Friday, May 30, 2014

The Given- Vicki Pettersson

The Given Vicki Pettersson Harper Voyager, May 27 2014, $14.99 ISBN 9780062066206 In Las Vegas, angel-human Grif Shaw reads the Tribune story on the accidental shooting death of septuagenarian Barbara McCoy. In 1960, as he died from a knife to the gut, McCoy said “Both Shaws got what they deserved”; which led Grif to assume his wife Evie died when he did. Now the P.I. knows Evie survived his death and still lives. Although he realizes he has hurt badly his current love reporter Kit Craig with his obsession to find his spouse, Grif planned to interrogate McCoy before she died in a shooting accident. Meanwhile Kit uncovers an ugly nursing home plot while Grif knows why he was murdered. With Kit’s help, Grif investigates the rest of his personal mystery, but a horde from beyond willing to kill him try to thwart him from succeeding in learning the truth. The third Celestial Blues romantic urban fantasy (see The Taken and The Lost) is a terrific, twisting and taut thriller starring a hard boiled 1950s detective with a soft boiled heart and his loyal beloved reporter teaming up on his cold case murder. With a somewhat convoluted but exciting storyline, fans will appreciate this entry as the Bible says “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”; but not in the way Grif (or readers) anticipated. Harriet Klausner

The Lost-Sarah Beth Durst

The Lost Sarah Beth Durst Mira, May 27 2014, $14.95 ISBN 9780778317111 Lauren Chase fears the pending results of her mom’s medical tests; so instead of heading to work she just keeps on driving mile after mile. Unsure of which state she is in and after a while without any towns until she reaches Lost, Lauren is forced to stop there due to a horrific dust storm that seems endless. Lauren soon learns the diverse populace share one thing in common; an obsession into finding out what each particularly lost that trapped them here; as this town consists of the forgotten amidst long forgotten items. However, her arrival causes a radical change in the hierarchy when the Missing Man vanishes; as he is the only one who can free a dead or alive person from this village. Thus many of the trapped blame the newcomer for their losing hope of ever going home. The Lost is a wonderful metaphysical parable in which the town and its residents make for a captivating poignant tale. Although the thought-provoking storyline can turn passive with too frequent soliloquies, Lauren’s fears of being lost and alone without her mother evoke reader empathy. Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Nebula Awards Showcase 2014-Kij Johnson (editor)

Nebula Awards Showcase 2014 Kij Johnson (editor) Pyr, May 20 2014, $18.00 ISBN: 9781616149017 The Nebula Awards Showcase annual collection is always an entertaining anthology that provides readers with those tales selected by the by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as the best, in this case of 2012, in the two genres. Included are the enjoyable short story winner sci fi tale “Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard and two of the other five finalists (“The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” by Ken Liu and “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain” by Cat Rambo). The Best Novelette (fascinating survivor saga of “Close Encounters” by Andy Duncan) and the Best Novella (excellent eco-thriller “After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall” by Nancy Kress) are strong entries. Fans will read excerpts from the Best Novel (taut terraforming “2312” by Kim Stanley Robinson) and the eerie winner of the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy (“Fair Coin” by E.C. Myers). Finally the great Gene Wolf received the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master recognition; with his short story “Christmas Inn” and two essays paying homage to this superstar by Michael Dirda and Neil Gaiman added to the anthology. Rounding out the compilation are 2012 Rhysling Awards, Best Short Poem (“The Library, After” by Shira Lipkin) and Best Long Poem (“The Curator Speaks In The Department of Dead Languages” by Megan Arkenberg); and the 2012 Dwarf Stars Award went to Marge Simon for “Blue Rose Buddha”. With a list of past winners as well, this is a great book though I personally would prefer more of the complete shorter works that many of us do not get a chance to read rather than extracts from the longer winners. Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Shades Of Virtue-Jack Whitsel

