Sunday, October 31, 2010

Songs of Love and Death: All-Original Tales of Star-Crossed Love-George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Editors)

Songs of Love and Death: All-Original Tales of Star-Crossed Love
George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Editors)
Gallery (Pocket), Nov 16 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9781439150146

Songs of Love contains seventeen winning well written entries that explore the area where fantasy, science fiction, and romance converge as portrayed in a Venn Diagram with three overlapping circles. The compilation opens up with Dresden battling a nasty foe and his heart in “Love Hurts” (Nazareth is right). Following the fantasy master is historical romance guru Jo Beverly contributing a Georgian thriller with the courtship being love or death. In “The Thing About Cassandra,” Neil Gaiman shows what happens in a second chance at love with an old girlfriend yet Stuart begins to wonder if he ever met her the first time. Fans of Diana Gabaldon will appreciate her time traveling RAF pilot Jerry to the Outlander era, but his family is back in the WWII period. Melinda M. Snodgrass writes “The Wayfarer’s Advice” in which love arrives in deep space and Peter S. Beagle provides love in the laptop age with “Kaskia” and Martin. The compilation is excellent as all authors provide tales of “Star Crossed Love” in various realms (and sub-genres) to the delight of fans who will relish the amalgam zone where fantasy, science fiction, and romance converge.

Harriet Klausner

Prince Charming Doesn’t Live Here-Christine Warren

Prince Charming Doesn’t Live Here
Christine Warren
St. Martin’s, Nov 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312947941

In Manhattan the firm’s most senior partner octogenarian Matthew Yorke IV directs attorney Danice Carter to find his granddaughter Rosemary Addison and persuade her to file a paternity suit. He blames Rosemary’s pregnancy on the girl’s father Tom who had nothing to do with his daughter. Rosemary’s need for love led her to a low life who ditched her when she became pregnant. Danice wants nothing to do with the personal matter, but refusing is not an option unless she wants her career to end so she is expected to file a palimony suit in Connecticut.

She heads to new Canaan to meet Rosemary, but when she arrives she finds the woman missing in spite of their telephonic discussion just prior to her drive. Soon afterward her inquiry leads half-Fae-human private investigator Mac Callahan to Danice as he is also searching for Rosemary. His purebred Faerie client has been silent as to why a human is sought. Mac decides to return to Faerie, a place he left as a baby, to learn the motive. Danice insists she accompany him though he fears the trip will prove dangerous as he wonders if the treacherous Unseelie Court is the instigator.

The latest Others romantic fantasy (see Born to be Wild and Big Bad Wolf) takes a refreshing brisk twist by cleverly adding a new paranormal species into the overarching theme. The lead couple is a perfect pairing to enable the stunning spin to deftly occur. Neither trusts one another nor appreciates the attraction they feel towards each other. Fans will want to join the adventures of half Fae and the lawyer as they go to court with the Unseelie as their judge, jury, and executioner.

Harriet Klausner

Marked by the Moon-Lori Handeland

Marked by the Moon
Lori Handeland
St. Martin’s, Nov 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312389345

Werewolves killed Alexandra Trevalyn’s parents when she was a little girl. The Jager-Sucher raise her and she becomes a dedicated hunter; suicidal in many ways as she is willing to die in her efforts to kill the beasts.

Werewolf Julian Barlow stalks Alex who killed his mate. When he defeats her, she looks forward to his killing her. Instead he obtains his revenge differently. He changes her into a werewolf so she can learn to stop stereotyping his species as brainless monsters, as not all werewolves were created by the Mengele experiments; he has been one centuries before the Nazi did his dastardly conversions. Julian takes a stunned forlorn Alex to his Alaskan pack where she will either adapt or obtain her wish. Neither realized that an evil predator is killing for sport targeting the pack.

The latest Nightcreature saga (See Thunder Moon) is a fabulous entry in a strong series as the Twilight Zone twist of changing a predator into one your kind is deftly handled mostly by how Alex reacts over the course of a strong story line. The sporting killer segue adds suspense that serves as a key catalyst in moving forward the plot, but clearly this is Alexandra’s tale. With a stark Alaskan backdrop to augment the tale of revenge turns bitter, fans of Lori Handeland’ s romantic fantasy will appreciate Julian’s efforts to change the behavior of his soulmate as he wants to wake up with her in his bed and no knife protruding from his ribs.

Harriet Klausner

Echo City-Tim Lebbon

Echo City
Tim Lebbon
Spectra (Ballantine), Oct 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553593228

Echo City is a theocracy in which the Church is the government with both run by the Marcellan family with an iron fist. Political opposition is forbidden with dissenters punished by exile or death.

Peer Nadawa is caught speaking against the leadership so is sent to reside with criminals living in Skulk Canton; she will not be allowed back as she knows too much. Bordering the Skulk is a poisoned desert The Boneyard. There Peer observes a man crossing the forbidden waste; she believes it is a sign that the end of days for Echo City is upon us. She tells the sickly stranger that his coming has been expected. Additionally Peer finds her former lover Gorham who betrayed her leading a rebel force. She puts aside her personal feelings to go with the newcomer to meet the genetic scientist Nadielle underneath the city where her lab experiments are conducted. However, Peer knows an ancient essence is rising from way under the city; this beast must be stopped before it destroys Echo City as this legend has been passed down throughout history.

Tim Lebbon is knows for his ability to merge elements of fantasy and horror together inside of riveting thrillers (see The Chamber of Ten). His current amalgam story line is action-packed from the beginning even as Mr. Lebbon establishes the critical realistic Echo City’s culture especially the rules of order. The characters are fully developed particularly the heroine, her betrayer, the geneticist and an odd person at the top of the spires; the stranger is kept as an enigma purposely adding to the suspense and sense of foreboding. Readers will appreciate this strong tale.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trajan's Arch-Michael Williams

Trajan's Arch
Michael Williams
ISBN: 9780982714942

In 1992 in Lake Geneva, Gabriel Rackett sends a letter to Jasmine as he has no prospects, a sad commentary for someone nearing forty years old. He once showed promise as a novelist until the alcohol took it toll. However, he thinks back to 1968 when the Cardinals ran all over the National league.

In Louisville, he was thirteen playing baseball with his two best friends being Gino Robinson and Joey Hardy near the home of elderly lunatic Miss Vivian when her adult son Trajan Bell moved in with her. Curious about the newcomer, Gino tosses Joey’s glove into the yard; Gabe sneaks in to retrieve the mitt and meets Trajan. Later that same summer, as Joey befriends Beatles’ fans and Gino shop guys, Gabe feels alone except for Trajan and soon Jasmine.

As he creeps towards middle age while a bored college teacher, Gabe knows he failed at work, family, and life. Everything changes, just as it did when he went into Miss Vivian’s yard to get the glove; he obtains a strange manuscript written by Trajan. Gabe begins a trek home past and present with the dark “stigmata” imprinted on the palm of his hand from when as a teen he touched an incline put in the yard by Trajan.

This convoluted thriller is not an easy read yet grips the audience with a need to know who Trajan Bell is and what if anything did he do to Gabe. The story line includes eerie works besides Giacco Piano by Mr. Bell such as “Second Ephesians” and “The Isle Is Filled with Noyses” that add to the strangeness of the well written story line by adding more questions to the mystery of Trajan. With Gabe’s letters to Jasmine enabling the audience to look deeper at him, fans will wonder if he lost his mind when he was thirteen, as the ghosts that haunt him as he nears forty are either psychological or real. This is a memorable and unforgettable book.

Harriet Klausner

Shadowheart-Tad Williams

Tad Williams
Daw, Nov 30 2010, $27.95
ISBN: 9780756906400

The Eddon family have lived in Southmarch castle and ruling the Marchlands for centuries. Now they are scattered because Hendon Tolly took the throne forcing the twin co-regents Barrick and Briony to escape if they want to live. Southmarch is at war with the Qar (fairy folks) because since the usurpers took over they persecuted the fairy and forced them to erect a Mantle curtain and settle on their own lands. In the middle of the battle, the Qar stop fighting because a greater foe is marching to conquer Shadowmarch.

Both Tolly and the ruler of all the conquered lands in the south, the Autarch of Xis Sulepis, know that the Sleeping Gods are located deep below the Funderling Town where the group of small dwarf like creatures lives. The pair plans to attack the realm of the Gods and use a magic ritual to make one of the gods their slave. Brionye is safely staying with the Prince of Syan Eneas who loves her and vows to help her get home. When they arrive Eneas and his men fight to gain control of the throne that rightfully belongs to Briony. All parties interested in waking the Gods and those who oppose collide as Briony and her Syanese allies take the fight to those loyal to Tolly.

Shadowheart is a grand epic finish to a great grand fantasy saga that like its three predecessors is filled with action, but character driven as the audience anticipates the climatic ending.h Tad Williams has not let us down as he springs one shocker after another to a spellbound audience. Barrick is more Qar than human because of a ritual ro save his life although he fights on the side of the humans who want to restore Shadowmarch to its previous glory. Briony has come a long way from the youth foolishly challenging Tolly to a duel as her inner strength remains powerful but matured with experience. All the major subplots come together as apocalypse now has converged on Shadowmarch.

Harriet Klausner

Goddess of Legend-P.C. Cast

Goddess of Legend
P.C. Cast
Berkley, Dec 7 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425228166

In the Crystal Cave Water Goddess Coventina better known by her beloved Merlin as Viviane fears her loved one will soon fade into nothingness. The only way Merlin may be saved is if King Arthur avoids the darkness, but the monarch is depressed over his wife and best friend which expedites his going into the abyss.

Increasingly desperate Viviane finally sees a slight possibility in twenty-first century photojournalist Isabel Cantelli after her car plummets off an Oklahoma bridge when she avoided a chipmunk. Viviane fast forwards Isabel into Camelot as a countess to seduce Lancelot away from Guinevere. However, instead of Lancelot, Isabel is attracted to King Arthur who wants her too, but a deal is a deal or is it.

This is a terrific refreshing (hard to believe something new can be created from Camelot) retelling of the Arthurian legend as Isabel turns the romantic triangle into a quadrangle. The key cast is fully developed so that the reader will believe that the Sooner has landed in the midst of the Camelot threesome. Fast-paced fans will enjoy this charming romantic fantasy as Isabel sums up the plot quite nicely when she informs Arthur that he is better for her heart than a cardio workout.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 29, 2010

Vicious Grace-M.L.N. Hanover

Vicious Grace
M.L.N. Hanover
Pocket, Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439176290

Jayne Heller feels good about her life as finally it seems to be coming together. Still she muses about her “inheritance” as she would prefer to pass on fighting demons that thrive on humans and other paranormal adversaries like the cretins that killed her Uncle Eric and thrust her into his insane world last year. However, the reasons she feels optimistic are that she has friends and a lover; both of which she rarely could claim in the past. Even her belief in her self -worth has never been higher than now due ironically to kicking supernatural butt.

