Dreams and Shadows, C. Robert Cargill, Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780062190420, $24.99, 433 pgs

It’s human nature to compare. In Hollywood the first thing a producer wants to know about a script is what is it like, thus the once sentence smush–it’s like Diehard but with elves, or, It’s like Titanic but with meteors. So, it is inevitable that novels are compared to other novels and writers to writers. Cargill is compared to Gaiman and to others. I suppose this isdreams and shadows meant to help the reader who is wandering the forest wondering which next book to pluck from the shelves, metaphorically speaking since shelves are going away and the plucking involves atoms and electronics more than anything else.

What’s the book about?  In a nutshell, it is about two boys who are switched at birth, one taken to the land of fey and the other left in his place.  Obviously this irreversibly alters the lives of both and also binds them by this event.  Ewan and Colby are about to share adventures, and what adventures they will be for there is a better than even chance that one or both won’t survive.  With the help of a genie, some rogue elves, and more than one supernatural turn of events, the two try to reconcile their past with their present.

To his credit, and this may be where the comparison with Gaiman comes is, Cargill takes his time developing the book, and building the lives of the two protagonists.  Nothing happens fast or without purpose and there are consequences built on consequences build on treachery, built on lies and distrust enough for any one world never mind two.  But even with the time Cargill takes the book is a fairly fast read and interesting as all hell and get out.  It’s unusual and interesting and worth wading into.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes, well, Gaiman, but also to anyone who likes a well crafted story with history and strange characters all moving on their own paths which intersect each other in odd and meaningful ways.  If you’d like to go out and get your own copy all you have to do is click right here: Dreams and Shadows: A Novel

Jocelynn Drake, Dead Man’s Deal, Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780062117885, 371 pgs., $14.99

This is the second book in Drake’s Asylum Tales universe. In this one, tattoo artist Gage, who has managed to escape the ivory towers to become a wizard in exile, now finds himself in debt to a local criminal who has control over Gage’s brother as well as information on Gage.  Gage finds himself forced to do what the crime boss wants or his friends will bear the dead manconsequences.  While this is going on, Gage is trying to stay alive while being hounded by some wizards with grudges, he’s trying to help the elves figure out why they have gone barren, and he’s managed to get himself in the middle of a rebellion against the ivory towers.

This is a lot for one guy, and it’s a guy who’s self esteem and sense of self worth is not all that high to begin with.  I did comment in the review of the first book that the protagonist read like a woman even though the character was male.  That has been fixed in this book.  But there are still some issues here.  first of all there’s just too much being thrown at this character.  No one, I don’t care who they are, becomes the pivot point for four or five major problems all at the same time.  And the guy is not superman so while I can buy his figuring out one I can’t quite grasp his figuring out them all.

The book essentially moves from one crisis to the next to the next and they are all life threatening.  And, to add to the indignity, none of them involve tattoos, which is kind of this guys specialty.

I don’t know. I liked the book enough to read it all the way through to the end but found myself getting poked in the eye each time I was asked to suspend disbelief one more time.  I can do it once, maybe twice but the third time is a bit jarring.

I’m going to recommend it because I think the series has potential if Drake can just ratchet it back a bit.

And, if you’d like to get your very own copy to see what I am talking about all you have to do is click right here: Dead Man’s Deal: The Asylum Tales

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)

City of Ghosts, Stacia Kane, Del Rey, ISBN 978-0345515599, 416 pgs, $7.99

Ches Putnam has a problem–a number of problems actually. The guy she likes won’t talk to her after he finds her with another man, she’s been put under a binding spell which won’t let her talk about her latest assignment, she’s being required to tell everything to the guy who runs theCity of Ghosts downside neighborhood where she lives, and she’s being forced to work with a woman who’s her antithesis. Oh yeah, and the case she has could possibly undermine the church which is the only thing controlling the supernatural chaos that surrounds everyone. As she begins to investigate just what is going on she’ll come face to face with nasty after nasty all while trying to put her own life in order. Assuming she survives, she’ll still have to deal with the chaos of her own, drug hazed life.

