Thursday, March 31, 2011

In the Rooms-Tom Shone

In the Rooms
Tom Shone
Dunne, Apr 12 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312622787

Following a nasty end to a relationship and his work tanking, publisher Patrick Miller flees London for New York. Patrick moans the fate of British expatriates around the world as he toasts London until he spots the literary legend Douglas Kelsey. The man’s first novel made him the top American writer of his generation, but leading with his chin Kelsey got into a battle with his publisher and seemingly vanished.

Knowing how easily Kelsey rages, Miller needs a ploy to meet the man. He stalks Kelsey until he finds the opportunity when the writer enters an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Miller follows him pretending to be an alcoholic so that he can make first contact and hopefully renew his publishing career.

This is an amusing tale that is at its best when it focuses on the changing relationship between the two “alcoholics” as the British expatriate is on a mission to publish the American author’s next book. The story line is rapid fire stand up comic humor that gels nicely when the lead couple takes center stage. The plot loses some of its lampooning of Anglo-America when the tale turns to the changing relationship between Patrick and Lola as that feels more of a requirement though in fairness well written and funny. Fans will relish the jocular British invasion as Patrick sadly muses that he is a victim of the “Sun never sets on the British Empire”.

Harriet Klausner

Bonded in Brazil-Rhiannon Ellis

Bonded in Brazil
Rhiannon Ellis
Camel Press, Mar 25 2011, $15.97
ISBN: 9781603818469

In Caxias do Sul, the Brazilian Menino family is in trouble as they have failed to pay their loan. They stand to lose the Vina da Gloria vineyards that have been part of the Menino clans for four generations.

Daughter Eliana Menino is willing to do almost anything to save the land as she knows losing it will destroy her father the vintner. She arranges a deal with “Demonio”, her name for the investor who holds her family’s IOUs. Hale Forester brings his new indentured servant to his Napa Valley estate. Her first time outside of Brazil frightens Eli, but she would go to hell for her family. However, she soon finds her heartless employer has a heart broken in his past, but what she feels for her Demonio is not pity but she fears it is unrequited love.

This warm contemporary romance is an enjoyable read as Eli proves her mettle in Brazil and California. Although the story line is somewhat linear even with an unexpected twist on the loan, feisty Eli makes for a wonderful tale as the lovely Brazilian takes America to save her family’s birthright from the Demonio she loves.

Harriet Klausner

The Redeemed-M.R. Hall

The Redeemed
M.R. Hall
Simon & Schuster, May 3 2011, $25.00
ISBN 9781439157121

Thirtyish Conway Unit senior psychiatric nurse Alan Jacobs is found dead in a churchyard of Saint Peter’s Church in the Severn Vale district. Coroner Jenny Cooper looks into what appears to be a suicide.

Not long afterward prison priest Father Lucas Starr asks Jenny to investigate the murder of adult film actress Eva Donaldson. The request is odd as Paul Craven, who confessed, was convicted of the homicide. Father Starr believes Craven confessed because he is a bit touched and that the man did not commit the killing. Jenny agrees to do a cursory look. She finds out that that the late actress joined the Mission Church of God after quitting the porn industry. The victim also supported Decency a group demanding internet pornography be outlawed. As she works on both cases while still struggling with her nasty divorce that pile on top of her uglier childhood, Cooper finds connections between Donaldson and Jacobs; even as her fuming superiors (over Jenny solving the Disappearance case) demand she wrap up her two investigations immediately.

Cooper is an incredible character as she is so F up that it is amazing she is not restrained; the subplot when she was five years old enhance how mentally hurt she is. The whodunit focuses on religious and political corruption that the brass prefers disappears as M. R. Hall makes a strong case that justice is a two tiered system: the wealthy can flaunt the law and then there is the masses. Sub-genre fans will appreciate The Redeemed as Cooper battles with her personal problems fearing a breakdown and wars with her superiors over her successful inquiries breaking the Golden Rule of those with the gold make the rule.

Harriet Klausner

The Law of Angels-Cassandra Clark

The Law of Angels
Cassandra Clark
Minotaur, Apr 12 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312674557

In 1385, Abbess Hildegard sets up a tiny religious cell in Deepdale, England. However, her serene rustic retreat is disturbed when armed men attack two of her youthful guests, Maud and Petronilla, who had turned to her for protection. They are fortunate to have survived the crisis, but Hildegard and the two victims fear they will return to finish the job.

Maud is especially worried that she was the intended target as she escaped from killers who murdered her young brother and destroyed their home. Hildegard knows no one is safe in England since the Wat Tyler revolt and the latest Papal excommunication. She escorts the girls to York where she hopes they can obtain protection, but soon the Abbess finds herself in the middle of a murderous plot centering on the Cross of Constantine, which she found.

The third Abbess Hildegard of Meaux medieval mystery (see Hangman Blind and The Red Velvet Turnshoe) is a charming tale in which the late fourteenth century era of abject fear supersedes the slower suspense subplot. Hildegard is a wonderful caring person who risks her life to insure her two wards are safe as she keeps the story line focused. Fans of profound historical tales with a supporting mystery will enjoy the Abbess’ latest adventures.

Harriet Klausner

Spider Web-Earlene Fowler

Spider Web
Earlene Fowler
Berkley May 3 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9780425240984

In San Celina, California, a sniper fires at the driver’s side window of a parked police car near the town courthouse. Nobody was hurt as the vehicle was empty at the time of the shooting. Town police chief Gabe Ortiz leads the inquiry wondering what the motive could be.

Gabe’s wife Benni Harper is busy with her myriad of jobs as a museum curator, rancher and caring for her beloved older relatives while also preparing for the first annual Memory Festival where she and the Coffin Star Quilt Guild will show their Graveyard Quilt for the first time in public. At the same time Benni scrambles with not enough hours in the day, a woman comes to town seeking a retirement home. However, instead she meets with Benni to discuss Gabe.

The latest Harper whodunit (see State Fair) is a fun amusing cozy due to the antics of the lead couple’s eccentric family and friends. The sniper mystery is cleverly set up with readers, Benni and Gabe wondering about the motive; while the female stranger in town adds quite a wallop to the mix. This is a strong entry as even the most powerful people sometimes need help.

Harriet Klausner

Classified as Murder-Miranda James

Classified as Murder
Miranda James
Berkley, May 3 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781101514351

In Athena, Mississippi elderly eccentric James Delacorte hires librarian Charlie Harris to catalogue his prized rare book collection. He explains to Harris that he has supported his extended family even allowing them residence in his vast mansion though they show little respect to him from the heart. However, he is upset as he believes one of his relatives is stealing his valuable books.

Harris begins his inventory while listening to the taunts of boorish family members. When one of them kills Delacorte, Charlie assumes the stolen books are the clue to who the culprit is. With the help of Diesel his Maine Coon Cat in the Stacks partner, Charlie seeks to uncover the identity of the ungrateful murderer.

The second Cat-in-the-Stacks amateur sleuth who-done it (see Murder Past Due) is an engaging whodunit due to the male lead whose detecting is suspect (and fun). However, Charlie’s relationships with his paw partner and with his adult son Sean make him seem real even with a sort of anthropomorphic dialogue between the two sleuths. Readers will enjoy this entertaining regional whodunit as the librarian and the cat work the case.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow Raiders-Margaret Weis & Robert Krammes

Shadow Raiders
Margaret Weis & Robert Krammes
Daw, May 3 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756406622

On the world of Aeronne, the Kingdoms of Rosia and Freya have been enemies for centuries. Both nations have engaged in arms race as each tries to produce a more powerful weapon to topple their adversary. Freyian patriot master spy Sir Henry Wallace believes he has the means to defeat Rosia. A Journeyman knows how to merge magic into metal, which makes the alloy impenetrable by artillery. Sir Henry goes to Rosia to bring the Journeyman and his family to Freya.

Lord Captain Stephano de Guichen detests his powerful mother who is the advisor to King Alaric of Rosia. The Counte Cecille de Morjolaine orders her son to find a missing Journeyman who was experimenting on a new weapon when he vanished. She thinks Sir Henry kidnapped him. Stephan and his friends the Cadre of the Lost follow Sir Henry’s trail and meet up with Father Jacob of the dreaded Arcanium and the godfather he never met, Sir Arder Martel is a knight protector to the priest. They join forces at the Abbey of Saint Agness where one hundred nuns were massacred. Demon riders attack them, but they use counter magic to eliminate the horde.

Also seeking Sir Henry is Grand Bishop Girard who has Agent Dubois searching for the master spy and the Journeyman he escorts. Dubois knows he must prevent Sir Henry and his retinue from reaching Freya as all parties converge on Westfirth.

Margaret Weis & Robert Krammes have written a grand epic fantasy reminiscent of the early Shanarra books. Magic is emboldened in objects and large percentages of the populace can use it. Readers will feel they are visiting another world mindful of the English French medieval war period; but also filled with paranormal creatures; some are allies of mankind while a few are indifferent and the rest are belligerent. The key characters are fully developed, but most important is the magic of the first Dragon Brigade saga seems real.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ding Dong the Diva's Dead-Cat Melodia

Ding Dong the Diva's Dead
Cat Melodia
Camel Press, Jan 30 2011, $15.97
ISBN: 9781603818070

Thirtyish opera singer Deborah de Lille is thinking of ending her career as she sees her future on stage performing as a two bit player on minor league tours. However, her agent gets the mezzo-soprano a part with the new Ville d'Aurore troupe in Idaho. The production is Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann.

In Idaho Debbie quickly joins the production in time for rehearsal. She learns she got the demanding support role of Nicklausse when the performer she replaced died in a car accident. Her role is demanding though always in a secondary role. Debbie plans to be professional on and off stage, but when she gets a second part due to a performer leaving, she becomes the victim of petty jealousies, megalomaniacal performers and sexual thrusts from both genders, while someone wants the new diva dead.

The fun in this entertaining amateur sleuth is observing the humorous goings-on behind the scenes of a local opera company as the cut throat competition is not just about roles on stage. Whereas Debbie is the star holding the tale together, the support cast is solid with a range of egomaniacal personalities at the opera house and zany (insane may be more descriptive) friends and family of the heroine. Fans will appreciate A Night At The Opera.

Harriet Klausner

Nightshade-P.C. Doherty

P.C. Doherty
Minotaur, Apr 12 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9780312678180

In 1304 King Edward I directs his most-trusted aide and the keeper of the secret seal Sir Hugh Corbett to travel to Essex. There Sir Hugh is to retrieve an ornate cross from Lord Oliver Scrope who took it from a sect the latter declared heretical. The monarch also orders Sir Hugh to censure Scrope for going outside his power when he slaughtered the members of the sect.

