Thursday, December 31, 2009


Happy New Year to everyone. I hope 2K10, 2010 or MMX is a great year for everyone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Baryon 114

I've just sent Baryon 114 to Pete to put up on the web page. If you want to receive the zip file, drop me a note at and I'll email it to you. If you are already on the mailing list, it will go out this week-end. If you aren't sure, send an email and I'll be sure you are on the list.

Faerys, Paranormals, and Thrillers

Queene of Light
Jennifer Armintrout
Mira, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326625

Below Upworld where mortals dwell, in the sewers underneath the streets of Darkworld, half breed human-faery Lightworld assassin Ayla runs into the last thing she needs to meet a death angel. However, shockingly instead of collecting her soul, Malachai is poisoned by the human part of her blood. Even more stunning he is no longer is immortal.

Meanwhile in the faery realm Lightworld, Ayla and Garret plan to marry. However, she is unaware that he has ulterior motives as to why he needs to wed her that have nothing to do with loving or even caring about her; he wants Ayla so he can use her as a puppet ruler serving as his front when he takes the throne from his sister Queen Mabb. The arrival of Malachai places Garret's scheme in trouble as his fiancée is attracted to the death angel.

The first Lightworld/Darkworld romantic fantasy is an exciting tale filled with plenty of action, several intriguing spins, and a solid cast, who bring Jennifer Armintrout’s multi realms to life. However, introducing the laws of physics makes the opening scenes moving somewhat slowly even with the lead couple’s first encounter. Still once the base is set, QUEENE OF LIGHT turns into an enjoyable fantasy. Harriet Klausner

Unhallowed Ground
Heather Graham
Mira, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326762

In St. Augustine, Florida, Sarah McKinley is excited when she purchases the dilapidated historic mansion that has a history of residents disappearing due to the black magic witch. She plans to renovate and convert the abode into a B and B.

Construction begins, but the work crew finds the old bones of perhaps a dozen victims some apparently from the War of Northern Aggression concealed inside the walls. At the same time, private investigator Caleb Anderson is working a missing-persons case, Winona Hart who vanished from a party filled with stoned underage youths. He finds some fascinating clues and begins to consider if Sarah's house is tied to his search and begins to look into the history of the house. Caleb’s efforts lead him to Sarah, who is in the crosshairs of a killer.

UNHALLOWED GROUND is an enjoyable paranormal romance starring a courageous lead couple and a killer who may or may not be a ghost. The story line is anchored by the historical references that are interwoven into the search for the missing people; as Caleb feels others besides Winona are somehow tied to the house. Although a key coincidence occurs late, fans will enjoy the romantic and investigative teaming of Sarah with Caleb as they try to learn the secrets of haunted Heritage House. Harriet Klausner

Black Friday
Alex Kava
Mira, Oct 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780778326519

Looking forward to time off during the long Thanksgiving Day weekend, FBI profiler Maggie O'Dell receives an urgent call from the new assistant director Ray Kunze who replaced her mentor Cunningham after he recently died. Set up by The Project Manager, terrorists bombed the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota during the busiest shopping day of the year.

The case proves even more complicated and convoluted, but the Feds learn that college students carrying backpacks were seen just before the bombings. Soon afterward an anonymous tip provides the names of the suspected students including Maggie's half-brother, Patrick Murphy. They thought they were pulling a prank with jamming devices, but instead caused a massacre in which no group claims victory, but the Project Manager using the name Asante knows one of his carriers somehow survived. Still adjusting to a new superior with a different leadership style than she is used to, Maggie believes another strike is imminent as the wizard behind the prank remains an unknown John Doe, but evidence points to another attack imminently.

The latest O’Dell FBI thriller (see A NECESSARY EVIL and EXPOSED) may be the best case yet for the profiler as her stepbrother is involved making it personal and the brilliant mastermind remains out there plotting the next strike. The story line is action-packed, but it is the pace that hooks the audience as Maggie believes the clock is ticking towards the second series of explosions and for the only survivor. With a plausible premise that will have Tom Ridge screaming red, fans will read BLACK FRIDAY in one sitting. Harriet Klausner

The Fury
Jason Pinter
Mira, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326274

New York Gazette reporter Henry Parker feels good as he leaves the office overlooking Rockefeller center because the obnoxious sports reporter got a well deserved “donkey-whupping”. On the street, a homeless man accosts Parker begging to talk with him as he claims the city is burning, but the journalist is in a rush to meet Amanda Davies and besides has images of a donkey whupping on his mind; Henry tells the man to call him tomorrow.

Later the police inform Henry the man who approached him earlier is dead, a murder victim; and evidence exists that this Stephen Gaines was Parker’s half-brother. They shared the same father though Henry had no idea he even had sibling. Unable to resist and feeling remorse for blowing away his apparent brother, Parker investigates the homicide starting with confronting his father, who the cops suspect is the killer.

The latest Henry Parker investigation (see THE STOLEN, THE MARK and GUILTY) is a terrific suspense laden thriller with a personal angst twist to the reporter’s current inquiry. The super story line is fast-paced from the onset and never takes a breather. However, THE FURY is part one of a duology with THE DARKNESS coming out in December so fans might want wait for part two and read both one after another. Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 28, 2009

Demons and Other Villians

Demon Forged
Meljean Brook
Berkley, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425230411

Four centuries ago, Guardians Irena and Alejandro began to fall in love. However, when he made a deal with a demon, she rejected him. Alejandro has regretted his action ever since while Irena despondently muses over what never happened between them.

They went their separate ways, but recently a request for help brings the two guardians together for the first times since she sadly left him. He wants a second chance and will do whatever she demands to achieve it. She wants to give him a second chance, but kismet enhanced by a betrayal appears to leave this couple apart for eternity.

The latest Guardians thriller is a well written dark romantic fantasy. This is a second chance at love battling to survive betrayals as the audience will wonder if the odds are better on the Detroit Lions meeting the Oakland Raiders in the next Superbowl. Fans of the saga will relish this terrific DEMON BOUND entry while newcomers will struggle a bit adapting to the Brook demonic mythos, but soon will join the growing legion of Meljean Brook readers. Harriet Klausner

9800 Savage Road
M. E. Harrigan
Forge, Sep 15 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765317964

In 2000 National Security Agency assistant director Alexandra O'Malley heads up Project Meridian, which was set to monitor terrorist leader bin Laden known as UBL inside of NSA. He has been sending and receiving numerous calls at his al-Qaeda headquarters in Afghanistan. All the discussions center on a vague major plot against America, but none provide any worthwhile specificity.

Abruptly the message traffic halts, panicking American security agencies that whatever is planned is imminent. Alex's boyfriend, CIA agent Gabriel Ayala, is sent inside Afghanistan to set up a tap into the al-Qaeda phone system. However, back in the States while Gabriel is deep undercover, someone is murdering key NSA personnel; Alex investigates the homicides that she believes is tied to the expected terrorist assault.

Although this reviewer is doubtful Harrigan would investigate rather then delegate, fans will enjoy this deep look inside NSA as the countdown to 9/11 occurs. Unsurprisingly the story line is not loaded with suspense as the audience knows the tragic outcome, but the fun in the tale is what is going on inside NSA and the CIA. 9800 SAVAGE ROAD provides that big time as M.E. Harrigan writes from an obvious insider’s perspective. Harriet Klausner

Paul Martin Midden
American Book Publishing, Mar 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781589824928

When he served in the army, Senator Jake Telemark, the junior member from Wisconsin, was a sniper working cover missions. However, the guilt of collateral damage led to a nervous breakdown. With help he moved on and became a politician.

The daughter of former Senator Hathaway, Dr. Isadore Hathaway, asks for his help. Dora swears that a cabal of a dozen powerful people is making a bid to take over the United States. This group the Bookkeepers plan to establish a theocracy with them in charge. Although Jake initially thinks she is over the top of the Washington Monument, Dora makes a very persuasive case. Her evidence includes inexplicable deaths of First Amendment advocates and poisoned reservoirs. Sold, he returns to his sniper days with the enemy from within.

Mindful of Pogo’s classic commentary that "we have met the enemy and he is us” in an over the top thriller. The story line is action-packed from the moment Dora convinces Jake and remains loaded until the final presidential call. Although a romantic subplot seems forced and the audience needs to ignore plausibility (though Jeff Sharlet author of The Family might argue otherwise), fans will relish this exciting thriller. Harriet Klausner

The Perfect Murder
Brenda Novak
Mira, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327257

One year ago, former cop Malcolm Turner killed his wife and teenage stepson before committing suicide. However, investment banker Sebastian Costas, whose ex-wife and son were the two victims of her second husband, believes Turner faked his death to escape the law. Costas quit his job and has spent the past twelve month futilely trying to prove his theory.

However, Sebastian’s efforts lead him to Last Stand victims’ advocate wannabe investigator Jane Burke. She is searching for two abducted teens (Marcie and Leticia) whose older sister raised them; Jane believes Turner kidnapped them. Jane and Sebastian team up to try to bring down a “dead” killer who connects the pair chasing him and decides to end their pursuit. He failed to do his homework as Jane survived a serial killing husband so has no qualms about destroying Turner.

The latest Last Stand thriller (see THE PERFECT LIAR and THE PERFECT COUPLE) is a super tale that stars a strong cast which includes the villain who committed the PERFECT MURDER, but had not factored in the impact of getting away with the homicides; he has to accept menial jobs with no respect. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Malcolm stalks his high school sweetheart and never slows down. Although the romance between Sebastian and Jane is a requirement of the sub-genre, the subplot enhances the anticipated confrontation. Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 27, 2009

After Christmas Reviews

The Quiet War
Paul McAuley
PYR, $16.00
ISBN: 9781591027812

The Brazilian cargo ship dropped off bio-engineer Macy Minnot at Rainbow City on the Jupiter moon of Callisto. She will work on creating a lake for the Callistan city as an act of friendship between Brazil and the Outer planets. However, Macy realizes there are agents whose mission is to prevent the needed lake from being developed. Her exposure of the nefarious scheme costs her immensely as she can never safely go home to earth and has become a target of espionage agents and psyops propagandists who label her a Quisling supporting the enemy. There are many in Brazil and on the Outers that want war. Those seeking an honest peaceful solution to the crisis like Mary are called traitors and harassed. She is arrested on false charges but is freed on the Saturn moon Dione as war seems imminent.

