Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ben Indick dies on September 28, 2009

Ben Indick, one of my "oldest" friends in the fannish world has died. I'll write a more detailed piece later. I'm currently at a loss for words.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

To the Family and Friends of Ben Indick.

Ben Indick passed away yesterday morning, Monday, September 28.

He was the husband of Janet Indick, father of Karen Maizel and Michael Korie, grandfather of Valerie and Jennifer Maizel, and brother of Dorothy Eisengart and Joseph Indick.

The funeral service is tomorrow, Wednesday, September 30, 12:45 PM
at the Sanctuary of Abraham and Sarah at Cedar Park/Beth El Cemetery in Paramus, NJ (directions below).

The family requests your help in forwarding this announcement and/or calling Ben’s family members and friends to let them know.

Following the funeral, the family will receive visitors at 428 Sagamore Avenue, Teaneck, NJ 07666 (directions below). Shiva will also be observed Thursday from 4:00pm-8:00pm, and Friday from 10:00am to noon.

Contributions in Ben’s memory can be made to The Dramatists Guild Fund, a tax-exempt charity which supports emerging playwrights. The Guild, of which he was a lifetime member, is a group that was dear to his heart. Each contribution will be acknowledged. Checks should be sent to:

The Dramatists Guild Fund
1501 Broadway #701
New York, N.Y. 10036

Mystery Reviews

The Riesling Retribution
Ellen Crosby
Scribner, Aug 4 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 978141655168

In Virginia, Montgomery Estate Vineyard Lucie Montgomery visits her parents’ graves when a tornado strikes. The twister destroyed some vines, but also uncovered relatively recently buried human bones where none should be. The timing is exacerbated by reenactors arriving for the 1861 Battle of Ball’s Bluff. At the same time her winemaker Quinn Santori and her field manager Chance Miller are dueling over the vines and her.

The remains belong to Beauregard Kinkaid, who had a fight with Lucie's scoundrel father. When the murder weapon is found and belonged to the late Leland, the police declare the case is solved and Lucie’s late father is the killer. Lucie knew her dad was a rogue but not a murderer. She tries to investigate but the second spouse of Beauregard’s wife, powerful Summer Chastain, will not allow anything to interfere with the official verdict.

The latest wine mystery (see THE BORDEAUX BETRAYAL, THE MERLOT MURDERS and THE CHARDONNAY CHARADE) is a charming amateur sleuth in which readers will toast elegant entertaining Ellen Cosby for this fun entry. The heroine is harassed on all fronts as she struggles with the internal war between two key employees in which she is attracted to both of them, the arrival of the horde of re-enactors, and the belief her late rogue of a dad killed a rival. Although the whodunit is entertaining unlike the previous three tales, Lucie’s inquiry shares top billing with the feud and the Civil War buffs; still fans will enjoy future wine tasting awesome alliterations. Harriet Klausner

Hell's Kitchen Homicide
Charles Kipp
Scribner, Sep 15 2009,
ISBN: 9781439127902

The corpse is found in Hell’s Kitchen overlooking the Hudson. NYPD Detectives Conor Bard and Ralph Kurtz have the lead though the latter is retiring in a week. The corpse is criminal defense attorney Walter Lawton with mob ties, who has freed many obvious felons from incarceration.

The obvious prime suspect is the victim’s wife Holly who will inherit millions. The cops learn her lover is a professional hit man running a Brooklyn kennel Salvatore Zeffel and they fish the murder weapon a 22 out of the river; Sal’s choice of guns. The case takes several spins with almost all having an Albanian connection, but none quite making sense. Adding to Bard’s confusion is four women in his life: his boss who never leaves the station; his former lover who is seeing jealous Captain Reynolds; Holly who calls him all the time, and Albanian visitor Monica who he calls. He is attracted to the latter two while he wants Reynolds off his back as the case seems to go nowhere.

This is a terrific New York police procedural as nothing is quite what it seems. The banter between the partners is fun and Conor’s female problems add depth to him, but it is the whodunit that makes this an entertaining tale. Every clue leads to the Albanian community in the Bronx, but every step forward also leads to a seemingly dead end. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this fast-paced thriller as the streets of Manhattan seem dirtier than usual. Harriet Klausner

Heaven’s Keep
William Kent Kreuger
Atria, Sep 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416556763

The day before Jo O'Connor boards the charter flight to Wyoming with seven other people, she and her husband Cork get into a fight. The small plane flies through a wintry storm and suddenly vies off course; no longer tracked by radar, the assumption by officials is the plane crashed into the Wyoming mountains. Cork joins the search into the wintry Rockies but after days of fruitless searching hampered by bad weather making a harsh mountainous terrain that much more difficult, the party gives up as there is no sign of the plane; no one could have lived through the cold if they made it past the assumed crash.

Six months later, Rebecca Bodine and her friend Liz Burns show up at Cork’s place in Minnesota. Rebecca claims the pilot of that charter was not her husband as everyone else assumes especially with a wrongful death suit claiming Sandy was drunk when he flew that fatal flight. A reporter digs up what Sandy was doing before the flight: getting drunk in a bar. Cork looks at a video of the pilot and concludes he did not drink but instead poured the liquor into something under his shirt while pretending to imbibe. Although he still believes his wife died, Cork knows something is off about the official conclusion so goes to Wyoming to investigate. The closer he comes to the truth, law enforcement officers, other government officials and drug lords are watching him to see if they have to take action against him.

Readers will sympathize with Cork who feels remorse that he and Jo went to bed angry with one another instead of making up while his fuming good bye was his last words to her. As Cork investigates, he and the audience begin to wonder whether Jo is alive but if so how. Filled with action and vivid descriptions of the Wyoming Rockies, William Kent Kreuger has somehow made this strong thriller a personal drama as well in what may be the best O’Connor tale to date. Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fantasy Reviews

Stalking the Dragon
Mike Resnick
PYR, Aug 4 2009, $15.98
ISBN: 9781591027454

In Manhattan, many folks look forward to the Eastminster Dragon Show. The favorite to win the Best in Show award at the competition this year is Fluffy the toy dragon. However, on the eve of the event, someone abducts Fluffy.

Private investigator John Justin Mallory still struggles with adjusting to a New York City unlike the one he comes from as the mythos do not live in his birth Big Apple. He is hired to find and rescue Fluffy in time for the show. Accompanied by his staff Felina and Jeeves, Mallory investigates the snatch even as time is running out on Fluffy making an appearance let alone be ready to win

The third Mallory in a rather different Manhattan is a jocular urban noir (see STALKING THE UNICORN and STALKING THE VAMPIRE) because of Mike Resnick’s lampooning of the city starting with the Eastminster Dragon Show and a trip to “Greenwitch Village”. The investigation is a lighthearted and engaging tour of an alternate Manhattan. Although the plot is lighthearted Fluffy fun thin, fans will enjoy Mallory and his team as they are STALKING THE DRAGON to rescue the toy dragon in time as the show must go on with or without the star. Harriet Klausner

Desolation Road
Ian McDonald
PYR, Sep 2009, $15.98
ISBN 9781591027447

Earthlings have colonized a small patch of Mars by terra-forming the planet. Amongst the settlements is a shabby locale with a few buildings on what is called Desolation Road. It is a weird place not so much because it look like it lives up to its name, but because of the people who reside there or periodically pass through there.

At one time it was the center of ROTECH and the Bethlehem Ares Corporation. Now that is a distant memory. However, folks like Catch the super snooker star and Adam Black with his Traveling Chautauqua and Educational 'Stravagana showcased the fallen angel always makes stops here. However, perhaps the most fascinating and weirdest is the founder Dr Alimantando, who leaps in and out time and place. This is a town that may be the center of weirdness in the galaxy.

This is a reprint of a 1988 super but strange science faiction that changes direction rather sharply yet somehow smoothly. The story line uses a deep focus into the ensemble cast to tell the vivid story of DESOLATION ROAD and in a sense earth’s colonization of Mars. There are many more characters than the few above as the town’s founder Dr. Alimantando leaps through time observing what is happening over three decades to his DESOLATION ROAD. Harriet Klausner

Dark Haven
Gail Z. Martin
Solaris, Mar 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781844165988

Three months have past since King Martris "Tris" Drayke defeated his brother, Jared the Usurper, and his ally Blood Mage Arontala (see THE BLOOD KING). Winning a war seems easy to Tris in retrospect. Now he must move on and rule a devastated kingdom. Apprehension remains high as some forces loyal to the Usurper continue to fight with enemy Lord Curane and his troops trapped at Lochlanimar and rumors spread that to the south a child has a legitimate claim to the throne. With all that Tris must find a way to feed and shelter his displaced refugee population especially with winter coming to freeze the lands to the north. Meanwhile Tris also prepares for his wedding ceremony with Princess Kiara.

He appoints his protector best friend Jonmarc Vahanian to take over as Lord of Dark Haven, a key estate to the north. Finally as the lord of their realm Margolan, Jonmarc negotiates with the Blood Council of vampires the Vayash Moru at a time when some of the vampires believe the mortals are unworthy of ruling especially since the Flow of magic The Flow is unbalanced, which means the blood magic of vampires is stronger than the light magic of the SUMMONER.

This is a super third tale that fans of the Necromancer fantasy saga will enjoy. Tris and Jonmarc learn how complex it is to change from rebel to ruler as they struggle to insure the kingdom’s subjects don’t starve to death or are further victims of war. Although well written, DARK HAVEN is a middle book that sets up the next entry as no major plot line is completed. Still exciting and well written, Gail Z. Martin provides a deep tale that makes the case that John Milton’s “Better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven” omits how much more difficult to rule is than to serve. Harriet Klausner

The Phoenix Transformed
Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
Tor, Sep 2009, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765315953

Once Harrier Gillain and Tiercel Rolfort thought they would spend their entire lives in Armerthalieh, but that was prior to the latter receiving the power of high magic and visions of the Dark returning. Harrier had doubts about his best friend’s sanity, but not since their trek into the Elven lands where they learn that Tiercel was chosen by the Light to fight the Dark. Harrier leaves the lands of the elves a Knight-Mage.