Corbett arrives in Essex to learn a serial killer Sagittarius stalks the residents. The attacks by this predatory hunter have left everyone fearful as the killer seems to randomly choose who is next to kill before the sound of the hunter’s horn announces an arrow has been sent at a target. When an impossible homicide occurs on a remote nearly unattainable island inside a locked room, Corbett knows he must end the reign of terror.

The latest Corbett medieval mystery (see The Waxman Murders) may be the historical whodunit of the year as P.C. Doherty provides a super investigative tale. Fast-paced yet setting time and place so that fans will feel they accompany the hero in January 1304 England on his regal mission. Set aside plenty of time as Nightshade is nearly impossible to put down.

Harriet Klausner

A Pizza to Die For-Chris Cavender

A Pizza to Die For
Chris Cavender
Kensington, May 1 2011, $22.00
ISBN: 9780758229526

In Timber Ridge, North Carolina, A Slice of Delight pizza shop owners sisters Eleanor and Maddy Swift are despondent to learn Judson Sizemore, paternal nephew of the affluent eccentric Nathan, plans to open Italia's specializing in wood-fired pizzas on the same street as their restaurant. However, someone kills Judson with a piece of firewood in his new store just before the grand opening.

Eleanor learns Judson’s Uncle was the money behind the pizzeria. The deceased’s sister Gina publically accuses Eleanor of her sibling’s homicide while the townsfolk look at who had the motive to kill the competition. At the same time Maddy's boyfriend Bob Lemon harangues the Swift sisters to not investigate the murder while Eleanor’s ex David Quinton offers to help. However, the Swift sisters cannot help but make inquiries.

The latest cozy served with pizza (see Pepperoni Pizza Can Be Murder) is another Swift regional Slice of Murder, but tastes somewhat like its predecessors. The sleuth siblings are an engaging lead while the men in their lives and the townsfolk add depth to the entertaining story line. Culinary mystery fans will enjoy the snoop sisters investigating the murder of their new competitor.

Harriet Klausner

Bite Club-Rachel Caine

Bite Club
Rachel Caine
NAL, May 3 2011, $17.99
ISBN: 9780451233189

In Morganville, Vassily the vampire opens up a new gym offering a class in self-defense to humans. Shane likes the idea of beating the crap out of vampires; that is if they have crap as he detests the undead though ironically his best friend is Michael the vampire.

After a few lessons, over the objection of his girlfriend Claire, Shane joins an underground extreme fight club in which humans and vamps will participate. However, someone tapes the fights and places them on the Internet. Soon afterward Michael and Shane vanish leaving it up to Claire and their fourth housemate Eve to find and rescue them, but from what.

The tenth Morganville Vampire urban fantasy (see Ghost Town) is a brisk fresh entry due to Shane playing a major second fiddle role enabling fans to learn what makes him tick. The story line is fast-paced as underground fighting has come to this unique Texas town. Blood will flow but how much and how deadly is to be read as Rachel Caine provides a wonderful extrapolation of contemporary issues facing teens like joining the Fight Club, to MIT or not to MIT, and a taboo cross-species relationship in this super urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Hard Bitten-Chloe Neill

Hard Bitten
Chloe Neill
NAL, May 3 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451233325

As anti-vampire protesters picket Cadogen House, three women go missing. Chicago Mayor Tate warns Master vampire Ethan Sullivan head of the Cadogen House that he will go to jail or worse if he fails to catch and hand over the serial killer of humans. Ethan assigns his young Sentinel Merit to investigate the homicides.

To keep her master from spending time in prison, Merit and the underground vampires team up to find the killer. However, Merit knows she must watch her back with the underground who have their own objectives. She is unprepared as to the direction the clues lead at the same time humans demand she and her associates mind their own business or else.

The fourth Chicagoland Vampires (see Twice Bitten and Friday Night Bites) is an exhilarating entry as the lead vamps and the Mayor face difficult issues. The story line is fast-paced with a sort of amateur sleuth feel to the plot as the heroine explores the human and paranormal species links while hot heads from both sides want her staked. With a great stunning late twist Chloe Neill continues to rock the urban fantasy sub-genre with her strong thrillers.

Harriet Klausner

Spellcast-Barbara Ashford

Barbara Ashford
Daw, May 3 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780756406820

Following losing her job and the ceiling plaster in her New York apartment caving in, Maggie Graham decides to spend a weekend in Vermont to get away before regrouping. When she learns of summer stock roles performing at the Crossroads Theatre in a barn just outside Dale, Maggie shocks herself and decides to audition. She is further stunned when she obtains roles in three shows.

Maggie muses how she has come full circle; having left the stage years ago only to return. She finds the troupe odd yet endearing. However, Maggie is most disturbed by director Rowan Mackenzie, who she has never seen leave the Crossroads Theater and never casts a person in the role they plan to try out for; instead he somehow knows what the person needs to perform on stage and in life.

Maggie keeps this wonderful whimsical witty tale focused as her past (she feels she failed professionally and personally) has impacted her present belief she is a loser and how she feels about her lack of a future. The theater proves healing and mesmerizing as it casts a spell on Maggie (and the audience). The otherworldly elements subtly enhance Barbara Ashford’s tender look at a second chance at making dreams real.

Harriet Klausner

The Lens and the Looker-Lory S Kaufman

The Lens and the Looker
Lory S Kaufman
The Fiction Studio, Mar 16 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781936558025

By the twenty-fourth century, humanity has come a long way from the brink of extinction due to AIs creating a better world. One particular improvement to foster better citizenship is the History Camps, where the young are sent to learn from past mistakes during a realistic reenactment.

In 2347 CE in the New York Community, rebellious teen Hansum scores a 0 on a test so the school’s Dean Turkenshaw decides enough nonsense and enrolls the seventeen year old student for a two week session at the Deep-Immersion History Camp, which means his communication implant is removed to isolate him. Hansum looks forward to the lesson he plans to provide the enactors.

Hansum, fifteen year old Shamira and fourteen year old Lincoln arrive in 1347 Verona. The boys are apprentices to a lens-maker while the girl is assigned kitchen duty. The trio pretends to behave until the end. When the truth about the recalcitrant threesome surfaces, they are sent to Arimus who escorts them to the real 1347 Verona where they will behave or face real punishment.

The first Verona science fiction story is a terrific thought provoking tale as the History Camps are the futuristic boot camps to make recalcitrant students behave. The three teens are strong leads who just want to have fun their way in a society that has different expectations. The premise of learning from history’s mistakes with lens-making and cooking was never clear how that teaches life lessons as the time in the community and the camp was relatively limited. Still The Lens and the Looker is a super opening act that hopefully contains more events in the future at the Community and at the Camp.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cold April-Phyllis A. Humphrey

Cold April
Phyllis A. Humphrey
Camel Press, Nov 27 2010, $15.97
ISBN: 9781603818223

After spending the past three years working in America, Englishwoman Elizabeth Shallcross decides her future is not with being a governess to the affluent. She wants more independence, but has one last commitment to complete that will also book her passage back to America. Elizabeth will accompany the precocious child Kathleen as the girl and her wealthy father travel from London to New York.

On the Titanic, two males are attracted to Elizabeth. First there is her current employer who admires how good she is with his daughter, but likes her for herself too. Then there is Harry Palmer the magician who wants her. However, as Elizabeth decides on what she wants with neither or one of the two men competing for her, crashing into an iceberg changes all thoughts of the future.

Although there will be obvious comparisons to the Cameron Titanic movie, Phyllis A. Humphrey provides a fresh take on the disaster with a cautionary timely message to beware of prideful over-optimism (BP and Fukushima disasters). Through the fine cast especially the heroine, readers will believe they are on board the unsinkable luxury liner; as that Cold April almost a century ago has become A Night To Remember (by Walter Lord).

Harriet Klausner

The Violets of March-Sarah Jip

The Violets of March
Sarah Jip
Plume, Apr 26 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780452297036

When Emily Wilson was in her twenties, she seemed to own the world. She wrote a bestseller and married a hunk Joel. That was then; a decade later Emily feels rudderless as her two anchors, writing and her spouse, fail her.

Her Great Aunt Bee invites Emily to spend a month on Bainbridge Island, Washington. With nothing to keep her away, she accepts the offer to stay by the sea. Just a half-hour ferry away from Seattle, the island begins to heal Emily’s mental strain so she can begin writing again. The writer finds a red velvet covered diary dated 1943. She reads about the diarist’s angst and sees a parallel to her current situation. Emily begins to feel renewed as the dairy has given new meaning to her life.

Filled with metaphors of life, Sarah Jip provides a fascinating second chance at life tale. Emily is the glue that holds the character driven story line together as she reads the WWII diary while researching what happened to the author and extrapolating the parallels to her present life. Although the action is limited, the support cast is fully developed and the locale wonderful. Readers will enjoy the visit to Bainbridge Island as Emily finds her missing groove.

Harriet Klausner

An Ocean Away-Lisa Harris

An Ocean Away
Lisa Harris
Summerside, Mar 1 2011, $12.99
ISBN: 9781609361075

In 1921 in Northern Rhodesia, Lizzie MacTavis continues to provide the Lord’s word to the locals. She is dedicated to God and to people residing along the Zambezi River.

Anthropologist and explorer Andrew Styles is hired to locate Lizzie and escort her back to New York. When he finds her in Southern Africa, he tries to persuade her to come home. She refuses as she feels her work is here. However, Andrew explains back in America, she has a fortune that can help her adopted impoverished people. Thus, Lizzie reluctantly and tearfully leaves even while vowing to return. In New York, Lizzie is unprepared for falling in love with an unbeliever who may be her enemy and with someone trying to kill her in so called civilized America.

This is an intriguing historical thriller starring a caring missionary who feels safer in Rhodesia than she does in the jungle of New York. Lizzie is terrific as she firmly believes God wants her to remain in Africa, but Andrew makes a convincing case she can do more if she goes home; which she counters is Rhodesia. Though An Ocean Away lacks the intensity of the Mission Hope thriller Blood Ransom (few novels do), readers will enjoy this engaging 1920s tale with its message to embrace God rather than running away from the Lord even when a tragedy strikes a loved one.

