Archive for September, 2009

Rainwater-Sandra Brown

September 30, 2009

Rainwater

Sandra Brown

Simon & Schuster, Nov 3 2009, $23.99

ISBN: 9781439172773

In 1934 in Gilead, Texas, after her husband deserted Ella Barron and their son Solly, she supports them by running a boardinghouse.  Her ten year old child has issues that make him different and requires much attention from Ella.  Although she is tired from all she must do to keep the place running and her son safe Ella believes it is worth it for her Solly.

Ella agrees to take in a new boarder David Rainwater based on a recommendation from a friend she trusts.  The quiet newcomer surprises her as he is more than just kind to Solly; he spends quality time with her son.  Ella reluctantly becomes attracted to him and he is falling in love with his landlady and her child.  However, when racial hatred led by affluent Conrad Ellis leads to violence aimed at Ella and Solly, David risks his life to protect those facing brutality.

This is a deep Great Depression Era Texas thriller as poverty ignores race, ethnic background and gender, but people don’t.  Racism turns brutally ugly as Ellis and his followers are the law.  Ella is a courageous individual while Solly steals hearts as the townsfolk see him as either pitiful or demonized, making him a perfect helpless target of Ellis.  David will surprise readers as Solly gives him the inspiration to risk his life.  Sandra Brown is at her best with this heart-wrenching one sitting Americana.

Harriet Klausner

A Measure of Mercy-Lauraine Snelling

September 30, 2009

A Measure of Mercy

Lauraine Snelling

Bethany House, Oct 2009, $13.99

ISBN: 9780764206092

In 1903 eighteen year old Astrid Bjordlund wants to be a doctor studying medicine in either Chicago or Grand Forks.  However, her dream suffers a setback when her family loses much of their money.  Astrid refuses a chance to go to Chicago deciding to remain home in Blessing, North Dakota studying under her sister-in-law, Dr. Elizabeth.

Joshua Landsverk left Blessing two-years ago, but has come home to stay.  He was attracted to Astrid before he left and still is.  She reciprocates and he courts her.  However a second chance in Chicago arises, which forces Astrid to choose between her love for Joshua and her dream of big city medicine.

The first Home to Blessing historical romance is an entertaining tale due to the intriguing lead female protagonist who along with Dr. Elizabeth show women is starting to make it in previously male jobs, but have a long way to go at the start of the twentieth century.  The story line is well written and entreating for fans of the Blessing saga.  Newcomers will find it a bit difficult to dive in head first even though this is the beginning of a new saga.  Still with a strong sense of time and place and a solid cast, fans will enjoy this fine Americana tale.

Harriet Klausner

Love You To Death-Shannon K. Butcher

September 30, 2009

Love You To Death

Shannon K. Butcher

Forever, Oct 2009, $6.99

ISBN: 9780446510295

Reporter Elise McBride knows her beloved capricious sister Ashley is missing a card or two from the deck of fifty two, but the siblings always stay in touch in spite of the former being in Hong Kong and the latter in Chicago.  However, when she fails to hear from her artistic sister for a few days and is unable to reach her, Elise becomes a bit concerned.  She panics especially when CPD blows her away even after she learns of a serial killer murdering women in the Windy City.  She flies home to insure her sibling is safe.

In Chicago, former police officer Trent Brady catches Elise trying to break into the home of his neighbor.  She explains who she is and why she is there.  Realizing how obstinate and resolute yet vulnerable Elise is, he offers to assist her while wondering what made him do so as they team up to track down and hopefully rescue Ashley.

The irony behind this tense thriller that never takes a breather is Elise and Trent are obsessive compulsive disorder types who feel a deep need to protect those they see as vulnerable, she to her sister and he to her.  The story line is fast-paced as Shannon K. Butcher places her pedal to the metal throughout the tale.  With the romance playing an important but secondary theme as saving the sister is paramount; LOVE YOU TO DEATH will grip readers as increasingly the evidence points towards Ashley as a victim of the serial killer and Elise a potential target.

Harriet Klausner

The Gift-Deb Stover

September 30, 2009

The Gift

Deb Stover

Love Spell, Nov 2009, $6.99

ISBN: 9780505526069

Although she blames her paranormal gift for the her loss of her job, former Chicago homicide detective Beth Dearborn knows alcohol cost her that needed edge, but she used it to numb the dreaded extrasensory feeling of a violent death.  She is a recovering alcoholic, who obtained work as an insurance investigator.

