Friday, December 31, 2010

Secrets and Shadows-Shannon Delany

Secrets and Shadows
Shannon Delany
St. Martin’s Griffin, Feb 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780312609153

Jessie Gillmansen struggles to adapt to all she has recently learned about what she thought was were beings from horror movies and novels being real. This new reality occurred when she discovered werewolves exist. She and Pietr Ruskova are apparently a mated pair but she has no time to pursue what that means as she has bigger issues than howling male hunks to contend with.

Jessie tries to negotiate a deal between the Ruskova werewolf pack and the CIA. Her efforts seem futile, as progress is snail slow. However, she is taken aback when Pietr begins behaving as if he no longer wants her. Not one to be left out in the cold, Jessie debates whether to give Pietr one more chance or turn to Derek. She is soon in danger when the CIA apparently betrays her with only one male protecting her.

This is an engaging fast-paced young adult werewolf urban fantasy starring a heroine who has come a long way since entering Pietr’s world (see 13 to Life). Though with all that has happened to her readers would expect a besieged Jessie to show more moxie rather than the Perils of Pauline. Yet she still holds the entertaining tale together as she feels pulled from all sides with no one to turn to while dealing with agents, beasts and a boyfriend.

Harriet Klausner

The Demon Trapper’s Daughter-Jana G. Oliver

The Demon Trapper’s Daughter
Jana G. Oliver
St. Martin’s, Feb 1 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780312614782

In 2018, Atlanta is like much of the country and the world in economic ruin. The residents follow the Golden Rule of do unto your neighbor before they do unto to you as survival is the only game in town. Adding to the misery index is Lucifer’s demonic minions are everywhere causing pain and suffering.

Seventeen years old Riley Blackthorne understands how miserable life has become. Her mother died from cancer while she and her dad Paul owe so much they have no chance of escaping their debts. However, like her father, Riley becomes a demon trapper joining the guild as an apprentice (while also attending school); as a way of bringing in income though from her hard childhood she always wanted to join her dad on the job. However, when a demon kills him, she has no choice but to keep working handling Grade One demons. However a Grade Five hellish killer attacks her as Lucifer targets Riley when she is most vulnerable while she grieves her loss.

This is a great opening urban fantasy as Jane G. Oliver deftly blends the creation of her mythos with non-stop action. The fast-paced story line starts at an incredible pace and never decelerates as the armchair audience needs to wear seatbelts. However, even with this faster than light speed, Atlanta and the heroine are fully developed while the support cast (a peer she romantically likes, her father, other trappers and demons) enhance the setting or the star. Readers will enjoy a joy ride around Atlanta escorted by The Demon Trapper’s Daughter.

Harriet Klausner

Kiss At Your Own Risk-Stephanie Rowe

Kiss At Your Own Risk
Stephanie Rowe
Sourcebooks, Jan 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781402241956

It is one week and counting before Trinity Harpswell will finally break the Black Widow Curse. Nothing will stand in her way as she feels a sense of relief with the countdown occurring.

Blaine Underhill and three friends (Nigel, Jarvis and Christian have been tortured in the Den of Womanly Pursuits by Death’s evil Granny Angelica the witch for a century and a half. They escape, but Christian fails to get away as his lover betrayed him to the malevolent witch. Believing the motto no comrade left behind and fearing the level of torture Christian will face, Blaine wants to mount a rescue, but he knows for him and his comrades that is suicide. They turn to Trinity to balance the odds. Trinity wants to say no as this is a bad time for her; worse she is attracted to Blaine, which she knows activates the curse that leads to her murdering her beloved and joining Angelica on the dark side; that is if she doesn’t kill the evil witch too.

The first Soulfire jocular urban fantasy is an over top satire that hilariously lampoons the sub-genre (including Stephanie Rowe’s own comedic Goblet of Eternal Youth tales – you will never look at a pretzel the same way) with amazing cross-breeding species, killing star-crossed lovers and trained killer warriors relaxing with knitting. Fast-paced readers who appreciate humorous urban fantasy will know already Ms. Rowe is one of the best as affirmed by her latest tale of love and misdeed.

Harriet Klausner

Blackveil-Kristen Britain

Kristen Britain
Daw, Feb 1 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756406608

On the surface Sacoridia seems like a powerful country ruled by the just benign King Zachary. However, appearances can be deceiving because there is danger from within and without. To the north in the lands not occupied by Sacoridian troops, descendants of Arcosia led by Mornhavon the Black invade as a first step in preparation for their war on Sacoridia. They now call themselves Second Empire.

The D’Yer wall has been breached, enabling the evil denizens from primordial Blackveil Forest to enter Sacoridian. Before the Long War Blackveil was once known as Argenthyne, home to the immortal Eletians who now live in Eletia. Besides kingdom headaches, Zachary and Green Rider messenger Karigan G’ladheon love each other, but know they have no future as he must marry his betrothed Lady Estora out of duty to his county.

Six Eletians want to return to the Blackveil to see their former home. Zachary wants six Sacoridians to accompany them; Karigan is one of the chosen. The Eletians are on the same mission that Second Empire is on; it will be a disaster if their leader Grandmother prevails. Meanwhile the King is poisoned and a conspiracy begins by someone close the throne.

The latest Kariagan epic fantasy (see Green Rider, First Rider's Call, and The High King's Tomb) is a terrific entry loaded with subplots that provide the reader with both the big picture of the world of Kristin Britain and the small scale happenings that impact the larger scope. The key to this grand epic is the movement back and forth between the Second Empire threat, the Eletians, the danger to the Sacoridians in Blackveil and to the king is done smoothly although few of the subplots are completed. With a strong diverse cast (a trademark of Ms. Britain), fans will welcome the return to Sacoridia as the focus is on evil oozing Blackveil.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Much Fall of Blood-Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer

Much Fall of Blood
Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer
Baen, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439134160

The Byzantine Empire shuts down the trading route between the Mediterranean and the east by closing the Dardanelles. Golden Horde leader Jagiellon invites the western states to use a Roman land route. Accepting the invitation, Prince Manfred with his bodyguard Eric of Iceland leads diplomats from the Holy Roman Empire and the Venetian city-state to meet the Golden Horde leader. On the trip they encounter exiled Khan Mongol and his warrior sister Bortai.

Countess Elizabeth Bathody pretends to befriend Prince Vlad of Valhalia after liberating him from his incarceration by King Emeric of Hungary. However, when the opportunity is right, she plans to use his blood to enhance her already vigorous demonic power and as bait to capture the inhuman beasts lurking nearby. Instead these werewolves enable Vlad to escape from the malevolent female who he rejects as evil. Vlad and his dragoons unite with Manfred and his Knights of the Holy Trinity, and Bortai and her Mongol horde to fight Jagiellon and his Golden Horde; while immoral Hungarian King Emeric and his magical forces wait to take out the winner. The demon god Chernobog encourages deadly chaos with the only hope for Manfred and his allies rests with blood magic that Vlad fears though is enticed.

The third Heirs of Alexandria alternate historical fantasy (see The Shadow of the Lion and This Rough Magic) is a terrific entry as humor and romance enhance the magic and military prime themes. The story line is fast-paced with multiple subplots that deftly come together over the course of the tale although to much good luck happenchance on the hero’s side as the continent seems very small detracts from an overall fine entry in a wonderful saga.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 27, 2010

Once Upon A Scandal-Delilah Marvelle

Once Upon A Scandal
Delilah Marvelle
Harlequin HQN, Jan 18 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373775453

In 1824, teenagers Viscount Jonathan Pierce Thatcher and Lady Victoria Jane Emerson were in love. Both wanted to marry, but were too young. He proposed anyway but he left for Venice before she could say yes. Over the next few years they exchanged letters when abruptly he stopped sending them though she continued for a while longer until heartbroken she also stopped.

In 1829 Victoria Jane needs a husband to protect her and help her take care of her father who is going mad. Three men are chosen to court Victoria Jane, including Jonathan who has just come back to England after years away. He realizes he hurt her so badly that her heart has turned to stone. He tries to reach her, but she rejects his attempts; so Jonathan turns to seducing his beloved’s mind, body and soul. However, Jonathan realizes even if he succeeds at that he still has to overcome his neglect.

The latest marvelous Regency Scandal (see Prelude to a Scandal) is a super second chance at love tale starring two protagonists in love as teens and still in love five years later. Jonathan is a romantic at heart so when he stops corresponding he hurts his beloved even more because Victoria Jane knows he is. This makes his effort to re-win her that much more complicated as he already owns her heart, but not her trust.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 26, 2010

On the Hunt-Gena Showalter, Shannon K. Butcher, Jessica Anderson, and Deidre Knight

On the Hunt
Gena Showalter, Shannon K. Butcher, Jessica Anderson, and Deidre Knight
Signet, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451232434

“Ever Night” by Gena Showalter. When she turned eighteen, Rose Pascal magically leaves her bedroom with its electronic gizmos for a world of thicket woods. There she meets nasty Vasili who calls her a mouse before explaining she is a Dimension Walker. He sends her home though he normally kills Walkers. Over the years on her birthday she returns while her parents think she is crazy. Eventually his little mouse becomes a roaring lioness that Vasili falls in love with; but he and his people hunt her kind.

“The Collector” by Shannon K. Butcher. In St. Louis, demon Hunter Neal Etan meets antique dealer Viviana Rowan when she agrees to give him an artifact that allegedly will cure his friend’s paralysis. They touch and each feels the attraction. However, her life becomes threatened when the artifact vanishes.

“Crystal Skull” by Jessica Anderson. In the Mexican rainforest, archeologist Natalie Albright finds her excavation abruptly stopped by officials because they fear she has demons. She is stunned by what she considers superstitious inanity until strange beasts arrack her after she and her team find the crystal skull. Only her ex husband JT can possibly keep her safe from the ancient evil that stalks her.

“Red Angel” by Deidre Knight. Nightshades demon team leader Jamie Angel has had problems with his family’s acceptance of Kate Rabineau, a freaking vampire, who is now engaged to Dillon Fox. Thus when he falls for Kate’s best friend Sunny Renfoe, Jamie is aghast because he knows she is not human, but what “Sunshine” is he has no idea.

These are four well written exciting romantic fantasies though the novella format limits lead couple development.

Harriet Klausner

Blood of the Rose-Kate Pearce

Blood of the Rose
Kate Pearce
Signet, Feb 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451232489

In 1530 Rosalind Llewellyn is part of a Druid family of royal loyalists protecting King Henry VIII from the vampire threat. Her actions on their last mission to kill a rogue vampire led to her engagement to Druid slayer Lord Christopher Ellis (see Kiss of the Rose) over the ire of her companion Rhys Williams and others in her clan.

