Monday, November 30, 2009

Smolder-Melina Morel

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

A Tapestry of Spells-Lynn Kurland

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 28, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Sleepless-Charlie Huston

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

The Gathering Storm-Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Freak-Philip Henry

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Beyond the Night-Joss Ware

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Jane Bites Back-Michael Thomas Ford

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Mercury Falls-Robert Kroese

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Starfist: Double Jeopardy-David Sherman and Dan Cragg

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wings of Creation-Brenda Cooper

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Destroyer of Worlds-Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Vintage Soul-David Niall Wilson

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Flowers for Elvis-Julia Schuster

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Doppelganger-Laura Resnick

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

The Spirit Lens-Carol Berg

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Coldheart Canyon-Clive Barker

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

A Young Man Without Magic-Lawrence Watt-Evans

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

The Discworld Graphic Novels-Terry Pratchett

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Metal Gear Solid 2 – Sons of Liberty-Raymond Benson

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Hunting Julian-Jacquelyn Frank

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blood Cross-Faith Hunter

Blood Cross
Faith Hunter
Roc, Jan 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463074

Skinwalker Jane Yellowrock is the last of her kind; a Cherokee shapeshifter who shares her body with the Beast of a mountain lion as she hunts down rogue vampires. Currently she resides in New Orleans. Her best friend powerful earth witch Molly and her BFF’s two young kids Angie and Evan are staying in her place while Molly’s spouse Big Evan is in Brazil with Hurricane Ada hitting the city, but at level 2 is no Katrina or Rita; still they wait out the storm together.

Jane has a contract with the New Orleans Vampire Council to kill rogue master vampires who break the laws of the undead. However, the head of the council grieving Leo Pellistier hates Jane blaming her for the death of his son when she killed the walker who took over the body decades ago. He almost burns down her home with the two children inside shocking his four young vampire allies. Meanwhile Jane hunts a rogue as assigned to her by the Council as one of their own has broken the law; unaware her efforts might lead to civil war amongst the vampire factions and cross species war between the witches and the vampires.

The second Yellowrock urban fantasy noir stars a unique kick butt heroine whose tough edges are softened by Molly and her children. The story line is fast-paced and the Faith Hunter version New Orleans is vivid and genuine even with vamps running amok. Fans will appreciate the continued saga of the last known Skinwalker who prowls the mean streets alone.

Harriet Klausner

The Keepers of Sulbreth-Susan Gourley

The Keepers of Sulbreth
Susan Gourley
Medallion, Jan 2010, $7.95
ISBN 9781605420653

The island Kingdom of Futhark is impossible to reach or leave as it soars high above the sea. Magic employed by the Keepers keeps the land safe, but within Marshals enforce law and order. The Otten dynasty has ruled from the capital Sulbrth protected by loyal Keepers.

When Prince Jonard becomes the ruler, he learns of the break in the protective seal that could lead to an invasion by monsters. They send the rare female practitioner sorceress Savelline Shelton accompanied by elven half-breed Marshall Cage Stone to close the tear before the souless enter causing havoc and destruction to the masses. They are destined together to save the nation if they truly are the Chosen One and his Keeper named in an ancient prophesy; if not they will die horrrbly.

The first Futhark Chronicles is an enjoyable quest fantasy that raises intriguing philosophical questions about whether someone ignorant to critical facts can make real choices. The lead couple is a dynamic pairing of two outsiders; he being illegitimate halfbreed and her being a woman. Although the plot starts off slow as Susan Gourley introduces the audience to her realm, once established, the plot accelerates into a dleightful fast-paced save the island thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wild Hunt-Margaret Ronald

Wild Hunt
Margaret Ronald
Harper, Jan 12 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061662423

Know for her incredible olfactory sense that enables her to find missing persons and things, Evie “Hound” Scelan helped her former lover Frank McDermott escape from under the dictatorial control of the Fiana a cabal who controlled magic use in Boston (see Spiral Hunt). However Evie who is still upset with what the Fiana did to prevent the Sox from winning a World Series was so successful she left the city with no one in charge of magical practitioners although most users expected Evie would take over.

Chinese-American Yuen asks Evie for the favor of witnessing his death and to insure his father’s spirit residing in a jar that he gives her is gone when he is gone; she owes him so she pays him back by being there for him. He dies a few minutes later; Evie checks the jar, which she tells his daughter Elizabeth is empty. However, Elizabeth fails to heed her father’s directions, a major haunting mistake. Meanwhile Abigail Huston asks Evie to find out what her great-great-grandmother stole and who owns this item. Evie agrees to take her on as a client; not understanding what she has accepted as soon the trail leads to her own “messenger”-ancestor and the undercurrent Hounds.

Readers will enjoy the latest adventures of Evie who most of the Red Sox Nation expects her to take over from the cabal she toppled as successful coups always do. However, all she wants is to ride her bike, decide on how she feels about Nate Hunter who has his own paranormal problems, and take on clients needing her wonderful nose. Traders will enjoy her escapades in the urban fantasy noir landscape as Evie is a unique protagonist unlike most people who communicate through sight or hearing, her prime sense is smell.

Harriet Klausner

Skinner: Howling Legion-Marcus Pelegrimas

Skinner: Howling Legion
Marcus Pelegrimas
Eos, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061463068

Cole was a video games designer at the top of his profession when he realized that creatures of myth and legend are real. There is a secret society that has fought the evil denizen of the dark especially vampires, who go by the nomenclature of Shifters. They fight Nymars (vampires) as well as were shapeshifters who prey on humans and don’t stay in their own territory. Cole joins the group and his mentor Paige places him under an intense training regimen physically and using magical weapons to restrain these creatures. He has become a Skinner enforcing the rules (see Full Blood).

A Full Blood werewolf who can change at will creates many half-breeds, who can only exist in wolf form, to take over Kansas City, Missouri. The Full Blood Liam knows that the Nymarr are unorganized so they cause him no concern and another Full Blood is harassing the Skinners. When he liberates his offspring to attack the city Paige and Cole lure them into a deserted area where they kill most of them. That fails to solve the problem because the Full Blood can make more hybrids; they know they must destroy Liam before he can create more Half Breeds, but he alos knows of the two Skinners are in his city so he plans to show them how a Full Blood deals with adversaries.

Part horror and part urban fantasy, Skinner: Howling Legion contains a fantastic world filled with a werewolf species that seems genuine as Marcus Pelegrimas provides his original take on the shapeshifting mythos living up to the motto of the “Show Me” state. Cole and Paige are resolute dedicated warriors who gave up their comfortable middle class lifestyles to risk their lives fighting malevolence. Exciting and thrilling from start to finish, the audience will enjoy a walk on the wild side of Kansas City. Karen Koehler fans will love this book.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Divine Misdemeanors-Laurel K. Hamilton

Divine Misdemeanors
Laurel K. Hamilton
Ballantine, Dec 8 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345495969

They were crowned queen and king of the Unseelie Court by Faerie and the Goddess, but Princess Merry and her bodyguard lover Doyle choose to return to California and set up her own court. Now they live in Los Angeles where they stay together based on love and trust instead of pain and intrigue. They earn a living at sleuths at the Grey Detective Agency.

