Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mad Kestrel-Misty Massey

Mad Kestrel
Misty Massey
Tor, Mar 2008, 14.95
ISBN 9780765318022

Led by their Ageless King, the Danisoban Brethren control all magical usage by abducting children who display the mage abilities of a Promise; parents are killed especially if they try to intercede. Thus young Kestrel is turned into an orphan by the Danisoban, but she manages to escape hiding in the streets as a ragged young beggar. Eventually she learns the way to neutralize magic is water so she becomes a sailor to hide herself from the Danisoban.

Although not formally trained, Kestrel has the skill to control weather while learning to live at sea. After meeting roguish pirate Captain Artemus Binns, she signs on as one of his crew. When Artemus is arrested for piracy, Kestrel pursues him planning to rescue her leader. Instead she finds herself caught in a family civil war between the Ageless King and his seditious offspring Prince Jeremie, who is tired of waiting for his sire to die.

This swashbuckling adventure in a fantasy realm makes for a wild enjoyable one sitting read. The story line is fast-paced as Kestrel gives chase to rescue her hunk of a captain; she is the center that keeps this fine thriller afloat. Although not much is provided on Misty Massey’s magical realm beyond the Danisoban control and the deterrence of water, fans will appreciate this spirited adventure saga wondering who is the modern day female Errol Flynn to play MAD KESTREL.

Harriet Klausner

The Houses of Time-Jamil Nasir

The Houses of Time
Jamil Nasir
Tor, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780765306104

Attorney David Grant has spent much of his adult life chasing women, but as he turns middle aged he finds chasing skirts becoming tedious and wonders if that’s all there is in life while recently thinking of his paragon of the perfect female. He signs with the Trans-Humanist Institute where he hopes Dr. Thotmoses can guide him to fantasize about the perfect woman in a dream state as he has given up ever finding his ideal in real flesh.

However, Grant is shocked when he falls in love for the first time with Thotmoses' daughter Kat. He pursues her in a variety of dream realms as he learns to control his fantasies. Thotmoses persuades him to defend him and his family to God. As he begins to believe he has lost his mind, Grant questions with his womanizing history whether he is worthy to present a defense when God is the judge, jury and executioner.

This is a fascinating New Age look at God through the mind of a person who feels inadequate due to his cavalier treatment of women. David can live his life as the supreme being of his dreams or the reality of a failed maniac in an aging body wondering what if. Although too much time is spent on his doubting Thomas belief that surpasses in length Wayne and Garth making them seem worthy of Alice Cooper, THE HOUSES OF TIME is an interesting look at what is God in the information age.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 25, 2008

Witch Blood-Anya Bast

Witch Blood
Anya Bast
Berkley, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425220436

Water Witch Isabelle Novak flirts outrageously with Dustkoff Warlock chief Stefan Faucheux until they are alone in his limo. Suddenly she grabs his balls and begins freezing the liquids inside his body as she seeks to kill him as his demon killed her half-sister Angela. Fire Witch coven Chief Thomas Monahan prevents Isabelle from finishing the act. He has Adam Tyrell and Jack McAllister take Stefan to Gribbon prison where magic does not work so that he can be interrogated. Though drawn to Thomas, Isabelle angrily vanishes disobeying her leader’s insistence they talk.

The next day Isabelle explains to Thomas that since she cannot find the demon that killed her sister, she went after the man whose late father brought him here. Coven archivist Micah asks Stefan why the demon has not gone home after so many years here. He explains there are four types of demons in their world with no one wanting this type of demon to come home. Stefan also says that he must kill four witches to rape their power in order to open a portal to the demon realm. Finally he gives Micah access to his demon library in exchange for his swift death.

Isabelle and Thomas kiss and begin stripping when they are interrupted by Mira who says she heard whispered the name Simon Alexander. They keep him under surveillance, but he shows no sign of power. Simon meets an earth witch Melanie and her daughter Katie when the demon arrives, but in spite of being hurt by Isabelle, he escapes. As Thomas and Isabel work together to stop the demonic killing, they fall in love.

The sequel to the bewitching WITCH FIRE is a terrific romantic fantasy in which (pun intended) the key paranormal species Witch, Warlock, or Demon seem genuine; especially fascinating is the types of demons residing on Demon World. Fans will appreciate this strong tale although a late escape feels anti-climatic. Still the romance is strong set in the superbly developed Bast universe where the unreal feels real.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Deluge-Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Del Rey, March 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780345470065

On the sentient planet Petaybee, the Company Corps has made a serendipitous landing, hoping to catch the natives off guard so they can round them up easily and send them to the prison planet Gwinnet. They arrive to find an empty village, the inhabitants hiding in the communal cave where they speak to Petaybee. The Corps is trapped in their ship by a terrific storm the planet sent their way.

The Selkie twins Ronan and Muriel have convinced the ship changing aliens who usually take the form of sea otters, to use their city-ship and take them to Versatile Station owned by their influential friend Marmie. She has been sent to the Gwinnet prison planet by corrupt officials bringing false charges against her. The twins want to contact Marmie’s influential friends to talk to them about her imprisonment and the invasion of Petaybee. They can’t use Petaybee’s com because of bad weather conditions. They reach the station ahead of the Corps and they send a message just before the Corps takes over. They and the inhabitants of the station are taken to Gwinnet where the twins old enemy professor Mabo is waiting to conduct painful experiments on them to figure out how they change into seals when in water

DELUGE wraps up the Twins of Petaybee trilogy and all the questions are answered and all the loose ends are sewn up. Readers will thoroughly enjoy this fantastic space opera with its fast pacing, action scenes and the interaction of humans and shape-shifting life sentient aliens. There are plenty of villains from corrupt prison officials to power hungry men and women of the Company Corps to a mad professor; readers will thoroughly enjoy the tale in hope they get what they deserve, especially those that are irredeemable.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dragonborn-Jade Lee

Jade Lee
Love Spell, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780505527547

The emperor has outlawed dragons and dragonborn ordering them killed though he has bonded with a dragon. Natiya is the surviving daughter of two dragonborn whom the emperor had murdered. She dreams of avenging the deaths of her parents while hiding the queen dragon egg she is carrying hidden in plain sight as a naval jewel; one day that Unhatched dragon will live in a sacred bond with her.

The emperor’s dragon hunter Kiril believes that dragon hatching destroys the human essence as happened with his cousin. He believes killing the host and parasite is critical to save humanity from this insidious bonding. Then he meets and begins to fall in love with Natiya, but believes she is concealing something probably connected to her dragonborn parents. At the same time the emperor knows a threat exists to his century long reign and plans to snuff it out before it can incubate. His efforts lead him to Natiya.

