Control Epidemic Intelligence Service epidemiologists Michael Beck and Cara Porter investigate the horrific deaths. As they work the New Jersey epidemic trying to identify what the killer is and whether Easton is patient zero, the disease spreads exponentially across the United States and beyond. America panics as does the world.

With a nod to the movie Contagion, The Gemini Virus is a vivid (the audience will become mysophobia agoraphobic), exhilarating lethal virus thriller. Part of the fun is the reactions of people as some welcome the biblical End of Days while others blame the government. Fast-paced from the first cough and sneeze, the storyline never takes a respite as the Gemini Virus goes viral.

Harriet Klausner

Spy in a Little Black Dress-Maxine Kenneth

Spy in a Little Black Dress

Maxine Kenneth

Grand Central, Oct 2 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780446567428

In 1951, CIA rookie Jackie Bouvier feels better about her espionage work after surviving her first assignment (see Paris To Die For) and having received some need training. Deputy Director Allen Dulles asks the Washington Times-Herald photojournalist to meet and flirts with Jack Kennedy as he wants the Massachusetts Congressman to become “a friend of the CIA.”

Jackie is sent under the guise of her photojournalist job to Cuba. There she is to learn what she can about revolutionary Fidel Castro by getting inside the Communist Party. The CIA wants to better understand his objectives and whether he is a viable threat to the brutal regime of Battista.

The second Jackie Bouvier, CIA operative thriller is a fun over the top of Pico Turquino espionage tale. Fast-paced with plenty of action and anchored in time and place by real persona like Hemingway and Sinatra, fans who relish an exciting implausible action thriller will enjoy Jackie meeting Jack and Fidel as the Spy in a Little Black Dress.

Harriet Klausner

If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance-Paige Shelton

If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance

Paige Shelton

Berkley, Oct 2 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425251614

In Broken Rope, Missouri, Miz Winston owns Gram’s Country Cooking School; her granddaughter Isabelle “Betts” Winston works closely with her. Betts’ best friend, Broken Rope’s Historical Society historian and fake sheriff Jake asks them if they can host a busload of foodies whose reservation was messed up and provide cooking lessons. The two relatives wonder where anyone will stay except the floor as their establishment is not a hotel; Betts arranges accommodations for the foodie crowd.

Soon afterward, Miz and Betts encounter the ax-wielding ghost of patricide murderer Sally Swarthmore. She pleads with the pair to find her diary that will prove she is not the notorious cold-blooded killer of legend. They also find one of their guests dead with a noose around his neck; two other foodies are missing. Betts turns to her boyfriend Cliff of the local police department while also doing an inquiry.

The latest Country Cooking School Mystery (see If Fried Chicken Could Fly) is an entertaining amateur sleuth starring a heroine struggling to adapt to communicating with ghosts though she has a mentor helping her adjust. The pair of whodunits engages the audience though the solutions of each seem obvious early on. Still fans will enjoy Betts working paranormal and human murder cases.

Harriet Klausner

A Fatal Stain-Elise Hyatt

A Fatal Stain

Elise Hyatt

Berkley Prime Crime, Oct 2 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425255230

Daring Finds furniture refinishing storeowner Candyce "Dyce" Dare is running out of diversions as her mom and her BFF Ben Colm demand she join them to plan her wedding to Goldport Serious Crimes Unit Chief Investigator Cas Wolfe. Dyce struggles with their concept of Pythagoras dressed in a tuxedo as the Best Cat and fears whatever else the dynamic duo has in mind.

While sanding a table she bought at the semi-permanent garage sale, Dyce uncovers a stain that looks like blood. Though she knows it is probably her imagination running wild due to growing up in her parent’s mystery bookstore, Dyce visits the garage sale location accompanied by E. She learns the last owner vanished; so she wonders if the disappearance ties back to the stain.

The latest A Daring Finds investigation (see French Polished Murder) is an amusing amateur sleuth starring a likable but immature heroine. The mystery is fun to follow though Dyce has no real reason to make inquiries. Still fans will enjoy this cozy and appreciate tips on restoring furniture.

Harriet Klausner

Wicked Whisper-Nina Bangs

Wicked Whisper

Nina Bangs

Berkley, Oct 2 2012, $15.0

ISBN: 9780425253137

At the Castle of Dark Dreams on Galveston Island, guest Murmer the demon informs his friend Bain that he needs to find an isolated place to release his music power before he harms someone when he loses control due to his ability if turning into an internal torture. On a beach with no one in sight, he begins his tune.

Newly hired personal assistant to Sparkle Stardust whom she has not yet met, Ivy Lowe is on the beach when she hears the music. She cannot stop herself from dancing until Murmer joins her before freeing her. Ivy dreams of Murmer in spite of her efforts to focus on the job only. Holgarth the Wizard warns her to stay away from the dangerous Murmer whose music leaves others dead. Neither the dark Underworld soulless one nor the innocent human can avoid their attraction. However, Bain needs Murmer’s talent and has plans for Ivy involving the rescue of his love trapped with the Slaugh Sidhe Unseelie horde.

The latest erotic Castle of Dark Dreams romantic urban fantasy (see Wicked Fantasy and My Wicked Vampire) is an enjoyable wicked entry tale starring an intriguing demon whose power leaves fear in just about everyone; yet this nonentity holds her own with him. Though the lead couple’s relationship seems similar to that between the virginal angel and the sinful demon, fans will enjoy this fast-paced star-crossed lovers’ thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Invasion of the Appleheads: Deadtime Stories-Annette and Gina Cascone

Invasion of the Appleheads: Deadtime Stories

Annette and Gina Cascone

Starscape/Tor, Jul 3 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780765330680

The Lawrence family is divided by generation as to their feelings towards their new hometown Appleton. The parents love the time warp cozy village while the two children (Katie and Andy) are bored.

On Halloween minus one night, the adults take the kids on a haunted hayride at an apple orchard; once allegedly owned by a witch who created a potion to change the apples so that kids taking a bite would become zombies. Katie and Andy notice their peers acting weird as if they are zombies and also observe adults including their parents changing into applehead dolls. Frightened, the pair concludes witches have spiked the cider with an evil potion. They must save their parents and the townsfolk from the wicked witches of Appleton as time ticks away.

This Twisted Sisters’ Deadtime Stories provides a fast-paced scary tale that middle school readers will relish; especially the premise that adults are blind to the threat while kids must save the night. The siblings make a terrific team as they hold the storyline focused while preparing to combat evil. Horrifically vivid (to the delight of fans) the Cascone siblings entertain their audience with a taut horror thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Destined to Play-Indigo Bloome

Destined to Play

Indigo Bloome

Avon Red, Sep 11 2012, $13.99

ISBN: 9780062243478

In Australia Dr. Alexandra Blake is going on a lecture tour while her husband Robert and their two children (Jordan and Elizabeth) are part of a Tasmanian Wilderness Foundation expedition. In Sydney, Alexa meets her former lover renowned medical research doctor Jeremy Quinn. His current work involves the female orgasm in which he states little is known.

He persuades her to spend forty-eight hours “trusting” him. He blindfolds and demands she remain mute. Though she knows she is cheating on Robert, Alexa rationalizes that their marriage remains in place due to the kids as her spouse is gay. Meanwhile Jeremy has begun his controlling experiment to break down Alexandra; concealing from her his true motive.

