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)

Star Corpsman: Bloodstar, Ian Douglas, Harper Voyager, ISDBN 9780061894763, $7.99, Paperback, 355 pgs

star corpsmanElliot Carlyle is a Navy Corpsman which means he needs to not only be able to manage all of the weapons and armor associated with off planet marines but he needs to be able to patch them together, and, when needed, get enough of their dead or mangled bodies back from the battle so they can be fixed back on the shop. Elliot’s first trip out is to the planet Bloodworld, a high temperature planet colonized by a fanatic sect of salvationists who picked that world in particular so they would suffer. When the alien Qesh showed up with guns drawn Bravo Company’s Black Wizards of the interstellar Fleet Marine Force are called in for extraction. The enemies have superior fire power, the residents don’t really want to be saved, and the marines are very aware that if the computer records on the planet fall, then the aliens could get the location of Earth.

Star Corpsman follows that fine SF tradition of marines in space or military SF.  They’ve got the technology and the will power and are usually outgunned but, on the other hand, they are the Marines.  There’s plenty of action, shooting, blowing up of things, and tense situations that could go either way, even though as readers we know the crisis on page 50 is not going to be all that decisive with all those pages left in the book.  But, hey, we’re not reading this kind of stuff because we’re looking for philosophical discussions about the meaning of human life in the universe.  No, we’re looking to kick alien butt, and to do so frequently and with finality.

Ian Douglas is the author of the Star Carrier series as well as a number of other books and this is the kind of stuff he’s good at so one walks in with expectations and they are, pretty solidly met. I enjoyed the book, perhaps not as much as the Star Carrier series but then this is a new one and it’s always a bit of an adjustment.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone out there looking to get their Marines in space fix.

And, if you’d like to get a copy for your self, or a friend, or an alien species so they can prepare, all you have to do is click right here: Bloodstar: Star Corpsman: Book One

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

Pale Horses, Jassy Mackenzie, Soho Crime, ISBN 9781616952211, $25.95, 320 pgs

Private investigator Jade De Jong is approached by a young man who believes that his girlfriend’s death is of a suspicious nature.  she dies while base jumping from a sixty-five story skyscraper.  Jade is reluctant to get involved but begins a preliminary investigation just to see if she 51zuS5qOhnL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_can ease his mind.  As she begins to dig deeper however, Jade uncovers a number of disturbing clues having to do with a fatal but unknown disease, a cover up, a reporter who is connected to the woman who died and the story, and a charity that helps impoverished communities become self-supporting.  De Jong finds herself unable to give up the search for the end result and as she follows the clues she stumbles on a conspiracy of national significance.

This is an interesting story, as much for the South African setting as for the writing itself.  This book is, I believe, the third in the series and it’s always interesting to follow a female protagonist working in what is typically male line of work.  Of course no story or character is going to make a work worth reading unless it is well written and Jassy Mackenzie does a great job of keeping everything moving along while introducing the odd twist here and there.  The pacing fits the story, the characters are interesting, the setting is unique–at least for those of us in the US–and the entire thing comes together into an interesting read that’s definitely worth the time.

My main reading genres are science fiction and fantasy and while I do dip into the odd thriller here and there, reading mysteries is a fairly new thing for me so it’s always with a bit of trepidation that I pick one up.  Frankly, I expect to not like them very much but am often surprised by how quickly I get sucked into the story.  This was one of those times and I would recommend this book as well as Mackenzie’s other books without fear.

If you would like your very own copy all you have to do is click here Pale Horses (Jade De Jong)

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 Terminal Man, Michael Chrichton, Harper Collins, ISBN 978-0061782671, 331 pgs, $7.99

Harry Benson has a medical condition. He gets seizures, uncontrollable, violent ones. He is also under police guard for attacking two people. There does not appear to be a solution. At least not until Dr. Roger McPherson, head of the Neuropsychiatric Research Unit at University Hospital in Los Angeles comes up with a procedure called Stage 3.

The Terminal Man

The procedure involves sticking electrodes into Benson’s brain and then using a computer to send monitored, soothing pulses to the pleasure centers. This should, alleviate the seizures and the attacks. the only problem is that the pulses are, indeed pleasurable and Benson soon learns how to control them. Not only can he control them but he increases their frequency, and, essentially, can use them to his advantage. But, Benson is a homicidal maniac and what he considers to be his advantage is surely going to be a disadvantage to everyone else in the city. He can be stopped. At least they think he can.

For a book that came out ten years ago this is amazingly fresh. The research that Crichton uses is still cutting edge today and the effects he details could still happen. I don’t know if this speaks more to Crichton’s ability to see that far ahead, to the field’s slowness in getting there, or to some ethical consideration that may have stepped in a stopped things from getting this far along. Whatever the case the book is as relevant now as it was then.

Simply put,if you like Crichton then you’ll like this book. His ability to take a simple idea and then project it forward to dire consequences is showcased perfectly here. The tight plotting and driven characterization is also present leaving you with a book that is fascinating and hard to put down. A must read for all Crichton fans and not a bad book if you’ve not read any Crichton up to this point. Interesting, twisted, driven and more entertaining than you would imagine. Highly recommended.

To get your very own copy, click here:Terminal Man

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