At the same time there is no respite in her new world. While recording dreams of patients at Chicago’s Grace Memorial Hospital, the researchers notice the strange nightmare shared by several subjects. Jayne and her comrades investigate but soon realize something apparently evil is awakening from underneath the hospital. However, Jayne biggest threat may be from those she calls friends and lover, and even perhaps her deceased Uncle Eric.

The Third Black Sun’s Daughter urban fantasy (see Darker Angels) is an engaging entry as the paranormal Chicago setting feels real and fans will recall how far Jayne has come from her first encounter with Unclean Spirits. However that insightful opening leads to the story line starting slow and not accelerating until about half way into the thriller. Still readers will enjoy the latest escapades of it happened to Jayne.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rebel-Zoe Archer

Zoe Archer
Zebra, Nov 2 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420106817

When Nathan Lesperance was a child, the Canadian government took him away from his tribe. By 1875, the adult Nathan has become an attorney practicing in Vancouver, but feels outside of both the Anglo and tribal worlds. Likewise both societies treat him like a leper.

Several years later his law firm chooses Nathan to travel to the wild Northwest Territory because of his heritage as the assumption is he will feel right at home unlike the all white rest of the staff. His task is to pick up the belongings of the recently deceased Douglas Prescott. On the trek the malevolent Heirs of Albrion kidnap him, but he escapes. Former Blade of the Rose Astrid Bramfield finds him wandering lost near dead. Whereas the heirs want to use magical objects to dominate the world; the Blade wants to prevent magical abuse. With her Blade late husband as her partner, Astrid studied the Primal Source, but the Heirs killed her spouse and stole the artifact. Now the Heirs stalk the pair to obtain her knowledge and his untapped magic, Astrid and Nathan trek to the expected safety of an alleged tribe of shapeshifters.

The latest Blade of the Rose historical romantic fantasy (see Warrior and Scoundrel) is another super thriller as the suspense never slows down while the romance simmers nice and slow as each has a history filled with doubts that desire is not enough. Fast-paced once Nathan goes north fully understanding why him and never takes a respite as Zoe Archer hits a bulls-eye with this winner.

Harriet Klausner

The Wolven-Deborah LeBlanc

The Wolven
Deborah LeBlanc
Silhouette Nocturne, Dec 1 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618484

In New Orleans, a serial killer is targeting werewolves. The victims are always left dead in their wolf body with claws and fangs removed as if the predator collected souvenirs. The Keeper of the local Wolven populace shopkeeper Shauna MacDonald is sworn to protect the packs so she investigates the murders. She teams up with alpha pack leader Danyon Stone, who has had several of his members killed.

The pair concludes the predator is murdering werewolves to obtain their claws and fangs not as memorabilia or ritual items. Instead once extracted, the body parts are grounded into a fine powder that enables the user to gain immense physical prowess to rival that of a genuine shifting werewolf without changing from their human form. As the duet work on the case, they realize they want more as each knows this their mate.

The key to this strong New Orleans urban romantic fantasy is the smooth interweaving of recent real events with the paranormal happenings. The story line is fast-paced as the lead couple investigate the homicides, which continual unabated, and fall in love; though for the most part their romance takes a back seat to stopping a diabolical killer.

Harriet Klausner

Alaskan Wolf-Linda O. Johnston

Alaskan Wolf
Linda O. Johnston
Silhouette Nocturne, Dec 1 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618491

In Alaska Alpha Force Lieutenant Patrick Worley serves as an undercover dogsled driver at the remote Great Glacier Dog Ranch. His current cover assignment is escorting naturalist magazine writer Mariah Garver to an isolated area where she plans to research the wildlife of a glacier for an article she is writing. Besides obviously keeping the civilian safe, the shapeshifting wolf’s security task is to investigate the strange happenings occurring to the glaciers.

Besides her prime subject, Mariah wants to know more about the glacial mystery too. She accidentally uncovers her guide’s secret. They team up when they learn am industrialist is destroying the glaciers to expedite extraction of minerals from the ocean floor. The pair plans to prevent an ecological disaster from happening.

This is an enjoyable glacial romantic fantasy starring two likable strong protagonists and intriguing environmental vs. development scenario. He finds his desire for his client distracting him from his mission; while she finds him desirable. Although the remote glacial background is glossed over so lacks the deep starkness of the region, Linda O Johnston provides a fast-paced paranormal romantic thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow of the Sheikh-Nina Bruhns

Shadow of the Sheikh
Nina Bruhns
Harlequin Nocturne, Nov 1 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618477

The note from her sister Gillian the historian says not to worry as she claims she is doing okay but is in love (see Lord of the Desert). Concerned for her sibling anyway, Cultural anthropologist Gemma Haliday wants to be looking at her sister “Jelly Bean” when she hears how Gillian is doing.

In the Nubian desert of Egypt to find Gillian, Gemma knows immortal shapeshifter Sheikh Shahin “Black Hawk” Aswadi has information as to the whereabouts of her sister. Thus she follows him into the forbidden zone where mortals never dare travel; not even the nomads have crossed into this area in a century. She enters the oasis of his people who worship the God Set-Sutekh where her prey captures her. Caught with overt desire for the Black Hawk, Gemma agrees to accompany him when he enters the underground city although she knows once you cross through the portal you can never exit. However, she had not expected to be a key player in an ancient war between Shahin’s vampire leader Seth-Aziz and their immortal enemy Haru-re.

The second Immortal Sheikhs desert romantic fantasy is a delightful thriller starring an intrepid heroine and the immortal who dares to love her. Gemma is a bulldog who once she makes up her mind no one can budge her though her sisters can nudge her. Shahin recognizes his beloved’s obstinacy and uses it as a tool to get his beloved to come to him; which she does into the pits of hell but engulfed by love. Filled with excitement, Shadow of the Sheikh is an enjoyable Haliday tale with one more sister to go.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Devoured by Darkness-Alexandra Ivy

Devoured by Darkness
Alexandra Ivy
Zebra, Dec 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420111354

For two days inside Missouri tunnels, half breed Jinn Laylah flees from vampire Tane the Charon executioner who knows she leads him away from the Caine estate where he first saw her. He assumes she protects a child. However as a half Jinn she must appear before the Commission as her species is outlawed. Tane lusts for the tired Laylah who stops running when vampires arrive. Tane fights the vampires as Levet the gargoyle arrives. Laylah races back to Caine’s lair to grab the baby concealed in a stasis spell she found in the mists fifty years ago. Tane and Levet follow her. The gargoyle mentions a jinn broke his wing two centuries ago in London. Laylah goes to London using her Jinn skill to vanish in the shadows, but Tane and Levet grab her and end up with her in the mist.

In London, Marika the vampire complains to her mage Sergei she hears her twin Kata whisper Laylah although Kata is in a deep magical sleep but made sure her half-breed daughter was safe from her aunt. Laylah informs Tane she is going to leave him behind in the mists unless he gives a wish debt that spell binds him to the half-Jinn. He agrees and in London she orders him to take her to a safe place. He takes her to the lair of Victor the vampire while Marika knows her quest to use her niece and the baby has finally accelerated.

The lead couple is a fascinating pairing of two seemingly opposites while the fast-paced story line makes vampires, gargoyles, jinns, and mages seem real. A nice late twist adds depth. Although the villainous is considered extremely dangerous and nasty by others, she seems somewhat feeble in person. Still this is a strong Gardens of Eternity romantic urban fantasy that cleverly sets up a future “Darkness” sequel.

Harriet Klausner

The Wolf Age-James Enge

The Wolf Age
James Enge
PYR, Nov 9 2010, $17.00
ISBN 9781616142438

By nature an extreme pessimist who in spite of his adept skills knows he cannot live up to the legend of his father except when he is intoxicated. Enchanter Morlock Ambrosius wonders what else could go wrong as nothing seems to be going his way. In the werewolf city-state of Wuruyaaria, he figures he hit rock bottom when he is confined in a prison inside Vargulleion, a werewolf fortress. Morlock soon learns he has not bottomed out when he is forced to kill another inmate who attacked him.

His new cell mate is Rokhlenu the werewolf, whose life he once saved. They become friends watching each other’s back in the dangerous dungeons. However, Morlock also struggles with his sanity as the glass spike pounded into his head blocks his Sight leading to out of control paranoid rages. Working together, the pair escapes, but being on the outside in a city boiling over with angry werewolves divided in strife during an election year proves more dangerous than lock up.

Making last summer’s Tea Party look like tea partiers, The Wolf Age is an excellent political fantasy as James Enge paints balloting skewered by the sword and claw; making Wuruyaaria seem worse than 1850s Bleeding Kansas and that of 2008 violent Kenya. The taut story line is character driven by the honor of blood werewolf voters as democracy proves deadly. With morose Morlock as the guide (see Blood of Ambrose and This Crooked Way), readers will appreciate the dark, grim and gloomy portrayal of democracy.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Right Hand Magic Nancy A. Collins

Right Hand Magic
Nancy A. Collins
Roc, Dec 7 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451463661

Her affluent parents are disappointed in Tate as they expect her to marry someone of their social group. Instead, Tate is a Manhattan based metallurgist, sculpting life-sized human figures. Tate feels she is on the way to making it as a metal sculptor when the Templeton Gallery in Chelsea plans a showing of her work.

Tate finds a place to rent in the Golgotham, the oddest area in the city; some would say the world. Here is the true melting pot where Werewolves, Valkyries, Amazons, centaurs, and their ilk live above ground and Dwarves below the pavement. Also residing here is Kymeran witches who sell charms, spells, and curses to customers, mostly dumb humans. Tate's landlord is Hexe the Kymeran sorcerer who’s a practitioner of the Right Hand magic. He shares in common with his new tenant the fact he has disappointed his mother the Golgotham Witch-Queen, Lady Syra by not following in her footsteps with using Left Hand curse magic. As Tate adjusts to Hexe’s strange feline Scratch, a were-cougar stalks her. Hexe catches teenager Lukas, who is cold turkey detoxed from the drugs that had him out of control. He explains he fled from mob Boss Marz's pit fighting ring; the trio knows the gangster and his minion will be coming for their guest.

