Archive for September, 2008

The Face-Angela Hunt

September 29, 2008

The Face

Angela Hunt

Mira, Nov 2008, $6.99

ISBN: 9780778327271

 

Two decades ago Sarah Sims was born without facial features.  The hospital declared her dead and she was serendipitously given to the CIA.  Dr. Glenda Mewton raised Sarah hidden from the world at a top-secret CIA lab.  Sarah now twenty has no hopes or dreams; isolated even in the isolated CIA construct where she lives.

 

All that changes when Sarah’s Aunt Renee learns her niece lives in concealment as a CIA computer expert.  She offers Sarah a chance to meet the world starting with surgery.  However, Renee cannot give Sarah the courage to take a chance on life; that must come from within and her “mom” Dr. Mewton will not let her go.

 

Avoiding melodrama with touches of humor, Angela Hunt provides a superb character driven thriller as the key three females seem genuine with flaws and all.  The story line grips readers from the opening moments when the doctor informs Sarah’s parents and the audience that the newborn suffers from Treacher Collins syndrome.  Readers will want what is best for her though that is not easy to discern even if fans want her to step out into the world of her aunt.  This is a winner as the angst is high but controlled inside a strong tale of second chances.

 

Harriet Klausner

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Open Doors-Gloria Goldreich

September 29, 2008

Open Doors

Gloria Goldreich

Mira, Nov 2008, $13.95

ISBN: 9780778325437

 

Acclaimed ceramic artist Elaine Gordon has always placed her beloved husband Neil above her work and their four children with her vocation coming in a distant second.  Thus when her soulmate anchor dies, she is more than just grieving; she is lost.  Each of her adult children loves their mother even if she has always been distant from them.  Each wants her to leave the New York City area and move near one of them.  They persuade Elaine to visit them.

 

Elaine goes to see Sarah nee Sandy and her grandchildren in Jerusalem.  Next she travels to California to spend time with Peter and more grandchildren.  Her third global trek is to Russia where Lisa wants to become a single mom by adopting a child.  Finally, the one trip she dreads going to is New Mexico where Denis and his gay boyfriend live. 

 

Elaine’s journey is on two levels: the obvious globetrotting trips to her offspring and the metaphysical journey of spiritual learning as her children, their significant others, and their offspring make solid mentors.  The extended cast is fully developed but it is Elaine as the focus who holds it together.  Although her revelatory transformation seems unrealistic (sort of like Ebenezer Scrooge’s change), OPEN DOORS is a deep look at a person learning in her late middle ages what is important in life.

 

Harriet Klausner

Hearts on the Wind-Leslee Breene

September 29, 2008

Hearts on the Wind

Leslee Breene

Five Star, Oct 2008, $25.95

ISBN 9781594147166

 

In 1876 Swedish-American Ingrid Johansson hates the farming life her family has created for themselves in Eden Valley, Minnesota.  She yearns for much more as she perfers books like Ivanhoe.  Nagging her parents to give her a different life , she persuades them to send her to Minneapolis to attend the St. Agnes Women’s Academy where she will study to become a teacher.

 

At the academy Ingrid and affluent Norwegian-American railroad heir Andreas Eriksen are attracted to one another.  When the pair are caught in an unacceptable compromising position, she is warned to carry herself with proper decorum or be sent home in disgrace.  As she struggles between her love for Andreas and her love of teaching, her stepsister, Dagmar plots to make Andreas her husband.

 

This engaging Americana romance provides readers with a strong glimpse of working conditions for those employed by the railroads.  The lead couple are both fully developed characters but the key support cast seems thinner than a rail.  Still in spite of implausible spins especially involving Ingrid, historical fans will enjoy this look at Reconstruction Era America through the eyes of a young woman who wants the dream.

 

Harriet Klausner

Delia’s Crossing-V.C. Andrews

September 29, 2008

Delia’s Crossing

V.C. Andrews

Pocket, Oct 2008, $7.99

ISBN: 1416530843

 

Delia Yebarra is dreaming in school about yesterday’s quinceanera celebration when her grandmother bursts into the school and takes her home.  She informs the teen that her parents died in an auto accident.  Delia leaves her Mexican village to live with her wealthy aunt Isabella in Palm Springs, California.  Isabelle married an older rich man.  The grieving teenager is shocked that her aunt is taking her in because Isabelle turned her back on her family and village years ago.

 

When she arrives at her aunt’s vast estate, Delia is told she will live in a rundown building and will be a servant until she learns to speak English fluently.  Nobody will know they are related, but eventually Delia’s cousins Edward and Sophia learn the truth.  Edward welcomes her to the family and tries to protect her.  However Isabelle and Sophia try to harm her so Delia flees for home with a Mexican fugitive at her side.