She planned to avoid the court where she almost died and to stay away from her betrothed as she has succeeded for a year, but is called back as a new more seditious threat to the monarch has arisen. Anne Boleyn has bewitched King Henry and shockingly Christopher too. Rosalind fears that the two powerful men are enchanted by a vampiress. She must act to break the spell out of loyalty to her King and out of love to her man, but must proceed with caution as she has no proof whether the apparent next Queen is a social butterfly compared with the pious Spaniard she apparently will replace or Undead.

The latest Tudor Vampire Chronicles is an engaging second chance at love historical thriller. The story line is driven by the heroine who is pulled into two directions by her Druid dallying beloved and her Druid family. However, the fresh entertainment comes from the real personage as the lead couple, her family and readers will wonder whether Anne and her brother George are vampires and if yes will she be staked or crowned.

Harriet Klausner

Siren’s Surrender-Devyn Quinn

Siren’s Surrender
Devyn Quinn
Signet, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451232922

Gwen Lonike rejected her mermaid heritage as she prefers to run her By the Sea Hotel in Port Rock, Maine though she laments to the Goddess over the lack of good help. FBI Special Agent Blake Whitaker arrives as a guest for at least one night. The Boston based Fed was obviously a local at one time as he wants to get to Little Mer Island where Gwen’s sisters and one brother-in–law Ken Randall reside. Following a seemingly paranormal lead, Whitaker wants to question Randall over the disappearance of archeologist Jake Massey leading an undersea expedition and what happened in the Mediterranean last month (see Siren’s Call).

Jake survived his former fiancĂ© Tessa Lonike’s attempt to kill him. He seeks revenge ignoring what he planned for her and her sisters that led to her assault. Instead since Tessa accidentally opened the sea-gate, Queen Magera has crossed over. She wants the gate reopened so her army can cross when she takes over the Mediterranean, but only Tessa can do that. Gwen knows she must help her siblings with the threat while also preventing Whitaker from knowing what they are.

The second Dark Tides romantic fantasy is a terrific thriller that will have readers heeding the Siren’s call. Although Jake remains a weak caricature of a villain, the regal demanding Queen brings counter depth to the strong lead couple and her family. Readers will relish this engaging coastal Maine tale as besides the action, the romance seems doomed as each has issues with his relationships with his ex and his son at the forefront.

Harriet Klausner

Visions of Magic-Regan Hastings

Visions of Magic
Regan Hastings
Signet, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451232465

Although not at fault as it was an avaricious coven that almost destroyed the world in their power grab centuries ago, Torin the Eternal Guardian and his peers were forced to wait centuries impatiently for the magic to reawaken so that he would finally be with his reincarnated witch. Like a cosmic joke the Reawakening has begun a decade ago in Long Beach, California. A warrior he seeks his mate.

The power seekers use the reemergence of witches as a social divide issue. Witches are hunted and burned as obscene pariahs. Lincoln Middle School teacher Shea Jameson’s aunt was executed as a witch, so her niece scampers from one locale to the next. Upset by what one of her students said happened to her mom, when a mugger tries to steal her purse using a knife, she reacts by calling for fire. Immediately, those in the school parking lot become a mob calling her witch. Torin saves her but she is now hunted. He knows she is his destiny, but as they team up with other such pairings, they must erect a potentially lethal artifact while the government leaders send mercenaries to hunt them down.

The first Awakening urban romantic fantasy uses the premise that government and other patriots act by ignoring the First Amendment rights under the guise of national security; which in real American history has occurred. Using that theme of a race hunted down i.e., Japanese-Americans sent to camps during WWII), Regan Hastings provides a powerful but dark thriller. The story line is fast-paced with deep characterizations that make the Awakening of magic seem real. However, it is the underlying social issue of burning the Bill of Rights that makes this a terrific cautionary tale; mindful of Benjamin Franklin’s warning: “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security”.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Bonded by Blood-Laurie London

Bonded by Blood
Laurie London
Harlequin HQN, Jan 18 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373775446

For a living motorcycle riding Mackenzie Foster-Shaw searches for appropriate off-set movie locations. The film scout currently is in the Pacific Northwest seeking a special old looking cemetery. After four previous locales that seemed wrong, she reaches the remote Bear Creek Pioneer Cemetery. Kenz thinks this is the right spot, but as she takes her first of several photos, she notices the stone has no name. Thinking of Munch’s painting she hears a noise and searches for the animal that appears hurt; only to find a wounded man.

Human predatory Darkblood vampires shot Guardian Dominic Serrano with a silver bullet. Dominic realizes that the photographer is special due to her rare sangre dulce blood type that is like cat nip to vampires. Dominic ponders how to keep his healer safe from vampires and his enemy Lord Pavlos who plans to use those whose veins flow with sangre dulce. He knows he must also keep his distance since they are Bonded by Blood but takes her to his team’s Underground Seattle headquarters.

Vampire romance readers will embrace author Laurie London with her first Sweetblood urban fantasy as the audience will easily believe in the paranormal living under Seattle. Action-packed with two strong protagonists and a solid support cast especially the villain; fans will enjoy a trip to London realm as this is a sensational opening act.

Harriet Klausner

Captive Heart-Anna Windsor

Captive Heart
Anna Windsor
Ballantine, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345513915

FBI Agent Jack Blackmore, assigned temporary to lead New York's Occult Crime Unit, has battled paranormal serial killers including demons, but working along side the obstinate Sibyls is much more difficult. He especially finds his blood boiling whenever he thinks of former NYPD cop turned tidal wave Andy Myles as he wants to drown her though he is not sure whether he would use waterboarding or kisses.

Andy, a water sibyl, is unsure whether to drown the Fed in a tsunami as she has almost done twice or with kisses though she still grieves the death of her lover. She is part of a fighting sibyl quartet who recently defeated the horrific Rakshasas, but also is the only trained water sibyl who works with creating a Motherhouse to mentor rookies.

Samuel Griffen and his coven experiment with Rakshasa blood and DNA in order to create supervillains. Griffen and his sister Rebecca have conducted successful tests on powerful eastern Europe mobs. Jack needs Andy so is in Greece he beg her and her quad mates to help end the horrific plan that would destroy the world as the Fed and ex cop know it including the reemerging sibyls.

The third Dark Crescent Sisterhood tale (see Captive Soul and Captive Spirit) is fast-paced from the moment Jack and Andy meet in Greece with thoughts of drowning in each other’s head and never slows down until the final confrontation. Loaded with action yet driven by the water sibyl and the cop, fans will appreciate this enjoyable romantic fantasy that uses the classic boy meets girl; boy and girl loath each other; and boy and girl fall in love as a backdrop to a global science fiction induced paranormal threat.

Harriet Klausner

Heart of the Exiled-Pati Nagle

Heart of the Exiled
Pati Nagle
Del Rey, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345503862

Having been betrayed by her lover after a cup bonding, Alpinon Guard warrior Eliani meets Turisan while each is on a mission; their ability to mindspeak to each other stuns both as that is rare. However, after helping the aleven tribes defeat the renegade vampire clan Darkshore led by Queen Shalr (see the Betrayal), the pair wed.

Meanwhile the Bitter Wars left weakened the aelven tribes. A Council convenes at Turisan’s home in Glenhallow to discuss the rising threat from the brutal berserker Kobalen who are behaving out of character as the normally brainless beasts are using rational thought out plans to gather their forces. The enemy’s numbers are astronomic while the Governor of the Fireshore tribe has failed to attend the council meeting. Because of her mindspeak link with her beloved mate, Eliani is assigned to learn why. However, the source behind the Kobalen will stun Eliani who mentally must be severed from her beloved so that the Heart of the Exiled can reclaim what she knows is her right.

The second Blood of the Kindred epic fantasy is an engaging thriller that grips those who read The Betrayal from the moment just after Eliani and Turisan “marry” as she says goodbye to begin her mission. Newcomers will be confused as to the cultural differences and similarities within the aleven tribes as they seem interchangeable; this is critical to understand what is going on in Fireshore, with the Kobalen and the third party behind the latest acrimony. Eliani keeps the exciting story line focused with able assistance from her mindspeak beloved as Pati Nagle provides an exhilarating tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Warlord's Legacy-Ari Marmell

The Warlord's Legacy
Ari Marmell
Spectra, Jan 25 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9780553807776

Corvis Rebaine earned his name as the Terror of the East though he insisted what he did when he slaughtered countless innocents as collateral damage was justice. Others who watched helplessly the massacre of beloved to the black armored, skull helmeted Rebaine and his army thought he was the devil. Rebaine with his cutting words would disagree, but no one would argue against his demon axe as he has twice destroyed Imphallion claiming each time he pursued a better society.

Rebaine lives alone after his wife Tyannon and their two children Lilander and Mellorin left him. He has learned violent change fails so he works from within the Guild system that he loathes. However, he watches with disdain as Cephira invades Imphallion while the Guilds fail to respond to the assault. Rebaine is tempted to pick up his axe, but fears history will repeat itself. While he hesitates someone, apparently wearing his infamous warrior garb, leads a bloody counterattack that makes Rebaine’s actions look tame. Also two enemies seek his death. First his children’s Uncle Jassion abetted by Kaleb the sorcerer stalks him and second his most dangerous foe of all his estranged daughter Mellorin apparently wants to kill him. His choices are death or the Terror of the East.

Containing the same overwhelming but keen cynicism as the antihero’s first engagement (see The Conqueror’s Shadow); The Warlord’s Legacy is a timely amusing epic fantasy. The jocular story line is action-packed yet raises questions about a country’s homeland security values. Corvis and his entourage make the tale as they are sly, slick and stalwart although he ponders whether another turn as the Terror will return his family to him. Sub-genre fans will appreciate Rebaine’s efforts to go home.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 24, 2010

Nightshade-Michelle Rowen

Michelle Rowen
Berkley, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780425239827

In San Diego, Jillian Conrad works as an office temp at am investment firm. She is returning to work following a coffee break when a man accosts her; he injects her with a syringe containing serum. Half-vampire Declan Reyes shoots and kills Jill’s assaulter.

