Thursday, March 19, 2009

The latest from Harriet

Here are a few more reviews from Harriet Klausner. Harriet is rated the number one reviewer by and several other book sites. I’m honored that Harriet shares her work with me. She reads from every genre and reads at least two books a day.

I want to thank everyone for reading and I’ll be adding updates as often as I can. If you see something you like, there’s a “comment” link at the bottom and I look forward to reading them.

Tuck, Stephen Lawhead, Thomas Nelson, Feb 2009, $26.99, ISBN: 9781595540874

In the late eleventh century they fled to the forests of the March from the invaders who routed Rhi Bran y Hud and his loyal Grellen fighters from their home Elfael; William the Conqueror gave their land to Abbot Hugo. Although the forest outlaws have become a powerful force due to their skill with the longbow inside the dense forest, they know they are losing the war outside the March. Hugo accompanied by traitorous Guy of Gysburne and their ferocious Ffreinc barbarians assault Bran’s subjects with a brutality never seen before as women and children are expendable to this ruthless horde.

Robin and the Grellen feel helpless while their loved ones are being butchered. They know they must confront a much more powerful enemy not as outlaws hiding behind trees in the forest, but as a freedom fighting force. Bran has strong allies like Will Scarlet the forester, Angharad the seer, Merian the warrior and especially the diabolical Friar Tuck. Leaving Will and the seer behind with the Grellen inside the March to continue the guerilla tactics, Bran and Tuck leave the forest to rally the collapsing Ffreinc forces under the rallying cry of the return of the heir. At the same time Lady Merian learns her father is dead and her brother is a puppet married to the enemy. Their efforts look even more hopeless than when they started the end game.

The final tale of the King Raven trilogy (see SCARLET and HOOD) is a terrific finish to a great retelling of the Robin Hood legend. The story line is fast-paced keeping the sense of desperate franticness that the heroes face while their people are being butchered. Fans of the saga will relish Stephen R. Lawhead’s excellent rendition but should first read the previous books to obtain a better understanding of what inspires Bran and his loyal teammates to keep on going though they are dispirited and confronting overwhelming odds to become living legends instead of dead outlaws; as even the myths are written by the victors.

Many Bloody Returns, Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner (Editors), Ace, Feb 2009, $15.00, ISBN: 9780441016754

These thirteen new vampire tales focus on the theme of birthdays (and many happy returns). Although the theme is incredibly narrow and restrictive, the contributors provide fresh interesting tales with no losers and star some of the more famous series characters; this the collection serves as a great introduction (albeit limited) to heroes of the supernatural. The most innovative entry is "Twilight" by Kelley Armstrong in which she insists a vampire's birthday is the day they convert as that is a rebirthing. The rest of the stories make for a fun compilation; as the lively authors include superstars of the undead realm such as Jim Butcher (with Harry), P.N. Elrod (with Fleming), and Charlaine Harris (with Sookie), etc. Still singing happy birthday thirteen times even too many series favorites can become a bit long in the tooth and difficult to blow out the zillion candles for some of the recipients; this reviewer suggests leisurely enjoying the anthology over a few weeks.

1942, Robert Conroy, Ballantine, Feb 24 2009, $15.00, ISBN: 9780345506078

The success of December 7th, 1941 emboldened by its total success of wiping out Pearl Harbor to include the storage fuel, Admiral Yamamoto sees an opportunity to win the war in the Pacific faster than the German blitzkrieg of France. He sends his Imperial forces on a mission to invade conquer and occupy the Hawaiian Islands while the Americans are reeling. His army succeeds.

An ailing President Roosevelt tries to keep the morale up, but fears he is failing. The U.S. Army sneak onto the islands intelligence officer Captain Jake Novacek to keep code breaker Commander Joe Rochefort safe; as the latter is a major key in kicking the Japanese off of Hawaii and the rest of the Pacific islands now occupied. Jake is forced to put on hold his camaraderie with and attraction to Widow Alexa Sanderson, whose husband died in the first wave. Using torture, rape and murder along with frightened Quislings to keep the locals in line, Japanese Secret Police chief Colonel Shigenori Omori also makes Alexa his mistress while Roosevelt and the Pentagon plan a counterattack and Jake conducts guerilla operations on the islands.

Once again as he did with 1945, 1901 and 1862, Robert Conroy provides an alternate history focusing on a critical year based on a modification of a pivot point; this time Pearl Harbor and a spin to the aftermath in 1942. The story line is at its most exciting when the action especially Jake’s guerilla activity is the concentration. Intriguingly the more fascinating segments deal with military strategy, but those sections can be dry. 1942 is the latest well written retelling of the War in the Pacific.

The Better To Hold You, Alisa Sheckley, Del Rey, Feb 24 2009, $6.99, ISBN: 9780345505873

In Manhattan, veterinarian Abra Barrow has always been more comfortable with animals than with people as she understands the former better than the latter. Her relationship with her spouse Hunter is based on her acquiescing to his requests and to not make waves though she adores him.

When Hunter comes back from a field research study in Romania to look at the local wolf population, he behaves radically different than before he left. He cannot sit still in their apartment and he and her boss Malachy ramble about werewolves or some wacko similar theory. Hunter persuades Abra to move to rural Northside. There his suddenly barbaric attitude flourishes especially in the bedroom, but not always just with her as there is Magda. Abra considers leaving the man she loves as increasingly he acts more like a wild animal while she behaves even wilder with Red.

This is an intriguing tale with a paranormal spin, a bit of a mystery, plenty of romance and a fascinating all in the family twist. The key characters are fully developed especially the beleaguered heroine. Although the story line takes a bit long to set the cast and locale, fans will relish Alisa Sheckley's fine thriller.

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