Friday, November 30, 2007

The Darkness-L.A. Banks

The Darkness
L.A. Banks
Griffin (St. Martin’s), Feb 2008, $14.95, 400 pp.
ISBN 9780312368746

Armageddon has begun; two seals have been broken; people are living the end of days and forty thousand demons were destroyed at the Battle of Masada. Neterus Damali and Carlos Rivera thought they destroyed Lilith’s progeny but they were very much mistaken. The future anti-Christ clearly hid himself from the Neterus and the Guardians and is now in a chrysalis state waiting to Become. Lucifer is overjoyed and he allows Lilith to give the daywalker bite to the members of the Vampire Council including Fallon Nuit, Sebastian and Yonni (Carlos’s spy).

Lucifer wants to cause confusion and turmoil that will fracture the Guardians & Neterus unity so he attacks Father Pat, a man dear to Carlos. When he tries to save the priest, some of the Dark’s poison enters Carlos and make it easier for Hell to track him. After a bloody battle in New York City, Carlos is badly injured and Damali takes him to the plane where the former Neterus live near to Heaven. If Carlos recovers, he and Damali plan to find and kill what will become the anti-Christ and stop the Armageddon attack from happening.

THE DARKNESS, the latest vampire huntress legend novel, picks up where the last book in the series left off. Combining elements of apocalyptic and supernatural horror, urban fantasy and romance, this work is refreshingly original, enthralling and totally intense. As the series progresses the characters change and grow not always as expected. As Damali and Carlos mature, they are more in love than ever. L.A. Banks has written one of the best vampire sagas of the new millennium.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Being With Him-Jessica Inclan

Being With Him
Jessica Inclan
Zebra, Feb 2008, $13.00
ISBN 9781420101126

Garrick McClellan is at an art exhibit alone in the crowd because he can never let down his guard and reveal who he is and what he can do. He can read the minds of everyone around him and travel back in time. He sees a painting by Mila Adams and it stirs a memory in him. By coincidence his aunt and her mother set them up on a blind date.

Mila also feels alone as she too can read minds and move forward in time. She has memories of her as young child in a black shape escaping from somewhere with her brother, other children and adults. When Garrick and Mila meet they recognize that they are one half of a whole. They start asking questions who and what they are but their inquiry puts them in danger from a force not of this world.

Jessica Inclan has written a memorable and evocative tale of two people who are so much more together than they are apart. Readers will like both protagonists because they are open about their feelings and their need to find others since Garrick knows he was adopted and Mila learns she was too shortly after she meets him. Some books are so memorable and unique that one can’t forget them; BEING WITH HIM is one of them.

Harriet Klausner

Night Season-Eileen Wilks

Night Season
Eileen Wilks
Berkley, Jan 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425220153

Three gnomes enter the earth through a magical portal from the Edge. The FBI's Magical Crimes Unit is worried about the newcomers and is proven correct when the paranormal aliens abduct several humans and take them back through the gate to their realm. Their prime goal is Finder Cynna Weaver who they demand locate a missing crucial magical medallion.

Lupine Sorcerer Cullen Seabourne and his beloved FBI Agent Cynna Weaver are celebrating the birth of their baby, but find their gala abruptly ended when they along with FBI Unit 12 Chief Ruben Brooks and former demon Gan are yanked through the gnome gate. They know that the only way home is to locate a missing crucial magical medallion that the gnomes badly crave and will kill to possess.

Fans of the series will recognize the return of the C couple; this time as the prime stars after secondary roles supporting the Lily saga in the Wilks wonderful fantasy universe (see BLOOD LINES). The story line is fast-paced and filled with action and plenty of twists that the audience is coming to expect from Elaine Wilks. However, more critical is the cast especially Cullen and Cynna who prove more than capable of holding the story line together as they “rule” the NIGHT SEASON.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Eleanor vs. Ike-Robin Gerber

Eleanor vs. Ike
Robin Gerber
Avon, Jan 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061373213

In 1952, the Democratic Party knows it is in trouble with little hope for a surprise victory at the presidential level. Truman is unpopular and his war does not help matters. Even worse the republicans are running war hero “I like Ike”, who vows to get the troops out of Korea if elected, as expected.

Thing turns bleaker for the in party when their candidate suddenly dies. Desperate they turn to the popular widow of their most popular twentieth century president, Eleanor as her first name is as recognizable as Ike is. Two icons to battle for the White House with Eleanor pledging to run an issues only positive campaign although she takes shots at McCarthyism as practiced by Ike’s running mate Nixon and wants an end to the divisiveness and destructiveness of racism, which means she will be the first Democrat in ages to lose the Solid South and no Democrat has won the election without this support.

Robin Gerber has written several biographies on Eleanor Roosevelt, which she uses frequently in this entertaining alternate historical political thriller. The story line is fun to follow especially when the audience willingly traipses across the country with the former First Lady. A plot to assassinate her adds suspense, but is nothing else as the fun in this tale is the race between the two legends.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bond of Fire-Diane Whiteside

Bond of Fire
Diane Whiteside
Berkley, Jan 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425217382

During the French Revolution, Jean-Marie St. Just met Helene d'Agelet in Paris. They fell in love, but were fated to separate as he was turning into a vampire and she was a mortal. However, he remained unaware that after he left her she was changed over too. Over the next two centuries fate seemed to intervene keeping them apart.

In the present, Helene is stunned to see a photo of her beloved Jean-Marie that indicates he is alive. She searches for him so that they can finally share eternity together. However, they still have issues between them as Jean-Marie has been assigned the task of killing the wicked vampire Queen of New Orleans Hélène's sister, Madame Celeste.

Although much of the story occurs before the first tale (see BOND OF BLOOD) the second of Diane Whiteside modern vampire trilogy is an exciting horror thriller. Readers obtain a bit of the history that led to the vampire kingdoms that carve up much of modern day America. Interestingly the lead couple spends much of the two hundred plus years (and most of the book) separated to the chagrin of romantic fantasy purists; yet the look through time strengthens the final showdown making BOND OF FIRE an entertaining read.

Harriet Klausner

The Accidental Vampire-Lynsay Sands

The Accidental Vampire
Lynsay Sands
Avon, Jan 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061229688

New to the world of the night, THE ACCIDENTAL VAMPIRE Elvi Black struggles to adjust. She mourns her inability to get a tan, eat food especially pizza, and sleep in a bed as coffins are not particularly conducive to anything but the sleep of the dead. Her friends are worried about her adjustment so though she tried to hide her change, they know and try to hook her up with a male vampire though where to find one seems difficult as the matchmaking services don’t mention anyone with a bite. Her neighbors place a personal ad seeking a vampiric hunk as a companion to a female nightcrawler.

Taken aback with the ad that they assume is an inane joke by a mortal, the Vampire Council sends agent Victor Argeneau to investigate and if necessary kill the individual. When he meets Elvi he knows he found his soulmate and much more as shockingly she has a town filled with humans willing to die to keep her safe even as someone else who read the ad wants to teach her one particular aspect of being a vamp, a stake through the heart.

This a terrific amusing supernatural romantic suspense due to the desperate antics of the beleaguered heroine who feels like a newborn without adult supervision trying to hide what she has become. Victor is a strong courageous individual who besides mentoring the rookie risks his soul to keep his forever mate safe. The support cast enhances the overall tale especially the townsfolk who add a unique twist and the slayer. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Lynsay Sand’s enjoyable tale and seek her previous winning vampire romances (see VAMPIRES ARE FOREVER and BITE ME IF YOU CAN).

Harriet Klausner

The Mage’s Daughter-Lynn Kurland

The Mage’s Daughter
Lynn Kurland
Berkley, Jan 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425219164

The archmage of the Kingdom of Neroche, Miach, knows he thought he did right when he hid his identity from Morgan (see STAR OF THE MORNING). Now he regrets his choice as he has learned the hard way that without her the Black Mage would have won. Loathing anything pertaining to magic, Morgan flees from him and the war to heal at the non magical Gobhann Castle.

Lothar continues his assault on the kingdom while Miach must decide how to prevent his imminent victory. His only hope rests with the woman he loves but betrayed. Somehow he must earn Morgan's trust as he knows he has her love, but that is not enough any longer as she feels he used her to get at her magic. Without her help Neroche will die, but the cost may be his heart.

This is a terrific romantic fantasy in which a desperate Miach tries to woo the woman he loves to help him stop the enemy. The story line is fast-paced yet the lead duo seems real as the beleaguered hero struggles to open his heart and soul to a distrusting Morgan who knows ten things she hates about him yet in spite of that loves him. Lynn Kurland provides a fabulous second tale that sets the stage for an incredible finish.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 26, 2007

ErRatic-N. D. Hansen-Hill

N. D. Hansen-Hill
Five Star, Feb 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146435

With all that is going on in Emma Rathburn’s life, it is a wonder she has remained radically unchanged. She is a medium psychic who sees ghosts and once in a while a horde of rats invade her home causing mass destruction and chaos for “Rat” to clean up afterward. One night a man appears on her front steps; a frightened Emma calls the police, but when she hangs up she realizes the man outside stalking her is a ghost.

Police officer Harley Chalmers answers the call and hears but does not see a dog in her house. Emma knows it is her beloved pet that dies a week ago. When he leaves her home, Harley sees a ghost he recognizes as Terrence Edward Forsby, who he arrested last year for murdering his son. A vicious killer in life, he tries to strangle Emma. Harley witnesses her struggles; he sees the marks on her throat. Emma and her ghostbuster friends along with Harley fight to keep her alive as the malevolent spirit keeps attacking her.

ErRatic is a fantastic horror thriller filled with an eccentric cast (what else would you expect from a psychic, ghostbusters, and a dog who finds the bones of dead people). Adding to the mix is Emma’s stepbrother, a cop who loves, loathes, and mostly fears her. Emma is a delightful lead character who holds the tale together as she accepts her extraordinary skills as being ordinary and normal. The graphic scenes are not for the squeamish as this is not pea soup being fired at open wounds. N.D. Hansen-Hill provides an entertaining powerful ghost story that will gain entry to fans’ keeper shelf.