Jill is so sick she feels like she is going to die. Reyes informs her she has been inoculated with chemicals that make vampires covet her blood though it is also a toxic to the undead. Concerned about Jill’s safety and wanting to insure no further public incident occurs; Reyes escorts the ailing woman to a hidden remote lab where purebred human collaborators including scientists work on killing a rogue vampire king. Declan and Jill become lovers during her moments when the nausea and headaches subside and she is not on call as bloody bait.

This is an engaging romantic fantasy starring a bewildered ailing human and a hybrid in heat. The story line is fast-paced with an interesting underlying premise. However, the sex feels gratuitous as Jill is very sick; perhaps puking once or twice on his lower head would have brought realism to the lusty encounters. Still sub-genre readers will enjoy Michelle Rowen’s entertaining thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Lust-Charlotte Featherstone

Charlotte Featherstone
Spice, Jan 18 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373605521

The despondency of those at the Unseelie Court grows exponentially as the hopelessness is like a shroud burying the dark fey. The only chance anyone of the condemned Fey has is for their virtue to free them from their sin.

Thane the Dark Fey knows his wickedness is lust. He has no hope of ever overcoming his depravity. That is until he is riding when he meets his virtue hope, Chastity. Stunned Thane knows upon first sight who she is and what she means to him. However, her father the Duke “sold” his daughters’ virtues to the Seelie Court. When she meets Thane, she has the same heart-felt reactions as he does; a deep desire that he is it and a fear that he is it.

The Sins and the Virtues erotic romantic fantasy is a fabulous tale starring a wonderful lead couple filled with Lust and love. The keys to the story line are the fully developed cast and the powerful interrelationships between them as this brings depth to a cross-fey romance. Sub-genre readers will appreciate Thane who has found his groove, but now has to find a way to keep her with him.

Harriet Klausner

Uprising-Sean McCabe

Sean McCabe
Signet, Feb 1 2011, %9.99
ISBN: 9780451413062

In Constanza, Romania the sailors load the cargo on their ship. They sail to London but many become sick and all live in fear. The Czech-Romanian crew is relieved as if they dumped the devil when the cargo is placed on an aircraft for delivery to Crowmoor Hall near Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire where Seymour Finch awaits.

Not long afterward, Declan follows his angry girlfriend Kate who runs off to Crowmoor Hall. There he sees two vampires arguing over who drinks Kate’s blood. He informs the cops who think he is a lunatic except for Detective Inspector Joel Solomon who believes the undead live amongst humans. Soon the first grisly homicide occurs. More murders as horrific as the first follow.

The World Vampire Federation’s Vampire Intelligence Agency undercover enforcer Alex Bishop travels from the Carpathian Mountains to England to kill the rogue vampires. However, the VIA agent finds herself caught in the beginning of a vampire civil war as conservatives want a return to the tradition of stalking and killing humans rather than the fear driven “must never” rules. The rogues insist vampire is the dominant species, but the WVF says surveillance technology has changed the world order. Alex teams up with enlightened Joel. They try to prevent the war of the Undead.

This is an exhilarating vampire investigative thriller as increasingly vampires who hid in plain sight are coming out in a bloody way. The lead law enforcement pair is a delightful coupling as they work a ghastly serial murder case and ignores their mutual attraction as she knows the three “must never” rules make anything but a professional relationship a WVF law breakers. Fast-paced with a wonderful opening nod to Stoker, readers will appreciate the first act of the Vampire Federation saga because Sean McCabe makes his undead realm seem genuine.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow Walker-L.A. Banks

Shadow Walker
L.A. Banks
Leslie Esdaile Banks LLC, Dec 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9780615421506

Neterus Carlos and Power Angel Damali Rivera kill, with the help of the Guardians, everyone in hell besides Lucifer the Anti-Christ. When the rapture occurred, the Neterus and the Guardians were left behind; not because they were rejected, but due to earth needing them. It is up to the next generation of Guardians and Neterus, Sarah and Alejandro Rivera and their team to battle the devil and Anti-Christ. To succeed they need training. Thus the Rivera twins attend Temt Tchaas Academy better known as Neteru Academy in Appalachia where they learn to be Guardians of the Light.

Everyone assumed extrovert confident Al would be the stronger warrior, which is fine with Sarah who since early childhood has watched Shadows that no one else apparently sees; she not only does not want to be a warrior, she fears the dark. This in spite of her roots with her mom a Neteru Warrior Angel and her dad a Hell Council Vampire. The only shadow she likes is hiding behind that of her brother. However, fears, fangs and friends force her into the light when students vanish and only the hesitant Sarah can sees the Shadows in the dark that show where the missing might be if she can get past agents of the Dark.

This is the last group of Neterus and Guardians to be trained by their parents as the battle is coming that will determine the final outcome between light and dark. At school, the sacred students and frightened faculty prepare for Lucifer’s next move knowing some will not make it. Besides that angst, Sarah’s unique power adds to her queasiness as she prefers not to battle the Shadows, but cannot idly stand by while friends and perhaps her family will die. Although paranormals attending school is so Potterish, targeted young adult readers and older fans who enjoy the works of Rowling and Sabin (see a School for Sorcery) will want to enroll in the Neteru Academy.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 23, 2010

DOWN THE ROAD-Bowie Ibarra

Bowie Ibarra
Permuted Press( Pocket), Dec 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 0976555980

The illness struck New York City first then quickly spread to the entire country. Everyone who contracted it died but the latest rose up as undead zombies eating human flesh and spreading the disease through bites. George Zaragosa is determined to leave Austin and return to his hometown of San Uvalde to be with his family, but getting out of town isn’t easy as he has to avoid and kill the zombies by smashing their brains in; that’s the only guarantee that they don’t rise again.

In addition to avoiding the criminals who add to the chaos, George must also avoid Homeland Security and FEMA who are forcibly putting the disease free people in camps where rape, murder and enforced segregation is the norm. He is caught and put in a camp but he escapes when the zombies break through. He finds refuge in a makeshift shelter run by a drug lord and his police allies. Escaping means more killing but when George finds out what the leader of the group did, he feels it is his mission to take him out. In a world gone mad, it is not only zombies that are killers but humans exterminating one another.

Horror fans who want a real zombie killer thriller that pulls no punches, is full of action scenes, blood and gore, and violence that fits easily into the plot will want to get a copy of DOWN THE ROAD. The FEMA Camps are not so far fetched as many victims of Hurricane Katrina who stayed behind know first hand. The protagonist is a passive young man who reacts to events but never really takes charge and that character trait leads him into more trouble.
Harriet Klausner

Storm of Reckoning-Doranna Durgin

Storm of Reckoning
Doranna Durgin
Tor, Feb 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780765361653

Reckoner Lisa “Garrie” McGarrity knows her crew (Lucia Reyes the spiritual empath, Drew Ely the ethereal historian and Quinn Rossiter the supernatural researcher) will be there for her through thick and thin especially when encounters from beyond occur. She believes that even with Drew leaving the team to work with his new girlfriend in San Diego.

They travel to Sedona, Arizona to deal with out of control spirits, but humans interfere with their investigation. However, also Garrie wonders about the odd bounty hunter Trevarr who is in Sedona and his even more curious Abyssinian cat Skylane. She thinks he conceals something from her. She wonders why he refuses to leave especially when he has to know how obstinate Garrie can be on an inquiry. Yet he remains with her and her BFFs.

Ironically Garrie has been in the haunting business for over fifteen years (see The Reckoning for more background), but is still learning on the job especially what she cannot do. Part of her doubts comes from recent assignments but also Trevarr from entering her life. He teammates are fully developed especially Lucia as this exciting energetic cavernous fantasy leaves the audience breathless with the heroine and her crew struggling with a paranormal battle when they need R&R while she is somewhat distracted by Trevarr. Stay tuned for there is more to come.

Harriet Klausner

Leviathans of Jupiter -Ben Bova

Leviathans of Jupiter
Ben Bova
Tor, $24.99
ISBN 9780765317889

Two decades ago physicist Grant Archer and his team encountered the Leviathans of Jupiter in the worldwide ocean (see Jupiter). When one of these beasts saved his life and that of his crew as their ship sank, he knew they had to be sentient. However, one anecdotal incident does not prove scientifically his assertion as true.

Now as director a research station on Jupiter, Grant plans to prove his hypothesis that the city-sized oceanic leviathans are intelligent. His supportive crew includes biologist Deidre Ambrose; deep brain expert Andy Corvus; Dorn the cyber who fought in the Asteroid Wars; and engineering physicist Maxwell Yeager. Meanwhile International Astronomical Authority expert Katherine Westfall heads to Jupiter. Her mission is to shut down Archer and his team by concealing her motive behind finances.

Fascinatingly, the leviathans easily steal the show as Ben Bova brilliantly gets inside their head displaying their perceptions of reality. Comparative anthropology leaves the humans flat especially a forced romance that feels more like a requirement than a key subplot. Still fans of the Grand Tour will relish the entertaining Return to study the Leviathans of Jupiter.

Harriet Klausner

Raven's Quest -Anya Bast

Raven's Quest
Anya Bast
Berkley, Feb 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9780425238806

Duplicitous Magnus seizes the Dragon Throne of Numia, killing his royal family in the process. However, his nephew the heir Gallus Lucan survives the vicious assault. Lucan escapes. For the next fourteen years, Lucan prepares for a counter attack to remove his odious uncle from the throne. He has gathered an army of loyal soldiers.

The Raven of Tir na Ban High Branna ta Cattia knows the time is right to free her people from the oppressive rule of malevolent Magnus. Thus, the High Priestess journeys to Numia to meet the stranger who haunts her dreams; and to obtain an alliance to help liberate their respective people. When Branna and Lucan finally meet outside of her dreams, they are attracted to one another, but their goals differ. She wants to free their respective people while he wants revenge at any collateral cost. Their feelings for each other remains concealed as love intrudes with their need to defeat their mutual enemy, an abomination willing to kill anyone to keep his power.

Although the story line is straighter than I-80 through the Bonneville Flats and the villain is out of standard casting for an evil ruler, the lead couple makes for an engaging romantic fantasy as she must persuade her beloved that vengeance will harm his people. Each needs the other in more ways than just the alliance against his uncle, but both has doubts as she believes his heart is overrun with rage while he thinks she is an inane do-gooder without a plan or a prayer. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Anya Bast’s exciting tale; previously published in 2004 under the name Joanna King.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Forest Moon Rising-P.R. Frost

Forest Moon Rising
P.R. Frost
Daw, Feb 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780756406554

Fantasy writer Tess Noncoire a Celestial Blade Warrior, her personal imp Scrap and their allies plugged the faery leak (see Faery Moon). However, something new is in Portland committing violent crimes against women. Tess vows to take down the evil psychopath who has crossed over but the Celestial Blade Warrior is unsure of from where as the leaks seem to be everywhere.

