Sunday, December 27, 2009

James Cameron’s Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora

James Cameron’s Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora
Maria Wilhelm and Dirk Mathison
IT Books, Nov 2009, $17.99
ISBN: 9780061896750

In a distant solar system lies the once beautiful moon Pandora; home to a native sentient race the Na'vi. However, abuse of the environment has endangered the orb. This does not prevent the Resources Development Administration from continuing to exploit the dwindling once rich natural resources. An Earth delegation to include paraplegic Marine Jake Sully replacing his brother who died on combat has collected data that make up this source book as a means to avert this planet from the downward poison spiral that threatens life on Pandora. However, even the RDA guide to Pandora is proof of avaricious developers always win as some unknown greedy person is selling the confidential reference tome on EBay.

This is a fascinating accompanying guide to James Cameron’s movie Avatar as the director overwhelmingly makes clear which side of the environment issue he is on with no room for compromise. Clearly intended for fans who see the movie several times, this “Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora” is interesting as it makes the moon and its species (the Na’vi even have their own unique language) seem real although new art supersedes extracts from the movie.

Harriet Klausner

Heretics-S. Andrew Swann

S. Andrew Swann
Daw, Feb 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406134

There are at least three entities vying for domination of all the human colonies: The Eridani Caliphate, the Roman Catholic Church and the Race Mosasa the AI created by aliens. However, Mosasa is lured into a trap and destroyed by Adam another AI. Adam demands allegiance as a God with a plan in the making since before the Confederacy collapsed two centuries ago. His loyal followers can mentally leave their bodies increasing the threat he will succeed.

The AI uses force to convert his congregation because those who fail to cast off their flesh are killed. Adam begins execution of his plan by destroying man-made wormhole technology deploying the same energy that destroyed the Xi Virginis galaxy. He follows that with the conversion of the homeworld of the Caliphate, the planets Salmagundi and Terra is next. However, some species plan to fight Adam as a diverse group including a genetically altered sentient tiger and humans, the Roman Catholics and others set in motion the counterinsurgency.

In the second Apotheosis science fiction tale (see Prophets), S. Andrew Swann writes a super space opera with incredible technological battles and well developed characters starting with Adam and those who oppose the AI. Adding to the feel of a realistic future is the political in-fighting between adversaries fearing the loss of power more than reaching consensus on what to do as doomsday counts down. Loaded with action, fans will not want to put down this terrific twenty-sixth century (Terran calendar that is) thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Shadow Prowler-Alexey Pehov

Shadow Prowler
Alexey Pehov
Tor, Feb 16 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765324030

After centuries of relatively peace, the Nameless One is reawakening as the artifact that contains the evil treacherous magician is weakening. Natural enemies like demons, giants, ogres, and even deadlier species have forged under the Nameless One’s leadership as the Desolate Lands unite as never before. The Nameless One’s horde is coming towards Avendoom and beyond the great walled city to the rest of the Kingdom of Siala.

King Stalkon the Ninth gathers the best counterinsurgents he knows starting with master thief Shadow Harold; who is given the choice of torturous incarceration until the enemy comes to kill him or find the lost Magic Horn that will restore the Order. He chooses the quest as Harold knows he lives due to the Nameless One. Joining Harold is Alistan of the King’s Guard, Elfin Lady Miralissa Princess of the House of the Dark Moon, her retinue, and the best fighters Wild Hearts. Finally the monarch stuns Shadow Harold by directing his court jester Kli-Kli the goblin to join the pilgrimage. Outlaw gangs prowl without regard and the advanced parties of the Nameless One seek those who might pose a threat to the resurrection. Each assault on the master thief and his band proves deadlier than the previous one as the enemy or the lawless seem everywhere; but quitting is not option as the darkness expands.

Although the use of a thief as a hero has been done (see Chima's The Demon King and Fortress Draconis by Stackpole), the first tale of The Chronicles of Siala is a super quest fantasy. The travelers make the story line fun to follow starting with Harold finding a dead duke. Fans will enjoy the opening act as the irony is that it takes a thief who never loses his calm to prevent the return of the Nameless One in spite of all the law following choices. This is a winning opening act.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Girl with Glass Feet-Ali Shaw

The Girl with Glass Feet
Ali Shaw
Holt, Jan 5 2010, $24.00
ISBN: 9780805091144

Ida Maclaird seeks a cure to stop her slow debilitating ailment; she is turning into glass starting with her feet, but slowly spreading up her body. The young woman feels she caught her illness on the St. Hauda's Land archipelago; so has returned to these remote northern islands seeking the cure before it is too late.

Before he met Ida , Midas Crook had no plans to ever marry, but he falls in love. He joins her quest to find the cure to her plight. They turn to biologist Henry Fuwa, who prefers saving the endangered insect like moth-winged bull rather than a human, but also offers hope as he insist he can help her followed up with despair saying she will turn totally to glass. Carl Mausen, a friend to Ida's family, wants to help her as if she is his daughter and offers her his cottage as a temporary home, but his fidelity is to her mother who he loved and lost. Finally Emiliana Stallows is rumored to have cured a previous girl with glass feet.

This is an interesting parable fantasy that focuses on the fleeting fragile nature of relationships that can easily shatter as each person has major issues relating to others. The glum tone permeates the story line as relationships that were once warm turn icy leaving the audience to wonder if Ida and Midas are doomed even if she is cured. Although too many back stories re secondary characters are included even as their tales add to the atmosphere of pending gloom, fans will enjoy touring the islands of despair as Ida and Midas cling to love as their hope deteriorates along with her condition.

Harriet Klausner

Deadtown-Nancy Holzner

Nancy Holzner
Ace, Dec 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441018130I

The city leaders of Boston set up the ghetto Deadtown to isolate the nonhuman population. The prime cause for the need for this containment zone is the plague that haunted Beantown for several years when thousands died only top come back as intelligent zombies who enjoyed dining on still fresh human meat. Also isolated from mortals are other Paranormal Americans as the EEOC calls vampires, demons, and zombies though these once thought of supernatural species are much more difficult to restrain. Humans who do not have a death wish avoid Deadtown.

In this undeadly zone, as the only known professional demon slayer Victory Vaughn is interrogated by the Goon Squad, officially called the Human-Paranormal Joint Task Force, over the frying of a client. Afterward she investigates assisted by her First Amendment rights lawyer boyfriend Kane the werewolf and her teenage zombie apprentice Tina; while her sister dormant shapeshifting wife and mother Gwen tells her to get a life. Making the official inquiry into the homicide is BPD Detective Daniel Costello. She believes the deadly hellion demon is free and must die before the city demises in a supernatural bloodbath.

This is an entertaining urban fantasy that uses the sub-genre to satirize society re conflicting rights during a “crisis” as the atmosphere of Deadtown is a sort of prison ghetto makes the story line work. This feel is accentuated by suburban Gwen who conceals she is a shapeshifter from her neighbors to live in the burbs with her family rather than be locked inside the ghetto like the Jews in Eastern Europe prior to WWII. Although the villain is more a caricature than a flesh and blood (make that rotting flesh or blood drinker) abomination, fans will enjoy this exciting allegorical investigative thriller.

Harriet Klausner

A Dark Matter-Peter Straub

A Dark Matter
Peter Straub
Doubleday, Feb 9 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780385516389

Nomadic charismatic guru Spencer Mallon arrives in Madison, Wisconsin accompanied by his beautiful lover Meredith Bright and subservient University of Wisconsin students, Keith Hayward and Brett Milstrap. The charmer invites several high school students which include Lee Harwell, his tomboy girlfriend, Lee “Eel” Truax, Howard “Hootie” Bly, Jason “Boats” Boatman, and Donald “Dilly” Olson to attend a night ritual. Before the sun rises, Hayward is dead and Bright vanished.

Over the years each has coped differently to that horrid night that changed all of them. Milstrap has avoided responsibility preferring Peter Pan to adulthood. The Lees married, but Eel has since lost her sight. Bly was taken to a mental institution on that horrific night and remains there while citing Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter as his only form of speech. Bright came out of whatever hole she had hidden inside of to marry into power. Boatsman went from shoplifter extraordinaire to shoplifting crime prevention extraordinaire. Filly Olson has never moved on. All will converge to relive what each chose to psychologically forget about that deadly night when novelist Harwell writes a nonfiction account of the horror that still impacts all of those who attended Mallon’s malevolent ritual.

This is a convoluted but enjoyable horror thriller as Peter Straub keeps the audience guessing whether what happened was a group psychological hysteria or something evil from beyond. All of the survivors realize they do not have total recall of what occurred in spite of the college student’s death. Although at times difficult to fathom what truly happened as murky memories make for a murky story line, fans who prefer something different will want to know what the students faced on the night that changed each of them.

Harriet Klausner

City of Night-Michelle West

City of Night
Michelle West
Daw, Feb 2 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756405984

In the capital city of Essalieyam Empire Averalaan lies the under city beneath the streets. Very few of the surface dwellers know that life below ground exists. Rath, estranged from his family, seeks valuables from the land below to sell to those above. Also seeking valuables from the undercity in order to survive are the nomadic, street urchins led by Jewell “Jay” Markess. She is a grateful to Rath for taking her off the streets and mentoring her on how to live off the undercity treasures.

Life inside of Averalaan is getting harder. Children are disappearing without a trace including some from Jay’s den. There’s a demon dissonance hovering over the city and Rath investigates what is going on. His inquiries lead to Lord Cordufar and his mistress; bot of whom are not human and dangerous to Rath, Jay and others. He also learns that a demon can take over the body of a person and retain their memories. Jay is a seer who has three identical visions of Cordufar’s mistress. This is significant as it spells out danger especially when Jay also has visions that Rath will die unless he takes precautions to prevent a demon from subsuming him Jay tries to keep Rath safe while he attempts to insure her future if he dies.

This is a super action oriented investigative fantasy in an incredible world as Michelle West makes her empire and capital seem as if it comes from ancient history books rather than her imagination. The cast is strong especially the lead couple who are clearly devoted to one another with each wanting to keep the other safe. However, , it is the city and its undercity that spellbinds the audience as no one knows what is coming to the surface from below.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bound By Sin-Jenna Maclaine

Bound By Sin
Jenna Maclaine
St. Martin’s, Dec 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312946180

In 1862 France, the Righteous vampire team consists of Cin, Michael, Justine and Devlin. Their mission is to hunt down rogue vampires who kill humans. Of the quartet, Cin is the unique one as before she was changed she was a hereditary witch. She and Michael are lovers and have been for a while.

