Monday, March 29, 2010

Hard Magic-Laura Anne Gilman

Hard Magic
Laura Anne Gilman
Luna, May 2010, $14.95
ISBN 9780373803132

Recent college graduate Bonnie Torres joins New York-based Private, Unaffiliated, Private Investigators (PUPIs) a forensic magic investigative firm. She and the other PUPIs practice magical spell-casting as they prepare for their first field case.

The Chicago police ruled that septuagenarian Charles and Patty Reyboern committed vehicular suicide. Their daughter Rose rejects the official determination of the causes of her parents’ deaths as each was healthy, financially secure and liked one another; no motive appears for their killing themselves. She hires PUPIs as she refuses to accept what the cops concluded. Although not ready, the inquiry is assigned to Bonnie and her team. They follow clues some of a magical variety while interviewing friends and family of the deceased. Soon they begin to agree with their client that murder made to look like suicide occurred. As they interrogate suspects, someone uses magic to take out the team, but Bonnie and company survive the spell-casting assaults.

Laura Anne Gilman explains Bonnie was a bit player in the Retrievers saga when she got a starring role in the anthology Unusual Suspects (see Illumination); Hard Magic is her first lead in a novel. She proves capable as the heroine holds the exciting private investigator urban fantasy together. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy the return to the world of the Cosa Nostradamus starring a naïve rookie (total opposite of the Retriever veterans) whose investigation makes for an entertaining magical whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Song of Scarabaeus-Sara Creasy

Song of Scarabaeus
Sara Creasy
Eos, Apr 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9780061934735

The ultra top secret government agency the Crib deploys a "biocyph" technology to terraform the planet Scarabaeus. However, something goes terribly wrong and the planet is dying. Leadership of the Crib has no idea why and besides deploying the cover-up seeks explanations. The Crib raised orphan Edie Sha'nim because she possesses the innate talent and augmented with appropriate training and brainwashing to program biocyph seeds. Edie knows what caused the genocidal snafu.

The Rebel Fringe colonies seek their freedom from the iron fist of the Crib's clutches know of her. Agents kidnap Edie and link her “telepathically” to Finn even as they want her to help them prevent the biocyph seeds annual deactivation. Edie fears telling Finn and the Rebels what she knows as she inadvertently played a key role in the destruction of Scarabaeus.

Song of Scarabaeus is a terrific outer space science fiction romance with the emphasis on the science extrapolated from current trends. The planets add to that feeling of being out in deep space with their strange extraterrestrial surfaces while the lead coupling leashed together mentally is attracted to one another but each has to find a way to separate what their leaders programmed from what their hearts demand. Sara Creasy provides a winner with the lamenting haunting Song of Scarabaeus.

Harriet Klausner

Honeymoon Of The Dead-Tate Hallaway

Honeymoon Of The Dead
Tate Hallaway
Berkley, May 4 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425234129

Married couple bookselling witch Garnet Lacey and vampire Sebastian leave Wisconsin for the Twin Cities' airport as they plan to fly to Transylvania for their honeymoon. However, while waiting for their plane to take off, Garnet sees a frost giant sitting on the wing. Her efforts to warn authorities lead to the pair removed from the jet while Homeland Security looks at them like their crazy and perhaps dangerous.

Garnet suggests they stay in Minneapolis-St. Paul where his wife once lived. She reluctantly agrees although she left town in a hurry after stealing the boyfriend of her BFF; that guy still has her love spell haunting him. Garnet is abducted while an anti-vampire group stakes out Sebastian. This is a honeymoon in separate hells.

The key to this superb urban fantasy is Garnet’s transgressions as a youthful witch makes the heroine and, by extrapolation as the prime player of the Hallaway mythos, this book feel plausible. As her past catches up with her Sebastian has his own woes. With a great twist to the ending, fans of the saga (see Dead If I Do, Romancing the Dead, Tall, Dark & Dead and Dead Sexy) will relish Honeymoon of the Dead, forlorn and forgotten.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ghosts And Echoes-Lyn Benedict

Ghosts And Echoes
Lyn Benedict
Ace, Apr 272010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441018703

Miami based private investigator Sylvie Lightner continues to grieve deaths she caused like that of Michael even if she simply saved the world (see Sins and Shadows). She knows she needs to get back to work handling paranormal cases, but that is easier said than done when you are responsible for the death of others.

Still she goes to her South Beach store Shadows Inquiries to see what havoc her partner Alexandra Figueroa-Smith caused even as her backbrain snipes at her. Sylvie rejects as clients witches, werewolves, demons and others as she has pissed off enough of them for several lifetimes. However, she reluctantly agrees to handle the case of Chicago police officer Adam Wright who shows up while she is doing surveillance. A husband and father of a six years old son, he says he is either possessed or crazy as he died but came back with an otherworld hitchhiker. She explains not her thing as she is good at breaking and destroying not surgically removing parasites from a host as her approach is kill the host and the parasite is gone. Still she agrees to help him after he mentions Anna D the succubus who hates her referred him.

The key to this terrific urban fantasy is the world of Benedict seems genuine as the heroine works the Magicus Mundi cases. Fast-paced, fans will relish Sylvie’s efforts to send that other soul back to the beyond. Readers will enjoy this fine paranormal private investigate thriller with a great late twist as the tough detective works the abnormal beat.

Harriet Klausner

Magic On The Storm-Devon Monk

Magic On The Storm
Devon Monk
Roc, May 4 20210, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463272

A Hound searching for the practitioners of illegal magic use, Allie Beckstrom continues her training with the Authority. Obviously she is one teacher’s pet as her lover and soul mate Zayvion Jones is a prime instructor in her magical skills education. Allie believes she contains a segment of her late father's soul because she hears him “speak” in her mind.

The Authority leadership concludes a treacherous magical tsunami is heading towards Portland that will destabilize magic activity; it will take a powerful cohesive team to restrain it and hopefully contain it if scattering proves impossible. Allie and Zayvion are a major part of the wildstorm counteroffensive unit; but neither the professor nor the student realizes the worst treachery is from within the Authority.

The latest Allie Beckstrom urban fantasy is a terrific entry as all magical hell is heading to Portland where the lead couple on the front prepares for the “war” while seditious acts occur within the Authority hampering the efforts to prevent the deadly perfect storm. Allie has come a long way since she learned of Magic to the Bone; as her heart and soul has found her other while she learns to control her paranormal skills. This is a strong tale, as the magical world of Devon Monk seems genuine.

Harriet Klausner

A Taint In The Blood-S.M. Stirling

A Taint In The Blood
S.M. Stirling
Roc, May 4 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780451463418

The Shadowspawn were the ancient rulers of the world before Homo Sapiens emerged with masses of numbers to overwhelm and force Homo lupiens into hiding amongst the human sheep. Although cross breeding with the enemy has watered down the species with no known purebreds left, the long term strategic goal of the Shadowspawn is to return to the top of the food chain.

Wealthy Shadowspawn Adrian Breze wants no part of his hybrid species lofty endeavor nor does he want much to do with the humans. At one time he actually fought against the Shadowspawn who rules the Lupiens with an iron claw. Now he prefers to be left alone as he loathes both sides of the civil war. However, his twin sister Adrienne, though she detests her mentally weak brother, demands he use his power to further the cause of the Shadowspawn that she is a key member of. Knowing he will refuse to join her team; near Santa Fe she abducts his only vulnerable object, his human lover Ellen Tarnowski as his sibling knows he would move heaven, hell and earth for the pathetic woman.