This is the third book in the series and it continues to follow protagonist Ches Putnam as she does her work for the Church of Real Truth and struggles to keep her life in some semblance of order. This is not an easy task since Putnam is a major drug addict. And this is, perhaps, one of the things which kept me from fully enjoying the book. First, I don’t have too many issues with picking a drug addict as a protagonist but there are certainly identification issues involved here. While most of us readers do want to identify with the protagonist I can’t imagine too many who would really want to be an addict who can’t seem to get through any five minute period without her next fix. I think this also works against the competence of the protagonist as I am not sure you can be that high, for that period of time and yet function as well as she does.

The universe that Stacia Kane has built is definitely an interesting one; full of supernatural beings with deadly intent controlled only by the Church which, itself, is controlling society. Kane moves her protagonist through this world, and through the downtown world which parallels it, with equal aplomb. It’s a unique setting that feeds the action in a natural way and keeps pushing the action forward.

I enjoyed this book just like I enjoyed the first two in the series although, as noted above, I struggled a bit with protagonist credibility. That aside there’s plenty of action and a world that’s interesting to be in which makes the whole package very entertaining. Recommended if you are looking for a new, and different, urban supernatural fantasy fix.

If you’d like to get your very own copy of this book all you have to do is click right here: City of Ghosts (Downside Ghosts, Book 3)

Krampus, the Yule Lord, Brom, Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780062095657, $27.99, 357 pgs.

Okay, so this is a holiday book, sort of. Krampus of the title is an old yule spirit who’s a bit pissed off because Santa Claus has managed to dump him into a cave for a few thousand years. but Krampus manages to get out and is looking for revenge. Santa ends up getting a bit beat up by Krampus and his pals and a few mortals end up in the mix as well.Krampus

This is not your average holiday tale, as you already have figured out.  Santa is not quite the jolly nice guy, although anyone with a naughty list probably has at least a grey side if not a dark side.  Krampus is not quite the abused old spirit either as he’d just as soon use you up than hand you a treat.  Most of the book takes place in West Virginia which is not a bad setting for old world vs new world ideologies.

I have to admit that I let this book sit around for a bit because I am not big on artists who decide they can be authors.  And there is a bit of the naive presentation to this story that surely comes from that.  But, on the other hand, it’s an interesting read full of characters who are not quite what they seem to be and who act occasionally in ways that seem out of character until you think about it.

Should you wait until next Christmas to read this book?  Depends on your own sensibilities.  Certainly there is nothing wrong with reading a holiday story outside of that holiday’s season.  And since Krampus is involved your window is a bit wider than if it were just Santa. I’d say go ahead and throw caution to the wind.  Besides, the best time to read horror stories is in the light of day so maybe the best time to read holiday stories is after the holiday is past and done.

Recommended and if you want to pick up a copy for your very own all you have to do is click right here: Krampus: The Yule Lord

Kill City Blues, Richard Kadrey, Harper Voyager,. ISBN 9780062094599, $24.99, 383 pgs.

James Stark, better known as Sandman Slim, is no longer Satan and ruling hell. He’s given up the title and retired to LA. But, in the process he’s Kill City Blueslost a very powerful weapon. The Qomrama Om Ya belongs to the banished older gods, you know, the ones that God, in his singular form, stole the universe from. They want the weapon, and the universe, back. Stark needs to find it before them. And if you think God might help him think again. The old dude’s had a bit of a breakdown, fracturing into multiple copies each a bit more batty than the last.. All Stark has to do is visit the old burned out mall in Santa Monica, fight his way in, talk to a really old dead guy and then fight his way out. All in a day’s work for Stark and those who hang around him.

This is the fifth book in this series; the Sandman Slim series, and it’s as good as the previous ones which is to say it’s great.  Sandman Slim is an irreverent son of a bitch with plenty of attitude and the know how to back it up.  He’s got a conscience and plenty of interesting friends.  He’s almost always working his way out of trouble, sometimes because of his own actions, and he goes through more clothes than you would ever imagine.

This is one of those series where, when a new book arrives, I put aside whatever I am reading at the moment to dive in.  Kadrey writes this stuff well.  And, unlike a lot of other series, the supporting characters give as good as they get.  This is fun stuff.  This is read from first page to last page in one sitting.  This is must have kind of material.  I can not recommend it highly enough.  It’s fun, it’s quirky, and it’s philosophical (in an off hand kind of way).  If I have one complaint it’s that the time between books is too long.

To get a copy of your very own, click here:Kill City Blues

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)