Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Lumby Lines-Gail Fraser

The Lumby Lines
Gail Fraser
NAL, May 1 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 978-0451221391

Forty years ago when their lives were tanking, Mark and Pam Walker knew they needed a respite together. They had planned to visit historical inns, but kept kicking the can until they decided this was no longer acceptable. So each year since, they have visited rundown due to a fire Montis Abbey in Lumby in the Northwest, built in 1893, but the Church and then the affluent allowed it to deteriorate. Now the Walker pair wants to turn the edifice into an inn with them running a restaurant there.

Nothing occurs in town that gets passed the notice of The Lumby Lines owner William Beezer. He opposes the outsiders moving in and forming a business as he fears what makes his town quaint and quirky will soon be inundated by other “fungi”, which will drive the long time families away. The mayor is silent on the issue as the burned down Montis Abbey is not a nice place to do his business in public

The reprint of the first Lumby rustic village family saga is filled with fun subplots over the top of the Rockies. Whimsical, uplifting and warm, The Lumby Lines’ newspaper makes the tale enjoyable with columns like the Sheriff's Complaints and quoting the mayor barking out orders. Although rural conquers urban too easily and with a nod to Mossy Creek, Gail Fraser does so with humor as Beezer steals the show from the outside upstarts with his amusing commentaries.

Harriet Klausner

On Shadow Beach-Barbara Freethy

On Shadow Beach
Barbara Freethy
Pocket, Mar 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439101575

Lauren Jamison vowed to never return to her hometown of Angel's Bay, California where her sister Abby was murdered thirteen years ago. However, her dad suffers from Alzheimer’s while her brother David is on the East Coast and mom refuses to take care of her ex husband whom she divorced eleven years ago. Thus, Lauren comes home to find nothing changed except the empty nest; not even the room she shared with her late sister.

Her former boyfriend Shane Murray, who was accused of killing Abby and condemned by the locals as guilty, is also in Angel's Bay. At the same time, Mark Devlin is making a movie about the death of Abigail Jamison. Lauren thinks the cold case requires a villain for a film so if none is forthcoming she will choose the still perfect fall guy; the boy and now the man she loves but let down when she refused to believe Shane’s claim of innocence. Someone must agree as a car runs over the filmmaker.

Although the Angels’ limited roles seems forced into appearing in the plot, fans will appreciate the return to Angel’s Bay (see Suddenly One Summer) as Barbara Freethy provides a strong entry filled with remorse and angst. The characters are fully developed especially so the lead couple who remains restrained by their love as their relationship died along side Abby. Readers will enjoy this fine second chance at love romantic suspense as Lauren learns you can go home, but do you really want to?

Harriet Klausner

Dirty Laundry-Liz Osborne

Dirty Laundry
Liz Osborne
Five Star, May 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148576

Near Seattle, at Madrona Bay Hospital and Medical Center, Nurse Manager of the 3-West Unit Susan Wong complains about the perverted behavior of patient Jason Hilliard to forty year old Patient Relations manager Robyn Kelly. Apparently the twenty-six years old Hilliard flashes the staff though he insists it was done accidentally. He has been an in and out patient several times who no one wants to help. Robyn says the staff does not have to put up with this lewd behavior and she will warn him to cut it out.

Before she can do that she meets bewildered William Jones who says he lives in Central Park New York. The indigent elderly man has a nasty cut filled with maggots so Robyn intervenes and insures he receives proper treatment, but she goes home before she can visit Hilliard. That weekend her friend Police Detective Matthew Pierce injures his back moving heavy bags for Robyn and is hospitalized. Robyn accompanies him and stops to see William only to find another Hilliard complaint. She visits Hilliard who is dead with an IV cord around his neck. Police Chief Roberts botches the case from the onset, but claims he has a suspect so in spite of the warnings from her son and Matthew, Robyn investigates like she has done before (see Masquerade) as she knows who he will blame.

This is an engaging Washington State cozy with a nice late twist. The story line takes awhile to get into the whodunit as the focus is for a good portion of the tale is on the cast at the hospital. As Robyn proves a likable advocate for patients and staff, readers who enjoy a medical amateur sleuth competing with the cops will want to read the airing of Dirty Laundry at Madrona Bay.

Harriet Klausner

Elegy for April-Benjamin Black

Elegy for April
Benjamin Black
Holt, Apr 13 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780805090918

In 1950s Dublin, Dr. April Latimer apparently vanished; at least that is what her best friend Phoebe Griffin believes. She failed to meet the group at the Dolphin Hotel as she always does though the other members (Patrick Ojukwu, Isabel Galloway and Jimmy Minor) seem less concerned. Phoebe called the Hospital of Holy Family where April is a resident, but was told her pal called in ill.

Desperate April asks her “Uncle” Quirke the pathologist to investigate. She only recently learned he, not his recently widowed brother-in-law Malachy Griffin, was her biological father who gave her up when her mom died in childbirth. Although in detox at the House of St. John’s, Quirke would do anything for his “niece”. As he investigates what happened to the niece of a government minister, Quirke begins to unravel the worst in humanity as he finds the Latimer family conceals abuse and brutality within their circle so as to remain influential, the Catholic Church condoning people like the Latimer brood with their silent acceptance of abuse and brutality, and finally the community de facto collective racism that accepts abuse and brutality towards a white Catholic female and a Nigerian expatriate who must never fall in love. However, even as Quirke works the darkest streets, all roads lead to the convergence of the Dolphin Hotel group with her family.

The latest Quirke historical thriller (see Silver Swan and Christine Falls) condemns Ireland for its enabling the Church and the aristocracy to get away with what should have been criminal activity. Containing a strong cast, the fast-paced well written inquiry with brilliant final twists grips the reader throughout as Ireland is exposed for ignoring the shortcomings of moral institutions.

Harriet Klausner

Black Jack-Lora Leigh

Black Jack
Lora Leigh
St. Martin’s, Mar 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312945824

Like all Elite Ops field agents, Travis “Black Jack” Caine and Lillian "Night Hawk" Belle died in their previous civilian lives. Both were British aristocrats with him joining Elite Ops after British M16 felt he was too out of control while she enlisted after her agent father was murdered and almost her too. For six years, her mother, uncle and brother grieved her death in the car crash into the river that killed her dad; while his family rejoiced he was dead. Additionally they are attracted to one another.

Six years since she died, someone somehow recognizes Lilly Belle as Lady Veronica and tries to kill her; the bullet grazes her head leaving her with selected amnesia as she forgets everything that occurred since her first death. Elite Ops knows her father had uncovered a traitor who killed him before he could reveal who the person is. Black Jack’s assignment is to ferret out how dangerous the woman he loves as Night Hawk is in exposing other undercover operatives; and if she is the slightest threat kill her.

The latest Elite Ops (see Heat Seeker, Maverick, and Wild Card) is a character driven thriller that focuses on the mind of the heroine who if she recalls her lost memory becomes expendable by her agent peers and the traitor. Although amnesia has been used in espionage thrillers (Bourne) the story line is fast-paced with an interesting late spin. Fans will try to determine who the enemy is while also wondering why this person and the Elite Ops just don’t take Lily out before she regains her missing six years as she is a dangerous liability to each side.

Harriet Klausner

Deliver Us From Evil-David Baldacci

Deliver Us From Evil
David Baldacci
Grand Central, Apr 20 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780446564083

Shaw belongs to an agency that ignores legal limitations when it comes to capturing those who threaten the free world. His latest project is billionaire Evan Waller who makes his money kidnapping third world teens and selling them in the Western markets. However, he is widening his capitalist operations with the sale of nuclear weapons to Islamic Fundamentalists. Shaw and his team are to prevent the sales by eliminating the beast and his customers.

Fahir Kuchen killed and ordered massacred thousands in Kiev to keep the survivors in line and not give Moscow any problems. When the Soviet Union collapsed, he escaped making a new future for himself.

Reggie Campion works for an elite group that hunts down mass murderers. She and her unit are in Provence to make a hit on Waller whom she believes is Kuchen; Shaw is shocked after the two groups cross paths and hunt their respective villain.. Shaw persuades Reggie they need to unite before the hunted become the hunter as Kuchen has someone inside working for him and whether he is Waller or not, Evan is a deadly predator.

Many of the protagonists possess ulterior motives so that double crossing teammates and the other squad seem a way of life. This is the key element in the return of Shaw (see The Whole Truth) that makes Deliver Us From Evil a fascinating thriller. Shaw remains an enigma who is perfect for the jobs he undertakes in contrast with Reggie who has a secret agenda that makes her seem more human yet not detached enough to be his equal in the cold deadly field. David Baldacci is at his best with this exciting suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Allon-Shawn Lamb

Shawn Lamb
Creation House, Jan 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9781599798912

When the Guardians fell so did Allon. In the wake of the collapse fostered by Dagar the malevolent spirit, he fills the power vacuum by placing his mortal as evil as he is, King Marcellus to run the nation. They walk the Dark Way eliminating opposition and cruelly abusing the people. Evil has proven much stronger than good.

However, an ancient prophecy proclaims a return to the days of paradise that were before Dagar did his most foul deeds. The Guardians must come back though that seems improbable as Daga would never allow this to occur without massive destruction on a scale only an immortal malevolence can do, and a just blood descendent of the former rulers must prove worthy which seems also unlikely as King Marcellus will kill any contender.

In the Southern Forest near Garwood hides sixteen year old Prince Ellis, who must prove kingly worthiness by defeating powerful Dark Way paranormal foes before he takes on the current ruler and his evil spirit. However, impatient Ellis knows his people cannot wait for his maturity when soldiers attack the Jor’ellian Fortress where he hid. Fleeing rather than fighting he knows his mentor Master Ebenezer will die for him and their people. The Lord of the Southern Forest, Sir Angus of Garwood escorts Ellis away as the time is not right for the fight so the frustrated lad is forced into flight.

With a strong nod towards Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance fantasy saga, Allon is a superb coming of age quest fantasy. Ellis is a terrific teenager who eagerly wants to fight while his handlers demand flight. The support cast is solid especially the heroes die to defend the prince and the evil duet. Targeting young adults, anyone who enjoys Eragon (book or movie) will want to journey to the fallen land of Allon where hope was flickering out until now.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Glaen-Fred T. Lybrand

Fred T. Lybrand
Barnabas Agency, Feb 14 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780578046525

College grad student Annie is shocked and confused when her mother calmly informs her that she is divorcing Annie’s dad. She had thought her parents were happy together and there for one another. As she looks around her, Annie notices the downside of her younger sister’s relationship and those of her BFF Jennah. Relationships make no sense as a person gives up so much in return for being hurt so conceals the truth to abate the hurt.