Right Hand Magic is a fascinating opening act of a new urban fantasy that focuses in the New York neighborhood Golgotham which is filled with an assortment of non-humans. The story line introduces the audience to the neighborhood through the eyes of the newest resident. The action is somewhat limited as Nancy A. Collins establishes the lifestyle of an assortment of paranormal species and a horde of players. This first entry looks like the beginning of an engaging series as fans will want to walk the streets of Golgotham; albeit with some magic at their right and left hands.

Harriet Klausner

Star Wars Fate of the Jedi: Vortex-Troy Denning

Star Wars Fate of the Jedi: Vortex
Troy Denning
Del Rey, Dec 7 2010, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345509208

In a remote planet in the Maw Cluster, the Sith believe they have trapped the father and son Jedi Knights Luke and Ben Skywalker. However, before the final confrontation, both sides find a greater threat from a third party. The Abeloth forces the enemies into an unholy alliance between the Skywalker pair and the Sith to survive the menace; not knowing if they survive something even more beastly awaits them on the moon of Pydyr, home to the brutal Fallamassi.

Meanwhile on Coruscant, Han and Leia Solo are in the middle of the growing divisiveness between the Jedi Order and the brutal leader of the Galactic Alliance. Civil war seems increasingly inevitable as the Solo couple tries to negotiate a more peaceful solution.

The newest entry in the nine-book saga "Fate of the Jedi" is a pivotal tale as the overarching story line takes a fresh, exciting and unexpected twist as new developments lead to strange surviving bedfellows and convoluted complications. Fast-paced, both enjoyable subplots continue the woes of the Skywalker duo and the Solo clan with terrific revolutionary spins that will delight Star War fans.

Harriet Klausner

Seer of Sevenwaters-Juliet Marillier

Seer of Sevenwaters
Juliet Marillier
Roc, Dec 7 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9780451463555

The fifth daughter of the Lord of Sevenwaters, teenager Sibeal of Sevenwaters has always dreamed of becoming a druid. Thus she is excited when she completes her training as all she has left to do to fulfill her goal is to take the vow. However, Sibeal's Uncle Ciaran directs her to drop her study in order to contemplate if she really wants to become a druid; as there is no change of mind once you commit. He sends her to the island of Inis Eala where her married sisters live for a summer of reflection in isolation.

Sibeal is angry with her mentor who she believes is punishing her although she cannot fathom why. A storm causes a shipwreck leaving several stranded voyagers. Sibeal is confused by the behavior of Knut the Norseman and his wife Svala who seems deathly afraid of her husband. The other survivor pulled safely from the water suffers from amnesia. To her shock Sibeal is attracted to this stranger with the memory loss, but also wonders what secrets have the married couple and perhaps the other survivor conceal from her and her family.

The latest Sevenwaters’ family fantasy (see Daughter of the Forest and Heir of Sevenwaters) is an engaging entry starring a delightful intelligent daughter who must make choices not easy to select from as her life passion has a new passion. The story line starts off slow with much of what has gone on before overly rehashed to the chagrin of fans and glee of newcomers, but once Sibeal steps to the plate, the game accelerates. This is an entertaining romantic fantasy as the audience will wonder whether the heroine will select Druidism or love while also pondering who the amnesiac is.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 25, 2010

Alien Tango-Gini Koch

Alien Tango
Gini Koch
Daw, Dec 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406325

Kitty Katt muses how in a flash one’s perception of the world can radically tilt. Although it was six months ago, it seems just yesterday she learned of the A-C aliens from Alpha Centauri who reside among us purebred earthlings. Now the former marketing manager is undergoing rapid training as part of the Human/A-C Airborne Centaurion Division. Kitty also appreciates the side benefit of lovemaking with A-C Commander Jeff Martini.

The Kennedy Space Center brass orders their unit to come immediately. An experimental space ship has returned to Earth when the vessel was not supposed to. On the trek to Florida, a hit squad tries to kill Jeff, Kitty and their team. At the Space center, a stalker frightens Kitty, but her biggest fear is meeting Jeff’s family.

The second kill Kitty Katt science fiction thriller (see Touched by an Alien) is an amusing over the top of Olympus Mons thriller. The story line is faster than the speed of light as the heroine struggles to stay alive while threats from ETs and from earthlings seem to be her constant companion. Readers will enjoy this bizarre totally out of control yet fully entertaining “aliens walk among us” adventures of a novice still trying to comprehend all that is going on.

Harriet Klausner

Black Wings-Christina Henry

Black Wings
Christina Henry
Ace, Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019632

In Chicago, Madeline Black is an Agent of Death who helps guide souls pass from one existence to the next. She likes her job as the benefits include magical skills and wings, but gets irritated with her know-it-all boss who is more a bureaucrat than chief of the Death Agent units.

Maddy is stunned when her peer and friend Agent Patrick is murdered. Even more shocking is demons are stalking her wanting her dead too. Finally she thinks there is something peculiar about Gabriel Angeloscuro, her new tenant. However, staying alive is her first imperative as she considers who in her family tree inherits the job if she dies, which is very possible as hell has come for her and other Agents of Death, and learning why is second.

This is an entertaining urban fantasy starring an intriguing heroine whose blood line includes some odd creatures. The support cast is strong especially Madeline’s boss J.B., the enigmatic Gabe and Beezle the suspicious gargoyle. Madeline keeps the tale focused whether she is arguing with the death bureaucracy or new clients, or just trying to get demons off her lawn. The soul-eater serial killer mystery adds to an engaging Chicago joyride as courageous Madeline fears this unknown adversary but goes after the lethal beast.

Harriet Klausner

Law of the Broken Earth-Rachel Neumeier

Law of the Broken Earth
Rachel Neumeier
Orbit, Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9780316079938

In Feierabiand, her family ignored Mienthe as a child. In fact the gardener was the adult who served as a surrogate parent raising her. That changes when her older cousin Lord Bartaud (see Land of the Burning Sands) takes her under his wings.

Soon afterward, Bartaud's griffin mage friend Kairaithin arrives to inform him that the Wall that separates the land of the fierce griffin from the human kingdoms is splintering. As Bartaud ponders what to do evil Istierinan captures Tan the spy threatening him with torture. Meanwhile Mienthe struggles with her new lot in life as she finds becoming important within a family has a price. She is uncomfortable with learning her magical prowess at a time when her latent skills are needed.

The third Griffin Mage (see Lord of the Changing Winds) is a strong coming of age fantasy starring a wonderful reluctant heroine who prefers to be ignored as that is her comfort zone, but that is not longer an option. The Neumeier universe is cleverly drawn so that the audience will believe in the physics of magic and the wall coming down. The cast is strong except for somewhat the super villain who is too stereotypical of the genre. Still fans will relish the Law of the Broken Earth as Rachel Neumeier provides a powerful vivid realm anchoring a fabulous story line.

Harriet Klausner

Bone Gods-Caitlin Kittredge

Bone Gods
Caitlin Kittredge
St. Martin’s, Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312388201

Black London is a dangerous place to reside as witches, mages and necromancers fight each other for control with no regard for collateral damage. Adding to the deadly chaos is the deity civil war and the revival of the lethal order of the Malleus who stalk witches with deadly intent.

Trying to retain order are detectives like Pete Caldecott. A Weir she misses her mentor former punk rocker Jack Winter, who took her under his wings when she was sixteen before he apparently died (see Street Magic). When Pete found Jack, she was euphoric. After drying out from his addiction, Jack was turned into a demon so he fled to hell to keep himself from harming Pete (see Demon Bound). Now Jack is back for the third time in Pete’s life as the Commander in Chief of an army of hell’s most odious horde with plans to dominate the world. Pete must assassinate her hero in order to save Black London and the world or else.

This strange but exhilarating Black London urban fantasy (see the anthology Huntress, for a Winter dark novella) takes a third major spin in the Jack-Pete relationship; which gives new meaning to dysfunctional. Although there is an initial déjà vu all over again feel, the twisted fast-paced story line holds reader attention; as Pete is left with the choice of saving the world by killing her mentor-hero. Readers will relish the tale of the heroine’s dilemma as she knows what she must do, but fears she will not be able to figuratively squeeze the trigger as the thought of patricide makes her ill.

Harriet Klausner

The Flock-James Robert Smith

The Flock
James Robert Smith
Forge, Nov 9 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765328014

In a remote part of the Florida rainforest where development has been nonexistent, the Berg Brothers want to open an amusement park in land that is part of the Edmonds Bombing Range. The 450,000 acres are considered environmental treasures so are protected from development. They manage to build Salutations, a town based on American family values.

Billionaire environmentalist Vince Holcomb opposes any intrusion into this pristine area while the developers hire a mercenary militia to clear the opposition. In the middle of this wilderness lives the Flock of prehistoric brilliant pre-aviary beings who will fight against any intrusion into their land. Contemporary humans and Pleistocene Era survivors fight to determine which species is the more predatory with Fish and Wildlife Agent Ron Riggs caught in the middle.

With a nod to Jurassic Park, The Flock is a terrific action-packed thriller in which the dino-birds and the humans prove adaptable when it comes to operational deployments as each side is viciously aggressive. Although the main players are stereotyped as the poster children representing a specific group (mega business, tree huggers, paramilitary, and the Flock as nature), fans will enjoy this strong drama. Ironically The Flock has the stronger moral cause, but that does not prevent humans from claiming economics supersedes animal natural habitats as cynical greed wrapped inside the flag vs. protecting “family” values of home turf lead to a dynamic satirical tale.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Human Blend-Alan Dean Foster

The Human Blend
Alan Dean Foster
Del Rey, Nov 23 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345511973

Mankind bickered over whether climate change was voodoo until it became too late to stop the catastrophes that placed major port cities under the sea. In this new world order that includes Mars and Titan, still dependent on personal finances, humans choose between remaining a “natural” unmodified person and a “meld” altered with natural or mechanical augmentations.

Two thieves work with a body parts dealer by killing victims and harvesting parts for resale on the black market. Their latest kill looks worth a fortune as the victim had an expensive prosthetic hand and a metallic thread attached to a data port. However, the cops interrupt their dealing, which leads to the two thugs fleeing separately; one with the hand and the other the thread.

Dr. Ingrid Seastrom remains a natural whose career is thriving. She also performs the government mandated house calls where she treats a teenage girl with a bad meld; however, during her fixing the botched job Ingrid finds a miniature device implanted in the teen. She begins to study the gizmo that her patient did not know was inside her when she meets a patient Whispr the thief who has Police micro-tracking units and a thread inside him. The odd couple teams up on an investigation to learn the truth while also eluding the cops who are coming for them.