Harriet Klausner

Death in the Fifth Position -Gore Vidal writing as Edgar Box

Death in the Fifth Position
Gore Vidal writing as Edgar Box
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, Mar 22 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9780307741424

In New York City, as the House Un-American Activities Committee conducts hearings, the Grand Saint Petersburg Ballet hires public relations specialist Peter Cutler Sargent to create a positive spin to avert trouble since renowned choreographer Jed Wilbur was once a communist. He expects a relatively easy assignment by controlling the media though the director Ivan Washburn explains the pickets and an accusation letter have unnerved him especially as the fifth ballet to arrive in town.

However, a dark cloud surfaces when the star ballerina Ella Sutton dies during a performance by falling from thirty feet above the stage. Sargent investigates though NYPD Inspector Gleason tells “Harvard” to stick to the PR lies. He finds that behind the scenes of the ballet people are loaded with backstabbing machinations as rivalries and affairs are the norm for this troupe even as he hopes his new lover Jane Garden who replaced the unfortunate Ella is not the culprit.

This is a reprint of a Gore Vidal’s first terrific novella written pseudonymously as Edgar Box due to his being blacklisted by the NY Times for the then controversial The City and the Pillar; the author gives kudos to brave publisher Victor Weybright for his support. The super storyline is obviously a theatre whodunit, but six decades later provides an interesting timely look at 1950s censorship as the present gurus want to rewrite Mark Twain. The novella is clever, but it is the cast starting with the PR amateur sleuth who makes for a wonderful night at the Russian Ballet.

Harriet Klausner

The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught-Jack Campbell

The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught
Jack Campbell
Ace, Apr 26 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9780441020379

The war is over and the Alliance won thanks mostly due to the strong military leadership of Admiral John "Black Jack" Geary (see six books of The Lost Fleet Syndicate Worlds war). As his reward, the popular officer is assigned command and control of the newly commissioned First Fleet.

However, the Alliance political leaders who were grateful to Geary for the tough war decisions do not want a popular war hero hanging amongst them. They order Geary and his First Fleet to enter into the far rim of Syndic space allegedly to investigate alien occupation. Geary understands though the combat with the Syndicate Worlds is over with the enemy shattered, entering the deepest sector is suicide. Making the mission even more perilous is his unit has been supplied with inferior equipment and orders that stifle accomplishment while increasing risk.

With a great space rotation, The Lost Fleet turns from military science fiction to Star Trekking Beyond the Frontier. The story line is as always faster than the speed of light as hostilities remain extremely high even with the war over; as Black Jack’s previous political supporters want him out of town. Jack Campbell creates a terrific unexpected spin to his great outer space saga as the formerly Lost Fleet now The First Fleet is sent by armchair leaders to die.

Harriet Klausner

Skeleton Crew-Cameron Haley

Skeleton Crew
Cameron Haley
Luna, Apr 19 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780373803262

Los Angeles street smart and kick butt tough Domino Riley continues to serve as the lieutenant to six millennia old Sumerian gang boss Shanar Rashan having faced several paranormal Mob Rule challenges to her position (see Mob Rule and Retribution in the Harvest Moon anthology). However, even she is unprepared for the zombie horde that appears ready to dominate Southern California. To prevent L.A. from becoming Zombieland, Domino needs to rescue the sacred dogs who carry souls to the other side.

In her way and that of her team are demons who prefer the old order overturned with chaos as only zombies can do. Besides dealing with zombies, demons, and some unmentionables, Domino also must look inside her heart to how deeply she feels about her attraction to her employer’s son Adan.

The latest Underworld Cycle urban fantasy is an entertaining often jocular story mostly due to the hard-boiled heroine whose only soft spot is Adan; a feeling she feels ranks not much above the flu as she seeks resistance to the love bug. The cast is very powerful and Cameron Haley’s vision of Los Angeles is superb as this feminist Noir makes the thin plot fun for sub-genre fans who will enjoy Domino and her odd team battle a Skeleton Crew (and a few other evil dudes).

Harriet Klausner

The Council of Shadows-S.M. Stirling

The Council of Shadows
S.M. Stirling
Roc, May 3 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780451463937

They are creatures of myths and legends: beingss who drink blood; rhose who shift shape; and sorcerers who use magic to control people and the environment. They are Homo Nocturnis Shadowspawn hominids who are not human as they contain genes that enable them to use the energy powers of the universe. Their source is science not magic and once the Empire of Shadow in prehistorical times ruled mankind. Over the eons, their bloodline wasdiluted by mating with the humans and now they rule in the shadows, working behind the scenes to control people and events.

The Council of Shadows want to come out in the open and believe they can accomplish this by killing about half the human population in what they declare Operation Trimback. The Council will decide how when all the Shadowspawn meet in Tbilisi. Shadowspawn Adrian Brézé and his human wife along with the rebel group the Brotherhood want to prevent the pandemic species cleansing. He will soon be taken aback to learn who is leading the death squads as that person is as powerful as Adrian is, but also sinister as collateral damage even among the Shadowspawn is an acceptable price and has traitors supporting the endeavor.

Ellen and Adrian are in love, but while she lacks enough genetic material to tap into the Shadowspawn energy, he treats her as his equal. The middle book contains less action than its predecessor (see A Taint in the Blood) as the entreating story line digs deeper into the psyche of individuals and the group dynamics of the Council and the Brotherhood. Urban fantasy readers will appreciate S.M. Stirling’s enjoyable urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Tapestry of Dreams-Roberta Gellis

A Tapestry of Dreams
Roberta Gellis
Sourcebooks, May 1 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9781402254987

In the twelfth century an orphaned heiress Audris is able to weave visionary tapestries. Her honorable Uncle Oliver raises her as if she was his child not out of affection, but because he is a hard yet just person doing the right thing by his niece.

His noble mother died birthing Hugh Licorne while his father is unknown. Arch Bishop Thurstan raised Hugh, who has become a knight pledged to King Stephen of Blois.

When Audris’ half-brother Bruno introduces his sister to his friend Hugh, they are attracted to one another. They pledge loyalty to each other though he believes he is unworthy of her unless he can rise higher up the feudal hierarchy. Hugh and Audis begin a quest to learn who sired him in hopes that will raise him to a level equal of that of his beloved heiress.

This is a reprint of a great Roberta Gellis’ 1980s medieval romance. The character driven story line is fast-paced yet contains the trademark vivid detail that makes armchair readers feel they are in the middle of an English civil war between the Empress Matilda and King Stephen. Medieval romance readers will relish A Tapestry of Dreams as the heroine and her family remains sort of neutral in the conflict only wanting to protect their city and land.

Harriet Klausner

Gone with a Handsomer Man-Michael Lee West

Gone with a Handsomer Man
Michael Lee West
Minotaur, Apr 12 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780312571221

In Charleston, South Carolina, wannabe pastry chef Teeny Templeton is excited about marrying Bing Jackson and making the perfect red velvet cake. However, her euphoria ends abruptly when she sees an excited Bing playing badminton with two pretty ladies without one stich of clothing on any of them. Irate, Teeny plays dodge ball with the naked threesome by throwing unripe peaches at their butts.

She is charged with assault and receives probation. Additionally a restraining order is processed to keep her away from Bing and his women. A few days after being legally warned to stay away from her ex fiancé, Teeny finds Bing dead. Obviously, the prime (and only) suspect as pointed out by the local news, Teeny distrusts the police (and the media) to search elsewhere for the killer so she applies the Templeton Tradition of creating recipes to solving the murder.

This entertaining regional culinary amateur sleuth mystey with a pinch of romance is a delightful tale due to the strong cast starting with Teeny. The secondary characters are fully developed as Michael Lee West provides a super Southern whodunit enhanced by the refreshing Templeton Tradition.

Harriet Klausner

Among the Departed-Vicki Delaney

Among the Departed
Vicki Delaney
Poisoned Pen, May 3 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9781590989243

In 1996 in Trafalgar, British Columbia, Brian Nowak vanished without a trace. No one knew what happened to Brian who seemed to have no enemies. He left behind an uncaring spouse, an unreliable son, and a precocious daughter who was the apple of his life; anyone who knew him knew he would never leave his darling Nicky behind especially with her mother.

Fifteen years after Brian disappeared, the remains of a human are accidently found. The townsfolk assume the deceased is Brian. Nicky, who was an eighth grader when her dad vanished, was never the same as she has gotten into all sorts of trouble involving drugs and prostitution since. Her childhood best friend Constable Molly Smith leads the investigation into the murder of Brian hoping this brings closure to a disturbed Nicky.

The fifth Constable Molly Smith police investigation is an engaging Canadian village whodunit. The key to this tale and its predecessors (see Valley of the Lost and Negative Image) is the strong support cast as Molly obtains the usual assistance whether she wants it or not from her boyfriend RCMP Sergeant, his dog, and her mom; and the lack of cooperation from the horde of locals including the victim’s daughter who is no longer an innocent. Among the Departed is a terrific mystery with a great realistic finish.

Harriet Klausner

The Burning Lake-Brent Ghelfi

The Burning Lake
Brent Ghelfi
Poisoned Pen, May 3 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9781590589250

On a wintry night in Moscow, espionage agent Alexei "Volk" Volkovoy meets with gulag survivor Ilya Jacobs. The latter informs Volk that someone assassinated reporter Katarina “Kato” Mironova in a remote village in the Urals. Three students were also murdered.

Although a reporter’s life is perilous in Putin’s Russia, Volk is indifferent to that aspect of Kato’s life. Instead he feels her killing is personal as he and Kato were lovers during the second Chechen conflict. He resolves to uncover who killed her and why. The agent quickly learns Kato was digging into a story about a reservoir in the mountains containing holding liquid radioactive waste that exploded in 1958. The area became contaminated with radioactive waste. Before long the trail leads to Las Vegas.

The latest Volk dark Russian thriller (see Volk’s Shadow and The Venona Cable) is a great timely investigative tale. The story line is the usual frantic pace of a Volk tale as he connects the Stalin evil past and the dark Putin present. Fans will anticipate a showdown with the Frenchman, who is setting up the kill of Volk as Brent Ghelfi writes a tense thriller that captures the essence of 1950s and current Russia in this powerful entry.

Harriet Klausner

Devil’s Plaything-Matt Richtel

Devil’s Plaything
Matt Richtel
Poisoned Pen, May 3 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590588871

In San Francisco medical reporter Nate Idle makes some cash posting a medical blog. He also spends his free time with his editor Pauline Sanchez in her office.

At the same time at Magnolia Manor his octogenarian grandma Lane suffers from dementia. She currently responds to online questions from the Human Memory crusade. She shares a lot of personal family information with the computer that calmly says trust me. Nat ignores his grandma’s ramblings until he takes her for a stroll in Golden Gate Park; only someone fires what seems like randon shots, but he begins to think this culprit targeted the Idle pair. Soon he realizes the attempt is tied to an encrypted flash drive he received anonymously by an unknown person demanding a meeting though he wonders why him and his family.

