Monday, January 31, 2011

This Side of the Grave-Jeaniene Frost

This Side of the Grave
Jeaniene Frost
Avon, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780091783180

In Ohio Ghouls have been attacking vampires without Masters. There is a fear of a species war exploding unless the assaults ends. Vampire couple Cat and Bones head to the Buckeye State to prevent the deadly combat. Once the notorious half-breed government agent the Red Reaper who destroyed vampires Cat has evolved into a full Undead, but has skills no one has seen since the death in medieval times of Joan of Arc.

Apollyon the Ghoul insists that Cat is proof that the vampires are trying to take over the world starting with his species. Marie Laveau the Ghoul feels yanked in two directions that have friends and foes wondering who she sides with while Cat's mother has turned into a vampire at a time when all hell is breaking loose within her family and across the paranormal communities. Only with Bones does Cat feel comforted, but has little time for that respite.

The Night Huntress urban fantasy (see Destined for an Early Grave) continues one of the better series as the romantic subplot takes a back seat to the prime theme of the likely hellish paranormal species war. The cast that runs the species gamut is fully developed while the lead heroes struggle with preventing a nasty war; as each has come a long way from innocence and uncle dearest. Fast-paced and loaded with non-stop action, readers will appreciate Jeaniene Frost’s aptly titled exhilarating thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Outside In-Maria V. Snyder

Outside In
Maria V. Snyder
Harlequin Teen, Feb 15 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780373210114

Trella led the Scrubs revolt that turned her world upside down as she and her rebels defeated the Uppers who previously ruled the world. After the victory, she and others learn of the existence of the Outside world.

Excited Trella plans to go back to being a quiet citizen living with her Upper, Riley. However, winning at war is not governance as those now in charge learn. Additionally something from Outside wants to enter; forcing Trella out of her short lived teenage retirement to unite her friends to prevent whatever from outer Outside achieving In.

The sequel to Inside Out targets older middle and younger high school students with an intriguing complex story line as the heroine learns what relativity means as Outside meant outside her cube, but now knows there is outside the outside. There is less action than in the previous revolt against the dystopian society, but teen readers still will enjoy this exciting science fiction tale as Maria V. Snyder once again avoids dumbing down her complex premise treating young readers with respect as the author further complicates Trella’s run.

Harriet Klausner

Rogue Oracle-Alayna Williams

Rogue Oracle
Alayna Williams
Juno, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439182819

Criminal profiler Tara Sheridan is an expert forensic psychologist who enhances her abilities with tarot card readings. However her skills failed her when a psychopath nearly killed her. Shaken to her bone marrow, Tara resigns from her position at the U.S. Department of Justice’s “Special Projects” unit.

Recently several of the unit’s former operatives have vanished under strange circumstances. Tara’s former lover Harry Li asks for her help on his investigation partly because he needs her special skills and partly to keep her safe. The clues lead to Chernobyl where the pair tries to prevent a second catastrophe from occurring. At the same time Tara struggles with her dubious relationship with Delphi’s Daughters especially their chief.

This is an engaging thriller due more to the fascinating villain who steals the show because the motives that drive the adversary ring true. In her second profiling appearance (see The dark Oracle) Tara is an intriguing blending of science and pseudoscience as she combines the paranormal with the profiling normal. Although at times the plot slows down and the ending is too low key after a Chernobyl II countdown, readers will find themselves zoning out during long expository passages, and a very anticlimactic ending leaves you with a sense of dissatisfaction. Still, the great villain and good visual descriptions keep this from being a total loss.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Accidentally Catty-Dakota Cassidy

Accidentally Catty
Dakota Cassidy
Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425239605

Fortyish divorcee Katherine “Katie” Woods, DVM moves her veterinary practice to Upstate New York to begin her life anew as the new forty is thirty for the most part. However, if she knew her patient would be an unconscious cougar her staff brought in from a nearby exotic animal park, she might have reconsidered relocating.

The cougar scratches Katie who soon finds some odd bodily modifications such as her trimmed nails and the rest of hand has changed into something a bit more beastly needing a manicure; while the animal she caged over night is now a naked man suffering from amnesia. Wanda Schwarz Jefferson (see the Accidental Human) and the OOPS unit arrive to assist Katie with her transformation. However, even with her own zoo crew and the OOPS squad at her side investigating the mystery of the shapeshifting were-cougar, no one can help Katie with her animal need to make love with her patient; a taboo for a veterinarian.

.The latest “Accidental romantic urban fantasy (see Accidentally Demonic) is a lighthearted frolic that will remind readers of the 1930s screwball comedies. The story line is fast-paced but never quite gels as everyone wants to be co- stand-up comics performing at the Improv Comedy Club in front of the in crowd. Still readers will enjoy the fifth paranormal conversion.

Harriet Klausner

Lady-Protector-L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Tor, Mar 15 2011, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765328045

Mykella had never expected to replace her father Feranyt as the Protector of Lanachrona because she had no psionic talent and several males including her uncle and cousin, and her brother were in line before her. However, with her father’s death due to poisoning by his brother and nephew during a failed bloody coup, her latent psi skills surfaced. She has become the first Lady-Protector since the legendary Mykella the Great created the position. The new Protector knows she can depend on only her sisters Rachylana and Salyna, as traitors are everywhere.

However besides the family seditious deadly activity, Mykella learns that Lanachrona is bankrupt. Additionally she immediately must prove her worth to the Arms Commander Areyst starting with no honorable funeral for the deceased traitors. However, she has no time for her country’s healing and economic recovery; her military leaders warn her that neighbors like Midcoast or Northcoast see an opportunity to invade with a tyro female running a devastated divided nation. An ancient magic arises within her that gives her hope to save her people and fear that the ancient enemy will also arise.

The latest The Corean Chronicles is an exciting political-military fantasy starring a strong heroine and a sold cast especially Areyst. The story line overall is fast-paced though L.E. Modesitt, Jr. somewhat mutes the pace with interwoven references of the back story (see The Lord-Protector). Still with a touch of romance, plenty of political intrigue and loads of life twisting lethal magic, fans of the saga will enjoy Mykella as the Lady-Protector even if she takes over a role too easily that she never trained for as she never expected to sit in the power seat.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 28, 2011

Under Wraps-Hannah Jayne

Under Wraps
Hannah Jayne
Kensington, Mar 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN 9780758258922

In San Francisco, beneath the police department is located the Underworld Detection Agency. Their mission is to conduct investigations and negotiations especially involving humans for their paranormal clients. In fact, the only “Breather” human working for UDA is administrative assistant Sophie Lawson.

Recently, the supernatural crowd is shocked when a serial killer begins a deadly murderer’s spree of the paranormal. Sophie becomes worried when her nice boss Peter Sampson the werewolf vanishes without a trace as she fears he may have been a victim of the predator. Never working the field, Sophie tentatively investigates her employer’s vanishing, which leads her to police detective Parker Hayes. Though attracted to the cop, she begins to realize that he is not telling her something critical either about Peter or himself, so she distrusts him.

This is an engaging investigative urban fantasy that takes a while to get the elements in place, but once that occurs (about a fourth of the novel) turns into a delightful thriller, extremely diffuclt to put down. Sophie the token breather keeps the story lien focused while her relationships to her werewolf boss and a vampiress roommate make the paranormal seem normal. Fans will appreciate her adventures on and under the streets of San Francisco as she and the cop she desires with her heart but distrusts with her head search for the lost lupine shifter.

Harriet Klausner

Primal Bonds-Jennifer Ashley

Primal Bonds
Jennifer Ashley
Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780425240786

Humans keep shapeshifters in run down squabble. They also insist the beasts wear fae created collars to insure these monsters are unable to use their animal nature.

Half-breed fae-lupine Andrea Gray flees from a potential mate who insists she belongs to him. She arrives at the Shiftertown section of Austin where she hopes to find protection. Feline shifter Sean Morrissey, who possesses the powerful shifter soul release sword, claims her as his mate though he does so in name only to keep Andrea safe. As the two alphas begin to investigate their desire for one another, they fall in love, but each fears to raise the issue of being true life mates as he expected no one due to his sword’s skill and she has always detested the concept of belonging to any mate even as she knows he is not just any mate.

The latest Shifters Unbound urban fantasy (see Pride Mates) is an enjoyable thriller as the Ashley mythos is further developed with a sense that shifters exist and what happens in Austen is genuine. The story line is fast-paced with the sexual taut relationship between the feline and the lupine cutting across the action packed tale. Readers will enjoy the Primal Bonds between two alphas who mate at the drop of a page to the delight of fans.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Late Eclipses-Seanan McGuire

Late Eclipses
Seanan McGuire
Daw, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406660

Half-breed private investigator Toby Daye finally believes she belongs in Faerie after leaving the land two years ago for San Francisco. She even has made a shaky peace with an adversary Tybalt the Cat King. However her serenity abruptly ends when her close friend the undine Lily the Lady of the Tea Gardens was recently poisoned and is dying. She becomes further shocked when Luna the wife of liege lord Sylvester Torquil becomes ill. Toby believes someone is targeting her through people she cares about.

At the same time Oleander de Merelands has returned. She was a key part of a group that kept Toby trapped as a fish for years. No one else believes Oleander is back as only Toby can see her, which leaves her friends wondering if the changeling has become insane. Crazy or not, Toby investigates before something else horrific occurs to someone else she cares about.

The fourth October Daye urban fantasy whodunit series (see An Artificial Night, Rosemary and Rue, and A Local Habitation) is a fabulous thriller as the heroine burned by both sides of her DNA has a lingering distrust of everyone so her paranoia kicks in and she does what she does best: investigate. Fast-paced, the case is personal as friends are dying; she is the accused; her enemy has surfaced; and her mom is somehow in the middle of what the heroine believes is a concerted effort to destroy her. No one provides better Noir tours of San Francisco and Faerie than Ms. Daye does when she resolutely works an investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Blackout-Rob Thurman

Rob Thurman
Roc, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463869

Hybrid human-Auphe Cal Leandros awakens on a beach with no idea how he got there or why he is surrounded by dead spidery monsters. Although his memory is gone, Cal believes in his gut he is a natural born killer as he heads into Nevah’s Landing, South Carolina.

Two men he does not recognize arrive claiming they are here to help him. One of them says he is Cal’s purebred brother Niko and the other insists he is their friend Robin Goodfellow. Niko explains they are BFFs also and run a private investigator business together. He distrusts both of them as his instincts, especially his Auphe side, insist he do so. That changes when more spidery monsters attack and they have his back as other enemies surface.