The first Tipping Point futuristic science fiction mystery provides a strong world view, but that proves a two edged sword as Alan Dean Foster’s vision is incredibly deep reaching literally to the bone marrow, but in turn it takes up more than half the book before accelerating. Whispr and Ingrid are a fascinating pairing, but so far obviously are not Pip and Flinx. Still in spite of the slow early pace, readers who prefer a fully developed setting will want to join the doctor and the thief as they investigate what is going on.

Harriet Klausner

The Horns of Ruin-Tim Akers

The Horns of Ruin
Tim Akers
PYR, Nov 1 2010, $16.00
ISBN 9781616142469

The three brothers were Gods until Amon betrayed and murdered Morgan. He also died leaving the sole surviving sibling Alexander as the last god.

A Morgan Paladin Eva Forge provides security for Barnabas the Fratriarch of the Cult of Morgan as he travels on a mission into dangerous sectors of the city of Ash to bring out an Amon Librarian Cassandra. Confused by the assignment, Eva knows the remaining Cult of Amon want revenge against the Morganites; as they blame their enemy for the fall of their God while choosing to ignore who initiated the betrayal. However, as Eva rides the monorails through she skies over Ash and journeys into underground lairs where the Amonites scurry like rats, she begins to uncover unnerving truths about her perceptions of past and present at the same time Alexander operative Owen investigates Barnabas’ activities.

The keys to this refreshing fascinating fantasy are the city and its three prime interrelated siblings’ cults. The story line is fast-paced and vivid as the intrepid trio treks through Ash though they are unsure why and Owen and Cassandra are uncertain whether to trust the brusque cantankerous follower of a different God. Although the ending feels more like a set up to the next thriller than a wrap up of the first adventures, fans will enjoy the investigation into the homicide and abduction that has the already despondent Morgan supporters in further disarray.

Harriet Klausner

City of Tranquil Light-Bo Caldwell

City of Tranquil Light
Bo Caldwell
Holt, Sep 28 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780805092288

In 1966 widower Will Koehn looks back at his life with his wife Katherine who died twenty years earlier. In 1906, Will an Oklahoma farmer and Katherine Friesen a Cleveland deaconess met on a ship traveling to China. Both were Mennonite missionaries filled with enthusiasm and fear. They became companions and later a married couple as she offered her nursing skills and he the word of the Lord. The pair was there when the revolution occurred culminating with the rise of Kuomintang even as other missionaries are violently exiled. The duo stays through drought, famine, earthquakes and winters requiring five thick coats; as long as Will and Kate had each other and God, they can help others cope with any human atrocity and any natural disaster.

This is an entertaining early twentieth century epic that provides a vast loook of life in China. The dedicated couple endures all sorts of external problems, but though at times it seems over the top as they adhere to their mission and each other in an almost superhero detached way, their love for God and each other keeps them strong and going. Ironically the passion in this engaging historical comes with Katherine's diary as she invokes feelings for the plight of their Chinese neighbors and for each other.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Game Over-Taylor Keating

Game Over
Taylor Keating
Tor, Nov 2 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780765365477

River Weston created a game that enables people to experience adventure, but has some snafus. The brilliant game designer is also unaware that she has drilled into a parallel universe where the Dark Lord resides. He manages to fool with the levels. Soon River finds herself trapped inside her game that is not a game; a place that is constantly changing. In this virtual realm, River meets a Dark Lord prisoner Hawk.

In her real world, River fears her friend Nick is hiding some dark secret from her. At the same time Kaye investigates River hoping to learn her secrets to use initially against her and then others. In Hawk’s real world his body remains dormant under the alert of the Guardians, but like River’s spirit, his remains trapped by his people’s enemy the Dark Lord.

Readers will enjoy this exciting science fiction-fantasy romantic thriller due to the strong cast. River and Hawk prove that the sum is greater than the parts as the skillful duet from this different universes team up against a very formidable opponent. Fast-paced from the moment River and the Dark Lord “meet”, readers will wonder who will be left standing where once Game over occurs. Obviously the plot pays homage to Tron as a loosely sort of daughter of the movie, however be aware the Legacy of the son is soon to be released on film.

Harriet Klausner

The Greyfriar-Clay Griffith, Susan Griffith

The Greyfriar
Clay Griffith, Susan Griffith
PYR, Nov 1 2010, $16.00
ISBN 9781616142476

In 1870, vampires came out of the coffins to attack western civilizations in the northern temperate zone. Instead of leading a counterinsurgency, human leaders fled south while their former subjects became food for the conquerors.

A century and a half later, the world remains divided between the vampire and human zones. A party led by Senator Clark of the American republic stunningly takes back St. Louis from the vampires. At the same time, Equatorian Empire Princess Adele is on a state visit to Marseilles when British vampire Prince Cesare kidnaps her in spite of the efforts of the mysterious freedom fighter Greyfriar. These two events bring a treaty between the two human superpowers and a plan to attack jointly the vampires.

The first Vampire Empire fantasy is an exciting thriller that grips the audience with the divided world concept that feels like a supernatural Cold War with heated incursions. The story line is fast-paced though it behooves the reader to ignore the plausibility factor; especially of the limited lack of major difference on how minorities are treated yet react radically different to injustice in both camps. Mindful of Phil Ochs’ Ballard of William Worthy “But somehow it is strange to hear the State Department say You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay”. Still this is an exciting paranormal futuristic spin to the Cold War.

Harriet Klausner

The Vampire Jerome-Ann B. Morris

The Vampire Jerome
Ann B. Morris
ImaJinn, Jun 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9781933417509

Everyone believes that the deaths and vast destruction of the Mississippi delta was caused by Katrina, but what is mostly unknown is that during the chaotic lawlessness in which civilization temporarily vanished, evil deep earth vampires feasted. The malevolent potent Zurik captured Dottie Crawford with the intent of using her to get to the Whitcombe brother Julian. After being tortured many times, Julian frees her and sends her to his sibling Jerome for medical treatment.

Jerome loves being a vampire but if he meets a mortal woman he cherishes more then he would give up immortality for her. He knows Julian who found his soulmate wants that for his brothers even though that means fighting the amoral immortal deep earth vampires with the powers the Goddess Lilith will give them as humans. A shift in the magical forces near the earth’s core indicates a major earthquake is coming soon; Jerome and his cadre are needed to prevent another Katrina hammering the Bay area. Jerome knows he has feelings for Dottie, but fights his desire as undesirable because he detests the concept of monogamy. He finally concludes he loves Dottie but is duty bound to his bother and their Whitcombe legacy; either way he fears for the woman whose blood is imprinted on his brain.

The Vampire Jerome is a terrific urban romantic fantasy filled with plenty of action and yet also contains complex moral dilemmas; together they grip the audience to keep turning the pages to learn what happens next. Dottie is a person of strength who loves Jerome although he is a vampire who seems to cherish being undead and she was a hostage of one of his kind. The second Whitcombe triplet’s legacy (see The Vampire Julian) continues the fresh take on the vampire mythos as each of the brothers must choose the dank darkness or the light of love.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Bone Palace-Amanda Downum

The Bone Palace
Amanda Downum
Orbit, Dec 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316069007

In 499 Ab Urbe Condita in the royal city of Erisin, corpses are not a rare occurrence; but a dead prostitute wearing the ring of deceased queen has no precedent. Police Inspector Khelsea Shar shows the Necromancer Agent of the Crown Isyllt Iskaldur the body of the whore who possessed a regal signet and had no violent marks. Reluctantly Isyllt investigates who magically murdered the woman, and how and why she had the ring. To her chagrin, the case leads to the tombs below the city where the revolting vile vrykoloi vampires reside in lightless lairs.

Her inquiry spins worse than she imagined even with the vrykoloi involved as Isyllt learns a truth she must conceal from her King. Apparently a dead sorceress plans to return to take the throne; and she has support from Isyllt’s former lover Kiril and the Crown Prince Ionais’ mistress Sevedra Severos; as well as unknowing dupes.

Staying at home in her second Necromancer’s Chronicles, Isyllt has once again moral selections to make as espionage, politics, insurgency and military merge with magic in a fascinating investigative fantasy. Isyllt is a great protagonist because of her moral fiber as she must select between choices that she abhors. Readers will relish her brisk adventures as home proves as harrowing as her stay in the Drowning City, but worse because it is home.

Harriet Klausner

Bitten in Two-Jennifer Rardin

Bitten in Two
Jennifer Rardin
Orbit, Nov 8 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780316043786

Jaz Parks, her vampire lover Vayl, Cole and Bergman are on the road to Morocco. Their mission is to find an artifact that might enable Jaz to purge Brude the demon who shares her body though she muses hiking in Marrakech on her birthday is unfair.

In Morocco, the quest turns frighteningly strange when Vayl wakes up insisting it is 1777. His behavior has Jaz and their other compatriots believing the vampire has been cursed somehow to relive traumatic events from his long life. Scaring his team further is he never heard of Uma Thurman and does not recognize any of them as they are; for instance he believes his beloved Jaz is his middle-aged housekeeper Madame Berggia. To prevent a new tragedy and keep Vayl’s suddenly explosive temper from igniting, Jaz with the help of Cole and Bergman role pay the parts Vayl assigns them while trying to figure how to remove the curse.

The latest Jaz and company fantasy is a great thriller with a super twist with what has happened to Vayl, the CIA’s top operative. With plenty of trademark biting humor and non-stop action, fans of the saga will enjoy the current on the road show while newcomers will look for the backlist (see Bite Marks). After completing the tale, readers will park Jennifer Rardin’s enjoyable Bitten in Two on the keeper shelf.

Harriet Klausner

The Bards of Bone Plain-Patricia McKillip

The Bards of Bone Plain
Patricia McKillip
Ace, Dec 7 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441019571

He wants to finish his class work so he can graduate from the school on the hill. Phelan Cle chose an easy topic for his final report, the frequently studied Bone Plain. For five centuries the legendary locale has been argued about by academia as to whether it is myth fostered by romantic poets or a lost land. Even at his bardic school, Phelan knows most assume the Bone Plain is legend with its alleged trio triad of Trials, Terrors and treasures.

Phelan’s research uncovers the story of a wandering bard Nairn the Unforgiven and the student wants to know more about him. At the same time his archeologist father Jonah digs at the ancient ruins of the city. Working at the excavation sites is Princess Beatrice, who prefers digs to dances. When the team uncovers an enigmatic disk with ancient runes on it, Phelan believes this is the key to solving the riddle of Nairn the Unforgiven while Beatrice begins to notice what has been hidden in plain sight.

