Into The Woods, Kim Harrison, Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780061974328, 513 pgs., $24.99

Kim Harrison is the creator of the Hollows series, a universe where magic and reality intersect just outside of Cincinnati. The Hollows, a place where elves and humans and warlocks and grandmothers and vampires and businessmen and werewolves and pixies all co-exist. Sort of. 10 novels make up the serieinto the woodss so far, each centering on Rachel, a witch in trouble and her vampire room mate. As the series has progressed characters have been added and grown and progressed as well.  A while ago a non-fiction book about the Hollows came out.  Now there is this anthology.

Eleven stories make up this book.  Seven involve the Hollows and the other four are supernatural additions.  The seven which involve the Hollows include a new novella and two new short stories.  The other four short stories have been published elsewhere but are collected here for the first time.

Needless to say, if you are a fan of the series this is a must read.  I would add that even if you have not read the series this anthology works as a stand alone since short fiction usually does not require a lot of background to work in the first place.  So, if you just like supernatural fiction there is actually no better place to go than here.

Harrison is a gifted writer with a very smooth writing style.  Her ability to create characters that you relate to is a genuine gift.  I do have to admit that I think she is in best form in her longer works but there is still plenty of enjoyment to be had here.

Definitely recommended for those who want to know more on the background of many of the characters and who want to fill in a few holes that were left in the novels.  It’s all here for the taking so go ahead and enjoy.

And if you want your very own copy all you have to do is click here: Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows and Beyond (Hollows Story Collection)

Resurrection Code (Angelink Universe) by Lyda Morehouse, Mad Norwegian Press Paperback, ISBN 9781935234098, $14.95

Mouse, once known as Christian El-Aref returns to North Africa after building an empire based on free access to an underground internet called Mouse-Net. He returns to right an old wrong and to track down a friend he’d abandoned long ago. As he returns he must deal with old memories, old enemies, and old situations made new. That the angel Lucifer lives in the area along with street rats, zombies and the remains of a flooded Cairo are all complications to the task at hand.resurrection code

This is a story set in Morehouse’s AngeLINK universe. It is an origin story, a tale of the man who became a mouse and created hope in a future so dystopian that even god seems to have turned away. I had not read any of the related works and still managed to find the piece enjoyable and understandable. Maybe there were subtexts that I simply didn’t get but in terms of getting from the beginning to the end, everything I needed was there. And that path was also an enjoyable one.

Morehouse’s skill as a writer is evident in her ability to create setting and develop character. The story is straightforward but Morehouse uses flashbacks which complicate what is otherwise a pretty simple tale. It does take a bit of doing to remember the past as you are learning it while reading about the present. Personally, I prefer linear story telling. But this was fine. I thoroughly enjoyed Lucifer and the other Angels. I think Morehouse adds a twist to them that both makes sense and creates dynamic tension.
I enjoyed the book/novella. It moved right along and contained a very interesting story. As noted above, I struggled a bit with the flashbacks as I thought they interrupted flow a bit too much. I can also see why she chose that way to do it as well. It does work. I think Morehouse does a great job of balancing character and story to make the whole thing very entertaining and enjoyable. Her subject matter is fairly complex and she manages that in a very skillful way. Highly recommended and now I’m going to need to track down a publisher and have them send me the rest of the series.

To get your very own copy of the book all you have to is click here: Resurrection Code (Angelink Universe)

The Dead Run, Adam Mansbach, Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780062199652, 297 pgs., $25.99

Jess Galvin finds himself on the wrong end of a fight in Mexico and ends up in prison. And it’s not the nice kind of prison. But he’s in luck, sort dead runof. He’ll get released and be free if he only delivers a package across the border. The catch? He has to do it in 24 hours or less, the trail is pure southwestern desert, and he’s pretty sure the iron box he’ll be carrying is nothing less than a package from the devil.  Galvin accepts the bargain as it is the only way he is ever going to get out of the prison and get back to his daughter who is living with his unbalanced, ex-wife.  Galvin is to cross the desert and give the box to Aaron Seth.  Simple.  What Galvin does not know is that Seth is the son of the demon who gave him the box in the first place and this is to be the final step in transferring power from father to son.

As Galvin navigates the desert he is beset by girls who claw their way out of the sand to attack him.  Former victims of the demon who are rising to bring an end to this evil for once and forever.  At the same time, local law man Bob Nichols finds his small town beset by crime and, oddly enough, cult leader Aaron Seth seems to be involved.  the disappearance of a sixteen year old girl, who is linked to Seth, sets Nichols investigating deeper than he normally would.

