Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Object of Beauty-Steve Martin

An Object of Beauty
Steve Martin
Grand Central, Nov 23 2010, $26.99
ISBN: 9780446573641

Art writer Daniel Frank of the Stockbridge, Massachusetts Franks is bone marrow weary of his 24/7 thoughts about his amoral former lover Lacey Yeager. He knows she will sleep with anyone to get a head. In hopes of purging her from his blood, he writes down his thoughts about the rise and rise of Lacey Yeager in the upscale Manhattan art world.

In the Clintonian Era, twenty-three years old beautiful Lacey Yeager obtains an entry level job as a Sotheby staffer. The intelligent and ambitious Lacey quickly rises up in rank in the company’s normally glacial pace. As she did at Sothby’s to obtain promotions, Lacey uses her body and brain to obtain a position at exclusive Barton Talley's gallery of "Very Expensive Paintings"; ethics is for the hogs and legalities is for the frightened losers. Finally she achieves her objective of opening up the Lacey Yeager gallery in Chelsea and even 9/11 fails to prevent her meteoric rise to the troposphere of the high priced art universe.

As a microcosm of the greed that led to the crash, An Object of Beauty is a terrific look at the ultra rich in which avarice with a need for more is a way of life as Steve Martin eloquently states that America has an aristocratic class with no moral ties to the country. The addition of pictures of paintings adds a fine art touch to the story line. However, this is Lacey’s tale as she is a fascinating prototype as seen through the eyes of her whining former lover who exposes much of himself having a brain with one icon imprinted on it even as he exposes the woman he loathes and cherishes. Although the ending feels off kilter, Mr. Martin provides a profound condemnation of wealth without morality is worthless.

Harriet Klausner

When Harry Met Molly-Kieran Kramer

When Harry Met Molly
Kieran Kramer
St. Martin’s, Nov 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312611644

In 1808 thirteen year old Molly writes a love rectangle to her beloved Lord Roderick that in spite of changing the names accuses his fiancée her sister Penelope and his brother nineteen year old Harry of a tryst. Their families are outraged with Harry the spare exiled into the army for disloyalty to his family and Molly sent to Yorkshire to learn to behave at the Providence School for Wayward Girls.

In 1816, Harry is back enjoying high society when the Prince Regent names him and others as “Impossible Bachelors” and places a wager on who of these rakes has the most delicious mistress. On her way to Gretna Green to marry milksop Cedric Alliston, Molly meets Harry at a seedy inn with piss poor beer. Both are stunned to watch his lightskirt Aphrodite leave with her fiancé. Desperate as his sure shot win at the Most Impossible Bachelor competition left in a coach, Harry suggests to the enemy whose mouth left him in army for five years that she replace Aphrodite as his pretend mistress. She agrees reluctantly but as remittance he must find her a suitable loving husband. He agrees to her stipulation as he muses let the games begin to see who survives the single the royal contest.

This over the top of Big Ben (even with the clock not constructed for several decades to come) is a wild amusing Regency romance starring two likable protagonists who holds the other culpable for their exile. The story line is ultra fast-paced with the audience laughing at the gender war and the competition. With villains causing further humorous havoc, historical fans will relish this jocular look at who will be the last rake surviving the island.

Harriet Klausner

The 4th Victim-Tara Taylor Quinn

The 4th Victim
Tara Taylor Quinn
Mira, Dec 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778328353

In Chandler, Ohio psychologist Kelly Chapman keeps her distance from everyone including her patients though she diligently tries to help them and the community, which is why she is called the “Fix-it lady”. Still even she is surprised when she agrees to be a foster parent to fourteen year old troubled Maggie Winston. While musing about being a loner who cares, Kelly exercises by in-line skating when a car thumps her.

Because Dr. Chapman has been an expert witness on numerous trials, the FBI investigates her disappearance. A loner like Kelly, Missing Persons Special Agent Clay Thatcher leads the inquiry. The more he digs into the life of Dr. Chapman the more he sees the female version of himself. Diligently working the case, he fears the woman he never met but who he is attracted to has become the 4th Victim of a serial killer.

The key to the super fourth Chapman Files thriller (see The 1st Wife, the 2nd Lie and The 3rd Secret) is that the potential romance between the lead couple is treated throughout the suspenseful story line like the early part of the movie Laura. Different in tone from the previous files but action-packed from the moment that the in-line skating shrink is snatched. Fans will relish this entertaining entry as Kelly is the victim and the frantic Fed knows this case has turned personal as he likes what he knows of Dr. Chapman, but fears she is dead.

Harriet Klausner

Murder In Plain Sight-Marta Perry

Murder In Plain Sight
Marta Perry
Harlequin HQN, Dec 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774722

In Springville, Pennsylvania, the police arrest nineteen year old Amish Thomas Esch for the murder of twenty-four year old “Englischer” Cherry Wilson. Philadelphia based law firm Henderson, Dawes and Henderson sends junior associate lawyer Jessica Langdon to plea bargain for a lighter sentence for the Amish teen in Lancaster County.

After getting lost while seeking the woman who hired her firm Mrs. Geneva Morgan, she meets the woman’s son Trey who tells her they changed their mind. Geneva arrives and thanks Jessica as she wants her to defend Thomas over Trey’s objection. Although unfairly in trouble with her legal firm’s partners over the Clements and Altmiller cases and knowing defending the teen will add to her job tsuris, Jessica decides to defend Thomas in court after meeting Mrs. Morgan, the teen and his family. Trey is irate as he wants his mother to stay out of the brutal homicide case and firmly believes Thomas murdered Cherry. Jessica diligently works the defense while studying the Amish culture. However, someone wants the case resolved with Thomas locked away and that adversary begins a dangerous assault on the Philadelphia lawyer with Tey still dealing with his dad’s suicide at her side.

Murder In Plain Sight is an engaging Amish legal romantic suspense tale that readers will enjoy. The Amish background anchors the locale while the romance between the lawyer and her critic is slowly developed. Although the ending feels rushed and incomplete with an odd late motivation for the Wilson murder, Marta Perry provides a delightful thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Songs of Love and Death: All-Original Tales of Star-Crossed Love-George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Editors

Songs of Love and Death: All-Original Tales of Star-Crossed Love
George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Editors)
Gallery (Pocket), Nov 16 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9781439150146

Songs of Love contains seventeen winning well written entries that explore the area where fantasy, science fiction, and romance converge as portrayed in a Venn Diagram with three overlapping circles. The compilation opens up with Dresden battling a nasty foe and his heart in “Love Hurts” (Nazareth is right). Following the fantasy master is historical romance guru Jo Beverly contributing a Georgian thriller with the courtship being love or death. In “The Thing About Cassandra,” Neil Gaiman shows what happens in a second chance at love with an old girlfriend yet Stuart begins to wonder if he ever met her the first time. Fans of Diana Gabaldon will appreciate her time traveling RAF pilot Jerry to the Outlander era, but his family is back in the WWII period. Melinda M. Snodgrass writes “The Wayfarer’s Advice” in which love arrives in deep space and Peter S. Beagle provides love in the laptop age with “Kaskia” and Martin. The compilation is excellent as all authors provide tales of “Star Crossed Love” in various realms (and sub-genres) to the delight of fans who will relish the amalgam zone where fantasy, science fiction, and romance converge.

Harriet Klausner

Prince Charming Doesn’t Live Here-Christine Warren

Prince Charming Doesn’t Live Here
Christine Warren
St. Martin’s, Nov 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312947941

In Manhattan the firm’s most senior partner octogenarian Matthew Yorke IV directs attorney Danice Carter to find his granddaughter Rosemary Addison and persuade her to file a paternity suit. He blames Rosemary’s pregnancy on the girl’s father Tom who had nothing to do with his daughter. Rosemary’s need for love led her to a low life who ditched her when she became pregnant. Danice wants nothing to do with the personal matter, but refusing is not an option unless she wants her career to end so she is expected to file a palimony suit in Connecticut.

She heads to new Canaan to meet Rosemary, but when she arrives she finds the woman missing in spite of their telephonic discussion just prior to her drive. Soon afterward her inquiry leads half-Fae-human private investigator Mac Callahan to Danice as he is also searching for Rosemary. His purebred Faerie client has been silent as to why a human is sought. Mac decides to return to Faerie, a place he left as a baby, to learn the motive. Danice insists she accompany him though he fears the trip will prove dangerous as he wonders if the treacherous Unseelie Court is the instigator.

The latest Others romantic fantasy (see Born to be Wild and Big Bad Wolf) takes a refreshing brisk twist by cleverly adding a new paranormal species into the overarching theme. The lead couple is a perfect pairing to enable the stunning spin to deftly occur. Neither trusts one another nor appreciates the attraction they feel towards each other. Fans will want to join the adventures of half Fae and the lawyer as they go to court with the Unseelie as their judge, jury, and executioner.

Harriet Klausner

Marked by the Moon-Lori Handeland

Marked by the Moon
Lori Handeland
St. Martin’s, Nov 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312389345

Werewolves killed Alexandra Trevalyn’s parents when she was a little girl. The Jager-Sucher raise her and she becomes a dedicated hunter; suicidal in many ways as she is willing to die in her efforts to kill the beasts.

Werewolf Julian Barlow stalks Alex who killed his mate. When he defeats her, she looks forward to his killing her. Instead he obtains his revenge differently. He changes her into a werewolf so she can learn to stop stereotyping his species as brainless monsters, as not all werewolves were created by the Mengele experiments; he has been one centuries before the Nazi did his dastardly conversions. Julian takes a stunned forlorn Alex to his Alaskan pack where she will either adapt or obtain her wish. Neither realized that an evil predator is killing for sport targeting the pack.

The latest Nightcreature saga (See Thunder Moon) is a fabulous entry in a strong series as the Twilight Zone twist of changing a predator into one your kind is deftly handled mostly by how Alex reacts over the course of a strong story line. The sporting killer segue adds suspense that serves as a key catalyst in moving forward the plot, but clearly this is Alexandra’s tale. With a stark Alaskan backdrop to augment the tale of revenge turns bitter, fans of Lori Handeland’ s romantic fantasy will appreciate Julian’s efforts to change the behavior of his soulmate as he wants to wake up with her in his bed and no knife protruding from his ribs.

Harriet Klausner

Echo City-Tim Lebbon

Echo City
Tim Lebbon
Spectra (Ballantine), Oct 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553593228

Echo City is a theocracy in which the Church is the government with both run by the Marcellan family with an iron fist. Political opposition is forbidden with dissenters punished by exile or death.