This is a terrific urban fantasy that starts with a strong opening scene as readers meet the two females in the lead triangle when Adrienne kidnaps Ellen and takes off from there as S.M Stirling establishes his new realm. Although Adrienne introduces herself as his “evil twin” detracts from her belief that her species even “dumbed down” by intermingling with inferior sapiens blood is superior to the human purebred, fans will enjoy the threesome do their expected deadly tango. Well written and fun to read even with nothing new added to the sub-genre landscape, fans will enjoy the action-packed opening Shadowspawn act.

Harriet Klausner

Well of Sorrows-Benjamin Tate

Well of Sorrows
Benjamin Tate
Daw, May 4 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 978-0756406028

In the landof Andover, the Twelve Families of the Court prepare for a Feud that will eventually be an all out war tearing apart the country. Citizens from each of the Families travel on ships across the Arduon Ocean to escape the fighting and to settle on land promised to them. Colin Harten and his parents travel to Portstown, which belongs to House Carente, who does not welcome the refugees from the Twelve Families war or their allies.

The Hartens, who belong to the Bontari Family, are forced to live in a city where they cannot find work. The situation gets so bad that the Proprietor ruler of the establishment plans to destroy the Lean-to city where the refugees live. He tells the residents that they can go on a wagon train to begin a new settlement trying to be created by the Family and the Church. Colin’s dad leads the wagon train knowing no one who left for the Plains ever returned. They encounter the Alvritshi warriors who warn them to go back. However, the refugees decide to continue though afraid as they have nothing to return to. The Dwarren hate humans who betrayed treaties with them attack them while the dark forest contains Shadows who kill without leaving a trace. Colin barely survives but the Faelehgre spirits of light get him the drink of Life Blood from the Well of Sorrows. He stays there for several years and is no longer human. After six decades he returns to human lands and realizes there is no place for him but he is needed.

This is a huge fantasy in which the above paragraphs fails to even come close to what is going on as the details are extraordinary. Colin obviously plays a critical role in the Colonies now called Provinces. Using the colonization of the Americas as a background, Benjamin Tate builds his own fantasized world that seems real and most critical the three prime species seem genuine. Mindful of Kate Elliot and, Terry Goodkind. Fans will enjoy this strong thriller while anticipating the next installment.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Under Heaven-Guy Gavriel Kay

Under Heaven
Guy Gavriel Kay
Roc, Apr 27 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780451463302

Second son Shen Tai has spent the last two years as the only living person amidst the forty thousand dead, burying the bones of the dead from both sides. He does this to honor his late father, Kitai Empire Left Side Commander of the Pacified West General Shen Gao who died here while leading his side to victory.

Tai’s endeavor is rewarded with the unexpected stunning gift of 250 Sardian “Heavenly Horses”, the greatest steeds on the planet. To obtain his gift, he must come in person to the Sardian Court of their former enemy so he leaves the ghostly mountain battlefield for the capital of the Kitai Empire, Xinan. Tai knows how valuable they are, but soon learns others agree as assassination attempts to send him to his late father begin even without his claiming the horses yet.

Under Heaven is a superb historical epic that builds off an ancient Chinese dynasty to tell a beautiful tale of power abused, betrayal, honor and love. The secondary characters enhance a strong sense of what the hero is going through as the audience will feel we accompany Shen Tai on his travels. Guy Gavriel Kay provides a deep saga of a hero rewarded and consequently assaulted for honoring his father by interring the remains of valiant soldiers from both sides to their ghosts can silently rest forever.

Harriet Klausner

Bewitched and Betrayed-Lisa Shearin

Bewitched and Betrayed
Lisa Shearin
Ace, Apr 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441018727

Seeker Raine Benares wants to go back to just finding missing things and people, but knows that will not happen at least for now. Instead, the elf is bonded to the soul-stealing Saghred stone and complicating matters she is also tri-umi'atsu bonded with Paladin Mychael Eiliesor and goblin Tamnais Nathrach.

As she wonders how a seeker could be tied up like this, one of the six evil mages who escaped from the Saghred wants her dead so he can control the rock, but needs to re-grow his goblin body first. Thus Sarad Nukpana is killing the most powerful essences with the umi'atsu trio the last to die for him to complete his quest of becoming an evil God.

This is an exciting action-packed fantasy filled with tension and jocularity as few authors can combine. Raine is terrific as she ironically wants to hide, but knows she cannot as her bonding will not allow her to do so nor the knowledge he is coming for her as she is the only thing between his achieving his goal. Readers will enjoy Bewitched and Betrayed as High Noon is coming to the mythological world of Shearin.

Harriet Klausner

Dragon Haven-Robin Hobb

Dragon Haven
Robin Hobb
Eos, May 11 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780061931413

Expelled from the Cassarik area by the fear of the locals of the new dragon hatchlings, the beasts and their mutated human keepers continue their journey to find the fabled lost city of Kelingra with danger and starvation every step along the deadly Rain Wild River. As the dragons mature, they become powerful fully developed while their keepers remain malformed but are well adjusted for the most part.

However finding the ancient Elderings’ vanished haven proves impossible as the collective memory of the landscape fails to match what the world along the Rain Wild River has become. Instead danger from flash floods and a scarcity of food as supplies dwindle threatens the explorers.

The sequel to the Dragon Keeper is an exciting climax to a well written duology that returns readers to the Hobbs’ realm of the Liveship Traders and the Tawny Man sagas. The story line is a coming of age fantasy especially of the naive female teenager Thymara who grows in confidence as she learns who to trust and more important to distrust. Although the rest of the cast seems somewhat interchangeable as shallowly deceptive or even shallower naive, fans of Robin Hobb will enjoy the trek along the Rain Wild River.

Harriet Klausner

The Lost Fleet: Victorious-Jack Campbell

The Lost Fleet: Victorious
Jack Campbell
Ace, Apr 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 978-0441018697

In the far distant future, the Alliance and Syndicated worlds have been at war for over a century. Captain John “Black Jack” Geary was in cryogenic sleep for almost that long. Since his fleet successfully evacuated from the system where the Syndicates set a trap, he is regarded as a hero by a war weary public where millions would support him if he chose to be a dictator with the military backing him up. He accepts the post of fleet admiral even though the Ruling Council fears Black Jack.

He asks the authorities that promoted him to give him permission to negotiate with the Syndics, who have lost much of their ships and military; they are in horrific shape. Granted the authority, when he arrives on the home space station of the Syndics, he did not expect the fight of his life. If he wins, they still have a common enemy; an alien race on the other side of the Syndicate space whose strategic plan is to take control of this sector and ultimately the Alliance too. Geary leads a counter insurgence to prevent this Machiavellian scheme from occurring, but he will need Syndic cooperation to succeed.

This is the sixth book in the Black Jack military space opera series and fans of the saga will relish the tale as am entertaining twist occurs. The hero is a terrific leader who understands military and political strategy but also understands he sends soldiers to their death while fat cat council leaders have a different agenda than those on the front line. Readers will enjoy Jack Campbell’s latest Lost Fleet science fiction thriller because like President Eisenhower the hero has a deep regard for life even with his first hand field knowledge that many of his troops will never go home.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Legacy of Daemons-Camille Bacon-Smith

A Legacy of Daemons
Camille Bacon-Smith
Daw, May 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406035

They are upscale Philadelphia private investigators specializing in all things supernatural, but that is mostly because the three partners are part of the paranormal community. Brad and Lilly are full blooded daemons of the house of Ariton who live in their spirit form in the second celestial sphere; the one closest to the first sphere which contains earth. Evan Davis is a half-breed son of Brad, an abomination who should not exist, but for now Ariton is staying his hand and will not kill him.

