Friday, August 31, 2007

The Race-Richard North Patterson

The Race
Richard North Patterson
Holt, Oct 2007, $26.00
ISBN: 9780805079487

During the Gulf War, Air Force pilot Corey Grace survived his jet’s crash and months of incarceration and torture from the enemy who ignored the Geneva Convention. He became a media darling as a real American hero. Over the thirteen years that have passed since his ordeal, Corey has become the Republican US Senator from Ohio and considered one of the 50 “sexiest men alive”.

Corey is running for his party’s presidential nomination. He has a reasonable chance of winning, but his handlers fear his telling the truth is harmful to his chances as much as his willingness to cross the aisle to work with the Democrats. His chief rivals are Senator Rob Marotta who is willing to pay the price of doing whatever his handler “The Darth Vader of American politics” demands including stretching, omitting, or misleading the facts; and Christian fundamentalist Reverend Bob Christy who considers Corey a heretic is also working against him.

With all the ethical and hypocritical issues coming out of DC and with rigging the executive branch to further a party over the country, Richard North Patterson’s latest thriller feels genuine. Turning Gore Vidal’s The Best Man upside down, Mr. Patterson makes the case that an honest person, even the greatest American hero, cannot easily win a party nomination for president because the other side plays loose with the facts and the media does not confront their swift assault in a timely manner. Readers will appreciate this exposure on honesty is the last choice in American politics.

Harriet Klausner

The Awakened Mage-Karen Miller

The Awakened Mage
Karen Miller
Orbit, Oct 2007, $6.99

In the capital city of Dorana in the Kingdom of Lur, malevolent mage Morg has kill the Doranen royals except for pathetic Prince Gar, who is no threat as he has no magic skills. Morg has also taken possession of the body of the prime successor to the weather controlling throne Conroyd Jarralt.

Gar believes he is the last hope to prevent the catastrophe that Morg’s assent will bring, but he lacks magic. He turns to his best friend and assistant Asher the Olken, who are not supposed to be able to wield magic. Gar pleads with Asher to perform weather magic as the ancient prophesy predicted that an Olken mage will save the kingdom Doranen with weather magic.

The conclusion to the delightful THE INNOCENT MAGE is a fabulous fantasy thriller because the title hero Asher has a chance to win against a superior foe only if he can control the anger caused by being a victim of stereotyping racism. Olkens are considered inferior because they allegedly cannot perform weather magic so he has to hide his skills if he wants to survive yet now he must use his skills if his country wants to survive. He may be destiny’s darling, but will he attempt to save a kingdom that treats him at best as a second class citizen? Karen Miller provides a fabulous finish to her saga.

Harriet Klausner

You're Coffin or Mine?-Kimberly Raye

You're Coffin or Mine?
Kimberly Raye
Ballantine, Oct 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345492180

In Manhattan professional matchmaker BV (beautiful vampiress) Countess Lilliana Arabella Guinevere du Marchette (call her Lil) is hired by a reality TV show to find a match for a famous bachelor. However, that project seems relatively tame when compared to a telepathic message she received from bounty-hunting vampire Ty for help; He vanished several months ago without a trace after a glorious one night with Lil.

As Lil tries to locate Ty in order to rescue him for a second night and who knows what else, she meets homicide detective Ash, who is not human or vampire. They work together seeking to find Ty. At the same time the human fiancé of her brother pleads with Lilliana (not quite one of her best buds yet so Lil is inappropriate) to find the right wedding dress and her mother tries to matchmake her DEAD AND DATELESS daughter with any mortal, vampire, or other ilk as long as they are male.

The latest adventures of that DED (DEAD END DATING) BV Countess Lil is, for the most part, a lighthearted romantic romp although the Ty subplot is a bit darker and much more serious in tone. Fans of the serious will appreciate Lil’s fun Manhattan frolic as few authors combine chick lit shtick with vampire bites better than Kimberly Raye does.

Harriet Klausner

Night Mischief-Nina Bruhns

Night Mischief
Nina Bruhns
Silhouette Nocturne, Oct 2007, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617722

Lady Dawn Maybank’s ancestors founded the Order of the Cadre, an organization dedicated to preventing humans from coming to harm from evil supernatural entities that most rational people deny exist. Unlike its competition P-Cell, a section of M15, they either send a demon home or capture it in a crystal for eternity. One fog filled day Dawn runs into the demon Galen McManus who is a vengeance demon that she inadvertently found masquerading as an incubus.

He offers her something that her father has been fruitlessly searching for, the Demon Star. It was stolen by the destruction demon Rofocale and Angus won it in a card game so he claims. He will give it to Dawn in return for five nights in her bed. Her desire for paternal approval is so great she accepts his offer. Their boudoir time is hot and steamy. Dawn comes to love her strange bedfellow although she knows demons only feel anger and lust. Angus’ surprised when he realizes that he cares for her as well. He is uncomfortable with these undesirable feelings preferring them to go away and is also afraid that P-Cell P-Cell is after him. He also knows one mistake with her family, and love is considered the biggest blunder to them, will have him crystallized for eternity although she is no demon-kind.

Nina Bruhns has written a diabolical paranormal romance focusing on a fascinating look at the demon mythos. They are the dark side of the universe bringing a necessary balance to the world. It is easy for readers to ignore that Angus is a demon because he oozes sex appeal that will lead readers to fall under his spell. He teaches Dawn much about herself and by mentoring her he learns about himself and his bias towards mortals. Their star-crossed romance is the stuff legends are made of.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Lies-Vivi Anna

Dark Lies
Vivi Anna
Silhouette Nocturne, Oct 2007, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617739

Other worldly species like vampires, lycans, and witches have a safe haven in the city Necropolis, a place where few humans reside. The Otherworld Crime Unit solves criminal cases across species lines, but those in the human world that know of other existence call them to a human city to investigate a case similar to the one that they thought they solved in Necropolis with the suspect dead. Jace Jericho, a one year resident returns to the human realm where he was caged and exhibited as a sideshow freak against his will.

When they arrive at the crime scene, Jace meets Tala Channing and sparks ignite immediately, which is shocking as the lycan hates humans. The crime scene contains the same mosaic signature as that solved in Necropolis, which puzzles the team as that indicates they did not catch the real killer as previously assumed. As the culprit works behind the scenes to get the OCU out of town, Jace and Tala are involved in their mating dance, which frightens her because she will have to tell him just who and what she is.

Vivi Anna provides quirky heroes in blue in this welcome paranormal police procedural. The investigation and romance are balanced so neither overshadows the other. The treat to this fine suspense thriller is the various species working together to assist mortals who would be frightened if they know what they are. DARK LIES is part of the Valorian Chronicles with the Puppetmaster remaining hidden pulling every person’s strings.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Walla Walla Suite (A Room with No View)-Anne Argula

Walla Walla Suite (A Room with No View)
Anne Argula
Ballantine, Sep 2007, $12.95
ISBN: 9780345498427

After her husband Connor dumped her for his younger office assistant, Quinn left Spokane to start over in Seattle. The retired police officer becomes a private investigator though her caseload is slim to none except for what mitigation investigator Vincent Ainge sends her way. In the building where they both work is a poster for a missing eighteen year old woman Eileen Jones who also worked there. Unable to resist and besides needing to cool down from her latest hot flashes, Quinn visits the place where Eileen was working when she vanished, Promotion in Motion. She sees four desks three occupied by young beautiful women. She asks a few questions when the owner Arnie Stimick steps inside and asks who she is. She explains and they chat; he hires her to find Eileen.
Quinn visits Eileen’s roommate Darla, but the missing girl’s boyfriend Guy is there too. Both say Eileen is a great person with no enemies. Quinn next visits Eileen’s divorced mom Abby, whose ex-husband lives in Hawaii. Abby looks like she has not slept in ages, but offers nothing new as she insists her daughter had no enemies. Quinn learns they have found Eileen’s corpse. She visits an upset Arnie who retains her to find the killer. Not long afterward police sergeant Beckham announces they caught the killer, Randy Merck who was driving Eileen’s car. Arnie says Merck must be properly punished so he forms the Friends of Eileen, whose presence will be seen everyday by the jurors while Public Defender Wendy Maron hires Vincent to serve as the mitigation investigator if they lose and Quinn to investigate as needed.

This is a well-written legal thriller with a fascinating refreshing angle that of the mitigation investigator. His investigation is top rate due to the mighty Quinn struggling to make it as a private investigator. However, it is Vincent Ainge the mitigation expert who steals the show. Anne Argula provides a fresh spin to the sub-genre.

Harriet Klausner

The Faraday Girls-Monica McInerney

The Faraday Girls
Monica McInerney
Ballantine, Sep 2007, $13.95
ISBN: 9780345490230

In 1979 in Tasmania, Australia, the Faraday Girls (Juliet, Miranda, Eliza, Sadie, and Clementine) live with their widower father Leo. However, the dynamics changes when sixteen years old Clementine informs her dad and her siblings she is pregnant. The Faraday family agrees to help Clementine raise the child until he or she enters elementary school; at that time the sisters can restart their dreams of independence though Leo sees his grandchild as the tie to keep his daughters safely home with him.

When baby Maggie turns five, Sadie makes a terrible error in judgment that shatters the bond between her and her sisters; she leaves. Maggie cannot understand why one of her doting aunts left. The other three aunts begin their personal flights as Juliet opens a café; Miranda becomes a flight attendant; and Eliza is a life coach. Two decades later Maggie lives in New York yearning to bring her scientist mom and aunts back together; Leo arrives with a proposition to reconcile everyone with a family trip to Ireland. There Maggie learns the secrets that devastated the family when she was five years old, but to reveal it or not to reveal it is the question as either way harm to loving relatives occurs.

This is a warm family drama that focuses on broken promises that leads to destroying loving relationships that turn to acrimonious dysfunction. The five FARADAY GIRLS, their niece and their dad contain unique personalities and FAMILY BAGGAGE so that their issues seem real. Although the splintered family saga seems overly wrenching once Maggie knows the whole truth, Monica McInerney provides a deep look at how easily seemingly invincible relationships can shatter.

Harriet Klausner

Highlander Unmasked-Monica McCarty

Highlander Unmasked
Monica McCarty
Ballantine, Sep 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345494375

In 1605 Highlander Lady Meg Mackinnon understands her responsibility to properly marry the right man for her clan. On the way to the court of King James to find a husband, she and her party are attacked. Alex McLeod rescues Meg.