The freshness to this over the top of the Twin Peaks neuroscience technological conspiracy is the beleaguered everyman’s octogenarian grandma who suffers from dementia so cannot be relied on for what she remembers, which is very little beyond WWII. Still fans that ignore plausibility will be Hooked as the grandson and his grandma team up in an entertaining investigative medical thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Retribution Falls-Chris Wooding

Retribution Falls
Chris Wooding
Spectra, Apr 26 2011, $16.00
ISBN 9780345522511

In Vardia, Darian Frey is captain and solo driver of the Ketty Jay. He works closely with freebooters. However, his quasi-legal world crashes when a robbery in the air leaves someone dead. He is accused of the murder as well as piracy by law enforcement.

Frey knows he must flee before the authorities Century Knights, bounty hunters or a nasty ex Trinica Dracken catches him; the latter being the most dangerous threat. Because his crew is ruthless and sleazy with each out to take care of only number one (as does the captain), he distrusts them but needs their support. They were loyal to him only due to the fact he owns and steers the aerium-fueled aircraft they use in their heists. He needs to keep track of each of them because he believes at least one of them sold him and his team out, but who and to whom remains nebulous. Beleaguered Frey considers the daemonist accompanied by his golem, the new recruit and the alcoholic doc as the most likely suspects because the frame takes intelligence and contacts.

From the opening Russian Roulette scene until the final confrontation, this is a fun steampunk fantasy. Frey and the key secondary characters are developed over the course of the entertaining story line. Although the plot at times slows down under the weight of the vivid background, sub-genre fans will enjoy riding the Ketty Jay.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Leaving Van Gogh-Carol Wallace

Leaving Van Gogh
Carol Wallace
Spiegel & Grau, Apr 19 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9781400068791

In 1890, Vincent van Gogh moves to Auvers-sur-Oise, France to paint in the serene rustic environment. His brother Theo asks mental health specialist Dr. Paul Gachet, known for his artistic inclinations, to keep a close watch on his troubled sibling. As a patron of the fine arts, Gachet agrees. The physician finds the artist’s work incredible, but fears for the anguished man. He tries to comfort the tormented van Gogh and prepare Vincent’s family for the seemingly inevitable as the illnesses that torture van Gogh’s mind continue to grow. Ten weeks after the doctor was retained, his only patient committed suicide.

This is an intriguing biographical fiction that looks at van Gogh through the filter of the real doctor (van Gogh did a portrait of Gachet) who treated him in the months of his life. That perspective allows a fresh view, but also adds a degree of separation from the artist. Still this is a strong historical as Carol Wallace paints a vivid picture of medical profession at the end of the nineteenth century as the doctor struggles to help a difficult talented artist with a strange illness.

Harriet Klausner

More Than Words Vol 7-Carly Phillips, Donna Hill and Jill Shalvis

More Than Words Vol 7
Carly Phillips, Donna Hill and Jill Shalvis
Harlequin, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373837632

“Compassion Can't Wait” by Carly Phillips. Social worker Julia knows how fourteen year old Michael feels; as the teen stoically spends his time at the hospital playing baseball games while his mom stays with his dying twin Manny. Julia asks The Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation to find a hero for Michael. They arrange for Miami Suns baseball superstar Kyle to mentor Michael. When the social worker and the pitcher meet, each recalls their high school days as a couple until he left for baseball and she stayed with her dying sister.

“Someplace Like Home” by Donna Hill. When Verna and Ronald meet, each recognizes an obsessed need to help the young. Attracted to one another, she seeks her biological mother who abandoned her and he learns he may have a teenage daughter he never knew existed. Thanks to Eva’s Initiatives and the Family Reconnect Program he learns the truth about whether April is his biologically, but dreams that he, Verna and April can forge a loving family together.

“What the Heart Wants” by Jill Shalvis. Teacher Ellie has no money to spare as she uses her meager salary to pay bills and to fund Powerful And In Charge, an organization helping teens. When she and teen Kia are stuck with a flat, Jack comes to the rescue. Jack and Ellie were a couple years ago as troubled teens. As they fall in love all over again, Kia returns to bad ass Bobby.

All three well written tales honor a caring organization (Ms. Shalvis’ dedicated hers to WET (Women’s Expressive Theater) trying to make things better for people. Each entertaining entry affirms love comes in different relationships.

Harriet Klausner

Unforgettable-Trish Perry

Trish Perry
Multnomah, Mar 1 2011, $12.99
ISBN: 9781609361129

In 1951 outside her Arlington, Virginia dance studio Rachel Stanhope mutters in frustration while pacing back and forth on the sidewalk as her employee Betty fails to arrive with the keys to open up before the junior high school class begins. Moms dump the kids on her and one male arrives with two children. Former WWII pilot reporter Josh Reegan drops off his sister’s children, but not before he insults Rachel about that artsy thing. She detests his sarcastic arrogance and pessimism.

Josh believes ballroom dancing is an inane activity only for the rich and stupid. Still he finds her upbeat nurturing attitude totally opposite the cynics he normally meets due to his profession. In fact he is a cynic when it comes to humanity after his combat and his journalist experiences. He is here because his editor assigned him to do an article on her studio's competition in New York City. However, while the ballroom dance contest occurs, he investigates government corruption at the same time they continue their tango of love; as each finds the other Unforgettable.

This is a terrific inspirational historical romance that brings to life 1951 with intriguing little tidbits like pregnant Betty having to give up dancing because the prevalent medical belief of the era is that women carrying needed rest. The enjoyable story line is character driven as the support cast especially their respective extended families, the students and several other key players are fully developed. However, the tale belongs to the dance instructor who sees God’s world as a half filled cup needing to be topped and the reporter who sees a half empty cup needing to be drank as they foxtrot to When I Fall In Love.

Harriet Klausner

Mobbed-Carol Higgins Clark

Carol Higgins Clark
Scribner, Apr 5 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9781439170281

Private investigator Regan Reilly and her husband Jack who heads the NYPD Major Case Squad plan to go to the Jersey Shore for the weekend to celebrate her mom Nora’s birthday. Regan leaves without Jack because Nora asks her to accompany her to the home of Mrs. Edna Frawley who is selling her beach house and therefore hosting a yard sale including items left behind by her tenant movie star Cleo Paradise. Edna’s daughter Karen is a friend of Nora and wants her to insure her mom in her zeal does not sell any of her items.

When Regan and Nora arrive, they find Edna gleefully waiting for the yard sale to begin. Regan receives calls from Cleo’s best friend and the actress’ mother wanting to know where she is. A stalker has been sending Cleo dead roses with thorns as real life imitates the movie she starred in. Cleo’s mom hires Regan to find her daughter who has many enemies among the envious Hollywood crowd. Cleo relaxes at a dude ranch nearby, but is unaware that someone is closing in on her to hurt her; at the same Regan seeks to protect her.

As always, a Regan Reilly mystery is a fun, delightful and entertaining tale due to quirky endearing characters especially when mom the author and daughter the sleuth team up. Although the story line is somewhat farcical with two degrees of separation; readers will not be able to put down Mobbed as everyone looking for Cleo converges while the actress is having a good time at a dude ranch.

Harriet Klausner

Born of Shadows-Sherrilyn Kenyon

Born of Shadows
Sherrilyn Kenyon
Grand Central, Apr 26 2011, $21.99
ISBN: 9780446573252

Caillen watched his father a smuggler killed. He takes his responsibility as the man of the house seriously though he wants to strangle his pain in the butt demanding sisters. He is elated that Sharhara and his friend Syn are married (see Born of Fire), but wants to kill Kasen, whose activities have left Caillen on the verge of execution.

However, he is saved when the court realizes he is the kidnapped son of Emperor Evzen. Caillen struggles with being a Prince and adjusting to a new royal family. However, he has little time to learn as someone tries to assassinate his biological father.

Royal Guard Desideria Denarii, daughter of Qillag Queen Sarra, has pledged to keep her mother safe from assassins. A murder attempt on her mom leaves her and Caillen trapped on an enemy’s planet with both their empires in trouble from coups.

The latest Born of League outer space thriller (see Born of Ice) is loaded with action, intrigue, action, romance and more action as assassins seem everywhere. The lead couple makes the exhilarating adventure work beyond being a space opera survival quest as each is fully developed and brings pathos to their relationship. Readers will enjoy touring the Kenyon League cosmos escorted by two royal guides.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow Chaser-Alexey Pehov

Shadow Chaser
Alexey Pehov
Tor, Apr 12 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765324047

Shadow Harold and his team are trying to understand what it means for him to be the destined Dancer in the Shadows as they seek the horn to save their land from the horrific Nameless One Dark Lord. They trek towards Hrad Spein, an impregnable place that no army, even that of wizards let alone a small impoverish cell, has breached. If they reach the dark underground palace and are able to enter only Shadow Harold can complete the journey.

While they march forward, frightening adversaries pursue them. Besides The Nameless One, another Dark Lord the Master also wants to gain access to the legendary grim tomb. Their respective hordes give chase. As the Shadows leave behind fallen comrades they fight for their lives against nasty ogre, elves, the Dark One’s minion, and a worse malevolence with extraordinary power.

The second Chronicles of Siala (see Shadow Prowler) is an enjoyable quest fantasy that uses humor to diffuse the heart of battle. The story line is at its best at the moments the tension is high; for instance when a teammate dies. The jocularity fails to translate very well (assuming it works in Russian) and only slows down an otherwise fine thriller held together by the beleaguered Shadow Harold.

Harriet Klausner

Burn Down The Sky-James Jaros

Burn Down The Sky
James Jaros
Harper, Apr 26 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062016300

When humanity failed to heed the cries from an injured earth, as the avaricious power brokers chose more gizmos, and politicians ignored the climate warning signs, the planet started to die. The oceans rose dramatically as the ice caps melted. Then the oceans dried up leading to a vast desert planet with little rain anywhere. The spiral into hell on earth continued when the Wicca virus prevented females one year after their first period from having sex. Most went insane or chose suicide. The most valuable commodity in the world is a female who has not had her first menses.

Marauders attack the compound where Jessie, her husband Eden and their two young daughters (Bliss and Ananda) reside. They abduct Ananda and sell her to the Army of God cult. Leader Zekiel claims Ananda, who fights him and tries to help others; though that could mean being declared a heretic. Jessie and others including Bliss join another group heading for a confrontation with the Army of God in order to rescue their female young ones. However, the maurader’s’ leader is captured, but gives them information that will either enable the rescue of their children or die in the attempt.