At the same time Tess finds herself overwhelmed with other issues. First she feels like a babysitter responsible for a horde of half-breed demons who are attending a local convention. Second she is the backup for renowned Celtic-folk singer. Third she needs to write a book. Finally she needs time to persuade her beloved they are fated; but is it Gollum or Donovan?

The latest Moon over Portland urban fantasy (see Moon in the Mirror) is an entertaining sword and sorcery thriller. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as Tess and Scrap take on a malevolent dangerous chauvinist. Although the heroine at times seems to be the star of a fantasy game in which whenever she needs a new skill she obtains it seemingly instantly but also uses her new talent as a seasoned veteran rather than struggling to understand what she newly possesses. Still this is a fun entry as Tess the Celestial Blade Warrior and her sharp “sidekick” Scrap fight evil doers.

Harriet Klausner

Unseen-Rachel Caine

Rachel Caine
Roc, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463838

Cassiel and Luis recently saved his niece Isabel from her murderous djinn sister Pearl (see Unknown). However, both are concerned with what they learned during the rescue. First Isabel is too young to display her otherworldly power yet she has. Second there were a horde of other abducted kids with her.

Pearl and her followers have kidnapped the offspring of deceased Wardens. They brainwash their prisoners before raising the powers of the children. Cassiel and Luis fear what will happen to the kids as obtaining power before puberty leads to a significant chance of dying. Wanting to prevent Pearl’s plans from fruition, Cassiel infiltrates one of her compounds hoping to uncover her sister’s diabolical scheme. However what she learns frightens her with what her evil sibling has set in motion.

The latest Outcast Season (see Unknown and Undone) thriller is an entreating Warden fantasy. The story line focuses on the collateral damage caused by the misuse of power, but loses the opportunity to profoundly dig into why and how the sisters mentally and emotionally traversed different roads (nature vs. nurture). Still the story line is fast-paced and filled with action as readers anticipate round three between Cassiel and Pearl.

Harriet Klausner

Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Sausages-Tom Holt

Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Sausages
Tom Holt
Orbit, Feb 21 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9780316080026

Real Estate solicitor Polly Mayer fears she is losing her mind. First there is her coffee that someone else apparently drinks. Then there is her party dress at the dry cleaners; only problem is that the dry cleaning store is no longer at the spot where she swears she dropped off her dress. At work, someone has been counseling her clients and keeping her files current.

Desperate Polly talks to her brother Donald the jingle writer who boiled water for pasta but has an empty box. After wishing his neighbor upstairs would leave, the pest abruptly goes away. He next meets chickens arguing that they are human and a sow searching for her missing offspring, Donald muses like Sherlock Holmes until he concludes magic exists, but has run wild. With his stunned sister, he investigates the pasta fiasco only to find experts trying to control the chaos as if pigs could fly; chauvinist sows and porkers attending Harvard or Oxford are attainable except the species is so picky as to the company they keep.

This is an engaging irreverent slice of beef (don’t say slice of pork, sausage or bacon unless you are in Congress) satirical fantasy. The story line contains too many subplots that fail to gel into a cohesive tale; yet readers who appreciate something different will enjoy the insanity of Tom Holt’s chaos. Placing Gulliver’s Travels in Animal Farm, Mr. Holt provides a Theater of the Absurd as the siblings learn pigs might fly.

Harriet Klausner

A Brush of Darkness-Allison Pang

A Brush of Darkness
Allison Pang
Pocket, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439198322

Six months ago, Abby Sinclair’s life changed when her mother died in an accident. Instead of grieving her loss, Abby manages a magical mall and has a unicorn using her underwear as bedding inside a drawer. Adjusting to that was easy thanks to her special enchanted gizmos that Apple would envy. More complicated is when Moira the Faery Protectorate informed Abby. She will replace her mother as their Touchstone; the mortal needed to enable the others to cross realms.

However all hell breaks loose when Moira vanishes. Abby is abruptly in charge of trying to hold the gate in place while finding her boss in OtherWorld. Brystion the incubus penetrates her dreams as he investigates the disappearance of his succubus sister. His intrusion angers Moira's number two Robert whose rage shocks Abby. However, complicating the potential disaster is demons for hire. She believes she can handle incubus, daemons, angels and other ilk; anything except cat piss and whatever the unicorn is doing to undies.

Pang’s OtherWorld comes across as real due to Abby who is a sort of caustic Alice in a not so Wonderland. Her acerbic asides add humor though at times the jocularity feels out of place. Still fans will enjoy Abby’s awesome adventures as she mounts a rescue of her boss and of her heart (she learns what everyone knows form puberty to never give your heart to an incubus) as Allison Pang provides a fun urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Incubus-Janet Elizabeth Jones

Janet Elizabeth Jones
Harlequin Nocturne, Dec 21 2010, $$5.25
ISBN: 9780373618514

He agreed to the radical medical experiment in hopes of saving vampire-kind from extinction. The alchemist changed vampire Meical Grabian, but not in ways he wanted. When he awakens several months after the transformation was performed, Meical finds he has become an incubus who needs extreme levels of passion for sustenance.

Meical saved Caroline Bengal the empathy from a psychopath just as he began the experimental conversion. In the Poconos he does not remember doing this, but feels an urge to reach out to her. Caroline is confused by her attraction to the incubus, as she feels this obsessive need to help Meical; he, in turn, feels a deep gut need to have her by his side. However, a third party wants Caroline and is willing to kill to take her.

The strength to this deep romantic fantasy is the yin and yang interpersonal connection between the lead couple. The other member of the triangle adds tension to the exciting story line. However, the relationship between Meical and Caroline brings profundity to the entertaining plot as each wonders if his need for her is chemically induced or heart felt.

Harriet Klausner

Lone Wolf -Karen Whiddon

Lone Wolf
Karen Whiddon
Harlequin Nocturne, Dec 21 2010, $$5.25
ISBN: 9780373618507

Detesting working for the corrupt Council who he no longer trusts, Protector wolf shifter Anton Beck decides to get away for respite and pay homage to his late sister Juliet. He visits the location in the Big Bend Mountains of Texas where his beloved Juliet died. However, the pack leader is unable to grieve in peace when thugs assault him before taking him to a cave. There he finds Juliet’s best friend, vampire huntress Marika Tarus, who he was making love with when his sibling died.

Marika explains to Anton that evil want their daughter Dani. Stunned by what she tells him becauses he had not known he sired a child and besides he knows genetically a vampire and a shapeshifter cannot reproduce an offspring. Yet he knows Marika is telling the truth that the impossible somehow proved possible. Now he must get his beloved family free from the beast who abducted their child; an invincible ancient vampiric priestess, but then again he muses having that child was impossible.

This is a super romantic fantasy due to the strong lead couple who will have readers believe vampires and werewolves live in Texas; a trademark of Karen Whiddon (see her Wolf tales – Cry of the Wolf and Touch of the Wolf, etc.). There is an interesting concept of a bi- species paranormal baby in distress. Fans will root for Beck and Tarus to rescue their child and save perhaps the world from what the malevolent one wants to do through the infant.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Chronicle of Endylmyr: The Witches of Endylmyr-Charles Hall

A Chronicle of Endylmyr: The Witches of Endylmyr
Charles Hall
Outskirts Press, September 28 2010, $27.95
ISBN: 9781432750282

The Eastern Khan plans to possess all known magical relics as the first step in world domination. He already owns some of these ancient arcane artifacts. The Khan knows that others are owned by Endylmyr. Obsessed with obtaining them, he sends his feared legions to Endylmyr and the other small communities to the north and west of his empire. His orders are to kill anything that moves.

Those under attack form an alliance while also deploying the gizmos that have been dormant for centuries. Former mercenary Gylfalin is coaxed out of retirement to lead the counter forces alongside his cousin Pendaran the Archer with his companion Peregrine the magical falcon. Their side faces overwhelming odds against a brutal experienced army. Their hope lies with magical crystals that allow stealth movements in time and place, but no one knows how to deploy these artifacts. As time runs out and the slaughter begins, Angmere the wizard historian finds a clue in an ancient tome that implies three witches are the key to deployment. The scholar’s daughter Gwynyr unites with Hellwydd and Hilst as the Endylmyr witches in a last ditch attempt to save their people.

A Chronicle of Endylmyr is an entertaining epic fantasy that will remind readers in some ways of Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwars. The story line is fast-paced as the western alliance struggles to survive against a more powerful enemy; their only hope is three women who must figure out how to safely use the crystals with no time to spare. Charles Hall provides an exciting thriller as from the north the witches try to save the city of Endylmyr from the siege of Khan and his vast lethal horde.

Harriet Klausner

Arcane Circle-Linda Robertson

Arcane Circle
Linda Robertson
Pocket, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439190258

Although witch Persephone “Seph” Alcmedi and her boyfriend werewolf rock musician Johnny Newman defeated the Fairy (see Fatal Circle) insuring the monsters did not devour Cleveland (paraphrasing Maynard G. Krebs again), the cost remains high. Seph gets veterinarian Dr. Geoffrey Lincoln to help Johnny who had his chest ripped apart in his wolf form that fails to heal as normally occurs when he is hurt. Dr. Lincoln explains the wound came from magic; he uses salt to cleanse the wound.

Johnny announced to his pack that he is the werewolf Domn Lup. If he was not, the phoenix’s claw would have killed him. His magic resides in his tattoos, but the one on his chest was ripped in the attack. His number two informs Johnny the world wide werewolf ruler the Rege is coming from Romania to determine if he who he claims. With his magic muted from the assault, he has to find a way to access his inner talent or face a painful execution. Seph plans to assist him, but has a horde of paranormals camping out on her farm; requiring basic human needs even if they are not human. Seph also is throwing a tenth birthday party for her foster child Beverly.

