Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Fat Kid’s Wolfy Revenge: Not for the Weak Hearted or Mature Minded

The Fat Kid’s Wolfy Revenge: Not for the Weak Hearted or Mature Minded
Kristian J. Hanson
Outskirts, Apr 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781432773151

In Gilbert, Arizona high school student Joe Winnie is as uncool as a teen can be even living in a predominantly Mormon town. He loathes school; the girls treat him like a pariah when they ignore him. He especially detests his female peers who when they were younger were his friend, but now treat him like he possesses a contagious disease.

As he faces the fact he has no one to take to the prom, Joe watches a seven foot plus werewolf rip apart a door to door (always during a football game) Mormon missionary. Although terrorized he may be the dessert, Joe watches the Lycan tear into faked boobs Heather. He decides not to be the lunatic savior from movies like the Howling, but instead starts a blog following the murderous and raping exploits of the American Werewolf in Gilbert. As his blog becomes the in thing, his new BFF the beast that bites leads Joe to ask the rich Brazilian beauty Fernanda to the prom as he assumes she does not have werewolf catnip AKA silicon transplants.

This gory yet entertaining urban fantasy lampoons the sub-genre’s tendency towards either heroic passionate paranormal hunks in tune with their feminine side or amateurs risking their lives (and souls) to take down the maniacal beast. Although women are the prime victims of this brutal werewolf; those grotesque assaults are a key element in mocking the compassionate caring hero of romantic fantasy. Nothing is sacred in Kristian J. Hanson’s “Not for the Weak Hearted or Mature Minded” except Joe’s staying power went from 30 to 156 seconds.

Harriet Klausner

A Vampire Christmas Carol-Sarah Gray

A Vampire Christmas Carol
Sarah Gray
Kensington, Oct 1 2011, $5.00
ISBN: 9780758266835

Buried seven years ago, Jacob Marley visits his former partner Ebenezer Scrooge to warn him that all the misery and isolation the latter has felt has been caused by vampires who want to insure he fails to fulfill his destiny. Marley explains he will have three ghosts visit him to affirm what he has told Scrooge that the undead bloodsuckers have caused his rift with those he loved like his family, his former fiancée Belle and his employee Bob Cratchit.

The spiritual journey Scrooge undertakes leads him to better comprehend what has happened to him as he finally understands what caused the estrangement with Belle and learns of the personal hardships Cratchit and his family face, and finally his only living blood relative Fred his nephew who still cares about his acrimonious misery uncle. This is Scrooge’s last chance to save his soul as his loved ones are in mortal combat against the vampires.

This is an engaging retelling of the classic holiday tale as Sarah Gray provides a fascinating cause for Scrooge’s acrimony. The story line follows the ghostly guides but gravely focus on the war for Scrooge’s soul between the vampires isolating him and his loved ones trying to save him. Although lacking the satirical humor of similar reenactments like Steve Hockensmith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Wayne Josephson’s Emma and the Vampires, fans who enjoy paranormal renditions of Victorian and Regency classics will want to read this exciting but bleakly grayish vampiric Christmas Carol.

Harriet Klausner

The Vengeful Dead-J. N. Duncan

The Vengeful Dead
J. N. Duncan
Kensington, Oct 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780758255648

In Chicago FBI agent Jackie Rutledge struggles with all that has happened to her in a very short time (see Deadworld). She grieves the death of her BFF Laurel Carpenter whose psychic skills apparently reach from the grave as she haunts Jackie in death almost as much as she haunted Jack when they were live partners. Jack also knows she needs help for her Death Valley depression in which she feels stuck in a personal deadly version of Groundhog Day starring herself and Laurel; but choose to avoid the FBI therapist. She also struggles with her new found paranormal skills that she does not want.

When a murder victim pregnant Rosa wants revenge, the angry spirit chooses bodies to possess in her thirst. One of Jack’s new undesirable talents is to sense ghostly homicides so she knows she must stop Rosa. She ventures back into deadwood to confront The Vengeful Dead Rosa with her team (maybe lover vampiric private investigator Nick Anderson, his vampiric assistant Cynthia and his office manager Shelby the psychic).

The second deadwood urban fantasy police procedural is an enjoyable tale that starts slow as much of the first half focus is a deep look at Jack’s mental state. About a little more than half way into the story line, the pace suddenly accelerates as the plot stops the mental case scenario to concentrate on the investigation; Jack and her paranormal crew try to prevent The Vengeful Dead with a cause that the kick butt heroine empathizes with from enacting her plan.

Harriet Klausner

Bound by Blood-Amanda Ashley

Bound by Blood
Amanda Ashley
Zebra, Oct 4 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420121322

As her college graduation present, her dad gives Kaitlyn Sherrad a little place in the country that happens to overlook Lake Tahoe. Kaitlyn loves her father Drake the Master of the Carpathian Coven vampire and her once human mother Elena (see Bound by Night for their tale).

Her parents return to the Romanian Old Country on urgent clan business so she goes to her luxurious cabin alone. Kaitlyn meets and falls in love with casino owner Zackary Ravenscroft. However, she initially is unaware that he is a six century old vampire whose family loathes the East European clan as much as hers detests these upstarts over a two decade old incident. As the heir to the Carpathian Coven, Kaitlyn knows her beloved is forbidden fruit, but history apparently repeats the same mistakes especially with an unknown adversary plotting to take down the couple.

The second Bound romantic urban fantasy is a delightful tale of forbidden love starring fully developed protagonists and a well rounded support cast that deftly ties up threads from the first thriller. The fascinating star-crossed second generation romance is fun to follow though the plot follows the expected course as there are no major twists. Still sub-genre fans will appreciate Amanda Ashley’s wonderful paranormal romance.

Harriet Klausner

Bound by Blood-Amanda Ashley

Bound by Blood
Amanda Ashley
Zebra, Oct 4 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420121322

As her college graduation present, her dad gives Kaitlyn Sherrad a little place in the country that happens to overlook Lake Tahoe. Kaitlyn loves her father Drake the Master of the Carpathian Coven vampire and her once human mother Elena (see Bound by Night for their tale).

Her parents return to the Romanian Old Country on urgent clan business so she goes to her luxurious cabin alone. Kaitlyn meets and falls in love with casino owner Zackary Ravenscroft. However, she initially is unaware that he is a six century old vampire whose family loathes the East European clan as much as hers detests these upstarts over a two decade old incident. As the heir to the Carpathian Coven, Kaitlyn knows her beloved is forbidden fruit, but history apparently repeats the same mistakes especially with an unknown adversary plotting to take down the couple.

The second Bound romantic urban fantasy is a delightful tale of forbidden love starring fully developed protagonists and a well rounded support cast that deftly ties up threads from the first thriller. The fascinating star-crossed second generation romance is fun to follow though the plot follows the expected course as there are no major twists. Still sub-genre fans will appreciate Amanda Ashley’s wonderful paranormal romance.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Glow-Amy Kathleen Ryan

Amy Kathleen Ryan
St. Martin’s Griffin, Sep 13 2011, $17.99
ISBN: 9780312590567

The two ships (the New Horizon and the Empyrean) are the only hope for mankind to find a new earth as the old planet is dead. However, Pastor Anne Mather on the New Horizon wants to establish a theocracy so believes her vessel must land on the new earth first and needs the young breeding females on board the sister ship; as there are none on her vessel. She leads a preemptive attack killing most adults on board the Empyrean and abducting all the breeding age females and younger girls.

Pastor Mather explains to her female prisoners they were rescued to birth the next generation. The young women and girls are stunned but turn to fifteen year old Waverly for leadership; she directs a passive resistance. On the Empyrean rival teenagers, Waverly’s boyfriend Kieran and sly Seth, compete for control of the rudderless ship.

The first Sky Chasers outer space thriller is an entertaining young adult science fiction. The fast-paced story line rotates perspective between the twin ships fueled by betrayal (not just by Pastor) being the means of choice to achieve a certain end. Although the male lead teens on the Empyrean seem incompetent with Kieran hesitant and Seth uncaring about others when compared to heroic Waverly who quietly leads her troops in opposition, readers will enjoy Amy Kathleen Ryan’s engaging tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 29, 2011

If I Die-Rachel Vincent

If I Die
Rachel Vincent
Harlequin Teen, Sep 27 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780373210329

Following the sudden death of math teacher Mr. Wesner, Eastlake hires Mr. Beck to replace him. He is gorgeous and even his handwriting on the board is gorgeous. All the girls are attracted to the hunk with many coming to school early and staying late just to see him. The only two females not attracted to Mr. Beck are rivals for the heart of Nash the banshee, Kaylee the banshee screamer of death and Sabine the Mara bringer of nightmares.

They realize why Mr. Beck is the fantasy of their female classmates; as he is an incubus whose sustenance is absorbing the desires of humans. Kaylee and Mara believe that if Mr. Beck learns they know his secret, he will come after them. As her current life span draws closer to her final soul scream for herself, Kaylee teams up with her adversary Mara to rescue the females of Eastlake from the handsomest male at school. However, the incubus is more diabolical than Kaylee imagined as he forces her to do his bidding even if it means harming her relationship with Nash to save her friends’ souls.

The latest Soul Screamers urban teen fantasy (see My Soul to Keep and My Soul to Save) is an entertaining entry as Kaylee struggles to balance her teen life at school and at home with saving the lives of her schoolmates from the clever incubus. Young adult readers will enjoy Kaylee’s exploits as she ponders not If I Die but when I die soon in an exciting twisting (perhaps too many spins) thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Darkest Surrender-Gena Showalter

The Darkest Surrender
Gena Showalter
Harlequin HQN, Sep 27 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373775811

Fifteen centuries ago, fourteen years old Kaia Skyhawk wants to be known as the strongest harpy. Her only rival at the Harpy Games is Juliette the Eradicator. Juliet captured a male but her new consort remains defiant. Thinking she can make this warrior obey, Kaia, ignoring her mother’s admonition about men, frees him. He goes on a rampage killing many harpies. It is fifteen hundred years later and everyone especially her mother blames Kaia the Disappointment for the massacre; she and her sister Bianka have been banned from participating in the games ever since.

For the first time since the disaster, the Skyhawks sisters are invited to the games. Bianka and Kaia know someone is setting them up for something though it could be Juliette or even their mom, but each agrees they must attend. She also tells Bianka that she believes Strider is her soulmate, but he and his demon Defeat refuse to accept their attraction to the notorious harpy. However, he reconsiders his position of keeping his distance when he learns first prize at the games is the dangerous ancient Paring Rod that could kill him and his Dark Lord peers.

