Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dark Seduction-Kathleen Korbel

Dark Seduction
Kathleen Korbel
Silhouette Nocturne, Feb 2008, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617814

Her older sister Nuala has escaped the wrath of their mother by accepting mortality and love (see DANGEROUS TEMPTATION). Queen Mab has written off her oldest daughter as an undesirable exile, but her anger is at her two other offspring. Her middle child Sorcha was guardian of the Coilin Stone that was part of the crown of the Tuatha de Dannen before it was stolen due to her neglect and her sister Orla enabled the Dubhlain Sidhe to steal the gem. The seer warns the queen that the Dubhlain Sidhe grows stronger with no feminist balance since they lost the Dearann Stone while the Tuatha de Dannen will turn much weaker as there will be no spring without recovering the two stones; eventually all on two realms will die.

Mab commands her daughter Sorcha to travel through the gate to England to retrieve the Dearann Stone so that can be used to barter for the Coilin Stone. In England, Sorcha meets Harry Beverly, who does not believe that the fae exist although he wonders if his attraction for her is magically based. As he comes around to believe, they learn a rival seeks the Dearann Stone for some dark purpose. The duo knows time is running out for everyone.

DARK SEDUCTION is a fabulous romantic fantasy starring a heroine who believes she is not worthy or capable and the mortal who brings her confidence in herself. The story is fast-paced with its world in jeopardy premise always at the surface even as the lead characters acknowledge their love for one another. Readers will believe in the Korbel realm where mythos species seem genuine while also knowing that Orla is out their on her mission.

Harriet Klausner

Happy Hour of the Damned-Mark Henry

Happy Hour of the Damned
Mark Henry
Kensington, Mar 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758225221

There are two distinct zombie species. First there are the Breathers who just need to exhale on a person to convert them to the living dead and then there are those changed by a bite or scratch. In Seattle advertising executive Amanda Feral was riding an elevator when she was breathed on; when she next awakens she has no idea what happened to her. She is walking in confusion on when Gil the vampire stops her and explains to her what she has become. He further informs her that there is a world of the supernatural with stores and clubs for paranormal shoppers that mortals cannot see.

Horrified by her suddenly pale sickly complexion, Amanda breaks into a mortuary to obtain some make-up for the recently departed. There she meets fellow zombie Wendy seeking cosmetics too. At a HAPPY HOUR OF THE DAMNED club, the two females meet Lisle the succubus who turns the twosome into the three supernatural musketeers. Though time has a different connotation, not long afterward Lisle sends a text message “help” to her two pals. They fear for their buddy who vanished immediate after hitting send. As they search for Lisle, Amanda and Wendy uncover a plot to turn the world into a zombie playpen by using a zombie virus. To prevent this from happening, they need to uncover the identity of the mastermind, a devilishly diabolical genius.

This chick lit urban fantasy is an amusing tale that lampoons chick lit urban fantasies. Amanda and Wendy come across as “Valley Girls” a la the 1980s movie Night of the Comet while Gil and Lisle add biting humor by satirizing vampire romantic thrillers. The plot is fun with its spoof of save civilization as we know it theme. Mark Henry provides an enjoyable tale in his opening salvo that will have readers who appreciate a lighthearted romp waiting for future happy hour stories.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cuts-Richard Laymon

Richard Laymon
Leisure, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843957525

In North Glen, Illinois in 1975, seventeen years old Albert Prince is looking forward to having sex with Betty, but he is shocked when she demands twenty dollars. He is six dollars short; she tells him to come back when he can afford her. He leaves outraged.

Albert knifes a stray dog, which gives him some sadistic pleasure. On a supermarket checkout line, he observes the address on a check of a female customer. Not long afterward, he breaks into her home and hides in the closet until a man and woman arrive; he knifes the male and begins cutting the woman ending the crescendo with a final plunge. He hitches a ride out of state and kills the driver. He seeks young attractive females so he can break into their homes and terrorize them with his knife before killing them. He ends up in California where he meets some people from a college. The daughter of one of the teachers was attacked by him in Denver. He is about to learn that California girls are nothing like the females he browbeat into doing what he demanded of them.

CUTS is a horror story that in spite of no supernatural element cuts deeply into the psyche of readers; sort of like the first Jaws movie did. The antagonist is an amoral cold blooded monster of the human kind who thinks nothing of torture and murder especially getting off when it occurs in the sanctuary haven of someone’s home. Richard Laymon’s thriller is very frightening because Albert seems plausible as he craves the slice and dice of a sexual snuff predator, knowing he will never change; the only prevention of his sick sexual slashing is to either kill him or lock him away forever.

Harriet Klausner

The Quest-Lindsay McKenna

The Quest
Lindsay McKenna
Silhouette Nocturne, Feb 2008, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617807

The search continues for the gems that make up the Emerald Necklace. Two Tage Warriors for the Light and their soulmates have already successfully completed their missions (see UNFORGIVEN and DARK TRUTH). Archaeologists Kendra Johnson and Nolan Galloway of the Ecuadorian based Vesica Pisces Foundation are sent to work together to uncover clues to the whereabouts of the third stone.

The pair has a torrid history that ended in guilt and tragedy in which only his telekinetic power saved his life; both are wary but still in love. Besides these two Warriors for the Light, the evil Tupay send super villain Victor Guerra to follow them and if they succeed, kill them and take the gem as chaos on earth remains their objective and the jewel can help them achieve their strategic goal.

The third Warriors for the Light romantic suspense fantasy is an exhilarating entry that though the overall plot is similar in tone to the first two novels retains its own freshness due to the previous relationship between the lead couple. Nolan and Kendra were selected because their skills complement one another making achieving their quest a strong possibility; however their trek on the Colorado in the Grand Canyon left her younger sister Debbie dead and their relationship shattered. Thus both must overcome the ghost of her sibling if they are to succeed on the mission with a lethal adversary on their tale and perhaps forgive the past with their love for each other. Lindsay McKenna provides a deep entry in a strong saga.

Harriet Klausner

The Girl Next Door-Jack Ketchum

The Girl Next Door
Jack Ketchum
Leisure, Feb 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960976

Suburban 1950s New Jersey is a great place to raise kids; just ask twelve year old David, who loves playing in his idyllic neighborhood where crime is nonexistent. Next door Ruth Chandler, single mother of David’s best friend Donny and two brothers, takes in two young distant cousins whose parents died in a horrific automobile accident. The older sister fourteen years old Meg seems to have fully recovered; the younger sibling Susan needs crutches and wears heavy metal braces on her legs while mentally she is totally broken.

David is immediately attracted to the lovely Meg and they begin meeting at places like "Big Rock”; they make a charming cute couple. Ruth lives in the past when she was the office manager of a large firm; she hates suburbia and being saddled with five children. She takes her growing rage out on her new charges, physically and mentally abusing Meg and Susan, especially Meg who reminds her of all she gave up to have kids. Her sons by omission support her actions. David also knows that Ruth is violent towards Meg, but though he loathes what she is doing, he is also fascinated by her dehumanizing the one person who reminds her how far she has fallen.

This reprint of a 1989 deep psychological study focuses on the watcher-narrator David who learns about abuse and helplessness when he fascinatingly observes the pain a human inflicts on another while neighbors ignore the truth. The story line hooks the audience from the opening line as a wizened David understands pain and never lets go as the serene middle class suburban neighborhood enables ugliness to hide behind the scene (mindful of the Kitty Genovese killing in 1964 Queens). This book also includes two short stories and an interview with Jack Ketchum, but cannot be considered padding since the novel is 340 pages. Readers will be shocked by the horror of customized violence that society chooses to ignore when it happens to THE GIRL NEXT DOOR.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 28, 2007

Tomorrow’s World- Davie Harrison

Tomorrow’s World
Davie Harrison
Medallion, Mar 2008, $15.95
ISBN 9781933836355

The environmental disasters of the past century have taken their toll on the earth. However as a byproduct of the toxic wasteland, everyone lives in a computer controlled orb making the various hates like racism, religion, sexual preference obsolete. However, a new kind of bias has occurred between the “Name” natural born and the “Number” engineered lab rats.

Logipol policy is to assign a Name and Number as a police team to maximize the skills of both as the Name brings passion and dreams to a case while the Numbers bring superior mental and physical attributes. The brass assign “Name” cop Ben Travis and his partner “Number” cop Perfect Paula to investigate the death of Name plant dealer Douglas MacDougall. Paula believes he died from a self-induced drug overdose, more likely suicide than accident; Ben thinks otherwise as his gut screams homicide made to look like a suicide. The Name and the Number follow the clues trying to resolve their difference re the death of a Name.

Extrapolating the environmental trends of today into the next century Davie Henderson paints a dismal picture of a dying globe in this interesting science fiction police procedural. The story line is at its best when the Name and the Number argue the case; when the plot turns to the past global environmental disaster and its consequences, it loses steam as that feels more like a preacher shouting brimstone. Still this is a fine start of what looks like a solid twenty-second cop series in which hopefully Mr. Henderson explores the newest form of prejudice by looking into the relationship between the two cops.

Harriet Klausner

The Wrath of Zar-Shayne Easson

The Wrath of Zar
Shayne Easson
WestBank, Nov 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9780978984014

Although they are brothers, Adan Caynne would choose flight while Dex would choose fight. Thus they are opposites with Dex wanting to become a warrior and Adan turning the other cheek because he has some inkling of his father’s former life as a Ches warrior who barely survived a demonic led assault.

Keeping his head buried in the sand, Adam is ignorant that a demon army is destroying Yannina. However, he becomes aware that something is wrong when his sibling vanishes and a neighbor Cadin brutally killed. Vowing to find and rescue his brother from whatever, Adan wonders if his father’s newly arrived fully armed visitors he never met before are involved with the recent events. However, his quest turns surreal when the Andar apprentice Hythe informs him he is the only hope to defeat the Demon Vayle and his horde destroying the guardian who imprisoned him. Soon others including Zar the dragon ally with him even as he insists he is not fighting demons or anyone for that matter.

This action-packed quest fantasy stars a wonderful reluctant hero, who has enough personal issues trying to remain stalwart on his personal hunt only to have an assortment of entities claim he’s the man. Readers will feel they are trekking alongside Adan and his band as they search for his twin while preparing for the larger mission of battling the invincible demon army led by a champion who chooses flight not fight. Shayne Easson provides readers with an outstanding opening adventure in his Demons of Destiny saga.