This grim fascinating futuristic thriller extrapolates present global trends to make a case that the reckoning point of no return for planet earth is soon. The Army of God belongs to an Alliance sharing the same values. The descendants of the deniers who prevented the changes needed to stop climate change are killed and cannibal-rapists are a danger to normal people. Even if Jessica and her team rescue Ananda, they will still have to watch their back as others will come. In what looks like the opening act in humanity’s final drama, readers will appreciate James Jaros’ bleak cautionary tale as Zager and Evans sang in 2525” “… Now man’s reign is through”.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 26, 2011

To Be Queen-Christy English

To Be Queen
Christy English
NAL, Apr 5 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451232304

Her father Duke of Aquitaine William X trained Eleanor to maneuver her way through the volatile lethal world of regal politics. After he died when she was fifteen, she became the duchess as he mentored her to be. Her people adored and cherished their duchess. French King Louis adores Eleanor and three months after she became duchess she became his queen. They have two daughters, but Eleanor is disappointed in her spouse as he allows the Church to direct him instead of his acting as the monarch. Their marriage is shaky and collapses when Eleanor meets dynamic Henry of Normandy. Eleanor ends her marriage to Louis and crosses the Channel to wed her beloved Henry.

This is a biographical fictional prequel to The Queen's Pawn with much of the focus on the first royal marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine. At a time when female power meant no power, Eleanor learned starting with her mentoring father how to navigate a world of backstabbing betrayers to become a queen on both sides of the Channel. Well written, sub-genre readers, especially those who cherish the medieval period, will want to read Christy English’s entertaining look at the prototype for woman power.

Harriet Klausner

The Confession of Katherine Howard-Suzannah Dunn

The Confession of Katherine Howard
Suzannah Dunn
Harper, Apr 5 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780062011473

In childhood, Catherine Tilney and Katherine Howard became best friends when both were wards of the Duchess of Norfolk. They remain close through their teen years as their families ignore them. Katherine falls in love with Francis Dereham. However, King Henry VIII makes the teenager his fifth wife. However, her time as queen is short because of accusations that she had an arrangement with Dereham prior to marrying the king; her best friend, a lady in waiting, is also considered for execution due to guilt by association.

The Confession of Katherine Howard is made fresh by Catherine, as the narrator Tilney provides a unique perspective that in many ways turns the exciting story line into her tale as she paints a picture of her friend as being intelligent rather than an inane flirt. In order for Howard to have achieved what she did in a man’s world where she was abandoned as a child, she would have needed some smarts. Ironically what beheaded her was her childhood attraction to Francis Dereham, which no evidence supported the contention that this continued as an adult but was used as if it was alive during her marriage to the king. Although the wives of Henry have been featured in many biographical fictions including by Suzannah Dunn (see The Queen of Subtleties, The Sixth Wife and The Queen’s Sorrow; and The King’s Rose by Alissa Libby), this is a unique look at a woman unfairly judged during her life and since; perhaps Hnetry in his gut knew as he aged rapidly after her beheading.

Harriet Klausner

Heart of Deception-M.L. Malcolm

Heart of Deception
M.L. Malcolm
Harper, Apr 5 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061962196

In 1937, the Japanese attack on Shanghai killed Martha Hoffman. She left behind her Hungarian businessman husband Leo and their seven years old daughter Maddy. Being a spy, Leo needs to find a way to protect his child so he marries and sends his second wife and his child to live in New York. However, after he returns to the field, his spouse could not care less what happens to her stepdaughter. By 1942, Maddy arrives in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey to live with her Aunt Bernice Mason while believing her father deserted her.

The war may be over, but as Leo seeks to reconcile with his daughter, he needs a legitimate passport to travel to New York. He agrees to conduct one last operation in North Africa for passage to America. However, Leo is unaware that his beloved daughter has found a loving home with her Aunt Bernice. Over the years she turns acrimonious towards her dad for abandoning her and distrusts men in general though she has trysts with different types of males.

Using real persona from the 1930s through the early 1960s, M.L. Malcolm continues the saga of Hoffman (see Heart of Lies) with a strong insightful epic that can stand alone, but clearly enhanced with how the lead male made the decisions that cost him raising his daughter. The story line rotates the tale of the father the espionage agent wanting to come in from the cold and his daughter who over time loathes her dad for abandoning her. Epic saga fans will enjoy this look at three middle twentieth century decades as world events and a sister-in-law keep a father and a daughter apart.

Harriet Klausner

The Journey-Wanda E. Brunstetter

The Journey
Wanda E. Brunstetter
Barbour, Apr 5 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9781602606814

In Paradise, Pennsylvania, Titus Fisher always compared himself with his twin Timothy and found himself lacking. He loves his brother, but envies him. The latest comparison is Timothy is happily married to Hannah with a young daughter Mindy; while Titus’ beloved Phoebe Stoltzfus ended their relationship to move away from the Amish in California. When Englischer Allen Walters stops at the Fisher family spread, he informs Titus they need a carpenter in the Amish community in Christian County, Kentucky. Titus decides to take the position as he feels a need to start over.

In Pembroke, Kentucky Titus and Amish Suzanne Yoder meet. They are attracted to each other as each is excellent at woodworking; however she looks like a sister of Phoebe so he knee jerkily dislikes her. Besides which he rationalizes she is a tomboy who can’t cook. However, as she watches how considerate of others she is, he reassesses his assessment of Suzanne when Phoebe arrives for a second chance.

The latest Wanda E. Brunstetter’s Amish family drama is an entertaining tale as Titus’ response to the Lovin’ Spoonful song “Did You Ever have To Make Up Your Mind?” is to trust in the Lord to guide him. Although some minor subplots feel like inane padding, fans will rejoice with the first Kentucky Brothers’ tale as there is joy and heartbreak making for a tender realistic journey.

Harriet Klausner

The Corruptible-Mark Mynheir

The Corruptible
Mark Mynheir
Multnomah, Apr 5 2011, $14.00
ISBN 9781601420749

Ray Quinn retired from the Orlando Police Department due to a perpetrator shooting his hip; shattering the joint. His replacement hip forces him to use a cane to walk slowly as the ache is unbearable. To numb the mental and physical pain, Ray turned to alcohol.

Quinn has opened up The Night Watchman Detective Agency where he mentors a rookie Crevis Creighton who wants to become a cop and employs Pam Winter, a former client. Armon Mayor of Mayor Holdings, Inc. hires him to recover stolen confidential client information. The prime suspect is Logan Ramsey, who before working at Mayor Holdings, was employed as a Narc for OPD but was forced to leave the force.

The second Quinn fun inspirational Noir (see The Night Watchman) is due to the hero, who sets the tone early when he explains to his employees that he broke the other guy’s fist with his face and uses his cane as a weapon. Other subplots add to the entertainment when for instance he electronically poses as an elderly woman scamming the email scammers offering to share money from overseas banks in crisis countries for a fee. The banter between the Night Watchman trio is amusing but caring, which enhances an exciting private investigative mystery in which Quinn ironically misses clues the audience will not.

Harriet Klausner

Navarro’s Promise-Lora Leigh

Navarro’s Promise
Lora Leigh
Berkley, Apr 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425239780

Human Mica Toler has lived amongst Breeds for a long time with her BFF being Breed Cassie Sinclair. Mica is especially attracted to Wolf enforcer Navarro Blaine, as she has since she was a teen; however, he fails to reciprocate her desire.

Insane scientist Phillip Brandenmore escapes from his incarceration. At the same time he breaks out of his cell, his cronies try to kidnap the more vulnerable Mica in an attempt to use her as an expendable pawn to get to her best friend equally alone Cassie Sinclair. Mica escapes while an upset Navarro comes for his mate as he no longer denies his feelings. They travel to Sanctuary, but Navarro does not show the marks of a bonded mated Breed, which means Mica’s hear, will be broken.

The latest Breeds romantic urban fantasy takes an intriguing twist as Navarro seems to have broken one of the prime genetic concepts of the species in which you cannot resist the lure of your bond mate. Fast-paced with other twists including an ironic one involving Brandenmore getting what he wished for. However, Lora Leigh refreshes her saga by shaking up the Breeds world with her latest aloof hero who appears to be able to ignore his mate.

Harriet Klausner

Navarro’s Promise-Lora Leigh

Navarro’s Promise
Lora Leigh
Berkley, Apr 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425239780

Human Mica Toler has lived amongst Breeds for a long time with her BFF being Breed Cassie Sinclair. Mica is especially attracted to Wolf enforcer Navarro Blaine, as she has since she was a teen; however, he fails to reciprocate her desire.

Insane scientist Phillip Brandenmore escapes from his incarceration. At the same time he breaks out of his cell, his cronies try to kidnap the more vulnerable Mica in an attempt to use her as an expendable pawn to get to her best friend equally alone Cassie Sinclair. Mica escapes while an upset Navarro comes for his mate as he no longer denies his feelings. They travel to Sanctuary, but Navarro does not show the marks of a bonded mated Breed, which means Mica’s hear, will be broken.

The latest Breeds romantic urban fantasy takes an intriguing twist as Navarro seems to have broken one of the prime genetic concepts of the species in which you cannot resist the lure of your bond mate. Fast-paced with other twists including an ironic one involving Brandenmore getting what he wished for. However, Lora Leigh refreshes her saga by shaking up the Breeds world with her latest aloof hero who appears to be able to ignore his mate.

Harriet Klausner

Mona Lisa Eclipsing-Sunny

Mona Lisa Eclipsing
Berkley, Apr 5 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425238943

Only a few months have passed since Mona Lisa went from living in Manhattan among humans to learning she was a hybrid Monere. She has since become the Louisiana Queen with a major circle of influence including five male lovers due to her respect for others rather than the contempt her peers display. Mona Lisa has also been to hell and back (see Mona Lisa Darkening)

However she feels she erred when she sent her beloved cursed Dante Morell away though Mona Lisa is aware of their ancestral link (see Mona Lisa Craving) and their shared grief over her miscarriage. Since he was last seen in Cozumel, Mexico she heads there to bring him home. The mission goes wrong and she loses her memory of who she is and why she is there. Roberto the were-jaguar with some Monere blood meets Mona Lisa. He takes advantage of the amnesiac Monere queen.

