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 8, 2014

White Hot Kiss-Jennifer L. Armentrout

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

White Hot Kiss
Jennifer L. Armentrout
Harlequin Teen, Feb 25 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373211104

Although she is grateful to her adopted family, hybrid Warden-demon teenager Layla Shaw wishes she was a normal purebred gargoyle like they are. Though the seventeen years old Layla accepts that she can never be fully accepted as an equal especially to her off limits crush Zayne, she helps the disproving (of her subpar genetics) Wardens with their demon-hunting by her skill to see souls and mark demons for her family to track.

When Layla and Roth the full-blooded demon meet, he mesmerizes her with his claims of knowing her biological family secrets that she knows nothing about. His lack of a soul enables him to steal kisses from her; further rocking her world. As she learns more about her roots and a demon revolt centered on her, Layla fears associating with Roth will cause her to be marked as an enemy by the family who raised her. Additionally she remains ignorant as to the rebellion’s worldwide ramifications.

This Dark Elements young adult fantasy (see Bitter Sweet Love e-novella; not read by me) is an enjoyable tale due to the Armentrout world feeling genuine with its vivid competing supernatural cultures possessing differing views re humans. Roth is a terrific complicated super-bad dude whose White Hot Kiss melts a confused Layla. Although a late underdeveloped threesome arises for no apparent reason except as a sub-genre “requirement” in which I would have preferred the tri-relationships remain inside the heroine’s head only, fans will relish this fabulous teen otherworldly tale.

Harriet Klausner

October 6, 2013

Witchstruck-Victoria Lamb

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

Witchstruck
Victoria Lamb
Harlequin Teen, Sep 24 2013, $9.99
ISBN: 9780373210978

Her beloved Aunt Jane mentored her niece Meg Lytton on witchcraft and concealing the practice from those who would burn these so-called devil worshipers at the stakes. By 1554 Meg resides in captivity at Woodstock Castle with Princess Elizabeth. The royal supports Meg’s Magick skills, but both know they must hide what she can do from agents of Elizabeth’s half-sister the Queen.

When Spanish Father Alejandro De Castillo arrives at Woodstock, Meg finds herself attracted to the priest though betrothed to Witchfinder Marcus Dent. She wants to confess her abilities to Father Alejandro, but she also fears doing so after years of warnings. Meanwhile the efforts of Meg and Elizabeth to avoid the lethal trap of being named unholy magick supporter ends when the practitioner’s family demands she support their efforts to dispose of Queen Mary.

The opening Tudor Witch saga is a fantastic teen historical fantasy due to a powerful atmosphere in which those named as witches either burn or drown; if you float you’re a witch while if you drown you’re not. The relationship between the young practitioner and the priest enhances the dark storyline as he risks his life and soul to keep her safe. In some ways a coming of age tale, readers will appreciate this dark sixteenth century drama.

Harriet Klausner

August 23, 2013

Wrath-Bearing Tree-James Enge

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

Wrath-Bearing Tree
James Enge
Pyr, Aug 20 2013, $18.00
ISBN 9781616147815

The son of the mighty Merlin Ambrosius, the hunchback Morlock knows he has quite a lineage to live up to especially since his father is a traitor. On top of that his siblings are do-gooders. Still he does his best.

The Graith of Guardians assigns Morlock and Aloe Oaij to investigate the murder of a lesser God in Kaen, a land not under their sworn jurisdiction. The two agents travel by sea before crashing onto the Kaen coast. They quickly find out that their nemesis Two Powers twin gods Fate and Chaos are involved once again (see A Guile of Dragons). Nothing is smooth on this trek as danger mounts from natural enemies fighting each other for power. Frightened Gods claim their protection as much as their souls; Andhrakar the demon has demands; acrimonious exiled Merlin thinks his offspring is mad; while A Guile of Dragons runs amuck causing havoc and further panic; but the worst of all to Morlock is his sister Ambrosia is involved at a time when the Balancer is no more.

The second Tournament of Shadows sword and sorcery fantasy continues the exhilarating prequel escapades of Morlock as a young dwarf (before his later epic adventures – see The Wolf Age, Blood of Ambrose and This Crooked Way). The thrilling fast-paced storyline grips S&S quest fans from the moment Merlin uses the brain of an atheist to escape a lesser God and never slows down until the final anticipated family affair.

