Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sentinels: Lion Heart- Doranna Durgin

Sentinels: Lion Heart
Doranna Durgin
Silhouette Nocturne, Aug 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618170

Ocelot shapeshifter Lyn Maines is assigned to investigate whether a Sentinel is betraying the cause. She heads to the Arizona mountains Dook’o’osliid to determine if mountain-lion shifter Joe Ryan has gone to the dark evil Atrum Core while also hunting the retreating regional Drozhar (prince) after his side lost a battle recently. Based on what she knows about the case, she assumes Joe is a traitor.

After a few days with Joe, Lyn begins to reassess her opinion. She believes he is either an Oscar Award level actor or innocent. As she falls in love with Joe, she fears her heart is rose coloring her eyes or someone diabolically clever is framing him. Now she needs his help to deal with the Atrum Core Drozhar using the mountain's power to restore his own, but all the evidence affirms Joe is betraying their cause.

Although the plot feels a bit emaciated at first, the latest Sentinels Arizonan urban fantasy romance (see JAGUAR NIGHT) picks up momentum and turns into a wonderful entry due to the suspicion by Lyn and the Sentinels that Joe is the traitor. Thus their relationship starts off on the wrong foot, but as they fall in love, Lyn refuses to believe her beloved whose obvious love of the mountains would sell out to someone destroying his revered snowy peaks. LION HEART is a solid entry with a bit of a mystery to enhance the fun plot.
Harriet Klausner

Time Raiders: The Seeker-Lindsay McKenna

Time Raiders: The Seeker
Lindsay McKenna
Silhouette Nocturne, Aug 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618163

Time raiders Delia Sebastian and Jake Tyler are assigned to work together in finding the first piece of an alien artifact the Karanovo Bronze Seal in ancient Rome during the time of Julius Caesar. Delia does not want to go with Jake as her partner as she has a past with him that left her hurt. On the other hand, Jake looks forward to spending time with her.

Their Italian vacation posing as Grecian mercenaries proves dangerous as Caesar's mistress Servilia has an agenda of her own yet the artifact is in her Pompeii villa. Worse, an alien seeks the artifact and is using the body of the scribe to hide inside. As the peril mounts, Delia and Jake must cover each other’s back if they are to survive the mission and have any hope of successfully accomplishing it.

This is the opening act of a new romantic science fiction series in which different authors over the next few months will provide novels. THE SEEKER is a fine tale starring two leads who battle one another and two insidious enemies. The story line starts slow as the key background information is provided, but once the protagonists (some might say antagonists) go back in time to 44 BC, the action turns fast-paced and the lead couple’s attraction could ignite Ancient Rome. Fans will enjoy Lindsay McKenna’s solid thriller as Ancient Rome comes alive and the table is set for Cindy Dees in September to go after the next segment of the Karanovo Bronze Seal.

Harriet Klausner

Retribution-Jeanne C. Stein

Jeanne C. Stein
Ace, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441017737

She has been fighting a losing battle to hold onto her humanity, but months old vampire Anne Strong doubts she can much longer. Her parents are sent by Anna’s nemesis to a winery in France with their “grand-daughter” so they cannot be used as hostages by those coming for Anna. She has few friends, but one of them is shapeshifting Culebra who owns a bar in Beso de la Muerte where vampires can feed on willing hosts. He meets her in Mexico her and asks not to visit the bar because he is on vacation and his substitute Sandre wants nothing to do with her. Unable to believe what he is saying, Anna goes to see herbut meets Warren Williams, the former San Diego chief of police and now the chief officer of the supernatural community.

He warns her that six young vampire corpses have been found drained of their blood. Soon after that meaning Sandra summons her to come to the bar because Culebra is ill and may be dying. Before Culebra lost consciousness he mentioned Belinda Burke, an enemy of his, Anna and William. She cast a spell on him and the only way to save his life is to find the witch and kill her. Anna fears she and Culebra will die if she fails to locate the witch. Tracing the path of her enemy, Anna finds more drained dead vampires and a person close to her who is helping Culebra stay alive through magic spells is now near death. Killing Belinda becomes the only sensible RETRIBUTION.

This is a strong vampire urban fantasy entry in a great series (see THE WATCHER, LEGACY, and BLOOD DRIVE) due to the lead professional who has distanced herself for obvious reasons from her family and has joined the supernatural community. Anna continues to explore her new powers as she also treks the dangerous dark world in which beauty is only skin deep is a mantra as the monsters inside are deadly. The world of Jeanne C. Stein is dark, deadly and dangerous; but most critical to readers is her species (vampires, witches, and shapeshifters) seem genuine.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 29, 2009

Skykeepers-Jessica Anderson

Jessica Anderson
Signet, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451227706

Sasha Ledbetter desperately searches for her vanished Mayanist father Dr. Ambrose Ledbetter. She is shocked when she locates his remains in an ancient temple. However, she has no time to mourn her loss; as Xibalba worshiper and high chieftain Iago capturers her. He tortures her seeking information about those who oppose his effort to bring back the demon Banol Kax into the world.

Nightkeeper warrior Michael Stone learns where Sasha is and leads a successful rescue mission. Michael and Sasha are attracted to each other, but he tries to ignore his feelings because he fears passion will ignite the dark side of his nature while Sasha wonders if her disbelief in her late father’s theory of Nightkeepers enabled her to disavow that she might be one of them. However, both recons finding a missing critical Mayan depository which comes before their desire for one another, as Iago is not waiting for love to uncover that same ancient library.

As Michael discovers new powers that he must learn to use, the doomsday clock is ticking against the Nightkeepers warriors as the demon and his adulating horde push the end of days. Michael and Sasha are a terrific pairing who may be in love, but each wonders whether the Final Prophecy’s kismet leaves them no choices; their feelings for one another may be predestined and disturbingly to both neither can say no. Fans will enjoy the latest exhilarating Mayan Final Prophecy urban fantasy thriller (see DAWNKEEPERS and NIGHTKEEPERS) with the philosophical debate of free choice vs. predetermination while time is running out on those who want to save the planet from Xibalba.

Harriet Klausner

Laced with Magic-Barbara Bretton

Laced with Magic
Barbara Bretton
Berkley, Aug 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425227527

Chloe Hobbs lives in remote quiet Sugar Maple, Vermont, running the Sticks & Strings yarn shop as a half human heir to the sorcery that keeps her town safe for the paranormal inhabitants and summer tourists. However, she has upset her neighbors especially the witches and fae when she and purebred human police officer policeman Luke MacKenzie becomes lovers.

Luke’s former wife Karen arrives hysterically insisting the ghost of their deceased daughter Steffie needs their help. Simultaneously, her long time enemy Isadora the fae is CASTING SPELLS over control of the child’s spirit and that of the town. Chloe’s family has always protected her town so she prepares for war though this sorceress would prefer a knitting battle.

This is a lighthearted satirical blending of a knitting cozy with a paranormal romance in a New England village fantasy (urban seems to denote a bit bigger of a community). The story line is breezy as Chloe and Luke struggle with small-town gossip and saving Steffie’s spirit with a stitch and a spell. Never serious except for knitting tips, fans will enjoy Barbara Bretton’s fine tale LACED WITH MAGIC of love. Chloe believes she can do anything including CASTING SPELLS with Luke at her side; however he is distracted as High Noon comes to the Green Mountain State.

Harriet Klausner

Night's Cold Kiss-Tracey O'Hara

Night's Cold Kiss
Tracey O'Hara
Eos, Aug 25 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061783135

The Hundreds Years War between the humans and Aeternus vampires finally ended when courageous leaders from both sides reached a desperately needed peace accord. However, Necrodreniacs rebels reject the pact as they thrive on human blood; their thirst is insatiable.

Fifteen years ago, when she was six years old, Antoinette Petrescu observed in fear and horror as vampire Dante Ribins slowly killed her mother. Although another vampire Christian Laroque saved the child’s life, she loathes all undead. Her racial prejudice has driven Antoinette who as a teen worked obsessively hard so she could become part of the elitist Venator corps stalking down paranormal criminals.

The CHAPR council between the humans and para-humans that has maintained the peace is beginning to fall apart due to distrust fostered by the actions of rogues on both sides especially the vamps. To save the council, Antoinette and Christian agree to taem up though she loathes doing so. However, as she begins to believe Dante is behind the prime assaults on the council, no one accepts her theory that the notorious serial has returned from the dead. She also ponders whether Christian, hiding behind his mask of concern, is the impetus behind the dreniacs’s bloody surge.

The first Dark Brethren tale is a terrific foreboding urban fantasy that uses sentient species’ needs to be numero uno as a form of prejudice to anchor an ominous looking world where danger is everywhere. The story line is fast-paced, but the introduction to who’s who slows down the reader (thankfully Tracey O'Hara provides a scorecard). Fans will enjoy the hostilities to be top dog on earth yet Antoinette makes this thriller work as she witnessed the tragedy of her mother’s s death; the adult is the child. This is a great start to a world in which NIGHT’S COLD KISS is the warmest time on planet earth.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Abyss-Troy Denning

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Abyss
Troy Denning
Del Rey, Aug 18 2009, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345509185

Tensions are rising to a dangerous feverish pitch on the planet Coruscant where the seat of power of the Galactic Alliance and the Jedi Temple are located. Increasingly at an epidemic rate Jedi Knights are falling prey to a strange illness that lead them into believing people they have known for years are actually doppelgangers. The Galactic Alliance Chief of State Natasi Daala wants the Jedi Order subservient to her government and Princess Leia and her husband Han Solo try to thwart her ambition.

Still seeking the cause of Jacen Solo’s downfall into the dark side of the force, Luke Skywalker and his son Ben head to Maw Cluster, a mysterious dangerous sector where the Force is very potent. They come upon a space station populated by the dead and the dying. The strongest of the living the Mind Walkers show the father and son team how to leave their bodies and travel to an orb strong with the Force to fond some of the answers they seek.. They know Jacen was in this sector and visited that orb before he became Darth Cadeouss, dictator of the Imperial Empire who killed millions in the civil war. The Skywalkers also fight a lost tribe of Sith who want them dead as a step towards regaining what they feel is their right to rule the galaxy.

