Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dark Haven-Gail Z. Martin

Dark Haven
Gail Z. Martin
Solaris, Mar 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781844165988

Three months have past since King Martris "Tris" Drayke defeated his brother, Jared the Usurper, and his ally Blood Mage Arontala (see THE BLOOD KING). Winning a war seems easy to Tris in retrospect. Now he must move on and rule a devastated kingdom. Apprehension remains high as some forces loyal to the Usurper continue to fight with enemy Lord Curane and his troops trapped at Lochlanimar and rumors spread that to the south a child has a legitimate claim to the throne. With all that Tris must find a way to feed and shelter his displaced refugee population especially with winter coming to freeze the lands to the north. Meanwhile Tris also prepares for his wedding ceremony with Princess Kiara.

He appoints his protector best friend Jonmarc Vahanian to take over as Lord of Dark Haven, a key estate to the north. Finally as the lord of their realm Margolan, Jonmarc negotiates with the Blood Council of vampires the Vayash Moru at a time when some of the vampires believe the mortals are unworthy of ruling especially since the Flow of magic The Flow is unbalanced, which means the blood magic of vampires is stronger than the light magic of the SUMMONER.

This is a super third tale that fans of the Necromancer fantasy saga will enjoy. Tris and Jonmarc learn how complex it is to change from rebel to ruler as they struggle to insure the kingdom’s subjects don’t starve to death or are further victims of war. Although well written, DARK HAVEN is a middle book that sets up the next entry as no major plot line is completed. Still exciting and well written, Gail Z. Martin provides a deep tale that makes the case that John Milton’s “Better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven” omits how much more difficult to rule is than to serve.

Harriet Klausner

Desolation Road-Ian McDonald

Desolation Road
Ian McDonald
PYR, Sep 2009, $15.98
ISBN 9781591027447

Earthlings have colonized a small patch of Mars by terra-forming the planet. Amongst the settlements is a shabby locale with a few buildings on what is called Desolation Road. It is a weird place not so much because it look like it lives up to its name, but because of the people who reside there or periodically pass through there.

At one time it was the center of ROTECH and the Bethlehem Ares Corporation. Now that is a distant memory. However, folks like Catch the super snooker star and Adam Black with his Traveling Chautauqua and Educational 'Stravagana showcased the fallen angel always makes stops here. However, perhaps the most fascinating and weirdest is the founder Dr Alimantando, who leaps in and out time and place. This is a town that may be the center of weirdness in the galaxy.

This is a reprint of a 1988 super but strange science faiction that changes direction rather sharply yet somehow smoothly. The story line uses a deep focus into the ensemble cast to tell the vivid story of DESOLATION ROAD and in a sense earth’s colonization of Mars. There are many more characters than the few above as the town’s founder Dr. Alimantando leaps through time observing what is happening over three decades to his DESOLATION ROAD.

Harriet Klausner

Stalking the Dragon-Mike Resnick

Stalking the Dragon
Mike Resnick
PYR, Aug 4 2009, $15.98
ISBN: 9781591027454

In Manhattan, many folks look forward to the Eastminster Dragon Show. The favorite to win the Best in Show award at the competition this year is Fluffy the toy dragon. However, on the eve of the event, someone abducts Fluffy.

Private investigator John Justin Mallory still struggles with adjusting to a New York City unlike the one he comes from as the mythos do not live in his birth Big Apple. He is hired to find and rescue Fluffy in time for the show. Accompanied by his staff Felina and Jeeves, Mallory investigates the snatch even as time is running out on Fluffy making an appearance let alone be ready to win

The third Mallory in a rather different Manhattan is a jocular urban noir (see STALKING THE UNICORN and STALKING THE VAMPIRE) because of Mike Resnick’s lampooning of the city starting with the Eastminster Dragon Show and a trip to “Greenwitch Village”. The investigation is a lighthearted and engaging tour of an alternate Manhattan. Although the plot is lighthearted Fluffy fun thin, fans will enjoy Mallory and his team as they are STALKING THE DRAGON to rescue the toy dragon in time as the show must go on with or without the star.

Harriet Klausner

To Crave a Blood Moon-Sharie Kohler

To Crave a Blood Moon
Sharie Kohler
Pocket, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 1439101582

In Turkey, lycan hunter Sebastian Santiago chases after a pack, but instead is caught by them. They torture him while the Alpha leader Gunter plans to mate Sebastian with a female of his choice to form a master race. He starves Sebastian and locks him with a female to force his beast to surface leading to his killing the woman located in his cell with him

Weird loner Ruby Deveraux chaperones teens only to see the girls sneak out of their room at night. Ruby pursues them only to be caught in a lycan massacre with her as the only survivor. They toss her into a dank dark cage with a male who seems over the edge. Thus Ruby meets Sebastian who seems weirder than her; they need to team up to find a way to escape before he loses his ebbing control.

The sequel to KISS OF A DARK MOON (starring Sebastian’s sibling) is an enjoyable werewolf romantic urban fantasy. The key to the tale is the suspense starting when the lead couple meets in the cell as he struggles not to attack her. Fans of the sub-genre will appreciate Sharie Kohler’s character driven tale

Harriet Klausner

Highland Beast-Hannah Howell, Heather Grotaus and Victoria Dahl

Highland Beast
Hannah Howell, Heather Grotaus and Victoria Dahl
Kensington, Sep 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780758235091

"The Beast Within" by Hannah Howell. In 1513, when Gybbon MacNachton of a clan of vampires rescues Alice Boyd, neither can believe the attraction.

"The Vampire Hunter" by Heather Grotaus. In 1104 Beatrix is the last white witch in the Highlands, but is accused of the misfortune that has hurt nearby villagers, who soon attack her. Only Alder can keep her safe, but his clan of vampires killed her ancestors a century ago.

"Laird of Midnight" by Victoria Dahl. In 1595 Finlay, the only survivor of clan Maclain, seeks to kill the vampires who destroyed his family and converted him five decades ago. He has no plans to live after he kills the last vampire until he meets tavern serving wench, Kenna whose life he saves from a deadly assault.

These are three enjoyable vampire historical romances starring strong lead characters.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My Soul To Take-Rachel Vincent

My Soul To Take
Rachel Vincent
Harlequin Teen, Aug 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 9780373210039

Though underage, Kaylee Cavanaugh sneaks into the Taboo club for people eighteen and over thanks to the voluptuous statuesque Marshall sisters. The teen feels great especially when Eastlake High School hottie Nash Hudson dances with her instead of beautiful Emma. However, abruptly she senses someone is about to die and when that happens to her she has a deep need to scream at the top of her lungs. Nash calms her down, but a humiliated Kaylee cannot understand what is happening to her; as this is not the first time she had this deep urge.

She tells Nash that a nearby strawberry blond is “darker” than everyone else and will soon die. The next day she is dead. Nash explains to Kaylee that banshees love to scream when someone is about to die and she is a banshee. He also explains who he is or at least his species. They begin dating and the kisses have Kaylee screaming louder than a banshee. However, the pair also has to stop a serial killer as the grim reaper seems t be focused on Eastlake High School. Of course there is still trig.

The “second” Soul Screamers teen urban fantasy (see My Soul to Lose novella prequel that can be downloaded for free from the net) is a fun tale starring a bewildered heroine and the hunk who helps her adjust thanks to his soothing voice while also displaying his attraction to her. Fast-paced from the opening club scene and filled with twists, fans will enjoy Rachel Vincent’s strong entry due to Kaylee who saves a soul and a life, falls in love, but has to study for her history exam.

Harriet Klausner

What A Dragon Should Know-G.A. Aiken

What A Dragon Should Know
G.A. Aiken
Zebra, Sep 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420103755

As the third born dragon son Gwenvael the Handsome knows his family thinks he is a fool though the women fall all over him. Thus he is taken aback when his seven months pregnant sister-in-law Queen Annwyl assigns him to a key mission. Because of her delicate condition, she cannot travel to negotiate a treaty with the Northlanders and the Beast; she orders him to go in her place; especially after his crack that she is big. Gwenvael would do anything for Annwyl, so he agrees. He revels in her confidence in him but accepts the mission mostly to escape her wrath and her husband his older brother Fearghus the Destroyer and his adopted sister Izzy the muscle queen before they beat his face into a bloody pulp for upsetting the pregnant queen.

He arrives at his destination only to learn that the most feared warrior in the world the Beast is a brilliant human female Dagmar Reinholdt, whose ingenious plots have protected her father the warlord Reinholdt and their people. An even bigger shock than learning who the Beast is (to Gwenvael the Handsome) is that Dagmar with her glasses and plain robes on seems to ignore his beauty; women jump his bones and scales not scorn him. Instead to his greatest shock, she appreciates his intelligence, a first for a dragon who lives by his charm and looks. As Gwenvael tries to win Dagmar's heart, treachery from within threatens both their families.

This is a super hysterical romantic fantasy starring a sly vainglorious dragon and a clever fraudulent human falling in love though she verbally rips off a few pounds of scales from his skin. Fans will laugh loudly at the gender war as Dagmar takes the handsome out of Gwenvael and Gwenvael takes the beast out of Dagmar. G.A. Aiken has written a tremendous irreverent tale that amusingly turns sexually changes Beauty and the Beast.

Harriet Klausner

The Strangely Beautiful Tale Of Miss Percy Parker-Leanna Renee Hieber

The Strangely Beautiful Tale Of Miss Percy Parker
Leanna Renee Hieber
Leisure, Sep 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780843962963

In 1888 an albino with hair as white as snow and living in London, reticent Miss Percy Parker has a special gift when it comes to communicating in languages and a skill to see the future through visions. Though a female and extremely timid at that, Professor Alexi Rychman has invited Percy to study at the Athens Academy; serendipitously hidden in plain sight in the big city; he sees her as powerful and passionate while she sees herself as frightened and different

Percy is a super student grasping her studies rather quickly and easily; everything that is except math. Professor Rychman is not just proud of the best pupil at the academy, he has plans for Miss Percy Parker when he deems her ready to join his secret organization (too secret to even mention their name) struggling to keep the world from destruction from the likes of Ripper. The Professor underestimates Miss Percy who begins to uncover what is going on inside the Athens Academy and also inside their respective hearts.

This is a terrific Victorian urban romantic fantasy with a nod to My Fair Lady that will hook the audience from the moment Alexi invites the uncanny Percy to attend the Academy. Although Percy overbites with her self-deprecating commentaries about being different, fans will relish alongside Alexi her adventures against the paranormal like Ripper and with teaching the professor that love is the most powerful magic under heaven to battle those from hell.