With a nod to R.L. James’ Fifty Shades phenomena (I am probably one of the few who has not read any book in the trilogy) Destined to Play is an entertaining erotica. The storyline is character driven while focusing on mental health. Alexa’s behavior seems bipolar as she leaps to and from ecstasy and rage with a latter insightful but detracting. Her adulterous surrender makes for an intriguing tale of submission.

Harriet Klausner

A Wreath of Snow-Liz Curtis Higgs

A Wreath of Snow

Liz Curtis Higgs

WaterBrook, Oct 2 2012, $14.95

ISBN: 9781400072170

In 1894, Meg Campbell took the train from Edinburg to spend Christmas with her family in Stirling, Scotland. Schoolteacher Meg, who had not visited in two years, hates coming home ever since her younger brother Alan became churlish following an accident that paralyzed him. He is worse than ever when he calls her selfish for not selling the home her late Aunt Jean gave her for being her companion for two years. Realizing her sibling adds avarice to his nastiness, Meg leaves intending to take the train back to Edinburgh though she knows she hurts her parents.

Glasgow Herald reporter Gordon Shaw returns to town on an assignment after a dozen years away. He remembers like it was today as a teen curling in Stirling when he lost control of his handle as a ten years old boy raced onto the ice. The stone hammered the child in his lower back leaving the kid paralyzed. Gordon became a pariah and slinked out of town just a short time after the accident. As he waits at the station for the train to depart while the snow heavily falls making travel unlikely, next to him is his victim’s older sister.

A Wreath of Snow is an entertaining Christmas tale as a freak accident twelve years ago impacts two families. The characters are fully developed with Meg sorrowful, Gordon guilty; Alan angry and the parents coddling. Even with a late twist, the enjoyable storyline flows down the expected path. Though neither Gordon nor Meg want to remain in town, on the contrary fans will appreciate spending the holidays in snowbound Stirling.

Harriet Klausner

Have You Seen Marie?-Sandra Cisneros and Ester Hernández (illustrator)

Have You Seen Marie?

Sandra Cisneros and Ester Hernández (illustrator)

Knopf, Oct 2 2012, $21.00

ISBN: 9780307597946

Grieving for her recently deceased mom, fiftyish Rosalind, accompanied by her weeping cat Marie, drove from Tacoma to San Antonio. Upon arriving at their destination after a three day drive, Marie runs away. Though she would prefer to hide in bed crying, Rosalind realizes she is the only person her beloved feline knows in Texas. She begins a search for her missing cat while learning about the neighborhood by meeting the neighbors; some prove sympathetic; some coldly indifferent; and some sad and sorrowful.

This is an intriguing look at grief through a gritty urban lens of meeting the neighbors. The illustrations add edgy depth to this insightful account of a woman in mourning since she became a middle aged orphan. Some unnecessary Doolittle whimsical “talking” to the animals detracts from this otherwise strong tale of a frantic female’s search for her missing BFF at a time she barely copes with her loss. Apparently based on Sandra Cisneros’ grief following her mom death, readers will appreciate Have You Seen Marie?

Harriet Klausner

Paradise City- Archie Mayor

Paradise City

Archie Mayor

Minotaur, Oct 2 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312681951

In Beacon Hill, three thieves break into the house of octogenarian Wilhelmina “Billie” Hawthorn. Billie interrupts their burglary, so they eliminate her. Boston Police Detective Jimmy McAuliffe leads the investigation in which the murderers steal silverware while leaving behind easy to snatch valuables. The victim’s twentyish granddaughter Mina Carson demands in on the official inquiry. Clues lead to Northampton, Massachusetts.

Vermont Bureau of Investigation Chief Joe Gunther and his team investigate arson and a theft at affluent Tucker Peak ski resort. Clues lead to Northampton. Gunther and his subordinate Willy Kunkle join the Massachusetts police team (and one angry feisty civilian) as they hunt for a fence and those working for this dealer of stolen property.

The latest Joe Gunther police procedural (see Tag Man) is a fabulous whodunit as the VBI chief and his top gun team up with their Massachusetts counterparts and Mina who refuses to be denied entry onto the task force. The storyline is fast-paced with Neanderthal Kunkle bringing humor to the exciting whodunit. Readers will enjoy fast-paced Paradise City.

Harriet Klausner

Nerve-Jeanne Ryan


Jeanne Ryan

Dial, Sep 13 2012, $17.99

ISBN: 9780803738324

High school junior “Little” Vee is the one who hides behind the curtain designing costumes and applying makeup to others. Matthew challenges her to audition at a prelim Dare for a spot on the popular Nerve reality show that fans pay a fee to watch. Deciding to enter, she pours cold water on her T-shirt; her friend Tommy sends her Dare to the show.

Now she, Ian and several other chosen ones team up and back stab as they begin taking on challenges with coveted customized prizes as their rewards. The stunts increasingly turn dangerous as each participant debases themselves in the not so friendly competition.

Nerve is an unnerving thriller as Jeanne Ryan asks readers how far someone will go for fame and fortune. The storyline is frantically-paced as Vee and the other contestants seemingly answer that question with anything though psychologically what motivates each of them is not very clear. With a nod to Chuck Barris’s Gong Show and Andy Warhol’s wry comment “In the future everyone will have their fifteen minutes of fame”, fans will relish this insightful look at the contestants inside the coliseum.

Harriet Klausner

Darkwater-Catherine Fisher


Catherine Fisher

Dial, Sep 27 2012, $16.99

ISBN: 9780803738188

Trevelyan gambled away Darkwater Hall and lost all his money. He and his sixteen year old Sarah reside with their former servant Martha in her dilapidated cottage. Her dad remains domicile depressed even as the villagers scorn and humiliate Sarah; while her employer schoolmistress Mrs. Hubbard is even crueler. When Mrs. Hubbard canes Emmeline Rowney, Sarah intercedes; only losing her position. Observing her and seemingly impressed by her courage, Darkwater Hall owner Lord Azrael offers her a chance to regain her family home and atone for the hideous misdeeds of her ancestors. She accepts his demand of her soul, which he will collect in a century.

One-hundred years later, fifteen years old Tom and his mom live in Martha’s Cottage. His mother works as a cleaner at Darkwater Hall School. Tom wants to attend the school where his great-grandmother was once a student, but knows he has no chance. Professor Azrael offers him a deal that has Sarah trying to prevent from happening as she does not want the teen to make the same mistake she made when she sold her soul to Azrael.

This is a superb young adult Faustian thriller told in two parts: Victorian England and the late twentieth century. The storyline is fast-paced yet the key cast members are fully developed. With several stunning twist especially a great climatic spin, fans will root for brave Sarah to keep Tom safe and find a loophole in her damning contract with mysterious Azrael.

Harriet Klausner

Little Magic Shop of Horrors: Deadtime Stories-Gina Cascone and Annette Cascone

Little Magic Shop of Horrors: Deadtime Stories

Gina Cascone and Annette Cascone

Starscape/Tor, Sep 4 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780765330758

The school hosts a talent contest with the prize being a twenty-one-speed mountain bike that student Peter Newman covets. Making matters worse is Mary Margaret looks like a sure shot winner. While the girl did her act during the preliminaries, Peter’s BFF Bo Olson sling shots an M&M causing a fiery debacle that Janitor Bob puts out. Janitor Bob tells the two boys that this is strike three.