Their latest case is horrible. Twenty demi-elves (small Barbie like creatures with wings who look like angels but are anything but the sort) were killed and posed as if they were in a children’s book. The only living witness, a survivor of the massacre of the serial killing of her kind, obviously saw something but flees before the detectives can question her. A few days later, a brownie and her human husband are killed in their home once again posed from another children’s story. The two sleuths learn there are two killers, one with wings, bur many creatures have wings in Faerie. Merry and her retinue know only one way to prevent more ritual murders; she is served up as bait.

Laurell K. Hamilton shows her talent to make alternate worlds filled with mythological creatures living side by side with humans seem real. Merry is a heroine who avoids the Seelie and Unseelie Courts as she detests the intrigue that flows everywhere like light waves do on earth. The Goddess still favors her and creates a new faerie mound in aptly named Los Angeles in an apropos apartment building. The investigation is entertaining as Merry cannot help her people by offering herself as a potential sacrifice to catch serial killers. Even with that as the prime theme, Ms. Hamilton is at her provocative sensual best in Divine Misdemeanors.

Harriet Klausner

Heart Of The Witch-Alicia Dean

Heart Of The Witch
Alicia Dean
Love Spell, Dec 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505528261

In Okalahoma City, the Tin Man serial killer abducts witch Rayvn Skyler planning to rape her before he kills her. Irate, she breaks the prime rule of her coven by setting his crotch ablaze before escaping. He survives her counter assault, but is outraged that his chosen prey harmed him and escaped before he could inscribe on her corpse in blood his moniker The Tin Man, irate he vows vengeance.

Meanwhile mortal former homicide detective Nick Lassiter knows he finally has the bait to run down the Tin Man whom he obsesses over ending the psychopath’s terror. He plans to use Rayvn who wonders about this Nick who seems to be nearby every time she blinks. At the same time her former lover Kayne has become apparently insane as his soul is filled with ambitious evil plans for world domination. Between Kayne and the Tin Man ruining her life and anyone close to her like her sister and mom, Rayvn fears most for not so mundane Nick.

This is a fast-paced fun to read serial killer romantic urban fantasy, but has too many major subplots that lead to abrupt transitions. The readers and Rayvn know the bad guys from almost the beginning, but that enhances those two thriller threads as the audience anticipates confrontations. With a deep look inside the politics of a coven on top of the non-stop action, sub-genre readers will agree with Nick that the Heart of the Witch is captivating and bewitching.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Catalyst-Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Del Rey, Jan 1 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345513762

The Barque Cats are extremely valuable because they keep vermin off space ships and are adept at finding oxygen leaks or other hazardous gases as well as just keeping people on board the vessel safe. Thomas’s Duchess, known as Chessie and her human companion Janina, whose title on the ship is Cat Person, dock on Head Station, where a pregnant Chessie goes for a check-up. Janina and Dr. Jared Vlest fly down to the planet Sherwood to look at the animals that need care.

A con artist Carlton Pontius aka Ponty steals Chessie and brings her to his farm on Sherwood as she is worth a fortune especially with a coming litter of Barque kittens. He gives Chessie to his son Jubal who takes care of her and her litter. Chessie loves all of her offspring, but the kitten Chester bonds with Jubal. Chessie needs to reunite with her Cat Person Janina. Unfortunately, they cannot, as a “supposed” plague has arrived leading to the impounding of all animals and those exposed (even the Barque cats). They will be executed. Janina and her allies try to free their companions, but an alien feline Pshaw-Ra with psionic power wants to take the cats to his planet so they can begin the universal domination of the known universe.

This is the first tale of a duology that contains the usual strong outer space world building, a trademark of the authors who make a whole galaxy seem real. The Sparkles plague is caused by a harmless beetle but the GG scientists refused to accept a simple explanation. The point of view is told mostly by various feline characters, but it comes across as believable and as important not simplistic cute as the cats understand their troubles. The humans are for the most part empathetic especially Janina and cranky Ponty who has his own pet cat. Although the audience will need to wait for the second entry to see whether Chessie and Chester have more than one life each, fans will enjoy the opening Barque Cat caper.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dark Side Of Dawn-Kathryn Smith

Dark Side Of Dawn
Kathryn Smith
Avon, Dec 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061632716

Hybrid Dawn Riley abetted by her lover Noah Clarke managed to defeat the dream terrorist Karatos (see Before I Wake). However, the cost of the victory is that the half human Dawn is deeply involved in her father the God of Dreams Morpheus’ realm, which means she has enemies amidst those who reside in Dreamkin. The dream warden Padera especially wants her to sleep permanently.

In the mortal world, someone viciously assaults and rapes Noah's ex-wife, Amanda. Dawn is outraged and when she learns who the culprit is she decides to attack. However the Nightmare Council is outraged by her actions and they fear Dawn who they know will prove either to be their slayer or redeemer.

The latest Nightmare Chronicles is a terrific fantasy starring a refreshing resolute heroine who faces diverse difficulties in two realms. Dawn Riley has to stop a vicious serial felon on one world and face the funeral music of the Council whose members want her unmade for breaking laws. With Noah at her side, she is at her best though “As I lay me down to sleep” as some nasty implications for this kick butt courageous champion.

Harriet Klausner

Once Bitten-Clare Willis

Once Bitten
Clare Willis
Zebra, Dec 2009, $4.99
ISBN: 9781420108712

In San Francisco advertising executive Angie McCaffrey works the Macabre Factor account when her boss Lucy Weston vanishes. Macabre Factor is a start up cosmetics firm offering fangs to press onto teeth that allegedly make mortals look like vampires. When Lucy is found dead, the cops believe someone from one of the vampire clubs that frequent the city killed her.

At one of the vampire clubs that Angie has begun to visit to get a better handle on the customers’ needs for the client, she meets Eric Taylor. They are attracted to one another, but she heard he was seeing Lucy just before she disappeared. As Angie falls in love she begins to believe her soul mate has no soul and is a for real blood sucker who if true may make her his next victim.

Once Bitten is a fine urban romantic fantasy in which the strong mysteries of Lucy’s disappearance and what species Eric is propel the fun plot more so than the anemic romance. Angie is a strong lead protagonist who holds the subplots together as she walks the streets of San Francisco she must choose whether she can trust her life and soul to Eric or is he the one who will destroy both?