The third novel (see OMEN and OUTCAST) in this nine book Star Wars saga is an exciting tale as the story line moves forward on both major plots. The Maw segue is the more fascinating of the two as the worlds and people inside this sector provide a fresh element to the Luke Skywalker legend with readers wondering if he and his son will fall into an abyss that will lead them to the dark side of the Force. The Solo-Leia entry is also enjoyable though somewhat similar to past tales; as the pair and their daughter battle the ambitious ruler. Fans will relish the strong latest entry in the Fate of the Jedi.

Harriet Klausner

Branwen's Garden-Brad Parnell

Branwen's Garden
Brad Parnell
BlackWyrm, Jul 2009, $11.95
ISBN: 9780982006764

Fifteen year old Robert has accepted that he has none of the Good Samaritan genes of his older brothers and sister. When his sister Margaret asks Robert to come over, he only agrees to hear her good deeds or dad reconciliation lectures because he has a crush on her roommate. Mags gives him a package containing family history dating back to the seventeenth century to Samuel More, who abruptly vanished. He knows this is a clever ploy to get her younger brother to reconcile with their dad, but Robert also understands his father tried to buy his affection since the split a few years ago with his mom who gave her son her love with no strings.

Robert translates the documents and with his friend Cam head to a nearby Natural Bridge where Cam holds the “key” that opens a portal that Robert crosses over into the land of Gwerinatha. He almost immediately is attacked by a six legged “log” whom he gives the sneaker to. Robert meets Louie the talking wolf, who takes him to his pack. As Robert learns about this strange world, he also finds out that Sam vanished on this side too. However, Robert’s goal of going home is interrupted when he discovers the local human heroine Branwen is missing. With the help of Branwen’s family and friends, Robert goes on a trek to rescue her.

The first Legend of Gwerinatha is a terrific entertaining middle school coming of age fantasy starring a young man learning about responsibility once he meets Louie and learns of BRANWEN'S GARDEN. The slacker lead protagonist is well aware of his so called short comings back home, but is okay with it. That changes when he becomes a heroic champion trying to find his ancestor and Branwen as a stranger in a strange land in which only the teen girls seem normal to him. Fans will enjoy his escapdes and look forward to Cam’s trek into Gwerinatha.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Vicious Circle-Linda Robertson

Vicious Circle
Linda Robertson
Juno (Pocket), Jul 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439154281

Persephone “Seph” Alcmedi is a witch, but pays her bills with other paranormal practices like reading tarot cards and writing a newspaper column. Seph also breaks the rules of witch-hood and the city ordinance by running a kennel in her basement to keep werewolves out of trouble during the full moon. Everyone knows the Were and witches are like an oilman and a tree hugger.

Seph is outraged when her grandma is kicked to the curb by her nursing home management. She puts that on hold when a vampire kills her were-friend Lorrie Kordell. She is offered a hell of a lot cash to bring the bloody killer to justice. However, the predator Goliath Kline is too dangerous for a mere witch to restrain so she turns to Johnny the lead singer of techno-metal-Goth band Lycanthropia, who has more than a crush on her; a feeling she reciprocates though she hides it from the biker using grandma as her heart guard.

This is an amusing lighthearted chick lit urban fantasy that stars a female David witch struggling with her bills, grandma, and Johnny battling Goliath the invincible cruel vampire; Vegas would never allow betting on this one. The story line is breezy from the onset as a frustrated Persephone wishes her kennel guests would keep the Krispy Kreme boxes off her lawn before the neighbors howl about her garbage and never slows down. Fans will appreciate this jocular tale in which the plot is never quite serious as the kennel master witch turns amateur sleuth leading to a showdown with a vampire who will enjoy drinking bewitching blood.

Harriet Klausner

Semper Human-Ian Douglas

Semper Human
Ian Douglas
Eos, May 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0061238643

Across the galaxy, all hell has exploded with many colonial planets and other orbital habitats in jeopardy; billions could die. The Galactive Associative has tried to maintain the peace and prevent internal hostilities from destroying much of humanity, but the leaders recognize they failed especially after the Xul Incursion in 4004. One year later they call for desperate measures to prevent the beginning of the end as rebels are springing up seemingly everywhere. They awaken General Garroway and his Star Marines from eight and a half centuries of deliberate cybernetic-hibernation sleep; a super squad who chose cybernation in 3152 in case they were ever needed again.

However, the almost millennia induced coma has left Garroway and his United States Marine Corps warriors unprepared for a society in which the rules of engagement they adhered to are considered obsolete by self interested politicians who have plans on manipulating the reanimated marines for personnel power gain as the common good is superseded. Still Garroway and his corps begin the counterattack only to realize the greater peril is not from within or even just the invincible Xul, though great threats to the well being of mankind. A hazard so insidious the past, present and future are simultaneously in danger of being eradicated by the unbeatable Xul and the Great Annihilator whose plan is eliminate any trace that humanity ever lived or lives.

This is the exciting finish to the Inheritance trilogy with the third book (see STAR STRIKE and GALACTIC CORPS) of the third saga (see the novels of the Heritage trilogy and the Legacy Trilogy). The story line is fast-paced and resolves much of what has occurred in the last twelve centuries; answering the key questions in an exhilarating way. Garroway and his unit are terrific, but Ian Douglas continues to show his scorn of politicians as once again cowardly politicos get in the way of the heroic marines so long term fans will finish the saga with the thoughts of well written and very entertaining, but a nagging sense of deja vu.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thorn Queen-Richelle Mead

Thorn Queen
Richelle Mead
Zebra, Aug 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420100976

Half-breed shaman Eugenie Markham was contented making a living sending home creatures who crossed over from the Otherworld. She never planned to cross over herself heeding her mentor stepfather’s warning, but did so to rescue a child. To accomplish her quest, Eugenie killed the Thorn King (see STORM BORN) only to learn she is now the THORN QUEEN; a job she does not want as that will mean more time on Otherworld where every person with a Y Chromosome wants her.

She has issues with the two males in her life though she is seeing Kiyo the spirit fox even as he is expecting to be a father soon with his former girlfriend while fae King Dorian has her libido soaring to heights she never imagined. Besides wanting two hunks Eugenie fears pregnancy as her firstborn is prophesized as the individual who will make the human race extinct. The newest monarch is most concerned with several young female fae vanishing; adding to her dismay is that no one even King Dorian seem the least bit troubled. She decides to investigate as Eugenie feels this is part of being a ruler. Her inquiry leads to life threatening danger from an adversary with a personal blood grudge and an affirmation that her preference is the mental comfort of the human realm she knows intimately.

The second Dark Swan fantasy is a terrific tale as the audience sees the Otherworld through the eyes of newcomer Eugenie. The story line is fast-paced from the onset while the Thorn Queen struggles with her new responsibilities, her love life and an unknown foe using fae to force the heroine to act. Like the first book, this is a winner due to the realism brought to Otherworld by the half human-half fey heroine who is naive in this new world of hers as her earthly sophistication appears worthless in this realm.

Harriet Klausner

Traitors' Gate-Kate Elliott

Traitors' Gate
Kate Elliott
Tor, Aug 18 2009, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765310576

The land of the Hundred is on the verge of collapse as war has swept across everywhere. The cause is a stunner as someone from within The Guardians of the Altars has betrayed the trust; causing massive chaos slaughtering of thousands of people in a mindless march of destruction.

The only viable adversary to the horde of the Guardians of the Altars is the Outlander army who want peace and prosperity to return. They know their enemy is beyond reason and prepare for war against an invincible foe, who even devastated the Eagle Reeves used to enforce the law of the land.

The third Crossroads epic fantasy (see SPIRIT GATE and SHADOW GATE) is a super entry that will have readers considering what a value is on individual and collective levels and can a person ignore natured values that are nurtured by society; that psychological well-being is the essence of TRAITOR’S GATE. The story line is action-packed and fast-paced from the onset, as the Outlander soldiers as individuals think they can perform actions that feel contrary to their psychological essence, but as a group may find the tasks required overwhelming because these brave soldiers must also overcome the intrinsic values of the group. Complex and complicated, the world of Kate Elliot is filled with mental personal gates that amass in the realm of the Hundreds on an epic scale of doubt and devastation. This is a deep thought provoking entry within a strong saga.

Harriet Klausner

Elfland-Freda Warrington

Freda Warrington
Tor, Aug 18 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765318695

Every seven years on the Night of the Summer Stars, the Aetherials routinely move back and forth between the Spiral and the Earth when the gates between realms are opened for a short time. The Aetherials live amongst the earthlings as humans, but must go home periodically to touch their basic essence or go insane.

Their return to home trip abruptly fails this year when for no known reason the Gatekeeper Lawrence Wilder shuts the portal permanently. He proclaims danger is coming from beyond that could destroy the realms, but says nothing further. The Aetherials are stuck on Earth and panic stricken though they have lived safely as mortals amidst the humans; but these Fair Folk will go mad and die if they fail to return home. The daughter of their King Auberon, Rose Fox is attracted to one of the sons of the Gatekeeper, though both offspring Sam and Jon Wilder want her. This is not a good time for romance as the desperate visitors are losing their grips on sanity from failing to touch with their Aetherial selves on the other side of the shuttered gate.

ELFLAND, the first Books of the Silver Wheel saga, is an excellent fantasy due to the refreshing cast as the human, the Aetherial, and the Gatekeeper and his family (especially his sons) seem genuine with all types of personal conflicts and desires. Surprisingly, the story line focuses deep on the relationships (carefully keeping the romance from overwhelming the rest of the plot) between and within the two key families while one brood struggles with sanity while trying to go home. Fans will relish Freda Warrington’s opening gamut and look forward to the rest of this character driven series as the Fair Folks instinctively know time is running out on their minds.

Harriet Klausner

Land Of The Dead-Thomas Harlan

Land Of The Dead
Thomas Harlan
Tor, Aug 4 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765312044

In a rarely traveled part of space, an even rarer artifact from the glorious era of the First Sun Old Ones has been discovered. The leaders of the interplanetary Mexica Empire know the significance of the find from a historical perspective and even more important understand this is a weapon of mass destruction.

In Mexico City, the Emperor wants the relic brought under their close supervision so he sends his son, Prince Xochitl to retrieve it. At the same time Mirror Service operative Green Hummingbird, First Sun anthropological expert Gretchen Anderssen and Captain Susan Koshy are also trying to obtain the artifact. Others also make a trek to gain possession as everyone understands the impact of an Old Ones’ weapon.

