Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Sword Of Michael-Marcus Wynne

The Sword Of Michael
Marcus Wynne
Baen, Nov 4 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476736891

As the dead man he killed twice chases him into a cemetery, Shaman Marius Winter muses the story of his life is in his hands as he holds the sacred power of Christ’s rosary beads and the profane worldly Glock.  He fires shots into the knees and elbows of the zombie, preventing it from moving before sprinkling holy water on the Dark Force and asking Michael of the Light to cleanse this evil.  Marius now knows the Dark Forces are back and he is a prime target probably because of his Depossession success rate

Hell’s Dark God Belial sends a sorcerer to destroy Marius starting with possessing the souls of those his adversary loves; like his girlfriend Jolene, Avatar to the Goddess.  When Marius learns the fate of Jolene and others he cares about, guided by his triad of spiritual advisors (First In Front medicine man, Tigre the spirit tiger and Burt the spirit raven); he accepts the risks associated with his undertaking to save their souls.  Accompanied by his guides, Marius initially must deal with the hellish sorcerer and, if successful, traverse the circles of Hell to confront Belial in the innermost; losing at any point means the Dark possesses his soul.

With a nod to Dante, the first Depossessionist urban fantasy is filled with plenty of action-packed fighting scenes and some religious philosophizing.  The storyline is at its best when the plot stays focused on the war, but loses momentum with unnecessary, odd power hungry groups joining the fray.  Although the cast, even the hero, is never developed beyond their prime reason for existence, The Sword Of Michael is an entertaining Forces of the Light vs. Minion of The Dark thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Empire of Dust-Jacey Bedford

Empire of Dust
Jacey Bedford
DAW, Nov 4 2014, $7.99
ISBN 9780756410162

Psi-tech telepath Cara Carlinni is on the run from Alphacorp because she is aware her former boss and one time lover Ari van Blaiden will kill her once his goons catch up to her; as he wants no witnesses to the pirate attack he arranged on a colony.  Desperate to avoid mind to mind detection and aware of withdrawal torment that will probably kill her anyway, Cara still shut down the implant that the firm financed in exchange for her being their indentured servant. 

So far Cara eluded her ruthless pursuers on El Arish and Shalla where an off the grid psi-much suggested she go Station Mirrimar 14, a place with allegedly psi-tech rebels.  Not only has she failed to find her peers, Alphacorp arrives.  Cara meets Reska Benjamin who agrees to take her with his team of psi-techs to Olyanda to assist with colonization.  Adding tension is many of the client Ecolibrians loathes psi-techs and the discovery of mineral deposits places Olyanda on pirate looting list.

The first Psi-Tech science fiction is an action-packed outer space thriller in which the Bedford galaxy seems real.  Filled with plenty of escapades mostly on a world that comes across as genuine and starring a beleaguered woman in peril, a haunted hero and a ruthless villain; readers will want to journey to Olyanda where several rivals compete for control. 

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 20, 2014

Closer to Home-Mercedes Lackey

Closer to Home
Mercedes Lackey
DAW, Oct 7 2014, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756408992

In Haven, Valdemar, Mags the Herald is with his Companion Dallen when he hears the Mindvoice shriek of the King’s Own Nikolas.  Using Mindvoice he tries to contact Nikolas but his mentor fails to respond.  Dallen and Mags see Nikolas floating in the nearby river.  On top of Dallen, Mags pulls Nikolas onto the shore, but he is not breathing.  Using the Breath of Life technique Bear taught him, Mags saves Nikolas’ life. 

Rolan the Companion selects the incapacitated Nikolas’ panicked daughter Amily to replace him as the King’s Own though the monarch Kyril fears having an untested young female in such a critical position.  Complicating matters for the new King’s Own and the monarch is a treasonous coup to extinguish the Heralds and fill the power void.  With unprecedented Mindspeech skill, Mags assists Amily in an attempt to uncover the traitors before the Collegium is shattered, its Heralds eradicated and King Kyril loses the throne.

The first Herald Spy Valdemar fantasy is a fabulous opening act as Mags (no longer a stranger in a strange land) and Amily face impossible odds.  Both fear they’re not ready for the big leagues without adult supervision (Nikolas), but they bravely team-up to do the right thing with so much at stake.  Fast-paced throughout, yet vivid Valdemar and the key cast (particularly the protagonists and their companions) seem genuine.  Genre readers, especially series fans, will delight in returning to Valdemar.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Chaplain's War-Brad R. Torgersen

The Chaplain's War
Brad R. Torgersen
Baen, Oct 7 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476736853

In the middle of the twenty-second century, the alien Mantes cyborgs invaded human space with one objective: total genocide.  The humans fought back but the enemy proved superior.  Five years ago the Mantes defeated an invading force and captured Chaplain Assistant Harrison Barlow and many other soldiers on a planet the POWs call Purgatory.  With the Chaplain dead, Harrison helps his fellow prisoners keep the faith though he avoids any specific religion.  Two years ago he completed a chapel for those who want to pray alongside him to God for deliverance.

A Mantis, who tells Harrison he is equivalent to a Professor, visits him constantly to learn more about the Holy Man’s belief in an invisible God.  The Professor explains humanity is the third essence the Mantes have met that believes in an indiscernible guiding spirit.  When Harrisons asks the Mantis what his race believes in; the Professor responds “nothing”.  While Harrison teaches the Professor about human spiritualty, some of his race feels he betrays them while some of the Mantis’ race insists it is insignificant what the enemy thinks.

This intriguing science fiction is told in three parts (with one and two modifications of previously released “The Chaplain’s Assistant” and “The Chaplain’s Legacy”) and the third section ("The Chaplain’s War") totally new.  The expansion enhances the fascinating focus on two species at war with differing social values especially highlighted by a to believe or not to believe in a deity; ironically most members of each race share in common the competitive drive for all out victory.  Thus the Chaplain Assistant and The Professor are outliers as they thrive for understanding of each other’s respective species, which is a step towards all out peace. 

