Alternative Worlds: Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Reviews

03rd April 2015

Fantasy and sci-fi book reviews

Alternative Worlds is a science fiction and fantasy book review site, written and published by accomplished reviewer Harriet Klausner. For more information, please check the About page.

Please feel free to use the links below to navigate to book reviews alphabetically, either by Author Name, or Book Title, or else use the main left-hand links to main genres, or most recent reviews.

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Latest Reviews

October 11, 2013

Lighthouse Island-Paulette Jiles

Lighthouse Island
Paulette Jiles
Morrow, Oct 8 2013, $26.99
ISBN: 9780062232502

In the harsh endless city, parents abandon their four years old daughter. The neighborhood watch takes the bewildered child away and soon she ends up in an orphanage where many of the abandoned reside. All the children watch television and do nothing else. Only Raisa cannot see the screen or anything else, which gives her time to think. She believes that her mom will come back one day and turn on her eyes so that she can see the North Star.

The Agency for Parentless Dependents names her Nadia Stepan. While the others live in absolute fear from the powerful and numb their phobias with TV, Nadia the loner dreams of a life without trepidation. She turns to the outlawed Big Radio for tales before the sea to sea urbanization and loves poetry. However, her quest to find Lighthouse Island keeps Nadia going even when hope abandons her.

Lighthouse Island is a bleak futuristic dystopian thriller that paints a drab existence for the 99.9% as group ennui leaves no room for individualism. Although the large support cast makes for some difficulty to follow the plot, readers will relish the protagonist on her dream quest for happiness in an Orwellian world.

Harriet Klausner

July 15, 2013

Fifth Grave Past The Light-Darynda Jones

Filed under: Author: J,Fantasy,Title: F

Fifth Grave Past The Light
Darynda Jones
St. Martin’s, Jul 9 2013, $24.99
ISBN: 9781250014405

The Grim Reaper Charlotte “Charley” Davidson moonlights as a private investigator as her prime gig does not pay the bills. She learns firsthand what temptation truly is when the son of Satan Reyes Farrow moves into the next door apartment.

Still Charley’s tsuris excludes her libido gliding in the troposphere. Dead women hover around her causing havoc as none want to move on in spite of the Grim reaper demanding they do. She fears a serial killer has targeted females and a serial arsonist she suspects is her hunk of a neighbor complicates her efforts to catch the murdering psychopath.

The latest Davidson urban fantasy (see Third Grave Dead Ahead and Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet) is an amusing exciting thriller though once again the overarching theme barely moves forward. Charley is at her graveyard humorous best while the horde of women drives her crazy but not as much as Reyes lingering in her mind as an arson suspect and in her body as a tingling tormenter. Readers will enjoy the fast-paced irreverent storyline toasting a fifth of Davidson.

Harriet Klausner

March 31, 2013

The Pleasure Project-JAX, Jenna McCormick and Cassie Ryan

The Pleasure Project
JAX, Jenna McCormick and Cassie Ryan
Kensington Aphrodisia, Mar 26 2013, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758241795

“The Science of Pleasure” by JAX. While working on the Phoenix Project’s mission to find a way to preserve healthy cells while a patient underwent cancer treatments that normally shredded any cell, Dr. Eric Paulson stole Dr. Jenesis Bruehl’s promising research. Instead of using it to save lives, he tested it on human subjects leading to a superhuman breed while Jenesis and other altruistic scientists became notoriously tagged. One of these super-humans Kincaid Gregory offers himself as a test subject to Jenesis. Neither expected the attraction.

“Project Seduction” by Jenna McCormick. Jace Donovan is assigned to travel on the Trist space cruise liner as a paid pleasure companion at a bachelorette party thrown for supermodel Constance Ripley. At a deserted North Carolina inn, Jace meets the owner, mother of the bride Evie, and her odious ex Yon. Attracted to the older woman, Jace risks his employment for a chance with his woman.

“A Pirate’s Pleasure” by Cassie Ryan. For two decades space pirate Captain Red Death and her merry crew have raided ships. Now they target the flagship run by Captain Dare McFadyen carrying munitions to Gavin 2 at war with Gavin 1. They are shocked to meet Red as she is Dani McGovern, a protégé of Dare’s grandfather. Dani and Dare are in heat from that first moment they met, but he is a war profiteer and she is a war preventer.

These are three entertaining heated over the top science fiction romances starring delightful protagonists.