Professor Doctor Sri Hong-Owen leads the efforts to save earth following the massive ecological meltdown caused by global warming. Although not a member of the War Party, the scientist is allied with them. Macy meanwhile tries to tell the truth about her world, but the war drummers control the media; few listen to her until she meets Avernus who created the ecology that led to the Outer developments. Brazil sends its armada to conquer the Outers under a false charge while telling the masses this will be a cheap quiet war that will not touch them.

This is an exciting military science fiction that obviously parallels and thus makes a strong condemnation of the Bush invasion of Iraq while also providing a more even handed look at the debate between economic development and the ecology. The story line has several other sub-plots though what happens to Macy and Sri are the prime focus of this excellent thriller. Although the Outer communities seem off kilter for early settlements in hostile environs, sub-genre fans except for the Cheney crowd will enjoy Paul McAuley’s strong war in space saga. Harriet Klausner

James Barclay
PYR, $16.00
ISBN: 9781591027799

The war has devastated much of the Kingdom of Balaia. In that realm the Raven magnificent seven mercenaries are known for always getting the job done. These thieves know the key to their success is the six humans and one elf trust their respective back with one another.

They are rejoicing over another successful endeavor when their next assignment runs into them. The Wytch-Lords are on the verge of escaping their incarceration due to the stealing of an amulet that is critical to the Dawnthief spell which has imprisoned the arrogant demi-god mages. The Xetsek College of Magic demands they escort senior mage Denser, who insists he works for the gods, on a quest to retrieve the Dawnthief. The Raven seven mistrust any of the four colleges of magic whose mages would destroy their own kind for power as much as they have doubts about anyone who claims the Gods employ them. Still saving the planet from the return of the Wytch-Lords, if true, is more critical than worrying about their untrustworthy new allies for they each know they have “Raven”.

This is a terrific opening quest fantasy filled with fast-paced action and the belief that the mages have power and dragons exist. The use of the “Raven” to help the five warriors, one berserker warrior and an elven mage through difficult situations like when Hirard is trapped by a Dragon is a fantasy equivalent to the Three Musketeers. Although the cast is somewhat stereotyped out of the Tolkien 101 handbook; for instance with aging mercenaries considering retirement and all powerful mages causing collateral consequences that leave a world teetering, no one will care as James Barclay’s opening entry bodes well for a powerful saga. Harriet Klausner

The Grave Thief
Tom Lloyd
Pyr, $16.00
ISBN: 9781591027805

Humanity stunned the gods when they failed to cower, hide or bow to their superiors. Instead mankind had the audacity to fight. Outraged and stunned especially since their pets are actually winning, the gods turned to a different gameplan. They created the super Mortal-Aspects from the humans to serve as their warriors.

At Scree, Lord Isak, in spite of the visions of his death, led the Farlan to victory over the powerful shadow-god Azaer. However the human noble knows that was a minor temporary setback for the shadow god and devastated much of Scree. To the victors goes another battle as the bone weary Farlan must recruit rookies for the next fight; this time against Azaer and the well rested Menin while at the same time the Mortal Aspects are cutting a destructive path across the country.

Though the third tale of the Twilight Reign fantasy (see THE TWILIGHT HERALD and THE STORMCALLER), THE GRAVE THIEF feels more like a transitional middle book in a trilogy as nothing major ends. Still the story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action especially with the heroic efforts of Isak trying to get his exhausted force in pitch battle berserker frenzy. Fans will enjoy the latest entry, but also lament nothing closes. Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to each and every one of you. May the New Year be blessed and a prosperous one for all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Some Titles for the New Year

Catalyst, Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Del Rey, Jan 1 2010, $26.00, ISBN: 9780345513762, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

The Barque Cats are extremely valuable because they keep vermin off space ships and are adept at finding oxygen leaks or other hazardous gases as well as just keeping people on board the vessel safe. Thomas’s Duchess, known as Chessie and her human companion Janina, whose title on the ship is Cat Person, dock on Head Station, where a pregnant Chessie goes for a check-up. Janina and Dr. Jared Vlest fly down to the planet Sherwood to look at the animals that need care.

A con artist Carlton Pontius aka Ponty steals Chessie and brings her to his farm on Sherwood as she is worth a fortune especially with a coming litter of Barque kittens. He gives Chessie to his son Jubal who takes care of her and her litter. Chessie loves all of her offspring, but the kitten Chester bonds with Jubal. Chessie needs to reunite with her Cat Person Janina. Unfortunately, they cannot, as a “supposed” plague has arrived leading to the impounding of all animals and those exposed (even the Barque cats). They will be executed. Janina and her allies try to free their companions, but an alien feline Pshaw-Ra with psionic power wants to take the cats to his planet so they can begin the universal domination of the known universe.

This is the first tale of a duology that contains the usual strong outer space world building, a trademark of the authors who make a whole galaxy seem real. The Sparkles plague is caused by a harmless beetle but the GG scientists refused to accept a simple explanation. The point of view is told mostly by various feline characters, but it comes across as believable and as important not simplistic cute as the cats understand their troubles. The humans are for the most part empathetic especially Janina and cranky Ponty who has his own pet cat. Although the audience will need to wait for the second entry to see whether Chessie and Chester have more than one life each, fans will enjoy the opening Barque Cat caper.

Divine Misdemeanors, Laurel K. Hamilton, Ballantine, Dec 8 2009, $26.00, ISBN: 9780345495969, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

They were crowned queen and king of the Unseelie Court by Faerie and the Goddess, but Princess Merry and her bodyguard lover Doyle choose to return to California and set up her own court. Now they live in Los Angeles where they stay together based on love and trust instead of pain and intrigue. They earn a living at sleuths at the Grey Detective Agency.

Their latest case is horrible. Twenty demi-elves (small Barbie like creatures with wings who look like angels but are anything but the sort) were killed and posed as if they were in a children’s book. The only living witness, a survivor of the massacre of the serial killing of her kind, obviously saw something but flees before the detectives can question her. A few days later, a brownie and her human husband are killed in their home once again posed from another children’s story. The two sleuths learn there are two killers, one with wings, bur many creatures have wings in Faerie. Merry and her retinue know only one way to prevent more ritual murders; she is served up as bait.

Laurell K. Hamilton shows her talent to make alternate worlds filled with mythological creatures living side by side with humans seem real. Merry is a heroine who avoids the Seelie and Unseelie Courts as she detests the intrigue that flows everywhere like light waves do on earth. The Goddess still favors her and creates a new faerie mound in aptly named Los Angeles in an apropos apartment building. The investigation is entertaining as Merry cannot help her people by offering herself as a potential sacrifice to catch serial killers. Even with that as the prime theme, Ms. Hamilton is at her provocative sensual best in Divine Misdemeanors.

Heart Of The Witch, Alicia Dean, Love Spell, Dec 2009, $6.99, ISBN: 9780505528261, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

In Okalahoma City, the Tin Man serial killer abducts witch Rayvn Skyler planning to rape her before he kills her. Irate, she breaks the prime rule of her coven by setting his crotch ablaze before escaping. He survives her counter assault, but is outraged that his chosen prey harmed him and escaped before he could inscribe on her corpse in blood his moniker The Tin Man, irate he vows vengeance.

Meanwhile mortal former homicide detective Nick Lassiter knows he finally has the bait to run down the Tin Man whom he obsesses over ending the psychopath’s terror. He plans to use Rayvn who wonders about this Nick who seems to be nearby every time she blinks. At the same time her former lover Kayne has become apparently insane as his soul is filled with ambitious evil plans for world domination. Between Kayne and the Tin Man ruining her life and anyone close to her like her sister and mom, Rayvn fears most for not so mundane Nick.

This is a fast-paced fun to read serial killer romantic urban fantasy, but has too many major subplots that lead to abrupt transitions. The readers and Rayvn know the bad guys from almost the beginning, but that enhances those two thriller threads as the audience anticipates confrontations. With a deep look inside the politics of a coven on top of the non-stop action, sub-genre readers will agree with Nick that the Heart of the Witch is captivating and bewitching.

Jaclyn The Ripper, Karl Alexander, Forge, Nov 2009, $24.99, ISBN: 9780765318947, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

After dispatching Jack the Ripper from 1979 to a far future, H.G. Wells and Amy Catherine Robbins travel to his time, 1893, (see TIME AFTER TIME) where they marry. However, so her beloved parents would not worry she returned to tell them what became of their prodigal daughter. In 1906 Wells is worried about his wife who failed to come home, Wells traces her to 2010 Los Angeles.

Meanwhile Jack managed to anchor in 2353 before returning back to 2010 Los Angeles as a woman. While Wells searches for his Amy, he notices an alarming pattern that reminds him of Victorian Whitechapel and San Francisco circa 1979; Jack is back and Wells obsessively believes he must stop the killer for all eternity.

With two fascinating twists since the events of TIME AFTER TIME, JACLYN THE RIPPER is an exciting fast-paced thriller that never quite gels as the key two antagonists never quite come across as the naïve good vs. the sinister evil of the first book. Still fans of TIME AFTER TIME, book or movie, will enjoy the return engagement as JACLYN THE RIPPER still enjoys the kill.

Supernatural Delights

Cherie Priest
Tor, Sep 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765318411

In 1863 in Seattle, Washington Territory, Russians hearing rumors of gold in the Yukon and Alaska Territories hire scientist Leviticus Blue to invent a device to obtain the precious metal buried under the frozen tundra. He creates Dr. Blue's Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine; a steam-powered machine that drills through the thickest layers of ice to extract gold. He beta tests his gizmo in downtown Seattle, but something goes awry leaving several dead people from the ensuing accident and a stripped mining like hole that emits an eerie looking gas dubbed Blight as it turned nearby breathers into “rotter”, fresh flesh eating predators.

Almost two decades later, Leviticus’ son Zeke Wilkes wants to clear his dead father’s blighted reputation. He sneaks inside the walled containment zone with his concerned mother Briar in pursuit as she fears her offspring will turn into one of those putrefying rotters. However, her fears turn into mortification when she learns that mad scientist inventor Dr. Minnericht looks like the identical twin of her late husband and he seems to have taken a fatherly interested in her child.

