Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Romantic Fantasy, Vampires, and a Feudal World

The Adversary
Lindsay McKenna
Silhouette Nocturne, May 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618347

Medicine man Colt Black and Shelly Godwin share a common goal. They have a deep need to travel to the Canadian Rockies together to retrieve and possess an emerald sphere before the malevolent Tupay sorcerer Victor Guerra obtains and uses it. However, neither of the two gung ho warriors knows why they feel an urgent desire to risk their lives on this mission.

Colt and Shelly are surrogate fighters of the Taqe, who are battling evil. Their quest is dangerous, but both continue encouraging one another though she is wary of males and he still suffers a childhood trauma caused by a Skin Walker while their mutual adversary Guerra challenges them every step of the way.

The key to this entertaining romantic fantasy is ironically the evil side of the Tupay-Taqe war as few bad guys are developed as well as Guerra and somewhat less Yellow Teeth the Skin Walker. Colt and Shelly are an intriguing coupling as she informs him in his dreams that she is waiting for him to come for her (no double entendre intended). Fans of good vs. evil showdowns with a romance in the background will want to read The Adversary. Harriet Klausner

Vampire Vendetta
Alexis Morgan
Silhouette Nocturne, May 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618354

While grieving for the death of his half-sister as well as the rest of his clan, vampire medic Seamus Fitzhugh vows vengeance on those who he holds culpable. Obsessed with killing her predator, he treks to the estate of his enemy vampire clan chieftain Rafferty O'Day.

However, upon arrival Seamus comes across a dying woman. Putting aside his deadly fixation, he applies his medical technician education to rescue hybrid Megan Perez from poisoning. Megan is the cousin of Rafferty’s wife, Joss. As such, Rafferty hires Seamus to serve as a medic. Seamus keeps the half-breed Megan safe from her child’s father who plots to kill her and snatch their offspring. Becoming the Vampire’s Desire as he falls in love while investigating his adversary, Seamus learns an inconvenient truth.

The Morgan mythos that is the prime backbone to the great Vampire Vendetta is the food chain in which purebred vampires reside on the top rung followed by enforcer hybrids and under them humans. That paranormal world is cleverly and plausibly constructed within the entertaining urban fantasy story line. The cast is solid either enhancing the understanding of what motivates the lead couple or the wonderful world of Alexis Morgan. Harriet Klausner

Speak To The Devil
Dave Duncan
Tor May 25 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765323477

On the world Dobtov, the power of the nobles is fading due to a rise of nationalism and growing technology replacing magic as obsolescent. Still many of the aristocracy like those in Jorgany retain power and use mercenaries to add to their own soldiers when battles take place

Cardinal Zdenek orders Lancer Anton Magnus to come see him immediately. Anton is fearful that he may be accused of heresy for a ruse he arranged with his brother Wulfgang pretending to use magic or trysting with married aristocrats. Anton is not a fool to leave the Cardinal waiting so he quickly leaves the warm embrace of Baroness Nadezda Radovan to ride helter smelter to see what the powerful Cardinal demands of him.

Fearing an invasion from the Wends, Zdenek shocks the Lancer when he offers him an earldom Cardice through marriage to the previous late lord’s daughter Madlenka if he takes charge of the strategic fortress Castle Gallant and thwarts the invaders. Ironically the opportunity was made by the Cardinal because he believes Anton is a magic practitioner. He does not correct Zdenek’s misconception, but instead Anton discusses the situation with Wulfgang, who encourages him to take command of the fortress and the people; anything else would leave him with a powerful enemy rather than a powerful supporter.

Although Dave Duncan places his saga on planet Dobtov, the author makes his setting appear to be medieval Europe though he imagines a new nation in the midst of a tumultuous period of dramatic change. As technology has begun to supersede magic and altering religious belief systems as a consequence, the Speakers remain hidden in plain sight and still talk with saints or the devil depending on which dogma they believe in but Wulf believes it is the Saints who help him travel through limbo and gives him certain powers that the Church believes are Satanic. The changing of the old guard refreshes the tale. Anton is the focus of the story line, but Wulfgang steals the show as a seventeen year old in love with his new sister-on-law and recognized as a powerful Speaker by many, which places his life in jeopardy. Mr. Duncan showcases his world-building, character development and plot creativity in this entertaining fantasy. Harriet Klausner

Fantastical Tales Reviewed

A Certain Wolfish Charm
Lydia Dare
Sourcebooks, Apr 6 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402236945

In 1816 Lily Rutledge worries about the radical change in behavior of her twelve year old ward Lord Oliver Westfield. She has sent letters to the lad’s guardian Duke Simon Westfield demanding he get involved in his nephew’s life, but she doubts the wastrel reads her missives as he only sends her money and besides he is too busy chasing skirts.

Lily decides the time for confrontation with the womanizing duke has passed. She goes to his home Blackmoor, but is stunned when Simon, realizing what is happening to his nephew, orders her to leave while he takes Oliver into his home. Simon plans to mentor Oliver on what it means to be a Westfield as puberty is bringing out the werewolf gene. Lily refuses to leave because she loves Oliver who calls Her "Aunt Lily" while she thinks of him as her son; nor will she abandon Oliver to a beast who failed to recognize him as blood. However, as Simon and Lily fight their attraction to one another, they fall in love, but he conceals his wolfish tendencies while she becomes more concerned over the physical and emotional changes to Oliver.

This is an entertaining werewolf Regency romantic cozy starring two seemingly cross-starred lead characters who share in common the belief that Oliver comes before their needs. The story line is emotional intense at times but only when Oliver struggles to cope with his hormonal changes especially the monthly need that seems like a werewolf’s PMS. Fans will enjoy this fine historical romance as the author daringly combines the paranormal within an amiable story line. Harriet Klausner

Ghosts of Manhattan
George Mann
Pyr, Apr 27 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616141943

In 1926 Queen Victoria has just died but the Cold War between her kingdom and America remains heated. Violence in the big cities of the United States is rampant as the Twenties are Roaring with murders. In that wake the Ghost walks the city streets of Manhattan with a vengeance. He kills people employed by mobster Roman whose Italian-American gang is particularly known for their brutality and violence. The vigilante’s calling card is an ancient Roman coin left on the eyes of those he murders.

Police detective Felix Donovan is well aware of the Roman mob and the vigilante who stalks them. Each in his belief are criminals. However, though he would prefer to bring Roman and the Ghost to justice, he makes little headway. Meanwhile as the Ghost closes in on Roman, the vigilante learns first hand his adversary is using paranormal connections and fears the end game is to bring a deadly God into the city.

Although comic book gory over the top of the Empire State Building, Ghosts of Manhattan is an entertaining superhero steampunk fantasy that will remind the audience of Darkman. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the Ghost stalks Roman’s legion and never slows down until the climax with half of Manhattan at stake. Although the plot never quite decides between lampooning the two sub-genres and action thriller, readers will enjoy the High Noon over New York war between the vigilante and the mobster with eerie connections. Harriet Klausner

Jenna Black
St. Martin’s Griffin, May 25 2010, $9.99
ISBN: 9780312575939

One has to travel to London to reach Avalon; the only place where Faerie and the mortal realms converge. It is a sovereign nation similar to how the Vatican is its own country within Rome. Mortals can journey to Avalon but not the Faerie who can only remain in Avalon. Magic and technology work in Avalon but only the latter works in the human realm.

Dana Hathaway is the sixteen year old child of an alcoholic who keeps her daughters away from Avalon and her father. Finally Dana gets so disgusted with her mother’s behavior; she enters Faeirie to meet her father Seamus for the first time. When she arrives she learns her father is in jail and her Aunt Grace kidnaps her. Two Faerie siblings, Ethan and Kimber, rescue Dana but they too have their own agenda. They realize she is a Faeriewalker, who can traverse both worlds, which according to her dad when they meet makes her a powerful weapon and brings about a strong interest by all residents of Avalon. Ethan’s father, Grace and Seamus want to be the next Consul and Grace would be a great weapon in anyone's arsenal. Where she lives impacts faerie politics as Dana must be protected from those who want to use her and those who want to kill her.

Young adult readers who enjoy the fantasies of the Cast team or that Alyson Noel will relish Glimmerglass. Jenna Black spellbinds and enthralls her readers who initially like the heroine, want to know why Dana’s mom fears her daughter’s sire she became an alcoholic, drinking and relocating all the time to elude his reach. After meeting him and better understanding the realm of magical politics, fans will remain enthralled as Dana starts to understand what motivates the paternal side of her family. She trusts no one to protect her interests. With a strong climax and more to follow, fans will want to follow the adventures of the teenage Faeriewalker.
Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 28, 2010

Reviews from Harriet

Rob Thurman
Roc, Jun 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463425

A decade ago someone kidnapped young Lukas Korsak. The lad just disappeared from sight with no ransom or any demand. His family grieved their loss as the assumption was he was murdered.