Everyone is shocked when Matt Shields ( who is really a daemon) asks Evan to bid for a box at Sotheby’s. He was a daemon who was forcibly bound to the evil Donne family forced to do their biding. Now that the last Donne is dead he is still bound to the box and can’t leave the earth for home. Inside the box is another daemon who has gone mad from centuries of captivity.. Bound by the contract Evan signed and their Princes of the Host s agreed to. The trio must find the box and free the daemon trapped inside. There are many obstacles and enemies to overcome in order to get the box. Evan remains ignorant how much power he possesses to destroy his adversaries, but makes the wrong move when challenged by the Princes of Ariton and Paimon.

This urban fantasy like its predecessors (see Eye of the Demon and Eyes of the Empress) is loaded with action, but is character driven. Brad to his shock has feelings towards his offspring although he refuses to admit they exist even to him. Evan feels upbeat to learn he is not insane as his differences are due to his legacy not his brain failing him. Lilly and Evan are lovers who make a formidable pair and she is incredibly powerful as is Brad who is part of their “family” unit. Camille Bacon-Smith affirms she is a great fantasist who pioneered the urban fantasy genre.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Killing Room-John Manning

The Killing Room
John Manning
Pinnacle, May 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786017997

For nine years and three hundred and sixty-four days, the Young Mansion in Maine is an ordinary home. The room that remains locked always is quiet except on the first day of a new decade. A sacrifice of a family member must be made so every ten years a lottery is held and the selected one is left inside the room.

This has been going on since 1930 with everyone who spent time in the room dead except for one survivor. Since the room is locked, the other family members assume the people commit suicide except for that one female who lived, but her mind was fried and spent four decades inside a padded cell. The patriarch Howard Young hires former FBI Agent Carolyn Cartwright who has dealt with supernatural cases to find a way to break the curse. Carolyn knows her first step is to learn what happened in 1930 in that room and the second step is to pray she and the Young family survive the truth.

Readers will thoroughly enjoy the locked room mystery inside a haunted house tale reminiscent of early King and Koontz. There is a steady growing tension as the answers to the cause percolates, but the solution seems to never boil to the surface. John Manning provides the audience with a chilling tale as the heroine knows there is only one way to learn the truth.

Harriet Klausner

A Magic of Dawn-S.L. Farrell

A Magic of Dawn
S.L. Farrell
Daw, Apr 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756405977

By 563, Nessantico the once proud powerful Empire remains divided, but a renaissance of sorts has blossomed under its female ruler Kraljica Alessandra ca’Vorl, Fifteen years ago The brutal Tehuantin army invaded from Hellins, but were repelled. Alessandra managed to keep the Sun Throne as ordained in the capitol city of Nessantico, but the empire was fractured as the city-states were divided in support of her and in allegiance to her son Jan ca’Ostheim, leader of the rebellious Coalition of Firenzcia.

Mother and daughter have negotiated since the last horde invasion, but so far that has proven futile. The Concenzia Faith has arisen seeking its once glorious position of power; they face strong opposition from within led by Nico ce'Morel, who though defrocked three years ago, leads a powerful following who demand a strict fundamentalist reshaping of the Faith and from the secular ruler and her Garde Kralji, who reject religious influence. As violence between the groups increases, the Tehuantin have regrouped and deployed ready to invade again. If Alessandra and Jan fail to come together, Nessantico will crumble again by the invading horde; if they come together the empire has a chance, but the religious-secular schism may prove too internally divisive and enervating to overcome anyway.

The third Nessantico Cycle political-military fantasy (see A Magic of Twilight and A Magic of Nightfall) is a great finish to a strong saga. Fast-paced and loaded with action, the characters and their divided loyalties make the Farrell mythos seem real. Readers will enjoy the exciting finish in spite of a late spin that some will relish and others question as too simplifying. Newcomers would be better suited reading the previous magical tales first to better appreciate the world S.L. Farrell has constructed as it begins and ends with the city of Nessantico.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 22, 2010

Forbidden Passion-Rita Herron

Forbidden Passion
Rita Herron
Forever, Apr 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446199490

Demons trained Dante Zertlav when he was thirteen years old to kill humans. He used his ability to toss fireballs at people with uncanny skill to the pleasure of his mentor Father Gio; failure in any sense meant torturous punishment. However, his final initiation test was to kill young Marlena Bender as a sacrifice to Helzebar, but he envied her innocent laugher along side her older sister and mom. He failed to complete the assignment helping Marlena to safety and he became ostracized by his demonic community.

Two decades later, he is sheriff of Mysteria where he was trained by Father Gio; while Marlena has become a research scientist studying why people become violent. When she returns to the place where her nightmares began, Marlena knows Dante is the one who saved her life. While a killer is on the loose, they begin to fall in love. However, she a pure good human while he has the DNA of evil; neither considered his father manipulating both behind the scenes.

The latest Demon Born romantic fantasy (see Insatiable Desire and Dark Hunger) is a terrific entry as the intrepid heroine and her demonborn champion fall in love while he realizes the serial killings are planned to culminate with the completion of the interrupted Marlena’s sacrifice. Filled with action perhaps too much as some subplots never develop, Dante investigates a twisted case while also keeping the human he cherishes safe though he denies himself the dream of her at his side forever.

Harriet Klausner

Can't Teach An Old Demon New Tricks-Cara Lockwood

Can't Teach An Old Demon New Tricks
Cara Lockwood
Pocket, Mar 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781416550976

In Dogwood, Texas five years ago Kevin Farnsworth attended a convention. When he returned home to his wife Rachel, he was not the same person. Rachel is unaware that her Kevin is dead; murdered by a demon who took possession of his body.

When Rachel gives birth to Cassidy, the new mom finds her offspring acting oddly and her spouse missing. She soon learns what is going on when a demon horde arrives demanding she tell them where Kevin is; they believe he knows where Azarel the fallen angel is hiding. Satan sends Sam another fallen angel to find Kevin. When he meets Rachel, he falls in love with the kick butt human. Soon afterward as their attraction grows, Rachel and Sam are caught in the middle of a demonic war.

This is an amusing lighthearted Texas romantic fantasy as angels and demons make Dogwood the focus of the latest frolic. Fast-paced, fans will root for the human caught in the middle as everyone seems to want a piece of her; only Sam literally wants the whole piece of her. Although the romantic relationship between the fallen angel and the mom never quite seems to gel, fans will enjoy this jocular tale of a tough human female battling heaven and hell to protect her hybrid demon offspring; though having a lot of fire extinguishers around should help.

Harriet Klausner

Flight Of Shadows-Sigmund Brouwer

Flight Of Shadows
Sigmund Brouwer
WaterBrook, May 18 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400070336

Her genetic code makes Caitlyn Brown the most wanted person on the planet as her DNA enables her to do almost anything. However, all she wants to do is remain in hiding as her back deformity makes her believe she is the ultimate pariah.

However, the affluent in a world filled with poverty want more and she is the source. They go after her with only Razor the illusionist as her ally although she distrusts him. She hopes he can guide her to friends while the Feds and a twisted bounty hunter, all working for the rich, pursue her. As Caitlyn learns who she is, she is caught in a quandary not just between two men she cherishes and believes love her; but in terms of choosing life for her and extinction for humanity or death for her and life for mankind.

Flight of Shadows is an exciting cautionary tale that extrapolates from current trends to paint a dismal future with the heroine treated as a Typhoid Mary if she fails to do the bidding of the powerful. Caitlyn makes the tale work holding together the exhilarating hunt for her. Although the philosophical ethical issues could have been explored even deeper, readers will appreciate Caitlyn’s dilemma; mindful of Ursula Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, but perhaps Hell is more descriptive.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Blood Oath-Christopher Farnsworth

Blood Oath
Christopher Farnsworth
Putnam, May 18 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399156359

Twenty-five years old Zach Barrows is already a veteran of senate and presidential campaigns; having delivered three states in the last race. The Washingtonian calls him the next Rove as he is now the youngest ever deputy director for White House affairs.