Alex works undercover in an effort to prevent King James from devastating the clans by removing them from their homeland isles. He wants Meg and she desires him, but his mission comes first before his attraction. However, in spite of his efforts to just say no to her, they end up making love even as both are endangered from their enemies who want both dead as a key first step in destroying the power base of the Highlands.

Although somewhat similar in tone to the typical early seventeenth century Scottish romantic intrigue, HIGHLANDER UNMASKED is refreshed by the dilemma confronting the hero; which head rules. He want to help Meg and simply wants her, but to do so jeopardizes his undercover mission that he has methodically at great sacrifice worked at setting up. Historical romance fans will enjoy this fine tale and look for Monica McCarty’s previous take HIGHLANDER UNTAMED, not read by this reviewer.

Harriet Klausner

Strip Search-William Bernhardt

Strip Search
William Bernhardt
Ballantine, Aug 28 2007, $25.95
ISBN: 9780345470195

In Las Vegas, a serial killer leaves behind torn off body parts and mathematical formulas written with the victim’s blood. LVPD is stymied so police chief Robert O'Bannon knows who he needs to assist lead homicide detective Barry Granger over the objection of the lieutenant an his own concern that she is the lesser of two evils. He rehires former police profiler behaviorist Susan Pulaski, who he once fired, to uncover the identity of this maniac.

Robert warns Susan not to alienate Barry, but she knows that is impossible as he hates her. He also tells her to keep his autistic son Darcy out of the investigation as he has not forgiven her for using him in the past (see DARK EYE). Susan believes Darcy who is a numerical patterns savant can interpret the bloody messages left behind at each grisly crime scene. With Darcy on Susan’s side and Granger not, the psychopath continues his numerical rampage.

This exhilarating but dark and vividly violent (don’t eat just before reading this novel) police procedural sequel hooks the audience with the first coded formula and never slows down even with extended cul de sac sidebars vaguely related to the prime serial killer plot. The story line flows with blood as the killer keeps rolling sevens while Granger and Pulaski shoot snake-eyes at each other. The climax will prove to be one of the year’s best as advanced mathematical concepts have rarely been more fun to follow.

Harriet Klausner

Last Breath-Mariah Stewart

Last Breath
Mariah Stewart
Ballantine, Aug 2007, $19.95
ISBN: 9780345492241

Internationally renowned archeologist Dr. Daria McGowan is euphoric that Howe University has provided with the first public exhibit of the incredible find of her great grandfather. In 1908 in Asia Minor, Alistair McGowan located the lost ancient city of Shandihar. The artifacts he brought home a century ago will finally be on display in Pennsylvania.

As Daria prepares the exhibit, she notices some of the more valuable items listed in the meticulously accurate catalogue are missing. She turns to FBI Agent Connor Shields, whom she previously met for assistance. Connor has not forgotten her and sees this as an opportunity to see where their attraction leads them. They follow leads to the new owners of the artifacts, but in each case that person was brutally slain in a ritual killing with the artifact gone. Connor assumes that a Middle East based cult sworn to die to protect and in this case recover the treasures of the lost city are the killers, which means Daria is on the hit list.

The latest Shields FBI romantic suspense thriller (see LAST WORD and LAST LOOK) is a thrilling whodunit that grips the audience from the onset when the person in the shadows vows to correct his failure (in 1908) and never slows down until the finish. The story is a fast-paced cat and mouse struggle between the lead pair and a diabolical dedicated killer with a lucid objective to cleanse the mistake of the last century. Mariah Stewart is at her best with the final Shields saga.

Harriet Klausner

Force of Nature-Suzanne Brockmann

Force of Nature
Suzanne Brockmann
Ballantine, Aug 2007, $21.95
ISBN: 9780345480163

One year ago Ric Alvarado left government law enforcement after a harrowing incident to become a private sleuth. His “Hutch” Annie Dugan becomes his assistant. In Sarasota, Florida, Lillian Lavelle hires Ric to find the missing roommate of her late daughter, dancer Brenda Quinn. Ric and Annie succeed, but the missing person case turns into a suicide run when Brenda tries to kill the son of crime lord Gordon Burns. Ric and Annie prevent the murders from occurring.

FBI agent in charge Jules Cassidy has an undercover agent hidden inside the Burns' mansion, but the Fed has not reported lately. Jules has reliable information that Burns plans to smuggle a terrorist into the country. He turns to Ric and Annie, who Burns owes, to uncover the truth from the dangerous inside.

FORCE OF NATURE is a fabulous romantic suspense tale that provides the audience with the continuing saga of openly gay Fed Jules and his love interest actor Robin Chadwick (see INTO THE STORM) and as well as the romance between “Starsky and Hutch”. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action and passion although at times Suzanne Brockmann’s heartfelt plea for gay rights can slow down the intense story line. Still Ms. Brockmann continues her Troubleshooter saga with a call for tolerance over ignorance.

Harriet Klausner

The Huntress-Susan Carroll

The Huntress
Susan Carroll
Ballantine, Aug 2007, $13.95
ISBN: 9780345490612

By 1585 the Dark Queen Catherine de Medici knows her power is abating while Queen Elizabeth’s is growing. Thus the Silver Rose Convent has flourished and the practitioners of the dark magic fears the prophecy of the earth daughter has begun especially when the comet soars across the sky. The Dark Queen knows she must act now or lose her power for eternity.

Faire Isle huntress, Catriona O'Hanlon is sent to England to find the notorious Book of Shadows and Meg, the Lady of Faire Isle. However to bring Meg home, Catriona must battle with the young girl’s protective powerful mage Martin Le Lupe. Still Catriona is a huntress with skills beyond the norm. She finds Meg and much more as she learns of Catherine’s plot to assassinate the Virgin Queen and falls in love with her natural enemy, Martin.

The fourth Dark Queen sixteenth century romantic fantasy (see SILVER ROSE, THE COURTESAN, and THE DARK QUEEN) is a superb historical that will have the audience enthralled throughout. As with the previous tales, women are on the world stage (at least in a mystical Western Europe) as they battle for control. Fans will appreciate this terrific entry in a great saga as the heroine struggles between protecting her Lady, her queen, and her heart.
Harriet Klausner

The Secret Lives of the Kudzu Debutantes-Cathy Holton

The Secret Lives of the Kudzu Debutantes
Cathy Holton
Ballantine, Aug 2007, $23.95
ISBN: 9781400063680

One year ago in Ithaca, Georgia the Kudzu Debutantes (Eadie Boone, Nita Broadwell and Lavonne Zibolsky) decided they had enough with cheating spouses so these steel magnolia catfighters (even if one is a carpetbagger) went dirty and revenged the affront. The repercussions of this not so civil war continue to haunt residents of the small town. Lavonne dumped her spouse Leonard and eighty pounds of bagels and ice cream while starting a business; Eadie is still married to Trevor, but feels he still ignores her; Nita divorced Charles. The trio’s public actions devastated the reputation of the Broadwell & Boone family law firm where their philandering husbands worked.

Charles’ outraged sexagenarian mother Virginia is further angered to learn Nita is marrying “boy toy” carpenter Jimmy Lee Motes. She decides to punish the Kudzu Debutantes for annihilating the family law firm by bankrupting Nita via forcing an expensive custody battle that her husband can afford while her opponent cannot over her granddaughter, Whitney. The second uncivil war has begun at a time that Lavonne finds some romance and Eadie struggles to wake up her now novelist husband, but each knows Nita’s needs them now.

As with the first Kudzu Debutantes, the second tale is a delightful satire of southern customs using exaggeration to tell a tale of revenge, counter-revenge, and ultimate trumping revenge. The two sides contain terrific strategic planners whose war shakes up the small Georgia town still reeling from last year’s combat. Fans will appreciate the antics of Kudzu threesome as they battle the ultimate dominant steel magnolia in a no holds bar catfight.

Harriet Klausner

Family Acts-Louise Shaffer

Family Acts
Louise Shaffer
Ballantine, Aug 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9781400060634

In New York City soap opera script writer Katharine Harder hates her job especially since she knows she has it only because her late mom Rosalind was the superstar of the show; in fact she was a soap opera legend. In spite of being a mom to eleven year old Susie, Hollywood business manager Miranda Jennings still feels the pain of loneliness growing up as the offspring of an actor; in fact she has vowed to insure Susie has a happy childhood. Although they have heard of their famous parents, neither Kate nor Randa know one another

However these bicoastal strangers inherit the Venable Opera House in Massonville, Georgia. They each skeptically want to know the catch, how they can dump the dump, how are they related beyond the Bard who gave them their first names, and do they give up the big city for sleepy hollow. Each travels to Georgia as they learn that the Venable family has "always named their children after characters in Shakespeare's plays" and strong women for over a century have somehow always saved the place. Randa and Kate must decide between a sale that means tearing down the opera house and saving it with no performances planned.

FAMILY ACTS is a terrific character study of two adult females who must decide between the pragmatic destruction of a heritage vs. the romantic notion of making it work. Kate and Randa are fabulous protagonists as they share in common skepticism that they can save the opera house yet as they learn of the Venable females (all named after a Shakespearean character) caught at the same crossroads, they wonder can they do this too. Although the ending is too fast and too neatly perfect coda, fans of contemporary character driven tales with strong symbolism will appreciate Louise Shaffer’s fine tale.

Harriet Klausner

Seduction is Forever-Jenna Peterson

Seduction is Forever
Jenna Peterson
Avon, Oct 2007, $5.99
ISBN: 9780061138096

In 1808, knowing they needed special agents in the war with Napoleon; Charles Isley of the Home Office recruited and trained three special females (Meredith Sinclair, Anastasia Whittig and Emily Redgrave) to be undercover operatives. By 1814 Emily recovers from a severe wound she received on her last mission, but is anxious to go back into the field.

Her superior Lady M gives her a phony mission to protect Lord Grant Ashbury from an unknown adversary; he is given the fake assignment to protect Emily from an unknown adversary. The shrewd plan is simply to keep the pair out of danger by having them watch over one another. As they fall in love and learn the truth about their respective projects, they also learn of a diabolical plot to kill the Regent.

The third Charlie's Angels Regency romantic suspense is a wonderful action-packed thriller that starts off amusingly with the premise that both lead characters are assigned to protect one other. However, their initial project turns into a SEDUCTION IS FOREVER loving relationship as well as a race to save the Regent. Sub-genre fans will appreciate the trilogy; as, like its predecessors (see FROM LONDON WITH LOVE and DESIRE NEVER DIES), the final tale of “Charlie’s Angels in Regency England” is a charming lighthearted romp.