Wildmage Bisochim believes the Dark must enter the world to bring balance. Through experiments, he creates the body of a woman imprisons the dark demon Aharin, released from the dimensional prison where her fellow demons reside. Her goal is to find a mage and create a new race of demons and release her fellow demons where she was imprisoned. Bisoschim used the trust of the Isvaieni trines of the Isva desert to kill the people in the border cities because he believed falsely they have given themselves over to the Dark thus creating the Unbalance. Once he realized he was manipulated by Aharin, he repents and does all he can to save the tribes with the help of Harrier and Tiercel. They travel the land seeking the demon in order to prove to the armies that demons walks the earth again. Aharin sends her walking dead Isvaieni, goblins and other magical beasts to destroy the Isvaieni .Harrier and Tiercel use their power to try and stop her and prevent the dark from coming bacl.

THE PHOENIX TRANSFORMED is an exciting sword and sorcery epic which will remind the audience of the Jews in Exodus as the Isvaieni tribes roam the desert hoping to find the way home by defeating the Dark. Harrier and Tierce are great characters and buddies who have matured considerably since THE PHOENIX UNCHAINED and THE PHOENIX ENDANGERED; each understands they may die for the better good. Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory provide adult and teen readers a strong epic fantasy. That is enthralling and a joy to read. Harriet Klausner

Where Have All the Flowers Gone

I don't know if I just happen to have the radio on at the right time or what is going on, but I've heard this song a lot more than usual this past week.

I realize part of of it due to the passing of Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary, but I have also heard the version by The Kingston Trio and Johnny Rivers. It was used as a protest song during Vietnam and was written by Pete Seeger in 1961 - so I don't think it was written for that purpose, but I may be wrong. I'm not posting it as a protest, just as a memory from the past that seems to have a lot of meaning today!

words and music by Pete Seeger

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

©1961 (Renewed) Fall River Music Inc
All Rights Reserved.

Weird Horror Tales

Here is a special review from Michelle Souliere who runs the Strange Maine blog site. For all things Maine, check it out at strangemaine.blogspot.com. This is reprinted with her permission.

Review: Weird Horror Tales by Michael Vance, Cornerstone Books, $24.95, 208 pages, ISBN: 1934935395. Reviewed by Michelle Souliere.

Weird Horror Tales, despite its generalized title, collects 13 tales very specifically centered around the fictitious town of "Light's End" in Maine. While varying in their historic timeframe and even at times in their style, they are all crafted in the weird tales tradition. A great find for fans of this field of fiction!

Unlike many writers who claim to be inspired by Lovecraft, Vance is not afraid to produce stories using an efficient and sparse storytelling technique, which suffers nothing from omission, and lends itself to the very Lovecraftian theme of cosmic horror that rears its indescribable head throughout. The reader is more likely to encounter a poetry-like flow of Bradburyesque proportion than the purple prose of Lovecraft's fantasy pieces, especially in such stories as "Wishful Thinking."

His characters are normal, desperate, deranged, owners of strange agendas, people who want basic and harmless lives, and people who want to cause harm to enrich their lives. The settings are reflective of the strange arrangement of the townspeople's history and continued existence. They live in the shadow of "the Great Secret Hidden Openly." The length and breadth of the human betrayal taking place in Light's End is brought into sharp focus when the reader is reminded of the simple, honest need for a good life, even as communicated via the otherworldly narrative in the award-nominated* story "The Lighter Side."

Humor, the likes of which fans of Tales from the Crypt will appreciate, creeps in from time to time. There is something rottenly appealing in the idea of the faux lighthouse restaurant in "Knock-Off," with ever-popular tourist-attracting features such as the "irritating moaning of 'the alien dead, giddy with hunger', that incessantly gibbered from hidden speakers in the floor," décor inscribed with "symbols and mermaids with needle teeth," and "wallpaper that illogically seemed to creep across the wall."

The wonderful thing about independent publication, and the use of short stories, is the freedom that both give an author to pursue a variety of storytelling techniques, while the collected format allows a common ground for tales to form from. In more ways than one, this collection reminds me of Bradbury. Vance seems to feel a similar need to tie together the ingredients of tragedy and transcendence, and a brave daring to try new storytelling techniques and voices pulled from the fringe of the genre. I can only imagine what will happen if he finds a really keen editor with the ability to help him shape this series into the crescendo it could become (this is the first of 3 planned volumes).

"Weird Horror Tales" really winds up working as the title for this collection, and Vance's years of writing experience show in his Jack-of-all-trades approach to fantastic fiction. Take a solid, squirming bedrock of horror, throw in some satellites of sci-fi, a generous helping of Twilight Zone plot twists, lace it with the eldritch horror of H. P. Lovecraft's favorite poisons, and you have yourself a hefty volume of entertaining and engaging stories which will surprise you with its variety, and reward you with each re-reading.

While I may not be completely sold on Maine as the setting for this series, I understand the effort given to make these stories come alive in a Maine that Vance has never seen, and I more than understand his love for the weird tale, and the honor given Maine by choosing it as the place for these stories, outside of their Midwestern author's experience of his home state of Oklahoma. Maine is an "other" place.. These stories certainly are alive in their other place, a place with a unique kind of strangeness that I think Lovecraft would have been well pleased to see spawned from his legacy.

I would really like Michael Vance to visit Maine as he completes work on the next collection in the planned trilogy of Light's End anthologies. But then again - maybe if he came here he'd be too charmed to write more Maine-based horror! Perhaps we should simply invite him to come during February to prevent such a tragedy.

* "The Lighter Side" was nominated for the Speculative Literature Foundation's Fountain Award for Best Short Story in 2004.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Supernatural reviews

My Soul To Take
Rachel Vincent
Harlequin Teen, Aug 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 9780373210039

Though underage, Kaylee Cavanaugh sneaks into the Taboo club for people eighteen and over thanks to the voluptuous statuesque Marshall sisters. The teen feels great especially when Eastlake High School hottie Nash Hudson dances with her instead of beautiful Emma. However, abruptly she senses someone is about to die and when that happens to her she has a deep need to scream at the top of her lungs. Nash calms her down, but a humiliated Kaylee cannot understand what is happening to her; as this is not the first time she had this deep urge.

She tells Nash that a nearby strawberry blond is “darker” than everyone else and will soon die. The next day she is dead. Nash explains to Kaylee that banshees love to scream when someone is about to die and she is a banshee. He also explains who he is or at least his species. They begin dating and the kisses have Kaylee screaming louder than a banshee. However, the pair also has to stop a serial killer as the grim reaper seems to be focused on Eastlake High School. Of course there is still trig.

The “second” Soul Screamers teen urban fantasy (see My Soul to Lose novella prequel that can be downloaded for free from the net) is a fun tale starring a bewildered heroine and the hunk who helps her adjust thanks to his soothing voice while also displaying his attraction to her. Fast-paced from the opening club scene and filled with twists, fans will enjoy Rachel Vincent’s strong entry due to Kaylee who saves a soul and a life, falls in love, but has to study for her history exam.

Harriet Klausner

Highland Beast
Hannah Howell, Heather Grotaus and Victoria Dahl
Kensington, Sep 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780758235091

"The Beast Within" by Hannah Howell. In 1513, when Gybbon MacNachton of a clan of vampires rescues Alice Boyd, neither can believe the attraction.

"The Vampire Hunter" by Heather Grotaus. In 1104 Beatrix is the last white witch in the Highlands, but is accused of the misfortune that has hurt nearby villagers, who soon attack her. Only Alder can keep her safe, but his clan of vampires killed her ancestors a century ago.

"Laird of Midnight" by Victoria Dahl. In 1595 Finlay, the only survivor of clan Maclain, seeks to kill the vampires who destroyed his family and converted him five decades ago. He has no plans to live after he kills the last vampire until he meets tavern serving wench, Kenna whose life he saves from a deadly assault.

These are three enjoyable vampire historical romances starring strong lead characters. Harriet Klausner

To Crave a Blood Moon
Sharie Kohler
Pocket, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 1439101582

In Turkey, lycan hunter Sebastian Santiago chases after a pack, but instead is caught by them. They torture him while the Alpha leader Gunter plans to mate Sebastian with a female of his choice to form a master race. He starves Sebastian and locks him with a female to force his beast to surface leading to his killing the woman located in his cell with him

Weird loner Ruby Deveraux chaperones teens only to see the girls sneak out of their room at night. Ruby pursues them only to be caught in a lycan massacre with her as the only survivor. They toss her into a dank dark cage with a male who seems over the edge. Thus Ruby meets Sebastian who seems weirder than her; they need to team up to find a way to escape before he loses his ebbing control.

The sequel to KISS OF A DARK MOON (starring Sebastian’s sibling) is an enjoyable werewolf romantic urban fantasy. The key to the tale is the suspense starting when the lead couple meets in the cell as he struggles not to attack her. Fans of the sub-genre will appreciate Sharie Kohler’s character driven tale. Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Apocalypse and Fantasy

The Sword Of The Lady
S.M. Stirling
Roc, Sep 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780451462909

Rudi Mackenzie continues his dangerous trek across what was once the United States in his quest to learn more about the Change that crippled the superpower turning the world into literally a darker neo Dark Ages in which electricity ceased. His goal is to go the source in Nantucket. Along the way, he has made friends, several of whom are traveling with him, and many enemies.