Harriet Klausner

Brood-Chase Novak

Chase Novak
Little, Brown/Mulholland, Oct 7 2014, $26.00
ISBN 9780316228008

Manhattan residents Alex and Leslie Twisden lived a great lifestyle until they went to Slovenia for illegal fertility treatments.  The procedure worked and they had twins Alice and Adam, but also turned the nice couple into malevolent ogres (see Breed).

Moving into the renovated Upper East Side townhouse that Alex and Leslie turned into a monstrosity, antiques dealer Cynthia Kramer becomes guardian to her troubled niece and nephew.  She hopes to nurture them into a good mental state through love.  However, the youngsters fear puberty will make them a chip off the cannibalistic block and especially do not want to harm their caring aunt.  Alice and Adam flee to Central Park where evil greets them with a scheme to use the siblings.

The efforts to prevent what seems inevitable turn this sequel into an exciting urban horror though Mother Cynthia’s constant anxiety panic attacks detract from an otherwise electrifying family drama.  With a stunning climax to an overall tense tale (mainly when the twins rule the storyline), this is a winning read particularly when the Twisden brother and sister invade Central Park.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Wonder Of All Things-Jason Mott

The Wonder Of All Things
Jason Mott
Harlequin MIRA, Sep 30 2014, $24.95
ISBN: 9780778316527

At the Fall Festival in Stone Temple, North Carolina, former resident Matt Cooper entertains the locals with flying stunts when his plane sputters and crashes.  Cooper dies, but the crowd miraculously survives.  Sheriff Macon Campbell finds his thirteen year old daughter Ava and her BFF Wash trapped under rubble.  Ava touches Wash’s severe wounds and a second miracle occurs when the teen heals instantly while someone records the event on a cell phone.

The recording goes viral leading to hordes arriving in Stone Temple to glimpse the “Miracle Child” or obtain a cure.  However, the physical cost to Ava begins to appear as each miracle weakens her until she is hospitalized.  Trying to avoid any more damage to her body, Ava soon has a Hobson’s choice when Wash learns he has leukemia.

Once again dealing with the impact of divine miracles on a small-town (see The Returned, the basis for the Resurrection television series), Jason Mott provides a poignant novel that looks deeply into the responsibilities towards others and the rights of one vs. the needs of the many.  The sidebar focus on the woes of support characters detracts from the otherwise fabulous storyline; as Ava is a great protagonist who wants to do the right thing to help those suffering especially her Wash; but the cost she pays for being the Good Samaritan increasingly seems to be her life. 

Harriet Klausner

Burning Desire-Donna Grant

Burning Desire
Donna Grant
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Sep 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250060709

When Rhi the Light Fae vanishes in Cork, Ireland, the Dragon Kings become concerned that she may go to the dark side.  Dragon King Kiril arrives to gather intel while his peers remain in Scotland. 

Her Dark Fae family has locked away Shara for centuries because of her unacceptable embarrassing behavior towards others.  Now she has one last chance to prove to be a loyal member though Shara has never felt like she belonged and their demand goes against her nature; failure to do so means her execution and ironically succeeding means being married off to a vicious Fae.  Her mission is to lure the visiting Dragon King so that her kin can make him their prisoner when his guard is down.  Instead, Shara finds she is attracted to Kiril and does not want to cause him any harm.  As she assists her beloved with saving Rhi from Balladyn, Shara becomes this Dark Fae’s prisoner inside his fortress leading to Kiril believing his beloved betrayed him.

The latest Dark Kings romantic urban fantasy (see Fire Rising and Darkest Flame novels and Dark Heat stories) is a thrilling entry filled with plenty of action highlighted by an apparently doomed star-crossed romance.  The lead couple is a delightful pairing as trust proves fleeting.  Although depth is added to the overarching premise, no thread is completed.  Yet series fans will enjoy these natural enemies falling in love.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Choir Of Angels-Debbie Macomber

Choir Of Angels
Debbie Macomber
Harlequin MIRA, Sep 30 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9780778316732

Shirley, Goodness and Mercy.”  In San Francisco, sexagenarian Greg Bennett has a sinful history of abandonment (his pregnant girlfriend and dying mom) and betrayal (his brother and partner).  He wanders into a church where he prays for the first time in decades.  No angel wants to help this loser find redemption so Archangel Gabriel assigns the impossible project to his three zaniest subordinates: Shirley, Goodness and Mercy.

“Those Christmas Angels.”  In Seattle, Anne Fletcher worries about her son Roy, who used to be an outgoing friendly person, but now is an acrimonious workaholic Scrooge.  She wants Roy to rediscover what life is all about though a grandchild would be nice so she prays for heavenly intervention.  Now Anne might have reconsidered turning to heaven if she knew angels Shirley, Goodness and Mercy were going to answer her prayers.  The angelic trio literally tosses Julie Wilcoff in Roy's path.  However, when this threesome interferes it means chaos. 

“Where Angels Go.”  Although he expects these three rule breakers to cause him heart failure, Archangel Gabriel realizes they miraculously get heavenly results.  He reluctantly sends them to answer Christmas prayers for divine intervention. Mercy tries helping elderly Harry find peace before he dies as he fears leaving his beloved wife behind. Goodness assists Beth in taking a second chance at love ever since her forever marriage ended quickly. Finally Shirley grants a wish to a little boy who just wants to keep his dog, but his family cannot afford another mouth to feed.