Lukas’s older brother Stefan has never forgotten his sibling. Working for the Russian Mafia, he still searches for Lukas when he can. Following a lead, he assaults a top secret human laboratory that brainwashes and genetically modifies kids turning them into lethal assassins. There Stefan finds a teen who looks identically like Lukas adding ten years of maturity to the mental image the mobster has maintained. Freeing the teen, they flee from the facility’s leader who sends a horde of transformed young trained killers after them.

Using technology rather than supernatural as the means of conversion, Rob Thurman provides a strong, faster than a speeding Flash thriller. Intriguing that both brothers are killers; yet the older one trusts their DNA and shared past while the younger sibling distrusts everyone as he has been thoroughly brainwashed so that his instincts are to kill regardless of collateral damage. Readers will relish this tale of brotherly love as Stefan tries to save his brother from what the Madhouse did to him, but soon believes he will be Abel to Lukas’ Cain. Harriet Klausner

Twice Dead
Kalayna Price
Bell Bridge Books, Feb 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9780984325672

Shapeshifter Kita Nekai has not adapted to her new diet very well as a Bloody Mary can only go so far. She remains irate with Nathanial for changing her need to that of liquid ever since he sank two fangs into her and dined. The worst of being Once Bitten is stuck in one crappy shape though her shifting was slightly less formidable than her peers; she used to turn into a cute kitty while most of those she grew up with were lions, tigers, and oh my.

During a gala for a visiting Vampire Council VIP that she is directed to attend, Kita stumbles upon a headless dancer corpse. Apparently several more powerful vampires than her “sire” covet her. As more headless bodies and bodiless heads have her tripping, the local master decides to rid himself of the competition by simply killing Nathaniel; she offers herself willingly if the Master allows an irate jealous Nathanial to live. Finally there is the ancient Collector who wants like Barnum to add the oddity of a shapeshifter turned vampiress to his collection. Life as an undead is so complex living.

The second Kitty Kat blood-lit tale is a fun urban fantasy starring a likable heroine who wants to purr over a chocolate shake not suck someone’s blood. Ironically she needed protection as a Were and she needs protection as a vamp; cute just does not cut it in either community. Readers will enjoy her survival techniques in an entertaining lighthearted frolic. Harriet Klausner

The Left Hand Of God
Paul Hoffman
Dutton, Jun 15 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780525951315

The fundamentalist true believers of The Sanctuary of the Redeemers on Shotover Scarp receive young male orphans rejected by society who does not want to know what goes on behind the closed faculty; not that anyone would dare. Most of the boys fail to make it through the endless verbal and physical abusive methods to indoctrinate the children with the true faith and turn them into holy warriors of God. Those who miraculously survive the ordeal do so not because they turn to faith, but because they become psychopathic liars who fool their brutal instructors that they turned to faith.

Three surviving students Cale, Kleist and Vague Henri explore the endless Sanctuary when they come across a Redeemer surgically slicing up a living female while another waits her turn. Stunned, the trio attacks the Redeemer, freeing the female in the queue Riba. Cale enables the foursome to escape from Sanctuary; leading the band to Memphis; a city-state ruled by the Materazzi knights. With no status, the quartet is the lowest on the local social system even after Cale proves his combat skills. However, the Redeemers attack Memphis.

The medieval background for the most part is limited to the warrior caste system; yet the teens in flight or fight mode make for an entertaining tale. The story line is fast-paced predominantly owned by cunning and captivating Cale who is the prince of liars as he proves his worth as a fighter yet knows instinctively when to flee. His traveling companions provide support as they face abuse from the Redeemers and disdain from the residents of Memphis. Although a few seemingly key subplots seem to vanish without a resolution, readers will relish the coming of age saga of an accomplished sociopathic warrior. Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Drummer Boy by Scott Nicholson

DRUMMER BOY, Scott Nicholson,, $2.99 eBook, $8.99 trade, 160 pages, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

It’s a shame that good, exceptional writers can’t get a contract out of the publishing houses in New York. I can think of several authors who have works circulating and are collecting rejection slips faster than first novel slush piles can produce. Scott has gone that extra step and is having a go at do it yourself and is backing up his enterprise with more well written looks into the Appalachian area he calls home.

These days’ horror writers are compared to Bentley Little, Dean Koontz and Stephen King in order to be published. Scott’s works compare favorably with them, but I compare him to Frank Belknap Long and the Silver John stories of Manly Wade Wellman. He has taken the atmosphere and pacing of Long and used the Appalachian backdrop and straight forward story telling of Wellman.

DRUMMER BOY is the story of the Civil War ghosts who have inhabited The Jangling Hole since their escape from Stoneman’s Calvary in 1864. It is also a story of how family and tradition still have a place in the 21st century.

The Jangling Hole is the local haunted spot and several boys have gathered there to get one of them to toss a rock into the cave. As he is waiting to do so, he hears the rat a tat of a drum. Mulatto Mountain is home to the Hole and is currently being bulldozed into a new land development. It is also time for the annual re-enactment of Kirk’s Raiders fighting Stoneman. There is plenty of oddness to move the story along and keep the pages turning.

Scott uses the Southern vernacular and the lifestyles of the small town to tell his story. It also mentions some of the events that took place in THE RED CHURCH to tie the two books together which should delight his long time readers.

Visit the website to pick up a copy. It is also available from and Be sure to check out the website for other offerings as well.

Wait for the Thunder review

WAIT FOR THE THUNDER: Stories for a Stormy Night, Donald R. Burleson, Hippocampus Press, $20, 300 pages, ISBN: 9780981488813, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

Stormy nights are usually scary enough with the thunder and the lightning and the possibility of being in the dark at any moment. It that is not enough to get your blood pumping, this collection will double your chances of having a frightful time. Burleson has picked some of his more unusual tales for this collection and I’m sure you will find a scare or two to make you think a stormy night is not so bad.

Just about every cowboy movie ever made has a scene with “Tumbleweeds” blowing down the street. But there are never shown close up, this story may be the reason why. Just be sure to ask Jed Wilton why, but only do it before the wind rises.

“Hopscotch” turns out to be more than just a game to little Marnie Blake. Jill Swinburne really enjoys her “Country Living”, because she can conduct her experiments in private. A “One Night Stand” turns into a horrible nightmare for Eric in Room 18. “Tummerwunky” and “Sheep-Eye” could be newly found Lovecraft tales. “Fwoo” is about that thing that lives under your bed.

Burleson has put together an interesting collection that has plenty of chills and well written stories. You will find a taste of Lovecraft, Bloch and Long in this mixture of tales. Burleson would have been right at home in the pages of WEIRD TALES with them. Don’t wait too long to pick this one up, you need to start it before the next stormy night comes along.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Interesting facts about June 26

On this date in 1284, it was said that the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Germany lured 130 children out of town, and they were never seen again.

On June 26, 1974, supermarket scanning of UPC codes began with a pack of chewing gum in Troy, Ohio.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Interesting Reviews

Dog Blood
David Moody
Dunne, Jun 8 2010, $23.95
ISBN: 9780312532888

The world as we know it no longer exists. The human race is divided into two distinct camps: the Unchanged and the Haters. The latter are people ripped of all social restraints and must kill the Unchanged. Their goal is an Unchanged genocide. The Haters have caused governments to collapse destroying the infrastructure of every nation. They still can think but obsess over killing the Unchanged even family members.

Danny McCoyne is a Hater who hunts the Unchanged without mercy. His goal is to find his daughter Ellis who was taken away from him when he was knocked unconscious after killing his father-in-law. Before he passed out, he saw her and knows she is just like him. The government has relocated the Unchanged inside cities filled with traps like a medieval fortress. Danny falls in with a group that seeks the same destruction as he does. He learns to control his homicidal impulses so he can enter the city because his Ellis is there.

This intelligent apocalyptic chiller is a fantastic horror tale that continues the escapades of the Haters, who are a zombie like humanoids. The species cannot control their basic impulse to slaughter the Unchanged though Danny tries as his love for Ellis supersedes his instinct to kill. Though lacking the cautionary theme of its predecessor, but with the same moody dark atmosphere and a strange flicker of paternal love and hope, Dog Blood is a terrific zombie thriller that affirms David Moody as a strong talent. Harriet Klausner

The Passage
Justin Cronin
Ballantine, Jun 8 2010, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345504968

Another major hurricane has turned New Orleans and the surrounding gulf into a dead zone. The war on terrorism is failing as the enemy recruits faster than the Americans and their puppeteers can kill them. Other futile fronts leave the only superpower teetering.

In the Amazon rainforest, a miracle has been found; a viral that can turn a good soldier into a Captain America super soldier. Those selected as guinea pigs fail to become Captain America; instead the scientists ignored the side effect of them becoming blood sucking super killers. FEMA declares an emergency and begins warehousing people inside safety zones. America and the world need a superhero before human extinction occurs. In that mode arises thirteen years old shy Amy Harper Bellafonte living in a nunnery. She is mankind’s only hope as places like The Colony find their technological defenses failing with the super monsters chomping outside the gates.