He attains his destination only to find a stranger world that makes what he seen before seem normal. Nantucket Island is totally woodland with no more than two hundred confused people who insist they come from other eras, but somehow were transported to the center of the Change. Nothing makes sense to the wary and weary Rudi as Nantucket offers no answers that he can fathom. However, there is one house made of stone still standing. Still searching for clues to what caused the Change over two decades ago; Rudi enters and immediately is drawn to a sword that he picks up as if the weapon was calling him. What he thought he knew will be sliced and diced forever.

The third Change post apocalyptic thriller (see SUNRISE LANDS and THE SCOURGE OF GOD) continues Rudi and company’s trek across the battered dying land trying to come back to life two plus decades later. The troupe has reached their destination, but Nantucket is nothing like what they or the audience expected when they set out; for that matter the trip across the country was also filled with inexplicable unexpected happenings as the gods intruded along the way. Although it is imperative to have recently at least read THE SCOURGE OF GOD, fans will enjoy this excellent epic that will stun the reader with the direction S.M. Stirling spins as Rudi has come a long way to grab the sword and apparently has a long way still to go. Harriet Klausner

The Strangely Beautiful Tale Of Miss Percy Parker
Leanna Renee Hieber
Leisure, Sep 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780843962963

In 1888 an albino with hair as white as snow and living in London, reticent Miss Percy Parker has a special gift when it comes to communicating in languages and a skill to see the future through visions. Though a female and extremely timid at that, Professor Alexi Rychman has invited Percy to study at the Athens Academy; serendipitously hidden in plain sight in the big city; he sees her as powerful and passionate while she sees herself as frightened and different

Percy is a super student grasping her studies rather quickly and easily; everything that is except math. Professor Rychman is not just proud of the best pupil at the academy, he has plans for Miss Percy Parker when he deems her ready to join his secret organization (too secret to even mention their name) struggling to keep the world from destruction from the likes of Ripper. The Professor underestimates Miss Percy who begins to uncover what is going on inside the Athens Academy and also inside their respective hearts.

This is a terrific Victorian urban romantic fantasy with a nod to My Fair Lady that will hook the audience from the moment Alexi invites the uncanny Percy to attend the Academy. Although Percy overbites with her self-deprecating commentaries about being different, fans will relish alongside Alexi her adventures against the paranormal like Ripper and with teaching the professor that love is the most powerful magic under heaven to battle those from hell. Harriet Klausner

What A Dragon Should Know
G.A. Aiken
Zebra, Sep 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420103755

As the third born dragon son Gwenvael the Handsome knows his family thinks he is a fool though the women fall all over him. Thus he is taken aback when his seven months pregnant sister-in-law Queen Annwyl assigns him to a key mission. Because of her delicate condition, she cannot travel to negotiate a treaty with the Northlanders and the Beast; she orders him to go in her place; especially after his crack that she is big. Gwenvael would do anything for Annwyl, so he agrees. He revels in her confidence in him but accepts the mission mostly to escape her wrath and her husband his older brother Fearghus the Destroyer and his adopted sister Izzy the muscle queen before they beat his face into a bloody pulp for upsetting the pregnant queen.

He arrives at his destination only to learn that the most feared warrior in the world the Beast is a brilliant human female Dagmar Reinholdt, whose ingenious plots have protected her father the warlord Reinholdt and their people. An even bigger shock than learning who the Beast is (to Gwenvael the Handsome) is that Dagmar with her glasses and plain robes on seems to ignore his beauty; women jump his bones and scales not scorn him. Instead to his greatest shock, she appreciates his intelligence, a first for a dragon who lives by his charm and looks. As Gwenvael tries to win Dagmar's heart, treachery from within threatens both their families.

This is a super hysterical romantic fantasy starring a sly vainglorious dragon and a clever fraudulent human falling in love though she verbally rips off a few pounds of scales from his skin. Fans will laugh loudly at the gender war as Dagmar takes the handsome out of Gwenvael and Gwenvael takes the beast out of Dagmar. G.A. Aiken has written a tremendous irreverent tale that amusingly turns sexually changes Beauty and the Beast. Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dark Gods, Dragons, & Demons

Servant of a Dark God
John Brown
Tor, Sept. 2009 $25.99
ISBN: 9780765322357

In the New Lands, the Koramites who have settled on the land are vassals to the Mokaddians. There is danger in this mostly unexplored place; the least of which are Bone Faces who attack the colonists from the south. They cut off a person’s pinky and use black magic to bind that individual to them. More dangerous are the Sleths who use Fire (another person’s life force) to give them incredible strength and speed. Only the Divines are allowed to use Fire because they feel anyone else would over use and over time would tirn into something evil. A monster nesting amidst the colonist has turned others into monsters.

Charity has come to the attention of authorities when her dead baby with parts of a stork and a stork with body parts of a human were found when the rains washed up the casket. Her husband was killed but her children blind Legs and Sugar seek shelter at the home if a member of the Order who use magic for good purposes. Talen, the man’s son wants to turn them in but his father refuses. The monster Hunger seeks Charity and brings her to his master. Soon many members of the Order are trapped in the monster’s monster’s cave and only a miracle can save everyone.

This is the first book in the Dark Gods series and it uses action to introduce the reader to the dangerous New Lands in which life is not precious. Readers get a sense of the differing species competing for power. For instance the Divines want more power to strengthen their hold at the top of the food chain. The monster who creates monsters out of humans wants to go back to where humans were herded like cattle. The Order is mankind’s only hope for a free life, but many doubt the lords and the commoners will believe in their cause due to prejudice against magic users who are not Sleth. John Brown has written a compelling but bleak fantasy world filled with a complex and convoluted social structure that will grip readers from the onset. Harriet Klausner

Secret of the Dragon’s Breath
Derek Hart
iUniverse, 2009, $16.95
ISBN: 9780595480951

In 1941 Crackeston Haven in North Cornwall, England continues to have rationing in support of the war with the Nazis. Gavin Kane feels the impact as his thirteenth birthday party as there is no eggs or sugar to make a cake. His friends Emily Scott, and “evacuee boy” Bunty Digby accompany him to see the wise ancient dragon Sir Thaddeus Osbret the dragon who loves sweets when he is not pretending to be a fireplace. That night Bunty draws a picture of a castle that he fears contains an evil threatening the world

In Shloss Wewlesburg Castle in Germany, Herr Himmler learns his top scientist evil Deiter Gortz is missing, but has somehow created a dragon that the Nazi calls Black Wing. He is unaware that Deiter is the dragon. Also in residence is Reinhard Heydrich as Himmler knows to keep his most vile rivals nearby. He is also unaware that something beneath the castle has begun to control Heydrich who has come up with the “Final Solution”.

The dragon Council meets to discuss humans and their propensity for war and global destruction. Thaddeus makes a pitch in favor of the humans, but several have doubts the species should be allowed to live. Korbin the dragon warns his friend an evil is coming that could take the “Final Solution” out of their hands.

Besides the fantasy elements, which ring genuine, it is the deep look at life in coastal England during WWII that makes SECRET OF THE DRAGON’S BREATH a super read. The birthday cake is a great example of how rationing impacted people throughout the country. The tale is fast-paced and exciting as the danger to England mounts with the human friendly dragon and the three teens on one side while enemies human and supernatural mount on the other. The sequel to SECRET OF THE DRAGON’S EYE is a super historical military urban fantasy. Harriet Klausner

Drawn into Darkness
Annette McCleave
Signet, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451227805

Centuries old and counting, Father Lachlan MacGregor gathers souls to deliver to heaven before the demons can suck them dry, for Lachlan this means penance as he is the Soul Gatherer. At the same time he insures his downstairs neighbors, artist Rachel and her fourteen years old daughter Emily are safe; he is especially keeping a wary eye on the teen.

Rachel is taken aback by her attraction to the handsome hunk upstairs as he is forbidden fruit being a priest. Lachlan reciprocates her desire, but he has some supernatural wars to contend with. As they fall in love, they team up to keep Emily safe from an especially evil essence who wants the teen to fulfill an ancient prophecy while also using the child as a pawn to get at Lachlan. What the Soul Gatherer hides from his beloved mortal is her child is his next transfer to the beyond.

This fast-paced urban romantic fantasy will grip readers with the first sword duel and never slows down until the final confrontation as everyone from beyond want to know the way to San Jose. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the relationships as the hero falls in love with the mother of his next delivery and the rebellious daughter is enticed by a charming demon. Annette McCleave provides a terrific thriller. Harriet Klausner

Writers of the Future XXV

L. Ron Hubbard Presents WRITERS OF THE FUTURE, Volume XXV edited by K. D. Wentworth, Galaxy Press, $7.99, 543 pages, ISBN: 9781592124367, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

Twenty five years ago, the first volume of the annual WRITERS OF THE FUTURE was released. I took a look back at that volume to see if any of the members of that first class were still writing today. I was not surprised to find some names that are still working and succeeding in the field. I was surprised to see that there were FIVE of them. Nina Kiriki Hoffman, David Zindell, Karen Joy Fowler, Dean Wesley Smith and Leonard Carpenter were all members of that first class.

Over the years they have been joined by Howard V. Hendrix, Dave Wolverton, Nancy Farmer, K.D. Wentworth (who has become editor of the annual volume), Sean Williams, Eric Flint, Scott Nicholson, Jim Hine and Jake Lake. There are many others that have gone on with their careers thanks to the start they were given after entering the contest.

No one can predict the success of this years group of authors, but I expect to hear a great deal from several of them. The writing style is a little bit more realistic and pessimistic than in years before. That may be based on the current circumstances in the world, or it may just be my current outlook on the way things are going.

