Thursday, December 31, 2009

Angel’s Peak-Robyn Carr

Angel’s Peak
Robyn Carr
Mira, Jan 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327615

U-2 pilot stationed at Beale Air Force Base, Sean Riordan remains in Virgin River after being the best man at his brother Luke’s wedding (see Temptation Ridge) as he has six weeks of lose or lose leave to kill. He stops at a restaurant’s bar for a drink when four women enter the establishment. One of them is flight nurse Franci Duncan who four year ago demanded they go to the next level in their relationship or end it; he reacted by telling her not to let the door slam into her butt. She left and vanished from Luke AFB in Phoenix; he went on to Beale regretting what he lost.

Sean demands Franci explain why she left so abruptly after they split up. She wants him to leave her alone though she still loves him. However, he is stunned when she explains he is the father of little Rosie who she has raised as a single mom. He wants in his daughter’s life, but Franci distrusts Sean and wonders if he is mature enough to have the staying power to be a part of his son’s life. Sean knows he has a second chance to rectify his biggest mistake as he wants both of his females in his life permanently.

Once readers accept the opening coincidence that the lovers when they were in Arizona meet by chance in remote Northern California, fans will enjoy the story line is emotionally driven by a strong cast. Sean is terrific as he regrets what he blew and is appreciative that he has a second chance. Franci on the other hand does not want to give him one. Well written, Robyn Carr provides a delightful Virgin River entry as she overcomes an overused trite premise of a dad unaware of siring a precious child with a super cast especially the lead couple who make for a fine tale.

Harriet Klausner

Murder in the Palais Royal-Cara Black

Murder in the Palais Royal
Cara Black
Soho, Mar 1 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781569476208

In 1997 Paris, Leduc Detective’s four foot Rene Fiant is shot twice by his colleague Aime Leduc. He is rushed to intensive care at Hotel Dieu. Stunned eyewitnesses tell Inspector Morbier they saw her fleeing the office where the dwarf was shot and an unexplained large amount of money has suddenly appeared in the firm’s bank account, which has the tax authorities looking closely at Leduc Detective’s.

Aimee knows this will be her toughest case ever as even Rene believes she tried to kill him with the Beretta. She wonders whether someone impersonating her shot her best friend, but though she has enemies from previous cases, Aimee cannot fathom whose motive would include attempted murder, which quickly changes into two homicides tied to her. Only Miles Davis believes in her innocence.

This is a super entry that goes full circle back to the first Leduc case Murder in the Marais, but a newcomer does need to read that tale to enjoy Murder in the Palais Royal although they will thoroughly enjoy that mystery and the rest of the series. Fans will appreciate this super thriller as the high heeled computer analyst has her work cut out proving her innocence and insuring her partner stays alive while providing the audience with a tour of the rest of Paris (and its suburbs) where impoverished immigrants from the former French colonies reside.

Harriet Klausner

Vienna Secrets-Frank Tallis

Vienna Secrets
Frank Tallis
Random House, Feb 23 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780812980998

In 1903 Vienna, having collaborated before (see Vienna Blood) Detective Inspector Oskar Reinhardt asks his much older friend psychoanalyst Dr. Max Liebermann to take a look at a gruesome corpse found on the grounds of Maria Treue Kirche. Max informs Oskar the victim a pianist monk Brother Stanislav had his head savagely ripped from his body. Before going on to the General Hospital to make his rounds, Max suggests Oskar interview strong men as well as the monks. Under questioning the monks insist Brother Stanislav was a good holy person until finally one breaks ranks and says the victim wrote anti-Semitic articles published in Vaterland.

Meanwhile two city council rivals Burke Faust and Julius Schmidt compete for favors from the mayor. Schmidt begins an anti-Jewish campaign using the homicide as justification. Rebbe Barash and his Kabala followers insist God’s wrath descended on the monk which just enflames the city and encourages Schmidt. When Faust has his head torn off, the city reacts with anger and fear as anti-Semitism fever rises exponentially. While struggling with the case whose lone link is odd mud at the murder scenes, Max is in trouble at the hospital over Last Rites and Oskar dreams of dating a feminist.

Once again as in the Liebermann-Reinhardt previous collaborations (see A Death in Vienna and Fatal Lies), the time and place make for a great historical police procedural with the emphasis on the anti-Semitic atmosphere of 1903 Vienna. The murder inquiry is a terrific police procedural that will grip the audience wondering who and why. However, once again what makes Frank Tallis’ latest tale and the entire series one of the best on the market is the sense of being in Vienna at the time of Freud.

Harriet Klausner

The Wild Zone-Joy Fielding

The Wild Zone
Joy Fielding
Atria, Feb 23 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416585299

Married Tom Whitman is in the Wild Zone in the South Beach section of Miami Beach with his friend Jeff Rydell and Jeff’s visiting half-brother, Princeton grad student Will. A few male bonding drinks later leads to the duo betting on whom has sex with the bartender Suzy Bigelow first. Flash tempered Jeff has his live-in lover Kristen who works at the bar talk with Suzy.

Suzy chooses to go out on a date with the safe one Will. However, though she seems cute and innocent, Suzy hides from her date that she has a nasty abusive husband Dave waiting for her as she sees the innocent one, his older sibling and their wild eyed friend as the answer to end her personal nightmare. Tom also has serious issues having been dishonorably discharged from the military after some incidents in the Afghan theatre; his wife Lainey knows what caused his issues but is so frightened of him she files for divorce and flees with their kids. Soon all will collide in a clash in the Wild Zone where each will soon learn the meaning of “proceed at your risk”.

This is a super Miami Beach thriller starring a strong ensemble cast with a great final twist. Each of the key players is fully developed to include their hidden agendas so that the audience understands their motives while wondering how a drunk-induced joke of a bet could turn so nasty. Joy Fielding is at her best with this impossible to put down tale.

Harriet Klausner

Hard Rain-David Rollins

Hard Rain
David Rollins
Bantam, Feb 23 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780553805369

The U.S. Military Attache to Turkey, Colonel Emmet Portman vanishes for three days. When he is found dead in his home in Istanbul, alarm spreads amidst the American government. Whoever killed Portman tortured him before brutally murdering him.

Air Force Office of Special Investigations Special Agents Vin Cooper and Anna Masters arrive in Istanbul to investigate the gruesome homicide; as Vin puts it they are USAF internal affairs cops. However, before they can begin their inquest, other associates of the late Colonel are also killed in horrific ways. The obvious response is a serial killer is on the loose. However, the victims are diverse and vary in what is left behind; the only commonality is the abduction and execution are done with military precision.. However, with Portman’s email being erased, Vin and Anna wonder why a crazed killer would do something of this sort making them wonder if someone needed to conceal something, but what and who remain elusive. As the two agents investigate on non-verbal terms (one can say a lot with a one finger salute) while the body count rises, they begin to uncover a military conspiracy to encourage coups to topple Middle Eastern governments, but neither is sure how to expose it without harming American interest; that is if they live long enough to do so.

This is an entertaining over the top thriller that has the audience accompanying the bickering lead couple (arguing when they rarely talk to each other) as they hop the globe starting in the Middle East going on to Africa and Tennessee. Fans will enjoy the action and the rapidity of the story line but what makes the tale fun is the lead couple working a deadly international case once again (see The Death Trust) while on non-speaking terms ever since she informed him she is “Dancing on the Ceiling” for JAG lawyer Col. Richard “Dick Wad” Wadding.

Harriet Klausner

Our Lady of Immaculate Deception- Nancy Martin

Our Lady of Immaculate Deception
Nancy Martin
Minotaur, Mar 2 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312573720

In Pittsburgh, Roxy Abruzzo tries to keep her Bada Bling Architectural Salvage business clean although her Uncle Carmine the Mafia boss tries sending her work. Roxy feels strongly about staying legal in spite of Uncle Carmine’s efforts because she feels she must set an example for her sixteen year old daughter Sage; who is the result of a teen fling she had with Chef Patrick Flynn, just back from a Middle East deployment and wanting to deploy a second time with his former high school girlfriend.

However, Roxy is unable to resist stealing an ancient Greek statue that belongs to wealthy womanizing Julius Hyde. Her assistant “Nooch” Santonucci does whatever she wants and easily hoists the garden statue. Soon after her heist someone murders Jules and burns down the estate of his nonagenarian mom, who is more fretful that her prized possession, an ancient Greek statue is missing, rather than her son’s death or the arson.

With the Blackbird Sisters taking a breather, Nancy Martin introduces her fans to a steel tough single mom trying not to join the family business though thievery runs in her DNA. Roxy holds the story line together especially after she purloins the statue. Filled with dark humor, Ms. Martin’s fans will enjoy the Stealer escapades of a woman who straddles the line between a touch of piracy and a role model citizen as one tiny caper proves to the heroine that crime doesn’t pay (sometimes).

Harriet Klausner

Ordinary Thunderstorms-William Boyd

Ordinary Thunderstorms
William Boyd
Harper, Jan 26 2010, $26.99
ISBN: 9780061876745

Climatologist Adam Kindred and immunologist Dr. Philip Wang met by chance at an Italian restaurant near Royal Hospital not far from where the Thames flows through Chelsea as each dined alone on tables next to each other. The former is in London trying to obtain a research fellowship position at Imperial College while the later works in Oxford at a pharmaceutical firm as a sort of allergist. Wang departs while mumbling something about a good feeling but leaves behind a file with his papers.

Adam picks up the documents so he can return them to Dr. Wang. However at the immunologist’s flat, he finds Wang’s dead body. Not sure what to do as someone is after him besides the cops who have evidence of his visit to the dead man’s apartment, Adam flees for his life. Meanwhile, Wang's boss at Calenture-Deutz, Ingrym Fryzer, realizes someone at the firm wants him out and Wang’s data on an anti-allergy drug that the scientist was working on is missing as the board refuses to wait any longer to market the drug to get the profits though the late researcher was not finished testing it. Fryzer, his shadowy adversary and his paid assassin, and the cops seek a thirty-one years old climatologist who vanished somewhere in Chelsea.

This is an exciting fast-paced thriller in which a young man seeking a job becomes the focus of corporate killers, an ethical CEO, and the Metropolitan Police. The two subplots converge though a series of coincidences starting with the restaurant encounter, but fans of action-packed conspiratorial tales of the avarice affluent vs. a lone reluctant everyman will enjoy Ordinary Thunderstorms turning into a torrent for Adam.