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Through Stone and Sea-Barb and J.C. Hendee

Through Stone and Sea
Barb and J.C. Hendee
Roc, Jan 5 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780451463128

Wynn Hygeorht returned to the Guild of Sagecraft in Calm Seatt expecting a heroine’s welcome due to the copies she made of arcane texts written by vampires during the time of the Forgotten History and the Great War, millennia ago. Instead of being one of the translators, she is ignored as the highest rank of scholars rejects her thesis that Noble Dead Vampires exist (see In Shade and Shadow).

The Guild Scholars continue to translate the incredible find while also sending them to be copied at selected scriptoriums. Two sages go to pick up the work, but are murdered. The belief is that the Stonewalker dwarves are behind the assassinations and thefts. Wynn, accompanied by the Noble Dead Chane and Shade the elven wolf, as both feel a deep heart felt need to keep her safe, treks to the mountain stronghold of the legendary Stonewalkers. There waits them someone from her past, when she quested with Leesil the half human elf and Magiere the half mortal vampire, who has resurfaced from what the heroine and her then allies thought were the permanent grave.

Stone and Sea is a fascinating entry in the Wynn Noble Dead quest fantasy. The heroine is terrific as she goes on her latest escapades; but is relatively simple compared to Chane and even to a degree Shade. The fast-paced story line grips fans who will relish this super entry that is an adventure unto itself yet sets in motion the next “wynning” exploit.

Harriet Klausner

Iorich-Steven Brust

Steven Brust
Tor, Jan 5 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765312082

In Draegara, the House Jhereg crime syndicate has placed a price on the head of Vlad Taltos, who has avoided the mob for several years. However, his skill at staying in hiding ends in a small village tavern when he overhears news that his friend Aliera e’Kieron was arrested by the Empire for practicing taboo elder sorcery. As Aliera never concealed her activity from anyone and no one cared including the Empress, Vlad wonders why now especially with Sethra Labode to testify against her. Apparently, Aliera is accused of trying to kill the Empress Zerika, betray the country to some foreign army, and released a demon inside the House of the Dragon.

Vlad knows all the reasons to mind his business starting and ending with being a foreigner who betrayed his House Jhereg. So he heads to the capital city Adrilhanka that he has avoided for several years to rescue Aliera to learn the real truth behind the incarceration of his friend accused of violating Imperial Articles of Indictment for Felonious Conduct even if it kills him to do so.

This is a terific entry in the long running Taltos saga as the latest Vlad’s excellent adventure focuses on him landing in plenty of trouble; more tsuris than usual, which says a lot. His activities also stir up problems for everyone else within his circle including the female sorcerer he has come to rescue. Just another few days for Steven Brust’s superb tale as the hero, his friends, his enemies and especially the reader learn life’s critical meaning: “we are what we worry about.” And some of us worry through life.

Harriet Klausner

Dreamdark: Silksinger-Laini Taylor

Dreamdark: Silksinger
Laini Taylor
Putnam, Sep 2009, $18.99
ISBN: 9780399246319

The demon slayer faerie Magpie Windwitch has saved the Djinn Magruwen from the assault of malevolent “uncreator” Blackbringer. With her loyal crows, she believes she must find the other Djinn to keep them safe in order to save Dreamdark from the demonic horde. Maggie seeks Whisper Silksinger, the last of her faerie clan guardian who protects the Djinn Azazel.

The Silksinger has fled with Azazel inside her kettle as devils chase her. She reaches Nazneen where she hopes to return Azazel to the safety of his temple; not undertsnading betrayal also awaits them.

Hirik Mothmage is on a quest to take over the protection of Azazel from the Silksinger whether she acquiesces or not. He obsesses with returning honor to his abashed clan who allowed the assassination by noninvolvement of Fade the dragon.

These three Faeirie converge along with Prince Talon and others including vile demons trying to kill the Djinn. Egos clash among the faerie that could lead to failure of the prime mission to protect Azazel.

The sequel to the awesome BLACKBRINGER is a great young teen quest fantasy as once again the mythological species seem genuine. The story line is fast-paced with plenty of action starting with Whisper knowing death as being of two kinds, peaceful and violent with the latter seeming to be her destiny. Filled with battles and superegos clashing over what is right, fans will roots for the three faeries and their allies who must overcome their personal aspirations to be a hero in order to keep Azazel safe from the demonic horde.

Harriet Klausner

Cobra Alliance-Timothy Zahn

Cobra Alliance
Timothy Zahn
Baen, Dec 1 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9781439133064

Following the hostilities that led to the Troft claiming the human colonies of Adirondack and Silvern, the Earth leadership realized they could not win a sustained war against the superior enemy. They changed tactics from space battles to guerilla ground warfare and created the Cobra force of specialized warriors containing lethal nanotech weapons surgically placed on the body of the soldier.

Decades have passed with interplanetary warfare part of the history books and the Troft no longer hostile enemies. Leaders question the need for Cobra as it is costly and fears of losing freedom abound. However, that changes when a Troft force attacks Oasama. The next generations’ warriors from families like that of the Moreau whose matriarch and oldest son step forward as Cobra comes to the rescue of a planet that has been vocal about eliminating Cobra.

This terrific military science fiction is a super return to the worlds of Cobra as the underlying conflicts are not just against the Troft. The Qasaman do not want Cobra on their planet, but also do not want the Troft, so they try to manipulate both. The characterizations are extremely emaciated except for the mother-son relationship in which mom is showing her age and her offspring is ready to take charge and put her in the home for old solders. Filled with personal courage and action, Timothy Zahn makes a case that the U.S. Army’s seven values of LDRSHIP remain a strong core for future deployed in space military soldiers.

Harriet Klausner

Nightchild-James Barclay

James Barclay
PYR, Nov 24 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9781591027850

The seven mercenaries that made up the Raven split up in retirement five years ago after the harrowing events in which they and the Dragons saved the world (see DAWNTHIEF and NOONSHADE). However, the Dragons cannot go home and are dying due to the air of the Kingdom of Balaria where they reside and people hunting them as beasts rather than saviors who were critical in shutting down the rift.

Two of the magnificent seven Erienne the Dordovan mage and Denser the Xeteskian mage had a relationship that led to the birth of Lyanna. The Colleges of Magic want Lyanna at all costs as the Lord Mages recognize who she is and what she will do to their positions of power. They believe she is the prophesized NIGHTCHILD, who will unite the four magics currently, divided amongst the colleges and kill thousands in the process. They are coming for the five years old leading to the reunion of the Raven who though they argue, fuss and fight with one another; also unite to protect one another even if the one they keep safe apparently is ripping asunder from within the kingdom leaving thousands dead.

This is a brilliant climax to the trilogy as the “threat” to the existing order comes from within, a five year old magical hybrid. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as fans of the saga catch up with retired friends who gave up swashbuckling and magic to tend bar, raise a child, etc. However, the only thing that could bring together a five year reunion is the threat to one of them. Filled with moral issues bug and small, NIGHTCHILD is a fitting end to a strong saga.