Harriet Klausner

A Prince Among Dogs and Other Dog Stories of the Dogs We Love-Callie Smith Grant

A Prince Among Dogs and Other Dog Stories of the Dogs We Love
Callie Smith Grant
Revell, Sep 2007, $12.99
ISBN: 978-0800758677

This is a fabulous anthology containing twenty-eight real life escapades of loving canines starting with Dr. Prince being there for his adopted family including the cat when they were ill. The entries are fun to read for dog lovers though the quality of the writing varies; as some are over written and some boring, but each reminds the audience of their “significant other”. Intermingled throughout are “paw” quotes from celebs. For instance Anne Tyler provides the first one on how dogs view people: “… we comeback from a grocery store with the most amazing haul-chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we are the greatest hunters …”; my Chauncey, who flew with me like the dog in Snakes On a Plane does for sure as she has her knife and fork ready when we come home with food. Readers will think of their “Real Life Lassie”; mine was Max, a Toto with psychotic fears except if he thought I might be in danger; whereas my spouse might choose flight, unrequited loving Max chose fight. Then there is Charlie who arrives at the house when Pixie is dying; reminds me of when we took Deuce for his first vet visit the same Rusty went for his last. Readers will find their own personal Jack London Buck tale amidst this heartwarming collection as pets constantly show there “For the Love of Man” and woman and children. Clearly this compilation of true life canine-human relationships targets dog lovers; as M. Acklan puts it “… dogs give us everything. It’s the best deal we ever made”. Pooches make us better people whereas the latter is rarely true.

Harriet Klausner

The Senator’s Daughter-Christine Carroll

The Senator’s Daughter
Christine Carroll
Medallion, Jan 2008, $7.95
ISBN: 9781933836300

The daughter of the U.S. Senator from California, Sylvia Cabot Chatsworth is a tabloid’s delight especially for “On the Spot” reporter Julio Castillo, who makes her look like a spoiled man eating party girl. When he catches what becomes known as the “Kiss”, Julio says San Francisco ADA Lyle Thomas is her next chump. Sylvia’s steel magnolia mom tells her that her scandals hurt the family and she should vanish just like developer Tony Valetti recently disappeared.

Hurt, Sylvia drives towards Napa Valley, but gets into an accident. She walks to the nearby Lava Spring Inn where the owners Mary and Buck Kline assume she is a spousal abuse victim on the run.

Her father offers Lyle money to find his missing daughter as he and his wife believe the Kiss will motivate him. Needing the money and getting a leave of absence due to the Senator, Lyle agrees. Weeks go by with no hint as to where she is as Sylvia does not use her credit cards or call home. Meanwhile Lyle visits Tony’s vintner brother Andre and stays at the Lava Spring Inn where he encounters their cook Sylvia Cabot. As they fall in love, he uncovers a shady deal involving his boss, her father, the Valetti brothers, and the Mafia. He can handle all that as the risks are simple: his job and his life; he cannot handle what will happen when his beloved learns that her father hired him to find her.

This interesting romance with some late intrigue stars two wonderful lead characters whose Kiss will remind the audience of the Gores at the 2000 Democratic Party Convention. The suspense comes very late as Lyle’s inquires hit nerves. Since the audience knows that Sylvia is okay though her parents and Lyle do not, her vanishing is not suspenseful. Christine Carroll cleverly defuses the coincidence factor by stating so rather than pretending otherwise. Although the investigation is abruptly rushed, fans will appreciate this fine contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

The Wicked Ways of a Duke-Laura Lee Guhrke

The Wicked Ways of a Duke
Laura Lee Guhrke
Avon, Jan 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061143618

In 1894 London impoverished seamstress Prudence Bosworth dreams of Prince Charming sweeping her off her aching feet. She has no hope of her fantasy turning into reality until she inherits a fortune from a father she never knew existed. However, the will contains a stipulation; to obtain the money Prudence must be married or get nothing.

Having no prospects and though she would prefer to marry for love, Prudence believes that Duke Rhys De Winter is a kind person, who would treat her nice. However, she has only seen the Duke perform his one kindness of the century; instead he is a rogue who needs money so he willingly agrees to wed the naive heiress. They marry and everything is great until she learns the truth about her scoundrel spouse, who must persuade his wife that he loves her.

This is an engaging Victorian romance that sub-genre fans will enjoy due to the changing relationship between the lead couple. She loves and respects him while he likes and disrespects her; that changes when he falls in love while she detests him. Fans will appreciate this late nineteenth century Guys and Dolls romance.

Harriet Klausner

Confessions at Midnight-Jacquie D'Alessandro

Confessions at Midnight
Jacquie D'Alessandro
Avon, Jan 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061231391

When the Ladies Literary Society of London selects as its latest novel “Memoirs of a Mistress”, Viscountess Carolyn Turner thinks nothing of it until she reads the titillating content that heats her as much or more than her late spouse did although they worked the sheets. Carolyn considers an affair might cool her need.

Lord Daniel Sutton has loved Carolyn for years, but hid his feelings from her as she was married. With the proper time passing since her husband died, Daniel decides to seduce the widow into being his mistress as marriage is not for him. She accepts his offer believing she can control her emotions while satisfying her body. As they make love, they fall in love, but it takes a killer trying to murder Carolyn that makes him realize he wants her safe as his wife.

The return of the fun loving Ladies Literary Society (see SLEEPLESS AT MIDNIGHT) will have Regency romance fans up at night reading their latest escapades especially that of member Carolyn. The relationship between the lead couple is fun to follow even more than Memoirs of a Mistress. Although the late suspense awakens Daniel to what he could lose, this seems unnecessary as Jacquie D’Alessandro moves readers and club members from Frankenstein to erotica.

Harriet Klausner

A Seduction in Scarlet-Sara Bennett

A Seduction in Scarlet
Sara Bennett
Avon, Jan 2008, $5.99
ISBN: 9780061336348

Lady Portia Ellerslie is bored with living virtuously on a pedestal; however, much of the country admires the widow of "the country's hero" and besides she is a key advisor to Queen Victoria. Thus any scandal she embroils in could harm Her Royal Highness.

Ellerslie needs release so she wears a veil and visits the notorious Aphrodite’s Club. The brothel’s owner asks Lord Marcus Worthorne to pleasure her new client. Marcus agrees, but Ellerslie is stunned to have this rogue attend to her. When she was seventeen, she wanted him, but he ignored her. However, following their tryst he wants more; so does she, but she must consider her friend the Queen before her desires.

The latest Aphrodite’s Victorian romance (see MISTRESS IN SCANDAL and LESSONS IN SEDUCTIONS) is a delightful tale starring two likable protagonists falling in love, but first he must find out who his secret lover is. The story line is fast-paced as the couple cannot resist one another. Although a late spin involving a plot against the Queen is unnecessary but well written, sub-genre fans will appreciate Sara Bennett escorting readers back to the brothel that hopefully has many more nineteenth century romantic scandals to tell fans.

Harriet Klausner

Record of Wrongs-Andy Straka

Record of Wrongs
Andy Straka
Five Star, Feb 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146527

Former SUNY-Binghamton campus security guard Quentin Price spent almost a decade in a maximum security prison in Upstate New York for the rape and murder of student Gwen Crawford; their link being the library where she worked nights and he locked it up. Finally thanks to his persistent lawyer Christine Shackleford, DNA testing proved he did not commit the crime he was convicted of. The State of New York gives him forty dollars gate money and a bus ticket back to the county he was convicted in, Broome. While he was behind bars his mom died leaving him her bible that the Warden finally gives him as his mother’s stipulation was upon his release; she always believed in her son.

Waiting outside to give him a lift is a face he will never forget; Christine’s mother haunted his trial insuring his conviction. Apparently the incestuous Upstate New York prison system works as Ruth Crawford knows the head correctional officer who arranged their meeting. Ruth wants Quentin to find the real killer of her daughter, who brought sorrow and grief to both their families and so far got away with it. At the same time, New York State Deputy Attorney General Bollinger assigns NYPD homicide detective Garnell Harris to investigate the Crawford murder and some recent homicides that look similar. Harris and Quentin will meet on their respective inquiries.

Leaving Frank Pavlicek (see A WITNESS ABOVE) in Charlottesville, Virginia, Andy Straka provides a fast-paced stand alone crime thriller. The story line is fast-paced working along two COLD QUARRY investigations led by Price and Harris respectively ultimately converging. Although the ending seems too miraculous especially the salvation of an odious dark avenging angel, fans will enjoy this interesting whodunit although the sum of Price and Harris fails to equal the whole Pavlicek sleuthing.

Harriet Klausner

ErRatic-N. D. Hansen-Hill

N. D. Hansen-Hill
Five Star, Feb 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146435

With all that is going on in Emma Rathburn’s life, it is a wonder she has remained radically unchanged. She is a medium psychic who sees ghosts and once in a while a horde of rats invade her home causing mass destruction and chaos for “Rat” to clean up afterward. One night a man appears on her front steps; a frightened Emma calls the police, but when she hangs up she realizes the man outside stalking her is a ghost.

Police officer Harley Chalmers answers the call and hears but does not see a dog in her house. Emma knows it is her beloved pet that dies a week ago. When he leaves her home, Harley sees a ghost he recognizes as Terrence Edward Forsby, who he arrested last year for murdering his son. A vicious killer in life, he tries to strangle Emma. Harley witnesses her struggles; he sees the marks on her throat. Emma and her ghostbuster friends along with Harley fight to keep her alive as the malevolent spirit keeps attacking her.

ErRatic is a fantastic horror thriller filled with an eccentric cast (what else would you expect from a psychic, ghostbusters, and a dog who finds the bones of dead people). Adding to the mix is Emma’s stepbrother, a cop who loves, loathes, and mostly fears her. Emma is a delightful lead character who holds the tale together as she accepts her extraordinary skills as being ordinary and normal. The graphic scenes are not for the squeamish as this is not pea soup being fired at open wounds. N.D. Hansen-Hill provides an entertaining powerful ghost story that will gain entry to fans’ keeper shelf.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Resurrection: The Beginning-Patrice Michelle

Resurrection: The Beginning
Patrice Michelle
Silhouette Nocturne, Jan 2008, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617784

Humans believe that the vampire species became extinct when their food supply became contaminated; human blood had turned poisonous to the bloodsuckers. Thus Homo sapiens created and killed this “abomination” that no one misses.

That belief that vampires no longer exist except in literature and movies ends at least for debut author Ariel Swanson. Her vampire thriller The Vampire’s Return includes a forecasting that no human should know anything about; yet she writes about this legendary prophecy in graphic detail in her first novel as if she is an insider. Exiled vampire Jachin Black kidnaps the writer in order to use her as his ticket back out of the New York City slums and in to his group. He never expected to fall in love with his prisoner during their trek; she feels the same confusion that he does. Neither expected her fiction to be factual.