Adrien Boucher kidnaps Claire Gordon; taking her from her home in London to Savannah. He makes it clear to Cin’s witch ancestry that the ransom is the Greek urn the vampiress refused to hand over to him. Rushing across the Channel to obtain information on her third cousin’s abduction, Cin promises the victim’s mother Raina Macgregor Mahone to rescue Claire. She and her three allies sail across the Atlantic to the United States where the Civil War is raging as Adrien awaits them in Georgia.

The third Cin historical fantasy (see Wages of Sin and Grave Sins) is a deep moving tale that not only brings the quartet across the Atlantic, but provides a profound look at death during the short stay in London. Her second cousin Raina looks just like Cin’s Aunt Maggie (Raina’s late grandmother) who died a decade earlier and she last saw her back in ’28. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but also provides enough tidbits like the time to cross the ocean to anchor the era. Jenna Maclaine provides her audience with a super entry as Cin’s sinful world seems to be getting increasingly dangerous.

Harriet Klausner

Grimmer Tales: A Wicked Collection of happily Never Stories

Grimmer Tales: A Wicked Collection of happily Never Stories
Erik Bergstrom
Plume, Dec 29 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9780452296022

These are fun short shorts animated endings to famous fairy tales. Pinocchio has a nose that turns into a serial killer’s weapon every time he lies (that goodness it is that body extremity rather than a lower woody) and Rapunzel whose hair proves how dangerous living with long locks can prove. Other entries involve Goldilocks tasting the porridge of gang members, Hansel and Gretel going into sugar shock with an insulin treatment facility nearby, and Mary and her lamb serving in Nam. These are amusing takes on the classics, but the reader needs to decide whether the price is worth about a dollar per minute of fun.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Darkship Thieves-Sarah A. Hoyt

Darkship Thieves
Sarah A. Hoyt
Baen, Jan 5 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781439133170

Athena Hera Sinistra never wanted to go into space as why would anyone in their right mind give up standing on solid rock although freedom is far away from feudal earth. Still she is on board her father’s vessel when she awakens to someone entering her room at shipnight. Not afraid she takes out the intruder, who is Andrija Baldo head of her father’s goons.

She flees in a life pod hoping to find help to rescue her father and others aboard the vessel she just abandoned. However, Athena finds herself on the run from assailants as the reach of the ruling Patricians is light-years, but she also realizes for some unknown reason they want her captured alive as they have opportunities to kill her from a distance but don’t. Her nightmare has just begun.

The Darkship Thieves is a super space opera with a great heroine, strong support cast and a believable Hoyt Galaxy with a dictatorial oligopoly feudal government. The story line is faster than the speed of light even in artificial gravity yet in many ways it is a coming of age under extreme pressure thriller with a deep moral underpinning involving genetic transforming of humans. With a mystery as to why the enemy wants the heroine alive to enhance the outer space tour, fans will relish riding along side Athena as she provides a first hand account of her survival escapades to survive in the Hoyt Galaxy.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Except the Queen-Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder

Except the Queen
Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder
Roc, Feb 2 2010, $23.95
ISBN 9780451462732

The two Fae sisters, Serana and Meteora accidentally uncover a secret that at a minimum would ruin the reputation and credibility of the Fairy Queen. Before they can react, the pair loses their magical skills and looks, separated and exiled to Earth.

Serana lands in the strangest world she has ever seen, New York City; Meteora likewise feels the same way about Milwaukee. Serana meets a homeless boy who suffers from dark apocalyptic visions; Meteora meets a young girl with an incredible tattoo on her neck that could only mean an artist with magic powers who wants to kill the beholder of his work. Soon all will conjoin as the mortal and Fae realms are threatened with total destruction.

This is a great urban fantasy with an atypical feel to the story line that enhances the otherworldly tale. Fast-paced from the onset, fans will welcome the siblings as each struggles with adjusting to the world of the mortals. The sisters make the thriller work as their adaptation is slow and before they can partially adjust, they are caught up in a save two realms scenario. Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder team up with a winner as fans see New York and Milwaukee through the eyes of “political immigrants”.

Harriet Klausner

Young Flandry-Poul Anderson

Young Flandry
Poul Anderson
Baen, Jan 2010, $13.00
ISBN: 9781439133279

“Ensign Flandry”. In 3019, Terran Empire Imperial Navy security chief on Planet Starkad Commander Max Abrams recruits intelligent and debonair in spite of his young age Dominic Flandry as an ensign, a glorious title for a field agent. The assignment can prove dangerous as Terran is at war with the Merseians with Starkad as a war zone. However, Flandry uncovers something so nefarious; both sides in the combat want him dead.

“A Circus of Hells”. In 3021, Lieutenant Dominc Flandry is posted on planet Ironclaw, a backwater orb 200 light-years from Sol. The Merseians are cruising nearby so Flandry knows that the ennui he expected would not be for long especially after he runs into Tachwy the Dark in Old Town. Flandry meets with Citizen Ammon who assigns him to investigate mineral deposits on the moon Wayland with a female partner Djana. However, they find much more than just some uranium.

“The Rebel Worlds”. In 3025, former Admiral Hugh McCormac leads dissenters against the increasing corruption of the Terran Empire, but in Betelgeuse he is put on military trial by ambitious Governor Shelund at a time when the Merseians are making noise in the demilitarized zone. On Terra Vice Admiral Sir Ilya Kheraskov gives Lieutenant Commander Flandry a vessel to command and sends him to the remote zone to keep the wild races from revolting for the first time in over four decades. Planet side he rescues McCormac’s beautiful wife Kathryn and falls in love.

These are three exciting reprints of the first Flandry tales. The hero is a James Bond-Hans Solo who accepts the fact that the Empire is collapsing due to its size, corruption, and bad leadership, but Flandry and others like Abrams and Kheraskov remain loyal, tough and do their best. Although at times the back story of the fall of the Terran Empire overwhelms the action especially in books two and three, fans will enjoy the adventures of this young swashbuckler in space.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 20, 2009

State of Decay-James Knapp

State of Decay
James Knapp
Roc, Feb 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463104

America is at war, which is nothing new, as America is always at war. However, the all voluntary army has maintained its constant readiness by offering incredible benefits to those who sign up. Rather than face death in some foreign land, a soldier can enlist as a revivor; a person who to dies before serving, but is revived as a reanimated corpse with cognitive skills intact and no need to eat live humans due to an implant although battlefield atrocities have been reported as Commanders remove the chip inhibiting the flesh obsession.

FBI agent and non-revivor veteran Nico Wachalowsk investigates illegal trafficking of reviver sex slaves. However, his inquiry leads him instead to illegal shipments of military weaponry including revivors. At the same time his former girlfriend police officer Faye Desalia is trailing a serial killer. When the couple compares notes, they find one link, the leading contractor for revival technology, Heinlein Industries. They are soon joined by cage fighter Calliope Flax and psycho psychic is Zoe Ott as the two cases take twists unforeseen by either Nico or Faye as the overseas wars are coming home to roost.

This is an intriguing futuristic Americana thriller in which the atmosphere and ironically what is implied but not said (for instance what war is this as seemingly eternal conflict makes them all the same) in some ways overwhelms the prime conspiratorial plot. The story line is action-paced with the zombie concept fresh and the psychic idea not while the fearsome foursome is. Although the conspiracy is over the top of the Pentagon, fans will appreciate this entertaining look at the future of the industrial-military-DC convoluted complex.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow Blade-Seressia Glass

Shadow Blade
Seressia Glass
Juno (Pocket), Jan 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9781439156797

Kira Solomon’s cover is an antiquities expert. However, although she is a guru on ancient artifacts, the Gilead Commission found her as an Atlanta tweener with incredible psychometric skills. They trained her to fight the Fallen Shadows who cause havoc and disenchantment. Now thirteen years since they found her, Kira prefers to focus on her antiquities work.

Once her teacher and mentor, Bernie Comstock arrives with a four millennia old Egyptian blade that he needs her special touch to authenticate its age. Kira does just that and knows instantly that the blade belongs to an immortal Fallen Nubian warrior who searches for it throughout Atlanta. When a demon kills Bernie, Kira confronts Khefar the immortal, who looks her age rather than someone four thousand years old. Surprising herself, she agrees to team up with Khefar as evil Shadows want the blade that call out to both of them as much as their attraction does.

Filled with great spins, the first Shadowchasers urban fantasy is a terrific tale due to the heroine. Her current case is personal in several ways, but also could lead her into the Shadows of darkness. Atlanta proves a great landscape for a battle between shadow and shadow-hunters, but it is the teaming of Kira and Khefar as she learns there are plenty of shades of gray between light and dark.

Harriet Klausner

Spider’s Bite-Jennifer Estep

Spider’s Bite
Jennifer Estep
Pocket, Jan 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9781439147979

Gin Blanco is a resident of the Ashland Asylum for two weeks. In group therapy she explains she kills people as she is the notorious Spider, the most feared assassin east of the Mississippi. She prefers to use mundane ways to commit homicides, but can use her Stone or Air elemental powers if needed. No one in their right mind until they are dead would believe the Spider is a female as gender bias is strong in Gin’s line of work. Her paying job is to kill the shrink, but she also adds the rapist orderly as pro bono; 30 seconds and both are dead.

A client hires Spider to kill whistle-blowing businessman Gordon Giles. However, the Air Elemental who hired her through her handler Fletcher Lane brutally murders her mentor as going after Giles was a trap. The killer made one critical mistake by failing to eliminate Spider. This one is personal, but what has made Spider the best assassin is she knows when to partner. She teams up with Ashland police detective Donovan Caine, who loathes her for killing his partner, but wants her too perhaps because he is the rarest species in Ashland, which has every form of supernatural and natural essences. He is an honest cop.

From the opening comment that her name is Gin and she kills people for living and throughout, this is a grim urban noir fantasy starring a killing machine who leaves behind quite a body count. The death toll leads the audience to wonder what the hell she puts inside her barbeque at the Pork Pit. Fast-paced and filled with action within a dark atmosphere, readers will enjoy following Spider’s escapades as she works the Carolina case taking one bite at a time but getting closer to the killer with each step.

Harriet Klausner

Bad Blood-Mari Mancusi

Bad Blood
Mari Mancusi
Berkley Jam, Jan 2010, $9.99
ISBN: 9780425232644

It is not easy being a seventeen years old high school student especially having a boyfriend who is a thousand years old vampire. Complicating matters for Magnus the vampire head of the Blood Coven and human Sunny McDonald is she does not want to convert while his followers demand he accept a blood mate to co-rule; humans are forbidden. While he conceals his destiny from her, she learns all about it from Rhodes Scholar Oxford University magna cum laude Jane Johnson, the coven’s chosen one.