The premise of In The Time of the Sixth Sun saga (see WASTELAND OF FLINT and HOUSE OF REEDS) is simplistic as Thomas Harlan changes a key pivotal sixteenth century moment in which the Japanese instead of the Spanish meet the Aztecs first. From that first encounter, the author has extrapolated an alternate history based on the Annals of Cuauhtotlan that provides the audience with a super futuristic science fiction saga. LAND OF THE DEAD is a great action-packed thriller with tense battle scenes in space as the race to possess an artifact from the era of the First Sun has everyone on edge. Green and his cohorts, and Xochitl bring to the exciting plot a human rivalry that compares how miniscule earthlings are against the big vastness of outer space.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Enigma-C.F. Bentley

C.F. Bentley
Daw, Aug 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 0756405645

The Harmony Empire of planets has been secluded from the greater universe for a long time due to its remoteness. Lovers High Priestess of Harmony Laudae Sissy and Confederated Star System Agent “Military” Jake know the remote inaccessibility is coming to an end. With that in mind they travel to Labyrinthe VII space station; better known in this sector as The First Contact Cafe hoping to negotiate diplomatic and economic relations for their confederation with the outside governments as they know the outsiders are coming anyway to obtain precious Badger Medal.

The Confederated Star Systems want the Badger Medal to build starships so will do anything to regain control of their former colony and the other planets that make up the Harmonic Empire. With war in the sector seemingly imminent, Harmony wants a fair price for its most precious asset. When someone tries to assassinate Sissy, she becomes fearful that her efforts to restore the covenant to the goddess Harmony will fail; Jake risks his life to keep her safe, but also knows as the planet’s liaison to the outside he must continue the negotiations to save the empire from a hostile takeover from without and within especially when an alien vessel apparently deliberately crashed into the Harmony wing of the space station.

Besides dealing with a mass murdering serial killer and an insane spy chief, all Jake has to do is negotiate, investigate and protect fragile Sissy. The story line is fast-paced due to his ability to juggle all the balls though some do fall making his tasks more complex. Fans will enjoy the sequel to HARMONY as C.F. Bentley provides a strong space opera starring a brave hero and the fragile woman he cherishes, who surprises even him with her courage to enter the hellish fray though completely frightened as she is a "Depends" female; you can depend on her to do the right thing though she wears rubber underwear.

Harriet Klausner

Mr. Darcy, Vampire-Amanda Grange

Mr. Darcy, Vampire
Amanda Grange
Sourcebook, Aug 1 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9781402236976

In October 1802, Elizabeth Bennett believes she is the luckiest woman in England because this is her wedding day to her beloved Mr. Darcy. It is actually a double wedding as her sister Jane is marrying Mr. Bingley. The ceremony goes off without a hitch. After the gala instead of going to the Lake District, Darcy tells Elizabeth they are heading to Paris since the truce remains steady between Napoleon and England.

In France, she meets Darcy’s friends, exuberant sybarites who disapprove of the marriage because of her bloodline. They feels he should have wedded one of his own. Elizabeth won his heart but though he loves her Darcy fails to consummate their marriage. From Paris they visit his uncle in the Alps, but at the chateau, t his blood relative tells them to go when a mob storms the places because they disapprove of Elizabeth. They head to Venice where she finally learns the truth about her husband when he kills one of his own kind. She must decide whether they separate, a thought she loathes, or consummate the marriage knowing what he is.

Mr. Darcy’s reservations, temperament and apparent aloofness are explained in a most unusual way by Jane Austin guru Amanda Grange (see the diaries saga) as he hides what torments him from his beloved. Readers tour the content with the pair, but see Europe through Darcy’s eyes that also enables the audience to learn more about him, past and present. Weird but entertaining as Ms. Grange understands Darcy as if he is a living “undead” family member she knew back during the Napoleonic Era.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Red Tree-Caitlin R. Kiernan

The Red Tree
Caitlin R. Kiernan
Roc, Aug 42009, $16.00
ISBN: 9780451462763

In Atlanta the suicide of her girlfriend shook writer Sarah Crowe to her core so she decides to leave the region. She feels fortunate to have found an old house on the Wight Farm in a remote part of Rhode Island that she rents.

She explores her new home and finds an “ancient” typewriter and an unfinished manuscript by Dr. Charles L. Harvey, a noted anthropology folklorist. He apparently was collecting information re the legend of an old oak tree on this property that the locals hold in awe. His work eerily stopped abruptly when he hanged himself from that same oak tree. Sarah tries to ignore the document, but cannot stop thinking about it. She feels spellbound to investigate and begins her own journal while her life feels increasingly depressing and out of her control and macabre under the oak’s control.

In some ways this terrific haunting is a throwback to the early Stephen King thrillers especially The Shining as the audience observes in full fright Sarah slowly yet knowingly losing her mind seemingly to the oak tree. Fans will relish this tale while keeping the lights on throughout the house and considering cutting down trees near their homes as we hypnotically wonder whether THE RED TREE is a psychological thriller or a supernatural tale; either way trees will be avoided by readers.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hidden Currents-Christine Feehan

Hidden Currents
Christine Feehan
Jove, Jun 30 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515146479

Psychic though many will say psycho businessman Stavros Gratsos kidnaps Elle Drake who had just returned to her family home Sea Haven. Although Elle and her six older sisters are also psychics, Stavros has somehow been able to electronically disable their telepathic abilities. Her siblings are distraught, but plan to do whatever it takes to rescue the youngest of this generation Drake brood.

Sea Haven Deputy Sheriff Jackson Deveau has loved Elle from afar forever and vows to save his beloved. Elle has reciprocated his feelings so that a telepathic link built on love connects them in spite of Stavros’ gizmo. He along with the Drake clan extract Elle from the psychopath, but not before Stavros tortured and raped her. Jackson is there for his emotionally shattered beloved and she begins to mentally heal due to his nurturing. However, Stavros wants her back and threatens all her loved ones leading to the extended Drake family (stars of the previous six entries) taking on a maniac and his horde of mercenaries.

The seventh and final Drake sister romantic fantasy is a strong finish to a powerful series. The lead couple is a likable pairing as both have issues; especially timely and poignant is the consequences on an individual who was tortures. The villain is a clever and brilliant but insane psychic whose demented vile mind enhances the plot as he forces the return of all the Drake sisters and their mates to unite to counter fight this lunatic.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Time-Dakota Banks

Dark Time
Dakota Banks
Avon Jul 28 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061687303

In 1692 Susannah Layhem is accused of being a witch and jailed; her baby is born and dies while she is incarcerated. She no longer cares that she is innocent and the facts would bear out her contention; but that did not matter to her accusers including her husband and his brother and wife. After she dies in the holy bonfire, Rabishu the demon recruits her to become his top gun assassinating people. For three centuries she did his bidding, but abruptly says no when the demon assigns her to murder a baby as she never stopped grieving for her dead infant Constanza .

The demon is as stunned as Susannah is when she realizes she somewhat is freed of her Faustian contract although she will still have to kill mortals. Now residing on earth as Maliha Crane, she hopes to regain her soul so she can stop her killing after three centuries of doing the demon’s bidding. She writes mystery novels and tries to save humans in an effort to balance her karma and is involved in the investigation of the homicides of two hackers.

Although the plot is extremely thin especially when it converts from historical to modern day urban fantasy, fans will enjoy meeting Susannah-Maliha and the worlds of Dakota Banks (including eerie dark Midworld). The first paranormal Mortal Path thriller is dark and enthralling as Rabishu is outraged at Malilha saying no for the first time as she hopes to obtain some redemption for her dark soul.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 22, 2009

Prism-Faye Kellerman and Aliza Kellerman

Faye Kellerman and Aliza Kellerman
Harper, Jun 23 2009, $16.99
ISBN: 9780061687211

California high school student Kaida is on a field trip to Carlsbad Caverns when there is a horrific van accident. Kaida spends a terrible night with two other students Zeke Anderson and Joy Tallon in a cave. The next morning she awakens to find herself in her California bed with her class trip to come next week. Something is not quite right besides the time disparity, but she is unsure of what.

The strangest thing Kaida notices is health care or the lack of as there are no doctors or hospitals. People who are ill are left to recover naturally or sent to the desert to die. Kaida knows this is not her California as the only people who do not look at her as insane over medical care is her two van mates.

This faster than the speed of light action-packed science fiction targets middle school students with an intriguing message about health care. The story line’s hyper speed overwhelms the cast even the transplanted trio who are the stars and the world they somehow enter. Still young adult fans will enjoy this accelerated ride that never slows down for a nanosecond.

Harriet Klausner

Strange Brew-P. N. Elrod (editor)

Strange Brew
P. N. Elrod (editor)
St. Martin's, Jul 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312383367

These nine urban fantasies make for a terrific anthology with no clinkers and several super entries. Especially excellent is Jim Butcher’s “Last Call” in which Harry stops for a beer while pursuing maenad Meditrina Bassarid, who stops for wine. Patricia Brigg’s blind witch in “Seeing Eye” who cannot turn on the lights to get rid of the terrors of the dark is top gun. Also super are Ginger: A Nocturne City Story” by Caitlin Kittredge that follows the adventures of two sisters, one kick butt the other a wuss; and Rachel Caine's "Death Warmed Over" in which the resurrectionist Holly Caldwell is asked to bring back the hero of the zombie war , the late witch Andrew Toland. With Charlaine Harris providing "Bacon", the editor P.N. Elrod a 1937 family hunt (“Hecate’s Golden Eye”) and “Dark Sins” by Jenna Maclaine make this a winner. Finally fans will take a Chance on Karen Chance’s “Vegas Odds” and have faith in the avenging vampires of “Signature of the Dead” by Faith Hunter which are top quality. These are fun supernatural mystery thrillers that accentuate why urban fantasy is so popular.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bloody Awful-Georgia Evans

Bloody Awful
Georgia Evans
Kensington, Aug 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780758234827

In 1940 in a small English village, everything looks normal and serene on the surface when they are not being hit by German air bombs. However, many of the local inhabitants are Others including red were-fox district nurse Gloria Prewitt, pixies Alice Doyle and her grandma, Welsh shapeshifting dragon Howarth Pendragon and several who refuse to come out into the open because of fear of deadly retaliation in spite of the BLOODY RIGHT of freedom. Alice was instrumental in preventing a German vampiric saboteur from blowing up a secret nearby munitions plant.

