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

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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)

Hellbent, Cherie Priest, Ballantine Books, ISBN 978-0-345-52062-3, 338 pgs., $15.00, mass market paperback

The Vampire Deutsch: Der Vampir

The Vampire Deutsch: Der Vampir (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Raylene Pendle is a thief.  She’s also a vampire.  She’s also the keeper of a band of misfits who probably would not survive without her help.  One of the misfits is Adrian deJesus, an ex Navy SEAL/drag queen who assists Raylene on jobs totally for the purpose of getting her to help him find his sister who was part of a secret government experimental program trying to figure out how to gain the benefits from vampires without actually having to turn people into vampires. While Raylene is a thief she’s no ordinary thief, only pulling jobs that net a huge return in cash.  This time she’s on the hunt for a handful of dried werewolf penis’ that are currently in the hands of a schizophrenic sorceress  out for revenge.  As you can see, Raylene does not do ordinary snatch and grab.  While she’s on the hunt for the artifacts, she’s also trying to resolve some internal vampire politics involving one of the other members of her little band of misfits, a blind, older vampire, who is next in line to be the head of the San Francisco house but is blind and would not survive the inevitable fight for power.  Besides, his brother is currently running the house  and that just makes it all even more complicated.

As you can see, Priest weaves a fairly complicated plot, driving three or four different story lines at the same time.  She is adept at this, but then, again, she is no beginning author.  the story moves, partially due to the multiple plot lines, at a fairly fast past.  Priest writes with some humor as well, never leaving an inside joke alone.  In the end it all works.

You do have to suspend your initial belief that a vampire would ever need to be a thief or that a vampire who so insistently states that she works alone ends up with a houseful of broken beings needing her care.  So, either she’s not a reliable narrator–if you can’t believe her in this realm why should you in others–or there’s something else going on that is not evident yet.  But this is a niggling kind of thing that is just as easily ignored.

In the final analysis, which is really what drives one to either enjoy a book or toss it across the room, it all works out to a fun and fairly quick read.  Definitely recommended.  One of the better books out there in the supernatural/vampire/noir vein.  Heh, I made a funny.

To order your own copy, go here–Hellbent

Divine Misdemeanors: A Novel, Laurell K. Hamilton, Ballantine Books, ISBN 9780345495976, $7.99, 384 pgs

Français : L'auteur Laurell K. Hamilton lors d...

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Merry Gentry is a princess of faerie. She could have been queen but decided not to take the position. She’s also a private eye in Los Angeles where she serves as the liaison between the human world and the world of fey. She’s also pregnant and, therefore, highly protected by her two bodyguards, Frost and Darkness. She’s also fairly horny most of the time, which would explain the pregnancy as well as a number of other things in the book. Needless to say if you don’t like your urban fantasy mysteries interspersed with sex you should probably avoid this book. Of course you would not be picking up Laurel K. Hamilton if you were not looking for that as well as an interesting story.

This is the eighth book in the Merry Gentry series and it continues the story of Merry, princess of faerie, as she tries to turn her self-imposed exile into a positive situation by creating a new order outside the world of faerie. She has a lot of support since the faerie court is quite cruel and often deadly. What she does not have is a really good handle on all of the other fey who are running loose in the area. Some of them are up to no good and this creates problems not only for Merry but for the humans who are just trying to go about their business.

This is an interesting book. It’s not a new concept; there are any number of writers doing this setting and situation, but few add as much spice to mix as Hamilton does. Like many of her other books, Hamilton does not fool around with plot and quickly gets things moving in interesting ways. Often she is ahead of the reader which creates an interesting process of trying to follow as she maintains a plot pace just before you. The characters are interesting, the story is interesting and there are no few twists involved before you get to the end. And there is an end which is a great thing. Sure there are loose ends as well which will lead to the next book in the series but the main problem is resolved in a satisfactory way. Fans of Hamilton have already read this book and enjoyed it. Others should feel safe to pick it up if they are looking for a good, sexy, urban fantasy. Recommended.

To order the book at Amazon click here Divine Misdemeanors: A Novel

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)