The latest Cal Leandros thriller is an exciting tale enhanced by a realistic modification in the relationship between the siblings. While Niko is hurt by his brother’s behavior towards him, Cal continues to struggle between his dueling dual natures as Cal fears what he truly is since he has no memory of who he is. Filled with action, Rob Thurman provides a terrific twist to the protagonist in the angst-laden Blackout (see Roadkill and Deathwish to fully understand the spin).

Harriet Klausner

The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse-Steven C. Schlozman, MD

The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse
Steven C. Schlozman, MD
Grand Central, Mar 25 2011, $19.99
ISBN: 9780446564663

A zombie plague has been turned loose upon the earth, but the disease is not natural as it is man made. The research has turned people into NGH, No Longer Human. This leads to medical researchers on a remote island dissecting and experimenting on captured zombies seeking a cure with the belief that NGH types are classified as monstrous beasts who live to feed endlessly on human flesh.

Nuclear bombs fail to end the spread of the epidemic. Meanwhile on the coral atoll Bassas de India between Madagascar and Africa, a research center has been established to find a cure. Led by renowned zombie expert Dr. Stanley Blum and Dr. Blanca Gutierrez, volunteers have come to help. They conclude that the disease works similar to catching the flu with prions playing a key role. They believe they are closing in on a vaccination, but abruptly they seem to have vanished. However, Dr. Blum’s The Zombie Autopsies’ journals have been found and under review by the World Health Organization; as time runs out on Homo sapiens remaining the dominant species on the planet.

As Z books go, The Zombie Autopsies is a truly gruesome horror medical thriller; not so much due to someone creating the disease, but more because of the inhuman experiments on humanoid bodies by scientists mindful of Dr. Mengele and the Nazis. Although the reader will understand the despite attempts to save humanity, the scientific saviors lose what makes a person human while conducting their research. Dr. Blum and the Z crew put the faces to the tale as he knows he will never leave the island as he regrets what he believes he must do while fans will have to decide whether the zombie is a monster or sick grandma as this is a chilling, vividly gory thriller.

Harriet Klausner

After the Golden Age-Carrie Vaughn

After the Golden Age
Carrie Vaughn
Tor, Apr 12 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765325556

In Commerce City, Celia West the forensic accountant is fortunate that the Olympiad superheroes protect her because she keeps getting kidnapped. She is the daughter of the group’s leaders Suzanne known as the Spark because of her ability to create and control fire and Warren endowed with super speed and strength. However, Celia is estranged from her parents as she wants to live a normal life working assets and liabilities that are numbers and not fighting supervillains with masks and powers.

Currently she is looking into the records of supervillain Destructor seeking proof of tax fraud. When his case comes to court, her relationships through her parents to the alleged felon are exposed. This costs her the job and her friends while widening the rift with her parents. As a crime wave hits the city and with too much idle time on her hands, Celia sees a pattern that ties all the felonious activity to one person. She uses the supercomputer at the Olympiad headquarters trying to uncover the identity of this diabolical mastermind, but also learns much about the yin yang births of superheroes and supervillains.

Carrie Vaughn is a superhero of an author as she deftly switches voices and worlds with her different series (see Kitty the werewolf tales). The story line obviously pays homage to the Golden and Silver Ages of comic books with the twist of an accountant working the numbers to bring down supervillains. Readers root for Celia who they hope reconciles with her parents and obtains self-esteem as she fears she can never live up to the legends her parents are. Filled with pathos and a touch of romance as well as plenty of POW! And AM! Fans will enjoy the silver adventures of the offspring of two Golden Age heroes.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Raven Queen-Jules Watson

The Raven Queen
Jules Watson
Spectra, Feb 22 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780553384659

Her father King Eochaid of Connacht married Maeve to two lords as political alliances, but broke off both. She hoped to remain home, but her dad arranged another marriage for her to the King of Ulaid Conor.

Two years later, desperate not to be a political pawn of the male rulers, Maeve concludes her only way out of marital hell is to replace her father when he dies though he has a son still living, her older brother Innel, as his heir. She flees Conor offering her knowledge of his Red Branch warriors for her freedom, but her dying father and ambitious brother call her traitor. Maeve knows if miraculously she becomes the Queen of Connacht she has less time than a man would have to insure affluence comes to her kingdom. To do that she must overcome her sibling, his rivals, the clan’s anti female bias and her husband; thus to succeed she needs to convince Ruan the Lake wanderer and the Fae to support her claim. If she fails almost from the onset the Druid priests will sacrifice her to the Fae in exchange for their providing wealth to the kingdom.

The latest entry in the Watson mythology (see the superb Swan Maiden), The Raven Queen is another terrific Ancient Eire mystical thriller. Filled with action but driven by courageous Maeve and supported by a strong secondary cast, fans will relish this lyrical Irish mythos as Jules Watson brings to life ancient Eire with this exciting tale.

Harriet Klausner

Etched in Bone-Adrian Phoenix

Etched in Bone
Adrian Phoenix
Pocket, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439137307

He has his feet in three worlds though he wants none of them. Vampire Dante Baptiste is the Fallen maker and the Great Destroyer who wants neither role. However, he wants a future with his beloved FBI agent Heather Wallace who shares his love and anguished tortured soul (if he has one that is) that often teeters towards insanity.

The vampires of nightkind want him as a means to take control of the planet. At the same time, the human Shadow Branch agents seek to control him by using enhanced psychological persuasion of him and if needed his love Heather. Finally the Fallen followers are growing impatient with their leader’s refusal to lead them to the Promised Land as expected by his “offspring for over a thousand years. These three diverse groups hone in on Dante and Heather.

The fourth Maker's Song (see In the Blood, Rush of Wings and Beneath the Skin) is a taut thriller in which the reader continues to empathize with the beleaguered hero and his beloved Fed. Although there are too many subplot start-ups with a horde of new mostly antagonists that make it difficult to follow the Dante (and by association Heather) assaults and where they will lead as Etched in Bone completes the transition of the overarching theme from a paranormal police procedural into a grim urban fantasy.. Still fans of Adrian Phoenix will enjoy stepping into the author’s dark world.

Harriet Klausner

Serpent’s Storm-Amber Benson

Serpent’s Storm
Amber Benson
Ace, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441020096

Calliope Reaper-Jones has a unique DNA as she happens to be one of Death’s Daughters. She just wants to be a normal New York City yuppie, but with her genetics normal is not a term Calliope expects to ever find.

However even she is unprepared when her sister Thalia united with the Devil commits patricide killing their father Death. Complicating matters for Calliope is she is unsure whether she should grieve or not for her dad or herself as she is now Death. She must accept this position she never wanted starting with the need to kill her new lover Daniel the former Devil’s protégé turned soul-saver; for if she abdicates her duty, chaos has entered the Hall of Death, which will swarm all over the universe including heaven and hell but especially earth. Then she must pay the death debt with the Ender of Death for what occurred to her family especially her widowed mom.

No longer the heir apparent thanks to her sibling, the Reaper Jones must embrace her heritage or watch the universe implode. Fast-paced but filled with humor and pathos, readers will embrace the heroine as accepts Manhattan is no longer home if it ever truly was. Serpent’s Storm is Cal’s fantasy as she with a strong support cast make for a powerful action-packed thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Demon Song-Cat Adams

Demon Song
Cat Adams
Tor, Mar 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN 9780765324962

Bodyguard Celia Graves knows her inner self battles between being a siren by birth and a vampire by mistake. She struggles with managing her new thirst for blood with the emotional fallout from her recent battles with a demon and a siren queen (see Blood Song and Siren Song). On top of all that turmoil she regards herself as human.

However, instead of R&R adjustment to her new skills and a chance to lick her wounds, Celia finds out that an ancient portal closed when Atlantis died is tearing the dimensional barrier asunder. If so demon hordes will invade the mortal world killing and enslaving humans. She needs to interpret prophesies left behind by a dead friend and obtain allies, several prejudiced against vampires and others against her in particular, to reseal the widening gap before it is too late.

The latest Adams urban fantasy (see Blood Song and Siren Song) is a great entry that moves forward on two interacting fronts. The heroine copes poorly with her mental adjustment to the changes made worse by Posttraumatic Stress Disorder while the demons are coming, the demons are coming. Fast-paced and loaded with action, readers will relish Celia’s latest grave crisis when all she wants to be is a human woman and not siren-vampire save the world heroine.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 24, 2011

State of Mind-Sven Michael Davison

State of Mind
Sven Michael Davison
Bedouin Press, Mar 1 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 978-0966614923

Jake Travissi lived and was willing to die as a Los Angeles Police department homicide cop especially since Andrea and Jade were gone. However, he never expected to be kicked off the force and banned from law enforcement as occurred in 2030 following the Governor Pacheo’s son fiasco. Like an addict going cold turkey he feels cut off from what he needs. Only his two years old Lakshmi and “Auntie” Gene matter. Thus when given a second chance to return to the force, he readily agrees; ignoring the stipulation that he and two other cops will be implanted with the P-Chip. The trio will belong to LAPD, but work for the Department of Homeland Security.

Jake commands the Enhanced Unit field team consisting of himself, Detective Joaquin Parks and Homicide Lieutenant Alexander Koren. He takes orders from Homeland Security Director Sanchez. However as Jake begins to see odd visions, he realizes Sanchez and others envision an American caste system of those chipped and the few controllers of the implanted. Besides fighting his superior and Senator Crennan, Jake battles to control his P-Chip as he no longer can delineate what is his while wondering if Andrea and Jade were real of machine induced.
the story line is filled with action mostly driven by the P-Chip that helps people control their cravings and addictions, but few understand at the price of giving up control of Live Free or controlled. Jake uncovers the high level conspiracy to change America, but struggles to prevent it from happening as his controller uses the P-Chip to make him dance like a puppet on a string.

Harriet Klausner

This is an exciting 1984 futuristic thriller that extrapolates current advances in medical, biological and technological fields to form a vision of a Big Brother society. Although somewhat simplistic in terms of the good and the conspiratorial;

Green-Eyed Demon-Jaye Wells

Green-Eyed Demon
Jaye Wells
Orbit, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780316037778

Vampire mage Sabina Kane learns someone kidnapped her twin sister Maisie. Fuming especially with the photo of her battered sister, Sabina vows to rescue her sibling and kick abductor butt. With her demon servant Giguhl and Adam Lazarus the mage at her side, she kidnaps Tanith the Dominae though she intended to snatch Persephone to extract information. However, the Dominae makes a deal with the Queen of the Fairies, leaving a raging Sabina seemingly on the out again.