Another German vampire William Block has come to Surrey with the same mission as his late comrade. Gloria is the first to notice the new arrival and his Nazi Luftwaffe support; she tells the others who make plans to dispatch the newcomer to the same hell they sent his predecessor to. The enemy almost kills Alice who tries her magic against this Undead while a furious Gloria vows to stake this fiend who threatens her lover.

BLOODY AWFUL is not an apt title descriptor as the tale is BLOODY GOOD. The super fast-paced historical fantasy story line is filled with stunning revelations and unexpected twists yet most significant enables the audience to believe in were-shifters, pixies and oh my vampires. . Her friends and her lover need to protect her although Gloria is a terrific heroine who gains confidence in her paranormal skills as she battles otherworldly saboteurs. Georgia Evans avoids the middle book lack of a deep plot with this strong entry of a mousy fox who learns to roar like a lioness who believes she is BLOODY RIGHT (next tale) while battling a vampire.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 20, 2009

High Bloods-John Farris

High Bloods
John Farris
Tor, Jul 21 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765325969

At the end of WWII in the Pacific, specifically in the Kingdom of Kalimanton, the returning soldiers brought home a microbe that turned into werewolves. For twenty-seven days of the month, they were as humans as the True Bloods; but when the moon was full they turned into maniacal killing machines. The disease spreads epidemically across the globe until the species becomes greater in number than Homo sapiens.

The International Lycan Control (ILC) monitors 80% of the werewolf population and has methods to control the change in order to keep the True Bloods safe during the full moon. ILC agent Rawson is shocked when he witnesses an Avenging Fury of a werewolf rip the head off businessman Artie of Arthur Excalibur Enterprises during a non full moon. Artie provided lycan escorts to pure humans, but the key is to figure out how someone was able to turn a lycan into a killing werewolf when the moon was in no way full. While he searches for the real culprits, Rawson also looks for Mal who is like a younger sister to him, before hunters preparing for a Mal de Lune (werewolf hunt) to kill her. Both tasks prove dangerous as enemies try to kill Rawson.

This is an exciting, fast-paced futuristic urban Noir fantasy in which American has been torn apart due to the Lycan virus. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and makes Los Angeles and Santa Monica seem genuinely filled with werewolves and True Bloods. Rawson is a believable Noir like hero who does what he believes is the right thing though he knows the cost may be those few he cherishes. Although, nothing new is added to the sub-genre as the premises have been overly done recently, John Farris provides a super thriller as the plot is faster than a speeding silver bullet.

Harriet Klausner

Demon Redcoat-C.C. Finlay

Demon Redcoat
C.C. Finlay
Del Rey, Jun 23 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345503923

In 1779 the American War of Independence continues unabated. Having helped General Washington by using his magical skills, Proctor Brown decides it is enough as all he sees is blood flowing on both sides of the dispute. He, his wife Deborah the witch and a few friends relocate to a New England farm although the General pleads with him to help them in Europe. Even if he wanted to get back involved, he will not leave his nine month pregnant spouse.

Deborah goes into labor, but as she gives birth to a daughter, the powerful Balfri the demon enters through an unguarded chimney. Proctor with the help of Abigail, Lydia and Magdalena force the demon outside, but the elderly Magdalena died doing it. Proctor knows now he has no choice but to take the fight to those who summoned Balfri, the European witches of the Covenant. Proctor heads by sea to Europe with black freewoman Lydia pretending to be his slave. On the ocean, he meets John Adams and in France, he meets Benjamin Franklin, but the Covenant uses minor mages and witches to destroy him while in the States Balfri attacks Deborah and her daughter Maggie as there is power in possessing an infant

This is a terrific alternate historical fantasy that continues the saga of Proctor Brown who is considered a “Traitor to the Crown” for helping the American rebels along with his loved ones, during the American Revolution in which magic plays a key role in the outcome. The story line is action packed from the moment that Balfri attacks the house and never slows down crossing the Atlantic or in France and England. Fans of alternate histories will want to read the entire series (see THE PATRIOT WITCH and A SPELL FOR THE REVOLUTION) as well as this thriller as the magic seems genuine and real persona like Adams and Franklin play major roles, but the audience will wonder whether Cornwallis or Washington will surrender at Yorktown as the magic is flying on both sides of the big pond.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Path of Razors-Chris Marie Green

The Path of Razors
Chris Marie Green
Ace, Aug 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780441017201

Costin, a Soul Traveler inside of Jonah’s body (with his permission) is now a vampire turned by former stuntwoman Dawn Madison, who also was a vampire albeit briefly. Now he cannot leave Jonah’s body so they work together along with their group to find out where the master vampires and their underground is. Their search takes them to England , but they are attacked by schoolgirl vampires from Queenshill campus.

Nobody is certain if they are part of an Underground or just an ordinary group of vampires. They would have been part of the Underground once they graduate, but circumstances dictate that the three girls and their dorm mother Mrs. Claudia Jones move into the Underground immediately. The vampires of the Underground and the Keepers (intelligent Renfields) want to know if Costin and Dawn’s group are in the area to get them or if it is just an unbelievable coincidence. Costin is content to let Jonah be the dominant personality until they find the Underground and destroy it but neither expected the truth when it is revealed.

Dawn is a lean mean fighting machine but when she becomes human again after a short stint as a vampire, there is a deep darkness to her that ignites when she is angry or in trouble; she cannot control herself like she did before so she struggles to keep it submerged. The Underground culture in England is different than that of one in Los Angeles. “Wolfie” leads this underground but his interest is only in young beautiful girl vampires and they are enthralled with him. They believe he is the only one who loves them. Thought provoking and loaded with atmosphere and action, the PATH OF RAZORS is a first rate urban fantasy that will have readers believing the magic of this wondrous tale

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Speak of the Devil-Jenna Black

Speak of the Devil
Jenna Black
Dell, Jul 28 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780440244936

Demons travel to the mortal realm and possess a body like the demon King Lugh resides in the body of American’s foremost exorcist Morgan Kingsley. Lugh is trapped in Morgan’s body because his brother Dougel wants to wear the demon crown and can only become the king if the monarch dies. Morgan has her own woes, but even she admits they pale next to that of her “guest”.

An exorcism killed the host Jordan Maguire Junior; senior is suing Morgan for negligence and wrongful death. As soon as the suit was filed, the US Exorcism Board suspended Morgan’s license pending an investigation. Matters turn worse when someone sends her a human arm. Morgan knows someone is after her as the assaults escalate and she fears she will be framed for murder. Lugh’s war council does their best to protect Morgan because if she dies, their king returns to his realm where his sibling waits to kill him. As Morgan’s stalker keeps the pressure on her, the person also threatens her loved ones.

Jenna Black is consistently one of the best urban fantasists on the market today with her kick butt heroine being kicked around this time. The irony of this entertaining saga is Morgan’s job is exorcising demons out of humans and back to their realm while she has the ruling demon inside her. This time her troubles overflow to her family and friends as an unknown assailant has her on the ropes. Although the overarching Cain and Abel demonic rivalry barely moves forward, fans of Kim Harrison and Jacquelyn Frank will enjoy the escapades of Morgan Kingsley, exorcist extraordinaire.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hitler’s War-Harry Turtledove

Hitler’s War
Harry Turtledove
Del Rey, Aug 4 2009, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345491824

In 1938 England and France were prepared to tear away the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia and cede it to Germany until the leader of Sudeten Germany Konrad Heinlien takes refuge in Germany. A Czech assassinates him giving Hitler the excuse to invade. Neville Chamberlain and Messer Daladier refuse to sign the treaty that Hitler offers them. Hitler declares war.

The Czechs fight bravely, but are easily overwhelmed by the superior Nazi army abetted by Slovakia independence supporters. The German war machine quickly conquers Holland, Belgium and Lichtenstein. While leaders of both sides map strategic objectives, individuals struggle with the effect of the hostilities. Peggy Druce came to take the waters at Marianske Lazne but ended up a neutral stuck in Berlin unable to go home. The Goldmans always thought they were Germans first and Jews second until the Third Reich destroyed their beliefs. Their son joins the German army under a false name. Besides the prime fronts, there are other local wars like the Spanish Civil War where American Communists fight against Fascist forces. In China, the Japanese have invaded China while American marines have a ringside seat to the pacific Theatre. However, the biggest news is the German blitzkrieg heading towards Paris.

Harry Turtledove once again changes a pivotal point in history and provides his answers to what if Chamberlain said no to Hitler. In HITLER’S WAR, neither side is at full readiness especially the Allies who were stunned when war broke out as they adhered to their belief that they fought two decades earlier “the war to end all wars.” Mr. Turtledove shows the impact of war on individuals who are powerless and quickly lose all hope. Although the alternative history premise is fun to follow due to a strong execution, it is the little people who bring heart and soul to the epic of “war what is good for, absolutely nothing: (Edwin Starr).

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Darkest Hour-Mark Chadbourn

Darkest Hour
Mark Chadbourn
PYR, Jun 2009, $15.98
ISBN: 9781591027409

The Eternal Conflict cold war turns hot when The Brothers and Sisters of Dragons successfully engage the Tuatha De Danann ancient Gods to return to save humanity from the onslaught of the evil Fomorii demons. However, mortals should have known by now that Gods even those golden angelic ones do not think the way humans do. Instead, the Tuatha De Danann plan to rule as they did eons ago with an iron fist.

Stunned by what they perceive as a betrayal and caught between two superpowers battling over whose future will prevail for humanity, the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons struggle to save mankind. Advanced weapon systems have proven futile and feeling like expendable pawns and out maneuvered by the side they thought they could trust, the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons turn in their DARKEST HOUR within as they decide to take the hostility to the Fomorii without the help of the ancient Gods. Although victory is improbable, if somehow they succeed, they know next comes ridding the devastated planet of the ancient Celtic Gods who demand obsequiousness.

