Saturday, May 30, 2009

Dust to Dust-Heather Graham

Dust to Dust
Heather Graham
Mira, Jul 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326540

In Los Angeles, graphic artist Scott Bryant parties with two buddies. After a ton of alcohol they head back to their hotel, only to intercede when an elderly couple is being mugged. Scott gets close to the male victim to see if he is okay, but something odd happens. He abruptly for no known reason has gained super strength. That night, he dreams of a dead zone in which the deceased live.

Dog trainer Melanie Regan has the same dark nightmares as Scott suffers from. She has an uncanny skill of being able to draw to the minutest detail pending disasters before they occur though she could never draw until recently. They meet and soon travel to Rome in find the mysterious oracle. There the duo unites with Rainier Montenegro to fight a demon. They have taken their first baby steps to prevent the inevitable apocalypse.

This is an exciting atmospheric romantic suspense urban fantasy that launches a new Heather Graham paranormal series. The story line comes across as realistic though slow due to Scott's struggles to learn and understand what his happening to him and what overall is going on; his plunge into the Graham realm of blood darkness is not easy for him and to a lesser degree for Mel. Fans of the author will appreciate this fine opening act as the author sets the stage for what looks like a terrific saga.

Harriet Klausner

Prey-Rachel Vincent

Rachel Vincent
Mira, Jul 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326816

Werecat enforcer Faythe Sanders and her Pride are in Atlanta escorting were-tabby Manx to her hearing. While there she runs into hunter partner and lover Marc Ramos, who was exiled from their pride. They barely purr hi to each other when strays attacked them. Both are fortunate to survive. Before they can get a second purr together, Faythe is ordered home to deal with teenage tabby Kaci Dillon who refuses to shift; which is suicidal to a were.

Faythe makes some headway with stubborn Kaci when she learns Marc was abducted and probably killed based on the blood at the crime scene. Faythe believes she would know if her mate is dead so with her new partner Parker begins a quest to find and rescue Marc. They soon uncover a conspiracy challenging her father’s alpha authority by insidious means, werecat civil war seems imminent.

The latest Faythe urban fantasy (see PRIDE, STRAY and ROGUE) is a terrific entry as the heroine tells the tale of being yanked in several directions at the same time so that she feels she never finishes anything (including quality time with Marc) to the level she expects of herself. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and Faythe is a wonderful center of gravity. Fans will enjoy the latest werecat enforcer thriller as the stakes have gotten much higher with claws open and pointed at everyone.

Harriet Klausner

Darkness Burning-Delilah Devlin

Darkness Burning
Delilah Devlin
Avon, Jun 23 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061498206

The storm of the century devastated New Orleans leaving the city vulnerable to murders, looters, and other deadly predators. In that environs, one killer should not stick out, but to reporter Mikaelaan evil is walking the streets.

Daywalker Alex Broussard has patiently waited seven centuries for his time to occur. He believes it is now. So he prepares to fight to the death the malevolent demon and the invincible female vampire that head the Undead. The only thing distracting him from his date with death is Miki, who he wants but fears allowing her into his dangerous life at a time he hopes to insure a future for his species; yet knows he can no longer allow her to roam The Crescent City alone.

The third erotic Dark Realm urban fantasy (see INTO THE DARKNESS and SEDUCED BY THE DARKNESS) is a super thriller that fans of the saga will devour faster than an Undead can drink blood. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action including soft BDSM. Although newcomers will be better suited reading the previous two novels first than diving into an already wrecked New Orleans, sub-genre fans will believe the trip into Delilah Devilin’s devilishly delightful Darkness is worth the time.

Harriet Klausner

Liquid Diet-Michael McCarty

Liquid Diet
Michael McCarty
KHP, Apr 2009, $10.99
ISBN: 9780979988172

He has been a vampire for a decade turned at a fan convention at twenty-five years old. Andrew Bloodsworth has abstained from drinking blood for a month as he prepares for an interview on Chicago’s Wolf 99.9 FM where he will discuss his writings and get more sales for his books. The hostess is Goth Queen Bella Donna who is fascinated with this man who seems to ooze out of the shadows. She wants to hear his story of how he became a vampire and what it is like to possesses supernatural powers.

Andrew tells lher how his change came about and Bella’s fans go wild over a live vampire (pardon the oxymoron) except for outraged OTTO fundamentalists (Opposition To The Occult) who believes it is their divine right to cleanse the world of the occult, the paranormal and those connected to the supernatural. After being attacked by the Otto, Andrew and Bella go through a mirror and end up with her soul in his body and his soul in hers. Neither likes the gender change so the The Count helps them return to what they were; which also means another battle with the Otto when the pair appears on Harry Winger’s tabloid TV show.

Michael McCarty describes his thriller as a “vampire satire”, which is somewhat accurate as there is a biting sting to the plot, but is much more as he nukes the mythos and takes jabs at always right tabloid reporting and even more right fundamentalists. Andrew is a fascinating character who can love or hate with passion and can control his appetite; the reaction to him by Bella’s fans is a fabulous lampooning of hero worship. Readers who enjoy a sardonic bloody good vampire thriller will want to go on a LIQUID DIET.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 29, 2009

Countdown-Greg Cox

Greg Cox
Ace, Jul 7 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780441017188

The New Gods live on two different worlds: the paradise New Genesis and the hell hole Apokolips that makes Dante’s description seem mild. The ruler of Apokolips is Darkseid, who intends to destroy the multiverse that consists of fifty-two universes; in the end he plans to rule over a new multiverse. There are opposition forces trying to prevent his cataclysmic scheme from happening, but he is currently maneuvering former super humans as expendable chess pawns furthering his chances of success.

Jimmy Olsen suddenly develops super powers that activates when his life is in danger. The Monitor Solomon kidnaps Donna “Wonder Girl” Troy and former Robin, Jason Todd, a bitter young man,. They need to find Ray “Atom” Palmer who vanished due to grief after his wife became mentally insane and became a killer. The Atom holds the key to the survival of all fifty-two multiverses.

This follow-up to INFINITE CRISIS and 52 continues the story of the War between the New Gods with the COUNTDOWN to the end of the multiverse as “we” know it. There are several subplots besides those above including one involving Mary Marvel coming out of a coma and Catwoman coming out of enforced retirement (as did Todd and Troy). Fun and exciting especially for DC fans of the older Crisis on Infinite Earth saga and the Jack Kirby's New Gods pantheon will enjoy the latest novelization of the end of the multiverse; newcomers will be as confused as the original baby boomers were back in the post Silver Age.

Harriet Klausner

No Fear-Allie Harrison

No Fear
Allie Harrison
ImaJinn, May 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9781933417486

Medusa's Island is a tourist attraction with pristine beaches making it look like a paradise. However, five years ago this seemingly Eden was hell. A vampire was killing females, turning them into his kind; the only human to escape was Emma gray who does not remember that Chief of Police James Winchester saved her life. James actually came to this island because as a vampire slayer and vampire he sensed evil, but he failed to kill the master vampire.

Emma remains fearful of the dark, never goes out at night and refuses to allow any male into her home. James has diligently watched over her for the past five years because she is his soul mate even though she keeps him at a distance. He finally breaks through the barriers she constructed around her heart, but conceals the fact he is a vampire as he is unsure how to break the news to her so he decides to let her become more comfortable with him and hopefully fall in love with him. However, before he can complete his plan, the evil returns with both him and Emma sensing the malevolent presence who has come for Emma.

Allie Harrison has written a sensually interesting vampire romance in which the supernatural species consists of evil and good members. James is a perfect hero willing to kill his own kind to save humans; his patience with Emma will have fans adoring him. He has killed hundreds of malevolent vampires while his protecting mortals makes him feel somewhat human again. Readers will enjoy this terrific thriller anticipating how Emma will react to her protector when she learns the truth that he is the same species as the predator coming for her.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Vanishing Sculptor-Donita K. Paul

The Vanishing Sculptor
Donita K. Paul
WaterBrook, Jun 2 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400073399

In Chiril, Emerlindian Tipper has been left in charge of their family estate while her father the sculptor is away to the fear and consternation of her mom, his wife. However, she learns some of her actions she thought innocent have had a nasty impact that could destroy her father and ultimately their world.

With her dragon companion Zabeth who fears big snakes (and little ones too), Tipper tries to rectify her mistakes, but finds the endeavor to huge for her. She knows her mom cannot help her or her neighbors as they have nothing to assist her in fixing the errors. Desperate she gathers as allies Beccaroon the giant parrot and Prince Jayrus the dragon rider to help her. They work together to enable father and daughter to flourish under the love of the Creator.

THE VANISHING SCULPTOR is a super fantasy in a different land but the same world as that of the DragonKeeper Chronicles. The story line is fast-paced once the heroine knows what she must undo or at least mend. In some ways a relationship drama that focuses on a daughter who is chip off the old block of her father, readers will enjoy Donita K. Paul’s expansion of her realm to a place where the people are about to learn just who Wulder is and what he can do.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dead Men’s Boots-Mike Carey

Dead Men’s Boots
Mike Carey
Grand Central, Jul 23 2009, $25.99
ISBN 9780446580328

London exorcist Felix “Fix” Castor attends the funeral of his possessed friend John Gittings when a fancy dressed lawyer Maynard Todd arrives with a court order authorizing cremation; the widow Carla asks Fix to prevent the disinterring of her spouse’s body. The spirit remains in his body’s home.

Fix is at the Magistrate Court supporting the contention of Pam “Pen” Bruckner that she has power of attorney for possessed Rafael Ditko. However, Professor Jenna-Jane Mulbridge has a counter claim insisting Rafi is unsafe to free from her asylum where she researches the paranormal. Judge Runcie realizes there are two issues with his legal focus on a review panel, angering Pam and satisfying Jenna-Jane for now.

Janie Hunter wants to hire Fix to prove her husband Doug did not commit the rape and murder that he has been accused of and arrested for. She insists that American serial killer Myriam Seaforth Kale performed the deeds although she has been dead for four decades. Fix knows the MO in the brutal King’s Cross rape-murder is exactly that described of Kale. So he assumes somehow the odious evil came back, but how and where she is stymies the exorcist because he fears a repeat that he wants to prevent. However, Fix’s inquiry assisted by Juliet the succubus and Nicky the paranoid zombie leads him to something even darker crossing over.

This London based urban fantasy thriller contains three prime subplots that grip the reader from the moment the body of Gittings is interred and never slows down as every move the exorcist makes seems increasingly dangerous. The story line is fast-paced as Fix works his inquiries. Sub-genre fans will enjoy his escapdes and seek his previous two caseloads (see Vicious Circle and THE DEVIL YOU KNOW).

