Monday, November 30, 2009

The Queen’s Dollmaker-Christine Trent

The Queen’s Dollmaker
Christine Trent
Kensington, Jan 1 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758238573

In 1781 Paris the fire destroyed her family home and shop. Her parents died soon afterward. Teenager Claudette Laurent leaves Paris with other fleeing females hoping to find work in England. After a horrific employment with a shrew, Charlotte uses her dollmaking talent to open up a small shop in London

Over the next few years her dolls become prize possessions of the elite and knowledge of her talent crosses the Channel to Versailles where young Queen Marie Antoinette asks her to come home. In France, Claudette reunites with her childhood boyfriend Jean-Philippe. As the Revolution explodes, Claudette’s connection as the Queen’s Dollmaker places her in prison awaiting a date with Madame Guillotine if she fails to give testimony against Her Highness.

This is a terrific late eighteenth century saga that uses real persona to bring to life mostly Paris during the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. The two keys that refresh this delightful story line are the insightful look at dollmaking and collecting in the 1780s and a rather different view of the Queen who becomes a convenient scapegoat for the excessive of the Revolution. Historical readers will appreciate this deep look at life in France during a period of turmoil.

Harriet Klausner

Sexy as Hell-Susan Johnson

Sexy as Hell
Susan Johnson
Berkley, Jan 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425230206

In 1892, after winning at cards, Baron “Oz” Lennox rushes out to the Blackwood Hotel to meet Nell in a tryst before her spouse returns from Paris. He enters the agreed upon room, but instead of a red-head he is greeted by a blonde who ignores him and turns to her barrister Mr. Malmsey to insure he will serve as a witness.

Thus Oz’s luck with the ladies has changed as he asks Isolde Perceval what she wants from him. She calmly explains she wants her reputation ruined so she is not forced into an unwanted marriage. Oz offers a different plan as he too would like to continue his wastrel ways without threats from the marriageable biddies. They agree to marry with plans to divorce soon. However, they prove quite compatible in and out of the boudoir. When Isolde becomes pregnant, Oz leaves for London, but the rake finds no enjoyment without Isolde, who misses him too. She follows him, but his many enemies see her as the heel’s Achilles’ heal.

Filled with action especially of the erotic kind, Sexy as Hell is an intriguing Victorian romance. The lead couple indulging selfish behavior makes them refreshing as they are atypical of the usual honorable noble. Fans of Susan Johnson will enjoy their hedonistic escapades although the story line is emaciated outside the boudoir.

Harriet Klausner

Proof by Seduction-Courtney Milan

Proof by Seduction
Courtney Milan
Harlequin HQN, Jan 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774395

In 1836 fortuneteller Madame Esmeralda is comfortable in her vocation as she feels she provides a service by informing her customers with information they need to know. Twelve years as Madame Esmeralda has made humble impoverished Jenny Keeble all but disappear.

Her favorite client Ned arrives with his cousin, Blakeley, Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely. Ned explains that Gareth is a skeptic that Madame can predict the future. A scientist just back from an expedition in Brazil, Gareth plans to prove Esmeralda is a fake. However is scheme to expose the charlatan has a major roadblock; his attraction to her, which makes him wonder if she is an enchantress, but will he accept proof of the heart?

This is a terrific early Victorian romance starring a wonderful somewhat inflexible lead male and a totally unique female who challenges his decisions when everyone else fears to contradict his dictatorial rulings. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the relationship between the scientist and the fortuneteller. With a strong secondary cast starting with Ned, this reviewer can predict that sub-genre fans will relish Courtney Milan’s delightful historical.

Harriet Klausner

Vanishing Act-Fern Michaels

Vanishing Act
Fern Michaels
Zebra, Jan 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781420106855

After successfully completing their last mission without their mentor Charles Martin (see Under the Radar), who remains missing, the Sisterhood decides to celebrate at their getaway on Big Pine Mountain anyway as he would have expected that of them. As Charles comes home to them, his reception is a bit cold until Yoko welcomes him back. However the pre gala amiable bickering comes to an abrupt halt when Jack Emery calls his fiancée Nikki to tell her Yoko’s beloved Harry Wong lost everything including his dojo to an identity theft ring.

Outraged, the Sisterhood vows to not just get Harry back his money and his dojo, they plan to steal the identities of the thieves. With help from their journalist pal Maggie and with Charles back in the fold, they begin their vendetta.

Over the top as usual, this is a fun Sisterhood entry with the ladies doing their typical mission impossible escapades. The story line is fast-paced though even fans of the previous thirteen entries will need a scorecard to keep track of the good gals. Still with a terrific surprising coda, fans will relish the latest avenging exploits of the Sisterhood.

Harriet Klausner

High Anxiety-Charlotte Hughes

High Anxiety
Charlotte Hughes
Jove, Dec 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515147407

Psychologist Kate Holley wonders if she is as big a Nutcase as some of her patients ever since her former husband Jay Rush the firefighter became her lover again in spite of her obsessive compulsive fear of his profession ever since her father was taken from her by the Fire Gods. While Jay is fighting a forest fire in Florida, her best friend and receptionist, Mona Epps is on sick leave so the High Anxiety shrink hires a temporary assistant Abigail Davis.

However, although Abigail is competent she changes her wardrobe and hairstyle to emulate Kate. When she begins to get involved in Kate’s personal life, the psychologist knows in this case What Looks Like Crazy is crazy. Although she has other issues and is worried about Jay, Kate knows Abigail is at the top of the list as her temp is stalking every aspect of her life.

This is an exciting fast-paced madcap thriller that balances humor with the seriousness of a deranged stalker. The story line is fast-paced whenever the plot focuses on Abigail who clearly needs help. When the subplot involves other clients, neighbors or mom it is over the top with fun eccentricity. Readers will enjoy Kate’s third case mostly because of Abigail, whose needs turn potentially dangerous.

Harriet Klausner

A Night Too Dark-Dana Stabenow

A Night Too Dark
Dana Stabenow
Minotaur, Feb16 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312559090

The Park in Alaska is a place of beauty to private detective Native American Kate Shugak, but the pristine landscape she loves will change when the Suulutaq Mine opens operations. Global Harvest Resources, the parent company learned the mine contains gold and after months of careful sampling and they know they have found quite a strike.

Already the firm is making changes that the inhabitants of the Park have to adapt to as people working the mine come to the town of Ninikltna. One of the newcomers leaves a note in his car stating he committed suicide. When the body of Dewayne Gammons is found, there is not enough left of him to make an identification. Kate has a hunch after two people from the mine disappeared at the sane time that the deceased is not Dewayne, but she has no idea who the victim is. As she seeks clues, a third person is killed, which makes Kate even more determined to find out what is going on at the mine.

Even before the homicides, Kate feels sad because the mining operation will change the Park though she is resigned that it will happen as people she respects sold out to the mining interests, which was not easy for them to do but they felt they had to tale advantage of people with money to spend. Still her melancholy over the mine does not prevent her from investigating as only she can. Her latest Alaskan Shootout is an entertaining whodunit that also showcases a difficult complex issue of needed economic development vs. maintaining the beauty of nature.

Harriet Klausner

Smolder-Melina Morel

Melina Morel
Signet, Jan 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451228802

In France, hunter Countess Catherine Marais and her partner Paul DuJardin have killed many werewolves, but near Rouen they wound one who escapes. Soon afterward Lupus Magnus of France, Louis Chavenne calls a meeting of his species to warn them if they fail to act now the well financed team of Marais and DuJardin will leave them extinct on the continent. Especially nervous is Lupus Minor of Ile de France Gervais de Maury who knows Catherine and her late father; killed by Monfort a werewolf she slew (see Devour).

With a bounty on her head, Catherine worries the Insitut that has financed her efforts will close down. Meanwhile her two century old vampire lover Ian Morgan wants to keep her safe from the sudden hunting of the hunter. He offers to change her, but she hesitates while also insuring her niece in love is not huntress bait to trap her as their Prey.

This contemporary paranormal thriller is fast-paced from the first hunt and never slows down as the French werewolf community unites against the huntress. Filled with action and a deep look at the world of the Loup de Garous while also containing a terrific romantic subplot that enhances the prime story line, fans will appreciate the latest Catherine Marais’ saga.

Harriet Klausner

A Tapestry of Spells-Lynn Kurland

A Tapestry of Spells
Lynn Kurland
Berkley, Jan 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425232132

When his family died (see the Nine Kingdoms trilogy), Ruithneadh of Ceangail vanishes behind a shroud of being a fierce raging wizard; ironically he personally vowed to never use magic again. His reputation enables him to be left alone to wallow in self pity and grief as he fears being an offspring of the evil Gair might mean going dark.

His hermit like existence ends when the daughter of a witch Sarah of Doire arrives. She has no paranormal skills whatsoever, but demands Ruith act to stop her brother Daniel who has turned to the darkest magic, threatening to destroy the Nine Kingdoms. Ruith wants to ignore his unwanted visitor but concludes Daniel is using his father's magic. As they search for Daniel, others stalk them.

Starting a new trilogy that focuses on the youngest son of the evil Gair, Lynn Kurland takes her audience back to the Nine Kingdoms with a strong opening act. Fans will feel the author magically transported them to her realm as Ruith now fights against what his father wrought while concealing secrets from his new ally who does likewise. Fantasy fans will enjoy Ruith’s quest to prevent another catastrophe tied to his father’s legacy.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 29, 2009

We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals

We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals
Gillian Gill
Ballantine, Feb 23 2010, $18.00
ISBN: 9780345520012

This is a fascinating biography that turns upside down the love story of Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert as they cherished one another while battling for dominance of their relationship, which denoted dominance of the British Empire. In other words the early period until Albert’s death could easily be labeled Albertan-Victorian age. Prince Albert was a classic example of employing a defense mechanism of being everything his family was not and not being anything they were. Thus he came across as prim, proper and starched, which ironically set the future’s look back at the Victorian Age are his belief on how a ruler should behave. He kept his Queen seemingly pregnant all the time and was a major supporter of science and technology. When he died in 1861, Victoria grieved her loss for several years. However, when she finally moved on, the Victorian Age blossomed as if the student had learned from her late master while she described his virtues and buried with him his faults.

This is a terrific biography of the nineteenth century’s most powerful “power couple" as each thrived in their love and rivalry, especially Victoria. Gillian Gill makes a strong case that Albert was in some ways her mentor as much as her partner. With numerous illustrations and letters included, fans will relish this profound fresh look at We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals.