Still Tanith who plans to rule the vampires provides information that sends Sabina to New Orleans. There she confronts her psychopathic grandmother Domina Lavinia, the vampire queen and her horde of Caste of Nod Undead. Sabina knows only one side might get out breathing; and she plans that to be her with her sister. Voodoo priestess Zenobia and Brooks the changeling drag queen assists Sabina who knows she cannot afford to alienate either of them if she is to successfully overcome her homicidal relative who she assumes is behind the abduction.

This is an exciting Sabina Kane urban fantasy with the return engagement with grandma dearest (see The Mage in Black for their previous family reunion). The somewhat convoluted non linear story line is loaded with action as the heroine does not have a straight path to granny’s house of pain. The discussions between Sabina and Giguhl add jocularity as she fumes over her unwanted feelings towards Adam and he muses over her fuming. Readers will enjoy the Red-Headed Stepchild after an interlude with Tanith heading to grandma’s house.

Harriet Klausner

Unholy Embrace-Neil Benson

Unholy Embrace
Neil Benson
Night To Dawn (NTD), Apr 8 2010, $13.50
ISBN: 9780982679500

Human Frank Thornton and vampire Nessa Harcanu hold hands as they walk together at night in Manhattan. He knows his beloved is a centuries old vampire, but has not witnessed at all what that means until this evening. Werewolves attack them, but Nessa overpowers them; shaking Frank with her abilities.

They met three weeks earlier with both attracted at first sight. Now he needs to know why the assault. Nessa honestly thinks a serial killing demon she hunts sent the horde. He thinks about leaving her, but cannot as he loves her though he wonders if she is using her vampiric enchantress skills to manipulate his desires. Still Frank tells her he cannot convert, but wants to be with her. She explains the demon is not her worst nightmare. Her sire, who she killed back in 1627 after he converted her and sucked dry her husband, left behind a raging predator the “widow” Narice who wants to destroy her for killing the Master; Frank is her Achilles Heel.

This is an exhilarating urban fantasy filled with demons, werewolves and vampires; oh, my! Frank is a terrific human who feels as if he fell through the rabbit hole when he fell in love while Nessa is an honest vampiress who tells him the truth. Although there is too much going on with the lead couple as the demon hunters and as the Narice hunted, sub-genre fans will enjoy this tale of blood and romance flowing on the streets of Manhattan.

Harriet Klausner

Daybreak Zero-John Barnes

Daybreak Zero
John Barnes
Ace, Mar 1 2011, $26.95
ISBN: 9780441019755

Almost a year has passed since Daybreak made itself known, but those aware of its existence remain clueless as to what it is though its purpose appears to be the extinction of the human race. Fusion bombs explode and fourteen EMPs strike the United States causing the massive black-out and billions of deaths. Nanoswarm attacks destroy petroleum products including plastic leaving more people dead. On the moon, a gun appears that shooting rays at earth so that there is no radio or television; Daybreak is behind the assault.

In America much of the land has been devastated by the Daybreak attacks. President Graham Weisband and his provisional Constitutional Government in Olympia, Washington and Cameron Nguyen-Peters of the temporary National Government in Athens, Georgia argue over how to get the country back on its’ feet.. In Pueblo, Colorado, Heather O'Grainne head of the Reconstruction Research Center prevented a civil war (see Directive 51) and hosts conferences for the candidates wanting to become the next president with the Constitution serving as the basis for a new government. She also wonders how the Tribals are linked to Daybreak who seems to be able to kill anyone in opposition at any time.

Daybreak Zero is an exciting thriller starring a force that can either kill or control mankind. The story line contains several mysteries re Daybreak as to how it works and who is the powerful wizard behind the curtain. Readers wonder whether Quislings are selling out the government and consequently the people as some of those insiders remain avaricious power hungry addicts. Although a middle book feel as more questions surfaced and no major ones answered, John Barnes shows his talent as somehow the author continues to pique reader interest in his latest super Daybreak chronicle.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Autumn: The City-David Moody

Autumn: The City
David Moody
Dunne, Feb 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312570002

The pandemic virus was so contagious, over 99% of mankind died in under twenty-four hours. Civilization was over and the few humans to survive had no time to mourn their losses as a few days later the dead began to ruse. Some fortunate people escaped the city (see Autumn) though unsure where to go.

However, not all were able to leave. Those trapped inside the city have little hope as the streets swarm with the walking undead who “live” to rip human flesh apart. Donna York hid under a desk during the brutal first forty-eight hours. Jack the warehouse worker stayed home after he observed oddness on the bus and saw his elderly neighbor. Clare the student meets Jack when she enters his home seeking shelter. Paul hid in the music store where he worked. They begin to meet other survivors like Michael and Cooper. These few unfortunate knows their only prayer is to run a gauntlet through aggressive killers in order to reach an underground military bunker that Cooper says is their salvation; not knowing whether the military remains in control inside of it.

This is an action-packed exciting Z thriller (don’t use that Z word with the Autumn tales) as the few remaining humans trapped inside the city struggle through a deadly path to reach their only chance to survive. The story line is fast-paced with the early chapters before everyone converges displaying some of the fears each possesses of the unknown and more so of the known. Although David Moody never digs deeper into the emotional defense mechanisms mentally deployed to control a wide variety of psychological issues such as survivor guilt and seeing friends and family change into mindless killers, fans will enjoy the escapades of those fleeing for their lives with the Undead everywhere ready to pounce.

Harriet Klausner

The Radleys-Matt Haig

The Radleys
Matt Haig
Free Press, Dec 28 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 978-1439194010

Dr. Peter and Helen Radley, accompanied by their teenage children Clara and Rowan, move from swinging wild London to quiet sedate Bishopthorpe. Believing blood thirst is a simple addiction, the parents adhere strictly to The Abstainer's Handbook rules that strongly suggest living like a human while living amongst humans. However, they have also neglected to inform their fifteen years old daughter and seventeen years old son that they are purebred vampires.

The offspring suffer form nightmares that each conceals from their parents. However, everything changes when an intoxicated Stuart Harper attacks Clara a vegetarian. His assault causes the dormant thirst for blood (and meat) to arise in his female classmate as her fangs surface. Peter asks his brother Will an overt vampire to help them with their problems.

This is an entertaining dark vampire family drama with a powerful twist to the relationships. Character driven, the cast makes the tale fun to read as none of the extended Radley family come across as vampiric stereotyped; instead ironically the four Radley suburbanites are stereotypical: repressed and must behave in accordance with the middle class rules of order while Uncle Will prefers the bloody life of a swinger. Intelligent this is a witty satirical spin to the recent vampire lives amongst us craze.

Harriet Klausner

ShadowFever-Karen Marie Moning

Karen Marie Moning
Delacorte, Jan 18 2011, ISBN: 9780385341677

MacKayla “Mac” Lane continues her quest for the magical book of the dark Sinsar Dubh that has the power to eradicate worlds. She is no longer the frightened Irish-American exile although she still grieves for her late sister Alina; Mac enters the forbidden White Mansion of the Unseelie King who wrote the tome of evil she seeks that she believes has answers to what she truly is and may provide a light to Alina’s homicide.

She remains inside the abode with the Unseelie King much longer than she anticipated, but finally returns to Dublin with a new outlook as she now understands the essence of evil as “bad thinking it is good”; the remaining Americanized tenderness has been expunged from her soul. Mac will do what it takes to achieve her goals. If friends die, so be it; if she seeks strange bedfellow enemies as allies so what; yet Mac remains off kilter with each revelation she discovers about her sibling, herself and that dammed tome that is hunting down Mac and her allies.

This is an excellent finish (not sure about whether this is truly the end as major questions remain including new ones) to a strong urban fantasy (see Dreamfever and Faefever). The fascinating story line shows how much Mac has evolved from that naïve caring American coming to find her sister’s killer only to find monsters around ever corner; thus her travails and tribulations including grief has hardened her heart and turned her tundra colder with an absolute belief that the end justifies the mean. Exciting though there appears room for another book (re Barrons and another key player) to tie up the loose ends and an adjustment is needed to accept the evolved Mac, fans of the Fever fantasy saga will enjoy the heroines search.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Unnatural-Michael Griffo

Michael Griffo
Kensington, Feb 22 2011, $9.95
ISBN: 9780758253385

In the insular town of Weeping Water in Nebraska, teenager Michael Howard feels alone and alienated. His peers taunt him about being gay while his mother keeps her distance from him and his grandfather, whose house he lives in, is always on his case.

When his mother dies, his father Vaughn takes him back to his country England only to dump the lad at Archangel Academy in Eden. There he meets enigmatic Ronan, a gay teen. Each realizes they have met their soulmate, but wanting a strong foundation to their relationship, they take it slow. Michael has secrets he hides from his beloved, but Ronan conceals a humongous one that he is a hybrid vampire whose exiled clan is at war with the popular version of the vampire. Ronan worries about how his Michael will react when he tells him truth; he also knows the American is his Achilles’ Heel. When the time comes, Michael will have to choose between hurting Ronan (and himself) or embracing their love. However, first they will have to outwit their enemies who look at Ronan’s species as an abomination.

Ironically titled Unnatural is a creative imaginative vampire enthralling thriller that targets young adults though readers should be aware there are same sex scenes. The strong story line focuses on the impact of a teen who is a part of a shammed minority group. Filled with action, Michael Griffo also cautions parents to be there for their children regardless of their sexual preference even when it differs from yours so that their offspring will not be like Michael ashamed of himself until he finally makes friends at the Academy. Everyone needs to feel they belong somewhere and with someone.

Harriet Klausner

Percival, Guardian of the King-Kent North

Percival, Guardian of the King
Kent North
His Work Christian Publishing, Oct 12 2009, $12.95
ISBN: 9780979918964

At the Guardian Angel Academy, student Percival is failing as he gets nothing right. Headmaster Aurelius is frustrated with his pupil who may be the first angelic dropout as Percival is dangerous to himself and others so he could never protect a human child. Although he knows he is not on a par with his peers, Percival continues to try his best refusing to quit even knowing he will never be given a child of his own.

Suddenly a miracle occurs when The Master chooses his least Percival to serve as the guardian angel protecting a special child. Everyone fears the worst but also wonders about the Master’s plan and his mysterious ways in choosing Percival though all know the Lord has a purpose for everyone. Meanwhile the worst student angel vows to be everything to his ward as he ventures to the first century Holy Land.

