Monday, August 18, 2014

Islands Of Rage And Hope-John Ringo

Islands Of Rage And Hope
John Ringo
Baen, Aug 12 2014, $25.00
ISBN: 9781476736624

US Navy Atlantic Commander Steven John Smith leads his Wolf Squadron fleet to Guantanamo where the mission is to clean the area of the infected so that a safe lab can begin vaccine production with a long term vision of taking back North America from the insane diseased.  The squadron mounts a successful beach deployment that includes rescuing civilian survivors.

Commander Smith’s teenage commissioned officer daughters (Sophia Lynn and Faith Marie) lead a rescue mission of others trapped on Caribbean islands especially seeking research scientists and medical practitioners, but with the Marine mantra of no one left behind.  The Squadron also sends a team to free royal Harry from the Tower of London.

The third Black Tide Rising apocalypse thriller (see Under a Graveyard Sky) is filled with plenty of island hopping action; engaging and at times satirical survivor rescues; profound mental health issues as the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders seems obsolete; and an overabundance of strategic planning.  Although there is a déjà vu similarity with book two (see To Sail A Darkling Sea), this is an entertaining zombie war entry.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Secrets of the Greaser Hotel-J. Scott Fuqua

The Secrets of the Greaser Hotel
J. Scott Fuqua
Bancroft Press, Aug 15 2014, $25.00
ISBN: 9781610881302

At one time Baltimore’s Greaser Hotel was considered one of the most luxurious places for a city visitor to stay.  Now surrounded by downtown urban blight, the Greaser Hotel is a rundown dump with few occupants; though those residing there recognize this is a special place where magic thrives and the secrets kept sacred.

When Allie “the Rat” Argos was six, her parents went to prison for twenty years after a failed kidnapping of a Gristle.  Greaser Hotel caretaker Mrs. Friendly became her foster parent bringing the child to the Greasy Blight where for the next nine years she slaved alongside other inmates (former homemaking diva Midge Darlington, elderly ex billionaire Arnold Armstrong, and tweener Rena Duchamp).  Jerome the cat worries about naive Allie after she suffers an apparent concussion, and no supper.   Marvin Greaser III and Herman Gristle come to stay at the hotel.  Gristle inspects the teenage Rat to insure she poses no threat to him in the near future; but his arrival opens up the past to her.

The Secrets of the Greaser Hotel is a gripping modern day gothic fantasy enhanced by powerful B&W illustrations.  The good vs. bad contemporary Dickensian satirical storyline looks deeply at the negative impact of the under-regulated free market on the exploited with no protection; as young adult readers (and us seniors) want the heroine and her friends to kick the ugly butts of the mean crew.  No one sees Baltimore quite the same way as J. Scott Fuqua does (see Calvert the Raven in the Battle of Baltimore).

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Wandering Dragon-Irene Radford

The Wandering Dragon
Irene Radford
Daw, Aug 5 2014, $17.00
ISBN: 9780756409142

Coronnan begins the slow healing from the magically-generated super storm that devastated much of the kingdom.  Among those who sacrificed their lives in the quest to end the raging mage Samlan’s magically created tsunami are mates Brevelan the witchwoman and Jaylor the Chancellor of the University of Magicians (see The Broken Dragon).  Their four children have different destinies.  Lila continues her efforts to help people survive and recover from the cataclysm while her beloved Skeller the bard returns home to Amazonia as King Lokeen’s heir.  Her twin sister Val continues to help healed Lady Ariiell who rejects Lokeen’s proposal.  Their half-brother Glenndon’s father King Darville recognizes him as Coronnan’s heir.  Finally their brother Lukan agrees to accompany Skeller on his trek home in order to find his missing mage mentor Master Robb. 

None of the siblings are aware of the diabolical plotting of a beautiful witch who just escaped from a fifteen year incarceration.  She plans to forge a coven loyal to her that includes Lukan and a scheme to become mad Lokeen’s royal bride.  Neither Skeller nor Lukan realize that the Krakatriv monsters who recently destroyed much of Coronnan during the storm run rampart in Amazonia, a land filled with chronic fear.

The third Children of the Dragon Nimbus (see The Silent Dragon) completes the latest trilogy with the prime focus on Lukan and Skeller.  Though there is a déjà vu feel to the entertaining storyline, the bard-prince, the new master mage, the insane ruler and the beguiling evil witch make for an exciting quest fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Broken Souls-Stephen Blackmoore

Broken Souls
Stephen Blackmoore
Daw, Aug 5 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756409425

Necromancer Eric Carter fled Los Angeles years ago vowing to never return to the “Mad City” where too many wanted him dead.  His pledge ended with the tortured shredding death of his sister Lucy in her home; that he interpreted correctly as a personalized message to him from a psychopathic essence (see Dead Things).