The second Age of Misrule urban fantasy (see WORLD'S END) is a great middle book as the action never slows down while also setting up one hell of a finish. The story line focuses on the revelation by the dragon warriors that they succeeded in their endeavor to bring allies on a power par with their enemies; only these allies think differently as they are used to mankind bowing to them in deference. Readers will appreciate Mark Chadbourn’s fine thriller as the lights are gone in planet earth with the last glimmer of hope being Dragons like Church, Ruth, Ryan, Laura and Shavi, and the enigmatic time traveler Tom.

Harriet Klausner

Eye of the Storm-John Ringo

Eye of the Storm
John Ringo
Baen, Jul 7 2009, $26.00
ISBN 9781439132739

As the Posleen horde invade the Earth, Lieutenant General Michael O’Neal is shocked with the proof he has found that that the Machiavellian Darhel oligarchy of the Galactic Confederation has controlled humans like puppeteer with puppets; most humans are pleased with the arrangement. O’Neal considers a countermeasure, but his vaunted military unit is destroyed by the more powerful Galactic Fleet and he is arrested as an insurgent heading to Fleet Penal Facility after a rigged trial.

However, the Hedren attack the Galactic Confederation putting it at risk of being conquered. The only person capable of a military counter attack is heading to prison. Darhel leader Tir Dal Ron must decide between freeing O’Neal to lead the human troops or watch his Confederation go down in flames; if he chooses his prisoner he must also find a way to persuade the general that saving the Darhel is the only way to save his species.

The latest in the Human-Posleen saga (see A HYMN BEFORE BATTLE and SISTER TIME) is a terrific military science fiction thriller with social and political implications. LTG O’Neal struggles between the desire to overthrow the oligopoly and the knowledge people are satisfied with their lot. As always the battle scenes ring true and are great fun to follow. Although some key points set up in previous entries in the saga (helps to have read them though not absolutely critical) are flash-points instead of developed consequences of prior actions, fans will enjoy John Ringo’s exciting return to his human-Posleen worlds as a new threat has arrived.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 15, 2009

Skin Deep-Mark Del Franco

Skin Deep
Mark Del Franco
Ace, Jul 28 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441017430

In the mid twentieth century, the Convergence led to Faerie moving onto the earth. Humans still fear what the fey can do though their governments recognized Tara in Ireland as a sovereign nation. The Celtic Danann established the Guild to work human-fey arguments and to police related local crimes while the Intersec investigates international criminal activity.

Laura Blackstone is the Fey Guild director of public relations; Mariel Tate is an InterSec’s operative; and Janice Crawford is the backup druidess for the DC SWAT Squad. The three are one woman as Laura uses glamour magic to change her appearance. Currently, she is working a drug bust but is unaware that one of the two brownies guarding the meth house is the deadly and radical Inverni fairy Alfrey with powers to match Laura. Alfrey uses whatever means necessary to challenge the Danann for power. A dying teammate told something to Laura before he died and someone think she knows their plans and want her dead; she believes the American Archives for Fae and Human holds the key to what she thinks is a coming Fey attack that must be stopped or lives will be lost. She just wishes she knew what Sanchez told her before he died because Laura thinks if her amnesia disappears she will know what the radicals are planning.

Renowned for his “Un” world, Mark Del Franco starts a new series with the first Laura Blackstone urban fantasy. He paints a planet in which the species coexist in a shaky peace that could turn hostile rather quickly. The world building is creative and believable as readers learn about the culture of the Celtic Fey. However, the key to this fine opening act is the heroine, who at times almost seems like she suffers from multiple personality disorder except that she frequently mixes up her distinct personas. Her errors are amusing to readers, but not to Laura, who lives only through her three jobs. Character driven, fans of the author will relish the escapades of Laura on an alternate earth filled with humans and the del Franco brand of Fey.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Return-Ben Bova

The Return
Ben Bova
Tor, Aug 4 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765309259

Astronaut Keith Stoner was part of an American-Russian space venture when the alien starship arrived. He became trapped inside; frozen for almost two decades and never time merged with the alien technology. Found drifting, he was brought back to earth where he was revived. However, Keith knew he no longer was human and did not belong so he built a starship based on the alien side of him and left the planet with his Jo Camerata to explore the cosmos.

Over a hundred years later, he comes home but now understands how profound Thomas Wolfe’s "You Can't Go Home Again" is. He and his mate Jo (accompanied by their children Cathy and Rick) recognize nothing. Mankind is killing the planet with the greenhouse effect rapidly turning the orb into a neo-Venus and the extreme conservatives hold power with a strict rigid iron fist while ignoring the consequences of doing nothing to save humanity’s goring the planet. Keith leaves his family in orbit to do some surveillance, but except for the odd underground rebel, mankind’s reign seems through

The fourth Stoner tale (see VOYAGERS, THE ALIEN WITHIN and STAR BROTHERS) is an interesting cautionary science fiction thriller that warns readers to take global warming seriously and kick out demagogues before it is too late; sort of homage to Zager and Evans’” In the year 2525”. The story line is fast-paced as Keith and Jo are in for a rude awakening re the earth starting with the melted polar cap and that his knowledge of history does not match the official records of the planet he orbits. However, this earth he finds is never adequately explained in regards to how he and his family got there and why Ben Bova chose THE RETURN to take place where it does as the blending seems disjointed to fans of the author who will recognize early on references to the Goddard project on Saturn.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Breaking Midnight-Emma Holly

Breaking Midnight
Emma Holly
Berkley, Jul 2009, $
ISBN: 9780425228678

In 1933 Upyr Elder Edmund Fitz Clare is shocked with the affront when he regains consciousness. A rival group of shapeshifters apparently abducted him and chained him inside some dungeon. He can only guess that he remains in London and that their plan is to use him as an expendable bargaining chip.

Edmund is unaware how far his enemies plan to go as they want nothing less than world domination; to succeed Edmund and his faction must be removed. Mortal Estelle begins having visions of her missing lover in which she sees him in bondage. She is not sure what to do, but the kidnappers are aware of her and plan to take their fight to her and her family; only Edmund can save them, but he is incarcerated.

The second Fitz Clare historical urban fantasy (see KISSING MIDNIGHT) is a super tale filled with plenty of intrigue and suspense as the hero is trapped but more worried about his loved ones than himself. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Fitz begins to understand his predicament and never slows down as he knows he must find a way to escape. Fans will feel they have been transported to a unique Depression Era London courtesy of Emma Holly.

Harriet Klausner

Taken by Sin-Jaci Burton

Taken by Sin
Jaci Burton
Dell, Jun 23 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780440244554

During the Realm of Light recent battle victory over the sons of Darkness, demon hunter Dalton refused to follow a direct order to kill half-demon Isabelle Deveraux. Instead he abducts her and takes her to a hidden locale in the Louisiana bayou because he believes she possesses something that will insure his side’s total triumph. To his chagrin, he is uncertain whether he took her because she is valuable to his cause, innocent in spite of the demon residing inside her, or he just wants her.

Michael is irate with Dalton’s disobedience, but cannot worry about that as he is now in charge of the hunters. His biggest problem is the apparent appearance of a demon that can walk in sunlight; something thought impossible for the nocturnal evil breed. However, at the same time that demons search for Dalton’s refuge so dos Michael’s troops; while the apparently traitorous demon hunter and the half demon fall in love; another impossible happening.

The twin sequel to THE DARKEST TOUCH occurs soon after the previous thriller. The fast-paced story line works on two levels: that of a forbidden romance and as an action-packed urban fantasy. Although it helps to have read the prior novel as Isabelle is a key player in it, Jaci Burton provides another trademark dynamic paranormal romantic suspense as the eventual outcome of the demon war will determine the very planet’s existence.

Harriet Klausner

A Monster's Notes-Laurie Sheck

A Monster's Notes
Laurie Sheck
Knopf, Jun 23 2009, $30.00
ISBN: 9780307271051

Almost two centuries ago the Monster met Mary Shelley who wrote the famous novel about him that he knows is somewhat a biography. Created by scientist Dr. Victor Frankenstein, the Monster has remained alive all this time struggling with a need to know. Mostly he is haunted by his inability to comprehend why Victor made him only to discard him.

He muses about Mary whom he met when she was nine visiting her mom’s gravesite and told his story by writing letters to her late radical feminist mom Mary Wollstonecraft and her philosopher dad William Godwin. Mary also kept a diary in which she mentions the Monster, her husband Percy and her siblings. Perhaps it is because of that encounter the Monster muses that he too keeps a journal of sorts especially of his interest in the cosmos, Arctic exploration, robotics and AI, and Google as he seeks another like him. He ponders when he dies can he go to heaven or even hell since his creation is unique. However, it is Father who he worships and loathes that much of his writings always turn to as his favorite possessions are the letters from Henry Clerval who gave him his only real insight outside of the encounters with Victor.

This is a deep but not easy read as it takes a little time to adapt to the format. However, it is worth the effort as Laurie Sheck gets inside the head and heart of the Monster two centuries since he met young Mary. The story line has a whimsical amusing undertone, but is profound with the belief that a key human element is the need to belong. With religious connotations throughout, fans will enjoy A MONSTER’S NOTE as Ms. Sheck enables the audience to see the world from the perspective of a somewhat shunned outsider.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sucker for Love-Kimberly Raye

Sucker for Love
Kimberly Raye
Ballantine, Jun 23 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345503664

At a Dead End Dating gala, Esther, a Born vampire client who is five century old (who’s counting – she’s not) Lilliana Marchette, vanishes. Hostess of the evident, pink loving vampire Lil learns that the warlock Mordred Lucius abducted the vampire with plans to use her in a ritual as an Undead sacrifice. Mordred plans to regain his youth and obtain immortality.

Lil is told to mind her business as Mordred is too powerful to confront. However, she believes interfering is her business as the warlock stole a client from her. She begins her quest to save Esther’s vampiric life (an anti oxymoron) while avoiding the warlock. However, the party attendees and crashers from her mom, her best friend, and her brother’s girlfriend refuse to let her go it alone; making stealth somewhat difficult.