Harriet Klausner

The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny-Simon R. Green

The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny
Simon R. Green
Ace, Jan 5 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441018161

Welcome to the Darkside; a place within London that can only be accessed by people in the know; a place that is perpetually dark so that those soulless who are darkest can hide without contaminating the world of light and souls. There are some good people who reside in this hell hole like private investigator John Taylor, who is on an assignment to Lord Screech guarding him and the peace treaty between the Fairy Courts of Queens Mab and Tatiana.

Walker, the voice of authority dedicated to keeping the status quo in Nightside, wants the treaty in his hands; so he sends his army, werewolves and thugs who fly on carpets to obtain it. The elf tells John that Excalibur is coming, but he has to believe it is not what it seems.

His next case involves finding Tommy Oblivion who disappeared during the Lilith Wars. His client Tommy’s brother Larry the zombie, who has deep family feelings, was the person who accidentally freed Mab from the hell she inhabited. To complicate John’s life, Walker is dying and needs his replacement assisting the Authorities; his choice is Taylor.

The latest Nightside fantasy provides the readers with a fresh glimpse into the frightening community. Ironically though many of the denizens are evil, they are fascinating in a macabre way having survived even before the first dinosaur was born. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but it is the cast especially Taylor and his three clients, who make for an entertaining walk (make that a sprint) on the Darkside.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer-Laini Taylor

Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer
Laini Taylor
Firebird Fantasy, May 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 9780142411681

Over twenty-five millennia ago, the faeries trapped the demons into bottles that were secured by magical incantations before tossing them into the sea. One thousand years later humans appear on the scene. They find the prisons, receive three wishes and begin to counter the spells not realizing just what is incarcerated. These self centered “mannies” begin to undo the heroic work of the champions by freeing the demons

The faerie community is stunned with what the mannies are doing as they cannot comprehend why would anyone release evil onto themselves and other species including those who have gone into hiding. Most of the faeries do not want to become involved, but a few have become demon hunters. The only demon slayer in her community, Magpie Windwitch, who has killed over twenty demons, has no choice when malevolent “uncreator” Blackbringer prepares to attack her home Dreamdark having killed an immortal. She and her loyal crows try to wake up the inert Djinn Magruwen with the horrific news that Blackbringer has killed one of his seven and is coming for him and Dreamdark. However, to her shock the all mighty Djinn refuses to get involved as what he and his peers created has been devastated by those who only care for their immediate hedonistic needs.

This is an entertaining young teen save the world fantasy due to the mythological species seeming genuine especially the faeries, crows, Magruwen and one particularly nasty demon. Magpie is a fascinating but anticipated heroine who in her new role of world saving champion learns personal secrets. With an ethical message that encourages hard work, honesty and caring for others, Magpie and her crows have setbacks as they blunder and make errors, but never give up. Young adult readers will join her band of warriors to end Blackbringer’s reign of terror.

Harriet Klausner

Galileo’s Dream-Kim Stanley Robinson

Galileo’s Dream
Kim Stanley Robinson
Spectra (Random House), Dec 29 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780553806595

To the colonists on the moons of Jupiter, Galileo is the prophet who led humanity on the first great leap into space with his telescope. He is a God in the future, but in his own Renaissance time in Italy, he faces condemnation by the Church for heretic acts.

As he faces trial that could lead to his burning, a man calling himself Ganymede claims to have come from the far future to consult with him and encourage him in 1609 Padua. Ganymede knows his side in a future debate over mankind wants to bring Galileo forward in time in order to save the man and change history; others also want to influence history perhaps by insuring Galileo burns at the stake rather than go under house arrest.

This is a thought provoking alternate history science fiction that is not an easy read, but worth the time for those who relish a cerebral thriller. Galileo makes the story line with a mix of diverse emotions like a need to advance science but a fear of what he is doing. With an underlying message that humanity must stay alert to keep those who claim divine communication to thwart advances by burning scientific research on a media inferno. Fans will appreciate Kim Stanley Robinson’s deep tale that connects renaissance Italy with man in space.

Harriet Klausner

Starbound-Joe Haldeman

Joe Haldeman
Ace, Jan 5 2010, $24,95
ISBN: 9780441018178

Carmen Dula and her husband pilot Paul Collins met when she saved earth and Mars from the destruction of the Others (see Marsbound). However, though they were successful for now, everyone knows that the human-Martian alliance is not close to matching the military might of the Others. Desperation leads to a peace envoy to journey to the solar system that is home to the Others to try to negotiate a lasting peace.

Most people felt this Hail Mary quest was a suicide mission, but shockingly the six year trip has Carmen and Paul returning home, but on earth five decades have passed. In the interim mankind has constructed weapons of mass destruction to counter any Others invasion. However, neither earth nor Mars understands just how powerful the Others are as they refuse to accept the slightest hint of a counterinsurgency.

This is an almost as fast as light outer space thriller that uses Einstein’s Theory of Relativity as a key underlying premise to the exciting story line. Although the plot is a middle book connecting the introduction of the Others with what looks like will be a confrontational bound finish as nothing major closes, fans will enjoy the ride as Joe Haldeman cleverly uses Relativity to tell an engaging character driven science fiction.

Harriet Klausner

Heart’s Blood-Gail Dayton

Heart’s Blood
Gail Dayton
Tor, Dec 29 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780765362513

London Master Conjurer Grey Carteret awakens in a nasty mood as everyone of his 206 bones feel like they were part of the battlefield between heaven and hell. As he slowly regains a semblance of his environs, he has no idea how he ended up in a gutter or who the street urchin holding his stick and hat is. Parkin protected him through the night and asks to become his apprentice. Grey normally does not train anyone so he suggests magic school; but Parkin explains magic school refuses female students. Parkin is Miss Pearl Parkin who used magic to disguise her gender. Reluctantly partly because he admires his grit, make that her grit, but mostly because he needs her help as he has been arrested for murder by magic of a woman, he accepts Miss Pearl Parkin as his apprentice.

When another homicide occurs, Grey realizes that someone is doing the forbidden; using murder of the innocent to raise a demon from hell. Grey with his student investigates prepared to prevent hell on earth although some would say this team has brought the demon forward by allowing the forbidden, a woman to practice magic.

This is a terrific historical urban fantasy starring two wonderful lead protagonists and a strong support cast as demons attack nineteenth century London in an era in which women are banned from practicing magic. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action as the Conjurer and the apprentice fall in love while battling a rogue magician and his demon. Setting up the next book with a clever related coda to Heart’s Blood, fans will relish Gail Dayton’s strong paranormal romantic suspense thriller as females make a case that New Blood is needed to save the world and prevent the spread of the dead zones.