Peer Nadawa is caught speaking against the leadership so is sent to reside with criminals living in Skulk Canton; she will not be allowed back as she knows too much. Bordering the Skulk is a poisoned desert The Boneyard. There Peer observes a man crossing the forbidden waste; she believes it is a sign that the end of days for Echo City is upon us. She tells the sickly stranger that his coming has been expected. Additionally Peer finds her former lover Gorham who betrayed her leading a rebel force. She puts aside her personal feelings to go with the newcomer to meet the genetic scientist Nadielle underneath the city where her lab experiments are conducted. However, Peer knows an ancient essence is rising from way under the city; this beast must be stopped before it destroys Echo City as this legend has been passed down throughout history.

Tim Lebbon is knows for his ability to merge elements of fantasy and horror together inside of riveting thrillers (see The Chamber of Ten). His current amalgam story line is action-packed from the beginning even as Mr. Lebbon establishes the critical realistic Echo City’s culture especially the rules of order. The characters are fully developed particularly the heroine, her betrayer, the geneticist and an odd person at the top of the spires; the stranger is kept as an enigma purposely adding to the suspense and sense of foreboding. Readers will appreciate this strong tale.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lords of Passion-Virginia Henley, Kate Pearce, Maggie Robinson

Lords of Passion
Virginia Henley, Kate Pearce, Maggie Robinson
Kensington Brava, Dec 1 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758251077

“Beauty and the Brute” by Virginia Henley. In 1819 her father paid off his gambling debt by giving his young daughter Lady Sarah Caversham in marriage to Charles Lennox who is embarking on his Grand Tour. Three years later, they are to wed, but Charles is stunned by the confident beauty he will soon call wife as she is nothing like the shy teen he remembers. His plan has changed as he wants to win her affection and love too.

“How to Seduce a Wife” by Kate Pearce. In 1816 Louisa March wishes her prim and proper even in bed husband Nicholas was more daring like the males in the novels she reads. Nicholas is shocked to realize his new bride wants more adventure in their sex so he turns to a courtesan for mentoring.

“Not Quite a Courtesan” by Maggie Robinson. In 1818 prim and proper Prudence Thorn tries to help her distraught cousin with a marital issue. At a courtesan’s home she meets ultra charming porn importer Darius Shaw, the brother to her cousin’s husband. Between his slick tongue seduction, the graphic art and the sexual locale, Prudence sheds her inhibitions for that of a love slave.

These are three entertaining Regency romances starring wonderful protagonists learning first comes lust and than comes love.

Harriet Klausner

Brava, Valentine-Adriana Trigiani

Brava, Valentine
Adriana Trigiani
Harper, Nov 9 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061257070

Octogenarian Roncalli family matriarch Teodora stunned the family when she went to Italy on a business trip and became engaged (see Very Valentine); her shocked kin is coming to her Italian wedding. Teodora’s Manhattan roommate shoe designer Valentine Roncalli is happy for her Gram though has doubts about marriage in general with the matrimony state of her family; but also sad for herself as her mentor is moving to Italy. She also has trepidations about decision making since her moronic brother and critic Alfred has become the Chief Finance Officer of the family business Angelina Shoe Company.

Val flies to Argentina on shoe business where other family members reside while Alfred counts the beans. She wants to bring the firm to the modern era, but must persuade Alfred to take a chance or watch the family company wither. Shockingly Alfred has an affair with a government official while Val wants an affair with her grandma’s new stepson fiftyish Gianluca, but though he wants her in a permanent relationship she has doubts.

Although the plot is thin, fans will enjoy the rambunctious return of the Greenwich Village shoemaking family who cause havoc on three continents this time. The story line is breezy as Alfred learns a lesson on promises broke and Val on promises mot made. However, once again Teo owns the novel and the two extended families as everyone else dances to her uplifting energetic living life to the fullest.

Harriet Klausner

Thieves Like Us-Starr Ambrose

Thieves Like Us
Starr Ambrose
Pocket, Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439181294

With her divorce from her criminal spouse Westfield final, Janet Aims looks forward to her new life as a single. Part of moving on, though somewhat symbolic, is to pawn the jewelry he gave her. However, her plan goes awry right away as she is accused of being a jewel thief since one of her items she tried to sell is a necklace belonging to the stolen Pellini Collection.

Her hope for proving her innocence resides with former jewel thief convict Rocky Hernandez who she has avoided even though she is attracted to him as she does not need another felon in her life. Rocky agrees to help her because he loves Janet, but has taken it slow waiting for her to move past her divorce. Cops and robbers are after her as her car and condo are ransacked and only Rocky stands in their way especially when he goes back to his thieving roots to find the missing loot.

The sequel to Lie to Me is a fast-paced enjoyable romantic crime caper starring a likable lead couple caught in a frantic scenario as everyone except Rocky assumes Janet has the jewels when her aim is to start over. Although the support cast at times overwhelms the plot with so much going on, readers will enjoy Thieves Like Us as Janet just wants move on while Rocky wants her to move on with him, but the world intrudes.

Harriet Klausner

Blood and Fire-Nick Brownlee

Blood and Fire
Nick Brownlee
Minotaur, Nov 9 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312550240

In Mombassa former British police detective turned Kenyan fishing boat skipper Jake Moore's business partner Martha Brantley has returned to New York where she is murdered. FBI Agent Clarence Bryson, who tried to warn her, believes her assassination has to do with Moore’s assistance to Kenyan Detective Inspector Daniel Jouma, which devastated a human-trafficking ring (see Bait).

Bryson and Agent McCrickerd travel to Mombassa because they believe the deadly gang is cleaning up by killing those who impeded their lucrative business with Moore at the top of the hit list. The American Feds trace the series of murders to a professional team of assassins tied to the traffickers. Jouma struggles with government corruption, cronyism, bribes and incompetence while investigating a missing nun case and a local homicide as the new mayor wants him fired. Finally Jake tries to get back to his fishing boat business, but the suits are planning progress that will destroy his locale Flamingo Bay.

Although too much is going on too quickly, readers will appreciate this powerful Kenyan crime thriller as the bad guys are clearly defined early when a killer takes a knife to Martha’s cat. Ironically the readers know much earlier than the cops and former cop who the psychopaths are, but that will not matter to the audience, as the action never stops. With a strong sense of locale, armchair warriors will enjoy the latest African adventure and want Moore from Nick Brownlee.

Harriet Klausner

Unwelcome Light-David Lehner

Unwelcome Light
David Lehner
Fithian Press, Sep 1 2010, $12.95
ISBN: 9781564744999

Three years ago, his dad gave his fortyish son a letter which the latter misplaced. A year later, his father died and at the funeral his aunt asked if he read the letter he received from his dad at his uncle’s funeral last year. The man admits he never did having misplaced it. His aunt explains his father the man who raised him was not his father.

Stunned, he needs to know who his biological father was and what happened. He obtains a teaching position at the school his “father” was the headmaster at for years. His classes include Intro Greek, Level Two Latin and Advanced Greek with his most challenging student being Natalie. He also finds a classmate from when he went to the school, married teacher Elizabeth. As he makes inquiries, he recalls when his dad thought he may have stolen money only to have it turn out to be the son of his father’s bitter rival. However, as he gets closer to the truth his rival from school arrives and soon whispers begin that he is having affairs with Natalie and Elizabeth.

This is exciting thriller as the lead character, aptly having no name, investigates his roots only to land in all sorts of trouble as the truth does not always set you free. Readers will relish David Lehner’s riveting character driven tale starring the unnamed narrator who learns the hard way some people reject an Unwelcome Light shined on them.

Harriet Klausner

Trajan's Arch-Michael Williams

Trajan's Arch
Michael Williams
ISBN: 9780982714942

In 1992 in Lake Geneva, Gabriel Rackett sends a letter to Jasmine as he has no prospects, a sad commentary for someone nearing forty years old. He once showed promise as a novelist until the alcohol took it toll. However, he thinks back to 1968 when the Cardinals ran all over the National league.

In Louisville, he was thirteen playing baseball with his two best friends being Gino Robinson and Joey Hardy near the home of elderly lunatic Miss Vivian when her adult son Trajan Bell moved in with her. Curious about the newcomer, Gino tosses Joey’s glove into the yard; Gabe sneaks in to retrieve the mitt and meets Trajan. Later that same summer, as Joey befriends Beatles’ fans and Gino shop guys, Gabe feels alone except for Trajan and soon Jasmine.

As he creeps towards middle age while a bored college teacher, Gabe knows he failed at work, family, and life. Everything changes, just as it did when he went into Miss Vivian’s yard to get the glove; he obtains a strange manuscript written by Trajan. Gabe begins a trek home past and present with the dark “stigmata” imprinted on the palm of his hand from when as a teen he touched an incline put in the yard by Trajan.

This convoluted thriller is not an easy read yet grips the audience with a need to know who Trajan Bell is and what if anything did he do to Gabe. The story line includes eerie works besides Giacco Piano by Mr. Bell such as “Second Ephesians” and “The Isle Is Filled with Noyses” that add to the strangeness of the well written story line by adding more questions to the mystery of Trajan. With Gabe’s letters to Jasmine enabling the audience to look deeper at him, fans will wonder if he lost his mind when he was thirteen, as the ghosts that haunt him as he nears forty are either psychological or real. This is a memorable and unforgettable book.

Harriet Klausner

Shadowheart-Tad Williams

Tad Williams
Daw, Nov 30 2010, $27.95
ISBN: 9780756906400

The Eddon family have lived in Southmarch castle and ruling the Marchlands for centuries. Now they are scattered because Hendon Tolly took the throne forcing the twin co-regents Barrick and Briony to escape if they want to live. Southmarch is at war with the Qar (fairy folks) because since the usurpers took over they persecuted the fairy and forced them to erect a Mantle curtain and settle on their own lands. In the middle of the battle, the Qar stop fighting because a greater foe is marching to conquer Shadowmarch.

Both Tolly and the ruler of all the conquered lands in the south, the Autarch of Xis Sulepis, know that the Sleeping Gods are located deep below the Funderling Town where the group of small dwarf like creatures lives. The pair plans to attack the realm of the Gods and use a magic ritual to make one of the gods their slave. Brionye is safely staying with the Prince of Syan Eneas who loves her and vows to help her get home. When they arrive Eneas and his men fight to gain control of the throne that rightfully belongs to Briony. All parties interested in waking the Gods and those who oppose collide as Briony and her Syanese allies take the fight to those loyal to Tolly.

