Archive for July, 2011

Pretty-Jillian Lauren

July 31, 2011

Pretty

Jillian Lauren

Plume, Aug 30 2011, $15.00

ISBN 9780452297340

 

Beth “Bebe” Baker worked at Rudy’s in Toledo when Aaron the horn player on tour with jazz star Billy Coyote enters the dive.  He had three things going for him and one negative.  The positives are the horn like Bebe’s pop, his being very tall like she is, and his kiss.  However, he also seems tentative as if he cannot play the final note.  Bebe hops on the tour bus as it leaves Toledo.

 

In Los Angeles the band becomes marooned.  Bebe becomes a stripper while Aaron’s drug use increasingly gets out of control until he dies in a car crash that leaves her physically scarred and emotionally damaged.  Over the next year Bebe goes to rehab vocational facility while attending beauty school.  As she tries to reinvent herself by staying clean and grieve her hero, Bebe also sees schizophrenic Jake.

 

This is an intriguing character study of a woman who makes bad choices on her life as she seems to repeat her errors.  Bebe is a fascinating protagonist who though she goes to school and sees another man, has not moved passed her loss of Aaron.  Besides some sympathy over his death, readers will not empathize with Bebe as every time she takes a big leap forward, she follows up with gigantic leaps backward.  Readers will appreciate Jillian Lauren’s look at a complicated individual who believes graduation will prove her savior.

 

Harriet Klausner

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The Ronin’s Mistress-Laura Joh Rowland

July 31, 2011

The Ronin’s Mistress

Laura Joh Rowland

Minotaur, Sep 13 2011, $24.99

ISBN 9780312658526

 

In 1703 Edo, forty-seven ronin samurai arrive at the estate of the Shogun Tsunayoshi’s master of ceremonies Kira Yoshinaka.  Though the shogun had declared no vendetta, in an act of revenge for turning them into masterless ronin twenty-two months ago; the band’s leader Oishi Kuranosuke beheads Yoshinaka for his evil involvement in the death of their master Lord Asano during a feud; others at the estate were also killed. 

 

Having been demoted from Chamberlain back to his previous job as the Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People, Sano Ichiro leads the investigation though he seethes that manipulative, corrupt, ambitious and lethal Yanagisawa was back in power as the Chamberlain.  At the same time, Kuranosuke’s mistress Okaru informs Ichiro’s wife Reiko, that the feud is not what is publically believed.  Ichiro looks into the strange case of the forty-seven who completed a cleansing ritual and wait further “orders”, but came quietly with him and his detectives.  Now he needs to recommend whether the forty-seven commit ritual suicide as the honorable end to the dispute.

 

This is a great entry in the Feudal Japan saga (see The Fire Kimono and The Cloud Pavilion) based on the legend of the 47 Ronin.  The story line is fast-paced from the moment Kuranosuke severs the head of Yoshinaka and never slows down as dedicated Ichiro and his wife uncover anomalies in what looks like a shut and closed case.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

The Gilded Shroud-Elizabeth Bailey

July 31, 2011

The Gilded Shroud

Elizabeth Bailey

Berkley, Sep 6 2011, $15.00

ISBN 9780425242896

 

Lady Emily Fanshawe’s personal maid Mary Huntshaw walks to her mistress’ bedroom with a hot chocolate only to smell a horrific odur and the room in disarray.  Mary starts screaming as she realizes someone strangled Lady Emily and her husband Randal is missing.

 

Randal’s mother the Marchioness of Polbrook fears her son the marquis killed his wife.  Her other son Francis struggles to control his nausea as he takes charge.  The Marchioness’ temporary companion Widow Ottilia Draycott offers to investigate the homicide.  Though she has doubts the Marchioness agrees as she hopes to keep her oldest son out of gaol.  Tillie quickly learns a theft of a valuable family heirloom occurred also. Asking questions of those at the estate, Tillie seeks the motives and opportunities of a house of strangers; while her attraction to Francis helps and hinders her inquiry.

 

The Gilded Shroud is a charming Regency romantic amateur sleuth starring a wonderful intelligent heroine.  The story line engages the reader in the mystery while the romance between “Fan” and “Tillie” enhances the investigation.  Sub-genre readers will want Tillie and Fan working future inquiries.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

Tears of the Sun-S.M. Stirling

July 31, 2011

Tears of the Sun

S.M. Stirling

Roc, Sep 6 2011, $26.95

ISBN: 9780451464156

 

A quarter of a century has passed since the 1998 Change killed over 90% of the human population in one year.  Modern civilization around the globe was sent back to pre industrial revolution as things stopped working.  Small pockets of survivors banded together to cope with the ordeal.