Sunny has issues beyond jealousy though that is what Magnus assumes is eating at her. Instead Sunny wonders how someone graduating from prestigious Oxford with honors, knows nothing, even common information, about her school and teachers. Worse she dresses trashy and acts as if the educated are beneath her contempt. Something is not right so when the Coven heads to Vegas for the blood mate convention, Sunny and her vampiric-slayer twin sister Rayne secretly go with them to prove Jayne is a fake before the binding exchange of vows occurs.

Sunny is a pure blood normal American teen who has accepted that vampire exist with a calm demeanor even as she is the readers prime escort into a fascinating sub-culture that resides within the greater society. Volunteer blood donors insure the edict of not killing humans is enforced. Sunny is somewhat hurt that Magnus blows away her concerns rejecting the initial circumstantial evidence she provides without listening. She vows to save him anyway and find a mortal teenage male who she could care for. Although campy and amusing, the latest Blood Coven young adult urban fantasy (see Stake That, Girls That Growl and Boys That Bite) is a splendid vampire tale.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Adamantine Palace-Stephen Deas

The Adamantine Palace
Stephen Deas
Roc, Feb 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9780451463135

Prince Jehal is known as the Viper because of his vicious march to sit on the throne of the Kingdom of the Endless Sea. He poisoned potential rivals and tortured those reluctant to support his claim. The Viper allowed no opposition to survive his reign of terror.

At the same time that the Viper murders his way to the crown, the white dragon Snow telepathically communicates with her handler Kailin. Snow wants freedom for herself and her dragon compatriots. However, alchemists know the damage these fire exhaling beasts can cause if allowed to soar drugless. Snow rebels and gains supporters with her plan to burn their enemy alchemists and other human supporters to include a viperous monarch who use them as weapons of war. To the trepidation of everyone in the realm she escapes captivity as her dream begins to gel into reality.

This is an interesting fantasy when the story line focuses on the dragons especially Snow as the readers obtain a different mindset yet a thirst for freedom that rings similar to the humans who hold them captured through drugs. When Jehal is on the center stage, the plot feels like a zillion others before it and slows down comparatively speaking. Still with Snow soaring the skies over the Kingdom of the Endless Sea, fans will want to fly with her; just avoid her flame throwing.

Harriet Klausner

Unknown-Rachel Caine

Rachel Caine
Roc, Feb 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463098

Powerful djinn Cassiel has lived for countless millennia, but never cared either way about humans as she believed she is superior to these beasts. Pearl, once a djinn, but now so much more, was defeated thousands of years ago after she killed the first mortals who walked on the land. Cassiel defeated her, but failed to kill her and feeling the pain of all those she killed drove Pearl insane. She wants to kill all the djinn with her new power source being the mortals, Wardens and their oracles.

When Cassiel’s master orders her to destroy humanity, she refuses. Her punishment is severe as she is turned into a helpless human, but adapts as Warden Luis Rocha mentors her as a Warden. Peal killed Luis’ brother’ his wife and kidnapped their daughter Isabel; just like she has abducted other warden offspring to serve as her foot soldiers in the war she plans against the djinn. Luis and Cassiel vow to rescue Isabel as they have seen what Pearl has done to other children. However, it is Cassiel who risks her life to rescue Isabel and the other children locked inside of Pearl’s compound.

Unknown, the second book in the Outcast series (see Undone) reads somewhat like a middle fantasy tale as it sets up the final confrontation between the forces of Pearl and those with Cassiel. The heroine starts to have strong feelings about Luis; which frightens her because she is becoming too humanized and can never return to what she was as she never gave a damn about humans for the epochs when she was a djinn. Fans will root for her against Pearl and for her to make it with Luis as Rachel Caine provides another compelling urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 18, 2009

Starship: Flagship-Mike Resnick

Starship: Flagship
Mike Resnick
Pyr, Dec 22 2009, $26.00
ISBN 9781591027881

In the Birthright universe, Wilson Cole leads his Starship: Rebel crew of losers and criminals as they covertly revolt against the Republic. However, in spite of some success, Wilson concludes they are a gnat attacking a woolly mammoth as the enemy has millions of space vessels in the Republic navy to his 800; many of their ships superior to his Starship Theodore Roosevelt.

After a few weeks of hit and run Wilson decides they need a new gamut as they all will die of old age before reducing the enemy from a seven digit navy to six.. Wilson decides on the Trojan Horse solution surrendering of the Teddy R to Lafferty, who previously hijacked several Republic naval ships. Lafferty and crew to include rebels escort the Teddy R to Deluros VIII, the Headquarters of the Republic where Cole holds the Secretary hostage until they are attacked by another force. The Secretary places Cole in charge of the Republic Navy when Admiral Garcia is killed by the first wave assault.

Although the climax feels forced, fans of the Starship saga will relish the Trojan Horse ploy that turns the Republic upside down. Fans will appreciate the fifth book in Mike Resnick’s strong saga filled with twists that will stun readers. Newcomers will appreciate the appendices that probably should be read first although perusing the previous Starhip stories is even better especially as they are super. Mr. Resnick is five for five with this enjoyable entry as in a distant galaxy the Ballard of Wilson Cole tops the Hit Parade.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Incarceron-Catherine Fisher

Catherine Fisher
Dial, Jan 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780803733961

Energy resources are severely depleted since the war occurred. To save what is left of civilization; Incarceron Prison was built to house dissidents, radicals and criminals. This was sealed up so no one can enter or leave. The idea led to a closed environment with excellent shelter, decent food and medical supplies so Incarceron would become a Utopia. Instead reality and the dream fail to match as the world became hell on earth.

Finn believes his visions are memories of a life outside the prisons. He wants to escape along with his oath brother Keiro, slave girl Attia, and sapient Gildas. On the Outside, time stopped and society has become medieval with advanced technology banned by the ruling Protocol. Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron is expected to marry the Queen’s son and heir Earl Casper; she does not want to marry him. She was to wed his half-brother Giles who died in a freak accident whom she wanted to wed. When evidence surfaces that Giles is alive and inside Incarceron, she vows to get to him at the risk of her life.

Readers will quickly understand why the London Times calls this the book of the year as the story line plays out on several Orwellian levels that hook diverse age groups. Incarceron is a huge prison with an internal caste system and incredible security. People are there for life to include newborns. Finn is a loyal person taking care of friends inside a horrible containment zone risking his life to do so. Claudia likewise does the same when she tries to breach the great prison to save her beloved. Catherine Fisher provides a powerful futuristic as if the Knights of the Round Table took the Journey to the Center of the Earth only to find a 1984 setting.

Harriet Klausner

Inked-Karen Chance, Marjorie M. Liu, Yasmine Galenorn and Eileen Wilks

Karen Chance, Marjorie M. Liu, Yasmine Galenorn and Eileen Wilks
Berkley, Jan 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425231975

"Skin Deep" by Karen Chance. War Mage Lia de Croissets searches for the missing undercover werewolf Cyrus who she thinks is her soulmate.

"Armor of Roses" by Marjorie M. Liu. The murder of an elderly man forces demon hunter Maxine Kiss into the past.

"Etched in Silver" by Yasmine Galenorn. Otherworld Intelligence Operator Camille D'Artigo and Svartan Trillian meet for the first time.

"Human Nature" by Eileen Wilks. FBI agent Lily Yu and her werewolf mate Rule investigate a murder of a close friend.

Fans of the four authors will want to read this delightful collection as the writers contribute fine short stories in their respective mythos. Newcomers will find this anthology as an easy introduction to the fascinating realms of the authors.

Harriet Klausner

Inked-Karen Chance, Marjorie M. Liu, Yasmine Galenorn and Eileen Wilks

Karen Chance, Marjorie M. Liu, Yasmine Galenorn and Eileen Wilks
Berkley, Jan 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425231975

"Skin Deep" by Karen Chance. War Mage Lia de Croissets searches for the missing undercover werewolf Cyrus who she thinks is her soulmate.

"Armor of Roses" by Marjorie M. Liu. The murder of an elderly man forces demon hunter Maxine Kiss into the past.

"Etched in Silver" by Yasmine Galenorn. Otherworld Intelligence Operator Camille D'Artigo and Svartan Trillian meet for the first time.

"Human Nature" by Eileen Wilks. FBI agent Lily Yu and her werewolf mate Rule investigate a murder of a close friend.

Fans of the four authors will want to read this delightful collection as the writers contribute fine short stories in their respective mythos. Newcomers will find this anthology as an easy introduction to the fascinating realms of the authors.

Harriet Klausner

Bone Magic-Yasmine Galenorn

Bone Magic
Yasmine Galenorn
Berkley, Jan 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425231982

Otherworld Intelligence Operator Camille D’Artigo is spirit-bonded and married to Smokey the dragon Smokey and Mario the demon fox. She loves both males, but also misses her beloved soul mate Svartan Trillian. Meanwhile the dragon clan demand Smoky chooses them over his human or face consequences. At the same time Camille wonders how Trillian will react to her matings; she and her sisters struggle to locate a new demon general destroying everything.

When her siblings continue the search, the Moon Mother and Black Beast order Camille to come to Otherworld. She is ecstatic as she assumes she will see Trillian. However, as the Equinox arrives, she has a much more complicated scenario awaiting her. The war has gotten hotter and Camille is caught in a ritual that means life and death, but not just for her.

Camille is front and center as her convoluted life gets even more knotted in her latest escapades this time in Otherworld as evil seems one bloody step ahead of her and her siblings. Although it helps to read the previous tales in this super fantasy (see Demon Mistress and Night Huntress, etc.) to better comprehend how far and complex the lives of the D'Artigo sisters have come, Bone Magic is a fabulous entry as master mage Yasmine Galenorn keeps making life increasingly demanding for the three siblings.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bitten by Cupid-Lynsay Sands, Pamela Palmer and Jaime Rush

Bitten by Cupid
Lynsay Sands, Pamela Palmer and Jaime Rush
Avon, Jan 12 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061894459

"Vampire Valentine" by Lynsay Sands. Detective McGraw wants to become lifemate to vampire Mirabeau LaRouche, but though attracted to the mortal she has doubts this is wise.

"Hearts Untamed" by Pamela Palmer. A decade ago Zeeland spurned Therein half-breed Julianna, but he is back so she hides from him fearing his reaction to her Ilina bloodline.

"Kiss and Kill Cupid" by Jaime Rush. Kristy Morgan always loathed her ESP skill of hearing the thoughts of others, but now she overhears someone planning to kill her with Adrian Kruger vowing to keep her safe.