Jumping into the Stoker side of vampire tales, The Passage is a terrific horror thriller that paints a grim futuristic atmosphere. Humans survive behind electronic barriers while the man-made super monsters own the streets. That grim picture controls much of the exciting story line with a neat spin of the heroic John Wayne type being a reticent young teenage “Joan Wayne”. Providing a cautionary underlying theme with a nod to Pogo’s “we have met the enemy and they are us”, Justin Cronin paints a gloomy viral red future; yet with a slight optimism as the Zager and Evans song In the Year 2525 says: “now man’s reign is through but through eternal night, the twinkling of starlight …” Harriet Klausner

The Time Weaver
Shana Abe
Bantam, Jun 1 2010, $23.00
ISBN: 9780553806861

In 1782 Drakon clan member Honor Carlisle cannot explain why she has always felt like an outsider. That is until the letter arrives that explains all to her. The sender is Honor and the receiver is also Honor. Eleven months four days into the future Honor Carlisle sent back the explanatory note that claims she is a Time Weaver, the only one born to the Drakon.

The letter warns her to leave her home Darkfirth or die. Heeding the advice of her future self, she flees to Spain and begins to practice time weaving that enables her to move into the past and future with strict rules of physics that her uncanny ability cannot break. However, she is attracted to a Drakon from a rival sect Prince Alexandru of Zaharen. They are soulmates, but destiny proclaims their love deadly to the Drakon; in 1782 she is trying to save her dragon shifting people while in the future she is destroying her dragon shifting people.

The latest Drakon romantic fantasy (see Queen of Dragons and The Treasure Keeper) is a super thriller with a brilliant refreshing time travel twist of having the same person as heroine and villainess. Honor is terrific in the dual roles as she comes across as real in both eras. Although the climax feels off kilter for this deep character driven entry (read to understand why), Shana Abe provides her audience with a great novel. Harriet Klausner

Ronald's Funeral and Reviews

Thursday afternoon, we had Ronald's funeral. We had the full military rites with a twenty one gun salute and "Taps". It was an emotional time for the family and I was honored to be a pallbearer along with other members of his family. My thanks go to the American Legion for offering their services to make it a fitting tribute to a veteran and showing the family members that veterans remember their own extended family.

Here are some reviews from Harriet to tide you over.

Death in Show
Judi McCoy
Obsidian, Jun 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451230485

There is nobody quite like professional dog walker Ellie Engleman as she talks to her canines and hears what her four legged friends have to say. It is a gift she hides from people so they will not commit her, but it is a prime reason her business is a success.

One of her paw pals is Lulu the Havanese who is a strong candidate for champion ribbons at the Mid-Atlantic Canine Challenge held at the Javits Convention Center. At the show, Lulu's handler dies. The police arrive with Ellie's boyfriend Detective Sam Ryder as the lead investigator who hopes he can Ellie her from snooping. Before she even learns that the handler's death was probably a homicide, Lulu's owner Mrs. Flora Steinman asks Ellie to be the handler in the competition. After surviving that ordeal, Flora thinks the cops are working too slowly on solving who murdered Arnie Norris, so knowing Ellie has solved some homicides before asks her to investigate. Ellie agrees placing herself in the crosshairs of a killer.

Although the police are unsure whether a homicide occurred, the audience knows from the onset the cause of death. The fascination in the latest Dog Walker Mystery lies with the unknown toxin, the method of delivery and the motive. Readers will enjoy the latest escapades of the heroine who frustrates Sam as she plunges into another amateur sleuth whodunit (see Hounding the Pavement and heir of the Dog) while her dog Rudy and her canine clients add amusing antics to the mix. Harriet Klausner

The Time Pirate
Ted Bell
St. Martin’s, Apr 13 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780312578107

In 1940 the Nazis invade the British Channel Islands. To repel the enemy, teenager Nick McIver teaches himself to fly an obsolete WWI fighter plane that he had found in an abandoned barn. From the air, barnstorming Nick photographs minelayers and patrol boats during the day and conducts bombing raids over Nazi airfields at night.

Meanwhile his enemy pirate Captain Billy Blood wants possession of Nick's time machine. Using his own, he travels to Greybeard Island where he kidnaps Nick's sister Kate, and takes her back to 1781 Port Royal, Jamaica; but he leaves Nick a message that in exchange for his sibling he wants the time machine. Traveling to the late eighteenth century, Nick of Time learns of a plot that could result in Washington's defeat as Blood has amassed an invincible armada.

Fighting in two wars over a century and half apart, heroic Nick hopes to be on time to save his sister and for his side to win twice. Incredibly fast-paced with over the top happenstances, this lighthearted fun teenage pulp fiction is very entertaining though not deep in either era except when blood and tomatoes mix as Nick battles The Time Pirate. Harriet Klausner

A Cast-off Coven
Juliet Blackwell
Obsidian, Jun 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451230492

Lily Ivory is a bona fide powerful witch who has made a home for herself in San Francisco as the owner of Aunt Cora's Closet where she sells vintage clothing. She is promised a trunk full of clothing if she exorcises what is scaring the students. They hear ghostly noises and movements at the San Francisco School of Fine Arts. The students and faculty also hear moans and footsteps that a ghost can’t make, but nobody sees anyone walking.

She enters the building believing she is dealing with a ghost and in a sense she is right because someone committed murder at the school decades ago. When she goes to the bell tower she finds the dead body of billionaire businessman Jerry Becker. After the police rope off the murder scene and finish questioning everyone who was in the area, Lily enters the closet where the trunk is. She sees and hears something that makes her realize someone called up a demon but didn't bind it. With each new day, the demon grows stronger. While the police investigate the homicide, the demon targets humans with no defense against its assaults; only Lily stands in the way.

This awesome paranormal mystery stars a terrific heroine who for the first time in her solitary life has friends, a home, a job she loves, and a responsible boyfriend who does not belittle or assault her. The supernatural subplot does not overwhelm the whodunit because there are several human suspects who could be the killer and have summoned the demon. Lily has to figure out if she is dealing with one or two antagonists as either scenario is plausible. Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Beware - Political Statement

McChrystal may have made a mistake letting his true feelings come out, but he is only voicing the thoughts of a lot of soldiers and veterans.

As a Vietnam Veteran, I know that there is no freedom of speech for a soldier. You keep your mouth shut and do what you are told no matter how stupid some of them may be.

Keep the politicians out of the Military or we will be looking at another Vietnam type outcome. We need to be prepared for it,

Let the military do their job.

Harriet Returns

Hard Magic
Laura Anne Gilman
Luna, May 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373803132

Recent college graduate Bonnie Torres joins New York-based Private, Unaffiliated, Private Investigators (PUPIs) a forensic magic investigative firm. She and the other PUPIs practice magical spell-casting as they prepare for their first field case.

The Chicago police ruled that septuagenarian Charles and Patty Reyboern committed vehicular suicide. Their daughter Rose rejects the official determination of the causes of her parents’ deaths as each was healthy, financially secure and liked one another; no motive appears for their killing themselves. She hires PUPIs as she refuses to accept what the cops concluded. Although not ready, the inquiry is assigned to Bonnie and her team. They follow clues some of a magical variety while interviewing friends and family of the deceased. Soon they begin to agree with their client that murder made to look like suicide occurred. As they interrogate suspects, someone uses magic to take out the team, but Bonnie and company survive the spell-casting assaults.

Laura Anne Gilman explains Bonnie was a bit player in the Retrievers saga when she got a starring role in the anthology Unusual Suspects (see Illumination); Hard Magic is her first lead in a novel. She proves capable as the heroine holds the exciting private investigator urban fantasy together. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy the return to the world of the Cosa Nostradamus starring a naïve rookie (total opposite of the Retriever veterans) whose investigation makes for an entertaining magical whodunit. Harriet Klausner

Edge of Apocalypse
Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall
Zondervan, Apr 20 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780310326281

Joshua Jordan was a hero taking unbelievable chances with his life for the country he loved. When he retired from field work he became a weapon designer trying to still protect the United States from threats outside and inside the nation. In the Atlantic, a North Korean boat has nuclear missiles aboard. Due to failed communication with his superiors at home, the admiral launches the weapons a

Two of the missiles head towards New York City; Jordan has minutes to activate the Return to Sender laser guidance system that sends a missile back to its launch site. The counter operation proves successful, but the media questions the consequences while the White House and Senate demand he turn over the Return to Sender system to Senator Stratworth and his committee. When he refuses to give it to anyone outside of the Pentagon as he fears anyone else will sell it for oil and credit. The President and Congress use the media to go after Joshua. Joshua soon learns he might be a target as Iran, North Korea and Russia as well as allies want the system and will go to any length to get it.