Harriet Klausner

Witch in the House-Jenna McKnight

Witch in the House
Jenna McKnight
Avon, Oct 2007, $5.99
ISBN: 9780060843694

Six years ago her husband vanished without a trace. Witch Jade Delarue finally decides she needs to move on with her life so she casts two spells that inadvertently merge into one enchantment.

Soon afterward a Pierce Brosnan doppelganger appears at her Mystic Manor door. Working for the insurance company, private detective Mason Kincaid investigates the disappearance of Jade’s husband. Jade believes Mason is a photographer about to take action pictures of eagles for a nature book. As they fall in love, she assumes her botched incantation brought him to her; she fears telling him what she believes is the truth. He also is afraid their relationship will vanish as his former fiancée cheated on him and once he reveals why he initially visited her.

This is an entertaining paranormal romantic mystery starring two protagonists who have a previous connection between them that neither realizes when they meet. The story line is an amusing lighthearted romp as the lead pair keeps secrets from one another including his wiring her house and her casting spells. Fans will enjoy this fun frolic starring a bewitching heroine and the sleuth who charms her without the use of a love spell.

Harriet Klausner

The Scottish Companion-Karen Ranney

The Scottish Companion
Karen Ranney
Avon, Oct 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061252372

In 1850 in Rosemoor, Scotland, Grant Roberson is stunned by the recent unexplained deaths of his brothers that have led to him becoming the Earl of Straithern, as he was not even the spare, which he relished as he had time for his scientific experiments. Still grieving and shook up, Grant decides he needs to marry a levelheaded sedate female so that he can begat the heir and spare without a fuss. He chooses the doctor's daughter, Arabella Fenton.

However, Grant finds himself thinking more of Arabella’s friend Gillian Cameron although she will not suit as she is passionate about life. She also shows she is brilliant as she shares his knowledge of electricity experiments. As they fall in love, Gilliam fears the feeling as she has been burned before by it while Grant still insists he needs a meek malleable mate even as the pair begin investigating together who killed his siblings and why.

THE SCOTTISH COMPANION is a charming Victorian Scottish amateur sleuth romance starring two likable protagonists who combine a love of science with a curious need to learn the truth re his siblings and eventually love; an emotion neither wanted. Fans will appreciate their escapades as they face danger from an unknown adversary while investigating the murders of his brothers as no motive seems to surface. Karen Ranney provides an enjoyable historical romantic whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Sin and Scandal in England-Melody Thomas

Sin and Scandal in England
Melody Thomas
Avon, Oct 2007, $5.99
ISBN: 9780061129605

Bethany Munro is elated that the one man she loves Sir Ian Rockwell is at Whitley Court. On the other hand, Ian wants nothing to do with the woman who touches his heart as he has no time for a female in his life. However, he needs to know why she is talking to Lord Whitley, considered the dangerous chief of an anarchist group that includes an Italian arms manufacturer; Ian’s mission is to go undercover to learn what these terrorists plot next.

Bethany is also on a quest. She seeks to learn what happened to her vanished former science teacher, Mrs., Langley, who was last seen at Whitley Court. As he falls in love while trying to keep Bethany safe and complete his assignment, her amateur sleuthing leaves both in danger from predators who will kill anyone in their way.

SIN AND SCANDAL IN ENGLAND is an interesting romantic intrigue in which everyone seems to have a hidden agenda even the somewhat innocent heroine and no one trusts anyone if they are smart. The story line is fast-paced as Ian wants Bethany to leave so she will be safe, but she refuses as her undertaking comes first. Thus Ian who was falling in love with her when she was a naive seventeen year old risks his mission to keep his beloved from harm. Although the suspense turns over the top of Big Ben, fans will enjoy this gender battle inside of a pair of competing undercover inquiries, one by an amateur sleuth while the other by a professional.

Harriet Klausner

A Touch of Minx-Suzanne Enoch

A Touch of Minx
Suzanne Enoch
Avon, Oct 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780060875237

One year ago, American cat burglar Samantha Jellicoe and British billionaire Rick Addison met and fell in love. He wants to make their relationship permanent, but she has doubts as she never allows him to speak the unmentionable. Rick needs to find a way to persuade Sam they belong together.

The reformed ex-thief Sam works on two cases. She works on recovering an ancient Japanese armor and its related swords stolen from the MOMA over ten years ago, and finding and return the missing "anatomy man" to the school it was taken from for her client, Rick’s sort of ten year old niece Olivia Donner. Neither seemed complex when she took them on; so why is both a struggle worse than sky diving into a museum to purloin an artifact as one especially could end her career with her death.

The latest FLIRTING WITH DANGER Sam and Rick caper continues the lighthearted madcap escapades of the pair as they argue over how many cat lives she has left. The story line is fast-paced as Sam works her two cases with the zeal she had as a thief. Fans of the series will appreciate the ongoing skirmishes as Addison struggles to persuade his beloved that this BILLIONAIRE PREFER BLONDES retired cat burglars while also pleading with her to change careers to one in which the motto has nothing to do with DON’T LOOK DOWN.

Harriet Klausner

Secrets of a Proper Lady-Victoria Alexander

Secrets of a Proper Lady
Victoria Alexander
Avon, Oct 2007, $7.99
ISBN: 9780060882648

In 1854 London, visiting American businessman Daniel Sinclair is determined to win the wager of one pound each and a bottle of cognac he made with three English aristocrats as to who would be the last one standing single. Two are down and though he fears their tontine is cursed, Daniel does not plan on being next although he is betrothed to Lady Cordelia Bannister, as the competition is between him and Oliver Leighton.

Cordelia and Daniel have never met so she decides to learn more about the American she is to marry; if she finds him unsatisfactory she will call off the nuptials. She goes undercover pretending to be her companion, Sarah. However, Daniel needs time to put off his wedding if he is to win the wager; when his fiancée’s companion visits him he pretends to be a friend of Daniel. As they fall in love, both fears the truth will destroy their chance at lifetime of love.

Readers will appreciate the madcap third Victorian romance that is a wild gender battle based on deception, misdirection, and love. The amusing story line is fun to follow as Daniel insists he’s not in love and Cordelia fears her masquerade will cost her the love of a lifetime. As with WHAT A LADY WANTS and LITTLE BIT WICKED, sub-genre fans will toast Victoria Alexander for an entertaining historical.

Harriet Klausner

Good Little Wives-Abby Drake

Good Little Wives
Abby Drake
Avon, Sep 2007, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061232213

In New Falls, New York the upper class trophy wives try to push back the erosion of time via plastic surgery as each understands their wealthy husband could decide he needs a younger model on his mantle. Thus Kitty DeLano, Lauren Halliday, Bridget Haynes, Dana Fulton, and Caroline Meacham pretend that their only fear is to wear the wrong item to their next get together.

However, Kitty is the first to face the nightmarish reality of middle age when her husband dumps her for someone a couple decades younger; to add insult the new trophy Mrs. DeLano was a hairdresser. However, soon after she became the ex Mrs. DeLano, the police arrest Kitty for murdering her former husband as she is found by his corpse holding the murder weapon. As the police interrogate the other members of the foursome, each fears that their darkest secrets will become part of the public domain; so believing kitty’s claims of innocence, the GOOD LITTLE WIVES club led by dynamic Dana conduct their own inquiry into who killed the ex-spouse.

With a nod to the First Wives’ Club, the key to this witty relationship drama is the four trophy wives turn amateur sleuths who wear masks in public but have trepidations in private. Each comes across unique with personal fears but share in common that they could easily be replaced by a younger version of themselves. Thus they begin investigating as a means of self preservation though Dana forces the others to reluctantly participate. Though a late second killing seems unneeded, readers will appreciate the antics to remain the wives of affluent spouses by hiding their flaws while also trying to prove that even a former member of their exclusive group would never resort to murder as that is too messy.

Harriet Klausner

The Witch Is Dead-Shirley Damsgaard

The Witch Is Dead
Shirley Damsgaard
Avon, Sept 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061147234

Tink, a fourteen year old medium, starts to have visions of the dead walking towards her in a wooded area. Psychic and practicing witch Ophelia Jensen, who hopes to adopt her, tries to help Tink understand her powers. Ophelia’s worries ratchet into high gear when they go to meet Great Aunt Dot at the airport only to see Mr. Buchanan assisting the nonagenarian witch who sees fairies. Tink gets an “icky” feeling and soon after Mr. Buchanan is murdered in his funeral home office.

Tink feels guilty because she failed to warn Mr. Buchanan. Hoping to get the teen’s mind off of her woes, Ophelia takes Tink camping, which ends up disastrously. Her puppy finds a skull and when Tink sees it she screams that she is being punished for not alerting Mr. Buchanan. Campers hear her lament and the townsfolk believe she knows something about the homicide. When Tink is kidnapped, Ophelia assumes the killer has her; Aunt Dot says Tink is alive because the fairies protect her. Ophelia investigates with the help of a sexy DEA agent; as they follow the clues, they solve a couple of crimes not involving Tink.

The characters in THE WITCH IS DEAD are endearing because they are fascinatingly eccentric. Aunt Dot steals the show with her obsessive compulsive need to solve a murder, which the nintyish witch sees as a grand adventure while her Dr. Watsons are mythological creatures invisible to everyone else. The plot moves forward at a rapid pace yet is colorfully descriptive so the reader can vividly picture the goings on. This amateur sleuth fantasy is one of the sub-genre’s best sagas.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Death and the Devil-Frank Schatzing

Death and the Devil
Frank Schatzing
Morrow, Aug 2007, $25.95
ISBN: 9780061349485

In 1260 in Cologne, German architect Gerhard Morart continues to lead the construction of the greatest cathedral the world has ever known. A dozen years since he and others began the pious project, Morart and his select crew build the rising spires of this extraordinary ecclesiastical edifice at the same time an acrimonious war between the church and the merchant middle class has divided the city. The archbishop of Cologne and the ruling merchants see the profit to be made from this incredible complex cathedral as each wants to own and control it.

Suddenly with the end somewhat in sight, homicide takes control of the hostilities. Someone pushes Morart off of the partially completed roof to his death in the street below. No witness steps forward. However, the sly thief Jacob the Fox not only saw who shoved the architect off the scaffolding, but heard Morart’s final words. However the killer saw Jacob and he and his fellow conspirators know who this witness is from his red hair. They swarm the city planning to kill him and anyone he is seen talking to as no one must know the truth re who assassinated the architect.

DEATH AND THE DEVIL is a terrific historical fiction tale based on the real death of the Cologne Cathedral master architect Morart in 1260. Readers know early on who killed him (and subsequently others) and the identities of his fellow conspirators, but not why Morart had to die. Besides a deep look at thirteenth century Cologne, readers obtain a sense of the power struggle between a rising pragmatic merchant society (the medieval middle class) and the Church. Genre readers will fully appreciate the talent of Frank Schatzing, as this is a winner even in translation from the original German.