Harriet Klausner

Beneath the Skin-Adrian Phoenix

Beneath the Skin
Adrian Phoenix
Pocket, Dec 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439137291

The Fallen know who he is as do the vampires and apparently a top secret cell of the American government; they all want him under their control. The devastation he caused in Oregon marks his power, but not how much as he can do as he is a creawdwr. Hybrid vampire Dante Baptiste wants to play his music and make love with his girlfriend rogue FBI special agent Heather Wallace.

Now he is losing his grip on sanity since his tie to his father, a Fallen Angel, was severed. The three species that want him try to push him over the edge with each planning to possess him as a True Blood Fallen Maker or kill him. His powers grow exponentially as his mind does likewise into madness. Only Heather and their love remain as his anchor to sanity, but the others are coming to use and abuse or defuse him by killing him.

The third Maker’s Song urban fantasy is a dark thriller that gets In the Blood of the reader because the audience empathizes with the beleaguered hero and his beloved. They have come a long way from when she was investigating serial killing in New Orleans with him as the prime suspect (see RUSH OF WINGS) as the overarching plot has evolved from a paranormal police procedural into a grim urban fantasy. Fans will enjoy Adrian Phoenix’s strong tale as she spins a super tale starting with a simple acceptable premise that sometimes "a necessary evil” is acceptable n your team as the end justifies the means so says those salivating over controlling the creawdwr.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 13, 2009

Demon Bound- Caitlin Kittredge

Demon Bound
Caitlin Kittredge
St. Martin’s, Dec 1 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312943639

Punk rocker Jack Winter died thirteen years ago, but walks the streets of London because he made a Faustian deal with a demon in which he bought time (see Street Magic) but now the mage is back on the brink of death again. As the demon scorns his mortality, Jack fought death before and plans to do so again; as he will not go mildly into the night. His muse to live is Detective Inspective Pete Caldecott who saw him make that original deal when she was a teen.

Jack has kept Pete in the dark about his deal. She is irritated with him because she senses he is hiding something from her. When he goes to Thailand in a Hail Mary ploy to save his life, she follows him; not understanding what is going on, but knowing whatever it is will prove nasty.

The second grim tour of Caitlin Kittredge’s Black London is bleak and gruesome as the shadows seem ubiquitously ready to reach out to abduct the souls, minds, and bodies of the innocent. Jack is terrific as he faces his “maker” while Pete is his reason to live; in his mind she is a much nobler cause than his previous quest for life. Fans will relish this extremely dark urban fantasy as the malevolent and sinister stalk and lurk everywhere while wondering if Jack can survive having died once before.

Harriet Klausner

Holiday With A Vampire III-Linda Winstead Jones, Lisa Childs and Bonnie Vanak

Holiday With A Vampire III
Linda Winstead Jones, Lisa Childs and Bonnie Vanak
Silhouette Nocturne, Dec 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618248

"Sundown" by Linda Winstead Jones. Vampiric bar owner Abby Brown is attracted to police detective Leo Stryker as she assist him on his investigation into a homicide related to her establishment.

"Nothing Says Christmas Like a Vampire" by Lisa Childs. After burying her beloved Nana, Sienna Briggs learns that vampires exist. The Secret Vampire Society orders Julian Vossimer to kill her as demanded by their laws; instead he wants to love her.

"Unwrapped" by Vampire Bonnie Vanak. In Maine six gremlins give vampire Adrian Thorne a Christmas gift. They dump draicon werewolf Sarah Roberts on him. He never forgave her for breaking his heart refusing to accept their species are natural enemies, but he needs the werewolf to help him track down some nasty intruder.

These are three delightful urban fantasy vampire romances that will charm those readers who enjoy a Holiday with a Vampire.

Harriet Klausner

Dream Stalker-Jenna Kernan

Dream Stalker
Jenna Kernan
Silhouette Nocturne, Dec 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618255

In Alberta, Canada, the nightmares and hallucinations are increasing in frequency and intensity leading to Native American Michaela Proud fearing she might be going insane. However, her nocturnal dreams turn uglier when she is attacked. She wakes up in pain to find a man kneeling near her bed soothing her aches.

Inanoka shapeshifting skinwalker and healer Sebastian tells Michaela she is perfectly normal except that her spirit is under assault by an evil spirit Nagi. He also says he cannot heal her spirit but takes her to someone who can even as he is confused by his feelings towards the non believing human who is his soul mate.

This is an enjoyable romantic fantasy that uses Native American mythology as the basis for the strong story line. The lead couple makes a fascinating pairing as neither wants love, but have no choice while the villain is sinister and evil torturing the mind of the proud female. Sub-genre fans will appreciate Jenna Kernan’s superb thriller as beauty and the beast battle the evil that holds all the cards in the deck except for two: the king and queen of hearts.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Mermaid's Ransom-Joey W. Hill

A Mermaid's Ransom
Joey W. Hill
Berkley, Dec 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425230688

Alexis has grown up in clam serene waters. The daughter of Jonah the angel and Anna the mermaid (see A Mermaid’s Kiss) decides to go to college. However, she begins having dark dreams that frighten the innocent mer-angel.

Dante the Dark One vampire rules the Underground although he prefers to escape his destiny. His scheme is to kidnap the beautiful mer-angel daughter of the enemy’s military leader. However, when he snatches the Prime Legion Commander’s daughter he is stunned by the purity of her soul reaching out to his tortured mind. She makes him believe even he has goodness. Before he turns, Dante realizes he must rid himself of Alexis, but cannot as she not just brought back his soul, she also owns it.

The latest Daughters of Arianne oceanic-urban romantic fantasy (see A Witches Beauty) is much darker than the previous entries as Dante appears evil through much of the first part of the book. His potential transition from total darkness comes at a cost to Alexis who has lived a warm loving life until the dreams assault her followed by his appearance; as he has brought malevolent shadows into her previous 100% light. He is a hybrid too; the offspring of hellish violence between a vampire and a Dark One, Dante knows abuse and loathing domination fuel existence until he meets Alexis. Readers will be spellbound as the prize in the battle between good and evil is the soul of the loser as one of them must turn.

Harriet Klausner

Veil Of Shadows-Jennifer Armintrout

Veil Of Shadows
Jennifer Armintrout
Mira, Nov 24 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326786

With the deaths of her royal parents Queen Ayla and Malachai during the battle between Lightworld and the Darkworld elves and waterhorses (see the second book Child of Darkness); the heir to the throne of Faery Queene, Cerridwen flees to the Upworld human realm. Accompanying her in order to keep her safe is her late mom’s chosen betrothed for her Cedric. They make it to Eire, the last fairy realm amidst the mortals.

Ruling over Eire in the new queene’s absence is the High Priestess Danae. Although she pretends to bow to Cerridwen as the rightful ruler of the Fae, she is setting up her highness to destroy her so she can reign as the rightful ruler. With no experience as a leader making life and death decisions, Cerridwen must learn fast or see the usurper take her crown, kill her allies, and plunge her people into civil war at a time they need unity to battle the Darkworld denizen.