Taking place in the near future in which America is short on cash as a new growing dust bowl threatens Midwest agriculture, corruption permeates the government, Joshua and two secret cabals try to bring back the country to what is once was. Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall provides readers with an exciting thriller as the United Sates is on the Edge of Apocalypse while the hero must deal with the possibility of biblical Armageddon and saving his nation. Harriet Klausner

Master Of None
Sonya Bateman
Pocket, Apr 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439160848

His partners if they had survived would testify he was the worst thief in the universe. However, even for Gavyn Donatti, his latest failure is a stunner as he lost the score he stole for his employer. Gavyn knows he must skip town, but his irate fence Trevor does not accept failure so he sends Skids Davis to beat the snot out of Gavyn and perhaps more; as a warning to other employees. However, someone intervenes; Skid shoots the male and warns the thug to tell his boss to back off or else.

The djinn makes it clear he needs the moronic Gavyn, but will not put up with any shenanigans. Not interested in Gavyn's mouth, the djinn tells him he was sent here to help him fulfill his destiny. Neither the djinn, Gavyn, his girlfriend Jazz nor her son know what a small time robber's destiny could be beyond surviving and selling the latest heist.

This enjoyable urban fantasy is filled with intelligent jocular dialogue as Donatti the thief struggles with achieving his life’s purpose once he learns his life’s purpose. He is terrific as the focus of the fun plot while his support team augments his efforts to determine his quest by not allowing him to just going back to being the worst thief in the world. Tongue in cheek but loaded with action, fans will enjoy Master of None starring a likable antihero. Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ronald Brock, RIP

My best friend Jim's older brother died Monday. He had been in ill health for a while and was suffering from cancer.

Ronald was a Vietnam Vet and I met him shortly after I met Jim. It was the Fall of 1966 and we had a meal of ice cold beer and good barbecue. A friendship was made and Jim always kept me advised of what was going on.

Ronald is survived by Jim and a younger brother, Larry, other relatives and friends. A military funeral will be held Thursday.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Jonah Hex

Saw Jonah Hex with Jim today. It's better than some of the reviews that I have seen.

It could have been better if there was more graphic action. It would do better with an R rating than the PG13 it has.

John Malkovich was the typical John Malkovich villian that he has played too many times before. Megan Fox was merely window dressing and could have used a stronger part. Perhaps it was left on the cutting room floor.

Catch it at a bargain matinee.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Hope everyone has an enjoyable day with or remembering their Dads.
Best to everyone!

Magic, Witches, Vampires and More

Ghosts And Echoes
Lyn Benedict
Ace, Apr 272010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441018703

Miami based private investigator Sylvie Lightner continues to grieve deaths she caused like that of Michael even if she simply saved the world (see Sins and Shadows). She knows she needs to get back to work handling paranormal cases, but that is easier said than done when you are responsible for the death of others.

Still she goes to her South Beach store Shadows Inquiries to see what havoc her partner Alexandra Figueroa-Smith caused even as her backbrain snipes at her. Sylvie rejects as clients witches, werewolves, demons and others as she has pissed off enough of them for several lifetimes. However, she reluctantly agrees to handle the case of Chicago police officer Adam Wright who shows up while she is doing surveillance. A husband and father of a six year old son, he says he is either possessed or crazy as he died but came back with an otherworld hitchhiker. She explains not her thing as she is good at breaking and destroying not surgically removing parasites from a host as her approach is kill the host and the parasite is gone. Still she agrees to help him after he mentions Anna D the succubus who hates her referred him.

The key to this terrific urban fantasy is the world of Benedict seems genuine as the heroine works the Magicus Mundi cases. Fast-paced, fans will relish Sylvie’s efforts to send that other soul back to the beyond. Readers will enjoy this fine paranormal private investigate thriller with a great late twist as the tough detective works the abnormal beat. Harriet Klausner

Honeymoon Of The Dead
Tate Hallaway
Berkley, May 4 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425234129

Married couple bookselling witch Garnet Lacey and vampire Sebastian leave Wisconsin for the Twin Cities' airport as they plan to fly to Transylvania for their honeymoon. However, while waiting for their plane to take off, Garnet sees a frost giant sitting on the wing. Her efforts to warn authorities lead to the pair removed from the jet while Homeland Security looks at them like their crazy and perhaps dangerous.

Garnet suggests they stay in Minneapolis-St. Paul where his wife once lived. She reluctantly agrees although she left town in a hurry after stealing the boyfriend of her BFF; that guy still has her love spell haunting him. Garnet is abducted while an anti-vampire group stakes out Sebastian. This is a honeymoon in separate hells.

The key to this superb urban fantasy is Garnet’s transgressions as a youthful witch makes the heroine and, by extrapolation as the prime player of the Hallaway mythos, this book feel plausible. As her past catches up with her Sebastian has his own woes. With a great twist to the ending, fans of the saga (see Dead If I Do, Romancing the Dead, Tall, Dark & Dead and Dead Sexy) will relish Honeymoon of the Dead, forlorn and forgotten. Harriet Klausner

Song of Scarabaeus
Sara Creasy
Eos, Apr 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061934735

The ultra top secret government agency the Crib deploys a "biocyph" technology to terraform the planet Scarabaeus. However, something goes terribly wrong and the planet is dying. Leadership of the Crib has no idea why and besides deploying the cover-up seeks explanations. The Crib raised orphan Edie Sha'nim because she possesses the innate talent and augmented with appropriate training and brainwashing to program biocyph seeds. Edie knows what caused the genocidal snafu.

The Rebel Fringe colonies seek their freedom from the iron fist of the Crib's clutches know of her. Agents kidnap Edie and link her “telepathically” to Finn even as they want her to help them prevent the biocyph seeds annual deactivation. Edie fears telling Finn and the Rebels what she knows as she inadvertently played a key role in the destruction of Scarabaeus.

Song of Scarabaeus is a terrific outer space science fiction romance with the emphasis on the science extrapolated from current trends. The planets add to that feeling of being out in deep space with their strange extraterrestrial surfaces while the lead coupling leashed together mentally is attracted to one another but each has to find a way to separate what their leaders programmed from what their hearts demand. Sara Creasy provides a winner with the lamenting haunting Song of Scarabaeus. Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Reviews from Harriet

Catching Hell
Greg Gifune; Jill Bauman (illustrator)
Cemetery Dance, Jun 1 2010, $30.00
ISBN: 9781587671913

In 1983 the summer stock season on Cape Cod is over. Three actors and a stagehand drive a 1967 Ford from the Cape to Maine; a six to seven hour drive as a respite before New York City theater or college. On a lonely stretch of I-95 in Maine heading to Banger, the quartet (Billy, Stefan, Alex, and Tory) are hammered by an odd violent storm that comes out of nowhere and seems to attack their Fairlane. Then a bird crashes into the windshield leaving behind blood, no corpse and Billy believing it is the harbinger of death.

They exit in Boxer Hills, population 108. None of the fearless foursome expected anything beyond a small rustic village. Instead they find what appears to be a ghost town stuck in the Truman-Eisenhower Era. They soon learn to escape from Boxer Hills means surviving until the sun rises. This village is where seventeenth century rituals wrought a malevolence that in the late twentieth century still welcomes guests permanently.

This is a terrific horror thriller that starts a bit slow ironically while driving on I-95, but once the quartet leave the Interstate for a rural stop, the pace accelerates into hyperspeed as the protagonists are not just Catching Hell, they seem in hell. Readers will feel they are caught in the middle of this tense horror thriller enhanced by the B&W drawings as Boxer Hills is a Maine version of the Hotel California; once you’re inside, you never leave; the four friends learn the only out is death or survive until the sun rises following a night of evil. Harriet Klausner

Bob Fingerman
Tor, Aug 3 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780765326270

Around the world in eighty seconds is what the zombie pandemic seemed like to those not bitten. It occurred so fast, zombie became the dominant species on the planet. Humans were food and forced to hide behind barriers. New York City, for instance, contains eight million of these reanimated dead and little pockets of hiding mortals.

In an apartment building in Manhattan, a few souls remain concealed, but are running out of water and food. From windows they can see the supermarket, but zombies hang out on the streets seeking fresh flesh. The besieged group see hope when a female teenage human walks freely while the zombies avoid her. Mona brings food and drinks as she moves in with the adults at 1620 York Avenue, but the danger remains constant.

This is an exciting fast-paced zombie horror tale that grips the audience early and never let’s up as it will remind readers of I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (and to a lesser degree the Will Smith movie). The vivid opening in which zombies walk the streets while humans are locked behind barriers is riveting with an implied social spin as to who owns the neighborhoods. Additionally with civilization collapsed, the humans trapped inside an apartment with no electricity prove horror comes in many shapes and forms as Bob Fingerman provides a taut thriller. Harriet Klausner

Night Myst
Yasmine Galenorn
Jove, Jun 29 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515148145

With the murder of Marta the witch whose throat was ripped apart and the death two years ago of her mother Krystal, Cicily Walters can come home as her reawakening wolf wants to. She inherits Marta’s magic business. This would mean finally returning to her hometown New Forest, Washington after two decades on the road with mom. Reluctantly, she feels the time is right.

