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

July 15, 2012

A Witch Before Dying-Heather Blake

Filed under: Author: B,Fantasy,Title: X

A Witch Before Dying
Heather Blake
Obsidian, Aug 7 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451237637

Infamously known for their witch trials, Salem, Massachusetts contains a tourist attraction Enchanted Village in which practitioners of the Craft (witches) can practice their skills without mortals knowing it. If a witch tells a mortal what she is, she loses her Crafty power. Visitors enjoy seeing “magic” performed but assume it is illusions by magicians as everyone knows there is no such thing as magic.

Sisters Darcy and Harper Merriweather relocated here from Ohio after their Aunt Velma told them they were witches. Working for her aunt’s concierge services As You Wish where “No Job Impossible”, Darcy the wishcrafter can make wishes come true. Elodie Keaton hires Darcy to clean up the house of her hoarder mother Patricia who vanished a year ago. Darcy stumbles over a pile that collapses against a suitcase, which opens. Inside is the mummified body of Patricia. Everyone assumes the motive for the murder was to obtain Patricia’s possession the Anicula Stone, which grants wishes to whoever holds it as long as that wish is not evil. Petty break-ins with nothing stolen follow, which leads Darcy to believe someone is searching for the stone. She starts to investigate and almost gets killed by someone who believes she has the Anicula Stone.

Readers will enjoy visiting Enchanted Village, which lives up to its name as a sort bewitching tourist attraction (think Disneyland) as familiars like Pedro the mouse and Archie the bird soar freely. Although most of the residents use their otherworldly skills for good, a few practice evil dark magic. Having met personally the t village police led by her boyfriend, a caring Darcy feels compelled to help investigate as part of the “No Job Impossible” mantra. Though the usual elements of an amateur sleuth urban fantasy occur in the second A Wishcraft Mystery (see It Takes a Witch), fans will enjoy this entertaining paranormal whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

March 20, 2012

Wicked City-Alaya Johnson

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

Wicked City
Alaya Johnson
Dunne, Apr 10 2012, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312565480

Six months ago, Amir the djinni prankster brought Faust to New York City as a practical joke. The alcohol-blood concoction has become a major hit among the vampire crowd. Mayor Walker wants the drink legal though it is already served in several locales. The Friends Against Faust formed to oppose the legalization on the grounds it might lead to vampires being out of control of their impulses.

However, the deaths of ten vampires after drinking Faust shakes up the city just before the Board of Aldermen are to vote on the mayor’s proposal. Stunned Mayor Walker, using blackmail in the matter of her hiding an underage vampire, asks the daughter of a demon hunter Zephyr Hollis to investigate the mass murders in spite of her belonging to the Friends Against Faust committee and tied to Amir. However, the prime suspect in the homicides is Zeph.

The second Hollis 1920 urban historical fantasy (see Moonshine) once again will have readers believing in a paranormal 1920s New York City though Gentleman Jimmy is still is turning over in his grave. The amusing amateur sleuth story line never takes it self seriously even as blood and alcohol prove a deadly mix. Sub-genre fans will enjoy the Roaring Twenties Manhattan adventures of the Vampire Suffragette.

Harriet Klausner

December 15, 2011

The Winslow Incident-Elizabeth Voss

Filed under: Author: V,Horror,Title: X

The Winslow Incident
Elizabeth Voss
Five Star, Dec 16 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9781432825461

In the summer of 2010 in Winslow, Washington, Pard Holloway’s cattle begin acting weird and start dying for no apparent reason; he wonders if mad cow disease has struck the herd. Pard’s seventeen year old niece Hazel Winslow is concerned and announces she will expose her uncle’s tainted beef. Pard warns Hazel that if she should raise the alarm, he will likewise tell what really happened to the town’s late baker Hawkin Rhone five years ago; a truth that would probably lock away her boyfriend Sean Adair.

Soon after their unfriendly confrontation, the crazy symptoms displayed by cattle spread to humans who act increasingly insane. As those humans still behaving normal dwindles rapidly, Hazel wonders what is going on in her hometown as she no longer believes mad cow disease has struck Winslow.

This is an entertaining small town supernatural thriller. The fun in the tale is following stunned Hazel as her family, friends and neighbors go insane leaving her as the last one standing. Although the horror element is not very suspenseful, readers will enjoy Elizabeth Voss’ fun paranormal version of And Then There Was None.

July 14, 2011

Warehouse 13: A Touch of Fever-Greg Cox

Warehouse 13: A Touch of Fever
Greg Cox
Pocket, Jun 28 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780743491730

Secret Service agents Pete Lattimer and Myka Bering finish their assignment of the Charleston, South Carolina cheesy Museum of Piracy worker possessed by the pirate Anne Bonny’s cutlass. They return to their Badlands home station Warehouse 13 where their boss Artie Nielsen tells them there is no rest for the weary as he has learned of a woman using a glove to heal the sick at a carnival.