This omnibus reprint of three lighthearted tales stars the Murphy of angelic matchmaking; as “anything that can go wrong will go wrong” with this trio’s heavenly intervention

Harriet Klausner

Ghost Wolf-Michele Hauf

Ghost Wolf
Michele Hauf
Harlequin Nocturne, Oct 1 2014, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373009299

Raging and grieving, Beckett Severo seeks vengeance against human hunters after he witnessed one of that pathetic species shoots and kills his father, and worse had to break the news to his hysterical vampiress mother.  Two months later, Becket runs into a female wolf shifter near Tangle Lake who impressively leaves him with a mean right to his jaw. 

Daisy-Blu Saint-Pierre hopes to obtain the Tangle Lake Tattler reporter internship by doing an article on the Ghost Wolf, who has been seen recently in the vicinity twice by frightened hunters.  She plans to ask Beck if he knows anything about the Ghost Wolf when she runs into him again.  Meanwhile Beck finds each shift increasingly drains him to the point he fears he soon will die from what was once natural but not since fairy magic changed him into the Ghost Wolf.   As he and Daisy Blue bond, she learns his secret.  If she reveals what she knows in the Tattler, she would surely get the position she covets seemingly more than her wolf; while his craving for revenge leaves their love teetering.

The first Saint-Pierre werewolf romance is a pleasing frolic starring two appealing protagonists whose youthful enthusiasm makes the tale, but also leaves something permanent between them doubtful.  Readers will appreciate their energetic romp even as danger threatens the two shifters.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sword of the Bright Lady-M.C. Planck

Sword of the Bright Lady
M.C. Planck
Pyr, Sep 9 2014, $18.00
ISBN 9781616149888

At first mechanical engineer Christopher Sinclair thought he was in some sort of weird dream with no electrical device anywhere and a dirty teenaged stranger named Helga sharing his bed instead of his wife.  He changes his mind about sleeping and assumes he was in a plane crash in a remote medieval part of Europe.  However, he soon realizes this is not Arizona, America or Switzerland; as somehow he “walked” into another realm.

Feeling lost and missing his spouse, Christopher begins to learn the rules of “physics” in his new world are based on tael death magic with the power hierarchy dependent on how much a person controls.  To initially survive in this war-ravaged dominion, Christopher pledges allegiance to the Goddess of Healing, the Bright Lady.  When Marcius the God of War offers the engineer a better deal he accepts performing the deity’s quests in return to going home.  Sinclair introduces a new type of magic based on guns and butter as he teaches commoners to forge steel to make weapons and household items.

Book One of The World Of Prime is a fantastic opening act in fantasy as a twenty-first century American engineer with contemporary inclusiveness ethics and a belief in physics falls through a rabbit hole into a medieval feudal land whose system is magic based and deity connected.  Much more Clark Kent than Superman, bewildered Christopher keeps the intense storyline focused by muddling through his new life as a fish out of water while dealing with enemies who relish the status quo and Doubting Thomas supporters.  He wants to go home, but the Gods refuse to give him ruby red slippers.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Broken-Tracie L. Slatton

Tracie L. Slatton
Parvati Press, Sep 5 2014, $16.99
ISBN: 9780986061158

In 1939 earth time Alia mourns the loss of Ariel by leaving Heaven to take on mortal form just before Paris falls.  A self-anointed fallen angel, the hedonistic Alia insists she cares nothing about the beleaguered Broken Parisians and even less with the evil Nazi occupiers to come.

However, Alia enjoys sex with her sweet ferocious lover, half-Spaniard, half German Jew Pedro the bullfighter, whose father abandoned him and his mom in Spain while he was still in the womb.  Archangel Michael questions Alia why here when she knows the torment to follow.  She insists she did not lose her way; that God did by allowing this mad Führer loose on his so-called beloved mortals.  Michael reminds her she has one miracle to offer, he prays she wisely uses it.  As the war intensifies and unthinkable atrocities occur, Alia meets Josef the Jewish physicist, mathematician and violinist, and soon to be her lover.  As the years pass, Alia’s day of reckoning that Michael predicted finally arrives when she must choose between continual self-indulgence and sacrifice to save the lives of her friend Jewish widow Suzanne Dubois and her child Cecile.

Though the action is somewhat muted, Broken is a great philosophical WWII drama that focuses on a fallen angel who no longer believes God cares.  The key cast is fully-developed with diverse reactions to what is happening to the Jews and not just Hitler’s Final Solution as Josef learned in Antwerp and others in Cuba and America; while real persona like Sartre adds a powerful sense of time and place.  Tracie L. Slatton provides a profound look at religion during a crisis of faith in which even angels question whether God abandoned the flock.

Harriet Klausner

Broken Tracie L. Slatton

Tracie L. Slatton
Parvati Press, Sep 5 2014, $16.99
ISBN: 9780986061158

In 1939 earth time Alia mourns the loss of Ariel by leaving Heaven to take on mortal form just before Paris falls.  A self-anointed fallen angel, the hedonistic Alia insists she cares nothing about the beleaguered Broken Parisians and even less with the evil Nazi occupiers to come.

However, Alia enjoys sex with her sweet ferocious lover, half-Spaniard, half German Jew Pedro the bullfighter, whose father abandoned him and his mom in Spain while he was still in the womb.  Archangel Michael questions Alia why here when she knows the torment to follow.  She insists she did not lose her way; that God did by allowing this mad Führer loose on his so-called beloved mortals.  Michael reminds her she has one miracle to offer, he prays she wisely uses it.  As the war intensifies and unthinkable atrocities occur, Alia meets Josef the Jewish physicist, mathematician and violinist, and soon to be her lover.  As the years pass, Alia’s day of reckoning that Michael predicted finally arrives when she must choose between continual self-indulgence and sacrifice to save the lives of her friend Jewish widow Suzanne Dubois and her child Cecile.