As the box gets closer and closer an ancient evil begins to stir, drawing all of the pieces together for one final cataclysm.  Is it the end of the world or just that part of Texas. For those involved it hardly matters.

Okay, this was a fun book, if a book about evil and the end of the world built on the backs of young, sacrificed girls can be considered fun.  Still, it is full of possibilities of redemption and that’s what most of us want in a horror novel.  Plenty of gruesome gore and ultimate redemption for the ones who make the ultimate choices.

Mansbach puts together a pretty tight and fun novel, with plenty of chills and shivers and a story that’s got more than a few twists to it.  The characters are also a diverse and fun group, or I should maybe say interesting group.  I really enjoyed the book, didn’t see a lot of the twists coming, could not guess the end except for a very broad way, and found myself thoroughly entertained.

Recommended if you like horror, suspense and macabre humor.

to get your very own copy, click here: The Dead Run: A Novel

Ever After, Kim Harrison, Harper Voyager Books, ISBN 9780061957918, $27.99, 435 pgs

ever afterEverything’s going to hell. Quite literally. Or maybe it’s just that hell is being destroyed and letting everything loose. Well, not hell literally but the Ever After, the place where demons live. Whatever the case, Rachel Morgan is the one responsible for it all. Sort of. At least she’s being held responsible for it by the demons who are not looking forward to being destroyed in the process. She holds herself responsible as well and is working hard trying to find solutions. The problem is that the whole thing is being manipulated by Ku’Sox Sha-Ku’ru, the soul eater, who has vowed to destroy her, or have her destroyed, whichever comes first.  Rachel finds herself in an unusual position, having to team up with Elf Trent Kalamack, which brings its own dangers.  Trent is just as likely to get her destroyed as the demons.  The whole thing is a mess and full of complications, which is usually the case when Rachel Morgan gets involved.

This is the eleventh book in the hollows series, assuming you don’t count the non-fiction book or the collection of shorter tales.  And it’s one of the final books in the series as well.  Harrision has done her usual expert job of crafting a story that twists and turns at a fairly frantic pace pulling in all the characters and placing them all at perilous risk.  It’s tightly plotted and wonderfully written.  There’s not a mis-step in the whole thing and it’s pure enjoyment from beginning to end.  Of course this assumes that you’ve been keeping up.

I’ve enjoyed this series, which I consider one of the best of the supernatural romance genre although it’s more heavily weighted on the supernatural side.  I think Harrison does a great job with balancing her characters.  It’s tough to write strong women in a field dominated by men and Harrison does this very well.  I’m going to miss the series when it concludes.  This is one of the few series where, when a new book comes out, I have no fear of adding it to my reading pile because I know it’s going to be enjoyable.  Definitely recommended and if you have not yet had the chance to get into this series there is no time like the present.

To get your very own copy you can go here:Ever After (Hollows)

Deep Space: Star Carrier, Ian Douglas, Harper Voyager, ISBN 978-0-06-218380-4, 355 pgs., $7.99

Twenty years have passed since Admiral Alexander Koenig’s daring assault on the Sh’daar created a halt in the interstellar war being waged. The star carrierSh’daar,Image a collective race left behind when most of their species shifted to apparent godhood, have religiously stamped out any advance in technology beyond a certain point. Koenig’s discovery of their secrets, coupled with a daring raid almost to their homeworld, created the peace that has been eyed suspiciously since. Koenig is now president and John Gray, the fighter pilot who helped secure that victory is now commander of the America battle group. But the peace is not just uneasy among the stars. On earth the confederation is about to go to war with the North American alliance over control of resources. As a new menace enters the picture and the Sh’daar prepare to launch a new attack, civil war breaks out in the solar system. Fighting breaks out everywhere with little planning and little thought to what the future might be holding in store.

This if the fourth book in the Star Carrier series and Douglas has lost none of his stride. Sure some of the battle sequences are a bit redundant at this point but how many different ways can you describe fighter combat? This is space war and Douglas does an excellent job of detailing some of the strategic and tactical issues as well as the communication problems that arise when trying to fight in vacuum. Physics, in many ways, is not your friend in space. That’s not saying you can’t use it to your advantage.

The only issue I really had was I am not sure, given the technology that is proposed, that humans are still needed to pilot fighters. Seems to me that with all the AIs and the computers and composite materials, the human factor is the weak point. Douglas does address this early on in the book but it’s still a weak link.