Shadowheart is a grand epic finish to a great grand fantasy saga that like its three predecessors is filled with action, but character driven as the audience anticipates the climatic ending.h Tad Williams has not let us down as he springs one shocker after another to a spellbound audience. Barrick is more Qar than human because of a ritual ro save his life although he fights on the side of the humans who want to restore Shadowmarch to its previous glory. Briony has come a long way from the youth foolishly challenging Tolly to a duel as her inner strength remains powerful but matured with experience. All the major subplots come together as apocalypse now has converged on Shadowmarch.

Harriet Klausner

Goddess of Legend-P.C. Cast

Goddess of Legend
P.C. Cast
Berkley, Dec 7 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425228166

In the Crystal Cave Water Goddess Coventina better known by her beloved Merlin as Viviane fears her loved one will soon fade into nothingness. The only way Merlin may be saved is if King Arthur avoids the darkness, but the monarch is depressed over his wife and best friend which expedites his going into the abyss.

Increasingly desperate Viviane finally sees a slight possibility in twenty-first century photojournalist Isabel Cantelli after her car plummets off an Oklahoma bridge when she avoided a chipmunk. Viviane fast forwards Isabel into Camelot as a countess to seduce Lancelot away from Guinevere. However, instead of Lancelot, Isabel is attracted to King Arthur who wants her too, but a deal is a deal or is it.

This is a terrific refreshing (hard to believe something new can be created from Camelot) retelling of the Arthurian legend as Isabel turns the romantic triangle into a quadrangle. The key cast is fully developed so that the reader will believe that the Sooner has landed in the midst of the Camelot threesome. Fast-paced fans will enjoy this charming romantic fantasy as Isabel sums up the plot quite nicely when she informs Arthur that he is better for her heart than a cardio workout.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 29, 2010

How to Bake a Perfect Life-Barbara O'Neal

How to Bake a Perfect Life
Barbara O'Neal
Bantam, Dec 21 2010, $15.00
ISBN 9780553386776

In Colorado Springs, forty years old Ramona Gallagher loves her bakery, which brings her joy that very little else does in her life. Her other love is for her daughter Sofia who she had as a single teen.

When Sofia’s husband is injured in Afghanistan, he is sent to Germany for medical care. Sofia flies to Europe to be with him. However, before leaving Colorado, she asks her mother to watch her stepdaughter thirteen year old Katie as the teen’s mother is in jail on a drug charge. That summer Ramona and Katie bond, which encourages the bakery owner to reconcile with her somewhat estranged family and to take a chance on love with a man she was seeing when they were teens.

Although bonding between the “bread” generations has been done before, Barbara O’Neal bakes a fresh tale as in many ways it is the teen who teaches the adult what matters in life. Character driven mostly by Ramona but cleverly enhanced by Katie, fans will enjoy this terrific contemporary extended family drama, as the young “grandmother” discovers The Lost Recipe for Happiness.

Harriet Klausner

Rescue-Anita Shreve

Anita Shreve
Little, Brown, Nov 30 2010, $26.99
ISBN: 9780316020725

In Hartstone, Vermont, paramedic Peter Webster stops at the scene of an apparent one car crash. Peter pulls out the unconscious driver Sheila Arsenalt who obviously was driving under the influence. He treats her injury.

Afterward he is drawn to her like a bear to honey. They have an affair and eventually marry. Soon they have a daughter Rowan. However, parenthood does not abate Sheila's drinking. Instead she hits the bottle much more until she is in another car accident with Rowan as a passenger. To keep his wife out of jail, a desperate Webster sends Sheila away. Years later, a high school senior Rowan has begun drinking; hoping for A Change in Attitude, Webster begs for Sheila to come home to help their daughter.

Rescue is an entertaining family drama starring three intriguing characters that seem to prove love is not enough to cement strong relationships. Neither Peter (as heroic first responder – even meets a teen he brought into the world years ago in an emergency), Sheila (as a woman unable to stop from hurting those she loves or herself) or Rowan (teen in peril) are fully developed beyond their dysfunctional roles. Yet in spite of the characterization, readers will enjoy Anita Shreve’s enjoyable relationship tale.

Harriet Klausner

Sundays at Tiffany's-James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonett

Sundays at Tiffany's
James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonett
Grand Central, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780446536318

Born to affluence and fame, Jane Margaux grew up lonely with one exception. While her famous producer mother Broadway creates musicals and her father preferred spending quality time with his second wife in Nantucket, her only friend and companion is Michael, who provided her solace even if he was only imaginary. However, when she turned eight, Michael informs her he will no longer be with her though he will always be her best friend.

Over two decades later, Jane remains lonely even with a boyfriend and neurotic because she works for her mother. No one would believe she is Vivienne’s daughter as she is treated scornfully and horrifically. As Jane produces her first play based on her childhood with Michael, he returns bringing light into Jane’s dark life. They fall in love as each find their groove with one another; but Michael fears he will not be allowed to stay with his beloved as adults are not supposed to remember imaginary friends while she has never forgotten him especially since he left her once before.

This contemporary romantic fantasy is an enchanting tale in which Jane breaks the rules of imaginary friends by somehow always remembering her Michael. The story line effortlessly switches from preadolescence in which he is a sort of guardian big brother to her to and an adult love story. Although the standard operating procedures of what an imaginary friend does and does not do and the laws of physics that govern the relationship between a child and their buddy are lacking so that the audience cannot fully appreciate the heroine’s breaking the barrier, fans will enjoy it happened to Jane.

Harriet Klausner

One Night In Scotland-Karen Hawkins

One Night In Scotland
Karen Hawkins
Pocket, Nov 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439175897

In 1822, an unknown kidnapper abducts renowned Egyptologist Michael Hurst. For the safe return of his “guest”, the Sulfi demands his family gives back the ancient Hurst Amulet that Michael’s friend Angus Hay currently is investigating at his castle.

Michael’s sister Mary journeys to Hay’s castle to demand the earl give her the relic so she can ransom her brother. Instead to her shock he refuses to relinquish the artifact as he does not trust his visitor. Even more stunning to her Angus will not let her leave; but instead he locks her away as his prisoner in one of the castle’s turrets. Suspicious Angus plans to seduce the truth out of Mry, but finds his motives changing after one stolen kiss.

The newest Hurst sibling Regency romance (see The Laird Who Loved Me and Sleepless in Scotland) starts a new saga, the Hurst Amulet series with a great overarching mystery. The information re the Amulet comes from Michael’s letters he supposedly has sent home. However this is the wonderful tale of thoroughly modern Mary and thoroughly adoring Angus who together provides the audience with a rousing romance as they fall love while mostly establishing the foundation of this latest miniseries.

Harriet Klausner

Highland Protector-Hannah Howell

Highland Protector
Hannah Howell
Zebra, Dec 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN 9781420104639

In 1479 in Scotland, Ilsabeth “Twa” Murray Armstrong overhears her fiancé Sir Walter Hepbourn discuss with his cousin their duplicitous plans to betray her and her family. He never had plans to marry an Armstrong. He apparently succeeds with his plan when the king's agent is murdered and the evidence points to the Armstrong clan.

Ilsabeth flees to the home of family friend Simon Innes. The king orders Simon, a highly regarded investigator, to find the missing Armstrong broods. The Murray clan visits him too asking him to investigate the homicide. Ilsabeth has demands on him also; she wants him to fall in love with her as she has with him. Of course it would also be nice if he could find the killer. Simon is a misanthrope who distrusts women; however, his avoidance attempts fail because Ilsabeth has a horde supporting her efforts to win his love.

The latest Murray fifteenth century romance (see Highland Destiny) is a terrific entry made fresh with the investigation, the brogue and the humor of the matchmaking throng. Simon is simply stupendous as every clue he finds supports the assertion that the Armstrong clan killed the agent; only his treacherous heart says no and ironically even before he met and fell in love with Ilsabeth he distrusted women. Readers will enjoy Hannah Howell’s entertaining Highland historical.

Harriet Klausner

The Pursuit of Pleasure-Elizabeth Essex

The Pursuit of Pleasure
Elizabeth Essex
Kensington Brava, Dec 1 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758251541

In 1794 in Dartmouth, England Lizzie Paxton drolly chatting to another woman says being a widow would be ideal for the freedom granted to a woman however she also insists the first step to achieve this independent status will never happen to her as she will never marry. Her long time friend Captain James Marlowe overhears her feelings about marriage and astutely concludes her need for independence and his goal is to avoid a marriage entanglement fit nicely together. He offers her a marriage of convenience; she accepts.

Although he knows he should not, James seduces delectable Lizzie. Soon after that passionate tryst, he leaves. A few days later, she learns her wish is true that she has become a widow. However, the Ton assume Lizzie killed her new husband; placing her spouse in an untenable spot between his loyalty to his beloved wife and his loyalty to his beloved England.

The Pursuit of Pleasure is a wonderful late Georgian romance due to the strong likable lead characters. Lizzie is terrific as an intelligent witty individual while James is a dashing hero. Readers will enjoy this engaging historical as patriotic James is trapped in a nasty situation as duty and love war inside his soul.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Identity-Lindsay McKenna

Deadly Identity
Lindsay McKenna
Harlequin HQN, Dec 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774746

In Miami spousal abuser Dirk Payson, a Mexican cartel drug runner in the States, beat his pregnant wife Susan until she lost the baby. Five years of marital hell ends for the twenty-three years old victim when she testifies against Dirk in court before being placed in the Witness Protection Program.

Five years later, Dirk escapes prison; FBI Agent Brenda Wilkins informs his former wife called Susan Johnson she must leave New York City immediately. Her new identity is Rachael Carson and her home is Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

In her new home, Rachel helps Sheriff Cade Garner care for little Jenny by hiring on as the motherless child’s nanny. Cade senses something is not right about Rachel; little things a non law enforcement official would not notice. As he falls in love with the nanny, he prays she would tell him the truth as he swears her will keep her safe from whoever haunts her. However, he also fears confronting her as knows if he does she will bolt like the scared rabbit she is.

Mindful of the Roberts-Bergen film Sleeping With The Enemy, Deadly Identity is an engaging exciting romantic suspense even with the reader anticipating a confrontation in picaresque Jackson Hole. The story line is fast-paced with likable lead protagonists, a wonderful little girl and a vile villain. Although nothing new is added to the theme, fans will relish this exhilarating thriller even while knowing what to expect when High Noon comes to Wyoming.

Harriet Klausner

Vicious Grace-M.L.N. Hanover

Vicious Grace
M.L.N. Hanover
Pocket, Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439176290

Jayne Heller feels good about her life as finally it seems to be coming together. Still she muses about her “inheritance” as she would prefer to pass on fighting demons that thrive on humans and other paranormal adversaries like the cretins that killed her Uncle Eric and thrust her into his insane world last year. However, the reasons she feels optimistic are that she has friends and a lover; both of which she rarely could claim in the past. Even her belief in her self -worth has never been higher than now due ironically to kicking supernatural butt.