Seven years ago in Brubaker, Tennessee, Lorilee Brubaker-Malone vanished without a trace.  Her teenage daughter persuades her father to have Lorilee declared legally dead and file a life insurance claim with Avery Mutual Insurance.  Almost from the moment she meets the father and daughter tandem, Beth senses a restless spirit.  She wonders if that could be Lorilee.  When a bridge collapses stranding Beth, Ty takes her in.  Attracted to him and liking his children, Beth continues to dig for the truth encouraged by something or someone from beyond but knows a mortal is the one trying to kill her.

This is an exciting romantic suspense thriller starring a wonderful female protagonist who struggles with dealing with her unique gift that she believes is a curse even turning to alcohol to numb the feelings.  The supporting cast in Brubaker are stereotypical small southern townsfolk who use Miss not Ms; surprisingly that enhances the plot of the exciting paranormal investigative romance filled with spins as the northern invader keeps finding clues that make Ty seem guilty of spousal homicide yet not satisfying the spirit that haunts her since she entered the Malone home.

Harriet Klausner

Death Will Help You Leave Him-Elizabeth Zelvin

September 30, 2009

Death Will Help You Leave Him

Elizabeth Zelvin

Minotaur, Oct 13 2009, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312582661

In New York, drug dealer Frankie Iacone is found dead in the apartment of his girlfriend Luz.  The police suspects Luz stabbed her boyfriend who just came out of rehab as they insist her motive is learning he had a wife and children living in Brooklyn.

Luz’s counselor Barbara, her boyfriend Jimmy and his best buddy recovering alcoholic Jimmy investigate the homicide.  Bruce also struggles with his dealings with his former wife bipolar addict Laura who he still sleeps with and who tempts his addiction.  Their unprofessional investigation leads the trio into trouble with the police and with associates of Frankie as they attend his funeral where they meet his warm Italian family including his pregnant wife.

In his second appearance (see DEATH WILL GET YOU SOBER) Bruce and his amateur sleuth cohorts make for an intriguing urban mystery as they fumble their way through the city’s most downtrodden residents trying to find the killer.  The story line is a very dark look at the mean streets of New York from the view of the undesirable forgotten.  For instance Bruce’s ex spouse is a fascinating character as she uses the threat of suicide as a defense mechanism to get Bruce to come over and then either kicks him to curb or has sex with him.  His confusion as to how to escape the relationship enhances a psychological look at New York’s emotionally desperately needy as the people overwhelms the whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Stranger-Susan Sizemore

September 30, 2009

Dark Stranger

Susan Sizemore

Pocket, Oct 27 2009, $7.99

ISBN 9781416562139

Heir to the Byzant Empire, human diplomat wearing the uniform of a naval lieutenant Zoe Pappas negotiates with the Asi.  However, the enemy Hajim attacks her space ship and takes her to a prison planet in which human POWs mingle uneasily with other species dangerous to her kind.

Brigadier General Matthias “Doc” Raven leads the human POWs, demanding loyalty and no escape attempts.  Zoe struggles with adjusting to captivity and her attraction to the BG.  She conceals from Doc who she is and what her aborted mission was.  Someone seems to know who she is and where she is; that person is willing to kill all the prisoners to get at Zoe; only Doc stands in their way.

This clever fantasy science fiction thriller is actually not part of the prime Primes saga, but a brilliant off shoot as a so-called work of fiction or perhaps a future history as the first tale in the Vampire Book Club read by several Prime characters.  The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action from the onset, but really takes off when Zoe and Doc meet as prisoners of war.  Prime fans especially with relish Susan Sizemore’s refreshing “futuristic” entry in her terrific series.

Harriet Klausner

An Echo In The Bone-Diana Gabaldon

September 30, 2009

An Echo In The Bone

Diana Gabaldon

Delacorte, Oct 2009, $30.00

ISBN: 9780385342452

With the hostilities everywhere, it is unsafe to journey; as the rebels seem heading to certain defeat.  Ironically travelers Jamie Fraser and his wife Claire Randall know the upstart colonial Americans ultimately win the war against the mother country England because she read the outcome in twentieth century history books.  They travel together along with others as Clare fears for the safety of her spouse and his son fighting for the British; her schooling and history books never told her what happened to her Jamie.