The latest Dead End Dating (see JUST ONE BITE) is a terrific paranormal amateur sleuth as Lil and her cronies take on the worst dude in town without her significant other Ty, a bounty hunter working a case. The story line is a fun filled over the top of the Empire State Building caper as pampered Lil feels she is responsible for matchmaking her clients and since Mordred is not one of them, he can’t have Esther who is one of them. Fans of the series will enjoy Lil and the stable as they challenge Manhattan’s meanest malevolent mage Mordred the Warlock.

Harriet Klausner

Branded by Fire-Nalini Singh

Branded by Fire
Nalini Singh
Berkley, Jul 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425226735

With her DarkRiver sentinels mated, Mercy Smith feels somewhat abandoned, but also knows as an alpha, few men will meet the demands of her cat and human needs. However, the worst that could happen is she is attracted to an alpha male, SnowDancer Lieutenant Riley Kincaid. Mercy is unaware that Riley loathes the concept that he desires the female equivalent of him.

Someone abducts a young changeling, which frightens the law abiding packs. They fear a new threat has surfaced that could cause havoc if not stopped early. Mercy and Riley with the support of their respective packs team up to uncover a conspiracy to undermine the peace. They must rescue the changeling while each has reasons not to pursue their attraction, but neither can prevent the pull from getting stronger.

The sixth Psy-Changeling romantic suspense fantasy (see, MINE TO POSSESS, SLAVE TO SENSATION and CARESSED BY ICE, etc.) is a super entry in a great series. The world of Singh seems genuine as the sentinels, their mates, and their enemies come across as real. Fans will enjoy the mission that Riley and mercy team up on as two alphas in love will leave the audience wondering who will end up on top.

Harriet Klausner

The Dame-R.A. Salvatore

The Dame
R.A. Salvatore
Tor, Aug 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780765317902

In Honce, after beheading the evil Ancient Badden, Bransen Garibond and his five cohorts bring the dead head to Dame Gwydre of Vanguard as proof they did the deed. Bransen hopes the aristocrat lets him go home as all he wants is to spend time with his wife in Pryd Town.

However, instead of trekking home, Bransen is accused of assassinating King Delval and other seditious acts against the state. Although the charges are false and those who bring them smirk as they are aware of that, he is offered a choice between jail and another deadly quest. Outraged over the unfairness of being punished for the success of bringing the evil one’s head and caught between fighting blocs, a volunteered Bransen, accompanied by scout Jameston Sequin begins another undesired mission with the added incentive of proving his innocence.

The sequel to THE ANCIENT is an entertaining fantasy as Bransen is once again forced on a quest he not only does not want to do, but is not his issue except the powers make it his. Thus he is not just a reluctant hero; he is an angry antihero. His escapades and that of his cronies are typical of the quest subgenre and his adventures fail to nudge the overarching theme forward; still readers who enjoy a fine quest fantasy will want to join Bransen and his teammates on their deadly mission.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sandman Slim-Richard Kadrey

Sandman Slim
Richard Kadrey
Eos, Jul 21 2009, $24.99
ISBN 9780061714306

For eleven years James Stark slaved as a gladiator killing monsters in Lucifer's venue amusing the masses of fallen angels. However, he is finally home currently walking down the mean magical streets of Los Angeles seeking vengeance. He investigates who murdered his girlfriend with intent to dispatch the cretin to hell and seeks to kill black magician Mason Faim, who dispatched him to Lucifer’s abode.

James quickly slices off the head of black magician Kasabian, a lousy practitioner; Kasabian’s head becomes James’ companion as he hunts for Faim, but so far has failed to find him. Homeland Security agents accost him; a psychopathic angel assaults him, and he is unsure what the Kissi want from him, but knows it cannot be good.

This realm filled with angels, demons and Homeland Security agents is a bleak violent world that will stun the audience with the severity of survival that Richard Kadrey writes in convincing gripping detail. For instance satirizing the waterboarding debate: angels should never be alone as there are many who will use torture on them to get what they want: apocalypse now. James is a terrific antihero who keeps the exciting story line centered with his deadly grudge having spent over a decade as a boy toy in Lucifer’s venue, but his quest is interrupted by dangerous predators.

Harriet Klausner

Best Served Cold-Joe Abercrombie

Best Served Cold
Joe Abercrombie
Orbit, Jul 29 2009, $24.99
ISBN 9780316044967

Nineteen bloody years of civil war with no end in sight as each side of the armed conflict claims the high road, but those living in Styria know differently as hostilities and atrocities are the norm. Duke Orso thinks he can end the war and be named King of Styria for doing so. He believes assassinating infamous General Monza Murcatto, a bloody mercenary known rightfully as The Snake of Talins, is all he needs to do.

The attempt fails though Monza is severely injured and her brother is dead. As she heals, she vows to cut off the heads of Orso and his collaborators. She brings together a team of killers who have no consciences or care about collateral damage. They kill Orso and his six co-conspirators, but now Orso’s family and that of his dead partners vow vengeance.

Returning to the world of the First Law saga, Joe Abercrombie provides his fans with a great sword and sorcery fantasy that contains his trademark dark humor and gender bending cast. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Orso sets up the failed assassination and never slows down as vengeance fuels each side to raise the ante. BEST SERVED COLD is simply a super thriller in which a head count has literal connotations.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mark of the Demon-Diana Rowland

Mark of the Demon
Diana Rowland
Bantam, Jun 23 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553592351

On her first homicide case, Beualac police detective Kara Gillian needs help capturing a serial killer who has murdered thirteen taking their souls with him. Instead of other cops, she uses her inherited occult skills as a demon summoner to conjuror up a minor demon to help her stop the Symbol Man. However, the mage is stunned when her ritual brings her demon lord Rhyzkahl.

At the next murder scene the wastewater plant, Kara senses a trace of magic, but before she can follow up, she is stunned when FBI Agent Ryan Kristoff arrives. She needs his help, but also fears the price she will pay to bring in a killer thought dead three years ago; as Kara knows Ryan’s touch burns her soul.

This romantic police procedural fantasy is a fast-paced thriller starring two fascinating lead characters who each understands catching the Symbol Man comes before their personal desires. The investigation is top rate as paranormal clues are as important to solving the case as the mundane (poor choice of words with what happens to the victims). Sub-genre fans will welcome Diana Rowland into the fold as the author brings a fascinating twist to forensic science and police work with the exhilarating magic murder mystery MARK OF THE DEMON.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dragons Prefer Blondes-Candace Havens

Dragons Prefer Blondes
Candace Havens
Berkley, Jul 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425227800

Socialite Alex Caruthers lives a dual life. First she runs nightclubs around the globe and second she is a dragon slayer Guardian, hunting down the Ahi predators who attack humans. Her world is filled with no free moments for romance beyond a quickie and the irony of believing only a crazy person would become a Guardian.

Dragon warrior Ginjin stuns her when he declares her to be his soulmate. They have not had what might loosely call an amiable relationship as he has tried to kill her on several occasions. She informs her new paramour that he is too late. She insists she is already in a heated relationship with the head of security, Jake before she is forced by powers much greater than her to accept her enemy as her bed partner. The only problem with the queen of one night trysts is Jake raises her desire way beyond that of the heat any dragon can muster.

The latest Caruthers sisters’ kick-butt urban fantasy (see THE DEMON KING AND I) is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action as readers will enjoy the heroine’s musing asides re life’s unfair complexities. Alex feels like she jumped from the fry pan into the fire after she announces Jake as her fiancĂ© whose kiss heats her soul (let alone her body). Filled with jocularity, Candace Havens provides another entertaining romp as dragons may prefer blondes, but this blonde prefers a human hunk.

Harriet Klausner

Huntress-Christine Warren, Marjorie M. Liu, Caitlin Kittredge and Jenna Maclaine

Christine Warren, Marjorie M. Liu, Caitlin Kittredge and Jenna Maclaine
St. Martin's, Jun 30 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312943820

"Devil's Bargain" by Christine Warren. Supernatural bounty hunter Lilli Corbin made a Faustian deal with the devil. However, she soon learns what she agreed to could start the End of Days. Now she must choose between saving her soul and that of her beloved Aaron Bullard.

"The Robber Bride" by Marjorie M. Liu. Women have become sustenance for a new species that came from the ruins of the old world. These creatures suck the life essence from females who are beneath them on the food chain. In that environs, Maggie wants to live as she fights for survival against impossible odds.

"Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go" by Caitlin Kittredge. Ava the demon slayer asks mage Jack Winter to help her with her quest to invade the realm of the demons. He reluctantly agrees knowing there is a great chance neither will ever return.

"Sin Slayer" by Jenna Maclaine. In 1889 London Jack the Ripper is killing vampires; Cin Craven needs to stop him if she is to keep her beloved undead husband Michael alive.

These are four strong fantasies in which the “worlds” seem real. Fans of Ms. Kittridge will enjoy the return of Jack (see STREET MAGIC) and of Ms. Maclaine will relish seeing Cin (see WAGES OF SIN and GRAVE SINS).

Harriet Klausner

Cast in Silence-Michelle Sagara

Cast in Silence
Michelle Sagara
Luna, Aug 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780373803002

Elantra is a wonderful city ruled by the dragon emperor. He, his court and most inhabitants care nothing about the Fiefs (slums) that are located across the Ablayne River. There are several fiefs each ruled by a fief-lord who live in towers that rest upon the Old Ones magic. Private Kaylin Neya of the Hawk police force lived in the Fief Nightshade and wears his mark. She has performed remarkably well working her way out of the dirt of the fief by being on the right side of the law.

Life is about to become perilous for Kaylin because a seer has told her that something dangerous will soon strike the Fief; if it is not contained it will spill over the entire city and change all it touches into something reprehensible. The heart of the troubles resides in the fief Barren where she lived for six months before escaping. Now the Barren Fief is no longer stable. Kaylin, another Hawk and Dragon Lord Tiamaris travel to Barren on a fact finding mission. Caught up in a shadow storm, they are thrown into the past in which no Fiefs exist and Elantra is just starting to form. What they learn in the Barren tower helps them understand what is happening in their time; when they return they think they have a chance to defeat the seemingly invincible foe.