In New Forest, something strange is happening to the magic born. They are either dying or vanishing. The NFPD ignores what is going on to some of the citizens as does the vampire overlord. Worse, Cicily senses a different nefarious shadow lingering as fear owns the Cascades town. Cicily’s friend, Fae prince Grieve tells her to leave if she is smart and her aunt has been abducted and allegedly has become a blood thrall to the vampires; if she still lives. Not heeding Grieve’s advice, Cicily fights back but the fae-vampires are coming for her too.

The first Indigo Court urban fantasy is an entertaining tale that introduces the reader to a world filled with mythological species and magic. Cicily is a solid person who has doubts about coming home after her mom fled town with her as a child and replacing Marta. However, the rest of the cast feels overwhelmed by too much insight into the rules of magic and what each paranormal species can do. Still the opening supernatural war is fun to read. Myst has begun the end of days that will leave her ruling the world. Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Magic and More

Well of Sorrows
Benjamin Tate
DAW, May 4 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 978-0756406028

In the land of Andover, the Twelve Families of the Court prepare for a Feud that will eventually be an all out war tearing apart the country. Citizens from each of the Families travel on ships across the Arduon Ocean to escape the fighting and to settle on land promised to them. Colin Harten and his parents travel to Portstown, which belongs to House Carente, who does not welcome the refugees from the Twelve Families war or their allies.

The Hartens, who belong to the Bontari Family, are forced to live in a city where they cannot find work. The situation gets so bad that the Proprietor ruler of the establishment plans to destroy the Lean-to city where the refugees live. He tells the residents that they can go on a wagon train to begin a new settlement trying to be created by the Family and the Church. Colin’s dad leads the wagon train knowing no one who left for the Plains ever returned. They encounter the Alvritshi warriors who warn them to go back. However, the refugees decide to continue though afraid as they have nothing to return to. The Dwarren hate humans who betrayed treaties with them attack them while the dark forest contains Shadows who kill without leaving a trace. Colin barely survives but the Faelehgre spirits of light get him the drink of Life Blood from the Well of Sorrows. He stays there for several years and is no longer human. After six decades he returns to human lands and realizes there is no place for him but he is needed.

This is a huge fantasy in which the above paragraphs fails to even come close to what is going on as the details are extraordinary. Colin obviously plays a critical role in the Colonies now called Provinces. Using the colonization of the Americas as a background, Benjamin Tate builds his own fantasized world that seems real and most critical the three prime species seem genuine. Mindful of Kate Elliot and, Terry Goodkind. Fans will enjoy this strong thriller while anticipating the next installment. Harriet Klausner

A Taint In The Blood
S.M. Stirling
Roc, May 4 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780451463418

The Shadowspawn were the ancient rulers of the world before Homo Sapiens emerged with masses of numbers to overwhelm and force Homo lupiens into hiding amongst the human sheep. Although cross breeding with the enemy has watered down the species with no known purebreds left, the long term strategic goal of the Shadowspawn is to return to the top of the food chain.

Wealthy Shadowspawn Adrian Breze wants no part of his hybrid species lofty endeavor nor does he want much to do with the humans. At one time he actually fought against the Shadowspawn who rules the Lupiens with an iron claw. Now he prefers to be left alone as he loathes both sides of the civil war. However, his twin sister Adrienne, though she detests her mentally weak brother, demands he use his power to further the cause of the Shadowspawn that she is a key member of. Knowing he will refuse to join her team; near Santa Fe she abducts his only vulnerable object, his human lover Ellen Tarnowski as his sibling knows he would move heaven, hell and earth for the pathetic woman.

This is a terrific urban fantasy that starts with a strong opening scene as readers meet the two females in the lead triangle when Adrienne kidnaps Ellen and takes off from there as S.M Stirling establishes his new realm. Although Adrienne introduces herself as his “evil twin” detracts from her belief that her species even “dumbed down” by intermingling with inferior sapiens blood is superior to the human purebred, fans will enjoy the threesome do their expected deadly tango. Well written and fun to read even with nothing new added to the sub-genre landscape, fans will enjoy the action-packed opening Shadowspawn act. Harriet Klausner

Magic On The Storm
Devon Monk
Roc, May 4 20210, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463272

A Hound searching for the practitioners of illegal magic use, Allie Beckstrom continues her training with the Authority. Obviously she is one teacher’s pet as her lover and soul mate Zayvion Jones is a prime instructor in her magical skills education. Allie believes she contains a segment of her late father's soul because she hears him “speak” in her mind.

The Authority leadership concludes a treacherous magical tsunami is heading towards Portland that will destabilize magic activity; it will take a powerful cohesive team to restrain it and hopefully contain it if scattering proves impossible. Allie and Zayvion are a major part of the wildstorm counteroffensive unit; but neither the professor nor the student realizes the worst treachery is from within the Authority.

The latest Allie Beckstrom urban fantasy is a terrific entry as all magical hell is heading to Portland where the lead couple on the front prepares for the “war” while seditious acts occur within the Authority hampering the efforts to prevent the deadly perfect storm. Allie has come a long way since she learned of Magic to the Bone; as her heart and soul has found her other while she learns to control her paranormal skills. This is a strong tale, as the magical world of Devon Monk seems genuine. Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Reviews from Harriet

Dragon Haven
Robin Hobb
Eos, May 11 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780061931413

Expelled from the Cassarik area by the fear of the locals of the new dragon hatchlings, the beasts and their mutated human keepers continue their journey to find the fabled lost city of Kelingra with danger and starvation every step along the deadly Rain Wild River. As the dragons mature, they become powerful fully developed while their keepers remain malformed but are well adjusted for the most part.

However finding the ancient Elderings’ vanished haven proves impossible as the collective memory of the landscape fails to match what the world along the Rain Wild River has become. Instead danger from flash floods and a scarcity of food as supplies dwindle threatens the explorers.

The sequel to the Dragon Keeper is an exciting climax to a well written duology that returns readers to the Hobbs’ realm of the Liveship Traders and the Tawny Man sagas. The story line is a coming of age fantasy especially of the naive female teenager Thymara who grows in confidence as she learns who to trust and more important to distrust. Although the rest of the cast seems somewhat interchangeable as shallowly deceptive or even shallower naive, fans of Robin Hobb will enjoy the trek along the Rain Wild River. Harriet Klausner

Bewitched and Betrayed
Lisa Shearin
Ace, Apr 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441018727

Seeker Raine Benares wants to go back to just finding missing things and people, but knows that will not happen at least for now. Instead, the elf is bonded to the soul-stealing Saghred stone and complicating matters she is also tri-umi'atsu bonded with Paladin Mychael Eiliesor and goblin Tamnais Nathrach.

As she wonders how a seeker could be tied up like this, one of the six evil mages who escaped from the Saghred wants her dead so he can control the rock, but needs to re-grow his goblin body first. Thus Sarad Nukpana is killing the most powerful essences with the umi'atsu trio the last to die for him to complete his quest of becoming an evil God.

This is an exciting action-packed fantasy filled with tension and jocularity as few authors can combine. Raine is terrific as she ironically wants to hide, but knows she cannot as her bonding will not allow her to do so nor the knowledge he is coming for her as she is the only thing between his achieving his goal. Readers will enjoy Bewitched and Betrayed as High Noon is coming to the mythological world of Shearin. Harriet Klausner

Under Heaven
Guy Gavriel Kay
Roc, Apr 27 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780451463302

Second son Shen Tai has spent the last two years as the only living person amidst the forty thousand dead, burying the bones of the dead from both sides. He does this to honor his late father, Kitai Empire Left Side Commander of the Pacified West General Shen Gao who died here while leading his side to victory.

Tai’s endeavor is rewarded with the unexpected stunning gift of 250 Sardian “Heavenly Horses”, the greatest steeds on the planet. To obtain his gift, he must come in person to the Sardian Court of their former enemy so he leaves the ghostly mountain battlefield for the capital of the Kitai Empire, Xinan. Tai knows how valuable they are, but soon learns others agree as assassination attempts to send him to his late father begin even without his claiming the horses yet.

Under Heaven is a superb historical epic that builds off an ancient Chinese dynasty to tell a beautiful tale of power abused, betrayal, honor and love. The secondary characters enhance a strong sense of what the hero is going through as the audience will feel we accompany Shen Tai on his travels. Guy Gavriel Kay provides a deep saga of a hero rewarded and consequently assaulted for honoring his father by interring the remains of valiant soldiers from both sides to their ghosts can silently rest forever. Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sookie Stackhouse and Others

The Lost Fleet: Victorious
Jack Campbell
Ace, Apr 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 978-0441018697

In the far distant future, the Alliance and Syndicated worlds have been at war for over a century. Captain John “Black Jack” Geary was in cryogenic sleep for almost that long. Since his fleet successfully evacuated from the system where the Syndicates set a trap, he is regarded as a hero by a war weary public where millions would support him if he chose to be a dictator with the military backing him up. He accepts the post of fleet admiral even though the Ruling Council fears Black Jack.