Mona Lisa Eclipsing is a strong erotic urban fantasy thriller as the heroine has to relearn her Monere Children of the Moon heritage for the second time; but affirms a Yogism that her reeducation is easier due to “deja vu all over again.” The story line is fast-paced from the moment the Louisiana Queen goes to Mexico and never slows down as readers anticipate what will happen if she remembers all.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 25, 2011

Golden Vampire-Linda Thomas-Sundstrom

Golden Vampire
Linda Thomas-Sundstrom
Harlequin Nocturne, Mar 22 2011, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373618576

The Feds send former cop Jesse Stewart and her crew, known for rescuing missing persons typically in an extraction, to go to Slovenia to bring home the kidnapped daughter of a U.S. Senator. While in Europe on her mission with subordinate Stan having her back, Jesse meets vampire Lance Van Baaren; who in spite of her attraction to him she assumes he is evil.

However, Lance is a Guardian, pledged to protect the innocent and to keep vampire blood pure. He offers to help Jesse on her quest as evil rogue vampires have captured the young American girl. As the human and the vampire team up, she realizes who he is as he saved her life from a vampire assault when she was a child living in Los Angeles.

This is an exciting romantic urban fantasy starring two strong lead characters with a history. The entertaining story line takes its time to introduce the players and the Thomas-Sundstrom world of Moon-Vampires, but once done the plot goes into hyperspeed. Fans will enjoy this twisting thriller whole wondering who will get the last bite.

Harriet Klausner

Please Look After Mom-Kyung-Sook Shin

Please Look After Mom
Kyung-Sook Shin
Knopf, Apr 5 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307593917

In an overly crowded Seoul subway station, Park So-nyo becomes separated from her husband rushing to make a train. A rural farmer who is totally lost in the big city Park vanishes.

Her spouse and adult children panic as mom’s steady consistency is the magnet that kept the family together. Each of Park’s family feel guilt for taking her for granted as they all assume she will always be there. Her spouse who has never had a kind word for his rural wife realizes how much she means to him and how she ignored her desires to be there for him. Her daughter who thought her mom was an illiterate barbarian who could not read a book misses her as she fondly recalls how her mother encouraged her to read and be much more. Her son who treated her with disdain as he made demands of his mom wants to make amends for his treatment of her. Meanwhile mom wanders the city while recalling her family’s embarrassment and disdain of her for being a throwback from a previous century.

This is an intriguing look at a Korean family who could be any ethnic group in which taking for granted a loved one until you lose what turns out to be most cherished is a common fault. The husband and two children were embarrassed by their mom until she vanishes; now they're worried and remorseful while mom reflects back on her loneliness due to her performing her motherhood duty. Filled with pathos and a strong underlying message to cherish those you love before it is too late, readers will relish this profound tale made even more poignant by the rotating viewpoint.

Harriet Klausner

The Pleasure Garden-Charlotte Featherstone, Amanda McIntyre, Kristi Astor

The Pleasure Garden
Charlotte Featherstone, Amanda McIntyre, Kristi Astor
Spice, Mar 22 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373605545

“Sacred Vows” by Amanda McIntyre. In Dublin, the law forbids the mingling of Gaels and English nobles. However, Cara risks her life by breaking the taboo because she believes Edmund is her beloved though he is bound for the priesthood.

“Perfumed Pleasures” by Charlotte Featherstone. Before Joscelyn left to fight in the Crimean War, he and Catherine the heir to Fairfax House were lovers. Now in 1856 he comes back scarred in body and mind wanting to die; while she is engaged to his cousin; but their love for one another remains strong.

“Rites of Passion” by Kristi Astor. On the other side of a Beltane fire, Widow Emmaline and Jack see one another with an instant attraction. Later he arrives at her home, but catches the flu, from which she helps him recover from the illness and the trauma of serving in WWI. He also heals her pain suffered on account of her beloved Christopher dying at Amiems.

The three heated erotic romances use the May Queen mythos as a backdrop to exciting tales occurring in different eras.

Harriet Klausner

The Pleasure Garden-Charlotte Featherstone, Amanda McIntyre, Kristi Astor

The Pleasure Garden
Charlotte Featherstone, Amanda McIntyre, Kristi Astor
Spice, Mar 22 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373605545

“Sacred Vows” by Amanda McIntyre. In Dublin, the law forbids the mingling of Gaels and English nobles. However, Cara risks her life by breaking the taboo because she believes Edmund is her beloved though he is bound for the priesthood.

“Perfumed Pleasures” by Charlotte Featherstone. Before Joscelyn left to fight in the Crimean War, he and Catherine the heir to Fairfax House were lovers. Now in 1856 he comes back scarred in body and mind wanting to die; while she is engaged to his cousin; but their love for one another remains strong.

“Rites of Passion” by Kristi Astor. On the other side of a Beltane fire, Widow Emmaline and Jack see one another with an instant attraction. Later he arrives at her home, but catches the flu, from which she helps him recover from the illness and the trauma of serving in WWI. He also heals her pain suffered on account of her beloved Christopher dying at Amiems.

The three heated erotic romances use the May Queen mythos as a backdrop to exciting tales occurring in different eras.

Harriet Klausner

Altar of Bones-Philip Carter

Altar of Bones
Philip Carter
Gallery (Pocket), Mar 8 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9781439199084

In Siberia, an assassin murders Katya Orlova. Her San Francisco granddaughter lawyer Zoe Dmitroff receives a letter from her grandmother who she thought died years ago. The late Katya explains in her note that Zoe is now the "Keeper" of an ancient secret of the Altar of Bones.

Before Zoe can digest the strange letter, she is attacked by the Russian mob and her own mom demands she reveal the secret to her. Ry O'Malley, whose father and brother were also murdered, arrives to protect Zoe. They flee to Europe as an unknown adversary wants her dead and by association him too.

Over the top of the Urals, Altar of Bones grips the audience from the opening assassination and never slows down as the rookie Keeper and her protector dash around Europe with a little luck and a lot of moxie as killers chase after them with one intention. Throw in Rasputin, Stalinist Russia, and Siberia and fans will enjoy Philip Carter’s adrenaline tour of Russia past and present in what is a fun thriller. Warning: set aside time because your bones will be tired with this impossible to put aside suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Sin-Marie Treanor

Blood Sin
Marie Treanor
Signet, Apr 5 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451232311

Scottish graduate student Elizabeth Silk struggles with what she caused in Dmitriu, Romania .while researching the legend of vampires. She accidently released Prince Saloman an ancient vampire (see Blood on Silk). They are attracted to one another and he is bound to her for freeing him, but Elizabeth also has learned that inside her arteries and veins, blood of vampire hunters flow; including her ancestor who “killed” Saloman.

However, his ancient sword becomes the heart of a blood bath between vampires and humans, as both sides want possession. While he refuses to allow either side to have the sword as he knows how vicious both species can be when in possession of power; Elizabeth trusts her beloved to do the right thing while she is pressured to choose sides.

The second An Awakened By Blood urban fantasy is an exciting action packed tale starring two engaging natural enemies in love. The story line starts slow, but accelerates once the Grand Master of the American order of Vampire Hunters makes his move and never looks back. With a fabulous twist and an aperient eternal set up for the next entry, sub-genre fans will enjoy Blood Sin wondering whether the Vampire Hunter will adhere to her DNA or her love.

Harriet Klausner

The Woodcutter-Kate Danley

The Woodcutter
Kate Danley
CreateSpace, Oct 10 2010, $12.99
ISBN: 9781453876145

The Woodcutter patrols the woody expanse between the Kingdoms of Man and the Realm of Faerie. While performing his duty, he comes across the corpse of a pretty teenage female stranger. Putting down his axe, he searches for her death wound, but finds none. He concludes her spirit fled her body due to immense fear. He ponders what could have been so scary that it frightened the girl to death. He informs his dear Wife he must leave.

The Woodcutter begins his investigation learning the victim was Cinderella and the predator was an escaped from the Wild Hunt hellhound of Odin. He must capture and return the hellhound to the Wild Hunt pack before other innocents die. However this simple journey turns into a harrowing experience due to evil wanting to foster malevolence in all realms so that they can rule as the Gentleman and the Queen; yet he also meets caring folks assisting him on his mission.

The Woodcutter is a fantastic dark fantasy that turns classic fairy tales upside down in a serious quest thriller (the diametrically opposite tone form Shrek). Starting with the King of the Golden River and visits with other fairy tales, the Woodcutter cuts quite a heroic stoic path as he follows the deadly trail of a dangerous beast. Readers will enjoy trekking with the hero as Kate Danley provides an entertaining engaging thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Department 19-Will Hill

Department 19
Will Hill
Razorbill (Penguin), Mar 19 2011, $17.00
ISBN: 9781595144065

In 2007 in Kent, England, fourteen years old Jamie Carpenter and his mom Marie watched from inside his family house as his father Julian steps outside with a gun in hand only to be shot to death on the front lawn. Soon afterward the police informed stunned mother and son that Julian was caught selling highly classified information to a terrorist cell. The mail starts to arrive informing the pair that a family with a traitor is unwanted. They moved three times in two years.

The terror begins when pretty Larissa prepares to take Jamie but could not do it. He races home to find his mom missing and Alexandru with razorblade teeth coming for him when a giant Frankenstein saves the teen’s life. The “Monster” brings Jamie to the government’s extremely classified Department 19; the only unit without a title. He learns that over a hundred years ago Abraham Van Helsing and his team of survivors formed the cell to police the supernatural. Europe’s most powerful vampire since Dracula has captured Marie. Frank and Larissa join Jamie on a quest to find his mom.

Department 19 is a great urban and historical fantasy as the exciting story line rotates between the Department’s past escapades across Europe starting with that late Victorian war in Transylvania and London against Dracula and the young hero’s quest. Both subplots are well written while filled with suspense that grips the reader from the moment Julian is killed. Teens of all ages will relish Jamie’s run as Frank mentors him and Larissa keeps switching from wanting a bite of him to needing protecting him as readers will wonder whose side is she on.

Harriet Klausner

The Map Across Time-C.S. Lakin

The Map Across Time
C.S. Lakin
Living Ink Books, Mar 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780899578897

In Sherbourne, heartbroken siblings Adin and Aletha are saying their final goodbyes to their dying loving mother, the queen. She gives her beloved children lockets containing a message in the ancient language that “Love is as strong as death”. The queen depends on Reya the nurse to love her children and to guide them as she knows she cannot rely on her spouse. While his wife dies, the cold king, who despises his cripple son, loses himself due to the avaricious and fawning of his councilors. Sherbourne is in trouble of imploding due to royal neglect and greed.