 

With his beloved Mathilda Arminger at his side, Rudi Mackenzie has completed the first part of his quest by finding the Sword of the Lady forged for him before he was born.  He becomes the High King of Montival King Artos as he unites western North America.  For the betterment and protection of his followers although he expects to die, King Artos leads the fight against the Big Sky based Church Universal and Triumphant.

 

Although the main thrust is Rudi, subplots involving the Dundain Rangers, d’Ath the Grand Constable of the Portland Protectorate Association and Wiccan in several locales star in critical subplots.  Thus the action is less intense than previous Emberverse entries (see The Sword of the Lady), but enhances the impact of the Change by 2023 while also setting up fresh hot zones for the future thrillers.  In spite of being a transitional novel, Tears of the Sun engages fans of the saga who will anxiously await the next Change.

 

Harriet Klausner

Shadow Kin-M.J. Scott

July 31, 2011

Shadow Kin

M.J. Scott

Roc, Sep 6 2011, $7.99

ISBN: 9780451464040

 

Blood Lord Lucius orders the “soulless” wraith he raised as an assassin to kill human sunmage Simon DuCaine.  Lily goes after Simon, but he defeats her.   Instead of killing Lily, Simon lets her live though he is not being altruistic. 

 

He and his Templar knight brother believe Lily is the proof that Lucius broke the City’s treaty signed by the Blood Lords, Beast Kind, the Fae and the Humans.  He pleads with his captive to testify against the master who raised her.  He is attracted to the “Nightseeking whore” who glides like a shadow between worlds.  She believes joining him in the light is impossible though she is falling in love with the mage who showed her mercy though she knows he condemned her as being like his sister Edwina. 

 

The Shadow Kin political fantasy is a fabulous tale as the world of Scott comes vividly alive through the competing machinations between the prime groups.  Blood Lords and the Beast Kind rule the Night World; while Fae and human mages guard the rest of the Half Light City.  Fast-paced from the onset, fans will relish this strong thriller though the romance never quite gels with the pasts of the two protagonists except when they curse at each other.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

Crossroads-Jeanne C. Stein

July 31, 2011

Crossroads

Jeanne C. Stein

Ace, Aug 30 2011, $7.99

ISBN: 9780441020775

 

In Mission Beach, SDPD Detective Harris visits Anna Strong over odd anomalies involving two hundred year old DNA found in the fiery death of his late boss Warren Williams.  She knows she is the “Chosen One” (see Retribution).  However, she needs a little time to accept her destiny and grieve the loss of her mentor and the betrayal of her late lover.  However, the battle against Chael the vampire is still on as the ancient one challenges her position as he believes vampires belong at the top of the food chain not roaches scurrying for food. 

 

Anna’s former human lover Drug Enforcement Agent Max asks for her help to end the murderous terror of a rogue vampire.  This Undead transports people across the Mexican border, but once stateside he drains the blood from his human cargo. Her partner David has found out some information about his lost weekend that Anna would prefer he not remember.  Anna confronts Chael who implies he knows how she can return to being human, her fondest desire.  To do so Anna must locate a Navajo shaman living as a hermit on a reservation.  Chael also makes Anna realize he knows shapeshifter Daniel Frey has a young son that Anna fears the vampire or something else will target.

 

This is an enjoyable Anna Strong, Vampire urban fantasy as the heroine’s life keeps getting increasingly complicated.  Besides dealing with vampires like Chael, the human trafficker and the late chief’s wife, she also has issues with humans like Harris and David.  However, this is nothing compared to what awaits the hero on the Navaho Nation.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

Bloodlines-Richelle Mead

July 31, 2011

Bloodlines

Richelle Mead

Razorbill/Penguin, August 23 2011, $18.99

ISBN: 9781595143174

 

Four Alchemists arrive at the home of Sydney, her parents and her sister Zoe.   Sydney assumes they will send her to a reeducation center for her assistance to Rose Hathaway the dhampir (see the Vampire Academy series).  Instead they want Zoe, but her dad says his frightened youngest is not ready to protect other humans from vampires.  He suggests Sydney instead.  Reluctantly they agree so with a warning they will assign teenaged Sydney to protect Moroi vampire Queen Lissa Dragomir’s half-sister Jill from an assassin.  The plan is to hide the princess at Amberwood Prep, a Palm Springs, California exclusive school for humans while Sydney poses as Jill’s older sister. 

 

Sydney knows this will not be an easy assignment as she has been indoctrinated with the belief that vampires are predatory monsters though her work has her dividing the undead into two sub-species, the evil Strigoi and the Moroi.  The safe school includes sleazy Keith who blames Sydney for his troubles and her friend Adrian who helps her though she has a different kind of help in mind.  She finds the prep school has unsafe secrets.