While teenager Claudia Donovan and aura-reading B&B owner Leena inventories the Warehouse’s collection of paranormal artifacts as has been done since Alexander the Great did with the library, Pete and Myka travel to the carnival to learn how the healer is doing what she does. At the same time, unbeknownst to the Warehouse field agents, someone else is making people sick using the matching glove as a sort of yang to the healer’s yin.

Greg Cox who has written Star Trek and DC’s Final Crisis thrillers provides an exhilarating novelization of the TV series as he captures the essences of the cast especially history’s thirteenth warehouse. The story line contains two fun subplots as the field operatives search for Clara Barton’s gloves while those archivists at the home station struggle with a misplaced apple that causes a comedy of errors. Lighthearted with a touch of history including Bonny, Barton, Chapman and Freud’s cigar; readers will enjoy the adventures of the agents of Warehouse 13.

Harriet Klausner

October 31, 2007

Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night

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

Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night
Kresley Cole
Pocket, Nov 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9781416547037

In 1827 Mariah of the Three Bridges is murdered in the shadow of the full moon. Her last sight is watching her beloved Bowen MacRieve of the Lykae Clan howl at the full moon in rage.

In 2007 Bowen remains angry, frustrated and acrimonious as he has over the past nine score; and he has become a bit of a hermit. When offered a chance to participate in the treacherous and grueling Talisman’s Hie, he immediately accepts. Bowen believes the risk is nothing only his life; but the prize is everything as winning enables him to go back to 1827 and correct the pivotal tragedy that has shaped his life since

Mariketa the Awaited leader of the House of Witches has strong reasons to win the contest hosted every two and a half centuries by the Goddess of Impossibilities Riora. Though the Witch is prepared for any contingency, the revolting acrid Lykae fools her and ensnares Mari in a deadly cave; Mari in turn casts a death spell on Bowen. He realizes he must save her to save himself if he is save Mariah. However, he is confused as he reacts to Riora as if she is his soulmate, not Mariah.

When Kresley Cole writes a romantic fantasy, there is NO REST FOR THE WICKED or readers as fans finish her exhilarating complex tales in one wonderful sitting. WICKED DEEDS ON A WINTER’S NIGHT may be the best entry in the Cole Lore as the lead couple is deadly rivals who over the course of the competition turn from enemy combatants into beloved enemies. Readers will relish this powerful entry as the mythos of the sentient races not human entertainingly expands leaving the audience with a HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER for the next saga.

Harriet Klausner

February 12, 2007

Warlord

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

Warlord
Elizabeth Vaughan
Tor, Mar 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 0765352664

Daughter of a now deceased warrior king Lara of Xy gave up her freedom and people as the WARPRIZE of peace negotiated with the victorious Firelanders’ Warlord, Keir of the Cat. However, though she initially came into this union as a WARSWORN “hostage”, Lara and for that matter Keir find love. She feels need for her healing skills though insurgencies continue to plague them.

However to affirm that she is in deed the WARPRIZE, Lara must persuade the antagonistic Counsel of Elders and their priestly advisors without her beloved at her side that she is worthy. The priests especially loathe her based on rumors of her healing skills as they insist only special practitioners using magic can restore to health an ailing person. If she fails to win them over, as she expects to happen, she ponders how Keir will react.

The final tale to the War romantic fantasy trilogy is a superb climax to an excellent saga. Lara is a courageous heroine who gave up all for the sake of her people and now in a déjà vu setting may have to do so again, but this time around she has a personal endearment that would be part of her sacrifice. Romance and fantasy readers will appreciate this terrific trio as Elizabeth Vaughan provides a fabulous finish to a superior story.

Harriet Klausner

January 22, 2007

Lover Revealed

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

Lover Revealed
J. R. Ward
Onyx, Mar 2007, $7.99
ISBN: 0451412354

The war between good and evil has twisted as the Omega’s Lessening Society sends its soulless minion the “lesser” to destroy vampires. To protect the undead from these killing machines, the Black Dagger Brotherhood was formed. These six special warriors risk oblivion to keep their species alive but each member of the sextet suffers from deep rooted personal anguish; that is before they have begun to find their soulmates.

The only human that has been allowed entrance into the vampire realm including the Brotherhood is former police officer Butch O’Neal who has heroically saved vampires in particular the undead one he loves (Marissa) at the risk of his own life. However, as he knows she is beyond his reach and not just because of their differing blood, the Omega leadership, whose lesser he has defeated, believes he is more than human and plans to find out the truth about this mortal. The latest battlefield between good and evil is Butch, whose only chance to survive his ordeal is not with his skills or the Brotherhood, but instead is with haughty virginal Marissa.

The fourth Black Dagger Brotherhood romantic fantasy suspense is a fantastic entry in what has become one of the best ongoing sub-genre series on the market. The story line is fast-paced and it never slows down but it is driven by the cast especially the lead couple. The changing of the relationship between these previously supporting characters, while the combatants war over the ex-cop, makes for a terrific tale. Fans already believe that vampires live in Upstate New York while newcomers will search for the previous thrillers (see LOVER AWAKENED, LOVER ETERNAL, and DARK LOVER).