The latest Lords of the Underworld romantic fantasy (see The Darkest Secret) is a terrific refreshing entry due to the macabrely humorous yet lunatic Harpy culture. The story line is fast-paced from the opening fiasco and never slows down as Kaia who tasted defeat refuses to accept it again except as the demon accompanying her Strider. Madcap, the zany Harpy Games is fun to attend.

Harriet Klausner

How Firm a Foundation-David Weber

How Firm a Foundation
David Weber
Tor, Sep 13 2011, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765315052

The leaders of the five year old Charisian Empire has won many battles at sea against the much bigger Church of God Awaiting that declared Emperor Cayleb, Empress Sharleyan and their supporters as heretics. The hero of the naval warfare, Cayleb understands the impact of the enemy’s religious terrorism and the diabolical isolation scheme, but is unsure what his small nation can do to end the reign of terror.

Besides an insidious propaganda campaign that excommunicates critics, the Church deploys assassins to kill the empire’s leaders and anyone on the Safehold mainland supporting Charisian. The Inquisitors torture anyone to send the message to those who consider allying with Charisian. In that scenario as the cruel foe tightens the knot around the island, the cybernetic avatar of long dead Merlin believes the answer lies dormant underneath Zion’s Temple in the heart of the Church of God Awaiting.

The fifth Safehold science fiction thriller (see By Heresies Distressed and A Mighty Fortress) contains the usual military warfare but at much smaller scale due to the reign of terror campaign. The story line also focuses on the social and political issues facing those in opposition to the Church. Safehold focuses on a theocracy that brutally stomps on individual rights. The fear of freedom that Charisian represents is violently opposed by religious dogma that what the Church does is Godly even sacrificing the innocent. Cayleb remains a strong hero though still somewhat Harrington-light as he is more confortable at war than at running a country. Readers will relish David Weber's latest powerful condemnation of those who equate their church is the state; or oligopoly dictating society.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Bible Repairman and Other Stories-Tim Powers

The Bible Repairman and Other Stories
Tim Powers
Tachyon, Sep 1 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781616960476

“The Bible Repairman”. Torrez knows the cost of his blood as his soul has dwindled to almost nonexistence. His descent started with a murder leading him to find the spirits of the restless dead and cleansing bibles of evil verses, but he could not save his late daughter or his marriage. Now a wannabe client wants what is left of his tainted blood.

“A Soul in a Bottle”. George meets highly regarded dead poetess Cheyenne who demands a second chance at life. He will learn verses change as circumstances change.

“The Hour of Babel”. It has been forty years since the angel fell into the pizza parlor leading to a tragedy that still haunts the survivors. One of whom wants to go back to 1975 to alter the past and subsequently change the time line.

“Parallel Lines”. Septuagenarian Caroleen struggles with the return of her twin sister BeeVee who committed suicide when the cancer pain overwhelmed her. Now Caroleen fears BeeVee wants to add the second date etched in her sibling’s stone.

“A Time to Cast Away Stones”. With Byron and Shelly free of the succubus’s control (see The Stress of Her Regard), Edward wants to help the Greeks deal with the Nephilim.

“A Journey of Only Two Paces”. As the executor of the late John Ranald’s will, Kohler meets his Widow Mrs. Hathaway to complete the Letter Testamentary Kabbalah soul transmigration.

Although the six super selections have previously been published in diverse small prints, this is the first time together in one book to the delight of fans of Tim Powers, who provides exciting dark looks at the hearts of people forced to select between soul sapping evils.

Harriet Klausner

Frail-Joan Frances Turner

Joan Frances Turner
Ace, Oct 4 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441020706

Zombie was always a part of the population, but unless there was a significant outbreak, normal humans assumed these creatures were a George Romero Pittsburgh myth. These reanimated corpses exist filled with maggots and rotting leaking flesh. One bite of a living human changes the victim into a zombie.

The Feeding Plague turned America to Dust changing humans and zombies into something else. Amy is one of the humans in post-apocalyptic America who did not catch the Feeding Plague. In fact in her small-town, Amy is the only pure Frail human left. She befriends an Ex, Lisa, who like all of her species is invulnerable; as the Ex populace is stronger, faster, and deadlier than the two groups they evolved from. The pair is kidnapped and taken to a community run by Exs who enslave the Frail. Lisa protects and constantly saves Amy from the masters until she is brought to a scientific lab run by an Ex. There she learns about the Frails and Humans, a place where both groups are treated equally.

Frail is an incredible horror thriller that contains plenty of post-apocalyptic action while also asking what makes a sentient being human as readers will consider Descartes: “I think therefore I am.” and Sartre’s “I am, therefore I think.” Amy is a courageous human who is very afraid but uses her fears to escape from essences who want to harm her. Her relationship with Lisa affirms that diverse beings can become friends. Joan Frances Turner provides a tense thriller that readers will devour.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Wings of Fire-Caris Roane

Wings of Fire
Caris Roane
St. Martin’s, Aug 30 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312533731

Three months ago the winged Warrior of the Blood Antony Medichi lost his woman who was abducted. He knows she is special as he is her Guardian of Ascension who failed to protect her. Antony realizes his beloved breh haden soul mate Parisa Lovejoy is an anomaly with her beauty, intelligence and power. He vows to find and rescue her from the malevolent Roth, agent of even more evil Commander Greaves.

Antony also continues to hunt down the invading death vampires and other rogue vampires who harm Earth. Meanwhile death vampire Commander Greaves, who kidnaps female mortals to drink their blood, vampire knows his latest captive Parisa is special due to her voyeur skills. Her only hope for salvation and saving other blood slaves resides with Antony if she accepts her Guardian as her eternal soul mate.

The latest Guardians of Ascension vampire romantic thriller (see The Burning Skies and Ascension) is a terrific tale as Caris Roane provides more insight into the divided vampire culture though the actions and reactions of the cast. The three prime characters make a delightful paranormal triangle as the death vampire plans to drink the blood of the Ascension whose soul mate is coming in an enjoyable urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Tempted-Elisabeth Naughton

Elisabeth Naughton
Sourcebooks, Sep 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781402260469

Atlanta arranges the abduction of Argoela Princess Isadora. After using a fertility spell on her prisoner, the evil Atlanta sends Isadora to Pandora Island. She next manipulates her son Demetrius the Eternal Guardian to go to Pandora Island expecting to rescue his beloved; but his mom has different “matchmaking” ideas for her son. She expects the pair to produce her grandchild who will have blood ties to goddesses for her use.

Isadora and Demetrius are attracted to each other as they are soul mates due to a Hera curse. He tries to avoid her and conceal his passion for her behind a face of scorn; however, she refuses to accept his dark brooding nature and goes after his love.

Once the players are set, this Eternal Guardian romantic fantasy (see Marked and Entwined) is a fast-paced twisting Elisabeth Naughton original Greek mythos. The lead protagonists struggle with outside interference and worse love as each wonders if their feelings are real or Goddess driven. With the mother from Hades adding evil to the mix, series fans will enjoy this exciting entry.

Harriet Klausner

No Proper Lady-Isabel Cooper

No Proper Lady
Isabel Cooper
Sourcebooks, Sep 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402259524

The demonic horde is winning the war against humanity. Desperate, the human forces decide to send back several centuries Joan the warrior assassin to kill Alex Reynell the evil wizard and destroy his arcane book of spells before the malevolence conjures up the demons to this plane.

Joan arrives in 1888 England where she immediately rescues Simon Grenville the magician from attacking cerberi. She explains her mission to him even as Joan cannot believe there are birds flying in the air and the landscape is green. Simon takes Joan to his home while concealing from his guest that he plans to use her to enact revenge against his former best friend Alex who nearly killed his sister. As he teaches her how to behave in proper Victorian society, they fall in love, but she knows the mission comes first while he changes his mind and believes her safety is more t important than anything else.

No Proper Lady is a refreshing romantic urban fantasy starring a female Terminator in Victorian England. The story line is loaded with action whether the heroine is fighting the Alex and his minion or struggling to understand the restrictive rules of High Society in which she wonders how a warrior can hide a sword while dancing and wearing tons of uncomfortable clothing. Part of the fun is the reactions by the heroine to the environment (no Dickens anti Industrial Revolution descriptions) and to love. Fans will enjoy going back in time with Isabel Cooper as our guide.

Harriet Klausner

In Blood We Trust-Christine Cody

In Blood We Trust
Christine Cody
Berkley, Sep 27 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441020874

The Monsters have won the war over humanity in spite of the horrific efforts of the specially chosen and trained Witches, whose numbers dwindled dramatically during the hostilities, to prevent the latest calamity from occurring. However, the two prime factions who make up the Monster alliance distrust one another as their physiological needs radically differ. The Reds drink blood for sustenance while the Civils do not.

Tension is great between the two groups, but the shot heard round the Bloodlands happens when young vampires kill a Civil. Neither side cares who provoked whim; instead as a monster war ignites, Mariah the shapeshifting legend helps her vampiric bond mate Gabriel escape.

The third drought-laden Bloodlands post-apocalyptic thriller is an exciting tale that for much of the story line focuses on the big picture monster in-fighting, but later takes a sudden disruptive narrow perspective by concentrating on the lead protagonists of the previous two fantasies (see Blood Rules). Still fans will enjoy the war between the monsters that forces beleaguered Mariah and Gabriel to flee for their lives from lethal unruly mobs as their heroics becomes yesterday’s news.

Harriet Klausner

Phobos: Mayan Fear-Steve Alten

Phobos: Mayan Fear
Steve Alten
Tor, Oct 11 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780765330338

Five centuries ago the Mayan Popul Vul predicted that Michael Gabriel will sacrifice himself to save Earth from an alien invasion in December 2012. The Mayan forecast also included that Michael would sire twin supermen (Jacob and Immanuel) and a third super person Lilith Eve Robinson born at about the same time as the twins. All three come true by 2013 as the female confronted the twins for the souls of mankind (see Domain and Resurrection).

However, just like greed almost led to the extinction of humanity on December 12, 2012, a new threat is caused by scientists reaching for the Tree of Knowledge with particle physics experiments. By 2047, a black hole expanding from within poses a planetary extinction. To prevent the end of the earth, a reluctant Immanuel must go back to the time of his late grandfather Julius at a time when the aliens are coming in order to stop the Big Bang as predicted by the Mayans centuries ago.

