Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Lunatic Life-Sharon Sala

My Lunatic Life
Sharon Sala
Bell Bridge, Jul 25 2011
ISBN: 9781461087717

In their latest move, high school senior Tara Luna and her Uncle Pat move to Stillwater, Oklahoma. They are accompanied as always by two ghosts (Millicent and Henry) that she sees and talks with but her only living relative cannot. Although she would prefer settling in one place Tara loves her eccentric uncle who took her in before her first birthday when her parents died in an accident.

At school Tara is called the “Lunatic” by everyone but Flynn O’Mara who calls her “Moon Girl”. They start dating. While in a classroom, Tara’s psychic skills erupt as a boy is dying in the bathroom. She leads the teachers and coach to the spot where Corey Palmer suffers a seizure and dies. When Corey’s spirit asks her if he is dead, she says yes, but tells him to return to his body if he desires, which he does. His GF Nikki makes Lunatic one of her BFFs. Someone abducts head cheerleader Bethany Fanning who was one of the trio that treated Tara with disdain. While a ghost buried in the backyard of their new home pleads with her to find her body and her killer, Tara and Flynn try to rescue Bethany.

OMG, Book one of the Lunatic Life young adult series is a fun teenage Ghost Whisper (and more psychic skills) amateur sleuth. Tara is a wonderful lead character who holds the entertaining story line together. The cast is solid (that is figuratively as there are two prime ghosts and other hauntings) although the cheerleaders trio and the jock are too stereotypical. My Lunatic Life is a delightful tale that combines the heroine’s adjustment as the newbie at the high school with her investigating paranormal scenarios.

Harriet Klausner

The Light of Epertase-Douglas R. Brown

The Light of Epertase
Douglas R. Brown
Rhemalda, Aug 1 2011, $15.99
ISBN: 9781936850105

In Matthew 1012, Epertase warrior Rasi is filled with regret and sorrow for the atrocities he committed under the guise of war though he tries to rationalize he was only following orders of his commander Prince Elijah. Epertase desperately conceals from his pregnant wife his despair and guilt he feels from his combat experience.

Rasi joins a celebration honoring Prince Elijah as the Light of Epertase shines on him. When he feels he can properly leave the coronation, Rasi heads home. He intercedes in an attempted rape but the hooligans kill the women. Authorities blame Rasi for the homicide and cut out his tongue and dump him into a pit to fight the rashta; shockingly he kills the beast. However the tentacles from the rashta discharge into his back. Over the next seven years he hides in the shadows until five years ago a woman began traveling with him.

The Teks invade Epertase and Lithia to take the oil they need to run their machines. Their superior firepower leads to many massacres. Although few know it in beleaguered Epertase, Rasi is the only hope but that is contingent on Princess Alina replacing her corrupt father King Elijah on the throne. Others prefer sacrificing the royal daughter to the Light of Epertase.

This action-packed military fantasy is a strong tale that hooks the audience from the onset and never loosens that grip until the final confrontation. The Epertase world is established on solid footing in the first few chapters; once the foundation is anchored, the story line turns into an extremely fast-paced read. Though the plot goes down the path readers will expect Douglas R. Brown provides an entertaining gripping thriller that is difficult to put down.

Harriet Klausner

Water to Burn-Katherine Kerr

Water to Burn
Katherine Kerr
Daw, Aug 2 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406912

In San Francisco psychic Nola O’Grady works for a top secret government agency so secret the CIA never heard of them. She runs the Apocalypse squad whose mission is to support Harmony in the combat with Chaos across the multi-earths. Her staff consists of two stringers and a bodyguard spying for the Israelis. Having been successful in her last endeavor against the Chaos Masters (see License to Ensorcell), Nola and her bodyguard Israeli and Interpol agent Ari Nathan understand that was just one battle in a great war that crosses dimensions.

She is proven right starting with a strange wave coming out of nowhere that drowns a tweener child. The Prophet Reb Ezekiel, who ran the Kibbutz where Nola grew up, has been seen stalking the city; the problem with the sightings is Reb Zeke is supposed to be dead. On top of this on the personal front someone seems to be blackmailing Nola’s brother-in-law. To Nola none of these events connect until she finds the core is the enigmatic Peacock Angel cult.

With a nod to DC comics Infinite Earths (before the “Crisis” and subsequent reinventions) Water to Burn is a terrific urban science fiction with fantasy and police procedural elements. The story line is loaded with action as Nola and Ari investigate strange phenomena in a world where other worlds collide and cultural anthology is the most important socials science (wonder what personality type some of these others would turn up under Myers-Briggs). Nola is a great protagonist holding the story line focused. However, the key is the Katherine Kerr universe that readers will enjoy exploring as long as the heroine and her bodyguard provide protection.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wolfsbane-Andrea Cremer

Andrea Cremer
Philomel, Jul 26 2011, $17.99
ISBN: 9780399254833

Seventeen year old alpha girl-wolf Calla Tor struggles with her love for Shay, who she changed into a man-wolf (see Nightshade) and her need for her soul mate Ren. Calla worries about Ren as the Keepers who control the wolves were torturing him back in Vail. She concludes the Keepers will destroy her Colorado pack unless she can intervene somehow.

She knows she cannot save her pack alone so she makes a deal with her enemy the Searchers who agree to assist her destroy her former handlers. However, the Searchers have a price expected of her, Ren and the pack for her freedom.

The second Calla enjoyable high school age urban fantasy is a direct sequel to the first entry (see Nightshade) so it behooves the audience to read that tale to understand how the heroine got to this point of making a deal with her life long enemy. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with non stop action as the reader joins Ren and others on a raid that fails to deploy as planned. There are some heated sex and another cliffhanger that enhance the wonderful saga.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hainted Love-Maureen Hardegree

Hainted Love
Maureen Hardegree
Bell Bridge, Mar 21 2011, $12.95
ISBN: 9781611940145

In suburban Atlanta fourteen year old Heather Tildy knows summer vacation will give her more time to help those who died but unable to move on to do so although she prefers her paranormal gift to go away as it is a burdensome curse. However, the teenage Ghost Handler has set several resolutions involving her family while school is out. Though her motive is for a smooth entry into high school Heather hopes to connect with her grumpy older sister Audrey in spite of her sibling’s BFF nasty Karen. Second she wants to keep her younger sister Claire from turning into a clone of their nasty older sibling by spending time with her.

Heather makes progress on the sisters’ mission until Jack the ghost arrives. He died a few weeks ago though no body was found. Jack insists he is comatose not dead and proves it to Heather with a soul searing kiss. At the same time Aunt Geneva believes Heather is the next generation Ghost Handler, her sibling’s scheme has no ghost of a chance of succeeding as she is preoccupied.

Although the plot is similar to Hainted Misbehavin’, the second Ghost Handlers middle school urban fantasy. Heather is a great character who remains abashed by her new paranormal skill as everyone who matters to her believes she is fruitcake except for her aunt who everyone knows is a fruitcake; ergo Heather a chip off the nutty block. Young adult readers will enjoy the opening Ghost Handler thriller due to the heroine who remains in deep trouble with her parents, sisters and others, and has a crush on an apparent dead guy.

Harriet Klausner

In the Heat of the Bite-Lydia Dare

In the Heat of the Bite
Lydia Dare
Sourcebooks, Jun 26 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402245107

In 1817 the vampiric Earl of Blodswell Matthew Halket takes a stroll near Hyde Park when he meets Rhiannon Sinclair during a thunderstorm that appeared out of nowhere. Though centuries since he was a chivalrous knight he offers her assistance until he realizes that she is the source of the storm.

Weather witch Rhiannon wants Matthew to leave her alone as she wants nothing to do with vampires. She is also abashed that he caught her causing the storm. When they next meet her weather control abilities go haywire and his supernatural skills act crazy. To make matters worse, they are falling love with each other.