Although targeting middle school children, this retelling of the child Christ is a great parable that encourages readers while embracing the Lord to be all we can be and never give up trying as part of honoring God and his Son. Readers will feel transported in time and place as Kent North provides a strong Christian tale.

Harriet Klausner

An Embarrassment of Riches-Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

An Embarrassment of Riches
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Tor, Mar 1 2011, $29.99
ISBN 9780765331038

Early in the thirteenth century, Count Saint Germain uses the name Rakoczy Ferancsi as a guest of Bohemia’s Queen Kunigunde. For now, he knows he cannot go home but even if he could the mercurial monarch keeps the Count locked in a gilded cage. Still, he enjoys his respite in Prague making jewelry for Her Highness and trying to avoid court intrigue.

However his efforts prove futile as the ladies at court assume he is rich and single, and can see handsome. Three females vie for his attention: sneaky Rozsa, Imbolya the teenager and resolute Iliska. He eludes the trio though not easily especially Rozsa as she threatens to expose Saint Germain to the local Church, who already is suspicious of the stranger, if he fails to do her bidding.

As with all the recent Saint Germain tales (see Blood Games) the story line is much more a historical thriller than a horror novel. Still readers will enjoy the hero’s time in medieval Bohemia as he tries to avoid any entanglements but starting with the avaricious women, he cannot keep out of their affairs, that of the court especially the queen, and the church. Readers will enjoy An Embarrassment of Riches as once again the Count’s efforts to fit quietly in a new location and time make for a fresh thriller even with over three decades of starring roles under his cape.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 21, 2011

Iron Crowned-Richelle Mead

Iron Crowned
Richelle Mead
Zebra, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9781420111798

Being the Queen of Thorn Land should ease making a living but it does not as in reality it adds debts, which Eugenie Markham has learned since sitting on the throne (see Storm Born and Thorn Queen). Instead the Storm King’s offspring loves her powers including that of her sire, but loathes the responsibility and accountability that comes with the non-paying gig. In fact she pays the bills by doing mercury work as a shaman to the highest bidder.

The biggest issue, besides the fact that her child is foretold to conquer mankind, is the ruthless lethal war with Queen Katrice that Eugenie wants ended. She also has male issues as her former lover Kiyo the shapeshifter wants back in her life and Fairy King Dorian wants to sire that prophesized offspring with her. Eugenie considers obtaining the mystical Iron Crown to end the combat but fears what she knows of the artifact. The two men offer to help her, but she distrusts both of them.

The key to the entertaining Dark Swan fantasy series (see Thorn Queen) is Eugenie may be an adept shaman for hire to the highest bidder, but the ruler is also a terrible leader. Her incompetence makes her ironically seem human. Loaded with action, the road to hell is filled with misadventures as Queenie Eugenie seeks the legendary Iron Crown with two males sniffing at her legendary uterus.

Harriet Klausner

Fated-Rebecca Zanetti

Rebecca Zanetti
Kensington Brava, Mar 1 2011, $14.00
ISBN 9780758259233

Plant physiologist Dr. Cara Paulsen is an empath raising her four years old child Janie by herself. The botanist will do anything to keep her beloved Janie, who has psychic skills, safe.

When stranger Talen Kayrs introduces himself, he insists he is protecting her and Janie. She assumes he is a lunatic, but Janie reassures her that he is legitimate. He also demands she marry him so his family will be obligated to protect both of the Paulsen’s as the Kurjans want females with special skills especially Janie. Extremely reluctant though Janie says otherwise, Cara refuses initially to marry him when she realizes the visitor is a three-century old vampire though his touch lights her on fire with desire.

Although the incongruous basis for the triangle relationship is over the top, readers will quickly ignore the opening encounters as talented Rebecca Zanetti provides an entertaining engaging paranormal romance. Fast-paced, readers will appreciate the efforts of the hero and the mommy, who as they fall in love, risk their lives to keep her gifted toddler safe from a nasty group who has long term eugenic plans for young females with special skills.

Harriet Klausner

March in Country-E.E. Knight

March in Country
E.E. Knight
Roc, Jan 4 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780451463340

It is February of the fifty-sixth year of the Kurian invasion with most of earth subservient to the conquering vampiric Kur. However, the Kur risk nothing as they never go out seeking the human energy that sustains them. Instead they send their combat laborers the Reapers who drink the victim’s blood and sends back bring back the needed Vital Auras via a form of telepathy to their Kurian master.

There remains a strong resistance movement in the United States that has led to a battle for the land between the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. The Kur want it captured while Major David Valentine wants to establish free human communities in Kentucky. David knows the Golden Ones would love to settle in the lush land. Thus the Major and some allies journey to the Midwest where the group resides, but the dangerous trip proves futile. The Golden ones choose to honor their loyalty pledge to the Baron. Even if he can find a way for the moral group to remain loyal to their oath and relocate to the Promised Land, Valentine knows the Kurian Order awaits them on the treacherous trek back as do other murderous human Quislings and outlaws.

The ninth Vampire Earth science fiction thriller is an exciting tale filled with action and new revelations re the various sentient species. Readers will be able to picture an America mostly captured by the outsiders with pockets of resistance. David is a real American hero who risks his life in order to kick the ETs out of his country and preferably out of the solar system. Though it behooves the audience to read the previous series entry (see Winter Duty) as the concept of a Kentucky freehold begins there and is not reiterated here. Fans of the saga will enjoy this entertaining entry.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pack of Lies-Laura Anne Gilman

Pack of Lies
Laura Anne Gilman
Luna, Jan 18 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373803248

In New York City, a mob of humans assaults the mortal companion to a ki-rin. When the dust settles, all the attackers are either dead or near death. Bonita Torres of Private Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations (PUPI) leads the inquiry into the deadly incident at a time when anger is high between the humans and the fatae and the Casa Nostradamus members refuse to talk to cops.

At the same that Bonnie and her team scrutinize the deadly scene, she and her boss Benjamin Venec struggle to control their attraction for one another. Each wants the other, but both understand a non professional relationship between a superior and a direct reporting individual is trouble.

The second Paranormal Scene Investigations urban fantasy (see Hard Magic) is a terrific “Electric Apple” police procedural that comes out of the gate at full speed and never decelerates as the PUPI team struggles with the magical community closing its ranks to outsiders. The Gilman’s Gotham comes across as real due to little things like Pink Floyd while Bonnie is a super lead investigator and her teammates on the case (Pietr and Sharon) add depth. Readers will enjoy astute Bonnie’s first person account as she has come a long way since her college days, which she will remind readers were seemingly just yesterday.

Harriet Klausner

Death’s Sweet Embrace-Tracey O'Hara

Death’s Sweet Embrace
Tracey O'Hara
Harper, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061783142

Snow leopard shifter Kit Jordan left the medical examiner’s office as she mourns the death of her brother Dyan. She obtains a teaching position at NYAPS where she plans to meet her twins she was forced to give away after giving birth to them years ago. A pariah with her pride, Kitt feels alone.

Meanwhile the father of her twins Raven Matokwe is wanted by the law. Still he works for Oberon on investigations. Their current case is particularly horrific as a serial killer somehow paralyzes teenage shapeshifters and while they still breathe rips out their hearts in what appears to be a ritual of sorts. The investigation brings Raven and Kitt back together trying to end the reign of terror of a psychopath.

The second Dark Brethren urban fantasy (see Night’s Cold Kiss) retains the foreboding atmosphere even with a romantic subplot of a darkened world in which sentient species battled for over a century to be at the top of the food chain. The prime plot is a desperate investigation to end the reign of terror of a serial killer. Vivid, don’t eat while reading Death’s Sweet embrace as sweet is not quite the adjective to describe this dark thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Burning Darkness-Jaime Rush

Burning Darkness
Jaime Rush
Avon, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062018854

Using his pyrotechnical mental skills, Offspring Eric Aruda killed two CIA agents using a thought to set them on fire and shot another. Trained government assassin Fonda Raine is assigned to kill Eric. Using her projection skill she manages to get close to him, but finds committing the act difficult because he is not the cold blooded killer she expected and murder in cold blood is not an easy task for most people.

Making matters more complicated is when someone with more firepower than all of the Offspring surfaces as a killing machine. As they team up to end this predator, Fonda also realizes all she thought she knew about the Offspring is questionable as he is nothing like the dangerous psychopath she thought although dangerous fits. Still a killer stalks the Offspring and seems to have high level government support.

The fourth Offspring romantic urban fantasy (see A Touch of Darkness, A Perfect Darkness and Out of the Darkness) is loaded with dangerous action starring two seemingly enemies falling in love. Part of the fun comes from the heroine’s projection skill that initially has Aruda wondering if he suffers hallucinations from the beautiful vision that comes and goes in a blink. However, the keys to this great entry are that the overarching theme moves forward and stunning depth is added to the Rush realm. Burning Darkness is an exciting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Night Betrayed-Joss Ware

Night Betrayed
Joss Ware
Avon, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062018632

Selena “The Death Lady” was miraculously born during the Change. Her nickname comes from her unique ability to see the ghostly cloud that denotes that person is about to die. What makes her extraordinary is that she somehow helps the dying move on.

Selena sees the cloud of a dying man. However, this time something strange occurs as a voice orders her to touch the corpse with her crystal. Somehow Theo Waxnicki, a Change survivor on a Strangers’ mission, was shot to death; yet recovers in Selena’s compound where he believes information on the world’s destruction can be found. While his twin Lou frantically searches for him, Selena not only brings him back to life, she brings him back to live as feelings lost in the Change return to him.

The latest Envy Chronicles (see Abandon the Night, Embrace the Night Eternal and Beyond the Night) is a superb mid twenty-first post apocalyptic romantic thriller. The story line is fast-paced and the cast especially the lead couple are a wonderful match. However, it is Ware world that makes for an engaging read as fans will believe they have been transported four decades into the future as places like Vegas, Arizona and elsewhere feel reasonably real.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Never Again -Michele Bardsley

Never Again
Michele Bardsley
Signet, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780451232755

House of Dragons wizard Gray Calhoun is the guardian of Nevermore, Texas with the Census Bureau proclaiming the population in triple digits. However, since his wife betrayed him to a demon, he has neglected his duties as he no longer cares about responsibility.

