Archive for April, 2010

Open Country-Kaki Warner

April 30, 2010

Open Country

Kaki Warner

Berkley, Jun 1 2010, $15.00

ISBN: 9780425234303

In 1871 at the suggestion of her sister’s doctor, nurse Molly McFarlane travels from Atlanta to Savannah to see her sibling Nellie who is dying from lung disease.  Molly’s brother-n-law Daniel Fletcher is nasty to her; telling her to go home.  Nellie pleads with Molly to run off with her two preadolescent children from a previous marriage, as she fears for them under Daniels martinet abuse.

As Molly flees with her niece and nephew, in nearby Jeanerette, Rustin lectures Daniel for failing to find what his late father-in-law hid as the wealthy man plots a second Southern rebellion because war is money.  Meanwhile, out west a train wreck leaves Patrick Henry “Hank” Wilkins near death, remorseful but desperate Molly marries him so she can inherit at least an insurance claim to take care of the kids and hide from her odious brother-in-law’s operatives.  Instead Hank recovers, but is clueless re marriage and a train wreck.  He takes his wife and her wards to his family ranch in the New Mexico Territory where his family embraces the newcomers.  As they fall in love and his memory returns, her Georgia roots are arriving.

The second of the Blood Rose trilogy (see The Pieces of the Sky) is a wonderful historical tale starring a strong ensemble cast.  A key fresh premise is the push for a new Confederacy revolt as personal economic gain due to war motivates Rustin and his cohorts, who stole gold from the south several years ago.  With an intriguing lead couple whose marriage is shaky as he knows part of the truth in spite of two frightened children needing them and the rest of the Wilkins, fans will appreciate this superb Reconstruction Era romance.

Harriet Klausner

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Amandine-Marlena de Blasi

April 30, 2010

Amandine

Marlena de Blasi

Ballantine, May 18 2010, $25.00

ISBN: 9780345507341

In 1931 in Krakow, Poland, an unmarried aristocrat gives birth to a female.  To protect her foolish unwed daughter, her mother the Countess lies by telling the new mom that the baby died.  The grandmother sends her newborn illegitimate granddaughter to a convent in Montpellier, France run by Abbess Mother Paul and raised by a governess Solange Jouffroi, who names the infant Amandine Gilberte Noiret de Crécy.

Mother Paul detests Amandine while the other sisters are wary of her; only Solange loves her ward.  Over the years Amandine wonders why her mom and grandma abandoned her and why the abbess overtly displays her loathing.  When scarlet fever ravages the convent, Solange takes Amandine with her to stay with her family as the Nazis blitzkrieg of France turns the two day journey by train into a dangerous odyssey.

This is a wonderful historical tale with a nod to Maslow’s Hierarchy; as once the basic biological needs are met, Amandine seeks self actualization by wondering where she belongs.  Except for Solange whom she loves as her mom, she fears something is wrong with her for so many to abandon her or loathe her.  That sense of identity lost before it is even set make for a strong thriller further anchored in time and place during an era of Nazi atrocities as war engulfs Europe.

Harriet Klausner

The Marriage Bureau For Rich People-Farahad Zama

April 30, 2010

The Marriage Bureau For Rich People

Farahad Zama

Berkley, Jun 1 2010, $15.00

ISBN: 9780425234242

In Kapu, India, Mr. Ali tried retirement only to find it tedious.  Needing something to do as the ennui is fossilizing his brain, the bored Muslim opens up a marriage bureau.  Mr. Ali is surprised to find his endeavor successful as clients seeking a mate that meets their stipulation flock to him.  He hires Aruna, a single young woman from an impoverished Brahmin family.

Mr. and Mrs. Ali struggle with their activist son Rehman, who believes in human rights while Aruna tussles with an increasingly hostile situation at home.  Ironically Aruna would prefer to be a client and knows who she wants, but being penniless that is a bitter unrequited dream becauseas the Romanian doctor accompanied by his family seeks a more suitable match.

This is a very reflective contemporary drama that digs deeply into modern India’s struggles with religious, gender and caste egalitarianism when the country has an institutionalized history of inequality.  Yet even with these powerful topics, it is the cast who make the relationships work; as for instance Mr. Ali looks forward to his next fight with his son.  Although many of the problems between people are resolved too easily and rapidly, fans will enjoy Mr. Ali’s pragmatic solutions to the age old problems of love vs. tradition.

Harriet Klausner

Husband and Wife-Leah Stewart

April 30, 2010

Husband and Wife

Leah Stewart

Harper, May 4 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780061774508

Feeling some guilt, novelist Nathan Bennett confesses to his wife Sarah Price that he slept with another woman.  She is stunned by his confession, which changes her priorities from which dress to wear at a wedding would make her look less fat to what to do about her relationship with Nathan; factoring in their two young children, Mattie and Binx.

