Monday, June 30, 2008

Never Romance a Rake

Never Romance a Rake
Liz Carlyle
Pocket, Aug 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9781416527169

Comte de Valigny and Baron Rothewell play cards with the stake being the former’s beautiful daughter Camille Marchand. However, neither rake factored in the reaction of the stakes. Camille loathes her father who had no use for a female offspring until she turned into a rare beauty he could peddle amidst the Ton. She knows the Baron’s reputation as a scoundrel who prefers spending time with his mistress than any Ton social event. However, he is shocked when his winning comes willingly as she sees the rogue as the lesser of two evils.

As they spend time together, Camille finds herself attracted to the tender caring Kieran. She is able to somehow see past his façade into his soul yearning for more but expecting less. Kiernan is shocked how much he cares for Camille as he sees inside her heart to find the identical darkness covering a yearning for love. However, her father ruthlessly plans to use her as a tool to harm Kieran with a secret about his daughter that she is unaware of; but dear old dad placed his bets against love.

This is an engaging Regency romance starring two likable protagonists who readers will bet against them forging a permanent relationship; he is a true blood rake and she distrusts aristocratic males as her father taught her well. Sub-genre fans will enjoy their battles as love has left both bewildered and frightened while her opportunistic vile daddy dearest sees a chance to win a pot with this pair. Liz Carlyle deals three of kind with this fine NEVER ROMANCE A RAKE (see NEVER DECEIVE A DUKE and NEVER LIE TO A LADY).

Harriet Klausner

The Midnight Man-Charlotte Mede

The Midnight Man
Charlotte Mede
Kensington Brava, Aug 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 0758223676

In 1860, recently widowed Helena Hartford is infamous for her scandalous paintings. However, it is not her art that has her in trouble; it is her wealth she inherited that others covet and plan to use her paintings as proof she needs to be committed to an asylum. Bedlam would kill this young woman who relishes freedom.

Even more affluent than her, Nicholas Ramsay orders Helena to trust him as he will keep her safe and free. However, he hides from her his real agenda as she is his pawn to reap revenge. Instead he finds himself falling in love and takes her to South America on a science expedition and to keep her truly safe; however, those after her money follow as she must be removed either into an asylum or a coffin.

This EXPLOSIVE historical romantic suspense grips the audience from the moment the suspicious Helena (and readers) distrusts Nicholas when he says trust me. The story line is fast-paced with Darwinism used to anchor the era. The lead couple is a fabulous pairing as love supersedes hate in Nicholas’ case. Fans will appreciate Charlotte Mede’s strong thriller as the tension continually mounts until the final confrontation with a fascinating low key villain.

Harriet Klausner

The Black Sheep and the English Rose-Donna Kaufman

The Black Sheep and the English Rose
Donna Kaufman
Kensington Brava, Aug 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 0758217293

In New York City, Finn Dalton sneaks into a hotel suite only to find jewel thief Felicity Jane Trent tied naked to the bed. They have a history competing for precious jewels, but have not seen one another since Prague two years ago. Finn offers to team up with Felicity Jane to retrieve the Byzantium gem that both want; she asks how to split one stone and he says he is not sure, but there are other things he desires. She explains that artifact dealer John Reese caught her looking into his things. He tied her up and left with the stone. He is meeting his buyer’s contact. Finn asks Felicity Jane why steal when she is wealthy and runs a renowned charity. She will not respond, but he assumes it is the thrill.

Finn and Felicity Jane join Reese and his client Andreev, who is buying the gem for octogenarian collector Chesnokov. Andreev leaves followed by Reese. Finn and Felicity Jane go to Reese’s hotel room where they know an unknown woman had been there. They take a glass that might have her fingerprints on it. At his Manhattan sanctuary he learns the prints belong to Julia Forsythe, a San Francisco art dealer; they find her itinerary on the net. They believe Reese went to California with her so they follow them. Finn and Felicity Jane want one another, but he insists she stop stealing; she refuses.

The lead couple is terrific as they share an odd confrontational loving history filled with sexual innuendos while the return of the lead characters from the previous “Black Sheep” tales adds depth as they perform critical but minimized support roles. The mystery of what is truly going on is cleverly disguised; however, the “villain” never makes a first person appearance leaving the audience somewhat dissatisfied. Still this is a fine romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Southern Poison-T. Lynn Ocean

Southern Poison
T. Lynn Ocean
St. Martin’s, Sep 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312383466

Jersey Barnes left the military SWEET (Special Worldwide Unit for Entertaining and Exterminating Terrorists) to open up the Barnes Agency, a personal security firm. She still owns the security firm, but never does field work anymore. Instead she focuses on a bar she owns in Wilmington, North Carolina with her hunk of a partner Duke “Ox” Oxendine, whose former wife and teenage daughter have arrived.

However, Jersey becomes irate when her former military handler Ashton informs her that he invoked her retirement contract clause of calling her back to active duty. Internet chatter evidence points towards a terrorist plot to disrupt the Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point, North Carolina, the largest Ammo plant. She will go undercover working at the roach coach selling sandwiches in an attempt to uncover who is behind the planned attack, when and how.

When the military drafts former soldier Jersey as a temporary part of the “all” volunteer army, the brass did not understand the SWEET deal they got; instead of just Jersey, they get her and her eccentric crew. Readers will enjoy their antics as they struggle to prevent a terrorist incident at strategic Sunny Point port. However, as with SOUTHERN FATALITY, the key to this amusing yet serious regional thriller is the crew. Fans will appreciate Jersey's personal moralist Ox, his even deeper moralist daughter, former Federal IT guru Soup, and the heroine's bluffing dad Spud in this fast-paced Carolina caper; just don’t eat from the roach coach when Jersey makes the sandwiches.

Harriet Klausner

Crosscut-Meg Gardiner

Meg Gardiner
Obsidian, Sep 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451225221

In high school, Evan Delaney and her class go on a field trip to the Naval Base in China Lake to do some sketches of drawings on a canyon. Evan and three other girls slip away and go where a project is being blown up, which they witness. Various Federal agents interview the four high school females, but eventually they return to school. Evan goes on with her life assuming the incident was nothing.

Evan accompanied by her lover Jesse attends her high school class’ fifteenth year anniversary gala. Those who died are commemorated, but no one notices that the people who died are way higher than average in this grouping. Someone killed one of the high school witnesses before the reunion and a second one just after the event. Evan soon learns that a black ops experiment being blown up was what they actually observed fifteen years ago. Now anyone remotely associated with Project South Star is being killed; Evan will not sit idly by waiting her turn.

This is the fourth Meg Gardiner thriller I read and as with the others this super author hooks the reader with plenty of action and a heroine who is a woman in peril, but takes care of herself although that drives the men in her life crazy especially Jesse who loves her. The story line is fast-paced and a bit over the Sierras, but fun to read as Jessie will do anything to keep his beloved Evan safe even when she, in his mind, foolishly risks her life to stop the Captain America replica.

Harriet Klausner

Wanton-Noelle Mack

Noelle Mack
Kensington Brava, Aug 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 0758222769

In 1816 London, the members of the Pack of St. James are concerned with the recent murders of two women who were seen with the Pack’s men. The Pack also received a heinous message warning them more fallen women who are seen with them will die. Since leader Kyril Taruskin and his be loved Vivienne are in the WILD of the Russian port of Archangel, his brother Marko investigates.

His inquiries lead Marko to Severin, whose half-sister was a victim. She seems to know too much intricate details to satisfy Marko of her innocence. However he knows immediately she is clever and brilliant, and her allure is overpowering. Still he is not a Pack leader, who succumbs easily to a siren. When he tries to use his sensual skills to gain the upper hand and learn the truth, she turns up the heat. Soon he realizes to keep her safe he must not be seen with this scandalous woman whom he loves

This WANTON tale starts off WILD, hot and sexy as Marko and Severin are in instant heat for one another. However, the whodunit takes over the story line rather quickly; as it should with lives at stake including that of Severin. Thus fans will appreciate this fine historical mystery with the right amount of romance enhancing Marko’s desperate inquiry to catch a serial killer so that he and his soulmate can love one another for a long lifetime.

Harriet Klausner

The Bride of Time-Dawn Thompson

The Bride of Time
Dawn Thompson
Love Spell, Aug 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0505527286

In 1903, London scullery maid Tessa La Prelle lives a hard life as her job is not an easy one. However, adding to her drudgery is the shock that everyone recognizes her as the model who posed in Giles Longworth's portrait, THE BRIDE OF TIME. The only problem with the assumption that she sat for the artist is that the painting is a century old.

While walking in a pea soup thick fog in London, Tessa suddenly finds herself at the Longworth's home in Cornwall with no idea how she got there and quickly hired as governess to his nephew; as no one except desperate people accept employment there. Almost everyone fears Longworth, who is rumored to be a shapeshifter who mutilates humans. Tessa knows Giles would never kill anyone; she is not quite as sure about his strange behaving nephew. As Tessa falls in love, she wonders if her heart is coloring her mind from evil.

As she has consistently done over the years, the late great Dawn Thompson provides an entertaining paranormal historical “bridal” romance in which she combines elements she has used before into an exciting tale. The author employs time travel (see THE FALCON'S BRIDE) with a werewolf saga (see THE RAVENCLIFF BRIDE) to provide her fans with a delightful gothic romance in which the suspense and the comparative historical eras enhance a fitting tribute.

Harriet Klausner

The Druid Made Me Do It-Natalie Stenzel

The Druid Made Me Do It
Natalie Stenzel
Love Spell, Aug 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0505527774

Eight years ago Dr. Janelle Corrington met Kane. They had a heated one night stand and she suddenly believed in love at first sight as she thought she finally met her soulmate until he suddenly vanished in the morning.

However, Kane recently committed a bad error in judgment; for that misdeed Faerie King Oberon punishes his once favorite son who he knows as Robin Goodfellow, magical seducer of women. He names Janelle as his guardian while she is also granted special mental healing skills to compensate for her time. Kane’s punishment besides having to bow to a woman is to atone for his sins with all his victims. To his shock, Kane, who has always been a 4F kind of guy falls in love with Janelle; but he sadly knows they have no future together.