Harriet Klausner

September 8, 2006

Valley of the Soul

Valley of the Soul
Tamara Siler Jones
Bantam, Nov 2006, $6.99
ISBN: 0553587110

Lord Dubric Byerly is a war hero who killed seventeen mages while his men slew forty more. He lives in the Castle in Faldorrah with his small group of men acting like police authorities catching criminals but his main mission remains the same: to kill mages. When he is called to Quarry Run to investigate missing sheep, he finds many of the beasts dismembered with their heads decapitated and wearing a mage mark. He also knows a man was recently murdered as the victim’s ghost demands justice from Dubric.

The evidence points to a blood mage, a unique creature who drinks the blood of its victims, which leads to the person in thrall to a new evil master. Dubric believes the mage is hiding in plain sight yet he fails to find him or her. When his cherished Maeve is possessed by the mage he seeks, Dubric realizes who the enemy is at quite a price; any direct move might cost his beloved her life and soul. He must find a way to cast themage out without harming his lover.

Tamara Siler Jones writes some of the better fantasy mysteries on the market today with her latest containing her trademark of plenty of action in a world filled with dark magic and its opposing force. The romantic subplot enhances the suspense as the hero struggles with how to save his beloved and destroy a deadly malevolent blood mage. Dubric’s dilemma makes the tale as he is an honorable person who knows that mages must die for the better good of everyone, but to sacrifice the woman who means everything to him makes for a difficult situation. This compelling novel has cross genre appeal.

Harriet Klausner

August 29, 2006

Wild Things

Filed under: Author: C,Horror,Title: X

Wild Things
Douglass Clegg
Cemetery Dance, August 2006, $20.00, 104 pp.
ISBN 1587671565

“The Wolf”. A wolf comes down the mountains to eat the sheep. Hunting parties can’t find it so a rancher hires a professional hunter to kill the wolf. The hunter is accompanied by a young man who feels he owes the rancher. The hunter describes the differences between wolves and sheep. This is an allegorical tale that can be applied to different kinds of humans.

“A Madness of Starlings”. A man takes an abandoned baby starling bird into his home and his family nurtures it until it is ready to fly solo. The boys don’t want to let it go but the man insists yet when he does he misses the fledgling. He becomes obsessed with birds to the point it interferes with his human relations to the point he dives deeper into the world of birds and lets go of his normal life. This is an exciting tale of one man’s decent into madness.

“The American”. At ae café in Rome, a man tells the people at his table that he tried to commit suicide because his lover didn’t love him. He told his audience the man did terrible things to him and now he wants the American to kill someone. The people at the table advise him to leave the man who forces him to do these horrific things. They departand the American stays in the shadows following two of them. This story is scary not in a supernatural kind of way but in a horror of the human kind setting.

“The Dark Game”. A nineteen year old American is taken prisoner of war by the enemy and is tortured. He escapes by playing the Dark Game his mother taught him that allowed him to travel in his mind to places where he feels no pain. After a time, the brainwashing starts but he uses the Dark Game to avoid being turned. His captors think he is on their side until he shows them differently. This dark and gothic tale is chilling.

These four short story demonstrate why Douglass Clegg is such a brilliant storyteller of horror tales both supernatural and of the atrocities humans and carry out.

Harriet Klausner

June 15, 2006

Wuthering High

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

Wuthering High
Cara Lockwood
Rocket, July 2006, $9.99, 286 pp.
ISBN: 141624755

After maxing out her hated step-mother’s credit card and stealing and crashing her father’s BMW, both her mother and dad decide to send her to a school that deals with behavior problems. Bard Academy, located on Nowheresville Island off Maine is a dark and foreboding place, gothic architecture with gargoyles on every buildings give it a creepy atmosphere. Miranda knows she is going to hate it when she meets her roommate who has pictures of Satan on her wall and believes in vampires.

Strange things happen in Bard Academy starting with the light turning on in her closet with her and her roommate in their beds. A boy name Heathcliffe is fixated on her and calls her Cathy and rescue hers whenever a fire breaks out which happens when she hears a cackling laugh. Her school counselor is always wearing wet clothes and drips water wherever she goes. When Miranda learns the truth about what is happening at the school, she and her friends find themselves in danger.

Miranda is angry at her father for abandoning her mother and marrying a bimbo nine years older than she is. Her misbehavior is a way to gain attention from her father who ignores her. The lessons at Bard Academy helps her accept her life as it is not as she would like it to be. She also learns that the only person she can change is herself. Cara Lockwood has written a charming fantasy that sends important messages to teens who will understand them because Miranda, using asides, explains them to herself. This reviewer wood love to see a sequel to WUTHERING HIGH.

Harriet Klausner



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