Patrice Michelle provides a wonderful vampire romantic suspense thriller. The fast-paced story line has an interesting twist that humans knew vampires once existed, but now believe they are extinct. Ariel’s novel turns out to be the impetus in what proves to be a cross species war. Fans will enjoy the RESURRECTION: THE BEGINNING as the night is filled with terror except in one home where love shines.

Harriet Klausner

Guardian's Keep-Lori Devoti

Guardian's Keep
Lori Devoti
Silhouette Nocturne, Jan 2008, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617791

Witch Kelly Shane returns to the scene of her abduction and that of her best friend. Kelly got back because her beloved twin sister Kara risked her life and heart to help her make it back UNBOUND from the portal the hellhound shapeshifting kidnapper took her through; her pal did not. She wants answers and believes the guardian shapeshifter Kol Hildr has them as she holds him culpable for what happened to them.

Kol feels guilty that he failed to do his mission, but was caught unaware. He is attracted to the tyro witch who keeps coming around demanding answers from him that he refuses to provide. However, Kelly knows that the portal leads to species enslavement and trafficking including the sale of humans and humanoids. She wants to know why he would allow this though she kicks herself for wanting this hunk. However, as he tells her to go home every evening, this night is different when an assault on the portal occurs that he thinks she inadvertently caused. Teaming up to keep those wanting in out, they fall in love, but the Council he works for has no use for Kelly or a disobedient guardian.

This exciting romantic fantasy sequel will hook the audience from the onset as Lori Devoti enthralls her devoted fans with a terrific thriller. The action never slows down once the portal is breeched whereas the relationship between the guardian and the witch is enchanting as both know it is wrong. Although this can be read as a solo, perusing UNBOUND first enhances this experience as the whole is greater than the sum of the wonderful twin parts.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 23, 2007

Renegade’s Magic-Robin Hobb

Renegade’s Magic
Robin Hobb
Eos, Feb 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780060757649

His lover, Lisana enabled Gernian soldier Nevare Burvelle to escape incarceration when she split his soul enabling him to become a Speck mage Soldier’s Boy. However as a nasty by-product, two personalities conflict over who controls the host body.

His Soldier’s Boy’s mage skills lead Nevare to try to destroy the Gernian road that has begun to devastate the Specks’ woodlands. His failed efforts leave him near death, but Speck female Olikea uses her healing skills to save his life as is her duty. As he recovers he finds his two sides in conflict as each has a demand. Nevare knows that he must prevent the Gernia from demolishing the Specks’ forest while at the same time he also must stop the Specks from distributing their deadly plague that has slaughtered the Gernians. He begins to believe that to succeed he must unite his warring split personalities.

The final Soldier Son tale (see FOREST MAGE and SHAMAN’S CROSSING) is an entertaining fantasy that looks deep at the issue of development vs. environment. The story line is fun to follow although the pace at times is turtle like especially when the complicated Hobbs magical structure is logically but boringly elucidated (only a fool would read this entry before the previous two books). Still this is a fine trilogy that showcases the importance of finding win-win solutions to complex social issues as the two sides seem to only employ lose-lose methods.

Harriet Klausner

Inside Straight-George R.R. Martin (Editor)

Inside Straight
George R.R. Martin (Editor)
Tor, Feb 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780765317810

Although his grandfather will never forgive him as he was part of the age of chivalry before JFK and Jetboy died; Jonathan Hive and twenty-seven extraordinary marvelous superheroes (that word is used loosely) sign onto a survivor reality TV show. In actuality, the chosen 28 have never been heroic, but each has a superhuman skill. These “aces” will initially belong to one of four “suits” while competing in staged contests as only LA-LA land could dream up with losers voted off the show until the greatest American Hero is left standing.

However, as the weeks go by those left standing are stunned by appalling sickening events in the Middle East. There inane games look pathetic when compared to those without superpowers risking their lives. Stunningly several including Jonathan whose grandfather is probably smiling, leave the set to become real American Heroes not just Hollywood Heroes even knowing they may die in their endeavor.

The latest round of the Wild Cards thrillers starts a new saga in which several authors (
Daniel Abraham, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Carrie Vaughan, Michael Cassutt, Caroline Spector, John Jos. Miller, George R. R. Martin, Ian Tregillis and S. L. Farrell) contribute. The well written tale reads smooth (a trademark of the previous entries) in spite of the numerous contributors while satirizing reality TV and world affairs. INSIDE STRAIGHT entertains the audience but also asks readers to ponder two key points. First who is a hero reminds us of Charles Barkley’s "I am not a role model. Parents should be the role models”; in this case soldiers are the heroes. Second that with great power comes greater responsibly beyond “Bring em on” bravado from a safe house or Hollywood set. This is an excellent exciting and thought provoking royal flush as the whole is greater than the individual sums.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sins of the Assassin-Robert Ferrigno

Sins of the Assassin
Robert Ferrigno
Scribner, Feb 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9781416537656

Following the nuclear suitcase bombs in 2015 that devastated Mecca, New York City and Washington D.C., Americans lost their fortitude; most assume Israel caused the pandemic destruction leading to many people converting to Islam in most of the states except the Deep South that remained fundamentalist Christian. The forty-eight states split into two nations, the Islamic Republic and the Bible Belt; both are led by fanatics.

By 2043, the two theocracies remain hostile towards each other. In that environs, Bible belt leader the rabid Colonel wants to gain control of a weapon of mass destruction that he will probably use to bring hell to the Islamic Republic. Assassin Rakkim Epps is to prevent him from obtaining the weapon using whatever means he must including killing the Colonel.

The second Assassin tale (see PRAYERS OF THE ASSASSIN) is an action-packed exciting adrenalin post apocalypse thriller as H. Raps Brown’s muse “violence is as American as cherry pie” is the theme of SINS OF THE ASSASSIN. Those fans who appreciate mano vs. mano exponential blood counts will enjoy Robert Ferrigno’s explosive futuristic saga. Those readers who prefer more exploration into two extreme theocracies whose loathing for one another make the Middle East look like a friendly book club choir will need to turn elsewhere.

Harriet Klausner

Winter’s Daughter-J.C. Wilder

Winter’s Daughter
J.C. Wilder
Samhain, 2007
ISBN: 9781601860392

Twenty years ago the tragedy that broke up the Angelov family occurred. The Salem, Ohio police chief McNutt coldly informed fourteen Synnamon Angelov that her mom Victoria was walking when she died in a hit and run car accident just up the road from their home. He also orders her to tell her three younger sisters even as he directs his officers to search for evidence starting with breaking down a locked door. Being underage, the four siblings were violently separated as Syn sees evil emanate from McNutt while she telepathically claims her three younger sisters reminding them what they must do.

Now Synnamon has returned home to Salem as their house has called her and she assumes her sisters. She plans to learn what happened to her mom, why McNutt took “evidence”, forcibly split the family apart, and to determine as she suspects whether he and his police force covered up the murder of her mother accused of witchcraft. The locals are unhappy to find an Angelov witch living amidst them in the house that fascinates many bit also terrorizes more; some threaten her life; others try to take her life. Only the present police chief Matthew Whitefeather is there for her, but Syn learned from McNutt not to trust cops.

The first Coven tale is an exciting paranormal thriller with whodunit and romantic elements to enhance the tense drama. Syn is a terrific protagonist as her return to Salem frightens much of the townsfolk especially since she looks just like her late mom did in her mid thirties; her amateur sleuth inquires add to the tension of those who fear her and those who are more frightened she will uncover the truth. Matt is heroic and as he falls in love with the oldest Angelov sister knowing she bewitched him with love. However, what makes this strong witchcraft novel so much fun is the townsfolk’s reaction to the return of the next generation witch.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dark Hollow-Brian Keene

Dark Hollow
Brian Keene
Leisure, Feb 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843958614

In LeHorn’s Hollow, novelist Adam Senft hears strange music that sounds like a piper playing the pipes coming from the nearby woods late at night. He follows the sound only to see his naked neighbor “dancing” with a statue that is moving. Adam is stunned although he knows the legends of the haunting as claimed by Native Americans. Although tempted to strip and join in the romp, Adam flees.

The libidos of the men are out of control as their sex drive suddenly supersedes all other needs including subsistence and shelter. They take what they obsessively desire until overnight the women vanish. Already reeling with what he saw and what is happening to the townsfolk; Adam wonders just what is the frolicking statue playing an instrument while his nude friend pranced in some sort of bondage and if that animated stone is behind the strange things happening to those living in LeHorn’s Hollow.

Readers will know early on just what is behind the terror gripping this small isolated town, but knowing does not take away from a strong horror thriller. The story line is fast-paced as the men go sexually berserk and the women vanish; all the work of a supernatural creature summoned from beyond. Although the ending is abrupt, Brian Keene continues to showcase the width of his talent (see DEAD SEA) as he provides an entertaining thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Somnambulist-Jonathan Barnes

The Somnambulist
Jonathan Barnes
Morrow, Feb 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780061375385

In Victorian England, conjurer Edward Moon turned to detecting to earn a living as his stage performances are not in demand. With his enigmatic weird associate the eight foot mute Somnambulist, Moon has solved some of London’s most infamous homicides. Although very successful and obtaining fame and more important clients, he still would prefer to perform his act in a theatre not at a crime scene and considers retiring from the sleuthing stage.

However, he and the Somnambulist are investigating the murders of two wealthy nonentities who made fortunes in business. Clues lead to a religious group that apparently wants to take over secular London by eradicating the affluent upper middle class whose crass worldly ways are an abomination to God and humanity.

THE SOMNAMBULIST is a strange nineteenth century thriller that will have the audience debating whether it is paranormal horror, mystery, or both. The story line is not linear as Jonathan Barnes refuses to allow his fans to just comfortably go along for the ride. The support cast starting with the hero’s assistant and running the gamut of eeriness add to the feel that more twists will follow especially the final one. Mr. Barnes proves to be a worth conjurer from his opening critique to the final stunner.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Debatable Space-Philip Palmer

Debatable Space
Philip Palmer
Orbit, Jan 2007, $12.99, 396 pp.
ISBN: 9780316018920

Lena is traveling solo in deep space glad to get away from the perfection of thirty-first century Earth when the computer implanted in her brain informs her that a pirate ship is heading her way. The leader of the pirates Flanagan wins the battle and boards her ship telling her she is a hostage to be used in negotiations with Cheo the dictator of Earth. He knows of the special relationship that exists between the two of them and intends to exploit that.