Harriet Klausner

The Ravening-Dawn Thompson

The Ravening
Dawn Thompson
Love Spell; Feb 2008; $6.99
ISBN: 9780505527271

After years away, Brotherhood warrior Milosh returns to the Hyde-White family manor in Cumberland, England to complete his long term quest of killing the lord of the evil vampires Sebastian. He is stunned with what he sees as the house is a ruin obviously destroyed by fire and his friends like Joss are gone. However, most shocking is the Gypsy living amidst the wreckage.

He demands Paloma explain why she hides in this cold dump. She tells him she took refuge in this forbidden place that no one visits anymore here praying and waiting in hope that someone would come to teach her the Blood Moon technique so she can control her blood lust thirst. Paloma further explains a shapeshifting vampire bit her. Milosh is further stunned as he realizes he wants Paloma, but must not allow her to become a pawn in his war with Sebastian who he assumes bit her. She makes it even more difficult to resist her when she offers her love, body and soul to him.

Decades since the events of early Victorian THE BROTHERHOOD and even more years since Regency THE BLOOD MOON, the final tale in the Chronicles of the Blood Moon Victorian vampire saga is a superb final confrontation between good and evil. The key to this excellent vampire romantic suspense is how Dawn Thompson keeps the feeling that the bad guy is going to win as the hero is distracted by love. THE RAVENING is vampire historical romantic suspense at its best.

Harriet Klausner

Shapeshifter-J.F. Gonzalez

J.F. Gonzalez
Leisure, Jan 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843959734

Lycanthropic Orange Coast College student Mark Wiseman controls his urge to kill when he shifts to a werewolf; he also hides his condition from everyone until he is caught changing by a security camera while working in the Tape Library of the Computer Operations of Free State Insurance.

The firm’s CEO Bernard Roberts lives for his work though he makes time even at his executive office for sex with his executive secretary Carol Emrich. He owns the videotape in which Mark is filmed shifting. The wealthy amoral mogul blackmails Mark into cooperating with his desires. He orders Mark to kill any board member supporting a merger that if agreed will lead to an audit and ultimately expose Bernard's embezzling of company funds. To further insure Mark cooperates, Bernard has evidence that links Mark to the bloody murders of the werewolf’s parents. Mark’s only hope for freedom resides with Carol whom he just met and can sense her attraction to him.

This is an entertaining fast-paced horror thriller in which readers initially will wonder whether the wolf will do the killings or not and whether Mark will ever be free from the malevolent Bernard. J.F. Gonzalez keeps the audience wondering how Mark will expedite himself from this mess once he decides not to kill Bernard at least for now. Though neither of the male leads showcases much in the way of any redeeming qualities as a survival of the fittest killer instincts rules; fans of in your face werewolf tales with plenty of gore will want to read this exciting story.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Miles in Love-Lois McMaster Bujold

Miles in Love
Lois McMaster Bujold
Baen, Feb 2008. $14.00
ISBN: 9781416555476

“Komarr”. Considered physically and mentally unfit for military duty any longer, Miles Vorkosigan is forced to leave the service he loves. However, his experiences obtain him work as a Barrayaran Empire Imperial Auditor handling top-secret special complicated cases with potential for far reaching damage. His current investigation is to learn whether a terraforming satellite that collided with an ore freighter near Komarr was deliberate as the planet is a hotbed of rebellion. To make his inquiry more difficult most Komarrans loathe his father, who brutally put down their last revolt. As he uncovers bribery and treason, Miles falls in love with the married enemy, Ekaterin Vorsoisson.

“A Civil Campaign”. Miles loves Ekaterin, but hesitates wooing her since he holds himself culpable as a widow maker when his actions led to her husband’s death; although he also rationalizes that her late spouse was corrupt. As he courts his beloved, his wacko clone brother Mark bugs him. Mark’s latest get rich scheme involves "butter bugs", but these cockroaches somehow got free and have infested their parents’ house. As he tries to exterminate the bugs, Miles is accused of murder. Still he never loses sight of his objective, marrying Ekaterin.

"Winterfair Gifts". Miles and Ekaterin are getting married at his family estate. One of his armsman, Roic, guards the Vorkosigan estate at night especially as the guests arrive for the nuptials. However, to his shock Roic is attracted to the dangerous Amazonian Sergeant Taura at a time when he cannot afford the distraction. Someone wants to kill Miles, Ekaterin or both.

These two novels and the novella that make up this omnibus collection are fabulous tales that showcase MILES IN LOVE. Each entry is humorous yet serious with the novella “Winterfair Gifts” refreshingly told mostly by Roic’s perspective. Lois McMaster Bujold is at her best with this trilogy.

Harriet Klausner

The Dreaming Void-Peter Hamilton

The Dreaming Void
Peter Hamilton
Del Rey, Mar 2008, $26.95
ISBN: 9780345496539

Fifteen hundred years have passed since the Commonwealth conspiracy occurred (see PANDORA’S STAR AND JUDAS UNCHAINED). Mankind ha prospered, but now humanity is divided once again. This time it is over the Void at the core of galaxy. A powerful sect the Living Dream has formed around Inigo the human who insists he dreams of the paradise world inside the Void. The star of his dreams is Edeard who Inigo believes lives inside the Void and is contacting him.

Inigo’s followers become the most powerful political and social force in the galaxy. Meanwhile the human clamor to enter the Void frightens the ancient species who somewhat understands and fears the unintentional consequences of entering the Void will trigger the Void’s concentric expansion until the galaxy is destroyed. When Inigo vanishes without a trace, Ethan takes over and announces a pilgrimage into the Void.

As expected, Peter Hamilton provides an extremely complex very entertaining futuristic science fiction that in some ways is quite simple as the story line focuses on two prime subplots. First there are Inigo’s dreams of Edeard’s young life as a teen member of the Eggshaper’s Guild to his rookie days as a junior constable in Makkathran; second there is the various reactions across the galaxy when Ethan announces the pilgrimage into the Void. Each holds up quite well as the key players, Edeard and Ethan seem real, which in turn makes the Void feel genuine. This is a great opening of the second act as fans return to the Hamilton galaxy fifteen or so centuries since we left following the events of PANDORA’S STAR AND JUDAS UNCHAINED.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bone Song-John Meaney

Bone Song
John Meaney
Bantam, Mar 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 9780553385144

Four famous performers have been recently murdered in different countries. At least of the actor Sir Alyn Conolly made it to the morgue in Lorgonne, where an autopsy revealed toxic slivers that resolved left behind micro holes.

In Tristopolis the multiple incinerations of the dead serve the undead living by providing the "necroflux". The Police Commissioner is concerned with the upcoming appearance of opera singer Maria daLivnova at the Theatre du Loup Mort. He orders Police Lieutenant Donal Riordan to insure the diva is kept safe from an apparent deadly cult. However the dedicated courageous cop soon concludes that the cult’s necromantic success is fostered by those at the untouchable top of the government. He must find a way to stop those who kill the dead with impunity.

This is a fascinating police procedural urban fantasy in which "There are eight million stories in the Naked City” of Tristopolis; John Meaney introduced many of them but left them open. The Noir investigation is fun to follow and the paranormal species “living” above and under ground seem genuine, but it is the colorful dark description of the city that steals the show in this first of what looks to be a long running series.

Harriet Klausner.

Mine to Possess-Nalini Singh

Mine to Possess
Nalini Singh
Berkley, Feb 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425220160

In 2080 the war of attrition between the Earthlings and the Psy continues unabated with hot spots seemingly bursting everywhere as neither side trusts the other. Half breed Clay Bennett was raised by a human mother in the human slums without ever knowing the changeling leopard that sired him. Two decades ago as a youngster without a guiding pack he failed to learn how to control the animal instinct of his nature and caused a deadly incident that still haunts him even as he has dedicated his life since becoming a Dark River sentinel.

Thus when Clay sees half-breed Talin McKade for the first time in twenty years, he is euphoric. She was his best friend as a child before the incident devastated both their lives. Like Clay, Talin has dedicated her life since the incident that shaped them; she works at San Francisco's Shine Foundation helping needy children. Recently some of her kids have vanished only to return brainless; victims of Psy experiments to create a hive. As the half human half Leopard pair reunite and fall in love, they work together to try to protect the young from the heinous Psy experimentation.

The fourth Psy-Changeling tale, MINE TO POSSESS, is an excellent urban fantasy romance that stars two terrific half-breeds whose past contains warmth and friendship for one another, but also one shattering pivotal moment. There reconciliation is handled quite cleverly as they team up to save the children. The Psy is as insidious as ever; however to fully grasp the complex Singh saga, newcomers should read the previous three superb thrillers (see SLAVE TO SENSATION, VISIONS OF HEAT and CARESSED BY ICE).

Harriet Klausner

Secret Of The Dragon’s Eye-Derek Hart

Secret Of The Dragon’s Eye
Derek Hart
iUniverse, 2007, $16.95
ISBN: 9780595429677

In the North Cornwall coastal town of Crackington Haven, twelve years old Gavin Kane enjoys his childhood playing make believe games with his best friend Emily Scott. However, Gavin knows his parents fear war is coming to England as the Nazis blitzkrieg their way across the continent. His dad knowing he will soon fight for his country shares time with his son; they read together a tale of about King Arthur and Thaddeus Osbert the dragon.

WW II hits home doubly so to Gavin as his father leaves to fight and he befriends a newcomer evacuee child Bunty who survived the Nazi bombing of Plymouth inside air raid shelters until he was transported to North Cornwall. The three children meet Thaddeus Osbert the dragon who begs them to provide him with sugar at a time rationing grips the country. When the Germans land a force near Crackington Haven seeking Excalibur, the three kids and their sweet-toothed dragon try to repel them and their flying ally.

SECRET OF THE DRAGON’S EYE is a superb WWII fantasy that hooks the audience in two ways. First the description early WWII England mostly through the eyes of Bunty makes for a vivid anchored historical. When Thaddeus enters their lives, the story line adds fantasy elements to it. Mindful of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire saga, readers who appreciate something different in their war novels will enjoy fine historical fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Runemarks-Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris
Knopf, Jan 2008, $18.99
ISBN: 9780375844447

Five centuries have past since the battle of Ragnarok in which the gods lost and eternal winter became the norm. With the gods gone and allegedly no more magic existing, filling the leadership vacuum of the Middle World of the Nine Worlds is the Order, who rule with an iron fisted theocracy.