The sequel to PANDORA'S BOX is as wacky as that tale was as Robin makes a return engagement, which means Janelle is in for plenty of “Pandemina”. The amusing story line is fun to follow as the lead couple has plenty of tsuris especially with their apparent no future together. Fans of romantic fantasy will appreciate THE DRUID MADE ME DO IT as Robin Goodfellow learns a lesson about the real magic of love.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Belle Weather: Mostly Sunny with a Chance of Scattered Hissy Fits

Belle Weather: Mostly Sunny with a Chance of Scattered Hissy Fits
Celia Rivenbark
St. Martin’s, Aug 2008, $21.95
ISBN: 9780312362997

These are 30 humorous observations about life that can be read over a period of time as each is an exclusive entry. However, the commentaries are actually divided into four sections: On the House, Just Kid-ding, It’s Raining Men (Must be Why My Joints Ache, and (I’m So Totally) Randomly Thoughts. The entries are all fun, but especially the first two segments. Readers will empathize with the insanity that goes on with purchasing a house and the social expectations of having kids at school. The very first essay sets the bar of excellence for this hilarious tome as Celia and her husband buy a house that they crazily say “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change!” as they renovate what they bought. It remains zany from that onset as Celia understands the significant other in her life is the renovator. Readers will be in stitches as each contribution will hit home even if you do not own a house or have a kid own you. Although the six commentaries that make up the last section are aptly titled Random Thoughts, they are unfocused especially following the previous classified trio, yet they too are jocular and will leave fans laughing, wanting more insight into hissy living, and appreciate Celia Rivenbark, “a Beauty Queen At Last”.

Harriet Klausner

Apart from the Crowd- Anna McPartlin

Apart from the Crowd
Anna McPartlin
Downtown, Aug 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 1416569723

Life to Mary is an archipelago of tragedy as one island of loss leads to the next island of loss. Usually this means the death of a loved one like her child, but she muses that it can be less final for instance when she was twelve, her new puppy Mr. Monkels lost a part of an ear in a freaky fishing accident.

However as Mary needs to move past the latest trauma, her cousin Ivan's wife dumped him and took their kids with her. Her best friend Penny loves married alcoholic Adam, who happens to love his wife and Penny; and plans to keep both women in his life. Then there is her new neighbor Sam, a former music world VIP until drugs destroyed his career and his life. He is trying to remain clean, but like the other people in Mary’s life and even herself, hide their indiscretions from one another.

Although with five you get the entire buffet not just an egg roll; this well written character study is overwhelmed at times with too much angst oozing from each player. The story line engages the audience who empathizes with each key character; however also the weight of the collective quintet feels overwhelming. Still Anna McPartlin makes a strong case that Dean Martin was right that “Everybody Needs Somebody Sometime” to share the joy and sorrow of life.

Harriet Klausner

Still Waters-Nigel McCrery

Still Waters
Nigel McCrery
Pantheon, Aug 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780307377036

Essex Detective Sergeant Emma Bradbury asks Detective Chief Inspector Mark Lapslie, who is one medical leave, to come to a car crash scene where the rotted body of an elderly woman wrapped in plastic has been found. Apparently the vehicle dug the corpse out of a shallow grave.

Dealing with synthesia Mark, who tastes sound such as his mobile ringing tasting like chocolate, reluctantly arrives at the scene to look around; his first case in almost a year. The two cops conclude that the killer left little behind except cutting the fingers off the victim’s right hand. They later learn the deceased is Violet Chambers who was killed with a garden plant poison and the fingers nipped by a garden shears. They tie her death to abductions of other senior citizens and begin to fear a serial killer who is planting the elderly into the ground.

This is an opening tale of a new English police procedural starring a unique detective. The strength and weakness of STILL WATERS is Lapslie. His sensual issues caused by synthesia makes him a fascinating protagonist with little hints at how he perceives the world like his tasting his phone ringing. However, how complex and convoluted that makes his life and how he successfully overcame his different outlook to become a DCI is not dug deep enough to satisfy the audience; instead he seems totally adapted with just asides to remind the reader his senses work differently. Still this is an enjoyable first tale with hopefully more synthesia caused issues surfacing in which Lapslie’s observations are prevalent to the case.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Centurion-John Ringo

The Last Centurion
John Ringo
Baen, Aug 2008, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416555537

The Hell Times confirmed what most thought about a Democrat in the White House, especially the “Bitch”, as this time when they got it wrong the cost was the planet. These idiots focused on preventing global warming only it was the Freeze that led to the pandemic environmental disaster and the bird flu global Plague in which the Bitch’s socialized medicine failed everyone. By 2021 worldwide famine has become the acceptable norm.

These leaders failed the military they deployed to the Middle East by abandoning the soldiers in Iraq after widening the mission to Turkey, Iran, and Kuwait. Survival means stealing from the locals who are also struggling for sustenance and looting artifacts to sell on the black market. On our side of the Holy War, few are willing to die for the cause; our adversaries have most of those who sacrifice their lives. Only in America will a TV show surface to showcase THE LAST CENTURION unit as propaganda to patriotically bury the embarrassing defeats behind disinformation fog. While the Fat DC Cats talk of hundred year wars, weary soldiers write blogs so the truth may one day be known before the victors rewrite the history books.

Though well written the difficulty for the audience will be to accept the premises that the Liberal Democrats are at fault for the third decade of the desert war, avian flu and global freezing; as if the Bush years did not exist. However, if the audience accepts the shocking prejudicial strong beliefs of THE LAST CENTURION who tells the story in his blog from his perspective as gospel “historical facts”, the tale provides a compelling austere near future thriller. Those early sections provide the deep understanding of the military officer’s mind through his blog writing. Though the ending is even more implausible, fans of Mr. Ringo and the Neocons busy rewriting the history books (at least their roles) will appreciate this cautionary tale in which the author implores bloggers to expose the lies of the power structure.

Harriet Klausner

Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show

Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show
Edmund R. Schubert and Orson Scott Card
Tor, Aug 2008, $16.95
ISBN: 9780765320001

The eighteen stories selected for this anthology were first published in the online magazine Intergalactic Medicine Show in 2006 and were considered the best from the four IGMS issues. Mr. Card provides four fine Enderverse short stories not seen in printed form before. Although some of the contributors are acclaimed talents like David Lubar and David Farland (Camelot never looked so fresh) fans will also appreciate the entries by less famous authors as Mr. Card and Mr. Schubert introduce Enders readers to endless possibility of meeting talented writers. There are no losers as all the tales are entertaining. Especially fascinating are the Rapture tale "To Know All Things That Are in the Earth" by James Maxey, a pair by Eric James Stone, and Tom Barlow's satirical Pollyanna "Call Me Mr. Positive". Also adding to the freshness is Aaron Johnston’s comic book style “Fat Farm” based on a story by Mr. Card. This compilation is superb and should send the audience to the OSCIGMS website.

Harriet Klausner

Hotter Than Hell-Jackie Kessler

Hotter Than Hell
Jackie Kessler
Zebra, Aug 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780821781043

Daun the Incubus is superb at seducing evil women; they cannot help but sleep with him and lose their soul that he brings to the King of Lust in Hell. However, he is stunned by his former Succubus Jezebel leaving Hell and seduction behind her for an appalling wretched human (see HELLS BELLES and THE ROAD TO HELL). Jezebel demands her former Incubus Daun stay away from her and her Paul. Feeling like a dog in heat, Daun obsesses with lust for his Jezebel.

The King of Lust assigns Daun with bringing the soul of Virginia Reed to Hell, if he succeeds, which the literally cocky Daun knows is a foregone conclusion, he will become The First Principal of Lust, second in line to the Lust monarch. However when Daun sees his victim, he is shocked. She is Jezebel’s doppelganger and worse heaven bound as she is a kind hearted innocent who deserves to go on that path. Still Daun tries to charm her though to his consternation for the first time he meets failure. Virginia wants him, but she refuses her need as she knows men leave and she cannot deal with Daun leaving so why start.

With demons exposing him while trying to kill Daun and his victim thwarting him, fans will enjoy this amusing third erotic member from hell’s struggle with love and job security. Daun goes from demon war to demon lust as he has met his match in pure Virginia (right name for this woman). The story line is lighthearted and thin, but so much fun from start to finish as Daun has to choose between earthly mortal love and hellish royal rule.

Harriet Klausner

Hotter Than Hell-Jackie Kessler

Hotter Than Hell
Jackie Kessler
Zebra, Aug 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780821781043

Daun the Incubus is superb at seducing evil women; they cannot help but sleep with him and lose their soul that he brings to the King of Lust in Hell. However, he is stunned by his former Succubus Jezebel leaving Hell and seduction behind her for an appalling wretched human (see HELLS BELLES and THE ROAD TO HELL). Jezebel demands her former Incubus Daun stay away from her and her Paul. Feeling like a dog in heat, Daun obsesses with lust for his Jezebel.

The King of Lust assigns Daun with bringing the soul of Virginia Reed to Hell, if he succeeds, which the literally cocky Daun knows is a foregone conclusion, he will become The First Principal of Lust, second in line to the Lust monarch. However when Daun sees his victim, he is shocked. She is Jezebel’s doppelganger and worse heaven bound as she is a kind hearted innocent who deserves to go on that path. Still Daun tries to charm her though to his consternation for the first time he meets failure. Virginia wants him, but she refuses her need as she knows men leave and she cannot deal with Daun leaving so why start.

With demons exposing him while trying to kill Daun and his victim thwarting him, fans will enjoy this amusing third erotic member from hell’s struggle with love and job security. Daun goes from demon war to demon lust as he has met his match in pure Virginia (right name for this woman). The story line is lighthearted and thin, but so much fun from start to finish as Daun has to choose between earthly mortal love and hellish royal rule.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Vengeance-Ed Greenwood

Dark Vengeance
Ed Greenwood
Tor, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765317667

In the village of Orlkettle, Orivon Firefist works day and night at the forge because it gave him pleasure to be his own boss at a place where he can see the sky and the grass. When he was six years old, he was stolen from his parents in a Nilfghar (dark elves) raid and brought to the Dark Below where he was a slave for a decade and a half to a wealthy noble family, who tortured him in an attempt to break his spirit; they never did. The daughter helped him escape her parents’ cruelty.

Now the dark elves have raided Orlkettle and kidnapped four children. Orivon knows first hand the fate that awaits these innocents and vows to rescue them or die trying. However, he is entering a world that has radically changed beyond recognition. The realm of Talonnorn that was the rival of Ouvahlor is in rapid decline from without and within; as nobles fight their peers and the Consecrated fight each other. As Orivon makes his way to Talonnorn he fights and kills beasts and dark elves, determined to free the city as he searches for the children.