Harriet Klausner

Succubus Heat-Richelle Mead

Succubus Heat
Richelle Mead
Kensington, Jun 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758231994

In Seattle succubus Georgina Kincaid remains stunned by the betrayal of her boyfriend writer Seth Mortensen who slept with her best friend Maddie; make that ex boyfriend and ex BFF (see SUCCUBUS DREAM). However, her boss archdemon Jerome is tired of her negativity as a succubus must be upbeat and her inability to suck souls as that is why a succubus lives so he exiles her to Vancouver to work for a less tolerant rival with instructions to perform industrial espionage.

However, back in Seattle, a Satanist cult has performed some spectacular seemingly supernatural events. Several of her peers and paranormal associates have vanished including Jerome. Currently more human than hell spawn, Georgina knows she must act starting with finding and saving Jerome before civil war breaks out over who’s in charge. Also Seth wants a second chance with his beloved to include sex; she considers going for it with her on top since she no longer can suck his soul from him.

The latest Succubus urban fantasy (see SUCCUBUS DREAMS and SUCCUBUS BLUES) is an engaging Seattle thriller starring the intelligent but frazzled Georgina. Nothing goes right for the heroine as she has lost her skill, her boyfriend, her best friend, and her boss. However, instead of wallowing in self pity, she searches for Jerome to keep the political-industrial hell spawn complex from overt hostilities. Although the story line contains too many cul de sacs, which in fairness adds realism to the heroine’s probe, fans of the series will enjoy Georgina amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Demons Not Included-Cheyenne McCray

Demons Not Included
Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin’s, Jun 2 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312949600

In present day New York City, Half-breed (human and drow elf) Nyx and her purebred human partner Olivia investigate supernatural felonies. At night when her darker elf side takes control, she is an elitist Tracker working for Rodan hunting down demons not included in the Underworld.

Nyx and her Tracker peers are shocked when one of her elite teammates is murdered and a human police liaison vanishes. Nyx fears something nasty is coming at the same she mentors a new Tracker Torin, whose essence she cannot read; something she finds intolerable and distrustful. She also hides her attraction to human police detective Adam Boyd, who is working the case; as she assumes he will reject her drow side. As other Trackers die, Nyx panics that the midnight end is now.

Leaving the “Magic” saga behind, Cheyenne McCray begins a new urban fantasy enchantment series with the first Night Tracker thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the onset, yet Ms. McCray introduces fans to her vision of a paranormal New York City through the investigations. Nyx is a kick butt heroine who keeps the exhilarating plot focused on the inquiry into the serial killing of Trackers. DEMONS NOT INCLUDED is a super extremely dark Manhattan supernatural police procedural.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 25, 2009

Divisions-Ken MacLeod

Ken MacLeod
Orb (Tor), May 26 2009, $19.95
ISBN: 9780765321190

Casini Division. By the twenty-fourth century technology has changed many humans into almost Gods. However, a dispute between the humans and the post-humans devastate the planet. The post-humans move off planet but hostilities remain high as a cold war continues though most of the open hostiles have somewhat abated. In that climate, the Casini Division that protects earth plans an assault to eradicate the Post-humans who pose a threat from space. Spaceship Commander Ellen May Ngewthu of the Casini Division seeks an alliance with the interstellar colony New Mars before the post-humans can do so.

Sky Road. In the twentieth century former Communist American expatriate Myra Godwin-Davidova leads her tiny high-tech socialist paradise while others want to conquer it. Her only hope to protect her people lies in obsolete nuclear weapons hidden years ago in the planet’s Earth orbit. Several centuries later Clovis colha Gree lives in a utopian world in which violence is non existent; the rustic community fears electronic devices as they remember what happened during the Fall that some insist it was the Deliverance. Now the scientific tinkers are constructing a controversial spaceship; the first since Maya had to decide nuclear war or not.

This is a reprint of the "The Second Half of The Fall Revolution" published in the mid 1990s. Each entry is fast-paced, but focuses on a dismal future for mankind that is cleverly tied back to the politics of the late twentieth century although some might detest the clearly Anti-American stance. .The tales are well written with the military battles in space incredibly vivid and the key cast members coming across as fully developed. Although it pays to at least read THE STONE CANAL before this pair of novels, fans will appreciate the dark science fiction thrillers CASINI DIVISION and SKY ROAD.

Harriet Klausner

Moon Burn-Alisa Sheckley

Moon Burn
Alisa Sheckley
Del Rey, May 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345505880

After what happened with her cheating husband in Manhattan last year (see THE BETTER TO HOLD YOU), veterinarian Abra Barrow relocates to Northside so that she can study the lycan infection he brought back from Romania and gave to her. She understands the problem of leaving a smog urban center for the pristine small-town air is that a full moon is a full moon for three days of uncontrolled behavior by a werewolf.

However, just as she has become comfortable with herself; Abra becomes emotional even with a full sun shining. She easily turns angry and shockingly drops her scores of inhibitions at any time of day or night; a behavior she only previously did when the moon is full. The local male population is all enthralled with her except her boyfriend shape-shifting expert Red Mallin, who knows what is happening to her, but is too busy to help her as he is totally focused on weird beasts apparently crossing the dimensional divide. Having been bitten last year by someone she trusted and now unable to rely on even herself; Abra feels fearful and doubtful amplified by her out of control emotions. Making matters stranger for her is a creature from the other side showing her an entirely different realm.

The second Barrow werewolf thriller is a fast-paced exciting tale in which Alisa Sheckley makes her magical world seems genuine starting with the lycan infection. The story line fast-paced starring a terrific heroine who feels her grip is slipping. Readers will enjoy her escapades as Abra struggles to regain her equilibrium while Red is preoccupied. MOON BURN is an enjoyable small-town fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Darkness Calls-Marjorie M. Liu

Darkness Calls
Marjorie M. Liu
Ace, Jun 30 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441017300

For generations, her female bloodline was nomadic never making emotional relationships especially with men. Instead each one hunted the demons until they birthed the next generation hunter and consequently die. Thus the current demon hunter Maxine Kiss has a problem as she has fallen in love with the former priest Grant, the last Lightbringer.

How much an issue an emotional entanglement can cause ignites when the Avatars attack Grant fearing his power. Instead of staying out of the fracas as her ancestors would have done, Maxine and her living tattoos enter the fight to protect her beloved. Now the Avatars have a bigger fear that the Lightbringer and the demon Hunter will unite in love and bring what to the world.

The second Kiss urban fantasy (see THE IRON HUNT) is a fabulous action-packed thriller starring a strong female superhero who is humanized by her love for Grant. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the Avatars attack and never slows down as Maxine risks her life for love; an unheard of action by any generation demon hunter. Marjorie M. Liu provides a powerful complex tale in which she makes her vivid paranormal world seem real.

Harriet Klausner

Fall of Thanes-Brian Ruckley

Fall of Thanes
Brian Ruckley
Orbit, May 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780316067713

With the monumental defeats at the hands of the more powerful Black Road armies, the True Bloods are in trouble. Adding to their seemingly inevitable annihilation is the alliance collapsed as each Blood Line chooses to save itself. At the same time Aeglyss’ mental state seems increasingly deranged.

Blood Thane Orisian realistically understands what he and his people face as he has few shieldmen warriors left with his line nearing extinction. While his sister Anyara remains with Aewult the Bloodheir of the Haig Blood who are also in trouble, Orisian travels with Ess’yr the Fox Kyrinin and her brother. He knows he is falling in love with Ess’yr, but must defeat Aeglyss. At the same time, Kanin the Horin-Gyre Thane raises a heretical force of half-breed soldiers to fight Aeglyss.

The third and final Godless World epic fantasy is a great ending to an overall terrific saga. The story line is fast-paced along several well written fault lines that ultimately converge in an anticipated epic center confrontation. However, the key to this entire trilogy is the cast. No one is a John Wayne like hero as everyone has prejudice and a willingness to sacrifice those they consider lesser. The battles are graphic and the other scenes vivid as history on this world seem destined to repeat itself with the flow of the True Bloods almost defiantly heading to extinction. With the exception of needing a glossary handy, Brian Ruckley completes his chronicle with a wonderful winner.

Harriet Klausner

The Price of Spring-Daniel Abraham

The Price of Spring
Daniel Abraham
Tor, Jul 21 2009, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765313430

Fifteen years have passed since the war to end all wars between the Galt Empire and the Khaiem left both sides as losers as the outcome is all Khaiem females are sterile the poet mages are dead along with their andat magic; while all Galt males were also sterilized (see AN AUTUMN WAR). Desperate the Khaiem Emperor Otah knows the hostilities must end before each nation becomes extinct with no next generation. With that in mind he seeks a political marriage of convenience between his offspring and that of a high ranking Galtish aristocrat.

Meanwhile former poet Maati comes out of hiding, in an attempt at redeeming his soul for what he and his peers caused, breaks tradition to mentor young female students in summoning and controlling the andat essences. His top student Vanjit manages the andat Clarity-of-Sight, but though good intentions the remorseful Maati fails to understand the impact of the great war on survivors; instead of saving her people, the traumatized Vanjit who saw her loved ones massacred becomes a mad dictator.

The final tale in the Long price Quartet saga takes a fantastic spin away from the three previous super but bloody and deadly seasons into a more personal thriller of individuals filled with contempt and guilt willing to pay THE PRICE OF SPRING to renew life. The story line is action-paved, but at a smaller scale yet much more complex as several people who directly caused the cataclysmic war seeks redemption for themselves though each knows they will never overcome what they caused. They also want to bring renewal for others. Daniel Abraham closes out the quartet with a terrific spring entry.

Harriet Klausner

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Omen-Christie Golden

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Omen
Christie Golden
Del Rey, Jun 23 2009, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345509123

The Galactic Alliance and the Order of the Jedi have their home base on Coruscant existing in an uneasy peace. The leader of the Alliance government Chief of State Natasi Daala wants the Jedi under her control. The Jedi are giving her plenty of ammunition that enables her to paint them in a bad light. Three of the Knights went insane performing unacceptable inexplicable acts that have led to being frozen in carbonite. One of the fallen was able to see the future ( called flow-walking) enabling a person to make counter moves against an “adversary”.