Peter, accompanied by Bo, visits the Little Magic Shop of Horrors where he buys a $9.95 magic kit to include a special amulet. He changes from Peter Newman to "Peter the Great", who can perform magic that no master magician has ever done before. However, his tricks are real and as far as Peter knows from the fine print permanent. Still he enters and wins the contest with his incredible final curtain call, removing Bo's head.

The latest Twisted Sisters’ Deadtime Stories once again targets the middle school children with a fast-paced scary tale based on sometimes you get what you wished for. Peter is terrific as he holds the storyline focused while critiquing other acts, using magic, and finally wondering how to undo what he wrought. On the other Bo is obnoxious with his not so harmless pranks, which Peter condones by omission. Fans will answer the Lovin’ Spoonful question “Do You Believe In Magic?” with a yes when reading the Cascone siblings’ latest horror thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How I Came to Sparkle Again-Kaya McLaren

How I Came to Sparkle Again

Kaya McLaren

St. Martin's, Oct 2 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9781250013873

In Austin, strike one was the miscarriage; strike two was the infertility; strike three was her husband’s cheating. Work proved a failure as she was not ready mentally to return, Jill Anthony files for a divorce and travels to Sparkle, Colorado where she spent her troubled teen years with her Uncle Howard and home to her BFF Lisa.

Jill and Lisa spend time on the slopes while the former also makes some money babysitting tweener Cassie Jones, whose mother died from cancer. As spring arrives, Jill, Lisa and Cassie each knows they can no longer put off decisions about their respective futures.

Though the reader will know what happened as the storyline is a straight-lined ski run, fans will enjoy how Jill came to sparkle again. Jill is the prime player, but her two female cohorts add depth as all three protagonists are likable individuals. Life in a seasonal ski town makes for an engaging fun cross country paced tale.

Harriet Klausner

One Final Step-Stephanie Doyle

One Final Step

Stephanie Doyle

Harlequin SuperRomance, Oct 2 2012, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373718108

Still reeling from the scandal that destroyed her career when she was caught with married POTUS, image consultant Madeleine Kane accepts Michael Langdon as a client. Her job is to change his image from playboy to serious car designer. Michael needs the change in order to team up with another vehicle manufacturer to mass produce his environmentally friendly car; she needs the job to redeem her image from the White House fiasco.

They are perfect for each other as she helps him move passed what happened when he served time as a teen and he helps her move past the scandal. As they mentally heal, they fall in love. However each is reluctant to change the professional to the personal, but especially Madeleine who went down that path.

One Final Step is an entertaining contemporary romance starring two flawed individuals who find their relationship helping them to heal even before love accelerates their respective will-being. Character driven, fans will enjoy this engaging tale while wondering whether M&M can take that One Final Step.

Harriet Klausner

The New Hope Café-Dawn Atkins

The New Hope Café

Dawn Atkins

Harlequin SuperRomance, Oct 2 2012, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373718092

Cara Price’s plans for her and her daughter Beth Ann collapse when her abusive former husband Barrett is released after three years of a six year sentence. She planned for his prison time to enable her to get a teaching degree and new identities for her and her child. Now she is one the run because she knows the beast will come for them.

They end up stuck in New Hope, Arizona when their car breaks down. Cara takes a job at The Comfort Cafe to earn the money to pay for repairs. The owner’s nephew Jonah Gold the cook concludes the new help is poorly concealing her fear of someone. When Barrett arrives in New Hope, cancer victim Jonah seems like the only hope (or is he?) to keep mother and daughter safe from a bullying psychopath who charms with ice cream and guns.

Though the premise has been used before, readers will enjoy this taut romantic suspense with the tension coming late. The cast is solid as Jonah recovers from a cancer scare and the two females show their fears of Barrett in different ways. Dawn Atkins provides an enjoyable tale as mother and daughter take their last stand at the New Hope Café.

Harriet Klausner

To Be A Family-Joan Kilby

To Be A Family

Joan Kilby

Harlequin SuperRomance, Oct 2 2012, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373718085

In Australia, schoolteacher Katie Henning finds her first book Lizzie and the Monkey on sale in the local bookstore. Her publisher wants Kate to write more children’s’ books.

Her ex-fiancé John Forster comes back to town accompanied by his six year old daughter, Tuti, who grieves the recent death of her mom. John feels guilt and shame for dumping Katie when he accused her of not fully fighting her breast cancer. Katie agrees to help Tuti adapt to becoming an Aussie. As John watches the loving interaction between his ex and his daughter, he wants to rectify the biggest error of his life.

This is a warm second chance at love relationship drama. The two adults and the child are fully developed with each suffering from tragic circumstances though John’s is self-inflicted. Although Katie seems to forgive John

, fans will enjoy this Australian romance.

Harriet Klausner

Merge /Disciple: Two Short Novels from Crosstown to Oblivion

Merge /Disciple: Two Short Novels from Crosstown to Oblivion

Walter Mosley

Tor, Oct 2 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9780765330093

“Merge.” Lottery winner Raleigh Redman finds an alien in his home. He calls the ET Wood since the creature arrived on earth as a dead tree branch who, like others from their homeworld, needs to merge on earth to survive.

“Disciple.” Data entry minion Trent Tryman hates his tedious job. His life changes when he finds himself saving civilization.

The second double Crosstown to Oblivion novellas (see The Gift of Fire/On the Head of a Pin) contains two engaging science fiction tales though both themes have been used before.

Harriet Klausner

Ironskin-Tina Connolly


Tina Connolly

Tor, Oct 2 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9780765330598

Several years ago, humans and the forest dwelling fey fought The Great War to end all wars. Now, everyone is trying to return to normal. A victim of a fey curse that forces her to wear an iron mask to prevent the scar on her face from causing others to go into a rage, Jane Eliot answers an ad for a governess in a “delicate situation."

The child's father Edward Rochart the enigmatic mask-maker hires Jane to work with his son Dorie, whose late mother was "taken over" by a fey while she carried the lad. Dorie possesses telekinetic powers that Jane hopes she can teach him to control. However, to her horror and fear, Jane concludes the hostility with the fey apparently is not over.

This is a super Victorian gothic fantasy that provides a paranormal take on Jane Eyre. Fast-paced with a growing sense of foreboding built on what has already happened to the lead triangle, fans will relish the survivors struggling, in a war ravaged alternate Victorian world, to cope with their personal cursed PTSD.

Harriet Klausner

Dodger-Terry Pratchett


Terry Pratchett

HarperCollins, Sep 25 2012, $17.99

ISBN: 9780062009494

In London, two thugs beat up a young woman when Dodger the thieving tosher jumping out of a drain intervenes. She begs him to help her escape as her assaulters want to take her back to the monster she has run away from whose battering of her led to a miscarriage. As he lives up to his name with his snake like speed, Charlie Dickens the author and Henry Mayhew the social reformer arrive at the scene causing the brutes to flee. Charlie and Henry call Dodger Galahad.