This amusing paranormal Regency romance is a fun lighthearted frolic between two star-crossed lovers whose powers go awry when they are in close proximity to one another. The fascinating theme grips readers as the vampire and the witch may have to choose between love and their respective powers; both are used to having these skills so if they could survive giving them up (that is if they can) would that prove enough for them to become soulmates? Leaving the world of werewolves, Lydia Dare provides a warm romantic historical urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Touch If You Dare-Stephanie Rowe

Touch If You Dare
Stephanie Rowe
Sourcebooks, Jul 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402241963

The Guardian of Hate Jarvis Swain fears for his brother who wants Death to take him after his woman rejected him with a stake to the heart. Although he thinks Rocco is insane as Jarvis spent an undesirable tortuous century and a half incarcerated at Angelica’s Den of Womanly Pursuits, he is obsessesed with saving his sibling’s life.

After eight years of failed prevention, D-Day has arrived for Death’s Assistant Reina Fleming who remains obsessed with saving the life of her sister. However, she has no earthly idea how to do so until she meets Jarvis. She believes he possesses the skills she needed to rescue her sibling. His agenda to beat Death fits hers. They team up to try to save their siblings while falling in love, but though she soothes the savage beast she has doubts he is the right person for her even as Death has an appointment at Fenway Park.

The latest Soulfire jocular romantic urban fantasy (see Kiss at Your Own Risk) is an over top of the Green Monster satire that continues the lampooning of the sub-genre. Jarvis and Reina are fascinating characters while the support cast (to include their siblings, Nigel, Napoleon, Death and a horde of other odd paranormal like Reap) enhance the romance between Hate and the Reaper in training. Fast-paced from start to finish, readers will enjoy the affirmation of basic algebra in which two negatives make a positive

Harriet Klausner

Dragon’s Oath-P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast

Dragon’s Oath
P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jul 12 2011, $12.99
ISBN: 9781250000231

Dragon Lankford is the Sword Master of the Oklahoma House of Night in St. Louis. He is also a vampire wrapped up in enigmas and aloofness, but he was not always that way. In 1830 England, he was called Bryan, the third son of the Earl of Lankford. Tired of his misbehaving and bailing Bryan out of trouble, his father exiled his teenage son to America. Before he went on the shop a vampire Marked him. He has to go to school for four years and if the fledgling survives the Change he will be a full fledged vampire.

Dragon attends the school at the Tower Grove House of Night where several of his student peers have crushes on him. In 1833 twenty-two years old Professor of Spells and Rituals Anastasia casts a spell to enable those fledglings who are attracted to the nobleman to see him as he really is. He is interested in her and surprises her when he helps her with the spell focused on him. They fall in love, but the human Sheriff Biddle and a dark magical creature want to destroy him and they believe killing Anastasia will do that. He comes at his enemies with vengeance though he promised an oath of mercy to his perfect love Anastasia the former Quaker who was and still is his soul mate.

The fencing master in the young adult House of Night series, Dragon has always been a riddle to readers and fledglings. This is the beginning of his “biography” mostly in St. Louis during the Jacksonian Era. The paranormal historical story line is exciting as the unlikely pair of Dragon the sword master (even as a student) and Anastasia the pacifist Quaker of spells fall in love, but are Destined for trouble. This is as enthralling and as spellbinding as the main series.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 27, 2011

Never Cry Wolf-Cynthia Eden

Never Cry Wolf
Cynthia Eden
Kensington/Brava, Jul 1 2011, $14.00
ISBN 9780758242150

A charmer reads the thoughts of animals, Sarah King flees vicious werewolf Rafe Santiago. She was undercover for the Feds as Rafe’s lover but he uncovered her identity.

Knowing Rafe and his pack seek her out and distrusting her agency the FBI as she does not know who she can rely on, Sarah turns to the man who killed her ex-lover’s father, the Alpha of the Los Angeles werewolf pack Lucas Simone, for safety though he lingers in jail on murder charges. Her theory is her enemy’s enemy is her friend. She gets him out of jail on bail, but Lucas distrusts her motives as he believes she has an agenda beyond just asking for his protection though to his chagrin he is attracted to her. Rafe has waited a long time to avenge his father’s death and with a betrayal inside his adversary’s pack, the time is now to kill Lucas and maybe Sarah.

The latest Cynthia Eden romantic urban fantasy is an exhilarating thriller filled with lust, lies, and traitors. Readers will understand why the lead triangle trusts no one as perfidy is the norm, leading to a wonderful twisting plot as fans will ponder whose side Sarah is on?

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Feast: Harvest of Dreams-Merrie Destefano

Feast: Harvest of Dreams
Merrie Destefano
Harper Voyager, Jun 28 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061990823

Highly regarded horror-fantasy author magical “Mad Mac” Madeline MacFaddin suffers from a severe case of writer’s block. Needing to regenerate her brain cells, she and her nine year old son Tucker travel to Ticonderoga Falls based on her memories of a good time when she and her parents rented a cabin there.

However, Maddie has forgotten the dark side of that childhood adventure in which the enigmatic Ash saved her life. Ticonderoga Falls celebrates the Harvest on Halloween night. However, it is not the humans who host the gala as the Others feast on the Harvest of Dreams of these foolish mortals. New and returned blood excite the Darkling as Maddie begins to grasp the connotation of the dreams she had as a child, but may be too late to save Tucker without a sacrifice; her only hope once again is with Ash the fallen bringer of the town’s curse.

Feast is an engaging romantic urban fantasy that grips the audience from the moment Ash welcomes back Maddie and never releases its’ hold until the final confrontation. The story line is loaded with action, but several concepts are not developed, which hopefully will occur in future Harvest of Dreams thrillers. Maddie is a wonderful human in peril while Ash remains somewhat mysterious though he feels an obsessive need to keep Maddie and Tucker safe. Readers will Feast on this fine harvest but expect more insight into the Destefano realm.

Harriet Klausner

What A Goddess Wants-Stephanie Julian

What A Goddess Wants
Stephanie Julian
Sourcebooks, Jul 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9781402251474

Charun was given no choice except to guard the Underworld. He must never leave his post but over two thousand years of ennui has left him deranged with an obsessed need to free himself from his eternal yoke. To break his chains of duty that bind him to Aitas he needs incredible power with the only easy source being the ignored Forgotten Goddesses.

Charun orders his demons to bring him Thesan the Etruscan Goddess of the Dawn of the Golden Light. Ignored by almost everyone, Tessa flees for Reading, Pennsylvania where she asks her Etruscan friend with the New York accent Salvatorus for help after telling him she believes Charun consumed the missing Mlukukh. He sends her to mercenary Cimmerian warrior Caligo to protect her. She breaks his wards and falls asleep waiting for him. When he arrives he thinks she is Goldilocks who became dinner in the real story. He also distrusts Goddesses since Venus conned him into challenging Vulcan. Unable to resist Sleeping Beauty, he wakes her with his sexual touches. They make love. As she brings warmth to the frozen tundra mercury and brings her a sense of safety, they fall in love while Charun’s demons keep coming for her.

The freshness to this exciting erotic romantic urban fantasy is the intermingling of various pantheons with an emphasis obviously on the Etruscan into a cohesive Julian universe. The lead couple is a terrific combo of an Etruscan Goddess and an immortal unfeeling Cimmerian warrior who loathes that SOB fame seeker Homer the muckraker for outing his race. Tongue in cheek, readers will enjoy What A Goddess Wants, a Goddess gets and she wants Cal.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Original Sin-Lisa Desrochers

Original Sin
Lisa Desrochers
Tor, Jul 5 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780765328090

Luc Cain came from hell to collect Frannie Cavanaugh’s soul while Gabe came from heaven to do likewise. Neither expected Frannie to have her own guardian angel Matt who was her twin brother before dying in childhood; or that Luc would fall in love with Frannie and shockingly give up brimstone for shaving cuts when her Magical Sway had him obsessed with being become human (see Personnel Demons).