Whereas Nathan feels remorse, Sarah feels anger.  She considers her options by looking at her past through a decision analysis of what could have been her life if she chose a differentpath.  She ponders leaving her spouse and taking the kids with her of course while her anger grows as she gave up poetry writing and wants to be known as a poetess again.  Then there is to consider her friend Rajiv, who has loved her forever.

This is an interesting family drama in which an extramarital one night stand has shattered the trust between Husband and Wife.  The lead couple feels genuine especially their emotions.  However, it is the tense intriguing look back by Sarah who deeply examines lost opportunities when she made pivotal choices who makes the story line profound.  Although the ending seems off kilter as a throwback to Austen’s Regency era, fans will still appreciate this deep character study of one major indiscretion which has incredible relational costs.

Harriet Klausner

Intercept-Patrick Robinson

April 30, 2010

Intercept

Patrick Robinson

Vanguard, May 11 2010, $25.95

www.vanguard.com

ISBN: 9781593155841

The two Western educated childhood friends became al-Qaeda terrorists killing military and civilians until Ibrahim Sharif and Yousaf Mohammed were captured by US Navy SEAL Team 10 in a small village in the Hindu Kush mountain region of Afghan.  They were taken to Guantomino Bay where they were held prisoners but refused to cooperate; not even providing their names to the military tribunal.

A few years later, the court system demands habeas corpus applies to the detainees.  With Saudi money to buy Epstein’s law firm, the two terrorists and two other cohorts are free.  However, neither the law firm nor the terrorists realizes that the CIA and Mossad are tracking them.  The quartet plots an act at a school in Connecticut with plans after that to return to the Hindu Kush for further activity against the hated west.  Retired Navy SEAL Lieutenant Commander Mack Bedford, who led the first sweep that captured the pair, leads another operation against them with deadly force not just authorized but required.

This is an exciting action packed thriller as Bedford returns to active duty to go after the same terrorists he caught the last time he was in Afghanistan.  The story line is fast-paced throughout, but also has an accusatory tone blaming liberals and leftists for being soft on terrorism and arguing to keep Gitmo open.  These premises ignore that a right wing administration took its eye off al Qaeda and that the courts system has locked away in federal pens some nasty terrorists; none of whom have escaped.  Still readers will be hooked from the moment that the espionage agency Intercept the electronic traffic as Bin Laden and the CIA-Mossad agents know the importance of Yousaf and Sharif.

Harriet Klausner

Vicious-Kevin O’Brien

April 30, 2010

Vicious

Kevin O’Brien

Pinnacle, May 25 2010, $7.99

ISBN: 9780786021369

For over two years in the Seattle area, the “Mama’s Boy” kidnapped and killed mothers while the children were left where he kidnapped the mothers and left the child some battered toys.  The police never found him and never could explain why he abruptly stopped.

Widow Susan Blanchette whose husband and older son were killed, drives with her four year old boy Matthew to meet her fiancé medical supply salesman Allen Meker in Cullen, Washington.  Allen, who adores Susan and cares about her toddler, has a great weekend planned for them.   When they reach the place he rented, Susan believes there is a prowler, but Allen sees no one.  While at a store, Jordan Prewitt, whose mom was killed by the Mama’s Boy, kidnaps Allen.  He intends to torture the man until he confesses he is the serial killer.  While Susan searches for Allen, two psychopaths hijack her.

Kevin O’Brien provides an intense, perhaps too emotional, but electrifying thriller.  Several characters share the lead including the three above and Jordan’s friend Les while a strong support cast enhance the growing tension.  The key to the plot is the reader keeps changing his or her mind as to who the killer is although that is a two edged as at times because needless subplots that adds nothing is applied to trick the audience to go down a sidebar.  Still with terrific twists, fans will wonder who the Mama’s Boy serial killer is.

Harriet Klausner

Who Fears Death-Nnedi Okorafor

April 30, 2010

Who Fears Death

Nnedi Okorafor

Daw, Jun 1 2010, $24.95

ISBN: 9780756406172

The world may have been shattered by a nuclear holocaust, but mankind continues to fight one another; just on a smaller scale.  In post-nuclear Sahara, genocide is the norm as the followers of the Great Book ethnically cleanse the region.  Thus the Nuru believing God is on their side, hunt and eradicate the Okeke.  In one village, the lone survivor is raped by the exterminators.  She escapes into the desert eventually giving birth to a girl who the mom knows is unique.  Using an ancient forgotten African language she names her offspring (from the brutal sexual assault) Onyesonwu, “Who Fears Death”.

As a shaman raises Onyesonwu, the genocide continues unabated.  However, new hope arises amidst the embattled Okeke that a savior has come.  Onyesonwu has been learning about her magical power to end the murderous cleansing.  However, she must study evil to understand evil before she can sacrifice herself in death so that the Okeke can live.

