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

March 13, 2012

Savage Awakening-J.D. Tyler

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

Savage Awakening
J.D. Tyler
Signet, Apr 3 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451236449

Following an attack in Afghanistan changed them and after leaving the Navy, these shape-shifting former SEALs formed the Alpha Pack; their mission to battle the most dangerous deviants in the world (see Primal law). During their current assignment, the enemy captures member Aric Savage.

More dead than alive, he learns his pack mate Micah Chase is also a prisoner. Their Alpha Team never leaves anyone behind so they begin a rescue mission that Micah’s LAPD Psy Dreamwalker Rowan plans to join. She wants her brother home safe, but while on the quest, she and Aric realize that they are mates. However, Rowan is not ready for this relationship so Aric goes slow while his wolf goes crazy. All changes when she finds out his life is threatened.

Savage Awakening is a totally enthralling Alpha Pack romantic suspense urban fantasy in which the wolf knows who he wants to bite as the means to make her his mate, but she is not ready for such a biting commitment. Sub-genre fans will enjoy the action-packed storyline while appreciating the bonding between the cop and the savage soldier.

Harriet Klausner

July 10, 2010

Time Will Tell-Eddie Upnick

Time Will Tell
Eddie Upnick
Eloquent Books, Jan 2010, $14.95
www.strategicpublishinggroup.com
ISBN: 9781609110970

Eddie Upnick is a psychologist at a nursing home in Queens. He mentally bets on his patients as his personal coping defense mechanism though he deeply cares about each of them as they came to this adult living facility to die. His orderly world tilts on its axis when an elderly tired man with a slight German accent arrives at the “Queens Hilton” needing a place to stay for a year or two with no social security or bank assets; the man had $90,000 cash. Married with a child and another on the way, Eddie is excited when Jeff tells his tale.

In 2133, the Nazis control the world with an iron fist. The leaders plan a global bicentennial gala to celebrate the legend of Fuhrer Hitler’s rise to power. However, some dissidents want to change the present and future, but only can do so by altering the past. Four renegade scientists go back to 1938 Berlin with that in mind while two SS agents pursue them to prevent their scheme; the twentieth and twenty-second centuries Nazis commonly deploy hideous weapons of mass destruction as collateral damage is enthusiastically endorsed. Less than a decade later, aliens arrive with plans to enslave earth once again as collateral damage is acceptable.

Opening with a riff that will remind readers of the beginning of the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, this is a fast-paced entertaining science fiction time traveling thriller. Loaded with action and a vivid look at “history”, readers will want to learn what Upnick hears about the future and the past. Although the ET switch seems initially abrupt and odd, but once the reader adjusts they will enjoy Eddie’s efforts to save the world as he learns one thing from Jeff and (SS Hillman) that only Time Will Tell who won.

Harriet Klausner

November 10, 2009

Gaea-Robina Williams

Gaea
Robina Williams
Twilight Times, Sep 2009, $18.95
ISBN: 9781606191835

Gaea the earth goddess fears mankind has gone too far in destroying the planet. The sea, land and air are toxic. The forests are barren. Animals and fish have no home and those who still survive are hunted or fished for play. Earth has become a wasteland for the avarice humans.

Gaea decides the time has come to teach mankind a lesson to force humanity to change its wicked ways. However Gaea’s partner, Quant the seraph worries she may go too far; besides his “employer” The God of All created Mankind with the hope that humanity will find their own but just way. Other gods from places like Mt. Olympus agree with Gaea that time has run out so they try to bring a scare to the shaken sons and daughters of Adam.

This is an intriguing vivid allegorical fantasy as mankind is being judged by the Gods. Ironically the cul de sacs that detract from the prime plot are fascinating in of themselves as the audience will be spellbound with a tour of the design laboratory where species for new planets are created as well as other locales like the Court of the Serpent and of course Mt. Olympus and Hades. Although too many engaging detours happen in this entertaining tale, fans will appreciate this fine look at Judgment Day. Whereas Gaea and her allies find humanity guilty of planetary destruction, the God Of All prays whether divine intervention either with a miracle or the apocalypse is a fair judgment on his part when his beloved favorite was bestowed with free will, which includes potentially species suicide.