Harriet Klausner

Ghouls Gone Wild-Victoria Laurie

Ghouls Gone Wild
Victoria Laurie
Obsidian, Mar 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451229410

M. J. Holliday is a psychic with her top skill being a medium who can communicate with ghosts. She gives readings and makes her grateful clients feel good by telling them the truth; unlike the numerous charlatans. She and her partner are also ghostbusters who send evil spirits back to where they came from. They are now on Briar Street, the most haunted street in Scotland. Under the street is the close (several caves and catacombs) where victims were sent to die from the plague.

While they are on Briar Road, the interest of the hundreds of spirits make M.J. and her co-worker medium Heath Whitefeather almost insane. Inside the close the same phenomena happens with the ghouls of the plague screaming. They would love to leave immediately, but they are contracted to Bravo TV to film what they find at this location. To make matters worse, the centuries dead witch Rigella who cursed the village of Queen’s Close because they murdered her and her sisters are brought back by a villager to murder seven descendents of the families that killed them. When their tech expert is attacked by ghouls, M.J. and her crew becomes the target of a mortal who is in league with the witch because brake lines were cut, which means the witch has a human helper. When another villager dies, M.J. and company investigate determined to find the witch and her mortal assistant.

Victoria Laurie is the queen of paranormal mysteries as her fourth ghostbusters whodunit brings the reader into her world (see DEMONS ARE A GHOUL'S BEST FRIEND and GHOULS JUST HAUNT TO HAVE FUN). Ghouls Gone Wild. is a hauntingly good whodunit filled with plenty of action above and below the street. The cast is solid even the spirits while the two protagonists are fully developed especially when the supernatural haunt their senses. With plenty of humor including with a Potter meets Bedknobs and Broomsticks battle of flying brooms, fans will enjoy ghosts, ghouls, and witches, oh my.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An Irish Country Girl-Patrick Taylor

An Irish Country Girl
Patrick Taylor
Forge, Jan 5 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780765320711

In Ballybucklebo, Ireland, Kinky Kincaid serves as housekeeper to small village’s two doctors (Dr. Barry Laverty and Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly). On Christmas Day, Kinky turns storyteller as she spins a spellbinder to the children with the tale of the St. Stephen's Day ghost.

When she was a child the age of her audience, Kinky was known as Maureen O'Hanlon. She had the unique skill of seeing the future. As Kinky tells about dark fairies to enraptured fans, back then Maureen must choose between her heart and her career.

The latest Ballybucklebo Irish County cozy (see An Irish Country Christmas, An Irish Country Doctor and An Irish Country Village) is another superb tale with a neat twist as the previous support player housekeeper takes the lead effortlessly. The story line has two key plots one of which isKinky’s past when she had to make up her mind and choose one of two roads and the present when she tells the ghost tale. Fans will relish this terrific twist as Kinky proves to be a superb storyteller as the top banana title lead character.

Harriet Klausner

A Highlander's Homecoming-Melissa Mayhue

A Highlander's Homecoming
Melissa Mayhue
Pocket, Jan 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439144251

In 1272 Scotland heroic Robert MacQuarrie is dying from battle wounds. However, because of his valiantly risking his life to keep others safe, Faerie propel him into the present day where modern medicine saves his life. His only regret over the next decade living in the twenty-first century was his inability to keep young Isabella MacGahan safe as he had pledged to her dying father Thomas who saved his life; death had prevented him from fulfilling his oath.

The fey asks for a volunteer to return to the thirteenth century so Robbie jumps at the chance hoping he can still achieve his vow. However, he ends up 1292 where he meets a now adult Isabella who has faerie powers that has left her a pariah and with no understanding of what she possesses. When he explains to her who he is, she scoffs at his contention. However, as he tries to keep her safe from a hostile clan dispute, his wounds from two decades earlier leaving him dying. Only Isabella combining her fey power with her love can save his life.

The latest Daughters of the Glen romantic fantasy (see A Highlander’s Destiny and Soul of the Highlander) is an enchanting entry filled with a terrific time paradox twist as the hero can fulfill his pledge except the girl he is to protect is now a beautiful woman by the time he has come back to her. The lead couple makes the tale with their respective emotional problems as he feels he is betraying his friend by falling in love with Thomas’ daughter and she believes she is unworthy of love due to her paranormal proclivity. A Highlander’s Homecoming is another master mage Melissa Mayhue’s marvelous medieval romance.

Harriet Klausner

Nauti Deceptions-Lora Leigh

Nauti Deceptions
Lora Leigh
Berkley, Feb 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425232552

Caitlyn Lena Rogue Walker relocated from Boston to Pulaski County, Kentucky when she accepted a teaching position. However, she lost her job four years ago when she defended an innocent student leading to her being drugged with pictures of her in scandalous positions. Her so-called sexual improprieties led to Principal Thompson with vindictive school board siblings Grace and Mackay pushing him into firing her. Rather than flee back to New England she became a kick butt bar owner concealing her virginity. The pictures end up on the Internet.

Sheriff Zeke Mayes is attracted to her, but believes not only is she hiding something with her acerbic exterior, but he is too old for her as he assumes his hard core desires will send her running back to New England faster than the Derby is run. Still he owes her from when she lost her teaching position defending his son four years ago that led to the scandal. However, his biggest hesitation is his fear for her safety which comes from the white supremacist group who killed his mom and spouse; and whom he is investigating.

The return to Somerset (see Nauti Dreams) is a heated romantic suspense thriller starring a tough lead female who when her family’s enemies destroyed the reputation of Caitlyn Walker they failed to comprehend how strong “Rogue” is. Zeke has more issues than Rogue so she has her work cut out to win his soul; she has his heart. Although overwhelmed with action that leaves the plot fast-paced and fun but emaciated, readers who relish plenty of fisticuffs and shooting disputes will enjoy fight nights in Kentucky.

Harriet Klausner

The Parisian Prodigal-Alan Gordon

The Parisian Prodigal
Alan Gordon
Minotaur, Jan 19 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780312384142

In 1205 Toulouse, France, the stranger arrives at the chateau of Count Raimon VI. Baudoin insists he is Raimon’s brother. The Count immediately assumes he is a con artist trying to defraud him so he plans to let his so called sibling sweat in the icy dungeon. However, his court jester Theophilos the fool suggests he reconsider until they find proof exposing the imposter.

Raimon assigns Theo the job to investigate the newcomer using the ruse to tutor Baudoin. Inquiries are sent to Paris where Baudoin claims he comes from. However, the identity inquiry turns ugly when La Rossa of the brothel is found dead after a night with Baudoin who was found asleep next to her corpse; his dagger in her body. Theophilos, his wife, Claudia, mime Perladit, and twelve years old apprentice Helga investigate the homicide.

This medieval mystery saga uses the same basic ploy of the Fool’s Guild as a sort of thirteenth century French Secret Service-FBI-CIA. This saga is consistently is one of the best historical series on the market over the last decade (see A Death in the Venetian Quarter and The Lark's Lament). With two investigations to handle, Theophilos and Claudia are superb as he works the gambling dens of the aristocracy and she the courtesans who tend to these foolish egotistical males. Helga and Perladit enhance the inquiry into who killed the hooker while her lover the Count’s maybe brother slept.

Harriet Klausner

Silencer-James W. Hall

James W. Hall
Minotaur, Jan 19 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312359591

In Key Largo, Florida Rusty Stabler offers a deal to her reclusive boyfriend private investigator Thorn who has come into a nice but unexpected inheritance. He appreciate what she proffers as that will environmentally protect 300 square miles from avaricious developers. Part of the consideration would shut down Earl Hammond's Coquina Ranch game-hunting operation as he plans to donate his property to the State to keep it safe from greedy developers.

However, soon after Rusty pitches her proposal, someone kills Hammond and Thorn is kidnapped. While the sleuth is struggling to come around and escape, his friend Sugarman searches for him unsuccessfully. Meanwhile professional killers Jonah and Moses Faust are working a serial killer memorabilia deal on the side of their paying gig of abducting Thorn; and Hammond's sons (ex-football star Browning and Miami cop Frisco) want justice and plan to obtain it for their late father.

This is an excellent Florida wilderness thriller that grips the audience throughout while also making a strong case for the environment. Thorn is at his best digging his way out of ironically a natural prison of a deep sinkhole while Frisco and Browning’s wife Clare investigate the murder and the abduction that they tie together by the protect the land deal; neither realizes the real connection dates back to Depression Era developers in this great suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Short Squeeze-Chris Knopf

Short Squeeze
Chris Knopf
Minotaur, Jan 19 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312551230

In the Hamptons, widower Sergey Pontecello demands his sister-in-law Eunice Wolsonowicz and her retinue (daughter Wendy and adopted son Fuzzy) leave his home. Eunice refuses. Sergey turns to his lawyer Jackie Swaitkowski to evict the unwanted “guests”.

Soon afterward, Sergey is found battered to death in Sagaponack. Southampton Town cop Joe Sullivan tells Jackie her client had her card and a nipple on him; the nipple belonged to the late scuba shop bookkeeper Edna Jackery whose body parts are everywhere except inside her coffin. Unable to remain patient while the cops investigate and feeling she owes Sergey as she blew away his concerns the night before his death, Jackie investigates only to find a family so blighted she concludes anyone of them could be the culprit.

Using a role reversal with Jackie starring and Sam Acquillo playing the second banana minor role as opposed to the lead (see Hard Stop and head Wounds), Short Squeeze is an entertaining whodunit as the lawyer shows her moxie searching for the killer. Filled with body humor and a horde of miscreants whose family fell out of the tree onto their heads, the story line is fast-paced, but owned by Swaitkowski who proves she can star in a fun investigative mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Baja Florida-Bob Morris

Baja Florida
Bob Morris
Minotaur, Jan 19 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312377267

Mickey Ryser knows he has just a few weeks left to live so he plans to spend his remaining time on Lady Cut Cay in the Bahamas where he was to meet his daughter Jen whom he has not seen since she was a baby. She never made it or contacted him. He pleads with his newly married friend and proud papa of a six month old baby, Zack Chasteen to find Jen, but also warns him his daughter’s companions and Abel Delgado a private eye he hired to find her also vanished. Zack owes so much to his mentor, he agrees.

Accompanied by his buddies Boggy the Taino and pilot Charlie Callahan, Chasteen tries to pick up Delgado’s trail. Their efforts of discretion lead to boat ring thieves and Bahamian Police chasing after them while Jen and company are held prisoner.