Though the action is somewhat muted, Broken is a great philosophical WWII drama that focuses on a fallen angel who no longer believes God cares.  The key cast is fully-developed with diverse reactions to what is happening to the Jews and not just Hitler’s Final Solution as Josef learned in Antwerp and others in Cuba and America; while real persona like Sartre adds a powerful sense of time and place.  Tracie L. Slatton provides a profound look at religion during a crisis of faith in which even angels question whether God abandoned the flock.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lethal Seasons-Alice Sabo

Lethal Seasons
Alice Sabo
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Aug 6 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781500526627

In what afterward became known by survivors as Year Zero, a maniac released a virus leaving estimates of 40% of the world population dead and all governments unable to cope with a pandemic of that magnitude.  Every summer for the next decade since Year Zero, the virus returns with a new lethal strain to continue the devastation of humanity and the end of urban centers.

Nick, who lost his loved ones to the disease, travels what is left of the United States as a census counter.  When he finds two corpses who apparently killed each other; Nick would rejoice that there is one less mercenary causing havoc; but mourns for the other dead person since child bearing age and younger females are the most critical demographic if mankind is to survive.  His mission now is to find and rescue the deceased woman’s siblings while teams of marauders stalk these youngsters and his home High Meadow is under assault.

Mindful of the Kevin Costner movie The Postman, the first Changed World post-apocalyptic thriller is an exciting but grim novel as survival of the deadliest is the way of life (outside of High Meadow) since Year Zero.  Although the key cast is underdeveloped, Alice Sabo authors a twisting tense tale of an America (like the rest of the earth) continual out of control spiral deeper into the darkest era since recorded history began, but with tiny lights of hope like Nick.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Jack Staples And The Ring Of Time-Mark Batterson and Joel N. Clark

Jack Staples And The Ring Of Time
Mark Batterson and Joel N. Clark
David C. Cook, Sep 1 2014, $9.99
ISBN: 9780781411073

In Ireland, on his eleventh birthday Jack Staples is at the circus with his teenage brother Parker and their mother.  Ironically while a girl performs on a tightrope above lions and surrounded by a ring of fire, Jack is the only one in the audience distracted by a blackbird.  Suddenly all hell breaks loose inside the tent leaving Jack trapped by a spreading inferno while a terrifying voice demands he help destroy the Awakened.  His sibling and everyone else made it outside; they all assume Jack died except his mom who insists that The Child of Prophecy lives.  Inside, a lion dies saving Jack from the blaze by covering his body with his.

Most people have scales covering their eyes to keep them from seeing the evil that surrounds mankind; however Jack’s has fallen off so he now sees these horrors.  He and his BFF Arthur join the scales-off Awakened who include their elderly teacher Mrs. Dumphry and her former student Alexia AKA “Wild”.  Jack and Alexia learn both make up The Children of Prophecy; one will terminate and the other will resuscitate the Awakened.  When the Assassin attacks the town targeting the pair, they must learn under fire how to fight back.

Jack Staples (and Alexia) And The Ring Of Fire hooks readers from the opening act and never slows down in spite of rapid shifting focus.  The Christian good and evil fantasy is faster than DC’s Flash, as the pace never allows the tweener audience a respite.  Yet the first Staples story still insures that key players like the yin and yang Children of Prophecy and their teacher are fully developed. 

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Memory-Lois McMaster Bujold

Lois McMaster Bujold
Baen, Sep 2 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476736730

On his last mission at Jackson's Whole, dwarfish secret agent Miles Vorkosigan died, but was frozen and resuscitated (see Mirror Dance).  Insisting he is fine, Miles returns to field work only to suffer a seizure that endangers others while on a combat foray.  Afterward he lies about what happened and especially his physical condition in the report he provides to his superior, Barrayaran Imperial Security Chief Simon Illyan.  Reacting as he must, Illyan fires Miles.

Devastated as his field work including being the Admiral of the Dendarii mercenaries has been his only reason to live; the depressed Vorkosigan considers an active response “to be or not to be”.  However, when Illyan’s 100% perfect recall memory chip begins to fail him, Miles convinces the desperate Emperor Gregor to name him the Imperial Auditor; as both understand the gravity of errors by the Chief of IMPSEC places the empire in peril.

Following up on the Hugo Award winning Mirror Dance, this reprint of Memory is a strong transitional entry as Vorkosigan begins a new career.  Character driven by the "failing" minds, bodies and emotions of the two heroes, readers will appreciate this powerful novel that showcases Lois McMaster Bujold’s skills as Miles finds a new relevancy answering “…that is the question.”

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sleeping Late On Judgment Day-Tad Williams

Sleeping Late On Judgment Day
Tad Williams
Daw, Sep 2 2014, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756408893

Known in the Bay Area as Bobby Dollar, the Angel Doloriel entered Hell to rescue his girlfriend Caz the Countess of the Cold Hands trapped there by her owner Eligor the Horseman.  The good is he escaped Hell; the bad is he failed to liberate his demon girlfriend (see Happy Hour in Hell); and the ugly is he has no idea what to attempt next.

Bobby’s friend Walter escapes Hell, but suffers amnesia.  His buddy’s memory loss concerns Bobby because when they met in Hell, Walter was trying to warn him that Heaven is not a sanctuary.  Soon after their reunion, Bobby faces a not so heavenly judgmental tribunal with his only chance of surviving being that damned feather he needs to either save his soul or rescue his beloved.