The third Lightworld/ Darkworld (see the first book Queene of Light) centers on the next generation as Cerridwen with Cedric at her side having her back covered battles an internal betrayal as well as the Darkworld invaders. The story line is fast-paced with the romantic subplot enhancing the political seditious intrigue that threatens the heroine. Although it helps considerably to have read the previous two tales especially the Child of Darkness to understand how Cerridwen finds herself struggling to survive, fans will enjoy this exhilarating fantasy as the war has moved to Eire in the Upworld.

Harriet Klausner

Night Of The Wolves-Heather Graham

Night Of The Wolves
Heather Graham
Harlequin HQN, Nov 24 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774043

In 1864 in New Orleans a deadly serial killer shakes up the locals as well as the occupying army. Union officer Lieutenant Aldridge asks for former Confederate soldier Dr. Cody Fox who is sent to investigate as he has previous experience with these types of killings back in Alexandria in 1859 with a decapitating vicious serial killer. His assignment is to solve who is behind the mass murders and prevent more from happening.

Alex Green heads west to be with her father, but she arrives in Victory, Texas to learn he is dead although she is unaware how he died as no one will whisper a word of it as if they feared his fate if they say anything. Meanwhile deadly outlaw Milo Roundtree arrives in town as does Cody tracking the culprit who most believe is the vicious criminal. When Milo places a knife at Alex's throat, Cody kills him saving her life. However, nothing is resolved as the mass graves are empty and rumors abound to stay in-doors once the sun goes down.

This is a refreshing vampire historical romantic fantasy. The cast is solid especially the lead couple, the townsfolk, and the key second in command of the bloodsuckers who cleverly is hidden in plain sight. The prime weapon against the undead seems much more effective and realistic than the usual stake as Heather Graham provides a fun fast-paced story line as vampires and hunters collide in Civil War Texas.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What I Wore to Save the World-Maryrose Wood

What I Wore to Save the World
Maryrose Wood
Berkley Jam, Dec 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 9780425229675

Millenia ago Queen Titania of Faerie and a mortal produced a hybrid offspring. In the present Morgan Rawlinsonis a direct descendent of that long ago child; her DNA is half faerie Faerie although her parents are totally human. They pressure Morgan to choose a college although she has poor grades, a low SAT score, and no community service.

She is sent to a paying advisor who insists he can get her into Oxford on a full scholarship. While she prepares to go to England (not Mississippi); her Irish boyfriend Colin asks her to meet him at a resort in Wales. When she arrives, Colin swears he never sent her an email, but she soon learns the Oxford offer and the odd email has to do with Queen Titania lifting the veil between the two realms. She has to be stopped, but Colin believes she lied to him because she omitted to tell him she is a demi goddess. Between saving the world and her relationship, college has fallen to the bottom of Morgan’s agenda just after what she should wear to save the world.

The third Morgan teen fantasy (see Why I Let My Hair Grow Out and How I Found the Perfect Dress) is a fun fast-paced frolic that young adolescents will especially enjoy the wee bit of magic in the world of Maryrose Wood. The seventeen years old heroine is a down to earth and pragmatic with a touch of romance in her soul as she loves her Colin, but fears he will reject her once he learns of her bloodline. Colin is science so Mojo magic goes against his belief in physics; yet he must adapt if he wants to remain with the woman he loves as she tries to save the world from the actions of her great ancestor many generations removed.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gaea-Robina Williams

Robina Williams
Twilight Times, Sep 2009, $18.95
ISBN: 9781606191835

Gaea the earth goddess fears mankind has gone too far in destroying the planet. The sea, land and air are toxic. The forests are barren. Animals and fish have no home and those who still survive are hunted or fished for play. Earth has become a wasteland for the avarice humans.

Gaea decides the time has come to teach mankind a lesson to force humanity to change its wicked ways. However Gaea’s partner, Quant the seraph worries she may go too far; besides his “employer” The God of All created Mankind with the hope that humanity will find their own but just way. Other gods from places like Mt. Olympus agree with Gaea that time has run out so they try to bring a scare to the shaken sons and daughters of Adam.

This is an intriguing vivid allegorical fantasy as mankind is being judged by the Gods. Ironically the cul de sacs that detract from the prime plot are fascinating in of themselves as the audience will be spellbound with a tour of the design laboratory where species for new planets are created as well as other locales like the Court of the Serpent and of course Mt. Olympus and Hades. Although too many engaging detours happen in this entertaining tale, fans will appreciate this fine look at Judgment Day. Whereas Gaea and her allies find humanity guilty of planetary destruction, the God Of All prays whether divine intervention either with a miracle or the apocalypse is a fair judgment on his part when his beloved favorite was bestowed with free will, which includes potentially species suicide.

Harriet Klausner

Burnout: The Mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281-Stephanie Osborn

Burnout: The Mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281
Stephanie Osborn
Twilight Times, Apr 2009, $19.95
ISBN: 9781606192009

Upon reentry with seven aboard Space Shuttle STS-281 suddenly explodes into a deadly inferno. All on board are dead. An official investigation leads to a quick assertion of human error mostly by the crew.

Having known the pilot Jet Jackson who was his friend since their Air Force days, “Crash” Murphy has a difficult time accepting the official position. He begins to investigate the disaster, which leads him to Australian astronomer Dr. Michael Anders, who is also probing the Burnout. They team up and soon begin to find anomalies with the official denouement. They begin to find evidence of alien intervention, which leads them to Area 51. With the help of conspiracy buff operatives watching the locale 24/7, the pair sneaks inside seeking the truth, but neither is prepared for what they find.

This is an interesting science fiction mystery with an intriguing twist that leaves the portal open for sequels. The story line is faster than the shuttle although adjustment to the zillion NASA acronyms (thankfully a glossary helps) takes a bit of time; but once done acceleration throughout. Crash and Mike are courageous heroes, but what they learn and not learn will stun both of them and the readers. Burnout is an exciting thriller that will have fans soaring with Stephanie Osborn as the flight commander.

Harriet Klausner

Human by Choice-Travis S Taylor and Darrell Bain

Human by Choice
Travis S Taylor and Darrell Bain
Twilight Times, Aug 2009, $16.95
ISBN: 9781606190470

Due to a combat injury, Intel officer Kyle Leverson retired from the Army. Now a widower, he moved to a remote place in the Ozarks. When he hears a loud crash outside his home, he goes to investigate. In the middle of his garden, lies astonishingly an injured ET.

Apparently the alien was hurt during a crash landing when the life pod transporting him burned up during atmospheric entry. Although hesitant, Kyle takes the wounded space traveler into his home where he tries to nurture the alien. The visitor from another planet has no chance of going home. She hopes with Kyle’s mentoring and her technology to be assimilated in the Arkansas culture as a human female, Jeri. However, as she adapts, enemies want her technology and have come to the Ozarks to abduct Jeri. Kyle refuses to allow any harm come to his beloved Human by Choice.