Maddy Smith born with a runemark on her palm knows some residue magic still exists. However the eight hundred villagers of Malbry in the Strond Valley region of the civilized Inland island scorn her because her “ruinmark” make them believe she is a witch. They would exile her except that their hamlet is on the edge of Red Horse Hill, a locale containing the pre-Ragnarok power. Thus they need the witch’s skills to control the goblin plague that comes with being so close to the ancient magic. Everything changes for the needed pariah when a traveler One-Eye enters the village. He recognizes her having a world destiny if she can believe in herself; he offers to teach Maddy in Faerie; she avidly accepts.

The biggest problem for parents with this excellent young adult Norse fantasy is their children will be so hooked with the Potter syndrome they will stay up several nights to read this wonderful five hundred plus page tale. The story line is fast-paced from the first rune to the last while the supportive cast is fully developed from Adam the Bully to the heroine’s family to the Devotees to the goblins Lucky and Sugar and Sack, etc. However, Maddy and to a lesser degree her mentor own this coming of age Middle World saga.

Harriet Klausner

The Vampire’s Kiss-Raven Hart

The Vampire’s Kiss
Raven Hart
Ballantine, Jan 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345498564

Five hundred years old vampire William Thorne is tearing Europe apart searching for his vampiric wife and their son; he seeks them not out of some family love, as he does not; instead he knows they are evil and have kidnapped someone dear to him, Renee the powerful daughter of Melaphia the strongest voodoo priestess in the New World. Her daughter’s magical blood can cure ills that affect vampires and it is her mother’s blood that makes William stronger than vampires twice his age. When he learns they were in London, William asks his vampiric cousin to assist him on his quest.

Back at home in Savannah, Jack’s sire William is trying to prevent a backwater hillbilly werewolf clan from making crystal meth. The powerful alpha werewolf Seth is also trying to take them down in a pack fight while Jack’s love Connie struggles to accept that creatures of the night exist. Eleanor, who William converted into a vampire, begs him to free her from his wife and her mate even though she betrayed him by leaving with them shortly after he made her. William will free her, but only when Renee is liberated and unbound. His decision to let Eleanor survive proves a mistake because she slows down his quest to reunite with the child of his heart. An ocean away her mother uses her power to hurt her daughter’s enemies so that William can free Renee in what appears to be the first salvo in a war.

THE VAMPIRE KISS is a pulse thumping enthralling horror thriller filled with action to the nth degree. There are many revelations in this exciting story that will serve as future plots. This includes the supernatural species Connie belongs too and why Renee’s mother wants her soul on another plane of existence. Readers learn of the long term strategic goals of the Vampire Council of Dark Lords especially how they plan to interact with their sustenance, humans. However, it is the lead vampires, likable Jack with his self deprecating undead jokes and courageous William with his need to do right who make this a fine entry in spite of its overall transition story line.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 24, 2007

Confessor-Terry Goodkind

Terry Goodkind
Tor, Nov 2007, $29.95
ISBN: 9780765315236

After coming so far, Richard Rahl knows he must risk all to free his beloved wife Kahlan Amnell, who does not recall much of her past including her husband, from the destructive Emperor Jagang and his Imperial Order that has destroyed freedom like a CHAINFIRE encircling everything. Now the Order has reached the final destination of pandemic destruction the People's Palace.

Richard must escape, save his spouse and prevent the Order from completing its quest while knowing the Beast will assault his body and soul at almost every turn. His only avenue he sees is to forge a team to challenge the undefeated champions, the Emperor’s squad in a game of Ja'La dh Jin. If he wins the contest the females select the rewards; he does not want to dwell on losing.

Going into the final book of the Sword of Truth saga, the probability of Terry Goodkind wrapping up all his subplots from the previous ten tales is one in a googolplex, but the author seemingly has done so, but at a cost. The above is critical, but does not reflect most of what is going on from battles to campsites, to the siege, etc. At times the myriad of sidebars seem overwhelming and force a final sprint to the finish line. Still this is a powerful conclusion to what peels down to its core of a war between truth and deception with readers wondering will Richard succeed on his quest that is personal yet universal while breathlessly waiting the revealing of the final wizard’s rule.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Dead to Me-Anton Strout

Dead to Me
Anton Strout
Ace, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441015788

Simon Canderous spent years misusing his psychometric skills to steal. However, he has reformed and now employs his ability to obtain the history of an object by touching it for the Department of Extraordinary Affairs. What he has not learned is patience as working for a bureaucracy has proven frustrating with SOPs, red tape, and fearful nurturing leaders who are CYA conscience with everything needing documentation a zillion times over.

Simon accidentally spills his coffee through a female ghost who remains ignorant to the fact that she is dead let alone murdered. He vows to bring her killers to justice. However, he will soon learn how complex his pledge is as he is assaulted by the forces of Darkness who are attracted to him and want him to join them but he is not sure in what precisely; and learns more clues from a killer bookcase and a wooden fish. As he gathers information, none of that he obtains seems to get him closer to solving the homicide.

This excellent urban fantasy stars an interesting lead male who readers meet when his tryst with Tamara goes wrong when she pins him to the bed and starts kissing him until his psychometric skills tell him about her New Orleans encounter; she flees from this perverted stalker. Thus the audience immediately learns the down side of the gift, which in turn personalizes and humanizes the hero. The whodunit investigation is fun to follow sort of like an early Dresden so fans should stop at the Lovecraft café for an entertaining paranormal investigative tale.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Seekers of the Chalice-Brian Cullen

Seekers of the Chalice
Brian Cullen
Tor, Feb 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765314734

The Chalice of Fire was given to Cucullen, champion of the Red Branch in Ulster and as long as it stayed there, the province would know peace and prosperity. Boorish braggart Bricriu Poisontongue is detested by everyone for his caustic tounge so when he fell into manure everyone enjoyed a laugh at his expense. Outraged and arrogant, he vowed vengeance. He stole the sacred Chalice intending to give it to malevolent wizard Maliman who along with his magical minions was recently freed from incarceration in the Great Prism because the seven seals that bound him were broken.

Only the just can drink from the Chalice and gain immortality except for Maliman whose powers are so great he can use the Chalice to forge Earthworld into his evil image. In Otherworld where immortals and gods live, the immortal Cumc,, son of Cucullen, is asked to find the Chalice although that means going to Earthworld making him vulnerable. He accepts the quest and takes his father’s magical sword with him. Along the way he has five people join his journey and become known on two realms as the Seekers of the Chalice.

Talk about no rest for the weary; almost in every step (seemingly almost every page) of their travels, the Seekers have to fight Maliman’s minions and other evil beings. Their experiences on the road forge them into a tight band focused on a single purpose to recover the Chalice. They fight together against anyone trying to prevent their achieving their objective. This epic high fantasy is the sub-genre at its best as Brian Cullen effortlessly provides a top rate historical fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 21, 2007

Tangled Webs-Anne Bishop

Tangled Webs
Anne Bishop
Roc, Mar 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780451461605

Queen Jaenelle Angelline fashioned what she calls a “silly, spooky” fun house that lampoons the magically gifted Bloods. Lady Surreal SaDiablo and magic practitioner Warlord Prince Rainier receive special invitations to tour her creation.

However, neither Surreal nor Rainier is aware that Jaenelle has not sent out any invitations. Insane Jarvis Jenkell has recently learned he is of the Blood too and has developed a maniac plan to inspire his writing of novels. He has built a dangerous haunted house in which he plans to trap Bloods and observe their tribulations; thus he invited Surreal, Rainer and several children, who arrive for the gala only to find themselves in a life and death struggle to survive. Jaenelle’s husband Daemon Sadi and his half-brother Lucivar desperately try to free their loved ones from Jarvis’ diabolical house of horrors.

The latest Black Jewels fantasy thriller (see DREAMS MADE FLESH) is an excellent action-packed tale that grips readers once the tour of hell begins and never slows down until the final confrontation. The story line is fast-paced and the cast seem real. However, what makes TANGLE WEB great is the Blood magic seems plausible so much so that readers will feel trapped inside Jenkell’s house of horrors.

Harriet Klausner

Magic of Twilight-S.L. Farrell

Magic of Twilight
S.L. Farrell
Daw, Feb 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756404666

The city-state Nessantico has annexed all of the nearby territory. However although still the sole superpower in the region; for the first time since the conquering began centuries ago the Holdings of Nessantico teeter, but not from without. Within the empire, there are groups who radically differ especially on the issue of religion; while others just want more power regardless of how they achieve it.

The time for a schism seems rapidly to be coming as the current ruler Marguerite ca'Ludovici is nearing her fiftieth year as the Kraljica. Besides religious fundamentalists plotting her assassination, her son A'Kralj Justi ca'Mazzak wants to rule now; and the subjected monarch who controls much of the city-state’s army H’rzg Jan ca'Vцrl considers a coup. Others also scheme. However, Marguerite has some loyal followers too in the military, in the religious circles, amongst her court members, and amidst the people. Civil war seems imminent.

The rotating perspective from numerous individuals highlights the differing opinions and motivations re the future of the Holdings of Nessantico. This technique enhances the complexity level of the sixteen episodic storyline as the events are seen from multiple changing views; this also adds depth to the prime players who show up in most of the chapters. Although the use of native vernacular makes the novel real seem real, this reviewer has always found it a distraction when overused (except in A Clockwork Orange) as is the case here. Still fans who appreciate a strong insightful political fantasy will enjoy this superb opening tale.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

In the Courts of the Crimson Kings- S.M. Stirling

In the Courts of the Crimson Kings
S.M. Stirling
Tor, Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780765314895

On Mars, the U.S. Aerospace Force assigns archeologist Jeremy Wainman to explore the recently found lost city of Rema-Dza. When Jeremy meets Martian native mercenary Teyud za-Zhalt, he falls in love. However, he quickly realizes who she is; Teyud is the missing heir to the long gone Crimson Dynasty that once rurled much of the Red Planet.

When they learn of a scheme to steal the Ruby Throne and much more, they team up to prevent it. Soon Jeremy and Teyud are fleeing for their lives as they are under serious attack from airships. If they are to survive and win her the throne of the Emperor Tollamune they will need to locate the missing invisible crown of the first emperor.

Moving from the Venus of THE SKY PEOPLE to paying homage to the Mars of Ray Bradbury, S.M. Stirling provides enjoyable alien-earthling encounters of the first through third kinds. The story line is action-packed only slowing down for nanoseconds in order to lampoon know it all scientists drawing conclusions without supporting data, rigid military officers fighting the last war fought on a different planet, and decider politicians not interested in the facts. Those latter satirical sidebars are amusing and right on with their caricatures, but also distracts from an otherwise delightful visit to the very angry Red Planet.