Harriet Klausner

January 13, 2013

A Memory Of Light-Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

A Memory Of Light
Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Tor, Jan 8 2013, $34.99
ISBN: 9780765325952

The forces of the Light and the Darkness prepare for the final battle, which appears will occur north of the Mountains of Dhoom in Shayol Ghul. Meanwhile hostilities flare up elsewhere as Talmanes leads a depleted Band of the Red Hand in a fight against the Trollocs in Caemlyn; Elayne had taken much of their force especially the cavalry to the Field of Merrilor where the rulers will decide whether to support Rand al’Thor’s dangerous plan to free the Dark One or kill him before his insanity demoralizes the humans. Regardless of who stands victorious in the Last Battle, The Wheel of Time is moving to end this age.

This is an exciting finish to the two decade old Wheel of Time saga as Brandon Sanderson provides an action-packed final battle (and several precursor combats) in his third effort (see The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight). The battle scenes are top rate while making up the brunt of the 900 plus page tome, but also have a déjà vu sense after several war scenes occur. Not surprisingly, some of the numerous long-running subplots receive short shrift as do key characters and races. Still, this is a well-done climax as several fronts explode while the adversarial forces prepare and meet for the final battle that will determine the fate of humanity as the Wheel of Time turns.

Harriet Klausner

November 17, 2012

Legends of Darkness-Georgia L Jones

Filed under: Author: J,Fantasy,Title: L

Legends of Darkness
Georgia L Jones
BlackWyrm, Mar 1 2012, $15.95
ISBN: 9781613181218

While her husband Rob is away on business, cosmetologist Samantha Garrett drops her six year old son Chris off at school before driving to Springfield to pick up supplies for her shop. On the interstate heading home, an out of control car swerves across the medium crashing into Samantha’s SUV; her last thoughts before she dies are of her loved ones.

She awakens recalling her final moments. This Death proves confusing as she feels healthy while walking to a funeral in which the body inside the coffin is her and her loved ones deeply grieving their loss. However, her initial thoughts of this neo-existence could not be hell change when she learns what she has become in her afterlife. Samantha is Samoda a blood thirsty warrior in the army of Nuem though she refuses to give up on what she once was as a mom, wife, sister, daughter and beloved human; unaware that failure to move on leaves her, her loved ones and her new comrades like Drake in peril from an avarice traitorous avenger.

Legends of Darkness is a refreshing paranormal thriller that spins an intriguing afterlife premise. Sam is terrific as she holds the engaging storyline together while struggling to adjust to a new world order until she realizes the threat to humanity including her loved ones and to her new species. Fast-paced, fans will appreciate Sam’s efforts to save two realms from a sinister traitor.

Harriet Klausner

November 16, 2012

The Bones Of The Old Ones-Howard Andrew Jones

Filed under: Author: J,Fantasy

The Bones Of The Old Ones
Howard Andrew Jones
Dunne, Dec 11 2012, $25.99
ISBN 9780312646752

In the eighth century Old Mosul is almost as ancient as the Assyrian ruins across the river. Seven Sebitti wizards have cast a spell on Persian aristocrat Najya binta Alimah to find The Bones Of The Old Ones, a source of great power. During a snowstorm blanketing the city, Najya escapes from these dangerous mages; and takes refuge in the home of Dabir ibn Khalil the scholar; also there is Dabir’s friend the swordsman Captain Asim el Abbas.

Dabir and Asim agree to keep Najya safe and liberate her from the Sebitti spell as her soul turns darker with a comingling spirit planning on an ice age like none before. As the pair begins their quest, the wizards send a lethal shapeshifting assassin to kill them. Meanwhile Asim increasingly acts as if Najya enchanted him while Dabir fears their beautiful charge may prove more dangerous to them and Mosul than the stalking killer or the wizards, they make a devil’s deal with their enemy Lydia the Greek necromancer.

The second thrilling eighth century Dabir and Asim sword and sorcery fantasy (see The Desert of Souls) is a great tale as the heroes struggle to stay alive while on their quest. Fast-paced and filled with action in a real locale, the cast makes the tale as Najya, Lydian, the assassin and the wizards provide depth to the adventures of the protagonists in the Jones mythology.

Harriet Klausner

November 2, 2012

The Shadow Rising-Robert Jordan

Filed under: Author: J,Fantasy,Title: S

The Shadow Rising
Robert Jordan
Tor, Oct 2 2012, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765334671

The weary battered band of travelers split up after their recent escapades to possess Callandor and confront evil (see The Dragon Unborn). Rand, Mat, Egwene, Moiraine and Lan journey together as Rand turns to the Aiel wasteland. Nynaeve, Elayne, Julian and Thom head to Tanchico to uncover the plans of the hideous Black Ajah in order to thwart and ultimately defeat this evil. Perrin, Loial and Faile travel home to Emond’s Field by Two Rivers to join the fight to repel the more powerful Trollocs and Whitecloaks invaders. Min seemingly vanishes in Tar Valon.