Harriet Klausner

Too Much Happiness-Alice Munroe

Too Much Happiness
Alice Munroe
Knopf, Nov 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307269768

This great ten story anthology looks deep into relationships with strong characterizations. Nine of the contributions are under forty pages; only the title entry is longer at sixty pages. As always Alice Munroe provides her audience with a profound collection.

In “Dimensions” Doree grieves on the bus for her three children who were murdered by their father so they would not suffer the same misery he suffered of their mother leaving them. "Fiction" stars Christie who tells the stories of her stepmother the music teacher in a published anthology. “Wenlock Edge” college student explains how her roommate fools her into going on a dinner date with her lover. Sally learns how “Deep-Holes” in marriage can become. In "Free Radicals", Nita's friends are there at first while she grieves, but she rejects them; now she is moving on and needs them but none are there for her as they were hurt by her when they needed her. His father stared at his “Face” once after he was born and never looked at his son’s disfigured face again. Young Mr. Crozier is surrounded by “Some Women” while dying from leukemia; but keeps a stiff upper lip so as not to alarm the female retinue who hide their melancholy from him while caring for him. In "Child's Play" Marlene and Charlene become summer camp BFFs, but torture Verna until Marlene muses over "How can you blame a person for the way she was born?" “Wood” centers on Roy who refinishes furniture, but works alone since he and his wife Lea never had no children. He is hurt and all alone apparently dying in The Deserted Forest. “Too Much Happiness” centers on Russian mathematician Sophia Kovalevski who has found men limit her choices; still she writes stories in spite of her father insisting she is selling herself and obtains a teaching position in Sweden in spite of her lover living in Paris as she reuses to allow males to limit her.

Harriet Klausner

A Lady Like Sarah-Margaret Brownley

A Lady Like Sarah
Margaret Brownley
Thomas Nelson, Dec 29 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9781595548092

In 1879 on his way to Texas, Reverend Justin Wells is five days beyond St. Louis when he sees the vultures flying, which means someone or an animal is dying. Having left Boston and his flock in disgrace, Justin knows he must see if he can help.. He finds a severely wounded U.S. Marshal who makes him vow to take his prisoner to Texas. However, he is stunned as the prisoner is not a lad in red boots, but a woman whose hair matches her footwear.

Sarah Prescott is an outlaw from a family of lawbreakers. She removes the bullet from Marshal Owen before they begin the trek to Rocky Creek. On the road, the two seemingly opposites find common ground as they fall in love. However, when Owen dies, the law assumes she killed him because she is a Prescott although she insists she is a lady; only the preacher and his sidekick Timber Joe might save her life as she has saved the soul of the former.

This is a wonderful at times amusing western romance starring two people who on the surface seem totally inappropriate for one another yet God works in mysterious ways. Fans will enjoy the Americana romance between the exiled Boston preacher and the exiled Prescott outlaw as Justin and Sarah fall in love.

Harriet Klausner

SPQR XIII: The Year of Confusion-John Maddox Roberts

SPQR XIII: The Year of Confusion
John Maddox Roberts
Minotaur, Feb 16 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312595074

In the year 46 BC in Rome, Caius Julius Caesar is now the Director of Rome. He plans to rebuild the city making it grander as expected of the capital of a great empire. One of his pet projects is to create a new calendar using astronomers and astrologers from around the world. Thus he appoints Senator Decius Caecilius to oversee the project alongside of Cleopatra’s head astronomer Sosigenes.

At first Decius is more concerned with Cleopatra being in the city than he is of a bunch of scientists creating a new calendar. However the situation turns dangerous when an astronomer Denades is murdered with his neck broken. He has strange markings on his neck but the doctor feels it it hard to judge how the killer made them. Even the Chief Physician in Rome does not how the killer was able to extinguish is prey. Caesar orders Decius to find the killer, which proves difficult to accomplish because all suspects are lying about something or concealing something.

As always John Maddox Roberts writes a fantastic Ancient Roman mystery that gives the reader a sense of the era and the culture during the time of Caesar. This enables the audience to envision the City-State Empire warped inside a whodunit. Decius is a great detective, whose investigation is all the more remarkable because of the limitations of sleuthing in the first century BC. Sub-genre fans will enjoy joining him on his inquiry.

Harriet Klausner

Muse and Reverie-Charles de Lint

Muse and Reverie
Charles de Lint
Tor, Dec 8 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765323408

The thirteen Newford tales all appeared in other collections between 2001 and 2005, but never together. In fact none appeared in the same anthology with several different publishers offering Newford stories as part of various author compilations and one tale (A Crow Girls’ Charismas) was an online entry. All are super, size matters as the best shorts are the longer ones; like "The Butter Spirit's Tithe", "Riding Shotgun" and "Da Slockit Light" as the key characters of each come across human and inhuman, which in turn enhances the de Lint twist that feels as if the author places O’Henry and Bret Harte in the Twilight Zone. The best read is “The Hour Before Dawn”; this well written compilation is Charles de Lint at his best as he leaves his fans to Muse and Reverie the impact of placing “The World in a Box”.

Harriet Klausner

Carrion Comfort-Dan Simmons

Carrion Comfort
Dan Simmons
Dunne, Nov 2009, $19.99
ISBN: 9780312567071

In 1942 in Chelmno, Saul Laski knows he lies in a death camp having his two former roommates already dead and many to follow; he vows to live although the SS and the Oberst came every third Thursday in the month. Saul eventually realizes the SS stand perfectly still and soon learns why. The Oberst not just rape your mind, they control your body. He vows once again to live for now he has a mission to kill these mind controlling Nazi vampires; a mission that enables him to emotionally survive the horror of the mind rape domination.

Almost four decades later, Dr. Saul Laski remains a hunter of the Oberst who hunt humans as nonentities for their entertainment. His prime target all these years since the concentration camp von Borchert remains elusive. However, in Charleston he has a clue as he meets with Natalie Preston, whose father died when he met vampire Melanie Fuller, an offspring of billionaire Barent, who resides on a Florida barrier island where he hosts an annual game of deadly human chess. As Sheriff Bobby Joe Gentry investigates serial killings, Fuller goes Hollywood with Laski following her.

This is a reprint of an exciting 1980s vampire thriller with sidebars showcasing
the ability of Dan Simmons. However, the key to the thriller is the Mind Vampires especially the diversity in their personalities come across as genuine. With a strong exhilarating prime plot in which the audience anticipates the rematch between Saul and the Oberst who dominated him back in the Third Reich, fans will relish this fine saga while also wishing it was about a third to a half shorter as pruning the Hollywood cul de sacs would have helped.

Harriet Klausner

The Light of Other Days-Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter

The Light of Other Days
Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
Tor, Dec 8 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780765322876

In the twenty-first century, Hidamani Patel had escaped the impoverished North Sea that has encroached on the fifty-second state England to make a fortune in the Forty-eight as Hiram Patterson. The successful multi-billionaire built his OurWorld campus on what was once Microsoft back before global warming changed the planet. Now Hiram explains his newest gizmo to journalist Kate Manzoni because of her article on Wormwood and the hit in the Pacific in the twenty-sixth century while Hiram’s son Bobby stands by.

Hiram has invented a WormCam that uses wormhole technology to open a portal anywhere in the world instantly. Privacy is a thing of the past as a person can see anyone at anytime. The technology soon also applies to seeing what has been as secrets are no more.

The underlying premise is brilliant as history’s mysteries are open for public consumption on a big humanity altering scale, but also on a personal individual relationship scale. When the story line focuses on the philosophy of what happens to mankind if basic beliefs are shattered, it is an intriguing tale. When the plot tries to turn inward to the impact on the characters, it loses steam ironically in spite of a lot more action as none of the cast matters especially compared to the historical possibilities. Fans of the two authors will enjoy their collaboration, but the prime what if question will be what if the cast felt remorse, guilt and shame for the lies they told their loved ones or for the lies their heroes told the world. Instead they become comic book action heroes who soar as an action-packed thriller; instead of short stories based on major historical events and legends through the ages that would have been enlightening.

Harriet Klausner

Turned-Julie Kenner

Julie Kenner
Ace, Dec 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441018116

When monstrous Lucas Johnson viciously attacks her sister Rose, Lily Carlyle sought vengeance but died instead only to have an angel give her a second chance at righting all the wrongs she committed (see Tainted). After being used as an assassin by those she thought she should kill, she went undercover as a double agent destroying demons form within (see Torn).

When the demons realize who she is and what she is doing, Lily revises her plan because she does not want on her eternal résumé a description of starting the Apocalypse, which she apparently has done. Now she enters Hell praying she can find the Oris Clef demonic key to shut the Ninth Gate and control the demonic horde answering the Apocalypse call. However, treachery from within her allies thwart her efforts, but Lily focuses on what the Archangel Gabriel told her that she is also a key, but that means her résumé will only be read in her eternal residence, the hottest inferno of Hell that Dante failed to describe out of fear.

The final End of Days Blood Lily Chronicles is fast-paced and loaded with action from the opening of the final war between Heaven and Hell until the climax with Lily constantly caught in the middle. Fans will enjoy Lily’s escapades and growth from the bad girl of Tainted as she tries to save humanity from the invading waves of demonic hordes, but the key is for the heroine to accept her apparent fate of spending eternity in the worst pit of Hell.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Secrets of the Tudor Court: Between Two Queens-Kate Emerson

Secrets of the Tudor Court: Between Two Queens
Kate Emerson
Pocket, Jan 5 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9781416583271

In 1637 sixteen year old Anne “Nan” Bassett crosses the Narrow Sea from Calais, France to Dover, England along with her older sister Catherine. Nan wants to join the court as a maid of honor to Queen Jane Seymour. Surprisingly King Henry selects her to become a member of his wife’s entourage.

When Jane dies in childbirth, Nan leaves the court to move in with her cousin, the Countess of Sussex. Henry not forgetting the élan of Nan orders her back to the court when he marries again and again. With intrigue everywhere inside Henry’s court, Nan falls in love, but to survive she must give away her child as her family is no haven since they are caught up in Cromwell seditious activities.

The latest secret at King Henry’s court (see Secrets of the Tudor Court: The Pleasure Palace) is an engaging historical starting a maid of honor who keeps her head by keeping her head in crisis. Based on a real maid of honor, Nan is a terrific heroine, but in many ways the aging monarch steals the show as the King seems to obsessively need to prove his manhood as he goes through a few more wives following the death of Jane. Fans will relish Kate Emerson’s strong historical tale of life and death at King Henry’s court.