This is a strange but enjoyable tale that feels like a fantasy, but is not; as Patricia McKillip provides a scholarly atmosphere in which the Lovin’ Spoonful tune “Do You Believe in Magic?” seems so apropos as there is no paranormal. The story line switches effortlessly between Phelan, Beatrice and Nairn with the language of the runes connecting the trio (everything is in threes). Fans will appreciate the low-keyed look at The Bards of Bone Plain as the present interprets the past with a contemporary filter that can lead to misinterpretation

Harriet Klausner

Haunted Echoes-Julie Ann Howell

Haunted Echoes
Julie Ann Howell
Perseverance Press, Jan 7 2010, $19.95
ISBN: 9781936051694

Having one book to her credit, Sarah Reddington faces writer’s block while her deadline to hand over her second novel to her publisher is nearing. She is staying at the Otter Cove Inn in Cape Elizabeth, Maine for a few weeks as the only guest; not even the innkeepers are around when she arrives.

Strange sounds reverberate throughout the walls; so loud that Sarah hears them. A noise in the room on the third floor scares her into running back to her writing area. She does not hear the doorknob slowly being turned until she realizes an entity besides herself is in the inn and guarding it. Her sister Abby knows she is in danger and intends to get her out of there. Before she can do that, Abby’s daughter Tessa is taken in by the spirit of the inn with no way for Abby to reach her daughter until Riley, who knows what is going on helps Abby. They must find a way in to rescue Sarah and Tessa before aunt and niece are lost forever.

Haunted Echoes’ main characters are the Victorian inn and the spirit that inhabits the haunted house. Together along with the Atlantic coast of Maine they create an eerie gothic like atmosphere. The arrival of Sarah triggers the supernatural events as the Keeper wants the visitor’s soul. Mindful of King’s The Shining even with its radically different locale, fan will enjoy this old fashion spooky haunted house thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Phantom Four-Roger Wilson

Phantom Four
Roger Wilson
Outskirts Press, Sep 13 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9781432761226

In 1735 in Nepal, the Historian Professor Stevens lead Memory to the remote site where she learns her god Lucifer’s scheme to dominate the world has four Chosen ones in the way. Memory kills the professor, but concludes the Chosen Ones have not been born yet. She places a curse on them to die when they turn five years old.

In 1985 in Brooklyn Julie Smith gives birth to a quartet of fraternal boys. Her euphoric husband Damon names them Rex, Kevin, Paul and Oscar. Five years later the four brothers and their two years old sister Erica are at playground with their parents when a beam comes from a comet in space killing the quartet.

In 2010, the four shadows of the Smith quartet arise from their graveyard, but as muscular adults. They are confused as to what happened to them and who their family is though they know each other’s first names. The foursome meets women they like and grow stronger as does the curse inside of them. Soon, they find themselves at the front of a war; the battle zone is New York City and the enemy is Lucifer’s devils from hell with their beloved women their only anchor to sanity.

This is an exciting urban fantasy with a key romantic subplot that is cleverly interwoven into the action-packed story line. The lead fantastic four are clearly delineated even when they are five by their particular prowess even though having a quartet of heroes and their support can be overwhelming at times. Readers will enjoy taking the “subway to hell” as train conductor Roger Wilson provides a thrilling ride.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Darker Shade of Dead-Bianca D’Arc

A Darker Shade of Dead
Bianca D’Arc
Kensington Brava, Nov 1 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758247315

Dr. Sandra McCormick knows she will go to her grave seeing the marines brutally murdered eight months ago by the zombies created by her peers led by Dr. Rodriguez who used her genetic experiments on innocent people (see Once Bitten, Twice Dead). She hopes to at least find an antidote, but has little chance of doing so under current conditions as being persona non grata except by Rodriguez, who demands she return to the zombie project or he will expose her to the world as the creator.

Still she obtains a top secret government assignment to work with the military and civilian agencies on creating the antidote under the direction of Commander Matt Sykes before the virus goes pandemic. He distrusts her as he senses she conceals something critical from him. She fears his reaction if he learns her research led to the zombie plague that killed the marines and others. Then there is Rodriguez threatening to destroy her unless she hands over her research to him.

Zombie fever fans will enjoy this entertaining romantic urban fantasy in which, as she did in Once Bitten, Twice Dead (whose leads support this tale), Bianca D’Arc refreshingly (and shockingly) has two humans fall in love. The story line is fast-paced for the most part as the stars battle zombies and Rodriquez and their attraction; however it slows down when Sandra turns lecturer explaining the zombie virus and her efforts for an antidote. Readers will want to join the scientist and the soldier at the front trying to prevent a zombie pandemic even as they fall in love.

Harriet Klausner

Seed Seeker-Pamela Sargent

Seed Seeker
Pamela Sargent
Tor, Nov 9 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765314284

The sentient space traveling vessel Ship plants the human seeds on many worlds. Before disembarking, Ship always promises to return to judge humanity. On the planet Home, Ship left behind humanity (see Earthseed), but after he left the species divided into two branches (see Farseed). Inside of the dome left behind by Ship lives the Dome Dwellers who believe they only abide to the creator’s admonition of being “true humanity” while waiting for the second coming. Those who left the dome to live off the land near the great river as farmers and hunters are technologically low. These River People believe Ship’s vision for mankind is to live in harmony on Home. Each side believes strongly the other side is “contaminated”.

The River People see the strange light in the sky they assume means Ship has returned for Judgment Day. Inside the dome, excitement and fear is high that Ship has come back to see how humanity has fared. However, the dome radio operators find their communication devices fail to make contact with Ship. The River Dwellers are concerned that the Dome Dwellers have sold them out as impure. Teenagers Bian and Arnagh begin a journey to the dome to learn what is going on.

With obvious religious implications of a second coming judgment day in which each side of humanity expects Ship to choose their way of life over the other as Pamela Sargent provides a deep science fiction story in which she lucidly makes the case that materialism (Dwellers) without purpose is futile. The reactions to the anticipated return is fascinating since the Dome Dwellers insist they are “true” yet fear Judgment while the River People fear the Dome Dwellers have left them to be condemned. Although the characters are somewhat interchangeable except for the teens, readers will enjoy this philosophical look at two cultures in which regardless of what Ship rules life will never be the same as the creator has returned.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autumn-David Moody

David Moody
St. Martin’s Griffin, Oct 26 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780312569983

In less than twenty-four hours, billions are dead. The virus killed so fast that on one block a William Price was first to go and within five minutes his entire street had become a cemetery. Less than 1% of mankind survived the first wave. Those who do are in shock as they say good-bye to loved ones and in Britain they soon realize when no one responds to 999 or anything on the radio that civilization as they know it is over.

Factory mechanic Carl Henshawe cannot believe his beloved wife and their little girl is dead. Computer company executive Michael Collins gives lecture to a class of teens ignoring him when he horrifically watches them die. Fighting a cold medical student Emma Mitchell skips class and goes to the nearby shop to buy food only to see the owner and other patrons die. The few survivors find one another at a dilapidated community center waiting for first responders who never come. Instead as supplies dwindle, the dead begin to reanimate. The noise of the living disturbs the undead and even loved ones are coming to silence those who have not changed; the only thing that stops them is their rotting flesh.

This is an enjoyable cerebral zombie thriller in which David Moody looks deep into the souls of those who survived the virus; for instance others like Phillip struggle to move on pass a deceased loved one. Slowly the few humans find civilization stripped bare until the only thing left is whether it is worth the fight to stay alive. Though the story line is at times deliberately slow as Michael, Carl and Emma rotate internal pensive musings, readers who relish a different bite on zombies will appreciate the grim moody atmosphere of Autumn.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Betrayer of Worlds-Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner

Betrayer of Worlds
Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner
Tor, Oct 12 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765326089

The Puppeteers sort of lead the mass exodus of the “Fleet of Worlds” away from the supernova spreading increasingly wider at an accelerating speed from the galaxy’s core. Even in flight, some choose fight. Achilles though humiliated with his failed machinations proving embarrassing still believes he is destined to rule the Puppeteer worlds.

The feral genocidal Pak also flees the core; they willingly stop to attack other species especially the weak Fleet of Worlds running for their lives. The Gw’oth whose technological advances in the past two centuries (local time) is impossible yet continues to exponentially grow; they stand in the way of the fleeing Fleet of Worlds. Finally, the rebellious pathetic humans on Nature Preserve Four embarrass the cowardly Puppeteers as these apes are barely out of the caves. Desperation breeds strange bedfellows as insane Puppeteer scout Nessus recruits pill addicted human prisoner Wu and joins with megalomaniac Achilles to forge a partnership to end the war of all wars between three diverse alien races at a time when everyone needs to herd together to leave the galaxy post haste.

The latest prequel saga to the Ringworld Known Space science fiction series (see Destroyer of Worlds) is a strong complicated entry (even with a glossary, names are a mess to follow) as four sentient species are on the verge of when worlds collide. Ironically in spite of the obvious superiority of the three alien races, the human Wu and the insane puppeteer Nessus understand that cooperation is the only means of survival with the supernova coming; as either all four races endure together or die. Fans will enjoy learning why Wu was wooed years later in Ringworld as Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner provide a strong entry; newcomers need to at least read the prequel tales like Juggler of Worlds to ascertain the galaxy meltdown.

Harriet Klausner

Twilight Forever Rising-Lena Meydan

Twilight Forever Rising
Lena Meydan
Tor, Sep 28 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765326799

In 2004, a prime reason the Dahanavar vampire clan is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, of the ruling ten bloodsucker families is the unnatural skills of Darel even with each brood have all sorts of mages and paranormal aptitudes. He is an extraordinary empath who can read emotion and at times thoughts. Thus his brood knows ahead time what their rivals are plotting although for centuries there has been an uneasy peace as the various clans enjoy mutual prosperity not overt hostility.

However the feral chieftain Miklosh of the House of Nachterret believes his rivals are weak settling for shadows. The chief wants world domination, but step one is to eliminate Darel before he learns of the nefarious multifaceted plot. Once the mind reader is dead, the clans will fall next and then the rest of the sentient races especially the human sustenance will follow as he believes vampires are the highest step on the food chain and Nachterret are the acme of them all. The key to destroy Darel is through Lenore, the human female he cherishes.