Harriet Klausner

Star Wars: Death Star-Michael Reaves and Steve Perry

Star Wars: Death Star
Michael Reaves and Steve Perry
Del Rey, Oct 2007, $25.95
ISBN: 9780345477422

Grand Moff Tarkin for three decades lobbied for the Death Star, a war vessel the size of a large moon, to be built. His dream comes to fruition as his killing ship with its special pandemic death weaponry is constructed in outer space in the Horuz Sector by residents of the nearby prison planet Despyre.

Lieutenant Commander Vil Dance is euphoric to be a fighter pilot on the Death Star. After her cantina burned down in Imperial City Memah Roothes and her bounceRodo open another one on the Death Star . Dr. Gli Divini has not been allowed to leave the service and when he is transferred to the Death Star, it is just another undesirable assignment to him. Political prisoner Teela Kaarz jumps at the chance to get off of Despyre and use her skills as an architect on Death Star. Master Chief Petty Officer Tenn Graneet wants to be the one to use the largest laser in the known universe. Planet prisoner Ratua Dil, a Zelosiann is a con artist smuggler and who sneaks onto the Death Star and blends in with the crew. It is only after two worlds are annihilated that these crewmembers realize what they work on and want out; with the help of an archivist and a librarian they may be able to escape.

For those living on a far planet in a distant time, the Death Star is the massive starship that Luke and company destroyed in the original Star Wars movie. STAR WARS: DEATH STAR takes a look inside the humongous weapon of planetary destruction-ship at the crew and ordinary people living in something the size of a large moon. Readers will see first hand the normal everyday folks who make the Death Star work and their elation to be part of it turning to horror as worlds are destroyed by its weaponry. Cameo appearances by a who’s who of the 1977 movie adds a sense of time and place to a fascinating character study of everyday people caught up in supporting the atrocities of deliberate genocide of the innocent as a terrorist effort to defeat the opposition.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

One Last Breath-Laura Griffin

One Last Breath
Laura Griffin
Pocket, Sep 25 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9781416537373

Two years ago, former cheerleader and trophy wife Feenie Malone learned her husband Josh Garland was cheating so she divorced him. However, he swore in court he lost everything so she received little in the settlement as she and the judge believed him.

Currently, Feenie works as a reporter for the Mayfield Gazette. During an interview, she notices the boat that her former husband swore he lost in a poker game. She sneaks into the boathouse to take pictures of the vessel and him to use as evidence in court when she goes after this rat. However, she is stunned because with her ex is a known notorious drug operative. Feenie investigates, which leads her to private investigator Marco Juarez, a former cop; they met when he handled the domestic dispute that signaled the end of her marriage. He wants to ignore his instant déjà vu attraction because his priority is to learn what happened to his missing sister, Paloma, whom he assumes is dead. Besides which Feenie is linked to thugs, but he needs her if he is to achieve his goal. Soon someone begins murdering local citizens with Feenie near the top of the list to be eliminated.

ONE LAST BREATH is an enjoyable romantic suspense tale because of the wary interaction between the lead couple. She was burned one time too many by a man while he remains obsessed with his sister’s murder so has doubts he can handle a relationship. As they work together on the investigation, they trust each other with their life but not their heart. Sub-genre fans will look forward to more inquiries starring this dynamic pair.

Harriet Klausner

Kill Time-T.J. MacGregor

Kill Time
T.J. MacGregor
Pinnacle, Oct 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786018321

In Blue River, Massachusetts, college psychology professor Nora McKee knows her marriage of five years to the English Department Chair Jake is over. As she struggles with telling him so, two federal agents Curtis and Sargent from the Department of Freedom and Security grab Jake to take him into custody. Nora is stunned not just because he was snatched, but it reminds her of the pivotal incident of her childhood when twenty-three years ago Feds abducted her mom whom she never heard from again.

Nora calls college librarian Alex Kincaid, her former lover and Jake’s best friend. The Fed already told her to get a lawyer as she is guilty by association of violating Section 14 Code 3. No warrant is needed to snatch people off the street by this shadow top secret agency. With Alex at her side, Nora begins an odyssey through time as they learn of an experiment that crossed the line when all they seek is the truth of the “legal” kidnappings of her mom and her spouse while also remembering Jake’s last words to her: “Run, Nora, run”.

From the beginning when the Feds snatch Jake until the climax, fans will be hooked to keep on reading to learn what Nora and Alex will learn next. The suspense never slows down as the lead couple dodges dangerous agents who legally can eliminate them without a judge or jury. As they uncover the truth about the kidnappings of her loved ones and other snatches as well as the experiment in which Nora is the link tying the abducted together, they struggle to survive. Thus the audience receives a cautionary tale to beware of out of control government agents using security issues to take people off the street as happened a few decades ago in Argentina while readers also receive a warning subplot on scientific experimenting going wrong. However, the bottom line is KILL TIME is an exhilarating suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Beyond Eden-S.L. Linnea

Beyond Eden
S.L. Linnea
St. Martin's, Oct 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780312942151

While serving in Iraq in 2003, Army Chaplain (Major) Jamie Richards learns that the Sword of Life was stolen from the Baghdad Museum and must be reclaimed as that biblical artifact leads to the location of the Garden of Eden (see CHASING EDEN). She remains at Eden for the next two and a half years, but must leave paradise as an “Agent of Eden” on a mission in the “Terris” world beyond.

Four abductions seemingly unconnected over ten weeks around the globe occurred from London to New York State to China and finally Virginia. To the law enforcement types of the respective areas there is no thought of a link. However each of the four and another kidnapping consist of Edenite offspring working in the world at large. Jaime is assigned to rescuing the children and uncovering who is the culprit. Yani, who enlisted her help in recovering the Sword of Life, joins her on her mission that takes them BEYOND EDEN.

This exciting sequel packs plenty of global action in a short time frame yet contains an interesting societal issue on the ethical boundaries of science that are mindful of Ayn Rand and the debate on stem cell research. The story line is fast-paced while the heroine is a likable protagonist who struggles with the questions of her faith when she returns to the mortal realm of pain and suffering while immortality is a Garden away. S.L. Linnea provides a deep thought provoking thriller.

Harriet Klausner

A Calculated Demise: The Hypatia Murders-Robert Miller

A Calculated Demise: The Hypatia Murders
Robert Spiller
Medallion, Sep 2007, $7.95
ISBN: 9781933836157

In El Paso County, Colorado recently widowed fifty three year old Bonnie Pinkwater teaches math at East Plains Junior/Senior High School. Although she grieves her loss, her cat and three dogs help her at home while her job keeps her mind somewhat occupied.

Odious but highly regarded wrestling coach Luther Devereaux orders mentally challenged Matt Boone to meet him at the wrestling loft during Bonnie’s math class. When the teen fails to return, Bonnie sends Matt’s best friend, student council president Greg Hanson to investigate. Greg races back to the classroom informing Bonnie that Matt killed Mr. Devereaux with a knife. Although she has no plans to get involved in the official inquiry led by a former student turned sheriff, a confused Matt pleads with her to help him. Greg offers to assist Bonnie whose early findings implicate Matt in a premeditated homicide. However, as Greg's brother Kyle and father Barty are killed as well as a young woman named Janice, Matt's brother Simon becomes the prime suspect until he too is murdered. Meanwhile Superintendent Xavier “The Divine Pain in the Ass” Divine demands Bonnie either quit her sleuthing or her job at a time when one of her canines is dog-napped to get her to drop her investigation; which means to her dig deeper.

The key to this enjoyable amateur sleuth tale is the heroine’s reluctance to get involved coupled with her mathematical solving approach to problems like who is the killer. The story line is action-packed and filled with several twists as each time Bonnie feels she has solved the equation, new variables surface. Although this reviewer has some doubts about Matt’s ability to do high school math and not understand his arraignment or his inability to recall recent events, readers will appreciate the feisty teacher investigate the Hypatia Rocky Mountain murders.

Harriet Klausner

Book of the Dead-Patricia Cornwell

Book of the Dead
Patricia Cornwell
Putnam, Oct 2007, $26.95, 416 pp.
ISBN: 9780399153938

Dr. Kay Scarpetta and her long time lover Benton Wesley are called to Rome to work with a team investigating the death of sixteen-year-old tennis star Drew Martin. Her body was left in a prominent location so that her mutilated corpse would be found quickly; huge chunks were cut out of her body and her eyes are gouged out and sand was placed in them before they were glued shut. The killer who will come to be known as the Sandman thinks he is doing the victim a favor by putting her out of her misery.

Before they fly home Benton gives Scarpetta a ring and then she returns home to South Carolina where she has opened up her own pathology practice Coastal Forensic Pathology Associates.

The Sandman is also in Charlotte where he is scoping out his next victim a woman who, like Drew, also appeared on Dr. Marilyn Self’s talk show. Dr. Self has volunteered to be a patient in Benton’s study coordinated at McLean University in Massachusetts because the Sandman is e-mailing her pictures of his handiwork. Kay is involved in the case and is also trying to deal with the fact that someone is trying to run her out of town, Marino’s angry moods, Lucy’s snooping into her personal life and a nosy neighbor who likes to make trouble for her.

Patricia Cornwell always writes crime thrillers that are fantastic but BOOK OF THE DEAD, though superb, is a bit of a departure for her. The author concentrates more on the relationship between Kay and those she cares about and their feelings; some revelations are revealed as well as a shocking act that nobody who knows those characters could ever see coming. The cast comes alive in a way they have never done before and readers will feel connected to them in a way they have never done before. Ms. Cornwell admits to being proud of BOOK OF THE DEAD and she should be.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Witchy Business-Julie Leto, Rhonda Nelson, and Mia Zachary

Witchy Business
Julie Leto, Rhonda Nelson, and Mia Zachary
Harlequin, Sep 2007, $5.99
ISBN 9780373837168

"Under His Spell” by Julie Leto. The witches’ guardian Regina St. Lyon's expels her lover Brock Aegis to the Middle Realm for betraying her. He returns when he fears for her life and kills ancient witch hunter Old Movert while Regina has lost her powers because love is a critical essence of a witch.

"Disenchanted” by Rhonda Nelson. His wizard kin are disappointed in Benedict DeWin as his powers have not surfaced, which means his arranged marriage cannot occur as he will not be able to perform the required ritual. He is sent to Magecraft where he meets his fiancée’s sister Bryony Flynn, another person whose magic has failed to surface. That is until now.