The latest Caribbean blue Chasteen investigative mystery (see Jamaica Me Dead and A Deadly Silver Sea) is a fast-paced thriller that takes off the moment Zack and the gang begin their search with the clock ticking. The story line is filled with action as Zack and crew get in trouble with boat hi-jacking thugs, other miscreants, and the police as they follow clues left by Delgado. Although the subplot depicting Jen’s plight adds intensity and feelings, the short asides slow down the overall pace of a terrific suspense filled tale starring a solid trio of good guys.

Harriet Klausner

Hush-Kate White

Kate White
Harper, Mar 2 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780061576614

Forty-four year old marketing consultant Lake Warren has recently divorced her spouse Jack. However, he sues for full custody of their young children. Her divorce lawyer Robert Kotchkiss empathically tells her that to insure Jack has nothing even remotely scandalous that will give him an issue to hammer her within court; he goes so far to state to her don’t date .

Lake is providing her consulting services to the Park Avenue Fertility Center where she meets Los Angeles based medical consultant flirtatious Dr. Keaton. Ignoring her lawyer’s admonition for now as the kids are away and thinking spontaneous sex before becoming a nun, she and Keaton make love in his penthouse where she falls asleep. When she awakens with a nasty headache she finds Keaton dead. Fearing that the cops will consider her as a person interest, which is the perfect issue for Jack to use against her, she investigates who murdered Keaton. However, her fear factor explodes when she realizes someone is stalking her.

With the Blond investigative reporter Bailey Weggins taking a well deserved respite, Kate White provides a refreshing stand alone thriller of a woman trying to cover her indiscretion which leads to deeper and deeper troubles for her. Fast-paced once the heroine turns to amateur sleuthing while Archer the detective knows she is concealing something. Fans will appreciate this fine suspense filled tale of a woman in peril depending on no one but herself to find the killer in order to extract herself from the cops accusing her and ultimately a stalker watching her for who knows what

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

House Rules-Jodi Picoult

House Rules
Jodi Picoult
Atria, Mar 2 2010, $28.00
ISBN 9780743296434

Emma Hunt has dedicated her life to her son Jacob who suffers with Asperger's syndrome. Her sacrifice has come with personal lost and cost as her career was pushed aside; her ex-husband Henry the computer programmer left as he worked at home and could not concentrate with the tantrums; and her other son Theo three years younger than Jacob is expected to watch over him when mom cannot, but ignored otherwise by her as he cannot even get his permit. She lives to protect Jacob and Theo understands that the prime house rule is take care of your brother.

However, her efforts to give her soon a life fall apart when the police charge eighteen years old Jacob with the murder of Jess Ogilvy. His inability to understand non verbal signs and comprehend social nuances puts Jacob at risk. Desperate, she hires Oliver O. Bond as Jacob’s lawyer.

This is a super look at Asperger’s Syndrome, but not just the person suffering from it, but also the impact on family members especially Theo. The murder mystery tales a back seat even in the courtroom to how Henry thinks and reacts to senses overload, which can be simply crinkling of paper. Rotating perspective between family members, the lawyer and others, fans obtain a deep look at the total impact of Asperger’s Syndrome.

Harriet Klausner

Blonde with a Wand-Vicki Lewis Thompson

Blonde with a Wand
Vicki Lewis Thompson
Signet, Feb 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451228925

In Chicago Anica Revere is a witch with a conscience. She adheres strictly to rules enforced by the Wizard Council enhanced by her own code of conduct. For instance, before dating anyone, she informs them up front she is a practicing witch though most scoff at her for joking; not realizing she is charmingly serious.

She breaks her rule of pre informing a date of her paranormal skills when she meets cute Jasper Danes. After three weeks of charming dates, they have an argument over his lying to her; leading to her exploding in anger. When he goes to kiss her, she ignites in fury casting a spell. She turns him into a cat; a violation of the use of magic that costs her witchcraft skills. She feels horrible especially when Jasper turns back to a human every midnight for a short spell. Making her feel worse is that he does not hate her for what she did to him; contrary wise he is attracted to the Chick with a Charm. The people who are expected to straighten out the mess are Dorcas and Ambrose (see OVER-HEXED and WILD & HEXY).

This is an amusing lighthearted charmer as Anica with remorse and Jasper with a Cheshire grin make a fine couple even if he has become her familiar rather than her lover. Although thin, the story line is fast-paced from the first spell to a Cha-Cha to Frankie Avalon’s crooning symbolizing case closed as fans will enjoy this paranormal romantic romp.

Harriet Klausner

See How Much I Love You-Luis Leante

See How Much I Love You
Luis Leante
Marion Boyers, Jan 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9780714531540

In Barcelona, teenagers Santiago and Montse meet and fall in love. However, he comes from a poor background while she is educated middle class. Although she is pregnant, they break up leading to a depressed Santiago leaving Spain for the Western Sahara where Spain’s only African colony is located. By 1975 with Spain gone, war breaks out between Morocco and the Saharawi. Montse learns her beloved is dead.

However, three decades later a divorced doctor, Montse finds a picture of Santiago carried by a patient. She learns he lives and lost his spouse and child just like her. She realizes she never forgotten the love of her life. Deciding to find him, she treks to what was once Spanish Morocco in search of her Santiago. She thinks she knows the danger, but the Western Sahara remains dangerous especially the Saharawi refugee camps where he is escorting a family. Still she continues her quest for love.

Although there is a bittersweet romantic connection, the story line focuses on the little heard about plight of the Saharawi in western Morocco. The story line starts slow but takes off at the first reference to Santiago in Africa though the plot moves back and forth in time. Complicated, Luis Leante provides a profound look at Western Sahara where another people has been negatively impacted by imperialism, but ultimately devastated from neighbors within Africa.

Harriet Klausner

The Golden Season-Connie Brockway

The Golden Season
Connie Brockway
Onyx, Feb 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451412836

In 1816 Lady Lydia Eastlake learns she is broke, but wants a final Golden Season before she is forced to marry an affluent lord. She assumes finding a wealthy match will prove easy as she is beautiful and has the proper pedigree though her age at a shelf life of twenty-four and never been under the control of any male or for that matter even a female but being an orphan might go against her.

War hero Captain Ned Lockton returns to England in search of a wife with money as his family estate is teetering on bankruptcy. When Lydia and Ned meet, they are attracted to one another while also believing the other is rich. Each learns the dire straits of their beloved’s finances and sadly concludes they must pragmatically look elsewhere as love does not pay the bills.

This terrific Regency romance stars two strong lead characters (especially the pursuing female) who are both in financial trouble due to an economic recession and in her case too much spending. Ironically, his fighting against Napoleon left him and his family vulnerable to the economy’s slump. Lydia and Ned make the tale as they want one another, but look to the odious Smyth types for marriage as neither can afford to wed for love.

Harriet Klausner

Pretty in Ink-Karen E. Olson

Pretty in Ink
Karen E. Olson
Obsidian, Mar 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451229625

Brett Kavanaugh owns the Painted Lady tattoo parlor in the ritzy part of Las Vegas while giving her clients custom-made tattoos. Her whole body is filled with tattoos, a walking advertisement for her shop.

One night Brett is at the Chez Terso watching a transvestite on stage when a man pops a champing cork and hits the performer in the chest. Brett gets a look at the man who did it noticing a queen of hearts playing card etched onto his right forearm. Trevor McKay seems all right, but the next day he visits the Painted Lady appearing very ill. He dies at the hospital at the same time Brett’s trainee Charlotte disappears. A waiter saw the man the person who hit Trevor with the cork; he describes him to Brett who makes a sketch. The man is Wesley Lambert, a transvestite who dropped out of sight over a year ago. Brett finds herself through a set of circumstances in a condo with the corpse of Wesley. She is decontaminated from ricin, which is all over the place. The tattoo artist believes there is a link between the two deaths and Charlotte as she hops from one hiding place to another to find Charlotte and the killer. She remains resolute in finding her friend, but ignorant that someone is watching her very closely.

Pretty in Ink is a non-stop action amateur sleuth mystery starring a brave strong heroine who thinks outside the crypt; something needed on this deadly case. The support cast adds humor and suspense (even off stage) to this well constructed complex whodunit. With a touch of romance to augment the deep look at another side of Vegas, fans will enjoy the second Tattoo Shop Mystery (see Missing In Ink).

Harriet Klausner

Succubi Like It Hot-Jill Myles

Succubi Like It Hot
Jill Myles
Pocket, Jan 19 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781416572831

New Yorker Jackie Brighton is still learning the rules of being a Succubus as going from B to double D in an instant takes an adjustment. She figures how bad can it be as she has a drop dead figure, a dig gig as an archeologist, and two hot hunks from opposite sides of the spectrum, Noah the angel and Zane the vampire, thirsting to make love with her. Life is perfect as long as she has sex at least every two days.

However, something is not right starting with her leaving the pizza guy unconscious and the shrinking gap between her sexual appetites. Unaware never to make a deal with a demon, she desperately arranges for a powerful demon to remove her curse in exchange she will deliver a message to Delilah, the oldest succubus working America. Jackie and her succubus BF Remy drive to New Orleans with Zane along for the sexual ride. However, he vanishes at a rest stop leaving Jackie sexually in trouble, but the danger awaiting her in New Orleans is someone wants her dead.

Jackie knows first hand that any species of Gentlemen Prefer Succubi over archeological humans is good for her. However, this time her need for sexual release is causing an implosion for her as the time between encounters shrink Causing amusement for her fans. This is one wild zany road show as It Happened one Night after another and another until all hell breaks out in New Orleans. Although the plot is sexually thin, fans will enjoy this humorous lighthearted frolic mindful of Harry Rheems’ “bandaged” character in Deep Throat.

Harriet Klausner

The Dark Storm-Kris Greene

The Dark Storm
Kris Greene
St. Martin’s, Feb 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312944223

Her dad directed De Mona Sanchez to seek a Redfeather on the streets of New York City. She is ecstatic to find one though Hunter College student Gabriel Redfeather is a bookworm computer freak rather than a sword carrying warrior. He prefers the paranormal to be in novels or online.

However, kick butt De Mona ignores his pleas that he is not the legend, but just a geek who cherished his grandfather’s tales as tales not as fact. Now this young woman insists he must use an ancient weapon as a descendent of a knight who long ago fought the demons, but Gabriel only knows textbooks. Yet with De Mona’s encouragement and kicks to his butt, he prepares to fight the growing demonic horde that is threatening the city with the return of the Dark Storm.