Harriet Klausner

The Courteous Cad-Catherine Palmer

The Courteous Cad
Catherine Palmer
Tyndale, Jan 1 210, $12.99
ISBN: 9780842375559

In 1817 in Yorkshire, Prudence Watson tells her sister Mary that she will never marry but follow in the footsteps of her crusader friend Betsy. Mary points out that Elizabeth “Betsy” Fry is married with children. Pru insists she may never wed or have offspring, although she acknowledges Betsy does work hard to improve the plight of the poor women whose options are limited.

Prudence aims at reforming mills with a desire to rescue children who work exorbitant hours in unsafe and unhealthy conditions. Her first target is the mill in Otley, owned by Royal Naval officer William Sherbourne, just home from a deployment at sea. As the reformer and the cad mee, argue and fall in love, each has secrets that society tattler Miss Pickworth seems to know.

The latest Miss Pickworth Regency romance is an enjoyable tale due to the solid lead couple as the resolute reformer refuses to answer to anyone except God while the Courteous Cad answers to the crusader and both respond to that telltale tattler. Although several subplots never ties back to the gender war, fans will enjoy the latest Miss Pickworth alliteration as these affectionate adversaries fall in love.

Harriet Klausner

Lead Me On-Victoria Dahl

Lead Me On
Victoria Dahl
Harlequin HQN, Jan 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774340

Although her taste in men was a chip off the old maternal block as her mom craved convicts and Jane Morgan relished the bad boys, she reinvented herself into Miss prim and proper. However, the Aspen office manager finds her perfect boyfriend Greg boring in spite of his being nice and considerate in and out of the bedroom. She dumps an outraged Greg.

Thus when tattooed William Chase of Extreme Excavations enters the office where she works, Jane rationalizes he is a one night stand that will relieve the ennui and get her refocused on snooty decorum. She failed to account for how explosive that one night proves to be as he is sympathetic to her needs as long as Jane accepts she will not be able to kick him to the curb.

This is an engaging contemporary romance starring a likable lead couple who make the bad image look good as the fun story line is driven by Jane and William. Although Aspen and the support cast never come into focus, fans will enjoy confused Jane as William proves bad girls need bad boys; which neither truly is.

Harriet Klausner

The Lightkeeper’s Daughter-Colleen Coble

The Lightkeeper’s Daughter
Colleen Coble
Thomas Nelson, Jan 12 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781595542670

Addie Sullivan grew up in isolation at Battery Point Lighthouse near Crescent City, California with only her parents and her dog Gideon as companions. In 1907 she and her mom rescue a man who recognizes a locket that Addie says belonged to her grandma; he calls her Laura. He says he is Walter Driscoll from Mercy Falls and he is in Crescent City looking for her as her mother is not her mother and seems indifferent with her leaving.

Addie accepts a governess position that Walter offers her and goes to Mercy Falls where she hopes to learn just who she is and praying she finds her real mother. Instead she meets hostility and anger starting when she rescues abused children from employment. Eaton Hall proves unwelcoming while her charge Edward suffers from fits. However, the worst reception comes from Edward’s father Naval Lieutenant John North, who ignores her as if she is unworthy while she is falling in love with him. As she searches for her mom, someone wants her dead.

This is a terrific Americana early twentieth century inspirational thriller in which Addie learns that God is there even when the Lord seems to ignore those suffering. Well written with a gothic feel to the fun plot; Addie makes the tale work as a strong central focus who affirms that having God in her life enables her to overcome the worst that man, woman or child can do to her. Colleen Coble provides an engaging inspirational historical.

Harriet Klausner

Heart of Darkness-Gena Showalter, Maggie Shayne and Susan Krinard

Heart of Darkness
Gena Showalter, Maggie Shayne and Susan Krinard
Harlequin HQN, Jan 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774319

“The Darkest Angel” by Gena Showalter. Lysander is well known for being unemotional and perhaps the best demon slaying angel. He is one of the Elite Seven warriors of the One True Deity. His current target for death is Bianka Skyhawk, a daughter of a Harpy and a phoenix shapeshifter, but mostly a killer who is of Lucifer’s bloodline, but he must remain patient until she breaks heavenly law. Instead his desire for her is killing him as he has never wanted anyone for the many millennia he has lived; yet she is inside his soul.

“Love Me to Death” by Maggie Shayne. Twenty-two years ago in Port Lucinda, Maine, the teens (David, Brad, Kevin, Randy and Mark) were drinking cheap booze near the abandoned old Muller Place and commiserating about being dumped or their girls being away when they set it on fire. They did not know that Sierra Terrence took shelter there and died in the inferno. Now over two decades later someone who seems to be Sierra from the grave haunts the five men who killed her and their loved ones.

“Lady of the Nile” by Susan Krinard. In 1890 London, the memories of ancient times have led Lady Tameri to believe she is the reincarnation of an Egyptian princess. Leo Erskine knows she is wrong and plans to prove to her she is just a lovely Victorian lady. However, neither the believer nor the skeptic is prepared for the prophecy that ties them in love forever.

This trilogy of urban romantic fantasies with differing spins will elate fans especially with the bonuses of a Lords of the Underworld tale and a sequel to Ms. Krinard’s Lord of Sin.

Harriet Klausner

Sleepless-Charlie Huston

Charlie Huston
Ballantine, Jan 12 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345501134

In 2010 in Los Angeles, a devastating affliction leaves its victim with chronic insomnia. Those who catch SLP never fall asleep and over the next few months the body not healing withers away until the incoherent person finally blessedly dies. Meanwhile the pandemic spreads in a city already under lawless siege as even the baseball season is cancelled.

Violence is out of control as LAPD cop Parker “Park” Haas fears for the future life of his newborn daughter especially with her mother dying, his beloved spouse dying from SLP. Meanwhile Park investigates Chasm Tide, an online game that people have turned to in order to run from reality and a black market drug Dreamer that provides relief to the misfortunate. However, as Park fears he may have caught the disease and his child too, he begins to connect dots that frighten him more than SLP.

Sleepless in Los Angeles is a terrific post-apocalyptic crime thriller starring a reluctant Noir hero who knows he is in too deep but has no idea how to get out if he is to try to save his wife and child as he keeps reminding himself he is just a cop. Somewhat different in tone and subject than Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt saga it also shares an underlying sameness of love thrives even inside a hellhole. Park is a superb individual as all he wants is to take care of his family, but circumstances forces him in the role of a hero who thinks he be Don Quixote losing to that windmill that has some of powerful people propelling it.

Harriet Klausner

The Gathering Storm-Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

The Gathering Storm
Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Tor, Nov 2009, $29.99
ISBN: 9780765302304

The Last Battle of Tarmon Gai’don seems imminent as the Shadow has expanded with no countermeasure. The Dragon Reborn Rand al’Thor knows the time is now or it will be lost forever, but instead of preparing for the war he and humanity must fight, he is preoccupied with the Seanchan invasion as the enemy to the south acts oblivious to the threat.

As time run out, a key ally against the Seanchan assault, Egwene al’Vere remains at the White Tower trying to keep the Aes Sedai from deserting out of fear and despair. If she fails, nothing The Dragon Reborn does will stop the Shadow; although even he muses sadly that it already may be too late as The Wheel of Time turns waits for no one.

With the death of Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson begins the final trilogy in what is a well written entry that appears to be closing subplots though I have said that before seemingly a zillion years ago as the prime players appear to be coming back together though I also have said that before. The story line is well written as Mr. Sanderson picks up overarching theme nicely, even the overly used musing and reflections of their lives by the heroes. Fans of the saga will enjoy The Gathering Storm, which helps to know two to go.

Harriet Klausner

Freak-Philip Henry

Philip Henry
Coral Moon, Nov 2008, $12.50
ISBN: 9780955655616

She was an innocent fifteen year old guarded by her religiously fanatic parents until the night in 1973 the carnival arrived in Port Stewart. Marie Stanton went with her friend. She meets Gustav who woos her into coming again the next night where he pays off his gambling debts by allowing six cronies to rape her. Marie becomes pregnant and gives birth, but suffered internal hemorrhaging from the damage Gustav and his associates caused to her internal organs.

Her parents kick her out of the house so she and her son Freak move into anew place aid for by her parents. Freak’s skin would not let a needle penetrate it and a person touching him ends up with broken bones. His mom lived as long as she could trying to care and protect him, but when she died he went to live in Port Stewart with his Aunt Gloria. Many thought he was an abomination, but though angry he tried to live up to what he thought his late mom would want of him. Betrayed by a young woman he cares for; when his aunt and her companion dies, Freak becomes a solitary recluse. However, the carnival with Gustav is back.

The innocence of Marie and later Freak make for an intriguing horror tale that in some ways will remind readers of Stephen King’s Carrie. The audience has mixed emotions towards Freak who receives pity and empathy yet he ironically rejects that from the few folks in town who do not loathe the abomination. Filled with twists, Freak is an interesting character study as readers will understand who the monster is.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 27, 2009

Snapped-Pamela Klaffke

Pamela Klaffke
Mira, Han 1 2010, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778327462

Fifteen years ago Sara B and Ted founded Snap with no money to truly launch the magazine. However, with its Dos and Don’ts, the magazine has become one of Canada's most popular weekly. In fact if imitation is the ultimate flattery, than Snap is the top gun.

However, as Sara B closes in on her fortieth birthday, she has lost some of her edge; even she knows she is on cruise control professional and personally. Her affair with younger Jack is okay but not any euphoric incredible. Even her renowned page Dos and Don'ts has lost its luster at least in her mind. Sara B especially feels her age since she hired energetic youthful Eva, who represents what Sara B was before she realized the new forty is still forty.

This is a superb sarcastic saga of a woman not coming to grips with middle age hammering at her when she compares herself today with Eva and with herself at Eva’s age. Time has moved on and she fears passed her by when she was not looking beyond the next Don’ts. Fans who relish a dark jocular acerbic tale will appreciate this strong tale as Sara B realizes she has gone from a Do to a Don’t.

Harriet Klausner

Baby It’s Cold Outside-Jennifer Greene, Merline Lovelace and Cindi Myers

Baby It’s Cold Outside
Jennifer Greene, Merline Lovelace and Cindi Myers
Harlequin, Jan 12 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373837397

“Blame It on the Blizzard” by Jennifer Greene. After her patient dies, Dr. Emilie Sutherland needs time away by herself so heads to her family’s hunting lodge in Alaska. However, engineer Rick Hunter arrives at her lodge seeking shelter from a blizzard.