The fourth Circle urban fantasy (see Vicious Circle and Hallowed Circle) is an exciting entry that is low-keyed as the major foe from the previous entries has been vanquished, but now the lead couple deals with the aftermath. Johnny knows that no one lives wasting a nanosecond of the Rege’s time; if he proves a false prophet because he cannot generate the magic from a key tattoo, the Zvonul will rip him apart. Sub-genre readers will appreciate the Arcane thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Agent Gambit-Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

The Agent Gambit
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Baen, Jan 4 2011 , $12.00
ISBN: 9781439134078

“Agent of Change.” The Department of Interior recruited First Scout Val Con yos’Phelium of Clan Korval as an Agent of Change. He became a covert assassin with no feelings. Completing his current mission with a bang, Val Con does the unthinkable for a brainwashed soulless agent. He rescues former Terran mercenary Miri Robertson from five Juntavas interstellar crime syndicate assassins; ignoring his implanted Loop that warns him to dump her. She mashes his head in remittance, but Val Con saves her life again. They are attracted to one another, but distrust each other even as the Juntavas mob wants both dead. As she keeps dumping him, he keeps finding her.

“Carpe Diem.” The Juntavas mob calls off the hits of lifemates Val Con and Miri. However, they are given a crippled ship in the middle of the Yxtrang who want them dead. The pair fixes the vessel enough for one jump to nearby Vandar; a planet that is so primitive the sentient race thought they were alone in the universe. Val Con and Miri know they are stranded so they make the best of it. Val Con’s family and close friends search for him. On Liad, his sister Nova interprets a message from Val Con that informs the Korval Clan their heir lives and that the Department of Interior searches for him too. Their involvement leaves Nova suspecting the worse..

This is a reprint of two of the early Liaden thrillers. Both tales are exciting romantic science fiction loaded with hi and low tech action, a strong lead couple, and a belief in the Lee-Miller outer space, as well as a sense of family. Fans will enjoy this pairing, but though unnecessary to enjoy this duet, newcomers will better understand Clan Korval and planet Liad by reading Local Custom first.

Harriet Klausner

Hexbound-Chloe Neill

Chloe Neill
Signet, Jan 4 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781101476741

Lily Parker attends St. Sophia's School for Girls in Chicago after her parents recently dumped her there while they conduct research in Europe. At the school, Lily discovered her paranormal ability to use the Firespell. Although she has improved at controlling this power, she knows she has a long way to go before she is comfortable using it if ever. Her biggest fear is becoming a Reaper who abuses their magical gifts. Lily’s roommate and BFF Scout, who fights the otherworldly beasts, helps her stay anchored while her relationship with Jason is becoming more intimate.

As Lily trains to be an Adept, she fears the immortal words of Lord Acton ("Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”) and Darth Vader (“Give yourself to the Dark Side”), so she wants to go slow. However, when she observes strange creatures wandering around St. Sophia's, Lily realizes slow is no longer an option for her. With Scout at her side, she vows to learn who they are and what they want. Although she admits to herself she has made the same pledge re the enigmatic behavior of her parents and adversary Sebastian.

The second Dark Elite (see Firespell) young adult fantasy continues Lily’s training in the paranormal as she learns more secrets, especially about her parents and her abilities, but is also is caught up in some sort of otherworldly “turf” war. Fast-paced and mindful of the Casts’ House of Night saga and Claudia Gray’s Evernight series, readers will enjoy Lily’s dilemma. She would prefer to ignore the impossible and hang with the hot hunks rather than joining Scout and friends in mortal combat, but feels Hexbound to learn her craft expeditiously to keep her school, Chicago and the world safe from the others.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wolf Tales 11-Kate Douglas

Wolf Tales 11
Kate Douglas
Kensington Aphrodisia, Dec 28 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758242679

The kidnappers planned the assault perfectly with a precision rarely seen outside of the military or the Chanku. They abduct two Chanku females, Lisa and eight-months pregnant Tala. The entire Chanku clan is outraged and feels helpless.

The kidnappers notify the pack leadership as to their ransom demands. They want the Chanku special ops firm Pack Dynamics to assassinate the president of the United States. Failure to do so means getting the women back in pieces. Not one to allow extortion or an abduction to be ignored, Anton plans to save the two females without endangering the president. To do so will change him, which he conceals from his Chanku; while the support he needs from his clan is for each pack member to orgasm at the identical super moment.

Fans of the long running Chanku exciting erotic thrillers will appreciate the latest saga as the spins keep coming; cubs will need the scorecard provided by Kate Douglas to keep track, but should consider earlier entries in this excellent series. Fast-paced as always throughout yet character driven (another trademark), Anton believes he knows the second hand consequences of a super pack-wide orgasm but conceals from his beloved people the cost. Instead he chooses to save the women and the unborn as that is paramount preferably without the Chanku losing their species’ values.

Harriet Klausner

Home Fires-Gene Wolfe

Home Fires
Gene Wolfe
Tor, Jan 18 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780765328182

Due to an interstellar military duty, affluent attorney Skip Grison is now two decades older than his contracted paramour Chelle Blue though they were the same age when they met at college. Her time in outer space was months, but years in North America where he waited for his wife to come home from serving in the combat. Skip seeks a special present for his beloved who came home early due to war related injuries; he thinks he may have one. Skip arranges for Chelle and her estranged mother Vanessa, whose essence has been loaded into a new body, to see one another.

Soon after the mother-daughter reunion, Skip takes Chelle and her mom on a cruise that circles the globe. However, the vacation proves anything but relaxing as hijackers, assassins, and others of their ilk come after someone on board with collateral damage acceptable.

This is a terrific science fiction mystery with the whodunit and why-do-it thriller themes up front as the prime thread, and the futuristic SF elements serving as background enhancement. The fast-paced story line grips the reader from the moment Chelle and Skip reunite with her so many years younger than him chronologically but in many ways her military experience makes her seem older than him. Red herrings abound in this exhilarating character driven thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Among Others-Jo Walton

Among Others
Jo Walton
Tor, Jan 18 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780765321534

In Wales their single mother’s spell goes terribly wrong when her daughters interfered by trying to thwart the incantation. Teen Morwenna survives but is severely hurt; her twin sister was not as fortunate as she dies.

Mori flees her raging mother’s wrath seeking shelter with her father in England. He welcomes his daughter by immediately shipping her off to a boarding school. Feeling alone, Mori employs a spell seeking souls like her own who escape their troubles with literature. This leads her to a science fiction readers club, but Mori has no time to make friends. She senses her irate mother searches for her to kill her. Mori concludes she has no way to elude her mother much longer and has no place to hide; as her father made his feelings perfectly clear when she first arrived at his home seeking shelter and protection.

Mori makes the tale with her journal focusing on her loneliness and her obsessive need to belong especially since her only friend, her twin, is dead. The teen is realistic and believes she can never truly belong though she yearns for such; as anyone who befriends her becomes instant fodder for her insane mother’s wrath. That is why books are her friends. Readers will be hooked by Mori’s lament that she will never really belong Among Others though that is her strongest need (Dr. Maslow would have loved to interview Mori, but her insane mom better had not found out); in many ways more so than surviving the anticipated showdown with her mother.

Harriet Klausner

Farlander-Col Buchanan

Col Buchanan
Tor, Jan 18 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765331052

For five decades the theocratic Holy Empire of Mann has conquered the countries on The Heart of the World. Their ruthless dictator, Holy Matriarch Sasheen remains in control of her vast empire due to her specialty trained Diplomat Corps of diabolical vicious priests.

Ash the Roshun belongs to an assassin group who provide a protection to clients by meting out revenge on anyone who murders one of their customers or a family member. He has been ill lately so has taken on a mentee Nico from the streets of Bar-Khos, an island under a decade old siege by the forces of the Holy Empire of Mann. When Sasheen’s heir Kirkus kills the daughter of a priest who has paid for Roshun’s protection for himself and his family, the assassin knows he and his apprentice must complete a vendetta against the “sacred”.

This is an engaging “historical” that looks closely at the impact of a long war on individuals representing different groups caught up in the conflict. The intriguing story line is driven by a moral undercurrent as the values of the Holy Empire of Mann and of the Roshun conflict when Kirkus committed murder. Readers will want more tales set in the Col Buchanan’s Heart of the World as the author brings to life his realm through a murder requiring contracted retaliation against a protected VIP.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dragons Deal-Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye

Dragons Deal
Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye
Ace, Dec 7 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780441019267

Obtaining his business degree, Griffen McCandles accompanied by his sister Val preferred to not choose sides in the magical war. Instead the near purebreds fled from his Uncle Mal for New Orleans (see Dragons Wild) where he felt his Dragons Luck should prove lucrative. He quickly became owner of a gambling operation and a leader of the local dragon society.

In fact he has moved up so fast that the Krewe of Fafnir-dragon society selects him to serve as the king of the Mardi Gras parade. He has mixed feelings about leading the parade, but the honor is too big of a thrill for him to ignore as his ego is ready to explode with pride. However, he may have crapped out as fuming dragons loathe the newcomer’s rise, which means he clawed them out of the way. They form a cartel to bankrupt his casino and other businesses. His superego blinds him to the internal threat until an employee is killed leading to NOPD Detective Harrison investigating and Griff realizing the raging dragon fire could destroy him, his sister, their friends and their adopted city as all hail the king but some want to hail a new ruler.

This is an enjoyable lighthearted entry in the Griffen McCandles urban fantasy as the lead character’s ego gets out of control with the honors bestowed on him so he fails to see the danger from jokers within. Not as humorous as Robert Asprin, who died in 2008, was known for in his tales, Jody Lynn Nye has taken control of the series. Griffen continues his coming of age growth; finally he understanding that with great power comes great responsibility and as his business degree reminds him also great accountability. With a wild family affair final twist setting up the next thriller, Dragons Deal is a fun fantasy frolic.

Harriet Klausner

The Heroes-Joe Abercrombie

The Heroes
Joe Abercrombie
Orbit, Feb 7 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780316044981

Union commander Lord Marshal Kroy knows his direct reporting officers are incompetent mostly political appointees who believe they will be the hero of the upcoming combat. None of these egomaniacs has any real combat experience. However, you must play with the deck you are dealt.

The much smaller opposing force of Northmen is led by Black Dow, who has quite a kill rate. His throne is shaky as his brutal reign is built on his citizens’ fear of him and the Union King wants no deadly rival as his neighbor. On top of that Calder wants to replace Black Dow as the ruler arguing for peace in our time. Soon all will converge in a battle for the ages as all of the North land will feel the epic impact for centuries to come.

Though located in the Abercrombie world of the First Law thrillers, this terrific saga can be read without the trilogy. War enables ordinary people an opportunity to perform heroic deeds (think of the medial of Honor winners). Joe Abercrombie pulls no punches when it comes to combat as masses are fodder for the glory of a general, a king or a country. Yet like U.S. Army staff sergeant Guinta and those listed on the Vietnam Veterans Wall (included in the Mall and Virtual at these are the real heroes of battle that Mr. Abercrombie honors when the avaricious leads to insanity by leaders seeking empires.

