Friday, October 19, 2012

Sugarland Melting- Sam Neace

Sugarland Melting

Sam Neace

BlackWyrm, Jul 23 2011, $11.95

ISBN: 9781613181072

In Eastern Kentucky ninety-nine years old multimillionaire RJ Rockhouse constructs Sugarland, a thirteen trailer park in the shape of a cross. He soon expands his original concept to fifty trailers. Rockhouse selects families living below the poverty line to reside in the trailers rent free.

The nearby townsfolk wonder why he used this form of philanthropy when the affluent Rockhouse could donate to causes that would help many more people. Five years ago, RJ’s beloved wife Lola died. At her funeral he apparently lost his mind. Now the townsfolk believe his latest action affirms his insanity. Instead, RJ, who believes in the magic of 100, has a plan to transfer his soul and that of Lola into the bodies of his Sugarland residents.

Sugarland Melting is an engaging thriller that keeps readers guessing whether the storyline is a necromancy horror or a psychological suspense. Once readers know the path the entertaining plot goes, the excitement ebbs. Still this is a strong character driven tale of a desperate person trying to regain paradise lost at any cost.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Cassandra Project-Jack McDevitt and Mike Resnick

The Cassandra Project

Jack McDevitt and Mike Resnick

Ace, Nov 6 2012, $25.95

ISBN 9781937008710

In 2019, the United States remains in the throes of the Great Recession. Federal agencies are cut to the bone so that there is little strategic planning when surviving daily operations has become the norm. In that environs, NASA press director agent Jerry Culpepper is a long term thinker grounded in reality.

Jerry releases material from the 1960s Apollo mission that contains a shocking recording between Houston and Sydney Myshko, captain of the first test mission to circle the moon on which the astronaut says he is landing. In the second test mission, astronaut Aaron Walker wrote in his diary that he walked on the moon. Two now deceased men and apparently a few others claim to have taken that “… giant leap for mankind” before Armstrong did. Jerry seeks the truth while trying to contain what seems to be a scandalous cover-up that capitalist Bucky Blackstone plans to exploit for his private enterprise moon landings. President George Cunningham realizes he loses credibility no matter what happens.

This is a superb NASA thriller that works because the key players seem genuine especially in how they react to the information as it is found. With a nod to the movie Capricorn One but with realistic people and critically no odious villains, fans will want to know if Armstrong was fifth in the batting order and why the four astronauts to precede him were not acknowledged as walking on the moon.

Harriet Klausner

Bronze Summer-Stephen Baxter

Bronze Summer

Stephen Baxter

Roc, Nov 6 2012, $26.95

ISBN 9780451464798

Millennia have passed since the Year of the Great Sea led to teenagers Ana and Novu leading the construction of the Great Wall. By the Year of the Fire Mountain, Northland has become a prosperous pat of the continent rather than being under the North Sea or conquered by the kingdoms to the east. The impoverished Greeks look at Northland and its trading partner the thriving Hittites for conquest during devastating drought.

In the Northland capital Etxelur, the head of the ruling order dies in what appears to be an accident at a time her daughter Milaqa has failed to choose which Order to join. Milaqa’s Uncle Teel believes his sister was murdered and demands his grieving niece join him and the secret Order of the Crow in investigating the death. At the same time Qirum and dethroned queen Kilushepa team up to take advantage of the chaos engulfing much of the continent including Northland.

The second Northland alternate prehistoric thriller (see Stone Spring) has moved the people from a stone age into a bronze age at a time when an Icelandic volcanic eruption has led to climate change and famine. The action-filled storyline is filled with too much blood and gore distracting from the engaging political and social upheaval started by that volcano erupting; violence is a way of life in Stephen Baxter’s Bonze Age tale.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Phoebe & the Ghost of Chagall-Jill Koenigsdorf

Phoebe & the Ghost of Chagall

Jill Koenigsdorf

MacAdam/Cage, Oct 26 2012, $24.00

ISBN: 9781596923836

In Sonoma, California single mom Phoebe is a failed artist who keeps herself and her daughter Audrey from starving by designing wine labels though her creditors are demanding remittance or else. Twenty-five years after he died, the ghost of Marc Chagall arrives in her kitchen. He is thankful that Audrey cannot see him while he ponders why a painting he drew that her father found during the 1944 liberation of France never came to Phoebe or her mother. Marc is pleased to see his host has reproductions of his work on her walls. Vowing to help her find what is due her while also resolving the one thing that disturbed him when he was alive: his hundred or so paintings that vanished during WWI.