This fun romantic fantasy collection with a wonderful dark paranormal bite shows why the three authors’ respective paranormal series (see Lynsay Sands’ the Argeneau saga, Patricia Palmer’s Untamed thrillers and Jamie Rush’s Darkness tales) are popular.

Harriet Klausner

Wicked Enchantment-Anya Bast

Wicked Enchantment
Anya Bast
Berkley, Jan 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425232019

The Seelie Summer Queen Caoilainn Muirgheal orders Aislinn Finvarra to serve as guide to Unseelie visitor, half-incubus Gabriel Mac Braire. The High Royal makes it clear to the unhappy Aislinn that Gabriel is to get the royal treatment as the Seelie queen mulls over granting him the asylum he has requested after he defected from the dark court.

Aislinn distrusts Gabriel whom she believes has a secret agenda and who oozes sexual appeal every moment. She is also worried that he or others at court will realize she has Unseelie blood as her dark magick skills grow. However, worried about her Fae people caught between the Unseelie, the Phaendir Druids and the humans, Aislinn risks her life to find the three ancient bosca fadh artifacts that together make up the legendary Book of Bindings; the key to the Fae’s freedom.

Wicked Enchantment is a superb romantic fantasy starring a brave heroine whose bloodline is not totally Seelie pure and an Unseelie whose bloodline is too pure with the Dark Magick. Their relationship is filled with distrust and attraction that surprises him but not her as he is a half incubus. With a terrific late twist, sub-genre fans will relish this wickedly enchanting thriller

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 14, 2009

Jack: Secret Circles-F. Paul Wilson

Jack: Secret Circles
F. Paul Wilson
Tor, Feb 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765318558

A teenage “Repairman” Jack is on his way to his friend Weezy’s house when he sees five year old Cody Bockman riding his bicycle near the Barriers, an area that is filled with strange things. Jack tells Cody to go home as the child is to young to be so far from his home. He watched the child to insure he is heading towards home. Jack and Weezy enter the Barrens, a land mass that is eerie and filled with strange creatures. They find a giant stone pyramid with the same identical markings that was on as a smaller pyramid they found and lost last month.

A stranger went into the Barriers only to lose his way and he was unable to escape for a few days. He tells the teens of a creature that was following him so he hid in a tree. They get him out, but Cody is missing. A search leads to Cody’s bike in the Barrens; a search there proves fruitless. Weezy convinces Jack to break into the building of the mysterious Ancient Septimus Fraternal Order to retrieve the little pyramid that Jack thought he saw on the mantle. When they break in, the duo meets much more than they expected.

Readers of the Repairman Jack saga will learn how it all began when the hero was a teen. Targeted for young adults (as was the Secret Histories) fans of all ages will appreciate Secret Circles especially if they want to know Jack. He has dealt with the supernatural and unexplained as a teenager so the teen became the adult still fighting as a warrior for the Light. As Jack adapts to whatever cause he must face, his readers will relish observing his Repairman roots.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Torn-Julie Kenner

Julie Kenner
Ace, Dec2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441017973

When monstrous Lucas Johnson viciously attacks her sister Rose, Lily Carlyle sought vengeance but died instead only to have an angel give her a second chance at righting all the wrongs she committed (see Tainted). After being used as an assassin by those she thought she should kill, she went undercover as a double agent destroying demons from within.

However, as she did when she was human, she attacks without thought of consequences. Lily soon learns she has been tricked by the enemy whim she was brought back from the dead to prevent them from bringing hell to earth. She has killed her potential allies, which is part of the reasons the ninth gate from hell is open. The demon horde prepares to invade with her only ally to prevent their success being half-angel, half-demon Deacon Camphire, who may be a double agent working for the adversaries just like Lily currently is as she marches with the demons.

The middle tale of the Blood Lily Chronicles is fast-paced and loaded with action from the opening of the final war between Heaven and Hell until the climax with Lily caught on the wrong team. Readers of Tainted will comprehend how far Lily has come but also how far she has to go if she is to complete her mission (see Turned). Filled with action and personal traumatic choices (eternity in hell for fighting her heavenly cause), readers will appreciate Lily’s violent war on demons with some sexual twists to enhance the strong tale that sets up the End of Days finish.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lady Carliss And The Waters Of Moorue-Chuck Black

Lady Carliss And The Waters Of Moorue
Chuck Black
Multnomah, Mar 16 2010, $9.99
ISBN: 9781601421272

When Lucius rebelled against the King and his Son Across the Sea, he and his Shadow Lords were defeated; but fled to Arrethetrae to continue their rebellion with an absolute determination that the King would never rule there. However after the Son came and gained followers before he was killed, resurrected and returned home, he obtained loyal faithful Knights of Arrethetrae. One of the most devoted Knights to the Prince is Lady Carliss who heads home after a dangerous mission including imprisonment in one of the Shadow Warrior’s dungeons.

She and her companion Lady Salina stop at the latter’s house, but nobody is to be found anywhere. Marauders are hunting them and other captives to give to Shadow Lord Malco, who needs them to use as part of his nefarious plot to destroy Arrethetrae. On their way to get help, the two women run into Sir Dalton, the love of Lady Carliss’ life. Before they can exchange words, an esca lizard bites him. She has ten days to find the lily in the poisonous deadly swampland of Moorue abutting Malco’s castle that can save her beloved’s life. Lady Carliss obtains allies on her quest, but a traitor brings the wrath of Malco on her and her cohorts making her to choose between who lives or dies as time runs out.

Good and evil clash physically and metaphysically numerous times in this exhilarating young adult inspirational thriller. Carliss is a warrior Knight of the Prince as gender does not matter when it comes to combat. She makes the tale as she must make life and death choices no one should have to do, but it happens (as President Obama said at the Nobel Prize ceremony). Chuck Black provides his readers with a powerful message to believe for the solace gained helps even when the free will preferences are overwhelming emotionally troubling.

Harriet Klausner

The Reckoners-Doranna Durgin

The Reckoners
Doranna Durgin
Tor, Feb 2 2010, $6.99
ISBN 9780765361646

The Reckoner Lisa “Garrie” McGarrity learned to be a ghost hunter when she was ten years old; her mentor was Rhonda Rose, who she later learned was a ghost. Fifteen years later, Garrie is mentally tired having spent years helping ghosts move on by assisting the spirits in doing what is needed that is keeping them amidst the living.

She is retiring as she informs her crew (Lucia, Drew and Quinn), but half-human bounty hunter Trevarr, accompanied by his companion Skylayne the energy essence cat, convinces her to fly from Albuquerque to San Jose because ghosts living in the Winchester Mystery House are extremely upset. Trevarr helps her with the ghosts and she is attracted to him; perhaps even loves him. However, she wonders what his real game is as she distrusts anyone who voluntarily accompanies her on her ghost inquiries. Yet some Bad Beings are disturbing the spirits and exponentially more remain anchored to the world of the living.

The Reckoners is a fun paranormal romantic fantasy starring a wonderful lead character who has burned out and thinks she suffers from PTSD, a mysterious maybe hero (or perhaps villain) and a strong support cast especially her team, the ghosts, the Bad Beings, and the haunted house. Although too much remains unanswered for future entries, sub-genre fans will enjoy this fine tale summed up at the end by Rhonda: “Don’t die in order to live”.

Harriet Klausner

Spellwright-Blake Charlton

Blake Charlton
Tor, Mar 2 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765317278

At Starhaven School for young mages, Agwu Shannon the great Magister thought the lad Nicodemus Weal could be the legendary Halycon of the ancient prophecy who will prevent the magical apocalypse Disjunction that is coming. However, though powerful with just a finger touch, Nico’s spell casting never works properly. Instead what he touches turns into a misspelling disaster; leading to others fearing he might be the other side of the ancient prophecy, as the Storm Petrel who destroys magic.

Now twenty-five and still at the school, Nico is a janitor apprenticed to Agwu. Someone murders Nora Finn the grammarian who was Agwu’s fiercest academic rival. Amadi leads the investigation as to whom used a misspell to kill the dean. While Agwu fears his enemies from Astrophell have arrived to arrack him and his apprentice indirectly, others believe Nico killed Nora accidentally. As Nico dreams of a city under attack that proves accurate, others die mysteriously inside of Starhaven. Authorities believe Agwu and Nico went rogue.

This is a terrific fantasy with a supporting whodunit amateur sleuth subplot. The story line is fast-paced, but the magic behind this delightful tale is the cast as every key player seems real and in turn makes the Charlton world feel genuine. Especially critical is Nico as his misspelling plays a double purpose. First it makes him the prime suspect in a strong storyline and second his blundering re gargoyles, chimneys, and other ilk enhance the believability factor as he is the magical Murphy’s Law, but now must prove his worth. Fans will conclude that Blake Charlton is a gifted Spellwright as he enchants his audience.

Harriet Klausner

Dragon Keeper-Robin Hobb

Dragon Keeper
Robin Hobb
Eos, Jan 26 2010, $26.99
ISBN: 9780061561627

Years have passed since the last fatal hatching and the residents of Bingtown and Cassarik have become somewhat complacent as if those who died during the previous infestation never occurred. However, the townsfolk are stunned when the cocoons left behind by the nomadic sea serpents rupture open releasing a new generation of dragons that must be controlled rapidly before they devastate the town towns. These hatchlings seem substandard with many expected to die; those who live must be controlled before their hunger drives them to Cassarik.

The Traders Council quickly reacts choosing special humans who contain mutations on their bodies to escort the young dragons to a different locale, the lost city of Kelsingra where they can be controlled easier away from the cities. Among the selected are uneducated teenage Rain Wilds Thymara and overly-educated unhappy dragon guru Alise, wife of a Bingtown Trader. The journey along the deadly Rain Wild River will prove arduous with only the strong surviving.

Returning to the Tawny Man world with the first entry of a duology, Robin Hobb provides a superb fantasy. The story line is mostly seen through the eyes of the two women as they face danger and treachery on the quest. In some ways, the opening of Act Three (see the Liveship Traders and the Tawny Man sagas), is a coming of age duet. However, what makes Dragon Keeper a keeper is the cast as the travelers human and dragon seems real while the menaces come from the land, the river and within. Fans will look forward to the finish wondering whether Kelsingra will prove to be a Dragon Haven or hell.

Harriet Klausner

Live Free or Die-John Ringo

Live Free or Die
John Ringo
Baen, Feb 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9781439133323

The Grtul came first constructing the Gudrum Ring to expand trade by making Earth a galactic partner. Humans reacted with trepidation and adulation as the global economy begins to go galaxy.