Harriet Klausner

The Sword Of The Lady-S.M. Stirling

The Sword Of The Lady
S.M. Stirling
Roc, Sep 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780451462909

Rudi Mackenzie continues his dangerous trek across what was once the United States in his quest to learn more about the Change that crippled the superpower turning the world into literally a darker neo Dark Ages in which electricity ceased. His goal is to go the source in Nantucket. Along the way, he has made friends, several of whom are traveling with him, and many enemies.

He attains his destination only to find a stranger world that makes what he seen before seem normal. Nantucket Island is totally woodland with no more than two hundred confused people who insist they come from other eras, but somehow were transported to the center of the Change. Nothing makes sense to the wary and weary Rudi as Nantucket offers no answers that he can fathom. However, there is one house made of stone still standing. Still searching for clues to what caused the Change over two decades ago; Rudi enters and immediately is drawn to a sword that he picks up as if the weapon was calling him. What he thought he knew will be sliced and diced forever.

The third Change post apocalyptic thriller (see SUNRISE LANDS and THE SCOURGE OF GOD) continues Rudi and company’s trek across the battered dying land trying to come back to life two plus decades later. The troupe has reached their destination, but Nantucket is nothing like what they or the audience expected when they set out; for that matter the trip across the country was also filled with inexplicable unexpected happenings as the gods intruded along the way. Although it is imperative to have recently at least read THE SCOURGE OF GOD, fans will enjoy this excellent epic that will stun the reader with the direction S.M. Stirling spins as Rudi has come a long way to grab the sword and apparently has a long way still to go.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Drawn into Darkness-Annette McCleave

Drawn into Darkness
Annette McCleave
Signet, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780451227805

Centuries old and counting, Father Lachlan MacGregor gathers souls to deliver to heaven before the demons can suck them dry, for Lachlan this means penance as he is the Soul Gatherer. At the same time he insures his downstairs neighbors, artist Rachel and her fourteen years old daughter Emily are safe; he is especially keeping a wary eye on the teen.

Rachel is taken aback by her attraction to the handsome hunk upstairs as he is forbidden fruit being a priest. Lachlan reciprocates her desire, but he has some supernatural wars to contend with. As they fall in love, they team up to keep Emily safe from an especially evil essence who wants the teen to fulfill an ancient prophecy while also using the child as a pawn to get at Lachlan. What the Soul Gatherer hides from his beloved mortal is her child is his next transfer to the beyond.

This fast-paced urban romantic fantasy will grip readers with the first sword duel and never slows down until the final confrontation as everyone from beyond want to know the way to San Jose. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the relationships as the hero falls in love with the mother of his next delivery and the rebellious daughter is enticed by a charming demon. Annette McCleave provides a terrific thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Secret of the Dragon’s Breath-Derek Hart

Secret of the Dragon’s Breath
Derek Hart
iUniverse, 2009, $16.95
ISBN: 9780595480951

In 1941 Crackeston Haven in North Cornwall, England continues to have rationing in support of the war with the Nazis. Gavin Kane feels the impact as his thirteenth birthday party as there is no eggs or sugar to make a cake. His friends Emily Scott, and “evacuee boy” Bunty Digby accompany him to see the wise ancient dragon Sir Thaddeus Osbret the dragon who loves sweets when he is not pretending to be a fireplace. That night Bunty draws a picture of a castle that he fears contains an evil threatening the world

In Shloss Wewlesburg Castle in Germany, Herr Himmler learns his top scientist evil Deiter Gortz is missing, but has somehow created a dragon that the Nazi calls Black Wing. He is unaware that Deiter is the dragon. Also in residence is Reinhard Heydrich as Himmler knows to keep his most vile rivals nearby. He is also unaware that something beneath the castle has begun to control Heydrich who has come up with the “Final Solution”.

The dragon Council meets to discuss humans and their propensity for war and global destruction. Thaddeus makes a pitch in favor of the humans, but several have doubts the species should be allowed to live. Korbin the dragon warns his friend an evil is coming that could take the “Final Solution” out of their hands.

Besides the fantasy elements, which ring genuine, it is the deep look at life in coastal England during WWII that makes SECRET OF THE DRAGON’S BREATH a super read. The birthday cake is a great example of how rationing impacted people throughout the country. The tale is fast-paced and exciting as the danger to England mounts with the human friendly dragon and the three teens on one side while enemies human and supernatural mount on the other. The sequel to SECRET OF THE DRAGON’S EYE is a super historical military urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Servant of a Dark God-John Brown

Servant of a Dark God
John Brown
Tor, Sept. 2009 $25.99
ISBN: 9780765322357

In the New Lands, the Koramites awho have settled on the land are vassals to the Mokaddians. There is danger in this mostly unexplored place; the least of which are Bone Faces who attack the colonists from the south. They cut off a person’s pinky and use black magic to bind that individual to them. More dangerous are the Sleths who use Fire (another person’s life force) to give them incredible strength and speed. Only the Divines are allowed to use Fire because they feel anyone else would over use and over time would tirn into something evil. A monster nesting amidst the colonist has turned others into monsters.

Charity has come to the attention of authorities when her dead baby with parts of a stork and a stork with body parts of a human were found when the rains washed up the casket. Her husband was killed but her children blind Legs and Sugar seek shelter at the home if a member of the Order who use magic for good purposes. Talen, the man’s son wants to turn them in but his father refuses. The monster Hunger seeks Charity and brings her to his master. Soon many members of the Order are trapped in the monster’s monster’s cave and only a miracle can save everyone.

This is the first book in the Dark Gods series and it uses action to introduce the reader to the dangerous New Lands in which life is not precious. Readers get a sense of the differing species competing for power. For instance the Divines want more power to strengthen their hold at the top of the food chain. The monster who creates monsters out of humans wants to go back to where humans were herded like cattle. The Order is mankind’s only hope for a free life, but many doubt the lords and the commoners will believe in their cause due to prejudice against magic users who are not Sleth. John Brown has written a compelling but bleak fantasy world filled with a complex and convoluted social structure that will grip readers from the onset.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 27, 2009

Prospero Lost-L. Jagi Lamplighter

Prospero Lost
L. Jagi Lamplighter
Tor, Sep 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765319296

Contrary to how that Elizabethan author distorted the truth with his Tempest in a teapot drama, Prospero the Sorcerer did not burn his tomes or shatter his staff. He has nothing against the Bard as truth does not set you free; it gets you executed. Instead Prospero lived; having more children besides his famous daughter Miranda (that Shakespeare is worse than a tabloid writer as he cannot keep the family out) even if he made his daughter the heroine of his outrageous popular fabrication.

They live in modern society quite comfortably as the family patriarch formed Prospero Inc. whose corporation mission is to negotiate deals with elementals to prevent natural disasters; Miranda is the overworked CEO never taking a break. However, their idyllic lifestyle is disturbed when Miranda realizes her father has vanished into Hell and the Three Shadowed Ones are after the family magic. Miranda, Mag the air spirit possessing a hard-boiled private eye, and her certifiable brother Mephistopheles begin a quest to rescue Prospero and warn her dysfunctional siblings to beware the Three Shadowed Ones while she also fails to avoid Ferdinand the jilted one.

Using humor, L. Jagi Lamplighter cleverly pays homage to Shakespeare and to a degree John Milton’s Paradise Lost and maybe Found in this wonderful modern day satire. Miranda tries to play the heroine by warning her siblings, but they loathe her for being the Bard’s pet and jealous for her fame treating her as a pariah. Their mistreatment of their renowned sister makes none of the siblings likable even as she once again is the responsible one trying to save their lives. Ironically they assume some new Bard will write her story. Fans who enjoy a comedic urban fantasy will relish the return of Miranda the workaholic as she attempts to battle the Three Shadowed Ones, rescue her dad and warn her family who ignore her as they believe she is just a glory hound.

Harriet Klausner

City of Fire-Laurence Yep

City of Fire
Laurence Yep
Starscape (Tor), Sep 1 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765319241

In 1941 twelve year old Mistress of Kles Scirye is angry to learn her older sister Nishke was killed trying to prevent a treasure from being stolen from the Hearn Museum in San Francisco. She plans to regain what was taken and kill her sibling’s murderer Badik the evil dragon though she is ignorant of the plan of the dragon’s even more evil partner Mr. Roland to possess the five Lost Treasures of Emperor Yu in order to change existence as Scirye knows it.

Fuming she sets out to avenge her sibling’s murder. Joining her on her trek is Bayang the dragon disguised as a human Pinkerton Agent, Leech the orphan, and his best friend Koko. Her three allies have secrets they keep from one another but share a common need to destroy Badik and his associate Mr. Roland. The trail leads to Houlani, the newest Hawaiian island created by magic, but even with Pele the Goddess of volcanoes abetting their cause they are too late to prevent a second theft as they pursue the malevolent duo into the frozen north.

This is a fast-paced alternate historical fantasy as one episode follows another. The story line is loaded with a horde of mythological creatures, beasts, cretins, and Gods, but it is the unlikely teammates led by a tweener who fight the forces of evil. Although at times the discussions between the good guys slows down the plot especially during dangerous incidents, middle school fans will root for Scirye and her squad against the enemy who seems several steps ahead of them; setting up a sequel or two.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Predatoress-Emma Gabor

Emma Gabor
Newmedia, 2009
PO Box 546
Montvale, NJ 07645
ISBN: 9781893798571

In 2003 Sopron, Transdanubia in Hungary, the vampyr bit into Emma's neck turning her from a hard working college freshman into a compulsive yet reluctant blood seeking Undead. After dining on a homeless girl, but not wanting to be alone, Emma visits her BFF Kati so that the “forever” becomes real. After converting Kati, they visit Gizi and Eszti to convert them too.

The quartet paint the town red though Emma also feels shame for subjecting people she has known for years to a bloody terrorist attack each night. At a ball at Frakno Castle, Emma meets genetic research scientist Zoltan. For the first time in her life, she understands why her three buddies enjoy the guys rather than the books. As they fall in love, her friends fights with her and each other over their nocturnal desires.