 

The start of a related to the Vampire Academy new series, Bloodlines is an engaging urban fantasy starring an intriguing heroine who keeps the exciting story line focused.  Sydney accepts a job she does not want to protect her sister and to gain fatherly approval while hoping to get out of trouble with the Alchemist hierarchy.  Besides the fun of crossovers like Adrian, Sydney brings freshness with her personality so different from the extroverted VA protagonists.  Although this reviewer has a problem with teenage females dieting to size zero to obtain approval from family and friends, readers will enjoy Sydney’s Palm Springs adventures.

 

Harriet Klausner

With Fate Conspire-Marie Brennan

July 31, 2011

With Fate Conspire

Marie Brennan

Tor, Aug 30 2011, $27.99

ISBN: 9780765325372

 

For over three centuries, the Onyx Court of the Fae has existed beneath London.  Most humans living above ground are unaware of those residing underneath the city.  However, several decades ago, the Industrial Revolution began a new iron age as pipes, bridges and rails run over and under the city; iron is lethal to the Fae whose species has become endangered with short term extinction a likely outcome as their magical realm rapidly diminishes.  Only the resolute Queen Lune keeps at bay imminent extinction, but she is dying.

 

Meanwhile Eliza O’Malley continues her seven years old fruitless search for her vanished best friend Owen who she insists was kidnapped by the fairy; people believe she is insane.  Like Lune, Eliza refuses to quit as she seeks the dog man, Goblin Market head gangster Nadrett’s slave Dead Rick who betrayed her Owen.  Ironically Dead Rick is perhaps the only one who empathizes with Eliza as he wants the return of his stolen memory that Nadrett, as he has done with humans and fae, took from him.

 

The fourth Onyx Court Victorian fantasy (see Midnight Never Come, in Ashes Lie and A Star Shall Fall) is a terrific tale anchored by one of the best sub-genre backgrounds in recent memory though that also slows down the start of the thriller.  Described with dark Dickensian depth in the human and Fae realms, fans will envision the grim squalor of Goblin Court and mortal London as well as the hopelessness of the Onyx Court as urban development fostered by iron encroaches.  The key cast is solid as readers anticipate a confrontation between the three determined antagonists as the new Iron Age is destroying Onyx Court and the Fae.

 

Harriet Klausner

Repeat It Today With Tears-Anne Peile

July 30, 2011

Repeat It Today With Tears

Anne Peile

Serpent’s Tail, Aug 16 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9781846687471

 

In 1972 London, Susanna is a disaffected teen who cares about nothing.  Her pathetic mother and acrimonious older sister ridicule Susanna while her friends are not true BFFs.  School is no escape for her as it is boring though she is intelligent having taken the Oxford exam early.  Her only attachment is her obsession over her absent Welsh dad John ap Rhys Owen of whom she never met.

 

Susanna finds out that her dad fiftyish Jack the artist lives in Chelsea.  She visits him and kisses him on the lips while failing to inform the immediately besotted Jack who she is.  They begin an affair not worrying about what will happen if the truth of their filial connection becomes known to anyone including Jack.

 

This is a stunning character driven incestuous drama in which the first part of what Susanna does will shock the reader who knows what Jack does not.  However, the second half seems even darker as the outside world begins to penetrate the incest world of father and daughter.  Not an easy read as the subject is taboo; fans will appreciate the well written Repeat It Today With Tears.

 

Harriet Klausner

Secrets to Seducing a Scot-Michelle Marcos

July 30, 2011

Secrets to Seducing a Scot

Michelle Marcos

St. Martin’s, Aug 2 2011, $7.99

ISBN: 9780312381783

 

In 1819, the Prince Regent assigns Earlington Marsh as a diplomat whose mission is to settle the Scottish rebellion from turning into a war.  Marsh decides his independent daughter Serena will accompany him so he can keep her safe.  Serena prefers London where she writes the witty Rage Page column for the Town crier, but her dad says no.

 

In Scotland Earlington retains mercenary Malcolm Slayer, whose family was massacred two decades ago which left him growing up without a clan, to protect his feisty offspring when rebels threaten her to get at the mediator.  As the barbaric soldier of fortune and the cutting columnist fall in love, he is her only hope to rescue her abducted father from rebels. 

 

This is an entertaining Highland Regency romance starring a strong support cast and a delightful pairing of seemingly opposites who readers will root for a Wickedly Ever After ending.  The story line is fast-paced whether the protagonists argue or kiss, and when they mount a rescue attempt or go to the fair.  Sub-genre fans will enjoy the tale of Rage Page and the clan-less for hire warrior falling in love.

 

Harriet Klausner