DARK VENGEANCE is a dark quest fantasy that focuses on a culture that lives below the ground with its own peculiar values and customs (mindful of the Time Machine’s Morlocks) different from humans who live in the Blinding Light. The hero knows torture first hand having lived through the brutal abuse almost daily for years; yet overall he is a well balanced person though he has some issues sleeping and prefers light to night. He loathes killing, but will do so to save the kids from what he faced. Obviously readers know but will not care that Orivon is out of his league as he is not a warrior. That is the beauty of Ed Greenwood’s tale as he makes the blacksmith’s never again obsession the impetus to turn an ordinary person into a superhero “willing to march into hell for that heavenly cause”.

Harriet Klausner

The Sirens-William Meikle

The Sirens
William Meikle
KHP, 2008
ISBN: 9780979988127

In Glasgow, after recovering from the events of the AMULET, on the day the Adams Detective Agency doubled in size with the hiring of computer guru Doug, private investigator Derek Adams receives a visit from an elderly person. Recently widowed Jessie Malcolm, who is using her ain name, says she going outside her “Circle” to hire Derek to bring home her missing son. Derek quickly accepts the case because he figures this one is easy and a 180 degrees away from the still emotionally painful Amulet fiasco since his new client insists her son John Mason is on the Isle of Skye so he can attend the funeral of her husband Tommy, his father.

On Skye, Derek visits the Auld Kelpie Inn, but his questions are met with cold angry silence. He soon learns that John’s relatives work and drink here; they resent strangers asking questions about him. However, his inquiry soon leads Derek to John, who is under the enchantment of a Kelpie; fathering her children. John needs to go home for his father’s funeral, but though he cannot fathom why, John’s cousins will not allow this to happen, but Derek helps him to escape. However, in Glasgow, all hell has broken loose, which sends police officers to question Derek; who now must wonder what he wrought when he brought the cursed John home.

The second Midnight Eyes File case is an enjoyable investigative urban fantasy. The story line is fast-paced although somewhat disrupted with flashbacks including post traumatic stress disorder still suffered by the hero from his first book escapades. The Norse mythos that serves as the key fantasy element is cleverly designed so that the cops and the private detective must look into it; though the former are skeptical and the latter still recovering from his previous paranormal sleuthing. Sub-genre readers will relish the SIRENS and like this reviewer will seek a copy of THE AMULET; as William Meikle provides an entertaining paranormal investigative tale.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Watch Me-Brenda Novak

Watch Me
Brenda Novak
Mira, Aug 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778325260

A dozen years ago in Whiterock, Tennessee teenagers Sheridan Kohl and Jason Wyatt were parked when someone shot both of them. She survived but he died while the culprit was not caught. Most townsfolk including Jason’s dad believe the lad’s stepbrother Cain Granger got away with murder. That tragedy shaped Sheridan’s life as she became a dedicated caseworker for The Last Stand, a firm that helps crime victims.

When she learns that the rifle used to kill Jason has been found after twelve years, Sheridan reluctantly returns home as the cold case suddenly turns hot. However, her welcome home turns to be someone beats her severely enough that the predator left her for dead. Cain saves her life and helps her heal; taking leave from his job. Attracted to each other, Cain and Sheridan team up to try to uncover the real killer of Jason before the culprit kills Sheridan.

The third Last Stand thriller (see STOP ME and TRUST ME) is a superb regional whodunit starring a powerful cast especially the lead duet. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Sheridan decides to return to her Eastern Tennessee hometown in hopes of real closure by having the killer finally caught. Readers will appreciate Sheridan’s Last Stand as she risks her life to be able to truly close that tragic chapter of her life and if she survives that need perhaps move on with her hero Cain.

Harriet Klausner

Cypress Nights-Stella Cameron

Cypress Nights
Stella Cameron
Mira, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780778325406

The residents of Toussaint, Louisiana are rightfully upset and frightened to learn someone was murdered in St. Cecil's Church. Soon afterward the fear factor turns stratospheric, as more people die. The divided community knows the homicides are connected to the new school and teacher Bleu Labeau.

Over the edge over the deaths, Bleu also realizes she must be the target too of this serial killer. However, it is her feelings for her self anointed protector Dr. Roche Savage that frightens her most and not just because she mistrusts herself when it comes to men; she has learned that everyone who has been killed was his patient.

Fans will enjoy the return to Toussaint (see A MARKED MAN and A GRAVE MISTAKE) with this fast-paced serial killer thriller. The key to CYPRESS NIGHTS is the lead couple as she has to decide whether to trust her heart or the circumstantial evidence; a wrong choice by Bleu probably means death. However, Stella Cameron never takes her eyes off the ball as she uses the romantic subplot as support to the prime murder mystery. Ms. Cameron’s fans will enjoy the steamy nights in the bayou where either love or murder occur.

Harriet Klausner

Cold Case-Kate Wilhelm

Cold Case
Kate Wilhelm
Mira, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780778325284

Over two decades ago in Eugene, Oregon, someone murdered teenager Jill Storey. The police and much of the small town believed that either teens David Etheridge or Robert McCrutchen killed her. However, no evidence was found and the case went cold.

Twenty-two years later, David an author returns to his hometown and ends up staying with Robert who is a senator and his wife. Soon afterward, someone murders Robert. The police once again suspect David, believing they have motive, means and definitely opportunity. He, knowing that he is a person of interest, hires attorney Barbara Holloway to represent him. She and her team begin to investigate the two homicides with each clue making the case stronger against her client.

The latest Holloway investigative thriller is an enjoyable regional whodunit starring an eccentric Oregonian cast, but not quite as powerful as most of the previous tales (see SLEIGHT OF HAND and A WRONGFUL DEATH). With humor to somewhat abating the tension, fans will appreciate Barbara’s efforts to find proof that someone else committed the recent homicide although she and the audience begin to believe David is guilty until a beating occurs. Her digging means no time to mount a defense and takes away from the overall story line as she gets nowhere for much of the novel. Still COLD CASE is a fine Holloway tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Stolen-Jason Pinter

The Stolen
Jason Pinter
Mira, Aug 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778325727

Six months has passed since New York Legal Aid attorney Amanda Davies ended her relationship with New York Gazette reporter Henry Parker because he chose work over her. Since getting a job on the newspaper, his life turned hectic and dangerous but not just for him; anyone close to him including Amanda (see THE MARK).

However, the investigative reporter puts his personal life on hold again when he is given an incredible exclusive. Five years ago, then six year old Daniel Linwood was kidnapped; the case went cold until now. Suddenly eleven years old Daniel has come home. He remembers nothing as to where he has been, what happened to him, or even how he ended up back at his family’s house. Henry interviews the child, but learns nothing about the mystery from the kid. He and Amanda soon learn that other children have been abducted and ultimately returned. As they dig deeper, an unknown adversary is willing to kill the nosy journalist and his former girlfriend to prevent the truth from surfacing.

The latest Henry Parker investigative tale is an exciting whodunit as the hero and his ex girlfriend team up on the case. Henry is terrific as his inquiries leave him confused with more unanswered questions; his first hand account enhances his bewilderment and that of the audience as the motive is just out of reach. However, it is his sort of schizoid personality that makes him a superb character as he is a classic New York City cynic on the job and a closet romantic in his home. Fans will appreciate this entertaining suspense thriller with the right touch of sexual tension to augment a fine read.

Harriet Klausner

3 Men and a Body-Stephanie Bond

3 Men and a Body
Stephanie Bond
Mira, Aug 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778326076

Stressed to the max due to the three men in her life and her being placed on work suspension giving her time to think about testosterone overload, Carlotta Wren needs getaway time from the three men who want in her life. She decides to flee from her former fiancée Peter Ashford who dumped her a decade ago (see BODY MOVERS) and Atlanta Police Detective Jack Terry who accused her of murder (see BODY MOVERS) and later both thought she was dead (see 2 BODIES FOR THE PRICE OF ONE); as to the latter even her younger brother Wesley and his boss Cooper Craft believed she was murdered.

When Cooper asks her to accompany him to Florida to pick up the corpse of heiress Kiki Deerling, she agrees. Besides escaping from Atlanta and the three men in her life, she can decide whether to allow Copper to join the Carlotta sweepstake. Besides she has heard her parents, who escaped prosecution by deserting their children ten yeas ago have been seen in Florida; she wants to confront the pair. However, even before they leave Atlanta, things turn chaotic when Wesley stows away in Cooper’s car to avoid a loan shark, who wants to break his knuckles; Florida proves worse as it seems everyone wants to take Kiki’s body and Carlotta being hurt is insignificant to the celebrity stalking community.

The latest Body Mover mystery is an amusing satirical tale that skewers the obsession people have with the famous; in this case even a dead semi-celebrity. The story line is fast-paced using hyperbole to provide the audience with a wacky funny Florida frolic. Although the plot is limited, the cast is strong; as with the previous madcap entries it is Carlotta and her merry men plus vicious star hunters who make this an entertaining read.

Harriet Klausner

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection
Gardner Dozois (Editor)
St. Martin's, Jul 2008, $21.95
ISBN: 0312378602

This anthology consistently lives up to its billing as the best with the usual strong Introduction by editor Garner Dozois providing an overview of the year especially in short stories with the emphasis on magazine survivability. In the 25th edition, Mr. Dozois praises the Internet for the rapid growth of on-line magazines that showcase famous and unknown authors; especially those with no previous credentials. He also provides accolades to the big publishing firms for supporting anthologies and small presses who provide opportunities to new writers. Finally he gives credit to the Sci Fi channel as well. The stories as always are top rate coming from the vast sources now available. Incredulous as it seems Mr. Dozois improved the tome by finding remote tales and brings them to the attention of mainstream fans although most of the selected entries are by name authors. Especially poignant is “Last Contact by Stephen Baxter in which a mother and her astrophysicist daughter wait together for the Big Crunch to occur, “Finisterra” by David Moles with its warning to watch out for predators even living on an island in the sky, and “An Ocean is a Snowflake, Four Billion Miles away’ by John Barnes where earthlings terraform Mars. With a wide gamut of selections spanning the genre, Mr. Dozois does 2007 proud; a year that he insists will be remembered for its series of retrospect collections of great authors and the widening of sources beyond the print magazine.