Shades Of Virtue Jack Whitsel Paladin Timeless Books, Apr 15 2014, $17.95 ISBN: 9781606192252 Almost two years ago a half of century of peace in the Hugue ended with the incursion of the feral beasts of the Harhn of Vol Thaldane. Led by a diabolical sorcerer and allied with the Darkfey, the Harhn invaded the Hugue at a time when most of the Order Knights were far away and unable to protect humanity. Due to the heroic efforts of Lord Protector of the Land Duke Baudouin and Dragon Maiden Lady Lucia, mankind survived though the war has left behind devastation especially for those who work the land as the fall harvest yielded little (see Shadows of Kings). As he leads his armies against the Harhn Hordes and other enemies, Lord Yannic tries to persuade the humans that divided they fall while united they triumph. He pleads with the fiefdom leaders to join Shyrlandia. Meanwhile a jousting tournament at Kilgan draws many desperate individuals as well as experience champions to compete for the hand of Lady Basina and becoming influential throughout the lands. To insure fair play as this contest has far reaching impact, the Council sends Lady Lucia accompanied by her novices (Dragana and Tallya) as observers with instructions to interfere if, as expected treachery or malevolence, surfaces; and to uncover who defiantly defies the Order Knights causing potential destruction. The fast-paced second Dragon Rising fantasy magically transports engaged readers to a medieval setting that enables fans to believe in wizardry, beastly hordes, dragons and much more. Filled with high drama and a delightful tournament of champions, Shades of Virtue is a terrific tale of yore lacking only a needed regional map of Shyrlandia, Vol Thaldane and Hugue. Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 16, 2014

Queen of the Dark Things-C. Robert Cargill

Queen of the Dark Things C. Robert Cargill Harper Voyager, May 13 2014, $26.99 ISBN 9780062190451 In Austin, Texas Colby Stevens suffers from PTSD after he and his BFF Ewan successfully escaped from the Fey’s Limestone Kingdom only to have to fight and defeat the fairy horde’s invasion from their realm. However, the cost was exorbitant with the death of Ewan and the knowledge that others know of his skills (see Dreams and Shadows). Thus six months later, Colby has become a semi-recluse. At the same time while the American grieves and broods, in Australia tweener Kaycee accepts that the mundane normal world ignores her as a loser due to physical disabilities and blemishes. However, in the dreamworld, no one dares ignore powerful Kaycee. Diabolical demons use their respective rush to fight attitudes without data to cause Colby and Kaycee to confront one another; while also ignoring their real adversaries who threaten both of them, Austin, America and the world. The second Colby thriller is an enjoyable urban fantasy filled with deep metaphysical debates on life and death, and other conditions. Having tasted death, aware that evil exists and feeling alone since his abductee peer and BFF died, brooding (until the escapades begin) Colby is much grimmer and darker than he was in his debut. Readers will appreciate the action-packed Queen of the Dark Things while wondering along with the protagonist who this ethereal monarch is. Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Oath Of The Brotherhood-C. E. Laureano

Oath Of The Brotherhood C. E. Laureano Think/NavPress/Tyndale, Apr 18 2014, $14.99 ISBN: 9781612915876 King Galbreath of Tigh wanted nothing to do with his heir so ordered Lord Labrhas to raise his son. Labhras sired the lad as if Conor was his biological offspring training him to be a scholar. However after nine years of no contact, Galbreath demands his seventeen year old child see him at his fortress Glenmallaig. The monarch is disgusted to learn Conor’s time was wasted on worthless languages and history instead of sword fighting, and proclaims Conor is not his son. Diarmuid the Druid tells the distraught teen when he is ready come to him for answers. Fearing an invasion from the Sofarenden seafarers of the Northern Isles crossing the Amantine Sea, Galbreath wants to seal an alliance with his equally threatened Isle of Saire neighbor to the east Faolin; so he exiles his worthless son as a hostage to King Calhoun as a sign of good faith. At Calhoun’s court in Lisdara, Conor and the monarch’s sister Aine fall in love. While he is away receiving special training, war breaks out threatening the four nations on the Isle of Saire. The first Song of Seare coming of age fantasy is a fabulous saga because the Laureano world seems genuine and the lead couple a brave wonderful duo. The storyline starts slow as terms and names are introduced but also providing a sense of a different setting. Once the audience adjusts to the vernacular, readers will appreciate Conor as a scholar warrior defending his faith and people, and Aine leading her nation in an insurgency against the evil who took over the kingdom. Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mirror Sight-Kristen Britain