 

If this tale is any indication, V.C. Andrews’s new series starring Delia will be a big hit.  Delia feels like a fish out of water in the states especially since she does not speak English and thereby unwelcome by her aunt who along with Sophia uses her niece for personal reasons; Delia has no idea how to fight back.  Even her relationship with Edward is ruined by her aunt’s machinations leaving her isolated as a stranger in a foreign land.  This is a great tale of people in crisis learning to cope with the hand fate (and a cruel relative) dealt them.

 

Harriet Klausner

Swallowing Darkness-Laurell K. Hamilton

September 29, 2008

Swallowing Darkness

Laurell K. Hamilton

Ballantine, Nov 2008, $26.00

ISBN: 9780345495938

 

Princess Meredith NicEssus of the Unseelie Court knows the danger of being a princess; she also knows how hazardous being pregnant can be as Her Aunt Andais the Queen promises that if she gets pregnant before her son impregnates someone else, she will be the heir to the throne.  Since few children are born in Fairie, Merry carrying twins from six fathers has become the hope of revitalization and the target of those who want to use her like her insane Uncle Taranis who kidnapped and raped her.  He plans to claim that he sired his niece’s children.  Even her beloved Gran, under a spell apparently performed by cousin Cair, tries to kill her.

 

Outraged Merry demands the Wild Hunt to obtain revenge but that comes at a price; as Mistral, another of her children’s’ fathers, is dying.  She asks the Goddess to save him and another injured father Doyle.  Meanwhile another sire Sholto and Merry are crowned as King and Queen of the Slaugh in Faerie while her uncle stalks her and Queen Andais’ son tries to eliminate her.  Merry’s wrath against family is growing.

 

SWALLOWING DARKNESS has a different overall tone thn the rest of the books in this series as there are infrequent sexual time outs with the battles and plans highlighted instead as Merry needs revenge on those trying to harm her, her unborn and her loved ones.  Merry is a wonderful person, who tries to be fair to everyone, but does not fear using her powers against nasty folks.  The two Courts remain overall malevolent with one more overt about their evil agenda.  Fans will appreciate the latest Princess Merry hypnotic romantic fantasy.

 

Harriet Klausner

The Sweet Scent of Blood-Suzanne McLeod

September 28, 2008

The Sweet Scent of Blood

Suzanne McLeod

Gollancz, 2008

ISBN 978057584285

http://www.orionbooks.co.uk/PB-43741/the-sweet-scent-of-blood-.htm

 

The Spellcrackers consists of good witches whose mission is to defuse evil magic in a world in which vampires have come out of the coffin and are accepted by society although some people believe they are the malevolent predators as legend describes them.

 

Spellcrackers.com operative Genny Taylor is a Sidhe who distrusts the vamps as she understands the food chain too well.  Still in spite of her bias, she investigates the homicide of Melissa the girlfriend of Mr. October, Roberto the celebrity vampire accused of killing her with one bite.  As Genny follows the bloody London trail she soon realizes the case is not quite as closed as she and the cops thought.  However, she is unprepared for her and Mr. October being expendable tools discarded by two dangerous powerful adversaries who have fought for control of the paranormal communities for centuries.

 

This is a fast-paced humorous urban fantasy that in some ways will remind the audience of Charlaine Harris’ Stackhouse tales; location aside.  The story line is fast-paced and the inquiry solid.  However, the thriller is owned by the paranormal species that frequent famous London haunts as if they own the city.  Readers will enjoy the first Spellcrackers.com thriller as Suzanne McLeod brings life to her supernatural cast as much as her superb plot.

 

Harriet Klausner

A Virgin River Christmas-Robyn Carr

September 28, 2008

A Virgin River Christmas

Robyn Carr

Mira, Nov 2008, $6.99

ISBN: 0778325733

 

Four years ago in the battle of Fallujah, US Marine Ian Buchanan risked his life to save his brother in arms Bobby Sullivan.  Three years after that heroism, never having recovered from his wounds twenty-six years old Bobby died.  His widow Marcie grieved her loss even before he passed away as she knew he would never recover.

 

Over the years Marcie sent letters to Ian thanking him, but all returned unopened; he simply vanished.  Obstinate and resolute, Marcie decides to find Ian to personally thank him.  She traces him to Virgin River; Ian is unhappy to see her as he lives the life of a hermit selling firewood.  He needs to forget Iraq, especially Fallujah and Bobby.  Marcie feels a deep need to save his soul; in her mind he is not living.  As they fall in love, she needs to persuade him to let go of the past so they can share a future.