The volume opens with this years winning entry, “Garden of Tian Zi” by Emery Huang. It is a tale of a conglomerate run future and genetic engineering that also shows there can still be a human relationship. Donald Mead shows an unusual tale of the results of the bombing of Hiroshima in “The Shadow Man”. Gra Linnaea’s “Life in Steam” is a steampunk tale that shows the Church as inquisitor yet again. Fiona Lehn takes an alternate THE LONG WALK/RUNNING MAN tale and adds in charity, multicorps, and war in “The Assignment of Runner ETI”. Heather McDougal gives a western setting in a dying gold rush town where “The Candy Store” just happens to open. Jordan Lapp gives the story of a Phoenix in “After the Final Sunset, Again”. There are plenty of others between the covers to give you interest and leave you waiting to see what the writers do next.

The stories seem, to me, to be more emotional than in the past. This is a very solid collection and it has the feel of a group of writers with more maturity and sales under their belts rather than those just starting out. My compliments go to the writers and the judges for picking them out.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vampyrs, Dragons, and a Sorcerer

Had a doctors visit yesterday and he adjusted my stress meds and added another one for my diabetes. Was a bit out of it for today. Enjoy the reviews from Harriey

Emma Gabor
Newmedia, 2009
PO Box 546
Montvale, NJ 07645
ISBN: 9781893798571

In 2003 Sopron, Transdanubia in Hungary, the vampyr bit into Emma's neck turning her from a hard working college freshman into a compulsive yet reluctant blood seeking Undead. After dining on a homeless girl, but not wanting to be alone, Emma visits her BFF Kati so that the “forever” becomes real. After converting Kati, they visit Gizi and Eszti to convert them too.

The quartet paint the town red though Emma also feels shame for subjecting people she has known for years to a bloody terrorist attack each night. At a ball at Frakno Castle, Emma meets genetic research scientist Zoltan. For the first time in her life, she understands why her three buddies enjoy the guys rather than the books. As they fall in love, her friends fights with her and each other over their nocturnal desires.

Predominantly told by Emma who speaks to the reader in a sort of memoir format, vampyr fans will enjoy her exploits and that of her three friends. In spite of their conversion into immortality, the four best friends act like the teens they are; arguing who knows best with Emma claiming she is not just their “mom”, but fifteen minutes older and so much smarter when it comes to Vampire 101 and advanced knowledge. Although Emma can over prattle re sidebar related topics like Hungarian history, teen readers will enjoy the battles between the four BFFs who differ on whether they want to go back or not. Harriet Klausner

City of Fire
Laurence Yep
Starscape (Tor), Sep 1 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765319241

In 1941 twelve year old Mistress of Kles Scirye is angry to learn her older sister Nishke was killed trying to prevent a treasure from being stolen from the Hearn Museum in San Francisco. She plans to regain what was taken and kill her sibling’s murderer Badik the evil dragon though she is ignorant of the plan of the dragon’s even more evil partner Mr. Roland to possess the five Lost Treasures of Emperor Yu in order to change existence as Scirye knows it.

Fuming she sets out to avenge her sibling’s murder. Joining her on her trek is Bayang the dragon disguised as a human Pinkerton Agent, Leech the orphan, and his best friend Koko. Her three allies have secrets they keep from one another but share a common need to destroy Badik and his associate Mr. Roland. The trail leads to Houlani, the newest Hawaiian island created by magic, but even with Pele the Goddess of volcanoes abetting their cause they are too late to prevent a second theft as they pursue the malevolent duo into the frozen north.

This is a fast-paced alternate historical fantasy as one episode follows another. The story line is loaded with a horde of mythological creatures, beasts, cretins, and Gods, but it is the unlikely teammates led by a tweener who fight the forces of evil. Although at times the discussions between the good guys slows down the plot especially during dangerous incidents, middle school fans will root for Scirye and her squad against the enemy who seems several steps ahead of them; setting up a sequel or two. Harriet Klausner

Prospero Lost
L. Jagi Lamplighter
Tor, Sep 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765319296

Contrary to how that Elizabethan author distorted the truth with his Tempest in a teapot drama, Prospero the Sorcerer did not burn his tomes or shatter his staff. He has nothing against the Bard as truth does not set you free; it gets you executed. Instead Prospero lived; having more children besides his famous daughter Miranda (that Shakespeare is worse than a tabloid writer as he cannot keep the family out) even if he made his daughter the heroine of his outrageous popular fabrication.

They live in modern society quite comfortably as the family patriarch formed Prospero Inc. whose corporation mission is to negotiate deals with elementals to prevent natural disasters; Miranda is the overworked CEO never taking a break. However, their idyllic lifestyle is disturbed when Miranda realizes her father has vanished into Hell and the Three Shadowed Ones are after the family magic. Miranda, Mag the air spirit possessing a hard-boiled private eye, and her certifiable brother Mephistopheles begin a quest to rescue Prospero and warn her dysfunctional siblings to beware the Three Shadowed Ones while she also fails to avoid Ferdinand the jilted one.

Using humor, L. Jagi Lamplighter cleverly pays homage to Shakespeare and to a degree John Milton’s Paradise Lost and maybe Found in this wonderful modern day satire. Miranda tries to play the heroine by warning her siblings, but they loathe her for being the Bard’s pet and jealous for her fame treating her as a pariah. Their mistreatment of their renowned sister makes none of the siblings likable even as she once again is the responsible one trying to save their lives. Ironically they assume some new Bard will write her story. Fans who enjoy a comedic urban fantasy will relish the return of Miranda the workaholic as she attempts to battle the Three Shadowed Ones, rescue her dad and warn her family who ignore her as they believe she is just a glory hound. Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 18, 2009

Magicians, Fairys and Vampires

Sea Glass
Maria V. Snyder
Mira, Sep 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778325802

The entire Sitian Council and the three Master Magicians demand apprentice glass magician Opal Cowan report to the Council Hall immediately. Her friends warn her if she goes to the Citadel as ordered she will vanish for quite a long time inside the Keep’s dungeons. To ignore their summons means being declared an outlaw but for now being free; to adhere to their summons means being declared an outlaw and at best be under house arrest, but more likely dungeon duty. Her new powers to take away a magician's power frightens them more than her as they are wary of anyone powerful enough to milk dry any magician.

Opal chooses to travel with her exasperating prisoner Devlen and her easy to goad ally Janco to the Moon Clan’s land where they hope to find Devlen’s body containing Ulrick’s soul so that Yelena the Soulfinder can switch them back. Opal believes she loves Ulrick and will do anything to save him though she fears Devlen is right that her beloved is addicted to the blood magic, which if true would mean she lost him. As she treks across a land in which every mage wants her for her new skill, Opal also thinks about the hunk Kade the Stormdancer who seems repelled by her. However, Opal has no time to explore her desires as her quest remains steadfast.

Although it helps to have read STORM GLASS to understand how far Opal has come and the soul switching magic, SEA GLASS is a fascinating quest fantasy. The heroine makes the novel worth following as she struggles to remain resolute while seemingly every practitioner in Ixia wants a piece of her. Fans will enjoy Opal’s second gem of an adventure as she tries to rescue her beloved, but must at the same time either drain or elude a horde of mages. Maria V. Snyder affirms with the Glass series what the Study trilogy proclaimed that she is a super fantasist.
Harriet Klausner

There Be Dragons
Heather Graham; illustrated by Cherif Fortin & Lynn Sanders
Medallion, Sep 1 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781605420714

Once upon the time in the medieval magical kingdom of Calasia, Marina is the only surviving member of her family, the daughter of the House of D’Or, The Count of D’Artois, her step-father is giving Marina in marriage to the Count Carlo Baristo whom his fiancée loathes. Carlo’s mother Countess Geovana arranged the marriage by ingratiating herself with D’Artois. While wandering outside the castle a concerned Marina meets a wounded falcon who speaks and insists she is the fairy Thomasina.

The fairy grants Marina three wishes. While one of them is an indulgence in which she asks for Carlo to make a fool of himself, the second is for her to spend a day with the love of her life. That man turns out to be Michelo, the son of Duke Fiorelli, engaged to marry her stepsister Daphne, whom he does not like. Marina and Michelo meet and fall in love. When his father hears from the falcon that Michelo should marry the woman nearest to where an olive branch falls; Geovana will prevent that from happening by conjuring up evil to insure the death of Marina.

People of all ages will enjoy Heather Graham’s fine fairy tale enhanced with thirty colorful illustrations by Cherif Fortin & Lynn Sanders spread throughout the novel and a CD of original related Christmas songs. This is a spellbinding tale though like most fairy tales the cast is stereotyped between the forces of good and evil as malevolence can wear the disguise of attractiveness (think of the witch in Snow White) leaving intelligent people to go beyond the surface to the inner beauty.
Harriet Klausner

Dark Road Rising
P. N. Elrod
Ace, Sep 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780441017553

In 1938 Chicago, Jack Fleming is trying to recover from the worst trauma of his life. Hog Barstow, a sadistic sociopath captured and almost killed Jack; he left his victim with emotional damage that has him frightened of his shadow (which says a lot as Jack is a vampire) and physical scars from the monster’s attempts to skin him alive.

The New York mob sent Gabe "Whitey" Kroun to the Windy City to kill Jack as retaliation for killing one of their associates. When Jack tried to commit suicide his best friend Charles Escott stopped him, but they had a fight and the mortal ends up in the hospital with severe life threatening injuries. Gabe was turned into a vampire but also suffered memory loss; a bullet in his head limits his skills. He learns of his ugly past, which disgusts him. Gabe wants to do no more evil deeds so when he finds Escott dying he gives the man blood, which saves him from certain death. At the same time, an old enemy captures Jack with plans of forcing him into changing him into a vampire. Certain people like Gabe’s brother want him dead for what he did to a young girl; only lucid thinking and a bit of luck will save Chicago’s two vampires.