This is a superb romantic fantasy starring a coming of age heroine who is learning the hard way that with power comes responsibility and accountability. She is a fundamentalist who is beginning to understand there may be other valid opinions. Natiya and Kiril are natural enemies as she has a grudge and needs to avenge her parents and he has a grudge to avenge his cousin; perfect enemy combatants falling in love. As always in a Jade Lee tale, her world of enchantment seems real to the delight of her grateful readers.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heart of Light-Sarah A. Hoyt

Heart of Light
Sarah A. Hoyt
Bantam, Mar 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780553589665

In an alternate world, Queen Victoria rules the British Empire; she and all the descendents of Charlemagne have magic since he stole the ruby Soul of Fire from an African tribe. The magic is diffused throughout the empire with the commoners having very little and the aristocrats being powerful mages. The anarchists are starting to rebel as they demand freedom and magic.

To quell the trouble, the Queen sends Nigel Oldhall to Africa to find the matching ruby Heart of Light so that Her Highness can bind all the magic in the world to her and her descendants. Nigel brings his new bride Emily with him for trip on the Carpetship. She thinks they are going on a honeymoon as Nigel failed to enlighten her that he is on a mission for the queen. Also seeking the Heart of Light is the Hyena Men, rebels who want to bind the ruby to African control. When Emily learns what her spouse kept from her, she is furious and turns to two other men for comfort. She is unaware that someone else, whom Nigel knows all too well, tracks them as he plans to obtain the ruby for his personal control of magic.

Sarah A. Hoyt provides a great historical fantasy that looks deep into how people feel under outside rule as Victoria rules the continent while the Africans loath the invaders’ domination of their land; thus readers have a scathing social commentary on colonization and occupying armies interwoven into the plot. Emily, Nigel, their companion Peter, and their guide Kitwanna are all characters made better by the quest for the ruby. There are many shocking revelations throughout the exhilarating story line; so much so that the audience will be tempted to read the five hundred plus pages in one sitting.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Ancient-R.A. Salvatore

The Ancient
R.A. Salvatore
Tor, Mar 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765317896

In Corona the magical gem enchanted with Abellican healing powers enables formerly crippled Bransen Garibond to walk with confidence; he also conceals his Jhesta Tu mystical sword made by his late mother Sen Wi that bolsters his self-assurance further. Currently, he, his beautiful wife Cadayle and his mother-in-law Callen DuWornay are on a quest to find his father, the monk Bran Dynard, whom he never met. Callen knows she can never pay the debt she owes Sen who died by removing poison from her so that she could give birth; neither female knew that the woman was carrying a child too who was born crippled by the poison she absorbed.

However, the road proves dangerous as Dame Gwydre abducts Bran demanding he become THE HIGHWAYMAN of yore to save her people from the purge of the Druid Samhaists and their leader Ancient Badden, who are ethnically cleansing the land of disbelievers. Badden has awakened a powerful malevolence who Bransen must defeat before going after the Druid, but he cannot do it alone.

THE ANCIENT is an entreating return to the world of Corona as Bransen is forced to return to his youth to fight a growing evil. The story line is fast-paced although Bransen’s doubts about his skills seem somewhat out of place with his self-confidence as described earlier in the tale and his past. Fans will appreciate his efforts and those of his new teammates to battle the evil Ancient Badden and his chosen evil one with the usual incredible final battle.

Harriet Klausner

Grimspace-Ann Aguirre

Ann Aguirre
Ace, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441015993

Thanks to being born with the J-gene Sirantha Jax is able to navigate through GRIMSPACE. Her skill makes her valuable as she can lead a ship through a shortcut bend in space though it comes at a cost, reducing her lifespan expectancy. On her last mission, Jax navigated the Saragasso carrying Conglomerate delegates to a summit on Matins IV. She has no memory of what went wrong, but everyone else on board died in a crash. Jax is arrested and placed in a chamber where she is tortured and drugged by doctors who demand she confess that she caused the crash.

March enters her cell and helps Jax escape. He and other interested parties want to know how she is able to “jump” like she does. They land on Lachion where she meets the people who set the wheels in motion to free her. They want her and March to go to ten worlds to find missing humans and others who can navigate Grimspace like she can. They hope to form an academy to teach them how to do so and break the interstellar monopoly of the Conglomerate. The Corps wants Jax back under their control and have sent her picture everywhere with the caption she is dangerous to every Conglomerate world. Hundreds of bounty hunters taste the reward of bringing her in dead or preferably alive.

This is a grand space opera in the tradition of Star Wars with a romantic subplot that adds spice to the fast-paced, character-driven story line. Readers take a glorious roller coaster ride around the Aguirre galaxy filled with alien species on worlds that seem real due to the vivid descriptions. However, with all that going for it, GRIMSPACE belongs to the kick butt heroine.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Manxome Foe-John Ringo and Travis S. Taylor

Manxome Foe
John Ringo and Travis S. Taylor
Baen, Feb 2008, $25.00
ISBN 9781416555216

Due to the heroics of the crew of the Alliance Space Ship the A.S.S. VORPAL BLADE, the humans defeated the alien Dreen (see VORPAL BLADE) who came through a portal which a University of Central Florida scientist exploded open (see INTO THE LOOKING GLASS). The cost to the victors was immense as many became combatantsa were injured. Thus the crew of the A.S.S. VORPAL BLADE is given needed R&R. However, the expendable Force Recon Marines that make up most of the squad are unhappy but understand their lot in life especially as the only starship in the fleet when their respite is cut short due to an emergency message at a Gateway. Could the vile Dreen somehow have regrouped and retaliated eradicating everyone at HD 36951?

The mission is to affirm that the Dreen is back and to defeat them or whatever enemy has massacred the gateway colonists and to rescue any survivors though the probability is that there are none. Led by Command Master Chief Robert Miller, the A.S.S Vorpal Blade flies to confront a new Dreen resurgence or an even greater MANXOME FOE.

The third quantum physics meets alien species meets military science fiction inside of a universe that Lewis Carroll would appreciate is an entertaining tale that in many ways is too similar to VORPAL BLADE. The story line is faster than the speed of light as the manure eaters are sent off to war once again to encounter a new alien ally that desperately needs their help while the brass stays behind enjoying the fruits of the crew’s previous victory. Fans will enjoy this exciting outer space soap opera, but it lacks the chaotic creativity of the two previous adventures.

Harriet Klausner

Roberta’s Woods-Betty J. Cotter

Roberta’s Woods
Betty J. Cotter
Five Star, Mar 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594146732

In 2013, the energy crisis has become a problem of epic proportions changing lifestyles across the country. University of Maryland downsizes its staff; thus Professor Roberta Wilcox loses her teaching position there. With no place else to go she takes the train to her hometown of Coward’s Hole, Rhode Island for the first time in eight years. Her father Alton fails to meet her at the station because he cannot afford to use up his gas allotment. Instead she pays the nosy mail person to drop her off at her family home.

Her octogenarian grandma May welcomes her home while her father remains distant and her half-sister Paula overtly hostile. Meanwhile Senator Fred Maine takes charge of the state’s energy supply as the official Rationing Agent; forcing Alton to overwork his employees, himself and his lumber mill to cut wood before he is shut down due to the lack of fuel. Relocation Agent Anthony Piccirelli tries to persuade these “Swamp Yankees” to sell their land to the government and move into energy clusters. Roberta struggles to comprehend the dynamics including doubts that Maine is playing fair while she also has two men interested in her; former boyfriend Steve Reynolds and back to nature independent Lucas Whitford.

