Monday, April 20, 2015

When Grace Sings - Kim Vogel Sawyer

When Grace Sings
Kim Vogel Sawyer
WaterBrook Press, Mar 17 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9780307731333

Chicago-based Real Scoop editor Ken assigns reporter Briley Forrester to look behind the kind pious façade of the Amish-Mennonite communities featured in their rival Illinois Times.  Briley heads to Arborville, Kansas believing when he uncovers the dirt he will be rewarded by becoming a featured journalist at the tabloid rather than a minor player buried in the middle of the rag.  In Arborville, Briley stays at Alexa Zimmerman’s Grace Notes Bed and Breakfast.  He learns she is not Old Order Mennonite but lives their lifestyle as her adopted mom Suzanne (see When Mercy Rains) is.  Attracted to each other, the guest and the hostess share in common childhood abandonment issues.

Steven Brungardt and Anna-Grace Braun are engaged.  However, he recently inherited his late grandfather’s farm in Arborville.  Though he prefers to be a teacher, he considers working the land to please his parents and his fiancée.  However, having learned that her biological parents reside in Arborville, Anna-Grace has doubts about relocating there as she does not want to meet them.

The second Zimmerman Restoration family drama is an exhilarating entry due to a three-dimensional ensemble cast.  Although like its predecessor the pleasant storyline lacks closure, When Grace Sings is a well-written novel that leaves the audience wanting the final story released yesterday.

Harriet Klausner

Black Scorpion: The Tyrant Reborn - Jon Land

Black Scorpion: The Tyrant Reborn
Jon Land
Forge, Apr 7 2015, $25.99
ISBN 9780765337238

Five years ago, Seven Sins Resort and Casino owner Michael “the Tyrant” Tiranno saved Las Vegas from a terrorist attack (see The Seven Sins: The Tyrant Ascending).  Running the most financially successful establishment on the Strip, Michael prefers leaving his fighting to MMA bouts in the gym, but battles the State Gaming Control Board in Carson City over his expansion project investment debt. 

While on an archaeological dig in the Retezat Mountains in Romania’s Transylvania, archeologist Scarlett Swan uncovers an ancient Roman temple, but argues with the host country’s appointed project manager Henri Bernard over a special find that will interest her boyfriend Michael.  Soon after that run-in, the human trafficking cartel Black Scorpion and its leader Vladimir Dracu murder everyone at the site except Scarlett who contacts Michael from a bar in the nearby village of Buna Ziua.  Michael directs his legal counsel Naomi Burns to deal with the Gaming Control Board at a critical time which could impact his casino’s value; while he and his associate Alexander head to Romania. 

Filled with stunning viable twists and over the top of Mount Moldoveanu escapades, this sequel is a fantastic action-packed thriller that grips the audience early on with anticipation of a showdown between the Tyrant and the trafficker.  Loaded with excitement, Jon Land shows his writing skills as the unstoppable antagonist collides with the immovable protagonist.

Harriet Klausner

Tracker - C.J. Cherryh

C.J. Cherryh
DAW, Apr 7 2015, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756409098

Human diplomat Bren Cameron knows he needs some R&R after a hectic extended journey with the atevi aiji-dowager and others; so plans time on his estate in Najida where he is the Lord.  However, they return home to find chaos greets them with leadership upheavals and changing alliances impacting vast sectors of atevi society including the critical Assassins Guild. 

Thus as the Lord of Heaven in the atevi court, diligent diplomat Bren sets aside his personal needs to work on the various issues that sprung up while he was away including the Guild effect,  two leaderless domains and a space station conflict ready to implode.  As the Guild begins to resolve its problems an alien space ship heads towards the space station.

The start of the sixth Foreigner trilogy is an excellent science fiction as C.J. Cherryh successfully alters her universe somewhat by brilliantly realigning the power structure.  Society-driven, this is a terrific outer space tale; as Bren’s timely efforts to achieve a peaceful diplomatic resolution rather than war (as some demand) with the new kids on the block.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Sparrow In Terezin - Kristy Cambron

A Sparrow In Terezin
Kristy Cambron
Thomas Nelson, Apr 7 2015, $15.99
ISBN: 9781401690618

In present day Sausalito, California Sera James feels blessed as she has just opened her art gallery and married William Hanover.  Just after they exchange their vows, Carter arrives to arrest William for illegal business dealings that he insists he never did.  While he faces ten years, his wife faces denunciations that threaten her family.  Thus she travels to Europe to learn what her husband hid from her.

In 1939, Kája Makovsky feels fortunate to escape Nazi occupied Prague, but fears the worst for her family; especially since some are Jewish.  Three years later in England, Kája, working as a Daily Telegraph journalist, learns of Hitler’s Final Solution mass executions of Jews.  Though frightened, with help from her boyfriend Kája returns to Czechoslovakia trying to get her family to England.  Instead she ends up incarcerated in the Terezin Concentration Camp near Warsaw where Kája and others become teachers, mentors and bearers of hope to children like Sophie.