This is a super translation of a Russian vampire thriller in which the Meydan world of competing vampire clans to include special paranormal ones comes across as genuine. Darel is the focus of the first Vampire Clans saga as Nachterret knows he must be murdered, but to do so Malevolent Miklosh needs a specific expendable human pawn. The relationship between Lenore and Darel seems undeveloped especially as this is the catalyst behind what the hero's actions are and what happens between the Ten vampire clans as manipulated by Miklosh.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Crown of Crystal Flame-C.L. Wilson

Crown of Crystal Flame
C.L. Wilson
Avon, Oct 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062018960

At a time when the adversary, the malevolent Eld Mages, seems not just ready to attack, but overwhelmingly poised to win, the alliance between the Fey and Celieran splinters. At the same they fear their side will break apart the alliance, Rain Tairen Soul and Ellysetta Baristani struggle on a personal issue as they have failed to finish their mating bond, which if not done soon will lead to their deaths.

Meanwhile the Malevolent High Mage Vadim Maur knows his scheme is working as everything is coming together. The conquest has begun as his evil horde marches across the fading lands killing anything in their way and leaving wanton destruction behind. Ellysetta refuses to give up on love, on her people, on the alliance and on herself as she plans to write her destiny in order to save those she cherishes.

The finale to the great Tairen Song saga is a superb climax to the strong quartet. Somehow C.L. Wilson ties up the overarching fantasy on a larger than life plane yet this brilliant author also provides a deep personal look at the key players in a desperate quest to save their world risking their lives. Only the love between Rain Tairen Soul and Ellysetta Baristani keeps this pair going against the hopelessness of the overwhelming darkness that engulfs their world.

Harriet Klausner

His Darkest Embrace-Juliana Stone

His Darkest Embrace
Juliana Stone
Avon, Oct 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061808807

As her breed dies out, Eagle Knight Skye Knightly feels immense pressure to do the right thing by her near extinct species. However, her current mission comes first, which is why she is in the Belize jungle. Skye searches for a missing portal that leads to the demon realm; also seeking the portal is her enemy the evil DaCostas Jaguars and their insidious mage Cormac.

For several months Jagger Castille has ended his contacts with his brothers. H has also allowed his Jaguar to run free. When two DaCostas Jaguars try to kill Skye, Jagger intervenes saving her life. Though he knows why his heart got involved and she feels the same way about him, she distrusts him as she does all jaguars; several centuries ago Jaguars nearly eradicated the Eagles.

The second “Darkest” Castille romantic fantasy (see His Darkest Hunger) is a super Shifter thriller due to the matchup of star-crossed lovers whose clans have a dark tragic history. Fast-paced as time has run out with only the planet at stake, fans will join the quest of Jagger and Skye as each knows they love their partner, but distrusts their associate when the only hope of survival is watching each other’s back.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 15, 2010

Entice Me At Twilight-Shayla Black

Entice Me At Twilight
Shayla Black
Pocket, Oct 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439166772

In England the Doomsday Brethren chief wizard Bram Rion orders wizard Simon “Duke” Northam to meet with him prompt as the brazen enemy Anaraki army led by malevolent Mathias d'Arc have become brazen with their attacks. They burned the home of Bram and the headquarters building of the Brethren, but fortunately failed to achieve their goal of either taking or destroying the Merlin texts. Simon understands the gravity of such a call, but wonders how to be in two places at the same time as he is also the best man at the wedding of his half-brother the barrister Mason Daniel to nursery school teacher Felicia Safford.

Undercover agent Denzel informed the brethren that the latest scheme of the Anaraki is to enter the tomb of evil Morganna le Fay to resurrect their evil idol. Bram believes Duke holds the key to prevent the catastrophe, as he feels the playboy has touched a rare "Untouchable" since he has lost some of his aura. Duke assumes someone in the wedding party is an Untouchable; most likely his future sister-in-law. If so, he must abduct her to safety, which will alienate his half-sibling and further strain their already dysfunctional relationship.

Thee latest Doomsday Brethren romantic fantasy (see Possess Me at Midnight and a novella in the anthology Haunted by Your Touch) is a stupendous thriller due to the relational triangle though the Mathoas-Morganna arc adds exhilarating incredible levels of suspense. Readers will appreciate the low energy flow of the hero; the loyalty to her first choice by the heroine; and the half-sibling caught in the middle between a woman he claims he loves and the half-brother he detests. On top of that is the Morganna scenario that moves forward the overarching theme of the saga as Shayla Black entices readers to stay up long past Twilight to finish this terrific tale.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Confessions of a Vampire’s Girlfriend-Katie MacAlister

Confessions of a Vampire’s Girlfriend
Katie MacAlister
NAL, Nov 2 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451232595

“Got Fangs? Oregonian teenager Francesca Ghetti is six feet tall and reads minds by touching objects. Her divorced mother is a witch who has dragged Fran to Hungary on a traveling show filled with freaks and geeks. Fran is almost run over by a motorcycle. The driver is a hunk who is actually taller than her, which is what freaks her out. She does not blink when she learns he is Benedikt Czerny, a Moravian Dark One over three centuries old, who believes she will save his soul. When Benedikt demands Fran and his sister stay home while he fights a demon; his American Amazonian prepares to kick demon butt and his if necessary.

“Circus of the Darned”. Teenage psychic Francesca has somewhat adapted to her abilities like summoning the dead and her abnormal lifestyle as a member of the touring Gothefaire. Even for Francesca used to the absurd being the norm, things are more out of control than usual starting with the twelve dead Vikings she brought back to life or her dating a motorcycle riding vampire who is almost three centuries her senior. While mom objects to his bad overbite with dental costs so high; Benedikt insists she is his life-mate, he needs to insure that his beloved GOT FANGS too. However the biggest problem in Francesca's mind is he is a night person and she has a curfew.

This reprints the two tongue-in-cheek young adult adventures of Francesca the Amazonian psychic written as Katie Maxwell. The cast in each tale, whether they are normal, supernatural, or hybrid in-betweeners, make for a fun time. However, this omnibus edition belongs to kick-butt Francesca whose action-packed escapades will be enjoyed by the targeted audience and long-toothed readers; while writing as Katie MacAlister has brought Francesca back in a delightful adult adventure (see In the Company of Vampires).

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wanted Undead or Alive: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil

Wanted Undead or Alive: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil
Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman
Citadel (Kensington), Sep 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9780806528212

What is paranormal evil and who are the good fighting against these abominations? Those are the questions that Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman analyze in this self help tome that looks at books, movies and TV to provide advice to readers on when to use holy water, silver bullets, or a garlic necklace worn to the school prom. Readers will learn when to join the arson mob chasing a vampire or to run faster than Bolt (the Olympic champ not the Marvel character). With interviews of some of the masters like Marvel’s Stan Lee and director John Carpenter, fans learn how to be a superhero or a super runner as the “Root of Good and Evil” is explored. Set up like an encyclopedia, horror fans will learn the evil can track back several millennia before that Stone Age practitioner Lovecraft. This is a fun tongue in cheek reference guide worth reading over several weeks and this work is made stronger with illustrations and pictures that bring out the ancient war of good and evil. Simply put a superhero needs a supervillain (what is Superman without Lex? mild mannered Clark or Ali and Frazier); and you will no longer be afraid of ghosts or need the busters charging an exorbitant fee to rid you of these apparitions as you now can do it yourself.

Harriet Klausner

Wanted Undead or Alive: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil

Wanted Undead or Alive: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil
Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman
Citadel (Kensington), Sep 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9780806528212

What is paranormal evil and who are the good fighting against these abominations? Those are the questions that Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman analyze in this self help tome that looks at books, movies and TV to provide advice to readers on when to use holy water, silver bullets, or a garlic necklace worn to the school prom. Readers will learn when to join the arson mob chasing a vampire or to run faster than Bolt (the Olympic champ not the Marvel character). With interviews of some of the masters like Marvel’s Stan Lee and director John Carpenter, fans learn how to be a superhero or a super runner as the “Root of Good and Evil” is explored. Set up like an encyclopedia, horror fans will learn the evil can track back several millennia before that Stone Age practitioner Lovecraft. This is a fun tongue in cheek reference guide worth reading over several weeks and this work is made stronger with illustrations and pictures that bring out the ancient war of good and evil. Simply put a superhero needs a supervillain (what is Superman without Lex? mild mannered Clark or Ali and Frazier); and you will no longer be afraid of ghosts or need the busters charging an exorbitant fee to rid you of these apparitions as you now can do it yourself.

Harriet Klausner

Fated-S. G. Browne

S. G. Browne
NAL, Nov 2 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451231284

For several millennia Fabio Delucci has been Fate responsible with assigning the misfortunates that betwixt just under a mean plus one standard deviation of the human race. This 83% are the classic losers who seem to screw up sure hands. He is tired and envious of his distant hands off lover Destiny who has fewer clients but those are elite Nobel Prize winners while his are drug addicts and the worse dregs of society politicians.

His superior Jeremiah counseled him over his recent poor performance. He can deal with a bad rating and his no touch romance with Destiny or even the schmuck clients. However, he has broken the Fate SOPs when he falls in love with purebred human Sara Griffen. When he reveals to his beloved who he is Fabio causes a shift in the cosmic, which could lead to the death of this immortal and his love.

This is an amusing fun romantic fantasy as Fabio feels Fated to be with his Sara though that is original sin since it breaks the immortal rules of behavior with mortals. Using a tongue in cheek story line, S.G. Browne provides an insightful look at the disaster of love as people will do all sorts of insane things when caught in that debilitating disease. Yet also takes a clever glimpse at the pitfalls of immortality though ennui has been written in many vampire tales and The Wellstone by Wil McCarthy provides a wonderful well written concept that the heir to the throne remains the heir and not the king for eternity. Mr. Browne is Fated for acclaim (and sales) with this engaging thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Shifters-Alexandra Sokoloff

The Shifters
Alexandra Sokoloff
Harlequin Nocturne, Nov 1 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618460

In New Orleans, a potential epidemic has spread across the city. Spirits without bodies are occupying humans and paranormal entities until they burn out their host leaving behind a dead person or other.

Shapeshifter guardian Caitlin MacDonald is assigned to end the lethal possession practice. She works closely with bounty hunter shifter Ryder Mallory over her objection as she does not trust his species. However, he is the one who has trailed these Walk-Ins to New Orleans so she has no choice but to team up with the expert. In spite of her overt scorning of him and their mutual attraction that he embraces and she loathes, when she becomes a target, he has more than her back. Neither is prepared for what they find when they reach the ephemeral ground zero.