Annie signs up for a class on Original Non-Fiction 101 taught by Professor Glaen Breuchis. On her first day in class, Annie looks around to find she is the only pupil. Professor Glaen explains that the administration is well aware he is teaching a class with only one student attending. He begins mentoring her to learn what is important in relationships is the truth. By being honest with others, Annie finds out that others will respect and admire you and most will reciprocate with veracity.

This is an interesting approach to encouraging and mentoring people to be honest and sincere in their relationships with others. The cast is solid especially the professor and his sole student while the fascinating story line simplistically focuses on Annie (and readers) learning how best to relate. Using a character study fiction, Fred T. Lybrand provides an engaging self help primer.

Harriet Klausner

The Hittite-Ben Bova

The Hittite
Ben Bova
Forge, Apr 13 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765324023

The Empire of the Hatti had defeated the Babylonians, Egyptians and many more, but face defeat from within by treachery. The emperor was stripped of his clothing by his sons and hence the Gods abandoned Hatti. Lukka leads his military unit home seeing the capital Hattusas ablaze from a distance. When they arrive inside the burning city they see gangs of drunken youths looting and killing. Lukka finds his dying father who informs him that his wife and sons might live, but are gone as property of the slavers.

He concludes his family would be sold in Troy. Leading his force to Troy, he finds the city under seize by the Achaians, whose lack of discipline makes Lukka ill to need them as an ally. He learns his spouse is a slave and vows to rescue her anyway he can and to learn the fate of his sons. Thus he begins the construct of a wooden horse that if he understands human nature should enable him to see “the face that launched a thousand ships”.

This is an interesting retelling of the Trojan Horse with the above description only the beginning as the reader also for instance obtains Helen’s side of the saga instead of the usual male machismo as she is all these super hunks’ Achilles heel. Lukka is a fascinating military leader who understands war has three offspring: death, maiming and slavery. He knows when his men fight, some will die, some will be maimed, and maybe a few captured and tortured as slaves. Fans will enjoy Ben Bova’s rendition of part of Homer’s the Iliad

Harriet Klausner

Cool Like That-Nikki Carter

Cool Like That
Nikki Carter
Kensington Dafina, Mat 2010, $9.95
ISBN: 9780758234421

Her mom Gwen has some doubts about Gia spending the summer in New York City especially since Ricky is going to attend the same enrichment program although the pair are just best friends. Gwen and her spouse Gia’s stepdad LeRon set rules for the two high school seniors as does Ricky’s mom.

Gia desperately wants her crush Ricky to make a move on her, but so far he has not so she prays the summer with no parents or siblings will encourage him as she wants to be his squeeze and not just his BF. When he does not and another cutie Rashad makes a move, Gia apparently adopts a new crush. Ricky is crushed as he wants her to be his girl.

This is an engaging young adult romance starring a teen drama queen and the two hunks in her life. Once Rashad forms the triangle, the fun begins and never slows down until the finakl beach scene. Readers will enjoy Cool Like That as Gia’s soundtrack in her head includes Chrisette Michele, Beyonce, Ledisi and Mraiah carey, etc, but should also have her singing ancient history’s Did You Ever Have tio Make Up Your Mind? (Lovin’ Spoonful)

Harriet Klausner

Devil’s Keep-Phillip Finch

Devil’s Keep
Phillip Finch
Pocket, Mar 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439168561

It has been ten years since Ray Favor and his three teammates (Arielle Bouchard, Mex Mendoza, and Winston Stickney) were part of the Black Ops cell Bravo One Nine. They worked for the government on assignments, which typically ended up violent and homicidal. Now they have gone their separate ways with Favor a multi-millionaire who misses the adrenalin rush of the good old danger days.

Teenager Maeivic Valencia accepts a job in Manila. She texts her brother when she arrives in there, but he never hears another word from her. Her twin Ronnie goes to the office that hired her, but they insist she never reported to work. He believes they are lying, but they knock him out and take him to the same island prison where Maxine is held.

Mendoza receives a call from family in the Philippines wanting his help in finding the missing twins. Thinking this will be easy, he and Bravo One Nine go to Manila only to learn the Russians are running a monstrous operation on an isolated island where the twins are incarcerated. Brave One Nine unite for a dangerous rescue mission.

Phillip Finch is a great thriller writer whose latest novel is filled with action at a faster than light pace as a sort of Mission Impossible episode. The heroes are an entertaining quartet though the audience will suspend some belief that they remain in Bravo One Nine shape a decade after coming in from the heart of the cold. Still the linear story line will have the audience’s attention throughout as this is an enjoyable tale.

Harriet Klausner

Succubus Shadows-Richelle Mead

Succubus Shadows
Richelle Mead
Kensington, Apr 2010, $15.00
ISBN 9780758232007

Succubus Georgina Kincaid knows the unknown is stalking her as the beast can enter her mind, influence her thoughts, and get her to do almost anything. She barely prevents the mental invader from persuading her to commit suicide. Georgina realizes how difficult it is to defeat a foe of which you have no earthly or hellish idea of what it is.

Since her employer archdemon Jerome and her angel friend Carter cannot detect any malevolence around her or inside her, each fears for Georgina’s sanity. Making matters worse is her BFF Maddie asks her to be a bridesmaid at her wedding to Seth; the man Georgina loves while Simone the sexy succubus spins Seth’s soul.

Succubus Shadows is a refreshing lighthearted humorous frolic with a profound depth to the exhilarating urban fantasy story line. Georgina is troubled on two extreme fronts: the jocularity subplot focuses on who will end up with Seth while the seriousness theme concentrates on the assault on her mind from an unknown entity that is driving her mad and having her consider suicide. Readers will fully appreciate this fine entry as Richelle Mead makes a case that there is a lot of landscape between the polar extremes of heavenly goodness and hellish malevolence.

Harriet Klausner

Black Jack Derringer-Karen Koehler

Black Jack Derringer
Karen Koehler
Skullvines Press; 2009, $16.95

At the bar in the misnamed New Hope bounty hunter “Wild” Alice West notices the albino card player, Mr. Treen no last name and believes he is her dream ticket. Wild Alice thinks he can be her front as women are not allowed to do man’s work in Skillet. She also knows that Mr. Treen no last name will be the wealthiest dead man in town tonight as winning at cards without a gun is perilous.

However, she reconsiders her first musings and decides the muto-man is actually a derringer man. So when he proves her right by pointing his gun at the groin of someone accusing him of cheating, she is elated. He is perfect for her. She tries to hire him, but he tells her she is the perfect bounty hunter without need of a pig of a partner. Two misfits team up trying to earn a living by bringing in bounty.

The first Ace Of Spades novella is a superb western fantasy in which Karen Koehler quickly establishes her world and key players in a fast-paced, but very short tale. Wild Alice and Mr. Treen is a wonderful pairing as each has secrets and issues. Support players like those at the bar and muto man Goliath enhance the landscape and the lead couple. Fans will enjoy this superb quick read and look forward to the second ace, but first must decide whether the 102 page post-apocalyptic thriller is worth the cost.

Harriet Klausner

Oath Of Fealty-Elizabeth Moon

Oath Of Fealty
Elizabeth Moon
Del Rey, Mar 16 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345508744

Due to the efforts of the farmer’s daughter Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter, who as the paladin saved the kingdom, half-breed elf Kieri Phelan sits precariously on the throne. He must protect his nation from enemies beyond their borders and worse from insidious traitors inside. King Kieri also understands he must earn the trust of his people who have doubts he has the strength and fortitude to rule. Although he never sought the crown, the former military captain vows to do what is right by his people.

In neighboring Tsaia where Kieri has many enemies, Prince Mikeli is to be anointed monarch. However, the powerful Verrakaien mage lord families attempt a coup. Mikeli counters while Dorrin Verrakai who did not participate must prove her innocence as a non blood using mage if the prince is to become king. Meanwhile the Gird has directed the paladin to perform other tasks. Thus two new kings must find new allies if they are to succeed at governance that helps their respective nations.

This is a terrific spin off from the wonderful The Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy (see Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Divided Allegiance, and Oath of Gold) in which fans will relish the new entry and newcomers do not need to go back to read the previous saga first; as Elizabeth Moon deftly interweaves the past into the storyline. The story of two kings and kingdoms is Ms. Moon at her best as political, military and economic intrigue threatens two rookie monarchs with the most dangerous enemies of each at court.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 26, 2010

Matthew’s Story-Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

Matthew’s Story
Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
Putnam, Feb 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399156212

In Bet Guvrin, eight years old Levi diligently studies to become a priest. He is a happy child who loves God, his parents and adores his baby brother Chavivi. One night soldiers of Herod the Great arrive at his home and kill his sibling; as they have all killed all infant males since the Magi claimed the Christ was born. Herod insists he is the King of the Jews and not some pretender.

Levi still believed in God but his adulation turned to loathing as he blames the Lord for his baby brother’s death. He rejects the priesthood and instead becomes a Roman tax collector. His people detest him as he becomes wealthy at their expense, but he feels empty inside until he meets Jesus. He becomes his disciple and changes his name to Matthew and follows him loyally. Jesus tells him he will feel the pain Matthew felt when He follows his Father’s wishes.

Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins use a contemporary interpretation to tell Matthew’s Story, a disciple who transformed from youthful pious believer, to odious sinner to saint thanks in part to Jesus. The use of modern day vernacular makes it easier on the audience to understand the message and power of Christ especially in altering Matthew’s life; though in fairness some readers might question free will. As with Mark, Luke and John, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins provide a strong biblical biographical fictional account of a disciple of Jesus.

Harriet Klausner

The Girl Who Chased the Moon-Sarah Addison Allen

The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Sarah Addison Allen
Bantam, Mar 16 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553807219

With the death of her mom Dulcie, Emily Benedict moves in with her maternal grandfather whom she never met in Mullaby, North Carolina. She hopes to better understand what motivated her mother to abruptly run away from home and never return. However, not everyone welcomes the daughter of Dulcie while the newcomer finds life with her gentle giant grandfather kind yet odd especially accentuated by the changing wallpaper.

Julia Winterson welcomes Emily with a cake. She hopes to pay off her dad’s debt, which would enable her to shut down his restaurant and leave town to open a bakery elsewhere. Sawyer hopes she will stay and give him her heart as she owns his. Win Coffey and Emily are attracted to one another too, but their families are at the heart of the secrets that the outsider seeks to learn.