Time and place are captured through the vernacular though perhaps mobster talk is a bite or two overdone. Still readers will enjoy the escapades of a sensitive vampire whose vulnerabilities make him fresh as he stands out from the supernatural crowd; yet he seems to end up in mob messes that require a hard boiled Noir reaction from him when all he wants to do is spend nights at his club Lady Crymyn. The pathos of the three males will stun the audience as P.N. Elrod follows up SONG IN THE DARK with more dangerous adventures on the mean COLD STREETS of Chicago at a time when Capone was a guest at Alcatraz, but danger remains high.
Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Harriet's reviews

Saving Midnight
Emma Holly
Berkley, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425229040

In 1934 the Fitz Clare clan are a family composed of vampires and humans who love and cherish one another deeply; so much so each would die to save one of their bloods. Graham recently proved this premise when his adopted father Edmond was kidnapped by two vampires who demanded he reveal how to create more undead; Graham was changed into a vampire and with the help of beautiful Pen, they rescue Edmond who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (see BREAKING MIDNIGHT).

Now his fiance Estelle asks for help from the the vampire that Edmond most loathes in the world. Graham finds he misses Pen and his emotions are all tangled because he needs to see her but refuses to contact her. Pen thought he was interested in her, but when two rogue vamps Li-Hua and Frank attack her at the plantation she now owns, she call Graham’s family for help. Graham, his mortal brother Ben and his pregnant wife Sally come to help her. They realize they have to find the artifact that gives the evil vamps more power and even when they do they fear they are in for the battle of their lives as the enemy is stronger than a regular (if there can be such a thing) vampire as they share a mystical bond that exponentially enhances their strengths proving the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Meanwhile Graham and Pen are sharing their feelings for one another.

Emma Holly’s “Midnight” saga is one of the best historical urban romantic fantasies written today (see KISSING MIDNIGHT) as humans and vampires find love with one another. The characters are well defined especially the extended Fitz Clare clan whose philosophy is to cover each others back and neck.. The different vampires have diverse powers, which they learn to use by experimenting as no one can teach a fledgling what to do. SAVING MIDNIGHT transports readers to a romantic fantasy alternate depression Era that is bloody great. Harriet Klausner

Chapterhouse: Dune
Frank Herbert
Ace, Aug 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780441017218

In the past twelve years (since the HERETICS OF DUNE), the Honoured Matres have devastated the Bene Gesserit to the point their adversaries are nearing extinction; their last enclave is a slowly changing Chapterhouse into the desert realm like they once had on Dune. The desperate Bene Gesserit Mother Superior Darwi Odrade knows her Sisterhood is in deep trouble. Their only hope resides with technology taken from the now almost extinct Bene Tleilax whose last survivor Scytale is in captivity.

The Bene Gesserit Sisterhood creates a ghola of Miles Teg, but no one knows how to use it against the enemy only that they must train the ghola to be their counter weapon as he has been used in many lifetimes before. Meanwhile the Sisterhood also mentors with training the application of the Coda ex Honoured Matre Murbella and her lover Duncan Idaho in hopes that they prove useful. However a tribe of Jews offer to help the Bene Gesserit as they know what the final solution means to them if the Honoured Matres win as seems likely.

This is a reprint of the 1985 final book written by Frank Herbert in the Dune Chronicles with the concentration about 90 plus percent on Odrade and her efforts to save her group by correcting a major defect in all of the Bene Gesserit that leaves them vulnerable to the enemy. This is a fascinating well written tale; however that focus also means minimal appearance by the Honoured Matres so the big theme never moves forward much. The completion of that overarching saga was done in collaboration by the late great author’s son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson based on notes left behind. Fans should read previous Dune books before Chapterhouse and the collaboration of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson starting with HUNTERS OF DUNE to obtain the full flavor as this entry is a betweener tale.
Harriet Klausner

Belisarius III-The Flames of Sunset
Eric Flint and David Drake
Baen, Aug 2009,
ISBN: 9781439132807

“The Dance of Time” - In the sixth century, General Belisarius plans to invade the Malwa Empire to take the war of the future to the enemy in India. To the shock of the Malwa, his assault proves successful as he drives deeper into their empire using futuristic weapons and transportation given to him by the Aide also from the future. The enemy is stunned and in retreat as their Evil from the future tries to remain calm with defeats piling up and his side losing sight of the long term objective of the new Gods ruling earth.

“The Tide of Victory” - In India the Malwa Empire suffers a major defeat, but led by the futuristic demon trapped inside a computer, they have not lost sight of their strategic goal of changing the future to having the New Gods rule. They redeploy preparing for a renewed offensive against the Byzantine Empire led by General Belisarius who has a futuristic aide giving him minimal assistance. The Malwa believe that if they can assassinate Belisarius the opposition will collapse as he is the rallying cry.

The fifth book in the Belisarius saga is in some degrees is a filler set up entry for the climax (The Tide of Victory), but the focus of taking late twentieth century weapons, communications, other technology and tactics and bringing them onto the sixth century battlefield remains entertaining and fun. Whereas the final book The Tide of Victory wraps up a super alternate history military thriller in which two superpowers helped differently by allies from the future vie for world domination. However before reading the third omnibus reprint, it is strongly recommend the previous two (Storm at Noontide containing books 3 and 4, and Thunder at Dawn containing Books 1 and 2) should be read first. Harriet Klausner

Charles Stross
Ace, Jul 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441017195

The nine entries affirm the author’s strong scientific and hi tech foundations that make his science fiction novels so fascinating. However, the contributions are uneven as some are really great while others feel more like a beta test for something grander and more complete. The super contributions include the excellent novella "Missile Gap" in which the Cold War is fought on a different platform; "Unwirer" future of America starts with unplugging as wireless connections are outlawed; "Down on the Farm" with Bob Howard (enuf said) and "Snowball's Chance" of hell in Scotland. Of special mention is "The Colder War" that focuses on the convergence of Lovecraft and the Iran-Contra. Although overall fun to read with more than half being excellent entries, WIRELESS as a whole does not compare to Mr. Stross’ novels. Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 14, 2009

Meltdown, Drawn in Blood and Seducing the Moon

Chuck Holton
Multnomah, Aug 18 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9781590525609

Chernobyl remains a horrific radioactive wasteland due to its nuclear heritage; not just the most famous accident. Now terrorists see the locale as the perfect ground zero to devastate Europe.

U.S. Special Operations Explosives Ordinance Detachment (EOD) unit Task Force Valor is assigned to prevent a disaster in the Ukraine that will make 1986 look like a picnic. CIA Agent Mary “Phoenix” Walker leads the EOD squad with Master Sergeant Bobby Sweeney at her side. Both have issues but especially Mary who still suffers nightmarish flashbacks to when she was a prisoner. The threat widens to include the United States as the terrorists widen the Global War on the NATO alliance.

The third Task Force Valor anti terrorism thriller is the best of a strong series as even with the return of leads and support players from the previous books (see ALLAH'S FIRE and ISLAND INFERNO), the star is Chernobyl. The story line is fast-paced and filled with non-stop action, but it is when the heroes enter the dead zone where the MELTDOWN occurred that the true meaning of nuclear energy having no cost (disposal of the by-product in a waste land apparently does not count) is clear. Fans will relish Chuck Holton’s strong tale as the MELTDOWN dead zone eerily hooks the reader. Harriet Klausner

Drawn in Blood
Andrea Kane
Morrow, Sept 8 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061236808

A decade ago, Matthew Burbank and his business partners witnessed the murder of Cai Wen, a crime that has come back to haunt him and his family. The FBI Special Agent Williams has questioned Matthew and his partners who tell little out of fear for their loved ones. The chief of a Chinese triad, Dragon Head, has a long memory and feels the time to kill the witnesses and their family is now. They assault Matthew’s wife Rosalyn in their apartment and leave behind a fortune cookie note threatening retribution if he fails to remain silent.

At the same time, Mathew’s daughter Sloane’s former partner and current lover FBI Special Agent Derek Parker leads inquiries into Dragon Head and his cohorts. Following the Burbank apartment “robbery” in which nothing except their mental solace is taken, Matthew asks his daughter for help. She pleads with him to let her bring Derek in on their situation, but he says no fearing for his wife and daughter. Thus he places Sloane in the awkward situation of concealing what she knows about Dragon Head and his associates from her lover who also hides information from her.

The first third of this fast-paced FBI romantic suspense sequel (see TWISTED) focuses on Matthew and Rosalyn, but smoothly switches leads to Sloane and Derek. The story line is action-packed and the spin of who stars is logical and never decelerates the speed of the enjoyable story line. The audience knows just about all during the parents’ lead which takes away somewhat from the suspense; much of what happens to the younger pair is ironically caused by each hiding instead of sharing information. Fans will enjoy their trysts in between their bickering over trust and who is concealing more though the investigation takes a somewhat back seat to the relationship. Harriet Klausner

Seducing the Moon
Sherrill Quinn
Kensington Brava, Aug 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758231895s

Two years ago Pelicia Cobb could do nothing as her life fell apart due to former commando Declan O’Connell. She did nothing wrong, but ended up in jail, unemployed and her heart broken.

Pel fled to her home off the coast of Cornwall where she has mentally recovered though her heart remains shattered; she accepts her rep on the mainland is kaput so she manages her grandfather's Bed and Breakfast. Declan knows what he accidentally did to Pel, but though he believes he should stay away he cannot as he plans to claim his mate. He comes to the B and B to beg for a second chance. However, as if he is a trouble magnet, his arrival also has brought a killer with him who shoots at Pel and has murdered several people. Declan who has one more howling shocker to reveal to his soulmate vows to keep Pel safe from whoever wants them dead.