Harriet Klausner

Soul Trapper-F. J. Lennon

Soul Trapper
F. J. Lennon
Atria, Jan 4 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9781439184448

Reporter Eva Kellis thinks there is more to Kane than just being another twenty musical wannabe. She is right as musician Kane Pryce enjoys partying as a means of forgetting his day job. His late father found the soul trap, which enables Kane to rid facilities of ghosts, helping the spirits leave earth; though his efforts do not always end happily.

In a Lompoc, California church Kane captures six years old Ollie Lonzi, an impish ghost. However, Kane does not stop with the catch. He investigates what happened to Ollie. Fifty years ago, Ollie and his mother an actress died in a car crash. Kane realizes the child spirit is nice but lonely. He digs deeper into the death, which leads the investigator to Las Vegas. Feeling the child needs his mother Kane searches for the ghost of Ollie's mom. When he finds her, he falls in love. To keep Ollie safe she traded her soul to a demon who has marked Kane.

This Ghostbusters paranormal thriller stars an intriguing dispirited individual (he is the anti Dr. Venkman) who due to his profession distrusts people in general as knows from the testimony of spirits how evil even family can be, Music is his outlet, but at times the hip scene intrudes on the exciting saga of Ollie the imp. With an odd unexpected climatic spin, readers will enjoy Kane’s Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore’s version) efforts to help ghosts.

Harriet Klausner

Cowboy Angels-Paul McAuley

Cowboy Angels
Paul McAuley
PYR, Jan 1 2011, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616142513

In 1963 at Brookhaven National Lab, physicists open the first Turing Gate into an alternate time line. The CIA sends Cowboy Angels to spread the gospel of the “Real” American way, which included assassination, overthrow of governments, and dirty tricks to implement a cross time Pan America. President Carter shuts down the program over the howling of Manifest Destiny believers.

Former Cowboy Angel Tom Waverly has become a serial killer crossing several alternate time lines as he rejects Peaceniks like President Carter and his quitter former partner Tom Stone who have ended Operation Swift Sword. The Company directs Stone to learn why Waverly’s target in each history is mathematician Eileen Barrie if he wants his friend brought in from the cold alive.

Stone searches for his partner entering a variety of Turing Gates following clues. Assassins try to kill him when he enters some of the gates. Even more confusing to Stone is in some universes he is teamed with Waverly and in others he tries to capture his partner. Even more convoluted to Stone is his occasional partnering with Waverly’s daughter although he is unsure what side she is on; then he again he no longer knows what side he is on either.

With an obvious nod to Stargate, Cowboy Angels is a convoluted (as the flawed hero learns) science fiction story with a strong why-do-it mystery. Stone holds the complex faster than the speed of light tale focused even as he and the audience wonder what he will find next when he enters a Turing Gate; a sort of Alice falling through the hole. The wonder of this super story is that the Real characters remain consistent with how the history books portray them. This high octane action tale is hard to put down as Paul McAuley provides a terrific thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nocturne-Syrie James

Syrie James
Vanguard, Jan 4 2011, $19.95
ISBN: 9781593156282

Nicole Whitcomb came from the San Jose area to attend the wedding of her friend in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Since the meteorologists said the weather would remain fine, she decides to stay for an extra day of skiing. When she leaves for the Denver Airport, the weather remains okay, but soon snow begins to fall. The precipitation turns heavy and her rental fishtails out of control. She cuts her head and honks her horn hoping someone will rescue her.

Michael Tyler was cleaning off his driveway when he saw the idiot crash. He has never let anyone into his home so considers leaving the driver to die, but cannot. He reluctantly brings Nicole into his isolated house. They are attracted to each other from the first meeting. However, she senses something wrong about her host as she knows in her gut he thought he made the wrong choice bringing her into his home. Nicole also wonders why a hunk like Michael resides alone. Other signs seem to make no sense, but she ignores their warnings as Nicole quickly falls in love with a man who seems to know her better than she knows herself. He knows he cannot love anyone and never has; yet this is different as he falls hard for Nicole, a new undesirable feeling for him. However, he struggles to control the beast inside while also needing her to want him with all her soul.

This is an engaging star-crossed romance as the Rocky Mountains’ blizzard isolates the pair in his home. Nicole finds clues to as who her host is and why he chose to live as a hermit, but her logical mind rejects her conclusion until perhaps it is too late. Readers will relish this strong romantic suspense thriller wondering how this relationship will end.

Harriet Klausner

Crimson Wind-Diana Pharaoh Francis

Crimson Wind
Diana Pharaoh Francis
Pocket, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781416598152

The Guardians of the Earth declare war on humanity. Witches are warned that neutrality is unacceptable as you are with them or the enemy. Giselle is the witch who enslaved Max years ago by turning her into her personal Shadowblade. They reach a tense agreement in these troubled times. As part of that deal, Giselle gives bitter Max permission to bring her human family to Horngate so they can remain safe from the Guardians. Max has not seen her family in three decades ever since Giselle enslaved her.

Max knows the trek to her family will be dangerous. Her new Shadowblade ally Alexander has her back, but that may not be enough as he offers much more and she wants what he covets. However besides the Guardians stalking enemies, Giselle sold her rights to Max’s life to the powerful Scooter, who impatiently demands she come to him immediately.

The second Horngate Witches urban (and mountainous) fantasy (see Bitter Night) is an exciting thriller as Max remains raging with fury towards Giselle who betrayed her friendship years ago, but for the sake of Horngate and her family, knows she must set aside her acrimony. Danger seems everywhere as the Guardians release the forces of nature. With an incredible ending to an action-packed tale, readers will clamor for the third book in Diana Pharaoh Francis’ excellent epic saga.

Harriet Klausner

Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?-Max Brallier

Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?
Max Brallier
Gallery (Pocket), Feb 8 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9781451607758

You the reader realize people are turning into zombies because you saw it on TV news. Zombies apparently have taken over much of Manhattan. You ride a train to Brooklyn you observe a zombie in your car dining on some poor victim. You must choose between intervening or move your butt to another car. Your adventures in the Zombie Apocalypse has begun as the reader makes moral choices in which being a hero may have the second order effect of becoming a zombie (remember as my nephew once told me John Wayne dies at the Alamo). Staten Island is rumored to be a non zombie zone, but to get there means riding the ferry where zombies seem to patrol the Manhattan side. Do you remain behind to help humanity fight the zombies, help the zombies raise awareness that they have rights too or do you move your butt to the free zone?

This is an adult version of the Choose Your Own Adventures (Max Brallier includes profanities and vivid gore including if you choose wrong yours). Fans of this genre will enjoy Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? there are numerous possibilities so if you end up zombie food, you can always back track and start either over in entirety or just take the other fork. Though zombies have starred in this genre (see Anson Montgomery’s Your Grandparents Are Zombies that targets young readers) this is lighthearted escapist fun for adults only.

Harriet Klausner

The War of the Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies-H.G. Wells and Eric S. Brown

The War of the Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies
H.G. Wells and Eric S. Brown
Gallery (Pocket), Dec 14 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781451609752

Mars is dying, but the inhabitants see earth as their next home. Knowing they are a thousand rimes smarter and even more advanced than humans, they expect no problems conquering the third planet.

He sees an odd green light pass near his residence. He goes to look and finds a spacecraft. The inhabitants are mostly brains with tentacles using mechanical bodies for locomotion. More space ships follow as the invasion of earth has begun.

When the Martians kill a human, the latter do not stay dead; instead they return as mindless carnivores seeking live human meat. The Martians did not expect this second order effect and their scientists struggle to find a way to kill the rising reanimated dead. The observer watches much of the invasion and the zombie counter insurgency. Just when it seems the angry red planet expatriates conquered earth, bacteria attacks the Martians.

Eric S. Brown adds a relatively smooth major “Blood, Guts and Zombies” subplot to the original War of the Worlds. Though purists will ask why the Z treatment to this classic, the story line is lighthearted fun; unless you happen to be trapped between zombie and Martian fevers. The blending works for an enjoyable science fiction horror thriller though with Austen, Twain, and Lincoln fighting zombies in a sub-genre losing its freshness, who is next, Darth Vader?

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 17, 2010

Demonstorm -James Barclay

James Barclay
PYR, Jan 1 2011, $17.00
ISBN: 9781616142520

Xetesk began the open hostilities when the College assaulted depleted Julatsa, who lost so much in people and treasure during the Wesmen wars (see Chronicles of the Raven trilogy). The other two colleges Lystern and Dordover join the fray as they see opportunities to defeat both rivals, but must figure out what to do with what remains of the Raven, which saved the land and the Colleges.

As the Balaian continent to the west is aflame after a foolish alliance with Xetesk, Lord Tessaya of the Paleon Tribes rallies his Wesmen warriors under a battle cry of avenging their defeat. Lord of the Mount, Dystran knows his Xetesk faces a horrible defeat at the hands of the western barbarians who he believes stupidly ban magic. Desperate, he uses the forbidden horrific dimensional magic as nothing will stand in his way of being world ruler even insanely at the cost of the world. He rips asunder the dimensional barriers leaving his world open for a demonic genocide. With no dragons and not at full strength, Raven is the last hope to prevent soul cleansing by the invading demon horde.

The third Legends of the Raven fantasy (see Shadowheart and Elf Sorrow) is a terrific final tale as grim and eerie as the previous ones. Action-packed and fast-paced, fans will relish this deep tale with a message for leaders to lead for the benefit of all and not just to grab more power at the cost of others (think of the Senator whose sole vision for the country is to defeat Obama in 2012 by fiddling as Nero to stonewall the president). James Barclay provides a great ending to his profound two sagas as all of the books focus on the abuse and misuse of power in what are some of the best political military thrillers in years.

Harriet Klausner

Thirteen Years Later-Jasper Kent

Thirteen Years Later
Jasper Kent
PYR, Feb 1 2011, $17.00
ISBN: 9781616142537

By 1825, Europe including Russia continues to revel in peace and prosperity. Napoleon and the French were defeated over a decade ago. Russian Colonel Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov was on the winning side, but in his opinions his true victory was over the dozen Oprichniki mercenary voordalak monsters that destroyed the advancing French and the nearby Russian villagers; he prefers not to ever think about the bloody horror again (see Twelve) as even the thought chills his blood.