Lena knows that when it looks hopeless, the Cheo will let her get killed. Flanagan has plans and one includes the liberation of his homeworld Cambria a slave colony ruled by Doppelganger Robots who are inhabited by the minds of the elite on Earth. He has a plan that would allow the crew to disconnect Cambrina from the universal web. From there he convinces the pirates from all over the galaxy to help him disconnect the beacons which would result in isolating Earth and freeing the empire. The only problem is the empire has warships in the millions and the pirates have ships in the six digit range.

Philip Palmer writes a terrific space opera and DEBATABLE SPACE would make a great marquee movie in the tradition of Star Wars. Alien races co-exist with humanity and the aliens are major characters so readers feel as if they actually exist. Readers ride an orbital roller coaster that takes us to various planets in the galaxy, making the audience realize how enslaved the human race is if they don’t live on Earth.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Number 121 to Pennsylvania-Kealan Patrick Burke

The Number 121 to Pennsylvania
Kealan Patrick Burke
Cemetery Dance, Jan 2008, $40.00
ISBN: 9781587671685

These well written fourteen entries contain twelve shorts (though two are over forty pages), one new novella “Saturday Night at Eddie’s of just under seventy pages and a new screenplay of the short story “Mr. Goodnight”. Eleven of the twelve shorts have been previously printed in other publications (the exception is "High on the Vine").

Each of the stories places everyday people in extraordinary circumstances. For instance the bone weary depressed salesman Jack Thompson coming home after another painful day at sales to find a “High on the Vine”, losing one’s pains “Saturday Night at Eddie’s Tavern” or getting pains by taking out the scarred girl to learn what lies “Underneath”. Though this reviewer normally dislikes the inclusions of screenplays as they feel like filler, it is fun to compare that entry to the original short story. With a Twilight Zone feel, THE NUMBER 121 TO PENNSYLVANIA is an entertaining anthology that fans will want to rid as well as obtain tickets to Kealan Patrick Burke’s previous collection, RAVENOUS GHOSTS (not read) and his fantastic ghost story THE HIDES.

Harriet Klausner

Wizard’s Daughter- Catherine Coulter

Wizard’s Daughter
Catherine Coulter
Jove, Dec 2007, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515143942

In coastal Eastbourne, England Lord Ryder Sherbrooke sees a small female child lying unconscious in the alley, obviously the victim of a terrible beating. Unable to walk away he brings the almost lifeless child into his home and provides her with the best of care. Over the next couple of months the girl recovers, but fails to utter one word. That is not one sound until six months after her rescue, she sings: “I dream of beauty and sightless nigh I dream of strength and fevered might I dream I’m not alone again But I know of his death and her grievous sin”. She has no idea what the sad refrain denotes, why she was beaten and left to die or even her real name. She uses Rosalind de la Fontaine.

Over a decade passes under the care of the Sherbrookes when in 1835 her adopted family sponsor their ward’s first season. At a ball she meets an Earl, Nicholas Vail, who has just come to London after spending time in Portuguese controlled Macau, China. They are attracted to one another but in an atypical way and soon with Grayson’s help find a sixteenth century book written by a wizard who claimed that a Captain Jared Vail owes him his life for eternity. As Rosalind is the only one who can read the coded tome, strange events occur that Grayson believes flow through Rosalind and that eerie song he never forgot as he fears for the life of his charge from things he does not comprehend.

This is an interesting paranormal historical romantic mystery filled with several fascinating twists that keeps the audience’s attention wondering what next although the title gives away too much. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Rosalind’s past begins to unveil even as her guardian and the man who loves her worry about her safety. Fans will appreciate this beguiling nineteenth century thriller with mysterious roots in the sixteenth century.

Harriet Klausner

Wolf Tales V-Kate Douglas

Wolf Tales V
Kate Douglas
Kensington Aphrodisia, Jan 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758218704

The Chanku are shapeshifters who can turn into wolf and back to human if they take the pills made from nutrients found only in the Himalayas. Stefan asks Baylor to check out a woman in upstate New York who was photographed looking like a Chanku caught in mid-shift. Bay agrees to find out and give her the pills if he believes she is Chanku. Anton asks widower Ulrich to determine if Millie, whom he met in Colorado, is Chanku. If she is he wants Ulrich to bring her over.

Bay meets Manda who tells him she has been like this for twenty-five years. She believes she was punished for her sin of masturbating. He explains what happened to her and gives her the pills that will allow her to be a shapeshifter. He is attracted to her even though she is not attractive in her present form. She is attracted to Bay but scientists, who examined her, raped her and tried to mate her with a wolf, traumatized her to where she rejects sex. She takes the pills and agrees to go with Bay to Maine so she has privacy to explore her new state.

Sexagenarian Ulrich meets fiftyish Millie and is immediately attracted to her and her to him. He brings her to an organism with his mouth and tongue and then she ties him down with scarves so she can control and reduce him to the point of madness. He tells Millie what she is and he shows her that he can turn into a wolf. She agrees to take the pills and explore their feelings further.

These two stories are well written entities in which the sex is extremely graphic, but done within loving relationships. However the key to the latest Wolf Tales is that shapeshifting seems real. Although this tale can stand alone, fans of paranormal erotic romance will find the plot enhanced by reading the previous four novels.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mr. Monk in Outer Space-Lee Goldberg

Mr. Monk in Outer Space
Lee Goldberg
Obsidian, Nov 2007, $19.95
ISBN: 9780451220981

As she ponders her dating pool, which consists of killers, grieving relatives, frustrated cops and men named Scooter whose mouths that taste like overdosed with mouthwash, personal assistant Natalie Teeger enters the apartment of her boss, Mr. Adrian Monk. Natalie is a realist as she raises her twelve years old Julie by herself and helps her paranoid employer cope with life. However, this time the crisis is beyond her immediate assistance; Monk, known for evacuating city blocks based on finding a cobweb in some obscure corner of his pad, studies a small coffee stain that he cannot remove from the carpet. Monk wants to move in with Natalie for a few days, but she is saved from that anguish when SFPD Lieutenant Disher calls her; without saying hello she asks where the corpse is?

After he solves the not homicide in spite of the triangle bullets case for Disher and captain Stottlemeyer, he becomes involved in another investigation. At the Beyond Earth cult TV show convention, a starship uniformed person kills the producer Conrad Stipes in a public shooting. Asked to investigate while suffering from rug burns, Monk moves into the home of his brother Ambrose, an expert on the show, while Natalie takes care of the more critical carpet problem.

Monk is at his humorous neurotic best as he solves cases in his crazy way. Readers will be laughing out loud at the side commentaries such as his measuring parallel parked cars or visiting a Burgerville restaurant or marveling at the value of three decade old Beyond Earth cereal that tasted like sugared cardboard when it was fresh. The whodunit is fun as the compulsive Monk invades the cult TV world, which he realizes is filled with those as obsessively insane as he is. Lee Goldberg provides a wonderful entry on one of the better novelizations series of a TV show.

Harriet Klausner

Bound In Moonlight-Louisa Burton

Bound In Moonlight
Louisa Burton
Bantam, Dec 26 2007, $13.00
ISBN: 9780553384130

“Tutelage”. In 1902 New York heiress Emmeline Townsend is escorted by Lord Hardwyck to the Castle of the Hidden Grotto in rural France that she thought was his French abode. She appalling finds her host’s face buried in the legs of a voluptuous female while another big-chested woman tasted his shaft. Wanting out Emmeline finds every door leads to debauchery and depravity until she meets Darius the djinn and then Elric the elf who focus on Emmeline’s Emancipation.

“Slave Week”. In 1817 Caroline Keating, a rector’s daughter ruined two years ago by a soldier, has no prospects as her father tossed her out or money so in spite of remaining an innocent she agrees to be sold at auction as a sex slave for a week. Lord Rexton outbids an irate Lord Riddell for a week to do whatever he wants to his sex slave. He behaves like the immortal monster he is, but she sees otherwise.

“Magic Hour”. In the late 1980s when she was sixteen, her mom went on vacation with her latest boy toy while her dad invited her to spend Christmas with him and his associates at Chateau des Freaks as she dubbed the Hidden Grotto. She had not retuned for nineteen years, but Isabel Archer is back as her dad, the castle’s adminstrateur, asked her to come; he needs to persuade his offspring to accept her responsibility as she will replace him as adminstrateur like he replaced his parent, etc. After greeting dad, the reason she avoided the castle Mon Seignor Adrien Morel says hello.

This sequel to the delightfully erotica fantasy HOUSE OF DARK DELIGHTS contains three well written heated tales of forbidden star-crossed love. Readers will enjoy the sexcapades of fully developed lead couples as Louisa Burton provides a strong follow up anthology that will have fans wanting another tryst at Chateau de la Grotte Cachée where your inhibitions are left in Paris.

Harriet Klausner

Fellowship Fantastic-Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes

Fellowship Fantastic
Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes
Daw, Jan 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756404659

The underlying connecting concept between these thirteen short stories is the bond of fellowship usually found on an impossible quest as defined by Tolkien although can be as simple as friendship. The key is that each willingly risks their life for the other(s). Although there have been a ton of theme anthologies of late some edited by Martin h. Greenberg, they remain fresh and fun if one reads it over a few weeks. A one sitting experience leads to overdosing. FELLOWSHIP FANTASTIC contains thirteen new tales of bonded individuals going beyond the distance (even through portals into another world or an alternate earth) for their pal. The tales are well written and entertaining while the various settings keep the collection from becoming stale as brothers and sisters in arms protect one another. The best tales in my opinion are those that occur on this earth like Alan Dean Foster’s “Overcast” that has a cloud follow a hiker and Arizona’s “Scars Enough by Russell Davis. Still from Serbia to finding your best friend on another world to understanding that “Revenge is a Dish Best Served with Beers” (I disagree with author Fiona Paxton -make it wine), this is an enjoyable theme oriented anthology.

Harriet Klausner

Stewards of the Flame-Sylvia Engdahl

Stewards of the Flame
Sylvia Engdahl
BookSurge, 2007, $19.99
ISBN 9781419675065

On the colonial planet Undine, Captain Jesse Sanders Unified Colonial Fleet star freighter Eureka awakens in a medical facility in which two technicians ignore his denial as they claim he is an alcoholic. He insists otherwise as he never drank onboard or excessively with the crew on-world; he occasionally got drunk when he was off duty and alone.