Though a bit over the top with the ultimate source, readers will be hooked with this terrific urban romantic fantasy starring a bigot who has classified all shifters as shiftless evil until Ryder rocks her world with honesty and compassion. Fast-paced from the moment Caitlin angrily muses over a latte that her BFF is an idiot for loving a despicable Other until the final confrontation fans will enjoy this super thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Trinity-Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love

Blood Trinity
Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love
Pocket, Oct 19 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439155820

As they have done for centuries, the Belador protect humans from the others like demons. However, the Belador are not a tolerant species as half-breed Evalle Kincaid knows s first hand; being a scorned outsider by those she has lived with all her life. In fact, Evalle knows most of the tribe would prefer her dead or locked away as a half-breed is distrustful worthless trash and she more so as her heritage is unknown.

A demon attacks and claims a young woman. With no one else to blame, the tribe points at Evalle as a convenient scapegoat. Now she must prove her innocence knowing a clans person set her up and betrayed the tribe. At the same time Atlanta burns as rumor flies of an ancient powerful magical artifact surfacing. While her former tribe mates chase her in the underground of Atlanta, Evalle must prevent the day of reckoning that will begin the end of days for humans and Beladorans if demons obtains the magical stone before she possesses it and finds someplace safe to leave it.

The opening to the world of Belador is an exhilarating romantic urban (and rural) fantasy that makes this new realm seem real especially the interweaving in Utah and Atlanta. The story line contains several subplots that come together into a delightful cohesive tale though at times can be slowed down with the depth of this realm created by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love. Still with a strong cast especially the beleaguered outcast who has to save the world before she can save herself, fans will enjoy this terrific saga.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir-Ken Harmon

The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir
Ken Harmon
Dutton, Oct 28 2010, $19.95
ISBN: 9780525951957

For thirteen centuries Gumdrop Coal the elf has worked diligently and loyally in support of his employer, affectionately known by his subordinates as The Fat Man and by children everywhere as Santa Claus. An original, Gumdrop is highly regarded amongst his peers for creating the Naughty List of children who were not nice so receive a lump of coal instead of a toy in their stockings. In fact he became Captain of the Coal patrol elf unit.

Maybe he delivered one coal to many, had too many artificial sweetened cookies or placed too many nasty kids on the Naughty List though all deserved their placement as an advocate of kick-butt tough love, but Gumdrop is fired from his job. He is irate and fuming insisting no one treats Gumdrop like this. The twenty-seven inch elf turns into a renegade to teach parents to raise their children to remain off the Naughty List. However, his descent into the inferno of hell has not bottomed out yet as a parent is shot to death by a Red Ryder BB Gun that contains Gumdrop’s prints. Realizing he is the victim of a diabolical frame, Gumdrop turns vigilante seeking to uncover who in the North Pole communities set him up and why.

This is fun heartwarming holiday Noir starring a tough tiny thug while part of the enjoyment is the allusions to famous Yuletide movies and books. However, it is Gumdrop the rogue elf who makes this a terrific worthy addition to the Christmas repertoire with his nourish investigation into who set him up to take the fall from the front of the sleigh as the top aide to the Fat Man to exile from the North Pole.

Harriet Klausner

Odd Is On Our Side-Fred Lentz, Dean Koontz and Queenie Chan (illustrator)

Odd Is On Our Side
Fred Lentz, Dean Koontz and Queenie Chan (illustrator)
Del Rey, Oct 5 2010, $10.99
ISBN: 9780345515605

Halloween in Pico Mundo, California has fry cook Odd Thomas concerned as he fears there is much more afoot than just trick or treaters. Something does not feel right; which is odd for a person who communicates with Elvis and helps restless spirits with their needs before they move onto their next resting spot.

As Odd struggles with his gut insisting that something evil is coming and his spiritual advisor Elvis unable to help him, he turns to girlfriend, Stormy Llewellyn. She encourages him with her at his side to investigate the horde of bodachs appearing; always an omen of a horrific event to come shortly.

The second graphic comic rendition of an Odd Thomas novel (See In Odd We Trust) is an engaging rendition but lacks the freshness of the original tales as fans already know what occurs to whom. Still the illustrations by Queenie Chan are fun to follow for readers who will compare her version to our imagination; as in my mind she captures Thomas’ essence and somewhat Stormy, but Elvis still needs to be found. The story line is entertaining but is no match to the novel while the addition of twenty odd additional pages following the story seems more like padding. The apparent targeted young newcomers will enjoy Odd is On Our Side.

Harriet Klausner

Mystic Witch-Mark All

Mystic Witch
Mark All
ImaJinn, Sep 1 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9781933417707

In Atlanta, the funeral of Gram last week led Bailey Campbell to think back to the Incident that changed her family dynamics with the death of her father murdered by evil sorcerer Bern Emmerich over two decades ago. Her mother cut her off from her Gram and raised Bailey to live a normal life; void of magic. Nearing thirty, Gram’s odd will especially the coda has shaken Bailey’s soul.

At work late at night, something attacks her only bud Juan who screams for Bailey to run. Instead the Bailey Temper flares as she confronts faceless creatures. Apparently evil Emmerich has escaped captivity and is coming for the daughter who he blames for his two decade imprisonment in an alternate reality. His plan is to use her to bring his hell to her earth. Bailey obtains a mentor in warlock Frank Demming, who admits he has kept an eye on her over the years as he expected her to play a pivotal role when Emmerich returned. As she trains for the war of magic, she wonders if her teacher is her soul mate, ally or a perverted foe while Atlanta burns.

The Mystic Witch is an exciting character driven urban fantasy although the theme of the battle between the light and dark goes back to Beowulf. Fast-paced, the dark seems too powerful for the innocent light (loosely mindful of an adult version of the movie The Seeker) since the heroine even suffers from “homophobic” fear of the sight of blood. The key to this enjoyable winner take all thriller is the third party Demming as the audience ponders whether he is teaching his beloved student effective magical processes or if he is a sick pervert abusing her before allowing her adversary to use her.

Harriet Klausner

Haunted by Your Touch-Jeaniene Frost, Shayla Black and Sharie Kohler

Haunted by Your Touch
Jeaniene Frost, Shayla Black and Sharie Kohler
Pocket, Oct 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439166765

“Night’s Darkest Embrace” by Jeaniene Frost. In Nocturna, Raphael rules over the lawless demons, the even deadlier angels and others. He protects a female while helping her search for her kidnapped cousin.

“Mated” by Shayla Black. Doomsday Brethen warrior Raiden knows what he must do, but loathes doing it. He must safely escort the woman he loves who is the mother of his child to hand her over to another male.

“Darkest Temptation” by Sharie Kohler. Lily has one month left as a human. Her hope to extend her time as a human leads her to stalk half-breed Luc, knowing that to save him she must kill him, her soul mate.

These three romantic fantasy novellas are well written entertaining tales. The atmospheres are extremely dark especially Jeaniene Frost’s introduction to Nocturna. Additionally fans of Shayla Black’s Doomsday Brethren saga and Sharie Kohler's Moonchaser tales will enjoy entering these respective universes.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wild Cards 1-George R.R. Martin (editor)

Wild Cards 1
George R.R. Martin (editor)
Tor, Nov 23 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765326157

In 1946, Jetboy begins what looks like a suicide mission to save New York City from the Takisians invasion. The aliens plan to use Manhattan as a mass weapon experiment. He has “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway” (by Howard Waldrop) to prevent the tragedy; he fails.

While most died from the virus, nine percent suffered monstrous body changes and one percent became the super powerful beings – Jokers to some; Aces to others. When the bomb exploded he was a ninth grader who is ironically two decades later the “Sleeper” (by Roger Zelazny) who cannot allow himself to sleep; he has become a Wild Card like a few other survivors who must unite as the Swarm from space is coming to the Omni.

This is the opening tales from one of the great continuous superhero (and villain) anthologies. Ten of the entries were printed in the original first collection in 1987. There are three new contributions that fit nicely into this extremely dark world; in fact expand on the premise, especially the “Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan” by Carrie Vaughn. Although a couple of contributions feel awkward in terms of the overarching theme as if George R.R. Martin was still experimenting with Wild Aces, none of the entries are poorly written. This is a great return to the beginning of the fabulous Wild Cards Universe.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 10, 2010

When Wicked Craves-J.K. Beck

When Wicked Craves
J.K. Beck
Bantam, Oct 26 2010
ISBN: 9780440245797

Petra Lang can never know the warm touch of another person whether it would be a lover or a friend. A hug is something she should never feel as one touch turns the nicest person into a snarling demonic beast. The Shadow Alliance leadership fears her curse will be used against them as she apparently has caused the prophecy of their deaths to begin. She must die before they die.

Vampire Nicholas Montegue rescues her from death as he needs her to save his friend Serge who she turned. However, her hero is turned into a beast. While the Alliance assassins chase them, the pair goes to his former mentor, an alchemist he betrayed centuries ago as their only hope. When she learns her death will save his friend, she willingly wants to die. However, he can no longer kill the woman he loves but can’t touch.

When J.K. Beck writes a romantic fantasy readers know the tale will prove great as affirmed by When Blood Calls and When Pleasure Rules. Her latest tale is a tense twisting thriller that comes across as a paranormal Gift of the Magi starring an adult Kitty Pryde of X-women fame and a fascinating frustrated hero. Sub-genre fans will crave impatiently for when the next visit to the Beckian universe occurs.

Harriet Klausner

Shotgun Sorceress-Lucy A. Snyder

Shotgun Sorceress
Lucy A. Snyder
Del Rey, Oct 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345512109

Mage Jessie Shimmer went to hell and back, but succeeded on her quest to return with boyfriend Cooper Marron and his younger brothers (see Spellbent). However, the cost was exorbitant with the visible being the loss of an eye and a hand. However the invisible price is stratospherically higher for the sorceress who killed a Virtus untouchable spirit lord while in Hades; as even making love turns her abode into an inferno, almost like a barbeque pit, as she has come back possessing fire magic.

Jessie expects the Virtus Regnum to assault her as this beast cannot ignore whet she did. However, Miko the mighty has come to Texas to deal with Jessie. Almost upon arrival, Miko creates a giant bubble that engulfs the town and traps Jessie, Cooper, his brother and her spider familiar inside along with the innocent residents of Cuchillo. Step two in Miko’s scheme is changing the natives into zombies. Hell, she needs to challenge Miko if she and the others are to survive.

The second dark Shimmer suburb fantasy is a fabulous entry as everyone will believe in Snyder’s Spellbent due to the cast. Opportunity costs are incredibly laid out as choosing one has second and third order effects on not just the decision-maker. With a strong mentally disturbed cast that runs the gamut of the otherworldly pantheon, sub-genre fans will want to read the gory Shotgun Sorceress.