Harriet Klausner

Plague War-Jeff Carlson

Plague War
Jeff Carlson
Ace, Aug 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441016174

Just over a year has past since the catastrophe began with a rather rapid wipeout of 5,000,000,000 souls in a blink. The nano-plague was released into the human population bring the world to the edge of extinction.. To survive this organic eating plague one must reside above the elevation of 10,000 feet as the machines freeze at that altitude.

In the Colorado Rocky Mountains the United States government plots to take over the world by using the vaccine developed by Ruth Goldman as a tool to choose who lives. The scientist and her friend Cam just want to inoculate everyone. Meanwhile the feds arrange for select Russians to fly to the States, but are betrayed when the plane explodes a nuclear bomb into the area. The Russian both combat and civilian and the Chinese are coming in full fighter force as they want a less ravaged place to live. Ruth believes she can bring the war to a halt and prevent any more fighting if he idea and new creation works

The sequel to the exciting PLAGUE YEAR, PLAGUE WAR is an exhilarating high octane science fiction thriller that hooks the audience from the opening sequence and never stops until the climax. While the story line focuses on non-stop action, the desolate frozen backdrop is in some ways the prime character as even in near extinction some in power will make a grab for more control while others prefer to simply save the world. Whereas Jeff Carlson cautions his audience to keep a close eye on the government-science-technological complex, fans, especially those who read the first book, will enjoy this electrifying over the Rockies dark futuristic tale

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars-Andrew X. Pham

The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars
Andrew X. Pham
Harmony, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 030738120X

From 1940 to1976, Viet Nam was in a constant state of war that impacted the people. Andrew X. Pham provides the biography of his father Thong Van Pham, who lived through the three plus decades of war starting with the Japanese invasion of the French occupied region during WW II through the fight for independent from the French and finally the war over the South against the United States. As a child Thong lived an upper crust life being born to a wealthy family. Over the years of war, famine and abuse, the family fortune vanished and consequently the life style.

This is a fascinating biography that also serves as a deep look at the history of Viet Nam. The author rotates his father’s life with recent events that brings a harrowing feel as the reader gains a sense of the outcome resulting from the years of turbulence. Well written, readers will marvel at Mr. Pham’s capture of the impact of power struggles on everyday people.

Harriet Klausner

The Gargoyle-Andrew Davidson

The Gargoyle
Andrew Davidson
Doubleday, Aug 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 0385524943

The porno actor with the scar on his heart is driving on a curving mountainous road when he loses control and crashes; probably because of his coke drenched brain. He suffers third degree burns that are so painful he decides that the recovery is not worth it as he believes even coke will fail him especially since he accidentally poured bourbon on his crotch just before the crash; thus turning the alcohol into an accelerant that made his penis into a candle that the nurse has since disposed of as medical waste. As he plans his suicide once out of the hospital especially the burn ward, insane patient Marianne Engel visits him.

She claims to be seven centuries old and his lover hundreds of years ago in Germany. The burn victim assumes the woman is a nut, but as she keeps seeing him, he wonders about himself as he is attracted to this kook he assumes is a mad woman suffering from schizophrenia. He learns she is a highly regarded sculptress whose gargoyles are in demand and soon has the man she claims was her lover wanting a life with her once he leaves the hospital.

This is a strange second chance at love novel that hooks the audience once Marianne informs the unnamed narrator what she was to him in another time and place. Her details of a long time ago convince the former porn star she is genuine although he wonders if losing his penis cost him his head. Fans who prefer something different will relish Andrew Davidson’s fascinating odd tale of love.

Harriet Klausner

Tan Lines-J.J. Salem and Kylie Adams

Tan Lines
J.J. Salem and Kylie Adams
St. Martin’s, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312374151

In the Hamptons, the three women arrive for a summer of renewal as none are happy at the moment. Political expert Liza Pike is thinking of divorcing her post 9/11 firefighting spouse Justin, but is thinking of future children with or without him. Depressed former actress Kellyanne Downey is tired of being the mistress of affluent businessman Walter Isherwood, who treats her with possessive scorn. Finally indie rocker Billie Shelton thinks her career is over and perhaps her life with it.

This trio meets at a rental they share for the summer. However, whether their TAN LINES predict a happy ending seems unlikely as the most wonderful summer of their lives includes a fifteen stabbing killing, a premature baby, and a public humiliation; just another day at the beach in Long island.

TAN LINES is a delightful contemporary fiction tale starring three wonderful females who “bond” suddenly last summer at the Hamptons. Each comes out there for renewal and escape from the testosterone scum in their lives, but sometimes you get what you wish for. The descriptions by the lead trio make the tale as verbal slicing and dicing especially of their respective significant other is fun to follow while everything goes wrong.

Harriet Klausner

Prodigal Son-Thomas B. Cavanagh

Prodigal Son
Thomas B. Cavanagh
Dunne, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312377076

Former police officer Mike Garrity plans to recover from surgery to remove a brain tumor (see HEAD GAMES). However, he considers the advice of his friend Jimmy Hungerford of A-Plus Investigators to become a private investigator as the cases are simple yet will keep him occupied.

Before he can decide whether he feels ready, Mile attends the funeral of teenage suicide Victor Madrigas, a classmate of his daughter Jennifer; the late teen’s grieving father Ben believes his son was murdered and after pleading with Mike that he will pay him to investigate, Mike agrees. Mike and fellow cancer survivor support group participant Debbie Watson are attracted to one another. They spend a night together. Her prognosis is very serious so in the morning she begs Mike to find her son she gave up years ago for adoption. Mike agrees. Finally his former wife Cam informs him she is carrying his child. Meanwhile after absorbing the shocker of being a father again, Mike finds Debbie’s son, Jonathan Dennis, but his roommate Steven Schumacher keeps Mike from meeting him. When Mike breaks into their apartment, he is greeted by Jonathan’s corpse and soon afterward jailed on suspicion of murder. Out on bail, Mike is shocked as Debbie is missing.

Mike has enough on his plate with the cancer, but in some ways he agrees with Jimmy to get back to work soonest so as to avoid a self pity party; all those who care about him will drown him enough with their misguided sympathy. Thus by taking on the two cases, he becomes a role model while the audience obtains a hectic incredibly fast-paced investigative tale as Mike not so gaily and readers quite happily wonder what’s going on.

Harriet Klausner

Cockatiels at Seven-Donna Andrews

Cockatiels at Seven
Donna Andrews
St. Martin’s, Jul 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 0312377150

Recently married to Michael, Meg Langslow makes her Dad and Grandpa swear her baby sitting of their reptiles is short and temporary as she fears she will soon be bailing them and Dr. Blake out of some jail. Reluctantly she agrees to host the reptilians on her Caerphilly, Virginia farm though her guests give her the creeps.

At the same time her friend Karen leaves her toddler Timmy with Meg to baby-sit the child; a bit concerned as the boa dad left eats squirrels while Meg compares mentally little Timmy to the rodent. However, Karen fails to return to pick up her two years old infant. Not sure if Karen is in trouble or deserted Timmy, Meg, having solved cases before like THE PENGUIN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, investigates. She soon learns that Karen's sleazy former husband Jasper was a computer programmer at the same college where Karen works and Michael teaches. As Meg digs deeper, she uncovers Jasper's corpse and much more.

This is a zany amusing amateur sleuth as Meg’s family, the snakes, and Tom the terrible two bring much humor to the heroine’s frantic inquiry. What happened to Karen and why provides the suspense. Readers will appreciate the latest Langslow tale as snakes on the farm is a fun lighthearted frolic.

Harriet Klausner

First Blood-Susan Sizemore, Erin McCarthy, Chris Marie Green, and Meljean Brook

First Blood
Susan Sizemore, Erin McCarthy, Chris Marie Green, and Meljean Brook
Berkley, Aug 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425224007

"Cave Cane" by Susan Sizemore. In the Laws of the Blood universe, vampire law enforcer Dan Conover and werewolf Tess Sirella form a reluctant team seeking to rescue kidnapped pups.

"Russian Roulette" by Erin McCarthy. After losing her “day” job, former vampire slayer born again vampire Sasha Checkikov flees Vegas for New Orleans in order to jump start her undead life, but needs rescuing by vampire Alistair Kirk.

"Double the Bite," by Chris Marie Green. In the Vampire Babylon world, twin vampires stalk mortal Ben Tyree until one of the siblings Ginny falls in love while her sister claims ownership of the human.

"Thicker Than Blood" by Meljean Brook. When Annie Gallagher was human she loved FBI Agent Jack Harrington; but when she became a vampire she gave him up though she still loves him. Now they team up to rescue an abducted young girl.

Vampire romantic suspense fans will enjoy biting into these four well written novellas; with the added treat of the return visits by fans of Ms. Sizemore and Ms. Green to their renowned realms.

Harriet Klausner

Zoe's Tale-John Scalzi

Zoe's Tale
John Scalzi
Tor, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0765316986

Jane Sagan and John Perry have been recruited to establish Roanoke, a new human colony. When they agreed to help, neither Jane nor John expected interference or hostility from the scheming amoral home-world government. They were also taken aback by local shapeshifters and under alien assault by a federation violently opposed to human expansion into their sector.

While they struggle with those threatening to demolish the colony, their adopted teenage child Zoe ignores the big picture; instead she has fun with her boyfriend Enzo and her sarcastic best friend Gretchen while flirting with her Obin bodyguards. The Obin pair keeps Zoe on a pedestal due to her late biological father, a God to that species because of an incredible scientific discovery he made.

THE LAST COLONY contains much of the same events that occur in ZOE’S TALE but with a differing perspective as that novel was through the eyes of Jane and John. Thus, though ZOE’S TALE is well written and entertaining, to those who read THE LAST COLONY, it has a déjà vu feel. Still comparing the viewpoints is fun as interpretations of what is going on differ between the teen and the adults enhancing the intriguing read as the devil is in the details and that is where Zoe sees things radically diverse from her adoptive parents.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Child Comes First-Elizabeth Ashtree

The Child Comes First
Elizabeth Ashtree
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jul 2008, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715039

In Baltimore, the state accuses eleven-year-old Tiffany Thompson of willfully killing three-year-old Derek Baldridge. The Third Circuit Court judge ruled that the preadolescent will be tried as an adult because of the shocking homicide and the accused documented history of violence. Attorney Simon Montgomery is assigned the pro bono case in which a public defender failed to get the venue changed back to Juvenile Court. Other court rulings handled poorly by his predecessor further hampers his ability to mount a strong defense

Meanwhile social worker Jayda Kavanagh totally believes Tiffany did not kill the younger child. She demands the new lawyer do a better job than the previous one did. As Jayda and Simon begin to fall in love, both are also charmed by the young girl on trial. However, besides understanding THE CHILD COMES FIRST, all three have issues to overcome if relationships are to forge permanently.