At the same time there is no respite in her new world. While recording dreams of patients at Chicago’s Grace Memorial Hospital, the researchers notice the strange nightmare shared by several subjects. Jayne and her comrades investigate but soon realize something apparently evil is awakening from underneath the hospital. However, Jayne biggest threat may be from those she calls friends and lover, and even perhaps her deceased Uncle Eric.

The Third Black Sun’s Daughter urban fantasy (see Darker Angels) is an engaging entry as the paranormal Chicago setting feels real and fans will recall how far Jayne has come from her first encounter with Unclean Spirits. However that insightful opening leads to the story line starting slow and not accelerating until about half way into the thriller. Still readers will enjoy the latest escapades of it happened to Jayne.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Transformation of Things-Jillian Cantor

The Transformation of Things
Jillian Cantor
Avon, Nov 2 2010, $13.99
ISBN 9780061962202

In Deerfield, Pennsylvania Jennifer Levenworth is at the salon getting her hair done when her husband is on the TV news. His appearance on the air is not unexpected as Will is the local district attorney, but the reason is a shocker. The reporter states Will has been charged with accepting bribes.

Stunned, Jennifer races home to be with Will. He has resigned and plea bargained to avoid prison. Jennifer finds her life has transformed back to what it was before they moved to the burbs and joined the country club set. Returning to Philadelphia, she hopes to regain the job she gave up and reconcile with her former BFF working mom Kat who she dumped when she fled the city. However, Jennifer struggles with returning to her former lifestyle and her marriage is at best shaky as her spouse is psychotically mute. Her father refuses to talk to her as if she is an embarrassment and her sister is busy raising a horde. Then there are the dreams when she sleeps to keep her further off balance.

This is a terrific character study that focuses on a woman who has fallen into humiliation as she deals the fallout with loved ones from her husband’s felonious activity. The story line is obviously character driven as Jennifer finds her life shattered but also cannot feel for or even understand her disgraced spouse as she holds him culpable when he needs emotional support. Ironically she comprehends her father’s reaction but not Will’s withdrawal. Although the twisting end seems as far out of place as Pennsylvania is from Florida because it does not fit with what has gone on before, fans will enjoy The Transformation of Things especially lifestyles.

Harriet Klausner

The Sheriff’s Christmas Surprise-Maria Ferrarella

The Sheriff’s Christmas Surprise
Maria Ferrarella
Harlequin American Romance, Nov 9 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373753338

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, Forever, Texas Sheriff Enrique “Rick” Santiago walks out of his home only to see a baby boy strapped in a baby seat on his doorstep. At the same time he is stunned by the toddler, almost thirty attorney Olivia Blayne feels almost ninety as she searches for her runaway sister Tina as she wants to bring home her sibling and her three months old nephew Bobby. Rick and Olivia meet and she explains confusingly what happened; but he points out her sister is an adult who may have been brainwashed by Don Norman to come with him, but it sounded like no law was broken.

She learns Tina was critically injured from a car accident and her nephew was dumped in Forever. Olivia goes to Forever to find the sheriff is caring for her relative. As she spends time with the sheriff and Bobby, Olivia falls in love, but she is a hot shot Dallas lawyer and not a Forever type of woman. Rick plans to persuade her otherwise.

Although the giftwrapping with ribbons ending seems a stretch, readers will enjoy the warmhearted Sheriff’s Christmas Surprise due to a fully developed powerful cast as the lead couple is strong but so are the townsfolk. Readers will appreciate spending the holidays in Texas as Rick and Olivia fall in love, but he is forever while she is Dallas.

Harriet Klausner

Miracle Baby-Laura Bradford

Miracle Baby
Laura Bradford
Harlequin American Romance, Nov 9 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373753369

In Michigan Maggie Monroe and Rory O’Brien have dealt with the numbing loss of a loved one. However, they have reacted differently. Whereas he has moved on through the phases of grief, she remains in the early stasis frozen with grief and unable to move on.

Working together to renovate her Uncle Doug’s century old inn, Rory the carpenter knows Maggie and his faith are his prime reasons for moving on as he loves her. He acts slowly knowing if he rushes their relationship she will flee. He hopes to receive the gift of a second chance at love relationship with Maggie for Christmas because she is a keeper and he hopes he is her keeper too.

This is an uplifting hopeful holiday romance starring two fascinating lead characters who both know how it feels when a love one dies. Maggie is a real person as she can count seemingly to the nanosecond how much time has passed since her beloved Jack and Natalie died. Rory grieves too for his loss, but has gotten on with his life though his carpentry work. Readers will fully relish this second chance at love due to the super stars.

Harriet Klausner

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor-Lisa Kleypas

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor
Lisa Kleypas
St. Martin’s, Oct 26 2010, $16.99
ISBN 9780312605865

On San Juan Island businessman Mark Nolan has no time to grieve the death of his sister in a car accident as he is the guardian of his niece Holly. Used to taking no prisoners at the Seattle office, Mark is scared to death with how to deal with a frightened six year old child. Although he has the support of his sibling Sam while their other brother is overwhelmed with his own issues, adding to Mark’s fear is that Holly is so traumatized she has become psychologically mute.

Mark takes Holly to the Friday Harbor Magic Mirror toy store hoping the child will find something she likes. Widow Maggie Collins uses a “magic” conch shell to talk with Holly. The child says her first words since her mother’s death through the shell. The business mogul is shocked at how a stranger and his niece connected when he has known Holly all her life but failed. He soon realizes that Maggie may be his “One” although he feels unprepared for a permanent relationship; he even has a girlfriend. Besides his doubts he knows he must go slowly until she is ready to take a second chance on love as her late spouse died only a few years ago from cancer. Meanwhile the little girl has one wish for Christmas.

This is an entertaining sweet contemporary romance that is fun to read though the audience knows from the moment the key cast is set, the story line is set. The lead adult couple’s doubts re love is not deeply explored yet Lisa Kleypas shows her writing skills as she provides an engaging tale with the child’s plight providing seriousness to what would have been a sugary Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor.

Harriet Klausner

Rebel-Zoe Archer

Zoe Archer
Zebra, Nov 2 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420106817

When Nathan Lesperance was a child, the Canadian government took him away from his tribe. By 1875, the adult Nathan has become an attorney practicing in Vancouver, but feels outside of both the Anglo and tribal worlds. Likewise both societies treat him like a leper.

Several years later his law firm chooses Nathan to travel to the wild Northwest Territory because of his heritage as the assumption is he will feel right at home unlike the all white rest of the staff. His task is to pick up the belongings of the recently deceased Douglas Prescott. On the trek the malevolent Heirs of Albrion kidnap him, but he escapes. Former Blade of the Rose Astrid Bramfield finds him wandering lost near dead. Whereas the heirs want to use magical objects to dominate the world; the Blade wants to prevent magical abuse. With her Blade late husband as her partner, Astrid studied the Primal Source, but the Heirs killed her spouse and stole the artifact. Now the Heirs stalk the pair to obtain her knowledge and his untapped magic, Astrid and Nathan trek to the expected safety of an alleged tribe of shapeshifters.

The latest Blade of the Rose historical romantic fantasy (see Warrior and Scoundrel) is another super thriller as the suspense never slows down while the romance simmers nice and slow as each has a history filled with doubts that desire is not enough. Fast-paced once Nathan goes north fully understanding why him and never takes a respite as Zoe Archer hits a bulls-eye with this winner.

Harriet Klausner

The Wolven-Deborah LeBlanc

The Wolven
Deborah LeBlanc
Silhouette Nocturne, Dec 1 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618484

In New Orleans, a serial killer is targeting werewolves. The victims are always left dead in their wolf body with claws and fangs removed as if the predator collected souvenirs. The Keeper of the local Wolven populace shopkeeper Shauna MacDonald is sworn to protect the packs so she investigates the murders. She teams up with alpha pack leader Danyon Stone, who has had several of his members killed.

The pair concludes the predator is murdering werewolves to obtain their claws and fangs not as memorabilia or ritual items. Instead once extracted, the body parts are grounded into a fine powder that enables the user to gain immense physical prowess to rival that of a genuine shifting werewolf without changing from their human form. As the duet work on the case, they realize they want more as each knows this their mate.

The key to this strong New Orleans urban romantic fantasy is the smooth interweaving of recent real events with the paranormal happenings. The story line is fast-paced as the lead couple investigate the homicides, which continual unabated, and fall in love; though for the most part their romance takes a back seat to stopping a diabolical killer.

Harriet Klausner

Alaskan Wolf-Linda O. Johnston

Alaskan Wolf
Linda O. Johnston
Silhouette Nocturne, Dec 1 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618491

In Alaska Alpha Force Lieutenant Patrick Worley serves as an undercover dogsled driver at the remote Great Glacier Dog Ranch. His current cover assignment is escorting naturalist magazine writer Mariah Garver to an isolated area where she plans to research the wildlife of a glacier for an article she is writing. Besides obviously keeping the civilian safe, the shapeshifting wolf’s security task is to investigate the strange happenings occurring to the glaciers.

Besides her prime subject, Mariah wants to know more about the glacial mystery too. She accidentally uncovers her guide’s secret. They team up when they learn am industrialist is destroying the glaciers to expedite extraction of minerals from the ocean floor. The pair plans to prevent an ecological disaster from happening.

This is an enjoyable glacial romantic fantasy starring two likable strong protagonists and intriguing environmental vs. development scenario. He finds his desire for his client distracting him from his mission; while she finds him desirable. Although the remote glacial background is glossed over so lacks the deep starkness of the region, Linda O Johnston provides a fast-paced paranormal romantic thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow of the Sheikh-Nina Bruhns

Shadow of the Sheikh
Nina Bruhns
Harlequin Nocturne, Nov 1 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618477

The note from her sister Gillian the historian says not to worry as she claims she is doing okay but is in love (see Lord of the Desert). Concerned for her sibling anyway, Cultural anthropologist Gemma Haliday wants to be looking at her sister “Jelly Bean” when she hears how Gillian is doing.

In the Nubian desert of Egypt to find Gillian, Gemma knows immortal shapeshifter Sheikh Shahin “Black Hawk” Aswadi has information as to the whereabouts of her sister. Thus she follows him into the forbidden zone where mortals never dare travel; not even the nomads have crossed into this area in a century. She enters the oasis of his people who worship the God Set-Sutekh where her prey captures her. Caught with overt desire for the Black Hawk, Gemma agrees to accompany him when he enters the underground city although she knows once you cross through the portal you can never exit. However, she had not expected to be a key player in an ancient war between Shahin’s vampire leader Seth-Aziz and their immortal enemy Haru-re.