This terrific look at the near future Bush domestic legacy is a wonderful suspense thriller that describes a future with immense energy shortfalls forcing difficult decisions to be made by individuals and government. Although Roberta is the star who holds the futuristic tale together, the support cast with their varying reactions to the crisis and how to “fix” it make Betty J. Cotter’s bleak vision seem genuine.
Harriet Klausner

The Alchemist’s Code-Dave Duncan

The Alchemist’s Code
Dave Duncan
Ace, Mar 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780441015627

Maestro Nostradamus is many things; he is physician to the Venetian doge, a clairvoyant, an astrologist, and a spell weaver. His reputation is so great that he and his apprentice Alfeo Zeno live in grandeur on the top floor of the Mansion of Alvise Barbolano.

Zuanbattista Sanudo and his wife Eva Morosini come to Nostradamus to ask him to use his clairvoyance skills to locate their missing daughter Graziaa. The Maestro has a vision in his crystal ball; he tells Alfeo to go to a certain place at a certain time in order to find Grazia. He not only finds her, he sees her new husband Danese Dolfin, a gigolo who has done many unsavory things. The Council of Ten including the Doge summons Nostradamus to their meeting place. They direct him to uncover the identity of a spy who is selling secrets to a foreign government. The operative Algol has written letters that were intercepted but are in a code that no one has broken. The Maestro tries to decipher the code, but he realizes he is under magical attack which leads Alfeo to the home of Sanudo; he finds the abode under the spell of a curse. Alfeo tries to lift the curse using magic only to catch the eye of the Chief Inquisitioner whose aide accuses the maestro’s apprentice of murder and practicing the black arts.

When one thinks of Dave Duncan, normally fans would think of an entertaining superior fantasist. However, his Alchemist saga (see THE ALCHEMIST’S APPRENTICE) shares the same quality of excellence, but is different with a fantasy flavoring to a historical saga. Readers join the Maestro and his apprentice in trying to figure out who the spy is, why someone the hero knew was murdered, and what object caused the curse. Told by Alfeo, the audience sees through his awed eyes how his master is a Machiavellian wizard who pulls people into his way of thinking.

Harriet Klausner

Truancy-Isamu Fukui

Isamu Fukui
Tor, Mar 2008, $17.95
ISBN: 9780765317674

The Mayor rules the city through the subtle use of the Bureaucracy starting with students whose minds and behavior are shaped to the mayor’s ideal of perfection. Every pupil is brainwashed until as adults they do the same things to their offspring who are students. This has led to a totalitarian society in which the Enforcers make sure the students follow the rules; those who fail to conform are expelled to live as homeless waifs.

One former student saw the Mayor, his Educators and the Enforcers as tyrants. He and other disenfranchised and disenchanted students formed the Truancy who chose to live in a free world. Fifteen years old Tack is stunned when the Truancy Leader Zyid kills his sister in what he calls “collateral damage”; he vows to kill Zyid. He joins the Truancy in order to accomplish his quest and though he has chances he hesitates because without Zyid the Truancy, who is family to him, dies. Tack, Zyid and their enemy will soon confront each other with no telling who if any will walk away.

Mindful of Huxley’s Big Brother and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”, Isamu Fukui shows what happens to a society when a dictatorship centrally controls the entire education process especially what is learned. Zyid may be a young teen, but he is a pragmatist who believes bloodshed must occur to bring fear into the hearts of the Mayor, the Educator and their inner circle in order to incite a rebellion. Tack is his opposite as an idealist willing to die for his beliefs, but preferring change without bloodshed.. Readers will be enthralled by this meaningful story focusing on the impact of corrupt leaders controlling all communication starting when the citizens are young pupils.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Mystery Date-Denise Little (editor)

Mystery Date
Denise Little (editor)
DAW, Feb 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756404697

These twenty short stories focus on a first date with either one or both partners coming from a fantasy DNA or the location somewhat out of the mundane realm. Each of the tales is lighthearted amusing fun with no clinkers. However, there is apparently a limitation to how far one can go one a first date so about half way through the contributions begin to have a déjà vu feel to them. This reviewer enjoyed all, but especially learning what to expect while dating a shapeshifter (“Choop” by Nancy Springer) and Jean Rabe’s “Anne of the One Gable” whose double blind date won an Oscar for the Philadelphia Story. The writers seem to have fun with the theme and the audience will appreciate their efforts; however to truly savor suggest spreading the read over a few weeks so each date remains fresh.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 18, 2008

Steward of Song-Adam Temple

Steward of Song
Adam Temple
Tor, March 2008, $23.95, 288 pp.
ISBN: 9780765316301

Douglas Stewart went to Scotland and through a series of circumstances (see SINGER OF SOULS) becomes the ruler of Faerie. His magic puts the rightful queen Aine in a magical stasis. The prophecy says his son will kill him so he is prepared to kill the child but his loyal retainer Martes has him taken away and he is left at the door of Douglas’ brother Scott.

Scott was injured and now sees visions of the future but he doesn’t know the child he takes in is his nephew. He takes care of him and loves him and the brownies and hobs watch over the house because there are two magical beings who want the baby; one to drink his blood and inhale his soul while the other wants to eat his flesh.

The third Stewart sibling Bridie is looking for Douglas who the police believed killed his grandmother and a priest. Bridie is positive he is innocent but when she crosses over into Fairie she finds a cruel Douglas who reigns with an iron fist. When the three siblings meet, the fates of the trio will be decided depending on the choices Douglas makes.

This sequel picks up where SINGER OF SOULS leaves off and concentrates mostly on Scott and Bridie with Douglas making only brief appearances. This fantasy is enchanting, spellbinding and readers will finish it in one sitting to find out what happens to the three siblings and the baby. The audience will admire Scott as he comes to recognize he is a precognitive and his love for his nephew heals his mind and lets him accept what he has became.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Dark River-Erin Hunter

Dark River
Erin Hunter
HarperCollins, Dec 2007, $16.99
ISBN: 9780060892050

Although their three offspring are quite different in demeanor and skills, Squirrelflight and Brambleclaw believe that their grandfather, the renowned chieftain Firestar, is proud of their apprentices’ progress. Lionpaw is training to become a warrior; Hollypaw is studying the warrior code; and finally Jaypaw is learning medicine due to his enigmatic ties to his teacher Leafpool and StarClan.

In spite of the different directions their training is taking them the trio has always remains close. However, as each begins to take a slightly darker path to journey level, they start to pull apart. Lionpaw learns something that he must conceal from his siblings and others; Jaypaw discovers a secret that if revealed would help his ThunderClan at the cost of others including Starclan; and Hollypaw has uncovered a truth that could prevent a war, but no one believes her. As they war within themselves and with each other over what is a warrior, the clans seem headed to a hostile solution.