Things only have gotten worse with the death of his buddy Alex and the grinning grim reminders of his “wife” Death, Santa Muerte; whom Eric foolishly agreed to wed in exchange for paranormal power.  He can’t do anything for Alex, but Eric decides he needs to annul his vow before Death claims him.  Desperate, he turns to a mage for help; unaware what lurks beneath the skin of his advisor.  Eric also finds brutal assistance from Bruja and an essence that seems to be Alex yet can’t be his best friend; meanwhile a predator who “steals” bodies targets the necromancer and his allies.

The latest Eric Carter urban fantasy noir is a superb paranormal thriller that grips readers throughout.  The beleaguered protagonist finds his quest change from voiding his deal with “Lady Death” (not the Chaos comic book heroine) to uncovering a deadly maniac stalking him.  Bruja adds depth with kick butt pulling no punches verbal shots that rip Eric’s skin.  Readers will enjoy the adventures of the necromancer as he walks the dangerous streets of the City of the Lost.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Trial by Fire-Charles E. Gannon

Trial by Fire
Charles E. Gannon
Baen, Aug 5 2014, $15.00
ISBN 9781476736648

Diplomat Caine Riordan comes home to a devastated world at war.  He was part of the negotiating team with the Accord, but during the talks the aliens, abetted by seditious corporations, attacked the earth’s fleet leaving it crippled and the planet undefended from a potential genocide level assault. 

As Caine tries to end the violence, he finds supporting evidence that this probably is not the first contact with another species from space.  He considers what the aliens want and why as he forms a hypothesis based on the original encounter seemingly forgotten by Terran but not by the Accord.  Thus he concludes that first time was catastrophic for the enemy whose objective is to bring war to the Terran terrorists on their planet before this feral race brings it to theirs.

The second Tales of the Terran Republic (see Fire with Fire) is a super futuristic science fiction in which the aliens deploy the Bush preemptive first strike doctrine as their defense of an all-out sneak attack.  The keys to this strong entry are the prime cast (Terran and alien) are fully developed so that the species seem genuine and the balanced blending of the military-industrial-political complex while Riordan and readers learn many of his species are diplomacy deniers even if war most likely means Terran extermination.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 8, 2014

Shadows-E.C. Blake

E.C. Blake
Daw, Aug 5 2014, $19.95
ISBN: 9780756407605

With her father being the Autarch Master Maskmaker in Aygrima, Mara Holdfast's future seemed predestined as his apprentice.  However, at her rite of passage ceremony, the mask her father made for her broke apart marking her as a traitor.  Stunned and despondent, Mara is banished from her upper class existence to a deadly short life at a mining camp.  Believing Mara is the key to their revolt, the Unmasked rebels rescue her (see Masks).

Still concealing her unique skill to see all the colors of magic as she always has, her new friends assign her to use her ability to abet their cause by making masks for them; but she fails as her creations crumble.  Mara knows she must sneak into the city to obtain guidance from her mentor father, but unsure she can trust him after her masking debacle.  Instead a boat arrives with a person demanding to meet the Unmasked Community chief.

The action-packed second Masks of Aygrima coming of age fantasy contains a strong storyline that continues to focus on the two-caste society, but with the additional effect that “Strangers from a Strange Land” (Robert A. Heinlein) have on the divided country.  As she fears her magical talent will destroy everyone without prejudice towards masked and unmasked in her path, Mara continues to learn that "… great power involves great responsibility" (FDR in a speech never given).

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Loyal Wolf-Linda O. Johnston

Loyal Wolf
Linda O. Johnston
Harlequin Nocturne, Aug 1 2014, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373009275

In Clifford County, Montana, Deputy Sheriff Kathlene Baylor becomes concerned when a large group of alleged hunters move onto nearby land.  She fears these fully armed men are anarchists, but her supervisor Sheriff Frawley warns her to let it go; insisting they are hunters.  Still, the outsiders frighten the locals and intimidate the council. 

Kathlene bypasses her boss and soon the military send in three members of Alpha Force (Lieutenant Jock Larabey, Sergeant Raif Nunez and K9 Click to investigate.  Attracted to Jock, Kathlene soon discovers his and Alpha Force’s top secret even as the evidence mounts that the strangers are anarchists with a nasty plan for the local community.

The key to the 5th Alpha Force werewolf romantic suspense (see Undercover Wolf, Guardian Wolf, Alpha Wolf and Alaskan Wolf) is the intimidation and threat by the armed strangers in spite of these outsiders coming across as underdeveloped stereotypes.  Subgenre fans will cheer on courageous Kathlene every time the kick butt heroine takes risks that frighten Jock as he fears for the woman who has hooked his inner wolf.

Harriet Klausner