Mirror Sight Kristen Britain DAW, May 6 2014, $27.95 ISBN: 9780756408794 In a confrontation inside the primordial Blackveil Forest, Sacoridia Green Rider Karigan G’ladheon manages to dispatch malevolent Mornhavon the Black into another age, but the wicked magic released by their duel also sends her two centuries away. She awakens inside a fully sealed stone tomb with her air supply rapidly running out. Karigan escapes to learn that magic seems to have all but vanished as the Serpentine Empire has crushed her beloved kingdom. She also finds out her fate; as the myths record a Green Rider named Karigan G’ladheon disappearing without a trace within the Blackveil Forest while on King Zachary’s quest to defeat Mornhavon the Black. As Karigan struggles to adapt, she knows she must find a way home to her time, but first obsesses over liberating her kingdom’s descendants from the tyranny of evil essences; of whom she knows most, firsthand from previous encounters with them many decades ago. The fifth Karigan epic fantasy (see Green Rider, First Rider's Call, and The High King's Tomb) is a terrific entry made fresh with the heroine in a new era and though it is her homeland, she is A Stranger In A Strange Land (Robert A. Heinlein}. Although fans should at least read Blackveil to better understand how the protagonist became a future legend due to mysterious vanishing, fans will appreciate the return to Sacoridia; albeit a future even darker place than the one we and the protagonist are very familiar with. Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Silk Map-Chris Willrich

The Silk Map Chris Willrich Pyr, May 6 2014, $15.95 ISBN 9781616148997 Odd couple adventurers, upper class poet Persimmon Gaunt and cursed thief Imago Bone, saved their son from evil by dispatching their offspring to a secret dimension; likewise Snow Pine the bandit did the same with her child (see The Scroll of Years). Now the even odder trio team up to bring home their respective children, but need a powerful ally who can tell them how to reach the Scroll. Thus the desperate threesome cut a deal with Great Sage; the monkey goddess incarcerated by essences on a distant mountain, who assigns them a quest in exchange for her help. Gaunt, Bone and Pine must obtain the rarest of species, the alien Iron Moths, who spin cocoons made of ironsilk. They expect the journey to be dangerous, but none of the parents are prepared for competing against lethal rivals who possess pieces of the Silk Map that provides directions over the thousands of miles populated with predatory creatures not known to exist anywhere else to the Iron Moths. If they or their competitors make it to the nesting locale, ready to greet them is a murderous cult who lives to protect the Iron Moths. The second Gaunt and Bone (and now Pine) Chinese fantasy is a fabulous franticly-paced quest adventure though fans should first read The Scroll Of Years to better understand why the bickering couple and their new partner banished their beloved children into another dimension. The Silk Map is an exciting action-packed thriller; as the protagonists never obtain a respite from deadly just as obsessed with possessing the moths’ opponents, harrowing nasty creatures greeting them with murderous intent on the road and finally the killing anointed defenders. Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dragon PrincessS. Andrew Swann-

Dragon Princess S. Andrew Swann DAW, May 6 2014, $7.99 ISBN 9780756409579 Mediocre thief Frank Blackthorne fled Grunwald after a failed theft that has cultists seeking his head and also leaving behind a master debt to the Thieves’ Guild after the money collector vanished with his fee and that of others. He reaches Lendowyn; a kingdom in which most people are passing through like he wants to; except Frank ran out of cash with an ocean between him and his destination. With a choice between volunteering for sea duty that ends in death or chains, walking the coastline that never ends, or getting drunk hopefully that never ends; he chose some local poison. While intoxicated, the Kingdom of Lendowyn Court Wizard Elhared the Unwise offers the drunken Frank an offer if sober he would refuse. Elhared hires Frank to rescue Princess Lucille from a minor dragon in return he will receive money and safety from the stalking cult. However, when the thief catches up with the not as advertised humongous knight-eating dragon and the royal prisoner, misused magic leads to undesirable body swapping. Frank resides inside of Princess Lucille; she land inside the dragon; and you don’t want to know what happened to the thief’s body. To return to normal (though Frank wants a bit more pampering), the fuming fiery Princess and the soused thief need each other in their pursuit but the path is cluttered with no allies and many cutthroat enemies including the Dark Lord N√Ętalc. This is an amusing lighthearted quest fantasy that uses the concept of movies like Freaky Friday to tell a fun tale through the filter of a mediocre thief. Though the premise is not new, readers will enjoy this Visa Versa body swap tale due Frank’s frank reflections. Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Treasure Planet-Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q. Fox