This opening urban fantasy grips readers from the onset when street tough De Mona meets reticent bookish Gabriel as she needs a hero and he is the one. Fans will appreciate The Dark Storm because of the lead couple. He is her chosen one, but seems unlikely as a warrior as he is a shy college student whose hobby of deciphering of an ancient text on the net places him at the point of the war. This is a fun thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 28, 2009

Down River-Karen Harper

Down River
Karen Harper
Mira, Feb 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327479

The teambuilding event planned by Carlisle, Bonner & Associates at the Duck Lake Lodge near Bear Bones, Alaska could prove divisive as managing partner Graham Bonner will use the off site to choose the next senior partner. One of the three attorneys in the running for a senior slot is Lisa Vaughn, who feels strongly this is not a good way to select. She also has bigger personal issues with the location chosen by top management that overlooks the Wild River where her mom and baby sister drowned twenty-six years ago and the lodge is owned by Mitch Baxter, her former fiancé who dropped her last year when he relocated from Fort Lauderdale.

Lisa falls into the Wild River with its strong rapids. Mitch knows something is wrong and follows her by kayak until he jumps in to complete the rescue. The powerful current had carried the pair several miles from his lodge, but they survive the water. As they struggle with the ordeal of getting back to the lodge, Lisa believes someone deliberately nudged her into the icy water. Though Mitch initially leans towards her accidentally tripping; he soon believes his Lisa is in peril from an unknown adversary who will try anything to kill her, but neither know why.

Down River is an exhilarating romantic suspense thriller as the audience wonders along with the heroine why this location and who wants her dead. Faster than the raging Wild River and yet filled with vivid descriptions of the Talkeetna Mountains, readers will feel transported to the home of Sarah Palin. Karen Harper provides a powerful who is doing it and why that sub-genre fans appreciate.

Harriet Klausner

The Next Best Thing-Kristan Higgins

The Next Best Thing
Kristan Higgins
Harlequin HQN, Feb 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774388

Over five years ago, Lucy Lang joined the extended family club when her spouse Jimmy died. Like her mom, aunts and cousins, she is just another Black Widow mourning their losses at the family bakery. However as she turns thirty Lucy feels her suburban biological clock ticking so she decides to end her sexual only relationship with Jimmy’s brother Ethan Mirabelli to find a new husband who will turn her into a soccer mom, but she must never love him or the family curse will occur.

Loving her from first sight Ethan rejects Lucy’s kicking him to the curb to marry someone else. Unlike her, he is not afraid to defy his parents, owners of Gianni’s Ristorante Italian, as he did when he dropped out of culinary school to go corporate. He knows she fears what her heart is telling her as she does not want to be a widow twice before she reaches forty, but Ethan cannot deal with his beloved with someone else so begins his campaign to make his Lucy pick him “Instead”.

Kristan Higgins provides her audience with a warm contemporary romance filled with pathos and humor as a strong cast make for a wonderful tale. Ethan is a man on a mission, but recognizes his obstinate beloved is very determined to find a spouse; they agree on her being married, but not to whom. The Next Best Thing to eating cannoli with your significant other is reading Ms. Higgins’ engaging story.

Harriet Klausner

Twice As Hot-Gena Showalter

Twice As Hot
Gena Showalter
Harlequin HQN, Jan 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774371

Paranormal investigator, Belle Jamison is still learning her new job while planning her marriage to shapeshifter Rome Masters whom she met when she was Playing with Fire. However since the mad scientist spiked her latte she can control, well almost control, the four elements. Of course putting your wedding dress ablaze makes life a wee bit difficult, but Rome is there for her; now that he is not trying to neutralize her.

However, the real calamity and not just minor roach stressors, is when Memory Man erases from Rome’s mind that he even met Belle, let alone fell in love with her. Instead the only woman Rome remembers is his nasty former wife Lexie. Although hurting, Belle, accompanied by her empathic partner Tanner, plans to kick some butts starting at the top of her list with Memory Man.

The latest Tales of an Extraordinary Girl (see Playing with Fire) returns Belle, still hesitant about using her new powers especially as she learns frustration and anger could lead to out of control reactions. She is particularly upset with what has happened to her fiancé and their relationship which is so out of control due to Memory Man and Lexie. She has to keep the collateral damage to an absolute minimum; superhero gigs are not easy. Fans will enjoy Gena Showalter’s latest amusing chick lit superhero romance as Belle’s constantly changing list sums up how she feels.

Harriet Klausner

Triumph In ArmsJennifer Blake-

Triumph In Arms
Jennifer Blake
Mira, Feb 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327486

In New Orleans Christien Lennoir takes one look at Widow Reine Cassard Pingre and feels he took a sword to his gut as he instantly wants her; love at first sight. In 1847 in a card game with her gambling-addicted father, he wins her and the family home River’s Edge.

Christien offers Reine a proposal of marriage. If she accepts, her family can stay in their home. She prefers to say no as one abusive marriage was enough, but she has to care for her five year old daughter Marguerite so she considers the proposition, but also reminds her suitor that rumor is she killed her husband while he slept. Christien remains resolved so Reine takes a chance on him when she watches how gentle the swordsman is with Marguerite who saw her papa murdered. However, all hell breaks loose during their wedding ceremony; leading to Christien having to choose between the Maitres D'Armes Brotherhood and Reine.

This sixth Maitres D'Armes historical romance is a terrific entry with a strong cast, but made fresh by the hero as he displays a wide range of feelings from fierce protectiveness of his beloved to loyalty for his Brotherhood and kindness to Marguerite, etc. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action including a super spin as Christien ironically got what he covets, but before he can win Reine’s love his latest Brotherhood assignment will earn him her contempt. Jennifer Blake provides a Triumph in Arms.

Harriet Klausner

Racing HeartsVicki Lewis Thompson, Nancy Warren and Dorien Kelly-

Racing Hearts
Vicki Lewis Thompson, Nancy Warren and Dorien Kelly
Harlequin, Feb 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373837403

"A Calculated Risk" by Vicki Lewis Thompson. Nomex racing team mechanic Roni Kenway wants crew chief Judd “Iceman” Timmons in a bad way; so much so that she is even is using mascara. Her goal is to make her his Valentine by February Fourteenth though with each lack of reaction by him her hope of showering with him dims.

"An Outside Chance" by Nancy Warren. Behind the scenes fashion dresser nobody Lucy Vanderwal goes from New Jersey to Florida just because her aunt gave her a guidebook Last Chance for Love; Advice for the Over 30 Single Woman. The book encouraged her to take a chance over the net to hook up with Dan the cheater Krankill. Furious the six foot one inch Lucy throws a fist in the air and knocks down jogging NASCAR rookie driver Sawyer Patton, with a solid solar plexus shot. They both know they are attracted to one another, but he is a free wheeler and she believes her biological clock is ticking away.

“This Time Around" by Dorien Kelly. Right before a major race, Chris Donahue returns to town wanting to renew his romance with NASCAR driver Megan Carter. She had moved on so she thought until he came back. Complicating matters is his father is her boss; he does not want his driver and his son seeing one another.

These three NASCAR romantic novellas are fun lighthearted tales starring sold lead characters especially the kick butt women.

Harriet Klausner

Racing Hearts-Vicki Lewis Thompson, Nancy Warren and Dorien Kelly

Racing Hearts
Vicki Lewis Thompson, Nancy Warren and Dorien Kelly
Harlequin, Feb 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373837403

"A Calculated Risk" by Vicki Lewis Thompson. Nomex racing team mechanic Roni Kenway wants crew chief Judd “Iceman” Timmons in a bad way; so much so that she is even is using mascara. Her goal is to make her his Valentine by February Fourteenth though with each lack of reaction by him her hope of showering with him dims.

"An Outside Chance" by Nancy Warren. Behind the scenes fashion dresser nobody Lucy Vanderwal goes from New Jersey to Florida just because her aunt gave her a guidebook Last Chance for Love; Advice for the Over 30 Single Woman. The book encouraged her to take a chance over the net to hook up with Dan the cheater Krankill. Furious the six foot one inch Lucy throws a fist in the air and knocks down jogging NASCAR rookie driver Sawyer Patton, with a solid solar plexus shot. They both know they are attracted to one another, but he is a free wheeler and she believes her biological clock is ticking away.

“This Time Around" by Dorien Kelly. Right before a major race, Chris Donahue returns to town wanting to renew his romance with NASCAR driver Megan Carter. She had moved on so she thought until he came back. Complicating matters is his father is her boss; he does not want his driver and his son seeing one another.

These three NASCAR romantic novellas are fun lighthearted tales starring sold lead characters especially the kick butt women.

Harriet Klausner

Drive Time-Hank Phillippi Ryan

Drive Time
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Mira, Feb 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327974

Boston’s Channel 3 investigative reporter forty-seven years old Charlotte “Charlie” McNally is looking into a nasty car theft-auto forgery ring. The story smells like an "Emmy" if she and the crew live long enough for air time. At the same time she has an offer to go to New York for the big time.

Charlie is concerned for her fifty-two years old fiancé, Josh Gelston, a teacher at the Bexter Academy, and his nine year old daughter, Penny a student there. Unable to resist, the intrepid reporter makes inquiries that lead her to realize murders have occurred and so has blackmailing. She remains ignorant to the fact the killer is watching her progress with plans to get rid of a nosy investigative TV news reporter.

The latest “Time” after time investigative thriller (see Prime Time, Face Time, and Air Time) is another great entry in a strong series. Filled with non-stop action starting when Charlie is eight minutes away from starting the rest of her life except she and photographer J.T. stop on the highway to investigate an incident setting the tone once again for a fabulous tale. This time the prime story line has Charlie’s professional life crash into her personal life as Hank Phillippi Ryan provides a superb thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Town in a Blueberry Jam-B.B. Haywood

Town in a Blueberry Jam
B.B. Haywood
Berkley, Feb 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425232651

After her husband lost his job, emptied their savings, and dumped her for another woman; Candy Holliday returns to her hometown, the seaside village of Cape Willington, Maine; where she and her dad “Doc” manage Blueberry Acres. Local hero Olympic Gold medal winning swimmer Jock Larson falls off a cliff with his life flashing by including how he died. The townsfolk are unsure of whether it was an accident, suicide, or homicide. Candy is sad over his death, but happy that the Blueberry Festival will still occur with people coming from across the country to attend.