Predominantly told by Emma who speaks to the reader in a sort of memoir format, vampyr fans will enjoy her exploits and that of her three friends. In spite of their conversion into immortality, the four best friends act like the teens they are, arguing who knows best with Emma claiming she is not just their “mom”, but fifteen minutes older and so much smarter when it comes to Vampire 101 and advanced knowledge. Although Emma can over prattle re sidebar related topics like Hungarian history, teen readers will enjoy the battles between the four BFFs who differ on whether they want to go back or not.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Road Rising-P. N. Elrod

Dark Road Rising
P. N. Elrod
Ace, Sep 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780441017553

In 1938 Chicago, Jack Fleming is trying to recover from the worst trauma of his life. To add to his problems The New York mob sent Gabe "Whitey" Kroun to the Windy City to kill Jack as retaliation for killing one of their associates. In addition to worrying about that, Jack’ best friend Charles Escott ends up in the hospital with severe life threatening injuries. Gabe gets turned into a vampire before he can kill Jack but a bullet in his head limits his skills. Jack has to deal with him while handling other threats that come his way.

Time and place are captured through the vernacular though perhaps mobster talk is a bite or two overdone. Still readers will enjoy the escapades of a sensitive vampire whose vulnerabilities make him fresh as he stands out from the supernatural crowd; yet he seems to end up in mob messes that require a hard boiled Noir reaction from him when all he wants to do is spend nights at his club Lady Crymyn. The pathos of the three males will stun the audience as P.N. Elrod follows up SONG IN THE DARK with more dangerous adventures on the mean COLD STREETS of Chicago at a time when Capone was a guest at Alcatraz, but danger remains high.

Harriet Klausner

There Be Dragons-Heather Graham; illustrated by Cherif Fortin & Lynn Sanders

There Be DragonsHeather Graham; illustrated by Cherif Fortin & Lynn Sanders
Medallion, Sep 1 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781605420714

Once upon the time in the medieval magical kingdom of Calasia, Marina is the only surviving member of her family, .the daughter of the House of D’Or, The Count of D’Artois, her step-father is giving Marina in marriage to the Count Carlo Baristo whom his fiancée loathes. Carlo’s mother Countess Geovana arranged the marriage by ingratiating herself with D’Artois. While wandering outside the castle a concerned Marina meets a wounded falcon who speaks and insists she is the fairy Thomasina.

The fairy grants Marina three wishes. While one of them is an indulgence in which she asks for Carlo to make a fool of himself, the second is for her to spend a day with the love of her life. That man turns out to be Michelo, the son of Duke Fiorelli, engaged to marry her stepsister Daphne, whom he does not like. Marina and Michelo meet and fall in love. When his father hears from the falcon that Michelo should marry the woman nearest to where an olive branch falls; Geovana will prevent that from happening by conjuring up evil to insure the death of Marina.

People of all ages will enjoy Heather Graham’s fine fairy tale enhanced with thirty colorful illustrations by Cherif Fortin & Lynn Sanders spread throughout the novel and a CD of original related Christmas songs. This is a spellbinding tale though like most fairy tales the cast is stereotyped between the forces of good and evil as malevolence can wear the disguise of attractiveness (think of the witch in Snow White) leaving intelligent people to go beyond the surface to the inner beauty.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Heaven’s Keep-William Kent Kreuger

Heaven’s Keep
William Kent Kreuger
Atria, Sep 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416556763

The day before Jo O'Connor boards the charter flight to Wyoming with seven other people, she and her husband Cork get into a fight. The small plane flies through a wintry storm and suddenly vies off course; no longer tracked by radar, the assumption by officials is the plane crashed into the Wyoming mountains. Cork joins the search into the wintry Rockies but after days of fruitless searching hampered by bad weather making a harsh mountainous terrain that much more difficult, the party gives up as there is no sign of the plane; no one could have lived through the cold if they made it past the assumed crash.

Six months later, Rebecca Bodine and her friend Liz Burns show up at Cork’s place in Minnesota. Rebecca claims the pilot of that charter was not her husband as everyone else assumes especially with a wrongful death suit claiming Sandy was drunk when he flew that fatal flight. A reporter digs up what Sandy was doing before the flight: getting drunk in a bar. Cork looks at a video of the pilot and concludes he did not drink but instead poured the liquor into something under his shirt while pretending to imbibe. Although he still believes his wife died, Cork knows something is off about the official conclusion so goes to Wyoming to investigate. The closer he comes to the truth, law enforcement officers, other government officials and drug lords are watching him to see if they have to take action against him.

Readers will sympathize with Cork who feels remorse that he and Jo went to bed angry with one another instead of making up while his fuming good bye was his last words to her. As Cork investigates, he and the audience begin to wonder whether Jo is alive but if so how. Filled with action and vivid descriptions of the Wyoming Rockies, William Kent Kreuger has somehow made this strong thriller a personal drama as well in what may be the best O’Connor tale to date.

Harriet Klausner

Sea Glass-Maria V. Snyder

Sea Glass
Maria V. Snyder
Mira, Sep 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778325802

The entire Sitian Council and the three Master Magicians demand apprentice glass magician Opal Cowan report to the Council Hall immediately. Her friends warn her if she goes to the Citadel as ordered she will vanish for quite a long time inside the Keep’s dungeons. To ignore their summons means being declared an outlaw but for now being free; to adhere to their summons means being declared an outlaw and at best be under house arrest, but more likely dungeon duty. Her new powers to take away a magician's power frightens them more than her as they are wary of anyone powerful enough to milk dry any magician.

Opal chooses to travel with her exasperating prisoner Devlen and her easy to goad ally Janco to the Moon Clan’s land where they hope to find Devlen’s body containing Ulrick’s soul so that Yelena the Soulfinder can switch them back. Opal believes she loves Ulrick and will do anything to save him though she fears Devlen is right that her beloved is addicted to the blood magic, which if true would mean she lost him. As she treks across a land in which every mage wants her for her new skill, Opal also thinks about the hunk Kade the Stormdancer who seems repelled by her. However, Opal has no time to explore her desires as her quest remains steadfast.

Although it helps to have read STORM GLASS to understand how far Opal has come and the soul switching magic, SEA GLASS is a fascinating quest fantasy. The heroine makes the novel worth following as she struggles to remain resolute while seemingly every practitioner in Ixia wants a piece of her. Fans will enjoy Opal’s second gem of an adventure as she tries to rescue her beloved, but must at the same time either drain or elude a horde of mages. Maria V. Snyder affirms with the Glass series what the Study trilogy proclaimed that she is a super fantasist.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 24, 2009

Out Of The Light, Into The Shadow-Lori Foster, Eric McCarthy, and L.L. Foster

Out Of The Light, Into The Shadow
Lori Foster, Erin McCarthy, and L.L. Foster
Berkley, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425230527

“Have Mercy” by Lori Foster. Mercedes Jardine loves Wyatt Reyes and wants to marry him. However, although he loves her he fears a permanent relationship so he refuses to marry her. Her powerful brother Braxton likes Wyatt, but expects him to come to his senses and wed his sister. Brax’s office manager Cameo Smithson tells him to mind his business.

“Deal or No Deal”. by Erin McCarthy. In Vegas, Russian expatriate Nick Stolin protects two young vampire siblings (he changed back the tsarist period) Kate and Pete Stolin. When Kate puts on a family heirloom, Rasputin knows the necklace with the blood of the ancients inside has surfaced. He plans to steal it to strengthen his power. Michael St. Markov also learns the woman he always loved Katie is alive and he plans to keep her safe.

“Total Control” by LL Foster. Brax knows Cameo is the woman for him. He fires her from her job and uses his special power of persuasion to sexually manipulate her. When his Uncle Amos arrives a hurt Cameo does not blink as she helps him. However, the woman who injured Amos is coming for them and using Cam as bait.

“Undead Man’s Hand” by Erin McCarthy. Las Vegas police detectives Jordan Water and Shawn Marshall investigate a serial killer who drains the blood from his victim. They come to Bellagio to talk with thirteen year old Pete, an allegedly autistic teen who witnessed the assault. He offers nothing. Nick asks Jordan out and she accepts as they are attracted to one another although she thinks his family is dysfunctional.

This is a fine collection that readers, especially of paranormal romance, will fully enjoy. This reviewer suggests finishing the two Foster tales back to back and like wise with the McCarthy entries as “Total Control” is a direct sequel to “Have Mercy” and likewise with the two Ms. McCarthy contributions. Fans will enjoy this entreating anthology.

Harriet Klausner

Obsession Untamed-Pamela Palmer

Obsession Untamed
Pamela Palmer
Avon, Aug 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061667527

FBI Agent Delaney Randall cannot sleep well anymore. Every time she closes her eyes she sees through the eyes of a dangerous serial killer. She watches in horror as he kills again and again.

Feral Warrior Tighe is at war with himself as half his soul resides in a killing clone. He must capture his other half before his other side kills him too as his essence has become proficient at murder. His clues lead him to FBI agent Delaney, who is somehow receiving the dreams that his other half should be transmitting to him. She fears that Tighe is the killer, but slowly he brings her around. As they team to recover his soul, Tighe knows Delaney owns his whole soul and heart.

This is a fascinating Feral Warrior paranormal romantic suspense (see PASSION UNTAMED) with a terrific twist (reminiscent of classic Star Trek “The Enemy Within” episode). They make a wonderful pairing as Delaney “sees” his other half and knows they must merge, but expects when the evil side reunites with the good Tighe, the man she loves will vanish. Fans will enjoy Pamela Palmer’s super thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Trick of the Light-Rob Thurman

Trick of the Light
Rob Thurman
Roc, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780451462886

Las Vegas is sin city for a reason; it is a place where demons seek and eat human souls to embellish their power. In Vegas, Trixsta bar owner Trixa Iktomi supplements her living selling information mostly to the angels and their mostly human demon hunting allies at Eden House. She supports their cause not because of some divine belief, but due to her need for vengeance against those who killed her brother.

Trixa learns of an ancient supernatural shield the Light of Life that allegedly can prevent any heavenly or hellish assault from penetrating. She and her bartender Native American Leo Rain want to possess it before the demons find it. Her only problem resides with the demonic hunk Solomon, who seems attracted to Trixa; she reciprocates but fears he is only interested in dining on her soul.

The first trickster urban fantasy is an enjoyable action-packed tale that makes the mingling and mangling of angels, demons, and humans seem genuine due to a strong cast anchored by the bar owner who is as much antihero as she is hero. Trixa is a fascinating protagonist who is a mix of vulnerability, courage and acceptance; as she understands it is the season for heaven and hell on earth. Fans will enjoy the Rob Thurman experience as “demons in paradise” must have a purpose under the heaven, but like Trixa readers will ask what the hell are they and angels doing crapping in Vegas.