Harriet Klausner

September 16, 2008

The Widows of Eastwick-John Updike

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

The Widows of Eastwick
John Updike
Knopf, Oct 27 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780397269607

Having fled Eastwick, Rhode Island in the early 1970s when a rival for the affection of you know whom died; Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie each remarried and started over in different places. Having survived he who is nameless and their late second husbands, the widows decide to meet up at the place where the bewitching began; their home town.

However, two and a half decades have taken a toll on the once sexy flamboyant threesome. Instead middle age and senior citizenship leave them tired and incapable of witchcraft. However, the villagers loath the witches for all the malevolence and harm they did with magic; even their children want them to leave. They consider fleeing before they are burned at the stakes, but become involved in a bit of magic that goes astray.

The sequel to THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK is a fascinating tale of late middle to old age as the three women have passed the bewitching age; magic is a young person’s sport. The story line starts off slow but steady as the audience accompanies the trio on overseas travel that showcases a dysfunctional world. The tale picks up when the threesome learn you can’t come home especially when you caused havoc, mayhem and death the last time in town. Readers will enjoy the deep look at the aging process as the widows find their previous evil escapades come home to roost with them.

Harriet Klausner

November 1, 2006

The Cursed One

Filed under: Author: U,Fantasy,Title: C

The Cursed One
Ronda Thompson
St. Martin’s Press, Dec 2006, $6.99
ISBN: 0312935757

In 1821 England instead of making love in their Collingsworth Manor bedroom, Lady Amelia Collingsworth thinks her husband Robert, whom she just married, is about to kill her as he has his hands, make that his claws, around her neck. Not one to idly accept her fate, Amelia uses her nails to free herself and grabs a sharp object off the nearby desk and stabs him. Hearing the racket, Lord Gabriel Wulf, the object of Amelia’s fantasies, arrives; she calmly tells him she killed her spouse. However, a monster actually kills Robert and stabs Gabriel before fleeing.

Reluctantly Gabriel knows he must keep Amelia safe until he can return her to her family. He knows what the human beast is as he suffers from the same curse. However, instead of taking her to her kin, the Sinclairs, they are under siege as Collingsworth Manor is surrounded by a pack of werewolves. Already attracted to one another before the current perilous situation, Amelia and Gabriel fall in love, but he fears for her safety not from those trying to kill her, but from him, the beast.

The latest Wild Wulfs of London (see THE UNTAMED ONE and THE DARK ONE) is a superb werewolf Regency romantic suspense thriller that starts off as a five star howl and never slows down until the final confrontation between beauty and the beast. Gabriel is a hesitant champion because he fears he will not control the beast when it comes to his desire for Amelia; she is as courageous as a lioness not afraid to protect herself and her beloved though knowing the enemy is much more powerful than her. Fans will appreciate this wonderful paranormal historical romance.

Harriet Klausner

August 4, 2006

The Hounds of Ardagh

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

The Hounds of Ardagh
Laura J. Underwood
Five Star, Oct 2006, $25.95
ISBN: 1594143765

Mageborn Ginny Ni Cooley is content living alone in her little cottage in Tamhasg Woods as she offers her services to her neighbors. Her mentor, Manus MacGreeley, has died and come back to the world as a ghost and since he doesn’t have a body the Mastermage cannot use magic. He needs to connect every day to cairn where is body lies to rest.. One night Ginny’s peace is disturbed when a pack of demon hounds chase a boy with a tale and a mane of hair on his spine.

The lad informs Ginny and Manus that his name is Fafne MacArdagh and his clan was celebrating turning in a traitor who plotted to overthrow the king. The next thing they know a blood mage appeared and killed everyone but Fafne who hunts this mass murderer. The blood mage was working with the traitor and cast the spell that kept the clan from testifying by turning them into hounds. This evil also has the way to give the soul of her husband, the laird of Don Elyn to the demon Annwn in exchange for deven more years of eternal youth. When the villainess steals the essence of Manus, Ginny vows to stop her though it may be too late as the malevolent mage’s spouse committed suicide.

THE HOUNDS OF ARDAGH is filled with plenty of action and magical battle scenes. The conversations between the ghost and the mageborn are loaded with repartee that hides their deep regard for one another. The villain is reminiscent of Snow White’s evil stepmother while the heroine is a loyal courageous person willing to risk her life for those she cherishes. Hopefully Laura J. Underwood provides future fantasy epics in Tamhasg Woods.