To the locals, the highlight of the gala is the Blueberry Queen Pageant. Five of the contestants are high school students while the other contender is gossip columnist thirty-seven years old Sapphire Vine, a flaky diva (obvious oxymoron). Everyone expects Haley Pruitt to win because of her poise; performance and responses to questions which are by far superior to that of her rivals. Thus when Sapphire wins, everybody is shocked. Soon after her stunning victory, Sapphire is found dead. The town’s handyman Ray is arrested for the murder. Candy knows Ray is innocent and intends to find the real culprit with the help of her BFF Maggie. Their investigation uncovers scandals amongst the pageant judges and other residents, but as they get closer to identifying the perpetrator, the killer watches them in case two more corpses are needed.

This is a charming and amusing Pine Tree State cozy in which Cape Willington is vividly described so that the reader feels they are attending the Blueberry festival. The cast is solid as the residents bring out the ambience of the seaside village. Although the amateur sleuthing is similar in tone to many sub-genre entries, the irony of readers knowing a lot more than the cops or the BFF detectives and the Twitter sight provide a fresh spin to B.B. Haywood’s first Candy Holliday whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Professor and Other Writings-Terry Castle

The Professor and Other Writings
Terry Castle
Harper, Jan 19 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780061670909

“Courage, Mon Amie”. Ms. Castle discusses her quest to find the grave of her Great Uncle Lewis Newton Braddock, who died in combat on the continent during WWI.

“My Heroin Christmas”. Following a holiday at home, Ms. Castle muses about moms, step siblings, and heroine and other addictions, especially to the work of Art Pepper.

“Desperately Seeking Susan”. The author pays homage to her love-hate friendship with Susan Sontag.

“Home Alone”. There is no place like home at least that is the mantra of interior designer magazines that have become a favorite of Ms. Castle as she ponders what will happen to the contents of her interior designed abode when she passes on January 28, 2038 especially the bed linen.

"Travels with My Mother." Writing about complicated relationships, Ms. Castle describes hers with her mom as the oddest she has ever had while also trekking together through the inspirational work of artist Agnes Martin.

“The Professor”. As a graduate student, Ms. Castle had a short affair with a female professor that still resonates in her mind as perhaps one of her key moments as she began to understand others have needs, desires and feelings too.

This collection of autobiography commentaries and essays are intelligent, amusing often self-deprecating and entertaining as Terry Castle dives deeply into relationships that impacted her journey so far. All six entries are witty and well written as each rips asunder a piece of Ms. Castle’s soul for others to admire her courage for allowing us to see so deeply and emulate her open honesty. This is an enjoyable compilation except for me to witness the oracle stating January 28, 2038 means being a coherent octogenarian when many say I am an incoherent fiftyish.

Harriet Klausner

Indian Summer-Tracy Richardson

Indian Summer
Tracy Richardson
Luminis Books, Jul 2009, $11.95
ISBN: 9781935462255

Twelve-year-old Marcie Horton looks forward to the last day of school especially no math for the summer. The last day of school means the fun symbolic Children’s Fair in which she always wins the foot race. However, as she pedals up the hill she dreads spending a few boring weeks at the isolated cottage of Mamaw and Poppy on Lake Pappakeechee.

At her grandparents’ cottage, Marcie is bored until she learns university President Swyndall plans to have the nearby James Woods torn down for a development project. She feels strongly opposed to destroying this ancient thriving forest. Encouraged by a Native American Adena girl’s spirit, Marcie pushes to find a way to prevent the destruction of the pristine woods. At the same time, she becomes friends with Kaitlyn Swyndall, daughter of her opponent, as they are part of the same team for the upcoming regatta. Finally Marcie fears her intervention could cost her parents their jobs as each works at the university.

This is an enjoyable young adult tale that focuses on how a courageous but frightened tweener sees things in an adult world. Marcie is terrific as she fears her intrusion will harm her parents since she does not fully comprehend tenure, but also feels she must do the right thing re the Adena girl’s spirit. Although the solution to how she earns the respect of the Swyndall family simplifies a complex issue of development vs. environment and ultimately heritage, middle school fans will enjoy Marcie’s charming Indian Summer.

Harriet Klausner

A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents-Liza Palmer

A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents
Liza Palmer
5 Spot (Grand Central), Dec 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446698382

When Grace Hawkes was thirteen years old, her father Ray deserted her mom, her three younger siblings and her. Stunned the family rallied to support one another. Fifteen years after Ray walked out on them their mom died. After the burial, Grace left behind the family not talking to anyone for the past five years.

Ray suffers a stroke and asks his three adult children to visit him. His illness provides Grace with an epiphany that she emulated the worst thing her dad did to the family. She expects nasty treatment for abandoning them, but vows to make it up as much as she can. Ray’s second wife Connie welcomes Grace, but she suspects her stepmother of duplicity. Shocking everyone, Ray gives power of attorney to Grace; even more stunning to Ray’s offspring is there no evidence that Connie lived in his house. Instead the home is a shrine to his first family. Encouraged by her adult son Dennis, Connie considers suing the four Hawkes.

This is an entertaining family drama that focuses mostly on Grace’s relationship with her late mom, her dad and her siblings. Her grief when her mom died drove her away as every person mourns a loss of a loved one differently even as each goes through the general grief phases. Although the ending is too rosy for the complicated poignat character driven story line, fans will enjoy Liza Palmer’s on the spot Field Guide to Burying Your Parents.

Harriet Klausner

The Notebooks of Madame B: Ecstasy-Madame B

The Notebooks of Madame B: Ecstasy
Madame B
Tarcher (Penguin), Jan 2010, $12.95
ISBN: 9781585427734

“Hard Hat". She dressed to excite one particular hard hat as walked pastd him daily until her wet dreams re his hard on become wet reality.

"Model Misbehavior". In Milan fashion model Anna and rock star Joey make orgasmic public photos.

"Toy Story”. The two female roommates borrowed from one another, but learn it is more fun to share sex.

"Bossy". The new boss Hugh intimated the staff until he confronted Donna with the choice of firing competent people; instead she ties the dominator into her submissive.

“The Car-Ma Sutra. The couple has followed the tabloid pictures of celebs making it in public; so they decide to star in their own public showing.

"Steaming". Stressed, Helen meets another woman over a taxi duel in which they share the cab and a secret about a special massage parlor that relaxes the entire body through satiating arousal therapy.

"A Working Girl". Kerry knows the hard way that a personnel assistant salary without a rich daddy is not a way to eat in Manhattan, but supplementing the income as an escort is if she passes the sexual interview with Mark.

“Ash”. Nina likes her toys to be skinny so she can dictate their all nighter as these males are weak yet have incredible stamina; that is until she picks up six foot plus Ash who teaches her a lesson in “dick-less” sex.

"All Tomorrow's Parties". Eighteen year old Charlie-girl came to London to dance, but also meets David the artist who seeks a muse to inspire his inner inferno.

"Water Baby". It has been years since the tribe attended college, but now get together for Sheila’s thirtieth birthday where Greg surprised her by teaching her tricks with liquids that only a consummate thirst quencher can.

These are ten more not so subtle sexual encounters of the various kind. Madame B tantalizes the imagination of readers who need their significant other (or a dildo) handy.

Harriet Klausner

Hill Country Hero-Ann DeFee

Hill Country Hero
Ann DeFee
Harlequin American, Feb 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373753000

Collier “CiCi” Hurst knows the biggest mistake of her life was marrying cheating Green Bay Packer star Tank Tankersley who she assumes is illiterate though he has interest in libraries; or at least one librarian. Money is not an issue as Wisconsin is a community property state and he made a bundle. Back home in Houston she asks her daddy for a job at one of his car dealerships, but Texas Bob instead offers her a position as the NFL’s last place Road Runner’s mascot.

Star tight end Jake Culpepper assumes his former convict cousin Dwayne Scruggs wears the mascot outfit as he got him the job. He tackles the mascot out of ire for grand theft auto of his Porsche now in the repair shop only to find the boss’ daughter inside. His penalty for “illegally sacking CiCi is time at Camp Touchdown working with inner-city kids and CiCi. As they fall in love, she has doubts about romancing another football dummy but poses one question to him: can he read?

This is a fun often amusing sports romance starring a woman who stereotypes football players as a group who obviously failed to play with helmets and a receiver who is unsure his hit on the boss’ daughter is a good or bad thing. Fans will enjoy their gender battle while also containing a wonderful story of how much a professional athlete can bring to the community.

Harriet Klausner

Taking On Twins-Cathy McDavid

Taking On Twins
Cathy McDavid
Harlequin American, Feb 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373752980

Former Army Warrant Officer Corrine Sweetwater has not adjusted to life as a civilian after eight years active duty. She runs the kitchen of her family’s Beat Creek Guest Ranch as if she still gives orders for subordinates to obey. She has run off three dishwashers in a short time.

Professional fisherman Greg Pfitser arrives with chaotic Belle the canine and even more out of control five years old twins Annie and Ben. At the Arizona guest ranch, he hopes to bond with the kids he just met and with the mechanical engineer turned food service supervisor. However, where she believes in discipline he prefers mellow so finding a compromise seems as likely as getting the Taliban to lay down their weapons.

This is a fun endearing ranch romance although finding a middle ground between this couple is like Republicans and Democrats working together, which would mean the Revelations’ End of Days has begun. The story line is lighthearted fun, as the ex soldier and the fisherman fall in love encouraged by two wild youngsters and a garbage seeking dog.

Harriet Klausner

James Cameron’s Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora

James Cameron’s Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora
Maria Wilhelm and Dirk Mathison
IT Books, Nov 2009, $17.99
ISBN: 9780061896750

In a distant solar system lies the once beautiful moon Pandora; home to a native sentient race the Na'vi. However, abuse of the environment has endangered the orb. This does not prevent the Resources Development Administration from continuing to exploit the dwindling once rich natural resources. An Earth delegation to include paraplegic Marine Jake Sully replacing his brother who died on combat has collected data that make up this source book as a means to avert this planet from the downward poison spiral that threatens life on Pandora. However, even the RDA guide to Pandora is proof of avaricious developers always win as some unknown greedy person is selling the confidential reference tome on EBay.

This is a fascinating accompanying guide to James Cameron’s movie Avatar as the director overwhelmingly makes clear which side of the environment issue he is on with no room for compromise. Clearly intended for fans who see the movie several times, this “Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora” is interesting as it makes the moon and its species (the Na’vi even have their own unique language) seem real although new art supersedes extracts from the movie.

