Kensington, Feb 22 2011, $9.95
In the insular town of Weeping Water in Nebraska, teenager Michael Howard feels alone and alienated. His peers taunt him about being gay while his mother keeps her distance from him and his grandfather, whose house he lives in, is always on his case.
When his mother dies, his father Vaughn takes him back to his country England only to dump the lad at Archangel Academy in Eden. There he meets enigmatic Ronan, a gay teen. Each realizes they have met their soulmate, but wanting a strong foundation to their relationship, they take it slow. Michael has secrets he hides from his beloved, but Ronan conceals a humongous one that he is a hybrid vampire whose exiled clan is at war with the popular version of the vampire. Ronan worries about how his Michael will react when he tells him truth; he also knows the American is his Achilles’ Heel. When the time comes, Michael will have to choose between hurting Ronan (and himself) or embracing their love. However, first they will have to outwit their enemies who look at Ronan’s species as an abomination.
Ironically titled Unnatural is a creative imaginative vampire enthralling thriller that targets young adults though readers should be aware there are graphic sex scenes. The strong story line focuses on the impact of a teen who is a part of a shammed minority group. Filled with action, Michael Griffo also cautions parents to be there for their children regardless of their sexual preference even when it differs from yours so that their offspring will not be like Michael ashamed of himself until he finally makes friends at the Academy. Everyone needs to feel they belong somewhere and with someone. Harriet Klausner
Karen Marie Moning
Delacorte, Jan 18 2011, $
MacKayla “Mac” Lane continues her quest for the magical book of the dark Sinsar Dubh that has the power to eradicate worlds. She is no longer the frightened Irish-American exile although she still grieves for her late sister Alina; Mac enters the forbidden White Mansion of the Unseelie King who wrote the tome of evil she seeks that she believes has answers to what she truly is and may provide a light to Alina’s homicide.
She remains inside the abode with the Unseelie King much longer than she anticipated, but finally returns to Dublin with a new outlook as she now understands the essence of evil as “bad thinking it is good”; the remaining Americanized tenderness has been expunged from her soul. Mac will do what it takes to achieve her goals. If friends die, so be it; if she seeks strange bedfellow enemies as allies so what; yet Mac remains off kilter with each revelation she discovers about her sibling, herself and that dammed tome that is hunting down Mac and her allies.
This is an excellent finish (not sure about whether this is truly the end as major questions remain including new ones) to a strong urban fantasy (see Dreamfever and Faefever). The fascinating story line shows how much Mac has evolved from that naïve caring American coming to find her sister’s killer only to find monsters around ever corner; thus her travails and tribulations including grief has hardened her heart and turned her tundra colder with an absolute belief that the end justifies the mean. Exciting though there appears room for another book (re Barrons and another key player) to tie up the loose ends and an adjustment is needed to accept the evolved Mac, fans of the Fever fantasy saga will enjoy the heroines search. Harriet Klaussner
Free Press, Dec 28 2010, $25.00
Dr. Peter and Helen Radley, accompanied by their teenage children Clara and Rowan, move from swinging wild London to quiet sedate Bishopthorpe. Believing blood thirst is a simple addiction, the parents adhere strictly to The Abstainer's Handbook rules that strongly suggest living like a human while living amongst humans. However, they have also neglected to inform their fifteen years old daughter and seventeen years old son that they are purebred vampires.
The offspring suffer form nightmares that each conceals from their parents. However, everything changes when an intoxicated Stuart Harper attacks Clara a vegetarian. His assault causes the dormant thirst for blood (and meat) to arise in his female classmate as her fangs surface. Peter asks his brother Will an overt vampire to help them with their problems.
This is an entertaining dark vampire family drama with a powerful twist to the relationships. Character driven, the cast makes the tale fun to read as none of the extended Radley family come across as vampiric stereotyped; instead ironically the four Radley suburbanites are stereotypical: repressed and must behave in accordance with the middle class rules of order while Uncle Will prefers the bloody life of a swinger. Intelligent this is a witty satirical spin to the recent vampire lives amongst us craze. Harriet Klausner
Autumn: The City
Dunne, Feb 1 2011, $14.99
The pandemic virus was so contagious, over 99% of mankind died in under twenty-four hours. Civilization was over and the few humans to survive had no time to mourn their losses as a few days later the dead began to ruse. Some fortunate people escaped the city (see Autumn) though unsure where to go.
However, not all were able to leave. Those trapped inside the city have little hope as the streets swarm with the walking undead who “live” to rip human flesh apart. Donna York hid under a desk during the brutal first forty-eight hours. Jack the warehouse worker stayed home after he observed oddness on the bus and saw his elderly neighbor. Clare the student meets Jack when she enters his home seeking shelter. Paul hid in the music store where he worked. They begin to meet other survivors like Michael and Cooper. These few unfortunate knows their only prayer is to run a gauntlet through aggressive killers in order to reach an underground military bunker that Cooper says is their salvation; not knowing whether the military remains in control inside of it.
This is an action-packed exciting Z thriller (don’t use that Z word with the Autumn tales) as the few remaining humans trapped inside the city struggle through a deadly path to reach their only chance to survive. The story line is fast-paced with the early chapters before everyone converges displaying some of the fears each possesses of the unknown and more so of the known. Although David Moody never digs deeper into the emotional defense mechanisms mentally deployed to control a wide variety of psychological issues such as survivor guilt and seeing friends and family change into mindless killers, fans will enjoy the escapades of those fleeing for their lives with the Undead everywhere ready to pounce. Harriet Klausner