This is a super science fiction romance starring a wonderful hero and an intrepid alien who is the ultimate assimilated person. The story line is faster than the vessel Jeri flew in as the action never slows down yet the two key players the human and the alien are fully developed. Although the American government is too altruistic as the corpocracy would want the technology as much as the foreign interests crave it as economic espionage between allies is the norm, fans will appreciate this fine thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Mr. Shivers-Robert Jackson Bennett

Mr. Shivers
Robert Jackson Bennett
Orbit, Jan 15 2010, $19.99
ISBN: 9780316054683

During the Great Depression, Marcus Connelly lives for one thing only. Vengeance! He stalks the killer of his beloved daughter Mr. Shivers. Everyone in the homeless camps and on the rails knows of this serial killing fiend, but none alive know who he is.

As Marcus gets closer to his target while the Dust Bowl grows, he will find nothing is quite what it seems. He is beginning to understand simply killing a mortal murderer is not what will Happen. Mr. Shivers is much more lethal if Marcus believes the proof he has gathered about this killing machine is true. He also wonders if his grief has painted a super unnatural hell spawn from an amoral predator.

This historical horror tale will grip readers from the clever set up, through the switch from cat and mouse suspense into the paranormal, to the fabulous climax. The key throughout the super story line is the grim setting as the rails and the Dust Bowl are depressing and lonely in a stark environment even before the audience realizes Mr. Shivers is something besides a psychopathic serial killer. Robert Jackson Bennett sends shivers up and down the spine of this deep Depression Era thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Born Of Fire-Sherrilyn Kenyon

Born Of Fire
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin’s, Nov 3 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312942311

With the deaths of their parents, as the oldest Sharara “Shay” Dagan takes responsibility for her two younger sisters and brother. She has fed them and put roof over their heads by being a free-tracer bounty hunter. However, with bills still to pay and her sibling Tessa hospitalized, she needs to make money fast or the government will refuse medical treatment. She accepts a contact to bring in accused rapist killer C.I. Syn, a friend of her sister Caillen. They know each other and he has been kind to her family, but a job brings in needed cash.

Shay pursues Syn as only she can. He is on the lam struggling with the betrayal by his wife and his son and knows his pursuer is a legend in bringing in criminals. However, when Shay catches up to Syn, she fears her attraction to him may be coloring her belief he is innocent; but she prays she is right because she is taking a chance that could harm her sister.

The second Ichidian Universe League futuristic fantasy romance (see Born of Night) focuses on two people who know each other, but his past has made him a semi-loner as expected of an assassin while she remains responsible for her siblings. Fans will enjoy this rewriting of an e-book as this is the ultimate cat and mouse gender war between a take no prisoners tracer and an assassin felon as only Sherrilyn Kenyon can describe.

Harriet Klausner

Firespell-Chloe Neill

Chloe Neill
Signet, Jan 2010, $$6.99
ISBN: 9780451228864

She is unhappy that her parents are going to Germany to conduct research while she is being dumped at the elite Chicago boarding school St. Sophie's Academy. She has no choice in the matter, but becomes friendly with one of her new roommates Scout, who has a tendency to disappear in the middle of the night and return exhausted. Scout refuses to tell Lily Parker what she does during her nocturnal ramblings.

Worried about Scout, Lily follows her friend on one the evening ventures. Lily finds herself trapping a monster in one of the catacombs underneath the prestigious school. The newcomer learns that Scout is a magic user who must give up using her magic when she gets to her mid-twenties. She fights the Reapers: spell casters who use magic as they age which turns them evil because they have to take the life essence from a person to survive. The Reapers believes it is okay to apply magic past twenty something even if that means Adepts must die to fuel them. Lily learns first hand that Adepts protect normals from monsters and the Reapers. Although she might lose her life she cannot sit on the sidelines or hide in the sand especially as through a series of odd circumstances, Lily is caught in the crosshairs of the war although she has no magical powers; or does she?

Lily’s life radically changes from attending a middle class public high school living with her parents to an elite boarding school while her family is in Europe. That change soon proves minor as the teen heroine adapts as needed. Her best skill is adjusting to what happens t her although even she is unprepared for the circumstances she faces when she has the back of her BFF. She keeps the exciting teen urban fantasy focused as a heroine ready to fight monsters.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 9, 2009

Total Oblivion, More or Less-Alan DeNiro

Total Oblivion, More or Less
Alan DeNiro
Ballantine, Nov 24 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780553592542

No one in the Minnesota town was prepared for the invaders, the ancient Scythians wearing NBA Lakers jerseys. Everyone was captured and placed in camps. However, survival takes a plunge and not because all non-fast food joints were closed. Wasps were transmitting a new form of the deadly plague by air and by sting.

Sixteen year old Macy and her family manage to escape to the Mississippi hoping to find a safe haven in what is left of civilization. None quite realize the invaders have taken over the country and are now at war with one another to see just who will be the top lord. However, Macy and family manage to reach St. Louis, where her dad says he has a job at a university’s astronomy department. As Macy recovers from the plague, she meets Em the submarine captain and Wye whom she is not sure of whose side he is loyal to while her brother is sent for trial to Nueva Roma and her sister is sold into indentured servitude while her father has become the leading astrologer in the Mississippi.

Not for everyone, Total Oblivion, More or Less is an enjoyable futuristic thriller in which the conquering invaders come from the ancient past. The story line is a combination whimsical look at what truly civilization is when calamity strikes on a mass scale in a world gone mad. Sub-genre fans will enjoy traveling the DeNiro American landscape escorted by courageous Macy who learns the mighty Mississippi means civilization to all types of groups.

Harriet Klausner

Kitty’s House of Horrors-Carrie Vaughn

Kitty’s House of Horrors
Carrie Vaughn
Grand Central, Jan 4 2010, $$7.99
ISBN: 9780446199551

One of the talk radio hosts on KNOB is werewolf Kitty Norville, who was forced to change on the air. Since her outing, other supernaturals that include weres, vampires and psychics have also come out in the open. Mortals either believe or think strongly a conspiratorial fraud is occurring. The paranormal want acceptance in a mundane world so when SuperByte approaches Kitty to join others of her supernatural kind on a reality TV show, she accepts.

They are flown to a lodge in the mountainous wilds of Montana with no one around for miles. At first the filming proceeds like any reality show, but soon the weres, vampires, and psychics wake up to find all electrical power cut off and three crewmen dead in the plane and three others missing. They are further trapped and isolated by silver fences and weapons. The contestants know they are in mortal danger. A natural leader, Kitty takes charge with resolute determination to kill her enemy before they kill her. Lives are lost on both sides as Kitty struggles to prevent a massacre in the lodge prison.