"Spirit Dance" by Mia Zachary. Herbalist Siobhan Silverhawk had accepted that the magic her family is known to possess has passed her by until now. When she meets widower J.B. Pendleton she falls in love and feels she can now perform magic. He is skeptical that she has any skills though he could use some as he insists the spirit of his deceased wife is haunting him.

These three enchanting paranormal romances will cast a spell on the sub-genre’s coven.
Harriet Klausner

The White Plague-Frank Herbert

The White Plague
Frank Herbert
Tor, Oct 2007, $14.95
ISBN: 9780765317735

American molecular biologist Dr. John O'Neill, accompanied by his wife Mary and their five years old twins Mairead and Kevin, is in Dublin completing his project “An Overview of Irish Genetic Research” as required by the Pastermorn Foundation grant. However, they are only a few days in country when the terrorist bomb killed Mary and the kids as he watched them die and consequently killed his soul too.

John vowed vengeance on humanity for murdering his loved ones as he blames all mankind for their avarice. In his New England lab, he creates THE WHITE PLAGUE that kills women only; for without females there is no human race. Instead of coming together governments go it alone seeking a cure; scientific teams see future history books as each wants to be the Fleming of this age so none share their information with others. Firebombing the infected zones becomes the elixir of the moment. John returns to Ireland to take a first hand euphoric tour using his biochemist credentials as his visa. Others join his pilgrimage through hell including the terrorist who killed his family.

THE WHITE PLAGUE is an exciting reprint of an early 1980s cautionary tale that seems still relevant with the talks of weapons of mass destruction and the politicizing by the government of scientific research and data. The story line is at its best prior to John coming to Ireland as competition to be the superhero and superpower leads to further failures at a time when international cooperation and teaming are critical. Although the book turns overly philosophical when John and company begin his final victory tour, science fiction thriller readers will appreciate Frank Herbert’s warning in 1982 that government officials will use science for their dogmatic pampering of their supporters; just ask the Surgeon Generals.

Harriet Klausner

Nova Swing-M. John Harrison

Nova Swing
M. John Harrison
Bantam, Sep 2007, $16.00
ISBN 9780553385014

Years have passed since pilot Ed Chianese in 2400 AD crashed into the Kefahuchi Tract (see LIGHT) and a piece of the Tract fell to earth leading to a strange alien like phenomena that also brought early capitalism to the locale. Travel agent Vico “Vic” Serotonin escorts affluent “tourists” on illegal tours of the alien Saudade event site, where the universal laws of physics fail. This outlawed zone contains psychic phenomena that are more often unfriendly and other insanely encounters. Vic also runs an artifact smuggling operation. The law knows of both his illegal activities, but since no one has been hurt they ignore him as a small rascal not worth the cost of incarceration.

Wealthy tourist Elizabeth Kielar hires Vic to take her inside the infamous Saudade. Once there, she vanishes. Obsessed over his dead wife and thinking the Saudade might help him with his need, police detective Lens Aschemann abruptly threatens Vic as reverse tourism seems to suddenly flow out of the event site to spend time at the dives surrounding the location. Meanwhile club owner Paulie DeRaad purchases from Vic a Saudade artifact, but once in his possession, the alien object seems to possess him as it begins to change him. All roads to and from Saudade eventually seem to converge on Vic.

This entertaining strange science fiction Noir is not a direct sequel to LIGHT, but a sort of follow-up related but not very closely (think distant relative). The story line retains the grittiness of the previous tale whether it is the dumpy bars and tourist spots that surround the Saudade event site or just the interplay between the classy client and the roguish tour guide. Fans who appreciate something odd and weird in their futuristic tales will want to read NOVA SWING, as few novels are as enjoyable yet bizarre; perhaps not since M. John Harrison shed LIGHT on quantum physics.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Under Enemy Colors-S. Thomas Russell

Under Enemy Colors
S. Thomas Russell
Putnam, Sep 2007, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399154430

In 1793 the hostilities between France and England leaves some people with divided loyalties. For instance, Royal Navy Lieutenant Charles Saunders Hayden is the offspring of an English father and a French mother although he does his duty with honor in support of England and the crown.

However, being half-French makes his chances for promotions nil and his loyalty questioned; his superior officers distrust him in spite of his proven record. Denied once again a promotion he earned, he is assigned as the first lieutenant to the frigate Themis; commanded by Captain Josiah “Faint” Hart, who got and kept his job due to political connections at the highest level of the Admiralty in spite of being an incompetent and a coward. Hayden is stunned by the Themis being closer to mothball shape rather than in war condition and the crew appears ready to jump ship. As combat with the French is imminent, Hart wants to sail away, but needing a fall guy openly tears into Hayden accusing him of being a French enemy combatant of England.

This late eighteenth century military thriller grips the audience with its insightful look at war at sea. Charles is fantastic protagonist who keeps the exciting story line together as a victim of bias and inferior superior officers who got their position due to connections; even in 1793 political hacks are given technical leadership jobs so that when a crisis occurs they can fail and blame others. Historical readers will cherish this strong naval saga with vivid sea battles, strong characterizations, and a deep sense of time and place with the reminder that those who ignore history repeat the mistakes of the past.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Days of Krypton-Kevin J. Anderson

The Last Days of Krypton
Kevin J. Anderson
Eos, Oct 2007, $25.95
ISBN: 9780061340741

Jor-El is the greatest scientist that Krypton has ever known, but few of his discoveries are approved by Commissioner Dru-Zod of the Commission for Technology Acceptance. The Kryptonian Council is insular and fears new technology could be made into a weapon of mass destruction. Thus society stagnates while space travel is forbidden and other creative theories outlawed using the patriotic rationalization that Krypton is perfect.

When the alien Donodon lands, he and Jor-El become friends from the onset; however an accident happens and the alien dies. The Kryptonian Council blames Jor-El and intends to send him to prison for murder, but Brainiac shrinks the capital city of Kandor taking it with him in a bottle. Zod takes advantage of the power vacuum and the fears of the people to get them to follow his leadership. He uses Jor-El to gain weapons in exchange for scientific research. Jor-El saves the planet from a comet, but his actions make Zod realize the peaceful scientist could be a threat to his plans.

THE LAST DAYS OF KRYPTON is a journey into an advanced but stultified culture in which political agendas stifle science and technology from advancing. The story line focuses on a hero Jor-El who with his wife Lara and brother Zor-El of Argo City put the people’s need before their own. Although the action is somewhat limited by the insight into Krypton society especially Zod’s personal agenda to stifle science from interfering with his plans, fans of Superman will appreciate the interesting look at his biological parents.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Lace Reader-Brunonia Barry

The Lace Reader
Brunonia Barry
FJP, Sep 2007, $14.95
ISBN: 978079159305

Feeling like she is suffering from Battle Fatigue Syndrome, the emotionally shook up Towner Whitney has survived several recent traumas. To regain her equilibrium and mentally heal, she returns to her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts where generations of ancestors have told fortunes.

However, Towner is almost immediately stunned when her beloved great-Aunt Eva, the renowned lace reader, vanishes in what some believes is an unfortunate accident, but Towner suspects foul play. The police ignore her concerns as she has a history of hallucinatory visions although cop John Rafferty leads the inquiry to insure a murder did not occur as is done with all questionable disappearances if workload allows it. Although he thinks Towner is a nut case he also is attracted to her so as she grieves her loss, he begins to uncover facts about the weird Whitney brood past and present as well as starting to think that Eva was murdered.

THE LACE READER is a terrific paranormal police procedural in which fans will appreciate the rotating various perspectives as unreliable sources provide unreliable accounts of the same incident. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the changing viewpoints in which John and the audience wonder who if anyone got it right especially the three generations of Whitneys who agree on almost nothing. Brunonia Barry provides an enjoyable mystery in which relativity is not an exact science and a fact requires extrapolation from the sources who agree on little. This is a winner.

Harriet Klausner

Queen of Candesce-Karl Schroeder

Queen of Candesce
Karl Schroeder
Tor, Aug 2007, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765315441

Venera Fanning is falling into the large artificially contained nothingness of Virga. Finally, after what feels like eternity, she lands on the ancient nation of Spyre, an orb whose cylinder shape is rotting to the point that this planet is doomed.

Venera quickly does what she does best alienate people although she finds a few allies almost as amoral as she is. Trusting no one, she knows she must respond rapidly to determine who can insure her survivability on this strange world even if it means some of her new cohorts are expendable. However, Venera also possesses the Key of Candesce that can change entire worlds, but her prime goal remains to live until she can avenge those who sent her into free fall even as she understands that her first encounter arrival causes a civil war between the status quo and the reformists.

The second Virga science fiction saga (see Sun of Suns) is a terrific thought provoking entry that is loaded with action yet causes the audience to ponder deep philosophical concepts. For instance as the amoral Venera plots vengeance and causes a civil war, readers will consider what is human in light of rebellious artificial intelligence and how human culture evolves around its environment especially the Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome concept for turning Manhattan into airless space.

Harriet Klausner

Jumper: Griffin’s Story-Steven Gould

Jumper: Griffin’s Story
Steven Gould
Tor, Aug 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765318275

When Griffin was four year old he learned he had the uncanny skill of a Jumper, being able to teleport himself to any place he has been. His parents warned him to keep his ability secret and quickly relocated out of fear. When he turned nine the men arrived at his home in search of him; they killed his parents, but he leaped to safety before the hit men could murder him.

Over the years, Griffin vows to survive long enough to kill those who murdered his parents. Nothing will stop him although he knows he must learn who the planners and financiers behind the operation are. Every one of them must die if he is to avenge his parents’ murders and if he is to survive as his adversaries want him dead.

This is a book based on an upcoming movie based on a book originally written by the same author Steven Gould. Griffin’s story is fun to follow although it has a film feel to it as it jumps from one action scene to another. Still Mr. Gould showcases his talent as readers will empathize with Griffin, whose jumps seem genuine and his obsession for revenge real.

Harriet Klausner

V: The Second Generation-Kenneth Johnson

V: The Second Generation
Kenneth Johnson
Tor, Oct 2007, $24.95, 448 pp.
ISBN: 9780765319067

They came to us as saviors, humanoid beings of such intelligence that their technology is given away freely and our water which is so polluted is taken up to their ships to be cleansed. They assured us that they only arrested people who didn’t want to change the status quo. They land nd it is found out, underneath their human faces are the skin of lizards, a carnivorous, aggressive race intent on conquering most of earth’s population., Since the purge of 1998, the remaining humans believe that they are benevolent.