Harriet Klausner

Burn Me Deadly-Alex Bledsoe

Burn Me Deadly
Alex Bledsoe
Tor, Sep 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765322210

In sleazy downtrodden Neceda, self-employed private investigator with a sharp sword Eddie LaCrosse will do anything except murder for twenty-five pieces of gold. After finishing an inquiry for a paying customer, Eddie is riding back on his horse Lola to his seedy office over slimy Angelina’s Tavern.

However, this trek home is a bit different when he almost runs over a severely injured almost nude blonde. His head tells him to keep going as no good deed goes unpunished; but his lower head wins the debate. Eddie stops to help Laura Lesperitt, but soon is waylaid by some vicious thugs who torture him and Laura before knocking him out. When he regains consciousness, the outraged master swordsman sees in the moonlight the dead battered Laura lying near him. He is taken to the moon goddess hospital where his girlfriend freelance courier Liz Dumont tells him he is a mess who lost a week. Eddie owes three torturers payback even if that means as he learns dealing with a dragon cult tied to criminal gangs and the house of King Archibald; Liz is at his side helping him stand up though he knows he must tell her the secret about her twin sister that stands between them; alas that is for another time.

The second La Crosse medieval sword and sorcery Noir (see THE SWORD-EDGED BLONDE) pays obvious homage to Mickey Spillane with terrific action from the onset when the hero breaks his basic rule of non-involvement (except for a fee) and gives Laura a lift. Once he regains consciousness in spite of aching ribs and other bruises, Eddie knows three men deserve his pin point sword. Fans will enjoy this entertaining thriller as the hero finds vengeance Spillane style as Eddie (like Hammer) learns blondes can prove deadly.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Demon Inside-Stacia Kane

Demon Inside
Stacia Kane
Juno (Pocket), Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439155073

Therapist and popular radio personality Dr. Megan Chase understands her true mission in life as the head of the local Yezer Ha-Ra. She and her associates deal with PERSONAL DEMONS though she perhaps is the only human on the planet without a demon inside of her. Ironically her boyfriend Greyson Dante is a powerful fire demon, but lately has been distracted as if the flame between them has burned out.

However, she is chagrined and concerned when she fails at her prime task; instead of keeping demons safe, they explode when she is near. She begins an investigation, but before she can dig deep the police arrest Megan. Soon witches attack her, but neither that assault nor the cops frighten her. What does is a sudden obsessed need for blood in which the source is irrelevant whether it comes from her friends, clients, or a bank does not matter; her unknown past seems to have made a presence.

The return of Megan is a delight as with PERSONAL DEMONS the horde wants to be the one to possess her as their egos insist they are the “one” while at the same time her troubles seem to compound as she begins to learn about her heritage. The story line is fast-paced from the first whisper to the last flame as seemingly everyone chases after the heroine except perhaps the dogs who chase after demons. Fans will enjoy this exciting urban fantasy thriller as the devil is the personal DEMON INSIDE of you.

Harriet Klausner

The Fire King-Marjorie Liu

The Fire King
Marjorie Liu
Leisure, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843959406

Soria left Dirk and Steele after she killed a man in cold blood though he deserved it. She has not healed mentally since the incident and wants no more field work. However, Roland sends an agent to plead with her in medieval “dead” Welsh to come home to help them on a strange unique case of a man, who speaks a language that no one has ever heard before, was found alive interred in an ancient tomb. She is the world’s foremost linguistic expert as her talent is communication in any language. On the one hand she wants to say no; on the other she is curious.

Soria meets Karr, who states three words in three languages: “Zoufalstvi. Epatoivo. Asa”. She knows exactly what he says and quickly realizes he is part of an ancient race of shapeshifters. However, things turn ugly when apparently other shapeshifters exist and need the former son of their late king dead as promised to him and so the “normals” including the psychics will have no proof they exist. As Soria and Karr begin to consider acting on their mutual attraction, trust remains as big of an obstacle as danger from his were-cheetah race eho threaten him and his beloved human.

This is a terrific D&S tale with an intriguing spin of a “hidden” tribe whose prince is “awakened”. The urban fantasy story line is action-packed and filled with that special Marjorie Liu intrigue from the moment Roland’s agent Robert speaks several languages with Soria at the Minneapolis airport and uses her unique linguistic talent to get the strong tale soaring. The plot accelerates from there as Soria and Karr fall in love but their journey is long, dangerous and taboo.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wireless-Charles Stross

Charles Stross
Ace, Jul 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441017195

The nine entries affirm the author’s strong scientific and hi tech foundations that make his science fiction novels so fascinating. However, the contributions are uneven as some are really great while others feel more like a beta test for something grander and more complete. The super contributions include the excellent novella "Missile Gap" in which the Cold War is fought on a different platform; "Unwirer" future of America starts with unplugging as wireless connections are outlawed; "Down on the Farm" with Bob Howard (enuf said) and "Snowball's Chance" of hell in Scotland. Of special mention is "The Colder War" that focuses on the convergence of Lovecraft and the Iran-Contra. Although overall fun to read with more than half being excellent entries, WIRELESS as a whole does not compare to Mr. Stross’ novels.

Harriet Klausner

Belisarius III-The Flames of Sunset-Eric Flint and David Drake

Belisarius III-The Flames of Sunset
Eric Flint and David Drake
Baen, Aug 2009,
ISBN: 9781439132807

“The Dance of Time”. In the sixth century, General Belisarius plans to invade the Malwa Empire to take the war of the future to the enemy in India. To the shock of the Malwa, his assault proves successful as he drives deeper into their empire using futuristic weapons and transportation given to him by the Aide also from the future. The enemy is stunned and in retreat as their Evil from the future tries to remain calm with defeats piling up and his side losing sight of the long term objective of the new Gods ruling earth.

“The Tide of Victory”: In India the Malwa Empire suffers a major defeat, but led by the futuristic demon trapped inside a computer, they have not lost sight of their strategic goal of changing the future to having the New Gods rule. They redeploy preparing for a renewed offensive against the Byzantine Empire led by General Belisarius who has a futuristic aide giving him minimal assistance. The Malwa believe that if they can assassinate Belisarius the opposition will collapse as he is the rallying cry.

The fifth book in the Belisarius saga is in some degrees is a filler set up entry for the climax (The Tide of Victory), but the focus of taking late twentieth century weapons, communications, other technology and tactics and bringing them onto the sixth century battlefield remains entertaining and fun. Whereas the final book The Tide of Victory wraps up a super alternate history military thriller in which two superpowers helped differently by allies from the future vie for world domination. However before reading the third omnibus reprint, it is strongly recommend the previous two (Storm at Noontide containing books 3 and 4, and Thunder at Dawn containing Books 1 and 2) should be read first.

Harriet Klausner

Chapterhouse: Dune-Frank Herbert

Chapterhouse: Dune
Frank Herbert
Ace, Aug 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780441017218

In the past twelve years (since the HERETICS OF DUNE), the Honoured Matres have devastated the Bene Gesserit to the point their adversaries are nearing extinction; their last enclave is a slowly changing Chapterhouse into the desert realm like they once had on Dune. The desperate Bene Gesserit Mother Superior Darwi Odrade knows her Sisterhood is in deep trouble. Their only hope resides with technology taken from the now almost extinct Bene Tleilax whose last survivor Scytale is in captivity.

The Bene Gesserit Sisterhood creates a ghola of Miles Teg, but no one knows how to use it against the enemy only that they must train the ghola to be their counter weapon as he has been used in many lifetimes before. Meanwhile the Sisterhood also mentors with training the application of the Coda ex Honoured Matre Murbella and her lover Duncan Idaho in hopes that they prove useful. However a tribe of Jews offer to help the Bene Gesserit as they know what the final solution means to them if the Honoured Matres win as seems likely.

This is a reprint of the 1985 final book written by Frank Herbert in the Dune Chronicles with the concentration about 90 plus percent on Odrade and her efforts to save her group by correcting a major defect in all of the Bene Gesserit that leaves them vulnerable to the enemy. This is a fascinating well written tale; however that focus also means minimal appearance by the Honoured Matres so the big theme never moves forward much. The completion of that overarching saga was done in collaboration by the late great author’s son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson based on notes left behind. Fans should read previous Dune books before Chapterhouse and the collaboration of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson starting with HUNTERS OF DUNE to obtain the full flavor as this entry is a betweener tale.

Harriet Klausner

Saving Midnight-Emma Holly

Saving Midnight
Emma Holly
Berkley, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425229040

In 1934 the Fitz Clare clan are a family composed of vampires and humans who love and cherish one another deeply; so much so each would die to save one of their bloods. Graham recently proved this premise when his adopted father Edmond was kidnapped by two vampires who demanded he reveal how to create more undead; Graham was changed into a vampire and with the help of beautiful Pen, they rescue Edmond who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (see BREAKING MIDNIGHT).

Now his fiancée Estelle asks for help from the vampire that Edmond most loathes in the world. Graham finds he misses Pen and his emotions are all tangled because he needs to see her but refuses to contact her. Pen thought he was interested in her, but when two rogue vamps Li-Hua and Frank attack her at the plantation she now owns, she call Graham’s family for help. Graham, his mortal brother Ben and his pregnant wife Sally come to help her. They realize they have to find the artifact that gives the evil vamps more power and even when they do they fear they are in for the battle of their lives as the enemy is stronger than a regular (if there can be such a thing) vampire as they share a mystical bond that exponentially enhances their strengths proving the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Meanwhile Graham and Pen are sharing their feelings for one another.

Emma Holly’s “Midnight” saga is one of the best historical urban romantic fantasies written today (see KISSING MIDNIGHT) as humans and vampires find love with one another. The characters are well defined especially the extended Fitz Clare clan whose philosophy is to cover each others back and neck.. The different vampires have diverse powers, which they learn to use by experimenting as no one can teach a fledgling what to do. SAVING MIDNIGHT transports readers to a romantic fantasy alternate depression Era that is bloody great.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Rotten Life-David Lubar

My Rotten Life
David Lubar
Starscape (Tor), Aug 4 2009, $5.99
ISBN: 9780765316349

Belgosi Upper Elementary Fifth grader Nathan Abercrombie knows three strikes you’re out in baseball though he does not play sports due to his asthmatic condition. However, he soon learns that on this particular day being a card carrying member of the Second Besters is a highlight film after his already rotten life equates to four strikes and you’re sort of dead.

In the lunch hall, Shawna Lanchester tosses the first mortar; she announces for all to hear he is not invited to her party. Next gym teacher Mr. Lomax throws hand grenade number two when he picks four captains to pick the others for their teams as they train for a competition with a rival school that they have lost to for the past few years; Nathan is the last one selected. The third strike is playing with Caleb’s zombie killing video game in which Nathan’s “men” die instantly, spastic is a kind description of what his classmates’ state.