The second Immortal Sheikhs desert romantic fantasy is a delightful thriller starring an intrepid heroine and the immortal who dares to love her. Gemma is a bulldog who once she makes up her mind no one can budge her though her sisters can nudge her. Shahin recognizes his beloved’s obstinacy and uses it as a tool to get his beloved to come to him; which she does into the pits of hell but engulfed by love. Filled with excitement, Shadow of the Sheikh is an enjoyable Haliday tale with one more sister to go.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

That Christmas Feeling-Brenda Novak, Kathleen O’Brien and Karina Bliss

That Christmas Feeling
Brenda Novak, Kathleen O’Brien and Karina Bliss
Harlequin SuperRomance, Nov 12 2010, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716685

“A Dundee Christmas” by Brenda Novak. In Dundee, Idaho, illegal Guatemalan Cierra Santos is trapped with no prospects as Charlie who she was to marry dies. Former football player Ken Holbrook gives her shelter during a snowstorm and soon a job and his heart follow.

“We Need a Little Christmas” by Kathleen O’Brien. In Hallem Fork, Virginia, Araby Ranch owner eighty-nine year old Duke ends up in the hospital with two broken hops and double pneumonia. His staff led by Annie Browning knows how much the Joyland Christmas show means to him so they go all out to make it happen as they fear this may be Duke’s last act. Annie struggles to make the magic happen but needs a miracle. Duke’s estranged grandson Nathaniel comes to see his relative and soon he and Annie believe in miracles.

“Kiss Me, Santa” by Karina Bliss. In Suburban Auckland, New Zealand, Widower Mike Ward has never moved on since his wife died years ago. His neighbor Erica Owens and her son Will ignore his request to be left alone for the holidays and beyond as they insist he decorates his home for Christmas; not realizing they are decorating his heart with joy.

These are three wonderful holiday romances with deep leads and strong support characters. Readers will believe they caught That Christmas Feeling as Brenda Novak, Kathleen O’Brien and Karina Bliss provide three beautiful contemporaries.

Harriet Klausner

Life Rewritten-Margaret Watson

Life Rewritten
Margaret Watson
Harlequin SuperRomance, Nov 12 2010, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716739

Following the drug death of her lover and Redhead band member Diesel, Delaney Spencer has reinvented her life. She is no longer rock star Chantal and has become a carpenter in Otter Tail, Wisconsin. Delaney has become a good member of the community and actually still performs with a local band.

Diesel’s brother Sam McCabe has located Chantal. He arrives in Wisconsin demanding she give him the recordings she and his late sibling made just before he died to secure the future for Diesel’s two children, Leo and Rennie. He is their guardian since their mom Heather is incapable of caring for them. When she hesitates, frustrated by her and his desire for her, he accuses her of killing his sibling by hooking him to the drugs; which she denies. Still Delaney must decide whether to continue to hide from celebrity status or take a chance that her alcoholism is under control.

Life Rewritten is a strong family drama starring individuals tied together by their grief for a deceased loved one. The cast is strong. The kids feel frightened and abandoned; Sam is filled with anger and survivor guilt; and Delaney is a recovering alcoholic who logically knows she did not turn Diesel into an addict as he was a user before they met, but feels illogical guilt by not intervening to stop him. This is a winner as even Fluffy the dog has real flaws (and not just the gas).

Harriet Klausner

The Best Laid Plans-Sarah Mayberry

The Best Laid Plans
Sarah Mayberry
Harlequin SuperRomance, Nov 12 2010, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716692

Thirty-eight years old Melbourne corporate attorney Alex Knight has always separated her legal career from her personal life; some would argue she fostered her professional life at the cost of her personal life. However, lately she feels her biological clock ticking away as she wants a child to raise with or without a man.

Since she has no male prospects, Alex asks her friend Ethan Stone to donate his sperm. He agrees until he learns what the medical procedure involves; she is stunned too. Attracted to one another, they agree to try sex that becomes lovemaking to bring a child into the world. However, she has doubts about wanting a threesome and he has major commitment issues.

The Best Laid Plans is a terrific Australian contemporary romance due to the strong lead protagonists and the wonderful setting that brings out their personal needs and flaws. Readers will believe Alex’s biological clock ticking down, but it is the almost psychotic fear of commitment by Ethan that makes for a strong tale as the more he falls in love the more he psychologically denies and runs from love.

Harriet Klausner

Mystery Montage-Patricia L. Morin

Mystery Montage
Patricia L. Morin
Top Publications, Nov 15 2010
ISBN: 9781929976751

The key to this superb twelve short story crime anthology is the diversity of entries that cross many sub-genres and locations. “Under the Boardwalk” occurs in Atlantic City where septuagenarians find a key clue in a police procedural but do not solve the case. The “Maasai Murder Mystery” is a terrific African tribal police procedural while the longest tale “Who Killed Horatio T. Adams takes place in Oahu. In “The Pool Room” sting, a San Francisco writer’s emails and journals, told in “Rap Sheet”. In Los Angeles or on a train heading to Exeter, new Hampshire, these are fabulous stories with different twists. Finally, whether it is private investigator Green “Landing in the Rough on a New Jersey golf course or the “Funeral” where a story is within a story, fans will appreciate this strong Mystery Montage.

Harriet Klausner

Rogue Island-Bruce Desilva

Rogue Island
Bruce Desilva
Forge, Oct 12 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765327260

In Providence, Rhode Island, a serial arsonist is torching the Mount Hope section over the last three months with nine fires and five corpses. Reporter Liam Mulligan wants to catch the murderer who has killed friends and acquaintances from his old neighborhood. The city residents are in a panic as the police and fire department seem helpless.

Mulligan’s inquiry is enabled by a horde of collaborators stonewalled by a stunning coalition of cops, fire inspectors, politicians and landlords who make up the seamier underbelly of the city. Lawyers are thrown at him and the newspaper with threats to bankrupt the paper. The case turns even nastier when the police probe Mulligan insisting they have probable cause to name him a person of interest.

The key element to this strong arson investigative noir is the support cast of hookers, runners, bookies and hoods who make the atmosphere come darkly alive and mouthy Mulligan fit as one of them. The whodunit is cleverly devised to keep readers’ attention with a strong spin that will stun the audience. However, it is the denizen of the streets of the Mount Hope neighborhood especially in contrast to the “Suits” who make this an exhilarating mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Confession-Solomon Jones

The Last Confession
Solomon Jones
Minotaur, Nov 9 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312580209

A mass killer calling himself "the Angel of Death" murders three people in a church. The police arrest Father Thomas O'Reilly, who is convicted and sentenced to death. In spite of the overwhelming evidence against the priest that he committed the Confessional Killings, Philadelphia homicide detective who led the investigation Michael Coletti had doubts.

Now a decade since the killings, Coletti is near retirement after over three decades on the force but as the O'Reilly execution date nears, his sense that the wrong man was convicted remains strong especially when he poorly sleeps. When homicides similar to that of the Angel of Death occur, Coletti believes the culprit has returned. He, police detective Charles Mann, and Pennsylvania state police profiler Mary Smithson try to solve the killings with clues that lead back to Coletti and the long time homicide detective’s old cases.

Super Solomon Jones provides a strong gritty police procedural in which the author merges his Street Lit roots into a grim Philadelphia whodunit. The story line is fast-paced as the audience is hooked wanting to accompany the cops as they investigate the new wave of murders. Although the final confrontation fits the key cast personalities and the inquiry (from a Monday morning quarterback perspective), it feels too simple yet somehow apropos as Mr. Jones with his unique voice is a great welcome to the sub-genre.

Harriet Klausner

Devoured by Darkness-Alexandra Ivy

Devoured by Darkness
Alexandra Ivy
Zebra, Dec 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420111354

For two days inside Missouri tunnels, half breed Jinn Laylah flees from vampire Tane the Charon executioner who knows she leads him away from the Caine estate where he first saw her. He assumes she protects a child. However as a half Jinn she must appear before the Commission as her species is outlawed. Tane lusts for the tired Laylah who stops running when vampires arrive. Tane fights the vampires as Levet the gargoyle arrives. Laylah races back to Caine’s lair to grab the baby concealed in a stasis spell she found in the mists fifty years ago. Tane and Levet follow her. The gargoyle mentions a jinn broke his wing two centuries ago in London. Laylah goes to London using her Jinn skill to vanish in the shadows, but Tane and Levet grab her and end up with her in the mist.

In London, Marika the vampire complains to her mage Sergei she hears her twin Kata whisper Laylah although Kata is in a deep magical sleep but made sure her half-breed daughter was safe from her aunt. Laylah informs Tane she is going to leave him behind in the mists unless he gives a wish debt that spell binds him to the half-Jinn. He agrees and in London she orders him to take her to a safe place. He takes her to the lair of Victor the vampire while Marika knows her quest to use her niece and the baby has finally accelerated.

The lead couple is a fascinating pairing of two seemingly opposites while the fast-paced story line makes vampires, gargoyles, jinns, and mages seem real. A nice late twist adds depth. Although the villainous is considered extremely dangerous and nasty by others, she seems somewhat feeble in person. Still this is a strong Gardens of Eternity romantic urban fantasy that cleverly sets up a future “Darkness” sequel.

Harriet Klausner

The Wolf Age-James Enge

The Wolf Age
James Enge
PYR, Nov 9 2010, $17.00
ISBN 9781616142438

By nature an extreme pessimist who in spite of his adept skills knows he cannot live up to the legend of his father except when he is intoxicated. Enchanter Morlock Ambrosius wonders what else could go wrong as nothing seems to be going his way. In the werewolf city-state of Wuruyaaria, he figures he hit rock bottom when he is confined in a prison inside Vargulleion, a werewolf fortress. Morlock soon learns he has not bottomed out when he is forced to kill another inmate who attacked him.

His new cell mate is Rokhlenu the werewolf, whose life he once saved. They become friends watching each other’s back in the dangerous dungeons. However, Morlock also struggles with his sanity as the glass spike pounded into his head blocks his Sight leading to out of control paranoid rages. Working together, the pair escapes, but being on the outside in a city boiling over with angry werewolves divided in strife during an election year proves more dangerous than lock up.