Although the death count is overkilled, the third Domain thriller is an exciting fast-paced cautionary tale. That warning also carries a second edge as the supportive science interwoven into the plot along with the zillion disasters lacks depth to defend the dire predictions. Still readers will enjoy this doomsday countdown.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Monster’s Corner-Edited by Christopher Golden

The Monster’s Corner
Edited by Christopher Golden
St. Martin’s Griffin, Sep 27 2011, $14.99
ISBN 9780312646134

The Monster’s Corner is an entertaining collection of nineteen tales in which monsters (in our eyes) tell their respective story as heroes in their eyes (or whatever orbs they have). All the entries are quite good adhering to the Frankenstein legend that asks who the monster is. David Moody's "Big Man" is a well written nod to Mary Shelly’s classic while Kevin J. Anderson updates the Frankenstein's to 1938 Germany in 1938 in "Torn Stitches, Shattered Glass". Gary Braunbeck’s “And You Still Wonder Why Our First Impulse Is to Kill You” looks deeply and amusingly at what makes up a monster as the other side has nightmares about humans hunting and stalking them. Two centuries of slavery has a "Rakshasi" (by Kelly Armstrong) seeking freedom. Finally Simon R. Green takes a close look at Satan’s attempts to recruit Christ in "Jesus and Satan Go Jogging in the Desert" while John Maberry stars Saint John in his entry that even monsters are God's creation. From sexual predators (see Tananarive Due’s “The Lake” and David Liss’ “The Awkward Age”) to the gorgon Sarah Pinborough’s “The Screaming Room) to a faerie changeling starring in “The Cruel Thief of Rosy Infants” (by Tom Piccirilli) to Kate Shugak in “Siren Song” by Dana Stabenow, the monsters want their time in court as they demand the media especially authors stop spinning lies about them.

Harriet Klausner

The Restoration Game-Ken MacLeod

The Restoration Game
Ken MacLeod
PYR, Sep 20 2011, $16.00
ISBN 9781616145255

Her CIA asset mom Amanda who wrote the definitive mythology on Krassnia asks her game designer daughter Lucy Stone to create a special interactive multiplayer game based on their heritage. Lucy who has not been back to Krassnia, the former Soviet Autonomous Region since they left when she was a small child, looks forward to going “home”.

Amanda’s objective is to enable the country’s revolutionaries to use the game clandestinely to communicate and cohesively organize. As she readjusts to the locality’s language, Lucy hears tales about a power source high in the mountains that the Soviets never could replicate, but has renewed interests from outside parties not concerned about collateral damage.

Starting with Newton’s Laws of Motion combined with Murphy’s Law, The Restoration Game is an insightful satirical espionage thriller. The story line contains an incredible amount of information on Krassnia such as how the Soviets converted a nation filled with literates into illiterates with a stroke of a pen and the Post-Soviet government turned a nation filled with literates into illiterates with a stroke of a keyboard. Although there is so much going on in terms of culture, mythology and the power source, the story line rarely accelerates. Readers who appreciate a deep cerebral thriller will enjoy a visit to Krassnia.

Harriet Klausner

Blackdog-K.V. Johansen

K.V. Johansen
PYR, Sep 20 2011, $17.00
ISBN 9781616145217

In Lissavakail located in the Pillars of the Sky near a red coppery looking lake of the same name, blood flows as a massacre occurs. Caravan guard Holla Sayan starts to sneak out of the town, but stops when he sees a little girl and her obviously dying dog. He rescues the child while her dog, no longer needing to keep her safe, dies.

Holla was unaware that he recued the powerless Goddess Attalissa. As they flee the devastated town, Holla struggles with his sanity due to the Blackdog guardian spirit who was once a devil residing inside of him. Still he guides her onto the road heading to the Red Desert while mad Gods, traitors and necromancers pursue.

Blackdog is a fun fantasy due to the Johansen fantasy realm coming across as real even with some powerful and other powerless Gods walking amongst the commoners. The story line is complex as treachery threatens the lands while the lead protagonists are fully developed with the Goddess being a child without power and the warrior being possessed. Readers will enjoy this strong tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Rift Walker-Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith

The Rift Walker
Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith
PYR, Sep 9 2011, $16.00
ISBN 9781616145231

In 1870, vampires came out of the coffins to attack western civilizations in the northern temperate zone. Instead of leading a counterinsurgency, human leaders fled south while their former subjects became food for the conquerors. A century and a half later, the world remains divided between the vampire and human zones.

The two human superpowers seek an alliance between the American Republic, which recently took back St, Louis from the vampires, and the Equatorian Empire. To cement the alliance, Senator Clark and Princess Adele marry. The human plan is to turn back the clock to over a century ago when vampire clans were myths by cleansing the north from this insidious species. However, Adele is horrified with the genocide which includes her as the key because the geomancers believe she can tap into the earth’s power pulsing through ley lines, which used correctly would end the blight but also kill her beloved Greyfriar. Princess Adele flees her marriage, ending the compact between the two super human powers and turns to Greyfriar who saved her life when British Vampire Clan Lord Prince Cesare threatened her. Taking advantage of the human alliance collapse, Prince Cesare leads an assault on Equatoria while insulted Clark considers likewise.

The second Vampire Empire fantasy (see Greyfriar) is a terrific alternate history and future thriller in which Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith deftly merge politics and war with a touch of romance. Fast-paced from the moment an unhappy Adele flees with a strong cast (human and vampire); The Rift Walker is a fabulous tale as readers will believe vampire clans exist and control vast areas.

Harriet Klausner

The Cold Commands-Richard K. Morgan

The Cold Commands
Richard K. Morgan
Del Rey, Oct 11 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345493064

Warrior Ringil “Gil” Eskiath is an outcast exiled even by his family due to his sexual preference. Recently he has drawn the ire of slave traders as he has raided and freed their merchandise. However, he needs a haven since the slave traders seek his head. Gil goes to Yhelteth where his friend the last remaining Kiriath, Archeth Indamaninarmal serves as adviser to the emperor. Her race stopped the deployment of the dark magic by the Aldrain, but vanished afterward.

A Kiriath built machine falls from its orbit with the message that the Illwrack Changeling sleeps on an unknown island but was raised in the Grey Places where Aldrain was exiled to by the Kiriath. The machine claims the human lad is showing signs of awakening. When the Changeling arises, Aldrain plans to use it so he can return to this world triumphantly. Gil and his only two friends Archeth and Egar the Dragonbane Majak fighter are the only hope to save mankind.

The second Eskiath fantasy (see The Steel Remains) is a fabulous tale as the intrepid trio and other allies venture off to prevent the awakening. None of the threesome wants to go, but each has the other’s back and a sense that they could obtain some redemption for deeds they have done. The Changeling is a fascinating “villain” who has spent a short lifetime trapped in the other realm while sleeping in this tone. Loaded with action, award-winning science fiction author Richard K. Morgan shows he a skilled a fantasist with thisgreat character driven quest thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Ready Player One-Ernest Cline

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
Crown, Aug 16 2011, $24.00
ISBN: 9780307887436

In 2044, the real world is an ugly place to live, but those who do not want to die like high school student Wade Watts escape a high rise Lego like stacked trailer park via going virtual inside of the most popular online game, OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation). The late James Halliday constructed the electronic puzzler filed with riddle and games that has been home to billions of “gunters” competing for years to find the three magical keys to open the gates and therefore win the ultimate prize: ownership of the extremely successful and affluent OASIS Company.

Inside OASIS Wade’s character is impoverished Parzival. When Parzival finds the copper key and opens the first gate, other gunters chase after him. Worse are the "“Sixers”" working for IOI corporation led by Sorrento; their job is to prevent anyone from succeeding. Their agents are searching for the egg are called Sixers. As Sorrento plans to charge a fee for participating in the game, his agents hunt Parzival and his allies on line and Wade in reality.

Nostalgia 1980s fans will enjoy this futuristic Tron, as many of the games and other pop icons from that era appear inside of OASIS. The story line is at its best when Parzival works the clues while others stalk him; it slows down somewhat with overkill description of the games employed inside of OASIS. Still fans will enjoy this entertaining tale as virtual reality is the only thing keeping social reality from total splintering.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Steel and Other Stories-Richard Matheson

Steel and Other Stories
Richard Matheson
Tor, Sep 27 2011, $14.99
ISBN 9780765329424

This is a terrific collection that wastes no time getting started with the classic Steel, which became a Twilight Zone episode and will soon be a movie. Another oldie but goody is "The Splendid Source" used as the basis of one of The Family Guy shows. Of the fourteen other short stories, most were written in the 1950s but like Steel and The Splendid Source hold up nicely six decades later. Especially good are “The Traveler” who goes back in time to observe the crucifixion and eerie timely “Descent” as sunsets on Sunset Boulevard will be replaced by artificial sunsets. The two more current entries show Mr. Matheson remains a master as “Dr. Morton’s Folly” is about a vampire needing fang work and “The Window of Time” in which a widower octogenarian leaves his daughter’s Brooklyn home for a retirement home that takes him back to the spring of his life. Mr. Matheson will leave his audience appreciative of his strong wry anthology with works like “A Visit to Santa” by a whining lad and his parents, and “When Day Is Dun” wishing earth a fond but sad goodnight.

Harriet Klausner

The Dark Glamour-Gabriella Pierce

The Dark Glamour
Gabriella Pierce
Morrow, Aug 30 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061434907

Recently married Jane Doran buried her beloved grandma and learned she was a witch. She hides from the mother-in-law from hell Lynne the witch in a Manhattan dump near the Port Authority using the guise of Caroline Chase. Jane knows Lynne’s plans for her involve a witch granddaughter to replace her late heir six years old daughter Annette who died two decades ago. Lynne offers three million to anyone who brings them home safely; while NYPD names the newlyweds as persons of interest in a cab accident in which the driver vanished.

She wonders whether Malcolm who has vanished is as evil as his mother as she assumes he murdered her grandma but also gave Jane access to a special safe-deposit box filled with seemingly endless cash and a glass unicorn that belonged to his Annette. Jane uses the unicorn to learn Annette lives in wretched conditions, but loses the connection when the unicorn breaks. She needs access to other Annette items that can only be found in the den of her enemy at 666 Park Avenue. With the help of Wiccan like Dee, Jane turns into a Brazilian sexy baroness Ella. André Dalcascu arrives from Romania seeking an alliance with Lynne and her horde. Ella is attracted André.

The sequel to 666 Park Avenue is an entertaining chick lit urban fantasy starring a woman in peril from malevolent witches led by a matriarch who needs the birth of the next generation replacement. The story line is fast-paced while Jane wonders what happened to her life ever since she married the offspring of a she-demon. Although the asides while in trouble seem unlikely semi-noir for a kick butt rookie, readers will enjoy The Dark Glamour.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Rights-Kristen Painter

Blood Rights
Kristen Painter
Orbit, Oct 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780316084772

Chrysabelle the human was bred to be a comarré blood slave to Lord Algernon the vampire. She dreams of freedom but knows the fate of an escaped slave. However, someone murders her master, which leads to a frightened Chrysabelle fleeing for her life. The authorities suspect the ungrateful slave killed Algernon as she ran away and took an artifact ring with her.