 

The return to the small isolated Redwoods town of Virgin River is a triumph as the lead couple is as complex a pair of characters as one is apt to read.  Especially intricate is the former marine who suffers from a deep post traumatic stress disorder from what he did and saw in Fallujah.  With some jocularity to lighten the tense tale, readers will relish the spending Christmas with a Virgin River romance.

 

Harriet Klausner

A Country Called Home-Kim Barnes

September 26, 2008

A Country Called Home

Kim Barnes

Knopf, Oct 3 2008, $23.95

ISBN: 9780307268952

 

In Connecticut scholarship medical student Thomas Deracotte met, dated, and married wealthy Helen over the objections of her upper crust parents; her father being third generation Yale especially detested this scholarship student.  Soon after they exchange I do, the couple in 1960 moves to a farm in Fife, Idaho where he is to open up a medical practice; the current local health care comes from a pharmacist.

 

Shockingly, Thomas delays starting his practice as he would rather work the land; Helen quickly misses her family and her New England upper class lifestyle as farm living is not the place for her.  She becomes pregnant while Thomas hires teen Manny to work on the farm.  Helen gives birth to Elise, but she soon wants freedom from her intolerant spouse and is lonely from the hours of nothing but motherhood; while her husband turns to drugs to alleviate his feelings of failure as a physician, as a farmer, as a husband, and as a father.  She considers Manny for a fling and he is falling in love with her.  However after a tragedy changes the family dynamics, Manny is more a dad to Elise while her biological father is deeper into drugs.

 

This is a dark family drama that looks closely at the 1960s and 1970s when youthful idealism turned to cynicism and disappointment; yet with Elise there is guarded hope for the future.  None of the four lead characters escape the bleakness, which in some ways becomes overbearing when one traumatic event is followed by another and another until suddenly Elsie is a teenager.  Still in spite of the overwhelming sense of negativity, Kim Barnes provides a poignant look at idealism without pragmatism.

 

Harriet Klausner

Diamond Duo-Marcia Gruver

September 26, 2008

Diamond Duo

Marcia Gruver

Barbour, Oct 2008, $10.97

ISBN: 9781602602052

 

In 1877 in Jefferson, Texas, Bertha Biddie loves Thaddeus Bloom, but he shows no return of her deep affection beyond friendliness. Desperate to win her man, she asks newly-arrived Annie Stone, who Dr. Turner calls Bessie and allegedly knows her way around men, for help.  Bertha idolizes the confident Annie

 

Thaddeus actually hides how he feels about Bertha whom he loves.  However, his father demands he attend the recently opened Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College, a military school, which he will though his younger brother is the bookworm.  He desperately wants to ask Bertha to wait for him, but he never finds a way to do so before he leaves. He is unaware he broke her heart.  However Annie’s murder shakes up the townsfolk and leaves Bertha to know she is on her own to gain Thaddeus’s heart.

 

The first Texas Fortunes historical romance is a terific late Reconstruction era tale that brings to life a port city.  The murder of Annie also known as Diamond Bessie Monroe is a real event that anchors the well written story line; as Marcia Gruver easily blends fact and fiction.  With a strong cast especially the lead couple who each has self esteem issues, fans of Reconstruction Era romances will want to read the delightful DIAMOND DUO.

 

Harriet Klausner


A Partisan’s Daughter-Louis De Bernieres

September 25, 2008

A Partisan’s Daughter

Louis De Bernieres

Knopf, Oct 2008, $23.95

ISBN: 9780307268877

 

In the late 1970s in wintry London, fortyish salesman Chris detests his life; he loathes his job and hates his marriage; though widower status gives him some hope to get past the despair of being with the “Great White Loaf” late wife.  Discontented with his lot he keeps asking himself is that all there is?

 

When he spots Yugoslavian expatriate Roza walking, he assumes she is a hooker.  He bungles his efforts to hire her services.  She corrects his misconception and they begin to talk.  He drives her home and she invites him in her flat for coffee.  A friendship forms that he believes is the underpinning of a romance and she assumes is platonic.  She explains she came from her homeland seeking a break but so far has found only hardship that has her considering a return to her homeland where her father is a die hard Tito backer.

 

This is an extremely complex relationship drama. The dark gloominess of both protagonists makes this a difficult novel to read as the focus is actually on opportunity costs, especially those not chosen.  Roza is the more interesting star as her tale is sensationally erotic over the top and at times ugly, but also feels hyperbolic symbolizing the plight of minorities everywhere (especially Iron Curtain Europe during the Brezhnev Era).  Chris is the more realistic characterization of the western middle aged normal who wonders why life is depressing so finds excitement in his companion’s tales.  Not for everyone, as at times overly dramatic and extremely reflective including the action scenes, A PARTISAN’S DAUGHTER is a deep look at the late 1970s.

 

Harriet Klausner