Harriet Klausner

Got to Kill Them All-Dennis Etchison

Got to Kill Them All
Dennis Etchison
Cemetery Dance $40.00
ISBN 9781587670930

These eighteen tales have appeared in other publications, but never together. The entries represent the four decades with the earliest being 1966 (“Sitting in the Corner, Whimpering Quietly”) of award winning writer Dennis Etchison. The entries have in common seemingly normal environs that turn suddenly into a personalized frightening encounter for an individual whether the short takes place at a Laundromat, a butcher shop, or a bar. With six tales published in the 1970s; five in the eighties and nineties; and six in the current decade; readers obtain an evolutionary glimpse of an author who in the short format paints a disturbing landscape using one everyday locale in which one event changes the milieu sort of like the recent killings at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Not for the cozy crowd, as Dennis Etchison’s dark but entertaining world makes the title apropos in which even the innocent aggress that in this superb anthology GOT TO KILL THEM ALL is the norm.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Sweet Far Thing- Libba Bray

The Sweet Far Thing
Libba Bray
Delacorte, Dec 26 2007, $17.99
ISBN: 9780385730303

A year has passed since Gemma Doyle was packed off to attend Spence Academy with plenty of other changes in her life. Some of what has occurred is personal starting with her mom’s death and her father’s addiction; others are paranormal starting with her ability to travel to the Realms and return with magic.

However, as the Victorian world is bombarded with change especially from across the Channel, Gemma remains an outsider in London. Apparently that which makes her the High Priestess in the Realms also makes her inappropriate for Polite Society. She rejects the constraints on females over the discipline from the martinet headmistress of Spence Mrs. Nightwing as she has had a taste of freedom and leadership in the other Realms. Yet she even considers corseting herself if she could land the hunk Kartik. Life as a teen in London is confusing; life as a High priestess in the realms is deadly.

Though somewhat overwhelming in its size and scope (so were the other tales), the final tale in the coming of age Gemma Doyle trilogy THE SWEET FAR THING is a terrific entry that ties up a zillion dangling subplots from the previous two stories (see REBEL ANGELS and A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY). Thus it behooves the young adult audience to read those books first to gain the full flavor of this paranormal historical saga. Gemma has come a long way baby in both worlds, but feels societal restraints in turn of the century Victorian England and the weight of responsibility in the Realms. With interesting historical tidbits to anchor the era, Libba Bray provides a strong finish to an interesting saga.

Harriet Klausner

To Hell and Back-Lilith Saintcrow

To Hell and Back
Lilith Saintcrow
Orbit, Jan 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780316001779

When Lucifer captured half-demon and powerful necromance Dante Valentine he did all sorts torturous things to her before dispatching her back to the mortal world to live or die as the god’s will. At first Dante remembers nothing about her time in Hell, but gradually begins to recall enough to be afraid and hide under her bed. Her demon lover Japhrimel finds her; asks what Lucifer did to her but she is too traumatized to tell him. Japh vows vengeance on the Lord he once served.

Japh is now one of the Fallen although he tricked Lucifer into returning to him to his Greater Flight Powers. Japh fails to confide in Dante, but takes her to another demon who removes what Lucifer placed in her belly, a worm that tied her to him and through her Japh would be bound too. They recover half of the blade of Fudsham, a blade that could kill a demon including Lucifer. The other half is in a place Dante won’t go so while Japh goes to recover it, she tries to stay alive from all the factions that want her dead

This is the final book in the Dante Valentine saga and it answers all the key questions followers have had from the previous tales while tying up the major threads. Japh is beginning to be more confident in his feelings and trusts that Dante loves him like he does her. Dante is unsure of whether to trust Japh as he spins plot after plot, but she knows she loves him. TO HELL AND BACK is literal and allegorical and a magnificent enthralling urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 17, 2007

Starship: Mercenary-Mike Resnick

Starship: Mercenary
Mike Resnick
PYR, Dec 2007, $25.00, 323 pp.
ISBN 9781591025993

Three thousand years from now, man created the Republic; many alien races joined it. Now the Republic is at war with the Teroni Federation. Commander Wilson Cole of the starship Theodore Roosevelt relieved a captain of her command and in doing so saved a planet and millions of lives. As a reward, he was arrested and awaiting a court-martial, but his squad freed him and they jumped to the Inner Frontier. They became pirates but for law abiding men and women used to a command structure they found out they were not good at piracy.

They become mercenaries selling their services to the highest bidder and found that a bit more honorable. They save lives including that of freeing a client who is held on a warlike isolationist planet; get the patients out of a hospital before an enemy warlord and his armada bears down on them; stopping a warlord from exterminating an entire planet; and saving a space station that is in neutral territory and where all species are welcome. Cole uses his brains to come out the victor especially since one of his most trusted of crew joined forces with their enemy.

Filled with action, brilliant planning for the success of a mission and characters that readers really care about STARSHIP MERCENARY like its predecessors PIRATE and MUTINY is a fabulous outer space saga. The hero is an honorable man treated dishonorably by the Republic he swore to protect but he is not bitter. He spends his time on missions he chooses and caring for each member of his team; and in return they give him their undying loyalty. Val, the pirate who become Cole’s Third Officer, doesn’t comprehend how the crew of the Teddy’s R can care for one another without demanding more in return. Mike Resnick is a great galaxy-builder as he describes alien species so readers believe they will exist in the future.

Harriet Klausner

Black Magic Woman-Justin Gustainis

Black Magic Woman
Justin Gustainis
Solaris, Nov 2007, $15.00
ISBN 9781844165414

It is in Quincey Morris’ blood to be a supernatural investigator because, after all, his great great grandfather was one of the people who helped destroy Dracula. After cleaning out a nest of vampires in a small Texan town he gets another client Walter La Rue who believes his house is haunted and whatever is there is trying to kill him, his wife and their children. When he examines the house he notices charms made by Walter’s mother-in-law that would keep the inhabitants from being cursed. When she died the charms lost its powers.

He consults with white witch Libby Chastain who gets information on the charms and what is targeting the family. They learn that the descendents of Bridget Warren are being cursed by the descendents of Sarah Carter who was convicted of being a witch due to Bridget’s testimony. Sarah was burned to death her and her present day kin Christine Abernathy will stop at nothing to kill the La Rues, Quincey and Libby. A magic practitioner from South Africa is in the United States killing children to make for Christine a fetish that will allow her to achieve that goal. Inspector Van Dreenan who has a personal score to settle with his country’s black witch helps the FBI agent in charge of the case understand what they are dealing with. Libby and Quincey become Christine’s targets and both almost end up dead, which would leave the La Rues at Christine’s mercy.

Urban fantasy lovers who enjoy the works of Km Harrison, Tanya Huff and Jim Butcher will thoroughly appreciate BLACK MAGIC WOMAN. Quincey and Libby risk their lives to protect humans from the evil supernatural; both protagonists are so personable and selfless readers will want to read more of their escapades. Justin Gustainis must own a magic word processor to create such a well thought out, entertaining and creative work.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Sarsen Witch-Eileen Kernachan

The Sarsen Witch
Eileen Kernachan
Juno, Feb 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780809571574

The Dark Folk, the Ancient people, the Witch People have all been subjugated to the hors-lords. Those not enslaved hide deep in the hills out of fear of captivity. Naeri of the House of the Lady Ashton of the Albur clan hid in the mountains and caves alone foraging for food from the enemy. Eventually she is caught and brought before Chief Ricca to be punished for theft.

She is saved by the smith Gwi, who takes her on as his apprentice though he wants much more form her. The minstrel of the tribe is hers cousin Daui who helps her find a magician who teaches Naeri how to use the stones and earth magic. Once she becomes proficient with its use, Daui directs Ricca and his men to construct a stone circle as a memorial to him at a place where the leylines are numerous and power is stored like a battery. After it is built, Naeri will use her prowess as a geomancer to bring down the horse lords and their tribes. Although frightened Naeri feels obligated to her kin, but believes no good will come of her mission.

THE SARSEN WITCH is a mesmerizing reading experience that depicts life in the Bronze Age of what will eventualy become Britain. Naeri is a survivor who will allows herself to be pushed so far before she goes her own way. It is fascinating to observe how Ricca holds the various horse tribes together using threats and gifts (today we call it an earmark) to keep everyone in line; he is not a bad leader just a product of his time as he is not interested in the welfare of those he conquered (today we call them democrats).

Harriet Klausner

Chasing Silver-Jamie Craig

Chasing Silver
Jamie Craig
Juno, Dec 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780809572014

In 2007 former cop turned bounty hunter Nathan Pierce has trapped Tian in a Culver City warehouse when suddenly a blinding light appears; in the subsequent confusion the criminal escapes. In his place is twenty-five years old Remy Capra, a woman who appeared out of nowhere. Remy is shocked that she is no longer in DC. When they pass a newsstand she realizes she also is not in her time as she has somehow gone back seventy-five years. The headline also reminds her that in the future she is on the run having stole coins from US Senator Harrah whose daughter bad cop Kirsten pursues her.

When she tells Nathan her story after her ID contains an impossible birth date of 2057 and an unknown technology, he still assumes she is crazy except for the material of her clothing that cannot be found anywhere either. The pair is attracted to one another other; unaware that Kirsten is in this time too and has teamed up with Tian to retrieve her coins and kill Remy, and assist her new partner with eliminating Nathan too.

This time travel romantic thriller is filled with hot sex, action-packed drama, and a heroine who kicks butt. The tag team battles of two chicks paired with two modern day adversarial hunks are fun to follow as the tough guys seem soft compared to the future femme fatales. Team Jamie Craig creatively combines elements from mystery, romance, and sci fi to entertain readers with an exciting cat and mouse thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Birmingham, 35 Miles-James Braziel

Birmingham, 35 Miles
James Braziel
Bantam, Mar 2008, $12.00
ISBN 9780553385021

In 2044, life is a short hard death as the hole in the ozone layer coupled with other human indignities ignored by those who scoffed at the climate crisis. They know Bush pseudoscience has practically destroyed the planet. Anyone born after it was too late only knows of endless heat and incredibly vast dust storms in the southeast dust bowl.

In this world of an arid inferno Mathew Harrison earns a meager living as a migrant worker in and around Fatama, Alabama. He dreams of finding a better life thirty five miles to the north in Birmingham, but that is outlawed for people like him. Instead he and his father toil in government clay mines that the younger Harrison believes is fake but dangerous work that the Feds have come up with to shut up the outsiders; those not residing in the exclusive Saved World where the affluent live. In spite of the hardship conditions, Mat loves his wife Jennifer and feels they have a future because they have received the golden visas allowing them to obtain menial work in the Saved World.