Caught with the POTUS’ nineteen years old daughter, Zach is being escorted by Secret Service Agent Griffin who takes him to the oldest part of the Smithsonian; a hidden room buried inside the Castle that the Griff calls the Reliquary trophy room where some of the oddities of history are “buried”. Zach has joined a very exclusive club as the White House liaison to Nathaniel Cade vampire; pardoned and pledged by President Andrew Johnson in 1867; he leads the global war on horror. Their first assignment as a team is to uncover a conspiracy from within to use biological weapons against the United States.

The two key elements that make Blood Oath an entertaining espionage paranormal thriller are the clever intermingling of history with the supernatural mostly through Zach but also with artifacts and the plot never takes itself seriously. The wild story line lampoons American mythos like president-journalist relationships via Nixon and the Washington Post, Frankenstein, Roswell, and the GWOH. Fans who relish an over the top of the Washington Monument and under the Smithsonian will relish Christopher Farnsworth’s satirical tale of vampires dining in the White House.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Christian-David Gregory

The Last Christian
David Gregory
WaterBrook, May 4 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781400074976

In 2088, the unknown disease has devastated the small Inisi village. Desperate, Christian missionary Abigail Caldwell leaves the jungle for the first time in eight years seeking help for those surviving. She is found dehydrated and taken to Meriden Hospital in Lae where she is treated by American Dr. Kate Sampson. The two women fly by helicopter to the village only to find everyone dead.

Grieving as she loved the villagers, Abby goes to America after receiving an odd missive from her neuroscientist grandfather, an inventor of brain transplants. She is stunned to find Christianity is dead in America, but she vows to lead the crusade to bring it back from the grave. However, her grandfather is also dead. His death leads her to History Professor Creighton Daniels, whose father like Abby’s grandfather and villagers suddenly died. The duo join forces to investigate what is going on. They soon discover a plot to evolve mankind into eternal non-believers transhumans with silicon based brains and no one will stop them; not even two people grounded in faith that God created Adam and Eve.

The Last Christian is a terrific futuristic thriller in which the religious elements come across (no pun intended) as powerful and refreshing while the political spin felt mechanical, a rehashing of early twenty-first century DC paralysis. Fast-paced with two strong believers as champions, sub-genre fans will want to join these David’s as they battle Goliaths with plans to make mankind in their image.

Harriet Klausner

Dragonfly Falling-Adrian Tchaikovsky

Dragonfly Falling
Adrian Tchaikovsky
Pyr, Apr 27 2010, $16.00
ISBN 9781616141950

For generations, the methodical Wasp kinden Empire has slowly conquered the Lowlands. Only recently has some enlightened members of the other species realize the perilous threat of the advancing Wasp horde.

Currently the Wasp army threatens Collegium, a city with a mix of opinions as the resistance is strong here and so are the deniers. Stenwold so far has failed to persuade the Collegium leadership that the Wasp threat endangers the city.

In Tark, Totho and Salma are arrested as spies by a fearful of strangers law enforcement officials who determine guilt based mainly on one’s status. They are released, but seemingly too late as the Wasp army has the city under siege.

This is a fascinating second tale (see Empire in Black and Gold) in a unique fantasy in which the world built by Adrian Tchaikovsky engages the audience. The strife is reminiscent of the Greco-Persan Wars (the movie 300 is one major battle) , but with the refreshing insectoid spin. Fans who appreciate something different in their military-social fantasies will want to read the strong Shadows of the Apt saga as a deep entrenched caste system struggles with survival since the invasion changes everything previously accepted as the divine order.
Harriet Klausner

Crimes by Moonlight: Mysteries from the Dark Side

Crimes by Moonlight: Mysteries from the Dark Side
Edited by Charlaine Harris
Berkley, Apr 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9780425235638

These twenty short stories focus on paranormal mysteries that run the urban fantasy gamut with vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts, seers, mages and Mike Hammer making featured appearances. All of the contributions by The Mystery Writers of America authors are enjoyable tales that sub-genre fans will want to read as the diversity of the supernatural adds to the overall fun. Vampires are right at home in Parnell Hall's amusing “Death of a Vampire” and Charlaine Harris’s “Dahlia Underground”. Ghosts star in Harley Jane Kozak’s “Madeeda”, Carolyn Hart’s “Riding High” as a marriage counselor and even as a phantom ship in Lou Kemp's “In Memory of the Sibylline”. Finally Hammer has a “Grave Matter” (by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane) case with a supernatural taint. This is a strong anthology as everyone contributing showed up in top form providing enjoyable Crimes by Moonlight: Mysteries from the Dark Side collection.

Harriet Klausner

The Long Man-Steve Englehart

The Long Man
Steve Englehart
Tor, Mar 16 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765317308

Max August would like to return to his simpler life as a DJ during the Reagan Era, but ever since he became the timeless Point Man mage sandwiched between the war of chaos and order, he knows he can never go back. Two plus decades later, still looking in his thirties and not his fifties, his friend Fern calls him on his iPhone; a voice he had not heard in six years. She needs his help.

Someone using powerful magick has assaulted researcher Dr. Pamela Blackwell. Her work on curing the zombie plague is looking promising. An unknown super cabal the Free Range Coalition has plans for global control and Blackwell’s work could br a major interference to their plans. When Max intervenes, the FRC sends hordes of killing zombies after the Timeless mortal.

Over the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco, Juliana in Suriname and Mount Hillaby in the Barbados, the Long Man is en engaging thriller that is fun to read; just ignore credibility especially of the throwback comic book villains. Fast-paced as Max and Pam elude the enemy while also killing some along the way, readers will enjoy the return of the Point Man.

Harriet Klausner

The Desert Spear-Peter V. Brett

The Desert Spear
Peter V. Brett
Del Rey, Apr 13 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345503817

Ahmann Jardir has united the Krasia desert tribes under his rule claiming he is the Shar’Dama Ka Deliverer who can destroy the night demons. He yields an ancient spear and wears a crown as old as his weapon as he leads his demon killing army towards the cities of the north.

Others also claim to be the legendary Shar’Dama Ka. In the north there is Arlen Bales although he insists he is not the Deliver, but the Warded Man; whose tattooed skin contains magical wards that devastate demonic opponents. These two charismatic leaders have arrived at critical juncture as humanity has all but lost the night to the demon hordes. Jardir and Arlen were brothers in arms, but are now opponents whose rivalry further divides the humans. Key supporters like Jardir’s ambitious psychic wife Inevera, Leesha the warding healer and Rojer the fiddler with the magical music struggle with who to support. This is a particular bad time to remain at odds as a new demonic breed has challenged the humans leaving those like Renna in dire straits.

The sequel to the Warded Man continues Jardir’s conquests though he seems heroic rather than brutal as he did in the first fantasy thanks in part to his Machiavellian wife coming across more villainous than him. Fast-paced and filled with tons of action as armies battle on the epic scale, The Desert Spear is an exhilarant saga even with romance including for the Wild Thing “as love is all around us, it’s everywhere we go” (the Troggs did have another hit). Readers will enjoy the second entry as the Deliver and the Warded Man are opponents at a time humanity cannot afford divertive internal strife.

Harriet Klausner

Kiss of Death-Rachel Caine

Kiss of Death
Rachel Caine
Signet, Apr 27 2020, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451229731

Morganville, Texas was founded by vampires led by Amelia who sought a safe haven for her species from human hunters. The town is a melting pot of sorts but to keep mortals safe, each human resident has a vampiric Protector. Blood is dispensed at blood banks and no one is allowed to leave once you enter although Amelia has allowed one exception; Claire, Shane, Michael and Evie may go to Dallas so that the vampire Michael can record his music.