Still Tsar Aleksandr I fears for his family and his country as a pledge made in blood was broken a century ago. However, it is not the revolutionary Decembrists that have the Russian ruler trembling; the other party in that blood debt is coming to collect. Aleksandr’s only hopes he will be able save his soul, but he fears it is too late for his life, and to keep his family and his fellow Russians safe remains with loyal Aleksei. Worried about his wife, teenage son Dmitry and four year old daughter Tamara, the colonel realizes what he defeated during the Napoleonic War as they returned Thirteen Years Later to collect blood and souls.

The second Russian historical fantasy is a super tale as the hero of Twelve returns to the fray of fighting an invincible amoral beast who believe humans are toward the bottom of the food chain. Overall the story line is filled with action though the protagonist muses on all sorts of topics including his children, the Oprichniki, the new monster he faces, the revolutionaries, and his loyalty to the Tsar. Tied to the Tsar’s real mysterious death on December 1 1825 in Taganrog and the confusion that ensued, fans will enjoy this epic saga as the voordalak blood suckers have returned.

Harriet Klausner

Back to the Moon-Travis S. Taylor and Les Johnson

Back to the Moon
Travis S. Taylor and Les Johnson
Baen, Dec 7 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781439134054

The second race to the moon has begun between America and China, but also trying to beat the big nations to the earth satellite is the private sector firm Space Excursions. NASA selects astronaut Bill Stetson as the mission commander of the first American flight to the moon since Apollo ended four decades ago. Space Excursions CEO Gary Childers selects Paul Gesling to serve as chief pilot of Dreamscape to orbit the moon with wealthy clients.

However, during test runs nothing goes right for the Space Excursions flight or with the NASA launch. Bill takes control and soon realizes the same defective circuit board caused the problems; a circuit board made in China. At the same time a malware Trojan horse sends Space Excursions hardware and software information to China. As NASA counts down to the moon launch, China sends a ship into space while the Dreamscape leaves earth with five passengers on board. They soon find a shocker waiting for them that changes NASA’s lunar landing plan.

The two authors bring their NASA experience to this exiting entertaining space race science fiction thriller. Their background in propulsion technology serves well for this fun thriller as the audience learns much about the science of rocketing into space while also feeling as if we are part of the crew. Though the cast is not as developed beyond heroism, readers will relish this exhilarating Back to the Moon as the space race returns with two new contenders including a private sector entry challenging America for supremacy beyond the troposphere.

Harriet Klausner

Soul Hunt-Margaret Ronald

Soul Hunt
Margaret Ronald
Harper, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061662430

Genevieve “Evie” Scelan knows she faces growing troubles, but is not sure what she can do about it. She took possession of the horn of the Wild Hunt without permission and had the audacity to use it though she did it for a good cause (unless you are a Damn Yankee fan – aside from this former Bronx resident); the Fiona Cabal prevented the Red Sox from winning the World Series for decades (see Wild Hunt). Lately, Evie feels lethargic struggling to do anything. Although not exactly sure, she believes her feebleness started when she rescued Nate from the quarry spirit. Finally her critical sense of smell that made her the Hound and a major part of who she is has vanished without an olfactory trace.

Evie knows time is running out on her. In two months the Wild Hunt will come after her as she owes a soul debt to an essence that she thinks of is more it than a strange species. She must learn what is happening to her, why and how to reverse it or face dire consequences when the collector comes for her. A desperate Evie begins looking inside herself and at her family for answers

The third Hunt Red Sox nation urban fantasy (see Spiral Hunt) is an engaging thriller as the heroine learns the cost of her recent success. Fast-paced, readers will be enthralled with this action-packed yet character driven tale as Evie has lost much of her other sensory prowess at a time when the bill collector demands remittance.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat-Sofia Kelly

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat
Sofia Kelly
Obsidian, Feb 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451232496

Her boyfriend leaves Boston for two weeks without her only to return married. He informs her she is not spontaneous enough for him. Angry and hurt, Kathleen Paulson leaves her home and job to move to Mayville Heights, Minnesota where she is hired to oversee the renovation of the library. The townsfolk welcome her and Kathleen makes plenty of new friends; especially two stray cats, catnip addict Owen and Barry Manilow fan Hercules. Her only problem is that contractor Will Redfern has the knack of vanishing when needed.

Kathleen goes to the Stratton Theatre where she finds the body of guest conductor Gregor Easton on the piano seat. He died from a blow to the head. The lead detective makes Kathleen feel she is a suspect in the homicide case. So she decides not to wait for this idiot to continue to target her; she investigates the murder. She has unusual helpers including her new feline friends who appear and disappear as if they walk through walls and any solid surface. Her allies give her clues, but they remain enigmatic as she struggles to figure out who killed Easton before the cop busts her.

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat is a whimsical charming cat caper starring a determined intrepid amateur sleuth and two magical cats who affirm WC Fields’ comment on never performing with animals as they steal the show; except in this case Kathleen needs their help. Readers will appreciate this fun murder mystery as the librarian and her magical meows seek who killed the quiet artist before that insistent cop arrests Kathleen.

Harriet Klausner

Dragon Warrior-Janet Chapman

Dragon Warrior
Janet Chapman
Pocket, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9781439159897

For twelve centuries William Killkenny was a dragon. However, recently he regained what he thought was lost forever; he has become human again (see Moonlight Warrior).

In Maine, single mom River Run Nursing Home Nurse Maddy Kimble raises her troubled younger brother and her nine years old daughter Sarah. William likes Maddy but she rejects his efforts for them to date as she considers him uncouth after he threatened to spank her and he was naked when he kissed her in front of the town. Desperate and out of the human dating business for twelve hundred years, William asks her elderly patients for advice. Maddy watches in amazement as the arrogant beast acts so gentle and caring towards her patients and daughter. However, having one bad marriage already Maddy has major doubts about a courtship especially with a hunk concealing who knows what from her; especially one born in 1047. William believes his time as a beast cost him his heart though he risks his new found mortality protecting Maddy from a magical attack.

The latest Midnight Bay romantic fantasy continues the whimsical saga with a delightful tale as William the grouch dragon has become William the desperate human. Readers will appreciate this humorous yet poignant thriller as the former grumpy soul warrior woos the reluctant damsel in distress (initially from family problems until the magic attack) while he obtains illegal citizenship papers including an authenticate birth certificate dated 1977.

Harriet Klausner

Rising Tides: Destroyermen-Taylor Anderson

Rising Tides: Destroyermen
Taylor Anderson
Roc, Feb 1 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9780451463883

WWII USS Walker Navy destroyer Captain Matt Reddy leads his crew to Hawaii. They and his new friend New British Imperial Navy Commander Jenks face a difficult task of rescuing two women from a traitor. For Reddy and Jenks the abductions are personal as Nurse Tucker and Princess Rebecca are the victims. However, their effort to obtain help from the Honorable New Britain Company fails. The pair realizes the New Britain Company is dishonorable and must be destroyed before a velvet coup d’etat occurs. Reddy also must forge the Grand Alliance with the New British Empire; though he loathes the latter’s slavery policy as an inhuman abomination.

The pact with the Empire angers the displaced Holy Dominion colonial Spaniards. Worshippers of a blood sacrificial form of Catholicism, they vow to slaughter Matt and his crew. Meanwhile Reddy’s junior officers are delegated to having responsibilities that lead to unfortunate and in some cases avoidable deaths. The leaders learn under this under the baptism of fire, but face the moral aftermaths of sending people to die.

As the war remains heated in this parallel Destroyermen universe, the officers of the USS Walker obtain a taste of decision making in combat when they know they will send young people to their deaths. Adding to that gut wrenching horror is inexperience leads to errors compounding the deadly count. Eisenhower understood this when he ordered D-Day knowing thousands of young men would never go home and as president carefully used the military something his successors never learned. Besides the anguish of sending people to die even for a worthy cause, Taylor Anderson provides an incredible battle at sea that will have readers in awe rereading it and ponder nature’s involvement in the war with the destruction of Talaud Island.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 13, 2010

Jane Goes Batty -Michael Thomas Ford

Jane Goes Batty
Michael Thomas Ford
Ballantine, Feb 1 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345513663

In Brakeston, New York owner of Flyleaf Books, Jane Fairfax now understands being careful what you wish for as you may get it. She has raged for years as her Austen books and their rip-offs sell without her receiving a royalty check having written them two centuries ago before Byron changed her into a vampire. Adding insult is that her last manuscript as Jane Austen, Constance, was rejected a zillion times. That has changed as Kelly Littlejohn of Browden Publishing of New York buys the rights and Constance is a colossal bestseller.

The world wants more from Jane Fairfax bookstore owner and bestselling author. She struggles with concealing her vampire condition and her birth identity though Byron tries to mentor her. Jane fears another biting engagement with a jealous Bronte. Meanwhile a suspicious editor believes the plot was stolen from a lost Bronte novel. Hollywood and groupies have invaded the small village, and her boyfriend Walter’s mother Miriam arrives expecting Jane to convert. As the writer struggles with a new novel after not writing for centuries, she also wonders whether a vampire can be Jewish, Miriam carries a big stick.

The second Jane the contemporary vampire tale (see Jane Bites Back) is an amusing satire that spoofs the Austen sub-genre including the novels by Michael Thomas Ford. The story line is fast-paced as Jane fears she will be exposed as a modern day fraud, a biting vampire, a great Regency author or simply batty. With references to literature that are fun, the Austen crowd will enjoy her escapades as she now knows the tsuris of what she now hopes is fifteen minutes of fame.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Finding the Way and Other Tales of Valdemar-Mercedes Lackey (editor)

Finding the Way and Other Tales of Valdemar
Mercedes Lackey (editor)
Daw, Dec 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406332

As with previous anthologies set in the Valdemar realm, (see Sword of Ice and Other Tales of Valdemar, and Crossroads and Other Tales of Valdemar); this fifteen story collection targets fans of the Mercedes Lackey world. Each tale is well written as the focus is predominately on heralds and Companions. The bar of excellence opens high with “Finding the Way,” by Ms. Lackey and Larry Dixon as the unique Shera the Hertasi uses her pathfinder skill in the treacherous Gripping Mire swamp. At the coronation of Queen Alliana, King Nabeth of Karse sends his envoy with an offer to join them in worship of Vikandis Sunlord and then she can marry his heir; a year later his army invades the heathen Valdemar from the east (“In Burning Zones We Build Against the Sun by Rosemary Edghill and Denise McCune). In the “Education of Evita (by Mickey Zucker Reichert) and in “The Groom’s Price,” (Michael Z. Williamson and Gail Sanders) the leads must learn to use their magic properly. “A Bard by Any Other Name” (Fiona Patten) and “Healing in White” (Kristen Schwengel) showcase bards and healers as Finding the Way and Other Tales of Valdemar is filled with plenty of heart that fans of the Lackey realm will relish.