BIRMINGHAM, 35 MILES is an intelligently designed grim futuristic thriller that extrapolates much of the current debate on immigration, wealth distribution and climate especially rising temperatures and droughts into a strong parable of An Inconvenient Truth. The story line is vividly dark painting an ominous future for a much divided United States as dust bowls take over the southeast yet enclosed enclaves for the wealthy and their working class spring up in magnet cities like Birmingham. Readers will appreciate James Braziel’s look at a portentous ill America that demands action now or condemn our descendents to hell on earth.

Harriet Klausner

The Undead Kama Sutra-Mario Acevedo

The Undead Kama Sutra
Mario Acevedo
Eos, Mar 2008, $13.95
ISBN 9780060833282

In a Sarasota, Florida motel room that caters to hookers and pot buyers, Gilbert Oldon the alien lies dying. He called vampiric private investigator Felix Gomez to come to his death bed immediately. Gomez wonders how his former client who hired him to handle THE NYMPHOS OF ROCKY FLATS outbreak in Colorado knew he was on the Florida Interstate on a more personal case, finding THE UNDEAD KAMA SUTRA tome that allegedly provides instruction on increasing psychic power through sex; still this is the alien so he rushes to the motel. There the dying Oldon directs Gomez to “find Goodman” in order to save the women.

Felix is confused by Oldon’s last words so he remains on his case, which leads him to the Florida Keys where he meets researcher Carmen Arellano. When three women vanish without a trace and an alien blaster kills a guest at a nearby vampire resort, Gomez and Arellano team up to learn what is going on starting with seeking out Goodman; who is a former US Army colonel. Still not concerned even when he considers how knowledgeable his original source was, Felix finding the missing females has turned personal when aliens abduct Carmen.

The third Gomez paranormal Noir (see X-RATED BLOODSUCKERS) is as zany as ever as the private investigator struggles with the Goodman affair as that intrudes on his collection of THE UNDEAD KAMA SUTRA pages. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action from Sarasota to the Keys. However, an improbable late twist will disappoint fans as that takes a major bite out of what had been a strong thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 14, 2007

Unquiet Dreams-Mark Del Franco

Unquiet Dreams
Mark Del Franco
Ace, Feb 2008, 7.99, 304 pp
ISBN 9700441015696

Ever since a criminal elf did something to cause a mass in his head that almost obliterated his powers, druid investigator Connor Grey’s life is no longer on an upwardly mobile course. He is no longer an investigator or an up and coming star in the Guild that represents all fae races. He lives in a crummy Boston neighborhood known as the Weird and works with Boston Detective Murdock on crimes that involve the fae that the fae cops can’t be bothered with. Right now he is in a field that is dried up from the rains in the night examining the body of a teen that was dumped in the middle of a field.

They are called away from the crime scene to go to the site of another murder that of Alvud Kruge an elf who formed the organization Unity whose goal is to bring peace to the warring factions of the fae. Evidence provided by Joe a tiny fairy known as a flick proves that the dead teen was in contact with Kruge. He can’t convince the Guild investigators that the two crimes are linked so with the help of Joe he sets out to prove it almost getting killed several times during the course of his investigation by fae who don’t want him poking his nose in their business.

Readers who like a mystery as the prime plot of an outstanding fantasy (think of Dresden) will thoroughly be entertained and challenged by UNQUIET DREAMS. This is a great new series with the potential to be long lasting one due to a sympathetic heroic protagonist and a support cast that adds the magic to this spellbinding tale. Readers will get a new perspective on druids including their powers and politics as Mark Del Franco paints a unique vision of Boston.

Harriet Klausner

Marseguro-Edward Willet

Edward Willet
Daw, Feb 2008, $7.99, 400 pp.
ISBN: 9780756404642

In some unspecified time in the future all the scientists agreed that Earth was going to be hit by a meteor and destroyed. Genetic sculptor Victor Hansen created a race of modified humans known as Selkies, bioengineered to live in water as they had gills and webbed feet and were faster and stronger than unmodified humans. They escaped from the religious leader the Avatar and his religious regime the Body Purified who believed all beings that were genetically modified were abominations.

The asteroid ended up being deflected by another asteroid and he consolidated his regime’s hold on the people of earth. The unmodified humans and the Selkies landed on the water world of Marseguro where for seventy-five years landlings and Selkies lived in harmony with each other. Some landlings were loyal to the Avatar’s beliefs and Chris Keating, brainwashed by his mother, is one of them. When two Selkies play a nasty trick on imm, he turns on the homing beacon from the ship that landed there. Richard Lansing made it his life work to find the world his grandfather landed on and when he does he notifies the proper authorities who mount an attack to kill the Selkies. However, Marseguro is not as helpless as earth bureaucrats believe and when Richard , who travels with the troops to Marseguro, discovers who and what he is, the side he takes (Avatar or Selkie) will determine the outcome of what becomes of the mostly water planet.

The regime in power is so xenophobic that it makes war on innocent men, women and children subduing colony worlds by deadly force. Marseguro is determined not to be conquered but if they use the only means available to stop the troops Earth is sending their way, a great travesty will occur. Their moral dilemma is only on of the reasons this novel is so fascinating. The Selkie culture and infrastructure is very picturesque and easily pictured by readers who will want to visit his exotic world. Hopefully Edward Willet will write a sequel starring Marseguro.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mozart's Ghost-Julia Cameron

Mozart's Ghost
Julia Cameron
Dunne, Feb 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312369118

New York City substitute teacher Anna Chester is lonely and considering leaving the Big Apple to return to her home in the Midwest. However, she does enjoy her work as a medium although skeptics are everywhere.

Pianist Edward Appleton lives in the apartment below her having just moved in; he is practicing for an upcoming competition. His keyboards disturb Anna as she tries to make contact with spirits from beyond. Making matters worse is the ghost of Mozart has moved in with her as a sometime roommate; the legendary composer enjoys hearing Edward play the piano and since he likes his frosty acerbic hostess, he encourages her to go out with the pianist. She does and as the upstairs downstairs neighbors begin to see one another, she hides her special gift from him out of fear he will end their relationship.

This engaging paranormal romance stars two lonely living beings and the matchmaking ghost of Mozart, who visits Anna whenever Edward plays the piano. Readers will appreciate the spirited composer but he plays second violin to Anna and Edward as the pair struggles with the fear of rejection and returning to loneliness as they have found each other. Julia Cameron provides a wonderful whimsical Manhattan romantic c romp with a fifth of Mozart.

Harriet Klausner

The Bleeding Dusk- Colleen Gleason

The Bleeding Dusk
Colleen Gleason
Signet, Feb 2008, $7.99
ISBN 9780451223265

One year has past since the events in RISES THE NIGHT. Victoria Gardella Grantworth de Lacy still mourns her loss, but feels it is past time to move on although she will always cherish her late husband, Lord Rockley. Her plan is to return to her duties as a venator and as the leader of Rome’s vampire populace.

Victoria learns that the demon Akvan plans to cross the plains via the Door of the Alchemists in order to steal the confidential secrets they hide; Akvan believes he will find what he needs there and become too powerful to stop. Meanwhile Victoria’s venator peer Maximilian Pesaro wants to help her, but he belongs to Lilith. To defeat Akvan, Victoria needs help from Sebastian Vioget and his vampiric grandfather Beauregard, but none of the trio trusts any of the others and Maximilian, whom she feels she needs to trust, remains a wild card as he must do Lilith’s bidding.

The vampiric triangle of Victoria, Sebastian and Max is complex and filled with depth as desire and distrust attract and detract each of them. Victoria struggles with her feelings especially can she depend on either male when she confronts Akvan. Fans of Colleen Gleason's Gardella Vampire Chronicles will want to sink their teeth into this complex entertaining chapter of the saga.

Harriet Klausner

Singularity’s Ring- Paul Melko

Singularity’s Ring
Paul Melko
Tor, Feb 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780765317773

Space engineers built the Ring as a humongous space station circling the Earth. However, soon afterward, most of the earth populace vanishes into other realties. Those left behind are clueless as to whether those who simply left still live in some other existence.

Humans mentally merge into singularity groups that function as one person rather than multiple beings. During a training session, teen pod starship captain student Apollo Papadopulos inadvertently learns of secret research that endangers them. Their unknown adversaries want them dead before they can reveal what they know. Running as one, the quintet flees with no hope of escape as their foes are everywhere.

Whether the reader is in orbit around the earth or fleeing in the Amazon rainforest and elsewhere, SINGULARITY RING hooks the audience to come along for a wild well written ride. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the unique creative characters that make the tale fascinating. The Apollo Papadopulos consists of five teens and yet appear as one character; the Borg seems divided compared to Paul Melko’s Pods. This is for those readers who appreciate something different in their science fiction.

Harriet Klausner

Darth Bane: Rule of Two-Drew Karpyshyn

Darth Bane: Rule of Two
Drew Karpyshyn
Del Rey, Dec 26 2007, $25.95
ISBN: 9780345477484

Darth Bane has destroyed his rival Sith Lords as he places in practice his prime directive of the Rule of Two and no more; one will be the master while the other the novice.

He hides from his enemy the Jedi who for the most part assume there is no more Sith Lords while Bane also searches for the right novice. He selects Zannah as she reminds him of himself when he was younger as she embraces the dark side of the force. However, one Jedi obstinately refuses to accept the belief that the Sith Lords are no more. Johun Othone thinks Bane lives as he senses the killer of his Jedi Master Lord Hoth; he will not rest until he knows for sure that Bane is dead.

The second Darth Bane Star Wars thriller (see PATH OF DESTRUCTION) follows up where the last book left off as Drew Karpyshyn continues to tell the enthralling saga of how an innocent man turned to evil for salvation. Bane for the most part drives the exciting story line with his insane brilliance to use the dark side of the Force to destroy everything even the order he belongs too. Readers will appreciate the latest entry starring a malevolent soulless person who is evil and sinister as Vader is, only centuries earlier.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Immortal-Traci L. Slatton

Traci L. Slatton
Delta, Jan 29 2008
ISBN: 978-0385339742

In Florence, Italy Luca Bastardo was abandoned as an infant. He survived the mean streets by begging for his meals. However, he was still a preadolescent when a vicious merchant abducted him turning him into a sex slave with no hope of escape.

However, in spite of his captivity, Luca discovers the worlds of art and alchemy and as he studies them with a deep intensity he also begins to look into religion and philosophy. He meets Giotto and they become close friends. He meets other artists over the decades until over a century since Giotto died he befriends da Vinci. Luca is no ordinary street urchin as the powerful malevolent Silvano family knows and blackmails him into cooperating. They have information about his parents that if provided to the Inquisition would result in Luca being burned at the stakes.