In the twentieth century, their daughter Brianna, her husband Roger and their children struggle with adapting to life in the future.  However, though they connect with the Mackenzie clan, another time traveler has arrived and a real threat to their well being has surfaced.

This is an exciting historical thriller that takes readers on a tour of the battlefields and Europe as people die during the American Revolution.  Claire is terrific as she knows the ultimate outcome, but neither the personal outcome nor that trouble has traveled to the twentieth century.  Well written with the deep characterizations, fans will relish Fraser and company’s latest tale as Diana Gabaldon overcomes the completing of all the previous major threads in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by expanding the minor left behind subplots into a great entry.

Harriet Klausner

Imager’s Challenge-L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

September 30, 2009

Imager’s Challenge

L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Tor, Oct 2009, $27.99

ISBN 9780765321268

The imager Rhennthyl has become a Maitre D’Aspect and named Liaison to the Civic Patrol of L’Excelsis by the Collegium.  However his new Commander Artois is outraged with what he considers an affront and instead of going undercover to uncover seditious magical practicers, cheats and frauds among the elite as the Director of security operations Master Dichartyn envisioned, he is assigned street patrol in the worst sector.

As he works the streets serendipitously, Rhenn thought the Collegium would provide him with direction; instead they seem to want to avoid him.  In fact as he makes progress on cases, the Collegium snubs him.  When his inquiry leads to a High Holder with a personal grudge against Rhenn, the Collegium ignores his plea for backing.  Ethical yet not suicidal, Rhenn considers his options, but ultimately refuses to back off though he knows challenging the aristocratic family without support could prove dangerous.

The Second Book of the Imager Portfolio (see IMAGER) is a fascinating political police procedural fantasy in which the secret use of magic rules.  The story line at times turns reflective as Rhenn thoughtfully evaluates his options when no one in authority supports his findings.  Although his reflections are insightful and timely into the abuse of power by omission and disregard, that also slows down the tale.  Still IMAGER’S CHALLENGE is a deep look at the politics of neglect with timely connections to today’s world.

Harriet Klausner

Christmas Secret-Donna VanLiere

September 29, 2009

Christmas Secret

Donna VanLiere

St. Martin’s, Oct 13 2009, $15.99

ISBN: 9780312558369

Single mom Angela Christine Eisley raises her two young children (seven year old Zach and five year old Haley), but it is not easy as she works long hours for low wages and tips as a waitress while her former spouse Brad refuses to pay child support.  He insists he will pay for the kids when he gains custody of them as he knows she can’t keep paying court fees

Even as crummy as her job is Christine is shocked when she is fired for being late again as the teen baby-sitter failed to appear in a timely manner.  Although despondent and fearful that she and the kids will be evicted, Christine saves the life of an elderly woman, but does not stay around for accolades.  The woman works at Wilson’s Department Store whose owner sends his unemployed grandson Jason to find the angel Christy, who no longer believes in the wonderment of Christmas.

Typical of her previous warm holiday tales that bring so much hope and promise to readers, Donna VanLiere provides a charming story of people in need of the miracle of love.  The ensemble cast is fully developed with only Brad being Scrooge the sole stereotype.  Fans will relish Jason’s search for much more than just the Angel Christy and Angela Christine’s need for the magic of Christmas to return to her life as readers know it is no secret that Ms. VanLiere always writes a tender heart warming Christmas tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Return-Victoria Hislop

September 29, 2009

The Return

Victoria Hislop

Harper, Oct 6 2009, $14.99

ISBN: 9780061715419

Her marriage to a much older Englishman is tedious so Sonia and her best friend Maggie take dancing lessons.  When she sees pictures of her mom, Sonia decides to learn more about her maternal heritage in Spain.  She and Maggie fly to Grenada for flamenco lessons to escape from the monotony and find the former’s roots.

At a café, the owner tells Sonia about his family in the 1930s.  Concha and Pablo Ramirez raised four children while running a café in town.  Antonio is a teacher; Ignacio is a matador; Emilio is managing the café; and their only daughter Mercedes is a flamenco dancer, who loves guitarist Javier Montero.  Life is good for the Ramirez brood until the Spanish Civil War erupts.

This is a super look at Spain that fascinatingly uses the impact of the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s that killed a half million people in three years on yet unique aspects of the culture survive such as a love of dance and the risk of bull-fighting.  Readers will appreciate this tour hosted by the Ramirez family as Sonia finds her maternal roots and much more; symbolized by seven decades old dancing shoes.

Harriet Klausner