On their way, their guard and escort Oliver has them stop in Durrram where he and Michael conduct business while leaving Claire alone. However, Morley and his vampiric followers who oppose the Morganville rules hijack them. Michael and Oliver rescue the others, but they end up on the deserted town of Blacke. The Morley vampires attack, but something more feral assaults both sides as zombie vampires seek to dine on each of the combatants.

The eighth Morganville Vampire saga is different than most of the previous entries as the heroes are outside the town so obtain a taste where the local rules do not apply. Thus the audience sees a diverse species as vampires come in different types and philosophies especially re humans. A refreshing and totally entertaining tale, Kiss of Death is a super Texas fantasy as the Rachel Caine’s world of vampires expands to the delight of teen readers and us folks in the Twilight of our years.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Blood Pressure-Terence Taylor

Blood Pressure
Terence Taylor
St. Martin’s Griffin, Mar 30 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312385262

In 2007 Christopher moves to New York seeking to find and meet his biological parents so he can finally understand why he is so different than the Ross family who raised him. In Manhattan, he meets performing art film documentary maker Joie. .They share a strange bond as each realizes the impact on their respective soul by otherworldly forces. However, they will soon learn that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts as together they possess incredible power that others want to use for their nefarious schemes.

The Federal funded covert ops Clean Slate Global learns of their joint skill and plans to use it as a super weapon to eradicate all vampires except for those who work for them. Christopher and Joie team up with her parents Lori and Steven, psychotherapist Dr Lazarus, and Prenelle the vampire top prevent the government from being the only group to possess vampires.

Two decades since Bite Marks occurred, the action picks up without missing a heartbeat due to a strong cast especially the heroes and the lead villain. Fast-paced throughout even with super looks back in time to late 1920s Cabaret Berlin and the Harlem Renaissance, fans will relish this motley crew of Davids and Davidettes fighting against Goliath as well as some rogue vampires. Blood Pressure is a one sitting thriller as the streets of Manhattan is draped in blood.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bite Me-Christopher Moore

Bite Me
Christopher Moore
Morrow, Mar 23 2010, $23.99
ISBN: 9780061779725

The streets of San Francisco are not safe as a predatory vampire prowls them looking for prey. No one is safe from this feline. Perhaps the only humans who might end the biting cat's reign of terror are goth Abby Normal and her brilliant boyfriend, Stephen "Foo Dog" Wong although others like the Animals of Marina Safeway and the Emperor of San Francisco hunt the beast.

Abby and Stephen visit her Masters, vampire couple Jody and Tommy to obtain their help and guidance. The pair owes Abby for keeping them together when she made them immortal with her rendition of The Kiss starring the vamps as the couple. As they work to stop the sharp toothed cat, the team runs into three visiting ancient vamps with teeth to grind, the other hunters and SFPD homicide detectives Rivera and Cavuto who want all of them off the streets of San Francisco so the cops can solve the case.

This is a wild biting satire that takes no prisoners as a vampire cat wrecks havoc on the City by the bay. The story line is amusing and fast-paced but also contains too many cat lives that diverse from the prime plot of hunting the hunter who hunts those hunting it. Fans of the Normal acerbic paranormal tales (see After You Suck) will laugh out loud at Bite Me” A Love Story.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mind Games-Carolyn Crane

Mind Games
Carolyn Crane
Bantam, Mar 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553592610

In Midcity off Lake Michigan, Justine and her boyfriend Cubby dine at Mongolian Delites when she sees Shady Ben Foley work his latest scam on some people just like he did her father. She warns the others before returning to her table complaining about her vein busting. Soon afterward at the bar, Packard Sterling tells her he can help her with her desperate problems like the vein bursting and other psychosomatic diseases. She says no thanks as she is used to being a hypochondriac with a zillion phobias. However, he insists that he can transfer her fears into criminals and will teach her to do so if she joins his Disillusionists crime retribution team; whose clients are the victims like she and her family were.

Two of Packard’s recruits were former clients and they persuade Justine to return to Mongolian Delites after explaining their target is Foley. Still believing she is making a Faustian deal; she agrees if Foley suffers an aneurism. When he does due to her transferring her fear of having an aneurism to the rat, she joins. However, Justine fears her attraction to her new boss, but soon catches him lying so she vows to learn why and find out his other secrets.

The first Disillusionist urban fantasy is a refreshing crime fighting thriller starring a terrific tough woman who knows she has every illness known to humanity and a few not yet discovered; as she is learning to transfer her “disease” of the moment to deserving bad people. The story line takes its time introducing the Crane mythos and the key characters. Once done, the plot goes into hyper action as the Disillusionists work their transference trade in Midcity while the heroine struggles with ethics issues. Fans of Dresden will want to read the opening act as Justine proves to be a powerful telekinetic hypochondriac.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Five Odd Honors-Jane Lindskold

Five Odd Honors
Jane Lindskold
Tor, May 11 2010, $27.99
ISBN 9780765317025

Only recently did college student Brenda Morris learn that The Lands Born from Smoke and Sacrifice existed based on what she thought were Chinese myths and that her ancestors crossed over from this alternate earth place (see Thirteen Orphans and Nine Gates). Although she has also learned she possesses the powers of the Zodiac Rat, her dad pleads with her to ignore her magical prowess and the encouragement of her Aunt Pearl the Dragon in order to return to school. He wants her to live a normal life anchored on this earth.

However, the Orphans-Exiles seize an opportunity to open a gate into the Lands Born from Smoke and Sacrifice in order to return with five of their dead so they can honor their late compatriots. However, once they open the ninth gate, the Thirteen Orphans are stunned as the Center is impenetrable and soon several are captured. On earth an assault of Pearl Bright the Tiger concerns Brenda who cannot get back into textbooks and lectures. When she learns what occurred in The Lands Born from Smoke and Sacrifice, her first thought is that of betrayal; her second rumination is that of mounting a rescue though her third consideration is what superior being could have achieved what has occurred in the Lands.

The third Chinese zodiac urban fantasy is a superb thriller in which much of the violence is off page as the heroine and others discuss what happened and how to react. Thus the story line is character driven with much of the action passively discussed not actively performed. This approach provides reflective insight into Brenda, her family, and the Orphans while also enabling the reader to better comprehend the Chinese zodiac although the minute detail can turn overwhelming.

Harriet Klausner

Ark-Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter
Roc, May 4 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780451463319

The unabated Flood spreads rapidly across continents with only the highest elevations of land remaining. In America, the Rocky Mountains is the last stronghold not under water, but that is turning into an archipelago. In 2025 as six year old Holle Groundwater and her dad make it to Denver, the last great American city, scientists predict total submersion in the next couple of decades. Their hope to save humanity resides with an Ark traversing to a New Earth II. Some oppose this as a waste of resources with only a select few leaving. Nathan Lammockson pushes creation of geodesic dome habitats on earth that will save so many more.

By 2041 time has run out but Ark One launches with an elitist crew targeting Earth II with a faster than the speed of light technology. On board is frightened Holle who is trained as an astrophysicist and military strategist. She proves her choice is correct, as she contributes over the next four decades. Life inside the Ark One is miserable, but as Holle knows Darwin is right; cut throat survival of the fittest is all that matters to mankind’s remaining few.

This is an exciting science fiction thriller that initially follows up directly from Flood (worth reading first to better understand how humanity got here and what happened to the seas though Stephen Baxter does a nice job with the back-story) before soaring into space. The story line mostly focuses on life inside the Ark over four decades. Considering “necessity as the mother of invention” and being scientific-illiterate, the udnerlying theories seem reasonable. However, the use of resourcing to construct an Ark that if all goes right starting with the launch and a stop at Jupiter will save a few seems off kilter. Still placing aside the plausibility of opportunity costs, Ark is a terrific exciting outer space character study as those inside at times feel like sardines packed in oil.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Legions of Fire-David Drake

The Legions of Fire
David Drake
Tor, May 11 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780765320780

In Carce, the center of civilization, bookworm Varus, son of Senator Gaius Saxa, is to do a reading. Attending it is his classmate and friend Corylus, son of commander Publius Cispius. At the recital of the epic poem, Varus abruptly makes strange predictions of the end of days beginning count down.