Three peaceful years pass with earthlings growing in confidence that they are equal trading partners. However, everything changes abruptly when the Horvath arrive in warships. They destroy several metropolises as a warning. Terra is theirs. Entrepreneur Tyler Vernon knows that the entire galaxy loves maple syrup and that no military martinet species is going to prevent him from selling Vermont style to customers. He considers smuggling, but knows a cost benefit analysis suggests the maple Syrup counterinsurgency might be a better way to kick the Horvath off earth.

The concept is terrific with its obvious parallels to the current global economy as John Ringo combines a hostile alien planetary takeover with musings on the convergence of science and economics that in modern times make it difficult for an individual to Live Free or Die trying. The story line drifts between a hyperspeed shoot em up revolution and turtle-speed dialogues on the economic-science convergence. Both prove interesting, but also overwhelm characterizations including the maple syrup entrepreneur. Still fans will enjoy Mr. Ringo’s combining of economics, science and alien invasion as overall this is a thought provoking fun thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Alcestis-Katharine Beutner

Katharine Beutner
Soho, Feb 1 2010, $23.00
ISBN 9781569476178

In ancient Greece, King Admetus of Pherae fears death although he knows Hermes will be coming for him. On the other hand his wife Alcestis has known death from her birth. Her mother died giving birth to her and cursed her with her last words. That loss meant nothing but when her sister Hippothoe died that grief never left Alcestis.

When death comes for her spouse, he refuses to go and demands a sacrificial replacement to satisfy Hermes. He is stunned when his spouse agrees to journey into the Underworld. As Alcestis begins her trek, the court praises her as a martyr of love. She knows there is some truth to the accolades, but it is not love for her husband; instead Alcestis seeks Hippothoe. In the Underworld, she meets and finds true love with Persephone even as that overly muscled moron Heracles has come to take her home; a place she does not want to return to as Pherae is a gilded cage and she has learned to fly having tasted love and freedom to move around in the Underworld.

This terrific retelling of the Greek mythos adds incredible depth to the heroine who finds the Underworld liberating. Unlike her legend written by men, Katharine Beutner’s version adds the real motive for volunteering to die beyond the inane romantic notion and fills in a vivid telling of what happened in her three days in the Underworld. Although the ending feels rushed, fans will fully relish the story behind the legend.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Highlander's Destiny-Melissa Mayhue

A Highlander's Destiny
Melissa Mayhue
Pocket, Dec 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439144213

As she tells fortunes at a Renaissance Faire to the scorners and skeptics, Destiny Noble is worried about her missing teenage sister Leah; who the cops label another runaway. Her visions she inherited from the father who abandoned her, Leah and their late mom lead to Jesse Coryell of Coryell Enterprises though she has little hope that this wealthy person, who she knows is her destiny, will assist the likes of her based on her paranormal “whims”.

Jesse has Fae blood flow inside him and has just come back from four months of training the Realm of the Faerie. He knows he is a protector of the mortal realm from rogue faeries. When he meets Destiny, Jesse believes she is concealing something from him, but first must kill faeries who attack them. Still he agrees to help her on her quest as she struggles with the visions that Leah was kidnapped by blonde killers who apparently want their blood.

The latest Daughters of the Glen Highlander romantic fantasy (see A Highlander of Her Own, SOUL OF A HIGHLANDER, THIRTY NIGHTS WITH A HIGHLAND HUSBAND, and HIGHLAND GUARDIAN) is a wonderful charming entry. The lead couple makes the tale as they struggle with instant attraction and desire while under attack and on a rescue mission. Fans will enjoy Melissa Mayhue’s fine tale as Destiny, unlike Jesse, needs to totally embrace her paternal heritage to save herself, her sister and her soulmate.

Harriet Klausner

Full Circle-Pamela Freeman

Full Circle
Pamela Freeman
Orbit, Nov 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9780316035620

A millennium ago Warlord Acton and his horde conquered the south-lands. They created a feudal system with warlords ruling over fiefdoms in which the native population Travelers were treated as slaves or simply annihilated in wide spread genocide.

Now a thousand years of brutal reign by the New Blood descendents of Acton is threatened by Saker the Enchanter who has raised an angry army of the dead Travelers who seek vengeance against those whose ancestry butchered them in life. The slaughter matches that of the original butchery of Acton while Lord Thegan takes advantage of the conflict to gain more power.

Bramble, Ash and others fear Saker's blood feud is causing more death and destruction and increasing racial animosity, which fuels the worst of the New Blood leaders. Desperate, they feel the only way to end the race war is to have Ash raise the ghost of Acton in order to persuade him to atone for his alleged transgressions; of which Bramble who traveled back in time to the age of the invasion knows is not quite as it has come down in song of us vs. them.

This aptly titled great finish to the Castings Trilogy fantasy saga (see Deep Water and Blood Ties) will stun the audience with its exhilarating pace yet profound insightful look at the destruction of the racial divide. Filled with action, but fueled by a strong cast in which no one is more evil even the cruel Thegan and motives are not black and white. Full Circle (and the entire saga) is a refreshing super fantasy that will entertain readers yet also leave fans pondering who truly wins and how the masses lose when racism rules.

Harriet Klausner

The Kingdom of Ohio-Matthew Flaming

The Kingdom of Ohio
Matthew Flaming
Amy Einhorn Books (Putnam), Dec 31 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399155604

In Los Angeles, the elderly antiques dealer has worked for two years on mystery of the photograph he obtained. The picture is that of Peter Force Cheri- Anne Toledo, taken in 1901.

In 1900 Peter came from Idaho to work in the hazardous digging of the subways tunnels beneath the city. Cheri-Anne is a mathematical genius with bizarre memories that seem not of this time and place. They meet accidentally; at least that is what it seemed to Peter. When she insistently claimed to be the daughter of the ruler of the Kingdom of Ohio who traveled in time, he assumed she was crazy. However, he also is attracted to her and soon begins to believe her fantastic tale when others seem overly interested in her including combatant inventors and warring financiers. Soon he will understand that past, present and future of time and place is relevant to the individual as all converge either to conflict or deconflict if free will is meaningful; just like the note left behind “CROATOAN”.

This is a superb time travel romantic suspense thriller that takes a deep look at the sordid underbelly, literally as well as figuratively, side of New York during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The story line is fast-paced in spite of the cerebral underpinnings as fans will relish the tour of the city as rarely seen in novels while being escorted by two strong lead protagonists and enhanced by the real persona they encounter. Matthew Flaming provides a great, intelligent yet exciting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Everlasting Kiss-Amanda Ashley

Everlasting Kiss
Amanda Ashley
Zebra, Feb 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420104431

In a world in which everyone knows vampires exist with no legal rights and judicial recourse, human hunters kill them as sport. The O'Donnell family have been vampire hunters for generations, but whether the blood has thinned or the next generation does not have the heat to kill, the current brood only has two killers of the undead; the patriarch and his oldest son Alex. The daughter Daisy and the youngest son use a magic compass to find the bloodsuckers’ lairs in order to steal the pure blood that they sell for its medical properties.

Daisy believes adult vampires are evil until she meets Erik Delacourt at popular Los Angeles vampire nightclub the Crypt. She has taken blood from a vampire she is forced to kill because he came after her. The West Coast master vampire Rhys wants the thief dead, but Erik vows to protect Daisy from even his best friend because he loves her and will die for her. Alex arrives in Los Angeles vowing to keep his siblings safe from the undead whether it be Rhys, Erik or some other vamp. In love with Erik, Daisy must choose between her family and her soulmate.

Everlasting Kiss feels like a vampire West Side Story as Amanda Ashley adds to her wonderful take on the vampire mythos as humans and the undead are natural enemies yet the O’Donnell brood and Rhys and Erik will need to find a compromise to save their lives. Fans will appreciate the vulnerable Romeo and Juliet lead couple as the Blood Thief and the vampire learn that love supersedes everything else.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Arms-Commander-L.E. Modesitt Jr.

L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Tor, Jan 2010, $27.99
ISBN 9780765323811

A decade ago, the women warriors of Westwind at the Roof of the World routed their male dominated neighbors. The all female nation went back to minding their business while the men surrounding them smarted in defeated. New men move in and fail to heed the the warnings from those defeated by women. Arthanos, son of the Prefect of Gallos, covets Westwind and assumes it will be easy pickings as these are mere women. Suthya quietly supports Gallos and makes trouble for another nieghbor Lornth whom Westwind wants as an ally.

The male armies invade, but their first units as before are soundly defeated by the women who prove superior with psi magical and mundane weapons. Still more are coming. With a civil war imminent in Lornth due to Suthya manipulations, the Marshal of Westwind sends her Arms-Commander Saryn to take charge and prevent more unnecessary bloodshed. Leaving the comfort of the battlefield behind, Saryn needs to learn gender diplomacy and politics as she tries to bring peace while assisting the female Regent Zeldyan.

The latest Saga of Recluse occurs after the Mage-Guard of Hamor, but in many ways is a sequel to The Chaos Balance as L.E. Modesitt Jr. returns to Westwind. The story line focuses on the big picture of international relationships as four nations fight overtly on the battlefield and covertly in the political and economic spheres for control but none of the cast even the heroine come across with any strength of conviction. Fans will appreciate one of the more complicated entries as each of the four countries manipulate the other three to the point that Machiavelli would cheer them on.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


K.E. & D.A. Jackson
Xulon Press; Aug 8 2008, $18.99
ISBN: 9781606476215

War explodes, but this is not a typical hostility between countries or terrorists. Instead this is of Apocalypse biblical proportions with thousands of mortals caught up in the conflict.

Barak the thief awakened by the distant sound of blasting finds himself in a strange realm like nothing he has ever seen before. He quickly realizes somehow he has become an immortal and begins a trek hoping to find his way home. Barak meets other folks as confused as he is as they traverse the odd land filled with danger especially from the Nephilim detesting the "reborn" humans who have found their displaced souls. People like Barak who’s horrified at what he has done in his life now knows that his soul is beaming God’s light inside his heart. As the Nephilim converge on him, he must choose the transgressions of his past or the goodness of his present, whichever he selects will predetermine his future.

Fast-paced from the moment Barak understands he is no longer a simple thief living by the philosophy you only live once so take what you want; instead he is unsure why him as the Nephilim stalk him in what looks like the final days of humanity as represented as it was two millennia ago by a thief. Fans of the Left Behind saga will relish Triduanus as the End of Days is being counted by the last who will go first as the meek will inherit the heavens.