Harriet Klausner

March 12, 2006

Silver Bough

Silver Bough
Lisa Tuttle
Bantam, April 2006, $22.00, 325 pp.
ISBN 0553382977

On the coast of Scotland in the Highlands is the town of Appleton, a place that is connected to the mainland by one small road. When an earthquake hits, the townsfolk are cut off from the rest of civilization. Supplies will be brought in by a ferry and mail and medical supplies will be flown in.

Three American women are in Appleton. The town librarian Kathleen, the widow Nell who has bought Orchid House and one of her trees is a special golden apple that has not been seen for over fifty years. Visiting the town is Ashley whose grandmother was born there and left without telling anyone she was going. She refused to tell her family about that part of her life which makes Ashley all the more eager to get in touch with her roots. Another stranger in the town is Rhoan, a man in his twenties who looks exactly like the person in a photo that is over half century old. Much of the magic that lay hidden comes out in the cut off Appleton. It seems as if the place is moving into the Otherworld where the Apple Fairest that appeared in one of Nell’s trees changes the reality of our world and gives those deserving them their heart’s desire.

SILVER BOUGH is all about subtle magic that is part of Appleton, a place that many believe originated in another dimension. Readers gradually became aware of the power that is in the very land itself and that of Rhoan, who is part of that magic and wants to return to his father’s home. The characters are three dimensional and have a role in the upcoming events as Lisa Tuttle has written a spell binding Scottish Brigadoon like fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

August 25, 2005

Night Birds’ Reign

Filed under: Author: U,Fantasy,Title: N

Night Birds’ Reign
Holly Taylor
Medallion, Oct 2005, $14.99, 550 pp.
ISBN: 1932815538

Two times before in Lleu a High King surfaced during a crisis in which the country appears on the brink of ruin and will be eventually betrayed. In 265 Chadfwich is the third time and history repast as his wife and her lover betray him, ultimately killing him.

Over two centuries later, no High King has surfaced, but the Shining Ones task Gwydion the Dreamer of Kymru that the time has come to find the fourth Great One. Though believing he not ready for his quest, with the help of his aunt and his brother he sets forth to first find the lost sword possessed by the Lady of the Lake and only to be used by the High King who he thinks is the unborn son of his half-brother King Uthyr. However, he will soon learn the danger is not to his body as others try to stop him, it is to his heart and soul as he will soon learn the price of being this generation’s Dreamer.

NIGHT BIRDS REIGN is a strong fantasy with investigative and coming of age underpinnings though the hero is not a sleuth (amateur or professional) and is an adult. Instead Gwydion follows the clues mostly found in his dreams while slowly gaining confidence as he still grows into his power. The story line is action-packed and filled with adventure as there are some who prefer that no new High King surface as he would destroy the status quo power structure. Holly Taylor provides a stirring quest that fans will want to trek alongside of Gwydion.

Harriet Klausner

May 12, 2005

Underground

Filed under: Author: U,Title: S

Underground
Craig Spector
Tor, Apr 2005, $23.95, 256 pp.
ISBN: 0765306603

In Stillson Beach, Virginia, Justin Van Slyke is on a tour of historical antebellum Custis Manor, a place where black slaves were slaughtered. A vandalism incident enables Justin to wander off on his own. He reaches his destination and dives through a large mirror though his right hand fails to make it through the portal. It is sliced off and left behind.

Josh Custis, whose family owns the mansion, sends word to the other three surviving members of the Underground to meet with him in the Church of the Open Door. Caroline Tabb Connolly accompanied by her spouse and daughter, addict Amy Kaplan, and Seth Bryant who left his pregnant wife at home heed Josh’s call. Josh explains that Justin went through the portal bringing home the nightmare of what happened in 1983 when seven suburban teens formed the Underground. One of them Simon Baxter tripping on acid tried to slice another Mia Cheever, but Justin stopped him. Mia fell through a mirror portal while Simon bled to death from cuts caused by chards of broken glass. Justin has forced them to act even while the medical examiner cannot understand how a severed hand can have a pulse.

This haunted house thriller grips the audience from the moment that Justin splits from the tour to enter the mirror and never slows down until the final altercation with the evil on the other side of the portal. The story line is fast-paced, filled with action, and constantly leave readers with goose bumps. Though the magnificent seven are labeled rather than fully developed with a couple of exceptions, ghost story fans will gladly journey through the portal with the UNDERGROUND.

Harriet Klausner



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