This is a unique part of the force that previously was known by only the late Jacen Solo, who became Darth Caedus when he turned to the dark side killing millions as a Sith Lord. Luke Skywalker and his son Ben continue seeking Jacen’s secrets, which leads them to isolated xenophobic Aing-Tii. Luke is banned from Coruscant for a decade or when he learns how and why Jacen’s turn to the dark. Luke and Ben travel to the planet seeking clues of why Jacen turned evil. With a civil war imminent, the Aing-Tii allow father and son on the orb. Meanwhile the Sith are near extinct and those few survivors are in hiding except for a group that crashed on Kesh a millennia ago. A ship arrives giving them access once again to the stars and the ability to take it to their enemies, the Alliance and the Order.

The second of nine books in this Star Wars arc (see OUTCAST) takes place obviously after Vader and the Sith were defeated. Peace in our time seems shaky as the two prime groups distrust one another and ambitious Daala sees an opportunity to size more power as people are once again disenchanted with the Jedi due to Caedus and now crazed Knights. Christie Golden moves from Star Trek to Star Wars with this solid entry that does not move forward the big picture, but instead sets up several major subplots for the overarching saga; making OMEN a more critical read to followers than OUTCAST.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 24, 2009

City of Souls-Vicki Petterson

City of Souls
Vicki Petterson
Avon, Jul 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061456787

In Las Vegas, Agent of the Light Joanna “Kairos” Archer is a unique warrior battling the forces of evil Shadow as part of her essence is the dark shadow. Currently she is masquerading as her socialite sister Olivia with a need to rescue BFF Vanessa taken and tortured because the enemy want Joanna as they know she as the Kairos is the Chosen One to balance the light and the dark

She learns of a young girl suffering from an unknown horrific illness that somehow the dark side of Joanna caused. As the Kairos she knows what this means; if the child dies the light dies too. Joanna must enter the dark to save the light by saving the child; if she fails Sin City turns neon brighter but soul wise eternally dark even for those who enter from the outside.

The forth Zodiac urban fantasy (see TOUCH OF TWILIGHT, THE TASTE OF NIGHT, and SCENT OF SHADOWS0 is a terrific entry that focuses on how tenuous the balance between light and shadow is as an innocent little girl becomes the center of the war. Joanna is at her best as her mission is very personal this time. Sub-genre fans of the Petterson universe will relish this dark entry as Sin City may no longer be a CITY OF SOULS if the heroine fails on her quest.

Harriet Klausner

Seduce the Darkness-Gena Showalter

Seduce the Darkness
Gena Showalter
Pocket, Jun 30 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 1416531645

Targonia Royal House Prince Devyn de bon ci Laci had spent what seemed several lifetimes being in trouble with his royal father for his womanizing of any female of any species in spite of his being betrothed to Princess Mika since birth. Now he is an agent of AIR (Alien Investigation and Removal).

Bride McKellis grew up on the streets rather fast during the Alien-Human war, but now almost eight decades later the vampiric survivalist lives in New Chicago. She smells a special odor that reminds her of her long time friend Aleha Love whom she has not seen in sixteen years. She chases after the aroma, which leads her to the egomaniacal Devyn, still a womanizer and tries to pick her up though he is Targon and she is human; and he takes her underground so she can meet more. He also knows her blood is critical to save some friends of his, but he to his shock is falling in love; she fell in love when they were still on the streets of New Chicago. As Bride begins to comprehend who she truly is, she fears she must choose between love and her destiny to save the world.

SEDUCE THE DARKNESS is a super futuristic romantic thriller that takes an interesting urban fantasy spin from the previous Alien Investigation and Removal science fiction entries (see the Alien Huntress and Teen Alien Huntress saga). The story line is fast-paced but it is the pairing of Devyn and Bride that makes the tale fun to read as ironically the womanizer has finally met his woman, but she is destiny’s darling. Gena Showalter fans will enjoy her latest New Chicago tale that twists the series into a wider range of future possibilities.

Harriet Klausner

Fragment-Warren Fahy

Warren Fahy
Delacorte, Jun 16 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553807530

On board the ship Trident are the crew of the reality TV show SeaLife and several scientists who were promised a year of sort of Darwin like research into the exotic ocean and island life on the planet in exchange for filming the contacts. So far, the voyage into the South pacific has been filled with ennui until a beacon help signal comes from nearby Henders Island. The vessel heads there to assist those in need.

However, what greets the seafarers is a shocker. There is flora and fauna like nothing ever seen anywhere else on the planet. As several scientists are killed by the intelligent animal life, botanist Nell Duckworth realizes what has happened on this remote island; evolution took a different path approximately a half billion years ago and miraculously survived. As the US Navy blockades the island and quarantines the Trident fearing anything escaping could prove hazardous to the rest of the world’s ecosystem, the natives prove sentient and resourceful as they seek off the island.

Though an obvious link to Jurassic Park, FRAGMENT takes a different scientific spin using evolution as the basis of what lives on the island. Warren Fahy provides an exciting story line yet loads his narrative with scientific terminology and theories without dumbing it down. Readers will appreciate this super science fiction thriller that explains the evolution of reproduction and the possibility of such an island like Henders existing with the unique marsupial population of Australia that superseded mammals as the dominant species. Science and fiction rarely blend together better than this winning thriller.

Harriet Klausner

In Ashes Lie-Marie Brennan

In Ashes Lie
Marie Brennan
Orbit, Jun 10 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780316020329

In 1666 having survived the Great Plague of last year, England is now wracked by civil war as King Charles II and the Parliament battle over who is in charge. Underneath, ironically the faerie Onyx Court faces an uncertain future as the Ancient ways that have sustained them for ages is ripping apart.

In London a baker Thomas Farynor has banked the fires of his ovens to go sleep. While he is sleeping, a spark escapes turning London into an inferno. He and his daughter Hanna flee into the night. At the same that the city is burning down, another threat has arisen to both the human and Fae occupants of greater London. This annihilator destroys anything in its path; to survive and perhaps defeat this invincible foe, the mortals and the fairies must unite, but neither side trusts the other.

Based on the real event of the Great Fire of 1666, IN ASHES LIE is a superb historical urban fantasy that grips readers who will feel transported back in time due to the vivid atmosphere that makes the seventeenth century human and Fae London seem alive and real. The story line is fast-paced as a deadly inferno threatens the mortal Londoners and an even deadlier malevolence threatens both species. Sub-genre fans will relish this exhilarating Restoration Era thriller and seek its prequel (see the Elizabethan Era MIDNIGHT NEVER COMES).

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 23, 2009

DFF: Dead Friends Forever-J. R. Turner

DFF: Dead Friends Forever
J. R. Turner
Echelon, Mar 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781590806258

In Wisconsin, Marsden Middle School skateboard fanatic Kaylee Hensler wants to skate in the nearby park, but several bullies led by Jimmy the Giant refuse to allow anyone on their turf. She challenges several of the boys to a skate off, but instead Jimmy dares her to enter haunted Larson House and take something form the top floor; though she knows this is insane she accepts.

Her best friend wheelchair bound Davey tells her this is insane and Kaylee agrees. Still she enters the house, goes up to the third floor, finds a mirror, and thinks all is well until a young teenage ghost scares her. She flees, but begins seeing the ghost elsewhere. Davey learns the ghost is probably Isabelle Larson killed in 1897 by Clarence Stillwell. As she tries to help the spirit an evil paranormal essence wants to stop her and her parents, her swimming team coach and her dwindling friends believe Kaylee has lost her mind while Isabelle wants to be her BFF; only neighbor Madame Maggie and Davey understand that there is a paranormal presence.

This is a terrific young adult horror thriller starring an intrepid heroine and a strong support cast including her DFF. The story line is fast-paced with a great finish as Kaylee knows if she survives she still has to explain to rational skeptics. The key characters are fully developed so readers understand them and their motivations. Though her parents are purposely exaggerated so that they come across as how their daughter perceives them, this makes them act stilted. Still fans will enjoy Kaylee’s dilemma.

Harriet Klausner

Pulse-Jeremy Robinson

Jeremy Robinson
St. Martin’s, May 26 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312540289

In Peru the mythological Hydra of Hercules' tasks fame is found in Peru alive though in some form of sleep. Manifold Genetic CEO Richard Ridley wants to awaken the deadly beast as he has a plan to use the creature’s DNA to make humans immortal.

His firm steals the find and kidnaps the archaeologist associated with the dig Dr. George Pierce. He has the Hydra and the archeologist taken to a lab he set up on Tristan da Cunha, an island in the South Atlantic. The American government is concerned so it assigns Deep Blue to send in the elite of the Delta Force, the Chess Team unit headed Jack “King” Sigler and the rest of his “pieces” to invade and capture the Hydra and save the archeologist. They soon find themselves battling reengineered reptile like crawlers, and two and four legged beasts that regenerate body parts.

Combining mythology with Jurassic Park, PULSE is an over the top action-packed thriller that will have readers hooked from start to finish as one escapade leads to another and another, etc as the story line never takes a breather. The Chess Team unit knows anyone of them can be turned into an expendable pawn as the mission comes before their individual lives. Readers will enjoy the adventures of the King and his “pieces” as they try to prevent a potential pandemic catastrophe.

Harriet Klausner

Salt And Silver-Anna Katherine

Salt And Silver
Anna Katherine
Tor, May 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780765363046

It was the innocence of idle affluent youth, but Allie and her friends conjured up an entrance to and from hell in the basement of Sally's Diner in Brooklyn. Feeling responsible but unsure how to close the portal permanently, Allie works at the diner feeding customers and insuring they are not on the menu of some beast as a snack.

Over the past six years since her folly, Allie has fought demons and argued with hunters. The one that frightens her the most is Ryan who blithely moved into the basement. Her door to hell vanishes, and other portals open and close throughout the city. Ryan and Allie finally stop bickering to team up to take the war into hell before hell takes it to earth.

Though urban romantic fantasy has flooded the market especially starring women turning from social deb to superheroine, fans will enjoy the latest entrant and her adventures in Brooklyn as she may not prove a tree grows in the largest borough, but demons do. Allie’s war with Ryan the hunter provides humorous asides to the fight they make to keep paranormal evil off the streets of the city. The couple turns Anna Katherine’s super entry into the subgenre into a fun thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Libyrinth-Pearl North

Pearl North
Tor, Jul 7 2009, $17.99
ISBN: 9780765320964

Every year the Eradicants, who believe the written word is evil, come to the Libyrinth to get a segment of books to burn in a bonfire. The Libyrarians believe the Ancients left the Libyrinth so that people can read land earn in order to keep civilization vibrant. Unfortunately, the Libyrinth only has two countries to guard the books and they have orders to sell books for food needed in the winter. They have nothing else of value to pay for sustenance.