The second Powers of Three Warriors book is an exciting middle school coming of age fantasy. The story line rotates perspective between the three youthful heroes with the best this time being Jaypaw’s segue because he goes beyond the typical quest with an obsession for knowledge as he needs to understand why his calling is medicine; although the other two warrior entries are well written too they progress only slightly. As with the first book (see THE SIGHT), the tone remains impending doom with darkness seemingly inevitable while the three apprentices are not quite as naive as before, but retain a youthful innocence and exuberance that leads to life threatening even while learning what was before.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Storm Watcher-Lilith Saintcrow

Storm Watcher
Lilith Saintcrow
ImaJinn, 2005
ISBN: 9781933417004

Water witch Mariamne Niege cannot believe how much her world and that of her two best friends Theo Morgan and Elise Nicholson have changed since the Circle of Light sent Watchers Hansen and Dante crashing into their lives (see DARK WATCHER). However, she knows there is no going back for any of the trio although she dreams of her idyllic mousy academic days; but they have become Guardians in a war with the evil Dark.

Her visions are becoming ever stronger and increasingly frightening. The worst is her seeing her Watcher Hansen killing Guardian Theo. Mari’s roommates fear and loath Hansen who has taken over the couch to insure his charge, who he knows by touching her is his soulmate, remains safe. When Rossini the gargoyle sends her research writings by her former mentor Suzanne, forces of the Dark break into her home killing her roommates. Hansen knows the Dark craves taking his beloved, but he does not understand how far they will go to achieve their goal; the earthquakes are their first assault, but Mari thinks Hansen is involved.

The second WATCHER romantic fantasy is a terrific tale starring two fascinating lead characters. Elise may love Hansen, but she fears and distrusts him too; Hansen may love Elise, but his pre Watcher days make him feel he is unworthy of her. Readers will appreciate the irony as they need each other not just as soulmates, but to survive; if they fail to overcome the negatives the Dark will triumph. Lilith Saintcrow provides an exciting tale that sub-genre fans will relish.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Magdalene Chronicles-Suzen Wuerth

The Magdalene Chronicles
Suzen Wuerth
Outskirts, 2007, $9.95
ISBN: 9781598007398

The French law firm of Troute, Flangette et Bronsaurd inform American archeology student Maddy Whitaker that her grandmere died leaving her with an estate in France. Maddy is stunned as she was unaware of this grandmere who gave birth to her mom Beatrice, but sent the child to the Sanders of Savannah, American relatives, to raise the child as their own.

Maddy travels to her late grandmere’s house in France. In the attic she finds an old trunk containing an old leather bound book that was crumbling with her touch. She reads about her de Brissac maternal ancestry who apparently revered Mary Magdalene. Further exploring finds ancient relics, hidden passageways and the knowledge that the house lies on top of sacred ground as a convent was once there. With help from her American friends and her new French amies, Maddy investigates her family tree back two millennium and begins to unravel a secret society plot to rule the world.

With a nod to the Da Vinci Code, THE MAGDALENE CHRONICLES is a terrific look at the infancy of Christianity through Mary Magdalene’s perspective interwoven inside a modern day amateur sleuth conspiracy thriller. Everything ties nicely together as the ancient diaries written allegedly by Mary Magdalene are included inside the contemporary story line. Readers will obtain their money’s Wuerth with this fine tale that sets up the next entry in The Followers of the Magdalene saga.

Harriet Klausner

Earthly Pleasures-Karen Neches

Earthly Pleasures
Karen Neches
Simon & Schuster, Feb 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780743292481

Skye Sebring works in Heaven’s Hospitality Department where she is a Greeter welcoming newcomers. However though she performs her work with enthusiasm, her favorite pastoral pastime is watching the reality TV channel Earthly Pleasures.

However everything changes for couch potato Skye when she greets former playboy Ryan "Bad Boy" Blaine. However he was brought to Heaven prematurely as he survives his near death experience; he returns to earth with little recall of his short visit except for remembering Skye. She feels the same way as if they were connected once before so she follows him back to earth. Meanwhile his wife Susan plans a giant wedding bash to overcome her shame of their sudden nuptials. As the heavenly triangle begins to unravel, Skye searches for her link to Ryan who investigates Susan odd behavior while she arranges the wedding of the year.

This is an entertaining offbeat whimsical tale of love that readers who enjoy something different will appreciate. The story line is fast-paced as the three protagonists untangle their tangled relationships that affirm love can move heaven and earth. Karen Neches provides a delightful debut that will have her fans clamoring for more.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Seventh King-Njedeh Anthony

The Seventh King
Njedeh Anthony
NVL Publishing, 2007
ISBN: 9781604616644

She taught math with her German iron maiden will at a prestigious Austrian school. Her male students hated her with a passion and nine of them raped her. The principal offered her a three year financial settlement that she angrily rejected. The parents demanded she abort the child, but she refused as he will be the instrument of her revenge against these elitists. When he is born, the parents realize their first grandchild is physically perfect and they want to raise him though none of them know whose sperm entered the egg. She refused. Instead after teaching him to hate, she sold him. She is Hagar and he is Hades.

Born in hate, raised in hate, sold in hate; Hades grows up hating his “parents” especially the woman who discarded him. However he begins to realize besides his animosity and rage, he has powers that no one else he knows possesses. He also has strange visions that encourage him to seek his true identity to understand his existence; to do this he travels the globe studying various religions and secret sects and societies as he believes he needs to know the answer to Revelations 17:10: “There are also Seven Kings. Five have fallen, one is and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time”.

THE SEVENTH KING is an insightful allegorical thriller filled with twists especially late in Hades’ journey. Hades is a modern Everyman yet is much more and much less. His search for THE SEVENTH KING is exciting and well written. Yet his quest also serves as a parable for Everyman seeks justification for their existence and solace for what makes them human; the power of free will to choose or not to choose that is the question Hades and Everyman must ultimately answer.

Harriet Klausner

The Seventh King-Njedeh Anthony

The Seventh King
Njedeh Anthony
NVL Publishing, 2007
ISBN: 9781604616644

She taught math with her German iron maiden will at a prestigious Austrian school. Her male students hated her with a passion and nine of them raped her. The principal offered her a three year financial settlement that she angrily rejected. The parents demanded she abort the child, but she refused as he will be the instrument of her revenge against these elitists. When he is born, the parents realize their first grandchild is physically perfect and they want to raise him though none of them know whose sperm entered the egg. She refused. Instead after teaching him to hate, she sold him. She is Hagar and he is Hades.

Born in hate, raised in hate, sold in hate; Hades grows up hating his “parents” especially the woman who discarded him. However he begins to realize besides his animosity and rage, he has powers that no one else he knows possesses. He also has strange visions that encourage him to seek his true identity to understand his existence; to do this he travels the globe studying various religions and secret sects and societies as he believes he needs to know the answer to Revelations 17:10: “There are also Seven Kings. Five have fallen, one is and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time”.