The young prince and princess know the saving of the Kingdom of Sherbourne is up to them. Heeding the mentoring of Reya, the regal pair obtains the magical Map Across Time guiding them to Sherbourne’s past. There to save their present, Adin and Aletha must believe in the ancient truths and bring them back across time.

Adin sums up this terrific allegorical drama when he muses about Heaven selecting the weak to achieve improbable great accomplishments. Thus it is the innocent who is the only hope to save a kingdom from the greed of their father. High school and older readers will relish this terrific tale filled with references from the Old Testament as two young siblings heroically set out to rescue their beloved people on an impossible quest.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Queen of New Beginnings-Erica James

The Queen of New Beginnings
Erica James
Sourcebook, Apr 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9781402253164

Almost infamous fortyish Clayton Miller flees London after causing a public humiliation involving his former girlfriend Stacey and his former writing partner Barry “Lucky Bazza” Osbourne. His heart is shattered and his career as a scriptwriter recently in the stratosphere has crashed to earth as he is out of work and out of ideas except for writing his obit

His agent Glen told Clayton to relocate temporarily in the countryside at the Cuckoo House. There he and Alice Shoemaker meet when she arrives as the housekeeper. The house is actually her family abode and though she suffered broken hearts here, she relishes being able to come home. The pair dislikes one another from the onset yet also feels a fascination. They forge a friendship as each tells the other why he and she rusticate in the country. As they start to trust and rely on one another for emotional relief, they begin to fall in love; but both fears that feeling will lead to a fresh heartbreak with no one around to help them weather the storm.

Although the story line is linear as the plot goes as expected, the cast (London and the villagers) is superb. The support characters enhance the look at the lead pair while Clayton and Alice are nice people who each fears love having recent heartbreaks. The strong characterizations make for a tender second chance at love tale if the lead duet can take that leap of faith and trust in their respective hearts.

Harriet Klausner

The Snowman-Jo Nesbo

The Snowman
Jo Nesbo
Knopf, May 10 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307595867

In Oslo, as the first snow of the year falls, Jonas Becker awakens during the night to find his mother Birte not home. Footprints from trekking in the wet snow are inside the house. Eerily outside a snowman stares at the house wearing a pink scarf that a terrorized Jonas knows belongs to his mother.

Police detective Harry Hole leads the inquiry into the missing person case that looks like a house invasion abduction. His first suspect is the husband, arrogant Professor Filip. However, he revises his opinion when the head of a female is found atop the body of a snowman. As he analyzes the data, he received a letter from a killer signed as the Snowman referring to a case Harry worked on years ago in Australia. He soon realizes this psychopath has been murdering women on the first snowfall for years, but only now has decided to become visible by battling Hole in a game of wits.

Although a game between a serial killer and a detective has been done by other novelists (see Beverly Barton’s The Murder Game and The Dying Game), Hole, who has the personality of a hostile newt (the Salamandridae family will complain about the insult). make for a fresh contest. The investigation is fun to follow as the cop’s team, superiors, and family dislike him, but he is the best detective on the Oslo force; beside which the Snowman selected him for the wintry chess match. Readers will enjoy this award winning Norwegian police procedural and seek other translated Harry Hole inquiries (see The Devil’s Star).

Harriet Klausner

Flowerbed of State-Dorothy St. James

Flowerbed of State
Dorothy St. James
Berkley, May 3 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240571

It is every American gardener’s dream to have the position that Cassandra "Casey" Calhoun occupies. After seeing her work in Charleston, South Carolina, the First Lady hires her as an assistant gardener at President's Park where the White House is located. The First Lady felt she and Casey shared similar views that are radical to the old guard status quo.

Casey finds herself face down in the mud and soon realizes someone tried to strangle her. A man looking like a black commando comes out of nowhere. She assumes he is her attacker coming to finish the job so she pepper sprats him. She is horrified to realize she injured Special Agent Jake Turner, an elite member of a military (CAT) arm of the Secret service. They soon follow a blood trail on damaged greenery, which leads to the corpse of Pauline Bonde, a Treasury Department accountant who was auditing the books of some powerful folks. Casey believes that the bankers who are visiting the President to talk him out of new oversight regulations and protestors who believe the First family is in bed with the bankers are linked to the murder. She investigates but almost gets killed with Turner always seemingly around to rescue her.

Part of the fascination with the first White House Gardener Mystery is the insight into how the support staff operates though that is similar to Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef Mystery. Flowerbed of State focuses on the people who care for the gardens; an eccentric group who take pride in their work. Although a deep childhood psychological trauma propels Casey to search for the killer, it remains over the top of the Washington Monument that she could carry out a professional investigation while Turner seems to be going nowhere with experience and support in his corner. Still fans who ignore the plausibility will enjoy an entertaining whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Black Halo-Sam Sykes

Black Halo
Sam Sykes
PYR, Mar 22 2011, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616143558

Lenk the Swordsman and his dysfunctional band of mercenaries (Kataria, Dreadaleon, Denaos, Asper and Gariath) succeeded in retrieving the Tome of the Undergates. They now sail for home to insure the Kraken Queen Ulbecetonth cannot obtain the dangerous relic by giving it to their current employer Miron for safekeeping. As the sea voyage takes forever, tension between the former six allies goes stratospheric. Thus, when disaster strikes as an Akaneed attacks their ship, each reaches land on their own.

On a seemingly deserted island, the six are separated and apparently stranded. Each is unsure they want to team up again with the others though logically they know that is the only way to go home. Even when they see the eerie remains of war dead and encounter a philosophy spouting monkey, the obstinate teammates fail to unite.

The second Aeons’ Gate quest fantasy is an enjoyable tale due to the split up of the gang of six, which is not shocking, as they despised each other even fore they set off on their previous adventure (see Tome of the Undergates); close quarters at sea enhanced this loathing. Thus readers get to know watch of the sextet that much more as for a while they have solo escapades. Although the overarching theme feels as if it has been detoured, Black Halo is an entertaining thriller in which sub-genre readers will relish taking the roundabout way home with this argumentative six.

Harriet Klausner

Immortal with a Kiss-Jacqueline Lepore

Immortal with a Kiss
Jacqueline Lepore
Avon, Mar 8 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061878152

In 1862 Sebastian Dulwich asks his friend Emma Andrews, a vampire hunting Dhampir, to leave Copenhagen where she is studying the information on her undead enemies to head to the Lake District because an evil predator is attacking students at the same girls' school Blackbrier School for girls that her mother attended. She assumes she will hunt a vampire while she knows she will seek clues to her heritage.

Emma arrives and interviews the “coven girls”. She comes away from her interrogations with the conclusion a vampire has mesmerized the coeds and will soon dine on them if not stopped. However, as she digs deeper with the support of her comrades (Sebastian, Father Luke and Valerian Fox) Emma and her loyal teammates learn of a malevolence who she fears is the ancient dark Goddess Cyprian Queen.

The second Emma Victorian vampire gothic (see Descent Into Dust) is a terrific entry as the reader learns more about the heroine’s roots inside an exciting thriller in which the era comes alive through the strict code of conduct at the school. Ironically the audience knows who the villain is even with the predator pretending to be a sheep hiding amidst the herd. Although the climax seems a bit rushed, fans will enjoy this engaging historical horror fantasy due to courageous Emma fun investigation into the realm of the bloodsuckers.

Harriet Klausner

The Iron Queen-Julie Kagawa

The Iron Queen
Julie Kagawa
Harlequin Teen, Jan 25 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780373210183

Almost seventeen Meghan Chase may have defeated the Iron King Machina Meghan but as a half-breed most of the Fey want her to return permanently to the human realm rather remain in the Seelie Summer Court of her father King Oberon. The Fey get their wish when she is banished from Nevernever for refusing to give up her lover Prince Ash of the Unseelie Winter Court. He joins her in exile though she worries about his adapting to the mortal plane while she considers whether to attend ITT after her adventures in wonderland.

At what she considered her former home before her banishment, the Iron Spider Hags attack them while Robin “Puck” Goodfellow joins them since he has been exiled too due to wanting to visit his friends. Soon after the reunion, her sire and Queen Mab demand the star-crossed lovers return to Nevernever as the threat from the Iron King has reached a distinct point of annihilation of the Fey. They want Megan to kill their enemy and defeat his horde before the Fey become extinct.

The third Iron Fey fantasy (see The Iron King and The Iron Daughter) is a terrific entry in which the overarching theme moves forward at the same that the audience learns much more as to what make each of the key lead trio ticks while the overarching theme moves forward. Once again the key player is Meghan who is getting an education on Fey politics, family and love as she is bright back to the court that banished her in ought to battle an enemy in mortal combat.

Harriet Klausner

Flesh Eaters-Joe McKinney

Flesh Eaters
Joe McKinney
Pinnacle, Apr 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786023608

First there was Rita; followed by Ike. Both were Category Five leaving a battered Houston barely surviving. Now a third Category Five hurricane Hector slams into the city followed by another even bigger storm Kyle. A secondary tidal wave hammered the city devastating chemical and oil containers. The dead were pushed by the contaminated rushing waters inland as far as forty-five miles from the city. Hurricane Mardel left the city underwater and the coastline moved several miles inland.

As the crisis turned pandemic, people showed their true colors including the Nortons and the Shaws. Houston is a dead zone and the Shaws dynamite an underwater bank and take seven million dollars. Eleanor, Jon and their teenage daughter Madison want to just leave the city. One thing prevents the family from escaping Houston: zombies. The toxic soup created a necrosis virus that is a big brother to Ebola. The creatures are cannibals who neither talk nor think. With their strange eyes they hunt humans to kill and multiply the new species who own the Gulf coast Texas.

Joe McKinney provides a scary prequel to Dead City and Apocalypse of the Dead as a series of hurricanes (ignoring the alpha order) devastate Houston leading to a zombie infestation. Filled with plenty filled of action, readers will enjoy the depth of the tale as the Norton brood try to survive.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Receive a Poem-a-Day during the month of April.

Receive a Poem-a-Day during the month of April.
Take a minute to visit the Knopf Poetry Site and sign up to receive via email a free
poem each day during the month of April. It's a successful program that was started
more than a dozen years ago, and we are happy to bring it back by popular demand.

Please tell all your friends, and watch this charming clip:

Wickham’s Diary-Amanda Grange

Wickham’s Diary
Amanda Grange
Sourcebooks, Apr 2011, $11.99
ISBN: 9781402251863

In 1784 two boys around the same twelve years of age play together at Pemberly. Fitzwilliam Darcy will one day inherit the estate while George Wickham is the son of the steward and will only obtain whatever his friend’s father gives him as he cares for the lad like a second son. Wickham’s mother wants her son to marry an heiress and gives him advice on how to use Darcy as his entrance into Polite Society.