He takes heart when weird newcomer Abigail brings him to her Uncle Zardo, a scientist who has invented a potion to stop people from feeling bad. An accident leads to Nathan being doused with the entire serum instead of a drop as the cops crash into the lab to arrest Zardo. Strike four is being half-dead though the benefits are feeling no pain from oven heated pots to Rodney the bully, but how to explain to mom and dad you can’t eat any food as it rots in the stomach.
Middle school readers will enjoy the escapades of Nathan, his best friend Mookie and Abigail as one thing leads to another until the protagonist agrees to be a subject of the “Hurt Be Gone” experiment, which only makes his life more rotten. Fast-paced throughout, young readers will enjoy MY ROTTEN LIFE as it is fun to read while a strong message encourages the audience to stay positive.

Harriet Klausner

Rosemary and Rue- Seanan McGuire

Rosemary and Rue
Seanan McGuire
Daw, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780756405717

In San Francisco private investigator Toby Daye is a half-breed part human and part fae. She avoids magic like it’s the plague having spent fourteen years as a fish following an investigation that turned ugly. She refuses cases that have even a potential taint of magic.

However, in spite of her avoidance doctrine, a female elf in her dying last breath curses Toby who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The elf’s last wish is for Toby to uncover who murdered her; if she fails Toby will die quite painfully. With an incentive like that, Toby makes inquires that lead to magical and mundane assassination attempts. If she survives the attempts to kill her, she still has to survive the killing curse with her time running out or she will die anyway.

This is a super new urban noir fantasy that will remind readers of Cast A Deadly Spell though six decades later and just less than 400 miles to the north. The story line is fast-paced from the opening scene as readers meet the magic-phobic half-breed heroine who does not want to be tied in knots as the incredible Ms. Limpet and never slows down as she works a particularly nasty personalized case. ROSEMARY AND RUE is a winner in a sub-genre that has been butchered recently with zillions of imitations.

Harriet Klausner

Beloved Vampire-Joey W. Hill

Beloved Vampire
Joey W. Hill
Berkley Heat, Aug 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425227954

Master vampire Raithe tortured Jessica as his imprisoned servant for several years. She escaped by killing her tormentor. In the Sahara, she plans to die, but another vampire Mason saves her life. His retinue shows kindness towards his latest marked servant trying to help Jessica heal especially mentally.

At the same time she begins to recover from her horrific ordeal, the Vampire Council decides to execute Jessica for killing Raithe as no one is allowed to get away with killing a master except them no matter what evil he may have perpetrated on their slayer. Meanwhile Jessica becomes fascinated with the three-hundred years old diary of Farida, Mason's beloved human servant even as she ponders whether she wants to be his present day “concubine”.

The latest Joey W. Hill vampire thriller (see A VAMPIRE'S CLAIM, THE VAMPIRE QUEEN’S SERVANT and THE MARK OF THE VAMPIRE QUEEN) is a terrific entry with a fascinating theme that a human servant who kills a master vampire for whatever reason (including rape) must be executed; the theory behind the premise is similar to the slave owners which to keep the masses from revolting and slaying their “owners”. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Jessica feels as arid as the Sahara that beckons her to add her dust to the sand. Vivid and filled with action as executioners are coming for the servant who killed her master, fans will relish Ms. Hill’s super entry in an extraordinary saga.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gran’s Secret-Trevis Powell

Gran’s Secret
Trevis Powell
Black Wyrm, Sep 2009, $11.95
ISBN: 9780982006771
Chimney Ridge Ct
Louisville, KY 40299

Since the wolves and the werewolf attack on Cobble (see ALBRIM’S CURSE), village life has changed dramatically. Many died before leader Gran killed the beast. Her son Borel was one of the buried and her grandson Albrim was bitten and changed. However, instead of killing him as she knows she should have, Gran could not murder her last blood kin. She arranged for the outcast Mute the Giant to control Albrim while with the help of a few loyal villagers she pretends to bury him.

Gran now runs the Bucket of Ale when a woman warrior arrives asking questions about the Were assault and survivors. Jarma explains to the brave elderly Gran she is a Were hunter and knows there are more in the area. The old woman rarely has fears, but now fears for the life of her grandson; she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jarma is not leaving the area until she totally believes no Weres live nearby. Gran sets in motion her second scheme to keep her grandson alive, but Jarma refuses to quit on her quest. She and the enemy Quarg want Albrim; the former wants him dead and the latter wants him captured. Only his beloved Gran and his mentor Mute want him to live free.

The second Were-War fantasy thriller is a terrific exciting tale as the adventures of Albrim as a werewolf continues with people after him. The story line is character driven by the opposing camps whose agenda re Albrim radically differ. High school age fans will enjoy GRAN’S SECRET anticipating from the moment Jarma and Gran challenge one another the converging of adversaries on the crosshairs target Albrim.

Harriet Klausner

Bloody Right-Georgia Evans

Bloody Right
Georgia Evans
Zebra, Aug, $6.99
ISBN: 9780758234834

In 1940, the villagers of the insular hamlet Brytewood are fighting the war just as the soldiers do in an occupied land. Both the Allies and Axis use vampires as spies and assassins; though these paranormals are motivated by their countries differently. The German vampires are in England because the Nazis have incarcerated and threatened their families with a Final Solution or cooperate and receive land; the British do it to remain free.

The Nazis send four vampires to the village in order to blow up the nearby munitions plant, but thanks to were-fox Gloria Prewitt, grandmother and grand daughter pixies Helen Burrows, and Alice Doyle, they killed the first enemy wave. Mary LaPrioux the water sprite and dragon shapeshifter Gryffyth Pendragon have to take care of the remaining two enemy vamps. The German vampires infiltrate the home of Wharton Lacey where Winston Churchill plans to relax with his school friend Sir James and his wife Lady Gregory. Mary, Gryffyth, and the Others must destroy Schmidt and the most evil vampire of all Weiss before they kill the Others, and the Prime Minister.

BLOODY RIGHT concludes the historical paranormal village fantasy trilogy with a thoroughly BLOODY GOOD finish to a wonderful alternate WWII saga (see BLOODY AWFUL). The German vampires are strong operational thinkers, which makes the challenge to the Others that more difficult as they are amateurs unused to war strategy on the ground. Although there is a fine romantic subplot involving the water sprite and the were-dragon, Georgia Evans super ending focuses just as much on the supernatural war in a remote cloistered English village circa 1940.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Beyond the Rain-Jess Granger

Beyond the Rain
Jess Granger
Berkley, Aug 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425229262

On planet Azra, Captain Cyani looks forward to finally returning home after working behind enemy lines for five years. She is anxious to return to see her brother and to rejoin the sisterhood of celibate warriors. Still there is one mission left to accomplish before she can leave the battlefields of the civil war ravaging the planet.

However, her last assignment is interrupted when she rescues a battered chained prisoner Soren. He is ailing physically from the beatings and the leeches used to suck out his unique hormone sold as a sexual narcotic on the black market. He has been drained of the hormone that gives him life. Cyani saves his life again but he is now bonded to her. If she leaves he dies. He hides his link so she can choose to stay or go even as others want the hormone he is producing thanks to his soulmate.

This is an exciting outer space romance with a twilight Zone like twist. The creative story line is fast-paced once the key players are fully understood as to their basic needs and their desires. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as the audience will relish Cyn’s “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done” (A Tale of two Cities) values as he is willing to die to let his beloved choose between staying and going. Jess Granger provides an engaging romantic science fiction thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Haunting Beauty-Erin Quinn

Haunting Beauty
Erin Quinn
Berkley, Aug 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425228173

Danni grew up as a foster child believing her parents abandoned her at birth or soon afterward. She worked hard to make something of herself and has become an expert at antiques. The young woman has no interest in her own past though occasionally late at night she curiously wonders who they were.

Sean Ballogh enters her life seemingly out of thin air. He insists her family has been searching for her for two decades and he wants to bring her home to her Irish roots on Ballyfionuir Island. Furthermore his arrival has stimulated her second sight skill. Unable to resist the lure of kin, Danni travels to Ballyfionuir where she meets loving family, alive and dead. As she and Sean fall in love, Danni realizes, for them to have a future, she must change her family’s past and fight an evil beyond her imagination or watch her beloved die.

This is a whimsical charming modern day Celtic romantic fantasy starring a courageous heroine and a haunted hero. Danni makes the tale when she and Sean reach her birth island as she is in awe as she meets her family, live and dead members. Fans will enjoy her family reunion, but in order to have a future, she must somehow rewrite the past. Erin Quinn provides a haunting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 17, 2009

Spider-Touched-Jory Strong

Jory Strong
Berkley, Aug 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425227930

In Oakland, Arana the human thief has the uncanny ability to change the threads of lives of others due to the deadly spider tattoo that wanders all over her body. Though an outsider due to her anomaly, she has felt safe and loved for a few years due to the protectiveness of two endearing pirates, Eric and Matt. However, both are dead and she is taken prisoner.

Tir has no memory of his past and has had his power drained to almost nothing due to a collar he wears. He knows one thing with certainty: he loathes humans. He and Arana meet while both are being held prisoner; each is stunned; he because a mortal liberates his mind and she because he is immune to her tattoo. They become lovers with a goal of freedom, which begins with learning who they are and where they come from.

As with GHOSTLAND, Jory Strong continues to paint a post apocalyptic world (following The Last War) as a dark, grim realm. Ariana is a refreshing kick butt heroine and Tir who detests humans with his deepest soul (can an angel or whatever have a soul?) is a heroic Prometheus like figure. Together they are a formidable team in the deadly streets of New California. However, on the other hand in the boudoir scenes her acquiescence as a submissive to his dominance seems off kilter for her take the hill personality. Still erotic urban fantasy readers will relish SPIDER-TOUCHED (and GHOSTLAND) while looking forward to many more Strong escapades in the Oakland diocese

Harriet Klausner

Dark Hunger-Rita Herron

Dark Hunger
Rita Herron
Forever, Aug 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446199483

CNN reporter Annabelle Armstrong believes she has a strong story involving reclusive Quinton Valtrez; she feels he is an assassin and plans to prove it. However, when she finally meets the enigmatic man, Annabelle feels a stunning attraction to him.