Treasure Planet Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q. Fox Baen, May 6 2014, $15.00 ISBN: 9781476736402 In Thoma'stown on Wanderland, since the lessocks killed her husband, human Widow Cartwright owns and runs Lord Templemount Inn with some help from her son Peter. One of the inn’s guests is elderly Skel, who enjoys the rum and telling bloody tales of yore. Skel hires Peter to keep him informed when strangers come to the bar. A telepath enters the Lord Templemount demanding Peter, setting up alone, tell him where Skel is. Peter’s friend Kzin young one, Marthar Riit, enters and orders the telepath to leave, which the intruder does. The telepath accosts Skel who takes care of business. Soon afterward, a blind Kzin arrives and gives Skel something. After the Kzin leaves, Skel dies without paying his room, board and bar bill. Inside his room, Peter finds an encrypted map to the banned world Garth; an orb allegedly filled with technological gizmos worth a fortune on the black market. Marthar’s dad Orion obtains a ship and crew, and with his daughter, Peter, Dr. Lemoine, Judge Jorg von Thoma and human scientists set off to this Treasure Planet with pirates led by infamous K'zarr the Kzin, hated by both sides in the recent war, in pursuit. Placing Treasure Island inside the Larry Niven Man Kzin universe some years after the hostilities on Wanderland are officiously over leads to a wonderful outer space adventure. Although readers will know what happens next; as Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q. Fox pay homage to the Robert Luis Stephenson's classic with close adherence to the original storyline though with a fresh locale, Treasure Planet is an entertaining unique Man-Kzin thriller. Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Alien Collective-Gini Koch

Alien Collective Gini Koch Daw, May 6 2014, $7.99 ISBN: 9780756407582 During a peaceful protest against an anti-alien presidential candidate, the cops detain in a paddy wagon American-Centaurion Ambassador Kitty Katt-Martini, her mother-in-law, her child, several Alien Dazzlers, Culver, Representative Gagnon-Brewer and several humans mostly males. Instead of a holding cell, they end up receiving a warning that a deadly gas threat imperils those at the Centaurion Embassy. Kitty believes the attacks on the A-C immigrants has arisen again because the favorite to win the presidency Senator McMillan selected her husband appointed New Mexico Congressman Jeff Martini as his running mate. Besides having to behave like a potential Second Lady, Kitty fears the persistent media and the opponents’ researchers will dig up dirt on the A-C populace, her husband and her. She also worries that her enemy the unidentified Mastermind remains free seeking allies amongst the Yates brood that Kitty must locate first but lacks vital information since their data base was hacked and destroyed. Even worse, a super powerful being has arrived as a judge, jury and executioner to determine whether the populace proves worthy of life. Starting with a scene reminiscent of the Marx Brothers cabin scene in A Night At The Opera and throughout combining mirth with mayhem, the ninth Alien science fiction (see Alien In The House and Alien Research) is a zany thriller. Fast-paced, series fans will enjoy the escapades of Kitty and her mixed retinue as they close in on the Mastermind (mindful of Agents of Shield’s super villain The Clairvoyant), a judgmental deadlier threat, and even more perilous to the heroine exposure as wife of a VEEP candidate. Fans will enjoy this amusing over the top of the Washington Monument tale. Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Expecting the Prince’s Baby-Rebecca Winters

Expecting the Prince’s Baby Rebecca Winters Harlequin Romance, May 6 2014, $5.99 ISBN: 9780373742882 Nestled on the Riviera, the Principalities of Arancia and Gemelli rejoice that Crown Prince Vincenzo Di Laurentis and his wife Her Royal High Princess Michelina Cavelli soon will become parents after she suffered three miscarriages. The regal couple accepts their marriage lacks caring intimacy as it was an arranged expediency between the kingdoms. He especially is grateful to the generosity of Rhode Island native and longtime friend Abby Loretto who agreed to carry their child. However, soon after Abby becomes pregnant, Michelina suddenly dies. The nations mourn their loss, but six weeks later, some normalcy returns to Arancia with the Lemon and Orange Festival. The daughter of the Chief of Security, Abby has been a close friend of the prince for years. She worries about the child growing up without a mother and for the prince being a single dad while also having royal duties. Vincenzo insures the surrogate mother is well taken care of and visits her a lot. As their friendship between them turns to love, both know the prince cannot marry a commoner. The first Princes of Europe duet (see the upcoming June release Becoming the Prince's Wife) is a fun royal contemporary although the unloving relationship between the prince and his late wife enables him to move on too easily. With thoughts on the abdication of King Edward VIII, readers will appreciate Vincenzo’s dilemma as he must choose between forbidden love and being the heir to the throne. Harriet Klausner