As Gabe returns to heaven to avoid Frannie temptation, raging King Lucifer exhales fire over the traitor Luc. He sends a demon horde to bring him the betrayer on a platter. More important to the ruler of Hell is to capture the essence that turned his former loyal follower into a mortal. While Matt has lost concentration because of his attraction to Luc’s sexy next door neighbor Lili, the demons attack Frannie and her friends.

Rotating perspectives between the wins and the former demon, Original Sin is a delightful teen paranormal romantic suspense. Frannie is a terrific character whose magical sway has Heaven and Hell wondering what is going on. However Luc steals the show as he struggles with adjusting to human hygiene. Fans will enjoy encounters of the first kind between mortals and heavenly and hellish guests and hosts.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer of Night-Dan Simmons

Summer of Night
Dan Simmons
Dunne, Jul 12 2011, $15.99
ISBN: 9780312550677

In 1960 in Elm Haven, Illinois, school’s out for summer, but five twelve year old boys (Duane, Mike, Dale, Kevin, Lawrence and Jim) are happy to be free though they also know there is nothing to do. When Tubby the fourth grader vanishes, the friends investigate.

Jim believes Tubby never left the Old Central School. The recently ended school year was the last at the nineteenth century edifice. He climbs a façade and peaks into a window only to see a teacher who died six months ago. Shocked Jim falls breaking his arm.

Brothers Dale and Lawrence feel something dark hides in their closet. Their scornful mom looks, but the closet is empty. The monster moved under a bed. Dale enters the flooded the cellar finding Tubby's corpse floating there.

Duane researches old newspapers and finds a story about a Borgia Bell brought from Italy that allegedly had supernatural properties; it was placed in the Old Central School six decades ago. In a cornfield, a truck tries to run over Duane. His Uncle Art was about to provide information to the boys only he dies in a car cash while driving over a 100 MPH. Ghosts and other creatures attack the boys and their ally Cordie; as they conclude only destroying the Old School will save their lives.

This is a reprint of a 1992 horror thriller in which the kids recognize the danger while the adults snooze through life ignoring the warnings as children being children. The cast is solid as the gang of five and their female peer know the Old Central School hosts strange teachers, staff and activities. Summer of Night is an enjoyable throwback bumps in the night (and day) tale.

Harriet Klausner

Changeling Dream-Dani Harper

Changeling Dream
Dani Harper
Kensington Brava, Jul 1 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758265166

In 1981 a lunatic killed his pregnant wife Evelyn and severely injured shapeshifter James Macleod. Though he healed physically, James has never shifted back into human form since the assault.

A white wolf saved Veterinarian Jillian Descharme from a near deadly attack. When she told people about her hero, everyone ridicules her tale. Three decades ago, she accepted a job in Dunvegan, Alberta. Whether she resides in Canada or the States; Jillian still dreams of her rescuer.

The crazy person who killed his family sends his adult son to complete the job only half done. At the same time James recognizes the smell of Jillian who he saved years ago nearby. As the white wolf and the human hiker connect, he begins the first step in regaining the humanity that was lost by the attack.

The second Changeling werewolf romance (see Changeling Moon) is a super thriller due to the strong lead couple, the obsessed dying yet predatory father and his indoctrinated son, and the Northern Albertan location. James’ duality is brilliantly depicted as the wolf has dominated the human essence for thirty years; while his defense mechanism of avoiding commitment in order to keep people he cares about safe enhances the drama. He makes the tale fresh.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Shadow's Lure -Jon Sprunk

Shadow's Lure
Jon Sprunk
PYR, Jun 21 2011, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616143718

After insuring Josey became the Empress of Nimea (see Shadow’s Son), top assassin Caim retired from the deadly vocation. While Empress Josey struggles to hold on to her throne from backstabbers, Caim leaves Holy Othir to journey to the foreboding Northlands to obtain information on his birth and his allegedly murdered parents who vanished. Though he knows he will miss his beloved Josey as he wants to be her spouse his obsession with the Northlands drives him away.

Caim enters a locale under the control of the Shadow, but continues his quest to know. However as the temptations from the Other Side blasts at his soul with alluring enticements, Caim keeps his heart focused on Josey while he also struggles to remain out of a war as his fighting days are over, or are they?

This exciting sword and sorcery thriller is an entertaining tale with the prime focus on Caim accompanied by the enigmatic Kit in the Northlands. This brings freshness to the story line as the action moves form Holy Othir and Empress Josey (who curses her beloved for choosing the Northlands over her) to a stranger land and his peculiar family tree. The enjoyable story line rotates somewhat between Caim, Josey, Kit and a few other participants, the assassin remains the prime player with his personal quest while the rest of the cast move forward the overarching theme although that can feel a bit intruding. Fans will enjoy the return to the Shadow’s realm of Jon Sprunk.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 20, 2011

Embraced by Blood-Laurie London

Embraced by Blood
Laurie London
Harlequin HQN, Jun 21 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373775866

Former undercover Guardian Alfonso Serrano the vampire went undercover to help the agency prevent the deadly Darkbloods from trafficking in human Sweetbloods. However, the Enforcer and his brother Alfonso killed the Darkblood overlord Pavlos (see Bonded by Blood).

Alfonso is now trying to regain his life that he placed on hold. An assassin wants him and anyone he cares about dead. While he is unaware of his stalker, Alfonso wants a second chance with the love of his life Tracker Lily DeGraff. She, on the other hand, is concerned with what his return means to heart as he previously broke hers; additionally something is not right with her abilities. Meanwhile the Darkbloods announce their intent when they abduct one of Lily’s students.

The second Sweetblood urban fantasy is an entertaining thriller as the various subplots contain suspense, intrigue and romance in the dark London world where two known Vampire factions are at war over the humans. The story line is fast-paced when the Guardian and Tracker are in the field; the novel slows down somewhat when the subplot focuses on Alfonso’s second chance quest too frequently rejected by fearful Lily. Still readers will enjoy this overall fun tale as Bellingham in the Pacific Northwest has become a hotbed of biting vampiric activity.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Secrets-Jeannie Holmes

Blood Secrets
Jeannie Holmes
Bantam, Jul 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553592689

In Jefferson, Mississippi Federal Bureau of Preternatural Investigation (FBPI) field agent Alexandra Sabian is placed on suspension (See Blood Law) for her handling of a vampire murder investigation. While the Tribunal makes inquiries into the matter, her former lover FBPI Special Operations chief Varik Baudelaire returns her to active duty because he needs her expertise since gruesome evidence points to the return of the serial killing Dollmaker in his search for a missing college student.

Someone hates Varik who once belonged to this person. By extrapolation this individual also loathes Alex. Someone else is being blackmailed as the agency’s probe into Alex’s activity seems prejudiced. Neither FBPI operative realizes the Dollmaker’s latest obsession is Alex.

This is a super dark police procedural urban fantasy starring a strong lead pair and a powerful support cast; several are adversarial to the sleuths. Alex continues her quest to learn what happened to her father in 1968 but runs into bureaucratic roadblocks as that is just one more thread going wrong in her life after she made the Blood Llaw decisions in the previous thriller. Jeannie Holmes provides a grim tale as the FBPI agents deal with a nasty serial killer and internal affairs and betrayals as well as their own attraction.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sword of Fire and Sea-Erin Hoffman

Sword of Fire and Sea
Erin Hoffman
PYR, Jun 21 2011, $16.00
ISBN 9781616143732

Fifty years ago Captain Vidarian Rulorat's grandfather signed the Breakwater Agreement that the current High Temple of Kara'zul Fire Priestess Endera demands he adhere to as she needs a watery escort for a young novice at a time when the world magic is waning. Rulorat insists the ancestor’s bargain escorting a Sharlin priestess on a ship is suicide, but when Endera insists and offers compensation of emeralds tied to his life, he agrees though honoring his late ancestor’s commitment is why he accepts the dangerous task.