Making last summer’s Tea Party look like tea partiers, The Wolf Age is an excellent political fantasy as James Enge paints balloting skewered by the sword and claw; making Wuruyaaria seem worse than 1850s Bleeding Kansas and that of 2008 violent Kenya. The taut story line is character driven by the honor of blood werewolf voters as democracy proves deadly. With morose Morlock as the guide (see Blood of Ambrose and This Crooked Way), readers will appreciate the dark, grim and gloomy portrayal of democracy.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Secrets of the Tudor Court: By Royal Decree-Kate Emerson

Secrets of the Tudor Court: By Royal Decree
Kate Emerson
Gallery (Simon and Schuster), Dec 14 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439177815

Aging and ailing King Henry VIII chooses Katharine Parr as his sixth wife. Not long after the monarch remarries, Elizabeth Brooke arrives at court as a lady in waiting to the new queen. There she meets Katharine’s married brother Will. Elizabeth and Will become friends as he helps her with the backstabbing intrigue. They are deeply attracted tone another and she believes she loves the kind Will, but marriage is traded on a royal exchange as an item for bartering.

Years later Will is single having had his marriage annulled while his Bess also is free as her fiancé died. They become lovers at a time an era ends with the death of the monarch; Henry’s son Edward becomes king. The widow queen Katharine remarries but dies in childbirth. Lady Jane Grey ascends to the throne, but not for long as less than two weeks later Princess Mary becomes queen. Mary a devout Catholic married to the Spanish king also an extremely deeply religious Catholic accuses many at court especially Bess of seditious support of Jane.

The latest Secrets of the Tudor Court (see Between Two Queens) is an entertaining historical made fresh by the lead protagonist Bess Brooke, a real person. She brings an interesting perspective to the overly written era as an optimist in a dangerous curt filled with nasty intrigue and stays up beat even when accused of treason in allegedly placing Jane on the throne and in support of her cousin’s failed revolt. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Kate Emerson’s enjoyable look at the Tudors.

Harriet Klausner

Taking Care of Business-Kathy Lyons

Taking Care of Business
Kathy Lyons
Harlequin Blaze, Nov 1 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795802

In a Chicago high rise elevator, advertising executive Julie Thompson and “the sexy janitor” take one look at one another and leap into each other’s arms. Both know their behavior is inappropriate, but neither can resist the lure and even bring kinkiness to their trysts.

Her janitor is actually Sam Finn, the undercover multimillionaire who owns the skyscraper and has been fantasizing about sex with Julie after watching her on the security monitors. Although he feels like a voyeur, he cannot stop. Now he has the real thing, which is so much better. However her firm is failing so she will be gone in under a month; Sam will do whatever it takes to keep his Julie handcuffed to him though he fears her reaction to the truth about himself.

Taking Care of Business in the elevator, the board room, the office and elsewhere is a fun funky frolic. The key to what could have been over the top of the Willis Tower is that Kathy Lyons never takes her story line grave yard (or Cubs) serious as the tongue in cheek (and other places) plot is an engaging contemporary erotic romance starring two likable lead characters.

Harriet Klausner

Private Affairs-Tori Carrington

Private Affairs
Tori Carrington
Harlequin Blaze, Nov 1 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795789

In Earnest, Washington Penelope Weaver runs a successful coffee shop while kind of dating town Sheriff Barnaby Jones. Fifteen years ago, Palmer DeVoe left town and his sweetheart Penelope to become a successful contractor; until now he never came back.

Now Palmer is back in Earnest; considered by many of the townsfolk, except for the female Weaver clan, as a hero because of his business achievements. He has come home because he misses Penelope and hopes for a second chance with her. However, as their passion soars, she knows she owes him the truth about the deep secret she still hides from him.

The extended eccentric Weaver family brings humor to an engaging second chance at love tale; if she ever gets around to telling him her secret and if he wears her moccasins so that he can understand why she did what she did. Filled with business dealings that is some ways detracts from the prime plot yet also anchors the story line with realism because that is who Palmer is. Fans will guess early on Penelope’s secret, but will not care as Tori Carrington provides a fabulous Pacific Northwest contemporary romance.

Harriet Klausner

One Grave Less-Beverly Connor

One Grave Less
Beverly Connor
Obsidian, Dec 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451231802

At the River Trail Museum of Natural History, curator Diane Fallon is working late when she finds two wounded individuals in separate rooms. She recognizes one of them Simone Brooks as a World Accord International human rights activist who she worked with in South America. The woman holding a child’s femur in a death grip mumbles “It was one of us” before collapsing into a coma. Security calls for an ambulance for the first victim, but when Diane calls for a second ambulance, she learns no previous call was made and soon smells smoke in the room with the victim she does not know.

Not long after the nocturnal incident, Diane becomes the focus of a diabolical assault. Her identity is stolen and soon after she is accused by law enforcement of committing a murder when she worked in Brazil. Diane, her museum team and her fiancé Frank begin the counter attack trying to uncover who is behind the assault and why.

This is a brilliant mystery as not only does Beverly Connor tie Diane’s work in South America to the present case, the author also links back to her Lindsay Chamberlain series without missing a beat. The story line action-packed from the first moan and never slows down until the final confrontation as the past and present subplots excitingly mingle. However, adding to the fun is an overarching theme twist that is unexpected yet seems plausible. Fans of Ms. Connor will relish One Grave Less.

Harriet Klausner

The Lion of Cairo-Scott Oden

The Lion of Cairo
Scott Oden
Dunne, Dec 7 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312372934

In the impregnable Afghan mountaintop, Alamut the Hidden Master of the Assassins sends his top assistant Assad on deadly missions. So when Alamut gives Assad his latest task, he assumes he will assassinate an enemy. Instead his job is to keep the young caliph of Cairo safe from insidious enemies so as to arrange an alliance between Cairo and Alamut.

The task seems easy until Assad realizes how much peril Cairo is in. The Christian king of Jerusalem Amalric wants to use the lad to further his plans of tightening his control and Nur-ad-Din, Sultan of Damascus wants to own the Caliph or kill him. . Amalric leads his army while Nur-ad-Din's loyal Kurdish general leads another. At the same time while ambition explodes, the grand Vizier plots to kill Assad, the Templars and Cairo. As Assad struggles to keep the Caliph safe, a rogue Assassin necromancer has murdered his allies, but he has himself, his magical sword and three kick-butt females; more than enough to defeat armies and traitors.

With a nod to Robert E Howard, The Lion of Cairo is a super sword and sorcery historical fantasy filled with blood and gore from the fresh perspective of an Arab. Assad is terrific as he uses masquerades, a special sword that loves to kill the Crusaders especially the Templars and is co-mingled with an ancient demonic salawar. He works the shadows so well even the infidel Europeans quietly call him "Emir of the Knife". Scott Oden provides a delightful twist on the Crusades and the Templars due to their enemy assassin.

Harriet Klausner

Right Hand Magic-Nancy A. Collins

Right Hand Magic
Nancy A. Collins
Roc, Dec 7 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451463661

Her affluent parents are disappointed in Tate as they expect her to marry someone of their social group. Instead, Tate is a Manhattan based metallurgist, sculpting life-sized human figures. Tate feels she is on the way to making it as a metal sculptor when the Templeton Gallery in Chelsea plans a showing of her work.

Tate finds a place to rent in the Golgotham, the oddest area in the city; some would say the world. Here is the true melting pot where Werewolves, Valkyries, Amazons, centaurs, and their ilk live above ground and Dwarves below the pavement. Also residing here is Kymeran witches who sell charms, spells, and curses to customers, mostly dumb humans. Tate's landlord is Hexe the Kymeran sorcerer who’s a practitioner of the Right Hand magic. He shares in common with his new tenant the fact he has disappointed his mother the Golgotham Witch-Queen, Lady Syra by not following in her footsteps with using Left Hand curse magic. As Tate adjusts to Hexe’s strange feline Scratch, a were-cougar stalks her. Hexe catches teenager Lukas, who is cold turkey detoxed from the drugs that had him out of control. He explains he fled from mob Boss Marz's pit fighting ring; the trio knows the gangster and his minion will be coming for their guest.

Right Hand Magic is a fascinating opening act of a new urban fantasy that focuses in the New York neighborhood Golgotham which is filled with an assortment of non-humans. The story line introduces the audience to the neighborhood through the eyes of the newest resident. The action is somewhat limited as Nancy A. Collins establishes the lifestyle of an assortment of paranormal species and a horde of players. This first entry looks like the beginning of an engaging series as fans will want to walk the streets of Golgotham; albeit with some magic at their right and left hands.

Harriet Klausner

Star Wars Fate of the Jedi: Vortex-Troy Denning

Star Wars Fate of the Jedi: Vortex
Troy Denning
Del Rey, Dec 7 2010, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345509208

In a remote planet in the Maw Cluster, the Sith believe they have trapped the father and son Jedi Knights Luke and Ben Skywalker. However, before the final confrontation, both sides find a greater threat from a third party. The Abeloth forces the enemies into an unholy alliance between the Skywalker pair and the Sith to survive the menace; not knowing if they survive something even more beastly awaits them on the moon of Pydyr, home to the brutal Fallamassi.

Meanwhile on Coruscant, Han and Leia Solo are in the middle of the growing divisiveness between the Jedi Order and the brutal leader of the Galactic Alliance. Civil war seems increasingly inevitable as the Solo couple tries to negotiate a more peaceful solution.

The newest entry in the nine-book saga "Fate of the Jedi" is a pivotal tale as the overarching story line takes a fresh, exciting and unexpected twist as new developments lead to strange surviving bedfellows and convoluted complications. Fast-paced, both enjoyable subplots continue the woes of the Skywalker duo and the Solo clan with terrific revolutionary spins that will delight Star War fans.

Harriet Klausner

Seer of Sevenwaters-Juliet Marillier

Seer of Sevenwaters
Juliet Marillier
Roc, Dec 7 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9780451463555

The fifth daughter of the Lord of Sevenwaters, teenager Sibeal of Sevenwaters has always dreamed of becoming a druid. Thus she is excited when she completes her training as all she has left to do to fulfill her goal is to take the vow. However, Sibeal's Uncle Ciaran directs her to drop her study in order to contemplate if she really wants to become a druid; as there is no change of mind once you commit. He sends her to the island of Inis Eala where her married sisters live for a summer of reflection in isolation.

Sibeal is angry with her mentor who she believes is punishing her although she cannot fathom why. A storm causes a shipwreck leaving several stranded voyagers. Sibeal is confused by the behavior of Knut the Norseman and his wife Svala who seems deathly afraid of her husband. The other survivor pulled safely from the water suffers from amnesia. To her shock Sibeal is attracted to this stranger with the memory loss, but also wonders what secrets have the married couple and perhaps the other survivor conceal from her and her family.