The third Bobby Dollar urban fantasy (see The Dirty Streets of Heaven) is a fabulous satire as this time the angel advocate learns first hand that Heaven and Hell are identical twins when it comes to incompetence, immorality and intolerance.  Sleeping Late On Judgment Day is a tremendous spoof.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dinosaurs & A Dirigible-David Drake

Dinosaurs & A Dirigible
David Drake
Baen, Sep 2 2014, $14.00
ISBN 9781476736839

This anthology contains reprints of the fun four Henry Vickers (first time together) time traveling dinosaur era hunter novellas (King Tyrant Lizard, Calibration Run, Time Safari and Boundary Layer) and a fifth fine but filler entry (Travelers) in which he does not appear in the dirigible.  The Vickers sagas take readers to the predatory prehistoric era as the safari guide learns first hand who The Most Dangerous Game (Richard Connell) in history is while hunting dinosaurs and in one case hominid.  The non-Vickers addition occurs in 1897 when two teen Travellers have adventures crossing the United States in an airship captained by a seemingly eccentric genius.  Dinosaurs & A Dirigible is a delightful read.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fortunes of the Imperium-Jody Lynn Nye

Fortunes of the Imperium
Jody Lynn Nye
Baen, Sep 2 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476736723

In Taino, after losing his driver’s license due to accepting a foolish dare from his cousin, Core Worlds Lieutenant Lord Thomas Innes Loche Kinago learns from his aide-de-camp Commander Parsons that his irate mother has a special punishment for his shaming the dignity of the fleet.  Thus Thomas prepares for a diplomatic mission into the Autocracy of the Uctu sector where he is to learn why shippers are being held and delayed in that region.  However, his hidden agenda is to end the smuggling of contraband including weapons into Uctu space; as nine vessels recently were caught with illegal shipments.

To Thomas’ dismay, his cousin Jil joins him due to personal reasons involving a need to leave Taino for a while.  When Thomas and Visoltia the Autocrat meet, she likes the Core World officer for his upbeat energy and kindness, and amused by his ego greater than Uctu space; he is not the usual simpering diplomat she typically encounters.  Still as is his personality, Thomas distracts easily; leaving it to Parsons to keep him as usual focused on the mission; especially since most likely someone high up in the Autocracy runs the smuggling gamut.

The latest amusing Imperium science fiction (see The View From The Imperium) is a lighthearted outer space adventure due to the Jeeves-Wooster hyperbolic characterizations of the lead pair as they struggle with understanding an alien sentient lizard populace.  Although the storyline remains a one act joke with too much sidebar focus on Thomas’ latest distraction, this jocular novel is fun due to the antics of this aristocratic superego playing the roles of diplomat and undercover agent.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Winter Long-Seanan McGuire

The Winter Long
Seanan McGuire
Daw, Sep 2 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756408084

In Muir Woods, King of Cats Tybalt coaxes Sir Toby Daye to attend the first kingdom-wide Yule Ball since Gilead’s murder.  Adhering to protocol, Toby pays her respect to her liege Duke Sylvester Torquil. 

After Toby and the gang return to San Francisco, Sylvester rings the door of her Victorian.  Only after she allows her surprising visitor to enter does Toby realize her guest is not her liege as Sylvester smells like dogwood flower and daffodil while his lookalike’s odor is that of smoke and rotten oranges.  Her personal bogeyman Simon has returned stunning her with his claim to have saved October’s life when he changed her into a fish.  Astonished by this revelation and other Simon assertions, Toby relooks at what she believed were indisputable facts.

The latest October Daye urban fantasy is a stunner as Seanan McGuire shakes up her universe with a Big Bang that takes us fans and the heroine out of our comfort zones after seven previous entries (see Ashes of Honor and Chimes at Midnight).  The shocked Daye obsessively soul searches needing to believe as John said: “…the truth will set you free” but hopes not by killing her or driving her insane.  This is a fantastic spin to a fabulous saga.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Wood Sprites-Wen Spencer

Wood Sprites
Wen Spencer
Baen, Sep 2 2014, $25.00
ISBN 9781476736716

In New York City, twins Louise Georgina and Jillian Eloise Mayer are fifth graders at the Perelman School for the Gifted; while they also own and run Lemon Lime Jel-Lo creating satirical elven animations.  An explosion in the studio disrupts their latest project leaving them in the hospital.  To their astonishment, the two patients learn their blood type is AB; while their parents (George and Mackenzie) are O. 

George, who works at a cryogenic lab, explains they came from fertilized eggs.  Further research leads the sisters to learn they are hybrids with human and elven blood; who their surrogate mother and biological parents are; and the existence of four other eggs soon to be destroyed.  Louise and Eloise decide to identify whose specific DNA flows inside them and to save the eggs while working on a school play; but unaware their efforts place them in the middle of a cross-species conflict.

The 4th Elfhome young adult fantasy (see Tinker, Wolf Who Rules and Elfhome) contains plenty of science fiction in the mix while also allowing Tinker a respite as the focus turns to her younger brilliant sisters who provide a tweener perspective to recent events.  Fast-paced from the opening explosion to the final explosive confrontation, series fans will appreciate this entry in spite of little new happening; as all the twins want are to learn more about their roots, save their unborn siblings, produce their next film and perform in the school play; others have different plans for the pair.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Spells At The Crossroads-Barbara Ashford

Spells At The Crossroads
Barbara Ashford
Daw, Sep 2 2014, $8.99
ISBN: 9780756410216

“Spellcast.”  Following the loss of her job and the ceiling plaster in her New York apartment caving in, Maggie Graham escapes to Vermont.  When she learns of summer stock roles performing at the Crossroads Theatre in a barn just outside Dale, Maggie auditions and is stunned when she obtains roles in three shows.  Maggie finds the troupe odd yet endearing; but most disturbing is director Rowan Mackenzie.  He never seems to leave the theater and somehow casts a person in roles they need to perform on stage and in life rather than what they planned on. 