Ruthless vampiress Tatiana wants that ring to give to the Dark One that will cause destruction of the innocent; she will kill the comarré who took it. Chrysabelle meets Malkolm the vampire exile who refuses to drink human blood because he is cursed to kill those he dined on. She also meets his two friends Fiona the ghost and the preacher. As Mal and allies protect Chrysabelle from the vile Tatiana, he wonders who will protect the blood slave from him as he obsesses over wanting to taste her.

This is an exhilarating futuristic urban fantasy that deftly focuses on the vampire society and the slaves who are sustenance to them. Chrysabelle is a fascinating protagonist who has no rights until she flees in hopes of making it to the human sector. Her support crew starting with Mal and his buddies as well as others are fully developed as is the villainess, but this is Chrysabelle’s tale as she takes a chance on freedom knowing what happens to caught runaway slaves especially whose master is dead.

Harriet Klausner

Snuff-Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett
HarperCollins, Oct 11 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9780062011848

Ankh-Morpork City Watch Commander Sam Vimes faces his most difficult assignment in years. His Grace Sir Samuel, the Duke of Ankh, will spend two torturious weeks rusticating with his wife Sybil and their six years old son Young Sam at her family’s estate. Sam loves the idea of spending time with his beloved spouse and son, but his in-laws make a boring vacation worse and not worth changing from his cardboard soles.

However, life picks up as Vimes quickly gets involved with the locals when someone brutally murders a female goblin. Feeney the inexperienced local copper and Willikens the gentleman’s gentleman assist Vimes as he works vacation time for no pay investigating the homicide.

The latest Discworld satire (see I Shall Wear Midnight) is a wonderful entry that looks deeply at inalienable human (and other species) rights and bigotry to take away those accepted rights. Fast-paced Vimes is at his cynical best as he learns life in the country means a female woodcutter works with woodies and that rural does not mean crime free; as he leads the inquiry into the vicious murder of the Goblin Girl. Terry Pratchett provides a strong entry filled with social commentary intertwined into an exciting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Ashes of a Black Frost-Chris Evans

Ashes of a Black Frost
Chris Evans
Gallery, Oct 18 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9781439180662

Major Konowa knows his Iron Elves’ Swift Dragon unit fought valiantly against the elf witch. Those who survived the epic combat need time to heal, but the adversary still comes at them relentlessly. Konowa knows his courageous battered force is in trouble as the Shadow Monarch continues its evil assault though somewhat abated.

Struggling with what to do next, Konowa decides his side has one chance, which is to take the war directly to the enemy rather than retreat. He understands waiting to heal is lethally dangerous so he chooses a seemingly suicidal mission, which ironically will not be appreciated by the people of the Calahrian Empire who his Iron Elves try to protect as the tattoo on them symbolizes their subservience to the enemy that they fight against with their blood and guts. The major will soon learn probably too late the evil enemy he fights against is nothing compared to the real evil enemy lurking in the fog and chaos of war.

Book 3 of the Iron Elves military fantasy (see A Darkness Forged in Fire and The Light of Burning Shadows) is a super entry as the beleaguered Swift Dragon struggle to keep fighting while those they keep safe (mostly humans) loathe them. The story line is action-packed and at its best when the focus is on combat, military readiness and the impact of war on the soldiers and the civilians. When the plot turns romantic it detracts from an otherwise excellent blood and guts thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Lord of Souls-Greg Keyes

Lord of Souls
Greg Keyes
Del Rey, Sep 27 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345508027

Out of the realm of Oblivion came the floating mountain city Umbriel. Wherever this city in the sky travels, people on the ground below die and rise again to serve their new masters. The rulers of this soul eating place are the decadent Umbria and the immortal lords who are served by the enslaved Skrows and an invincible army of the undead.

Two residents of the deadly floating city are Annaig the human slave working for Tamriel Prince Attrebus to find a way to destroy Umbriel and Glim the Argonian leading a revolt by the Skrows. Attrebus seeks a magic sword which allegedly is the only source to destroy the city of doom. He is working with his friend Sul the mage to evacuate the people in the path of the monstrosity. When Attrebus is captured by the enemy, Sul rescues him. They escape to Oblivion where the roots of the Umbriel crisis actually began and then go to the city in the sky to figure out how to end Unbria’s reign.

Based on the Elder Scrolls® video gaming series, Lord of Souls is the sequel to The Infernal City as the events of Lord of Souls occur between the fourth and fifth games. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Greg Keyes resets the parameters of the realm and brings out the three heroic protagonists battling the insidious enemy. Fans of the games will enjoy the action but first should read the Infernal City.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Traitor's Daughter-Paula Brandon

The Traitor's Daughter
Paula Brandon
Spectra, Oct 4 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9780553583809

On the Veiled Isles, the eighteen year old daughter of affluent Faerlonnis Overlord the Magnifico Aureste Belandor, Jianna travels to the home of her fiancé Magnifico Tribarri. However, she never completes her journey; highwaymen capture the spoiled Jianna and take her to a rebel stronghold.

Jianna quickly realizes she is prisoner to her Aunt Magnifico Onarto. Estranged from her brother the family patriarch, Onarto plans to use her niece to help her take control of the Berlandor fortune and to keep Aureste under her thumb. Though the teen hears horrible tales accusing her father of atrocities, she rejects them as she believes he is a kind person. Meanwhile only rebel sympathizer Falaste Rione the physician is nice to her. As she begins to see her privileged lifestyle though the eyes of the lower classes, Jianna reconsiders what she knows about life on the increasingly treacherous Veiled Isles.

The key to the complex coming of age fantasy is the intricate society that is becoming unglued with one of the cornerstones (magic) beginning to fail. Jianna emulates the changes that are occurring to the veiled isles as open rebellion has begun. With a strong cast including the fully developed Brandon world, sub-genre readers will enjoy visiting the Veiled Isles.

Harriet Klausner

Mack Dunston’s Inferno-Paul Collins

Mack Dunston’s Inferno
Paul Collins
iUniverse Publishing, Jun 27 2011, $12.95
ISBN: 9781462032761

Mack “Max” Dunstan the actor dies. He will be remembered for his starring roles in The Ten Commandments, Planet of the Apes and Ben-Hur, etc. but also for his rigid stand on gun rights as an NRA spokesman and president.

He enters the spirit world where the “Supreme Court” rules him unworthy though he has problems understanding why. He meets the ancient Roman poet Virgil who will serves as his tour guide of Hades before Max’s day in Judgment Court overseen by Judge Satan. Max’s journey introduces him to a capitalist loan shark and other burning traveling sinners ranging from the infamous like Manson, Dahmer and the Ripper to the sex revolutionaries like Heffner and Flynt to the holier than God pseudo religious like Swaggert, Robertson and Graham. The dead actor also encounters those who died because people like him and his NRA cronies blocked gun control. This group condemns him for enabling violence as people may kill people but guns is an easily available enabler.

Modernizing Dante’s Divine Comedy while also mindful of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire” with Max as Heston and other twentieth century personal like General Powell and Rowlings making appearances in Paul Collins’ powerful satirical lampooning of righteous American society. The journey into the inferno is filled with mockery and biting humor as Max meets the obvious infamous and a horde of the famous he never would have guessed would be inside the fires. However, it is the victims of guns who bring the poignancy to the parable as they never got to speak when alive; but the muffle of the Second Amendment advocates no longer applies (except as a condemnation) inside of Mack Dunstan’s Inferno.

Harriet Klausner

Vamparazzi-Laura Resnick

Laura Resnick
Daw, Oct 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406875

Struggling actress Esther Diamond dreams of making it big on Broadway, but also knows that mythological and supernatural creatures exist (see Unsympathetic Magic and Doppelgangster). For instance one of her closest friends is bookstore owner Max, a three hundred and fifty years old retired vampire slayer who drank an alchemist elixir that does not make him immortal but he ages very slowly makes him look a normal middle aged man.

Esther performs as the love interest in the off Broadway production of The Vampire starring Daemon Ravel as a man who believes he is a bloodsucker. She dislikes the narcissistic phony Daemon. One of his groupies Jane dresses up like his love interest and attacks Esther. The police find the corpse of Jane drained of blood. Esther’s sort of boyfriend warns her she could be in danger as Jane is not the first victim. Concerned and frightened Esther Consults with Max as she believes a real Undead is the serial killing predator.

Vamparazzi is a laugh out loud urban fantasy satire that lampoons the excesses of fandom, paparazzi and the sub-genre. Intrepid Esther is fearless as she chooses fight rather than flight by facing danger. The support cast adds humor or peril while anchoring a New York City where vamps, slayers and retirees reside. Laura Resnick writes an entertaining “bloodless” serial killer thriller starring a delightful kick butt (and other bodily parts) heroine.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dead Mann Walking-Stefan Petrucha

Dead Mann Walking
Stefan Petrucha
Roc, Oct 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451464217

When Hessius Mann was a Liveblood he was a cop, but was executed by the state for murdering his wife Lenore after learning she was having an affair with his superior Chief Detective Thomas Booth. After he died, DNA evidence that was suppressed surfaced so to make amends the state using recent medical technology reanimated him as a Chak with a so sorry and no more. Though his memory stinks, he opens up a private investigative firm and hires former crack-head Liveblood Misty as his office assistant.

Attorney William Turgen hires Hess to find him a missing Chak Frank Boyle. Frank’s father just died and left him millions while cutting his two Liveblood children out of the will. The client says he has until tonight to bring Frank to the office before his siblings get rid of him. Hessius learns from his pal turning feral Jonesey that the target is not in the Bones section but in Fort Hammer's Bedland dead zone. They meet the intelligent Frank and his young sidekick just before the nasty Hakkers assault the compound; this is just the start of another day in hell for a Dead Mann Walking.

Dead Mann Walking is an engaging allegorical satirical urban fantasy that lampoons society for bigotry and for the obsession by some to save the unborn until they are born when they become discards. The amusing story line is fast-paced, which is not an easy condition for a Chak. With a zombie noir feel to the tale, readers will enjoy the escapades of Hess, private investigator.