Twenty years later, the visitors are in total control of the planet and the Commandant Diana is still second to the Leader in power. A new second generation rebel force has been formed with cells all over the planet. They need to win back earth but the humans for the most part don’t know there is a problem. This time, humanity has an ally; the Zedtis arrive, three of them with an invasion force waiting for the word to come in full force. They fought the Visitors and won but their insect evolved humanoid race believes they are using earth’s water to power their armies and are going to use earth’s people to fight using a weapon he Visitors developed to neutralize the Zeltis. However humans were burned once by aliens pretending to be friends now the rebels have to know for certain if liberation and freedom from the threat of The Visitors is all the Zedtis really want.

Reading this book is like coming home to anyone who has seen the original television series V. The characters stay true to form with Diana as the evil villainess who has the means and the power to back up her leadership. The various members of the resistance individually are shown to be heroes. The only quibble one might have is the new alien allies insert themselves into the resistance too easily.

Harriet Klausner

Clan Daughter-Morgan Howell

Clan Daughter
Morgan Howell
Del Rey, Sep 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345496515

Dar has a strong reason for not loving for the human race; her father sold her into the King’s army and he is not a king who takes female servants when he is needy. After a battle, Dar convinces five orcs to defect Kovak-Mah, who loves her, follows her wherever she goes and where he goes so do the other four orcs..

On the journey to their home in the wasteland part of the Urkhert Mountains , Dar and Kovak-Mah realize they love each other, but he knows their life together is doomed as the Orcs hate humans and only fight for them because their queen, who lives near the human king, orders them to do so. While living with the orcs, Dar partakes in a ceremony in which she is reborn with the spirit of an Orc. Because of this and that she still looks human, she is chosen to talk with the queen, who refuses to allow female orcs to come near her; her objective is to learn why they kill for a human monarch.

The second book of this trilogy (see KING’S PROPERTY) is a fabulous fantasy due mostly to the intricate Orc culture that is vividly described in detail which in turn provides the tale with a seemingly powerful authentic anchor. Dar is a dynamic independent woman who follows her own course when it comes to races and love. Her fiery spirit along with the insightful Orcan lifestyle and some more typical battle scenes make CLAN DAUGHTER an entertaining tale.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Empire of Ivory-Naomi Novak

Empire of Ivory
Naomi Novak
Del Rey, Oct 2007, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345496874

The war against Napoleon has turned bad for the English forces since a deadly disease has ravaged the dragon corps. Desperate to find a cure before they lose the aerial war, the English leadership learns the elixir may exist in Africa. As abolitionists protest the African slave trade and demand rights for dragons, British captain Will Laurence and his dragon Temeraire lead a band of warriors with the dragons across the Mediterranean to Africa.

However, the Dark wild continent is unwelcoming to the English as the natives know of the slave trade. Local dragons and their human cohorts go into combat mode to drive the English off the continent. Will and Temeraire know they will lose some friends in the skirmishes even as they struggle with their cause as they agree with the Africans that the slave trade is an abomination and dragons deserve rights as sentient beings.

The forth Napoleonic fantasy (see THRONE OF JADE, HIS MAJESTY’S DRAGON, and BLACK POWDER WAR) is a fabsulous refreshing entry as Naomi Novik takes her soaring champions to Africa where the English morality is questioned to the point that the heroic duet wonder if they fight for the wrong side. The battle scenes that include dragons at war seem genuine even with the mythos element. Filled with plenty of action, strong characterizations, and a fascinating locale, the key to this superior early nineteenth century epic remains the quest of human (and dragon) rights as the English run the slave trade and are the invaders claiming they bring a superior lifestyle to these uninformed pagans.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Snow Angel-Jamie Carie

Snow Angel
Jamie Carie
B&H Publishing, Sep 2007, $14.99
ISBN: 9780805445336

In 1897 in an isolated section of the Alaskan territory, Noah Wesley stays warm in his heated cabin while a blizzard rages outside. However, he soon hears a noise at his door that he initially thinks is his imagination of being alone and then considers a wild animal. He cautiously takes a look outside encouraged by what he assumes is the voice of God speaking inside his head. He is stunned to find an unconscious half frozen female angel who he fears if she survives the weather might still suffer frostbite.

He takes Elizabeth into his home, but soon believes this brittle woman will try anything as she asks Noah to take her to the gold fields so she can search for gold. Still he feels the fierce climate will send her scurrying to the lower Forty-eight while trying to convince to give up on the gold fever. Elizabeth rejects his contention that she is to delicate to survive the wilderness while hiding her real obsession for wanting to go to the gold fields from him though she is falling in love with this man whom she trusts with her life but not her objective; at the same time someone searches for her as they have for over two decades.

The “divine” matchmaking romance between Noah and Elizabeth and the mystery subplot enhance a terrific look at Alaska during the frantic gold rush days of the late nineteenth century. SNOW ANGEL provides a vivid stark look at the wintry climate in which the weather is lethal for the unprepared. The lead couple is a strong pairing as he knows she is god sent to him and she loves and trusts him with her life and everything else except her reason for needing to go to the gold fields. Jamie Carie’s debut is a wonderfully descriptive historical tale as the audience will wear woolen hats and gloves (in September) while reading this book.

Harriet Klausner

Doesn't She Look Natural?-Angela Hunt

Doesn't She Look Natural?
Angela Hunt
Tyndale, Sep 2007, $13.99
ISBN: 9781414311692

Jennifer Graham once tasted power as the chief of staff to a US senator. However, during a nasty divorce, she was forced to resign her position as she became a liability to her employer. Jennifer obtained custody of their two children but is forced to live with her mom to keep expenses down while she seeks employment.

Soon afterward, Jennifer inherits Fairlawn funeral home in Florida. Her plan is to visit Fairlawn in order to sell it as soon as possible so that she can try to return to behind the scenes of power in Washington DC. However, the best laid plans of mice, men and Jennifer Graham often go astray.

This is an amusing inspirational tale as Jennifer feels like a fish out of water in Florida while the kids feel at home even in the funeral home. The story line is character driven by Jennifer as she tries to balance what her kids need with her desires and aspirations. Although rotating between the first (mostly from Jennifer) and third person can feel disjointed, fans will enjoy the DC big shot used to hiding the bodies now dressing up the bodies (sort of a reverse Karl Rove).

Harriet Klausner

Hollywood Nobody-Lisa Samson

Hollywood Nobody
Lisa Samson
NAVPRESS, Sep 2007, $12.99
ISBN: 9781600060915

Fifteen years old Scotty Fitzgerald’s childhood was spent running around the country with her beloved mom, a highly regarded movie food designer. However, lately Scotty has grown tired of the hustling from one set to another and the vegan only lifestyle of her mother. However, it is the secrets that impact her that disturb Scotty the most as she writes in her blog that her mom Charlie refuses to tell her anything about the dad she never met.

While assisting her mom At Charlie’s latest film project, Scotty and rising teen movie star Seth Haas become friends. He encourages her to pressure her mom into revealing the truth as to what frightens her to be so overly protective of her and information about her father whom she wants to meet.

Although Scotty seems at time much older than she is, she makes this an interesting coming of age tale as she struggles with her mom’s secretiveness clearly out of the Dick Cheney book on governance. Her quest seems even more genuine because she never quite reaches a spiritual and emotional acceptable solution. Lisa Samson provides a warm inspirational tale of a teen needing to know the truth even if it turns out ugly.

Harriet Klausner

Perfidia-Elspeth McKendrick

Elspeth McKendrick
Love Spell, Sep 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505527394

In 1939 Sophie de Havilland left London to leave her past behind her. She traveled to Berlin, Germany to live with her aunt. However, she is amazed as to how far Hitler and the Third Reich rebuilt a country that was reeling from the Great War and subsequent peace and world Depression.

She enjoys the night life especially the cabarets in swinging Berlin with the handsome SS officers, but also hears stories of atrocities by inhumane people. Her aunt had warned her to go back to England but Sophie failed to heed what she now believes is sage advice. She begins to think of the Nazis as murderous demons especially these out of the world SS hunks that Himmler ordered to procreate with Aryan females; she had once desired these perfect male specimens. Desperate she turns to a blue eyed half-American for help in escaping the murderous treacherous regime, but begins to have doubts about he is who he claims to be as she considers he may be undercover Gestapo seeking to find doubters.

PERFIDIA is an entertaining WWII romantic suspense that grips the audience from the moment the Nazis invade Poland and never lets up until the final attempt to escape the violent regime. The story line is fast-paced as Sophie lands in one mess after another while too easily rescuing friends from the invincible all mighty Gestapo, who are every where, yet unable to deal with an inexperienced young female. Still historical romance fans will enjoy this vivid strong look from inside the Third Reich as seen mostly through the eyes of a former admirer who observing first hand the atrocities becomes an enemy of the state.

Harriet Klausner

Fools Rush In-Ed Gorman

Fools Rush In
Ed Gorman
Pegasus, Sep 2007, $24.00
ISBN: 9781933648323

In June 1963 in suburban Black River Falls, Iowa, Judge Esme Anne Whitney assigns attorney and private investigator Sam McCain to end the shenanigans of a blackmailer who may derail the reelection of white Senator Williams, whose daughter is seeing a Negro David Leeds. Sam goes to the cabin of the extortionist photographer Richie Neville only to find him dead from two close-up shots to his face and nearby also killed is Leeds.

The American heartland has not been directly impacted by the civil rights movement that has the Freedom Riders all over the south and the nation listening to Negro demands for equality in DC. In Iowa, Sam quickly realizes just below the surface of calm lies plenty of anger and resentment as a black male does not date a white female. However, he also sees another scenario possible as Sam finds wads of money and photos of other victims; he ponders whether one chose to make remittance by murdering the blackmailer with the Negro being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The police want him to stay out of their case although he expects some sort of whitewashing of the truth.

Sam’s seventh song titled civil rights era mystery (see BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO and EVERYBODY’S SOMEBODY’S FOOL) is a terrific whodunit. However, it is the small town relatively serene Iowa backdrop that enables the audience to witness the demands for freedom in 1960s America; this seemingly out of the way from the prime civil rights focus allows readers to understand the scope of the movement. Ed Gorman once again combines a fine murder investigation with a touch of nostalgia inside of the grand scale of the local, regional, and national freedom marches that changed America.

Harriet Klausner

Wicked Magic-Cheyenne Mc Cray

Wicked Magic
Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin's, Sep 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780312949570

In San Francisco D'Anu witch Rhiannon Castle hides from her coven sisters that the Shadows dwell inside her. She believes these others enabled her to read the mind of the recently freed evil goddess Ceithlenn, who plots to liberate her mate, Balor. Together they plan to destroy the world; however for now Ceithlenn eats human souls to regain her power so that she can free Balor.