Harriet Klausner

Rise of the Ancients: Annuna-JC De La Torre

Rise of the Ancients: Annuna
JC De La Torre
DLT Atlantis Publishing, Jul 31 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 9780978527235

“Ancient Destruction”. The war of the Gods continues (see Ancient Rising) with Prometheus battling Zeus, Poseidon and other deities. Mankind’s age appears precariously at an end as slowly but surely Prometheus, humanity’s prime defender is losing the fight unless Dan Ryan can learn the origin of mankind in time. He has precious little left as once a favorite of the Gods, Atlantis is no more having been sunk beneath the sea.

“Rise of the Annuna”. Ryan remains the only hope to save humanity. Prometheus recognizes him as the potential savior so keeps fighting the Gods to buy him some time. However, as the mortal learns the origin of mankind, he now must enter the Greek Pantheon filled with those in heaven and hell who want humanity extinct to reach the Annuna. If he succeeds at somehow reaching the legendary Annuna, he must persuade them that Man is worth saving.

Books II and III are exhilarating fantasy thrillers that continue the war of the Gods started in Rise of the Ancients. The story line is fast-paced throughout but also contains a frantic desperation as Dan knows he is out of time with so much to learn and do. Although it helps to have read the first entry to understand how humanity has seemingly reached the end of the road, Annuna can stand alone as it embellishes the De La Torre mythos.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 30, 2009

Smolder-Melina Morel

Melina Morel
Signet, Jan 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451228802

In France, hunter Countess Catherine Marais and her partner Paul DuJardin have killed many werewolves, but near Rouen they wound one who escapes. Soon afterward Lupus Magnus of France, Louis Chavenne calls a meeting of his species to warn them if they fail to act now the well financed team of Marais and DuJardin will leave them extinct on the continent. Especially nervous is Lupus Minor of Ile de France Gervais de Maury who knows Catherine and her late father; killed by Monfort a werewolf she slew (see Devour).

With a bounty on her head, Catherine worries the Insitut that has financed her efforts will close down. Meanwhile her two century old vampire lover Ian Morgan wants to keep her safe from the sudden hunting of the hunter. He offers to change her, but she hesitates while also insuring her niece in love is not huntress bait to trap her as their Prey.

This contemporary paranormal thriller is fast-paced from the first hunt and never slows down as the French werewolf community unites against the huntress. Filled with action and a deep look at the world of the Loup de Garous while also containing a terrific romantic subplot that enhances the prime story line, fans will appreciate the latest Catherine Marais’ saga.

Harriet Klausner

A Tapestry of Spells-Lynn Kurland

A Tapestry of Spells
Lynn Kurland
Berkley, Jan 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425232132

When his family died (see the Nine Kingdoms trilogy), Ruithneadh of Ceangail vanishes behind a shroud of being a fierce raging wizard; ironically he personally vowed to never use magic again. His reputation enables him to be left alone to wallow in self pity and grief as he fears being an offspring of the evil Gair might mean going dark.

His hermit like existence ends when the daughter of a witch Sarah of Doire arrives. She has no paranormal skills whatsoever, but demands Ruith act to stop her brother Daniel who has turned to the darkest magic, threatening to destroy the Nine Kingdoms. Ruith wants to ignore his unwanted visitor but concludes Daniel is using his father's magic. As they search for Daniel, others stalk them.

Starting a new trilogy that focuses on the youngest son of the evil Gair, Lynn Kurland takes her audience back to the Nine Kingdoms with a strong opening act. Fans will feel the author magically transported them to her realm as Ruith now fights against what his father wrought while concealing secrets from his new ally who does likewise. Fantasy fans will enjoy Ruith’s quest to prevent another catastrophe tied to his father’s legacy.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Heart of Darkness-Gena Showalter, Maggie Shayne and Susan Krinard

Heart of Darkness
Gena Showalter, Maggie Shayne and Susan Krinard
Harlequin HQN, Jan 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774319

“The Darkest Angel” by Gena Showalter. Lysander is well known for being unemotional and perhaps the best demon slaying angel. He is one of the Elite Seven warriors of the One True Deity. His current target for death is Bianka Skyhawk, a daughter of a Harpy and a phoenix shapeshifter, but mostly a killer who is of Lucifer’s bloodline, but he must remain patient until she breaks heavenly law. Instead his desire for her is killing him as he has never wanted anyone for the many millennia he has lived; yet she is inside his soul.

“Love Me to Death” by Maggie Shayne. Twenty-two years ago in Port Lucinda, Maine, the teens (David, Brad, Kevin, Randy and Mark) were drinking cheap booze near the abandoned old Muller Place and commiserating about being dumped or their girls being away when they set it on fire. They did not know that Sierra Terrence took shelter there and died in the inferno. Now over two decades later someone who seems to be Sierra from the grave haunts the five men who killed her and their loved ones.

“Lady of the Nile” by Susan Krinard. In 1890 London, the memories of ancient times have led Lady Tameri to believe she is the reincarnation of an Egyptian princess. Leo Erskine knows she is wrong and plans to prove to her she is just a lovely Victorian lady. However, neither the believer nor the skeptic is prepared for the prophecy that ties them in love forever.

This trilogy of urban romantic fantasies with differing spins will elate fans especially with the bonuses of a Lords of the Underworld tale and a sequel to Ms. Krinard’s Lord of Sin.

Harriet Klausner

Sleepless-Charlie Huston

Charlie Huston
Ballantine, Jan 12 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345501134

In 2010 in Los Angeles, a devastating affliction leaves its victim with chronic insomnia. Those who catch SLP never fall asleep and over the next few months the body not healing withers away until the incoherent person finally blessedly dies. Meanwhile the pandemic spreads in a city already under lawless siege as even the baseball season is cancelled.

Violence is out of control as LAPD cop Parker “Park” Haas fears for the future life of his newborn daughter especially with her mother dying, his beloved spouse dying from SLP. Meanwhile Park investigates Chasm Tide, an online game that people have turned to in order to run from reality and a black market drug Dreamer that provides relief to the misfortunate. However, as Park fears he may have caught the disease and his child too, he begins to connect dots that frighten him more than SLP.

Sleepless in Los Angeles is a terrific post-apocalyptic crime thriller starring a reluctant Noir hero who knows he is in too deep but has no idea how to get out if he is to try to save his wife and child as he keeps reminding himself he is just a cop. Somewhat different in tone and subject than Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt saga it also shares an underlying sameness of love thrives even inside a hellhole. Park is a superb individual as all he wants is to take care of his family, but circumstances forces him in the role of a hero who thinks he be Don Quixote losing to that windmill that has some of powerful people propelling it.

Harriet Klausner

The Gathering Storm-Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

The Gathering Storm
Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Tor, Nov 2009, $29.99
ISBN: 9780765302304

The Last Battle of Tarmon Gai’don seems imminent as the Shadow has expanded with no countermeasure. The Dragon Reborn Rand al’Thor knows the time is now or it will be lost forever, but instead of preparing for the war he and humanity must fight, he is preoccupied with the Seanchan invasion as the enemy to the south acts oblivious to the threat.

As time run out, a key ally against the Seanchan assault, Egwene al’Vere remains at the White Tower trying to keep the Aes Sedai from deserting out of fear and despair. If she fails, nothing The Dragon Reborn does will stop the Shadow; although even he muses sadly that it already may be too late as The Wheel of Time turns waits for no one.

With the death of Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson begins the final trilogy in what is a well written entry that appears to be closing subplots though I have said that before seemingly a zillion years ago as the prime players appear to be coming back together though I also have said that before. The story line is well written as Mr. Sanderson picks up overarching theme nicely, even the overly used musing and reflections of their lives by the heroes. Fans of the saga will enjoy The Gathering Storm, which helps to know two to go.

Harriet Klausner

Freak-Philip Henry

Philip Henry
Coral Moon, Nov 2008, $12.50
ISBN: 9780955655616

She was an innocent fifteen year old guarded by her religiously fanatic parents until the night in 1973 the carnival arrived in Port Stewart. Marie Stanton went with her friend. She meets Gustav who woos her into coming again the next night where he pays off his gambling debts by allowing six cronies to rape her. Marie becomes pregnant and gives birth, but suffered internal hemorrhaging from the damage Gustav and his associates caused to her internal organs.

Her parents kick her out of the house so she and her son Freak move into anew place aid for by her parents. Freak’s skin would not let a needle penetrate it and a person touching him ends up with broken bones. His mom lived as long as she could trying to care and protect him, but when she died he went to live in Port Stewart with his Aunt Gloria. Many thought he was an abomination, but though angry he tried to live up to what he thought his late mom would want of him. Betrayed by a young woman he cares for; when his aunt and her companion dies, Freak becomes a solitary recluse. However, the carnival with Gustav is back.

The innocence of Marie and later Freak make for an intriguing horror tale that in some ways will remind readers of Stephen King’s Carrie. The audience has mixed emotions towards Freak who receives pity and empathy yet he ironically rejects that from the few folks in town who do not loathe the abomination. Filled with twists, Freak is an interesting character study as readers will understand who the monster is.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Beyond the Night-Joss Ware

Beyond the Night
Joss Ware
Avon, Jan 12 2010), $7.99
ISBN: 9780061734014

When their stolen van breaks down, the teens start walking. When night falls, the deadly Gangas attack them. Men arrive who toss light bombs at the Gangas while a woman on a horse also helps the teens escape. Dr. Elliot Drake and his cohorts (Quint, Wyatt, Fence and Simon) had entered a Sedona, New Mexico cave fifty years ago only to come out six months ago to a world gone mad. The lady on the horse Jade broke her arm. David touches Jade and heals her arm; when he touches a teen to insure she is okay he accidentally transfers the broken arm to the teen. David is confused with this power. The kids are from Envy, a place the five disjointed Americans seek.

Jade distrusts men having been held prisoner for three years by ruthless Preston and Raul, who assume she is dead. Quint and Wyatt report a female saved their lives. Elliot wants to touch Jade, but is afraid to do so due to his newly discovered power. Gangas attack, but with the help of Zoe Kapoor, who saved the lives of Quint and Wyatt earlier, they defeat their foes. During the fight Jade noticed that Elliot had no crystal protruding from his back like the evil Strangers have before she leaves. The five men and the teens travel to Envy, built by the Waxnicki brothers just after the collapse. The quintet realizes Envy was Las Vegas affirming their world is gone.

The futuristic world feels genuine with references back to the old world. The lead couple is a strong pairing and the support cast is solid playing major roles. The Strangers and the Gangas seem eerie and malevolent. Although the villain does not seem as tough as his legend once the reader meets him near the end, fans will appreciate this strong post apocalyptic future story and want more such thrillers in the world of Joss Ware.