“Spellcrossed.”  Still in Vermont, Maggie replaced Rowan Mackenzie as director of the non-profit Crossroads Theatre.  The summer stock season has been difficult on her because of the cast.  The obnoxious professionals scorn Maggie and are nasty towards the bewildered amateurs; while the children act like an out of control horde.  She considers using the magic she found at the converted old barn, but knows her first mission is selling tickets if she wants to get her boss out of her theater.  However, ignoring the magic proves an unviable option when she finds herself drawn into a past personal mystery that needs resolution before the first curtain call. 

This reprint of the opening two Graham Green Mountain State acts stars a mesmerizing individual who casts a charm spell on readers; as magical Maggie keeps these wonderful whimsical witty works focused.  The theater’s otherworldly elements heal the lead first on stage and second as the field general director while subtly enhancing this second chance at making dreams real.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 5, 2014

Immortal Obsession-Linda Thomas-Sundstrom

Immortal Obsession
Linda Thomas-Sundstrom
Harlequin Nocturne, Sep 1 2014, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373009299

American reporter Madison Chase is in London albeit covering a story about the missing Yale Four, but also has a personal agenda.  She searches for her younger by a minute brother Stewart, a well-regarded Floridian attorney, who recently disappeared in London while she thought insanely investigating vampires.

A Blood Knight Guardian for centuries, Christopher St. John struggles to keep the inane mortals like Madison safe from the foolish fangs and especially from the Shades.  When they meet at a club, he is stunned by his desire for the forbidden human.  As she forces their teaming by his need to prevent an internationally known risk-taking journalist dying or vanishing, Madison wonders if her knight with shining fangs will bite her or be her Protector.

The latest Vampire Moons romantic urban fantasy (see Guardian Of The Knight and Golden Vampire) is a tense tale of London swinging with dangerous supernatural abound.  Although Christopher seems too similar to his knightly predecessors, the subgenre fans will root for courageous Madison to succeed with her endeavor while like the heroine wondering what happened to her twin. 

Harriet Klausner

The Savior-Tony Daniel and David Drake

The Savior
Tony Daniel and David Drake
Baen, Sep 2 2014, $25.00
ISBN 9781476736709

Zentrum the all mighty God of the Duisberg was a supercomputer before civilization imploded.  Interpreting his programming to keep people safe in spite of themselves, over the centuries Zentrum using its devout supporters controlled change to insure the planet remained in Stasis; ergo avoid repeating the great collapse.  However, the intellectual and brave periodically push the envelope so far before Zentrum reacts by releasing the terrorist Blood Winds barbarian horde to cleanse and purify society.

Encouraged by those two entities (the ancient legend of planet Bellevue General Raj Whitehall and Bellevue’s supercomputer Center) who made him their Chosen by sharing his brain; Major Abel Dashian understands that Zentrum must die as the first step to free his people.  However, even with a military legend and a supercomputer advising him from within his mind, Dashian has doubts about killing a super god seems impossible and if by a miracle successful, he still must lead his docile people against the gory warriors of the Blood Winds.

The well written 10th David Drake General (and 2nd collaborated with Tony Daniel) military science fiction is a gripping action-packed sequel in which the audience should read The Heretic first to learn how a small boy became the rebel leader.  The “triad” is well conceived, but the improbable fighting skills and non-blinking acceptance of advance technology by Dashien’s supporters seem over the top of Olympus Mons (think of the boomer horde original misadjusting to the initial spread of 1980s desktops) though very entertaining.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Beyond The Moon-Michele Hauf

Beyond The Moon
Michele Hauf
Harlequin Nocturne, Sep 1 2014, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373009282

In 1870s Clichy, France, fifteen year old Verity Van Velde the witch witnesses as her mother Amandine, betrayed by her witch hunter lover, screaming in pain while a mob rejoices her burning at the stakes.  A century and a half later residing in Paris, Verity still distrusts males. 

Also in Paris, the Order of the Stake sends top knight Rook to end the murderous spree of the Zmaj tribe and their leader Slater; who recently turned rogue with many marked kills that have brought unwanted attention to the secretive vampires.   When four vampires attack Verity, Rook intercedes and rescues her.  As they work together to end the killing spree, the vampire knight and the witch fall in love; but she distrusts all males after watching her mom’s horrifying death and he fears that undesirable feeling after what happened centuries ago.

The second In The Company of Vampires romantic urban fantasy is a thrilling Parisian tale that provides readers with a unique glimpse of the City of Lights.  The protagonists are a nice pairing of cross paranormal species who share in common love and doubts, which make their relationship somewhat similar to the stars of the equally engaging The Vampire Hunter. 

Harriet Klausner

Species Imperative-Julie E. Czerneda

Species Imperative
Julie E. Czerneda
Daw, Sep 2 2014, $17.00
ISBN: 9780756410148

“Survival.”  In the far distant future, humanity begins to reclaim the earth and at the same time joins the Interspecies Union.  Brymn the gigantic blue Dhryn arrives to warn earthlings that the hostile Ro armada plans for their genocide; humanity’s only survival hope is Norcoast Salmon Research Facility Administrator Dr. Mac Connor.

Migration.”  Trusting Brymn, Mac travels to his home world where to her horror he and his race transform into feeders, devouring every planet that is in their path. Back on Earth, Mac wants to forget the revulsion she witnessed.  Unfortunately she is the only one who can read and speak Dhryn; so the Interspecies Union needs her to learn why a staunch ally turned into carnivorous predatory adversary.  Mac’s salmon migration expertise enables her to understand the Dhryn and who the enemy really is. 

“Regeneration.”  Mac believes that the Ro somehow changed the Dhryn into a biological weapon of planetary mass destruction.  She knows the Ro live in a dimension beyond ours, but believes the means to save the Dhryn and bring the Ro to intergalactic justice may be found on destroyed Myriam.