Calling the mystery girl he rescued Simplicity, Dodger tries to help this woman he is attracted to; while also trying to prove he is worthy of her. Dodger soon meets Benjamin Disraeli, Queen Victoria and Sweeney Todd in his quest to live up to the reputation of Sir Galahad.

Dodger is an enjoyable historical fiction tale that brings to life Victorian England. The key to this entertaining thriller is Terry Pratchett capturing the vernacular of the era and the tone of several real historical personas though mostly through their interplay with the title character. Although the mystery of Simplicity is more a device to propel the plot forward and there is not a disc in sight, fans will feel they are touring London with Dodger as their guide.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Last Newspaperman- Mark Di Ionno

The Last Newspaperman

Mark Di Ionno

Plexus Publishing, Sep17 2012, $22.95

ISBN: 9780937548745

In 1999, octogenarian Fred Haines tells the young reporter about his time working for the now defunct New York Mirror in the 1930s and how he never expected to look forward to lunch in a nursing home with an eighty year old broad. As the new kid on the block he got the crap that no one else wanted. In 1932, Fred is stuck covering a kidnapping in “Sticksville” on the wrong side of the Hudson, he assumes he is wasting him time even when the father allegedly is Charles Lindbergh; as he assumes someone is pulling a stunt. When he realizes the report is genuine, his name is made with this story and the follow-up when he goes mano a mano with Hauptmann. He covers the Morro Castle and Hindenburg disasters; as well as Orson Welles' eye opening radio version of the War of the Worlds in which James learns the true influence of the media to create the illusion of the reality of a false situation. Over the years while covering the Jersey beat, his ambition leads him to create false stories and other amoral actions until the mainstream media exiles him. James thrives anyway as the tabloids love his exposés not caring how he got them or whether they are real.

This is a strong nostalgic look at a time when the print media was the powerful fourth estate keeping a vigilant watch on the three other estates instead of imbedded journalism as seemingly practiced by the mainstream media today. The metafiction technique of Fred’s story within a story is deftly handled reminding readers how far reporting has changed as The Last Newspaperman is a deep character driven epic.

Harriet Klausner

Together for Christmas-Lisa Plumley

Together for Christmas

Lisa Plumley

Zebra, Oct 2 2012, $6.99

ISBN 9781420122121

Troubleshooter Casey Jackson arrives from Southern California to Kismet, Michigan with T-minus 21 days until Christmas. Casey loathes the holidays but will baby sit pop sensation Heather Miller to insure she finishes her TV special on time. Heather blames her kid sister Kristen for the delay while asking her sibling, owner of the Galaxy Diner, to help her deal with the terminator before he shuts down her production. The star hides she is causing the delay because she is in love with Alex Taylor and needs time to get the intelligent set designer to reciprocate.

Casey comes to her diner where Kristen gives him pie in a jar. He adds ketchup to her chagrin. They argue but are attracted to one another. Kristen asks him what he thought of Heather’s sex video as that is her litmus test whether to sleep with a guy. Kristen’s employers Talia, Garth and Walden think Casey likes Kristen, but he failed her litmus test. Kristen surprises Casey when she says she wants her sister to stay for the holidays though Heather’s arrival has ruined Kristen’s season. Meanwhile Walden agrees to help Talia and Garth on their matchmaking plan as he is attracted to her. Alex tells Heather she has the chicken pox as he does too. As love blossoms in Kismet, so does misunderstandings.

The latest trip to Kismet (see Home for the Holidays) is an amusing Christmas frolic that with a nod to the movie Love Actually contains three wonderful romances and other loving relationships. The lead couple is a nice pairing of obsessed opposites while the support cast enhances the storyline. With Pinky and The Brain as a matchmaker, fans will enjoy discovering the joys of Christmas.

Harriet Klausner

A Cowboy Under My Christmas Tree-Janet Daily

A Cowboy Under My Christmas Tree

Janet Daily

Zebra, Oct 2 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9781420124620

Colorado rancher Sam Bennett arrives in Manhattan to help a college buddy and earn some money setting up Christmas trees around town. He meets and soon works with store window display designer Nicole Young. They are attracted to one another, but she insists they remain friends while he has four short weeks to persuade her otherwise.

As Nicole starts to dream of spending time with Sam, he abruptly has to return to Colorado. Missing her cowboy, the window dresser wonders whether to fly to the Rocky Mountains or hope he comes back to her.

A Cowboy Under My Christmas Tree is an engaging wintry New York romance starring seemingly opposites falling in love. In some ways a single mom baker with energy steals the show from the lead couple. Still with a nod to the movie Silver Bells, the romance between the rural rancher and the urban designer is a fun holiday tale though her work never comes across as something artistic that she enjoys doing instead of a job easy to walk away from.

Harriet Klausner

His Mistletoe Bride-Vanessa Kelly

His Mistletoe Bride

Vanessa Kelly

Zebra, Oct 2 2012, $6.99

ISBN 9781420114843

In 1817 her aristocratic maternal English grandfather Lord Merritt invites Philadelphian Phoebe Linville to visit him. By the time the Quaker arrives in London, Lord Merritt’s grandnephew and heir Major Lucas Stanton informs the American that their mutual relative had died from an infection. Though she seems unsteady, Phoebe insists that comes from an illness she caught while sailing for the last month and not the demise of her grandfather. Her chaperone Mrs. Tanner insists Phoebe return to Pennsylvania where her half-brother will care for her, but Stanton says Merritt made arrangements for her that as her cousin several degrees apart will support. Phoebe says she will stay in England.

When Phoebe and Lucas are caught kissing, they marry. He takes his wife to Mistletoe Manor where he expects meek obedience from his bride, but receives instead a fiery woman teaching him to love again.

This is a warm holiday romance starring a wonderful heroine and a mercurial jaded hero who has seen horror in combat and betrayal in love. Although the storyline is often used in the sub-genre, the strong cast and the Mouse that Roared make for an engaging Christmas gala.

Harriet Klausner

Season for Surrender-Theresa Romain

Season for Surrender

Theresa Romain

Zebra, Oct 2 2012, $6.99

ISBN: 9781420128864

In 1818, Lord Xavier loves betting among his hedonistic pursuits. He will wager on almost anything, but his current challenge tossed at him by his cousin Lockwood disturbs the rogue as he considers even throwing the bet something he never does.

To win Xavier must convince Lady Louisa Oliver to remain at his two week Christmas gala; which would ruin the bookworm. Uncomfortable, Xavier anoints himself her chaperone if she accepts his bold invitation. Louisa expects to remain on the shelf (preferably a bookshelf) so she decides to take up Lord Xavier's offer. Neither Xavier nor his waging friends and cousin expected Louisa to double down on their dares as the cousins vie for the attention of the special guest.

The second Christmas Regency romance (see Season for Temptation) is a zany triangle as the virgin holds her own against rival rakes as the cousins and their guest are fully developed. Though the theme has been used frequently in historical tales, the storyline engages the reader with a fun playful naughtiness.

Harriet Klausner

Live by Night-Dennis Lehane

Live by Night

Dennis Lehane

Morrow, Oct 2 2012, $27.99

ISBN 9780060004873

In 1926 Boston, nineteen year old troubled youth Joe Coughlin prefers the illegal night life in spite of his dad and older brother being cops. Joe supplies hookers and illegal drugs and alcohol to customers. During a heist with the Bartolo brothers of a speakeasy owned by Albert White, Joe meets Emma Gould. That robbery proves fruitful for Joe’s career when he ends up in prison where Mafia Don Maso Pescatore befriends him, as he likes the kid’s moxie.