This is a warm whimsical tale with a strong message of don’t relive past transgressions forever especially when the present provides a chance for a different future. Readers will be hooked to learn the Dulcie-Coffey secret and root for the two couples to make it. Not even Dean Smith paints Tarheel magic as well as Sarah Addison Allen does (see Garden Spells).

Harriet Klausner

Windward Passage-Jim Nisbet

Windward Passage
Jim Nisbet
Overlook, Apr 1 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781590201947

In the Caribbean, the Vellela Vellela partially sinks to the bottom of the shallow sea with smuggler Charley chained to the mast. Inside the small sailboat besides its chained captain on the dry section of the ship is a log with ten pages torn out and ripped off, the DNA of POTUS concealed inside of cocaine, and a partially written novel. None of this makes sense as whoever chained Charley and stole the log pages left behind a fortune.

In San Francisco Charley's sister Tipsy wants answers while drug lord Red Means wants his cargo. They combine their quests taking the booty, trying to learn who killed Charley and several answers to a myriad of why questions like why leave the loot behind, why tearing pages from the log and why the president’s DNA was even on board Charley’s vessel.

This is a gripping conspiracy thriller that captures the attention of the audience from the moment Charley knows time is running out on him and never let’s goes as the reader wants to know the answers to the ton of whys. Fast-paced throughout, the two amateur sleuths follow broken clues in an effort to learn the truth and possess what was left behind. Timely yet eerie in many ways, fans will enjoy this strange but exhilarating tale as political bias trumps over logic, fairness and common good in Jim Nisbet’s strong suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Deals-Fern Michaels

Deadly Deals
Fern Michaels
Zebra, Apr 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781420106862

In DC after trying but failing for years to have kids, late thirties couple Rachel and Thomas Dawson are euphoric when he donated sperm to a surrogate mom and eventually brought home their twins. It cost them $100,000 collected by Baron Bell but they felt it was worth every penny as did their parents whom lent them some of the cash. However, not long afterward a lawyer informed the couple that his client the surrogate mom wants her kids. They lost their children, are broken and Bell vanished.

Rachel visits lawyer Lizzie Fox though she cannot afford the fee. The attorney contacts the vigilante Sisterhood who learning of the baby-selling ring scheme and come to Washington to bring rightness to the madness even as a snowstorm hits the city.

Long time die hardest fans will fully relish the latest escapades as the crew still wait several books for their pardons, but keep doing good deeds; newcomers will find it difficult to grasp how the Sisterhood got to this point and less than devout faithful will question why one more. Still the ensemble vigilantes are solid, the angst of the Dawson duet powerful, and the activity of Mr. Wonderful and his baby selling insidious. Overall this is an enjoyable White Christmas in DC with the Sisterhood saga.

Harrier Klausner

Wolf Trap-Linda Thomas–Sundstrom

Wolf Trap
Linda Thomas–Sundstrom
Silhouette Nocturne, Mar 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618309

In the Miami area, during a full moon, Dr. Parker Madison is in his Otherworld form when he finds brutally assaulted Chloe Tyler. He gives her first aid and rushes her to Fariview Hospital. However, when she acts strange, he recognizes the signs as he is undergoing the same transformation; he quietly takes her from the hospital to a specialized psychiatric facility.

Chloe is changing into a werewolf, but the staff of “monster” ward especially Dr. Jenna James is used to dealing with werewolves as is police detective Matt Wilson as both howl during the full moon. Chloe and Parker are attracted to one another as is Matt and Jenna, but all four knows first hunting down a rogue killing werewolf comes before love. However, neither couple realizes they are the prey of this paranormal psychopath.

The latest Werewolf police procedural romance (see Red Wolf) is a faster than moonlight thriller. The superb cast makes for a fun full moon over Miami hunt for a predator who stalks the fearsome foursome. Although Chloe converts too easily into a werewolf, readers will enjoy this dynamic paranormal romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Mistress Of The Underground-Lisa Childs

Mistress Of The Underground
Lisa Childs
Silhouette Nocturne, Mar 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618316

In Xantrax, Michigan, former attorney Paige Culver buys Club Underground. However, something has somehow gotten inside her head telling her she does not belong here. A patron warns her to leave or else become the special.

Paige’s former husband, Dr. Ben Davison is furious fueled by fear to learn his beloved ex wife owns and operates Club Underground. He knows first hand her new bar is the in-place where his patients go for some blood letting fun as only vampires can. Ben will do anything to keep his love safe including hiding the essence of who their patrons are even though concealing the truth from her cost him his marriage.

The fully developed characters especially the lead couple and their shared customers make for a strong second chance at love romantic fantasy that sets the table simply with the opening line that Xantrax has replaced Detroit as Michigan’s biggest metropolis. Fast-paced and filled with action, Paige demands the truth while Ben hides the truth. Lisa Childs provides a strong story of love is not enough to forge a relationship because distrust is much more powerful.

Harriet Klausner

WWW: WATCH-Robert J. Sawyer

Robert J. Sawyer
Ace, Apr 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441018185

Mathematical prodigy Caitlin Decter was born blind. When she was fifteen years old she underwent an experimental treatment of an implant inside her brain enabling her to see the world for the first time. However an unexpected consequence of the procedure is her uncanny ability to also see World Wide Web space. Thus a new sentient entity is born inside her head, of whom Caitlin calls Webmind (see WWW.WAKE).

As Webmind relishes learning all about Caitlin's physical world, top secret government watchdog agency Watch learns about Webmind as part of their scrutiny of Internet terrorist threats. They want Webmind removed from the Net because they fear it is a security risk. Whereas Caitlin feels protective of Webmind, her parents fear the intelligent being could lead to an unintended harming of their daughter from a public already concerned that Big Brother is watching.

This is a great middle book due to the power characterizations especially Webmind who provides first entity perspective. Caitlin is a superb teenager trying to keep her friend safe while her parents have always been protective of her. In fact protectiveness of others is the overarching theme as even the Watch contains individuals trying to keep the public safe. Readers will fully appreciate Robert J. Sawyer’s brilliant WWW tale, but should read Wake first to better understand how far Webmind has come and potentially could go; that explains the fears of the Watch group.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Directive 51-John Barnes

Directive 51
John Barnes
Ace, Apr 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780441018222

In 2007, National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 51 was signed to allow the executive branch to claim extraordinary power during a catastrophe. A couple of decades after the announcement of NSPD 51, the Office of Future Threat Assessment Assistant Secretary Heather O'Grainne leads an inquiry into a potential homegrown terrorist cell, Daybreak. The vision of this diverse group is the destruction of the Big System that each member believes destroyed the American way of life.

Rumors about the group has O’Grainne panicking as apparently Daybreak possesses the nanotechnology to destroy two centuries of technology. Around the globe catastrophes occur leaving billions dead and American going backward in technology. With the government failing faster than society is, NSPD 51 is implemented, but perhaps too late as the two spirals of death and technological collapse continues unabated.

Directive 51 is a fascinating near future thriller that looks deep into what would happen if modern day technology somewhat predicted where we would be in twenty years or so suddenly stopped working and reverted back to the early nineteenth century. The frantic effort to prevent the collapse of the world seems too little and too late as the Feds work at a snail’s pace while the Daybreak antiterrorists move out faster than the speed of light. Although the story line adopts too easily Stalin’s alleged commentary that “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic”, fans will enjoy this cautionary tale that proclaims that sometimes you get what you wish for.

Harriet Klausner

One Hundred Great French Books-Lance Donaldson-Evans

One Hundred Great French Books
Lance Donaldson-Evans
BlueBridge, Mar 31 2010, $15.95
ISBN: 9781933346229

This is a terrific introduction to French literature from the Middle Ages to modern times. Each entry is summed up briefly with a commentary so that no more than two pages are provided on those included. Starting with the classic Song of Roland and including well known works by renowned authors like Sartre, de Troyes, Pascal, Moliere, Racine, Hugo and others; One Hundred Great French Books is a great introduction to some of the best works ever. However, what makes this so complete is genres normally ignored by English literature anthologies, but not by Lance Donaldson-Evans. For instance the editor also includes the comic book Asterix by Goscinny and Uderzo. With a wide gamut of genres, formats and centuries including twenty-fist century works like W, or Memory of Childhood by Perec, readers will relish this fine easy to use guide that says oui oui Francais.

Harriet Klausner

His Best Mistake-Kristi Gold

His Best Mistake
Kristi Gold
Harlequin SuperRomance, Mar 2010, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716241

In Houston, magazine sportswriter Kevin O'Brien learns he has aplastic anemia, a disease that can prove fatal. He also learns chemo treatments leave half of the patients sterile. Panicking, he decides to do what he believes is the right thing by his girlfriend of eight months Dr. Leah Cordero. He dumps her so she does not have to grieve his death.

One year later, Leah visits Kevin to tell him he sired a daughter Carly with her. However, before getting to the point, she tells him she is going home to Mississippi to practice medicine there and is seeing another man. He is stunned and pleads with Leah to move into his new house at least until she completes her residency and goes back with Carly to Mississippi. Although in love, she remains distrustful and irate that he hid his health issue from her

This is an entertaining family drama starring a likable lead couple and a supporting cast who enhance the understanding of Kevin and Leah. Leah is great as her ire seems genuine; on the other hand Kevin's concealment appears false as he has no reason except perhaps fear to do so. Still fans will enjoy his efforts to win the trust of the mother of his baby as he already has her love.

Harriet Klausner

A Kiss to Kill By-Nina Bruhns

A Kiss to Kill By
Nina Bruhns
Berkley, Apr 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425233832

In Manhattan, private protection firm Storm agents follow Dr. Gina Coppozi to keep her safe from al Sayika operatives especially her former lover CIA Black Ops ground Zero unit operative Greg Van Halen. She vows to kill him for selling her out to the terrorists. Gina also knows he is nearby watching her to obviously kidnap her for his handlers. Storm agents Alex Kane and Kick Jackson are part of the surveillance team, but are called off it to attend a meeting as NSA insists there is increased al Sayika chatter.

Alex loves CIA Special Agent Rebel Hayward and knows she loves him too, but he refuses to act on their mutual feelings as he feels unworthy of her. She is sent to Chesapeake Bay to investigate a threat posed by a yacht Allah’s Paradise and told by her boss she will work for Storm on this mission. Alex is assigned to join her.

In DC Metro Police detective Sarah McPhee leads the investigation of a dead woman Asha Mamoud. CIA agent Wade Montana calls Sarah to question her about Asha. Soon all will converge in DC as a diabolical traitor has set up everyone to take a deadly fall.

