Archive for October, 2009

The Mental Floss History of the World-Erik Sass and Steve Wiegand with Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur

October 31, 2009

The Mental Floss History of the World

Erik Sass and Steve Wiegand with Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur

Harper, Oct 27 2009, $14.99

ISBN: 9780061842672

This is a fun way to look at the history of the world (in 400 pages) as the mental Floss crowd provides their irreverent glimpse back in time and for a few pages the Great Bush Recession.  With twelve chapters divided by eras, an appendix on Oh Canada and of course that Great Bush Recession, readers get a taste of chicken beer historical trivia.  The reference tome includes chronological and locality asides, but mostly focuses on the who’s who of the past and who they are doing it to; and not just Europe and North America; as Chapter 4 aptly represents the book with its  “There’s No Place Like Rome (Except China, Persia India, Mexico and Peru).  Amusing and hip even when discussing pestilence, disease and war like how the great plague limited the great Justinian or that six battles on the western front in WW I resulted in at least 250,000 dead or there is a bit of land beyond the Hudson.  Whether it is invoking divine approval by Sumerians, Persians, or Americans, this is an engaging look at the world’s historical foibles even during critical pivotal points missed by that much by the Third Estate (some things remain the same whether the coverage is the French Revolution, Imperialism in Africa or The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars).  The Mental Floss History of the World provides as Paul Harvey would say “the rest of the story”.  Did Abraham really give up that beach front property to his nephew?

Harriet Klausner


Red to Black-Alex Dryden

October 31, 2009

Red to Black

Alex Dryden

Ecco, Aug 2009, $25.99

ISBN: 9780061803864


In 1999 Moscow, Russian FSB intelligence Colonel Anna, daughter of a KGB spymaster meets Finn, a British M16 operative who allegedly is a trade secretary, but everyone in the field knows his real vocation, which he does not bother to conceal. He is aware of who’s who like his peers are.  He knows who Anna is and she knows who he is.  Each is aware of the Putin “Plan”.


Finn arranges for his return to England where he retires; knowing full well the suspicious Russians will not believe he is out of the cold.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, Putin’s KGB followers want to know what they deem a ruse so they send his former Muscovite lover Anna to seduce him in London in order to extract his high level Russian contact.  Over the years the two spies make love and elude war as they dream of a life together without lies but eventually unravel a scheme to launder money that supports the Putin Plan.


The espionage scenes are incredibly terrific as the focus on international fiancés by the FSB will stun the audience as Alex Dryden enables the reader to look into Putin’s eyes and see a ruthless soul.  The romantic subplot pales in comparison to the big picture schemes although watching two people in love lie to each other with the knowledge the other knows makes for an intriguing courtship.  Although the writing at times feels stilted, readers will enjoy the frightening Red to Black as the audience obtains a deep look at a merciless Russia during the beginning of the Bush Administration.


Harriet Klausner

Hot As Sin-Bella Andre

October 31, 2009

Hot As Sin

Bella Andre

Dell, Oct 27 2009, $7.99

ISBN: 9780440245018


In a small Vail, Colorado café, television host Dianna Kelley meets her sister April who left home because her sibling was controlling and overprotective.  Dianna wanted to make up for the years April was in foster care but she could not connect with her when April informs her she lives in a commune.  Dianna explodes and April leaves; Diana drinks before driving and gets into an accident in which she is injured and the other driver dead.


In the Sierra Nevada range, firefighter Sam MacKenzie learns of Dianna’s injuries.  Although a decade has passed since she miscarried and left him, he runs to her side.  When they meet again, the sparks that remained simmering for years ignites into a passionate firestorm.  However both remain wary of being hurt so each hides their deep feelings from the other.  Dianna learns April was kidnapped by someone seeking revenge.  Sam swears he will rescue her sister, but Dianna insists on accompanying him on the arduous trek into the Sierras.  On the dangerous journey, they realize not just how much love they share, but rejoice in revealing how much love they have for one another.  However finding and rescuing April and surviving remain the goal.


Bella Andre has written a heated second chance at love romantic suspense starring a hotshot firefighter and a TV talk show host; each brings fear to their fiery relationship.  April adds to the mix as a gutsy individual not waiting to be rescued.  She makes the tale’s thriller elements work with her courage and fortitude.  Readers will relish this fine tale as April has choices to make and one wrong one could lead to her death.


Harriet Klausner

Crawlspace-Sarah Graves

October 31, 2009


Sarah Graves

Bantam, Jan 2010, $25.00

ISBN: 9780553806809


Six years ago, everyone believed Randy Dodd died because there was plenty of evidence backing that belief.  It also was assumed that Randy killed his wife Cornelia.  His brother Roger, who was married to Cornelia’s sister, lost his spouse in an accident so he grieves all the tragedies that has hammered at his soul.  Nothing altered these convictions until true crime writer Carolyn Rathbone and her assistant Chip Hahn arrive in Eastport, Maine to research the tragedy of the Lang sisters for a book she is writing.