He asks the authorities that promoted him to give him permission to negotiate with the Syndics, who have lost much of their ships and military; they are in horrific shape. Granted the authority, when he arrives on the home space station of the Syndics, he did not expect the fight of his life. If he wins, they still have a common enemy; an alien race on the other side of the Syndicate space whose strategic plan is to take control of this sector and ultimately the Alliance too. Geary leads a counter insurgence to prevent this Machiavellian scheme from occurring, but he will need Syndic cooperation to succeed.

This is the sixth book in the Black Jack military space opera series and fans of the saga will relish the tale as am entertaining twist occurs. The hero is a terrific leader who understands military and political strategy but also understands he sends soldiers to their death while fat cat council leaders have a different agenda than those on the front line. Readers will enjoy Jack Campbell’s latest Lost Fleet science fiction thriller because like President Eisenhower the hero has a deep regard for life even with his first hand field knowledge that many of his troops will never go home. Harriet Klausner

Dead in the Family
Charlaine Harris
Ace, May 4 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780441018642

Sookie Stackhouse, like many of Bon Temps, Louisiana residents, remains in shock as much from the torture she received as from the grief she feels following the fae war that left so many Dead and Gone. Among those who died is Sookie’s fairy cousin, Claudine. Much of the surviving Faes went home.

Meanwhile the late Claudine’s triplet Claude asks Sookie if he can move in with her; she unenthusiastically agrees. The Feds want better control of the paranormal two-nature Werewolf packs with designated registries. This upsets the Were population that fears hunting season. Sookie’s lover vampire Eric Northman has problems when his creator the newly named Vampire King Appius Livius Ocella accompanied by Alexei Romanov arrives without warning, an invitation or an explanation,

Dead in the family is a superb entry in the Sookie saga albeit a bit less action (and deaths) than the previous thriller. The story line focuses on what is a modern paranormal extended family and how politics by those claiming the righteous right of patriotism to intrude within the family under the guise of. security. Fans will enjoy this thought provoking urban fantasy as Sookie has little time to heal. Harriet Klausner

Death Blows
D.D. Barant
St. Martin’s, Mar 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312942595

Unnatural States of America NSA chief David Cassius the vampire yanked FBI profiler Jace Valchek from her United States of America realm to his to hunt for a human serial killer who murdered vampires and werewolves (See Dying Bites). Jace partnered with Charlie Aleph the Golem, still works for David as she agrees to remain here until she ends the reign of terror of Aristotle Stoker.

NSA employee vampire Gretchen Petra’s significant other Saladin Aquitaine was magically fried. His garb was that of the DC comic book character The Flash though superhero comics are banned in this USA. Part of the Bravo Brigade, Saladin is the first killed, but other comic book look alikes follow. Jace and Charlie have to switch gear to prevent another serial killer; this time acting like a super-villain.

The second Bloodhound Files is a spectacular alternative urban fantasy police procedural. The action-packed story line soars from the opening scene and never slows down for even a respite as Jace investigates a comic book serial killer. Faster than a speeding bullet with a tongue in cheek feel that will remind readers of Jasper Fforde's works, fans will marvel over this delightfully charming tale.
Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 12, 2010

RECOVERING APOLLO 8, Kristine Kathyrn Rusch, Golden Gryphon, $24.95, 316 pages, ISBN: 9781930846623, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

Its strange how some books will bring back a memory about where, when or why you remember them. Sometimes they will bring back memories of people, place, and other times. This is one of those books. Kris mentions her days (with Dean Wesley Smith) at Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine and this in turn brought back my memories of being a freelance reviewer for them. I guess that would make me one of those lucky people who was fortunate enough to have Kris as an editor.

But this volume is about her writing, and what a writer she is. Her subject matter may cover the normal topics of science fiction and other genres, but the main memory you take away is the way she approaches the story and her unique vision for the characters.

“Recovering Apollo 8” gives us an alternate history wherein the capsule and its astronauts are lost and one man’s childhood dream to bring them home. “The End of the World” is a tale of reconstruction and an alien encounter that is one of the saddest stories I’ve ever read. “The Strangeness of the Day” is the story of a lawyer’s encounter with magic that is more than tilting with windmills. “G-Men” is another alternate world tale about J Edgar Hoover and his little secret. Other tales fill out the volume including “Diving into the Wreck” which was the inspiration for her novel of the same name.

This is a memorable volume of tremendous stories. If you don’t already have memories of Kristine Kathryn Rusch, be prepared to make some. I assure you they will be good ones.

THRILLERS: 100 Must Reads, edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner, Oceanview, $27.95, 378 pages, ISBN: 9781933515564, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

What we have here is a book about books. The International Thriller Writers have picked out the 100 most interesting stories and books that have added something to the genre. Each title mentioned is interesting and each essay by the ITW authors explains why it was picked and the reasoning behind their choice.

They chose “Theseus and the Minotaur” as the first thriller and work their way through time and stories such as “Beowulf”, “Macbeth”, Shelley’s Frankenstein, Poe, Verne, Welles, Burroughs, Doc Savage, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and many other classics in the field until finishing up with The Da Vinci Code.

The field is well covered and widely represented. I was amazed at the number of the books that I had read and picked up some I had missed.

This is a guide to the genre and gives you plenty of places to find some new reading material. Many of the books are classics in the truest sense of the word. Don’t let this one get past you; it’s a reference work that demands a place on your shelf.

STEPHEN KING’S THE DARK TOWER: The Complete Concordance, Robin Furth, Cemetery Dance, $75, signed, numbered, limited to 2000 copies, 864 pages, ISBN: 9781587671586, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

Robin Furth is Stephen King’s Dark Tower research assistant and it was her job to keep the people, places and facts straight for King and now that research is available to those of us who have been on that journey since October 1978 when “The Gunslinger” appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine. Who among us knew what this fictional creation would do to the reading public in general and the King fans in particular. I knew it was a damn fine story and have drifted with the flow in order to get to the end of the story and see Roland reach the end of his quest.

Furth has put together a list of people, places, and other unusual items to show the vast reaches of King’s magnum Opus. There are approximately 500 copies of this remaining and if you are one of us who wants to be in the know, this is the volume you need.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Pretender by Jackson Browne

I've been a fan of Jackson Browne for a long time. I was a fan of his songwriting before I heard him sing. His songs were recorded by Nico and the Velvet Underground, Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles. Here is one of the songs that has been playing in my head a lot lately.

The Pretender
Jackson Browne
Swallowtail Music

I'm going to rent myself a house
In the shade of the freeway
Gonna pack my lunch in the morning
And go to work each day
And when the evening rolls around
I'll go on home and lay my body down
And when the morning light comes streaming in
I'll get up and do it again
Say it again

I want to know what became of the changes
We waited for love to bring
Were they only the fitful dreams
Of some greater awakening?
I've been aware of the time going by
They say in the end it's the wink of an eye
When the morning light comes streaming in
You'll get up and do it again

Caught between the longing for love
And the struggle for the legal tender
Where the sirens sing and the church bells ring
And the junk man pounds his fender.
Where the veterans dream of the fight
Fast asleep at the traffic light
And the children solemnly wait
For the ice cream vendor
Out into the cool of the evening
Strolls the Pretender
He knows that all his hopes and dreams
Begin and end there

Ah the laughter of the lovers
As they run through the night
Leaving nothing for the others
But to choose off and fight
And tear at the world with all their might
While the ships bearing their dreams
Sail out of sight

I'm gonna find myself a girl
Who can show me what laughter means
And we'll fill in the missing colors
In each other's paint-by-number dreams
And then we'll put our dark glasses on
And we'll make love until our strength is gone
And when the morning light comes streaming in
We'll get up and do it again
Get it up again

I'm gonna be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
To the heart and the soul of the spender
And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
where true love could have been a contender
Are you there?
Say a prayer for the Pretender.
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender.

Say a prayer for the pretender
Are you there for the pretender?
Say a prayer for the pretender
Are you there for the pretender?
Are you prepared for the pretender?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Works from Kevin J Anderson

Groundbreaking New Crossover Project from Bestselling Author Kevin J. Anderson:
Epic Fantasy Novel and Rock CD

Terra Incognita: The Map of All Things (novel, Orbit Books)
Terra Incognita: A Line in the Sand (rock CD, ProgRock Records)

Following last year’s success of his Terra Incognita novel/CD project, international bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson has again teamed up with Orbit Books and ProgRock Records to create the second installment in the tale of sailing ships, sea monsters, and the crusades. The simultaneous release of the new novel and music CD is a unique event in the genre.

The novel, The Map of All Things, is a 600-page epic expanding the story of exploration, adventure, and a clash of religions. The companion CD, A Line in the Sand, contains a storyline not found in the novel. “This CD features a different, grittier part of the epic, focusing on the devastating generations-long war between continents, and it has an entirely different sound,” said Anderson.

This time, the music is helmed by Henning Pauly (Frameshift, Chain), and the CD features an extensive new cast of performers. “Henning is absolutely perfect for this type of music, with hard-driving guitars, passion, and thought-provoking complexity,” said Shawn Gordon
of ProgRock Records. “Kevin’s been a fan of Henning’s music for years, and this seemed to be a perfect match.”