Darcy’s father pays for Wickham to attend Cambridge with his son, but while the latter is a stern righteous person walking the straight and narrow, the former is wenching, gambling and drinking. When Wickham is caught with a prostitute, Darcy washes his hands of his former best friend and refuses to pay his way out of prison. A few years later Wickham finds it ironic when he meets Georgiana Darcy as she is a beautiful adult heiress living apart from her brother and he starts to court her. Just when his dreams are about to happen, Darcy intrudes.

This may be a novella, but it packs the punch of a novel as readers observe the influence Wickham’s mother had on him. She encouraged him to go above his station, feeling it was his earned right to use any means necessary. The grand divide between the classes is shown in stark detail as George covets what Fitzwilliam inherits. Amanda Grange who has written Darcy’s Dairy Fitzwilliam’s viewpoint to Pride and Prejudice gives Wickham the same insightful treatment.

Harriet Klausner

An Affair Without End-Candace Camp

An Affair Without End
Candace Camp
Pocket, Mar 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439117996

Twenty-eight year old Lady Vivian Carlyle loves her lifestyle of defying the rules of the Ton; starting with no desire to marry. Her childhood friend Oliver, the prim and proper Lord Stewkesbury shakes her up at a ball by asking her to dance. She knows they are oil and water as he is boring unlike his four Bascombe American cousins.

Still she offers him a shocking clandestine affair, which to her amazement and trepidation he accepts. At the same time someone is stealing jewelry from the Ton. Vivian assists her frantic friend Lady Holland just after a thief brazenly stole her brooch. Over the objections of a concerned Oliver, Vivian investigates. Fearing for her safety and acknowledges to himself his love for Vivian, Oliver accompanies her as she makes inquiries into the thefts.

The third Willowmere late Regency (see A Lady Never Tells and A Gentleman Always Remembers) is a wonderful tale due to a strong cast to include the last one standing solo of his American cousin and her brother in a warm secondary romance. The fire between the lead couple is fun as the sniping never ends except when they kiss. The amateur sleuth whodunit enhances a charming historical romance between two people whose refrain for years has been I’m Not In Love (10 CC).

Harriet Klausner

Buried Prey-John Sandford

Buried Prey
John Sandford
Putnam, May 10 2011, $27.95
ISBN: 9780399157387

In 1985, Lucas Davenport was still in uniform when two young girls, Nancy and Mary Jones disappeared while playing outside. After a search of their usual haunts, the police assumed that a sexual predator kidnapped, raped and killed the girls. A tipster, later known to be John fell, called the cops twice implicating homeless schizophrenic Sharpe in their abduction; evidence pointed in his direction. When the alleged culprit died, the police closed the case while Davenport argued to keep searching for Fell as he had doubts that Sharpe was the culprit.

In the present, a sidewalk is being dug up when the bodies of the Jones sisters are found; their bodies mummified and recognizable. Lucas is now in a law enforcement position to hunt a predator who has killed other children. He and his partner on the original Jones case Del intensely search for a psychopath. When one of his cherished friends goes down in the line of duty by this perpetrator, the case turns personal as Lucas struggles not to do something he will regret when he catches this vicious beast as he knows he will.

John Sandford shows why readers love his Prey police procedurals as he gets deep into the psyche of his hero who is already over the top of Eagle Mountain with anger towards the serial killer preying on the young, but goes stratospheric with rage when a close friend falls victim. Besides his struggle to control his feelings, readers also gets a chance to see Lucas as a young but experienced rookie who retains the same values he displays as a veteran including his efforts to do what he believes is right even if it means bending the law. Series fans will enjoy Davenport’s internal battle to stay in control as this case is an emotional dynamo.

Harriet Klausner

The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf-Molly Harper

The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf
Molly Harper
Pocket, Mar 29 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439195871

Near Grundy, Alaska, the local werewolf pack enjoys howling at the moon. However, they wisely know to hide their instincts from the nearby human population.

Researcher Nick Thatcher comes to Grundy to investigate rumors of werewolf activity in the area. Pack alpha Maggie Graham knows how important it is to hide their existence from that other species is so decides she must run the outsider out of the Grundy vicinity. She decides to take a butt bite to drive him away as she has enough on her paws preventing a war with a rival pack. However, Nick has a new more important reason for remaining in Grundy; he is cultivating The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf.

The second Naked Werewolf Alaskan romantic fantasy (see How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf) is an engaging tale with the freshness coming from the wise female Alpha who can kick male butt (human and werewolf). The story line is fast-paced as Maggie knows the timing of finding her mate, albeit a purebred human, is terrible as she has to deal with Alpha Clay and his pack invading her turf. Fans will enjoy the beat researcher and the alpha pack leader falling in love in the Last frontier.

Harriet Klausner

The Demon and the Succubus-Cassie Ryan

The Demon and the Succubus
Cassie Ryan
Berkley, Apr 5 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425239063

Amalya the succubus works successfully as an escort at the Sinners Redemption brothel in Nevada. Her job enables Amalya to feed and provide pleasure while, like her three sisters, pay off her debt to Queen Lilith.

Semiazas the demon escapes with one thought on his mind: revenge against the four Succubi. Queen Lilith hires Duke Levi Spencer to protect Amalya from the enraged demon who dispatched two of his vicious bounty demons, Pestilence and famine, to attack her. Levi knows he is part demon on his mother’s side, but wonders if his paternal roots are angel or human. He accepted Lilith’s deal to protect Amalya in exchange for the Queen providing him information re his sire. However, an instant attraction stuns both of them even as they begin to realize Semiazas has a bigger scheme than attacking the succubae; a scheme to destroy humanity.

The second Sisters of Darkness erotic romantic fantasy is an exciting tale due to the romantic subplot taking a backseat to the danger lurking throughout the Ryan universe of heaven, hell and points in between; just like in Jezebeth’s tale, Seducing the Succubus. The lead couple is a solid pairing while strong support characters like Jethro add depth to the perils confronting Amalya and Levi. Readers will relish Amalya’s adventures as the demons keep on attacking.

Harriet Klausner

Haunting Desire-Erin Quinn

Haunting Desire
Erin Quinn
Berkley, Apr 5 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425238950

Seven years ago her mother died in a car accident, but the body was never found; her grave site in Ireland empty. Seeking closure Shealy O’Leary wants to come from Phoenix to visit the grave site though her father has a fit insisting it is unsafe for her to return to Ireland. As they argue, a man attacks her and her father. Almost immediately after a giant and a teen boy suddenly appear and her father vanishes.

The arcane Book of Fennore sent Shealy O’Leary and her father into an ancient mystical land. Fennore is a cursed place unsafe for either O’Leary. Separated, she must learn to use her innate sacred force that remained dormant until now in order to save her father from the likes of The Druid who wants to possess her power. She finds an ally in Tianan the Warrior as his enemy the Druid who cursed him is hers though his companion has doubts about her. Having failed his people, he sees the beautiful frightened female from the future as a chance to regain his honor if she believes in herself and her power. Neither expected love to come before trust.

The latest Haunting romantic fantasy (see Haunting Beauty and Haunting Warrior) is a wonderful tale that hooks readers from the onset as Shealy knows this isn’t Arizona anymore. Although the lead coupling of a contemporary and an ancient Celtic has been used before including this series, sub-genre fans will enjoy visiting Fennore as Erin Quinn provides a fast-paced time travel tale.

Harriet Klausner

Vampire Dragon-Annette Blair

Vampire Dragon
Annette Blair
Berkley, Apr 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240526

The Roman legionnaires were fighting when Killian the crone of Chaos cursed them; changing them into dragons and propelling them into an alternate reality on the Island of Stars. They have waited for centuries to come home as humans. Two millennia after the banishment spell they finally gain a chance due to Killian's enemy Andra who enables one at a time to return to Earth as a human in search of his soulmate.

Darkwyn Dragonelli arrives on earth after entering the mist. He is euphorically shocked to see her as he manifests nude at Bronte’s club in Salem a hangout for vampires, undead hopefuls and tourists. Bronte’s friend Vivica the dragon liaison manages to keep her friend from calling the cops. Struggling to adapt, Darkwyn gets a position as a vampire master at Bronte’s club. He becomes close to his soulmate’s son Zachary and has hopes Bronte will know they belong together. However she has dark secrets and enemies while he has a crone insuring he fails.

The third Words Like Magic urban romantic fantasy is a terrific often amusing thriller as Darkwyn struggles to adapt to an earth much different from the one he was exiled from and to persuade Bronte they belong together. Because the Blair mythos is extremely complicated, newcomers should start at the beginning with Naked Dragon and Bedeviled Angel. The new readers will agree with fans that, even though the tone is similar to the Beauty and the taming of the Beast theme of its predecessors, that Darkwyn’s efforts to save his soul though love is a terrific tale.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

When Sparrows Fall-Meg Moseley

When Sparrows Fall
Meg Moseley
Multnomah, May 3 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9781601423559

Pregnant with her sixth child, Miranda Hanford had no time to mourn the death of her husband. When the Pastor Mason Chandler announces he is relocating the flock from Slades Creek, Ohio to McCabe, North Carolina, Miranda decides this is the time to end ties with the church though she will miss some of the women. She wants her children to feel free and loved instead of trapped and scorned as the pastor controls everyone’s life.

However, Chandler rejects Miranda’s notion of staying behind even when she says her late husband told her to hold on to the land. Instead he threatens to expose her secrets for the world, especially her kids, to know. The oldest child Timothy calls his Uncle Jack, a university professor, informing him that his mom took a nasty fall and he is their guardian while Miranda recovers. Though estranged from Miranda, wasting no time Jack arrives. He finds his nieces and nephews charming in spite of their ultra fundamentalist lifestyle. Jack brings with him a sense of freedom that life is to be enjoyed. Meanwhile Mason turns up the heat on Miranda while Jack tries to learn what the Pastor has on his sister-in-law.

When Sparrows Fall is an exciting small town drama that uses hyperbole to purposely showcase how much a pastor can control their flock. Character driven by a strong cast, readers will relish the psychological battle between Jack and Mason over the souls of the children and their mother. Although a romantic subplot feels more like a sub-genre requirement, the relationship shows how far Jack has come from mocking his sister-in-law. Fans will enjoy this deep family drama.

Harriet Klausner