Traveling through perilous pirate controlled water, Vidarian transports fire priestess Ariadel to her new temple. In pursuit are the deadly telepathic magic practitioners the Vkortha who need to kill Ariadel to prevent her from telling anyone about the taboo rituals that she witnessed the sect perform. Rulorat has his issues too as a descendent of two magical bloodlines which means he will die young from the hybrid genetic illness that confronts all mixed race offspring and the Goddess of Chaos demanding and coveting he free her from her incarceration. The pair realizes they are the focus of much more nastier essences as ugly secrets about his biological family and her priestess family surface threatening to drown both of them.

Sword of Fire and Sea is a terrific seafaring fantasy starring two fascinating protagonists and a strong support cast; most of whom are adversaries to the lead pair. The story line is faster than the speed of life; partially because the Hoffman world is never fully developed except on the High Seas. However, no one will care much; as sub-genre fans will accompany Captain Rulorat and Priestess Ariadel as they head straight south through adventures that rival the Clash of Titans and make Odysseus seem like he was on vacation.

Harriet Klausner

The Magdalena Curse-F. G. Cottam

The Magdalena Curse
F. G. Cottam
Dunne, Aug 2 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312643256

Ten years old Adam Hunter suffers terrible nightmares and can speak in languages that he never heard or studied but only for short bursts. His worried father Mark takes Adam to Dr. Elizabeth Bancroft. She is amazed when her patient speaks Russian, but Mark explains he will forget the language in a few hours.

Mark explains that his son’s illness was caused when he and his special operations team were in Bolivia on a mission. They ran into sorceress Mrs. Mallory, who killed the unit except for him but also cursed his offspring. Elizabeth believes Adam is possessed and will try to help the child. At the same Mark leaves his offspring with her, he heads from Scotland to South America believing the death of Mrs. Mallory is the only chance he has to save his child. Her patient’s plight forces Elizabeth to accept her inherited sorcery skills that she purposely ignored.

This is a super supernatural horror thriller that grips readers from the beginning when they along with Elizabeth learn what ails the tweener. The story line is fast-paced, but character driven by the beleaguered son, the harried father, the dedicated doctor, and the evil sorceress. One of the most vile antagonists in years, malevolent Mrs. Mallory somewhat steals the show as the audience anticipates a confrontation between her and either or both (readers will keep changing who we expect to represent good) the parent and the shrink.

Harriet Klausner

Sirensong-Jenna Black

Jenna Black
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jul 5 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780312575953

Seelie Court devious Prince Henry arrives in the city between realms of Avalon to extend an invitation to Faeriewalker Dana from Queen Titania to her royal court. Dana consults with her father who agrees with her assessment that the Fae monarch wants her dead as no ruler trusts the half-human who is the only known Faeriewalker. Though Dana would prefer to decline, she and her dad know she has no choice but to go to the Seelie Court where he was Titania’s lover displacing Henry’s sire.

Accompanied by her dad, Keane, Kimber and Ethan as well as a royal escort on the short trek from Avalon to the Seelie Court affirms her fears as there are several assassination attempts. Finn and the Erlking along with her friends protect Dana, but she deploys her powers to keep her allies and herself safe. Upon arrival at the Seelie Court, a bomb explodes when Tatiana’s granddaughter Princes Elaine touches her throne. As the Princess lies on the floor probably dead, Dana’s dad rushes her from the court before she is executed. The Faeriewalker struggles to survive as a stranger on a strange world.

The third Faeriewalker teen fantasy (see Shadowspell and Glimmerglass) continues the coming of age adventures of the hybrid who begins to understand passivity is no longer an option as that denotes death for her and others, but has other lessons to learn about yielding power. The determined young heroine still has trust issues though she has tries to connect with her alcoholic mom and her fae father. Although the romantic subplots feel out of place, readers will appreciate the exhilarating escapades of the Faeriewalker as she knows she is not in Kansas.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Nightwalker-Connie Hall

Connie Hall
Harlequin Nocturne, Jun 21 2011, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373618637

U.S. Bureau of Supernatural Phenomena Striker Dark is a vampire tracking down a rogue agent. Private investigator Takala Rainwater has searched for the mother who abandoned her and her sisters as children. Striker and Takala meet when both believe they seek the same woman.

Takala quickly learns her white magic does not work against Striker and worse her vaunted control fails too. He realizes for the first time in centuries, he craves her blood as he is attracted to the potential daughter of a woman he is assigned to kill. They team up hunting the traitor who may be her mother and the evil who has employed her as a double agent.

This is an exciting romantic urban fantasy that grips the audience from the opening encounter and keeps reader attention until the final climax. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action as the tale plays out on two fronts: the attraction between the lead pair which neither desires; and the hunt for the rogue who in a fascinating twist may be the heroine’s mother.

Harriet Klausner

Vacation with a Vampire … And Other Immortals-Maggie Shayne and Maureen Child

Vacation with a Vampire … And Other Immortals
Maggie Shayne and Maureen Child
Harlequin Nocturne, Jun 21 2011, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373618620

“Vampires in Paradise” by Maggie Shayne. Vampire Diego del Torres rescues Anna Seville from drowning and afterward knowing she is one of the Chosen from her pending death by the Belladonna Antigen blood disease.

“Immortal” by Maureen Child. Immortal Guardian Bain Sinclair rescues Emma Madison from a demon, but learns afterward her ancestors betrayed him.

The Maggie Shayne short novel and the Maureen Child novella are fast-paced paranormal romances whose characters make vampires and other immortals and the humans who love them seem genuine.

Harriet Klausner

Overbite-Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot
Morrow, Jul 5 2011, $22.99
ISBN 9780061735103

Soap opera star Meena Harper had not believed in vampires until she was caught in the crosshairs of an Undead civil war (see Insatiable). Since she proved to have a special otherworldly skill to predict how someone will die the Vatican’s Palatine Guard, whose mission is to eliminate demons, hire her. Her home station is Manhattan.

Meena believes that soulless vampires can love humans, but her vampiric boyfriend Lucien Antonescu died in an inferno. Her partner demon hunter Alaric Wulf disagrees with the redemption of vampires. However, the nasty Lamir vampire clan is taking a bit out of the Big Apple. Meena and Alaric hunt for the predators. Also with the teammates is charismatic priest Father “Padre Caliente” Henrique, who nether Meena or Alaric trust.

This is an engaging amusing urban fantasy starring a solid cast. Meena is the star as she has a tendency to see the good in everyone which can be a weakness when fighting evil demons or the Lamir clan. Alaric is a strong partner who believes in staking first and ask questions later as he sees the ugliness in everyone. With plenty of action intermingled with jocularity, sub-genre fans who enjoy a lighthearted frolic will want to trek Manhattan with Meena and Alaric as the guides.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lord of Shadows-Alix Rickloff

Lord of Shadows
Alix Rickloff
Pocket, Jun 28 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439170373

In 1815 in Ireland, Lady Sabrina Douglas leaves her feuding clan following the murder of her father to live at a cloister where the otherworldly Danu sisterhood has hidden the hybrid fae-human for seven years. Sabrina has become Sister of High Danu, studying the underworld, protecting and hiding the Others and also working as a healer.