This is a great Zombie alternate America thriller that hooks the readers from the moment that Dr. Blue turns on his machine and never takes even a gruesome puke break. The story line is fast-paced yet the three prime characters are fully developed though the rotters are what the BONESHAKER is all about. One should not read this on a full stomach unless a toilet is nearby as the descriptions are bone-shaking and breaking steampunk. .Readers will relish Cherie Priest’s sensational Seattle saga as a mom without apple pie battles zombies, mad scientists and other ilk to rescue her cub. Harriet Klausner

Child Of Darkness
Jennifer Armintrout
Mira, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326700

Human-Faery Queene Ayla has ruled for two decades in the Lightworld; having come a long way from once being an assassin (see QUEENE OF LIGHT). However, she has some recent concerns when an Upworld Fae warns her to beware of the elves and their allies the Waterhorses. Concerned over the safety of her daughter Cerridwen, Ayla proclaims her offspring will marry her advisor Cedric, who she believes will keep her daughter safe.

Cerridwen is outraged by her mother’s declaration without consulting her. In fact she believes she loves Fenrick the elf. She runs away to be with her beloved, but to her consternation, Fenrick betrays her to the elves. Cerridwen becomes a prisoner of the increasingly feral elves-waterhorse allied horde. A despondent Ayla sends her mortal consort former Death Angel Malachi to rescue his offspring Cerridwen whom everyone assumes is the daughter of the late traitor Prince Garret and heir to the throne. War seems imminent.

This Lightworld/Darkworld fantasy thriller is an exhilarating tale that has become even more personal for Ayla when seemingly everyone on several planes wanted her dead. She may have come a long way from assassin to queene, but to Ayla the one constant is assorted species wanting her dead and now her daughter is in deadly danger. Cerridwen is a chip off the old danger block(s) and Malachi remains as kick butt as ever even if his soul mate has brought some mortal light to his former dark world. This is a terrific action-packed yet character driven tale. Harriet Klausner

Draycott Everlasting
Christina Skye
Harlequin HQN, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774159

“Christmas Knight”. Although she has not seen Glenbrae, Hope O'Hara purchases the Highlands Manor with plans to convert the house into a bed and breakfast. The Wishwell sisters think Hope is perfect for Ronan McLeod, the thirteen century first owner of Glenbrae. Although they live seven centuries apart, the siblings use magic to bring Hope and Ronan together; believing love will do the rest.

"Moonrise". Former Crusader Knight, Navarre the Wolf plans to kill his former friend Adrian the ghost guardian of Draycott Abbey for betraying him. Collateral damage is acceptable to Adrian who casts a spell that will kill everyone inside by moonrise. The lone human resident is FBI agent Sara Nightingale seeking clues to a missing treasure, but instead meets Navarre and Adrian.

These are two entertaining Draycott romantic fantasies with Christmas Knight being a 1998 reprint and Moonrise a novella. Fast-paced and filled with strong characters especially lead protagonists in conflict and love Christina Skye casts a spell on her audience with the coupling of the new and the old. Harriet Klausner

Tainted: The Blood Lily Chronicles
Julie Kenner
Ace, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780441017843

Monstrous Lucas Johnson viciously attacks Rose. Bad to the bone twenty-six year old Lily Carlyle seeks out her younger sister’s molester, but Lucas kills her instead. An angel gives the dead Lily a second chance at righting all the wrongs she committed.

Soon afterward, Lily Carlyle reawakens inside the body of Boston bartender-waitress Alice Purdue. Lily still wants to go after Lucas and wonders what happened to Alice. However, her heavenly assignment is preventing a demon horde from opening the last of nine gates from hell. She is ready to die again, but is confused by her attraction to Deacon Camphire, who saved her second life, but whose soul seems filled with absolute darkness and no light.

Although somewhat similar in tone to the superhero coming back from the grave for a chance at redemption by simply saving the world, fans of dark urban fantasies will enjoy the first Blood Lily Chronicle. Lily is an interesting protagonist who was a thief until she failed at vengeance but in her second chance she still craves retribution although she has bigger monsters to fight. Deacon is the enigmatic champion rescuing her at her darkest moments, but fans will wonder is he a hero or a future villain as the book is still out on him. Julie Kenner leaves her lighthearted suburban soccer mom resting in goal while turning to a grave thriller starring a different personality demon assassin heroine. Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 21, 2009

Brittany Murphy

All the details are sketchy but Brittany Murphy has died at the young age of 32. She was a fine actress and was as brilliant in comedy or drama roles. She was type 2 diabetic, but it is not known if that played a part in her death. She will be missed by her fans and family.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Three from Pyr Books

This Crooked Way
James Enge
PYR, Oct 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9781591027843

After his failures and defeat (see BLOOD OF AMBROSE) enchanter Morlock Ambosius flees on his horse Velox; he hopes to buy time to regroup and try again. Instead a stone beast attacks the enchanter and his steed. Morlock survives, but Velox vanishes.

Morlock searches for his horse while heading to Sarkunden where he runs into the Sorcerer Slash who says to call him Charis before pleadings with Morlock to help him; the enchanter reluctantly agrees to do so. On his quest he meets new allies, who initially fear the legend, but as they get to know him befriend him.

This is an exciting fantasy that focuses on the meandering travels and dialogue of an exiled enchanter and the associates he meets on his crooked trek towards and into the Kirach Kund where the Khroi rule by killing outsiders. Those people the protagonist meets on his dangerous journey tell much of the tale as they relate their initial fear and dread of the aloof unflustered enchanter but become friends with him once they discover his human flaws make him more like them than the frightening superior being they expected to encounter. Thus his quest is clearly humanized by the secondary cast. Although the climax is relatively smaller and much diminished in comparison to the roar of THE BLOOD OF AMBROSE, fans will relish the second saga as the well written character driven THIS CROOKED WAY comes across as a deeper look into the lives of wizards, sorcerers, and one particular enchanter.
Harriet Klausner

Joel Shepherd
PYR, Oct 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9781591027874

In the Kingdom of Lanayin, the monarch supports the newer Verenthane religion over the established Goeren-yai. This has increased the schism and caused widespread intolerance. Some people are especially caught between the old and new like Svaalverd style master bladeswoman Princess Sasha, who has blood from both sides.

To Sasha who fights from the heart, everyone seems to argue religion especially her mentor-teacher Kessligh Cronenverdt, her royal siblings and her neighbor Jared. However, it was the death of the king’s heir, her brother Krystof that has her seeking vengeance as closure is impossible. War is imminent as each religious faction wants to dominate; to her shock, principled idealist Sasha leads an army against her pragmatic father who struggles with the cause that will destroy his country especially when he knows neighboring nations foster the civil war that divides families.

Although the story line starts slows as the support cast define the realm through banter, humor and wit; fans will enjoy this entertaining coming of age saga. SASHA is a terrific lead character struggling with the hostilities while also being a cock-sure combatant. Ironically this sword and sorcery fable has few blood scenes and non-existent fantasy segues as the only possible (so far) paranormal element is the non-human Serrin who joins in the religious philosophical debates. Fans who appreciate a deep thought provoking thriller will enjoy Joel Shepherd strong look at social, cultural and religious divides that threaten to tear apart a nation that sounds so colorfully familiar. Harriet Klausner

James Barclay
PYR, Oct 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9781591027829

The Raven mercenary band has no time to celebrate the victory over the Wytch Lords, who they banished with the DAWNTHIEF spell. Instead they have learned the spell tore a hole in the dimensional walls.

Deadly dragons have started to cause havoc so the Raven team must find answers fast to close the hole and destroy those creatures that have entered through the gap. Dimensional traveler Septern has left hints how to fix the growing gulf so the Raven seeks him at the same time the Wesmen barbarian horde invade the eastern lands on the ground while the dragons assault both sides from the sky.

There is plenty of action, both mundane and arcane, as NOONSHADE with its fantastic spin from DAWNTHIEF is a super fantasy. The sword and sorcery story line is fast-paced from the onset, but the key to James Barclay’s strong tale is the cast. The Raven team comes across as individuals instead of a Borg like collective though they fight as one. Although the villains are stereotypical of the genre, fans will enjoy this terrific thriller as the Raven learns the lesson of unintended consequences. Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Future War, Fairies, and Sorcery

Cobra Alliance, Timothy Zahn, Baen, Dec 1 2009, $24.00, ISBN: 9781439133064, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

Following the hostilities that led to the Troft claiming the human colonies of Adirondack and Silvern, the Earth leadership realized they could not win a sustained war against the superior enemy. They changed tactics from space battles to guerilla ground warfare and created the Cobra force of specialized warriors containing lethal nanotech weapons surgically placed on the body of the soldier.

Decades have passed with interplanetary warfare part of the history books and the Troft no longer hostile enemies. Leaders question the need for Cobra as it is costly and fears of losing freedom abound. However, that changes when a Troft force attacks Oasama. The next generations’ warriors from families like that of the Moreau whose matriarch and oldest son step forward as Cobra comes to the rescue of a planet that has been vocal about eliminating Cobra.

This terrific military science fiction is a super return to the worlds of Cobra as the underlying conflicts are not just against the Troft. The Qasaman do not want Cobra on their planet, but also do not want the Troft, so they try to manipulate both. The characterizations are extremely emaciated except for the mother-son relationship in which mom is showing her age and her offspring is ready to take charge and put her in the home for old solders. Filled with personal courage and action, Timothy Zahn makes a case that the U.S. Army’s seven values of LDRSHIP remain a strong core for future deployed in space military soldiers.

Dreamdark: Silksinger, Laini Taylor, Putnam, Sep 2009, $18.99, ISBN: 9780399246319, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

The demon slayer faerie Magpie Windwitch has saved the Djinn Magruwen from the assault of malevolent “uncreator” Blackbringer. With her loyal crows, she believes she must find the other Djinn to keep them safe in order to save Dreamdark from the demonic horde. Maggie seeks Whisper Silksinger, the last of her faerie clan guardian who protects the Djinn Azazel.

The Silksinger has fled with Azazel inside her kettle as devils chase her. She reaches Nazneen where she hopes to return Azazel to the safety of his temple; not undertsnading betrayal also awaits them.

Hirik Mothmage is on a quest to take over the protection of Azazel from the Silksinger whether she acquiesces or not. He obsesses with returning honor to his abashed clan who allowed the assassination by noninvolvement of Fade the dragon.

These three Faeirie converge along with Prince Talon and others including vile demons trying to kill the Djinn. Egos clash among the faerie that could lead to failure of the prime mission to protect Azazel.