Tuatha D'Danann warrior Keir comes to San Francisco Otherworld where he meets Rhiannon and becomes a believer in love at first sight. He wants her and knows she is his soul mate. However, although the D’Anu witch reciprocates his desires, she knows the Shadows could kill him so she tries to keep him at arms’ length and hides what resides inside of her. As the war turns worse for the D’Anu witches and their Tuatha D’Danann warrior allies, Ceithlenn appears on the brink of succeeding in freeing Balor.

The latest Magic tale (see SEDUCED BY MAGIC and FORBIDDEN MAGIC) continues what is some of the best romantic fantasy on the market today. The story line is fast-paced and the lead couple is hot and heroic while the war looks increasingly helpless. Fantasy and romance readers will want to read the newest entry in the McCray mythos as this thriller is pure WICKED MAGIC.

Harriet Klausner

The Immortals: The Gathering-Jennifer Ashley

The Immortals: The Gathering
Jennifer Ashley
Love Spell, Sep 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505526885

The missing Immortal brother Hunter is summoned, but ends up caged with a lion on an isolated island. Irate hermit Leda Stowe, a witch, who prefers no contact with Immortals, humans, or her own kind, demands he leave even as she is attracted to her uninvited guest. Hunter wants Leda, but has no time to seduce the bewitching beauty as there is a world to save.

Hunter tries to reconnect with three of his Immortal brothers for what he knows will prove a distasteful war as the enemies are his insane sibling brother Tain, who vanished centuries ago, and his demon master. With Leda at his side along with three of his brothers and their women, and a horde of witches, shapeshifters, and vampires, they go off the fight a more powerful foe.

Book four of this terrific romantic fantasy finishes off the complex tale of good vs. bad with a world at stake. Leda is a unique protagonist who brings freshness to the mix with her disdain of sentient beings although she self loathingly is attracted to the Immortal hunk. Jennifer Ashley who began the Immortals (with CALLING followed by Robin T. Popp’s DARKENING and Joy Nash’s AWAKENING) completes this excellent saga with a mesmerizing ending.

Harriet Klausner


Jo Walton
Tor, Oct 2007, $25.95
ISBN 9780765318534

In 1941 the Farthing Group negotiated a peace deal with Hitler that gave the Nazis the continent and made Great Britain his ally. Now eight years later, the once proud English democracy is gone replaced by a repressive regime that persecutes minorities and dissidents through violent police state tactics.

However an angry underground insurgency has caused problems for the government; culminating with a bomb exploding on the streets of London. Scotland Yard Inspector Carmichael, whose investigation into the murder of the Farthing group leader Sir James Thirkie has alienated him with the brass and the politicians, is assigned the lead because he is expendable. Pressure mounts once again for him to fix blame on some scapegoat person preferably a homosexual or a group like the Jews rather than find the truth. However as he did in the FARTHING affaire, he keeps digging. What he finds makes no sense as a vast conspiracy consisting of members of the NRA, the House of Lords, the Communist Party, and a number of other activist groups plot to assassinate the Prime Minister and Hitler with hopes of causing a revolution.

Whereas FARTHING is a terrific alternate historical police procedural, HA’PENNY is more of a fabulous alternate historical suspense thriller. Walton’s world is based on the premises that the British hierarchy “exiled” Churchill and avoided war with Hitler by appeasing the Nazis. Once again the conspiracy is over the top, but the investigation is clever as loner Carmichael struggles with the directions the clues take him even as his supervisors question his loyalty. These two tales are must reading for the Harry Turtledove fans who will appreciate another well written 1940s spin.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Bone Man-Vicki Stiefel

The Bone Man
Vicki Stiefel
Leisure, Oct 2007, $7.99, 358 pp.
ISBN 9780843959371

The founder and head of MGAP (Massachusetts Grief Assistance Program), Tally Whyte has left her job since her foster mother, Massachusetts medical examiner Veda Barrow died. Her replacement Addy Morgridge asks her to come in to see an amazing archeological find. An Anasazi pot with a skull in it was found in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. A forensic archeologist Didi Cravitz reconstructed the skull and the face looks exactly like Delphine who owns the Native Arts. Her assistant Zoe says she is on a on a buying trip and doesn’t want to be disturbed.

When Tally goes back to see Didi, she finds her dead lying in a pool of blood. Didi used her last seconds of life to write an incomplete message in her blood on the floor. Nobody else sees the writing a male is in the store gets rough with Tally asking where the fetish is. Tally figures out what Didi started to write with her blood. She gets shot at, attacked, and ends up in the hospital. She realizes to find the answers she has to go to Chaco Canyon where she is shot at, attacked and ends up needing medical attention. She refuses to give up her quest at finding out what everyone wants the fetish partly because it is a treasure but mostly because she doesn’t know why so many people are willing to kill to get it.

This is an amazing thriller with action on almost every page. The paranormal elements fit right into the storyline making it more realistic since Le Pueblo tribes and the Anasazi practice magic. The heroine is strong, independent and sees things nobody else does, things that save her life. She is determined to find out what is going on with the fetish and wouldn’t stop even if it puts her in danger. Vicki Stiefel writes a brilliant psychological thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Call of the Trumpet-Helen A. Rosburg

Call of the Trumpet
Helen A. Rosburg
Medallion, Oct 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9781933836140

In 1859 with the death of her beloved father in Paris, Cecile Villier decides to leave France to visit the Sahara where she was born two decades ago. Her beloved late father left the desert grieving the death of his Bedouin wife in childbirth. She asks her late dad’s friend Mr. Blackmoor for help in locating her foster father, Raga eben Haddal.

Blackmoor sends his son Matthew to meet her, but he learns she has been abducted by a caravan planning to sell her to the Caliph. Matthew rescues Cecilia but introduces himself as El Faris rather than the son of her late father’s friend. He treats her like the lowest creature on the planet and leaves her at a Bedouin camp to learn the ways of the women of the desert. Although not easy, the courageous Cecilia wins the respect of those at the camp when she risks her life to rescue a child from a wolf. As she and El Faris fall in love, he takes her to meet Haddal, who plans to sell her as a wife to the highest bidding sheik. Matthew proposes, but when she fails to return from a trek into the desert, he assumes she died and marries another. When she finally returns to accept his proposal, she must decide whether she wants to be his second spouse.

CALL OF THE TRUMPET is not the usual historical romance as the Bedouin culture serves as the prime focus of this strong mid nineteenth century tale. Thus a westernized Victorian style relationship between the lead couple even when the male is a sheik does not occur; instead the audience lives within the Bedouin camp and learns its ways along side of the heroine. Her struggles to adapt and her courage make for a rich saga as the audience will wonder will she willingly become the second wife, return to France, or be sold to the highest bidder.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Eagle-Robert Barr Smith

Blood Eagle
Robert Barr Smith
Medallion, Oct 2007, 24.95
ISBN 9781933836102

In 1965 divided West and East Germany serve as one of the fronts in the Cold War. Whereas the western allies adhere to the Containment Doctrine, the Soviet Union wants to unite the country as part of their bloc. Others also want to unite Germany with the deadly neo-Nazi Fatherland Party using terrorism to try to bring down the fledgling democracy.

In one bombing the wives and children of US Army Major Tom Cooper and British SAS Captain Simon Berwick died. Both men vowed to insure that vigilante justice brought by them to the perpetrators occur, as their moral codes have been destroyed making life meaningless. They have the opportunity when they are assigned to find three elderly Germans who the Fatherland Party leaders seek for their roles in the alleged suicide of Hitler’s niece and mistress Geli Raubal in 1931 in his flat with his gun.

This is an action-packed thriller that grips readers who ignore the plausibility index and willingly accept contemporary terrorism activity in 1965. The fast-paced story line focuses mostly on the two numbed NATO soldiers, but also flashes back to 1931 and 1951 when key historical events (to this plot) happened. It is fascinatingly that the western military pair has no scruples since their families were murdered while the neo-Nazis believe in the values of the Fourth Reich; this leads the audience to wonder about adhering to one’s values. Fans of over the Berlin Wall thrillers will appreciate this entertaining race across Germany in which there are no heroes as all the players assume that everyone including themselves are expendable pawns.

Harriet Klausner

Beg For Mercy-Toni Andrews

Beg For Mercy
Toni Andrews
Mira, Sep 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778323655

In the Balboa Peninsular of California, Mercy Hollings believes her skill with the “presses" should be used by her to help other people through positive suggestions. Her plan is to assist people through hypnotherapy as she understands the need of cautiousness when manipulating others as controlling people is unethical and can lead to dangerous unintended consequences.

Mercy and her best friend Sukey have too much to drink. At a bar with Sukey she meets kind eyes Sam Falls. Intoxicated she misuses her gift to "presses" Sukey's odious boyfriend Rocko to behave nicer. However, her misuse has led to a series of steps that places her friends in danger. Meanwhile glib Dominic Dellarosa knows of Mercy’s ability and her error; he also seems to know much about her past. He apparently wants to use her talent for his benefit; if she fails to adhere to his demand, Sukey will be the first to die, but he has angered her and she will show no mercy to anyone who steps inside her circle though Sam willingly takes the risk.

Although Rocko’s annoying dialogue requires a mercy lobotomy, fans will enjoy this fine paranormal thriller. The story line is fast-paced especially when Rocko is off-stage as Mercy knows she crossed the ethics boundary by doing an amoral act even if she can rationalize her manipulation due to imbibing too much. Told mostly in the first person by the heroine, fans will appreciate the dilemma of too much power can at times corrupt the most conscientious ethical person.

Harriet Klausner

The Vampire Shrink-Lynda Hilburn

The Vampire Shrink
Lynda Hilburn
Medallion, Oct 2007, $15.95
ISBN: 9781933836232

In Denver, the patient insists her name is Midnight and that she is friends to vampires especially the charismatic eight century old handsome master Devereux. Dr. Kismet Knight assumes she is dealing with a new form of psychosis as Midnight is extremely graphic in describing the underground vampirism lair as if a society of undead lives without humans knowing it.

To her shock, Devereux arrives at Kismet’s office claiming to be a vampire. Hiding her disbelief behind her professional visage, Kismet thinks it is too bad he is a nut because he is a sexy hunk. Devereux begins to show her his strange powers leaving Kismet to begin to believe in vampires. After a client arrives at her office almost totally drained of blood, FBI Special Agent Alan Stevens, who works the vampire beat, questions Kismet. As Devereux binds her to him insisting she is his kismet, Alan tries to bind her to him through the power of love. Confused, Kismet is not sure who to trust even as someone, perhaps one of the two males claiming she is their destiny, tries to kill her.