“Deep freeze” by Merline Lovelace. After becoming number 112 of a vile Don Juan, Mia Harrelson allows her sister Emily to persuade her to head to the Southern Hemisphere for a cruise as it is summer down there. Bikinis prove a bit underdressed for Antarctica especially when the crew and passengers are in trouble until the Air Force arrives. Mia is soon in deeper trouble when she meets Palmer Station manager Brent Walker.

“Melting Point” by Cindi Myers. In Reykjavik, Eagle Mountain Sportswear marketing director Stacy Bristol hires Iceland’s first Olympic Gold Medal winner skier Kristjan Gunnarson as a model for Troll’s treasure sweaters. However he proves a gold medal winner of love when he also melts the ice from the heart of the consummate professional.

The three terrific contemporary romances live up to the classic song that is its title as love between strangers will warm the hearts of readers.

Harriet Klausner

The Earl and the Governess-Sarah Elliot

The Earl and the Governess
Sarah Elliot
Harlequin Historical, Jan 1 2010, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373295777

In 1822, William Stanton, Earl of Lennox, became the ward of goddaughter Mary Weston-Burke, an apparent hellion based on what the headmistress at her school told him. When he sees a woman being robbed by a boy, he gallantly rescues her. Isabelle Thomas is the daughter of a late antique dealer who was exposed as a fraud. Penniless with no home besides the street, she has no place to go; William, on the spur of the moment, offers her a position as governess to Mary, which a grateful Isabelle accepts.

Isabelle feels somewhat safe in William’s home and wins over a frightened Mary. However, when her employer kisses her, she has a new fear; her deep attraction to the Earl who is of a different social class than her. Isabelle knows she must leave, but does not want to hurt Mary who needs and trusts her and besides someone wants to harm her to conceal his partnership with her late father.

Chaos theory abounds in this delightful regency romance as love blossoms all because of a newt in a teacup. Fans will root for the courageous heroine and appreciate romantic William who goes after what he wants: the love of his life regardless of her father’s scandal and her social class and status. Mary enhances the tale of love between two people whose stations are as far apart as the top from the bottom of Big Ben.

Harriet Klausner

Reese’s Bride-Kat Martin

Reese’s Bride
Kat Martin
Mira, Dec 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327448

In 1855, Reese Dewar still uses a cane to help him get around his estate Briarwood after suffering wounds in battle in the Crimea. However, the biggest wound he took was to his heart when his beloved Elizabeth Clemens married the Earl of Aldridge eight years ago. Still in a rage over her betrayal, he vowed to never trust a woman again, especially this one who shared a bed with the late Edmund Holloway, her spouse.

In the middle of the night widow Elizabeth accompanied by her son Hared seeks sanctuary at Reese’s home. She insists Edmund’s brother and his wife is drugging her to control Jared’s fortune that he inherited form his late father. She fears they will arrange the deaths of her and her child if need be. Reluctantly, Reese lets them into his home, but knows the only way to protect them is to give them his name. However, though Elizabeth knows he is right before agreeing to his offer, she also owes him the truth why she betrayed him and concealed a secret that will send him into a deeper rage.

The second Victorian Dewar sibling’s Bride romance (see Royal’s Bride) is a terrific tense thriller starring two terific lead characters, a perhaps too precocious son, and two vile villains. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Elizabeth arrives at Briarwood and never slows down until the final confrontation between Dewar and Holloway. Fans will appreciate this superb second chance at love historical tale.

Harriet Klausner

Shattered-Joan Johnston

Joan Johnston
Mira, Dec 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778328292

In Austin, almost a decade has passed since Kate Grayhawk Pendleton caught her husband J.D. cheating; stunned she left and met Wyatt Shaw in a hotel bar. They made love and she left only to give birth to twins Lucky and Chance who are Wyatt’s offspring. Now the mother of the late J.D. Ann Wade is running for president and needs to know what skeletons could derail her chances of winning the Republican nomination as the kids are not her biological grandchildren.

Son of a mobster, Wyatt has learned the kids are his. He wants them and Kate in his life. At the same time Texas Ranger Jack McKinley, who broke Kate’s heart in high school, wants Kate back in his life while also trying to destroy Wyatt Shaw' who he assumes will take over his dad’s D'Amato crime syndicate. Jack’s wife Holly will do almost anything to keep her spouse whom she loves, but her son’s needs come before her heart.

This is an exciting Bitter Creek romantic suspense that fans of the saga will enjoy as the entangled relationships between the lead foursome is fascinating and made more complicated by children and parents. The story line is filled with action although too many subplots make it difficult to follow especially for a newbie. Still romantic suspense readers will enjoy the tale with an engaging mystery and plenty of suspense while wondering who will end up with whom.

Harriet Klausner

Shattered-Joan Johnston

Joan Johnston
Mira, Dec 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778328292

In Austin, almost a decade has passed since Kate Grayhawk Pendleton caught her husband J.D. cheating; stunned she left and met Wyatt Shaw in a hotel bar. They made love and she left only to give birth to twins Lucky and Chance who are Wyatt’s offspring. Now the mother of the late J.D. Ann Wade is running for president and needs to know what skeletons could derail her chances of winning the Republican nomination as the kids are not her biological grandchildren.

Son of a mobster, Wyatt has learned the kids are his. He wants them and Kate in his life. At the same time Texas Ranger Jack McKinley, who broke Kate’s heart in high school, wants Kate back in his life while also trying to destroy Wyatt Shaw' who he assumes will take over his dad’s D'Amato crime syndicate. Jack’s wife Holly will do almost anything to keep her spouse whom she loves, but her son’s needs come before her heart.

This is an exciting Bitter Creek romantic suspense that fans of the saga will enjoy as the entangled relationships between the lead foursome is fascinating and made more complicated by children and parents. The story line is filled with action although too many subplots make it difficult to follow especially for a newbie. Still romantic suspense readers will enjoy the tale with an engaging mystery and plenty of suspense while wondering who will end up with whom.

Harriet Klausner

Forbidden Falls-Robyn Carr

Forbidden Falls
Robyn Carr
Mira, Dec 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327493

Hope McCrea put the abandoned church building for sale on E-Bay. Widower reverend Noah Kincaid buys the edifice after talking with Hope as he has decided to relocate to Virgin River in Northern California to bring faith to the flock.

Noah arrives and immediately advertises for a Pastor’s Assistant although he expects no applicants, but several do; none qualify. He hires former exotic dancer with no church experience Ellie Baldwin because he feels she has earned a second chance to prove herself as “respectable” so she can regain custody of her children. Starting with admiring her spirit and her somewhat wicked sense of humor, Noah falls in love as does Ellie. However, both understand the children and the flock come before their desires.

This is an interesting addition to the Virgin River saga as two characters from different walks of life fall in love; an emotion neither wants, desires because neither has a good track record. Ellie is not afraid to open her mouth as she is brassy and amusing while the Reverend is wallowing in self pity so much so the empathetic audience as well as many locals wants to help him. Fans will appreciate the latest return to Virgin River as Robyn Carr provides a wonderful contemporary second chance at life and love.

Harriet Klausner

Toxin-Paul Martin Midden

Paul Martin Midden
Millennial Mind Publishing, Mar 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781589824928

Professor Isadore Hathaway, daughter of a deceased US senator, calls Senator Jake Telemark to ask him to meet her at the Emporia Restaurant in Alexandria immediately. Although she provides no reason why he should as they never met before he joined the “club” after her late dad left it; Jake accepts the date. At the restaurant, instead of sitting down to dine, Isadore leads Jake out the back door to a car where she tells him the horror she learned that is occurring to the United States.

Dora swears that twelve highly placed right-wing extremists “The Bookkeepers” were planning a coup d’etat. Religious fanatics, the Bookkeepers want to install a theocracy. The professor defends her claim explaining when she points out the incredibly high numbers of judges, some in perfect health, who died in the last few months; all strongly support separation of state and church. Furthermore the Bookkeepers plan chemical and nuclear attacks on American targets as a ploy to anger citizens against Muslims and killing opponents. Finally Dora raises Jake’s background as a former military-assassin who suffered a PTSD breakdown. She believes he is one of the few hopes there is to prevent the Bookkeepers from succeeding on their Machiavellian scheme. Soon afterward Denver proves time ran out.

Before 9/11 this theme would be considered in the realm of science fiction, but with the Patriot Act, the opposition to try terrorists in criminal courts, the road to the Iraq War, the health care debate and the politicalizing of Justice, etc. makes Toxin feel very plausible. The story line is fast-paced and filled with straight forward action as Dora and Jake team up to prevent a home grown catastrophe, but neither know who else to bank on. Fans will appreciate this cautionary conspiracy thriller as the premise seems too frighteningly feasible.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hero’s Tribute-Graham Garrison

Hero’s Tribute
Graham Garrison
Kregel, Oct 2009m $13.99
ISBN: 9780825426858

Michael Gavin is a hero in his hometown of Talking Creek, Georgia. He was quarterback of the high school football team and played at the University of Georgia. He was given the Medal of Honor for his distinguished service in Iraq. Parents in Talking Creek always use Michael as the epitome of a person being all they can be; in other words a hero.

However everyone is shocked when Michael learns he has cancer; the townsfolk are there for him and his family whole sadly wondering why bad things happen to good people. As he nears death, Michael asks sports reporter Wes Watkins to deliver the eulogy at his funeral. Wes is stunned as he and Michael are strangers, but agrees. He begins digging into the life of the local hero with an ulterior motive of using the story as a ticket out of town to the bigger gigs. However, Wes begins to uncover some shocking secrets in the life of the paragon revered by his town. He ponders who Michael truly was and if he tells the entire truth with what he learned what that says of him as he would push the statue of Mr. perfect off the pedestal.

Michael dies in the very beginning of the book, but readers see who he is through the filtered lens of different people especially his family, the townsfolk and the reporter as each provides their perspective. Character driven, fans will appreciate this terrific insightful look at a Hero’s Tribute as to be human means to have flaws, but it takes Amazing Grace to move past them to greatness. With a final twist at the eulogy that will leave readers stunned and wanting to join in on the four song tribute, Graham Garrison provides a strong Christian tale.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Christmas Present-Tracy Wolff

The Christmas Present
Tracy Wolff
Harlequin SuperRomance, Dec 2009, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716074

In San Francisco, Diego Sanchez who spends time at Rafael Cardoza’s Helping Hands community center is accused of murdering his pregnant teenage girlfriend. Rafael believes Diego who swears he is innocent, not because the lad says so but because he knows how much Diego loved Esme. He needs to find a good criminal layer but that costs money.