Carolyn and Chip believe Randy is alive and is responsible for the deaths of both sisters as he wanted their inheritance.  Randy is in town to access the money, but first kidnaps Carolyn with the intent to kill her because he simply enjoys murdering women.


Jacobia “Jake” Tiptree awakens to the realism her son Sam failed to come home last night and later discovers he was seen and recognized Randy.  Sam is also the killer’s prisoner.  Jake is determined to find out where Randy hides and rescue the writer and her offspring.  With help from her step-brother, her best friend, her housekeeper and Chip, Jake begins her search.  A clue from Roger assists them, but they remain ignorant that they are entering a trap until it is sprung.


Crawlspace is much more violent than the usual Home Repair amateur sleuth tales due to the predator; rather than a cozy this tale is more a suspense thriller.  Readers ironically know Randy lives from the onset when the residents of Eastport sleep serenely at night because they believe he is dead.  The story line is terrific with a great finish that will stun the audience used to amateur sleuth superheroes as fans will salute Sarah Graves with a strong grim entry.


Harriet Klausner

Starfire-Stuart Vaughn Stockton

October 31, 2009


Stuart Vaughn Stockton

Marcher Lord, Apr 2009, $14.99

ISBN: 9780982104941


Being a low born Yangkuch in the Karn Empire, Rathe, has no future except to become a Saurian warrior; still Rathe dreams of becoming much more. His hope lies in being the best warrior.  He works hard at training to be ready when his chance at success occurs.


However, his first assignment is routine so Rathe knows he cannot shine as his dreams of glory will wait.  Still he does his best and works his way up the ranks based on a lie about saving a hatching from a Jerkrenak.  On his next mission he finds an ancient artificial intelligence who says his name is Karey.  She takes control of the female body of a scientist and firmly believes Rathe is her protector.  However, Rathe and his unit are in mortal combat with the Herians and the fearsome Jerkranaks.


Pulled in two directions the hero is terrific as Rathe stars in a coming of age allegorical science fiction saga.  The story line is fast-paced yet filled with references to the Karn Empire including its simplistic caste system that keeps low born like Rathe drowning in the ooze below the food chain though his “heroism” lifts onto the ladder.  Devoid of humans in the entire novel, Stuart Vaughn Stockton provides a clever well written inspirational head biting thriller as salvation is within anyone’s grasp if they reach out of the darkness.


Harriet Klausner


The Dark Man-Marc Schooley

October 31, 2009

The Dark Man

Marc Schooley

Marcher Lord, Apr 2009, $13.99

ISBN: 9780982104934


In Texas undercover agent Charles Graves, the man with a thousand faces, is assigned to destroy the last remaining powerful Christian leader in the United States, Reverend James Cleveland.  As he gathers evidence, Charles goes to arrest Reverend Cleveland, but suddenly hears voices in his head insisting he heed the message his target proclaims.


This turns Charles from a cynic to a believer in God.  He quits his law enforcement position and works to protect James and the word against his former associates, which includes his father.  However, the Dark Man from his past urges him to forget this Christian nonsense and take care of himself especially when his former comrades are searching to assassinate him as a traitor.  Charles has to choose between standing  up for God or standing up with the Dark Man who haunts his breathing.


This is a fascinating but grim future tale that has Big Brother (and Sister) watching you ready to prance and harass.  Charles is a terrific conflicted protagonist pulled schizoid like in two directions.  Although The Dark Man inside his head also appears inside other people’s brains abating the issue of the hero’s sanity, fans will relish this profound look at persecution as religious tolerance is unacceptable.


Harriet Klausner

Flesh Circus-Lilith Saintcrow

October 31, 2009

Flesh Circus

Lilith Saintcrow

Orbit, Nov 24 2009, $7.99

ISBN: 9780316035453


The Cirque de Charnu comes to Santa Luz although Jill Kismet would prevent them entry, but the compact these Hellspawn refuges live under does not give her that latitude.  Still the hunter reminds the Ringmaster and the others of the sufferance rules of engagement and demands her hostage whom she rings.  However, someone is even less tolerant than Jill and is killing the performers.  Although sympathetic with the killer, Jill investigates fearing the murderer may be one of her colleagues.


The hunter also struggles with exorcisms linked to voodoo practitioners who are dying following the rites they perform.  Zombie hordes are flocking to the city so between the Cirque and its death toll, the voodoo mage and its death toll, and the zombie needed death toll; Jill has no time for a rest.


The fourth Kismet Noir fantasy thriller (see Night Shift, Hunter’s Prayer, and Redemption Alley) is loaded with action and starring a kick butt heroine who from the opening scene until the final climax is donkey kicking seemingly every character in sight.  Jill makes the tale as she is a hardboiled noir with a soft inside but not when it comes to protecting Santa Luz; in this case from the memories of the past causing havoc on the present.