A severely scarred male washes ashore in a near death state. She heals the body of man who suffers from amnesia, but feels a need to help him recover his memory and heal his soul. The Abbess names him Daigh MacLir who begins to recover his memories; as he does he feels an incredible out of control rage and has superhuman skills. Sabrina and her patient share past life memories as they fall in love, but fear they have done so futilely before. Yet Daigh risks all even his relationship with his beloved to defeat the evil that owns his soul because his Sabrina deserves no less from him

The second Heirs of Kilronan paranormal Regency romance (see Earl of Darkness) is an engaging tale with a mystery involving the haunting of Daigh. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the healer and the scarred male meet and never slows down as evil must be confronted. Although the use throughout the novel of a series of fragmented phrases enhance the foreboding dark atmosphere, this technique also makes the sentence structure feel off kilter; for instance the description of the rectory as seen by the lead male. Still fans will enjoy Alix Rickloff’s latest entertaining Douglas clan saga.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Awakening-Kendra Leigh Castle

Dark Awakening
Kendra Leigh Castle
Forever, Jul 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781609418373

A war between the immortals would devastate all sides yet combat seems imminent between the known bloodlines clans in the United States. Ptolemy Queen Arsinoe needs a human female seer who can lift the enemies curse and insure victory for her side. She assigns outcast Vampire cat-shifting Tynan MacGillivray to not return without the seer.

Eight futile months later, In Tipton, Massachusetts Ty meets finds Lily Quinn a psychic of sorts who assumed vampires were in books and movies only. Ty figures he will easily charm the mortal to accompany him, but changes plans when someone tries to assassinate her. He knows he brought the adversary to her. However, he has no time for guilt or for her refusal to go with him. As they flee, he realizes he is attracted to her and would give up his Immortal life to keep his Lily safe even as he notices she possesses the mark of a vampire unlike any of the clans.

The first romantic urban fantasy Dark Dynasties thriller is a superb fast-paced tale that grips the audience from the moment the lead couple meets in New England and never slows down until the final confrontation. Kendra Leigh Castle cleverly transports the Highlander historical clan disputes into a modern age vampire clan disputes. Lily is stunned with a sudden awakening while Ty is even more bewildered as he learns that love and desire are eternally more powerful than blood.

Harriet Klausner

Burn the Night-Jocelynn Drake

Burn the Night
Jocelynn Drake
Harper Voyager, Jun 28 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062087980

The Naturi have broken free of eons of incarceration to walk the earth again. Their insane Queen Aurora plans a suicide mission to avenge their race by starting a two front war with the other paranormal species and with the humans. Her sisters Nyx and Cynnia know the cost will be extinction of their race so they agree a coup d’état is needed. The rebellious princesses need the support of Aurora’s exiled consort Rowe to cement their precarious position amongst their people.

Mira the Fire Starter and her lover Danaus the vampire slayer prepare for the final battle of the great Awakening even as the mortals remain ignorant of the horror that is beginning. The winged shapeshifters flood the skies while Mira’s focus remains divided since her father the God of Chaos wants to use her and Jabari her former mentor plans to kill her. Their only hope resides with Natui traitors who swear they want peace though Mir does not trust Nyx who has tried to kill her.

The climax to the super Dark Days saga series (see Pray for Dawn and Wait for Dusk) is a great ending. The action-packed story line rotates viewpoint between Mira and Nyx as an emphasis that situations make strange bedfellows. Readers will relish this series due to a strong cast in which necessity is the mother of alliances and adversaries (mindful of American relationships with Hussein).

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Wild Road-Marjorie M. Liu

The Wild Road
Marjorie M. Liu
Avon, Jun 28 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062020185

The hotel is on fire when she awakens. She is horrified more than scared when she sees three corpses near her and blood all over her. There is also a one word message: 'Run.' She quickly realizes she has no idea how she got there, who the dead are, who wrote her the warning note and even who she is.

Heeding the note, she goes to steal a car to start her run to she but she is not sure where. Gargoyle Lannes Hannelore sees the woman splattered with blood stealing his vehicle. He comes over to stop her, but though he must stay in the shadows and avoid involvement in her mess, he offers his help. Desperate she accepts even as he wonders if the set up was to use this woman in peril to lure him into activity by something not human

This is a reprint of a Dirk and Steele paranormal romantic suspense thriller that grips the audience with its eerie opening sequence as readers, Jane Doe and the gargoyle wonder what is going on. Set aside time as you are hooked into a fast-paced one sitting tale. Although it helps a bit to have read the previous entries in the saga as there are previous happenings retold with more insight, THE WILD ROAD is a fabulous story starring two fascinating protagonists that can stand alone

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Viper Moon-Lee Roland

Viper Moon
Lee Roland
Signet, Jul 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451233769

Residents of Duivel, Missouri know to avoid the dangerous Barrows District. That mostly barren area except for malevolent human and inhuman beasts serves as a magical prison created by the Earth Mother to contain the evil Darkness.

Huntress Cassandra Archer is a field agent of the Earth Mother. She rescues children from the evils that dwell in the caverns of the Barrows. Duivel Police Detective Flynn and mob boss Carlos Dacardi do not believe in magic, Earth mother, or the Darkness. However, the cop’s thirteen year old sister Selene and the gangster’s thirteen years old son Richard have been abducted from the Mall and take into the Barrows. Although each has plenty of firepower to raid the Barrows, only the Huntress can save their young relatives; she knows the stake is much greater as a sacrificial ritual under a Viper Moon could destroy Duivel.

The opening act of the Dark Huntress small town fantasy is a terrific dark thriller that establishes the Roland realm as a place to be for sub-genre fans. Even before the reader accompanies Cass into The Barrows, the story line sets the darkness of this zone as Tweeners are abducted by some nasty not all human monsters. The story line is action-packed from the moment Flynn and then Carlos plead with the Huntress to rescue their kin although her mission proves even more significant than saving two youngsters. With a touch of romance kept mostly in the background, Viper Moon is a winner.

Harriet Klausner

Bloodlust-Michelle Rowen

Michelle Rowen
Berkley, Jul 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425242131

A non-believer just two weeks ago, Jill Conrad was injected with an anti-vampire toxin by mistake. She became irresistible to the vampires, but also deadly to the Undead species. As a weapon to manipulate by the various bloodsucker factions, she killed the vampire king (see Nightshade).

Jill wants to go back being her former self, but knows that is impossible. Instead she is the prey hunted by vampires. She seeks a serum to make her non poisonous and wants to save her protector tormented half-vampire Declan Reese from himself. Due to her blood Declan is bipolar as a killer one moment and in heat the next. Meanwhile a secret vampire cabal plans to abduct the king’s baby daughter, which Jill vows not to allow if necessary over her dead body.

The second Nightshade urban fantasy is an exciting thriller that sets the dark deadly tone from the opening scene in the aptly titled North Hollywood bar Ravenous where thirsty vampires gather and never slows down until the final chill. Incredibly fast-paced with an intrepid heroine who keeps the story line moving forward and focused, sub-genre readers will believe after a trek into the perilous Rowen realm that Southern California contains nasty vampiric predators.

Harriet Klausner

Night Veil-Yasmine Galenorn

Night Veil
Yasmine Galenorn
Berkley, Jul 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425242049

Wind witch Cecily Waters returns home where she learns she has the skill of shapeshifting just like the Fae do. However, she has little time to practice her new talent as the Indigo Court Fae Queen Myst has incarcerated her soul mate Fae Prince Grieve.

To rescue her beloved, Cecily needs a mentor to teach her how to maximize her new found abilities. Fae Lannan Altos offers to train her in shapeshifting for an exorbitant biting fee that Cecily accepts. As she begins her rescue attempt, Geoffry the Fae confronts Queen Myst.