The sequel to the awesome BLACKBRINGER is a great young teen quest fantasy as once again the mythological species seem genuine. The story line is fast-paced with plenty of action starting with Whisper knowing death as being of two kinds, peaceful and violent with the latter seeming to be her destiny. Filled with battles and superegos clashing over what is right, fans will roots for the three faeries and their allies who must overcome their personal aspirations to be a hero in order to keep Azazel safe from the demonic horde.

Iorich, Steven Brust, Tor, Jan 5 2010, $24.95, ISBN: 9780765312082, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

In Draegara, the House Jhereg crime syndicate has placed a price on the head of Vlad Taltos, who has avoided the mob for several years. However, his skill at staying in hiding ends in a small village tavern when he overhears news that his friend Aliera e’Kieron was arrested by the Empire for practicing taboo elder sorcery. As Aliera never concealed her activity from anyone and no one cared including the Empress, Vlad wonders why now especially with Sethra Labode to testify against her. Apparently, Aliera is accused of trying to kill the Empress Zerika, betray the country to some foreign army, and released a demon inside the House of the Dragon.

Vlad knows all the reasons to mind his business starting and ending with being a foreigner who betrayed his House Jhereg. So he heads to the capital city Adrilhanka that he has avoided for several years to rescue Aliera to learn the real truth behind the incarceration of his friend accused of violating Imperial Articles of Indictment for Felonious Conduct even if it kills him to do so.

This is a terrific entry in the long running Taltos saga as the latest Vlad’s excellent adventure focuses on him landing in plenty of trouble; more tsuris than usual, which says a lot. His activities also stir up problems for everyone else within his circle including the female sorcerer he has come to rescue. Just another few days for Steven Brust’s superb tale as the hero, his friends, his enemies and especially the reader learn life’s critical meaning: “we are what we worry about.” And some of us worry through life.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Unwritten Doc Savage Books

Tim Byrd, who writes the YA Doc Wilde series, mentioned this website in his blog and it is too fantastic not to be mentioned here as well.

It is a series of covers for unwritten Doc Savage stories based on the James Bama covers. They are tremendous and makes me wish someone could make this into a reality.

Let me know what you think.

New Reviews from Harriet

Galileo’s Dream, Kim Stanley Robinson, Spectra (Random House), Dec 29 2009, $26.00, ISBN: 9780553806595, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

To the colonists on the moons of Jupiter, Galileo is the prophet who led humanity on the first great leap into space with his telescope. He is a God in the future, but in his own Renaissance time in Italy, he faces condemnation by the Church for heretic acts.

As he faces trial that could lead to his burning, a man calling himself Ganymede claims to have come from the far future to consult with him and encourage him in 1609 Padua. Ganymede knows his side in a future debate over mankind, wants to bring Galileo forward in time in order to save the man and change history; others also want to influence history perhaps by insuring Galileo burns at the stake rather than go under house arrest.

This is a thought provoking alternate history science fiction that is not an easy read, but worth the time for those who relish a cerebral thriller. Galileo makes the story line with a mix of diverse emotions like a need to advance science but a fear of what he is doing. With an underlying message that humanity must stay alert to keep those who claim divine communication to thwart advances by burning scientific research on a media inferno. Fans will appreciate Kim Stanley Robinson’s deep tale that connects renaissance Italy with man in space.

Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer, Laini Taylor, Firebird Fantasy, May 2009, $9.99, ISBN: 9780142411681, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

Over twenty-five millennia ago, the faeries trapped the demons into bottles that were secured by magical incantations before tossing them into the sea. One thousand years later humans appear on the scene. They find the prisons, receive three wishes and begin to counter the spells not realizing just what is incarcerated. These self centered “mannies” begin to undo the heroic work of the champions by freeing the demons.

The faerie community is stunned with what the mannies are doing as they cannot comprehend why would anyone release evil onto themselves and other species including those who have gone into hiding. Most of the faeries do not want to become involved, but a few have become demon hunters. The only demon slayer in her community, Magpie Windwitch, who has killed over twenty demons, has no choice when malevolent “uncreator” Blackbringer prepares to attack her home Dreamdark having killed an immortal. She and her loyal crows try to wake up the inert Djinn Magruwen with the horrific news that Blackbringer has killed one of his seven and is coming for him and Dreamdark. However, to her shock the all mighty Djinn refuses to get involved as what he and his peers created has been devastated by those who only care for their immediate hedonistic needs.

This is an entertaining young teen save the world fantasy due to the mythological species seeming genuine especially the faeries, crows, Magruwen and one particularly nasty demon. Magpie is a fascinating but anticipated heroine who in her new role of world saving champion learns personal secrets. With an ethical message that encourages hard work, honesty and caring for others, Magpie and her crows have setbacks as they blunder and make errors, but never give up. Young adult readers will join her band of warriors to end Blackbringer’s reign of terror.

The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny, Simon R. Green, Ace, Jan 5 2010, $24.95, ISBN: 9780441018161, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

Welcome to the Darkside; a place within London that can only be accessed by people in the know; a place that is perpetually dark so that those soulless who are darkest can hide without contaminating the world of light and souls. There are some good people who reside in this hell hole like private investigator John Taylor, who is on an assignment to Lord Screech guarding him and the peace treaty between the Fairy Courts of Queens Mab and Tatiana.

Walker, the voice of authority dedicated to keeping the status quo in Nightside, wants the treaty in his hands; so he sends his army, werewolves and thugs who fly on carpets to obtain it. The elf tells John that Excalibur is coming, but he has to believe it is not what it seems.

His next case involves finding Tommy Oblivion who disappeared during the Lilith Wars. His client Tommy’s brother Larry the zombie, who has deep family feelings, was the person who accidentally freed Mab from the hell she inhabited. To complicate John’s life, Walker is dying and needs his replacement assisting the Authorities; his choice is Taylor.

The latest Nightside fantasy provides the readers with a fresh glimpse into the frightening community. Ironically though many of the denizens are evil, they are fascinating in a macabre way having survived even before the first dinosaur was born. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but it is the cast especially Taylor and his three clients, who make for an entertaining walk (make that a sprint) on the Darkside.

Nightchild, James Barclay, PYR, Nov 24 2009, $16.00, ISBN: 9781591027850, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

The seven mercenaries that made up the Raven split up in retirement five years ago after the harrowing events in which they and the Dragons saved the world (see DAWNTHIEF and NOONSHADE). However, the Dragons cannot go home and are dying due to the air of the Kingdom of Balaria where they reside and people hunting them as beasts rather than saviors who were critical in shutting down the rift.

Two of the magnificent seven Erienne the Dordovan mage and Denser the Xeteskian mage had a relationship that led to the birth of Lyanna. The Colleges of Magic want Lyanna at all costs as the Lord Mages recognize who she is and what she will do to their positions of power. They believe she is the prophesied NIGHTCHILD, who will unite the four magics currently, divided amongst the colleges and kill thousands in the process. They are coming for the five years old leading to the reunion of the Raven who though they argue, fuss and fight with one another; also unite to protect one another even if the one they keep safe apparently is ripping asunder from within the kingdom leaving thousands dead.

This is a brilliant climax to the trilogy as the “threat” to the existing order comes from within, a five year old magical hybrid. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as fans of the saga catch up with retired friends who gave up swashbuckling and magic to tend bar, raise a child, etc. However, the only thing that could bring together a five year reunion is the threat to one of them. Filled with moral issues bug and small, NIGHTCHILD is a fitting end to a strong saga.

Monday, December 14, 2009



This is an interview done with Scott Nicholson done while I was hosting a weekly internet chat at I hosted the chat for a couple of years until the interest began to wane. At that time, the internet was growing by leaps and bounds and this was a way for the fans to get together and discuss the events of the week or a new writer or book that they felt needed more attention. Chats could run from five to fifteen – sometimes more depending on topics and time – and usually lasted for two hours

Scott Nicholson won the Writers of the Future in 1999 with his short story “The Vampire Shortstop”. He wrote six novels for Pinnacle (THE RED CHURCH, THE HARVEST, THE MANOR, THE HOME, THE FARM, and THEY HUNGER) that were moderate sellers and has branched out to comics and screenwriting. He lives in North Carolina and has been compared to Sharyn McCrumb and Manly Wade Wellman. His latest novel, THE SKULL RING is forthcoming as is SCATTERED ASHES, a short story collection. DIRT is a comic in the old EC vein and there are three issues of it available with at least one more on the way. Go to Scott’s website, for all the details.

Baryon: How does having a baby affect your writing time?
Scott Nicholson: Well, the big change is that everything is so much more important. I don't write first thing in the morning anymore. My daughter gets that time, at least when she's awake. Now, I have to be much more productive with shorter periods of time. Other than that, I don't let having a baby be an excuse not to write. I read in an interview where the child of a famous writer, now a writer himself, talked about having to tiptoe around the house while growing up so as not to break the great writer's concentration. That doesn't sound like any fun to me. I may not ever be a famous writer, but I'm sure as heck going to be a good dad.

Baryon: You were a finalist in the 1997 WOTF awards, why did you enter again?
Scott Nicholson: In some years, the editor of the annual anthology will choose a few finalist stories to flesh out the contest volume. This is done both to make a stronger book and to sometimes give a little encouragement to someone who's getting close to being good enough. The way the rules are set up, finalists can keep entering until they either place in the contest or are no longer eligible (meaning they have finally sold three pro stories or a novel). In 1997, there were five published finalists. The next year, there were none, because many of the winning stories were longer. The strange thing is that three of those published finalists from '97, Ron Collins, Amy Sterling Casil, and myself, were prizewinners the following year. That had never been done before. I believe I was a quarterfinalist with my first entry, was a finalist with my second, my third failed miserably, and then I won first prize in my fourth attempt, all spread out over twelve months. The money is so good at the contest that I was determined to keep one of my better stories in the running as long as I could. What's funny is that when Dave Wolverton called me to say he wanted to publish "Metabolism" in the anthology, my wife could tell from my smile what was happening. It was my first sale. Afterwards, I went upstairs, took my rejection slips off the wall, and sat down and counted them. One hundred and five.