His former impoverished sister-in-law House of Ravens witch Lucinda Rackmore arrives in Nevermore. She is cursed and needs Gray’s help, as her former lover betrayed her by extinguishing her magical abilities. Now everyone loathes the Rackmore family so with her mundane she is a target of their frustrations. Since the betrayal, Gray sees everything black and white so wants nothing to do with anyone related to his former spouse. However, he also admits to his chagrin he is attracted to Lucinda and cannot prevent himself from protecting her and trying to assist her.

The tone of Nevermore is totally opposite of the Broken Heart series as the new saga is very dark (fitting of Edgar Allen Poe) while the Oklahoma tales were lighthearted frolics in which bites were sexually bloodless. The world of the Wizards of Nevermore is refreshingly new and fully developed yet interwoven inside the fast-paced story line. Although the climax is somewhat a disappointment as the audience will have expected much more after such a strong plot, readers will appreciate this small town second chance romantic fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

The Griffin's War -K.J. Taylor

The Griffin's War
K.J. Taylor
Ace, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780441020102

The destroyer of the Eyrie of Eagleholm, Arenadd Taranisaii remains incarcerated in a dungeon. Once he was a free Northerner bonded to a griffin and once he was a slave, but in both cases when he was called Arren Cardockson he was the victim of de facto racism. Now he is a lunatic singing all day and night. His guards have no idea how to deal with the maniac who as a kraeai kran ae lacks a heart.

Though he fears the consequences of his vow to his people’s dark deity Arenadd pledges his life to the Night God, which enables him to wander the shadows unseen. Using this skill, he escapes from his Southern imprisonment. He heads back to his northern people accompanied by his bonded The Dark Griffin ready to lead a revolt against an oppressive south. Only Errian and one other Arenadd stands in his way.

The finish to the Fallen Moon fantasy (see The Griffin’s Flight) is a strong climax to a fabulous trilogy. Arren has “evolved” into Arenadd believing that his former essence is dead since the curse cost him his heart. Loaded with battle action, but anchored by a profound look at a stifling caste society in which political (power) gains supersede people needs. Fans will relish the last war of the being with no heart while wondering whether the curse physically removed his heart or society metaphysically makes him a heartless fiend greater and less than human.

Harriet Klausner

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing-Jasper Fforde

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing
Jasper Fforde
Viking, Mar 8 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780670022526

In BookWorld, the dispute between the various genres has not always been civilized as insults are literally ugly. The Council of genres tries to keep the peaceful coexistence from becoming a book burning battle in which everyone loses in that combat scenario. The Council needs a hero but cannot hold out for one any longer, as Thursday Next has retired and relocated in Realworld.

Desperate situations call for desperate measures. The Council asks the written version of Thursday Next to serve as the peacemaker and peacekeeper of the written (and other formats) word. She begins her mission traveling the Metaphoric River where she uncovers a diabolical twisting plot to end BookWorld.

Once again skewering the hand that feeds him, Jasper Fforde returns to BookWorld with another super First Among Sequels saga. The literature Thursday is an interesting spin of the Realworld Thursday as the literary wannabe heroine sails the Metaphoric only to discover that reading may be fundamental but can prove deadly when Something Rotten is occurring. Fans who enjoy humorous satire will appreciate the return to a realm where lost plots are lethal.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dead Waters-Anton Strout

Dead Waters
Anton Strout
Ace, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441020119

In Manhattan’s Columbus Circle, Department Of Extraordinary Affairs Other Worldly Division field agent Simon Canderous and his girlfriend Jane Clayton-Forrester of Greater and Lesser Arcana Division are off the clock doing a favor for vampire Aidan Christos. Customer complains about a spirit haunting an antique store the Undead own; vampires are unable to bite or punch ghosts. The pair rid the store of the insane ghost, but psychometric Simon absorbs tons of negative emotion from the sick spirit.

No time for rest for the weary as the pair attends a meeting called by Simon’s boss Inspectre Qumbley who explains to Jane, Simon and his partner Connor Christos that David Davidson of the Mayor’s Office of Plausibility Deniability needs the help of DEA. Davidson explains that a murder of Professor Mason Redfield has shaken up NYPD. Quimbley is shook too as he knows Mason. The three agents visit the homicide scene in which Mason drowned without a struggle as there is no water on his clothing or on the floor; only in his lungs. The case spins wetter and weirder while Simon struggles to control emotional overload and the need for a chest of drawers.

The latest Canderous urban fantasy (see Dead To Me, Deader Still and Dead Matter) contains the usual defense mechanism banter used by the field agents to relieve the emotions of some of the gruesome adversaries they dive after in “mortal” combat. City budget cuts provide further comic relief as those risking their lives for a government paycheck are told the phony platitude to do more with less although they already spend 90% of their work time in deadly inquiries and 120% time on bureaucratic paper required by fiscal cookie-cutters. Fast-paced even off the clock, readers will enjoy Anton Strout’s Dead twisting investigative thriller with a stunning climax.

Harriet Klausner

The Remembering-Steve Cash-

The Remembering
Steve Cash
Del Rey, Feb 22 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345470942

The Meq are an immortal human-like race who stops maturing at twelve years old. They possess many extraordinary skills such as immunity to disease and psychic abilities like mind control, telepathy and teleportation. None of them know why they differ from their human neighbors but every Meq hopes that the predicted Remembering comes soon though no one know what this event truly is.

Born in 1869, Zianno “Z” Zezen was in Nagasaki with his bitter enemy the Fleur du Mal assassin Xanti Otso when the bomb destroyed the city; he is shocked with the carnage of one bomb. He was also in Dallas though in the wrong place to prevent the assassination of JFK. A black ops group led by Blaine Harrington knows of the Meq and like their Soviet counterpart wants to use them as assault weapons. The Meq is fortunate that they have excellent intel and Jack Flowers protecting them from abduction. Z and his Meq mates work with Fleur du Mal trying to decipher arcane writings on an ancient sphere that they pray will tell them the location of the Remembering.

The final Meq thriller (see The Meq and Time Dancers) is a fabulous finish to a brilliant metaphysical epic fantasy. The Meqs have humans they trust to keep them safe even though some like Fleur du mal have lived for millennia and witnessed much of the human historical chronicle. The race hides in plain sight knowing with few exceptions the overwhelmingly superior in numbers humans would use them for malignant purposes. Fans will enjoy the escapades of Z and company as they seek The Remembering.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 17, 2011

Swamplandia!- Karen Russell

Karen Russell
Knopf, Feb 1 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307263995

Florida is known for some of the oddest tourist attractions (some might say traps) on the planet. The state is home to Swamplandia where Bigtree alligator-wrestling has gone on for ages. However, several recent setbacks place the family business in jeopardy as the once popular stop appears heading to bankrupt extinction.

There are talent issues as the star wrestler Hilia who brought in the masses to watch a female pin alligators recently died. The older daughter Ossie has fallen in love and elopes with a ghost of a man. Adding insult their brother Kiwi accepts a position as janitor at their more powerfully backed rival the World of Darkness. Finally the patriarch Chief Bigtree has vanished. Thus the youngest sibling thirteen years old Ava takes over her late mom’s spot as the show must go on, but lacks her glamour and experience and besides has to herd just under a hundred gators and care for the park while controlling her grief. However, all changes when Ava believes she must rescue her father trapped in hell otherwise known as Gulf of Mexico; her allies are Grandpa Sawtooth, the Bird Man, and her BFF the midget alligator; at stake is her dad, the park and their island.

This is a wonderful odd fantasy with the key players fully substantial that they bring core realism to the capricious tale. Obviously this is Ava’s saga but the support cast enhances her save her world story line. Readers who enjoy something cutting edge different will want Swamplandia! Tour guide Karen Russell escorting them around the island, the park, and the Gulf in this enchanting but strange thriller (see St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves anthology for more entertainingly refreshing).

Harriet Klausner

A Discovery of Witches-Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches
Deborah Harkness
Viking, Feb 8 2011, $28.95
ISBN: 9780670022410

Most of the patrons and staff at the Oxford University Bodleian Library are paranormals consisting of three species: witches, daemons and vampires; though there are some humans also. Visiting American witch Yale professor Diana Bishop is at the library conducting research into ancient alchemy tomes when she uncovers the Ashmole 782 manuscript that may provide insight into the origins of the species. Using her paranormal skills, as the offspring of two powerful but deceased witches, Diana uses an enchantment to open the tome.

Her incantation leads 1,500 years old vampire Matthew Clairmont to Bishop as well as the now, freed by her, undead who want their accidental liberator dead in case she can reverse what she wrought. Breaking the class taboo, the witch and the vampire team up to keep her safe while they investigate the origin of the species. As their attraction grows, many of the paranormal want both dead for breaking the laws of nature that forbids cross species relationships.

Although over the top of Sir Christopher Wren's Tom Tower, A Discovery of Witches is a great academic fantasy in which readers will feel Deborah Harkness put a spell on us. Fast-paced with an underlying social theme and a nod to Darwin, a world of four sentient species sharing the famous library and fragile peace makes for a fun start to an engaging tale. Diana the intellectual witch and her undead protector are a fine team escorting the audience through lethal maize of paranormal who want them dead.

Harriet Klausner

Mists of Velvet-Sophie Renwick

Mists of Velvet
Sophie Renwick
Heat, Mar 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451232601

Annwyn is the Otherworld in which most mortals are unaware of its existence. Those few who do know of the realm are descendent of the Otherworld denizen.

One of these individuals with the blood of his great- grandfather a Sidhe royal who abdicated for love, Rhys MacDonald owns Velvet Haven night club that caters to the paranormal. When he learns of a major magical menace threatening to destroy the Otherworld, he ignores the taboo of mortals forbidden in Annwyn and races through a portal in his establishment. However, upon entering the Otherworld, he is captured but liberated by Bronwyn the shapeshifting goddess who rescues from death the male she believes is her soul mate, having seen him in her visions. As Rhys falls in love with his savior, he must prove a worthy warrior to save her and others against the Dark Magick that engulfs Otherworld.

The second Immortals of Annwyn (see Velvet Haven) is more a quest fantasy with a strong romantic subplot enhancing the save the realm story line. Filled with plenty of action from the moment the hero leaves his border sanctuary on a rescue mission, fans who prefer more fantasy than romantic interludes will want to join the hybrid warrior (a support player in the previous tale) as he risks his life to save the world of his beloved and his heritage.

Harriet Klausner

Play Dead-John Levitt

Play Dead
John Levitt
Ace, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019649

In San Francisco dark magic practitioner Jessica Alexander wants to hire middling Enforcer Mason and his canine-ifrit familiar Lou. He prefers to say no and wonders how far he has sunk to visit a dark practitioner at her office, but the guitar playing musician needs to pay the rent and fix up his truck. Thus he considers Jessie’s paying gig to locate Jackie who stole something from her. Besides as Jessie knows, the chief of the enforcers Victor orders Mason to accept the job, but to report back to him as a spy.