I enjoyed the book as much as I have enjoyed the series and I look forward to seeing more from Douglas. Definitely recommended and if you’d like to get your own copy you can find it here:Deep Space: Star Carrier: Book Four

A Conspiracy of Alchemists, Liesel Schwarz, Del Rey, ISBN 978-0-345-545077, 340 pgs., $25.00

Steam Punk gun

Steam Punk gun (Photo credit: San Diego Shooter)

Airship pilot, Elle Chance finds herself involved in the mysterious dealings of Mr. Marsh, a handsome, but recalcitrant individual who requires that she fly him and an un-named cargo from Paris to England. If not for the vouching of her friend, Patrice, Elle would have walked away without a second thought. Still, the amount being paid to transport is substantial and she could use the money to keep her airship flying. Almost before it begins, Elle has been attacked and the package stolen.  She returns to England only to find her father kidnapped and before she knows it she’s involved with alchemists, secret organizations, night walkers, aeons old disagreements, and a prophecy that she, evidently, plays a key role in.  Before she knows it she’s flying off across Europe on a road trip to some of its most beautiful cities.

This is best considered supernatural steam punk.  It’s Victorian in sensibility and mechanically to the left of Tesla.  The book is an interesting read on two levels.  Certainly, as with any novel, the characters have to be interesting and challenged by their environment.  That’s certainly the case here.  And secondly, the universe that these characters has to be interesting as well.  In this case the universe is a unique blend of culture, magic, and twisted technology.  It’s a fun place to read about and imagine.

I did find myself a bit at odds with the protagonist–a strong female who swoons too much when confronted by the male physique.  But, I suppose, that is in keeping with the time period, albeit the time period is a made up one.  Still, the characters are steady in their behavior so it’s not a fault, just a preference on my part.

Liesel Schwarz does a good job in keeping the book moving, in keeping the characters focused and in presenting her world in an interesting light.  There are also a couple of interesting twists as well.  These turns of events definitely keep things interesting.  This is a debut novel so it’s all the more impressive for that.  There’s also mention, in the pr material that this is a series.  So, we’ll see.  the first book does end on a rather final note but any decent writer can find ways to get things going again.

Definitely recommended if you’re looking for a good steam punk fill.

To get your own copy all you have to do is click here: A Conspiracy of Alchemists: Book One in The Chronicles of Light and Shadow

By the Blood of Heroes: The Great Undead War: Book I, Joseph Nassise, Harpoer, ISBN 0-06-204875-2, 345 pgs., $14.99

The Red Baron

The Red Baron (Photo credit: jarrodvk)

It’s 1917 and the Kaiser‘s scientist’s have stumbled on a new type of gas to be used in the trenches–one that turns the dead into zombies. They’ve also discovered that if they use it on a battlefield devoid of their own living then all of the reborn dead attack those who are living, primarily the enemy soldiers. But there’s an oddity as well, and that is that occasionally, one of the new-born dead remains conscious of thought. One of these is the Red Barron, who continues to fly and shoot down British planes even though he died in a crash. When veteran American Ace, Major Jack Freeman is downed behind enemy lines and taken captive, Captain Michael, Madman Burke is recruited to go in and get him back.  Burke, and his merry band of oddball madmen, have to work their way behind enemy lines, break into a prison camp, and then return with Freeman to the allied front.

Okay, so Zombies in World War One may be stretching the whole zombie experience a bit too far, but, hey, if it’s fun then it’s worth it.  Nassise does a credible job with taking what could be just a really silly premise and keeping it pretty straightforward.  A couple of the characters are pretty stereotypical but no more so than you would find in any war movie of the period.  Making the Red Barron one of the aware zombies is a bit of a stroke of positive intelligence as you get not only a known name villain but a pivot point for some of the action.

It’s an interesting book, entertaining, fairly tight in it’s plotting with decent characters.  There is one major error in the book however. At one point the allies have one of the bad guys tied to a chair in the prisoner of war camp and they are working him over for information.  One of the Americans says, “let’s shoot him.”  And then there’s a noise outside, they leave the room.  Never to return.  I assume the guy is still sitting there, tied to that chair.  Kind of a bone head error.  I assume the book was read at least 3 times for errors so it got through each time. I read that passage 5 times just because I was sure I was missing something, some word, some thought, that would make this behavior okay.  Nope, not in there.  Ah, well, I suppose when zombies are involved you have to expect the occasional brain error.

I’d recommend it but only conditionally. If you’re not a zombie fan then there’s not going to be much here for you.  Otherwise, it’s worth picking up.

And, to get your own copy, just click here: By the Blood of Heroes: The Great Undead War: Book I