Rafael rescues divorce attorney Vivian Wentworth from a gang of teens. A mutual friend Richard sent her to defend Diego pro bono though criminal law is far from her specialty. Rafael thinks he should kick her back to uptown designer clothing where she belongs, but she refuses to quit. Instead she works extremely hard to prove Diego is innocent while also persuading Rafael to escort her as they work the mean streets seeking expert witness.

This is an engaging legal thriller romance with a delightful lead couple from opposites sides of Geary Blvd falling in love while trying to defend a Hispanic teen from a murder rap. In many ways Diego owns the story line as he has no time to grieve his loss as the system is ready to lock away a poor Hispanic not caring whether he did the brutal deed. The Christmas Present is a strong tale with a deep social commentary bringing profoundness to the holiday season.

Harriet Klausner

Baby Under The Mistletoe-Jamie Sobrato

Baby Under The Mistletoe
Jamie Sobrato
Harlequin SuperRomance, Dec 2009, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716043

Soleil Freeman and West Morgan are the last couple one would expect to see paired up. He is career military; she is biracial teaching inner city children how to grow things on her farm. Before his latest deployment, they heated up the sheets.

However, now she is carrying his offspring, but though a bit frightened of being a single mother, her biggest concern is what to do about the father. Her hesitation to inform him abruptly ends when he comes home on leave and looks her up as he still wants her. When he learns she is pregnant, he knows he wants both of them as he loves her and his unborn.

This is a timely contemporary romance as the fully developed lead couple tests whether love can overcome racial and social differences. Fans will root for this couple to make it together as Soleil and West are attractive amiable lead protagonists. Jamie Sobrato provides a wonderful tale that insists love can break down artificial barriers.

Harriet Klausner

A Mother’s Secret-Janice Kay Johnson

A Mother’s Secret
Janice Kay Johnson
Harlequin SuperRomance, Dec 2009, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716029

Near San Francisco, Kane Construction company owner Daniel Kane is stunned to learn he has a four year old son. He is outraged that his former girlfriend Rebecca Ballard never informed him about Malcolm; just like his mother concealed who his father is from him.

He vows at a minimum he will be a father to Malcolm, but also knows he wants Rebecca in his life although he is angry with her. On the other hand, Rebecca never stopped loving Daniel, but fears his childhood hurts still haunts him and will never allow him to be a good father to Malcolm or a caring husband to her.

The solid cast especially the lead male makes for a deep contemporary romance as the child is the man. Daniel wants Rebecca and Malcolm in his life, but also fears having hem in his life. Rebecca knows here beloved carries baggage that prevents him from loving others. Fans will relish this poignant second chance as Daniel needs to embrace not run from love.

Harriet Klausner

The Semantics of Murder-Aifric Campbell

The Semantics of Murder
Aifric Campbell
Serpent’s Tail, Sep 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9781846687334

Cocky American Dr. Jay Hamilton moves from Los Angeles to London where he practices psychoanalysis in Kensington. His affluent clientele worship by him and his practice is thriving. However, they are ignorant that Dr. Hamilton has an alter ego.

As J Merritt, he writes stories about psychological analysis that is major sellers. His subjects are the clients he treats as Dr, Hamilton. He also has his own psychotic secret, the murder of his beloved older brother Robert, who raised him. Biographer Dana Flynn visits Jay to interview him about a book she is writing about Robert that leads to an abashed Jay questioning his ethics for using his clients especially Cora as the subjects of his books.

The semantics of Murder is an intriguing look at ethics as Dana’s inquiries into Jay’s late hero Robert coaxes him to take a discerning gaze into what he is doing. Robert, who was much older, was more a caring father than a sibling; thus Jay has the epiphany that Robert disappointingly stares down at him. Although the action is minimal, fans who relish a cerebral character driven tale will enjoy Jays’ morale reawakening.

Harriet Klausner

Beyond the Night-Joss Ware

Beyond the Night
Joss Ware
Avon, Jan 12 2010), $7.99
ISBN: 9780061734014

When their stolen van breaks down, the teens start walking. When night falls, the deadly Gangas attack them. Men arrive who toss light bombs at the Gangas while a woman on a horse also helps the teens escape. Dr. Elliot Drake and his cohorts (Quint, Wyatt, Fence and Simon) had entered a Sedona, New Mexico cave fifty years ago only to come out six months ago to a world gone mad. The lady on the horse Jade broke her arm. David touches Jade and heals her arm; when he touches a teen to insure she is okay he accidentally transfers the broken arm to the teen. David is confused with this power. The kids are from Envy, a place the five disjointed Americans seek.

Jade distrusts men having been held prisoner for three years by ruthless Preston and Raul, who assume she is dead. Quint and Wyatt report a female saved their lives. Elliot wants to touch Jade, but is afraid to do so due to his newly discovered power. Gangas attack, but with the help of Zoe Kapoor, who saved the lives of Quint and Wyatt earlier, they defeat their foes. During the fight Jade noticed that Elliot had no crystal protruding from his back like the evil Strangers have before she leaves. The five men and the teens travel to Envy, built by the Waxnicki brothers just after the collapse. The quintet realizes Envy was Las Vegas affirming their world is gone.

The futuristic world feels genuine with references back to the old world. The lead couple is a strong pairing and the support cast is solid playing major roles. The Strangers and the Gangas seem eerie and malevolent. Although the villain does not seem as tough as his legend once the reader meets him near the end, fans will appreciate this strong post apocalyptic future story and want more such thrillers in the world of Joss Ware.

Harriet Klausner

Jane Bites Back-Michael Thomas Ford

Jane Bites Back
Michael Thomas Ford
Ballantine, Dec 29 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345513656

Jane Austen is frustrated with receiving no royalties for her classics and for the use of her name in books and movies. In fact the worst to her is watching others sell books starring her or her characters and she cannot get one publisher interested in her last manuscript, written two centuries ago just before Lord Byron changed her into a vampire.

Living in Brakeston, New York as Jane Fairfax, owner of Flyleaf Books, finally has a publisher interested in her manuscript, rejected over a hundred times. Kelly Littlejohn of Browden Publishing of New York buys the rights. Meanwhile Byron using the name Brian George tries to court Jane while mortal carpenter widower Walter Fletcher shows an interest in her. When Jane’s book is critically acclaimed and makes best-seller status, a nineteenth century rival is sent over the top of the Empire State Building in rage.

This satirical contemporary tale takes two amusing bites out of the romantic Austen forever mania and the romantic vampire forever mania. The story line is lighthearted fun as Jane is frustrated that cynical fools make money off her name, but she cannot get a novel published or receive royalty for the use of her name. When she gets published, a century and a half rivalry explodes. Fans will enjoy this well written humorous take as Jane Bites Back.

Harriet Klausner

Mercury Falls-Robert Kroese

Mercury Falls
Robert Kroese
St. Culain Press, Jul 13 2009, $12.00
ISBN: 9780578032146

Banner religious reporter Christine Temetri has heard too often that the End of Times is about to begin. However, she changes her mind about this time it is for real when she meets indifferent Mercury an angel who prefers making Rice Krispy Treats. He informs her that the schedule is set and the Antichrist is a thirty seven years old dropout living in his mom’s attic.

Karl Grissom is ready to make his big debut a smashing success. Christine pleads with Mercury to prevent the insanity from occurring. Meanwhile strange bedfellows surface as angels and fallen angels ally either for the end of mankind to begin or to prevent the final curtain. When an effort to kill Karl before he can pronounce who he is to an unsuspecting world fails due to a blunder by Christine and Mercury, Lucifer vows to kill the interfering duo and take out traitors in his ranks and that of God.

Mindful of the Travolta’s film Michael, but with a sharper edge, Mercury Falls is a terrific often amusing End of days thriller that takes a wicked shot at the commercialization of Heaven, Hell and everyone in between. Robert Kroese makes a lucid point throughout that there is not much to choose from between the bi-polar opposites as bureaucracies run both in spite of leaders trying otherwise. Readers will enjoy the debate on what the Apocalypse means to angels and demons as each wonders if they will die. The heroes Christine and Mercury prove there are no shortcuts even in death to heaven or hell.

Harriet Klausner

Starfist: Double Jeopardy-David Sherman and Dan Cragg

Starfist: Double Jeopardy
David Sherman and Dan Cragg
Del Rey, Dec 29 2009, $25.00
ISBN 9780345501011

Amongst the units of the Confederate Marine Corps, the 34th FIST is the most highly regarded and most decorated. The unit is the first to be called upon when the going requires the bravest and the best.

However, those accolades prove a double edge sword to the soldiers as morale is at its lowest due to extended deployments in dangerous scenarios and the knowledge that more deadly battles in combat zones will follow. The 34th FIST never seems to get any R&R as the unit is sent to Ishtar in anticipation of a Skink attack on the planet. However, they are not greeted as heroic saviors by the indigenous population, but instead the native Fuzzies attack the squad especially as the marines uncover an illegal mining operation.

This is a super military science fiction that has great battles, but it is the insightful look at the morale of the troops after constant extended deployments that hits home with relevancy and poignancy. Ironically, no one is fully developed yet the 34 FIST marines’ respites between combat brings the deepness to the plot. David Sherman and Dan Cragg provide a strong tale as the soldiers are mentally tired with several seemingly on the cusp of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Run For Your Life-James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Run For Your Life
James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Grand Central, Oct 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780446562676

In New York City Police Detective Michael Bennett has no time to mourn the loss of his beloved wife as he has to deal with their ten grieving kids suffering from the loss of their mom and the flu. However, he has no time away from the job either as a serial killer is murdering people in daylight at expensive uptown places.

Bennett leads the investigation with the brass demanding a fast resolution although their motives to assigning the honest cop the case is to keep him occupied while an official inquiry into a hostage shooting death that the department apparently misplayed is undrway. Michael finds no viable clues, initially, but luck sends him to soon link the homicides to a psychopath calling himself the "Teacher". The maniac’s mission is to teach lessons in manners to those rude rich rubes who mistreated him or others especially humiliating him in front of others. As he closes in on the culprit, the Teacher catches a child dear to Michael and soon has the cop too. Using the skills he learned as a hostage negotiator, Michael tries to extract the child from the lunatic before he thinks of saving his own life.