In 1929 after Joe leaves prison, Maso puts him in charge of his West Florida operation based in Tampa. Over the years, Joe builds a powerful underworld empire and marries Cuban Graciela Corrales. He relocates his headquarters to Havana where Batista is friendly to American gangsters for the right price. As he continues to thrive, cracks begin to surface from within, and from without as rivals and ambitious mobsters want more than just a piece of his action and from the changing American and Cuban governmental interests.

Almost a decade since Joe first appeared in The Given Day, this is an entertaining epic of a career gangster. The storyline is great when the plot is in Boston and prison; it remains strong in Tampa, but in the stretch, the drama seems a bit muddled as too much happens. Still fans will relish Dennis Lehane’s deep look at the life of a twentieth century gangster.

Harriet Klausner

Phantom Shadows-Dianne Duvall

Phantom Shadows

Dianne Duvall

Zebra, Oct 2 2012, $6.99

ISBN: 9781420118636

Though he agreed to join the Immortal Guardians, Bastien Newcombe trusts no one especially his new teammates. For centuries, Bastien has always been a lone wolf and prefers living that way. His new warrior cronies treat him with wary disdain so the feelings are mutual.

Human Dr. Melanie Lipton seeks a cure to prevent the lethal insanity brought on by the vampire virus. Unlike everyone else who would like him gone preferably in a body bag, the medical researcher treats Bastien with respect as if he belongs here. Hell she even listens to his intelligent but differing ideas. As their admiration turns to attraction and love, a new threat, deadlier than the deposed Vampire King has surfaced.

The third Immortal Guardians romantic urban fantasy (see Darkness Dawns and Night Reigns) is a terrific action-packed thriller. Bastien brings the freshness to the mix as a lone ranger who has never felt a need to belong with anyone (the antithesis of the third step of Maslow’s Hierarchy) until Melanie. Readers will enjoy this enjoyable entry as love and a new danger keep Melanie, Bastien and fans hopping.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Vampire Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Bloodthirsty Undead-Roger Ma

The Vampire Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Bloodthirsty Undead

Roger Ma

Berkley, Oct 02, 2012

ISBN: 9780425247655

The Vampire Combat Manual is a fun lampooning of the genre as Max Brooks (with illustrator Max Werner) provides a how to guide in fighting the undead. The author separates fact from fiction and what weapons like stakes, guns and crossbows lethally work best to avoid becoming a blood donor. Those who have read The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead or The Zombie Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Living Dead will find a sameness to the theme although a different paranormal with differing traits is highlighted. With insight into the natural properties of garlic and the unnatural properties of artificial ultraviolet light, fans will enjoy the tongue in cheek guide to Fighting the Bloodthirsty Undead.

Harriet Klausner

The Doula-Bridget Boland

The Doula

Bridget Boland

Gallery, Sep 4 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9781451641516

Though she comes from a family of funeral directors, Carolyn Connors goes in the complete opposite direction as she becomes a doula. Used to death, her influences in becoming a birthing coach are personal; her mom miscarried and her brother drowned. Ironically in spite of her family working with the deceased, her parents forbid Carolyn mentioning either tragedy.

In Milwaukee, Carolyn’s best friend Mary “MG” Grace tells her she is pregnant. Caro quickly heads to her BFF to serve as her birthing coach. However, MG’s husband Brad objects as he insists on a hospital delivery and isolates his wife from her childhood friend. When complications occur, MG has no one to turn to except Carol who arrives in time to save the unborn while the mom dies. Brad holds Carolyn responsible for his wife’s death and takes her to court accusing her of medical malpractice. Still grieving her BFF’s death, a guilt-ridden Carolyn struggles to defend herself.

The Doula is a fascinating look at motherhood as Kahil Gibran stated “On Children” in the Prophet: “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth." Carolyn is a terrific protagonist as she holds the engaging storyline together. While MG’s character abruptly does a 180 degree turn around (perhaps caused by hormones running wild), fans will enjoy this deep look at birth and death.

Harriet Klausner

The Runner-A Wayne Gill

The Runner

A Wayne Gill

Iron Pillar Media Group, Dec 2011, $8.45


ISBN: 9780979785610

In the Division Three NCAA football semifinals, Ozark College’s Michael Knight catches the winning Hail Mary touchdown thrown by his best friend Todd McBride. In the end zone, he thanks God when he hears the voice for the first time telling him to preach to thousands times ten-thousands. Being the son of a preacher Reverend Jeremiah and Kathryn, he is not as shocked with hearing the Word as he thought he should be. Michael also realizes at that moment when his girlfriend Abby Snow calls him her champion that he loves her. However, not all is perfect in heaven as Michael’s older sister Cindy feels their dad loathes her and despises her biker boyfriend Ramon Sanchez who reciprocates those feelings.

Just after his team loses in the championship game, Michael receives an admissions letter to attend NYU law school over the objection of Abby and his dad. Cindy congratulates him for being the first Knight to leave Ozark Halls, Missouri. His parents pray for him as both the Snow and Knight families believe he heads to Sodom and Gomorrah. As Michael finds the glitter of temptation in Manhattan, Ramon works for Kansas City gangster Raul Diego-Vega. Soon worlds will collide as everything goes full circle for Michael when death arrives and Krytsal Alvarado goes missing.

The Runner is a fascinating Christian character study that focuses on Michael’s journey. The storyline starts slow as readers meet the cast especially the beliefs of the key players. Once relationships are established, A Wayne Gill’s opening act turns into a discerning look at a devout person struggling with temptation at a time when the world of his loved ones and him spin mysteriously out of control.

Harriet Klausner

Practically Wicked-Alissa Johnson

Practically Wicked

Alissa Johnson

Berkley, Oct 2 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425258033

At Mrs. Wraeburn’s gala, a drunken Viscount Maximilian Dane arrives in the library to find the furniture rather odd. Already there is “the” Miss Anna Rees who explains that Lord Highsup cut the legs off when she was six years old. He astutely states she is not six as he calls her the “Ice Maiden of Anover House” and she retaliates by naming him the “Disappointment of McMullin Hall.”

The pair is total opposite in nature as she prefers a quiet scandal-free life after growing up as the daughter of a courtesan who grew up in her mom’s environment while he relished wickedness as vice is the ultimate virtue. They are attracted to one another, but she rejects his efforts for a tryst refusing to cede her Nearly a Lady status. Dane thinks he may have to court Anna as An Unexpected Gentleman, but that goes against his hedonistic lifestyle. Instead he tempts his beloved to come to his Practically Wicked world.

This is an engaging gender war historical romance starring two adversaries in love. Fast-paced from the opening encounter, fans will enjoy the combat between the hedonist rake and the courtesan’s daughter as each knows love is not enough to bridge the lifestyle gap that separates them.