IMMORTAL is a complex tale as the lead protagonist makes what he considers universal truths based on his experiences in his two centuries of life especially his interactions with artists, scientists, church leaders and politicians; yet the one question he is dying to know eludes him: the origin of his life. Luca is the center to this strong historical fiction that sweeps the audience through the late medieval Plague into the Renaissance.

Harriet Klausner

Whitechapel Gods-S.M. Peters

Whitechapel Gods
S.M. Peters
Roc, Feb 2008, $6.99, 384 pp.
ISBN: 9780451461933

Whitechapel in Victorian London is no longer a part of Great Britain and hasn’t been since 1877 when the wall came up making it a separate entity. It is ruled by two mechanical beings Grandfather Clock and Mama Engine; both of whom have no regards for humanity. They are able to turn men, women and children into half human half machines who keep humanity and are backed up by the Boiler Men who were never human to begin with but are nevertheless thinking warlike machines:

When humanity rebelled in the Uprising, the death toll was in the thousands. Humanity post Uprising lives in squalor under the rule of Baron Hume who rules humanity. His underling John Sacred, in love with Mama Engine devises a way to kill Grandfather Clock and gives the schematics of the device to Aaron, a member of the underground. He and his two men are caught but he passes the papers to one of his men who falls, several feet unable to die. He waits for someone to get the papers and put him out of his missing and members of the resistance do but building the device and putting it ino Grandfather clock seems impossible; then there is the question of destroying Mama Engine.

Whitechapel is an inconvenient truth of a neighborhood of twisted building, polluted air that comes from the many factories of Mama Engine’s great projects. It is a surrealistic scene out of Dante’s Inferno except for the fact that most of the residents are humans. There are many heroes in this book, willing to die if it means destroying the two mechanical gods. S.M. Peters is an author whose work is so refreshingly original; the audience will be on the lookout for future societal satires from him.

Harriet Klausner

Old Friends-Constance O’Day-Flannery

Old Friends
Constance O’Day-Flannery
Tor, Dec 2007, $6.99
ISBN 9780765354051

Although she feels good for her close friend who just announced her engagement, forty three year old Claire Hutchinson feels depressed. Her clock ticking away and still she has not found a forever love and is not sure she wants too. In front of her buddies the Yellow Brick Road Gang, Claire hides her growing belief she will always be alone, but also ponders if that isn’t bad because she remains independent and, in spite of close caring friends, hides her darkest secrets.

At a video store, Claire meets Michael. Although she is taken aback that he knows a lot about her, she is also attracted to him. However, a death in her family propels Claire to her estranged relatives, which in turn forces her to look back at the incident that caused the painful split. However, she also learns why Michael seems to know her so well, which adds the twin pains of betrayal and being used to her already emotional mess even as he tries to persuade her otherwise of his intentions.

The third Yellow Brick Road Gang is an entertaining paranormal romance although it lacks the sharp suspense spins of the previous tales (TWICE IN A LIFETIME and BEST LAID PLANS). Claire is an interesting lead character as she has mixed feelings about falling in love; on the one hand she wants what her friends have just obtained, but on the other hand fears the cost to her independence may prove too great. Michael is the mystery as to just who he is. Fans of the miniseries will enjoy the latest member’s Metaphysical Misadventures.

Harriet Klausner

Inferno-Ellen Datlow (editor)

Ellen Datlow (editor)
Tor. Dec 2007, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765315588

Editor Ellen Datlow sets the stage for what she demanded of her twenty contributors in the Introduction to her first nonthemed new tales anthology. She directed her chosen author to shock the audience into a psychosomatic fear so that the reader sleeps fitfully with the lights on ultra bright or seek company to pretend their fright is under control. The entries for the most part provide “the reader with a frisson of shock, or a moment of dread so powerful it might cause the reader outright physical discomfort … or to linger in the reader’s consciousness…long after the final word is read.” No story is bad with most being excellent and meeting the Datlow bar using a creepy atmospheres will scare the sense of safe security out of everyone even Michael Chertoff. Fans of Elizabeth Bear will want to read “Inelastic Collisions” as she implies what may be coming in her Great Bear constellation. Others like Christopher Fowler’s homage to the 1960s “The Uninvited” and “Ghorla” by Mark Samuels will resonate with older readers. With a virtual who’s who, INFERNO is a strong short story horror collection that shows why this genre is so suited to the format, but needs a warning label that our electricity bills are going to exponentially rise.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Escapement-K.J. Parker

The Escapement
K.J. Parker
Orbit, Dec 2007, $12.99
ISBN: 9780316003407

Former guild military engineer Ziani Vaatzes once cherished his country the superpower Mezentine Republic. However, he understood the flaws in the military-guild-aristocratic complex that ruled the region making the neighboring Vadani and Eremians angry; the Empire used these nations as subordinate states to maintain their superiority. Ziani committed the worst transgression against the Guild and country when he tried to improve on the “perfect” economic model of suppression and was sentenced for innovative efficiencies crimes. He turned traitor selling military-industrial war machines. Many have since died, but Ziani remains obstinate even if it means the destruction of Civitas Vadanis with over a million people residing in it; but he also fears his barbarian allies will fail him.

Mezentine Republic leader Secretary Psellus is stunned by recent events as his country’s enemies have proven formidable in spite of massive slaughters of the civilian populace of his neighbors, as the insurgency remains strong against the occupation. He fears the ancient texts that guide him is failing as the Vadani and Eremians seem united in a common cause engineered by Vaatzes into an army of eight hundred thousand savages. Many innocent will die for either a belief system or for someone else’s personal gain.

The third book in The Engineer Trilogy (see DEVICES AND DESIRES and EVIL FOR EVIL) is a fascinating look at power; those who have it want more at any cost. The Republic has economic and military power over the region with their premise that savages are expendable in support of the status quo. Ziani remains narrowly obsessed as he comprehends his actions will leave thousands maybe millions dead; Psellus who has doubts is almost as narrow-minded and steadfastly stays the course. Other irresponsible leaders cloaking their motives behind the common good of security willingly send troops to die for a personal cause. Although at times the details are so explicit slows down the story line, readers will appreciate this strong look at the convergence of war, politics and economics.

Harriet Klausner

The Outlaw Demon Wails-Kim Harrison

The Outlaw Demon Wails
Kim Harrison
Eos, Feb 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780060788704

Cincinnati based bounty hunter Rachel Morgan remains in shock following the unsolved murder of her boyfriend (see FOR A FEW DEMONS MORE). She plans to solve the case, but neither her mundane hunting skills nor her witchcraft abilities have helped her achieve her objective.

Meanwhile Elf politician Trent Kalamack presses her to perform a special mission in the spiritual realm. Master vampire Rynn Cormel makes demands on her too. Finally her friend Ceri is pregnant; something that never happens to former demons unless the partner is of a certain species. Finally with her failure to track the killer, Rachel begins to doubt her witch magic rationalizing dating and living with a vampire cost her everything; though deep down she knows using demon magic even in a good cause is the probable reason as the means never validates the end. Mom and Rachel’s pixy partner Jenks help her cope with the mortal and paranormal crisis tossed at her.

The latest Hollows fantasy is an exciting entry as Rachel is facing a series of calamities in her usual amusing sexual innuendo manner. The story line is filled with several subplots in which none stand out as prime yet coherently come together centering on her investigating the homicide while the demands of the paranormal leave the heroine without a respite. Although lacking the dramatic climax of the previous stunner (Kim Harrison will have a difficult time topping the end of FOR A FEW DEMONS MORE), fans will enjoy Rachel’s escapades as THE OUTLAW DEMON WAILS is an entertaining tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dawn’s Awakening-Lora Leigh

Dawn’s Awakening
Lora Leigh
Berkley, Feb 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425219751

They were created in a bioengineering science lab with the DNA of the wolf and cats added to human DNA so that they could serve as a ferocious army of a fanatical society where security is everything. Their military slavery ended when the world learned of their existence and forced them to be freed. The heat of the Breed binds their mate to them for life. The breed’s base is Sanctuary where they learn to adapt to living amongst humans and many obtain work as mercenaries and bodyguards to the purebreds who detest them.

Businessman Seth Lawrence, who supports Sanctuary, knows he is the lifemate of Dawn, but the torture including rape she endured makes her unable to mate with him. After seeing tapes of what she suffered, Seth stepped away from his beloved to give her space. His Board of Directors meets on his island to discuss future contributions to Sanctuary. Dawn and Seth begin to feel the heat again, but as they begin to make love, bullets fly through the window, wounding him and killing a board supporter. They give in to their passion and become mates as she realizes he always loved her, but stayed away out of concern for her. She becomes his lover and bodyguard, but neither realizes she is the focus of an unknown adversary, not him.

The latest Lora Leigh’s homage to the X-Men (see MEGAN'S MARK and HARMONY'S WAY) stars a great lead pairing who the audience will like and root for. The bioengineered breeds seem genuine as the love story is beautifully told while the backdrop of hatred and prejudice make for an exhilarating saga similar to what occurred to the early X-Men (ask Magneto).

Harriet Klausner

Vampires Are Forever-Lynsay Sands

Vampires Are Forever
Lynsay Sands
Avon, Feb 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061229695

Brothers Etienne and Bastien Argeneau worry about their missing mom Marguerite and her sleuthing partner Tiny who vanished in England while on a case to uncover the biological mother of a client. Bastien, the powerful CEO of Argeneau Enterprises, sends their cousin Thomas, who was raised by Aunt Marguerite, to investigate why she stopped contacting them and failed to return for the birth of her grandchild.

Bastien also sends his best London employee Inez Urso to assist Thomas. Meanwhile he calls his friend techie Herbert Langford who can pinpoint where a cell phone is once the device is activated. Herb tells Thomas his aunt is in Amsterdam. Bastien tells him there is no time to send him blood if he leaving immediately so he needs to bite Inez and then wipe out her memory. Reluctantly he agrees; he kisses her and bites her, but his effort to wipe out her memory fails. She locks herself in the bathroom while Bastien informs him that a vampire cannot erase the memory of a human lifemate. Now all Thomas has to do is obtain blood, find his aunt in Amsterdam and persuade Inez they belong together forever; the first two seem easy compared to the Inez scenario.

Fans of the fabulous Argeneau vampire romances (see THE ACCIDENTAL VAMPIRE) will appreciate the lead couple who are a great pairing as he fears rejection by his stunned lifemate and she feels she is not pretty enough for a hunk like him. The vampire species seems genuine as it successfully lives and works amidst mortals while the investigation is top rate as the clues go full circle and Inez’s life is in jeopardy.