Kismet Knight’s conversion from cynic to believer makes for a fun paranormal thriller as the heroine becomes the VAMPIRE SHRINK. Readers will understand her transformation from scorning skeptic with dreams of fame and fortune to psychologist to vampires as the story line is told in the first person mostly from Kismet’s perspective. Adding to the satirical entertainment is the odd romantic triangle between the Fed, the vampire master, and the shrink. Lynda Hilburn writes an enjoyable biting frolic that will turn skeptical readers into true believers of her talent.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Secret Cardinal-Tom Grace

The Secret Cardinal
Tom Grace
Vanguard, Sep 28 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9781593154561

Nolan Kilkenny still mourns the loss of his wife Kelsey and their son Toby, but his father and close family friend the Cardinal Librarian of the Holy Roman Church Malachy Donaher arrange for him to modernize information flow. Kilkenny assumes the real mission is not to make more efficient and effective the link between the Vatican Library and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, but as an excuse to get him out of his home in Ann Arbor: it worked as he is in the Vatican.

However, dying Pope Leo XIV wants to use Kilkenny’s other skills honed by his years as a US Navy SEAL as the Pontiff informs him that an atrocity has occurred in China against the outlawed underground church. Kilkenny doubts the veracity of the report as he figures if several hundred have been killed or just jailed, it would have made the TWISTED WEB of the Internet in QUANTUM time. However, he agrees to help bring to the Vatican the incarcerated Bishop of Shanghai Yin Daoming, who has spent three decades in prison for failing to denounce the Church; and who the Pope made a Cardinal twenty years ago in secret. Kilkenny begins an over the top plan using state of the art weapon and computer technology to perform the impossible mission. Competent Chinese Ministry of State Security intelligence agent Liu Shing-Li plans to prevent Kilkenny’s dirty dozen from succeeding.

Kilkenny’s latest escapade is a fabulous thriller that rotates the mission with the Vatican preparing for the papal succession that appears imminent. The key to the exciting story line is the formidable opponent as Liu is an intelligent capable adversary who has a strong team supporting him. Although the Vatican segue is well written and fascinating, those fans who prefer a thrill a page will find the interlude slowing down this suspense filled action-packed tale as Kilkenny is a BIRD OF PREY.

Harriet Klausner

Betrayed-P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast

P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast
St. Martin’s Griffin, Oct 2007, $8.95
ISBN: 9780312360283

When Zoey Redbird was MARKED by the vampyre goddess Nyx, it was known that she would turn into a vampyre or die while being at the House of Night, a school and home for fledglings who need to be with their own kind and away from humans. However Zoey is not a normal fledgling because unlike her so called peers she has aMark yhat is filled in and an affinity for all elementals.

Thank to her mentor The High Priestess, Zoe is the new leader of the Dark Daughters and the enemy of Aphrodite and her clique who tortured others and called up vampiric ghosts. High school football players that Zoe knew when she was human are found dead. When her former boyfriend Heath, whom she still cares about in spite of her Changing into a vampyre turns up missing, Zoe vows to go to hell to find and rescue him and save her school from the murderous invaders. Instead she is captured by the killers due to a betrayal by someone she trusts.

Although this is classified as teen fiction, adults will enjoy this just like we do the works of André Norton. The mother-daughter author team casts a spell on readers in which vampires are accepted as a real species by humans. In some ways Zoe is a teenage Anita Blake before experience made the latter wary of sentient beings. The story line is fast-paced with a bit of an amateur sleuth mystery solved the hard way: being captured as Zoey fights for her freedom and being true to her school.

Harriet Klausner

The Dowry Bride-Shoban Bantwal

The Dowry Bride
Siobhan Bantwal
Kensington, Sep 2007, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758220318

In Palgaum, India, Megha Ramnath overhears her mother-in-law Amma insist that her son kill his wife because divorce is unacceptable, but a widower can find a new spouse. Amma is irate that Megha has failed to produce the heir and her father has not paid the dowry. Megha knows law enforcement will think she is an inane bride and not intervene until she is dead from the execution of a fiery plan. Frightened she flees into the night to escape the arson’s death.

However, anyone she turns to for help will be ostracized by society. Her own family will reject her as a woman belongs to and with her husband and her best friend would be ruined. Megha decides her only hope resides with kindhearted Kiran, Ramnath’s cousin; as he has showered her with respect although he has kept his distance from her. Outraged by his aunt’s plan, he hides her in his apartment even while their attraction to each other turns to unacceptable love

THE DOWRY BRIDE is an insightful look at India’s culture as the beleaguered heroine has no options once Amma decides she must go without a scandal; which means homicide not divorce. The story line is incredible when the frantic Megha seeks help; once she mentally settles in Kiran’s apartment, the exigency and stress abates somewhat yet also continues to provide a powerful discerning look at relationships. Still this is a fabulous look at the importance of a dowry in India in spite of laws protecting the rights (and apparently the life) of a bride.

Harriet Klausner

The Dowry Bride-Shoban Bantwal

The Dowry Bride
Siobhan Bantwal
Kensington, Sep 2007, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758220318

In Palgaum, India, Megha Ramnath overhears her mother-in-law Amma insist that her son kill his wife because divorce is unacceptable, but a widower can find a new spouse. Amma is irate that Megha has failed to produce the heir and her father has not paid the dowry. Megha knows law enforcement will think she is an inane bride and not intervene until she is dead from the execution of a fiery plan. Frightened she flees into the night to escape the arson’s death.

However, anyone she turns to for help will be ostracized by society. Her own family will reject her as a woman belongs to and with her husband and her best friend would be ruined. Megha decides her only hope resides with kindhearted Kiran, Ramnath’s cousin; as he has showered her with respect although he has kept his distance from her. Outraged by his aunt’s plan, he hides her in his apartment even while their attraction to each other turns to unacceptable love

THE DOWRY BRIDE is an insightful look at India’s culture as the beleaguered heroine has no options once Amma decides she must go without a scandal; which means homicide not divorce. The story line is incredible when the frantic Megha seeks help; once she mentally settles in Kiran’s apartment, the exigency and stress abates somewhat yet also continues to provide a powerful discerning look at relationships. Still this is a fabulous look at the importance of a dowry in India in spite of laws protecting the rights (and apparently the life) of a bride.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Prophecy-Hilari Bell

The Prophecy
Hilari Bell
Eos, Sep 2007, $6.50
ISBN: 9780060599454

The dragon has devastated Kingdom of Idris, destroying the land and terrorizing its people. For five years young scholar Prince Perryndon has searched the enormous castle’s library seeking a means to slay the dragon. Finally when he turns fourteen, Perryndon believes he has found the solution in an ancient prophecy. His father the king pays no attention to his scholarly teenage offspring as the royal ruler thinks that a master swordsman to fight the Norsemen and the dragon is what is needed and not a physically pathetic bookworm.

Although he is hurt by his sire’s disdain for him, the courageous Perryndon seeks to save the kingdom so he turns to the magical Mirror of Idris where he learns that Cedric the master of arms, the Norsemen, and the dragon are in cahoots. Unlike his liege, Cedric recognizes the threat posed by Perryndon and plans to kill him. Perryndon realizes he must leave his home in search of the elements that make up the prophecy. He seeks a bard, a unicorn and the Sword of Samhain while his adversaries want him dead before he fulfills his quest of killing the dragon

This entertaining coming of age quest fantasy hooks the audience from the opening sequence when preteen readers meet the young hero and never slows down as he tries to save the kingdom. Perryndon is a terrific yet uncommon hero as he is totally a scholar rather than a warrior, which is why his sire is disappointed in him. Hilari Bell provides a fun tale as her intrepid teen attempts to fulfill THE PROPHECY while his foes try to kill him.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Knight-Hilari Bell

The Last Knight
Hilari Bell
Eos, Aug 28 2007, $16.99
ISBN: 9780060825034

Two centuries have past since the vocation of heroic knight errant became extinct. Yet the younger son of an aristocrat, Sir Michael Sevenson decides that he will revise the noble profession doing daring good deeds. Of course like the knights of yore, Michael needs a loyal squire so he goes to the only place he might find such a person; the jail. Con artist Fisk is given the choice of spending a long time as the guest of the kingdom or becoming Michael's squire. Although having a square meal and a cot sound appetizing, Fisk reluctantly agrees to assist Michael on his adventures to right the wrong and protect the innocent.

The daring duo succeed on their first caper freeing Lady Ceciel from incarceration in a tower. As they celebrate their success, they learn she was allowed to remain in comfort rather than a dungeon while standing trial for murdering her husband; they are informed by authorities to right their wrong by returning the Poisoner to them or replace her.

This tongue in cheek medieval saga rotates perspective between the knight and his squire so that the audience sees the same event from two totally opposite viewpoints (a delight for historiographers as to what a fact is and what is tainted by bias). Whereas Michael believes the glass is half filled; Fisk would slice off the top empty part and claim the glass is filled. Targeting middle school children, adults will appreciate the amusing adventures of THE LAST KNIGHT.

Harriet Klausner

Lord of the Fading Lands-C L. Wilson

Lord of the Fading Lands
C. L. Wilson
Leisure, Oct 2007, $7.99
ISBN 9780843959772

When his beloved Sariel died in combat Fey king Rain Tairen Soul went berserk and destroyed much of the realm even as his side defeated the evil wizards of Eld. Now a thousand years later he still grieves, but worries that soon his people the fairy will become extinct. Desperate to save his race, Rain ignores the taboo of touching the sacred Eye of Truth in order to learn if there is some way to save his people.

What the Eye showed him after beating the arrogance out of his soul, is a secret. Rain heads a half of continent away to the mortal city of Celieria where apparently resides his lost soul mate, Ellysetta Baristaini, an unacceptable female for their Tairen by the Fey nobles as she is a woodcarver’s daughter. At the same time that Rain begins courting, the wizards of Eld want to use this expendable woman as a pawn to enable them to destroy the Tairen.

LORD OF THE FADING LANDS is an entertaining opening romantic fantasy that will please fans of both genres. As with many epic fantasies, the story line focuses on introducing the key characters and the setting so that action is somewhat limited to the romance and to a degree the plotting of the malevolent wizards. Still C. L. Wilson provides a fascinating tale with a solid premise of a dying race, which will bring plenty of fans to this debut, who also will eagerly look forward to the sequel.

Harriet Klausner