His young shrewish stepmother Hedia holds the avaricious wizard Nemastes culpable for Varus’ outrageous embarrassing behavior. However, besides Varus, Corylus and his sister Alphena were engulfed by visions during the recital. None are aware that to the north on a remote volcanic isle, mages have begun a final ritual that will enable beasts from beyond this realm to enter and destroy mankind. Four residents of Carce with diverse skills are all that stand in the way to prevent total extinction.

The key to this sort of historical fantasy is how wonderfully David Drake captures the essence of the patrician nobility of Rome, which brings freshness to the quest. The quartet of heroes is fully developed with different skills, knowledge and attitudes. Corylus brings military strategic experience to the mix; Alphena possesses combat skills; Hedia is brilliant though volatile; and Varus has a connection to the beyond. Together they may save the realm; separately they have no chance as the Legion of Fire is an enjoyable first tale.

Harriet Klausner

Feed-Mira Grant

Mira Grant
Orbit, May 1 2010, $9.99
ISBN 9780316081054

2014 is the year that has gone down infamy as blogger Georgia Mason notes twenty-six years later that everyone has someone on the Wall. Sometimes the cure proves worse than the disease as that is the year cancer and the cold were cured but the remedy led to a more powerful disease. The Rising virus spread throughout humanity taking over the body and mind of every dead host with one command: Feed. Only social networking saved society from total destruction.

In 2039, Senator Peter Ryman runs for president. He is the first realistic candidate for the top office from the new generation born after the world was somewhat saved from the zombies. The Senator invites the popular twin bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason to cover his campaign from the inside. They are euphoric with the offer even knowing that Ryman understands the value of keeping your potential enemy nearby. At a stop, zombies attack killing Ryman's daughter. However, while the twins learn the power of the press, the government bureaucrats of CDC and a Machiavellian candidate want the bloggers shu down; but it is an influential group of co-conspirators who have ambition beyond the White House and want the bloggers reanimated but will settle for dead.

Told through the perspective of the twins, Feed is a profound action-packed paranormal political thriller that extrapolates from modern trends including epidemiology research, political buying, handling and spins, and blogging superseding mains stream media, but in a way that the audience would not expect. Fast-paced, Mira Grant avoids turning the tale into another zombie horror saga; instead Feed is a political thriller with plenty of hidden handlers working their candidate’s almost robotic run for higher office. Readers will appreciate the opening act of the Newsflesh trilogy while looking forward to the middle tale that like many on the Wall begins and ends with an idiot.

Harriet Klausner

The Sweet Scent of Blood-Suzanne McLeod

The Sweet Scent of Blood
Suzanne McLeod
Ace, Apr 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441018710

In London, the only known Sidhe fae in the city Genevieve “Genny” Taylor works for whose vision is “Making Magic Safe!” Genny is a spellcracker, who hunts for magic in order to remove spells before they cause trouble though she ironically cannot cast a spell.

Her boss at Stella Raynham sends Mr. Hinkley to meet with Genny in order to hire her to conduct a murder investigation. His celebrity vampire son Roberto (known as Mr. October due to a popular calendar) is accused of killing his human girlfriend Melissa; the media has convicted him of murdering his “Juliet” as they have dubbed the victim. Mr. Hinkley wants Genny to find the real culprit. Genny explains that the Witch Council, of which her firm belongs, taboos vampiric cases. However, she reluctantly agrees as the fee will pay off a major debt. Her inquiry soon has Genny moving inside vampire society and a few other paranormal subcultures, but each clue she finds seems to either hang her client’s son or push her further away from the truth.

The first urban fantasy is a terrific paranormal whodunit starring a likable heroine who is a sort of a British female Dresden (early books) in London where the supernatural have legal rights. The atmosphere is deftly established to enable the reader to believe in vampires, fae, and trolls, etc while also lampooning western society, which makes the tone lighter than Simon R. Green’s vision of the city, but also somewhat slows down the inquiry. The Sweet Scent of Blood is a wonderful opening act that will have the sub-genre audience wanting more of Genny’s London

Harriet Klausner

The Prophecy-Dawn Miller

The Prophecy
Dawn Miller
Zondervan, May 1 2010, $9.99
ISBN: 9780310714330

As children, they encountered two groups of beings not of this world. One side tried to kill the five of them while the other saved their lives, but made them forget that horrific day. They all went their separate ways. However, Sam, Jonas, J, Carly and Jenna suffer nightmares. Sam is stunned by the horrible painting he created while asleep so he contacts the others only to learn they suffer nightmares too.

They agree to meet in St. Louis, but on the road each encounters danger from adversaries trying to prevent their rediscovering what occurred. The quintet soon learns they are the Watchers caught in a raging war between warrior angels and fallen ones that normal mortals cannot sense engulf them. The Mazzi-kin know of the Watchers who are a key element in the end prophecy and like the Grigori want the five dead. However God’s Warrior Angels are entrusted to keep these pivotal teens safe as the beginning of the end of the heavenly war has the teens playing pivotal roles.

This classic good vs. evil spellbinding novel grips readers throughout as the audience and the Watchers learn of the heaven-hell war on earth. Each of the members of the human quintet is different with a couple unlikable. The three otherworldly groups come across genuine with diverse attitudes. The Fallen mated with humans against God’s Orders and initially seemed sympathetic towards mankind but think of wolf in sheep’s clothing; the Grigori are in your face evil and loathe humanity; and finally the Warrior Angels have no allegiance to the sons and daughters of Adam except as directed by God so they come across as superior and aloof. Ironically they are the savior group (besides the heroic teens) in a delightful good, bad and ugly apocalyptic chronicle.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 12, 2010

Invisible Fences-Norman Prentiss

Invisible Fences
Norman Prentiss
Cemetery Dance, May 2010, $30.00
ISBN: 9781587671845

Nathan had an ordinary childhood until his half sister died; which plunged his mother into a depression that made her a recluse who could not leave the house nor throw anything out. Their home was covered with piles everywhere making it impossible to walk. Both his parents told him and his sister Pam cautionary tales that made each fear even crossing the street.

Nathan and Pam were in the woods near his best friend Aaron’s home. An accident occurs and Aaron falls into the overflowing creek and cannot get out. Neither of his two companions can swim, but both refuse to give up on rescuing Aaron. They come up with an idea, but as they leave the woods with their friend still in the water Aaron curses them. Later Nathan goes to visit Aaron; his friend’s brother beats him up.

Nathan and his family move to another state; where he grows up into a male “spinster”, afraid to take even the slightest chance. However, after his parents die, something from their warnings surfaces to challenge Nathan’s Invisible fences that allow no risks.

The child is the adult as the impressionable boy is frightened by his parents by their stories into fearing life. Nathan faces a supernatural essence that is a horror from his childhood; leaving readers to wonder if he psychologically created his demon. This is a chilling tale as Norman Prentiss provides a profound look at the child inside the adult whose fear is palpable while the audience wonders if it is externally real or internal psychosomatically real.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Destiny's Star-Elizabeth Vaughan

Destiny's Star
Elizabeth Vaughan
Berkley, Apr 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425234679

Ezren Silvertongue the Storyteller knows he owes his life to take charge warrior Lady Bethral, who fell from the sky only to save him from certain death. He also knows he loves her, but conceals his feelings from his lady as he believes he is undeserving of his warrior; partly because he cannot control the wild magic that flows within him.