Using a futuristic fantasy base, Nnedi Okorafor provides a great but grim realistic drama that focuses on genuine problems in Africa today.  Through the escapades of the heroine, the story line disturbingly examines ethnic and religious cleansing, racism, sexism, female genital mutilation and sex slavery as humanity is inhumane to each other.  Who Fears Death is superb as Ms. Okorafor provides a powerful post apocalyptic thriller with strong ramifications in today’s on the Eve of Destruction world.

Harriet Klausner

The Ambassador’s Mission-Trudi Canavan

April 30, 2010

The Ambassador’s Mission

Trudi Canavan

Orbit, May 18 2010, $25.99

ISBN: 9780316037839

The Magicians’ Guild had always feared that one day during their annual sweeps for rogues that a commoner with untrained power would surface.  Their worst trepidations occurred when Sonea the commoner displayed talent.  She was quickly brought into the Magicians’ Guild, but her ancestry made her a pariah until she has become a Black Magician of Kyralia with one foot tentatively inside the ruling Guild establishment and the other deeply embedded in her heritage.

Her son is a chip off the rebellious block, but more volatile than his mother.  Lorkin resents the bias towards him and his family.  Thus Lorkin joins the support team of powerful Lord Dannyl who is Guild Ambassador to the enemy Sachaka for two reasons.  First he wants to get away from the prejudice shown to commoner mages and second he hopes to influence behavior in a place run by abusive black magicians with slaves.   No one in Imardin trust the Sachakans whose belief is that the Black Magicians should rule the world and those of Sachaka should rule the Black Magicians.  When Sonea learns Lorkin vanished, she fears for her offspring, but knows if she leaves the city she cannot return as that is  Guild law.  She promised her concerned friend Cery to investigate a recent slew of homicides as a serial killer using magic as a weapon assassinates the leaders of the Thieves Guild though no one knows why or who, but Sonea has some internal fears about what she will learn.

The latest Black Magician fantasy is a super tale filled with several great twists that make the second tale in the prequel saga (see The Magicians Apprentice) a standout.  The story line is fast-paced with two well written prime subplots starring mom and son.  This is a terrific magical whodunit where mom the Black Magician amateur sleuth investigates the killings and readers are shown a deep look at the culture of magically dominated Sachaka as seen through the lens of the missing son. The audience will relish this strong entry into the world of Trudi Canavan.

Harriet Klausner

Wanted!- Vicki Lewis Thompson

April 29, 2010

Wanted!

Vicki Lewis Thompson

Harlequin Blaze, Jun 2010, $4.99

ISBN: 9780373795482

After two years keeping control of her impulses by being Herman’s girlfriend, photographer Dominique Jeffries decides enough.  She dumps Herman and leaves for Wyoming to find the old Dominique.

Veterinarian Nick Chance is fuming at his brother for ordering him to dig postholes in a rocky area.  Shirtless, he meets Dominique who has a ribald self deprecating sense of humor.  They each like what they see and agree to a short term tryst.  As they fall in love, Nick struggles to conceal his desire for her to be with him forever while she struggles between wanting to be with him forever and her need to find the independent feisty Dominique who went into hiding the last couple of years.

This is an entertaining ranch romance starring two likable individuals and a solid support cast.  The story line focuses on both internally insisting to themselves “I’m not in love” while wanting the affair to go on indefinitely.  Although the “I’m in love” revelation is so abrupt, it catches the lead pair off guard and the audience will initially discredit it; still fans will enjoy a trip to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming where the Last Chance Ranch welcomes readers.

Harriet Klausner

The Sexy Devil-Kate Hoffmann

April 29, 2010

The Sexy Devil

Kate Hoffmann

Harlequin Blaze, Jun 2010, $4.99

ISBN: 9780373795505

In high school Angela Weatherby fell in love with star athlete Max Morgan, who was a player.  Now she is authoring a book on “Smooth Operators: A Woman’s Guide to Avoiding Dating Disasters”.  However, she has hit a snag when two womanizing hunks reform and marry her friends although she insists they are inside the margin of error.

Based on posts to her website, Max, now a professional baseball player, deserves his own chapter as the epitome of The Sexy Devil.  Angela decides to look him up assuming that as an adult she will be immune to his curveball.  Instead she learns the error of her ways as she still wants him.  He is in love too, but what will happen when he learns she classified him as another unfeeling male creep.

This is a fun lighthearted contemporary frolic as the baseball player and the writer steal each other’s heart but struggle to complete the game of love.  Although the story line is a bit thin, fans will enjoy the fun tale as Angela begins to wonder how many devilish hunks belong outside the breaking a woman’s heart “norm”.

Harriet Klausner