Harriet Klausner

Elric In the Dream Realms-Michael Moorcock

October 31, 2009

Elric In the Dream Realms

Michael Moorcock

Del Rey, Oct 27 2009, $16.00

ISBN: 978-0345498663

“Fortress Of The Pearl”.  Lord Gho Fhaazi wants a position on the Council of Seven that rules over the city of Quarzhasaat, but he knows he needs help to overcome his rivals.  He chooses Prince Elric of Melnibone as his tool to obtain the Pearl at the Heart of the World that will insure his spot on the council.  To insure Elric cooperates, he poisons him using a slow acting agent in which he has the serum.  Elric begins his escapades as the affluent class’ minion the Sorcerer Adventurers try to prevent his success and eventually trap his mind inside that of a comatose teenage female, but with the Dreamthief to guide him through the Dream Realm, Elric continues his quest.

The novel above is half of Elric In the Dream Realms.  It is one of his greatest early tales and makes the book worth reading.  The short story “A Portrait in Ivory” is terrific also as the albino hero is confronted by his worst enemy, the mirror reminding him he should be known as Elric Kinslayer filled with remorse for Cymoril more so than Imrryr.  The other entries like “Elric: The Making of a Graphic Novel”, the essay “Aspects of Fantasy”, and the background material of “Earl Aubec of Malodor”, etc. target die hard fans of Michael Moorcock only.  Overall the fifth Chronicles of the last Emperor of Melnibone is an engaging look at Elric In The Dream realms.

Harriet Klausner

A Questionable Life-Luke Lively

October 30, 2009

A Questionable Life

Luke Lively

Beaufort, Oct 2009, $24.95

ISBN 9780825305214


The job comes first to Philadelphia Trust & Guaranty banker Jack Oliver as he climbs the ladder of success.  He ignores his wife Tina and two children Joshua and Jessica except when he needs them to promote his career.  His friends are only buddies if they matter in his business life as does his colleagues.


When PT&G is purchased by the Merchants bank, Jack, twenty-seven years there and second highest in rank is stunned as he is kicked to the bottom of the food chain and maybe out the door if he is not careful.  The stress and disappointment leads him to a hospital stay in which he learns who cares about him: no one as his family and his mistress fail to visit him.  A friend John Helms introduces Jack to Benjamin “Benny” Price, the old-fashioned president of the small local Citizens Bank in Roanoke, Virginia, who hires Jack, but also mentors him on what matters in life even when Merchant Bank comes to town with its avaricious bottom line ledger.


This is an enjoyable inspirational drama that is It’s A Wonderful Life meets Scrooge in a modern but somewhat remote setting.  The story line opens each chapter with poignant questions and related but somewhat clichéd citations, but the running theme throughout the plot is that it is never too late to change from a life evolved around the seven deadly sins to a caring loving person.  Although the tale is obvious where it is going, readers will enjoy the journey.


Harriet Klausner

A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Books-Charles Dickens

October 30, 2009

A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Books

Charles Dickens

Everyman’s Library (Knopf), Nov 14 2009, $18.00

ISBN: 97803072721754


This collection consists of the Charles Dickens’ Christmas Books, all written in the 1840s


A Christmas Carol (1843).  Everyone knows the story of how Ebenezer Scrooge the miser got the Christams message from his late partner and the three ghosts.


The Chimes (1844).  Porter Trotty Veck has no hope for the future on New Year’s Eve until he hears the spirits of the chimes.


The Cricket on the Hearth (1845).  John is much older than his wife Dot, but their marriage appears to be over when he finds evidence that makes him believe she cuckold him.  John talks with the spirit of the Cricket on the Hearth whose chirping Dot says means good luck.


The Battle of Life (1846).  Doctor Jeddler is a cynic, but his daughters’ sacrifices for loved ones make him reconsider his scorn.


The Haunted Man and the Ghost (1848).  Chemistry Professor Redlaw is tormented by his past until a ghostly twin arrives on Christmas Eve to make him forget his past; afterward any one who meets the professor also forgets their distress as he does with the Swidger and Tetterby families until Milly Swidger reverses the spell because of her goodness that comes out of a lost child


The reprint of Charles Dickens early Victorian Christmas stories will prove a delight for fans of the most famous entry, A Christmas Carol. The Cricket on the Hearth and The Haunted Man and the Ghost are somewhat similar in lessons learned to that of A Christmas Carol though with their own inspiring twists while The Chimes uses a spiritual advisor but spins quite differently.  However, the most diverse is The Battle of Life, which has a rushed ending and no paranormal guru as it feels more like O’Henry’s The Gift of the Magi,.  This is a holiday winner as all five tales showcase the works of one of the greats of literature.


Harriet Klausner