This is a great tale in which several subplots rotate nicely before blending together into a fast-paced romantic suspense thriller. The ensemble cast comes across as different and fully developed characters. Although A Kiss to Kill By can stand alone; it helps to have read the previous tales (see If Looks Could Chill and Shoot to Thrill) to better understand the references to the past. Still this is a terrific Storm entry.

Harriet Klausner

'Til Dice Do Us Part-Gail Oust

'Til Dice Do Us Part
Gail Oust
Obsidian, Apr 2020, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451229427

Claudia Connors returns home after spending time in Vegas. Her retiree buddies the Bunco Babes welcome home one of their charter members. However, she shocks the group when she introduces them to her new husband, actor Lance Ledeaux.

They are further stunned when Lance explains to the babes that he plans to direct and perform in a play in which he wants all of them to have roles in the production. The normally suspicious babes are won over by his offer and his general charm. However Kate McCall overhears a fight between the newlyweds over expense and becomes concerned for her friend. Soon afterward during rehearsal, someone loaded a gun with real bullets, leaving Lance dead and the cops suspecting his wife killed him. Kate leads the Bunco Babes’ investigation into the homicide.

This is an entertaining amateur sleuth as the Bunco Babes reject the notion of tossing dice during visiting hours to the state pen. Fans will enjoy the camaraderie of the BFFs as they Whack ‘n Roll their way through their investigation with humor, concern and catching optimism. Gail Oust rolls an eleven with this enjoyable winner.

Harriet Klausner

The 13th Hour-Richard Doetsch

The 13th Hour
Richard Doetsch
Atria, Dec 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9781439147917

In Byram Hills, New York, the police arrest Nick Quinn for murdering his wife Julia. The case seems air tight against Nick as Julia called 911 implying Nick was hurting her just before she was shot in the head. The murder weapon has his prints and his hand has gunpowder residue. He had the means and opportunity and though not as clear the motive.

While Nick is left alone in the police interrogation room brooding, grieving and frightened, a stranger arrives offering Nick a chance to go back twelve hours in time. However, he can only do so at one hour intervals. Nick welcomes the opportunity to simply prevent his wife’s murder. Yet as he returns to the past, he begins to understand time is not isolated or linear as an event as multiple repercussions; what seemed so simple turns out convoluted as he is soon dealing with a plane crash and other links that he never tied to his wife’s death.

This is a fascinating complicated time travel thriller that grips the audience throughout though only Nick seems multifaceted as everyone else is stereotyped to enhance his degree of difficulty. The story line is fast-paced even as the more the protagonist works his quest the more intricate the plot turns. Readers will want to go back in time with Nick as he learns turning back the hands of time is not easy.

Harriet Klausner

Sworn to Protect-DiAnn Mills

Sworn to Protect
DiAnn Mills
Tyndale, Apr 1 2010, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414320519

Even after two years, Border Patrol Agent Danika Morales has not gotten over the execution murder of her immigration activist husband, Toby. She believes Toby kept secrets from her about his activities because he knew she would not support him breaking immigration laws she enforces. Her brother-in-law Jacob, also a border patrol agent, has become a dictator of sorts; demanding her and his family adheres strictly to the rules.

Illegal immigrants are being brought over the border and work for free as a form of an indentured servant to the person who paid their transportation into America. One of these mules is Danika’s nanny Sandra; Danika believes her employee’s papers are in order making her legal. When her partner is shot, he is rushed to the hospital where Dr. Alex Price cares for him. Alex knew Toby and when he meets the widow, he falls in love with her though like her late husband did he keeps secrets from her. Danika cuts him out of her life when she learns what he had hid from her, but he takes a bullet intended for her. As she begins to believe again, Danika places herself in danger as she feels the attempt to kill her is tied to Toby’s unsolved murder.

Fans of Kathy Herman and Dee Henderson will want to read Sworn to Protect; a thriller filled with action, intrigue and romance. Readers obtain a glimpse into the dangerous lives of border guards confronting deadly coyote transporters and their illegals cargo who are looking for a better life in America. Although the latter seems somewhat abated with the recession, the audience will want more works starring courageous Danika.

Harriet Klausner

Gardens of the Sun-Paul McCauley

Gardens of the Sun
Paul McCauley
PYR, Mar 23 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616141967

The Three Powers Alliance of Greater Brazil, the European Union, and the Pacific Community won the Quiet War. To the victors go the spoils, but first the winners must deal with the conquered Outers and their cities on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn before plundering the scientific and technological advancements of the defeated leading to prison camps and forced cooperation. A century of enlightened pragmatic rationalism in the Milky Way has returned to the Dark Ages of repression.

Some Outers escape the deadly incarceration of the “Final Solution” fleeing to the Uranus moon of Miranda, but chased further away from the sun by the Greater Brazil armada to Neptune’s moon Triton. An enigmatic leader directed allegedly by a future version of himself and followed by Outer “Ghost” cultists takes Outers further out in the solar system to Nephele. There the surviving Free Outers change colonization techniques from permanent to portable as they construct detachable "Gardens of the Sun" habitats. Meanwhile other Outers push diverse surviving techniques starting with the natural habitat genetic genius Avernus with her “gardens” and the human pragmatic cutting by Sri Hong-Owen. Thus beyond the inner planets where the sun is weak, humans still seek the light of knowledge while on earth people demand freedom having learned of the heroism of the Outers even in defeat. .

This is a fascinating science fiction sequel to the Quiet War, which makes two strong assertions. First even in the deadliest of dictatorships, there are tiny lights of enlightenment trying to find a means to get free, and second that war makes the victors pay exorbitant costs and consequences. The story line is action-packed as the Free Outers flee further away from the sun using diverse paths to freedom while the totalitarian axis of evil sends troops in pursuit to eradicate the survivors in spite of problems back home caused by the war. Paul McCauley provides a thought provoking yet exciting fast-paced futuristic thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Directive 51-John Barnes

Directive 51
John Barnes
Ace, Apr 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780441018222

In 2007, National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 51 was signed to allow the executive branch to claim extraordinary power during a catastrophe. A couple of decades after the announcement of NSPD 51, the Office of Future Threat Assessment Assistant Secretary Heather O'Grainne leads an inquiry into a potential homegrown terrorist cell, Daybreak. The vision of this diverse group is the destruction of the Big System that each member believes destroyed the American way of life.

Rumors about the group has O’Grainne panicking as apparently Daybreak possesses the nanotechnology to destroy two centuries of technology. Around the globe catastrophes occur leaving billions dead and American going backward in technology. With the government failing faster than society is, NSPD 51 is implemented, but perhaps too late as the two spirals of death and technological collapse continues unabated.

Directive 51 is a fascinating near future thriller that looks deep into what would happen if modern day technology somewhat predicted where we would be in twenty years or so suddenly stopped working and reverted back to the early nineteenth century. The frantic effort to prevent the collapse of the world seems too little and too late as the Feds work at a snail’s pace while the Daybreak antiterrorists move out faster than the speed of light. Although the story line adopts too easily Stalin’s alleged commentary that “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic”, fans will enjoy this cautionary tale that proclaims that sometimes you get what you wish for.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Freedom by any Means-Betty DeRamus

Freedom by any Means
Betty DeRamus
Atria, Feb 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439126752

These fifteen well written true stories focus on courageous individuals trying to either escape from slavery or applying extraordinary methods to enable blacks to escape from slavery. The first entry “The Big Bluff” sets the tome when freeman John Bowley arrives at a Maryland Slave auction to take his family with him as they are up for sale. In “Waters of Hope” slave Arnold Gragston rowed escaping slaves across the Ohio River to safety; others like black barbers Daniel Strawther and Jerry Jones did likewise. Others are equally brave like Nelson Gant who risks his life and freedom for his love of Anna Maria Hughes or putting their money where their mouths were like James Henry Cole and Clara Brown as economics was as big if not bigger roadblock to freedom. Although some of the record is missing requiring Betty DeRamus to speculate, the overall courage is documented. Divided into three sections, this is a winning historical as readers obtain a wider perspective of the risk people took for freedom not just for themselves, but for loved ones and even strangers; summed up in the last entry of “Don’t Call her Mammy” re Mary Ellen Pleasant, the “mother of the civil rights movement in California”.

Harriet Klausner

The First Thing and the Last-Allan G. Johnson

The First Thing and the Last
Allan G. Johnson
Plain View Press, Feb 2010, $22.95
ISBN: 9781935514411

In Boston on his wife Katherine’s birthday, David Stuart explodes into a rage. As he has done before to Katherine, he batters her while blaming her for causing him to use his fists on her. This time Katherine knows it is different as he hits her face and slams her head several times; he always avoided that. When he grabs their preschooler Ethan, she begs him to give their child to her. He throws him against the wall breaking Ethan’s neck. She knows she is next, but grabs a knife and kills him.

She is rushed to the hospital. In spite of massive internal bleeding to include removal of her gall bladder, and emergency repair to her ripped liver and kidneys, the cops wonder whether she is a murderer. At the hospital and later on in her parents’ home, her family cannot cope as they blame themselves for not intervening and her for not leaving.

Vermont resident Lucy Dudley reads in the Globe what happened and visits Katherine at the hospital and invites her to live on her farm; she decades ago survived a similar ordeal. Katherine leaves for Vermont where Lucy hopes to help her heal.

This poignant shocking look at an abuse victim during a deadly assault from her loved one enables readers to see inside Katherine’s head as she is battered and Ethan killed. The afterward is also intriguing with the cops and even her brother wondering if she used excessive force while her parents try to avoid any culpability for not intervening. The two women help one another as they develop a loving friendship though Lucy’s efforts towards aiding Katherine in coping with her trauma are more obvious. The First Thing and the Last is must reading as Allan G. Johnson gets deep into the mind and soul of an abuse victim.

Harriet Klausner

Johnny Porno-Charlie Stella

Johnny Porno
Charlie Stella
Stark House, Apr 2010, $15.95
ISBN 9781933586298

In 1973 in New York City John Albano was fired from his carpentry job and his union card revoked for knocking out a foreman. He earns a living driving for a car service and as a courier collecting receipts for the Mafia’s showing of Deep Throat; his job as a mob runner has led to his nickname Johnny Porno. However, Johnny knows his salary is a pittance and he has child payments to make to his ex wife Nancy married to spouse three; Johnny is numero two. Thus he considers asking for better paying work from his employer, but fears doing so.