The latest Sevenwaters’ family fantasy (see Daughter of the Forest and Heir of Sevenwaters) is an engaging entry starring a delightful intelligent daughter who must make choices not easy to select from as her life passion has a new passion. The story line starts off slow with much of what has gone on before overly rehashed to the chagrin of fans and glee of newcomers, but once Sibeal steps to the plate, the game accelerates. This is an entertaining romantic fantasy as the audience will wonder whether the heroine will select Druidism or love while also pondering who the amnesiac is.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 25, 2010

South Phoenix Rules-Jon Talton

South Phoenix Rules
Jon Talton
Poisoned Pen, Dec 7 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590588147

NYU Professor Jax Delgado came to Phoenix to conduct research for his next book. In town, he meets Robin and they begin dating. However, soon afterward, Delgado is viciously murdered. The acrimonious lead PPD Detective Sergeant Kate Vare believes the homicide is related to drug cartel activity.

While his wife Lindsay is in DC, historian and just resigned deputy police officer David Mapstone feels for his sister-in-law as he liked Delgado too, but this is not his type of case. He worked mostly cold cases providing a fresh perspective. However, those who killed Delgado are after Robin too. This makes the case his as far as David is concerned. As he investigates, he finds himself digging deep into a part of the city mostly concealed from the public; a place where human, weapons and drugs are trafficked without regard to the law.

The latest Mapstone mystery (see Arizona Dreams) has several interesting twists including in his personal life as the former cold case cop works the gutters of Phoenix. The story line is action-packed from the moment Robin opens the box and never slows down until the final confrontation. Readers will root for the professor as he risks his life and freedom trying to keep his sister-in-law safe.

Harriet Klausner

Reapers-Frederick Ramsay

Frederick Ramsay
Poisoned Pen, Dec 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9781590588062

The corpse is found in Botswana’s Chobe National Park. The cause of death for the male victim was a gunshot. Chobe National Park game ranger Sanderson and police officer Kgabo Modise team up to investigate the homicide.

Sanderson’s mind is not on the case as her son is dying of pneumonia caused by AIDS. On the other hand, Modise is euphoric about the opportunity to use his FBI trained skills. He knows he is expendable to work this case as his superiors are more focused on the World Cup overflow from host South Africa that could lead to a crime wave especially smuggling.

Closer in tone to Michael Stanley's tales of police detective David “Kubu” Bengu (see A Carrion Death) than Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective (see The Double Comfort safari Club), Reapers is a strong Botswana police procedural (see Predators). The story line is action-packed as Sanderson and Modise investigate the Chobe National park homicide while much of the police and the country are focused on the World Cup hosted by their neighbor. Although the Russian gangsters seem out of place, readers will relish this strong whodunit with insight into the save the continent “Orgonize Africa” movement based on questionable science.

Harriet Klausner

Threats at Three-Ann Purser

Threats at Three
Ann Purser
Berkley, Dec 7 2010, $23.95
ISBN: 9780425237052

The villagers of Long Farnden, England want to raise the money to refurbish the village hall. The community meets to discuss plans including who does what with electrician Derek Meade chosen as the lead of the fundraising subcommittee.

Not everyone is euphoric over the Village Hall Renovation Fund-Raising renovation plan to “save our shed”. Some feel it is a waste of money and prefer nothing occur while one person fears her spouse will cause trouble for the townsfolk. New Broome cleaning business owner Lois Meade becomes embroiled in the middle trying to prevent a calamity from happening. However she fails as the first corpse is found leading to Inspector Cowgill investigating the homicide and Lois “helping” him.

Well written, the latest Lois Meade amateur sleuth (see Warning at One and Tragedy at Two) is an engaging tale that spends most of the story line on a small village politics when an issue divides the community. The support ensemble cast is solid as each picks a side in the community debate. However, the whodunit takes a back seat to the increasingly divisive ugly fight to shed or not to shed.

Harriet Klausner

Alien Tango-Gini Koch

Alien Tango
Gini Koch
Daw, Dec 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406325

Kitty Katt muses how in a flash one’s perception of the world can radically tilt. Although it was six months ago, it seems just yesterday she learned of the A-C aliens from Alpha Centauri who reside among us purebred earthlings. Now the former marketing manager is undergoing rapid training as part of the Human/A-C Airborne Centaurion Division. Kitty also appreciates the side benefit of lovemaking with A-C Commander Jeff Martini.

The Kennedy Space Center brass orders their unit to come immediately. An experimental space ship has returned to Earth when the vessel was not supposed to. On the trek to Florida, a hit squad tries to kill Jeff, Kitty and their team. At the Space center, a stalker frightens Kitty, but her biggest fear is meeting Jeff’s family.

The second kill Kitty Katt science fiction thriller (see Touched by an Alien) is an amusing over the top of Olympus Mons thriller. The story line is faster than the speed of light as the heroine struggles to stay alive while threats from ETs and from earthlings seem to be her constant companion. Readers will enjoy this bizarre totally out of control yet fully entertaining “aliens walk among us” adventures of a novice still trying to comprehend all that is going on.

Harriet Klausner

Black Wings-Christina Henry

Black Wings
Christina Henry
Ace, Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019632

In Chicago, Madeline Black is an Agent of Death who helps guide souls pass from one existence to the next. She likes her job as the benefits include magical skills and wings, but gets irritated with her know-it-all boss who is more a bureaucrat than chief of the Death Agent units.

Maddy is stunned when her peer and friend Agent Patrick is murdered. Even more shocking is demons are stalking her wanting her dead too. Finally she thinks there is something peculiar about Gabriel Angeloscuro, her new tenant. However, staying alive is her first imperative as she considers who in her family tree inherits the job if she dies, which is very possible as hell has come for her and other Agents of Death, and learning why is second.

This is an entertaining urban fantasy starring an intriguing heroine whose blood line includes some odd creatures. The support cast is strong especially Madeline’s boss J.B., the enigmatic Gabe and Beezle the suspicious gargoyle. Madeline keeps the tale focused whether she is arguing with the death bureaucracy or new clients, or just trying to get demons off her lawn. The soul-eater serial killer mystery adds to an engaging Chicago joyride as courageous Madeline fears this unknown adversary but goes after the lethal beast.

Harriet Klausner

Law of the Broken Earth-Rachel Neumeier

Law of the Broken Earth
Rachel Neumeier
Orbit, Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9780316079938

In Feierabiand, her family ignored Mienthe as a child. In fact the gardener was the adult who served as a surrogate parent raising her. That changes when her older cousin Lord Bartaud (see Land of the Burning Sands) takes her under his wings.

Soon afterward, Bartaud's griffin mage friend Kairaithin arrives to inform him that the Wall that separates the land of the fierce griffin from the human kingdoms is splintering. As Bartaud ponders what to do evil Istierinan captures Tan the spy threatening him with torture. Meanwhile Mienthe struggles with her new lot in life as she finds becoming important within a family has a price. She is uncomfortable with learning her magical prowess at a time when her latent skills are needed.

The third Griffin Mage (see Lord of the Changing Winds) is a strong coming of age fantasy starring a wonderful reluctant heroine who prefers to be ignored as that is her comfort zone, but that is not longer an option. The Neumeier universe is cleverly drawn so that the audience will believe in the physics of magic and the wall coming down. The cast is strong except for somewhat the super villain who is too stereotypical of the genre. Still fans will relish the Law of the Broken Earth as Rachel Neumeier provides a powerful vivid realm anchoring a fabulous story line.

Harriet Klausner

Bone Gods-Caitlin Kittredge

Bone Gods
Caitlin Kittredge
St. Martin’s, Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312388201

Black London is a dangerous place to reside as witches, mages and necromancers fight each other for control with no regard for collateral damage. Adding to the deadly chaos is the deity civil war and the revival of the lethal order of the Malleus who stalk witches with deadly intent.

Trying to retain order are detectives like Pete Caldecott. A Weir she misses her mentor former punk rocker Jack Winter, who took her under his wings when she was sixteen before he apparently died (see Street Magic). When Pete found Jack, she was euphoric. After drying out from his addiction, Jack was turned into a demon so he fled to hell to keep himself from harming Pete (see Demon Bound). Now Jack is back for the third time in Pete’s life as the Commander in Chief of an army of hell’s most odious horde with plans to dominate the world. Pete must assassinate her hero in order to save Black London and the world or else.

This strange but exhilarating Black London urban fantasy (see the anthology Huntress, for a Winter dark novella) takes a third major spin in the Jack-Pete relationship; which gives new meaning to dysfunctional. Although there is an initial déjà vu all over again feel, the twisted fast-paced story line holds reader attention; as Pete is left with the choice of saving the world by killing her mentor-hero. Readers will relish the tale of the heroine’s dilemma as she knows what she must do, but fears she will not be able to figuratively squeeze the trigger as the thought of patricide makes her ill.

Harriet Klausner

The Flock-James Robert Smith

The Flock
James Robert Smith
Forge, Nov 9 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765328014

In a remote part of the Florida rainforest where development has been nonexistent, the Berg Brothers want to open an amusement park in land that is part of the Edmonds Bombing Range. The 450,000 acres are considered environmental treasures so are protected from development. They manage to build Salutations, a town based on American family values.

Billionaire environmentalist Vince Holcomb opposes any intrusion into this pristine area while the developers hire a mercenary militia to clear the opposition. In the middle of this wilderness lives the Flock of prehistoric brilliant pre-aviary beings who will fight against any intrusion into their land. Contemporary humans and Pleistocene Era survivors fight to determine which species is the more predatory with Fish and Wildlife Agent Ron Riggs caught in the middle.

With a nod to Jurassic Park, The Flock is a terrific action-packed thriller in which the dino-birds and the humans prove adaptable when it comes to operational deployments as each side is viciously aggressive. Although the main players are stereotyped as the poster children representing a specific group (mega business, tree huggers, paramilitary, and the Flock as nature), fans will enjoy this strong drama. Ironically The Flock has the stronger moral cause, but that does not prevent humans from claiming economics supersedes animal natural habitats as cynical greed wrapped inside the flag vs. protecting “family” values of home turf lead to a dynamic satirical tale.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 24, 2010

City of Tranquil Light-Bo Caldwell

City of Tranquil Light
Bo Caldwell
Holt, Sep 28 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780805092288

In 1966 widower Will Koehn looks back at his life with his wife Katherine who died twenty years earlier. In 1906, Will an Oklahoma farmer and Katherine Friesen a Cleveland deaconess met on a ship traveling to China. Both were Mennonite missionaries filled with enthusiasm and fear. They became companions and later a married couple as she offered her nursing skills and he the word of the Lord. The pair was there when the revolution occurred culminating with the rise of Kuomintang even as other missionaries are violently exiled. The duo stays through drought, famine, earthquakes and winters requiring five thick coats; as long as Will and Kate had each other and God, they can help others cope with any human atrocity and any natural disaster.