Baryon: Did winning the WOTF contest help your confidence, or were you positive you would sell eventually?
Scott Nicholson: The quarter I won, I figured I had a good chance, because "The Vampire Shortstop" was the best story I'd written to that point. But I'd already sent in my entry for the next quarter, just in case! I'd already decided that I was going to keep writing, win or lose, rejections or not. The contest offers many benefits for the new writer. The most important of all is that your story is judged anonymously by legendary speculative fiction authors such as Dave Wolverton, Algis Budrys, Anne McCaffrey, Tim Powers, and more. Since you are competing against other new writers, the "name game" isn't a factor as it is when submitting to the top professional magazines. It's the ultimate level playing field, in my opinion. I can't say enough about the great people at Author Services, Inc., who run the contest as part of the L. Ron Hubbard estate. They treat all the winners and published finalists to a week-long writer's workshop in Hollywood with almost all the expenses paid. I consider it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I was lucky enough to experience twice. Winning the contest doesn't automatically mean you have it made. Some past winners have never written another story. The Establishment doesn't really recognize the award as a major accomplishment, perhaps since so many past winners have disappeared beneath the waves. But looking back over the fifteen years of the contest, about five or six writers of each class fight their way onto the bookshelves and into the popular consciousness. It's always the ones who were determined to write, no matter what. Kevin J. Anderson entered unsuccessfully about forty times, and never did win. He refused to quit, and now is one of the most successful science fiction novelists around. No one wants to be a new writer forever. I'm still crawling and will soon take my first teetering baby steps. Maybe someday I'll be able to walk, all the while dreaming of running.

Baryon: Your winning story has a unique twist to the vampire story. How did you come up with it?
Scott Nicholson: I don't believe in Muses who magically make people better writers. But I do believe that the subconscious mind is a whole lot smarter than the conscious mind. I woke up with the words "vampire shortstop" in my head, went to the keyboard, and wrote the story straight through, in about six hours. I didn't outline, plot, or plan a single word. In my rewrite, I probably changed maybe five sentences. As far as I can tell, the anthology editor, Algis Budrys, changed a grand total of one word. I'm surprised the story came out as well as it did, considering I knew absolutely nothing about what I was trying to say. Everything just fell into place. It was basically a gift from what Jung called the collective unconscious, a story that had already been told somewhere, and all I had to do was set it down. I re-read it a while back and found some minor flaws with the character voice, but it was the best I could do at the time. Oddly enough, I don't seek out a lot of vampire fiction. Lots of sex, a gaunt complexion, never grow old, I mean, where's the downside? A little angst, maybe? So if someone had told me I'd ever write a story with a vampire in it, I'd have laughed. I do take several liberties with the traditional lore, though, which is part of the fun of the story.

Baryon: Are you a baseball fan?
Scott Nicholson: I grew up playing it, and of course collected baseball cards and comic books back when they were cheap and not such serious collector's items that you were afraid to touch them. I'm coaching Little League for the fifth time this season, and have been lucky enough to coach my son three years. The coach in my story does contain more autobiographical elements than do characters in any of my other work. I don't follow the major leagues too closely anymore. I don't think baseball is a metaphor for Life, which instantly brings to mind some boring George Will essay. But Little League is a great microcosm of the adult world, the whole political scene, the social strata, the doting parents who sometimes expect too much from their kids. I've seen parents make their kids cry, right there in front of the whole team and a stand full of people. I've seen the clumsiest guy on the team turn into the hero more times than you'd think.

Baryon: Who are your favorite writers?
Scott Nicholson: William Goldman is tops. I'm so impressed with the way he can capture characters, add detail, and put in the subtext while never losing any of the pacing or plot. The man understands STORY in all its forms, all its genres. Look how skillfully he manages such disparate subjects and styles as he covers in MAGIC and THE PRINCESS BRIDE. He's a great screenwriter, too, and even his nonfiction work is fascinating. I actually study him the way some English Lit students have been condemned to study tedious and long-dead writers.
Orson Scott Card is certainly one of our greatest living storytellers. Not only that, he has a passion for history that few can rival. Ray Bradbury, I believe, is the one modern speculative fiction writer whose work will be studied in college literature classes this century. He is a master of language, imagery, poetics, about as close to Shakespeare as anybody I've read.
Of dead writers, Steinbeck, Twain, Daphne du Maurier, and Shirley Jackson are my favorites. Other writers I admire, for varying reasons, are Sharyn McCrumb, Kevin Anderson, Stephen King, Douglas Clegg, Neil Gaiman, Jack Ketchum, Ramsey Campbell, Ira Levin, Dean Koontz, and Frederik Pohl. The best book I read last year was Stewart O'Nan's A PRAYER FOR THE DYING. I'm starting to enjoy crime fiction from such greats as Ed McBain and Elmore Leonard, and I'm entering a phase of craving Jim Thompson's work. Then there are a whole lot of exciting new writers coming up from the small press and through webzines. I wish I had more time to read. Unfortunately, most of my spare time has to be spent on writing.

Baryon: Have you gotten to meet any of your favorite writers yet?
Scott Nicholson: I've been pretty lucky there. In my job as a journalist, I get the opportunity to interview writers when they come through the area. I've interviewed Scott Card twice and Sharyn McCrumb several times. I post a lot of interviews on the Ghostwriter portion of my web site at I got to meet many great writers at the 1999 World Horror Convention. And of course, the Writers of the Future workshop bring out a bunch of legends such as Jack Williamson, Tim Powers, Robert Silverberg, Jerry Pournelle, and more. Through the miracle of the Internet I've met a ton of other writers, most of whom are new like me, and it's a lot of fun to share that journey. Some of my best "friends," I've never even met.

Baryon: Are you going to hit the convention circuit any time soon?
Scott Nicholson: I attended a lot of panels at World Horror Con and got something of the flavor of the whole horror world. It's a lot more, well...normal than I would have thought. I was a guest at the last two StellarCons, though those are more oriented to gaming and media sci-fi than to authors and readers. I also do presentations at the Appalachian Writers Conference since it's in the region. I'm hoping to attend one of the biggies this year, either the World Fantasy Convention or Chicon. The only way I can justify the expense of Chicon is if I'm fortunate enough to make the final Campbell ballot. .

Baryon: Do you think Ebooks are a valid option to the printed book and would you publish there?
Scott Nicholson: My forthcoming story collection THANK YOU FOR THE FLOWERS will be released as a trade paperback in October. It will be published by a regional press, and I've had a free hand in cover design, layout, and the rest. I work at a newspaper, so I know people who can handle all those elements. Basically, I just give the publisher all the bills and the finished book. I don't know if I'd ever want to be that involved again, but it's been a great learning experience, all the way from rounding up blurbs to working with the cover artist. I think I understand why it takes one to two years to get a book from typewriter to bookstore, at least in traditional publishing. Now, of course, with the Web, you can publish it as you type it. I'm still reluctant to try to break in through e-books. I think it's a hard route right now, and the waters are muddied by some less-than-notable work. It may be easy for a writer to have a novel accepted, but then what? You still have to convince people to buy it, often without the face-to-face sales pitch you could use in physical bookstores. Print-on-demand seems to offer a more positive opportunity, but it's still in its infancy. That said, I am watching developments with great interest. Douglas Clegg has had remarkable success giving away e-serials while still protecting and even enhancing the commercial value of the books. Other established writers are trying the "free" route. I've given away a couple of stories to e-zines, and my publisher and I are considering releasing my collection as an e-book in the spring of 2001. I never say never, but I'm still trying the traditional career routes at this point.

Baryon: How does it feel to be a Campbell finalist?
Scott Nicholson: As of this writing, I don't know if I'm a finalist or not. I consider myself an extreme long shot. If I were lucky enough to make the final ballot, I would feel greatly honored, especially considering the high caliber of the competition and the list of past Campbell winners. I don't worry a whole lot about awards. Those are largely out of the writer's hands, and I've learned in life to only worry about the things that are in my control. That means, of course, more work, more rewriting, more persistence. Jim Van Pelt has done a fantastic job maintaining a Campbell Award web site. It's a great place for readers and fans to discover new writers. The site is at .

Baryon: Your next project is a horror anthology; do you prefer it to science fiction?
Scott Nicholson: Shhh, you just said the dirty word! Actually, THANK YOU FOR THE FLOWERS will be marketed as "suspense and imagination," since it is divided between fantasy, horror, and mystery. There is nothing in it that I would consider pure science fiction. It would be unfair to label it solely horror, though I certainly love to use ghosts in my stories. The difference is that my ghosts are just as likely to be the heroes as to merely serve as plot tropes. They're not always designed to scare, though if that happens to the reader, fine. To me, the mysteries of love, death, and faith, and the relationship between the three, are the most interesting things to write about. As one of my ghost characters says to a person who is about to commit suicide, "Hey, you can learn a lot about life from a dead guy." I still write some science fiction, I just haven't been as successful at selling it. That's okay. Every story is a learning experience, especially the failures. I'm still too busy working on the fundamentals of writing to worry about what types of stories I should focus on.

Baryon: You've had considerable success recently in placing your short fiction, and you've written a few as yet unpublished novels. What different disciplines are required for the short and long forms? And would you recommend new writers start with short stories to learn the craft?
Scott Nicholson: The fact that I've yet to sell a novel probably makes my advice somewhat dubious. But I believe if you want to be a professional fiction writer, it ultimately means writing and selling novels. I started a novel almost immediately after I decided I wanted to be a writer in 1996. I was working on short stories at the time, but having something that I could return to day after day really kept my seat in the saddle. That novel was pretty terrible, and I probably didn't learn much except endurance. I threw about three-fourths of it away and rewrote it. That's when I started feeling like I was getting somewhere. Even though the novel was still poor, it was better. I'm always working on a novel. I love having that world to escape to, that mental problem that must be solved. I've heard lots of different approaches to the novel vs. story debate. Some say master the story form, work your way diligently up through the small press into the big magazines, and then write a novel when people have noticed you. It does seem a more viable method in the field of science fiction than in other genres. But then you see most of the books that are on the shelves are by writers who have never written a short story. One thing I would never recommend is doodling away in notebooks all day long. To me, that doesn't teach you the discipline that the forms require. You might as well be sitting in a coffee shop and talking about writing, for all the good it will do you.

So I guess I would say try to write both stories and novels at the same time. And if you start a novel, finish it, even if it seems doomed from page fifty on. Fighting through those weak spots will be what makes the next novel stronger. Plus, if you've written a novel, you can have a lot of fun and learn about the business end of the publishing world by trying to market the thing. And when someone says, "Someday, I'm going to write a novel," you can smile smugly, though hopefully you will be secretive about it. At least until you sell one.