This over the top of the Manhattan skyline thriller is fun, fun, and more fun yet has a philosophical underpinning to the fast-paced plot when the Teacher poses the question is this life worth getting up for every morning? Readers will appreciate this entertaining tale as a beleaguered Michael learns a lesson from the teacher as to what matters in life.

Harriet Klausner

Dancing for the Hangman-Martin Edwards

Dancing for the Hangman
Martin Edwards
Five Star, Dec 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9781594148484

In 1910 in London, stunned American physician Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen awaits execution as he has been convicted of the murder of his second wife Cora. He swears he is innocent, but no one believes him except the real killer.

However, he also believes a jury of his peers found him guilty of her homicide due to his flaunting of acceptable grieving. He abandoned his son so he could move in with no hindrances with his mistress. Now he confesses to his side of what has led to his wrongful date with the scaffold.

This is a fascinating ethnographical fiction of a real life person as Crippen tells his side of the tale in which he insists he is not a killer, but convicted of an unacceptable lifestyle. Fans will enjoy his narration though he comes across as an unsympathetic person as he pulls no punches. Apparently in (see Crippen by John Boyne), Crippen was an intriguing person whose behavior was unsavory but did he commit murder?

Harriet Klausner

My Own Worst Enemy-Brandon Hebert

My Own Worst Enemy
Brandon Hebert
Five Star, Dec 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9781594148279

In Florida, Coral Gables police catch burglar Jack Murray outside of the house he and his partner Rudy Maxa just robbed. Rudy escapes with the loot while Jack is convicted of the crime and goes to prison for a year and a day.

Incarceration at Okeechobee Correctional Institute shook up Murray so once he is freed, he vows to go straight. Miami mob boss Caesar Pelli rewards Jackie for keeping quiet by hiring him as a manager of a club he has on Collins. At the club Jack is attracted to twenty six year old psychology major at Florida Atlantic club pole dancer Miranda Mendoza. She reciprocates but tries to conceal her feelings as she is an undercover FBI agent. When Murray meets Maxa, he finds his former partner has some powerful allies he made in the past year who will kill Murray if he even hints at harming Rudy.

Jack is a terrific protagonist, who wants to go straight, but no one seems to believe him as crime is in his blood; his cronies assume he is going through a short readjustment to civilian life after a year in jail. On the other hand, Miranda makes no sense as she is undercover but gives that away without a second thought as if she is thinking with her libido rather than her brains. Still even with a thin plot, fans will relish this fast-paced South Florida crime caper as everyone knows Jack, they think.

Harriet Klausner

A Word to the Wise-David Heinzmann

A Word to the Wise
David Heinzmann
Five Star, Dec 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9781594148477

Former FBI Agent Augustine Flood has become a practicing attorney in Chicago at the law firm of Cronin, Drew and Guzman. Senior partner Alan Cronin assigns Flood to a certain case due to his eight years as a Fed to help a desperate client, Dan Westlake, find his missing wife, Marcy. Westlake is not being altruistic as he needs his spouse so he can obtain his money invested in an offshore account in Marcy’s name.

Flood learns later that Westlake is connected to a mob-run casino project that is undergoing a federal investigation. From his former FBI contacts, Flood meets a battered corpse whom he assumes is Marcy. Now he must decide between his position at the firm and its client or the cops, not realizing he inadvertently places his girlfriend Jenny in jeopardy and not from his baking.

This is an engaging Chicago investigative thriller that is fun to read except when the hero bakes apple pie, etc. as his cooking feels forced to soften up his hardboiled personality (should have used quiche). The action-packed story line takes readers on an intriguing tour of Chicago as Flood leaves the downtown Lake Michigan area to loop his way into a hostage mess. A Word to the Wise is a bit thin, but enjoyable starring a lead character who is at his best outside the kitchen kicking down barriers especially human.

Harriet Klausner

Assassins of Athens-Jeffrey Siger

Assassins of Athens
Jeffrey Siger
Poisoned Pen, Jan 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9781590586891

In Athens, Greece, Police Chief Inspector of the Special Crimes Division Andreas Kaldis arrives at a rundown part of the city to look at a corpse found amongst garbage in a dumpster. At GADA, Andreas' secretary Maggie Sikestis sees the photos of the victim and recognizes he is Sotiris Kostopoulos who is always in the tabloids as part of a ménage a trois with the granddaughter of the Linardos clan while his family and hers are at war.

Andreas visits Sotiris’ adopted parents Zanni and Ginny, who say nothing to the news or the questions asked by the CI. An affluent publisher Zanni says the only suspects he can think of are Sarantis Linardos and his family as each covets the highly regarded The Athenian newspaper. Meanwhile clues lead the detective to hooker Anna Panitz who admits to taking cash from strangers to entice the victim to go with her to an isolated locale. With pressure mounting from high officials to close the case, Andreas keeps the pressure on the feuding families and their associates.

The latest Kaldis investigation (see Murder in Mykonos) is an enjoyable Greek police procedural Noir as the CI curses out incompetent cops and roughs up crooks while taking fans on a tour of Athens not seen by the Olympics crowd. The story line is fast-paced from the opening moment when Kaldis hammers a cop for tainting a crime scene and never slows down as he stares down everyone except Maggie. Although somewhat linear with not twists, fans will enjoy this tough cop’s homicide investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Death Without Tenure-Joanne Dobson

Death Without Tenure
Joanne Dobson
Poisoned Pen, Jan 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9781590585856

In Massachusetts, Enfield College English Professor Karen Pelletier is up for tenure. Her rival has much less experience and papers than Karen has. However, the department chair is pushing Native American Joe Lone Wolf for the spot.

Upset by what she knows is unfair treatment, Karen is also anxious about her daughter Amanda who is in Kathmandu, Nepal and her boyfriend U.S. National Guard Bureau Lieutenant and State Police Investigator as a civilian Charles Piotrowski deployed to Iraq. When Joe dies from apparent peyote poisoning, the police suspect Karen as she had plenty to gain with the competition removed. Not one to sit by idly, Karen puts aside her personal concerns made worse by a jealous “Person” in the department to investigate and soon locates other suspects from among the faculty, staff and student bodies.

Professor Pelletier's latest amateur sleuth (see The Maltese Manuscript) is a fascinating whodunit that starts off a bit slow as Karen whines about the unfairness of academic life, but accelerates once the heroine gets out of her funk to investigate the homicide. The story line somewhat lampoons the college world as Karen’s inquiries lead to stereotype characters from all lines of academia and their related issues. Fans will enjoy the New England English professor who puts aside her companion The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson to investigate who killed her rival.

Harriet Klausner

Virtually Dead-Peter May

Virtually Dead
Peter May
Poisoned Pen, Jan 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9781590586709

In California, Orange County Forensic Science Service photographer Michael Kapinsky cannot cope with the crippling depression he feels ever since his wife Mora died from cancer. Her medical care ran him into steep debt that he despondently feels he can never climb out of.

Michael agrees to try an experimental online group therapy session as suggested by his shrink. As Chas Chesnokov he joins Second Life with its fourteen million members. Orange County crime scene investigator Janey Amat is a member too; managing the Twist of Fate Detective Agency. Janey is elated to have Michael sign on to SL and join her as her detective partner. Chas also enjoys the company of escort dancer Doobie Littlething. However, Chas soon fears that an online stalker is killing people on SL and in real life as Chas recognizes crime scenes online that match some he has been to as Michael.

This is a terrific thriller that contains strong SL and RL whodunits that link the virtual with the real. However, what makes the tale is the deep look at the psychological uplift of becoming part of a social online network as Peter May takes the audience deep inside the new way we relate and will relate virtually. With a strong investigative mystery and a deep look at a modern day network nation of fourteen million netizens that find the virtual intoxicating, Peter May provides a fascinating exciting thriller; if you have not read this author you are missing one of the best.

Harriet Klausner

The Killswitch Review-Steven-Elliot Atman and Diane DeKelb-Rittenhouse

The Killswitch Review
Steven-Elliot Atman and Diane DeKelb-Rittenhouse
Yard Dog Press, Dec 12009, $16.00
ISBN: 9780982470404

By the year 2156, America is a radically different place than it was circa 2009 thanks to incredible scientific breakthroughs. People live for centuries, which lead to overpopulation that makes the Malthusian model understated. Fortress America closed all borders as no immigration is legal. Natives receive full citizenship at thirty years old and junior citizenship at age twenty-five. Anyone younger is considered a child who has not been issued their KV (a Kevorkian type device).

People have the right to commit suicide and are encouraged to do so by using their KV device that is with them at all times.. Jason Haggerty is press review agent of the Government of who sees thelast moments of a suicide’s life to make sure that person chose to die and was not murdered. He hooks up with Regina who sees at a Jesus Clone concert a triple press suicide by three of their underage fans. Jason takes the case and ends up almost being the most wanted man on the Federal Government’s most wanted list because manufactured evidence incriminates him in all sorts of heinous crimes. He does not who he should trust as he conducts an investigation on o who framed him and to prevent the horrific scheme of mass murders disguised as suicides that seems about to occur.

This futuristic science fiction is loaded with plenty of action, but not at the cost of strong characterizations. Jason is about to use his KV device when he is called on a case that leads to his being on the run from authorities and a new understanding of how precious life is. He also comprehends that Generation Zero may have to wait until their seventies to enjoy citizenship, but Jason’s immediate goal is prevent the mass suicides that are planned even if he must die to achieve his objective. He is an anti-hero who has found something worth living and dying for that turns him into an admirable hero even if he fails.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 23, 2009


Philip Henry
Black Death Books, 2004, 209 pp.
ISBN: 0974768022

For a hundred and six years vampires Claire and Xavier have been together. However, Claire has had recent doubts about being a predator as she is sick of the killings that have led to depression setting in her soul. Xavier also ails when neither has felt sick in over a century or so. A shrink would help, but how do you explain to a psychiatrist that you feel depressed because you get nourishment by drinking the blood of your former species. The duo concludes the shortage of vampires in the dawning of the twenty-first century has caused an imbalance between good vs. bad, which has caused a psychosomatic reaction that leaves them feeling feeble. They need to create new vampires.

For two decades Christian Warke has searched for the monster that killed his wife. He does not care one iota about some inane imbalance between good and evil or that he might save someone. All that matters is revenge by destroying vampires. Christian, Claire, and Xavier meet as good and evil confront, but who has right on their side when friends become foes and your enemy shares your blood?