The latest Night at the Indigo Court fantasy (see Night Myst) is an engaging thriller as Yasmine Galenorn affirms she is one of the best at Otherworld environs. The story line is fast-paced from the first nibble to the climatic last bite. Although none of the characters are likable including the lead wind witch as everyone has an avaricious agenda and they mostly obsesses how to obtain the juicy nectar of life; even courageous Cecily fixates on whatever it takes to rescue her mate. Still fans will relish a trip to Indigo Court as Ms. Galenorn continues lifting the Night Veil.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chicks Kick Butt-Kerrie Hughes and Rachel Caine (Editors)

Chicks Kick Butt
Kerrie Hughes and Rachel Caine (Editors)
Tor, Jun 7 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780765325778

With a nod to the Chicks Ahoy anthologies (edited by Esther Frieisner), Chicks Kick Butt is a fun urban fantasy collection starring strong feisty females. Many of the thirteen entries occur in the respective author’s universe. Rachel Caine's “Shiny” stars a Weather Warden, her Djinn lover and a rookie fighting terrorists. Karen Chance's “In Vino Veritas” concentrates on the dhampir fighting Chinese gangsters. Rachel Vincent's “Hunt” focuses on rookie werecat battling predators. Lilith Saintcrow's vampire searches for “Monsters” but rescues a werewolf. In 1937 P.N. Elrod insists “Vampires Prefer Blondes” as a vamp and his nightclub dancing best gal battle an ancient bloodsucker. Morgan Kingsley knows what happens when the wrong type visit in “Nine Tenths of the Law” by Jenna Black. Cheyenne McCray’s “Double Dead” is a Night Tracker contribution. Delilah Street investigates the “Monster Mash” in Carole Nelson Douglas’ tale while L.A. Banks provides a vampire war in Wanted: Dead or Alive. Also Jeanne C. Stein provides an Anna Strong “Superman” short. Susan Krinard, Nancy Holder and Elizabeth A. Vaughan introduce their fans to new realms.

Fans of the various series that populate most of the compilation will enjoy the latest actions of these Chicks Kick Butt though the format size and the limiting serious theme does not allow much plot development or satirical skewering. Still these are fun light frolics as the gender bending females kick the butt of their opponents including males.

Harriet Klausner

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon-Peter David

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon
Peter David
Del Rey, May 24 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345529152

The global civil war on Cybertron hits a pivotal moment when Deception Air Commander Starscream shoots down a key Autobot vessel with Optimus Prime inside that was carrying a special weapon that would tilt the fight to their side Optimus Prime knows his side just lost while the ship begins drifting through space.

In the 1960s, the Soviet Union and the United States engage in a race to the moon. Most earthlings assume it is a macho Cold War competition, but in fact it is a retrieval mission to bring back the Ark artifact space vessel found on the dark side of the moon. None of the astronauts are aware inside is a dormant sentient Autobot.

In DC, Sam seeks employment but having saved the world twice, he seeks meaningful work in a city of mirrors. His live-in girlfriend Carly works for art and car collector Dylan Gould. Also residing with the couple are Wheelie and Brains. However, the human will soon learn to watch out for what you wish for as the Decepticons though weakened after two encounters with Prime and Sam plot their next assault.

Although there is plenty of action and humor (a Peter David trademark) to follow, the movie that this novelization is tied to has not been released. The story line is fast-paced from the onset, but also uses a clever tie to the moon landings. Well written, Peter David who has successfully written novelizations of movie adaptations of comic book heroes like Spiderman (as well as other stuff like the Hulk comic book) provides an entertaining Transformer thriller that fans of the saga will appreciate.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Undead and Undermined-MaryJanice Davidson

Undead and Undermined
MaryJanice Davidson
Berkley, Jul 5 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9780425241271

After spending less than an hour in frozen July 3015 and a side trip to Hell and a visit with mother dearest Lucifer, Betsy Taylor and her half-sister Laura the Antichrist return to present day St. Paul where they agree they must somehow fix the time line to prevent what they witnessed in the future. Nutso vampire Marc-Thing follows the siblings back from the thirty-first century. Betsy knows she needs to read the Book of the Dead without going insane; thankfully she has a deal with Satan allowing her to peruse the Book in exchange for watching Satanist movies with Laura.

However, her shoes lead her to even crazier scenarios. The strangest being awake in a Chicago morgue as plastic bagged Jane Doe 291. Back at the mansion in St. Paul, Betsy compares notes with Eric and others to understand what is going on as no one is quite like they were before her time traveling ended on a slab. That is until she realizes someone in the future wants Betsy Taylor dead before she can become the powerful Queen of the Vampires.

The magnificent muddled middle book in the time altering miniseries (see Undead and Unfinished for the opening act) is a zany frolic that contains the consistent restraint of self indulged yet caring in her insane way Betsy. The excessive superego with a muted edge as she has seen in her future Betsy has gone too far with her selfishness. Over the top of the Metrodome, fans will relish the second thriller in the changing Taylor landscape as the jocular story line is fun urban fantasy at the usual lunatic pace expected from MaryJanice Davidson.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Surrender of Lady Jane-Marissa Day

The Surrender of Lady Jane
Marissa Day
Heat, Jul 5 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425241257

Hundreds of years ago, the faery Queen Tatiana rescued injured sailor Thomas Lynne. She made him a knight in her court and occasional lover. Her magic keeps him young and alive so he does whatever she asks of him.

Tatiana orders him to seduce Jane, an innocent human attendant to the pregnant Duchess of Kent. His actions will enable her and the fae to enter Kensington Palace where Tatiana plans to kidnap the infant when she is born. That baby is prophesized to become the Queen of England who will lead the mortals in defeating the fae for eternity. Thomas looks forward to his assignment until he falls in love with Lady Jane. If he betrays his queen, he literally will die; if he betrays his beloved, he will die of a broken heart anyway.

The Surrender of Lady Jane is an engaging paranormal historical romantic fantasy starring a wonderful heroine and a divided lead male. The story line is anchored nicely in time and place with references to real persona, which in turn insures the fae become a real threat to the court of England. Although a deeper look into Thomas’ past especially his ties to Tatiana would have explained his motives and doubts about where his loyalty lies, fans will enjoy this entertaining tale.

Harriet Klausner

Vampire Instinct-Joey W. Hill

Vampire Instinct
Joey W. Hill
Heat, Jul 5 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425241264

In 1954 Elisa loves Willis as both are volunteer blood sources for vampires until Victor killed the latter and bit the former. Elisa’s mistress Lady Daniela directs her to escort the eight feral new vampires changed by the previous dead master but she finds them wildly out of control. Instead of an execution as normally done Elisa will escort them to Malachi who owes Lady Danny a favor. However one kills herself in a blood frenzy and Lady Danny kills another.

Native American vampire Malachi reluctantly mentors the remaining six wild cats who he believes should have been executed. He struggles to train the wild pups to control their urges but also helps Elisa heal from her attack. To his shock, she gets the mystic to open up his soul to her.

This is a great urban fantasy romance as the cast is fully developed and the poignant story line filled with plenty of action including erotic scenes that enhance the relationships. Readers will relish the trysts, but also wonder who if any of the six pups will survive the grueling transformation. Joey W. Hill writes a super angst-laden Vampire Queen thriller (see The Vampire Queen’s Servant).

Harriet Klausner

Autumn: Purification-David Moody

Autumn: Purification
David Moody
Dunne, Aug 16 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312569990

It took under 24 hours for the germ or whatever it was to kill 99% of the world population. However, those who died did not stay dead but arose to move around aimlessly. The only time they stopped meandering was when they found human who were immune to the disease. People banded together in communities as a means of staying alive because isolation meant vicious death dealt by these undead. One pocket found an underground lab in a bunker in as their haven. Hiding is the only way to prevent these creatures from decimating what is left of mankind.

The British army keeps the living separated just in case any are contagion carriers like a Typhoid Mary. The undead are unable to reach humans in the facility until thousands arrive blocking the air ducts leading from the outside. Those trying to fix the problem fail as the corpses overrun the facility forcing the survivors to flee. They meet Richard, a helicopter pilot, who flies them to an airfield where they take shelter. On the isolated Island of Cormansey, the survivors kill the undead making the place habitable. The cadavers know people are in the airfield building and there is no way to fly to the island.