Harriet Klausner

Death of a Longship-Marsali Taylor

Death of a Longship

Marsali Taylor

Attica Books, Aug 15 2012, $9.99

ISBN: 9781908002457

To the chagrin of her parents, Cass Lynch always preferred sailing to schooling. At sixteen years of age she left home, but to stay afloat, she waits tables. While serving Mr. Berg of Mr. Berg Productions, Cass overhears their discussion about using a Viking longship for a Hollywood movie. She persuades him and his associates to let her skipper the Stormfugl lying in the Shetland Islands; though that means going home for the first time since she ran away.

However, her euphoria ends when she sees the corpse of Maree Baker, stand-in to the film’s star, lying dead on the ship’s deck. Detective Investigator Macrae leads the homicide investigation with two distinct groups on his radar: the film crew and Cass and her family. Knowing how much a family affair the murder is and fearing she was the intended victim, Cass as is her personality refuses to wait for a killer or a cop to complete their respective actions; instead she investigates.

Death of a Longship is an entertaining amateur sleuth starring an intrepid heroine. The storyline showcase sailing as the protagonist’s love of the sea is a key supporting element. Although the storyline can somewhat slow down with the insight into Lynch family dynamics, fans will relish sailing into murder with Marsali Taylor as our skipper.

Harriet Klausner

The Beast of Baskerville: Deadtime Stories-Gina Cascone and Annette Cascone

The Beast of Baskerville: Deadtime Stories

Gina Cascone and Annette Cascone

Starscape/Tor, May 8 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780765330673

In Baskerville everyone knows the Jimmy Leeds mythos. Legend has it that the lad was so frighteningly repulsive that his mom the witch dumped him down a well to rid herself of her offspring abomination, but the monster survived allegedly to hound the town’s young.

The Baskerville children hold a giant campout. However, what should have been fun turns nightmarish as the kids begin to vanish. As the last one standing, Adam Riley assumes his buddies are playing a nasty practical joke until he sees the hoof prints in the ground. Frightened Adam bravely follows them into the woods where he learns that the legend of Jimmy Leeds is based on realism when he runs into The Beast of Baskerville.

Targeting the middle school children, the Twisted Sisters provide a wonderful scary “Deadtime” story. The storyline is action-packed throughout while starring an engaging young hero and a terrible monster. Fans will answer the question “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” with a yes when reading the Cascone siblings’ latest horror thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Clorkwork Sky-Madeleine Rosca

The Clorkwork Sky

Madeleine Rosca

Tor, Sep 4 2012, $10.00

ISBN: 9780765329165

In 1895 London, the Ember factory, owned and operated by Erasmus Croach, produces steampowered automatons. The technological change leads to mass firing of labor, which consequently turns to protests and riots. Scotland Yard’s Captain Thorn deploys the police automaton Sky to end the civil unrest.

Croach’s niece Sally Peppers flees from the Victorian ideal of upper class females marrying peers or those of a higher station. Concerned Croach sends Sky to bring home dead or alive though preferably breathing his obstinate relative. Meanwhile Thorn realizes working class children are disappearing while Sally and Sky team up into investigating whether her uncle’s factory is cutting costs at the expense of safety since reports of rogue automatons owning the sewers beneath London. At the same time the youthful looking Sky dreams of a future.

The Clockwork Sky is an enjoyable steampunk manga fantasy starring two likeable heroes who respect one another while trying to prevent a calamity from occurring. The storyline is fast-paced though plots as expected while the B&W art enhances the tale. Although the dialogue lettering can be hard to read at times due to the font size, fans will enjoy mayhem and mad technology running amuck in Victorian London.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ancient Light-John Banville

Ancient Light

John Banville

Knopf, Oct 2 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307957054

Sexagenarian Alex Cleave muses back fifty years to the love of his life. Fifteen years old, he fell in love with his best friend Billy Gray’s mother. Alex even ponders searching for the octogenarian woman assuming she is still alive to see if they still have it even though his wife Lydia might object in spite of their emotional distance since their daughter Cass died. Her death haunts and taunts Alex who desperately wants to know the identity of the man Cass spoke of just before she died. As he mentally struggles with his customized memories of the two females he cherishes, his dead acting career revises with the movie role of Axel Vander, who ironically called him on the day Cass died. As the movie begins to anchor in Alex’s mind what happened to Cass, he goes deeper inside his fond memories of Mrs. Gray and Cass.

Ancient Light is an insightful leisurely paced look at memory as the protagonist’s brain looks back over a lifetime filling vacuums with creative disinformation and misinformation that seems right because it fits well with the core information that really happened to Alex as he seems to recall. Character driven and filled with metafiction irony, John Banville provides a profound tale of realistic Paradise Lost and memory-altered Paradise Regained.

Harriet Klausner

Falling For The Cowboy-Mary Leo

Falling For The Cowboy

Mary Leo

Harlequin American, Oct 2 2012, $5.25

ISBN: 9780373754274

In Briggs, Idaho, pediatric dentist Dr. Blake Granger has a problem as his receptionist Kitty will soon go on maternity leave. Kitty’s sister Maggie Daniels offers to replace her sibling temporarily to ease her sibling’s fears. However, Maggie, a former marketing executive has no plans to remain in the small-town. Knowing he needs help with the dental practice especially as a single dad raising a ranching tomboy, he hires her.

From that first encounter at the donut shop, Maggie and Blake are attracted to one another. Both knows acting on their feelings will lead to each being hurt as he is small-town and she is big city; besides which he learned firsthand what a career woman choses if it is between the love of a husband and daughter, and a job. Still neither can say no.

The often used theme of big city careerist and rural rancher falling in love (see the Hallmark movie Straight from the Heart) is made fresh by the strong protagonists and a deep support cast. The key to this delightful contemporary is neither lifestyle is condemned as long as a person uses their backbone to choose what is right for them. Fans will enjoy Maggie and Blake falling in love encouraged by their respective families.

Harriet Klausner

The Texas Ranger’s Reward-Rebecca Winters

The Texas Ranger’s Reward

Rebecca Winters

Harlequin American, Oct 2 2012, $5.25

ISBN: 9780373754267

In Salt Lake City, Melissa Dalton works at the Lone Peak Children’s Physical Therapy Clinic. The physical therapist’s new patient is seven year old Casey Stillman who broke his femur falling from a horse. Casey no longer needs his crutches, but refuses to put them down and bear his weight on his legs. Melissa greets Casey and his dad private investigator Travis cheerfully and even obtains a laugh from the now reclusive child. Travis is stunned and jealous with how well the physical therapist gets his son to walk without the aid of the crutches. To reward the child, she gives him a special leash to walk his dog Dexter.

Travis realizes that Melissa could be the sister of his late murdered wife Valerie. He tells her that he was a Texas Ranger whose spouse was murdered by an avenging killer who remains on the loose and that she looks like Valerie. When someone breaks into her office, Melissa calls Travis. He agrees to help her as he is grateful for what she has done for his son. Although each is attracted to one another, he fears placing another wonderful woman in danger and she remains traumatized by the assault of her former husband at a time when the danger mounts

This is an entertaining second chance at love romance with late suspense that deftly ties loose ends. The fast-paced storyline grips the audience starting with Casey’s therapy and never slows down as the past arrives to haunt the lead couple.