Readers will enjoy this fast-paced paranormal romantic suspense as the hero uses his superior werewolf skills in the cat and mouse battle with the killer while also concealing his shapeshifting from his beloved until he deems the time is right to do so. The story line is action-packed and St. Mary’s the biggest island in the Isles of Sicilly is a fabulous location that brings the only freshness to an otherwise well written fine but typical werewolf romance plot. Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The War of the Whisperer's

The War of the Whisperers, Adam Niswander, Hippocampus Press, $20, 342 pages, ISBN: 9780982429617, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

It’s hard to believe that almost seventeen years since I first read of the Shaman and their fight to preserve human kind in THE CHARM. Each of their adventures has taken them into the Cthulhu Mythos and overcoming creatures controlled by the Great Old Ones. Niswander has added the Native American lore of the Southwest and created a marvelous series of novels.

In this terrific addition to the canon, Lotus Farley, Tom Bear, Kade Wonto and Danny Webb unite to help search for bodies after Lotus finds two skeletons near the reservation. The FBI also gets involved as they investigate a paramilitary group called the Army of the Dream and the murder of the Sheriff. There is also a community of Freemen in the area. They live in the wild and recognize no civil authority over them.

It seems that Jason Trehearne, leader of the AOD, and several others hear voices that command them and help them plan the eradication of humankind. They are known as the Whisperers, the Thule and the Overmind. They have been around for ages and have been the voices in the heads of Hitler, Napoleon, Alexander the Great and others. They are energy beings that feed on the pain of the world, and they seek to start a conflict so they may gain the strength to take over the world.

Although not as action packed as other volumes in the series, the shaman are able to work together and gather a force large enough to put an end to the Whisperer’s plan. Be sure to pick up his and the other volumes so you can be ready for the next volume, NEMESIS OF NIGHT coming soon from Hippocampus Press.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Youngest Templar 2

The Youngest Templar: Trail of Fate, Michael Spradlin, Putnam’s, October, 2009, $17.99, 240, pages, ISBN: 9780399247644, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

At the conclusion of the first book, out heroes were sailing home to England when a storm overtook them and Tristan was washed overboard. As this book opens, Tristan is awakened on a beach with six swords pointed at him. He finds he has been discovered by a group of Cathars that are being hunted by the soldiers of the French King. Robard and MaryAm arrive to rescue him, only to find out they are friendly and the rescue is not needed.

Princess Celia and her band of Cathars are on their way to Montsegur to hold up until her father returns from an audience with the French King. Tristan, Robard, and MaryAm set out for the coast. They meet the King’s Guard and try to throw them off the track but find one of Celia’s guards dying after fighting the King’s guard. Tristan makes an oath to aide Celia and they head to Montsegar.

Sir Hugh of the Templars joins the Kings Guard in order to track down Tristan and obtain the Grail at any cost. There is a siege of Montsegar with Tristam planning the strategy he has to escape to force Sir Hugh to follow them and save Princess Celia.

The escape almost works until they are captured by King Richard’s men and taken to Sir Hugh and Eleanor of Aquitaine. As Tristan’s companions are being prepared to be hung, Tristan is about to find out about his origin, the book ends in a cliff hanger worth of any serial of the 1940s.

This is a very enjoyable and well written series. It is well researched and the writing makes the lesson in history learned more fun that expected. Be on the lookout for both volumes and those forthcoming in the future. It is enjoyable by young and old.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Reviews by Harriet

Man with the Iron Heart
Harry Turtledove
Del Rey, Jul 28 2009, $18.00
ISBN: 9780345504357

In 1942 Reinhard Heydrich, the evil designer of the Holocaust, was assassinated in Czechoslovakia by a partisan who hated the Nazis. However, on an alternate earth, Heydrich survived the attempt on his life and received permission from Himmler to create a guerilla army to harass the allies into leaving Germany so the Reich can rebuild. During the next three years, he dropped out of sight and ammo vanished as Heydrich formed the German Freedom Front secretly.

On VE Day, just like Heydrich predicted, the government signed the declaration ending the war in defeat. However, hostilities were not over as Heydrich and his Freedom Front force began their campaign; their efforts killed thousands of occupying allied soldiers. When Mrs. Diana McGuire receives a call that her son died after VE Day, she started a movement that grew rapidly to bring the men home. German POWs are on trial in in Nuremburg charged with war crimes, but the courthouse is destroyed. The trials move to Frankfort, but a suicide bomber ignites a radium bomb making the city uninhabitable. They turn to the Russian occupation next, but the guerillas succeed in disrupting the trials. Germans do not consider the war lost and the allies fear the Nazis like a Phoenix will return to power to continue the fight.

What happened in Iraq and Viet Nam is transposed to late 1940s Germany in THE MAN WITH THE IRON HAND. The German people help the Freedom Front because they seek the removal of foreign occupiers from their soil. The treaty is a piece of paper that proves worthless while the allies ponder a surge of more troops and for how long or withdrawal. Heydrich is sinister and brilliant as he will do anything to force the occupation army to leave. This alternative historical showcases Harry Turtledove at his thought provoking best as the question is how long does a surge (by definition temporary) remain in place and what happens afterward if conditions fall back? Harriet Klausner

Criminal Karma
Steven M. Thomas
Ballantine, Jul 28 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345497833

In Southern California, two bit crook Robert Rivers wants the diamond necklace valued at $250,000; he does not plan to pay for it, but instead plans to steal it from its owner socialite Evelyn Evermore. However, his perfect gamut is nuked by a competitor wanting to claim the same prize and somewhat by his all brawn no brains partner Reggie England; the cops home in on Rivers and England.

Rivers like his surname flows to another scheme. He knows the lightweight Evermore is a New Age freak and in fact is a disciple of popular guru Baba Raba. Rivers figures how hard can be to infiltrate the base of a charlatan in Venice. However, as he begins to learn more about Evermore Rivers he begins to like her as she is not the dimwit socialite he thought , but has substance; and for that matter so does the guru. As typical of his capers, all hell breaks loose as he and his sidekick are protecting their targets from a diabolical crime ring.

This is a zany satirical crime caper that hooks the audience from the first failed plan to the last. The story line is brisk and amusing as Rivers figures his crime karma is so negative, his time is due to balance his cosmic scales. Instead he finds himself deeper in the cosmic ooze as once again (see CRIMINAL PARADISE) the best laid plans of mice and licentious souls go astray. Harriet Klausner

The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet
Arturo Perez-Reverte
Putnam, Sep 3 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399156038

In the seventh century Captain Diego Alariste, his loyal protégé Inigo Balboa Aguirre and their friend author Francisco de Quevedo are in Madrid, a city known for its duality. On the one hand there are numerous wonderful theaters and exquisite palaces while on the other hand there are duels seemingly over nothing affronts.

Diego is setting up a tryst with the lovely but married actress Maria de Costa only to learn so is King Philip IV amongst other salivating suitors. The mercenary blades-man walks a line thinner than his sword as the monarch is his only source of revenue since the Hundred Years War ended too soon for him. As he ignores threats to his life and his purse, Inigo pursues Angelica de Alquezar, who maneuvers the young man to do her bidding. However, Diego and Inigo soon find themselves caught in a brilliant scheme to assassinate the king; whether successful or not means the gallows for the mentor and his apprentice; all because they both thought with their wrong blade.

The latest CAPTAIN ALARISTE saga is filled with the usual terrific daring do, great sword play (in and out of the boudoir), and over the top of the Pyrenees escapes and escapades as the hero and his now ready for prime time apprentice land in one problem after another, because each was led by their respective wrong heard. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action; a trademark of the entire saga as historical Spain comes alive in this tale and previous translations like THE KING’S GOLD and THE SUN OVER BREDA. Harriet Klausner

More Tennis

Kathy like to watch tennis on the big screen and keeps me off the computer. Here are some more reviews from Harriet to fill in.

Destined for an Early Grave
Jeaniene Frost
Avon, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061583216

Half-breed Cat Crawfield looks forward to some Parisian R&R (romance and relationship enhancement) with her purebred vampire husband Bones. However, the best laid plans of mice, men and half vamp Cats often go astray. The master vampire Gregor arrives to claim her as his wife; he insists he had a prior claim to her as her spouse making her a bigamist.

When Cat was a teen, Gregor abducted her with a goal for later the future. However, Mencheres the master vampire took her away from Gregor, locked the master vampire in a special prison, and erased Cat’s memory of the incident and this master vampire. Cat is outraged for several reasons but also somewhat fascinated while Bones is reeling as he fears Gregor has a stronger claim and not just with vampire law and Gregor seems obsessed over his assertion.

The fourth Night Huntress urban fantasy is an exhilarating thriller driven by the paranormal triangle (though told through a confused Cat’s perspective). The overarching story of Cat and Bones spins brilliantly into a darker drama as the heroine must make several complex decisions with convoluted choices to select from. Another winner from Jeanine Frost, fans of this strong saga will appreciate aptly titled DESTINED FOR AN EARLY GRAVE. Harriet Klausner

Maureen Child
Signet, Aug 20009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451227720

Maggie Donovan defeated evil fae Queen Mab in a classic cat fight (see BEDEVILED). Although the part human part Fae woman will never forget what she witnessed especially never listen to ABBA on a full stomach again, she knows she will never return to her previous lifestyle. Culhane the warrior says she is the Chosen One and struggles with being called Queen Maggie.

Outraged by having her butt kicked in by an impure female, former Queen Mab escapes incarceration and prepares for a rematch as she still believes she, as a purebred fae, is superior to a hybrid fae “diseased” with human blood. Maggie adapts to being the Queen of the Otherworld especially with Culhane as her adviser and lover. As Mab vows not to underestimate her foe, she raises their personal war to higher levels when she kidnaps her adversary’s niece at a time when Maggie has doubts about Culhane’s motives.