The Libyrarian Selene, the clerk Haly who has the unique skill of hearing the books talk to her, and Claudia the servant leave to go to Ilysies in hope of getting help. Selene takes with her The Book of Nights containing the knowledge of the Ancients. The Eradicants want the tome to fulfill a prophecy and now have Haly, who can her the books talk, under their control. Their plan is to destroy all other knowledge except their Song which is their way of transmitting information. However, neither side appreciates Haly’s strength and special skill as she becomes to understand the enemy is not evil and her side is inflexible and heading towards annihilation. Haly hopes to get the word out to both sides of the conflict to just listen to one another.

Peal North’s world appears to be a former earth colony in which the Ancients were probably the aristocracy and the rest of the Eradicants slaves to them. Revolt led to the current rivalry over controlling knowledge. With nods to Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Orwell’s 1984, high school science fiction readers will appreciate Ms. North’s strong tale that shows miscommunication and misunderstanding the other side often leads to conflict; in this case a devastating civil war seems imminent unless the heroic Haly can pull off an Ancient miracle.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Grey Moon Over China-Thomas A. Day

A Grey Moon Over China
Thomas A. Day
Tor, May 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765321428

In 2027 the world environment has been poisoned to the point of no return and consequently the global economy stands on the verge of total collapse as alternate fuels have either failed or been ignored while the oil supply is nearing depletion. War over oil and water has made for strange bedfellows as for instance a Pacific Rim alliance ties Japan and California together in combat with much of the remaining mainland American states.

Army engineer Eduardo Torres finds the solution when he uncovers plans for a quantum battery that if shared would save the planet. Instead, he decides to keep the technology setting up his own “nation” by buying a mercury force. Following up on an abandoned plan to colonize space, Torres builds starships and enters a wormhole to the Holzstein System. However, he is not welcomed as another humanoid race and aliens attack his fleet.

This grim look at the near future paints a bleak horizon as the earth is consumed by the liquid wars. The cast is powerful and realistic as Darwinism wins over creationism with survival of the most diabolical. Torres and other key characters are not likable, but that is one of the key points of this gloomy cautionary tale in which Thomas A. Day lucidly insures his players are not romantic heroes. With a wild well written military in space clash of cultures that enhance the argument how sentient are we as a species if we commit increasingly faster pandemic suicide. GREY MOON OVER CHINA is a super science fiction thriller warning us that time is running out on mankind.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Stars Blue Yonder-Sandra McDonald

The Stars Blue Yonder
Sandra McDonald
Tor, Jul 21 2009, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765320414

When Chief Terry Myell died, he never anticipated coming back as a god; in fact he never expected to return. Resurrection aside, Terry knows his mission is to save humanity from extinction.

However, his family has a mixed reaction to his returning to them. His first wife looks and acts a zillion light-years older than he does. His grandchildren cannot understand how he meets them when they are unborn. His second wife is carrying his child, if mankind survives will begat his grandchildren. However, his spouse Commander Jodenny Scott is having a difficult time comprehending her dead husband Terry’s time travel explanation as to how he is here. He also explains the Flying Doctor alien is ready to exterminate mankind. As a fleet attacks the earth, Jodenny is marooned in Australia. Terry prays he can save her and humanity in that order though future history has told him otherwise.

The third extremely complex Stars military science fiction thriller (see THE OUTBACK STARS and THE STARS DOWN UNDER) is an incredibly exciting, fast-paced tale that will shock Sandra McDonald’s audience with its clever time travel spin brilliantly executed. The story line is fast-paced as Scot struggles with the return from the dead Terry who simply must save the world that he knows is destroyed. With echoes of the movie Fargo but in a science fiction adventure, THE STARS BLUE YONDER is a fabulous intricate entry to a strong saga as it may be too late to hold out for a hero even for someone with all the time in the world.

Harriet Klausner

Outcast-Cheryl Brooks

Cheryl Brooks
Sourcebooks Casablanca, Jun 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 1402218966

When his planet Zetith was destroyed, seventeen year old Lynxsander "Lynx" Dackelov survived, but was captured and sold at a slave auction. He became the slave to a horde of female slaves. The women at any time of day or night would enjoy his sexual prowess as he lives up to the legend of the men of Zetith. However, overly abused, he could no longer stand the smell of desire and became inefficient at sex; the women starved him and ridiculed his failure; eventually he became impotent. He was sold to a male owner who freed him after five years of service.

On Terra Minor, pregnant Bonnie Neurath runs a farm by herself. Her man Syler Halen deserted her stealing their money. She needs help on the farm especially with her baby due in a few months. A free man, Lynx arrives on Terra Minor but is broke. He accepts a job on Bonnie’s farm, but makes it clear he wants nothing to do with his boss because she is a female. Bonnie is attracted to Lynx and showers him with kindness while he performs his duties outstandingly. As he tries to keep his distance, he smells her desire and worse feels his own desire rising for the first time in years.

The fourth Cat Star Chronicles science fiction romance (see SLAVE, WARRIOR, and ROGUE) is a super entry due to the unique damaged goods hero, who puts quite a spin on being a Zetithian. The sex and the suspense come fairly late, but no one will care as the lead characters control the stage performing superbly. Bonnie is a strong nurturing individual, but the aptly titled OUTCAST owns the novel with his idiosyncrasies forged by abuse by women; he cannot even eat in front of another person. Cheryl Brooks is at the top of her game with this excellent entry that will have her fans purring for more.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Forbidden Desire-Carolyn Jewel

My Forbidden Desire
Carolyn Jewel
Forever, Jun 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446178242

Witch Alexandrine Marit has lived her life knowing her magical skills were limited. Thus, she will try anything to enhance her abilities including a cracking amulet that allegedly can heighten a mage’s power. When her brother Harsh the doctor appears talking on an I-phone, she reacts with anger and joy as she thought he died ten years ago. He explains he came to keep her safe and demands she acquiesce to accepting the protection from mageheld demon Xia.

Alexandrine is confused by what is going on in her life since she donned the amulet. She knows her bodyguard loathes all witches as that breed enslaves his species. In fact that is how Harsh “persuaded” Xia to guard his sister from her biological father, who wants the amulet. His predicament makes him even more furious because he is falling in love with his natural enemy.

MY FORBIDDEN DESIRE has a jewel of a premise that the author backs up with an exhilarating romantic urban fantasy story line starring two natural enemies. Readers will appreciate that the respective species imprints demand a witch and a demon are antagonistic enemies after generations of hostilities. Fans will wonder whether love can conquer hate as Carolyn Jewel provides a wonderful return to her paranormal world (see MY WICKED ENEMY).

Harriet Klausner

Street Magic-Caitlin Kittredge

Street Magic
Caitlin Kittredge
St. Martin's Jun 2 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780312943615

In London, sixteen year old Pete Caldecott met handsome mage Jack Winter. The punk rocker showed off his magical skills trying to impress the teen. However, Pete witnessed more than she wanted to see when a spirit he summoned killed Jack. Over time Pete assumed Jack used an illusion to fool her as magic is not physics since it does not exist.

A dozen years layer Detective Inspector Pete receives a tip about a kidnapped girl Bridget. The tip proves reliable, but the informant shocks the DI to her DNA core; somehow Jack is back or at least a heroin addicted version of him. He insists there is a parallel realm the Black. With several more abductions of children, Jack convinces Pete to cross over to fight against an evil kidnapper with paranormal power. She agrees to travel to the shadow realm and learn how to use spells if he detoxes

Leaving Nocturne City for now, Caitlin Kittredge proves she has STREET MAGIC with the super first Black London urban fantasy. Inspector Pete is a terrific center of gravity as a police detective who holds the eerie exciting story line together, but it is the dark gritty streets of London that she works enhanced by shadowy Jack that owns the tale. A sort of cross between Simon Green’s Nightside and Jim Butcher’s Dresden, sub-genre fans will appreciate will relish Ms. Kittredge’s view of a gloomy paranormal London.

Harriet Klausner

Jim Butcher: The Dresden Files: Storm Front- Adaptation by Mark Powers; illustrated by Ardian Syaf

Jim Butcher: The Dresden Files: Storm Front
Adaptation by Mark Powers; illustrated by Ardian Syaf
Del Rey, Jun 2009, $22.95
ISBN: 9780345506399

On Harry Dresden’s Earth, beings such as fairies, trolls, and vampires roam the planet. Wizards also exist, as Harry knows firsthand, being such a creature. Harry has listed himself in the yellow pages as the only in the open practicing wizard in the country. Harry has even helped the Chicago police on a case or two though most officers reject the arcane.

Harry is in bad standing with the White Council that governs wizards because he survived an incident in which he killed someone in self-defense using magic. He is under the Doom of Damocles in which if he breaks any rules, he will be executed. This makes his present situation a bit touchy. He is working a case involving the use of deadly magic that requires Harry to reconstruct the original spell in order to identify the murderer. If his watchdog who loathes him catches him performing an inkling of dark magic, he will be obliterated. Feeling he has no choice, Harry soon finds himself on the abyss by the dark magic he encounters.

This is a fine graphic comic book of the first Dresden urban fantasy originally released in 2000. Mark Powers’ story line feels fresh yet adheres nicely to the original thriller, but also seems so much darker; partly because of the Ardian Syaf arcane vision of Dresden’s Chicago. Fans of the saga especially of the TV series will relish Dresden goes comic book as this series converts superbly.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Calling-David Mack

The Calling
David Mack
Pocket, Jul 21 2009, $15.00
ISBN 9781416579922

In Sawyer, Pennsylvania, Tom Nash is gifted or cursed depending on your perspective with the ability to hear telepathically someone’s prayers. He feels a need that borders on obsession to follow-up on the call for help. Thus he drops whatever he is doing and goes to the person in need.

When he hears an eleven year old girl in New York City begging God to save her from her kidnappers, Tom knows he must find and rescue her. He leaves his pregnant wife and his job behind and travels to the Big Apple though he is unsure where the child is being held. Though some would say dumb luck, Tom believes he has been guided to a poster of missing Phaedra Doyle. This leads him to Phaedra’s despondent wealthy mom, the widow Anna in Brooklyn. He explains how he found her and she trusts him to help save her daughter while telling him she has been warned to keep law enforcement out or else. .