THE SEVENTH KING is an insightful allegorical thriller filled with twists especially late in Hades’ journey. Hades is a modern Everyman yet is much more and much less. His search for THE SEVENTH KING is exciting and well written. Yet his quest also serves as a parable for Everyman seeks justification for their existence and solace for what makes them human; the power of free will to choose or not to choose that is the question Hades and Everyman must ultimately answer.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Watcher-Lilith Saintcrow

Dark Watcher
Lilith Saintcrow
ImaJinn, 2004, $13.75
ISBN: 0975965328

The Circle of Lightfall assigns Dante the Watcher to protect healing Lightbringer Theodora Morgan. Upon seeing her for the first time at her shop the Magick Cauldron bookstore, Dante informs his peer Hanson that he cannot understand why the Dark would attack this green witch, two other witches (Elise Nicholson and Marianne Niege), and their teacher Suzanne; Hanson explains the enemy is on a Crusade and these three naive Lightbringers and their ignorant mentor are a beacon in the Dark that the other side wants snuffed.

Dante quickly realizes that Theo is his witch by simply being able to touch her as he knows a Lightbringer’s touch brings pain to a Watcher due to part of their nature that includes a Dark element except if she is his. However, he also learns she is ignorant about the whole war and her being a Lightbringer surrounded by the forces of the Dark. Instead she just gently wants to heal him from his mental anguish although he frightens her.

DARK WATCHER is a fascinating paranormal romance that opens the Watcher saga. The story line is fast-paced once Dante enters the bookstore to talk to Theo with the other three females hovering protectively near her especially Suzanne. Whereas Theo is a gentle healer, readers never see Dante’s dark side even while battling deadly adversaries although that is referenced too often so that he seems incomplete. Still fans will appreciate Lilith Saintcrow’s paranormal modernization of the Crusade.

Harriet Klausner

The Hidden City-Michelle West

The Hidden City
Michelle West
Daw, Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756404703

Although Rath considers himself a businessman, most people classify him as a scavenger of antiques in the undercity; he sells his finds to dealers who have clients desiring objects from before the Blood Wars. A reclusive loner who believes he needs no one, not even his family; he helps a homeless sick child Jewel by taking her into his abode and nursing her back to health. She informs him that when he goes out tonight to sell artifacts, he will be followed. Forewarned, he spots the hunters and spends hours trying to allude them.

In the days that follow, Jewel finds orphans whom she sees in her visions and brings them to Rath’s home. Much to his surprise he allows them to stay. When invisible beings follow Rath, he uses magically constructed weapons to transmit them back to Hell because they are demons disguised as men. Further circumstances lead Rath and Jewel to believe that the demons have a plan for the empire and that they have roles in the upcoming conflict

This is a fantastic epic fantasy filled with intrigue and mystery that fans of Kate Elliot will appreciate. Michelle West has created a vivid world that readers will believe exists with them in it. Rath and Jewel are fully developed characters who have a form of PTSD as each has suffered trauma and pain. Together they make a formidable force ready to oppose the demonization of the empire.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Payback-Melody Carlson

Melody Carlson
Multnomah, Feb 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9781590529348

The Portland, Oregon police especially Detective Ebony Hamilton take seriously any visions that high school student Samantha McGregor has as the teen has helped on recent cases (see BAD CONNECTION, PLAYING WITH FIRE and BEYOND REACH). Ebony, who was her late dad’s partner, and Sam believe her visions are a gift from God to help people.

However, recently she has had three seemingly separate sets of visions. The first involves her mother’s new boyfriend Steven, whom Sam does not like; the second entails a terrorist act at a gala that she thinks is a prom; the other line of visions is the bullying of a teem by his peers. Sam talks with Ebony about all three. The cops and Sam attend local proms hoping to avoid a disaster. Meanwhile her mom complains about missing money from her accounts while Steven apparently has vanished. The three sets of visions will soon become clear hopefully not too late; as Sam requires the patience of Job with the understanding that faith in God even when she does not comprehend why the Lord does what he does is the key to life.

The fourth Secret Life of Samantha McGregor is an entertaining inspirational paranormal crime caper. Readers will appreciate Sam’s dedication and caring as she tries to prevent harm to people as her three visions indicate. Although in real life one cannot thank the Lord too much, in a novel it becomes irritating as readers know of Sam’s strong belief and gratitude. Still, this is a fine entry with a fabulous final twist and filled with moral issues like dealing with teen bullying, identity theft, turning the other cheek, failing to save a soul, and throughout the series the belief that God’s way is the only way.

Harriet Klausner

Touch of Magic-Carin Rafferty

Touch of Magic
Carin Rafferty
ImaJinn, 2007, $15.00
ISBN: 9781933417356

Depressed to her bone marrow because of her overwhelming feeling of loneliness compounded by the celebration of Samhain, witch Shana Morland decides to use a prohibited ancient cursed Tarot deck to see if there is a hunk in her near future. Shana assumes the violation is a minor offense as she considers how bad the curse can be without fully understanding the ramifications. Shana will learn rather quickly as the Tarot deck is actually a magical detention cell containing evil witch Moira; anyone who foolishly uses the deck will free her at the cost of their liberty.

However, Moira’s jailers understanding human nature, especially witching human nature, included a caveat that Moira’s rescuer must be in love to switch places. Shana knows she is okay as she has no one. That is until Ryan Alden crashes his Harley right in front of her. She is stunned as she wants the unconscious stranger with feelings like nothing she ever felt before. However, if he is her true love as she suspects, Shan’s price is the curse.

This is an exhilarating one sitting paranormal romantic suspense novel. Readers assume from the moment out cold Ryan lays at Shana’s feet, he is the one who will instigate the switch. The heroic lead couple is a delightful pairing of a seemingly doomed duet as they battle a more powerful foe. Moira disarms them by negatively using the power of love so she can live Shana’s future while her savior occupies her incarceration time. Carin Rafferty imparts a compelling tale in which love is the curse.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 11, 2008

Spider Star-Mike Brotherton

Spider Star
Mike Brotherton
Tor, Mar 2008, $26.95
ISBN 9780765311252

In 2453, humanity has established a thriving colony on Argo, a planet in the Pollux System with incredible military and archeological treasures left behind by feral aliens estimated to have been here a million years ago. Other similar findings have been found on the orb’s moons and humans have taken advantage of the superior technology.

The military conducts a training exercise on Argo’s inner moon Charybdis. Commander Manuel Rusk inadvertently turns on a defense system left behind by the aliens that ignites the sun to send trajectories of fire at the planet. Based on interpreting records to save the colony, Rusk believes he must journey to Spider Star where he hopes an expert exists who can turn off the switch. He and space explorer Frank Klingston lead an expedition that makes it to Spider Star; only to have most of the landing party including Klingston taken prisoner by spider-like aliens while robots attack Rusk.

This is an exciting fast-paced futuristic outer space thriller with an interesting unique climax to the Argo extinction issue although there are some seemingly implausible moments especially on Spider Star. Rusk and Klingston are heroic FIs (F**ken idiots) as they blunder about starting on the moon affirming the oxymoron military intelligence. Fans of faster than light science fiction will join the expedition to Spider Star to find someone to save Argo.

