Saturday, June 29, 2013

Reviews from Harriet

The Elementals
Francesca Lia Block
St. Martin's, $24.99
ISBN: 9781250005496

Her parents inform Ariel that her BFF Jeni never returned from a visit to University of California at Berkeley. Ariel decides to attend Berkeley in order to learn what happened to Jeni. Before leaving for the Bay area school, her parents tell Ariel that her mom has a tumor, but insist she is okay so they want their daughter to attend Berkeley.

One year ago Jeni vanished as Ariel searches for her. At a Halloween bash at the House of Eidolon, the lonely freshman meets three bewitching grad students (Perry, John and Tania). They name her Sylph and soon have her joining their circle of sex, drugs, and talks of magic. Ariel falls in love with John and forgets about her quest to learn what happened to Jeni until she realizes her three new friends seem to know what befell her BFF.

This fast-paced thriller turns college stereotypes into extremely dark versions. Hooked just like Ariel is, readers will wonder what next will happen to the heroine and who are her three new buddies and several other enigmatic individuals while also wondering if Ariel follows a path previously paved by Jeni. Harriet Klausner

P.C. Cast, Kristin Cast
St. Martin’s Griffin, $18.99
ISBN: 9780312594428

After the major disappointment that the Vampyre High Council failed her and her friends when they allowed Neferet to return as the High Priestess at Tulsa's House of Night, teenager Zoey Redbird felt alone. However she now has mixed feelings as she feels great that her evil enemy has been exposed, but deeply mourns the loss of her mother to the Darkness, and the death of Dragon killed by the Aurox (see Destined). Thanatos is currently High Priestess at Tulsa's House of Night. Zoey feels she will finally have time to grieve.

Raging Neferet refuses to vanish into the darkness. She deploys a brilliant stratagem to turn the human populace of Tulsa and the House of Night School residents into enemies. Realizing what the evil one has wrought, Zoey delays her mourning to battle her insidious adversary and to calm the frightened humans before a deadly incident becomes the point of no return.

Hidden begins a different relational dynamic in the exhilarating House of Night urban fantasy as Neferet has lost power and Zoey has gained some with the exposure. Rotating viewpoints, this strong pivotal entry enables readers to understand better what makes key cast members tick in a free will cosmos. Cast to the second power provides a terrific taut thriller as major chaotic change has come to Tulsa. Harriet Klausner

The Stockholm Octavo
Karen Engelmann
Ecco, $26.99
ISBN: 9780061995347

In 1791, Offices of Customs and Excise Sekretaire Emil Larsson loves the life of a swinging single in enlightened Stockholm. He enjoys drinking, playing cards and is contented as a bachelor though his employment is in jeopardy if he fails to marry soon.

Everything changes for Emil when he meets gambling club owner Sofia Sparrow. A fortune teller whose clientele include King Gustav III, Mrs. Sparrow lays out the bureaucrat’s personal Octavo of eight people who will assist him in finding his fiancĂ©e and a promotion. What she fails to tell him is that his Octavo overlaps with hers in a Divine Geometrical connection and that his octet is divided on both sides of a scheme involving the monarch.

This is a fresh thrilling Swedish historical fantasy that ties what is happening in France to what occurs in Sweden. The opening act is incredible as readers learn of aristocratic intrigue and the applications of the pseudo sciences (Divine geometry, numerology, hand fan magic and cartomancy). Soon Emil’s search by the numbers for a wife via the Octavo contacts lead to the demands of opposing female conspirators (Mrs. Sparrow and Baroness Kristina Uzanne). Complex due to changing roles and relationships (thankfully a cast listing included as there are fourteen key players and the city), readers will appreciate this strong though at times convoluted late eighteenth century tale as the audience and the protagonist learn it is in the cards. Harriet Klausner

Phoebe & the Ghost of Chagall
Jill Koenigsdorf
MacAdam/Cage, $24.00
ISBN: 9781596923836

In Sonoma, California single mom Phoebe is a failed artist who keeps herself and her daughter Audrey from starving by designing wine labels though her creditors are demanding remittance or else. Twenty-five years after he died, the ghost of Marc Chagall arrives in her kitchen. He is thankful that Audrey cannot see him while he ponders why a painting he drew that her father found during the 1944 liberation of France never came to Phoebe or her mother. Marc is pleased to see his host has reproductions of his work on her walls. Vowing to help her find what is due her while also resolving the one thing that disturbed him when he was alive: his hundred or so paintings that vanished during WWI.

After a spirited introduction, the wannabe artist and the dead artist begin their trek to find La Contorsioniste. They soon run into an assorted motley crew wanting to ether help them or help themselves as witches, black market traffickers, sinister collectors, an inn keeper and much more join the search.

This fabulous paranormal amateur sleuth works brilliantly on two levels. First the historical provides the audience with strong insight into Chagall and his work, as well as the Nazi art theft with each intricately interwoven into the engaging storyline. Second is the exciting amateur sleuth search for the missing masterpiece and other works by the renowned artist. Fans will enjoy this good (art lovers) and evil (art profiteers) thriller as Phoebe & the Ghost of Chagall investigate. Harriet Klausner

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