He learns he has been sedated for three nights as his doctor says he cannot leave until he is detoxed. If he fails to depart on time with his vessel he will be classified as AWOL and stuck on this backwater orb for life. Worse as he complains they label him hostile and in need of Aversion Therapy. That means special treatment without his consent needed to include visits to Psych. His Starship Fleet career is dead as the health system imprisonment gets worse until he meets a group who believes in the illegal right to die. These STEWARDS OF THE FLAME enables him to escape to an island hideaway where he learns to use much more of his mind’s powers to ignore pain and to telepathically communicate.

The premise behind this novel is that Big Brother monitors an individual’s mental and physical health in order to “take care’ of the person in accordance with laws even if a competent person rejects such treatment. That hypothesis is grounded in current efforts to make the medical field more efficient and effective; it is not a stretch to expand the electronically documented military health records of soldiers or the President’s push for electronic transferable medical records to become the basis of required treatments. When the STEWARDS OF THE FLAME moves into more esoteric new age elements the story line remains extremely entertaining mostly because of the hero, but loses some of its social commentary. Still Sylvia Engdahl provides her readers with a cautionary tale that Big Brother is coming through the government medical complex.

Harriet Klausner

Evil For Evil-K.J. Parker

Evil For Evil
K.J. Parker
Orbit, Nov 2007, $12.99
ISBN: 9780316003391

The Mexentine army found the invasion of Eremian easy; they won the war without much resistance. However, the occupation is another matter. Insurgents like that led by Miel Ducas, who prefers resistance liberators, is causing problems for the occupiers. Their solution is to take it out on the common people as killing them is easy and the Mezentines are quite proud of their ability to kill and destroy.

Walled cities like Civitas Vadanis cannot survive the onslaught. It’s leader Duke Valens is troubled with how to save his people; fleeing seems the only responsible solution, but that will leave many dead even if the enemy army fails to find them, an unlike outcome. Of course there is that insane exiled Mexentine engineering genius Ziani Vaatzes, whose killing machines frighten even his vicious people as they are weapons of mass destruction; his latest one may be capable of destroying the world or protect a city from invaders. He is joined by another engineering genius Daurenja in a partnership that means hell for everyone else. Meanwhile the worlds a stage for all the key players are coming together in holy matrimony and other stately alliances that foster betrayals caused by love and worse emotions.

The first Engineering tale (DEVICES AND DESIRES) is a complex somewhat convoluted thriller; however book two, EVIL FOR EVIL, makes the predecessor look like a simple Dick and Jane adventure as the plot has become even more complicated. The above is too simplified of a description of all the goings-on as the key players return still filled with a gloom and doom inevitable outlook. K.J. Parker uses satire and humor to expand the plot; for instance the Mexentine people and its bureaucracy ironically remain disengaged from their war fighters except for the technology sector. Intricate, multifaceted, and still way over the top of the stratosphere, fans who read the first Engineer’s tale will appreciate the middle segment and look forward to how K.J. Parker ties together the antics of a cast that act like some sort of DNA blending of Rove, Machiavelli, and Rumsford.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Fault Tree-Louise Ure

The Fault Tree
Louise Ure
St. Martin's, Jan 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312375859

In Tucson, Arizona, Cadence Moran is a highly regarded auto mechanic in spite of her being blind. Her acute sense of hearing is so fine tuned she can hear car trouble. However although she has adapted physically, she has never forgiven herself for her part in the accident that cost her sight and killed her toddler niece.

The blind mechanic never expected her uncanny skill with sound would involve her in a serial killer case, but it does as a speeding vehicle almost kills her. Apparently the driver was fleeing a crime scene after killing Cadence’s elderly neighbor. Her sonar skill makes her a reliable witness to ending this horrific murder spree.

THE FAULT TREE is for the most part an interesting police procedural starring a unique witness. Cadence is a terrific protagonist and the insertion of the tragic accident is done over the course of the story line as a series of timely look backs so it enhances the plot rather than decelerates it. The story line is excellent until the climax, which seems unlikely. Still fans will enjoy this fascinating Arizona cat and mouse thriller as Louise Ure provides a heroine who is the cheese as the cops chase after killer rodents.

Harriet Klausner

Dragon Mage-Andre Norton and Jean Rabe

Dragon Mage
Andre Norton and Jean Rabe
Tor, Jan 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780765316502

Following the heart attack death of her forty-nine year old father, Shilo’s paternal grandparents take the teen from Marietta, Georgia into their home in Slade’s Corner, Wisconsin. Shilo is grateful because she knows she has no place else to go except perhaps her older brother’s Atlanta apartment; but between him and his pregnant wife there is no corner for a fifteen year old. However, she is also bored as she feels she landed in Hades as life in a small town living above an antique store is not very exciting.

Her kindhearted grandmother encourages Shilo to look at her late father’s stuff that they stored in boxes as a means of learning more about his childhood. In all the cartons the most interesting items are very old puzzles with each different yet containing the picture of a dragon. Her grandmother explains that Shy’s dad had quite an imagination as he would tell his parents about his adventures in another realm where a dragon ruled. Unable to put any puzzle totally together as pieces seemed missing, Sly finally realizes that this is one master puzzle not multiples. When she finishes assembling the giant puzzle, Shy finds herself in ancient Babylon serving an ancient dragon and studying to be a DRAGON MAGE just like her dad did as she must complete his work to simply save the world.

In spite of a Forward explaining how the sequels to Andre Norton’s classic DRAGON MAGIC came about, I am not sure how much the late Ms. Norton provided (beyond a needlework depicting the four dragons). My previous impression was her last work was A TASTE OF MAGIC in which Jean Rabe used Ms. Norton’s writings notes to complete the fantasy. Regardless, DRAGON MAGE is an entertaining young adult fantasy that readers of all ages will enjoy as the modern day heroine goes back several millenniums in her father’s footsteps to become an American in a dragon king’s Babylonian court.

Harriet Klausner

Dust-Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear
Bantam, Jan 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780553591071

The colony ship was traveling through space for hundreds of years when explosions almost destroyed it. They traveled to the nearest planet in hopes of making repairs, but too much damage was sustained to too many systems. To make the situation even direr, the sun they orbit is starting to go supernova. Five centuries later, the artificial intelligence that enabled the captain to guide the people into safety splinters into fragments called angels, each with a different propose.

The crew from the ship has become the Exalts, near immortals with a symbiotic life form inside them that grants them superior powers. The Mean are normal people who have become a servant class. Rien, raised as a Mean, rescues the Exalt Sir Perceval only to learn she is her sister. Perceval transfers some of her symbiote into Rien. They trek to Engine hoping to prevent a war between Engine and the House of Rule as these sisters are the only hope left if this world is to survive.

The Exalts still live on the ship believing that it still can be fixed. The Angels have distinct personalities as each gained a segment of the AI. Rien and Perceval know they must stop a war that seems inevitable; to do so they must understand the various Angelic personalities, find a competent captain, and learn a way to survive the supernova. Elizabeth Bear creates a world filled with vast characters that in spite of the science fiction origins of its people seems believable. That is the essence of the Great bear universe.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 16, 2007

Heat of the Night-Sylvia Day

Heat of the Night
Sylvia Day
Avon, Jan 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061231032

In the ongoing war between the Dream Guardians and the Nightmares on the twilight plane, Captain Connor Bruce leads his Elite Warriors who bring erotic pleasures to mortal females. However, he has recently found out an inconvenient truth about the Elders; they apparently lied to him and others.

He wants to know the truth, which means he must break into the Elders’ Temple where he expects to uncover their secrets. However, Connor soon learns more than he bargained for and fears for his former peer friend, Aidan Cross, who left the Dream Guardians and Twilight time to live with Lyssa Bates the human he loves (see PLEASURES OF THE NIGHT). Connor manages to reach real world California, but struggles with everyday living. When he meets Lyssa’s best friend, veterinary assistant and single mom Stacey Daniels, he is stunned as he begins to understand why Aidan crossed over. Whereas Stacey who was upset over her deadbeat ex boyfriend taking their child Justin skiing, which she cannot afford due to the lack of child support, she is even more shocked by her attraction to Connor, but though both fight it they cannot resist the lure of love.

This entertaining romantic fantasy stars two likable lead characters and a fully developed complex Day world (ironically Twilight time). The story line is fast-paced especially after the lead couple meets. Although it would help to read the nocturnal pleasures of Aidan and Lyssa first to better comprehend the realm where he comes from, fans will appreciate HEAT OF THE NIGHT as the hero walks out of her dreams turning her real life into a heated fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Succubus on Top-Richelle Mead

Succubus on Top
Richelle Mead
Kensington, Jan 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758216427

In Seattle shape-shifting succubus Georgina Kincaid earns a living as assistant manager at Emerald City Books & Café as her demonic superiors refuse to fund her activities due to a budget deficit at a time of soulless surplus. In fact her immediate boss Jerome the lazy criticizes her for low production numbers. At night, she performs her demonic job of picking up males and drinking in their essence.

Her current mortal boyfriend bestselling writer Seth Mortenson has accepted her no-sex arrangement. She finds that increasingly difficult as she wants him with her on top, but fears she will kill him in the process even if that is one hell of a way to go. However as she ponders her needs, her friend Bastien the incubus works on destroying holier than Bush conservative radio host Dana Dailey and bookstore employee Doug Sato finds life tangent with the demonic side quite pleasurable.

This over the top fantasy sequel (see SUCCUBUS BLUES) is an amusing tale with a thin plot, but fans will not care as we laugh at the antics of the female whose murder weapon is her killer lips (try getting a conviction based on killer kisses). The support cast adds to the jocularity as her frustrated lover cannot touch her if he wants to breath on the mortal plane, the book store crowd is a zany wild bunch and the to the right of Attila the Hun Dana round out a mirthful succubus saga.

Harriet Klausner

Rise of the Blood Royal-Robert Newcomb

Rise of the Blood Royal
Robert Newcomb
Del Rey, Jan 2008
ISBN: 9780345477118

The hundred years of the brutal War of Attrition between Rustannica and Shashida continues with no sign of either side abating the hostilities. In fact if anything the atrocities are getting worse as formidable ambitious beings see opportunities to grab power.

Malevolent wizard Gracchus Junius tries to convince the insolvent Emperor Vespasian of Rustannica that if they combine their magic and use lethal taboo enchantments they can end the war by turning Shashida into rubble. That would allow them to replenish their fortunes by taking their defeated enemy’s gold.