This entertaining romantic legal thriller works because the lead couple of this aptly titled tale focuses on defending the child over their attraction. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Derek picks up the pro bono defense of Tiffany and never slows down as he struggles with issues left by the previous lawyer, his client’s history and brooding reluctance to speak, and his desire for Jayda. Her idealism matches his skepticism as fans will enjoy this fine contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Trusting Ryan-Tara Taylor Quinn

Trusting Ryan
Tara Taylor Quinn
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jul 2008, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715008

Columbus Special Victims Bureau Police Detective Ryan Mercedes and thirty-five year old lawyer Audrey Lincoln are attracted to one another from the first moment they met six months ago while both were working. They go out on non-dates, watch videos like Almighty Bruce and the Reds play, and have fun together. They begin baring their souls to each other and soon made love. However, Audrey has deep concerns when she learns her boyfriend is still in his twenties.

Besides the age gap that has started a rift between them, the pair finds themselves on opposite sides of a controversial case. With their relationship seemingly barely on life support, love may not be enough between the younger man and the older woman who cherish each other, but also have trust issues from their respective salad days.

This is an enjoyable contemporary romance due to the relationship between the lead couple as their vocations, their histories, and their thirteen year gap come between them while the case especially the child that divides the duet adds poignancy to the fine story line. Trusting Tara Taylor Quinn to provide a strong tale, fans will appreciate this older woman-younger man tale of love and doubt.

Harriet Klausner

The Way Home-Jean Brashear

The Way Home
Jean Brashear
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jul 2008, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715053

Isabella “Bella” Parker wakes up in Lucky Drawn, Colorado suffering from amnesia while her fifty-eight year old spouse and their children worry over where she is. In Parker’s Ridge, Alabama James worries over whether his beloved wife of over three decades is safe as she is missing; he blames himself for her leaving. He and their adult kids are relieved to learn where Bella is due to a newspaper article revealing her story and location, but is concerned about her memory loss.

James wants her to come home, but in spite of her lack of memory her instincts tell her she was running from him. James knows why she was thinking of leaving him; they had lost their ability to play and have fun with each other until he cheated on her. Now a desperate James hopes to convince his spouse that if she gives him a second chance he will never wander and they will enjoy life to the fullest instead of just all business all the time.

THE WAY HOME is a touching second chance at love tale refreshingly starring two people in their fifties. Character driven, fans will relish Jean Brashear's heartfelt contemporary as the flawed lead couple makes the spat real enough to threaten to end a thirty-five years old relationship while the support cast ensure her amnesia is not a gimmick used to wipe the slate clean like an Etchosketch..

Harriet Klausner

Bitten to Death-Jennifer Rardin

Bitten to Death
Jennifer Rardin
Orbit, Aug 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9780316022088

They believe the opportunity to destroy malevolent vampire Samos and his minion is near; so assassin Jaz Parks and her vampiric supervisor Vayl plan on the hit. However, when they return to the Trust to finalize their strategy, they walk into a shocker. Vayl is no longer in charge; instead the only vampire he created Disa is now running the show.

Disa has been a nuisance to Vayl since he changed the alien. This time with her as the boss, Disa refuses to allow Vayl to work the field operation to take out Samos. On the other hand, Jaz will not sit idly by allowing Disa to own her Vayl as her relationship with him was just turning to a new more exciting level. Her missions are to kill Samos permanently and keep Vayl at her side not that of Disa, who now gives the orders.

In her fourth CIA chick lit urban fantasy (see BITING THE BULLET, ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST and ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY) Jaz Parks is at her cheeky amusing yet exhilarating best. The story line told from her cynical perspective is fast-paced as she insures the paranormal species seem genuine and her mission essential especially winning the tug of war with Disa over Vayl. Thus the series is refreshed with a weird triangle in which the relationship between top CIA operative Vayl the vampire and his best subordinate has been evolving towards something personal but now with the return of Disa as their superior all bets are off. Jaz is at her mocking best in this engaging entry.

Harriet Klausner

Gone-Michael Grant

Michael Grant
Harper, Jun 2008, $17.99
ISBN: 9780061448768

Abracadabra anyone over thirteen years old simply vanished. Preadolescent kids are stunned when they realize there is no one ordering them about. Soon that shock turns to fear as a tough mentality begins to create a social Darwinist environs.

With the help of his kinetic power, Coates Academy charming delinquent Caine takes control of Perdido Beach with an iron rule. Sam also has power but he is reluctant to use it as he blames himself for the disappearance. Whereas some of the children look to townie Sam to take charge, Caine tightens his hold through his academy Freaks minion. War in Fallout Alley Youth Zone between the two sides is imminent; though turning fourteen next week means Sam is GONE.

The obvious immediate perception is that of the Lord of the Flies in a Left Behind world that turns Wild in the Streets. The story line explores the reactions of the young when the older generations are suddenly GONE. Michael Grant targets teens, but does not dumb down his apocalyptic thriller, which will delight his audience especially with knowing what Sam knows will happen to him shortly; as he has one week left before he vanishes. Although he prefers not to get involved, he is a natural leader; as is Caine although their values differ. Thus good neighbor Sam expects an OK Corral like battle against Caine that he believes will determine the future, which he hopes is his legacy once he is GONE while his adversary’s bully mentality is based on maximize your pleasure at the expense of others in order to live for today.

Harriet Klausner

Gale Force-Rachel Caine

Gale Force
Rachel Caine
Roc, Aug 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451462237

They have been together for quite while through some nasty situations and some pleasant times. However, When Djinn David proposes marriage to his beloved Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin ecstatically accepts; she has never been happier although both understands the hardships and prejudice they will face from both their species; as they have felt some of the loathing just because they have been together.

Still they never expected the degree so called sentient beings will go to prevent their nuptials. Disregarding collateral deaths, for instance, an earthquake is sent to destroy Joanne as she shops for her wedding dress. Soon after the quake, the Sentinels are formed with their mission to eradicate the Djinn population using an unknown weapon that apparently her David and his Djinn brethren cannot detect leaving it to Joanne to uncover the truth if she should live long enough as the Sentinel operatives know she must die.

The latest Weather Warden (see THIN AIR) romantic fantasy is a wonderful tale as the happiness of getting married is trampled by the Sentinel genocidal movement and to a lesser degree the obvious racism of the lead couple’s respective species. The story line is fast-paced as the Sentinel horde knows fundamentally they can succeed in their lethal ethnic cleansing if they kill Joanne. Fans of the series will appreciate this one sitter while newcomers will be in back list frenzy mode as Rachel Caine provides an entertaining yet deep relevant (in today’s world) entry in a strong saga.

Harriet Klausner

City at the End of Time-Greg Bear

City at the End of Time
Greg Bear
Del Rey, Aug 2008, $27I
ISBN 9780345448392

In Seattle, three people (Ginny, Jack, and Max) separately and with no seeming connection see a newspaper ad that stuns them. The advertisement states: “Do you dream of a city at the end of time?” Each can answer in the affirmative as they have had visions of a dark desolate landscape of a devastated wasteland; they also share in common a form of amnesia in which none of them know anything important from their respective pasts. They only have just flashes of urban desolation.

They respond and soon learn they are the Protectors of time. An enigmatic, at one time seemingly omnipotent race has created a million-year sentient species experiment. Now after a hundred trillion years the ancient Kalpa is the last vestige of true knowledge and is rapidly deteriorating as the universe dies. The insanity of chaos fills the vacuum. The trio understands their mission is to save any form of awareness of being to pass on to the rebirth and know the danger they face in attempting this, but consider the alternative nothingness.

THE CITY AT THE END OF TIME is not an easy or fast-paced read but worth the time for those science fiction fans who appreciate a very complex story line that increasingly turns even more complicated as Greg Bear explores an ontological theme. The key characters especially the threesome, the ad taker, and those at the Kalpa discussing the end of times seem real enough to have the audience feel the countdown to the big crunch has begun. The hope is that the trio will save a flicker of light that survives into the universe reincarnation that the Kalpa inhabitants believe will occur. Mr. Bear provides a well written cerebral sci fi tale.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

When the Guillotine Fell: The Bloody Beginning and Horrifying End to France's River of Blood, 1791—1977

When the Guillotine Fell: The Bloody Beginning and Horrifying End to France's River of Blood, 1791—1977
Jeremy Mercer
St. Martin's Press, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312357915

This is a fascinating look at one of the most notariouss execution devices made infamous in A Tale of two Cities. However, the best passages are the stories of those who danced with Madame Guillotine, but these are disjointed with sudden switches to other poignant segues. Interestingly, the inventor Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin created the device during the French Revolution as a cleaner way to conduct an execution (much faster than conventional methods so less pain for the mob of observers - think of Dickens’ Madam DeFarge; and as a humanitarian reason to those who are being killed – think of the Supreme Court’s lethal injection decision). The last victim was Tunisian expatriate Hamida Djandoubi who with the help of two underage girlfriends killed one of his Marseille prostitutes in 1974 and was dispatched in 1977 just before France outlawed capital punishment. A section on the history of state legal executions adds depth to an overall fascinating in a macabre way historical account of WHEN THE GUILLOTINE FELL, but overall the tome suffers from a disjointed execution.

Harriet Klausner

Erotomania-Francis Levy

Francis Levy
Two Dollar Radio, Aug 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780976389576

James Moran would not have said he was addicted to sex before he bed her, but now he lives for the out of control trysts with a woman whose name he does not even know. He gives up on gourmet meals to be with her before her boyfriend comes home. After each mind boggling incredibly physical session, James wanders the streets in a sex induced fog unable to tell anyone even his name while all he could think of is ye who enter will never go back.

However, increasingly James begins to think of a wider relationship with his Jane Doe. He even learns her name is Monica and they begin trying other things besides sexual nirvana. However, although they have fun together, their camaraderie pales next to the sex. Both begins to worry is that all there is in their relationship and in life in general and how shallow they are as they grow tighter yet find no common ground outside of their erotic mania. They are so out of control sexually they use a bomb shelter in order to avoid being labeled dangerous weapons of destruction by neighbors.