This Species Imperative omnibus reprinting brings together the brilliant trilogy that focuses on sentient races allied for political, economic, and cultural reasons, and now a common enemy.  Mac is a superb heroine, but it is the incredible world building with intricately drawn species that make for a fantastic dark futuristic outer space series.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Locker Rooms-Patty Lesser

Locker Rooms
Patty Lesser
iUniverse, Dec 4 2013, $16.95
ISBN: 9781491713365

In Dundas, Canada thirty-eight year old Alida wins 10 million dollars in the lottery.  After collecting her check in nearby Toronto, Alida buys the Michael house, which is near the home where her parents live in Dundas.  When she cleans out the fireplace, Alida finds a tunnel behind it.  Stepping inside, Alida locates three rooms filled with lockers.  Opening one locker, a voice begs her to help free them from the boite.

Stunned and frightened as the voices warn her of Shad who locked them away, Alida escorts Barbara to her grave so that her soul can move on.  She takes two others to their final resting site while wondering why these good people who suffered sad deaths were locked away like sinners.  As Shad tries to kill her with a train derailment, a plane accident and a taxi’s breaks failure, and goes after her mind through her parents; Alida believes God watches over her.  Her fourth rescue Oliver asks to stay with her for a while.  As Alida and Oliver fall in love, her only hope to save these souls resides with Lucifer.

Locker Rooms is a refreshing, very creative look at the afterlife through the eyes of a courageous bi-polar (though that illness is downplayed) heroine, those victims she rescues and a devil who makes Lucifer seem heavenly.  Character-driven, readers will enjoy this leisurely-paced good, innocent and evil thriller especially as we learn a little about those souls Alida saves.  I would like to read more about those trapped inside the boite in perhaps a prequel short story collection.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 29, 2014

Stone Cold Lover- Christine Warren

Stone Cold Lover
Christine Warren
St. Martin’s, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250012661

As she breaks into the Abbaye Saint-Thomas l’Apost in Montreal, art restorer Felicity “Fil” Shaltis thinks of ending in prison , but also reflects back to when she helped her friend Ella Harrow with the now missing Vancouver Art and History Museum stone gargoyle (see Heart of Stone).  As she illegally enters the museum, obsessed Fil, with no witnesses around, needs to understand why she finds a stone gargoyle attractive.

The Darkness sends evil to kill Fil.  The malevolence fires energy bombs at her, but the assault awakens Spar the gargoyle who Fil desires.  After Fil flees to safety, Spar explains he is one of seven Guardians created to keep mankind safe from the Darkness.  As the couple fusses, fights and falls in love, they must overcome a curse and save mankind.

The second Gargoyle romantic urban fantasy (see Heart of Stone) is a fabulous paranormal starring an intriguing lead couple with totally opposite personalities.  Whereas normally he is stone cold logical (Fil’s entry into his life ends his dispassionate persona); she is impetuous and impatient to charge head first by taking the fight to the enemy.  With a strong support cast (that range from the good, the naive and the evil), Christine Warren authors an awesome novel.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 28, 2014

To Die Fur-Dixie Lyle

To Die Fur
Dixie Lyle
St. Martin’s, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250031082

Eccentric (most would say crazy) billionaire Zelda Zoransky hosts a gala attended by affluent animal collectors interested in purchasing Augustus the rare white liger ZZ owns.  Her “Gal Friday” Deidre “Foxtrot” Lancaster put together the party and in reality actually “hosts” the event.

However, to the horror of everyone except for a killer; in ZZ’s private zoo someone murders Augustus.  Deidre wonders who would slay the rare animal since allegedly none of the guests seemingly had a motive; all of them supposedly wanted to buy the liger not kill him.  Receiving assistance from the live animals in zany ZZ’s zoo and those not breathing while resting in Zelda’s cemetery; Foxtrot, accompanied by her two fur buds (Whiskey the canine shapeshifter and the late Tango the feline telepathic ghost) investigates the Linger homicide.

The second Whiskey Tango Foxtrot paranormal cozy (see A Taste Fur Murder) is a jovial lighthearted paranormal whodunit due to the farcical furry frolics of the cast.  The antics of the unlikely bumbling amateur sleuths, their living and dead menagerie of supporters, certifiable ZZ and the visitors make for a charming cozy.

Harriet Klausner

The Getaway God: Sandman Slim-Richard Kadrey

The Getaway God: Sandman Slim
Richard Kadrey
Harper Voyager, Aug 26 2014, $24.99
ISBN: 9780062094612

James “Sandman Slim” Stark still feels relief that he no longer has the Lucifer gig; even if he realizes he soon must deal with the raging creators Angra Om Ya Old Gods demanding their previous place in the universe before some upstart newbie conned them out of the lofty top spot.  However, the hybrid human-angel expects that confrontation to save heaven, hell and all sorts of sh*t  in between from the Old Gods reengineering the future back to their glorious ancient past is for another day.

Golden Vigil lectures Sandman Slim to hunt down the murdering machine Wildfire Ripper who is devastating Los Angeles.  Instead of killing the predator as he desperately wants to, Sandman Slim learns he needs this destructive psychopath to save more than just L.A.; as apparently the insane Ripper is the only essence (besides the plotting deities) who knows how to prevent the planet and beyond from a nasty Big Crunch; he apparently can no longer delay the Old Gods confrontation.

The sixth Sandman Slim irreverent humorous urban fantasy (see Kill City Blues, Devil Said Bang, Aloha From Hell, Kill the Dead and Sandman Slim) is an amusing over the top of the Hollywood sign thriller as once again the universe is at stake.  Fast-paced as always, Stark and his allies (very loose definition) team up based on Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest requiring normally serial and mass killing adversaries to unite against a mutually stronger and crazier enemy with a kick the universe butt attitude. 