At the same time that Vespasian considers Junius offer, in the land of Eutracia, two talented but novice mages, Prince Tristan and Princess Shailiha are studying how to control their talent. They believe they will end the War of Attrition, but must learn how to use "subtle matter" and locate the hidden Azure Sea that leads to Shashida.

This is a terrific ending to The Destinies of Blood and Stone trilogy (see March into Darkness and SAVAGE MESSIAH) as Robert Newcomb’s implications and applications to our world is frightening. Amazingly even with a somewhat big picture perspective the vast cast in the three prime lands is fully developed. Newcomers need to read the previous novels or they will get lost most likely in Rustannica.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Queen Ferris-S.C. Butler

Queen Ferris
S.C. Butler
Tor, Nov 2007, $27.95
ISBN 9780765314789

After the escapades with the three powerful wizards who gave him the selection between being their puppet or being their puppe tbecause they planned to put him on the thrones of Wayland and Banking (see REIFFEN'S CHOICE). However Reiffen endured their abduction until he was rescued, but also knows for him to survive and keep the thrones that are rightfully his, he must face the enemy in their lair and find a way to defeat them. Thus, he decides to leave the comfort of friends Avender and Ferris and his mom to return to the malevolent wizards’ home in Ussene. There he hopes to persuade them that his time with them has turned him to the dark.

However, the wizards did not become so powerful by being stupid. They demand Reiffen prove his conversion by performing some ugly tasks. He reluctantly agrees to misuse his power to perform nasty deeds although he fears his inner soul will become tainted forever.

Whereas the first book of the Stoneway’s saga was more a coming of age tale starring a twelve years old sheltered boy, the second book is more a morality play that is relevant in the world today. Reiffen justifies his behavior of performing evil deeds as a means to achieve a worthy end. His choices are much more complex and potentially hurtful to others than he had to face in the previous tale as for the most part only he was directly impacted. Thus Reiffen is even a more complicated protagonist leading fans of all ages to enjoy his latest adventures.

Harriet Klausner

The Lifehouse Trilogy-Spider Robinson

The Lifehouse Trilogy
Spider Robinson
Baen, Dec 2007, $24.00
ISBN: 9781416555117

Mindkiller. Wireheads are addicted to an electric current that feeds impulses into the brain’s pleasure centers. As a reformed wirehead who no longer uses, Karen knows she is fortunate to be alive. She and her current lover Joe, who saved her life when he found her nearly dead, want to destroy the dealers who sell the gizmos. However, instead they begin to find evidence that an international cartel control the minds of most people. At the same time, assistant professor Norman hates his job and marriage, but it is the sudden disappearance of his sister that shakes him; he begins searching for her.

Time Pressure. During a blizzard in a remote part of a Nova Scotia forest, Sam, the American draft dodger, is stunned when the naked girl appeared out of nowhere inside a blue lit globe. He believes she must be from the future, but waits for her awakening. When she does, he finds himself reconsidering what to do with her, as he fears she has come to destroy the present.

Lifehouse. June and Paul are con artists who wonder what is going on when she returns from a walk in the park with her memory modified after apparently meeting some future pair. At the same time a time traveling duo meets and enlists the help of Secret Masters of Fandom married couple, Wally and Moira. Their mission is to save John Lennon.

This is a fine omnibus reprint of three Spider Robinson science fiction thrillers. Although not as deep as the Callahan tales, each asks readers to ponder fascinating ethical issues, but none of the characters are that profound. Still this is an entertaining Canadian saga that comes alive with draft dodging Americans but especially the amusing time paradoxical Lifehouse.

Harriet Klausner

Endless Blue-Wen Spencer

Endless Blue
Wen Spencer
Baen, Dec 2007, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416573852

The Earthlings know that the Nefrim have one objective: to drive them out of space. Thus spaceships have a tendency to vanish without ever coming back; most people assume the hostile Nefrim is behind these assaults. The Nefrim likewise blame the newcomers for their missing ships.

Thus when the vanished Fenrir's warp drive suddenly surfaces at Plymouth Station, no one knows what to make of it as there is no precedent. Captain Mikhail Volkov leads the official inquiry into uncovering what happened from the moment the vessel disappeared during acceleration until the reappearance. He decides the best way to learn the truth is jump to the last coordinates the Fenrir’s warp drive displays. He never expected to find himself and his crew in the middle of the oceanic Sargasso universe where no one has ever returned.

This is a superb outer space thriller because Wen Spencer makes the Sargasso sector seem genuine as stranded humans and aliens live in discord. Mikhail is a terrific hero as he and his brother struggle from one disaster into another while beginning to comprehend the real scope of their mission. Failure means the end of at least one universe and probably two.

Harriet Klausner

White Fells-R. Garland Gray

White Fells
R. Garland Gray
Medallion, Dec 2007, $7.99
ISBN: 9781933836195

Tuatha De Danann warrior Boyden comes from the rare species, Idir the between. He is blessed, although some might say cursed, with the power to call forth the deadly fey wind to kill all that lives.

Warrior Princess Scota leads the invasion of what is allegedly the home of the Fey; a race she does not believe exists. Her soldiers have captured Boyden, but her efforts to break him fail. Instead he remains insolent as he knows he can destroy Scota and her force with the fey wind. However, he also finds himself attracted to the equally proud warrior princess. She admires his courage and soon reciprocates his feelings of love. However, trust is a different issue as she rejects his fey heritage and he cannot accept a warrior can work for peace for both people.

The third Tuatha De Danann Fey romantic fantasy (see PREDESTINED and FEY BORN) is a terrific tale as readers will appreciate the changing relationship between the skeptical warrior and the composed prisoner. Although Boyden is Scota’s captive, she and readers will wonder just who is in control as his tranquil coolness unnerves her. Fans will appreciate WHITE FELLS as the hero provides a quiet message that with great power comes even greater responsibility not to arbitrarily wield it at every alleged insult. R. Garland Gray provides another exciting read.

Harriet Klausner

Divine Night-Melanie Jackson

Divine Night
Melanie Jackson
Love Spell, Dec 2007, $7.99
ISBN: 9780505527370

Renowned mid nineteenth century action adventure author Alexander Dumas continues to write swashbuckling fictions long after he should have died. However, Alex is an immortal so much of his novels come from his own life.

His latest tale that he struggles to write is based on the most difficult event he ever faced. The tragedy occurred six decades when Alex was approaching a century and a half of living. His immortal enemy Comte St. Germain ripped out the heart of the woman he loved. Always wanting vengeance, he never had an opportunity until now as St. Germain has reappeared. Alex teams up with psychic Harmony in attempt to end St. Germain’s immortal reign of terror.

The third superb Melanie Jackson gloomy Divine thriller (see DIVINE FIRE and DIVINE MADNESS) is an exhilarating tale from the moment the audience meets a still grieving Alex and never slows down as a High noon showdown is imminent. Although this tale can stand alone, reading the other two sagas will help the audience understand the complex world of the divine immortals especially since some interloping sidebars occur. Fans who appreciate a dark action-packed complicated fantasy will want to read DIVINE NIGHT and its predecessors.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Rush of Wings-Adrian Phoenix

A Rush of Wings
Adrian Phoenix
Pocket, Jan 2008, $14.00
ISBN 9781416541448

FBI Special Agent Heather Wallace has chased the Cross-Country Killer for three years trying to end this brilliant maniac’s serial killing frenzy. Currently, she has followed him from Seattle to New Orleans. His latest victim is a nineteen years old LSU male student and this time left a message besides the tortured rape body; the sexual killing sadist writes on a wall above the corpse “WAKE UP’. On the other side of the wall is Club Hell.

Heather visits Club Hell to determine whether that facility might attract CCK. She meets born vampire Dante Prejean who performs with the Goth band Inferno. His horrendous malevolent memories have been erased, which in turn leaves him perfect for the ministrations of CCK; as the psychopath knows what Dante does not. Anyone that Dante cares about including an obstinate skeptical Fed becomes a CCK teaser. Heather, Dante and his vampire cronies unite to try to end the serial killer’s mayhem, but this clever evil seems to always know what they will do next.

A RUSH OF WINGS smoothly combines a serial killer police investigation with vampires and mad scientists experimenting in para-psychopathology; all that along side a heated romantic thriller in which even the blood sucking ménage de trois are hot trysts. Fans of paranormal romantic suspense crime thrillers will enjoy the sweltering A RUSH OF WINGS starring an intrepid heroine, a beleaguered vampire, and a CCK teasing serial killer taking a bite out of New Orleans. What more could sub-genre fans ask for.

Harriet Klausner

Parallel Desire-Deidre Knight

Parallel Desire
Deidre Knight
Signet, Dec 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451222442

In the future, during Armageddon, Scott Dillon desperately races to his battlefield tent to keep his beloved Hope and their future child Leisa safe. He is too late as the human stranger has killed his beloved wife and their unborn daughter. Outraged Scott uses his Antousian skills to take over the murderer’s body. He tells his comrade Kelsey that Scott is dead and his new name is Jakob Tierney, a cold blooded killer with a past to erase.

In the present half-Antousian Scott Dillon is married to his beloved Hope. Jake has come to Scott’s present where he must make a life for himself. Meanwhile Refarian medic Shelby Tyler knows that Jake is Scott and that Scott also exists. She wants to help Jake, but he is on a quest to destroy the stranger whose body he took over in the future before that evil human can kill his wife and unborn. However, if he succeeds the future time line will be altered and who knows what the butterfly effect of chaos will be. On top of that a deadly Antousian plot has been deployed that if successful could lead to Armageddon with Jake and Shelby as the prime players trying to prevent the disaster.

The latest Midnight Warriors Parallel tale is incredible as the superb plot twists and sensational time paradoxes keep on coming. The Scott-Jake saga will hook readers who wonder what will happen next to the one man with two bodies (the ultimate in twins). Fans of this delightfully complex series (see PARALLEL ATTRACTION, PARALLEL HEAT and PARALLEL SEDUCTION) will relish PARALLEL DESIRE; as we wonder whether Jake will suicide or learn the delights of Kama Sutra 411 with Shelby. That is if they survive the mission; either way he chooses by going back he has already chaotically altered the future.