VAMPIRE DAWN is a terrific tale that provides a fresh look at the vampire-human "relationship". The story line is told from the varying perspectives of Claire, Xavier, and Christine without regard to who is the real hero as none of the three are totally saints or sinners. Fans will appreciate this superb action-packed horror drama in which author Philip Henry leads his audience into a one sitting read that ends with the reader wondering who is the good guy for the means is as important as the ends.

Harriet Klausner


Phillip Henry
Coral Moon

The Ministry has kept the vampire Kaaliz incarcerated in the Pennines as government scientists secretly experimented on him. Every day that passes his hatred for his captors and the two former vampires Claire and Xavier who Made him what he is but deserted him when he became what he is grows to the point he doubts his sanity. Ministry agent Lucinda Sheridan helps Kaaliz escape, but before she does that she demands he change her; he does into the vampires Sin.

Kaalitz and Sin vow to destroy those who harmed him starting with Claire and Xavier who live a normal life with their purebred human son; and after them the agents of the Ministry. They will kill anyone who happens to be in their way even the innocent. The Ministry sends their top agents to bring both back preferably alive so more research can be conducted; but if necessary dead is acceptable. Also chasing the rogue vampiric duet are vampire slayer Chloe and Xavier's half breed daughter Lynda.

The sequel to the exciting refreshing VAMPIRE DAWN is an entertaining vampire thriller that once again emphasizes no one is all saint or sinner. However, in this novel the maniacal Kaaliz seems so insane that he appears as pure evil; the good he once might have possessed having been vanquished with each experiment and every day in which his Makers failed to come for him. Although much more mainstream than the previous unique first tale, Philip Henry provides genre fans with a strong entry as the past has come back to haunt the present and future of former vampires Claire and Xavier as their offspring has become the expendable pawn of the avengers and the Ministry.

Harriet Klausner

Lute Player-Norah Lofts

Lute Player
Norah Lofts
Touchstone, Dec 8 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9781439146071

Blondel the lute player loves Berengaria the wife of his sire, King Richard the Lionhearted although he does not act on his regard for several reasons and not just because he would be executed. He knows the woman he cherishes above all else loves her husband and beside he is the king’s companion and would never be disloyal. Berengaria's hunchbacked sister Anna Apieta is attracted to Blondel while Richard loves Crusading and men.

When Richard heads off for Jerusalem, Blondel accompanies him mostly because of his love for Berengaria. After they failed, he returns home with his monarch until the king is captured in France. He continues home not sure how to break the news to the woman he loves.

The Lute Player is a terrific medieval fiction in which the audience obtains a less romantic but totally human view of King Richard the Lionhearted and the Crusades through the eyes of four people impacted by the monarch and the war. Besides the title player, the audience learns how the queen and her sister feel as well as the ruler’s mother Eleanor of Aquitaine. With a strong antiwar message as the horrors come home to roost to those on the home front, Norah Lofts provides a super historical showcasing the effect of the Third Crusade on Richard’s mother and wife.

Harriet Klausner

Prodigal Father-Kara Lynn Russell

Prodigal Father
Kara Lynn Russell
Five Star, Dec 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148231

In Green Bay, three and a half years ago Scott Lind left his wife Beth who had miscarried shortly before he vanished. He never emailed or called her or his parents. Now he is back in town praying Beth will give him a second chance. He starts his search for her at his father’s car dealership where he hopes his dad will help him. Instead, he is shocked to find shy Beth selling cars as he assumed she went back to her estranged parents and school.

After his angry cousin punches him, he persuades his wife to have coffee with him to talk. His father arrives and yells at him about being irresponsible deserting his pregnant spouse. Scott is stunned as he did not know his spouse was pregnant again and gave birth to a little girl Risa who has Down’s syndrome. He explains to her he inherited a resort in Spruce Point from a late friend a few hours to the north and wants his family to join him there. Beth wants to say no as he left once before and fears he will harm Risa, but she sees how good he is with her daughter. Although her father in-law wants her to kick his son to the curb, she decides to take a chance on love.

Although his inheritance simplifies Scott’s self esteem issue by giving him what he perceived he needed before he left, this is a terrific second chance at love family drama. His wife expects Scott to leave again when the going gets tough. He knows he must overcome his wife’s doubts though he proves good with Risa. Fans will enjoy this fine tale as the Prodigal Father returns home to win back his wife only to learn he has a daughter to win over too.

Harriet Klausner

The Mating Game-Barbara Raffin

The Mating Game
Barbara Raffin
Five Star, Dec 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148248

Ten years ago they met in high school. He was a hunk and she was the too tall, too skinny and too shy. Clay Davidson made a bet that he could score with Kelby Richards, but when he had the chance in his mother’s Winnebago, he fled. She later learned of the wager that just added to her broken heart as she knew he could not even make love to her.

His action towards “Stretch” upset Clay who ran away because he became frightened of his feelings towards Kelby. He changed how he treated people because of her. At a dog show in Wisconsin, they meet and he begs her for a second chance, but she refuses. He still sees the hurt in her eyes. His mom kidnaps his dog Pirate to persuade Kelby to breed with her canine Chancey. They sign a contract, but Stretch makes it clear one heat season only and she is not part of the deal. However, she fails to see the fine print he put on the contract.

This is an entertaining second chance at love romance as Kelby sees a second chance not to atone for what he did as a teen to Stretch, but to prove his love for her that he failed to understand back when they were in high school. The support cast enhances the tale whether they are four legged or two legged as each in their own way causes havoc. Fans will enjoy Clay’s efforts to persuade Kelby that men like him stay (unlike him in high school or her father) though his lone regret at his desperate second chance is using his pet Pirate as a matchmaking stud.

Harriet Klausner

Faces in the Pool-Jonathan Gash

Faces in the Pool
Jonathan Gash
Minotaur, Dec 8 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312384111

When his antique scam failed, Lovejoy is sent to prison for his con. However, Ellen Jaynor, owner of The Anglers Manglers Speed-Datery offers to get him out of jail immediately if he agrees to marry temporarily millionaire Laura Moon. In fact Laura wants Lovejoy to find her former spouse, but he smells a rat in which he will be left holding the crap when the ex is killed.

His apprentice Lydia and his son Mortimer persuade him to at least attend the antiques convention of the sixteen groups representing the world's Lost Tribes. They want him to authenticate their antiques. However, nothing goes right as Mortimer is kidnapped and the edifice storing the artifacts is burned to the ground. However, the worst is watching his beloved sail off into the sunset with her lover and the booty from the Lost Tribes' valuables. Jail seems safer.

The story line is all over the place as Jonathan Gash proves chaos theory can be fun to read inside a crime caper. The cast is strong as Lovejoy is his usual roguish self as nothing is quite what it seems or goes right. Not for everyone as the dots don’t connect in a simple easy to follow way as B does not follow A, or precede C; fans who enjoy mass pandemonium will want to read convoluted Faces in the Pool.

Harriet Klausner

Wings of Creation-Brenda Cooper

Wings of Creation
Brenda Cooper
Tor, Nov 10 2009, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765320957

Their family abandoned the siblings Joseph and Chelo Lee on Fremont (see The Silver Ship and the Sea), but they soon find themselves unwelcome here also. During a battle on the colony planet, Joseph the Wind Reader pilot saves the life of Chelo.

They and his beloved Alicia join their “new” family on Lopali. However, hostilities have ignited openly with war seemingly imminent between Lopali and Islas. The newcomers soon learn that Lopali is not quite the haven they thought when they first arrived; as everyone wants to fly free including Alicia, but few are allowed. Joseph’s mentor Marcus wants him to help the subspecies soar soul and body, but to do so means many will die when the tyrannical state run modifications fail.

This is an entertaining antiwar teen fantasy that grips the audience from the moment the siblings are rejected again. Fans will root for courageous Joseph as he defies the law restricting who can fly to train locals to soar. The romantic subplot between him and Alicia is cute but also detracts from a strong entry in which many people choose to live free to fly or die.

Harriet Klausner

Destroyer of Worlds-Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner

Destroyer of Worlds
Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner
Tor, Nov 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765322050

By 2670 those who predicted the explosion at the galactic core remain in flight. Humans and their allies the Puppeteers are desperately leaving the destruction expanding rapidly dead zone in a mass exodus.

However, at the same time of the mass flight, a third species the Pak also tries to escape after their world Pakhome was destroyed. Pak operative Thssthfok will do whatever it takes to save his species. He and others raid frightened worlds to steal supplies leaving pandemic corpses behind. When a distress signal from Gw'ot reaches the leadership the human-Puppeteer alliance, agent Sigmund Ausfaller accompanied by Baedeker investigates as an unmarked vessel heads towards the fleeing armada. Reluctantly Sigmund works with the Gw'oth to learn who is inside the ship, but he distrusts his new allies more than the Pak as he understands the ruthlessness of the latter but not science above all else of the former.

Destroyer of Worlds is kind of having Gulliver fleeing amidst the Batttlestar Galactica crowd. A decade since the Juggler of Worlds, the mass exodus is in full swing, but enemies exist causing havoc at a time when chaos does not need deadly outsiders to create more of it. Obviously for fans of the Known Space universe who will fully relish the prequel saga of the Puppeteers and humans running from the core meltdown but newcomers will be lost in space.

Harriet Klausner

Vintage Soul-David Niall Wilson

Vintage Soul
David Niall Wilson
Five Star, Dec 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147579

In San Valencez, California someone with incredible skills breaks into the home of Johndrow, not an easy task considering the security he has and that he happens to be a master vampire. That individual killed an ancient wizard who was his security chief and abducted his lover three century old vampire vixen Vanessa. Neither of these actions is the work of a normal break and enter caper. Whoever did this has extraordinary power, but Johndrow has one goal: bring back his beloved home.

However, he is also realistic about a counter assault as his unknown foe he assumes has much greater power than he has. He needs help so he turns to ancient manuscript collector, the human mage Donavan DeChance, who walks on both sides of the normal-paranormal spectrum without fear of either. Donovan, accompanied by a crow, a cat and his lover the mage Amethyst, begins the inquiry into the super paranormal as the sleuth magician fears a ritual has begun that could destroy a hell of lot more than just a vampiress.