When the audience meets James he has kept his greatest sex partner nameless so that he can limit the relationship; Monica does likewise. As each obsesses over the incredible uninhibited carnality, they eventually need more as they begin to become real people with other needs. Thus EROTOMANIA turns into a superb well written character study that will have the audience compare the changing needs of James and Monica to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The pair starts off ecstatic as they linger contentedly at the Physiological and Safey lowest levels of the Pyramid, but over time begin to want much more as each seeks growth in their relationship seeking Belonging, Esteem and Self Actualization. Francis Levy provides a wonderfully poignant character driven relationship drama.

Harriet Klausner

Daughter of Egypt- Constance O'Banyon

Daughter of Egypt
Constance O'Banyon
Leisure, Jul 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960068

In 44 BC at a Roman marketplace, Thalia tries to steal food, but is seen. She flees hiding behind a noble woman who says nothing to her pursuers. The wealthy Egyptian Lady Adhania takes the street urchin home with her to raise her as her daughter. Over time she forgot her beggar existence across the Mediterranean until in 36 BC a one-eyed man, who had stalked her years earlier in Rome, kidnaps her. Frightened, she becomes further shocked when warrior Count Ashtyn kidnaps her.

Thalia cannot fathom why the sudden interest in her. She soon learns the answer to her question when Ashtyn takes her to the island kingdom Bal Forea where she is Princess Thalia and soon to be Queen and Ashtyn her husband the king.

Almost a decade since the events of LORD OF THE NILE and SWORD OF ROME, DAUGHTER OF EGYPT is a terrific ancient historical romance that starts in Rome, moves to Egypt, and ends up on an island. Thalia is a brave person who learned to adapt to the situation as a beggar while the courageous Ashyny proves her equal willing to die to keep her safe. As with the previous two historical tales, this excellent entry that uses real persona like Antony and Cleopatra bring to life the Mediterranean in the first century BC.
Harriet Klausner

Siren's Song-Trish Albright

Siren's Song
Trish Albright
Leisure, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0843960868

Alexandra Stafford loves sailing the high seas especially as the captain of her ship. Although danger can come from pirates, slave traders, official navies, the weather, or in her case her stalking enemy Paxton nothing fazes the courageous sailor. Even when she captured and sold into slavery in Monaco, Alex remains optimistic as she assumes this is another adventure for her.

That is until the Duke of Worthington, Joshua rescues Alex from slavery. Afterward he meets her at galas hosted by the Ton in London. He already admired her spirit and has a desire to help her learn the meaning of a prophecy involving the SIREN’S SONG although he fears for her life. She feels fear for the first time in her life as she prays her obsession will not lead to the death of her beloved Joshua or her family

This an exiting late eighteenth century action-packed pirate romance in which Captain Trish Albert and her crew of readers sail the seven seas. The plot is a bit over the top, but no one will care because of Alex who sets the tone with her courage and need to know; which proves infectious as the admiring audience will want to know also.
Harriet Klausner

Electra Galaxy's Mr. Interstellar Feller-Candace Sams

Electra Galaxy's Mr. Interstellar Feller
Candace Sams
Love Spell, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: ISBN: 0505527626

If the assignment was anything but illegal intergalactic weapons dealers Earth Protectorate Force Captain Sagan Carter would have pleaded with her superior to find some other agent. However, the earth cop knows how dangerous weapons of mass destruction in the wrong hands can be; so she grimaces as she must work with arrogant Oceanun Enforcer Keir Trask to prevent the deal. To enable them to go undercover, Keir enters Mr. Interstellar Feller competition where the exchange is expected to occur.

Keir assumes he will be paired with an idiot as he stereotypes earth dwellers as being stupid and uncivilized. However, he finds his new partner has beauty and brains as she handles their assignment with finesse except when he stares at her eyes and sees the heat he feels there. However, he also feels guilt as he has hidden from Sagan his other mission.

Gender bending Sandra Bullock’s version of the Miss America contest and placing it inside a romantic science fiction police procedural thriller, Candace Sams provides readers with an engaging lighthearted frolic. The lead couple is a fun pairing as each comes to the police teaming with major biases about the other’s species. In an interesting galaxy and starring two strong lead characters, the plot is enjoyable and filled with peril but it is not deep tale. Still fans will appreciate this entertaining creative tale while demanding Pluto Pillow Mints.

Harriet Klausner

Nightwalker-Jocelynn Drake

Jocelynn Drake
Harper, Aug 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061542770

Although the NIGHTWALKERS are a formidable almost invincible breed, Mira is unique as the only master of the element fire. The Fire Starter has lived for six hundred and three years quietly patrolling and stalking the night in her sector to rid the earth of the evil Naturi, but the ability to kill her adversaries with fire keeps her apart from even the Ancient Ones.

Danaus the vampire hunter is unique also as he does not wear the protective silver cross; he has killed several vampires over the past month in her zone as Mira has observed him in action while her tongue erotically massages her fangs. He knows she has seen him and begins stalking Mira. She must choose between fight and flight so she challenges him. He proves more than human with his skills, but neither goes for the final kill at this time. However, a seemingly deadlier foe for both of them has emerged.

This is an engaging urban fantasy as the audience will appreciate the tense gender battles between the Fire Starter and the more than human Vampire Hunter even if their physical fight is over the top with too much bravado and neither goes for the final kill. The story line is fast-paced with mounting tension from the onset that never abates. Sub-genre fans will enjoy entering Drake’s world as this is a fun paranormal thriller.
Harriet Klausner

Storm Born-Richelle Mead

Storm Born
Richelle Mead
Zebra, Aug 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420100969

Her stepfather trained shaman Eugenie “Odile” Markham in how to send back creatures who cross over from the Otherworld. Eugenie is excellent at her vocation, but now has a much more complex issue confronting her after she exorcised the lost soul from the sole of the sneaker. Wil Delaney asks Odile to rescue his sister Jasmine, who he says fairies abducted her; taking the girl back to their realm, which Odile knows is Otherworld. Although her beloved stepfather warned her never to cross over, Eugenie knows she must try to rescue the child.

When she crosses over Eugenie finds herself the target of almost every male in Otherworld for they know she is the Dark Swan; the focus of a key prophesy involving a child she will birth. She also meets her biological father the Storm King who will sell her to the highest bidder while two men, Kiyo the spirit fox and King Dorian offer to help her retrieve the female and take her back to the mortal side; however Eugenie trusts no one but herself on this side.

The tale begins as an amusing urban fantasy, but once Eugenie leaves behind the world of “Nike” to cross over it turns into a humorous investigative “quest” fantasy. The story line is fast-paced from the opening sneaker ploy and filled with non-stop action and characters who bring Otherworld to life. However, though the plot is obviously the introduction to the Black Swan saga, the sarcastic self deprecating heroine who is the focus of every Y chromosome bearer makes STORM BORN a fine fun fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Theorem-Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl

The Last Theorem
Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl
Del Rey, Aug 2008, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345470218

In the middle of the twentieth century, atomic bomb testing was conducted on the land, at sea and in the air; eventually the radiation traveled into outer space, which brought the planet to the attention of the Grand Galactics who ordered the destruction of Earth before the barbarians devastated the universe. They sent their client races, the Machine Stored, a sentient species who left their bodies behind and become inhabitants of cyber pace. Also on assignment to destroy Earth is The Nine Limbed, the civilized race that speaks on behalf of the Grand Galactics and the one point five, the race that destroyed their world and needs prosthetics to survive.

Brilliant Sri Lankan mathematician Ranjit Subramanian is obsessed with Fermat’s Last Theorem. While he is in a prison, he works out the proof in his head and soon becomes an international sensation. He is privy to the non lethal weapon mankind has developed to bring peace to the world, but when the Grand Galactics learn there is no more need to destroy this orb, will they cease the eradication order or bureaucratically wipe out the planet.

THE LAST THEOREM is an interesting work that occurs on two levels. One plot focuses on Ranjit’s life from the time he is sixteen; while the other centers on alien invaders sent by their overlords to destroy the warmongering earthlings. Both subplots are fascinating as readers follow the progress made by earthlings to attain Pax through a special non-killing weapon. As fans wait for the macro and micro plots to merge, first contact could prove lethal.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Finding Stefanie-Susan May Warren

Finding Stefanie
Susan May Warren
Tyndale, Jul 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414310190

Stefanie Noble is tired of being the responsible one while her two brothers (see RECLAIMING NICK and TAMING RAFE) got to do what they wanted. Unlike her siblings, who have seen a lot of the United States searching for their respective selves, she ventured off the family Silver Buckle Ranch for one term at college. Worse she has no dreams anymore wondering what happened to that little girl who wanted so much.

Action movie star Lincoln Cash has come a long way from his youth when everyone frightened him and picked on him. Although he puts on the tough guy facade, inside he remains the same scared little kid. When he meets Stefanie, he feels a deep attraction that she shares with him. However, neither can make that first move besides the neighbors are natural enemies as he wants to open an annual film festival nearby she opposes Hollywood trampling her beloved Big Sky Country.

The third Noble Legacy tale is a wonderful contemporary Montana romantic suspense with an arsonist wrecking Lincoln’s dreams. The two likable stars each bring tons of baggage to their relationship with no place to store it except internally making no room for love unless they clean out some of their fears. The story line belongs to the lead couple as Hollywood is his façade to hide his misgivings and flaws while ranching is her façade hiding her uncertainties and faults. With much more going on, fans will enjoy Susan may Warren’s latest Big Sky Noble saga.

Harriet Klausner

Finding Stefanie-Susan May Warren

Finding Stefanie
Susan May Warren
Tyndale, Jul 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414310190

Stefanie Noble is tired of being the responsible one while her two brothers (see RECLAIMING NICK and TAMING RAFE) got to do what they wanted. Unlike her siblings, who have seen a lot of the United States searching for their respective selves, she ventured off the family Silver Buckle Ranch for one term at college. Worse she has no dreams anymore wondering what happened to that little girl who wanted so much.

Action movie star Lincoln Cash has come a long way from his youth when everyone frightened him and picked on him. Although he puts on the tough guy facade, inside he remains the same scared little kid. When he meets Stefanie, he feels a deep attraction that she shares with him. However, neither can make that first move besides the neighbors are natural enemies as he wants to open an annual film festival nearby she opposes Hollywood trampling her beloved Big Sky Country.