Harriet Klausner

The Devil’s Footprints-John Burnside

The Devil’s Footprints
John Burnside
Doubleday, Jan 2008, $23.95, 240 pp.
ISBN: 9780385522890

The town of Coldhaven in Scotland was never good for the Gardiners; father, mother and child dies by the mother’s hand although the son didn’t know what the townsfolk were doing to his parents and they were ignorant to what the school bully was doing to him. The townsfolk put dog poop through their mail slot, sent obscene letters and threatening phone calls. The town bully treated the lad in a sadistic fashion until with the advice of a kindly woman he took care of the problem.

He has a fling with Moira who dumped him for brawny Tom. Convinced he was the devil, she killed her two sons and then committed suicide. She made sure her daughter Hazel lived and Michael Gardiner begins to wonder if she was his daughter. He begins following her and since she hates her life she becomes friends with him. While his relationship with his wife falters, the same woman who urged Michael to take care of the town bully pushes him to get Hazel away from her father.

On the surface Coldhaven might look like a nice plaice to live but it is a cesspool of evil. Parents pass down that legacy to their children who pass it down to their children in a never-ending story that makes newcomers to the village feel the miasma of corruption. Told from the view of the protagonist, readers come to realize that horror is not limited to the supernatural but is stronger when it’s humanly personal.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Navigator-Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter
Ace, Jan 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441015597

I Musta’rib AD 1085. In northern Spain, English teenager Robert wants to become a holy warrior until he meets and falls in love with intelligent Muslim Moraima. At the same time, scholar Father Sihtric and the Vizier of Cordoba hate their symbiotic relationship as the Christian is forced by the Moors to build God’s weapons from the Eadgyth of York prophesy he possesses while the Vizier is forced to rely on the priest to obtain the wine he needs to quench his alcoholic dependency. These two enemies work together on their personal needs, but will do anything to keep Robert and Moraima apart; as cross religious love has no place under God.

II Crucesignati AD 1242-1248. The Christian crusading armies force the Muslim Subh to flee Seville where she hid her shame of a Christian ancestor circa the late eleventh century. At the same time Joan the Christian fled the Christian Holy Land kingdom Outremer when it fell. Each possesses a segment of a prophecy that when combined will make God’s engines drive the infidels out. When these two women meet, hell has come to Spain in the fury of these two enemy combatants.

III Navigator AD 1471-1492. A new power has surfaced in Spain at a time when the Christian’s Crusade against the Muslims proved successful. The middle class sees things more from an economic opportunity perspective than a godly viewpoint. This has led to a new religious fervor from within as the Spanish Inquisition weeds out heretics especially from the middle class. Talk is focused on womanizing Genoa baboon Columbus as he wants to sail west to reach the East instead of journeying through Islam. He might be the Dove named in a recently discovered prophesy or another heretic needing a fiery lesson.

The third Time’s Tapestry (see EMPEROR and CONQUEROR) covers the century between William’s victory and Columbus’ trip. The book is divided into three stanzas that accentuate the changes in fortune of the prime groups especially the fall of the Moors and the rise of the Christian middle class. Stephen Baxter continues to make his case that those who sit on their past glory by introspection lose over time to those who look beyond barriers for opportunities. A terrific tome that provides readers with a great thought providing alternate historical epic.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 9, 2007

Another One Bites The Dust-Jennifer Rardin

Another One Bites The Dust
Jennifer Rardin
Orbit, Dec 2007, $12.99
ISBN: 9780316020572

After defeating an ancient demon in ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY, CIA field operative Jaz Parks and her vampire partner Vayl have forged a special squad with their new associates they met on the last case. Millennium old Cassandra the seer, technological genius Bergman, and sensitive Cole have joined Jaz and Vayl in hunting down evil doers.

Their current assignment is to prevent an invincible Chinese vampire, Chien-Lung from starting WW III. Bergman is especially sensitive to this malevolent being as Chien stole one of his gizmos from the army’s White Sands Missile Range, a body armor that has made him unbeatable when combined with his supernatural abilities. Finding this cold blooded killer will not be easy as they also must dispatch the soul stealing Reavers who want to snack on the team members especially Jaz while she goes undercover as a belly dancer in Corpus Christie. They also know somehow malevolent vampire Edward “The Raptor” Samos, who believe he should rule the world, is somewhere in the mix

The second Jaz urban fantasy mystery thriller is an exciting tale that grips the audience from the onset. The heroine forges her new team into a cohesive fighting and bickering until, seeks to defeat the evil ones, belly dances at a winter festival and learns more about her relationship as Vayl’s avhar than she wants to know. With romance, espionage, and mystery enhancing the fantasy, sub-genre fans will appreciate the adventures and missteps of Jaz and her mates.

Harriet Klausner

Sucker Bet-Erin McCarthy

Sucker Bet
Erin McCarthy
Berkley, Jan 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425217184

Nine hundred years old vampire Gwenna Carrick has spent the last three centuries hiding from her nasty former spouse Roberto Donatelli. However after three hundred years of ennui, Gwenna cannot take it any longer especially residing in her brother’s Vegas hotel and casino. She decides that the Internet is not enough even if she enjoys being part of an on line vampire slayer group. So she finally comes out of her sheltered life to have some fun in the night life of Vegas.

On her first night out on the town, Gwenna meets a corpse drained of his blood; she thinks that is not a very charming way to return to the living. Not long afterward she finds other members of her on line slayer group dead; drained of their blood too. Police detective Nate Thomas leads the investigation, but he rejects the idea of a vampire; instead he assumes a sick human is murdering people and somehow removing their blood. He also knows that Gwenna is the link as she is part of the slayer group and everywhere she goes a body is sure to follow. Gwenna wonders if Roberto is behind the killings even as Roberto vows to keep the beautiful woman safe as he assumes she is the ultimate victim of a deranged serial killer.

The fourth Tale of Vegas Vampires (see HIGH STAKES, BIT THE JACKPOT and BLED DRY) is an amusing entertaining paranormal romantic police procedural. The story line is fast-paced as Gwenna comes out of hiding in spite of having to avoid a bunch of corpses. Nate is a hero who will do anything to keep his beloved safe. Their erotic scenes are worth the price of admission even with a clever whodunit; this is a sure bet for sub-genre fans.

Harriet Klausner

Across The Face Of The World-Russell Kirkpatrick

Across The Face Of The World
Russell Kirkpatrick
Orbit, Jan 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316003414

In a remote small village in the Kingdom of Faltha, teenager Leith lives with his mother Indrett and his crippled brother Hal. Mahnum, his father, has not been home for over two years. To their initial pleasant surprise, Mahnum comes home only to tell his wife and two children that he just escaped form two years of imprisonment and they must travel to the capital Instruere to warn the king. He explains that neighboring Dhauria led by the alleged Undying Man infamously known as the Destroyer has begun his nefarious scheme to avenge his exile from Dona Mihst by the Most High with an invasion of Faltha.

However, before they can begin their journey, warriors abduct Indrett and Mahnum before burning down their home with the two children inside. However the village chieftain Haufuth saves the lads and arranges for everyone to assume they died in the inferno. The trio meets with elderly farmer Kurr to discuss whether to rescue the parents or warn the king. Hal insists the rescue is the way to go because kidnapping a Dharia warrior to take with them to the capital is the proof they need to convince the throne. Stella a female teen joins the heroic group as they begin their quest.

This is a quest book but quite different in many ways than most fantasy sagas as much of the tale occurs on the mundane plane rather than the otherworldly realm. Readers will feel they are part of the traveling team as the vivid descriptions of the geography are some of the best around although the pace is slower than most quest thrillers as Russell Kirkpatrick insures realism supersedes non stop action. Each of the prime cast members especially the teens are fully developed and show signs of maturing change during the trek. The first book in The Fire of Heaven trilogy is a fascinating opening gamut that sets the stage for the rest of the saga. .

Harriet Klausner

The Wannoshay Cycle-Michael Jasper

The Wannoshay Cycle
Michael Jasper
Five Star, Jan 2008, $25.95, 369 pp.
ISBN: 9781594146619

They came from a dying world whose sun was being extinguished and until they could find another planet to sustain them, they dug tunnels with their claws and lived underground. Finally astronomers found earth; the Mother Ship and a flotilla head for specific landing sites but they lose contact with the main ship and land in the Midwest and Canada. In a country fearful of illegal aliens and terrorists, the outer space aliens are met with trepidation.

The government tries to integrate them into mainstream society using them as cheap labor; but when two explosions attributed to the aliens occur they are moved into internment camps and labor farms. The aliens are ill from drug addiction and a “soul sickness” that drives them to kill and if something is not done it could spread to humans. A group of sympathetic humans travel to the Mother Ship in Iowa City in hopes they can do something to help the Wannoshay and give them a chance to heal and have a good life.

If readers see the way the aliens are treated similar to the way Hitler treated the Jews and slave owners treated the slaves, the author has gotten his point across. The aliens are very different than humans with claws for hands to dig and tentacles instead of hair and people fear those that are different. Many people rise above their instinctual fears and go out of their way to help, as everyday people show heart, compassion, and the ability to see that accepting differences is good for everyone. Michael Jasper has written an enthralling encounter of the third kind.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Any Way You Want It-Kathy Love

Any Way You Want It
Kathy Love
Kensington Brava, Jan 2008, $14.00
ISBN 9780758218568

Washington DC based Maggie Gallagher is an expert on the lives of dead composers; her love life is as dead as those musicians she studies. Her current work is to authenticate a recently found sonata allegedly written by early nineteenth century composer Renauldo D’Antoni. Meanwhile she takes a break from her beloved yet tedious work as she and some friends go to New Orleans on a vacation. While visiting the grave of a voodoo priestess, Maggie quietly wishes for a heated encounter.

Later that same night, Maggie hears the last thing she expected coming from some French Quarter dive. Someone is playing the sonata she is investigating, which makes no sense as her preliminary information is that this is a lost treasure just recently rediscovered. Normally quite reticent, Maggie meets keyboardist Ren Anthony, who is the leader of the ‘80s style band the Impalers. She interrogates him about the sonata and he remains elusive in his responses. However, neither can ignore the attraction, but he knows that relationships don’t survive as the women he has loved since being born as Renauldo D’Antoni in 1785 die; immortals like him live forever in loneliness.