Harriet Klausner

Bedlam, Bath and Beyond-J.D. Warren

Bedlam, Bath and Beyond
J.D. Warren
Love Spell, Jan 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505526984

Although her suburban life with a husband and kids seems perfect Samantha feels something is not quite right. She cannot fathom what is wrong as her spouse is attentive, the kids behave all the time, and their home is the American dream. Thinking hard, Samantha ponders how she ended up where she is as she cannot remember anything before landing in this perfect suburban lifestyle.

Samantha begins to put together what occurred and realizes this perfect life is not hers. Instead she lives in some sort of fabrication with a spouse who is inhuman and their three fiends for kids. With the help of shapeshifter Col she returns to her human existence in Las Vegas although three years have passed since she vanished into the perfect create. Cor promises to keep Sam safe as he and his people search for the malevolent one who did this to her, but she needs to know why her as she seeks vengeance on those who stole three years from her while at the same time those who abducted her seek her and her allies to silence them by returning her to perfect so they can complete their evil quest.

Although a romantic fantasy, BEDLAM, BATH AND BEYOND employs a chick lit style that has the audience at first wondering about Sam’s dissatisfaction, but quickly turns into a lighthearted romp. Thus the audience receives a fast-paced thriller with all the elements of a horror tale, but Sam’s asides change it into a humorous fantasy frolic. Fans who enjoy something different in design will appreciate this fun thriller as good neighbor Sam wants revenge for three nightmarish family years in the burbs.

Harriet Klausner

Deep Magic-Joy Nash

Deep Magic
Joy Nash
Love Spell, Jan 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505527165

The magically supported mists have kept Avalon safe from the mighty Roman legions. However, the Romans have at least one mage amongst its army who is beginning to open a pathway through the mists. If he succeeds, the Romans will overwhelm Avalon like it has everywhere else; Britannia will become another Gaul.

Daughter of the Lady, the powerful mage Gwendolyn knows the enemy is coming as the mists that protect her people and land slowly dissipate. She shapeshifts into a wolf to observe who the enemy magician is that threatens her people. However Gwen is forced to flee to buy time; she finds shelter off island with her friend Marcus, who following her visions forges a great sword Excalibur. At the same time the attraction between them ignites into a deep love, but both knows saving Avalon comes first.

Returning to the Ancient Druid Britannia of THE GRAIL KING, Joy Nash provides a fantastic romantic fantasy. The lead couple seems genuine and makes a nice pairing while the Roman advances anchor the time and place with a key realism. Whereas sub-genre fans will believe in Druidic magic as the mists clear, it is the romance that proves to be the DEEP MAGIC of an entertaining story.

Harriet Klausner

Reaper’s Gale-Steven Erikson

Reaper’s Gale
Steven Erikson
Tor, Feb 2008, $27.95
ISBN 9780765310071

The brutal Tiste Edur tribe of the north rules the Letherii Empire that they only recently conquered, but their control is weak and shaky as most people oppose them and Chancellor Gnol still runs the government. The Emperor of a Thousand Deaths Rhulad Senger symbolizes all that is wrong with the monarchy as everyone believes he is insane even his own people yet he sits on the throne. As the Edur purists fear Letherii economic assimilation, opposition from within grows as each time Rhulad dies, he returns to life less lucid and coherent.

That inside threat is still jelling but the external assaults are greater to the stability of the tottering empire. Redmask leads the belligerent Awl’dan tribes of the east against the Letherii and the powerful rival Malazan Empire sees an opportunity has sent its armada to take the capital by sea. Others also seek to usurp the Edur.

REAPER’S GALE, tale seven of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, is an extremely complex fantasy and fans of the series will marvel at the epic scope; newcomers need to start at the beginning (see GARDENS OF THE MOON). The myriad of subplots are much more convoluted and complicated than the simplicity described above, but for the most part the often vividly brutal events tie to the beleaguered Edur and its rule over the Letherii Empire. The threads left dangling forebode quite a future in this saga as Steven Erickson provides his strongest entry in a deep series in quite awhile.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Dead Perfect- Amanda Ashley

Dead Perfect
Amanda Ashley
Zebra, Feb 2008, $6.99, 384 pp.
ISBN: 9780821780619

She is dying and has little time left yet Shannah Dover has hope because of a man she has seen each night. Curious about him she starts to follow him and begins to believe he is a vampire. She follows him to his home and knocks on the door and when he opens it her hopes are dashed because the sun is still out. Ronan is a vampire but can stand the daylight a little and he sees the sickness in her and gives her some of his blood and makes her forget about it.

He is a romance writer writing under a female pseudonym and has an agent who wants him to go on a book tour. He convinces Shannah to impersonate him and each time the illness threatens her, he gives her more time by having her drink his blood. Soon he is in love with the dying mortal but she no longer wants to be a vampire. The thought of losing her tears him apart; however, he believes if he turns her without her consent she will hate him.

Amanda Ashley is one of this reviewer’s favorite vampire romance writers. Her Byronic vampires are filled with angst and have a gentleness about them that appeals to the mortals they love. Ronan is 513 years old and a power vampire who knows fear for the first time in centuries because he knows love and is afraid it will be taken from him. Shannah is a strong-willed brave woman who wants to love but accepts that unless a miracle occurs she is doomed. DEAD PERFECT is the perfect books for readers of the vampire romances.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Blackburn and Scarletti Mysteries II-Karen Koehler

The Blackburn and Scarletti Mysteries II
Karen Koehler
Black Death, Nov 2007, $14.99
ISBN: 9780979988103
KHp Industries, PoBox 558, Effort,Pa. 18330

“Legion”. January Blackburn is a ghoul made that way by the vampire the Jackal whose acolyte is Father Dorien Scarletti a dhampire. Her FBI boss asks Blackburn to go to New Orleans to investigate what looks like otherworldly activities. Fairy Boudreau was last seen by the priest of St. Catherine’s Cathedral floating in the air. The priest spoke in a strange language to the police officer called to the scene, but the cop vanished. Blackburn and Scarletti find him and he collapses into the arms of the dhampire. Something evil enters Scarletti and no one knows how to exorcise it, which means certain death for the host.

“The Phantom of the Soap Opera”. Scarletti has spent months in the Vatican Gardens when he receives a call from soap opera star Canary in the States. Someone or something otherworldly is causing accidents on the set and if it continues the show will close. Scarletti calls his partner Blackburn; they meet up in Los Angeles where lethal scorpions not native to the area appear on both of them. A pack of Dobermans run amok on the set injuring people and causing much damage. When Scarletti contacts his superiors in Rome, he learns from them that a witch might be on the set. Now they need to find out who and why and especially how a ghoul and dhampire fit in the picture.

Karen Koehler always provides great horror tales as these two mystery novellas affirm. Her protagonists are flawed especially mentally as each has a ton of emotional issues, but they are tough fighters and make an excellent team always there for one another. Both tales are thrilling frightening chillers filled with action and a strong support cast, who make the paranormal, seem normal. Ms. Koehler has a fantastic knack for creating sympathetic monsters and vile villains.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 7, 2007

Marked by Moonlight-Sharie Kohler

Marked by Moonlight
Sharie Kohler
Pocket Books, Dec 26 2007
ISBN 9781416542278

School teacher Claire Morgan is a mouse except when it comes to her students. When her pupil Lenny Alvarez fails to show up for his SAT tutoring, Claire becomes concerned. She travels to a dangerous part of town that she would never go near except to help a student to see if he okay and get him back to class as she knows his home life stinks. While in the slums a strange humongous dog attacks and bites Claire.

Lycan hunter Gideon March has always killed his prey until he meets still somewhat meek Claire. He understands he must kill her, but hopes he can find the alpha that changed her before Claire kills someone. His superior Cooper warns Gideon that he is thinking with his heart and violating standard operating procedures; if he will not kill her before the full moon rises; he will send a more dedicated agent to do the job.

The first Moon Chasers werewolf romance is a terrific tale due to the difference of opinion by the lead pair as to the change. Whereas the mouse now roars; her beloved fears that she will soon turn predatory. Readers will enjoy this strong suspense thriller as time is running out for the hero, who knows if he fails to hunt down and kill the alpha before the Full Moon, he will have to kill his beloved.

Harriet Klausner

The Ruby Dice-Catherine Asaro

The Ruby Dice
Catherine Asaro
Baen, Jan 2008, $23.00
ISBN: 9781416555148

The war between the Eubian Concord and the Skolian Imperialate was devastating to both empires. Many died including the then rulers of the Eubian Concord; whole worlds destroyed. Even when there are no armed combat between the two empires, hostilities are high and everyone remains on a constant state of alert expecting the other side to renew the fight.

Jaibriol rules the Eubian Concord; Kelric rules the Skolian Imperialate. Neither wants war as both understands the consequences first hand. However, both struggles with keeping in line powerful groups demanding the conquest of their rival. Each also hides a devastating secret that if revealed would lead to their ouster and their most likely respective replacement would renew the conflict, killing trillions. As their internal enemies seek weaknesses, Jaibriol hides his taboo skill of Psion as he would go from ruler to slave and Kelric has told no one about having a wife and kid as his people would destroy their homeland.

The latest Skolian Empire tale is an exciting outer space thriller that for much of the tale focuses on the two leaders. The respective crisis that confronts Kelric and Jaibriol makes both seem genuine as each fear for their people if war reignites between them yet feel doomed as if this is the inevitable outcome. Fans of the series will appreciate this character driven entry that looks deep into the pair of rulers, but newcomers will be lost in space in spite of an overly done but cleverly designed history (mostly through the rulers looking back).

Harriet Klausner

Vampire Twilight-Phillip Henry

Vampire Twilight
Phillip Henry
Coral Moon
ISBN: 9780955655609

The Ministry has kept the vampire Kaaliz incarcerated in the Pennines as government scientists secretly experimented on him. Every day that passes his hatred for his captors and the two former vampires Claire and Xavier who Made him what he is but deserted him when he became what he is grows to the point he doubts his sanity. Ministry agent Lucinda Sheridan helps Kaaliz escape, but before she does that she demands he change her; he does into the vampires Sin.

Kaalitz and Sin vow to destroy those who harmed him starting with Claire and Xavier who live a normal life with their purebred human son; and after them the agents of the Ministry. They will kill anyone who happens to be in their way even the innocent. The Ministry sends their top agents to bring both back preferably alive so more research can be conducted; but if necessary dead is acceptable. Also chasing the rogue vampiric duet are vampire slayer Chloe and Xavier’s half breed daughter Lynda.