The third Noble Legacy tale is a wonderful contemporary Montana romantic suspense with an arsonist wrecking Lincoln’s dreams. The two likable stars each bring tons of baggage to their relationship with no place to store it except internally making no room for love unless they clean out some of their fears. The story line belongs to the lead couple as Hollywood is his façade to hide his misgivings and flaws while ranching is her façade hiding her uncertainties and faults. With much more going on, fans will enjoy Susan may Warren’s latest Big Sky Noble saga.

Harriet Klausner

Rites of Spring (Break)-Diana Peterfreund

Rites of Spring (Break)
Diana Peterfreund
Delta, Jul 2008, $10.00
ISBN: 9780385341936

Eli University senior Amy Haskel belongs to the Rose and Grave secret society where her moniker is Bugaboo. The R&G diggers try to break into the building hosting their rival secret society the Dragon’s Head. However, the Dragonheads identify one person in the break-in, Amy. They assault her with a vengeance using childish pranks while destroying her property without any regard to the harm they cause her.

Amy’s former boyfriend Brandon asks her to help him with fellowship packages, which shocks her as he is the math whiz and she avoided numbers at all cost. Even more surprising he begins to hang out again with her when she knows his girlfriend belongs to DH. During spring break, Amy joins the diggers on an R& G owned island, but on the boat trip, she as a non-swimmer falls overboard and her life jacket fails her falling off instead. If she makes it to the island, more danger awaits her and the other Diggers.

With a cast of quadrillion, young adult readers will need an access database to keep track of who is doing what and why to whom; yet somehow author Diana Peterfreund insures her myriad of secondary players, including a family and another group not mentioned above, have differing traits. Still this is Amy’s tale as she finds her senior year RITES OF SPRING (BREAK) initially prank-filled but soon dangerously deadly. Over the top absolutely, but fun as Amy and the teen audience will wonder what’s going on.

Harriet Klausner

White Tombs-Christopher Valen

White Tombs
Christopher Valen
Conquill Press, 2008
ISBN 9780980001723

St. Paul Police Detective John Santana left Columbia knowing assassins will come one day to Minnesota to kill him; his regret and guilt for leaving his homeland is his sister who is left behind to perhaps face the wrath of his enemies. He and his partner Rick Anderson currently investigate the murder of Julio Perez, owner of the monthly Hispanic newspaper El Dia, in his home. After searching the crime scene, the two cops visit Rafael Mendoza because the victim’s rolodex is open to the card of the immigration attorney.

They arrive to witness Mendoza fall off his balcony with a man running from the scene. Anderson shoots and kills the fleeing person Ruben Cordova, who turns out to have worked for El Dia. They search Mendoza’s loft finding evidence of fake visa applications and the photo of two John Does in a sexually explicit pose. Meanwhile Internal Review investigates the shooting pulling Anderson and Santana off the investigation as they were getting closer to solving the case. Santana’s boss decides Cordova killed the other two men so has no qualms with reassigning the official investigation to Detective James Kehoe for final cleanup. Santana disagrees with the conclusion and also knows Kehoe will not dig any deeper than he has already done so he keeps investigating on his own time and at his own expense.

WHITE TOMBS is a superb police procedural starring a fascinating lead detective who has a history in his homeland. Santana is a wonderful new addition to the sub-genre as he cares about victims, even dead ones, but especially their grieving loved ones; in this case he pledges justice to Julio’s widow. Alcoholic Anderson is as dedicated in his own way. Readers will appreciate this strong whodunit with a stunning late twist that no one will see coming as Christopher Valen argues that a person’s collective past makes the person’s present as experiences lead to current actions and reactions.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Sport-Judith E. French

Blood Sport
Judith E. French
Love Spell, Jul 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780505527578

FBI Agent Jillian Maxwell is leading the investigation into a serial killer who has murdered at least twenty-three times in two years. The psychopath slices the victim’s throat and leaves behind the body by the Atlantic Ocean. Taunting the Fed, the culprit sends her post cards. Her current card leads her to believe the next death is to occur shortly in Ocean City, Maryland.

To assist her, the Feds assign Agent Reed “Cowboy” Donovan, a single father with two kids, to her team. When she mentions Ocean City, he makes it clear that her theory is stupid. She ignores his rant and goes undercover to draw the killer to her in Ocean City. However, even with Reed at her side (and her bed), she miscalculates as she learns the deadly way that she is the goal of a BLOOD SPORT contest between predators.

This is an exciting serial killer romantic suspense with the twist of a lethal club of sorts playing deadly games. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as Jillian offers herself up as cheese in a cat and mouse ploy; unaware that there are more than one feline preying. Although the romance seems inappropriate and detracts from a great thriller, fans will enjoy Judith E. French’s latest Blood coastal police procedural (see BLOOD TIES and BLOOD KIN) and want more tales starring the lethal sports club.

Harriet Klausner

The Apocalypse Directive-Douglas MacKinnon

The Apocalypse Directive
Douglas MacKinnon
Leisure, Aug 2008, $7.99

In the very near future, the American people elect an evangelical Christian president Shelby Robertson, who is now in the third year of his second term. He appointed true believers to his cabinet posts, but none except his most inner circle of trusted advisers realize he is a pure fundamentalist who believes that the Word of his version of the bible and his messages from God supersede that of the Constitution. He strongly feels that Jews, Muslims, other religions, and non Fundamentalist Christians need to be eradicated so that heaven can come to earth.

The president accepts that his dreams come from God instructing him what to do. He has built an underwater complex Neptune that will house 5000 disciples when he dispatches the total military arsenal on an unsuspecting world including those Americans he leaves behind. Hos followers,The Christian Ambassadors, have infiltrated every aspect of the government even the military; they wait for the Word while the Judas Group including the Vice President seek a Hail Mary to prevent a man-made pandemic hell on earth.

Before the current administration no one would believe that the premise behind THE APOCALYPSE DIRECTIVE is plausible, but few would doubt that now; with a few nuances much of this exciting cautionary tale could have happened. There is no question of secret governmental groups with no oversight or any accountability making policy whether it is Iraq or energy (remember Cheney’s Energy Initiative) while the White House has the leader who admits he goes with his feelings rather than all the facts. Douglas MacKinnon extrapolates somewhat the Bush Imperial presidency's pampering of the Fundamental Right into a frightening chilling tale that will scare readers to their souls because it suddenly seems possible. Fast-paced while the clock ticks away as Armageddon seems certain, the Supreme Court would probably have deliberated 5 to4 (with the five holding session inside Neptune that THE APOCALYPSE DIRECTIVE is constitutionally legal because they would say In God the Founding Fathers trusted.

Harriet Klausner

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent-Galen Beckett

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent
Galen Beckett
Bantam, Aug 2008, $23.00
ISBN 9780553589825

The Lockwell family went from reasonably well off to poverty when the patriarch, a talented magickian, went insane; a prisoner in his own home. As a result of his decline, the family never hosted parties and the three Miss Lockwells rarely socialize with their former equals. Instead suddenly poor, unmarried oldest daughter Ivy the bookworm leaves her home in Invarel and her beloved sisters Rose and Lily to become a governess at a country estate of Heathcrest.

Being female, Ivy is unable to practice the science of magick as that is against the law. As such, she has turned her interest into the history of magic. When she comes across a frightening ancient tome she turns to Mr. Quent for guidance. Apparently a spell from a long forgotten distant past is slowly but successfully performing magic to take control of the world.

This is a fascinating “Regency” fantasy that pays homage to the great female authors of the nineteenth century like Austen and the Bronte sisters. The tale is especially super when the plot focuses on Invarel and the magick malady of Mr. Lockwell with its impact on his family. At Heathcrest on the other hand the story line is filled with much more action as schemes abound but loses some of its freshness as the story crosses to deep into Charlotte Bronte territory. Still Ivy makes for a fine fantasy as she tries to save the world from a deadly spell but magickians and the law ban her from using magick to prevent the disaster from happening.

Harriet Klausner

Marsbound-Joe Haldeman

Joe Haldeman
Ace, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780441015955

Carmen Dula could just as easily be growing up on earth with her teen angst. She avoids her parents like they are the plague or when she feels kind towards them she treats them like they are just stupid; and her younger pain in the butt sibling drives her to want to run away. However, as a lottery pick family sent to live on the first human colony on Mars she knows there are not a lot places for a runaway to go to especially with the great dictator colony manager Dargo Solingen looking over everyone’s shoulder.

During one of her forays away from her family, Carmen finds previously undetected Martians living in an underground city in the bleak “wilderness”. She tries unsuccessfully to convince Solingen what she found, but he writes her off as teenage mutant with no brains inside her head. When she and her friends learn what the Martians plan for the colonists, Carmen and company know not to waste any time with the manager; they make the effort to save the earthlings.

This is an engaging coming of age Martian thriller due to Carmen who tells the story with a combination of young adult intelligence and teenage impatient angst at the stupidity of adults. The story line is action-packed though told mostly by Carmen as she learns first hand personal agendas as she deals with officious oppressors (parents and government are included), the enemy who wants her dead, and her guardian angel who she does not what Mr. Potatohead wants from her.
Harriet Klausner

The Vampire Julian-Ann B. Morris

The Vampire Julian
Ann B. Morris
ImaJinn, Jun 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9781933417202

Not long after the destruction Hurricane Katrina caused, Simone LeClerc comes to New Orleans to find her missing step-sister Dottie, who went to the Big Easy seeking a missing woman only to drop out of sight. Determined to find her sibling, Simone obtains work and an apartment at Mike’s After Dark bar; the owner Julian Whitcombe is a hundred and fifty years old vampire; there she meets the bartender who is a shapeshifter.

Julian believes Simone is the woman the Goddess Lilith prophesized would come to him when the need is great. Lilith knows that if Simone loves Julian deep enough, she will convert him back from vampire to mortal as only humans can; and he will fulfill his destiny to save the world. Simone remains skeptical that vampires exist and that Zurik and his clan drink human blood until their victims die and the news is all over the media. Julian and his clan fight them depending on synthetic blood for sustenance. As she sees the truth, she knows she loves Julian and if he needs her to do something prophesized by the Goddess Lilith, she will do it for him.