Meanwhile Nancy’s first husband Louis tells her they can make a bundle by ripping off Porno and leaving him holding the empty bag with his employer. Nancy has doubts not out of caring one iota for the father of her son, but because of the risk as he hubby three is a nice Philharmonic employee. As the police look at the dealings of Johnny’s boss Eddie Vento and investigate a crooked cop, Jonny is caught in the crosshairs.

Although over the top of the Empire State Building, Johnny Porno is a terrific Nixon Era crime caper reminiscent of Elmore Leonard. The story line is fast-paced, filled with action and violence, and stars a seemingly hapless chump struggling to survive in a cesspool. With the fun look at pop culture in circa 1973 enhancing the plot, readers, especially boomers, will enjoy Johnny Porno’s New York joy ride.

Harriet Klausner

Johnny Porno-Charlie Stella

Johnny Porno
Charlie Stella
Stark House, Apr 2010, $15.95
ISBN 9781933586298

In 1973 in New York City John Albano was fired from his carpentry job and his union card revoked for knocking out a foreman. He earns a living driving for a car service and as a courier collecting receipts for the Mafia’s showing of Deep Throat; his job as a mob runner has led to his nickname Johnny Porno. However, Johnny knows his salary is a pittance and he has child payments to make to his ex wife Nancy married to spouse three; Johnny is numero two. Thus he considers asking for better paying work from his employer, but fears doing so.

Meanwhile Nancy’s first husband Louis tells her they can make a bundle by ripping off Porno and leaving him holding the empty bag with his employer. Nancy has doubts not out of caring one iota for the father of her son, but because of the risk as he hubby three is a nice Philharmonic employee. As the police look at the dealings of Johnny’s boss Eddie Vento and investigate a crooked cop, Jonny is caught in the crosshairs.

Although over the top of the Empire State Building, Johnny Porno is a terrific Nixon Era crime caper reminiscent of Elmore Leonard. The story line is fast-paced, filled with action and violence, and stars a seemingly hapless chump struggling to survive in a cesspool. With the fun look at pop culture in circa 1973 enhancing the plot, readers, especially boomers, will enjoy Johnny Porno’s New York joy ride.

Harriet Klausner

Rebels And Lovers-Linnea Sinclair

Rebels And Lovers
Linnea Sinclair
Bantam, Mar 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553592191

Two years have passed since information technology guru Devin Guthrie last saw his beloved Captain Makaiden “Kaidee” Griggs, a widow. Although her being his family yacht pilot makes her unacceptable as his wife because Devin would have to defy J.M. his powerful father and CEO of Guthrie Global Systems. Devin also knows he still loves her.

He is unhappy when his martinet father orders him to marry into another prominent family as damage control. Devin’s older brother former admiral Philip defected to the Alliance (see Hope’s Folly) and is openly rebelling against J.M. and the Empire. However, when Devin's nineteen years old nephew Trip vanishes, Devin investigates hoping to find the teen before he is hurt. Devin learns the lad’s bodyguard was murdered and Trip barely escaped. He follows his fleeing relative to Dock Station Five where he encounters Kaidee and a perilous scenario in which apparently Empire and Alliance forces seek his nephew and him dead or alive.

Rebels and Lovers is a superb action-packed romantic suspense science fiction thriller. The taut story line never slows down from the moment Devin tastes a bit of freedom and adventure in his desperate pursuit to bring his nephew home safe. Readers will appreciate Linnea Sinclair's strong entry as the dangerous suspense thriller starring a strong lead couple makes for an astounding tale.

Harriet Klausner

Born To Be Wild-Christine Warren

Born To Be Wild
Christine Warren
St. Martin’s, Mar 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312357191

Veterinarian Dr. Josie Barrett knows there is a lot more under the sun, well the moon, in Stone Creek, Oregon. So being aware of the healing prowess of the dominant sentient Others, she is stunned when Sheriff Eli Pace carries into her clinic with a wounded female werewolf. Something is obvious not right in Stone Creek as the lupine fails to self heal as the shifters remarkably do rather swiftly or change into her human form.

Other werewolves are also assaulted. Desperate Eli the lion shapeshifter asks the town vet to help him investigate what seems like a dangerous virus to shapeshifters, which puts the sheriff at risk. She agrees. As the human and the half lion fall in love, each knows uncovering the apparent biological weapon and who is behind it remain front and center.

The key to this strong urban fantasy romantic suspense is that the growing love between the lead couple enhances their desperate search for answers. Thus the exciting investigation into biological warfare is the prime story line with the romance a wonderful subplot. Christine Warren provides another winning Other paranormal thriller (see Big Bad Wolf and You’re So Vein).

Harriet Klausner

The Midnight Mayor-Kate Griffin

The Midnight Mayor

Orbit, Mar 8 2010, $19.99
ISBN: 9780316041232

Matthew Swift was a sorcerer who would have been better off dead, which he believes he once was; as he muses that the Terminator and the Knights Templar would have quit if they had to deal with the ‘electric blue angels’ buzzing inanely inside his brain. Unless you are a voyeur, who wants to listen in on some puke talking sex over a telephone? Alas, the once proud sorcerer is back with his head aching from telephone lines, and electronic gizmos.

However, having the buzz inside his head pales when he learns someone or perhaps something assassinated the powerful protector of London, The Midnight Mayor. The Aldermen, aware that someone of power committed the atrocity, accuse Swift. His first thought is flight, but he decides to investigate instead. He quickly realizes the invincible eternal magical wards that keep the city safe are being breached. London Wall has cryptic graffiti on it and the Tower ravens are dead. Each step he takes he uncovers a greater nightmare as Swift considers flight again as his conclusion is not very comforting.

The Midnight Mayor is a strange refreshing urban fantasy starring a reluctant hero whose inquiry into what is going on and by who or perhaps better said as what makes for a fine thriller. The whodunit is cleverly devised as Swift finds wards failing while dodging a female human assassin who loathes sorcerers and their ilk. Complicated and not an easy read, Kate Griffin provides sub-genre fans with a deep tale of magic failing with ironically the only individual who might save the city is a target for death by those he is trying to protect.

Harriet Klausner

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Backlash-Aaron Allston

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Backlash
Aaron Allston
Del Rey, Mar 9 2010, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345509086

It is widely believed that the Sith were eradicated, but there remains a Lost Tribe on the Planet Kush. They use the dark side of the Force and eventually plan to spread out to rule the galaxy. Grandmaster Luke Skywalker and his son Ben, meet Sith Master Lada Rhea who they killed and her apprentice Vestara Khai who is on intent on killing them in the mysterious Maw where a force wielding creature resides.

This sentient being is sending out messages to Jedi who when children hid in the maw and now are going insane. Han Solo and his wife Leia are criminals after taking insane Jedi from Coruscant to a safe haven in the Transitory Mists. Their activity is an affront to Galactic Alliance Chief of State Natasi Daala who is furious and whose goal is to make the Jedi become subservient to her. Luke and Ben track Vestara, the Sith apprentice without a master, to Dathomir where they become embroiled in a clan war in which dark side Force practitioners abet Vestara.

The fourth Fate of the Jedi science fiction thriller is loaded with action and plenty of intrigue which fans of the saga will expect. The story line is refreshed by a deep look at a new world and its culture. However, it is Vestara who makes the thriller work as she is a unique Sith unlike any seen before; incredibly she steals the show from the Skywalkers and Solos. By nature she is evil, but by nurture she shows signs of the light. Readers will relish this strong entry as Vestara brings new meaning to the dark and light sides of the Force.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Too Hot To Handle-Nancy Warren

Too Hot To Handle
Nancy Warren
Harlequin Blaze, Mar 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795307

Manhattan based jewelry designer Lexy Drake is an expert on modernizing antique family jewels. Charles Pendergraff III hires Lexy to create a special wedding ring. She is immediately attracted to her handsome suave client. For the first time in her professional life, Lexy considers breaking her iron rule of never mixing business with pleasure, which she does.

However, late one night, Lexy arrives at her studio to be greeted by her worst nightmare. Charles is stealing another customer’s jewels, the Isabella Emeralds. Instead of lying, he grabs her and flees into the night. Soon afterward her studio turns into an inferno. After it cools down, a corpse is found. Hurt by Charles’ betrayal and somewhat believing her “escort” is an arsonist killer, Charlie tries to convince the woman he loves he is not a murdering jewel thief, but danger stalks them.

Too Hot to handle is a terrific romantic suspense starring two intriguing lead characters. Lexy is a likable individual whose heart has been stomped on by a man who asks her for her trust. Charlie is the more fascinating protagonist as the audience wonders whether he is guilty on all accounts. As always Nancy Warren provides a strong tale that grips the reader the moment Lexy enters her studio late at night.

Harriet Klausner

Shameless-Karen Robards

Karen Robards
Simon and Schuster, Apr 13 2010, $25.00
ISBN 9780743410618

Although the Napoleonic Wars are over with the little dictator dead, in 1817 the British War Office still seeks out French sympathizers. Near the top of their wanted dead list is dangerous half British-half French assassin Neil “Angel of Death” Severin.

When Neil and Lady Elizabeth Banning meet, each is instantly attracted to one another after he rescues her from her latest rejected suitor. However, Beth is unaware that her hero is playing a deadly game with her brother-in-law planning to use her as a pawn in a deadly cat and mouse contest. However, his scheme is devastated when he falls in love and when sex slavers kidnap his beloved Beth to sell at auction in Trelawney Castle. In spite of knowing the risk he takes, Neil attempts a rescue that if he succeeds puts him in jeopardy with the Home Office.

The third Banning Sisters Regency romance (see Scandalous and Irresistible) is a great fast-paced adventure tale from the moment Neil crashes the ball and never slows down. The lead couple is a terrific pairing as she rejects suitors though that hurts her reputation and he has a death warrant issued for his head. With a wonderful twist, Karen Robards provides a fabulous historical tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Toyman Rides Again-Robert S. Napier

The Toyman Rides Again
Robert S. Napier
Five Star, Apr 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148538

In Tacoma, Washington, veteran and former investigative reporter Jack Lorentz enjoys selling collectible toys to baby boomers though he only makes a modest living at the Olden Daze co-op. August Baldwin enters his shop and says he recognizes the smell of death by shooting (see Love, Death, And The Toyman). He explains to Lorentz that he wants to hire him to protect the reenactor Charles Swanson playing the role of General George Armstrong Custer. He feels with Jack’s recent reputation, he might keep away those who want to harm the reenactor playing the role because someone has threatened him.