This is an entertaining early twentieth century epic that provides a vast loook of life in China. The dedicated couple endures all sorts of external problems, but though at times it seems over the top as they adhere to their mission and each other in an almost superhero detached way, their love for God and each other keeps them strong and going. Ironically the passion in this engaging historical comes with Katherine's diary as she invokes feelings for the plight of their Chinese neighbors and for each other.

Harriet Klausner

The Christmas Journey-Donna VanLiere

The Christmas Journey
Donna VanLiere
St. Martin’s, Oct 26 2010, $12.99
ISBN: 9780312613723

Every year the Christmas season seems to come earlier and earlier as the stores decorate even co-mingling with Thanksgiving as the Yuletide is a big sales time. Pageants are everywhere displaying the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and especially the nativity scene as Joseph and pregnant Mary found no room at the inn, but the owner allowed them to stay in a stable. This is the sentimental legend, but not the true story as another example of when “Professor” Wuhl’s theory (extracted from Who Shot Liberty Valance?) that "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend" (see Assume the Position).

The couple travels seventy miles taking several days to complete the trek. As they depart from Nazareth, Joseph notices that people he knew all his life as friends treat Mary like a pariah because Mary became pregnant while living under her father’s roof. They leave as outcasts in accordance to the then Laws of Moses. Their journey proves grueling with Mary feeling each step the donkey takes. She fears what is expected of her raising the Son; while he fears being the father to the Savior as he believes he cannot be worthy of having God bestow such an honor on him. When they reach their destination, the crowds are overwhelming and there is no place for them at the inn. Joseph feels overwhelmed because he has to help Mary deliver but though conditions are extremely poor, Mary gives birth to a healthy Savior.

Donna VanLiere ‘s version of one of the most legendary journeys provides a realistic look at the two travelers as a pregnant Mary rides a donkey for seventy miles (I rode a mule years ago down the Grand canyon for a few hours and that was fun but a bit sore). The trek is dirty and dusty while people they know along their path ignore them The illustrations augment the story as Ms. VanLiere adds the human facts normally ignored by the miracle birth.

Harriet Klausner

Critical Condition-CJ Lyons

Critical Condition
CJ Lyons
Jove, Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515148688

In Pittsburgh several staff and visitors at Angels of Mercy Hospital were shot by a hit man. Detective Jerry Boyle received the worst injury. The killer escaped, but also failed to kill his intended victim. Boyle’s girlfriend Dr. Gina Freeman worries about him because he is not same since he took the shot to the head.

On New Year’s Eve, a blizzard shuts down the streets and strands everyone at the hospital. The trapped includes the killer and his cohorts who plan to finish the job even if it means leaving a blood bath behind. These predators take charge with hostages. ER Charge Nurse Nora Halloran and medical rotational student Amanda Mason worry inside the facility, outside the hospital remains frantic ER Dr. Linda Fiore

The latest Angels of Mercy medical thriller (See Urgent Care, Warning signs and Lifelines) is a fantastic fast-paced finish to a strong hospital saga. Loaded with action but a bit over the top of PNC Park, readers will be hooked from the moment the killers begin taking over the hospital. With a neat late twist, fans will appreciate this terrific tale that inside an exciting plot showcases how far four women have come since CJ Lyons introduced them to fans two years ago. Perhaps a four-novella sequel to see where each is in five to ten years would be wonderful.

Harriet Klausner

The Midnight Show Murders-Al Roker and Dick Lochte

The Midnight Show Murders
Al Roker and Dick Lochte
Delacorte, Nov 23 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780385343695

Although his doubts creep up and down his spine without a respite, Manhattan’s Blessing Bistro’s owner and the Morning Show TV personality Chef Billy Blessing returns to Los Angeles for a job. He joins a new nighttime talk show O’Day at Night. Billy soon knows his gut was right when someone murders Des O’Day host of the show.

Billy believes the homicide is tied to a cold case killing of his friend Tiffany Arden over two decades ago. That homicide is why Billy fled Southern California as the person Roger Charbonnet he suspected committed the crime threatened to kill him if he remained in town. To his shock Charbonnet asks Billy to investigate the murder of O’Day.

The second Chef Blessing culinary amateur sleuth takes the hero across the continent where he becomes embroiled in a murder mystery. The culprit is relatively easy to spot, but no one will care as the fun in the story line is Blessing’s tour of Hollywood. Readers will root for the writing team of Al Roker and Dick Lochte to cook up another entertaining tale of murder and TV meals.

Harriet Klausner

A Killing in Real Estate-Michael Castleman

A Killing in Real Estate
Michael Castleman
MacAdam/Cage, Jul 10 2010, $13.00
ISBN: 9781596923652

A serial arsonist has been lighting up the Mission District. San Francisco Foghorn columnist Ed Rosenberg is concerned as the latest inferno was just a few blocks from the renovated Victorian where he, his wife Julie and their two kids (ten years old Sonya and infant Jake) live. He could smell the flames three blocks away

Although he did not sleep well and Julie pushed him again for them to move, Ed meets his friend from the paper real estate reporter Ryan Duffy for brunch and a discussion on a 1934 diary kept by his grandfather, a longshoreman during the bloody acrimonious strike; the scribble is impossible to read for a layman so Ryan hopes historian Ed can translate it. Ed arrives to find a naked Ryan dead; bound as if an S&M tryst turned ugly. Stunned he takes the diary with him and begins interpreting what looks like an arson’s scribble. Motivated Ed investigates his friend’s death and the fires creeping closer to his abode.

The 1934 diary refreshes the exciting investigative whodunit as the readers learns of a nasty period in San Francisco history. The present day inquiry into the murder and especially the serial arsons is cleverly designed as the audience wonders who is lighting the fires and why. A Killing in Real Estate is a fabulous San Francisco treat.

Harriet Klausner

The Redemption of Holly Dobson-C. Lynn Barton

The Redemption of Holly Dobson
C. Lynn Barton
Dark Willow Books, Sep 30 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9780615349411

Holly Dobson understands her name quite well. Her simple first name denotes sweet and stable, which she is not and her surname comes from her adopted parents who bestowed her with her basic needs of food and shelter, but nothing else. She is like the Holly trees she planted in front of her Illinois home; or perhaps the red berries of the trees is more descriptive as they look beautiful on the outside but are inedible as twenty of them will kill anyone.

Holly knows one thing: society considers her evil because she will do anything to protect her son and grandson. She knows she takes the family values mantra to an extreme, but so what she rationalizes is that not what the politicians say to do until you do it. As she smokes her Meerschaum pipe, Holly muses about life with George Dobson, who mentors her on all things evil or perhaps it is her who teaches him the evil facts of life. She is the daughter, the mother and the grandmother while he is the son and father.

Told by the title character looking back on her life one puff at a time, The Redemption of Holly Dobson is a deep thought provoking psychological thriller that ponders the essence of what is evil. The story line looks at nurturing vs. naturing while using hyperbole to skewer the family values mojo practitioners who conveniently surface during elections and dark incidents. Holly, her son and her grandson Simon are strong individuals with apparent an evil DNA flowing through their cells. Elderly, the matriarch reflects on her life and its impact on her descendants as it is with them she believes she can claim redemption as a caring mother and grandmother who will do and has done anything for her progeny; as her family right or wrong is her family.

Harriet Klausner

The Human Blend-Alan Dean Foster

The Human Blend
Alan Dean Foster
Del Rey, Nov 23 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345511973

Mankind bickered over whether climate change was voodoo until it became too late to stop the catastrophes that placed major port cities under the sea. In this new world order that includes Mars and Titan, still dependent on personal finances, humans choose between remaining a “natural” unmodified person and a “meld” altered with natural or mechanical augmentations.

Two thieves work with a body parts dealer by killing victims and harvesting parts for resale on the black market. Their latest kill looks worth a fortune as the victim had an expensive prosthetic hand and a metallic thread attached to a data port. However, the cops interrupt their dealing, which leads to the two thugs fleeing separately; one with the hand and the other the thread.

Dr. Ingrid Seastrom remains a natural whose career is thriving. She also performs the government mandated house calls where she treats a teenage girl with a bad meld; however, during her fixing the botched job Ingrid finds a miniature device implanted in the teen. She begins to study the gizmo that her patient did not know was inside her when she meets a patient Whispr the thief who has Police micro-tracking units and a thread inside him. The odd couple teams up on an investigation to learn the truth while also eluding the cops who are coming for them.

The first Tipping Point futuristic science fiction mystery provides a strong world view, but that proves a two edged sword as Alan Dean Foster’s vision is incredibly deep reaching literally to the bone marrow, but in turn it takes up more than half the book before accelerating. Whispr and Ingrid are a fascinating pairing, but so far obviously are not Pip and Flinx. Still in spite of the slow early pace, readers who prefer a fully developed setting will want to join the doctor and the thief as they investigate what is going on.

Harriet Klausner

The Horns of Ruin-Tim Akers

The Horns of Ruin
Tim Akers
PYR, Nov 1 2010, $16.00
ISBN 9781616142469

The three brothers were Gods until Amon betrayed and murdered Morgan. He also died leaving the sole surviving sibling Alexander as the last god.

A Morgan Paladin Eva Forge provides security for Barnabas the Fratriarch of the Cult of Morgan as he travels on a mission into dangerous sectors of the city of Ash to bring out an Amon Librarian Cassandra. Confused by the assignment, Eva knows the remaining Cult of Amon want revenge against the Morganites; as they blame their enemy for the fall of their God while choosing to ignore who initiated the betrayal. However, as Eva rides the monorails through she skies over Ash and journeys into underground lairs where the Amonites scurry like rats, she begins to uncover unnerving truths about her perceptions of past and present at the same time Alexander operative Owen investigates Barnabas’ activities.

The keys to this refreshing fascinating fantasy are the city and its three prime interrelated siblings’ cults. The story line is fast-paced and vivid as the intrepid trio treks through Ash though they are unsure why and Owen and Cassandra are uncertain whether to trust the brusque cantankerous follower of a different God. Although the ending feels more like a set up to the next thriller than a wrap up of the first adventures, fans will enjoy the investigation into the homicide and abduction that has the already despondent Morgan supporters in further disarray.

Harriet Klausner