Baryon: What else do you have planned for future offerings?
Scott Nicholson: As usual, I have a novel out at a publisher and a different novel at an agency. I am rewriting a third novel while also developing it as a screenplay. I wrote that novel in 1998, and in my early rewriting I've already realized what glaring mistakes I made in the first several drafts. Hopefully, that means I've learned something since then. I have a story called "The Way of All Flesh" coming out in Altair #6 in August. "Scarecrow Boy" will be the lead story in Lore #10. "In The Heart Of November" will appear in a young adult anthology released by Tundra Books this fall. "Skin" will appear in the anthology NORTHERN HORROR, which I understand is a little behind schedule. "Constitution" will be reprinted in the Australian magazine Winedark Sea. "The Vampire Shortstop" will be reprinted in W.P. Kinsella's anthology BASEBALL FANTASTIC, due out this year. I have a couple of other reprints out on webzines. All told, I have four stories coming out in Canada and two in Australia this year. Now I'm setting my sights on England. I want to write another novel this year, and I also have a goal of writing at least a short story a month.
My plan is to write ten novels, and if I can't sell any of those, I'll take the hint. Overall, though, rejections don't matter that much to me. While I intend to eventually make a living at this crazy business, I'm not putting in my notice at the day job anytime soon. After all, baby needs a new pair of shoes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Halloween: New Poems

Here's a review of a forthcoming book from Cemetery Dance. Be sure to order a copy while it is still available. They are taking pre-orders and there is a 52 copy lettered limited avaialable as well.

HALLOWEEN: NEW POEMS, edited by Al Sarrantonio, Cemetery Dance, $40, 120 pages, ISBN: 9781587672057, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

March is not a month you usually think about poetry. February is one of those where poetry comes to mind. October is another one of those months where poetry does not normally come to mind. Thanks to Cemetery Dance, this March you will think about poetry and you will think of October as well.

Al Sarrantonio has collected forty one poems about Halloween and they will be available in March of 2010. This volume contains poems from some of the top horror writers in the field. This volue includes the first poems from Joe Lansdale, as well as poems from James A. Moore, Gary Braunbeck, Tom Piccirilli, Tom Disch, and others fill out this unusual volume with a terrific cover by Alan Clark.

The poems are broken down into categories such as “Trick or Treat”, “Pumpkins”, “Ghoulies”, “Ghosties”, “Samhein”, “Dead Leaves” and other topics of the season. There are haikus, rhyming poems, prose poems, and a long story poem that show the talents of the writers and their creativity in capturing the essence of the season.

Sarrantonio and Cemetery Dance have put together another unique collection that will be of interest to lovers of poetry and horror. This collection is one that will be of interest at times other than Halloween. Pick this one up before it goes out of print and keep it on the shelf next to THE DEVILS WINE, if you were fortunate enough to obtain the other landmark volume of poetry from Cemetery Dance. Be sure to order this from before it's too late.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Vampire, Shapeshifters, Paranormals and Dark Fantasy

Dark fantasies from Harriet. Hope you find something of interest.

My Wicked Vampire
Nina Bangs
Leisure, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843959550

Sparkle Stardust welcomes botanist Cinn Airmid to the Castle of Dark Dreams. However Cinn insists she does not need the cheerleading team spirit pizzazz as she works with plants who are loners. Still Sparkle mentions her soul mate Mede who came close to being vampire fodder on the road to Galveston.

Although Cinn is sinfully good with plants and may have made a sentient species, she scoffs at vampires, demons, and cosmic chaos creators. However, she has to reconsider what she knows of the universe when she meets Dacion, who has played dead as an undead for almost six centuries to avoid his sire Stephen, who with his minion is coming.

The “Wicked” return to the Castle of Dark Dreams is filled with pleasure, fantasy, humor, and danger, as the cosmic trouble making duo are one night’s bite from trouble as their overarching subplot takes quite a twist. The vampire and the botanist are a wonderful pairing of love with the paranormal minion converging on them. Fans of the saga will appreciate MY WICKED VAMPIRE while newcomers will enjoy this tasty tale and seek the wicked urban romantic fantasy backlist to learn how far Ganymede and Sparkle have come. Harriet Klausner

The Hunt
Anne Marsh
Love Spell, Oct 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505528247

At the Temple of Amun-Ra, Miu hesitantly enters the tunnels. Her quest is to save her sister and to complete a loyalty pledge she made to her employer the thief master Lierr. She must steal a powerful moonstone necklace from the crypt and escape the legendary Guardian warriors who are said to be shapeshifters; although she believes they are mortal warriors only everything she heard is no female ever escaped THE HUNT.

Jafar the Guardian notices Miu and concludes she will prove to be a pest as she refuses to undergo the standard virginity test. Amun-Ra orders Jafar to follow Miu to learn why she is here confident and disobedient unlike the other frightened females. Jafar does not know how much trouble she causes as he catches her stealing a necklace and begins to believe she is his mate, but she deserves a stiff penalty as he was betrayed once before by a female.

The moment Miu breaks the laws by entering the tunnels this exciting romantic fantasy gets its claws into the audience who go in with her and never let’s go until the final confrontation with Amun-Ra. The key to the Marsh mythos is realm of THE HUNT seems genuine as the author provides enough lore interwoven nicely into the (too many) subplots for readers to believe in its existence. With a nod to Egyptian mythology and a strong support cast, fans will cheer on the lead pair through action to the nth degree while each has doubts about a relationship between them. Harriet Klausner

Silent Night, Haunted Night
Terri Garey
Avon, Oct 27 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061582042

Psychic Nicki Styx and her lover ER Dr. Joe Bacombe hope for a quiet Christmas together as each has had their fill of demons, spirits, and possessions. However, neither get what they want most as this holiday season is paranormally insane for even this pair used to psychopathic visitors from the Dark.

Joe is under a nocturnal sexual assault from Selene the succubus abetted by her Fate sisters; their plan is to get at Nicki through her beloved. Nicki has her own problems dealing with a spirit who committed suicide and her son who make demands on the psychic. Finally as all hell breaks loose, the devil pays Nikki a courtesy call.

This is a humorous lighthearted urban fantasy as Joe probably has to believe in the Nazareth tune Love Hurts since he is an easy victim of possession by feisty paranormal females (YOU’RE THE ONE THAT I HAUNT); before he met Nicki A MATCH MADE IN HELL was metaphysical. Spirited and “Scrooged” while not yet thirty Nicki is terrific as she battles the latest visitors who assault her and her beloved while she should hum the Charlie Daniels Band’s The Devil Went Down to Georgia to fiddle with the heroine. Harriet Klausner

Out Of The Darkness
Jaime Rush
Avon, Sep 29 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061690365

Tattoo artist Zoe Stoker is frightened after receiving an enigmatic cautionary message from a dead person; allegedly CIA. However that seems calm compared to an assassin who tries to kill her. Cheveyo saves her life, but though she does not trust him she goes with him to a recently created support group, the Offspring; as she is one of the children of psychic parents who participated in a government sponsored experiment (see A PERFECT DARKNESS).

Rand Brandenburg also recently joined the Offspring although he preferred not to. His uncanny gambling skill made him known to those who want the Offspring under control or dead like original experimenter Gerard Darkwell. Rand feels for the wary Zoe, but she knows from her past not to allow emotion to control her as her out of control telekinetic skill sends objects flying; however she also finds him to be the first person she cannot keep outside of her heart.

The names alone are great symbols with Cheveyo, Stoker, Brandenburg and Darkwell, etc. providing hints of a dark urban fantasy landscape. This second thriller is fast-paced with the suspense building up from the first Darkness novel; leading to a hooked audience wanting the next entry yesterday. However, in spite of the terrific overarching saga, the keys to OUT OF THE DARKNESS is the lead couple as he embraced his ability for personal gain while she fled her ability out of fear mindful of the X-Men’s Rogue. Fans will root for this couple and have dark thoughts about flying bodily objects. Harriet Klausner

More Interesting Reviews

Elegy Beach
Steven R. Boyett
Ace, Nov 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441017959

Three decades have passed since magic became the physics that rules the world. The Change as it is called by those who grew up after the planes fell and the cars stopped has brought with it much more than the halt of technology, fantasy creatures abound and a generation gap like no other ever before exists.

Ariel the unicorn reunites with her best friend Pete Garey (see ARIEL) after her mate Joe was murdered. At the same time post Change born wizard Yanamandra “Yan” Ramchandani wants to do something so big his name will go down in history and he has found the achievement of a lifetime. He knows how to reverse the Change. As Ariel and Pete investigate Joe’s homicide, they learn of Yan’s plot that the older generation would relish but those born after the Change and the tweeners like Pete would not. To prevent Yan from causing a second catastrophe, the unicorn and her human BFF enlist Pete’s son Fred who happens to be Yan's best friend, and the renegade mage’s father Dr. Ram; Fred also hopes Tan's sister Nandita joins their troupe.

Although exciting and fast-paced with an intriguing background of a post-apocalyptic realm, there are some jarring survival elements as the magic practitioners use much of what existed before the Change like canned food in spite of shelf time rather than employing their mage skills. Still this is an entertaining tale as the lead pair and their allies try to prevent the reversal of the Change although Yan will have plenty of supporters amongst the Baby Boomers and Generation X and detractors from Generation Change. Fans of the first tale will enjoy the sequel though much of the innocence is gone (he has an offspring). Harriet Klausner

Darker Angels
M.L.N. Hanover
Pocket, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781416576778

She inherited her Uncle Eric’s estate consisting of money and property along with his mission to free the human horse possessed by demons or the loas. By accepting his legacy skeptical Jayne Heller admits there is a hell of a lot of supernatural communities out there; some of which are extreme evil.

Meanwhile former FBI Agent Karen Black has been searching for a serial killing horse rider Legba who picked his next host horse Sabine, the granddaughter of Amelie (who he now rides) whose life is nearing an end. The loa starts taking over Sabine but Karen hopes to thwart its ambition. Jayne and her posse travel from Athens (Greece not Georgia) to New Orleans to help Jayne in her quest to end the serial killing horse rider’s reign of terror. When she arrives she notices the city is arising from the watery grave of Katrina while the belief in voodoo remains strong. Karen leads the demonic hunt and when she is near her goal she orders Jayne to leave. Realizing she has been tricked Jayne informs Karen she will remain to rid the city of the paranormal serial killing horse and gets in between a battle with one decent and one evil loa.