Harriet Klausner

Fire Study-Maria V. Snyder

Fire Study
Maria V. Snyder
Mira, Mar 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780778325345

After being raised in the Territory of Ixia and having gained the trust of Commander Ambrose and the love of his second in command Valek, Yelena returns to her homeland Sitia to study magic. Belonging to both countries, Yelena wants to become the liaison so that neither place will war against the other. Her studies are once again interrupted when she goes to find Ferde the Soulstealer and Cahill the pretender to the Ixian throne.

It is believed they are hiding in the Avibian Plains where the Sanseed Clan (Yelena’s cosins) live. A splinter group of the clan has turned to the forbidden blood magic and Storyweavers dub them Vermin; whereas they call themselves the Daviian Clan. Their mysterious leader’s goal is to rule Sitia; no outsider has seen him. The Vermin take control of the Sitia government and prepare to conquer Ixia. Yelena and her Ixian lover Valek hope to prevent the carnage, but to succeed she must make a promise that will keep the pair of lovers separated forever.

FIRE STUDY is a magical tale filled with intrigue, double crosses, and duplicity and stars a beleaguered heroine who swims in treacherous waters in order to stop a bloody war from occurring as both countries are dear to her. Valek loves Yelena beyond reason and will do almost anything to help her yet he is also a sexy alpha male who will not allow the woman who owns his heart walk all over him. Yelena loves him too and has started to get close with her family but first she must stop an evil person from destroying her birthplace before getting involved in personal matters.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 10, 2008

House of Cards-C.E. Murphy

House of Cards
C.E. Murphy
Luna, Mar 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 978037380263

There are paranormal species who share the world with humans including dragons, djinns, vampire, selkies, and gargoyles. They exist in absolute secrecy as they fear the overwhelmingly large numbers of humans whose encroachments into other habitants has led to extinction. Lawyer Margrit Knight knows of the existence of these sentient rivals having met them on an adventure (see HEART OF STONE) with Alban Korund. They both felt the intimacy between them, but Alban believes Margrit deserves a life in the human realm regardless of how she feels.

Margrit owes Janx, the dragonlord and an underworld criminal with a powerful empire, a favor. He calls it in when he asks her to watch over his second in command Malik the djinn. Alba, who is back in Margrit’s life, watches Malik during the night because during day he turns to stone. Margit observes the djinn in daylight. Having been bitten by the vampire Daisani, Margrit heals quickly. Alba knows that if she drinks a second time, she will be long lived and perhaps give her and her star-crossed lover a chance at a relationship but he is too afraid. Margrit attends a party in which she brings the head of each species together. They discuss the applicability of their laws in the twenty-first century while some want her removed or better dead especially Malik who wants nothing detouring him from his goal of supremacy; Alban risks his life to keep Margrit safe.

C.E. Murphy writes a great urban romantic mystery fantasy that contains an interesting mythos that will remind the audience of the works of Laurel K Hamilton. The protagonist is a strong willed person who does not fear dealing with the Old Races as she sees herself as a mediator helping settle disputes. Her feelings for the gargoyle feel genuine though they have a lot of issues dividing them starting with his daylight HEART OF STONE. HOUSE OF CARDS is a magical tale that readers will appreciate.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Pandora's Box-Natale Stenzel

Pandora's Box
Natale Stenzel
Love Spell, Feb 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505527523

Pandemina “Mina” Avery dreamed of a loving family, but instead had a cheating boyfriend; soon after that relationship ended, she lost her job. Life seems to be going down the toilet bowl with her only asset being a rock box she just inherited from an unknown relative.

However Mina thought her world has been rocked before; she finds out those were minor nuisances when she tries to open her rock box. Inadvertently, she liberates Puca shapeshifter Robert “Riordan” Goodfellow, who was incarcerated for what he did to a druid's daughter. Too late Mina knows now that she is the latest sentinel of the rock box. As she struggles to fully free Riordan who drives her crazy whether he seems human, a steed or a mutt, builder Jonathan Teague is attracted to Mina.

This lighthearted romantic fantasy will have readers laughing out loud with the antics of Riordan, the asides of a frustrated Mina, and the good intentions of a bewildered Jonathan. Few triangles have been so much fun to follow and her ratty ex wants a second chance. Sub-genre fans will relish PANDORA’S BOX as Mina ponders what happened to her simplistic wonderful life.

Harriet Klausner

Viewpoints Critical-L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Viewpoints Critical
L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Tor, Mar 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765354679

This enjoyable anthology contains nineteen previously published stories; three never published before including a Recluce tale; five from 1973 to 1990; the remainder since 2000. Two tales are set in the Recluce universe ("Black Ordermage" and "Sisters of Sarronym, Sisters of Westwind”) require understanding of that realm to grasp what is fully going on; for die hard fans of that saga will enjoy finding out how Cassis became a Recluce. A “what if” tale set in the realm of the Corean Chronicles (“Beyond the Obvious Wind”) in which the author’s introduction explains that this was his pre-novel efforts to set some ground rules; though this does not require reading the Corean tales, it is fun to compare the changes from this original short to what followed. This reviewer’s favorite contributions are "News Clips from the NYC Ruins" that is reminiscent of the 1960s cult film Fillard Millmore as an amusing cautionary tale that highlights the future downfall of the United States and 1973’s “The Great American Economy” summed up by the author in his Introduction to this piece” “forecast some of what later became known as cybercrime …”. Although these are short stories, for the most part the characters are fully developed or developed enough to carry the tale. Fans of author will appreciate this superb compilation while newcomers obtain a taste of a terrific author.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 7, 2008

Kiss of Fire-Deborah Cooke

Kiss of Fire
Deborah Cooke
Signet, Feb 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451223272

Were-dragon Quinn Tyrrell prefers to be by himself forging incredible objects rather than be part of the pack of shapeshifting dragons. He simply does not trust his Pyr peers. When he finds his human soulmate is Sara Keegan, he is euphoric until he realizes they are the key players in a prophecy that could leave them dead.

Quinn in his dragon persona saves Sara from a killer although she wonders who drugged her as dragons are not real. To her surprise she is attracted to Quinn and grateful that he came to her rescue. However she does not believe his revalatione that she is his life mate even if their touch results in sparks and will birth the next dragon-smith with him. When Slayers attack them, the former accountant confronts Quinn demanding he explain the bottom line to her. He informs her that besides mating, they are the firestorm if they live long enough; to survive, they need the Pyr, but he distrusts his peers.

The first Dragonfire romantic fantasy is a wonderful tale due to the lead female whose orderly world of numbers no longer exists; Sara’s mental adjustment to all she learns makes the paranormal elements including specie dragon-shifter seem genuine. The story line is fast-paced and filed with action as Quinn knows he can no longer be the lone ranger of dragons and Sarah wonders how she went from debits and credits to fighting Slayers and falling in love with a dragon. KISS OF FIRE is an excellent thriller with more to come.

Harriet Klausner

Eros Island-Lucinda Betts, Dawn Thompson & Devyn Quinn

Eros Island
Lucinda Betts, Dawn Thompson & Devyn Quinn
Kensington Aphrodisia, Feb 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758222145

“Centaur” Heart by Lucinda Betts. Princess Akantha loathes centaurs, but she especially hates Chiron. However, the goddess decides Chiron is good for Akantha and uses magic to enhance what the princess hides from even herself; that she desires the centurion.