Harriet Klausner

Death and the Maiden-Frank Tallis

Death and the Maiden

Frank Tallis

Random House, Oct 2 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780812983340

Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt and his assistant Haussmann arrived at the home of Vienna Opera renowned soprano Ida Rosenkrantz. Rheinhardt learns from Constable Drasche that only the housekeeper frau Marcus who found the body and Dr. Engleberg who she called is inside the home. The corpse is oddly placed at the center of the rug. Dr. Engleberg tells the DI that the victim apparently imbibed a large amount of laudanum so she could have overdosed. To his chagrin, Rheinhardt has to inform his boss Commissioner Brugel so the latter can notify the Lord Chamberlain of the Court Opera singer’s death, making the case extremely sensitive.

The autopsy reveals that someone using immense force to crack a rib of the victim while suffocating the famous singer. The DI obtains the assistance of Freudian Dr. Max Liebermann in spite of knowing Vienna’s powerful and anti-Semitic Mayor Karl Lueger will object to using a Jew while running for reelection.

The latest Rheinhardt-Liebermann police procedural (see Vienna Secrets and Vienna Twilight) is a superb early twentieth century historical that uses real persona like Court Opera Director Gustav Mahler, Lueger and indirectly Freud. The case proves dangerous while the pair also looks into an alleged accidental death of a Brahms' compatriot who died four decades earlier. Even the personal front comes to life as Rheinhardt increasingly likes being with his family and Liebermann’s inamorata Amelia joins the budding feminist movement. Although somewhat more of a cozy with the abatement of violence as compared to previous entries, Frank Tallis provides a strong look at Freud’s Vienna.

Harriet Klausner

Phantom-Jo Nesbø


Jo Nesbø

Knopf, Oct 2 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307960474

Oslo Police Inspector Harry Hole fled to Hong Kong suffering from PTSD after the horrific Snowman serial case compounded by his debt. However, he came home when Oslo Homicide Detective Kaja Solness needed his expertise on The Leopard case. The damaged cop has no plans to stay or remain in Norway.

However recovering alcoholic Harry returns to Oslo from Hong Kong once again to help one of the few people he would come home for his estranged eighteen years old Oleg. The police suspect the teenager killed Gusto Hanssen as each was employed by mysterious Dubai as street pushers of Violin, a synthetic heroin. With covert help from his former peers, Harry investigates the Norwegian drug trade with ties to the police force of which he once was a member.

The latest Harry Hole case is a fabulous thriller as the former cop escorts his audience around the lucrative drug trafficking in Norway. However, the inquiry also enables readers to understand a core value of the mentally damaged former detective whose obsession with the truth supersedes his paternal instinct to protect his offspring. Fans will relish Phantom as Harry’s latest return home is a winner.

Harriet Klausner

The Lost Artist-Gail Lukasik

The Lost Artist

Gail Lukasik

Five Star, Jun 6 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9781432825768

In Anna, Illinois Professor Karen Caffrey owns the 1836 Braun House. After stealing pages from the Emily Braun diary, she is shocked to find the nearby grave of the woman open and empty. Soon afterward Karen realizes the man she obtained a restraining order for still stalks her.

Karen’s sister Rose, a performance artist, drives from Chicago to Anna because her sister’s eerie phone call frightened her and her efforts to phone Karen back were no answered. Rose enters her sibling’s home only to find her in the library near a ladder and books on the floor. Though not close, a stunned Rose plans to sell the house until she sees three enigmatic murals whose subjects relates to the 1830s Trail of Tears and learns her late sister hired restoration artist Alex Hague to remove layers of wallpaper that concealed four known murals in all. As she investigates who the mural artist was, Rose and Alex soon team up in search of missing sixteenth century Americana historical National Treasure art while an adversary pursues them.

This is a great thriller that provides the audience with a deep look at the Trail of Tears and at mural art. The storyline is fast-paced from the opening murder scene until the final discovery and disappearance. Rose is a superb heroine as she bravely continues her inquiry knowing what happened to her sister and distrusting the only person she can partner with in her search; as Alex is enigmatic. The Lost Artist is a fabulous mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight-Jack Campbell

The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight

Jack Campbell

Ace, Oct 2 2012, $26.95

ISBN: 9781937077822

The ruthless Syndicate finds its violent control of its people in peril because of the inability to defeat the Alliance forces led by "Black Jack" Geary nor defend some of their worlds from aliens. As the Syndicate appears on the verge of implosion, The Midway Star System becomes a hotbed of activity because the sector is a nexus of hypergates to and from other Syndicate systems. Distrust of the brutal Syndicate forces runs throughout this sector as the locals expect to feel the terrorizing crush of their “protectors” and worse from the “snakes”.

Syndicate Commander Arthur Drakon led the ground forces in the Midway Star System, but he and what is left of his units are exiled. Instead of hiding, Drakon makes a rebellious bid to take over leadership of Midway starting with ridding the system of the snakes. To succeed, he needs to ally with a natural enemy CEO Gwen Iceni. Together they mount a counter attack on Syndicate units in the sector with a strong focus on those dominated by snakes. After declaring their independence from the Syndicate, each distrusts the other, but failure to do so will allow the snakes to regroup abetted by traitors.

This brilliant sidebar new series occurs during a period between the Beyond the Frontier last two entries: Dreadnaught and Invincible. Though there is plenty of military outer space combat, the storyline centers on the strange bedfellows’ codependent but tremulous alliance that Drakon and Iceni forge to bring their nebulous vision of a better democratic future for Midway. Jack Campbell runs a strong saga shown from the viewpoints of the Syndicate at a time when the vicious totalitarian military regime teeters on the brink of total collapse.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Invisible Murder-Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis

Invisible Murder

Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis

Soho Press, Oct 2 2012, $25.00

ISBN: 9781616951702

In Copenhagen, Red Cross nurse Nina Borg (see The Boy in the Suitcase) promised her husband to end her volunteerism in order to spend more time with their two children. However, Nina cannot stay away from the plight of the Hungarian Roma living in an encampment in Valby so she continues to volunteer for the Network.

Networker Peter Erhardsen the engineer and much of the Roma expatriates become violently ill with an unknown sickness. The police arrest Budapest law student Sándor Horváth who they mistakenly think is his stepbrother Tamás Rézmüves; as the cops believe the latter and his partner Pitkin stole radioactive products from an abandoned hospital in Hungary to sell in Denmark. Matters turns ugly as the tainted contraband travels the city while sex traffickers and terrorists threaten the Networkers, their families, the Roma and other good people.

This is an exciting Danish thriller that grips the audience with an obsessive need to know how everything ties together, which Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis successfully achieve by their stunning climax. Action-packed, readers will “clink and drink one down to wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen” (Frank Loesser).

Harriet Klausner

The Greatcoat: A Ghost Story-Helen Dunmore

The Greatcoat: A Ghost Story

Helen Dunmore

Atlantic Monthly, Oct 2 2012, $24.00

ISBN: 9780802120601

In 1952, Great Britain still digs out of the horrors of WWII. Newlyweds Isabel and Philip Carey move to rural Yorkshire where he takes over a medical practice. Philip dives into his work as a country doctor while Isabel suffers from loneliness and a sense she does not belong here rusticating.