A half-breed demon human, Quinton Valtrez has spent his life trying to control his dark side. He currently works for Homeland Security’s top secret Ghost Cell hunting down paranormal predators. To his chagrin, he is attracted to the nosy intrepid journalist.

They soon learn of a pending terrorist attack that each hopes to prevent from happening; to do so they must team up though each fears doing so as their desire feels overwhelming. The evidence points towards demons bent on world domination behind the planned assault, but given the facts Annabelle refuses to believe in paranormal bogeymen until she is captured. Now Quinton has to save the purebred he loves while knowing if he succeeds she will see his tainted soul and her human DNA will knee jerk react by loathing his demonic half.

With a paranormal tour of Southern cities, the second Demonborn urban romantic fantasy (see INSATIABLE DESIRE) is an entertaining thriller starring a disbelieving reporter and a hybrid proof. The story line focuses on their relationship over the paranormal anti-terrorism action making the romantic subplot supersede the fantasy that runs throughout. Still fans of the sub-genre will enjoy the engaging DARK HUNGER.

Harriet Klausner

Pleasure-Jacquelyn Frank

Jacquelyn Frank
Zebra, Sep 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420104240

Below ground in Alaska is a concealed city that humans are unaware of its existence. It is the place where the Shadowdwellers race reside. The underground is darkness as even the slightest ray of light can kill these people.

Sanctuary priest Sagan is kidnapped by a serial torturer killer and her minions; they bring him to the house of Valera, a born witch. She uses her magic to kill his captors shocking the underground priest that a human magic user has no taint of evil oozing from her.

Magnus, the head of Sanctuary, wants Sagan to bring his beloved Valera to the “dweller” city to demonstrate to the Night Riders that not all magic practitioners are evil. The senate governing the Shadowdwellers is trying to force Chancellor Malaya to marry a person of their choice and produce an heir. Her bodyguard Guin, who has protected and loved her (unrequitedly) for fifty years, detests his beloved having to marry a man not of her choosing. Unable to cope he leaves her for the first time in five decades. His departure makes Malaya realizes what she has taken for granted and how much she loves her bodyguard. Acadia, whose uses another name in the senate, attacks Magnus’ wife and Guin, leaving it to the outsider Valera to mitigate damages although few Shadowdwellers trust her.

Thus ends the exhilarating Shadowdweller trilogy (see ECSTASY and RAPTURE) and while the enjoyable story line fails to wrap up everything in a nice tidy package, readers will gain much PLEASURE from this fine entry that hopes for peace amidst the night walker species. The romantic subplot between Guin and Malaya is fascinating as he tries to hide his feelings especially his ire over what the leaders are doing to his beloved while she fails to see him beyond a trusty protector and to a degree friend. The other romantic subplot is also terrific as the human witch and the Shadowdweller are natural enemies. Jacquelyn Frank is a master fantasist who makes her paranormal earth seem real with a spark of hope for peace, but frankly this is an author known for her twists and spins.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Kingdom Beyond the Waves-Stephen Hunt

The Kingdom Beyond the Waves
Stephen Hunt
Tor, Jul 21 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765320438

Tycoon Abraham Quest agrees to fund obsessed archeologist Saint Vines College Professor Amelia Harsh’s search for the legendary lost city-state of Camlantis; her theory is that the pre-history kingdom floats somewhere in the air beyond the range of Jackal air navy. Following the official rejection of her funding from the school and others, Amelia is galled having to ask and depend on odious Abraham for her quest as he is the mogul who destroyed her father leading to his suicide.

To achieve the objective, Quest converts a submarine, which angers the Jackals who want to be the sole flying act. He also employs Amazonian warriors to guard his interests while Harsh persuades Commodore Black and his crew to navigate the potentially lethal water and air from deadly denizens. Not only is there danger around every breeze and wave, the Quatershift plan to sabotage the mission.

The sequel to the COURT OF THE AIR is a terrific lively fantasy starring a beleaguered heroine who wonders whether her obsession is worth the cost of dealing with a man she loathes and once she decides that whether its merits the dangerous escapades. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action on land, air and sea. However, it is the cast who makes THE KINGDOM BEYOND THE WAVES a fun read as the diverse crew of the Quest is always one minor incidence from internal brawling with all bets on the Amazons.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cold Moon Rising-C.T. Adams & Cathy Clamp

Cold Moon Rising
C.T. Adams & Cathy Clamp
Tor, Aug 4 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780765359643

Sazi Wolven law-enforcement operatives Tony and Sue Giodone are still struggling with their mixed marriage with him being a recently converted werewolf and she a human. As he learns to control his new paranormal skills, Tony also deals with being on the law side of life as a pack leader instead of his previous employment that of a Mafia hit man.

Tony is currently working on a hostage rescue assignment when he suffers an out-of-body experience for the first time in his life; something that is not typical of a werewolf. He finds himself able to see what Ahmad al-Narmer of the Cobras sees as the council member is stunned to face a woman he thought dead. Ahmad also believes Tony’s new skill will prove valuable as the “snake” goes undercover trying to unravel a deadly plot to destroy the werewolves, snakes and humans by some of the former mobster’s previous associates led by a personal “friend” of Ahmad.

As great as the previous Sazi urban fantasies have been, COLD MOON RISING is one of the best, if not the best. The strong story line is the usual fast-paced and action-packed from start to finish. However, it is character driven predominantly by Tony, but also to a degree by Ahmed, who fans normally hiss at. There is a terrific twist involving the two natural (not sure that is the right adjective with paranormals) enemies having to work together against a deadly cabal led by a woman one of them loved and thought dead because of his betrayal.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty Sixth Annual Collection

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty Sixth Annual Collection
Gardner Dozois (editor)
St Martins, Jul 2009, $40.00
ISBN 9780312551056

This anthology always lives up to its title as there are thirty strong short stories with 628 pages of contributions included. The Summation of 2008 is a deep fascinating essay that focuses on the good with overall strong creative writings especially in book anthologies; and the bad being the collapse of several print magazines with those surviving cutting back the number of pages in each copy and reducing the number of releases per year. The stories are for the most part super but in spite of the rise of the on line magazines most of the compilation comes from print magazines and book anthologies. My personal favorites are those I had not previously read (thus I discount the excellent “Boojum” by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette, “The Gambler” by Paolo Bacogalupi, and “Eligible Boy” by Ian McDonald, etc.). “The Six Directions of Space” by Alastair Reynolds, “Five Thrillers” by Robert Reed and the “Erdmann Nexus” by Nancy Kress are tremendous; the rest are quite good too. This collection with its Honorable Mention list and reference guide is a short story delight. Harriet Klausner

Night Runner-Max Turner

Night Runner
Max Turner
St. Martin’s, Sep 1 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 9780312592288

For eight years Zack Thomason lived in Nicholls Ward, the home for the mentally disturbed of the Peterborough Civil Hospital; not because he is crazy, but because of a rare medical condition. Max cannot abide sunlight or food with the only nourishment his body accepts and digests is a drink made by Nurse Ophelia. He obviously sleeps during the day and is awake at night. Thus when a man drives a vehicle through the lobby, Zack hears him state that he has come to see Zack. Before the intruder is shot to death, he warns Zack that “he” is coming for him.

Soon after that incident, his Uncle Max visits Zack, which is a shocker because the youngster thought he had no living relatives. Max explains to Zack that he and the lad’s late father were vampire hunters; which he still is. His father died trying to kill Baron Vrolok, who survived the attack by drinking Zack’s blood; that turned the child into a vampire too. The police under the Baron’s control arrive to take Zack with them, but the driver of the Harley that ran through the door rescues the boy. They get separated and Zack struggles to survive on his own in the outside world. He meets with his mortal friend Charlie who visited him at the ward and with Charlie’s pal and Zach’s love interest Luna unaware the danger he places them in until it is too late; the Baron is coming for his “offspring”.

This is a coming of age urban fantasy as the protagonist adjusts to what he is, what happened to his biological father, dealing with the challenge of his blood sire, and struggling with his natural adversarial relationship with his uncle. He is a good person who must make choices some of which seem bad if he is to survive. Charlie the king of chaos and Luna are there for him as Max Turner provides an enjoyable vampire thriller that will keep his teen audience up late night running alongside of the hero.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Vampire a Go-Go-Victor Gischler

Vampire a Go-Go
Victor Gischler
Touchstone, Sep 1 2009, $14.99
ISBN 9781416552277

Gothic State University grad student blew off the semester when he met Brenda Cole. After she dumped him and he groveled but failed to win her back he finally moved on. His adviser Professor Carpenter and her 122 birds named Admiral Snodgrass say he can salvage his student status by accompanying notoriously known hard-ass Professor Evergreen and his wife on a research prject at a castle in Prague. Although his love is the Bronte sisters perhaps after Brenda’s tattoos, Allen absolutely agrees.

In the Czech republic, Allen finds nothing going right as the Battle Jesuits Society of Witches (and one vampire) attack their party. He also concludes that Evergreen seeks the legendary philosopher’s stone that reanimate the dead Not sure where he fits in to everyone’s plot except as the fall guy, Allen soon meets Cassandra, Amy the good witch with no power and Penny who says she will earn and own him before the summer is through.

Lighthearted fun, VAMPIRE A GO-GO is an enjoyable Prague summer as Allen seems to run into one problem after another as if he is Job. Much of the story line is told by jovial spirited alchemist Edward Kelley or at least his ghost; who moans and groans over the Net’s crappy picture of him. The characters are brialliantly developed and seem real (including Allen) so that readers will enjoy the most wonderful summer of Allen’s life that is if he survives to the fall.

Harriet Klausner

Always Forever-Mark Chadbourn

Always Forever
Mark Chadbourn
PYR, Jul 28 2009, $15.98
ISBN: 9781591027416

The ancient Gods and the Fomorii demons have brought Balor the Heart of Shadows into the world for the first time in eons. The power of the all evil essence is growing and on Samhain the WORLD’S END will be completed.

The last hope for humanity ,the five Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, have been defeated by the Fomorii after a horrific battle though they did their best it proved futile during the cataclysmic THE DARKEST HOUR. They are leaderless, scattered apart or dead. Though despondent and filled with a hopeless despair, each one of the quintet continues to risk their lives as they separately try to move past the insufferable loss and seek one another as well as persuade Queen Tuatha de Danann to help them defeat the Fomorii to prevent Balor from succeeding. Church, Ruth, Shavi, Ryan and Laura must find their inner strength for if any falters, it means Balor rules and the end of mankind. Even if they prove successful starting with obtaining Tuatha’s help, they will still need to deal with the potentially treacherous Queen.