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wanted: Wild Thing-Jessica Sims

Wanted: Wild Thing
Jessica Sims
Pocket Books, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781476753973

A decade ago, the fortune-teller informed then fourteen year old Ryder Sinclair she was a changeling who if still a virgin by twenty-five, the monster inside would replace the outer bubbly human façade.  Since then Ryan has sought unsuccessfully to meet her “One” true love, but has failed to find the male who can prevent the monster inside her from taking over her outer appearance when passionate.  Even working at Midnight Liaison dating service for the supernatural has proven futile.

Finian the Fae accompanied by a giant he introduces as “unimportant” arrive at the office.  The arrogant Fae calls Ryan a Changeling, which shocks her as no one knows what she is.  He also explains her biological parents were breeders he hired in order to own the offspring.  Before leaving, Finian assigns his gigantic companion Hugh to insure his asset remains a virgin so that he can collect on his investment by selling his merchandise to the highest bidder when the monster inside of Ryder takes control.  Ryder’s only hope is to seduce her humongous hunk.

This Midnight Liaisons romantic urban fantasy (see "Out with a Fang" from the Undead In My Bed anthology, Must Love Fangs, Claws and Effect, Desperately Seeking Shapeshifter, and Beauty Dates The Beast) is a jocular chastity belt tale starring a frustrated “owned” couple.  The storyline starts off leisurely-paced, but accelerates as readers meet all the players (including those from previous books and the primordial).  Although why Finian waited until the final countdown to guard his valuable virgin (and in hindsight should have chosen a female or a eunuch), this well-written novel stars the ugly changeling and her Wild Thing falling in forbidden love

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Slimy Underbelly-Kevin J. Anderson

Slimy Underbelly
Kevin J. Anderson
Kensington, Aug 26 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781617731143

In the Unnatural Quarter the weather wizards (Alastair Cumulus III and Thunder Dick) compete for the bragging rights of top weathermancer; which leads to chaotic conditions from blistering heat to a whiteout blizzard in an hour.  Private investigator Dan Shamble of Chambeaux and Deyer gets to the office where his girlfriend (and office assistant) Sheyenne the ghost lectures him for being out in a snowstorm.  Shamble’s partner Robin Deyer the human lawyer completes the Recompose Spa case for Mr. Lurmm the frog demon.

Supervillain in training and junior mad scientist, twelve year old Jody Caligari, Jr. needs their help but says his payment will make them feel good for doing it pro bono.  The lad explains his slumlord evicted him from his sewage lab and kept his experiments based on his being a child. Irked Robin says that is age discrimination and accepts the case over Shamble’s objection; he has doubts about a client who only reads graphic novels.  Meanwhile something underground has caused deaths, bad plumbing and horrific smells above ground.  With his neighborhood turning into a cesspool, Dan’s inquiry leads to Ah'Chulhu.

The latest Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. paranormal investigation (see Hair Raising, Unnatural Acts and Death Warmed Over) is as always a terrific timely satirical thriller as Kevin J. Anderson amusingly lampoons values in which feuds are the weird norm.  Whereas Jody is a great client, the usual suspects help the hero work the inquiries.  Included is a short story (previously published as an e-book) in which the sleuth conducts a Stakeout at the Vampire Circus where performers do their final act.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 25, 2014

Keepers Of Runes And The Tower Of Shadows-Andrew D. Cratsley

Keepers Of Runes And The Tower Of Shadows
Andrew D. Cratsley
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, May 1 2014, $15.98
ISBN: 9781494365530

Though his student is over a century old, Tessius the master worries that newly promoted to Knight Corinth is too egotistical and overconfident in his magic and sword-fighting skills.  Thus Tessius sends Corinth away from Enzlintine supposedly to end the trouble caused by Khalid but mostly for the pupil to learn more of the vast complex world out there. 

On Corinth’s trek, Aventis the swordsman and Nadine the siren join the knight.  With other allies, they consistently succeed and triumph; adding to the knight’s belief he can beat anyone.  When Mortiscet the elven necromancer captures the trio, Corinth mentally struggles with his first setback.  Mortiscet forces the trio to abet his daughter Rieka regain a magical book.  However, Rieka has a different agenda as she wants freedom from her despicable father; so she persuades her companions to rebel against the evil necromancer.

Keepers Of Runes And The Tower Of Shadows is a fabulous Tolkien epic fantasy due to the vivid Cratsley world filled with fully developed species.  Although nothing new is provided, subgenre fans will take immense delight in this enchanting opening act as the “young invincible” and his cohorts taste “   the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat...” (ABC's Wide World of Sports).

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Vampire’s Curse-Mandy Rosko

The Vampire’s Curse
Mandy Rosko
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Apr 23 2013, $9.99
ISBN: 9781489521125

In Griffon City, with her mom ill, Jackie Moore the witch does a double shift at her mother’s business Patty’s Potions N’ More.  After closing the shop, Jackie walks home in a snowstorm when a male body lands at her feet next to a prone female; several vampires lay unconscious while others stand nearby.  When Jackie goes to help the man on the snow near her, he apologetically tries to bite her; but instead she kisses him and flees.

Kyle McCane is stunned with the results of that kiss.  Somehow the female turned him back to human.  However, the next night the curse returns as he reverts back to vampire.  Thus he seeks the witch who temporarily cured him.  As they kiss every night, the pair searches for a more permanent cure though each likes the lips-locking; at the same time they investigate who or what is killing feral vampires.

The first Things In The Night paranormal investigative romance (see book two The Legend of the Werewolf and book three The Shepard's Agony) is an amusing lighthearted fantasy starring two fascinating protagonists.  Whereas she is The Worst Witch (not the star of the 1980s children movie) except for her healing lips; he is the reluctant part-time vampiric outsider (mindful of the adult leads in Ladyhawke) who no longer belongs in New York City as his family fears that one night soon he will bite them.

Harriet Klausner