“The Dream Well” by Dawn Thompson. Lost in the Celtic woods, knight Gar Trivelyan reaches "The Dream Well". He touches its ancient stones, which leads to one of two sisters rising from seemingly nowhere and telling him she wants him. Gar desires her too, but if she is evil Analee he will regret his decision for eternity; while if she is kindhearted Anya he will know love for eternity.

“Thunderstruck” by Devyn Quinn. Sculptor Danicia Ryan is creating a naked marble statue of Herakles as she envisions the demi-god. When her statue comes to life, she finds his sexual desire for her incredible, as they share her ecstatic fantasies.

These three erotic romantic fantasies will thrill sub-genre fans as each author insures the magic including sexual enhances their respective well written tale.

Harriet Klausner

Final Inquiries-Roger MacBride Allen

Final Inquiries
Roger MacBride Allen
Bantam, Mar 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780553587289

Bureau of Special Investigation Agents Hannah Wolfson and Jamie Mendez are sent to their Commandant to learn of a mission so Top Secret even she has no idea what it entails. To their surprise they are to work with Kendori Agent Brox, who they have teamed up with before. The Kendori and Humanity are Younger Races looked down on with scorn by the Elder Races who were in space long before man left the swamps. The Kendori and Humanity are not at war, but hostilities can happen at anytime as they are in close competition with each other.

They compete for the inhabitable worlds in the Perton System while an Elder Species the Vixa will decide who gets them. Brox takes the two BSI Agents to Vana to find out who killed a Kendori woman working in their embassy which is connected to that of the Human Embassy sharing a common work place. Circumstantial evidence points to a human as the killer, but neither Hannah nor Jamie allow surface appearances to taint their investigation. The more the pair digs, the more they believe that there is a larger conspiracy to put the Younger Races in their place, which is not in space; to do that without losing Elder blood means manipulating the rivalry so that the two lesser species are at war with each other.

This fascinating military science fiction thriller makes man in space competing with other races seem real due to the vivid social, economic, and cultural details of the Vaxa society. FINAL INQUIRIES takes place far into the future with humanity struggling to find its niche in a hierarchy in which those at the top of the pyramid want those underneath to stay there; as the superior races see mankind and the Kendori as recalcitrant children who need to be taught respect for their Elders. The BSI Agents and Brox try to understand one another as they work together on the homicide investigation, but it is difficult as the differences between their species have been emphasized though interestingly the two groups have so much more in common. Roger MacBride Allen provides an exciting space opera.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Rolling Thunder-John Varley

Rolling Thunder
John Varley
Ace, March 2008, $24.95, 352 pp.
ISBN: 9780441015634

Mars is an independent republic with colonies of its own having won the war with Earth and keeping the bubble technology for itself. The wave killed millions of people all over the land and made much of the land unusable for growing crops. It is considered hardship duty for anyone from the Martian military to be assigned earthside but Ensign Podkayne Strickland is a one woman show at the California when she is summoned home to say good bye to her ailing grandmother who is going into stasis until they find a cure for her.

Now Podkayne is a lieutenant assigned to the music, arts, and drama division based on Europa where the Crystal Mountains are a popular tourist sight. They send out very powerful radio waves but nobody knows what they mean or if there is life forms in the mountains. Podkayne is visiting the tourist attraction and she sees the crystal mountain named grumpy lift off. She goes into stasis and when she wakes up ten years have passed. Grumpy and six other mountaineers have landed on earth totally decimating the planet. Mars can’t take all the people who want to immigrate to earth, and fearful that the mountains will one day turn to Mars, Podkayne and her uncle Travis subsidize a way to avoid that possibility.

ROLLING THUNDER takes place sometime in the twenty-first century when humans have colonized the solar system. Podkayne is an interesting multi-faceted character, a singer who is in the military yet thinks like a Martian as she was born and raised there. The allure of Mars and their relationship to a slowly deteriorating earth is examined in much detail. The socio-political events are witnessed through Podkayne’s eyes and readers will empathize with the plight of earth yet like the Martians realize the people of the Red Planet can’t save everyone.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Chosen-PC. Cast & Kristen Cast

PC. Cast & Kristen Cast
St. Martin’s, Mar 2008, $8.95, 320 pp.
ISBN 9780312360306

When she was Marked by the goddess Nyx, teenager Zoey Redbird is taken to the House of Night School where she will eventually change into a vampyre or die. Her roommate Stevie Rae died in her arms but Zoe soon learned that she became one of the undead. Zoe is the most powerful fledging in vampyree history, able to call and master all five elements. She is trying to find a way to restore Stevie’s soul and humanity but the high priestess in training can’t tell her closest friends because their minds can be read by the perpetrator of this abomination.

Tensions rise when the fundamentalist group People of Faith beheads one of the vampyre teachers and nail her body to a wooden cross. The vampyre High Priestess calls in the Sons of Erebus, vampyre warriors, to guard the school. The only person who can help her get out is Aphrodite who knows what is going on with Zoey because she is the only other fledging whose mind can’t be read. Trying to make up for her sins to the goddess, she helps Zoey and Stevie but the peace that has existed between humans and vampires is shaky and almost any action taken against a vampire will destroy it; Zoey will be in the middle of the two warring factions.

This is the third House of Night novel and it as just as compelling and spell binding as MARKED and BETRAYED. The heroine, a young teen, acts very mature for her age risking her friends’ anger if they find out what she is keeping from them in order to protect them. Her nemesis Aphrodite is a bit softer than in previous tales because she knows her actions went against the will of Nyx. In the Cast mythos humans don’t die to become vampires and humans know about their existence and for the most part accept them.

Harriet Klausner

Black Ships-Jo Graham

Black Ships
Jo Graham
Orbit, Mar 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9780316068000

Following a chariot accident that left her crippled, Gull is sent to the temple of the Lady of the Dead. However, almost immediately upon entering this holy place, Gull displays an ability to foretell the future starting with a vision of BLACK SHIPS leaving behind a burning city. The newest Oracle realizes that she has seen the Trojan Prince-warrior Aeneas lead his people by sea from the destruction of their city Wilusa (Troy).

The lame Gull leaves the sanctuary of the temple of the Lady of the Dead to find Aeneas and tell him what she has seen. She explains her vision to him and he believes her. Feeling responsible to his people yet before seeing her helpless and hopeless, he teams up with the Oracle with renewed vigor seeking the few who survived the ordeal of the burning of Wilusa. They hope to find others who escaped and dream of establishing a new home city.

Combining Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid with accepted historical facts, Jo Graham provides an exiting epic tale of what happened to the surviving Trojans. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action starting with the vision and never slowing down as the Oracle and the warrior seek their people and a home for those who still live.