Harriet Klausner

August 15, 2013

Warbound-Larry Correia

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

Warbound
Larry Correia
Baen, Aug 6 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 9781451639087

Sally Faye Vierra the Traveler believes she is a Grimnoir Knight though most Actives assume she will turn into a monster. Whisper advised her to seek Jacques Montand the Grimnoir Elder. When she finds him on a church rooftop, Faye dangles Jacques over the edge while explaining why she looked for him. He sends her to what was once Berlin, but now the Dead City to meet a zombie who sees the future.

At the same time Bureau of Investigation Chief J. Edgar Hoover assigns ex-convict Jake Sullivan a Grimnoir Knight Heavy to stop the Pathfinder. He begins to put together a team to breech the Imperium to obtain a Pathfinder Detector with the assistance of Francis Stuyvesant the Mover. As part of his rapid response recruitment, Jake travels to his former residence Rockville State Penitentiary to talk with prisoner Wells the Massive psychopath about the Pathfinder. Soon his mission and Faye’s quest collide.

The third Grimnoir Chronicles (see Spellbound and Hard Magic) is an exciting alternate historical fantasy. The Correia world is anchored by noted real persona like FDR, Congressional hearings, William Donovan and Hoover in somewhat limited roles as the prime plots center on the Actives being active with Sullivan and crew working the Pathfinder mission and Faye proving her worth. Readers will enjoy the 1930s as the Depression world seems Warbound.

Harriet Klausner

July 5, 2013

White Trash Zombie Apocalypse-Diana Rowland

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

White Trash Zombie Apocalypse
Diana Rowland
DAW, Jul 2 2013, $7.99
ISBN 9780756408039

In Tucker Pont, Louisiana, Angel Crawford drives the St. Edward’s Parish coroner’s van for a living though she is dead. She notices zombies smoking cigarettes and realizes like her no living zombie would be caught dead smoking or drinking as brain matter is not easy to replace; ergo these idiots are wannabes.

Her latest corpse retrieval is at the prime location of the filming of High School Zombie Apocalypse. Brent Stewart was walking when a pole broke and fell on his head at Tucker Pont High School. As she bags the body, she notices Philip, who she was forced to change as part of a military experiment to create a super zombie soldier, but she had not seen him in months. He rescues her from a car seemingly deliberately trying to run her over; her “baby” flees immediate from the near fatal incident. Angel investigates who wants her dead with all answers leading to her boyfriend and “sire” Marcus Ivanov’s powerful Uncle Pietro.

The latest Angel Crawford life of a Louisiana white trash zombie (see My Life As A White Trash Zombie and Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues) is an amusing bayou investigative fantasy. Readers will continue to root for the heroine who ironically lives a morally productive lifestyle as a dead head than she did when she was alive; while her past as an impoverished druggie neglected by her mom and living with a drunken dad still haunts her. Fans will enjoy this fun metafiction with a zombie movie filmed in the midst of zombie parish.

Harriet Klausner

May 13, 2013

The World of the End-Ofir Touché Gafla

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

The World of the End
Ofir Touché Gafla
Tor, Jun 25 2013, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765333568

As an expert epilogist, Ben Mendelssohn understands the importance of the right ending to a book or movie. Considered a brilliant “righter” he is in demand to write the climax to fiction.

When his beloved wife Marian dies unexpectedly during odd circumstances, Ben cannot accept that finish to their relationship. Unable to cope with her death, he creates the perfect ending to their romance when he commits suicide to be with her in the afterlife. The bullet in his head leaves him in The Other World; a place with cities filled with the deceased living a second existence expertly managed by the “aliases.” Ben finds the Mendelssohn clan all over the place and rejects Marilyn Monroe, but no Marian anywhere. Understanding the need for an expert, a desperate Ben employs the Mad Hop known for finding missing people; unprepared for what he finds out.

The World of the End is a profound twisting parable that looks deep into a person’s soul. Readers will relish Ben’s trek through the afterlife as he wonders whether the love of his first life is meant to be with him in his second. Filled with humorous encounters, this entertaining metaphysical thriller leaves fans wondering about relationships accepted during life, ended with death and questioned in eternal life when one party wants renewal and the other hesitates.

Harriet Klausner

April 24, 2013

Without A Summer-Mary Robinette Kowal

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

Without A Summer
Mary Robinette Kowal
Tor, Apr 2 2013, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765334152

In 1816 England is suffering from an extremely cold summer due to volcanic activity. Glamour artists Jane and David Vincent recover from their horrible working honeymoon and her miscarriage in Blinche, Belgium (see Glamour in the Glass) at her family home. When the couple decides to accept am Irish Catholic couple as clients, they leave Long Parkmeade to return to their London house with Jane’s depressed sister Melody joining them as she has no suitors while rusticating.