The sequel to the exciting refreshing VAMPIRE DAWN is an entertaining vampire thriller that once again emphasizes no one is all saint or sinner. However, in this novel the maniacal Kaaliz seems so insane that he appears as pure evil; the good he once might have possessed having been vanquished with each experiment and every day in which his Makers failed to come for him. Although much more mainstream than the previous unique first tale, Philip Henry provides genre fans with a strong entry as the past has come back to haunt the present and future of former vampires Claire and Xavier as their offspring has become the expendable pawn of the avengers and the Ministry.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Legends of the Mountain State-Edited by Michael Knost

Legends of the Mountain State
Edited by Michael Knost
Woodland Press, Dec 2007, $18.95
ISBN: 9780979323607

This thirteen book ghost story collection will entertain readers as West Virginia makes a perfect setting for these horror tales. All the entries are well written as ghosts haunt the mines, mountains, and towns without one reference to Byrd or pork. From the onset with Thomas F.Monteleone’s strong opening “Images in Anthracite” in which a dad reaches from a mine cave in grave to plead with his adult son to stop that cavern from being opened to Jude-Mari Green’s closing act “Wild Mountain Freesia” of picking up a hitchhiker heading to a memorial park, readers will enjoy the stories. Some have twists like the hitman’s final shot in “Money Well Warned” by Joseph Nassise and others are simply haunting like the reporter investigating “The Blackwater Lights” by Michael M. Hughes. LEGENDS OF THE MOUNTAIN STATE is a superior horror anthology filled with all new tales to keep the lights on at night and the out of state tourists away from West Virginia.

Harriet Klausner

Echoes From The Grave

Echoes From The Grave
S.D. Tooley
Full Moon Publishing, Aug 2007, $26.00
P.O. Box 408, Schererville, IN 46375
ISBN: 9780978540234

The digging at a construction site on the south side of Lake Michigan uncovered many human bones. Everyone assumed that a Native American burial site was inadvertently exhumed.

As the local tribes want the site preserved as a cemetery, Chasen Heights detective in charge of the investigation Jake Mitchell arrives at the dig accompanied by his detective wife Sam Casey. She quickly informs her spouse that the remains of one of the dead told her that they were murdered three years ago. Jake knows to heed Sam’s Native American psychic skills. However, the bones go missing before they can be tested as if someone fears what they will tell will affirm Sam’s information.

Few if any paranormal police procedurals are as good as the Casey-Mitchell Lake Michigan whodunits (see NOTHING ELSE MATTERS, WHEN THE DEAD SPEAK and RESTLESS SPIRIT). The latest entry ECHOES FROM THE GRAVE is a terrific whodunit as a cunning person manipulates the construction crew and the Native Americans to insure Mitchell cannot learn the truth although his sleuthing spouse Sam has pointed him in the right direction. The investigation brings to life some of the history of the Lake Michigan area while the husband and wife detectives are a delightful pair as they do their jobs professionally enhanced by her talent and that of her Native American family. Although construction sites in the Chasen Heights area seem extra dangerous, S. D. Tooley provides an exhilarating fast paced mystery that readers will appreciate.

Harriet Klausner

The Lost Epistle of Jesus-Evan Drake Howard

The Lost Epistle of Jesus
Evan Drake Howard
Crown Oak Press, Jan 2007, 278 pp.
ISBN: 9781602661264

In 30 AD Judith Silva is betrothed to successful merchant Gabriel Latronum but is in love with his older brother Dismas who joined the cause of the Zealots. She believes in their cause of chasing the Romans out of Judea because her younger brother was run over by a chariot by centurions who never stopped to help. Her hatred and revenge fills her heart for the Roman conquerors and decides to elope with Dismas and join the Zealots led by Barabbas in Quman.

Gabriel is heartbroken and decides to kill himself by jumping off the Temple but the Pharisee Nicodemus, a member of the council that rules on Jewish law, saves him from his folly. He talks about the Epistle Jesus wrote to him and explains that it tells people to forgive themselves so they can forgive others. Judith has become disillusioned with the Zealot cause and reads the epistle she and Dismas stole from Nicademus’ home. The letters transforms her and gives her the strength to leave Dismas. Gabriel who wants to meet the writer of the epistle meets Mary Magdalene and saves her from two would be rapists. She loves Jesus as he does her but he will not consummate that love because he has is a different calling but through their love he understands and teaches why men and women struggle when they should be concerned with first loving each other spiritually.

THE LOST EPISTLE is the story of a man and a woman whose struggles mirror that of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. This is an exciting story filled with biblical history that is part of the New Testament. Readers see the human and the divine sides of Jesus and the love of Mary Magdalene for a man who loves her in the way all people need to be cherished. Her lessons from him are mirrored in Judith’s spiritual journey. Gabriel has to learn the same lessons as Judith if he wants to make a life with her.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Darkling-Yasmine Galenorn

Yasmine Galenorn
Berkley, Jan 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425218938

Like her sisters, Camille the witch (see WITCHLING) and Delilah the death maiden (see CHANGELING) half-fae, half-human Menolly D’Artigo works for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency (OIA). However, unlike her siblings Menolly has struggled with what she has become, a DARKLING vampire changed by the malevolent Dredge as part of his torture of her when he held her prisoner.

For the most part she controls her cravings, but remains obsessed with killing her vampiric sire if he ever leaves Otherworld and comes to Earth. However as humans are being changed to vampires; she may have her chance finally since Dredge has joined with the demon Shadow Wing to break the barrier between the realms. If they succeed, Menoly might get what she wished for a chance to kill Dredge, but knows the fight if the foes breach the wall will require all from her and her sisters as the dark enemy has many dangerous allies while her side is bone tired from the war that still is ablaze. Their only newcomer is Roz the incubus mercenary hired to help them; but everyone knows when the going gets tough mercenaries get going from the fight. What the siblings do not know is Roz has a grudge with Dredge who killed his family when he was a child.

The tale told from Menolly’s viewpoint is a much darker erotic romantic fantasy than those of her sisters as she has the most problem adapting to what she has become. Camille and Delilah are back, but it is Menolly’s tale as she learns that sometimes you get what you wished for. Yasmine Galenorn provides a terrific thriller starring a fascinating protagonist with an obsession that could cost her life if she goes into the fight against an invincible opponent with her narrow objective even if Roz shares her need for vengeance.

Harriet Klausner

Mona Lisa Craving- Sunny

Mona Lisa Craving
Berkley, Jan 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425217450

Although a half-breed, Mona Lisa has defied tradition by becoming the first non purebred Monere Queen. She rules the Louisiana Bayou, but combines an iron fist with a velvet glove kindness she learned from her human half. Her peers including her Monere Queen mother believe she is foolish to allow such freedom and expect her to fail, but so far she has not and her supporters especially her sex partners are the most loyal ever.

The High Priestess cursed the warrior Dante to suffer an eternity birth and death with each new reincarnation part of a shrinking gene pool. A woman called Mona Lyria shared one of his past lives on the moon, but like all women in all his lifetimes, she was his victim. Today, she is powerful Mona Lisa, who Dante begs of her to end his curse by killing him. Instead Mona Lisa thinks they belong together for with Dante she can fulfill what is every Monere Queen’s top obsession: a child and perhaps a renewal of the curse.

Although the story line ahs turned much darker than the previous Sunny Monere thrillers, fans of the erotic fantasy saga will appreciate this powerful entry. The story line is complicated as the past and present merge with the future at stake. Once again it is the secondary characters who provide strong support to the plot which makes this an endearing tale. Although it would help to read at lest the previous novels (see MONA LISA BLOSSOMING) to best understand the complexities of the Children of the Moon Monere world, MONA LISA CRAVING is another winner.

Harriet Klausner

One Bite Stand-Nina Bangs

One Bite Stand
Nina Bangs
Leisure, Jan 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843959543

Daria is undergoing a certification test to determine if she is capable of performing as a harpy. To pass she must bring a soul to Hades of Tartarus; if she fails the punishment is the worst that one could imagine; for instance one year of humiliating public wearing of a zombie’s castoffs. To find a worthy victim to take to her superior Tartarus, she obtains the night manager position at the Woo Woo Inn.

Declan realizes that something deadly has stalked and killed two of his peers. He fears for the lives of the surviving vampiric council members as he thinks they are the intended victims of the culprit. He thinks a Harpy working the Woo Woo Inn desk is hilarious, but also finds he is attracted to Daria, a taboo for a vampire. Daria realizes Declan is her ticket to the top of Hades, but cannot bring herself to take his soul as she is attracted to the vampire, a taboo for a Hades employee IAW the Harpy Handbook. As their attraction turns to love, they realize a confrontation with a serial killer of the supernatural species awaits them.

ONE BITE STAND is an amusing lighthearted paranormal romantic suspense as the harpy and the vampire prove strange NIGHT BITES attractions make for a fine romantic fantasy. The suspense grips the readers, but is not needed and distracts from the fun relationship between the delightful Ds make this an entertainingly “Wicked” zany tale with quite a bang of a main plot.

Harriet Klausner

In a Time of Treason- David Keck

In a Time of Treason
David Keck
Tor, Feb 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780765313218

As he does periodically, King Ragnal demands his liegemen come to his court to pledge their fealty to him. Among the nobles arriving to vow their dying loyalty to the monarch are Lord Lamoric and his vassal Durand Col. The latter hides his love of his liege’s wife from everyone even the target of his affection although he sees her from afar with longing everyday they are home, which is more frequent than ever as they have no money for travel. Still they must journey to the king’s court or face his wrath at a time when rebellion especially in the north seems imminent.

The pair arrives at the king’s court late to their euphoria as those who came on time reside in Ragnal’s dungeon or in a coffin. The king believes traitors exist among those pledging to him so he is purging them. Col escapes, but finds his enemy the Duke of Yrlac has set him up to die having already begin an incursion into his neighbor’s land that of Lamoric.

More a historical fiction with some underlying fantasy elements, the sequel to IN THE EYE OF HEAVEN is a fabulous thriller because like its predecessor Col makes the man on the run scenario seem genuine. As a knight errant with no prospects and no super powers he is human, which makes the fantasy seem genuine. For instance Col struggles as much from fleas as he does against his enemy. Although the climax is a cliffhanger leaving IN A TIME FOR TREASON without any closure as it ends up setting up the next tale, fans will appreciate David Keck’s fabulous saga.

Harriet Klausner