Mason and Lou search for Jackie turns twisted when they learn the heart of the matter is an arcane spell book that contains incantations to open portals to other worlds. Dark and Light practitioners including Mason covet having such power. However, as Lou reminds his partner, absolute power corrupts the soul while the pair struggle in and out of one incongruity after another wondering what lethality Jackie is actually deploying.

The fourth Dog Days urban fantasy (see Unleashed and New Tricks) is a terrific tale that grips the audience once Mason and Lou agree to investigate as to the whereabouts of Jackie. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, though the jocularity is somewhat abated compared to the previous novels especially with the climax. John Levitt has four aces in a row with his excellent Dog Days saga.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Hundred Words For Hate-Thomas E. Sniegoski

A Hundred Words For Hate
Thomas E. Sniegoski
Roc, Mar 1 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451463777

Archangel Remiel of the host of the Seraphim fought on the side of the Creator when Lucifer and his allies rebelled. Although his side won, drenched in the blood of his friends, he witnessed the atrocities angels committed in the name of the Creator. He left Heaven to come to earth. After several millennia as a hermit he hid his angelic persona to live amidst the earthlings; and loved and married a mortal who taught him how to truly be human. Now a widower Remy Chandler, twenty-first century Boston private investigator, fights for the Creator only when he deems it necessary to protect the species he cherishes.

The Sons of Adam are direct descendants of the First Father. Adam is dying after so many millennia; his request is to be buried in Eden. The Sons contact Remy to inform him Eden is retuning to earth. However, the Garden is dying due to something planted by the Fallen; their creations are killing her. A fallen angel seeking redemption, a woman who does know she is the key to open the gates to Eden, Eve’s direct blood descendant Izzy, and Adam’s son Jon work to prevent an apocalypse from occurring. Remy makes peace with the other side of his nature as Remiel fights creatures that will bring hell to heaven and earth.

As with his previous adventures (see A kiss Before the Apocalypse, Dancing on the Head of a Pin and Where Angels Fear to Tread) Remy is a complicated “human” and an even more complex angel. His latest escapade is a multilayered urban fantasy with numerous subplots and diverse perspectives as to the convoluted relationships between the parties of the “golden” triangle. Filled with action, pathos, divine and mortal love and redemption, A Hundred Words For Hate provides an intriguing spin on what the return of Eden means to the respective minions of Heaven, Hell and Earth. Well done Mr. Sniegoski! This tale is absolutely riveting.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Trouble and Her Friends-Melissa Scott

Trouble and Her Friends
Melissa Scott
Orb (Tor), Feb 1 2011, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765328489

In the future, the “brainworm” technology enables hackers to plug into databases in order to steal information to sell on the thriving gray market. Business is booming for those who plug in but the conservative old guard ``netwalkers''complain to Congress that this outlaw activity needs to be banned. Sometimes you get what you ask for as the Evans-Tindale law bans the use of the brainworm and perhaps much more.

The best brainwormer is Trouble supported by her lesbian lover Cerise. The former fearing a long jail sentence stops using the technology as both women turn legit. Immediately afterward, Trouble just vanishes from heartbroken Cerise’s life.

Three years later, Cerise realizes someone impersonates her Trouble on the Internet; that rogue steals industrial secrets like she and Trouble used to do and also leaves behind a nasty virus. With her job at stake if her dubious past surfaces and with her beloved in trouble, Cerise needs to find her so they can team up to prove Trouble’s innocence and take down the clever culprit.

This reprint of an exhilarating 1994 technological thriller remains a gripping timely tale even with incredible advances in the real world since the original publication as the premise of hackers and Big Brother (and Sister) retains its validity accentuated by the recent classified leaks. Readers anticipate a virtual OK Corral showdown between retired Trouble and her intelligent imitator in Melissa Scott’s engaging tale.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Twilight's Dawn-Anne Bishop

Twilight's Dawn
Anne Bishop
Roc, Mar 1 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9780451463784

"Winsol Gifts”. The Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince of Dhelan Daemon Sadi prepares for the gala celebrating his first anniversary with his spouse Jaenelle the Witch Queen; as family and friends arrive.

"Shades of Honor”. Daemon’s brother Prince Lucivar Yaslana struggles to escape a traitor’s trap at a time when Surreal of Ebon Rich learns her former lover Prince Faloner claims he is the ruler.

"Family”. The vicious warlord No Face threatens the lives of Queen Sylvia and her sons Beron and Mikal.

"The High Lord's Daughter". Daemon has lost his heart and soul with the deaths of his beloved wife and father Saetan. As the High Lord of Hell he meets and marries Surreal, and they have a daughter named after his late first spouse. However, the two women in his life may not be enough to get over his broken heart.

This is a super Black Jewels dark fantasy anthology containing four strong entries due to Anne Bishop’s ability to make her characters seem real as life is a struggle from birth to death, but joyfully with loved ones at your side.

Harriet Klausner

House Name-Michelle West

House Name
Michelle West
Daw, Jan 4 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756406516

In the Essaylieyan Empire capital, Averalaan, Jewel “Jay” MarkessA has survived being an orphan in the slums thanks in part to her “mentor” Old Rath the demon slayer who taught her how to live off the treasures beneath the mean surface streets. She has formed a den of discarded children in Rath’s home and struggles to feed her charges; but her life and that of her pups appeared to improve when the most powerful of the Essaylieyan Empire ruling Houses, Terafin take Jewel and her den rats under their protection with the stipulation she must pay the price.

Jewel proves her worth when she prevented a demonic assassination of the Terafin ruler. That proves easy compared to what the House leaders assign her next. With demon kin planning something deadly, they order her to escort their mages on the magical pathways into the hidden Undercity where the demons reside. Initially Jewel assumed this is easy thanks to her relationship with Rath, but each portal vanishes just before Jewel reaches them. Jewel fears that her den will be deported back to the slums. The visions she sees adds to Jewel’s feelings of hopelessness when failure is not an option, but success seems impossible as she expects the improbable of an all out demon kin assault on the House of Terafin, but does not know how to prevent what seems inevitable.

The third book of the House Wars saga is an exciting entry that continues to tell the events of the Sun Sword epic from the primary perspective of Jewel. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action, but lacks the freshness of the first two tales especially The Hidden City; as fans of Michelle West will sense déjà vu. Still following the adventures of Jewel remains a delight.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

American Vampire-Jennifer Armintrout

American Vampire
Jennifer Armintrout
Mira, Feb 22 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780778328780

Somewhere in Ohio, Graf McDonald is on his way to a party, but in spite of GPS he is totally lost. Smoking a cigarette, the vampire sees a light and heads to it. When no one responds to his knocks he shouts at whoever is inside. Twentyish Jessa tells him to shut up and drive as It is coming.

Graf is confused thinking maybe he entered an isolated Amish community though unsure what caused a part of a roof to fly at his car. He learns he is in Penance, Ohio as the first outsider to enter in five years as It does not allow anyone to enter or exit. Supplies are extremely low and the townsfolk are panicking. Now he cannot leave either. Though neither Graf nor Jessa trust each other, they need each other to survive; and not just from It.

This engaging romantic horror fantasy stars a hedonistic vampire and a desperate country girl inside a town with no pity run by a monster. The lead couple is terrific as he cares not one iota about others except as a blood bank or a place to hide from the sun; thus his transformation to caring in love feels off kilter and detracts from his self-indulgence. On the other hand Jennifer Armintrout cleverly reveals clues about It over the course of the story line that has readers wanting to know what it is. Although the romantic subplot feels more like a sub-genre requirement, readers will enjoy the tale of an American Vampire trapped in the Heartland.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 10, 2011

Primal-Lora Leigh, Michelle Rowen, Jory Strong and Ava Gray

Lora Leigh, Michelle Rowen, Jory Strong and Ava Gray
Berkley, Feb 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425239056

“Bleeding Heart” by Michelle Rowen. Dhampyre Declan Reyes vows to keep safe purebred human Jillian Conrad in spite of their attraction to each other. He knows only her death can bring them together. This is an entertaining direct follow-up to Nightshade.

“Skin & Bone” by Ava Gray. In a remote part of Ecuador that keeps him off the grid after five years of torture and imprisonment to reveal his gift, Silas rescues American expatriate Juneau Bright from the rubble of an earthquake. Though he fears betrayal and returning in to the grid, he finds himself thinking of a second chance at life with his new “partner”. This is an exciting direct follow-up to Skin Tight.

“Angel-Claimed” by Jory Strong. In California, Addai the angel knows he must forget Sajia, but cannot. Sajia the Djinn knows she must forget Addai, but cannot. Their love is considered taboo and unnatural since djinn and angels have warred for eternity, yet each prays for the safety of the other. This is an enjoyable return to the post-apocalyptic world of Spider-Touched and Ghostland.

“Primal Kiss” by Lora Leigh. A good girl all her life got Kita Claire Engalls is betrayed by her loved ones. Now she has met bad boy Wolf Breed security specialist Creed Raines and knows she loves him. However, she fears her beloved will be like her family by betraying her love. This is an exhilarating Breed thriller.

All four tales are well-written fun that overall will satisfy series fans, but the novella format limits character development; trademarks of the contributing authors in their romantic fantasy novels.

Harriet Klausner

Pale Demon-Kim Harrison

Pale Demon
Kim Harrison
Eos, Feb 22 2011, $$26.99
ISBN: 9780061138065

Rachel Morgan knows she is running out of time if she is to avoid execution or eternal exile into the demonic underground realm (see Black Magic Sanction). She has three days to get from Cincinnati to San Francisco where she then must prove her innocence of the capital offense of black demonic magic use at the annual witch convention. She knows how difficult her plea will be as the end never justifies the mean even when saving the world in the white and black magic world. However, she is on the no fly list so a plane is impossible as security will never let her board.

Drug lord Trent Kalamack is the elf who is sort of still in hiding and kind of helped her in her recent fiasco (see Black Magic Sanction) that has led to Rachel’s latest condemnation by the witch coven; he offers to chauffeur Rachel and her two BFFs Ivy and Jenks. She accepts though he has an agenda to recover something an ex stole. Their trek through ghost town America is haunting enough, but Ku'Sox the demon trails their not so joy ride.