The undead are killers tearing apart live flesh, but are not cannibalistic zombies. Each character has a story to tell in the naked city that has become London, but the poignant tale is that of Michael and Emma who met and fell in love after the apocalypse destroyed civilization as we know it. The story line is fast-paced as the undead keep on coming while humans try to remain a step (make that a kilometer) ahead of them. Fans will enjoy David Moody’s third the Autumn mankind horror thriller (see Autumn and Autumn the City) as those undead survivors are beginning to learn how to use their senses.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 6, 2011

Heaven's Shadow-David S. Goyer and Michael Cassutt

Heaven's Shadow
David S. Goyer and Michael Cassutt
Ace, Jul 5 2001, $25.96
ISBN 9780441020331

Three years ago, the hundred miles wide object was spotted in the Solar System on a course to the sun. As the planetoid comes closer to its journey’s end, America and a combine of Russia, India and Brazil send a rival manned spacecraft to land on the projectile.

Instead of a rock or gases as expected, the object is an ancient space ship. As the astronauts search the vessel, their entrance turns on machines that have been dormant for eons. Even more eerie is the dead come to life as the earthlings struggle to survive increasingly lethal environs while trying to learn the purpose of the ship and its sentient passengers. On earth NASA officials stay in touch with the crew but grandstanding politicians do what they always do when it comes to effective governing by agencies; they interfere for personal gain.

Heaven's Shadow is a faster than the speed of light science fiction that targets readers who prefer action to the nth degree. None of the cast is fully developed, but fans who relish an outer space potentially disaster thriller along the lines of movies like Armageddon will appreciate this exciting tale of first contact.

Harriet Klausner

Rule 34 -Charles Stross

Rule 34
Charles Stross
Ace, Jul 5 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9780441020348

In 2023, the police conduct 24/7 surveillance of the Internet as a crime prevention method in order to capture illegal porn peddlers. Edinburgh PD Detective Investigator Liz Kavanaugh heads the Rule 34 Crime Investigation Unit that monitors the Net for illegal activity usually extreme porn although she loathes her position.

Three similar homicides occur around the world. Because each is tied to BDSM and drugs, Kavanaugh leads the inquiry into the Scottish murder of dealer Michael Blair. To the DI, this is the case that will revise her dying career. However, her investigation seems to get increasingly murkier as she and her team discovers strange seemingly unrelated clues to the murder that ties to the felonious Toymaker and others with official protection as well as her former lover.

A few years have passed since the events of the Halting State, but if anything the Stross world has grown darker with a deeper nod to Huxley’s 1984. Vividly bleak while extrapolating the philosophy of those who want small government with a Big Brother “patriotic” morality oversight, the story line focuses on society monitoring and censoring the internet. The second case viewpoint adds to that sense of detachment and grimness but the key to this exciting unique police procedural is the enforcement of Rule 34 makes or breaks careers.

Harriet Klausner

The War That Came Early: The Big Switch-Harry Turtledove

The War That Came Early: The Big Switch
Harry Turtledove
Del Rey, Jul 12 2011, $27.00
ISBN 9780345491862

In 1938 Great Britain Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain rejects Fuhrer Adolf Hitler’s claim to annexing more land. Irate, the raging Hitler sends his troops west vowing Paris will burn before the year ends. By 1941 Germany and their ally Poland pound the Soviet Union from the west and Japan from the east. On the western front trench warfare reminiscent of WWI but nastier is devastating the French countryside. Spain is engulfed in a nasty civil war with the American Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the fight against the Fascists.

Americans are divided over entering the war though support they the allies. However, people like Peggy Druce try to get her country to fight the Nazis over there as she insists they will one day cross the Atlantic to fight us here. At the same time as Hitler works on his Final Solution and survives a coup, pacifists in France and Britain make their voices heard. Japan and the Soviet Union sign an armistice while the former attacks American Pacific territories following up on their brutal success in China. Winston Churchill suddenly dies bringing despair to his side and euphoria to the Nazis.

The latest in The War That Came Early WWII alternate history (see Hitler’s War and West and East) has another pivotal event occur with the death of the rallying cry for Britain. The death of the face of the allies has devastated the morale more so than Hitler’s war machine as France and Great Britain wonder if the cost is worth the fight while the Axis has issues too. Although with so much to cover around the globe, the deep story line at times slows down; Harry Turtledove continues his path of altering key events in his insightful revision of the Great War.

Harriet Klausner

Grave Dance-Kalayna Price

Grave Dance
Kalayna Price
Roc, Jul 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451464095

Since her fight to the death with the sorcerer, Alex Craft the Grave Witch has taken a month of R&R. Part of her respite is to better understand and improve the use of powers as she has learned she contains Fae DNA. However, she is disappointed that her main lover Fae Investigation Bureau agent Falin Andrews is away; besides which the Fairy Winter Queen owns him as a loyal knight.

Back on the job, Alex investigates the remains of left feet, which is not enough for her to interrogate shades. She also is attacked by strange essences apparently put together by magic; she applies her skill to take the parts apart. Her other lover Death AKA the Reaper is out of circulation too. Though exhausted from her two efforts, Alex has no time to rest as something wants her dead and the Winter Queen demands a meeting.

This engaging romantic urban fantasy continues the maturation of the heroine on two fronts: her paranormal powers and her love triangle while both elements bring her to the attention of the Winter Queen. Fast-paced the story line is more a sub-genre coming of age set up book. Still fans will enjoy the Grace Dance as Alex misses the Fae and the Reaper in her life while investigating left feet and fearing her meeting with the Winter Queen who owns the loyalty of one of her lovers.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 5, 2011

City of Ice-Laurence Yep

City of Ice
Laurence Yep
Starscape (Tor), Jun 7 2011, $17.99
ISBN: 9780765319258

In 1941 after their dangerous encounter on the Hawaiian Islands (see City of Fire) Scirye and her friends (Leech the orphan. Koko the badger and Bayang the dragon) chase after their deadly adversaries, evil sorcerer Mr. Roland and Badik the dragon. They know if Mr. Roland obtains the Emperor Yu’s lost magical treasure, he will be nearly invincible; he already is very powerful as he seeks the second artifact.

In the Waste of the Arctic Circle where none leave, Prince Tarkhun and his daughter Roxanna join the companions on their quest. As their situation turns dire, Scirye asks for the spirit of the North to help them. When a giant polar bear arrives from nowhere, the companions hope the beast is on their side.

The second Scirye alternate history fantasy continues the non-stop adventures of the heroine and her friends as they go from the heat of Hawaii to frozen Waste of the Arctic. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as the team with additional volunteers tries to prevent Mr. Roland from obtaining the second relic. Although adults will wish their were less of the teasing banter that seems to be a sub-genre requirement of a young adult fantasy, middle school children will want to join Scirye and her team as they traverse the iced tundra on their save the world quest.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities: Exhibits, Oddities, Images, and Stories from Top Authors and Artists

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities: Exhibits, Oddities, Images, and Stories from Top Authors and Artists
Edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer
Harper Voyager, Jul 12 2011, $22.99
ISBN: 9780062109927

Thackery T. Lambshead explained to his friends he was not a collector or pack rat of any sort. In fact, he felt he was the opposite trying to properly dispose of things though somehow items had a tendency over his century plus of life to find him. Still with his death in 2003, he left behind an incredible cabinet of curiosities in Brook, England. The Broadmore Exhibits include Tesla’s “The Electric Nuerheographiton (by Minister Faust) and Dacey’s Patent Automatic nanny (by Ted Chiang). The Cabinet has also has noted authors wiring about aspects like China Mieville's “Pulvadmonitor: The Dust’s Warning” and Naomi Novik’s thesis on Lord Dunsany’s Teapot”. Then of course there are Dr. Lambshead’s astounding journals in which he holds the west culpable for many transgressions.