The third book in The Age of Misrule saga is an excellent finish to a fabulous saga as readers will mark this author for future tales. The story line is action-packed as the follow-up to the stunning defeat in the aptly titled THE DARKEST HOUR which is filled with escapades and adventures, but also allows the audience to see into the hearts and minds of the fearsome five who have no hope for the future as all seems lost. Fans will admire them for their courage to carry on in spite of their anguish, accentuated by the belief some of their allies died. The quintet brings the souls to Mark Chadbourn’s great trilogy.
Harriet Klausner

Cape Storm-Rachel Caine

Cape Storm
Rachel Caine
Roc, Aug 4 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451462848

The hurricane heading towards Southern Florida may make Katrina look like a sun shower; Chief Weather Warden Lewis Orwell knows what that storm did to New Orleans and the rest of the delta so he fears something even worse for Miami. He hijacks the cruise ship Grand Paradise and assigns his weather wardens and their djinn to sail the vessel into the open water with his goal being that the storm will chase after his unit rather than the populace on the Floridian Peninsular.

Newlyweds Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin and Djinn David are on board the Grand Paradise, but obviously this is a working honeymoon. However, this super sized storm is actually the work of magic by insane former weather warden Bad Bob; his formidable power is enhanced exponentially by his amoral lunacy. The honeymooners and their comrades in weather battle the hurricane of any century while Joanne and David also struggle with the poisoning of the demon mark that infects her.

CAPE STORM is an exhilarating weather warden thriller. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of magical action as the lead couple is victims trying to stay one step ahead of the perfect storm, while also trying to contain the poison devastating Joanne. Rachel Caine provides another terrific tale in one of the stronger urban fantasies on the market today.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 10, 2009

Man with the Iron Heart-Harry Turtledove

Man with the Iron Heart
Harry Turtledove
Del Rey, Jul 28 2009, $18.00
ISBN: 9780345504357

In 1942 Reinhard Heydrich, the evil designer of the Holocaust, was assassinated in Czechoslovakia by a partisan who hated the Nazis. However, on an alternate earth, Heydrich survived the attempt on his life and received permission from Himmler to create a guerilla army to harass the allies into leaving Germany so the Reich can rebuild. During the next three years, he dropped out of sight and ammo vanished as Heydrich formed the German Freedom Front secretly.

On VE Day, just like Heydrich predicted, the government signed the declaration ending the war in defeat. However, hostilities were not over as Heydrich and his Freedom Front force began their campaign; their efforts killed thousands of occupying allied soldiers. When Mrs. Diana McGuire receives a call that her son died after VE Day, she started a movement that grew rapidly to bring the men home. German POWs are on trial in in Nuremburg charged with war crimes, but the courthouse is destroyed. The trials move to Frankfort, but a suicide bomber ignites a radium bomb making the city uninhabitable. They turn to the Russian occupation next, but the guerillas succeed in disrupting the trials. Germans do not consider the war lost and the allies fear the Nazis like a Phoenix will return to power to continue the fight.

What happened in Iraq and Viet Nam is transposed to late 1940s Germany in THE MAN WITH THE IRON HAND. The German people help the Freedom Front because they seek the removal of foreign occupiers from their soil. The treaty is a piece of paper that proves worthless while the allies ponder a surge of more troops and for how long or withdrawal. Heydrich is sinister and brilliant as he will do anything to force the occupation army to leave. This alternative historical showcases Harry Turtledove at his thought provoking best as the question is how long does a surge (by definition temporary) remain in place and what happens afterward if conditions fall back?

Harriet Klausner

The Rapture-Liz Jensen

The Rapture
Liz Jensen
Doubleday, Aug 11 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780385528214

At the Oxsmith Adolescent Secure Psychiatric Hospital in Hadport, England, wheelchair-bound art psychologist, Dr. Gabrielle Fox takes over treating psychotic teen Bethany Krall. Gabrielle has her issues since the car crash killed her fiancé and left her in the chair. The patient-prisoner killed her mom and claims the ability to foresee the future; all her forecasts are dire bleak disasters.

As Gabrielle uses electro-convulsive therapy to literally shock her patient, she begins to realize the teen’s uncanny grim predictions are coming true every time. Gabriele begins to comprehend that Bethany’s father Reverend Leonard Krall imprinted his “Faith Wave” view of the coming Rapture and those who bear the mark of the beast cannot go to heaven. Gabrielle wonders if she is overreaching in her theory of Bethany’s skills and the frequent disasters that the teen predicted and have occurred when she desperately brings her patient’s upcoming calendar of calamities to physicist Frazer Melville, who not only does not laugh at the shrink but takes the forecasts dead serious.

THE RAPTURE is an exciting thriller that stars the psychiatrist and the physicist but focus on the teen seer and her skills. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action, but even with efforts top prevents the next calamity from happening, the plot as character driven. Fans and the lead pair will wonder whether the teen is the devil or the savior as Gabrielle and Frazer ironically (from the religious point of view that is) struggle with stopping what seems increasingly the end of days.

Harriet Klausner

Beguiled-Maureen Child

Maureen Child
Signet, Aug 20009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451227720

Maggie Donovan defeated evil fae Queen Mab in a classic cat fight (see BEDEVILED). Although the part human part Fae woman will never forget what she witnessed especially never listen to ABBA on a full stomach again, she knows she will never return to her previous lifestyle. Culhane the warrior says she is the Chosen One and struggles with being called Queen Maggie.

Outraged by having her butt kicked in by an impure female, former Queen Mab escapes incarceration and prepares for a rematch as she still believes she, as a purebred fae, is superior to a hybrid fae “diseased” with human blood. Maggie adapts to being the Queen of the Otherworld especially with Culhane as her adviser and lover. As Mab vows not to underestimate her foe, she raises their personal war to higher levels when she kidnaps her adversary’s niece at a time when Maggie has doubts about Culhane’s motives.

The conflict in this wonderful sequel is on two levels as the heroine begins to question where her lover’s loyalty lies and the upcoming war with her evil rival. The story line is fast-paced and filed with action, but it is the strong cast, not just the lead trio, who makes Otherworld seem genuine.

Harriet Klausner

Destined for an Early Grave-Jeaniene Frost

Destined for an Early Grave
Jeaniene Frost
Avon, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061583216

Half-breed Cat Crawfield looks forward to some Parisian R&R (romance and relationship enhancement) with her purebred vampire husband Bones. However, the best laid plans of mice, men and half vamp Cats often go astray. The master vampire Gregor arrives to claim her as his wife; he insists he had a prior claim to her as her spouse making her a bigamist.

When Cat was a teen, Gregor abducted her with a goal for later the future. However, Mencheres the master vampire took her away from Gregor, locked the master vampire in a special prison, and erased Cat’s memory of the incident and this master vampire. Cat is outraged for several reasons but also somewhat fascinated while Bones is reeling as he fears Gregor has a stronger claim and not just with vampire law and Gregor seems obsessed over his assertion.

The fourth Night Huntress urban fantasy is an exhilarating thriller driven by the paranormal triangle (though told through a confused Cat’s perspective). The overarching story of Cat and Bones spins brilliantly into a darker drama as the heroine must make several complex decisions with convoluted choices to select from. Another winner from Jeanine Frost, fans of this strong saga will appreciate aptly titled DESTINED FOR AN EARLY GRAVE.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Drowning City-Amanda Downum

The Drowning City
Amanda Downum
Orbit, Aug 25 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780316069045

The necromancer undercover agent Isyllt Iskaldur travels to the dangerous “Drowning City” of Symir in the country of Selafai. The capital of Sivahra is famous for its monsoon weather and canals as it is for its deviant miscreant population. Currently the kingdom is under the military control of the invincible forces of the Assari Empire.

She sees an opportunity to stir local trouble in order to prevent the Assari from invading her nation, next on their conquering agenda. However, the necromancer has some personal issues before financing the local insurgents as she is attracted to Imperial fire-mage Asheris. Her bodyguard Sivahran Xinai begs Isyllt to begin her mission as she loathes the violent empire that ruthlessly destroyed her clan.

This is a terrific fantasy thriller with a unique heroine who uses necromancy to support her side as she tries to stir up trouble inside a mighty empire to keep them occupied internally in order for them not to occupy her country. Fans will enjoy Isyllt’s adventures as a foreign agent acting sort of like a 1950s CIA undercover operative stirring up trouble in a third world nation like Iran heavily influenced by the Soviets who will bury her people if not stopped. Readers will relish the refreshing brisk first tale of the Necromancer Chronicles as espionage, politics, and military merge with magic in a fascinating fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Civil War-William Manchee

Civil War
William Manchee
Top, Sep 2009, $23.00
ISBN 9781929976522

Seventeen year old Leek Lanzia has found life on Tarizon dangerous yet rewarding after being exiled from his birth planet earth. He is the orb’s savior if one can believe an ancient prophecy. In that role, Lanzia leads the mutant Loyalists and their allies against the superior forces of the Tarizon Global Army especially their hovertanks.

However, various races who have been divided in the past and encouraged to remain split by the ruling elite have rallied around the savior. Soon the Loyalist side has air power that almost matches their foe. Meanwhile still a teen at heart and in other parts of his anatomy Leek tries to rescue his mate, Lucinda.

The sequel to THE LIBERATOR continues the unlikely but entertaining and satirical adventures of the exiled Leek on Tarizon. He now leads a growing force of mutants and other species n a civil war, but still has issues with raging hormones (though I would like to see more of his raging hormones interfering with his duties and responsibilities) that call for a time out so he can rescue his girlfriend. Once again the underlying message of this fun young adult military science fiction remains at a minimum tolerance for all while the preferable choice would be consensus.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Leader of the Pack-Karen MacInerney

Leader of the Pack
Karen MacInerney
Ballantine, Jul 28 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345496270

In Austin, Texas, Sophie Garou is a highly regarded auditor and has a wonderful boyfriend, but is still adjusting to knowing that several times a year at night she is ON THE PROWL and HOWLING AT THE MOON. However, pressure from the Houston pack of werewolves especially alpha leader Wolfgang for to join is immense, but used to being a loner except for her mom the witch, she tries to ignore their threats to join or else. She is also worried about her human BFF, Lindsey dating Tom the werewolf

However, the best laid plans of mice and men, make that werewolves and women, often go astray. Her long estrange father Luc, who she has not seen in ages, comes to Austin to attend the annual Howl gala, but is arrested by Wolfgang on a homicide charge. Sophie who proved her mom innocent of a homicide plans to do likewise for her dad. This means playing nice to the Texas werewolf and other paranormal and human communities; requirements that have Sophie spitting up fur balls.