Jack is to play the part of reporter Mark Kellogg who died at the battle of Little Big Horn. However, after a previous skirmish, on the way to the site where the current battle will rage, Native Americans led by Harold Two Bears and Professor Abigail She Stands In Light attack the company. When the dust settles, Custer-Swanson is dead with Two Bears’ knife in him. Police Sergeant Cooper arrests Two Bears while Abigail asks Jack to snoop as she believes her friend is innocent. Attracted to the professor, Jack knows she had access to Two Bear’s knife. As he makes inquiries, Jack alienates everyone.

This is a fun Reagan era whodunit starring a reluctant former investigative journalist who feels guilty that he failed at his mission though he knows Swanson as Custer was impossible to protect. The story line provides a fascinating deep look at reenactors, but an incident with a new recruit seems over the top of Granite Peak. The whodunit is entertaining as the reader knows whom most likely killed Custer yet not sure how. The Toyman Rides Again is a fun mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Drink the Tea-Thomas Kaufman

Drink the Tea
Thomas Kaufman
Minotaur, Mar 2 2020, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312607302

Years ago, jazz musician Steps Jackson and groupie Colette Andrews had a heated affair. Recently Steps learns he sired a daughter with Colette; an offspring he never knew existed. He pleads with his friend private investigator Willis Gidney to find his child.

Gidney agrees to work the case, but cautions Steps that he only works as a sleuth for hire part-time; his day job remains at a record warehouse. He quickly finds a name, but not much else. Still, after seemingly going all over DC, Gidney catches up to Colette. When he asks her about Bobbie and Steps, Colette angrily tells him to leave or the cops will escort him away. At the Cove jazz joint, Gidney receives a shocking call from Colette, who asks to meet with him. However, thugs assault him. When he awakens from unconsciousness, he learns the cops suspect he killed Colette.

Putting aside a major key coincidence, fans will fully enjoy the first Gidney tale. The story line is fast-paced as he works his case through a DC that is murkier than the Potomac. Readers will especially appreciate his childhood that surfaces at odd times, but does so as an essential part of the personality of the hero. Drink the Tea is a fine DC private investigative mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Night Killer-Beverly Connor

The Night Killer
Beverly Connor
Obsidian, Apr 6 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451229601

After visiting Roy and Ozella Barre who donating their arrowhead collection to the museum; Forensic investigator and museum curator Diane Fallon is driving down a winding mountain road on a dark and stormy night. Lightning strikes a tree, which falls onto her vehicle; a skull falls from the tree through her windshield. A man asks her if she is okay; when she mentions the skull, he grabs her.

Diane breaks free of him and flees trying to return to the Barre home while the stranger releases his dogs. However Diane reaches their home only to find both dead. She owes her life to a stranger who got the dogs off her scent. Diane informs the local sheriff what happened including facts about her rescuer. She has doubts the sheriff can solve the case and another couple is discovered murdered in the same brutal manner as the Barrres were. Frank, the stranger who saved her life, is a private investigator hired to find a missing girl and her boyfriend. Against all advice to the contrary, Diane investigates, but a killer stalks her.

Fans who enjoy the forensic cases of Kat Scarpetta and Temperance Brennan will want to read the Diane Fallon mysteries. The protagonist holds three jobs, but does each one quite well. Loaded with non-stop action, viable suspects and an incredibly deep atmosphere of danger, The Night Killer is a strong entertaining whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Dark-Eyes' War-David B. Coe

The Dark-Eyes' War
David B. Coe
Tor, Feb 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765316400

The Southlands are filled with weary people tired of the constant war. Yet everyone anticipates another bloody battle as the dead crone’s curse continues to take its toll; ironically this includes the hag who originally issued it. Now opposing mages with conventional forces gather and converge on the plains for what should prove the final battle.

The Eandi army abetted by a cursed Mettai unit prepares for battle with the mages and depleted soldiers of Fal'Borna. At a time when the magical plague is spreading and giving hope to the Eandi, they lose their magical prowess as their spells fail. Although outnumbered, the Fal'Borna forces have maed the plains the final battle.

The third Blood of the Southlands fantasy (see The Sorcerers' Plague and The Horsemen's Gambit) is a great finish to a strong trilogy. The final battle is terrific; one of the best in years with a reasonable but surprising ending. The lead up is as good. Fantasy readers will relish David B. Coe’s great saga as The Dark-Eyes’ War affirms he is one of the best at world-destruction.

Harriet Klausner

The Iron King-Julie Kagawa

The Iron King
Julie Kagawa
Harlequin, Feb 1 2010, $9.99
ISBN: 9780373210084

As Meghan Chase nears her sixteenth birthday, she finds her world turning weird. That is saying a lot for someone who always felt like an outsider ever since her dad vanished without a trace ten years ago.

When she comes home from school after a disastrous tutoring session, she finds her four year old half-brother Ethan growling like a trapped wild beast and their mother unconscious on the floor. Her best friend Robbie explains that the fey took the real Ethan and replaced the lad with a changeling. To save Ethan, Meghan, who kind of knew her background, must embrace the fact she is the half fey daughter of a king caught in a civil war.

Targeting young teens, The Iron King is an entertaining fairy tale centered on Meghan. She is a likable teenager who seems genuine with her doubts and acceptance of taking direction from adults especially in her case males. Readers will enjoy the saga but will want congenial Meghan to turn more aggressive and kick butt as she lacks any assertiveness although that makes her and her escapades feel real as she is only fifteen.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 22, 2010

How to Defeat Your Own Clone: And Other Tips for Surviving the Biotech Revolution

How to Defeat Your Own Clone: And Other Tips for Surviving the Biotech Revolution
Kyle Kurpinski and Terry D. Johnson
Bantam, Feb 23 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780553385786

Somewhat tongue in cheek, this is a terrific look at cloning that simplifies using humor without dumbing down DNA sequencing. The authors answer key questions and provide warnings. One particular caution is allowing your DNA sequence to appear on the Internet that will remind readers of Miss Manners’ warning about social networking. Readers will ask how do I defeat a clone who has been enhanced to be superior. Answer is experience and knowledge. The future appears to be chocolate-flavored broccoli that Bush 41 would enjoy, but not to worry as humans have a long time history of genetic engineering in farming and animal domestication. So although stem cell research appears to have cures for illnesses, Kyle Kurpinski and Terry D. Johnson make a serious Dr. Frankenstein case that good intentions pave the road to hell with unintended consequences. So be prepared to out think your healthier clone. This is a great science book that combines jocularity with easy to read and understand biotechnology.

Harriet Klausner

The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart-Mathias Malzieu and Sarah Ardizzone

The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart
Mathias Malzieu and Sarah Ardizzone
Knopf, Mar 2 2010, $22.95
ISBN: 9780307271686

In 1874 in Edinburgh, newborn Jack is near death from a frozen heart when his teenage mother abandons him. Midwife Dr. Madeleine attaches a cuckoo clock to his heart to get it started. Her desperate effort saves Jack’s life and she raises him as her son while tending to the needs of her prostitute clients.

However as he grows up, Madeleine constantly reminds him to never fall in love as his heart will fail him. When Jack sees Miss Acacia, a street singer who is as tiny as he is, he falls in love. This stimulates his heart to a point where if it does not ease off it will kill him. At school, Joe warns Jack to back away from Miss Acacia as she is his. They brawl until Joe loses an eye forcing Jack to flee to Paris. There he meets magician-clockmaker Georges Melies who tells him to ignore his man-made heart-clock and use his God-made heart to find his Miss Acacia.

With a nod to Oz, The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart is a wonderful whimsical historical fantasy with an underlying message of a person must follow their heart which leads to the road to happiness. The story line is fast-paced though a late spin involving the return of Joe detracts from the lyrical romantic tale. Still fans will enjoy this fine fantasy as Mathias Malzieu and Sarah Ardizzone provide a warm story of love.

Harriet Klausner

The Creation of Eve-Lynn Cullen

The Creation of Eve
Lynn Cullen
Putnam, Mar 23 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399156106

In 1560 sixteen years old Elizabeth of Valois becomes the third wife of King Felipe of Spain. She was a student of Michelangelo and her being a woman; so King Felipe selects female artist Sofonisba “Sofi” Anguissola to mentor the new queen on painting. Both feel isolated in the backstabbing royal court where squabble is the norm and affairs persistent. The painter and the royal forge a friendship that goes way beyond teacher and pupil as each realizes they can rely on the other to have their back.

Told mostly through the perspective of the renaissance artist, The Creation of Eve is a superb historical fiction that reads more like an autobiography of the sixteenth century artist. The Spanish court of King Felipe is a deathtrap for the naive as the queen and the painter quickly learn. That insidious atmosphere of two outsiders is a prime impetus for each to turn to one another in friendship. From the First Notebook entry in 1559, this fine tale contains a strong eye on the era that sub-genre readers will relish The Creation of Eve.

Harriet Klausner

Possessing Morgan-Bonnie Edwards

Possessing Morgan
Bonnie Edwards
Harlequin Blaze, Mar 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795338

Repo woman Morgan Swann has loved Kingston “Mac” McRae since she was a teen. In fact, her hero is why she changed her lifestyle from juvenile delinquent stealing cars to honest member of society. Although she knows her infatuation will never prove fruitful, if by chance it should, she wants his respect as well as his love.

Morgan is assigned to repo his fancy car parked in his driveway. Being stalked, Mac, who runs his investment firm from his home, sees a woman about to steal his vehicle. Mac races outside only to no longer care about the car except for the backseat where he wants to take the lovely thief. After clearing the air, they begin seeing one another as Morgan learns dreams do not hold up to the real thing and Mac finds his heart possessed.

This is an exhilarating romantic suspense although the thriller elements take a backseat (figuratively not literally) to the growing love between the lead couple. Morgan with her history and her current occupation brings the freshness to this fun brisk tale.

Harriet Klausner

If You Were My Man-Francis Ray

If You Were My Man
Francis Ray
St. Martin’s, Mar 2 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312573690

In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at Widow Nathalyia Fontaine’s seafood restaurant Fontaine, the owner and police officer hostage negotiator Rafael Dunlap meet. Both feels love at first sight. However, Rafael has commitment issues due to his line of work; while Nathalyia has to deal with her troublesome sister, Theresa, who just arrived and has not dated since her spouse died four years ago. Nathalyia employs her sibling who begins stealing from her.

Although both have doubts, Rafael and Nathalyia begin seeing one another. However, Nathalyia is put on a spot of choosing between a hard place and a rock, so she ends their relationship though that breaks her heart. Her sacrifice fails to keep her beloved Rafael safe as she considers telling him the whole truth.