The conflict in this wonderful sequel is on two levels as the heroine begins to question where her lover’s loyalty lies and the upcoming war with her evil rival. The story line is fast-paced and filed with action, but it is the strong cast, not just the lead trio, who makes Otherworld seem genuine. Harriet Klausner

The Rapture
Liz Jensen
Doubleday, Aug 11 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780385528214

At the Oxsmith Adolescent Secure Psychiatric Hospital in Hadport, England, wheelchair-bound art psychologist, Dr. Gabrielle Fox takes over treating psychotic teen Bethany Krall. Gabrielle has her issues since the car crash killed her fiancé and left her in the chair. The patient-prisoner killed her mom and claims the ability to foresee the future; all her forecasts are dire bleak disasters.

As Gabrielle uses electro-convulsive therapy to literally shock her patient, she begins to realize the teen’s uncanny grim predictions are coming true every time. Gabriele begins to comprehend that Bethany’s father Reverend Leonard Krall imprinted his “Faith Wave” view of the coming Rapture and those who bear the mark of the beast cannot go to heaven. Gabrielle wonders if she is overreaching in her theory of Bethany’s skills and the frequent disasters that the teen predicted and have occurred when she desperately brings her patient’s upcoming calendar of calamities to physicist Frazer Melville, who not only does not laugh at the shrink but takes the forecasts dead serious.

THE RAPTURE is an exciting thriller that stars the psychiatrist and the physicist but focus on the teen seer and her skills. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action, but even with efforts top prevents the next calamity from happening, the plot as character driven. Fans and the lead pair will wonder whether the teen is the devil or the savior as Gabrielle and Frazer ironically (from the religious point of view that is) struggle with stopping what seems increasingly the end of days. Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Sorry about not posting a review on the book I finished today. I had to watch the US Open Tennis to see our local phenom play.

Here are some from Harriet to tide you over.

Leader of the Pack
Karen MacInerney
Ballantine, Jul 28 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345496270

In Austin, Texas, Sophie Garou is a highly regarded auditor and has a wonderful boyfriend, but is still adjusting to knowing that several times a year at night she is ON THE PROWL and HOWLING AT THE MOON. However, pressure from the Houston pack of werewolves especially alpha leader Wolfgang for to join is immense, but used to being a loner except for her mom the witch, she tries to ignore their threats to join or else. She is also worried about her human BFF, Lindsey dating Tom the werewolf.

However, the best laid plans of mice and men, make that werewolves and women, often go astray. Her long estrange father Luc, who she has not seen in ages, comes to Austin to attend the annual Howl gala, but is arrested by Wolfgang on a homicide charge. Sophie who proved her mom innocent of a homicide plans to do likewise for her dad. This means playing nice to the Texas werewolf and other paranormal and human communities; requirements that have Sophie spitting up fur balls.

The latest Garou amusing lighthearted urban fantasy is an entertaining jocular tale that will have readers howling with laughter at the messes that the werewolf accountant finds herself in once again. The story line is breezy and brisk as the feisty independent Sophie learns the true bottom line as she steps in werewolf droppings trying to solve a murder in which the evidence including what she finds affirms Luc committed murder, a capital offence amidst the packs. Harriet Klausner

Civil War
William Manchee
Top, Sep 2009, $23.00
ISBN: 9781929976522

Seventeen year old Leek Lanzia has found life on Tarizon dangerous yet rewarding after being exiled from his birth planet earth. He is the orb’s savior if one can believe an ancient prophecy. In that role, Lanzia leads the mutant Loyalists and their allies against the superior forces of the Tarizon Global Army especially their hovertanks.

However, various races who have been divided in the past and encouraged to remain split by the ruling elite have rallied around the savior. Soon the Loyalist side has air power that almost matches their foe. Meanwhile still a teen at heart and in other parts of his anatomy Leek tries to rescue his mate, Lucinda.

The sequel to THE LIBERATOR continues the unlikely but entertaining and satirical adventures of the exiled Leek on Tarizon. He now leads a growing force of mutants and other species n a civil war, but still has issues with raging hormones (though I would like to see more of his raging hormones interfering with his duties and responsibilities) that call for a time out so he can rescue his girlfriend. Once again the underlying message of this fun young adult military science fiction remains at a minimum tolerance for all while the preferable choice would be consensus. Harriet Klausner

The Drowning City
Amanda Downum
Orbit, Aug 25 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316069045

The necromancer undercover agent Isyllt Iskaldur travels to the dangerous “Drowning City” of Symir in the country of Selafai. The capital of Sivahra is famous for its monsoon weather and canals as it is for its deviant miscreant population. Currently the kingdom is under the military control of the invincible forces of the Assari Empire.

She sees an opportunity to stir local trouble in order to prevent the Assari from invading her nation, next on their conquering agenda. However, the necromancer has some personal issues before financing the local insurgents as she is attracted to Imperial fire-mage Asheris. Her bodyguard Sivahran Xinai begs Isyllt to begin her mission as she loathes the violent empire that ruthlessly destroyed her clan.

This is a terrific fantasy thriller with a unique heroine who uses necromancy to support her side as she tries to stir up trouble inside a mighty empire to keep them occupied internally in order for them not to occupy her country. Fans will enjoy Isyllt’s adventures as a foreign agent acting sort of like a 1950s CIA undercover operative stirring up trouble in a third world nation like Iran heavily influenced by the Soviets who will bury her people if not stopped. Readers will relish the refreshing brisk first tale of the Necromancer Chronicles as espionage, politics, and military merge with magic in a fascinating fantasy. Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Three from Harriet

Dark Warrior Unbroken
Alexis Morgan
Pocket, Jul 28 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781416563440

Arson investigator Lena Wilson missed the funeral of her mentor and father figure Maynard Cooper because of the breach between them. The dispute seems inane to her as she stands at his gravesite crying that they never reconciled and vowing to uncover the identity of his killer in spite of the cops insisting they have no leads; she has special skills that enable her to find things the police would never notice.

Talion Warrior Chief Enforcer Sandor Kearn regrets doing his job when he was forced to kill his best friend, Bradan. He not only has doubts he has the stomach for this work; he has the added problem of obsessive persistent Lena who keeps digging. Sandor wants to tell her that he killed her mentor’s murderer already, but cannot reveal that or anything about his people the Kyth. He tracks a Kyth rogue killer in Seattle while she tracks him as Lena believes Sandor killed Maynard.

The second Talion thriller (see DARK WARRIOR UNLEASHED) reads somewhat like the first novel, but the clash between the lead couple brings freshness to the exhilarating story line. Lena knows in her heart Sandor is the one for her but believes in her brain based on what she has learned he is the one she must kill to complete her vow. Sandor, who plays a key role in the previous tale, is caught between a hard place and a rock as he wants to pour out his heart to his obstinate pursuer and give her closure and more; but he understands his imprint is indirectly all over the death of Maynard. Alexis Morgan provides a tense thriller as the vigilante goes after the enforcer. Harriet Klausner

Storm of Visions
Christina Dodd
Signet, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451227638

Jacqueline Vargha rejects the idea that she is one of the magnificent seven Chosen Ones; instead she insists she has no paranormal skills. However, her her adoptive mother psychic Zusane knows better and forces a reluctant Jacqueline to join with the other six special Chosen.

The team is shocked when their selected mentors die in a bombing. The reluctant untrained Chosen One and Zusane’s bodyguard Caleb, who was once Jacqueline’s lover, accompanied by two unskilled elderly assistants with no extrasensory skills hunt the assassin while dodging their natural enemies the Others and struggling with an attraction neither want but both desire.

STORM OF VISIONS is an action-packed paranormal romantic suspense that sets the stage for what looks like will be a terrific series, but also insures the opening act contains a strong story line. Caleb is an interesting male lead, but Jacqueline is the more fascinating protagonist as she prefers to pretend she has no paranormal abilities just like she prefers to ignore her feelings for the bodyguard. Although the romance is more like a light switch being turned on and off throughout the plot, fans of Christina Dodd will enjoy her suspense laden paranormal thriller. Harriet Klausner

North! Or be Eaten: Wild escapes. A Desperate Journey. And the ghastly Grey Fangs of Dang.
Andrew Peterson
WaterBrook, Aug 18 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400073870

The reptilian Fangs of Dang crossed the Dark Sea of Darkness, conquered the Skree and instituted brutal martial law based on their bite that slowly and painfully kills (see ON THE EDGE OF THE DARK SEA OF DARKNESS: ADVENTURE, PERIL, LOST JEWELS, AND THE FEARSOME TOOTHY COWS OF SKREE).

In the town of Glipwood had lived the Igiby family of Mother Nia with her father and her three children (sons Janner and Tink, and handicapped daughter Leeli). An incident at the Sea Dragon Festival caused by Leeli’s beloved dog Nugget led to the three siblings learning the truth as to who they are; the Lost Jewels of the legendary Kingdom of Anniera. Fang General Khrek knows the prophecy of the Jewels of Anniera and wants to prevent it from occurring by killing the three heirs. Others want them dead also. Their only hope for safety is the frozen tundra of the Ice Prairies that the fangs cannot acclimate to. Besides avoiding Fangs who have a massive alert out for them; they must cross Glipwood Forest filled with monsters who enjoy dining on children; elude the East Bend Stranders who would steal the clothes off their moms while their moms would steal their clothes; and if they are still breathing the horrific Fork Factory, who they fear will use them as part of the manufacturing process.