ANYWAY YOU WANT IT is an entertaining lighthearted paranormal romantic romp. The story line centers on whether Maggie can persuade Ren that he only has fangs for her. Vampire romance fans will enjoy the romance between the immortal composer and the human musicologist.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Crocodile And The Crane-Arthur Rosenfeld

The Crocodile And The Crane
Arthur Rosenfeld
YMAA, Sep 2007, $21.95
ISBN: 9781594390876

Over three and a half millennium ago in China, Gao the blacksmith learned the secret of immortality through a special form of meditation. He passed his secret on to his two children Sanfeng and Zetian as they never stayed in one place for any length of time so that the locals would not become suspicious. However, in a remote village, a terrible plague began wiping out the villagers. The villagers proved that Gao was mortal when they killed him out of a superstitious belief he caused the disease; his two offspring escaped.

In 2009, Sanfeng and Zetian realize the same deadly plague has returned; they vehemently disagree on what they should do. Sanfeng wants to save the world while his avaricious sister wants to dominate it, which the plague will allow her to do. Meanwhile in Hong Kong American self help author Dalton Day, who has uncovered some of Gao's secrets, knows the plague must be stopped. He is joined on his quest by his publicist Monica Farmore, Leili Musi the mother of one of the victims, and others. However the world hinges on the three thousand five hundred years old siblings.

This is a terrific end of the world thriller due to the strong cast including the rapid cellular death plague, which takes on a life of its own as a pandemic seemingly invincible killer. Although the siblings are the key to apocalypse now vs. a miracle cure and the most fascinating of the characters, the Dalton gang is the stars of this entertaining tale. Arthur Rosenfeld will have his fans sitting on the edge of their seat once the plague takes over THE CROCODILE AND THE CRANE.

Harriet Klausner

Master of the Elements-Alice Gaines

Master of the Elements
Alice Gaines
Red Sage, 2007
ISBN: 9781603101356

Her father wants her refuse to go, but twenty-two years old virgin Elspeth knows this is her destiny. Every century, a virgin is sacrificed to the Master who lives in the castle on Forbidden Mountain. Now the Master grows weak and his protection of the town by the sea is failing.

Elspeth meets her Master Raelen who provides her pleasures like nothing she ever felt before; the bookworm has never been kissed yet her host’s touches enflame her. She shocks him when she gives him a hand job. The immortal Raelen explains that making love with a virgin enables him to regain his youth; he also tells her he sends them afterward to live in Shandikar. However, this time the MASTER OF THE ELEMENTS knows is different as she is the first to volunteer. How different he will soon learn.

Fans of erotic romantic fantasy will appreciate this warm short starring a courageous female and the immortal that respects and ultimately loves her. The story line is fast-paced and though short contains two fully developed lead characters especially the heroine. In fact except for the opening and closes scenes, they are the only players in the story as fitting this charming yet heated adult fairy tale (see

Harriet Klausner

One Wish-Calista Fox

One Wish
Calista Fox
Red Sage, 2007
ISBN: 9781603101394

In Sedona, Arizona, Jillian Anderson, owner of the Old Age Saloon, accidentally knocks over an ancient clay pot containing a dark blue powder. She also drops a jar of her tequila spied pickles called wickles onto the powder. Soon afterward, her beloved photographer Luke Parsons arrives at the bar after being out of town on assignment. She refuses to have sex with him as he always leaves her before morning.

After closing Jillian goes to clean up the mess, but finds it already done and sees an underage girl Serafina drunk from eating the wickles .She insists she is a genie. When Sera proves she is a real albeit intoxicated genie by vanishing in this air, Jillian faints. Sera calls Luke who rushes over, but she is all right. As they make love, Luke realizes that his beloved fears commitment because everyone close to her dies. With that knowledge, their lovemaking seems different, but will he stay with her in the morning and what about those two wishes Sera promised Jillian?

This is an entertaining fantasy romantic short that works because Jillian, as the prime player holding the story line together, is fully developed. Readers will learn her fears, flaws, and desires especially through her interaction with the genie and with Luke. ONE WISH is an enjoyable short tale (see

Harriet Klausner

Queen of Dragons-Shana Abe

Queen of Dragons
Shana Abe
Bantam, Dec 2007, $18.00
ISBN 9780553805284

The Drakon are a unique species who look human except they have the uncanny additional abilities to change into smoke or dragons. The English Drakon has believed they are the last of their people until they learn from correspondence that a tribe exists in the Carpathian Mountains.

In Darkfrith in York, the elated English alpha Drakon aristocrat Kimber Langford hopes that a "lost tribe" has surfaced. She sends trusted aids to Transylvania to meet with the Carpathian tribe led by alpha Princess Maricara. Her brother is the puppet ruler, but he serves as her front as he is non-alpha. However, Kimber is stunned to learn his agents are massacred by an unknown force. Maricara travels incognito by herself to York to warn Kimber that a secret organization is dedicated to the objective of Drakon genocide.

The third Drakon romantic fantasy (see THE DREAM THIEF and THE SMOKE THIEF) like the previous tales is fantastic entry that adds to the Abe mythos starting with the fascinating English egocentric belief that the Carpathian group is a found “lost tribe”. Kimber is a full blooded Drakon lord while the Princess heats is blood to a boiling once they meet. The courageous QUEEN OF DRAGONS actually owns the plot as she risks her life to warn her brother tribe of the dangers from an adversarial opponent who looks upon the Drakon as evil. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this strong entry, but those who read the previous Drakon entries already know this is one of the best sagas on the market today.

Harriet Klausner

Child of a Dead God-Barb and J.C. Hendee

Child of a Dead God
Barb and J.C. Hendee
Roc, Jan 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780451461872

Magiere the dhampire and Leesil the elf have finally left the elven territories to continue their search for an artifact hidden in a castle with six towers encased in ice in the mountains of the south. Wynn the sage, Chap the canine protector and two distrusting elves accompany them. Master Sage Domin Tilswith asked Magiere to find the relic in order to keep the magical object from the times of Forgotten History from falling into the evil hands of those like her Noble Dead (vampire) half-brother Welsteil.

Welsteil believes the artifact will take away his overwhelming hunger for blood; he raises a pack of loyal feral vampires to help him follow his adversary, his half-sister. When she retrieves the object, his squad will capture her and take possession of the object from her. Neither of the siblings is aware that a third party, the Most Aged Father, an Elven, plans to grab the artifact as he believes this is the only way to save his people from the increasing encroachment of the vile humans and their related evil species if war comes.

Readers who love vampire novels will appreciate the full works of Barb and J.C. Hendee as they consistently provide some of the genre’s best. Each novel adds to the Hendee mythos yet stands alone as the story lines are complex in terms of furthering the adventures of Magiere and Leesil, but are also a complete tale onto itself. The lead duo is courageous and caring as they battle two enemy groups in which treachery and double crossing from your own team is expected. Except for trusting one another and to a degree Chap and Wynn, Magiere and Leesil knows betrayal can come from within as much as from blood kin. The audience will be want to read this novel in one sitting as the triad converges on what looks like a fatal confrontation, but for whom.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Swimming Without a Net-MaryJanice Davidson

Swimming Without a Net
MaryJanice Davidson
Jove, Dec 2007, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515143812

In Boston blue haired Fred is a somewhat grouchy half human half mermaid who detests SLEEPING WITH FISHES; though she admits some of those purebreds are hunks; at least one is – she only has met one. However, she is even grumpier than usual as she went from no men to two men (well one man and a merman) back to no men as marine biologist Thomas Pearson and Prince Artur have left her to pursue other activities.

Making matters worse is her best friend Jonas and her boss Dr. Barb are a disgustingly loving pair making her ill especially since no one is pawing her. However, she has a bigger issue as her father and his mer-people demand her presence. The issue being debated is whether to reveal themselves to the blind surface dwellers and they want her feedback as the only known half-breed. She thinks what a way to finally meet her biological father as she swims the Caymans only Thomas and Artur are also there after an almost one year abstinence that would please the Bush family values, but makes Fred’s life even further complicated.

The second Fred mermaid tale is another wacky amusing romp from MaryJanice Davidson, the queen of this sub-genre. The story line is fast-paced but loaded with humor as Fred does not take whale crap from fools or persecutors lightly; she meets plenty of those who think humans and half humans are beneath watery mammals and the fish on the food chain. Although somewhat darker than her previous efforts to clean up Boston Harbor, readers will enjoy her antics as she meets the paternal side of the family after three decades without knowing up front who gave her the blue hair.

Harriet Klausner

I Am Legend-Richard Matheson

I Am Legend
Richard Matheson
Tor, Nov 7 2007, $7.99
ISBN: 9780765357151

In 1976, the pandemic plague devastated the earth. Most people died while those who survived were biologically altered into nocturnal blood drinking in-humans. That is everyone except for one remaining purebred; Robert Neville never changed as he apparently was immune to the plague. He is the last surviving Homo sapiens, but the converted see him as being different as the monster tied to the dead legendary past who must die. He endures his ordeal through alcohol, but his loneliness is driving him insane as each night he considers giving up until he meets his first non vampire friend since the disease, a dog fearful of him.

This book actually contains a reprint of the 1954 classic novella I AM LEGEND in conjunction with an upcoming movie (note that Vincent Price starred in the 1960s film The Last Man on Earth based on this tale) and ten short stories that are entertaining and well written, but feel like padding to almost double the size of the book. Readers will understand why some of the great horror writers like Stephen King consider this novella one of the best ever as it crosses science fiction with horror yet holds up well because the bottom line is this is a character study of the human need for companionship as well as a Frankenstein like question as to just who is the monster?

Harriet Klausner

Hunter's Run-George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois and Daniel Abraham

Hunter's Run
George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois and Daniel Abraham
Eos, Jan 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780061373299

As humanity has entered space beyond our solar system with arrogance and pride, they are quickly put back in their place when they realize there is a horde of space traveling species out there. In fact the newcomer on the block finds the quality planets, etc all occupied. Wastelands, the dangerous and out of the way orbs are left for the late humans to explore and exploit.

Prospector Ramon Espejo is on the Enye colony planet of Sao Paulo. When he gets into a drunken brawl, he kills someone with connections to the Enye authorities. He flees to the planet’s jungle like outback only to find himself struggling to survive the cat-lizard chupacabras and some things even deadlier.

HUNTER’S RUN is an exciting thought provoking science fiction tale that plays out on two levels. In the big scheme, humanity is somewhat humiliated as we learn we are far from the top dog in the galaxy. On the smaller scale, Ramon knows he has leaped from the frying pan into the fire as he finds himself in danger in the wasteland with no place to go for safety. Readers will appreciate this deep tale starring a fabulous antihero trying to survive in a world in which he is low on the food chain.

Harriet Klausner