Vocalists include rock legends Steve Walsh of Kansas (“Carry On, Wayward Son,” “Dust in the Wind”), Sass Jordan (Album Rock’s female vocalist of the year, and one of the judges on Canadian Idol), Michael Sadler (formerly of Saga), Charlie Dominici (Dream Theater’s original lead singer), Nick Storr (The Third Ending), and others. Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta, herself a bestselling author, wrote all the lyrics as well as the connecting text in the booklet; two of the songs are cowritten with multiple Grammy-Award-winning singer-songwriter Janis Ian (“At Seventeen,” “Society’s Child,” etc.).

“Progressive rock has always focused on story and ideas,” said Anderson, “but with two CDs and two novels, this takes Terra Incognita into unprecedented territory, The union of music and prose has never before been done on this scale.”

The first CD, Terra Incognita: Beyond the Horizon, received rave reviews worldwide; it was named Best Progressive Rock Album of the Year by Melodic Revolution and was prominently featured in Classic Rock Presents magazine.

Anderson is best known for his Dune novels with Brian Herbert, his numerous Star Wars and X-Files novels, and his original SF series, The Saga of Seven Suns.

Three sample tracks are available on the ProgRock Records website ( More background is available on Anderson’s site,

Monday, June 7, 2010

Some More from Harriet

Forbidden Passion
Rita Herron
Forever, Apr 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446199490

Demons trained Dante Zertlav when he was thirteen years old to kill humans. He used his ability to toss fireballs at people with uncanny skill to the pleasure of his mentor Father Gio; failure in any sense meant torturous punishment. However, his final initiation test was to kill young Marlena Bender as a sacrifice to Helzebar, but he envied her innocent laugher along side her older sister and mom. He failed to complete the assignment helping Marlena to safety and he became ostracized by his demonic community.

Two decades later, he is sheriff of Mysteria where he was trained by Father Gio; while Marlena has become a research scientist studying why people become violent. When she returns to the place where her nightmares began, Marlena knows Dante is the one who saved her life. While a killer is on the loose, they begin to fall in love. However, she a pure good human while he has the DNA of evil; neither considered his father manipulating both behind the scenes.

The latest Demon Born romantic fantasy (see Insatiable Desire and Dark Hunger) is a terrific entry as the intrepid heroine and her demonborn champion fall in love while he realizes the serial killings are planned to culminate with the completion of the interrupted Marlena’s sacrifice. Filled with action perhaps too much as some subplots never develop, Dante investigates a twisted case while also keeping the human he cherishes safe though he denies himself the dream of her at his side forever. Harriet Klausner

A Legacy of Daemons
Camille Bacon-Small
DAW, May 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406035

They are upscale Philadelphia private investigators specializing in all things supernatural, but that is mostly because the three partners are part of the paranormal community. Brad and Lilly are full blooded daemons of the house of Ariton who live in their spirit form in the second celestial sphere; the one closest to the first sphere which contains earth. Evan Davis is a half-breed son of Brad, an abomination who should not exist, but for now Ariton is staying his hand and will not kill him.

Everyone is shocked when Matt Shields ( who is really a daemon) asks Evan to bid for a box at Sotheby’s. He was a daemon who was forcibly bound to the evil Donne family forced to do their biding. Now that the last Donne is dead he is still bound to the box and can’t leave the earth for home. Inside the box is another daemon who has gone mad from centuries of captivity.. Bound by the contract Evan signed and their Princes of the Host s agreed to. The trio must find the box and free the daemon trapped inside. There are many obstacles and enemies to overcome in order to get the box. Evan remains ignorant how much power he possesses to destroy his adversaries, but makes the wrong move when challenged by the Princes of Ariton and Paimon.

This urban fantasy like its predecessors (see Eye of the Demon and Eyes of the Empress) is loaded with action, but is character driven. Brad to his shock has feelings towards his offspring although he refuses to admit they exist even to him. Evan feels upbeat to learn he is not insane as his differences are due to his legacy not his brain failing him. Lilly and Evan are lovers who make a formidable pair and she is incredibly powerful as is Brad who is part of their “family” unit. Camille Bacon-Small affirms she is a great fantasist who pioneered the urban fantasy genre. Harriet Klausner

The Hypnotist
M.J. Rose
Mira, May 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780778326755

FBI's Art Crime Team special agent Lucian Glass continues his pursuit of the Phoenix Foundation's Malachi Samuels. Both adversaries also seek the “Memory Tools” that enable people to look into their past-lives' memories.

A Matisse painting stolen two decades ago from the gallery of Andre Jacobs is sent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art ripped to shreds. The slasher warns the museum that four more stolen masterpieces will be destroyed unless MOMA gives to the thief the fifteen century old Hypnos, a sculpture that allegedly can bestow supernatural power to a person. Lucian has never forgotten the theft because his beloved Solange, Andre's daughter, was killed during the heist. As he travels though past lives in ancient Greece and ninetieth century Persia, Lucian is attracted to Andre's niece Emeline, whom the gallery owner raised as his adopted daughter as she reminds him so much of his Solange; too much so.

The latest Reincarnationist tale novel (see The Memorist), The Hypnotist is another great entry in one of the most exhilarating fresh sagas on the market today. The past lives and the present case subplots merge effortlessly into a superb thriller held together by a stunned Lucian. Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Couple from Me

BLOCKADE BILLY, Stephen King, Scribner, $14.99, 132 pages, ISBN: 9781451608212, mentioned by Barry Hunter.

Harriet has already reviewed the Cemetery Dance edition of this eerie baseball novelette and all of King’s readers who missed out on that edition will need to pick this one up. King, again, shows his love of the game and tells a different kind of story.

As an added bonus, Scribner has added “Morality”, a story that appeared in Esquire and if I remember correctly featured the story written on Bar Raffelli’s body on the cover. Too bad they didn’t reprint the cover as well.

This is a volume for King fans, baseball fans and especially for the completists. Don’t miss this one; it’s another home run from King.

SWORDS & DARK MAGIC, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders, EOS, $15.99, 522 pages, ISBN: 9780061723810, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

In the past few years it seems, at least to me, that fantasy has been going through a change and the old fashioned sword and sorcery stories have been few in number and appeared headed for extinction.

Fortunately, this volume proves my fears were premature and Sword & Sorcery is indeed alive and thriving. This volume features some old friends and some new writers to keep the genre alive.

Michael Moorcock returns with a new Elric tale. Tanith Lee shows she is as powerful today as she was when THE BIRTHGRAVE first saw light. Gene Wolfe and Bob Silverberg show their nimble touches again. New writers Caitlain Kiernan, Tim Lebbon, Greg Keys, Scott Lynch and others show how they have picked up the mantle and will wear it proudly into the future.

This volume comes along as we start a new decade, one that looks to be filled with Swords & Sorcery. It’s a magical volume.

Jeanne Robinson Passes

Jeanne Robinson - writer, dancer and wife of Spider Robinson - has passed over after a battle with cancer. She was the inspiration and co-writer of STARDANCE, on of the classic novels to come out in the 1970s. Our best wishes go out to the family.

Here are some reviews from Harriet.

The Fallen
Mark Terry
Oceanview, Apr 1 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781933515755

The economic summit of the expanded G20 is being held at Cheyenne Resort in Colorado Springs. As expected security is extremely tight as the American agencies along with their counterparts from the other participating nations are everywhere insuring no terrorist incident occurs.

However, in spite of the safeguards seemingly within seconds of the opening gavel, a group breaches security and takes hostage all twenty leaders and others. Led by Richard Coffee, the first demand is the freeing of twenty detainees from Guantomino Bay prison; for every hourly delay one of the leaders will be executed. There is little choice except to give into Coffee's demands. However, posing as a maintenance worker, undercover black ops agent Derek Stillwater is the last hope. His plan is to eliminate the enemy efficiently one at a time and effectively neutralize the adversaries until he meets his former compatriot Richard "The Fallen Angel" Coffee.

The Fallen is an exhilarating thriller that grips the audience with the initial grab and though somewhat changes pace never let’s go of the reader’s attention. The story line is a fast-paced adrenalin rush, but ironically it is the debates between various leaders as to how to react to the terrorist abductions that makes the tale super. Thriller fans will want to read the Fallen who have legitimate complaints against their respective governments betraying them and ponder whether kick butt Cheney would say no negotiations with terrorists if he or one his family were the expendable hostages. Harriet Klausner

The Bone Thief
Jefferson Bass
Morrow, Mar 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061284762

University of Tennessee’s anthropology department chairman and the head of the school’s human decomposition research facility the Body Farm, Dr. Bill Brockton and his grad assistant Miranda Lovelady open a coffin to obtain a sample for a DNA paternity test. However, the remains inside have been desecrated.

The FBI asks Brockton to assist them on ending a lucrative body parts black market operation. He agrees to play the role of a supplier though he remains preoccupied by his last case Bones of Betrayal. At the same time he struggles with an undercover role to end a chop shop, his medical examiner friend Eddie Garcia has been exposed to a dose of radioactivity that has cost him both hands amputated and likely his job unless he takes an illegal underhanded spin with his hope being Brockton.