Besides a strong urban fantasy, Pale Demon is much more jocular in tone than the previous few save the world epics (see White Witch, Black Curse ) while also providing a serious look at a segue of real American heritage, the disposable discard of anything including towns and other locales. The story line is as usual fast-paced even while driving and has what appears to be the beginning of the long waited romantic arc. Fans will relish Kim Harrison’s strong tale in one of the best series over the past decade.

Harriet Klausner

Chime-Franny Billingsley

Franny Billingsley
Dial (Penguin), Mar 17 2011, $17.99
ISBN: 9780803735521

In the village of Stratton in Swampsea lives Briony, a person filled with self loathing. She blames herself for hurting her identical twin Rose and turning her into a child-like female. Briony holds herself culpable for the flood that swamped the parsonage where she lives with her sister and their father the pastor and the death of Stepmother who kept her secrets including the fact that she is a witch.

Loaded with overwhelming guilt and remorse, Briony assumes she is a witch too as she can communicate with the Old Ones who haunt the marshes as only witches and the Chime Child are capable of doing so. She also knows she is a witch because she casts spells as only a witch can.

Briony’s life radically changes when Eldric arrives in the village; he is body beautiful enhanced by his golden hair. He looks deep inside Briony and sees only goodness. Fearing how much he knows about her with his penetrating yellowish eyes that slowly reveal her zillions secrets including her being a witch; a person the villagers woud execute if they knew. Eldric remains resolute in his need to know what makes Briony tick so that he can persuade her she is not a monster.

Chime is an enchanting fantasy filled with magic, monsters, and a romance that breaks down defense mechanism barriers created over the years. Briony is a vulnerable person who feels deep emotions, a non-witch trait, that she conceals to hold back her deep rooted mental traumas. Told in the first person by Briony, her self loathing is a two edged sword as her self-hatred can overwhelm the reader and plot but also makes her a fascinating and unique protagonist in a refreshing tale.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Allison Hewitt Is Trapped -Madeleine Roux

Allison Hewitt Is Trapped
Madeleine Roux
St. Martin’s, Jan 18 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312658908.

The workers at Brooks and Peabody Bookstore are trapped inside as outside suddenly are a horde of zombies. None of those locked inside the store has the slightest idea what happened not just here but seemingly everywhere. Still the military manages to maintain the Internet.

One of the trapped employers Allison Hewitt begins to write a blog on what is happening to her and the others. She connects with other human survivors in her small town and elsewhere as the scope of the disaster proves pandemic. At the nearby community center Allison meets Collin, a married astronomy professor with an estranged wife who the zombies would fear. Dining on Doritos, they begin to plan a means of retaking the village back from the zombies.

This is a fun entry in the expanding Zombie universe as heroine Allison Hewitt Is Trapped in a world gone Undead insane. The story line is character driven mostly by the most famous (perhaps only) SNet blogger. Although a trip into zombie animal-infested woods seems more like a picnic than blood scary escapades, readers will enjoy blogging with Allison as the gore and guts vividly keep on coming.

Harriet Klausner

Star Wars Knight Errant-John Jackson Miller

Star Wars Knight Errant
John Jackson Miller
Del Rey, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345522641

A millennium before Skywalker became a galaxy name, the Sith traveled destructively across the Republic as everyone is considered a slave on a chain. No one except a Sith Lord would dare challenge any of these predatory superego maniacs who share in common the belief they are the dictators of the galaxy and collateral damage of innocent bystanders is desired as a means to control everyone.

In this brutal Dark Age, one light shines and that is Jedi Knight Errant Kerra Holt, who does not fear using the Force to destroy the Dark Lords. Her quest has made her Sith Lord public enemy number one; number two is each other. However, her battles with Lord Daiman who knows he created the universe in his image with a big bang and his older jealous brother Lord Odion who knows he destroyed the universe in his image with a big crunch suddenly seems minor. In Daiman’s capital Darknell, Kerra meets Narsk an Odionite enabler, which leads her to realize an interwoven diabolical family affair with previously unheard of modern technology rather than individual megalomaniac exists. She must find a way to divide and conquer amidst the chaos of combat.

Based on the Dark Horse comic book, Knight Errant is a fun Star Wars tale occurring even before Lord Bane. The story line is faster than the Force and loaded with action as obsessed Holt assumes everyone is her enemy though she knows she needs allies if she is to end the threat. The heroine is a sort of Paladin (from Have Gun Will Travel), but not for hire. Though none of the cast is developed beyond their prime trait, readers will enjoy Kerra’s saber butt kicking escapades in a Republic overwhelmed by incestuous infighting Sith Lords who bring new insanity to the meaning of the Dark Ages.

Harriet Klausner

Enter the Zombie -David Lubar

Enter the Zombie
David Lubar
Starscape (Tor), Jan 4 2011, $17.99
ISBN: 9780765323446

Although Nathan knows he owes the Bureau of Useful Misadventures (BUM), especially their leader Mr. Murphy and Dr. Cushing, for hardening his bones as the life span of a zombie is rather disgustingly short, he prefers to avoid them. Nathan and Abigail see Murphy at their school where he demands they and Mookie team up in a contest sponsored by evil RABID as a drafting mechanism to find appropriate young recruits.

Rodney the bully also forms a team to compete and pound into the ground Nathan and his squad. However, during the games, Rodney and others closely observe Nathan leaving behind bodily yucky pieces on the playing field. Nathan sadly tells Abigail that mission-obsessed BUM in their way is almost as evil as Rabid is; he concludes Mr. Murphy will never humanize him because having a zombie on call, even a preadolescent, is a great secret weapon.

Although there are several less pints of puke and other loosely labeled bodily fluids that the EPA would condemn, Enter the Zombie is a terrific upper elementary school thriller. Nathan and Abigail display wisdom as they draw generalizations based on observations, For instance, her wry comment on research and his re the merits of BUM and Rabid in which they share in common the tenet that the end justifies the mean. Mookie provides comic relief when the gross meter is about to implode. Fans will appreciate the latest Nathan the child zombie tale as the trio works together to survive the brains and brawn contest while seeking the Zombie fever cure.

Harriet Klausner

Other Kingdoms-Richard Matheson

Other Kingdoms
Richard Matheson
Tor, Mar 1 2011. $24.99
ISBN: 9780765327680

In 1918, more to escape from his abusive father rather than any sense of patriotism, Alex White joins the army. He is quickly sent to the trench warfare in France where he meets Harold Lightfoot who is from Gatford, England. When Harold dies, Alex finds gold in his duffle bag instead of Harold’s bag. Alex instantly decides to visit the place Harold called the most beautiful village in the world. Alex crosses the Channel, but soon realizes locating the rustic quaint village is not easy as if Gatford does not want to be found by just anyone.

He rents Comfort Cottage using the money he received by selling the gold. The owner is shocked when it turned to dust; this is the beginning of the travails he finds in the village where the townsfolk believe the Faerie live in the nearby woods. They warn him never to leave the path and to avoid Widow Magda Variel the witch. Alex fails to heed the sage advice as he and Magda begin a relationship and encounters Ruthana a beautiful Faerie. Both women want him exclusively, but the more time Alex spends with Magda, the more ne becomes wary of her actions. He enters Faerie, but life there proves dangerous there also as someone wants him dead.

This is a chilling DNA helix-like twisted historical love story as a female uses her power to keep the male object of her obsessive affection at her side while her rival is willing to sacrifice her desire for his safety. Told in the first person, Other Kingdoms draws the reader into Alex’s account starting with his enlistment, but mostly his time in Gatford and the surrounding areas as he believes he has fallen in love with two diverse women.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Managing Death-Trent Jamieson

Managing Death
Trent Jamieson
Orbit, Jan 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316077989

Due to the unmanaged deaths of many of his extended kin’s Psychopomps who worked like he did at the family firm Mortmax Industries (see Death Most Definite), Steven de Selby has been promoted to Australia’s Regional Manager. He knows he is not ready for this new position that he got due to being the last Pomp standing so he does what most young males do – he turns to drink, rage and more drink and his girlfriend Lissa.

Finally he accepts that he has no choice except turn the Death collection firm around though he faces plenty of issues starting with a stirrer revival epidemic due to a shortage of experienced Pomps (thank goodness for high unemployment as the survivor benefits are excellent not that the recruit will care), plan for a Death Moot, organize the office Christmas party and deal with an apparent zombie master who wants to end the world as Steven knows it. In other words he has to stop wallowing in survivor guilt and begin Managing Death while avoiding death as someone wants to reengineer the system; all that and a few drinks at the Christmas party.

The second Death thriller is a terrific entry that has less action than its predecessor but stronger character development especially Steven, who comes out of his PTSD to find the regional end of the world, has become more global. Told by Steven, fans will enjoy insight into his work, office pace, and an Australia turned upside down by Trent Jamieson. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Steven’s rapid rise to the top of the dead heap, but he knows there is always someone gunning to take you down; in his case that is literally not figuratively.

Harriet Klausner

The King of the Crags-Stephan Deas

The King of the Crags
Stephan Deas
Roc, Feb 1 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780451463760

In the Realms, Prince Jehal has succeeded in achieving the first objective in his strategic plan. He has placed his lover Queen Zafir in charge of the hundreds of drugged brutally trained dragons and consequently their respective aristocratic riders. Everything came together except for that pesky white dragon who, if still alive, could destroy his plot to replace Zafir as the ruler of the realms; Jehal is unconcerned that if the freed beast attacks many will die.

Snow the White Dragon is planning to liberate her peers. The task will be difficult as they are drugged but just like she telepathically linked to her master Kailin, she knows she mentally will reach the intelligent part of the dragons. Whole Zafir distrusts Jehal and prepares to prevent his coup d’état, exiled Princess Jaslyn and Hyrkallen the dragonmaster lead a counterinsurgency.

The second Memory of Flames dark fantasy (see The Adamantine Palace) continues the brutal gruesome adventures in the bleak Deas Realms as this is no cozy. The story line is fast-paced with literal back-stabbing a normal acceptable way of life as alliances are temporary and fragile. Readers will appreciate soaring through the skies of the Realms as every free thinker has a deadly agenda with civilian (human and dragon) deaths an acceptable consequence.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hellhole -Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Tor, Mar 15 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9780765322692

From the frontier aptly titled planet Hellhole, exiled rebel General Tiber Adolphus remains adamant with his opposition to the avarice plots of the Crown Jewel worlds and Diadem Michella Duchenet. He and his cohorts know what they must do if they are to overcome the powerful elite, but to achieve it seems out of reach especially from the nightmarish orb they hide on. His side must find a means to end the royal space travel monopoly. Once that is achieved, they can go onto the next step which is to forge an alliance of Deep Zone planets.