This is an interesting paranormal thriller starring an intriguing intrepid lead character who "hears" voices of prayers. The story line is fast-paced as Tom terrific courageously does what he believes is his calling in life when he just wants to stay in Pennsylvania with his family. The lack of explanation as to how the champion chooses his involvement and mutes the zillion prayers for divine intervention to keep from going certifiable (think of Rogue of the X-Men without the need to touch someone) detracts from an otherwise super thriller.
Harriet Klausner

Red Kiss-Deidre Knight

Red Kiss
Deidre Knight
Signet, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451226617

The Spartan warrior slave, River Kassandros, is the ultimate weapon as he can turn into any shape and is endowed with Ares’ berserker gift that is extremely useful in battle, which is his life. However during the revolt against their god Ares, River fought as a dagger only to be caught and thrown into the sea trapped in that shape forever (see the RED FIRE). His Spartan mates desperately search for him as they understand the curse he now will suffer eternally with his soul gone forever unless the right mortal frees him, but they fail to find him.

Several months later, River makes telepathic contact with psychically gifted mortal Emma Lowery. Attracted to his savior, River fears his emotions as he is unsure he can contain his berserker curse. Ares continues his assault on the Spartans and his efforts to regain control over River. Emma wants River, but knows to chase him could mean her death as he seems to be the focus of some powerful forces beyond her ken.

The second Gods of Midnight romantic fantasy is a terrific tale that once again will have readers believing in the Knight world where Gods and immortals intervene in the lives of expendable humans. The fast-paced story line is filled with plenty of action and passion. The overarching plot of the saga moves forward somewhat as Deirdre Knight provides an intriguing tale as his reason for being was protecting humanity, but now wants to focus his protection on one particular human.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 17, 2009

When Sparks Fly-Autumn Dawn

When Sparks Fly
Autumn Dawn
Love Spell, Jun 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505528025

On Polaris when their father died his three daughters Gem, Brandy and Xera took over the Spark tavern. Society on the mining planet is very restricted concerning behavior so the three Harris sisters are careful so that their reputations stay intact.

When Hyna Blue started drinking in the tavern, Gem realizes he did hard time as he has special cybernetic implants. She hires him though she assumes he will leave rather soon as he is a wanderer. However, her heated blood over boils whenever she is near Hyna. He feels the same but fears he will lose his cover as an aimless drifter concealing he is and undercover narcotics agent who believes The Spark is a major dealership.

This an excellent futuristic romantic urban Noir that grips the audience from the moment that Gem hires Hyna and never slows down as he works his case while falling in love. The heroine is a perfect Gem as she understands NO WORDS ALONE will explain how the drifter heats her blood with one look. Fans will enjoy this super science fiction romantic suspense as the undercover agent wants to be under the cover with the tavern owner.

Harriet Klausner

Tekgrrl-A.J. Mendon

A.J. Mendon
Leisure, Jun 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505527875

When she was twelve years old Mindy was sent to boarding school on another planet. Years later she returned to earth and ultimately obtained a mechanical engineering position with the super Elite Hands of Justice. Over time her mechanical brilliance has led her to be called TEKGRRL.

Almost thirty, she has recently suffered from headaches, bursts of recovered memories including a trip on a flying saucer, and the sudden appearance of telekinetic skills, something she never displayed in her three decades of living. She conceals her fears of a voice inside her head while her former teammate who is now the new Secretary for Superhero Affairs, Simon Leasure claims EHJ is a vigilante criminal unit.

The latest EHJ lighthearted superhero romance is faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive. Mindy is a wonderful focus of the tale as she struggles between her attraction to the enemy Simon while even more difficult and complex is her internal tussle with what happened when her parents sent her off world almost two decades ago and her related current awakening of superpowers. Readers will enjoy the exploits of TEKGRRL and her super love for Simon, who reciprocates her feelings, but feels strongly making their world safe comes first.

Harriet Klausner

The Sword-Edged Blade-Alex Bledsoe

The Sword-Edged Blade
Alex Bledsoe
Tor, Jun 30 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780765362032

Retired sword jock soldier, Eddie LaCrosse sets up a private investigative practice in the small-town of Neceda, Muscoida. Ie was run down before a recent flood further devastated the homes of these bottom feeders of society that make up this town. Eddie knows the wealthy prefer his office be in these crappy towns so no one can see them confer with him.

King Felix of Balaton hires Eddie to discreetly investigate the disappearance of his daughter Princess Lila and bring her home. Eddie knows the monarch’s trusted wizards failed, which is why the king turns to a bottom feeder like him. As he searches for the missing princess, Eddie’s childhood friend King Philip of Arentia pleads with him to investigate the brutal murder of his heir; his wife Queen Rhiannon is the only suspect. Both royal cases tie back to Eddie’s own tragic past that he tries to forget by hiding in the mud of a bottom feeder.

This is a terrific sword and sorcery noir starring a sleuth with issues that arise during his inquiries in spite of his efforts to keep them buried. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action as both case investigations are interesting. However it is the world Alex Bledsoe drew as described by Eddie for hire that makes for a fun mystery fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 16, 2009

In Over Her Head-Judi Fennell

In Over Her Head
Judi Fennell
Sourcebooks, Jun 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402220012

Although she owns a marina on the Jersey shore, Erica Peck suffers from hydrophobia ever since she nearly drowned as a child. When her former boyfriend Joey pushes her into the ocean to retrieve diamonds with sharks everywhere, she panics believing she is about to die. Instead the second son of the underwater King of the Mer Prince Reel Tritone saves her life.

Reel is attracted to the land dweller so he enables her to breathe in the water as he takes her on a tour of his home filled with friendly talking fish, nasty looking monstrosities and a weird colorful terrain. He especially enjoys her lung capacity "shell-fillers" and her in his third leg. Their mutual eyeballing of one another leads to hands on and a night of passion; with both wanting more trysts. However he is a royal from under the sea with responsibilities even if they are only as the spare while she has feared the sea for years.

With a gender bending of the movie Splash, IN OVER HER HEAD is a fun romantic fantasy starring two likable lead characters and a support cast like his pal Chum who makes the undersea kingdom seems real. The tale is fast-paced but somewhat distracted by an over abundance of watery humor that as individual puns are witty, but taken as a whole somewhat dampen the story line. Still Judi Fennell provides a fun under the sea romance.

Harriet Klausner

Albrim’s Curse-Trevis Powell

Albrim’s Curse
Trevis Powell
BlackWyrm Publishing, May 2009, $11.95
ISBN: 9780982006740
Chimney Ridge Ct
Louisville, KY 40299

As he has done at other villages recently, Lord Ferule’s heir Sir Garen arrives in Cobble to draft archers to hunt a new breed of bigger wolf, obviously created by the evil Quarg, who recently killed one human in Spicer. Master bowman Borel will lead the Cobble contingent of fourteen that includes his excited son Albrim who recently turned fifteen so has become a fighter’s age; half the town’s warriors are left behind to protect the villagers.

Sixteen days later, Albrim is bored having met no enemy. Word arrives that a werewolf has been part of the assault. Albrim and his dad rush back to Cobble to find a war zone. Borel is killed by the werewolf who also bites off Albrim’s arm before town leader Gran kills the evil beast with silver. Albrim is left in a wooded area near the cove of a giant, who takes him into his home, but ties up the ex archer to insure he cannot harm him when he changes. Albrim dubs the silent giant Mute who soon brings the Dwarf to the encampment. Dwarf places a special silver piece on Albrim to prevent the conversion; leaves him books on the were, and warns him hunters go after werewolves. Albrim who once dreamed of becoming like his dad who was the town’s best archer has begun a different adventure.

ALBRIM’S CURSE starts off as a typical medieval like fantasy, but takes a shocking exhilarating twist as the expected teen hero becomes Cursed. The cast is powerful as the audience will believe in werewolves, Cursed, spells, and much more, but obviously the despondent, angry Albrim and the silent brilliant communicator own the tale. Readers who enjoy a terrific refreshing twist to the coming of age hero fantasy will want to join Albrim’s journey to battle the Quarg as long as the lad wears the silver and Mute is nearby to kick butt. This book is pure magic, a special novel that enchants the audience

Harriet Klausner

Children of the Dawnland-Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear

Children of the Dawnland
Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear
Starscape (Tor), Jul 2009, $17.95
ISBN: 9780765320193

12,900 years ago twelve-year-old Twig is a girl living with the Blue Bear Clan of the People of the Dawnland. This is the end of the Ice Ago so the glaciers are melting and receding while rivers and lakes threaten to overflow. Twig’s mother is a Spirit Dreamer who can not see the future, and is not nearly as powerful as her daughter whose vivid visions include a ball falling from the sky destroying everything in its path. Riddle refuses to allow Twig to learn how to use her powers or tell anyone in the clan about them.

The clan elders of Baffalobeard Village are more worried about the Thornback people; Chief Nightcrow is destroying all villages in his path hoping his warriors will bring his clan to a safe place. He has the same mission as Twig as he believes a catastrophe from the sky is coming. Twig learns from Spirit Dreamer that she must find the dreamer Cobia who is the last hope to enable the clan to survive.

Taking place during the last ice Age, glaciers are everywhere in what today is the Great Lakes region. The clans are in trouble with a shortage of animals to hunt. Twig eventually tells the village elders that after the catastrophe occurs they will have a place where they will not only survive they will thrive. Nightcrow is determined to find them before they do and after the event will settle in the land of his visions. Readers will appreciate this terrific prehistoric supernatural thriller that combines some fantasy inside a realistic portrayal of survival.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ice Song-Kirsten Imani Kasai

Ice Song
Kirsten Imani Kasai
Del Rey, May 19 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345508812

Engineer Sorykah Minuit is a Trader whose gender changes periodically without her control of the switch. She currently works on a low end job on an ice drilling sub. When she finishes her tour, she goes to meet her infant twins Ayeda and Leander and their nanny Nels in the dangerous ice cap town Ostara. However, they fail to show up.

To keep from freezing she enters a Somatics’ bar; a place unsafe for Traders as the hybrid human-beasts prefers no mingling with outsiders. Rava an octopus-lady takes her into her zone while informing a distraught Sorykah that the Trader Matuk the Collector abducted them in his quest to dissect unique individuals seeking a cure for his repulsive mentally disturbed daughter the W ild Wood Beast Radhe. Sorykah goes into Erun Forest to rescue her children, but switches gender losing most of the essence that made her who she was including memories of being a caring mother.