At a time when the freezing weather is blamed on the magic using Coldmongers and the raging Luddites attack machinery, Jane and David fear that Alastair O’Brien, son of their current clients, is involved in sedition. Making the situation worse is that Alastair is courting Melody and David’s abusive father comes a calling.

The third Glamourist Histories fantasy (see Shades of Milk and Honey) is an engaging thriller that deftly uses real events like the 1816 weather, the Luddites and the English-Irish dispute; and people like Jane Vincent nee Austen within a London teeming with the magic of glamour. Filled with action after a leisurely start and still seeking a mate for Melody, fans will enjoy this entry as Mary Robinette Kowal paints a fabulous alternate Regency England.

Harriet Klausner

March 31, 2013

With All My Soul-Rachel Vincent

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

With All My Soul
Rachel Vincent
Harlequin Teen, Mar 26 2013, $9.99
ISBN: 9780373210664

Avarice the hellion knows he has time on his side as he seeks Kaylee Cavanaugh by assaulting her loved ones. Kaylee struggles not to break but is under pressure because she knows she is the cause of what is happening to her friends, family and her high school. She considers giving up especially when her adversary abetted by his allies (Envy and Vanity) murders her BFF Emma.

Instead, Kaylee and Emma attend the latter’s funeral as the former found a body to host her friend’s soul. When Avarice attacks another of her loved ones, filled with out of control rage, Kaylee vows no more. Feeling locked in by her anger, she plans to take the war to the enemy even if it results in her final death as she expects will occur especially after encountering the last essence she wants to meet at this critical moment.

This is a terrific finish to the action-packed Soul Screamers third urban fantasy trilogy (see If I Die and Before I Wake); as the irate heroine decides with all her soul to go after her adversaries though she needs to let go of her current avenging attitude to calmly plan a counterattack. Although the storyline opens up a bit choppy, fans will enjoy the climax as Kaylee learns you can’t save everyone but will risk her existence to insure as many of her loved ones are safe.

Harriet Klausner

Wolf With Benefits-Shelly Laurenston

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

Wolf With Benefits
Shelly Laurenston
Kensington Brava, Mar 26 2013, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758265227

Leaving his extended pack family home in Smithtown, Tennessee, wolf shifter Ricky Lee Reed obtains a job at his cousin’s security company in New York. He is assigned to protect jackal-shifter Toni Jean-Louis Parker, a member of the Carnivores hockey team.

After dealing with siblings and other pain in the butt family members, neither is in the mood for a serious relationship, but both feel the intense attraction as they tour the country together while she plays hockey. Ergo they agree to no strings benefits. However, as they fall in love, her pack’s latest woes place Toni Jean and Ricky Lee on center ice.

The latest Pride romantic urban fantasy (see Big Bad Beast and Bear Meets Girl) is the usual fast-paced and jocular yet complex storyline that grips readers from the first hip check to the final hat trick. Although over Rocky Top, series fans will enjoy this fun amusing shifter romance where females might beat you up as much over chocolate as a slur.

Harriet Klausner

March 14, 2013

The Wolf’s Surrender-Kendra Leigh Castle

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

The Wolf’s Surrender
Kendra Leigh Castle
Harlequin Nocturne, Mar 5 2013, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373885664

The violent shifter stalks Mia D’Alessandro, who runs in fear knowing her attacker toys with her as entrepreneur Jeff Gaines already bit her once. Blackpaw werewolf Nick Jenner finds the frightened woman and takes her to the safety of his pack. However, he fears for Mia’s well-being since the feral wolf already bit her, which means she could turn murderous if Gaines is not killed as Blackpaw assumes the rogue will not mentor her through her first shift.

However, Nick soon learns why Gaines wants Mia; the vile werewolf knows Mia is an Unseelie and wants her dark blood. Knowing how easily a shifter can turn malevolent from firsthand experience, Nick distrusts the female as Unseelie are dark essences though to his chagrin his guest has his heart palpitating at hyperspeed.

The Castle mythos makes for an enjoyable fast-paced werewolf romance. The lead triangle is fully developed with readers anticipating the confrontation between the good Nick, the potentially bad Mia and the ugly Jeff.

Harriet Klausner

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