Readers who have followed the Elantra “Cast in …” chronicle (see FURY, SHADOW, COURTLIGHT and SECRET) learn about the Fiefs where the towers are located; this brings freshness to the overarching fantasy. Kaylin is much more confident as she no longer fears her past. She is doing her best to prevent the shadow spreading and destroying her city; she does this even if the cost is her life. Michelle Sagara’s CAST IN SILENCE is a great entry in a magical fantasy saga.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Herbert’s Wormhole-Peter Nelson and Rohitash Rao

Herbert’s Wormhole
Peter Nelson and Rohitash Rao
Harper, Jun 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9780061688683

His parents have rooted for their ten year old son Alex to win his Alien-Slayer 2 game so they can have some peace; he promised them that once he was victorious he would spend the rest of the summer outside. Thus when he wins, his parents rejoice as he has been driving them crazy over the first half of the summer.

His parents send their six-grader to their brilliant neighbor Herbert Skewg, who shows the preadolescent his latest invention that creates a wormhole shortcut through the space-time continuum. The pair journeys a century into the future to find their hometown run by the kind six tentacle G’Daliens who need a hair make over. The humans and the G’Daliens welcome the time travelers in a friendly way though the latter’s diction sounds somewhat Aussie. Herbert and Alex soon become embroiled with preventing a scheme to take over by an outraged G’Dalien Gor-Don who was rejected by a human woman.

Filled with numerous drawings on almost every page by Rohitash Rao, HERBERT’S WORMHOLE is an enjoyable older elementary school science fiction with a sort of youngster’s smirk to the fun story line. Fast-paced once the dynamic duo meet the G’Daliens and the future humans, young readers will enjoy Peter Nelson's exciting futuristic thriller though at times the illustrations distract from the plot especially when they depict something different than the prose on the same page. Still this is a fun romp that will have the audience traveling back to the future with Alex and Herbert.

Harriet Klausner

The Dragons of Ordinary Farm-Tad Williams and Deborah Beale

The Dragons of Ordinary Farm
Tad Williams and Deborah Beale
Harper, Jun 2009, $16.99
ISBN: 9780061543456

Their mom informs Tyler and Lucinda that they will send four weeks with the Pierho family while she goes on a singles retreat. Lucinda begs her to send them almost anywhere else though her choice would be dad; Tyler has given up the fight. A letter arrives from Great Uncle Gideon Goldring whom mom thought died a century ago inviting his great niece and nephew to spend time on his farm in Standard Valley, California. Mom informs the “King and Queen of Romania” that they will visit their great uncle for six weeks. Lucinda moans they went from fish smell to cow excrement; Tyler is silent.

The farm is not what the kids expected nor is Uncle Gideon who seems distracted and panicked though they have no earthly idea why. The workers (Mr. Walkwell, Colin and his mom) are not welcoming. Tyler and Lucinda soon meet the not ordinary farm animals starting with a “dragon” cow in the barn and a griffin. Both wonder how no one has discovered the rather nosy unicorn herd. They meet other strange creatures. As an excited Tyler investigates what is going on and why Gideon seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown, he persuades his moping sister to join him on a trek through time and reality; not quite fully realizing yet why they were brought to the farm.

The first part of this exciting fantasy escorts the young readers around the farm through mostly Tyler’s exploration; Lucinda is still in an unlikable snit. This enables the older elementary school audience to meet the not so ordinary farm animals and the workers. That in turn sets the stage for Lucinda (having moved from sulk to awe) and Tyler’s most excellent adventures that take up most of the fast-paced story line ending with a great climax. Young fans will want to join the outsiders on their incredible summer vacation (imagine how they will explain what they did when they return to school).

Harriet Klausner

Urban Gothic-Brian Keene

Urban Gothic
Brian Keene
Leisure, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960907

Tyler and his girlfriend Kerri, Brett and his significant other Stephanie, and Javier and his lady Heather drive from the burbs to attend the Monsters of Hip Hop show in Philadelphia. Tyler wants some weed so despite the protests of the others, he drives to Camden to buy some. They get lost in the Hood and their car breaks down. Some young blacks walk over to their vehicle; the outsiders are fearful of what will happen to them so take shelter in a nearby mini-mansion that needs extensive repair.

After they get inside, the door locks; they are unable to neither open it nor escape through a window because they are filled up with plaster A giant with a misshapen visage and body kills Tyler and plans to have sex with him now that he is dead. The others are attacked by misshapen midgets and creatures that do not seem to be human. The surviving suburbanites fight back knowing the monsters will use them as food. They have only one chance to escape when a middle aged man and though afraid the black youths try a rescue.

Brian Keene can always be counted on for providing a frightening horror novel that scares the hell out if his fans. In many ways URBAN GOTHIC is a thin plotted slasher movie except the characters don’t quite fit as they understand survival means teaming together not wandering alone begging to become a victim. The trapped group never quits as they fight to the end to stay alive against the monsters. With plenty of blood, guts and gore that will make the strong queasy, fans of graphic horror thrillers will enjoy this trek into Camden.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 5, 2009

Now & Then- Jacqueline Sheehan

Now & Then
Jacqueline Sheehan
Avon, Jun 23 2009, $13.99
ISBN 9780061547782

Former lawyer Anna O’Shea returns from a vacation in Ireland when her brother Patrick asks her for a favor that he cannot do as he is injured from a car accident. He wants her to pick up his sixteen years old son Joe from a Newark jail. She goes from the airport to the jail and takes Joe to her home after getting his release.

In the middle of the night, Anna finds Joe searching her still unpacked luggage. He is especially enthralled by some cloth Anna bought overseas. When she angrily grabs at the cloth, aunt and nephew are transported to Ireland prior to the infamous Great Potato Famine. As they acclimate poorly to being over a century and a half from their time, Anna joins an Irish smuggling cartel begins to fall in love with a rebel cartographer while Joe is attracted to a beautiful teen.

In some ways Madigan the Irish wolfhound steals the show in this enjoyable time travel romance in which the twenty-first century aunt and nephew struggle with life in nineteenth century Ireland in which plugged in means nothing. The story line is fast-paced as romance and magic help Anna and Joe overcome the lack of a Starbucks or electronic gizmos. However, even with love everywhere, the anchor to this fine tale is the deep look at Irish-British strife that forces the newcomers to take sides.

Harriet Klausner

Nine Gates-Jane Lindskold

Nine Gates
Jane Lindskold
Tor, Aug 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780765317018

Up until recently, college student Brenda Morris had no idea that The Land of Smoke and Sacrifice existed. She has since learned a lot about the fact that Chinese myths were turned into this alternate earth several millennium ago and more stunningly her ancestors crossed over from this place (see THIRTEEN ORPHANS). However the greatest shock is she knows she has some of the powers of the Zodiac Rat; her Aunt Pearl is the Dragon; and her compatriot in training is the Dog. .

The few surviving Exiles and their descendants have a world crisis as war has ignited inside the Land and threaten to spill over to the earth. The Thirteen Orphans Guardians between worlds are the only ones who can prevent a calamity of pandemic proportions. . However four of them are trapped on this side leaving it to the others to build the Nine Gates and rescue their Guardian comrades in arms.

The second Morris urban fantasy is an exhilarating thriller based on the Chinese Zodiac that will thrill fans who relish elaborate but somewhat convoluted insight on Chinese mythology; at times the level of minutiae detracts from the otherwise enjoyable plot. The protagonists confront Herculean level challenges that seem impossible for them to succeed. These magical battles make for a fun paradox as the reader wonders how the magnificent nine can win the day against adversaries that if they defeat them they endanger two worlds but if they lose they endanger two worlds.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Edge of Dawn-Patti O’Shea

Edge of Dawn
Patti O’Shea
Tor, Jun 30 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780765361691

In Seattle while glass artist Shona Blackwood accepts apathetically her sudden loss of creativity sort of like a writer’s block, the Ceannard assigns agent Logan Andrews to protect her. His contact Nessia informs him that Shona is a dormant unaware of her heritage or even the Gineal race; he is warned to tell her nothing. For some unknown reason the Tarriel crossed over from the dark side targeting Shona.

Magical troubleshooter Logan thwarts an assault on Shona, who thinks her hero saved her from a simple mugging. She also quickly realizes her savior has awakened her from her lethargy in a way she has never sensed before. He also feels awake as he finds his charge captivating and attractive. His desire grows as he keeps her safe until Logan realizes he owes his love the truth though that could derail his mission and would defy the rules of engagement.

This is an intriguing romantic urban fantasy starring a likable fully developed pair who are falling in love, but his assignment interferes with their relationship although he understands paramount is her safety. The story line starts off with some difficulty in following what is going on especially with the Yukon incident. However, once the world of Patti O'Shea is set and the key players appear on stage, fans will be enthralled with the author’s fast-paced thriller as Shona and Logan prove magic and love mix perfectly together when the ingredients are soulmates and the time of night is right.

Harriet Klausner

Leviathan-David L. Golemon

David L. Golemon
Dunne, Aug 4 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312376635

The navies from around the world are at a loss to prevent the Leviathan from attacking and sinking all types of vessels from the surface or under the sea. None of the countries have found the ability to stop the Leviathan from controlling the sea. However, the unknown Captain of the Leviathan warns the world’s rulers that they will unleash nuclear weapons of mass destruction around the globe if the surface dwellers do not stop their polluting of the oceans.

The American president sends his top team, the Event Group to stop the oceanic terrorists whose actions are reminiscent of Verne’s classic Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. As they begin their counter thrust, the top secret American team is unaware that the Leviathan has a traitor inside their headquarters. This turncoat enables the enemy to take the fight to the Event Group with plans to kidnap the leadership, to insure the breakdown of command and control, and to use as hostages in the event of negotiations.

Using the Event Group in a modern day rendition of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea thriller, David L. Golemon provides his fans with an enjoyable tale. The story line is fast-paced on land and at sea although very linear with obvious actions and reactions except for a late exciting twist. Fans of Jules Verne or Mr. Goleman will take delight in LEVIATHAN, an exciting story that pays homage to great French author.

Harriet Klausner

Vanished-Kat Richardson

Kat Richardson
Roc, Aug 4 2009, $23.95
ISBN: 9780451462770

In Seattle, the perpetrator failed to give private investigator Harper Blaine the two minute warning when he slammed her temple; for 120 seconds she was dead. However, unlike most people who suffer a near death experience only to come back to their mortal lives, Harper returned differently as a Greywalker who travels both sides of the boundary between the living and other realms (see GREYWALKER). Her investigations have taken one hellish twist from cheating spouses to cheating paranormals (see POLTERGEIST) who she can see, but these monsters see her too. Two years since her death, Harper has a dying need to know why she didn’t just come back like most.