Harriet Klausner

Version 43-Philip Palmer

Version 43
Philip Palmer
Orbit, Oct 28 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780316018944

Quantum Theory of Everything changed everything yet changed nothing. The theory led to advances like quantum teleportation whose odds of surviving with all your neutrinos intact and no additions on the ride has been calculated based on empirical data at less than half. Only the desperate or insane voluntarily take that escape route though selected criminals are volunteered by the government.

The planet Belladonna has become the receiving end of the quantum teleportation. The residents are criminally insane or just totally insane. Although the off planet powers normally ignore the human junkyard, the Galactic Police has been notified by Bompasso city Sheriff Heath of a horrific mass killing involving two males and three females as one of the victims is his son Alexander, a clean doctor at City Hospital. Though he knows he is the so called law of this Lawless City, Heath the father demands justice so he needs outside help to catch the SOB murderer. The Galactic Force sends cyborg cop Version 43 to investigate who killed Heath the son, the man’s girlfriend Dr. Fliss Hooper, Andrei Pavlovsky, Jada Brown and Sara Limer. The starting point is City Hospital where Version 43 opens his inquiry with an interrogation of Macawley, an intimate friend of Hooper. Meanwhile several of the local crazies knew the cyborg when he was 100% human and wanted him dead then.

Although Einstein argued about playing craps with the universe, he would have appreciated this strong intelligent science fiction police procedural with a vivid look at a planet used as a dump for exiled humans. Version 43 still makes the tale work with his noir behavior while investigating the mass murders; he proves a cyborg is the perfect cool hand Luke noir detective whether he visits City Hospital, the hologram morgue or the “ballad of Parliament Square.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 8, 2010

Stronger Than Sin-Caridad Pineiro

Stronger Than Sin
Caridad Pineiro
Forever, Nov 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780446543842

The Wardwell scientists almost killed Dr. Liliana Carrera so she has dedicated her life to save others from these evil maniacs. Her current patient is former NFL player Jesse Bradford whose receiving career was cut short by an injury. As she tries to help the football star recover, he conceals from her that he works for her enemy, the Wardell scientists who are blackmailing him to steal her secrets by threatening to harm his ailing sister.

Liliana falls in love with her patient; he feels the same way about his healer. Thus he also feels guilt as he is caught between the two women he loves in the world; for whichever one he saves the other is dead.

The second scintillating Sin story (see Sins of the Flesh) is a stupendous action-packed science fiction romance starring two survivors. She is a dedicated doctor while he is tacked behind the line between saving his sister and his soul mate. With a terrific medical twist re his health, fans will enjoy the latest mad scientists’’ saga as love is Stronger than Sin, but love also leads to conflicting multiple relationships.

Harriet Klausner

Ecstasy in Darkness-Gena Showalter

Ecstasy in Darkness
Gena Showalter
Pocket, Oct 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439175774

In New Chicago Ava Sans is nearing the end of her training at Alien Investigation and Renewal. Noted for being one of the rough and tough girls, her “graduation” assignment is to capture the former leader of the vampire army, Victor McKell. The AIR trainee understands that this undead has become mentally deranged in his hatred of humanity. He believes they are low on the food chain even though his kind avoids his hostility, but in spite of being a psychotic he still can manipulate time.

Although Ava assumes Victor sees her as dinner, she walks boldly on to his estate where he fails to kill her like he normally does to intruders. Instead admires her incredible body and he offers a deal to team up with her to prevent an alien queen from infecting the planet. Planning to use her as an expendable lure to draw vampires to him, McKell soon falls in love.

Gena Showalter displays her romantic fantasy writing skills with her seventh Alien Huntress thriller (see Savor Me Slowly and Seduce the Darkness) with this fascinating, seemingly improbable pairing of a predator with a huntress and somehow makes it feel plausible. He is a human consumer (literally that is) while she is a rough vampire and other alien investigative human. She prefers nips and sensual bites while he rips throats for sustenance. Although the alien queen subplot takes a back seat to the dynamic duo’s “war”, readers will appreciate this pairing as she gives as much or more than she takes.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Firewalker-Allyson James

Allyson James
Berkley, Nov 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425237823

In Hopi County, Arizona, half breed Navaho Janet Begay prevented her mom a goddess from hell from taking over (see Stormwalker). Janet looks forward to a respite from working at her Crossroads Hotel and quality time with her Firewalker dragon shifter boyfriend Mick after her battle with mommy dearest.

However, her R&R ends when Pamela Grant the Wolf enters the inn with a message from Mick. After a brief confrontation with Pamela and with her partner Cassandra at her side, Janet learns Mick is in trouble as his message in his girlfriend’s blood is “help me.” She needs to rescue her boyfriend so she turns to a man she distrusts as the only one without family who has the power to assist her. Magic nullifier Sheriff Nash Jones curses her when Janet asks for assistance as Mick faces a trial by fire in front of the Dragon Council for disobeying a direct command to kill his beloved girlfriend. In turn the law enforcement official asks her to assist him with a magical murder in which the evidence makes Janet the prime suspect.

The second Stormwalker rural fantasy is a great entry as the heroine’s beloved faces a trial of fire for not killing his girlfriend as ordered by his species. The story line is fast-paced from the opening cat fight and never slows down as Allyson James provides an engaging erotic thriller. One wonders how Arizona would enforce its new illegal alien law with shifters, wiccan and dragons, etc.

Harriet Klausner

Harvest Hunting-Yasmine Galenorn

Harvest Hunting
Yasmine Galenorn
Jove, Oct 26 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515148534

Middle sister Delilah D’Artigo knows her natural instinct is flight not fight though she finds it ironic that she prefers to avoid a brawl as she is a shapeshifting were-cat and were-panther. Still she has been in many battles of late (see Bone Magic) as she knows sometimes you must wear the rubber underwear and stand up and fight as she has in her effort to prevent the evil demon General Shadow Wing from victorious domination.

She recently found out that she is to be a Death Maiden loyal to the Autumn Lord. Her training in her new responsibility has begun with the group’s leader Greta as her mentor, but she continues her fight against Shadow Wing. Additionally, Delilah is concerned with what is happening to her former once human boyfriend Faerie-Human Crime Scene Investigation Team Director Chase Johnson at a time when a lethal magical drug Wolf Briar is spreading while the were-population vanishes.

The latest super D’Artigo Otherworld fantasy focuses on Delilah with her siblings Menolly the rookie vampire and Camille the goody wicked witch in support roles. The story line is fast-paced as once again all hell has broken loose on earth as this time the demon tired of the three Otherworld Intelligence Agency siblings intruding on his domination plans attacks and the drug epidemic turning pandemic. Yasmine Galenorn provides another winning entry in this strong epic as she continues to rotate the lead yet the support remains solid opening with Camille the polygamist marrying her third otherworldly spouse.

Harriet Klausner

Play of Passion-Nalini Singh

Play of Passion
Nalini Singh
Berkley, Nov 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425237793

In 2081 he feels he has wanted SnowDancer wolf pack companion Lieutenant Indigo Riviere as his mate seemingly forever. Tracker Andrew Kincaid so far has failed to get the person he cherishes to see him beyond being a buddy beneath her stature.

Drew knows a key part of her writing him off is she considers him beneath her as she is the dominant female in the pack while he is at best tepid when it comes to alpha status; besides his position keeps him outside of the pack hierarchy. Still they play a game of dominance until the Psy network warns of a perilous plot to the pack; now they team up to prevent the pending doom.

The key to this fresh exciting Psy-Changeling romantic fantasy installment (see Blaze of memory and Bonds of Justice) is the lead pairing of two previously supporting characters that seemingly have no chance to mate because of the pack’s customs. The futuristic story line mostly is driven by this SnowDancer couple, but the series theme also moves forward as the Councils’’ actions make war seem imminent.

Harriet Klausner

Heaven’s Spite-Lilith Saintcrow

Heaven’s Spite
Lilith Saintcrow
Orbit, Nov 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316074179

In Santa Luz, Jill Kismet is unhappy with the recent eerie visitations. Perry the devil arrives with an odd artifact that once belonged to Jill’s mentor. Then he gives her Melisande Belisa as a gift; she is the Sorrow who murdered Mikhail.

Meanwhile an unknown adversary apparently attempts to bring across the hellbreed. To prevent this from occurring, she needs the help of the demon and the sorrow though she knows the price each will demand is her soul in a game of avenging chicken.

The fifth Kismet demonological Noir fantasy thriller (see Flesh Circus, Night Shift, Hunter's Prayer, and Redemption Alley) is loaded with action and starring a kick butt heroine who from the opening scene until the final climax is performing her trademark donkey kicking seemingly every character (especially demons). The freshness comes ironically not from the constant gore but from the cerebral musings of Jill considering her options of allying with two enemies who she knows want her soul. With a major cliffhanger, fans of the Kismet saga will appreciate the series, but be a bit disappointed that they will have to wait to see how life, death, and after death in the Saintcrow universe will play out.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 4, 2010

In the Company of Vampires-Katie MacAlister

In the Company of Vampires
Katie MacAlister
Signet, Nov 2 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451231604

The Fates declared that Francesca Ghetti was Benedikt Czerny’s beloved soul mate. However, Fran loves Ben, but refuses to accept destiny when she believes in free will. She leaves her beloved in Europe while returning to America (see the young adult teen fantasies CIRCUS OF THE DARNED and GOT FANGS, written as Katie Maxwell).

Five years have passed since Fran said goodbye to Ben. After rescuing her roommate from an otherworldly assault, Fran returns to the Gothfaire where they first met when she learns her mom, who remained with the troupe, vanished. Fran knows her mom would never just leave as she takes her role as the witch seriously. Accompanying her are three Viking ghosts assigned to banish Loki. She also has a rival for Ben’s affection as Naomi the tattoo artist overtly makes it clear she wants him. Finally there is the villagers’ paying homage to Wagner. With all that floating around mom still remains missing while an evil necromancer begins a deadly incantation.

This zany clever Dark Ones sentry (see The Last of the Red Hot Vampires) stars the six foot (no longer teen) in an adult role as she finds her vampiric soul mate with an apparent lover and meets his sibling. As is her personality, Fran charges ahead ready to fight anyone even her own heart while ripping skin off of everyone even Viking ghosts. Although the reunion lacks intensity beyond jealousy and sex, fans will enjoy the return as Ben and Fran lead readers on a wild tour of Europe.

Harriet Klausner