The second Hidden Masterpiece (see The Butterfly and the Violin) is a thrilling inspirational based on the premise of Dr. Viktor Frankl’s “Man's Search for Meaning”; a person has a better chance for obtaining a wonderful life if they believe it will occur even while trapped in hell.  Character-driven in both eras the captivating subplots hook the audience throughout as we root for the sparrow to soar free of the evil men do unto to others.

Harriet Klausner

By Tooth and Claw: Clan of the Claw Book Two - S.M Stirling, Eric Flint, Jody Lynn Nye, Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin

By Tooth and Claw: Clan of the Claw Book Two
S.M Stirling, Eric Flint, Jody Lynn Nye, Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin
Baen, Apr 7 2015, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476780405

“Bury My Heart” by Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin.  The flood left the Clan of the Long Fang surviving Mrem destitute as they flee without Dancers from the still rising waters and the vicious Lishkash.

“A Clan’s Foundation” by S.M Stirling.  Klar leads the desperate ragged band to needed water while fearing Ashala’s Lishkash troops will slaughter most of them and enslave those left alive.

“Sanctuary” by Eric Flint.  Sebetwe takes charge of dispatching Knest’s soul and leading his followers up the mountain while concealing from his superstitious Lishkash followers his disdain for those who worship the Goddess Huwute.  After Zilikazi’s army slaughtered most of their Dancers causing the Mrem tribe to flee in disarray terror, Achia Pazik and a few others find themselves separated from the main pack with no hope of surviving.

“Feeding a Fever” by Jody Lynn Nye.  In an oasis, Petru begs Lailah Clan lead Dancer Cassa to eat, but she says she cannot as she believes she soon will join Assirra in heaven before they reach haven.  Water remains a problem for the clan especially after what they recently found proved lethal.

Based on the premise the asteroid that ended the dinosaur era did not occur, the second Clan of the Claw alternative history (see Exiled) contains four pleasurable survival novellas.  All are well written as the Mrem feline mammals and the Lishkash humanoid dinosaurs are intelligent enemies fighting for domination in the Bronze Age.  My personal favorite is the heroic sacrifices of brave warriors in “Bury My Heart”.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Broken Life - Jan Christensen

A Broken Life
Jan Christensen
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Oct 24 2014, $14.99
ISBN: 9781502974624

In Taylor, Rhode Island private investigator Paula Michael heads to her office when she realizes a nearby homeless woman is her high school classmate Martha Hendricks.  Paula persuades a reluctant Martha to have coffee and pastry, and to tell her what happened to her.  Downtrodden Martha explains she worked for five years as an office manager at a medical practice when her boss Dr. Treverson learned from a routine background check she spent three days in jail for drug use.  Martha insists she never spent one day behind bars, but someone gave her identity as theirs to the police.  No one believes her innocence and soon Martha found her life broken.

Paula takes Martha to meet lawyer Geri Smithfield who after hearing the story agrees to take on a pro bono case.  The sleuth also takes Martha into her home while she investigates.  The PI obtains info from Dr. Treverson, but upon leaving she spots an amateur in a car obviously tailing her.  Not long after she began her inquiry, someone kills Treverson, threatens Paula and an attempt to silence her fails; however an assault on Martha leaves her unconscious.

While Tina Shaw takes a breather after being Buried Under Clutter, the second Paula Mitchell, P.I. case (see Perfect Victim) is a timely, tense and twisting cozy.  The impact of the identity theft feels incredibly genuine due to key factors: Treverson waited too long to explain why he really fired her (instead of his downsizing excuse); and by the time she knows the truth impoverished Martha had driven away all her friends (her parents were dead) and lacked transportation to get legal aid in Providence. 

Harriet Klausner

The Red Notebook - Antoine Laurain

The Red Notebook
Antoine Laurain; Jane Aitken (translator)
Gallic Books, Apr 7 2015, $14.95
ISBN: 9781908313867

In Paris, Laurent Letellier walks towards his Le Cahier Rouge bookstore when he notices a handbag on top of a bin.  Believing the owner was probably a mugging victim, Laurent takes the bag with him; but his efforts to give it to the police are met with polite sarcasm.  At his shop, he empties it seeking the identity of the owner so he could return it to her; especially when he finds personal items like a red journal.  However, nothing he finds tells him who she is.

Laurent remains steadfast to his resolution but unable to decide what next.  His daughter encourages him not to give up his mission when chance intervenes.  Eventually learning that Laure Valadier owns the bag, the red book and other sundry; Laurent wants to meet her as he feels he knows her.  However he also feels his obsession already led him to overstep decency; unaware that recently released from the hospital Laure wants to meet the person who rescued her red notebook. 

This is a warm whimsical romantic cozy in which the location and the support cast bring plausibility to Laurent’s quest that will remind the audience of the movie Serendipity.  Readers will root for fate to intervene by bringing Laure and Laurent together so they can collaborate on a new red and blue notebook.

Harriet Klausner