Harriet Klausner

Heretics-S. Andrew Swann

S. Andrew Swann
Daw, Feb 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406134

There are at least three entities vying for domination of all the human colonies: The Eridani Caliphate, the Roman Catholic Church and the Race Mosasa the AI created by aliens. However, Mosasa is lured into a trap and destroyed by Adam another AI. Adam demands allegiance as a God with a plan in the making since before the Confederacy collapsed two centuries ago. His loyal followers can mentally leave their bodies increasing the threat he will succeed.

The AI uses force to convert his congregation because those who fail to cast off their flesh are killed. Adam begins execution of his plan by destroying man-made wormhole technology deploying the same energy that destroyed the Xi Virginis galaxy. He follows that with the conversion of the homeworld of the Caliphate, the planets Salmagundi and Terra is next. However, some species plan to fight Adam as a diverse group including a genetically altered sentient tiger and humans, the Roman Catholics and others set in motion the counterinsurgency.

In the second Apotheosis science fiction tale (see Prophets), S. Andrew Swann writes a super space opera with incredible technological battles and well developed characters starting with Adam and those who oppose the AI. Adding to the feel of a realistic future is the political in-fighting between adversaries fearing the loss of power more than reaching consensus on what to do as doomsday counts down. Loaded with action, fans will not want to put down this terrific twenty-sixth century (Terran calendar that is) thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Queen's Governess-Karen Harper

The Queen's Governess
Karen Harper
Putnam, Jan 21 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399156182

Katherine Ashley has no hope for her future ever since her mother drowned and her father married Maud. Her stepmother treats Kat with contempt and uses her as a drone nursemaid to her half siblings.

Her impoverished slavish life changes when she does something for Thomas Cromwell, advisor to King Henry VIII. He takes her from her father’s home, has her educated and sent to the court serving Anne Boleyn, but actually is a spy for him. In 1536 when the Queen is executed, Kat survives becoming governess to Boleyn’s daughter, Elizabeth. She remains with the Princess through some hard times and continues to serve when Elizabeth becomes queen.

This is an intriguing look at the Tudor sixteenth century reign from the perspective of a servant caught in the middle several times during the rule of King Henry and Queen Mary while serving as s surrogate mother in many ways to Elizabeth before she becomes queen in 1558, over two decades after her mom was executed. Imprisoned twice during plots and counterplots, The Queen’s Governess survived family and court intrigue; as Karen Harper provides fans of English royal biographical fiction with a fresh perspective.

Harriet Klausner

Damaged-Kia DuPree

Kia DuPree
Grand Central, Jan 26 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446547758

In Washington, D.C. ten years old Camille Logan is placed with her latest foster family as part of a swinging door system that ignores the welfare of the child once placed because the social services’ workload is overwhelming. Over the next few years, she is abused and sexually molested. The system never bothers to take a look at Camille or her care providers as she is out of sight and therefore out of mind.

Drug dealer Chu is disgusted with what he sees happening to Camille and takes her into his home. He takes care of her until he is murdered in a drug deal. Camille desperately decides to become a hooker working for a nasty abusive pimp, which makes her wonder if she has other options to get off the mean streets of DC.

Damaged is a dark, gritty and profound look at life in DC when a poor youth is caught up in the foster care system and consequently the streets. The cycle seems in evitable though Camille hopes to break out. Although the climax fails to live up to a moving character driven story line that captures the essence of surviving in America’s urban jungle, fans will appreciate Kia DuPree’s powerful inner city hustle; the perfect capitalism system as anyone is for sale on the open market with no tax or surcharge; just supply and demand.

Harriet Klausner

The Burning Land-Bernard Cornwell

The Burning Land
Bernard Cornwell
Harper, Jan 19 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780060888749

As the ninth century begins to wind down, King Alfred of Wessex is old and dying. The Danes feel the opportunity to conquer Wessex whose great leader has foiled them before is now. Warlord Harald Bloodhair leads the Viking horde invasion by sea and land Mercia and Wessex.

Alfred turns to his oath-bound loyal Saxon pagan warrior Uhtred of Bebbanburg; the warlord defeats Harald, but also breaks his pledge of fealty. Deciding enough of England and its treachery, the warlord and his warriors head home to reclaim his family land. They confront other war parties and a witch’s curse only to take another spin back in the world of Alfred and his increasingly Christian nation as the he Danes from East Anglia and the Vikings from Northumbria head once again towards Mercia and Wessex.

The fifth Saxon saga (see Sword Song).affirms once again that Bernard Cornwell is one of the best, if not the top warrior, of pre William the Conqueror Dark Ages historical fiction. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of bloody action. However, it is an ailing dying Alfred nearing the end of his “Great” reign and the Saxon pagan warlord Uhtred who bring the period alive as the barbarians are at the gate, but it takes a barbarian to prevent them from entering. Fans will relish this deep tale as The Burning Land is increasingly Mercia and Wessex as Alfred no longer can defend them.

Harriet Klausner

The Notebooks Of Madame B: Desire-Madame B

The Notebooks Of Madame B: Desire
Madame B
Tarcher (Penguin), Jan 2010, $12.95
ISBN: 9781585427710

"Midas". Mark travels a lot for his work so he and his wife use cyber sex to enjoy pleasurable lovemaking.

"Hire Love". Wealthy Hannah is used to being in control, but her paid escort hired over the Internet Olivier takes charge leading to a freebie on the house.

"Sucker Punch". For a decade starting when she was sixteen, Carrie showed up at all his fights, but never introduced herself until now when he suffered a bad loss; however this time she meets him in person and one thing leads to another.

"Always the Bridesmaid". Bridesmaid Sammy and bride Polly share the hotel room the night before the wedding, but soon share a more fascinating frolic.

"The Mistress's Apprentice". Tina the cleaner takes a job with Charlotte’s special adult house of pleasure and pain, but proves a natural dominatrix as Howie the submissive learns begging her for release.

"The Hitcher". Alice and Paul give a ride to Jim the college age hitchhiker who soon gives the couple the ride of their lives.

"The Diagnosis". At the party Dr. Jay and RN Leila play an adult version of doctors and nurses.

"Window-Shopping". At the designer furniture store where she works, Bethany and Max put on a lively public window display.

"El Ritmo De La Noche”. In Spain, tourists Lara and Helen meet men with the former going off with Paco and the latter coming with her young dancing partner.

"Going, Going, Gone". During the day Abigail is a dominating businesswoman; at night she offers herself as a submissive to the highest bidder.

The second set of ten erotic confessional short shorts (see Seduction) consists of fun heated quickies that run the gamut of the genre while each stimulates the enthralled reader.

Harriet Klausner

Highlander's Forbidden Bride-Donna Fletcher

Highlander's Forbidden Bride
Donna Fletcher
Avon, Jan 2010, $99
ISBN: 9780061712999

Ronan Sinclare escaped captivity by brutal barbarians. He is coming home with two things on his mind: reclaim his inheritance and slowly kill Carissa who murdered his beloved Hope.

With the death of her father the vicious Mordrac the barbarian; Carissa is on the run as she has no protection from her sire’s horde or the Highlanders who blame her for the sins of her father. She reaches the sanctuary Black, a village that welcomes everyone. Persistent Ronan traces her there, but once they meet his vow of vengeance proves difficult to enact; as she is nothing like the she-monster he painted of her from the cold accounts of others. Still he takes her prisoner until he can decide what to do with her; meanwhile she conceals that she once hoped to be his bride.

The latest early sixteenth century Sinclare Brothers Highlander romance (see Return of the Rogue, Under the Highlander’s Spell and The Angel and the Highlander) is an enjoyable tale of love and hate. Carissa hides her inner warmth and her love for her “jailer” inside of an icy exterior, and Ronan is confused by his feelings for a woman he pledged to kill. Although some redundancy occurs with this overall fine capture-captivity Scottish historical romance, fans of the siblings’ series will appreciate the one we have been waiting for since we first met the quartet.

Harriet Klausner

Dead by Midnight-Beverly Barton

Dead by Midnight
Beverly Barton
Zebra, Feb 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781420100518

Lorie Hammonds dreamed of making it in Hollywood so she left Dunmore, Alabama to pursue her dream. She left behind her boyfriend, now the town Sheriff Mike Birkett (see Silent Killer for the back story).

She came home after her fantasy failed and her BFF widow Cathy Cantrell needed her (also see Silent Killer). Mike remains angry with her to the point it impacts his job as he ignores death threats aimed at her. The widower tries not to be short with his kids, eleven years old M.J. and nine years old Hannah while not understanding why they reject caring Abby Sherman who reminds him of his late wife Molly. However, Powell Agency detective Maleah Perdue takes the threats to Lorie seriously as a serial killer is methodically murdering the cast who performed in the nude in an adult film that Lorie would prefer to not count on her credits list. She will show her inner strength when the two kids become the target.

The latest Dead By romantic suspense thriller tied to the Powell Detective Agency is a tense direct sequel to the Silent Killer. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as a serial killer methodically murders the cast of a porn film with Lorie listed as an actress. As she and Mike learn via Dead by Midnight that a person cannot run from their deeds as regret and remorse are powerful feelings that never quite leave. Fans will relish this strong sequel with a fascinating unexpected potentially deadly twist that does not require reading the previous novel, although that helps with the past that haunts the present.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow ProwlerAlexey Pehov-

Shadow Prowler
Alexey Pehov
Tor, Feb 16 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765324030

After centuries of relatively peace, the Nameless One is reawakening as the artifact that contains the evil treacherous magician is weakening. Natural enemies like demons, giants, ogres, and even deadlier species have forged under the Nameless One’s leadership as the Desolate Lands unite as never before. The Nameless One’s horde is coming towards Avendoom and beyond the great walled city to the rest of the Kingdom of Siala.

King Stalkon the Ninth gathers the best counterinsurgents he knows starting with master thief Shadow Harold; who is given the choice of torturous incarceration until the enemy comes to kill him or find the lost Magic Horn that will restore the Order. He chooses the quest as Harold knows he lives due to the Nameless One. Joining Harold is Alistan of the King’s Guard, Elfin Lady Miralissa Princess of the House of the Dark Moon, her retinue, and the best fighters Wild Hearts. Finally the monarch stuns Shadow Harold by directing his court jester Kli-Kli the goblin to join the pilgrimage. Outlaw gangs prowl without regard and the advanced parties of the Nameless One seek those who might pose a threat to the resurrection. Each assault on the master thief and his band proves deadlier than the previous one as the enemy or the lawless seem everywhere; but quitting is not option as the darkness expands.