Harriet Klausner

Jane Bites Back-Michael Thomas Ford

Jane Bites Back
Michael Thomas Ford
Ballantine, Dec 29 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345513656

Jane Austen is frustrated with receiving no royalties for her classics and for the use of her name in books and movies. In fact the worst to her is watching others sell books starring her or her characters and she cannot get one publisher interested in her last manuscript, written two centuries ago just before Lord Byron changed her into a vampire.

Living in Brakeston, New York as Jane Fairfax, owner of Flyleaf Books, finally has a publisher interested in her manuscript, rejected over a hundred times. Kelly Littlejohn of Browden Publishing of New York buys the rights. Meanwhile Byron using the name Brian George tries to court Jane while mortal carpenter widower Walter Fletcher shows an interest in her. When Jane’s book is critically acclaimed and makes best-seller status, a nineteenth century rival is sent over the top of the Empire State Building in rage.

This satirical contemporary tale takes two amusing bites out of the romantic Austen forever mania and the romantic vampire forever mania. The story line is lighthearted fun as Jane is frustrated that cynical fools make money off her name, but she cannot get a novel published or receive royalty for the use of her name. When she gets published, a century and a half rivalry explodes. Fans will enjoy this well written humorous take as Jane Bites Back.

Harriet Klausner

Mercury Falls-Robert Kroese

Mercury Falls
Robert Kroese
St. Culain Press, Jul 13 2009, $12.00
ISBN: 9780578032146

Banner religious reporter Christine Temetri has heard too often that the End of Times is about to begin. However, she changes her mind about this time it is for real when she meets indifferent Mercury an angel who prefers making Rice Krispy Treats. He informs her that the schedule is set and the Antichrist is a thirty seven years old dropout living in his mom’s attic.

Karl Grissom is ready to make his big debut a smashing success. Christine pleads with Mercury to prevent the insanity from occurring. Meanwhile strange bedfellows surface as angels and fallen angels ally either for the end of mankind to begin or to prevent the final curtain. When an effort to kill Karl before he can pronounce who he is to an unsuspecting world fails due to a blunder by Christine and Mercury, Lucifer vows to kill the interfering duo and take out traitors in his ranks and that of God.

Mindful of the Travolta’s film Michael, but with a sharper edge, Mercury Falls is a terrific often amusing End of days thriller that takes a wicked shot at the commercialization of Heaven, Hell and everyone in between. Robert Kroese makes a lucid point throughout that there is not much to choose from between the bi-polar opposites as bureaucracies run both in spite of leaders trying otherwise. Readers will enjoy the debate on what the Apocalypse means to angels and demons as each wonders if they will die. The heroes Christine and Mercury prove there are no shortcuts even in death to heaven or hell.

Harriet Klausner

Starfist: Double Jeopardy-David Sherman and Dan Cragg

Starfist: Double Jeopardy
David Sherman and Dan Cragg
Del Rey, Dec 29 2009, $25.00
ISBN 9780345501011

Amongst the units of the Confederate Marine Corps, the 34th FIST is the most highly regarded and most decorated. The unit is the first to be called upon when the going requires the bravest and the best.

However, those accolades prove a double edge sword to the soldiers as morale is at its lowest due to extended deployments in dangerous scenarios and the knowledge that more deadly battles in combat zones will follow. The 34th FIST never seems to get any R&R as the unit is sent to Ishtar in anticipation of a Skink attack on the planet. However, they are not greeted as heroic saviors by the indigenous population, but instead the native Fuzzies attack the squad especially as the marines uncover an illegal mining operation.

This is a super military science fiction that has great battles, but it is the insightful look at the morale of the troops after constant extended deployments that hits home with relevancy and poignancy. Ironically, no one is fully developed yet the 34 FIST marines’ respites between combat brings the deepness to the plot. David Sherman and Dan Cragg provide a strong tale as the soldiers are mentally tired with several seemingly on the cusp of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Killswitch Review-Steven-Elliot Atman and Diane DeKelb-Rittenhouse

The Killswitch Review
Steven-Elliot Atman and Diane DeKelb-Rittenhouse
Yard Dog Press, Dec 12009, $16.00
ISBN: 9780982470404

By the year 2156, America is a radically different place than it was circa 2009 thanks to incredible scientific breakthroughs. People live for centuries, which lead to overpopulation that makes the Malthusian model understated. Fortress America closed all borders as no immigration is legal. Natives receive full citizenship at thirty years old and junior citizenship at age twenty-five. Anyone younger is considered a child who has not been issued their KV (a Kevorkian type device).

People have the right to commit suicide and are encouraged to do so by using their KV device that is with them at all times.. Jason Haggerty is press review agent of the Government of who sees thelast moments of a suicide’s life to make sure that person chose to die and was not murdered. He hooks up with Regina who sees at a Jesus Clone concert a triple press suicide by three of their underage fans. Jason takes the case and ends up almost being the most wanted man on the Federal Government’s most wanted list because manufactured evidence incriminates him in all sorts of heinous crimes. He does not who he should trust as he conducts an investigation on o who framed him and to prevent the horrific scheme of mass murders disguised as suicides that seems about to occur.

This futuristic science fiction is loaded with plenty of action, but not at the cost of strong characterizations. Jason is about to use his KV device when he is called on a case that leads to his being on the run from authorities and a new understanding of how precious life is. He also comprehends that Generation Zero may have to wait until their seventies to enjoy citizenship, but Jason’s immediate goal is prevent the mass suicides that are planned even if he must die to achieve his objective. He is an anti-hero who has found something worth living and dying for that turns him into an admirable hero even if he fails.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wings of Creation-Brenda Cooper

Wings of Creation
Brenda Cooper
Tor, Nov 10 2009, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765320957

Their family abandoned the siblings Joseph and Chelo Lee on Fremont (see The Silver Ship and the Sea), but they soon find themselves unwelcome here also. During a battle on the colony planet, Joseph the Wind Reader pilot saves the life of Chelo.

They and his beloved Alicia join their “new” family on Lopali. However, hostilities have ignited openly with war seemingly imminent between Lopali and Islas. The newcomers soon learn that Lopali is not quite the haven they thought when they first arrived; as everyone wants to fly free including Alicia, but few are allowed. Joseph’s mentor Marcus wants him to help the subspecies soar soul and body, but to do so means many will die when the tyrannical state run modifications fail.

This is an entertaining antiwar teen fantasy that grips the audience from the moment the siblings are rejected again. Fans will root for courageous Joseph as he defies the law restricting who can fly to train locals to soar. The romantic subplot between him and Alicia is cute but also detracts from a strong entry in which many people choose to live free to fly or die.

Harriet Klausner

Destroyer of Worlds-Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner

Destroyer of Worlds
Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner
Tor, Nov 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765322050

By 2670 those who predicted the explosion at the galactic core remain in flight. Humans and their allies the Puppeteers are desperately leaving the destruction expanding rapidly dead zone in a mass exodus.

However, at the same time of the mass flight, a third species the Pak also tries to escape after their world Pakhome was destroyed. Pak operative Thssthfok will do whatever it takes to save his species. He and others raid frightened worlds to steal supplies leaving pandemic corpses behind. When a distress signal from Gw'ot reaches the leadership the human-Puppeteer alliance, agent Sigmund Ausfaller accompanied by Baedeker investigates as an unmarked vessel heads towards the fleeing armada. Reluctantly Sigmund works with the Gw'oth to learn who is inside the ship, but he distrusts his new allies more than the Pak as he understands the ruthlessness of the latter but not science above all else of the former.

Destroyer of Worlds is kind of having Gulliver fleeing amidst the Batttlestar Galactica crowd. A decade since the Juggler of Worlds, the mass exodus is in full swing, but enemies exist causing havoc at a time when chaos does not need deadly outsiders to create more of it. Obviously for fans of the Known Space universe who will fully relish the prequel saga of the Puppeteers and humans running from the core meltdown but newcomers will be lost in space.

Harriet Klausner

Vintage Soul-David Niall Wilson

Vintage Soul
David Niall Wilson
Five Star, Dec 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147579

In San Valencez, California someone with incredible skills breaks into the home of Johndrow, not an easy task considering the security he has and that he happens to be a master vampire. That individual killed an ancient wizard who was his security chief and abducted his lover three century old vampire vixen Vanessa. Neither of these actions is the work of a normal break and enter caper. Whoever did this has extraordinary power, but Johndrow has one goal: bring back his beloved home.

However, he is also realistic about a counter assault as his unknown foe he assumes has much greater power than he has. He needs help so he turns to ancient manuscript collector, the human mage Donavan DeChance, who walks on both sides of the normal-paranormal spectrum without fear of either. Donovan, accompanied by a crow, a cat and his lover the mage Amethyst, begins the inquiry into the super paranormal as the sleuth magician fears a ritual has begun that could destroy a hell of lot more than just a vampiress.

This is a fascinating urban fantasy noir that grips the reader from the opening encounter with bored vampires partying in a penthouse and never slows as the human mage casts spells to stop his opponents. The whodunit is terrific as the hero and his retinue explores the darkness made even darker by a grim serial killer who drains the blood of the undead. Fans will want to join Donovan and company on their trek to solve a supernatural murder mystery before it is too late.

Harriet Klausner

Flowers for Elvis-Julia Schuster

Flowers for Elvis
Julia Schuster
Bell Bridge, Apr 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9780982175613

Single woman Willard gives birth to twins; one is white while the other is black. She knows that in the Eisenhower era in Mississippi she, the kids and her lover would be lynched. However, the black child Olivia dies, but instead of the newborn’s soul going to heaven she remains at the portal to watch over her sister whose life will be difficult. Willard’s sister Genevieve is also pregnant and the Mother Superior orders her to keep her niece (though she doesn’t know it is her sister’s child) saying she had twins.

Over the years Olivia’s spirit watches over her twins whom she loves equally. They do not have an easy life because Genevieve is a bit touched, ignoring her children as they grow up; providing a terrible home-life due to drinking, stealing and turning tricks. As a young teen Louisa gets pregnant and her lover refuses to leave his wife. Louisa stays with him as his mistress; she has several miscarriages. Her twin Anna Beth tries to be supportive and though their lives are stretched neither breaks. However, their attitude towards their mom is different as they have given up trying to reach the horrid woman. Their spirit sister Olivia tries to console them as she knows God has a plan for each of them.