DARKER ANGEL, the second Black Sun’s Daughter urban fantasy (see UNCLEAN SPIRITS) is a fascinating and entertaining thriller in which it is difficult to separate the good loas from the bad; just ask Jayne. Determined to follow in her uncle’s brave footsteps and encouraged by his voice to do so, Jayne continues his war to dispatch the malevolent ones back to where they came from. Ignorant and prone to error, she learns the family business while under fire. Fans will root for Jayne in her invisible war against demons, loas, and who knows what else M.L.N. Hanover will dream up. Harriet Klausner

Indigo Springs
A.M. Dellamonica
Tor, Oct 27 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780765319470

In Indigo Springs, Oregon, Astrid Letherwood like most if not all the other residents assumed her father was a drunken bum. With his death, she learns the truth about her dad; he was an underground magic practitioner who created “chantment” magical objects that he gave to people he felt deserved a slight edge. He told nobody, allegedly not even his daughter, who was actually his apprentice but remembers nothing about magic since he died. He knew the witch finders stalk everyone with their burn at the stakes first and ask the charred corpse questions second.

However he was unable to keep Astrid safe as the government has incarcerated her although they improved her prison to a comfortable cage. Roche and his agents have her under arrest for kidnapping and murder. The latest inquisitioner is hostage negotiator Will Forest who actually gets Astrid to reveal a bit of what she knows, but she recalls nothing of value. Family friend Sahara Knox arrives and taps into the blue fluid vitagua that flows underneath her dad’s home and is the source of magic. Unlike Letherwood who felt magic should do no harm, she employs violence turning people and animals into monsters as she wants the underground magic rebellion to come out into the open.

This is a super psychological suspense suburban fantasy starring a great bewildered lead protagonist who is center to all the goings on. Her confusion purposely leaves the story line somewhat hazy as her latest interrogator tries to get at the truth but is different from previous inquisitioners as he is first a hostage negotiator while the others were enforcers using any means. Sahara complicates a complex character driven thriller that uses the questioning of an alleged convict to establish the delightful Dellamonica domain. Harriet Klausner

Diving into the Wreck
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
PYR, Nov 24 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9781591027867

Boss prefers to work alone when diving into a wreck though she works salvage operations with others. She feels she is more ethical than most of her rivals in their search for historical vessels as she always helps those in dire need in outer space though she prefers not to. Some of her unsavory colleagues would wait for a trapped crew to die so they can salvage like scavengers.

For her current quest the recluse uses her single crew ship rather than her larger Nobody’s Business vessel, but what awaits her is a shocker. Her computer claims the derelict is somewhat between 5,000 and 10,000 years old and from old earth; an impossible scenario as that time frame and locale did not have the technology for the faster than light speed to float this far. She searches for historical data as she is curious about this enigmatic anachronism, but fears what she will learn as the misunderstood ancient sciences might prove deadly. Bringing together a special crew of loner divers, Boss and company explore the vessel while she considers following her mom who left her to vanish inside the mysterious Room of Souls.

DIVING INTO THE WRECK is an exhilarating fast-paced yet cerebral science fiction thriller. Filled with action and adventure but purposely with two dimensional characters including Boss who is a bit more philosophical. Kristine Kathryn Rusch uses outer space to have her audience consider ethics and morality re the scientific-government complex and how society looks back at ancient civilizations through a modern day lens while failing to provide a historiographic disclaimer about the background of the anthropologist or archeologist leading the glimpse through time. Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vampires, Nightwalkers, Cannibals and More

More reviews from Harriet.

The Monstrumologist
Rick Yancey
Simon & Schuster, Sep 22 2009, $17.99
ISBN: 9781416984481

In 1888 twelve year old William Henry James lives with monstrumologist Doctor Pellinore Warthrop ever since his parents died years ago. One night a grave robber delivers a desecrated corpse to Warthrop. The doctor is somewhat horrified by the condition of the body, but not as much as his ward.

Warthrop insists the atrocity was done by Anthropophagi who apparently came from Africa bringing with them massacres and slaughters; they are cannibals who dine on man; competing with one another to be the first to rip off a head. As the doctor and his assistant investigate the latest bloodshed, the pair is also forced to look at their own ancestry, but most critical is to find a way to end the gruesome butchery before their town is destroyed.

Told entirely by Will in his diary who died in 2007, THE MOMSTRUMOLIGIST is a well written gruesome horror thriller that grips readers starting with the opening dictionary definition of the title and never let’s goes as the twelve years old hero describes his and his guardian’s exploits. The story line is vivid, but must not be read on full stomach as Rick Yancey holds nothing back yet also explores relationships between an adult and a child, and the ethical boundaries of science when death is involved. Gory perhaps over the edge to disgusting, this is horror at its worst, which means at its exciting entreating best. Harriet Klausner

Treason's Shore
Sherwood Smith
DAW, Aug 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780756405731

Prince Indevan-Dal has regained his honor having warned his country of the Venn invasion and led the defeat of the enemy. He remains in the capital after years of exile and does his duty by pledging his allegiance to the ruler Evred and marrying Tdor although his lover when he lived at sea, the sorceress Dag Signi is unhappy with her relegated status.

Meanwhile the Venn war fleet returns home to recuperate. Commander Durasnir and his wife Brun hope the foolish youthful monarch Rajnir gives them and their sailors a respite; but fear the real ruler behind the throne Dag Erkric will not allow such. Their trepidation proves correct when Erkric abducts his ten year old son to use as a hostage. There is also a Blood Hunt directed at Signi, who is captured. The Venn are preparing for a second invasion but who shall lead the opposition Inda or Elgar the Fox becomes a controversial distraction.

The fantastic fourth and final Inda fantasy (see INDA, THE FOX and KING'S SHIELD) is a super ending to an excellent saga as the prime characters constantly must choose between personal desires and kingdom needs. The choices are not easy as loyalty to a king may prove treasonous to a kingdom. Complex with thriving cultures on land and at sea, TREASON’S SHORE completes one of the best fantasy chronicles in years as fans will want to visit the realm of stupendous Sherwood Smith; recommend starting at the beginning to better understand the motives of the prime time players. Harriet Klausner

Jocelynn Drake
Eos, Sep 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061542886

The naturi are preparing the end game assault with a special sacrifice that will destroy the barrier between them and the human-nightwalkers. Once Rowe completes the portal, his spouse the queen Aurora will lead her race as they cross over to devastate both species.

The only hope for humanity and the nightwalkers resides with Mira, who has special skills especially with the use of fire. However, she is realistic as she knows the odds are heavily against her unless an alliance is forged as has occurred between her and the vampire slayer Danaus. However they have new hope when they capture naturi Princess Cynnia who insists she opposes her sister’s plan for the apocalypse.

The third Dark Days urban fantasy (see DAYHUNTER and NIGHTWALKER) is a terrific action-packed entry that is driven by partners forced into what both believe is an unnatural partnership. The characters make the story line feel genuine as Mira the fire starter vampire and Danaus the vampire hunter need to team up or lose to the naturi. With treason from within their ranks and seemingly within the nature, Jocelyn Drake complicates her overarching theme tenfold in what is turning into a magnificent saga. Harriet Klausner

Friday Night Bites
Chloe Neill
NAL, Oct 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451227935

Ten months have passed since the vampires came out of the closet and revealed themselves to humanity. New to the biting night life, upper class Merit struggles with her bite and her position as sentinel of the House of Cadogan; one of the three vampire “Houses” in Chicago. However, those are minor problems compared to her constant disputes with the dude who changed her, four century old master vampire Ethan Sullivan.

Currently, vampires are riding a wave of good will media. However, rumors fly that wannabe tabloid reporter Jamie Breckenridge has learned about Raves in which humans serve up blood like a cocktail hour. Merit knows him as his family and hers (human that is) travel in the same elitist circle. Merit needs to persuade ambitious Jamie to drop the story before the humans go for blood.

The second Chicagoland vampire tale (see SOME GIRLS BITE) is super urban fantasy starring a tyro bloodsucker who continues to have major relationships with mortal and vampires; Merit still connects (loose definition) with her social climbing parents and other mortal family members and obviously with her new vampire family. Fans will appreciate Merit’s efforts to balance her two teetering worlds summed up simply by TGIFNB (Thank God it’s Friday Night Bites). Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

John Lennon

Today is the anniversary of John Lennon's senseless death. No one can understand the mind that did this act, nor can we fully imagine what he could have achieved had he lived.

Listen to some Beatles music or some of the solo Lennon material that will make you remember just how talented he was. I'm listening to "Walls and Bridges" and will follow up with "Mind Games".

Even after all these years the music holds up and fits in with the current sounds. I still miss him.

Harriet's Reviews

Spending time looking for work and doing Christmas stuff. Am finishing the new Peter Straub. Will have something for you soon.

May Earth Rise
Holly Taylor
Medallion, Nov 2009, $15.95
ISBN: 9781933836577

Warleader Havgan and his Corianans have captured the Y Dawnus druids and bards (see CRY OF SORROW). His victory has left Kymru High King Arthur ap Uthyr in deep trouble. Without these powerful supporters, he will fail at his quest to unite the kingdom under his realm. He and his followers must liberate them immediately, but have no hope of success as the mission is suicidal; yet without them they are dead anyway.

Havgan and his loyal wyrce-jaga witchfinders are systematically destroying all magic users except for the powerful traitorous Kyrmic witch, Arianrod, Havgan's mistress. The conflict widens with no one allowed to remain on the sidelines as many die; but increasingly the strife seems to be turning in favor of the warlord over the monarch.

The fourth Dreamer's Cycle Arthurian fantasy is a super entry filled with action, anguish, and strong characterizations. The humongous cast on all sides of the conflict makes the exhilarating story line seem real while also providing newcomers the back overarching theme (still worth the time to read the tales first). Readers who have not discovered Holly Taylor is missing out on one of the best fantasists today as her King Arthur saga is great. Harriet Klausner

The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart
Jesse Bullington
Orbit, Nov 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780316049344

In 1364 the grim brothers Hegel and Manfried Grossbart, knowing what flows in their ancestral blood, decide to join the family business so they can make a fortune robbing graves. Their plan is to keep robbing graves while they seek their family heaven the Gyptland crypts. On their quest across Europe and the Holy Land, they receive help from the Pope, the Crusades, and especially the Black Plague.

