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)

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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

Black Magic Sanction (Hollows Series), Kim Harrison, Eos, ISBN 9780061138041, $7.99

Cover of "Black Magic Sanction (Rachel Mo...

Cover via Amazon

This is the eighth book in Kim Harrison‘s Hollows series. This time witch Rachel Morgan has to deal with the coven, which has shunned her and wants her imprisoned or at least lobotomized so she’s no longer a black magic problem for them. Rachel also has to deal with Trent Kalamack, elf and tycoon industrialist who wants Rachel on a short leash or incapacitated as well. And then there’s the demon who has marked her and who is showing her black magic. Add in Pixie Jenks who has his own issues to manage, Ivy who is a vampire and similarly engaged, Pierce a dead witch in another person’s body who is a black magic user and apparently on his own side, and some men from Rachel’s past who are proving much more trouble than they are worth and there’s a lot going on that Rachel has to manage.

Rachel’s plans seem to continually come to bad endings and her power over her own destiny seems small. If she’s not able to pull together many of those who are working against her then there is no way she’ll be able to get the coven to change their mind. I’ve enjoyed this series up to now. This time though the book feels overly fat, overly fluffy, and in need of a good edit. It’s hard to tell whether this is the writer going on unchecked or a change of editors
or just market forces which say bigger is better, but as I read I could not help but keep saying to myself this should be shorter. There’s a lot going on but much of it is ancillary to the main plot which could have also been tightened and made sharper in focus. The one feeling I kept coming away with was that the author didn’t have a solid plot but did have three subplots and decided to weave them all together. This is pure speculation on my part of course but that’s certainly what if feels like.

I think that there is enough here for long time fans to still enjoy. The characters that they have come to know are all present, and if the overall situation for Rachel has not significantly changed it is at least a side note which they could enjoy.

If you are new to the series, I would not recommend this book as the jumping in point. Go back to the first book and start there. By the time you get here you will have decided for yourself. I have the next book in the series in my read pile and I do plan to read it so take that into consideration when you read this.

Buy Black Magic Sanction by clicking here

More by Kim Harrison
The Hollows:
* Dead Witch Walking
* Every Which Way But Dead
* The Good, the Bad, and the Undead
* A Fistful of Charms
* For a Few Demons More
* White Witch, Black Curse
* Black Magic Sanction
* Pale Demon
Graphic Novels:
Blood Work
Madison Avery:
* Once Dead, Twice Shy
* Early to Death, Early to Rise
The Anthologies:
* Dates From Hell (anthology with other authors)

Aloha From Hell, Richard Kadrey, Harper, ISBN 978-0-06-171432-0, 438 pgs., $23.99

Cover of "Sandman Slim: A Novel"

Cover of Sandman Slim: A Novel

This is the third Sandman Slim novel and it continues the story of James Stark, the human who was sent to hell, only to become the baddest, bad ass killer of demons in Pandemonium.  While you don’t need to have read the first two books, you should.  First because it helps to have all the story behind you and second because they are very good.  This time Stark needs to return to hell to find and kill Mason, the guy who sent him to hell in the first place.  Along the way Stark has a few adventures and needs to get a few things straight and manages to save a few people in the process as well, sort of a typical week for Stark in Los Angeles.

When Stark returns to hell, and getting there is quite the journey in and of itself, he has to find his former girlfriend Alice, who has been kid-napped from heaven, stir up a rebellion by releasing certain demon generals from Tartarus, then track down Mason.  And he has to do it without being recognized by the thousands of hellions who are on the look out for him.  Good think Stark has a few tricks up his sleeve and the help of a few wild cards of his own.

I really enjoyed this boo. It’s a rousing adventure with a protagonist who has a sick sense of humor and a twisted way of looking at the world.  Not that you would not expect this from someone who went to hell and spent a decade as the plaything of demons.  Kadrey has created a world full of magic and menace and tempers it all with dark comedy.  The writing is crisp, the pace at time frenetic, and the plotting is always interesting and deep.  The dialogue especially is fun to read.

There are few books out now that I immediately put to the top of my reading list.  Sandman Slim gets put there the minute it comes in the door.  Highly recommended.  Go out and get them all if you haven’t read this series yet.  And if you have been waiting for book three, it’s here so clear a few hours off your schedule and enjoy.

And, since you will want to get the book right this very instant, I have included the following link:

Aloha from Hell: A Sandman Slim Novel

The Hollows Insider, Kim Harrison, Harper, ISBN 978-0-06-197433-5, 301 pgs, $25.99

This Witch For Hire

Image by programwitch via Flickr

Kim Harrison is nine books in on her Hollows series. The books twist on Clint Eastwood movie titles and are best classified as urban supernatural fantasy since they involve witches, werewolves, vampires, pixies, elves, and other fantastical creatures living in an alternate version of Cincinnati. The series has generated a loyal following and, I have to admit, I have enjoyed the books myself, at least up to the one before the most recent (which I have not read yet). The writing is done skillfully, the characters are well developed and interesting, and the setting is uniquely enjoyable.

Now we have this book which contains new fiction, facts, maps and a plethora of tidbits large and small about the Hollows universe. You’ll find memos from the characters to each other, newspaper articles, spell recipes, cookie recipes, case files, inside dossiers, and much, much more. For those of you who just can’t get enough then this is the book for you. And there is plenty of book to be had here. It’s hefty, illustrated and chock full of stuff.