On a lonely night, Isabel finds an RAF greatcoat buried in the top of a cupboard by apparently their landlady Mrs. Elizabeth Atkinson. To keep warm on this freezing evening, Isabel puts on the coat and falls asleep. Not long afterward, the ghost of the owner of the coat Alec, a late RAF officer, taps from the outside on the flat’s window. The isolated woman and the dead pilot begin a tryst.

This is an exciting 1950s ghost story that switches between the “present” (1952) and WWII as Isabel obsesses over her new “friend”. Although none of the triangle protagonists are fully developed beyond their prime role, fans will appreciate the tale of the Greatcoat.

Harriet Klausner

This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It-David Wong

This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It

David Wong

Dunne, Oct 2 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312546342

In rhe Undisclosed Midwestern town twenty-five years old John Dies at the End, not. Though he prefers a constant state of sauce high, John, his and his one-handed fiancée Amy, his only friend David and Molly the dog find themselves either inhaling too much soy sauce or combatting monsters.

This time the beasts get into the mouths of people before taking control of the victims’ bodies. As zombies threaten Undisclosed, John turns to soy sauce as the weapon of choice to ignore the contagion in a purple haze of illusions. At the same time, Feds led by David’s therapist threaten John and his one degree of contacts, but the only abomination he and his teammates fear is Carlos the anus tunneler.

The sequel to John Dies at the End is once again a zany horror thriller as This Book Is Full of Spiders and much worse. Loaded with slapstick humor and not so subtle jocular mocking of the genre, fans will enjoy this fast-paced zombie tale as drug and monster induced paranoia rules the minds of John, David, Amy and even Molly while they protect their asses.

Harriet Klausner

Three Parts Dead-Max Gladstone

Three Parts Dead

Max Gladstone

Tor, Oct 2 2012, $24.99

ISBN 9780765333100

The residents of Alt Coulumb are shocked when the fire god Kos, who kept the city going, dies. The city leaders fear the lack of their deity’s power will destroy Alt Coulumb from within. Thus, these leaders employ necromancer Elayne Kevarian to bring their god back to life before dangerous disorder ensues. Assisting Kevarian are her apprentice associate craftswoman Tara Abernathy and priest Abelard.

The trio starts with investigating the death of Kos. They are shocked when evidence mounts that their deity was murdered. This requires someone with incredible power to have slain the fire god. As the trio continues their inquiry, vampires and gargoyles attack them but Blacksuits’ warrior protects them.

Three Parts Dead is a great fantasy that will make many readers’ best of the year short list. The Gladstone realm is filled with intricate sometimes tongue-in-cheek details like legal contracts between gods and their followers that as a whole make the environs seem plausible. Filled with taut suspense, fans will enjoy this investigative thriller as brave fully developed women escort fans throughout Alt Coulumb in search of a killer.

Harriet Klausner

Midnight Cravings-Joelle Sterling

Midnight Cravings

Joelle Sterling

Strebor Books/Simon & Schuster, Oct 9 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9781593094195

With her BFF Naomi going to a private school after her parents learned of the bullying she suffered, Holland Manning decides to do a makeover from nerd to edgy beaut so that her high school crush football star Jarrett Sloan notices her though she knows she will compete with his ex Chaela Vasquez. The teen asks her mom Phoebe the witch to cast a spell to turn her into an alluring beauty though Holland knows the risk as her mother rarely has an incantation work properly.

With his family depending on him teenager Jonas left Haiti for Miami on a voyage in which evil Captain Henri performs human sacrifice and trafficking. When Jonas awakens in in Frombleton, Georgia, he finds himself changed to something his mom and sisters would fear and loathe while he detests the abomination he has become. Holland discovers her sorcerer skills so she and the Haitian team up to fight vampires assaulting the locals.

This is an engaging young adult rural fantasy that never decides whether it is a star-crossed teen romance and a horror thriller. Ironically the fast-paced storyline is at its best when the malevolents attack rather than when the lead characters muse over their woes; as the heroine spends too much time on her new looks and boys (she acts like a teen girl not having to save the town) and the undead hero who reflects on being despicable). Still overall the first Eternal Dead tale is an engaging teen thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Unleashed-Crystal Jordan


Crystal Jordan

Kensington Aphrodisia, Sep 25 2012, $14.00

ISBN: 9780758261571

“Hunting Temptation.” After the use of biological weaponry during the Third Great War former Black Ops wolf shifter Kienan Vaughn comes to New Chicago to see his cousin Pierce. After dispatching some hissing muggers, Kiernan meets his mate private investigator Gea Craven, who is mated to businessman Quillian North. With two male hunks as hers, Gea forges a ménage a trois.

“Reclaiming Temptation.” In London mob leader Stefan holds Hybrid cheetah Felicia “Tam” Tamryn’s sister hostage. He demands the grifter steal the crown jewels if she wants her sibling back. Tam’s knows she will lose her mate Constantine Breckenridge when she completes the blackmail, but she must save her sister. Breck plans to rescue the siblings.

These are two exhilarating post-apocalyptic romantic fantasies starring protagonists who make the Jordan world crystal clear and seemingly real.

Harriet Klausner

Mutated-Joe McKinney


Joe McKinney

Pinnacle, Sep 4 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780786029297

Brilliant Stage IV zombie Red Man leads a horde of human and undead. Their current assignment, besides the relentless hunt for their dwindling food supply requiring precise military like tactics, is Niki Booth the notorious zombie killer. Niki, accompanied by Avery Harper and Sylvia Carnes are meeting with Dr. Don Fisher, who allegedly has a cure for zombie fever. Reporter Ben Richardson follows their story.

As zombies starve, the tyrannical Red Man demands his followers kill Niki and her cohorts. Meanwhile the intrepid humans battle the zombies without a respite as they get closer to their destination, Fisher’s lab.

The fourth Dead World urban fantasy (see Dead City, Apocalypse of the Dead and Flesh Eaters) is an exciting thriller. The storyline is fast-paced and filled with action, but the non-stop fighting escapades between the Red Man and his minions vs. Niki and her allies supersedes the twin premises of the Malthusian theory’s “population increase would outpace increases in the means of subsistence” and the potential cure. Still diehard deadheads will be grateful for the entertaining albeit improbable Mutated.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 21, 2012

Where the Trail Ends-Melanie Dobson

Where the Trail Ends

Melanie Dobson

Summerside, Oct 1 2012, $12.99

ISBN: 9781609366858

In 1841, eighteen years old Samantha Waldron and her younger brother Daniel continue the trek along the Oregon Trail after their parents die. They hope to safely reach Willamette Valley before winter leaves them stranded in a life threatening situation. Their canoe capsizes on the Columbia River. However British exporter Alexander Clarke rescues them and escort them to Fort Vancouver.

Many men want Samantha, but she is attracted to Alex who apparently does not feel the same way about her. When his fiancée arrives, Samantha decides she must leave the fort as she cannot cope with seeing her beloved with another woman. However when Daniel vanishes, her only hope to find her sibling resides with Alex.

Where the Trail Ends is a fantastic historical as Melanie Dobson once again has armchair readers believing they are on trekking nineteenth century Americana (see Love Finds You in Amana, Iowa). The lead couple is a solid duet as they and others bring to life the Oregon Trail and Fort Vancouver as the romantic subplot supports the vivid look at 1840s manifest destiny fulfilled by daring people taking dangerous risks in search of a better life.

Harriet Klausner