In the Forsaken, Rand finds a mentor as he apparently continues his path of destiny while Mat faces a near death experience that leaves him with memories of a dead warrior. Perring and Faile marry while never losing sight of the peril facing the Two Rivers.

Book Four of the Wheel of Time takes a different approach to the storyline as the adventurers split into separate escapades and subplots). Each of the prime subplots move forward the overarching premise as well as providing background into the respective cultures and geographies where the action occurs. Although this writing approach can feel disjointed and difficult to follow who’s who, where and why with a seemingly quadrillion heroes and as many malevolent beings, series fans will enjoy the action as the heroes establish divergent BHAGs.

Harriet Klausner

October 13, 2012

The Witch’s Initiation-Elle James

Filed under: Author: J,Fantasy,Title: W

The Witch’s Initiation
Elle James
Harlequin Nocturne, Oct 16 2012, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373885572

While attending college in Chicago, Aurai Chattox vanishes without a trace. While her four older sisters come to the Windy City, CPD undercover operative Cal Black investigates the disappearance of the sorority sister. To Cal, the case is personal as he was once engaged to the victim’s sister Deme until she left him without a word one year ago.

Deme prefers Cal to leave the quest to her and her siblings. However, dedicate cop that he is, Cal refuses to abide by the wishes of the woman who broke his heart. As they work together over her objections, Cal begins to see impossible things occur and soon learns Deme dumped him for fear of how he would react to learn the Chattox sisters are witches. When they find the darkness, the cop and the witch, realizing they remain in love, also know their chances of survival are slim at best.

The Witch’s Initiation is an exciting fast-paced romantic urban fantasy that will have readers believing in the paranormal in Chicago. The lead couple is fabulous second chance at love (after mission accomplished, if they live long enough) pairing. Although the climax is abrupt, fans will appreciate touring Chicago with Deme and Cal as our guides.

Harriet Klausner

October 6, 2012

Death’s Apprentice-K. W. Jeterand and Gareth Jefferson Jones

Filed under: Author: J,Fantasy,Title: D

Death’s Apprentice
K. W. Jeterand and Gareth Jefferson Jones
Dunne, Oct 30 2012, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312547714

The Devil created Grimm City on top of Hell as the center of his activity on earth. Many of his minions do business in the thriving metropolis; a place where mortal and supernatural can purchase almost anything for the right price.

Death and his young apprentice Nathaniel enter a club to take away a drug user’s soul. However, this time after a decade of assisting his mentor Nathaniel reacts differently as something unknown happens to him. At about the same time Blake the wraith kills skinheads who attacked the rag men and Hank the seven foot tall and seemingly as wide hit man destroys a crack house. Soon these two essences join Nathaniel in leading a revolt on several plains against the devil.

The first Grimm City horror thriller is a dark and grim with an incredibly detailed world in which the paranormal like witches soar. Built upon the collective works of the Brothers Grimm, this is a fabulous fast-paced, blood and gore tale. Readers will appreciate the epic odyssey of Death’s Apprentice and his two partners as this improbable threesome take the final battle to the Devil with humanity at stake.

Harriet Klausner

October 5, 2012

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet-Darynda Jones

Filed under: Author: J,Fantasy,Title: F

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet
Darynda Jones
St. Martin’s Press, Oct 30 2012, $24.99
ISBN: 9781250014467

PI grim reaper Charlotte “Charley” Davidson takes a time out after her last case ended in the cesspool. She has spent several wallowing months not dealing with her feeling like a burned out loser.

A desperate Harper Lowell arrives at Charley’s home pleading with the sleuth to help her. Harper explains that someone wants her dead and her family and friends insist no one is out to get her; they believe she is paranoid. Though the circumstantial evidence supports the assertion that Harper is insane, Charley senses the woman is telling the truth though if she is mad she could confuse reality and fiction. As Charley looks into her clients claim, she also struggles with her feelings for Reyes “Son of Satan” Farrow, who she kicked out of her life yet also seems to be involved in the Albuquerque arson fiasco.

The latest Charley Davidson urban fantasy (see Third Grave Dead Ahead) is an amusing exciting thriller though the overarching theme barely moves forward. Charley is at her grim irreverent best while Reyes lings in her head and other body parts. Fast-paced fans of the series will enjoy Charley’s fourth grave and grim tale while hoping a fifth of Davidson accelerates the apparent upcoming celestial war.

Harriet Klausner

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