Although the use of a thief as a hero has been done (see Chima's The Demon King and Fortress Draconis by Stackpole), the first tale of The Chronicles of Siala is a super quest fantasy. The travelers make the story line fun to follow starting with Harold finding a dead duke. Fans will enjoy the opening act as the irony is that it takes a thief who never loses his calm to prevent the return of the Nameless One in spite of all the law following choices. This is a winning opening act.

Harriet Klausner

Born Of Ice-Sherrilyn Kenyon

Born Of Ice
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's, Dec 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312942328

Alix Gerran has three weeks to save her mother and sister from execution by the Ritadarion Chief Minister of Justice Merjack. To free them, she must find evidence of treasonous activity by Devyn Kell, the son of the notorious couple Sharara Dagan and C.I. Syn (see Born of Fire). Merjack warns her every agent he has sent to bring Kell in to stand public trial has come home in a body bag.

Alix obtains a position as an engineer on the same ship that Kell is a doctor. Once in service to the League as an assassin until he had an epiphany; now a Runner he smuggles supplies to those in need of basic sustenance in order to survive. . If she fails to find proof, Alix is to plant the evidence needed to legally hang Kell. However, she is not only attracted to him; she admires what he and other crew do for the downtrodden. He is falling in love with the new ship employee, but knows she hides something that he fears will make her his Achilles’ heel.

The third League tale is a fast-paced exhilarating romantic science fiction thriller that showcases the offspring of the heroes of previous tales (see Born of Night). Filled with action and plenty of humor, fans of the saga will enjoy this fine finish as Kell meets his equal in Alix. Readers will enjoy this strong rewriting of the Ichidian Universe even if Merjack a bit over the top of Olympus Mons with his degree of hatred surpassing the hottest sun.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 25, 2009

Not My Daughter-Barbara Delinsky

Not My Daughter
Barbara Delinsky
Doubleday, Jan 5 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780385524988

In Zaganack, Maine, the three high school students BFFs Lily, Mary Kate and Jess forge a pregnancy pact. Soon afterward, seventeen years old Lily informs her single mom Susan, who also happens to be the high school principal, that she is carrying a child. Susan is stunned that her daughter would do this as she failed to learn from her mom that kids having kids is not good. Kate and Sunny learn their teens Mary Kate and Jess respectively are also pregnant.

Meanwhile the school board of old men blames Susan and her progressive example for the outrageous pact. As each of the parents struggle, Susan reflects back on what her father and mother did to her by kicking her out of their home so she turns to her daughter’s father global photojournalist Rick for emotional help especially when Lily’s pregnancy has health issues and the boys involved along with their parents are unsure of their roles.

This is a profound look at a deep societal issue involving teen pregnancy. The cast is especially strong as the townsfolk specifically the board, the mothers and their pregnant daughters, and to a lesser degree the involved males are fully developed so that the readers understand their perspectives and hidden agendas. Susan especially is an incredible protagonist as she sort of goes through the phases of grief. Although the ending is to sugary perfect with resolution, fans will appreciate the road to get there.

Harriet Klausner

The Notebooks Of Madame B: Seduction-Madame B

The Notebooks Of Madame B: Seduction
Madame B
Tarcher, Jan 2010, $12.95
ISBN: 9781585427727

"Jet". She is flying first class for the first time as she goes from Edinburgh to London, but learns what the additional amenities of the Mile High Club means.

"Menage a Trois". The voyeur learns first hand and other body parts what it means to be part of the action rather than a fan of the neighbors’ activity.

"The End of the Pier Show". Kyra’s BF Rick is a gay and now has a boyfriend Sam so she expects their friendship will suffer; instead they share a ménage a trois.

"I Heard Love Is Blind". Jamie assumes his older, richer, and smarter lover sees him for his body when he wants her to desire his soul; like he does for her; so he persuades her to make love “blind” using her other four senses.

"Rumble in the Jungle". They were part of a tour in the Indian jungle, but though the pair were the only ones their age, she loathed David until yoga and getting lost led to her coming twice, but still detesting David.

"The Camera Never Lies" Sara the model relishes her encounter with Kim who makes her lesbian fantasy real.

"Fetish". In Oxford, Claudia taught Polly the sexual pleasure of leather.

"The Captain's Table". Ben persuaded his lover Charmaine that the adult only cruise ship is the perfect place to swap sensual encounters.

"Shopped". She loved the thrill of shoplifting, but the greats rush she ever had was when the security guard caught her and offers her a deal of dropping her stolen panties for the tape.

"Fireman's Pole". At her bachelorette party, Jules enjoys the stripping firefighter in a last fling.

These ten short “true confessions” are fun heated “nooners” that tease the senses of the reader.

Harriet Klausner

Sweet and Dirty-Christina Crooks

Sweet and Dirty
Christina Crooks
Kensington Aphrodisia, Jan 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758238733

"Baring It All". Dog trainer Michelle Gray asks BDSM club owner Ro Kaliph to teach her how to be a dominant as she is so passive even working with the canines. Instead Ro wants her to surrender her heart and body as his submissive.

"Forbidden Heat". Nora Sabine needs a break from work so heads to a B&B with her fiancé of two years Ryan who suggested the place. However, she learns the inn caters to the bondage and breakfast crowd. Attracted to his newest female guest, Twisted Wood owner Sylvester Vincent plans to take Nora to a place where she has never been before even in her wildest fantasies and knows he will surpass his wildest dreams while doing so.

The key to these two erotic BDSM tales is that both contain the psychological needs of the dominant and submissive personalities without making either seem perverted. Each tale is well written, filled with heat and heart, just bring your erotica checklist with you.

Harriet Klausner

Wicked, Sinful Nights-Julia Latham

Wicked, Sinful Nights
Julia Latham
Avon, Jan 12 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061783463

In 1487 Oxfordshire, someone murders League of the Blade Bladesman Viscount Drayton. His Blade peers wonder if this unknown adversary learned of the top secret society and its mission to rescue the innocent, accused or abused.

King Henry orders Drayton’s former student Bladesman Sir Robert Hilliard to investigate and bring the female killer to justice; blade-style or be booted out of the organization that has no room for failure. Widow Sara Audley, allegedly killer of her husband, is the only suspect based on Drayton purportedly finding proof she is a black widow. Robert quickly concludes Sara, nursemaid to Drayton’s heir five years old Francis, is innocent of both murders. However, an unknown adversary is using her to distract people from the real killer. With her help he plans to find the culprit, but also must keep the woman he loves and Francis safe.

The latest League of the Blades medieval romance (see Taken and Seduced, and One Night Only) is an exciting late fifteenth century whodunit that subtly uses Sir Robert’s inquiry to somewhat anchor time by the lack of modern forensic tools, but only partially achieves the feel of the era. Still the lead couple is a terrific pairing as the hero goes against the cautionary advice not to trust her as men who do die. Sara, on the other hand, struggles to prove her innocence while also protecting Francis. Fans will enjoy this entertaining historical romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

The Girl with Glass Feet-Ali Shaw

The Girl with Glass Feet
Ali Shaw
Holt, Jan 5 2010, $24.00
ISBN: 9780805091144

Ida Maclaird seeks a cure to stop her slow debilitating ailment; she is turning into glass starting with her feet, but slowly spreading up her body. The young woman feels she caught her illness on the St. Hauda's Land archipelago; so has returned to these remote northern islands seeking the cure before it is too late.

Before he met Ida , Midas Crook had no plans to ever marry, but he falls in love. He joins her quest to find the cure to her plight. They turn to biologist Henry Fuwa, who prefers saving the endangered insect like moth-winged bull rather than a human, but also offers hope as he insist he can help her followed up with despair saying she will turn totally to glass. Carl Mausen, a friend to Ida's family, wants to help her as if she is his daughter and offers her his cottage as a temporary home, but his fidelity is to her mother who he loved and lost. Finally Emiliana Stallows is rumored to have cured a previous girl with glass feet.

This is an interesting parable fantasy that focuses on the fleeting fragile nature of relationships that can easily shatter as each person has major issues relating to others. The glum tone permeates the story line as relationships that were once warm turn icy leaving the audience to wonder if Ida and Midas are doomed even if she is cured. Although too many back stories re secondary characters are included even as their tales add to the atmosphere of pending gloom, fans will enjoy touring the islands of despair as Ida and Midas cling to love as their hope deteriorates along with her condition.

Harriet Klausner

Deadtown-Nancy Holzner

Nancy Holzner
Ace, Dec 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441018130I

The city leaders of Boston set up the ghetto Deadtown to isolate the nonhuman population. The prime cause for the need for this containment zone is the plague that haunted Beantown for several years when thousands died only top come back as intelligent zombies who enjoyed dining on still fresh human meat. Also isolated from mortals are other Paranormal Americans as the EEOC calls vampires, demons, and zombies though these once thought of supernatural species are much more difficult to restrain. Humans who do not have a death wish avoid Deadtown.

In this undeadly zone, as the only known professional demon slayer Victory Vaughn is interrogated by the Goon Squad, officially called the Human-Paranormal Joint Task Force, over the frying of a client. Afterward she investigates assisted by her First Amendment rights lawyer boyfriend Kane the werewolf and her teenage zombie apprentice Tina; while her sister dormant shapeshifting wife and mother Gwen tells her to get a life. Making the official inquiry into the homicide is BPD Detective Daniel Costello. She believes the deadly hellion demon is free and must die before the city demises in a supernatural bloodbath.

This is an entertaining urban fantasy that uses the sub-genre to satirize society re conflicting rights during a “crisis” as the atmosphere of Deadtown is a sort of prison ghetto makes the story line work. This feel is accentuated by suburban Gwen who conceals she is a shapeshifter from her neighbors to live in the burbs with her family rather than be locked inside the ghetto like the Jews in Eastern Europe prior to WWII. Although the villain is more a caricature than a flesh and blood (make that rotting flesh or blood drinker) abomination, fans will enjoy this exciting allegorical investigative thriller.

Harriet Klausner

A Dark Matter-Peter Straub

A Dark Matter
Peter Straub
Doubleday, Feb 9 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780385516389

Nomadic charismatic guru Spencer Mallon arrives in Madison, Wisconsin accompanied by his beautiful lover Meredith Bright and subservient University of Wisconsin students, Keith Hayward and Brett Milstrap. The charmer invites several high school students which include Lee Harwell, his tomboy girlfriend, Lee “Eel” Truax, Howard “Hootie” Bly, Jason “Boats” Boatman, and Donald “Dilly” Olson to attend a night ritual. Before the sun rises, Hayward is dead and Bright vanished.