With a strong supporting subplot involving the heroine’s BFF enhancing the prime theme of a second chance at love tale, fans of Francis Ray’s Invincible Women saga will appreciate If You Were My Man. The story line is a deep entry, made profound by Nathalyia having to make difficult selections. Readers will relish this fine tale.

Harriet Klausner

Renegade Riders-Dawn MacTavish

Renegade Riders
Dawn MacTavish
Leisure, Feb 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843963229

In 1875 in Canyon County, Arizona Territory, Trace Ord shoots the horse thief trying to steal his steed Diablo. He assumes the person he shot is a young boy, but when he goes to help him, he finds he shot a beautiful woman. He removes the bullet from her shoulder and gives her a chance to heal though he demands she explain why she was out here alone and took his horse. She refuses to answer beyond saying her name is Mae.

Not long afterward she steals Diablo for the second time. Her escape fails when four men grab her. Trace meets an older man who he calls the Preacher. They team up, but are unable to track Mae any further due to a storm. Instead they head to the Lazy C Ranch where Trace has business as a renegade rider seeking evidence that the owner Jared Comstock was stealing horses from his clients. With Preacher helping, Trace learns Mae is Jared’s wife and Comstock was riding Diablo. However, nothing is quite like it seems as Trace is to learn while trying to rescue Mae and Diablo and obtain the proof of rustling by the lazy C.

This is a terrific tribute to the late Dawn MacTavish. Known for her Regencies and as Dawn Thompson her paranormals, as well as the well written Renegade Riders, shows her audience the depth of her skill with a western romance. The lead couple is a fabulous pairing as each has doubts about the other’s loyalties yet take a dangerous risk for the other. Although Preacher’s insistence on helping is not adequately explained until the very end, fans will fully appreciate the late twists that add excitement to a strong tale in which the lead couple exchanges shoulder scars.

Harriet Klausner

Without Mercy-Lisa Jackson

Without Mercy
Lisa Jackson
Kensington, Mar 30 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780758225641

The Blue Rock Academy is the last chance for troubled delinquents who have had run-ins with the law. Seventeen year old Shaylee was ordered there by a judge after a string of crimes to include theft and possession, etc. Her sister, unemployed teacher Julie “Jules” Farentino, knows Shaylee needs help, but fears Blue Rock may not be the answer. One of students Lauren Conroy disappeared from their school and she has never been found.

Acting on her feelings especially after consulting with her cousin’s husband, who was a T.A. at Blue Rock, Jules applies for a teaching position at the academy. Posing as a teacher at Blue Rock is Cooper Trent who was hired by Lauren’s parents to find out what happened to their daughter and to Jules’ chagrin the only man she ever loved. When Jules arrives at the exclusive Oregon school, she finds the place in an uproar as two bodies were found. As Trent and Jules team up, their feelings emerge though they try to deny them. If they can survive the dangerous undercover cloak and dagger, each wonders whether their relationship will endure afterward.

Lisa Jackson can always be counted on to deliver a pulse pounding original thriller. Jules is an ordinary woman who loves her disturbed half-sister so much she places herself at risk to learn what is going on at the academy that put her sibling over the edge. Filled with surprising twists, fans will be stunned and entertained throughout as Ms. Jackson provides a tense undercover romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Disaster Status-Candace Calvert

Disaster Status
Candace Calvert
Tyndale, Apr 1 2010, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414325446

The emergency room of Pacific Mercy Hospital has a sudden deluge of farm workers arrive, some are barely conscious with respiratory distress and foam coming from the mouth. The staff quickly goes into emergency mode as more patients appear. They later learn that a plane carrying pesticides crashed into a building containing chemicals, blending into a toxic mix that spread rapidly.

During the crisis, charge nurse Erin Quinn meets fire department Fire Captain Scott McKenna. Based on a previous tragedy, he is a by the book first responder while she believes thinking out of the box is needed to save lives. In spite of their vast philosophical divide, they have feelings for one another that each ignores as her father abandoned the family and he feels guilt for not freeing his sister from her churlish husband leaving their son parentless. Erin decides Scott is just like every man she met. Yet she also believes his nephew Cody needs her expertise as he suffers from a bad leg infection that might lead to amputation. As they continue to work the crisis while falling in love, Cody makes friends with someone who vows to protect him no matter what the cost is.

Hopefully Disaster Status is the first book in a new series that readers will enjoy due to the heroic first responders working diligently during a frantic medical crisis that overwhelms their resources. The lead heroes are stubborn, but can be counted on when the chips are down. Fans will admire both as they try to do what each feels is right especially when the need is crushing.

Harriet Klausner

Imaginary Jesus-Matt Mikalatos

Imaginary Jesus
Matt Mikalatos
Tyndale, Apr 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781414335636

Matt Mikalatos thought his robed and sandaled buddy was Jesus. However, he awakened to the fact that his companion is an Imaginary Jesus. Thus he decides to search for the real Jesus in present day Portland, Oregon, Seattle, and ancient Judea. Thus begins Matt’s quest for finding the real Jesus and not the imaginary ones most people create out of need or false ones making proclamations as he encounters as many Jesus as there are Elvis impersonators; even observing one being punched out.

This is an intriguing often difficult adventure tale to follow as Mr. Mikalatos turns Christian fiction upside down while exploring its central lead character; as the author insists most often the individual creates a mental construct of Jesus. The quest is inane yet amusing and fun as Matt seeks the truth to so many complicated questions like free will and the real Jesus. Not for everyone, Imaginary Jesus is an interesting search in which the author irreverently asks: Will the real Jesus please stand up?

Harriet Klausner

Eleanor the Queen-Norah Lofts

Eleanor the Queen
Norah Lofts
Touchstone, Apr 20 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439146118

In the twelfth century, Eleanor of Aquitaine was probably the most influential woman in Europe. She married French King Louis VII and accompanied the devout ruler on the failed Crusade in the Holy Land; there she was not just an idle observer. However, though she gave him two daughters, she could never fully get past his male advisors who her spouse preferred to heed. Fifteen years after they marriagd, they divorced. Back in Aquitaine, she met teenager Henry Plantagenet, twelve years her junior. They marry and one day soon he became England’s King Henry II of England. They had many offspring and seemed a perfect couple until she discovered his infidelity with Rosamonde. Her furor led to a family schism between her husband and their sons as she lingered in prison for almost two decades.

This is a superb biographical fiction tale starring a strong medieval woman who was queen to two powerful kings in two countries. Eleanor comes across somewhat as a modern female, which attracted powerful men to her, yet ironically also led to her troubles with them. Twelfth century France and England are vividly described as is the failed Crusade. However, even with several powerful rulers in her life, Eleanor the Queen rules over her spouses and offspring monarchs in Norah Loft’s fine historical fiction novel.

Harriet Klausner

Starlight & Promises-Cat Lindler

Starlight & Promises
Cat Lindler
Medallion, Apr 1 2010, $7.95
ISBN 9781605420936

In 1891 near Tasmania in a previously uncharted part of the Furneaux Islands, English Earl Richard Colchester and James Truett are stunned to see from their ship using a spyglass a Smilodon. They discuss bringing home to England this previously thought extinct for ten millennia saber-toothed tiger.

Instead of a hero’s welcome, pirates kidnap Richard and leave him on an island. Back in Berkshire County, his niece Samantha, praying she is right that her beloved explorer uncle is alive, organizes a rescue mission. She persuades renowned zoologist Professor Christian Badia to help her find her uncle. Famous for his big cats’ research, he agrees, but hides his personal quest from her. As they begin to fall in love, he learns the only way to shut her up is with a kiss, but the professor will betray his beloved; just as he believes she betrays him with his former best friend.

The action-packed late Victorian Era romantic adventure is fast-paced from the moment the saber tooth tiger appears and never slows down until the finish. The cast is strong as the audience observes the explorers and naturalists encourages over five decades after Darwin to search for live animals and fossils like the missing link. Although Sam’s behavior seems too reckless, fans will enjoy this deep historical romantic thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Stress Fracture- D. P. Lyle

Stress Fracture
D. P. Lyle
Medallion, Apr 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781605421346

After retiring from homicide investigations, Dub Walker became a forensic consultant to the FBI's Behavioral Assessment Unit and a noted author on the topic. However, he returns to field work when his close friend Sheriff Mike Savage is brutally murdered in Alabama. Apparently this psychopath has viciously killed two other people.

The annihilator kills with rage and Dub knows he will not stop. He even knows who the predator is. Iraqi veteran Brian Kurtz came home with a severe case of PTSD; the Neuropsychiatric Research Institute gave him an experimental drug that for no apparent reason failed to calm him down, but instead turned him into a sadistic vicious beast. Dub must hunt down the animal, who has residents of Huntsville in a panic.

The key to this strong police procedural medical thriller is the killer whom ironically the audience meets at the beginning of the tale as Kurtz the monster receives empathy from readers who know he must die to end the blood rage. Dub is terrific as the hunter who feels the prey is stalking him. Expecting a High Noon showdown, fans will enjoy this entertaining cautionary tale as underneath the non-stop action, D.P. Lyle warns readers of the excessive use of drugs.

Harriet Klausner

El Borak and Other Desert Adventures-Robert E. Howard

El Borak and Other Desert Adventures
Robert E. Howard
Del Rey, Feb 2010, $$18.00
ISBN: 9780345505433

These thirteen tales consist of eight starring Francis “El Borak” Xavier Gordon, three headed by Kirby O’Donnell, one very short story led by Steve Clarney and one untitled other El Borak. The tales take place in Asia with the Irish-American heroes battling against the odds at a time when imperialistic Europe tries to retain control of India and Afghanistan, etc. Although the “Wild East entries are fun to read especially those of Texas gunslinger El Borak who risks his life repeatedly for his Asian friends, much of the background seems ancient; in fairness Depression Era rationalization of the world comes clear. Still Fans of Howard will appreciate the heroic escapades of the three expatriate Americans in a vividly described harsh desert and mountainous landscape; but especially the actions of El Borak who comes across as the most realistic and believable than the other two adventurers.

Harriet Klausner

Black Blade Blues-J.A. Pitts

Black Blade Blues
J.A. Pitts
Tor, Apr 27 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780765324672

In the Seattle, Washington area Sarah Beauhall works as a blacksmith and budget movies props guru. In between, instead of sleeping with her girlfriend Katie who frightens her with words of love, she is a medieval warrior reenactor. During a filming of Elvis versus the Goblins, her favorite unique sword is broken. To avoid costly delay, she agrees to repair the blade; a dwarf working as a goblin extra on the set offers to assist her.