I’m always of two minds when it comes to books like these. On the one hand it’s an artifact of overindulgence. Do you really need to see memos from one character to another or fictional security reports? It’s a bit of unhealthy obsession. On the other hand it is interesting to see just how deeply authors develop their worlds and just how much material is created to put together a work of fiction.

In the end I find these more interesting than not. I don’t think I have ever read one from cover to cover but they are fine coffee table books and interesting to skim through, stopping here and there to absorb the brief tidbit of fictional fact. In the long run I find that I would rather be reading the next novel in the series though.

Definitely recommended. If you are a fan you positively, absolutely will not be able to do without this. If you are not yet a fan you might be more interested in picking up the first novel in the series. If you’d like to buy the book just click the link below.

The Hollows Insider: New fiction, facts, maps, murders, and more in the world of Rachel Morgan

Sacrifice, Dakota Banks, EOS, ISBN 978-0-06-168732-7, $7.99, 285 pgs.,

List of Lambda Literary Awards winners and nom...

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Maliha, also known as Marsha and the Black Ghost, is a former immortal assassin who is looking for redemption. She made a deal with a demon and now wants out. But it’s not that simple to quit working for a demon and Maliha must find a way to change the balance if she is to win her release from eternal damnation. To get all the way out, she has to save more people than she killed. Doing so will probably kill her for each life she saves costs her time–she ages, at a rate determined by a Summarian God.

Lucky for her she has the chance to save thousands if not tens of thousands when she stumbles onto the plot of a madman to release nanites into the water supply. The nanites turn any living thing that drinks the water into grey goo. To complicate matters other demon linked assassins seem to be dropping out of the sky and into her life. There’s the DEA guy who’s also a lover, the roman centurion who may also be a lover, and the crazy madman with the nanites as well (probably not going to be a lover).  This is a tough spot to be in and it may very well be curtains for Maliha and the friends who help her.

Okay, so you can probably tell from the above that this is a complicated plot. Perhaps too complicated as the action seems to push out character development. And there are quite a few characters in this book. Overall the book is kind of flat and this is due to a number of different issues. The first is the protagonist herself. She’s still got powers but not all of them. She’s also a millionaire who gives orders many times rather than does things. She drives really expensive cars, has a large staff, has access to pretty much anything she wants, and has been around for a few hundred years. In other words she is a very powerful woman with a lot of resources. The problem, then, is why does she not use her resources better? She’s also got this group of friends, or maybe groupies is a better word, who seem to serve no purpose than to occasionally get into danger and get offed. They are not all that interesting a bunch even though each has a personal history and they don’t really do much in the book except eat birthday cake and hang around. The third problem is the other immortals who suddenly just kind of appear. First of all, if there are that many of these beings floating around killing people then we’re up to our behinds in corpses. Second, some want her dead and still have their powers so why they don’t accomplish this early on is a real mystery. I don’t know, maybe you have to be really stupid to be a demon’s assassin.

The book also had a choppy flow to it. The pacing is off. The major events are somewhat flat and lacking in emotion. I just never really came to care about anything that was going on.

I think that if you are looking for an urban fantasy supernatural thriller that you can find much better. If you are a huge fan of the first book (this is the second book in the series) then there is probably enough here to keep you going. If you want to find out for yourself feel free to click here and get your own copy. Sacrifice (Mortal Path, Book 2)

Monster Hunter Vendetta, Larry Correia, Baen, ISBN 978-1-4391-3991-0, $7.99, 612 pgs.

Monster Hunter Shop

Image by jpellgen via Flickr

This is the second book in Correia’s Monster Hunters International series. It picks up where the first book left off with Owen Zastava Pitt settling in to his new role as a squad leader in the monster hunting organization and as husband to Julie, daughter to the werewolf leader of MHI and granddaughter to the founder of the organization. MHI hunts supernatural threats, collecting the bounties that have been placed on them and generally keeping the planet safe from things that go bump in the night. They compete with the governmental Monster Control Bureau who is also tasked with getting rid of monsters as well as keeping the general populace ignorant that monsters even exist in the first place. This sets up a highly competitive environment between the two organizations with no love lost between the two and friction aplenty. This time a former member of MHI has begun the process of world destruction by invoking the awakening of an otherworldly presence who will enter our world by destroying it. Needless to say the folks at MHI are eager to put a stop to this, especially since it’s the work of a former member. Owen and his crew get the front row seats and all of the characters from the first book return as well as one or two new ones. There are a few twists and turns but the story is a pretty straightforward one of killing beasties with large weapons, explosives, and bravado.

Correia writes in a very straightforward manner, telling the story without much obfuscation or misdirection. This is basically a what you see is what you get kind of tale. While there are some plot twists they are more of the anticipated variety than the kind that take you fully by surprise. For example, there is a spy in the organization that we know about from early on and the only surprise comes when we learn who it is.

This book is perfect for the reader that likes a story full of tough characters with big weapons taking on nasty beasts with just a touch of humor thrown in the soften the blood and gore. There is not a lot of internal dilemma or character development, more a sense of prophecy fulfillment or action taking on the role of fate.

This is not to say that the book is not an entertaining book to read. It is. Very. Just that you should be expecting a shot gun blast rather than the subtle stroke of a hidden stiletto. Definitely recommended if you like your action fast paced and direct.

To get the book go here:

Monster Hunter Vendetta