On Sonjeera far from the Deep Zone frontier planets, Diadem Michella has issues with the ancient noble families. At the same time her preoccupation means she and her advisors fail to notice Adolphus is implementing plans that could shake the royal stranglehold on space travel and beyond that much more.
This outer space science fiction thriller pays homage to Dune with the Hellhole environ, but takes its own overall entertaining spin in spite of none of the key cast breaking out of stereotypical roles. The story line is filled with action although the ending is a disappointment as that resolves nothing except set the stage for the next saga. Still fans of Dune will enjoy this epic offspring space opera.

Harriet Klausner

Kings of the North -Elizabeth Moon

Kings of the North
Elizabeth Moon
Del Rey, Mar 22 2011, $26.00
ISBN 9780345508751

Former mercenary leader Kieri Phelan has become the King of Lyonya while Mikeli is crowned ruler of Tsaia. At the same time Senior Captain of the Second Cohort mercenary company Dorrin has become the Duke of Verrakai. All have come a long way, but now are targets of assassins whose employers covet both aristocratic positions.

One of the biggest threats to both kingdoms comes from newly self-proclaimed Duke Visla Vaskronin. However, Kieri also deals with imminent war with neighboring Pargun. He pleads with his elven grandmother the Lady to help him and their kingdom that she rules along with him, but she fails to assist him. He knows it is up to him to keep Lyonya safe. At the same time Mikeli feels he must act to destroy what is left of the evil Verrakaien magelords.

The second entry in the second Paks world series follows the key characters closely as the two monarchs and the dukes adapt to new duties not always successfully. There is plenty of off page major events, but those are seen passively through the eyes of the lead protagonists rather than in person by the reader. Thus, the pace is at best moderate speed, but fans of a cerebral character driven fantasy will enjoy the journey into the center of the minds of Kieri, Mikeli, Dorrin and somewhat less Visla.

Harriet Klausner

The Sea Thy Mistress -Elizabeth Bear

The Sea Thy Mistress
Elizabeth Bear
Tor, Feb 1 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9780765318848

To save the world, Muire the Angel gave herself up by diving into the sea to become the Bearer of Burdens (see All the Windwracked Stars). However, not everyone she left behind rejoice with her ascension sacrifice. In Eiledon Cathoair the immortal warrior angel mourns his loss, which he sees everyday in their offspring Cathmar, who he raises as a single dad knowing the lad will never meet his mother.

Even more raging is Heythe the Goddess, who had set in motion the end of the world before Muire interceded, but riding into the future she is shocked to find a renewed world rather than a dead orb. Knowing what Muire sacrifice has cost her, Heythe takes out her anger and frustration on tormented Cathoair who wallows in pity. She encourages the relatively new immortal to walk a personal path of destruction to force Muire to break her Bearer of Burdens oath and cause the final demise of Valdyrgard. On the other hand her other toy is the son but he displays maturity as he becomes an adult. Meanwhile Mingan the wolf observes the return of the evil enemy and plans to prevent Heythe’s second chance at ending the world.

This fantasy is fascinatingly more a character study as readers see deep into the souls of father and son and to a lesser degree other cast members. Elizabeth Bear enables her fans to feel Cathoair’s torment; yet there is plenty of action as Heythe tries to force Muire to return to save her beloved mate and their son. Although Heythe is not quite as powerfully wicked as she was in All the Windwracked Stars, The Sea Thy Mistress is a super thriller as the audience wonders how the heroine of the first thriller will react to the latest threat.

Harriet Klaussner

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Shadowspell-Jenna Black

Jenna Black
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jan 4 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780312575946

Sixteen year old hybrid Faeriewalker Dana Hathaway understands what it is like to be the First Daughter on a date as she goes out with Ethan who saved her life from Aunt Grace while Finn the Fae bodyguard chaperones them. On the bright side, she has finally gotten her alcoholic acrimonious human mother and her mysterious Fae father in the same realm (see Glimmerglass).

However, far from a happy ever after in the crossroads of Avalon where humans and their technology work closely with Fae and their magic, Dana has major problems besides dating. Erlking leader of the psychopathological Wild Hunt and his horde have returned to Avalon where his pact with the faerie Queen limits who he can kill. Since the Faerie Queen proclaimed Dana must die as she does not want the teen to develop her rare Faeriewalker skills, everyone expects the immortal homicidal predator Erlking will kill the newcomer; everyone except Dana who believes he has a worse fate than death planned for her.

Shadowspell is an excellent young adult teen fantasy starring a strong caring heroine who risks more than her life for those she cherishes. Fast-paced yet amusing as Dana fumbles her way into understanding the rules of magic and dating Fae, readers of all ages will appreciate this engaging entry with a great late personal twist.

Harriet Klausner

Truth or Demon-Kathy Love

Truth or Demon
Kathy Love
Kensington Brava, Feb 22 2011, $14.00
ISBN 9780758231970

Arrogant First Circle demon of Hell Killian O’Brien is knocked out; when he regains consciousness he is surrounded by one pint sized woman Poppy Reed and three teenage girls (Poppy’s sister Daisy and her best friends Emma and Madison). The teens tell Poppy he is Madison’s cousin from Sweden. Poppy apologizes for hitting him over the head. The devilish trio explains to Killian they control him until he finds Poppy’s soulmate.

Killian thinks his dilemma is worse of a hell than that of his boss. The teens tell Poppy he is a paranormal investigator from Sweden seeking reputed spots in the Boston area. Poppy agrees to escort Killian around town. Poppy explains to Killian that her life changed when their parents died as she went from big sister graduating college to mother. Killian tries to use his mental charm on her but it fails; just like it did with the teens. He is attracted to his cute elfin escort. At the apartment he stays in, Veper the demon warns Killian that Satan is unhappy with him. Immediately afterward the teens warn Killian that Poppy is not to fall in love with him, but he wonders what about him falling in love with Poppy.

The lead couple is a fascinating pairing of a demon and a woman who gave up her life to raise her sister. The three teens come across as real caring individuals whose antics add humor while enhancing the fun frolic. Although the anticipated confrontations never reach hellish levels, urban romantic fantasy fans will enjoy this pleasant lighthearted diversion.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

License to Ensorcell-Katherine Kerr

License to Ensorcell
Katherine Kerr
Daw, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406561

Federal agent operative Nola O'Grady works for the most top secret government agency consisting of an entity of psychics that even the FBI and CIA are ignorant that it exists. She has doubts about coming home to San Francisco to work because she worries that her gifted family will get involved in her dangerous cases.

Making matters more complicated is her new partner Israeli Interpol secret agent Ari Nathan whose shoot first philosophy makes a bull in a china shop seems like ot behaves like a kitten. They investigate a serial killer who uses silver bullets to murder victims the psychopath believes are werewolves. Whereas Ari assumes the predator is insane, Nola knows the hunter targets are real lycanthrope as her brother Pat who ironically wanted to become a catholic priest was the first known victim.

This is an entertaining investigative urban fantasy that sub-genre readers will enjoy as O’Grady is a psychic Lara Croft and Nathan is her sidekick stepping on toes whose prime mission turns out to insure his female partner eats meals. Although the lead relationship is not a new combo (see Caitlin Kitteridge’s Black London and Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels) nor is the story line (see D.D. Barant’s Bloodhound Files), fans will enjoy the streets of San Francisco as seen through an otherworldly lens.

Harriet Klausner

Waterfall-Lisa T. Bergren

Lisa T. Bergren
David C. Cook, Feb 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9781434764331

Every summer, sisters Gabi and Lia Betarrini accompany their archeologist parents on an excavation in Italy. The pair hates the dust and heat, but mostly the ennui. This year is especially difficult as their dad recently died and they are with their mom Dr. Adri Betarrini who works at an Etruscan dig where the youngest single male is a septuagenarian. Dr. Manero of the Italian government may send mother and daughter back to Boulder as he wants to horn in on the glory.

To pass time while mom and Manero argue over paper and espresso, the siblings enter a recently opened tomb just to look around. However, their boring hot summer ends when Gabi places her hands in handprints, which transports her back to what looks like a renaissance reenactment battle scene except the blood is obviously real. Two opposing knights Forelli and Paratore are the most combative enemies as Gabi learns she is in 1332 with these heirs to city states fighting each other. With Shakespeare centuries into the future and towering over all the women and most of the men, Gabi wonders how to go home when no tomb with handprints appears for her to try and no ruby slippers exist.

The first River of Time young adult thriller is a super suspense filled tale as teenage Gabi finds she is in all sorts of trouble starting with landing in a combat zone and unable to find immediate clothing that fits her being over a hand taller than the next tallest female in Siena. Fast-paced, prideful Gabi makes the exciting story line feel real. She is a stranger in a strange land struggling to adjust to missing her mom and sister; as much as to having no indoor plumbing and even though she knows a lot about the era using chamber pots are not the same as even portable toilets.

Harriet Klausner
David C. Cook, Feb 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9781434764331

Every summer, sisters Gabi and Lia Betarrini accompany their archeologist parents on an excavation in Italy. The pair hates the dust and heat, but mostly the ennui. This year is especially difficult as their dad recently died and they are with their mom Dr. Adri Betarrini who works at an Etruscan dig where the youngest single male is a septuagenarian. Dr. Manero of the Italian government may send mother and daughter back to Boulder as he wants to horn in on the glory.

To pass time while mom and Manero argue over paper and espresso, the siblings enter a recently opened tomb just to look around. However, their boring hot summer ends when Gabi places her hands in handprints, which transports her back to what looks like a renaissance reenactment battle scene except the blood is obviously real. Two opposing knights Forelli and Paratore are the most combative enemies as Gabi learns she is in 1332 with these heirs to city states fighting each other. With Shakespeare centuries into the future and towering over all the women and most of the men, Gabi wonders how to go home when no tomb with handprints appears for her to try and no ruby slippers exist.

The first River of Time young adult thriller is a super suspense filled tale as teenage Gabi finds she is in all sorts of trouble starting with landing in a combat zone and unable to find immediate clothing that fits her being over a hand taller than the next tallest female in Siena. Fast-paced, prideful Gabi makes the exciting story line feel real. She is a stranger in a strange land struggling to adjust to missing her mom and sister; as much as to having no indoor plumbing and even though she knows a lot about the era using chamber pots are not the same as even portable toilets.

Harriet Klausner