Harriet Klausner

Mercury Rises-Robert Kroese

Mercury Rises
Robert Kroese
AmazonEncore, Oct 18 2011, $15.95
ISBN: 9781612180861

Banner religious reporter Christine Temetri had become indifferent to the frequent End of Times until she met even more indifferent than her Mercury the Fallen Angel who believes Rice Krispy Treats is heaven. They teamed up with others to delay Karl Grissom the Antichrist leaving his mom’s attic to start Armageddon (see Mercury Falls) though much of the Banner staff died in the Anaheim earthquake. Meanwhile author Eddie Pratt the demon has a book to write; a tale about a rogue angel and Armageddon.

After negotiating with a heavenly and hellish bureaucracy that makes Congress look proactive, the angel and the journalist have no time to rest on their laurels. While FBI Agent Slater investigates the Anaheim destruction that has ties to Africa, billionaire Karl Grissom using the scientific method prepares them to learn the secret of the universe by smashing the universe to see what happens. At the same time, Ancient Ones claim a higher order than angels and demons. Temetri and Mercury first must stop the end of the universe in the name of the tree of knowledge experiment from occurring and if successful must find a compromise with the Ancient bureaucracy that makes heaven, hell and congress seem cooperatively active.

Once again Robert Kroese satirizes the commercialization and cynical claims of owning heaven while demonizing others with mocking shots at industry, politics, science and religion making sure everyone lives a hellish life. The story line is amusingly fast-paced as time has begun ticking down to the self-fulfilling prophecy of the End of Times. With a nod to Travolta’s Michael inside of Smith’s Dogma, fans will appreciate Mercury Rises as the reporter demands the angel stop snacking on sugared treats as that is bad for your health.

Harriet Klausner

Awakenings-Edward Lazellari

Edward Lazellari
Tor, Aug 30 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765327871

Married with children NYPD officer Cal MacDonnell loner photographer Seth Raincrest seemingly have nothing in common. Yet both share something critical in which neither can remember anything about their lives beyond the past thirteen years. The past just seem to never exist for either man.

They soon share a second problem when otherworldly essences stalk them. These malevolent seem to know what happened to Cal and Seth thirteen years ago. Leilani the centaur arrives and asks the two beleaguered males to trust her as she will help them learn what they forgot and why. She escorts them to Aandor, where they performed a major duty thirteen years ago before the amnesia curse made them forget and now must begin a quest for the lost heir who can save the kingdom.

This is an entertaining quest fantasy that starts off as an urban fantasy when the two Manhattan residents are being hunted by paranormal creatures on the streets of the city. Part of the fun is the reaction of secondary characters especially in the city like Cal’s twenty first century wife Cat having doubts that their Kindergarten aged daughter Bree marrying a minor medieval mindset is reasonable for her. Although Aandor is more typical of the genre, readers will relish the two heroes struggling with remembering what happened on their last visit while dodging some nasty beings who are also searching for the lost heir in two realms.

Harriet Klausner

Night of the Living Dead Christian: One Man's Ferociously Funny Quest to Discover What It Means to Be Truly Transformed-Matt Mikalatos

Night of the Living Dead Christian: One Man's Ferociously Funny Quest to Discover What It Means to Be Truly Transformed
Matt Mikalatos
Tyndale, Oct 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 978141433880

Chief Officer of the Neighborhood Watch Matt Mikalatos is on patrol when he encounters mad scientist Doc Culbertson. Doc tells Matt that he constructed a gizmo that gets into a werewolf’s head. Matt ridicules the claim insisting there are no monsters until he observes a horde of zombies pursued by a werewolf. Fearing the neighborhood will become unsafe,, Matt accompanied by Doc trace the Lycan to the home of Luther Martin whose wife left him a week ago when she noticed the changes.

Luther wants to rid himself of his inner beast so he can become a normal human. He knows transformation to Christianity is the king of conversion, but he is not a Christian having turned away from his father’s rigid religious doctrine. Matt and his new friends want to help Luther. They visit a church filled with a flock of zombies, a vampire who like Luther wants to revert to pure human, and a psychiatrist who counsels them. The despondent werewolf asks a pastor for answers. The response is simple, but Luther wonders how he failed to grasp the Word before; as he and his friends comprehend a transformed life starts with faith.

In his follow-up to the Imaginary Jesus, Matt Mikalatos provides a thought-provoking parable insisting there are monsters amongst us disguised as Christians claiming to be faithful yet unable to control their inner beast. Focusing on converting those beastly desires to become the type of person God wants of us takes different paths for different people at different times in their lives. Readers will appreciate Mr. Mikalatos’ profound Christian morality tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 22, 2011

Floating Staircase-Ronald Malfi

Floating Staircase
Ronald Malfi
Medallion, Oct 1 2011, $14.95
ISBN 9781605424361

With the success of The Ocean Serene, bestselling horror writer Travis Glasgow and his wife Jodie buy a house in rustic Westlake, Maryland near where his brother Adam resides. Travis feels good to reconnect with his sibling and believes he will finally move past the guilt he has felt since he was thirteen and his other brother Kyle, the actual star of his novel, drowned.

Travis learns that a previous resident’s son Elijah Dentman drowned in the nearby lake. The tragedy reminds him of what happened to Kyle; that and other clues lead the author to conclude the death is being covered up. Feeling an obsessive need to learn the truth and a sense of something, perhaps the essence that wakes him with bumps in the night, is prodding his out of control need. Thus, Travis investigates what happened to Elijah believing the truth will set him free of his compulsion.

This is a super haunted house ghost story starring an interesting protagonist and a great final turn of the screw twist. The story line is fast-paced as tension mounts while Travis begins to learn much more than he expected. This is a must read for horror fans.

Harriet Klausner

Cosmic Forces-Gregory Lamberson

Cosmic Forces
Gregory Lamberson
Medallion, Oct 1 2011, $14.95
ISBN 9781605424088

Private investigator Jake Helman has successfully fought against the darkest Cosmic Forces. Mrs. White better known as Marla Madigon wife of the corrupt New York City mayor, wants to hire him to prove her spouse Myron is cheating on her. His NYPD time tells him to stay out of a domestic dispute, but she tosses the kids card at the softy and besides her spouse is a vindictive vicious piece of trash so he accepts the case. That inquiry leads to influential Karlin Reichard.

Joyce the girlfriend of his former partner Edgar the Raven asks Helman to speak with her angry teenage son Martin. He follows a raging Martin to the Dreamers Castle. Helman investigates the Dreamers only to find the trail leads to abuses of power. Meanwhile his late wife Sheryl Agent of the Sphere of Light asks Helman to do her a favor. She wants him to locate the Destroyer of Souls who may be involved in her missing boyfriend Abel of bible fame.

The third Helman hard-boiled urban fantasy horror tale (see Personal Demons and Desperate Souls) is an exciting entry as the tough sleuth with a heart fights monsters from the otherworld and from this plane. Readers will enjoy his three investigative cases as all roads lead to those who abuse power whether they are from hell, earth or otherwise. With a nod to Dresden, readers will appreciate the case load of kick butt softy Jake Helman.

Harriet Klausner

Black Light-Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Stephen Romano

Black Light
Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Stephen Romano
Little, Brown/Mulholland, Oct 5 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9780316196710

Years ago when he was seven Buck Carlsbad lived a normal happy childhood until the Horrible evil murdered his parents and left him dead too. Instead he came back but with a skill from the beyond that enables him to be the exorcist of last resort. However, in spite of his success at ingesting malevolent spirits like normal people eating candy, Buck remains obsessed with finding the Horrible who ended his childhood; so far he has failed at the one objective that keeps him alive.

In July 2012, Buck and the voices only he hears are disturbed by a high speed rail from Los Angeles through the California desert to Las Vegas in under an hour. The train will go through a spot at over four hundred miles an hour where Buck knows personally how paranormally dangerous it is. He prefers not to ride the Jaeger Laser on its maiden voyage, but Buck feels he has no choice but to return to where his parents were murdered and he changed. Thus he agrees to keep the evil away from the Jaeger Laser as top celebrities and politicians take to the rails.

Black Light is an exciting noir urban fantasy horror novel starring an intriguing yet somewhat underdeveloped hero. The story line is as fast as the speeding Jaeger Laser while the audience anticipates the desert devastation as Buck battles some vicious opponents. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this entertaining thriller as Buck learns you can go home but do you want to risk that as the screenwriters of some of the Saw movies provide an engaging tale.

Harriet Klausner

Death Island-Joan Conning Afman

Death Island
Joan Conning Afman
Camel Press, Oct 1 2011, $16.95
ISBN: 9781603818490

In 2020 Congress passed a law that created the ultimate prison for those convicted of capitol punishment offences: a one way ticket to Death Island. No one escapes from this rock as the masses of TV viewers can tell who watch each week this true reality show.

A jury of his peers convicts Danny Manning of being the notorious serial killer Axe Murderer. He insists he is innocent having murdered no one, but he is sent to Death Island for killing five women including his wife Katie. Danny is dropped from a copter along with obese fiftyish financial thief Tom Koranda. He survives the aptly named island for now due mostly to psychopath Martin Sicilia adopting him and an obsession to escape in order to find the real killer; Tom is murdered in less than a week.

Danny’s next door neighbor in Northington, Connecticut Charlie Adjavon believes he is innocent especially when a sixth victim is found in New Haven. She would like to help him, but has no idea how. Besides she believes her husband Reverend Paul is having an affair with her very tall married friend Heather Waverly, but begins to wonder whether her BFF who threw the first stone at very tall Heather is the other woman.

Death Island mixes together an adult Lord of the Flies and Roman Coliseum premises with Survivor rules inside of the Schwarzenegger movie The Running Man. The story line is at its best on the island where plants and animals, especially two legged, stalk. Although suddenly emotional Charlie trying to help Danny (not the retired basketball star) seems over the top of Mount Frissell, fans will enjoy wondering whether the protagonist will escape from Death Island.

Harriet Klausner

Aloha From Hell-Richard Kadrey

Aloha From Hell
Richard Kadrey
Harper Voyager, Oct 18 2011, $23.99
ISBN: 9780061714320

Lucifer the Fallen Angel has left Hell for Heaven. His abdication fails to eliminate sin as the monotheistic churches claimed it would, but instead leaves behind an even more dangerous power struggle to sit on his former throne.

Avenging Nephilim James “Sandman Slim” Stark recently killed Mason Faim the magician who exiled him to Hell where he became Lucifer’s bodyguard for over a decade. Mason finds he owes his “friend” for sending him to Hell were he plans his new gig to deploy the faithful on an invasion of Heaven. Kissi the demon encourages Mason to take the war to the enemy as his evil essence has plans to take over regardless of who survives the end of days combat.