Over the years each has coped differently to that horrid night that changed all of them. Milstrap has avoided responsibility preferring Peter Pan to adulthood. The Lees married, but Eel has since lost her sight. Bly was taken to a mental institution on that horrific night and remains there while citing Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter as his only form of speech. Bright came out of whatever hole she had hidden inside of to marry into power. Boatsman went from shoplifter extraordinaire to shoplifting crime prevention extraordinaire. Filly Olson has never moved on. All will converge to relive what each chose to psychologically forget about that deadly night when novelist Harwell writes a nonfiction account of the horror that still impacts all of those who attended Mallon’s malevolent ritual.

This is a convoluted but enjoyable horror thriller as Peter Straub keeps the audience guessing whether what happened was a group psychological hysteria or something evil from beyond. All of the survivors realize they do not have total recall of what occurred in spite of the college student’s death. Although at times difficult to fathom what truly happened as murky memories make for a murky story line, fans who prefer something different will want to know what the students faced on the night that changed each of them.

Harriet Klausner

City of Night-Michelle West

City of Night
Michelle West
Daw, Feb 2 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756405984

In the capital city of Essalieyam Empire Averalaan lies the under city beneath the streets. Very few of the surface dwellers know that life below ground exists. Rath, estranged from his family, seeks valuables from the land below to sell to those above. Also seeking valuables from the undercity in order to survive are the nomadic, street urchins led by Jewell “Jay” Markess. She is a grateful to Rath for taking her off the streets and mentoring her on how to live off the undercity treasures.

Life inside of Averalaan is getting harder. Children are disappearing without a trace including some from Jay’s den. There’s a demon dissonance hovering over the city and Rath investigates what is going on. His inquiries lead to Lord Cordufar and his mistress; bot of whom are not human and dangerous to Rath, Jay and others. He also learns that a demon can take over the body of a person and retain their memories. Jay is a seer who has three identical visions of Cordufar’s mistress. This is significant as it spells out danger especially when Jay also has visions that Rath will die unless he takes precautions to prevent a demon from subsuming him Jay tries to keep Rath safe while he attempts to insure her future if he dies.

This is a super action oriented investigative fantasy in an incredible world as Michelle West makes her empire and capital seem as if it comes from ancient history books rather than her imagination. The cast is strong especially the lead couple who are clearly devoted to one another with each wanting to keep the other safe. However, , it is the city and its undercity that spellbinds the audience as no one knows what is coming to the surface from below.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Scarlet Letter-Nathaniel Hawthorne and Wayne Josephson

The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne and Wayne Josephson
Readable Classics, Nov 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780615332017

In seventeenth century Boston, scholar Roger Chillingworth returns to the Puritan colony after two years in England. He is stunned to find his much younger lovely wife Hester Prynne with an illegitimate daughter Pearl, a resident of Prison awaiting trial for adultery. Hester refuses to betray her lover for his condemnation for violating one the God’s Commandments. Her punishment is to wear a capital Letter A on her breast for the rest of her life. Roger vows to expose the cretin who dishonored him. For refusing to reveal her lover's identity, she is condemned to wear a letter 'A' sewn onto her clothes. Driven to madness, Roger resolves to discover and destroy the man who has stolen his honor. Over the next few years, Hester does her best by her daughter while suffering poverty, humiliation and guilt for what she cannot offer her beloved Pearl; while the two men not in her life fail to cope with crippling guilt, remorse and cowardliness.

As he did with another classic Jane Eyre, Wayne Josephson provides a modernization of the syntax of the language while adhering to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s powerful moral message that rings true today with for instance the abortion controversy. Purists will insist if it isn’t broke don’t fix it, but Mr. Josephson makes a strong case that the 1850 published novel is going the way of the Canterbury Tales (let the purists read that in ye olde English). The re-touch is a bit more than desired, as part of the original is the overdrawn atmospheric background of a martinet paternal society invoking God’s wrath. Still Mr. Josephson does a super job of making this great classic starring a brave heroine much easier to read and very entertaining while enhancing the strong message of forgiving oneself as well as others for “sins”.

Harriet Klausner

The School of Essential Ingredients-Erica Bauermeister

The School of Essential Ingredients
Erica Bauermeister
Berkley, Jan 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425232095

Lillian became a cook as the only means of reaching her mother who walled herself off after her husband abandoned her. Over the years, she taught herself the culinary art and opened up a successful restaurant.

Highly regarded as a chef, Lillian wants others to share in her joy of food. She mentors eight students for a month on every Monday. However, besides the power of good food, Lillian hopes to provide the same wisdom she found with her mother. Nervous because she has no idea who her students will be unlike the experience she succeeded with her mom, Lillian looks forward to Monday nights at her School of essential ingredients in baking a wonderful life.

This is a super character study tale that in many ways reads like interrelated short stories as the chapters focus on different people starting with Chef Lillian and switching to students like married couple Helen and Carl (separate sections), Antonia, Tom, Chloe, Isabelle and Ian. Each has woes that Lillian hopes her teaching the essential ingredients of cooking will help each to understand what matters in life especially relationships. This is a strong contemporary as Lillian puts her soul in every meal she makes because cooking for others is one of the best ways to connect to their souls.

Harriet Klausner

Very Valentine-Adriana Trigiani

Very Valentine
Adriana Trigiani
Harper, Jan 5 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061257063

In Manhattan's Greenwich Village, octogenarian Teodora Angelini faces the dismal fact that her family business since 1903, Angelini Shoe Company, is going bankrupt. Her thirtyish granddaughter Valentine Roncalli, having failed in a relationship and as a teacher, asks Gram to teach her how to design quality wedding shoes while she works out a financial plan to save the business as the mortgage overwhelms the profits.

On the other hand Valentine’s brother, Alfred, wants Gram to retire to a home and his to an apartment so that he can sell the building for millions. Meanwhile Chef Roman Falconi wants Valentine so when she and her Gram go to Italy to buy supplies, they plan to rendezvous on Capri. However, she is confused re her personal life after Valentine meets Gianluca, the son of Gram’s lover and secret fiancé, finding she is attracted to him.

Although this is more Valentine’s tale, this is a deep character study that has many messages but mostly focuses on what to do with a family business that provided for a wonderful lifestyle yet whose time seems to have past as specialty brick stores are being supersede by the Net. Valentine and Alfred have opposing opinions as he wants to end the drain and make an instant profit by selling the edifice while she feels a strong need to save the shoe business. Fans will appreciate this strong tale as Adriana Trigiani does not pass judgment, leaving that to the reader, as tradition and letting go have their respective time and place.

Harriet Klausner

Very Valentine-Adriana Trigiani

Very Valentine
Adriana Trigiani
Harper, Jan 5 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061257063

In Manhattan's Greenwich Village, octogenarian Teodora Angelini faces the dismal fact that her family business since 1903, Angelini Shoe Company, is going bankrupt. Her thirtyish granddaughter Valentine Roncalli, having failed in a relationship and as a teacher, asks Gram to teach her how to design quality wedding shoes while she works out a financial plan to save the business as the mortgage overwhelms the profits.

On the other hand Valentine’s brother, Alfred, wants Gram to retire to a home and his to an apartment so that he can sell the building for millions. Meanwhile Chef Roman Falconi wants Valentine so when she and her Gram go to Italy to buy supplies, they plan to rendezvous on Capri. However, she is confused re her personal life after Valentine meets Gianluca, the son of Gram’s lover and secret fiancé, finding she is attracted to him.

Although this is more Valentine’s tale, this is a deep character study that has many messages but mostly focuses on what to do with a family business that provided for a wonderful lifestyle yet whose time seems to have past as specialty brick stores are being supersede by the Net. Valentine and Alfred have opposing opinions as he wants to end the drain and make an instant profit by selling the edifice while she feels a strong need to save the shoe business. Fans will appreciate this strong tale as Adriana Trigiani does not pass judgment, leaving that to the reader, as tradition and letting go have their respective time and place.

Harriet Klausner

Winter Garden-Kristin Hannah

Winter Garden
Kristin Hannah
St. Martin’s, Feb 2 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312364120

Evan rescued Russian Anya from a German prison camp. They married, moved to the American Pacific Northwest after the war, and she spent her life grateful to him. She gave him two daughters that she failed to connect with as Evan meant everything to her. On the other hand Evan loved Meredith and Nina.

While Nina traveled the world as a photojournalist, older sister Meredith stayed home to work on her family’s apple orchard. When Meredith turned forty, her dying father asked her to take care of her aging mother after he is gone. She wants to say no but agrees. Nina comes home to help her sibling with their cold mother, whose mind is fading. Over vodka, mom tells the truth about losing everyone in her family during the Nazi siege of Leningrad and Stalin’s post war purges.

This is a fascinating tale of a mother and her two daughters coming together as adults like they never did when the younger generations was kids. Anya owns the tale as she describes the horrific hardships during WWII especially the 900 day sege and Stalin’s deadly actions afterward. Her saga makes the issues of her daughters seem petty. Readers will empathize with Anya as she lost so much of her heart and soul that what was left she could only give to her savior Evan. Although the ending feels totally out of place with its “perfection” considering the personalities of the three women, fans will enjoy the trek to the climax especially when Anya as the prime guide tells her shocking horrendous story.

Harriet Klausner

Pieces of Sky-Kaki Warner

Pieces of Sky
Kaki Warner
Berkley, Jan 5 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425232149

In 1869 in New Mexico Territory, British heiress Jessica Thornton knows she is a long way from her Northumberland home. Pregnant she desperately needs to find her brother George Adrian before her martinet abusive brother-in-law John Crawford finds her.

As the heat is killing her, she meets Brady Wilkins, oldest brother of three. When the coach crashes near his home, Brady offers her a place to stay for now at his ranch RosaRoja. Feeling safe with him and later his siblings (Jack and Hank), she accepts. As she comes to know his kindness and he her passion, they fall in love. However John comes for her to take her home so he can control her wealth; and the son of the previous owner of RosaRoja, insanely raging former convict Sancho Ramirez with a brutal land vendetta and his even crazier half brother Paco, arrives also as they want the family spread returned to them.

The first Blood Rose Post Civil War romance is an entertaining tale refreshed by the intermingling of the Wilkins and Ramirez families; with the additional entanglement of the British invasion. The story line is fast-paced and though somewhat by the Americana standard, Kaki Warner proves the little things matter as her lead couple is a fine pairing of seemingly opposites and the support cast is extremely strong to include Bullshot the loyal dog.

Harriet Klausner