When the wild magic explodes, Bethral makes Ezren, accompanied by her relocation magic travel to the isolated plains. However, the Warrior-Priests attack the pair with plans to sacrifice Storyteller and regain the wild magic. However, Bethral and some local warriors defend Ezren to insure evil practitioners do not obtain his magic.

Fans of Elizabeth Vaughan will relish Destiny’s Star as the author deftly combines her two fantasy sagas by having support Star players fight for their lives on the plains of the Warlands. The lead pair shows they can be stars of their own tale even if it is in another land as the kick butt female warrior and the mage carrier fall in love while helping the Plains’ people. Fans will relish this strong romantic quest fantasy as the action never slows down while the Plains come alive with ironically death in the aptly titled Destiny’s Star.

Harriet Klausner

The Devil's Playground-Jenna Black

The Devil's Playground
Jenna Black
Dell, Mar 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780440244943

Exorcist Morgan Kingsley knows not to be complacent as no one has tried to killer in several months. However, because no one has made an attempt does not mean she should ignore her paranoia. Besides her boyfriend, Brian has issues with her sharing her human body with demon king Lugh.

Meanwhile Lugh ironically may be inside an exorcist, but has not sat back idly. Instead on the Mortal Plain, Lugh has established a royal council. They have evidence that Lugh’s traitorous brother Dougal has set in motion in Philadelphia at the Seven Deadlies demonic nightclub the openings salvo of another fratricide assassination attempt in order to take over as the ruler of all demons. Lugh knows he has no choice but to kill his brother or be killed while his hostess body jumps head first into the fray.

Trust is the key to the latest superb Kingsley urban fantasy as the heroine distrusts everyone except to e a degree Brian and she has no choice with Lugh. The monarch has to rely on the obstinate Morgan to do the right thing for both of them. With betrayal everywhere, Kingsley and Lugh know no one has their back to the delight of fans of this excellent saga as the overarching devilish theme moves forward (except when the heroine pukes in a toilet due to control shifts) to the anticipated war of the brothers.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Moonshine-Alaya Johnson

Alaya Johnson
Dunne, Mar 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780312565473

In 1920s Manhattan, Zephyr Hollis is a rare human immune to vampires. The offspring of a demon hunter, she is a social activist who always makes time for the Family Action Committee for Nonhuman Laborers equal rights protests of City Hall (to the chagrin of Mayor Jimmy Walker) and teaches at a Lower East Side night school for underprivileged paranormal.

Considered a softhearted liberal, Zephyr is surprised when her student Amir the djinn suggest she kill vampire mobster Rinaldo. However, Amir never explains why Rinaldo must die, but she agrees as she can use the money he offers. Zephyr turns to the ruthless Turn Boys for insider trading information even as her hunting father prepares to kill them and the bloodsuckers high on a new customized street drug try to dine on her.

Moonshine is a fabulous urban historical fantasy that will have readers believing in a paranormal 1920s New York City though Gentleman Jimmy is probably turning over in his grave. The amusing story line never takes it self seriously even when blood (not always red) flows. Although the city (and somewhat story line) is inundated by the horde of supernatural species, fans will enjoy the Roaring Twenties Manhattan adventures of the Vampire Suffragette

Harriet Klausner

Shadows in the Cave-Caleb Fox

Shadows in the Cave
Caleb Fox
Tor, Mar 2 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765319937

Galayi Tribal War Chief Shonan has banned the use of magic especially by his family ever since the events that shook him and his tribe several years ago (see Zadayi Red). Although he honors the Gods and knows his wife Meli has the power of shapeshifting and her grandmother is a seer who lately seems to talk to herself or some spirit no one else sees, he prefers earthly pragmatism over the mystical. Their oldest children are twin twelve years old, Aku and Salya. A male Aku has the maternal paranormal skill of shapeshifting that he yearns to use, but fears disobeying his father while his female twin ironically cannot.

Unable to resist Aku practices shifting by himself. However, as he begins to become proficient, the Brown Leaf People violently attack the Galayi’s five villages. Shonan and Salya are dispatched to the underworld Darkening Land while his sibling’s body is owned by a monster. There only hope to return to the living is Aku; who must find himself if he is to save his family members.

This is a superb coming of age Cherokee quest fantasy that grips the reader the moment the Brown Leaf tribe attacks. The story line focuses on the young hero whose reflective doubts are his biggest impediments to saving his twin and their father. Fans preferring some action intermingled with major moments of meditative pensiveness will enjoy Aku’s journey into his mind, heart and soul as he traverses the Shadows in the Cave of the Darkening Land.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Firefly Rain-Richard Dansky

Firefly Rain
Richard Dansky
Gallery (Simon and Schuster), Apr 6 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439148631

He chose to remain in Boston after graduating from college; disappointing his parents as the visits back to Mayfield, North Carolina grew shorter in length and longer in gap. His father died five years after Jacob Logan finished school and his mother ten years later. Now with his business failing, Jacob retreats to his hometown where his family home has been maintained by his late mom’s creepy elderly friend Carl Powell.

Back home, Jacob finds no peace though he initially assumes it is because he failed to see his parents much after going off to college in New England. However, as unexplained things occur like the theft of his car from his driveway without a sound, Jacob concludes his life and those he still cherishes are in jeopardy although he is unsure from what or why. He must solve the enigma of the townsfolks odd behavior towards him, the spirits of his parents haunting him from their nearby graves, and more so the torrential rain of fireflies that seem everywhere except on or near his estate.

This is an exciting rural regional horror thriller that grips young adult readers from the moment Jacob returns to a home that fails to welcome the prodigal son back. The story line is action-packed, but at times overwhelms the audience with too much unanswered piled on. Still this is an entertaining haunting as Jacob learns you can’t go home unless the fireflies welcome you back.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pinion-Jay Lake

Jay Lake
Tor, Mar 30 2010, $26.99
ISBN 9780765321862

Paolina Barthes the sorceress has caused havoc upsetting the God given gears of the northern hemisphere. Rival ambitious groups The Silent Order and the White Birds pursue her to gain control of her “free will” magic that each believes will allow them to become the absolute authority in the north. Paolina flees southward with plans to do the impossible of crossing over The Equatorial Wall that God constructed to keep earth rotating through heaven

On the other side of the Great Wall that God built is The Southern Empire whose mystics gear for the coming of Paolina. They know what she has done to the clockwork precision balance in the north and want to prevent her heresy wrecking their society as granted to them by God as their right to rule. These mystics do not idly await the arrival of the destroyer, but instead go after Paolina’s beloved Boaz the brass man and Childress the Mask librarian who travel in a Chinese sub.

The final tale in the Clockwork Earth saga (see Escapement and Mainspring) is a terrific climax to a strong thought provoking thriller. Jay Lake magically mixes his big metaphysical themes with a deep cast starring in an electrifying fast-paced story line. Readers will fully appreciate Pinion as Mr. Lake takes the audience on a profound philosophical comparison of religion and magic vs. science; especially free will vs. pre-determinism and subjection. With two prime subplots filled with action, Paolina still holds the novel together as the heretic beginning a revolution in thought similar perhaps to the Renaissance or more so the transformation from the divine rights of kings to the Age of Reason. This is great finish, but newcomers need to read the previous entries first or be lost in the precision of Clockwork Earth.

Harriet Klausner

The Nameless-Ray Wallace

The Nameless
Ray Wallace
Black Death, Mar 2010, $12.99
ISBN: 9780979988189

The Nameless are one step above vampires on the evolutionary ladder. They are stronger and faster than their lesser cousins while getting their nourishment from eating mortal flesh. These human eaters also find sunlight poisonous so remain inside during the day. Master Nicolae created the Coven as a family with eleven others that he made. He knows they need one more to become incredibly powerful, but delays choosing the final entrant.