Stark ponders why God remains on vacation instead of acting to prevent the war that could end the universe. He understands the Lord’s free will doctrine, so expecting no divine intervention; he decides to enter Hell on a Heavenly cause; besides which he prays he can bring his murdered girlfriend back with him if he escapes to los Angeles.

The third Sandman Slim urban fantasy (see Sandman Slim and Kill the Dead) is a delightful dark humorous noir starring an antihero who will persuade readers that Los Angeles is as hellish of a place as Hell is. The support cast on all sides of the conflict is developed to enhance an exhilarating violently over the top of the Tower of Babel plot. Fans will enjoy Richard Kadrey’s latest contrary satirical spin with his fabulous twisting End of Days.

Harriet Klausner

Awake At Dawn-C.C. Hunter

Awake At Dawn
C.C. Hunter
St. Martin’s Griffin, Oct 11 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780312624682

This has been a particular difficult summer for Kylie Galen who recently discovered she had previously dormant special abilities inherited from her biological father. However having been adopted she had no one to mentor her on using these powers. Instead she is learning the extent of her new found skills the hard way through trial and error with an emphasis on the latter.

Shadow Falls Camp caters to those with supernatural powers. The counselors try to determine what Kylie can do, but they are concerned as she keeps manifesting new skills at an alarming unheard of rate. A female ghost haunts Kylie; the spirit insists the teen has the ability to save a friend. Kylie is heartbroken that shapeshifter Derek leaves her but upon his return he wants to pick up where they were as if he did not dump her. She has Lucas the werewolf in her life but he demands she prove she no longer thirsts for Derek. Meanwhile a rogue vampire wants her, but she refuses to have anything to do with this killer and an ancient vampire stalks her with evil plans to use Kylie’s skills.

The protagonist is a complicated individual struggling to understand who she is ever since her late dad made an unexpected visit (see Born At Midnight). Her two roommates are a vampire and a witch, but perhaps the heroine’s greatest power is her ability to get along with both of them. Kylie uses her innate abilities to help others though that makes her stand out further as new skills arise leaving everyone in her circle and her to wonder what species she is. C.C. Hunter writes an engaging young adult coming of age urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Harbor-John Ajvide Lindqvist

John Ajvide Lindqvist
Dunne, Oct 11 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9780312680275

In 2004 Sweden Anders and Cecilia take their six years old daughter Maja from their home in Gavasten to tour the nearby icebound lighthouse off the archipelago Domaro Island. Precocious Maja likes to lead but she vanishes as her parents lose sight of her. The frantic adults search everywhere for their precious child, but fail to find her. The conclusion they make is somehow she fell under the thin but solid iced channel, but no evidence of holes or weak spots are found.

Though they have been an entry since being young teens twenty years ago, their marriage falls apart as Cecilia tries to move on passed her grief while Anders becomes an alcoholic who is unable to let go of his guilt for not watching his offspring closer. Two years since the tragedy, Anders returns to Domaro believing he will find his beloved Maja. Instead he begins to hear whispers of ritual sacrifice by the indigenous islanders including his mother to the nearby sea.

Harbor is a dark thriller in which the audience will wonder whether the sacrifices are to a supernatural being or just superstitious island mythos induced murders. The fast-paced story line is character driven by the seemingly insane Anders, but owned by the villagers; similar in tone to Anthony Shaffer’s The Wicker Man. Though one must wonder why he (and Cecilia) had not thought of what seems to be common knowledge, readers will relish this tense suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Vacation-Matthew Costello

Matthew Costello
Dunne, Sep 27 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780312680077

NYPD police officers Jack Murphy and David Rodriguez work a Brooklyn beat. The global drought and food shortages left the planet on the brink of pandemic disaster; that was until a miraculous manna was distributed. However, soon afterward the feral cannibalistic Can Heads began appearing. Politicians, refusing to accept blame, insisted to the human masses that a survival war between us and them requires patriotic measures. This night the Can Heads attack the two patrol cops; leaving David dead and Jack injured.

Needing to heal, Jack, his wife Christie and their two kids (Kate and Simon) go on Vacation to the Upstate fortified Paterville Family Camp where people eat old fashion real food, drink pure water, and have fun. When Jack helps with preventing a Can Head assault, he is rewardeed with a job offer and a permanent move into Paterville with his family, who all vote yes. However, Jack will soon learn the truth about the miracle of Paterville.

In an already bleak world in which the Yankees are no longer in the Bronx as the Can Heads own the borough, the atmosphere turns brighter in Paterville when soon afterward it drops to its darkest. Readers will think trice about vacationing in idyllic rural areas as Jack and his family learns that Paterville has a nasty side under the glitter of a Vacation oasis as it is the Eagles Hotel California with a gruesome addition. This is a gripping post apocalyptic horror thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Bloodstone-Nancy Holzner

Nancy Holzner
Ace, Sep 27 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780441021000

In Boston shapeshifter Victory Vaughn is the only professional demon exterminator in town. After dispatching a particular nasty Peccatum 24/7 sinful demon, with permits Victory and her boyfriend Kane the werewolf lawyer head from Deadtown to her sister Gwen’s house in Needham through check points manned (loose definition) by zombies who accept junk food bribes and humans who accept nothing from the paranormal especially if the guard is a Human First zealot.

Her niece Maria is starting to have the pre-shifting dreams, which alienates the two sisters as one is forced to live in Deadtown while the other resides in the human burbs. Meanwhile Victory worries about her roommate Juliet on the run from The Old Ones and the action of the South End Reaper serial killer has the paranormal and the normal on the edge of vigilante justice and rioting. If that is not enough to take her off her food, Kane becomes stuck in his wolf persona.

The third Deadtown urban fantasy (see Deadtown and Hellforged) is a terrific thriller in which Vaughn’s personal and professional lives deftly intertwine. The fast-paced story line grips the audience but also makes a strong case against a prejudicial society that uses de jure and de facto means to keep a group locked away as second class citizens. Filled with action even when waiting to get through ID card checkpoints, Bloodstone is a terrific taut thought provoking thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Sins of the Angels-Linda Poitevin

Sins of the Angels
Linda Poitevin
Ace, Sep 27 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780441020911

When Toronto Homicide Detective Alexandra Jarvis was nine years old her insane mother murdered her father in a violent slashing rage. She is currently working a serial killer case in which the violence at the crime scene reminds her of the violence in her family home on that fatal day. The latest victim had his chest ripped open and his throat sliced while posed in a seemingly ritual way.

Working on caffeine, Alex is unaware that the brutal culprit is Caim the fallen angel who escaped from Limbo incarceration. His motive is Apocalypse now to include the immediate capture of Alex’s soul. Aramael the Guardian Angel teams up with Alex to prevent his brother from ending the world. Neither the angel nor the confused mortal (from glimpsing what looks like wings) is prepared for an attraction that shakes heaven, hell, and earth.

Although not to read on an empty stomach due to extremely graphic murder scenes, Sins of the Angels is an exhilarating serial killer urban fantasy. The investigation and the Armageddon compete for top billing as the two subplots do not fully merge until late. Still sub-genre fans who enjoy a police procedural fantasy will want to read the teaming up of the cop and the angel as she wants to end the terror reign of a vicious serial killer while he tries to prevent the final war between heaven and hell on battlefield earth.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Down to the Bone-Justina Robson

Down to the Bone
Justina Robson
PYR, Aug 23 2011, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616143794

Former espionage agent Lila Black fears the world’s end of days has begun, but is frustrated over what she should do or not do. The dead are reanimating leading to mob law running rampart with the re-killing of the deceased so they cannot come back again and the murders of some living.

Lila has turned into an urban fantasy machine. Her rock star husband Zal the elf no longer hears music as he become an animated demon soul. Her other spouse Teazle the demon is murdering his kind to win back his lost relationship with his Lila though he might become an angel first. However as they all expect something supernova bad to incur, Lila trusts no one not even her spouses or those from her former agency as she thinks she may have caused the Armageddon doom as collateral damage in one of her previous endeavors. Though she believes the world does not deserve to live, she vows to save it and all worlds anyway though that means fighting ancient evil on their turf or inside her head.

The fifth Quantum Gravity fantasy is a terrific finish to a strong saga. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the odd lead triangle as each has radically have evolved over the series. Although it behooves newcomers to start at the beginning (see Keeping it Real, Selling Out, Going Under and Chasing the Dragon) as diving into the finish will leave you lost, readers will appreciate the exhilarating complicated (and convoluted) end state.

Harriet Klausner

The Crystal Variation-Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

The Crystal Variation
Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Baen, Sep 6 2011, $13.00
ISBN: 9781439134634

“Crystal Soldier”. Jela was genetically created to be the ultimate soldier. He knows the ruthless enemy former human Sheriekas are destroying the universe as his High Command is either treasonous or inept. Fearing he is losing his grip on being human, Jela finds hope when he meets Cantra and her Spiral Dance smugglers. Cantra needs to jettison this unwanted soldier and an escaped slave as they bring enemies in pursuit of them; she has enough of her own. They consider escape to the mythical Liaden universe

“Crystal Dragon”. Cantra recalls she is a genetically engineered aelantaza, which allows her to go so deep undercover that she believes that the persona she uses at that moment is truly her. Cantra gains access to Landomist University where she frees Liad dea’Syl. She also forges an alliance to protect her child that will one day shake the universe.

“Balance of Trade”. Jethri has lived on the spaceship Gobelyn's Market all his life going wherever the trading takes him. When the ship goes in to dry dock for repairs, Jethri is transferred to another ship. He rejects the ship his estranged mother Captain Iza Gobelyn chose for him. Instead Liaden Master Liaden Trader Norn Ven 'Deelin makes the human an apprentice aboard the Elthorial. As the first Terran to be apprenticed by a Liaden. Jethri has enemies who wish to see him fail

These three tales are the prehistory of the Liaden Universe with the first two entries being a duology while the final story is a separate novel. Each thriller brings home a sense of realism that enables saga fans to believe in the Liaden Universe. However that also decelerates the overarching themes. Still this omnibus collection affirms Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have created an incredible universe.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 19, 2011

So I Married a Demon Slayer-Kathy Love, Angie Fox and Lexi George

So I Married a Demon Slayer
Kathy Love, Angie Fox and Lexi George
Kensington Brava, Sep 1 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758263155

“Hot!” by Kathy Love. Wannabe photographer Charlie Brown joins the mailroom of At Hot! Magazine with hope to show his work to the professional staff. However, he is unprepared for the dynamics of a demon CEO, a mailroom of undercover demon slaying Feds, and supermodel Ava Wells whose soul belongs to the devil and whose heart belongs to Charlie.