Harriet Klausner

Hera-Julien Longo

Julien Longo
Fire Raven Press, Oct 26 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9781450557528

On Atlantis, Artemis arranges a hunting party to initiate her friend Hera as a Huntress. Hera’s parents do not believe in hunting as a sport or ritual. However, her mother has one of her dreams that are taken seriously by anyone who knows her; in reaction to the vision Hera’s father gives their daughter a knife to use in defense. Hera performs the ritual that ends with going after the boar. Instead the creature is full grown and charges at her until Artemis’ arrows distract the humongous beast. The boar hammers Artemis but Hera leaps on the creature with the knife. Artemis is gravely injured while Hera blames herself as the animal was too big and she should have led it to Apollo. Hera and her Mother begin healing the seemingly dying Artemis.

In the dream realm Hecate escorts Hera to the Emerald Temple High Priestess Rhea. However, Rhea is stunned to find Hecate has brought her the daughter of her beloved Sofia to protect and train. Her destiny lies in her past and future bones as her awakening awakens Zeus’ knowledge of her since she will birth the heir just like Sofia did.

Hera narrates her exhilarating Book One of the Goddess Chronicles. The above paragraphs are just the opening of a strong rendition of the Greek Mythos from the perspective of Hera. Julien Longo reminds readers that those in power write the history books (and mythologies) so that this insightful, fast-paced winner enables the reader to see the female side of the saga. Especially fascinating on Hera’s journey to being the Queen is how she perceives over time her relationship with Zeus. Mythology readers will relish this strong entry as Hera pulls no punches on her journey from being a dutiful daughter to the queen of Mt. Olympus.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 11, 2010

666 Park Avenue-Gabriella Pierce

666 Park Avenue
Gabriella Pierce
Avon, Feb 1 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061434778

For the past two years in Paris, Jane Boyle works at Atelier Antone boutique architectural design. A month ago she and affluent Malcolm Doran meet while bidding over the same vase at an antiquities auction. They quickly fell in love; he proposes and accepts.

Jane takes him to meet her grandmother who raised her in fear and isolation of losing her after her daughter and son-in-law died in a North Carolina car crash that left the little girl an orphan. When they arrive, they find Gran dead. She left behind for her granddaughter a ring and a note explaining they are witches who must trust no one. She also apologizes for not telling her beloved granddaughter earlier, but promised Jane’s mother she would not. Jane believes her as she looks back on her luck. Still she accompanies Malcolm to New York where she meets his family only to find hostility from her in-laws who covet her magical powers just like Gran warned her in that au revoir note.

Though 666 Park Avenue starts slow, once the lead couple go to Manhattan, the story line accelerates faster than a jet. Character driven, Jane faces the mother-in-law from hell who has plans for her power. Gabriella Pierce provides a strong urban horror thriller as readers will wonder or bewitching wife.

Harriet Klausner

Eternal Prey-Nina Bangs

Eternal Prey
Nina Bangs
Avon, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062018953

After vampires murdered his brother Rap, Utah vowed vengeance. His quest is to kill many vampires. His vendetta has caused serious problems for Fin and the Eleven as he was one of them and his vigilantism has left a strain with the local vampires they need on their side in order to prevent Zero and his minion from destroying Portland.

Lia yells at Utah who she considers a prehistoric beast. She is also his human contact. Before her death Lia’s mother Katherine was the chief of the Northeast vampires. Although she detested many horrific decisions her mom made as Katherine thought humans were lower than vampires on the food chain, Lia still plans to convert to being a vampire soon. Utah and Lia soon find convoluted loyalties, betrayals, and broken alliances interfere with their attempt to stop Zero.

The exciting third Gods of the Night Mayan urban fantasy (see Eternal Pleasure and Eternal Craving) continues the count to the 12-20-12 meltdown. Utah is a distraught berserker who meets his match in more ways than one in courageous Lia. Fast-paced, fans will believe in the Big Bang universe as Zero time is fast approaching.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 10, 2010

Biting the Bride -Clare Willis

Biting the Bride
Clare Willis
Zebra, Dec 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420108729

Thirty-two years old Sunni Marquette the dhampir (half-breed human-vampire) knows she will always owe the LaForge family for fostering her as a teen with love. They gave her a chance to make it after her horrific childhood. Perhaps the only thing she does not like about being part of the LaForge brood is the weddings, which means ugly dresses and standing a head shorter than the other bridesmaid (she is always carded), but out of loyalty to her beloved foster parents she diligently attends.

At the latest nuptials, she sees a man she thinks is her guardian angel. Stunned soon afterward a drunk attacks her in the bathroom, but to her shock Sunni easily outmuscles the attacker. However, the bigger shocker, perhaps the greatest in her life occurs, when soon after the assault her guardian angel, who saved her years ago from a mugging, talks to her. Jacob has kept Sunni safe for years as he has kept her concealed from rouge vampires who would drink her special blood to gain her power. Jacob fell in love with her years ago, but knows if a rogue finds her he will accomplish the dark side of his mission by killing her. Now a rogue knows of her and attacks by going after her beloved LaForge family.

This exiting action-packed urban fantasy grips readers from the moment Sunni sees her guardian and never slows down until the final confrontation. The Willis universe seems genuine as miscegenation laws cause all sorts of complicated societal issues. However though Sunni is terrific as she holds the plot together and the villain is a nasty power grabber, Jacob makes the tale work with his angst of knowing he will kill his beloved if the rogue has a reasonable chance of taking her.

Harriet Klausner

Stranger -Zoe Archer

Zoe Archer
Zebra, Dec 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420106824

In 1875 Chicago newspaper reporter Gemma Murphy overhears three people discuss saving the world from some affluent British Heirs. Fascinated with what she heard, Gemma makes inquiries into the trio especially the mysterious inventor Catullius Graves. She asks him for an interview.

Catullius knows his first loyalty must be to the Blades of the Rose, but he also feels a kinship to Gemma as he is an intense outsider who knows no one understands him; while he senses she must prove her worth every day to the good old boys’ network at her paper where she is an outsider there. They are attracted to one another but in spite of his efforts to keep her out of his undercover work, Gemma joins her loved one and his Blades to prevent the Heirs from obtaining and using the Primal Source to reanimate King Arthur as the first step in making England the depository for all of the magic in the world.

The Blades of the Rose (see Rebel, Warrior and Scoundrel) is another super thriller as the suspense never slows down while the romance simmers in order to first save the world. Loaded with action as Camelot appears coming to Reconstruction Era Chicago, Zoe Archer scores four consecutive bulls-eyes with this great finish to this terrific saga.

Harriet Klausner

Cat the Vamp-Christine Martine

Cat the Vamp
Christine Martine
By Light Unseen Media, Dec 1 2009, $12.00
ISBN: 9781935303015

With the death of her grandmother, the parents of teenage Catherine Taylor explain her heritage that they concealed from her. They and Cat are vampires, a species that lives in secret amidst the humans.

Her parents take the stunned Cat to Blacklune Castle since she is old enough for initiation into the species. They leave, while she and others her age receive ethics training as well as use of their powers. Cat is shocked to meet Morgan, who has starred in her dreams. They become close but they also struggle with their formal education as each feels the glamour of their powers and a thirst to taste human blood. Cat and Morgan flout adult authority including admonitions from their instructor River while paying no heed to what their actions do to others especially their classmates. When they go too far and harm another, the pair finally learns what others had been telling them, but it may be too late.

This exciting urban fantasy places a wonderful conceptual twist on the vampire sub-genre by having the lead teenage pair behaving as juvenile delinquents. That fresh approach comes across as a two edged sword; the pair causes all sorts of rule breaking havoc which gets increasingly worse and nastier while teachers and administrators do little even when a major violation that borders on criminal activity of assaulting a human donor of their blood occurs. Still this brisk updating of Evan Hunter’s Blackboard Jungle into an urban fantasy landscape makes for a brisk unique thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Justice -David Burton

Blood Justice
David Burton
By Light Unseen Media, $26.00
ISBN 978193530310

Raging Justine Kroft vows vengeance against those who gang-raped and murdered her teenage daughter, Justine's first attack on one of the perpetrators fails. In fact the culprit is about to kill her when French vampire Simone Gireaux intercedes and saves her life.

Realizing she will never avenge her daughter in her present body and envious of her savior’s strength and speed, the distraught Justine begs Simone to convert her to an undead. Reluctantly, understanding first hand the angst, she agrees. Changed she begins her vendetta while also praying she can find the missing daughter of her mortal BFF Teresa Diaz and ignoring the sad loving eyes of detective Harry Frazier. With Simone at her side, she murders a few miscreants, but their actions make them known to evil vampire Stephan Sinakov Master of the Sinakov Family who sees an opportunity to set in motion a greater power grab.

Blood Justice is a super amateur sleuth urban fantasy with a strong cast especially the raging single mom. Fast-paced, sub-genre fans will appreciate Justine taking a bite out of crime though she is more a rabid dog than she is a fan of McGruff. Although the villainous vampire is stereotyped, readers will cheer on Justine who turns immortal yet has a Death Wish to rival Bronson’s character Paul Kersey.

Harriet Klausner

Night School -Mari Mancusi

Night School
Mari Mancusi
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780425240427

Recently the twins Sunny and Rayne McDonald saved the butts of Magnus the vampire and his Blood Coven (see Bad Blood); well Sunny actually saved the day as Rayne was a bit busy being in Vegas. The sisters also learned the truth about their heritage; that they are fairy princesses. Both struggle with the knowledge as they each have vampire boyfriends.

The fairies want the royal sisters to come home. They especially want to crown Sunny as their ruler since Dark Court Agents assassinated their grandma the Queen of the Light Court. Other fairies want the siblings and their mom dead. When fairies attack the family, Rayne saves her mom and sister. For their safety, the girls go to Riverdale Prep vampire Slayer, Inc. in Switzerland, but instead of the school proving a safe-house, the enemy keeps on coming after them.

This engaging teen urban fantasy (see Boys That Bite and Stake That) takes a bloody darker twist, but uses campy humor to lighten the bite. Fast-paced, the twins must choose between complex scenarios knowing regardless of whatever they do someone they care about will be hurt.

Harriet Klausner