ICE SONG is an exciting futuristic science fiction thriller that extrapolates modern day genetic engineering and HG Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau with a brilliant gender-memory twist. The story line is fast-paced yet the three prime locales are vivid in a dark gloomy way as readers will anticipate pending doom. Sorykah is a terrific lead protagonist who changes from hard worker to desperate distraught mother to confused male and does so in a believable manner. Kirsten Imani Kasai provides a fascinating well written cautionary tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Unscratchables-Cornelius Kane

The Unscratchables
Cornelius Kane
Scribner, Jul 7 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9781416596417

The dominant sentient species on this world are felines and canine. These two groups are natural enemies and keep as far away from each other as possible. Bull Terrier police officer Crusher McNash loathes cats especially Siamese because he was once a POW and they were his torturing tormenters.

His latest case involves the death of two rottweilers who were torn into shreds. The brass believes a feline is the killer, which brings the Feline Bureau of Investigation into the inquiry. To his chagrin Crusher partners with Siamese Cassius Lap who has some counter theories to the homicides. The two cops are at a fight in which the feline contender goes up in height and weight and easily takes down his opponent. There is a link between the fighter and the killer but anyone with information is quickly killed. The answers lie at the highest levels of power; way beyond the reach of either Crusher or Cassius, but as allies and perhaps even friends, they might be able to ferret out the traitors, if they live long enough to achieve their determined goal.

There have been quite a few mysteries in which animals communicate with humans and other animals as well as the Planet of the Apes, but THE UNSCRATCHABLES uses the premise of no homo sapiens on Kane’s world though tempered by Anthropomorphism. Instead the dominant species destroying their planet are the canines and felines. The protagonists have human traits used to lampoon the two legged beasts, but there also are clear psychological differences between the felines and canines. The investigation is cleverly devised so that the natural enemies must truly partner if they are to solve the case; even then it may prove that the higher ups are too protected (sounds familiar). Readers will enjoy the adventures of Crusher and Cassius in this satirical crime caper.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Norse Code-Greg van Eekhout

Norse Code
Greg van Eekhout
Bantam, May 19 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780553592139

Civilization everywhere is in total collapse with no hope for any survival. In that environs the Valkyrie expecting Ragnarok apply NORSE CODE genetic testing to choose the army of the dead.

Due to a tragedy that left her sister dead, Valkyrie perfect warrior Mist nee Kathy Carlisle no longer believes in the Ragnarok plan. Instead she does the unexpected by simply vanishing. At the same time she dispears from the Odin project group’s Valkyrie sect, the deity Hermod investigates signs of the end of days in California. He and Mist meet and travel to the afterlife of Helheim for differing reasons. Whereas she wants to rescue her sibling, he wants to rescue a world. Apocalypse increasingly seems imminent as the unlikely pair try to prevent the end but increasingly they expect to fail. Instead ancient prophecies are being manipulated by conniving Gods trying to regain the lost power they once yielded.

NORSE CODE is a fresh combining of genome research with Norse mythology. Mist and Hermod are a terrific pairing as she is on a personal quest no longer believing in prophesies, Gods, or science; while he is a nothing God who when he had some power he still was in the bottom rung of the pantheon food chain. This couple only has a world to save starting perhaps with her sister. Mindful of the Marvel comic books Thor premise, Greg van Eekhout provides his imprint with this terrific mythological science fiction thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Burning Skies-David J. Williams

The Burning Skies
David J. Williams
Bantam, May 19 2009, $14.00
ISBN 9780553385427

In 2110 the North American Empire and the Eurasian Coalition are at war over who controls the asteroids revolving around earth. Both sides use cyber-warfare using “razors” to more than just hack the other side’s systems. They also use ground “mech” warriors to kill the enemy. Peace seems out of reach because of the value of the inhabited asteroids. Neither side will compromise as that is a sign of weakness. Instead allies are distrusted because the golden rule is to do unto others before they do unto you; treachery is the norm as the hostilities go back and forth between a Cold and a Hot war.

U.S. counter cyber terrorism agent Claire Haskell has learned the hard way that a third group Autumn Rain has resurfaced with a new plan to rule humanity by destroying the Net, which should heat up the war between the alliances. They also plan to assassinate leaders starting with the American president. At least that is what Agent Haskell’s memories insist will happen after she was betrayed from inside her agency and her lover is dead due to that treachery. She is not sure her recall is accurate or been placed in her mind because everyone knows Autumn Rain was eradicated (see THE MIRRORED HEAVENS).

The constant shifting viewpoints lead to a difficult futurisitc science fiction thriller to follow, but also enhances the concept of Machiavellian betrayals and treachery by friends as a normal way of life; trust no one not even mom. The story line is action-packed moving from the moon to the earth and in between and back as Claire and others play a deadly game of chess with the grandmaster not in sight. Fans of the first tale will enjoy this early twnety-second thriller, but newcomers need to read THE MIRRORED HEAVEN as much of what occurs in the exciting THE BURNING SKIES is built from that initial foundation.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Unseen-Alexandra Sokoloff

The Unseen
Alexandra Sokoloff
St. Martin's, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312384708

Duke University psychology professors Laurel MacDonald and Brendan Cody uncover the results of a study done five decades ago by the Rhine parapsychology lab at Folger House. Apparently, researchers were looking into poltergeist activity, but what the found was concealed. Eerily those who participated either died soon after, vanished without a trace or went insane. In fact Laurel’s uncle was one of the parapsychologists, but he went stark crazy.

Laurel and Brandon see the data as an opportunity for them to make a name at Duke. They persuade two students with indications of extrasensory skills to be monitored while spending time at Folger House. However, almost as soon as they enter, something evil begins an assault; Laurel and Brandon fear their ambition may have awakened the dormant cause behind what happened in 1965, but each wonders if the UNSEEN is human or something else.

THE UNSEEN is a super thriller that has the audience hooked almost from the onset and maintains that grip throughout. Readers will wonder whether something from the paranormal or from the psychological world is occurring. The two investigators are perfect foibles as their ambition, naivete, and desires collide with the UNSEEN inside the infamous Folger House.

Harriet Klausner

In the Flesh-Livia Dare

In the Flesh
Livia Dare
Zebra, Jun 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420100907

For five years, the daughter of the Army’s top general, Sapphire the concubine has been numero uno with the King of Sari. However, her popularity with the monarch means Sapphire has a powerful enemy, the queen orders her out of the palace. Her exile to her lavish home includes servants so Sapphire feels good that she no longer is a sex toy.

Crown Prince Wulfric of warring neighboring D'Ashier arrives at her home badly injured. She realizes who he is and once he heals they make love. He wants her in his home, but she is loyal to her nation. However, he rejects her refusal and takes her to his palace where he makes her his top concubine over her second objection. However, as they fall in love, Wulf begins to wonder who the prisoner is.

The first Sapphire other world romantic thriller is a fabulous tale starring a delightful courageous heroine and the stubborn Prince she conquers. Sub-genre fans will appreciate the fast-paced story line from the moment that the Sari Queen exiles her greatest rival into an affluent banishment and never slows down as the heroine is abducted by the royal she saves. With vivid detail to her exotic world that feels like an entry found in the Arabian Nights, Livia Dare provides a strong opening entry in what looks like a wonderful saga.

Harriet Klausner

The Widow Season-Laura Brody

The Widow Season
Laura Brody
Berkley, Jun 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425227657

Sarah McConnell sees her husband wearing his Yankees cap at the grocery store. She is shocked as David drowned kayaking three months ago though his body was never found. Later Sarah senses David is near and is not scared because she knows he will not harm her. She realizes as she sees him on the couch, she is not mourning him, but what they lost in the last few years of their marriage. He tells her they need a revival like what happened to him on the river when the storm suddenly hit and tipped over his kayak. He got to shore and made it back to their cabin, but felt it was too late to call Sarah. Instead he started painting.

Her brother-in-law Nate and Sarah are there for each other in grief but soon make love, but she is upset in the morning filled with guilt. Sarah comes to the cabin to see David and pick up paintings for a show a gallery owner is putting on of his works. David is thankful Sarah has not given up on him while Sarah is thankful she has a second chance to spend time with David until he asks her if he is dead to her. David wants Sarah to join him in a warm spot, but will she?

The premise of this fine paranormal contemporary, his visiting his widow after his death, is intriguing and well executed so that readers will believe David came back. The cast is extremely strong especially the lead characters and the brother. Though Sarah’s affair with her brother-in-law is intended for the audience to understand two grieving people finding some solace with one another; instead it feels more of a shocker device to upset David. THE WIDOW SEASON is a wonderful relationship drama as a couple drifting apart in life reached out to each other in death.

Harriet Klausner

Touched by Light-Catherine Spangler

Touched by Light
Catherine Spangler
Berkley, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425226377

Adam Masters needs the help of Dr. Julia Reynolds on his quest to find a sentinel. Her precognitive skills are critical as they enhance his extrasensory gifts. However, Adam also knows the highly probable cost to her if he loses to his deadly enemy; Julia will die horribly.

Julia wants nothing to do with Adam or any man for that matter as she struggles with knowing the animal who raped her has just been freed from prison. However, she understands Adam’s plea and reluctantly agrees to help him. Adam feels guilty that he may be endangering this kind woman he is attracted to while Julia struggles between her fear of the male beast and her attraction to her new teammate.

The latest Sentinel “Touched” paranormal romantic suspense (see TOUCHED BY FIRE and TOUCHED BY DARKNESS) is an enjoyable thriller starring two interesting lead characters. Julia is especially a fresh face as she is at times is out right nasty towards the hero though she likes him, desires him, and supports his goal. Adam is somewhat similar in personality to the Sentinel heroes of the previous tales Damien Morgan and Luke Paxton. Fans will enjoy this fine entry yet ponder why Julia’s precognitive skills work so well to help her and Adam have a chance at surviving his quest, but failed to warn her about the rapist. Catherine Spangler provides an engaging tale in her strong Sentinel saga.

Harriet Klausner,

Immortal Outlaw-Lisa Hendrix

Immortal Outlaw
Lisa Hendrix
Berkley, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425228340

Four hundred years ago Cwen the sorceress cursed marauding Viking warriors; the cursed ones live half of a day as human and the other half as a beast; each being a different animal. Ivo is a daytime eagle (see IMMORTAL WARRIOR); Brand is a daytime bear, Ari is a nighttime raven; and Steinarr the Proud spends his night roaring as a lion while roaming Nottingham Forest as the king of the beasts. He avoids human contact as much as possible as he knows they are a treacherous lot.