Harriet Klausner

Duma Key-Stephen King

Duma Key
Stephen King
Scribner, Dec 2007, $28
ISBN: 9781416552512

Edgar Freemantle had proven the American dream works. As a building contractor in the Twin Cities he made millions and received plenty of acclaim. As the Freemantle Company continued to grow by the time he turned fifty, he and his beloved wife Pam were worth at least forty million. They had two children, who at the time his “Golden Age” abruptly ended, were attending Brown University or teaching in France respectively.

The end of the Golden Era began when he experienced a basic law of physics that a pickup truck has no chance against a twelve-story crane. He came out of that crash with a cracked right side of his skull, and a thrice fractured left side; his ribs were broken; his right hip was shattered; thirty per cent of his vision in his right eye was gone; and finally his right arm was lost. He was fortunate to have survived. Twenty-five years marriage ended when a constantly raging Edgar became verbally abusive towards Pam who visited everyday as he recuperated; threatening to physically hurt and kill her; she left him believing he meant it. He also suddenly displayed a talent as an artist. Needing to leave behind people, he flees to hermit territory, Duma Key, Florida where only two other trauma survivors reside. Edgar finds out his new artistic skills enables him to see and change the future life and death of others even as he investigates the tragic history of his new island home.

The angry Edgar is an incredible three dimensional character even when he begins to display paranormal skills. Readers will sense the rage inside him even as he calmly tells his tale; his double edged demeanor shows Stephen King at his best as he uses the theme of a person feeling isolated (The Stand and Carrie, etc) ready to strike out at others even loved ones. In fact Edgar is so fascinating; the well written Duma Key historical subplot feels like an intrusive segue as the audience only wants to know more about this angry isolationist.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Last Twilight-Marjorie M. Liu

The Last Twilight
Marjorie M. Liu
Leisure, Feb 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843957679

CDC sends highly regarded virus hunter Dr. Rikki Kinn to the Congo to investigate an alleged outbreak of the plague. However, mercenaries attack the convoy she is traveling with in attempt to kill her and prevent her from learning how lethal their new strand is. Roland of Steele & Dirk sends cheetah-shapeshifter Amiri and Eddie from San Francisco top Zaire to protect Rikki; they save her life.

Amiri has not returned to his home continent since the Consortium abducted and experimented on him. He has only come back to Africa where he used to run like the wind because his brothers in arms Dirk & Steele asked him to keep Rikki safe. He believes that the Consortium is behind the plague and the efforts to kill the virus hunter. As he tries to keep her safe and she tries to learn all she can about the new strain to keep the world safe from a pandemic, they fall in love, but he trusts his heart with no one ever since the Consortium ripped out his soul.

The Dirk & Steele series seems to get better with each romantic suspense thriller; which is amazing when fans consider how strong the opening act is. This seventh book is action-packed from the onset and never slows down until the climax. Yet with non-stop African adventures in which their lives are in jeopardy and countless others if they fail, the tale belongs to the lead couple as both have reasons not to trust anyone. Readers will relish Marjorie M. Liu’s excellent Dirk & Steele saga.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Shadow Year-Jeffrey Ford

The Shadow Year
Jeffrey Ford
Morrow, March 2008, $25.95, 304 pp.
ISBN: 9780061231520

In a small town on Long Island in the sixties, a family is going through some tough times. Jim, his brother and their sister watched their father work himself to death doing three jobs and their mother drink her self into a stupor. They escaped to the basement where Jim and his brother built “Butch Town”; a cardboard representation of their neighborhood populated with action figures and match box cars.

Their sis Mary who is in class X in school because they are not sure if she is very bright or simpleminded changes things in “Butch Town” and those things she alters come true. She removes the figure of a boy and the next day people discover he is missing; nobody finds him. A neighbor Mr. Baritzar is found in snow with his neck broken by a snow plow; Mary took his figure off the board earlier. The boys believe a stranger “Mr. White” is behind the disappearances and Mary traces him on Butch town. A former resident now eighteen years old returns to deal with Mr. White and he is willing to help the three siblings.

This interesting fiction is an amalgamation of mysticism, imagination and mystery. The twelve-year old narrator keeps a chronicle of the goings on in the town for the year and since the story is told in his first person, readers get into the heart of an adolescent young boy. The atmosphere is gothic in which reality and the supernatural meet to form a book well worth reading.

Harriet Klausner

The Undead Next Door-Kerrelyn Sparks

The Undead Next Door
Kerrelyn Sparks
Avon, Feb 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061118456

Wannabe fashion designer Heather Westfield is ecstatic that renowned designer Jean-Luc Echarpe has opened one of his Le Chique Echarpe boutiques in her small Texas Hill Country town. She sketches some of his work only to have Jean-Luc stop to talk to her. However, sword carrying assailants attack Jean-Luc who tells Heather to stay out of the fray as he has it under control; still she tries to come to his rescue only to conclude he somehow does have it under control.

Jean-Luc realizes that his enemies will assume that Heather is his current lover. To keep her, her daughter Bethany and her housekeeper safe, he demands they stay with him. As she wonders how he gets away with sleeping all day and her odious former spouse complains about her sleeping with her lover in front of their daughter, Heather and Jean-Luc fall in love. However, he knows he owes her one key explanation as to why he sleeps away the day; he and some of his close friends are undead, but he loves her too much to make her dinner.

Kerrelyn Sparks latest vampire romance (see HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE VAMPIRE) is an amusing tale due to the lead couple whose first encounter is his accusing her of stealing his design. The support cast enhances either the feel that vampires are real (includes stars of previous stories in the Sparks' saga) or personalizes the heroine like her child does. The story line combines humor and danger as the size 12 woman rips his skin off for being arrogant yet protects him from a nasty villain. Fans will enjoy the gender battle between the vampire designer and the wannabe Texas designer.

Harriet Klausner

Madhouse-Rob Thurman

Rob Thurman
Roc, March 2008, $6.99, 352 pp.
ISBN: 9780451461964

Cal and Niko were years on the run from the Auphe, evil supernatural beings that are so bad that even hell don’t want them. They live in their own bleak dimension where half human- half Auphe was imprisoned for two years. Now he has opened a supernatural detective agency with his devoted and overprotective brother Niko and for the first time they have friends. Robin Goodfellow, a puck is their and Niko are involved with a vampire Promise.

Something strange happened at the Metropolitan Museum and through Promise’s friend with the Valkyrie Sangrida, Cal and Niko are on the case. A display case shatters from the inside and the remains of Sawney Beane, the non-human Redcap are missing. Somehow centuries ago people formed an army and burned him at the stake; but he is back and on a killing streak eating human flesh with the Revenants. Cal and Niko go against him many times are lucky to come away with their lives. As if they didn’t have enough with Sawney to worry about, Robin becomes a target from someone who wants him dead.

Cal is still messed up with his time with the Auphe and is wary of everyone except Prmise, Robin and Niko and he hopes that he can learn to live without fear. He is a hard edged diamond in the rough who is starting to learn to trust people like the werewolf and the vampire. This is a great mystery wrapped inside an urban fantasy. Readers will feel for Cal who gives up the woman he loves because he knows the Auphe will never leave him alone. He is a Byronic hero who knows his life is not his own.

Harriet Klausner