The sword turns out to be the legendary Gram, which Nordic legend says Sigurd used to slay the dragon Fafnir; at least that is what her new “assistant” claims. However, evidence is on the way as a evil shape-shifting dragon and the Corpse Gnawer are coming to take Gram from Sarah, anyway they can.

This is a humorous entertaining Norse fantasy in twnety-first century Washington State. The fast-paced story line is action-packed as mythology and modernism converge on the heroine who holds the tale together as she struggles with shapeshifting dragons and other evil essences as well as with her relationship with Katie. Although too much circumstances occurs, readers will enjoy Black Blade Blues starting with the gender debate of the black sword Gram.

Harriet Klausner

In the Darkest Night-Patti O'Shea

In the Darkest Night
Patti O'Shea
Tor, Mar 30 2010, $6.99
ISBN 9780765361707

In Seattle, novice mage Farran hides from her family the Taireil and more so from the Gineal who want them dead. However, she knows she is fortunate to remain alive after Seth the demon attacked her. Farran needs help so she asks exiled Gineal Kel Andrews to keep her safe.

Kel has issues having barely survived being a tortured hostage. He sees Farran like a sister struggling against a world of maliciousness as he suffers nightmares from his captivity. As they fall in love, danger mounts from paranormal and human enemies, and almost as perilous their personal fears.

The latest Light Warrior romantic urban fantasy (see In the Midnight Shadows and Edge of Dawn) is a terrific action-packed thriller that opens with a powerful setting the background scene with references to Crest gel for instance to counter balance Seth. The story line is fast-paced throughout, but accelerates when the heroine faints at the doorstep of the hero. The sub-genre audience will be enthralled with Patti O’Shea's latest Light Warrior battling In the Darkest Night.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mistress of Rome-Kate Quinn

Mistress of Rome
Kate Quinn
Berkley, Apr 6 2010, $15.00
ISBN 9780425232477

In the reign of Emperor Domitian, Thea of Judaea lives in Rome having been purchased as a slave to Lepida Pollia. However, her owner becomes spiteful and outraged when the Jew and Arius the Barbarian gladiator become lovers. Lepida plans to end their relationship as she wants the savage as her pet.

Instead Thea survives as a singer concealing her son from her enemies. However, the Emperor Domitan becomes obsessed with Thea and makes her his present toy. She survives again her new lover’s excesses only to have Lepida expose her to the Emperor of having a secret lover Arius and an offspring. Thea knows she must do something to save her family (her son and her lover), but how remains out of reach.

Mistress of Rome is a great late first century historical thriller driven by a strong cast especially the title character. Thea is a great lead protagonist, but in many ways Rome circa 82 AD owns the tale as the city comes across dark and decadent starting at the top with the brutal Emperor. Readers will relish this deep look at the Roman Empire ruled by a paranoid emperor who has cause for his paranoia, which he caused in the first place.

Harriet Klausner

In For a Penny-Rose Lerner

In For a Penny
Rose Lerner
Leisure, Feb 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780843963359

In 1819 Lord Nevinstroke learns his father died leaving the family broke and in overwhelming debt. His sister Louise offers to marry a wealthy man even odious Lord Jasper, but Nate chooses to be the sacrifice. He is already attracted to the daughter of an affluent brewer Penelope Brown so he asks her to marry him, but is honest about his need. She accepts as long as he abides by her list and he agrees to her terms.

At his family estate Loweston, Nate and Penny are stunned with what they find as the situation is even bleaker than they thought. The tenants are angry and their neighbor Lord Jasper stalks Louise. Worse his mom treats her daughter-in-law like dirt. Still even with his break up with his friends (Thirkell and Percy) and his mistress Amy, Nev seems happy as does Penny, but the past has a way of interfering with the future.

In For a Penny; in for a zillion pounds stars two delightful lead characters from different walks of life and a strong support cast who enhance the class differences that is the prime theme of the tale. Regency romance readers will relish Rose Lerner’s wonderful historical.

Harriet Klausner

Saintly Remains-Tony Perona

Saintly Remains
Tony Perona
Five Star, Apr 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148569

In Jasper, Indiana at West Jasper High School, two students shot five of their peers to death before committing suicide. On the wall of the school library was left a cryptic verse that hinted at a satanic cult ritual. However, the cops found no evidence of such beyond the enigmatic message so they assumed athletes bullied the two as four of the five were on teams. The fifth victim Keri Schoening was ruled to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Keri’s murder hammered at the gut of Joan Bertetto, a close friend of the victim’s mom Susan. With her spouse reporter Nick she attends the funeral of Keri.

Soon afterward, Nick and Joan are visiting her still in shock parents in Jasper. However, strange things occur starting with the skinning of the family cat Mr. Jangles and the snatching of Keri’s corpse from the cemetery. His paper asks Nick to investigate as other animal abuses have been reported. He soon begins to revise the theory that the jocks were the target to the belief that satanic worshippers wanted Keri who was known to believe in Jesus.

The latest Bertetto investigative mystery (seer Second Advent and Angels Whisper) is a timely mesmerizing thriller. At times graphic with the violence to animals, Saintly Remains is fast-paced throughout as the clock ticks down with the next teen victim being prepared for sacrifice. Tony Perona has another strong entry in what is one of the better mystery series.

Harriet Klausner

No Mercy-Lori Armstrong

No Mercy
Lori Armstrong
Touchstone, Jan 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416590958

Army sniper Mercy Gunderson has come home from Iraq to South Dakota filled with guilt for failing to return to see her dad one last time as he jus died. On medical leave due to a retinal detachment that makes being a sniper impossible and nightmares, Mercy must decide what she should do with the ranch she inherited form her father. Making the decision difficult is how to care for her reckless sister, single mom Hope and her irresponsible teenage nephew Levi recently collared by Sheriff Dawson for theft.

Someone hits Mercy in the back of her neck in a parking lot and soon afterward an unknown adversary shoots Levi in the head and heart leaving him dead. Mercy knows she has to tell Hope, but plans to also investigate her nephew’s murder. Soon she uncovers the shocking truth behind that homicide and another, but is running out of time as a determined killer targets the Gunderson brood.

This is an action-packed South Dakota amateur sleuth mystery starring a trained killer soldier who has a ton of emotional family baggage; perhaps too much. The story line starts a bit slow as the audience meets the players with their emotional issues especially the kick butt heroine. Once the introductions are finished, the story line is fast-paced driven by Mercy’s frenzied need to know who. Fans will enjoy the aptly titled tale as the heroine shows No Mercy to her enemies.

Harriet Klausner

Midnight Fires: A Mystery with Mary Wollstonecraft

Midnight Fires: A Mystery with Mary Wollstonecraft
Nancy Means Wright
Perseverance, Apr 10 2010, $14.95
ISBN 9781564744883

In 1786 Mary Wollstonecraft assumes life for her could not get any lower as she accepts humiliating work in County Cork, Ireland as a governess to the daughters of Lord and Lady Kingsboroug. Still, one must eat aand single women have few options. Thus Mary plans to make the best of her stay at Mitchelstown Castle.

Mary has given herself two rules to abide by. First she plans to write a novel. Second and foremost she is determined to stay out of the castle political squabbles. However, her resolve vanishes with the deaths of a sailor, the former governess, and an aristocrat. She believes a serial killer is on the loose and investigates seeking the link only to find several people with motives, but none with reasoning to kill the trio.

This is a terrific Georgian mystery with Mary Wollstonecraft starring as an amateur sleuth. Her investigation is clever as it enhances the overall theme of class and gender differences. Mary is the perfect guide for readers to look at the great divides in the late eighteenth century Ireland as she will one day soon write her famous manifesto. Nancy Means Wright provides an excellent historical mystery starring a superb heroine.

Harriet Klausner

Hand of Fate-Lis Wiehl with April Henry

Hand of Fate
Lis Wiehl with April Henry
Thomas Nelson, Apr 6 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9781595547064

As he is about to go on the air, Portland, Oregon radio talk show host Jim Fate opens an envelope he just received while inside the broadcast booth. He releases a toxic gas into the contained area and quickly dies from the poison gas that most likely is Saran.

Also inside the envelope is a copy of the play Talk Radio that later was turned into a movie. The story is based on the life and death of Denver radio host Alan Berg who was murdered. The Triple Threat Club members (pregnant federal prosecutor Allison Pierce, FBI special agent Nic Hedges and TV crime reporter Cassidy Shaw) decide to investigate who killed Fate.

The second Triple Threat thriller (see Face of Betrayal) is an exciting whodunit that readers will enjoy as the women team up seeking a killer. Each of the lead females also struggles with a personal issue that humanizes each of them but also detracts from the murder mystery. Still fans will full relish the latest escapades of the Triple Threat team as they work the Hand of Fate case together.

Harriet Klausner

Empire in Black and Gold-Adrian Tchaikovsky

Empire in Black and Gold
Adrian Tchaikovsky
PYR, Mar 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616141929

Since the revolt decades ago that overthrew the ruling Moths, the city-states of the Lowlands have lived in prosperous peace with one another. The Beetles are probably the most powerful, but they prefer trade as merchants and development as engineers over war. The Spiders are the most aristocratic with their lofty attitudes while the Ant cities prefer internal squabbling with one another as to who has the most royal queen. The Flies live a nomadic lifestyle flying all over the Lowlands. Finally the deposed Moths and their foot soldiers Mantids live in the nearby mountains with hopes of returning to power.

On the northeastern side of the Great Barrier Ridge is the invincible Wasp Empire. They believe peace can only be achieved through conquest. The Lowlanders ignore the threat as the Beetles are becoming wealthy selling weapons to the Wasps who are at war with the Dragonfly Commonwealth; the ants are too busy with internal fighting; the Moths are angry over losing power; and the Spiders and Flies disregard anything outside their respective lifestyles.

Beetle Stenwold Maker fought and lost against the Wasp military defending Myna almost twenty years ago. Few are interested in his warning, as he is considered a crazy victim of battle fatigue. However, he has operatives inside of the cities ready to counter the Wasp agents’ subversive activity. His key followers are his Spider foster daughter Tynisa, his Beetle niece Che, the combat hardened Dragonfly royal Salma and Totho the apprentice engineering Beetle. They fly to Helleron on a key mission but may be too late with betrayal and Wasps awaiting their arrival.

With a not so subtle message that racism divisiveness leads to everyone losing and is normally not the answer but sometimes is; Adrian Tchaikovsky provides a powerful fantasy that uses various insect species to create his world. The story line is action-packed once the customs of each genus is introduced. Readers will be hooked early on with this terrific opening act as the insects are personified but within their species prime traits.

Harriet Klausner