The Sea Without A Shore-David Drake

The Sea Without A Shore David Drake Baen, May 6 2014, $25.00 ISBN: 9781476736396 On the Bantry Estate on Cinnabar, Intelligence Service Chief Bernis Sand orders CIS Cyberspy Adele Mundy (accompanied by Tovar) to travel to dangerous Corcyra to keep the spymaster’s troublesome son Rikard Cleveland safe while he hunts for rumored ancient treasure. Mundy’s friend Republic Cinnabar Navy Captain Daniel Leary (backed by the Sissies) goes with her. Before they depart, Daniel's sister Deirdre Leary also asks a favor of Mundy pertaining to her brother. Various rivals want control of the mines on Corcyra. Hostilities have made the planet unsafe for anyone but especially the foolhardy risk takers like Cleveland with a war seemingly imminent for possession of the valuable mining deposits. Though Leary has no official mission as the Cleveland scenario belongs to his friend; nonetheless he and Mundy struggle to broker a peace. The tenth RCN Saga (see What Distant Deeps) is an entertaining outer space thriller starring two polar opposites in personalities. The freshness comes from the greater focus on fascinating Mundy as her soliloquies on death, life and relationships (with Leary, Tovar, Miranda and those the spy killed) are insightful. Although the efforts on Corcyra seems lightweight compared to the war and keeping the peace with the Alliance (see The Road of Danger), readers will appreciate the brisk role switching as Leary supports Mundy on a planet about to implode. Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sparrow Hill Road-Seanan McGuire

Sparrow Hill Road Seanan McGuire Daw, May 6 2014, $16.00 ISBN: 9780756409616 In 1952 Buckley Township, Michigan, Bobby Cross used as his fee for immortality his soul and the vehicular murder of teenager Rose Marshall when he ran her off of Sparrow Hill Road. Over the next six decades since Cross killed Rose, he has slayed many others. During those the same sixty plus years, there have been numerous sightings of a young woman hitchhiking and stopping at the Last Chance Diner for a malted; most Michiganians believe the hitcher is Rose, the Ghost of Sparrow Hill Road among her other nicknames. Rose feels strongly that her mission is to help the newly deceased quickly adapt to the afterlife. On a personal level, she also hunts Cross who has sent so many (starting with her) to their grave before their time should have been up as remittance for his evil young existence. Sparrow Hill Road is a great ghost tale told in four interconnecting “Books” with Rose holding the storyline focused even while the plot deftly leaps between several different years. Readers will enjoy Rose’s chronicles as she helps those like Larry the Trucker move on; while she also learns that true love never dies, and life and death (regardless of when) are a circle in her case on Sparrow Hill Road. Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 5, 2014

Secret Of The Stars-Andre Norton

Secret Of The Stars Andre Norton Baen, May 6 2014, $14.00 ISBN: 9781476736747 “Secret of the Lost Race.” In JetTown, Port of N'Yok, Joktar the orphan works as a dealer at Kern’s SunSpot casino when a sweep shanghaied him as slave laborer bound for another world. However, before being deployed, an Intergalactic Scout accuses Joktar of murder, which leads to his exile to the galaxy’s worst hellhole, iced Fenris to toil and die in the vile mines. Knowing his fate if sent into this hell, Joktar flees for his life taking a chance on surviving the frozen tundra rather than the relentless men in gray who fear he learns the truth about his heritage. “Star Hunter.” At the Starfall dump in Nahautl's starport, Vye Lansor works as a swamper cleaning up puke, crap, blood and body parts from the lowlifes who frequent this dive. Ras Hume the Out-Hunter hires Vye to join his next safari on Jumala, but hides his real interest in his new recruit. He and his partner know that the Heir Rynch Brodie died during a crash on Jumala that no one survived; they plan to use a memory-altered Vye masquerading as Rynch who upon bringing him home will make them rich. On Jumala, though Vye has some strange memories of having been there as the heir, but he also retains other conflicting thoughts. Forerunners of later series, these are reprints of two fun five-decade plus old outer space operas in which the respective worlds seem real. Readers will root for the orphaned protagonists to survive the dangerous planets and their much more powerful adversaries. Harriet Klausner