This is an entertaining Body Farm mystery as the hero is caught in a personal value’s dilemma between helping his friend and ending the black market sales of body parts. This issue comes on top of his inability to move past the betrayal that “murdered” his heart. Although two late shaky spins detract from an otherwise solid undercover tale, forensic fans will enjoy Dr. Brockton’s moral crisis.
Harriet Klausner

Alafair Burke
Harper, Mar 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061561221

NYPD is at the penthouse at 212 Lafayette owned by real-estate tycoon the Sam Sparks. Inside is the corpse Robert Mancini, an employee of the Sam Sparks. Leading the investigation is Detective Ellie Hatcher, who upsets the owner with her shoes on his carpet; the tycoon seems oblivious that his employee has been shot with a zillion or so bullets. Although evidence points towards an escort being with the victim just before he was killed, Hatcher finds that too convenient and looks closer at the Sam without ruling out the missing companion. That upsets her politically devoted bosses.

At the same time Hatcher is warned to stop looking at the Sam, NYU student Megan Gunther receives threatening messages on Campus Juice anonymous website. Her parents ask the police for help, but are told nothing can be done about untraceable creeps who have not broken the law. They are irate that unless something happens to their daughter, the cops will do nothing. They prove prophetic when someone kills Meghan less than twenty-four hours after their police visit although her escort roommate might have been the target. As more corpses are found, Hatcher and her partner J.J. Rogan struggle to end a serial killing spree.

The latest Hatcher police procedural see (Dead Connection and Angel’s Tip) is a tense modern day timely thriller that grips the audience from the opening murder scene and never slows down although there is an abundance of bodies. The convoluted story line is loaded with action as the two cops struggle with clues that end or take them in a different direction. Fans will enjoy this deep cautionary tale as Internet stalking is a phenomenon that is difficult to deal with beyond unplugging. Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 3, 2010

More Interesting Reviews

Blood Oath
Christopher Farnsworth
Putnam, May 18 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399156359

Twenty-five years old Zach Barrows is already a veteran of senate and presidential campaigns; having delivered three states in the last race. The Washingtonian calls him the next Rove as he is now the youngest ever deputy director for White House affairs.

Caught with the POTUS’ nineteen years old daughter, Zach is being escorted by Secret Service Agent Griffin who takes him to the oldest part of the Smithsonian; a hidden room buried inside the Castle that the Griff calls the Reliquary trophy room where some of the oddities of history are “buried”. Zach has joined a very exclusive club as the White House liaison to Nathaniel Cade vampire; pardoned and pledged by President Andrew Johnson in 1867; he leads the global war on horror. Their first assignment as a team is to uncover a conspiracy from within to use biological weapons against the United States.

The two key elements that make Blood Oath an entertaining espionage paranormal thriller are the clever intermingling of history with the supernatural mostly through Zach but also with artifacts and the plot never takes itself seriously. The wild story line lampoons American mythos like president-journalist relationships via Nixon and the Washington Post, Frankenstein, Roswell, and the GWOH. Fans who relish an over the top of the Washington Monument and under the Smithsonian will relish Christopher Farnsworth’s satirical tale of vampires dining in the White House. Harriet Klausner

Flight Of Shadows
Sigmund Brouwer
WaterBrook, May 18 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400070336

Her genetic code makes Caitlyn Brown the most wanted person on the planet as her DNA enables her to do almost anything. However, all she wants to do is remain in hiding as her back deformity makes her believe she is the ultimate pariah.

However, the affluent in a world filled with poverty want more and she is the source. They go after her with only Razor the illusionist as her ally although she distrusts him. She hopes he can guide her to friends while the Feds and a twisted bounty hunter, all working for the rich, pursue her. As Caitlyn learns who she is, she is caught in a quandary not just between two men she cherishes and believes love her; but in terms of choosing life for her and extinction for humanity or death for her and life for mankind.

Flight of Shadows is an exciting cautionary tale that extrapolates from current trends to paint a dismal future with the heroine treated as a Typhoid Mary if she fails to do the bidding of the powerful. Caitlyn makes the tale work holding together the exhilarating hunt for her. Although the philosophical ethical issues could have been explored even deeper, readers will appreciate Caitlyn’s dilemma; mindful of Ursula Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, but perhaps Hell is more descriptive. Harriet Klausner

Can't Teach An Old Demon New Tricks
Cara Lockwood
Pocket, Mar 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781416550976

In Dogwood, Texas five years ago Kevin Farnsworth attended a convention. When he returned home to his wife Rachel, he was not the same person. Rachel is unaware that her Kevin is dead; murdered by a demon who took possession of his body.

When Rachel gives birth to Cassidy, the new mom finds her offspring acting oddly and her spouse missing. She soon learns what is going on when a demon horde arrives demanding she tell them where Kevin is; they believe he knows where Azarel the fallen angel is hiding. Satan sends Sam another fallen angel to find Kevin. When he meets Rachel, he falls in love with the kick butt human. Soon afterward as their attraction grows, Rachel and Sam are caught in the middle of a demonic war.

This is an amusing lighthearted Texas romantic fantasy as angels and demons make Dogwood the focus of the latest frolic. Fast-paced, fans will root for the human caught in the middle as everyone seems to want a piece of her; only Sam literally wants the whole piece of her. Although the romantic relationship between the fallen angel and the mom never quite seems to gel, fans will enjoy this jocular tale of a tough human female battling heaven and hell to protect her hybrid demon offspring; though having a lot of fire extinguishers around should help. Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Harriet Reads Some More

Crimes by Moonlight: Mysteries from the Dark Side
Edited by Charlaine Harris
Berkley, Apr 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780425235638

These twenty short stories focus on paranormal mysteries that run the urban fantasy gamut with vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts, seers, mages and Mike Hammer making featured appearances. All of the contributions by The Mystery Writers of America authors are enjoyable tales that sub-genre fans will want to read as the diversity of the supernatural adds to the overall fun. Vampires are right at home in Parnell Hall's amusing “Death of a Vampire” and Charlaine Harris’s “Dahlia Underground”. Ghosts star in Harley Jane Kozak’s “Madeeda”, Carolyn Hart’s “Riding High” as a marriage counselor and even as a phantom ship in Lou Kemp's “In Memory of the Sibylline”. Finally Hammer has a “Grave Matter” (by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane) case with a supernatural taint. This is a strong anthology as everyone contributing showed up in top form providing enjoyable Crimes by Moonlight: Mysteries from the Dark Side collection. Harriet Klausner

Dragonfly Falling
Adrian Tchaikovsky
Pyr, Apr 27 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616141950

For generations, the methodical Wasp kinden Empire has slowly conquered the Lowlands. Only recently has some enlightened members of the other species realize the perilous threat of the advancing Wasp horde.

Currently the Wasp army threatens Collegium, a city with a mix of opinions as the resistance is strong here and so are the deniers. Stenwold so far has failed to persuade the Collegium leadership that the Wasp threat endangers the city.

In Tark, Totho and Salma are arrested as spies by a fearful of strangers law enforcement officials who determine guilt based mainly on one’s status. They are released, but seemingly too late as the Wasp army has the city under siege.

This is a fascinating second tale (see Empire in Black and Gold) in a unique fantasy series in which the world built by Adrian Tchaikovsky engages the audience. The strife is reminiscent of the Greco-Persan Wars (the movie 300 is one major battle) , but with the refreshing insectoid spin. Fans who appreciate something different in their military-social fantasies will want to read the strong Shadows of the Apt saga as a deep entrenched caste system struggles with survival since the invasion changes everything previously accepted as the divine order.
Harriet Klausner

The Last Christian
David Gregory
WaterBrook, May 4 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781400074976

In 2088, the unknown disease has devastated the small Inisi village. Desperate, Christian missionary Abigail Caldwell leaves the jungle for the first time in eight years seeking help for those surviving. She is found dehydrated and taken to Meriden Hospital in Lae where she is treated by American Dr. Kate Sampson. The two women fly by helicopter to the village only to find everyone dead.

Grieving as she loved the villagers, Abby goes to America after receiving an odd missive from her neuroscientist grandfather, an inventor of brain transplants. She is stunned to find Christianity is dead in America, but she vows to lead the crusade to bring it back from the grave. However, her grandfather is also dead. His death leads her to History Professor Creighton Daniels, whose father like Abby’s grandfather and villagers suddenly died. The duo join forces to investigate what is going on. They soon discover a plot to evolve mankind into eternal non-believers transhumans with silicon based brains and no one will stop them; not even two people grounded in faith that God created Adam and Eve.

The Last Christian is a terrific futuristic thriller in which the religious elements come across (no pun intended) as powerful and refreshing while the political spin felt mechanical, a rehashing of early twenty-first century DC paralysis. Fast-paced with two strong believers as champions, sub-genre fans will want to join these David’s as they battle Goliaths with plans to make mankind in their image. Harriet Klausner