When he meets half-siblings Marian and Robin Fitzwalter, he learns they seek a concealed treasure that will prove the lad is the rightful owner of his family’s lands. Marian asks Steinarr to help them, but his distrust of humans leads to his refusal. She kisses the lion king and implies passion will follow. Though he expects betrayal, he helps them even as a legend of the outlaw Robin Hood and his band of merry men grows. As Marian falls in love with Steinarr; Cwen the sorceress plans to kill the half beast.

The second Immortal Brotherhood medieval romantic fantasy uses a spin on the Robin Hood- Lady Marian legend to tell the tale of Steinarr. The story line is filled with action in Nottingham as the Viking King of the Beasts falls in love with the legendary Lady Marian while Cwen is coming to destroy both of them and the Merry Men. The audience will relish Lisa Hendrix’s enjoyable entry while wondering if literary greats like Sir Gawain and Ivanhoe will join future half beasts.
Harriet Klausner

Witch Fury-Anya Bast

Witch Fury
Anya Bast
Berkley, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425228692

After watching the woman attend the funeral of her foster mother, Duskoff International CEO Stefan Faucheux kidnaps the grieving Sarafina Connell and her dog Gossett. He insists she is a fire witch; she laughs at him thinking a madman has abducted her. However, his assertion has her thinking back to when her insane biological mom died in a fire.

A coven led by earth witch Theo Winters storms Faucheaux’s compound. They take Sarafina with them as their prisoner. Theo and his cohorts assume she is in cahoots with the vile CEO. Sarafina informs her hosts that her former host had Bai an Atrika demon with him. The coven panics because Bai should never have been able to cross the barrier between the mortal and demon realms while also wondering why they are interested in Sarafina. Theo knows deep in his gut why he is interested in Sarafina besides her connection to Faucheux though he denies it even to himself.

The final Elemental Witches urban romantic fantasy (see WITCH HEART, WITCH FIRE, and WITCH BLOOD) is an excellent finish to a strong saga. The story line is action packed from just after Sarafina buries her foster mother and never slows down as the major strings (mostly paranormal) from the previous three tales are tied up nicely. Though newcomers would be better off starting with the previous novels to better understand the overarching plot that WITCH FURY closes, Anya Bast is at her best with the final Elemental Witch thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Baour: Strands of Death-Dirk Vandereyeken

Baour: Strands of Death
Dirk Vandereyeken
Blackwyrm, Apr 2009, $11.95
ISBN: 9780982006726

In the village Barnsby, Baour the necromancer stands trial for defying the Laws of God by performing death magic. The judge Reald, who is actually a scribe but temporarily appointed in charge of the trial of the century, asks the dark mage how he pleads. Baour shocks the judge, the villagers in attendance and the three priests when he proclaims he is guilty. Reald explains that the King’s Law means death if the court agrees with his statement and that he should reconsider his plea; Baour confidently sates he is guilty but will be freed by the trial’s end as he insists he is not bound by Gealius Divine authority; the three priests elderly Eldried, middle age Ignetius and young Therionald are insulted and say so.

The first witness is the witch Esmeralda who believes Baour killed her only friend Ewella. She soon explains how the necromancer became her lover, is the most powerful string manipulator she knows, and wasforced by Baour to testify how she broke the law when she brought back Ewella back from the dead. Next on the witness stand is Roaldus the tailor who also places Baour in a mixed light of death and yet no evil. The trial continues.

This super fantasy legal thriller is filled with twists and spins that even Baour did not always anticipate while he orchestrated his trial is a fantastic refreshing tale. The story line is character driven as the witnesses tells what they know of the accused and in between Baour adds to the picture. With a great final twirl that will stun the audience in spite of being interwoven throughout the enjoyable tale, fans will appreciate Dirk Vandereyeken’s excellent one sitting saga.

Harriet Klausner

Bone Dance-Emma Bull

Bone Dance
Emma Bull
Orb (Tor), Jul 7 2009, $15.95
ISBN: 9780765321732

The nuclear war between the two American continents changed the world dramatically as the aftermath populations in major cities went from seven digits to three digits or less. Yet humanity somewhat someway sort of survived as civilization evolved in a post apocalyptic world; though devolved might be more accurate.

In that new world order in Minnesota, Sparrow works the night Fair stock exchange as a trader. His specialty is pre-nuke videos and CDs that are rare. As a hustler Sparrow knows what to avoid and when to get out. Thus his being wanted by two rival Horsemen surprises him as he knows to stay away from those powerful telepaths who changed the planet when they caused the war. Still in spite of his efforts to simply survive by selling Big Bang ticket items, the androgynous Sparrow is caught for having information on the Horsemen. They separately are coming for him while working on his mind before he can sell to the highest bidder.

This is a reprint of an enjoyable 1991 young adult post apocalyptic chronicle. The story line is fast-paced, but Sparrow makes the tale work as he has adapted to the new world order of surviving by selling the pre-nuke merchandise before he gets caught up in the Horsemen scenario. The tale holds up nicely as Emma Bull used refreshing spins like the war of the Americas. Readers (and not just “technophiles”) who enjoy a tense post nuclear world thriller will want to peruse Sparrow’s saga of survival.

Harriet Klausner

The Gods of Amyrantha-Jennifer Fallon

The Gods of Amyrantha
Jennifer Fallon
Tor, Jul 21 2009, $27.95
ISBN 9780765316837

The Ice Duchess of Lebec, wife of the Kingdom of Glaeba's heir Duke Stellan and renowned ancient Amyranthan scholar Arkady Desean determines that the immortal Tide Lords must die as they will never stop their efforts to take control of the world. As she ponders how does a mortal kill an immortal, the kingdom’s spymaster Declan Hawkes tests one scheme after another to destroy the Tide Lords.

As Declan's efforts fail, he hides his admiration and desire for Arkady. Meanwhile Tide Lord Cayal courts Arkady while still considering suicide as he has contemplated since the kingdom tried hanging him (see THE IMMORTAL PRINCE). Increasingly the Tide Lord created human-beasts Crasii are secretly defying their masters while the Tide Lords are preparing to walk the earth as its rulers once again..

The second Tide Lords fantasy thriller is overall an exhilarating entry though the overarching theme does not move forward that much. The story line is loaded with subplots in which the best ones involve the big schemes of the Time Lords and their opponents. Some fluff like events in the harem feel underneath the prime level so it only serve as a detractor. Still THE GODS OF AMYRANTHA is a fine entry as the confrontation is coming.

Harriet Klausner

Blue Moon-Alyson Noel

Blue Moon
Alyson Noel
St. Martin’s, Jul 2009, $9.95
ISBN: 9780312532765

Ever and her entire family died in a car cash but the six hundred years old Immortal Damen brought her back to life by making her an Immortal too. They have loved one another for centuries, but each time they get close to each other, his wife Drina kills Ever. She reanimates; he finds her; they renew their love and his wife murders her. The cycle seemed endless until now when Ever changes the triangular interrelation dynamics by killing Drina.

A new student enters the night school; Ever instinctively distrusts Roman with his bonhomie and surface good will thoughts. Damen becomes ill and when he recovers he treats Ever as an enemy and a stalker. The student body dissolves their differences and become one group who loathe Ever. She knows somehow Roman is behind the animosity and believes he is an Immortal. As Damen begins to age and die, Ever journeys to Summerland, the dimension between dimensions, seeking a cure for her eternal beloved. There she learns she can go back in time to save her family. As she decides what to do, she vows no matter what she will save Damon and reverse the aging process.

BLUE MOON, the second Immortals saga (see EVERMORE) is an outstanding teen fantasy in the tradition of Kelly Armstrong and Stephanie Meyers. Ever struggles with becoming a pariah at school and cope with Damen’s dire health problems and she is a firecracker who intends to obtain the knowledge needed to save her beloved and return the student body back to the normal rivalries and bickering. She has several obstacles to overcome starting with her lack of experience with what to do and no one to turn to that she feels she can trust; adding to her issues is one wrong choice means tragedy.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 11, 2009

Skinwalker-Faith Hunter

Faith Hunter
Roc, Jul 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0451462807

In 1962 vampires were outed when Marilyn Monroe was caught trying to turn the president of the United States, but instead the Secret Service staked her. The press learned of the incident and follow-up investigations led to the knowledge that vampires exist. Not long afterward, real witches were revealed as genuine. Vampires do not possess the same civil rights as mortals have; legislation is being proposed to make the vampires adapt their culture to the masses; which would prohibit the practice of owning blood slaves and indentured blood servants amongst other differences.

Jane Yellowrock, a skinwalker of Cherokee descent, can change into any animals she chooses; her preference is the panther, the form of Beast whose soul resides in her body. She is stronger and faster than a human and she hunts rogue (insane) vamps as a slayer. In New Orleans, ancient vampire Katherine Fontaneau, Madame Katie of Katie's Ladies, hires her to kill a powerful rogue vampire who is committing genocide against his species. Jane follows the murderous scent in her human and panther bodies, but Beast believes the predator is not a vampire, but instead a liver-eater who is much more dangerous than vampires or witches combined.

Beast and Jane have their own chapters which emphasizes their different values and perspective, which is key to believing that two essences share the same body as opposed to the heroine having multiple personality disorder. Their differences are fascinating and at time often amusing as each come to a scenario with a different agenda similar to that of the comedy All of Me starring Martin-Tomlin, but Jane-Beast are in a lethal world. The killer is super while Jane and Beast feel they are always one corpse behind. With a great unique premise on outing the supernatural, Faith Hunter gives her Rogue Mage Thorn St. Croix a respite as she starts a super new and thrilling urban fantasy series.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Loch-Steve Alten

The Loch
Steve Alten
Tor, Apr 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 076536302X

Marine biologist Zach Wallace is on a National geographic quest to find the famous recluse the Sargasso Sea giant squid when tragedy strikes. He is fortunate to survive though he comes out of the calamity with feelings of Aquaphobia not a good thing for marine biologist and dumped by his fiancée Lisa. He is unsure what is next for him when he is asked to come home. Though he would prefer not returning to his birthplace in Scotland as he remains angry with his father Angus for cheating on his mother who took him to live with her in NYC seventeen years ago, Zach has no choice.

His dad is on trial for killing his business partner John Cialini, Jr. Angus claims he is innocent. He admits they had a fight and he punched John who fell into Loch Ness when something in the water killed his partner. John’s wealthy and influential family want blood and England quietly since the terrorist attacks has reinstated capital punishment. Zach investigates his father’s claim as do a zillion tourists, adrenaline freaks, scientists, and the media as the Wallace murder case becomes the latest crime of the century. Soon human body parts partially eaten wash ashore, which adds to the Nessy seekers.