The poignant story line focuses on a dysfunctional suburban civil Rights Era dysfunctional Mississippi family. The narrator Olivia tells the tale of her sisters and like readers learns late in the plot what her purpose is and why God cannot take her to him at this time. Genevieve suffers from mental illness but little is understood about her illness. She is self destructs believing her patron saint is Elvis and she almost destroys the twins she neglects. Flowers for Elvis is a touching tale made stronger by a unexpected spin.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Doppelganger-Laura Resnick

Laura Resnick
Daw, Jan 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756405953

New York actress Esther Diamond waits for her next gig, but brings in needed cash while resting between roles as a singing waitress at Bella Stella because the patrons when they are not killed are mobsters who everyone knows are the best tippers. As she shares Ben and Jerry with NYPD Irish-Cuban police detective Connor Lopez, the deceased gangsters suddenly return to life.

Connor leads the investigations into the dead firing guns with real ammo. At the same Eastern Standard Time, Esther and her unwise in the way of street magic but a guru with magic-Magic, Max the Magician and his crime fighting companion Nelli the saliva canine queen at her side, also makes inquiries on a slightly different plane than the cops as a gang war from beyond threaten the streets of Manhattan.

The sequel to Disappearing Nightly is an amusing urban fantasy starring a wonderful heroine surrounded by a horde of eccentrics, one straight cop, and one interfering matchmaking mom. The jocular story line is filled with a fast-paced frenzy from the first magical mugging until the last as Esther proves once again to be a reader’s best friend with her misadventures in Manhattan mystical mayhem.

Harriet Klausner

The Spirit Lens-Carol Berg

The Spirit Lens
Carol Berg
Roc, Jan 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9780451463111

The world of sorcery and magic may be coming to an end as increasingly historians and philosophers as well as King Philippe of Sabria turn to natural science for answers. When the ruler begins to close the collegia magica, the faculty and staff picture a threat to their lucrative way of life. Many of the mages believe assassinating the monarch will end this nonsense.

Portier de Savin-Duplais has failed at everything he has attempted including flunking out as a magic student. He gets by with cheap tricks and illusions as he knows he cannot charm a flea to live on a dog; instead he is a low life curator at the last collegia magica in Sabria. However, a despondent Portia battling depression is stunned when his cousin a zillion or so blood lines apart, King Philippe assigns him with the investigation into what the monarch thinks is a plot to murder him. Portier is euphoric as he feels his greatness will be fulfilled although his companions Ilario the chevalier and Dante the rogue sorcerer seem to keep tearing down his superego.

This is a super opening to what looks like a great alternate Renaissance fantasy. The cast is strong regardless of their significance, but especially the lead protagonist who seems like he suffers from Bipolar disorder and his zany companions. Fans will appreciate this strong beginning as science and sorcery collide when three undercover agents investigate the divine and unholy collision of murder, magic, and physics.

Harriet Klausner

Coldheart Canyon-Clive Barker

Coldheart Canyon
Clive Barker
Harper, Nov 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061769054

Willem Zeffer manages the career of silent film star Katya Lupescu who sadistically took pleasure from others. While in Romania, Willem buys painted tiles from a medieval monastery that graphically show bizarre sexual encounters. He brings them to Hollywood though he is unable to explain to himself let alone his wife why he had to buy the erotic artwork. However, he has them placed inside of Katya’s Coldheart Canyon mansion; which leads to a who’s who of the silent film era coming to her home ostensibly to see the queen of frozen sadism, but deep down each knows they visit to admire the sexual arousing masterpieces.

Six decades since a bewildered Willem brought the tiles to California, movie star Todd Pickett recovers from slipshod cosmetic surgery at Coldheart Canyon mansion. At the same time he wallows in self pity, the president of a Todd fan club, unhappily married Tammy Lauper, decides to visit her recuperating hero to help him heal. Still visiting the mansion are the ghosts of Hollywood legends and wannabes who came to see the artwork of the Queen of Hell condemning a hunter to sexually depravity that gripped each of them when they were alive and continues its fascination well passed their death, a hellish time on earth.

This is a fascinating dark Hollywood ghost story that also pays homage to the legends of the silver screen. The story line is fast-paced and gripping though not particularly as frightening as some of Clive Barker’s previous works. Fans will enjoy Mr. Barker turning Jacqueline Susan and the spirit of Harold Robbins on their respective heads as they are just two of the ghosts of Hollywood residing at Coldheart Canyon.

Harriet Klausner

A Young Man Without Magic-Lawrence Watt-Evans

A Young Man Without Magic
Lawrence Watt-Evans
Tor, Nov 2009, $27.95
ISBN: 9780765322791

In Lume, food riots break out while noble magicians use commoners as sacrifices to bring in a needed harvest. The orphaned son of two renowned sorcerers who died using magic, Anrel Marau shows no skills so he loses his nobility status. His uncle makes him a clerk while also training his nephew’s friend Valin, the son of the baker, who surprisingly as a commoner possesses the ability to employ magic. However, Valin a champion for change is accused of theft by Lord Allutal and dies in a duel.

His friend’s death angers Anrel to the point of demanding justice from the Grand Council and is the impetus to awaken his dormant magic skills that had vanished when he became an orphan. As the emperor invokes a new Grand Council meeting to deal with unrest, Anrel causes a riot that leads to his being branded traitor. He flees for his life into the hinterland where kind witches teach him simple spells.

Although the transformation from mundane “commoner” to magic user rabble rouser seems unreal as the impetus to return the magic to the young hero, fans will enjoy his political coming of age fantasy. Anrel’s loss of his talent is a classic defense mechanism reaction to the deaths of his parents, but the return appears impossible as is his sudden eloquence as a public speaker. Still the society is interesting as the caste system is unraveling and the masses seem heading towards a French revolution when the nobles’ attitude is let them eat cake when they have no bread (or flour). Fans will have to set their plausibility index on low, but if one can they will enjoy the political and magical awakenings of Anrel; if not pass.

Harriet Klausner

The Discworld Graphic Novels-Terry Pratchett

The Discworld Graphic Novels
Terry Pratchett
Harper, Oct 2009, $$16.99
ISBN: 9780061833106

“The Colour of Magic”. Discworld lies evenly flat on four elephants who ride on the back of a turtle orbiting around the universe. Tourist Twoflower from the Agatean Empire on the Counterweight Continent has come to Ankh-Morpork to see the famous sights. Noted loser, drop-out and coward Rincewind the worst wizard is assigned to show the visitor the city or he will lose a few extremities in case he foolishly refuses the kind offer. When an inferno engulfs Ankh-Morpork Rincewind and Twoflower run for their lives with two many legged luggage. Thus starts their miscapades.

“The Light Fantastic”. Wizard extraordinaire Rincewind and tourist Twoflower escape the void of space at a time when Discworld appears on a course to collide with a red star that at a minimum would destroy the turtle, four elephants the planet and its residents. The great minds know that the eight great magic spells will save the turtle, four elephants, the planet and its residents. Seven spells seem ready for deployment; the eighth resides alone inside the brain of Rincewind.

The first two 1980s tales make for a fun graphic novel filled with humor, irony and satire that seems timely as health care for the uninsured, under insured, and economically deprived insured is debated by those who have access to the best in health care on the cheap. The adaptation is fun as Scott Rockwell captures the essence of the misadventures with great minds who belong in Congress debating the gender of the turtle, Cohen the Barbarian explaining the subtly of combat, and Death learning to play bridge before Bill and Ted. The graphics illustrated by Steven Ross enhance the belief that Discworld exists though readers will have their own mental images to compare with. Except for purists, fans of the saga will enjoy this adaptation of the original duology while floating at a turtle’s pace through space.

Harriet Klausner

Metal Gear Solid 2 – Sons of Liberty-Raymond Benson

Metal Gear Solid 2 – Sons of Liberty
Raymond Benson
Del Rey, Nov 24 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345503435

Anyone who noticed the lone figure on the GW Bridge overlooking the Hudson would have thought the person was committing suicide. That is if they could see him in the torrential rain. Instead former Foxhound field operative Solid Snake waits patiently for the point of no return when the tanker U.S.S. Discovery sails under the bridge so he can leap on board, which he does. However, outside of his landing nothing else goes right on this mission involving an anonymous tip from an associate’s stepsister re new metal gear that looks increasingly like a Russian trap

Two years later, a rookie agent Raiden is assigned to investigate what happened on that fatal rainy day in the Hudson. Implications strongly tie that explosive event with a hostage situation in New York Harbor where the Big Shell environmental facility has become occupied by the terrorists Sons of Liberty, who have captured POTUS. The Sons of Liberty killers have worked with the precision of a unit led by Solid Snake, MIA for two years, and rumored to be in charge of these terrorists ready to trigger POTUS to blow up Manhattan.

As with the first book Metal Gear Solid, the well written second tale the Sons Of Liberty obviously ties to the popular game; as such it targets fans. For those who are not players, this is a fun read with a lot of action and a somewhat cartoonish (American manga) cast inside a thin plot. Still for MGS gurus, Sons of Liberty is an entertaining tale although it does not expand upon the knowledge lore.

Harriet Klausner

Hunting Julian-Jacquelyn Frank

Hunting Julian
Jacquelyn Frank
Zebra, Jan 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420104257

In Fort Lauderdale, bounty hunter Asia Callahan observes Julian Sawyer who has sex with a different girl every night. However, she watches him because thirteen females vanished across the country including her sister Kenya after meeting him. She knows his pattern and vows to learn what happened to her sibling and prevent number fourteen. Asia enters the Pussy Willow nightclub where Julian moves in on her. At his apartment, he grabs her throat and says she emits no sexual odor. Asia tries a jujitsu attack that draws pink blood. Julian picked her like her sister as a Chosen, but instead needs her as his zini. He mentally rapes Asia, but stops short of the physical. Instead they enter a portal to his world.

Julian explains to the Ampliphi leaders that his days as a gatherer are over as the human is his kindra. His companion Ariel is elated to see Julian until he introduces her to Asia as his kindra. He tells Ariel he will retire soon and informs Asia she is in the “Beneath” plane below that of the earth where his people are starving. As she struggles to adjust, some leaders want her dead while Julian needs her to come to him as he wants her, but his people need them to feed off their sexual energy.

Readers will be hooked from the moment Julian takes Asia to his dimension as the other realms premise comes across quite powerfully real even the need for sexual energy fueling this odd world with edifices hanging on nets. The lead couple is an interesting pairing as he needs her while she rejects him for taking her against her will leading to his major frustrations. Although the Ampliphi should have stopped the villainess long ago as she was hurting those dependent on her, fans will relish this terrific science fiction romance.

Harriet Klausner