“What Slays In Vegas” by Angie Fox. In Vegas Damien the demon slayer targets the employer of hybrid succubus Shiloh. Instead the slayer and the succubus break a prime taboo when they end up married.

“The Bride Wore Demon Dust” by Lexi George. Sweet Home Alabama native Bunny the librarian is irate when demons controlling guests wreck havoc on her wedding. Her new husband is a slayer, but she is not one to sit idly by while he throws out the unwanted gatecrashers.

These three lighthearted paranormal romances star male demon slayers and the females who possess their hearts. The storylines are emaciated even considering these are novellas, but the lead characters in each entry brings marital bliss to the tales.

Harriet Klausner

The Hour of Dust and Ashes-Kelly Gay

The Hour of Dust and Ashes
Kelly Gay
Pocket, Aug 30 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781451625479

Atlanta Detectives Charlie Madigan and Hank the Siren earn R&R after their successful confrontation with the Sons of Dawn in the Underground. Charlie wants to spend time with her daughter Emma and her sister Bryn, but the battle may have been won, but the war remains heated.

The two sleuthing partners have information that implies the addictive “ash” enables the otherworldly to possess the human host, which has led to deaths that some say are homicides and others insist are suicides. To Charlie she fears for Bryn who is addicted to ash and acts as if a dead Sons of Dawn zealot possesses her. Mysterious Alessandra suggests Charlie seek the sylphs since there is no exorcist is in town. However as she tries to prove her worthy of the sylphs, she realizes in order to save her sister she must go to hell and back; next stop is Charbydon which is easy to enter and impossible to leave.

The third Charlie Madigan urban fantasy (see The Better Part of Darkness and The Darkest Edge of Dawn) is an exciting thriller as the beleaguered heroine and her partner (along with another ally) struggle to save her sister as time runs out. Filled with action inside of the complicated Kelly Gay world, fans will enjoy this strong entry as Charlie makes decisions that she loathes to do knowing the likely outcome of what she chooses. The Hour of Dust and Ashes is an excellent character driven tale.

Harriet Klausner

One Grave at a Time-Jeaniene Frost

One Grave at a Time
Jeaniene Frost
Avon, Aug 30 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061783197

Fabian the friendly ghost introduces his buddies to his peer Elisabeth. She explains that in 1489 when she was twenty-seven years old, a magistrate and Heinrich Kramer accused her of witchcraft; though she was not a witch only a midwife, the zealous lunatic burned her at the stake. As a ghost she spooked his horse which led to the “Hammer of Witches” being tossed to his death. However, the story does not end there as Heinrich became a ghost who over the centuries every Halloween when he gains a body he continues his inferno homicides. She wants to execute this vile ghost.

Cat agrees with Elisabeth’s assertion that this abomination needs total extinction as Kramer selects three females to haunt as a ghost before he tortures and kills them when he obtains his annual body. Cat and Bones work up a plan to destroy the medieval ghost and his human sidekick, but also still must deal with her dead Uncle Don hanging around at the Lasting Peace Cemetery in Garland, Texas and Jason Madigan’s plans for them and their team.

One Grave at a Time continues the fresh exciting adventures of Cat and Bones. This time in the Jeaniene Frost Night Huntress urban fantasy realm, the protagonists work on killing a dead spirit as well as her Uncle who remains on This Side of the Grave. As always in this strong series, there is plenty of action while Cat evolves further as now she is full “blooded” vampire. Readers will want to join the dynamic duo as they cope with the good, the bad and the ugly ghosts and Jason.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Must Love Lycans-Michelle Bardsley

Must Love Lycans
Michelle Bardsley
Berkley, Sep 6 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451234506

After a near death experience with mommy dearest, empathic psychotherapist Kelsey Morningstone tries to start over at the Dante Clinic in Broken Heart, Oklahoma. However, her latest problem in counseling patients is that the well endowed hunk is naked. She wants this Damian, but prides herself over no personal involvement especially of the sex kind with a client.

Damian cannot sit still as he struggles with amnesia having been hurt during an incarceration. He also insists he is a werewolf and his shrink is his mate. Still salivating though she thinks Damian is a lunatic, Kelsey changes her opinion when he marks her as his life mate as she discovers paranormal activity in the Sooner State is the norm. As the hero regains his memory, he knows he must protect his beloved as those who captured him still stalk him and now his soul mate.

As the original characters and their offspring have gotten older over the eight years of Broken Arrow time, Michelle Bardsley keeps her saga fresh with a jocular werewolf (and more) entry as readers learn much about the Lycan culture. The story line is fast-paced even with Kelsey in a perpetual state of heat that Damian makes even hotter. As Marisol says “he’s one taco short of a combo plotter” yet Doc loves him.

Harriet Klausner

Pay Me In Flesh-K. Bennett

Pay Me In Flesh
K. Bennett
Pinnacle, Aug 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786026241

One year ago lawyer Mallory Caine was murdered. She returned as a zombie but obviously does not smell of rotting flesh as Judge Darnell hits on her though she thinks of him as a potential sick meal and chooses contempt. Mallory knows she must find the person who killed her before she dies again or her missing soul will end up in hell. LAPD has filed it as a cold case.

Her former law school boyfriend who broke her heart years ago Aaron Argula has come home from San Francisco where he works for the Office of the District Attorney. He pays her contempt fine and admits he made a big mistake dumping her and wants to start over, but she has doubts though he is good for her zombie image.

Etta Johnson calls Mallory, Zombie at Law, to represent her granddaughter Traci Ann; Detectives Richards and Strobert arrived to arrest Traci Ann on a murder charge. The evidence is overwhelming that Traci Ann burned to death a cop in his car. Though there is a slight conflict of interest, Mallory defends her vampiric client while Aaron prosecutes the case.

This is an entertaining dark urban fantasy starring a delightful zombie who retained intelligence and her thirtyish looks though she dines on fresh human flesh. The story line is action-packed but with plenty of humor. Using the law to defend a vampire makes for a fun legal thriller as the defense demands night court and challenges the arrest of a corpse. Readers will relish this grim yet jocular opening tale of the zombie lawyer.

Harriet Klausner

Cosmic Storm-Dom Testa

Cosmic Storm
Dom Testa
Tor, Sep 27 2011, $16.99
ISBN: 9780765321114

For a year the spaceship Galahad carries hundreds of teens fleeing a dying earth. The crew heads to the Eos star system where two earth-like planets exist. The plan is to colonize the new world. However the trip through the earth’s solar system so far has proven dangerous and difficult as the teenagers have run into a series of trouble. Some like the asteroids was expected though worse other problems arise including sabotage from within and aliens from without were not anticipated by the adults who sent them into space as a last hope to save humanity (see The Dark Zone and The Cassini Code).

Now there is a leadership gap since Council President Triana without consulting others entered a wormhole that closed with her inside. The space travelers need to hold an election to replace her as the assumption is dead or alive she is not coming back soon. Council member Gap is the favorite. However, a second candidate emerges dividing the crew at a time a lethal cosmic storm strikes the Galahad whose radiation shields are failing.

The teenagers run the gamut of personalities, but need cohesiveness during a major crisis compounded by Triana’s vanishing leaving a leadership gap at a critical moment. However the election between frenemies divides the crew during a crisis but also allows the teens to worry less about their leader. Gap believes his opponent runs to get back at him for dumping her. There is plenty of action though more inside the vessel than the previous journeys from earth, but it is the strong characterizations that fuel Cosmic Storm as a fabously exciting science fiction thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Spirit of the Wolf-Vonna Harper

Spirit of the Wolf
Vonna Harper
Kensington Aphrodisia, Aug 1 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758242266

In Oregon, ranch owner Matt Yaye grieves the loss of his friend Santo who along with his wife Addie took him in under their wings. Cat Alward trains horses and people to ride them. When Matt and Cat first met in a bar, they could not keep their hands off one another. That attraction remains intense though neither wants to explore why.

Meanwhile the Fish & Wildlife Commission has begun repopulating the desert area with wolves in an attempt to balance the shaky ecosystem. The Feds are unaware that the packs are led by angry Ghost Wolf, the spirit of a Paiute Indian who wants to kill all the whites who have destroyed the land. As Ghost Wolf sends his wolves to attack of humans while Matt, Cat and others hunt the alpha.

Spirit of the Wolf is an exciting erotic romantic fantasy built upon a Native American legend. Although the story line is at times difficult to follow with abrupt changes, readers will enjoy the adventures of Matt and Cat as they deal with something they don’t quite believe exists, raging Ghost Wolf.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Alert-Bianca D’Arc

Dead Alert
Bianca D’Arc
Kensington Brava, Aug 1 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758247339

Although zombies ripped his skin, Green Beret Lieutenant Sam Archer survived the conversion infection due to an experimental vaccine. With the zombie threat somewhat muted, at Fort Bragg, unit Commander Matt Sykes (see A Darker Shade of Dead) assigns Sam to go undercover as a pilot at Praxis Air; Sam is to investigate whether the charter airline is trafficking in the black market sale of the zombie virus to foreign interests.

Pilot Emily Parkington co-owns Praxis Air. She loves her airline with a passion. The newcomer assumes she is party to the moving of questionable cargo though he prays not as he is attracted to her. When he is exposed as an agent, Sam, trusting his heart, turns to Emily for help to end the illegal zombie virus trade. Emily is stunned with what she learns as Praxis is her life.

This is an exhilarating romantic urban fantasy (see Once Bitten, Twice Dead) though the threat has diminished due to the anti zombie virus drug. The story line is fast-paced as the lead couple fall in love while fighting an insidious scheme to use her charter to spread the virus elsewhere. Like Sam, readers will wonder how the heroine could not know what is going on her airline even accepting she did not want to know. Readers will agree Wichita will never look the same after reading this entertaining thriller.

Harriet Klausner

In Memories We Fear-Barb Hendee

In Memories We Fear
Barb Hendee
Roc, Oct 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451464224

Many vampires remain in hiding afraid to come out in the open out of obedience to the first commandment that thou shalt not kill a human though thou can dine on one. Thus vampires remain concealed so they can take human blood with impunity by erasing the encounter from the mind of their prey.

Eleisha offers a safe haven for her Undead peers to reside in once she finds them. Portland based vampire lovers Eleisha Clevon and Philip Brante and Wade Sheffield the human try to find the lost vampires and bring them to their new home. Elisha adheres to the first rule and mentors others to do likewise. When she finds a lost soul she tries to persuade him to move to the sanctuary but Jeremy wants to kill him just like he committed genocide on his own race. His desire is to drink and kill those he drinks from. They learn of an apparent feral rogue vampire killing humans in England. The trio travels there where they meet centuries old Maxim living in a forest with no memory of human skills. She wants to bring him in safely, but Julian wants him dead.