The latest Garou amusing lighthearted urban fantasy is an entertaining jocular tale that will have readers howling with laughter at the messes that the werewolf accountant finds herself in once again. The story line is breezy and brisk as the feisty independent Sophie learns the true bottom line as she steps in werewolf droppings trying to solve a murder in which the evidence including what she finds affirms Luc committed murder, a capital offence amidst the packs.

Harriet Klausner

North! Or be Eaten: Wild Escapes. A Desperate Journey. And the ghastly Grey Fangs of Dang-Andrew Peterson

North! Or be Eaten: Wild Escapes. A Desperate Journey. And the ghastly Grey Fangs of Dang.
Andrew Peterson
WaterBrook, Aug 18 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400073870

The reptilian Fangs of Dang crossed the Dark Sea of Darkness, conquered the Skree and instituted brutal martial law based on their bite that slowly and painfully kills (see ON THE EDGE OF THE DARK SEA OF DARKNESS: ADVENTURE, PERIL, LOST JEWELS, AND THE FEARSOME TOOTHY COWS OF SKREE).

In the town of Glipwood had lived the Igiby family of Mother Nia with her father and her three children (sons Janner and Tink, and handicapped daughter Leeli). An incident at the Sea Dragon Festival caused by Leeli’s beloved dog Nugget led to the three siblings learning the truth as to who they are; the Lost Jewels of the legendary Kingdom of Anniera. Fang General Khrek knows the prophecy of the Jewels of Anniera and wants to prevent it from occurring by killing the three heirs. Others want them dead also. Their only hope for safety is the frozen tundra of the Ice Prairies that the fangs cannot acclimate to. Besides avoiding Fangs who have a massive alert out for them; they must cross Glipwood Forest filled with monsters who enjoy dining on children; elude the East Bend Stranders who would steal the clothes off their moms while their moms would steal their clothes; and if they are still breathing the horrific Fork Factory, who they fear will use them as part of the manufacturing process.

Fans of the Chronicles of Narnia will enjoy the second super young adult fantasy while older readers will appreciate this too as this saga runs on several levels. The three Igiby children have plenty of adventures as they head to tundra that the fangs cannot enter, but once again it is the amazing allegedly handicapped Leeli who wins the hearts of the audience with her courage and optimistic outlook. Fans will ponder what escapades Andrew Peterson will come up with next for the three Igiby children to confront.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Lost Sister-Megan Kelley Hall

The Lost Sister
Megan Kelley Hall
Kensington, Aug 2009, $9.95
ISBN: 9780758226808

It has been one year since the Hawthorne, Massachusetts based SISTERS OF MISERY tried to kill Cordelia LeClaire on nearby Misery Island, but somehow she survived. While she seeks her estranged father Malcolm Crane, whom she blames for the tragedies that have devastated all the females in her family, Maddie feels guilt and remorse for not helping her new friend out of fear of retaliation by the Sisters.

She is away at school struggling with her weakness especially her failure to help Cordelia. Haunted by neurotic trepidations she returns to Hawthorne when she learns her mother is dying from cancer. When a Sister dies at a party hosted by the Endicott family to announce their plans for a new hotel on the site of the Ravenswood Asylum, the police arrest Finn and Reed, who are still suspects in the cold case of the disappearance Cordelia as murder suspects. Cordelia returns so one charge against Finn and Reed is dropped. Meanwhile The Endicott Hotel construction is stopped due a blaze destroying what has been built. The townsfolk are divided in opinion between a human or an otherworldly arsonist. Maddie and Cordelia team up to investigate who burned down the partially constructed hotel and killed the Sister, but neither trusts the other for good reasons; they better move past their suspicions of one another as something is stalking them.

The second Sisters of Mercy young adult fantasy will appeal to older readers as well due to the character driven tale containing a deep Gothic feel and haunting foreboding atmosphere that hooks fans of all ages. The lead amateur sleuths are terrific as they invesitgate while doubting the sincerity of one another at a time they better get over it or else. With strong ties to the late seventeenth century Salem Witch Trials, THE LOST SISTER is a super thriller as evil comes in all packages.

Harriet Klausner

Hunting Ground-Patricia Briggs

Hunting Ground
Patricia Briggs
Ace, Aug 25 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441017386

Anna Latham was turned against her will into a werewolf, but soon became wife and mate to Charles Cornick, the son of Bran the Marrock alpha enforcer of all the North American werewolves. Charles is Bran’s enforcer and understands his mission is to kill anyone in or out of the pack that can cause harm to his breed. Charles knows he would do anything for Anna to make up for the abuse she suffered with her first pack.

The Marrock sends his son and daughter-in-law to Seattle to head a conference dealing with relationships with humans starting with announcing their existence. The attendees are divided over the related subjects as much of the European packs oppose the agenda strongly claiming history is on their side. Jean Chastel., the European Marrock, is outspoken as he loves dining on pretty human females. On the other hand the Alpha of Great Britain supports Bran’s position but he fears what otherworld species can do when his beloved wife is killed by rogue vampires. He collapses. These same bloodsuckers stalk Anna infuriating Charles as they try to kill him and kidnap her. Anna investigates who is directing the undead while she fears for her beloved dying from a mage’s spell at the same time he is the chief suspect in a murder that means execution in the North American werewolf code of justice.

The key to this super ALPHA AND OMEGA urban fantasy series (see CRY WOLF) is Patricia Briggs’ uncanny world-building skills that cleverly interweave a full culture into the plot; for instance the werewolf code of justice. Anna is an omega outside the pack structure while her soulmate is an alpha loner (before he met her) yet insider. Charles is obsessed with her well being, but when he becomes the target, the omega proves that lifemates are alpha when their beloved is in trouble. Fans will relish this strong entry in a terrific saga as the Briggs’ earth is filled with full blooded paranormals living unseen along side the narrow minded humans.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Sunless Countries-Karl Schroeder

The Sunless Countries
Karl Schroeder
Tor, Aug 4 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780765320766

Far from the center of Vega where the artificial light is at its strongest in the city of Pacquaea, the dimmer outer towns begin to vanish with no known cause. Those in the inner sanction believe a threat from off world has begun to systemically destroy the sunless orb.

At the same that towns are being devastated most likely from the outside, a new religious movement has taken root proclaiming that Vega is eternal and not created. They are called Eternists. They begin a concerted effort to impound books, control all the news they feel fit to print and force a referendum on subjecting science to popular votes.

Sun lighter Hayden Griffin and historian dreamer Leal Hieronyma Maspeth unite to investigate the outsider assaults. Their inquiry takes the courageous duo to an eerie group of dead apparently killed by rain, encounters with the “mythical”, struggles with menacing politicians threatening to end each of their careers especially his commission to build a new “sun”. As he reconsiders his choices while she pushes on, they begin to close in on the outside at a time the increasingly powerful Eternists want to prevent them from learning any truths except what they decree is the one and only Truth.

The latest Virga science fiction thriller (see SUN OF STARS and QUEEN OF CANDESCE) is a super entry as Karl Shroeder takes readers to previously unexplored bubble regions beyond the world’s centrally located artificial suns; places that were dim, but now are THE SUNLESS COUNTRIES. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as the two heroes investigate why bubbles are going dark. Fans will relish Karl Shroeder’s excellent outer space saga as once again the bubble world of Virga seems a genuine host for a great adventure.

Harriet Klausner

Day of the Damned-David Gunn

Day of the Damned
David Gunn
Del Rey, Jul 21 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345500021

Following his last bloody operation (see MAXIMUM OFFENSE), not quite human DNA, Army killing machine Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg takes some deserved R&R at the home of theWildside. That ends abruptly when his Commander General Jaxx sends a message to perform a cleansing mission with a new unit in his home city Farlight; the capital is in the midst of a brutal civil war; the reign of boyish looking Emperor OctoV spanning several millennia and tens of thousand planets is in jeopardy of ending.

Sven sans his combat arm or his AI Sag handgun and his squad try to prevent a successful coup d’etat while he still attempts to avoid unnecessary collateral damage in this urban warfare zone while the enemy couldn’t care less if planets are destroyed let alone a city to achieve the mission.. The intelligence is weak as no one knows that the rebels have support from the allegedly peace seeking United Free Empire that has plans to annex OctoV’s tens of thousands of planets into their spans of control. However the plotting of rulers means nothing to Sven. He lives for two reasons: the promise and the kill.

The third Death’s Head far futuristic in space science fiction is an incredibly fast-paced thriller that never takes a breather once the General sends Sven on his mission (almost at the very start of the book) and never decelerates even for a breather. As the speed of light story line moves bloodily on and on, David Gunn also answers much of the questions from the previous Sven’s adventures; not an easy task for a writer whose prime color in the minds of the audience is red. Readers will appreciate this bleak look at mankind in outer space still fighting one another.

Harriet Klausner

Walking Dead-C. E.. Murphy

Walking Dead
C. E.. Murphy
Luna, Sep 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373803019

When Joanne Walker was left in a parking lot with a sword in her body, Coyote offered her a choice between death and life as a shaman. She embraced life as a shaman with healing powers and other mystical gifts. Her police partner Billy is not shocked by Joanne’s new skills because he is a medium who communicates with the dead. Ata a Halloween party, a cauldron appears out of thin air; Joanne see that is a dark thing of evil. evil tries to trap her, but she resists the call.

The cauldron disappears leaving a massacre of evil behind in Seattle by raising the dead. It originally came from the Museum of Cultural Arts and the two security guards are gone from their posts; one was killed while the other has vanished.. Joanne believes the deaths of the guard and the cauldron are obviously linked, but she also receives further bad news when Suzanne whose soul she saved returns to tell her she had a vision of Loanne dying and it had something to do with the cauldron. Suzanne has a premonition that Joanne and Billy die on Halloween. They try to be careful while seeking the mage who started the horrific fiasco as the cauldron keeps reappearing leading to more deaths and reanimations.

WALKING DEAD is a special urban fantasy as the loads of action include the mundane and paranormal, which leads to a belief that Seattle is under siege with everyone trying to defend the city and fascinated fans going sleepless. The focus obviously is on the strong shaman who can travel to different planes as if she was hiking. The mystery behind the cauldron and its apparent power make for a fabulous investigation by the heroine and her partner at the same time they must prevent further destruction. C.E. Murphy is a great fantasist who makes the otherworldly devouring of Seattle seems so authentic.

Harriet Klausner