Fans of the Chronicles of Narnia will enjoy the second super young adult fantasy while older readers will appreciate this too as this saga runs on several levels. The three Igiby children have plenty of adventures as they head to tundra that the fangs cannot enter, but once again it is the amazing allegedly handicapped Leeli who wins the hearts of the audience with her courage and optimistic outlook. Fans will ponder what escapades Andrew Peterson will come up with next for the three Igiby children to confront. Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

Scott, Carey and Blake spent the weekend as well as some other friends dropped in to watch ball games and tennis this weekend. Carey spent a lot of time working on plans for Kayla's wedding that is coming up in October. Kayla and Kyle will be coming from Oklahoma for a Gatlinburg wedding. It will be good to see them and get their life together off to a great start.

With all that going on, I didn't get to read any; so here are some from Harriet, who seems to have a never ending supply.

The Sunless Countries
Karl Schroeder
Tor, Aug 4 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765320766

Far from the center of Vega where the artificial light is at its strongest in the city of Pacquaea, the dimmer outer towns begin to vanish with no known cause. Those in the inner sanction believe a threat from off world has begun to systemically destroy the sunless orb.

At the same that towns are being devastated most likely from the outside, a new religious movement has taken root proclaiming that Vega is eternal and not created. They are called Eternists. They begin a concerted effort to impound books, control all the news they feel fit to print and force a referendum on subjecting science to popular votes.

Sun lighter Hayden Griffin and historian dreamer Leal Hieronyma Maspeth unite to investigate the outsider assaults. Their inquiry takes the courageous duo to an eerie group of dead apparently killed by rain, encounters with the “mythical”, struggles with menacing politicians threatening to end each of their careers especially his commission to build a new “sun”. As he reconsiders his choices while she pushes on, they begin to close in on the outside at a time the increasingly powerful Eternists want to prevent them from learning any truths except what they decree is the one and only Truth.

The latest Virga science fiction thriller (see SUN OF STARS and QUEEN OF CANDESCE) is a super entry as Karl Shroeder takes readers to previously unexplored bubble regions beyond the world’s centrally located artificial suns; places that were dim, but now are THE SUNLESS COUNTRIES. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as the two heroes investigate why bubbles are going dark. Fans will relish Karl Shroeder’s excellent outer space saga as once again the bubble world of Virga seems a genuine host for a great adventure. Harriet Klausner

Hunting Ground
Patricia Briggs
Ace, Aug 25 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441017386

Anna Latham was turned against her will into a werewolf, but soon became wife and mate to Charles Cornick, the son of Bran the Marrock alpha enforcer of all the North American werewolves. Charles is Bran’s enforcer and understands his mission is to kill anyone in or out of the pack that can cause harm to his breed. Charles knows he would do anything for Anna to make up for the abuse she suffered with her first pack.

The Marrock sends his son and daughter-in-law to Seattle to head a conference dealing with relationships with humans starting with announcing their existence. The attendees are divided over the related subjects as much of the European packs oppose the agenda strongly claiming history is on their side. Jean Chastel, the European Marrock, is outspoken as he loves dining on pretty human females. On the other hand the Alpha of Great Britain supports Bran’s position but he fears what otherworld species can do when his beloved wife is killed by rogue vampires. He collapses. These same bloodsuckers stalk Anna infuriating Charles as they try to kill him and kidnap her. Anna investigates who is directing the undead while she fears for her beloved dying from a mage’s spell at the same time he is the chief suspect in a murder that means execution in the North American werewolf code of justice.

The key to this super ALPHA AND OMEGA urban fantasy series (see CRY WOLF) is Patricia Briggs’ uncanny world-building skills that cleverly interweave a full culture into the plot; for instance the werewolf code of justice. Anna is an omega outside the pack structure while her soulmate is an alpha loner (before he met her) yet insider. Charles is obsessed with her well being, but when he becomes the target, the omega proves that lifemates are alpha when their beloved is in trouble. Fans will relish this strong entry in a terrific saga as the Briggs’ earth is filled with full blooded paranormals living unseen along side the narrow minded humans. Harriet Klausner

Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men
Molly Harper
Pocket, Aug 25 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781416589433

In Half Moon Hollow instead of allowing children's librarian Jane Jameson to die, Gabriel converted her into a vampire and his lover (see NICE GIRLS DON'T HAVE FANGS). She loves her “sire’ dearly but also knows he is not honest about where he goes when he leaves town or who the mysterious Jeanine is. Gabriel asks Jane for more time, but swears he will explain all to her soon; she agrees to his request. Meanwhile she works at an occult bookstore owned by Mr. Wainwright who accepts her for what she has become unlike her blood family who are ashamed of her fangs.

She's a bridesmaid for her best friend Zeb and his fiancé Jolene the werewolf. Both families are against the marriage and will do anything to sabotage it. Zeb’s mother wants her son to marry Jane and Jolene’s pack demands she wed a were. They show their opposition in violent ways, which leaves Zeb to wonder if he can live safely on the same land as his future in-laws. If that is not enough to occupy Jane, she wonders how a dead man can be alive with a zillion spouses who did not survive the first year after saying I do while worrying about her Grandma Ruthie who is next to the altar with this Black Widower.

NICE GIRLS DON'T DATE DEAD MEN is a humorous down to earth vampire thriller with various subplots that add depth to the story line. Molly Harper’s take on the vampire mythos is not totally new (see MaryJanice Davidson’s Betsy’s shoes and all), but refreshed by a terrific heroine who lost her library job due to the hours the place is opened. The eccentric cast adds depth in terms of jocularity as they drive Jane crazy. The different species effectively turn Half Moon Hollow into a unique locale in the urban (make that small-town) fantasy sub-genre. Readers will enjoy what happened to Jane as she finds herself as the forever bridesmaid in dresses that she would not want to be caught dead in let alone attend a wedding.
Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Youngest Templar 1

I finished this book today and was planning to do a review on it for the blog. Lo and behold Harriet sent a review of it today and it does the job very well. I have to admit that the author has done an excellent job of researching the crusades and the era this took place. His addition of historic and mythic characters adds to the enjoyment. Hope you enjoy the review,the second volume will be out in October. I'll get a review of it up soon.

Keeper of the Grail
Michael Spradlin
Penguin, Sep 17 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780142414613

Cistercian monks have raised the orphan Tristan with love, but in 1191 at almost fifteen years old, he is given the choice of accompanying Knight Templar Sir Thomas as he joins the Third Crusade. Tristan agrees to go with the knight to Outreamer in God’s name. Once in the Holy Land, Richard the Lionhearted and Templar Knight Sir Hugh act hostile towards the teen.

In the Holy Land, Tristan participates in the Battle of Acre. However, even at rest he finds Saracens seem to single him out for assassination though Tristan has no idea why they and bandits seek out a nonentity like him. He is fortunate that Robard Hode of Sherwood saves his life from a Saracen assassin Maryam the Maid even as he becomes the bearer of the holiest of relics, which makes him even more of a target from all sides of the dispute.

The first Youngest Templar middle school medieval thriller with hints of fantasy especially the climax is an exciting action-packed tale starring an intriguing young teen protagonist who does not receive a hero’s welcome in the Holy Land from either side of the conflict. The story line is fast-paced while also having obvious ties to the modern day Middle East scenario as well as to Robin Hood and the title artifact. Tweeners will root for Tristan (no commentary as to his name) as he struggles with survival while protecting the relic with his life but also wondering why his alleged allies as much as his adversaries want him dead. Harriet Klausne

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Some Interesting Titles from Circlet Press

Three from Circlet Press, www.circlet.com, edited by Cecilia Tan and Sarah Desautels LIKE A QUEEN; LIKE A PRINCE; and LIKE A THORN, various formats including Kindle, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

We all know that the Brothers Grimm version of the tales have gone through clean-ups and re-writes to make them acceptable for children. Some of our writers have re-written them or re-versioned them to fit a more adult audience. In these three volumes , they are redone as alternate lifestyle versions. Although some things are changed, they are still entertaining and well written.

LIKE A QUEEN has taken five tales and retold them from a lesbian viewpoint. Clarice Cline’s “Mirror” takes Snow White to a new and different ending. “Queen’s Jewel” by A.D.R. Forte shows how it wasn’t a pea that kept the Princess awake all night. Kaysee Renee Robichaud shows that “Gretel’s Dilemma” lies inside the gingerbread house and her desire to remain there. “After the Hunt” by Michael M. Jones tells of the twelve hunters of Matthias who all happen to be women and an enchanted lion. Quatre Grey’s “The Stepmother’s Girl” is a retelling of Cinderella with her coming to an understanding with her stepmother.

LIKE A PRINCE has taken the gay route ion retelling the tales herein. Julie Cox has written a unique version of Beauty and the Beast in “Captivated”. Alexandra Erin takes the story of Cinderella and tells why it took “Two Balls” for the Prince to find his one, true love. ”Le Petite String Rouge” by Kiernan Kelly modernizes Little Red’s Riding Hood in to a G String and a really bad wolf. “Goose Boy” by Monique Poirer is the story of a Prince brought down by magic and his reinstatement by the King he was sent to serve under. In Elizabeth Schechter’s “To Market”, Conn must travel to the Goblin Market in order to find a cure for Bess who has tasted the wares of the market and now has the sickness that comes from visiting there.

LIKE A THORN finishes out the trilogy with stories that have a BDSM twist. Mari Ness tells of how Cinderella got those small feet in “Cinderfeet”. “The Princess and the Peony” by Merry Loomis is another version of how it takes more than a pea to bruise a Princess. “The Last Mistress of the Chatelaine” by Kieran Wyn Dewhurst appears to be a modern retelling of the Blackbeard legend. “That Wicked Witchcraft” by Sunny Moraine is the story if Han and Greta who get the best of the witch, Circe. Shawna Germain’s “Skin Deep” is the story of a Dominant Beauty and a submissive Beast.

Interesting and amazing stories that show the other places that imagination can go and make a fresh look on what has become common place.