The Vampire Memories urban fantasy novels (see Blood Memories and Hunting Memories) is a strong series that enable the audience to believe that vampires live amongst us in places like London and Portland. Elisha and Philip are an interesting pair of lovers as he is her protector but he becomes frustrated with her obstinacy that she can save Maxim who he believes should be executed. Barb Hendee provides a spellbinding vampire thriller with a touch of romance and a lot of intrigue as the undead rescue squad disagrees on what to do with the latest Lost Vampire found.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Virtue and Vice-Megan Hart

Virtue and Vice
Megan Hart
Berkley, Sep 6 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425242988

New King Jarron Bydelay of the Second Province, requests the Order of Solace send him a Handmaiden. The Order assigns Sister Redemption to bring solace to him.

The royal fails to recognize the Handmaiden but she knows who he is. A decade ago, Sister Redemption was Notsah a kitchen maid who was caught stealing by the Captain of the King's Guard Erekon. To escape she ran into the chambers of the then prince who showed her mercy. Erekon recognizes her as the ragged thief and plans to use her to further his agenda with the new monarch. Meanwhile Redemption falls in love with her regal client, but Jarron, who is also in love, has bigger political intrigue issues to cope with than that of his heart.

The latest Order of Solace (see the Pleasure And Purpose three novellas, Selfish Is the Heart and No Greater Pleasure) is an engaging erotic thriller. The heated romance is more of a support subplot as the political intrigue and the unique culture of Hart’s world take center stage. The lead couple is a fabulous pairing of a king and a Handmaiden who were once the “prince and the pauper”. Love may not be enough to keep them together.

Harriet Klausner

Torrent-Lisa T. Bergren

Lisa T. Bergren
David C. Cook, Sep 1 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9781434764294

For years teenagers Gabriella and Evangelia Betarrini accompanied their parents on archeological digs. However recently the pair has seen the ruins in their original state as they have traveled back on the River of Time to a few years ago in which they saved their father’s life (see Waterfall) and to 1332 Siena, Italy (see Cascade).

Gabi loves Lord Marcello Forelli and Lia loves Captain Luca Palmucci. As such the Betarrini family of four returns to 1333 Siena in which the war continues even with Rossi exposed as a traitor and Marcello now a member of the Nine. The family from the future also knows the plague is coming soon to Siena and the rest of the Italian Peninsular. If they find their men alive, Lia and Gabi have decisions to make about their future; if not they consider going back a year to intervene.

The final tale in the entertaining young adult River of Time allegory is a superb entry as decision time is upon the teens. The story line is cleverly anchored in the past with little things like when dad tries to understand how and when his pacifist wife became a warrior and his first awkward meeting with Marcello. There are also big events from the annals of history as well. The cast is strong especially the three prime couples and Father Tomas as Lisa T. Bergren provides a suspenseful taut thriller in which she makes a case that time flows like a river gently soothing even when turning into a Cascade or a Waterfall, but that same mild flow can become violent when it turns into a raging Torrent.

Harriet Klausner

Real Vampires Don’t Wear Size Six-Gerry Bartlett

Real Vampires Don’t Wear Size Six
Gerry Bartlett
Berkley, Aug 2 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 978-0425241356

In Austin, the Vampire Council wants vampire Glory St. Clair to leave town as she has caused issues for the secretive species. First her Vintage vamp’s Emporium puts a light on vampires and worse a demon possessed her. Ancient vampire Damian “Casanova” Sabatini, brother to Glory’s BFF recently married artist Florence da Vinci, offers her a chance to redeem herself. Since the shapeshifter Rafe Valdez has moved out of her place but not before her angry boyfriend Jeremy Blade ended their relationship, Damian suggests she mentor a rookie vampire like she did rock star Israel “Ray” Caine.

She agrees to take on Penny Patterson though her first impression of the scowling brilliant female makes her want to leave Texas. Meanwhile Lucifer wants Glory and her special blood collecting souls for him in exchange for a size six figure and Ray needs her to help him deal with addiction. Finally there is Jeremy and a killing goddess for her to deal with.

Although the heroine’s centuries’ old obsession over her weight has become a bit weary, fans of the real Vampire adventures of Glory (see Real Vampires Have More to Love) will enjoy her latest Texas tornado as she is the epicenter of paranormal tsuris. The fun tongue in cheek story line is loaded with action from the visits of Lucifer, Damian, Ray and Penny to Glory hoping to start anew with Jeremy.

Harriet Klausner

Resistance: A Hole in the Sky-William C. Dietz

Resistance: A Hole in the Sky
William C. Dietz
Del Rey, Aug 2 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345508430

In 1948, the alien Chimera landed in Russia. A year later Europe is overrun. By 1952, 160 million Americans are dead with survivors living underground. In July 1953, the President of the United States, former Undersecretary of Agriculture, Tom Voss and a small unit are in New York. They need to take out a tower that cools down the atmosphere enabling the ruthless adversaries to acclimate and escort Russian expatriate Dr. Maliken to a safe house as he has created a vaccine against the Chimera toxin that either kills humans or turns them into monsters.

In Deep Home, Colorado, Alvin Locke hires former Army Lieutenant turned runner Joseph Capelli to escort him to his sister’s home in Haven, Oklahoma. Considered a traitor for assassinating hero Nathan Hale, Capelli believes he did the right thing as his mentor was turning. However, Hale is inside his mind making Capelli believe he is a head case. Capelli, his dog Rowdy and Locke begin a suicidal journey in which the chimera, their human monsters and humans are lethal.

In the Lucky Buckle Mine, Colorado, inmate 26301 has a plan to rescue other convicts trapped inside a cave in. Her overseer Boss Cooper takes her to the top gun vicious Brewster who tells Inmate Susan Farley to see him after she finishes her rescue mission. Farley plans to kill him and escape.

The novelization prequel to the Resistancetm 3 videogame is a terrific alternate historical thriller that obviously ties to the game, but reads like an independent novel with three major subplots. Besides the clever post-apocalyptic landscape filled with destruction, there is romance that brings hope. Loaded with action, game fans and other readers will relish the Resistance.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 15, 2011

Shadowman-Erin Kellerson

Erin Kellerson
Zebra, Sep 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420118964

The Shadowman as a dark fae resides in the Twilight between mortal life and the Afterlife. As a watcher he cannot enter either locale. He diligently remains at his lonely outpost as an observer who can watch but not leave.

However though a shadow fae, he is still a man. When he falls in love with human Kathleen O’Brien he would move heaven and hell for her. She reciprocates and becomes pregnant carrying his hybrid daughter. When Death comes for her even as she gives birth to Talia whom she cannot hold, Kathleen vows to find a way back to the two loves of her life while her weeping sister Maggs vows to take care of her newborn niece. However, their breaking of the rules with their forbidden love and his trespass rips an opening in the veil allowing evil creatures to enter realms banned to them.

The third dark fae Shadow romantic urban fantasy (see Shadow Fall and Shadow Bound), Shadowman is a superb thriller as the refreshing different look at the paranormal laws of physics makes for an entertaining read. Fans will learn a lot about Shadowman obsessed with love and the woman he cherishes who obstinately refuses to blithely cross over as she fixates over remaining because she needs to be with the fae and hybrid she loves with all her soul. Shadowman will be on the short list of best romantic urban fantasies of the year.

Harriet Klausner

Bound by Night-Amanda Ashley

Bound by Night
Amanda Ashley
Zebra, Sep 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420104455

Drake the vampire purchased Wolfram Castle four centuries ago. Although he has modern devices like an IPOD and better facilities to stay at he never modernized the rundown castle; he comes here when he needs quiet time alone.

After her parents died, Elena Knightsbridge moved in with her Aunt Henrietta, her Uncle Alfred and her cousin Lucinda. Henrietta has since died and Lucinda eloped. She fears her uncle who has been caressing her and insists they marry as they are not blood related. Elena flees to the haunted castle as ghosts are better than her uncle. Elena falls asleep on the couch. Drake knows a human female is inside. He tastes Elena and decides her blood is sweet. While Alfred searches for his niece, Elena wakes up in a bed near naked. Later she meets Drake who invites her to stay. Elena asks Drake to marry her in name only and he accepts her proposal. His brother Stefan informs him their sire demands he return to the Fortress for the first time in centuries. Drake tells Elena she will be safe at the Fortress though he will be punished as vampires do not marry humans.

The Ashley vampire world is fascinating though with today’s social networking I have doubts a community of human sheep and drones could be hidden from society though one could argue cults do that very well. The lead couple is a solid pairing even with her being a victim of her uncle, her host, and her husband’s family. The support cast is excellent as the sheep are unsure what freedom is. Although the lead couple pulls several Houdini tricks to stay out of trouble too easily, readers will enjoy Bound by Night.

Harriet Klausner

The Urban Fantasy Anthology-Peter S. Beagle and Joe R. Lansdale (Editors)

The Urban Fantasy Anthology
Peter S. Beagle and Joe R. Lansdale (Editors)
Tachyon, Aug 15 2011, $15.95
ISBN: 9781616960186

The Urban Fantasy Anthology is divided into three sections: Mythic Fiction, Paranormal Romance and Noir Fantasy. Each contains an introduction essay defining the section and several stories.

In his essay on Mythical Fiction, Charles De Lint defines the category as having mythological and supernatural beings in modern day society. His entry “Make a Joyful Noise” stars a shapeshifting Native American spirit helping a depressed ghost. “On the Road to Egypt” by Jeffrey Ford has Jesus, smoking a camel, and a companion traveler stopping at MacDonald’s for a burger and shake.

Paula Guran defines Paranormal Romance as key characters possessing special powers; females typically kick butt. Suzy McKee Charnas’ “Boobs,” stars a teenage girl dealing with the changes of her body due to being a werewolf in puberty. “Farewell, My Zombie” by Francesca Lia Black’s protagonist opens with that Attitude when she asks what to call a female investigator if a male is called a private dick. Two lovers, one recently reanimated, star In “She’s My Witch” by Norman Partridge.

In defining Noir Fiction, Joe R, Lansdale states not to categorize tales as a “club”, but instead makes the case that the Noir is the link not the fantasy/paranormal background. His short contribution “On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks” stars a bounty hunter working with the reanimated dead.

The essays are interesting attempts to define three subcategories, but come across more like a Venn diagram. The collection includes nineteen reprints and one new tale ("Talking Back to the Moon” by Steven R. Boyett). The anthology is fun to read with no clinkers, but few are excellent; as Ms. Guran says novels are the prime method of Paranormal Romance.

Harriet Klausner