A call from the dead leads Harper to investigate her heritage with a focus on the pivotal event before her short-lived death; the demise of her father when she was young. In Los Angeles her mom says he killed himself. Harper reads his tormented writings in which he claimed the monster was coming and he feared for his sweet Harper. She tries to meet her dad’s ghost, but frighteningly he is nowhere as if his spirit VANISHED. However, her mind is taken off of her confusion when vampires order her to London to look into a bloody mess. Harper uncovers a connection between England and Seattle that makes her wonder whether her “genes” made it inevitable for her to walk the grey line.

The latest Greywalker investigation is a terrific tale that takes a deep personal spin for the heroine as she inquires into her heritage in an attempt to better understand what happened. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action as for instance a plane ride to Los Angeles leads to a teenage female ghost popping in wet over Oregon with no one else on board able to sense her. Kat Richardson is at her best with this super urban investigative fantasy as the worlds of the grey and paranormal come figuratively alive through the intrepid but mentally tired heroine.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Highwayman-Michele Hauf

The Highwayman
Michele Hauf
Silhouette Nocturne, Jul 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618156

Max Fitzroy the highwayman is renowned for his killing of familiars. So when feline familiar Aby recognizes she has just encountered Max, she expects him to kill one of her nine lives. Thus she is stunned when instead he asks for her help; not easy for Max to do as his gut instinct says kills her.

He wants her to assist him in removing the demon shadow stuck inside his body since Paris 1758. He has not tasted any mortal pleasures in the two and a half centuries since. However, the pair quickly realize they must find his former partner Rainier who is stuck with the other half of the demon’s shadow if he to rid himself of the blight. The only problem is that his ex associate prefers the status quo of what a demon has given him.

This refreshing “triangle” makes for a wonderful exhilarating romantic fantasy that hooks the audience the moment Aby faces death when she meets Max; ironically she expects him to kill her yet is attracted to him in an ultimate form of tough love. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but it is the complicated relationships that turn the world of Michele Hauf into a fabulous read as the audience will wonder if this saga will end the same ways Alfred Noyes’ poem did.

Harriet Klausner

Wild Wolf-Karen Whiddon

Karen Whiddon
Silhouette Nocturne, Jul 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618149

Protector Simon Caldwell is sent to hunt down a particularly dangerous shifter. When he catches up to her, he is taken aback as Raven is civilized though she lives in the forest with a pack of straight wolves.

Simon tries to persuade Raven she belongs with people and not wolves. If she rejects his contention, he will have to kill her to insure she never turns rabid. Raven refuses to leave the pack who has taken her in. One of the wolves attack attacks Simon hurting him and leading to his failure to make contact with his superior as required. Now a comrade in arms is coming to kill Raven and rescue Simon, if he is alive. Simon realizes what is going on though he does not understand his attraction to the wilderness lady; he also knows he must keep her safe.

The key to the super romantic fantasy is that the two shifters seem genuine, which in turn makes Karen Whiddon’s world feel real. Simon as a Protector keeping his species safe knows what he must do, but his heart tells him otherwise; Raven has deserted humanity and its genus’ cousin to live with wild wolves because the feral accept her as one of them without conditions. Fans will enjoy this fine tale as the hunter must kill the hunted, but love makes him realize when he does, he kills himself too.

Harriet Klausner

Heart of the Assassin-Robert Ferrigno

Heart of the Assassin
Robert Ferrigno
Scribner, Aug 11 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9781416537670

The century and a half Muslim fundamentalist called reverently the Old One continues his campaign to become the Messiah of the worldwide Caliphate. He has nuked the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, New York City and Washing ton DC; and stunningly also took out Mecca for breaking the faith.

His drive to power and a new Muslim world order seems unstoppable as with the help of his daughter Baby, he plans to merge his Islamic Atzlan Empire with their southern neighbor the Bible Belt. Perhaps the only person in his way of a sure final triumph is Fedayeen soldier Rakkim Epps assisted by his wife Sarah, who is trying to unite America in opposition. To succeed she must find the fragment of the true cross buried in the radioactive rubble of DC.

This is a superb but frightening apocalyptic thriller that brings 1984 into the twenty-first century using theocracies as the bases for religious ideologies that easily lead to the flow of blood. The story line is fast-paced throughout in spite of its epic overarching story line (started in PRAYERS FOR THE ASSASSIN and continued in SINS OF THE ASSASSIN). The heroic American couple and their prime adversary the Old Man seem real even though the latter is a century and a half old. Fans will enjoy High Noon between them as nothing short of the future of mankind is at stake.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Faeries Gone Wild-MaryJanice Davidson, Lois Greiman, Michele Hauf and Leandra Logan

Faeries Gone Wild
MaryJanice Davidson, Lois Greiman, Michele Hauf and Leandra Logan
St. Martin's, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780312945688

“Tall, Dark and Not So Faery” by MaryJanice Davidson. The Fairy king sends six foot plus Scarlett to conduct a census of the residents of a paranormal shelter in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. Used to males being below her shoulders, she is taken aback when she meets for the first time a hunk taller than her whose heart matches her heart in size.

“Pixie Lust” by Lois Greiman. Wealthy developer William Timber plans to cut down the forest for his next project; Avalina the California prim and proper pixie is responsible to keep the area green. As they disagree on his project, they agree on love.

“Dust Me, Baby, One More Time” by Michele Hauf. Librarian Sidney Tooth moonlights as the tooth faery so has no time to find a man though her prim and proper behavior does not help her. That is until she meets arrogant sex machine Dart Sand the sandman who, if she helps him on his quest, might exile her from the mortal realm; but she wonders if that is all bad since she would be with him in more than just her dreams.

“A Little Bit Faery” by Leandra Logan. A confused single vivacious fairy Tia Mayberry decides to test the bright lights of Manhattan though she always goes home alone. This time her desire leads her to Simon, a mortal firefighter who blazes his heart into her soul.

Although the tales except for Leandra Logan’s are thin as expected for a novella collection, these are four fun urban fantasy romances.
Harriet Klausner

Midnight's Master-Cynthia Eden

Midnight's Master
Cynthia Eden
Kensington Brava, Jul 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758234261

In Atlanta the serial killer targets the “Others” for organ harvesting. Reporter Holly Storm hopes to get an exclusive, but predominately wants the murder spree ended. She knows the best bet is the most powerful demon in the area, bar owner Niol Lapen.

Holly visits Niol, who knows he must act against the psychopath. However, he does not want a mortal in his way when he does. Still he is attracted to the human and her to him. They each figure on a short fling, but instead of dying out, their desire grows while the predator watches as Niol is the only one who might be capable to end the killing fields; but not if Holly is caught in the middle.

The latest “Midnight” urban romantic fantasy (see MIDNIGHT’S SINS) is a super thriller in which the hunt for the serial killer of Others takes precedence over the wonderful improbable cross-species romance. The story line is action-packed from the onset and brings with it a sense of doom and gloom to the city. With a great twist to add suspense, fans will relish Cynthia Eden’s terrific investigative paranormal tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 1, 2009

Necroscope: Harry and the Pirates-Brian Lumley

Necroscope: Harry and the Pirates
Brian Lumley
Tor, Jul 2009, $23.95
ISBN: 0765323389

“For the Dead Travel Slowly”. In 1981 the Necroscope Harry Keough is back in his hometown of Harden staying with his longtime friend Jimmy Collins while he seeks clues to his missing beloved Brenda and their son. He senses something is not right in nearby Hazeldene and soon learns of the murder fifteen years ago of Janet Symonds, daughter of the Police Sergeant who committed suicide soon afterward. The prime suspect was and is Greg Miller, of whom Constable Jack Forester loathes and watches seeking proof. Harry follows up on research Greg did and believes something in the woods killed the teen, but proving it and ending its terror reign that the Necroscope traces back to Ancient Roman times seem impossible.

“Harry and the Pirates”. Harry is still in the Harden area searching for his wife and son, but currently is eight miles away in Hartlepool. He talks deadspeak with an unrepentant deceased Viking Erik “Scarhelm” Haroldson, but cuts the raider off when he cannot abide the man’s boasting leaving him in his watery grave with his crew. Another dead pirate Billy Bowen, buried in a nearby cemetery, deadspeaks with Harry and tells him of the voyage o the Sea Witch that ultimately led to his death. Harry suffers a horrific migraine so using the Mobius route he leaves promising to come back to learn more of the golden “cloth” they rescued from the sea. Harry returns, but increasingly finds it difficult to focus and even worse leave.

These two super novellas (and a tiny coda) make for a great Lost Years thriller. Harry is at his best trying to understand what to do with new species (one in each entry) that he never faced before in spite of his supernatural wanderings as the Necroscope. Fans of the sage will relish both tales while newcomers will get a taste that will send in search of the Harry saga (a title listing included).

Harriet Klausner

Rift in the Sky-Julie E. Czerneda

Rift in the Sky
Julie E. Czerneda
Daw, Jul 72009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756405601

On the planet Cersi lives three different sentient species. The Oud resides under the ground tunneling to where they want to go and have the ability to restore clan lands; the impoverished Om’Ray can pass as human and have psi power so that all in a clan are interconnected; finally the Tikitik are by far the most feral. All three species adhere to the Agreement, which demands they keep their society stagnant and stay inside their assigned areas except during the Passage. In spite of their efforts change has come in the form of Marcus Bowman and his Trade Pact traders have arrived seeking Hoveny Concentrix artifacts.

Fans will enjoy how the M’hiray clan first formed, left their homeworld and scattered amidst the Trade Pact worlds. Julie E. Czerneda is a first class world builder as she creates a distinct culture (for that matter enhances all three co-existing cultures on Cersi as well) Aryl remains a strong person who shows her fortitude as she wants to save her clan and those of the others. Fans will enjoy the earlier years on and off Cersi with characters from three differing species and diverse cultures living in peaceful coexistence when the Trade Pact humans arrive. The Stratification saga is simply stupendous (see RIDERS OF THE STORM and REAP THE WILD WIND)

Harriet Klausner