This is an enjoyable Loch Ness thriller filled with action. The story line is fast-paced from the misadventures in the Sargasso Sea to the mass of people in the hero’s way at Loch Ness. Zach knows he must overcome his feelings of inadequacy and his fear of the water if he is to save his estrange dad’s life. Although the Scottish enunciations add a sense of place, I personally find it distracting from what is otherwise another winning watery adventure tale (see the MEG saga).

Harriet Klausner

Undead and Unwelcome-MaryJanice Davidson

Undead and Unwelcome
MaryJanice Davidson
Berkley, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 0425227731

The vampire king and queen, newlyweds Eric Sinclair and Betsy Taylor feel obligated to accompany the corpse of werewolf Antonia back to his New England-based Wyndham Pack since he died saving her undead life. They leave the twin Cities for the Cape with Betsy grieving and feeling survivor guilt while her spouse fears a cross paranormal species war is coming.

50,000 plus howling werewolves scream for their blood so the werewolf council demands an accounting as to why one of their own died protecting a vampire. In St. Paul, Betsy’s half sister Laura fears for her sibling’s life and being the daughter of the devil plans to take action against her enemies. The Minnesota royal supporters struggle to keep her from going over the deep end and causing the hostilities to heat up which Eric hopes to prevent from happening. Alas adding to the cross paranormal mess is the royals’ legal ward of her infant half-brother BabyJon who has fangs flying everywhere; hell even Eric who did not want to be a daddy for a few more centuries is over the edge when it comes to the baby.

The latest Undead and … tale is a fast-paced wild ride filled with much darker but as hilarious humor as its predecessors. Now two years as the queen, Betsy still struggles with the intra and inter etiquette between the supernatural species as well as with humans and vamps; she especially struggles with those who pee and those who never urinate (don’t ask what is left). The story line is loaded with off beat zaniness as Eric expects an unwelcome greeting in Cape Cod while St. Paul is out of control. Betsy puts the potential cross species war in proper perspective: her shoes have no scratches so far.

Harriet Klausner

The Shore-Robert Dunbar

The Shore
Robert Dunbar
Leisure, Jul 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 084396166X

Edge Harbor is a small seaside town that gets its resources from the tourists during the summer; in winter the place is almost like Wall Street on a Sunday as it is practically deserted with only locals residing there. Barry Hobbs, a stranger arrives in town in the winter. He has been tracking for months a young man Perry and he intends to take him alive to a place where he can receive help. Although the town is empty, Barry finds it impossible to ascertain where Perry is hiding. The lad is holding Stella hostage or it seems as if he is.

A woman’s body washes up on the shore with her back savagely torn to pieces and her car having claw marks ripped into the metal. Barry knows his prey is holed up in town, but he remains ignorant that someone else is hunting Perry and Stella; that predator has no problem with collateral damage even eradicating a town. Officer Kit Lonigan joins forces with Barry after he explains why he seeks Perry though she finds his tale implausible: thatis until the truth slaps her in the face. She wants to kill Perry, but Barry is on a mission to take Perry to a safe place; that if they survive a hurricane and the unknown apparently inhuman adversary.

Robert Dunbar knows how to scare his readers into leaving the lights on especially while we are sleeping. THE SHORE is gothic in many respects with a semi deserted town cut off by a surging hurricane. Barry is on a mission he believes strongly in as he risks his life to accomplish it. Kit‘s needs are simpler as she just wants to save her town by killing the peril. Character driven yet filled with action, Mr. Dunbar provides a terrifying horror thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Amazon Ink-Lori Devoti

Amazon Ink
Lori Devoti
Juno, May 26 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439154274

A decade ago, her Amazon tribe killed her newborn boy because of his gender; irate with the priestess whom she believed killed her child and outraged by the silence of her warrior band of sisters, Melanippe Saka does the unthinkable and leaves. She takes her daughter Harmony with her; and is pleased when her warrior mom and priestess grandma leave with them.

Mel opens up a tattoo parlor in Madison, Wisconsin. Her idyllic life ends when someone dumps the murdered corpses of two Amazonians on her doorstep; each on a different date. Mel knows someone has given her a warning that she is the target of an unknown predator. She fears for her family especially her teenage daughter, but wonders if it is the priestess, rogue warriors, or someone even more devious. Unsurprisingly, the cops suspect her, but surprisingly her former tribe also suspects her. All this is going on with the vital need being to hire someone; preferably a female, for the shop.

This is an interesting urban fantasy starring a courageous amazon whose fumbling investigation seems apropos for an amateur sleuth as she is like a bull in a china shop once she begins her bungled inquiry. The story line is fast-paced but Mel makes it work as her actions bring the fantasy elements especially the nomadic Amazons alive and well in Madison. With a fabulous late twist, Lori Devoti sets up further AMAZON INK thrillers.

Harriet Klausner

Wildfire-Sarah Micklem

Sarah Micklem
Scribner, Jul 2009, $26.00
ISBN 9780743265249

The slave Firethorn the healer, precognitive sheath and bedmate to her owner is hit by lightning while following her master Sire Galan though she knows she disobeyed his explicit order she wait for his return. Firethorn assumes the god Ardor Wildfire struck her visage; her healing is slow and painful while her face is off center and her memory and speech spotty and incoherent. Additionally she has gained an eerie skill of seeing shades.

Although a bit upset with his bounded healer for disobeying him Sire Galan remains attracted to Firethorn, but has doubts about her unbecoming behavior just before his enemy King Arkhyios Corvus abducts her from the battlefield. Soon after the monarch leads his soldiers in battle against the loyalists of Queenmother Caelum, who wants to take the throne form him. His side contains her vicious Wolf warriors, but he flees across the mountains guided by Firethorn’s dreams to the haven Lambanein

The sequel to FIRETHORN is an entertaining fantasy as the intrepid Firethorn continues to grow while undergoing further adventures. The story line is action-packed starting with the heroine’s disobedience, but is not quite as fast-paced as the previous novel because there is information overload describing the Gods. Still readers will enjoy WILDFIRE as “the Gods Must Be Crazy” to encourage the latest human fatal mistakes.

Harriet Klausner

By Heresies Distressed-David Weber

By Heresies Distressed
David Weber
Tor, Jul 2009, $27.95
ISBN 9780765315038

For eight centuries plus on Safehold, the Church of God Awaiting has brutally censored technology. However, recently cybernetic avatar Merlin Athrawes as part of his job to protect the king of Charis introduced technological advances that enabled the island kingdom to accomplish the impossible, defeat the Church.

However, the Church has not run the world with an iron fist for eight hundred years without adapting. Its operatives steal the enemies weapons to mass produce them, encourage quislings to assassinate the adversary’s leadership, and buy mercenaries to massacre rebels and civilians alike. The Kingdom of Charis may find its new freedom not long lasting as the Church of God Awaiting begins a concerted counter insurgency.

The sequel to BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER, BY HERESIES DISTRESSED is a fantastic science fiction political thriller. The Church demonstrates why it has succeeded for eight centuries with its stealing of the enemy’s war technology as well as the usual stirring up the masses with a minor social issue (straight out of the Republican Party playbook) and supplement that with assassins and terrorists (straight out of the Taliban play book to bring hell on earth). The monarchy and their allies cannot agree on anything except their opposition to the Church (straight out of the Democratic Party’s humongous tent strategy that invites all to join to get elected but fail to agree on solutions). The cast is solid though with the exception of Merlin and to a lesser degree the King of Charis none stand out; this especially enhances the saga as part of the Church’s long term strategy is facelessness except for God as much as possible. David Weber is at his best with this strong profound and relevant look at political plotting.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Affinity Bridge-George Mann

The Affinity Bridge
George Mann
Tor, Jul 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780765323200

In 1901 London, automatons have taken over most of the manual labor replacing humans. In that environs British Museum anthropologist Sir Maurice Newbury and his assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes investigate the crash of a zeppelin piloted by a cyborg in which pilot error is statistically impossible yet in this case somehow appears plausible.

At the same time, a plague is spreading throughout the city’s poorest sectors turning people into zombies. These revenants pose a major threat of destroying the British Empire from within. An expert on the occult, Maurice with Veronica’s able help connects the two incidents in between Earl Grey time.

THE AFFINITY BRIDGE is an odd alternate earth historical thriller that combines elements of horror, science fiction and mystery in a London at the start of the twentieth century filled with robot and zombies; yet in some ways sort of remains the same as our earth as there is always time for a bit of tea. That combination adds some realism to the story line, but tea for two is fun for the participants however can be tedious to the reader. Still filled with plenty of blood, the occult and automatons, George Mann provides his audience with overall an enjoyable tale of a London out of control except for the tea time outs that seem mindful of Holmes-Watson.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 4, 2009

World’s End-Mark Chadbourn

World’s End
Mark Chadbourn
PYR, May 26 2009, $15.98
ISBN: 9781591027393

Archeologist Jack Churchill knows he has failed to move on as his grief over the suicide death of his girlfriend Marianne two years ago haunts him whether he is awake or sleeping as he wonders what he could have done different. Clients and peers assume solicitor Ruth Gallagher has her act together but she hides her fears with a cloak of confidence that she knows is a sham.

Church and Ruth meet when they come to the aid of a mugging victim under London’s Albert Bridge. However, when they see the hideous culprit, both faint. Each wants to forget what happened blaming it on an out of control imagination fueled by loneliness and fear, but neither can ignore the truth especially after software designer and total stranger Laura duSantiago sends an email insisting she can explain the eerie bridge incident. On the way to see her they are attacked by a creature similar to the mugger. An unkempt hippie Tom (Learmont) rescues them and explains the earth is returning to its roots when demons and other mythological characters roamed freely as the Age of Reason is ending. The trio sans Tom and two others forge an unlikely counterinsurgency the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons in an effort to locate four artifacts from before time to liberate the incarcerated gods, who normally could not care less about humanity and if freed may do nothing, but remain the only hope mankind has of surviving the evil invasion.

The first book of The Age of Misrule is a terrific urban fantasy thriller that brings Celtic mythology into modern day London. The story line is fast-paced from the opening encounter at the bridge and never slows down as the champions are on the run. The keys to the opening gamut are major plots are completed though the next tale is set up and the quintet has flaws that make each unlikely heroes and poor choices for membership on a fantastic five team. Readers will enjoy this fine beginning and look forward to more malice from Mark Chadbourne.

Harriet Klausner