Diana Pharaoh Francis
Pocket, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
The Guardians of the Earth declare war on humanity. Witches are warned that neutrality is unacceptable as you are with them or the enemy. Giselle is the witch who enslaved Max years ago by turning her into her personal Shadowblade. They reach a tense agreement in these troubled times. As part of that deal, Giselle gives bitter Max permission to bring her human family to Horngate so they can remain safe from the Guardians. Max has not seen her family in three decades ever since Giselle enslaved her.
Max knows the trek to her family will be dangerous. Her new Shadowblade ally Alexander has her back, but that may not be enough as he offers much more and she wants what he covets. However besides the Guardians stalking enemies, Giselle sold her rights to Max’s life to the powerful Scooter, who impatiently demands she come to him immediately.
The second Horngate Witches urban (and mountainous) fantasy (see Bitter Night) is an exciting thriller as Max remains raging with fury towards Giselle who betrayed her friendship years ago, but for the sake of Horngate and her family, knows she must set aside her acrimony. Danger seems everywhere as the Guardians release the forces of nature. With an incredible ending to an action-packed tale, readers will clamor for the third book in Diana Pharaoh Francis’ excellent epic saga. Harriet Klausner
Vanguard, Jan 4 2011, $19.95
Nicole Whitcomb came from the San Jose area to attend the wedding of her friend in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Since the meteorologists said the weather would remain fine, she decides to stay for an extra day of skiing. When she leaves for the Denver Airport, the weather remains okay, but soon snow begins to fall. The precipitation turns heavy and her rental fishtails out of control. She cuts her head and honks her horn hoping someone will rescue her.
Michael Tyler was cleaning off his driveway when he saw the idiot crash. He has never let anyone into his home so considers leaving the driver to die, but cannot. He reluctantly brings Nicole into his isolated house. They are attracted to each other from the first meeting. However, she senses something wrong about her host as she knows in her gut he thought he made the wrong choice bringing her into his home. Nicole also wonders why a hunk like Michael resides alone. Other signs seem to make no sense, but she ignores their warnings as Nicole quickly falls in love with a man who seems to know her better than she knows herself. He knows he cannot love anyone and never has; yet this is different as he falls hard for Nicole, a new undesirable feeling for him. However, he struggles to control the beast inside while also needing her to want him with all her soul.
This is an engaging star-crossed romance as the Rocky Mountains’ blizzard isolates the pair in his home. Nicole finds clues to as who her host is and why he chose to live as a hermit, but her logical mind rejects her conclusion until perhaps it is too late. Readers will relish this strong romantic suspense thriller wondering how this relationship will end. Harriet Klausner
PYR, Jan 1 2011, $16.00
In 1963 at Brookhaven National Lab, physicists open the first Turing Gate into an alternate time line. The CIA sends Cowboy Angels to spread the gospel of the “Real” American way, which included assassination, overthrow of governments, and dirty tricks to implement a cross time Pan America. President Carter shuts down the program over the howling of Manifest Destiny believers.
Former Cowboy Angel Tom Waverly has become a serial killer crossing several alternate time lines as he rejects Peaceniks like President Carter and his quitter former partner Tom Stone who have ended Operation Swift Sword. The Company directs Stone to learn why Waverly’s target in each history is mathematician Eileen Barrie if he wants his friend brought in from the cold alive.
Stone searches for his partner entering a variety of Turing Gates following clues. Assassins try to kill him when he enters some of the gates. Even more confusing to Stone is in some universes he is teamed with Waverly and in others he tries to capture his partner. Even more convoluted to Stone is his occasional partnering with Waverly’s daughter although he is unsure what side she is on; then he again he no longer knows what side he is on either.
With an obvious nod to Stargate, Cowboy Angels is a convoluted (as the flawed hero learns) science fiction story with a strong why-do-it mystery. Stone holds the complex faster than the speed of light tale focused even as he and the audience wonder what he will find next when he enters a Turing Gate; a sort of Alice falling through the hole. The wonder of this super story is that the Real characters remain consistent with how the history books portray them. This high octane action tale is hard to put down as Paul McAuley provides a terrific thriller. Harriet Klausner
F. J. Lennon
Atria, Jan 4 2011, $24.99
Reporter Eva Kellis thinks there is more to Kane than just being another twenty musical wannabe. She is right as musician Kane Pryce enjoys partying as a means of forgetting his day job. His late father found the soul trap, which enables Kane to rid facilities of ghosts, helping the spirits leave earth; though his efforts do not always end happily.
In a Lompoc, California church Kane captures six years old Ollie Lonzi, an impish ghost. However, Kane does not stop with the catch. He investigates what happened to Ollie. Fifty years ago, Ollie and his mother an actress died in a car crash. Kane realizes the child spirit is nice but lonely. He digs deeper into the death, which leads the investigator to Las Vegas. Feeling the child needs his mother Kane searches for the ghost of Ollie's mom. When he finds her, he falls in love. To keep Ollie safe she traded her soul to a demon who has marked Kane.
This Ghostbusters paranormal thriller stars an intriguing dispirited individual (he is the anti Dr. Venkman) who due to his profession distrusts people in general as knows from the testimony of spirits how evil even family can be, Music is his outlet, but at times the hip scene intrudes on the exciting saga of Ollie the imp. With an odd unexpected climatic spin, readers will enjoy Kane’s Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore’s version) efforts to help ghosts. Harriet Klausner