Romance, action, and mystery come together in this fabulous urban fantasy mindful in a paranormal way of Christie’s And Then There Was None. Kitty is an alpha Lara Croft type heroine who goes into danger with her eyes wide open and a grit to be the predator and not the prey. She not only becomes the leader, she is there only hope of survival as slim as that seems as Kitty’s House of Horrors is a death trap.

Harriet Klausner

The Devil's Alphabet-Daryl Gregory

The Devil's Alphabet
Daryl Gregory
Ballantine, Nov 24 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345501172

Teenager Paxton Martin fled Switchcreek, Tennessee to avoid the impact of a deadly retrovirus that either killed people or changed them into grotesque creatures and to never see his father again. The disease never went beyond the small town, but Pax vowed to never return to “Pandemonium”.

However, thirteen years after he left, he learns of the suicide death of his friend Jo Lynn so he comes home for her funeral. She had been changed by the virus into a seal skin baldie beta as opposed to becoming a towering argo or an obese Charlie like others became. His plan includes avoiding his dad, but he alters his scheme when he learns that Jo Lynn may not have hung herself and that a small town in Ecuador has suffered the same fate. He begins the investigation even as his brain tells him leave immediately.

This is a terrific evolutionary science fiction small town horror thriller that as its underlying basis asks the audience to define human. The story line is fast-paced throughout as Paxton returns home to a town that has evolved into four distinct races in a survival of the fittest scenario. The key, which makes The Devil’s Alphabet enthralling is each of the key characters representing the four primes seem genuine, which makes their race appear realistic. Although the father-son relationship seems to ramble, fans will enjoy Daryl Gregory’s strong tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Silver Skull-Mark Chadbourn

The Silver Skull
Mark Chadbourn
Pyr, Nov 2009, $16.00
ISBN 9781591027836

Will Swyfte may be Elizabethan England's greatest spy, but he is used to thwarting no one as his image is just that, a fa├žade to give the beleaguered people a hero. However, this time his superior Walsingham assigns Swyfte to a real project. He must prevent the Faerie and their Spanish minion from acquiring the Skull, the Key and the Shield; if the enemy obtains the three magical artifacts Britain as we know it will be no more.

The Cold War between England and Spain appears ready to turn hot as Spain and its ally Faerie are posed to invade. However, the Queen's sorcerer Dr John Dee has brought back some balance between the adversaries. It is now up to the swashbuckling showman to prove he is the real deal with Dee providing him the latest in magical and mundane technology.

The first Swords of Albion Elizabethan historical fantasy is a fun swashbuckling thriller with a James Bond in a late sixteenth century paranormal England and somewhat Spain set up. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action while also somewhat reminding readers of Elizabeth Bear’s Prometheus Age series. From Drake with love to the Armada, to a deep connection to modern issues of national security vs. personal freedoms including the torture debate, THE SILVER SKULL is a fabulous Swyfte thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Impact- Douglas Preston

Douglas Preston
Forge, Jan 5 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780765317681

College dropout turned waitress and amateur astronomer Abbey Straw believes she and her BFF Jackie saw a meteor crash near the Maine coast where she lives. The two young females agree to search the nearby barrier islands as Abbey using wave theory believes the meteor struck land. The plan is to sell the finds on E-Bay.

Meanwhile the president's science adviser Stanton Lockwood III asks former CIA filed operative Wyman Ford to investigate the sudden flooding of radioactive gemstones in Cambodia. At about the same time Stanton makes his request that seems more like an order to Wyman,on the West Coast, just before he is murdered Professor Jason Freeman sends a classified file containing proof of abnormal gamma ray activity on Mars to mission technician Mark Corso of the National Propulsion Facility. Soon these three diverse scenarios converge with sixty hours to countdown impact.

This is an engaging science fiction thriller that hooks the audience from the moment Wyman begins his inquiry and never slows down as California, Maine and Cambodia hook up. The story line is fast-paced as fans will welcome the return of Wyman (see Blasphemy), but in many ways the brilliant slacker with her naive innocence makes the tale fresh.

Harriet Klausner

Veracity-Laura Bynum

Laura Bynum
Pocket, Jan 5 2010, $25.00
ISBN 9781439123348

In 2012, a virus terrorism attack annihilated a bout half the American population. A new government with martial law enforcement is forged out of the abyss. The Confederation of the Willing implant an electronic device in the necks of all citizens that so that if a person utters any of the red-listed words, they trigger the slate gizmo and die as the Blue Coats police are everywhere sadistically relishing punishing felons.

In 2012 Harper Adams was a little girl when she survived the disaster. She is careful not to activate the slate in her neck. In 2026, Sentient Baumfree selects her as a Potential because she has paranormal skills. Harper works hard to be the best Monitor until 2045 however, when she has an apostasy when her daughter’s name Veracity is added to the death list of banned words. The resistance movement guided by the pre-doomsday pandemic tome, The Book of Noah, recruits Harper to join their counterinsurgency from within a corrupt system.

This is an exciting 1984 type futuristic thriller that grips the audience from the onset with its word list and never slows down as ban has new meaning. The story line is driven by Harper who will do anything to be able to say her daughter’s name with impunity. Although the Confederation of the Willing never seems quite as nasty as say Big Brother except when the tall eerie Baumfree recruits twelfth graders, fans will appreciate this dark post apocalyptic future.

Harriet Klausner

Brooklyn Knight-C.J. Henderson

Brooklyn Knight
C.J. Henderson
Tor, Jan 5 2010, $14.99
ISBN 9780765320834

A legend, Brooklyn Museum curator Professor Piers Knight enjoys collecting paranormal artifacts. His newest employee, summer intern Bridget Elkins is in awe and shock before she meets the mythical Professor Knight, known for finding the historical ancient lost and arcane.

Dr. Ashur Ungari in panic calls from the Middle East while Professor Knight shows Manhattan Island from a different perspective than Bridget ever noticed or hace been aware exists; explaining further that Jersey on the other side of the water is insignificant and Queens is the dumping ground. However Ashur tells Knight he found the site of Memak’tori in Assad’s Syria; the birthplace of civilization. However, as Ashur describes the dig in terms of future archeologists uncovering the Empire State Building, astral thieves including a fire elemental and a terrorist try to steal the mysterious Dream Stone, the heart of an incredible find. Another elemental also comes for the stone with Knight leading the counterinsurgency against the paranormal horde and their evil allies.

Although the Professor never lets his hair down even when Briget throws herself at him (blushes and nitrates are not enough) and the NuYawk accent feels forced, fans will enjoy this over the top of at least the Observation Tower of the Empire State Building. Readers will relish the fast-pace from the frantic call by Ungari to the final climax in National Historic Landmark Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery as this is a fun pulp fiction paranormal thriller.

Harriet Klausner