Along their journey they kill peasants and demons with no regard to either species. Still they march on as grave-robbers and slayers of the innocent and the monstrous. However, as they argue theological dogma, the siblings dodging bodily liquids will learn death can be kinder than life.

Not an easy read especially on a full stomach, this blood and guts and blood and vomit satirical medieval pilgrimage is a humorous over the top of the Alps fantasy thriller; just don’t stay down wind from the slice and dice brothers. The grim brothers Grossbart are a gruesome pair with no redeeming qualities as their seemingly endless road trip is fueled by human liquid logistics, vividly described; sort of a 400 page story line version of the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the knight keeps fighting as he loses his limbs. For select fans who relish a high body count as the brothers grim learn there is much worse out there than death. Harriet Klausner

Seduce Me In Shadow
Shayla Black
Pocket, Sep 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781416578444

Caden MacTavish fled his English home and his magic heritage to live in Texas. However, the only reason he would return home is for his brother Lucan, who is in deep trouble. Apparently his sibling mourns the loss of his beloved Anka taken by the Brethen’s enemy Mathias the wizard.

Wizard chief Bram Rion directs Caden to learn anyway he can what nosy tabloid reporter Sydney Blair of Out of This World knows about the magical species. He assumes very little, but Caden is stunned when he observes Sydney receive as a “gift” the stolen Doomsday Diary that used by the wrong people like Mathias will destroy the Brethren. Caden knows he must retrieve the diary, but also believes the current owner is his probable soul mate.

The latest Doomsday Brethren romantic urban fantasy (see TEMPT ME WITH DARKNESS) is a great entry due to Caden’s predicament; handled deftly by Shayla Black. He understands the mission, but also wonders what will happen to any potential relationship with his mate when he steals the tome because he will do his job as the alternative is worse. Either way he feels personally doomed. With a strong female lead, a despondent brother, a bossy head wizard and a diabolical villain to round out Caden’s feeling of hopelessness, fans will relish this strong thriller as the prodigal wizard returns home to face danger from without, from within and mostly from his soulmate. Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Vampires, Oz and Demon Hunters

Three more interesting titles reviewed by Harriet.

Fade Out
Rachel Caine
NAL, Nov 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451228666

Amelie’s evil brother Bishop temporarily took over Morganville; a town where vampires and humans co-exist, but blood suckers are on top of the food chain. However, recently Bishop was defeated. His vampiric allies have been routed also and Amelie’s cronies have loosened the rules giving more freedom and rights to the humans; and protection to blood donors. Amelie is the Protector of Claire Danvers, who with her boyfriend Steve, her BFF Evie and Eve’s boyfriend Michael the vampire like to keep life in Morganville on an even keel.

However peace is not to be found. Some humans are trying to destroy the vampires; a computer is out of control, and a videographer is taking pictures that could expose the vampires. Ada the computer wants to kill Claire who she believes wants her former lover Myrnin back when she was a vampire before she became the computer’s brain. She wants a war so she can have Myrnin all to herself. Myrnin is more out of control than usual and could become a danger to the vampires even though he is one himself. Claire and her buddies must find and destroy the video devices hidden all over town spying on the people, disable Ada, find out what is wrong with Myrnin and find the person who is giving insider information to the enemy if she and her BFFs are to save Morganville.

The latest Morganville vampire novel FADE OUT is full of drama, pathos, and a touch of romance with characters larger than life especially the teens who have to be in order to survive in a town run by vampires. Claire is the de facto leader who makes decisions for herself and her friends. Although some of the bite is gone with Bishop vanquished, much of his sting is replaced by the danger of the photos exposing the vampires and the computer going crazy. The most fascinating part of Rachel Caine’s latest Morganville book is the millennia old vampire who experiments on the human-vampire species while keeping a distance from them to avoid the dreaded ennui depression. This is a must read for teens and adults. Harriet Klausner

A Lion Among Men
Gregory Maguire
Harper, Sep 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9780060859725

The Emperor of Oz enjoys war although he remains comfortable far from the combat inside the Emerald City. Munchkinland rebels and the emperor’s armies are preparing for combat. At the same time Brrr the Cowardly Lion travels around the countryside as a reluctant imperial spy. He agreed to become an espionage agent so he can elude the Animal Adverse Laws that harshly discriminate against talking animals.

Brrr reaches the Mauntery of St. Glinda where Yackle the cantankerous Seeress resides. He is to interrogate the crone before she dies, which can be any nanosecond or several lion lifetimes. Instead of gaining much information for use in the war, Brrr begins to learn about his unknown past, being alone, and afraid.

The third Wicked Years fantasy (see WICKED and SON OF A WITCH) continues the homage to L. Frank Baum through a deep look at the late author’s key characters while also subtly and not so subtly satirizing society. The cast is incredible as Brrr and company work through some complicated issues like responsibly and accountability in a world centrally managed by magic. Filled with whimsy yet deep philosophical questions, A LION AMONG MEN is once again an entertaining thought provoking fantasy.
Harriet Klausner

Demon Ex Machina
Julie Kenner
Berkley, Oct 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425229644

Kate Connor has seemingly more personal issues than usual although she and her second husband Stuart have apparently worked out their differences since he now knows she is a demon hunter. Still she must train her spouse and her enthusiastic teenage daughter Allie how to defeat demons; she knows it was easier on her when her oldest child played soccer only. The supermom also has a two year old toddler who could terrorize almost any demon with his temperament.

There is also the complicated matter of the return of her formerly dead first husband Eric who has come back to life only to be possessed by a demon. If she succeeds in exorcising Eric’s demon yet keeping him alive, Kate ponders what she should do about the two husbands in her life.

Although the story line starts slower than the usual donkey kicking frantic frenzy and only accelerates a little, the latest demon slaying soccer mom thriller is a deeper look at Kate’s quandary. She does not want her daughter to follow in her demon slaying footsteps, but fears not teaching her how to defeat the enemy for she knows Allie will go out on her own. The same holds true for loyal Stuart. Then there is the mess of two husbands as she adores both of them. Filled with angst as she also has the toddler to care for, fans will appreciate Julie Kenner’s profound glimpse at the human side of demon slaying beyond a bad hair or broken cuticle day.
Harriet Klausne

Friday, December 4, 2009

Revews from Harriet

Waking Evil
Kylie Brant
Berkley, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425230718

Forensics Investigator Ramsey Clark works for highly regarded Raiker Forensics. When it comes to her work, she is scientifically thorough and has no time for nonsense or play; when it comes to her personal life alas she has no time to play either.

The homicide of a young woman sends Ramsey to rustic Buffalo Springs, Tennessee where she joins the investigative team of Sheriff Mark Rollins and TBI Agents Matthews and Powell. However this case is anything but by the book for Ramsey who adheres to standard procedures. Instead the witnesses insist the ancient red mist settles over the town. Intruding on her effort to remain professional is parapsychologist Devlin Stryker, who insists the killer will not fit her forensic profile; he refuses to back away from his attraction to her though she tries to keep him outside of her heart. When a second mysterious homicide occurs, Ramsey and Devlin team up seeking a killer before another murder occurs.

This is an enjoyable paranormal romantic mystery starring two likable humans, a beleaguered town, and a killer seemingly from beyond if you believe Devlin or a diabolical mortal if you believe Ramsey. The first reaction by Ramsey to meeting Dev is priceless as she incredulously calls him a “Ghost Hunter”. Putting aside the name of the heroine brings memories of the former male Attorney General, the latest Mindhunter thriller (see WAKING NIGHTMARE) is a superb police procedural romantic suspense enhanced by the supernatural and the romance. Harriet Klausner

7th Son: Descent
J.C. Hutchins
St. Martin's Griffin, Nov 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312384371

At Bowling Green College in Kentucky, four years old Jesse Fowler kills President Griffin slicing the POTUS’s throat when he was being kissed on the cheek. The Secret Service grabbed the child and his parents; a week later Jesse was dead and no one understood why.

Government agents grab seven men of interest. Each looks similar enough to be at least siblings if not septuplets. Their memories up until they turned fourteen are identical and their names are offshoots of John Michael Smith. They react to what the Feds tell them in the same way as if they go through the phases of forming a strong cohesive group; this includes their hosts Dr. Kenneth Kleinman and Brigadier General Orlando Hill. The seven know that they are the “offspring” of Alpha, who stole top secret government technology that enables him to download a mind to override the original person’s brain. The seven are his clones, but like their hosts none of them comprehend why their Alpha killed the President with a copy of his mind inside the preschooler or why he plays cryptic games with his seven clones.

This is an entertaining science fiction tale that opens with the toddler assassin and never slows down. Although the enigmatic taunting seems old hat as does the cloning, the key to this fast-paced tale is the seven Smiths all have distinctive personalities and lifestyles even with their same origins; for instance Father Thomas questions whether he has a soul being a clone or father Jack was going to watch ironically D.A.R.Y.L. with his two daughters. Readers will enjoy DESCENT although Alpha acts too typical of a villain, his clones make for a lively science fiction thriller. Harriet Klausner

The Other Lands
David Durham
Doubleday, Sep 15 2009, $28.00
ISBN: 9780385523325

Several years have passed since their father king of the Acacian Empire was assassinated and his kingdom splintered. His children went on diverse paths, but they won THE WAR WITH THE MEIN.

The late monarch’s oldest child his daughter Queen Corinn rules over the Known World with a magically enhanced iron fist. She insures no one knows her mage secrets and uses magic and drugs to prevent uprisings and dissension. She sends her brother Daniel on what is perceived a dangerous perhaps suicidal mission to the unknown Other Lands. Corinn assumes Daniel and her other siblings are expendable pawns who live to keep her on the throne. Daniel is shocked with what he finds in THE OTHER LAND; as the ruling tribes are very powerful and pose a major threat to the stability of the Known World especially his sister’s rule, but Corinn’s overbearing imperative leadership has left her few allies and plenty of internal enemies ready to betray her.

Corinn is a powerful amoral monarch that keeps THE OTHER LANDS from being a typical fantasy as her view of the world is her subjects including her siblings are throwaways who live to enhance her control. Her dictatorial regime leaves her almost alone. Daniel’s trek is more standard fantasy 101 although well written and fun. Fans will enjoy the return to Acacia as the next generation’s oldest sits on the throne. Harriet Klausner