After a spirited introduction, the wannabe artist and the dead artist begin their trek to find La Contorsioniste. They soon run into an assorted motley crew wanting to ether help them or help themselves as witches, black market traffickers, sinister collectors, an inn keeper and much more join the search.

This fabulous paranormal amateur sleuth works brilliantly on two levels. First the historical provides the audience with strong insight into Chagall and his work, as well as the Nazi art theft with each intricately interwoven into the engaging storyline. Second is the exciting amateur sleuth search for the missing masterpiece and other works by the renowned artist. Fans will enjoy this good (art lovers) and evil (art profiteers) thriller as Phoebe & the Ghost of Chagall investigate.

Harriet Klausner

The Stockholm Octavo-Karen Engelmann

The Stockholm Octavo

Karen Engelmann

Ecco, Oct 23 2012, $26.99

ISBN: 9780061995347

In 1791, Offices of Customs and Excise Sekretaire Emil Larsson loves the life of a swinging single in enlightened Stockholm. He enjoys drinking, playing cards and is contented as a bachelor though his employment is in jeopardy if he fails to marry soon.

Everything changes for Emil when he meets gambling club owner Sofia Sparrow. A fortune teller whose clientele include King Gustav III, Mrs. Sparrow lays out the bureaucrat’s personal Octavo of eight people who will assist him in finding his fiancĂ©e and a promotion. What she fails to tell him is that his Octavo overlaps with hers in a Divine Geometrical connection and that his octet is divided on both sides of a scheme involving the monarch.

This is a fresh thrilling Swedish historical fantasy that ties what is happening in France to what occurs in Sweden. The opening act is incredible as readers learn of aristocratic intrigue and the applications of the pseudo sciences (Divine geometry, numerology, hand fan magic and cartomancy). Soon Emil’s search by the numbers for a wife via the Octavo contacts lead to the demands of opposing female conspirators (Mrs. Sparrow and Baroness Kristina Uzanne). Complex due to changing roles and relationships (thankfully a cast listing included as there are fourteen key players and the city), readers will appreciate this strong though at times convoluted late eighteenth century tale as the audience and the protagonist learn it is in the cards.

Harriet Klausner

Hidden-P.C. Cast, Kristin Cast


P.C. Cast, Kristin Cast

St. Martin’s Griffin, Oct 16 2012, $18.99

ISBN: 9780312594428

After the major disappointment that the Vampyre High Council failed her and her friends when they allowed Neferet to return as the High Priestess at Tulsa's House of Night, teenager Zoey Redbird felt alone. However she now has mixed feelings as she feels great that her evil enemy has been exposed, but deeply mourns the loss of her mother to the Darkness, and the death of Dragon killed by the Aurox (see Destined). Thanatos is currently High Priestess at Tulsa's House of Night. Zoey feels she will finally have time to grieve.

Raging Neferet refuses to vanish into the darkness. She deploys a brilliant stratagem to turn the human populace of Tulsa and the House of Night School residents into enemies. Realizing what the evil one has wrought, Zoey delays her mourning to battle her insidious adversary and to calm the frightened humans before a deadly incident becomes the point of no return.

Hidden begins a different relational dynamic in the exhilarating House of Night urban fantasy as Neferet has lost power and Zoey has gained some with the exposure. Rotating viewpoints, this strong pivotal entry enables readers to understand better what makes key cast members tick in a free will cosmos. Cast to the second power provides a terrific taut thriller as major chaotic change has come to Tulsa.

Harriet Klausner