This is a fascinating urban fantasy noir that grips the reader from the opening encounter with bored vampires partying in a penthouse and never slows as the human mage casts spells to stop his opponents. The whodunit is terrific as the hero and his retinue explores the darkness made even darker by a grim serial killer who drains the blood of the undead. Fans will want to join Donovan and company on their trek to solve a supernatural murder mystery before it is too late.

Harriet Klausner

Flowers for Elvis-Julia Schuster

Flowers for Elvis
Julia Schuster
Bell Bridge, Apr 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9780982175613

Single woman Willard gives birth to twins; one is white while the other is black. She knows that in the Eisenhower era in Mississippi she, the kids and her lover would be lynched. However, the black child Olivia dies, but instead of the newborn’s soul going to heaven she remains at the portal to watch over her sister whose life will be difficult. Willard’s sister Genevieve is also pregnant and the Mother Superior orders her to keep her niece (though she doesn’t know it is her sister’s child) saying she had twins.

Over the years Olivia’s spirit watches over her twins whom she loves equally. They do not have an easy life because Genevieve is a bit touched, ignoring her children as they grow up; providing a terrible home-life due to drinking, stealing and turning tricks. As a young teen Louisa gets pregnant and her lover refuses to leave his wife. Louisa stays with him as his mistress; she has several miscarriages. Her twin Anna Beth tries to be supportive and though their lives are stretched neither breaks. However, their attitude towards their mom is different as they have given up trying to reach the horrid woman. Their spirit sister Olivia tries to console them as she knows God has a plan for each of them.

The poignant story line focuses on a dysfunctional suburban civil Rights Era dysfunctional Mississippi family. The narrator Olivia tells the tale of her sisters and like readers learns late in the plot what her purpose is and why God cannot take her to him at this time. Genevieve suffers from mental illness but little is understood about her illness. She is self destructs believing her patron saint is Elvis and she almost destroys the twins she neglects. Flowers for Elvis is a touching tale made stronger by a unexpected spin.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Only You-Deborah Grace Staley

Only You
Deborah Grace Staley
Bell Bridges, May 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9780982175637

Angel Ridge, Tennessee with fewer than five hundred residents is a town in which everyone knows one another especially their place in a two class society as the rich founding families dominate the supporting masses. Not part of the elite, Josie Allen left Angel Ridge for seven years obtaining various degrees in Library Science, but has come home to be Director of the town’s library. The society ladies expect Josie to remain within her upper class origins and getting the program she created for the library working so that the Internet interface with the library collection is bug free.

Nobody including Josie expected her to become involved with handyman Cole Craig, son of one of the founding family. He was her childhood protector and had a crush on her before she left town. He fixes a busted pipe at her home that flooded her kitchen. Despite the townsfolk disapproval of the professional librarian and the handyman dating with the help of matchmaking Dixie Ferguson, owner of Ferguson's Diner and the opposition of high society who threatens Josie’s employment if she fails to break up with Cole, Josie does what she thinks is right for her.

Anyone seeking a sweet old fashioned contemporary regional romance will enjoy Only You. There are two stars who find something special in their relationship while the townsfolk mostly stand in their way. Cole is an interesting silent hero (think of a modern day Gary Cooper) who takes the handyman jobs he does because he likes fixing things and that trait proves handy in winning Josie. This is a sweet tale of love could not care less what color collar you wear.

Harriet Klausner

Doppelganger-Laura Resnick

Laura Resnick
Daw, Jan 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756405953

New York actress Esther Diamond waits for her next gig, but brings in needed cash while resting between roles as a singing waitress at Bella Stella because the patrons when they are not killed are mobsters who everyone knows are the best tippers. As she shares Ben and Jerry with NYPD Irish-Cuban police detective Connor Lopez, the deceased gangsters suddenly return to life.

Connor leads the investigations into the dead firing guns with real ammo. At the same Eastern Standard Time, Esther and her unwise in the way of street magic but a guru with magic-Magic, Max the Magician and his crime fighting companion Nelli the saliva canine queen at her side, also makes inquiries on a slightly different plane than the cops as a gang war from beyond threaten the streets of Manhattan.

The sequel to Disappearing Nightly is an amusing urban fantasy starring a wonderful heroine surrounded by a horde of eccentrics, one straight cop, and one interfering matchmaking mom. The jocular story line is filled with a fast-paced frenzy from the first magical mugging until the last as Esther proves once again to be a reader’s best friend with her misadventures in Manhattan mystical mayhem.

Harriet Klausner

The Spirit Lens-Carol Berg

The Spirit Lens
Carol Berg
Roc, Jan 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9780451463111

The world of sorcery and magic may be coming to an end as increasingly historians and philosophers as well as King Philippe of Sabria turn to natural science for answers. When the ruler begins to close the collegia magica, the faculty and staff picture a threat to their lucrative way of life. Many of the mages believe assassinating the monarch will end this nonsense.

Portier de Savin-Duplais has failed at everything he has attempted including flunking out as a magic student. He gets by with cheap tricks and illusions as he knows he cannot charm a flea to live on a dog; instead he is a low life curator at the last collegia magica in Sabria. However, a despondent Portia battling depression is stunned when his cousin a zillion or so blood lines apart, King Philippe assigns him with the investigation into what the monarch thinks is a plot to murder him. Portier is euphoric as he feels his greatness will be fulfilled although his companions Ilario the chevalier and Dante the rogue sorcerer seem to keep tearing down his superego.

This is a super opening to what looks like a great alternate Renaissance fantasy. The cast is strong regardless of their significance, but especially the lead protagonist who seems like he suffers from Bipolar disorder and his zany companions. Fans will appreciate this strong beginning as science and sorcery collide when three undercover agents investigate the divine and unholy collision of murder, magic, and physics.

Harriet Klausner

Coldheart Canyon-Clive Barker

Coldheart Canyon
Clive Barker
Harper, Nov 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061769054

Willem Zeffer manages the career of silent film star Katya Lupescu who sadistically took pleasure from others. While in Romania, Willem buys painted tiles from a medieval monastery that graphically show bizarre sexual encounters. He brings them to Hollywood though he is unable to explain to himself let alone his wife why he had to buy the erotic artwork. However, he has them placed inside of Katya’s Coldheart Canyon mansion; which leads to a who’s who of the silent film era coming to her home ostensibly to see the queen of frozen sadism, but deep down each knows they visit to admire the sexual arousing masterpieces.

Six decades since a bewildered Willem brought the tiles to California, movie star Todd Pickett recovers from slipshod cosmetic surgery at Coldheart Canyon mansion. At the same time he wallows in self pity, the president of a Todd fan club, unhappily married Tammy Lauper, decides to visit her recuperating hero to help him heal. Still visiting the mansion are the ghosts of Hollywood legends and wannabes who came to see the artwork of the Queen of Hell condemning a hunter to sexually depravity that gripped each of them when they were alive and continues its fascination well passed their death, a hellish time on earth.

This is a fascinating dark Hollywood ghost story that also pays homage to the legends of the silver screen. The story line is fast-paced and gripping though not particularly as frightening as some of Clive Barker’s previous works. Fans will enjoy Mr. Barker turning Jacqueline Susan and the spirit of Harold Robbins on their respective heads as they are just two of the ghosts of Hollywood residing at Coldheart Canyon.

Harriet Klausner

A Young Man Without Magic-Lawrence Watt-Evans

A Young Man Without Magic
Lawrence Watt-Evans
Tor, Nov 2009, $27.95
ISBN: 9780765322791

In Lume, food riots break out while noble magicians use commoners as sacrifices to bring in a needed harvest. The orphaned son of two renowned sorcerers who died using magic, Anrel Marau shows no skills so he loses his nobility status. His uncle makes him a clerk while also training his nephew’s friend Valin, the son of the baker, who surprisingly as a commoner possesses the ability to employ magic. However, Valin a champion for change is accused of theft by Lord Allutal and dies in a duel.

His friend’s death angers Anrel to the point of demanding justice from the Grand Council and is the impetus to awaken his dormant magic skills that had vanished when he became an orphan. As the emperor invokes a new Grand Council meeting to deal with unrest, Anrel causes a riot that leads to his being branded traitor. He flees for his life into the hinterland where kind witches teach him simple spells.

Although the transformation from mundane “commoner” to magic user rabble rouser seems unreal as the impetus to return the magic to the young hero, fans will enjoy his political coming of age fantasy. Anrel’s loss of his talent is a classic defense mechanism reaction to the deaths of his parents, but the return appears impossible as is his sudden eloquence as a public speaker. Still the society is interesting as the caste system is unraveling and the masses seem heading towards a French revolution when the nobles’ attitude is let them eat cake when they have no bread (or flour). Fans will have to set their plausibility index on low, but if one can they will enjoy the political and magical awakenings of Anrel; if not pass.

Harriet Klausner

The Discworld Graphic Novels-Terry Pratchett

The Discworld Graphic Novels
Terry Pratchett
Harper, Oct 2009, $$16.99
ISBN: 9780061833106

“The Colour of Magic”. Discworld lies evenly flat on four elephants who ride on the back of a turtle orbiting around the universe. Tourist Twoflower from the Agatean Empire on the Counterweight Continent has come to Ankh-Morpork to see the famous sights. Noted loser, drop-out and coward Rincewind the worst wizard is assigned to show the visitor the city or he will lose a few extremities in case he foolishly refuses the kind offer. When an inferno engulfs Ankh-Morpork Rincewind and Twoflower run for their lives with two many legged luggage. Thus starts their miscapades.

“The Light Fantastic”. Wizard extraordinaire Rincewind and tourist Twoflower escape the void of space at a time when Discworld appears on a course to collide with a red star that at a minimum would destroy the turtle, four elephants the planet and its residents. The great minds know that the eight great magic spells will save the turtle, four elephants, the planet and its residents. Seven spells seem ready for deployment; the eighth resides alone inside the brain of Rincewind.

The first two 1980s tales make for a fun graphic novel filled with humor, irony and satire that seems timely as health care for the uninsured, under insured, and economically deprived insured is debated by those who have access to the best in health care on the cheap. The adaptation is fun as Scott Rockwell captures the essence of the misadventures with great minds who belong in Congress debating the gender of the turtle, Cohen the Barbarian explaining the subtly of combat, and Death learning to play bridge before Bill and Ted. The graphics illustrated by Steven Ross enhance the belief that Discworld exists though readers will have their own mental images to compare with. Except for purists, fans of the saga will enjoy this adaptation of the original duology while floating at a turtle’s pace through space.

Harriet Klausner