The first Whitcombe Legacies tale stars one of triplets who in times of catastrophe must find the respective women who will allow each to achieve their destiny. This vampiric romance is refreshing due to an original plot that uses the Katrina destruction as a horrific backdrop. Ann B. Morris leaves her audience anxiously waiting for the next two bites led by the other two triplets.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lessons from a Courtesan-Jenna Peterson

Lessons from a Courtesan
Jenna Peterson
Avon, Jul 2008, $5.99
ISBN: 9780061138140

In 1812 Justin Talbot and Victoria Reed marry although they do not know one another. The Earl and his new bride share a passionate night together as he explores every inch of her delightful body. The next morning she wakes up to learn her husband left without a word. For the next three years, she runs his estate, but he never returns from London and she never goes there.

In 1815 Victoria learns of the disappearance of a close friend widow Chloe Hillsborough in London. Thus she decides to go to the big city to see if she can find Chloe. She masquerades as Ria, the sexy courtesan, who has the Ton in a titter; the men want her while the women want her to leave. Justin knows who she is, but is outraged when he hears men claim they took her. As he makes his bid to regain the trust of his wife, they fall in love, but he knows finding her friend is the only way she will believe he is sincere this time.

LESSONS FROM A COURTESAN is an exciting Regency romance starring two stubborn lead characters who refuse to admit their love for one another. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Justin realizes the talk of the Ton is his wife and Ria realizes the only touch she desires is that of her husband. Jenna Peterson provides an enjoyable early nineteenth century romp starring the battling Talbots.

Harriet Klausner

Reckless-Selena Montgomery

Selena Montgomery
Avon, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061376030

Atlanta attorney Kell Jameson left her hometown Hallden and the orphanage she grew up in behind; vowing never to return. However, the only person she would go back to help needs her and she is summoned back to her hometown after years of running away since the fiery incident back in 1991 broke up the Three Musketeers (Kell, Fin and Julia). Mrs. Faraday, the kind head of the orphanage where she lived, is accused of murder.

Sheriff Luke Calder investigates the homicide of a local drug dealer. He stops Kell for a traffic violation, but she flees the scene. Luke follows Kell to the diner where he hands her the tickets and asks her out. As they work the case and related matters, they fall in love. However besides the commute, Kell fears telling him the truth because she needs to protect Fin Borders and Julia Warner and believes he will not just reject her when he learns her darkest secrets from 1991 he will expose them.

RECKLESS is an action-packed romantic suspense thriller that sets the tone of the story line with its 1991 prologue and never slows down afterward. The cast is strong as it brings to life small town Georgia even some players from the past and from beyond. However, the tale is owned by the feisty courageous yet vulnerable heroine who finds love with the one person who can destroy her. Selena Montgomery allows her recovery specialists to rest (see SECRETS AND LIES, and HIDDEN SINS) with an entertaining regional thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Then You Hide-Roxanne St. Claire

Then You Hide
Roxanne St. Claire
Pocket, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9781416552437

Vanessa Porter goes on vacation in the Caribbean. However, she is actually seeking her missing friend Clive Easterbrook, who vanished. Bullet Catcher’s CEO Lucy Sharpe tries to persuade consultant Wade Cordell to fully join the team; he refuses as he says he is no longer a legally paid assassin as he was for the marines and CIA. Disappointed, Lucy asks him to do a small favor; find Vanessa. Apparently she was one of three babies taken from their biological mother Eileen Stafford in 1978 Charleston and sold on the black market; Eileen needs a compatible bone marrow transplant.

Wade finds Vanessa rather easily, but she persuades him to help her find Clive. In return she will meet her mom, take the compatibility test, and decide whether to donate or not; she hides from Wade the fact that she made up her mind to refuse. However, as they work together and fall in love, the effort to save Clive may prove deadly to the wannabee rescuers.

The second tale in this Bullet Catcher’s trilogy (see FIRST YOU RUN) is an exhilarating romantic suspense thriller as Wade and Vanessa run into one nasty scenario after another trying to locate Clive. Although Vanessa’s actions seem too unnecessarily risky, she makes the story line hum with her obstinacy and courage. Fans of the saga will appreciate this strong action-packed entry as the lead couple learns that love is a strong impetus to live for.

Harriet Klausner

Fast Track-Fern Michaels

Fast Track
Fern Michaels
Zebra, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420101867

After their return from luxurious exile in Barcelona (see HOKUS POKUS) the Sisterhood sets up their newest headquarters on Big Pine Mountain, North Carolina. The new digs for the vigilante team is more of a military compound with access by cable car or helicopter only. Soon afterward, their mentor Charles Martin introduces the magnificent seven to their new employers, who have flown in during a stormy night by helicopter for more than just welcome to the team greetings.

The visitors give the Sisterhood seven a blank check from their own pockets to find two billion dollars targeted for poor countries apparently embezzled from the World Bank. They accept the assignment though each knows the danger, but besides trying to return the 2B loot so the needy can have it, the blank check for them to fill in the amount will also help those in need.

This is a refreshing albeit over the top of Big Pine Mountain (duh – it is the Sisterhood) thriller in which the magnificent Seven’s significant others participate in active support roles to the modern day female Robin Hoods. The tale is engaging as the Seven and their cohorts show how a team working cohesively can achieve mission impossible.

Harriet Klausner

Double Dog Dare-Linda O. Johnston

Double Dog Dare
Linda O. Johnston
Berkley, Jun 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425222324

Kendra Ballantyne is a person with many talents as she holds down two jobs and enjoys both of them. First she is a pet sitter and second she is an attorney. She also has time to forge a relationship with private detective Jeff Hubbard, who she met when she pet sat his Aikida. Jeff recently asked Kendra to move in with him; after much soul searching and doubting, she agrees only to have Jeff go MIA while working a case. Already fearing something bad has happened to him, she panics when the police inform her they found his car in the water with blood inside the vehicle.

Kendra soon learns that Lois Terrone, who is a surrogate mom to Jeff, had asked him to look into the practices of the Clone Arranger, a firm that clones cats and dogs because her died shortly after she brought it in to be cloned.. She wonders if perhaps Jeff learned something that made it imperative for someone to insure he died. Unable to not know the truth, Kendra snoops until she learns what is going on at the Clone Arranger only now she is caught in the crosshairs.

This fabulous series stars a kind hearted animal lover who though an amateur sleuth is strong willed; Kendra is opinionated and unforgiving especially at those who harm animals as she is an animal rights advocate. Thus two passions merge as she goes from one clue to another to learn what someone will kill to conceal at the Clone Arranger. Linda O. Johnston writes a strong tale that fans will enjoy as the mystery is difficult to solve though the clues are there.

Harriet Klausner

A Match Made in Hell-Terri Garey

A Match Made in Hell
Terri Garey
Avon, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061136160

In Atlanta, Nicki Styx is grateful to her new boyfriend, ER Dr. Joe Bascombe whom she met when he saved her life though lacking exact change for ferryman to escort her across her surname river also proved a factor (see DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY). Returning to the living she dedicates her life to helping the dearly departed cross over to the other side.

However, life takes a wacky spin for Nicki when Joe’s soon to be former wife Kelly suddenly reappears in his life and hers as a car accident victim rushed to the hospital. She is Nikki's identical twin. Helping them with the awkward reunion is their biological mother who happens to a ghost. Finally a devil of a hunk wants Nikki as his girlfriend.

The second Nikki Styx romantic fantasy is a lighthearted romp as the heroine’s family adds to the fun. Readers who appreciate the adventures of the “Ghoulfriend” working Little Five Points in downtown Atlanta as Nicki adapts from shoes in the closet to literally skeletons in the closet. Although the story line is a bit fluffy, the amusing A MATCH MADE IN HELL is an entertaining frolic.

Harriet Klausner

Hell and Earth-Elizabeth Bear

Hell and Earth
Elizabeth Bear
Roc, Aug 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451462183

Two kingdoms in two different worlds but tied together as both ruled by queens bound by magic but each in jeopardy of seeing their regime end. For England’s Queen Elizbath I, Prometheus Club playwrights Will Shakespeare and Kit Marley risk their lives to keep her safe and on the throne; Faerie Queen Mab’s only wordsmith is Kit who crosses the veil between the two realms, but has other supporters too.

However, now even the prominent Prometheus Club members feel the curtain is closing on their Queen. Fearing for England, they argue over whether it is time for a regime change rather than wait for nature to do the inevitable. Kit believes both worlds need their queens to remain in power and seeks allies from both sides to insure this happens as dark magic has surfaced; Will is beginning to show his age as he enters the fourth act of life. Humans, faeries, and malevolent monsters want to end the Promethean Age and begin a new eon of darkness.

The latest Promethean Age historical fantasy thriller continues the exciting The Stratford Man saga, but series fans need to read INK AND STEEL before HELL AND EARTH to learn how events got to where they are. The story line is fast-paced from the onset yet also contains intriguing references to the real Marlowe and Shakespeare, which in turn makes the magic of their words seem even more genuine as well as their relationship. Elizabeth Bear’s terrific two-book entry is the Promethean Age at its seditious best with treachery threatening to destroy the reigns Queens Mab and Elizabeth.

Harriet Klausner

Multireal-David Louis Edelman

David Louis Edelman
PYR, Jul 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 1591026474

MULTIREAL seems unreal as a mind altering reality changing technology. The tool merges biology with the infinitive of quantum physics in a way that no one ever dreamed of before. Natch has plans for Margaret Surina’s creation, but knows that the Defense and Wellness Council, whom he just recently defeated (see INFOQUAKE), will return to make his life miserable because they want to control the technology.

However Natch’s efforts to bring his concept to the market place proves more complex and difficult than the tool he created. DWC sends Lieutenant Executive Magan Kai Lee to deal with Natch. After analyzing infinite possibilities and evaluation how her employers failed at destroying Natch’s company, she decides to be a virus and work from within. Meanwhile Natch pleads with the Melbourne legislature to no avail and dodges the DWC who see his tool as more enforcement of their black codes of tyranny imbedded as enhancements in bodies like that of an unknowing Natch. The enemy is within.

Except for Natch, the cast including his assistant Jara and even Lee seem two dimensional yet no one will care as MultiReal continues the fascinating look at the future possibilities of nano-technical human bio-logics. Natch is still the same ambitious rogue he was in INFOQUAKE; as he will try anything and risk everything to be number one in his field. Other just as unethical executives act likewise as business and political values are actually singular: the end of being numero uno justifies any mean especially if the cost is paid by others.

Harriet Klausner