Ariella loves her boyfriend Jake, but ends their relationship because everyone she cherishes dies. One night while clubbing, Ariella meets Nicolae. He takes her to his abode, naming her his czarina and second in command mate. She enjoys being a Nameless, but has failed to move beyond Jake. She turns him, but leaves him alone out there. Jake goes on a killing spree, which has mortal law enforcement believing a vicious serial killer is on the loose. However, Jake remains resolute to find his Ariella and take her away from Nicolae and his coven. Nicolae realizes Jake is a hazard to their well-being as the mortals know nothing of the Nameless and he plans to keep it that way.

Ray Wallace provides a refreshing variation on the vampire (some might say zombie too with what the nameless dine on) theme with this strong urban fantasy that will have enthralled readers turning the pages to learn what shocker is next. The cast is strong as readers get inside the heads of several characters especially those recently changed while the seven deadly sins of Cassandra surface with believability. Mr. Wallace will not remain Nameless with this strong horror thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Demon Possessed-Stacia Kane

Demon Possessed
Stacia Kane
Pocket, Mar 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439167618

Psychologist, psychic, and demon clan leader Dr. Megan Chase attends a meeting of other paranormal group leaders. Her demon lover Greyson Dante plans to escort her to the session. . However before the pair leave for the meeting, FBI agent Elizabeth Reid interrogates Megan about some of the other attendees who run illegal businesses.

Megan has no time for a nosy human Fed who includes her fiery lover as one of her suspects. Instead she must focus on preventing the demon community demands that she convert into a full demon. Finally someone sends an angel to kill Megan.

The latest Megan Chase romantic urban fantasy is a fast-paced thriller in which the heroine is in a sort The Lady and the Tiger scenario as demons and humans demand she pick a side; does she give up her cherished humanity or her cherished Greyson? However, the angelic attack takes center stage as she must defeat this heavenly being, find out who the angel’s handler is, and defeat an essence that can order an angel to kill. Although newcomers should read the previous books (see Demon Inside and Personal Demons) first to understand the several subplots that eventually tie deftly together, fans will appreciate the heroine’s emotional decision between her heart and her soul.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Edge of Ruin-Melinda Snodgrass

The Edge of Ruin
Melinda Snodgrass
Tor, Apr 13 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765316462

In spite of his extremely wealthy background and his father’s disdain, Richard Oort joined the Albuquerque Police Department because he always wanted to become a cop. However, two months ago his reality shattered putting him over The Edge of reason when he found out there is a lot more out there in between heaven and hell. The Old Ones are breaching an interdimensional gate to gain access to earth and the rest of this universe by using mortals as expendable tools to commit violence.

When Lumina Enterprises CEO Prometheus became bound, Richard took over, but failed to persuade the American political leaders to act as people go insane and religious leaders inadvertently enable the Old Ones. Richard needs to rescue his predecessor to save mankind; so with his sister’s help leads a science charge at the gate against magical practitioners.

The middle Edge fantasy is a terrific tale that continues to cause the audience to reconsider values, belief systems and leaders (political, religious, and community). Although at times his dysfunctional relationship with his family, especially his father, overwhelms the plot, readers will relish this intelligent fast-paced thriller as Melinda Snodgrass will leave fans pondering what are the personal motives and agendas of our leaders, especially those claiming the high moral ground.

Harriet Klausner

A Catch In Time-Dalia Roddy

A Catch In Time
Dalia Roddy
Minotaur, Apr 1 2010, $7.95
ISBN: 9781605421032

A mysterious force leaves people unconscious for three minutes. When they awaken, they remember nothing about what went on during that time and the global population was decimated. The only person to recall what occurred was Laura who saw an energy dimension and a community of Shadows on the other side of the “barrier”. They are the creators for every life form on the planet and responsible for the evolutionary leaps from amoebas to humans.

A second wave causes massive headaches as a dark energy bombarded the world, which made people evil. They become Shaitan and since the energy well is closed, all newborns are filled with dark eyes marking them as the evil Shairan. Older children and adults that were turned by dark energy are recognizable by their darkened eyes. Years later Laura’s daughter Lily is kidnapped by her Shaitan father. Laura and her family mount a rescue and while they are doing this they want to find a way to open the energy barrier so the souls can come in and the dark will leave so that the balance will be restored.

Readers who enjoyed THE STAND will want to read A Catch in Time. Although bizarre religions emerge after the energy waves strike, this is not a religious thriller as the heroine sees through the false prophets. No one believes what she claims she saw during the unconscious state, but she insists the devolution of humanity is happening with dark energy entering people especially babies. Although not fully explained why the waves started, Dalia Roddy provides an intriguing thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 1, 2010

Up Jim River-Michael Flynn

Up Jim River
Michael Flynn
Tor, Apr 13 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765322845

The Kennel of the United League of the Periphery assigns top Hound Bridget ban to obtain an artifact on the frontier planet Dangchao Waypoint that allegedly will help them remain safe in their galactic war against their enemy the Confederate of Central Worlds. Bridget ban knows the Confederacy will go all out to possess or destroy the artifact. Arriving on the planet, she begins the dangerous trek up river only to vanish. The Kennel conducts a quick inquest before deciding all beginnings and endings are with Jehovah; as Bridget ban obviously is.

Outraged with the instant official write off of her mother, who was a loyal hound, Bridget’s daughter Mearana rejects the notion that her mom is dead. Mearana decides to rescue her mom, but knows she needs professional help so she chooses her mom's former lover, Donovan, who is insane so Mearana believes he might agree to do the job with her at his side; though he also could get them killed as the Confederacy Those of Name tortured him into seven distinct personalities. He agrees to take her to Dangchao Waypoint along the river of death.

Returning to the far future universe of The January Dancer, Michael Flynn provides an entertaining search and rescue mission science fiction thriller as the location of a remote lethal sector of the human dominated galaxy comes across as powerfully vivid. Enhancing time and place is almost mythological use of references and :archaic” vernacular dating back to twentieth and twenty-first century earth that focuses on a presupposition of knowledge and understanding of previous civilizations. More traditional in outlook than its predecessor, Up Jim River comes across more like a series of TV episodes along the line of Lost or 24, but with an unhinged hero. Readers will enjoy this fast-paced S&R quest on a planet filled with wilds.

Harriet Klausner

Divine Misfortune-A. Lee Martinez

Divine Misfortune
A. Lee Martinez
Orbit, Mar 26 2010, $19.99
ISBN: 9780316041270

On an earth where mortals and Gods co-exist, humans can go on the website to pick a god to worship. At first Teri and Phil reject adopting a god, but after being passed over for a promotion he earned, his car smashed while the other vehicle had no scratches, and his lawn brown compared to green next door, Phil reconsiders his deity belief. They go online and listens to videos until they select raccoon faced Luka, god of prosperity and good luck.

He wants to move in with the couple, but they do not want a god as part of their family. When Lucky leaves, he takes their fortune with him, leaving behind nothing but bad luck. One the chaos god Gorgoz, a deadly primordial ancient deity wants to kill Lucky. Collateral damage and deaths of innocents don’t matter to him. When he kidnaps one of Lucky’s followers who he is fond of the battle of the gods begins.

Lee Martinez provides a unique amusing tale of Divine Misfortune in which readers will enjoy the serious yet comedic tale. The audience will be fascinated by humans and gods side by side in which the former can select the latter online the latter; of like shopping on Amazon. Teri and Phil bring the seriousness to the mix as everyday people struggling initially without heavenly intervention, but soon struggling with heavenly intervention. The couple must deal with what Luka has wrought to them as Mr. Martinez provides an entertaining thought provoking yet jocular deity fantasy.

Harriet Klausner