The second Dr. Lambshead’s anthology (see The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases) is incredible with stories and pictures that make Thackery T. Lambshead’s Cabinet of Curiosities seem real rather than a steampunk fantasy collection. Loaded with plenty of fun, well written entries, and fabulous designs and photos, readers, especially young adults, will spend several weeks appreciating this engaging compilation. Each relic reminds this reviewer of the ending to the TV show the Naked City: “There are eight million stories” in Dr. Lambshead’s Cabinet and each one is worth reading and seeing.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 3, 2011

Dead Iron-Devon Monk

Dead Iron
Devon Monk
Roc, Jul 5 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451463968

The residents of previously dying Hallelujah, Oregon are euphoric that railroad tycoon Shard Lefel is bringing his train to the town. However, Shard wonders how many residents would shower accolades on him if they knew he is a nonhuman Strange.

The townsfolk are unsure why though they allude to his eyes, but most feel uneasy when near hunter Cedar Hunt. Perhaps the only residents who feel okay around Hunt are the mining lunatic Madder brothers, who have a penchant for finding silver even when intoxicated, which is most of the time. While Hunt is overwhelmed with guilt over his brother’s death, Rose the foundling was raised like an indentured servant senses Hunt and the siblings are different than the rest of the town, but she is unsure how. When Hunt learns his sibling is alive, he wants to find him as he sees a chance for redemption; to do so he must locate the Holder possessed by a Strange exiled to Earth.

The first Age of Steam is a super old western fantasy as the good, the bad and the dead collide in Oregon in a town in which the human locals are ignorant to what walks amongst them. The Monk realm avoids the steampunk trap of too much scientific babble to create the world; instead the author makes the world feel real even with the dead reanimated, magical thingamajig nightmares, witches, the cursed, and the dead. They provide a stirring time for sub-genre fans in Hallelujah.

Harriet Klausner

The Snow Queen’s Shadow-Jim C. Hines

The Snow Queen’s Shadow
Jim C. Hines
Daw, Jul 5 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406745

Snow knows the risk she takes with a potentially dangerous spell, but obsessively feels the enchantment is worth trying in order to save her queen. However, instead of achieving her objective, her mom’s magic mirror shatters. Worse a trapped demon escapes when the barrier containing the beast splintered into a seemingly zillion pieces.

Snow quickly learns why the nasty demon was incarcerated as the evil one releases hate amidst the people who begin loathing one another. As hostilities grows and to make matters viler and complex, each piece of glass has become a lethal magical weapon while Snow is fractured too. Talia and Danielle team up to try to find a way to trap the demon, save Snow and prevent a magical calamity.

The final Princess fairy tale saga (see The Stepsister Scheme, The Mermaid’s Madness and Red Hood’s Revenge) is a terrific ending to a strong turn of the Brothers Grimm even grimmer and somehow more charming series. The key to the ending is that Jim C. Hines ties up the overarching theme but does so inside an exciting story line as his three lead princesses have come a long way since discussing virginal sleeping beauties finding their Prince Charming at some inane ball.

Harriet Klausner

Citadel of the Lost-Tracy Hickman

Citadel of the Lost
Tracy Hickman
Daw, Jul 5 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756406721

The Rhonas Elven Empire kept expanding using Aether magic to win battles and conquer countries and destroy the humans. They made slaves of mortals, manticores, goblins and other species using torture and other indignities while using magic to keep control of the slaves who love in a dream world. When the Aether Well in the Western Provinces fell at the House of Timuran the slave Drakis and others were free to remember. The people want to believe Drakis is the man from the prophecy who will gather an army and crush the disdainful Elven oppressors.

To prove his companions wrong, he takes them to a place where the dragons are to come, but Drakis knows that is a myth. He is shocked when a thousand dragons arrive and the group is forced to go through a portal. Drakis’s companion Ethis shuts the portal and they figure out that they are hundreds of miles from where they were months ago. The journey back is filled with action, betrayal and warfare with the dragons playing a significant role. The Rhonas Emperor wants Drakis returned to him as he is the rallying point for 60,000 people who want freedom from the Elven odious yoke.

The latest The Annals of Drakis avoids second book syndrome as the story line stands on its own yet expands on the action and social cultures established in the first entry (see Song of the Dragon). Readers will be enthralled by the story line as the Rhonas Empire is similar to the Roman Empire with client states though there are differences especially involving how slaves are treated and other once free sentient species. Drakis may be the man of the prophecy but even if he is not he is bodacious as a leader seeking freedom for all. Citadel of the Lost is what epic fantasy is all about.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spellbound-Jacqueline West

Jacqueline West
Dial, Jul 12 2011, $16.99
ISBN: 9780803734418

A few weeks ago eleven year old Olive Dunwoody and her absent minded mathematician parents moved into the creepy Victorian mansion of the late McMartin. Soon afterward, Olive managed to break the magic eyeglass frames of Aldous McMartin and bury the evil painting of Annabelle McMartin.

However, she has yet to rescue her friend Morton from his being a painting instead of a person. The tweener has not given up so accompanied by the three cats (Harvey, Horatio and Leopold) she diligently seeks clue to liberate Morton. Also joining Olive and her felines is the neighbor’s boy Rutherford Dewey as she searches for the McMartin Book of Spells.

The second Books of Elsewhere is a tense thriller in which evil waits in The Shadows to pounce on the innocent. Olive is a great tweener as she holds the haunted mansion story line together with the capable assistance of the three feisty felines. Middle school readers will enjoy accompanying Olive and her retinue as they search for the tome that will free her friend while the malevolent mysterious McMartin brood try to prevent her.

Harriet Klausner

What Distant Deeps-David Drake

What Distant Deeps
David Drake
Baen, May 31 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439134450

As the hostilities between the Alliance of Free Stars and Republic of Cinnebar have ended due to the great victory at Cacique, RCN Captain Daniel Leary throws a party to celebrate the opening of the Jared Hogg Community Hall. Attending the gala besides the neighbors are Signal Officer Adele Mundy and the Sissies who are the crew of the Princess Cecile. Cinnabar Intelligence Chief Bernis Sand is at the celebration. She informs Adele of a new mission for her, Leary and crew. Adele is to obtain information from Posthuma “Posy” Belisande, the younger sister of the Founder of Zenobia while on escort duty.

Soon after the party, Daniel transports Commissioner Brown, whose wife and daughter accompany him, to his assignment as the Cinnabar Commissioner on Zenobia. Daniels vessel is the Princess Cecile. An easy trip turns potentially ugly especially on a yacht and not a warship when third party barbarians want the war to heat up again.

This is an intriguing Leary science fiction tale as the hero of the triumph at Cacique has a new diplomatic role until late in the plot. Although much of the first third of the well written story line is slow-paced especially for a David Drake drama as What Distant deeps is more a social-political tale rather than the military in space action of previous entries. Still fans will enjoy this discerning novel while readers (except bullet catchers and their families) accept peace lacks the excitement of combat.

Harriet Klausner

Degrees of Freedom-Simon Morden

Degrees of Freedom
Simon Morden
Orbit, Jun 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316125178

In Freezone his best friend AI Michael is trapped under the ruins of Oshicora Tower. Thus, though he has severe injuries all over his body that may never heal right, Samuil Petrovitch knows he must save his buddy. Samuil’s biggest fear is not more harm to his battered body but instead the mental sate of Michael.

Meanwhile the world remains in peril from the CIA plan to save America at the cost of the rest of the planet. Also Samuil learns the New Machine Jihad that he killed apparently somehow still lives. Finally the killing Armageddonists who already devastated the planet allegedly have a nuke to further their objective to blow up Earth. To Samuil all that is business as usual as his biggest issues deal with his relationships with Maddy and Sonja.

The third Petrovitch futuristic science fiction thriller (see Theories of Flight and Equations of Life) is an exciting climax as the (should be exhausted by now) hero understands how many Degrees of Freedom he must go through to achieve his objective to live free or die. The story line is frantically -paced as everyone converges on Petrovich except for interred Michael. Although Sonya’s actions are so improbable, she subtracts several Degrees if Freedom from the Petrovitch Equations of Life, fans will enjoy this faster than the speed of light finish.

Harriet Klausner